Monday, May 26, 2008

Saying No

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. – Galatians 5:25

Are you the type of person who can’t say no? Whatever anyone needs, you take care of it whether you really want to or not? When I was in college, we called people like that joiners. They joined in everything and kept mind boggling schedules. I knew the ins and outs of this personality type because I was their ringleader.

Once my first child was born, however, the need to be all things to all people faded in the light of being all things to one tiny person. While I was still very involved in volunteer activities, the ability to say no was born right along with my baby.

Early in my mothering, I read a book that suggested identifying your primary, big picture purpose in life. In those first years as a mom, it seemed like my purpose was simply producing milk and changing diapers. However, deep down in my heart, I knew that I was to minister to other mothers. Armed with this knowledge, the book suggested that I only accept invitations to help in areas that related to this purpose. Any other offer, no matter how good or worthwhile it may be, needed serious consideration and prayer before accepting it.

This system proved to be very effective. Other than helping with things at my children’s school, my volunteer time is committed to helping moms. So is my writing and speaking. However, I currently feel the turmoil of uncharted waters. Someone asked me to lead a summer Bible study for mothers, and I feel God telling me no.

“But this falls under the umbrella of my primary purpose,” I argued to God.

“I know,” He answered, “but this is not how I need to use you right now.”

“Are you changing my purpose?”

“No,” He assured me. “I plan to use you in a different way to fulfill your purpose.”

Apparently, I need to write to the author of that book and give her an update. While well-laid plans can carry us for a while, God directs our paths in the end. We don’t get to simply figure out our purpose then go forth on our own. He is still in charge of our missions, our ministries and our lives, and we need His guidance at every step.

Is God calling you in an unexpected way? Share your experience.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Just What We Need

And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:19

With summer right around the corner, our thoughts turn towards one of my favorite words: vacation! Yesterday someone asked if my family has any trips planned while the kids are out of school.

“We are going camping a couple of times,” I answered.

“That’s not really vacation,” came the response. “That’s just a different kind of work.”

I love the way God creates His children to view and appreciate the world in different ways at various stages of life. Ten years ago, I didn’t consider something a vacation unless it involved taking an airplane to a sandy beach where I could sit with an umbrella drink in my hand watching the ocean waves roll in. I certainly wasn’t interested in camping. It did just sound like a different kind of work.

This year, however, with two kids, a dog, and soaring prices on everything, camping is right up my alley. What’s more, I asked my kids where they wanted to go this summer. One called out, “To the mountains!” The other shouted, “Fishing!” Camping perfectly meets our needs for mountains, fishing and cheap. Of course, my need for showering while on vacation will have to wait until we get home, but I can live with that.

Whether we spend our vacation in a borrowed tent or a fancy resort, my favorite part is always having uninterrupted time with my family without the jangling phone or beckoning e-mail. I also like taking a break from the normal routine. When we camp, somehow cooking outside seems less mundane than meal prep done in my kitchen at home. And while vault toilets typically stink, I am grateful that I don’t have to clean them. My kids enjoy the novelty of roasting marshmallows and the freedom of chasing chipmunks and eating tortilla chips straight from the bag. My husband lets out his inner cave man by building the biggest fire the park service allows. Plus, a long weekend of roughing it is often enough time for everyone to feel like they’ve gotten away for some restful fun.

What can your family do this summer to relax, renew and meet everyone’s needs? Maybe I’ll see you around the campfire!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

What I Have In Common With Broadway

“…he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 1:6

For Mother’s Day, my husband took me to see the play, “A Chorus Line.” This show looks at 17 dancers auditioning to be part of the chorus line in a Broadway play. They each tell their stories of why they dance or want to be part of the show. They share their fears, anxieties and feelings of desperation over “making it” in theater.

And while I haven’t danced much in the past 17 years, I can still relate to those feelings. Later this week, I am going to a writer’s conference where I hope to catch the eye of a publisher for a new devotional I am writing (please say a little prayer for me). Many of my questions sound like those of the dancers in the play, but with a writer’s twist. Will the editors like the idea for my book? Will they think I write well? Will they buy? And if they do, will they pay enough to make a difference?

I think that no matter what field you work in, you run through a similar list of questions in your mind. It probably happens the most with mothering. Am I doing it right? Am I too strict? Am I consistent? While these questions stir the pot of anxiety within us, the one thing that keeps it from boiling over is our faith in Jesus. He knows exactly what we need the minute we need it, even if that minute comes later than we expected. He fully equips us to do the work He sets before us, even when we question our abilities. And best of all, He comforts us and quiets our hearts, whether we present for publishers, audition for a chorus line, or parent our children.

What anxieties stand before you today?

Monday, May 5, 2008

Moving Forward In Trust

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. – Romans 15:13

Last week my youngest daughter and I went to her kindergarten orientation. I smiled as I excitedly led her into the school, assuring her that everything would be great.

But while I put on a good front for her, I knew something was wrong. I am not supposed to be a mom whose kids all go to school. My kids are babies who stay home with me so we can play at the park, watch cartoons, and go to gymnastics class in the middle of the day. Sending my angels out the door every morning just doesn’t work for me.

I know I love being with my kids and will miss them when they are both in school, but I think my apprehension is more than that. Perhaps I am afraid of missing too much of their lives. Maybe I am jealous of the teachers who will witness the “firsts” that I will miss. What’s more, with every passing year, friends become more interesting than parents and I don’t like the idea of being replaced.

Maybe my daughter will go through a rotten stage over the summer and I will want her to go to school, but somehow I doubt that will happen. I simply have to trust God to build on the strong family relationships we have already created, and believe that He will maintain those even when I can’t be there. He will remind me to tuck little notes into her backpack, and to make sure we have free time to play together after school.

And as she launches into a new phase of life, so do I. I look forward to discovering how God has prepared us both for our new adventure.

How do you handle your child’s growing independence?