Grace for Young Mothers

I haven’t written lately.

I haven’t painted.

I haven’t sewn a book or printed on the handmade paper I recently made.

Yet I have been doing the very things for which I retired. I am spending time with our grandchildren.

I walked into my studio yesterday to check the tiles I made with 8 of our grandchildren. The calm, creative atmosphere of the studio hit me, along with the fact that I have several projects in the works waiting to be attended to. “I LOVE working in this studio,” I thought.

But there will be time later, I thought. Grace.

These thoughts took me back 36 years to the time our children were little. It seemed like I faced a never ending cycle of meals, laundry, cleaning. Oh…. forget the cleaning. I did.

I didn’t write – except a random letter once in a great while.

I didn’t paint – except for a stick horse, a wall mural, or doll furniture.

I did not make anything “creative.”

But wait!

I was doing exactly what I planned to do when I left teaching full time. I was spending time with our children. “There would be time later to “create”, I thought.

AND THERE IS! Grace.

When God births a desire in our hearts, He is faithful to fulfill it in His time. We must wait and trust. I realized this week that I could choose to lament the time I am not in my studio, or enjoy the fact that our grandchildren are here and that I can treasure this time with them.

I am so thankful I chose the latter. We are having a lovely time. (I am worn out!)

A friend, Lena Woods, told me this week that her favorite memories from childhood were spending time with her cousins at her grandmother’s house. I hope we are creating some very special memories for our grandchildren as well.

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-2

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

 2  a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,

This Scripture passage goes on to list many of life’s activities. Each thing has a time and a place. God’s time and God’s place.

So, I am going to go now and make lunches and we are going to ride bikes.

The studio will be there next month.

The grandchildren will not. Grace.

Advertisements

Company is Coming!

image

I am vacuuming. My children ask – “Who is coming over?”

so – I only vacuum when we have company?

Out of the mouths of babes….

I used to scurry around madly fussing at anyone in my way before we had company over. I always left things to the last-minute so I was stressed and made my family stressed as well.

This is the way I viewed hospitality when I was first married.  I had gotten all these wedding presents like –

  • dinner ware
  • silver ware
  • placemats
  • cloth napkins
  • matching glasses

So I thought hospitality was setting a lovely table with flowers and having people over for dinner. The first home Phil and I lived in was in Bryson City, next to the road – NEXT to the road. The rent was $65.00 a month. (can you picture a house that was torn down soon after we moved?)

We invited a couple over after church and I had made a meal of spaghetti (one of two dishes I could fix) and set a beautiful table with those wedding presents.

It was raining.

That would not have been a problem, but our roof leaked and there were four of five streams of water coming from the ceiling. The first thing we did when we entered with our guests was put bowls under each stream.

So much for the lovely table setting.

The dictionary defines hospitality this way –

  1. Hospitality – the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.
  2. synonyms – friendliness, welcome, helpfulness, warmthkindnesscourtesygenerosity,

Just look at those synonyms!

  • friendliness
  • welcome
  • helpfulness
  • warmth
  • kindness
  • courtesy
  • generosity

Hospitality can be so much more than inviting people to your home.

Romans 12:9-13

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Each time I read about hospitality in scripture, it was connected to showing love.

I believe hospitality is an attitude of the heart.

AN ATTITUDE WHOSE BASIS IS LOVE.

Hospitality is an attitude of the heart.

I know a young woman named Sadie who lives hospitality. She invites people over and makes them feel at home, makes them tea and listens. Sadie lives hospitality.

It is the attitude of her heart.

I had the privilege of shadowing Elaine White at United Christian Ministries. Remember those synonyms for hospitality? friendlinesswelcome, helpfulness, warmthkindnesscourtesygenerosity, Elaine demonstrated every one of those with each person she saw.

It is an attitude of her heart.

A friend shared with me about opening her home to “strangers” – someone her daughter had met who needed a place to stay.

It did not go well.

But the attitude of her heart was to be welcoming, kind, and generous. She honored God – even though some people are unwilling to receive such love.

Sometimes showing hospitality is difficult.

It is not always easy – but God is asking us to have a hospitable heart.That may mean opening our homes, inviting people over.

It may mean being kind, friendly, and loving at Wal-Mart.

II John 1:12

“I have many things to write to you, but I prefer not to do so with paper and ink. I hope to see you and talk to you FACE TO FACE – so that our joy may be complete.”

Face to face –

this is when we can practice hospitality – whether it is in our home, while we work, when we see someone at Wal-Mart.

Then our joy may be complete.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

The One Thing

image
Ever hear of the sisters, Mary and Martha?

They were friends of Jesus and also among those who followed Jesus and listened to his teaching. Biblical scholars believe that Martha was probably an affluent widow. She also practiced hospitality.

When she invited Jesus to her home – she had to be ready for a crowd – his entourage came with him.

The Bible says she was encumbered or stressed by serving.

Luke 10:38-42

38 As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. 40 But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”

41 But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! 42 There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.

So she does what most of us women do when stressed – she complains.

She goes right to Jesus!

She attempts to get Jesus to agree with her – “I’m doing all the work – shouldn’t Mary help?

God does not necessarily agree with the cause of our distress – we might think it is –

  • My mother-in-law
  • My child who refuses to potty train
  • My boss who doesn’t seem to understand that I have children
  • My adult child who doesn’t call me
  • My messy house

Jesus does care – just not about the same thing that is bothering Martha.

Mary chose the “good part” – that was The one thing worth being concerned about – which certainly meant what Mary made her choice to do—sitting at Christ’s feet, to hear his word.

So, does Jesus not want to eat, you may ask? Don’t we have to attend to the needs of our families, especially when there are little ones that depend on our care for their very survival?

Of course. The Bible is clear in teaching that we have responsibilities to fulfill and it is godly to do so.

Yet, are we so busy that we neglect the “One Thing” that feeds our souls?

“Martha’s care and work were good in their proper season and place; but now she had something else to do, which was unspeakably more needful, and therefore should be done first, and most minded.” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary)

I had the privilege of participating this weekend in a women’s retreat sponsored by a local church, yet including ladies from various congregations. It was a precious time of fellowship, worship and teaching.

It was a time to focus on the One Thing – sitting at Jesus feet.

God was faithful to meet us and His presence was evident as we shared together.

I am so thankful that I was able to be like Mary this weekend  – sitting at Jesus feet.

 

 

Tending

104_0014

 

A friend called the other day and asked if I had anything blooming in my yard.

Yes, I did.

I told her it was a bit sparse bloom wise. It was between the blooming of the peonies and rhododendrons and the next manifestation which are the cone flowers, calla lilies and Shasta daisies. Yet the knock out roses were blooming full force and she was welcome to cut all she needed.

I love how God shows off His creative genius through the variety of color, shape, and form in flowers!

We do have beautiful flowers in our yard  – from the first blooms of the hellebore in February to the last blooms on the hydrangea before the first frost.

I cannot take credit for the beauty in our yard.

Seriously.

I only tend what God has so bountifully provided.

I was “tending” this weekend, weeding some flower beds and I was thinking how blessed I am to live in a place with good, old soil that is dark and rich. I also inherited plants from the previous owners including Peggy Mason who chose beautiful specimens that compliment our old farm-house. (the original owner was her grandfather).

None of this is my doing.

I was also blessed to have my father live with us for several years and his knowledge of plants and how best to care for them formed my pattern of “tending”. His love of God’s creation has impacted my enjoyment and my stewardship of plant life.

It made me ponder the idea that tending these plants in our yard is very similar to caring for our children. As a parent I am like a gardener in the life of my children.

  • God created our children in His image. (Jeremiah 1:5)
  • God blessed me with each child  – I did not “pick” them. (Psalm 127:3)
  • God chose to place us in this place  – in this time. (Esther 4:14)
  • God chose the DNA that makes up the genetic code that forms each child and determines their gender, their eye and hair color, and in many ways their personality. (Psalm 139:14)

As a mother, I had little to do with any of the above things except to shelter the egg that becomes the child and carry that child to birth.

After birth comes the “tending”. I can shelter, “prune” (discipline) and select the best environment for that child. Just as I decide if a certain plant needs shade or sun, each child has various needs. Not all children flourish in the same conditions, nor do all plants.

Some of my plants need tender loving care to get established, some have grown on the bank where I threw them to alleviate overcrowding. So much for me taking credit!

I have been amazed that certain plants have revived after a severe winter or a tree falling on top of them. I have also been amazed when one of my children has overcome a devastating situation – one that I thought might defeat them and leave permanent scars.

It is after those circumstances I KNOW that it is not my “tending” that brings results.

It is God who accomplishes anything that is worthy of praise.

We tend – God produces the results – in our children  – in our gardens.

In Matthew 6, Jesus uses flowers as an illustration of how faithful God is to us.

28 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, 29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

God will supply ALL we need to tend to our children. God is faithful.

He will do it.

Do the Next Thing (2)

Adah and leaves

I first posted the following blog in July of 2011. In talking to a lovely young mother recently – it came up again  – that feeling of being overwhelmed. I wanted to re-post this because we ALL need to be reminded of this again….and again!

We just had the privilege of taking care of our three granddaughters for a week. I am left with two overwhelming feelings – first – exhaustion – and then a new and deep respect for our daughter and son-in-law as parents. I had forgotten just how constant the care of young children is. There is never any down time while 6, 4, and 2 year olds are awake. As you mothers of young children know – you must be ever mindful of where your children are and what they are doing.

I enjoyed every minute of our granddaughters’ visit, yet I must admit I was worn out. I had planned to do several small projects while they napped or after they went to bed. One project was crocheting a border around a new, small blanket. for the 2-year-old to carry (so it wouldn’t drag in the dirt) RIGHT! That did not happen.

I was reminded of some helpful advice I received when our children were small. Elizabeth Elliot, author and Bible teacher, encouraged young mothers to deal with overwhelming stress by encouraging one to just “do the next thing”. I found this piece of wisdom so practical because I remember many times being overwhelmed by my responsibility as a mother of young children.

Instead of focusing on all I had to do and knowing there were not enough hours in the day to get it all done, I would “do the next thing ” and focus instead on the task at hand.

It sounds so simple – but it is excellent advice and it works. When I felt overwhelmed I would

  • change the next diaper,
  • put the next load of diapers in the washing machine (yes, I am old enough to have had three in CLOTH diapers at the same time),
  • make the next peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

I found that it was not so much the difficulty of any one task that was overwhelming, but the sheer number of things that MUST be done. I found that instead of being paralyzed into doing nothing, I was able to gradually accomplish the most important tasks. In the workplace people prioritize, but with small children the “priority” task is not always the most important task. Sometimes reading a story FIRST will offer a child the attention they need and then afterward allow you to start supper without a screaming appendage attached to your leg.

It is part of life experience to be overwhelmed at times. In Psalms, David addresses God in desperation –

Psalm 61:1 – 2 “Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer. From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.”

When David was overwhelmed, he cried out to God.

I have done that often and will again in this journey as a mother. It is a blessing to know I am not alone with these feelings and that my heavenly Father hears my cry and answers. I had begun writing this post on July 4th, but the “next thing” for me that day was our 6 grandchildren, my parents, brother, sister-in-law and niece, two daughters, two sons-in-law, a son and husband. So, a week went by without a post, not a big deal.

Doing the next thing did NOT mean I finished everything, it did mean I finished some things and accomplished what was most important that day as a grandmother, mother, daughter, sister, and wife.

Then, I did the next thing.

Home Making

Where is the food?

Where is the food?

My dear friend Carol’s mother-in-law recently passed away to her eternal home. She was a godly woman who poured out her life for her family. I read her obituary in the paper and I was so struck by the words that one of her sons wrote. (he is a writer and an editor at the Asheville Citizen-Times) I am quoting him, James Buchanan –

“A devoted homemaker known for her cooking and generous hospitality, she crafted a modest home into a focal point of happy memories that would be the envy of an opulent mansion, overseeing generations of gatherings of import for family and friends. These ranged from holiday celebrations, weddings, and funerals to more modest events such as the arrival of the season’s tomatoes from the garden the family tended for decades.”

How true this was! I benefitted from being a family friend who was graciously included in Brittie May Buchanan’s family celebrations from time to time. The food was delicious and there was always enough – even when growing teenagers were part of the mix. Brittie’s home was modest, but there was a wealth of love and genuine warmth that no decorating could compete with.

You always felt at home.

I was thinking about this Saturday as I was cleaning our home in preparation for a visit from some of Phil’s cousins. We have discussed the need to re-paint our den since it has several places where there are nicks in the paint and marks on the walls. Yet, there is not time to paint before the visit from these cousins.

Does it really matter?

No.

Now, I do need to clean and dust – we don’t want the attack dust bunnies to scare our guests away!  They are coming to see us – not our house. I need to be reminded of this occasionally because I am a visual person.

I would rather set the table with pretty napkins and matching place settings with a carefully arranged bouquet of flowers as a center piece than fix the food that will be served for the meal.

Oops.

They are coming to eat.

Do we spend hours on Pinterest looking for the perfect table setting before we are willing to have anyone over for a meal?

Brittie Buchanan cared about what really mattered – feeding people’s bodies and hearts. Pretty flowers don’t fill stomachs.

Her son went on to write:

“She was an unerringly kind woman who always put others before herself, their concerns before hers, a woman who practiced her Christianity with humility, foreign to the habits of looking down on others or speaking ill of anyone (including those who deserved it).”

Brittie Buchanan left a legacy of love. “She crafted a modest home into a focal point of  happy memories” – that is real love. Paul talks about what real love looks like in I Corinthians 13: 4-7

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

I love decorating the dinner table and will certainly continue to do so. Yet I want my focus to be the love that is shared in my home that feeds the spirit and soul of those who come.

I want to a have a home that welcomes all who enter with God’s love and kindness, regardless of how it looks.