The Ministry of the Ordinary Life

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There is much beauty to ponder at Christmas. The beauty of the Christ Child coming to earth to save the souls of men–His name shall be called Immanuel, God with us.

As the holiday season comes to a close, it is so wonderful to remember that Jesus is with us every day of our lives. He is in the warp and woof of the everyday life; He is the fabric of our essential being. This is one of my favorite parts of Christianity, the fact the we have the Holy Spirit who dwells in each of us and helps us to walk out the Christian life. We are never alone; Christ makes His home in our hearts.

As I reflect on the New Year, I find myself thinking about the days to come and wondering what my heart desires to fill each of them with this coming year. At the core of my thoughts and dreams is a desire to make a difference for the Lord.  I think that, as Christians, most of us would say this is our desire, but for the most part our daily lives get in the way of what we think holiness and serving the Lord should look like.

So much of the time, our hearts want to minister, to make a difference for the Lord, but we find ourselves knee-deep in the music of the everyday life: laundry, cleaning, meals, sibling squabbles, sick children, discipling our children, listening to our children, helping in-laws to feel connected to the children, meals needed for friends, and making time for our sweet husbands… just to name a few.

My desire is to challenge each of us to readjust our thinking, to realize that these things, the seemingly insignificant things of life, are the notes that make the music of our ministry. This is the time in our life where we are creating our greatest symphony of ministry, our grand Opus.

What if we all looked at our lives differently? What if we all could be like Brother Lawrence, a monk who live 300 years ago and taught about the presence of God being in the ordinary life and said “The time of work,”  he said, “does not with me differ from the time of prayer.  In the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great a tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the Blessed Supper.” Brother Lawrence had the uncanny ability to look at each activity or chore he did as worship unto the Lord, as his ministry of the everyday life.

Scripture says this perfectly in Colossians 3:17: “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

And Jesus simplified this concept of the ministry of the everyday life when he said, “This is My command: Love one another as I have loved you.”  John 15:12

Beloved, may I suggest that we all look at our lives differently this year? May I suggest that we walk with Jesus, one day at a time, and pray for God to give us a heart for everyday, ordinary ministry? We could all pray at the beginning of each day for the Lord to help us to be others-centered, humble, and aware of the needs of those around us, to see the hearts of the people God has placed us with, and to know how to minister to them in a way they feel loved.

Here are some simple ways I have found to truly bless the people God has placed in our lives:

1. Hug your children and tell them each something you love about them. Look them in the eyes when you talk to or listen to them. Make time in your day to just be available for your children. A good saying is “Put down the work and pick up the child.”

2. Text your husband at work and tell him that you are so proud of him and some of the reasons why. Better yet, make known the fact that you are very attracted to him.

3. Take your teenager out for lunch or coffee and ask them how their heart is doing. (Ask God ahead of time for the ability to see your child’s heart and what they might be struggling with or concerned about)

4. Try to get in the habit while your children are young of asking them to sit with you at the end of each day to tell you all about how they are doing, and what’s on their minds, even if it’s trivial or silly. This habit comes in handy when your children are old enough to drive, and will automatically know that when they get home you will want to sit with them and hear all about their day. It’s important to know the details of your children’s lives and how their friendships are doing and how their hearts are.

5. Call a friend or family member to pray, even if it’s just a quick 5 minute prayer. Let them know that you will be keeping them in your prayers that day.

6. Send a note to a friend telling her what you love about her and how she has blessed your life.

7. Double one of your meals to keep in the freezer to take to a friend when she is having a bad day.

8. Pray a silent prayer for people you see when you are out and about during your day- the cashier at the store the next time you buy groceries, the mom of the child that is throwing a fit at the mall, the homeless man on the street corner, or anyone the Holy Spirit brings to mind to pray for. Ask God to give you a heart of compassion for the people around you so you will know how to pray.

9. Have the children make a card for their Grandparents. Also, Skype can help them to feel connected to their grandchildren if they are far away.

10. Make time for your friends. Pray for your friendships; for God to strengthen and protect them. Ask God to heal the ones that are strained or broken. Have a friend over for a quick cup of tea. Light a candle, put on some beautiful music, and have a cookie or simply a piece of delicious chocolate. God-ordained friendships are worth the effort, and close, lifelong friendships are a blessing.

These things may seem small and insignificant, but they make up a beautiful life and encouraging ministry to those the Lord has entrusted you with.

What are some small  ways you create beautiful and minister to those in your life? 

A Dayspring Exclusive for You, Our Readers at Itakejoy!

EXCITING UPDATE: Dayspring marked down the entire Love Came Down line today (12/6) by 60%!  That means you can use my code, TakeJoy30, to get an additional 30% off those incredible prices!!  Please note: this code is only good on the Love Came Down line.

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As the year winds down towards its end and we all make our preparations for celebrations, gifts, and traveling, I am happy to let you in on a little secret.  (Shhhhhhh!)

Dayspring is offering an exclusive code just for you, my dear readers and friends!  For one week only, December 4 through 10, you can use the code TakeJoy30  to get 30% off anything from the Love Came Down Collection.

This beautiful line of gifts is fun–serving a Christmas cup of tea with a lovely design in dishes in  festive cups!

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The teapot and tea cups would make a lovely gift for a friend, or to set your table for an intimate Christmas teatime with your loved ones.

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This adorable plate makes me want to have tea time every day, just so I can see these cute little red birds!

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Of course, for my hot chocolate drinking friends, there is this red mug as well.  Don’t forget to use your exclusive code, TakeJoy30, to receive 30% off anything from the Love Came Down collection between December 4 and December 10.

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Another collection from Dayspring that I think would make splendid gifts are these new wall plaques called Lyrics for Life.  Each plaque has lyrics from a worship song, artistically arranged on a wall hanging.  (In Christ Alone is one of my favorite songs.) Having the truths of scripture in front of our eyes and in our minds each day, can deeply impact us.  Music and worship are an integral part of the Clarkson family heritage and traditions.

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This song, Mighty to Save, is one that we sing each year during our conferences.  It is strikingly powerful to hear hundreds of women lifting their voices in song together.  What a reminder!

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The Peanuts Christmas Special is a tradition in many families.  Little ones would enjoy setting up and rearranging and rearranging and rearranging this cute felt nativity.

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These hairpins are a bargain for less than five dollars.  A lovely reminder to a young woman that she is a daughter of the king! And a great stocking stuffer.

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And for the young men in your life, this mug is a proclamation of God’s truth for them!  Fill it with candy or another treat, and you have a simple and pleasant gift. One of my favorite passages that I made my boys memorize.

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For those of you with toddlers that enjoy coloring, Crayola now offers a coloring book to go along with the sweet books, The Princess Parables. (Written by one of my dear friends.)77644

And lastly, this book is a family favorite.  It tells the story of the three trees that will becomes Jesus’ manger, boat and cross.  This recordable book has your own voice reading the story as the child turns the pages.  A meaningful gift for any child, but especially a grandchild that lives far away from extended family or a child with a parent on a military deployment.

May you enjoy this season of giving! And don’t forget to use your coupon code, TakeJoy30, on anything from the Love Came Down Collection between December 4 and December 10, 2013.

Thanks, Dayspring, for giving Itakejoy this opportunity!

 

Passing On the Gift of Hospitality

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I love to cook, plan events, and invite people into my home.  Though some might call this a “gift” of hospitality, it really is something I caught growing up. First of all, it was something my mom and grandmother modeled. They are Italian and immigrated to the United States when my mom was a young girl.  My grandmother never had the chance to go to school— and so to this day is illiterate and because of that never learned to speak English.  Yet, she is the best cook I’ve ever met and has hundreds of recipes committed to memory. Her greatest delight in life is to cook up a feast for family and friends and to gather them around her table. Often, as the holidays approach, she will begin cooking several days in advance—waking up before sunrise to begin her sauces, bake crusty bread, roast sweet bell peppers for salad, make meatballs, and bake ricotta wheat berry pies. She had 11 kids, and family get-togethers today can easily number over a hundred people, though my grandma, mom and aunts still do all of the cooking! They take such pride in each dish—using only the finest ingredients, sometimes even making trips to specialty markets that are an hour away. It is a labor of love. These dinners consist of several courses and go on for hours—and laughter and merrymaking abound. Around the table relationships are nurtured, stories are shared, the family bonds run deep.

Don’t underestimate the power of a shared meal!

When I was in college I was asked by a couple of friends to start hosting the church small group I was a part of, which they were leading. The group had been meeting for over a year yet the atmosphere was not intimate. People weren’t opening up; no one really knew one another. The group needed a new place to meet, so I agreed to host and at the time didn’t even own a couch or comfortable place for people to sit! The only thing I did differently as the host was to serve food every week, and always something simple because my budget was very tight. As people ate together, something beautiful happened. They relaxed and lingered in conversation. They started to open up about their lives, hurts, joys, and struggles.  It became an intimate community as the Lord worked in and through each of us and knit us together. This idea of “breaking bread” is God’s idea and design. Jesus chose the setting of a shared meal—the last supper—to give his most intimate exhortation and a farewell to his disciples. Throughout scripture there is a theme of God preparing a place and a table for his people.

As a young adult, my vision of hospitality continued to expand as I spent several years in missions. I saw how other cultures practiced hospitality and learned from a missionary organization that deeply valued hospitality. Again, it all was more caught than taught as I spent time in the homes of both foreign locals and missionaries, saw how others practiced hospitality, and then copied what I saw them doing. Some of the most generous people I met were those with the most limited resources.

Here are a few practical ways to involve your kids in hospitality:

-If you have overnight guests, it is fun to prepare a small basket of snacks and drinks (such as a bottled water or even some tea bags with mini electric tea kettle and mug) in their room. Hospitality involves a sensitivity to other’s needs (whether physical or otherwise). Many guests would not want to trouble their hosts for a snack so this way they have something if the mood arises. It is nice to include a little welcome note with an encouraging prayer or verse the Lord puts on your heart for them.  Kids can put the basket together and/or design the card.

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-Another fun option is to leave a small gift in the guest’s room. This gesture lets them know they are loved, thought of, and prepared for. Your kids can help you select something and can wrap it or put it in a gift bag. Older women and grandmas—I know of one empty-nester who, when hosting out-of-town guests with small children, leaves a basket of games, toys, books, or coloring supplies in the guest room for the little ones. This is especially thoughtful when there would otherwise be nothing for them to do around the house.

-We love to buy a bouquet of fresh flowers when we know we will have guests. We’ve also started a small flower garden so my girls can cut and create their own bouquets. They love to arrange flowers and display them on the dining room table. But hospitality doesn’t only occur when hosting company. It is an attitude of welcoming others into your life and extending friendship and generosity, perceiving others’ needs and making yourself available to love on, listen to, and care for others. We love to keep $1 Walmart bud vases on hand so that if a friend or neighbor is sick we can place even a single bloom in it to be delivered to brighten their day.

- As you prepare your home for any company, take a couple minutes to pray together for your guests and the time you will spend together. Pray that they would feel welcomed and loved—that it would be a picture to them of the Father’s love. Pray for relationships to be strengthened and for the conversation to be an encouragement to one another. Ask God to help you be sensitive and available to their needs. Pray too for the children that will be visiting!

-If you are hosting a meal, you could have your kids set the table and make place cards. As a new mom it would at times stress me out to let the kids help with anything because it wouldn’t be done “right”. With God’s grace and help I’ve learned to let that go so it is now about giving them those important experiences.

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-Include children in food preparations. My 6 year old loves to make salad. She chops veggies using a crinkle cutter, which is less sharp and easier to handle than a knife. Both of my girls (6 and 4) love to make cookies, scones, breads, or other treats to serve friends.

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-Chose an easy but delicious meal to make. A nice meal communicates honor to your guests— it says “you are worth it to me.” Throughout the Bible there are stories of people bringing out the best ingredients to honor and serve their guests. It’s how God treats us— he doesn’t skimp or hold back, his love is expressed lavishly. He prepared our environment in such a way for us to fully enjoy it using all of our senses.  But even when resources are limited, you can offer what you do have to bless those around you.

Here is one of my grandma’s recipes for an Italian style pot-roast. Very easy but so delicious— perfect to warm bellies on a cold day and one of my go-to meals for serving guests:

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Mamas, hospitality isn’t only for guests; the hospitality you show to your own kids will greatly impact them and give them a model to imitate. I was recently reading an out-of-print book— containing reflections on motherhood, and was struck by the introduction, a letter from the author to her mother:

“The emphasis on daily meals may have been nutrition (little appreciated by us), but then there was always Sunday noon dinner. No company was ever treated better than us! The appetizer was served on a silver tray in the living room—fruit juice with a blob of sherbet and wafers. In the dining room we ate our “company meal” from our finest china and silver and finished it off with a spectacular dessert tantalizingly displayed on a pedestal server. And you served tea from the lusterware tea set in a performance equaled only by a traditional Japanese tea ceremony! I suspect now that you were creating an atmosphere for the leisurely sharing of ideas and good conversation.

How we anticipated the holidays and special days—each and every one. You took these occasions and turned them into events which instantly were declared Traditions… Then there was my birthday, that one special day set aside to celebrate my being alive! The pink heart cake for my “almost Valentine” birthday, the florist arriving with a nosegay of fresh violets, a dainty heart-shaped box or violet-related gift. To this day violets, hearts, and the color pink in some way remind me that I’m someone special.”

Mamas, may you be blessed with joy and relationships that run deep as you gather loved ones around your tables, and may you know what a gift your life is to those around you.

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Join me!

In light of some happenings in the news lately, I want to start quarterly encouragement for moms for short/free/conferences–and longer e-conferences. We will talk about: why motherhood is so hard, how to built a defense against discouragement, breathing in peace. And how to stay the course.

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Christmas is Coming–I’m having fun gathering presents for all my peeps!

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As each year rolls around to summer, I begin my hunt for suitable presents for my friends and loved ones to tell show just a tiny gesture of how I appreciate and love them–and for something that fits their personality and preferences. Our family considers that a part of our Christmas tradition is letting our closest friends and family how thankful we are for them–this is our friend affirming time.

And so we make giving love and appreciation to those we love a gesture. I love small gifts the best because we focus on a stocking full of surprises for our sweet ones in our home.  My girls always get some sort of jewelry in their stockings.

Dayspring is one place I know I can find meaningful, Christ-centered ideas and just order from my home!

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This year, a friend gave me the book Jesus Calling and often I read it once a day to be encouraged by the heart of God’s heart and love. I found this journal of hers and am pondering getting it for Joy as the girls also ask for a journal each year.

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I have scripture and sayings and photos all over my house. Love messages on the walls that I think/hope go into the kids’ minds and hearts.

 

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Also, of course, I love to give gifts to my kids that speak to them of the messages I am telling them on a daily basis. And I found these on sale!

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This countdown calendar is adorable.  It can be used for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter to bring an element of fun and joy to the anticipation of these holidays.

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Every child loves to hear a parent’s voice reading a special story.  This recordable storybook enables a parent to record his/her voice which the child can then listen to over and over and over.

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Do you have any letters on your walls yet?  This is a popular and simple way to decorate a wall or mantle.

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This set of letters spells out “Redeemed,” a reminder we each need every day!

Do you need an inexpensive gift?  This mug has a heartfelt message and would be a lovely, yet thrifty gift.

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Just a few of the little treasures I am considering for my special peeps this year. I have enjoyed having a place to order that actually has some of the messages I love!

What special gifts and traditions do you turn to this time of year?  What do your grown children tell you were their most special holiday memories?

Flipped to Perfection–Just turn your cake or attitude around

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Sunday morning Feasts Have become a regular event in our family!

I have so enjoyed the Webinars the past couple of nights. Lots of moms have asked how you communicate love to children. My children all say that the “feasts” we had every day were one thing that tied them together. Whether we had pancakes, toast and cheese or a a fancy meal, we always lit candles, even out on the deck, and put on music and made each meal a celebration.

This was the time for sharing about our day, telling Dad about the bug we caught or the incident with the skinned knee. All children were asked personal questions and no one was ever allowed to make fun of the answers.

Food is something God gave us for pleasure. And so using meals, snack times, what I call “tea time” discipleship (more on that later), all eating became a time of sharing life, fun, stories.

Were there times when they all fussed and knocked over a glass of juice and had bad attitudes. Of course, but even as little ones, they all loved the candle light, and music and loved having us ask each of them a question about their day.

Pancakes are one of the favorite Sunday meals–sometimes I add grated apple, Sarah and I have pecans in ours and at special times, we even added chocolate chips.

Enjoy!

Synonyms for flip:
Switch, change, turn.

Perfecting pancakes can be quite an art form. In my earlier years of practice, I burnt many cakes that my taste buds had high hopes for. A lot of it has to do with a sudden flip…the quick turn of the wrist which sends the buttery cake flying onto the other side.

Why do we flip pancakes? If they remain on one side for too long, they will burn. Each side finishes it’s process, and when it is time for a change, you must react quickly and carefully.

As I set out all of the ingredients I’ll need to make my pancake batter this morning, my mind is swirling thinking about how our attitudes need the same kind of quick attention when we tend to our children. Just as we have high hopes for our pancakes, we set the bar and hope to be incredible super-moms. But how do we react when we fall short?

Much like making pancakes, we want every move we make as mothers to be perfect and flawless. But when one side becomes a little too toasty, or a day is filled with uncontrollable circumstances, we sometimes just stay on the side of anxiety, sizzling and burning, rather than making the difficult, but necessary, decision to flip and start over.
Enjoy this delicious pancake recipe, and make the decision this morning as you flip your perfect pancakes to also flip your attitude into one that will glorify God and honor your children.

Heart Healthy Whole Wheat Pancakes

1 cup milk
2 tsp sugar
1 cup whole wheat flour (I grind my grains and store them in the freezer for freshness–brown rice, millet, spelt, corn and oats have been ground together with wheat to give a more whole grain bread or cake. Sometimes no one even knows!
1 tbsp vinegar (I love using apple cider vinegar, but white wine vinegar will do as well)
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp melted butter
butter for greasing the griddle
1 egg

*Combine your vinegar and milk, and let them curdle while you mix together the other ingredients.
*Grab a big bowl and whisk to combine the whole wheat flour, salt, sugar, baking soda, and baking powder.
*In another bowl, whisk the melted butter, egg and the curdled milk, until it looks smooth. Whisk the wet mixture into the dry ingredients, and stir the two together until just barely mixed. You want any visible loose flour to be completely stirred in, but if you still see lots of lumps, that means you’re doing it right. If you stir out all the lumps, the pancakes will be pretty tough.
*Preheat your skillet or griddle to 375 degrees F and grease it with butter. Add small scoops of pancake batter. Cook for a few minutes, until you start to see little bubbles forming on the surrounding edges. *Flip the pancakes with your spatula and cook for a few minutes on the other side, until you peek underneath and see that the bottom is golden brown.

Remember: practice makes perfect. Don’t get frustrated if every cake doesn’t turn out flawlessly. Keep trying & keep flipping.

Enjoy!

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