- (DISCLAIMER: I have no idea how those bullets down the side got there or how to remove them. SORRY!)
- The Christmas season has a way of revealing to me what a sinner I am. Fitting, since the holiday is a celebration of my Savior’s birth, but humbling none the less.
- Every year around this time I get bit by the bug. A bug so rampant, I’m thinking it needs to be added to the strains of illnesses included in the flu season records. As a helpful guide, I am including a list of symptoms. You may have the Christmas bug if:
- 1. As you are shopping through Target, every toy you pass you imagine being opened Christmas morning by your child with a huge smile on their face, accompanied by the exclamation, “I love it! You are the best Mother in the whole world!”
- 2. The words “Honey, we bought each other a house (or insert needed appliance, car repair, or plumbing job here) for Christmas, let’s not exchange gifts this year” make your heart drop with sadness no matter how right they are.
- 3. Your store daydreams change from #1 symptom to imagining your child unwrapping the boring things like underwear that they really need but don’t want with a disappointed look on their face, accompanied by the proclamation, “This is the WORST Christmas ever!” (you only think that’s an exaggeration- I have a very dramatic little 5 year old.)
- 4. You start wondering how kids during the great depression didn’t break their parent’s hearts after opening their one and only gift- an orange which was a rare treat to them.
- 5. You realize now, more than ever, you are much more materialistic then you ever imagined…
- Treatment for the Christmas bug includes a hefty dosage of reality:
- 1. Your child doesn’t need every toy in the store, in fact they are undoubtedly better off without it and so are you. Not to mention, as the years pass, their enthusiasm for gifts drastically reduces and last year we were horrified to hear the dreaded phrase, “what else did you get me?” escape our child’s lips more than once. “Where did we go wrong?”, we asked ourselves. After all, we had been careful not to make Christmas about the presents…or so we thought. We didn’t “do” Santa, we limit our gift giving to a few special items per child, we read “The Three Gifts of Christmas” leading up to the holiday, we even tried no gifts on Christmas day one year opening them on Christmas Eve instead so all of Christmas day could be focused on Christ’s birth. How did we end up with such greediness coming from our children? Perhaps the first dose of medicine I needed to swallow was the reality that my children get the Christmas bug too. Whats worse? They caught it from me. MODEL CONTENTMENT!
- 2.The house, furnace. dishwasher, new axles for the car, toilet repair, you name it was a BLESSING! And despite the little pang in your heart that tells you otherwise, it is enough. Gather friends and family in that gift of a home. Warm bodies from that furnace mean warm hearts snuggled in their beds on Christmas Eve. Dishes covered in food being loaded in the dishwasher make me grateful when I think back on six years without one and thankful that food was on those dishes around the table where my family joins together to eat. Whatever you may have inserted in that blank, whether a car repair which enables you to travel and see loved ones or even the fixed toilet that saves your ears from the constant sound of it running- GIVE THANKS!
- 3. When needs are met, whether through Christmas or any other time of the year, teach your children to praise God! “Kids you know you needed new underwear, don’t tell me you didn’t notice the holes in yours and no- holiness isn’t a good thing when it comes to underwear. Praise God! He provided you with new underwear this Christmas!” CHOOSE JOY!
- 4. Oranges DO make great stocking-stuffers. Throw in a ziplock baggie of cloves and let your kids decorate them to make pomanders for your Christmas table centerpiece. BE CREATIVE!
- 5. Pray that the Holy Spirit would change your heart about Christmas. Pray that He would take your greed, selfishness, and desire to please anyone but our Savior. Pray that He would transform your family through the power of His love and that we would all be awestruck by the wonder of His glory! PRAY WITHOUT CEASING!
My Ugly Heart December 6, 2011
To my 18 year old self June 8, 2011
This week for small group, the following three questions were sent out to be thinking about for our meeting tonight. I journaled them and after watching a You Tube video entitled, “To my 16 year old self” about skin cancer, I decided that the answers are probably better shared to hopefully prevent some other youths from making the same mistakes I did. So, I present you with a genuine picture of my young teenage years and beyond.
What if you could go back to and talk to your 18-year old self, as you were just about to enter adulthood? At 18 most of my worldview for holiness, purity and relationship with Christ was already solidified. I think to be of true help to “my 18 year old self”, I would have needed to vision cast from birth. Not that it isn’t an appropriate time to recast a vision for these things, I just know for me, personally, the damage to a biblical worldview of them had already been done.
Knowing what you know now, what vision would you cast for yourself in holiness, purity, and your relationship with Christ? I wish I could have presented (my very young self) a vision of guarding my heart in a way that honors Christ. To explain that purity is about more than just sex but involves thoughts, motives, emotions, and faithfulness to someone that at that point in life I had never even met. I wish I could have told my 12 year old self that over the next 6 years I would in my head “try on” over ten guys as husbands, “playing house” with them in my imagination, doodling what our married name would be all over notebooks, writing out our children’s names and fantasizing about what they would look like. I wish I could have explained that these activities, while seemingly harmless, are the very things that make it impossible to follow the advice given repeatedly in the Song of Solomon, “I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem,by the gazelles or the does of the field,that you not stir up or awaken love until it pleases.” I would warn myself not to ever start reading the romance novels I would be given for Christmas at 13 years old, explaining that fantasizing about someone other than my husband, even fictional, will not aid “guarding my heart” for the one I would covenant only to love. I would paint a picture for me that the best romance story ever written is the one God writes for my life and cannot be found in lust of youth, the pages of a novel or the scenes of a romantic comedy film. As far as relationship with Christ I would tell my young self not to waste time! I would tell middle schooler Jen that sleep, books, pouring over fashion magazines, and worrying about who would be at youth group or who I would sit with at lunch will only serve to distract me from anything meaningful, and absolutely would not matter to me ten years down the line. I would challenge myself to read the bible more than novels, talk to God more than my friends on the phone, and to serve His people more than myself. I would also warn myself NEVER to get on the poms squad in highschool and to use my college years to develop character and godliness more than a portfolio that I would never end up using anyhow. I would explain that gracefulness is more beautiful to God in my heart than on a stage. I would tell myself that one day I would meet a man named Paul, who will remind me so much of the Paul in the bible that perhaps I would be better served to study Paul the apostle instead of the blond haired boy in the seat in front of me. J
What vision would you cast for your singleness, or your marriage, fatherhood or motherhood. Now, thinking forward, what vision will you cast for the rest of your life? The vision I would cast is what biblical womanhood looks like: “reverent in behavior, not slanderers, to love their husbands and children, 5to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands”. I would urge myself to work on developing those virtues than selfish ambition. The vision I would cast for the rest of my life is that virtue is caught more than taught and while I need to be teaching my children what marriage, fatherhood and motherhood look like biblically, they will learn more by my example. Since I am incapable of representing biblical womanhood well, my prayer is that I would be continually on my knees asking the Spirit to work in my life despite myself.
Hannah February 27, 2009
I think the last time that I truly opened up spiritually about something that God was doing in my life here at Weeping Cherries was June 29th, 2008. That is incredibly sad to me as I see all the “surface” posts that I type instead of a continual sharing of my heart. I think part of the reason that people enjoy blogs is because we as humans have a desire to feel kinship with others and read about the things that make them tick and the workings of their lives. I realize that by the topics of my posts you may not know me. So, I am going to do something that I don’t like doing- being real with people when it hurts and when it isn’t pretty. I have talked with some of my friends about my struggle in this area but I realize that most of my consistent readers are also a great blessing in my life. I know that some of you pray for me daily and I appreciate it more than you know. So, this is me. This is where I am right now, what I am learning and what I want to reflect on years from now and celebrate the work that God has done in my life to bring me through it.
I have been studying I Samuel because I feel a great kindred spirit with Hannah. I first looked at her story because I wanted God to write my story like hers. I have been painfully aware for a while now, each day, week, month, and year that passes after the birth of my daughter Aralyn. I read books about the incredible blessing of siblings. I desire for Ara to grow up knowing that blessing.
When Paul and I first were married I felt that I was not ready to have a child. I wanted children, the desire was there, but I had taken everyone’s warnings to heart that it is smart to wait and get to know each other in marriage before having children. When I found out that I was pregnant with Ara two months after we were wed, I was scared. “What will people think Lord? We’ve only been married two months, they will say we are foolish.” What turned out to be God’s perfect timing was not “our” timing and Paul and I were convicted at that point that it wasn’t about what we felt we were ready for, it was about what God had drawn out for our lives. After the delivery of Aralyn ended in what Paul and I felt was an unnecessary cesarean section, again I exerted MY control. “Lord, there is no way that I can go through that again. You know my deepest fears and how I had to go through every single one of them to have Aralyn. I can’t do that again. I believe that children are a blessing but I just can’t go through that again.” I came up with reasons to avoid pregnancy. “I have a headache” became my slogan so to speak. We had decided not to use birth control but was I really surrendering to God’s will for my life? Was I really doing what He wanted when I was avoiding my husband like the plague? Through much conviction and time, I came to understand that if the Lord decided to bless me with more children, then HE would give me the strength to go through whatever circumstances were set before me. I found a doctor who felt that I would be a fine candidate for a VBAC at a birth center that we had heard great things about and we began to anticipate the blessing of another little one around the house. That was two years ago. Two years have passed with no pregnancy and I began to cry out to God as Hannah did, “O LORD of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a son , then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life…”(1 Samuel 1:11)
I desire to raise my child to walk in the ways of the Lord, and I thought if I surrendered my children to Him, He would write my story as He did Hannah’s, “The LORD visited Hannah ; and she conceived and gave birth to three sons and two daughters. And the boy Samuel grew before the LORD.” I have come to realize that I need to be faithful to serve Him and rejoice in His blessings EVEN IF HE DOESN’T WRITE MY STORY LIKE HANNAH’S. When I first read 1 Samuel I was looking for her secret, what I could do so that God would bless me too. That was the wrong motive. It has become a precious story to me because it was Hannah’s heart that God was pleased with. I want God to see my heart, pure of selfish motive, as fully surrendered and depending on His sovereignty regardless of my circumstance. Even if I never have more children, even if the story of Jennifer Christine is different than the story of Hannah.
“‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord.” (Isaiah 55:8)
Just as I had to learn that it is GOD who opened my womb when I did not feel ready, I am learning that it is GOD who closes my womb even though I feel ready now. And I rest in His sovereignty in both circumstances. Because my ways are not His ways and I choose His ways.
“C” is for Contentment July 17, 2008
Today, at the McKinney household, we began learning the letter ‘C’. The character value that we are learning about is the value of contentment.
This process of instruction for Aralyn is so beneficial for me because as I am instructing her, I am being convicted myself. How do I model contentment for her? How often does she hear me speaking of the things I would like to have? On the flip side, how often does she hear me praising God for those things that I do have?
The definition that I read to her for contentment is, “Realizing that God has provided everything I need for my present happiness.” We are using the character value definitions worksheets that the Duggar family provided in the Christian Home Educators conference we attended last month.
When I begin to feel like things would be good “if only I had this or if only things were this way”, I have been trying to remind myself that God has already provided everything I need for my present happiness. He has for you too.
‘B’ is for boldness July 3, 2008
So, I quickly realized a couple days into teaching Ara the letter “A”, that it was going to take more than a week to really stick. We are now doing two letters a month, spending two weeks on each. With each letter we are talking about a character quality that starts with that letter and focus on developing that quality those weeks.
When we were talking about the letter “A”, Ara learned the quality of ‘attentiveness’. These next couple of weeks we are talking about the letter “B” and the quality of ‘boldness’. (Thanks to the Duggar Family for the list of character qualities and their definitions.) The scripture verse we are studying along with ‘boldness’ is Deuteronomy 31:6 with a song that my mom taught me as a child.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
The Letter “A” June 19, 2008
If you haven’t visited biblicalwomanhood.com, I highly suggest it. Today, she inspired me to go through one letter of the alphabet with Aralyn each week for the remaining 26 weeks of the year. Today is the letter “A”.
After breakfast, Aralyn and I talked about what the Big “A” looks like and the Little “a”. She calls them the Mommy A and the baby a. Then we read/sang a song that starts stanzas with the letter A- “All Things Bright and Beautiful”. When she went down for her nap, I got on you tube to find a recording of the song that I like and I came across this beautiful one. I am not sure that the code will work so bear with me.
Today I hope you can enjoy the beauty of God’s creation and praise all things bright and beautiful!
ALL THINGS BRIGHT AND BEAUTIFUL
All things bright and beautiful
All creatures great and small
All things wise and wonderful
The Lord God made them all
Each little flower that opens
Each little bird that sings
He made their glowing colors
He made their tiny wings
The purple-headed mountains
The river running by
The sunset and the morning
That brightens up the sky
The cold wind in the winter
The pleasant summer sun
The ripe fruits in the garden
He made them every one
The tall trees in the greenwood
The meadows where we play
The rushes by the water
To gather every day
He gave us eyes to see them
And lips that we might tell
How great is God Almighty
Who has made all things well
All things bright and beautiful
All creatures great and small
All things wise and wonderful
The Lord God made the all