Picking My Attitude Up Off The Floor

Picture this:

A cold, miserable Monday. It’s raining, possibly sleeting.

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I’m not too old to jump in puddles, right?

The kids are bouncing around after school, climbing all over each other as a substitute for the swing set that is too wet to climb on.

If the toddler isn’t whining, he is destroying something. (Seriously, if there were toddler Olympics and one of the sports was “who can cause the most destruction in 1 minute”, he would win it!)

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Whole jar of rosemary. All. Over. The. Floor.

I tried three times to start washing dishes, but I didn’t even get to the point of running the water.

What did I do next?

You have one life line left. Would you like to phone a friend?

Yeah, I called my husband, in a kind of panicked state (but without the energy) to ask when he would be home.

Sometimes I get to this point where I just don’t even bother trying any more. I feel defeated.

And at that point, I really just want the 2D version of my husband (the one who didn’t just spend a whole day at work, doesn’t have his own feelings and needs, and only exists when he is around me…) to walk in the door and rescue me. Just walk in the door, (metaphorically) whip the kids into line and magically make the mess disappear.

And I kind of just sit down, pop the TV on for the kids and scroll through the internet until he comes home and works the Daddy magic.

Today I started to do that – I had already plonked my butt on a kitchen stool – but then I thought to myself, I am a grown woman. I might not be able to turn the whole day around, but I certainly don’t need to sit on my butt doing nothing, waiting to be rescued…

So I got up off the stool and started picking things up. Yes, the house is still a mess. No, the dishes still didn’t get done. But I did something.

And as I walked around the house clearing up the small messes, putting the bin liners back in and wiping down the benches, I cleared away the mess in my heart.

I wiped away all the why is this house so messy and the why can’t the kids just play nicely for five minutes.

I cleaned up the stinking piles of no one appreciates what I do.

I scrubbed at the mysteriously sticky my husband has it so much easier than me.

And I had to get out the bleach to deal with the toxic heap of God, I deserve better than this.

 

And when my 3D husband walked in the front door, and our eyes locked across the work-in-progress living room, I smiled at him. (And he smiled back at me *blush*)

I’m not talking about plastering on some fake smile.

No, that smile was the real smile of a real woman who did the real heart-work of turning to God instead of wallowing in self-pity and despair. It was not the desperate, grasping glare of a damsel in distress, trapped in a tower of dirty dishes waiting for her 2D knight in a business shirt to rescue her.

(Goodness knows, we’ve been there before! But that season has passed…)

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File under “F” for “Feline Dictator”

This is just one day, but honestly there are many days that end like this. The chaos of tired little bodies, and a whole day’s worth of mess and a Mummy who is counting down until bedtime…
And although my growth as a Christian woman has not been linear, it’s certainly evident to me that God is working in my heart, making me quicker to renounce complaining and embrace rejoicing.

Sometimes we look at the Proverbs 31 woman and think about how unattainable and impossible that standard is. But the thing is, she didn’t get there overnight!

I hope that in 20 years’ time, when I face different but equally stressful and exhausting situations, I will be able to look back on days like this as God’s training ground, where he has been working with me to make me a better woman.

 

Scattered thoughts…

I’ve almost written a few blog posts recently, but have held off as my thoughts are not quite fully formed yet. (I’ll get there, lol.)

So here is an offering of some bits and pieces that I’ve been thinking about lately.

 

Simple Pleasures

In this season of life I have been enjoying the many simple pleasures throughout my day.

  • Playing with my kids and making them laugh heartily
  • The neighbour’s chicken that keeps getting into our yard.
  • Watching my daughter learn to read.
  • The warm sun that pierces through the cold winter air.
  • Waking up before sunrise and my children and just taking a minute to watch the light peaking over the hills.
  • My baby (toddler?) who has learnt how to cuddle.

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From Milk to Meat

When I had our third baby last year, I knew things would be crazy for a while. Not only was it hard to find time, but I also felt like my brain couldn’t quite cope with the in-depth Bible study I used to do on my own.
So, I made sure I was still listening to God in His word over that year, but it was mostly in the form of Bible verses stuck up around the house or specific passages memorised or a longer section read every once in a while.

I was sustaining myself on the “milk” version of God’s word – enough to keep me fed, but not forever.
Now, I have been enjoying getting back into the more “meaty” study of God’s word. Specifically, the book of Romans at the moment. There is just so much good stuff in there!

Reading Romans Like

I have printed out this bookmark from Women Living Well, which shows you which colours to highlight Bible verses according to their main theme. This has been really helpful for me, because it forces me to concentrate and really think about what the passage is saying.
I’m very much a pen and paper kind of girl – writing things down really helps me to take them in and absorb the concepts. I usually pull out my journal and do some kind of visual representation of what I’ve read.
Sometimes that looks like this:

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And other times it looks more like this:

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So I guess I would just like to offer a word of encouragement to my sisters in Christ – if you have been struggling to get into the Word or to really make time for in-depth study of the Bible, don’t neglect it any longer!

You can “not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Just like you take the time to feed yourself every day, don’t neglect feeding yourself spiritually.


Scared of the Dark

Our older two kids have been starting to say that they are afraid when it’s dark at night or they are scared that baddies are going to get them (they share a room).

I’m sure sometimes it’s just one tool in the toolbox of “ways to avoid bedtime”, but still, I think it’s important to listen to their heart and always use these opportunities to shepherd them towards Jesus.

So we’ve been working on memorising Psalm 27:1

The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?

The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?

Once we go over the verse a few times, we work through it’s meaning.

If you’re scared because it’s dark, remember that God is always with you and he will be your light.

What’s a stronghold? Well, it’s kind of like a big, tall tower that no baddies can get into. When you trust in God, he will keep you safe.

What does is mean that the Lord is your salvation? Well, the truly scary and dangerous thing in life is your own sin, because being a sinner means you deserve death. But the wonderful thing is that God sent Jesus to die on the cross and come back to life so that you can be saved from what you deserve. That’s why it’s great that the Lord is your salvation, because it means you don’t have to be afraid of anything!

 

I want our kids to know that no matter what is troubling them in life, God’s word is alive and relevant to them. They can turn to Him and find truth and clarity for whatever their situation.


 

So there you go – I’m over here enjoying the simple pleasures in life, carving up a big slab of Romans and teaching our kids how to apply the Bible to their lives.

What have you been up to?

Like a Child

Today we were driving to the shops, and my daughter said, “Oh no! Someone left their Old McDonald’s wrapper ON THE GROUND!”

“That’s not good, is it, honey? People should pick up their rubbish,” I said.

“I know!” she said immediately. “We could have a garbage hunt!”

And so – when the weather improves – we plan on having a garbage hunt. Walking around our neighbourhood with a garbage bag, picking up all the rubbish we find.

I don’t know if this is something they’ve done at school before, but I’m fairly certain her teacher has talked to her class about the environmental impacts of leaving your rubbish lying around. She has come home from school before talking to me about how rubbish that washes into the water ways can cause fish to choke and die.

And just the other day we were walking back to the car and she stopped to pick up someone’s empty juice popper “so we can put it in the bin at home”.

For her, it is so simple… Rubbish pollutes the world, so we should pick up rubbish and put it in the bin.

Belief = action.

We call this integrity, when a persons actions match their beliefs.

But I don’t think it’s so simple for adults.

We know that littering is bad for the environment, yet most of us would quite happily walk past someone else’s rubbish because we don’t want to touch it or be seen touching it or it’s not our fault.

Our actions don’t match our beliefs.


 

The other day, while I was having an internal ultrasound, I had the opportunity to explain the gospel to a stranger – the ultrasound technician (now, don’t tell me you find it uncomfortable to talk about your faith…).

He asked what the difference between Catholics and Protestants was, and I proceeded to explain that the main difference is that Protestants believe that the only way to be saved is by having faith in God, not your own good works.

This is the good news of the gospel – that salvation is a gift, from start to finish, and there is nothing we can do to contribute to that.

It’s very good news, but it does cause problems with our human nature.

Because some of us hear that and think, Great! I will just trust in Jesus and then get on with my life, doing whatever I please, because I am saved anyway!

This is why James needed to write in the Bible:

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

Yes, faith in God is all we need to be saved. James is not arguing that our good deeds somehow contribute to our salvation, like an add-on to faith. Rather, he is saying that deeds are the evidence of faith.
We can’t say that we have real faith – a living faith – if we don’t act on it.

 

If we say we believe that Jesus is the Lord and the only way to God, but we don’t worship him, our faith is dead.

If we say we believe that only those who trust in Jesus will go to heaven and everyone else will go to hell, but we don’t tell people about Him, our faith is dead.

If we say we believe that living life God’s way is best, but we don’t obey him, our faith is dead.

Faith without action is nothing.

In fact, it’s worse than nothing – it’s hypocrisy.

 

Maybe we have something to learn from children here.

They have no gap between their beliefs and their actions.

Let’s have a real, live faith.

A child-like faith.

A faith that cannot help but act.

 

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When You Don’t Want to Change

 

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Every morning when I dropped my daughter to school, I saw this beautiful tree in the car park.

I was drawn to it’s bright red leaves. I loved the way it was still clinging to them despite all the other trees having dropped their leaves weeks ago.

I guess it was a picture of resilience to me – a lone tree clinging to beauty in the face of bitter frost and fog.

But the other morning I saw something different.

I saw defiance and rebellion. I saw one little tree recklessly holding onto “same” when it was time for “change”.

 

It made me reflect on life’s seasons, and how sometimes I can stubbornly cling to one season, even long after the fog and frost has arrived. Refusing to let go of the warmth and colour of autumn, even when the time for winter is here.

You see, I really hate change.

I’m like, okay, so this is the season we’re in? Great, let me make up a schedule. Let me find what works. Let me finesse our routine.

See? I can totally do this. Everything is running smoothly. Life is just gre…

What? A new season already? But I just… *sigh*

 

So I really relate to that little tree with it’s brilliant red leaves. It’s just got the hang of autumn. It’s rocking autumn. And it just isn’t ready to deal with a new season yet.

The Bible says that just like the seasons in nature, there are seasons in life.

Ecclesiastes 3 puts it like this:

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

And just as there is a season for everything, it is God who directs the seasons and determines when it is time for each activity.

The passage goes on to say that “He has made everything beautiful in its time.

When I cling to the last season, unwilling to let it go and move into the new season of life, what I’m saying is that I believe my fears more than I believe God.

I’m saying that my own worries about what the new season might bring are bigger than the God who guides the seasons.

Which is ridiculous!

I think of Jesus walking on the water, calling Peter to walk out of the boat, across the water to Him. All Peter could see was his fears (and to be honest, logic!). Logic and experience says that if you step on water, you will fall in.

But Peter forgot Who was calling him.

The very One who made the water with all of it’s natural laws! He had no reason to fear, because Jesus was the one who made and controlled the whole realm of nature.

When God calls me into a new season – when He says “it’s time for something else” – there’s no reason for me to fear because He holds the seasons in His hands.

He is the just as much the Lord of autumn’s brilliant hues as he is the Lord of winter’s frost and fog.

And whatever season my life is in, I can trust Him.

 

 

 

Because He Cares…

I wrote a note on my Facebook page the other day as I reflected on the recent Grenfell Tower Fire. My reflection was that the truly terrifying thing about the whole situation was the apathy from those in charge of the tower when concerns had been raised about the safety of the building in the months leading up to the fire.

The residents of that tower were in the vulnerable position of living in a building that wasn’t safe, and their vulnerability and need was met with a lack of care from those who had the power to solve the problem.

And as I watched the tower go up in flames (along with the rest of the world), I felt so upset for those people trapped in the tower. All those people who died because no one cared enough to really listen to them and make the required changes.

It’s a very deep kind of pain you feel when you reach out with your worries or fears, only to be met with silence or to be fobbed off – especially by those who are meant to care for you.

You might not be living in a dangerous situation at the mercy of some corporate body, but perhaps you’ve felt this way before with a parent or friend… Perhaps you have felt the sting of disappointment when someone you thought would care, didn’t.

This morning as I thought over these things, 1 Peter 5:7 came to mind:

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

I was really struck by how amazing it is that God actually cares for us and how this should lead us to pray to Him honestly.

Prayer is not some kind of venting ritual, where we get things off our chest and that process makes us feel better.

It’s actually giving our burdens to a real Person, who has real power.

It’s throwing all our worries and fears in front of God, because He cares for us.

That changes everything.

It means we always have someone to turn to with our anxieties and concerns. Someone who will not minimise our feelings or fob us off for something more important.

Of course, God will not always answer in the way we want or expect. But He always hears and He always answers.

When you bring your burdens to God, you will never experience the pain of apathy.

Cast all your anxiety on Him, friends – because He truly does care for you!

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Going to Church with Little Kids

Strategies and suggestions to help things go more smoothly.


Before we had kids, my experience of church was involved, but fairly laid back. We would arrive 5-10 beforehand, chat to some friends and then find a pew somewhere around the middle to front region. When it came time to sing, we would stand and sing. And when it was time for the sermon, we would sit and listen. I always enjoyed taking notes – writing down verse references to look up later or phrases that stood out to me. Or even having a good old doodle to keep my mind from wandering. Then, when the service finished, we would turn around and have a chat to whoever was in the pew behind us or catch some friends. All before leaving when we were good and ready.

Ahhh.

Don’t you feel so relaxed reading that?

Because going to church after you have kids is a little different…

Now, we tend to arrive on time (yay!) or 5-10 minutes late (better late than never, so… yay!). We find a seat towards the back of the hall, in order to minimise disruptions to everyone else during one of the 50 million times we will get out of our seats. During songs, we spend about half the time singing the words, and half the time whispering to an inquisitive child what the song is about or telling a child to face the front or disseminating snacks. The two older kids go out to Kids Church during the sermon, but we keep the baby in with us and let him crawl around in the general area in front of our seats. I’m lucky if I can hear an entire sermon these days, let alone process what has been said. And how long we stay at the end of church is determined by the battery life, I mean tiredness, of the youngest members of our family.

So if you’re in a place where going to church just seems too hard or you’re thinking about giving it up, let me encourage you to keep going! Keep trying!

And maybe some of these practical tips will help you out… (And please add your own helpful tips if you’ve “been there, done that”!)

 

Babies

  • When you arrive at a new church or before your baby arrives at your current church, take a moment to suss out a place where you can change a nappy and a place where you can go if the baby gets too loud. Ask the person at the front door if you can’t find somewhere suitable. It’s best to find these places at the start, otherwise when your baby starts crying in the middle of the service, you might get flustered and just leave!
  • When breastfeeding, I prefer to sit at the back of the church. I find that people can’t see much from the front of me, but they might “catch a glimpse” if they are sitting behind and to the side. So sitting right at the back of the church provides the most comfortable place for me to feed. (Our old church – pictured below – had two big red lounges at the back of the church specifically for nursing mothers. It was fantastic!)
  • When our babies were little, we always tried to line up one of their naps to be during the service. We would either put them down to nap in the pram or with one of us using the baby carrier. This often involved one of us going outside or into the hallway until the baby fell asleep. Sometimes this worked well, other times they would either not fall asleep at all or they would fall asleep, but wake up immediately upon entering the church hall again. Which leads me to the next point…
  • Have a plan, but be prepared to go with the flow. Babies often run on their own schedule (and sometimes that lines up with ours). It’s okay for them to miss the odd nap (provided they don’t just scream until the next nap). It’s okay for them to have a shorter nap than usual on one day of the week so that you can make it to church. Our kids never napped for longer than about 30 minutes in the pram or carrier, so we just accepted that they would need the next nap to be a bit sooner.
  • Don’t feel like you need to rush out of the church hall every time your baby makes a noise. There are happy noises and there are not so happy noises, and both of these can be equally disruptive to the church service. We tend to wait a minute or two to see if the baby settles down, and if they keep being loud, one of us will take the baby into the back room (where Kids Church meets) or into the hallway to the side of the church. We have just accepted that we will miss parts of the church service for the time being. It’s just a season – not forever.

 

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What screaming baby? I can’t hear any screaming baby…

Toddlers and Preschoolers

I’m lumping these two together because there is a fair bit of over lap.

  • Scout out the location of the toilets and somewhere you can take the child for “time out” if they need it. Like I mentioned with babies, it’s best to find these locations before you sit down so you know exactly where to go, should the need arise.
  • Bring snacks. We still bring snacks for our 5 year old, but I’m sure that will stop some time over the next year. I pack a little bag of things like crackers, raisins and nuts and give them to the kids right at the start of church. Morning tea is provided at the end of the service, but that’s too long for them to wait when they have eaten breakfast at 7-7.30, and church starts at 10. (Actually, bringing snacks applies for older babies too!)
  • Explain to them what is happening and your expectations. It might seem like they don’t understand, but they will eventually. Use simple phrases like, “Now we are talking to God. We close our eyes to help us concentrate”, “Now we’re singing a song about God – we read the words from the screen” and “Now it’s time to be quiet and listen to the person speaking at the front”. Over time and with consistency, they will learn what happens in church and how they should behave. (But it won’t be instant!)
  • In the school holidays, when the Kids Church program takes a break, our church hands out colouring sheets and pencils for all the kids to do during the sermon. We also bring along a sticker book each for the older kids, as we find this helps them to stay quieter during the sermon. It might mean we don’t actually hear much – we are busy holding the book steady and peeling off stickers and finding the right page for them to go on, but this is more for the benefit of others around us – so they can hear the sermon.

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Some Bible verses for reflection

“Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”” Matthew 19:14

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.Hebrews 10:24-25

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” 1 Corinthians 12:21-27


 

What strategies have worked for you? What hasn’t worked? I’d love to hear from you!

I Am Thankful…

I am thankful for…

  • The crystal coat of frost on the grass in the mornings.
  • Cold air and warm coats.
  • Three tiny tickly bodies.
  • A new friend, baking up a storm and laughing in the kitchen.
  • The peacefulness of the house at nap time.
  • Little arms reaching up.
  • The warm arms of my husband around me in the night.
  • The subtle citrus candle that makes my house smell clean.
  • Thoughtful conversations with a five-year-old.
  • The tree with red leaves that haven’t yet fallen.
  • The anticipation of exciting things to come (a catch up with a good friend, a date with my husband and a weekend getaway with my family).
  • The pink glow of the sunset across the sky.
  • The feeling of a full tummy.

 

The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. In this season, I am thankful for all He has given.

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