Joyous labor was mine to brainstorm, scrutinize and craft each little mom-made treasure for my golden heads. Laying each unique package out on Valentine morning beside the tower of raspberry cream crepes, the craft and delivery was indeed my focus for a time, but after the thank yous are said and they whisk out the door, I'm left with the substance: loving affection for my fold. Love is more important than the tangible gift.
In the middle of stuck inside winter, when the days seem unbearably long and monotonous, I am guilty of focusing on what I want (to avoid the downers) but I error because I miss seeing Jesus--the true answer to my need. I want Jesus to pull me out of this slump but I become so focused on deliverance, I miss the Deliverer.
When I am truly focusing on Jesus, the circumstances will become less important than the eternal Savior. Last Sunday, I heard "Christianity is an on-going call to every day believe in the Word of God." So my prayer must be submitting my spiritual and physical circumstance to God because He has power over the physical and spiritual realm (Colossians 2:15, Hebrews 2:14 Mark 4:39-41) and choose to believe His Word that
..for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the first born among many brothers. Romans 8:28-29
He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6
Do you believe God is working? He has an endless number of powerful possibilities He may choose to work in your circumstance. Will you focus on what you think you want or on Jesus, the one you need? He is superior to the gift.

It's Grace

Everyday my reckless decisions unleash more opportunities to become attuned to God's grace toward me; to realize His generosity toward me when I have done NOTHING to deserve it. Actually, I've done everything to incur His hatred, punishment and damnation. There is truly nothing good in me!
In His righteous judgment, I deserve to stumble and perish, to sink in the pit I have made, to catch my foot in the net in which I've been hiding, to be caught in the work of my own hands (from Psalm 9).
Holed up during the arctic blast, we watched movies and had conversations about character's attitudes toward God and their rebellion. Instead of turning to God for purpose and satisfaction they turned to sex, drugs and alcohol. In my rebellion, I tend to turn to food. Yet because of His grace, Jesus says, "You don't have to stay there. Come to Me."
And those who know your name put their trust in you,
for you, O Lord, have not forgotten those who seek you. Psalm 9:10
Because I Come to Him, He awards forgiveness toward my rebellion and all the wickedness and evil propensities in me are replaced with Jesus' perfect righteousness. I trust that's what Jesus did for me. I am reminded of this when I clean up the smudges, crumbs and goo from my little guy's face.
It's typical for me to categorize the wicked as crooked politicians, shrewd businessmen, drug dealers and traffickers, but I am wicked. The ONLY thing that differentiates me from "them" is my choice to come as Jesus invites!
Pray that more would come to Jesus and do not neglect to thank Him for His undeserved grace toward you. 

"All who labor"

As the morning affords just a couple quiet minutes, I'm praying and pondering my thoughts, my circumstance, my anxiety. Am I valuable? Am I replaceable? Am I appreciated? Am I used?
"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30

It is human to spend my days acquiring self-worth and approval from others. I am easily fixated on approval from mankind. Desiring validation and  commendation, I feel deflated without it. It feels heavy.
The fear of man lays a snare,
but whoever trusts the Lord is safe. Proverbs 29:25
Jesus whispers, "You are working too hard for man's approval and it is a heavy burden, so come. No matter what others say, how they label you or make you feel, believe in My estimation of you."
First Peter 2:4 assumes we are coming to Jesus, ("As you come..") and affirms that we will be rejected, devalued by mankind but God has chosen us and deems us precious and as we choose to come to Him, rather than men for our identity. And as we come to Him, we are being fashioned into the person He has designed us to be.
Fearing man will leave you a hot mess but rightly fearing God, as we come to Him, is being fashioned into a masterpiece.

"Come to Me"

"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30
What would it look like if I learned what this really meant? For a month now, I've been praying this daily. Meditating on it. Believing it. Acting on it.
Today it means trusting in the Creator, not the created. Trusting in God for my hope and happiness, significance and security (New City Catechism, Question 17). My hope for this week doesn't depend on sticking to my new year's resolutions. My happiness for this day doesn't depend on a member of my family. My significance is not dependent on my job, or lack of employment.
The infamous they (whoever that is) say that one day your baby will just start waking up happy, jabbering to himself, playing, smiling... Well, I'm fourteen months into this and I can count on one hand the number of times that's happened. Nearly every wake time is followed by crying and panic. This little one wakes and depends on me for his happiness and security. It's a pathetic picture.
Is that what I look like? When the day's been a little tipsy-turvy, will I become an adult version of wailing, moaning and groaning for someone or something (uh, hum: chocolate and coffee) to be my hope and security? (Idolatry.) Or will I come to the Creator?
My security today and tomorrow rests alone in God my Creator, the very one who gives me breath.
I will claim that He is my happiness. He is my hope. He makes me significant. He is my security. I will come to Jesus and find rest.

If then mothering

Awoken by the upbeat tune of her alarm clock while she's bunking with big sisters after a late night movie, I sit with coffee, moving her latest piece of artwork from my seat. Ah, that little girl is growing up too fast! I don't spend enough time with her. How could I engage more with her? Enter her world? 
I open my Bible to Proverbs 2 and ponder wisdom.
My thoughts shift to the littlest one in our gang and I thank God for the good night's rest and then ask forgiveness for doubting that I'd get it. As I went to bed last night, I was already begrudging and fretting over a presumed middle of the night crying. Ah, selfish mom. 
The buzz word in my circle of friends is, "mom guilt." And it's not even true. It's a lie from Satan himself. But I hear those lies: you're not enough, you messed up again, he's not thriving...
Then I look out the window and up to see cotton ball clouds scattered across the light blue skyline. Considering my grand, awe-inspiring God, stops me in my tracks. That's the answer: God. Where does my help come from? How do I combat mom-guilt? How do I not fall for the lies? How do I mother well? God.
Tucked in Proverbs 2, is a amazing if then formula for mothering.
IF I make my ear attentive to God's wisdom;
IF I turn and make my heart to understand;
IF I ask God for insight and understanding;
IF I pursue God's perspective and wisdom and insight like I would pursue cold hard cash,
THEN I WILL understand the best way to live and discover His know how.
For God gives wisdom...
And I will be delivered from "mom guilt,"
Satan's path of lies leads to death: depression, lack of an abundant life and shame.
"Mom guilt" is a dead end street.
Escape the dead end: ask God how. Proverbs 2, my paraphrase
The truth is, despite my seeking, I will mess up. My life is a string of messing up, heading down that dead end road, believing Satan's lies, following the way of guilt and then making a u-turn, headed on God's road.
For instance, two days later, my morning mind fast-forwarded to the list of tasks in the bursting-full day ahead and she entered the kitchen in a mood. I fell for the trap, the dead end, reacting in my own snappy voice, rushing hastily and rudely. Though I realized my mistake, the whole day felt drab and heavy. It was almost as if I couldn't believe God's grace really was meant for me AGAIN. Would He really lead me out of this "mom guilt" (and wife guilt) road again? Why was Romans 8:1 (no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus) so hard to accept, to believe?
Because it's truly unfathomable! Even though I choose to forgive a wrong done to me, do I forget it? No, it's always there, in the back of my mind. Sometimes in the forefront when I think of that person. But God doesn't work that way. He forgives and forgets.
How do I move on, out of the guilt that lingers even though theologically I believe I'm forgiven? The answer might be tucked deeper in Romans 8. "For the mind set on flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace." I can't move out of the "mom guilt" because I'm thinking about my sin, my shortcoming, my inability. What I started thinking about God's unfathomable grace, His forgiveness (and forgetting) and the abundant life He's promised me instead? That's God's perspective and I must set my thoughts on His way, then I will find wisdom in mothering.
Whether you're a mom, dad, employee, neighbor, friend or co-worker, where is your thought life today? Are you feeling insecure, condemned, not enough? These are lies luring you down a dead end road. Ask God to lead you in a u-turn, teaching you His perspective, His way of life and peace.


"This is what you always do," she groans. "You tell me to do something I have no idea how to do. You just expect me to know."
I hate that word, "always." Really, "always"? I almost wonder if we should take it out of the English dictionary. Or at least my vocabulary.
I want to retaliate. Really, do we need to wash the dress right now at 7:30am? The kitchen is a mess, the baby wants to be held and I'd rather just drink a cup of coffee. And there's that stinkin' word always. Why does she always have to make mornings so difficult?
"Okay, let's go wash the dress." We muddle through the function of each machine dial and while holding baby brother, get the dress she wanted to wear to school today in the wash machine.
I retreat to the kitchen mess and begin my one-handed clean-up. While singing "So Rise and Shine," the umpteenth time, I ponder.
She stomps back to the kitchen, throwing herself into her chair at the table. "Draw a goldenrod."
"What?" I ask in bewilderment. What does the goldenrod she learned about in iNature have anything to do with washing clothes?
"See, you don't know how to draw it. You need me to show you," she makes her point and spins back out of my sight.
Finally, I hear her say that I don't teach her. She's saying she'd like to know how and I'm not taking the five minutes to teach.
I return to her pouting body sprawled out on the living room floor, admit that I've not done a good job of teaching her, I'd like to do better and I suggest we return to the whirling washing machine to review the dials on the machine. Why do moms need to be willing to change? Can't I just be right all the time?
Thankfully, she bounded off to the bus with a kiss, hug and smile while I retreated to my coffee cup and study of 1 Peter.
Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 1 Peter 3:8-9
I've been studying the meaning of the word translated, "bless." Our English word, eulogy is derived from this greek word. Zodhiates argues that it would be better translated "speak well of one" and also in 1 Peter three, it implies asking God to act in one's life. The application couldn't have been more spot on for the morning that had just unfolded. Every inch of my being wanted to retaliate, yell, justify my actions but God says through Peter, don't shout back, don't criticize or insult your child but instead speak well of her, listen to her and ask God to work in her life.
So often, I think of Scripture applying to the really big things in life, like being hauled to court and sued for holding fast to your moral convictions. Not what happened over the breakfast table, at the checkout lane or on the highway. Thankfully, my nine-year old helped me see that it indeed applies to the seemly little occurrences and encounters.
The rest of verse nine says, speaking well of others no matter how they treat us is why we were called into God's family or saved, so that we can be spoken well of by God and invite His work in our lives. Through this loving, sympathetic conversation with the golden head, humbly admitting my wrong and inviting Him to work in her life, He will also always work in my life. These encounters refine me to make me more like Jesus. And I think that's a better use of the word always.
The next verses in 1 Peter 3 reference Psalm 34:12-16, which I understand to be a formula for wisdom or the fear of the Lord. ("Come, o children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord," Psalm 34:11.) Take a few minutes right now to mediate on these verses. How does God want you to pursue peace today so that He might work in your life as well as those you speak well of, no matter how they may criticize you.

What's enough?

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10
This is why we were created: to show the world God's goodness. But when I think of being God's handiwork, I wonder what's enough?
Struggling with certainty in my roles, I wonder if I am suppose to do more outside or even within these four walls (our family's home). I know I'm called to do the urgent within these walls, just as the engineer is called to provide for his family, but am I missing a call or ministry outside (or from within) these walls?
I've heard over and over, give yourself grace the first year with baby. Heck, I've preached this message myself, but something in me can't help but wonder if I'm missing a work for which God has made me. What about other goals or ministries: freelance graphics; writing; intentional bedtime prayers, hugs and chitchats; date nights; relationships with unbelievers; volunteering at church...? Every time I attempt to add one of these, I get overwhelmed.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, Ephesians 2:4-8
I am God's creation gone wild and then by His goodness alone, reclaimed because of my faith in Jesus' perfect offering of Himself in place of my life. And God did this for His glory and my good joy. He gets glory when I show the world how good and kind He is.
Whatever I do, has to show God's grace to the "world" in which I'm sitting. Show them that I am nothing and God in His mercy, love, riches, and kindness, gave me a gift: salvation, joy, peace and contentment (just to name a few).
Today, I need to wear His salvation "on my sleeve" for all in my sphere of influence to see. I have to believe that this is enough work. It's gotta be; it's all I got most days!
How can I do this while pursuing other ministries or life goals? I need to be real. The people I meet along the way have to know who I was before God's grace gift to really know His infinite rich grace to me and that it is also available to them. They have to know how rebellious and sneaky I was as a teenager, wanting to fit in with the world and yet have a good face on Sunday. They need to know how self-righteous I was in college, thinking I could gain God's favor through my own self discipline and depravation. They need to know I was a nervous, sleepless wreck last night and God in His goodness gave me peace in the morning. Everyone I meet today, needs to know that the same God who rescued me from who I was before wants to rescue them. He wants to show them mercy, love, generosity and kindness. It's never too late and He never says never.
So what's enough work? Well, we can set out with big goals, but achievement is secondary to showing people the patience and goodness of Jesus along the way.
No matter the goal of your work, what is one way you can show or tell those in your sphere of influence today God's goodness toward you and how in His kindness, He gave you a grace gift and it's changed who you are today.