Family, Motherhood, Parenting

The Season of Exodus

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“The Lord said to Moses, “Depart; go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up out of the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give it.’ Exodus 33:1 (ESV)

When I was a little girl I dearly loved Christmas Day.  While all the events leading up to Christmas were exciting (the cookie baking, letters to Santa and gift wrapping, etc.), to me they were merely steps along the path leading to the ultimate destination – Christmas morning.  As soon as the weather turned cold in late November my longings for the arrival of December 25th started to churn.  I counted down the December days and cursed the slowness of the calendar. Periodically (when no one was around) I would vigilantly search the house for hidden gifts (to my parents’ extreme frustration). Every Christmas Eve I listened and watched for Santa (making it quite difficult for my parents to finish their last minute gift wrapping), and rejoiced with pure delight and relief when Christmas Day finally arrived and I could run downstairs to see what wondrous surprises were waiting for me under the tree.  On December 25th my joy became complete.

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Christianity, Motherhood, Parenting

Words of Elisabeth Elliot, pt. 4

elisabeth-elliot“This job [of motherhood] has been given to me to do. Therefore, it is a gift. Therefore, it is a privilege. Therefore, it is an offering I may make to God. Therefore, it is to be done gladly, if it is done for Him. Here, not somewhere else, I may learn God’s way. In this job, not in some other, God looks for faithfulness.”
Elisabeth Elliot

 

“Therefore, it is to be done gladly, if it is done for Him.”

We are making our way through this paragraph by Elisabeth Elliott.  Today, it’s all about attitude.

When the children were small there was a saying that I recited often to the children when something I wanted done was met with resistance.  I would tell them, “Do what I ask of you, ‘all the way, right away, and the happy way’”, and I would hold up three fingers as a reminder.  If their response to my command didn’t meet these three criteria, then their response wasn’t fully obedient and they would have to do the task over. You see, obedience was more to me than just their robotic compliance, it was also about their heart.  When the kids got older, and they would complain about a task they were given, I only needed to hold up three fingers for them to understand my meaning.

In the first chapter of the Old Testament book of Isaiah we find that the Israelites didn’t always abide follow this Rule of Three either.  They were bringing to God the sacrifices and offerings required of them, but their hearts weren’t in the right place and God knew it.  The Lord told them, “Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations– I cannot bear your worthless assemblies.”  The Israelites were obeying God’s commands, but their hearts were elsewhere.  To God this was meaningless obedience.

In the same way, if we mothers stay home to be with our children, or home school our children, or nurture our children because it looks good, or because we feel it is our duty, or because we feel it is what God requires of us, but we grumble all the while, then, like the Israelites, our offering of motherhood will be meaningless to God (and our children!).  But if we offer ourselves up gladly before the Lord, the fragrance of that offering will be pleasing (one translation even used the word “soothing”) to the Lord.

When the children were little I would frequently sit down in our family room chair to nurse or rock a baby to sleep.  I was often disheveled, unshowered, and unlovely.  My shirt smelled of regurgitated breast milk.  My floor was covered – and I mean covered, thanks to my two-year old – with every toy we owned.  (Sometimes I think she purposefully tried to scatter her books and toys as widely and thoroughly as she could just to irritate me).  The dishes in the sink were multiplying like fungus and the laundry was spilling out of the laundry room.

I had little to offer the Lord in those moments.  I was crabby.  I felt ugly.  I felt under appreciated.  The somewhat tidy house of a half an hour ago was long gone.  We had just finished eating breakfast and already the children were clamoring for lunch.  Resentful, I wanted to get up and yell and shut everyone in their rooms in order to have a small moment of peace.  “My life feels utterly trampled upon by these children!” I would sometimes rancorously think.  And though I knew the right thing to do was to finish my nursing or rocking, then get up and start lunch, do another load of laundry, and wipe another runny nose – I was willing to be obedient in what God was asking of me – I was also quite content to sport some hefty resentment over my situation, like a child with a newly skinned knee who shows off his injury for pity.  Sure, I would do what needed done, but I wasn’t always happy about it.  And God knows that kind of attitude is not the best way to handle a task.  My resentful obedience meant I had a grumpy manner, which affected my heart and my children’s heart, and it pretty much went downhill from there.

Over time I learned the importance of looking at the situation the “happy way” (probably while I was holding up three fingers at my children).  Admittedly, I didn’t always give my offerings happily; sometimes I royally blew it.  But sometimes, when I would feel overwhelmed or resentful, I would stop and thoughtfully assess my situation.  I would survey the mess of toys on the floor and thank God for our “abundance” of entertainment.  Our children were certainly not lacking in amusements!  I would examine the spit-up stains on my shirt and remind myself of the privilege to be able to stay home and nurse that beautiful baby that put them there.  I would gaze at the food-encrusted dishes in the sink and thank God for the food on our plates and in our cabinets, that all our physical needs were met and exceeded for that day.  I would meditate on the tremendous importance of my job as mother and think about the long-term rather than the right-in-front-of-me.  I would sometimes even imagine placing my messy house and messy life on God’s altar, and somehow that sacrificial imagery would still my resentful soul. Basically, I learned to take the focus off myself and put it on God.  It is amazing how that change in perspective improved my assessment of the situation!  Dirty dishes didn’t seem so bothersome, stained shirts didn’t seem so embarrassing, and a cluttered floor meant ABUNDANT life was happening under my roof!  I was starting to obey what God was asking of me in a “happy way”, and my obedience to Him felt much more satisfying and rich.

Moms, I know you are busy.  You are crazy, crazy busy!  This season of life with little ones is so extremely exhausting.  But if you sometimes find resentment rising in your heart toward the job of motherhood, first know you’re not alone, then take a step back to look at the big picture – contemplate the awesomeness of what God is calling you to do – then give your offering to God, gladly.

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Family, Motherhood, Parenting

Words of Elisabeth Elliot, pt. 3

elisabeth-elliot“This job [of motherhood] has been given to me to do. Therefore, it is a gift. Therefore, it is a privilege. Therefore, it is an offering I may make to God. Therefore, it is to be done gladly, if it is done for Him. Here, not somewhere else, I may learn God’s way. In this job, not in some other, God looks for faithfulness.”
Elisabeth Elliot

“Therefore it is an offering that I make to God

We are continuing our discussion of this Elisabeth Elliott quote.  Today we will take a look at motherhood as an offering to God.

When we think of an offering today we envision a felt-bottomed brass plate being passed from pew to pew in church.  In the Old Testament, offerings of animals, food, fine linen and gold were frequently brought to the temple.  So how is motherhood an offering to God?

First, what are we offering?  What are we depositing in the collection plate?  What exactly are we laying on the altar?  We are offering our very lives.

Surrounded by innumerable distractions, diversions and temptations, we mothers must push aside many other things in order to focus on the task before us, the raising of our children and the caring for our husband and home.  But diversions are hard to refuse and often we find ourselves over-committed to things elsewhere even though we have committed to stay home and take care of our families.  Don’t misunderstand, study groups are valuable, hobbies are wonderful, morning coffee with friends is therapeutic.  By all means, do them occasionally.  However, too much time spent focusing on ourselves and our own pleasures turns us away from the task at hand.  An offering of motherhood to the Lord is a relinquishment of the self for the Lord.  Our offering is not in coin but in surrender; surrendering to God our time and talents, that could be used elsewhere, for the sake of our current privilege of motherhood.  Which is our gift.  Which is our job.

Second, why is motherhood an offering?  Let’s look at a passage from the Old Testament.  When the Israelites were building the Tabernacle under the direction of Moses, under the direction of God, people collected and created offerings according to their abilities because they understood the enormous spiritual significance of those contributions:

“Then all the congregation of the people of Israel departed from the presence of Moses. And they came, everyone whose heart stirred him, and everyone whose spirit moved him, and brought the Lord’s contribution to be used for the tent of meeting, and for all its service, and for the holy garments. So they came, both men and women. All who were of a willing heart brought brooches and earrings and signet rings and armlets, all sorts of gold objects, every man dedicating an offering of gold to the Lord. And every one who possessed blue or purple or scarlet yarns or fine linen or goats’ hair or tanned rams’ skins or goatskins brought them. Everyone who could make a contribution of silver or bronze brought it as the Lord’s contribution. And every one who possessed acacia wood of any use in the work brought it. And every skillful woman spun with her hands, and they all brought what they had spun in blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen.  All the women whose hearts stirred them to use their skill spun the goats’ hair. And the leaders brought onyx stones and stones to be set, for the ephod and for the breastpiece, and spices and oil for the light, and for the anointing oil, and for the fragrant incense. All the men and women, the people of Israel, whose heart moved them to bring anything for the work that the Lord had commanded by Moses to be done brought it as a freewill offering to the Lord.”  Exodus 35:20-29, ESV

This passage states that the Israelites’ hearts were “stirred” to bring offerings because they saw the larger implications of their smaller contribution.  It wasn’t just about donating some cloth; it was about creating a temple.  It wasn’t just about giving some gold; it was about glorifying God.

Our offerings of dedication to our children aren’t just about our children, their about the church.  As mothers, we sacrifice our body of sleep sometimes, food sometimes, or diverting pursuits sometimes for our family, but ultimately we sacrifice for the sake of building up the body of Christ.  We are raising future generations for God.  And we are raising those future generations to raise future generations.  We are a small, yet invaluable, thread in the fabric of God’s plan, yet our meager offerings can have an enormous impact on generations to come and on eternity.  Behind every Samuel, there’s a Hannah.  Behind every John the Baptist there is an Elizabeth.

I love how Rachel Jankovic puts it in her June 16, 2011 Desiring God Ministries* article entitled “Motherhood As a Mission Field”.  She states, “Think about the feeding of the five thousand when the disciples went out and rounded up the food that was available. It wasn’t much. Some loaves. Some fish. Think of some woman pulling her fish out and handing it to one of the disciples. That had to have felt like a small offering. But the important thing about those loaves and those fishes was not how big they were when they were given, it was about whose hands they were given into. In the hands of the Lord, that offering was sufficient. It was more than sufficient. There were leftovers. Given in faith, even a small offering becomes great.”

http://www.desiringgod.org

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