Give-a-Way

There is a book give-a-way going on Scroll down to the bottom of the latest blog article to see details.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

I'm Not Them

 
Blogging, writing, teaching, styling, cooking, mentoring... you name it.... too many times I fall into the trap of thinking "I'm not good enough" or "[someone else] is/could be better."  Then it happened.  One day it just happened.  I realized, what I always told my kids and never owned myself:  I AM good enough... maybe someone else could do it better but God didn't pick them... He picked ME.

I'm not Ann Voskamp, wordsmith, photographer, home-educator, homemaker extraordinaire!  I bet she could whip up a loaf of bread, write an inspirational article with phenomenal pictures and hang the wash to dry before I could get all my kids done with their spelling.  She could be more successful, more artistic and more flexible... but I am not her.

I'm not Nancy Kelly with an amazing website where I LOVE to go and just sit because it is reminiscent of an old enchanted library and makes me think how our homeschool would be different if I had known then what I know now.  She can live and breathe a teaching style with such ease, creating a world with such beauty while I negotiate with my kids and just one.more.hour for history lessons.... I am not her.

The closest I can come to me is Heather S., I think of her as her blog name, Sprittibee.  Her life seems full of the same up and down chaos as mine, handled with the same holding.on.by.my.boot.straps as me.  I visit her site sometimes to remember I'm not alone!  I visit, sometimes, just to look at her amazing photography.  How.does.she.do.it.all?  I certainly can't.  I am not her.

I am not a lot of amazing people out there.... and I doubt any of those people would want me to be them!!  What I am, is me.  Thinking I should be others has kept me from saying and doing so much in my life.  And it isn't that I covet their lives or become some crazy stalker.  It is simply thinking I should be a better me... I should be able to do all the amazing things others can so I can be the best mom/wife/sister/friend/daughter.... and so on.

The truth is, there will always be somebody better than me.  It isn't about who's better than me but who God has called me to be.  What He has called me to do.  He has a unique purpose for each and every person and if I don't just focus on being the best me then what am I really being.  I can't be the best Ann Voskamp or Nancy Kelly or Sprittibee and I don't think they would want me to even try!!!  But I can be the best Amanda Jones.... I can do it with His strength coursing through me and if/when I mess up I can learn and try again!

When I jumped to Sprittibee's site to grab a link for you I saw she had re-vamped since my last visit and this quote was waiting there:


The only person you should try to be better than... is the person you were yesterday.
Scripture, as always, has wonderful things to say too:
 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. 
Psalm 139:13-14 

I pray you know (or realize) you are not THEM... whoever the "thems" are in your life, rather, that you embrace who you ARE, who God created you to be and walk in that truth every minute of every day because no one can be as wonderful at you, as YOU!

Blessings,
 





Monday, January 26, 2015

The Art of Housewifery: To Do



I've been working on a book for.... hmmmm.... 10 years now.  Yes, 10 years.  It is slow and life is crazy but I am glad it is taking that long.... the older I get, the older my kids get, the more information I see as necessary.  The title?  "The Art of Housewifery"  Why?  Because I believe being a housewife is truly an art.  One which society wants to bag as a "JUST" job.

JUST a housewife.

JUST a stay-at-home mom.

JUST a homeschooler.

Women, we are never JUST anything!  We are so much more.

I could write on about how society gives housewifery a black eye.  About how the WWII era sparked women to begin pouring out of households by the droves.  About how the women's lib movement says we, women, are and ought to be treated equal to men.

But I won't waste the page space on those topics here!

We are NOT like men.  p.e.r.i.o.d.  Should we be treated fairly?  YES.  But more than all those issues, in my mind, is the lost art of housewifery and the complete lack of understanding (and implementation) of it.  Being a housewife (with or without children of any age) IS a full-time job.  But I will start with what it is NOT in order that I might dis-spell any myths which tend to taint our mighty calling.

It is NOT....
  • watching t.v. all day.
  • self-absorbed
  • leaving jobs like dishes, laundry or any other remedial housework for husbands to do when they get home after a long day of work.... (I will elaborate)
  • sleeping in because there is no 'job' to wake early for
  • needlessly scheduling so much out of the house that you are rarely in the house (this isn't Beverly Hills T.V. housewives here!)

It is not anything which might fall under any one of the above categories.

It IS....
  • a JOB

which means it IS...
  • T.V.s off to eliminate distractions (and temptation!)
  • focused on others above self
  • looking at each task, each piece of laundry, dirty dish, vacuumed carpet and so on as OUR responsibility... (of course there are always sick days... ours or our families... health issues, emergencies and, best of all, those sweet little babies we have which require cuddles and feedings and distractions on every level.... simply evidence that a darling little life is one of the things more important than scrubbing pots and floors.)
  • waking to soak up time with the Lord and time with the husband before he darts off for his day... waking early because our home and our family ARE our beloved job
  • being at.home. to tend to the need-tos before running off and doing the want-tos.

It is so much more than I could write in one concise blog (which is why I am endlessly building a book on it!) and it is near and dear to my heart.  The art of housewifery is an endless attempt at balance and prioritizing which we don't always get right, but we work hard at, and doesn't end because the clock chimes "5". If we want to look at the rise in youth delinquency and divorce since wives/moms poured out of homes or the degradation of family values since women were told they didn't need a man or the art of housewifery, it would be a good start.  I know not everyone can (or is called to) be a stay-at-home.... but those who are need to know:

Your Job is a beautiful ART.

It is a worthwhile investment of time and energy.  And despite the dogma which clouds the housewifery of pre-liberation: homes, marriages, children... dare I say SOCIETY.... are happier with a housewife who realizes this.

Don't give up.

Keep your list of to-dos and invest.... invest in your family with your time and energy and watch the returns.  They may not happen right away and they may only trickle in at times.  But the returns, truly, are eternal.  The Lord is your strength for each task, each focus on others instead of self, because you know you are building a better future and deeper hope.

Each scrubbed floor, dusted shelf, fluffed pillows, clean dish and home-cooked meal = not just a house where people live but a HOME where family resides and a doorway for God's love to pour through.

I pray your to-dos don't do you in, that your eyes are focused on the greater goal for the road often makes us weary but the greater reward still lies ahead.  Press on.


I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
- Philippians 3:14

Blessings,






Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Location.Location.Location; One Step Closer



The process of faith has always fascinated me.  The growth spurts and seasons of question... the way God is always faithful to those who seek His face, seek to be more like him.  I'm coming out of one such, year long, intense search.

Like a spiral which circles quickly at the center yet more slowly the farther out you go, such seems to be the Christian walk as our faith is tested and our understanding discovered.  Our lessons are easy(ish) and relatively fast early on.  But the longer you walk by faith the more complex the tests seem to be, requiring more time for proper discernment.

The challenge this past year has been location. location. location.  In which has been the necessity of spiritual discernment, answering the whys of life and seeking to FEEL completely in His presence and work completely in his grace and guidance.

  • Location, geographically... why Billings, Lord?  When you called us out of the field to be tent-makers and outreachers, of all the places to send us.... why Billings? I so missed the views from 'home'.
  • Location, ministry... where are we meant to minister?  In our home, on the street, in a church.... door #3?  Now that we aren't full-time missionaries, where do we serve?
  • Location spiritually... who am I as a mature Christian?  I don't need the restraints of law... but where can I walk and related to the world yet still be in your will? ......

The last question, honestly, has been most recently prominent and perplexing.  I don't mind being different as a Christian.... I've always marched to the beat of my own drummer.... but where am I too different and removing myself from being able to speak into another's life?  Where do I become un-relational?  It came to the forefront at Christmastime.

I LOVE surrounding myself with EVERYTHING Christmas in December.  Decorations, dress, music, food, schoolwork, and t.v.  We don't subscribe to cable or satellite, instead we opt for the greater control (and cheaper monthly) Netflix.  This is my first year with Netflix on my t.v. and I began to browse everything Christmas they had to offer.  I saved interesting tid-bits to my 'library' and when opportunity arose, I watched them throughout December.

Many movies were ABC Family, so I figured: safe.... right?  I will admit they were cleaner than NON-Family movies, but some of them dealt with single woman who went out for drinks, flirted unabashedly, dressed rather risky and suggestions to pre-marital sex.  The milder and equally distracting content was the chasing after of worldly things... STUFF... and desires vs. seeking God's will and guidance in all of life's decisions, a more realistic aspect for a Christian worldview.  I was truly uncomfortable and, even though I walked a similar path in my young adult secular years, it is a path I would never re-walk.... definitely not one I want to encourage my children to walk.  So, to what point are these movies and my thoughts and intrigues appropriate and at one point do I start down a path which is quite difficult to come back from?  I'm reminded of the old saying:

Sin will take you farther than you want to go,
Keep you longer than you want to stay,
Cost you more than you want to pay.


Is it a sin to watch those t.v. shows?  They didn't show any explicit scenes.  Perhaps no.  However, if it causes my mind to travel a path separate from God, then I have to step back and gauge where I am standing.  Jesus is clear in Matthew 5:27-30, to think it is to do it, and while his grace covers so much more than we deserve, do I deliberately want to walk down a path which leads to unhappiness, dis-satisfaction and even influences my household in the same?  After all, a mind distracted by worldly things it cannot reach is not set to the joy and fulfillment of the Lord.

I struggled with this question.  Not wanting to be a prude yet not wanting to give the impression of sin in my life, even if it is not something I do.  You can imagine my joy when I finally received a clear answer this past week.  It came in the form of a blog post I stumbled upon through singer Jamie Grace.  Her mom, Mama Mona Harper, shared 3 Quick Tips for Mothers With Daughters: Now Taking Orders (I shared it on Facebook after I read it). 

Mama Mona inspired and encouraged me most when she stated:

I didn’t tell my daughters to ignore the world, I gave them the Word. I simply lifted and sacrificially lived Christ before them. I showed them something awesome to glean. I was different from my peers, I was peculiar and so were they. They still are. I didn’t look like mainstream women because I danced to a different drum beat,...

I suddenly felt peace.  No matter how Christian we get, we can never have too much Christ!  Do I need to divulge in the world to understand the world?  No, I don't think so.  Human nature is rather similar no matter where you are, no matter what you do.  We were all created by God and that is the baseline I need to focus on.  How else will the world tell me apart?

I'm grateful for these growth points. For times when my faith is able to tread the long path of understanding and discovery because at the end of each of these searching journeys, I find myself one step closer to Jesus and the view is marvelous!

In case you wondered about my other two location points.... I can't explain it except to say God just gave me a peace that I am right.where.I.need.to.be. and where He is, that is good enough for me!

Blessings to you as you travel the spiral of the walk in spiritual life.  I pray you find yourself one-step-closer at the end of your path.








Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Finding Peace in the Places In-Between


It was a cold December day as I peered out the moisture edged window.  The monotony of the houses I call neighborhood seemed to drone in a line of familiarity which should give comfort but instead produced weariness.  For a year and a half, I will not-so-readily admit, I have stood tongue-in-cheek inspecting the world out that window.  Wondering... almost willing... that my surroundings should change to something more inspirational.  But they weren't.

A year and a half in a mode of seeking any sign, any twinge, of a space where we might be Led out... instead running face-first into posts of resignation to a status of 'resident' which my heart was fighting every step of the way.  Greater tasks for my husband at work, confirming time and again his permanent position.  Opportunities to readily serve just when we gave up on possible prospects.  Comfort in the mundane which I tried to deny but have to ultimately surrender to admitting.... such as the secret love affair I'm having with the growing season (and my garden area) here!

Perhaps it is presumptuous of me to admit to such deep-seeded heart ponderings.  But, fact is, God has called me to return to the blogging world and one way I received that confirmation was through the antics and absurdly familiar outpouring of Allyson's bloggy thoughts through her efforts to survive a Mom's Night Out.  Feeling she had nothing 'important' to blog about, she spills and pours the chaos that is the life of a mom of young children... and by the end, she discovers, the seemingly random chaos of life, of her life, really does have a place in a community of like-hearted women needing to know they are not alone.

Maybe some of you have never experienced the type of "chaos" that is my life... the life in full-time missions, scattered to the winds and trusting God's hand on the breeze... or trying to resettle, refocused as tent-makers, into life in surroundings you completely protest and pray and wish for something familiar.  Maybe you have had something similar to this... your own scattered to the winds type life in missions or military or full-time wanderer and your heart pours alongside mine... maybe only ONE person will read this!!!

The fact is we all have a common factor in the midst of what appears as chaos... a need to pour out all the junk and gunk, the secret aches and ponderings... that real-life-stuff... not the facade we as women often try to put on in hopes we can seem to have it together and show we have it all figured out... we ARE the Proverbs 31 woman and she doesn't fumble..... right?

But the truth is much less attractive.  Life is much more messy and our hearts.... well.... our hearts ache much more than we often show.  And once we shed the gunk, the Truth can be seen.  Not just that we are one but that we are one-in-Christ. 

The hope I leaned on as I processed my cold winter thoughts was this:  God IS in control.  He works in the mess that we call life and He showed me, in my current plight, He is working here too.  I just needed to open my eyes and SEE Him.  See past what was in front of me, physically, and into what he holds for me, spiritually.


I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live,  loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.
Deuteronomy 30:19-20

Ironically, when God led me to this scripture, I realized it was among the last of Moses' words to the Israelites before he handed the reins to Joshua whose last words one book later, not unlike his predecessor's,  have stood sentinel to this blog for over 6 years now....

...as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord..

The overview of my revelation since that chilly day in December?  If God is in control, why don't I REALLY believe that and CHOOSE to walk in that truth?  Hiding Joy in my heart and taking it everywhere else simply because He chose me, placed me here and His plan and purpose are far greater than mine.  Why don't I CHOOSE life abundantly in him rather than grumble about the life He provided?



This day, I choose.  This day I chose and I felt this crazy urge to blog and tell the world!!  No more angsty window peering wondering if-or-when we will be moved to a more hospitable environment.  I CHOOSE to see the blessing of home and health and even this street in front of me!  God is good... all the time.... I choose HIM!

I pray, no matter your circumstances, you choose too!

Blessings,









Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Dare


Sometimes we have to go backwards before we can step forwards... remembering what was as a means to re-connect so we have more confidence in what is and is to come.  Perhaps my words sound cryptic... or perhaps you are nodding your head in agreement....

Life's hum-drum and lack of center on plans and schedules and obligations (#balance) left even my time with the Lord each day wanting.  I needed that fill-up but the bumps of the road had knocked me out of place.  I never struggled so much with center, as a matter of fact, I have the most beautiful memories of my quiet times before our travels.  How do I get it back, that peace which settles like a warm blanket when His presence is all around.  That innocence of heart and being, that trust of eternal hope.... how?

I need to go back to where I had it last, where I felt it most, and how I did it best.  But how?

Enter the Faith Dare.
http://www.amazon.com/Faith-Dare-Days-Live-Fullest/dp/0800733673/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1420671259&sr=8-1&keywords=the+faith+dare

It stared up at me, first in a divine moment of flipping through small group schedules and then from the soft glow of an Amazon listing in my computer screen.  I don't need a faith dare, I live the faith dare... was my first (I will admit) not so humble response.  New Christians need faith dares.  Christians who lost their way need faith dares.  But not ministry workers, missional livers, mommy bloggers, Bible study teachers... I got this.
 

That still small voice whispered so tenderly, you need this Amanda.  You are never too spiritual for a good faith dare.  As a matter of fact, I became acutely aware of the areas my spiritual life had gotten lazy and/or dusty of late.   Areas where a faith dare was just what the Doctor ordered!  Sure I might know some of this stuff... I may even live a lot of it.  But do I appreciate the root of it the way I use to?  Have I taken the how and why of my faith for granted lately?  In deed, in some areas, I had.  Faith boosters are good for everyone, no matter where they are.  And right now, I needed one bad!

My book arrived by way of a most blessed Christmas gift from my eldest son this year.  Along with it came a brand new ESV I had hoped for and my husband gladly wrapped.  I call it my journaling Bible... this is why:



My husband calls it graffiti, I think of it as art with God!  I may not be as gifted as some of the amazing artists on Pinterest, but it is my heart's expression none-the-less.  This passage was the first to receive the esteemed markings.  A passage which opened the gate to faith daring and reminded me....

How lovely IS God's dwelling place....
   My soul longs, YES, faints for the courts of the Lord
      My heart and flesh truly SING FOR JOY to the living God

Those aren't just words on a page, they are TRUTHS from the Word of God.
Truths which remind me of how amazingly blessed I am if, for no other reason, I am His chosen.  Mountains may crumble, skies may fall, but I am still blessed.

Blessed because I dwell in His house, ever singing His praise
   Blessed because my strength is in Him and my heart is the highway to Zion
      Blessed because I trust Him

And even when I go through a valley of sorrow I can make it a place of springs with early rain.
   I can go from strength to strength
      He hears my prayers, He is my shield, He is my light and protection....

Do I DARE remember this, believe this, LIVE this?  So many times I have read Psalm 84, so many times I forget.  Many of the psalms and scriptures echo this beautiful sentiment of dwelling with God - and God dwelling with us and of the wonderful blessings which result.

The Faith Dare is reminding me of where my faith dared to go years before when I fumbled through understanding Him and His Word.  His Word is so deep, so simple yet complex, I should never loose site or humility and the splendor of it all.  Life hardens, heart hardens, hope hardens when we do.  The Faith Dare has also reminded me of that and the art of life which blossoms and grows when we dare to remember the roots of our faith again.

Join me in the Faith Dare, get your copy today.  Whether you are a new Christian, an old one... whether you are struggling right now or skating through life just fine... perhaps you feel that small spark or need to re-set or re-senter, even if only in a small way.... or a BIG one!!  If you decided to Faith Dare, be sure to let me know either below or on Facebook, I would love to share this journey with you!

May you find the roots of your faith nourished as you dare to live in His presence!

Blessings,


.... if you would like to participate in a link-up party on this topic, message me here or on Facebook.  If there is enough interest, I would be delighted to host some events!




Monday, January 5, 2015

Balance


It started as a mother's heart simply groaning.  A planner, a scheduler, a everything-in-its-place borderline OCD kind of person married to a.... what's a planner? type.  We are an odd-couple if ever there was one.  But he tries to listen to my incessant spilling of all that is and isn't right in my over-planned world.  His heart ached for me, feeding his final assessment: stop plotting so much.  Lay down the planner and step away from the pencil. 

It was an honest assessment which I groaned at even considering.  How can I, homeschool mom of 4 (do I count the husband too?) balancing life and ministry and life... HOW do I do that? 

At first I reeled to such an insensitive thought.  He has no clue what my life is really like.  He WOULD suggest such an outlandish thing....  But eventually I rationalized this as the best (albeit extreme) solution to my closet control-freakiness.

Thousands of miles of ministry work and countless homes (both temporary and 'permanent') later I have swirled from overly prepared to complete unpreparedness and back to a point now where I search for center.  It was a difficult few years for me... but a good and learning few years.  I believe, with all my heart, God spoke through my husband that day.  It was a time of trial and testing as I walked out LETTING GO of everything I knew.  Had I not accepted his crazy sounding advice the last few years would have actually been harder. 

Try being a perfectionist as you juggle homeschooling from a campsite.  Try coordinating the perfect schedule as you wander homelessness for the sake of sharing the gospel.  Try putting everything in it's place when the places you have don't even belong to you, rather, every surface is gifted and lent under someone else's roof.  Anxiety would have had me institutionalized if I had ignored my husband's wise counsel.

For it was in that time I learned how to shoot from the hip marksman-like... how to truly turn every moment into a learning moment and how to embrace the NOW and accept an ever-changing environment by faith alone.

Now, I no longer live in the land of extremes.  We have resettled with a stable 'base of operations'.  Hubby is securely employed outside of the insecurities of full-time ministry work and while we still pursue missional living, we are needing to settle into routines as I find my way around a planner again.  A clean slate, if you can believe that!  However, my nomadic ways for the past few years have caught up with me and I feel like a circus clown trying to balance on a giant rubber ball while holding platforms of spinning dishes and dogs and a pretty acrobatic lady.  Every so often a dish (or, sadly, a dog) come crashing to the floor.  And lest the pretty lady fall too, I began to pray for HELP.  Then, as if I peaceful knowing settled it's warm arms around me, I heard it:

Balance
 

It was a call.  A "One Word" for 2015 to set at the center of all I seek to do.  Balance, as beautiful a word as a recovering control freak/nomad could hear.  My developing split personality welcomed the thought.  Neither side of my rambunctious spirit had to be sacrificed, rather, the lessons of 20 years of housewifery and 4 years of full time ministry could find their place on both sides of the juggling act.  An act, if executed correctly, which could feel more like a low-beam stroll on a platform 3 feet wide.  No more plate (or dog) dropping.  As a matter of fact, much of my juggling implements can come off their planks.

Purging, managing, and leaving plenty of margins.  Settling finances, family time, and private time can all have it's place.  I am certain it sounds easier than it is, yet I am positive it is mountable with my Father guiding me through.

Balance


My one word for 2015 which also calls me to step out of the extreme of nearly never blogging and back into the realm of regular article sharing.  A welcomed balance I didn't realize how much I missed until I was reminded of how important fellow encouragers are in the Mommy On mantra of "Mom's Night Out"!

I pray you will join me in finding Balance in 2015 and even consider what One Word God has for your center this year.  More than a "resolution", One Word is a commitment to resting in His Hands for transformation!  I will check in with progress reports here in the weeks and months to come!

Blessings,