The New Love Dare…sacrificial love

I stare out the window and watch them burn down the grass. Beautiful auburn Little Bluestem natural prairie grass. Lush tall, dried ornamental Pampas grass. This golden color has been the landscape of my days. Whenever I walk by the big picture window I say a little prayer of thanks and revel in the beauty of His glory. Even during the harshest part of winter this grass departed only beauty. But today it is up in flames. The orange licks against the blue sky and I feel sorrow. I feel broken inside. Now I stare at piles of ash, fields of black as far as I can see. Death is ugly. But it is also necessary.

I know enough about prairies to know that every once in a while they need a good burn to start over. It helps with the prevention of weeds. It keeps unwanted trees and shrubs from rooting. It provides a good clean slate for new growth. And in weeks this black barrenness will be covered with fresh new shoots of green. Life…vitality…new beauty.

I thought about this emptiness I felt inside. Silly, I know. It is only plants. And then I started thinking about all my bucking against change this year. I was so comfortable with me, with where I was. Change equaled death. And the Lord was calling for change. Dying to myself.

What does this have to do with a love dare, one might ask? Everything. My husband and I have been talking…a lot. The Love Dare is something that is prevalent in our church as in many at the moment. My husband scoffs. He’s flipped through the book. We’ve even watched the movie (not as a part of a church group…just out of curiosity). “That is not what I would want,” he informs me. Then he, very graphically, describes what would be in his version of a love dare book. And it got me thinking. Would I dare? Would I dare to ask him five things that he would like me to change for him? Would I dare sacrifice for him because I love him? Would I do it without defensiveness or justification of my past actions? Because it is different for each of us…what we want, what fills our needs, what ignites our passion for each other. What if he took the same challenge and asked me what five things about him I would change? And then…get this…what if we actually died to ourselves and took up the marriage cross and did those five things? How would our marriages change?

I think we will find that we might buck against such an idea. After all, opening that line of questioning could quickly ignite a fire that burns terribly fast right through our notions of where we think our relationship is. And we would be left with this black, ugly void that left us feeling wanting. But then as we lived out the dares I think of the new growth that would come, of all the weeds that will have been choked out, of the tree obstacles that have just been moved out of the way, and of the healthy root that would continue to get stronger. And, as uncomfortable as it makes me, I might just have to take up this dare…to ignite the fire of my relationship. And then I will sit back this spring and watch the tender new shoots of green come to life.

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Simply Doing It

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Small steps towards simplicity…this is the challenge of the week from Elizabeth Foss. Small is the key word for me this week. Last week I mentioned how easy it is for me, the lover of plans, to get caught up in the planning and never in the doing. So this week I just spent the week doing.

This, for me, was no small feat. It required lots of praying and lots of nudging from the Holy Spirit. In the past I’ve always felt simplicity calling me to get rid of, strip bare as Elizabeth says. And that kind of simplicity definitely has its place especially if you are feeling suffocated by the clutter of your life, material and emotional. But this week was a new kind of simplistic discipline, if you will. Whenever I thought about doing something, if it was at all feasible in the moment, I just did it…right then. No planning. No procrastinating. No excusing.

This is how my week went…

  • I simply changed one small chore around. Instead of redoing the chore wall chart, instead of fretting about planning on how to go about the change, I just made it. Right then that very day.
  • I simply laid the baby down when he fell asleep from nursing. Then I went right to task doing one thing, anything that came to mind (usually dinner prep or a household chore), that I couldn’t do while nursing him.
  • If there was a task that came to my mind that only took one minute (like as in a literal timed minute, i.e. bagging up the trash or sweeping up a bit of crumbs or wiping down a counter) I just stopped right then and simply did it.
  • I simply expected the interruptions and disappointments to come my way. And when they inevitably did I remembered that I had the Holy Spirit living inside of me and, therefore, could choose to accept and walk through instead of react.
  • I simply read to the little ones without planning a reading list or making it match any sort of unit study. I just read when I thought about it or at lunch or in the morning or in the evening. Even if it was just one book. I simply read.
  • I simply did one computer task (answer an email or send an encouraging note, quickly organize a few homeschooling files, update the checkbook, etc.) before playing on the computer (see blogging!).
  • I simply kept my promises. If I promised to make hot tea when we got home and then was reminded later by little ones after I had already forgotten, I simply stopped what I was doing and went to keep that promise weather I felt like it or not.

…and my house was cleaner then it ever has been. Dinner arrived on the table every night on time without the melodrama of 5 p.m. meltdowns. Kids got one on one time. Buried school issues got dealt with. I did not linger too long on the computer. I felt peace, calm. And, at the end of the day, isn’t that really what it’s about?

Linking up with Elizabeth Foss at In the Heart of My Home with Small Steps Together

HIS Timing

I wasn’t going to post today. I was planning on really digging in and having a filled, focused day like yesterday. But then I read Elizabeth’s post on simplicity. And then I read Jenny’s post on simplicity. And this is where I have been struggling lately. I was convicted. I want…crave…need simplicity in my life. I see it in Him. I see it in His order. Like Elizabeth said, the simple and complex together in unison. I look out the window at the beautiful snow covered fields with the lightly falling down and the frosted trees and it is simple…simply beautiful.

But then I stare at the frosted window and marvel at the actual complexity of an ice crystal. My mind can’t even begin to wrap around it…the mathematics, the science, the geometry. How can He be so simple…I AM…and yet so complex…Alpha to Omega?

But it is really only me who makes it too complicated. It is me who gets distracted as I am in the middle of one chore and start doing another without finishing the first. It is me who thinks I must have a perfect plan in order to do school, assign chores, make a menu or grocery list. And it is me who gets derailed because I don’t have a perfect plan therefore the thing doesn’t get done because I am still “working” on my plan. Not that planning is bad, but my planning always seems to stay in planning and never moves to action.

Why did yesterday work so well? Aside from the obvious praying and staying in Him, I think it came from the simplicity of me not getting sucked into my own complexity. Does that make any sense? I stayed in the moment. Instead of getting distracted by another chore I was reminded to stay with the one I was doing and when I did that the chore got done in a timely manner and I was still on schedule. Did everything get done that I wanted in the day? Well, no. But then no day ever will. When I was tempted to hop on line I was reminded that I would have the freedom later and that allowed me to give attention ~ simple, blessed attention ~ to the one who needed it. When I needed to pull together a menu for the week and everything in my being wanted to sit at the computer and map it out I, instead, pulled out a piece of scratch paper and spent 10 minutes chicken-scratching a rough menu based on what I knew we had in the house. Does it look pretty hanging on the fridge? Nope. But I do know exactly what to make for dinner tonight and I still had time to finish up dinner yesterday while the little one napped.

And, of course, knowing all this does NOT make it easier to do or apply to my own life. I still must live in His grace and strength moment by moment or else I end up caving to myself…my fleshly desires. Not the obvious drinking and gluttony we all think of but the subtle flesh cravings…perfectionism, organization, doing what I want when I want. None of the things I want to do are bad. Most are really quite good and uplifting and helpful. But the time in which I do them is all wrong. And I think that is the key. His timing. His timing is always perfect. If we rest in Him our burdens will be light not because the work is easier but because His timing of the work will edify, purify and make us into who He plans us to be.

It is this truth I will rest in today as I am wrestling with caring for six very individualized, complex, perfect little beings.

Thank you Elizabeth for allowing us to link up and explore this ever-needed conversation of simplicity for mothers in this very complex, fallen world.

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Renewing our Mind with Prayer

When I am sour in mood, exhausted from a sleepless night, short with the kids over dawddling chores, bored and not wanting to do my work, quick to anger and share a sharp word as I clean up messes too repungnent for words…

How often do I stop to pray? How often do I allow pray to renew my mind? Not often enough.

Praying again for grace and strength, here I will share the prayers I have long been meaning to get to…prayers I long to memorize so that they become habits upon my lips. (Excerpted from Holiness for Housewives by Van Zeller – a MUST read ~ yearly ~ for any mom!!!)

Prayer in time of exasperation:

Lord, my interruptions are almost more than I can bear. Give me patience. Help me to suppress my irritation for Your sake. Help me to see this provocation as being sent by You for the perfecting of my soul. If I do not let it act for my good, it will inevitably act the other way. Lord, let the surface of my soul be calm, so that it may reflect Your image and Your will. Amen.

 Prayer when in a bad mood:

Lord, I am in a shocking state of mind. I feel as if I ought not to be praying at all: I am too disgruntled for recollection and generosity and good resolutions and all those things that are necessary to be of Your service. But it is better to try to pray now than merely to give in and indulge my poisonous humor. Lord, show me how to deal with myself when rebellion and bitterness well up in me and make life seem far more of a burden than it is. Show me that the remedy lies in submission to You and not in wallowing in self. Amen.

Thank you, Elizabeth, for your ever-so encouraging words today that inspired me to post these (my post-it note to myself and to share with others) as I am still anxiously awaiting your book in the mail!!!

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.     ~Romans 12:2

Linking with Small Steps @ In the Heart of my Home with Elizabeth Foss