By Grace Alone

The real life struggles of a Christian mom

Help fund a 6th Seeds Family Worship CD! June 15, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Marissa Henley @ 1:18 pm
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As any reader of this blog knows, our family are huge fans of Seeds Family Worship.  Their CD’s of Scripture set to music are so well-done that I often listen to them in the car, even without the kids!  The CD’s set the tone for many of our days at home and have helped myself and my kids memorize more of God’s Word.  I’m starting to wonder if I’m getting a reputation for breaking into song when someone mentions a Scripture reference–sometimes I just can’t help myself!  If you have never ordered a Seeds CD, I recommend that you do so immediately!

Now we all have an opportunity to be part of making a 6th Seeds CD a reality.  The new CD will feature Scripture about the character of Christ–the character we should each be developing as the Holy Spirit makes us more like Christ.  Because the people at Seeds are committed to providing high-quality music, the production cost of this CD is $52,500.  If they raise the funds by July 24, they will produce the CD to be released this fall.  They are offering some fun incentives for those who want to be part of this project.  Check it out by clicking here or on the Seeds widget to the right.


A Wake-up Call March 14, 2010

Last week, I had the privilege of hearing a very powerful testimony.  “J” and “E” were visiting my church from the mission field in Turkey.  E is a native of Turkey who is working with J, an American, to reach both Turks and Kurds living in Turkey.  Here’s what I’m sure will be an inadequate synopsis of E’s story:

E grew up in an influential family in Istanbul.  At the age of 12, he felt empty and started searching for truth in the holy books of major world religions.  He started with the Koran.  He then read the Old Testament and the New Testament separately, since he had been taught that Jews believed the Old Testament alone, and Christians believed only the New Testament.  He also explored Buddhism, but none if it seemed right.  Finally, he saw a book titled “The Holy Bible” at a bookstore.  The woman working at the bookstore explained to him that Christians believe the Old and New Testaments together.  So he read them again, this time taking note of all the connections between the two, the prophecies made in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the New.  At the age of 14, E put his faith in the God of the Bible and His Son, Jesus Christ.  At that point in his life, E had never met another Christian.

E was forced to make difficult choices and suffer for his faith.  He was kicked out of his parents’ house as a teenager because of his faith.  He has been imprisoned for telling others about Christ.  E and J are now ministering to the Kurds, a highly discriminated-against group in Turkey.  For awhile, it was illegal to write, speak or listen to anything in the Kurdish language, Kurmanji.  J and E are trying to provide a way for Kurdish Christians to worship in their own language.  They have held one worship service so far, in the storage room of a church whose pastor was willing to let them meet there.  There is no guarantee that they will continue to be able to meet in that storage room.  It is unusual and unexpected for them to receive any help from the Turks in this endeavor.

After E shared his testimony, he had some tough words for us as we sat comfortably in our pews.  He said the church in America is sleeping and needs to wake up.  He said he doesn’t want to have to send his grandchildren over here to evangelize our grandchildren someday.  And he is absolutely right.

In America, we have the awesome privilege of worshipping in our own language, at our choice of a church, and without fear.  We don’t have to watch the door anxiously, waiting for soldiers or the police to appear.  We have beautiful buildings that are kept warm in the winter and cool in the summer.  We have facilities for Sunday school classes, youth group meetings, basketball games and yoga classes.  We have extensive children’s ministries, music ministries, Vacation Bible Schools, youth programs, college ministries, and on and on.  And yet the church in America is shrinking every day.  Children who are raised in the church are leaving in droves.

Thinking about E’s words, I am more firmly convinced that the American church at large has put its faith in all the wrong things.  We are trusting in our buildings and our programs.  There is nothing wrong with these things.  They can be used for good.  But that is not where our faith should lie, because on their own, they are powerless to change lives.  The power lies in the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.  E did not grow up in Sunday school.  No one outlined spiritual laws for him or loved him to Jesus.  Again, I’m not saying there is anything wrong with these things.  But E’s testimony shows where the true power lies:  in the Gospel of Christ, given to us in the Word of God and made clear to us by the Holy Spirit.

I spend a lot of time worrying about who my kids spend time with now and who they might choose to spend time with when I’m no longer in control of their every waking minute.  I want them at Sunday school, children’s church, Bible study, and Christian schools and preschools.  And E’s testimony didn’t change my mind about that.  But it did remind me that these things are simply tools.  Without God’s Word and the Holy Spirit, these things are powerless to change my children’s hearts.  My own Christian pursuits are also powerless unless I am digging into God’s Word and living by the Spirit.

What are you trusting in:  for yourself, your church, your kids?  Are you attending a church that preaches the Gospel of Christ?  Is His Word preached, or is it an accessory in the worship service?  For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  Romans 1:16.


Goals for 2010 February 5, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Marissa Henley @ 3:48 pm
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I thought I’d write a bit about my goals for 2010.  Because it’s February, and everyone knows that February is the time when you let everyone know how you’ve already failed at keeping the goals you wrote down in January.  (Even worse, I found a post I wrote in January 2008 (yes, ’08) about my goals for that year, and they are pretty much the same as my goals for this year.  Gulp.)

I recently read a book on organization by a Christian woman named Donna Otto.  The title was compelling–Secrets to Getting More Done in Less Time–and I found many helpful tips inside.  In the book, she urges women to write down their goals, which we’ve all heard before.  But she also urges women to look at their goals regularly after writing them down.  I’ve taken the first step, and I plan to put the goals inside the cover of my prayer notebook, which hopefully I’ll be opening daily (one of my goals).   So this will either go really well or really badly.

Otto suggests 8 areas to help you brainstorm your goals:  intellectual, physical, emotional, financial, social, spiritual, family and career.  Here are some of the goals I wrote down in these areas:

Intellectual–finish 3 non-fiction books (I’ve finished 2 already!)

Physical–exercise 3 times a week

Emotional–display the fruits of the Spirit to Noel and the kids (And apparently, yelling and grumpiness are not fruits of the Spirit.)

Financial–save money in areas of our budget where Noel asks me to do so

Social–have someone over for dinner once a month

Spiritual–spend time daily in God’s Word and develop a more disciplined prayer life

Family–spend time every week working with Will on pre-reading skills

Career–I don’t have one, but in this area, I’ve set the goal of writing a post on this blog every week.  Obviously, this isn’t happening yet!

Other–scrapbook at least one year’s worth of photos, start Sarah Kate’s baby book

Other than reading books to myself and to Will, none of these goals are going too well.  I’m hoping that by making them public to the 8 people who read this blog (hi, Mom!), it will provide some accountability and motivation.  I do feel like these are all areas in which I should be growing and progressing.  I don’t want to look back at this post in 2012 and be struggling with the same issues.  I want to look back on 2010 as the year that I developed a vibrant prayer life, learned huge lessons from God’s Word, applied them to my life, shared them with others, and served my family with joy.  (And if I happened to lose 5-8 pounds and finish a scrapbook along the way, that would be a bonus!)


A Mother of Three May 28, 2009

Filed under: parenting — Marissa Henley @ 2:10 pm
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Wow, it has been a really long time since I’ve posted to this blog!  If anyone out there is still reading, thanks for sticking with me.  For any of you who don’t know me personally, I’m happy to announce that my daughter, Sarah Kate, was born on April 27.  She is healthy, a great sleeper, and very snuggly and sweet.  She has already captured the hearts of her two older brothers.  (Although her arrival may or may not have anything to do with Will deciding he is no longer going to use the potty.)

I have to admit, I was very anxious about Sarah Kate’s first few weeks.  I struggled a lot after my last baby (Will) was born–I was a mess emotionally, spiritually, and relationally.  I was hopeful that things would be different this time around, mostly because when my boys were born, I was not consistently in God’s Word.  Thankfully, by God’s grace, I have a more sure foundation this time around.

Now, one month into this grand adventure of life with three kids, I can see God’s faithfulness to our family in so many ways.  Sarah Kate’s first week was rough from a sleeping perspective . . . she was happy to sleep during the day but not at all interested in sleeping at night.  My husband had taken that first week off, so he was a huge help to me in the middle of the night.  I was terrified to think what would happen when he went back to work and couldn’t be up all night, every night with Sarah Kate and me.  But the night before he went back to work, Sarah Kate figured out that nighttime is for sleeping.  And our nights have been very manageable ever since!  God knows what we can handle, and He won’t give us a smidge more than that.

Not to keep harping on sleep (but we all know it is one of the only things a mother of a newborn can think about), but since that first week, Sarah Kate has been a great sleeper.  And our few difficult nights have usually been followed by a day when someone else is helping me with the boys and I am able to rest.  I have seen God’s hand providing for my need for sleep over and over again.

I’ve found that the most difficult thing for me right now is juggling the needs of the three kids during the day.  My temper is short and patience is lacking.  There have been some really ugly days.  I alternate between moments of overwhelming gratitude and seeing God’s faithfulness, and moments (okay, sometimes hours) of discontentment and longing for life to feel normal.  I’ve been praying for wisdom, self-control and patience this week, and God has been providing.  I know this will continue to be a struggle for me.  I am constantly being called to die to myself and my selfish desires and lay down my life for my kids.  It hurts sometimes, but God provides the strength to do it, and He is glorified by our obedience!


Being a little girl’s mom February 3, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Marissa Henley @ 10:57 am
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After a few years of experience as a boy mom, they tell me this one’s gonna be a girl.  As excited as I am about buying pink, I’m a little nervous about this.  (And not only because I spent most of my adolescence yelling hurtful things at my own mother.)  The other day when I was praying for my kids and their marriages and future spouses, I was reminded again of the weight of responsibility that comes with raising a girl.  When raising my boys to be godly husbands and fathers, I can point to their father and say, “Look at how hard he works to support his family.  Look at how he helps me when he gets home and cares about spending time with you.”  Thankfully, my boys have a wonderful example to follow.

But this little girl will learn the most about being a wife and mom from MY day-to-day example.  What will she see?  Will she see laziness and selfishness, or diligence and service?  Will she see respect or resentment toward my husband?  Submission or manipulation?  Patience in disciplining my children, or a lack of self-control?  Will she learn to be frugal and wise in her spending habits, or will she see me rationalizing and spending on my own desires?  Will she see me seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, or will she see me seeking after the things of this world?

I am not perfect.  There are sin patterns in my life that I know my daughter will see, and I pray that God will protect her from following when I am a poor example.  I know that God is probably bringing a little girl into my life to provide even more accountability than my sons already have.


The 10 Commandments and Christmas December 15, 2008

A few weeks ago, we studied the 10 Commandments in BSF.  Since I have been a Christian for a long time, I am pretty familiar with the 10 Commandments.  I have also studied Jesus’ explanation of some of the commandments in Matthew 5, which points out that these commandments are not just about our external behavior, but also about our heart attitudes.  But this time around, I was even more convicted about different ways in which I break the 10 Commandments, and how meditating on the 10 Commandments at this time of year emphasizes the importance of the work Christ came to do for me.

I would challenge anyone to convince me that they have kept the 10 Commandments.  I’ve certainly broken all of them:  I have put other people and things before God, I have failed to worship God rightly, I have misused His name, I have failed to keep the Sabbath day holy, I have definitely dishonored my father and mother (hello, adolescence!–and beyond), I have hated others, lusted, taken what does not belong to me, lied, and coveted.  Even if you set aside Jesus’ discussion of some of these commandments and take them all purely at face value (e.g., believing that if you have not murdered someone or bowed down to a golden idol, you have not broken those 2 commandments), you have admit–that 10th commandment about not coveting anything that belongs to your neighbor has got you, doesn’t it?

I have heard some Christians say that the 10 Commandments do not apply to us.  They are from the Old Testament, the old covenant–now we are under grace, not under the law.  I disagree.  Jesus said, ““Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17).  And so if God requires us to keep the 10 Commandments, and if we all have to admit we haven’t done it, then we have a problem.

However, God, in His goodness and grace, not only gives us His law, but He is the one to remedy the situation when we fail to keep it.  God became man and dwelt among us, not only to teach us and heal us, but to live the perfect life that we could not live.  We cannot keep these commandments; Jesus Christ kept them perfectly, and He bore the punishment for our law-breaking on our behalf.  This truth gives us just one more reason to rejoice this Christmas!  Christ came to die for us, and He also came to live for us, to keep the law perfectly for us.

I think this is also an important point to teach our children.  When they sin, we can remind them of the One who was without sin.  Jesus obeyed His parents perfectly.  Jesus did not sin in His anger.  (I wish the Bible told us that Jesus ate his peas, it would really help me out!)  His perfection qualified Him to pay the penalty for our children’s disobedience, and it is important for them to understand that.  The baby Jesus was born to die for them, and also to live for them.  Their obedience should not be motivated by Santa’s list or by an elf on the shelf (no offense to those of you with elves on your shelves), but by gratitude to God for what He has done for us in Christ Jesus.  O come let us adore Him!


Teaching Kids Scripture July 8, 2008

This post is part of Works For Me Wednesday at Rocks In My Dryer. Head over there to see everyone else’s great ideas. You’ll be glad you did.

Scripture memory is important at our house. It began with teaching Christopher the basics of faith and life–Ephesians 6:1, Romans 3:23, Psalm 119:105, John 3:16, etc. Last year, Christopher did AWANAS, a children’s Scripture memory program. Most of the verses were pretty short, and I started coming up with little tunes to help him remember some of the longer verses. After all, Christopher had been able to learn to spell his name at a young age after I came up with a simple jingle. He still sings it to himself as he is writing is name. (Eleven letters is a lot for a 4-year-old. Note to self: Give future children shorter names.)

A year ago, I decided we could all benefit from memorizing the fruits of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23. I had tried in vain to memorize them myself over the years. But when I set the verses to the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” it stuck. Christopher can easily remember the song, even if it has been a few months since we reviewed it. I will let him demonstrate:

Now if I could only teach the application of these verses by better living them out, especially in my interaction with my kids!

I’ve also tried setting I Corinthians 13 to “A Mighty Fortress is our God,” but I’m not sure its the best fit. Have you set Bible verses to music for your kids or have another memorization tip? Leave me a comment and tell me about it!

Addendum to original post (7/6/09):  Since this post, one primary way I have used to teach Scripture to my kids are the wonderful CDs made by Seeds Family Worship.  Visit their site to order CD’s or read posts I have written about them–they are fantastic!