Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Fruitful Summer

Are you having a fruitful summer? The relaxed schedules and longer days of summer usher in with them the tastes and smells of wonderful fruits like juicy watermelons, fresh cantaloupes, and (my personal favorite) lush red strawberries.  Our family snacks on fruit more during the summer months than any other time of the year.

But the summertime can be a dry, fruitless time for many women, especially those with elementary aged children at home. Quiet times are cut short or forfeited all together as we focus on scheduling family outings, planning vacations, or juggling childcare along with the usual work schedules. However, it is possible to remain connected with our Lord if we make it a priority.
Jesus said,
Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. –John 15:4-5, 11

Apart from Jesus, we can do nothing of spiritual value. So, let me share a few tips I’ve discovered over the years as I’ve sought to remain connected to the life-sustaining Vine, Jesus Christ.

1.       Set an alarm during the summer, even if you don’t have a pressing commitment. By getting up early, you can take care of household needs early and have a few quiet moments to yourself. If you don’t  work, you can always crawl back into bed for an afternoon nap, later, but make yourself get up and stay in some sort of routine.

2.       Find a devotional to help jump-start your prayer time. Many women take a break from Bible study during the summer, but a good devotional can keep you in God’s Word and help provide topics to fuel richer, more focused pray times. Might I suggest, the Hugs BibleReflections for Women.  It is filled with inspiring true stories from women just like you and me. Each chapter also includes a few application questions to help you organize your thoughts and spend a little time in God’s Word.

3.       Play Contemporary Christian or Worship Music while cooking or cleaning. Turn off the television for a while and turn on some Christian music. The lyrics will help you feel more connected with the Lord and quieted in your soul.  It’s a great way to help you children remain connected to our Vine as well.

Summer doesn’t have to be a fruitless time in your spiritual walk.  Jesus said He wanted us to remain attached to Him "so our joy may be complete." Be intentional. Remain attached to the True Vine this summer. Your frustrations will be fewer, your joy greater, and your children will reap the benefits of having extra time with a mother who is overflowing with spiritual fruit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control—as  they munch on the fresh melons and lush berries so prevalent during the long hot days of summer.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Red-Faced and Remembering

Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him.
--Psalm 127:3

Mothers of preschoolers, remember to laugh.

I had a mother and her preschooler in my office this week. In the middle of our conversation her son abruptly announced that he needed to use the potty. The mother directed her son to the restroom just outside my door, and we continued our relatively serious discussion. After a few minutes, the boy returned to my office and enthusiastically declared, "The plunger sticks to the wall!"

Stunned, the mother and I looked at one another for a moment without saying a word. As her child's statement sunk in, I held my breath, attempting to stifle my laugh. The red-faced mother looked at me sheepishly, and I couldn't maintain my composure another second. I burst into laughter.

My own son recently turned [twenty-two]. (It's amazing how quickly Big Wheels are exchanged for automobiles, and nursery rhymes are swapped for rock music.) I spent his entire birthday reflecting on precious memories of similarly embarrassing, but equally hilarious moments.

When he was three, my husband and I invited over friends who had a daughter the same age. While the adults conversed in the living room, my adventurous son and the agreeable girl emptied a jumbo-sized jar of petroleum jelly on their heads "to make shiny hair."

Another time, our little entrepreneur gathered acorns from the oak tree in our front yard and sold them door-to-door for three cents each. Remarkably, our lighthearted neighbors bought every acorn his pudgy little hands could carry.

Yes, I know the sheepish look of that young mother all too well. I know, firsthand, that mothering preschoolers can be frustrating at times. But how I wish I'd known then how much I would treasure the memories of my son's antics now. Perhaps I would have found more relish in the hugs, more delight in the kisses . . . and more laughter in the greasy hair.

Adapted from my story as it originally appeared in Chicken Soup for the Mother of Preschooler's Soul sponsored by Mother's of Preschoolers (MOPS).1

Click HERE to order a copy.

1. Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Maria Nickless and Elisa Morgan, Chicken Soup for the Mother's of Preschooler's Soul: Stories to Refresh the Soul and Rekindle the Spirit of Moms of Little Ones, [Deerfield Beach, FL, Health Communications, Inc., 2006], 107.

Friday, March 30, 2012

A Needy Servant and an Empty Tomb

“I’m weary Lord. I’m desperate for your presence, for your peace, for your insight and your power!” Those were my words to my Lord this morning as I groggily sipped a cup of stronger-than-usual coffee. Between writing deadlines, blog posts and social media exchanges, my creativity has been waning. The daily stress of getting my husband’s new business up and running has taken the edge off just about anything else I’ve been working on. My daughter’s senior activities (and keeping track of them all!) would challenge even the most organized of mothers (which I am not). It’s been an exhausting spring. There have been times I’ve secretly wanted to take a hammer to my phone that is smart enough to dominate my time with emails, Facebook & Twitter notifications, text messages, and those silly apps designed to make my life easier.  I waved the white flag this morning. I’m weary and I need Jesus.

Well, as I was preparing to write this post (yes, another to-do on my lengthy task list), I was reminded that Easter is all about our need for Jesus; the empty tomb is a reminder of His availability. Jesus is alive! He is actively available to comfort us with His manifest presence, to calm us with His reassuring peace, to encourage us with spiritual insights, and to clothe us with His dynamic power. In fact, that’s exactly what He did in the days following His resurrection.

He Comforted Mary with His Presence
The disciples went back to their homes, but Mary, desperate to find her Lord, stood outside the tomb crying, asking anyone she could find what had been done with the body of her beloved Jesus.  In her moment of desperation, the risen Jesus appeared.  When she recognized him, Mary clung to Jesus’ comforting presence. He is alive! He is available to comfort us every day with His manifest presence. We simply need to seek Him. (John 20:10-17)

He Calmed His Disciples with His Peace
A day or two later, Jesus’ disciples were fearful of the Jews and locked themselves into one of their homes.  The events of Jesus’ crucifixion left them feeling vulnerable and frightened. They lacked peace. But the risen Messiah suddenly appeared and stood among them. He said, “Peace be with you!” (John 20:21). To doubting Thomas he said, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe” (John 20:27). Jesus understands our fears and our doubts. He knows the situations that concern us. He conquered death and the grave. He is alive! Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid”(John 14:27). We don’t need to be afraid. We simply need to trust Him.

He Encouraged His Disciples with Insight
Later, Jesus said, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds... He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” Then He opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures (Luke 24:37,44-45).
Jesus encouraged His disciples by giving them insight into His Word. He is alive! He inspires us, speaks to us, and encourages us through His holy, living and active Word (Hebrews 4:12). We simply need to read it.

He Clothed His Disciples with Power

Then Jesus told His disciples:

You are witnesses . . . I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high”(Luke 24:48-49).

At Pentecost, Jesus disciples were clothed with the power of the Holy Spirit, just as Jesus said. And those of us who celebrate Easter as resurrection day –who believe Jesus is the Son of God who came to earth, died on a cross, and rose again on the third day—are also clothed in God’s dynamic power through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. He is alive! He is active and involved. He empowers us to be His witnesses: But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). We have His power. We simply need to tap into it.
So as you dress up in your Sunday best this Easter, celebrate the empty tomb. It is a reminder that our Jesus is actively available to comfort, to calm, to encourage, and to empower. The tomb couldn’t contain Him. Our Savior lives! Because of Him we are forgiven, we have continual access to our Lord, and we can live forever with Him one day in Heaven. He is alive! We simply need to believe.