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When All the Shoulds Threaten To Choke Out Life {And 9 Ways to Cultivate Healthy Habits}

She wanders out to her chair in the dappled light, warmth filtered through the leaves of a shade tree above, and she just sits, defeated. All the needs weighing, all the ‘you should do more’s’ pressing in, threatening to choke. The thoughts come furious. “You should text that person a thank you; you should finish those gifts and send them; you should write those birthday thank you’s with the girls; you should be getting up earlier, spending more time with them; you should be teaching piano to them; you should be a better wife; you should be more committed to being a better writer, artist, pianist, and you know you should get more sleep, and you should get in there and get today’s stuff done or the clock is going to leave you right behind or drag you down with it” and on and on the kaleidoscope turns, mixing all the colors ‘til she feels sick.
She tells God she is at the end of her rope, that she needs him to take over. She prays he will calm her beating-through-her-throat-heart. And she tells him that all the hard work she’s been doing to teach the girls better, more godly habits—all the scriptures copied and quoted—all the toiling and it’s really her that needs correction and discipline.
I’m the one who needs teaching, Father,” she whispers.
“I’m the one with the bad habits and the hard heart.”
And right there, there it is. What she knew was coming and didn’t want to face. She breaks and weeps. It comes out in a child-like sob. And the glory of Him arrests her and captivates for a moment, and she knows what must be done—a throwing off, a putting off of that heavy cloak of bondage she’s been wearing, and a putting on of the royal robe He’s offered her.
She knows that it’s all too fleeting, that her heart isn’t so consistently pliable, and she wonders if the prayer is all in vain, if this moment of intimacy between her and her God will be forgotten in the forward, furious momentum of life.
Her thoughts are scattered by a child yelling out the door to the backyard, calling her name, the one given that means “I need you”.
She thinks to herself how she is always so easily distracted, so many voices calling her name.
So she makes a feeble attempt.
“God don’t let me get so distracted by all the work, all I try so hard at, that I forget you.
Please give me peace, more than that—be peace through me—reign in me.”
She lifts her face up to the dappled light, and closes her eyes, tries to breathe. And God’s breath is breathed upon her, a lover’s kiss. She hears the birds’ chorus song all around, the beautiful lilting and descending of beautiful melodies, and she can imagine weathered fingers playfully, oh-so-lightly touching keys side by side, the notes in and out, in and out.
She opens her eyes and goes to mother the little one calling.
 
How to nurture good habits…. {What God is teaching me…for the sake of the children and my sanity…}:

1.       The healthy habit of prayer–Pray and ask for help—He will give it. Asking him to give creative ideas.

2.       The healthy habit of time-outs–Moms need time-outs. When everything is overwhelming, and the clock is ticking and the world spinning with all that needs to get done, sitting the kids down with a book, some sentences to write, or a movie and going outside to breathe, close eyes.

3.       The healthy habit of community–Being open to the ideas of others, not hesitating to put new things into practice, new changes that bring healing, wholeness, and healthy rhythms.

4.       The healthy habit of safe rhythms–Creating safe rhythms—supper, bath time and bedtime at approximately the same time every day. Not adding so much to the schedule that you feel your head is going to pop off—if we can’t keep up, the kids sure can’t and we are a better mom when we are at peace.

5.       The healthy habit of sleep—{this should have been first!}–Everyone in this home needs proper rest—else we can’t function as a godly, loving family! Doing whatever it takes to get everyone in bed—if that means a warm, lavender bath for me or for everyone, melantonin and sleepytime tea for me and sometimes for the oldest girls too {insomnia is a common problem in the tween years and beyond}….

6.       The healthy habit of proper nutrition—When we are all getting raw, natural foods that contain vitamins and nutrients that we need, we feel better physically and mentally, we cope with stress better, and there are less melt-downs and more productivity and godly attitudes and we don’t hit those depressing, severe lows that sugar and nutrition-void foods bring.  

7.       The healthy habit of correcting in love—I am learning that “Yelling at a flower doesn’t make it bloom”—Oh, how true that quote is. Cultivating the habit of patience with children and husband. Having the children to copy down scripture and house rules and referring to these scriptures and house rules often when they need discipline—this makes Mama calm and peaceful, offering a go-to alternative to yelling out of frustration, and it comforts me to know that I’m instilling something lasting and eternal in them that will nurture maturity in godliness far beyond this moment of mis-deeds.

8.       The healthy habit of work and rising early—Around here, we have a famous Mr. Simmons saying that goes “If you want to play hard, you have to work hard.” I can’t say enough about rising early in the am, and its positive effects on mental clarity, attitude, energy, positive outlook, productivity—I could go on and on… As a person who dealt with deep depression in the past, I can vouch that the simple habits of going to bed early and rising early make or break our mental state.

9.       The healthy habit of exercise—exercise is important around here. I run several times a week, and the girls and I do videos at home together—they enjoy it and little one tries to copy-cat and do headstands while we are doing Downward Dog. Did you know exercise creates endorphins and releases them in your brain, causing natural happiness?—God gave this to us—He created exercise to do this. His word says it is good for us to be productive. Again, when dealing with depression or a good/bad frame of mind, exercise is key.

My prayer as I share this is that it will encourage you and spur you on toward love and good deeds. –Hebrews 10:34
 
 
Linking up today at A Holy Experience with Ann for Walk With Him Wednesdays….{the WWHW graphic isn’t working}

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A Mama Makes Attempts At Holy Week {Preparing for Easter}

To celebrate Easter, I do something this year I have never done before. I do Lent.

For Lent, I throw off, disentangle, make lighter. I throw off writing, emails, twitter and television–because that’s what Lent is–a quiet time of reflection, of giving up things that get in the way, of turning to the Saviour and looking Him full in the face, only to fully be reminded of our sin and just how much we need him–how much we really need Easter.

I have to ask myself–can Easter really be celebrated any other way? Can we really pack and cram all of the reflection, revelation, soul-enriching, awareness of our sin and need for a Saviour, thanksgiving and rejoicing for His life, death and resurrection into just one day? Really? Because that’s how I was raised to celebrate it–the church I grew up in never encouraged families to take more time than Easter Sunday to reflect and celebrate.

So here I am, doing Lent, leading my family quietly {maybe not so quietly?}, Husband so thankful that I have found the resources and made the effort for everyone, teaching them what I have learned.

But while I try to do Lent, while I teach children God’s ways, I utterly fail.

He comes home and finds me in the kitchen, spewing words, trying to prepare a special Christian passover meal for all of us. I am the most disorganized person I know–even though I read the ideas and recipes days before, and marinated the lamb overnight, I had taken on too much for such a huge feast in one evening–my accursed genes follow me forever.

It is the worst feeling in the world–as things begin to fall apart, it feels as if the girl that had it all together left my body and some other girl took over–some of our worst flaws we are so helpless over. As Paul said, “What I don’t want to do, I do, and what I want to do, I dont do.”

Candles lit, worship music playing, I talk through gritted teeth and tell children to just cooperate as we all prepare together. Even the best of Christian activities and the most quiet, stilling music cannot save us.

Only God–only Him on that cross can do that for me and only His presence here will save us.

Husband reminds me to instruct them politely. I nod that he’s right, and tell him that he doesn’t know what I went through with children today who wouldn’t obey and do their work and I feel like a failing Mama.

When I get all wound tight inside I can’t seem to stop, and I keep going–I tell him that I figured out why it’s so hard for me to instruct, teach, have conversations–why it wears me out so much–I’m an introvert, and my natural bent is to let someone learn on their own, without my input. I want to be alone, doing my own thing. Eldest daughter pipes up with, “Then why in the world did you decide to homeschool us?”

Oh, I wish I had stopped. This tongue of death–sometimes I wish I could cut it off. At this moment, my emotions couldn’t be any worse–I have hit rock bottom.

Here I am, consumed with the sins of discontentment, strife, impatience and ingratitude, and I see exactly why I need Easter–why I need His resurrection life so desperately.

Here I am, feeling like a failure, feeling like a victim, and I forget to have a grateful heart for what God has done.

I forget that just a few nights before, during our Lent devotion, Lorna had said she had a question. She was worried about dying and going to heaven, for an infinite amount of time, not know what would happen or what her life would be like there.

And Husband says, “Lorna, you’re right–it is a little scary, because heaven is a place we don’t know much of, it’s a place we’ve never been to and don’t understand the way there, what the journey will be like…

“You know when you were born, you were just a little baby, and you came into this big world, and you were crying and it was scary, but it was great and you were here in this new place, just looking around in wonder?” She nods.

“That’s what heaven is like–it is going to be amazing and wonderful. It is something that we don’t understand on this side of it–but this side is only one part of life–when you get there, you will have a whole new life and then you will understand.”

She told her daddy she gets it now, him at the head of the table, all of us listening to one another and learning.

How could I forget such beauty? How does my heart so easily fester and callous up?

It is late when the feast is finally ready, and we all take our seats.

In preparing the meal in such haste and fury, I am not prepared for what it will do to my heart when my youngest in angel voice shyly asks the first question: “Why are we eating unleavened bread?”

I answer, “We eat Matzah to remind us that the Israelites did not have time for yeast to rise because they had to be ready to move when God said. For us as Christians, it reminds us to live lightly, always ready to go when the call comes…like a thief in the night, Jesus is going to return and we will all go home. We eat matzah because tonight we remember Jesus…bread without yeast, to remember Jesus who was without sin.”

Eldest looks straight into my eyes as I talk, and I feel the weight of God’s glory all around us–her eyes so alive with His resurrection.

When Husband takes the bread, tears it right into, and I tell the girls, say it in unison and they do: “Because He was broken for us,” something just tears my heart wide open.

My second oldest asks her question, and I didn’t tell her to, but she addresses her Dad–“Daddy, why are we eating bitter herbs?” –her voice so reverent, reminding me that I don’t know as much as I think I do. He explains about the bitterness of sins and my heart begins to bleed out.

When eldest daughter asks her question, “Why tonight do we dip our herbs twice?” Husband explains that our fathers wept salty tears {he dips the herb into the salty water}they dipped hyssop branches into the blood of the Passover lamb and marked their doorposts that the Angel of Death would pass over.

For without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins.

I watch Husband’s hands dipping the herbs into hope, telling us that we can wipe our tears because now we have new life in Christ–He has rebirthed us–and after all the whirlwind of my sin, my desires and my passions, my heart is finally stilled.

But it is really after the last question has been asked that it fully sinks in.

It is when he serves the lamb that my heart slows, the blood stops racing, and I close eyes and just listen as he reads:

“As the Jews needed the blood of the lamb on their doorpost for the angel of death to pass over them, so we need the blood of the lamb on our hearts for the angel of death to pass over our souls. And we have a lamb…as John the Baptist proclaimed, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). And he was a voluntary sacrificial lamb for Jesus said, “No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.” (John 10:17-18)

“What does that mean? It means that Jesus planned His own sacrifice. It means that Jesus intentionally planted the tree from which His cross would be carved…willingly placed the iron ore in the heart of the earth from which the nails would be cast…voluntarily placed his Judas in the womb of a woman…set in motion the political machinery that would send Pilate to Jerusalem…the ropes used to tie His hands and the soldiers used to lead Him were unnecessary. Had they not been there, had there been no trial, no Pilate, no crowd, the very same crucifixion would have occurred. Had Jesus been forced to nail Himself to the Cross, He would have done it. For it was not the soldiers who killed Him, nor the screams of the mob. It was His devotion to us.” (~Max Lucado, God Came Near, pg. 79-81)

I just nod, eyes closed, it’s all I can do. I just relent and let Him completely take over.

Little Lilly lifts her glass to clink it against our’s as we toast the celebration of His new life, a shy, excited little smile on her face. Husband and I look at one another, the twinkle of hope in our eye.

I wonder why we don’t do Lent–this thing that was so hard starting out–all year long.

{For dessert: “New Life”}

John Piper, a man I believe to be doctrinally sound, on Lent: ““Lent” means spring. But it’s more like winter—the last blast of cold before the warm green is here to stay. It reminds us of the flint-faced Christ moving to Jerusalem. O how we need the discipline of Lent!! Break a bad habit before Good Friday! Life is too short to coast. Brake! Stand on the hood. Look! Over there! Don’t say you can’t. We don’t allow that word at our house (Matthew 19:26).”

“Lent or no Lent, not doing some things you feel like doing is the daily pattern for the disciples of Jesus. Yes, daily. “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).”

From the Desiring God blog: So, How Was Your Easter?–“How can we be Easter people–24/7, 365 days of the year?”…

**A few ideas we are creating around here and some ramblings this week for Easter…thank you in advance, friends, for grace…

{I’m always conservative with Easter baskets and lean more toward Christian celebration than American tradition–if you would like to do this, too–} this year, a Christian book on Easter–one for the little ones and HERE is one for older ones. and for teens?  this study by Adam Hamilton has excellent reviews or this book by Strobel— {or you can order their own copy of Devotions for Lent–my girls love theirs–a small devotion booklet–go here to order–w/ Amazon 1-day or 2-day shipping, you could have it by Fri.–I’m also lightly sprinkling in some pastel chocolate eggs, a chocolate cross, a stuffed bunny or lamb with ribbon and hand-written bible verse around the neck. You may also place some plastic eggs filled with scripture or you may opt for natural brown hen’s eggs with ribbon and a hole-punched scripture attached {this could be a treasure hunt–you could put the scripture reference only and have your little one look them up and read together}? You could also use a filler and place moss found in your yard on top and tuck in some Lilly of the Valley here and there… A sterling silver cross necklace would make a wonderful gift for a tween or teen. The main thing is keeping it simple and centered on Who we are celebrating…

We have made our Grace Garden {go HERE to see Ann’s ideas}, and it turned out beautiful–I would like to encourage you to make your own–we had so much fun!–on Friday night, the girls will make catepillars out of wax, wrap in a leaf and tuck under the moss atop our stone tomb and then we will make our butterfly and it will sit atop our Grace Garden on Sunday morning! The girls are so intrigued with a caterpillar’s transformation right now, so this works perfect for us!

You can go HERE, Desiring God blog, to read Noel Piper {John Piper’s wife} on Lent and Holy Week–for further inspiration

You can go HERE, to Ann Voskamp’s site to get ideas and free printouts for your own Christian Passover meal…

You can go HERE if you are interested in Lent devotions for the rest of this holy week–in preparation for Easter–maybe you would like to print it out to be ready for next year?

Shared with sweet Ann and others at….

Jennifer….

kd…

”JourneyTowardsEpiphany”

Tracy…

and Shanda…

To All Homes Trying To Stay AFloat–A Call To Love {Ideas for The Weekend}

To all  homes trying to stay afloat, to all lonely, worn and frazzled mothers looking for a lifeline, and the floundering ones like us who search for how to do what’s really important with our time, looking for the lighthouse that guides the way home, this is a call to love, a cry for joy in pursuit of Him… 


Around here it’s Saturday morning breakfast around the table and it’s little hands grabbing cinnamon rolls and laughter.

Around here we do weekends of everyone helping out in the yard and the sun and working hard is what gets the energy flowing…






In this sacred place we watch kids in rainboots jump and splash in water puddles and it’s picnics under the shade tree….



It’s remembering weekends of horse-riding with Daddy as a little girl and Papa taking my little girls and teaching them to ride.

On this holy ground we play tag, all six of us and it’s bonfires and late nights watching movies…

Around here we do pizza night and Husband paints on canvas and it’s little girls listening as Daddy teaches art…

Here it’s church on Sunday morning, clothes laid out the night before, and a Southern homemade lunch at Granny’s, and sometimes it’s staying home to just do Sabbath rest …

Around here it’s moving past lost time and broken opportunities and it’s accepting the gift of now and the grace of the unfolding of each new day’s promise…

I pray your weekend is full of gifts and His grace…

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