Monday, August 24, 2009

Being Content

**I will get back to the book of Ruth, but something else has been on my mind this week, and so I decided that I would write a post on contentedness instead of pushing ahead with Ruth.**

In the book of Philippians, Paul wrote: "Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me." Philippians 4:11-13

We have come face to face with this over the last 8 months, and I think that with the economy being what it is, many of you probably have as well. Maybe you have been able to be content, and maybe you haven't. I have been so thankful for the many things God has brought us through over the last several years, so that as we have walked through these months of unemployment and sporadic employment, we have been able to completely trust in Him. Don't get me wrong ~ there have been moments of panic and worry ~ but they have been minimal. I was telling a friend yesterday that God is so...well, God. :-) Is there truly any adjective that can adequately describe our great and glorious Father?

Being content can be difficult. But I do believe that the key is keeping our focus on God. If we are looking at our circumstances, then being content is going to be difficult. I'm not talking about sticking our head in the sand, and pretending that whatever is happening isn't. But I am talking about not "focusing" on our circumstances. Some of us are worriers by nature. It is difficult for us not to worry ~ there's always something to worry over! Some of us belong to communities that, depending on our personality can make it difficult to be content. The homeschooling community can be like that. I don't believe it means to be. :-) But as things are taught (Biblically based things), it can make it difficult to be content with where God has us. The entrepreneurial movement caused many to be discontent with being employed by someone else. However, God does not call every man to be an entrepreneur. Some men are just going to be employees. I do believe that we all benefit from entrepreneurial thinking, but that does not mean we are all going to be self-employed.

The call now for fathers to be more involved with their children; particularly their sons, can cause discontent ~ especially for mamas! Now, I do want to say before I go any further, that I do believe that a father's involvement is crucial ~ for both our sons and daughters. But I as a woman cannot truly teach my sons how to be men. I can impart wisdom to them, and I can teach them many things that are integral to being a man, but by virtue of my sex, there are many things that they just need to learn from their Daddy or another godly man. We have one son in particular that just because of his temperament and some of the issues we have had with him needs his Dad to "take him in hand" more than the other boys did/do. But, my Beloved is working for a farmer right now. He is gone before light and doesn't get home until after dark. I can allow this to cause me to be discontent ~ and contentious with him when he gets home ~ or I can choose to be content because God has provided this job for him at this time. I am thinking and praying about ways he can still be more involved with this son, but for now I am not dinging at him about it. God knows what my children need, He knows what I need, and He knows what my Beloved needs. When my Beloved does get home, he is only up for a couple of hours before he's in bed and I believe that time is better spent with us being able to talk and the children being able to talk and snuggle with their Daddy before bedtime. I could fuss at him about making lists of chores for the older boys to accomplish, but in this season it's not the most important thing. I am his helpmeet. Right now that means that I need to look around the place and see what needs to be done, and get the boys to working. For instance the other day, I put one of the boys to work putting the roof on our wood shed. We've had the materials for probably a year, but my Beloved just hasn't had the time to get it done. So, I gave one of the older boys the task of getting the roof on the shed, telling him how it would bless his dad to have that project done. Now we just need to get the wood stacked. ;-)

These past 8 months have been such a blessing to us. We have seen God provide for specific bills we didn't have money to pay, we have seen God provide work when we needed it (though not a job), we have seen God provide for our needs through the generous gifts of our brothers and sisters in Christ. He truly is Jehovah Jireh! We have come to the realization (!) that God is the one who provides. He is the one who always provides, but when our husbands are bringing home a paycheck, it's easy to forget that it's God and not our husband who is providing for our family. These past months have stripped away all pretense of self-reliance, and made plain the reality, the truth that it is God who is providing for our family's needs.

Do you believe that? This is where the contentment rubber meets the road. :-) If I believe that God is sovereign over all, if I believe that what God brings into our lives is better than what I would want, if I believe that God loves me and what He provides is enough, then I am going to be content. I have come to realize that while my Beloved is responsible for looking for work, putting in applications, doing his best and projecting the best image possible at interviews, ultimately the getting of a job is God's arena. My Beloved can do everything to the best of his abilities, but he cannot force someone to hire him. Only God can provide the job. This has actually been a very freeing realization. It has allowed me to settle into contentment much more quickly than I think I would have otherwise.
We have been praying about a particular job, but with my Beloved farming right now, timing is not what I think it should be. :-) Last week, I spent too much time worrying about it. He needs to talk to this person, this needs to get done, how will he have time, etc. It began with just a few thoughts about it here and there, but began to crescendo in my heart and mind. After spending the better part of one day worrying about it, I realized I needed to stop and pray about it and just leave it with God. After all, if he is to have this job, it will be in God's timing. So, I prayed. I prayed about the timing of it all, I prayed that God would move my Beloved to do what he needs to do when he needs to do it, etc. About 2 days after I had prayed about it, my Beloved came home, and all he wanted to talk about was this job and what he needs to do and how I need to help him. Now, God does not always answer our prayers so quickly ~ and I am not suggesting that you grab onto a "name it and claim it" or "prosperity gospel" type of beliefs ~ but I am suggesting that instead of stewing on something you pray about it and quit worrying! I can be content because I trust that God is going to do what is best for our family ~ whether that happens to be what I want or not, in the time I want ~ and rarely if ever does God work on my timetable!
Trust God that He has you right where He wants you; right where you need to be. Believe that He is working everything for your good ~ your family's good. And if contentment is difficult for you to find, pray about it and ask God to help you find it. He's faithful ~ I'm pretty sure that's a prayer He will answer.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Spiced Peach Jam

This is one of our favorite jam recipes (besides Huckleberry!). My mom also just found out that it makes super bee trap bait!

Spiced Peach Jam

4 C (about 3lbs) ripe peaches, peeled, pitted, and ground or chopped fine
1/4 C lemon juice
7 1/2 C sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 (6oz) bottle liquid pectin
  • Combine peaches and lemon juice.
  • Add sugar and spices ~ mix well. Place over high heat and bring to a full rolling boil; boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly.
  • Remove from heat; immediately stir in pectin. Skim off foam with metal spoon. Cool slightly, stir and skim by turns for 5 minutes. Ladle into hot sterilized jars and seal.
  • Let jam sit about 2 weeks before using.

Makes 6 half pints.


Monday, August 10, 2009

Ruth Chapter 2

Ruth ch. 2 tells us of Ruth's life back in Judah with Naomi.

As they return, Ruth takes the initiative in helping provide for them. She goes out into the fields to glean and bring home grain. She was obviously not afraid of hard work, and was willing to do what she needed to to help Naomi.

As Ruth is gleaning in the fields, Boaz takes notice of her ~ her reputation precedes her.
"But Boaz answered her, 'All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Isarael, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!'" Ruth 2:11-12

One of the things that struck me as I read through chapter 2 is Boaz and his behavior. Every time I have ever heard the book of Ruth preached on, the speaker talks of Ruth's boldness towards Boaz. But, as I read ch. 2, I see Boaz taking the lead. He has heard of Ruth and how she has cared for Naomi. He pulls her aside and speaks with her, telling her of the good he has heard about her, he invites her to eat with him ~ making sure that she eats her fill and has some extra to take home, he watches over her, taking care to make sure the men in the field leave her alone, and he instructs his men to leave bundles of grain for her to "glean". From the very beginning, Boaz is taking care of her, showing her deference, and basically loving her. Ruth's later boldness comes, I think, from these initial actions by Boaz.

We see that Ruth is very diligent in her work, beginning early in the morning and gleaning until the evening. When she returns home, she not only brings the gleanings, but she brings home the prepared food left from lunch for Naomi as well.

I think, in ch.2, we can get the most instruction from Ruth as a daughter-in-law. It was very convicting to me as I read. I had a strained relationship with my mother-in-law, and she has now been gone for over 13 years, so I cannot try to make things right. What we see is a young woman who is more than willing to care for her mother-in-law, she acts on that willingness. We see that her reputation preceded her in how she cared for Naomi. If you moved to a new place, and the only thing to recommend you to others was your reputation for how you treated your mother-in-law, what would people think of you? Would you be as well thought-of as Ruth? Or would people have a poor opinion of you?

I do believe that Naomi was probably an exceptional woman and that the two women had a good relationship. But, I don't think things were probably always rosy. They were very poor, both being widows, and we know from Naomi's own words that she was bitter. Bitter people can be extremely hard to get along with. Yet, Ruth is known for her love and care of Naomi. So, a difficult mother-in-law is no excuse. Our behavior is not dependent on other's actions.

Do you have a 'care-taker' mentality toward your mother-in-law? Perhaps she is a very capable woman, or you live far from her, but you can still love and care for her (and distance might actually make that easier!). If needed, would you willingly take her into your home and provide for her?

Years ago, we took my Beloved's father into our home. He was very, very ill and needed surgery, but he was too weak to withstand the surgery. So, he came to our house to be strengthened. We had had a very difficult relationship. To bring him into our home was not something that I relished, but felt like we needed to do. He was only with us for a month or two, but it was a major turning point in our relationship. I am so thankful that we brought him home and cared for him. It gave our children an opportunity to know their grandpa better (we lived several hours away from them and did not see them often), and it gave me an opportunity to put love to action toward my father-in-law. Some of the things that we do for my Beloved's step-mom are to call her on a fairly regular basis and see how she is doing. When we are in the area, we always stop and visit. We do what we can (long distance) to show her love and respect. If she needed it, we would take her into our home in a moment. This is an attitude change that has only been brought about by the working of the Holy Spirit (for both my Beloved and I).

You may have a long list of hurts inflicted by your in-laws, but I encourage you to take them to the Lord and leave them at His feet. Ask Him to give you a super-natural love for your in-laws. Perhaps the relationship is such that you really can't spend time around them, but that doesn't mean you can't get creative and still honor and love them. Maybe you have a great relationship ~ if so, praise God! Are there still ways you can love them better?

What were some of your thoughts as you read through chapter 2? Please share! This week, we'll read chapter 3.