So I've been wanting to blog this whole week and I just now have the energy, mental fortitude, and blank to-do list to do so... Here it goes!
God is still talking to our family and it's exciting to see. More than that, He's speaking to our church. Or should I say, THE church. It's incredible! Specially to see it personally.
Last week Sunday I found "Walking with God" by John Eldredge in my closet and decided to give it a read. I also found old bibles and blank composition books that my children absolutely loved and are using for their personal study, but that's not the point. I read a few chapters of it. Then I went to church. And Pastor preached... And everything tied in together! Not just the book with Pastor's sermon, but my own devotionals and Bible reading/prayer time. It was the same message! Even an instagram meme from Lysa TerKeurst that read, "Lord, help me to underwhelm my schedule so You can overwhelm my soul."
You see, I shared last post that I struggled with pulling back from all the church activities I normally enjoyed. And God has been answering. Wanting to lead me gently, not drag me across the pastures like a stubborn mule. He's speaking to my misconception that a true Christian is a busy Christian. When in fact, a busy Christian might be an exhausted Christian, who is too busy being busy to be Christ-like, and doesn't look like much of a Christian at all. In the end, I was convinced last week that I'm more effective when I have the time to listen to God's prompting and do those spur-of-the-moment, on-the-fly things He's impressing upon my heart on a daily basis (listening to that whisper regularly, you know? Making the time to be available to do His will every day, at any time) than when I'm running from one activity to the next, even if they are all churchy things.
And I love church. Do not get me wrong. Nor do I undermine anyone in full-time or part-time, paid or unpaid ministry. My point is not to diss them because we need them. I love and appreciate all the hard work of everyone at my church. My point is that I had become a mediocre jack of all trades and master of none. And I was completely missing the point with my family at home and my main ministry as a MOM. My life was so out of balance I didn't look like a representation of Christ to my children, nor anyone else that saw me clench my teeth as I walked through the doors on a Sunday morning.
Last week Sunday our Pastor preached on communication in the family. He believes that if the church is ever to be strong, the family unit has to be strong first. And as he was pouring his heart out, I had this epiphany: What if, what my Pastor needs now more than ever, is families who will actually go home and LIVE out his sermon? I mean, here he is giving us practical tools for sound biblical application so that our family can communicate openly and honestly. What if every family in this congregation took these tools in hand quite literally and transformed their household? And we lived it out in such a way that everyone around our families sees the difference? And God showed up in our homes with power?
I really do believe that this is what our Pastors need more than anything. They spend a lot of time in prayer preparing a message that God gives them specifically for their congregation. And I'm sure (although please, correct me if I'm wrong) that what our Pastors dream of more than anything is a church crowd who go home and LIVE God's Word Monday through Saturday more than any number of Sunday morning volunteers who live in defeat the rest of the week.
That's when I realized that I was exactly where my Pastor needed me most, and where my children need me most.
A common misconception is that people who aren't involved in things at church are "pew-warmers". Nope. Pew-warmers are people who go to church to sit at church for Sunday morning's sake, but aren't receiving or giving anything other than the usual exchange of carbon dioxide for oxygen. But the church is a living organism of many families who live out the love of Christ among their "blood relatives" and their "blood-bought relatives", as my Pastor would put it. So don't under-estimate coming in with a smile, saying good morning, bringing your children, loving on the people that are there. Listening and obeying is so much more precious than anything else because then, if you learn to listen to the Spirit, you can volunteer where God wants you and exactly where you'll be the most effective.
I've actually been to church and I've been listening, not just to the sermon, but to the people I interact with. And God is giving me prayer points! And I'm learning to intercede in prayer more effectively. And then at home, during the week, God would bring people from church to mind and prompt me to pray for them - at that moment during the day. So not being burned out, and not having my schedule full, I felt more connected to my church than I did the previous 3 years of attendance or so! Because my big confession here is that I had not experienced this before!
I feel like right now I am a more effective church member and a better contributor to my Pastor's mission than I've ever been. Again, he can correct me if I'm mistaken.
And I will always be involved to some degree. I enjoy being in nursery with the babies now because it's not "another thing on my plate", and I'm sure the kids enjoy me more now too. And I still attend youth and listen to those kids. Paul and I spent this Friday night on a boys/girls night out, where Paul hung out with the boys and I hung out with the girls all night (sleep over! YES!). I was so thankful to God for the opportunity to be a part of that and be a part of their lives. I love the girls of our youth group. I will proudly proclaim that we have the best youth group ever! And I know there's like, 4 generations of youth groups that Paul and I have been involved with since we were youth ourselves, so it's a loaded statement. But I love these kids. They are awesome. And when their out there, changing the world, I'd like to see them on the news or a Facebook report and say, "I painted her nails at a sleep over when she was 16!"
So this week we worked on the family's communication. And as a result, on Friday - which was the busiest and most stressful day this week - everyone commented on how well behaved my kids were. And they were behaving great! But we had opened the lines of communication through out the week, their needs were met, and they understood that Mommy needed their cooperation at that time. There was no passive-aggressiveness. No threats. No warnings through clenched teeth. Just clear communication as to how the day was going to go and what I needed. In return the kids participated in the youth activities and stayed up later than ever, having tons of fun. It was a win-win for everyone!
And God is still talking...
On Thursday I had a strange dream. I normally don't remember my dreams, but this was distinct - I was in some sort of wild-life conservatory, which had this beautiful - almost Eden-like scenery - but all the animals there were uncaged and unfenced. Which I thought was strange. And there was a pack of wolves with wolf pups in this valley. Then through the grass I saw a lioness - looking like she was ready to pounce on me. Her stare was so fierce, I froze in fear in my dream. I saw another lioness and a male lion, all coming towards me - at least I thought, originally, until I realized that they were focused on something past me. Almost on cue they ran into the wolf den and started devouring the pups, and I was so lost as to what to do. I woke up and the dream bothered me. Mostly because I've never associated lions with anything negative before.
Saturday night I told Paul about the dream as we were driving home. I mentioned that the strangest thing was the open spaces, no fences anywhere in sight, and how I felt completely helpless. We drove in silence for a bit and then Paul said, "We can't become so complacent in where we are that we stop guarding the things that are under our care." It brought to mind a book by Beth Moore where she shared a story of a friend who owned a barn, and was neighbors to a wildlife rescue. One day this friend looked out the window to see a lion devouring one of her favorite mares. It turns out the fence between the two properties had fallen in disrepair and she didn't notice it. Beth Moore used this story as an analogy for how sin (or problems, if you will) can come into your life - by not paying attention to the fences! I found it odd that this book and particularly a lion came to mind, and fences... and I knew that I had to pay attention.
This morning Pastor preached about us being gatekeepers in our family, and how and what to guard in our personal lives as well as our home to keep our family safe. As there's a projected image of this beautiful gate, and he's preaching on guarding the gates, I look at Paul and whisper, "Fences!" And he knew exactly what I was talking about. God had started getting my heart and my mind ready for Sunday since Thursday night, so that I would pay attention today. I felt like Pastor heard our conversation in the car that Saturday night and answered all our questions. And yes it took this WHOLE blog for me to make my point that God is still speaking, and He's teaching me to listen. And that the obedience that follows listening is putting my family and me exactly where we need to be.