Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Mother's Job Description

I had the chance to read a page and a half of Womanly Dominion this morning, pretty good for a Saturday, and I'm encouraged by the words that I read that remind me of my job description as a mom.
Homemaking motherhood is no refuge for the inept woman who can't cut it in the real world. Rather, stay-at-home mothering is the ultimate profession for the elite of her gender.

Her skill set must be highly diversified. She's no mere babysitting caretaker. She realizes she's raising thoroughbreds for the kingdom, and so she studies and reads and prepares meals with the inspiration of a dietitian and a nutritionist. Her health care duties summon her often to rise to the level of nurse or physician. Domestic engineer is a suitable title for her who exercises dominion over her household headquarters by subduing swarming details into workable order. She is an economist in keeping the budget, holding the purse strings as the accountant, and acting as the purchasing agent for the family corporation, averting bankruptcy and maintaining solvency. She's a psychologist in analyzing the peculiarities of each temperament, tracing the development of each child, and bringing the apt word as a counselor in every situation. She's a personal trainer and disciplinarian as she cultivates obedience and self-control in her natively wild herd. She's a teacher and professor in instructing her students in reading, spelling, grammar, mathematics, history, science, and art. This is exceptionally and overwhelmingly true of a homeschooling mother. She's a pastor and theologian as she educates her children in the lofty themes of morality, spirituality, and eternity.
 Wow, what a job we mothers are called to! I don't think there's any job in the workforce that would call us to wear this many hats ... but while at the same time has such a high calling -- "raising thoroughbreds for the kingdom." What an amazing blessing!

Chanski continues by saying:
A mother is handling things of a far greater magnitude. She's handling never-dying souls. She's daily conducting heart surgery on eternal spirits whose forever destinies are influenced most profoundly by the hands that rock their cradles, wipe their noses, spank their fannies, open their Bibles, prepare their after-school snacks, and turn off their bedroom lights. Those motherly hands are molding characters which will become men and women who will turn the world upside down either for good or for evil. Now that's a job that counts.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Good Remedy for Teething ...

I just finished reading Mark 5:21-43. As I'm digesting it and trying to figure out it's practical application for me, it seems to provide the perfect remedy for my son's teething pain ... his first molar started breaking through late last night. Needless to say, we didn't get a whole lot of sleep last night and nap time this morning didn't work out so well. It seems to be the times when he needs to sleep that it's the worst. Playtime is fine, but it's just when he's laying there, that the pain is evident to him (and the rest of the house.) So, to remedy the matter, we already used up the rest of our children's Motrin and we've been applying the baby oral gel religiously. But in reality, the true remedy outside of my human comprehension should be the Lord.

This does sound hokey ... "Just trust in the Lord and everything will be fine." But that's not really what I mean. God gives us the ability to think and pursue wisdom, Godly wisdom, to make Godly choices so that we don't make those decisions blindly. We see this all throughout Proverbs. God gives us access to science and medicine, so why not use it ... but still we need to understand that medicine, science and wisdom are all within the realm of God. But no matter what we do, God is still in control. God controls health and sickness, life and death, wealth and poverty, and the list goes on. Here's an example of this truth from Isaiah 45:5-7:
I am the Lord, and there is no other besides me; I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all of these things.
So ... needless to say, I can pursue wise options to help heal my son's pain, but unless the Lord wills it, it won't happen. However, the point here that I don't understand is this: If I choose not to give my son medication for his pain and I just bring it to the Lord, would I just wait on the Lord to direct me to the right remedy or wait for His sovereign healing? I have a difficult time getting my human mind to comprehend this ... Does anyone have any insight here?

But on another note, as I read Mark 5:21-43, I see how Jesus brought the little girl back to life and how He increased her father's faith; ultimately healing him spiritually. I also see how the bleeding woman came to Jesus, despite her embarrassment and shame, touched Jesus with confidence, knowing that He would heal her. Both of these situations, though much more severe than my son's teething pains, bring me back to Jesus' feet too. If Jesus healed people in those situations, why don't I come to Jesus with my son's teething pain? Why shouldn't I have confidence that He can heal him as well, even at a year old, and begin to make Himself real to him in his one-year-old heart and soul? What a beautiful lesson of faith that would be for him and for me!

Once I had this realization, I did take my son to Jesus' feet and pleaded with him to heal him. Now, I don't necessarily think this will automatically stop the pain ... Jesus may choose to do that, but if not, He is teaching me to rely on Him and not on my own strength or knowledge (knowing what medicine's or human remedies to consider). While those options are still good and I will continue to use Motrin and Oral Gel, my confidence needs to be in Jesus first and foremost. I need to take these worries and troubles to the Lord and know that He is faithful to listen and heal, regardless if His definition of healing is the same as mine or not.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Atheistic Enterprising?

As I was plowing through chapter 5: Womanly Dominion in the New Testament, in, you guessed it, Womanly Dominion, I was struck at the contrast that Chanski highlighted between Mary and her sister Martha. Now I can't tell you how many times I've read Luke 10:38-42, but until now, I've never quite identified with Martha the way that I did this morning. Not to say that I have always identified perfectly with Mary and her devotion to Jesus while forgoing all other hospitality-related duties during his visit, but I guess the reality of Martha's servant-like drive over her worship of Jesus is what got me. I find myself wearing Martha shoes WAY too often these days, and Nancy Leigh DeMoss calls this atheistic enterprising. Yikes!

In DeMoss' book, Lies Women Believe, Lie #19 is "I can make it without consistent time in the word and prayer," and she then warns that "Satan knows that if he succeeds in getting us to live independently of the Word of God, we become vulnerable to deception in every area of our lives." Sadly, I believe this happens very subconsciously. At least that's what seems to happen in my own life. I set out to have time with the Lord before the day gets going, but somehow, I manage to replace that time by checking email, hopping on Facebook, blogging, getting a quick load of laundry started, or even just spending extra time to get my coffee brewing. While these activities are not bad in and of themselves, when they take the place of the time that I need to give to the Lord before I begin my day, they are harmful.  And sometimes ... I consider it a feat that I at least woke up before my husband left for the day or my son wakes up. That's definitely a great start, but unless I "get up while it is still dark;" (Proverbs 31:15) and petition the Lord for strength and direction for the day, I'm communicating that I can handle the day on my own!

Chanski has this to say about this attitude: "When we throw ourselves into important projects without consulting the Lord, we're acting arrogantly. Practical womanly dominion without devotional womanly dominion can easily deteriorate into atheistic enterprising. He explores this deeper in James 4:13-15:
Now listen, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money. Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.' Instead you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.' But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.
At first glance, I wasn't too sure how this lined up with my lack of committing my day to the Lord, but as I dove into David Guzek's commentary,  I quickly understood. He makes three important points:
  1. You who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit": James rebukes the kind of heart that lives and makes its plans apart from a constant awareness of the sovereignty of God, and with an underestimation of our own limitations (you do not know what will happen tomorrow).

  2. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away: James asks us to consider the fragility of human life, and the fact that we live and move only at the permission of God. James will not discourage us from planning and doing, only from planning and doing apart from a reliance on God.

  3. Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that." It is nothing but sheer arrogance that makes us think that we can live and move and have our being independent of God. This boastful arrogance is the essence of sin: a proud independence, the root of all sin, as was the case with Lucifer (Isaiah 14:12-15) and Adam (Genesis 3:5-7).
Wow ... that strikes hard! If I'm honest, I wouldn't typically think of myself as arrogant, but in relation to point #3, I guess I am. Not intentionally, of course ... and as far as my own justification goes, maybe that's all I need to be 'ok' with it. But, in actuality, by not coming to the Lord at the beginning of my day and praying for His will in all decisions I need to make (not just the big ones) and for His strength to live out the calling that He has called me to ... I am really saying, "Don't worry God, I have this all under control!"

Now, you could argue that you don't really need to have a specific time when you go before the Lord each day; you can do it any time. And I would have to agree. We should be praying continuously and growing in our understanding of Him continuously. But, I would have to argue in response that the time spent in the morning should not be replaced by the sporadic times we spend throughout the day. (I certainly don't do this well, so I understand that it's difficult. But I do not underestimate the importance and the priority that time should take in the morning!) Proverbs 31:15 is a good example of this, Psalm 5:3 is a good example, and Mark 1:35 shows us that even Jesus did this.

Upon reading the commentary on Mark 1:35, I found a quote from Spurgeon on the matter that was quite striking: "Look no man in the face till thou hast seen the face of God. Speak thou with none till thou hast had speech with the Most High."

And in reality, if we don't come to the Lord in the morning, I think it's very easy to forget, begin to rely on ourselves and to progress in a downward cycle toward atheistic enterprising. Chanski continues to explain this concept by saying, "Such atheistic enterprising is the very thing we do if we put our hands to the daily plow without taking time to pray and plead for the help of God to establish the work of our hands. 'In the morning, O Lord, Thou wilt hear my voice; in the morning I will order my prayer to Thee and eagerly watch'"(Psalm 5:3).

The Lord has been convicting me of the need for this practice for many months, but I am SO slow to get into a good routine of it. Slowly though, I think it will happen, and I pray that as we all continue to pursue the Lord, that we will pray about this discipline for our lives and that through it, we will be transformed and experience a new perspective on daily living.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Trusting in the Lord ... even in the tough times

This past year and a half has been one of the most difficult seasons of my life. I was pregnant. We had to sell a house. I had a baby. We adjusted to life with a baby. We moved into "temporary housing." We made a choice as a family that I would quite a job that I loved to stay home and raise our son full time. We had to adjust our budget to reflect one salary. I've had to find my "place" as a stay-at-home mom. We're renovating a house, about to move in a month, and now other life changes are on the horizon. If I were to imagine that this last year and half would have been like this even two years ago, I would have been incredibly fearful. But the beauty of it all is that God has only given us what we could handle, and He has taught us to trust in his provision along the way. I am incredibly grateful for this past year and a half, and I'm amazed to see how God has blessed us through what seemed to be "tough" at the time! And in reality, I can't imagine what my life would be like without going through this and experiencing God's joy each step of the way (sometimes in hindsight).

In a very prophetic sense, my father-in-law shared this devotional reading with us yesterday:
The education of our faith is incomplete if we have yet to learn that God's providence works through loss, that there is a ministry to us through failure and the fading of things, and that He gives the gift of emptiness. It is, in fact, the material insecurities of life that cause our lives to be spiritually established.

The dwindling brook at the Kerith Ravine, where Elijah sat deep in thought, is a true picture of each of our lives. 'Some time later the brook dried up' -- this is the history of our yesterdays, and a prophecy of our tomorrows.

One way or the other, we must all learn the difference between trusting in the gift and trusting in the Giver. The gift may last for a season, but the Giver is the only eternal love.

The Kerith Ravine was a difficult problem for Elijah until he arrived at Zarephath, and suddenly everything became clear as daylight to him. God's hard instructions are never His last words to us, for the woe, the waste, and the tears of life belong to its interlude, not its finale.

If the Lord had led Elijah directly to Zarephath, he would have missed something that helped to make him a wiser prophet and a better man -- living by faith at Kerith. And whenever our earthly stream or any other outer resource has dried up, it has been allowed so we may learn that our hope and help are in God, who made heaven and earth. F.B. Meyer
It is yet again that we must step out in faith. I wish that I did this with the "everydays" of my life, even though these type of decisions have come in bulk lately and seem to be more of our "everydays." I share this simply to encourage you ladies that when God asks us to step out in faith and to "endure" what seems to be a difficult time in our life, that it's God's provision and God's security that will ALWAYS be there for us -- not our own wisdom, strength or material possessions.  God calls us to rely on Him with everything that we are. The more that we're able to submit to His authority in our lives, regardless of the situation, we're going to find ourselves in a much better place -- the place where God has planned for us. The place where He promises to provide for us and make us prosper, regardless if that translates to our earthly understanding of it or not -- usually it doesn't.

Here's one more encouraging thought in relation to this from Womanly Dominion:
Panic attacks are a common affliction in stressful times. Sarah is a heroine worthy of imitation, for instead of fretting and surrendering, she managed to 'hope in God' and 'do what is right without being frightened by fear.'

We're introduced to Sarah immediately after God called her husband to uproot and move from the familiar hometown surroundings of Ur, across the howling Abrabian Desert, to set up house in the alien land of Canaan (Genesis 12:5). She subdued any fears she may have faced, and courageously went, humbly acquiescing to her husband's conscience convictions.
What a beautiful example of trusting the Lord in tough situations!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Mark of Beauty Hits Facebook

Ok, I did it .... I just created a Mark of Beauty page on Facebook. I debated for a while whether or not I should do it, but in actuality, if the goal of Mark of Beauty is to create a forum where women in all stages of life can come, learn more about godly womanhood, find new resources to continue that study, and help other women come to an understanding of God's true design and purpose for their lives outside of what society tells them, than Facebook is just the right place for Mark of Beauty! And ultimately, if that study brings someone to the feet of Jesus, what more could we ask for? So, after about 4 months online, Mark of Beauty hits Facebook, and I'm eager to see what happens as more people (hopefully) browse through this blog. It's definitely not my intention to highlight my own study of this material, but to share it with Mark of Beauty readers in hopes that we can dialogue about it and continue to point each other to the TRUE beauty of life that is only through Jesus.

If you haven't become a fan of Mark of Beauty on Facebook yet, stop by and do so. I'm going to try to post all blog updates on that page, so hopefully it will be a good way to keep tabs on us.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Excuses For Not Pursuing God's Call

As I mentioned last week, I am slowly working through Womanly Dominion. In chapter 3, Chanski looks at how the great Deceiver convinces us to blame circumstance, genetics, our husbands, etc. for not allowing us to pursue God's calling in our lives. In this chapter, he quotes Nancy Leigh DeMoss quite frequently from her book, Lies Woman Believe, a book that Anna referenced a few months ago. As Anna elaborated on Biblical Womanhood of the Home yesterday, and mentioned God's design for women, it made me think of this point that Chanski reiterates here.

In Chanski's argument against being a 'marital victim,' blaming your husband or lack of having a husband for your inability to "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth...," (obviously you need a husband to "be fruitful and multiply," but that's beside the point here) he says this:
It's not time to fixate on a husband's duties, but on a wife's. The Serpent points fingers at others, blaming them. The Savior presses us each with our own personal responsibility. "Peter therefore seeing him said to Jesus, 'Lord, and what about this man?' Jesus said to him, 'If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!'" (John 21:21-22)
Our responsibility, married or not, is to first and foremost FOLLOW JESUS. Not our husband or the ideal of having a husband. If we have been blessed to have a husband that follows Jesus first and dies to himself to make us thrive; our job is much easier because we have a vibrant example of this right beside us; and I have to say that I am exceedingly blessed to have a husband that tries to live life like this. But if you're not in this situation, although it's difficult for me to say this, Chanski and DeMoss show us in scripture that we can't use this as an excuse to NOT pursue Jesus and follow his commands for our lives. It is up to the Lord to change our husbands, not us, and as we are obedient, God can choose to use us to show Himself to our husbands. (We see truth of this in 1 Peter 3:1.)

For the married ladies out there, Chanski and DeMoss point us to Proverbs 31:10-31 as a beautiful example of what it looks like to put Jesus first, embrace the role as helper and discover the blessings that the Lord has for our obedience. And then Chanski says this, "Stop blaming your man, and start helping him!" (I talked about this a few months ago in my exploration of what it means to be a helper.)

For you single ladies out there, here's what DeMoss says about using the 'marital victim' card:
Lie #21. I have to have a husband to be happy. The truth is that the ultimate purpose of marriage is not to make us happy. Women who get married for the purpose of finding happiness are setting themselves up for almost certain disappointment; they seldom find what they are looking for.... The truth is that happiness is not found in (or out of) marriage; it is not found in any human relationship. True joy can only be found through Christ.
And this is something new to me, but DeMoss herself is nearly fifty and she is not married! What insight she has on what it means to be a godly woman and uphold godly marriage!

Chanski reminds us of Phillipians 4:11b, 19: "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.. And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus."

So, regardless if we're married or not, we cannot continue to use the 'marital victim' card as an excuse to sit and mope in our situation. We must use everything that God has given us (talents, singleness, husbands, children, wealth, influence, etc.) to make Jesus known. God obviously doesn't NEED us to proclaim His name and make His Son known, but He commands us to do it in response to the overflow of joy we receive from knowing Him. And really, our response to Jesus' gift of grace shouldn't be anything less!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Biblical Womanhood: Revisited

I know Courtney read Biblical Womanhood in the Home back this summer and did some great posts on it, but I am just now digging into this book with 10 of my Sunday School girls. We are reading/discussing it together over the next several months and in preparing for our meeting this week-- the introduction and chapter one have provided some eye opening thoughts to me that I thought I would share.

In just the first few paragraphs of the introduction, Nancy (I act like I know her personally ... haha) talks about "successful" women in society. What a fabulous question for women to ask themselves daily! Success is defined by so many in such different ways. So what/who defines success for you? God truly outlines it for women, but is that we strive for every day or is it something entirely different we are after? Something self-seeking? WOW-- what a simple eye opener. At the end of the day, was I successful in God's eyes?

Moving into Chapter 1, as a former biology teacher, I was so glad to see Carolyn Mehaney touch on the idea that we were CREATED feminine. It isn't a choice you make, it is a gift from God.

I also pondered for quite sometime on page 24-- the fact that "God said it was not good for the man to be alone. We have no record that Adam had complained of any lack. Rather, it was God who declared that aloneness is not good for a man. God was the one who made man aware of his need for a woman." WOW!! Who doesn't know a single woman out there that needs to hear these words-- or wish they had been told this back in their singleness? It is no wonder that single men seem so much more content with singleness than single women. God awakens single men to the desire in His own timing -- not the timing of a less than feminine woman. I never had really considered this but how true it is and it is just one more time that I am reminded that God created us with such different needs that only He can truly meet.

I look forward to sharing more about the book in the weeks ahead!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Up to My Knees in Laundry ...

I woke up this morning about 20 minutes before my son, in hopes to seek the Lord and prepare myself for the day. In doing this, I picked up Womanly Dominion and read a few pages to 'put on' the right perspective for the day. As I was reading, I realized how out of control the laundry had gotten in the last few days. The laundry basket is busting at the seems, the clothes that are in the dryer have been there since Monday and the dishes await me in the left-hand side of the sink (we do not have a dishwasher). It seemed like all of this 'work' just starred me down as I was standing in the kitchen drinking my coffee and trying to get a few pages read before my son woke up. To my benefit, these are the words that I read as I stood there though:
For a woman who rejects the mind of the world and puts on the mind of Christ, it is counted a great honor to follow in the submissive footsteps of the servant-hearted Son of God. For there's no more prestigious role in the world than humbly occupying the position, and performing the role assigned by one's heavenly Father. This is what it means to be Christ-like (p. 40-42).
 After reading these words, God quickly began to put my 'work' into perspective. Yes, the laundry is out of control. Yes, the dishes are dirty and piling up. Yes, I need to rerun the dryer and fold those clothes. But in doing that, I should do it for the glory of God. It's a privilege to be able to do this work for Him, and I should do it with a glad and rejoicing heart. All of this work is part of my role as a woman, wife and mother and being the manager and keeper of my home. No, I shouldn't allow everything to pile up like this. I need to be more disciplined and get it done on a regular basis. But God's grace is sufficient for me even when the laundry piles up, and His grace is sufficient to save me from my self-centeredness when I just want to do what I want to do and NOT the things that I should do -- take care of my house and family well. Although it feels 'lowly' at times, it's no comparison to the servant-like example that Christ provided for us, and I'm very thankful to be reminded of this great gift this morning.

Here are some similar thoughts about Womanly Dominion from the discussion of the book on girltalk.