Finding Quality Time in Every Season

During the season of Lent, many people choose to give up some luxury or unhealthy habit. Our refraining from something we want reminds us of Jesus setting aside his power and dying on a cross for us. It leads us to repent of our sin- all our sin that Jesus paid for by willingly giving up his life.

 

Instead of giving something up, other people might choose to start doing some good thing. Some plan to read their Bibles or do an act of kindness every day. 

 

Even if you don't do something intentional "for Lent," it's still a time of the year where we might naturally reflect on our relationship with God. It's now officially spring, and at least in Minnesota, we're hoping the weather stays that way. (I'm done with snow and scraping ice off my car every morning.) Seasons change, and we thank God for getting us through the winter. We enter a new season and think of the hopes it may hold: exercising outside, getting more done now that the sun's up longer, planning summer trips, looking forward to graduations and weddings.

 

Spring may have sprung, but what if we're still in a season of cold, and worry, and wondering? What if nothing is changing in our lives when we want it to?

 

Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.
— Hebrews 10:22-23

 

We may be in a tough season, but God is with us through them all. We pray. We read his word, and he will grow our relationship with him. 

 

Sometimes it's hard to do the very thing that will help us most. I enjoy reading blogs like this one or books on Christian living, but I admit I find myself shying away from reading the Bible with the same sort of enthusiasm. Or I maybe I do read the Bible, but then stop short of having a real conversation with God. I say quick prayers asking for help for the hurting around me, but so rarely for the hurting within me. I want a change of circumstances, not a change of heart.

 

The devil is so sneaky that he keeps us comfortable doing what we're doing. He makes me think I'm being a good Christian girl when I'm hardly turning to God at all. I can go to church every Sunday, help out with youth group, or even listen to extra sermons during the week, but God doesn't just want my volunteer hours. He actually wants me. The devil keeps me too busy (even with Godly pursuits) to realize how I'm doing things for God or about God, but not with God. 

 

I want to talk to God all the time, feel that Jesus is my best friend, and know that he will reveal to me whatever I need to know at the proper time. I don't need to read the Bible more often so that God will reward me with some special insight into what path my life should take, I should read his word to be closer to him. To crave that relationship. To daily be reminded of his power and love for me. 

 

The Bible may seem daunting at times, but when we pick a place to start, we see how God lives in relationship with his people. In the Old Testament, every time God's people leave him, God continues to work in their hearts and bring them back. The people repent and enjoy a season of living with God and the joy and blessings that brings. 

 

The Psalms are our fellow Christians' cries of sorrow and despair, but also of thankfulness and praise.  We see how God redeems us and brings us back to a place of contentment and confidence.

 

He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.
— Psalm 40:2

 

The Gospels are perhaps the easiest place to start reading and also the most important. The whole Bible points to Jesus and God's ultimate plan of salvation carried out by his Son as recorded in the books Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. They are true accounts that not only point out a moral way to live, but also the reason for living at all. 

 

There's nothing like reading the words of Jesus himself. 

 

Because I live, you also will live.
— John 14:19

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
— Matthew 11:28

Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.
— John 13:7

I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me.
— John 10:14




God wants relationship with us. He's given us direct access to him through the Bible and in prayer. 500 years ago, people could not read the Bible themselves in their own language, and church services were taught mostly in Latin, which the average person did not understand. Martin Luther saw this struggle and felt the call to translate the Bible into his native German language, with more Bible scholars later following his lead throughout the world.  We also don't need to go through a priest or any other means to talk to God. Jesus broke down that curtain the day he died. We can go to the source with all our prayers and praise.

 

So as we reflect on Jesus love for us this Lenten season, we learn little by little how God calls us to draw near. It's a beautiful relationship, but like all relationships, it takes effort - in this case only from us. God will be there with open arms even when we have seasons of drifting away. God doesn't have to try to love us or purposely put time into our relationship. He is love and already has things figured out for us.

 

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord.
— Jeremiah 29:11-14

 

A good relationship makes you feel safe, and with a perfect God in control, we can relax and just enjoy his presence. Let's draw near and have some quality time with our Father.

 

How do you make quality time with our Father? What do you do during that time? Let us know below! 

 

The Leftovers

It had been a long stretch of less-than-smooth bedtimes. Ever since our boys decided to play Houdini and escape their cribs months before, the whole bedtime process had taken on a life of its own. While we kept a gate at the doorway to their bedroom (my husband laughed at me but the visions of one of my boys wandering out of his room in the dark and tumbling head first down the stairs were just too great to bear), this didn't mean that they physically stayed in their beds or tried to hide the fact that they disagreed it was time for sleeping.

However, besides the occasional need to be tucked in "one more time" (particularly by my little Michael), things had been getting steadily better.

And then there was "the stink bug incident".

If you don't have much experience with these somewhat disgusting-looking, annoying little creatures, consider yourself lucky. They seem to hang around sunny windows and somehow find their way inside. At any rate, one happened to fly into/touch/bother Michael one night while he stood at the gate for his "last tuck" -- having been stung by a bee out in the yard only days prior, he freaked. I took pity on him. After all, I loathed they things myself and being touched by one (in the dark, no less) would've been difficult for me to shake, too.

So I did what any mother with half-a-heart would do and I laid next to him in his bed, singing "Amazing Grace", "In Christ Alone", "Silent Night" and any other hymn I could think of until he forgot about the bug enough to fall asleep. By the time I returned downstairs, my husband had finished cleaning up from dinner and was already asleep in his favorite chair in the living room.

The next night proceeded much the same, the memory of the stinkbug trauma continuing to cause my Michael to need extra help falling asleep. My husband took one for the team and after several trips upstairs, decided it was easier to lay on the floor for a bit between our twin sons' beds while Michael settled in and fell asleep.

The troublesome nights continued long after the stinkbug memory had faded. Night after night I'd lay there, singing hymns, desperate for my son to fall asleep.

They're only little once, I kept telling myself.

Soon there will come a day when they won't ask me to sing and they'll have grown so big that there won't be room for me in the bed next to them, not that they'd even want there.

But soon, my patience began to wear thin. After several weeks of this routine, I was worn and tired. And my son's "demands" were only getting stronger and more involved. I needed a break. I intentionally left my boys' room before my husband (I am always the one who lingers) ad I heard him tell the boys that he would be the one coming back up the stairs on this particular night if they called.

And a small part of my heart broke in two.

As I kissed my girls goodnight in their room next door, I heard my husband return to my sons' doorway with a gentle yet stern reminder to get back in bed. As I walked down the hallway to the top of the stairs, I expected to see my son's brown eyes peering out from behind the door with an adorable plea for me to tuck him in and sing "just one song".

But I didn't. The door was closed. All was quiet.

And my heart broke again.

Downstairs, I found my husband dutifully starting the dishes. I looked at him and then at the clock. Was I really seeing him in an upright position and prior to 9pm? It felt like it had been months.

"So, did that go a little bit smoother for you?" he asked.

"Yes..." I said, undisguised reluctance in my tone. "It's so tough," I continued, "because so much of myself is saying: Just go in there. Sing the hymns. Give a few extra hugs and kisses. Fall asleep next to him. Because I know that day is coming when I can't.

My husband gave me a half-smile; the kind that seemed to say I love how tirelessly you love our kids.

"But I've missed you," he said.

I stood there for a moment, stunned and perhaps a bit ashamed. By continually, night after night, saying "yes" to my son's increasingly long rituals for falling asleep, had I actually been saying "no" to my husband?

Now, believe you me, I will be the first to tell you to sing the songs, give the extra snuggles, tuck them in "one more time". There will no doubt be times as a parent when our kids need us more than others -- embrace those times, enjoy them, be there. And hopefully, your spouse, like mine, will support you in those times.

But it's the staying in balance that us "tirelessly loving mothers" need to keep in mind.

Are we meeting the needs of our children? Are we showing them love as much as we are able? I think these are questions we ask ourselves quite often. But what about our spouse?

I often think about the short amount of time I have left with my children still "needing" and "wanting" me in the way that they do now. I figure there will be time for my husband and I once the kids have grown -- when I'm not tucking multiple times and singing half of the hymnal each night. But the truth is, there's no guarantee we'll get that opportunity years and years down the road. And without him, I wouldn't even be a mother. Isn't our love for each other which started this family in the first place? And if I don't take the time to invest in our relationship now, that could be one uncomfortable "empty nest" scenario.

As I look ahead at the kids getting older and becoming more aware, I realize the utmost importance of staying connected with my husband and functioning as a team. It is essential that they see me making him a priority so that one day they, too, may be blessed with a thriving marriage -- one that stems from an incredible friendship and partnership.

So the next time someone less than four feet tall is clamoring for your attention, ask yourself: Is anyone sick or ill? If not, does this require my immediate response? Is this within my reasonable boundary to tend to right now? And then, once you've made your decision, turn and hug your husband. He'll be glad you did :)

 

 

 

Time For Jesus

Extra_Hope “Sorry, I don’t have time for that.”

How many times have you heard this phrase? I know I’ve said it myself hundreds of times, using my lack of time as a reason or explanation for why I cannot possibly do something. And it’s true that my life is incredibly busy and that oftentimes my heart is racing because of all the things that I have to get done in one day. That’s true of most of us, in fact. But is it accurate to say that I don’t have time?

In fact, I have the same amount of time as everybody else—24 hours in a day. No person here on this earth has a time machine that can alter that reality. Nobody can buy more time, find more time, or purchase extra time at the grocery store. Time is finite, and marches ceaselessly forward. The President of the United States has exactly the same amount of time to spend that we do. So why do we say that we don’t have any time?

If we are honest with ourselves, what we are really saying when we say “sorry, I don’t have time for that” is “sorry, I am prioritizing something else in my life right now." We fill up our moments with tasks which all seem worth prioritizing in the moment, whether they're actually God's Will or not.

I often say “I don’t have time for that” because I am an incredibly busy person, but here are a few things I managed to prioritize in my very busy life today:

-I slept in for an extra fifteen minutes, because sleep took priority over showering when my alarm went off. -I sat and stared at the wall while I drank my coffee, because my need to not talk to anyone just yet took priority over my need to get things done. -I sat on Facebook and worked/socialized for a scattered hour or two throughout the day, because hilarious notes from friends and coworkers grabbed my attention and took priority over whatever else I was doing at the moment. -I supervised my kids while they painted pictures in the dining room, because their need to be creative took priority over my need to clean the kitchen in that moment. -I jumped on a business call during nap time, because the announcement they were making took priority over the other plans I’d had during nap time.

I am a busy person, yet I HAD the time for the priorities that were important to me today. If you had asked me first thing this morning if I could dedicate four hours of my day to sleeping in, staring at the wall, going on Facebook, supervising my kids painting, and listening in on a business call I probably would have looked at the size of my to do list and said “no way; you’re crazy.” And yet, I found the time. But not without sacrifice. Because in prioritizing these things, I let other things go.

"I am prioritizing something else in my life right now."

In truth, we don’t have all the time in the world. We cannot possibly do every single thing we want to do, or every single thing that other people expect of us. We have the time that God has given us on this earth, exactly that, and no more. Our time as Christians is eternal, with an endless forever to spend with God in heaven some day. But our time on this earth is limited. It could end in fifty years, or it could end in five minutes. We don’t know. So how are we spending this time? We can only do so much--are we letting God direct what we do? Or are we filling up our time with the World's temptations and distractions? We only have so much time left to tell other people about Jesus. We only have so much time left to grow spiritually as sinful but redeemed children of God. What are we prioritizing instead of those things?

"I am prioritizing something else in my life right now."

Are we telling people we “don’t have time” for a daily devotion? If we are honest with ourselves, what we mean is “A daily devotion is not something I’m prioritizing in my life right now.” Are we saying we “don’t have time” to share God’s message with others? What we mean is “sharing God’s message isn’t something I’m prioritizing right now.” We can feel a little defensive about this, and resistant to admitting it, but the truth remains: if we truly prioritized our spiritual growth, we would HAVE time for it, just like we have time for our morning coffee, our chat with a coworker, our kid’s soccer game, and that time we spent staring at the living room mentally rearranging it before company came over, among other things that took priority in the moments that we prioritized them.

There is a lot of “busyness” in our lives that is legitimate and necessary God-pleasing work, and then there is a lot of “busyness” that is just noise, filling up our days and distracting us from our ultimate task of spreading God’s Love. Parkinson’s law says that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” We allow worldly tasks that should be kept to a minimum in our lives to expand and take up unnecessary priority space, while other things that should be priorities for us, that we wish we *could* make more of a priority in our lives, stay only in our brains as “should do’s”, where they expand as a concept in our minds to the point where we consider them tasks of monumental effort and time consumption, impossible to ever find enough time for, so why even try? So here we are, wasting two hours on a Friday morning dawdling and daydreaming and taking coffee breaks in between returning messages that probably could have taken half the time to respond to if we were focused, while at the same time we “can’t find the time” to read a 2 minute morning devotion because our minds have inflated that task to the point where it seems an insurmountable time consuming ordeal, and so we make excuses why we cannot fit Jesus into our lives.

Jesus himself told a story about excuses:  “Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me." “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’ “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’ “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’ “‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’ “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’” (luke 14:16-23)

The characters in Jesus’ parable all had seemingly valid excuses why they couldn’t attend the great banquet (a metaphor for heaven). They were looking not to God to direct their lives, but rather to prioritize earthly matters over heavenly ones.

Why can't we find the time? Perhaps its because we are relying too much on ourselves to MAKE time. Our sinful selves can always find something more pressing to prioritize than Jesus. Always. We can always find urgent but unnecessary work that needs to be done at any time of the day. So let's stop relying on ourselves to make time, stop making excuses, and start asking Jesus for help. Let's ask Him to help us prioritize His important work in our lives without getting distracted by the shiny objects of the world around us.

Do you dare to ask God to direct your time today? Do you dare to pray this prayer?: “Lord, I am yours. My time is yours. You have leant it to me to carry out your will. Help me to use my time to your glory today. Help me not to prioritize worldly distractions and to list endless excuses for why I cannot do your work, Lord, but to prioritize you and to give YOU the glory for everything that I do. Amen.

Did you enjoy this post? Join us in January, 2016 as we will be kicking off the New Year chatting about practical ways we can maintain God's priorities over our own in the home, at work, and with family!

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I'm Not In The Mood

I’m not in the mood. I’d have to say that for me this is true more often than not.

I love my Savior! I desperately need his life-giving Word to survive this roller-coaster life! I need to hear his Truth speak into me. Yet, the reality is still there: many times when it comes to sitting down and opening up my Bible I’m just not in the mood.

Don’t get me wrong; it’s not that I don’t know all the right reasons to study the Bible, but some days it's too easy to just not care.

It’s more appealing to just do something easier. It's more appealing to just do something more relaxing. It’s more convenient to just use that time to check something off my list of to-do’s for the day.

It’s just too easy to skip doing what should be the most important part of my day. 

sleepy
sleepy

I have a hard time thinking of any of the worthwhile and important things in my life that came easy. Things like: building a good marriage, making it through labor and delivery, raising children, graduating from college and the list goes on. No, the worthwhile things in my life have not come out of a lazy night of TV on the couch, they have come out of hard work and choosing to do what is best, even if that is not the EASY route.

The same is true for getting into the Bible.

If you are waiting until the perfect spot opens up in your day to read God’s Word, it just isn’t going to happen. If you are waiting until your heart is right and you “want” to read the Bible, many days that isn't going to happen. If you are waiting for your spouse to take the lead and encourage you to read the Bible together, you could wait for a long time. You see the last thing Satan wants us to do is open up that book. He doesn’t want us to hear the truth of what God has to say. He doesn’t want us to know what God’s idea of normal is. He doesn’t want us to be refreshed, reminded of the joy of our salvation, repentant of our sins, or ready for battle. He wants us to be lazy, complacent, and filled up by other things; things that have no real power to change our lives.

Many days you may not be in the mood to read your Bible. However, please don’t let that stop you from doing it anyway. There is truly nothing more important than spending time sitting at the feet of our Lord and letting his powerful Word change your life. Because it will. You cannot read the Word of God without being changed.

As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. - Isaiah 55:10-11

There is real power in God's Word. Power to change our hearts; power to change the things we care about; power to revive our marriages; power to make us better parents; power to enable us to do wild and crazy things for the Kingdom of God.

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. - Hebrews 4:12

We live in a world steeped with sin and the only way to combat falling into the current of the world is to hold tightly to the TRUTH of God’s Word. And the only way we can know and hide that TRUTH deep in our hearts is by reading and meditating on the Bible as often as possible.

The reality is that it takes hard work, persistence, and many times forgoing the easy or relaxing option, for what we know is truly the BEST option. So many other things vie for our time and energy, so we need to be on guard against the distractions and excuses that come up. If you don’t have room in your schedule to spend time in your Bible, then you need to cut back on something else to make time for that. If you find yourself blocking out the nights of your favorite primetime TV shows, but not getting in the Word, you need to reevaluate your priorities. If you and your spouse make time for all your favorite hobbies, but don’t spend time in the Word together, you are missing out on the best part of marriage.

If you are like me and just fall into the trap of being "not in the mood" join me in praying for strength, overcoming laziness and getting in the habit of opening up the pages of the Bible anyway. I can guarantee you will NEVER be disappointed that you did. The coolest thing is that God's Word even has the power to change how we feel about his Word. The more we are drinking from the Spring of Life, the more we are drawn back to it, the more we are drawn back to it, the more we hide God's Word in our heart where no one can take it from us.