Thursday, July 31, 2008

Little helpers

The beginning of this week was a struggle for me! Most of it was due to my attitude. I could blame tiredness, hormones, busyness, but really, I know that I have struggled because there has been a battle going on with my flesh and spirit! But God is so gracious, and He directs my paths. I came across a sermon by Greg Harris called Don't Waste Your Kids which I really needed to hear!
He was looking at Psalm 127:3-4

"Behold, children are a gift of the Lord. The fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one's youth." Psalm 127:3-4

I have never really thought of my children as being like arrows before. I have heard this verse many times, but not really contemplated what it is saying. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth. My children are like arrows whom my husband and I need to prepare to be aimed at a target! In Old Testament days, arrows were handcrafted by warriors themselves. The arrowhead, needs to be combed and sharpened for maximum impact on the target. Greg Harris went into detail about in what areas children need to be sharpened in, and we are preparing them for the day when we will release them to the target.

The following ramblings are what I noted down from his sermon as I was listening to it.

As you release, you realise everything you have done is to release. No one stands around looking at the archer after the arrow has been taken off. Our homes are a launching pad, a bow, our contribution to our children’s future is a lifetime input. Being a good father is not at odds with being a good pastor or ministry. Family is a vehicle for ministry, not an obstacle. Everything about our lifestyle should be to influence our children. Our work, our hospitality, our tithes, offerings, they need to know the why. Our children need to be with us more of the time.

Talk with them, tell them stories, our children climb into our heart, they catch what we have, they need to be close enough to us to catch our enthusiasm. Train your children until you like them! Train them to be included in your life, preparing them to be part of the family team, God trains us in Hebrews 12 to be part of His holiness. God wants us to be part of His wonderful adventure of defeating and destroying the works of the devil. We have to train them so we won't hesitate to take them with us, to take them to important meetings, and be able to interact with other important people. Help your children meet the people that are the epitome of excellence. This partnership pays off in the long run. To succeed in child training is not to make them like you but to make them the best version of themselves that they can be.! When all of this is done the final scenario is described in Psalm 127: 5, they will not be put to shame when they are at the gates.

Listening to this sermon helped me with my attitude. I was particularly challenged to spend more time with my children. I am not very good at playing with my kids, I much rather do something with them, help them with craft, go for a walk, read them a book, or help them do a task. I know I need to include them so much more in what I do throughout my day. I will often tell them to go and play while I do my chores around the house. I know they want to be with me, but I am very task orientated, and it is so much easier to do things by myself!

But I was challenged to let them help me more, and to let them do things by themselves more. So I came up with the idea of a helping chart. 3 out of my 4 children are capable of helping at this stage so I made a list of helping chores that occur each day of the week and I rotate their names each day. Every day someone different gets breakfast ready for everyone. They ask what each family member would like and serves them before themselves. Another child helps me clean up the kitchen, do dishes etc. Then in the evening another child helps me with tea preparation, another setting the table, another kitchen and dinner clean up.

So far it has been working well - although its only been a few days! But they are so excited about helping, and alternating jobs and taking it in turns gives variety. And the best part about it, is I am spending that time with them, training them what to do, interacting with them and encouraging them in their work. I have also realised that with them doing the bulk of the work I would normally do, it frees me up to get other jobs done, and I don't feel under as much pressure, or feel guilty that I am doing tasks instead of spending time with my kids, because I am combining the two! Don't get me wrong, I don't want to treat them like little slaves and get them to do all my work so I don't have to do anything! But I do want to encourage them to help each other, to serve each other and take responsibility for each other and our home. After watching a show called the Nest, a 6 part reality show about adult children still living at home on SBS tonight, I am glad we are starting young in training them to not only be responsible for themselves, but to also serve each other. I just need to rely up on God each day to provide me lots of patience and wisdom from Him to train them in the way they should go.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Filling our bodies with light

For the past 3 weeks I have been on a book fast! This was a hard thing for me to do, as I love reading books. I always have at least 3-4 books on the go, and throughout my day I will often consult my books as thoughts, issues, and problems arise. However, few weeks ago, I became challenged about what I was feeding my mind. When it comes to books, I am a rather fussy reader. I tend to only read books which have been recommended to me or that I find on the bookshelves of my friends. But I was challenged about how I will easily pick up a book over my Bible! Now the majority of books I read are Christian and are filled with scripture, so often when I consult a book for direction I am led by the Word of God. However I was challenged to be more discerning when I read that even if scripture is part of the solution to what is written in a book, I need to check it out for myself. To study the context and background and be willing to delve further into the scriptures and allow God to lead me through His word. So I decided to put my book reading on hold for a while to increase my need for the word of God and to ensure I am being governed by the word of God, not by the words of man. The other reason is, I am starting up a Book club for our young adult girls in a month and I was challenged about the need for me to lead by example and be a discerning reader!

I must admit that it has been hard for me to stay away from books! There were many times when something would come up and there was the temptation to consult a book, but when I remembered that I was fasting from them, I was prompted to consult the word of God first. I also found that the a lot of the passages I was reading in my daily readings were coming up in the sermons I was hearing at church. I had already been meditating on these passages and then I would come to church and our pastor would expand on them further!

As is so happened, my husband preached last night on the Churches in Pergamum and Thyatira in Revelation who were led astray by false teachings and philosophies, and our need to know the truth, so we can discern false teachings. Here's a quote from his message.

"Heresy in the church is alive today as it has ever been. The dangerous thing about heresy or false teaching is that it looks like it could be the truth. In fact most heresy has a strong element of truth in it and that's what makes it so dangerous. Many well meaning Christians hear something or read something that looks pretty good, that uses bible verse to prove its point, the problem comes when you take that heresy to its end point it's always a lot further from the truth than you first thought. If it looked obviously wrong right from the start, no one would fall for it, but because it has an element of truth in it many get sucked in. I remember going through Bible college and the thing that struck out about church history and the many different cults and sects of the Christian church was that most of them started out wanting to correct some error that had crept in. Unfortunately they took their stand too far and ended up just teaching heresy."

He went on to talk about the plethora of books out there that are full of heresy and so many of us easily pick them up because they look good, they have a catchy title or nice cover or they are on the best sellers list. When it comes to non-fiction Christian books my reason for picking them up should be to draw me into a greater understanding of God and His word. I don't want to be easily persuaded by the ideas and teachings of man, the word of God is what should persuade me to change an attitude or action.

Over the weekend I made the decision to pick up books again, and I didn't realise how much I missed them! But I have learned how important it is to pray over what I am reading, to question what I am reading, and to search the scriptures to see things for myself and allow the Holy Spirit to guide me into His truth.

I was reading and praying through the following prayer from Matthew Henry's "Method for Prayer" this morning.

Let our wisdom not be from beneath, which is earthly, sensual, devilish; but wisdom from above, which is first pure, than peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.

O that we may always have our conversation in the world, in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God.

Lord, uphold us in our integrity, and set us before thy face for ever, and let integrity and uprightness preserve us, for we wait on thee.

Let our hearts be found in thy statutes, that we be not ashamed, and let our eye be single, that our whole body may be full of light.

All of this prayer has been based on scripture and the last line stood out to me, it comes from Matthew 6:22-23.

"The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!."

These verses are a challenge to make sure we expose our eyes to that which is good so that our bodies may be filled with light so that we can be lights in this dark world.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Children and home decorating

The past few days I have been fighting off very selfish desires to send my family away so I can rearrange, redecorate, sort and clean out our house (its definitely not a nesting thing!). My head is full of inspiration, ideas and projects and I have to keep pushing them away because I have a young family of 4 to take care of and they need my attention!

People who visit our house often are never really surprised when they see furniture rearranged, pictures in different locations or new lampshades and cushion covers! Ever since I was young, I have loved to paint walls, and rearrange furniture, it is inherited from my wonderful mother! Now that I have a family, who's needs seem to be constantly changing, I feel like I am forever sorting out clothes, toys, and moving furniture around. Its a good thing that I love doing it, I just get frustrated when I am too busy to do it!

Before I had children I have always been inspired by my cousin, who has 3 children several years older than me. Whenever I walk into her house it is bright, welcoming, but classy and very child friendly. It is always evident that her children were a part of their home, not just from seeing toys lying around (they were usually always hidden behind the couch!) but because of their artwork and the bright colours scattered around the house. Her house is always a friendly,comfortable house, and her style influenced the way we designed our house when we built.

I was reading an article in the August Home Beautiful last week, and some of what it says, sums up how I feel about our house.

The key to harmonious living it to embrace pandemonium. Children invariably want to be where you are and to play, create and engage in a space you share. A living zone that's laid out with areas especially for little ones (along with spots just for you!) will create a sense of calm amid the chaos. All-purpose storage, where the action happens, is also a godsend. Yes, you'll need to soften the edges, but this presents a wonderful opportunity to indulge in the latest fabrics and rugs, which are also a great tool in delineating space.

As for decorating, display the things that matter and encourage your kids to do the same. By elevating their artwork and precious things to the same level, you'll both have pride in your place. As they grow, your children will treasure key pieces, such as a handmade quilt or an antique chair, which you can hand down to them, instilling a sense of tradition and value.

If you have young kids, I would encourage you to check out the article for yourself, there are lots of great ideas to help create a 'family friendly' home.

I am thankful to God that this week is busy, so I don't have extra time to get stuck into any rearranging and redecorating ideas, it will force me to take more time to think about what it is exactly that I want to change and why. And it forces me to trust God more, to know that He knows about all the 'creative' juices I have floating around in my head at the moment, and I need to trust in Him to provide the time, at the right time to let all those juices out!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Nappy tote

I mentioned in my last post, I am slowly moving out of the 'baby' stage, so this means I don't really carry a baby bag anymore, just nappies and wipes in my handbag.

I came across this good idea for a 'Nappy tote' on a blog (check out the post on 'Diaper and Wipes case' 17th July 2008) I often look at. I made one yesterday for my handbag, and it fits perfectly! If don't carry a baby bag anymore, and just need the essential baby stuff, check out this idea! And if you know me and you want me to make you one, I would be happy to!

Reflections on my 2 year old!

The baby of our family turned 2 yesterday! I try not to think about the fact that she is not a baby anymore too much. I can’t believe how quickly time flies, 2 seems so old! All the ‘baby’ things of our house are slowly starting to disappear. Bibs, baby toys, high chairs, have been packed away, soon the cot, will be on its way out the door as well!

It feels like only yesterday we made mad dash to the hospital where she was born. Out the 4, her birth was definitely the best! Number 1 I had an epidural and a resulting headache, so I didn’t experience too much pain, however the pain of afterbirth took a lot out of me. Number 2 and 3 were both filled with excruciating pain, they were similar births, fairly quick so no time for epidurals, just intense pain muffled with puffs of gas! So when I fell pregnant with number 4 I was not looking forward to the birth. It was something I dreaded, hence it was something I prayed fervently about. My prayer was that it would be different to what I had already experienced, and that through it all I would be so aware of the presence of God, and that the pain would not dull me from trusting in God. This was one of my prayers 3 weeks before I gave birth to her.

“…I feel so inadequate, of giving birth to her and to care for her. I am so scared of the pain of childbirth, but I know that You are with me – every moment, please help me to not be anxious, but to have Your peace which passes all understanding, to trust in You each step of the way – to not be consumed by it (the pain).”

Well, God certainly answered my prayers. I was having labour pains on and off for 2 days. This helped me prepare, mentally, spiritually and to get my house in order. On the day she was born I had an appointment with my obstetrician at around 3:30pm. I told him that I had been having pains every ½ hour, so he checked me out and said I wasn’t dilating, so those pains could possibly go on for another week or so (she wasn’t due for another week)! So we went away convinced I was not in labour! I took it fairly easy for the rest of the day, my husband cooked tea and I rested on the couch, I was still having pains, and around 6pm they were getting more intense, longer and regular. I still kept telling myself, ‘you better get used to this, I could have this for another week yet!’. At around 7pm my husband went down to the chemist to get some sleeping pills (cause he hadn’t been sleeping well!) and when he got back he found me on the floor in intense pain, he said, "do you think I should call the hospital?” and I said “ I think so, I think I am in labour?!”. So he rang the hospital and they said to come down, he then rang his parents and asked them to come over the look after the kids. We got in the car around 8pm (the hospital was about a 20 minute drive), I started to convince myself that I was in labour now! My husband really had no idea of the intensity of the situation, he did his best to get there as quick as possible (without speeding!) while I sat in the back doing a lot of heavy breathing and fervent praying. When we got the hospital, I told him I needed a wheelchair, it was then that I think he realised how serious and close this baby was to coming out! He wheeled me up, straight into the delivery room and within 10 minutes of arrival out she came! It all seemed so quick, and because I had most of my contractions in the car, it definitely was a different labour to what I had already experienced. The pain was so much more bearable, and with no pain relief available I realised how effective deep breathing is! And I felt that God was with me all the way, I communicated with Him constantly in my head, and felt His peace which surpasses all understanding! After she was born, I just lay there repeatedly thanking Him that it was all over! That whole experience still feels so fresh, and yet my baby is now 2, walking, talking, eating starting to do so many things by herself!

People keep asking as if we will have another baby, and my response is always- talk to my husband about that!. I am very content with 4 children. Having come from a family of 2, I have always wanted more than 2 children, 3 would have been great, but my husband wanted an even number so we decided on 4. But I often struggle with thoughts of "what if God wants us to have more children, what if He wants us to raise a ‘big’ family". My desires for having anymore children are completely God related, if I had a choice, 4 would be just enough, but should God want us to have more, I always want to be willing for that – after all, we are raising them for Him, they have been put on this earth for Him, for His purposes. However, at this stage in our lives, my husband is content with 4, so that’s my answer, if you want to know if we are having anymore, you will have to talk to my husband and God about that!

Monday, July 14, 2008

God gives us richly all things to enjoy

"Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty,
nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God,
who gives us richly all things to enjoy.
Let them do good that they may be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share,
storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come,
that they may lay hold of eternal life."
1 Timothy 6:18-19

The past week I have been meditating on the above verse, how God has given us all things to richly to enjoy. Ever since I read Randy Alcorn's book, 'Money, Possessions and Eternity', my attitude towards money and the things of this world has changed. It taught me to 'not store up treasures on earth, but store up treasure in Heaven', it taught me to be more disciplined with my money to be able to walk away from 'a bargain', to take more care of the possessions I have - but to hold on to them loosely, it caused us to put a 'no junk mail' sign on our letterbox to take away any temptations to lust over and covet 'things' that we don't need, it has also taught us to give more, to look for opportunities to give generously and cheerfully.

But sometimes I feel guilty for having things. For the nice house we have, for the modern appliances we have, for good coffee and chocolate, for the healthy children we have. When I think about the billions of people in this world who have no place to call home, who have to wash their clothes in the river, who have never smelled coffee or chocolate, whose children are starving and dying of disease.

But God has given us these things to enjoy, I always want to be so careful that I don't take them for granted, and to realise that all I have is from Him. Its helpful to remember verse 19, to do good, to be ready to give, to be willing to share.

3 years ago when we the opportunity to build a house was set before us, I struggled through the decision. I prayed and journalled so diligently about it. At the end of the day, our driving reason for taking the step and building a bigger house was to use it for God. The way our house has been designed has been to allow opportunities to serve others. I try to decorate my house in a way that makes people feel welcomed, to be a place of refuge, peace, warmth, where there is a sense of the 'presence of God'. When I choose verses to write on my chalkboards, I usually choose ones that I need to be reminded of, but I also hope others will be encouraged by them too.

There are times when its hard for me to open up my home and I am not willing to do 'good' and to 'share', like when I am tired and just want to go to bed! But God always quickly reminds me that our home, is His home and He is the one who will give me the strength to serve and use it for His purpose, for His his glory.

As I enjoy my husband, my children, my family, my home, coffee and chocolates, I constantly need to be thankful to God for them, and to be willing to share them!

I encourage you to read Randy Alcorn's latest post on his blog 'Creator and Culture and anticipating a Redeemed Earth', he provides such a wonderful insight into the things of this world.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Where does my help come from?

My husband preached today on Psalm 121:1-2. I was wanting to blog about these verses a few weeks ago, but after talking about it to my him, he was inspired to preach about it today!

So I held off blogging about it until now!

I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from where shall my help come?
My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1-2

I had one of those mornings a few weeks ago. It was my husband's day off, and he had been unwell, and unable to be an active part of our morning routine! I had slept in a bit (as I often do when its his day off!) and so we were pressed for time and I was getting frustrated and impatient at all that had to get done before school and kindy drop offs. I have to confess that I got annoyed at my husband, and felt that he wasn't helping me, that I had to do everything by myself! Well, as we got in the car it didn't take long for him to realise that I was grumpy, with him! He dropped me off to school with my daughter and then took the others to kindy, he would come back for me later. After I took my daughter to class I had about 10 minutes by myself waiting for my husband to come pick me up. I was feeling rather horrible inside, and then the words of Paslm 121 came into my head. This is one of my favourite Psalms and I love the way Sons of Korah sing it, the words and tune came into my head. Where does my help come from? I was angry at Henry because he wasn't helping me, but really, where does my help come from? Had I asked God to help me? I knew that Henry was not well, but still I was frustrated at his lack of help (mind you he was helping the best he could!). I needed to stop and ask God to help me, He is the only one who could help me, get everyone ready, to be able to help and serve my sick husband and to have a smile on my face through out it all! After a few minutes of pondering all of this waiting on the footpath outside the school, I lifted my eyes to the sky and reflected how the maker of heaven and earth is my Helper. He is the provider of all my help.

I have to admit that there are times when I delude myself into thinking that my life would be easier if my mother was still alive to help me, that if my husband was healthy all the time he could help me more, that if the older women in the church were more available they could help me..... Don't get me wrong, all of these things are wonderful sources of help, but God is my ultimate source of help, and He provides what I need, when I need it. I need to call upon Him first, and He will provide for all that I need.

I have needed to learn the lesson of asking for help over the years, and I am getting better at it, but I also need to learn to ask God first to help me, to allow Him to provide for me, and sometimes He helps by bringing a person into mind whom I can ask to help.

About a month ago, when my husband had the dreaded gastro bug, I had many wonderful people help me. I had called upon the Lord to be my Helper that day, and I saw Him provide for me. I made the decision not to rush out and ask people to help me. My husband needed me and there was a chance I might need to go to hospital with him, so having 3 less children would have been helpful. So I took my daughter to school and a friend offered to take 2 to the park - thank you Lord, I was left with the youngest who needed to go to bed. When I got home another friend called and offered to have 1 all day after the park and would even take him to swimming lessons that night - thank you Lord. I decided to ring a friend and ask her to pick the other 1 up and take her for the afternoon and I would pick her up at school pick up, she was happy to - thank you Lord!

As it turned out, my husband didn't need to go to hospital, he just slept for the rest of the day, and I had the rest of the day to myself, my youngest slept til lunchtime! In fact that was the day I was able to set up this blog!

God is so amazing when we call upon Him for help, He provides abundantly and in ways we don't expect, and all so that we will glorify Him. God wants to help us so we can give Him all the glory!

One of my other favourite verses if from Psalm 50:15

Call upon Me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.

And, God helps us even when we don't ask Him, as I was writing this post, I received some very practical help, which is so beyond my comprehension, this was something I had not asked Him for, but He knows my needs way better than I do! Thank you Lord, and thank you to my friend!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Personal Retreats

I have a friend who has the opportunity to go away with her husband to a conference for a week, without children! Her husband will be at the conference during the day so she will have the days to herself. This opportunity has come a busy time and she was questioning whether to go, but we encouraged her to - you don't get many free holidays that include time away from your kids, time with your husband, and allotted times to yourself! I am glad she made the decision to go, despite the busyness, I know that God will help her to get everything done in time :)

This reminded me of the last school holidays which were characterised by lots of time where I went away by myself. I had the opportunity to spend a week with a special friend in need without children, my husband volunteered to look after the kids for a week! It so happened that I already had planned to go away for a night to our bible study ladies retreat, and then the following week I was going with my dad to visit my sister interstate for the weekend. Whilst I was looking forward to a break from my normal routines, I did feel guilty and felt like I was abandoning my family! I prayed through this guilt and feelings and asked God to make each time I went away a special time for me and for my husband and my children. I prayed that he would enjoy the time alone with the kids and extra times to himself!

During this time I was reminded of some of my mother's last words before she passed away. She kept a journal for the last 4-5 months before she died, I think she was hoping that one day I would pick up her journal and read it, because I felt a lot of what she wrote was directed at me! One of the things she said was how she hoped my husband would allow me to have times away by myself. With my father's support, she used to go and spend the night in a nice hotel to refresh, revive and restore. This was really important to her and in her journal it was as if she was almost urging me to make sure I do something similar, for the benefit of my personal health and for the benefit of those around me! I totally agree with her! I have experienced several times away from my husband and children now and they have been so life changing for me. I love to read, so I always devour books, and I journal a lot and analyse my life a lot and look at what I need to change in my attitudes, my routines, my schedules, my relationships.

However, when I am away I have to fight off worry about my husband and children: Is he coping ok?... Will they be safe without me around?... Are they eating enough fruit and vegetables?...What if I never see them again?...... But all this worry is sin and I often have to confess this to God and allow Him to be completely in control of my family. There is no point in me spending my time away indulging in worry and feeling guilty about not being with my family, I need to focus on why I am away from them and make the most of the opportunities I have away from them. The last times I went away, I came back with such a deep love and appreciation for my husband and children. I missed them terribly, but I felt so refreshed, so revived, so eager to get back into serving them and loving them unconditionally! Times away from our 'normal life' are so vital. Personal spiritual retreats are especially vital, Jesus made sure he retreated away from the crowds, even in the busy times He needed that time with His Father. There is a book authored by the Mahaney girls called Shopping for Time, they emphasis the importance of personal retreats and outline how they go about it on their blog.

I am so thankful for my husband who let me go away, and my prayers for him were answered! He enjoyed the time with the kids, and the time to himself, and I want to commend him for the wonderfully clean house I came home to each time I was away, and for the roast he made for me one time I came home, and for being so supportive in all that I do! If you want to hear more about how he 'really coped', check out his posts on Daddy Daycare.

And to my friend who is going away in a couple of weeks time, I hope you enjoy it!