A Letter to Mothers During These Strange Days

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“Be very careful , then, how you live, not as unwise, but as wise, making the most of every opportunity because the days are evil.” Ephesians 3:15-16

Dear Mother,

Most of us are under some kind of shelter in place regulation due to the Coronavirus Epidemic and have found ourselves in a situation where our children are at home with us. It is a forced family time, such as I have never experienced before in my life and I know most everyone else has not either. Working moms are either working from home, or, if they have “essential jobs”, are having to navigate the strange waters of having their children at home and not in school, while something is creatively worked out for their safe care. Stay at home moms may have it easier, but this new-found homeschooling has created challenges as it has catapulted most everyone into spending more time together. And then having nowhere to go.

I can’t even begin to understand how difficult this must be for you. It’s hard for me and I’ve been homeschooling for a while now!

I am not writing to give you resources that I’ve found helpful or to give you tips on how to homeschool your children. The online help is abundant in that arena. I am writing because I would like to tell you the main reason that I chose to homeschool my children over seven years ago.

My grandmother was a missionary in Honduras in the sixties. She loved Jesus in a way that made me want to know him more. Her life motto was a simple phrase and she said it often: “Only one life ’twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.” This concept that our lives are short, that our time here on this earth is temporary is the number one message that must be comprehended when faced with the great responsibility of caring for small human beings. We are mothers. We have been entrusted with a precious gift of a life. Or more! The people in our homes are made in the image of God with the capacity of doing great good or horrendous evil. Our time with them is short and absolutely crucial for shaping the next generation. I do not homeschool my children because I think I am the greatest teacher. Nor do I keep them home because I’m trying to isolate them from the world. My main reason isn’t even that I want them to have the very best life with the best education they can have, though those are reasons.

I homeschool because I see the discipleship of my children as my number one responsibility as a mother. By discipleship I mean the training of their hearts to know and to love God. There is no higher calling than that. I see homeschooling as a means to disciple them throughout the day as we read good literature and have deep conversations, as we discover the laws of science and marvel at God’s creation, even as I have opportunities to address their disrespectful hearts or their math mistakes. It’s all discipleship! It’s all training. The pointless grammar or the tedious writing, the repetitious memory work or mundane handwriting all delivers opportunities to grow in grace and patience and kindness. It is a gift.

These days at home are a gift. Use them well, remembering that in just a little while those children will fly away.

Sincerely,

Kristin Joy

“Only one life ’twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.” C.T. Studd

Why Integrity?

 

As I waited in line at Target yesterday, a lady with platinum blond hair motioned for me to come into another line to get checked out. She had one of those quick-scan card readers and we chatted mindlessly about their novelty and then she asked the inevitable question: were my boys twins, since I was buying two pairs of white shirts, khakis and shoes in the same size? They’re not, but two years apart. She opened up to me about her siblings, all eight of them, being two years apart and how several of them had already passed away. I offered my hurried condolences and took my bags. I then looked down at the receipt and realized that she had failed to ring up both pairs of shoes. The decision wasn’t a difficult one to make, as integrity is the culture of my family. I went back and showed her the mistake. She apologized and then referenced my honesty as being something very rare. It was then that I had a perfect opportunity to explain why I would take more time out of my day to go back and pay for something I hadn’t paid for, but my mind went blank. I had the perfect opportunity to share the gospel. But instead I stood there trying to grab hold of why I did what I did. Why honesty? Why integrity? I finally said that I try to live according to the Word of God and that I follow Jesus. She immediately asked if I was LDS (Mormon) as she had become one later in life, after all the tattoos. I told her I was not. And that was the end of the interaction.

But I am haunted by that interaction. The Lord actually woke me up at 2:00 AM and brought me to my knees this early morning. He brought me to repentance for not living my life with a sense of the urgency of the gospel. He brought me to the place of desperation for His Spirit to fill me so that I can then boldly proclaim the message of the gospel, which is that Jesus has come into this dark, dark world to bring hope and light and rescue from sin and ourselves and death. I am far too easily lulled into sleep, while people around me wander in the dark. Why Integrity? Because God has made Himself known to the world. He has stepped into the darkness and has given His very precious Word, which includes laws about honesty and not stealing, because of His love for the humanity that He created. We are to live lives of honesty and integrity because they reveal to a watching world that God is. That He has spoken. That He has come. That He is Truth.

Oh precious Holy Spirit, quicken us! Awaken your church from the deadly sleep of apathy! Bring us to repentance and let us depend again on your filling so that we may be used to bring hope to a dying world.

Run with Me

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It’s been one month since Jason and I ran the Houston Half Marathon and I am just now getting down my thoughts on a page. Life in this season of homeschooling older children is busy and the new decade has overtaken me without much time for processing that which has impacted me. But I am choosing to take the time today.

When the idea popped into my head last August that I should begin to train for a half marathon, my children thought I was out of my mind, my husband wished me well, and I secretly hoped I wouldn’t die in the process. I reached out to my friend, Andrea, who had run it before and asked if I was crazy to begin to train for it. I mean, I would turn 40 right before the race! She assured me I was not and urged me to run it with her on January 19, 2020. So I found a plan and I began to train. In a moment of weakness, Jason agreed to run it with me IF he promoted to Driver Operator before the next promotion list expired. This was back in September. The list expired October 1 and at that time he was number one on the list to promote. He began to run with me.

Dr. George Sweeting, beloved teacher and former President of Moody Bible Institute, once said, “Discipline, not desire, determines destiny.” This applies to running so well. The secret to running 13.1 miles is discipline. It was the day in, day out commitment and follow-through that took me from hardly being able to run a mile in the humid August heat to running half a marathon in the frigid January cold. I followed my plan and I ran, gradually increasing my distance and slowly picking up my speed.

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“Discipline, not desire, determines destiny.”

It turned out that Jason did not promote to Driver Operator before the list expired in October. He had to test again. Yet, he had begun to train for the race and so he continued with me and we pressed on together as the runs got longer and our bodies began to feel the miles we were putting them through. Some days we felt invigorated and strong, like we were made to run. We’d share our hearts with each other, laugh and pray, listen to music and worship. Others day were ugly and we limped our way through the miles, not talking to one another, heads down, one tender foot in front of the other. I didn’t exactly like the days I’d run with Jason for the sheer fact that he pushed me faster, harder. When I’d run alone, I’d enjoy it more because I ran slower. But he was good for me. Somewhere along the way I discovered I could run faster and, of course, it was the culmination of all of the hard days running with my husband. Jason, being much faster than I was, had signed up for a faster corral than I did in the Houston Half Marathon. But, for some reason, he chose to stay in my corral and run at my speed and spur me on during the race.

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The morning of the race, thousands of runners huddled together in the streets of Houston, trying to keep warm, minutes before the start of the run.  Andrea, Jason and I were among the throngs of people who had trained for this day, some to run the full marathon, others to run the half. The race began and we started through the crowded streets, running around slower runners, laughing at the funny signs held up by family and friends, doing what we had trained to do: run.

Though the atmosphere was intoxicating due to the amount of people and the music, the 13.1 miles were not all that different from some of the longer runs we ran together in training. It was just the next step, the next longer run. The first five miles were easy, but my pace slowed a bit after that. My niece, Mikayla, and our three kids were waiting for us at mile eight, a place I knew was a tough mile for me. They cheered us on and Jason and I unloaded our jackets upon them. It was then that I felt a change. It was harder for me to keep up with Jason. We were no longer zig-zagging through the runners, but he was several paces in front of me and I was struggling to catch him. The sight of his out-stretched arm waving me forward became the standard for the next two miles. Early on in the race Jason and I had pushed ahead of Andrea and we lost sight of one another, but at mile ten, during my hardest mile, she suddenly appeared. There is nothing like the appearance of a dear friend during a hard, long run. It filled me with unexpected energy and hope and truly gave me what I needed to finish the race. The last mile I pushed harder and ran side by side with my man until the finish line. We had done it together. We had finished the race!

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There is nothing like the appearance of a dear friend during a hard, long run.

Oh the countless parallels to the Christian life! The discipline and the pain and the triumph in the end. How together we are so much better than we are alone.

We’re all in for the long road
We’re all in for life
Run with me baby
I need you more than ever
I won’t let you
Won’t let you down
Run with Me by Hudson Taylor

The First Hundred Years Are Hard

Jason and I visited a Messianic Jewish synagogue last week in celebration of Yom Teruah, the Feast of Trumpets. A new experience for us, we fumbled with the Siddur, the prayer book, as we found it to read backwards to forwards, and we tried to keep up with reading the Hebrew. It was a three-hour celebration and we found ourselves unused to the longevity of the service. Yet, I enjoyed it immensely. We are in the “Days of Awe”, a time of preparation and anticipation of the Return of our Messiah, Yeshua. For the first time I listened, in person, to the shofar, the Ram’s Horn, practicing the final performance of the Ages when the shofar of God will sound and Yeshua Himself shall descend and raise up His bride to be with Him forever! I sang in Hebrew the words from Revelation 22, “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come, and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.”

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The very next morning, right before my run, I received some sad news concerning the miscarriage of a lady from my church. I don’t personally know this family, but the announcement of death had such a sobering effect on the morning. It seemed to go against everything about the Feast of Trumpets, this celebration and anticipation of resurrection. I put my ear buds in and willed my body down the road, as the hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy” filled my soul. I remembered the words that my pastor’s wife had spoken to a gathering of women the week before. She was sharing her personal story of how the Lord had pulled her out of her despair over the death of several people in the church. The Lord had said to her heart, “Only I can touch life and death.” It’s moments like these that make me bow to the sovereignty and the holiness of God the Father.

I contemplated the Lord’s sovereignty in the midst of our suffering and our loss. I recalled the stories of so many of my precious friends and family members who are still in the middle of difficult trials of sickness, pain, betrayal, and trauma. My dear friend, Ruth, who is no stranger to suffering, disclosed to me a poignant saying that a wise woman once told her, “The first hundred years are hard.”

Yes. This is so true. Life is hard. Suffering is reality. Sin is still here on this earth. Things do not always go the way we had hoped or prayed. The first hundred years are hard.

But as I ran, scripture from the night before came to my mind. Scripture that speaks of something more powerful than suffering. More victorious than sin and death.

If it is only for this life that we have put our hope in the Messiah, we are more pitiable than anyone. But the fact is that the Messiah has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. For since death came through a man, also the resurrection of the dead has come through a man. For just as in connection with Adam all die, so in connection with the Messiah all will be made alive.  1 Corinthians 15:19-22 CJB

Paul, the author of these words, had a close relationship with suffering. He understood what it meant to be hungry, poor, imprisoned, sick, burdened, beaten, and, ultimately, martyred for his faith. But he says that if we have hope only for this life here, we are to be pitied! His hope was solidly in the resurrection of Christ and in the eventual resurrection of all believers from the dead.

Listen, I tell you a secret- not all of us will die! But we will all be changed! It will take but a moment, the blink of an eye, at the final shofar. For the shofar will sound, and the dead will be raised to live forever, and we too will be changed. 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 CJB

The first hundred, or however many years the Sovereign Lord gives us on this planet, may indeed be hard, but after that? After that, for us who love the Messiah Yeshua and have put our faith in Him, we will be forever with Him! And if He returns while we are still alive and remain, we will be caught up to meet our Lord in the air and changed by the resurrection of the dead!

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a rousing cry, with a call from one of the ruling angels, and with God’s shofar; those who died united with the Messiah will be the first to rise; then we who are left still alive will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and thus we will always be with the Lord. So encourage each other with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4: 16-18 CJB

This is surpassing news, almost too good to be true! But it is our blessed hope amid the suffering of our day and why we keep looking to the clouds.

 

 

Press On

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I’ve decided to do something crazy. Maybe it’s because I’m turning 40 in a couple months and am feeling the urge to do something out of the ordinary. Maybe it’s because doing hard things is a good discipline. Or maybe it’s because, as a homeschool mom, I need some chunks of time to myself! Whatever the reason, I have decided to train for a half marathon.

This might not seem like a crazy endeavor to everyone, but to me, it’s a massive undertaking. For the last few years my workout schedule has gone something like this: work out once a month, then recover the next few weeks. In August I made the decision to start running a mile every day up our dirt road to the mail boxes and back, for no other reason except that I really do enjoy running. Towards the beginning of September I began to wonder if a half marathon was a possibility. I reached out to a couple friends who had run it before and their enthusiasm was enough to convince me that, yes, this was attainable. So I researched running plans with Jason and even he began to train with me.

Few things capture the Christian life quite like running. Here are a few of my observations:

  1. It’s simple. I put one foot in front of the other and I travel somewhere.
  2. It takes tremendous discipline. I have to choose to do it.
  3. It’s hard work.  Though it is simple, the act of running is tiring and strenuous to my body and mind.
  4. It’s better done in community. When Jason or my friend, Andrea is keeping me accountable, it is so much easier to continue running, especially when it’s hard.
  5. It’s essential to rest. I cannot run everyday. I must give my body periodic rest in order to recover from the run.

I’m only in week two of a sixteen-week training schedule and I haven’t hit any of the long runs yet, but I have already noticed how hard this is. Last week I was pushing myself up the last hill of a two mile run and all I could do was put one foot in front of the other and think about Jesus. How he endured the cross, scorning its shame, but for the joy set before him. I know I’m only running, but it was such a clear picture of the Christian life. Life can be so hard. And sometimes all we can do is just put one foot in front of the other and “just do the next thing,” like Elisabeth Elliot is known for saying. If that is you, my friend, you are not alone. I join you in this uphill battle. This battle that is worth undertaking.

  Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12-14

 

 

 

The Work of Completion

A red songbird perched atop the utmost branch of our tree and proclaimed his presence to the morning, his crest standing straight up as he sang. I sat in a wicker chair on our back porch, hearing the song and filling up my soul with the beauty of the day, washed clean from the storms of the night before.

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This morning I had felt so distant from God. Like I had forgotten how to commune with Him. I reached out to a small group of women that hold me accountable to spending time with Jesus each morning and asked them to pray for me. I didn’t really know what it was that I needed, just that I needed…Him. His presence. His nearness. I wanted to feel Him and I wanted the God of the universe to speak to me.

My friend, Rebecca, texted me back, assuring me that she was praying for me and she wrote these words,

“My friend, remember that God’s voice is not always heard, sometimes it is seen and sometimes it is felt. He’s always with you and has never left you as He promised in His Word.”

I thought of her words to me as I sat listening to the songbird. It almost sounded as if he sang, “Beware, beware!” Or was it, “Aware, aware!”?

I had so many questions still unanswered. Mainly, the one question. The question that always haunts me. The question of adoption. In a few weeks it will have been one year since we found out that we were not adopting Isaac. Our lives were so very different last year than they are now. We were prepping our home to receive a child. Gearing up emotionally, physically and spiritually for this. And now? A year later we have gone on with our lives. I am the very busy mother of older kids. I am preparing to teach a Classical seventh grade class next year and Jason and I have moved on from adoption. Definitely moved on from the diaper stage.

And yet, I haven’t really moved on.

I’m still there. I’m still holding on. That longing to enter into the miracle. I am holding onto adoption because, as crazy as it seems, I do not want to miss the pain and the blessing of sharing in the gospel of Christ.

It’s just that I don’t see how adoption fits into our life.

This morning, as I sat looking out over the lush pasture, I pulled out a bookmark from my Bible with declarations of my identity in Christ. I read them out loud and several of them jumped out at me, so much so that I knew I needed to slow down and meditate on them. The one that resonated the most was an old, familiar passage from the book of Philippians chapter 1.

God will carry on to completion the good work He began in me. Philippians 1:6

This was big. I grabbed my journal and started scribbling. And I wrote to the Father, “The completion of the good work in my life depends on YOU!”

How very quickly I lose sight, in my mad dash to work out my own salvation, that this very work is not my own. It is God’s work. He has begun it and He will finish it. Yes, of course, I partner with Him, but I don’t carry it on my own! It is from Him, through Him, to Him. It is all His!

And so, if the completion of the good work in my life depends on God, then…

  1. I can stop striving to make sure I don’t miss out on His best for me.
  2. I can rest in His promise.
  3. I can trust in His perfect timing.

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I don’t know if we will ever get to adopt. I don’t know what the future holds for our family. But I do know my Shepherd. He is good and He leads. We hear His voice and we follow. And He will bring the work of our lives, that He has started, to completion.

It’s Time to Prune the Rose Bush

I learned how to prune my rose bush yesterday. I remembered hearing that Valentine’s Day is the prime time to prune roses and I just so happened to think about it when I had a bit of time to actually do something about it. So I got out some gloves and rusty pruning shears. Oh, and youtube. I looked up a simple video on pruning and started putting the four steps to action.

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First step: pull off all the leaves.

Second: cut out all the dead parts.

Third: cut away any branch that is rubbing against itself horizontally.

Lastly: cut the vertical branches at an angle so that the rain does not fall directly onto the buds.

Why on earth am I sharing these mundane details of my life, you might ask? Because as I pruned this rose bush, I was startled by the truth that it represented in my life. It’s been a difficult season in my marriage these last few weeks. Not bad. Not hopeless. But difficult. Jason and I have had many painful conversations, some that have stemmed from misunderstanding and miscommunication. Some that have been the result of our own selfishness and stubbornness. And some that have been because of differences in our personalities. Guys, I have an amazing husband and God has blessed me with a man who sticks by me and hears me out and loves me faithfully. But marriage is not easy.

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In these uncomfortable conversations, that we made ourselves have, I believe that God was doing a bigger work than I ever suspected at the time. He was ripping out premature  expectations and desires to make our hearts ready for His perfect timing. He was cutting out the dead parts in our hearts – the sin – and cutting away the rough and irritating parts that got in the way of our unity and harmony. He was pruning us, is pruning us, with His sharp shears, at the right angle, so that our harvest of love and righteousness will be great and abundant.

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Jason bought this particular rose bush for me on our 14th Anniversary at the Antique Rose Emporium that we happened upon accidentally when we were out driving. We had three rose bushes beside our house, but this one is the only rose bush that survived the new construction of Addie’s room that following summer. It happens to be my favorite, though. It’s name is Lafter. At the time, we thought the name appropriate, as laughter has been an enduring part of our relationship.

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As I finished pruning this last surviving rose bush yesterday, I was reminded of something that Jason has said to me over and over again, and that I, in turn, remind him. We are on the same team. We are different people, yes, but we are together, in covenant with each other. We are not enemies! But we have a choice. We have the choice to submit ourselves to the Gardener’s pruning shears and let Him do the work in our hearts that will lead to oneness with our spouse and obedience to Christ.

He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. John 15:2

How about you? Is your marriage in a season of pruning? Have you been through the pruning and come to see the fruit of that harvest of righteousness? Are you struggling to submit to the shears?

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Father, I pray that our hearts would be open and surrendered to you. I pray that we would submit ourselves to your wisdom and your goodness and that you would cut out any sin or entanglement in our lives that would prevent a harvest of righteousness. Unify our marriages, Oh God! For your glory and our gladness. Thank you for the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, which makes it possible to redeem our brokenness! There is hope for our marriages in your name, Jesus! Amen.