Be of Good Courage

Last night before my husband and I went to bed we said a prayer for this country. My heart was heavy and thankfully we prayed for peace and I could sleep through the night with that peace. I woke up, heart heavy but of good courage.

Months in to this election cycle my daughter heard our newly elected President, then candidate, mocking any number of individuals. She said “That man is so mean”. I, of course, agreed with her. This whole election cycle has been discouraging. We had two major party candidates that had ethical and moral failings, much more so than I would like to think my President would possess. We watched the name-calling, the disparaging of cultures, the fear-mongering, the hurtful words and so many other examples of debased character and it didn’t seem to matter to a majority of people that supported these major candidates. I did not support either, convictions are not something to scoff at and I could not allow fear to mar true conviction of spirit. But I understand not everyone felt the same, I will pray to be gracious to those that asked for this outcome. 

I do not know what to think of the “White Evangelicals” that decided this election. I want to be upset but I know I need to show grace. We have a President now that fully acknowledges his opinion of women as “things” and nothing more, he jokes about sexual assault and judges them by some superficial standard. If you have never struggled with unwanted physical advances or assault then maybe it’s trivial but my heart is broken because I struggle with telling my girls that this is the leader of our country, someone that we should be looking up to. We now have a President that espouses the exact opposite of Lady Liberty’s call to the masses and has sewn xenophobia and hatred all along this election cycle. I am heart broken for all my brothers and sisters that long for the shores of America, the beautiful, and those that  love our earthly home just as much as me regardless our differences. I also struggle to understand or to put the words together to explain to my children when they ask how such “a mean man” can become president. I do not know, is my answer. God is sovereign and I know this place is not my home forever. I can trust him. 

I’ll make it clear that I did not choose the alternative either. You do not have to choose between two evils, thank God for that freedom.

Earlier this week we we’re learning America, the Beautiful for our patriotic song in our singing portion of our school schedule. I cried because we do truly need the grace of God in this hour and I truly desire that America be a good and beautiful nation. We have become lost on the way or we never knew the right path to begin with, history may be more telling than we would like. Have Mercy on us God but grant us good courage. God shed his Grace on thee, America. 

I read this from CH Spurgeon this morning, my most favorite speaker of truth:

Oh, do not give way! You need not be cowards; do not give way. Do not say, “I must be beaten, I must always be despondent, my life is crushed.” You need not be so. “Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart.” Get you to your chamber, fall upon your knees, pour out your heart before God, tell your trouble to the Most High, and, as the Lord liveth, before whom I stand, he must and will help those who put their trust in him. Has he ever failed any who trusted in him? Who has ever stayed his hand, or withdrawn him from his designs? Who has ever made him deny his promise, or retract his word? If thou wilt trust him, he will be better to thee than thy fears; nay, better to thee than thy beliefs, or thy largest hopes. Stay yourselves upon him; lean upon the bosom of eternal love; lean hard, lean all your weight there, and leave that weight there, and the Lord be with you, and bless you! Blessed are all they that trust in the Lord.

Be of good courage, friends. Blessed is those that trust in the Lord.

Going to the Farm

Some weeks feel endless. Most weeks feel endless, lately. There are many reasons. One is that I have a personal family goal of slowliving and I want an atmosphere that is long been forgotten in homes. One of peace and rest. I believe Thoreau said “It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?”

“It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?”

and I agree. I want the atmosphere of Family and the Home to be one that is a respite to busy lives and much-ness. Unfortunately, it’s been quite the opposite lately. Kenny works two jobs, pretty much, with unpredictable schedules and I take free-lance work as well and add in activities and co-op and various other things like a house full of sick people and a trip to the E.R. for a daredevil gash to the face (Alice), the weeks can fill before there is a moment to breathe. I am learning to say “I just can’t”, It’s hard for a person that craves interaction with others but I feel so much better when I do because I actually can’t, I need to give it to God.  And what are we truly busy about anyway? Nothing much, really. When the schedules fight for our slow time like little daggers to our calendar, what good is it? I get overwhelmed easily these days and busy-ness is not something I could even want to fight for. In those moments this extrovert wants to become a recluse to society. And yet, there are things we want to mark time for that I don’t consider busy-ness. Like the fact that we hardly have had any family vacations, or can pull together enough extra finances to do so. But there are simple things I am learning to carve time for and it’s nice to do them in a place of perspective. So we went to the Farm to see sheep shearing, it was good intentional family time.

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Let us tend to our flock like the Greatest Shepherd tends to his.

The Lamb

William Blake
Little Lamb, who made thee
Does thou know who made thee
Gave thee life & bid thee feed.
By the stream & o’er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing woolly bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice.
Making all the vales rejoice:
Little Lamb who made thee
Does thou know who made theeLittle Lamb I’ll tell thee,
Little Lamb I’ll tell thee;
He is called by thy name,
For he calls himself a Lamb:
He is meek & he is mild,
He became a little child
I a child & thou a lamb,
We are called by His name,
Little Lamb God bless thee,
Little Lamb God bless thee.

Plans and Priorities 2015

I’m slowly getting back into blogging this year after a whirlwind of a holiday season and one post last week and one this week kicks it off. I have been a bit busy organizing the new Charlotte Mason Living site and IG, and am really excited about all the wonderful Charlotte Mason ladies participating and contributing. Please check it out if you home school. Like I mentioned last week I was going to review my plans and priorities from last year and discuss my progress and then set my plans and priorities for 2015.

Over all, I think it was a really good thing to set plans and priorities last year, I was able to accomplish a lot of what I set just by naming the desire to do it and working toward it slowly. It’s not about checking everything off the list, it is more about the process. We all know resolutions most times can be pointless but if we write down the things we want and think of practical steps to get us there, the elephant doesn’t seem so big. I do like to cross things out, still. No, really, it is nice to check things off the list, I sometimes put things I have already finished on lists at home just so I can cross them out, we all know that accomplished feeling. There is reward in even working toward a goal. Well, we all know that I am a procrastinator at by nature but not wanting to be as I get older my inner self starter is emerging. Thank God, truly, because I think we can only live like uninterested college students for so long.

So, like I mentioned in my last post I have my plans and priorites set into three categories; Faith, Art, and Family.  I post all these here every year for accountability to myself and from others, so please ask me how these things are going and share your priorites as well. The key word for us this year is Resolute. It’s not about resolutions but about the resolve to do what we set out to do.

Here it is:

Faith- The only two things that matter when it comes to my priorities for Faith; Study and Pray, Study and Pray, Study and Pray. Last year I had a long list of priorities when it came to Faith and through listening to those wiser than myself and learning through last year, I know that all things faith really should spring forth from those two things. Here’s a great article on reading the word in 2015: Desiring God.

Family- My role as Wife and Mother is a priority. I am praying that I continue to make my family a priority above other trivial things, social media, etc. I am learning everyday a little bit more about how to maintain a household and care for a family. It is not easy, and even though sometimes there is an illusion of easy or perfection, the truth is that it is the hardest job I have ever had. My number one plan and priority for our Family is that we learn to show Grace and Love like Christ does to us.

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Homeschooling is of course a part of our family life and as I pointed out we are Charlotte Mason homeschoolers. Charlotte Mason says that “Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life.”. This is true for anyone not just CM families. We teach and learn and live each and every day.  As part of my plans and priorities I am going to flush that statement out more this year and try to create an atmosphere that breeds good habits, learning well and broadly, and encompasses our family values and faith. Homeschooling for us is not “doing school” at home. It is life. We do Liturgy every morning, We read aloud, We learn about artists and poets and nature. It is a generous education and I am learning so much as we progress too. We really just enjoy the time spent together and it has been a lovely experience for us. I hope to help all these to thrive even more in 2015.

Edited to add Health is very important this year for our family and will pursue it with family, I hope to write more about that later.

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Art- This of course is last on my list of priorities but it is not unimportant to our lives. While we continue to work on exciting things for bensonbenson co. and for ourselves, I hope to not let that creative part of me shrivel up. I feel like doing art is like learning a language, it’s a “use it or lose it” sort of thing, in a way, but it is also like “riding a bike”, I guess if I have to use all the cliches. What I mean is that though some things are forgotten, some always remain, I am learning to keep myself focused on art in a way that motivates me to create. I am working on a book cover and some other small projects right now and it has been really great putting to good use my Art background.IMG_1510

A pattern I made for the Book Cover project. Im really loving it.

Pray for me as we start the year, 2014 was a tough year for us and with the grace of God we kicked it’s butt, I pray the same and more for 2015. What are your Plans and Priorities for the year? Share them here and I will definitely ask you about them when I see you.

 

 

 

 

True Thanksgiving, True Joy

The one day we designate for Thanksgiving each year is soon upon us and of course that means we can just go thankless the other 364 days of the year. I am just kidding but seriously there is something to be said for continuing the tradition of thankfulness all throughout the year.

Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ -Ephesians 5:20

It’s a nice thought to say,” let’s be thankful all the year”, but I truly mean it. When sorrow waits at your gates or lives in your home we can combat it by remembering the sweet grace and mercy given to us as we count our blessings ,count it all joy. I wrote that post that I just linked before a very recent sorrow and it still rings true before, during and after. As always I am preaching to myself. When complaining flows from ours mouths like dark water meaning our hearts are sick and broken, true thanksgiving can battle broken hearts, because the source is of joy is immense and forever.

The reason I believe that true thankfulness can battle brokenness and darkness is because it comes from a place of that knows there is nothing that I deserve, you deserve and yet we can have so much despite that. This may be a theological difference of opinion for readers and I but I see ring true in my life and I see it ring true in scripture, so it is not purely anecdotal. Thankfulness, not for things, not for possessions, but for His hand moving in our lives. Yes, we can give thanks for the physical things too but they are temporal and their time is soon coming to a close, there are eternal things, made out of nothing things, made with an astonishing power.  Ann Voskamp says:

And when yet another harvest globe rolls off top, off back of the wagon, and I bend for the stem, for the blessing overflowing, I know but this.

Thanks is never for the things. Thanks is for His touch.

That gifts have no significance in and of themselves. Gifts only have meaning in that they trace the outline of God’s heart.

Ann Voskamp aways has refreshing view on looking at life as a gift:

To thank God in all is to bend the knee in allegiance to God Who alone knows all.

To thank God in all is to give God glory in all. Is this not our chief end?

When I only give thanks for some things, aren’t I likely to miss giving God glory in mostthings?

Murmuring thanks isn’t to deny that an event isn’t a tragedy and neither does it deny that there’s a cracking fissure straight across the heart.

Giving thanks is only this: making the canyon of pain into a megaphone to proclaim the ultimate goodness of God.

Our thanks to God is our witness to the goodness of God when Satan and all the world would sneer at us to recant.

I lay my hand on the rain-filmed windowpane and I see clearer. But this is not easy: That which I refuse to thank Christ for, I refuse to believe Christ can redeem.

The grey sky’s drumming steady on the truck’s tin roof.

I wish my words recently could be as poetic because I am at a word loss these days. I struggle to articulate what’s going on deeply but I know that whatever God is doing in this season is changing me for more joy, for more thankfulness. Not a once-a-year, lip service, thankfulness but a thankfulness that stems from true joy planted in the heart of the believer.

 The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me;

to one who orders his way rightly

I will show the salvation of God!” -Psalm 50:23

Life is not a “things” race yet we as broken humans want to make is so. The most joyful people in life have the simplest of pleasures and I wonder if sometimes we are too over stimulated, over coddled, over praised to know what those simple joys pleasures look like, we don’t recognize them anymore.

“You say, ‘If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.’ You make a mistake.
If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.”

[Charles Haddon Spurgeon]

Spurgeon, the Prince of Preachers, always seems to say the words I need to hear. I want to, from a genuine heart, take joy in all I have been given and to be satisfied in him. Let us look to the Lord and say “I am satisfied in You’. My heart like the deer that pants, pants for and thanks God for the many blessings that sustain us.

One look at our social media streams speak a much different picture and I can say I have participated in the loud protestations, be it on Facebook or in real life, that do not make way for joy and satisfaction. We feel our complaints are important at the moment and then they seem fleeting in the passing of time. As we learn to take joy and be satisfied in Christ and know life is what pours from our lips instead of complaining, comparing, jealousy, anger, we can remember there is a comfort that comes from Him.

One of my favorite songs is below, I listen to this song in my lowest lows and even in my best of times to remember what he is delivering me through. Listen to it, I’ve shared it many times before, but listen to the words:

Let my sighs give way to songs that sing about your faithfulness
Let my pain reveal your glory as my only real rest
Let my losses show me all I truly have is you

Listen to it and from a heart of true thanksgiving remember it every day of your life. True Thanksgiving, True Joy.

 

 

Sorrowful, Yet Always Rejoicing

I have been absent for awhile, absent although not absent in thought. The words have failed me. I couldn’t speak because I didn’t know how. You see this is a post about loss, specifically my recent loss, our recent loss, something so deep and painful for me that it would be easiest to lose the words forever and shut them up in my heart letting them wilt into nothingness, That is even more painful though, and pain is powerful but can be redeemed. But this is not really only a post about loss it is much more a post about Joy, Rejoicing. I will explain later.

Before I go any further please stop reading now if you will be uncomfortable with how real I am about to get with my account. I feel I cannot better explain except for truthfully and plainly. This is all part of my healing process as God pours grace and mercy on me. Additionally this is my pain, yours may be much greater in the scales of things that hurt, so know there is no comparison and I am not saying I understand all pain, nor do I even understand mine. This is just a story.

I am no good with dates, so some of these that I am throwing out are arbitrary. A few months ago as I started to feel the familiar queasiness and exhaustion I had a feeling that there was something happening, that familiar something that had happened twice before. We checked and positive was the answer. Mixed emotions of joy and worry ensued. Joy because a child is always a joyful occasion and worry because the “What are we going to do?”s start. We we’re happy, as happy as a couple could be as we started dreaming and planning. We we’re keeping it a secret for most until the time we felt was appropriate, it was still really early and we felt it was best. We still talked and dreamt about this little one forming and growing and starting making plans as we anticipated.

I was less than a week out from my first OB appointment because we could not calculate the date of conception correctly. I hadn’t even seen a doctor yet when scary things started happening. Over the weekend I started feeling very off, I felt off before any signs there was anything wrong happened. The feeling started on a Friday and mild spotting followed. Because spotting could be normal I tried to remind myself of this and just rest my mind. What started mild became much worse and alarming, enough to require an Emergency Room visit on Monday of the next week. There was nothing they could say, everything looked fine but my body said different. They told me it was “o.k.”. The ultrasound said I was still pregnant, they said I was fine but to go home and rest. They tried to assure me. I don’t know if it was that I knew different or that I couldn’t trust them in that situation, but I knew it felt like empty assurances. The next day I knew for certain, I cried and prayed for the bleeding to stop, for everything to go back to normal, rewind the last few days. It didn’t. I miscarried on Tuesday Morning. It was the worst and most painful experience and there is no point in sharing the minute details but know it was tramautic, emotionally and physically.

Not because I am super spiritual but there hangs a picture on our bathroom wall of a woman robed in white clinging to a rock amongst a lapping torrent of waves. The only thing I could think of was to stare at it and out of a need for comfort I started to sing Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in thee. I needed that rock for comfort in my time of need and sorrow.

So, on Tuesday Morning I knew and the Doctor confirmed it on Wednesday Morning. I felt like I couldn’t breathe, it still feels a little that way. The Doctor was telling me that it wasn’t my fault and there are the statistics and the good news was that it probably won’t happen again and I was screaming on the inside not knowing if I should sit and listen or run away and I was just trying to make it through the appointment, praying silently, without passing out.

Emotions are like a wave now, sometimes it hits me so hard I feel like I’ve been kneed in the chest and other times it’s a smaller ebb of pain intermingled with this growing peace. I prayed for peace and am still praying for peace, it comes, if you ask. It may take time for you to ask. It may take pain ebbs lessening, perhaps anger too, to learn to rejoice in the suffering and in your sorrow, but I am learning so much about the sweetness of God in even my sorrow. I need the reminders to myself.

Charles Spurgeon said “I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.” and isn’t that such a beautiful quote. I hold that quote very close to my heart because I feel a lifetime of dissapointment with people, with the world and as I struggle with depression and recent events I need that rock. This is not a post about a miscarriage or loss really or definitely not a request for pity. This a post about learning to kiss the waves, those hideous waves.  This is an encouragement. It is about being sorrowful, yes, sorrow is appropriate and needed for healing but in that sorrow there is a source for that can bring joy and rejoicing despite it. I am preaching this to myself.

That title Sorrowful, Yet Always Rejoicing did not come from my own head, it comes from 2 Corinthians 6:10:

 As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.

This foreign notion that I could have sorrow and rejoice as well is not of the World. It is an otherworldly notion. It is a mark of a believer, joy.

C.S. Lewis said, “Joy is the serious business of heaven”

I have had to ask myself very recently, am I joyful person? I may look joyful on the surface, but am I truly joyful? The answer most times has been “No”. Truthfully, my human nature is one of a bitter, jealous and angry person. I am in need of that joy, desperately. Jesus is transforming me daily and I want to grasp and cling to that joy as slowly or as quickly, I pray, as it comes for me.

I am definitely not telling you to pick yourself up by the bootstraps, to just feel better, or that it’ll all work out or whatever bad advice you have been given. Well meaning people give a lot of bad advice. This is a hurting person saying that there is a source that can heal all wounds. There is a reason to rejoice in our suffering, believers.

There is a line in Rock of Ages that goes:

Could my zeal no respite know, Could my tears forever flow, All for sin could not atone; Thou must save, and Thou alone.

It may feel like tears will forever flow and I can’t tell you they won’t but we can learn from Christ and others that have gone before us to rejoice through our sorrow that there is nothing that this world can offer to heal my broken heart, to heal yours but there is one we can hide ourselves in, the Rock is cleaved for me, for you, for all that would plead for it. Thank God.

I am not trying to make anyone uncomfortable with this post but the fact of the matter that through this very personal suffering some things have become very clear to me about my personal faith and I can only respond to God’s grace with boldness. I can only want for you joy.  If you do not know the comfort of Christ in your situation and have long suffered or would like to know God, I want to pray with you, for you. Let us run to the throne and rejoice, the wonderful, frightfully beautiful throne of the Rock of Ages.

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I am sharing the artwork I made for this post. I hope it can be a comfort, as well as this song by Liz Vice that has brought me much comfort recently. Also if you like big words like Christian Hedonism you can read more about Sorrowful, Yet Always Rejoicing from people that know much more than I: The Ethos of Christian Hedonism; Sorrowful, Yet Always Rejoicing-John Piper

SYAR print 4×6

SYAR print 8×10

Also, I hope you like the new look to the site, I worked on it to make it more clean, readable and fit my aesthetic. Hope you enjoy.

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mini idols

 

This may possibly be an unpopular post, it’s definitely not a feel-good post. This is a post about the reality of Parenthood and the dangers we all face as believing parents when we make our children or our Parenthood greater than God. I will call them mini idols.

I brought this topic up at home group last night as we discussed Proverbs and heart idols. Parents, have we made idols of of our own children? I know as a parent it is easy to fall into the trap of loving my children best, thinking they are better than all other well-loved children. Of course this is common for parents, we think our children are the greatest things to walk this side of our spiral shaped galaxy and possibly beyond that. But what if they aren’t? What if are children are just like us, people that fall short? What if what society models as a parent is completely wrong?  What are we teaching them by elevating them to the highest points in our hearts and minds? What is it doing to our families? As a believer, what is the solution.

After bringing this topic up in home group last night, my friend Wendy sent me this article: How American Parenting is killing American Marriage. If you get a moment you should read it today. To summarize, the way we prioritize our children over everything else is hurting our Families, hurting our Marriages. It’s pretty taboo to say that you love your Husband/Spouse more than your children because we all know that ignoring one another for 18 plus years works wonderfully. It sounds like to the layman that you must hate your children, because obviously you hate your children if you happen to put your spouse first or even more shockingly God. Ayelet Waldman, who is not a believer that I know of, went on OPRAH to explain that she believed that loving her husband before her children has been a wonderfully healthy thing for her kids to witness, she received death threats and reports to Child Protective Services. Now, if a non-believer is telling us these things, how much more important is it for the believer to realize that God must be first then our Spouse and then our Children. I mean you don’t have to agree but this is biblical truth.

There are so many opinions on how we should raise children and there is no possible way to do them all, nor should the believer. Our Godly Mandates as parents should look foreign to the world. They may not like it. All the books by this Doctor or that Specialist are no match for Godly wisdom. Remember that worldly wisdom is foolishness. There is a grand story at work and we should be shaping our families with that mindset. American Society tells us that parental love looks like bussing your children around to all the things, giving them all the things, never letting them miss out or lose or be disappointed, keeping them cage in our homes and teaching them to be afraid of all the things, the list is longer, I’ll stop there. We need to be wary that this cultural example is contrary to a biblical one. We need to be careful that we aren’t forming mini idols based on culture and and our selfish desires.

There are many ways we can make children and Parenting our Idols. Christina Fox gives some examples in this post, more specifically for Mothers who seem to fall prey the easiest to this issue: The Idols of a Mother’s Heart (I’ll paraphrase):

-We can make Affirmation our Idol. We are affirmed in our beliefs about our children when family, friends or strangers tell us we are “doing a great job”, our kids are “pretty” or they are “well-behaved”. We can be prideful and desire affirmation more and more. We also can desire affirmation from our own children.

-“Our children in and of themselves can become idols.” Living for your kids and making them happy can become the most important thing in our lives, it’s a dangerous thing to do.

-Success. The “perfect family”, successful children, the “American Dream”.

-Control in every area of children’s lives, planning life out with no deviations or exceptions. This shapes the family dynamic causes us to fear, worry, have anxiety, and just plain grumpy.

When we make our Children or Parenting or Motherhood an idol in our lives we are setting a dangerous path for our children. Dissenters may say you cannot love your children too much, and of course that’s true, we can’t measure the love God has for us but what that looks like is obviously different then the love of the world. 1 Corinthians 13 is our reminder. As parents what does my love look like toward my child? Does it look the Father’s love?

My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives. Hebrews 12:5- 6 

Not only must we put God first and prioritize our family biblically we must not put our children so high as to forget that we are commanded to lead them and discipline them. A lack of discipline is not love, a choice to not discipline your child only offers greater hardship for them later.

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:11

I think it is clear but I just wanted to state that there is a difference between Discipline and Punishment, the first is corrective and the latter in Punitive, so on the other end we need to seek God in our parenting on how to do the first, we can go the other extreme and punish our children for our irritances with them. Godly love disciplines and reproves.

So back to making our children idols or role as a parent an idol, so how do we safeguard against these. I am a Mother so I tend to speak from that viewpoint a lot. We may all know Mothers occasionally that may have extreme views on this or that and let everyone know whenever they can, they might hold one of the previously listed idols of parenthood in their heart as the utmost importance. But it can be the quiet mother as well that holds their children idol in their heart. This is not a judgmental statement. this is the reality that we all can fall easily to idolatry of our children, our families, our role as parent. 1 Corinthians 10:14-18 states:

Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?  Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. Consider the people of Israel:are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything?

We must be vigilant to keep ourselves focused on God and to keep our hearts tuned to Him. That is when our children will benefit. There have been many times where I followed my own selfish desires as a parent. My child is not perfect and it is foolishness to act like she is but also I have let my flesh anger toward my child when I should be leading her. I also fall to wanting to hear the affirmation that my children are “the best” or what have you. I need to pray for the Spirit to reveal the idols of my heart so that God can deal with them. We must be humble as parents as well, our children are not our own. They have been given to us, we do not deserve them and it is our duty to raise the according to the instruction of that Giver. Children will be formed by how their parents act, so in my humility must ask my daughters to forgive me when I have sinned in my parenthood.  Just like our children we need Godly reproof to battle the idols that pop up in our lives:

Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Revelation 3:19

The only way we can can combat the idols of parenthood or our mini idols is to turn to God.

count it all joy

 There are times when joy seems fleeting and unattainable, those are the times that we must fight for joy. Joy should be our daily habit as a believer, even in tough and trying circumstances, joy in the Lord and what He has given us should sustain in our difficulties. But it is one of those “easier said than done” scenarios, so how do we develop the habit of joy even when we don’t feel like, how do we instead of our grumbling turn to joy instead when the paths get rocky and undesirable?

 I’ve talked a little bit before about counting your blessings or counting it joy it tough times, specifically depression. And since this post (like most of my posts) is largely a “preaching the Gospel to myself” type of post I am revisiting the topic in a very much-needed way.

I do not know in what ways you struggle right now, I do want to encourage to reframe our suffering in a Kingdom perspective. God did not promise us easy living regardless what prosperity preachers and bad theologians may tell you. To say that God plans an uncomplicated and painless life is to say the Bible is wrong when it teaches us in 1 Peter 4 that suffering and trial is indigenous to the believer. I won’t talk much on teaching contrary to 1 Peter but I will say that God’s plan looks much different than streets of “wordly” gold but that we would rejoice as we share in Christ’s suffering and that we would Glorify God through it all and entrust ourselves to Him.

C.S. Lewis wrote about grief and suffering in his book about his late wife, A Grief Observed. I once read the sentence ‘I lay awake all night with a toothache, thinking about the toothache an about lying awake.’ That’s true to life. Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery’s shadow or reflection: the fact that you don’t merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer. I not only live each endless day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief. I know that that struggles, sadness, grief, whatever it may be feel like this all too well. It is a pervasive wart on our mind and it causes us to worry and stress and lament over things that can not be changed by our worry or stress or lamentations. C.S. Lewis also wrote these words about it which are a comfort to me; We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, ‘Blessed are they that mourn,’ and I accept it. I’ve got nothing that I hadn’t bargained for. Of course it is different when the thing happens to oneself, not to others, and in reality, not imagination. Sometimes I need that reminder that this was in the design and I need to realize that it is “part of the program”. 

SO how do I take those steps to reframe my circumstances and count it all joy like the exhort from James 1:2Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. An obvious option here is to firstly look at the life of Paul who understood what that looked like. In 2nd Corinthians Paul talks about his countless beatings, imprisonments, punishments, dangers, near death experiences but says all of this not for pity but boast not in himself but in his weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. It’s not something we can do on our own, it’s about turning to a big God and trusting that He is big.

In our turning to God I think it’s important, at least for me, to remember that there are so many already good and beautiful things that I have been blessed with and I am blessed with these things because God gives these good things to me. I need a habit of joy and thanks. I need to fight for it in my life. Ann Voskamp says It’s habits that can imprison you and it’s habits that can free you. But when thanks to God becomes a habit —  so joy in God becomes your life. 

A very practical way to keep a habit of joy is to keep a list or journal instances of joy or gifts that God has given as they happen or as God opens our eyes to their presence in our lives. I’ve recently started again to write out the things gifts in my life that I am thankful for, the little seemingly insignificant things that might not matter to others or previously to myself. The things also that may not have seemed as blessings before but truly where. I truly have so many more joys than hardships. God is blessing the believer even through our suffering, we may not be able to see it but the Word and the Holy Spirit will reframe our minds to see the things we missed before.

I probably will share some of my private journaling via the blog and instagram using the hashtag, #thebensonsarethankful. I encourage friends to join me privately or publicly, I would love to have some friends to encourage and be encouraged by.

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Today, I am thankful for:

Coffee with Whipped Cream and a husband that makes it for me in the morning.

Hot Water, our water heater has been broken, so hot water and Bubble Baths

Television, yes, television, I was able to finish this post because my children are watching Daniel Tiger.

Morning hugs from my girls

Dimples, specifically Alice’s dimples.

This Weather, I want it forever.

Provision for today

sisters that love each other

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Let me leave you with the these words from a recent Desiring God post by Vaneetha Rendall that really shook me:

Habakkuk models this exchange beautifully. Though he had pleaded with God to save his people, he closes his book with this exquisite “even if” . . .

Even if the fig tree does not bloom and the vines have no grapes,
even if the olive tree fails to produce
and the fields yield no food,
even if the sheep pen is empty
and the stalls have no cattle—

Even then,

I will be happy with the Lord.
I will truly find joy in God, who saves me. (Habakkuk 3:17–18)

Amen.

“Even If”, not just “What if”, things transpire that are out of my control “I will be happy with the Lord. I will truly find joy in God, who saves me”. I don’t think there is anything else to say.

 

Be Wary of the Flags You Fly

 

war·y
ˈwe(ə)rē/
adjective
  1. feeling or showing caution about possible dangers or problems.
    In fact, our inability to find security for ourselves is so profound that we’d never find the One who is to be our Rock on our own, no he must find us. The language of Psalm 27 is quite precise here, “he will…set me high upon a rock.” It doesn’t say, “I will find the rock and I will climb up on it.” -Paul David Tripp

I am going to preface that this post may hit a chord with folks in dissonance or agreement but I think this is truth for me in my life and hopefully it can be helpful.

Be wary of the flags you fly. What do I mean? Well I mean be careful of the titles you claim and give priority in your life. The titles that you hold true above all other things and make it known to the world. I am clearly going to speak here from my perspective as a women, mother and believer, so my lens to the world may look different than yours, it shouldn’t negate the truth in the message.

I had had this post sitting in my drafts a while so when my Pastor preached on ACTS 15, It reminded me of a lot of some recent thoughts on this matter.

We live in a time where titles and classifications, the groups you belong to, the views you hold are very important, some raise these titles above all else. In a digital age where In-Real-Life contact becomes fleeting and the internet is a staple of everyday life it is much easier to find those that agree with you in all regards and argue with those that disagree with you in all regards. We start to put the groups and morals we ascribe to as a priority worth fighting for. We fight non-essentials like they are essentials and alienate every one not in line. This isn’t a judgement, everyone does it, I do it, We all do. It’s our nature because of sin but what is the alternative? Titles have always been important….. but now we have it all out there for all to see, our personal profiles become our identity, we become no more or less than than the 150 words that we can fit into our Instagram profile.

It’s everywhere, flag flying at it’s best, trying to top others flying flags decidedly. We definitely are in the Age of Digital Divisiveness, dare I say just Divisiveness. Digital divisiveness is a part of our daily lives but it is not just an “internet” issue, it’s a symptom of a bigger, greater wound. A heart issue that has real IRL ramifications. It reaches far beyond the internet, it affects the very real people we are and are around.

I will speak as a Wife and Mother and then as just a Believer. As a Woman, Wife and Mother there is an excess of words that we can give power in our life, I mean the titles or ‘views” or classifications we can put ourselves in. Complimentarian, Feminist, Liberal, Conservative, Attachment Parent, Baby-wiser, Breastfeeder, Bottle Feeder, Stay-at-Home Mother, Working Mother, Believer, Non-Believer, Natural Mother, Natural Birth Believer, Medical Intervention Believer (or perhaps you had no choice in the matter), Home Educator, Public School Parent, Private School Parent, Free Range, Over-Protector and on and on and on, I’m sure there are a million I am not stating. It’s dizzying and very tiresome. Each style, method, issue, classification, opinion, none of these are good or bad in reality, they are views each of us decide to hold. I am not saying opinions are bad, though. I am stating that when these non-essentials become ultimate, we all suffer. Our hearts and the hearts around us.

As a Mother and Wife I have been looked down upon for almost every decision we have made as a Family, and it’s ok. There is Grace more so than judgementalism and moralism. Those latter things are not in my vocabulary anymore as a believer, I try not to recognize them. They are deadly to the believer. My experiences have ranged from the Grocery store opinions from strangers about my Parenting or Mothers at a new playdate judging my Birth experience or my Breastfeeding issues. I can recall them vividly, each and everyone because they were like burning coals of shame on my head. Like the Man that told me he would call the cops on me because I walked five feet from my car to pick something up in the middle of the nicest fall day with my five year old daughter asleep in the car, window open, a stride away, or it’s the Know-it-all Mother that told me I was harming my kids because of our particular family choices, or it’s family that clearly makes assertions that make me feel like the worst of mothers. The fact of the matter is that these things aren’t truth and are not spoken with love, I don’t have to look to the worldly wisdom of others but to something else, someone else, much greater. Whether it is family or strangers, the opinions that are put forth as primary usually are not, so I encourage you also, do not listen to the noise…

And here is where I talk as a Believer first and foremost. The Truth of the matter is that our Hope is in Christ and NOTHING ELSE. Your birthing options or food choices or parenting styles do not save you. We are not the sum of our personal views and choices like our profile descriptions would have all believe. As a true believer our identity is only in that one God-Man, nowhere else. This is why I encourage all of us including myself to be careful of the “FLAGS” we fly other than Christ.

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name.(*)

We can be confident that in Christ the Solid Rock we stand all other ground is sinking sand. ALL OTHER GROUND, I have to remind myself that daily. There is nothing more essential, more primary, more ultimate than a hope in Christ, it is a firm foundation that can support us in everything. “The people that know their God shall be strong” – Daniel 11:32. What this means is that there is nothing that we claim that can better than claiming the name of Christ. It’s indisputable for the Believer.

So why do we turn away from this truth to try and substitute the things of the World as our own personal flags than flying the name of Christ. Foolishness, Pride, Unbelief?

When you arise, O Lord,

you will laugh at their silly ideas

as a person laughs at dreams in the morning.

Then I realized that my heart was bitter,

and I was all torn up inside.

I was so foolish and ignorant—

I must have seemed like a senseless animal to you.

Yet I still belong to you;

you hold my right hand.

You guide me with your counsel,

leading me to a glorious destiny.

Whom have I in heaven but you?

I desire you more than anything on earth.

My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak,

but God remains the strength of my heart;

he is mine forever.  -Psalm 73:22

David is speaking about how his ways, his judgment, his understandings are nothing to the Wisdom of God. “To what is it owing, that men are so deceived by their own folly, as we find them to be, if it is not to this, that while they look at each other, they all inwardly flatter themselves? Among the blind, each thinks that he has one eye, in other words, that he excels the rest; or, at least, he pleases himself with the reflection, that his fellows are in no respect superior to himself in wisdom. But when persons come to God, and compare themselves with him, this prevailing error, in which all are fast asleep, can find no place.” – JOHN CALVIN COMMENTARY on PSALM 73:22

Here is some more Spurgeon to explain it better than I:

And are we better than David that we should call ourselves wise! Do we profess that we have attained perfection, or to have been so chastened that the rod has taken all our willfulness out of us? Ah, this were pride indeed! If David was foolish, how foolish should we be in our own esteem if we could but see ourselves! 

So, in Conclusion, Be Wary of the Flags You Fly. Be wary of all “FLAGS” that are not Christ that are put before you as ultimate truth. Know this though, there is Grace. Grace for the Judged and Grace for the Judger. So run to him….”When He shall come with trumpet sound, Oh, may I then in Him be found, Clothed in His righteousness alone, Faultless to stand before the throne! On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand.” Only one name is higher than the rest.

on being a bad friend

 

Thank you everyone for bearing with me and still reading this after many blog issues. Hopefully I will be back at it on the reg.

So I have been thinking a lot recently about friendships. One of my most popular posts has been this one : “On Friends, it’s hard“, about how its hard to make friends, keep friends etc. especially in my season of life. I’ve been mulling on it a lot recently because of recent circumstances, and I realize that I am a horrible friend. I have always been a bad friend. Some might say “aww, not true” and some of you might shake your head vehemently in agreement. To both camps, I’m glad you are reading this. Looking The fact of the matter is I look back on my friend history and realize, yup, it’s no wonder. I have a history of being a bad friend. What I mean is that I’ve wanted the juicy parts of friendship with paving the groundwork. That means that I am a selfish person that fails at being selfless and of course that can make a give a little, get a little relationship difficult because friendship is a two-man or woman job. I honestly thought for years I was pretty decent in the friend department but I realize now, not so much. I am sinner in need of grace, and because I screw up so royally daily, can be the worst of the worst, and incredibly selfish as all get out I think I’ve screwed up a few relationships on the road.

I need Grace but also I need to learn to be a better friend. I am slowly being transformed and hopefully those meaningful relationships that I so desire will blossom out of these growing experiences. So, I say to all of you, I’m sorry, I’m sorry if I’ve sucked as a friend. I’m sorry if I’ve been lackadaisical or selfish. I’m sorry if I’ve caused distance or hurt, these are things that He is changing in me.

The Growing Years

It seemed like only yesterday she was born, my little Alice. Life is so temporal and it quickly moves on without a listen to our pleas to slow down for just one minute more. Time is moving so fast yet there are times it feels like we are stuck in place. It’s like that old Jewel song, “Or am I standing still  With the scenery flying by”, truly truly. You’ll remember that one if you are as old as me.

I am so thankful for the big and little joys and blessings we’ve experienced and are experiencing in our lives. Let me tell you how it has been a rough couple of years with many struggles such as depression, debilitating anxiety, financial burdens, things much darker etc. you name it, and how we are being delivered slowly and surely into Provision and Grace from that stuck in placeness. I know I’ve talked some about these things and don’t want to delve in this post -in another post soon- but just know God is so big, bigger than all these things by unfathomable lengths that it puts my mind at ease when the darkness beckons. I am so happy and there is Joy here, all year round and this past weekend beautiful little birthday joys.

Birthdays celebrate anniversaries of new life, Alice’s birthday is on the 23rd of March, Emma’s in two months, Kenny and I also in the Summer.We just love them, we love birthdays here, we love those days where we can smile and know another year has passed and we are the better for it. I am thankful for Alice’s first year that has been such a gift for me. My life changed after Emma and again more and more after Alice. Isn’t it funny how God uses children to change and grow us? I am so truly undeserving, you don’t even know (maybe if you knew you wouldn’t be reading this right now, but it is so ok, more than ok) and I am so thankful.

I am so happy to celebrate in this Easter season celebrate spiritual new life as well. It’s a birthday for souls, hearts and minds. It’s not about me, this life is not about me. There is so much more, so let us rejoice in the knowledge that we can never deserve new life freely given on our own but can revel in it none the less and be transformed by it. I am happy He chose me and is revealing Himself to me and I am being changed.

For Alice and for the rest of My Family for that matter I am never perfect and I fail a lot,- You know those Human flaws and all- in my humaness I pray that each year I can grow in wisdom to be a better Wife and Mother, I need so much of the growing. I pray for my children as they age that they would know true Love and Joy from above. So we are thankful for the birthdays and new life. These are the growing years and we pray they never end.

Not In Me

…No list of sins I have not done, no list of virtues I pursue,
No list of those I am not like can earn myself a place with you.
O God! Be merciful to me. I am a sinner through and through.
My only hope of righteousness is not in me, but only you…

Enjoy a lovely montage of Alice’s party, also the top Image is our wonderful family in wood from our friend Jennifer over at Minnie and the Monster. You may remember she did a Nativity for us as well. Go buy some stuff and tell her I sent you. 🙂

p.s. now that the house is clean because of the party, seriously- it definitely wasn’t before, I’ve had some friends and followers ask about posting a house tour. Im not sure if it’s house tour worthy but Ill definitely get on it soon.

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