By Grace Alone

The real life struggles of a Christian mom

A New Life Verse July 30, 2009

I think I have found my “Life Verse.”  I’ve never had a life verse before, but I know people who do.  The verses are usually very inspirational, something along the lines of reaching the nations or future generations for God.  Good stuff, really.  My favorite verse thus far is Romans 8:1, but it didn’t seem to fall into the Life Verse category.

But a couple of weeks ago when I was doing my Bible study (an awesome study of God’s attributes which deserves many, many blog posts that I don’t currently have time to write), I came across a verse I’ve never noticed before:

2 Chronicles 20:12:  We don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you.

Some context for those of you who don’t have 2 Chronicles memorized:  King Jehoshaphat and the Israelites are watching multiple nations of enemies coming against them in battle.  They know there is no way they can defeat this multitude.  Jehoshaphat calls the people together, and they cry out to the Lord, asking what they should do.  It specifically mentions that they are all standing before the Lord, along with their wives and children.   Can you imagine this picture?  Standing there, clutching your children to you, watching the enemy come, knowing you are powerless against them and crying out to the Lord for help.  (To see how it ends, see 2 Chronicles 20.)

This has definitely become my Summer Verse, if not my Life Verse.  For one thing, this verse is very easy to memorize.  It rhymes and has lots of 2’s in the reference.  And if there is one theme in my life right now, it is that I don’t know what to do.  I don’t know how to encourage my 5-year-old to not become a prideful Pharisee who craves approval and does all the right things only when someone is watching.  (It takes one to know one, and that kid is just like me.)  I don’t know how to encourage my 3-year-old to put his poop in the potty rather than in his pants.  And I certainly don’t know how to encourage my sister-in-law as she battles the most formidable enemy we’ve faced in a long time:  breast cancer.

I don’t know what to do, but my eyes are on the One who is my refuge and strength, an very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1).  He promises His perfect wisdom is ours for the asking. (James 1:5).  He hems me in, behind and before, and lays His hand upon me (Psalm 139:5).  When my eyes are on Him, I can choose to be overwhelmed by His love and goodness toward me, rather than being overwhelmed by my circumstances.  (With thanks to my summer Bible study leader for this last thought.)

I don’t know what to do, but my eyes are on You.

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Adventures in Couponing July 11, 2009

Several months ago, my husband started expressing his desire for us to start spending less and saving more.  (This may or may not have coincided with a certain Democrat being elected president and vowing to “reform” health care.  But that is another story for another blog.)  He has repeated this preposterous suggestion many, many times.  And every time, my flesh (sinful nature) has done a good job of ignoring it.  After all, his job is pretty secure, he’s not making less money than he did a year ago–why should we cut back?  Shouldn’t I be doing my part to stimulate the economy and support my local retailers?  (I really want Gymboree to survive this economic turmoil.)  It seemed crazy for my husband to ask me to make sacrifices, and not even so I could use the saved money for something fabulous, like an iPhone or a cleaning lady.  Just for the sake of spending less and saving more.  He must be nuts, right?

After some conversations with my wonderful friends (if you don’t have godly, truth-speaking friends in your life, may I suggest you get some immediately?), I realized that this was a huge area of disobedience in my life.  My husband is asking me to do something.  He is not asking me to sin.  In fact, the thing he is asking me to do is perfectly reasonable, probably a good idea, and (gulp) would be glorifying God by thinking less about my own selfish desires.  I knew it was time for the S-word:  submission.  I couldn’t bring myself to submit right away, so I started by praying that God would convict me and enable to submit and obey.  And then I turned to my local expert on honoring your husband by spending less money:  my friend Lynette.

I’ve been giving Lynette my coupons out of the Sunday paper for months.  I had no idea what she was doing with them, but I knew I needed to find out.  I broke the sad news to her that she would no longer be getting my coupons and asked her to share her secrets with me.  Thankfully, she is very supportive of my saving money AND my submitting to my husband!  She taught me a few key strategies:

1.  Stop being married to specific brands.  I was shocked when I compared the shampoo I usually buy with some much cheaper alternatives.  I’ve been having shampoo tunnel vision for months, and my hair doesn’t even look that great.

2.  Track the cost of items that you buy on a regular basis.  When they go on sale, stock up.

3.  Keep your coupons from the Sunday paper, and then use blogs such as Common Sense With Money, Money Saving Mom and NWA Deals to find out how to maximize your savings by combining coupons with low sale prices.

4.  Don’t be afraid to shop at Aldi.  (I haven’t conquered this one yet.  Maybe when the kids go back to school in the fall, and I don’t have to take three kids with me everywhere I go.)

This concept of combining sales and coupons is amazing!  It is definitely worth spending some time on.  In my first week, check out what I got . . . serious bargain-hunting bloggers always take a photo:

IMG_4464

Pringles for 49 cents, family-size boxes of Special K for $2.50 each, Edy’s ice cream for $1.33 each, and deodorant for 38 cents!  I also got a pint of Starbucks ice cream for 50 cents, but I gave that to my sister-in-law, because seriously, how much ice cream does a girl need when she has baby weight to lose?!?

Back when I was just dipping my toe into the pool of obedience but not ready to jump in, I read on a stay-at-home mom’s blog that she thinks that her job is to save her family as much money as possible.  I thought, “Poor thing.  My job is much more enjoyable–spending our family’s money and having fun doing it.  Oh, wait . . . hmm, maybe that isn’t supposed to be my job . . . oh bummer, this woman is right!”  Now I have a new view on my job description, though sometimes I miss my old job.   I can’t wait to see what my new strategies will accomplish when it comes to lowering our spending, and (more importantly) pleasing my husband and letting him know that what’s important to him is important to me.  I want to honor my husband with my spending, following the example given to us as women in Proverbs 31:

An excellent wife who can find?
She is far more precious than jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain.

Proverbs 31:10-11

 

Unthankfulness July 1, 2009

Do you know how many times my children have opened their dresser drawers and exclaimed, “Clean clothes!  Washed, dried, folded and put in my drawer!  Way to go, Mom!  Thank you!”

Zero.  Usually, all I hear is, “When are you going to wash my Transformer pj’s?”  Sound familiar?

When I read Jerry Bridge’s chapter on Unthankfulness (see previous post on his book Respectable Sins), I realized that I must look the same way to God as my kids do to me.  God has done so much for me and continues to sustain me every day, and I seldom stop to thank Him.  God has rescued me from guilt, sin and death by delivering me from the domain of darkness and transferring me to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom I have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:13-14).  He has blessed me in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3).  In addition to spiritual blessings, He has given me every ability or skill I have, a loving husband, three healthy children, friends, a home, possessions, food . . . everything I have comes from Him.

How often do I thank God for my mini-van?  For the ability to go to the store when we run low on food?  For the privelege of gathering with other Christians openly every Sunday to hear the Word of God preached?  It is not often that I exhibit a sincere attitude of thankfulness.

I read an article on happiness recently in Good Housekeeping magazine.  It said that when we buy something we want, we have a high level of satisfaction, but only for a very short time.  We quickly become used to having that item around and take it for granted, and our sights turn to the next item we want.  This is so true in my life.  I remember last year, when I desperately wanted to replace the ceiling fan over our dining room table with a beautiful chandelier.  Finally, I got my chandelier, and I loved it.  For about a week, I looked at it all the time and felt happy and thankful.  Now, how often do you think I still notice my beautiful chandelier?  Pretty much never.  Rather than being thankful for what I have, I turn my attention to that sofa I’d like to replace.

Jerry Bridges reminded me in this chapter that my unthankfulness is a sin.  Sound harsh?  It’s true.  In Ephesians 5:20, we see the command to give “thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Bridges writes, “Failure to give Him the thanks due to Him is sin.  It might seem like a benign sin to us because it doesn’t harm anyone else.  But it is an affront and insult to the One who created us and sustains us every second of our lives.”

Bridges also writes about giving thanks in ALL circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18).  This is a personal challenge for me right now, as someone I love very much is facing a battle with cancer.  I found comfort in Bridges’ discussion of this topic, encouraging us that giving thanks in difficult circumstances can only be done by faith in the promises of God.  We can only obey I Thessalonians 5:18 because we know Romans 8:28 is true:  For we know for those who love God all things work together for good.  In the midst of heartache, we can thank God for the good we know He can accomplish through any circumstance.