Down With Fish!

giant fish with open mouthMany are the plans in a person’s heart,

but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

Prov 19:20

 

I have tried every which way to Sunday to get my daughter to eat fish. She cannot do it. Each time we try, her reaction gets stronger and stronger. While she has made a lot of progress over the years with eating meat and vegetables, fish is definitely a no-go!

This reminds me of the way we sometimes react to God. When we learn that He wants us to do something that makes us uncomfortable, we analyze it from every possible angle. We argue that we are following Him in other areas. Isn’t that enough? Then we seek the perspective of others, hoping they will help us justify us in our resistance. We list off the reasons why we can’t possibly participate in this venture. It will require too much time or energy. It doesn’t fit into our schedule or the plans we have made for our lives. We rationalize that we just don’t have the necessary gifts or talents.

As I was writing this post, my daughter, reading over my shoulder, reminded me that Jonah resisted God too. And what happened to him? He was swallowed by a fish! “Mommy, you don’t want to be swallowed by a fish, do you?”

So, how do you go about following God’s lead, when it feels like you will be swallowed whole by doubts and fear?

Pray – Ask God to show you why you are feeling so resistant. If you already know why you don’t want to proceed, ask Him to change your heart.

Seek His Answers – Read the Word. The bible tells the truth. Often when God is trying to teach you something specific, a verse will pop up in a sermon, on the radio, in a devotional, in a conversation . . . often just when you need it.

Seek Godly Council – If you have spent time with God and time in the Word and you are still unsure, ask for help from people who are not afraid to tell the truth.

Trust – If God is leading you, He will equip you.

Early in our marriage, God led my husband and I to buy a house in a community where neither one of us wanted to live. We could not figure out why we kept ending up there and He dragged us kicking and screaming. As it turned out, among many other blessings, we would find two very special people that continue to bless our family today. God has a purpose only He can see. I often wonder how things might have turned out differently if we hadn’t answered that call. I don’t often feel a strong leading like that but I’ve learned that when I do, I’d better be obedient.

Now, if only I could find a way for my daughter to be blessed by eating fish!

What has God asked you to do that you are resisting? How do you go about turning your doubts and fears on their heads?

Cleaning Up The Clutter

Dustpan and brush on whiteAbide in Me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.        John 15:4 (NKJV)

 

This weekend, with the help of the kiddos, I actually got a lot accomplished. One of our planned chores was the gargantuan task of cleaning the playroom. I have no idea how it got to the state it did but it was an absolute disaster. One bin a time, we sorted, purged, organized and cleaned until it was neat and tidy. I was amazed at how the kids wanted to help, took ownership and stayed the course. At the end of the day, they were proud of a job well done.

I am such a neat freak wannabe! I don’t know about you, buy when a room is clean, I feel so good. I feel relaxed and calm. I feel like I can breathe and I am no longer drowning in a sea of clutter. Messiness drives me crazy but it can be difficult to keep up. One toy in the wrong bin here, a few games stacked on the floor there, a case of markers spilled on Tuesday, train tracks left out on the weekend. Before you know it, you can no longer walk from one end of the room to the other and the dust bunnies are taking over. Without a conscious effort to keep on top of things, a mess can become out of control.

Our spiritual lives can be like this too. So tired today… I’ll just sleep a little later. This project is due tomorrow…I can’t focus on anything else until it’s done. A hotel room with kids? No quiet space alone. Holiday hustle and bustle…got to get it all in. Time to lose a few pounds, exercise has to come first. Going to see a friend today…

Hmmm…how long has it been since we’ve really talked, Lord? How much clutter have I let into my quiet time?

I am convinced that the greatest weapon in the devil’s arsenal is busyness. The busier he can keep us, the less focused we will be on accomplishing God’s will for our lives. When we are not spending time in the Word, in prayer, in worship, God can seem so distant and ever-so quiet. Our way can become muddled as we are preoccupied by things that are less important.

Any time I become distracted and then recommitted my time to the Lord, I have seen a difference in my life almost immediately. Just as I felt calm in the middle of the tidy playroom, cleaning the clutter out of my quiet time brings a sense of serenity to my life. When I trust in Him, my mood improves and I am able to handle stressful situations more easily. When I put quiet time first, it becomes easier to walk in consistent gratitude, enjoy His presence and feel His direction in my life.

Whether we get up a little earlier in the morning, stay up a little later at night or hide in the bathroom for a few minutes throughout the day, we CAN consciously make that decision to put Him first. It is possible to rearrange our priorities, say no to over-commitment and say yes to that special time alone with a great friend and confidante.

How do you clean the clutter from your quiet time? I’d love to hear your strategies for making sure you get to spend time in the Word and in prayer.

 

 

Dealing with Distraction in a Digitally-Driven World

“Mom, do you remember in How to Train Your Dragon 2, when Hiccup said ______?”

“Hmmm… I don’t think I remember that part.”

“That’s probably because you were looking at something on your phone.”

Yup. Real conversation folks. My name is Shari and I am digitally distracted.

Well, it is a new year. A time for setting goals. One of my big goals this year is to reduce my dependence on digital media. This doesn’t mean that I’m going to give up my computer or my smartphone any time soon, but I do plan to use it in a much more intentional way.

Until now, I’m one of those people that others love to hate. I look at my phone during conversations, pick it up when I should be playing a game with my children, and check it even when I know nothing important is coming in. It’s not really that I am afraid of missing something. I’m not that big of a Facebook user and I haven’t even explored Twitter or Instagram yet. It’s just that I’ve always been a learner. I love reading. I love learning new things. Really, I want to know, how DID people ever live without Google?

I’ve been known to teach myself how to sew or play the piano through online websites. I often look up new information about writing, website development, business software or homeschooling. I use the internet daily for bible study, recipes and homeschooling information. Unfortunately, I am usually quite scattered because I have too many things going on at once. The World Wide Web is truly wonderful because it keeps us connected and gives us access to all the information we could ever need or want. Sadly, it is truly terrible for the same reasons.

I always said I was a multi-tasker. I get more done when I’m doing everything at once, right? I am so learning that this is not the case. In fact, I’m learning that it takes me twice as long to get things done when I try to do more than one thing at a time. I’m learning that focusing on one task at a time, not only helps me move through my list more quickly, but I’m a lot less overwhelmed along the way.

So what is my number one goal this year? To be less distracted. That means, when I’m researching I use Google, when I’m writing, I’m in Word, when I’m praising God, it’s Him alone. When I’m with my family, they are my first priority.

As I write this, we’ve just rung in the new year and I’m heading off to spend a few minutes with hubby before we turn into pumpkins. And this time . . . I’m plugging my phone in downstairs.

Happy New Year! All the best in 2015.

What’s your biggest distraction? Do you ever shut down technology completely? Any plans to make changes this year?

 

 

Get Lost in Christ This Christmas

In this wonderful, crazy, hectic season, it is so easy to lose yourself in shopping, baking, creating, gathering and all of the other activities that pick up this time of year.  I’ve done it so many times. Before I know it, the holidays are over and I feel like I’ve been running non-stop for a month. So much happens that it can be difficult to prioritize and we end up feeling inadequate.  This can be so frustrating in a season that is meant to be filled with peace and joy.

I made a conscious decision this year to put the Lord first, seek His help and guidance, plan ahead, work in small doses and allow myself to savour this special time of year. Surprisingly, it is a week before Christmas and I am feeling relatively stress-free. Sure, there are last minute gifts, kitchen tasks and social outings still on the agenda, but it feels much more manageable than other years.

In a recent blog post, Lysa TerKeurst, shared a chaotic Christmas experience that I could totally identify with. And of course, she brings it back to the real reason for the season. I hope you’ll get as much out of it as I did.

 

Moving Beyond Perfect, One Step at a Time

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time                      .

I am a perfectionist. No doubt about it. It affects every area of my life and it always has. Fear of being perfect has led to procrastination and complete stalls. It has always had an impact on my confidence too. Since I’ve always been the type of person that does it right or doesn’t do it at all, I would need to eat that whole elephant in one sitting or not even attempt it. Things are changing though.

Thankfully, the Lord has been working on me. I realize now that not much gets done with an all-or-nothing attitude. Rather, it means I get stuck. I can’t move forward. In a lifetime of weight loss efforts, it has meant that anything goes when I mess up my diet. Similarly, our financial philosophy (not one I would recommend) was blowing the budget or not following a budget at all because we were in debt anyway. For a long time, I couldn’t go to bed until at least the main areas of the house were all swept and mopped and at the beginning of our homeschool journey, I worried constantly about how our children would measure up.

Gradually, I am learning say, “It’s okay”. My kids are reading, writing and growing in our faith, even with interruptions and days off here and there. They make their own crafts independently. Crooked print jobs remain crooked. Our busy kitchen is cluttered and dust bunnies on our stairs get big enough to chase us. Don’t even talk to me about some of the dinners I’ve served to my family lately! I’m even learning to ask for help. And it’s okay. The world isn’t coming crashing down around me. In fact, I am feeling productive and I am finding time to enjoy my family.

Writing is another area where I have procrastinated instead of moving forward. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I started my novel in sixth grade. Unfortunately, I never felt good enough about myself to finish it and set writing aside for a long time. As an adult, my desire to write resurfaced but since my formal education was in a totally different area, I still felt unqualified. When I decided to go for it, the perfectionism came out in other ways. If I couldn’t write for several hours at a time, I put it off. Since I play a supporting role in my husband’s business, have children at home full-time and have a household to run, this meant indefinitely. Fortunately, my new approach to living is making its way into this area too. Now I’m realizing I can get a lot done in twenty minutes. It might not be perfect but it’s a start.

There are still several areas in my life where perfectionism is holding me back but rather than standing still, I am accepting progress in small amounts. I’ve always loved the saying, “A journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step” and now I’m putting it into practice.

What areas of your life are affected by perfectionism? What steps can you take to move forward today?

De-Cluttering Life: Is This an Attainable Goal?

Last week, I signed up for a 31 Day De-Cluttering Challenge. After about the third day, I unsubscribed, not because I didn’t think it was useful, but because I just plain couldn’t keep up. Some people don’t seem to be bothered by clutter but it is something that really stresses me out. Fortunately, I am learning some small ways to address it.

 

Clutter in the Home

Have I told you I love having my children home with me? I totally do! My only real complaint is the mess. When I was working full-time, I left the house fairly clean in the morning and it was still like that when I got home at night. Now, when I clean the house, I can’t seem to tidy a second room without a tornado whipping through the first. I can’t fault my kids because they are imagining, building, creating and having fun! This is exactly what I want but it drives me crazy nonetheless. Thankfully, the kids are getting older and I am able to recruit them for clean-up duty!

 

Clutter in the Office

Most home-based businesses have on-going tasks. My husband and I both need to see things in order to keep on top of them. Filed documents usually end up being forgotten. This means we both tend to operate with covered desktops, open files and well-placed post-it notes. I’m working on switching as much as I can to Evernote and I love the concept. I’m still having trouble with out-of-sight/out-of-mind but smartphone reminders for specific tasks are helping. Someday, I WILL have a clean desktop!

 

Clutter in the Inbox

Subscribe to our newsletter and we’ll give you something for free. Who doesn’t like to get something for nothing? The allure of these offers is often irresistible and the free downloads are often really good. However, the junk mail that follows, sometimes several times a day, adds more clutter and eats up valuable time when we check our ever-growing email. Recently, I’ve narrowed down my To-Learn list to one topic, decided on lists to keep and unsubscribed from the rest. I’m also learning to use those filters that file email as they arrive. Yes, I’m terrified I will miss something, but my incoming mail is now very relevant and coming in at a pace I can manage.

 

Clutter in the To-Do List

I’ve always been a multi-tasker. As I age, I’m realizing this strategy isn’t as effective as it used to be. Productivity experts are telling us, too, that at we are much more efficient if we focus on one item at a time. When I concentrate on one project and complete it, I am able to cross it off my list. That gives me a sense of satisfaction which helps me move confidently on to the next thing. Of course, there are always going to be multiple projects on the go but prioritizing, working diligently and eliminating time-wasters (surfing Facebook?) can keep the list manageable.

So what should we do about all this clutter? Could it be just the stage of life we are in? The lifestyle and work we’ve chosen? The fact that we have young, creative children at home? While I am taking small steps to reduce clutter in certain areas of my life, maybe I’ll just embrace the rest.

I would love to hear if you have dealt with the issue of clutter. Does it affect you or can you ignore it?

 

 

First Things First

Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.  Matthew 6:33

 

Life can be overwhelming!

More and more, I talk to women who understand this statement all too well. Generally, women have many commitments and are accountable to a number of different people. Whether we work in the home or in the workplace, have young children or grandchildren, support a spouse or go it alone, running a household can be demanding. Add in homeschooling, ministry or community commitments, running or helping a spouse with a small business, caring for elderly parents or a child with special needs . . . or a myriad of other possibilities.

We can very quickly become bogged down by the responsibilities that press in against us. We hear it all the time: Take care of yourself and you’ll be able to take care of others. Yes, we need to eat healthy, exercise and get enough rest, but who has the time? And what about taking care of ourselves spiritually?

Sometimes, I let life get in the way of my morning quiet time. Sometimes, it’s only for a day or two and other times, I lose sight of what’s important for weeks or even months at a time. I notice when I put the rest of life’s challenges ahead of my relationship with the Lord, everything begins to slip. I become distracted, less productive and my family will tell you, downright grumpy. These are the times when I am least able to keep up with the rat race going on around me. The house is messier, meals are not as well-planned, my desk is piled high and my to-do list grows lengthier each day. Usually, about the time I feel like I am going to drown if I take another breath, I figure out what has happened. My priorities have gotten out of whack and it’s time to re-set.

On the other hand, when I consistently start my day off right, in the Word and in prayer, I often seem to be able to fit more in. I tend to get more done, in shorter amounts of time and I am able to cross more things off my list each day. I still have the same twenty-four hours but this is just another example of God’s math being a little different from the world’s.

How do you spend your daily quiet time? If you miss it, does it impact your day? How do you get back on track when your priorities don’t line up?

 

5 Ways for a Wife & Mother to Glorify God

“The chief end of man is to

glorify God and enjoy him forever.”

 

I’ve heard this quote before, but yesterday it jumped out at me twice, once from a book and a again, later in the day, in a completely unrelated podcast. Hmmm. I think maybe God wants me to hear this.

 

What does it mean to glorify God?

As wives and moms, often we are just struggling to get through the day. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t been consciously thinking about how to glorify God in the process. What does this mean? How can I glorify God? How can I praise Him and bring honour to His name in everything I do? How can I show others how He is working in my life? As I reflected on these questions, several areas came to mind.

 

Glorifying God in the Everyday Moments

 

In Our Quiet Time – Usually, I find that if I get this right in the morning, the rest of the day more naturally falls into place. Often we go to God with our list of prayers for ourselves and others. He definitely wants to hear our concerns and meet our needs but what if we spent more time honouring Him and thanking Him for the blessings we have received?

 

With Our Spouse – During our pre-marriage counselling, our pastor told my husband and I that we were each to be the other’s project for the duration of our marriage, helping the other to become more like Jesus. In our busy lives, it’s easy to nag, distance ourselves and focus more on the children. We need to remember to lift our husbands up though. As Christian wives, are we encouraging our husbands to be the best they can be?

 

With Our Children – As a mom of a boy who marches to the beat of his own drummer, I get very frustrated with the pace of life. It seems like we are always in a hurry and he is always about 12 steps behind. God is really working on me though, in the area of gentle discipline. Is the next door neighbour seeing the kind heart of Jesus as I buckle the kids in their carseats when we are already five minutes late for church? I’m working on that …

 

In Our Home – I never expected to be a stay-at-home (work-at-home?) mom. I was going to be the super-career mom who did it all! Little did I know, God would lay a calling on my heart to do something very different. Many Christian moms struggle with raising one or two or ten kids, managing a household and often the family finances. Some operate or help with small businesses or work outside the home so home organization can absolutely be a challenge. I don’t think every sheet should be ironed or every meal prepared from scratch, but I do think we can honour God by setting priorities, doing our share without complaining, watching the time we spend on unfulfilling time wasters and asking for help before we are completely overwhelmed.

 

In Our Ministry – Whether your ministry is teaching your children in the home, children’s ministry, visiting seniors, writing or speaking, or any other myriad of possibilities, you can have an impact for Christ. Wherever you are connecting with people, you have opportunities to show kindness, compassion and encouragement. These characteristics all bring glory to our Father.

 

The bible tells us:

Work hard and cheerfully, at whatever you do, as though you are working for the Lord and not for people.

Colossians 3:23

 

We all have different structures in our family, varying schedules and commitments and alternative viewpoints, so we will each find our own ways of giving glory to God in the little things.

 

I would love to hear your categories and specific examples. Feel free to share your comments below.

 

Overwhelmed?

Image © Dana Robinson – Flicker – 20/11/13

The book of Proverbs asks a lot of women, doesn’t it? How many on this quest are feeling overwhelmed?  Trying to be the perfect wife or mother?  What about church ministry and social affairs?  Are you keeping your house spotless? 

Is it possible to do it all?  Probably not, but in the process of trying, we can learn so much.  I am learning to depend on the Lord for His strength and His knowledge.  I can’ t see His overall plan but the bible does tell me that cares enough about me to know the number of hairs on my head. It tells me that I needn’t worry about the minor details because God is in control. 

I am almost positive that I will never have the perfect marriage, the cleanest house, the smartest children, the most profitable business or the most balanced budget.  God doesn’t expect that of us.  But He does ask that we put forth an effort.  Pick a goal and ask God for the wisdom to follow it through.  Then lean on Him and rest in His peace as you muddle your way through. 

A Merry Heart

Colossians 3: 23-24

Work hard andcheerfully at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord ratherthan for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as yourreward, and the Master you are serving is Christ. (NLT)

I’ve always thought of myself as a fairly happy person. As I age though,I feel myself becoming a little less optimistic; even a little disgruntled at times. I’ve also noticed that I frown when concentrating or performing mundane tasks. I know this comes with living the daily grind and is probably nothing to worry a great deal about, but I do feel that God is trying to curb these tendencies in my spirit.

 

It seems that everything I am reading at the moment points to scripture that tells me to “Be Happy”. These words have often been used by my children, if they happen to catch me in a moment of sadness or in an attempt to avoid discipline (which, I must admit, usually works). Who can possibly avoid breaking into laughter at “Mommy, be happy” accompanied by a pouty lip and batting eyelashes?

 

I recently read Homeschooling With a Meek and Quiet Spirit and am currently tackling Created to Be His Help Meet. Both have entire chapters devoted to having a merry heart and finding joy in all circumstances. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve come across verses, in devotions or sermons,where Paul is telling someone to be cheerful or find joy in any circumstance.

 

As if that were not enough, God has been using my daughter to keep me in line. Over the last couple of months, it seems that any time I get out of line, reacting unnecessarily sharply or being outwardly irritable, I hear a beautiful tiny voice coming from wherever she may be playing, reading or singing, saying, “Mommy, remember to smile”.

 

I am definitely not an unhappy person and I have found the peace and joy that comes from knowing Jesus personally. I have a wonderful family and many opportunities to laugh each day. By nature, I am a fairly serious person though, so I am appreciating these frequent reminders to live out the happiness with which I have been blessed.

 

What makes you happy and how do you express your joy?