Servanthood: the Path to Greatness

IMG_7099Almost 7 months ago, we welcomed our 2nd daughter, Sophia, into the world! And with the joy of her arrival, God ushered in a new season of my life: one of servanthood.

I cannot tell you the joy and the honor it is for me to spend my day taking care of children. (Those of you who know my story can understand the depth of appreciation I have for the gift of motherhood.) But the arrival of a second baby resulted in a loss of my free time, my rest, and my energy. Amidst the joy of finally holding this sweet new baby I was often frustrated that I was not able to do the things I wanted to do.

At the time, I had been reading through Matthew and a couple of passages caught my attention:

“But the greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled ; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” Matthew 23:11-12

“Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:26-28

What a backwards thing to say! The first shall be your slave, the greatest shall be your servant. This goes against the grain of every natural inclination in me. It is my default to see how I can climb the ladder of greatness, whether in the realm of motherhood, the world of blogging, or within my own circles of friends. I often find myself trying to become “greater” without even realizing it. It is just the subtle current of my sin-inflicted heart to drift toward self-exaltation and self-promotion.

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The Influence of a Woman

Before I get into my topic for today, I wanted to give you a brief update on my blog.  Because I think it is incredibly important to be purposeful in everything you do, I recently wrote about the purpose of my writing and this blog.  You can check it out here: “No Apologies.”  In that post I had asked for any topic suggestions or questions that you had for me.  After reading through the responses I received, I’ve decided to write about some of those things in the coming weeks.  Here are some posts to be on the look out for:

  • Becoming a Jesus-Follower: My testimony
  • A Day in the Life: My life being married to a recording artist
  • The Sabbath: The forgotten command
  • Sharing Your Faith: How to live a lifestyle of evangelism
  • How to Encourage Others Effectively
  • Dating & Marriage: The purpose of romance in the believer’s life
For today however, I wanted to write about the powerful influence of a woman.  I am currently reading through 2 Chronicles and am greatly enjoying it!  I have learned so much through studying the history of the Israelite people in Kings and Chronicles and strongly encourage you to read straight through these books if you never have. (This is actually my first time to read straight through them!)

 

Chapter 21 describes the reign of King Jehoram, the son of Jehoshaphat, grandson of Asa.  Jehoshaphat, though not perfect in his reign, was known for how he sought after the Lord.  He was humble and trusted in God in moments of adversity.  And Asa, his grandfather was also a man who sought after the Lord and trusted God in hard times.  With such a rich spiritual heritage, I expected Jehoram to follow in their footsteps.  But to my surprise, this chapter starts out with Jehoram killing all his brothers as soon as he became king.  It doesn’t even give a reason why he did this.  He also led the people of Judah astray by enticing them to worship other gods (v. 11).  So what happened to Jehoram?  How did a guy with such a great start to life turn out so bad?

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Back to the Basics

Today it’s back to the basics for me.

As you know from my last post, we recently moved. Life is becoming less chaotic with each day and with each box unpacked. Though my life has always been busy, changing houses and cities has added a whole new level of chaos to my normal activity. I walk out of our bedroom each day surrounded by tasks that need to get done (half of which I never get to).

But it seems like this is always my mode of operation: living and dying by my to-do list. It is my friend and my master, I love it and hate it. I define my value and my day by how many things got scratched off. But in addition to my list of tasks, I have recently been thinking of other goals I have: reading more, writing more, playing violin more, exercising regularly, and the list goes on. Those goals feel so unattainable that just writing it all out makes me feel exhausted.

It’s in this that I remember what I have been reading lately in 2 Chronicles. King Asa and King Jehoshaphat of Judah both sought the Lord. I have begun highlighting all forms of the verb “seek” in these chapters because I see it surface so often. Reading their stories reminded me of a favorite verse of mine in Matthew where Jesus said: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matt 6:33)
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A Greater End

Twelve-twenty a.m. is probably way too late to be starting a blog, but I can’t seem to get this topic off my mind and have been aching to write about it for a couple months now. (Thank you faithful blog readers for your patience by the way.) So give me grace as I work through this topic in an exhausted yet caffeinated state of mind.

Jimmy & Lively

I love being a wife and a mother. Investing in a family is what I have always wanted to do with my life. I consider it my primary ministry to serve these two wonderful blessings pictured to the left. I am constantly researching ways I can improve in these roles, whether it be learning how to help my teething daughter or how to create a more welcoming atmosphere for my husband to come home to. This is my job and I love it! But to what end am I seeking excellence in these roles? Is it because that’s what I’m supposed to do? Or because Scripture calls me to consider others as better than myself? I know that God values my roles as wife and mother, so maybe that is why I am supposed to strive to be good at them. Maybe it’s simply because I love my husband and daughter and serving them is a natural response.


Though all those things are good reasons, there is still a greater end than this. It is simply and decidedly the GLORY OF GOD. The end goal of excellence as a wife and a mom should be THE GLORY OF GOD. I know this sounds like your classic Sunday school answer, but don’t check out. What does it really mean to do something for the glory of God? The Word glory literally means “heavy” or “weighty” in the Hebrew. To bring God glory means to give weight to Him, in a positive sense. If something is weighty, you don’t take it lightly. Rather, you have to seriously consider it and deal with it. In the same way, by bringing God glory, I give weight to Him and cause others to take Him more seriously and to have a more positive view of Him than they did before. This is bringing glory to God. And this is the reason I should seek to be excellent in my roles as a wife and a mother.

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Baby Lively Has Arrived!

Introducing Lively Elizabeth Needham! After 15 hours of labor, this sweet little angel entered our world on January 8th at 11:57am, weighing 7 lbs, 11 oz and measuring 21 inches long. What an incredible joy and blessing this little girl is to us! It has been just over 2 weeks since she was born and I thought I would take some time to share some of the things I’ve learned in these first weeks of parenthood.


My worth isn’t determined by what I do.


I have spent most of these 2 weeks sitting on the couch nursing Lively and sleeping in between. In these first couple weeks, just fitting a shower into my day has seemed like a big accomplishment! Being the very task-oriented, to-do list maker that I am, this drastic change in my daily activity has really challenged my thoughts about how I determine my worth and define a successful day. Sitting around all day for a day or two is fine, but after a week I began to feel anxious to “accomplish” something more than just a shower. In talking with Jimmy about how I was feeling, he first reminded me that I wasn’t sitting around doing nothing, but that I was taking care of our daughter. It was good to hear that and to be reminded that I wasn’t doing nothing, but actually doing a lot. I guess because I was sitting on the couch all day, it didn’t feel like I was doing very much. Either way, it has caused me to realize how much I define my worth by what I can accomplish in a day. When will I finally get it in my head that my worth isn’t defined by my daily activities or accomplishments but by my relationship with Jesus? “Everything is a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Him!” (Phil 3:7-9)


It’s good to ask for help.


I usually have a hard time asking for help, either out of pride or simply because I don’t want to inconvenience anyone. Well, having a baby has forced me to learn how to ask for and receive help. Jimmy has been a the biggest help to me in this time. As I have often had both hands full figuring out how to breastfeed, he has literally spoon-fed me, scratched my nose, and propped my feet up. He’s made breakfast for me nearly every morning, watched Lively in between feedings so I could sleep, and run tons of errands to get things I needed. I’m not sure how I would have gotten through these few weeks without his help.


Another form of help that has been invaluable are the meals we get delivered to us. Our church scheduled for us to receive dinner every other day for month after Lively was born. Neither one of us have had time to even think about cooking or grocery shopping, so having a home-cooked meal delivered to us has been a huge blessing! There have been other forms of help as well. My mother-in-law bought us groceries just before we came home from the hospital and my mom and sister stayed with me for a day and helped me get some laundry done.


Our American culture seems to so highly value independence and self-sufficiency that it can be challenging to let ourselves depend on others in times of need. But these past couple of weeks have reminded me that this is how we are called to live as Christians: giving and receiving help as it’s needed. To give help, in whatever form, reminds us to live selflessly and consider others as more important than ourselves (Phil 2:3-4). And to receive help humbles us and reminds us that we are not self-sufficient and that it is good to be dependent on God and others.


There’s never a good reason to skip time with God.


I think these past couple of weeks would be the easiest weeks for me to forsake my time in the Word of God. I have every good reason, right? I’m not getting much sleep, I’m barely able to fit a shower into my day, so it’s ok if I don’t spend time with God, right? I don’t think there could ever be a more important time. My whole life has drastically changed since January 8th and to keep my eyes on God keeps me grounded. He is always my constant… the same yesterday, today, and forever, His character steadies my heart and brings peace to my soul. I have had to be creative in the ways that I get into Word, but it is possible! Some days, I have listened to teachings from the Bible off my iphone during 3am feedings. Other days I have made the difficult choice to spend time reading the Bible and praying instead of sleeping while Lively sleeps. Either way, I am learning that I never have a good reason not to spend time interacting with God in prayer and in reading His Word. And that when I do make the sacrificial choice to do so, it is always worth it! “Seek FIRST His Kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matt 6:33) Let me always keep God first in my life, and everything else always falls into place naturally after that.


I am excited to continue walking with Jesus in this new season of parenthood and pray I will never forsake the One who saved my soul!

Dignity and Sanctity of the Home

First things first.


This is the attitude I have had for the last few weeks that has lead to an absence of blog posts. It all started with the True Woman conference in Ft. Worth a couple weekends ago. This incredible women’s conference put on by Revive Our Hearts, a ministry run by Nancy Leigh DeMoss, challenged, encouraged, and inspired me in so many ways. While I walked away with many things, the biggest was a strong conviction about the importance of cultivating our home.


Unfortunately, I had not realized the way that our home and family had slowly become second place to other ministry goals and priorities outside our home. I guess I had justified this because we don’t have kids yet and it’s just Jimmy and me. Maybe it was also because Jimmy travels so much it seems I am the only one at home a good portion of the time. Whatever my reasoning, God has called me to be a cultivator of our home, I had been abstaining from my role in this area.


Although my first reaction was to come home and blog about the conference, I knew that I first needed to get my priorities straight through a few practical things. The first order of business was to clean our home. Unfortunately, it had been several months since I had intentionally cleaned our house. I had created a habit of simply cleaning an area when it got out of hand. Secondly, I began de-clutter and decorate our house in some small ways I had been putting off. Thirdly, I set our kitchen table and begin looking for recipes to cook that week. Again, justifying my actions because it is just Jimmy and me and I have a full time job, I had not been cooking meals at all. Cereal, hot dogs, and frozen pizzas had become our regular dinner meals.


These things may seem like small, menial changes, but I think they make a huge difference in the atmosphere of our home. When I think about my house growing up, I see how these little things made my house a place of life and peace. My mom always kept the house relatively clean and cooked on a regular basis and overall cultivated the atmosphere of our home. Although I might not have noticed those things every day, it created an overall environment of welcoming warmth that was attractive and wonderful to come home to. It made our house a sanctuary I looked forward to walking in to after a long day filled with peer pressure and hard classes. I truly believe that her small efforts in the care of our home made a big difference in my well-being as I was growing up.


Just because we don’t have kids yet, doesn’t mean that my husband is not important enough to also deserve this kind of home to come back to. He has never complained once about the lack of meals or general uncleanliness, but he is noticeably more excited about coming home when those things are in place. God has designated women as the primary influencers in our homes, and that is a role that I had slowly begun to abdicate.


Thanksfully, I am now beginning to understand and take seriously the dignity and the sanctity of the home. Devi Titus explains the dignity and sanctity of the home well in her book, “The Home Experience” (a great book I purchased at the conference):


“The dignity of the home is seeing and experiencing its worth by those who are touched by it. Webster says dignity means “worthy of recognition due to a change in character and appearance.” Combining worth with character and appearance defines dignity. A home that has dignity sets standards in order and creativity with the godly characteristics of love, honesty, and loyalty. The sanctity of the home is its purity in heart and purpose – its wholeness and holiness in tone and mood. home is a duet of devotion and worth – devotion to God while valuing one another. Home is the sanctuary for the human soul to be recharged, renewed, refreshed, and restored. Home should be our most treasured asset. however, more and more women are devoting much of their energy to pursuits outside the home. Unfortunately, the ambitions of “earning a higher education” and “pursuing a career” have undermined home values, priorities, and interests.”


Though I would have liked to have blogged more in these past two weeks, I am glad to have put first things first: namely our home. What good is it to be an excellent and frequent blogger, or an excellent minister to the high schoolers I work with, if I have forsaken investing in the very thing that is the basis for human development and the home base for our family? Gratefully, my priorities are back in line, as they should be: God first, family second, everything else following.

Day 8 – Excuses

Let me introduce you to our dog, Bailey. She is a pure bred German Shepherd and we absolutely love her to death. She is pictured here doing her signature head-tilt when she is talked to. Being the guard dog that she is, tonight Bailey freaked out at something in the backyard and barked for 20 minutes straight at the back fence. If I hadn’t already heard some peculiar sounds, I probably wouldn’t have thought much of it. But being home by myself and having had intruders in my backyard before, I was a little freaked out. Thankfully it was nothing and our dear friends Lindsay and Landon came over and Landon walked the perimeter of the house to check it out. What a great community of people we do life with here in Katy, TX.


Bailey is a great guard dog. She is always aware of her surroundings and is on her feet in no time when she senses danger. Nothing escapes her notice. I could really take a lesson from her when it comes to keeping danger out. In my case, the dangerous thing is sin and it has the power to destroy my life. But instead of standing guard, I often let sin into my life without question.

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Day 6 – My Reputation

Jimmy and the band in Denmark

Tonight’s prayer time left me speechless. I am still taking it in. How wonderfully refreshing it was and deeply convicting to my soul. Wow. But before I jump into that, I wanted to give you a brief update on Jimmy and the guys in Denmark.


I thought you might enjoy a picture of Jimmy and the band in Denmark. I have learned so much about this country since Jimmy’s been there that I didn’t know. From what he describes and from the few pictures I’ve seen, it seems surprisingly beautiful! I’ve also learned that Denmark has a viking museum that the guys are visiting tomorrow.  I can just envision how much fun they are going to have there.  Probably more fun than they should have, knowing the guys.  =)  Jimmy has also tried to teach me a few Danish words and phrases, none of which I can recall at all.


On a much more exciting note, he’s been able to share the Gospel a few times at some high schools! Although in name they are Christian schools, he said there are many unbelievers there. I am so grateful for my husband’s great concern with the furthering of the Gospel and can’t wait to see the fruit of this trip!


I can’t believe I am over halfway done with my days of prayer. (If you haven’t been following along, check out my first post of this series here.) It has gone by so quickly. One thing I want be sure of is that I don’t forget to continue growing in the 5 areas God has already pointed out. So I spent some time today reviewing and praying for continued growth in those areas. By God’s grace, I will strive to remember that life isn’t about me, I am to walk in faith not fear, not serving the idol of productivity, giving grace quickly in light of the grace I’ve received, and be content and grateful for everything.


Tonight, God dealt with my obsession with my reputation. I just care a whole lot about what others think about me. It was during my prayer time tonight that God brought to my attention the number of times I have checked the stats on this blog site today. How many people have commented? How many views? Why are the numbers going down? Goodness, why do I care so much? As soon as I become more concerned with the stats on this blog rather than with what God is doing through it, I have a problem.

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Day 5 – Contentment

Halfway there. 5 days down, 5 more to go. Already, I am seeing the fruit of this 10 days of repentance. Like splashing cold water on my face, I feel spiritually refreshed and awake. I also feel more aware and sensitive to God’s presence throughout my day and am less focused on myself. What a wonderful, joyful experience this has been! I am going to have to make this an annual event at a minimum.


I hope some of you got to enjoy the great interview with Dr. Henry Blackaby that I posted yesterday. Maybe it will spur some of you onto intentional times of repentance in your own life. By the way, if you are doing these days of prayer and repentance with me, I’d love to hear from you about what God is doing in your life. Leave a comment so others and share in the joy of God’s work!


My prayer time today began with one word: jealousy. At first, I thought I might have “heard God wrong” or possibly made it up. Didn’t really think this was something I needed to deal with. There wasn’t immediate conviction of specific sins in my heart when I thought about jealousy. I actually couldn’t think of anyone I am jealous of at the moment. So I simply began the 2nd step in my process of listening to God and started searching the Bible on the subject of jealousy. Maybe He would speak to me more through His Word.
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Day 4 – Unwilling Grace

My favorite podcast is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Today, I listened to a recent interview she did with Dr. Henry Blackaby called “Revival and Repentance.” Obviously I was drawn to it because I am in a week and a half time period of personal repentance. It was so encouraging, thought-provoking, and refreshing that I wanted to share it with you all. So if you have 25 minutes to spare, please download and listen to it, or read the manuscript from it. Click here to get it.


One point he made is that we often think of revival as something our schools, community, or nation needs, but not us. But it’s quite the contrary. Revival starts in the hearts of God’s people. Here is a quote from this interview: “You cannot have God in your midst and remain as you are as a people of God. You will come under severe conviction of sin. God’s people will feel the awesome presence of the holiness of God and expose their sin and will cry out unto God in repentance.”~Henry Blackaby. It is like Isaiah 6. When we are truly in the presence of God, there is an intense awareness of our wickedness before Him. Revival starts in us, His children, and it starts with repentance.


I am praying that this time for me will be the start of a personal revival, inviting God’s manifest presence into my life in such a powerful way that I am radically changed by it.


I was very surprised today by my time of prayer. Not sure what I expect God to be revealing in my heart, but obviously this wasn’t it. The first word that came to mind…. grace. How is that something to repent of? But as I prayed more, I realized that it wasn’t simply grace, but specifically the lack of grace I have shown. At times, I have an unwillingness to show grace. This is the problem.

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