Monday, October 17, 2011

Piles and Piles

It's official.  Laundry has become my nemesis.  No matter how often I do it, there's always more to do.  I sort, I wash, I dry, I fold, and I put away.

I always start out with such great intentions on "laundry day".  But sometimes, when I'm trying to get multiple loads done in one day, I forget that there are clothes in the dryer, or worse, the washer.  I get busy with the other parts of my day, or distracted by the children and their needs, or the icon on my phone letting me know I have a new email.  So I waste time and energy re-starting the dryer or rewashing the clothes in the washer.  

It's much more productive when I take it one load at a time and make sure I finish the process in one try.  I feel a sense of accomplishment when I'm able to do that instead of the frustration of remembering that I still have to deal with that load of whites that's been sitting in the washer or dryer for 2 days.

How I deal with my laundry is often how we deal with the sin and struggles in our lives.  We see it piling up around us, and we realize that once we get through one issue, there's always more to deal with.  So we think that we'll have a "laundry day" when it comes to dealing with our sin patterns or attitudes.

And we have such great intention about that don't we?  We're going to sort through all of those things in our lives and we're going to deal with them all at once so we can be done with them and moving on to bigger, better, and sinless things.  So we pray, and let God know about the plan, and we get to work.

But we take on too much when we try to deal with everything all at once.  Sure, we may be able to focus and quickly get through one or two areas, and we feel great about what we've accomplished.  But then the busy-ness of life begins to creep in.   

You get an email from a coworker that makes you feel under-appreciated.  Your children decide that listening to you is the last thing they need to do, and you feel yourself getting frustrated at their willful behavior.  Your husband forgets to tell you about that business meeting or appointment that means that you have to reschedule your day.

You forget what it was that you were working on, and those old patterns, etc make their way back into your life because you've tried to move through them too quickly.  And you've tried to do it all on your own.  Sure you let God know about your plans, but did you really ask for His help in dealing with them?  And now you've got that sin that's been left sitting in the washer, in mid-process.  What started out as beginning to be cleaned and renewed is now a wet, smelly, crumpled mess that you have to put through the washer all over again.

It's better, then, to sort through those things in your life that you need to work on, and then ask God to help you take them one at a time.  Focus on that one area, attitude, behavior, etc., and don't stop working on it until you're heart has been washed clean of it and it has been put away out of your heart.  Then praise God for the victory He's given you, and start on the next load.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Tall Order

Proverbs 31:10-12 "An excellent wife who can find?  She is far more precious than jewels.  The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.  She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life."

Wow.  A tall order indeed.  What's the first step in even beginning to accomplish something like this?  I think it's summed up in one large and weighty word, submission.

Some of you just rolled your eyes, some of you just muttered, "Oh, she's one of those."  I get it, I used to do the same thing.  I thought that being submissive was something that didn't apply to me and my marriage.  It was something that was dated and we as women had moved past that and into equality with our spouses in the authoritative role.

I was wrong.  I was wrong because that's not what God's Word says about being a wife.  Galatians 5:22-24 says, "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.  Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands."

1 Peter 3:1-2 says, "Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct."

Titus 2: 3-5 says, "Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanders or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not  be reviled."

Starting to see a pattern?  Submission is not optional, not if you believe that God's Word is truth.  Are you struggling in this area of your marriage?  Do you wonder how to live this out?  You are not alone.  Pray that God would give you a desire to be submissive to your husband as an act of obedience to Him.  See what He can do in your life and in your marriage when you choose to obey in this area.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Working Heartily

Colossians 3:23-24 "Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward.  You are serving the Lord Christ."

I recently became the worship ministry coordinator and women's ministry coordinator at my church.  This is a 12 hour a week job, at least on paper.  I rarely put in less than 20-25 hours with everything that needs to get done.

And while I now have a job that takes me outside of the home, I did not give up being a full-time, homeschooling mama of my two children.  So, I take the kids with me to the office and we do our best to get everything done with as few distractions to them or others as possible.  It doesn't always happen, but it's where God has us right now, and I'm okay with that.

That's because I love my job(s)!!  I love being a mom, I love being their teacher, and I love what I get to do in service of the Lord week in and week out.  

When I first started working at the church, I posted on my facebook account that a job in ministry is less of an employment opportunity as it is a way of life.  It's so true, and although it has its challenges, I am so blessed to be doing what I'm doing.  I don't think that words can describe the fullness and joy that my life brings me now with all that I am doing.

Okay, so my job is at a church or in my home and so it can be pretty easy to see how my work is for the Lord, but God's Word says that's how everyone should work.  Paul doesn't give this command to the pastors of the churches, but as rules for the Christian households.  So no matter what job you have, no matter if you feel it's important or worthy, no matter if it pays you well or not, do it well, because you are doing it for the Lord.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Wonderfully Woman

Mommy. Wife.  Teacher.  Homemaker.  Worship Coordinator.  Women's Coordinator.  Amy.  Woman?

As women we tend to wear a lot of hats and have many roles.  If you're like me, it's easy to find yourself losing your identity in those roles.  If I strip away all of those titles, what's left?

What remains is that I am a woman, and God created me that way.  If I'm not spending time with the Lord each day being reminded of that, then I find myself getting lost in the things I need to do for each of those roles.  I end up looking at my tasks, checking off what I can, and moving onto the next thing.

And we like to make our many jobs look good don't we ladies?  We also want our many jobs to make us look good.  We begin looking for our value and our worth in what we are doing, instead of in the word of God.  We brag about our children's accomplishments; we work hard to have our houses cleaned, not to fight with our husbands (at least not in public), and misplace the work we are doing for the Lord for a relationship with Him.

Proverbs 31: 30 says, "Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised."

God doesn't desire for us to do any old good thing, He desires us to be doing His good things.  We can't do that if we're so busy with everything we feel we have to do that we can't hear what God is calling us to do.  A relationship with the Lord includes a healthy fear of Him and who He is in our lives.  It includes spending time with Him and listening to what He is calling you to do, even if it means giving up some of our titles and the praise and esteem that goes with them.

Trust who you are as a woman of God.  Let Him fill you up until you overflow, and watch Him change every part of your life for the better. so that you are not just a woman, but a godly woman; not just a wife, but a godly wife; not just a mother, but a godly mother, etc.  I think you get the idea.

Psalm 139:14 "I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well."

Monday, October 10, 2011

Domestic Mondays

After a few months of a break from this whole blogging thing, I've decided to give it another shot, but with a new mindset.  I want to share more of what God is teaching me each and everyday by what's going on in my life those days.
Mondays are supposed to be my "day off".  I work as the Worship Coordinator and Women's Ministry Coordinator at my church, so much of my week is spent in preparation for our Tuesday Night Bible Study and our Worship Service on Sunday mornings.
Therefore, Mondays are to be my Sabbath in a sense, and it is, at least from the church office.  However, when you are a full-time homeschooling Mama, there's no such thing as a day off.  Instead, of being my "day off", Mondays are my day to be at home.
It's the day I clean the house, do the laundry, and make sure I know what we're doing for school for the week.  

It's the day I spend making apple pie filling with all of the apples we picked last weekend at the orchard or letting the kids get out the craft and art supplies and go nuts with the colored pipe cleaners and squiggly eye stickers.

It's the day we alternate between going to see my Mother-in-Love or having friends over for dinner.

So for the kids and I, it is our Sabbath, our day of rest, from the busyness that is our lives outside of our four walls and focus on what's inside. 

Proverbs 31: 27  "She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness."

Thursday, July 14, 2011

That First Week in January

We stayed up near my mother-in-law, or as I affectionately call her, Mama T, for a week after the stroke.  My sister,Danielle, had brought my children up to my mother about 25 minutes away, and I drove back and forth almost everyday  between the hospital and my kids.  That was until my van broke down mid-week. 

I was in Sycamore (where the kids were) with my other sister, Jes, who had come down from Wisconsin to help my mom watch the kids, when the temperature gauge on my van went to "H" and began lurching down the road.  We managed to pull into a parking lot, turned off the engine and Jes went out to investigate while I called my mom to come and pick us up.  At that point Jes got back in the van and reported that there was greenish liquid coming out from underneath my van; that would be radiator fluid.

Let me stop and explain a few things at this point.  Brian and I barely lived paycheck to paycheck at this point, and it was the middle of a pay period, so there was no money to get the van fixed right then.  We had been surviving the week off of some gift cards we had been given by my father-in-law for Christmas and the generosity of friends and family in the area for food, extra clothes, etc.  God was so in the middle of this crisis and carrying us through, it was amazing.  

So, my van is broken, stuck in a parking lot, and yet I could care less.  Why??  Because my Mama T had just suffered a stroke and there were more important things on my mind than my van running at that point.  But God had even this under control.  If my van had broken down before that time, I would have been driving out in the middle of the country, by myself, on a freezing midwest January day.  Or had this happened the week before at home, it would have devastated me emotionally.

But no, it happened where my mom could be to the kids, my sister, and I in less that 10 minutes.  My husband was using Mama T's car for the week, so he could come to us, limp the car the 1.5 miles back to my mom's, and drive me back.  Oh, and Jes' husband, Phillip...he's a mechanic.  He would be driving out in a few days to pick her up and take her home and could fix the van in Mom's garage for the cost of parts.  By then, it would be payday.

We drove home in a newly repaired van feeling like we had aged about 10 years in just a week.  We didn't understand how anything could be the same, how we could go back to doing our "normal" life after everything that had happened.  Little did we know....

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Let's Start at the Beginning

Well, at the beginning of this year anyway.  It is safe to say that 2011 is nothing like we ever thought it would be.  God has used some extraordinary events to bring us to exactly where He wants us to be.  Let's go back to January 1, 2011.  That's the day a bomb was dropped on us.  Not a physical, literal bomb, but an event that has forever changed our lives.  

My husband, Brian, and I were just sitting down to watch a movie after putting the kids to bed when we got "the" phone call.  My sister-in-law, Stacy (Brian's brother's wife), called and told us that Brian's mom had had a stroke.  After a few frantic phone calls back and forth, we learned that we needed to head out from our home in Davenport, IA and rush to the hospital in Elgin, IL (about a 2 1/2 hour drive) because there was a possibility that she wouldn't make it through the night.

We hastily threw a few things into a bag, got someone to come and stay with our children, and drove as fast as we safely could to the hospital where my mother-in-law lay in critical condition fighting for her life.  I remember praying as I drove, "Lord, please spare her.  But Lord, if you are going to take her, please let it be after we get there.  Let us be able to see her one last time and say good-bye."

We arrived at the hospital about 1am to find her sedated, hooked up to monitors, IV's, and a ventilator.  It was then that Brian and I were given the full story of what had happened and the severity of her situation.  There was a 40% chance that she would not survive the first 24 hours.  We sat by her bed, we prayed for God's healing touch and we waited.  

She survived the first 24 hours, but the outlook still wasn't great.  She had suffered a massive hemorrhagic stroke, the more rare and deadly type of stroke.  There was swelling of her brain caused by a large pool of blood.  She was bleeding into her brain, and we didn't know when or if it would stop.  

There would be long-term effects from the stroke.  What those were and how severe they would be were still unclear at that time, but one thing was for sure: her life as she knew it, as any of us knew it, was gone.

Monday, July 11, 2011

A Reason Why

Strength, love, laughter, and joy.  These are the things that I see all around me.  

They are also the meanings of the names in our family:  My husband, Brian, his name means "strength".  His strength and dedication to his family amaze me everyday.  My name, Amy, means "loved" or "beloved".  As a wife and mom, I do my best to pour out my life and love onto my husband and children.  My son Isaac's name means "laughter".  Anyone who has ever had the pleasure of meeting him knows that he giggles consistently throughout the day.  Finally, my daughter Abigail's name means "joy".  She has been our joy since the day she was born, and her middle name is Joy too, a double blessing for sure.

We are the Osters and this is our story.  It is a story of strength, love, laughter, and joy.  We have had our trials, our painful circumstances, our ups and downs, but through it all we see God working in us and through us.  I hope this can bless you in some way as you read.

Some of the things I will share will be reflections of our past and how God has brought us to where we are now, some things will be things that God is teaching us in the midst of our current circumstance, but much of what you will see here will be how we live our life depending on God's strength and love so that we can see the laughter and joy in any situation.