What Do You Long For?

your-labor-is-not-in-vain_500

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

 

He Bought The Ticket

Written By Amy

thCAKGUHH3

In my last post I shared about an “intentional Christmasing” time our family had together.  Today, I would like to share with you another intentional plan I had for my family this Christmas season that didn’t work out so well.  Let’s back up just a bit first. Last year, our family went to this wonderful Christmas performance at Cherry Hills Community Church called “Christmas at the Ranch.”  Maybe you’ve been.  I loved it, because it was a Christ centered event, with high quality singers, performers, and meaning.  The songs were all about the real Christmas, the focus on the birth of Jesus and the hope we have in that.  This is what I wanted to fill my children’s hearts with in the midst of all the bling and sparkle of Christmas.  I couldn’t wait to buy tickets for this year.

In my intentionality to make this happen, I was online as soon as tickets went on sale a couple of months ago, buying seats for my family (even paying a little more for better seats than we had the year before).  As the night of the performance drew closer, my anticipation was great!  I pictured our happy family, dressing up, going to a nice dinner out down by the church, and the enjoying the concert together, letting our hearts be filled with the joy of the season.   Ha ha.

As our family left the neighborhood that night, I had a joyful heart–a night out with our whole family together is a rare and treasured event.  About 15 minutes into the drive my children started arguing…and because we were in a two-row car that night, their close proximity escalated the situation.  Jon and let them work it out for a minute or two, and then attempted to de-escalate the situation.  They settled down for a bit and then out of no where a push from one, a smack from another.  Now I had two children crying (this would be more palatable if my youngest wasn’t TEN!).  I struggled to keep my spirits up as the kids settled into a quiet simmer at each other.  In the midst of this, traffic came to a slow crawl, and my hopes of our sit-down dinner were slipping away.  By the time we reached the area of the church, most of our moods were sour, we were hungry, the kids were mad at each other, I was mad at the kids for being mad, and we couldn’t decide on a quick restaurant to grab food (sit down out of the question at this point).  We spotted a Chipotle, and swung in there.  Somehow on the way from Chipotle to the church, Jonathan and I had a tense discussion between the two of us, which completely tanked any happy spirits I was holding on to.  We walked into the church a stressed, grumpy family.  I am not proud of this, but it took until the second half of the performance for me to find any joy as a mom in this situation.  I prayed as I sat in my seat that God would help me have a joyful heart in the moment.  I looked over at my family, and two of my children were asleep.  Wow.

I then had a woe is me pity party.  “Why as a mom do I put in all this effort to teach my family the real meaning of Christmas and this is what I get? Why did I spend all of this money?  This was a total waste of time.”  I was able to scrape my mood off of the floor by the end of the night, but would I do it next year?  Not so sure. I know now that I had overdone my expectations quite a bit, and that I had obviously put too much hope in this one experience for my family.  I also know this story above is real life.  It is what happens more often than the picture perfect scene I was hoping for.   I can even laugh about it now!

Here’s the amazing tie-in to Christmas.  In hindsight, had I known how the evening would turn out, I would have never bought those tickets.  However, God, in all of his intentionality, did know how sending his one and only Son to earth would turn out.  He knew it would end disastrously for his son. Yet, he still sent Jesus, in the form of a tiny fragile baby to this earth.  God sent his son, in the most vulnerable state possible, to lead the world into a relationship with him.  After 33 years on earth, Jesus would be hung on a cross in a brutal death.  Great suffering, anguish and pain.  And yet, God went through with it.  He still sent Jesus to teach, love and set an example for us.  He still sent his Son to die, redeeming us of all our sin, for all those who put their trust in Him.  God had hindsight, and foresight, and decided, because of his great love for us, to still buy the ticket.

Christmas is about love.  I am going to remind myself of that during this stressful time, filled with expectations that most likely won’t be met.  God bought the ticket because he loves me,  and that’s all that matters.

 

 

Love: Take What You Can Get

By Amy

All through the month of February, we are going to take our Monday post to speak of love. I recently was reading an Al-Anon devotional, and thought the words about love were powerful and applicable for any close relationship.

We often (unconsciously) expect our spouse or best friend, parent or even our children to meet our emotional needs for love and support.  When they let us down we feel angry, hurt or disappointed.  God is the only source of our true fulfillment, and I seem to have to remind myself of this more than I wish I had to!  I get myself into trouble with frustration over unmet expectations, and once again have to lay those emotions before God and ask Him to forgive me for setting the bar too high for others to meet all my needs.   Here is how the Al-Anon devotional expressed this:

Turning to an alcoholic for affection and support can be like going to a hardware store for bread.  Perhaps we can expect a “good” parent to nurture and support our feelings, or a “loving” spouse to comfort and hold us when we are afraid, or a “caring” child to want to pitch in when we are ill or overwhelmed.  While these loved ones may not meet our expectations, it is our expectations, not our loved ones that have let us down.

Love is expressed in many ways, and those around us may not be able to express it the way we would like.  but we can try to recognize love whenever and however it is offered.  When it is not, we don’t have to feel deprived; most of us find and unfailing source of support in Al-Anon (or in our relationship with God).

Today’s reminder:

Today the person we love may or may not be able to give us what we desire.  And no one person will ever offer all that we require.  If we stop insisting that our needs be met according to our will, we may discover that all the love and support we need is already at our fingertips.

page 2, Courage to Change

You may want to ask yourself today:

Am I angry or hurt by someone right now?  Is it because they have let me down based on my expectations of them?

Gently remind yourself that God will not let you down…you can expect him to meet all your needs according to Christ Jesus.  Because, He loves us like no other.

You Are Being Watched

Written By Amy

You are being watched. By God, of course, but not in the way you think.  We often think God watches over us to judge us, or catch us doing something wrong.  Yet, the bible tells us of a different God.  One who is full of fatherly love, provision and protection.  A God who is our shepherd, not just watching us, but watching over us.

Whether you are reading these verses below for the first time, or have them memorized, I hope you can let the words sink in to your heart wherever life has you right now.

Psalm 23: 1-6

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. 

 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me besides still waters,

he restores my soul.

He guides me in paths of righteousness, for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.

Your rod and your staff,

they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.

You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,

and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Here is my translation:

God watches over me like a shepherd watches over his flock of sheep.  Each and every one deserves his constant vigil over their safety.  He makes sure I am fed, protected, cared for so that I do not want for my needs.   When I am weary, God brings me to a place of rest, still waters, and restores my energy to face the world again.  He helps me to walk a path of doing the right thing, so that He may be glorified in my life.

When my life is in its deepest pain, I shall not be afraid.  For God is walking with me in that valley, and in his hands he holds things of strength and comfort for me. When I feel like my enemies are all around me, God boldly prepares a place of fulfillment for me right in front of them!  That I may live without fear in their presence because God has gone before me. 

I am chosen by God, the anointing demonstrates that.  I am adopted into his family, and my cup (life) is not empty because of that.  In fact, it is full to overflowing.   Goodness and love will be in my heart all of my life because of God’s presence there.  And, I will spend eternity with my “Abba” Daddy.

 

I am glad I have God watching over me.

 

 

Guest Blogger: Erin on Motherhood

Amy

Last week I posted an unknown author’s variation of Corinthians 13, and challenged us all to rewrite it for our own lives.  Well, a friend of mine did.  Erin is a mom of three and teaches at the school where Jen’s and my kids attend (I have been blessed to have my children in her class!).  She also has a blog called ThreeByThirty (click on our blogroll on the right) and she posted her version last week in response to this challenge.  It is inspiring and heart warming.

Erin with two of her kiddos

Here is what she wrote:

This morning, I read an entry written by Amy
entitled “How Well Do You Love?”.
I had never read that variation of 1st Corinthians 13 before, but immediately
began drawing parallels with my own life.  Of course, there are parts of that
version that don’t yet apply to my life, which is why I was inspired by the
challenge Amy presented, in re-writing a version that reflects where I am in my
life now.  Despite the non-stop pace of this day (and so many more before it, as
well as those to come), I found myself thinking about this post.  The hour is
late, the science tests that rode home with me sit unscored in my work bag, and
the laundry needs switched (sidebar: the washer buzzed just as I typed
that…a little extra reminder from God, since laundry is, in my opinion, the
worst.chore.ever.??).  All of these factors aside, I feel compelled to take on
this challenge tonight.  I know it won’t be my ‘ideal’, but that illustrates
just how organic motherhood and womanhood can be–tomorrow, this whole
thing could be different.

Here goes…

I can sing the theme song
to Spongebob and recite The Little Mermaid by heart, but without love, I am
merely a car alarm going off during nap time.

I can change the diaper of a
squirmy baby in ten seconds flat while watching a three-year old’s impromptu
dance routine and listen to my five-year old read a book for his homework  I can
chop veggies so fine they can’t pick them out of the sauce, while making a
grocery list complete with a stack of neatly trimmed coupons.  I can hold a
conversation with a magical fairy princess and a Storm Trooper from Star Wars
while tossing a football and blowing bubbles, but without love, I am
nothing.

Love is patient while listening to the
minute-by-minute account of a fight, told by a frustrated child who wants
validation in their decision to show their anger toward their sibling with their
fists.

Love is kind even when I’m overwhelmed and
exhausted, and I’ve heard ‘moooommmmy….?’ for the three thousandth time in the
day…my tone is nurturing and calm.

It does not envy the
mommies who somehow have time to work out, have standing pedicure appointments,
or a wardrobe from stores I can only dream of shopping in…but trusts
the Lord
to provide me with my own joys and pleasures as ‘treats’ for
myself.

Love does not brag about the blessings which
have been bestowed upon us.  Love rejoices in the blessings God
bestows upon our friends and family.

It does not boast,
when I’ve come home from a full day of work to prepare a healthy and
well-rounded dinner for my family when my husband’s ‘chef’s special’
incorporates peanut butter and jelly with bread.

Love is not
rude
, even when other customers at the grocery store are oblivious to
the family circus I am trying to keep under control, and run into my children
with their cart in an attempt to be first in the check out line (despite the
screaming baby in my car seat)

It does not immediately seek after
glory
after I’ve unloaded the dishwasher, or folded the
laundry.

It is not easily angered by other drivers who
*love* to drive in my blind spot, or by an endless slew of red lights on
mornings I’m already running late and evenings I
just.want.to.get.home.

It does not delight in evil when
I’m obviously right, but rejoices in the truth…that I
was right. (room for growth…I know!)

Love does not
give up hope
when you’re supporting your best friend through the fight
of her life.

It always trusts God to watch over my
husband when he’s driving in the middle of night on limited sleep, to keep my
children safe when I can’t be there or can’t put my ‘mommy bubble wrap’ around
them.  It always perseveres…through 3 kids in 5 years,
thousands of miles from family, non-traditional work schedules, crying babies
and tears, angry outbursts and tragic loss.

Love never
fails.

 

Thanks so much for sharing your life with us Erin!  If anyone else has decided to rewrite this scripture for their life, please email it to us (if you feel so inclined) at gracefullhome@yahoo.com and let us know if we can share it on our blog.  If you are reading this on email, please click on the GraceFullhome link above to see new pictures and other fun stuff on our sidebar!

 

 

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