Still Alive! Learning What It Really Means To Live Abundantly!

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It has been something like 15 months since I last blogged.  Yes, I am still alive!

Life was happening during those 15 months.  We prepped a house for a move.  We cleaned.  We prepped some more.  We cleaned.  We cleaned.  We cleaned some more.  Then we packed and packed and packed some more.

Less than two weeks before Christmas of last year, we sold our house and with the help of friends and family, we moved into our new home.

Prior to purchasing our current home, we prayed and prayed and you got it, prayed some more.  We prayed for a home that was in the center of God’s will.  We prayed for God to open the right doors and close the wrong doors.  We prayed for our hearts to be purified so we might make a decision that was in the perfect will of God.

By faith, we stepped through the doors God opened.  We continue to be amazed at how God so wonderfully provided and blessed us!

We don’t take our current status for granted.  We know that everything can change in a second.  Yet, we continue to be thankful and to praise the One Who made this all possible.

A friend blessed me a few months ago with the book, The Names Of God, written by Marilyn Hickey.

I loved the chapter on El Shaddai.  It signifies nourishment and productiveness, like a mother’s breast.  “God is shown as the One who is more than enough.”  God is saying, “I am more than enough to meet your needs in each situation.”

“The word almighty always relates to blessings and multiplication.  Because the name speaks of more than enough, it speaks of abundance.  When Jesus said, ‘I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.’ (John 10:10), He was speaking of El Shaddai, who supplies an abundance of nourishment for body, soul, and spirit.”

“That’s Jesus saying to you, ‘I came to give you life in abundance!’  He never said that He came to squeeze you down into a nub and to get you into heaven by the skin of your teeth.  No, He has an abundance of God’s blessings that are just for you.  You need to camp under God’s shadow and allow Him to be more than enough.”

“Moses also knew El Shaddai … Moses extolled the power of God, which had delivered Israel from the plagues that were upon Egypt.  In this verse, the word dwelleth actually means ‘to stake your claim.’  Imagine this: he who stakes his claim in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.  Moses said, ‘I am staking my claim under the shadow of God who is more than enough.  That’s where I want to live’.”

“The devil is a claim jumper, and he’ll try to steal what you have claimed… the Bible says that He who promised is faithful … Put your trust in the all-sufficient One.”

What a wonderful privilege it is to be a daughter of El Shaddai!

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Opening Your Home Also Means Opening Your Heart

I just read a blog this morning that I just loved.  It was exactly what I needed — an extra reminder — of what is important to keep in mind when preparing for the holidays.  The link to the blog is:

lisajobaker.com/2012/11/entertaining-in-a-small-house

I started to write a note with the blog when preparing to post it to my Facebook account.  My note became so long that I decided that I should just write a quick blog instead.  After-all, this blog is a journal of my life’s journey.

So here is my note plus a little extra:

Perfect for me today (referencing the blog post)!  I was just thinking about the clutter on top of our computer hutch: stuff I am trying to sell and windshield wipers that I am not sure if my husband needs to install or have for warranty information (guess I should ask).

Then, there’s all those finger-prints and dirt on window-panes.  I haven’t cleaned most of our windows — mostly because they are very old — can’t even open some of them and/or because the storm windows are down and difficult to raise.  In order to clean old windows, I would need to climb on a ladder two stories up.  Not my cup of tea!

Then, there are the drippy faucets, peeling paint on my old tub and sink, there are the rips in my couches with stuffing showing.  Okay, so I hide the tears as best as possible with sofa cushions and blanket throws.  It’s these circumstances that I often look out that make me want to close my home and my heart to people.  Big sigh.

Taking a deep breath, I recognize that a clean home does not equal a welcoming home.  The enjoyment people receive from visiting my home is not found in the level of my cleanliness.  Sure, it needs to be clean enough so they feel comfortable sitting on my couch and having their kids play on my floor.  A feeling of being welcome though is found more in the way I share my heart and home then in the pristine condition of my home.  It’s allowing people to see that love and friendship can be found in less than perfect surroundings when they are shared with an open heart.

So, today as I scramble around trying to do some final cleaning for today’s and then tomorrow’s company, I am going to make it a goal to laugh at the areas that aren’t perfect and to enjoy the happy chaos that comes when I welcome an additional 20 people into my home.

May my home reflect Christ’s love: how He came — not to a mansion but to a stable, chose His disciples — not from the elite — but from the common working class, died not for the righteous but for the sinner, slept on the ground — not in a palace bed, didn’t give political speeches but spoke to the eternal needs of people, and didn’t embrace class distinctions but demonstrated that all people are equally valuable to Him.

 

She Melts My Heart

(Photo taken by Becca Davis Photography.)

I absolutely adore all my children!  Okay, some days I don’t feel like I like them as much.  If anyone or anything would threaten my children with harm though — even at their worst moments — I would gladly risk my own life to rescue them.  My “mother-bear” claws would unfurl, and watch out!

I was so excited when each of our boys entered our lives!  I treasured every minute of holding their sweet little bodies in my arms as babies.  I loved watching them do their funny things and say their cute stuff!  As we jokingly would say to one another, “You’re so sweet I could eat you for dinner!”  I thought life was absolutely wonderful with three little boys.  And it was!  I loved building train track configurations, Lego contraptions, throwing balls, pushing them on riding toys, curling up to read books, and cuddle time before bed.

In my heart of hearts though I always wondered what it would be like to have a daughter also — to share those moments that only mothers and daughters can do best: the tea parties, boy talks, shopping, painting nails, fixing long hair, cooking meals together, etc…  I had enjoyed a close relationship with my sisters and mom growing up, and I wanted to experience that too with my daughter — the comradery of women.

When I found out I was having a girl, well I was just a little excited, to say the least.  Even the boys got in on the excitement, talking about how she was going to be their princess and wear princess dresses.

Then, the princess entered our lives!  We dressed her in the prettiest outfits, fixed her hair with bows and flowers, and saw pink and purple for the first time in our house.  After three boys, I was ready for a little pink and purple.

The little princess is now 17 months old.  She has warmed her way into all of our hearts, melted them really.  Well, her brothers might disagree at times when she knocks over their train track configurations and Lego houses.  We all laugh though when she tries to dance to music and uses a flashlight with the wide part underneath her mouth to pretend to sing on a mic.  We smile when she sees a brother crying and immediately walks over to rub their heads and pat their backs.  We clap when she helps Mommy unload the dishwasher and puts some silverware on the table.  We all hold our noses when she needs a diaper change and plops down on our laps.  We laugh as she giggles when we swing her in the air and twirl her in our arms — that is when Mommy and Daddy do that.

Our little girl has warmed her way into our hearts.  She is a ray of sunshine, pure delight!  What a gift God gave to us in her!

Letter To The Future Bride

(Picture was taken by Becca Davis Photography.)

It is a special privilege to be able to write a letter to you in reference to, Lord-willing, your future role as a wife!

I have enjoyed almost 10 1/2 years of married life presently.  I hope this is just the first of many decades that I have to spend with my husband!

Per your request, I will share some of the lessons I have learned in a decade of married life:

Be ready to forgive 70 X 7 + more.  Don’t keep a record of wrongs.  “Don’t let the sun go down upon your wrath.”

Always honor your husband before others by how you speak of him, how you speak to him, and when you speak.

Practice the art of listening.

Respond with humor whenever appropriate.

Be willing to say “I am sorry,” without casting blame.

Avoid complaining.  Seek to edify and encourage.

Make your home an environment of rest both in body, mind, and soul.

Make your husband happy to come home.

Honor your husband by how you take care of yourself.  (You represent your husband.)  A wife who neglects herself may speak of disrespect towards her husband or inattention on his part towards herself.

Honor your husband before any children God gives you.  Show a unified front to your children.

Pray for and with your husband on a daily basis.

Frequently write your husband special notes of encouragement, putting them in his lunch or special places in your home.

Meet the physical needs of your husband.  Don’t view them as an obligatory burden but as a way to minister to his needs.

Be grateful and express it.

Have devotions as a couple and eventually as a family.

Discuss Scriptural questions with your husband.

Be loyal to your husband above any other relationship outside of God.

Be willing to seek Godly counsel, if your husband is truly living in a seriously un-Biblical way.

Gain your husband’s consent before making plans that affect him or the function of the family.

Be content.

Don’t be wasteful in your spending.  Stick to agreed upon budgets.

Don’t compare your husband to other men.

Avoid any inappropriate interactions with anyone of the opposite gender.

Be transparent and accountable to your husband with any male friendships/acquaintances that you might have had prior to marriage.  He should have full access to any communication.  Make sure your husband approves of any and all communication.

Avoid any appearance of evil (e.g. flirting with others, lunches with a coworker of the opposite sex.  Group situations are okay).

Dress modestly so you preserve your body as a gift for his eyes alone.

Avoid habits that are irritating to him.

Make dates a priority.

Share a mutual hobby.

Try to make meals that he finds palatable.

Create your own holiday traditions together.

Dress to please him.

Greet him with affection when he comes home from work or when he calls.

Don’t “dump” on him all the negative occurrences from your day.  Wait to share until later in the evening.

Keep his tastes in mind when decorating your home – make it mutually pleasing to both of you.

Take turns picking a movie to watch together.

Play games together, but don’t be a sore loser or an arrogant winner.

Joke with your husband.

Laugh together a lot.

Flirt with your husband – especially within the privacy of your home and room.

Dress sexy when in the privacy of your room.

Don’t be overly conscious of your body when sharing it with him.

View and treat sex with honor and as a gift.

Let him comfort you during child-bearing.  Don’t blame him for your pain.

Don’t use tears as a form of manipulation.

Try to avoid emotional tirades.  A man doesn’t know what to do with those.

If you need your husband to be more sensitive to you, gently tell him what would mean a lot (e.g. “Right now, I just need a hug from you, honey.”)

Take off the “rose-colored glasses” before marriage.  Put them on afterwards.

Only marry a man who will be compatible with these points.

Be flexible.  He might want to do something different than you had planned for the day or evening.

Keep yourself pure prior to marriage.  Present yourself as a gift to him on your wedding night.

Get your parents’ advice on the man you wish to marry.

Seriously consider any warnings your godly friends and family members may give.

Heed any inner cautions you have regarding a potential spouse.  It is better to end a courtship or engagement then a marriage!

Before marrying, pray if this is not just the right one but the right timing.  Some headaches in marriages could have been avoided if more time for maturation had been allowed.

Don’t haste to be wed.  The dating/courtship time is to be savored.

Keep an engagement as short as reasonably possible to avoid undue temptation.

Make sure you have had time to pursue any ministry opportunities God has called you to prior to marriage.  Once you are married, your focus will be on serving your husband rather than others.  (You can serve others together, but the opportunities are different.)

Get as much applicable training as possible before marriage so that you can bring those life skills and lessons into better serving your family.  Time and resources will probably be more limited once you are a new couple starting out.

Be resourceful in meeting your family’s needs.

Don’t be selfish with your time and attention in serving your family.

Serve with a cheerful attitude.

I may think of more, but this is the list I have for now.  This is an impossible list in and of yourself.  You and I both need the Lord’s grace and Spirit to help us actually live this in our daily lives.  We will sin at times and not fulfill these guidelines.  When we do, we need to humbly ask for forgiveness and then start again.

Let me leave you with this quote:

“If the manner of life under grace is superhuman, so, also, the provided enablement is supernatural, and is limitless as the infinite power of God …. Too much emphasis cannot be placed on the fact that, since God has proposed the impossible rule of life and provided the sufficient Spirit, the believer’s responsibility is thereby changed from being a struggle of the flesh to being a reliance on the Spirit. Grace thus introduces a new problem for the believer’s life which is wholly foreign to every aspect of the law. It is the problem of the adjustment of the heart to the holy presence of the Spirit, and of maintaining the unbroken attitude of dependence on Him.” ~ Lewis Sperry Chafer

Today’s Moments of Grace

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Here are all the moments of grace that I recorded for today:

1.  Plump pillows

2. Warm blankets

3. Soft mattress

4. Smiling baby, happy to see me

5. Milk to fill her tummy … the ability to nurse, to nourish

6. Cuddling kids

7. Children dressed for the day and beds made — without my reminders

8. Breakfast prepared by loving, little hands

9. Peaceful mornings

10. A floor freshly mopped last night

11. Soft words dispelling disagreements

12. Husbands’ fleece hoodie, pulled on for warmth

13. A child who asks for a verse on anger to memorize

14. Smooth wooden table … the grain beautifully seen

15. Clean counters

16. Freshly washed window panes

17. Eyes, the color of the skies, gazing out the window in infant innocence as I rock her

18. Rocking chair, cradling my baby and I

19. Boys quietly working on school papers

20. Surrounded by my boys as I read several books to them

21. Hearing the words “please” , unprompted

22. A 7-month old who looks up from her play to wave in delight at me

23. A mug of creamy ice cream … mint and chocolate brownie

24. Beautiful bindings of books to read, filling library shelves

25. Rice cereal smeared on Baby’s face

26. A big brother lovingly feeding her

27. Five hours of uninterrupted sleep

28. Quiet contentment

29. School completed for the day

30. Children cheerful and playing kindly

31. Flag waving in the breeze

32. Patches of blue sky through the puffy clouds

33. Parks for my rambunctious boys to play

34. Soft leather of my journal that my fingers gently caress as I open its pages

35. Words replete with meaning … the ability to write

36. Boys with strong legs that propel them across the playground and up the ladders of the slides

37. An invitation to chase my son

38. Fluffy towels to dry off after my shower

39. Silky conditioner, fragrant wash, creamy shampoo, pampering me

40. Boys with great imaginations, designing Star Wars characters and snowmen from styrofoam cups

41. The wind blowing, speaking of things unseen yet present

42. Tulips and daffodils poking their leafy stalks from the confines of Earth … reminders that life always follows death to self

43. Laughter and squeals of delight as I race up the ladders and down the slides with my kids … child-like joy and abandonment of adult cares

44. Sleeping baby resting in her warm car-seat

45. Strong arms to twirl my children in the air

46. The pounding of feet across mulch as the chase is on

47. Cold children with rosy cheeks and noses

48. Creative children, imagining they’re pirates or fighting them … the beginnings of manhood — this desire to conquer, to succeed, to protect, to explore, to create

49. Cold children returning to their Mama for warmth and comfort

50. Cups of hot tea, warming my insides and steaming my windows

51. Hard, cold kernels heated and popped open.  Fluffy, white insides revealed, warmed with drizzled butter … a tasty treat on a cold afternoon

52. Little toy cars flying across my kitchen floor, reminding me that there is life here — young life

53. Crimson, velvet petals … sweet fragrance … roses reposing on my table … gift from my husband just because, a few days ago

54. Husband arrives home from work … greeted with a kiss

55. Kiss … full lips, soft, firm, pliant, receptive, cherished!

56. Aromas of homemade garlic Alfredo sauce, simmering on my stove … tender pasta, shrimp, vegetables

57. Baby giggles as Daddy holds her while chasing older brothers around the house … wild squeals of delight

58. Classical music serenading … preparing for dinner … soothing music for our digestion, preparing my soul to receive its own nourishment

59. Matches waiting to strike … candles waiting to be lit

60. Warm glow of candle-light … that which was hard and dark now alight, glowing, melting, flickering, warming … Set me aflame as well, Lord, with your presence, melting warming, alighting that which was not

61. Table set by a little boy’s hands, helping, loving

62. Valentines designed by creative sons … their own initiative … paper hearts representing hearts beating with life … representatives and manifestations of love — God’s love, pulsating with love and joy in beholding life: that which comes from Him

63. Four children snuggled around us while Daddy reads God’s Word, a devotional book, and a story

64. Soft, pink boots held in Baby’s pudgy hands … a gift from Daddy to daughter

65. Children tucked under covers

66. Husband studying late into the evening

67. House quiet … only sounds within are from radiators, pouring forth their heat

68. Full glass of water, sparkling, awaiting my parched lips to take a sip … reminding me of another kind of water offered to quench my spiritual thirst, to loose the dried up/empty parts of my soul and to restore and reinvigorate them.  This glass of water, this taste of Divine refreshment, this fountain of joy … none other than grace … flowing from His presence, nourishing, replenishing my soul … restoring joy to that which was parched but is now re-energized/refreshed!

Manning It Without The Man

So this is the second time within the past three weeks that my Man has been gone for a good part of the week.  In a three-week period, he will have been gone 9 of those days.  So here I sit taking a few more minutes to finally blog since I am not spending those minutes with my dear husband.

Yes, that does mean all four of my kids are sleeping sweetly in their beds.  Boy, do they ever look sweet when their faces are relaxed in restful pose, their eyelashes are curling on their cheeks, and all is calm.

Here we are half-way through the month of October, and I am finally blogging again.  Life just doesn’t slow down.  It reminds me of a movie I love called Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken. In that movie, the heroine tries to jump on a galloping horse time and time again and keeps falling repeatedly.  I feel like that’s me, trying to jump on to the runaway horse of time.  Phew!  Well, I caught it for a few minutes.  So, let me give you the “run-down” of what these past three weeks have been like.

Besides having Jonathan gone and missing him like crazy, I have done all those normal activities that you all do too and would find boring to read about so I will spare my readers the whole list.  Suffice it to say, I’ve had my frustrating moments, my times when I have had to quickly apologize to the boys because Mommy was being quite “cross”.  I’ve had to be reminded by the Lord a few times that my kids are more important than messy floors — floors that I had finally just mopped a short time prior to their return to messiness.  Some days, I really do wish I could work my way out of a job.  Okay, not really.  There are just days I wish I could enjoy the fruits of my labors for just a wee bit longer.  I mean it would be nice to sit back for a few more hours and just enjoy the clean floors, vacuumed rugs, sparkling bathroom.  Uhm…, but then that would mean I wouldn’t have little people running around…  So, yeah, I really would take the messiness with the running feet of children over the cleanliness of an empty home.  Some day, I will have a clean house for Jonathan and I to enjoy for days at a time.  In those days, I am sure that there will be times when I will long for the happy sound of dirty/messy children.  Lord, why do I need to be reminded of your blessings repeatedly?  Why do I get my priorities so wrong so many times and hear that desperate quality creeping into my tone of voice and feel myself beginning to “unravel” in trying to keep a clean house?

Trying to fill the role of Mommy and Daddy is a bit overwhelming at times because well Daddy does his role so well, and well, I am just not Daddy.  I have tried to make these past few days special.  On Tuesday after the boys’ soccer practice, I took the boys to the park , after loading their bikes and helmets into the van.  The boys had a blast, and my time was quite rewarded by their heart-felt thanks.  Wednesday was Bible study so that day went quickly, but the boys spent about two hours with their aunt while I went to my optometrist appointment.  Tonight, I used a free movie rental code and was able to get a fun kid’s movie, which I allowed the boys to watch while eating popcorn.  Oh, we also spent a few hours playing games and reading aloud.  I’ve also made lots of cheap and kid-friendly meals.  The great thing is that their favorites are also easy to fix and clean up afterwards.

Since Daddy is supposed to be back tomorrow evening, the boys helped me get some cleaning done today as well.  I was thrilled to get the van cleaned, the fish tank cleaned, laundry caught up, dusting and vacuuming done, and to clean bathrooms.  Oh, that’s right, I promised no boring details.  Let’s just say, I accomplished some of my big goals so that is always satisfying.  Of course, I know our van will be dirty again the next trip we take, but it will take a few more months of food scraps and garbage accumulation before we reach what we had prior to my cleaning.  I confess, I am fairly good at keeping up with the house but lacking when it comes to the vehicles.  Anyone else have that problem?  I should add that Will was a great help with cleaning the van.  He helped gather garbage, wipe down the dash-board, and vacuum too.

School’s been going well with the boys this year.  I am very thrilled with how they are all taking off with reading.  Even Luke is starting to read simple words.  I really need to work more with that boy.  He is one smart kid!

Olivia wants to keep up with her brothers.  She thinks at four-months that she only needs two very short naps.  When I say short, I really do mean short.  They are often half an hour to an hour.  Once in awhile, she’ll go longer.  The rest of the time, she wants to be right in the middle of everything.  She loves it when I hold her and read to everyone.  I think though my favorite part of my day with her is when I get her in the morning, and her entire face almost splits in half as she attempts to charm the socks right off me.  Yup, she sure knows how to charm us all!  The boys keep asking if we are going to have more girls.  I keep telling them to just enjoy their sister as much as possible.  I am following my advice — enjoying her as much as possible.  I love to just hold her and look into her beautiful face and to see how much she adores me.

Talking about adoration though, I know we aren’t to make a god out of anyone, but I think it’s okay to say that I adore my husband!  I have always known how much I love and appreciate him, but having him gone just reminds me all the more.  The first day he was gone, I received a card in the mail from him that he had ordered and sent a personalized message in it.  I was so delighted!  He is always doing thoughtful things like that, showing me in so many ways how much he loves me.  I love the fact that marriage to him just keeps getting better and better!  When you are married to someone who loves the Lord, loves you, loves your kids, what more could you ask for?  I love the fact that we can still have a sparkle just looking at each other, that we can tease each other over ridiculous things but still find them hilarious, that we can pray together, that we can cry together, that we can share looks and know each others thoughts, that we can simply enjoy being together, that we have fun working together, that we share kids together, and that we are forever committed to each other.  There is so much security in that — so much for which to be thankful when I know that we are both committed to each other no matter what.  That doesn’t mean there haven’t and won’t be tough times ahead, but I want it to always be said that Amy adored her husband … always.

God’s been reminding me of how much He adores me.  It’s so humbling and so convicting!  I recognize how much my love for Him needs to grow!  My prayer lately has been, “Lord, bring revival to my heart and to my home.”  I want people to meet us and immediately sense the love of the Lord, His presence.  So, if you think of me, pray for that.

It’s getting late so I think I will turn off the lights and thank the Lord for His help while I have been “manning” the home-front without my man.  Thankful that God is always with me — forever and always!

A Few Good Quotes

I read the following two poems from A Woman’s High Calling by Elizabeth George:

My Kitchen Prayer

“Lord of all pots and pans and things, since I’ve not time to be

A saint by doing lovely things or watching late with Thee

Or dreaming in the dawn light or storming Heaven’s gates,

Make me a saint by getting meals and washing up the plates.

“Although I must have Martha’s hands,

I have a Mary mind,

And when I black the boots and shoes,

Thy sandals, Lord, I find.

I think of how they trod the earth each time I scrub the floor:

Accept this meditation Lord,

I haven’t time for more.

“Warm all the kitchen with Thy love, and light it with Thy peace;

Forgive me all my worrying and make my grumbling cease.

Thou who didst love to give men food, in room or by the sea,

Accept this service that I do, I do it unto Thee.”

A Little Place

“Where shall I work today, dear Lord?

And my love flowed warm and free.

He answered and said,

‘See that little place? Tend  that place for Me.’

“I answered and said, ‘Oh no, not there!

No one would ever see.

No matter how well my work was done,

Not that place for me!’

“His voice, when He spoke, was soft and kind,

He answered me tenderly,

‘Little one, search that heart of thine,

Are you working for them or ME?

Nazareth was a little place…

So was Galilee…'”

Words of Wisdom

I have been reading the book, A Woman’s High Calling, by Elizabeth George.  A quote I came across in her book today said, “Wisdom keeps her eye on her heart, on her homefront, and on heaven.”

She gives the following examples of life that we need to balance to be wise women:

Spiritual life — loving God first and foremost, with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind (Luke 10:27)

Family life — loving and serving those at home first (Titus 2:4-5)

Home life — taking good care of the place where our loved ones live (Titus 2:5)

Church life — discovering, developing, and using our spiritual gifts (I Corinthians 12:7)

Physical life — making sure the “vessel” — the body — is fit and able to serve the Lord and others (I Corinthians 9:27)

Social life — fitting in time for friends and neighbors (Proverbs 18:24; Luke 10:27)

Financial life– being a wise steward of what God has given us (Matthew 25:21)

Mental life — using our mind to grow and to glorify God (Romans 15:4 and Psalm 19:14)