Saturday, February 27, 2010

Wife Power

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 2:03 PM 0 comments
Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. 1 Peter 3:1-4

Friday, February 26, 2010

The 4 Essential Elements of Parenting

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 3:06 PM 0 comments
There are four essential parts of effective parenting. While at first glance they may seem contradictory, they are actually quite complimentary. These four elements are: Love, Discipline, Consistency and Flexibility. Reliable and well-respected research on parenting supports the theory that a balance between love and discipline is the most effective way to parent (Santrock, 1999.) Parents don’t discipline out of obligation or because they should. Parents discipline because they love. That also means that parents discipline with love. Discipline is applied with the best interest of the child in mind. It is meant to protect our children and guide them.
Often parents don’t feel like they’re loving their children when disciplining them because it doesn’t feel good to have to punish a child. It’s easier to wish and hope a child will do what he or she is supposed to do because it’s the right thing to do. However, it doesn’t take long observing children to know that their nature is not to be selfless and do the right thing.
Consistency and flexibility, like love and discipline, are also both essential for effective parenting. The issue of being consistent continues to show up in parenting research and education classes (Sells, 2003; Welchel, 2005.) Children feel most comfortable when life is consistent and predictable. Children need consistency not only in daily routines, but also in discipline. It completely throws a child off balance when they do the same action but get different results each time. Imagine what it would be like if you used your lunch hour every day to sit at your desk and catch up on some reading. Randomly, your boss yells at you for eating at your desk. It would make you extremely uncomfortable and unsure of yourself. That’s exactly how children feel when get away with some behavior until mom or dad is “fed up” with it and yells at or punishes them; or when change the rules mid-game. It’s a parent’s job to determine what the rules are, make them clear, and then enforce them.
Consistency does not mean an out-of-balance rigid style of parenting. As important as love is to applying discipline, there also needs to be some flexibility in routine and rules. A child flourishes in a loving environment with consistent boundaries and discipline, but there often occurs situations which call for adapting. For example, if your child is sick, you are probably going to relax the television and eating rules. As our children grow, we must continue to reevaluate their personality and developmental level in order to ensure that boundaries and discipline are appropriate (Holden, 1996.)
So, all parents are called to do is to love abundantly, discipline effectively, remain consistent, and be flexible, at the right times. Seemingly daunting, but possible when armed with the right knowledge and motivation, love of a child.

Bibliography
Holden, G.W. (1996). Parents and the dynamics of child rearing. Boulder, CO: Westview.
Sandtrock, John W. (1997). Life-Span Development. University of Texas – Dallas.
Sells, Scott. (2003). Parenting with love and limits: Leader’s Guide.
Welchel, Lisa. (2005). Creative Correction: The Bible Study. Nashville, TN.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

When God gives you the opposite of what you asked for

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 1:02 PM 0 comments
We never know why God chooses to answer prayers differently than giving us what we asked for.

Test – not for God’s sake (He knows if we’re going to be faithful before hand), but for our sake so that we can see that we can grow in faith and experience relying on Him when we don’t feel sure about the answer or about what’s going to happen. This facilitates growth in our faith and relationship with God.

David – Defeated Goliath, received glory but had to go into hiding. Was sought to be killed. Because he remained faithful to God and relied on God throughout his trials, he was given an earthly kingdom to bring Glory to God’s Kingdom.

Psalm 27 – The description found in Psalm 27: 5 truly speaks to me. At times I cry out to my heavenly father to come get me and set me high above my circumstances bringing me closer to Him. The Father gave me a powerful visual to help me to see that He is all I need as I travel through stressful times. When my focus shifts from Him, my energy is divided and my stress is multiplied. As long as He is central to my thinking and my commitment, I experience His peace and joy, no matter what else is going on in my life. When you keep your focus on Jesus, He fills you with a peace and joy the world cannot give. (Wood, Cindi: Frazzled Female)
Realizing you’re a virtuous woman in Christ
A woman after God’s own Heart
Disobedience
Not asking for what’s in his will
He has better things in store for us

As long as we’re faithful to Him, He will give us the perfect answer according to His will.
Often times what we ask for is not what we need or not in our best interest. God will seemingly give us the opposite of what we asked for. He doesn’t stay silent to our request. He doesn’t give us part of our request, but the complete opposite.

Examples:
My 1-year old son wanted to go outside and play. I had to pull him away from the door to go get his shoes and put them on. I had to do the exact opposite of what he wanted so that he could fully enjoy what he was asking. Without shoes, I would have held him in my lap and he still wouldn’t have been happy, even though we were outside. Moving my son away from his goal, actually helped him reach his goal. Even though I verbally explained to my son what I was doing, he wasn’t able to understand. We are sometimes like that with God. He may choose not to explain why He is working in our life the way He is, or maybe He has and we’re not willing or able (due to immaturity in the Word) to understand.
One wonderful example of God working opposite a prayer request for better things is when He took me out of an unhealthy relationship. I didn’t know that the relationship was unhealthy and prayed consistently not to ever lose this person or the relationship I had with him. God did, however, allow this relationship to end and removed this person from my life. At the time I was devastated and felt as if God had not answered my prayer. In truth, He had actively worked against my prayers on this matter because He had a much better relationship in store for me. A relationship that helped foster my growth in my relationship with God, rather than act as a hindrance to it. Praise God He knows the ultimate best for us and works according to that rather than our short-sightedness.

Monday, February 22, 2010

5 Tips to Getting Chores Done

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 9:56 AM 0 comments
1. Make a list. It helps to know what there is to be done and feels great when you check things off!

2. Take advantage of small amounts of time. Ten minutes grabbed here and there can really add up.

3. Enlist help. Everyone can help in some way. Even toddlers can put their dirty clothes in a basket.

4. Schedule regular tasks. The trash goes out on a certain day. Dusting, vacuuming, etc. can happen on a certain day, too.

5. Do one more thing. You don’t want to stay up all night doing chores, but getting just one more thing done is always helpful.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Power of Song

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 4:59 PM 0 comments
It’s amazing the themes that we don’t recognize in the Bible! But thankfully God brings to our attention exactly what we need just when we need it. I’ve always been a fan of music and singing, although I’m not especially talented in either area. I enjoy several different kinds of music and, in the past, would pick what I wanted to listen to based on how I felt. When I became a stay-at-home mom and child care provider God taught me to use music to help me choose my mood, rather than my mood choosing my music. He began to show me through His Word the power of song.
There are over 200 references to the word “sing” in the Bible, beginning with Moses. Exodus 15:1 says, “Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the LORD: "I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; he has thrown both horse and rider into the sea.” (TLB) Wow! The first recorded praise song! The Psalms, songs themselves, speak over and over again about singing God’s praises. “I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.” (Psalm 9:2, NIV) “He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD.” (Psalm 40:3, NIV) Praise the LORD. [Hallelu Yah] Praise the LORD, O my soul. I will praise the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. (Psalm 146:1-2, NIV) And so many more!
I’m grateful for the Psalms, as well as the additional wealth of examples of singing praise to God throughout the Bible, not only because they’re great examples of how to praise and worship God, but they show us how to focus on God regardless of circumstances. They teach us to bear ourselves completely and honestly to God, and to recognize that He is in control. Oh, how I wish I had the tunes to the Psalms to help me remember them! Memorizing scripture is something that does not come naturally for me. I wish I could just dump the whole Bible in my head and recall any given verse at any time. But that’s obviously not how God made my brain to work (although He is faithful to place His Words in my heart when I need them.)
Reading, meditating on, and memorizing scripture is an essential part of our continual walk with Jesus. It’s necessary to continually be in God’s Word to grow in a relationship with Him and receive all of the promises He has laid out for us. There are many ways to keep the “cross before me”. One of them I find the most natural for me is through song. And how glad I was when I realized how frequently songs are used throughout scripture to praise God!
There are so many wonderful songs which are based on and use scripture that I can’t even begin to list them. No matter whether you are a fan of traditional hymns, contemporary praise songs, gospel, or all types, there are several ways to incorporate music that worships God into your day. In many places you can find God-focused radio stations that play either traditional hymns or praise and worship songs. Christian tapes, CD’s, and even videos can be found easily these days. It helps keep my mind focused on God when I play Godly music as I go through my day, whether it’s at home or in the car. A friend gave me an old hymnal that her church was no longer using , which is a wonderful resource. For those times I’m not able to play music or sing it out loud, I can sing it in my head. That’s the beauty of our minds, no matter where we are, we control what we think about.
Music is God-given and is a powerful tool to help us focus on God and practice thinking on things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, good, and virtuous, (Philippians 4:8). Even for those of us who are not musically inclined, we can rejoice in the Lord always (Philippians 4:4) by making a joyful noise (Psalm 66:1; 81:1; 95:1, 2; 98:4,6; 100:1).

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

I am Woman

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 1:58 PM 0 comments
As mothers we often hear or read various descriptions of the many jobs that we perform. These include, but are not limited to, wife, mother, chef (sometimes short-order cook), chauffer, personal assistant, Chief Financial Officer, nurse, housekeeper, sex goddess, time-management specialist, spiritual advisor, and teacher. Despite these distinguished (and not so distinguished) titles, many of us continue to feel bogged down by the never-ending, daily responsibilities of motherhood. We want to embrace the respect and pride in fulfilling these roles. Most days, however, there’s just no energy to do so.
Another stumbling block to fully embracing the idea of glorified motherhood is the way that our society has altered our thinking about what it is to be a woman. Often it feels as if there is no way to win. Mothers who work outside of the home (whether by choice or necessity) are often made to feel guilty for not making motherhood their top priority. We’re told that we can “have it all” and then chastised for not “giving it all up” for our children. Mothers who choose to stay at home full time are generally seen as not contributing to society. We’re told that by “just being a housewife” and choosing to make sacrifices for our children that we don’t contribute to our communities and the world. There’s still the idea among many circles that housewives are lazy and that they watch TV and eat bonbons all day. Try creating a positive self image as a mother with all those mixed signals!
And just in case you don’t feel overwhelmed yet, don’t forget the other roles that we play in life. In addition to wife and mother, we also are daughters, sisters, friends, church members, employees, bosses, neighbors, committee members, and prayer warriors (just to name a few.) Somehow, we are to incorporate all of these roles and ideas and come away self-confident, self-assured and with a healthy self-image.
One day I began to think about my identity and the old adage from Helen Reddy’s song, “I am woman, hear me roar,” came to mind. Immediately my spirit rejected it. During one point in my life, I embraced this phrase, and what I felt were the ideas it supported. I had experienced pain. I was strong. I was independent. I could take care of myself. I desired to have a special man in my life, but told myself that I didn’t need one. I was wise. I was invincible. I’d paid the price. These are the things I told myself. I now realize that I “roared” these mantras because they were the characteristics I admired in other women more than because I owned them myself. I had bought into the shift in cultural thinking that women “can do anything a man can do, and do it better” and that women are superior to men (ideas that have very obviously damaged the foundation of both marriage and family.)
As I have grown closer to God I have gradually released these “I” statements. (Okay, sometimes God had to bring me to my knees for me to give up some of them.) But as I have given these ideas up God has replaced them with a firm foundation of who I am in Him. As long as I stay focused on my identity in Christ, I will live a fulfilled, content, joyful life and contribute greatly to the world around me.
I have experienced pain. And God is always present, providing comfort and healing. He has taught me that the pain I’ve experienced is nothing compared to what He experienced as Jesus died on the cross for my sins. Jesus, who chose to die in the most painful of ways, died so that I may receive God’s complete healing. He has also taught me that as long as I fix my eyes on Him, I will persevere and He can be glorified through my pain.
I am strong. I have strength through God my Rock and my Shelter. My flesh will become weak and wear out, but through the power of the Holy Spirit, I will remain strong. As long as I rely on God for strength I will be able to support those people He has placed in my trust and fulfill the duties that he has assigned me. (2 Samuel 22:33)
I am not independent. I am dependent on God for everything I have and everything that I am. Oh, what a relief! No longer is there the pressure to “do it on my own”. My Father God, who is omniscient, is in charge of my life. He knows what is best for me. I don’t have to guess or try to figure it out. All I have to do is believe, trust, and rely on Him and my path will be made straight (Romans 11:33.)
I don’t have to take care of myself. Now, let’s not get crazy and discontinue personal hygiene habits, good eating, and exercise. God calls us to be responsible for maintaining our health. However, I am able to cast all my cares on Him. I am never alone in my needs. He provides all that I need according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19.)
Although God may give me a man to walk through life with, I don’t need a man in my life to be complete. I am complete in Christ (Colossians 2:9-10.) I am God’s daughter, He loves me knowing every fault and sin I’ve ever had or will ever have in my life. His Holy Spirit dwells in me and produces fruit in me. My cup runneth over!
I am wise. I have been given the gift of God’s wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:30.) The answer to any question I could ever have is at my fingertips. Although I may not always be deemed wise by cultural standards, I have confidence and self-assurance as long as I make God and His Word the standard by which my choices are made.
I am invincible. If my body experiences pain, suffering, or even death, my spirit lives eternally (John 3:36.) God is for me and therefore there is no one who may come against me that has any power in stealing my eternal joy.
I did not pay the price. Jesus paid the price for me (Hebrews 10:10.) My ticket stub of life is marked “paid in full.” My responsibility is not to me, but to Him. I owe Him my life.
I am woman. I am God’s daughter. He has called me to be a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, spiritual advisor, and various other roles at different times in my life. Even though I still get bogged down by dirty diapers, runny noses, skinned knees, hungry stomachs, and needy hands, I know that it’s essential to stay focused on Jesus. As a woman, I have a high calling and know that as long as I know who I am in Christ and worshipfully fear the Lord, I will be fulfilled, content, and praised (Proverbs 31:30!)

Monday, February 15, 2010

6 Steps to a Calm House

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 9:54 PM 0 comments
1. Declutter: clean out all the unnecessary things that build up over time. Most of those things won’t every get used anyway, and they are usually easily replaced.

2. Get organized: make sure everything has a place to go and that it gets back to its “home” when it’s not being used. Baskets, bins, and drawers can be found cheap.

3. Focus on the big spaces: a table, bed , or open floor catches the eye first. When straightening up, start with these big spaces.

4. Have a time for chaos: houses that are lived in and enjoyed aren’t straight all the time. Allow times for mess, play, and chaos. Then recruit everyone to help clean up.

5. Think atmosphere: a warm, calm, inviting home is created by what is and what isn’t present. A candle, a couple of nice framed pictures, or pillows are examples of items that add to atmosphere.

6. Keep mom calm: mom is the thermostat for a home. Exercise, meditate, and/or sit down for 15 quiet minutes with a cup of coffee or herbal tea. The calmer mom feels, the easier it will be to create calmness in the home.

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Great Book for Kids

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 11:05 AM 0 comments
I was asked recently by a fellow author to review his first children's book. I thought, sure, I love books for my children, especially God-centered books. I did a little research on the author and the book and became excited, anticipating my copy of "This Little Prayer of Mine."

Often, as we anticipate something and have high expectations we are let down. This is not one of those circumstances.

As a Christian mom, a big part of my job is to teach my children about God and how to have a strong relationship with Him that includes godly prayer. This is often a challenge, as prayer is an abstact thing and difficult for children to understand. They do it, even my 2-year-old, but do they really understand? I was hoping that "This Little Prayer of Mine" would be a tool to help me in this task. I was not disappointed.

This lovely children's book by Anthony DeStefano presents prayer to children in a concrete, God-focused way. A quote from the book will help you get a feel of it's entirety: "But when I trust in you, my God, and in your plan for me, I know there's nothing in the world that I can't do or be." And so it goes, praying to God for our wants and needs, but most of all the need to know Him better.

I feel very fortunate that this book is a part of the reading collection I have for my four children and recommend it highly to everyone. This book will be available in four days, February 16. Here's a link for more information: http://www.anthonydestefano.com/landing/blogs/Jan2010.htm. Hope you enjoy it as much as my family is!!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Enjoying the Ride

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 8:49 AM 0 comments
Do you ever feel like you're on a roller coaster? Now, I do not appreciate most "real" roller coasters. I hate the feeling just after the top of the hill when you start going down. I don't mind going sideways or upside down, but I dread that initial drop. I can appreciate, however, the metaphore a roller coaster can offer to us.

In life you generally don't see what's coming next. On occasion, we see something coming that we want to avoid, but more often than not we're riding the roller coaster of life with blindfolds on. We never know what's going to come next, or how long the drop is.

I often feel like I'm on a roller coaster in motherhood. Writing the book that I'm working on, I've gotten a somewhat removed look at the ups and downs we go through. It's as if we do well for a while, we're content, happy, enjoying life and motherhood. And then something happens. It can be small or big. It can be a stomach virus, or a defiant child, or a family tragedy. Or it can simply be the adding up of all the little things that bug us. Whatever it is, it sends us plunging to the depths of discontent, grumpiness, and negative thinking. Some days I simply want to revolt- no cooking, no cleaning, no laundry, no reading books, no nothing.

Fortunately I'm connected enough to my God and my godly friends that I don't stay in the pit for long. I'd rather not go there at all, but I'm glad that my trips are much shorter than they used to be. And I know what I need to do to help avoid getting there and/or get out more quickly: I need to stop my negative thinking and think on things that are "true...noble...right...pure...lovely...admirable...excellent or praisworthy;" I need to pray for strength and comfort to do and face what is in front of me; I need to make sure I'm taking "care of [my] own interests as well as the interests of others."

By implementing the things I know to do when I feel that initial drop, the momentum will carry me right out of the pit and back on top, where I prefer to be.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Wife Power

Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. 1 Peter 3:1-4

Friday, February 26, 2010

The 4 Essential Elements of Parenting

There are four essential parts of effective parenting. While at first glance they may seem contradictory, they are actually quite complimentary. These four elements are: Love, Discipline, Consistency and Flexibility. Reliable and well-respected research on parenting supports the theory that a balance between love and discipline is the most effective way to parent (Santrock, 1999.) Parents don’t discipline out of obligation or because they should. Parents discipline because they love. That also means that parents discipline with love. Discipline is applied with the best interest of the child in mind. It is meant to protect our children and guide them.
Often parents don’t feel like they’re loving their children when disciplining them because it doesn’t feel good to have to punish a child. It’s easier to wish and hope a child will do what he or she is supposed to do because it’s the right thing to do. However, it doesn’t take long observing children to know that their nature is not to be selfless and do the right thing.
Consistency and flexibility, like love and discipline, are also both essential for effective parenting. The issue of being consistent continues to show up in parenting research and education classes (Sells, 2003; Welchel, 2005.) Children feel most comfortable when life is consistent and predictable. Children need consistency not only in daily routines, but also in discipline. It completely throws a child off balance when they do the same action but get different results each time. Imagine what it would be like if you used your lunch hour every day to sit at your desk and catch up on some reading. Randomly, your boss yells at you for eating at your desk. It would make you extremely uncomfortable and unsure of yourself. That’s exactly how children feel when get away with some behavior until mom or dad is “fed up” with it and yells at or punishes them; or when change the rules mid-game. It’s a parent’s job to determine what the rules are, make them clear, and then enforce them.
Consistency does not mean an out-of-balance rigid style of parenting. As important as love is to applying discipline, there also needs to be some flexibility in routine and rules. A child flourishes in a loving environment with consistent boundaries and discipline, but there often occurs situations which call for adapting. For example, if your child is sick, you are probably going to relax the television and eating rules. As our children grow, we must continue to reevaluate their personality and developmental level in order to ensure that boundaries and discipline are appropriate (Holden, 1996.)
So, all parents are called to do is to love abundantly, discipline effectively, remain consistent, and be flexible, at the right times. Seemingly daunting, but possible when armed with the right knowledge and motivation, love of a child.

Bibliography
Holden, G.W. (1996). Parents and the dynamics of child rearing. Boulder, CO: Westview.
Sandtrock, John W. (1997). Life-Span Development. University of Texas – Dallas.
Sells, Scott. (2003). Parenting with love and limits: Leader’s Guide.
Welchel, Lisa. (2005). Creative Correction: The Bible Study. Nashville, TN.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

When God gives you the opposite of what you asked for

We never know why God chooses to answer prayers differently than giving us what we asked for.

Test – not for God’s sake (He knows if we’re going to be faithful before hand), but for our sake so that we can see that we can grow in faith and experience relying on Him when we don’t feel sure about the answer or about what’s going to happen. This facilitates growth in our faith and relationship with God.

David – Defeated Goliath, received glory but had to go into hiding. Was sought to be killed. Because he remained faithful to God and relied on God throughout his trials, he was given an earthly kingdom to bring Glory to God’s Kingdom.

Psalm 27 – The description found in Psalm 27: 5 truly speaks to me. At times I cry out to my heavenly father to come get me and set me high above my circumstances bringing me closer to Him. The Father gave me a powerful visual to help me to see that He is all I need as I travel through stressful times. When my focus shifts from Him, my energy is divided and my stress is multiplied. As long as He is central to my thinking and my commitment, I experience His peace and joy, no matter what else is going on in my life. When you keep your focus on Jesus, He fills you with a peace and joy the world cannot give. (Wood, Cindi: Frazzled Female)
Realizing you’re a virtuous woman in Christ
A woman after God’s own Heart
Disobedience
Not asking for what’s in his will
He has better things in store for us

As long as we’re faithful to Him, He will give us the perfect answer according to His will.
Often times what we ask for is not what we need or not in our best interest. God will seemingly give us the opposite of what we asked for. He doesn’t stay silent to our request. He doesn’t give us part of our request, but the complete opposite.

Examples:
My 1-year old son wanted to go outside and play. I had to pull him away from the door to go get his shoes and put them on. I had to do the exact opposite of what he wanted so that he could fully enjoy what he was asking. Without shoes, I would have held him in my lap and he still wouldn’t have been happy, even though we were outside. Moving my son away from his goal, actually helped him reach his goal. Even though I verbally explained to my son what I was doing, he wasn’t able to understand. We are sometimes like that with God. He may choose not to explain why He is working in our life the way He is, or maybe He has and we’re not willing or able (due to immaturity in the Word) to understand.
One wonderful example of God working opposite a prayer request for better things is when He took me out of an unhealthy relationship. I didn’t know that the relationship was unhealthy and prayed consistently not to ever lose this person or the relationship I had with him. God did, however, allow this relationship to end and removed this person from my life. At the time I was devastated and felt as if God had not answered my prayer. In truth, He had actively worked against my prayers on this matter because He had a much better relationship in store for me. A relationship that helped foster my growth in my relationship with God, rather than act as a hindrance to it. Praise God He knows the ultimate best for us and works according to that rather than our short-sightedness.

Monday, February 22, 2010

5 Tips to Getting Chores Done

1. Make a list. It helps to know what there is to be done and feels great when you check things off!

2. Take advantage of small amounts of time. Ten minutes grabbed here and there can really add up.

3. Enlist help. Everyone can help in some way. Even toddlers can put their dirty clothes in a basket.

4. Schedule regular tasks. The trash goes out on a certain day. Dusting, vacuuming, etc. can happen on a certain day, too.

5. Do one more thing. You don’t want to stay up all night doing chores, but getting just one more thing done is always helpful.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Power of Song

It’s amazing the themes that we don’t recognize in the Bible! But thankfully God brings to our attention exactly what we need just when we need it. I’ve always been a fan of music and singing, although I’m not especially talented in either area. I enjoy several different kinds of music and, in the past, would pick what I wanted to listen to based on how I felt. When I became a stay-at-home mom and child care provider God taught me to use music to help me choose my mood, rather than my mood choosing my music. He began to show me through His Word the power of song.
There are over 200 references to the word “sing” in the Bible, beginning with Moses. Exodus 15:1 says, “Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the LORD: "I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; he has thrown both horse and rider into the sea.” (TLB) Wow! The first recorded praise song! The Psalms, songs themselves, speak over and over again about singing God’s praises. “I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.” (Psalm 9:2, NIV) “He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD.” (Psalm 40:3, NIV) Praise the LORD. [Hallelu Yah] Praise the LORD, O my soul. I will praise the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. (Psalm 146:1-2, NIV) And so many more!
I’m grateful for the Psalms, as well as the additional wealth of examples of singing praise to God throughout the Bible, not only because they’re great examples of how to praise and worship God, but they show us how to focus on God regardless of circumstances. They teach us to bear ourselves completely and honestly to God, and to recognize that He is in control. Oh, how I wish I had the tunes to the Psalms to help me remember them! Memorizing scripture is something that does not come naturally for me. I wish I could just dump the whole Bible in my head and recall any given verse at any time. But that’s obviously not how God made my brain to work (although He is faithful to place His Words in my heart when I need them.)
Reading, meditating on, and memorizing scripture is an essential part of our continual walk with Jesus. It’s necessary to continually be in God’s Word to grow in a relationship with Him and receive all of the promises He has laid out for us. There are many ways to keep the “cross before me”. One of them I find the most natural for me is through song. And how glad I was when I realized how frequently songs are used throughout scripture to praise God!
There are so many wonderful songs which are based on and use scripture that I can’t even begin to list them. No matter whether you are a fan of traditional hymns, contemporary praise songs, gospel, or all types, there are several ways to incorporate music that worships God into your day. In many places you can find God-focused radio stations that play either traditional hymns or praise and worship songs. Christian tapes, CD’s, and even videos can be found easily these days. It helps keep my mind focused on God when I play Godly music as I go through my day, whether it’s at home or in the car. A friend gave me an old hymnal that her church was no longer using , which is a wonderful resource. For those times I’m not able to play music or sing it out loud, I can sing it in my head. That’s the beauty of our minds, no matter where we are, we control what we think about.
Music is God-given and is a powerful tool to help us focus on God and practice thinking on things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, good, and virtuous, (Philippians 4:8). Even for those of us who are not musically inclined, we can rejoice in the Lord always (Philippians 4:4) by making a joyful noise (Psalm 66:1; 81:1; 95:1, 2; 98:4,6; 100:1).

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

I am Woman

As mothers we often hear or read various descriptions of the many jobs that we perform. These include, but are not limited to, wife, mother, chef (sometimes short-order cook), chauffer, personal assistant, Chief Financial Officer, nurse, housekeeper, sex goddess, time-management specialist, spiritual advisor, and teacher. Despite these distinguished (and not so distinguished) titles, many of us continue to feel bogged down by the never-ending, daily responsibilities of motherhood. We want to embrace the respect and pride in fulfilling these roles. Most days, however, there’s just no energy to do so.
Another stumbling block to fully embracing the idea of glorified motherhood is the way that our society has altered our thinking about what it is to be a woman. Often it feels as if there is no way to win. Mothers who work outside of the home (whether by choice or necessity) are often made to feel guilty for not making motherhood their top priority. We’re told that we can “have it all” and then chastised for not “giving it all up” for our children. Mothers who choose to stay at home full time are generally seen as not contributing to society. We’re told that by “just being a housewife” and choosing to make sacrifices for our children that we don’t contribute to our communities and the world. There’s still the idea among many circles that housewives are lazy and that they watch TV and eat bonbons all day. Try creating a positive self image as a mother with all those mixed signals!
And just in case you don’t feel overwhelmed yet, don’t forget the other roles that we play in life. In addition to wife and mother, we also are daughters, sisters, friends, church members, employees, bosses, neighbors, committee members, and prayer warriors (just to name a few.) Somehow, we are to incorporate all of these roles and ideas and come away self-confident, self-assured and with a healthy self-image.
One day I began to think about my identity and the old adage from Helen Reddy’s song, “I am woman, hear me roar,” came to mind. Immediately my spirit rejected it. During one point in my life, I embraced this phrase, and what I felt were the ideas it supported. I had experienced pain. I was strong. I was independent. I could take care of myself. I desired to have a special man in my life, but told myself that I didn’t need one. I was wise. I was invincible. I’d paid the price. These are the things I told myself. I now realize that I “roared” these mantras because they were the characteristics I admired in other women more than because I owned them myself. I had bought into the shift in cultural thinking that women “can do anything a man can do, and do it better” and that women are superior to men (ideas that have very obviously damaged the foundation of both marriage and family.)
As I have grown closer to God I have gradually released these “I” statements. (Okay, sometimes God had to bring me to my knees for me to give up some of them.) But as I have given these ideas up God has replaced them with a firm foundation of who I am in Him. As long as I stay focused on my identity in Christ, I will live a fulfilled, content, joyful life and contribute greatly to the world around me.
I have experienced pain. And God is always present, providing comfort and healing. He has taught me that the pain I’ve experienced is nothing compared to what He experienced as Jesus died on the cross for my sins. Jesus, who chose to die in the most painful of ways, died so that I may receive God’s complete healing. He has also taught me that as long as I fix my eyes on Him, I will persevere and He can be glorified through my pain.
I am strong. I have strength through God my Rock and my Shelter. My flesh will become weak and wear out, but through the power of the Holy Spirit, I will remain strong. As long as I rely on God for strength I will be able to support those people He has placed in my trust and fulfill the duties that he has assigned me. (2 Samuel 22:33)
I am not independent. I am dependent on God for everything I have and everything that I am. Oh, what a relief! No longer is there the pressure to “do it on my own”. My Father God, who is omniscient, is in charge of my life. He knows what is best for me. I don’t have to guess or try to figure it out. All I have to do is believe, trust, and rely on Him and my path will be made straight (Romans 11:33.)
I don’t have to take care of myself. Now, let’s not get crazy and discontinue personal hygiene habits, good eating, and exercise. God calls us to be responsible for maintaining our health. However, I am able to cast all my cares on Him. I am never alone in my needs. He provides all that I need according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19.)
Although God may give me a man to walk through life with, I don’t need a man in my life to be complete. I am complete in Christ (Colossians 2:9-10.) I am God’s daughter, He loves me knowing every fault and sin I’ve ever had or will ever have in my life. His Holy Spirit dwells in me and produces fruit in me. My cup runneth over!
I am wise. I have been given the gift of God’s wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:30.) The answer to any question I could ever have is at my fingertips. Although I may not always be deemed wise by cultural standards, I have confidence and self-assurance as long as I make God and His Word the standard by which my choices are made.
I am invincible. If my body experiences pain, suffering, or even death, my spirit lives eternally (John 3:36.) God is for me and therefore there is no one who may come against me that has any power in stealing my eternal joy.
I did not pay the price. Jesus paid the price for me (Hebrews 10:10.) My ticket stub of life is marked “paid in full.” My responsibility is not to me, but to Him. I owe Him my life.
I am woman. I am God’s daughter. He has called me to be a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, spiritual advisor, and various other roles at different times in my life. Even though I still get bogged down by dirty diapers, runny noses, skinned knees, hungry stomachs, and needy hands, I know that it’s essential to stay focused on Jesus. As a woman, I have a high calling and know that as long as I know who I am in Christ and worshipfully fear the Lord, I will be fulfilled, content, and praised (Proverbs 31:30!)

Monday, February 15, 2010

6 Steps to a Calm House

1. Declutter: clean out all the unnecessary things that build up over time. Most of those things won’t every get used anyway, and they are usually easily replaced.

2. Get organized: make sure everything has a place to go and that it gets back to its “home” when it’s not being used. Baskets, bins, and drawers can be found cheap.

3. Focus on the big spaces: a table, bed , or open floor catches the eye first. When straightening up, start with these big spaces.

4. Have a time for chaos: houses that are lived in and enjoyed aren’t straight all the time. Allow times for mess, play, and chaos. Then recruit everyone to help clean up.

5. Think atmosphere: a warm, calm, inviting home is created by what is and what isn’t present. A candle, a couple of nice framed pictures, or pillows are examples of items that add to atmosphere.

6. Keep mom calm: mom is the thermostat for a home. Exercise, meditate, and/or sit down for 15 quiet minutes with a cup of coffee or herbal tea. The calmer mom feels, the easier it will be to create calmness in the home.

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Great Book for Kids

I was asked recently by a fellow author to review his first children's book. I thought, sure, I love books for my children, especially God-centered books. I did a little research on the author and the book and became excited, anticipating my copy of "This Little Prayer of Mine."

Often, as we anticipate something and have high expectations we are let down. This is not one of those circumstances.

As a Christian mom, a big part of my job is to teach my children about God and how to have a strong relationship with Him that includes godly prayer. This is often a challenge, as prayer is an abstact thing and difficult for children to understand. They do it, even my 2-year-old, but do they really understand? I was hoping that "This Little Prayer of Mine" would be a tool to help me in this task. I was not disappointed.

This lovely children's book by Anthony DeStefano presents prayer to children in a concrete, God-focused way. A quote from the book will help you get a feel of it's entirety: "But when I trust in you, my God, and in your plan for me, I know there's nothing in the world that I can't do or be." And so it goes, praying to God for our wants and needs, but most of all the need to know Him better.

I feel very fortunate that this book is a part of the reading collection I have for my four children and recommend it highly to everyone. This book will be available in four days, February 16. Here's a link for more information: http://www.anthonydestefano.com/landing/blogs/Jan2010.htm. Hope you enjoy it as much as my family is!!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Enjoying the Ride

Do you ever feel like you're on a roller coaster? Now, I do not appreciate most "real" roller coasters. I hate the feeling just after the top of the hill when you start going down. I don't mind going sideways or upside down, but I dread that initial drop. I can appreciate, however, the metaphore a roller coaster can offer to us.

In life you generally don't see what's coming next. On occasion, we see something coming that we want to avoid, but more often than not we're riding the roller coaster of life with blindfolds on. We never know what's going to come next, or how long the drop is.

I often feel like I'm on a roller coaster in motherhood. Writing the book that I'm working on, I've gotten a somewhat removed look at the ups and downs we go through. It's as if we do well for a while, we're content, happy, enjoying life and motherhood. And then something happens. It can be small or big. It can be a stomach virus, or a defiant child, or a family tragedy. Or it can simply be the adding up of all the little things that bug us. Whatever it is, it sends us plunging to the depths of discontent, grumpiness, and negative thinking. Some days I simply want to revolt- no cooking, no cleaning, no laundry, no reading books, no nothing.

Fortunately I'm connected enough to my God and my godly friends that I don't stay in the pit for long. I'd rather not go there at all, but I'm glad that my trips are much shorter than they used to be. And I know what I need to do to help avoid getting there and/or get out more quickly: I need to stop my negative thinking and think on things that are "true...noble...right...pure...lovely...admirable...excellent or praisworthy;" I need to pray for strength and comfort to do and face what is in front of me; I need to make sure I'm taking "care of [my] own interests as well as the interests of others."

By implementing the things I know to do when I feel that initial drop, the momentum will carry me right out of the pit and back on top, where I prefer to be.
 

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