Thursday, February 12, 2015

What Does it Cost to Truly Live? ~ A Purging of the Heart

I'm sitting here looking out the window at the beautiful trees, the trampolines that have given our kids endless hours of fun, and the chickens pecking at the ground.  The kids are either sleeping or reading quietly and the house is unusually quiet (for the moment).  I'm reminded of what a wonderful life I lead.  Sometimes, on the hard days, it doesn't seem so wonderful, but all I have to do is stop and think of what it would be like if it were all taken away.

That's also when I realize how much I cling to this life.

I had a major revelation this morning during my quiet time.  It was very convicting.  I was reading the passage in 1 Timothy 6:8-10, that says,

8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

I was doing a bible study dealing with covetousness and the question was, "From the content of these verses, define the 'love of money.'  Do you see how Paul defined it in these verses (hint: it is in verse 9).  Based on Paul's definition of the love of money, are you guilty?"

I saw that Paul was defining the love of money as the desire to be rich.  Am I guilty?  Well, that was I don't desire to be rich!  That's not something I've really struggled with. I like living a simple life.  In fact, I've always preferred having little so that I wouldn't begin to hold on to the things of this world.  So, I wrote that answer down in my notebook..."I don't desire to be rich."  Then I began to think about what I do desire...and I began writing..."I desire to be comfortable and happy and at ease, without a heavy burden or inconveniences.  I desire nice things that I enjoy." Hmmm....

Then it hit me like a ton of bricks.  These things that I desire ARE riches.  These are luxuries compared to the way most people in the world live….compared with my basic needs.  I guess I've always defined "rich" based on our western context, and I've never desired that type of wealth.  But all you have to do is take a trip out of the USA to...anywhere...and you'll see that we are the wealthiest people on the planet.  And even without comparing myself to anyone else, looking only to my basic needs, I can see how wealthy I many luxuries I enjoy.  Just look at verse 8 that says, "But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content."  Would I really be content with just food and clothing?

Now I don't believe the Bible is saying that being wealthy is a sin. God blessed Abraham and Job and Solomon with great wealth.  Rather, it speaks to what our heart desires.  I'm reminded of the rich young ruler in Luke 18:18-30, who asked Jesus what he must do to have eternal life.  Jesus cut right to the heart when he told him to sell all his possessions and give them to the poor.  This revealed to him what his heart loved more than Christ -> his riches.  "But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich." vs23

I have to ask myself the same question.  Rather, Jesus is asking me the same question.  What do I love most?  Am I holding on to what I have in this life or do I have a heart of surrender and a willingness to sell it all and give to the poor, if he were to ask me to.  If I'm unwilling, then I love my riches more than God and I am an idolater.

I'm not only speaking of my possessions, but also my comforts, my ease of life, my safe surroundings, my happy, predictable life that I lead with my children and husband.  If God were to say, "I want you and your family to sell all you own and serve me in a difficult land, where I am not known," how would I respond?  With all my heart I want to respond as Isaiah did and say, "Here I am, send me." (Isaiah 6:1-8)

I want to love God more than this life.  I want him to be enough for me. 

But I feel like the man in Mark 9 who said to Jesus, "I believe; help my unbelief!"  I could say, "I am willing; help me be willing!"

This is ugly, but maybe deep in my heart I feel like I'm entitled to a certain standard of living because I'm an American.  You know, the basic comforts of our American lifestyle.  But when I became a follower of Jesus, I exchanged my American citizenship for Kingdom citizenship.  That means that I am called to deny myself completely, take up my cross (be willing and ready to die) and follow Jesus (Mark 8:34).  This is not radical Christianity, this is normal Christianity.  At least it should be.  And it is in many places of this world where millions of Christians live daily under severe persecution.  I'm afraid my comfortable life has made me a weak follower of Christ.  Now I understand why we should not desire riches, and why Jesus said, "How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!" (Luke 18:24)

"So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple."  Luke 14:33

A true disciple or follower of Jesus, follows in his Master's footsteps....the one who renounced the glory of his position as the Son of God and became a suffering servant, mocked and beaten and slain.  He says, pick up your cross and follow me.  Love me more than all this stuff that won't last...and I will give you joy that will never end.

"Sell your possessions, and give to the needy.  Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." Luke 12:34

This world is not my home.  My life is but a vapor, here one day and gone the next.  If I store up treasures here on this earth, I will not only lose it all, I will lose my soul.  It's when I give up my life that I truly find it.

Jesus said, "For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it.  For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?" Mark 8:35-36

Jesus didn't just tell the rich young ruler to sell all his possessions and give them to the poor (in essence, if you want to be my disciple, renounce all you have and follow me), he went on to say that if he did this he would have treasure in heaven.  You see, Jesus knows where the real treasure is....and he beckons us to come and find it.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field."  Matt. 13:44

If I really know the treasure I have in Jesus, I will see plainly how much more valuable he is than the things that I own, my family, or my own life.  If I really know Jesus, I will joyfully give it all for Him.  HE is the treasure.  In his presence is fullness of joy and at his right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11)

Friends, I'm writing all of this because this is what Jesus is speaking to my heart right now.  He's been dealing with me in this area for a while.  It seems to keep resurfacing.  I know it will be a daily surrender for the rest of my life.  I guess that's why Jesus said, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross DAILY and follow me." (Luke 9:23)

But he doesn't leave us on our own to figure this out.  After the rich young ruler went away sad, everyone around recognized that the kind of sacrifice Jesus was asking was very difficult.  "Those who heard it said, 'Then who can be saved?'  But he [Jesus] said, 'What is impossible with men is possible with God.'" Luke 18:26-27

So, it's to my knees I go.

I will seek Jesus with all my heart.  I will bask in his glorious presence.  I will ask him to purge this world from my heart.  And I will trust that if my Savior is able to remove my sins as far as the east is from the west, he can and will continue the work he started in me and make me wholly His.

And meanwhile, I should start reading God's instructions for the rich!  Ha! Yep, that's me...and if you live in America, that's you too.

"As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life." 1 Timothy 6:17-19

Truly life...I love that. I want to keep my eyes on eternity and invest in things that give generously, to do good works, and share with those in need.  God has given us what we have for a purpose...and it's not merely for our enjoyment, but to bless and help others, to build his kingdom and invest in eternity.

And the more we give, the less we cling.

No matter what we have, we ought to be content, holding every one of God's gifts up to him with open hands as an offering of thanks.

That's my prayer for us all.  

So what about you?  Are you clinging to this life?  What is God impressing upon your heart as you think about these things?  

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Anchor for Your Soul - The #1 Essential to Surviving & Thriving in Motherhood and Life

In my last blog post I wrote about anchors for the home, a few things we do to help give structure and purpose to our home life and family. But above all those things I have found that the greatest anchor is the anchor for my own soul. It is the thing that lifts me up when I feel like I'm sinking into despair, it gives me renewed purpose and vision when I can't seem to find my way anymore. It gives me peace when my heart is troubled.  It gives me hope when I feel like I'm failing, and truth when I'm believing lies. It gives me a skip in my step and a song in my heart. It helps me to fill my home with an atmosphere of love and joy. It's my lifeline.

It's my time with Jesus, my Savior and King and Friend.

How easy it is to slip into the busyness of the day and neglect the most needful thing. It often seems so hard to get up early when I'm so exhausted from nursing the baby in the night or just going nonstop with all the demands of the kids and the home. But oh how much more I need Him because of it all!!!!  And how wonderful it is to get up when all the house is quiet and spend time with the One who knows my heart better than any other. He knows what my soul needs; like a shepherd knows what his sheep need.  "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.  He restores my soul." (Psalm 23, ESV)  He wants me to come to him and allow his word to be a balm to my soul. He wants to prepare me for the day, take my burdens and give me peace.

He wants me to experience His presence.  

As moms we often feel like we never have time to ourselves..."me time." I mean, I can't even go to the bathroom in peace! It never fails that every time I close my door to get dressed or you name it, that's when someone needs me. Right? I'm sure you know exactly what I mean.  "Calgon, take me away!" (Ok, I just dated myself.)  But you know what I've found? There's nothing that refreshes me more than spending time with Jesus. No amount of "me time," be it shopping, going out with a friend, getting a cup of coffee, etc. can do justice to what Jesus can do for my soul. Not to say that these things aren't fun and good to do every now and then, but that's not what we're missing...that's not the answer.

The answer is Jesus.  He is the ONLY one who can truly satisfy our souls.  

So no matter where you find yourself in life right now, the best thing you can do to not only survive, but to thrive, is to anchor your soul in Jesus Christ and His word and let Him tend to your heart in a way only your Maker can.

You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Ps. 16:11

Are you spending time daily with Jesus?  Share with us! Do you want to make a renewed effort? Start now by telling me when and where and I'll be praying for you!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Anchors for the Home

I can't believe how long it's been since I've sat down to write a blog post.  I guess since before Ezra was born.  And now he's 20 months old and I have a new baby...Haven Ruth, who is already 2 1/2 months.  I've had many things to say and share but I guess the time to write is never as easy to find.  But, even for my own sake, as a way to record the lessons learned, the blessings God gives, and the beautiful moments that are a part of this journey, I want to resolve once again to try.

So, at the outset of a new year, which I have every confidence will be full of growth, beauty, new challenges, and fun, I am sitting down to write.  It's been a good start to this new year.  I'm truly amazed at the way God is moving and graciously giving us new motivation and desire to make this year a year of MORE...more of Jesus, more of His word, more faith, more courage, more love, more prayer, more sacrifice.

It's amazing how easily things can go awry.  Over the Christmas break we love to take time off school and enjoy Christmas.  We stay up late and play games, make gifts, watch Christmas movies, and eat goodies.  It's so much fun! But 2 weeks of this kind of "freedom" with 9 kids and no real schedule quickly moves towards chaos and just a feeling of ugh.  So, I'm always ready for the new year, with new goals and a new start.

One thing I've noticed that pulls the chaos back into order is what I call "anchors for the home" - A few things that bring the family together in a united oneness and also give structure to our day.  These are a few things that (are supposed to) always remain, even if the rest of the day is "off."  For us these things are family Bible reading in the evening, morning Bible time with Mom (including scripture memory & prayer), afternoon laundry folding (usually with Mom reading aloud), and late afternoon clean up (each child has their own jurisdiction, or area of the house to clean).  {I have specific times designated for each of these things to try to keep us on track, and I set my phone alarm to remind me, though it doesn't always happen at that time.} Of course morning chores and meal chores are an absolute must all the time.  Putting these things in place seems to bring order and structure to even the craziest days.  When I let these things go, whether it be for a holiday break, vacation or just getting lazy, life seems to fall apart...and so does Mom!

Maybe I'll share some other habits that Steven and I have found to be hugely beneficial in our lives next time....

But for now, if you find yourself floundering or feeling like life is just chaos and you don't know how to pull it back together (trust me, I REALLY know what that feels like!), throw down an anchor and see how it helps.  I have to remind myself of these things often since my free spirit personality tends to let go of the anchors way too easily!  I'd love to hear what your experience is, so feel free to leave a comment!

Happy sailing...:-)

This is our family gathered in the evening for singing, bible reading & prayer. The two youngest are missing- Haven (2 mo) is sleeping & Ezra (20 mo) is on my lap learning to sit quietly :-) And just so there are no misconceptions, it doesn't usually go as smoothly as it looks in this picture. With this many kids there is never a lack of movement and interruptions! It's a learning process. :-)

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A Look Back on 2014 - 10 Ways God Has Blessed Us

Happy New Year!

As we come to the close of another year, I am just in awe at God's continual goodness to our family.  There is so much to be thankful for and more than ever, God is teaching me to continually look for His good gifts, which are all around me.  Even when times get difficult, if you look, you will see His grace...His many graces.  So, with a heart of thanks, let me recount just a few of them from this past year, and in doing so declare the goodness of our great God.

1.  In February our oldest, Jake, turned 13.  Yes, we've hit a milestone as we enter the teenage years! Over Christmas we pulled out the old home videos and saw Jake as just a little guy.  It seems like just yesterday!  Now he is taller than Mom and looking more like a man every day.  He's full of creativity and ingenuity; this year his interest has turned to learning to make knives and writing a book (to name just a few)!

2.  In March we had what is becoming an annual visit from my brother's family, which we affectionately call "Cousin Camp."  The number of kids grows each year! This year there were 12, with my brother's 4 and our 8.  It is a highlight of our year, with lots of fun, laughter, and great fellowship.

This year the kids made tie dye shirts that say "Cousin Camp 2014."  I think we've started a new tradition!
Ezra & Grizzly (born just days apart)
We couldn't even fit all the kids around the table!

3.  In May, our youngest (at the time), Ezra- our sweet, loving, melt-your-heart adorable, happy little guy- turned 1...and Steven's parents got to be here for it!  They come every year and this year was as fun as ever.  It's always such a joy to have them with us.

One of the highlights of their visit is their arrival, when they drive up and barely get out of the car before the kids attack them!

4.  Slowly but surely, our family business- Dad's Disappearing Salsa Co.- continues to grow, expanding into 12 stores, and keeping us busy with farmer's markets, street fairs, flea markets, holiday shows and internet sales.  We've even been recognized when we are out and about..."Hey! You're the salsa people!"

5.  God blessed us with another big garden this year, and a new flock of laying hens, giving us 18 chickens. Our "farm" is simpler these days, with no goats or pigs, but more manageable for this season of life.

6.  Through the years God has been faithful to provide for all our needs, and this year was no exception.  Through a loving surprise gift, our friends and family pitched in to surprise us with a new double oven and refrigerator!  It never ceases to amaze us the ways God takes care of not only our needs, but many of our wants as well.  The amazing thing was that it came at a very difficult time for us financially.  It was like God was saying, "Look at what I can do.  If I can give you what you want, then you can trust me to take care of your basic needs as well." (we consider it a want, but our friends and family may disagree...our oven door did have duct tape holding the door shut for years and didn't work well (to name just a few of the problems).  And it's a DOUBLE oven and a much bigger refrigerator...which helps so much with a big family. We are so thankful!

7.  The "little boys" Jed & Abel moved out of their big sister's room and into their own room.  Yes, it was finally time for us to turn the "office/guest room/homeschool book room" into a little boys room, to make room for the new baby to go into Hailey's room.  The boys LOVE it!

8. On October 28th, God blessed us with baby #9....and can you believe it was a GIRL?!?!?!  Hailey finally has a sister. And since Haven was born at home, Hailey got to be in the room  when her little sister was born.  What a special bond! Our little Haven is such a sweet, peaceful, chubby, beautiful baby girl and we are all just crazy about her.  And her nickname has become "Squishy," because she's just so...well, you guessed it...squishy!!!

Our traditional bed picture that we take after each of our babies are born.  I think we need a bigger bed!

9.  My wonderful mom came out to help me when Haven was born, as she always does whenever I have a baby.  She is such a blessing to me, staying for 2 weeks to help with the kids and the house. After Haven was born my step-dad Ray flew out to join us! The kids had so much fun with them...even spending a couple nights camping in the backyard with Grampy!

My mom and I got to have a "girly day", just the two of us, before Haven was born.  It was so much fun!
Now that Steven made us this awesome 9ft table, we can all fit around it!

10. And best of all....My sweetheart and I are more in love than ever....and our children are happy and healthy.  God has made us a family and we are so very thankful.

We hope and pray that God blesses you this new year and that together we will look for the many good gifts that He gives us, even the little things, and give Him thanks.  The Bible says that every good and perfect gift comes from our Father above (James 1:17).  And may the gifts direct our hearts to the Giver, who gave the greatest gift of all, His son Jesus Christ, so that we might have life in Him.

God bless you all,

The Mena Family
Steven & Jenny, Jake, Zack, Ben, Sam, Hailey, Jed, Abel, Ezra & Haven