Increase Your Spiritual Quotient

That’s the goal I set for myself this year. I heard the phrase in a sermon near the end of the year and it struck a chord. I decided to focus on it in 2019 and see where things went.

 I downloaded the YouVersion Bible App, started a few “plans” including a whole Bible in 3 years plan. (I’ve failed the whole Bible in a year so many times I decided to give myself a little grace). If you’ve never read the whole Bible (and I still, obviously, haven’t finished), stop reading this post, download the free app if you need to and sign up for the reading plan. If the one year plan sounds like too much, join me in the 3 year plan.

 When you are truly and consistently in the Word and prioritizing your faith, I have to tell you, God speaks. More accurately, God always speaks, but when you’re in the Word consistently, it’s a lot easier to hear Him.

 In Genesis alone, all together, start to finish, you see struggles and blessings, anger and resolution, despair and overcoming again and again in a way that speaks to our lives now.

 There’s this amazing line in a Diver’s song that says “redundancy sedates you” and I’m a little bit obsessed with it. It’s so right! How often do we fall into our routines, get tired and lazy,  and look at our life in the narrow scope of time on earth? There is a great big God, and a great big plan, and great big purpose and a great big eternal salvation in heaven won by Jesus Christ crucified that we grow comfortable leaving to simmer on the back burner while we succumb to the fog of the more pressing and immediate day to day stuff.

 When we’re able to break free from the chains of our obsession with this earthly life, we’re able to feel that spark He intends for us.

 So where are you stuck? Where are you sedated? Where would the spark and passion of that shift to eternal focus cause you to get up and change something in your life? Who would you forgive? Where would you volunteer? What would you change? I shouldn’t have to tell you that we don’t have all that much time here.

Psalm 90:12

Teach us to number our days,

that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Prioritizing our faith, growing it, and focusing on it allows God to present us with some incredible opportunities that we miss when we’re focused on ourselves and our earthly lives. Is there something in your life that has you feeling stuck, disappointed, damaged, defeated? Are you still making decisions based on that amount of financial security they provide? Do you feel like you’ve already tried and failed? Maybe you have, but God never tries and fails.

Matthew 17:20

Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

He can make your impossible possible or help you understand the failure better, trusting that it’s within His plan for you.

Maybe you’ve read the bible already, maybe a hundred times. Whatever your spiritual quotient, it can always be increased. Don’t be sedated by the same earthly busyness that lulls us away from that desire to grow in our relationship with our Savior, actively seek him, and focus on His plan for our lives instead of our own.

The closer we draw to Him, the better we see His will and the incredible possibilities he has waiting for us.

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Hunger

It's been a cold last few weeks (in case you hadn't noticed).

And with that cold comes many, many, MANY (did I mention many?) hours stuck inside. This imprisonment has led to a bit of stir-craziness here, not only among my four littles but also in my own brain and its need for stimulation.

So when my husband got a work call last Saturday morning altering the potential plans we had made for the afternoon, I refused to spend yet another day confided to the house.

“Who wants to go to Michael's?” I asked. Always up for an adventure to the local craft store which just also happens to carry a few toys as well as stuffed animals, my kids jumped at the chance.

“Can we bring our money?” they asked, as I knew they would. Sure. Why not? I thought to myself.

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Already getting a late start on the day, we began the task of getting everyone (including myself) out of pjs and into normal clothing and ready for the day. You see, we're not in the stage of life yet in our family where we're running to 26 different activities on Saturday morning in just as many directions and therefore, some weekends, we take advantage of the time together at home and linger in our pajamas for maybe just a tad too long than is healthy.

Now I will say this: the “getting ready” process has definitely gotten easier over the years. However, I can still honestly say that I have no idea what still takes so long. We can be gliding right along through our morning routine, I'll glance at the clock and think Hey, not too bad so far! and before I know it, one of my boys lost his socks and my daughters are sitting on the floor of their room, half-dressed, drawing pictures on an easel. Add to that the complication of the day brought on by the idea of bringing one's own money, and we were consumed by “the process” of leaving the house. Once I was sure at least 3 out of the 4 kids had brushed their teeth, my girls' hair had been combed and a session of Money 101 was held (yes, four quarters actually DOES equal the same as the “paper money” with the one on it and no, you cannot bring every single piece of change in your piggy bank), we were set to go. I looked at the clock.

11:30am.

Seriously? Where had the morning gone? I knew that any reasonable mother would be starting to think about lunch right about now, which should then be reasonably served within the next hour. And we were just leaving NOW?

I looked at my kids, half of them with boots on, the other with at least one arm in their coats. We were so close to being out the door. I couldn't possibly consider the idea of everyone undoing the progress we had made just so that lunch could be on time. I knew if we did that, we'd never “get out”.

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“Ok,” I announced. “Who wants a cheese stick and who wants a yogurt smoothie?” The kids looked at me like I was crazy. “It's getting close to lunch time and you gotta put something in those bellies before we go,” I explained. “So just pick one.”

This, of course, led to discussions as to who was having what, how many banana smoothies were left (it seems to be the favorite lately...or at least for this week) and “could I have something to drink?”. We ate, we drank (in our winter coats and boots) and we left.

The beginning of the shopping trip went just fine. Everyone took their time looking at what they wanted to, we held the second session of Money 101 in the aisle next to the Fuzzy Posters as I desperately tried to explain the idea of “going halvsies” on a pack of two so each could get one.

But as we neared the far end of the store nearest the checkouts – which of course was the area with the one item I needed to look at – the hunger began to set in and with it, the moods began to tank.

“I'm hungry,” I heard multiple times from my boys, who ironically seem to have not cleaned their plates at mealtime in years. “Are we almost done?” my girls pleaded. “I'm ready to go home.” Trying to keep my cool, I calmly explained that I had just patiently walked through all of their aisles and all I needed was 10 more minutes to look at what I had come to the store for. We finally reached the checkout, needing to make 5 separate transactions (why had I said they could bring their money again?), and we were back in the van, although all a bit less happy than when we started, despite the fact they each held a new stufftie in their lap.

Frustrated that my time had gotten cut short and also a bit melancholy that we were now returning home again with an entire indoor afternoon and evening stretching before us, I wanted to lash out. I wanted to reprimand my kids for needing to eat lunch and letting this hunger get the better of them.

What?

Where was my logic? I had been the one to push too hard. I had been the one to suggest going to the store, when I knew full-well how long it would take to get out of the house and just how close to lunch time it was. I was the responsible adult who could accurately tell time. But yet I did it anyway because I needed to get out. And why was I upset? Because I didn't get to look at my stuff for as long as I wanted. It wasn't their fault that they were hungry. It wasn't their choice to eat only a cheese stick or yogurt before leaving the house. That was all on me. And I should've known better that it wouldn't be enough to get us through, even for the smallest appetites in all of us.

But let me ask you: how many times don't we do this same thing with our faith? We run on empty, focused on our own agendas, maybe scattering some church services or devotions in here or there in hopes to satisfy our soul's hunger for more. And maybe we even drag others along with us: a spouse, our kids, a friend. We push and push and push, knowing full-well that our faith is wavering, our fire dwindling, our hunger for God and His Word growing. But we push past it anyway.

We try to suppress the yearning of our souls, telling ourselves there will be more time tomorrow, that we can make it by on the faith and knowledge we already possess and continue our break neck pace, never realizing that we're sacrificing moments of peace at every turn.

We would never expect a person who hadn't eaten a full meal in days to successfully run and complete a marathon. Why should it be any different with our faith?

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If you've had faith all of your life, it can be easy to fall into the thought pattern that there's not a lot left to learn. After all, you've been hearing the Bible stories since you were teeny tiny in Sunday school and you've spent just about every Sunday in church for the last 20+ years. Sure, you know there are small details about the Bible with which you may not be familiar, but you get the gist and that's all that really matters. While it is true that faith even the size of a mustard seed can “move mountains” (Matthew 17:20), imagine what more we could do in this world with faith that it is being fed on a daily basis and growing as a result!

Like newborn babies, crave spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
— I Peter 2:2-3

It's time to move past the spiritual milk. No more complacency in our faith. No more pushing aside the hunger just to come out on the other side drained and spent. Each day we are fighting a battle: a battle against the devil, the world and our own sinful flesh. We need to be armed with the words of our heavenly Father, ready to answer, ready to defend, ready to encourage (Ephesians 6:10-18). The only way to put this armor on is to continue spending time with Him and His words, studying them, journaling them, praying them, discussing them.

Everyone in the van did indeed make it home that day without passing out from lack of nourishment. Soon their bellies were full (my boys still didn't finish what was on their plates) and their moods had lifted. And this mama learned, once again, that pushing past the hunger, whether my own or someone elses, is never a good idea.

May God remind us all that this is also true in our walk with Him.

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A Prayer for the Littles

As I watch you imagining,

pretending,

sharing,

singing,

I have so many questions about you,

my sweet ones.

Will you be kind?

What will you be when you grow?

Will you be weak,

or will you be strong?

What are the things you'll want to know?

But so much more important, 

my dear littles.

Will you still believe?

Will you pray, learn, will your faith grow?

Will you be weak,

or will you be strong?

Will you share your faith and what you know?

So I pray hard and I pray often for you

my precious ones.

I pray your faith is fierce.

I pray God keeps you close to Him.

I pray you can be bold.

I pray you share your love for Him.

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May God keep you and I together

in a faith sure and true.

May the Holy Spirit guide us

to fan our faith flames blue.

May the peace in knowing

that      Christ      Jesus      has       died.

Help us be ever courageous

until we are there by His side.

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Are we so proud?

My middle son started three year old preschool this year. He's pretty pumped about it (so much so that he has asked multiple times if he is in kindergarten yet so he can have a packed lunch and stay there all day. Or he just wants a lunch box...)

This child I often refer to as our wildcard. ;P He knows how to simultaneously push my buttons until they are maxed but also melt me into a little puddle. He knows how to make me impossibly angry but then have me laughing within the same minute. He's our jokester and stinker. The one that makes everyone snicker when they shouldn't be. 

But this one. He takes school very seriously. Always straight faced at drop off and pick up. Always very matter-of-fact about the details of the day. Downright, a tiny man. (Granted, during school may be completely different.)

This past week at school they made little paper books on the creation story with each day having it's own page that he colored himself. It was then stapled together with a puffy tiger sticker stuck to the front cover. 

This tiny man was so proud

He was so proud of his book. He showed me immediately at school. He came home and had to show his baby brother and read it to him. He had to show it to his older sister when she got home. She read it to him, page by page, also very proud of him. He showed his daddy when he got home. The next day he remembered about his book and wanted to bring it to Bible class to show his friends there. 

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Are we so proud

Are we so excited and proud of what our Savior did for us that we want to share it with everyone? Are we so excited that we can't keep it to ourselves? God created the whole world in just six days! God helped Noah build a magnificent ark to keep him safe from the destructive flood. God kept Daniel safe from the lions. He kept Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego safe from the fiery furnace. Etcera, etcera. I could go on and on and on with his amazing works!

Or, are we embarrassed? Ashamed, shy, reluctant, or no longer impressed?

There are many things our children can teach us, but their enthusiasm for Christ is at the top of the list. They are so excited to go to Sunday school and learn Bible stories every Sunday. They are so proud to tell me about what they learned. The sheer sparkle in their eye is enough evidence that they know, cherish, and believe in the love and forgiveness from our Savior.

They have a Savior. His name is Jesus. And they are His.

And they certainly aren't afraid to tell us all about it!

I Chronicles 16: 23-25a, "Sing to the LORD, all the earth; proclaim his salvation day after day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples. For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise."

Heavenly Father, Thank you for the example that our children are for us. Thank you for their beautiful happiness, unabated enthusiasm, and awesome gratefulness for all the awesome things You are and for all that Jesus has done for us. Help us to capture that. Help us to follow their example. Help us all to continue to learn and grow in our faiths and to have opportunities to share it with others. Forgive us when we are weak, embarrassed, and shy about you. Give us strength and confidence to overcome our weaknesses. In Jesus name, Amen.

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A Little Poem for my Little Dears

I love your little mischievous grin.

I love your dimpled smile.

I love your unabated contagious giggles.

I love when you get wild (well most of the time). 

I love your incredible desire to learn.

I love your helpful personality. 

I love your patience and easy laughter (from one of you anyway). 

I love your creativity. 

I love that you love Jesus as I do.

I love your exuberant songs of praise. 

I love your easy unembarrassed faith in Christ.

I love this love that fills our days.

I pray that as you grow your faith grows too,

and you never forget what Jesus has done for you.