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Posts tagged ‘God’

The Invasion

I have been invaded. Or maybe I should say, my kitchen has been invaded. The invaders come in swarms, too numerous to count. They make trails, devour anything tasty, and generally make a nuisance of themselves.

In case you haven’t figured out what they are yet, I’m referring to ants.

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Specifically, honey or sugar ants. These little critters love anything sweet, and seem to smell it from wherever their home is and come after it. Leave an empty but unrinsed bowl of cereal in the counter, and in an hour or two it will be teaming with the little critters. Spill a drop of juice or honey on the counter and fail to wipe it up, and soon there will be a trail of ants going to and fro, the drop itself obscured by their little bodies.

Lately, with my diligence to get the dishes done right after meals and leaving the sink spotless before bed, the tiny ants have not had much motivation to come into my kitchen. However, one night recently I was just too tired. I didn’t shine my sink and I didn’t wash all the dishes. When I walked into the kitchen, they were everywhere. Climbing in and out of dirty bowls by the sink, making trails on the walls and counters, and in general making a royal mess. But I had to get breakfast ready, and I was too hungry to wait until I had cleaned up the kitchen to begin. So I cleared an area near the stove to work on and began, trying to ignore the devastation going on behind me.

I took a package of tofu out of the refrigerator and drained it in the sink. I noticed that an edge piece was loose and decided to have a nibble (I love raw tofu). I have no idea how it got there, but suddenly the flavor of honey ant filled my mouth. If you have never tasted it, you have no idea how awful it is. It’s not the kind of taste that makes you gag, but it is extremely unpleasant, and totally unexpected.

Well, I just lost it. Somehow that taste in my mouth–which doesn’t just rinse out, by the way–was the last straw. I was tired, my husband had yet to come into the kitchen yet (I don’t know if he was up yet–probably, but just hadn’t come out yet), and the kids were already up, and ants were crawling all over me, and I just couldn’t take it. I called him to come help. I knew if the kitchen were cleaned up, the ants would disappear, but I had already started breakfast and couldn’t just stop and clean for 15 minutes. I did take a minute to spray a cleaner on the ants (which has a soap in it, smothering them and killing them instantly). My dear husband came in and washed up the dirty dishes and wiped down the dead ants and any other ones he found wandering around the walls or wherever.

I know I had been tired the night before, but honestly, 10 minutes to right the kitchen would have been much less traumatic than eating an ant the next morning! So lesson learned: Make sure the kitchen is clean the night before; and if I don’t really have the energy to wash the supper dishes, at least rinse anything sweet out of them! And take a minute to wipe the counters!

There is another lesson, however. Sometimes we allow things into our lives that seem harmless, or maybe it’s just a little neglect of duty, such as really taking the time to spend quality time with God. It wasn’t some big rebellion, saying “God, I don’t need You. I can do it on my own.” Just little neglect. But suddenly, life becomes overwhelming and we just can’t take it anymore. Everything is out of control, and we realize that we just can’t do it on our own after all. Then we must cry out to our Heavenly Husband to come help us. He will clean up the sin and the mess, and bring peace and harmony back into our lives.

Oh, that I may not neglect those little things!

I think I have finally figured out the secret to parenting.

Okay, when I say “figured it out,” I don’t mean that I have a 100% perfect understanding of it. But I think I have enough of a concept to apply it and to share it.

And it wasn’t my original discovery. It comes from the book Parenting Your Infant/Toddler by the Spirit by Sally Hohnberger. And “it” is the parenting pyramid.

In my own words, this pyramid means that God is at the top, desiring to communicate to my child and me. Because I am the parent, I need to open up the lines of communication–two-way communication. I need to make sure my heart is fully surrendered in the moment. And let me tell you, lack of surrender on our part is a big reason why we fail to bring our children to true obedience. Just try making a child obey cheerfully by yelling at them!

The second aspect is that God also wants to communicate directly to the child. However, the rebellious, tantrum-throwing two-year-old isn’t listening. So we as the parent, now surrendered to the Lord, will communicate to them, and direct them to listen to what God is saying to them. Then we lead them to surrender as well. Once they surrender, the lines of communication are open between both parent and child and God and child.

Now, that’s good in theory, but let me make this practical with some illustrations from my life today.

It was time to pick up the toys and get ready for worship. But neither of my children wanted to pick up the toys. Manny tried to throw a tantrum and Gislaine started to cry. Because I couldn’t deal with them both at once, I sent Gislaine to her room and told her to wait until I called her. Then I told Manny that he needed to surrender his heart to Jesus and put the toys away. I said, “Let’s pray,” but he jerked in defiance. So I took his hand and said, “We need to go for a run.” We ran the length of the house and back. Then I knelt again and asked him to pray with me. He knelt, folded his hands, and closed his eyes. Then he repeated after me. “Dear Jesus, please help me to put my toys away happy. Amen.” Then I showed him the toy, and repeated my instruction. He put it away. At first he was just compliant–putting it away under protest. But as I directed him to put more and more away, his heart softened until by the time he was done, he was a cheerful, happy little boy. And Daddy noticed later, after I had gone to the gym, that he was the happiest, most obedient, surrendered little boy that he had been for a long time, and commented on it to me when I got back.

Once he was busy putting his toys away, I called his sister out. We knelt and I led her in a similar prayer. Then I asked her, “What is Jesus saying to you?” She said, “To obey.” That just warmed my heart! Jesus was speaking to my precious daughter, and she recognized His voice! I said, “That’s right. Now please put the dolly’s bed away.” And she did. She also helped her brother put some things away. And she was happy when it was over.

And so was I!

Yes, it took extra time to do it, but the end result was happiness for everyone, and peace in the home.

Yes, this is the secret: a connection with God, listening for His direction, and following His guidance. Most of the time, we won’t know for sure if the ideas that come to our minds are from Him or not, but we are to test the spirits, and move forward in faith. But being surrendered ourselves–to take our toddler’s hand for the grizzly run (because they are too young to run by themselves), even when we don’t feel like running–makes all the difference. Because we certainly cannot bring our child to surrender if we are not surrendered ourselves!

I’m reading this book through for the second time. I can’t say I’ve read enough recently to do a proper review of it, but I would still highly recommend it. And all the other books in the series.

My last decisions post was two weeks ago. What is my excuse? If I said I was busy, it would be true. However, my real excuse is that my kids and I have been sick. My son came down with a cold and fever a week and a half ago. The fever came and went for several days. A couple of days after he got sick, his sister came down with a milder version of it. Then by the weekend I was feeling symptoms of the same thing. So instead of writing about the decision I made the week before and sharing my next decision, I just took care of my kids and myself and said I could wait until next week.

My decision two weeks ago was:

I determine to make my relationship with God the #1 priority in my life.

Did I succeed? To be brutally honest, no. I allowed life, sick children, my own illness, and other factors to fill up my time. I slept in and not lost the early morning time, when I can focus best.

But I am not going to be discouraged by failure. “When I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me.” Micah 7:8. Instead, I am going to make this decision my decision for the coming week and really make time this week. Especially first thing in the morning.

And right now, that means finishing a chapter in the book my prayer partner and I are reading together. Because that book is about Jesus, and learning more of Him will make spending time with Him more precious.

Now it’s your turn. What decision have you made this week? Share with the link-up tool or in the comments. If you haven’t participated before, please read the instructions first.

First off, I’m sorry I forgot to insert the linky tool in last week’s post. However, no one even commented, so I guess it wasn’t missed. I have decided to continue this topic, even if no one participates, because I need to do it for me. That said, though, I would love if some of my readers would participate!

Last week my decision was:

I resolve to make a plan for checking email and being online and to claim victory over wasting time online.

Did I make a plan? Yes. Have I gained consistent victory in this area? No. What can I say? It is not easy to change strong habits. However… as I have continued on with the All Power seminar, I got down to days 25-27, where I have been forced (yes, I chose that word on purpose) to look very closely at myself and my priorities and values, and to make some changes. I have spent a lot of spare thinking time (I say thinking time, because my hands have usually been very busy) trying to figure out where certain areas of my life, especially my blogs, fit into what I want out of life. I think I have figured it out–more abstractly than concretely at the moment–and I’ll probably share about it in a future post once it crystallizes better in my mind. All I know is that if I choose to live by my list of Ultimate End Values that I made yesterday, I will be spending less time in general on the Internet and in particular less time on this blog.

Here is my plan, however, for what it’s worth: I have decided to set certain time frames for being online. These are scheduled into my day, just like other activities like time with God and eating. However, because Internet has lower priority than other things like home and husband and children, the demands of home and husband and children may at times supersede my need to get online, and I may have to forgo time online.

What I do online is going to change somewhat. My list of end values is going to change my focus of activities. For instance, at this point in time financial security is going to have to take precedence over community, especially because my husband is going back to school and my son has expensive health issues. So if I have to choose between writing a post on some helpful cleaning tip for this blog and posting a couple of items on eBay, I’ll choose eBay. I know this could affect my blog in many ways, but I have decided that having lots of readers is not important anymore. I want to share more about who I am and less about what I know here.

I have also decided that I cannot make 5 decisions a week. I just don’t have it in me to focus on that many things right now. So I have made two. Here is one of them:

I determine to make my relationship with God the #1 priority in my life.

I have said that it is, but I have not practiced it. Now I am going to do it. Even if I have to get up early, miss out on sleep, etc. My physical health is not as important as my relationship with God. That said, I believe that getting this in place will make the rest of life fall into place. After all, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).

So what decision are you making this week? Please use the linky widget below, or post about it in the comments. Read this for more information on how this link-up is supposed to work.

As I was driving to church last Friday to practice for the Sabbath music service, I was listening to this CD by the the Stewart Family from the album “Satisfied,” and singing along. Then it came to this song:

It Is Finished

Long ago I saw my Saviour
Bearing shame upon a tree
Then my heart was touched with sorrow
For I saw He bled for me.

“It is finished,” loud He cried
Oh what love, for me He died
In my stead He bled on Calvary
Once for all Christ rescued me

Lo the sky was veiled in darkness
Sudden trembling shook the ground
As the angry crowd was cheering
Mocking Jesus all around

Then my Saviour called to Heaven
As I saw His love anew
Oh my Father, please forgive them
For they know not what they do

“It is finished,” loud He cried
Oh what love, for me He died
In my stead He bled on Calvary
Once for all Christ rescued me

Free salvation now He offers
Take His gift, oh hear His plea
On the bloody cross behold Him
Join His shout of victory

“It is finished,” loud He cried
Oh what love for me He died
In my stead He bled on Calvary
Once for all Christ rescued me.

As I reached “Then my Saviour called to Heaven,” suddenly it was as though I had a vision. As the song set the scene, suddenly I felt like I could really see it. In my mind’s eye, I saw Jesus laying on the cross, the crown of thorns on His head, His torn back pressed against the rough wood. The crowd around mocked and jeered. And then the Roman soldier grabbed a hammer and nail and began to nail Him to the cross. In an instant, everything I had ever read about the gut-wrenching pain caused by the nails came flooding into my mind. And at that moment, the song reached the part where Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” My heart was touched, and I had to hold back the tears as I drove along in the dark. My heart just overflowed with love for the One who gave all for me!

How could Jesus say that, while enduring such excruciating agony? What kind of love can prompt such amazing words in the midst of such horrendous circumstances? Only the love of the one who is love at the very essence of His being.

As I continued on to the church, I meditated on Jesus’ love and sacrifice, hoping I could get there with enough time to write them down before everyone showed up to practice and I lost the impression. Amazingly, I was the first car there. As I typed away on my iPod, someone came and opened the door, so I went in. Three guys showed up–to operate the PowerPoint, the lights, and the sound. But no one showed up to practice. One of the guys made some phone calls and found out that the leader for the week was singing at a vespers somewhere else that night, and that practice would be at 8:00 am the next morning.

Now, you need to understand something. We have been going over budget every month for gas. My husband works an hour away, and gas prices are going up. I don’t mind Friday night practice–indeed, I have seen the stress of trying to do it Sabbath morning–but if there isn’t going to be a practice, someone should notify me. At least, that is the theory.

The whole situation was frustrating, especially since it was the second time this had happened to me–showing up for a practice that wasn’t. So I left the church rather upset. I didn’t want to drive all the way home with such sour feelings, however, so I stopped at the pastor’s house, since it was near the church and not really out of my way. I wanted to pray with someone and didn’t have a cell phone anymore. The pastor came out and prayed with me, and that prayer helped to calm my feelings and change my thoughts into better channels. Thank you, Pastor Jim!

As I drove home it dawned on me. If I had stayed home, I wouldn’t have heard the song on the CD in the car. And even in the unlikely event that I turned on my iPod and heard it that evening, the chances of life being quiet enough to meditate on the thoughts in the song would have been nonexistent. So in spite of the fact that I wasted gas on going to a practice that didn’t happen, I had a precious experience with God, and that made the whole trip worth while.

If you are interested in buying the song or the album, you can purchase them here (Disclaimer: these are affiliate links).

Buy the Album: Buy the Song:

Note: My Adventist friends will want to know that the last song, track 12, has a little error on the length of hell, but the rest of the songs are lovely.

Yesterday was not a good day. At least, that’s how it started out.

First off, I woke up late. Not terribly late, mind you. Probably only an hour late. But on a Friday, that’s just asking for trouble. Sundown shows up at the scheduled time no matter what time I rose in the morning.

Not to mention that I have been making a commitment to spend time with God each morning. Now, if I get up early, that isn’t so hard. But if I get up late, then I am under pressure.

By More Good Foundation on Flickr

Another problem with getting up late is that it seems whenever I sleep in, I feel more tired than if I had gotten up earlier. Maybe this has something to do with the fact that I have more time to really connect to God’s strength when I get up earlier, but all I know is that for the past few months whenever I get up late, I have a worse day. Of course, if I go to bed late, it doesn’t help at all!

So I was tired. Really tired. The I-can’t-focus-on-anything kind of tired. I found myself not knowing what to do next and grabbing my iPod to check email or my to-do list (usually both) more often than I really should have. That made me get more and more behind, until I realized it was 10:00 am and the breakfast dishes weren’t even done. At that point, I began to slip emotionally as well.

Of course, emotions are harder to control when one is tired. And mine were just all over the place. I fought hard to control my attitude and not fall into negative thinking, but it was so hard. I would find myself saying things like, “Why am I so tired today of all days? I mean, I got to sleep in this morinng. Why am I always more tired on days when I sleep in a little?” Or, as I lumbered up the stairs to change a diaper, “Why am I sore? I’ve been exercising at least every other day for the past couple of weeks, and sometimes more. I shouldn’t be sore. It’s not fair.” Or, “What is my husband doing on the computer on his day off? Why doesn’t he come help me?” [I knew the answer–he was working on essays in his attempt to get some scholarships to get his Master’s–but you know how the mind tends to focus on the negative anyhow!] Then something would go wrong, and I would whine to myself about it.

But as I sensed my spirit becoming negative, I also sensed God calling to my heart to surrender the feelings and thoughts to Him and to focus on something positive instead. Several times I turned my thoughts away from the negative direction they had been going toward something positive, claiming a promise or counting a blessing.

Finally, a little after noon, I just couldn’t go on. I had put Manny down for his nap, and I decided it was time for me to take one too. My husband was planning on going to town soon, and said he would take Gislaine with him. So I went to try to take a nap. Manny wasn’t asleep yet, so I put in earplugs, just in case.

I had just started to drift off–I know because my thoughts suddenly made no sense when Manny’s crying woke me up. Glancing at the clock, I figured I couldn’t have been asleep more than a couple of minutes. As his cries escalated, I decided that I might as well feed him; it was a little early (he’s on a two-meal-a-day schedule right now, partly since he takes his nap around noon and wakes up late in the afternoon, and partly because it gives his irritated digestive tract a bit of a break). So I got him up, much to his delight, and tried to fix him a lunch.

I say tried, because I was only slightly refreshed from the 2-minute nap. I still couldn’t focus. I had cooked him a sweet potato for breakfast, and planned on giving him the leftovers for lunch. But I needed a little more to make up the meal, so I cut a few slices from an unused sweet potato and started to cook them. Then I started toasting rice in a dry pan to make Spanish Rice for today’s lunch and seasoning beans I had pressure cooked earlier. Those two things took all the focus I could spare, until suddenly it dawned on me that the sweet potatoes were not bubbling in the pan behind the rice anymore. So I lifted the lid.

Sure enough… the pan was black inside.

And since I had sliced them thin–only about 1/4″ thick–I was able to salvage very little.

I forgot to mention that I had burned his sweet potatoes at breakfast too–not as badly, but still, the pan had blackened.This time was much worse. And I still hadn’t cleaned the pan from the morning. So now I had two blackened pans to clean.

It was just too much.

I didn’t think I could take it anymore.

Not to mention that my husband still hadn’t gone to town. Was he going to go or not? I had forgotten to put a book I sold on eBay in the mail box, and now it was too late; if it didn’t get to the post office, it wasn’t going out that day. And it was supposed to go out that day. Of course, I didn’t bother to consider that what my husband was working on was something he wanted to go out in the mail that day too.

Then the pile of dishes was starting to look overwhelming. And they were all dishes that had accumulated after the breakfast dishes had been washed. Sure, a few things hadn’t been washed after breakfast–my daughter had helped and hadn’t been able to handle them. And I had made teff milk and soy milk and still needed to make nut milk with the nuts soaking in the window…

I had a sort of headache, and noise was bothering me. I found myself starting to snap at the kids. Knowing that I needed divine strength, I dropped to my knees behind the kitchen island and pleaded for help. I actually did this several times throughout the morning. When I found myself dwelling on negative thoughts, I made a point to stop and ask for grace to change, and more than once I had knelt to pray. Somehow, those prayers gave me strength to fight back the tearsĀ  that would come up and helped me change my focus.

But after the sweet potatoes burned, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I went down to the office where my husband was working and my iPod was charging and sent a text to one prayer partner and a Facebook message to another, briefly describing my exhaustion and out-of-control emotions and asking for prayer

.

After that, I went back to lunch prep. I soon had Manny fed and sat down to eat myself. By the time the meal was over, I was feeling better. I got everything done just in time for Sabbath, and after worship went down to walk on the treadmill, reading a chapter from The Gift while I walked. This refreshed my body and my spirit, and I felt so much better the rest of the evening. Of course, I made it a point to go to bed early!

What did I learn from this day? Several things. First, our thoughts direct our emotions. The things we allow ourselves to think on affect what we feel. If we think negative thoughts, we can work ourselves up into tears very quickly. By the same token, if we resist the negative and focus on the positive, we can change the course of our emotions.

The second thing I learned is that it is important to firmly resist temptation. I had to choose to change my thoughts. Of course I asked God for help, but He couldn’t choose my thoughts for me. He could only point me in the right direction. The choice was up to me. Refusing to break down in tears–even when they were welling up in my eyes–was very hard and totally foreign to my nature, but I did it in Christ’s strength. And when the devil realized that I was determined to choose Christ, he got tired of trying and relaxed the temptations–no doubt planning the next one, but at least giving me a break for a while.

The third thing I learned is that I need the prayers of those I love. The temptations didn’t begin to lessen until my friends started praying. Now, I know they pray for me every day, in a general way, but on days like this if I ask, they can pray specifically for the trial I am in, and that is even more powerful.

So thank you, prayer partners!

Have you had a trial lately that you found victory in? Do you have a prayer partner that you exchange requests with? Please share how this has been a blessing to you.

If you were raised as a Christian, like I was, you may have never really seen God. Oh, you knew He existed, and knew a lot about Him, but you may have not really known Him–never really looked deep into His heart.

It is also easy to get so used to the picture of Jesus as our Saviour that we fail to realize the deep significance of His death. Jesus suffered and died. So have many martyrs. What makes His death better or more efficacious than theirs? What is God really like? Is He really that different from us?

These are some of the questions that Ty Gibson tackles in what may be his most powerful book, Seeing With New Eyes. This book has had a powerful impact on my life, especially in the way I see God. It has given me a new perspective of God and His character. Let me quote one of my favorite passages:

We have tended to make God so distant, so nearly sterile that we have forgotten that He is a person. A person who made us in His image. A person, therefore, who has a heart that feels joy and pain like ours. All the passion of the universe has its origin in Him; and therefore all passion, both the pleasurable and painful, finds resonance in Him as well. Every pain that is felt, every sigh that is breathed, every sorrow that pierces the soul, like a rushing current of sympathetic vibrations, throbs in the Father’s heart.

This book is easy to read in the sense that it is not written in high, theological terms. It is written creatively, descriptively, colorfully. Yet the words have a way of awakening your deepest emotions, while at the same time imparting knowledge. Each thought is grounded in Scripture, expanded and simplified so that even a child could understand much of it.

Growing up as a Christian, I learned many facts about God. So I can’t say that there was anything exactly new for me in this book. However, the way it was put together was fresh, and it forced me to step back and apply the knowledge I already had. It opened my heart when I had been hiding from God–trying to live without Him, because I was afraid of the pain of letting go of my sin–and helped me to see Him not as a stern judge condemning me, but rather as a loving Father with aching heart, waiting to welcome me back. This view of God was not new, but by taking time to actually look, my heart was softened, and I was led to repentance.

And for someone who is struggling with understanding the character of God, this book could be a powerful tool to help them to really know who He is–instead of seeing him through the lens of how their father was, or the way they may have been taught He is. Jesus, in His prayer in John 17, said that knowing God is the same as having eternal life. Listen to how Ty Gibson explores this thought:

Understanding who God really is, seeing His true character distinct from all false pictures, is the psychological and emotional substance of which eternal life is composed. Knowing God heals the soul of all internal maladies and imparts a quality of life that is eternal. There is earth-transcending peace to be derived from knowing that the One who made us, and to whom we are ultimately accountable, is infinitely and intrinsically good. On the other hand, all false pictures of God are destructive to the soul, eating away the beauty and meaning of life.

So next time you want to take a fresh look at God, consider picking up a copy of Seeing With New Eyes, and look again for the first time.