December 17, 2012

Joyful Mom Monday - Helpful Devotionals or Bible Studies

Counting God's Little Blessings
Happy Monday, Everybody!  It's a Monday here for sure!!!  We had a crazy busy weekend and are still feeling the effects of it.  I am thankful that we can just rest up a little this morning and put the house back together! 

Today's Joyful Mom Monday is sharing devotionals or Bible studies that you have found helpful to you in your walk with the Lord.  One of the first books I read that helped me begin to seriously focus on my relationship with God was Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby.  I also have his daily devotional book Experiencing God Day by Day.  I have read through this several times and still keep it in my bathroom for those crazy days when I have not had a chance to begin with a quiet time.  Every day offers wonderful bits of thought to think on the entire day.  

Another devotional book I have enjoyed is A Woman Who Reflects the Heart of Jesus by Elizabeth George.  It is an easy read and does not go into great depths but is a great daily reminder of how a Christian woman should reflect Jesus in everything she does.  

I have also completed several of Kay Arthur's bible studies and have always thoroughly enjoy them.  Kay Arthur has books for all levels of study - whether you are a beginner or ready to dig deep.  The deeper Bible studies take more time each day, but I sometimes break the days up into more days if I do not have much time.  Two of my favorite Bible studies by her have been Lord, I Want to Know You: A Devotional Study on the Names of God and Lord, Is It Warfare?  Teach Me to Stand.

For moms specifically, I have enjoyed reading Sally Clarkson's Mission of Motherhood and Ministry of Motherhood.  These are not necessarily Bible studies, but they are written in a short chapter form, and I did incorporate them into my quiet times.  Sally always uses God's Word to encourage moms to capture their children's hearts for God and to challenge us to think Biblically as we fulfill our duties as wives and moms.
My favorite way to study the Bible on a regular basis is by studying an entire book at a time with a Bible concordance and my John MacArthur Study Bible.  As I read each verse, I try to paraphrase it in my own words and also find an application for my life.  I will look up words and their definitions and also jot down questions that I need help in answering.  I love to underline verses in my Bible and will write small sayings or quotes in the margins of my Bible that I have found that go along with the verse.  When I study the Bible in this way, I am always amazed by how many verses I have read countless times yet never truly understood the depth of their meaning.  I enjoy studying entire books at a time so that I can see verses in their context.  I am studying the book of Matthew in this way now and am focusing on the character of Jesus and how to pattern my own life after His wonderful example. 

These are just a few of the many wonderful helps we have available to us in this modern world.  I would put a few cautions out there concerning Bible studies.  1.  Make sure they are doctrinally sound and Biblically accurate.  2.  Make sure they are challenging you to be a better Christian than what you are now. Do not choose only the feel-good, watered down studies. 3.  Make sure you spend time in God's Word.  Do not always rely on other resources.  God's Word is all we really need.  Do not spend all your time reading ABOUT the Bible. READ the Bible!  

I would love to hear what devotionals or Bible studies you have used that have helped you become a more Joyful Christian!  Aren't we blessed to have a God who has given us one Book that can inspire and encourage and guide like no other book?   I pray you have a wonderful week and are able to spend some time challenging yourself in God's Word as we prepare to celebrate His birth!

Wishing you a day full of blessings,
There will be no link-up next week because it will be Christmas Eve!!!

December 14, 2012

Do I See How Blessed I Am?

How blessed I am, and many times I do not even believe it.  I do not appreciate the blessings brought into my life.  Many times, I see things that God intended to be a blessing as a burden or an imposition in my life...blessings that I brush aside because they get in the way of where I wanted to be.  How very blessed I am with the life and love God has showered me with, yet how many times do I complain?  How many times do I wish things were different?  How many times do I turn God away with my ingratitude - whether it is intentional or not.  How blessed I am, but I tend to see all that I do not have instead of focusing on my already overflowing cup.  How blessed I am to know that I have a sovereign God who blesses me by never allowing some things in my life.  How many times have I been protected from an illness, an accident or a wrong relationship?  How blessed I am!  God, help me to see every day how blessed I am.  Help me, God, to appreciate every moment of life - whether it be full of good or full of pain.  Help me to remember, God, that You have allowed each and every moment into my life for a reason.  You have sifted each person, each problem, each good thing and chosen all of those for me and my life.  I may not know why, but I can trust You because You have already blessed me beyond anything I ever deserved.  

Praying for those today who are hurting in a way I can't imagine. Praying for sweet grace and comfort.  


December 13, 2012

Taking Time for Jesus

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness:
for they shall be filled.  ~ Matthew 5:6

In all the rush and hurry of this wonderful time of year, it is easy to become consumed with the list of good things but to forget to tend to the heart issues. This week has been that way for me. It has been a busy week, spending more time away from home than usual. The newbie keeps playing tricks with me and will sleep well for a couple of nights and then does not sleep well for several nights (very frustrating when he is 1!). As usual, I have my idealistic, somewhat unrealistic, and extraordinarily high expectations of how we should be preparing for Christmas! :) Pile all that together, and guess what thing I have not done well this week? I have not really taken the time to spend time with my Friend Jesus...the One who is the reason for this special time. 

So, today, I determined that I would not let another day pass by with only a quick glance at a few verses and a rushed prayer to please help me get through this day. Why is it so easy to put our time with God at the bottom of the list? Why is it that everything else suddenly seems so much more important? As I am reading through the book of Matthew, I am reminded of how wonderful the Man Jesus was. He was human. He was tempted. He was tired. He was busy, yet His purpose was clearly seen in everything He did. His purpose was to glorify God and to point others to Him. He never became so consumed with other things or even other people that He had no time left for His Father.

It is a difficult thing to do - this dying to self. Sacrifice never comes easily, but it is required of a Christian. Do I really want to be different? Do I really want my light to shine? Do I have a true hunger and thirst for God and His Word that seems almost unquenchable? All of this requires sacrifice. It requires me to place my desires, my lists, even my needs underneath those of my Savior. This life of sacrifice asks me to surrender all to Him, but in exchange I receive an abundant, peace-filled, joyful life that no amount of money or memories or fun can give. Today, I have been reminded by my Friend that nothing is quite so sweet as my quiet time with Him. I am in awe of the thought that God, my Creator, and Jesus, my Savior, want to be with me. Thank You, Jesus, for Your unending, unconditional love that continues to call me even when I've become too busy with the wrong things. 

Wishing you a day full of blessings,

December 10, 2012

Joyful Mom Monday - Christmas Traditions!

Counting God's Little Blessings

Christmas is one of my very favorite times of the year!  I LOVE all the happiness, the music, the shopping, the giving, even the busyness and craziness that comes with it.  As my children have grown older, I've realized how important the traditions of family are...and how little time I have to make an impact on my children.  So, as my children grow older, I find myself trying to make each Christmas a little more special and a little more memorable.  We have also begun many new traditions over the last two years because we no longer have any grandparents close by for Christmas, and so I feel an even bigger need to make our Christmases more special and memorable because we don't have others to help us do that. 

Of course, one of the most popular traditions is the Christmas tree.  We have our big family tree (which we buy from the K-Mart parking lot each year!) in the living room that is decorated in blue and silver - all fancy with ribbon and clear lights.  I am very particular about the family tree, and the kids pretty much do not approve of the way I wish it to be decorated, but as the Mr. gently reminds them each year, "We call this the family tree, but it's really Momma's tree!" :)  So, to try to appease everyone, the kids take turns each year having an artificial tree in their room.  This year it is in the girls' room!  Each year, they get to pick out a new decoration/ornament to add to their tree, and they get to decorate it any way they like with no help from me unless they ask for it!   

This will be our 3rd year that we have celebrated the 25 days of Christmas!  We do this by planning something fun for each day.  Some days it is very simple such as popcorn and a movie.  We also include things such as making treats for our "neighbors" and caroling to them, making treats for our Sunday School teachers, a game night, and this year a new one...a sleepover under the Christmas tree! ('s a secret, and we haven't done it yet!)  There are some days that tend to get busy, and we may not end up doing something each day, but we try, and we have made many memories by making the effort to celebrate in special ways. 

We also have a magnetic advent calendar with the nativity scene.  I must have bought this just before advent calendars became popular again because I got it for $15, but the one I have now is sold for almost $50!  We love this calendar, and every morning the kids look forward to taking their turn in adding a star, sheep, angel, etc to the nativity scene.  I also began putting a Scripture reference on a piece of paper inside each box  so that we can read a Scripture about Jesus' birth each morning.  This year, we are reading Scripture references that tell us about the names of Jesus.  The kids are enjoying learning about all that Jesus is to much more than just a baby.

Our newest tradition, which we are all enjoying, is opening a book each night and reading it together. For the last three months, I have been shopping consignment and thrift stores and have bought 25 books and wrapped them in Christmas paper.  I have them numbered 25 through Christmas Day, and each night before bed, the kids take turns opening a book.  Some of them are Christmas books, but some aren't.  This has been a fun and affordable way for us to increase our own library and to encourage my kids to love reading!  I also just read of someone who bought 25 Christmas books and re-wraps the same 25 books each year.  Either way is fun!

Every Christmas Eve, we go to our church's Candlelight service.  When we first began this, I was afraid it would take away from family time, but I now think it is one of the special traditions we have, and except for reading the Christmas story with my family on Christmas morning, it is my favorite Christmas tradition.  After we finish the Candlelight service, we always come home and fry homemade doughnuts and watch a Christmas movie.  

These are a few of our Christmas traditions.  They are not always perfect.  They do not always go the way I planned for them to, but in the attempt, we have made many special memories that have helped form a stronger family bond.  If we are to remain joyful in these special times, though, we must remember that we cannot take on everything, and we need to know our limits.  There are many things that we are just beginning because our kids are older, and we can enjoy them.  Also because we do not have family close by, we do not find our time as divided as others may be (although we greatly miss celebrating special days with other family!).  I have found that every year is different.  Last year, we did not do nearly as much because the newbie was less than a month old.  This year, we're going all out!  Enjoy the place you are in this year, and make the most of the opportunities you have, but don't try to be somebody else's family!  

I'd love to hear some of your family Christmas traditions!  Link up with us here today...or some time this week!  Next week's Joyful Mom Monday topic will be Your Favorite Devotional/Bible Study that has helped you become a more Joyful Mom!  Have a great week celebrating the blessings of Christmas and family!

Wishing you a day full of blessings,

December 7, 2012

Reflections on My Word for This Year

I don't know about you all, but I'll just come right out and admit it.  I love the lazy, stress-free life!  Not that I get to experience it very often, but I do enjoy it when it comes my way.  We were able to get all of our Christmas decorations put up in a fairly timely manner (only 2 days!), and we are caught up on all of our house chores (well, as caught up as I care to be for now!), and we are not doing much school for this month!  That means that for the last two days I have been able to watch TWO Christmas movies and read a little!  It has been a little bit of heaven on earth.  I am fairly certain that the world's largest library with the world's best tasting Starbucks will be somewhere in heaven!

Anyway, as I've been contemplating my enjoyment of the lazy life, I have also felt a smidgen of guilt.  I do believe we need to create beauty and enjoy rest and relaxation around us, but God also made us for the purpose of glorifying Him and helping to build His kingdom.  My word for this year has been SERVANT, and I have been reviewing this year of my life to see if my heart and actions have become more Christ-like in this way.  In some ways, I have changed, but I also see where I can change even more.  I am so thankful for the promise of Philippians 1:6,  "He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:"  

Some things I've learned about being a servant this year...

You can't (and shouldn't) be choosy about who you will serve.  Many times, it is the most needy and unwanted who need to be served the most.  Jesus was always surrounded by needy, sick people.  The "nice" people shunned Jesus because they did not want to be seen with a man who had such a following of people.  If we are to be true servants, we must step outside our comfort zone and serve those who are truly needy.  This means we will be seen with the dirty, the homeless, the sick, the drunk, the abused, the unfashionable, and the socially awkward. Unfortunately, today's Christians have become comfortable and cliquish and, well, just plain Pharisaical.  I have too, and it's been hard to adjust my life to conform to the Biblical way of thinking rather than the modern way of thinking.  

Luke 14:23-24a
 But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed...

You should not expect anything in return for your service.  If we are serving those who truly need to be served, many times those people will not be able to return anything for our service.  There have been some times that what I have done has never even been acknowledged even though I know without a doubt it must have been a wonderful help to the person.  I have found that just the knowledge that I have helped someone has been a wonderful return for me.  A surprised smile from the person I have helped, a person who hides their eyes quickly before I can see the tears starting to fall, a thank-you note, a quick hug....all of these are wonderful thank-you's, but even without those, I find that God rewards in special ways too.  

Matthew 25:23
His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

Not everyone will support your decision to serve, but Jesus is our example.  I am very blessed to have a husband and extended family who base their lives on the Word of God; however, not everyone has understood some of the ways I have chosen to serve.  There have been a few friends who have basically told me I am wasting my time on a worthless cause.  My response has been that God is the One who has called me to what I am doing, and God is the only reason anything we do is worthwhile.  I do not believe that we alone can change anyone through any good deed, but we can leave a glimmer of hope by planting seeds of God's Word in every life we come in contact with.  So, even though others may not see the usefulness of what I am doing, I will still choose to serve.  After all, Jesus is my example, and He served far more needy people than I ever will.

Philippians 2:5-7
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:

I have learned much about being a servant; however, I have much more to learn and practice.  I pray that God will continue to teach me and show me more about how I can share the love of Jesus by serving others.  I have been contemplating my word for 2013, and I believe I have chosen it, but I am going to leave you in suspense for a little longer (because I know your life entirely revolves around this)! :)  Maybe you could think of a word to describe your spiritual goals for 2013 and share them with us here!

By the way, I keep forgetting to write in the next topic for our Joyful Mom Monday link-up.  This Monday's link will be Christmas Traditions.  I'd love to hear what you do to make your Christmas special and joyful for your family!  Have a wonderful weekend!  Enjoy the relaxing, restful days but don't pass up an opportunity to be a blessing by serving others!

Wishing you a day full of blessings,

December 3, 2012

Joyful Mom Monday - How to Remain Joyful in Busy Times

Counting God's Little Blessings

Hi there!  Welcome back to Joyful Mom Mondays!  I've been MIA for a few weeks, but sometimes, real life must take precedence! Who would have thought?  However, that does go along with today's Joyful Mom Monday topic.  How do you remain joyful in the busy times?  Of course, holidays and special days seem to be the busiest days for us moms who tend to be the orchestrator of all things special!  But sometimes, we can take the joy out of those special days by becoming too consumed with details and forgetting to enjoy the relationships.  So, how do we avoid making our special days or just plain busy days a big catastrophe?  These are a few things that I try to do.  I emphasize the word try because I don't always do them, and we still end up with some catastrophic days.  (We just had a catastrophic morning on Saturday, and it was due completely to my becoming too consumed with details!)  Here is my mental check list as I plan for busy days - whether they are special days or just busy days! 

1.  Plan ahead as much as possible.  Here is where I fail the most because I tend to be a fly by the seat of your pants person and not so much an organize every detail person.  However, the more children I have, the more I see the necessity for planning ahead.  Bake the cake the night before the birthday.  Wrap presents and hide them in the closet.  Lay clothes out the night before.  Here's a big one - PLAN ON LEAVING 20 MINUTES EARLY - then, hopefully, you get out the door only 5 minutes late! :)

2.  Lower your expectations.  During busy seasons, the house will not always be immaculate.  (Okay, who am I house is never immaculate, and so during busy times, it will be even worse!)  During busy seasons, all the schoolwork may not be accomplished.  During busy seasons, we may not be able to participate in every activity.  We will have to say no to some things.  I always make a list of my expectations, and then I put a big X beside each activity that does not absolutely need to be done.  My goal is to get it done, but I have already mentally prepared myself that life will go on if it doesn't get done.  I find I accomplish many of the things that I had an X by, but I don't feel as guilty about the ones that I do not get to.

3.  I really think this next one is THE MOST IMPORTANT!  On especially busy days, I try harder than ever to make my quiet time a priority.  I know that Satan would love for me to ruin the entire day with my list of good deeds.  It is important for me to take time to welcome the Savior into my life that morning and to ask the Holy Spirit to guide my decisions.  There are some days this means getting up earlier than usual on a horrifically busy day, but I find the adrenalin of the day usually keeps me going just fine, and I never regret that quiet time I began the day with.  

How about you?  What are some things you do to help these busy times remain joyful times?  Link up below and let us know.  As we are preparing for Christmas and planning all the many special things we want to do for and with our families, I hope you will be able to carry the joy of being a mom with you.  Take time to enjoy the special moments.  Let the dirty dishes sit in the sink. Have your kids jump in the laundry basket to make it hold more laundry so that you can put it off a little while longer! ;)  Skip over the unimportant things, and take time to enjoy these moments with the special people in your life.  They won't always be here.  Let's enjoy every minute we have with them, and leave them a legacy of a mom full of joy and love.

Wishing you a day full of blessings,