Thursday, June 14, 2018

Keeping Your Heart, Part 3

“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” 
Proverbs 4:23

The Exhortation {the urgent advice or counsel, encouragement} of this verse is to: 
“keep your heart” and the
How to keep our hearts is
“with all diligence”.

The last part of the verse tells us
Why we should keep our hearts diligently: “for out of it flow the issues of life.”

John Flavel wrote in 1667 in his book currently published with the title Keeping The Heart -
“The heart is the source of all vital actions and operations.” 
“It is the spring and original of both good and evil, as the spring in a watch that sets all the wheels in motion.”
“What the philosopher says of waters is as properly applicable to hearts; it is hard to keep them within bounds.”
“It was the sad experience [David] had of the divisions and distractions of his own heart in the service of God that made him pour out that prayer “…Unite my heart to fear your name.”  Psalm 86:11
Luke 6:45 “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”
“…the hand and the tongue always begin where the heart ends.” 
As parents our hands and words are almost constantly influencing our children. This is an important part of the WHY we should keep our hearts- 
because everything, all our words and actions trace back to the heart. 

Flavel says 
“The keeping and right managing of the heart in every condition is the great business of a Christian’s life.”  

The keeping of our own hearts is vital to our children’s spiritual, emotional and mental education.

Application: So you know you want to do this. You have heard the exhortation and
understand the how and the why and you can’t wait to get up in the quiet tomorrow morning and meet Jesus in the silence and solitude. And you do it! You get yourself up, you have your Bible and your study materials- maybe even a cup of coffee! You bow your head and then you hear it- 
the little or not-so-little feet padding down the hall, or the cry of a hungry baby. Ugh! Suddenly not feeling so spiritual anymore! (Isn’t it crazy how fast those feelings can change?) Your quiet time is ruined! Or is it? 

While silence and solitude is desirable- 
Our Savior, in the midst of his busy ministry years, set this example of withdrawing to places of solitude to pray (Mt. 4:1, 14:23, Mark 1:35, Luke 4:42). It is in solitude that we can most effectively focus our hearts and minds on hearing the Voice of God. In his book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life Donald Whitney says
“…it isn’t absolutely necessary to get far away from noises and people in order to hear God speak, otherwise we’d never perceive His promptings in the course of everyday life, or even in peopled worship services. But there are times to eliminate the voices of the world in order to hear undistracted the voice of God.
According to Jonathan Edwards, this was a secret of the Godliness of his wife, Sarah. In his first record of her, penned while his future wife was still a teenager, he wrote, ‘She hardly cares for anything, except to meditate on Him…She loves to be alone, walking in the fields and groves, and seems to have someone invisible always conversing with her.’ Where Sarah had ‘fields and groves,’ we may have to walk in the park, around the block, or find another place for regular solitude. Wherever it is, we need to find a place to be alone to hear the voice of Him whose presence is unseen yet more real than any other.”

Yet we go through seasons of motherhood and homeschooler-hood where it seems next to impossible to get a moment alone, even if you move like a ninja and don’t make a single noise, some babies and children just know when you are awake. It can be aggravating but it doesn’t mean your efforts are wasted. 

Some children may be content to sit in your lap while you read and pray. At the very least your child has seen you doing (or attempting to do) the work of heart keeping. I have memories of seeing my homeschooling-mom sitting in the middle of the day with her Bible. That had a profound effect on me. It is powerful for children to see their parents model the great work of a Christ follower. 

So what is something you can do when it looks like your quiet time just isn’t going to happen today? You do what homeschool moms do: get creative:) Maybe we can grab a few minutes in the bathroom to pray later, but for now we can do at least a part of our heart work with our children. 

Taking in Scripture is a big part of keeping our hearts and that is something we can do together.
What works for our family right now is to read at the table while we are finishing up our breakfast. We use a free app called Read Scripture. The Gospel Project guys have made these great short overview videos of each book of the Bible (sometimes there are 2 videos per book) and these are included in the app, right along with the reading plan. The videos are amazing and hold all my kid’s attention (from age 6-14). At this season we are in now my older children can take turns reading out loud, but before I had confident readers, back when I was usually holding a baby or getting up every few minutes to deal with a mess or feed somebody, we often used another app called That app plays audio, either just read or dramatized, of the whole Bible. 

Some days we get all the assigned reading done for that day, sometimes we just get part in and some days we miss our reading time, but at all times 
Our God is lavish with His grace

While I still strive for times of solitude for personal Bible reading, this ensures my heart is getting a daily wash of Scripture, and at the same time my children are hearing and reading God’s Words and we are modeling the daily work of heart-keeping.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Keeping Your Heart, Part 2

When I started thinking about what to share as a devotion for Parent Practicum, Proverbs 4:23 almost immediately came to mind- not because I do so well at heeding this verse, but because I needed to be reminded of the importance of the work of heart keeping in my life as a Christ follower and homeschool mom.  

“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” (ESV)

In 17th century puritan writer John Flavel’s book Keeping the Heart, he breaks this verse down into 3 parts: The Exhortation, the How and the Why.

The Exhortation {the urgent advice or counsel, encouragement} of this verse is to: 
“keep your heart”

John Flavel wrote 
“The heart of man is his worst part before it is regenerated, and it is his best part afterwards.” 
“The greatest difficulty in conversion is to win the heart to God; and the greatest difficulty after conversion is to keep the heart with God.”

The word “Heart” here is not referring to the organ, but it is used as a metaphor for the soul. In Rom. 1:21 the word “heart” refers to “the understanding”, in Psalm 119:11 it refers to “the memory” & in 1 John 3:10 it means “the conscience”. 
In Prov. 4:23 “heart” refers to the “whole soul or inner man.”

Flavel continues 
“…though the expression, keep thy heart, seems to put it upon us as our work, yet it does not imply a sufficiency or ability in us to do it. We are as able to stop the sun in its course, or to make the rivers run backward, as by our own skill and power to rule and order our hearts…and yet Solomon speaks properly enough when he says, keep thy heart, because the duty is ours, though the power is God’s; what power we have depends upon the exciting and assisting strength of Christ. Grace within us is beholden to grace without us. John 15:5 “Without Me you can do nothing.” 

How are we supposed to follow this exhortation to keep our heart? The verse tells us 
“with all diligence”.
Pastor Flavel writes 
“The Hebrew is very emphatic…your hearts will be gone otherwise and this vehemence of expression with which the duty is urged plainly implies how difficult it is to keep our hearts, how dangerous to let them go.”

Keeping our heart is personal, hard, important work. 

Romans 12:2 says 
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” 
As the mind goes, so goes the heart and vice versa.
My heart left to itself will lean toward conforming to this world, susceptible to creeping sins, taking over unaware.

Application: You have probably heard this keeping of the heart called a Personal Quiet Time. You may have been told you have to get up early to have this quiet time. Well, you don’t have to, but as Elisabeth Elliot says in her Hints for Quiet Time 
“there are plenty of scriptural precedents for that (Jesus rose ‘a great while before day’; the psalmist said, ‘in the morning shall you hear my voice’). If you meet the Lord before you meet anybody else, you’ll be ‘pointed in the right direction’ for whatever comes.” 
And who knows what may come, how often and how much at once in a homeschool day?!? Elisabeth Elliot continues in that sort of dry humor of hers to say 
“God knows how difficult it is for some to do this, and if you have a reason you can offer Him why early morning won’t work, I’m sure He’ll help you to find another time.”  (Only an Elisabeth Elliot can say something like that and we are cool with it!) She continues-
“Sometimes the children’s afternoon nap time can be quiet time for a mother. At any rate, plan the time.” From her book Keep a Quiet Heart.

So say you do manage to drag yourself out of bed before anyone else in the house is awake. You know you have about 15 precious minutes and your groggy mind is trying to remember what you are supposed to be doing. One way you can start is by putting pen to paper. It’s been said that 
“you don’t really know what you are thinking until you write it down.” 
What we think is a guide to how our heart is doing. 

Several years ago I learned a simple journal study from listening to Nancy Leigh DeMoss Wolgemuth interview a lady name Yvonne Welch. Yvonne, a pastor’s wife, had been through a very trying time physically, emotionally and spiritually. Here is part of what she told Nancy:

“I’d just come home from the hospital with Lucy, our fourth child.
A very godly, older woman brought me a meal. I was so happy to see that meal. 
But she could tell. She could look at me and say, 
“You are hurting….”
And she was right. I really was hurting. I was depressed. 
She looked at me, and she said, “Yvonne, you really don’t know God.”
I remember thinking, ‘I’ve been a Christian since I was nine years old. I walked down the aisle at the Second Baptist Church in Houston. I don’t understand.’
She [the older lady] said, “…I want to challenge you. I want to share with you a personal devotional that I have every day, and I want you to start doing it.”
She said, “I want you to take thirty minutes in the morning.”
I thought, How can I take thirty minutes with babies and children and being in the ministry? 
But I was desperate. I was so desperate.
So I began to do what she shared with me, and it changed my life.
She encouraged me to get a notebook and to write at the top of the page the word praise and put five things to praise God for. Then the word confess, five things to confess and then thanksgiving, five things to thank Him for. And then intercession, five things to intercede for someone else. And then supplication. [an earnest request]
So she said, “What I want you to do is to take Psalms and I want you to be looking for five attributes of God every single day. I want you to write those attributes down. After you’ve found five, that’s as far as you read. Then the next day I want you to look for five more.”
Nancy, I’ve been doing that now for thirty years because I’ve seen God’s character as I have written it down under the outline of praise, that He is our rock, He is our fortress, He is our shield. He is my glory. He is the lifter up of my head.”

(Go here to hear or read the whole interview.)

After listening to that interview I starting using this method and one of the things I love about it is how simple it is. All you need is a notebook, paper/pen and your Bible. When I do this I sometimes find that I’m led to continue writing on the next page, words spilling out that let me know the state of my heart and then become a prayer. Some times I don’t even get the basic list filled out. Too many times I don’t pick my notebook up at all. 
At all time My God is full of Grace.

There are so many good studies and devotionals available to help guide your quiet-time-heart-keeping. Soak your soul in Scripture and try to take at least a few minutes to just be quiet and listen.

Keeping Your Heart, Part 1

Proverbs 4:23
“Keep your heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” KJV

Devotion written for the Owasso CC Parent Practicum 2018, Day 1

(Brief personal background: My husband Joshua and I have homeschooled our children since 2008. We started with Classical Conversations in 2014 and for the past 3 years I tutored foundations. Joshua and I were both homeschooled ourselves for the greater part of our pre-college years.)

One Mother’s Day Josh compared his mother to a placid spring or pool of fresh water, a place where the whole family knew they could come with their needs or for refreshment. Isn’t that beautiful? I pictured a green pasture with fluffy white sheep grazing near a gentle stream and pool, Psalm 23 style- 

“He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.” 

It’s a lovely picture of what a giving mother can be for her family. Isn’t that what we want to be? While it’s true that our days as homeschool moms are filled with a thousand interruptions that push us to our limits, those interruptions usually represent one of those sheep-children coming to us- a safe place where they know they can find help and love and shelter-and we then can direct that soul on to the One who is the true and everlasting safe place, Our Sheperd Jesus Christ who can give peace and keep the soul in a way no human mother ever can.

But what if the peaceful pool’s fresh water source runs out or gets clogged up? The picture can all too quickly turn ugly as the nice pool goes stagnant and gross or starts to dry up. Just as this picture of a fresh pool in a green valley needs a source to remain lovely, so our souls need a continuing and well-tended source too. 

Proverbs 4:23 says
“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” ESV

The NASB version says to “Watch over your heart” and the NIV translation reads

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

Our regenerated hearts need care. We are here at this parent practicum because we want to provide the best education possible for our children. 

A key component of providing well for our children is the Keeping of our own Hearts.

I know, it can seem overwhelming to add one more thing to our busy days. You already have a mental list too long to see the end of and the thought of adding “heart keeping” just seems like too much.

I really don’t want it to feel like just one more thing to add to my already packed schedule. 

I want it to be- and It should be -THE Best part of my day! Meeting with my Savior is better even than serving my family and teaching my children. Certainly better than getting that first load of laundry going or keeping my kitchen clean in between the 52 meals that get prepared in a homeschool day (are all homeschooled kids like hobbits?!), infinitely better than sinking into my mattress at the end of the day or turning Netflix on and my brain off.
It is good and right to put Christ above all else in my life.  

But when I’m not consistent with my quiet time, what do I tend to do? Beat myself up about it. Just another thing I’m failing at as a mom. Or, and I think this is worse, I may become apathetic or think I don’t really need that. I’m fine. 

That’s a scary thought because my heart is not fine left to itself. My heart wanders too quickly, becoming discouraged or distant when I am not tending it, when I am not taking my heart to My Savior and asking Him to search it out, to know it (Psalm 139:23), to show me what needs to be dealt with. Laying myself bare before The One who sees it all anyway, being willing that He should shed His light on it all, showing me where I need to repent, reminding me of Who He is in My life and what He has done for me, asking for His wisdom to guide me through this homeschool day. 

I want this to be a sweet time I look forward to with anticipation, a time of refreshment every day. 

{repentance is refreshing}

But my heart grows rebellious when it is neglected. What if it’s not desiring this sweet meeting but longs to give in to my body that just wants to stay in bed or do anything else?
Just as we know our children will rebel at being told how bad they are doing at something or resist being told they MUST do something (I picture sheep-children being dragged unwillingly to the pretty valley with the sweet stream and that scene doesn’t even make sense), but are much more likely to come willingly when they are led gently to the source of peace, we can gently lead ourselves

If you find yourself in a place where you are feeling spiritually dry or clogged up, if heart-tending has taken a backseat and your soul is a bit stagnant and gross, here is one practical thing you can do to lead yourself gently to your Savior- 

Application: The most gentle and effective way I have found to lead myself into worship and heart-tending is music.

Music is a gift God gave us probably from the very creation of the world. My favorite scene in The Chronicles of Narnia is from The Magician’s Nephew where Aslan sings the creation of Narnia. C.S. Lewis may have written this scene because it’s possible that God used song when He used words to bring the world into existence.

Have you ever been grumpy or blah and had a song lift you from that mood? Music distracts our hearts from worry.

Music is disarming. It breaks down our walls and opens our minds. Have you noticed how music is used to do this? Your church may use pre-service music to help people prepare for worship. Music is used to set the tone for weddings, funerals, even movies. I guess elevator music became a thing in an attempt to ease the tension of standing in a small space with utter strangers without knowing what to say. 

Use music to disarm your own heart and ease it gently into that place where it is ready to do the work of heart keeping and meeting with God.

Choose songs based not only on the musical style that appeals to you, but with lyrics that speak the Gospel to your soul and encourage you to go to meet Your Savior in a quiet place. 

And it doesn’t have to be just for you, it can be for your whole family. School mornings start with music in our home. I start the worship music before I go to wake anyone up. I open the kids doors and let them have a few minutes to come to consciousness as the music softly plays. After breakfast our music continues until school starts. Maybe I didn’t get up in time for an extended quiet time that day, but my heart is hearing the Gospel through song. My children are hearing too. 

All our hearts are being gently lead. 

If you would like a few song suggestions you can go to this playlist I made on YouTube: Keeping My Heart. It starts with a song called Morning Song (a good one to wake up to) and then moves into some songs that remind my heart of what Christ has done for me and nudges my soul to long for time with Him.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

"It's Mother"

Learning from The Secret Garden
(If you haven’t read the book, please don’t read this, go read that instead!)

In the Garden

We were listening to The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett on the drive home:

"Who is coming in here?" he [Collin] said quickly. "Who is it?"
The door in the wall had been pushed gently open and a woman had entered. She had come in with the last line of their song and she had stood still listening and looking at them. With the ivy behind her, the sunlight drifting through the trees and dappling her long blue cloak, and her nice fresh face smiling across the greenery she was rather like a softly colored illustration in one of Colin's books. She had wonderful affectionate eyes which seemed to take everything in—all of them, even Ben Weatherstaff and the "creatures" and every flower that was in bloom. Unexpectedly as she had appeared, not one of them felt that she was an intruder at all. Dickon's eyes lighted like lamps.
"It's Mother—that's who it is!" he cried and he went across the grass at a run…

Susan Sowerby went round their garden with them and was told the whole story of it and shown every bush and tree which had come alive. Colin walked on one side of her and Mary on the other. Each of them kept looking up at her comfortable rosy face, secretly curious about the delightful feeling she gave them—a sort of warm, supported feeling…”

And that’s were I felt that little choking feeling in my throat, the feeling of a sudden rush of emotion. 

“It’s mother” 

The power and influence and wonder of what it means to be “mother” suddenly washed over me as I listened to the description of this woman. The power of one woman to shape lives. 

In the day to day “drudgery” (except that of course we shouldn't think of it as drudgery I know) that motherhood can become- the washing of the constant stream of clothes, the preparation & clean up of meals (plus snacks so that’s like 10 meals a day right?), the constant requests, decision making, sibling squabbles, etc. it’s so hard to remember the incredible importance of what we are doing. But this children’s book helped me remember.

A few minutes later the little choke of emotion threatened to turn into an all out flood...

“Susan Sowerby got up at last to return to the house… It was time for Colin to be wheeled back also. But before he got into his chair he stood quite close to Susan and fixed his eyes on her with a kind of bewildered adoration and he suddenly caught hold of the fold of her blue cloak and held it fast.
"You are just what I—what I wanted," he said. "I wish you were my mother—as well as Dickon’s!""

“You are just what I wanted.”

Our children may not think of it, but if they did isn’t that what they'd say? If they had the wisdom and understanding of the world wouldn’t they want us, just us, in all our imperfections?

Susan Sowerby, plain old Yorkshire, mother of 12 (12!!!) with very little, if any, formal education…I never saw it before. I’ve read this book so many times and I never saw who the true hero, rather heroin is until today.
“It’s Mother”!!!

That’s when I was glad for my sunglasses to hide the tears so I didn’t need to explain to the kid’s just then.

Without Susan Sowerby (why the author gave this great literary woman a name that starts with “sour” I do not know, except maybe to show that the greatest among us don’t necessarily have great sounding names), without her this story would not have gone well. This character is seen herself so little in the dialogue that she’s not even included in the movie adaptations! (at least not the ones I’ve seen). Yet without her who would have mentioned to Lord Craven that he should see Mary and let her run in the gardens free of a governess so that she could discover the great Secret? What motivation would Mary have had for going out of doors if dirt poor Mrs. Sowerby didn’t scrape the money together to buy the child a skipping rope? Would Dickon have been the boy he was and played so great a part if Susan had not been his mother? She was such a woman that even Lord Craven listened to her advice, and the housekeeper of the great house listened to her and considered her a friend. How would the children have kept their secret and grown so healthy without the simple, healthy food Susan helped provide? And who but that simple, wise woman would have had the boldness to write the letter that prompted Lord Craven to come home?
What a powerful part she played. So powerful that it’s hardly noticed. It was just her few wise words and thoughtful actions that shaped the lives of so many.

I know, it’s only children’s literature, but it’s great literature. And this part is true. Mothers are powerful and beautiful and we cannot forget. We cannot forget our influence and our importance. We cannot grow weary of the day-to-day “drudgery” (I know I have to find a better word).

I want to be a “Susan Sowerby”. 
I want to be the mother my children always wanted.
I’m humbled, overwhelmed and so thankful to be


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

What You do Daily {printable}

The beginning of a new year
For me, also the beginning of a new year of life.
My birthday month & a brand new 12 months waiting to be lived-
must be time for planning
and dreaming
and writing it all down.

I love planning.
When I start to feel grumpy it’s probably time for some writing & dreaming & planning. That’s how my thoughts get processed, the emotions get untangled so I can see what the thinking is behind the feeling. So I can remember what’s important and take stock of my life to see if I’m on the right path, to check on my baby steps and see if I’m baby-stepping in the direction I want to go. 
The thing with baby steps is, they will get you were you want to go as long as you keep pointed in the right direction.

Last year I came across a blogpost about daily reading rituals by Laura Vanderkam. The very first sentence grabbed my attention. The article was good, but it was that one sentence that wouldn’t turn lose of my brain.

“What we do daily has a profound effect on our lives.”

I started thinking about what the things were that if I did them daily would have the profound effect I wanted. What daily tasks would baby step me in the direction I wanted to go? 

I dreamed about my life for a while, what I wanted it to look like. Then
I made a list.
& of course I needed to be able to see that list everyday so I typed it up in PicMonkey so I could make it something I wanted to look at everyday & this is the result:

{I just printed it out on regular paper & hung it up on a clipboard.}

I wrote & typed up my list not only for myself but also with the consciousness {& hope} that my children might soak up some of the daily habits of profound effect, either by seeing the list or by watching me. Because as a parent {or as a human} growing & pursuing my purpose is bigger than just me.

You are welcome to use my list,
but I do think there is something very important about the process of thinking about what we want in our individual lives,
making a list.

I think we all have our own lists to make.
Feel free to use mine as a starting place if you like.

It’s just that time of the year ya know. Re-thinking life & plans & 12 fresh months waiting for action. 
Honestly, I have to do this way more often than once a year,

daily probably. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Hurry up and Move! Part 4

Part 4 of Where I’ve Been

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Our “new” home (we were leaving our new construction home for something decidedly not new)  was turning out to be much more work than we had anticipated. Typical eh? From popcorn ceilings to old carpet it was all getting an overhaul. 

We had approximately a month to pack, renovate and move.

(Starting to feel stressed again and all this happened months ago. Breathe, just breathe and write…)

It didn’t help that we were heading into July and that meant hot. Hot air. Sweating and stress. 
Josh worked on the “new” house, I worked at the “old” one, packing. Packing while caring for our five, keeping them fed & such and trying to keep enough clothes clean for everyone. 

I thought I had done a pretty good job packing here and there but I quickly realized that there was a long way to go. The big stuff wasn’t a problem. The main furniture we took with us was a couch, table & chairs, some shelves, a desk and the bunkbeds. Other than the refrigerator and ping-pong table from the garage, pretty much everything else was “small” stuff. 

That “small stuff” just about did me in.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Looking, Part 3

Part 3 of "Where I’ve Been"

We struggled for a while about whether to put an offer on the place or not. But we had looked at so many other properties and nothing else in our target price range seemed to have what this place had. We eventually put in an offer…

which was rejected.

It was a relief in a way because we took that as God’s answer and started looking again.

Looked and prayed.

And kept coming back to the property on the hill.