Category Archives: Contentment

Of Dirty Dishes…

One late night this week, it occurred to me that my kitchen might need a little attention…

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Actually, I got the idea after my kitchen practically jumped out and attacked me.

Oh my word, I’m cringing even looking at it… And I’m cringing even more, because, I took this second picture significantly into the cleaning process and considered posting it instead.  I secretly wanted this to be the messy kitchen you saw that might possibly promote me to an organized-neat-freak-whose-house-is-so-clean-at-all-times-that-the-tiniest-mess-is-a-disaster in your mind.  I actually considered downplaying the mess to somehow make me look better.

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If I’m honest with myself and with you, my house is messy far more than I’d like and I have proof of this pattern, because the other day, when I cleaned just for the sake of general responsibility and health, Darcy walked in and gasped: “Yay! Is Grammie coming today?” [cue the psychological damage, please…]

When we first got married, a very wise woman gave me advice on carving out time and making priorities and our many conversations would go like this: I’d ask “But what about this good thing?  …or this good?  …or that better?”  And she’d quietly smile and knowingly state:

“You’re saying ‘no‘ to one thing to say ‘yes‘ to another – your ‘no‘ to that social commitment is a ‘yes‘ to the commitment of your relationship and making time for it – the best thing.”  

I love this idea and I think it bends out into my home life and family life too.

When one of my children needs extra counsel and love, when there’s a writing deadline, when a 4th grade landform, a 1st grade corn celebration party (for real, it’s a thing), and a kindergartener’s reading homework all coincide – and they all need to be addressed at the same time, something has to go so I can keep breathing, and that something (for me) is usually the dishes.

One of my favorite phrases is: “There are only so many hills you can die on and this shouldn’t be one…”  (Seriously, I’ve long considered a needlepoint or canvas…)  And so, after what feels like a defeated week, I’m posting a picture of my dirty dishes.  And I hope they encourage you! (weird, right?)

Because sometimes, whether in casual conversations or on social media (particularly the latter), it’s easy for me to feel shame when I see the best and most polished in others’ lives and then I feel terrible for not being able to “do it all”.

For me, saying ‘yes‘ to my children, to my husband, even to something like writing, often means letting something like the dishes go for just a minute. (or, you know, two days…[double cringe] )

I promise, it doesn’t look like this all the time, and I definitely don’t want to hold up my dirty dishes as an example because each person’s “saying ‘no’ to say ‘yes’ moment” will look different, but for me, this is real, so I’m coming clean over the dirty today – this week, I said ‘yes‘ to my family…and the dishes took a little longer to get clean.  Because most of the time, my life doesn’t wrap up all neatly like a pretty package…

And I need to remember to take even the dishes…moment by moment.

“Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.” Ps. 90:12 (NLT)

Chase’s Story [VIDEO]

Have you ever seen this video of Chase?

If not, I highly recommend it.  And even if so, feel free to watch it again…  We have been so blessed to partner with the St. Baldrick’s Foundation this year and are continually thankful for the platform they give us to share Chase’s story with so many.

-MbM-

[Our deepest gratitude to the incomparable Matthew Lackey for his mad, crazy video skills.  Also, a huge thank you to both Jane Hoppen and Kristen Thies for all they did to put together the finished product and the time spent filming it.]

Ten Thousand Reasons For My Heart To Find…

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“Wait here”, the manager said, and we leaned against the wall, all six of us, like a giant line-up.  I turned to Chase and whispered: “Are you excited to meet Matt Redman?” and he nodded and grinned as  we leaned against the wall in the wait. 

I suppose we expected fanfare, or a crowd, or something to herald this amazing artist – but suddenly, humbly and quietly (I didn’t even from which direction he came), he was standing in front of us and there were no handshakes – only hugs.  He said he’d heard a lot about us and then he moved down the line of us and greeted each one, learning names and personal details.  He met Karsten’s stuffed dog, talked with Darcy about her loom bracelets and their colors, and got on his knees in front of Chase and Aidan and asked them if Spiderman and Batman were in a competition, who would win?

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And the craziest, most amazing part of it all?  We got to stand in front of Matt Redman, look him in the eye, and try and put into words what the song 10,000 Reasons means to us….  

How it underscores every car ride to the hospital…

How it’s floated out of most pre-procedure rooms…

How most of the hematology and oncology staff have been shown the music video at one time or other…

How it was the last thing Chase heard every day as he whispered “I’m so brave” and slipped into unconsciousness on the radiation days…

How every music therapist in the hospital downloaded the chords because they knew if they went to Chase’s room, it’d be the song he’d want to hear…

How it wrapped us up as we’d sit, high about the lake, day after day in the dark cancer days when the fevers wouldn’t break and the cancer cells wouldn’t leave…

Oh how we failed!  There are not having enough words, enough good words to put into a few sentences what three years of this song as a soundtrack to our lives has meant.  How precious it is to us, and how precious Matt Redman is to us because of it.  There have been times and seasons when our hearts were broken and we could not call out, and the only thing that came from us to God were Matt’s words, Matt’s voice in this song as we had none left ourselves.  This song has been one of the greatest gifts — until last night when we got the opportunity to try and find the words to tell him of it’s impact.

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And how I wish you all could have been with us and watched as Chase sang along to so many of the songs, raised his arms in worship, clapped and cheered, even danced a little.  And at the end of the night, before the closing song, the room got quiet as Matt spoke and he told them all about how he’d just met a family and the kids were all “firecrackers” (I mean, did he get us or what?) and that one of the sons had a brain tumor and then, Matt Redman told the room a minute of our story and Chase’s love of the song because – as he said – we were there to worship, but the church is always there to bear each other’s burdens, and we are the church, and as I sat in the hundreds of people, with Chase on my lap, Matt Redman invited the church to bear Chase’s journey with us, as a picture of Chase went up on all the screens, and Chase gasped and exclaimed “That’s me!”.  Matt dedicated the song to the Lord, but said they’d sing it with Chase that night, and so we all stood together in this great room with hundreds around us and cried as we sang every word by heart – the way God put things together blew me away yet again.

And on that day when my strength is failing,
The end draws near and my time has come,
Still my soul will sing Your praise unending…
Ten thousand years, and then forevermore.

And all the way home, late into the night, Chase chatted on about “my friend Mr. Matt” and how he loved him and missed him and wanted to give him another hug “…because he sang my song, Mom!  He sang my song!”

We are so thankful for this once-in-a-lifetime experience of worship and fellowship…

…moment by moment.

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*For more on the ministry and music of Matt Redman, please visit his website here.*

Of Wheelchairs And Joy

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Her life as she knew it changed forever when she was 17 and she has faithfully used the crazy hard changes for truth and beauty and just recently, the children and I had the great privilege of actually meeting Joni Eareckson Tada.  I watched their faces and they were afraid to get too close lest they hurt her – they have yet to fully understand her wheelchair and it’s reasons – but she smiled at them and encouraged them to come closer and they couldn’t resist her joy.

Do you know her story?   It’s real and it’s raw and she’s a hero of mine because she never stops seeking the goodness of God when all the life circumstances are anything but.  Knowing her story, listening to her speak, reading her writing – all of it – is such a wonderful reminder that the day for no pain and tears is coming.  It is not today, but it’s coming, and God remains faithful while we wait.

Moment by moment.

“There is no circumstance, no trouble, no testing, that can ever touch me until, first of all, it has gone past God and past Christ, right through to me. If it has come that far, it has come with a great purpose.” – Alan Redpath

[This quote is a favorite of mine and is listed among Mrs. Tada’s favorites as well.]

 

Someone To Know Me

He’s afraid of almost nothing outside the hospital, but he hates change like the plague.  I mean, knock-down, drag-out, hates it straight up.  One time I changed his bed without telling him and he lay on the floor and screamed until I could persuade him that new sheets weren’t the end of the world.  And I tell you truth when I say that I’ve just gotten him to wear shorts in the warm weather and not steal his winter hat onto the school bus in the June 80 degree days because he doesn’t remember wearing shorts last summer and all he has in his memory are long pants and winter coats.

Everything I’ve ever read about a brain hurt by surgery and tumor says this is not uncommon.  It takes longer to adjust and more to cope and the little things are always very, very big.  If there’s no mental paradigm for something, it’s usually treated with anything from caution to outright hostility.

Three weeks ago now, Chase was to start summer school, but we sent him to vacation bible school at the church for the first week instead.  He wanted to be with his siblings and, his life being so different as it is, I couldn’t refuse him this opportunity.  

The Monday morning of “VBS” rolled around and suddenly, he didn’t want to go.  When I asked why not, he would evade by screaming about something or simply leaving the room.  Finally, he calmed down, crept back into the kitchen sheepishly, and sighed.  “Are you ready to talk now, Chase?”  He nodded and then whimpered quietly.  That sound meant only one thing: Chase was afraid of something. 

We sat cross-legged on the floor of the kitchen and talked until I realized that all the screaming had been a sabotage of sorts because while he knew the church and the people, he didn’t remember “VBS”…something he preferred to refer to as “PBS” or “PBS.org” (for real), and because he didn’t know it and couldn’t account for it in his brain, it terrified him.  

As we talked, I asked if he wanted to pray and he nodded silently and so we prayed that God would give Chase peace.  I said “Amen” and his head shot up with a quick question.  “Mom?  Will you pray that my teacher would be somebody who knows me? Please? I need somebody who knows me.”  Not just someone that he knew…no, someone who knew him.

An hour passed and as we walked into the brightly lit auditorium, I watched Chase lose his fear to intrigue as he took in the jungle set and the replica of Mount Kilimanjaro (a part of the week’s theme).  We walked forward to find his seat and at the end of his row, checking the children in, was his 2-year-old Sunday school teacher, a beloved woman who taught him that God is good and glorious and always with us and she said it so often to him from the day he turned 2 that when he lay on pre-op beds and in hospital rooms, when all else pushed aside in his fear, it was those words from the Sunday school room – “God is near me” – that would come to him and he’d sing them softly as he’d wait for the doctors.  This was the woman who’d walk him through the week.  

I’m putting this story down for you to read because I often fall into thought that finds the hard things unjust and the good things deserved and the small things somehow just getting ignored.  So, I’m writing this here and now because life comes with crazy ups and downs and sometimes, I forget to hand the small things over to the One who knows and when I do remember, I’m often too busy to record exactly how He surrounds and blesses.  Chase prayed for someone to know him.  

Stopping to be thankfulmoment by moment.

Chase and Mrs. Worley

Chase and Mrs. Worley

The Story of 2014

Once there was a family of six: a handsome father, a redhead mother, a sole princess girl, and three little wrestling and running boys.

The handsome father, he worked in two places – one a large company, the other a church.  In both places, he worked with numbers… lots and lots of numbers.  In the free moments, you would find him completing a half marathon, quiet with a book, or very lately, working in his new garage.

The redhead mother spent the days holding the pieces together… pieces of laundry and food and school and sometimes, yes sometimes, even silence.

The sole princess girl, just a second ago a babe in arms, was suddenly eight and tall, and already a fast runner.  She was never so happy as when she was running… just like her father.

The oldest of the wrestling boys was five, nearly six, and started wearing glasses to see, which made him look wise.  He began the school journey and stretched his legs at running to try and beat his sister, and if he could, would choose to be buried under a gigantic mound of Legos forever.

The middle boy, with his lightning scar and white head, also began his school journey, but with special help and the fulfillment of his special wish… to ride a bus.  He continued, at every turn, to live up to his name and found his way through life in a never-stopping, never-settling way.

The baby boy, a baby no more, stood nearly as tall as the middle boy, with wide shoulders and stance that spoke of having older brothers and being ready and willing to throw the first punch.  And yet, he would sit quietly with a book for the longest time and everywhere he went, he looked for horses.

This family of six were wanderers.  They left their tiny space when the word “cancer” was first spoken and lived with grandparents for help as two years came and went.  They decided to sell their tiny space and pray for more room close to everything held dear, and the tiny space almost sold three times and they prayed for wisdom to know… and then the tiny space, their first little home, sold and they were led to the perfect little blue house near everything held dear and so, wanderers no more, they moved and settled in the early Fall as the leaves began to change.

And in the first hours of owning the little blue house, the call came that something was growing again under the lightning scar in the white head… and the family stopped and prayed for moment-by-moment grace to find the joy in the every day as they waited six weeks and checked again, and then six more and again.

And by the time this story rests in your hands, another check will have come and gone and a course of action will stand in front of the family.  But they put aside the fear and in grace, choose faith and yes, even joy for their family and their boy, and the root of it is found in this season and in another little boy, born thousands of years earlier.  This stable-born boy would grow to be the Savior and Lord and, bloodied arms stretched wide, would triumph over sin forever and ever, and make a way for death to have no victory or sting, and in this boy-turned-forever-King, there was and is hope and joy, and in this the family of six, in their little blue house, rests secure.  They hope and pray the same for you.

[This is the text of the Ewoldt Family Christmas letter that was mailed in early December, 2014 – Thank you for walking this year with us…moment by moment.]

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He Is Enough

Finally, a Christmas season with no new.  No new babies that leave you lucky to get completely dressed each day, let alone decorate a house for Christmas.  No new and scary cancer diagnosis that sends you reeling so that you can hardly think straight, let alone prepare for the holidays.

This.  This would be the year we would do.  Do lights and trees and the Christmas market and start new traditions.  Each day would be beautiful and weighed down and slowed down in some way to specially mark the Advent and keep the Heart of our celebration at the front of our minds.  …and our adventures and travels would all look so pretty under the light of an Instagram filter.
And then everybody got sick.
And Chase’s counts dropped for two weeks in a row with no explanation.
And I found myself lying face in the snow as my bruised brain reminded me that what I’d set out to do hadn’t been a good idea.
And then came the CT scan and the ER conversation about how to treat concussions.
And then I watched the Christmas season pass me by.
The cards only half done, the Christmas market abandoned, the traditions would have to wait.
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Lying flat on the couch by the tree, tears streamed down my face as I struggled to let it go.  I had attached my heart to these things we would do.  I would be a good parent for them; a good Christian for them.  These things are what would make this time special and holy.  Because we need special.  You see, for any of us, healthy or not, this could be our last Christmas, but somehow, with the cancer, the dark cloud of “the last” looms greater and closer.  This Christmas must count because it could be the last one we’re all here together.  What if…
I have continued to wrestle against this concussion, pushing for health because we’re losing precious days.
It wasn’t until yesterday, eight days into the wrestle, as I sat under the tree, feeling bitterly disappointed to miss another Advent Sunday, that the still of my heart was stirred.
God is enough.  
My worship doesn’t need anything, not even the beauty and pageantry of Christmas in my beloved church.  My ability to guide my children through this season is not based on events and outings.  No, He who took on our broken, wretched skin, He and He alone is enough.
This does not come easily to me.  I so often want to dress Him up and observe Him in a way that makes me feel special.   How silly and foolish a thing to do – and it took a concussion to strip it away and show it up.
So the Christmas cards may not get sent, but He is enough.
The new traditions may not get made, but He is enough.
The old traditions may not be kept, but He is enough.
This may well be the last Christmas…but HE IS ENOUGH.
I don’t need anything else.
Moment by moment.

The End Of A Season

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Day 7 in the chemo cycle: Chase is well enough to have moments of great energy, but fragile enough to need rest and protection.  He couldn’t go to church with the  siblings, so, still in his pajamas, bundled in a brother’s fleece (because it reminds him of Shaun the Sheep) and an aunt’s hat, we walked a few minutes in the cool, crisp morning.

As the leaves crunched under our feet and dew glistened on the leaves, I saw again the beauty in this end of a season…

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Sovereign in my greatest joy, sovereign in my deepest cry…

With me in the dark, with me at the dawn…

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In Your everlasting arms, all the pieces of my life from beginning to the end…

I can trust you.

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In your never failing love, You work everything for good…

God, whatever comes my way, I will trust you.*

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Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.    Joshua 1:9

The End of a Season

The End of a Season

Lyrics: Chris Tomlin, “Sovereign”

 

On Contentment

From my husband Bob (also posted on his Brevis blog) ~

Christians struggle with contentment.  I struggle with contentment.  I’m ambitious, driven, and competitive by nature, so I struggle to take time off or slow down, and am always looking for something better.  When I miss a goal, I mope; when I start a project, I’m already looking on to the next thing that I want to do.  I hate to get stuck in a rut.  These tendencies have led me to think about contentment, and being satisfied in Christ alone.

What is contentment?  Is contentment the opposite of ambition?  Can someone be ambitious and be content at the same time? How are joy and contentment related?  Can you make it a goal to be more content?  How does one practice contentment?

Contentment Defined
Hebrews 13:5 says, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have.”  It seems like there is a link between money and contentment.  And, when I say there’s a link, I mean a reverse correlation: the more money you have, the less content you are.

John MacArthur goes so far as to say that most Americans don’t experience contentment because we are a rich society:

“Most Christians don’t experience it, obviously, to the degree that God desires us to. We tend to be a very discontent people. And I have this sort of personal theory that the more you have the more discontent you become. If that is true, then this must be one of the most discontent societies in the history of the human race. We are called to contentment. We are called to be satisfied. We are called to say I have enough. Most of us don’t experience that. Paul did. Paul was a satisfied man. He was a contented man.”

Jeremiah Burroughs defines contentment this way: “Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition.”

Sinclair Ferguson says that “contentment is the direct fruit of having no higher ambition than to belong to the Lord, at His disposal.”

The Opposite of Contentment
The opposite of contentment is covetousness.  When we desire something so much that we lose our contentment in God, we elevate that worldly object above God, and place it as an idol over him.  When we grumble to God that he hasn’t given us the perfect job, or the perfect family, we show ourselves to be discontent.

My study of contentment led me to a small study of covetousness.  In his sermon, “Battling the Unbelief of Covetousness,” John Piper states that “the opposite of covetousness is contentment in God.”

Have you ever found yourself wanting something other than what you have?  Have you looked at your neighbor’s house, and said to yourself, “Wouldn’t it be nice to have that house?”  Or, have you looked at your job and thought, “I really don’t like my job… if only I could be a _______, then I would be happy”?

Christians battle covetous thoughts every day, myself included.  There have been many times when I’ve thought that the grass might be greener on the other side of the causeway.  There have been times when I’ve gotten down on myself in each of the following things:

  • My job—could I be doing something that I enjoy more?
  • Living in a condo, instead of a house
  • Driving 10 year old cars, instead of 5 year old cars (or new cars)
  • My income
  • My kids (why on EARTH can’t they be well-behaved like the Bauer kids??)
  • My lifestyle
  • My physique (though there’s really nothing to complain about here… I’m pretty ripped J)
  • My wife

Practicing Contentment
The phrase “practicing contentment” seems a little bit ironic.  One can be discontent with their discontentedness, and then make a goal to practice being content more often.

Practically, how do Christians practice being content?  We live in the most discontent culture in the world, and we’re called to be content in the midst of it.  That’s kind of weird (see my past post about being Weird as Christians).  Here are a couple of lessons that I gleaned from different sources as I read about contentment (most of these summary points are from John MacArthur):

  1. Contentment begins with confidence in God’s providence – believe in God’s sovereign control.
  2. Contentment involves knowing your own heart.  John Ryle says, “Few know their own sin; few feel their desert; and so few are content with such things as they have. Humility, self-knowledge, a clear sight of our own utter vileness and corruption, these are the true roots of contentment.”
  3. Contentment has an element of satisfaction with little.
  4. Contentment is living independently from circumstances, not letting yourself be swayed by your circumstances.
  5. Contentment is being sustained by a divine power – you can be strengthened by the Holy Spirit to be more content.
  6. Contentment has an element of being concerned with the well-being of others.

May we all know contentment, and be able to echo Paul when he says in Philippians 4: “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”