Monday, October 31, 2011

Why I Love Being a Stay-at-Home Mom

I am extremely privileged. Extremely.

I am a stay-at-home mom.  I know there's always been a big debate over staying home with the kids and going to work out in the world.  Quite frankly, none of those discussions ever really reached me because I was too busy basking in the fact that I got to stay home and raise my kids.  I consider this one of the greatest privileges of my life.

Let me tell you a few things that being a stay-at-home mom has allowed me to do and learn:

  • First of all, being home with my kids has given me freedom to think. Yes, even while raising eight kids, I had time to think.  Thinking is highly important.
  • Having time to think gave me motivation to write.  I'm a free-lance writer and find that writing gives me a voice even when circumstances might not.  Thinking and writing go hand in hand, so each is essential to the other.
  • Being home with my kids allowed me to home school them.  We are now in year 25 of our home school and I'm still loving it as much as I did at first.  I've always loved it; it suits our family.
  • Being home with my kids allows me to diversify my interests.  I work best with many irons in the fire and being at home has allowed me to do that.  I've done a few things over the years, from direct sales to running an ebay business; from real estate investing to running a grief counseling organization, all from home. Being at home has allowed all these things to materialize because I had the freedom and time to put these things together.
  • Being a stay-at-home mom has allowed me to become a great cook and baker.  Out of necessity, I had to learn how to cook and cook well to feed this massive family.  I did not learn to cook growing up. As a matter of fact, I don't recall cooking even one single thing before I set out on my own. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.  But, now, I have become a great cook and have even developed my own recipes that I return to again and again.  My kids prefer my home-made pizza to take-out!  And, I love to bake, which is something I never thought I could do.
  • Being a stay-at-home mom did not hinder my earning potential.  I have always been able to earn money from home.  Between my free-lance writing, real estate investing and other home-based businesses, I've always been able to contribute to the household budget.  Plus, I became a savvy shopper and a bargain hunter, took advantage of yard sales and thrift shops and baked only from scratch, which saved a bundle. A person's earning potential is only limited by their imagination.  If I can pick up a thrift-store item for 99 cents, then turn around and sell it on ebay for $300, anyone can!
  • Being home with my kids has allowed me to minister more to them than any other people, anywhere. They were my evangelistic focus and I was always very conscience of their spiritual needs as I attempted to live out my faith in Christ before them.  All eight of my kids know Christ as Savior.
  • Being home with my kids taught me the importance of wearing a necklace or bracelet.  To me, getting ready for the day meant that I would get a shower and put on jewelry of some sort so that not only would I feel put-together, thus giving myself initiative to do something, I would be an example to the kids.  I never had much initiative unless I was dressed and ready for the day.  I guess this taught me the power of initiative.
I could go on and on about this.  Looking back, I can honestly say that not only would I not change these circumstances, I would do it again. I would stay home with my kids if I had to do this all over again.

And, the main reason I was able to stay home with my kids is because my husband always worked so very hard to insure that I could.  He worked two and three jobs when necessary throughout the years so that I could stay home. For that, I am very deeply grateful.


Friday, October 28, 2011

The Dilemma of Human Behavior

Oops! It happened again!

I recently attended a women's retreat and the speaker veered away from God's Word in a huge way.  In her opening introduction to her presentation of the weekend, she said, "You can memorize God's Word all you want, but unless you apply it to your life, it won't do any good!"   

And I sat in the audience and thought, "Hmmm.  Really?" 

Her entire presentation that weekend was all about application.  Verses were aplenty, but they were  nearly all taken out of context.  Quite frankly, the Word wasn't used during her talks, It was only presented to us in list format, with her supposed application following.  Not one time did this speaker ask us to open our Bibles.  Not one time did she open hers.  She had her notes neatly typed out in front her and that was her platform.  I was so disappointed I nearly cried.  Then I berated myself for not bringing my Kindle instead of my print Bible so that I could not only read the Bible on the Kindle, but I could play Scrabble during her presentations since they were of no value to me.

Instead, I sat there with my closed Bible on my lap and got beaten up the entire weekend.  And so did the ladies I took with me.  And that was the hardest part.

Herein lies the dilemma of human behavior.  Many teachers and leaders, pastors included, get an idea of what Christianity looks like and they tailor their teaching to that look.  They have to set aside God's Word in order to accomplish this, however.  They are so focused on human behavior, instead of God's Word, that they actually end up abandoning the Word to accomplish what they perceive as better results in the behavior of their listeners! Oh, my.

Let me tell you something about God's Word.  You cannot change Its effects on your life by any decision you may or may not make. God has plans for His Word.  It is God's Word and these are His plans.  Even in my great power and might as a human being (sarcasm dripping here), I cannot change God's plan for His Word.  God states, "So shall my word be that goes forth out of my mouth.  It will not return unto me void, but it will accomplish that which I please."  Isaiah 55:11  In this, He was comparing His Word to rain and snow and how they water the earth to bring forth fruit later on.  And rain and snow do that every year. We know this since we have not all starved to death.

Some might argue that we have to make the decision to follow God's Word, hence the importance of application.  Really?  Is that what Jeremiah did when he decided not to talk about God any more?  Yep, that's right.  He was being so horribly persecuted, belittled and mocked that he decided that was it, he just wouldn't talk about God any more.    What happened when Jeremiah made the decision to stop talking about God?  Jeremiah 20:9 says, "Then I said, I will not make mention of Him, nor speak anymore in His Name."  So, that was Jeremiah's big decision. He had it all under control.  Human decision - the power within - you decide - it's up to you.  But, reading the rest of the verse, we see a different outcome, "But His Word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding It back, and I could not."

Wow!  God's Word was like a burning fire in Jeremiah and he grew weary of NOT talking about It, even in the face of brutal persecution.  Jeremiah's decision had nothing to do with God, but it had everything to do with his humanity.  But, God's Word is too much for humanity.  Jeremiah could not fulfill  his decision. He could not hold back.  God was in control.  His Word had so sharply penetrated Jeremiah that he could not hold back even though he tried with all his might.

To teach a group of ladies that they can memorize God's Word without result is teaching them a lie.  God's Word is alive, and powerful, and will do what God sends It to do.  Jesus is the Word. 

Little by little, teachers and speakers such as this woman chip away at faith in Christ and put their faith in Secular Humanism, which causes them to focus on human behavior.  The dilemma of human behavior is that each person gets the freedom to be grown through sanctification at their own rate of growth, which God controls. We are to conform to His image, not one that a church or individual has outlined for us.  Human behavior is very deceptive; we see one certain action and reach conclusions from that action and those conclusions are not always accurate.  Actually, they are rarely accurate.

For example, I wear miniskirts - almost exclusively.  I have found them to be the most comfortable with the best fit, so that's what I consciously shop for.  Does that look like Christianity?  Aren't I being a little "non-pastor's-wife-ish" by doing that?  Aren't I ruining a testimony of Christ in my community?  Aren't I even being liberal?

Uh, no.

You see, I'm under 5' tall.  Miniskirts come all the way down to my knees, and even lower.  They are perfect for short people! (Well, not all short people, maybe, but certainly women who want to wear skirts.)

Teachers and preachers, stick ONLY to God's Word.  You, and your listeners, would be much better off if you abandoned the "application process" altogether and just give out the Word.  God will handle it from there.  He knows what to do.  He knows where It needs to grow.  Stick to the Word. Only the Word. Your faith will increase, your listeners will grow, and you will come to realize that your applications weren't all that great to begin with.

I appreciated Dr. Daniel Davies at the annual GARBC conference a few years ago. He was the main speaker of the conference and after each message, instead of making application, he said, "This is how this passage of Scripture impacted my life," and proceeded to tell us how he, personally, had grown by studying the given passage.  And then he closed in prayer.  And, ever since, I have gone back to the passages he taught again and again and learned and grown more. And, yes, I did thank him.  


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Why I Can't Hold a (Paying) Job

Most people I know have a job.  It's not so hard.  Get a job. Go to work. Do what your job requires. Go home. Collect your paycheck.  Yet, I have a problem holding a paying job.

It wasn't long after we moved to MN that what seemed like the perfect job opened up for me.  I was SO excited!  The local crisis pregnancy center needed a new director and I had just the experience and personality to do the job.  Their board of directors hired me unanimously.  I was thrilled!  But, it wasn't long before I found problems within the organization.  They were violating the law on 21 different counts.  When I took my (surprising) findings to the board, they agreed to the wrongdoing, but immediately condemned me for bringing it up.  Things got ugly. I quit on principle.

Hmmm. Ok, well, that was alright since they were violating the law, the Scriptures and my conscience.

So, not long after I quit that job, the looming mortgage of a property we'd left behind sent me searching for another job.  I went corporate and applied for a part-time job at a large, local company.  I got the job right away, I think mainly because I can type really fast and I know how to dress for an interview.  When I took the job, I made it very clear that I could not work mornings because of my home school.  So, they gave me mostly afternoon hours, with one morning required.  Three months into the job, my boss told me that I would have to start working 3 mornings a week, and that my job would soon go full-time.  I told her I couldn't work mornings, nor full-time.  A month later, when I made no progress in keeping afternoon-only hours, I quit.  Again, on principle.  I simply could not compromise my home school any further.  So, I decided I'd rather be poor than compromise my family.

I'd been in Direct Sales for about 6 years, but only as a hobbyist, not as a serious business person.  However, upon learning about a new Direct Sales company, I researched and based on what I found, I joined as a consultant.  The company promotes itself as "faith-based" and that was right up my alley since I am in full-time Christian ministry.  It wasn't long before I found that their idea of "faith-based" did not match mine.  At a unit meeting, women were gathered, drinking wine & cussing, then driving home with at least 2 glasses of wine under their belt.  Drinking and driving are not tolerable.  When I complained, I was told I do not have to go to those unit meetings.  Well, obviously.  Not long after that, I saw a measure of spiritual abuse going on within the group. When I spoke up about it, I was publicly reprimanded.  So, I'm now in the process of leaving that company since I can't support their interpretation of "faith-based."  

So, my theology trumps my willingness to work in certain situations.  Sometimes living our theology makes this type of impact on our lives.  No doubt that it could be me, however.  I have certain theologically-determined decisions that are non-negotiable.  Speaking out about (and not participating in ) violations of the law is one.  Speaking out about spiritual abuse is another.  Not compromising my family, not violating my own conscience, not going with a flow blindly.  

Does living your theology out ever dramatically impact your life and choices?  I sure hope so!  It's nothing short of an adventure to live out a solid theological position, letting it guide, instead of the world, and seeing what doors God opens up as a result.

My results are interesting.  Right now, I'm working 6 - 10 hours a week as our church's Administrative Assistant, which has me working side-by-side with my husband.  The hours are perfect & it's nice to have a little paycheck.  I'm also seeing my writing opportunities expand, and my writing class grow.  I'm super excited about that as I love teaching what I've learned as a published author.

So, I'll continue to let my theology guide me into life's decisions and see where that adventure continues to take me, even if it means I'm unemployed.


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A No Fear Strategy

Did you fear something this week? This month?  This year?  Have you felt any type of fear lately?  Perhaps fear of going to a new place or meeting new people. Maybe you feared confronting someone with a problem. Maybe you feared as a result of watching a scary movie or being startled by something unexpected. Maybe you fear the future because things aren't going as you planned.  I dare say, we humans fear in some way every single day.

I want you to think about fear for a minute.  If I say, "Fear" to you, what is your first reaction?  Maybe you feel guilty for having any fear.  Maybe you're in denial and won't admit your fears.  (I won't believe you.)  Maybe you shy away from even the word for "fear" that you'll have to face your fear.  Hmmm.

Let me tell you a few things about fear.

Fear is real.
Fear is not to be feared.
Fear wants to control you.
Fear causes unnecessary guilt.
Fear has already been conquered.

Think about fear in the Bible.  When the angel came to Mary, the mother of Jesus, what's the first thing he said to her?

"Fear not..."

Why did he say that?

When the angels appeared to the shepherds the night of Jesus' birth, what did they say first?

"Fear not....."

Why go there?  Who was even talking about fear?

Throughout Israel's history, what is one thing that God repeated to them over and over?

"Fear not....."

King David, the great warrior, prayed not to be relieved of his enemies, he prayed to be relieved of his fear of his enemies.  This is huge.

Fear is not a planned response to anything.  I highly doubt anyone wakes up in the morning and says, "Oh, I'm going to fear this and that today. I'm going to respond in fear to anything questionable that comes my way."

No!  We don't do that.  But we do fear.  Fear is a reaction, not a planned response. Therefore, the guilt you may have that accompanies your fear is misplaced guilt.  Guilt is actually part of fear and fear uses guilt as a vehicle to get a stronger hold on you.

Proverbs 3:25 says, "Be not afraid of sudden fear, neither of the desolation of the wicked when it comes."

Ok, for God to tell us to not be afraid of sudden fear, He's acknowledging that we have sudden fear. Our fears are never a surprise to our God.  He also says, "when" not "if" it comes.  Ok, then, there is no doubt; it's coming.  And He tells us we don't have to be afraid of it when it does come.  Talk about a great heads-up! Praise be.

If you're struggling with fear, and guilt as a result of your fear, struggle no more. Jesus Christ conquered fear on the cross of Calvary and HE tells us that we don't have to be afraid of fear.  Fear, and all its trappings, is gone forever.

Praise be!  Because of this, we can live fearlessly.

I've had a lot to fear in my life.  Read my story of fear here and you will know exactly how God took my fear and why my fear has always been very afraid to return.