By Grace Alone

The real life struggles of a Christian mom

Worry August 7, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Marissa Henley @ 7:11 am
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You want to hear some pathetic? I was looking for this post the other day. I was certain I had written a post about Worry at some point, but couldn’t find it anywhere. Yesterday I noticed I had two drafts–I knew about one, but couldn’t remember the second. Yep, there was my post about worry. Just some notes, waiting to be written into a post. I can be such an airhead sometimes!

So what I thought I had written weeks ago is what Linda Dillow has to say about worry in her book, “Calm My Anxious Heart.” (Click the Linda Dillow tag on the right to see my other posts on this book.) I loved her discussion of God’s character. She writes about how He is trustworthy, faithful, and eternal. His goodness and power are constants, despite our changing circumstances. We know about God’s character from His Word, which also does not change. Truth is truth, regardless of our feelings and situation.

So when difficulties come, we can choose to worry, or we can choose to trust the One who is trustworthy. Dillow writes, “When What Ifs come into our lives, we must ask ourselves if we’re going to judge God by the circumstances we don’t understand or judge the circumstances in light of the character of God” (p. 160).

One reason I struggle with worry so often is that I am too focused on the future and possible troubles that could come my way. Almost all of the possible events I worry about never happen. Dillow included a quote from George McDonald that really spoke to me about this: “It has been well said that no man ever sank under the burden of the day. It’s when tomorrow’s burden is added to the burden of today that the weight is more than a man can bear” (p. 190). I’m trying to focus more on what God is calling me to do right now and not borrow trouble from tomorrow.

In Dillow’s discussion of faith, she writes: “We say we want more faith, but really what we want is sight. Sight says, ‘I see that it’s good for me, so God must have sent it,’ but faith says, ‘God sent it, so it must be good for me.’ God asks us to walk by faith, not by sight” (p. 151). This was so convicting for me. I love information. I hate surprises. I want to know everything, and I want to be the first to know. But God asks me to trust Him, even when I don’t have all the information.

Dillow includes two examples of this type of faith from Scripture. In Exodus 14, the Israelites are fleeing Egypt. During a long, dark night, they can hear the Egyptians closing in, and they are terrified. They cannot see that during the night, God is working to save them by parting the Red Sea.

In Habakkuk, God tells the prophet Habakkuk that his people are going to be conquered by a nation known for its cruelty. Habakkuk asks God why He will allow this to happen, but God does not provide an answer. Habakkuk must endure the suffering, relying on God’s faithfulness and character. In the midst of devastation and an uncertain future, Habakkuk chooses to rejoice in the Lord: Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places (Habakkuk 3:17-19). I had never read Habakkuk before, and I recommend it to you. It is only three chapters, so it is a quick read.

Just like the Israelites and Habakkuk, sometimes we are required to walk through a dark night without knowing why or how it will end. Even without all the information we’d like to have, we know that God’s Word is true and His goodness never falters. We can trust that no matter what storm is blasting through our life, from God’s eternal perspective, we are safe in His hands.


Platform or Purpose? July 8, 2008

Filed under: parenting,spiritual growth — Marissa Henley @ 3:21 pm
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I finally got around to finishing “Calm My Anxious Heart” by Linda Dillow, and I’m still working through the great concepts in this book. (Click on the Linda Dillow tag in the tag cluster on the right to see my other posts about this book.)

In a chapter on our focus, Dillow discusses the temptation to focus on the future rather than the present.  She challenges women to have a well-defined purpose (preferably a written statement) that drives their priorities and decisions, rather than letting activities and busyness rule.  I hope to write a purpose statement soon–right now, my activities are getting in the way!  Ha!

I also love a quote from one of Linda Dillow’s friends, Phyllis Stanley: “When I had children, I remember thinking, are my children now my purpose? I realized that my children are my platform, not my purpose” (p. 112). What a great perspective!  As a stay-at-home mom, it is so easy to get lost in mommy world.  It is easy to use my familiy as an excuse to not get involved in other ministry.  It is easy to put ministry, friendships, and even my marriage on the back burner while my attention is focused on the kids.

I love thinking of my kids as my platform.  They are the primary platform I have for ministry at this stage of my life.  But someday, they will be grown and God will provide another platform.  I need to look past the platform at the purpose.  How can I best glorify God in this season of my life and those that come later?  How can I make decisions based on my purpose, not just my platform?  How can I set an example for my kids, showing them that I not only love and serve them, but I love and serve God even more?


“Calm My Anxious Heart”–Greed April 14, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Marissa Henley @ 2:20 pm
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I read Linda Dillow’s chapter in “Calm My Anxious Heart” on greed several weeks ago and have been mulling it over in my mind ever since. Several things stood out to me:

  • Everything I have belongs to God. (More on this below.)
  • The main issue is the condition of my heart. Am I content or always wanting more? (See Matthew 6:19-21–where is your treasure?).
  • No one can serve two masters–whom do I serve? Am I so busy taking care of my stuff that I don’t have time to serve God and His church?
  • Possessions are to be used for God’s kingdom, not gripped tightly or adored. What am I holding on to too tightly? Or what daydreams about possessions consume my day? How can I better use what God has given me to serve Him?
  • “God can rid your heart of greed, but it is your responsibility to remove yourself from situations that promote greediness . . . stand in your house and look around. Where does greed have hold of you?” (p. 97) For me, this means throwing out catalogs as soon as I walk in from the mailbox (when does looking through the Pottery Barn catalog ever lead to feelings of contentment?!?), limiting the time I spend browsing through the mall, and being careful about spending time with people who cause me to be tempted in this area.
  • “Listen to your heart. Listen to your words. Look at your actions. Are you teaching your children to be grateful for God’s blessings?” (Sorry, don’t have the page number for this, and my book is currently in Europe. I wish I was with it.)

The most striking thing for me in this chapter was when she talked about everything we have belonging to God, and therefore, the question is not “how much will I give?” but “how much should I keep?” If I adopt this “How much should I keep?” attitude, it radically transforms how I view my finances. Back when we were barely making it financially, prioritizing our spending was easy–pay taxes, 10% to God, keep the rest to pay our bills, thank you very much. But now that there is more than what we need for the bare necessities of food, clothes and shelter, things seem so much more complicated.

What does God want me to keep His money for, and what does He want me to do without so I can keep less and give more? Does He want me to keep enough for a new car or an old one? Does He want me to keep His money so my kids can have clothes from children’s boutiques or Target? Does God want me to use some of His money for an XM radio subscription so I can listen to commercial-free 80’s music? (I had totally rationalized the relatively small XM radio expense until I thought about it this way.)

Now that I think about it, it isn’t complicated. I just don’t like the answer. It seems clear to me that God wants me to use some of His money to provide what our family needs, to create special memories with our kids, and for Noel and I having time alone together to strengthen our marriage. I hope God doesn’t mind my spending His money on the safest minivan money can buy (but He probably doesn’t need the sunroof), and I hope that someday He’ll let me keep enough to pay someone to clean my house (if I use the time to glorify Him by serving others and/or educating my kids).

But God probably doesn’t want me wasting His money on things that only glorify me, and that is where most of it goes. He isn’t concerned with what others think of my home decor, my purse, my clothes or my shoes. He doesn’t care if my kids have real crocs or generic ones. (I’m embarrassed to admit that I do care and went to great lengths to buy generics that look the most like the real ones. Kid shoes!! What am I thinking?!?) He’d probably like for me to realize how much eating out is an idol for me and how I shouldn’t be so lazy that I spend His money on Chick-Fil-A anytime I don’t feel like making a sandwich.

A disclaimer in case you’re still reading . . . I don’t think there is anything inherently sinful about children’s boutiques, crocs, new cars (in the interest of full disclosure, I drive a 2008 Odyssey with sunroof), Chick-Fil-A, or XM radio. It’s just that greed is an area in which the Holy Spirit is relentlessly working on me, and He is convicting me about several areas in which I am wasteful with God’s money. If you are seeking God’s wisdom pertaining to your finances, and He provides the money for you to have an XM radio subscription, you will not receive judgment from me . . . and enjoy singing along to some Chicago for me, will you?


More on “Calm My Anxious Heart” March 2, 2008

Filed under: spiritual growth — Marissa Henley @ 11:11 am
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I’ve been reading more of Linda Dillow’s book and really liked her chapters on being content with my role and with my relationships. It is so easy to always be looking ahead to a point in time when I think my life will be easier or better–when all my kids are dressing themselves and taking care of their own potty-related needs, when Noel cuts back on his hours, when I start to really love working out and hate eating sweets (yeah, right!). Before I was married, I wanted to be married. When I didn’t have kids, I wanted a baby. And now that I have preschoolers, I want them to go to school (and on my more insane days, I want another baby). I have a tendency to think that surely having a 2-year-old and 4-year-old is about as tough as it gets, and when they get a little older, then I will be able to pull myself together and be the kind of wife, mom, friend and Christian I want to be.

I started to realize the truth of my need to be content with what my role is right now when I had a single girlfriend over for lunch a few weeks ago. I was feeling jealous of her life–her nice clothes and car (the kind that doesn’t seat 8), her important job that brings her into contact with actual adults every single day, all the freedom that she has to do what she wants when she wants. It was the week before Will’s birthday party, and on my kitchen counter was a to-do list full of things, most of which I was dreading. Mop floors, clean bathrooms, dust living room, make treat bags, bake and decorate cake, etc. My friend looked at my to-do list and exclaimed, “I wish I had this to-do list!” I was shocked, but I shouldn’t be. It is so easy to take what we have for granted, to get weighed down by the mundane tasks — to lose sight of what a privilege it is to clean up after these little treasures God has given me and plan their birthday parties and teach them about Jesus.

In a discussion of maturity, Dillow writes: “We grow up when we see our life and our role from God’s perspective . . . when each morning we ask, ‘God, how can I glorify you today in my given role?'” She writes about Christ as an example. His role was to humble Himself, serve others, and give His life as a ransom for many. (See Mark 10:45 and Philippians 2:5-8) My role is to glorify God by serving my husband, my children, and others around me. My role is to mop floors, fix peanut butter sandwiches, change diapers and read books. My role is to train, discipline and teach my sons to love God and each other. My role is to pray for my children and about the decisions we make that impact their lives. I want to be a real grown-up and glorify God in the role He has given me today rather than waiting for Him to give me a more glamorous job.

In Dillow’s chapter on contentment in relationships, she focuses quite a bit on forgiveness. This is a fairly new topic for me, one that I’ve been thinking about more in the last year and realizing that it is something that I struggle with. (See previous post on forgiveness.) This is also a topic that came up in last week’s BSF lesson. I know God is trying to get my attention when He’s teaching me the same thing through two different avenues!

My BSF lesson and part of Dillow’s chapter on relationships examined Matthew 18:21-35, the parable of the unforgiving servant. In this parable, the king forgives his servant’s massive debt (roughly $15 million in today’s terms) and then the servant goes out and refuses to forgive another’s minuscule debt against him. Likewise, in Christ, we have been forgiven for a debt that we could never pay: the penalty for our sin. If we fail to see our need for the Cross, we will view other’s sin against us as great and difficult to forgive. If we have a proper view of our sin and how much we have been forgiven, it will be a natural reaction to forgive the much smaller offenses that others commit against us.

Studying this passage made me realize that if I’m keeping a mental list of the ways my husband has let me down or harboring resentment toward someone who has offended me, it should be a red flag for me that I need to turn my attention back to the seriousness of my own sin against God and grace I have been shown by His forgiveness. When those thoughts of “I’ve been wronged” start to trickle in, I need to consciously turn my thoughts to the Cross. This could really transform some of my relationships where I continue to hold on to past hurts and disappointments.


“Calm My Anxious Heart” by Linda Dillow February 4, 2008

Filed under: spiritual growth,Uncategorized — Marissa Henley @ 2:43 pm
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I highly recommend this book I’ve been reading lately–thanks to my friend Janet for recommending it to me! I’ve read the first half so far, and she has been talking about contentment. This is a constant struggle for me (see a post I wrote 7 months ago on the subject, for example). There have been several poignant words of wisdom in this book that have made me even more aware of how pervasive discontentment is in my life. She shares a “prescription for contentment” found in the journal of missionary to Africa:

“Never allow yourself to complain about anything–not even the weather. Never picture yourself in any other circumstances or someplace else. Never compare your lot with another’s. Never allow yourself to wish this or that had been otherwise. Never dwell on tomorrow–remember that [tomorrow] is God’s, not ours.” (p.13)

These words are extremely convicting and seem impossible to put into action. But keeping them in mind has brought me to repentence often for my envy of others and dissatisfaction with the day God has given me.

Dillow describes contentment as “accepting God’s sovereign control over all of life’s circumstances” (p. 18). She shares a quote from J.I. Packer that says, “Contentment is essentially a matter of accepting from God’s hand what He sends because we know that He is good and therefore it is good.” When I look at it this way, my discontentment is a matter of unbelief. I am refusing to believe the truth: God is sovereign and God is good, and therefore, if my kids are at home driving me insane instead of at mother’s day out, that is what my loving Heavenly Father has for me today. If I’m yelling at them and wishing they’d be quiet so I can go on with my pity party, I am not accepting what the Father has sent. I need to repent and joyfully accept that which He has given. God has decided that the other options (such as a day to myself) were not best–I need to put them out of my mind as well. (I’m describing myself last Thursday, in case you were wondering.)

More to come when I get a chance . . .