Monday, July 28, 2014

Staying the Course

It's been a silent month around here, and with anticipation and a re-newed perspective, I'm excited to start hitting the "publish" button again instead of "save".  I'm so thankful for the time off, and I'd love to share with you a bit of what I learned while I was away!


When Blogging Becomes a Burden
I remember when I started writing on the blog last year, and it was just pure fun.  I had little to no expectations of where it would go or how it would end up.  Writing was led by the spirit, and I was under no illusions that I had much wisdom to offer anyone in my own strength.  There was no pressure to write about certain things or to have my blog look a certain way.  I was fairly sure only 10 friends and family members read it anyway - and they are the kind of wonderful friends and family that read because they love you (regardless of how silly your blog posts are).

Then things started changing.  More comments rolled in, more "likes" and more follows.  I started reading other blogs more seriously, and feeling like mine didn't measure up.  It seemed like my writing was really inconsistent compared to those "professional" blogs.  I jumped everywhere with topics and didn't have good headings or nice pictures.  The pressure was on.

Somewhere along the way, blogging became not primarily about responding to God's leading and being used as a vessel for his glory (although that was still on my heart), but about a means to a "bigger and better" end.  I had made some connections, and suddenly I wondered if God wanted me to monetize the blog, write an ebook, contribute original content to other blogs, or something else.  As my stats increased, so did my concern with pretty pictures, consistent post lengths, easy to read categories, and carefully crafted bios.

And in June, I realized that I was blogging like it was a part-time job I had.  Creating content was feeling stressful and burdensome.  I was getting anxiety about how I would be received and what important people might be stumbling across my writing.  All the while, I was missing out on important little events happening in sweet hearts in my four walls.  I was putting too much emphasis on the blog and not enough on my laundry.

I couldn't put my finger on it at the time, but I knew I needed to listen to God's calling to pause and seek first the kingdom of heaven - no blogging and social media.


If Not Me, Then Who?
There are a multitude of Christian women out there, spreading gospel-centered content for the world to read.  God is using it to drive women to the Word and to repentance.  What I do (although not word for word) is replicated all over the web.  There are thousands of women blogging, but only 1 woman that can be a wife to Brad and a mom to Lewis, Gabe, and Cal.  I needed this reminder.

There is a short window of time I have with my children, and 18 years from now I don't want to be watching my boys leave for college and feel regret.  I don't want to see these years captivated and dominated by a laptop, a cell phone, and an ipad.  I don't want to have pain in my heart, as I see that while I used my moments for good things, I could have used them for teaching and training my children in the ways of the Lord.

Laptops and blogs are not evil.  And many MANY women are able to blog without jeopardizing crucial moments with their children.  Many women are able to work (paid and volunteer jobs) in and outside the home, and train their children in the ways of the Lord.  This isn't an argument for or against women working paid jobs in or outside the home, volunteering their time, or pursuing hobbies.

This is about me, ignoring a moment to correct and nurture because I'm still finishing an open post.  
This is about me, feeling pressure to spend time doing things a certain way on this blog because it might lead to something more prestigious.
This is about me, thinking that there is more holiness and glamour in ministry "outside" motherhood than inside my four walls.

The Lord struck me and re-focused me during this hiatus.  I still wrote and studied daily, but I paid more attention to the crucial heart happenings in my home.  I realized how distracted I had been when I felt pressure to get a "good blog post" out.

Who do I expect to teach my children about the gospel, the bible, and the crucial doctrines of our faith? Church might help, but they can't and shouldn't be expected to do it for me.  And while my husband is a huge participant in this, his time somewhat limited compared to mine due to his career.  The responsibility primarily falls to me in this season (by God's strength, grace, and help).  If I don't teach them, throwing the full weight of my gifts and wisdom behind it, who will?  This is one of the reasons my husband and I choose for me to not work outside the home...so I could have more time to teach and train to the glory of God.  Anything that distracts from that mission must be prayerfully evaluated.

Moving forward
All this to say, the answer to the blogging question for me isn't "stop" or "don't do it".  I love writing, and I truly enjoy and experience blessing as God works through this little corner of the web.  But I feel tremendously free and joyful to say that from here on out (unless God directs otherwise), this blog is just for my processing and sharing things from the overflow of my own life experiences.

It's not to impress you.
It's not a "means to an end".
It's not a way to get more followers or likes.
It's not to sound holier than I really am.
It's not to make money or build a brand.

Practically, this means I'm not necessarily going to update consistently.  I may write 3 posts one week and none the next.  I know that's not traditional and that's not what a "professional" blogger would do, but I'm not doing this to become a professional...and claiming that feels awesome.  It means that while I'm going to try to respond to comments and keep you updated on social media, I'm going to stop feeling guilty for being less skilled at the branding and PR side of this stuff.  I'm not doing this so I can gain a huge following.  I'm just writing as the Lord leads, doing my best to share when I post, and then whatever God does - great!

There is nothing wrong with being a professional blogger, or free-lance writer.  I have friends and family members who earn money for their family doing what they love in this area.  For those who are called to it and can do it without sacraficing the mission God has given them in motherhood - this is awesome!  But for me, in this season, with three kids under 2 (which is more than a handful)...I just don't have it in me to do both really well.


I want them to remember...
If there is one thing I want my children to remember about their childhood - it's not how much mommy wrote on her blog or studied in her books.  I want them to remember playing and laughing with me.  I want them to remember that I told them "no" and faithfully discipled them.  I want them to remember hearing me tell them the gospel over and over in every teachable moment.  I want them to remember me as being engaged, present, and caring about their hearts.  I want them to see me serving in the church and being engaged in life outside the home - but not to the point where I'm out of touch with the needs of their soul.

So here is to continuing this blog - but not to avoiding or trying to sneak my way out from under this very challenging and often times mundane calling of motherhood.  This is the good work that God has given me in this season, and I want to joyfully accept all circumstances for God's glory.

(photos courtesy of Brad's Aunt - from mid July)

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

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, June 16, 2014

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?


Thursday, June 12, 2014

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