January Family Discipline: Prayer

As I introduce my children to spiritual disciplines this year, what is it that I want to happen?  What is the goal? 

I pondered these questions during December as I read Spirit of the Disciplines and pictured what our 2017 would look like.  When I picture what I want for my children and their relationship with God, I picture a life of joyful discipline, the type of discipline that leads to transformation.  That’s why, as I considered how to introduce prayer to them, I was careful not to make anything too rigorous.  I want them to want to pray, to understand prayer as a gift, a lifeline, a source of strength and joy.  My goal is to point their hearts toward God, not just to alter their habits. 

In his book, Desiring the Kingdom, James K.A. Smith argues that much of Protestant Christianity aims for the “head,” the intellect, in discipleship, while our surrounding consumerist culture aims for the heart.  Culture wins, Smith posits, because we are not primarily intellectual beings, as much as we would like to think of ourselves as such.  Rather, we are much more motivated by our emotions, our “gut,” than we acknowledge.  Smith thus argues that Christian education needs to reorient toward the heart—specifically, by incorporating bodily practices into Christian education.  His suggestions veer more toward high church liturgy, but I see definite overlap in his argument and Dallas Willard’s discussion of the bodily disciplines.  We are physical creatures, the thinking goes, and so we need physical, bodily disciplines to capture our hearts. 

During the first week of January, I introduced the idea of set times of prayer for our family.   This practice formed the backbone of our month of prayer, and it is something I hope to continue throughout the year.  Now, the exact details of what I’m about to tell you about our times of prayer most likely won’t work for you.  That’s okay.  What I would urge you to think about as you read about ours is what would work for you.  How can you fit regular prayer in your family’s schedule in a way that feels like an opportunity, a gift, and not a burden?

For us, it worked to establish four times to pray each day, two of which we were already doing.  Each morning during our “family time” in school, we say a prayer together after reading the Bible and watching CNN Student News.  We use a laminated template I made to write down our various requests with dry erase marker, and we revisit it each day.  I uploaded the template here, in case anyone else finds it helpful for their family.  For us, since we were already in the habit of this morning prayer, it was not hard to continue it throughout the month. 

prayer journalThen, I added a time of private prayer to the beginning of our Quiet Time, which we have after lunch.  For this, I ordered each of the kids a copy of Jennifer Gerhardt’s Kids Prayer Journal.  These journals are simple, but proved very useful for our purposes.  In the journal, which focuses on the Lord’s Prayer, there is a page for each day, Monday-Saturday, for 13 weeks.  The prayer prompts on each page are simple enough not to be onerous for reluctant writers, but deep enough to really help kids start bringing their thoughts, hopes, and concerns before God.  Both Luke and Anna had no problem completing a page each day, and better still, they really seemed to take it seriously.  I highly recommend these journals, which you can order from Amazon.

 

At dinner, we typically say a family prayer before each meal, but to add some variety and depth to our prayers, I ordered Kim Sorgius’ JOY Prayer cards.  These cards each have three prompts to help focus on Prayers:  Jesus (which lists a characteristic of God), Others (which suggests a person or group to pray for), and Yourself (which includes a persJOYprayercards2_grandeonal request).  We found that we needed to discuss each prompt a bit before we prayed, so our dinner prayers ended up being “Thank you for dinner” prayers rather than “Bless this meal” prayers.  We would discuss each card over dinner, and then one of us would pray the prompts after we were done.  This was a little more difficult for my kids to catch on to than I thought, and they seemed kind of intimidated by praying from the different prompts, but they warmed up to it.  You can order these cards here (and if you are poking around on her website, I also highly recommend her hymn studies).

Lastly, each night, one of us would pray with each child as they lay in bed.  I’m sad to say, we had gotten way out of the habit of these nightly prayers.  By bedtime, the kids and I have spent a full day together, and we usually do just a quick tuck-in and kiss.  However, the kids love a longer bedtime routine, so they were genuinely excited for us to snuggle under the covers with them, discuss their day a bit, and then say a “chain prayer” together.  This was probably their favorite addition to our day, and we all enjoyed the extra bonding time at night. 

In fact, that was the biggest lesson I learned this month.  When I think of discipling my kids, I picture it in three main ways:  modeling, giving them resources to practice the discipline on their own, and practicing the discipline alongside them.  This month, I did all three:  I continued to model my own morning prayer time; I gave the kids a prayer journal and some other suggestions to pray during the day; and Greg and I prayed with them.  By FAR the technique with biggest impact was praying with them.  Not only did prayer build our relationship and give us a chance to talk to God together, it also led to some great conversations.  For instance, when Anna hesitated to pray for a woman she did not know well, who had lost her father, we had a great talk on praying with empathy.  We discussed praying for people the way we would want someone to pray for us in that situation, to really picture what they are going through and how we would feel.  It never would have occurred to me to bring those ideas up, but they came up naturally as we prayed together.  Looking back on the month, then, my number #1 recommendation is simply to pray with your child. 

My #2 recommendation is to get them Gerhardt’s prayer journal.

Here are a few other things the kids and I did:

  • IMG_2146We colored and hung famous prayers around the house.  I printed out four prayers for them to decorate the borders, and they threw themselves into the task.  We love the Lord’s Prayer, of course, and I came across one from Mother Teresa in a biography we were reading.  St. Francis’ prayer is one of my favorites, and I got to tell the kids how I first heard that prayer on September 11, 2001, when a professor read it to us at chapel.  I sat in the balcony holding my brother’s hand, and the words of that prayer were the one thing that made sense in that senseless day.  They gave me a path forward.  Lastly, I printed on from Thomas Merton that I thought might be a little above them, conceptually, but that I knew would lead to a good discussion about uncertainty and pursuing God even when you don’t understand everything.  You can print your own copies of the link here.
  • We talked about praying simple prayers over and over, or ones that we pray automatically when we were in specific need.  For instance, Anna resolved to pray, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,” every time she got frustrated with her brother.  I’m not sure how well she followed through with this, but the seed was planted.
  • We tried “throwing prayers” at people randomly.  I got this idea from Richard Foster’s chapter on prayer in Celebration of Discipline.  One can silently throw prayers to people at the store, for example, or the kids getting on and off the school bus as we were stopped and waiting for them.

All in all, this was a good month of prayer for our family.  It was a discipline, in that it took sustained effort, and we certainly weren’t perfect at it.  Cultivating the habit, however, of praying as a family multiple times a day has been helpful to us and has led to many great conversations about God.  My plan is to keep our set times of prayer as best we can throughout the year.  And now, I’m looking forward to February’s discipline:  meditation!

2017: The Year of Spiritual Disciplines

It’s funny: 2016 gets a bad rap for being horrible, and I largely agree with all the grim assessments I have been reading these last few days.  However, 2016 was also the year that both my children were baptized into Christ.  Luke became a Christian on October 19, and Anna followed suit on December 15.  That means that as we enter the new year, we enter it as four Christians.  That thought shocks, humbles, and motivates me.  Raising my kids has always felt like a huge responsibility, and even before they were baptized, I felt the burden to always point them to God and to lay a strong spiritual foundation for them.  Now that they are officially Christians, however, my call to disciple them feels even stronger.  And I instinctively know what I want to do to introduce them to the Christian life.

I want to introduce them to the spiritual disciplines.

IMG_1507Like the year 2016, spiritual disciplines have a bad reputation sometimes, conjuring up images of monkish mortification and pointless, taxing exercises.  However, I’ve been drawn to them ever since I first read Richard Foster’s landmark Celebration of Discipline a few years back, and after finishing Dallas Willard’s incredibly thorough and rational Spirit of the Disciplines last week, I am a total advocate of practicing disciplines.

In fact, Willard’s manifesto (and that’s really what it was) made me realize that the widespread lack of practice of the disciplines is most likely behind one of my biggest faith challenges:  the fact that most Christians I know are not radically different—or even different at all—from their non-Christian neighbors.  I remember asking my dad desperately once while in college, “Dad, if Christianity is true, why doesn’t it catch on more?  Like, when people become baptized, why don’t they change?  Why haven’t I changed more?  I’m supposed to be ‘transformed.’  I don’t feel transformed.”  Reading the Bible all the way through for the first time in 2006 increased my angst on the subject:  as I powered through the New Testament in 2 1/2 months, I saw so clearly that my life looked nothing like the lives of Jesus, His disciples, or the early Christians.  As you might imagine, this dawning awareness was profoundly depressing to me.

When I asked my dad my faith-shaking question, he told me that I was underestimating the power of sin.  I think he was totally right, and Dallas Willard would agree.  In his book, he argues that reason today’s American Christians do not, for the most part, follow the example of Christ as laid out in the sermon on the mount, is because we don’t pattern the rest of our lives after Him.  Unlike Paul, we fail to practice the day to day style of living that He practiced, which heavily involved spiritual disciplines such as prayer, solitude, and fasting.  Willard—who really is eminently practical—argues essentially that you practice how you play, and Christians today don’t practice.  He describes the disciplines as a “curriculum for Christlikeness” that help to train our bodies and minds so that we can fully participate in the kingdom of God.  And in my own life, I have found the disciplines very helpful in doing just that:  bringing me closer to God and training my responses.

In that light, how could I not introduce the disciplines to my children?   They should be seen as Discipleship 101!  Furthermore, as a homeschooling mom I emphasize the importance of discipline in so many other areas—academics, physical exercise, diet, hygiene, cleanliness—that my kids take it as an article of faith that discipline is good for you.  So why wouldn’t spiritual discipline fall into that category?  After my reading of Foster and Willard—not to mention Matthew, Luke, and Paul—spiritual disciplines seem like an important first step for any new Christian.

Thus, our family is going to take a month to focus on each of the twelve disciplines that Foster covers in his book.  We will start off in January with prayer, and I will probably have a separate post about what we do and the resources we use.  Which brings me to the whole point of my blogging about this.  First of all, I feel weird writing about it at all.  For one, I’m pretty sure that secrecy is a spiritual discipline, and this blog post kind of feels like I’m shouting from the rooftop this “holy” thing I’m doing, which feels super awkward to me. 

However, something I’ve long been convicted of (and you can confirm this with my husband and best friend, who have been subject to many of my angsty moanings on the topic) is that I need to use the tools around me to better serve the kingdom.  What I mean is this:  I am forever putting together resources to help my family and my church grow closer to God.  But in this technological age, it would be so easy to make those resources available for anyone who wanted them.  For instance, I have a fun Thanksgiving devotional, I have an Advent family reading calendar, I have several things like that, things that might be helpful to others.  And I need to share those things.  SO…I plan on developing some resources to introduce the spiritual disciplines to my own kids, and I think they might be helpful to other interested parents.  From my own searching, I see that there’s not a ton of stuff out there on spiritual disciplines for elementary-aged kids, and I’d like to make some things available. 

And at the very least, maybe in following our journey through the disciplines, other parents might get their own mental wheels spinning about creative ways to disciple their children.  I think that sometimes with all the other stuff we have to worry about in parenthood, nurturing our children’s spirituality falls by the wayside.  So if this is something you are struggling with, know that I’m right there with you!  And if you have any ideas for me, please share them.  We Christian parents are definitely in this thing together, and I pray that whatever your approach, 2017 will be a year that brings every member of your family closer to God.

Snow Day Sabbath

For northerners, a snow day is just, you know, a normal Tuesday, but here in the south, it is an event.  Schools and businesses close, roads become impassable for days, and life basically just stops. 

And I love it.

I was just remarking to Greg a few weeks ago that nothing has interrupted our life for awhile now.  That’s actually a really good thing, because it means that we have had no sickness or tragedies to deal with.  However, there is something nice about all your routines coming creaking to a halt for a few days, when it doesn’t involve ill health or tidings.  And so, when I woke up on Friday to flakes pouring from the sky, I rejoiced along with my children.  They were celebrating the possibility of sledding and snowmen, while I was celebrating a break.

Because that’s what snow days are.  They are a kind of weather-induced Sabbath, where we get to stay put for awhile and just “be.”  They remind us that we are not all-powerful, we with our roads and our vehicles and our never-ending to-do lists.  They open our eyes, yet again, to the fact that the world does not stop spinning just because we stop being productive and simply enjoy our lives for a little while.  In some ways, snow days teach us a hard lesson because they remind us of our own finiteness, our limits, our levels of impotence.  But they are also a blessing, in the way that anything that opens our eyes to the truth of our existence is a blessing. 

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And so instead of working or teaching or doing schoolwork, our family goes sledding.  We tromp through the woods behind our house, marveling at the new Narnia-scape.  We work puzzles in front of the fire.  We have movie nights, and introduce our kids to The Princess Bride, which we quote all the next day.  We drink hot chocolate and live off of whatever is in the fridge and the pantry.  We ban screens, and listen to the kids build tents and play with their stuffed animals.  We relax.

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Of course, we also have to work, but it’s not “important” work.  It’s not the work that we describe as a “calling,” or that we believe will change the world.  No, it’s the mundane work of washing the same 16 layers of clothing each night, of running dryer load after dryer load of hats and mittens and scarves, of repeatedly mopping snow and water off the kitchen floor, of meal preparation and cleanup.  It’s the dull, repetitive work of survival that somehow takes on new life when it’s the only work you have to do, and when it so clearly facilitates your family’s enjoyment of the day.  It’s that simple grunt labor that connects you with your humanity and with the reality that labor is inherent in existence.

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And for me this year, our snow days have done two other things.  One, they have challenged me to fully embrace this wild, wonderful life.  I’m the type of person who would rather sit inside reading a book and watching the snow fun through the window.  And yet, my kids think it’s Christmas if Greg and I go out and sled with them.  So, of course, I bundle up in layer after layer, and march my 35-year-old body to the top of our giant hill, plant it on a small plastic sled, and push off.  And I feel that familiar exhilaration and excitement and a little bit of fear at the chaos theory being enacted by our hill—you truly never know exactly what path the sled is going to take.  I get to the bottom and am dumped out in some way, and then I haul sled and self back up the icy slope to give one of the kids a turn. 

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I’m not a kid anymore, so the up and down is not as easy, and yet I’m still healthy and somewhat young, and it would be criminal not to embrace it.  Sometimes as I sit at the top of the hill, I think about how one day (if I’m lucky), I will be old, and my body won’t work right anymore.  Maybe pain will be a constant part of my life.  Maybe my actions will be severely limited by my failing health.  Certainly, these days will be over soon.  Certainly, my kids will grow up and be gone.  And I hope I still enjoy my life then, even with all its limitations, but I can’t help but think of the longing I will feel when those days come.  The longing for the time when my kids were young and at home, when Greg and I were healthy and active, when we had snow days where we could sled down hills over and over.  And I feel my future self smiling on this present self, who is sitting on top of a snowy hill on a little sled, and my future self tells my present self, “You made a good choice.”  So I push off, and I scream happily at all the bumps and dips, pretending that I’m not going to feel them all the next morning.

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The other thing these snow days have challenged me to do is to recognize the precious gift that is my family.  Just a couple days ago, a poor two-year-old’s body was found after he wandered away from his grandmother while on a hike in the woods.  It appears that he died of exposure, a thought that contains such horror and sorrow that my brain shuts off protectively when I start to think of it too much.  Also this week, my great uncle died, and actually, if we weren’t snowed in, I would be at his visitation today.  In contrast to little Noah, Uncle Donald lived a nice, long life, but even so, it is still so hard for our family when our days on earth come to an end.  And as much as we may try to ignore the thought, they will come to an end, and we are not promised a long life like Uncle Donald had.  There is a temptation toward fear when faced with that reality, but I choose instead to let it prompt me to gratitude for every second I have with my family.  Even those seconds where I am peeling wet jeans off wiggly legs, or vacuuming the same room for the second time in 24 hours because of all the popcorn kernels.  Those wiggly legs and errant popcorn are the result of the presence of fragile humans whom I so dearly love.  Sometimes it takes something as morbid as death to wake you up to the depths of that love.  I have felt those depths during these snow days.

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I went on a walk around the block today, and ended up shedding my outer coat, hat, scarf, and gloves.  It was much warmer, and the icy roads were starting to thaw.  I felt my Sabbath melting around me in the slush through which I trudged, and I faced the fact that Greg would head back to work tomorrow, and the kids and I would spend the day doing school.   That’s not exactly a tragedy, as I do enjoy our normal life, but I did so cherish this snow day Sabbath, and I loved embracing its invitation to hold tight to this charmed and fleeting life.

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The Needy Season

The Christmas season is upon us again, and for most people, including us, that means that life becomes a whirlwind of family, friends, and general merriment.  It means that we have been to parties and observed time-honored traditions that bring our family joy.  It also means that we have taken a couple of occasions to throw the door open wide and welcome all comers to celebrate with us:

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However, this year more than ever, I’ve noticed a funny thing in the midst of all this joy-making.  It seems like this time of year, when everyone is, at least in appearance, prioritizing family and community togetherness, we notice so much more the parts of family and community that we lack.  It’s as if the light of all the holiday cheer casts a glare on the holes in our support system.  I know people struggling with all sorts of forms of loneliness this time of year.  People who want spouses and have none; people who were betrayed by the spouses they have; people who are mourning the loss of loved ones that should still be here.  The list goes on.  I know for me, I’ve been haunted by so many memories of my dead brother this season that it’s as if his ghost has taken up residence in the house.  He is as much a part of my current environment as the presents under my tree, and his memories burst into my mind every day, begging to be spoken.  One of my secret joys is having a friend who shares his name so that several times a week, I can at least say it out loud.  I love the sound of it rolling off my tongue; it gives some little relief to the build-up of memories in my mind.

But it’s not just dead people who haunt us this time of year:  it’s any perceived lack in family and community.  All of our “holes” are magnified when seen in contrast to holiday cheer.  The type of friends we want but don’t have.  The family we wish for but don’t experience.  The life we pictured but haven’t seen in reality yet.  So many holes.

And I’ve decided that at least for me…maybe my holes are a hidden mercy.  Maybe, instead of being a failure in the Christmas system, they point me to the true meaning of Christmas.

I was reading an Advent devo by William Willemon this morning, and he pointed out that everyone, even the “nominally religious” loves Christmas because it gives us a chance to celebrate our own generosity, to celebrate what we have to offer to the world, instead of what was offered to us by God.  In one provocative passage, he argues:

We love Christmas because, as we say, Christmas brings out the best in us.  Everyone gives at Christmas, even the stingiest among us, even the Ebenezer Scrooges.  Charles Dickens’ story of Scrooge’s transformation has probably done more to form our notion of Christmas than St. Luke’s story of the manger.  Whereas Luke tells us of God’s gift to us, Dickens tells us how we can give to others.  A Christmas Carol is more congenial to our favorite images of ourselves.  Dickens suggests that deep down, even the worst of us can become generous, giving people.

Yet I suggest, we are better givers than getters, not because we are generous people, but because we are proud, arrogant people.  The Christmas story–the one according to Luke, not Dickens–is not about how blessed it is to be givers, but how essential it is to see ourselves as receivers.”

Now, listen:  I love A Christmas Carol as much as the next person, and I love giving gifts.  But I think Willemon might be onto something.  At least, I’m pretty sure that at its root, the Christmas season isn’t about family togetherness or gift giving.  At its root, the message of Christmas is that we were all poor, we were all in need, and we were all desperate for a Savior–a Savior that was given freely to us by a loving God.  And I don’t think you can feel the impact of that gift without understanding the holes in your life.  The lack.  The deep, yearning need.  The sense that all is not as it should be.

I have felt that lack this holiday season.  I have felt needy, and I hate feeling needy.  Not only have I felt the holes in my own soul, I have felt my lack of ability to patch the holes in others’ souls.  I see people suffering and understand intuitively that I cannot meet their deep needs, no matter how many Christmas parties I invite them to.  I can fill their stomachs with food, and their hands with treats, but their souls?  I’m sorry, but I don’t have that in me right now.

And I don’t think I ever did.

I think I needed to be reminded of that.  I needed to be reminded that I am not anyone’s Savior, I am not even my own Savior, but instead that I am desperately in need of a Savior.  When I think of that, I begin to see my “holes” as acts of grace from God.  Then, I begin to open my heart and let Him fill those holes.  And He does in beautiful ways–and funnily enough, He tends to use those who are historically considered to be “the least of these.”

For instance, yesterday, a small two-year-old girl who was visiting my house snuggled up to me out of nowhere and sang to me.  For no reason at all, she took the time to shine light into my soul yesterday.

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Then this morning, I was approached by an Iranian widow who attends my church, and she handed me a beautiful scarf that she had knit for me.  She has so little in her life.  She is all alone in a foreign environment; even the yarn she used to knit was a gift to her.  And she used that gift to pour blessing into my life.

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When I don’t see the holes in my soul, I am tempted to think that little toddlers and poor widows have nothing to offer me.  That instead, should be the one taking care of them.  I do try to take care of them, but my holes remind me that I am also needy.  That we all are.  And while we can minister to each other as best we can within our limited means, we ultimately are dependent on a Savior.  We can’t fill our own holes, and we can barely patch up the holes of others, but, through God’s love, we can find grace and peace in the Savior He sent for us all.

On my own, I am needy, so desperately needy.  But…unto me a child was born.  And that child was a gift that I could never earn through my own merit.  I understand that more at Christmastime, which is why I’m thankful for this needy season.

I Have EVERYTHING I NEED for Life

In our Wednesday night class last week, we women talked about all the ways we feel overwhelmed. We come from all walks of life, but a common thread of our answers was that, in some way or another, most of us were overwhelmed by the demands of work or family–or the demand of balancing work AND family. There was also a theme of feeling inadequate…like we were not “up” to our tasks, like we did not have “enough.” We didn’t have the talent…or maybe the money…or perhaps the organizational skills…or the patience…or the time…to do all the things we had to do.

In light of that discussion, we read a really crazy verse from the Bible:

“His divine power has given us EVERYTHING WE NEED FOR A GODLY LIFE through our knowledge of Him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” 2 Peter 1:3

A similarly unbelievable verse is found in 2 Corinthians 9:8…

“And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, HAVING ALL THAT YOU NEED, you will abound in every good work.”

I emphasize the “all that you need” part because both verses challenge our faith and our current experience of life. After we read them, we had to ask ourselves, “Do I really believe this?”

And even more importantly, “If I believe this is true, then why do I so often feel that I DON’T have everything I need?”

eynFor the next five weeks in class, we are going to explore that conflict. My dear friend, Courtney Steed, has written a Bible study called, “Everything You Need,” in which she uses Scripture and good ol’ fashioned logic to help Christian women grasp the wonderful idea that with Christ, we do have “everything we need.”

One thing I love about Courtney’s study is that is is SO practical.  It’s not simply, “Of course you have everything you need because you have God’s Spirit in you.”  That’s true, and it’s a big deal…but often our needs seem more tangible than that.  As Courtney says,

“So much of what I feel I need is not in a cloud above my head. What I need is not kindness, it’s a enough of money to pay the mortgage. It’s not just patience (though I need that tremendously), it’s time to go to the grocery store. Its not just gentleness, it’s time to myself. I need a nap, relief from my pain, for my relationships to be easier, my house to be clean and my kids to behave.”

Amen!

This study, then, is going to be very relevant and practical for our day to day lives.  Last week, the main thing we discussed to set the stage for this week was the idea of Supply and Demand.  All of us have “Demands” that need to be met…from the demand for sleep, the demands of a job, the demands of a mother, the demands of relationships, health demands, time demands…it goes on and on.  We are only able to meet those Demands with our Supply, our resources.  This week we are going to talk more in detail about our Supply, but the one point we made last week was that our Supply always comes from God.  It’s all from Him, and that idea that we have it naturally in us, that we just have to dig down deep or pull ourselves up by our bootstraps or whatever is more of an American idea than it is a Christian idea.  In fact, Jesus Himself tells us,

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”  John 15:5

So that’s Truth #1 from our study so far:  Our Supply comes from God.

Truth #2 is this:  Our Demand is determined by God.

God doesn’t guarantee us that we have “everything we need” to do whatever it is we want to do.  We don’t have “everything we need” to meet our own goals, but to glorify Him.  To me, this is a freeing concept.  So much of my Demand is self-imposed.  It is a list that I give myself, out of feelings of guilt or obligation.  In the next five weeks, we are going to learn how to determine God’s Demand for us, as opposed to Society’s Demands, or Others’ Demands, or even Our Own Demands.  I can’t tell you how liberating this idea has been in my life.  Since I’ve embraced these ideas, I have had so much more peace and feelings of adequacy when it comes to my tasks.  I still have a ways to go, but my soul definitely rests easier now, and I have much less stress in my life.  That’s why I’m so excited to share this study with our women’s class!

I can’t wait to walk through the ideas in this study with the women at church.  This week, we are going to look at our Supply and what all it includes.  I think you will be surprised–you have more than you think!

Nothing Happened This Week

Here I am at the end of another week, and I almost didn’t blog.  I actually had the time to do so, and as a lifelong journaller, I enjoy the chance to process the past week, but it was just that, “Nothing happened.”

Thinking casually back over the week, I just couldn’t think of many clear memories.  I enjoyed sometime at the end of the week to relax and unwind, I remember that, but what happened before?

Then I looked at my pictures.  There weren’t a ton of them, but they reminded me that this past week where “nothing happened” was actually a week rich in friendships and family time and memories.

For instance, nothing happened this week except that when we got home from Murphy on Sunday, my mom had left a bunch of clothes for the kids on my kitchen table.  She had stopped by on her way home from Louisville.

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So nothing happened besides the fact that my mom showed yet again her amazing generosity and her love for all of us.

And nothing happened besides Greg getting to take his first day off in a long while on Monday.  Our family went up to Y.E.S. for lunch because one of our college friends, Shana, was providing it (but that’s “nothing,” right?  Everyone has amazing friends from college who help out in their ministries, right?)  We wanted to see her and to see the kids at Y.E.S.  Our kids ate lunch there, too, and enjoyed playing for awhile before we headed on to take a nature walk.

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It was “nothing.”  Just some rock-skipping lessons on the edge of a calm lake on a beautiful day.  Nothing to see here, folks.

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Nothing happened but a family walk and a chance to catch up with my husband.

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We haven’t seen a lot of him this summer; he’s been busy with camps and trips with the teens, pouring himself into ministry, and acing grad school.  I’m so proud of this man—and so is Anna, who gave him the flower that is behind his ear!

That evening, nothing happened, except that I made two dinners, one for my friend, Heidi, and one for us.  I ended up staying and talking to Heidi for longer than expected, so I told my family to just eat without me:).  But really, that’s nothing.  Getting to talk to a wonderful friend who has just moved back and feed a bottle to her beautiful baby…nothing special there! 

I got home in time to eat dinner and pop popcorn for our movie night:

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But it was nothing.  Just another movie night with the family that I love so much.

On Tuesday morning, nothing much happened besides a visit from our friends, the Steeds.  Afterward, they talked Luke into coming home and spending the night with them, but having good friends like that (and having a bff who knows everything about you) is “nothing.”  Not worth blogging about, certainly.

Once they left, Anna and I didn’t do anything besides go to a local park where she rode her scooter:

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Absolutely nothing happened there besides a beautiful evening with my daughter.

On Wednesday morning, there was nothing to do besides go roller skating with Anna.  After all, Luke and Greg do not like roller skating, so we needed to take advantage of the time when neither of them were there! 

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Nothing happened at the skating rink besides the fact that I got to watch my daughter’s amazing determination yet again.  I got to see her fall, then fall again, and again, and every time, bounce back up with a determined smile on her face.  She skated for miles that morning. 

We ended up sharing the rink with a YMCA camp group, which worked out because there were several games.  Anna’s favorite was limbo.

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She was one of the five people who never got out!  But that’s really “nothing,” right?

That evening, I gave my testimony at church.  It could only be about ten minutes long, so this was the condensed version, and I didn’t pass out or throw up, so I’m counting it as a win.  The most surprising part was when I was mobbed by little girls while I was talking!

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At the time, I was so confused by what made Anna come running to me, followed closely by her cohorts.  Afterward, Greg pointed out that I had been highlighting things that I still needed to work on as a Christian (selfishness, impatience, etc).  My point was not to put myself down, but to explain that as Christians, we can be honest about our flaws without letting them discourage us.  The whole point of my talk was how God gradually transforms us, so we know that, if we let Him, He is going to keep making us more and more like His Son.  Anna didn’t let me get that far, however, before she came running, out, apparently, to comfort me:).  Her friends were all giggly and happy, so even though it was a couple minutes before we restored order, at least it was a cute interruption!

After I finished, they all promptly piled on my lap. 

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I felt very loved.  I had been nervous about speaking in front of everybody, so I’ve gotta say, this wasn’t a bad way to be greeted after I finished!

So yeah…nothing happened on Wednesday night besides the fact that I talked in front of my church for the first time and then got love-mobbed by a ton of adorable little girls.  Happens all the time, right?

On Thursday morning, we had nothing to do besides meet some friends at the zoo:

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I didn’t get many pictures, and Anna and I couldn’t stay long, but we had a good time with the Burnells, the Wilsons, and my friend, Melissa.  It’s probably bad to say, but my favorite part of the zoo that day was seeing the kangaroos fight:

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I normally don’t enjoy watching animals fight, but kangaroos are just so comical!

But besides the awesome kangaroos and the time spent with a great group of friends, nothing really happened there, you know?

Luke had ended up spending two nights with the Steeds, so we went to pick him up after we left the zoo.  Then it was home for a relaxing afternoon.  Nothing really happened that night, just that my friend, Caroline, came over for dinner.  She and I had really needed to catch up, and we shared a deep chat, with both tears and laughter, for hours.  But that was it, nothing else…well, nothing besides the fact that we each got a text/call from a teen from church, Brenda, who wanted to come over.  At first, we were worried that something awful had happened…but no, she had just texted Greg in grad school, and he told her we were at the house.  Brenda was excited that she had gotten her driver’s license, so she and her brother, Fidel, stopped by. 

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Around 10:00, Greg got home from grad school, and the five of us sat and talked on the couch, and I think I laughed harder than I had all week.  Brenda is crazy!  It was 11:00 before everyone left and our kids were in bed. 

So really…”nothing happened” that night besides a deep conversation with an amazing friend, my husband’s completion of his summer grad school course, his giving of a GREAT presentation in class, and a happy group of friends in our living room, laughing until we cried.

Friday was a much-needed “home recovery” day.  I did nothing besides clean, organize, hang out with my kids, and then grill out with my family and have dinner together on the back porch.  “Nothing.”

And today, nothing happened besides having dinner with some great people:

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So that’s it.  As you can see, nothing really happened this week.  Nothing besides coming home to a surprise from my mom; getting some much-needed time with Greg; visiting with my best friend, Courtney; spending some quality time with Anna; feeling amazing love from the little girls at church; hanging out at the zoo with church friends; catching up with my friend, Caroline; celebrating with Brenda and Fidel; and eating dinner with our long-time friends, Heidi and Michael.

Honestly, when I first thought over this week, I thought of its stressors:  things that were really not worth blogging about, simply because they are unoriginal and there’s not much I can even do about them.  But looking at my pictures reminded me of all the blessings of the week, all the times where God’s love and faithfulness were showered on me through my physical family and my church family.  I really think that God purposely lavished me with love this week from His people, and that love filled me with joy and peace.  In the One Year Bible this week, I read Romans 8, which reminded me that nothing can separate me from that love.  Looking back at this week’s blessings, I see how true those verses are.

And that’s a lot of comfort from a week where, really, “nothing happened.”

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