Who Are You Trying To Please?

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For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.                                                        ~Galatians 1:10

When I was a teenager, I was often consumed with comparing myself to how others looked.  The hallways of my school seemed to teem with beautiful girls–the right clothes (ya know, those skinny zip at the ankle guess jeans?) or the perfect blonde curly hair–if I could only look a little more like them….then I would fit in.  The culture of my high school was a little cut-throat at times. When I flew 1000 miles away to college to escape the pressure, I landed myself in a sorority that precipitated this ideal even farther–and I found myself in a great battle with an eating disorder.

Later, when I became a teacher, a career I poured every piece of myself into, I compared myself to other teachers-whose class was the most composed walking down the hall, which teachers had students with highest test scores, etc.  As educational consultants, “the experts,” came in and out of our staff development room, teaching us about the latest and greatest, I would sit in admiration of their knowledge and authority.  So much so that I became one a few short years later.

Later, when I became a mom, I completely stopped comparing myself to others.  Except in a couple of areas…like every one.  As I sat in a mess of toys and dried oatmeal, at least two crying kids at all times, feeling defeated by how hard this new role in my life was, I couldn’t hear one more story about moms who just loved playing with their happy and well-behaved children for hours on end on the living room floor.  Would my kids rise up and praise me one day?  Would others ever ask me for parenting advice? I struggled with insecurity like I had never had before.

These days, I compare myself to other bloggers–we are a dime a dozen right now–what do I possibly have to offer that is anything special?  And, since I have started a new YouTube channel for tween and teen girls I am back to comparing myself to other teenage girls (go figure!).  Not that I want to be a teenage girl again, but my peers in this new world of media are very successful teen YouTubers with audiences in the millions-and I can’t help comparing myself to their success since at the moment I have an audience of 40.

All of this comparison has brought me to my knees over and over and over again in my life.  And God has the same message for me again, today.

His voice is gentle but prodding.

He tells me to look up, not around.

He is to be my audience of one.

One.

One.

One.

Not stats that spike with followers or likes or subscribers. Not admirers of my knowledge as an educator. Not children that act perfectly and grocery store shoppers that nod their heads in approval of my magnificent parenting skills-ha! Not the world that I want to see me as an attractive-ish, fashionable-ish, forty-something. None. Of. That.

Just God.

When we serve our Creator, we do not disappoint.  He subscribes, follows, likes, cheers, listens, and approves of anything we do in His name with a pure and willing heart.

It is the echo of His two clapping hands in an empty room that I long to hear.

He is our audience of One.

 

Devotional For Kids: It’s Okay to be Broken!

Do you ever get push back when you try to correct your children?  Defensiveness, resistance?  Do they ever act like they “know it all” when you try to teach them something?  Since we see this attitude crop up from time to time with our children, my heart was burdened to begin to peel back these layers of pride and show them God’s desire for our posture in relationships and toward Him (and why it’s ok to be broken!).

I wrote about brokenness here in a recent blog because it is something adults (me!) struggle with just as much as children. One of the things I have wanted to teach our children is the idea that we are all broken and need a redeemer.  We all fall short of the glory of God and who he created us to be.  But a closed heart and attitude toward correction highlights a need to work on having a teachable spirit.

I initially wanted to write a devotional about having a Teachable Spirit, but realized that I needed to teach about brokenness first.  It is difficult to be teachable if you think you’re perfect.  So this is a two part lesson. You can print the PDF from here: Devo–Brokenness (click here and again next page), and stay tuned for the next Kid’s Devo on having a teachable spirit.

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This devotional is geared for 5th graders and up, but you can easily adapt the lesson to younger ones!

What Do You Long For?

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What is Your Long Labor?

Are you in a season of your life where a circumstance has you in for the long haul?  It might not necessarily be a season you wish away–just one that is not always easy.  A few examples come to mind.

Parenting. It is where we live with our heart beating in the open air, vulnerable to the highs and lows of the little lives we are raising. Parenting is a labor of love, endurance, continual trial and error, mistakes and triumphs, heart on the floor and then lifted to greatest heights as we weep and celebrate with our flesh and blood the events and circumstances of their lives.

It is a season that for me has lasted seventeen years as my oldest celebrated this year in her life a few months ago.  And from what I hear speaking to older, wiser mothers, the ride does not end when our child walks out the front door into adulthood–there is labor ahead, even if it is just the labor of my heart, while my hands rest from years of parent-work.

And it is long.

How do any of us get through it? How do we possibly live so vulnerably for so many years, with soft, pliable hearts that don’t harden just for self-protection and a moment of rest?

LOVE.

Love is what keeps us malleable, it is the hand that picks us up again and again as we strive to be the good parent to our children, when we truly don’t know what we are doing so much of the time. And, I believe it is the love of God that pours through us that allows us the shred of wisdom and forgiveness and grace for each day.

In Beth Moore’s latest study, “Children of the Day”, she speaks of Paul, Timothy, and Silvanus and their letter to the Thessalonian church with encouraging words:

“We recall, in the presence of our God and Father, your work of faith, labor of love, and endurance of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians1:3

Paul was speaking about the faith, labor and hope of the people of Thessolonica who were trying to be faithful in their day to day lives.

In her study, Beth changes the emphasis just a bit on these words:

FAITH CAN BE WORK

LOVE CAN BE LABOR

HOPE CAN GET LONG

Paul acknowledges that the people of Thessolonica who were trying mightly admidst much persecution to love and serve the Lord, were in it for the long haul.

What else in your life is long-hoping, long laboring? What about marriage? When you know that God has your best interest in mind in the midst of a difficult marriage, you have a new perspective. You have to labor for your love. And hoping… it can get long. Hoping for change, for a new leaf to be turned, in yourself or your spouse. With no end in sight. How does one possibly hold on?

In Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, he certainly does not make light of long-suffering. Having been beaten, tourtured, flogged, left for dead, persecuted, run out of town, shipwrecked three times, he is intimate friends with wanting a season of better. Even in this, he encourages us to hang on. In life, whether it’s parenting, marriage, financial troubles, relational troubles, work difficulty, depression, or whatever you want to fill in here, sometimes it’s going to be long.

We hold on, we keep hoping because we trust God and his love for us.  He knows what we are going through.  As my friend prays, “Your arm, Lord,  is not too short to reach us in our struggle.”

For me, accepting that something is going to be long somehow makes it easier.  I can settle into the situation, find my reality in it instead of fighting the reality.

When we hold on to the hope that God is good, and will see the circumstances out in our life according to His will—not ours—we can see the situation for what it is, not something to constantly try to escape from. When I accept that raising my children will be a lifeLONG process of joy and heartache, I can embrace the lessons I am learning, and the ways God is growing me right now. I can trust that he will see me and my children through, and loosen my grip of control.

So what is your long labor? Keep fighting to live in the present, learn the lessons meant to be learned, grow as you were meant to grow, and hold tightly to God in the long—ness of it all.

As always, I appreciate your comments!  Thank you for being such faithful readers!

~Amy

 

How To Eat A Pie

This might surprise you, but there is more than one way to eat a pie.  I know, because this is what the current pie I am eating looks like:

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Why? Because it was my birthday yesterday and my dear friend Christine brings me a freshly baked (by her own hands) pie each year on this one day.  The pie comes with strict instructions: “DO NOT SHARE.” Which gives me great freedom to dig that fork in any which way I want.  I can just have a bite (ha!) or I can have a third of the creation all at once.

In my pursuit of slowing down and being grateful, this is finding extra meaning for me this year.  I am savoring the bites, and even flaunting them a bit in front of my children, who don’t really like apple pie (fortunately).  I am grateful, and I am living in the moment of the sugar and crust and delicious filling.

It’s nice having freedom for once to not conform to the “rules of the pie”–eight symmetrical slices to be shared and eaten politely on a plate.

It’s interesting that the rule my friend gave me actually gave me freedom.

Have you ever thought about that with the Christian life?

Too often we don’t see rules as leading to freedom, instead we see them as necessary evils that we either fight against or embrace legalistically:

“We shouldn’t wear this, we need to say that, we certainly don’t do those things, did you see what that person did?”  We tend to make it sound all judgy, with shouldn’ts and should haves. We heap expectations on others, while often ignoring our own misfires.

But God’s real plan for us is freedom.  How do we reconcile both?

Here are some thoughts:

God knew in his wisdom that some ways of doing life are better than others.  That is the key to understanding Jesus, and his tangible effort to connect us with his Father, followed by his death on the cross paying for our sin.  We have no laws anymore, no sacrifices to redeem us enough to be in God’s presence once again.  It is done.  We are connected through repentance and faith and belief.  We have freedom.

We also have choices to make every day, some good, some bad.  Our freedom to choose can sometimes be the very thing that imprisons us.  Adultery, murder (literally imprisons), dishonesty, gluttony, envy, idolatry,  just to name a few.

Back to the pie… what if I always ate a pie set before me this crazy, one-forked big-holed way?  What if I dug in to a delicious warm apple round at a party with my prongs, carving out the middle, going back in several times to get the best bites in front of a group of wide eyes.  Um, yuck.  My party days would be over.

God knows that some ways to live our life (eat our pie) are better than others, which is why in His Word he gives us instructions, guidelines, even commandments.  He knows that some “free” decisions in life lead to heartbreak, pain, suffering.

“Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander of every kind.” 1 Peter 2:1.

Throughout the bible, God speaks of obedience and righteousness, and He also speaks of hope and grace and a future.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade–kept in heaven for you , who through faith are shielded by God’s power…” 1 Peter 1: 3-5

God has an inheritance for us, a living hope and a new birth.  He is not all about rules, there is so much more!

Yet he knows that if we tank our life in sin, we get buried in the heap of mess, guilt, regret, and shame.  There is no freedom in that.

Which is why there is freedom in the word of God, with all its wisdom and guidelines.

We are to live a life of passion and love because of the great love God has for us, his children.   At the same time, let’s pursue righteousness–let’s serve and obey God because we want to out of our love for Him, and because we trust him with our best life.

This is the balancing act of the Christian life.

Blessings,

Amy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 Spiritual Resolutions I’m Working On

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I had mentioned a couple of posts ago that I was going to blog about three possible resolutions to pursue for 2014–here is the first!

Sadly, the word “resolutions” already seems like a word from the past, since it’s already February. In the past, I would have trailed off into my old habits by the end of January if I hadn’t made radical changes by this point.  Not this year!  We still have almost the whole year ahead of us to grow and thrive!  God gives us a new beginning EACH DAY to put the past behind us and take control of positive growth in our lives.

Today I want to share about spiritual resolutions and three ways I am trying to accomplish growth in my own life:

1.  Resolve to Put In Effort –yep, just do it!

In my relationships with friends and family, if I don’t move toward them and give at least an equal amount of effort the relationship struggles.  I often have to be intentional about those relationships–date nights with my husband, quality time with my kids, or coffee with my friends whose lives don’t so easily intersect with mine anymore.

It is the same with God–we need to be intentional in setting aside all the distractions of life and giving time to Him.

I don’t know about you, but it is extremely easy for me to get distracted as soon as I walk downstairs each morning in my fuzzy robe and slippers.  I have the full intention of sitting quietly by the fireplace with my bible and a steaming mug of coffee in my hands (just kidding, I don’t drink coffee, or tea for that matter) and all of a sudden I find myself with honey stuck to my fingers from the sandwich I hurriedly made, children shoving permission slips to be signed in front of me, frozen chicken to be thawed for dinner, a load of “emergency” laundry to be thrown in for the kids theme day at school, etc.

Not to mention the bright shiny distraction of the EMAIL INBOX.

The truth is, I must be intentional (and disciplined)  in how I want to grow–and use discipline to seek God first and my inbox later.  I need to plan into my busy schedule how to make time with God (quiet times, church, bible study)  a reality amongst the distractions.

In other words, I will not feel any closer to God through osmosis.

2. Discover God on His Terms, Not Ours.

The pastor at our church has challenged us on this way of thinking, which has been so enlightening!  Ask yourself this question:  “Is the bible about humans or God?”  Think about it.  Humans, you say?  After all, the bible is about the human experience with God, shared in heartbreaking and exhilarating stories.   But, Pastor Cuss explains that actually, the bible is about God.  It is about His character, His plan, and His will for humans.  It is about His desire for relationship with them and the sacrifices He made to make that possible.  God created humans to be in relationship with Him–not for Him to be in relationship with us….subtle difference, think about it.

As Christians we need to discover God on His terms (we are a part of His greater plan) not ours (He exists to help us with our plan). We need to remember that we are set apart for the purpose of glorifying God and to fulfill His will for the earth.

How does that become a resolution?  In my daily attitude, and my heart in seeking God.  Is it self-serving? Or do I  humbly surrender to God, asking Him to fulfill his plan in my life? I’m working on the latter.

3. Rinse, Wash Repeat.

Developing my spiritual habits come from repetition.  To have a time and a place each day for my quiet time (6:30 AM on the bean bags by my fireplace), gives me consistency and structure.  During this time I read my passages out of the Daily Bible, do part of my bible study for the week, and spend a few minutes in prayer.

I am the first to admit this does not always happen the way I would like.   As I mentioned earlier, there are many distractions that happen in the morning, and many days my younger two get up earlier than I’m expecting (during my quiet time)  to work on homework or go to school early for an extra-curricular activity.  So, I just try to get back on the horse the next day (when they actually stay asleep until 7:00).   The point is the pattern is established so I can get right back into it when the opportunity is there.

Whether it’s bible study, church, prayer, or listening to worship music, repetition is the key.  I know it is good for my soul and my closeness to God to walk with Him consistently.  As I “practice the presence of God” in my life, my attraction grows toward Him.

These three spiritual resolutions; putting in effort, discovering God on His terms, and rinsing, washing and repeating, help us to thrive in our spiritual lives each day! Let’s do it!

The next post will be on physical (health) resolutions and some tools I’ve found to help us keep those.

Blessings,

Amy

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