Friday, March 27, 2020

Ideas for Home ~~Redeeming the Time

A few weeks ago, I shared a blog post titled Making the Best and wrote about how our acceptance of our situation reflects a surrendered heart toward our Heavenly Father. So many times, "acceptance" of our situation is a hard pill to swallow~we all need the Lord's "humbling" hand and that heavenly perspective given to us at various times of our life~~what a mercy that the Lord is patient with His people . . . 

And now, we come to a time when many of us are "stuck" in a  situation that is beyond our control. A virus that no one has ultimate sway over has spread to our country and most of us have been "sent home," so to speak, in order to stop the further spreading of this illness. 

Whether we like it or not, and whether some of the sheltering measures are "right" and in the best interest of our country or not, here we are and our acceptance of our situation will determine the attitude of our heart (ultimately) toward God. We can "stay home" in our "pouts," or we can make the best of the situation. It will be a daily and hourly choice for us. 

Our family lives in the rural Midwest and we home school our children and stay home a lot (much of this is due to the fact that my husband and I share a vehicle and he needs it to go to work) but I do get out with our children occasionally--usually once or twice a week to run errands and then during the weekends for church, etc. :-). Our Governor issued a 30 day sheltering order and so we are anchored here at home for now. Oh; how I am missing my occasional Dunkin' Donuts coffee! But don't worry; my husband has kept me well supplied with creamer so that I can make my coffee at home . . . I figure that this 64 fluid ounce bottle should last me at least 3 days in proportion to my coffee consumption . . . ;-). 

During this time, I've been thinking about some creative ideas that might encourage you as a family as you stay home for the next (indefinite) amount of weeks . . . these are ideas and activities that our family has benefited and been blessed from over the years or that we have benefited from individually. Maybe one or several of them will pique your interest and be a blessing to you and to your family during this time  . . . please feel free to share your ideas below in the comments as well! 

  • Memorize Scripture. This is a wonderful time to memorize Scripture together as a family or individually. Plant the Word of God in your child's heart from the time that they are young and it will have a lasting effect upon their lives. Use the extra hours that the Lord has given to your family during this time to place the Word of God in your hearts through Bible memorization. And it doesn't need to be boring! Set a goal of a certain amount of Scripture verses that your family can memorize together and then decide together on a reward for your children or for the entire family when the goal is reached. My children and I have done this together over the past several years and it has been an incredible blessing to them and to me. The Word of God will always bless and will never "return void." 

  • Plant a garden. We are "exiled" ;-) at home at the perfect time to pursue this! If you have a small yard, put together a few boxes with scrap wood and fill them with garden soil. If you have a larger yard, plan a bigger garden if you would like to. This is a great project to work on with your kids over the next few weeks, from starting seedlings inside to tilling your soil and readying your garden to plant. Talk together about what seeds to plant and research how to grow the different vegetables and herbs that you choose to grow. Get your hands in the soil and thank the Lord that you and your family can spend some time outside together during the long days at home. It will also give your family a fun summer project to pursue together as you weed and take care of your plants.

  • Plan and prepare a puppet show or skit.  This past winter was a long one for me and for my kids who were home a lot. We decided to use the month of February to plan and prepare a puppet show and special celebration of Purim. This lightened up the long winter nights at home as we made puppets, read the Book of Esther together, and wrote the script together for the play. We invited our family over and everyone brought a "Jewish dish" to share for the day of the play. This was such a blessing to us all and helped to get us through those long days of winter in the Midwest. This time at home is the perfect opportunity to do something similar with your kids. Pick a story from the Bible or a favorite book and plan and prepare a puppet show or skit. Use the time at home to develop closeness with your children as you work on a project together.

  • Watch a good, edifying film. A verse in the Bible that has always convicted me is "Turn my eyes away from looking at worthless things . . . " (Psalm 11:37). There is so much "froth" available to us that we need to sift through it and find the things of substance. It's funny, but some things we know are just "wrong" and we stay away from them. But we also need the Lord to give us the discernment to turn our eyes away from what the Word of God terms "worthless" things--things that won't benefit our soul and will just drag us down with distraction and meaningless nonsense. As humans, we are all prone to this . . . how we need the grace of God! However, in my "travels" I've also come across many films that edify me (and others as well, I'm sure) in my faith and point my gaze toward my Heavenly Father. The following are some films that have really blessed and nourished my heart and that I would heartily recommend to you for watching during this time of social distancing. These are all in the Christian film category--there are many "secular" films or films without an overt Christian theme that I love as well, but I'll only include the "Christian" ones on this list for now--Here a few of my "favorites"--a lot of these would be great to watch for a fun date night in with your spouse--they are not (in my opinion) for young children (except maybe certain parts of the Ten Commandments). But they are wonderful for young adults/adults . . . here you go! :-) 

                 ~Bella: One of my favorite films with a strong pro-life message that is not "forced." A sensitive look at a young woman's life as she considers having an abortion. This artistic film is a beautiful one with careful well-executed humor in light of the overall heavy theme of the film in general. 
                 ~Old Fashioned: Those of you who know me well know that this is one of my absolute favorite films--one that I could watch over and over again. I love the sensitivity of the male character in this film and the way in which he treats women in general with love and old-fashioned respect~~something very rare in today's society, even among believers. You may read my review for that film HERE
                 ~Love Comes Softly: Another sensitive, beautiful film based on one of Janette Oke's novels. I love the theme in this film of "beauty from ashes" and again, the way in which the male character treats the female character with sensitive love, compassion, and patience. 
                 ~Chariots of Fire: If you have never seen this film, you are missing out on one of the best films ever made (in my opinion :-)). Chariots of Fire tells the story of Eric Liddell, Olympic athlete (and then later a missionary to China) and his decision not to participate in the Olympics on the Lord's Day in accordance with his personal convictions. 
                 ~Fireproof: This film has more of an overt Christian message which is done in an evangelistic way. This is a great film for couples and reinforces the importance of being faithful to marriage vows. 
                 ~The Ten Commandments: Such a great, classic film! A wonderful film for families with older children. The Ten Commandments tells the story of Moses and of how the Lord used him to deliver the Israelite people from slavery in Egypt. 

I hope and pray that these ideas/suggestions will be a blessing to you! May we each of us continue to keep our eyes fixed upon the One Who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life amidst all of the chaos and uncertainty and be on our knees. 

Much love,

You might find me on these link-ups:

Inspire Me MondayLiteracy Musing MondaysThe Modest MomRaising Homemakers, Classical HomemakingA Wise Woman Builds Her Home, Woman to Woman Ministries,  Testimony TuesdayTell His Story,  Imparting Grace, Thought Provoking ThursdayGood Morning Mondays,  Counting My BlessingsThe HomeAcre Hop, Mommy Moments Link UpGrace and Truth LinkupFaith Filled FridayRaRaLinkupWord of God SpeakBooknificent ThursdayCoffee For Your Heart Weekly LinkUpYou're the Star Blog HopHomesteader HopFresh Market FridayHeart Encouragement Thursday Sitting Among Friends Blog PartyFabulous Warm Heart PartyOh My Heartsie Girls Wonderful Wednesday LinkupWriter WednesdayTea and Word

Monday, March 9, 2020

Tackling the Sunday Morning Grumpies~~Practical and Prayerful Ways

For those of you with little children, you know that Sunday morning presents a whole list of challenges. Between making sure that everyone is awake on time, laying out clothing for church, preparing breakfast, and making sure that everyone really is in the van when the family departs for church can be a challenge that not even the bravest of men and women are willing to face. ;-) 

And then, on top of all of those challenges, there is often the added bane of what I call the "Sunday morning grumpies." Why is it that generally happy children succumb to these? Is it just me or does it seem that Sunday mornings often have the blight of an extra level of morning grumpiness? Just on the the day when we should be hearing the sounds of birds singing, sweet hymns playing in the background, and feeling a general lightheartedness, instead we hear the bickering of children, the shuffling of feet, and experience that general feeling of unrest and irritation that just crawls under the skin and settles there like a worm in an otherwise very lovely apple. 

What is it about Sunday morning? Sometimes I believe (truly) that Satan goes through extra pains to make sure that we will not go in the right spirit to worship God. He hates it when God's people go to worship Him in spirit and in truth, and so he tries to create chaos and havoc. He attacks the day of worship with a vengeance and tries to defeat the Lord's people in whatever way that he can. But we are called to resist the devil and his devices. There are practical ways of doing this as well as prayerful ones. I want to share some ideas that the Lord has opened my eyes to through the years that I've had with little children--this is still a work in progress--but here it goes--perhaps some of these ideas will be helpful to those of you with little ones. 

How to Counteract the Sunday morning grumpies . . . 
  • Prepare ahead of time. Lay out clothing the night or day before to minimize upheaval on the morning of church. Make sure that older children have done this as well; get them into a habit of laying out their clothes for Sunday and making sure that the clothing is pressed and ready to go. Prepare any bags for little ones (diaper bag, activity bag, etc.). Don't bring too many things to church, but bring what is needful for your children at their present age. Let little children bring one stuffed animal or doll to church to hold during the service and allow them to dress the doll or stuffed animal in special Sunday clothes! This helps a child to become excited about church and to give a feeling of "special-ness" to attending church.  Prepare breakfast ahead of time if you make something from scratch or have muffins, etc. ready. Keep breakfast simple on Sunday to minimize the mess and to place the focus upon going to church and worshiping God, not upon an elaborate breakfast.
  • Talk to children during the week about how special Sunday is. Remind them that God's house is His special place where we go to worship Him. Remind children not to run or raise their voices loudly in the church building. Set the place of worship apart in your heart and in your speech directed toward your children. God's house is a special place of reverence. Remind children of how blessed we are to go to church and to worship God in this country without fear of persecution. Church should never be talked about as a "chore" but rather, a blessing and a privilege. Showing this attitude toward church will help to encourage your children to view church as a wonderful, special place. 
  • On the morning of church, wake up a little earlier than usual to make sure that everything flows smoothly. Get children up a little earlier as well. Use Saturday to sleep in, if your family does that, but keep Sunday as a day of preparation and praise to our God--take a nap later in the afternoon if you need it! Spend some time in prayer before waking up the children so that your own heart and mind are refreshed and ready before the bustle of Sunday morning activity begins. 
  • Play quiet and reflective music as the family eats breakfast and prepares for church. A hymn CD helps to put everyone in the spirit and mood of worship. I would avoid loud praise and worship music on Sunday morning, personally--there may be a place for this if you enjoy praise and worship music, but I would avoid "revving" everyone up on a Sunday morning. Rather, encourage quiet, peaceful hearts of reverence before the Lord.
  • And finally, pray. Pray before Sunday. Pray during the week. Pray as your family prepares for church. Address any "heart attitudes" that you may see in yourself or in your children. Ask the Lord to give you hearts of joy as a family to worship the Lord together with other believers. And the prayer of faith will be answered. 
What about you? Do you have any ideas to counteract the "Sunday morning grumpies?" I would love to hear them! The Lord bless you as you serve and love Him together as a family. 

Click HERE for another post that might be an encouragement to you! 

You might find me on these link-ups:

Monday, March 2, 2020

Making the Best

We moved into the old farmhouse a few years ago now. And there was so much work to be done! The walls were made of old plaster and were visibly cracking in places--even a fresh coat of paint didn't help them much! The attic floor needed to be reinforced; I was concerned that someone was going to fall into the dining room from a height ;-) and join us for dinner unexpectedly! ;-). There were major issues (we needed a well; the windows needed to be replaced) and minor issues (the mice were a little too cozy and settled; though I do like mice in moderation--just not in my house ;-), the walls needed fresh coats of paint) and we knew that we could only tackle a little bit at a time. 

The Lord led us to this home in the Midwest and I love the old farmhouse dearly. But there was (and is) an awful lot of work to be done. 

One of the "minor" issues was the lack of cupboards in the kitchen.  Actually, there were no cupboards--just an antique buffet that the former owners used to put their dishes and other items in. It was beautiful and big and immensely heavy--with see-through glass windows that didn't do any justice to my (lack) of pretty dishes  and to my abundance of child-friendly glassware and sippy cups. Any woman reading this immediately shudders. How does one survive without adequate kitchen storage space? Is it even possible? 

So I did the best that I could. I arranged my dishes and plates and other miscellaneous items in that great big glass-windowed shudderingly-see-through cupboard-buffet. I used the drawers for cookie cutters and other such items; the opposite side of the buffet is a house to my small appliances (blender, food processor, etc). An obliging closet upstairs and our attic houses some of the other kitchen appliances. 

I was not entirely happy about this arrangement but decided to make the best of it. We would get cupboards for our kitchen in due time. And I have read too many missionary biographies about small spaces and "making do" to whine and pout too loudly . . . 

But in this little heart of mine I was dissatisfied; I really was. My usually-very-organized- neat self balked against the lack of proper storage space. As time wore on and the dearth of cupboards in my kitchen became less and less of a priority in light of the more major issues that kept surfacing, I began to despair of my dishes ever receiving a proper home. 

And then there was the drawer in the kitchen that attacked me. It was the only place that I could put the utensils in--but the problem was that it was just too close to the hutch, which was too close to the stove, which had no place to go because of its positioning in the kitchen. And we needed a stove; so getting rid of that particular appliance was not an option--even with our commitment to rural living. ;-) So back to that drawer--it stuck when I was attempting to squeeze something out of it and shaved back a large chunk of skin on my thumb--there was a dizzying amount of blood and I still bear the scar from that particular battle (the drawer won). 

In response to all of these "issues" that caused me chagrin, I "left" the buffet--it was a bane and a blight to happy kitchen living. "It's useless!" I thought, and just let a little dust collect in its inner corners. The dishes and cups were neat, but not as neatly ordered as they could have been. My cookie cutters were a bit jumbled in another drawer and my gift wrapping drawer needed to be organized. I looked at that buffet and it looked back at me and I just couldn't wait until I could tell it that its lease was up. We scowled at one another; I refused to dust its inner corners; it refused to open properly for me and we were really very spiteful to each other ;-). "You're too bulky!" I told it and it squinted at me through one of its under-windexed windows.  We refused to speak to one another for a while and I very begrudgingly gave it a bath with magic erasers only when it pleaded. 

And then the Lord spoke to my heart. I'm a believer that the "hidden" places matter. The dust under the bed, the crumbs carefully concealed beneath the legs of the table, those things that are sometimes neglected because no one really sees them. But God does. I read a story about Amy Carmichael and about the way that she emphasized to the little girls in her orphanage that they should sweep the corners when they cleaned and not be neglectful of the dirt that "no one sees." Because God does and we do our work unto Him. 

I felt convicted that I had purposely been neglecting the buffet because I was irritated in my heart that I didn't have the right storage space. I humbled myself before the Lord and made peace with that buffet. 

We have been on friendly terms since. 

I saw an idea in one of my Mom's old country magazines where someone had covered the open glass windows of their "unsightly" cabinets with pretty fabric. There it is; I thought! And the next time I was at the local Mennonite dry good store, I purchased enough to cover the open glass windows. Painstakingly I tacked it on and re-organized my cups, glasses, appliances, and various other items finding a home in that buffet. I knew a peace sweeping over my heart as I accepted the buffet as the Lord's present will for my storage and trusted that in His good time I would have proper storage space. I look at the buffet with new eyes and I daresay, it looks back at me with a gaze of mutual respect. :-). 

The point is here that when the Lord at times, in His perfect wisdom, chooses not to change our situation, whether it be in great or small things (such as in the case of this buffet) we can either accept His will or balk and pout. I knew that it wasn't His timing that we put cupboards in our kitchen. My acceptance of His will was more important than me being able to immediately organize my kitchen the way that I would like to. 

And yet, in the meantime, the Lord gives us creativity and grace to make the best of our situation. When we don't have the money to buy books that we might like, He gives us libraries. When we are not able to travel or to go on vacation He gives us lakes and parks and places to enjoy His creation. When we longingly wish for a new dress, He opens our eyes to see what is already hanging in our closet .

When we make the best, He gives us new eyes--the eyes that redeem seemingly useless things to have use again and to be used for His present purpose. 

I have experienced this countless times in my life--I can either "make the best" of something through His enabling joy and power --or sit in my pouts before God. 

Is it wrong to pray that He will change our circumstances? That He will give us proper storage space, that He will open doors in whatever area of our life that we are praying about? Absolutely not. But as Amy Carmichael says, "in acceptance lieth peace." If the Lord is speaking the words "Wait," into our hearts, our response must be acceptance of His present will for us. He will give us the grace to wait. 

So we make the best. We don't rebel. We trust our kind, loving Savior--we talk to Him about how we would like Him to change our circumstances. And then we move forward. We are faithful in the small things. We clean the corners of our cupboards. We neatly organize our dishes. We talk to our children about being faithful in little things and we especially show them by our example. 

God is faithful in the small things. He makes the best of concrete and allows violets to grow through its cracks. He makes the best of unkempt lawns and allows dandelions to grow up in them to feed the birds. He scatters rays of sunlight through gray clouds. He dresses the birds beautifully in the long and cheerless winter. God makes the best; so should we. 

So we make the best too--with cheerful hearts in the joy of the Lord which is our strength. We trust the One who knows all things and who is infinitely wise and good--

And we make peace with old buffets. 

You might find me on these link-ups:

Inspire Me MondayLiteracy Musing MondaysThe Modest MomRaising Homemakers, Classical HomemakingA Wise Woman Builds Her Home, Woman to Woman Ministries,  Testimony TuesdayTell His Story,  Imparting Grace, Thought Provoking ThursdayGood Morning Mondays,  Counting My BlessingsThe HomeAcre Hop, Mommy Moments Link UpGrace and Truth LinkupFaith Filled FridayRaRaLinkupWord of God SpeakBooknificent ThursdayCoffee For Your Heart Weekly LinkUpYou're the Star Blog HopHomesteader HopFresh Market FridayHeart Encouragement Thursday Sitting Among Friends Blog PartyFabulous Warm Heart PartyOh My Heartsie Girls Wonderful Wednesday LinkupWriter WednesdayTea and Word

Sunday, January 5, 2020

What I've Been Reading

Happy New Year, friends! I wanted to take a few moments to share some books and a few thoughts on some books that I've been reading in my personal reading time. 

Let me encourage you to carve out time to read~~read good books! They will nourish your mind and your soul. So many times, the Lord speaks to us in His still small voice through the pages of a book.  

Even if you can only give a few minutes to reading each day, choose one good book and chew away at it slowly; the Lord will bless those few minutes and minister to you through the pages of books. 

As a mother of two small children, I often will add a few minutes onto my devotional time to read in the morning before my children wake up. This has enabled me to read much more than I would be able to if I didn't carve out this small amount of time. 

Here are a few of the books that the Lord is using to encourage and to grow me in my faith . . . 

~~Clippings From My Notebook, by Corrie ten Boom~~

Oh, this book, this book! It sat on the shelves of my Mom's bookshelves for years and I had never picked it up and read through the entire book . . . Lately my Mom has been going through her boxes and boxes of books that she had packed away after she sold her home in Rhode Island and came to live with me. Let me tell you, her multitudinous volumes have been a rich blessing to my sisters and me!! We are discovering all sorts of treasures as she unpacks these boxes . . . :-) 

And so I re-discovered this beautiful book full of wisdom from Corrie ten Boom. I've been reading and re-reading the devotional insights and it has been such an incredible blessing to me. Corrie shares her faith simply and refreshingly without any pomp or fuss. Her simple faith in our Almighty God has daily challenged me to walk more closely with the Lord and to lay aside every weight and the sin that often so easily entangles (Hebrews 12:1). What a blessing! I discovered that this book is out of print but second-hand copies may still be purchased on Amazon if you would like to get your hands on a hard copy. I highly recommend it! 

~~Honey For A Child's Heart, by Gladys Hunt~~

This is another book that was unearthed from my Mom's boxes and what a rich treasure of wisdom it is! I just began this book a short while ago and am hoping to share more insights when I am finished with it, so I won't say much here except that I am really, really enjoying Hunt's insights into reading to children and the importance of books in their lives from a very early age. She also provides a tremendous list of suggestions for books to read to children at the different ages of their lives~~such a wonderful resource!

~~Mrs. Oswald Chambers: The Woman Behind the World's Bestselling Devotional, by Michelle Ule~~

I'm about a quarter of the way through this book and though it was "slow" reading at first, I am really starting to enjoy it now that I am beginning to "organize" all of the different people mentioned in the beginning of this book in my mind. I love missionary biographies~I have since I was a little girl~~and so this one is right up my alley. I  have read a lot about Oswald Chambers, but not a great deal about his wife, Biddy (Gertrude) Chambers. This book goes into great deal about Chamber's wife~~the woman who was used by God to transcribe Oswald's talks into the writings that are cherished today. There are so many little details included in this book and I love the author's careful, spiritually insightful research into Oswald Chamber's wife's life. This is good reading! :-)

And lastly,

~~My Utmost For His Highest, by Oswald Chambers~~

Everyone should read this book~~several times!!! :- ) This is the book that the Lord used instrumentally early in my Christian life and the book that the Lord continues to speak to me through. I chose it to read again this year as my devotional in the morning~it re-surfaced after a couple of years in the basket next to my reading chair! ;-). If you have never read My Utmost For His Highest, friend, get a copy or borrow it from your church's library~~ this book will speak the Lord's deep truths to your soul and leave you desiring more, more of our Heavenly Father in the day to day comings and goings of your life. 

I pray that these reading suggestions may bless you in your daily walk with the Lord . . . 

More, more about Jesus;
More, more about Jesus--
More of his saving fullness see,
More of His love who died for Me.
~Eliza Hewitt

You might find me on these link-ups:

Inspire Me MondayLiteracy Musing MondaysThe Modest MomRaising Homemakers, Classical HomemakingA Wise Woman Builds Her Home, Woman to Woman Ministries,  Testimony TuesdayTell His Story,  Imparting Grace, Thought Provoking ThursdayGood Morning Mondays,  Counting My BlessingsThe HomeAcre Hop, Mommy Moments Link UpGrace and Truth LinkupFaith Filled FridayRaRaLinkupWord of God SpeakBooknificent ThursdayCoffee For Your Heart Weekly LinkUpYou're the Star Blog HopHomesteader HopFresh Market FridayHeart Encouragement Thursday Sitting Among Friends Blog PartyFabulous Warm Heart PartyOh My Heartsie Girls Wonderful Wednesday LinkupWriter WednesdayTea and Word

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Singing I Go

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above.
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.
~Thomas Chisholm

The other week I was talking to my sister on the phone. Here in the upper Midwest, we've been having "record-breaking" bitter cold temperatures as well as a few bouts of snow even before winter has officially hit us yet. The snow descended prior to all of the leaves falling off of the trees, and we found ourselves shoveling before we managed to rake the remainder of leaves from the ground! That, combined with the time change and the "early darkness" sparked the conversation that my sister and I had. We both grew up in New England, where the winters were shorter and "cozier" (shorter-lasting and with less bitter cold, if that explains it properly). 

I joked, (with a serious truth behind it) that I've been singing hymns to keep my spirits up amidst this brutal weather and the long, dark days. She quipped, "Which one? Abide with Me? (Look up the words to that hymns to see the humor behind her choice ;-)). I laughed and answered, "No! George Beverly Shea's "Singing I Go Along Life's Road . . . " to which she wryly replied, "Bek; didn't he live in the South?"

Sometimes it's difficult to find a song in winter days (or in this case; the middle-of-fall days ;-)). For me, it has been hard to adjust to the difference in climate here in the Midwest from what I grew up with in New England. In New England, the seasons were generally very distinguished and separate from each other, each one attached with a certain amount of nostalgia. One was surrounded with a lot of people and quaint shops, with coffee and the overwhelming sense of "coziness." Here in the Midwest, things are different than what I grew up with and knew and loved, and I have found myself looking for grace and joy through the differences--but it's just not the same-- Here, I do find sparks of happiness in my garden, in the anticipation of spring, in planning for the warmer days, in homeschooling my children and reading books in front of our fire, in visiting thrift shops in the area, and in the occasional trip to the "big city" of Dubuque (in the state near to us) where there is a Hobby Lobby. :-) These things bring happiness to my heart and lift me out of the "humdrum" of the often bleak fall/winter climate here in the rural Midwest. But many times, it has been very difficult for me. 

Now please don't get me wrong. :-) I love the "deep country." I love the quietness, the beauty of the land, the absence of huge buildings everywhere, the sweet cows and sheep and rabbits and possums, and even the cute little field mice that speckle our snow with their tiny feet. I love the soil and the streams and the long grasses and the wildflowers. I love the beautiful deer racing and bounding across the fields and looking at me with their great, deep, soft  eyes.  There are things that I love about the Midwest

But the weather honestly wears upon my soul. I know that this is often true with other believers as well--sometimes it brings with it depression and anxiety as the long days stretch on into months and the spring is long in arriving. As believers, we are often hesitant to talk about things like depression or anxiety. We are "afraid" that other believers will think that we are "less spiritually mature," that we are unable to "handle" the different stresses of life, that we are not clinging to the promises of God, that we aren't joyful, "positive" Christians. But I have come to believe that the seemingly "less mature" believers are often (not always, but often) the ones who are more heavily relying upon God's strength--their weakness drives them to the Rock of Ages. Their anxiety and depression make them sense more keenly their need for a saving God and for His personal intervention in the day to day happenings of their lives. That depression and anxiety may be the goad that drives a believer to the Great Shepherd of the sheep. 

We need to remember that not everyone is made "the same." That the Lord's commands are true and relevant and that His promises are firm and trustworthy for each one of us individually, but that not everyone is made the same. Not everyone is able to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and push their face into the wailing wind with joy even as the chill gale wraps itself around their shoulders in negative degrees! Some people have weaker constitutions; some people struggle with depression in the darkness and cold. Some people, especially the elderly, may combat anxiety in the winter as they wonder how they will get around and have concern for falling and slipping on the ice. As believers, we are called to have hearts of compassion and understanding. 

And be kind to one another, tenderhearted . . . Ephesians 4:32 NKJV

We also need to remember that some people are built physically "stronger" than others. Some people's bodies handle cold better than others. Some people take medications that help them in varying ways to deal with the stresses of cold climates and in other areas of life--that make them "feel better" physically, which in turn impacts their outward response towards the weather. We need to remember these things before making quick judgments about people who seemingly "complain" about the weather. 

In my own life, there are times when I am on the "stronger" end, and then times when I am on the "weaker" end. Haven't we all experienced this in different areas of our lives? I believe that the Lord teaches us through both of these extremes so that we can have sympathy or empathy for those around us, rather than forcing a positive attitude upon our friends and acquaintances who in our understanding may not be able to "handle" something that we think that they should be able to immediately  through the Lord's strength. I do a lot of gardening in the warmer months and often lift "heavy" things or do intensive yard work on our 4 acres of land. One of my sisters, who has severe allergies and asthma struggles in the warm weather--she loves the outdoors and to garden, but sometimes just physically can't do the "heavier" work that I may be able to do. A "strong" person may look at her (not understanding the physical limitations that she has) and think proudly, "What a weakling!" or they may-in a spirit of understanding--remember that the Lord makes people different and that often a physically weaker brother or sister in the Lord may be doing an immense amount of "quiet work" for the kingdom of God--only the Lord knows the extent of it. 

On the other end of the spectrum, after I gave birth to my second child, I was physically weak. I had my two children 19 months apart and experienced very difficult deliveries with both of them. My body was tired; I felt "broken." For those of you who have experienced something similar, you understand what I mean. I have seen the looks of joy on mother's faces as they hold their babies for the first time, and I can honestly tell you that when my son, my second child, was placed in my arms, I was in a daze of pain and couldn't even think. I saw the joy of other mothers when they talked about nursing their babies and I was so physically "weak" for the first 5 months of my son's life (after I had nursed my daughter for over a year) that I continually had the "shakes" during the day and often had a difficult time lifting myself from the floor when I sat down on the rug to read to my children. There are times in our lives when the Lord renders us physically weak so that we may understand what it is like to experience other people's daily struggles. I had to give up nursing my son so that my body could heal. And I had to realize that my joy came from the Lord in the midst of my struggles, not in having a "positive" attitude, but in clinging to the Lord and in letting His joy strengthen me in my weakness. 

The important thing is not necessarily embracing the circumstance itself as joy, but in embracing the One who allowed it in our lives and gave it to us in love that we might draw nearer to Him through it. 

The important thing is not necessarily rejoicing in the bitter cold itself, but in rejoicing in our Great Father, who uses the bitter winds to drive us toward the truth of the warmth of His love and the realization that spring always comes after the winter. 

In all things, we give thanks, but there is no sin in admitting that they are hard things. The Lord does not require that we enjoy the hard thing itself--only that His joy flows through us in it. The cross itself is a thing to us of beauty now, but only because it brought redemption. The bitter winds of winter and the hard as nails ice and snow are a means to prepare the ground for the softness and warmth of the spring. 

Yes; of course there is a beauty in winter, but we have to admit, if most of us are honest, that month after month of cold and ice and hard ground and frozen trees  do wear upon the soul and we long for the warmth of the new season. I think that the Lord places that longing in each of our hearts; didn't He, friend? 

It is just as C.S. Lewis's characters lamented in the beloved Chronicles of Narnia under the evil witch's rule: "It is always winter and never Christmas!" And when Aslan came, so did the melting of the snow and the birth of spring and rejoicing after the long, glacial winter. 

We are quick to cast judgments. 

We are quick to throw a stone in areas where we don't struggle. 

Positivity is the new "go-to" word in secular and Christian circles and we've all heard others tell us not to surround ourselves with "negative" influences (i.e. people). 

But we need to be careful when we embrace the world's thinking in areas like these and put a "spiritual" spin on them. 

We glibly remind our brothers and sisters to have a positive attitude while quoting verses such as "Give thanks in all circumstances" or in reminding them that others have it "worse" than they do--

John Newton's relationship with poet William Cowper is a powerful example of how we might treat our brothers and sisters who struggle with depression or anxiety or who may in God's wisdom, have a a "weaker" constitution than we do and whose bodies may literally have a more difficult time handling the things that we are able to with greater ease. 

William Cowper was a godly man (probably equally godly as his pastor-friend John Newton) who struggled immensely with anxiety, depression, and with continual haunting thoughts that he wasn't really a saved child of God. He was a very sensitive man who wrote beautiful poetry and provided the church with the timeless hymns, There is a Fountain Filled with Blood, and God Moves in a Mysterious Way, among others. 

Many times, William Cowper would fall into a spirit of despair and it was his friend, Pastor John Newton's encouragement that the Lord often used to keep him afloat. John Newton was what we might think of as a robust Christian and instead of looking down upon his friend William Cowper for his "negative" spirit, rather encouraged this dear man to take joy in the Lord, to write hymns for the glory of God, and to be strengthened with might in his inner man by clinging to the promises of God in his deep depression. 

Who knows what good John Newton did for the soul of William Cowper, his dear and constant friend? What if Newton dismissed Cowper as a "negative" influence upon his life? 

Perhaps we would not have Cowper's beautiful hymns today . . . 

We need to remember that the William Cowper's among us may be the instruments that God is using for His glory . . . perhaps the sensitivity that often leads to their depression and "negativity" also leads to the profound feeling expressed in the works that the Holy Spirit accomplishes through them. 

I know many people like this; you probably do as well. 

Living in the Midwest is teaching me that I don't need to be happy about months and months of frigid cold and snow. 

But I can sing as I go . . . 

As Corrie Ten Boom did in the dreadful prison of Ravensbruck . . . singing hymns audibly and from the quiet depths of her heart when she was told that she could not sing out loud or would be punished--as she did when she saw a single flower through her window there and rejoiced in the hope that her Savior was near and dear to her and with her . . . 

As William Cowper did when amidst his severe spiritual depression he took up his pen and wrote hymns to the Author of his salvation. 

As many missionaries and Christian workers do as they confront loneliness and climates that they are not accustomed to, and cultures that are difficult to acclimate to. It is not easy; one cannot be a Pollyanna always--

But we can sing as we go. 

We sing in our hearts--we sing audibly. We pray and confront the depression and anxiety that at times takes residence in our hearts.

We ask other believers to pray for us that we may be strengthened with might in our inner man. 

We sing as we go.

We lift a quiet song of joy up to God in our hearts; we cling to His promises. 

We look at the bitter winds and the ground covered with snow for month upon endless month and we plant seeds of joy in our hearts, knowing that spring will inevitably come, that our hands will some day feel the beautiful grains of garden soil sifting through them, that flowers will bloom again, that birds will not be huddled together, but singing free and unhindered and full of the the life of spring, that worms will come up to the surface of the earth again, that the warm breeze will blow upon our cheeks. 

Even if this is in the sense of a spiritual spring--especially in the sense of it. 

I will not delight in the hard thing--whatever it is--

But I will sing as I go

Sing to an ever-loving, ever-caring Savior--sing to the God who cares about my anxiety and depression--and who lifts me above them in His grace--

Sing of the joy of spring. Sing of the victory that is in Jesus alone, not in a spirit of positivity--but in the joy that is our strength in Him

Singing we go. 

Singing I go along life's road
Praising the Lord, praising the Lord
Singing I go along life's road
For Jesus has lifted my load.