Finding Contentment

Yesterday I listened to a man talking about being content. In his example, he said that he would walk his neighborhood, praying and thanking God for different things, and as he walked home, he would come down the street and look at the back of his house, and start thinking about things that he would like to change. A bigger deck, some improvements to his landscaping, etc., right after he'd been thanking God for what he had. 

As I sat there, listening, I gulped a little bit. Or maybe a lot. And I started making a list of all the things that I was putting in the place of contentment. It was truly amazing how quickly I wrote down 8-10 things that I was actively seeking--from home additions to Starbucks stops to me-time--that had sneakily become things that were taking away from my contentment. 

If only I had...a day off from the responsibilities of parenthood, a caramel macchiato, a couple of extra rooms in the house, my own office, that sweater that I saw on sale...then things would be better. This stupid virus and the way it's impacting and changing everything wouldn't be so bad because I'd be content in my (bigger) house with (more) rooms for the kids to hang out in so that I would have (me) time to do other stuff and spread out a little while sipping coffee in my (new) office.

Do you see how easily the seeds of discontentment can sneak in? It sure hit me like a ton of bricks yesterday. And I hated it. I hated that I had become so dense to the changes in my outlook, and I hated that I had slipped into the mindset that anything (from more rooms to a coffee) would make me happier, kinder, or more grateful for what I've been given.

We ate a meal with some friends recently, and the wife apologized that our younger kids would need to use the smaller dessert plates for their meals because she only had one set of dishes, and not enough big plates to go around. I thought I had misheard her. Only one set? Really? Even with all of my clean out sessions and purges, I still have enough plates to feed 100 people at once. And, sadly, that may even be a low estimate. And then it struck me, as we were talking, that every time they had been to our house, I had used paper or plastic plates with them...because I didn't want to have to clean up afterwards. All those dishes...sitting in their cabinets and cupboards, and I'm using paper.

If I'm not grateful for what I already have...if I don't take care of what is already in my possession...if I'm not using my existing things...then why would more be better?

As I walked our block this morning, and looked at the back of our house, I listened to Philippians 4, and asked God to help me be content in Him. Content in everything, in plenty and in want. Content in the situation in which I currently find myself (homeschooling five kids - by choice), content at the desk in our bedroom, content with the Starbucks Via coffee that I can make at home for a lot less, content with the clothes in my closet. But not content to stay as I am, in the mindset I'm in, lacking the Fruits that I want from the Spirit.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go dig some dishes out of the cabinets...


Don't Let the Darkness Overwhelm

This was shared this on my personal Facebook page earlier today, but I thought it was worth turning into a blog post as well, since I'm not friends with all of my readers. 

After getting the kids in bed last night, the Hubs and I sat down and had a long conversation that left both of us like this ๐Ÿคฏ๐Ÿคฏ by the time we were done. So many questions and unknowns, so few answers. 

As very logical, rational people (see: #INTJ ๐Ÿ˜), the current state of the world is...frustrating, to say the least. When a child asked me (again) yesterday, when this was all going to end, and I had to tell her that I honestly didn't know if it would, I felt a momentary sense of panic over the idea of living like this forever. I may not know what the future looks like, but what I DO know is that #iamthankful to know the One who holds the future -- no matter what happens.

And now...the soapbox. ๐Ÿ˜ ๐Ÿงผ

"...the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value." ~ Thomas Paine

We have friends in the travel industry who are facing unemployment if things don't change. We are surrounded by teachers who are trying to figure out how to do their jobs when the job description keeps changing on a daily basis. Our Facebook feed shows an ever widening gap between those who are shouting "wear the mask!" and those who are asking "why?"

In 1858, while accepting the Illinois Republican Party's nomination for US senator, Abraham Lincoln famously quoted Mark 3:25: "A house divided against itself, cannot stand." And then went on to say:

"I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other."


I don't know what the future looks like, but I know this: we cannot continue on as we are. The divide is widening. Economics 101 demonstrates that economies cannot withstand a long-term shutdown. And while everything in me is screaming, "Come, Lord Jesus!" I also know He may tarry another thousand years or more, because He "wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." (1 Peter 2:4) 

And while I want out of this crazy world, more than that I desire to pick up my cross (die to self) and follow Jesus. Or rather, I desire for that to BE my desire. #HonestINTJ Christ's heart is for people, and therefore, mine must be as well. #HeMustIncrease

Masked friends and unmasked friends, those who vote straight (R) and those who push every (D), the ones who listen to NPR and those who feed on Fox News, please hear me when I say this: politics and politicians divide us, but our humanity connects us.

Friends, whether you have a "Biden 2020" or a "Keep America Great!" sticker on your car, if I see you broken down on the side of the road, I'm going to stop and make sure you're okay. Whether you're wearing a BLM or a Confederate flag t-shirt, if your house burns down, I will gladly give what I can to help you get back on your feet. The human world is hurting and angry and in pain...but there is Hope. And it doesn't come from Washington, and it doesn't come from government, and it doesn't even come from the good ol' American "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" mentality. The Hope for this world submitted to death on a cross in order that we might have eternal life.

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." (John 10:10 & 11)

"Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them." (Hebrews 7:25)

"We have this hope as an anchor for our lives, safe and secure." (Hebrews 6:19)

No matter who wins in November (and either way, it doesn't really feel like a win at this point, in my opinion, because the country is still sinking and the divide is growing), no matter where you worship (at home or in person), what you wear on your face (or don't), or how you feel about homeschool vs. social distancing vs. pods schools, your stance on gun control or gay marriage...this truth remains: through Christ, we have the option of abundant Life. For eternity. Christ has the power to turn your world right side up, even as the world around you is spinning out of control. And I guarantee that you will not find that offer on the ballot in 2020.

Can I help you? All you have to do is reach out. Message me, text me, leave a comment. I am here if you want to know more about the Hope that I have, and I'm here if you need encouragement. I'm here if you need food or just want a listening ear. We may disagree on everything, but that doesn't mean I don't care about you as a person. Okay? Good. Happy Tuesday. 


All Evil, All The Time

I just shared this on my personal Facebook page, but I thought it was worth turning into a blog post as well, since I'm not friends with all of my readers. 

I'll be honest...I have remained quiet about everything that is going on, primarily because I don't believe the online world is the platform for debate. Nor do I think that "going black" on social media does anything more for the real, underlying issue (sin) other than make those who do it feel better. Yes, that is my opinion. BUT if you chose to do it, guess what? Everyone has their own opinions! 

I may disagree with you--and over the last few weeks, I've started to think I disagree with most of my connections on just about everything!--but I can still accept you as a person, made in the image of God. And that's the heart attitude I hope to convey in what I share below, and I hope that you read it in the manner in which it was intended. 

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

"Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great upon the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was altogether evil all the time." {Genesis 6:5}
Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight. No, I'm not colorblind. Why would I want to be? I've lived all over the world and experienced cultures that are vastly different from my own, and the experience changed me. I currently live in a household where we range from pasty white to beautiful brown, and I couldn't imagine it any other way. I love the diversity of colors, shapes, and sizes that God created! No matter what the shade of melanin, each person is a human being, created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).
"So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them."
I am thankful that I was raised in a home where people of all skin tones were welcomed in the same way. I know that is not always the case. There is racism and there is prejudice, not just in the U.S., but all over the world. I've seen it when shopping with friends, when store clerks followed my darker-skinned friend but didn't give a second glance to me. I've seen it with our coffee-colored kids, when those same types of clerks come bustling up to them and say, "Can I help you with something?" and then turn red when I turn around and say, "No, thanks, we're just looking." Oh, the white woman is with them...that makes it okay. ☹ So yes, I know it exists...and far worse than what I have seen for myself.

It's prejudice and profiling...and if we were honest with ourselves, we all do it.

In my case, I know the groups of people who I look down on, and they are as pasty white as me, typically. It doesn't make it right, it just means that I am not immune to profiling and making assumptions about people.

Throughout history, we can see how race and religion, economic status, caste and tribe inequalities, even biological sex, has been used as an excuse for mankind doing unspeakable things to each other. Torture, enslavement, persecution, rape, and yes, murder, have been common themes throughout the ages and into present day, all across the globe. People like to say it's because of racism...and yes, I suppose that's one name for it, in some cases, but the bottom line is even simpler: SIN. And none of us are immune. We live in a fallen world, where mankind does horrific things to each other. But there is an Answer, and His name is Jesus.

He wasn't white with blond hair and blue eyes, he was Middle Eastern. He hung out with stinky fishermen and religious scholars, prostitutes and outcasts, women and children. He wasn't politically correct in His day, but He loved people. And so He surrendered to the will of His Father, and gave Himself up to die, taking our place, so that we would have a way to God. A way which didn't require our good works, but our total faith. He was--and is--the Way Maker. He didn't stay dead, and He will return again.

In the meantime, to my fellow Believers, remember that we are the reflection of His light here on earth. We are here to love the unlovable, stand up for the disenfranchised, and open our lives and homes to those who need a safe place and a listening ear. We are here to be truth tellers, in LOVE. We are here to be lights on a hill. I have failed at this many times up to this point, but God continues to work on me, convicting me that my life is not my own to do with as I want, but I belong to Him, and His call on my life has not changed.

The heart of man is desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9), but it doesn't have to stay that way. In Ezekiel 11:19-20, God says this about His people, the Israelites:
"And I will give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them; I will remove their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh, so that they may follow My statutes, keep My ordinances, and practice them. Then they will be My people, and I will be their God."
In the New Testament, Galatians 3:27 & 28 tells us:
"For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."
Our hearts do not have to remain hard, our prejudices can be broken when we allow God to break our hearts and see people, even those who do evil, as human beings--fallen--who are imprinted with the image of their Creator. He created them and He loves them, even if He abhors their actions, and sorrows over their rejection of Him. May we do the same. 



What's My Motivation? Lessons in Humility from the Sick House

For the last two weeks, I've been playing Nurse Ratched...er, I mean, Florence Nightingale, to five different family members, including my poor Hubs, who came down with various forms of fevers, chills, coughs, sinus issues, and general illness that kept them quarantined to different rooms of the house for days on end. While they worked on getting better, I worked on keeping everything going, running children who were well to and from school, staying on top of my work assignments, getting meals on, checking temperatures and doling out medicines, doing the bedtime routines single-handed, and generally rushing around like a chicken with my head cut off before falling into bed to do it all again the next day. It's been hectic, to say the least, but it's also been a fantastic opportunity to do some soul searching about my motivation.

You see, after the first week of caring for everyone, I found myself in a heated disagreement with my sick husband over the lack of appreciation for all that I was managing to do for him, as well as our five kids. I felt underappreciated and taken for granted, and I expressed that in no uncertain terms. The outcome was anger and tears, eventual nose blowing, and finally sucking it all up and realizing that I did, in fact, have the wrong motivations. While the Hubs was working on finding joy in his sickness - something God's been teaching both of us - I realized that I had a hard time serving without recognition. I wanted to be acknowledged for my service, and seen for my ability to juggle so many balls in the air at one time. I wanted someone to say "thanks" or tell me I was doing a good job and that I deserved to treat myself to a specialty $5 coffee for all of my sacrifices on behalf of others. In other words, despite caring for others, I was still totally self-absorbed.

Once I came to this realization last Sunday, week #2 of sickness was a different story. You see, my outlook had changed. My perspective was no longer as the poor martyr, suffering in silence as I took care of the myriad of jobs that needed to be done, but that of a wife and a mother, pulling up my big girl panties and doing what was necessary. Half-way through the week I shared this change in perspective with my mother and then my long-suffering husband. I was suddenly struck by the pathetic nature of my complaints. Sure, they were long days, and yes, I felt pulled in many different directions, but at the end of those days I was still sitting in a comfortable home, able to whip up dinner in a Crock-Pot or even pick up pizza using a gift card I'd been saving for just such a time.

Despite what I wanted to think of as my hardships, I finally had to admit that I wasn't Ma Ingalls. I wasn't following my husband West in a covered wagon, facing starvation, wild animals, and yellow fever while helping him build our one room cabin by hand or living in a dirt dugout along the riverbank. I didn't have to go out and trap my own food and skin it, or save seeds to grow a garden and hope something survived the swarms of locust. No, indeed! I was a 21st century working mom, married to a man who normally goes above and beyond to help out when he's not stricken with fever and snoring on the couch. I had access to easy meals, live within walking distance of a Starbucks, and am able to hand out Tylenol when fevers spike. In other words, I needed to suck it up, buttercup

And that started me thinking about how often I incorrectly view perceived hardships and trials. Trials, in fact, being much on my mind over the last month. How often are the trials that I complain about, in fact, messes of my own making that I've either put myself into by my poor choices, or made into a mountain when they should be a molehill? Probably more often than I care to admit - to you, or even to myself. Whatever happened to denying myself in order to pick up my cross (a method of torture and death) and follow Jesus? How could I possibly justify my quest for recognition and praise when Paul tells us in Galatians that we ought to serve one another, humbly in love, not gratifying the desires of our flesh? Or Christ's command that he who wants to be greatest shall be a servant of all? Servant of all...I didn't even want to be a servant to six! 

As I type this, all who have been ill in our house are now well on their way to recovery and back out in the land of the living (which, in this instance, means allowed out of their rooms and back at the dining room table with the others). I, however, am still pondering the selfishness and wrong thinking that God revealed to me over the last two weeks. While they have all recovered health and moved on, I have a feeling that my trek is just beginning, but the outcome, Lord willing, will be one that makes a long-term difference. Here's to serving the Lord with joy, no matter what the situation.


Sherlock Meets Pooh Corner

Last week I wrote a blog post about the books that I was reading, and a kind reader left a comment telling me about a book that she (or perhaps he, I'm not sure) was reading—a mystery by none other than Mr. A.A. Milne, well-known author of the Winnie the Pooh stories.

Being a lover of locked-room mysteries, and a childhood fan of the Pooh books, I immediately headed over to Amazon to check this thing out. Once there, I made the happy discovery that the book was not only available for FREE as a public domain book on Amazon Kindle, but that I had actually downloaded it almost exactly seven years ago, but had never gotten around to reading it! I rectified that oversight this weekend, and the following are my thoughts on Milne's one and only mystery novel, The Red House Mystery.

Photo by Phil Hearing

The basic premise of the book is that the owner of the Red House, Mark Ablett, is hosting a group of acquaintances at his manor and receives a letter from a brother who is supposed to be stashed away in Australia but is, instead, coming to see him in England that very afternoon. While the group of friends takes themselves off for a round of golf, Mark and his live-in cousin/estate agent/personal assistant, Cayley, busy themselves about the house, awaiting the arrival of the rogue brother, Robert. Robert arrives and is shown into the office, Mark can't be located, eventually there is the sound of a gunshot, and when the main character - our amateur Sherlock Holmes - Antony Gillingham, arrives on the scene, Cayley is madly pounding on the door of the office, demanding to be let in. 

Gillingham is an independent Jack-of-all-trades, and currently in the area for pleasure, but recalls that a friend of his, Bill Beverly, is staying at Red House, which puts him Johnny-on-the-spot moments after the murder takes place. For, oh yes, there is a murder. Brother Robert lies dead on the floor of the office, brother Mark is nowhere to be found, and cousin Cayley is acting mighty suspicious. What follows is the rather parody-like attempts of Bill playing Watson to Gillingham's Sherlock, with a somewhat dim Inspector Birch playing the backseat role of Lestrade

It's not hard to quickly see through the plot and know who did what, but nevertheless, it was almost comical enough to overlook the clear leaning upon classic British mystery writers. Locked rooms, secret tunnels, midnight escapades, attempted misdirection, unrequited love...it's not Dame Christie nor Sir Arthur, but I read it in a weekend and enjoyed it for what it was: a grown-up version of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. ๐Ÿ˜Š Plus, Milne wrote it because his dad liked mysteries, and I think that's a pretty sweet reason to write something. ๐Ÿ˜
WOMNS Rating: 3.5 stars (which I'll bump up to 4, because it's FREE)
Worth Reading? Yes, especially if you're down with a cold or have nothing better to do.

No Kindle? You can find multiple formats and ways to read it by visiting this page on Project Gutenberg.


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