Rejoicing, Homemaking, and Motherhood

Rejoicing, Homemaking, and Motherhood

The week before I gave birth to Charlie, I was making a mad dash to get the house ready for being “home bound” for the next few months. I knew I would be sitting on my couch nursing or working and I wanted to be inspired by the home around me … not only inspired, but encouraged.

This has been a huge shift in my decorating/home-making mindset. It’s been difficult for me to extract “people pleasing” from the process of making a home. I don’t decorate my home to impress other people. I now decorate and arrange and purchase things for my home because it gives me joy and sets up reminders to look to Jesus. And it took me awhile to get there.

Most of my “nesting” consisted of purging our entire house of unnecessary junk or items I didn’t really like anymore. It’s crazy what I was holding onto just because someone had given it to me or it had worked in a previous home or space. I sold stuff. I gave away stuff. And ultimately I replaced or simplified almost every corner of our home. It was absolutely invigorating.

So anyways. I got sidetracked there. I love talking about home making, ha!

The days before Charlie got here, I was finishing up some final projects while I could bounce around town (big belly and all). One of those projects was a sign made out of old barn wood with a word that meant something deep to me.

So I went to Michael’s with my coupons and started roaming through the alphabet letters. I had several special words in mind that God had pressed deep into my heart, but I couldn’t settle on one. I asked the Lord, “Father, what do I need to hear daily? What word would consistently encourage my heart when I see it in my home?”

Then I found the first letter.

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The word was “Rejoice.”

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (Philippians 4:4)

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. (1 Peter 1:6)

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds… (James 1:2)

Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
God, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer’s;
he makes me tread on my high places. (Habakkuk 3:17-19)

The call to “rejoice” is required of every believer, but in my life — in our life — it has been life or death.

Brian and I have been walking through a season of trials, like many of you, that seem unending at times. There have been job losses, financial impossibilities, voices of discouragement and defeat, illness, fear, unanswered questions, dysfunctions that seem to never resolve, and a horizon that still awaits the sunrise. It’s easy to complain. It’s natural to worry and stress and respond to life and each other out of frustration. But God has a higher calling, a level place, a richer life available to us through His Spirit that begins with such a simple word, a simple dare … rejoice.

Earlier this week as the baby fell asleep beside me, I opened my Bible up to Psalm 95.

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!

For the Lord is a great God,
and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth;
the heights of the mountains are his also.
The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.

Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand.

Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,
when your fathers put me to the test
and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.
For forty years I loathed that generation
and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart,
and they have not known my ways.”
Therefore I swore in my wrath,
“They shall not enter my rest.”

Sometimes I think we read verses like “come into His presence with thanksgiving” and “make a joyful noise” as optional or conditional based on our mood at the moment. I know I have. It’s easy to allow our circumstances to control our joy like an undisciplined toddler dictates everything his parents do.

  • I woke up with a headache, no way I can rejoice.
  • The baby didn’t sleep last night, no way I can rejoice.
  • Marriage seems like climbing up a mountain while someone throws rocks at you, no way I can rejoice.
  • The diagnosis isn’t good, no way I can rejoice.
  • No one seems to notice all the work I do, no way I can rejoice.
  • Another bill came in the mail that I don’t know how I’ll pay, no way I can rejoice.

The psalmist knows the struggle and tries to paint a bigger picture for us. It’s not about pretending or mustering up enough Pollyanna-type cheerfulness to make the people around you think you have joy. It goes deeper than that. It’s realer than that. And it starts not by looking to ourselves to get it together, but looking at God.

Did you notice what the author of the psalm tells us about God?

He is great. He is a King. He holds the deepest parts of the earth and the highest mountain peek in His hand. He made the sea and formed the dry land. Not only that, but He is our God and we are His sheep.

Does that give you a new perspective on your life? your problems? that bill? that argument with your spouse? that teething baby? that final exam? that frustrating coworker?

He’s not just Creator. He’s a Shepherd. That’s intimate, close, daily, well-acquainted-with-you-type-God.

So.

Today.

“If you hear His voice … don’t harden your hearts, as at Meribah and Massah in the wilderness…”

I enjoy how God uses geographical locations to remind His people of what was going on in their hearts spiritually, because it’s very natural for me to do that too. I vividly remember conversations that happened in parking lots, arguments on certain strips of interstate, breakthroughs at the kitchen sink, breakdowns in dressing rooms. Places bring me back to moments; the physical place brings me to the spiritual and emotional place. And God does that here in this psalm too.

Meribah and Massah. They might sound like lovely places, but sadly it was not a good moment for the Israelites.

All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from the wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of the Lord, and camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?” But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” (Exodus 17:1-3, ESV)

Dramatic much? Ha.

This is happening right after the Lord split the raging seas and they escaped from Pharaoh by walking on dry land. This is right after they grow hungry in the wilderness and God rains down bread (manna) from the heavens to be gathered every day to totally satisfy each person. This is RIGHT AFTER God does the miraculous and reveals what kind of God He is to these stubborn people.

So, even despite all the grumbling, God works through Moses again and he strikes a ROCK and WATER pours out.

If you read the whole “manna story” in the chapter right before this one, it’s apparent that God is graciously determined to display His glory to this people.

He does everything so that they might know Him. Everything.

And the Lord said to Moses, “I have heard the grumbling of the people of Israel. Say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread. Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’” (Exodus 16:11-12, ESV)

When they enter this valley, there is no water because God wanted there to be no water.

It’s completely on purpose.

That might seem harsh or even stupid to some people — I mean, I try to avoid or prevent any potentially “lacking” situations to avoid grumbling adults and children — but He’s got an important reason and an even more important mission: His glory and their good.

But they couldn’t see that. In fact, they couldn’t see anything or anyone but their lack or need.

And he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the quarreling of the people of Israel, and because they tested the Lord by saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?” (Exodus 17:7, ESV)

Grumbling, complaining, and quarreling are not products of difficult people or situations — they are products of a hard heart, an orphan mentality, a faulty (often dramatic) perspective of God. Like the Israelites, we destructively assume that God is not with us — that He is absent and unconcerned with this moment or need.

When the author of Psalm 95 reminds us “do not harden your hearts,” he is saying that a hard heart is an ungrateful, unrejoicing heart. If we refuse to remember the works of the Lord and His ways — all the “Red Sea” and “bread from heaven” moments — we will resist worship and thanksgiving. Our God is eager and intentional in all our trials to show us: I am HERE. I am WITH you.

This. This is WHY we rejoice.

And when we don’t? What are we saying about God?

“Is the Lord among us or not?”

Too often I find my face in the grumbling crowds of the Israelites. I find in myself a hard, ungrateful heart and I respond to “no water” situations like I’ve never met God before. But you know the good news? He breaks ROCKS and causes WATER to flow out. He can take my stubborn, hard heart and give me reasons to rejoice. If He can create a world out of dust, He can create joy in my soul. He can restore to me the joy of my salvation.

So dear weary mother, dear discouraged wife, dear tired and frustrated student, dear lonely and disappointed single, dear struggling and thankless employee…

Rejoice. I will say it again. Rejoice.

God is setting the stage in your life for you to see Him most vividly. He delivers. He satisfies. He fulfills.

He is very near you, very present, very close.

Therefore:

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!

ashes are the beginning of abundance

ashes are the beginning of abundance

On Becoming A Mama: The First Weeks At Home

On Becoming A Mama: The First Weeks At Home