Quiet Works (Or Trees Falling)

Fallen Tree

“If a tree falls in the forest, but no one is there to hear it, does it really make a sound?”

I thought about this question in a very literal sense a few weeks ago when my father cut down a gigantic, old, dead tree in our backyard that was threatening to fall on our roof. My boys and I watched in amazement as the tree slowly creaked to the side, then very quickly slammed to the ground, bouncing a couple times upon impact. The sound of it colliding with the ground was tremendous and the vibrations it sent toward us were breathtaking. It was all very spectacular, and we were there to witness it.

But what if there is no one there to witness such an event? What if the tree’s magnificent fall is unheard by any living soul and its quake-like rumblings are never felt by a creature outside of its forest? Is its impact any less spectacular because it was done without the knowledge of others?

Today, I found myself thinking about this question in a more allegorical sense as I went about my business as a mother. So much of my “job” goes unseen by the outside world: the hours of training and disciplining my children, the countless dishes I wash, the never-ending mountain of laundry I fold and put away, the meals I prepare for my family… the list could go on and on. My work as a mother is largely unseen and unheard of by anyone outside the walls of our home. In the humdrum monotony of such mundane tasks it can be easy to question whether or not this work is valuable or whether it makes any kind of true impact on the world around it. These are quiet works in a very loud world.

Indeed, we live in a culture that thrives on self-promotion and affirmation and social media perfectly serves these idols, making it possible to purposely broadcast your life to the entire world. Even stay-at-home mothers like myself can make sure that our quiet works are seen and heard by thousands of people with a quick status update chronicling the challenges of our day. We can easily begin to grade our job performance by our thoughtfully filtered Instagram pictures and the number of likes we accumulate on each Facebook album of our children putting together crafts for homeschool. It can be easy in this day and age for us moms to fall into the trap of seeking the unsatisfying applause of this world because the means to do so is right at our fingertips.

The truth we forget, however, is that while the work moms do goes largely unnoticed by the world around them, there is One who takes great notice of our daily sacrifices of time, energy and passions. It is the Lord himself who “sees in secret” all the good works we do out of love for him and our families. (Matt. 6:4) It is this same God—who treasures the unseen, quiet works of a mother—who spoke through the pen of Paul, reminding each of us that our work is not for men, but for him. (Colossians 2:23)

Perhaps it isn’t so much that we forget this truth, but that we struggle to believe its worth. We struggle to believe that the unseen God’s pleasure is as desirous as a physical, here-and-now reward. Believing that the affirmation of the world is futile when compared to the pleasure of God is an act of faith in and of itself that must be brought about by the work of the Holy Spirit residing within us. We must daily the Lord to conform our hearts and passions to his—That we might seek not the applause of a perishing world, but rather the joyful smile of our loving Heavenly Father who takes notice of every act of kindness we bestow upon our husbands and children. In this is true fulfillment: communion with the Triune God. He sees and values our work, and that glorious truth is more than enough!

And so, the many trees of good works that fall in the forests of our homes may not be heard by the outside world, but they are heard by the only One who truly matters. And what’s more, we can be certain that the faithful service we render to our families will send seismic ripples into the world around us over time, because it is God himself who works in us, “both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Phil 2:13) These good deeds that we have set our hearts to are not of our own doing. They are only possible through the unity we have with the holy Son of God! “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Eph. 2:10)

If it is God who is cutting down these trees and throwing them to the ground, we can be certain that their impact will be heard for all of eternity.

photo credit: Wolfhowl via photopin cc

When Motherhood Doesn’t Come Naturally

DSC_0515Someone recently said to me, “If anyone would be great at homeschooling it would be you,” and I instantly thought, “This person doesn’t know me at all!” I am a disorganized, procrastinating, impatient, and prone-to-anger mess of a mom. In other words: I’m the worst candidate ever for successfully homeschooling my three–soon to be four–children.

Truly, my husband and I haven’t chosen to homeschool because I am naturally fit for the immense responsibility of educating our children, but rather we have felt led to homeschool our children by the Lord and therefore, I am going to trust that his perfecting hand is going to be at work in my life as I follow in obedience.

Motherhood in general has been like this for me. From the outside of our home one might assume that I am naturally inclined to “mother.” But in all sincerity, nothing about mothering my precious children has come naturally. Of course I’ve been filled with love for these precious babes of mine since the moment I learned of their existence, but as far as the practical, day in and day out requirements of sacrificially showing them love? I continually find myself begging the Lord for more grace to overcome my sinful and selfish tendencies–and that is on the good days! On the bad days, I’m ashamed to say, my flesh wins out with very little of a fight from me.

I didn’t think it would be this way. Before delivering my first little boy, I had grand, sepia toned visions of the type of mother I wanted to be: I’d excel in preparing healthy, well-balanced meals, I’d look forward to visits to the park, zoo, and pool, I’d never rush through the sacred bed-time routine, but rather, I’d sing lullabies as my babes drifted off into peaceful, easy slumbers. And then real motherhood set in: my children all refuse to enjoy the same foods; the park is hot, the zoo is crowded, and the pool presents near death experiences with each new visit; and my children don’t naturally fall asleep until 10 p.m. no matter how many songs are sung or how many books are read. It turned out that motherhood was not all the magazine pictures promised it would be–it was hard work!

During my first few months as a mother, these realities came crashing in on me with full force. I can distinctly remember rolling out of bed for middle of the night feedings and immediately falling to my knees in prayer, asking the Lord to give me joy in this pivotal responsibility of motherhood. I’m not lying. Every night! Even now, I fight feelings of anger when our littlest one wakes up just moments after I’ve finally put my head on my pillow.

It takes great personal sacrifice to mother children, and sacrifice is not a virtue I am naturally endowed with. In other words: motherhood is not what I am naturally good at; it is what the Lord has called me to. How do I know he has called me to this form of sacrifice? He has given me children to care for.

Every daughter of God is given a unique set of circumstances in which his sanctifying hand is at work, tearing down the old woman and perfecting the new. For moms it is not difficult to see how our children are used by our loving Father to shape and mold us into the image of his Son. Every day we are given the opportunity to sacrifice our own passions, preferences, time, energy and desires for our families. We don’t have to look far or wait long for these opportunities of sacrifice to present themselves (usually they are waiting at the foot of my bed begging for chocolate milk at 6:30 a.m.).

And the good news is while I may not be naturally bent toward self-sacrifice, I have been united to One who is. 

We are told in the Word of God to model our service to others after our great Savior Jesus Christ, who ”though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8 ESV) This is the type of service I am called to render to my family: a daily and continual emptying of myself for their good.

Thankfully, Jesus is not simply my model for loving sacrifice. He is much more than a picture of virtue that I should attempt to conform to. Rather, our Savior is the power to overcome sin! It is because I am united to him through his substitutionary death on the cross, that I can be united to him in his resurrection and no longer live under the dominion of sin.

It is because of this union with Christ, in his death and resurrection, that Romans 6 can say, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.” The salvation I’ve been given in Jesus means that I am now free to fight against my selfish, self-serving tendencies which make motherhood so difficult. I can strive to love my children more with each passing day because of the good news of the gospel as well as find grace and forgiveness when I fail.

And so, though motherhood is filled to the brim with trying responsibilities and difficulties, I can be grateful for each opportunity to die to my own desires because I know that “for those who love God all things work together for good.” How do these “opportunities” work together for my good? Paul goes on to explain in the same passage: “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:28-29 ESV) These opportunities to die to self are good, because they are conforming me to the image of Christ.

No, motherhood does not come naturally to me, but neither does any other form of self-sacrifice! Yet motherhood is exactly the means God has chosen to conform me to the image of his Son. Because I am united to Christ, I have been given a new nature, and motherhood is a tool in the hands of my heavenly Father which he is using to bring about my sanctification. For this reason I can joyfully accept the difficulties inherent in motherhood: because they were given to me by a good God for my ultimate and eternal good.

How precious this calling is, and how grateful I am for the many blessings inherent in being a mother–even the blessings cloaked in difficulty!

Thank you, Lord for the gift of motherhood.

“All things work together for good. This expression ‘work together’ refers to medicine. Several poisonous ingredients put together, being tempered by the skill of the apothecary, make a sovereign medicine, and work together for the good of the patient. So all God’s providences, being divinely tempered and sanctified, work together for the best of the saints. He who loves God and is called according to His purpose, may rest assured that every thing in the world shall be for his good.” -Thomas Watson, All Things for Good

Practicing Humility as Young Mothers

Credo Magazine Guest Post

“Opening ourselves up to the advice and correction that older women have to offer means choosing to be disciplined in how we view ourselves and our journey of motherhood; it requires humility. Romans 12:8 reminds us to never be wise in our own sight and Proverbs 11:2 warns that wherever there is pride there will soon be disgrace, but where there is humility there will be honor. Therefore, the wise young mother must seek to understand and confess her weaknesses, while gratefully accepting the help and advice of those whose experience makes them worthy of emulation. This doesn’t mean that she will always agree with them or that she will always implement their suggestions. Rather, it means that she will bring their wealth of practical wisdom before the Lord in prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to reveal which words are worthy of being heeded and which can be graciously ignored. According to Scripture, this practice of humbly receiving the help of older, godly mothers will reap the harvest of honor that prideful self-reliance seeks after, but can never attain.”

I invite you to click over to Credo Magazine where I’m sharing some thoughts on practicing humility as young mothers.

Awake O Sleeper!

Awake O Sleeper!

“Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” (John 11:11)

There are few things as final as death. This horrid thief of breath is a common enemy every human must face and ultimately surrender to. There is no potion, no surgery, and no vitamin that will delay the inevitable failing of our bodies. And so each of us will one day have to say painful goodbyes to our spouses, our parents, and our children. There is only one Man who has ever faced the enemy of death and emerged from the battle field victorious and he holds the sun and moon and stars in the palm of his hand.

It was this same Jesus, who informed his disciples that he would return to Bethany to “awaken” his friend Lazarus from his “sleep.” I can’t help but let a little chuckle escape my lips as I read this account of Jesus’ cheeky reference to death. What is so final and so powerful to us–the threat of death–is but a slumber to our Lord! Rescuing someone from the grips of this enemy is as simple as calling out their name, for our Lord’s voice is more powerful and winsome than any other that threatens to enslave us.

This Jesus who humbly walked among his creation, who took on human flesh and frailty, who ate, sang, wept, and sweat was simultaneously upholding the universe by the power of of his Word. How easy it is to forget that, though he was despised by men, he is adored by all of creation; that while he subjected himself to the ridicule of an empire, angels and oceans obey the whispers of his voice. Yes, it is easy to forget how powerful this God in human skin is until he utters matter-of-factly that they are going to go wake up a dead guy, as though all that Lazarus needed was a nudge to be brought back from the grip of death. And yet, when the Sovereign Lord of the universe commands the cells of your body to awaken, they obey.

How desperately my heart needs to comprehend this message. How I need to grasp the weight of his life-giving power! All around me I see Lazaruses who are sleeping in death, unaware of their spiritual condition, unaware of their open rebellion of their Creator. They slumber and dream, peacefully denying the judgement that awaits them. They live their lives as those who have no need of a Savior, who have no need of the one who has loved them to the point of death. They need to hear the voice of Jesus speak into their tombs of idolatry. They need him to wake them up!

What comfort there is in knowing that he is indeed able to do such a thing. This good shepherd calls out to his sheep and upon hearing his voice they obediently and adoringly follow him all the way to the gates of Heaven. Are there Lazaruses around you who have yet to wake from their slumber? Take heart in knowing that there are sheep whom he has yet to call. With a mere whisper from his Holy Spirit, their eyes can be opened and their hearts of stone can be transformed into hearts of flesh. Pray continually for their salvation–pray that the Lord would call them from their tombs. Never cease to tell them of this Jesus who loves them and offers salvation freely to any man or woman or child who would simply believe in his powerful name.

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.” -Isaiah 60:1

photo credit: Stuck in Customs via photopin cc

Bookmarks 4/23/14

Bookmarks: Relevant Links for Kingdom Women Quote of the Week:

“This infiniteness of grace, in respect of its spring and fountain, will answer all objections that might hinder our souls from drawing nigh to communion with him, and from a free embracing of him. Will not this suit us in all our distresses? What is our finite guilt before it? Show me the sinner that can spread his iniquities to the dimensions (if I may say) of [Christ's] grace. Here is mercy enough for the greatest, the oldest, the most stubborn transgressor…” -John Owen, Communion with the Triune God

Links of the Week:

Call Her Blessed and Pink Peonies: My friend Ruth Simons has created this beautiful print just in time for Mother’s Day based on Proverbs 31:28. Isn’t it lovely? Be sure to check out all of her incredible art while you visit her shoppe and imagine how she creates such beauties in the midst of raising and homeschooling six boys. :)

When a Friend is Hurting: Christina Fox shares some simple and yet important ways you can serve a friend who is walking through times of suffering.

Thinking on Today’s Manna: Wendy Alsup encourages us to set our minds on the good things God gives and does in the midst of living in a crooked and perverse world which is filled with pain and suffering.

3 Things Pastors (and Their Wives) Should Say More Often: Megan Hill writes about the blessing the church is to ministry families and encourages pastors and pastor’s wives to stop complaining about the weight of their calling.