Taking Life One Step At A Time

Taking Life One Step At  A Time

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Mezuzah: A reminder of my calling

Josh returned from his trip to Israel a few days ago and one of the souveniers he brought home is a Mezuzah. A Mezuzah is a small wooden box that is placed on the doorframe of your home. Inside it contains a small piece of parchment on which are written the verses from Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21. It is to be a reminder to you each time you enter your home.

We have not yet placed our Mezuzah on the doorframe but I am thrilled that we will soon have this reminder of my favorite verses displayed prominently in our home. This small section of Scripture from Deuteronomy 6 has become my set of life verses for this intense mothering stage of life.

ESV Deuteronomy 6:4-9 "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Just before this in chapter 5 God had given the Israelites the ten commandments. And then he said these words.

I love the sequence here.

First, God tells us what he expects. Then he reminds us of who he is. Next he tells us how to live as he expects. And lastly, he reminds us of why this is important.

In living out our faith and parenting our children, every single step of this sequence is necessary.

1. God's expectations. God gives us the 10 commandments. Which by the way, were not written because he's a scrooge, but for our benefit. Think about it ... a requirement to rest? Umm, yeah. That's a pretty good thing. Children told to obey and honor their parents? I'm happy I can remind my kids of that! Do not murder, do not steal, do not commit adultery? God is showing us what to avoid in order to keep ourselves from a world of hurt.

So many times I have heard people say that the 10 commandments are God's rules, but that because we sin we can never really expect to live up to them. Carolyn Mahaney says, "For whenever God gives a command, He also provides the grace to obey it." The issue of obedience, then, really comes down to a choice of our will. It's not a matter of if we can obey, but of whether we will choose to obey. There is always a choice to obey or disobey. And God's Word tells us that he will always provide a way out of temptation (I Corinthians 10:13). But although God will always provide a way out, it's up to us to take it.

For many years, it has been helpful to me to think of God's commands as guardrails in my life. On the road you will often see guardrails set up to keep cars from careening into a ditch or off a cliff. Or sometimes they serve to keep us from traffic moving the other direction. As drivers, we don't look at these guardrails and think of them as a nuisance or a hindrance to our driving fun. Rather we recognize that they were put there for our safety and our benefit. It is the same with God's commands. They are not a hindrance to our growth and spiritual health. Rather they protect us from the dangers of sin. They can remind us to swerve away from things that would head us in the wrong direction. They can even save us from death!

2. God tells us who he is. Okay, so the 10 commandments are for our benefit, but they are also for God's. He is the Creator. He made us. I made a cake last week. How would it be if that cake could talk and tell me exactly when I could eat it, how much I could eat, which utensils to use, and what to put alongside it? A poor comparison, but still we are the created ones. We were intentionally designed, and as such, the One who created us really does have the right to call the shots. God is God. I am not. He deserves all the glory for, control of, and honor from our lives.

3. God tells us how to live according to his rules. How is this accomplished? It is taught to children from infancy. This really goes hand in hand with the verse from Proverbs 22:6. "Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it." These verses in Deuteronomy 6 give us the "how to". They tell us exactly what to do as parents to ensure that our children will grow up to be godly men and women. So, what do we do? We include our faith in every facet of life. We talk about God and godly living at all opportunities. We set up reminders for ourselves and our children of God's standards, sacrifice, forgiveness, and love. Easy, right? Not by a long shot. Even just recognizing the teachable moments can be difficult. Actually setting aside our adult agenda to seize those moments is doubly as hard. And yet, this is what parents are called to. Not a great paying job to provide the latest gadgets; not well-rounded, activity exhausted children; not even the most rigorous education. We are to be teaching our children about the one true God at every opportunity!

4. God tells us why. Verses 10-12 continue in this way:

"And when the LORD your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you- with great and good cities that you did not build, and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant- and when you eat and are full, then take care lest you forget the LORD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery."

Did you catch it? We are to do these things, lest we "forget the LORD". The church has been crying out about the mass exodus of teens and young adults within the Christian Church in recent years. These yount people have forgotten the Lord. And sure, there are plenty of reasons why that is, but I have to wonder if maybe the main reason is because the parents (in general) haven't been diligent in teaching their children as Deuteronomy 6 instructs.

There's one other reason embedded in these verses of why we are to live this way. We are to teach our children because God has saved us. Sometimes we say this so glibbly. So let me shout it: GOD HAS SAVED US!!! This is huge! This is the biggest thing! The one amazing fact that we should never tire of shouting from the rooftops! God has saved us! In these verses, it refers specifically to Egypt, but wouldn't you agree that God has also saved us (you and me) from slavery to sin? Jesus' incredible sacrifice on the cross should so alter our lives that it's the one thing we tell our children about again and again. It should be the thing we speak of with the most passion, the most fervency, the most awe. It should be the one thing we are teaching our children day in and day out so that they and we won't forget. The why of these verses is so astonishingly amazing, that it should drive us to speak of it in every conversation.

Are you catching on? Are you starting to see the importance of these verses? Really reflecting on these verses over the past several years has transformed my view of and approach to parenting. It prioritizes our activities, our education, our desires as a family. It is the challenge I need on those days when I just want to hide in the closet. It is the encouragement I long for when looking at the daunting task ahead of me as I raise my children. And it is the reminder of the great saving work that God has done in my own life.

It is my calling as a mother.

Monday, January 21, 2013

In the Master's Footprints

My husband is wrapping up his dream vacation.

Several months ago I asked him where he would most like to travel. I told him to dream as big as he wanted - since it was just a dreaming sort of question. No cost too high, no mileage too far, no obstacles in the way.

His answer came in a heartbeat: Israel.

Hmm. Not my first choice. Sure, there are many things I'd like to see there, but there are also many other places I'd love to visit first.

But tonight, as I reflected on the excitement and joy in his voice as he described over the phone the adventures he's having, I began to understand the difference in our desires.

I'm in a season when mothering permeates every teeny tiny aspect of life. So, if you ask me what I like to cook it will be simple, healthy, hearty foods. Because that's what I make for my family. If you ask what my favorite things are you'd hear answers like sleep, baby laughter, a few moments of peace, watching understanding dawn on a child's face, completed chores.

It stands to reason, then, that when presented with the question of a dream vacation, my mothering instincts will come into play. Israel is not the safest place. I would not EVER desire to take my young children there for a vacation. I wouldn't want both parents to go there without children in case we didn't come back for some reason. It's across an ocean. Etc., etc., etc.

Sure, I've had my twinges of longing to be with my husband experiencing the wonderous things he is enjoying. I would love to take a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. I would find it fascinating to see a real first century tomb complete with a rolling stone. And oh, the incredible mixture of sorrow and joy when standing at Calvary!

But my mother heart wouldn't do it. I am tied here for now. Someday, I'll hopefully travel again, but not now. Not to places of unrest. And not for two weeks without my children.

Josh's heart is in a different place though. While he speaks of his longing to see his family once again, I still hear the thrill in his voice as he shares about his trip. For him, the trip is not about leaving home and going somewhere else. The trip is about understanding his Master more fully.

Josh derives joy from being where Jesus was. From experiencing a few of the same things as his Lord - even if it's just weather, sights, and smells. He is like a servant who loves his master so much that he cannot help but be amazed to walk a step behind, placing his feet in the same prints left by the master's sandals.

My husband's perspective is right. He does not need to visit Israel to prove to himself that Jesus is real, or to truly believe the Bible. But because of his dedication and love for the Son of God he cannot help but desire to go where he was, see the land that is beloved of our Lord, and gain a richer, fuller, deeper understanding of the Word.

Oh, that my heart would be in that same place! Because even here at home, I can thrill to walk a step behind my Master and serve Him however He enables. That goal will not hinder my mothering heart in the least.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Little Bites of Deliciousness!

A friend passed on this simple recipe a few years ago and we've been enjoying it ever since. I'm not really sure what to call these - we usually name them something like "oatmeal energy balls". But they are delicious!!

2 Cups Oats
1/2 Cup Honey
3/4 Cup Peanut Butter

Add whatever else you'd like. We usually add chocolate chips, although cheerios, raisins, nuts, butterscotch chips, or really anything small would be awesome in them.

Mix all ingredients together and then roll into balls.

**Note: When rolling, it will really help if your hands are damp. Otherwise the mixture will be incredibly sticky.

Refrigerate until ready to eat so they can firm up a bit. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Healthful Correction

I mentioned recently that I've been reading Carolyn Mahaney's book, Feminine Appeal. Today I was steeped in the chapter about loving your children.

In this particular phase of life, this chapter was so very appropriate. Jesse has just hit toddlerhood, and while we've been through this four other times, it's a little different now. To begin with, he's got four older siblings happy to play with him, indulge his whims, and join him in his exploits. Josh and I are also several years older and I'm pregnant again ... which translates to tired and possibly a little bit lazy in regards to consistency in parenting.

Just this week Jesse has begun to tantrum. And it's not a little tantrum. It's an angry yell that goes on and on and on. His cute little face scrunches up and turns red. He squeezes out tears even though he's not actually crying. He pushes us away unless we hold a coveted item, and is much harder to distract than our other kids were. Just look at this impish little guy!

In just this week alone, there have been several times when I've been tempted to just give in and let him have his way. But today I read a quote that was a huge encouragement.

"Far better that children should cry under healthful correction, than that parents should afterwards cry under the bitter fruit to themselves and children, of neglected discipline." - Charles Bridges

This quote was originally written in the 1800s. Typically I think of children as much more structured and behaved back then. I wonder what Bridges would say today?! I see so many parents and children "crying afterwards" because of the neglect of discipline. We have, in general, raised soft children with soft morals and poor work ethic.

The Bible echoes this same sentiment in Proverbs 13:24, "If you refuse to discipline your children, it proves you don't love them; if you love your children, you will be prompt to discipline them." (NLT)

Our children don't enjoy discipline. And let's face it, parents don't much enjoy it either! It's inconvenient, it's unpopular, it's difficult to discipline well and in a fitting manner, and sometimes it feels like a never ending job (especially when you have many children).

But something Mahaney said in the book stuck with me today.

"...the salvation of our children's souls ... is the chief end of mothering. Our goal is not that our children be happy, fulfilled, and successful. Granted, we may desire these things for them. But our highest objective should be that our children would repent from their sins, put their trust in Jesus Christ, and reflect the gospel to the world around them."

While I do want my children to be happy, fulfilled, and successful, those goals alone are not the aim of my parenting. In fact, as I sit here and write about my struggles with a toddler, I am also recognizing the fruit of healthy correction and parenting toward salvation in my oldest child.

Tonight, my son will receive a big award at Awana.

Of his own accord, he has worked incredibly hard to finish four books in just 2 1/2 years. The Awana program lays out one book per year, so this is quite an accomplishment. Each book is filled with Bible verses that a child must memorize in order to pass each section. There are also activities pushing the kids to think beyond themselves towards missions, family, community, and outreach. David has recognized the importance of these goals and has taken seriously the task of hiding God's word in his heart. A few times, I have wondered if he has memorized these verses just for the recitation on Wednesday nights or if he really will remember them. But as he helps his siblings with their verses, I hear him rattle off verses and know that these words are indeed embedded in his mind and heart.

On Christmas day we asked each of the children to give us an idea of what they are praying for in their own lives. David's request was that he would know the Scriptures as well as Jesus did while on earth! Oh my! What a request!!! And yet, he's well on his way. At just 12 years old, he has memorized more verses than I have. Josh and I have always prayed that our children would surpass us in the faith and we see it happening. We just didn't realize it would happen while they were still young! But what a blessing to behold. The chief end of our parenting is not to raise happy, well-rounded, good-at-everything children. The chief end is to point them to Christ. If we do that well, they will do well in life. Because, let's face it, what better person is there to emulate than Jesus Christ? Take a little time to read about him and you'll see that there was no one more compassionate, kind, gentle, humble, strong, self-controlled, etc. than Him. That's who I want my children to be like.

So yes, I will continue to correct my children, to point them to the truths of Scripture, and to love them intensely. That is my calling as a mother.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Dining Room Reveal

When we moved here six and a half years ago, I began begging to tear out the carpet in the dining room. And last week it finally happened!

We arrived here on June 1st, 2006 with four children aged 5 and under. We were coming from a small apartment in St. Louis and were thrilled to finally have a place to spread out. When we arrived at 12am, we walked in the door and were surprised on many levels. Wonderfully surprised that the church had held a "pounding" and collected pantry supplies for us. Wonderfully surprised that someone had left a blow up mattress on the floor and bunk beds in one of the kids' bedrooms.

Horribly surprised that the moment we opened the front door all we could smell was cat pee. We knew the previous owners had a cat, but had no idea that the cat had peed in several places. The worst was on the carpet by the front door. Did I mention my husband is allergic to cats??

One of the very first things we did was to rip out the offensive section of carpet by the front door and install a cabinet - affectionately known as the CPC or Cat Pee Cover.

The monostrosity was wonderful for housing our fancy dishes and some larger kitchen items. But also became a collecting place for all mail and other junk that came in the front door. It also closed off the entryway and created a bottleneck every time we tried to leave the house or come home. Oh, the fights our children have had there!

Fast forward six years and one of my biggest to-do items was to get rid of the CPC! I was so sick of the arguments caused by such a small space for putting on shoes and coats. I was tired of cleaning it off only to have it covered with stuff a day later. Thankully, my husband is a genius and repurposed the CPC into a lovely shoe shelf with room for the many sneakers, cleats, boots and sandals we seem to acquire.

Once the CPC was gone, we didn't have a choice but to address the flooring issue. But first we decided to paint while the old carpet was still in place. It's also important to know that the dining room is where we do the majority of our homeschooling. I had originally painted the dining room a beautiful, rich red. Did you know that red in the dining area is supposed to help with digestion? Apparently, it does not help with concentration. The room has poor lighting and only gets the early morning sun. So with dark walls and now dark carpet (thanks to all the spots), my kids felt sleepy instead of energized to work hard.

Now we have a beautiful, bright, cheerful room for working and eating. And my dishes still match! We added the chair rail to dress it up a bit and changed all the trim to white. I love it.

Next to address the carpet. Who in their right mind puts cream colored carpet in a dining room?! It wasn't pretty when we arrived, but after six years of abuse from our kids it was hideous. It had turned into a catalog of our food mishaps ... smooshed oreo over here, spaghetti over there, and a mashed fruit snack stuck in the threads center stage. Gross.

(When we tore out the kitchen flooring we found a lovely spot that was all rotted near the sliding doors. Josh had the delightful job of ripping out the rot and installing new subflooring in that area. Did I mention he's handy to have around?)

We finished just in time to have the floor guys come and install our Pergo wood floors. Oh happy day! Look at how beautiful this is.

The gorgeous quilt on the wall is an heirloom piece begun by my great aunt, and passed on to me by my aunt. It was quilted by a friend from our church and is such a treasure to have. I couldn't bear to keep it hidden away in a chest or to put it on a bed and have it destroyed by munchkins. The wall seems the perfect place for it until the kids are older.

The room feels huge and I find that I love to be in it. There are still a few projects left to do: I have a deacons bench that will go on the empty wall across from the front door (where Jesse's booster seat is in the picture). And we haven't yet decided which framed artwork will hang above it. The deacons bench will provide a great place for us to sit while putting on shoes and will house our diaper bag and camera bag inside the bench.

I also need curtains for the window. We used to have lace curtains, but that's much too old lady for this room. Instead, my mother-in-law has offered to help me make some curtains next week. I can't wait to fabric shop and see what we find.

I'm just so pleased with the results of this room. It is well worth the wait. And now, I won't feel sick to my stomach when I see my little Micah crawling on the dining room floor in a few months.

Oh, and did I mention we also did the kitchen floor? Love that too! And the new kitchen rug by the sink just makes me smile. Yay for renovations!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Meaning-Filled Name

Those who have known us as we welcomed our first five children into the world know that we don't usually share the baby's name until after the birth. Part of the reason for that is simply because it's fun to have a surprise worth waiting for, and partly it's because we'd rather not hear comments about the name. Once it's officially given most people won't speak up and tell you why they don't like it. Beforehand, people seem to think it's up for discussion.

Given the recent circumstances surrounding our little one we've decided to go ahead and share his first name. Last week when we first discovered that his health did not look good, we told the kids his name so that they could be praying for him. We had anticipated sharing his name with everyone if his health did not improve. Now that it has we've realized that it's not fair to expect the kids to keep from accidentally saying the name in public when we talk about him by name at home.

We also would covet your continued prayers for our little one. And in our experience, God often prompts us to pray by bringing a name to mind. So we ask that as this little one's name and as our names come to mind you would take a moment and say a prayer for his health and development. Thank you in advance!

Our third reason for sharing has to do with the meaning of the name we chose. We fully expected to spend days or weeks trying to settle on a boy name we both like. We have always chosen Hebrew Bible names and the meaning of the name is extremely important to us. We use the names given to our chldren to pray specifically for them throughout the years. And we often refer to the name meanings as we pray blessings over our children at birthdays and during devotions. But this particular name jumped out at us during our very first name discussion and we were both in immediate agreement that it was "the one".

The name we have chosen means "humble". And boy, is that appropriate! All week we've had to humble ourselves before the Lord. It has been difficult to truly submit our wills to His, to come to terms with the thought that this baby may forever turn our lives upside down. We have been humbled in the best way ... we've been driven to our knees in recognition that God is the creator and giver of life.

So, without further ado, the name we have chosen is ... MICAH!

We look forward to seeing what God is going to do in and through little Micah. God must have something tremendous in store given how He has miraculously saved his life. Whatever it is, we pray that we and Micah will stay humble throughout, reflecting glory and honor back to God for His great works.

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." 1 Peter 5:6-7

Friday, January 4, 2013

Miracle Baby Brumbaugh!!

We've had a bona fide, genuine healing miracle in our family today. And while some may not believe in modern day miracles, I do. And I will shout from the rooftops the Lord's goodness to us!

Six days ago we had an appointment for a second ultrasound. At my first ultrasound almost exactly one month ago, they determined that the baby's due date was off. He was actually younger than we thought. Because of this, or so the ultrasound tech said, she needed us to come back in a few weeks to get a better look at his heart and abdomen. She simply said they were too underdeveloped at that gestational age to get the good measurements she wanted.

I took her words at face value, and actually I thank her for not telling me her real thoughts because I would have been a mess for those weeks before and during Christmas. However, six days ago, she no longer sugar coated any news for us.

It was obvious - even to our untrained eyes - that our little man had a small chest cavity. His heart was taking up more room that it should have and we could even see some fluid around his heart. It was clear that his diaphragm was pushing up against the chest cavity causing it to be smaller than normal. Although this picture is not of our little one, this is almost exactly what his chest looked like:

There should be a much more gentle curve from the abdomen to the chest. And she was unable to get any measurements on his neck and throat area because of how his chest pushed up.

Our ultrasound tech thought that perhaps she was looking at a case of CDH (congenital diaphragmatic hernia). We had no idea what that meant, but knew it didn't sound good. After coming home and doing a bit of research, our concerns multiplied rapidly. CDH is caused by a hole in the diaphragm (which should not be there) that allows organs from the abdominal cavity to enter into the chest cavity. This causes a lessening of space for the heart and lungs. Babies born with this defect are usually whisked off to surgery immediately after birth to move the organs and repair the diaphragm. And then it's a wait and see game as you hope the lungs will develop enough for the baby to breathe. Many babies don't live long.

We were devastated by the possibilities and were driven to our knees. Not only were we concerned for our little one, but the financial burden was also overwhelming. Our insurance does not cover maternity benefits - one of many reasons why we were hoping to do another home birth. The diagnosis of CDH would not only mean many tests throughout the pregnancy, but also a c-section in the hospital because of his weakened lungs. A normal birth costs anwhere between $8-12,000. I didn't dare look up the price for a c-section! But through all of our thoughts and concerns, there was one thing that I could not get out of my mind. It was something that had happened many weeks prior at just the same time the baby's diaphragm would have been developing.

Around 10 weeks of pregnancy, there was one night when I had continuous, strong contractions. I was terrified that I was about to miscarry and cried out to the Lord in desperation. I'm not sure that I can explain in clear language what happened, but it was as though I felt God's hands reach into my womb and cup the baby. A gentle whisper assured me that the baby was safe in His hands and would live.

As I prayed during this past week, I continually brought that moment to the Lord. Although Josh and I have labored to submit ourselves to whatever God's will may be for this child, I could not help but have hope that the whisper I heard early in pregnancy would carry through to our current concerns.

Today, we went back for another ultrasound. The tech had showed our video and pictures to an OB/GYN and he had suggested getting a few more measurements before sending us to a specialist.

The moment we looked at our little one's chest cavity was incredible. There was no doubt that things were different. In six short days, his diaphragm had returned to a proper position. His heart was a perfect size in relation to his chest cavity - meaning that his chest was expanded. We saw healthy lungs. And the liver which had been pushing up into the chest cavity was now back in the abdominal cavity. Every single measurement was perfect.

The ultrasound tech was amazed. She kept saying again and again, "I just can't believe it! I can't explain this! Look at how different this is from last week!" And we kept saying, "God has healed him. We've been praying so much this week, and each of these results is directly correlated to what we've prayed for."

Y'all, God has healed my child! There is no doubt in my mind that this is a miracle. There were no medical explanations for how everything in his tiny body has healed and returned to normal so quickly. And you know what? We don't need medical explanations. The Lord has done a mighty work!

There was even a little icing on the cake. As we watched the 4D ultrasound we saw our little one rooting in the womb. Rooting! I've never seen that before, but it was the cutest thing, and was such evidence of his health. Praise the Lord!

And here's our healthy little one now:

"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." - Psalm 139:13-14

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Phileo Love in Marriage

I have started reading a book by Carolyn Mahaney called Feminine Appeal to start off the sabbatical. I’ve been putting off this book for quite some time, but am pleasantly surprised to find it very challenging and applicable!

The second chapter of the book is titled, “The Delight of Loving My Husband”. Before beginning to read, I mentally put a check in the box thinking, “I’ve got this one covered. Josh and I have a really good marriage and I think I love him pretty well!” Imagine my surprise to find that Mahaney has actually caused me to rethink some of the ways in which I relate to my husband.

For instance, she talks specifically about the different kinds of love described by the Greek language (which is used in the New Testament). There are three different terms for love in Greek: phileo, eros, and agape. Eros is erotic love. Phileo is the love of friendship. (Think of Philadelphia, also called The City of Brotherly Love.) And agape is self-sacrificing love.

Mahaney says this about phileo:

This word describes the love between very close friends. It is a tender, affectionate, passionate kind of love. It emphasizes enjoyment and respect in a relationship. Sad to say, I have been guilty of neglecting this phileo kind of love on numerous occasions. I often become so preoccupied with the duties and responsibilities of my marriage that I fail to nurture tenderness and passion in my relationship with my husband. I get so busy serving him that I overlook enjoying him. In light of my tendency to neglect this tender love, I find it interesting that Paul chose phileo rather than agape to describe the kind of love we are to have for our husbands. In fact, in commands specifically related to wives, agape is never used.

Husbands, in contrast, are specifically commanded to love their wives with an
agape kind of love. I believe that Scripture’s specific commands to husbands and wives regarding their duties in marriage attest to our respective weaknesses. Men may be weaker in showing sacrificial love and are therefore exhorted to undertake it. But I believe women are generally weaker in exhibiting an affectionate love.

I’ve been hit between the eyes on this because as I give my marriage a good, honest look I’m realizing that I am great at agape love and only so-so in regards to phileo love. I will happily bend over backwards to help and serve Josh. I will put everything in my life on hold to run an errand for him or even just make him that cup of tea he’d like me to brew before he comes home for lunch. It is much the same way that I serve my children.

And while I do show some phileo love, I certainly could do better. It’s interesting how this relates to love languages. My primary love language is quality time. You’d think that would indicate that I constantly initiate moments of quality time with my husband. But I’m ornery and that’s not how it works in my head. I want Josh to initiate time with me so that he can speak my love language to me. If I initiate, I feel like I’ve done his work for him! Mahaney’s book is challenging my assumptions on this. I am called by God to initiate time with my husband. To learn about him, to take an interest in him, to enjoy him because of who he is – exactly who God made him to be and exactly the man I was desperate to marry 13 years ago!

So, how do we women cultivate and show this phileo love to our husbands?

Mahaney says: Loving our husbands with a tender and passionate love is not something that happens automatically in our marriage. Ever since Adam and Eve took that fatal bite of forbidden fruit, our natural human inclination has shifted toward sin. Therefore, we are not naturally prone to love. We are not naturally inclined to be passionate and respectful toward our husbands. Rather we must learn how to adopt this kind of love. Loving our husbands – as biblically defined – is a learned response through the grace of God. The good news is that God is eager to teach us this love.

King Solomon, who after the Lord Himself holds the distinction of the being the wisest man who ever lived, said,
“Keep your heart with all vigilance” (Prov. 4:23). In order to cultivate and maintain a tender love for our husbands, we must guard our hearts against sin.

And to get a little more practical, here’s a quote from Elisabeth Elliot which hits the nail squarely on the head:

A wife, if she is very generous, may allow that her husband lives up to perhaps eighty percent of her expectations. There is always the other twenty percent that she would like to change, and she may chip away at it for the whole of their married life without reducing it by very much. She may, on the other hand, simply decide to enjoy the eighty percent, and both of them will be happy.
– Taken from her book Love Has a Price Tag

What good advice! How often do we concentrate on the little things that irritate us about our spouse! Josh can serve me after a long and tiring day’s work by doing the dishes not only from dinner, but also the ones left over from lunch and breakfast. But because he has left his dirty socks on the floor, I am tempted to nag, to overlook his care, and focus only on the small thing irritating me. It not only shows an unthankful heart, but it shows my own selfish tendencies. Rather, if I choose to focus on the gracious way my tired man is helping around the house, I am much more likely to not only think well of him, but to voice my appreciation, thus demonstrating phileo love.

I think sometimes we make this out to be so difficult and it’s not really. As women, we tend to want our husband to be everything we need. To provide, to care, to serve, to watch the kids whenever home, to spend his free time with us, to bring flowers, to remember dates and appointments without fault … in a word, we want him to be perfect. He is NOT God! Ladies, we need to put our expectations and hopes in the right place and on the right person. Your husband will fail you many times. But there is One who will not. And He has graciously given you a husband to walk alongside you, support you, and care for you. Make a deliberate choice to show some phileo love to your man today.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Why Do Pastors Need A Sabbatical?

Josh has now been on sabbatical for one week. And while it’s been wonderful so far, it has really just felt like he’s home for a week of vacation. Today we begin settling into a normal routine. We purposely set the first week as a week of no schedule. Oh, we’ve been busy … painting, ripping up flooring, celebrating Christmas and New Years, eating late dinners, watching movies with the kids. But today, we begin being intentional about resting.

I think many wonder just what a pastoral sabbatical is and why it is necessary. I’ve heard comments about how pastors work just like everyone else, but other professions don’t give you 3 months of rest. I’ve been asked if this is just an extended vacation. Many, many people have wondered what we’re going to DO with three months of “nothingness”.

The truth is there is a difference between a pastor’s or missionary’s job and the typical job in the workforce. He doesn’t just have a regular day job. A pastor is on the front lines of spiritual battle day in and day out. Battle is exhausting. And even the toughest soldier needs time to rest before heading back into the fray. Pastors often struggle to find a day of rest within the week. They don’t usually have the typical two day weekend that most professions offer. And the pastor and his family are on call 24/7. Josh has received calls in the middle of the night to visit the hospital, help an addict resist temptation, or unexpectedly care for a toddler whose parents are in the hospital having another baby. We’ve put dates and family activities on hold so he can minister to a couple on the brink of divorce or diffuse a violent situation. We open our home frequently to counsel couples, singles, and families whenever they are in need. Pastoring is much like parenting. You can’t just leave work at the office to relax at home. Work follows you home.

But it is not a drudgery. When a man and his family are called to this ministry, there is joy even in the disruptions and difficulties. We consider it a privilege to serve those God has called us to. And each and every day we give thanks for the loving care of our church family. Because of their goodness to us, we have been well able to soldier on! They are indeed family to us.

(Elders of OGC and their wives)

Hopefully that helps to answer the question of why a pastor needs times of sabbatical. Now here’s how we plan to use the three months we’ve been graciously given.

To begin with, we don’t intend to have three months of nothingness. In fact, we plan to have much of a few things: rest, spiritual growth, family time, and fun.

Let me break it down.

REST: I have never seen my husband so tired. The first priority of rest is for him to do things that rejuvenate him. Things like getting out in nature, having quiet alone time, reading, watching movies. Most people don’t know this about Josh, but he’s an introvert. Many of a pastor’s duties require him to play the part of an extrovert and Josh does it well. Most people assume he just loves to be in crowds and around people all the time. But he needs time to recharge.

To that end, he just bought some cross country skis to use here in the Wisconsin snow. We’re planning a trip to California during which he’ll see the Sequoia trees, hike, and revel in God’s creation. We’re using a family member’s house while they are south for the winter as a retreat where Josh and I can both have a few hours each day to get quiet with God. Each of these things will give him the quiet he needs to reenter the pastorate well-charged and ready to go.

SPIRITUAL GROWTH: In a house full of 5 kids, it’s hard to find a quiet corner anywhere or a moment of stillness during which you can just sit and listen to God. To solve that problem, Josh and I are both taking time each day to get out of the house to a quiet place. A place where we can get on our faces before the Lord, pour out our hearts to Him, listen for His voice, journal, read, rest, grow. I think this is the part of the sabbatical I am most excited about! It’s a rare treat for me. We’re also asking the kids to start spending one-on-one time with the Lord each day. We’ve found different devotionals for each of them to use and each morning they will have some quiet time with God. It’s our great hope that three months of this will be enough time to set a pattern and start habits that will benefit them their whole lives.

Josh also has a few special things planned in regards to growth. He will be headed to Israel for two weeks to tour the Holy Land and learn from professors who taught him in seminary. This is a life-long dream for him and he’s so excited to go. He can’t wait to put some of his new knowledge into his preaching and looks forward to the insight he’ll gain into the Scriptures. His other planned activity is the reason for our trip to California. He plans to attend John MacArthur’s shepherding conference for pastors. This will take place shortly before our sabbatical ends and should be an excellent way to stir his blood and excite him to get back in the pulpit.

FAMILY TIME: I assure you, we’ll be getting a lot of family time in three months together! No doubt we’ll be sick of each other at times. However, we are trying to be careful about spending quality time together – not just living in the same house. The kids are homeschooled, so we’ve taken the opportunity to call this our “summer break” and will not be doing conventional schoolwork. We don’t want the kids to be bored or lazy though, so to keep their minds active they are each studying a particular area of interest. One will be studying architecture, one ornithology, one will be baking with me each day, and one will work with lego and erector sets to increase his creativity and ability to follow directions. Beyond this, we’re planning lots of family time. Our trip to California will be in the van. SEVEN DAYS there and FIVE DAYS back!! That’s a lot of time together! However, we’re working hard to plan events along the way that will build memories and will blend into our category of fun.

FUN: This is the thing the kids are most excited about. Of course! We have plenty of fun sprinkled in throughout the three months. While staying at a friend’s lake house, we plan to spend a day in the Dells soaking up wild water fun. While in California, we’ll spend time on the beach – always a favorite for us, we’ll sightsee in L.A., we hope to visit the Grand Canyon, the Sequoia National Park, the San Diego Zoo, and … LEGO LAND!! I think I know what the favorite will be. While at home, we’re having fun doing ordinary things. Playing games, eating yummy foods, laughing together. Tomorrow we have new floors getting installed in the dining room and kitchen. But today, there are just bare boards that will be covered. We’ve given the kids the entire day and a large amount of permanent markers to write verses, draw pictures, and create a massive town and roadway for their cars. They are having a blast! It’s well worth the price of replacing my good markers.

A pastoral sabbatical will look different for each pastor. For us, these goals were the most fitting to accomplish what we need. A pastor with no children at home will not need to plan in as much silly fun time. A single pastor may desire to travel for the entire sabbatical. Another may choose to do a pulpit swap with a pastor from another country – enabling both to receive rest and to travel while recycling previously preached sermons.

The Brumbaughs need this particular sabbatical. And without the support and care of our church, none of it would be possible. It is only through the generosity of our church members that we are able to do any of our fun events and travelling. It is through the goodness of family members that we have a quiet place to retreat each day. It is because of the help of other families that we are able to leave our chickens, parakeet, and house knowing they will be well-tended. And it is only through the many prayers offered on our behalf that we will return refreshed and ready for another thrilling season of ministry. It is our prayer that God will use this time to prepare us for whatever lies ahead and to refresh and awaken the church to revival.