Thursday, December 3, 2015

More of Him, Less of Me

For over a year now, I have not been able to write a blog post, (except for one time when I wrote and lost the whole thing because of a problem with my computer's operating system!).  Many times, I think, "Oh I need to write about this or that," when my attention is needed elsewhere and that potential post gets put on the back burner once again. 

I have been occupied with many things.  Last year at this time, I was expecting another child and worried a lot about the baby and about the pregnancy.  After suffering miscarriages in the past, I did not want to go through that again.  So even though I knew that God would provide the grace for me to get through whatever came, my thoughts were riddled with worry. And, then, seven months ago, our ninth child was born.  Rebekah is a healthy precious baby and I can't seem to get enough of her!

 Of course, our busy schedule of home schooling, extra-curricular activities and household responsibilities keep me away from writing down my thoughts.  When I try to set aside some time to write, my mind wanders and I can't seem to even form a sentence.    But, then there are the times when I honestly think that I don't have anything of value to offer.  I mean, what could a very tired, sometimes burnt-out middle aged mom have to share?  I don't really have it all together.  I'm sure other moms feel like this from time to time, but lately, I've been feeling this every day.

My house is a wreck most days.  Oh, we try to have some clean dishes and clothes, but let's face it.  That is a tall order! As far as getting anything else done, we are hard-pressed to do that.  A great fear of mine is discovering on a Saturday night that my children have nothing to wear to church the next day.  On those occasions, I generally dive into their dirty clothes hampers and do a quick shake or a spot clean and call it good.

Then there's dinner.  Once in a while, I will go simply wild with my cookbooks and online recipes and plan a whole slew of meals for the next two weeks.  But, more often than not, I stress about what we will eat.  We usually eat, but I do tend to serve interesting dishes.  I don't mean gourmet.  I mean leftover leftovers.  I am thankful for my older teenage daughter who is wonderful at baking and is learning to cook.  With my new bundle of joy, I have less hands than before, so I appreciate the extra help.  It is for a season, but it's frustrating when I can't finish preparing a meal. 

Home schooling?  Yeah, well, we are not keeping up with my goals.  I do have high standards.  Maybe not as high as the next person, but I do have ideas as to where I want them all to be.  I love home schooling for the very fact that I know how best each of my children learn.  They are not cookie-cutters.  Each one is quite unique.  They know where to get the information they need for whatever topic they are interested in and they have learned a great deal by this method, but in other areas, I feel like I'm pulling teeth to get them to finish an assignment or even to start it!  But, we do not give up.  We keep at it even when I want to quit. 

We have lessened some of our extra-curricular activities while adding a few things this year.  We've added some swimming lessons for a few.  We have a couple more dancers, but we've said no to other things that would have been unwise to pursue.  There are so many good opportunities, but if they cause us to be away from home so much that it means more leftover leftovers or a more insane mom, then, I'd have to say that those activities would be foolish. 

The children's characters?  I do see some good developments in each of my children's characters.  They are very loving kids and sincerely want to reach out to others, but many days I am discouraged by their lack of obedience to their parents and their lack of love for each other.  And, then, I become even more discouraged at my inconsistencies with them.  It's easy to wallow in the daily grind of micro-managing their lives, breaking up fights and stopping sometimes very dangerous behaviors, but we must not stay there.  We must pray for our children and seek the Lord's wisdom each day.

Marriage?  Yes, ladies.  This can be a tough one for me.  There.  I said it.  If an older lady ever pulls you aside to remind you that marriage is hard, believe her.  Some couples have great marriages.  Not without struggles, but they seem to have a lot going for them.  Other marriages are complete disasters and I grieve for them.  And, then, there are couples that go through some very difficult seasons.  Sometimes those seasons seem quite hopeless with no end in sight.  It could be for any number of reasons and often a combination of many.  Whatever the reasons, the root of the struggles boils down to two things.  Selfishness and pride.  This may seem over-simplistic.  It may even sound like I'm sugar-coating some very real issues, but I'm not.  God looks at the sins of selfishness and pride with great contempt.  Some very bad consequences result from these sins.  He has commanded us to love our neighbor as ourselves.  He has told us to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind and if our pride gets in the way of this, we are in trouble and so are our marriages.  Of course, we are going to sin every day, but we need to be able to see it and with the Lord's help, we need to make some progress.  We should be very thankful when the Spirit convicts us of sin.  If we don't admit that we sin, we do not believe the Bible.  We do fall.  We do hurt our spouse, our children and any number of people, but we confess it, admit why it's so hard to do the right thing and we perservere.  One step forward, three steps back.  Yes, it may seem like that a lot.  We are never going to arrive in this life, but we continue to fight.

When we are experiencing difficulties in the marriage, we may not understand why our spouse is not acting in a manner that we think they should.  Perhaps we think we are really improving.  We've followed a formula in our mind and can't possibly see why our spouse is not doing the things we expect.  That is definitely not the time to tell your spouse, "I've made improvements.  I'm really doing better in some areas."   Let's leave that one to God.  Maybe you are having victory in some areas.  Great.  Thank Him for those victories and don't tell anyone else.  Do you know why?  I will tell you.  That's pride.  Yep.  There's that word again.  It's prideful for you to tell me how much you are improving.  So I may be nit-picking a bit.  We should encourage each other in our spiritual growth and in how we handle certain situations, but perhaps a better thing to say is, "There are things I don't feel like I struggle with as much as before because God is working on my heart."  Any good you may be doing for your marriage  It's God.

Another reason that this is not wise is because it comes across as unloving and also critical.  I know we can't always be responsible for how our words are taken, but we must strive to be loving.  When you tell your spouse how much you've improved, that communicates a short-coming in them, especially when what follows those words is the need for correction in their lives.  Guess what?  I'm pretty sure they see much of their failures.  We do need to hold each other accountable for our actions, but be very careful.  You may be right as rain, but are you loving?

Okay.  Here's the other reason why you should not tell your spouse or anyone else for that matter about how much you've improved.  We all have blind spots.  And, it could very well be that what you think you've improved is actually not as improved as you thought.  Ouch.  The moment when I start thinking, "Wow, girl.  You've got this thing down.  Time to speak at a marriage conference!", is the moment when my Heavenly Father is not pleased.  In my case, I more often put myself down for not keeping my mouth shut or simply for failing miserably in how to show love.  Or, I just make excuses as to why I can't do the right thing.  But, the sad truth is, we all think of ourselves a little too much.  I don't mean we should demean ourselves and forget who we are in Christ.  Although, a little sackcloth and ashes can go a long way!  Seriously, we have to remember that without Christ we are nothing and with Him, He is everything.  It is all about Him.  It's not about me, my husband, my children, this crazy home schooling adventure or the state of my house.  It's about Him.  When we forget that, our marriages suffer.  Our example to our children suffers.  And, our testimony suffers.  Now, of course, He doesn't need me to accomplish His will.  He will still get the glory no matter what I do, but if we say we love Christ, we need to show Him.  And, even that we can't do without Him!

So, I'm not writing tonight because I've got all the answers.  I really don't.  Oh, I could give a lot of cutesy advice about organization and curriculum or how to love your husband.  I could even provide an endless list of clever hashtags, but unless I'm doing well in these areas, I don't have anything to offer.  But, I do have this.  "As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth.  Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God."  Do you remember who said this?  Job.  Yeah, that guy that nearly lost everything.  Later, he was chastised for questioning the Almighty.  And, it was beautiful.  Basically, who do we think we are to question who we are, who God is or why we struggle in this life?  God knows we want answers.  He understands our "why" questions, but we must not forget who He is and rest in that wonderful knowledge.  Everything begins and ends with Him.  This is why I can get through the hard times.  This is why I don't quit.  More of Him, less of me.  

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