I am just starting a Bible Study with some friends from church, gathering twice a month and reading Seasons of a Mother's Heart by Sally Clarkson.
I know nothing about the book, the author, the ministry they run, etc... so cannot say what to expect. But, I am going to read this book with the desire of learning more about God and more about the kind of wife and mother He wants me to be. Anyone want to join in?
I'll be reading one chapter every two weeks and posting a few thoughts or highlights from the chapter...I'd love to have you read along and share your ideas and thoughts as well. We won't be sharing to dispute opinions or judge beliefs, but simply to encourage one another in the growing of our faith and walk in the Lord!
Observation: I noticed right off that this book is written by a homeschooling mother for other homeschooling mothers. Since I am not a homeschooling mother, I am choosing to read what she is really saying to mothers. It is easy to see how what she writes can be applied to motherhood or even being a biblical woman regardless of our mothering status.
What stood out to me:
"God wants me to find His joy. He wants every single day of my life to be a celebration of His blessings, whether they are large or small. He wants me to celebrate life...the life He has given me." pg 6
"True joy is found by living somewhere between the 'ideal life' and 'daily realities.'" pg 6
"Because when you are thankful, I (God) can see that you are acknowledging My sovereign control over all the circumstances of your life, whether good or bad." pg 8
"...reach for God instead of reaching for happiness." pg 11
"...adjusting your expectations to life's limitations." pg 11
"My joy is dependent upon my relationship with my Lord, and our celebration together of this life He has given to me." pg 13
Ecclesiastes 3:9-15 Questions:
* "If the things of this world are 'beautiful' yet we have 'eternity' written on our hearts, how will that affect our view of life?"
We will look at life through the lens of eternity, seeing the beauty around us much easier. We will also see the beauty as a mere glimpse of things to come in the eternal.
* "Why has God given us good things to enjoy if they are only temporary?"
I think God wants us to enjoy life here on earth, knowing that we are only passing through. These are some of God's sweet gifts to us that we can enjoy His creation, using our gifts to help others and serve Him, and when we live the way He would choose for us, we can receive the sweet blessings of enjoying our life lived in Him.
* "What will 'endure forever' from the life God wants us to enjoy?"
The things of God ~ His character, His plans, His Word, and His children ~ those who have trusted in Him as their Savior.
* "What will endure forever from your family?"
The only thing that will last is the soul who has trusted in Jesus as their Savior. I will give an account for the way I invested my time, energy, talents, and resources; but what I do with God and His gift of eternal life is the only thing that will really endure forever.
Philippians 4:10-13 Questions:
* "What circumstances is God using in your life to help you 'learn' to be content?"
It seems that there is always at least one area that God is using to encourage me to lean more heavily on Him because it is difficult. Relying on Him and in His strength is the only way I can be content and the only way I can ever have the strength to live the life He wants me to live for Him.
* "How do you know that you would be content whether you were 'in need' or if you had 'plenty'?"
I think of it this way, being in need or having plenty does not necessarily have to apply to physical or financial resources. When I feel like things are going well (feeling plentiful) it is easy to feel content and when I am struggling (feeling in need) I can choose to be content. Contentment comes down to choice for me. If I choose to let thoughts or feelings in which would take away from this contentment, I can go downhill very fast. But, when I guard the gate to my mind and heart, I can choose contentment much easier and a lot more often!
* "How are you modeling to you chldren that you 'can do everything through Him who gives me strength'?"
Hmmm, I'm not exactly sure how this comes across to an 18-month old, but when I live in the center of God's will (which is my goal, not always my true location) I can know that I am living in His strength and that will overflow to those around me.
I Thessalonians 5:16-18 Questions:
* "What most often keeps you from experiencing joy?"
Pressure or stress that I place on myself to meet my expectations. Again, it is a choice ~ that is one reason I loved the quote mentioned earlier on page 6 about living between ideal and reality. I am notorious for high expectations and must choose to lower these to allow myself to experience joy sometimes.
* "What would you need to do to be one who prays 'continually'?"
Discipline my mind to have an attitude of prayer and to pray conversationally with God throughout the day taking "every thought captive" and focusing on God. I think this comes down to discipline.
* "What are the areas in your own life for which God wants you to give thanks, even though they are difficult?"
Things that don't go the way I want them to, relationships that are difficult or challenging, struggles, opportunities for learning more about Him and how to live more like Him day by day.
* "Do you believe you can do 'God's will' according to this verse? Why, or why not?"
Only in light of Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Him who gives me strength." If I said I could not do it, I would be right if I meant in my own strength. But, if I said it was impossible, that would be saying to God that I think His strength is not enough for me.
Nehemiah 8:1-12 Questions:
* "How did Nehemiah, the governor, encourage them (the Jews returning from captivity when hearing the Word of God)?"
He encouraged them to set this day as sacred to God and to enjoy it with delicious food and sweet drink. He encouraged them to look out for the needs of others by challenging them to share of what they had with those who were not prepared. He reminded them, most importantly, that the "joy of the Lord is your strength".
* "If you were grieving, how would his words encourage you?"
I would be encouraged to realize that there is strength available for me to draw on through the Lord. I would be challenged to be willing to set aside my grief and desire to wallow in it, to actually choose to draw on this strength.
* "How can rejoicing in God give you strength in the midst of life's difficulties?"
It changes my focus from 'me' to 'Him'. When I am not looking at me and feeling sorry for myself or having a pity party, I can more fully experience His gracious love and this will overflow to others.
My Life Applications:
* Personal: She encourages us to make a list of the things we are most thankful for and use this list each day this week in our quiet time to thank God for our blessings. At a point when I was struggling with being thankful or content, I started a thankfulness journal. I wrote five things a day that I was thankful for and some days I simply did not want to do it, because to think of these five things would require me to forget about me. Hmmm, exactly the point! I have not been consistent in keeping up with writing the things down, but - think I'll pull it out for this week and practice this!
* Family: She suggests planning a family fun night one time this coming week. Something everyone in the family will enjoy. We have set aside Friday nights as a time when we don't usually plan other things or invite people over - it is our family time. While it is not usually structured or planned, I know we can count on this time together as family. Tonight is date night for David and I since the youth of our church are offering free babysitting! But, a play-in-the-water outside night would be a hit with Emily and I recently found some ice cream store gift cards...so there are a couple of ideas for us over the next few weeks!
Reading this chapter has challenged and encouraged me, I hope you'll share your thoughts as you have time!