By Christy Mactavish
You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. Exodus 20:4 (NLT)
These last few days I have been conducting a very interesting experiment that I believe affects many families and relationships. The teacher in me feels inclined to use the Scientific Method to explain:
Ask a Question
1) Why do I feel compelled to check my “smart” phone every few minutes throughout the day?
2) Are there any true benefits found in constantly checking it?
3) If not, what effects does it have on my day, my family, my relationship with God, etc…?
All of my blog stats are available on my phone. So is Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, as well as every app under the sun! It takes just seconds to look and check the progress of any of these via this phone. If I receive a comment on the blog, I can respond promptly. If someone “Likes” the Facebook page, I can be sure to lift them up in prayer and give thanks to God ASAP. Yet, as I constantly check, I am distracted from what’s before me, whether that’s dinner, my children asking me a question, conversations with them, etc…
Construct a Hypothesis
Smart phones can become an idol that detracts from our relationship with God, and instead can reinforce only our own efforts. It can also take us away from engaging in real relationships with others.
1) For three straight days, just use your phone as a PHONE, not a computer.
2) Track how many times you feel compelled to just take a “quick” glance at it, and reflect on why you think you need to check it. Is it to just fill time? Is it to do real work? Is it because you think you’ll be able to actually will things to happen if you just look at it?
3) Notice what is going on around you when you feel compelled to check it. Is there family in the room? Are your children needing you? Do you need to complete a simple, yet important task like making dinner?
Analyze Test Results
The first day I did this, I was SHOCKED by how often I moved toward my phone. In fact, I came to see that the phone had become an extension of my hand, and when it wasn’t there, I felt like I was missing something. All the reasons for wanting to check it were quite basic–looking at Facebook updates, checking Cross Moms stats, perusing Pinterest photos, etc…
As I became more aware of how often I was attached to the phone, I caught the number of times my children were right there in the room with me, sometimes asking a question I didn’t fully hear, or the laughing they shared with something I completely missed. I came to hear my youngest’s little voice say, “Mommy, are you almost done on that thing?” Then I noticed how my oldest has started following my lead and reaches for his phone first for his mode of “entertainment.” (And he doesn’t even have a smart phone with all the bells and whistles. His is just a regular flip phone, but it does have a few games, etc.)
Regarding Cross Moms, my phone checking compulsion was doing nothing to advance the ministry. Instead, it pulled me away from the very things I pray our readers will be blessed with–the clear understanding that God is in control, not us, and drawing near to Him through His Word is the most fulfilling thing there is! In some ways, “watching” via my phone to see if the there was progress on the blog was really quite the same as trying to watch water boil. No matter how hard we watch it, it’s still not going to boil until its proper time! I realized I had this false impression that the success of Cross Moms lay solely in my efforts to do all I can to push the cause…when really what I should be doing is seeking Him first, not my cell phone!
Flipping through a “smart” phone all the time is actually quite the opposite–dumb! It can rob us of those moments that God has put before us to nurture and build real relationships with our loved ones and with HIM!
I know I’m not the only one who has done this. Look around you. So many people are on their phones all the time! Are you one of them? Is God laying it on your heart to do a similar experiment?
I will shout this from the rooftops: THANK YOU for this struggle! Because without it, I would not have become aware of what you are continually teaching me–Trust in YOU with all my heart. Lean not on my own understanding (or my cell phone!) In all ways, acknowledge YOU. And you WILL direct my path!
Sharing at NOBH, The Better Mom, and Titus 2sdays
My heart completely sank. Embarrassment and fear of ridicule permeated my mind. It was just a spelling mistake; but I was supposed to KNOW better. I was an English teacher for many years! Teaching writing was my favorite focus! Teaching my students the importance of rereading, editing, etc…was an intricate part of what I taught! This isn’t supposed to happen!
My husband was taken aback by my reaction. He tried to calm me by saying, “Honey, this isn’t some Pulitzer Prize piece up for judging. Relax.”
My dear friend consoled, “I know you’re upset with yourself, but you need to be willing to receive grace as well as give it.”
My friend whose company name I mis-spelled emailed me and expressed, “No worries!” And she ended it with a smily face.
But I couldn’t shake my frustration, and I couldn’t stop worrying about it. And then it hit me, and I had to face it. Deep down, at the heart of my fears was the question, Will they still like me even though I broke the most basic rule of marketing—spell the company’s name correctly!
“Will they still like me?” Wow–Really? It sounds like I’m in high school again!
At first I was mad at myself. I thought, There I go again—trying to deposit my worth in my self-imposed “People’s Bank,” where the exorbitant fees cost me my joy and peace, and the ever fluctuating interest rates place me at risk for losing the knowledge of who I am in Christ.
But then, my beautiful Savior opened my eyes to truly see what I was doing TO MYSELF. I guess you could say it was a gentle “frying pan moment.” As I sat gliding on our back porch swing listening to my children play, the words from Ephesian 1:3-9 gently filled my heart:
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord and Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will–to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment–to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.”
These verses lovingly whispered that as a child of Christ, I am loved, redeemed, forgiven, adopted, and chosen.
Enveloped in His grace…
These verses reminded me that our Heavenly Father does not expect us to be perfect, only His Son did that.
Deep sigh of relief…
What He does expect is that we BELIEVE that we are loved, redeemed, forgiven, adopted, and chosen.
BELIEVING… and transferring my worth from the “People’s Bank” to my Heavenly Father…
Care to join me?
I am so thankful for you. Thank you for reminding me of my worth.
Linked up to Titus2sDays and NOBH
I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me he can do nothing. John 15:5
For a while now, my heart and mind have been marinating in the phrase “Draw near to Him.” If you’ll notice, the phrase begins with a verb, which is an action or state of being. Oh, there are so many actions I associate with this phrase! (The teacher in me feels compelled to make a list)
Lean into Him,
Talk to Him,
Cry out to Him;
Sit quietly in the midst of His beautiful creation,
Revel in Him;
Open up the Bible,
Study His Word;
and Listen to Him.
These actions seem simple enough, don’t they? And the immeasurable peace and joy that comes from doing these actions is truly breath-taking and can be life-changing.
Recently though, God is helping me see that while all of these verbs are so incredibly important in my relationship with Him, and yes, without a doubt, they draw me closer to Him, there is a verb I have a tendency to forget (sometimes quite often). It is a verb that can stop me in my tracks and instantly place me at a crossroads in my walk with my Heavenly Father.
That verb is obey.
You know, this may sound silly, but I’ve never liked how that word sounds when it is spoken, and in all honesty, it’s not even part of my vernacular. Just looking at it and whispering it to myself makes me giggle because it sounds so strange. However, Luke 6:45 ends with “…For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” So, I have to wonder, if my mouth is not willing to speak it, then is it not flowing from my heart either? Hmm…is this just a trivial connection, or is there more to it?
Why do I draw near to my Heavenly Father in the first place? Of course, because He loves me and I love Him, and the hope and joy and peace He brings fulfills my life. But also, so I may seek wisdom and discernment; so He can “instruct and teach me in the way I should go, and counsel me with His loving eye.” (adapted from Psalm 32:8) I express over and over and over that I want to do His will. Well, DOING His will means obeying when He tells me what to do.
I am beginning to see that obeying God is an action that doesn’t just draw me near to Him, but it KEEPs me near Him; it is how I can remain in Him and Him in me, so I can bear much fruit! Yet, I am acutely aware that it’s not always easy, and at times great courage is needed. This is why I think my heart now needs to “marinate” in the concept of obeying–long enough for it to overflow not just into my words, but my actions, too.
There are so many examples of when we find ourselves at crossroads in our walk with you, whether it’s with our spouses, our children, our finances, our jobs…the list goes on and on; and it’s because we are either afraid or unwilling to obey. Thank you that we can draw near to you and climb up in your lap to learn your ways. Please help us remain in you by giving us the courage to follow through and obey.
So it has been one week since my grumbling has been humbled. (Refer to Humbling the Grumbling)
And here is what I am learning about my responsibilities as a SAHM, my attitude, and how they are both so intricately woven together when dealing with my children:
1) God can show us exactly where our own “hang ups” originate. When I was teaching, I always expressed how much I learned from my students and their parents. Some of the parents shed beautiful light on wonderful parenting strategies, and I still refer to some of them today as examples I like to follow. Others, though, in all honesty, ingrained in me a deep determination to make certain I parent my children the exact opposite way. I share very openly in a series of articles my experiences and thoughts on helicopter parents in schools; and I now see clearly that this is where a huge part of my own attitude has been shaped. An internal tug-of-war is always going on in my mind: If I constantly do everything for my children, (ie. pick up after them or do their laundry even though they’re old enough to help) they will be too dependent and not know the importance of hard work, perseverance, and accountability. In many ways, though, my parenting focus has been directed towards just these strict concepts that I want my children to adhere to…
Hmmm…It sounds quite similar to the Pharisees in the Old Testament…
2) Thankfully, God reminds us that His thoughts and ways are greater than ours. That’s why He has gently brought me to a place where I am asking, “But where is the love?” 1 Corinthians 13 1-3 says, If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. Do you see what is repeated in these scriptures three different times? I can teach my children all of those things mentioned above–hard work, responsibility, and accountability–but if we have not love…..then we gain nothing…
Wow…The powerful message of Jesus in the New Testament…
3) Our hearts and minds can be renewed and there can and should be a balance. Every time one of my children has asked me to help do something for them this week, God has given me a keen awareness of my own internal dialogue. I will admit, I have caught myself more than once wanting to resort to my old, dogmatic response that sounds a bit like, “You don’t need me to get that for you; you’re perfectly capable of doing that yourself.” However, because of my beautiful, loving Savior, my eyes have been opened and my heart has been softened to see that in order to teach our children the importance of sharing and helping each other with a joyful heart, then it is imperative to model those exact traits. And with each seized opportunity to do just that, layers of our own heavy armor can be peeled off, and our own hearts can be filled with a joy and a freedom that only comes from serving such a powerful, loving God.
Oh Lord, I am so thankful for all the mini-lessons you are teaching me. I think my new motto is going to be: I still have so much to learn!
One of the most powerful, life-changing scriptures for me comes from 1 Peter 5:6, 7. It says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxieties on him because he cares for you.”
I have mentioned this scripture before in a prior piece called Humble Pie’s Powerful Nutrition. These verses actually initiated a turning point for me in the midst of great challenges in my work setting a couple of years ago. It triggered a time of deep reflection and searching for God’s will, not my own. In time, I came to see that His will was for me to be home for my children and my husband.
For the past year now, my new work setting has been my home. I have absolutely loved being home. However, in some ways I feel like I am trying to blindly be the “homemaker,” because really I was never taught how! I know some may be thinking Come on! How hard can it be? When I think of all that I juggled when working full time, I too, have been a bit perplexed as to why this new role seems to be so challenging at times…until now.
As a teacher in the classroom, I received many heartfelt, tangible rewards when working with my students. The exchange of ideas, the Ah Ha! “lightbulb” moments, the praises for a job well done! Those were incredible external motivators each and every day. (Not to mention, all that work created a great excuse for why the house was a wreck, and our family in disarray.)
Now, as a SAHM whose children are in school most of the day, I don’t have any excuses for not having a clean home, but there are very few external motivators for cleaning the bathrooms! While boys have a sweet, amazing love for their mommas, they are not the greatest at noticing those little decorating details or understanding how much time you spent organizing all of their book bins by genres (I can’t help it! I was a language arts teacher!)
Unfortunately, I am realizing that when I do clean up the house and cook dinner, etc…and I don’t receive the “praises”, I tend to exude a tit-for-tat attitude, and I take on a selfish tone when someone asks me to do something for them. I then justify my response by thinking that I’m not going to raise any lazy children who won’t do for themselves! If they’re not going to help me—huh! I’m not going to help them.
But here is where the frying pan proverbially whacked me over the head: Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men…” Wow! That has been a game changer for me. It has made me realize that I need to humble myself under God’s mighty hand…
And you know what? In time, He has been lifting me up by helping me see that my attitude, motivations, and reactions do not do much to reveal Christ to my children! He’s also helping me understand the true meaning of humility, and from whom it comes.
Karol Ladd, author of A Woman’s Passionate Pursuit of God , explains that “an important step in our journey toward humility (is) realizing that God is working in us not only to do what is good but even to want to do what is good! That pretty much knocks out our own prideful attitude when it comes to living and doing things for Christ. Knowing it is God who works in us to both give us the desire and the ability to follow His ways keeps us humble as we depend on Him to carry out His good purpose. We can’t take any credit.”
By drawing closer to Him, He alone is giving me the DESIRE to want a better attitude, and He alone will give me the ability to follow the path on which He has called me. How can I not say to God be the Glory!
Lord, thank you for continuing to open my eyes to your ways. I still have so much to learn.
By Christy M.
Okay, I admit it. There are times when I want to just shout from the rooftops, “HELLO! Don’t you people (aka my children) see how hard I’m working here! Can’t you show a little respect? Can’t you just take a few extra seconds to pick up after yourselves, so our house is not a wreck every time I turn around?” Unfortunately, this is exactly what I did yesterday after two days of letting it fester inside. In hind-sight, though, I’m the one who needed to show a little respect.
One of the really cool blessings that came from my mom getting remarried this past weekend was that I inherited some great new pieces of furniture. We also acquired several items you don’t really think to buy for yourself but could really use, like wheel barrows, two story ladders, etc….When we arrived home late Monday, the whole family worked together to unload the furniture from the U-Haul truck, and we staged it all downstairs until we could arrange it properly. Tuesday morning, the boys took off for school, and my husband had to get back to work. Taking five days off set him back a bit, and he really needed to buckle down. That left me. In my house. With all this great furniture. And all these great ideas as to where I wanted each one to go.
Now, what I have come to understand about myself over the last several years is that if I really want to do something, I can do it. And I won’t stop or take a break until it’s all done EXACTLY how I want it.
All day Tuesday and all day Wednesday, I moved every piece of furniture by myself. I traded out old pieces for new. I rolled up large rugs and schlepped them to the basement and then rolled out new ones, and THEN lifted every piece of furniture in the room back onto the new rugs! I removed old book shelves and replaced them with a beautiful little dresser, and I dragged new mattresses up a flight of stairs by myself. (With those, I grunted and shouted like I was dragging a huge truck in a Strong Man Contest! No lie. Thankfully, I was the only one home and my windows were closed at the time.) On top of all that, I then mowed the lawn, weed-whacked the front, and trimmed some of the hedges outside! Impressive, huh?
Well, maybe in theory it seems impressive, but in practice I looked more like a mad woman trying to prove something that didn’t need to be proven. I looked like an impatient woman angrily grabbing control because I didn’t think anyone else could (or would) do it. Oh, and the internal dialogue! I’m ashamed to say that it sounded like a bitter, jaded woman who thought the whole world was against her.
Do you remember the little teapot nursery rhyme that describes “When I get all steamed up, then I shout! Just tip me over and pour me out!” Well, I was the teapot yesterday afternoon, and I definitely got all steamed up; and all of my pent up frustrations came pouring out–all over my family–unfairly. “Don’t you see how much work I’ve done around here? I am moving furniture like I’m a young college guy and you won’t even pick up a few things off your floor! You need to respect all the things I do for you!”
Long, heavy pause…
You see, in the midst of charging ahead with my mommy-the-martyr agenda, I had dismissed that my youngest son asked if he could help arrange the “new” furniture with me after school. I assumed it would take too long, and he probably couldn’t lift much of the furniture anyway, so I would just do it. I also dismissed how excited my oldest son was to finally be able to mow the lawn and use the weed-whacker. I assumed I may have to go back behind him anyway and fix some of what he might miss. So I just did it. I just assumed my husband wouldn’t help me because he had too much work to do, and I just assumed my children would do what most children tend do when asked to help around the house–gripe, complain, and gripe some more.
You know what I am learning about assumptions? If you make them long enough, you’ll eventually be proven correct. Another way to put it is, “A man reaps what he sows.” If I keep sowing seeds of a martyr and just do it all myself, well then, it’s only natural that I will reap being a martyr, and I will reap the bitter, angry, negative attitude that comes with it. That’s not what my Father wants for me, or for you! Galatians 6:2 says, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” That means it’s Christ-like to not only carry others, but to also allow others to carry ours! I want to fulfill the law of Christ! Don’t you? But to do that, I’m learning we must be willing to loosen our clenched fists, tear up our agendas, be willing to let others grow in the process of helping, and receive the help that is right there in front of us.
Oh, Lord, I’m learning that I still have a lot to learn; but I’m so thankful that you are a merciful, loving, and gentle teacher. Please help my own gentleness to grow. Amen.
Trying to seeking Him always,