Tuesday, January 29, 2013

It is time to order!

Well the time has finally arrived!  The much anticipated release of No More Perfect Mom is just a few days away!  Starting February 3rd you can order this life changing book and receive a ton of extras:

Everyone loves a good investment…especially one that comes with a big bonus! This is one of those investments that you don’t want to miss! Purchase Jill Savage’s new book No More Perfect Moms anytime between February 3-9 (online or at a store…and yes, electronic versions such as Kindle and Nook count too!) Send a copy of your receipt to NoMorePerfectMoms@moody.edu. Scan it, take a picture of it - just be sure to send it to the email! You'll be given access to well over $100 worth of resources that will help you on your mothering journey - absolutely free! What will you receive?   6 Sixty Minute Audio Workshops (MP3 format) from Hearts at Home
  • Desperate for Wisdom - Dr. Juli Slattery
  • How to Fight for Your Marriage - Dr. Juli Slattery
  • It is Well with Your Soul - Jennifer Rothschild
  • Multiple Intelligences - Dr. Kathy Koch
  • Ten Stress Strategies Every Mom Needs - Jill Savage
  • The God Who Sees You- Tammy Maltby
4 Printables from Hearts at Home
  • 10 Stress Strategies Every Mom Needs
  • “Love Is”--I Corinthians 13 for Parents
  • Mom Rules
  • How to Fight Fair In Marriage
3 Free E-book’s (including PDF, Kindle, iPad, and Nook editions!) from Moody Publishers
1 Contest Entry You will be entered in a drawing to win hotel accommodations and two Hearts at Home Mom Conference registrations for you and a friend at a conference of your choice! (If unable to attend a conference, a Hearts at Home Conference To-Go will be substituted for the winner and a friend.) This offer is available for this week only (Feb 3-9)! Grab a copy of No More Perfect Moms, scan your receipt, email it, and start enjoying your new book PLUS all of the extra bonuses you’ll receive! It’s “mom university” delivered right to your computer!

If you are tired of the "Perfection Infection" then please don't hesitate!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Scarlet Letter

I am currently working through Beth Moore's, Believing God Bible study, with an awesome group of ladies.  Today's lesson set my mind to thinking about the labels that we wear in our day to day life.  Labels that we allow to define us, and to keep us from walking in grace with ourselves and others.

Perhaps you have read the famous tale penned by Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter, it tells the story of Hester Prynn, who finds herself pregnant with a child she conceived through adultery.  She is forced to wear a scarlet letter "A" on her clothing as a mark of her past mistake and present shame.  Reminds me of another woman caught in the act of adultery, maybe you are familiar with it.

The story is just 11 short verses right at the beginning of John chapter 8.  Jesus has traveled to the Mount of Olives and at the first light of day, the Pharisees bring in a woman who has been caught in the act of adultery and they remind Jesus, as if He has forgotten, about the laws of Moses.  They are trying to trap his but Jesus is smarter than that.

He bends down and writes some unknown message in the sand and then He says to them, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her" (verse 7).  Then starting with the oldest, most seasoned sinners, one by one, each of her accusers slip away.  Jesus then asks this scorned, shame-filled woman, "Where are they? Has no one condemned you?" (verse 9).  She tells him that no one has and then some of my favorite red letter words are spoken, "Then neither do I condemn you...go now and leave your life of sin."  (verse 11).

I can relate to both of these women, not in the area of adultery, but with wearing the label of shame.  With being in front of the whole world and having everyone see the mistakes you have made.  So many things mark my past.  I am unsure of where to even begin in sharing them. These are areas I like to keep tucked away in the darkest corners of my heart.  The problem is, these labels don't stay tucked in.  They creep out at the most inopportune times to remind me of my shortcomings...to shout to the world around me how inadequate and imperfect I really am.

The abuse I suffered as a child, marks me with the labels of shame and victim.  The rejection from my parents throughout my lifetime marks me as unlovable.  The unanswered cries for help marks me as forgotten. So the scarlet letters "S," "V," "U," and "F" are pinned to my daily attire.

These are all labels forced upon me, but even worse are the labels I have chosen for myself.  These are the labels I have the toughest time finding grace for.  Labels I have received because of the choices I have made: the struggle with alcohol in my early teens that lead to many poor choices, the failure to forgive others when I know I should marks me as unforgiving, my lack of trust in others marks me as controlling, the list goes on and on.  Add the letters "P.C," another "U," and a "C" to my already crowded clothing.

Maybe you are wearing labels to, whether by your own choosing or by no choice of your own.  Labels like: Divorced, Single parent, recovering addict, adulteressabortion haver, terrible parent...the list truly is endless.

 But I am forgetting two of the most important labels we should be wearing.  Two labels that erase all other labels. REDEEMED and CHOSEN.  2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us that if anyone is in Christ, he or she is a new creation, the old (labels) is gone and the new (redeemed/chosen) has come.  Now friend that is some seriously great news!

The problem is applying that truth to the day to day.  In my mind I think my junk is worse than other's mistakes.  I bet Rahab could relate.  Do you remember her?  Her story is way back in the book of Joshua chapter 2.  She is the prostitute that helped hide the Israelite spies who had been sent to check out the promise land.  At risk of her own life, despite the label of prostitute that she wore, she hid the spies and helped them escape certain death.  An unlikely hero for sure.  But her story doesn't end there.  If you jump ahead to the New Testament book of Matthew the first chapter, you will get another look at our hero.  Matthew 1:5, "Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab..."  There she is, right in the lineage of Christ...and she is the mother of Boaz, the man who foreshadowed Jesus' rescue plan by rescuing Ruth after her husband had died.  Does that make you as excited as it does me?  God used Rahab, a harlot of harlots, to make up part of his son's earthly inheritance, talk about a life redeemed!  He changed her "P" to an "R."

I think we can get our best instructions on peeling off these labels from Ephesians chapter 4 verses 22-23, "You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self (and those scarlet letter labels), which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds."  Oh friend,isn't that where the battle lies, "in the attitude of your minds?"  We allow satan victory day after day over us because we struggle to forget what is behind and press on toward what lie ahead. (Phillipians 3) We allow our past to define our present. Sometimes our shame keeps us from being honest and open with others.  We say to ourselves, If they only knew where I have been, what I have done..."  May it not be so! God has so much more in store for us if we can just allow the attitudes of our minds to readjust.

 Tenth Avenue North has an awesome song entitled, You Are More, that reminds us, "You are more than the choices that you make, you are more than the sum of your past mistakes...this is not about what you've done, but about what has been done for you."  My favorite line says, "You've been remade," but I like to sing it, "You've been renamed," because despite all my labels, earned or assumed....I have been renamed, REDEEMED and CHOSEN, and if you have accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior, then so have you!  And though we may deserve to wear a variety of scarlet letters, Isaiah 1:18 sums it up best:

Come now, let us reason together,”
    says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
    they shall be like wool

Now that is something worth shouting, "Hallelujah" for!  If you would like to hear more or have questions please feel free to contact me, I will get back to you as soon as I am done peeling off all these stinking labels :)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Mommy Monster and the Messys

Seriously, it is maddening...simply maddening.  Monday I went "clean the house crazy."  My kids always know when it is coming because, according to them, I turn up the music loud and have a look of determination about me.  Well, I set to work cleaning from top to bottom, room to room.  I even vacuumed the ceiling fans.  So what is maddening about that?

Well it is only 3 days later and guess what?  My house looks like a bomb went off in it...seriously I do not even know where some of this stuff comes from.  And what is happening inside of me?  Well I can feel what Jill Savage in her new book, No More Perfect Mom , calls the "Mommy Monster," rising up within me.  Ain't nobody got time for that!

The Mommy Monster says the following things, either out loud or to herself, "No one appreciates me around here."  "Why do I even bother."  "I am living with a bunch of slobs."  "Maybe I will just go on strike and then we will see if anyone notices." She might cry, or yell, or even pout.  She is called a monster for a reason.  And I can feel her trying to push her way out today.  Here is a picture of my living as I sit, right in the middle of it, typing this blog.

Scary isn't it?  And that is just one room!  Really I mostly want to cry, but what good would that do?  Before we had kids, that whole first year of our marriage, I enjoyed a clean house.  I am an organizer and a cleaner, a place for everything and everything in it's place.  But 20 years, and 7 kids later...well a clean house is next to impossible.  Jill Savage says it like this, "Of course, each season of motherhood is unique. Kid clutter comprises different kinds of toys and “stuff” depending on the age of your children." She goes on to say that the infant years are full of rattles, and baby items everywhere, the preschool years have puzzles and interactive games, the grade school years are made up of pieces. Legos, barbie doll accessories, etc.  The teen years are made up of sports bag, music gear, iPods, and in my opinion, shoes!  The problem here is we have the infant stage, the preschool stage, the grade school stage and the teen stage, all at the same time!  Add into that the college stage, where when our son is home so is all of his stuff...and it is a recipe for crazy!

Two things are coming into play and bringing out the Mommy Monster in me.  One, I am not really cleaning the house for my family.  I am cleaning the house for me.  I like a clean house.  I like things organized and put away.  And I will look bad if it isn't clean and someone stops over.  Me, Me Me!  However, I am reminded of the Scripture verse from Colossians chapter 3 verse 23 that tells us, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, and not for man."  I am not approaching this clean house thing with that mind set at all.

The second thing that is coming into play is I am not allowing myself grace.  I am listening to the negative self talk in my head instead of the voice of truth.  I say in my head, "Marla, you are such a failure.  You are home all day, you should have finished that laundry before you went to bed."  But the truth is, I had finished 3 loads of laundry, made lunch and supper, changed a million diapers, helped 2 kids with homework, and gave 3 kids baths.  I am a Type A personality, and when I make a "To Do" list, I expect myself, and others, to check everything off before the day ends.  The truth is though, that sometimes life happens. Unexpected needs arise, a friend needs some counsel, a child needs a listening ear, and people should always take precedent over my list.

One other thing I need to keep in mind is that being a stay at home mom differs from when I was working.  As a teacher, I made progress in what I did, I wrote a weekly lesson plan and moved forward with that, chapter by chapter, book by book, test by test, until we arrived at the end of the year, all educated and ready to move on.  As a stay at home mom, I do and redo the same tasks several times a week, if not several times a day.  Does that make sense? So I often feel like I have accomplished nothing when I really have accomplished it, I just have to reaccomplish it!  (I love making up words!)

So today I am giving myself some grace, I am writing this blog when the self talk says I should be cleaning, and when I am done here, I am going to go play cars with my two year old.  I will clean the house later, maybe!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Jesus at the Center?

This Sunday we ended our musical praise time with the song, "Jesus at the Center of it All," by Israel Houghton and it began to stir up some questions from deep within me.  Then, as if God Himself was trying to shake me awake, the pastor (whom I am madly in love with :) preached on staying focused on Christ.  If I didn't know any better, I would think God was trying to get my attention!

Take a peek at some of the lyrics:
                  Jesus at the center of it all, from beginning to the end
                  It will always be, it's always been about You Jesus, Jesus
                  Nothing else matters, nothing in this world will do
                  Jesus You're the center, and everything else revolves
                  around You

The questions that was stirred up?  How is this done?  Am I really living this out?  In the day in and day out of life, could people look at my life and say, "Wow, Jesus is definitely at the center of that girl's life."  I want to say, "Yes!"  but remember that I am trying to keep it real this year with my blogs, so if I had to answer the question I would have to admit that often I let other things crowd Jesus out of the center of my life.

Many of you know that my husband (and pastor in case you didn't know that and are worried about me being madly in love with him!) and I have been engaged in an incredible battle for the lives of three, and soon to be four, precious lives.  This battle started 5 years ago when DCFS removed my niece from my brother's home and she was placed with us.  Since that hot July day, 2 more babies have been born into that situation and also placed in our care, and the news is that soon a fourth baby will be added to our midst.

The battle has been long, and wearying.  It has taken great strength and tenacity to continue in the often daily struggles against a broken system.  Hours have been spent with court hearings, visitations, case reviews, home visits, home inspections, fulfilling licensing requirements, documentation, the list goes on and on, not to mention the time it takes to actually care for these precious babies.  Our days are long and as my Facebook status read this morning, "Some mornings I think they do not make a bottle of Calgon big enough, or a cup of coffee big enough!"   I posted that after spending my morning trying to get both boys ready for a visit with their birth mom, baking two cakes for my youngest son/nephews birthday tomorrow, and getting supper in the crock pot so it would be ready to eat before the basketball game my older kids were going to.  All the while, both boys wanted to be held and cried every time I sat one of them down.  Jesus at the center of that?  How is that even possible?

Seriously, how am I suppose to keep Jesus at the center of it all when I can't even hear myself think.  I sang, "Nothing else matters..." but the truth of the situation was that it very much mattered that my boys were crying, that time was slipping away, and I still had much to accomplish.  Likewise, in the midst of a very stressful court battle and the daily demands for my time...how am I suppose to stay centered on Jesus?  Can you relate?  (Oh please, someone out there say, "Yes!")

This is the part of my blog where I usually offer some sort of witty insight, an answer to the dilemma that I have posed, but the trouble is, I don't have one!  Sure I have some verses:

Matthew 6:33, "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto     you."

Colossians 3:2, "Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things."

Proverbs 4:25, "Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you."

These are all great verse, commands about how we should approach the problem.  However, I am still not clear on how I am to go about this, the application is a bit foggy.  Do I want Jesus to be at the center of it all?  Yes, of course I do.  Is He at the center of it all?  Yes of course He is.  Do I always feel like He is at the center of it all?  No, sadly no I do not.  Is it because He has walked away?  Well Joshua 1:5 gives us that answer, "No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life.  As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you."  So the problem must be with me.  The truth is that I have let the troubles of the world, the busyness of life, the cares and concerns I am facing, push Jesus, inch by inch, out of the center of my life.  Great now I know the problem, they say that is half the battle...

Perhaps the answer is simple.  Maybe I need to give myself some grace?  I am not saying that I don't need to make some changes...maybe spend less time on Facebook, and more time in His book, but I also need to be realistic.  Raising 7 kids is crazy, hard work.  It takes a lot of time and energy.  God knows that and understands that.  Besides 2 Corinthians 12:10 reminds me to... "delight in weaknesses...For when I am weak, then He is strong."

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts!