Thursday, February 26, 2015

Sunday - Thursday (Days 5-9)

I'm obviously several days behind.

I'm trying.  I really am.

This morning, I was having a moment of self-pity.  It doesn't really matter why.  All that matters is I was.  Normally, I would let it go on for a while, let it ruin the rest of my day.

But this morning, I remembered the challenge.  I remembered what I was doing.  As a result, I handled what needed to be done, and my day has been much better than it would normally have been.

I can't say that my attitude improved immediately, but it did improve.  I am working, and I believe God is working in me.

I have not been great at asking my husband what I can do to make his life better.  Some days, I remember, but other days I do not.

I have been feeling conviction that I need to waste less time, to spend more time taking care of the things I need to take care of.  So, I am planning (for the rest of Lent, at least), to stay off the computer except when the girls are "down."  This happens twice -- once for quiet period after lunch, and then at night when they're in bed.  No one "needs" me during that time.  And I usually use quiet period as down time anyway each day.  I've become too dependent on the computer to fill up my days, and I have become lazy in housekeeping, parenting, and homeschooling.  This is not a good way to live.  It isn't being a good servant.  So, at least for Lent, I am minimizing my computer time in order to maximize my service.

It's been good for me to do this.  Kind of a "reset" on some of my bad habits.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Saturday (Day 4)

OK, today's the fourth day, and I'll admit it's difficult, this giving up myself.

Because it isn't just about the outside.  It's the heart.  It's the WHY of it.  I can't just DO the right thing.  I have to have the right HEART the whole time.  And it's hard enough to do the motions, to get them right.  Adding a whole layer of heart attitude is an amazingly difficult thing.  And I am failing miserably.

Only, now I am more aware of it.  Now I am truly TRYING to do better, do actually BE better.  Because emptying myself of myself is important, and heart-wrenching, and raises all kinds of "I don't wanna!"  Perversely, I want to hang on to my "right" to be irritated at times.  I know it's sin nature.

I'm beginning to understand why the Bible says that the unregenerate, the lost, are incapable of not sinning, of choosing not to sin.  The bar is not our actions, but our heart, our attitudes, the WHY of it all.  And we, on our own, are incapable of choosing well, of laying down our SELF and our rights.

The funny thing is that I have asked the Engineer what I can do "today" to make his life better or easier.  For the past three days, he hasn't had an answer.

Here's my big failing -- I know crumbs and such on the floor bothers him.  I know I should be sweeping, or vacuuming, or mopping (or some combination of the three) daily.  So I am going to work on that.  This week, I plan to sweep, vacuum, and/or mop each day.

I also plan to work on being more HERE with the girls.  I tend to be very focused on getting stuff done, on working, and I tend to be more quiet.  I love my girls dearly, I just don't always do a good job communicating that.  So I plan to work on that, too.

Four days in, and already a course correction.  Maybe one day, I'll have it all together.  But somehow, I doubt it.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Thursday and Friday (Days 2 and 3)

See, I'm already behind in my reporting!

Yesterday was not the best.  I did what I needed, but not with the best of heart attitudes.  Giving up myself for Lent is much easier said than done.  One of those, "it's a good idea in theory" but the reality is much harder.

So, I made tea.  Which so shouldn't be a "thing."  But sadly, it is.  It's a detail, and I don't do details well.  The Engineer likes tea.  (I guess, given where I live, I should say sweet iced tea.)  Given all his dietary issues, tea with real sugar is one of the few things he can drink other than water and milk.  It's also a source of calories.  Which is another thing that he struggles with, getting enough calories.  So I make tea.  Only I'm not very consistent.

Also, I took the girls to get something Elizabeth needed for a blood model for her science.  But this time, not because I was being a servant, but because I decided I could handle the trip to the store.  There was nothing serving about what I did.  And that's the heart of the problem -- how my heart and attitude are.  *sigh*

Then there's today.  Today, a good friend of mine took the Doctor and the Doctor's best friend (who is also my friend's son) out for the day.  Just the four of us.  Which was amazing, and fun and full of energy!  I love these two kiddos, and am so very glad that they are friends.  The Doctor is definitely a much happier girl because of knowing this boy.  He is a blessing to her, and really, to our whole family.

So, not much of a servant going on here.  It was so very enjoyable, and really, easy on me.  Only having one of the three, and having such a good friend with me was truly a blessing to my heart.

Both days started with reading my passage for Lent.  I still don't fully even understand this passage, even though I've read it and heard it preached on in my adult life.  I hope, by spending forty-some consecutive days looking at, reading, thinking on, and acting on, the same passage, maybe it will sink in.  Maybe it will make a real difference.  Maybe I can finally get out of the way enough for God to get through to me.

So, anyone reading this, pray for me.  Please.  Please pray that I will do what I need to do, that I will serve well this season.  Pray that I will truly be a servant of God.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Ash Wednesday (Day 1)

So, today marks the first day of Lent.

The passage I am focusing on for this time is Philippians 2:1-11.  I had been focusing on Philippians, and then Sunday one of the elders preached from Philippians 2.  The sermon fit with most of what I had been mulling over, and it just all seemed to fit.

So, what idol am I giving up for Lent?  Basically, the idol of "me."  I am going to strive to serve this season.  To serve with excellence.

First of all, I am planning to ask the Engineer what I can do each day to make his day/life better.  Then do it.

Second, I plan to refocus on the girls.  Mostly in relation to school.  I am making some changes in how I do school with the girls, changing science around to make it more accessible to the Cowgirl, while letting the Doctor continue on with her interests.  I already started the older two on Khan Academy for math, and I must say that so far, we love it.  Two weeks in, and the Doctor has done 60% of her grade level; the Cowgirl has done 40%.

Service must begin at home, so this is where I will start.  I will pray for chances to serve, and then do what is in front of me.  One day, one moment, at a time.

So, how did today go?  Well, honestly not too well.  I did spend time in Bible reading and prayer, and did some serving the Engineer.  I forgot to ask my question.  And then forgot to get supper into the crock-pot, so I asked him to bring home supper.  I was short with the girls, and rather distracted today.  Overall, I was not a good servant.

Fortunately, tomorrow is another day, and God's mercies are new every morning.

That is all for now.  I plan to write again tomorrow.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Idols in my Life, and Lent

When I was little, I thought about idols as those gold, bronze, or wooden statues that frequently tripped up the Israelites.  Naturally, I was confused to find New Testament injunctions against Christians worshiping idols.

As a teenager, my understanding was a bit broader.  Mostly, money was emphasized.  Lots of "you can't serve two masters," and the oft-misquoted "money is the root of all evil."  (The actual quote begins "the LOVE of money...")  And not much else.

Here's the truth, though.  Anything can be an idol.  Anything.  Growing up mostly in the church, I am pretty good at "doing the right thing" at least outwardly.  And of course I know all about not touching "evil" things.

But God wants more than outward compliance.  He wants a changed heart.  He doesn't want us to simply check off the "right" things.  He wants joyful obedience from love and thankfulness.  Kinda raises the bar, huh?

What does this have to do with idols?  Well, it's easy to make doing the "right" thing, having the right appearance, the right schedule, not doing evil (even fleeing from it) the focus.  And that becomes an idol.

I'm in a small book study group, and we're going through a book entitled Peacemaking Women by Tara Klena Barthel and Judy Dabler.  One of the chapters is on idols.

I had always thought I was OK on this front.  Boy, was I wrong.  The authors urged us to go through a series of questions to determine what had taken God's place in my life.  Two of the questions really hit me hard, convicted me, really.  "I would be happy if only ________________________" and "Don't ask me to give up _______________________."

Two big things came immediately to mind, and more and more have come up as I have thought these things through.  Basically, anything that my happiness hinges on, anything I would not be willing to give up, anything that gets in my way of joyful, thankful obedience is an idol.  Ouch.

So, I have a challenge.  What if, during Lent, instead of giving up something meaningless (like meat of Fridays), we gave up an idol?

How?  Well, whatever the idol, when we find ourselves focusing, obsessing, working on that idol, what if we stopped, prayed instead.  What if, for that period of time, we stopped actively seeking our idols and sought God instead.

What does this look like?  It would be different for each of us.  I am praying about what to do.  I think I have an idea for me, and I may share it tomorrow or Wednesday.  Lent begins on Wednesday, so I have a short time to make a rather large decision.

A few quick examples:
If your idol is "the perfect body," give up exercise for those few weeks.  Spend that time in prayer.  Put your scales away.  When anxiety creeps in, PRAY.  Make God your focus, not your body.

If dieting is your idol, stop for Lent.  Just lent.  You can readjust your eating afterwards.  Spend that time in prayer instead of hyper-focused on every bite of food you eat, focus on God.

If another baby (or a first baby) is your idol, give it over to God.  Stop trying so hard for just a few weeks.  Every time you find yourself obsessing over nurseries on Pinterest, stop, pray instead.  Maybe stay off Pinterest for Lent.

All of those things are "good" things -- taking care of your body, eating right, and having children.  They're all good, right things.  Here's the problem I have found.  As church women, we often find ourselves turning "good" things into "acceptable idols."  Because the appearance is good, then it must be fine, right?  But the problem is -- anything can be an idol.  Homeschooling, modesty, submission, being gentle and quiet.  Anything that we focus on rather than God.

Why not give up one big idol for Lent?  You may find you don't need it after all.  I have found freedom as I have released two biggies to God in the last couple of months.  Do I still find myself thinking about these things, do I still pray that God would allow them to happen?  Yes.  But they are no longer obsessions.  They no longer have the power over my thinking.  I no longer wonder if God loves me because He hasn't allowed ________________ and ____________________ happen.

In the upcoming days, I will be sharing my plan.  But I must be careful not to turn this "turning away from an idol" into an idol itself.  If I do this, it will only be by the power of God in me.  It will only be by the Holy Spirit working that I will be successful in turning away from an idol, not making a new one of this project, and truly worshiping God.

Will you join me?  If you're reading this, will you join me?  The Lent season is only a few weeks long.  Will you trust God to show you your idol and to work in you to change that?

I plan to post daily during this time (at least Monday through Friday).  I may fail, but I hope that even if my record isn't perfect, that there will be lifelong changes, lifelong lessons to learn during this time.