From Complaints to Thanks

from complaints to thanks thanksgiving complaining discontent

I stood beside their beds in the dark, praying for each of my 3 little ones while they slept. Every night on my way to bed, I whispered thanks to God for the gift of being their Mommy. But often tears fell, because I knew the truth of that day. And the one before.

I was discontent with that season of my life, and I had become an under-the-breath complainer.

I didn’t always like that this was what God had called me to do. Because it looked like endless wiping. Wiping counters, spills, bottoms, floors, always wiping…

 

Today I’m guest posting at Purposeful Faith ~ Kelly Balarie & Friends. I hope you will join me there!

To continue reading this post, click here.

Why We Should Never Listen to Burnt Bacon

 

motherhood burnt bacon

On an ordinary Tuesday afternoon, I sat at the table working on a writing assignment. When I remembered, it’s Big Salad night.

So I tossed eggs in water to boil, threw chicken on the stove, and arranged bacon on a frying pan. Our piano teacher knocked on the door. We talked, I checked in with food, and went back to writing.

The phone rang, and I talked to my Dad, who’s returning my call from earlier. I tended to food and sat down again. A kid ran in to tell me his online math lesson score. I cheered him on, and sent him off to read.

The doorbell rang, so I checked the food on my way. I chatted with a neighbor, ran back to flip bacon, and sat again to write.

Another kid happened by. Showed me the art she’s been creating. I marvelled at leaves painted different colors and pressed onto her canvas, turned over chicken breasts, cheered her on, and sent her off to read.

It’s supposed to be quiet time, which is why I’m working on a writing assignment and also why I’m cooking dinner to avoid the assignment.

I checked boiled eggs, popped outside for a minute, answered the kids’ most pressing questions, and then our little man woke from his nap. I rubbed his back, fed him a snack, called the next kid for piano lesson, remembered I still needed to clean salad greens, washed and ripped while pondering my writing assignment, and then.

Another kid walked into the kitchen, making a beeline to the stove.

Um, Mom? You know you’re cooking bacon, right?

It took a minute, but I returned to my real place in this real story. I’m cooking bacon. I just forgot. Because the greens, the eggs, the chicken, the kids, the neighbor, the music, the teacher, the back rub, the assignment, and all the thoughts pushed their way forward.

I know everyone does this sometimes. I also know I’ve burned bacon without 16 other things going on. But this story isn’t about the bacon. It’s about being a Mom.

When I became a Mom, I had all these ideas about how to be a good Mom, none of which made space for my weaknesses. Most of them were not really sustainable, at least not for me.

What I’ve learned is, There are a lot of ways to be a good Mom.

Most of those involve the kitchen, but I used to think my kitchen life had to look a certain way. I wanted to be one of those Moms with the picture-perfect meals, all shiny and healthy and planned out for weeks in advance. And while I love serving my family healthy food that will love them back, try though I did, the kitchen never became more than a great place for me to daydream.

So instead of a Mom whose life looks like a Pottery Barn catalog, I’m often the one with the burnt things on pretty plates. And it’s all going to be okay. Because today I heard this little slice of encouragement:

And I quote,  “You know Mom? It looks nasty, but it’s actually not that bad.” 

I’m still laughing. I might need to frame that quote–it’s so Tuesday-typical around here. Years ago, I might have cried because another kitchen-failure. But I’ve grown into a Mom who knows it doesn’t mean anything important about who she is.

So the next time you’re dealing with burnt bacon–or a flopped school snack or forgotten assignment or a botched recipe or any number of things that might tempt you to believe you stink in all things Mommyhood, remember this: ME, TOO.

And it’s probably not that bad. Even if it looks nasty.

The Poetry of Falling

falling dying living dying to self John victory surrender

This week last year, my husband was away at Hunting Camp. I was here holding down the fort and struggling through the idea of dying to myself as the way to live. Funny how going it alone as a Mom brings that topic to mind.

I understood in my head what it meant, to die in order to live. But I can’t say I really wanted to experience more of it in my real life…because painful.

Today, I share a little blast from the past, to encourage you to hear the voices of falling leaves, to see this body of BEAUTY surrounding us these days, as arrows >>>——> pointing our eyes to God and our hearts to surrender.

 

The last of the maple leaves fell today.

Autumn winds pressed hard, making red leaves dance, and every little piece found a place to land. Now they scatter the lawn, at the mercy of children who kick and toss and stomp.

I stand here watching, and it feels a lot like poetry.

There’s a mysterious beauty in all this falling, an embedded reflection in the cycle of seasons.

“Before the leaves can mount again

To fill the trees with another shade,

They must go down past things coming up.

 They must go down into the dark decayed.”

 –Robert Frost, In Hardwood Groves

falling dying living dying to self John victory surrender

Jesus talked about seeds falling to the ground to produce more seeds. About death leading to life.

Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. –John 12:24-25, NIV

Jesus was getting ready to produce more seeds–to give us life from His death. Like the kernel of wheat, He fell down to His death before being raised up to glory.

He laid down His life. Concerned with the will of His Father, who was concerned with you and me. This is what it looks like to “hate life” and die to ourselves–in order to live.

Back at New Year’s, I asked God for a word for the year, and immediately knew it was Victory. To which I thought, This will be the year of victory in one of the areas I’ve been praying about. I’m in!

Victory seems like winning, triumph, or success. Not surrender,  falling to the ground, or dying.   

But each time Victory came up this year, the message was clear.

  • Victory is found in yielding, in surrender, in dying.
  • Victory is His strength shining through (not my strength, but) my weakness.
  • Victory is finding joy in smallness.
  • It’s giving up control, and falling into Jesus.

Doesn’t that seem a little upside-down? It didn’t line up with my idea of victory-as-success. But sometimes we have our definitions all mixed up in this world.

So I stood outside this morning, watching trees release leaves at the peak of the season. I thought about how the leaves all fall down and the remaining branches appear dead before they fill up with life again.

I  thought about the way fall displays surrender, and hoped I’d always remember.

{Day 31}: 7 Jesus-Quotes…It’s a Wrap

falldoorWelcome back to the last day of 31 Days of Love in Red Letters.

I hope this series has encouraged you and helped you to see more of Jesus. I have enjoyed studying to write these posts, and have learned so much along with you. I’ll continue to write from the words of Jesus from time to time.

The biggest thing I’ve learned from the challenge itself? I can push myself and write more often, but also I’m not in the best place in life to write this often. That wasn’t really a surprise. Clearly, since my norm is to write a post or two a week.

31 Days of Love in Red Letters Fall Jesus

To wrap up this series, I have a list for you. These are passages I wanted to dig into, but didn’t have the chance. May they inspire you to study and find the deeper meaning on your own.

7 Jesus Quotes On Love ~ In Red Letters:

1. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ Matthew 9:13

2. Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Luke 18:16

3. The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.  Luke 4:18-19, quoting Isaiah 61.

4. Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest. Mark 6:31

5. Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for Me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Mark 8:34-36

6. And will not God bring about justice for His chosen ones, who cry out to Him day and night? Luke 18: 7

 7. Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in Heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. Matthew 5:44-45.

And there you have it. It’s a wrap!

I hope you will enjoy falling leaves and crisp fall air, chilly walks followed by warm apple cider, all the anticipation for the holidays, and tonight ~ little ones dressed as superheroes, princesses, bananas, and cowboys knocking at your door.

Happy fall, y’all! ~Angela

gagepumpkin

 

{Day 30}: It’s All In Who You Ask

 

31 days Jesus love in red letters prayer ask seek knockWelcome back to 31 Days!

Yesterday, I could not manage to sit down at my laptop for more than a minute. Because life happened.

We had an emergency with our orphan hosting application. Everything had to stop, because it had to be done that day. But it wasn’t only that it had to be done. As in, me filing out more paperwork.

I had to get a social worker to come out to my house that day, and to complete a report by today. We had someone scheduled for the following week, and had been waiting a couple weeks for that appointment. But suddenly it wasn’t enough, and I had a list of people to call and beg. Or the whole thing would be off…and two little girls would be sitting in their orphanage in Latvia this Christmas instead of enjoying a vacation and family time here.

Do you want to know what I’m the worst at?

Asking people to do things for me. Period.

But the thing I’m getting better at?

Asking my Father in Heaven to do things only He can do. Believing He can make it all work–today–and that He wants to do that for us…and for a couple sweet little girls.

So before I started dialing numbers, I asked God. And then asked my kids to come pray with me, so we could ask God together.

Then I talked with several people who said, I wish I could help you, but there is no way. So I kept asking God, believing He would make this work.

And HE did!!!

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Matthew 7:7-8

31 Days Jesus Door red letter wordsSo many times, I’ve prayed lazy or forgetful. But this verse means keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking. Persist in prayer.

Some believe ask, seek, and knock apply to different levels of intensity. For instance, sometimes, we only need to ask God for something. Others, we ask, but we also need to seek by doing whatever part we can do. And sometimes, we need to knock at His door with urgency. He values our passion and persistence.

Matthew 6:8 says, …your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. Has this line ever left you wondering why we should ask, seek, and knock? I’ve wondered.

I think that prayer is most simply, obedience. But it’s more than that. When we pray, we depend on God. We rely on Him. We trust Him. We align our hearts with His, and learn to care about what He cares about.

Our Father in heaven gives good gifts to those who ask Him. 

{Day 28}: On Dwelling in Christ & Fast and Swirly Surprises

Welcome back to 31 Days of Love in Red Letters.

Today’s a really special day. It’s my 2nd child’s birthday, so before we dig in, a birthday shout-out…

I loved one little boy, and I do mean little, when this pregnancy surprised us. How in the world would I keep up with two babies? Then Ryder came shooting out. And I do mean shooting. He turned delivery into one of those fast and swirly fair rides, where you get off and say to all the blurry people around you, What just happened?

He’s been cruising through life ever since, all smiles and adventure, turning our days into super-fun, much less painful rides.

He was the first to grow me that extra heart. You know when you love your first baby so much, you have no idea how you could ever have room for the next? And then he arrives, like you’ve always known him, and you can’t believe you questioned it.

So happy birthday, my 2nd child. I couldn’t love you any more, Ry. You make me love surprises.

31 Days Jesus birthday

Now back to our study. We left off last Thursday in John 15, with the question, how do we bear good fruit?

Remain in me, as I also remain in you.

No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

I used to pray often for specific fruit to show up in my life. It felt like nothing changed. So I questioned how to remain in Christ, like there was some magical answer I hadn’t yet found. I sat with Jesus regularly, but didn’t see the results I hoped for.

I’d jump into my Mom Day, and my joy would leave the building by lunchtime. Or even 9 am. And patience? I’ve written about that before, in a post entitled In Which I Tidal-Wave. So you know, it’s a struggle.

I wanted to remain in Jesus. Actually, I wanted Him to remain in me and for that to be visible. But then I ran through days with so many obstacles, attitudes, and mishaps. With so many kids! :)

31 Days red letter words Jesus walking dead

Finally, I gave up.

After hundreds of prayers begging for patience, I threw my hands up and told the Lord He would have to do all these things in me, because I couldn’t get it together.

Then the strangest things happened…

I started to understand and be overwhelmed by grace.

Beauty was everywhere, and it all pointed back to Him.

I worshiped Jesus, instead of focusing on my behavior.

I let go of results, and felt doomed to being double-minded and a bit of a rollercoaster forever. But over time, He formed fruit in me. When I admitted my inability and trusted His work and His timing.

I am convinced we don’t need to try so hard. We don’t need to work on specific attributes. We just need to be with Jesus. We need to continue to look to Jesus, to dwell in Him, and to thank Him for all He’s working together for good in all the ways we cannot see.

Dwell in Me, and I will dwell in you. {Live in Me, and I will live in you.} (AMP)

31 Days Love Red Letter Words Jesus

{Day 27}: What We Really Need When We’re Weary

31 Days fall red letter words Lord is my shepherd

Welcome back to the very last week of 31 Days of Love in Red Letters!

I had planned to finish the passage from John 15, about bearing fruit, today, but things don’t always go the way I’ve planned.

Amen?

I chatted my way through a blogger’s conference this weekend, and when I woke up Sunday morning, the Lord had a word for me: REST.

And I agreed. Wholeheartedly. My brain is stuffed. It feels a little like my head might explode. Before that happens, let’s hurry to Jesus’ words from Matthew 11:

Then Jesus said,

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.

Have you heard these verses a hundred times? Maybe they even hung on a plaque on your wall back when plaques were a thing? I don’t know. They did mine. The problem is, sometimes I’m reading the Word from a completely self-centered perspective. What’s in it for me?

So this passage has been about rest. Jesus gives rest, and Jesus wants me to rest. But that’s not really the big idea. He wants us to simply come. To Him. He wants us to take His plans, His life, His direction as our own, and to let Him teach us.

He’s not just saying “Take good care of yourself. Have some Me Time.” He’s not telling us to sleep in more or sit down a while and put our feet up. I’ll be honest, that sounds great right about now. But the real idea is–go to Jesus, and learn from Him. The promise? As we do that, He will give us rest.

In other versions of this passage, Jesus’ words are translated, Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden. Labor likely implies burdens we take upon ourselves, while heavy laden suggests the burdens other people put on us.  I think we all understand what it’s like to be weighed down by burdens, or say maybe, expectations.

The theme of the conference I attended this weekend was Hospitality and living lives of invitation. So of course the passage God brings to my mind this morning shows Jesus, once again, inviting all who will come, to Himself. Paying attention (once again) to the burdens people carry, and offering a new way of life in Him.

On that note, May you find rest for your soul.

31 Days Love Red Letter Words Jesus

{Day 24}: When Opportunity Knocks

Proverbs 31 Ministries Contest Winner Devotion

I learned about the contest a few days before the deadline, but knew right away I would enter. The biggest reason? FEEDBACK.

It’s not often a writer gets valuable feedback from an editor. So I’m told. The truth is, I don’t think I’ve ever submitted anything to a contest in my adult life. Shame on me.

Proverbs 31 Ministries, through COMPEL, their amazing writer’s training ministry, hoped to give each writer editorial feedback.

So when I opened the email during the middle of a school-at-home Wednesday, and it said ~ Angela, you won, as well as a couple paragraphs of positive feedback from the editor, I could not stop crying.

My kids sat there, confused.

Mom, what’s wrong?…But isn’t this a good thing, Mom?…I think this is a good thing!

This good thing is a blessing to me, and I’ve been praying it will bless others also. Click here to read my devotion, The Slavery of Striving.

Have a beautiful end-of-October weekend!

~Angela

{Day 23}: True Vine & Real Good Fruit

31 Days Jesus red letter words true vine good fruit

In the Old Testament, Israel was sometimes symbolized by a vine. As in Psalm 80, You brought a vine out of Egypt. You drove out the nations and planted it.

The vine produced both food (grapes, raisins) and wine for celebration. But the vine had the potential to produce a sweet harvest, or a rotten one.

Jesus speaks to His disciples in John chapter 15, hours before He was taken to the cross. He contrasts Himself with Israel, giving us the last of His I AM statements~

I am the True Vine, and my Father is the Gardener.

He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.

The Greek word for cuts off also means lifts up or redirects. Scholars believe the meaning here is that branches bearing NO fruit represent those who are not true believers. But some believe Jesus is saying His branches that bear no fruit have to be redirected, that something has to change, because His branches must bear fruit.

The word prunes comes from a Greek word which also means cleanses. Those branches which already do bear fruit will be cleansed by His Word to bear even more fruit. You get the feeling here, that we are here–we live–to bear fruit for the glory of God.

31 days Jesus red letter words true vine good fruit

Which begs the question, what does it mean to bear fruit to God’s glory?

Growing up, I thought the phrase bearing fruit meant one thing–leading people to Jesus. As in, getting them to want to pray THE PRAYER. That was the simple definition of bearing fruit I had heard. Talking through the way to salvation and praying with a person is absolutely bearing fruit…fruit that will last. But it’s not the entire definition.

Several New Testament passages compare the fruit of sin and death with godly fruit. The fruit of sin is most obviously, sin: idolatry, hatred, jealousy, fits of rage, sexual sin, selfish ambition, disunity, drunkenness, greed, and other behaviors motivated by the sinful nature. See Romans 7 and Galatians 5 to study this further.

The OT speaks of good fruit God desires, fruit like justice and righteousness.

In the NT, the Fruit of the Light consists of goodness, righteousness, and truth. (Ephesians 5:9)

The Fruit of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5)

So then, how do we bear good fruit?

Let’s pick up there on Monday.

Tomorrow, I will share with you my contest-winning devotion from Proverbs 31 Ministries. See you then…

~AngelaProverbs 31 Ministries Contest Winner Devotion

{Day 22}: When Everything Is Awful

31 Days red letter words Jesus

Sometimes, things go from bad to worse and the bad news just keeps coming. Sometimes when it rains it pours.

Jesus’ disciples learned He would be leaving them. His leaving would be full of suffering.

“I am with you for only a short time, and then I am going to the one who sent me. You will look for me, but you will not find me…” John 7:33-34

One of their close-knit group would betray Jesus. Then Peter would disown Him before men.

To make matters worse, Satan wanted to test them. He would work hard to take them all down. To destroy them.

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31-32

They would all scatter, leaving Jesus’ side when He needed them most.

“This very night you will all fall away on account of me…” Matthew 26:31

Soon, the Light would leave this world, and things were going to get worse for these men. They would be exposed and hated and persecuted. What a bitter pill to swallow. This wasn’t the coming kingdom they expected to see.

Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in Me.

After all this bad news came like a blow, Jesus spoke to His closest disciples, His dearest friends. He observed how it felt to be in their shoes. He noticed the state of their disillusioned hearts.

Jesus knows “all our secret undiscovered sorrows, the wounds that bleed inwardly; He knows not only how we are afflicted, but how we stand affected under our afflictions, and how near they lie to our hearts…He knows our souls in adversity.” ~Matthew Henry

The remedy for their sorrows and discouragement? Trust in God, and trust in Jesus. It wasn’t cliche’, but it was truth.

31 Days Love Red Letter Words Jesus

He encouraged them that He’d go prepare for them and later return to bring them home, where they’d always stay with Him. He said, You know the way to the place where I am going. But they didn’t. They didn’t understand, so Jesus told them again. Here’s who I AM~

I AM the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Me. (John 14)

When your heart is troubled, and the blows add up, or one heavy blow shatters life as you know it…rely on Jesus. Cling to Him. He knows your heart, where it’s broken. Hold Him fast. He is the way to life.

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord Himself, is the Rock eternal. Isaiah 26:3-4

31 Days Love Red Letter Words Jesus