Archives for January 2012

Book Club: Twelve Extraordinary Women, Video 3 (Sarah)

I hope you enjoyed getting to know Sarah as much as I did! If something stood out to you from the reading and/or the video, I want to hear about it! Even if you are watching this several weeks or months after the original post date, don’t hesitate to comment.

About this video –  a minute or so of it got cut off at the end. Apparently, my camera got tired of listening to me yack on and on about Sarah and decided to shut off (even though it had battery AND space left . . . hmmmm.) The good thing is, the only thing that got cut off was my weekly speech about leaving a comment and my ackward farwell. In other words, nothing much. 🙂

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The Misery Factor

It happened around 8:20 this morning. I had just dropped Shepherd off at preschool. My husband was leaving as I was walking into the house.

I gave him a half-hearted kiss goodbye, stepped inside, and then I slammed the door. That’s right, folks. Slammed it . . .really hard. Like, the windows rattled a little. Not my finest moment.

Husband comes back in: “Did I do something wrong? Are you mad?”

Me: “No, I’ll be fine.”

And I am. Well, almost. Give me about five more minutes and another cup of coffee . . .

What could make the sweet, emotionally stable, fun-loving, Holy Spirit indwelt “me” slam a door on a relatively uneventful Wednesday morning?

One word: EXPECTATIONS.

I once heard that the gap between our expectations and our reality is our “MISERY FACTOR.” We have a picture in our minds of what our lives – and the people in them – ought to look like and act like. When that doesn’t happen, well, doors get slammed (and other “too-shameful-to-mention-on-this-blog” kinds of things).

This morning was supposed to be nice and simple. The plan was to wake Shepherd up, get him dressed, feed him breakfast, watch a few minutes of Barney, strap him into his car seat, and head to school. We would get there right on time and he would be all smiles entering the room. And since I got up early today and had an incredible quiet time, I would have the perfect Christ-like attitude. Most days, that’s how it is (with the exception of the “perfect Christ-like attitude part” – that’s always a work in progress!).

Not today.

Today was “refuse to get into the car” day. Coupled with “I’m going to run away and laugh when mommy says to stop” day.  So there I was, ready to go, ready to get him to school so I could get back home and enjoy the few, short hours of quiet. But instead, I had to take him into his room and discipline him. Ten minutes later, I had to wrangle my child (who was still sobbing) into his car seat and drive him (still sobbing) to school.

Did I mention that once we got to school it was “I’m not going in there” day? Yep. Fun times. By the time I walked out the door of the school, hot tears were reaching the surface. I was angry, frazzled, and most of all, sad. I get absolutely no pleasure out of disciplining my child. The results are wonderful, but the process is heart-breaking. Always.  Every time. Never. Gets. Easier.

The question is, how did I go from the refreshed, joyful, full-of-Jesus woman who just had an amazing time in the Word; to a frustrated, moody, door-slamming grump who could barely kiss her husband goodbye?

The answer: Expectations, reality, and the simple fact that this morning, the two did not match. I experienced the “misery factor” and chose to wallow in it. Has that ever happened to you? I’m sure it has. There about a thousand different things that can do it. . .

Expectation: The hubby will help get the kids fed, bathed, to ready for bed.

Reality: He’s glued to the TV watching a “very important”  ball game.

Expectation: Since you read all the parenting books, that bundle of joy you’ve been carrying for 9 months is going to be a piece of cake to care for and make your life 1,000 times better.

Reality: Your baby did not come into the world having read “the books” and, therefore, could care less that he or she is SUPPOSED to “feed-wake-sleep” in in a perfectly scheduled pattern. Oh, and the combination of sleep deprivation and hormones makes you a crazy woman. Life is actually a lot harder.

Expectation: Your child is going to be the model Christian, because you love Jesus and  “trained your child in the way he should go.”

Reality: Your child wants nothing to do with the Lord right now. He’s “in the world” and loves it.

Expectation: Family devotions are going to be a sweet time of connecting with each other and growing closer to Jesus.

Reality: Chaos.

Expectation: All the healthy eating and working out guarantees that your favorite jeans are finally going to fit.

Reality: They must have shrunk in the dryer. Right? Please tell me they shrunk in the dryer!

Expectation: Romantic date night Saturday night!

Reality: The babysitter cancelled. The night is spent watching House Hunters re-runs. Bow-chicka-wow-wow . . .NOT!

Whether it’s a little thing (like a morning that doesn’t go as you planned) or a big thing (like a marriage that is so NOT what you dreamed it would be), the expectation-reality gap can infect our hearts with discontentment, anger, resentment, and all sorts of other sinful attitudes (that may cause door-slamming). So what do we do? How do we fight the misery factor? Here are some things we have to know . . .

1) Most of our expectations are tainted with selfishness. For example, at the heart of my expectation for a “perfect morning” was a selfish desire for an easy day and as many minutes to myself as possible. At the heart of my expectation for my husband to be and do “this” or “that” is almost always a selfish desire for him to do things how I want, when I want, and the way I want. And my expectations for Shepherd to always listen and obey are in-part rooted in my desire to be perceived as an amazing, godly parent who has it all together. It’s so embarrassing when he acts out!

My expectations are manufactured in the factory of my own selfish heart. They are naturally byproducts of how Aprile wants Aprile’s life to be – often with little regard for others. So, the only way to “refine” them is to intentionally peel my eyes off of myself and fix them on those around me. Philippians 2:3, 4 holds the key: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves. Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” I have found that the more I am focused on the needs and feelings of the people in my life, the more selfless (and realistic!) my expectations become.

2) Our expectations are often flat-out unbiblical. Here’s the thing – I’m a sinner, who married a sinner, and then gave birth to a sinner. That’s three sinners living under one roof. I don’t have to go any further than the Scriptures for a crystal-clear explanation as to why THAT is not pure, uninterrupted bliss! I am convinced that most conflict both in marriages and parent-child relationships is due to the fact that one or both parties is demanding from the other something they just can’t deliver. Because of Jesus, the penalty and power of sin have been dealt with for good (Romans 6!). But the presence of sin in our lives is something that is dealt with over time, as we grow and walk with Jesus.  Almost every conflict in my marriage stems from me expecting Greg to act fully sanctified, when in reality, he’s a work-in-progress just like the rest of us. Same thing with my son. Scripture says that foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child (Prov. 22:15). Why, then, do I get so bent out of shape and take is so personally when Shep acts foolishly? Duh, Aprile!

Have you ever stopped to think about why the Bible talks so much about forgiveness and reconciliation? Could it be because God knows that we are sinners who, though saved by grace, are still wired to disappoint and sometimes even wound each other? Why does it take us so long to get this through our heads? One of the biggest ways we fight the “misery factor” is by lining up our expectations alongside the Scriptures and adjusting those areas that don’t match up. This doesn’t mean we go through life expecting everyone around us to sin all the time, but it does mean that we lighten up a bit, choose grace,  and allow love to cover a multitude of sins. (Ps. 103:8-14; 1 Peter 4:8).

3) Our reality is under the sovereign rule of God. Truth is, sometimes our expectations aren’t selfish or unbiblical, yet life still doesn’t measure up. I’m thinking of a friend who expected to grow old with her husband, but ended up attending his funeral barely a year after their wedding. I have another friend who expected to be a stay-at-home mom, but has had to get a job and put her kids in day care to make ends meet. Then there’s the beautiful, godly 30-something woman who longs to be married and have children for all the right reasons, but is STILL waiting for God to supply the man. I am part of a church body that expected to grow and impact the community under the leadership of a much-loved pastor and music minister, but experienced the one-two punch of losing them both within months of each other in tragic, unexpected deaths.

How do you deal with the “misery factor” then? How do you handle the gap between what you want and what actually is, when what you want is good and God-honoring? You have to surrender your desires on the altar of His perfect will. You have to replace the “why this, why now, why me” questions with the truth that our God – though unpredictable and often impossible to understand – is good, and that ALL His ways are good. He is ALWAYS faithful, and you – sweet sister – are not going to be the one exception. One of my favorite verses is Deuteronomy 32:4: “He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.”  When there is a gap between good expectations and a hard reality, the way out of our misery is always trust in the perfect, loving, all-wise, sovereign hand of God.

Maybe slamming doors it’s your thing. You may like to express your misery in more civilized ways. But I know you feel it sometimes, because I know you’re human. I know that there are things about your life that are so different than you expected – not in a good way.

Emotions are what they are, but you get to choose whether to stay miserable or not. Focus, truth, and trust – that’s how you get your smile back. That’s how you stop slamming doors, call your husband and apologize for being so rude, and go on with your day. That’s how you enjoy your reality – however different it may be from your expectations.

Book Club: Twelve Extraordinary Women, Video 2 (Eve)

Remember how I said this is all new for me and I would be learning as we go along? Well, one thing I am learning is that a 30 minute video segment isn’t going to cut it. My new goal is to keep the videos between 40 and 50 minutes.

Remember to leave a comment! I’d love to hear the one thing that stood out to you to most from chapter 1!

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A Feast in the Desert

A couple mornings ago, I came across Luke 9:12 as I was “marinating” in my Bible. One particular phrase jumped off the page and sunk deep into my heart. (Don’t you love it when that happens?!). Just to give you a little context, it’s part of the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand:

“Now the day was ending, and the twelve came and said to Him, ‘Send the crowd away, that they may go into the surrounding villages and countryside and find lodging and get something to eat; for here we are in a desolate place.”

Did you catch that? A desolate place.

des·o·late: [adj. des-uh-lit] 1.) barren or laid waste; devastated; 2.) deprived or destitute of inhabitants; 3.) solitary; lonely;  4.)having the feeling of being abandoned by friends or by hope; forlorn; 5.) dreary; dismal; gloomy: desolate prospects

The disciples were obviously referring to the literal location where Jesus was teaching– the terrain, the distance from surrounding towns, the absence of inhabitants, etc.

But they could have just as well been referring to the people in the crowd. People whose hearts were just like ours can be . . .

heavy with grief;

empty of joy;

hungry for satisfaction;

haunted by shame;

devistated by loss;

numbed by disappointment;

plagued by loneliness;

void of contentment.

Desolate.

Have you ever been there? I have. Even as a Christian. Even as a growing Christian.

Sometimes life is just plain hard. Loved ones get sick. Tragedy strikes. Children rebel.  Friends betray.  Singleness lasts way too long. Bank accounts run dry. Bad choices are made. Marriages unravel. Infertility shatters dreams.  Addictions persist. Parents age. Words hurt. Justice fails. People sin . . . and you seem to be the only one left holding the bag of consequences.

(What would you add to this list?)

Okay, so now that we are thoroughly in tune with how crappy life can be and how incapable we are of dealing with it on our own, here’s what I really want you to see . . .

Guess what Jesus does in the “desolate place” of Luke 9:12?

He takes a kid’s simple, bland snack . . .five barley loaves and two small fish . . . and creates a feast for thousands!

Verse 17 says, “And they all ate and were satisfied; and the broken pieces which they had left over were picked up, twelve baskets full.”

Because of Jesus, that desolate place became a dinner table. That uninhabited plot of parched ground became the setting for one of the most glorious displays of Jesus’ abundant provision recorded in the Scriptures. From that barren, gloomy land echoed the joyful sounds of families eating to their hearts content and delighting in the fact that it was all free! (What a beautiful picture of salvation, by the way!)

Psalm 78:19 records how the Israelites questioned God by asking, “Can God prepare a table in the wilderness?”

Yes, He can. And yes, He does. In fact, it’s His specialty!

Here’s what I know for a fact, what I’ve experienced in my own life, and what I am “raise-my-hands-and shout-halleluiah” excited about right now:

  • There is no place too dry or too desolate for God’s abundant provision to reach. In fact, it’s often in those desert seasons that we experience His “more-than-enoughness” the most. I know we’ve all heard that a million times, but it’s an easy truth to lose sight of when you are in survival mode.
  • No matter where you are or how bad things get, Jesus is the Bread of Life (John 6:35) who is perfectly sufficient for any and every need. “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32) He doesn’t withhold good things from His kids! Of course, He gets to define “good.”
  • God sovereignly ordains the setting of His work in our lives in order to maximize His glory. Jesus can show His “awesomeness” anywhere, anytime. But people tend to pay the most attention when He does it in desolate places. Which is why He sometimes leads us there, or permits us to take a detour into one of those “I-was-really-stupid”, sin-induced deserts. The fact is, we exist to point people to Jesus. If we can do that better from a “desolate place,” then let’s rest in His sovereignty and “count it all joy” as we watch Him use our pain to magnify His perfection.

If you are in a “desolate place” right now, keep on seeking your Savior’s presence and keep on watching for His abundant provision. Oh, and get your Tupperware ready – there will DEFINITELY be leftovers!

Book Club: Twelve Extraordinary Women, Video 1

Okay ladies, here it is! It ended up being about 10 minutes longer than I expected or wanted it to be. I will work on keeping it under 30 minutes in the future, since this is the no-stress book club for busy women and all. Hope you are enjoying the book so far and DON’T forget to make this a little more like a true book CLUB by commenting either here or on the Marinate Bible Study Facebook page. Can’t wait to hear from you!

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