By Grace Alone

The real life struggles of a Christian mom

Checking my pantry January 24, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Marissa Henley @ 2:22 pm

Part of our BSF lesson for the past week was Matthew 13:51-52. Jesus is telling his disciples that one who has received instruction about the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a house who brings out both his old and new treasures to share with others. We have past experiences and knowledge about Christ, and we should also have new things to share with others about what Christ is doing in our lives this week. Our teaching leader compared this to our pantry, and she said that if we are faithful to put things in our pantry, God will be faithful to bring them out when they are needed by ourselves or others. She also made the comment that nothing gets into our pantry unless we put it there.

As the sole grocery shopper in our household, this is true for me both literally and spiritually. It reminded me of the other night, when I went to the pantry for taco seasoning and found that I had neglected to buy it. (This is not a rare occurrence that I am missing one ingredient that I need!) So that night, our taco soup was a little bland. And in the same way, if I am not faithful to be studying God’s Word and meditating on His truth and promises, my spiritual pantry is lacking some ingredients. So when I hit a tough spot or a friend needs encouragement or counsel, I am not prepared. My advice, encouragement or response to the situation will be empty and superficial, not flavored with the awesome truth of the Gospel.

As the mother of a 2-year-old (as of today!) and an almost-4-year-old, I have an additional responsibility to keep my pantry well-stocked. As much as my kids love fruit snacks, they would not be healthy if that was we ever pulled out of the pantry. I need to stock my pantry with a variety of nutritious foods that give their growing bodies what they need. Likewise, I need to prepare spiritually to respond to their questions, worries and disobedience with the truth of the God’s Word. As they grow, we will face more complex issues and situations, and I need to be prepared. I have a feeling it will get a lot more complicated than quoting I Corinthians 13 when he is provoking his brother! I’m so thankful for biblical preaching at our church and for BSF, which encourage me to saturate myself with God’s Word. When the trials come, I don’t want to be standing in front of my pantry without the taco seasoning.


What type of dirt am I? January 19, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Marissa Henley @ 8:10 pm

Last week at BSF, we were studying Matthew 13, and I found the parable of the sower and Jesus’ explanation of it to be especially thought-provoking (see Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23). I found personal application in thinking through the condition of the soil of my heart, but also application for parenting as I consider my role in cultivating the soil of my children’s hearts. In the parable, Jesus describes four types of soil: hard soil along the path that is snatched up by the birds, rocky soil where the plants spring up but have no depth to withstand heat, thorny soil where the seed is choked by thorns, and fertile soil where the seed produces grain in varying amounts.

My lecture notes provided by BSF provided a thorough explanation of each of these types of soil. Four types of “soil” are given the Word of God, but is only truly received by the good soil. For me personally, I am like the good soil only by the grace of God–He has redeemed me, bought me with the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ, and changed my heart so that I can receive His Word and produce fruit for Him. For a Christian, the application of this parable comes from verses 8 and 23–are we producing thirty-fold, sixty-fold, or a hundred-fold? Are we saved but lukewarm and complacent in our walk with Christ? Are we producing good works for Christ but still holding on to areas of disobedience? Or are we living in the Spirit, living in complete obedience and submission to Christ, yielding abundant fruit for His kingdom?

This was so convicting to me–I can’t just sit back and say, “hey, I’m saved, I’m good soil, so let’s move on to the next question.” Honestly, I would place myself in the sixty-fold category, and I’m only there because God has been teaching me so much through this study of Matthew and being in God’s Word regularly has taken away the complacency with which I usually struggle. But there are still areas of my life where I want to be in control. I’m not ready to give up everything in obedience to Christ, and that prevents me from being the most productive type of soil. I know what some of those areas of disobedience are, and I’m sure that there are others I’m not even aware of. I’m praying that God would give me the courage to become hundred-fold soil and point out areas of my life that I need to submit to His authority.

The other three types of soil–referring to those who do not yet know Christ as Lord and Savior–can be applied to my children. I believe that only God can change their hearts, making them like the fertile soil and able to receive His Word. But as a parent, God has called me to cultivate their hearts and prepare them to give their lives to Him. I think it is important for me to frequently evaluate my children’s hearts. Are they like the hard soil, where God’s Word is being snatched away by Satan or by their own hardness of heart? Are they like the rocky soil, making a confession of faith in Christ but without roots that can withstand difficult times? Are they thorny soil where God’s Word is being choked out by worries, distractions, and busyness?

I need to pray daily that my children would not be hard soil and that God would soften their hearts to His truth. I need to be wary of professions of faith in Christ that do not count the cost of discipleship and lack a depth of understanding that would withstand hardship. And I need to do what I can to protect them from the distractions of the world that would choke out the seeds of God’s truth that Noel and I are sowing in our home.

And, as always, I need to evaluate the example I’m setting for my kids. Do I demonstrate a desire to hear more of God’s Word and know Christ more intimately? Do I exhibit a faith that trusts that God is good, even when my consequences are difficult? Do I let worldly treasures and pleasures cause confusion and distraction for our family? Or are my priorities and decisions dictated by a single purpose: to obey God and produce fruit for His kingdom? I am so thankful that by God’s grace, He has changed my hard, shallow, distracted heart and made me fertile soil. I want to produce a hundred-fold crop out of gratitude to God for loving me, redeeming me, and calling me His daughter. I pray for evidence of changed hearts in my children and can’t wait to see how God will use their lives for His glory.


Resolutions January 2, 2008

Filed under: parenting — Marissa Henley @ 9:14 pm
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I can’t believe it has been over a month since my last post.  December was a crazy whirlwind!  Looking back on the Christmas season, I realized that I need to start doing things differently.  I tried to do too much, attempting to craft the perfect Christmas in the eyes of everyone around me.  By the time the day arrived, I was almost too exhausted to enjoy it, and honestly, getting a little sick of Christmas!  So before I made my new year’s resolutions, I made some resolutions for Christmas 2008:  splurge on gift bags rather than using wrapping paper (to make wrapping quicker), bake homemade bread rather than 4 different types of cookies and candy (I did way too much baking, and it took way too long), and delegate more responsibility to Noel (surely he can handle putting some gifts in gift bags with tissue on top!).  Then I plan to use the extra time to spend more time preparing my heart to celebrate Christ’s birth, and hopefully get around to lighting more than two of the five candles on our Advent wreath.

Once I was done reflecting on December, I’ve been thinking through some new year’s resolutions.  I’ve been opposed to resolutions in the past, feeling that it was dumb to set a bunch of goals about exercise and other disciplines that I would surely forget by Valentine’s Day (or perhaps even Martin Luther King, Jr. Day).  But this year, I feel like there are several areas in which I’d like to improve.  I hope that by writing them down in my BSF notebook and looking at them regularly, I’ll keep them fresh in my mind, and by God’s grace, make some progress.

I thought about three areas:  personal goals, marriage goals, and parenting goals.  Then I thought about things that I’d like to stop doing, continue doing, and start doing.  (A concept introduced by my friend Ashley this summer in our parenting discussion group–thanks, Ashley!)  For example, some of my parenting goals are to stop losing my temper, continue having story time daily, and start doing more focused activities such as drawing, play-doh, and puzzles (activities that require Mommy sitting down with them rather than serving as referee while doing housework or email).

One primary goal I have is to change the fact that I spend a lot of time with my kids, in the sense that we are in the same house, but not enough time with my kids, in the sense that my attention is focused solely on them.  It has helped to start sitting down each day with a stack of books to read together, because I get less bored reading books than I do playing with the Little People fire truck.  But I’d like to get better at playing with the fire truck.

Another goal that is central to all the others is an improved prayer life.  I often rely on a quick morning prayer (“Lord, please help me get through this day”) or manage to pray for others outside our home but neglect the three people I should be praying for the most–Noel and the boys.  I’m confident that if I were more disciplined about praying for them, it would transform my marriage and my parenting.  On days that I pray for Noel, I notice that I’m much more interested in hearing about his day and aware of how exhausted he must be when he walks in the door rather than focusing on my own frustrations.  But these days are the exception rather than the rule, and I’d like to change that.

If you know me personally (I can’t imagine you’d get to the bottom of this post if you don’t), please feel free to ask me how I’m doing on these and my other resolutions.  I hope by putting them on my blog, I’ll be reminded of their importance and continue striving to glorify God as a wife and a mother in these ways–hopefully even until Memorial Day!