By Grace Alone

The real life struggles of a Christian mom

Top 10 Reasons to have a Daily Quiet Time June 30, 2008

Filed under: spiritual growth — Marissa Henley @ 1:51 pm
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I realize that many ladies in my stage of life (mother of young kids) are not spending time daily in prayer and God’s Word. I know this because I used to be one of them. In college, I thought, “When I don’t have all this studying to do, I’ll spend more time in God’s Word.” When I graduated and started working, I though, “When I stay home with kids and don’t have to leave the house so early, I’ll start having a daily quiet time.” And when I became a stay-at-home mom, I thought, “When my kids are at school all day, THEN I’ll finally have time to get a great prayer life started and read my Bible more.” I thought it was perfectly acceptable to chalk up my lack of discipline to this stressful, exhausting season of my life and only crack open my Bible a couple of times a week.

Then came Bible Study Fellowship and its daily homework. And the realization that if I am in God’s Word on a daily (or almost daily) basis, He will teach me, mold me, strengthen me, and make me more like Christ (which also means being a better mom to my kids).

So if you are using whatever season of life you are in as an excuse to put off developing a daily time with your Savior, let me ask you consider my top ten reasons why you should have a daily quiet time. I’m just putting it out there . . . let the Holy Spirit convict where He may.

10. It gives you an opportunity to pray for yourself. No one knows your struggles like you do, and so no one else is better equipped to intercede for you to the Father for what you need each day. Most of my prayer list is for myself–praying that God would give me wisdom about specific situations, take away anger, anxiety, frustration, etc. Take time to lay your struggles before God and ask for His provision.

9. It gives you an opportunity to pray for your husband and children. I’ve already posted about a great way to pray for your kids during the month. There is nothing more important you will do for your family.

8. You are setting an example for your children. When your kids hit the teenage years, do you want them to be reading God’s Word? How about when they are out from under your roof, facing the questions and temptations of the college years? And what habits would you like them to have when they are raising your grandchildren? Start setting an example for them now.

7. You are filling your spiritual “pantry” with wisdom and truth to feed your family and friends in their times of need. See this previous post for an explanation.

6. If you want to follow the command of Deuteronomy 6 to teach God’s Word to your children, you need to know it yourself. Much of the discipline I strive to use with my children involves teaching them God’s Word and what it says about how we are to love God and each other. My discipline will be either hypocritical and/or superficial if I’m not writing God’s Word on my own heart before I try to write it on my children’s heart.

5. If you want to bear fruit, you must be connected to the vine (John 15:4-5,8). As this passage in John reminds us, apart from Christ, we can do nothing. If we are connected to the Vine (Christ), we will bear much fruit and bring glory to God. I want to bear fruit for God in all that I do, especially in raising my children. I must be connected to my Savior in order to accomplish that goal.

4. If you need wisdom, God will provide perfect wisdom beyond any wisdom of this world (James 1:5). It is easy to feel uncertain about how to raise kids. How tightly do you control their activities and friends? What worldly influences do you allow in their lives? Do you let them do soccer, AWANAs, or both? And we aren’t even out of the preschool years yet! I need God’s perfect wisdom, and His Word and prayer are how I can get it.

3. Christ told Mary and Martha that spending time at His feet is more important than our to-do list (Luke 10:38-42). As my pastor’s wife says, spending time with God is even more important than getting your shower. (And she never smells bad, so she must find time for both.) Your family will benefit more from having you spend time in God’s Word than having a gourmet hot dinner or a clean bathroom.

2. Christ set an example for us by spending time with His Father (Matthew 26:36-44). If there was anyone who knew God’s Word and God’s will perfectly, it was Jesus. And yet He took time away to talk with His Father and ask for strength to do His will.

1. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). Does teaching, reproof, correction, or training sound like anything you do during the day? Enough said.

I say these things not to make myself look better, but only to glorify God and what He is doing in my life. I would not choose to make time for Him if He did not give me the strength and conviction to do so. I have seen the fruit of my time with Him in my daily life and in my relationships, and that makes me want other moms to experience the same benefits.

If you are willing to share, what are your reasons for spending time with God, or what obstacles keep you from it? I’d love to hear your comments.

 

A Meek and Quiet Spirit, Part 2 June 26, 2008

Filed under: parenting,spiritual growth — Marissa Henley @ 8:16 am
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I recently finished “Homeschooling with a Meek and Quiet Spirit” by Teri Maxwell and heartily recommend it to you, whether you are homeschooling or not. I hope to homeschool part-time, and this book was very relevant to me. Although there is some content in the book related specifically to homeschooling, it just as well could have been titled “Parenting with a Meek and Quiet Spirit.”  (You may want to see my earlier post on the first half of the book.)

In her chapter on “Hard Work and Dying to Self,” Maxwell emphasizes that as mothers, we should not expect much time to ourselves. This is a tough one for me. In the past, I have identified myself as the type of mom who needs time away from my kids. Lately, God has shown me that this is not a need, it is a desire. He supplies it often, but I should not demand it. And I should not grow resentful when I don’t think I’m getting enough of it. Every minute that I’m with my kids is an opportunity to share the Gospel with them, train them in righteousness, and love them. I should not wish that time away.

Another great point in this chapter was that if you were not homeschooled, you should be careful not to compare your life to your mother’s. In most cases, your mother had five days each week while you were at school to complete housework, work outside the home, or accomplish other wonderful things. She probably spent evenings and weekends relaxing with her husband and family. If you are homeschooling, your life will look very different. I know that once my kids are in school part-time, it will be difficult for me to not compare my life to my friends whose kids are in school full-time. I’m sure I will sway back and forth between insane jealousy and self-righteous pride in our choice–both sinful attitudes. I pray that God will keep me humbly obedient to what He has called us to do.

Another great point that Maxwell discusses is our role as a helper for our husband. (See Genesis 2:18.) She writes that we are not to view our husband as our helper (although he hopefully will be from time to time!), but we should be looking for ways we can help and support him. I am definitely guilty of thinking, “What can my husband do to help me today?” After all, he has been idly sitting around operating on people’s hands while I slave away at home all day! I cringe at the thought of serving him–do I seriously have to add one more person to the list of people who demand my help and attention? And yet, Genesis 2 tells me that this is my role. I was created to be Noel’s helpmeet. And God will provide the strength to fulfill this role.

One last thing I loved in this book was her reminder that we need to smile more at home. I wish I could see myself through my kids eyes, or walk around with a mirror in front of my face. I suspect that my face shows annoyance, exhaustion and frustration more than it shows joy. Maxwell suggests that making an effort to smile more will go a long way toward creating a more joyful atmosphere in the home. Surely I can handle that!

 

Mighty Molly Mutz June 22, 2008

Filed under: spiritual growth — Marissa Henley @ 3:55 pm
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Something very sad happened this week to someone I love. Ashley Escue is one of my best friends from our husbands’ medical school days in Memphis. We encouraged each other while our husbands were working 100-hour weeks and studying for board exams. We cried together on Match Day and beamed with pride at graduation. She loved me even through the years when she had kids and I didn’t, and I thought I understood, but I didn’t. At all. She hauled her third son to Indiana after the birth of my first son and comforted me when I was so exhausted that I couldn’t do anything but cry. Ashley is the daughter of Dennis and Barbara Rainey (founders of Family Life), so she always has fabulous book recommendations and advice.

Ashley has a sister, Rebecca Mutz, whom I have heard so much about from Ashley. Because I am friends with Rebecca on Facebook, I knew that she was expecting her first child. I saw the announcement of her baby girl’s birth on Facebook, and then two days later became concerned when her Facebook status asked for prayer for her daughter. Molly was unexpectedly born with life-threatening medical conditions, and God took her Home on Thursday, just a week after she was born. I won’t share all the details of Molly’s life here, but another blogger posted email updates along the way from Dennis Rainey here and here . All I will say here is that Rebecca and her husband Jacob had a baby dedication service with family in the hospital. God asked them to unreservedly commit their child to Him in the fullest sense, and they obeyed. They are truly courageous parents who cling to their Savior and entrusted their daughter to Him.

Mighty Molly Mutz (as her Papa referred to her) has had a deep impact on me this week, and one that I know is lasting. I am unable to put the entire experience into words, but here are a few things I have learned from Molly:

1. Molly made me long for Heaven. If God would have allowed Rebecca and Jacob to take her home with them, she would have been raised by joyful, godly parents. She would have been spoiled by adoring grandparents and enjoyed Christmases overflowing with cousins. Molly would have been taught about God and His Word, and she surely would have impacted many people with the Gospel. (Although she has influenced many in her short time on earth!) But for an unfathomable reason, Heaven is a better place for Molly than the wonderful home she would have enjoyed here. And so that reminds me that Heaven must truly be some place I want to be.

2. Molly taught me to be thankful. My heart aches for Rebecca’s and Jacob’s empty arms. God has allowed me to have two sons at home with me, and (I’m embarrassed to admit) there are days that go by when I don’t acknowledge that every day He gives me with them is a precious gift. When there are sleepless nights and whining-filled days, it is tempting to view motherhood as an inconvenience. This week, I have been a little more grateful, a little more patient, and a more loving mom to my boys.

3. Molly taught me to pray. I have prayed more this week than I have in a long time. I pulled Ashley’s family photo off the fridge, and my sons prayed for her boys who would soon lose a cousin. I know others who have lost children, most of them prior to my knowing them. Molly has reminded me to add them to my list of people to pray for regularly.

4. Molly taught me to trust. When something like this happens to someone I know, I agonize, weep and pray for them. And, because I am a selfish being, then my thoughts turn to myself. What if this happened to me? How would I survive? I begin to feel anxious and fearful. This week I was reading a chapter from Linda Dillow’s “Calm My Anxious Heart,” and the chapter was titled “Trusting God with the What Ifs.” I was reminded of God’s character–His sovereignty, His faithfulness and His love for me–and encouraged to trust Him with all of my what ifs. “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is in the Lord.” (Jeremiah 17:7)

To Rebecca and Jacob and all the Rainey and Mutz families . . . my prayers are with you during this excruciatingly difficult time. Thank you for opening your lives to us and allowing us to share in your struggles, grief and hope, allowing God to teach us through you.

One of my favorite hymns, especially in times of difficulty, is “It Is Well With My Soul.” It was written by Horatio Spafford as he sailed in the Atlantic Ocean, where his four daughters had recently died. It seems fitting to share the words here. The first verse tells us that he has peace even in his grief, and the following verses tell us why.

When peace like a river attendeth my way, When clouds like a sea billow roll,

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, “It is well, it is well, with my soul.”

Tho’ Satan should buffet, tho’ trials should come, Let this blest assurance control,

That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate, And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin- O, the bliss of this glorious thought -my sin, not in part, but the whole,

Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more, Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight, The clouds be rolled back as a scroll,

The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend, “Even so”- it is well with my soul.

It is well with my soul, It is well, it is well with my soul.

 

Making Time For Quiet Time June 17, 2008

Filed under: spiritual growth,Uncategorized,wfmw — Marissa Henley @ 9:35 pm
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*** This post is part of Works For Me Wednesday at Rocks In My Dryer. Head over there to see everyone else’s great ideas! ***

A couple of weeks ago I started a new daily schedule for the summer. Before implementing my schedule, I rarely spent time with God in the morning, resting on the excuse that I am not a morning person. I often made time for Bible study and prayer in the afternoon during my kids’ rest time. This afternoon time was fairly consistent, but there were days when other responsibilities would distract me by the time 1:30 p.m. rolled around.

When I began my summer schedule, I decided to wake up every morning at 6:30 so I would have time to shower, get dressed, AND have my quiet time before my kids wake up. To hold myself accountable to this, I made a rule: No computer before Bible study.

This is radical for me, because I am addicted to the Internet. And if you are reading this, chances are, so are you. It is amazing how I never go one day without making time to check my email, Facebook and 14 favorite blogs. But I often go days without making time for my Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer.

I cannot claim to be 100% consistent with my new rule, but it has definitely helped. I am falling in love with my morning time with my Savior, and by His grace, I hope to become even more disciplined. I will probably need to ask myself over and over again: What is more important to me than spending time with God? What do I need to do to fix those priorities? Next idol to tackle: Sleep.

 

Splinters June 12, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Marissa Henley @ 8:34 pm
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Last night as we were enjoying a gorgeous evening in our backyard, Christopher started complaining that his finger hurt. “Well, how convenient,” I replied, gesturing toward my hubby, “your dad is a finger doctor!” Christopher had two splinters in his finger, and after 10 minutes with the finger doctor, Christopher re-emerged from the house screaming hysterically. The splinters were too deep for tweezers, and Daddy would need to use a needle to scrape away the skin and get to the splinters.

For close to an hour, Christopher was hysterical, and we were miserable. He settled into an annoying wimper, and anytime we mentioned taking the splinter out, it erupted into terrified screaming. I tried begging, distracting, admonishing, and yelling (why is it that yelling at them to stop yelling NEVER works??). Will joined in, pointing his finger at Christopher and saying, “Stop that, right now!” exactly the way I do when they throw a tantrum or fight with each other. (Yep, that one hurt. Will be trying to remove that from my repertoire.) We even tried holding him down, with Little Einsteins playing for good measure, but he went ballistic and there was no way to keep his finger from moving.

So I stuck him in his room for several minutes while I calmed down. He was still crying when I went in, and he didn’t even want me in the room for fear that I would try to take the splinter out. It was insane. But this time I had come armed with new ammunition: Scripture and the promise of chocolate ice cream. I finally got him calmed down enough for us to talk about the situation. I asked if he remembered our memory verse for the week, which conveniently enough, is: Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go (Joshua 1:9). We talked about how it might hurt a little, but that God would be with Him. Plus, if he was good and brave, he would get chocolate ice cream.

Finally, he agreed to the procedure, and Daddy worked on his finger for a few minutes while we repeated our Bible verse and talked about the ice cream.

Daddy was only able to get 1 1/2 of the 2 splinters out, so we gave up, put a band-aid on and went to get ice cream. Christopher commented, “God always gets the splinters out.” **Insert teaching moment here** I explained that God doesn’t always get the splinters out. Sometimes bad, scary, or hurtful things happen, but He promises He will be with us while we are hurting and scared.

It wasn’t until the next morning that I got the lesson God had hidden in the splinter incident for me. I have been feeling very anxious about losing a baby or having pregnancy complications–and I’m not even pregnant yet! The idea of becoming pregnant with preschoolers at home who would be traumatized if something sad happened is scary to me. I realized from my words to Christopher last night that I’m not going to get any promises from God that I will have a healthy, complication-free pregnancy. But I do have His promises that He will be with us. He will never leave us or forsake us! And, obviously, I need to pull out Calm My Anxious Heart again.

 

A Meek and Quiet Spirit, Part 1 June 9, 2008

Filed under: parenting,spiritual growth — Marissa Henley @ 8:45 pm
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When I recently ordered the Maxwell’s scheduling book (Managers of Their Homes), I noticed another book on their website. Homeschooling with a Meek and Quiet Spirit, by Teri Maxwell. No thanks, I thought. You see, I’m planning on homeschooling three days a week with an angry and resentful spirit. Who wants to be meek and quiet? Doesn’t sound like it would serve my interests all that well. It was about at that point in the train of thought that I realized I must immediately click “Add to Cart.” And I’m really glad I did.

I would definitely recommend this book to any homeschooling mother OR any mom who struggles with keeping her sanity, let alone a meek and quiet spirit, during long days at home with preschoolers. I’ve learned so much already from this book, and I haven’t even gotten to Chapter 6: Hard Work and Dying to Self. I know that one is going to hurt tomorrow morning and will probably result in the post, A Meek and Quiet Spirit, Part 2 (why I changed my mind about this book). Ha ha!

I have learned so much from her discussion of “meek and quiet spirit robbers” such as fear and worry, disorganization, and anger. I have been reminded several times by this book that my children are watching the way I deal with worries and how I control (or fail to control) my anger and frustration. All of my teaching on self-control won’t do any good if I don’t exhibit it myself!

In her chapter on Anger, Maxwell writes about having high goals and low expectations for our kids. Low expectations should not be confused with permissiveness. But she points out that our children are just that–children. They are in the process of learning how to be godly adults (we hope), but they are still learning. So while we have lofty goals for our children’s obedience, kindness to others, self-control, responsibility, etc., we must understand that they are going to fall short of those goals. Our expectation is that they will disobey and require discipline from us. If I start my day knowing this, it will take away my shock that our son is yelling at his brother over a toy again and might help me keep my temper under control.

Maxwell also suggests having well-defined consequences mapped out for disobedience or irresponsibility. That way, there is no stress involved in figuring out how to handle disciplining a child. When the child disobeys, the consequence is given. That way, the consequence doesn’t depend on mom’s mood or how many times the infraction has occurred that afternoon, and everyone knows what to expect.

Maxwell also points out that anger is a choice. She gives the examples of not being as easily angered at church as we are at home, or yelling at our children until the phone rings and then answering the phone in a calm tone of voice. That was so convicting for me! It is a choice. And so often I choose poorly because I am trying to rely on my own strength. What I appreciate about this book is that it is not only giving me practical suggestions for how to deal with fear, disorganization and anger, but also reminding me that I will not do well at any of it if I am not relying on God’s grace and strength. His grace is sufficient!