Hands to the Plow, Eyes Full of Wonder

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Today’s post is written by Mom Heart writer, Katy Rose. 

A very thoughtful friend sent me a small print of The Angelus she found in an antique store, which now sits framed on my night stand.

The original meaning behind this painting is debated, but when I lie down at night and rise in the morning I’m reminded of an exhortation I heard from a pastor a while ago. As we faithfully fulfill our everyday duties and are able to recognize God in the “mundane,” we mirror the vision that the pastor cast when he said,

“Hands to the plow, eyes full of wonder.”

When I see the peasant farmers bowing in prayer over their crops, I’m reminded to work at whatever the Lord places in my day with diligence and perseverance, no matter how trivial or insignificant it may seem. Hands to the plow.

And at the same time, I’m instructed to keep my eyes fixed on the Lord, praying always to know him more fully, to understand his character and feel his magnificent, life-changing love, to glimpse his glory in the way he uses the small and humble to accomplish his work.  I can trust Him. Eyes full of wonder.

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Elisabeth Elliot writes in Keep a Quiet Heart about the everyday “drudgery” of motherhood. She reminds us to cast our burdens upon the Lord, for his yoke is easy and his burden is light.  She shares about seeing this principle in practice during her visit to the Dohnavur Fellowship in India, the orphanage founded by Amy Carmichael.  She says, “Day after day, year in and year out, Indian women (most of them single) care for little children . . . They don’t go anywhere. They have none of our usual forms of amusement and diversion.  They work with extremely primitive equipment – there is no running water, for example, no stoves but wood-burning ones, no washing machines.  In one building I saw the text: 

‘There they dwelt with the King for His work.’ ”

And the same can be true for us. We have the choice to go about our daily work begrudgingly, or to instead work for Him. Grateful hearts fixed on Him: our hands to the plow, but our eyes looking towards Him, full of wonder.

(First image source)

Katy Rose, an artist at heart, is married to her high-school prom date and mama to two smiley and non-stop little boys. A life-long journaler, her blogging adventures began in 2005 while documenting life as a newlywed in Maui, continued as she settled down in New York City for several years, and then took a new turn with babies arriving and a relocation to Oklahoma for her husband’s legal education. While living in NYC, she was employed as a project manager by a foundation that worked with domestic violence victims, and spent some time outside of work serving pregnant women short on resources and support. She and her husband also work to raise awareness about the issue of human trafficking. Katy is passionate about adoption, mercy, and her family, as well as cooking, chocolate, coffee, creating, all things European, and would never pass up a real-life, inspirational story.

Marriage and motherhood have been major tools for refinement. She’s currently clinging to God’s promise that his grace is sufficient and his power is made perfect in her weakness. You can find her writing at her blog: Embrace and Let Go

 

The Discipleship & Discipline Webinar

Over 1,000 moms joined us on the Discipleship & Discipline Webinar! If you weren’t able to attend the live course, now you can get it on-demand. If you would like to get access to the Webinar, simply click here. It was so much fun, and we are so excited to share this with you.

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Filling Your Soul With Love and Grace Divine

Claude Monet, Woman in the Garden

 

“I have loved you with an everlasting love, I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” Jeremiah 31:3

I have received thousands of responses to my blogs on child discipline lately. I see how many sweet ones there are who truly want to do the best and be the best for their children. But before I do one more post on child discipline, I just felt I wanted to tell you how very precious you are and how much your own personal life matters.

I awakened this morning with you on my heart. I know there must be many precious moms out there who are reading these articles and are feeling inadequate or guilty or condemned–or just worn out!  I have been praying for you all morning.

Motherhood is very precious to the Lord. As a matter of fact, the more I mothered, the more I came to understand Him, His love, His sacrifice, His forgiveness, His patience. Motherhood is not an easy journey. I kept feeling that I needed to have more children so I could do it right at least once!

And yet motherhood is a long journey, a hard and challenging journey, that will require much endurance with grace, much forgiveness, much patience and just a whole lot of energy expended.

You are truly important to God in the midst of it all. He sees you and cares for your dreams and desires. And so I wanted to write a little post just for you.

When I had my first baby, I had never even changed a diaper. I did not know how to hold a baby. I was unprepared for the task. I also did not know how selfish and self-absorbed I was. And I have to admit that over the years, there were many times when I did not feel loving or feel like a good mother or even feel like I wanted to *be* a mother. I was always committed to my children and always committed to loving them, because I knew God wanted me to. But I did not always like them and sometimes that made me feel guilty.

I just put one foot in front of the other because I thought that is what God wanted me to do.

So if you feel that you are not a “natural” mother, or you enjoy doing things outside your home, or you have other ambitions, please do not condemn yourself. I felt all of those feelings and had to learn how to balance the different pulls on my life. But God has loved me and led me through it all.

I know that there are so many of you precious ones with deep scars. Perhaps you came from an angry family, where you were criticized or rejected. Or maybe you were ignored and you still wish someone would notice you and love you deep inside in those places that only you can feel.

Many of you made some bad choices morally that have deeply injured your own heart. Or you have a passive and indifferent or mean and abusive husband.

You are not defined by any of these things–not by what people have said to you, not by your flaws (we all have them), and not by your past failures or present difficulties. God loves you so very much. God is with you. God is your champion.

We read that when He looked out on the multitudes, He had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Jesus sees our needs. He loves us. He cares for how each of you feel deep in your heart.

You are so very precious to God. He is on your side. He will be your warrior God in all the battles in your home. He will help you and defend you and pour out His unconditional love on you. He is the source of your strength and joy. Nothing can separate you from His love. Romans 8

There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1

The only way we can truly make it in this life productively is to tend to the garden of our own souls. The only way you can be a loving mother or friend is to have your soul filled with the deep, unchanging, unconditional love of God.

I love the picture above. I picture my soul as a garden that must be tended and cultivated and watered. If my own soul is healthy, then all who draw from my soul, will receive true nurture and strength. However, I do not know of any great women who have not been very intentional about cultivating and building themselves into godly women. They invested purposefully to become who they are.

A wise woman builds her house, but it starts with a plan!

You may find criticism from the world. But in Christ, you will find love, deep, abiding, unconditional love and all that you need for your task. But you must choose to invest your time wisely.

So what are some ways to fill your own soul so that you may have strength and love to give?

1. Surround yourself with good and godly friends.

I once heard a speaker say that he will do anything to put himself in the company of people who make Him want to love God more, who make Him want to be a better person–who inspire Him. But that he would avoid all of those who spread poison or gossip or discouragement as much as possible.

I have a friend, Phyllis, who I know will always point me to God. Just being with her is like being in the presence of the Lord’s encouragement, because she walks with Him and points me to him. Gwen is such a friend, and Deb, Shelley, Lynn, Beth and Sarah and Joy, ……….I gather these friends over the years and invest in them because they invest in me.

Find those friends, challenge a friend to be a prayer partner, to study a book together, to meet with you on a regular basis.

2. Spend time every day with the Lord. Find books, resources, people who can help you with this. (Go though the Psalms and circle or underline every promise or character quality of God. Read one chapter of John or Matthew a day and write down one lesson you have learned. Read through Philippians and note all the ways Paul tells us to follow Jesus.)

3.  Clean out your soul on a regular basis–get rid of the rubbish that has kept you from experiencing God’s love. (If we confess our sin, he is faithful and just to forgive us from our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.) Don’t hang on to bitterness or condemnation–it will poison you. I have a friend, Sarah Mae, who is dear to me as though she were a daughter. She has recently published an ebook called Core Lies, that she is offering for free. We must rid our hearts from lies that would keep us from experiencing the generous love of God.

4. Surround yourself with books, blogs, people who feed your mind on truth, who draw you to become a better self.  There are many, many women in my life who do that to me. But I wanted to point you to three of my favorites.

I love these women because they have chosen to have integrity in their lives when no one was looking. They have invested thousands of hours in the presence of God. They have chosen to love and serve Him, to always turn in the direction of faith. I know they are not perfect, but they hold fast to a Faithful God who carries them. They are also seasoned women who have chosen to faithfully love and serve their children, and husbands, even amidst challenging times. They have weathered life and from that weathering, have garnered stories of His faithfulness. Feed on their life-giving words. I do so love these women.

Brenda Nuland– a mother of two grown children, who cultivates life, beauty, goodness and faithfulness in her home.Brenda always encourages me, feeds my soul and gives me loyal friendship.

Elizabeth Foss–a sweet mother of 9 children, whose devotion to God, gentle mothering of her children, and great thoughts always challenge me. She is humble and loyal as a friend and has learned to persevere with grace.

Ann Voskamp-an artist with words and photography, who deeply cherishes her precious Lord and wants to sing his messages into the lives of those in her pathway. Her gentle, humble words are always filled with grace that she found from walking closely with Him.

5. Spend time in nature–his workshop. When I see the artistry of God, and rest in the glory of the canopy of His beauty, I find great peace. Creation was made for us. He designed the stars for us to understand His vastness–His strength and ability to be bigger than us, to show us His power. He designed color, flowers, mountains, waterfalls, snow, rain, to show us His design. When I invest time in His works of art, I am inspired to reflect His art and beauty in my home as a picture of His reality in an otherwise dark world. Creation nurtures my soul when I take time to observe it.

6. Restore, relax, recreate. Young moms need a break.(and old moms and moms of teens, and……..) They need sleep. Sometimes grumpiness or depression goes away with just a couple of good nights of sleep or time away with a friend. Moms need to have a friend who understands them and still loves them! They need to laugh and lighten up. Cultivate times of breaks in your life, times of just getting away. Don’t always be serious–it is exhausting.

Our bodies need a sabbath rest. I take my tea time every day with a candle, book or magazine. I collect videos and movies and series of stories that delight my soul. I surround myself with music everywhere–at home, in the car, at dinner, when I am in a plane. I love rhythms and movement. I make time for cherished friends. I make fun for myself with my children so that we can just laugh and play and store up humor–everyone needs a break. (Read my daughter, Sarah’s blog post from a couple of days ago–Christians need to learn how to lighten up and have fun.)

These precious ones are not just public figures to me, but in the privacy of friendship, offer such grace, humility, love and always make me want to love Him more.

This blog is way too long, but the point is, you are important. Your emotional, spiritual and physical health matters to God. If you cherish your soul and become a good steward of your needs, you will be stronger for your journey of life and more ready to meet its demands. But you are the one who must plan how to endure with grace and beauty. You must create a plan that best suits your puzzle of life. Grace and beauty and peace in the midst of it all.

 

 

Kissing the Face of God

This artwork by Morgan Weistling called Kissing the Face of God evokes awe in my heart as a mother. To think of cuddling the soft, warmth of a newborn, precious from my body and to understand that this wee one is also the transcendent who cast the universe in its place. This tiny one, God, needed the kisses and love and attention of His own mother. The print is one of many that graces this frame during advent season, and it is one of our favorites.

The artist has this to say about her print…

“This painting was first inspired by a song that I heard one day. Sometimes, hearing one phrase is all it takes, and then a flood of inspiration follows. The phrase ‘kissing the face of God’ immediately struck me with this powerful image of Mary and the Baby Jesus. It is an image that we have seen depicted many times, but never simply as a mother and her child with real tenderness. I started to contemplate the awesome privilege that Mary was given, being able to hold God in her arms, but also keeping in mind that He was still her baby. This cute little child whom she bore was also God in the flesh. And yet, she cuddled and kissed Him, just as all mothers do with their babies. This thought propelled me right into this painting which I wanted to be a very human representation of divinity. My prayer is that the viewer will be struck, as I am, with the amazing way that God chose to send His Son into this world — in pure humility.”

Mary has been on my mind lately. Our pastor delivered an insightful sermon about her Sunday. Then at the Christmas Tea for my monthly Bible study, we talked about Mary’s faith. God submitted himself to a fallen, dangerous world by becoming the most  vulnerable creature,  a baby who required protection, nurture, love and care from one He had crafted Himself.

God chose precious Mary to be His mother, the one who would daily mold the soul memories in the life of her beloved child and creator. That she would inform His earthly tastes for living; she who would worship God, her Father daily in front of her very own infant son, to share with Him in the glory God in her own home is the miracle of God incarnate, on earth as one of us.  Mary’s  humble beginnings, were from a common  family, and yet  she and Joseph were the ones entrusted to raise the son of God.

What a statement–that a normal family could be the very place holiness would be lived out, a place competent to hold and protect and shape the human side of the son of God. And so this speaks to us today–a normal family, dedicated to His life and righteousness, the place adequate to be the home of God. But there is an attribute about Mary which we may glimpse to see just what qualified her for the task.  She had invested  her life engaging in Scripture, pondering it, embracing it, owning it for her own soul.

What was Mary’s response when she met her cousin Elizabeth? Her words are recorded in Luke 1:46-55. She rejoiced! She called the Lord holy. She talked about His strength, His provision, and His help. Mary knew the God who called her to mother His Son. She called herself “His maidservant.”

This Christmas season, pray daily that He would make you His maidservant. Take time to read — really read — the Christmas story with your children, the precious ones God chose you to mother! End your reading time with a gentle kiss. May you be blessed as you minister to your sweet family.

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Congratulations to Heather Ashe and Stacie Nelson–the winners of the MOM HEART CONFERENCE DRAWING. We will be drawing for new winners in January. Stay tuned for the information on how you may enter.

Soul Stirrings

“Christmas began in the heart of God.  It is complete only when it reaches the heart of man.”

The things you put in your home bring life and love to those who pass through and those that stay. We are attracted to beauty because God is the Great Artist and we are made in His image. Christmas is the perfect time to place soul stirring pieces of beauty in your home. Some of these items, like the calligraphy quote above, can be left up all year round. This was done by my sweet friend, Elizabeth of Elizabeth Metcalf Designs.

What one decoration could you leave out to remind you of the God who loves you? May the Lord show you His beauty this week!

The House is now “Christmas-fied” according to Joy

Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that is beautiful; for beauty is God’s handwriting – a wayside sacrament.  Welcome it in every fair face, in every fair sky, in every fair flower, and thank God for it as a cup of blessing.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

The living room–the tree, wall of windows to the outdoors, lots of lights come together to make it a place of beauty.

So many words have been crafted about whether we devalue the beauty and simplicity of the Christ story through all of the contemporary ways we have marketed and made Christmas into a pagan holiday. Should we celebrate with Christmas tree and validate the pagan ways? I have prayed and pondered all of these issues over the years.

In our home, though, we use the magnificent Christmas story as one more way to celebrate God’s beauty, life, love, goodness and building memories together in our home. Home should be a haven, a storehouse, for creativity and the glory of workmanship that shows the divine spark of our ability to create an atmosphere that breathes the life of Christ. Home should encompass all that is good, inspirational, true, comforting, loving and real.

The world holds temptation and darkness. When we, as women, create an atmosphere that invites and welcomes our children, husbands and families every day, they will always see our home as a place of restoration, a haven in the storms of life. It is one of the glories of womanhood to craft, uniquely, her own home into that place that warms the hearts, stills the fears, captivates the imagination of those who live there for the glory of God.

As my older children have forayed out into this contemporary world where post modern thinking prevails, and there is temptation, darkness, cynicism on every side, they all long to come home to refuel, to find harmony with God’s design, to feel loved and to remember why they need to be warriors for His kingdom. Home art creates a legacy of memories and longings that ties the strings of our children’s hearts to our own home, values and faith, where they will return again and again to remember all that is of true value.

Creating a beautiful haven gives all who enter a place for their work, play, creating and living of life. And so, though the work is long, we seek every day, to create the beauty of His presence, not only in our words, but also in the atmosphere that supports our messages.

Child friendly–the Raggedy Dolls my mother made me as a little girl.

Swedish Elves to pull down and to pretend with on the den mantle.

A camel carrying gold, frankincense and myrrh

Interest to explore in every nook and cranny, collected and saved over the years to make this the unique, “Clarkson” haven.

Of course, beautiful books everywhere to cuddle up to read aloud together.

Beauty and candlelight adorning every available space.

A pedestal cake plate transformed into a candle-holding centerpiece.

Treasures from past days–my grandmother’s ceramic handiwork!

The nativity scene my granny hand-painted so painstakingly so long ago, is celebrated every year.

The big old copper pot on the porch that held geraniums now holds the smells and greens of the winter outdoors.

So much more, but each item lovingly placed with hopes that all who come here, especially my boys who will return home to celebrate life, will feel welcomed, embraced with the peace, beauty, and life of the Lord Jesus, who so meticulously worked to make our own home on earth such a place of beauty to behold, a soul-filling masterpiece of His own handiwork.

Peace to you this day.