Moving Again – Another Chapter Finishing

About a month ago my husband told me that he had this weird feeling we were supposed to sell out house.

“WHAT?” I was shocked. We just moved in it felt like, I just got settled, I’m still finding stuff from our last move! We brought our first baby home here, we can’t leave yet! That just couldn’t be God.

Andrew didn’t bring it up for a while and I prayed to God that if this was Him speaking, that I’d have peace about disrupting our nest and re-doing all the work that a move brings with it.

Last week God was speaking so much to us. He gave me personally really detailed instructions on some things that I’m supposed to accomplish. I was already feeling some “pressure”, but a good kind that motivates you and pushes you on. On Sunday morning we felt that we needed some prayer for protection over our family, so we went up to the altar at church and had a couple pray over us. While they were praying God spoke to Andrew clearly and said that we needed to sell our house as soon as possible.

On our way home from church Andrew dropped the bomb.
“God told me we need to sell our house, and sell it right away.” I can’t say that this time I wasn’t overwhelmed, or that I didn’t cry, but I felt God’s presence settle over me and peace wash over my whole body. I knew that this was God’s leading. I didn’t understand why, nor did we have any idea of the next step, but we had to be obedient.

Over that last couple of days I’ve had major mood swings with the whole thing. I’ve gone from complete elation from the excitement of the unknown and the adventure to come, to being deeply overwhelmed at packing up our whole house, and walking through the process of trying to sell it.

At one point I actually said to God “this isn’t fair for you to ask me to do all this with a little baby!”. Well if that isn’t an outrageous statement. I have again been enlightened to see my own selfishness. All around the world currently, and throughout history, lovers of Jesus have had to make big sacrifices, take huge steps of faith and suffer greatly for the cause of Christ. Really, God asking me to maybe downsize and move to smaller place for the time being is hardly a sacrifice. The unknown of finding a place in Regina, Saskatchewan isn’t as daunting as being told to sell everything and drive your whole family across the country to start a church as Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church did (his obedience resulting in blessing as he pastors one of the largest churches in America). Or the disciples of old in the Early Church being tortured and imprisoned because they were obedient to the Lord directing them to “go and make disciples of all the nations”.

Two days after telling the Lord we would follow Him wherever He led us, He is already opening doors and showing us how He is really using this time as an opportunity to bless us for the future and prepare us for things to come.

So although this definitely has been an obedience test for us, and has involved faith to step out when we still don’t see the whole picture, I can’t call it sacrifice. I still will lack nothing in my life. Even if I live somewhere smaller, or we go back to renting an apartment for the time being, I will still have the love and joy of my family. We will be warmer, safer and more comfortable than most of the world. Each morning the coffee pot will start brewing, we’ll have friends and family grace our home, and we’ll be nestled in the indwelling presence of God that we ask to fill each place we live.

Truly, each step of the way, with each chapter written in my life, I realize more how the Lord’s blessings and mercies abound to us. Even if I am not really losing anything, or if I am truly going without, I hope that when I stand before the Lord He will look at me and say that I was always obedient to His voice.

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Big Marbles

Okay before I come across sounding like I have everything figured out, I just want to say that I have talked to a lot of “first time moms” like myself who have had a hard time feeling like they’re moving from “surviving” to “thriving”. I have been praying for wisdom a lot because I’ve really needed some extra help in managing my marriage, my baby, my house and myself. I want to share with you the strategy God has given me. Honestly – I did not come up with this, the Lord really has given me really practical advice that I want to share, and I hope it speaks to more people than just first time moms. Also, I do not always live up to this and I know this will adapt and change as more children are added to the picture. However, I know there is less peace in our home when I don’t keep these 7 commitments. Each persons commitments might be different, but I hope that by me being transparent about mine, I empower you to evaluate your schedule and hopefully move from a place of scrambling to get everything done, to maybe even enjoying the moments you spending cleaning, cooking, etc.

In Master’s Commission, Pastor Rob Reimer would often talk about an analogy of big marbles. Picture a large jar. If you had a bunch of varying sized marbles, sand and water, and you needed to most effectively fit it into the jar, how would you do it? Does the order you place all these things make a difference? The answer is, yes. Most definitely. When you fit the “big marbles” in first, the smaller ones settle right into the empty spaces, then the tiny ones, and so on. You can look at the jar and think its full of marbles, but pour sand in and it fill ups every tiny crevice. Add water on top of that and it can soak right in to that sand. The jar has been most efficiently used for space.

Now apply that to our lives. If we get the big marbles put in first, we will then have time to fit the smaller, less important things. Subsequently, if we fill up the jar with the sand, little marbles and water, we will not have any room for the big marbles. How we prioritize our time is vital to moving from “surviving to thriving”.

Consider these my “Big Marbles”:

Monica’s 7 commitments that lead to a peaceful week

1. My Relationship with Christ – I am first and foremost committed to my relationship with Jesus. I will love, serve and seek Him regardless of any other circumstance in my life.

2. My Husband – I am then committed to my husband. I made a life long commitment to him in the presence of God, before having my baby, and I am committed to encouraging, loving and helping him.

3. My Baby – I am committed to ensuring that my baby has a peaceful, loving home and that he is taken care of very well. I will try to take opportunities to play with him, talk with him and read to him before chores and cooking. His needs go before my own.

DISCLAIMER: Though I wholeheartedly believe that in God’s eyes my husband comes before my son, if you have a hard time with the concept, think of it as if you want to put your baby first then you’ll put your husband first. The best gift your child can have is an intact family.

4. Our ministry and church family – I am committed to helping and encouraging others in ways that I can. We as a family are committed to the Student Leadership Program and the Regina Apostolic Church. I may not be as involved as I have been in the past, but my commitment has not wavered.

5. Personal growth – For me this comes in the form of listening to programs like Focus on the Family, blogging to help me process what I’m learning and going through, reading encouraging and uplifting books.

6. A weekly meal plan –  This is not a commitment to cooking daily! This is a commitment to plan out meals so that I am not scrambling. I can then plan ahead to cook enough for leftovers on certain days during busy weeks. When I commit to this, I save money on my grocery bill because my shopping is more organized and my week is way less stressful.

7. I am committed to my daily, weekly and monthly chores – This is not a commitment to having a spotless house. That is completely unrealistic. This is a commitment to my cleaning schedule that ensures that by doing a couple of chores a day I am staying on top of what needs to be done in my home. (I did not implement this until Caleb was 3 months old).

Thanks to multi tasking I can accomplish some of these things at the same time. While Caleb is having a nap I might turn on Focus on the Family while I accomplish my “Monday Monthly Chore” of more extensive dusting. Or I spend time in worship while I do my weekly Wednesday chore of cleaning out the fridge. You can get creative!

I have found my life has become much more manageable when broken down. When I fit these big marbles in, everything else falls into place.

One baby + Two Needles = ?

It’s a process that for the most part every mom will walk through with their baby. Immunizations. Today we just finished our second round of them. The first time we went and I sat in the chair and held Caleb tightly to myself. It seemed like the most cruel thing, cuddled safe in your mom’s arms to be stabbed with two painful needles. As he screamed, the tears flow in heavy streams down my cheeks. He stopped crying shortly after, but I could not pull myself together. The nurse laughed and told Caleb “you did better than mommy!”. That whole day every time I remembered his face or that shriek from the needle I would start crying all over again. My heart truly was broken. All I wanted was for them to give me the needle instead, and maybe it could transfer through my milk, or something, anything but my baby going through that.

Round two came today and I cried all the way from the house to the clinic and cried in the clinic waiting for our turn, as a tragic Rascal Flatts song played in the background. I felt like I was leading Caleb to the slaughter. After all, he trusts me, we’re basically inseparable, he recognizes my tones, my faces, even my feelings, and I know all of his. While watching his sleepy eyes look up at me as his soother rhythmically moved up and down in his mouth, the guilt piled higher and higher.

We got to the room and went through the appointment and the time arrived for the injections to be given. I held him tightly to myself and was very honest with him about what was going to happen.
“Remember honey, mommy loves you so much, that’s why we’re doing this. Mommy’s going to hold you through it all and do everything possible to reduce your pain”.
His big eyes looked up at me as though he understood something was about to happen. He cried when they went in, but probably only for a moment. I was so proud of him I didn’t even have a chance to cry myself.
“What an amazing boy you are Caleb!” I exclaimed, “so brave and so strong.”

Thankfully these experiences quickly become life lessons. I heard the Lord whisper to me “that was my heart for my son”. In a very well-known verse in the bible, John 3:16 it says

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (emphasis mine)

I cannot even begin to imagine the pain and heartache that God had to go through as he watched his one and only Son go through torture and death. Even though God can see the end from the beginning, he still loved his son immensely and it broke him that this had to happen. I can’t understand it, but I’m sure glad it happened. This is the ultimate example of “short-term pain for long-term gain”. Jesus had to suffer cruelly at the hands of men so that we, YOU and I, could not perish but live forever with him as sons and daughters of God. For God so loved the world, so loved us, that he sacrificed the one he loved because it was the only way to bring forgiveness of sins by a true, pure sacrifice.

Many people have often said to me “the immunizations are always harder on the moms than the babies”. And while death by crucifixion is the more horrific that anything I can imagine, watching my son go through that would be worse than me myself going through it. God put himself through great emotional torture, intense pain and sadness for the sake of you and I. The God of all the universe must have wept profusely. I do not want to take that for granted. I do not want to forget the sacrifice that Jesus made for me. I do not want to forget the sacrifice that God the Father gave for me as he walked through the pain of separation from his son.

The second realization I had on the drive home from the clinic is how one positive experience downplays the impact of the first. Meaning, because Caleb’s shots went so much better this time, I am way less traumatized and way less afraid of the future ones. We can become immune to God’s heart for us because Jesus did rise from the dead and he is still alive (and obviously that is the wonderful miracle of our faith, that we can have a personal relationship with a real and living Savior) but we can perhaps lose in that the depth of the love that God has for us. The sacrifice can lose its awe-inspiring qualities because in a sense “everything is ok now”.

If you haven’t experienced Jesus personally, I pray that God’s heart for you would bring you to your knees before him as you recognize the great love that he has for you. As the Son gave so much for us, so did the Father. He is passionate about you living a life that walks in the goodness and blessing he desires for you.

If you know Christ, I pray that my personal realization of the incredible heart of God would draw you deeper into a love relationship with the Father. We need daily revelation of his great love and sacrifice for us to spur us on to persevere and conquer the things in our life that need to be overcome and to be passionate lovers and followers of Jesus Christ. I am so glad that the Lord took my painful equation of a baby and two needles and make it equal a deeper understanding of his love for us.

A Conversation in the Dentist’s Chair

I seem to not be able to do anything or go anywhere without learning a lesson! Today at the dentist I had an interesting situation come up.

My sweet dental hygienist and I were discussing my teeth sensitivity and she asked if I grind my teeth in the night. I told her,
“I don’t think I do, it’s never woken me up.”
“Well don’t you sleep in the same bed as your husband?!” she asked, slightly bewildered, “would he not be able to tell you”.
“HA!”, I said “my husband sleeps right through our baby crying in the night, let alone waking up from my grinding my teeth!”.

A look of astonishment passed over her. Without thinking I had just put down my husband. I didn’t mean to, but I could read it in her eyes, she was not impressed that he didn’t get up in the night with Caleb. Instantly I went to correct what I had said and reinforce that Andrew is a great husband and father. Before I could, in zooms the little tooth scrubber and she goes on to say how I must be stronger than her because she wouldn’t put up with being a “single parent”.

WHAT!!! How did that happen? There was no way to take it back. Anything I said afterwards she kind of laughed at, assuming I was trying to rescue my husband’s reputation with her. I felt so awful. I believe Andrew is an absolutely amazing husband, yes he might be able to sleep through Caleb crying at times, but he also gets up and goes to work hard all day and then comes home, helps with Caleb at our boy’s most grumpy time of the day, and then makes time for me. I at least can find times to rest if I need to, he can’t.

One slip of the tongue, one careless sarcastic comment, and I had tarnished his reputation, and stripped honour from a man worthy of praise.

James 3:5-9 says
The tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself. People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God.

I believe I will watch my careless comments a little closer after that two-minute incident. I would never want anyone for a moment, again,  to doubt the love and respect that I have for my husband.

Overstimulation: Thrown into a State of Activity

A Week Gone Mad

How often is this you? Your week starts out looking manageable and then you get a phone call asking if you can be a part of cooking a dessert for an event. “Oh no problem” you say, “the week is looking pretty empty.” You double check your schedule and realize immunizations are actually this week, and you know that your baby is going to be cranky after, but you’ve already committed to having a teen that you mentor over for lunch that text you last minute struggling. Do you cancel on the girl that really needs to talk so you can just sit and cuddle with your little guy? What if she really needs to talk? Well I’ll fit it in. In between her coming over and the baby waking up, I’ll just whip of this dessert. WAIT!!! I don’t have any eggs.
<INSERT UNPLANNED TRIP TO THE GROCERY STORE HERE>
Going to the grocery store with an almost five month old is never a “quick trip”. By the time the time you’re ready to head out the door, you smell something and realized he already wrecked his diaper. No problem, I’ll just run and change him and we’ll be on our way. Of course this will be the one time I forget to make sure he stayed covered during the change, and a spray of pee will soak me, the wall, the change table and his cute little “grocery shopping outfit.” I guess we won’t avoid a load of laundry today.
Just like that your week fills right up with the unexpected along with the planned get togethers, meetings, events – great things that might even be a part of your church!

The Outcome

When my week turns like this it usally ends up with my sitting exhausted on the couch crying to my husband asking “how on earth did things turn like this?” and “how am I going to accomplish everything?”. Our world turns into chaos, our baby is overtired, and husband most likely frustrated (even if he’s good at hiding it) because mom over-committed.

Why do  we over-commit? Through watching my little boy deal with the conundrum of “overstimuation”, I have learned a thing or two about myself.

Overstimulation

In case you are unfamiliar with what that is, basically babies can go into “sensory overload” with too many loud noises, people holding them, flashy toys, etc. They get wound right up, sometimes can’t sleep, other times fall right asleep to escape.

Stimulation itself really is a great thing. A baby needs the right amount of stimulation to grow physically, emotionally and socially. My son finds people smiling at him very stimulating. If he sees a smile he will instantly start responding, but I have to have wisdom to know when we’ve done enough laughing and smiling. All of a sudden that smile is upside down and the tears begin to flow. Caleb gets overwhelmed and goes into a panic as if to say “get me out of here!!!”.

As people, there are so many things to stimulate us, entertain us and keep us busy. When I looked into stimulation, I laughed at the definition that said, to paraphrase “end points are triggered to throw the nerves into a state of activity”. HA! How many times have I been “triggered” and thrown into a “state of activity”. Perhaps I hear of something I’d like to be involved in, and instead of stepping back and looking at it objectively to see how it fits in the greater schedule, I respond emotionally, and I’m thrown onto the hamster wheel, running and running, going no where.

A Mother’s Priorities

My compulsive “be prepared for everything” mentality is being put to good use. I keep panicking that I don’t have the skill set at the moment to keep up with three or more children, and that I must get my act together. Thankfully, the Lord knew that, and just gave me one to start out with. Instead of putting unhealthy pressure on myself to be able to handle more, I am trying to glean wisdom from mom’s who do handle more and see what their keys to joyful living include.

The bible holds an example of an amazing woman. Instead of finding this intimidating, let’s look at it from a learning and growing standpoint – this outstanding woman mentoring us new moms in the way we should live. I want to look at how this woman prioritizes what is most important (click here to read Proverbs 31).

Ten Keys to the Wife of Noble Character

1. Her husband is number one to her (apart from the Lord). She invests in her husband. Verse 11 says “she will greatly enrich his life”.

2. She looks for deals. Throughout this portion it talks about her bringing her food from afar, making her own clothes, bedding and having no fear of winter because she has prepared clothes for her children. Her husband might be the provider, but she is a part of stewarding those funds.

3. She cooks for and feeds the people in her care, in most cases her children and husband.

4. She works hard at everything she does.

5. Her heart and soul go into serving and loving her family. She finds joy in the daily and can laugh at things to come.

6. She knows the value of sowing, reaping and investing. That might be in a business sense, but also in terms of people.

7. She extends a helping hand to the poor and needy.

8. Nothing gets by her, she watches over the affairs of her household. She is an observer of her husband, her kids and all things concerning them. She can make time to talk to a struggling child, care for a cold or recognize when her husband is dealing with a lot at work.

9. She doesn’t forget about herself. She knows that how she dresses will reflect on her family, and is ok with putting a little time into getting ready (verse 22 “she dresses in fine linen and purple gowns).

10. She fears the Lord, and he gives her strength and wisdom. There is nothing she cannot do when she is partnered with him.

The reward for keeping these priorities is great.

Her children stand and bless her.
      Her husband praises her:
“There are many virtuous and capable women in the world,
      but you surpass them all!”

Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last;
      but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.
 Reward her for all she has done.
      Let her deeds publicly declare her praise.

So, I will practice keeping these priorities, and update soon on how it’s going. It seems daunting in some ways, but when broken down, I can at least hold commitments up to this list and see if they really fit in the overall plan. Perhaps this may lead to a few less over-commited weeks.

Faith: A Confident Hope

Dreams fill my heart. Each day I look around and I have greater vision for myself, for my family and for our lives. I see youth being touched and empowered to become leaders in their families and school. I see marriages being transformed. I see families walking in the destiny that God has for them, in love and commitment. I see God using the tough and painful things I’ve walked through to help others. I see no limit to what God wants to do in and through me, because He has spoken that to me again and again. But when will I start to walk in this?

Adjustment Period

We each have our comfort zones. A job we feel we succeed in, a group of friends we fit in well with, or a ministry role that we feel is making a difference. If you are like a lot of people, and like myself personally, you could have a lot of dreams in your heart, a lot of promises you feel God has spoken to you. When you transition to something new there can be an adjustment period where you feel like you don’t fit. The new group of people you’re trying to get to know seem a little less accepting, your job is a little more challenging that you expected, or you are flat-out discouraged. You might question whether God actually called you to do anything. Was it all emotionalism and hype in the middle of an exciting service? Was it my own self just wishing I could be used by God?

Our Confident Hope

Our nightly reading the last couple evenings has been in Hebrews. When we moved on to Hebrews I changed translations to see if it would help me understand a little more. There is nothing like having something reworded to you that brings sudden clarity and understanding. The very first verse in Hebrews 11 hit me like a ton of bricks.

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.

Wow. Hebrews 11 then continues on with one of the most awe-inspiring account of various men and women of the bible who made choices in faith and did extraordinary things.

Keep Your Dreams Alive

An incredible example in the bible of a man who endured enormous obstacles is Joseph (for more in-depth teaching on this story I recommend the book “From Dream to Destiny” by Robert Morris. It is the most encouraging book I have ever read, apart from the Word of God).  He was given specific dreams from God, and eventually ended up being sold into slavery and imprisoned before he walked in the promises of God. Take note: he did walk in the promises of God.
Psalm 18:30a says;
God’s way is perfect. All the Lord’s promises prove true.

Remember How Far You’ve Come

As I look back on my short life, I cannot believe how far I have already come. When you are walking through the seasons of preparation for the next phase of life, it’s hard. You don’t see how you are being equipped. During my time in the Master’s Commission Program at the Regina Apostolic Church I found it hard at times to keep up with my ministry assignments, homework, all the leadership lessons I was learning and the personal healing God was walking me through. At times I felt discouraged that I had all this knowledge and nowhere to put it to good use. Looking back, I now see how I use the tools I learned from MC every single day of my life. Even if the only people I ever lead are my kids, I know I have powerful tools in my hands to be a confident woman of God who knows how to stand up for what she believes. That is a far cry from the emotionally fragile 18-year-old girl who left Kipling, Saskatchewan only four years ago, who had some leadership giftings, but no tools to walk them out, struggling from the emotional pain in her life.

I am reminded of the road trip that my family and I went on in August. Caleb was only 2 months old and we were extremely naive at what traveling with a baby would be like. On the way back from Alberta we decided to do the whole trip in one day (our first mistake). We would stop and take breaks, but this was not cutting it for Caleb. He wanted out of the car. He did not sign up for this excursion, and anytime we started driving again he would start screaming louder and louder. Somewhere in between cities and towns, in the middle of nowhere our vehicle sat on the side of the highway, mommy crying, baby screaming and daddy completely overwhelmed. We tried saying to Caleb “we’re almost there, you just need to go a little further, we’re going to be home soon!”. But of course he couldn’t understand.

I think sometimes us as adults do that with God. Things are taking longer than we wanted, they are more challenging than we thought and we start telling God that we want out. We didn’t sign up for this. But little do we know, if we were to just be quiet and learn and listen, we’d be able to fly down that highway on towards the destination, bypassing all the stops for personal breakdowns along the way.

So you’ve come this far, how much farther do you think God will take you in one year? Two years? How about ten years? Stay open and pliable in his hands, and watch as He shapes you into something useful in His hands.

Keep the Faith: Confidently Believing

Hold on to that word or vision from the Lord. Relinquish your selfish desires and earthly agendas, and be ready…because before you know it it’s going to be your turn and the Lord is going to say “GO!”

Hebrews 11:1

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.

Jesus, may you help us to be confident in the things you have spoken to us. Confirm in our hearts that the things we hope for will actually happen. Give us strength, courage and perseverance to “press on towards the goal” and live lives of faith, hope, love, peace and joy. Thank you for each of the trials I have faced. Thank you for the woman you are creating me to be. I know your ways are perfect, your time is perfect, and you always come through on your promises.

Home Improvement

My husband always has so many great ideas for how to improve our home. Currently our back entrance is ripped up because he is amazing, and is tiling it for us! There seems to usually be some project on the go, and he is really gifted at seeing potential in the spaces in our house that need a little help.

There are many different reasons to work on your house – perhaps it’s to increase the value of your home, make it more esthetically pleasing, safer for your family, etc. I walked through that area of our house today and felt God whisper to me that I had a few more “home improvements” that I needed to do. Not in my physical house, but in my heart.

The Lord always has the perfect timing. Last night if I had felt Him say that, I would not have been as open, as my emotions, and physically body, were overwhelmed with exhaustion. Or maybe He tried saying it, and I just wasn’t listening. Either way, this morning on the other hand I smiled to myself and said “yes, yes I do.”

Last night I was tired, frustrated and I guess just being irritable. That happens to all of us. How you react and what you do with that is completely up to you. I responded by getting angry at my family and ignoring them for a bit. (Yes, this is honesty – I am embarrassed). When I was in my 3 years of Master’s Commission (a discipleship program at our church), I feel like my heart was not just getting a few renovations, it was completely demolished and rebuilt by my loving heavenly Father. All the hurts, pains and bad habits surfaced and I was forced to look them square in the eye and decide how to deal with them. He delivered truth to me and shattered my insecurities. I walked through an intense healing process and became free of a lot of things holding me back.

Now, being out from “under the microscope” so to speak, I haven’t been quite as on top of things. I have let bitterness take root in my heart, I have left some people unforgiven and especially let justice and judgement overtake mercy and love.

I love how the New Living Translation puts Psalm 51:10;

Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me.

The definition of loyal is giving firm or constant support. For me this needs to happen with Jesus first. I am not always giving Him my full allegiance, I let other things get in the way. Last night when I was really upset, I was not loyal to my family. I think even my baby senses mommy wasn’t being very supportive. Thankfully God isn’t guilt tripping me, He just longs to set me free.

I started out by saying there are many reasons to do Home Improvements. I think there are even more reasons to do Heart Improvements. May I have the courage today to rip the old, moldy, outdated stuff out of my heart and humbly ask my Father to clean our my heart and renew my spirit. I pray that those around me would see the “updates” and be drawn to the light of Jesus Christ.