Is your Life Self-centered, Child-centered, Husband-centered, or God-centered???

This past week, I have been studying Matthew 23 along with the other ladies in my Community Bible Study group. In this passage, Jesus pronounces upon the religious leaders of His day (the scribes and Pharisees) a series of seven woes. Six times Jesus calls these self-righteous men, “hypocrites.” Rather than leading the Israelites to pursue God with pure hearts, these religious leaders had hearts full of greed and self-indulgence, performing law-keeping deeds in order to be seen by others. Ultimately, their lives were SELF-centered, despite any external appearance of GOD-centeredness.

This Tuesday, I was listening to my favorite podcast, “Family Life Today.” In this episode, Dennis Rainey was sharing some words of wisdom with the new “Family Life Today” hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson. Mr. Rainey was explaining how easily most moms can be drawn into a CHILD-centered life, where their “family solar system revolve[s] around the kids.” Such truth in just 7 words.

My mind immediately began drawing a picture of a solar system with my children taking the place of the sun, and my husband and me revolving around them like Earth and Mars.

Mr. Rainey and his wife, Barbara, then shared about the importance of keeping the marriage relationship strong, so that the marriage is prepared to outlast the children. If our world is revolving around our kids, what’s going to happen when they grow up and move out?!

I’m afraid that in an effort to not be child-centered, some marriages, then become husband-centered, where the whole family revolves around making dad happy. Rather than the wife pleasing her husband as an outflow of her allegiance to God, pleasing her husband becomes the very center and focus of her life. This, too, is a messed-up solar system.

In my mind I had a new vision of a solar system. This solar system had my husband and I spinning together, arm-in-arm, while God remained the ever-present enormous shining sun whose gravity held us both. In this solar system, both of our lives revolved around Him, not our kids, and not each other.

Like the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks, “What is the chief end of man?” I began asking myself, “Kim, what is the chief end of your life? What does your life revolve around? What is that gravitational force that holds your life in order? Who is in the center of your life’s solar system?”

Is my primary goal to “glorify God, and to enjoy him forever”?

Yes. Yes, it is.

TWIG

Sunrise, Sunset

On December 4th, I finished our 2017-2018 family photo album. The final page displayed a background of a beautiful picture of a sunrise in my front yard, and a sunset in the back, accompanied by the lyrics from the song “Sunrise, Sunset” from Fiddler on the Roof,

Sunrise, sunset, sunrise, sunset,
Swiftly flow the days,
Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers,
Blossoming even as we gaze

Sunrise, sunset, sunrise, sunset!
Swiftly fly the years,
One season following another,
Laden with happiness and tears.

The past three weeks have truly been a time laden with both happiness and tears.

Two weeks ago, my oldest son became the first of my four children to marry. My heart is full of great joy and hope for their future as I release my son into adulthood. I thank God for giving us Kristen and putting her into Nick’s life. These two young adults are better together than they are apart. An answer to prayer.

For my 46th birthday last Saturday, my family (minus our newly married son and his bride) watched “Fiddler on the Roof” together at my request. I reminisced about Nick as a three-year-old singing, “If I were a Rich Man” at the top of his lungs into his karaoke machine and dancing around with the best of them. Ever since he was a little boy, we’ve said that Nick would do something with a microphone in his hand. For years I’ve said, “Someday Nick will be a preacher, a singer or a politician!” This time, though, it was me singing along with the wedding scene as the Tevye’s oldest daughter marries under a candle-lit canopy, “Is this the little girl I carried? Is this the little boy at play? I don’t remember growing older. When did they?”

Sunrise. Sunset. Swiftly fly the years. One season following another. In the twenty years of Nick’s life, we’ve certainly had many seasons. We’ve had seasons of agonizing pain, persevering only by God’s grace through marriage and parenting struggles. And we’ve had seasons of immense joy, celebrating new accomplishments and relationships, granted us also by God’s grace. But this current season we’re in has been such a bizarre mix of pain and joy, that it’s hard to know how to feel at any given moment.

Christmas Eve, the day Nick and Kristen were engaged, was the very day we found out that Kari Coudriet, and three beautiful children who were staying with her family, Sharron, Aaron, and Joy Naik, had passed from time into eternity. Then, two weeks later, the very day Nick and Kristen were married, was the day that Srinivas and Sujatha Naik, their parents from India, shared their hearts with our congregation, and I got to see them for the first time since their children’s deaths.

That morning, I mourned with those who mourn, and that afternoon I rejoiced with those who rejoice. Tears of grief coming, and tears of joy going. Sunrise. Sunset. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

Please join me today in praying for the marriages of Nick and Kristen Endraske, and Srinivas and Sujatha Naik. “May your lives be pointed always toward Jesus with hearts full of hope and peace. May your marriages demonstrate how deeply Christ loves His bride, and gave Himself up for her, even while we were His enemies. May God give you long seasons of joy, interspersed with short seasons of hardship, that you would lean on Jesus, savoring the good times, and numbering each day with hearts of wisdom. In the powerful name of Jesus. Amen.”

How can I pray for you and your marriage?

What is Certain?

Recently I’ve been thinking about the saying attributed to Benjamin Franklin, “Nothing is certain but death and taxes.” I’ve been thinking about how untrue that statement is. There are so many more things that are certain, just as certain as death and even more certain than taxes.

So, today, on the eve of the memorial service for a precious saint, I am pondering what I am sure of. I pray it will bless your soul, as it has blessed mine.

I am certain of God’s eternal existence. (Romans 1:19-20)

I am certain of the truth of God’s Word. (Luke 1:1-4)

I am certain that God formed me in my mother’s womb, and numbered my days before even one of them came to be. (Psalm 139:13-16)

I am certain that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. (John 20:31)

I am certain that God will never forget me. (Isaiah 49:15-16)

I am certain of God’s unending love. (Romans 5:8)

I am certain of God’s boundless mercy and grace. (Hebrews 4:16)

I am certain of God’s abundant forgiveness. (1 John 1:9)

I am certain of God’s Almighty power. (Revelation 1:8)

I am certain of God’s great and daily faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23)

I am certain of the coming hope of heaven. (John 14:1-4)

I’d love to hear what you are certain of. Please leave me a comment. Let us encourage one another with the Word of Truth, Hope and Certainty. Let us choose to doubt our doubts, and doggedly believe our beliefs.

Enjoy this beautiful song by Ellie Holcomb “As Sure as the Sun.”

“As Sure As The Sun”

There is good news
There is good truth
That you could never change
No matter what you do

You are loved
More than you know
More than you could hope for
After everything you’ve done

As sure as the sun will rise
And chase away the night
His mercy will not end
His mercy will not end

There is good news
There’s a promise
That no matter where you go
You will never be alone

In the dark
In the doubting
When you can’t feel anything
O His love remains the same

As sure as the sun will rise
And chase away the night
His mercy will not end

Even through the night
Ohh…
Silver stars will shine
Hope of glory’s light
That will wake us once again

As sure as; the sun will rise
And chase away the night
As sure as the sun; will rise
His mercy will not end
His mercy will not end

The God of the Weak

God chose to send His angel personally to the shepherds keeping watch over their flock by night. “The angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”” (Luke 2:10)

God chose to send His own Son, Jesus, to be born of a young virgin girl named Mary. Her betrothed, Joseph, was no more than a carpenter. Jesus was wrapped in simple swaddling cloths and laid to rest in an animal trough, for there was no room for them in the inn.

Jesus chose poor fishermen to be His first disciples. The crowds were amazed at “the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men… And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13 ESV)

Do you ever feel like God can’t use you, that you’re not smart enough, not famous enough, not good enough?

“Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:20-31 ESV)

Whither Thou Goest

I burst through the front door, “Hi, Grandma! I’m here.A pint-sized girl with a head full of curls, I looked forward to spending a week with my grandma on our family’s Iowa homestead.

“Hi, sweetie,” my grandma called back from the kitchen. “Make yourself at home. Don’t forget about the big can of V8 in the ‘fridge. I got it just for you.”

Even though I never liked V8 — Campbell’s Tomato Juice was my thing she bought a can for me every summer, looking forward to my visit. And every evening, I’d force myself to drink a glass, just to see the smile on her face.

The next morning, Grandma and I headed out for breakfast at Perkins in her rusted green pickup truck. Widowed at fifty-seven, my grandma hated to be alone. She and my grandpa had been married for just short of 40 years when he passed away from pancreatic cancer. Now my Grandma Norma ate out twice a day, whether by herself or with one of her lady friends. As we pulled out of the driveway and onto the gravel road that led into town, Grandma stealthily applied bright red lipstick to her thin lips. Suddenly, she burst into the first verse of “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” in her strong, soprano voice. I joined in, off-key and happy. Grandma always told me that singing kept her awake, which I’m sure it did, but I knew she liked it, too.

Entering the comfortable restaurant, the cashier greeted us.Good morning, Norma. Is this the granddaughter you’re always telling me about?

Yes, Beth. This is Kim. She’s my companion this week, helping me out at the antique shop. This girl is fearless. She walks up to all the customers. And smart as a whip! She shows them around, rings up their bills and even makes their change! I don’t know how I manage the store without her.”

After downing a heaping platter of chocolate chip pancakes and a large glass of tomato juice, I headed out to the truck with Grandma for a quick trip to the bank. Wherever we went, Grandma greeted everyone with a charming smile, a pleasant word of encouragement and two listening ears. It seemed like she knew everyone, and I was proud that this was my grandma.

On our drive back to the farm, she reminisced about all the good times she and my grandpa had enjoyed together, working the farm, raising children, singing duets at church. She shared with me about a gentleman friend who’d recently courted her, going so far as asking her to marry him, but that she just could never love anyone like she’d loved my grandpa.

Opening the backdoor of her antique shop, we were greeted by the smell of paint thinner and the jingle of bells hanging from the doorknob. Grandma, never one to sit still, set right to work caning an old chair she had bought at one of many auctions. I, too, kept myself busy admiring the countless knickknacks covering every surface of the two-story converted barn, hoping for a customer to come in and make a purchase.

After our dinner trip to Perkins, Grandma and I made our way to the couch in her simple ranch-style home. We sat quietly side-by-side, my grandmother working on her latest cross-stitching project and me gazing at the walls covered with framed black-and-white photos of days gone by. My personal favorites were the 8 x 10 photos of my grandparents as two young lovebirds. I could’ve stood there for hours. Their eyes simply oozed with love for one another. I thought, “Someday, I want to love somebody like that.”

And one day, a dozen years later, I got to put into practice those lessons in friendliness my grandma had taught me. Needing directions to a nearby event, I walked right up to a handsome young man and introduced myself. Eight months later, when I married that special man who my eyes oozed with love for, my grandma pulled me aside and placed a framed cross-stitch in my arms. The words “Whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God” were carefully handstitched next to a silhouetted bride and groom. Today, with our 25th wedding anniversary on the horizon, I’m thankful for a grandmother who taught me to be friendly to strangers and faithful to the one you love.

Dedicated to my grandma, Norma Myers.  This story has been submitted to Chicken Soup for the Soul with hopes for publication.  You’re free to share it, but please link back here.  You can read my last two stories about my Grandma Norma here and here.

A Tale of Three Women

Let me tell you the story of three women: one named Doubter, one named Doer, and one named Faith. All three women had their fair share of sin, and all three women had their fair share of good deeds.

Doubter had no interest in God. She lived her life for herself, with little regard for morality or eternity. She made no effort to earn a place in the kingdom of God. Doubter thought faith in God was a crutch invented by the needy and foolish. She didn’t think she was so bad – she’d never killed anybody or anything. She figured if there was a god, he’d welcome her into eternity, because she was at heart a good person.

Doer, on the other hand, lived day in and day out in fear of God. Her life was filled with church activities. She attended a ladies Bible study and served at the homeless mission. Every week she read her Bible, prayed, and taught Sunday school. Doer worked hard to earn a place in the eternal kingdom of God. Yet, she could never trust God enough to accept the gift of salvation that Jesus was offering to her, finding it easier to trust in her own works to earn her own way.

And what about Faith? Faith, too, participated in plenty of church activities. Faith, also, read the Bible, prayed, and served the poor. But, Faith had a completely different heart than both Doubter and Doer.

Faith was not motivated by trying to earn God’s favor. She trusted that God was her good Father who loved her no matter what. She wanted to have a close relationship with her Father, so she followed Him wherever He led.
Faith lived in reverential fear of God, seeing His holiness and her depravity. She refused to be deceived into thinking she was a good person who deserved a spot in Heaven. Rather, Faith recognized her own brokenness and lived a life full of thanksgiving to God who rescued her. Faith trusted God to deliver her daily in the here and now, and in eternity.

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:4-9 ESV)

Which of these three women are you?

Do you see yourself in Doubter or Doer or Faith?

Which one do you want to be?

God is inviting you to receive a new name. How does Faith sound?

“The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.” (Revelation 3:12 ESV)

My Grandma Taught Me

Yesterday, I shared about the Christian heritage of my grandmother.  (Click here to read it, too!)  Today I’d like to share a story I’ve written about some lessons that my grandma taught me.  I’ve submitted this for a Chicken Soup for the Soul publication and am praying it gets selected.  Enjoy!  (You are welcome to share it in it’s entirety, but please link back here!)

My grandma cross-stitched this for me as a college graduation gift.

I remember my Grandma Norma’s sparingly stocked kitchen cupboards. As soon as I arrived for visits, she would take me straight to her kitchen to show me a gallon of vanilla ice cream in the freezer, a gallon of milk in the fridge, a box of cereal in a cabinet, along with a big can of V8 that she’d picked up “just for me.” She’d encourage me to make myself at home, enjoying a bowl of cereal or ice cream anytime I wanted. She taught me to value people more highly than things.

I remember many, many trips to Perkins, usually two in the same day. She’d ask for the senior special and I’d order a heaping platter of chocolate chip pancakes and a large glass of tomato juice. What I remember most about those trips is my grandma’s obvious pride in me. She loved to introduce me to the widow-friends she’d meet there for breakfast, as well as every waiter and waitress in the place. She knew them all by name. She’d share with me pieces of their lives that she’d learned on other recent visits to Perkins. She taught me to be a good listener.

I remember singing full volume in Grandma’s old green pickup truck while we drove around town. My grandma took me along wherever she went. While she drove, we’d belt out classic children’s songs, one after another. “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad,” “Three Little Ducks,” and “BINGO were among our favorites. Grandma insisted it helped her stay awake I’m sure it did! but it also gave us something fun to do in the car and I looked forward to it. I could still hear her beautiful voice ringing in my mind as I carried on the tradition with my own children many years later. She taught me to make the most of every moment.

I remember my Grandma Norma driving 50 mph down the dusty, gravel road from her house. With the steering wheel in one hand and a stick of bright red lipstick in the other, she’d peek occasionally in the rear-view mirror to make sure it was applied just right. Then, she’d draw a brush a few times through her naturally wavy, gray hair and she was ready to go. She taught me to always look my best.

I remember helping my grandma sell antiques at her two-story barn turned antique shop, The Woodn Wheel.” She encouraged me to be bold. I learned to walk right up to adults of all shapes and sizes, to ask if they needed any help and show them around. She trained me how to ring up a customer’s bill and make change. She taught me to be confident.

I remember that whatever errand we had to run, Grandma greeted everyone she met with a charming smile, a pleasant word of encouragement and two listening ears. It seemed like she knew everyone, and I was proud that this was my grandma. She taught me to be friendly.

I remember spending many quiet evenings looking at her walls covered with framed black-and-white photos. I loved looking at the pictures of my mom, and her sister and brothers growing up on our family farm. But I especially loved the pictures of my grandparents when they were young. Their heartfelt love for one another radiated out of those old photos. Widowed just before her 40th anniversary, she taught me to value love and devotion.

I remember being just on the verge of womanhood and going shoe shopping with my grandma. I was a petite young lady with size 5 feet. My grandmother towered over me. She was seven inches taller and wore shoes seven sizes larger! She walked me right into a boutique shoe shop and asked the clerk for help. Grandma was looking for the largest size they carried, and I was looking for the smallest. She taught me to appreciate myself just the way I was.

I remember many years later when I was a young mom with two children. Grandma Norma had come to our home for a visit. She absolutely refused to “be a burden. Night or day, she could always be found working away at something – whether sweeping the sidewalk or washing the dishes. Now it was my turn to take care of her, but, no, she was still my grandma, teaching me lessons I needed to learn. She taught me to be a hard worker.

I remember near the end of my grandma’s life, making the long drive to visit her at a nursing home. Even though she’d lost her ability to speak clearly, she greeted everyone with a smile. Her face radiated peace like you don’t see in many people in her circumstances. Just before heading back home, Grandma got my attention, struggling to communicate with me. Holding tightly onto my arm, she looked longingly into my eyes, mouthing, “I love you.” And I knew she did. She taught me to tell those you love how you feel.

And I remember the very last time I saw her. When it was time for me to leave, Grandma was sitting in her wheelchair in the nursing home’s dining room. She waved to me through the great glass windows as I walked to my car. I knew I might not see her again. I looked in at her and waved back. She waved and waved, grinning at me through white teeth, and her trademark red lipstick. She taught me to believe that “a joyful heart is good medicine.”