Encouragement Worth Sharing

We recently reclaimed our master bedroom after 7 months of having two adorable little roommates.  Those babies stayed a lot longer than we originally planned, and their sleeping schedules made it nearly impossible to keep our room tidy and fresh.  It felt awesome to clean, de-clutter, vacuum, and regain hope that it can again be a place for us to relax and unwind as a couple!

Are you too Christian for Non-Christians?
I am often deceived by the rampant excuses surrounding my lack of authentic relationships with people who don't share my faith.  This article that appeared on Desiring God's blog had some excellent and practical steps for making those relationships intentional.  Brad and I are talking about our struggle to engage with people when it's not comfortable to us, and we want to see ways to love our neighbors, acquaintances, and family members to minister the love of Christ.   It's easy for me to sit behind a computer and speak the gospel, but much harder to invest in a flesh and blood relationship with a heart of evangelism.

Secret Church - Angels, Demons, and Spiritual Warfare
This series by David Platt is one of the best I've ever encountered about these topics.  It's biblical, thorough, and is basically like listening to an audio version of systematic theology.  Each part of the series is about 1 hour, and I was able to digest it over the course of several days.  Once I started, it was hard to stop listening until I heard his conclusion.  I don't spend much time pondering these topics, but they are really a crucial part of the Christian life.  It's a wonderfully encouraging and challenging teaching series!

Finally, I'll be taking (at least) a 4 week break from blogging!  Here are some of the reasons...
  • I'm potty training Lewis, and a mom can only do so much when she is trying to stay the course with perseverance to the task ahead!  (lots of wiping floors and laundry in my future...)
  • Brad is going into his busiest 6 weeks of the entire year at work.  Since he is my resident "editor", I'm hoping to take at least one thing off of his plate by taking a break with blog posts.
  • I've been writing on this blog (more intentionally) for almost a year now.  When I started, I was just dabbling in a lot of topics, but I've seen the content and direction really evolve in the last few months.  I want to take this opportunity to evaluate my mission and purpose in writing, so I can (by God's grace) provide consistently encouraging content that is true to God's word.
  • Blogging (especially "Christian" blogging) can have some unique temptations.  On one hand, I'm excited to share the message of the gospel, but it's very easy to get sucked into self-centeredness and self-glorification.  Taking an intentional break will be an opportunity to continue examining my heart so I can do this for God's fame and not my own.
  • Finally, it's critically important to me that the time I spend blogging about motherhood, womanhood, and marriage never compromises my ability to live out those truths in real life.  Developing good / sound content is often time consuming, and I want to prayerfully set up healthy boundaries for the time that it takes.
Thank you SO much for your support and encouragement!  I'll see you back end of July / early August!  If there are any topics you would like to see discussed in the coming year, please comment or email me at fromthejensens@gmail.com.  I would also love to hear how God is encouraging you through this blog and how I can serve you as a reader in the future.  Have a wonderful July!

(I posted this on my Facebook Page, but if you are on Twitter - I finally came out of the dark ages and decided to join the conversation.  Follow @fromthejensens)

Monday, According to the Spirit

Today was one of those mornings where I looked up from my quiet time to see my toddler rubbing chapstick in his hair (let's overlook the fact that I made a rookie move and handed it to him minutes earlier).  It was a morning to down coffee as quickly as possible, because even though the baby that was up all night was now sleeping soundly, I did not fare so well.  It was a morning of children with low fevers and turning on Sesame Street earlier than I planned.  But I was desperate to hear God's truth and to find the peaceful relief found in His word.

Flip to Romans.  Yes, I can find the gospel in Romans.  Romans 8.

I was looking for the same old refreshing message...I am not condemned.  Therefore, no guilt chapstick giving, Sesame Street mom!  But this was not the message the Lord wanted to share with me for Monday.  Instead I hovered over verse 5, pondering anew its treasures:

"For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit."  ESV

Scribbling on the back of my to-do list, I started writing...What does it really mean to live "according to" the Spirit?  It's always those little transitional words and phrases that give meaning to the big concepts I long to embrace.

Agree - Conform - Depend
"According to" (the phrase) has three applicable meanings:  in agreement with or in accord with a judgement or person, in conformity with something, or depending on a thing or person

The lightbulbs start to flicker.

A person who lives according to the Spirit...
Agrees with the Spirit:  The Spirit at work in me gives me the ability to live and be motivated in a way that affirms God's goodness and the truth of His word.
Conforms to the Spirit:  The Spirit at work in me gives me the ability to align my will and my actions in a way that displays the gospel and the glory of God.
Depends on the Spirit:  The Spirit at work in me gives me the ability to rest not in my own good works, but in the power of God to will and to do every good thing because of His grace.

Strength for the day
Instead of snapping at my toddler in my frustration, according to the Spirit, I can respond in patience and love with correction.
Instead of wallowing in the pile of cereal on the carpet, according to the Spirit, I can diligently pick it up and be thankful for children who spill and make messes.
Instead of feeling defeated before my first cup of coffee, according to the Spirit, I can trust God's sovereign plan and good purposes for my day.

The Holy Spirit gives real power for my life and my day.  The message of the gospel is not just that I  have escaped condemnation, but that through the blood of the Lamb, I have access to the same grace that gave Jesus the ability to serve and love God.

With that, I can go forward and live abundantly on this Monday - already full of toys, sickness, messes, and overflowing to-do lists.

How do you plan to live according to the Spirit today?

5 Reasons for Motherhood

Wrong Assumptions About Motherhood
If I step out of the mental vortex of motherhood for a minute, I can remember what it felt like to be a young woman looking ahead to the stage of babies and young children.  Honestly, besides acknowledging that I wanted to be a mother "someday", I thought it looked pretty bleak.  From an outsiders perspective, moms don't get very much glory.  It seems like after they have babies, they get tunnel vision and can't talk about anything but their kids.  They post lots and lots of pictures of their children doing seemingly ordinary things on social media, with too many smiley faces in the captions.  Every fitness magazine speaks to the herds of mothers who have body image issues because it's near impossible to get your pre-baby body back.  Practical options, like driving a minivan, seem to outweigh decisions based on pleasure and recreation.  Women who used to seem driven and accomplished can appear frazzled and lonely.  Why would you want to become a mom when this is the picture our world gives?  Luckily, I was around some pretty wonderful moms too who gave me a better image of the purpose of motherhood, and through God's leading, Brad and I decided to pursue having children earlier than we originally planned.

Once I had a baby, I started to understand moms.  They made sense...the pictures, the minivans, the baby weight.  I was living the reality day in and day out, and I felt guilty for judging something I knew little about.  But I still didn't have a good understanding of why women should desire to become moms.  You sacrifice a ton, you don't hear thank you (at least until they can do sign language and you can direct them to thank you), and although you are overwhelmed with love for a little person, there are still a multitude of challenges.

Biblical Reasons for Motherhood
Almost two years and three kids later, I'm starting to understand the "why" behind motherhood and the more I embrace it, the more I feel a deep contentment and joy with even the greatest challenges before me.  I want to share this list with you, because I think women (married and un-married) would have better expectations and heart attitudes about motherhood if they understood what it has to do with God's plans for his kingdom.  So here is a completely non-extensive list of things I've learned about God's purpose and reason for motherhood.

Why would you want to become a mother?
1.  Because God calls it a blessing:
This is something you have to believe by faith if you can't believe it by watching other moms.  You have to acknowledge this as true, because the bible says it is.  Just like you can't understand what it's like to be married when you are engaged, you can't understand the love and joy of motherhood (completely) until you are a mom.  Yes, it's weighty and difficult, but isn't that true of most of our real blessings in life?
2.  Because we are called to spread the gospel to the next generation:  
If you want to disciple and train up the next generation in the ways of the Lord, spend nearly 24/7 with a little person, laying down your life and pouring truth into them every day.  Think about how much influence your parents had on you growing up (for good or for evil), and be in awe at the amount of influence you can have on your own children. Becoming a mom is an incredible way to leave a deep impact for Jesus as you minster and teach a few really well.  
3.  Because it's part of God's purpose for marriage*:  
God meant for Adam and Eve to multiply.  Sexual intimacy in marriage is for pleasure, but it's also for creating children.  There is something wonderfully weighty and intimate about sex when you realize that your "pleasure" (that is mostly self-serving) is capable of producing something self-sacraficing.  When lived out biblically, a family is an extremely beautiful picture of God's headship, Christ's submission, and grace for sinners.
4.  Because it will sanctify you:  
You might think you are pretty selfless, until a baby comes along and steals your sleep, a toddler follows you everywhere (even to the bathroom), and you literally give up your body so that someone else can have growth and nourishment.  Suddenly, your self-worship bares it's ugly head, and you see how much you love being served instead of serving.  Not to mention, every time you tell your child, "You need to obey mommy" you hear God whispering, "You need to obey too, dear daughter."
5.  Because it will bring you joy:  
There is no describable love that I can compare to the feeling of love you have for your children.  It's different than how you love your husband or your mom or your best friend.  It's an unconditional, "you could pretty much do anything, and even if I was mad, I would still love you and want the best for you" kind of love.  It's an all-consuming love that never grows cold or tired, even when it's annoyed or frustrated.  It's a weighty love that realizes great responsibility and impact.  It's a gracious love that helps you better understand how God loves us.  Each milestone, moment, and piece of them brings you joy.

For those of you who still aren't convinced, hopefully you will seek what the bible says so you can better understand the weight and purpose of motherhood.  It's not something to be taken for granted (nor are the children God does give us).  Every bit of mothering that we get is a treasure and a blessing, even though the children don't ultimately belong to us, but to the Lord.

*I wanted to caveat this because there are probably some reading this thinking, "I DO WANT TO BECOME A MOTHER BUT I CAN'T!"  There are many reasons for this...miscarriage, infant loss, infertility, singleness, divorce, a husband who doesn't want children or isn't ready...and probably more reasons that I don't even know about.  This is deeply sad, and little grieves my heart more than knowing someone who desperately wants to become a mother, and yet, she is not given this privilege for sometimes unknown reasons.  This is sad and unfair and it isn't the way God originally created things to be.  Sin has ruined, destroyed, and touched every part of humanity and unfortunately it has complicated the issue of motherhood just like everything else.  I can't pretend that there isn't deep suffering experienced by those who long to become a mother (or have more children), but I do know that there is a God who loves you and there is hope in Jesus.  Maybe not answers or an easy road, but there is hope of a joy-filled and content life in the waiting.  So if you don't need convincing that motherhood is a joy and a blessing but you are still denied it, please pray and pour your heart out to the Lord where you can seek refuge.

*Secondly, I want to caveat this because sometimes in marriage there are reasons to wait to have children.  I can't go through the good reasons (and the not so good reasons) in this post, but I want to acknowledge that it's still important to have right thinking about motherhood even if you aren't called to it yet.  I wasn't serving mothers around me very well when I was thinking of motherhood as a bleak and frustrating calling, only to be accepted because it's the next thing on life's to-do list.  Please, if you don't have children yet or aren't married, be thinking biblically about this calling and encourage mothers around you to have this mindset as well!

photo by Amanda Lorraine Photography - taken when Lewis was 10 months old

Encouragement Worth Sharing

What Not to Say to a Mom of Multiples
When this article was posted in my twin-mommy group on Facebook, I found myself relating to many of the things on this list.
But on the other hand, I understand why people say to me, "I would just die if I found out I was having twins!" or "Better you than me...having twins would be awful."  I understand, because I used to think the same thing before becoming a mom to multiples, and I probably would have said something similar.  However, times have changed and so has my heart, especially in the moments when a comment like that makes me feel like my children are not a blessing.  Should ANYONE be made to feel like this when it comes to their children?

Here's what used to be going on in my heart when I thought things like, "Having twins would be the worst thing...please, God don't give me twins!!"
1.  I wasn't believing that ALL children are a blessing.
This applies to one child, or children than come in groups of twos or threes.  This applies to blonde children and brunette children.  This applies to healthy children and children with a myriad of disabilities.  If God chooses to make you a mother, even if it's just for a short time, I think we need to believe this is a blessing - no matter what form it takes.
2.  I wasn't trusting God's will for my life.
If God gives me something, it must be for my good...even if it appears difficult on the surface.  This has been true of my twins.  What I thought would have been too much hard work and a curse has brought tremendous blessing and joy to my life.  You never know how God will use a perceived hardship for your good.
3.  I wasn't believing that God's grace is sufficient.
Regardless of what the Lord brings, he promises to give us the grace and strength we need to endure it.  When you imagine having two babies, you can't also imagine the way he will provide for all the challenges that will come.  Nor can you imagine the ways he will strengthen your faith as he provides.

SO - if you are like I was, someone who looks at the prospect of having multiples as something undesirable, I want to encourage you to do 2 things...
1.  If you are talking to a mother of multiples, consider restraining yourself from saying anything that might maker her feel like God has cursed instead of blessed her.  Don't focus the conversation on what you would or wouldn't do in her situation, or how it would make you feel.  Consider telling her that her children look really cute or she is doing a wonderful job handling such a great responsibility.  If you want to ask her about some of the challenges, that's fine.  She will probably enjoy talking about motherhood with her sweet littles, and might even share some of her burdens.  But please don't make her burdens greater by telling her that it would be horrible to have what she has.
2.  Examine your heart attitude towards children and God's plan for your life.  Do you trust that however children come, it will be a blessing?  Do you trust that God can sustain you regardless of your circumstances?  If you can believe those things, there will be no need to dread having multiples.

Thanks for enduring this mini-post within a post :-).
I don't mean to make anyone feel bad for saying these things to me and I assure you, I'm not bitter about it or dwelling on it.  However, I do want to be a safe voice to help you re-consider your heart attitude and words before saying something similar to another mom of multiples.  I think it's fine to marvel and be curious about the special challenges that moms of multiples face, and it's OK to acknowledge those things and ask about them.  It's just not very loving or courteous to tell someone you're glad you didn't get their lot in life.

...and if you still find yourself lost for words, try this list of the Top 5 Things to Say to Moms of Multiples

...And for anyone who missed it, my brother was recently featured in two news articles because he was selected to be the torch bearer for the Iowa Special Olympics.  This was a great honor given to a very deserving athlete, and I've enjoyed being the proud sister watching from the sidelines!!
Torch Bearer:  Ames man to carry torch into Special Olympics

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