The Drive Home: Finding Contentment on the Journey

 

The Drive Home

The questions come to me as I’m driving, running errands, frustrated with everything in my life that isn’t right… isn’t good enough.

What would it actually take?

When would it be enough?

When would I finally be content?

When the to-do list is done?
When the kids mature?
When I can afford whatever I want?
When my house is clean?
When I’m a raving success?

The carrot dangles in front of me as I speed — I never can never quite reach it — perfect beauty, perfect skill, perfect organization, the perfect family… perfection.

Actually, “perfect” puts a wry smile on my face. I’m not even close.

No, I tell myself. I don’t need perfection, I just need a little better.  A little more. That would be enough.

But would it?

And when I slam my brakes for the red light, I see the issue for what it is.

A discontented heart. And it’s ugly.

This isn’t the fruit of the Spirit.

It’s a slap in God’s face.

It’s me telling Him His blessings aren’t good enough, His grace isn’t sufficient, He isn’t enough. He hasn’t given enough. I need more.

And forming such hideous thoughts are like fingernails on a chalkboard.

God, forgive me.

I hold the steering wheel, realizing my flesh can never be satisfied.

Were it not for Christ, I’d be one of the millions enslaved to it — my rotting demanding flesh — trying to escape the deadly downward spiral. Grasping for pleasure, attention, status and possessions. Convinced I could claw my way out of the black hole with more, with better. Striving, panting… yet ending with nothing.

The light turns green and I move on, blinking back tears, remembering that true life is in Christ, that I am found in Christ.

And I remember I am blessed.

Oh how much He’s given me.

He “forgives all [my] sins and heals all [my] diseases…” He “redeems [my] life from the pit and crowns [me] with love and compassion.”  Psalm 103:3-4

My family, my home, my story, my very breath declare His goodness. I dare not forget all that He’s done for me, all that He’s given me, how He gave everything for me!

And even as the question forms in my mind — So how do I handle my constant yearnings for more? For better? — I remember something else…

Every craving reveals my need for him.

I’m hungry for more, for better, because I need more of Him.

He is love. He is peace. He is joy.

He alone is the perfect Father, Friend, and Comforter.

My appetite will never be fully satiated with anything or anyone else.

I turn on my blinker and switch lanes. My heart recognizes this as truth, but there’s a little pang as it turns all that longing toward Jesus.

But I can’t even see you, and I’m still stuck here.

What I remember as I turn the corner is bittersweet.

Complete contentment will only come once I’m face-to-face with Christ.

This side of heaven, I’ll always have a to-do list, a longing, an internal battle with discontent.

But that’s just this side of heaven. My heart’s deepest desires will all be met on the other side.

Who needs junk food when a marriage feast is so close?

No, this drive won’t last forever. Home and all its comforts are just around the bend.

As I pull again into the driveway of my temporary home, I ask for eyes to see my blessings, for more of Jesus, and an eternal perspective.

I ask for help to remember. I ask for contentment.

Bless the Lord, O my soul;
And all that is within me, bless His holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits.

Psalm 103:1

*Are you content, friend? Where do you struggle most? How does remembering bring contentment in your life?

Blessings,

Jennifer Ebenhack

 

Growing Your Children’s Relationship With Jesus {When Yours Is Struggling}

relationship with Jesus

I have a friend who is really good at quiet times with the Lord- reading the Bible, journaling, praying. When she’s been with God, her face is so happy and peaceful. You can just tell she loves God, you know?

This sort of reminds me of Moses in the Bible, when came down from the mountain of God. His face was glowing because he had been near God. Remember that? See, you can almost sense it when people are close to God. It moves you, makes you think, inspires you…

Sometimes I find myself wondering, with a gulp in my throat: is the opposite true?

What if I feel far from God? What if I’m struggling – with anxieties, with selfishness, with just plain old haven’t-spent-time-with-God-in-ages?

What then for the people around me? Can my kids sense it? How can I lead them to Christ, if I’m struggling myself?

I have great tenderness in my heart for the asker of this question, because often, she is me. Growing up, I could have won awards for church attendance. I had devotions every day (even on vacation). I memorized verses, read commentaries, the whole nine yards.

Since being a mother, I have been humbled.

I’ve battled anxiety, crumbling under the weight of caring for a child with life-threatening allergies. I struggle to give, and give, and give to my children, especially when I’m exhausted. I lose my temper, and I fall behind in my quiet times.

I still love the Lord with every fiber of my being, and I need him desperately. But often, I feel guilty for not “doing” enough in my relationship to God. And I get worried.

How can I lead my children to Jesus, if I myself am struggling?

Do you ever feel this way? I wondered if I wasn’t the only one who did, and in my recently-released e-book, How To Introduce Your Child To Jesus, I dedicated an entire chapter to this, called: “Your Relationship With Jesus Matters (And What To Do If Yours Is Struggling).”

There’s much to be said on the topic (one of my favorite parts is where I share some devotions and books perfect for moms with little time and energy). But the main point – the one we so easily forget – is this: the beautiful irony of the Gospel is that we are loved not because we are worthy, but just because we are loved.

When we are weak, in Him, we are strong. My pastor often says that when you’ve reached the end of yourself, and know you can’t do it on your own, then you’re just exactly where you need to be.

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. {Psalm 34:18}

Practically speaking: don’t let guilt, or months, or years keep you from the Lord. You can come today, and you can come as you are. You can come folding ragged bath towels, with whispered prayers for the family who uses them. You can come through tears, after tempers were lost and mistakes were made. You can come – right now – just as you are. It’s a lie from the pit that you can’t.

This brings tremendous hope and encouragement to me – that the Lord is always near and always working my my life, and the lives of those I love.

If you often feel overwhelmed with the idea of leading your little ones to Jesus, my e-book may provide just the encouraging tips. Here are a few things I touch on:

  • How to make your child’s faith his or her own (and not just yours)
  • Tips for surviving church with little ones (what we bring to church, what we do when they’re loud, how to get them to sit still)
  • My 25 favorite Jesus-centered books, movies, and toys for kids
  • 15+ everyday scenarios to talk about Jesus with your child
  • The seven common personalities in kids, and how to teach each type
  • A list of my favorite devotionals for wearied moms

Cover Web Use

Click here for information on How To Introduce Your Child To Jesus.

7 Small Ways a Faithful Mother Can Make a Big Difference

7 Small Ways a Faithful Mother Can Make a Big Difference

I want to make a difference.

You might not think a stay-at-home, work-at-home, mom like me would be aware of what is happening out there, but I am.

I can see far too clearly the world falling apart and feel much too deeply the relationships crumbling around me – and it nearly breaks my heart.

No, my head is definitely not buried in the sand. We can all read the headlines. Nor do we have far to travel to find heartache or hopelessness.

But this home-centered mom wants to do something about it . . and you?

I want to raise a family who loves the Lord and who will be a light to an ever-darkening world, a family who will offer hope to the aching and the anguished.

So how can one faithful mother make a big difference?

1. Fill our home with joy and laughter.
As the mom, we get to set the tone for the home, so begin the day with a loving smile and a cheerful greeting. And if you don’t “feel” like it? That’s okay, just fake it! Then keep right on smiling until the warmth becomes genuine and shines down over your entire family.

2. Offer grace freely.
Mistakes, mess-ups, mix-ups – it’s all part of being a family. Let them know that you can overlook their faults and you love ‘em like crazy anyway. Don’t be devastated, or even surprised, when your people let you down. Consider the abundant grace showered down over you and me and then offer the same to their tender hearts. They need it at least as much as we do!

3. Share meals together daily.
If our lives are so busy that we don’t have a moment to dine and discuss around the table together, then we are dangerously too busy. While it doesn’t always seem worth the trouble to gather everyone for this daily event, it does add up over time and one of the greatest investments you can make for your family.

4. Be willing to take a strong stand.
It’s a fact: we moms get less grief if we say “yes” than when we say “no”. But, if your spirit is troubling you then don’t compromise for the sake of peace – it’s simply not worth it. Stay true to what you believe is right and stick to your guns. We have to be more concerned about our children’s character than their temporary “happiness.”

5. Take the time to talk it through.
Talking things through takes a gargantuan amount of TIME. Sometimes this means discussing issues late into the night (especially if you have teens!).  No such thing as a shortcut to this critical process – unless it’s sweeping it under the rug which only results in distant, painful relationships. So what are a few bleary nights compared to close, loving relationships?

6.   Ask forgiveness – and grant it fully
If someone sins or hurts another family member in any way, he - or me!- should be swift to humbly seek forgiveness.  And the response should be as quick and wholehearted as the request made.  Don’t let any bit of relational garbage linger to rot and decay! Keep all your hearts clean and bright.

7.   Celebrate the uniqueness of each child
Enjoy each child’s special qualities and embrace every unique individual. Teach your children to appreciate one another’s differences too. Don’t allow anyone to despise or belittle a brother or sister because they happen to have their own giftings, their own particular style, and their own way of doing things. (For more ways:  32 Tips I’d Like toPass on to Moms with Younger Children.)

Although I don’t always feel much like a world-changer, like it matters all that much, this mom would like to think I’m making a world of difference.

And you’re making a big difference too.

Because we mothers can impact more lives than we ever thought possible through our sometimes simple, often hidden, but meaningful ministry at home.

Cheering for you!

Lisa Jacobson, Club31Women

Bikinis, Instagram, and Other Fun Stuff {Hard Conversations with Your Middle Schooler}

#selfie_edited-1“But, Mom, I really don’t understand what the big deal is.” And so began our discussion about swimsuits in specific and modesty in general.

But this isn’t a post about modesty. Or the appropriateness of bikinis, tankinis, or one pieces. This is a post about the things I’m learning as the mom of a middle school girl. As our conversation teetered on the edge of another disastrous blow out, I realized that talking through hard issues is… well, hard.

Truth be told, I feel like I’m becoming an expert in hard conversations. Because, we’ve had a number of them this year. We’ve talked about dating and friend choices and social media, to name a few of the biggies.

Sometimes it wears me out. During this particular conversation about bathing suits and modesty, I realized several things that are helping to shape the way I approach these hard topics.

1. I need to listen. Like really listen – to the issue behind the issue. Madison’s push-back regarding bikinis wasn’t really about bikinis. It looked like a discussion about bathing suits. It felt like a discussion about bathing suits. But, it was actually a discussion about fitting-in.

Part of my job as a middle school mom is to know my daughter and to try to understand the things that impact her. This takes time, energy, and intentional effort. Effort that I don’t always want to give, to be honest. But being a mom means sacrifice. My time in this phase of parenting is not so much consumed with potty training and a bedtime routine that works, like it was 10 years ago. Instead, it’s consumed with a lot of listening and talking through character-shaping issues.

2. I need to adjust my expectations. Because my kids are very mature for their age and are both good thinkers/articulators, I often expect them to act like adults. I assume they know and understand things that are actually beyond them – either because of their developmental stage or because they just haven’t really ever thought it through before.

It might surprise you to learn that the ability to reason and think in principles is actually a developmental process. For example, when you tell your three-year-old not to kick his sister, he does not naturally have the ability to take that principle and apply it to hitting, etc. Moral development is a process that grows with time and catalysts. As a parent, it is my job to help be one of those catalysts… not to get mad because my kids are acting immature!

3. I need to walk a mile in her flip flops. Middle school is hard. Peer pressure is real and social expectations are demanding. It might seem silly to me that she cares so much about a classmate’s Instagram photo at the beach but I need to remember that it’s her world. And, let’s be honest, I have my own social pressures that I cave in to. It shouldn’t be so hard for me to understand what she is feeling.

4. I need to be careful to cling to what is important, not just what I have always thought. When Madison started pressing me on the whole bikini issue, I wanted to dig-in and hold to my position. Which might actually be legit, of course. But I just need to be careful that I understand why I’m holding the line. Is it because I am embracing a false dichotomy, tradition or opinion? Or is it because there is a moral issue here that I believe I must stick to: for her good, or the good of others, or because God’s Word says so? Sometimes we cloak our personal opinions or preferences in God’s Word, turning them into legalisms. As parents we can certainly have preferences and require our children to adhere to them. We just need to be honest with ourselves and clear with our kids about which ones are Biblical and which ones are preference.

5. I need to remember that good questions are not necessarily signs of rebellion. Madison had some legitimate questions about modesty. At first, I didn’t like them. Maybe they made me feel threatened. Maybe she asked them disrespectfully. I suspect it was a little bit of both. But, as we talked it out, I was able to coach her on how to push-back while still honoring mom.

#selfie2

I’m not going to lie. There are days I do these things well and days that I don’t. The days that I don’t, aren’t pretty. And, sometimes even when I do, it still isn’t pretty because her heart is the stubborn one. But, this is the first time I’ve ever been a mom to a middle school girl and I don’t do it perfectly. Because of God’s mercy and grace, I’m OK with that. I’m trusting Him to fill in the gaps where I fall short and to use all of those opportunities to force us both to lean into His grace. I’m praying that Madison and I are being conformed to the image of Christ through the process of each hard interaction. Typing these five reminders was actually a great reminder for me and a great catalyst for some prayer. I hope it does the same for you.

And, let’s not forget that having a middle school daughter is not ALL hard conversations. It’s also a lot of fun. As is evidenced by the plethora of unflattering mother-daughter #selfies we now possess. {wink}

Grace and peace for your middle school mothering,

@In a Mirror Dimly

 

 

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