Go ahead, count your blessings and give thanks this week. Really… do that. Be sure that you are praising God, knowing that “every perfect gift is from above” James 1:17. He deserves all credit, if you don’t understand that, you won’t understand the purpose of life. Displaying gratitude is a great practice, but let’s be honest, it’s really easy to do and all too often it can keep us focused on ourselves and what we have. We may nod our heads at God but then go right on shoveling mashed potatoes into our faces. How about getting more serious this year?
Don’t stop at being thankful for what you have. Take inventory of your blessings and then give them away. Yes, that’s right, give them away.
Many of us women go through cycles of downsizing and “purging” of what we own. This is good, but why do we participate in this cycle at all? We give, but then we take stuff up again. If we were to look at how Christ dealt with possessions we would see a shocking lifestyle! He depended fully on his Father to provide for him as he traveled and went seeking and saving the lost. Jesus never worried about how his needs would be met but they were.
Jesus didn’t even have a place to call home during his ministry. “And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Luke 9:58. He was constantly surrounded by crowds whom he ministered to, often sharing what he had available like fish and bread (Matt. 14:13-21). Jesus also walked the grain fields with his disciples where they found lunch “and His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat.” Matt. 12:1. This was only done by those who did not have enough food of their own to eat. By the time Jesus died on the cross his only possessions were the clothes on his back and even those were divided up and taken away.
We need to do a better job at looking like Jesus in this area. We may not sell our homes and walk the fields for dinner, but come on, we aren’t even in the ballpark of Christ-likeness here. So time to go beyond the “thanks” and get serious about the “giving”. You may find yourself parting with material possessions like jewelry, clothing, collections, hobby items, a vehicle, or even careers. What you do keep, you need to share and use for the glory of God. Your home should be a ministry outpost, where people gather to be fed from your pantry and the Word of God. You could become foster parents, host Bible studies or house those in need. Or, God may call you to look very much like Jesus and sell everything and trust him in mission work.
This sharing and giving holds true for all areas of life, so don’t neglect a full inventory. Share your skills in order to share Christ. Use your time pouring out love and help onto others as you share biblical knowledge, encouragement and exhortation. Don’t accumulate financial abundance; use your money for Kingdom building, locally and worldwide. Reach the end of your life like Christ, with nothing earthly clinging to you, having given all away for the sake of his name.
Finally, I encourage you to give up the blessings that usually top every list: family and friends. You need to give them to God. Entrust them to his care at all times. You do this by praying for them daily, sharing God’s Word and by understanding that he has full authority over their lives. Lovingly push all those who are precious to you toward Jesus.
Ladies, we need to reflect the generous quality of our God and give freely of all we have been blessed with. Praise God as you count your blessings this year, but don’t stop with an inventory, continue to worship him in how you use every single thing he gives you. Focus on growing rich in Christ as you praise him with open hands, allowing the blessings to flow through.
“One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.” Proverbs 11:24, 25.
Oh, the days of young motherhood. If I had to choose words to describe it a few would be: smiles, messes, sleep-deprived, fat rolls, sticky and joyful. I’m sure you can think of many of your own. Oh yeah, one more: hard. Being the mother of young children (newborn to pre-school) is hard work. The demands of your time and energy are overwhelming. Add to this the fact that mothering young children usually coincides with young marriages. This makes the perfect, intense and pressurized medium for great growth or explosive combustion. Often both.
The picture I am familiar with is a young woman desiring to have a happy marriage, raise children well, and honor God at the same time. You have worked hard and looked forward to this stage of life and are finally there, married with children. Things appear to be on track and working out as planned. So why is it so difficult? Why aren’t you happy more often? Why isn’t this easier and more enjoyable?
Excellent questions and ones I have lived through myself and have counseled others on. Many are struggling along, trying to keep their heads above water. Being more successful at it at times and taking a dunking the next. Welcome to motherhood, trial by fire…but not fire without purpose. Being a mother is a beautiful role designed and assigned by God. That alone should be humbling, but beauty doesn’t equal ease. Internal and forever soul-beauty is hard work, keep reading.
Here is what is very important to remember: you are learning valuable lessons that will stay with you for eternity during these specific years. The two utmost lessons are these: 1.) Trust God in all things and 2.) All things are about God, not about you. You may think you know these facts already, but Momma, you don’t until you have been through the paces of motherhood.
I call the early years of motherhood the “Crucible of Young Motherhood”. A crucible is a container that holds metals that are melted or subjected to very high temperatures for a purpose. It is a good mental picture for those in this stage of womanhood. The intensity of having young children and a young marriage causes the “heat of life” to turn up. But again, not without purpose. Just like melting metal in a crucible is so that the impurities can be drawn off and then the pure metal can be poured into a mold, so is young motherhood a crucible for burning away the sin of the old self and a time of shaping and perfecting the new creation that you are called to be in Christ. It is prime time for heart-work to be done.
“The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the LORD tests hearts.” Proverbs 17:3
You may not see wiping noses, faces and bottoms as work toward spiritual growth, but it is. It is some of the best spiritual work that can be done! This is where trusting God is a must. You have to trust that he has called you to this work and that he is using this work to produce lasting fruit in your life (patience, love, kindness, peace, joy, self-control, faithfulness). It can feel like slow, tedious and even trivial progress, but the results are none of these things. The godly shaping of a woman through motherhood is one of the most fantastic processes ever to be ordained by God. If you doubt this, talk to some women who have lived it. Trust that God is doing work in you even when you don’t feel it.
“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.” Psalm 56:3-4a
You also must remember on a daily basis (often an hourly basis) that everything is about God and not you. Keep your focus Godward. You wipe the sticky counters off for the hundredth time today because you are serving God through serving your family. You rock a screaming baby with ear infections because God has placed this baby in your hands and told you to raise them for him. You hug and serve a grumpy husband who is being unkind because God calls you to be like his son Jesus who submitted to the Father and died for sinners. It is all about God, the sooner you get this, the more spiritual growth you can experience.
“For from him and through him and to him are all things.” Romans 11:36
A final yet vital word of advice: be in the Bible daily. Even if it is a single verse that you read in the morning and think on all day. Understand you can’t live without it. Staying in the Word during this time of your life is essential and will set the tone for years to come for spiritual discipline.
Ladies, the beauty of motherhood comes in the midst of the messes, sleepless nights and fat rolls. You will get glimpses of it now and then while in the crucible, but the true witness of the blooming comes when you are more removed from the heat. You will begin to see yourself take shape as you more closely reflect the beauty of your Savior. Trust him in all things, knowing all things are about him, even young motherhood.
We had a large sand box when my kids were little. The boys really enjoyed it, but we finally got rid of it and I was happy to have it gone. Why? Because, as all moms know, sand gets EVERYWHERE. It would get in their clothes and shoes, they would track it into the house, and it would be in their hair (because, of course dumping sand on each other is what boys do).
I see a lot of sand all over people lately. All you have to do is listen to their words or watch their actions. Sand. All over them. Stuck to the bottom of their feet, falling off their hands and flowing out of their mouths. It’s a disturbing sight.
It is not a complicated message, but most still get it wrong. Here is the story straight from the mouth of Jesus:
Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it. - Matthew 7:24-27
Basic construction class 101: building your house on the rock = wise, building your house on the sand = foolish. The rains, floods, and winds are coming to beat on your house. No “maybe” about it, a storm is going to hit. So what is the key to having a house built on the rock to keep it standing? It is the difference between a wise man and a foolish one - both hear the words, but only one does them.
What are the “words of mine” spoken of in these verses? Well, Jesus is the speaker so they are his words. And if you look at the context of where they are found, they are at the end of Jesus’s “Sermon on the Mount”. So Jesus is meaning all that he said while speaking to this crowd, all of Matthew chapters 5, 6, and 7 (really all the words of God). Now it would be good for you to go and read the sermon to remind yourself of what was said. You will find that each passage comes back to the heart. If your heart belongs to God, you will be inclined by the Holy Spirit to obey (more and more s as you grow).
In other words, those who know God have their lives built upon him (the Rock) because they have listened to and obeyed him. “He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.” Ps. 62:6. Others may hear the same words but it is not in them to obey because the Holy Spirit does not reside within them. They build upon sand and have no security. Therefore they are shaken easily when difficulties come and will eventually fall and fall in a big way. They may look fairly solid on the outside, but trust me, sand makes one very uncomfortable in many miserable and hidden ways.
So, Ladies, what is my point today? Check your feet, are you standing in sand? Do you feel scared about your future? Has the recent election or a situation in your life have you acting out of worry? What is coming out of your mouth? Are they words of fear, hate, anxiety or anger? You probably have sand in your teeth, better check the mirror of God’s Word.
“What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart,” Matt. 15:8. If your heart’s foundation is sand then you will see evidence of it. Sand out of the mouth is the first telltale sign of a desperate need for relocation. Your foundation is crumbling, it is not meant to last, it is designed to fail. Time to pray to the Builder while time is left.
Ladies, if God is your rock upon which you stand then your words during times like this will also prove it. “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt,” Colossians 4:6. Grace and salt, not sand. You will not fall because the Architect did not design you that way, you will be kept standing forever by his power, there is no need for worry here. Continue to hear his words and do them, allowing him to continue his work in you. Be an unshakable woman by his power proclaiming, “He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.”