Recently, my husband and I made the transition to having an empty nest. We began raising children back in 1989 with the birth of our son. For the past 24 years, we've been co-laboring on the process of bringing up children who love, honour, and serve God. We also made sure that they were prepared to become productive adults who could take care of themselves. We felt strongly that God had called us to homeschool our children and so we did so - all the way through.
When my son was born, my mother-in-law gave me some very wise advice. She told me to remind myself every day that my child did not belong to me and that one day he would leave home. She pointed out that having a child actually become an independent adult meant that you had done your job as parents. It was to be celebrated, not mourned. I followed this advice faithfully when our son moved out on his own at age 21 in October of 2010 and then one month later when our daughter got married and (of course) moved out to live with our son-in-law.
I had this whole "learn 'em and launch 'em" thing down pat! Or so I thought. Fast-forward to this year. Spring, to be exact. My husband and I took an extended trip to Florida in anticipation of a move to that state in the summer of 2014. By then, our youngest child would be 20 years old and definitely ready to be out on her own just like her brother and sister. Of course, we were anxious to move to Florida sooner if possible, but more than willing to wait if need be.
Imagine our surprise when we returned home on March 25th to the news that a female friend had asked our daughter to share an apartment with her! Our daughter had just had three weeks on her own here at home and realized that she enjoyed adulthood and being self-sufficient A LOT. She was a little nervous (as many children are) about the idea of moving out on her own, but she "did the math" and realized it could be done. She also felt strongly that it was time. The final decision was made in early April and just one short month later, we helped her move into her new place (which is very cute, I might add).
The following morning was a Sunday. I found myself feeling very sentimental. Every thought was about how I could no longer go back and experience the past with my children. It was gone and I could not get it back. I am not speaking here about regretting anything about the past. Our parenting experience, while hard, was one of the best experiences we've ever had in our lives! No, I am talking about the thoughts like:
"I miss my son as a baby."
"I really miss waking up to my daughter playing worship music on her guitar."
"I miss the smiling face of my youngest greeting me every morning. "
"I wish they didn't grow up so fast."
I'm sure many of you know exactly what I mean. We lament and cry over our child's milestones because we know they will never come again. We grieve for the time that is past that we cannot go back to. We are sad at the growth of our children. And that's what we're supposed to do, right?
I thought so. And then GOD SPOKE. My husband was teaching a parenting study the following Monday and happened to be reading about the children of Israel complaining about their current circumstances and wanting to go back to Egypt. As I listened to him read, I heard God clearly say, "When you grieve over the passage of time and events in the lives of your children, you are being just like the children of Israel. You're not happy and content in the current place/season in life I've called you to. No, instead, you're lamenting about how great things were in the past and thus how bad things are now."
WOW! That was a lightning bolt from heaven for me! I quickly realized that when we spend our time lamenting the things that are past, we are missing out on what God has for our present and future.
Now, just to clarify, this does not mean that we can never think about the past. On the contrary, God has called us to remember the past and teach our children about it. But, what we're supposed to be doing is something like this:
"Remember when you were ten and got your leg stuck in between the pool and the deck? Remember how God intervened and helped Mom and your brother to move the heavy wooden deck to free you? Remember how gracious God was to protect you from any broken bones or serious injury?"
"Remember how you used to organize and keep track of all your LEGOS by color? God sure gave you an amazing skill or organization from even a young age. And you continued to use that skill to serve him in many ways."
"Remember that mission trip you took to Romania when you were only 15? Mom did not breathe the entire week, but her prayer life certainly got a lot stronger! It was pretty cool to see God's hand working in other nations, wasn't it?"
You can ask my children. This is not something I've done in the past. BUT, it is something I've determined to do in the future. No more mourning over where we've been and what is past. No more crying over the fact that time is passing and that children grow up. No more wishing I was not where God has me currently.
Instead, I will rejoice over each milestone knowing that God has called me to the here and now. I will see the passage of time as the chance to celebrate the events that God has brought us to and through. There may be tears, but I have purposed that they will be TEARS OF JOY and not tears of sadness.
How about you? Will you be happy and content in the here and now that God has placed you in or will you spend your time wishing you could go back to something that is past?
After three days of off and on snow I'm ready for some encouragement. I know you will find this article by Beth Cranford helpful if you have a case of the winter blues or even if you are just a bit discouraged.
Are you sick of winter? Are you wondering where your joy and enthusiasm have gone? Feel like locking yourself in a dark room until summer?
SAD--Seasonal Affective Disorder--is a form of depression that occurs at the same time every year, typically early fall and through the winter. It causes feelings of irritability, tiredness, sickness, sadness, and other symptoms often associated with depression.
Why do people get SAD?
Put in simple terms, it’s a chemical imbalance caused by decreased exposure to light, particularly sunlight.
A drop in the number of hours of sunlight per day can upset your body’s circadian rhythm (body clock), which is how your body knows when to sleep and when to be awake. It can make you feel tired when you shouldn’t be, as well as keep you from sleeping when you need to.
Exposure to sunlight causes increased levels of serotonin, which is a mood enhancing neurotransmitter. Darkness prompts your body to make melatonin, a sleep enhancing and regulating hormone. So, with less light in the winter, your body is receiving less “feel good” hormones and more “just go to sleep” hormones. So you’re cranky, foggy-headed, hungry (not really, but you think you are), and just want to be alone.
But you don’t have to accept “Winter Blues”. There are many actions you can take to keep yourself happy and healthy all through the winter… the long, cold winter.
First we’ll talk about what not to do.
Your body’s logical reaction to these changes can put you into a vicious cycle of going from bad to worse. Your response to feeling a little bit “down” and a little bit sleepy is quite naturally to go take a nap, refrain from social interaction, and eat “comfort foods.” Unfortunately, these natural reactions are actually very counter-productive and can make you worse.
What not to do:
(Do not) Hibernate!
Do not lock yourself away in a dark room. Do not turn down social invitations that you would typically accept. In other words, do not retreat inside yourself, waiting for the storm to pass.
Tell your spouse or a trusted friend what you’re dealing with and ask them to keep you accountable. Have them check up on you and make sure you’re getting out of the house, even if they have to come and put you in their car and take you out for coffee!
(Do not) Eat sugar and carbs (“comfort foods” which will bring you anything but comfort.)
Comfort foods comfort for the moment but they actually exasperate mood issues. Unstable blood sugar, caused by consuming sugar and refined carbs (white bread, white rice, anything processed) is a prominent cause for depression and other mental disorders.
(Do not) Drink alcohol.
If you do find comfort in alcohol, it’s temporary, and it’s actually making your depression worse. Alcohol is a depressant.
And on a more positive and proactive note; here’s what to do:
Get morning light
Try to get at least 20 minutes of natural, bright light within one hour of waking. This will keep your body clock regulated and help keep you from insomnia and feeling tired during the day. You can use a light box if you can’t get actual sunlight, which is typically the issue with SAD. Incidentally, getting morning light all through the year will help fight insomnia.
Get as much light as you can. Get out during the day. Sit near windows in restaurants, classes, etc. Go for walks outside. Fight the urge to be inside, in a dark room, you’ll be glad you did.
I can’t stress enough the importance of exercise in your battle against depression. It doesn’t have to be intense, or even every day. But you must exercise. Take a brisk walk for 20 minutes every other day, or something similar. Find something you enjoy doing so you’re more likely to do it.
For more on exercise, and how it helps you fight depression, see this article
Feed your body what it needs
We've talked about what not to eat. What you do eat can prove to be amazingly effective.
Eat lots of leafy greens. My favorite way is in a green smoothie. You really can’t taste the greens, just the fruit you add to it.
Eat your fruits and vegetables! Yes, your brain needs them in order to function properly.
Increase your vitamin D.
Take a high quality fish oil supplement. Studies show that fish oil is highly effective in fighting depression. (You can get supplements that don’t have a fishy taste.)
Eat foods high in B vitamins.
Eat smart carbs, like; whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables. Carbs can have a comforting effect, but go for the complex, high quality ones, leave the simple ones in the store.
Eat good quality proteins.
Drink plenty of filtered water.
Use essential oils
An essential oil is simply an oil which has been extracted from a plant. The term “essential” as it is used here is to imply that it is the essence of the plant. (It’s not synonymous with the word required.)
Essential oils have been shown to have many healing properties for all kinds of health related issues, including mood. Some oils that can help with mood include; lemon, lavender, rosemary, jasmine, and geranium, to name just a few.
Be careful when beginning to use essential oils. They are extremely potent and can cause ill effects if used improperly. Get familiar with the effects of each and choose the ones that apply to your situation. Some oils that help with mood are calming oils, while some are invigorating. If you’re feeling agitated, stressed, and irritated, you would opt for a calming oil, whereas if you are dealing with sleeping too much you would choose something that will lift your spirits and energy level.
Be sure to only use a pure essential oil. Make sure it has no additives, fragrances, etc.
Keep a regular bed time and get up at the same time every day.
Try to get between 7and 8 hours of quality sleep per night. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. Don’t sleep in on your days off. Yes, it’s tempting, but just like those other “don’ts” this one will only make you feel worse. It upsets your body clock, which is what we’re trying so hard to regulate.
Be intentional with your naps
There is something to be said for a quick, quality nap. (see this article http://michaelhyatt.com/why-you-should-take-a-nap-every-day.html)
However, if you’re fighting Winter Blues, you may feel the urge to nap when it’s really not what you need. If you’re following the advice to keep a regular bed time and get 7-8 hours of rest, then you’re getting the rest you need.
When you hit a sleepy point in your day, try activity before you try rest. Also, keep a tight reign on those sugars and carbs. Eat foods that give you a natural and longer lasting source of energy that won’t end in a sudden crash.
Share your feelings with someone you trust.
It doesn’t mean you need to go around telling everyone you see that you’re depressed. But do tell someone who cares about you.
If your condition is disrupting your normal routine, making it difficult for you to work, etc., seek medical help and/or counseling. A professional can help you learn coping techniques that will help. (Really, they can.)
Take the time to dress warmly.
This may sound a little silly, but but it’s important and can actually make a difference in your mood. When you constantly jump into a cold car with not enough clothes on, run errands in town while shivering the whole time, and don’t run the heat in your house, you’re not doing yourself any favors. You’re sending constant messages of discomfort to your brain. No wonder your brain hates winter! No wonder you want to curl up in a ball with a quilt and a huge helping of comfort food. Wear something that helps you move freely through your day without feeling cold. For women, you’d be surprised what a lovely scarf around your neck will do. And I know you love your flip flops, but go ahead and trade them in for a beautiful pair of boots, (under which you will wear warm, cotton socks!) You’ll be totally fashionable and comfortable. When you get home at the end of the day you’ll be energized instead of warn out. Isn't it amazing what clothes can do?
Change your perspective on winter.
Find something you can enjoy about winter. Take up a winter hobby. Get outside more often with the kids. (I know, they’re finally old enough to play outside by themselves while you watch from the window, sipping your wonderfully hot cup of coffee. But trust me, this little retreat and your choice to stay in is not serving you well. Get out, enjoy the sunshine… and the cold.)
Focus on your goals
Be proactive. Stay focused on those New Years resolutions. When you've got a big goal to work toward, it’s not as easy to slip into “I give up” mode.
Plan something exciting.
Map out your spring garden and start ordering seeds. Plan a family vacation. Start writing a book (but do not use this as an excuse to become a recluse!) Find something that lifts your spirits and brings back your enthusiasm.
You don’t have to be blue.
We've gone over many strategies that you can use to help keep you feeling good even through the long, gray winter. But one last warning and little piece of advice; don’t be overwhelmed by this list. Just look back through it and choose a few things that you feel like you can do, and that will have the most impact on you personally. The key is to be proactive and face the blues with a plan and a winning spirit.
I made up a little reminder for you to print and hang on your fridge, or your mirror, just anywhere you'll see it often.
Just click the image or the link below.
Beth Cranford believes every Christian has been equipped and empowered to do specific and effective work in the kingdom of God. It is her heart’s desire to see women live in the freedom and victory that is theirs through Christ, by helping them break free from depression and other strongholds. She encourages women to pursue wellness not only emotionally, but physically, mentally, and spiritually.
Beth has been married to her best friend for 21 years. Together they raise and educate their two children in middle TN.
You can find her at: Beth Cranford
Sign up for her mailing list and you'll get a complimentary copy of her e-book "Empowered Living; How God Equips and Empowers You to be What He Calls You to Be"
Thanks Beth - I'm sure we will all find something helpful in your words.
If you are an author or a reader be sure to stop by CrossReads for their grand opening celebration. There are a lot of prizes including free books, advertising, editing, and website hosting. You don't want to miss this.
Be sure to stop by Eternal Encouragement to get your free March issue. Let me know if you enjoy my article, Waiting for Mr. Forever on page 54.
The winner of Is Homeschool Really For Us? is Julie T. We hope you enjoy your book and find it useful.
Finding Joy in the Journey,
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As a person who makes his living sitting in a comfy chair and writing all day, I am happy to announce I have lost something that was never very important to me anyway: 40 pounds of excess bodily substance. That’s right, even though you can’t see from where you are, trust me; you’re looking at someone who has gone from an ample 200 pounds down to just over 160.
I’d love to tell you how I did it using straight scientific terms, but I’m neither smart nor interesting enough to pull that off. So I’ll tell the story using a literary tool known as… storytelling. Henceforth and without further adieu I give you Dropping Pounds: A Calorie-Counting Saga.
On a semi-nice spring day last May I did something men are never supposed to do: ...................................
Click here http://mattgerwitz.com/?p=78 for the rest of the FUNNY story!!!!
Life has us so busy now that we all accept this as "normal", but yet this normal has us stressed out, weary, and often times just tapped out of the love and happiness we need to have for our spouses and our children.
While I am here on the topic of children, they are also maxed out on overload. Between co~ops, homework, school work, soccor practices, gymnastics, piano lessons and church activities, we wonder why our family has lost it's happiness, love, and patience for each other. How many of you wonder why our kids are grouchy disrespectful, uncooperative, and tired? This might be the answer. The problem lies with how do we say no to some the activities above? The kids need these activities because it is good for them, but I have to ask at what cost? What cost is all of this good for them? Then how about you? Are you able to be happy and show your children and spouse the love you have for them when you are so busy because you have to run out the door several times in a given day to go here and there and every where? By the time you get home you have just enough time to throw the laundry in the washing machine or throw the frozen dinner into the oven because you don't have the time to make a home made supper for them, or is supper on a regular basis the stop at the local fast food chain? God doesn't want this "busy" for us. He wants us to enjoy a slower life. He can't bless you or your family to His fullest if we aren't willing to be obedient to Him by slowing down. As parents we need to set the tone for our children. They learn from us. What are we teaching them?
We found encouragement through Duck's bible lesson in school today by finding out that it is okay to not be this "busy". The bible commands us to not be "busy" in 1 Thes 4:11 -12. God is trying to teach us, "to aspire to lead a quiet life...that we may lack for nothing." Do you think God instructed us to do this because He knew we weren't made to keep up with these busy lives? God created us to live life to the fullest, but this isn't possible when our lives are so busy that we forget to lead them.
God wants us to slow down in this crazy world we live in. As moms and teachers what are we teaching our kids if we let busy run our lives? Let's take this week together and slow down long enough to "smell the roses" around us. Let's slow down this week so we can fill our children's love banks back up again with the love and happiness God created each of us to have. In doing this we might find the happiness in ourselves, our children and our spouses. When that happiness comes back remember to thank God for His command, "to aspire to lead a quiet life" and cherish His blessings for it.
A heart of thankfulness is flowing through me for all the friends I have met over the years. Friendship is one of those blessings from God that many people take for granted, but I never have. I have many friends that are all over the world, literally. I wouldn't trade those friendships or experiences for anything and I have learned to hold them and treasure them close to my heart.
I have a German friend whom I don't get to talk to as often as I would like, but I know she is just a thought away. I just made a breakfast yesterday that she taught me how to make when we were in Germany together. I made it just because I wanted to be close to her. I always think of her when I pop the hood of my car to check the fluids or to inspect why it might be making a funny noise. We spent many hours together when our husbands were deployed to Bosnia in the early 90's. I hadn't been in Germany very long and didn't know my way around let alone the language or culture. I remember sitting in her living room totally beside myself at how I was going to do this for a year and she put her hand on my knee and said I will teach you everything you need to know. Heike, I miss you so, but know I will love you as a sister forever. You are just a thought away and so many memories of our time together I will treasure.
She is just one of my dear friends from that time in my life. I hold another dear friend close to my heart while I was in Germany only she was my American friend. Her and her husband arrived in Germany around the same time as we did and her husband was also deployed to Bosnia. We hung out alot as well. She was so dear to me that she was my lifesaver when my "Duck" was born. She was by my side and held my hand when I gave birth to Ducky. We hold alot of memories as well and I will cherish her for so many reasons.
Unfortunately, we all went our different ways. Heike stayed in Germany and my other friend and I moved back to the states. Although we don't talk as we would like to, time and distance gets in the way, but I know that if we were blessed enough to have an encounter on the street we would be able to sit on a park bench and talk for hours with a feeling that we had never been split up by an ocean, states or time.
So many other people have come into my life whether it be in person or by the Internet that I have become close to and cherish the relationships we hold. As I sit here I am blessed to have some many homeschool friends via the Internet as well. I have come to know so many of you during a very dark time in my life. God works in mysterious ways and it took my husband being in Iraq for the 3rd time for me to realize friendships are what we make of them. If we are blessed enough to have them in person, that is absolutely wonderful, but if we have them via the Internet that works just as well. I met many of you because I hit my rock bottom at the end of my husbands last deployment. I spent many many hours being strong for everyone in my husbands Army unit that I exhausted myself in the process. In having to be so strong for them for so long, I wasn't able to experience my own emotional roller coaster that I too was traveling on.
I spent a very long and tiring journey of wearing a smile on my face and crying in my heart. You can't show your true emotions because the average person doesn't want to hear about it. You begin to program yourself for that person to person encounter that asks, "How are you doing?" You follow up with a smile on your face and say, "Good" then you both move on about your day. This happened to me so many times within my own church. No one wanted to really know how I was feeling that was why it was easy for them to just walk on. I would proceed to the church service followed by my children's ministry that I worked at every Sunday faithfully during this hard deployment. The only Sundays I missed were do to Yellow Ribbon Events I had to attend for the Army. They were mandatory for me because I was (and still am) the Family Readiness Group (FRG) of our Reserve Unit. I had to help plan them and encourage as many family members to attend as I could (I mention this as it will come into play later). Well, my husband left in August and was boots on the ground in Iraq that October of 2009. I got through everyday by living hour by hour, as I tell people to do who are having a tough time in their life.
Some days I think I lived minute by minute just to get through. I was just so busy during those months that I became a robot. I was being a wife (trying to meet my husbands needs from afar and being cheerful when I was lucky enough for him to skype home), a mother (and replacement dad for the time), a teacher (during a difficult season of homeschooling), a daughter from afar (which I wasn't very good at because my time was stretched so thinly.) and a friend to some. I say a friend to some because I had to go through a season in my life where when we moved to where we are today I couldn't make any friends. I just couldn't understand why this was happening because making friends is not difficult for me to do usually. My husband and daughter joke about how I can get even a telephone pole to talk to me, but not during these years of being here. No new friends for the life of me, none.
I finally made it through just about the entire deployment. We were finally down to a 30 day countdown (I say loosely as many of you know who have been through this that the Soldiers don't come home on the day you think. No, they come home after many many changes). I had planned my final Yellow Ribbon Event (which didn't go well in the planning phase) and traveled out of town. I was sick and didn't want to go, but as I said before I had to go by default. So off to Baltimore I drove. I got there and got through the weekend and headed home, but on the way home, I just hit this wall. I just couldn't do this anymore. How was I going to get through this next month? How????? I was mentally, physical, and emotionally exhausted. I couldn't pick up one more foot to move forward. I went into my dark hole and stayed there several days. I did pick up my daughter from my in laws and we did school the next day, but all I could see was darkness. I was a robot just going through the moves. All I could do at that time was just function. Yes, legs and arms moved and we did school, but how, I don't know. At this time I made some life altering changes in my life. It was time to remove stuff from my plate. What could I get rid off. Not homeschooling. Not FRG. Not being a wife and mother. I started deleting Internet accounts that required my attention. I called and emailed my children's ministry leader and quit my volunteer job with the kids and freed up time I could free up.
This was the time that my life turned around. I remember one day sitting at my desk and asked God out loud, what now? "God, if I am not to work with these kids and be a part of a ministry in the church then what do you want me to do now?" God guided me to this song, Our God is Greater by Chris Tomlin
and I clung to it with every ounce of strength I had. I would play and replay it over and over again. I played it so much my daughter knew it by heart. I would play it loudly when I would feel myself falling and would play it normally when I just needed a boost. God gave me what I needed when I needed it. I cherish this song still to this day. God will still bring it back to me when I need it. When I am at a crossroads of a decision and just don't know what to do, this song will come on the radio or my child will play it and I know it is God saying I have this, follow me.
Once I calmed down and was able to think again, God spoke to me and said, "I didn't need to be in a church building to be serving Him." He told me, "That even during this dark time in your life you can encourage others." This was when The Christian Homeschool Hub Group
came into my life.
The door and windows opened widely to let the fresh air into my "new" life. God is Awesome and will never leave you in the darkness. He will open the doors and the windows to let the fresh air and sunshine into your life as well.
Encourager, that is what I became and consider myself still today. This is why I have this blog and my face book and I am still a member of my Hub Group. I feel that God wants me to share His light to you while you are in your dark hours.
This very long story has led me to my closing thoughts. In the time of my darkness I was alone, but once God opened my doors and windows my life brightened up. Eventually my husband did come home and reunited our family together again and my best friend came into my life. I had to wait for what seemed like a very long season of no new friendships, but God rewarded that quiet time with my best friend who is also a homeschooler. She lives locally and I cherish her dearly. I have become good friends with another dear and sweet friend who lives practically next door and all of you who are my Internet friends. I met so many of you on my Hub Group which has led to wonderful friendships both there and on face book. I cherish each and everyone one of you because I know what it is like to be in the darkness without you.
This is my final thought of encouragement for you today. Many of you I know are struggling in your personal lives and you may even feel you are in the darkness where I was, but know you aren't alone. God is still there in that darkness. He hasn't abandoned you just like He didn't me. Sometimes he wants us to see that our blessings may come through our raindrops and teardrops. This leads me to another encouraging song, Blessings by Laura Story
. God never leaves us. It is us who walk away from Him. Let Him open your door and windows. Let Him pour His blessings on you like He did for me. Life isn't easy as I well know, but when God is by your side it is so much easier. Let Him open your door and allow the sunshine to come in. Once He does, the windows come next. Then you will be able to see the blessings on the other side. My blessings were my many friendships I so longed for. What will be yours?
Good Morning Sweet Friends,
A dear and wise friend of mine sent me an email yesterday and included this passage in it. I found such encouragement from it that I wanted to share it here as well. I sought her permission before re-posting it and she graciously agreed with the hopes it encourages you as well.
This excerpt came from a mothering chapter in an Elizabeth George book.
1. A heart that prays - begin each by praying for your children - it benefits then in countless ways
2. A heart that provides - we provide motherly affection, food, clean clothing, and a safe home
3. A heart that is happy - children need to know that you will be happy. We need to be consistent with our moods.
Psalm 113:9 "He maketh the barren woman to keep house and to be a JOYFUL mother of children."
Are we "lighting up" when we see our children?
4. A heart that gives - do we give and serve with affection, warmth, and energy?
Three reasons to give:
Give because it is your role ~ we give the smile, the cheerful greeting, the hug, the compliment, the encouragement, the praise, the time, the listening.
Do these things because you see your family as worth fighting for, you see mothering worth calling a career, worth the hard work of training a child in godliness, worth relentless tasks involved in running a home. - Mrs. Schaeffer
Give generously ~ "whatever a mother sows, that she will also reap." Galations 6:7
Do I sow patience or impatience, faith or lack of faith, kindness or selfishness?
Give expecting nothing in return ~ we serve our children simply because God says to!
5. A heart of fun - if you lack this - develop a sense of humor!
I just want to encourage each of you - that when mothering and all the tasks involved seem to be just a check-list and you are feeling under appreciated, run-downed and tired - to remember that God has called us to mother joyfully. We were given this special job from our Father. Find your rest in Him and let Him restore your strength, your fight, and your desire to meet your children's need with joy.
The best present we can give is the gift of time. There are many preparations to complete before Christmas. There are school projects and assignments to do, last-minute gifts to buy or make, the remaining gifts to wrap, cards and packages to send, the house to clean, grocery shopping to do, and the list continues. We spend a lot of time doing stuff and not giving the gift of time. It only takes a few minutes to change the world around us. Read more here.
by Toni Babcock
Recently, I was cleaning an apartment when I noticed an interesting shadow box hanging on the wall. The box framed a collection of broken shards. Each shard was carefully mounted to showcase its shape and faded design. The woman I was cleaning for told me the shards were found in a southwestern desert over sixty years ago. The person who originally discovered them had no use for the broken pieces and gave them to her because she had a special interest in indigenous people.
My friend held onto the shards for many years, eventually mounting them in a shadow box. The potter in the desert never knew someday the broken vessel would become a treasured artifact hanging in this woman's home, and the subject of this article.
As I went about my day, I thought about the shards. They reminded me of the brokenness we all experience in life, and how God treasures us, broken pieces and all, so it is a good thing to surrender our shards to his keeping. What we do with the pieces is up to us. If we think what is broken has no value we will sweep up the shattered vessel and discard ourselves as an unfortunate accident. If we see great value in brokenness, we will hand ourselves over to God and expect He is going to make something beautiful.
God finds his people in the desert and transforms them into His peculiar treasure. The psalmist wrote, "I am forgotten as a dead man out of mind, I am like a broken vessel," yet by the end of the psalm he pulls out of his despair and writes "Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD," (Psalm 31: 12 & 24 KJV).
Toni Babcock is a freelance Christian writer from South St. Paul. She enjoys writing short stories for children and young people, as well as memoirs, poetry and spiritual essays.
by Toni Babcock
The Bible teaches us "without faith it is impossible to please [God], for he that cometh unto God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him," (Hebrews 11:6 KJV).
Here we see repentance and faith operating together, and Jesus authoring them both. He spoke of this principle when he taught his disciples "Without me, ye can do nothing," (John 15:5b KJV).
This is good news! Because of the gospel of Christ we are granted freedom in Christ to come to God in faith and be pleasing in His sight. "Ye shall know the truth," our Savior proclaimed, "and the truth shall make you free," (John 8:32 KJV). No more mustering up the power to please God and failing. No more self-condemnation. Jesus sets us free.
For some of us the glory of the gospel might be hard to take in. We might not think we deserve that sort of freedom. Well, the truth is we don't, and that is what grace is all about. Grace gives us what we do not deserve so we can learn to live by faith. "For by grace ye are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves it is the gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast," (Ephesians 2:8-9 KJV).
Once we begin to live by faith we may have a hard time distinguishing between the disciplining voice of the Holy Spirit, and the condemning voice of the devil. Here is what I have discovered to be helpful:
The Spirit of God will always expose any self-confidence in the flesh, and turn us toward the power of the cross and Christ's resurrection. He will convince us we have died with Christ and have been raised with Christ and we are in Christ, therefore the work of Christ is complete. He will convince us that we who believe the gospel are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise (Ephesians 1:13).
The devil on the other hand, will always attempt to depose our confidence in Christ, point us back to our failures, and convince us we need to trust in something else, or something more than the gospel of Christ. Jesus said, "The thief cometh not but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly," (John 10:10 KJV).
Think of a poor man walking through a desert, thirsting for a drink of water. An old man holding a sturdy shovel appears before him. "Take this shovel and begin to dig," the old man says. "If you dig long and hard, eventually you will find all the water you need. But beware if anyone tells you about a river of living water in the desert. Such a river is only a mirage, and a dangerous one at that. Listen to me, and trust what I tell you to do, and it will go well with you. Keep working your shovel and one day you will be rewarded." So the poor man digs deeper and deeper. He keeps on digging until he eventually dies of thirst. Soon after, the old man returns and finds the man dead and still clutching his shovel. So he buries him in the hole that was dug, after retrieving the cruel tool out of the dead man's hands.
Like the poor man in the desert, how many spiritually thirsty people rely on their own goodness, or the "commandments and doctrines of men" (Colossians 2:22) while refusing the fountain of living water?
The prophet Jeremiah warned about such a misplaced trust. "For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water," (Jeremiah 2:13 KJV). He declares those who take up a carnal confidence in man or the flesh as being "cursed" when he wrote "Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD," (Jeremiah 17:5 KJV).
To those who trust in the Lord the prophet promises "Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit," (Jeremiah 17:7-8.)
Toni Babcock is a freelance Christian writer from South St. Paul. She enjoys writing short stories for children and young people, as well as memoirs, poetry and spiritual essays.