On hormones and the hope of heaven

Well, well, well. Looks like I pretty much crashed and burned on the whole write-for-31-days deal. I figured I would. Which is why, you may remember, I kind of hedged my bets from the beginning with a vague, sort of non-committed commitment. I wasn’t sure how or when but I knew I would fall and fall spectacularly.

Oh, I have my reasons and plenty of them, most of which would not make for pleasant reading and are thus best kept to myself. We’ll just say it has mostly to do with me being a 46 year old woman and all the idiosyncrasies and imbalances therein. I’ll leave it to you to read between the lines. Let’s just say I think for all the recent Internet chatter about why women are leaving their blogs one very important factor is being overlooked: some days we are crazy and barely hanging on to our sanity much less our emotional stability and the very idea of blogging anything is, well, not only laughable but impossible. Throw in a migraine and you see what I’m talking about.

Or maybe that’s just me.

So, yeah. Hormones. Sorry, guys, but there it is. If you male readers (anyone? anyone?) want to click away, then by all means. Before you do, please know this isn’t really a post about hormones but about heaven. And hope. And Jesus.

Today as I was attempting to climb ever closer into some semblance of normality of life and emotion, I was working on Bible study. I’m doing something a little different this fall. In the past all instruction has been via lecture, the Tuesday mornings that I love so much. This year I’ve also been putting together weekly homework, a page or two of questions intended to encourage engagement with the text.

This morning as I was writing some of the upcoming homework my efforts led me to Phil. 3:20-21 where Paul reminds the Philippians of their citizenship in heaven. “From it we await a Savior,” he writes, the Lord Jesus Christ, “who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body…”

Setting aside for a minute the obvious application of our bodies being transformed, I thought of the hope inherent in the kind of waiting Paul describes. The Philippian church surely struggled to hope. They were enduring persecution and various difficulties and disunities. There were false teachers, “evildoers” Paul calls them, among them. Paul, their leader, was in prison, suffering not only that very real hardship but also the pain of having his reputation questioned and defamed among those who should have been his colleagues and his co-laborers.

In and to this circumstance Paul calls the church to remember who they are and where their true citizenship lies. “You belong to heaven,” he tells them, “and you are waiting for your Savior and this promise of His sure return to save and restore and reign will empower you to endure.”

Not only that but they are able to rejoice in their sufferings because hope will not disappoint (Romans 5). Eagerly anticipating the appearing of their blessed hope, their great God and Savior Jesus Christ, will grant grace to them to renounce godliness and pursue godly, pure lives (Titus 2:13). They hold fast for He who promised is faithful (Heb. 10:23).

I know, I know, persecution does not exactly equate to a hormonal freak out episode. But as I struggle with what is and what should be, I too long for things as they will be. I hope for heaven and, glory to God, this hope will not disappoint. Life is hard here on earth, hormones no doubt the least among our struggles, but even this difficulty serves an important purpose: it will teach us to look to heaven, to await a Savior from there, to anticipate our blessed hope, our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. As we do so, we find grace to endure with joy, knowing the light and momentary troubles of this world are nothing compared to the glory that awaits.

And what hormonally-challenged woman in her mid-40’s will not find hope in the promise that He will transform our lowly bodies? Yes and amen.

 

Worthy

In Philippians 1:27 Paul exhorts the church at Philippi to “only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ…” As I prepared to teach this passage and considered its application to me and my fellow Bible students, I concluded there is no end to the messages to women, many of them conflicting, about how to live worthy.

Whether you use birth control, how you dress, your decision regarding school choice, what you eat, even your demeanor or personality–all can fall under someone’s definition and resulting determination of whether or not your manner of life is worthy of the gospel. Do you work outside the home? Are you organized? And, hear me on this one: what do you read? Can you define and discuss such theological terminology as propitiation and justification and sanctification? Yes, it’s true. Maybe even the more theologically minded among also have our own system by which we draw a line of disdain.

The gospel clearly and unequivocally speaks of our complete unworthiness. Check out Ephesians 2, just for one Biblical example. There Paul describes our state apart from grace as dead, following the price of the power of the air, living in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, by nature children of wrath. It is by grace–and grace alone–you have been saved, Paul asserts, and nothing of yourselves. It’s a gift, given as such because you could have never ever ever deserved it.

So how then could we walk worthy as Paul commands in Philippians and also in Ephesians and Thessalonians and Colossians? We get one clue from the first rule of Biblical interpretation: check the context. Live worthy of the gospel, he instructs in Phil. 1:27, and then goes on to clarify what he means: standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. Clearly our living worthy has a corporate aspect.

We need the church. You need the church. I need the church. We need the fellowship, the accountability, the instruction, the mutual encouragement, yes, even the rebuke. When we were saved, we were saved as individuals, yes and amen, with incredible and amazing benefits to each of us as individuals. My sins were forgiven and I receive eternal life in the presence of my Savior.

But I am also saved to and for the church. You cannot read the New Testament and escape this fact. The church is the body of Christ and we are its members. Here in Philippians Paul paints a picture of a church unified around the bold proclamation of the gospel, standing firm, striving, bold and confident before opposition. This is more than “just being fed.” Rather, this is “all in.”

We live worthy of the gospel when we are joined together with a local body of believers and submit ourselves to its authority and accountability and fellowship, bound together in one mind and one spirit by the unity of the gospel.

I think too we can consider the idea of worthiness in the sense that it ascribes worth. Not earning worth, as we’ve already stated, but reflecting what is most worthy.

So this begs the question: what is most valuable to you? Where is your Treasure? Is it Christ? Have you tasted the gospel freedom He graciously offers? Do you love Him with a joy inexpressible and filled with glory? Is the cross your only hope?

Here then is Paul’s injunction: live like it.

Go, live like the gospel is real, like grace is grace. I don’t know what that looks like for you, exactly, but I do know this: whether you homeschool or eat organic or only clean your bathrooms every now and again, when your one boast is in the cross and the grace of Jesus to save, and when you come alongside a family of believers to work for the advancement of the kingdom, you show Christ as worthy. Your manner of life is then worthy of the gospel as it shines the light of Jesus into the dark corners of this world like a city on a hill that cannot be hidden, to the glory of God alone.

Yes and amen.

That’ll blog

So I actually set the timer yesterday and wrote for five minutes from the prompt given at the 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes link up….but never published. It wasn’t fear keeping me from pulling the trigger, I confessed to Leslie, who is doing her own 31 day series on geocaching (Did you even know there’s such a thing?). I think it’s more the question of thirty one days of free writes? Sounds easy enough but would it get tedious for you the reader and me the author?

Maybe I need a better topic, one I am more confident of my ability to write about. This was the subject of mine and Leslie’s email conversation a few weeks ago. We both want to write and write more consistently; here is a great opportunity; now what do we write about? Leslie finally settled on geocaching, a fantastic and fascinating topic. Me, I’m (obviously) floundering.

Thirty one days of favorite lipsticks? Thirty one days of favorite novels? Thirty one days of boring? It’s a small and ordinary life I lead, as I’ve confessed many a time, sometimes in joy, sometimes in humility, sometimes in the realization that ordinary can also mean boring.

Silliness and topic suggestions aside, I think, really, deep down, it’s the idea of announcing and thus committing myself that gives me pause. I know myself. Even more so, I know myself as a blogger. Have I ever blogged for 31 days in a row?

I suppose it’s the legalist in me that tends to despise inconsistency both in myself and others. I hate it when I can’t live up to the standard, whatever that standard may be. This is why I rarely read parenting books; they subject my inconsistencies and insufficiencies to the glare of a parenting standard I could never live up to and then I hate myself.

In all my despising, of course, I am forgetting grace. There is grace for the inadequate mom, yes and amen, and there is grace too for the inconsistent 31-day blogger. Legalists, even recovering ones, overlook grace in their exaltation of the ideal. I’ve told you before about me reading a book about grace years ago and when I got to the end of the book, I closed the final page and said to myself “That can’t be right.”

Grace isn’t right. Grace is, above all things, unfair. It is the ultimate inconsistency! In grace I do not get what I do deserve and get instead what I do not. Grace in salvation is more than forgiveness of sin, though, praise God, it is that. It is also the favor of God bestowed upon the sinner. The Lord doesn’t only graciously forgive; He also graciously grants love, affection, good will, and, can you even believe it, His righteousness. This is grace: God’s free, unmerited, unearned, undeserved favor. Grace that saves. Grace that sustains. Grace that grants life eternal. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound.

How is this grace found? Repent of sin. Believe Jesus.

What does this have to do with blogging? Not much, really, except for this: in blogging as in all things I am a pauper to the grace of the Lord Jesus. I blog–just as I parent, teach, love and serve my husband, clean house–out of grace and because of grace and to testify of grace. This is my testimony: because of the great love with which He loved me, the Lord saved me and this not of myself, it is a gift of grace. Yes and amen.

That’ll blog.

For 31 days? Maybe.

 

Status Report, October

Sitting…at my dining room table

Drinking…coffee, black

Wondering…how many of you were surprised to see a post from me after my last bit of drama, even if this is a only mere status report!

Confessing…I’m just as surprised as you are!

Laughing…just a little at myself. I mean, in my last post I referenced that Kenny Rogers commercial where he is (supposedly) singing with annoying repetition. Ironic, isn’t it, that I am probably guilty of a similarly annoying repetition? I mean, I am pretty certain I’ve asked similar existential questions and lamented similar blogging conundrums in posts past. Several posts past. Oh well.

Grateful…for you all and the kind encouragement you sent my way after that last post. It means so much to know my words are both wanted and appreciated. Y’all are the best. Thank you.

Considering…a 31 day blogging challenge to jumpstart the blog. I know, crazy, right? There’s Nester’s 31 Day Challenge beginning today but I’m pretty certain it’s well beyond my capabilities. For one thing, I can’t create a button to save my life (I know, I know, what, seven, eight years of blogging and not even the most basic blog skills to my name!). And, I for sure cannot blog semi-intelligently about a single subject for 31 days straight, should I even be able to come up with said single subject. However I am intrigued by this challenge within Nester’s challenge. So who knows how my day will progress? You may see a five minute post show up later on today and maybe, just maybe, for 30 days after that… Maybe.

Reading…Middlemarch by George Eliot. Longtime readers (and I mean long, long time) might remember me attempting to read this, purportedly one of the greatest novels ever, several years ago. This is how it went down: after going to the library with the intention of checking it out I noticed my name scribbled on the card three times and this without me having ever finished the book! Well, embarrassed yet determined, I then just bought my own copy of the book. No way was I going to check it out four times to read it for the first time. But that’s as far as I’ve ever gotten.  So I’m trying again, muddling through, waiting for the greatness to sweep me away. Will it?

Adjusting…to life as a family of four. It is so weird. I was getting out the plates for supper the other night, four of them. Only four. I told my husband that this just isn’t right. It’s not right. We are a family of six! Now, I know my oldest has been out of the house for a year and a half but the way I see it five is still pretty close to six, you know, if you round up. But four? It is weird.

Loving…the cheetah print bag my girlfriends convinced me I needed when we were shopping in Orlando before TGCW14. I mean, at 80% off I didn’t need that much convincing and did I mention cheetah? But my friends know me well and I love it. And them.

Podcasting…again. My Bible study lessons are posted online each week. You can find them by clicking the “Teaching” tab above or by searching by my name on iTunes. If you listen in, I’d love to know what you think!

Realizing…again how much I love–and need–to teach. Is it weird to say I need it? I think I do, but not in some sort of unhealthy idolatrous way. At least I don’t think so. The Tuesday mornings I spend in the Word with the women in our study are so precious to me. What grace to be granted such a privilege! I love it.

Welcoming…October with open arms and eager excitement. Like my friend Melissa has said, the -er months are my favorites! But then again I even like January and February so there you go.

Happy October, friends!

You’ve got to know when to fold ‘em

Y’all know that commercial with the punchline about playing cards with Kenny Rogers and he’s singing “The Gambler”? I was thinking about that today when I was pondering the blog and its future: you’ve just got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away, know when to run…

“I just don’t have anything to say,” I confessed to my husband the other day. We were discussing the blog, this one, and whether or not I should just shut ‘er down, fold ‘em, walk away as it were. It’s really not *that* momentous of a decision, I realize, except for the fact that the renewal payment on my domain will come due before too long so, yeah, there is something of a financial obligation at stake, albeit a small one.

“All writer’s have writer’s block,” he said and I suppose he’s right though I have my doubts if what I do here could rightly constitute writing per se. But blogger’s block? I got that in spades. What has it been, two months of silence? More? Not even a humble status report to maintain some semblance of life?

I listened to a podcast about blogging thinking maybe I’d rediscover some inspiration and inclination toward writing or blogging or whatever you want to call this. It was encouraging and informational and no doubt a great help for someone who already wants to blog. But where’s the podcast for the uncertain blogger, she who can’t find anything to say nor the desire to say it? Is there a litmus test, a flow chart, a quiz to determine definitively, finally, once and for all, yes, go forth and blog, or, no, sister, it’s time to fold ‘em?

In the podcast the blogger being interviewed confessed to never, not once, feeling the sort of block I am muddling through. This did not encourage. Of course, in my defense, I’ve been at it a lot longer so maybe I’m just old. In blog years I mean.

In real life it’s been a strange couple of months, months marked by transition and some degree of sadness and, well, the sort of nebulous strangeness that tends toward private introspection over the kind of public confessional that constitutes blogging, at least the kind of blogging engaged by this blogger. So maybe it is a stage of life deal.

But life is good too. I don’t mean to sound all melodramatic and melancholy (though admittedly sometimes I can’t help it!). We’re right in the middle of some of our favorite times of the year and of life, enjoying football games and celebrating September birthdays and anticipating all things autumnal. I’m back to teaching Bible study after our summer hiatus and I love it more than ever. The kids are great, church is awesome, and, like I said, life is good. There is much to enjoy, much to anticipate, much to be grateful for.

So will I write more? Will I write at all? Should I cut my losses and close shop? I am undecided. Do I love blogging enough to push through writer’s / blogger’s block? Does it matter? I have no ambition beyond just the blog so, really, why fret so over what is really, in the end, a hobby? Will I know when, if, to fold ‘em? I guess we shall see!

Can any of my blogger friends relate? How do you rediscover the joy of writing and of blogging?

Favorite reads of the summer

I, like all true bookworms, make reading a priority all year long, sometimes all day long if it’s an especially good day! However, there are those times of year that seem naturally suited to reading. The week between Christmas and New Year, for example, is a stretch of days where I tend to do not much more than lounge on the sofa with a book or two or five.

Summertime is another season that seems all the better for the happy enjoyment of a good book. Since we are now in September and at the close of another one of those perfectly suited reading spells, I thought I’d offer to you a list of some of the best of the best of the books I read this summer and I read some really good ones!

Read my list of summertime favorites at Out of the Ordinary.

Dead Poets Society, carpe diem, and the story of my life

When I was in college, and for several years after, my favorite movie was Dead Poets Society. The story of John Keating and his students inspired me; carpe diem became my mantra. I was impassioned. I was determined. I was going to live a life that counted.

However, I was also clueless.

I wonder now, these 25 years later, if the 20 year old me with all her bright eyed idealism had been given a snapshot of her life as it would be at 45, what would she think? Would she consider her life lived to the fullest? If she saw herself on a hot day in July, for example, running errands and doing laundry and sweeping up dog hair, would she trust that she had indeed seized the day and lived a life thus far that counted?

I like to think she would, you know, being that I am that 45 year old me of which we speak.

Read the rest of my post at Out of the Ordinary.

Wage war

I’m writing today at Out of the Ordinary with a few more thoughts on comparison and coveting…

We are to be wise and to take whatever steps necessary to put to death…what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. (Col. 3:5-6) Put it to death. Wage war, as John Piper has said. Can’t get much more serious than that.

We tend to think this all a little silly, at least if we’re talking about Twitter and blogging and Instagram. Silly and radical and maybe a little, well, you know, “out there.” Maybe so. But did you catch what we are to put to death according to Colossians? Impurity, passion, evil desire and, yes, covetousness.

Waging war against sin and temptation and covetousness begins with the wisdom of knowing ourselves and our weakness…

Read the rest of my post at Out of the Ordinary here.

It’s the ordinary days that make a life

When my oldest son was born we were renting a 100 year old house on a corner lot a few blocks from the high school. We had no air conditioning other than the two window units and no dishwasher other than our two hands.

Oh, and the carpet was blue.

My son’s nursery was a simple affair. We bought a white crib with $100 my husband’s grandmother gave us. A friend let us borrow a changing table. That plus a chest of drawers that had been mine and my sister’s growing up and a rocking chair of my grandmother’s my mom painted and recovered the cushions made up the nursery decor.

Some of my pregnant friends (homeowners with slightly more disposable income than us) were busy decorating their nurseries with stenciled alphabets on the wall and adorable matching bedding sets in the crib.

I was insanely jealous.

It seems funny in retrospect, especially now that I have both AC and a dishwasher and no need for a nursery with or without stenciled walls. However, when I reflect on the current standards of perfection and expectation that accompany motherhood as we now know it, I realize I would never have made it in this day and age of Pinterest and Instagram. The Lord does indeed determine the specific times in which we live, yes and amen.

I once read an article about Instagram envy. Apparently it’s a thing and I can see why. As we adopt this alternate reality as the standard, we begin to lose sight of what’s really real. If I, as a much younger mom, envied to the point of bitterness my friend’s real life nursery adorableness, how much more so a edited and filtered snapshot of nursery perfection? I’ve heard of motherhood being delayed until the perfect house could be afforded or a wedding put off for the ideal venue. I understand wanting an adequate home or a beautiful backdrop but motherhood is more than the house and marriage more than the wedding.

No AC and dishwasher aside, those were happy days in that small two bedroom house. We had little in terms of worldly goods but we were rich in joy and grace. Our family was just beginning to grow, we enjoyed the fellowship of several close friends, our life was good. Real good.

I have often advised my younger friends to enjoy their children while they are young, so often have I done so that I fear I have been misunderstood. One young mom finally admitted to me on a particularly tough day that she did not and would not enjoy nor miss that specific day or its struggles.

“No one misses the hard days,” I told her. “No one wishes for those days back!”

I know I don’t. What I regret most are the ordinary days that I resented for their very ordinariness, the days I spent in jealousy or bitterness over someone else’s providence, the times I compared and felt I’d been shorted, the wasted moments wishing for something else, something I thought to be better.

I’m not advocating all young families live in 100 year old homes with primary colored carpeting. By all means, have your elaborate birthday parties and decorate your nursery with every Pinterest inspired project you desire. But let’s be wise as we do so, knowing our own hearts and knowing that such pursuits are fleeting at best. They do not last. In a few short years the wedding album will be tucked away in a drawer somewhere, the nursery decor will quickly be replaced by something less baby-ish, the birthday parties will pass leaving a detritus of wrapping paper and cake crumbs to be cleaned up.

It’s the ordinary days that make a life. Don’t waste them in comparison and envy. Enjoy them.

 

True spirituality

In her plenary session at The Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference, Kathy Keller made an observation regarding Nehemiah (whose book by the same name comprised the key text for the weekend) and his contemporary Ezra. Comparing Nehemiah’s journey to Jerusalem in Neh. 1:9 with Ezra’s journey in Ezra 8:22, Kathy highlighted the two men’s differing approach concerning the use of soldiers as an escort. Nehemiah employed them; Ezra claimed to do so would be a lack of faith.

Kathy warned her listeners that we must not rigidly stereotype believers into identical patterns of spirituality. Rather we must ask what are merely personal preferences. A word to the wise: we must be careful how we definite true maturity in the life of the believer.

Though I think perhaps I extrapolated her application beyond what she intended, I thought of her warning late that Saturday night of the conference as I listened to a panel of bloggers and writers discuss their craft and their goals and their platforms. Though the blogger event was, as it was intended, very encouraging and a whole lot of fun, I couldn’t help but feel a little, well, less than compared to the writing excellence before me.

I’m not sure, still, of my writing goals or even of my writing life period. My blogging is, at this point, somewhat unconcerned with branding or querying or getting a book contract. Hardly anyone reads what I write, relatively speaking, and I’m usually okay with that. My spirituality, as measured–or not–by my writing, is very different from that of the panel.

It might be easy to get discouraged should I compare my offering, meager as it is, with theirs.

But it wasn’t just the size of my blog audience or writing goals that prompted my comparison and corresponding unease. If truth be told at various times throughout the conference I found myself feeling, well, a little ridiculous. Dumb even. So many of the women I met over the course of the weekend were talking about big things, important things, deep things, smart things, things I had no idea about.

A few days after I texted my friend. “Realizing all over again I am not nearly the thinkers some of these women that I admire so much are. Which is cool, the Body needs depth and fluff, yes and amen, but it’s a blow to the pride when you like to think yourself one way only to realize you’re not in that league! Ha!”

My friend commiserated, as all good friends do, but finally reminded me that “in the end don’t we really just want to be known for loving God?” In other words, those so-called spiritual markers and evidences of maturity may really just be differences.

We’re just different.

Maybe it seems a little silly to write so seriously about a hobby. But we do this all the time, do we not, measure our spirituality or someone else’s by some arbitrary standard that is, in the end, an extrabiblical one, a matter of personal preferences and little else? Nehemiah took a band of soldiers and Ezra didn’t. Some bloggers work hard to see their work published in many different venues and some are content with a small readership barely beyond their own families. Some can wax philosophical all day long and some of us are better able to discuss lipstick shades and the latest fiction releases. Or some of us wear jeans to church and some wear a dress and heels. And then there’s education choices and dietary differences and on and on it goes.

Truly there is no end to the lengths we will go to measure and define the truly spiritual and the truly not.

Kathy’s warning is a timely one. Let’s take care, sisters. Let’s not stereotype each other into rigorous sameness. Let’s give each other the benefit of the doubt.

What then marks true spiritual maturity? Love for the Lord. A hunger for His Word. A passion for His glory. Love for the church. Humility. The fruit of the Spirit. By the grace of God, may He grow these attributes in us as He grows us into greater maturity. And may He cause us to encourage and appreciate these attributes in others!