Easy Yokes

As Slow As Molasses

“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” —Matthew 11:30 (ESV)

I’ve spent much of this year feeling as if I was walking through molasses. I have a tendency to finagle (isn’t that a great word, by the way?) events to the best possible outcome, which causes me the least amount of energy, interruption, or discomfort. I can latch onto a great opportunity, idea, or endeavor and throw myself at it full force. I’m so good at working hard, capitalizing on a “good idea,” and employing every tried-and-true strategy.

There’s just one problem with my working so hard in my own strength.

It’s not the way God wants me to work.

And so, when I do, it’s hard. So hard. So tiring, so long, so complicated. My best efforts are met with resistance. My best attempts are fraught with failure. My energy depleted, I ask God over and over and over to bless “the plan.” And I work harder. And a little bit harder.

Earlier this year—when I was working four part-time jobs and so exhausted—a good friend pointed out to me the obvious fatigue my efforts were yielding. She reminded me that God says his yoke is easy and his burden is light.

I often think about this verse in terms of having some grave worry that’s bringing me down and that if I just “give it to God,” I’ll have the burden lifted. Of course, that relates. But the application from my friend is appropriate, too.

When I’m doing what God has called me to do, created me to do, and prepared me to do, it’s easy. Just the opposite of dragging myself through molasses.

I don’t mean that there are not times in life when God calls us to walk through dark places or tough situations in order to teach and refine us. I’m talking about the times when we take charge and try to forge ahead in our own strength for selfish motives and within our own wisdom.

But when we rely on Christ alone for wisdom, strength, and direction, even daily cross-bearing is easy and light. In a real sense, it feels good.
Creative Commons License photo credit: technicool

Disclosure: I am not a medical doctor. Any statements made on this blog about essential oil use are not meant to treat, diagnose, or cure any condition. My statements about essential oils are my opinion and are based upon my own experiences and research.

I occasionally feature affiliate links in my blog posts. Should you follow my link and make a purchase or join a membership website, I will be compensated for my referral.

Cranberry Sauce and the Resurrection

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Creative Commons License photo credit: busbeytheelder

I noticed bags of cranberries in the produce department at the grocery store last week.

It’s not even Halloween, and already holiday meals are anticipated. Most people may not even notice the bags of fresh cranberries in the store. Most people, after all, get their cranberry sauce or jelly from an Ocean Spray can.

That’s how I knew cranberry sauce growing up: a red blob with the tin can shape intact. It didn’t look appealing, nor did it taste all that good. I vaguely remember it being a very tart goo. After trying it early on, I never did again. Why ruin an otherwise savory meal of turkey and dressing?

And then I began cooking my own holiday meals. Inevitably, somebody wanted “something cranberry” to go with the turkey. A few times, I’d purchase the obligatory cans. I never even thought homemade cranberry sauce was a feasible option. I thought it must be too difficult or too messy or something.

But one day—probably inspired by a cooking show—I decided to turn over the back of a bag of fresh cranberries. There was the recipe: sugar, water, cranberries, heat. It was so easy, so simple. And it produced something so fresh, so tasty.

I couldn’t believe I had been duped all these years by tin cans of red goo. (Mom, really, why didn’t you just make your own cranberry sauce?)

Earlier this week during a Bible study class, my friend and pastor talked about the fact that we are “resurrection people.” We possess the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. Our dead bodies will be resurrected at the last day. We are new.

What does it mean to live as a resurrection people? I wondered.

As I tossed this question around in my mind, I came back to the cranberry sauce. The dichotomy between what I knew to be—and had settled for—as cranberry sauce and what cranberry sauce can really be.

The surprise in all of this to me was that homemade cranberry sauce is really, really good, yet I had never known it to be.

The canned sauce is merely a shadow—almost an imitation—of the real thing. It’s like boxed mac ‘n cheese or instant iced tea. The shadow retains some of the trappings and characteristics of the authentic, but is ultimately a hollow representation.

The cranberry sauce in a can? It’s a shadow of the feast that is to come. Homemade cranberry sauce? It’s nowhere near the banquet that awaits, but it’s a good reminder that canned cranberry sauce pales in comparison to the “real thing.”

Life in this world is full of shadows of that which is to come. To live as a “people of the resurrection,” we must not become too cozy here in the shadows. We mustn’t look to the things of this world to satisfy only that which Christ can. We must allow the shadows to prepare our hearts and offer anticipation for that which is to come.

And while I don’t think it’s necessarily a requirement, I heartily recommend eating homemade cranberry sauce every chance you get.

Disclosure: I am not a medical doctor. Any statements made on this blog about essential oil use are not meant to treat, diagnose, or cure any condition. My statements about essential oils are my opinion and are based upon my own experiences and research.

I occasionally feature affiliate links in my blog posts. Should you follow my link and make a purchase or join a membership website, I will be compensated for my referral.

I Belong

God’s been dealing with me lately about the idols of my heart—those things that I tend to value more than him. Those things that tend to thrill my soul when all is going “right.” And those things that tend to send me to the pit of depression when all is going “wrong.” 
I suppose that this self-examination may not make sense to one who is not a Christian, since you probably assign “good” things the attribute of “good” (a new job is “good”; a new baby is “good”) and “bad” things the attribute of “bad,” right (losing one’s job is “bad”; experiencing a miscarriage is “bad”)? But in your heart of hearts can you admit that even the “good” things—even when they are cranked up to the highest level—don’t ultimately satisfy? 
That restless longing is because we were created for more than a superficial affection for “stuff.” We were created for communion. And the only way to experience that true, eternal communion is by devotedly loving Jesus.
I belong to Christ. I am his. And since I am his, he doesn’t tolerate being second or third on the list of my interests. No. He commands first place. When I deny him his rightful claims on my life and chase after empty idols, I’m left broken, confused, and exhausted. 
What does this look like in my life? 
I desire comfort and security more than trusting in Christ. I desire accolades and recognition more than glorifying God. I desire equity and self-preservation more than following God through a wilderness experience.
 
But the Bible tells me over and over that the Christian life is one of ownership, discipleship, sacrifice, and service. Because I belong, I am required to confront those things in my life that cause my heart to wander. Because I belong, I am required to love Christ more than any other earthly thing. Because I belong, I am required to deny my will and embrace God’s will. 
As my pursuit of Christ intensifies, my pursuit of idols will lessen in its attraction. As my hunger for God deepens, “empty calories” will make me sick to my stomach. 
And that peace of God—the peace that passes all understanding—will guard, strengthen, and preserve me because 
“I am not my own, but belong with body and soul,
both in life and in death to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.”
—from the Heidelberg Catechism, Answer #1
If you want to read more about this topic, I recommend Idols of the Heart by Elyse Fitzpatrick. It is an excellent study!  (Disclosure: I am an Amazon affiliate and do receive a small commission from sales I recommend.)

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The First Day of School=Relief

One doesn’t just wander into motherhood as one wanders into a Starbuck’s.

No, becoming a mother is more like the space shuttle re-entering Earth’s atmosphere after a voyage. It’s bold and loud and fast. It’s violent in many ways. It’s a bumpy ride, for sure. It’s a complete reorientation.
It’s life-changing. 
Today I took my five-year-old twins to their first day of kindergarten. I know. Moms in my shoes are sobbing, mourning the loss of their infants. Some are in deep reflection about the preschool years. 
Me? 
I’m just relieved. 
Sitting here now in the quiet of the house, the adrenaline, anxiety, and blood pressure levels are down. My body is slowly relaxing from the ends of my hair to the tips of my big toes. 
I’m so relieved. 
I’ll confess to you that time and again, I’ve prayed and wondered silently, Really, God? Why did you give me twins? You know I can’t do this job. You know me. You know them. What were you thinking putting the three of us together? Why would you challenge me in this way when I’m clearly not equipped to handle this?
Yet here as I approached this great milestone, God clearly spoke to me recently. As he ordained their teachers for this year, I thanked him. They received the exact teachers I would have picked. God sweetly used their class assignments to demonstrate his love and mercy to me!
God reminded me that, It’s not about you. It’s about them. I have plans for these two young men. You’re just a means to an end. Sure, I’ll grow you in the process, too. But you are way too focused on YOU.
I really needed that shift in perspective. My boys (and my girl) are God’s.
And it’s not about me.
 
Another reason to feel relieved.  

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Finding God in the Routine

I’ve always had a problem with the monotony of motherhood: the I-do-this-everyday sameness of meals and laundry; the watch-setting consistency of household tasks. As sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, so will my laundry basket full.

But in the last couple of years, I’ve tried to embrace the rituals of motherhood and home managing. I want to see God’s hand in all of it. I know God’s ways are to use the ordinary means to offer his grace. He’s a God of bread, water, and fire, after all. He has taught us much and shown us much through these basics of human existence.

He probably has something to tell me through filing coupons, scraping dinner plates, and navigating the school car line, huh?

Well, friend and author Jen Seger is a few steps ahead of me in the sanctification process. Her new book, Routine Revelations, is a touching collection of these types of moments all mothers experience. Jen humorously takes us through the ups and downs of motherhood as she reflects on the ways God teaches her his truths during the routines of everyday life.

Routine Revelations is not only about errands, school projects, and church; but it is also about God’s love, forgiveness, and faithfulness. How many of us mothers have said that parenting shows us more vividly our sin and God’s mercy? How many of us know that—having been a parent—we have a new dimension of understanding for the ways our heavenly Father loves us? Jen beautifully weaves all of these themes throughout the forty-six short devotions in Routine Revelations.

I found myself chuckling, nodding my head, and whispering, “Amen, sister!” throughout this delightful book. I’m certain her insightful writing will resonate with you, too. It’s an easy “pick-up/put-down” kind of read (perfect for busy moms!) but leaves you with something to “chew on.”

Need a book for the beach or a long flight? Need a hostess gift or Christmas (it’s never too early!) gift? Want to brighten your best friend’s day?

Get Routine Revelations by Jen Seger.

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WIN! WIN! WIN! 

Jen has graciously offered an autographed copy of Routine Revelations to a reader of The Writer’s Block!

The contest runs from Monday, July 5 through Monday, July 12, midnight (central time). One winner will be chosen using Random.org from all eligible entries. The winner will be notified no later than Wednesday, July 14.
 
To enter: You must complete #1. You have the opportunity to earn SIX additional entries, but you must leave a separate comment for each one completed. 

  1. Leave a comment here telling me about your most challenging aspect of motherhood.
  2. Subscribe to The Writer’s Block.
  3. “Like” The Writer’s Block on Facebook.
  4. Follow me on Twitter.
  5. Leave a comment on Jen Seger’s blog (any post)
  6. “Like” Routine Revelations on Facebook.
  7. Follow Jen Seger and Routine Revelations on Twitter.
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Disclosure: I received no monetary compensation for this review. The author donated one copy of the book, Routine Revelations, to me for review and then to offer as a giveaway for a reader chosen at random. 
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Seasons

“This is a season, honey.”

I’ve always had a negative reaction to that sentiment (usually offered as a well-meaning response to one of my whiny-tale complaints that I can’t do such-and-so).

A bristling. A knee-jerk. A restrain-myself-from-slapping-you moment.

Why? I’ve often wondered.

Oh, sure. It must be that control issue I have. I don’t want there to be a season. I want to do whatever I want to do whenever I want to do it.

If anything, though, lately, God’s been teaching me the value of fluidity. The benefit of ebb and flow. The recovery that comes with restful barrenness. The truth of Ecclesiastes.

The season for watermelon, flip-flops, and lemonade is summer. The season for mittens, hot cocoa, and fleece is winter.

The other day, one of the kids said, “I want some hot cocoa!” I said, “No! You don’t drink hot cocoa in the summer. Here, have an ice pop instead.”

It’s plain to me that seasons in the other areas of my life are sensible—even beneficial. It’s only fitting, then, to embrace the seasons of my life when it comes to home, family, work, hobbies, church life, and so on.

The season of having young children is not the season to pursue a leadership position for a Fortune 500 company (at least not for me; some women do it with ease, but alas—that’s another post: embracing who God made me and not comparing myself to others). The season of caring for aging parents is not the season for world travel. The season for establishing a career is (perhaps) not the season for marriage and family.

It is different for all. But wouldn’t it be a great tragedy to stuff myself into some mold of self-created “expectations” of what I should or shouldn’t be doing right now?

I see now that so much freedom exists in begging for God’s guidance—rather than fighting the inevitable—in the various seasons of life.

So, I may now be entering the “summer” of my life, as I turn 40 and have all my kids in school this fall.

I’m anticipating many “summer” days sipping that lemonade in prayer and reflection. 

~~~

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photo: ilco at stock.xchng

I Will Not Break in the Wilderness

I love Charles Spurgeon.

And when I get to heaven, I’m going to hang out with him. I am going to love talking to him about writing. He’s one of my favorite writers. (And, yes, I know I’ll be worshiping Jesus, but I’m hoping part of eternal bliss is allowing us to have relationships with other saints. So, permit me this idea that Charles [can I call him, Charlie?] and I will be BFFs for eternity, mkay? 😉 )

Anyhoo … as I’ve been thinking more along the lines of the wilderness experience, I remembered a devotion by Spurgeon in his Morning and Evening. I hung it on my bathroom mirror when I was struggling with infant twins, post-partum depression, and sleep deprivation. Some Most days—truly—these few words from Spurgeon’s pen were my only connection to the Gospel.

From Spurgeon’s Evening devotion for July 19 (public domain, bold emphasis mine): 

Evening, July 19

“A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench.”

Matthew 12:20

What is weaker than the bruised reed or the smoking flax?  
A reed that groweth in the fen or marsh, let but the wild duck light upon it, and it snaps; let but the foot of man brush against it, and it is bruised and broken; every wind that flits across the river moves it to and fro. You can conceive of nothing more frail or brittle, or whose existence is more in jeopardy, than a bruised reed
Then look at the smoking flax—what is it? It has a spark within it, it is true, but it is almost smothered; an infant’s breath might blow it out; nothing has a more precarious existence than its flame. Weak things are here described, yet Jesus says of them, “The smoking flax I will not quench; the bruised reed I will not break.” 
Some of God’s children are made strong to do mighty works for him; God has his Samsons here and there who can pull up Gaza’s gates, and carry them to the top of the hill; he has a few mighties who are lion-like men, but the majority of his people are a timid, trembling race. They are like starlings, frightened at every passer by; a little fearful flock. If temptation comes, they are taken like birds in a snare; if trial threatens, they are ready to faint; their frail skiff is tossed up and down by every wave, they are drifted along like a sea bird on the crest of the billows—weak things, without strength, without wisdom, without foresight. 
Yet, weak as they are, and because they are so weak, they have this promise made specially to them. Herein is grace and graciousness! Herein is love and lovingkindness! How it opens to us the compassion of Jesus—so gentle, tender, considerate! We need never shrink back from his touch. We need never fear a harsh word from him; though he might well chide us for our weakness, he rebuketh not. 
Bruised reeds shall have no blows from him, and the smoking flax no damping frowns.
When have you felt like a bruised reed or a smoking flax?  
How do these words encourage you?
~~~

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In The Wilderness

I grew up on a farm. My parents still live there today, and my dad is still farming: mainly beef cattle and crops.

I am not afraid of spiders or ticks or worms. I credit my country upbringing with this strong constitution. I find it incredulous that my husband screams at chirping crickets and is quick to deliver the death blow, while I carefully shoo them out the back door. (It’s just a cricket. Why should he die? He didn’t do anything wrong.)

A creek runs behind my parents’ house. As kids, we’d play in the water. Most of the time, we’d remember our old shoes for wading; but sometimes we didn’t, and I can’t recall our ever stepping on broken glass or nails or anything. Occasionally, we’d go camping out on our farm. We’d fish in the creek and cook our catch. We’d sleep in a camper in the middle of nowhere. Dark and chilly. Without boundaries of time or space or safety or predictability.

And we loved it.

Sure it was just little more than a “backyard camp-out.” I mean, we weren’t being all Bear Grylls or Survivor Man or The Blair Witch Project or anything.

But it was just enough outdoorsy-ness that now, as an adult, I look at that and think, Um, yea. That doesn’t sound like so much fun.

Ewwww… wading in a creek where hundreds of cows have pooped? Catching and eating fish from that same creek? No electricity? No bathroom?  

No Internet? 

I got to thinking about this because I’ve been mulling over “wilderness experiences” lately. Think of the Israelites and their wilderness wanderings. So much can be gleaned from their years in the wilderness. In upcoming posts, I want to explore some of those ideas: their grumbling, God’s provision, and others.

Chris and I believe we are being led through a “wilderness experience” of sorts right now. I find it terribly difficult some days to take the next step through the density of the brush and the tangle of thorns that characterize my heart. Still, I know it’s necessary and important and good and will ultimately bring me through to the other side.

When have you experienced a time of wilderness wandering in your life? 
How did it affect you?  

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photo: xandert on morguefile.com

After the Nashville Flood

(This photo was taken on Monday, May 3, 2010. It’s Old Harding Pike, between Morton Mill RD and Poplar Creek RD. The golf course is behind the trees on the right; the red sign belongs to the Active Learning Center on the left. Our house is within walking distance but at a higher elevation.)

I’ve been quiet for a week or so now. My Internet has been down because my phone line was down because the Nashville flood shut down our city for a few days.

We didn’t receive any damage to our home. Other than a ruined digital camera (that got some water damage when taken in the rain to capture some flood photos), our belongings and lives were left untouched.

So grateful. So. Grateful.

And honestly, I’m still processing all that I’ve seen around me during the last week.

Devastation and tears. Generosity and love.

But there’s so much to say. I’m sure I’ll be posting on this in bits and pieces for months, as the thoughts come. As the words form.

A few points I’ve been pondering:

  • God is huge. Creator God—who formed the river and the hills and valleys—allowed peril and turmoil and material devastation, in just a few hours. Still, all that we have witnessed and endured is to be subservient to our salvation (see Heidelberg Catechism Question and Answer #1).

I’m so very glad that I worship, love, know, and am known by this God, rather than the opposite. His power is mighty. His ways are mysterious. His grace washes over us, just as the flood waters did a week ago.

  • God is so concerned with the detail of our lives that it simply astounds me. I’ve been listening and reading to all of the important considerations about mold and mildew removal. It can be deadly! I had no idea. But God did.

In Leviticus, he gives explicit instruction for mold, mildew, and disease removal from homes. How many times have I read that passage, glassy-eyed and yawning, thinking, Yea, yea, yea. Whatever? Yet hearing these news reports (and apparently how easy it is to not remove mold properly), I am impressed more and more at the tender compassion of God, that he would not want his children to get sick or die from disease caused by mold.

What are your initial insights after The Flood? What is God teaching you?
 

Disclosure: I am not a medical doctor. Any statements made on this blog about essential oil use are not meant to treat, diagnose, or cure any condition. My statements about essential oils are my opinion and are based upon my own experiences and research.

I occasionally feature affiliate links in my blog posts. Should you follow my link and make a purchase or join a membership website, I will be compensated for my referral.

Cutting Back, Living Intentionally, and Writing

You may recall that my new year’s resolution was to live intentionally.

So, what does that look like in my life?, I wondered.

Well, I know what it doesn’t look like.

It doesn’t look like worn-out, frazzled mom. It doesn’t look like worried mom juggling deadlines. It doesn’t look like fast food for every meal. It doesn’t look like the illusion of making money and “getting ahead” when, in actuality, the bank account is strained and debt continues to accrue. It doesn’t look like laundry and dish piles.

At least not for me. Not for us. Not for our family.

And so, I posted a plea for advice to you, my dear readers. You had great words of wisdom and encouragement. I felt good, at least, to know that I wasn’t completely crazy and alone, drowning in a sea of demands and deadlines.

Chris and I prayed, mulling over your words and ideas and re-evaluating our “intention” of intentional living in 2010 and decided that we were not, indeed, living with intention. We were being run by our circumstances. We were reacting, not proacting. We were slaves to the tyranny of the urgent demands of everyone and everything else besides those that were most important to us.

On March 15, I worked my last day at the most time-consuming of my four part-time jobs. I have all but closed shop on my Melaleuca “business” (although I am always happy to answer your questions and/or open a membership account for you—just ask). Our church is shutting its doors (another long story of emotional drain for our family—post forthcoming) at the end of the month, so I will no longer be employed there.

That leaves my writing.

I will always write. Writing for me is intuitive and effortless and cathartic. One of the negatives of these last few months is that I have not had the time I would have liked to devote to my writing.

Now I can devote my “free time” to my writing. Truly, I believe this is my gift from God. I feel that I’ve pushed all the other boundaries of my interests and skills. God has revealed to me that while I may be “OK” at many things, there are only a handful that are true gifts.

Writing. Writing here and at Faithful Bloggers and at Suite 101 is where you’ll find me now. I’ll be using my God-given skills for his glory.

If he chooses to bless us with money for that, then I rejoice. If he does not, then I rejoice!

I’ve decided that I will be intentional about living as he’s guiding me. The fact is that he’s placed certain circumstances in my life, which dictate his will for me.

He has called me to be Chris’ wife and all that that entails. He has called me to be mom to my three kids and all that that entails. He has called me to manage this home with the income that he has provided and all that that entails.  And he has called me to write. He has called me to write—since I could string together subjects and verbs in the first grade—for his glory and others’ edification.

OK, God. Show me my next steps. God, you promise that when you require something of your children, you equip them with the grace to accomplish it. I believe it, Lord.

I am intentionally and deliberately believing it.

Image: cohdra at morguefile.com