Being a Better Homebody

In Chinese family, or at least a simple way of saying family for beginner learners, is 家人 (jiaren). As a new Chinese learner I loved learning this word because it’s a mix of the word home 家 and people 人. Later I was told Chinese doesn’t work this way and you can’t always separate the characters like this expecting a deeper meaning, but I still like the idea of your family being your home people.

I bring this up because I realized that I make this distinction between those in my home (or metaphorical home) and those outside of my home. Those outside of my home get the overly polite me who is trying to avoid confrontation, or who tries her best to have civilized polite debates.

Those in my home get the real me… and the real me can be pretty blunt and harsh.

C’s Bible study had us memorizing Proverbs 15:1, a gentle answer turns away wrath. I immediately started applying it in my head to debates on social media or when talking with customer service reps etc. It took a lot longer for me to realize it applies to my people at home too.

I have every excuse in the book for being unpleasant at home. I’m exhausted, I’m lonely, I just need a place where I can be myself etc, but really they are just excuses not to try and be better. Yes, family are the people you can be yourself around, but do you really want yourself to be a blunt, rude, downright harsh individual?

The Bible tells us, “Kind words are like honey— sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.”

Proverbs 16:24 NLT

Kind words are good for the soul! They don’t just turn away wrath, they are good for the body. We are told that as a new creation we should clothe ourselves in kindness:

“Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”

Colossians 3:12

We are told to live a life that shows others what we believe:

“So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do. Then the name of our Lord Jesus will be honored because of the way you live, and you will be honored along with him. This is all made possible because of the grace of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ.”

2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 NLT

I always thought about this is an outside of my home command, but all that changes with a kid. I now have someone in my home who I want to lead to Christ. Someone who is watching me all the time and who mimics my behaviors. Suddenly I’ve realized that I don’t want who I am to change around family in the sense that I feel I can set aside kindness. When I type kindness into the search engine of my Bible app I find that it’s often used to describe Jesus. Isn’t that who I’m supposed to try and imitate?

I’m teaching C that a gentle word turns away wrath. In order for him to really learn this I have to practice this at home as much as I try to practice it with strangers.

 

 

The Beauty of Aging

Do you love beautiful, old, abandoned buildings? I know I do. Elegant old architecture made almost more beautiful covered by overgrowth, a tree growing through the middle. There is a haunting beauty in crumbling places.

God has made everything beautiful for its own time.

My mom and I were talking recently about the art of aging gracefully. This seems to have gone completely out of style. Aging, that is. Everyone is so obsessed with youth it seems that aging, even if it’s graceful, has to be hidden at all costs.

The Bible says, “Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained by living a godly life.”

‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭16:31‬ ‭NLT‬‬

A crown of glory! Gray hair! There is an entire industry set up around hiding that crown of glory, among other signs of aging.

When Ecclesiastes says that God makes everything beautiful for its time, couldn’t that mean us too? Isn’t there a beauty in 40 that wasn’t there at 20? What about 60 or 70? There is a beauty to smile lines, evidence of a life of laughter and smiling. There is a beauty to hands that have worked so hard to care for a family, worked to support their loved ones. There is a beauty to that crown of gray hair gained by living a godly life. It’s not the same beauty that comes with youth, but that’s kind of the point isn’t it? That each year has its own beauty in and of itself.

God has hidden eternity in our hearts. We can watch our reflections change to see time passing, and maybe that desire to stay young is really that hidden knowledge that while the body ages it hides eternal souls inside. Maybe what you see doesn’t reflect how you feel, and that’s okay because if you believe the Bible then you know there is so much more to life than what we are living down here.

While the world rallies around youth, I think it’s important to remember that there is value, wisdom, and yes beauty, in age as well.

 

 

Great is His faithfulness…

“… His mercies begin afresh each morning.”

‭‭Lamentations‬ ‭3:23‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I’m starting to make this verse my morning mantra. You’d think someone who grew up in a Christian household wouldn’t have a whole lot of major regrets in her past, but that isn’t always the case.

We are told that when we accept Jesus we are a new creation. That we are set apart to be in the world but not OF the world. The thing is, that doesn’t mean we are free of our extremely human inclinations. Just because we now have the power to resist temptations, it doesn’t always mean we do.

After getting out on my own, and being in the world without the protection of being surrounded by other Christians, it was very easy to start living as if I wasn’t a Christian at all. Heck, it’s WAY easier to NOT live a Christian life. There is NO resistance there, no rejection, no struggle. You are pretty much embraced… just so long as you never mention what you believe.

Having a kid has really gotten me examining my own actions. What am I listening to during the day? Are these lyrics I want my sweet little baby singing? What phrasing am I using when I’m frustrated? I KNOW I don’t want C copying me there! How am I responding to stress? Am I showing baby C through my actions that I’m turning to God, or am I showing a lack of faith by worrying about everything?

Am I a living example of a new creation, or am I still living like I’m a slave to my sinful nature?

Man, does your whole life look different when you start wondering what those little eyes see and those little ears hear.

I can’t change how I lived in the past, and regret does not glorify God. All I can do is admit I was wrong, ask for forgiveness, and try to do better now.

Which sounds easy but let me tell you, it’s a good thing God’s mercies are new each morning.

For every “son of a biscuit eater” and “ Jiminy cricket” I use, there is still plenty of the phrases they are replacing. It’s my hope that by the time C is old enough to start seeing a pattern in my behavior, the pattern is much more “gosh darn it” than the alternative.

Nothing like becoming a parent to help you realize how increasingly lost you are without God!

Thankfully, “And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.”

‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:26‬ ‭NLT‬‬

It’s amazing that in the very midst of realizing how weak I really am, God gives me hope and a reminder that even my weakness can be used for His glory: “Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.”

‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭12:9‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I’m pretty determined, for C’s sake, to start living as a new creation, someone who is in the world but not of the world. Meanwhile, I’m thanking God that His mercies are new so I can start each day fresh as I try again.

 

 

Sharpening My Aim

How is a child like an arrow?

Sounds like a riddle from Alice’s Mad Hatter. If you had asked me a few weeks ago I probably wouldn’t have had an answer. How can a child be like an arrow? The thing about arrows, if you want them to hit the mark you have to aim them true.

It’s the same with children.

If you want your child to hit the mark, if you want that little baby to grow up into a strong Christian who loves the Lord and shines His mercy and love to the world, you have to aim that child true.

Kind of makes this whole parent gig extremely weighty. It’s up to you to aim your child towards God, hope, and salvation.

This really isn’t a popular path either.

This is a path that’s filled with trials, ridicule, scorn, and rejection. Christianity may still be the majority when it comes to religious representation, but that’s not taking into account the abundance of denominations and their theological differences. It doesn’t take into account the churches that have fallen away from the Bible and are teaching messages itchy ears want to hear instead of the truth. When you start weeding away all that’s represented by the majority you discover that following God’s Word as the only authority becomes quite the little minority.

It’s a small target to aim for, over the long distance of time.

This verse came up in two different studies, which really highlighted its importance for me. That, and I’ve been thinking about Isaiah 55:6, “Seek the Lord while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near.”

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Seek the Lord while you can find Him.

This verse implies there will come a time when you won’t be able to find the Lord. When it’s too late and He’s no longer near. It really highlights the importance that we can’t wait until we aren’t so busy. We can’t put off seeking God when it fits into our schedule, and we can’t put off teaching our children about God until we think they are ready.

It’s not easy, aiming an arrow true. Thankfully God promises to give me strength and wisdom when I ask.

I finished both Bible studies! Momstrong this morning and the sample of Grit&Grace this evening. I’ll be starting something new tomorrow! Spending time in God’s word has really helped a lot. I have a lot more learning and growing to do, but I’m excited for it.

 

 

As Iron Sharpens Iron…

… so a good friend sharpens a friend (Proverbs 27:17).

Would you believe I am painfully shy? If you know me in person I know this seems extremely doubtful, but it’s true.

Throughout most of my childhood I could barely stand interacting with cashiers much less approach anyone to become friends. When I was 16 I went to my first real away from home camp. There the owner of the camp brought all new campers to the highest point on the island and told us that we had the rare opportunity to reinvent ourselves that week. No one there knew who we were yet. There was no history, no labels, we could attempt to be the people we admired and no one would know the difference.

That week I worked extremely hard to be warm and friendly and outgoing.

It helped a lot, and it was something I kept up when I got back to “real life”. I got my first job, and eventually got into college, and the roller coaster of growing up kept throwing me into situations where people were always present so I could continue to practice this skill of being outgoing.

Then I finished grad school for the second time and was unemployed for a year. The shyness started creeping back in. I got my teaching job in Louisiana and met some of the best people which brought me out of my shell, until we moved.

It’s been two years of working at home and living in cities far away from family and friends and that shyness is definitely looming. I know I need friends. Physical, close by, in person people I can talk to and call up for help and confide in. I need this! It’s just SO hard to shake off the apprehension of going out into new situations to meet these potential new friends. When you were the kid who couldn’t look cashiers in the eye while paying for your candy bar, venturing out to a mommy and me gym and striking up conversations feels like an impossible task. Trying out new churches when your husband works nights and won’t be with you suddenly makes the term “shrinking violet” make so much more sense. I swear I can feel my body collapsing in on itself as I try to make myself smaller and smaller so I can sneak away.

Fighting this battle at 16 seemed hard, but at 37 it feels impossible!

This is where I have to take a deep breath and remember I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. He tells me pretty clearly that I need friends. God isn’t going to give me a command without standing by me and giving me the strength to follow it out.

Deep breath, another sip of coffee. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.