Thank you for clearing the table (a wife & mother’s honest reflections)

A few days ago, I stood over the kitchen sink staring at the dishes piled up. I was worn out, sneezing with watery eyes from a cold, and the kids were in typical fighting mode against one another. I needed help and I prayed. I didn’t want to nag and get angry like I do some nights.

Within minutes, God heard my prayer and my husband Jeremiah began gathering the plates, silverware, and glasses from the table and set them on the countertop where I was washing greasy pots and pans. He ordered the kids to take their plates to me. He went for several trips back to gather all that we had from having company over.

You see, some wisdom my mom passed on to Jeremiah not long after we had our second child was how much she appreciated my dad always clearing the table for her after dinner. It made such a difference (and encouragement) in her clean up routine. Jeremiah has cleared the table for me most nights since that conversation six years ago.

I think as wives we could all agree there are many things our husbands do that are often over-looked in the daily, beautiful mess of our ever-changing lives: replacing light bulbs, getting dirty under the car, helping put kids to bed at night, locking the doors, taking out trash, taking care of us financially, assisting with DIY projects, just getting done what needs to be done, and meeting countless other needs.

But how often do we thank our husbands and affirm them in all that they do, everyday? Has having a heart of gratitude become a lifestyle for us?

It’s easy to point out the negative or what we’d like to see changed in them. It’s easy to nag to death, rather than let the Holy Spirit move in their hearts.

It takes humility and discipline to build him up with our words, rather than tear down in our stubborn pride. It takes an opening of our blind eyes to see all the blessings that are right smack dab in front of us if we’ll only take time to pause, look, and reflect on the beauty of those blessings at our feet.

Our husbands are God’s gift to us, whether they do things exactly how we like them or not. They are God’s provision and protection over us. It is a joy to come alongside them and work together for a purpose and passion.

How God has wired and uniquely gifted your husband is to your benefit and your children’s. God knew what he was doing when he put you two together (even if you sometimes think you’re clearly from two different planets).

You’d think after almost 12 years of marriage that I’d have this whole “building up, appreciating my husband thing” down. But I don’t always. I fall short. I’m praying I will affirm him more and encourage him in all that God has created him to be. I want to be a wife who better praises him, thanks him, and shows him through my actions and behavior that he is worthy; that he is my man and I love him.

I want him to know how much the sacrifices he makes mean to our family and that without him, we would just never be the same. I want him to know that clearing the table every night might seem like such a simple act, but it’s a big deal. It communicates that we’re a team, we’re in this together for a greater purpose, and that my work as a wife and mom is noticed and cared about. The burden is lifted when it’s shared.

As his wife I’ll still fail, have emotional ups and downs, and not always appreciate him the way I should but I’m striving to be the wife God has called me to be, even in my brokenness and weaknesses. I resonate with Ann Voskamp’s words in her book One Thousand Gifts:

I want to see beauty. In the ugly, in the sink, in the suffering, in the daily, in all the days before I die, the moments before I sleep.

Even if it doesn’t seem attainable, thankfully with Jesus living in us as wives, having a heart of gratitude is possible. When I’m doing the dishes tonight, I’ll be thankful for the abundance of food that six bellies were able to consume because provision has been richly made for us first and foremost through the Lord and the hands of my hard-working husband.

Samantha Krieger is a pastor’s wife and mom to 4. She is the author of Quiet Time: A 30-day Devotional Retreat for Moms in the Trenches.

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Grace, Life, & Finding Order in the Chaos


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This past week has been difficult. All my kids were sick, we were up multiple times a night, I caught a stomach bug, had multiple pediatrician appointments, dealt with overwhelming (think rip your hair out) demands in motherhood, and had a flat tire.

It never ceases to amaze me how much I begin to “get ahead,” as in things are feeling somewhat smooth and then conflict and major struggle comes on the scene out of nowhere. In these times it’s so tempting to throw in the towel and quit. To not read my Bible, to be short with those I love, to complain, to say “why me?,” to take a few extra bites of that chocolate than I should, to blame, to be angry, to isolate, and to be undisciplined all around.

Discouragement settles in and spiritual attack is difficult to overcome especially being sleep deprived.

Thank goodness, Sunday rolled around and John Piper preached at our church and Phil Wickham led us in worship. They were both helping lead the Linger Conference here in Dallas. Piper preached beautifully on God’s grace and the theme of grace was also interwoven in Wickham’s songs. These lyrics have been stuck in my head since Sunday:

Who brings our chaos back into order
Who makes the orphan a son and daughter
The King of Glory, the King above all kings

Who rules the nations with truth and justice
Shines like the sun in all of its brilliance
The King of Glory, the King above all kings

This is amazing grace
This is unfailing love
That You would take my place
That You would bear my cross
You would lay down Your life
That I would be set free
Jesus, I sing for
All that You’ve done for me

It’s easy for me to think of the words “Who brings our chaos back into order” as a one time deal – in the moment I trusted God for my salvation and surrendered my life to Him. And it certainly is that. But I was thinking yesterday how I just can’t leave it at the moment I put my faith and trust in Christ.

I need God to find order for me still today. Order in my relationship to my husband, my children, my family, my friends, and in whatever life throws at me. And it is certainly a process.

We need to know that God is here with us. He cares about the brokenness in our daily lives – whatever it might look like – and He’s here to do something about it. He knows we struggle – sometimes deeply struggle – and need His intervention. And even if we have thrown in the towel, He’s there to pick it back up. 

When we need order, we run to Jesus and we find it in him alone. And we remember that we desperately need him in the joys and trials of life.

These truths have been enough to help me get back in the Word, get our home cleaned up again, love my family better, be thankful, practice moderation, serve others, and be known.

Everything isn’t made whole yet. Creation. This sin-cursed world. This sin-nature. But one day all of it will be. And that is our hope. Until then, we can lean into his precious grace not just for today but also for tomorrow.

 

Phil Wickham’s This is Amazing Grace Music Video – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XFRjr_x-yxU&feature=kp

 

Why You Don’t Need to Write or Live to Please Anyone

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photo: shutterstock

A few months ago, I poured my heart out into an article and submitted it to the website’s editor to review. After clicking send, feelings of doubt washed over me and I started dissecting the words over and over in my mind.

What if no one can relate?

What if I offend someone?

I’m definitely not perfect

Was I being too honest and vulnerable?

Is my writing good enough?

The other day while my husband was driving and I had a few minutes of peace, I read some encouraging words from a writer and author I’ve followed for a while now. Jeff Goins wrote about the subtle, dangerous temptation to write for recognition:

We begin to focus on the audience more than the act of creating, and ultimately, our art suffers. We grow self-conscious and worrisome about how a certain word or phrase will be perceived. It becomes less about the art and more about how much other people like us.

As I read those words it was like my soul was being exposed. As a writer, it can be so difficult to spend hours upon hours creating words only to later fear what your audience will think of them. I have worried about that many times.

But the truth is that I write because I love it. It’s a part of who I am. I write to tell a story, share biblical truth, encourage, and instill life and hope into others. I write because I feel closest to God when I do. I don’t know any other way to make sense of life than to write. That’s probably why I’ve had 13 journals since middle school.

If I have an audience, great. That’s a privilege in and of itself. And I always keep the reader in mind. But I shouldn’t be writing to please anyone.

Naturally, this flows into my spiritual life. In fact, it’s dug down deep in the roots of my sinful nature. You’d think at 31 years of age this would have taken care of itself but insecurities are difficult to beat. Just ask my husband.

People pleasing in life and as a writer is dangerous because it’s man-centered, not God-centered. Living for the approval and admiration of man is an idol. Paul knew it well:

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. – Gal. 1:10

It places the concern of people above God’s. It elevates them and not Him. And that’s a struggle that must be worked through.

But I know I’m human and in need of God’s grace. I need His discernment and love to guide me as I strive to bring him glory.

My article ended up going live at the first of the year. I prayed that God would use it how he wished and I was blown away by its positive response. Some readers contacted me through email and Facebook and we were able to encourage each other. Because it reached a broad range of people, I also had readers who misunderstood me.

One reader projected her pain onto me as the writer and she wasn’t nice.

I was tempted to get upset and dwell on her words. But I prayed for thick skin. And God gently reminded me that the audience I need to be most concerned about is the Audience of One.

The writing life is hard work, just like our faith journey. But it is love that motivates us to stay the course.

Do you find any of the above true in your own life? Feel free to share in the comments. 

Top Blog Posts and Articles from 2013

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2013 was somewhat a year of sweet survival for me as we welcomed baby #4 (and my husband gutted our entire master bath and remodeled it – yep he’s amazing). So far 2014 is shaping up similarly (still in survival mode and sleep deprived) but that’s okay. In 2013, I was able to post about once a month and submitted 3 articles for online publications. I wrote mostly about motherhood and marriage. While I wasn’t able to blog a whole lot, I’m grateful for the moments of solitude I did have!

Here are the Top Blog Posts according to hits:

1.) What to do With Miley

2.) A Surprise Baby!

3.) You Might be a Stay-at-Home Mom to Four Kids, 4 & Under If…

4.) A Letter to My Son, On Manhood, Mission, & Meaning in Life

5.) Help Us Name Our Baby!

6.) One Fact in Motherhood: Some Days Everything Falls Apart

 

Here are the Top Articles according to Facebook Shares 

1.) 8 Non-Negotiables for Dads with Daughters – KirkCameron.com

2.) 5 Words that Could Mean Life or Death to Your Marriage – StartMarriageRight.com

3.) I Love You, But How Do I Like You? – StartMarriageRight.com

I’m excited for the experiences and stories God will give me this year to write about. In case you missed some of the above, I hope you get a chance to read them. I appreciate you!

You Might be a Stay-at-Home Mom to Four Kids, 4 & Under If…

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1. You find your morning cup of coffee still sitting in the microwave at 5:00 PM

2. The most popular comments in public are, “Wow, you have your hands full!” and “Are ALL those yours?”

3. You have 10 pacifiers and can’t find any of them

4. Sitting in the church service with your husband feels like a date

5. You no longer have to apologize to your company for the house being a disaster

6. You can’t remember the last time you had a full night’s sleep

7. The only break you get is a bathroom break

8. Breaking up fights and disciplining is your job whether you like it or not

9. You won’t dare go to the grocery store unless you are alone

10. Your third child doesn’t mind eating off your second child’s breakfast plate (sometimes cold)

11. You have to schedule your morning around how many dirty diapers you’ll have to change before going out

12. You consider lifting a 2 1/2 year old, 1 year old, and newborn as your weight training class

13. You get angry that there aren’t more mom-friendly, healthy drive-thru restaurants

14. You have to think twice whether or not you forgot a child

15. Visiting a chiropractor is a non-negotiable

16. You throw your kids at your husband as soon as he walks in the door

17. You pack all your kids in your van for a drive so you can have a conversation with your husband

18. Mother’s Day out and morning preschool are lifelines

19. You’ve become good friends with your Pediatrician

20. The only way to cook a meal is to put a kids show on

21. You are amazed you even got through another day

22. You’re humbled because your son’s teacher wrote you an email this week saying he’s pretty much her top student. She didn’t know you’ve felt like a failure of a mom lately

23. You realize more than ever how precious life is and it’s not a cliche that it’s truly a gift

24. You want other people to experience the blessing of children, even when motherhood – no matter how many kids you have – is the hardest.job.ever

25. You are surprised that your capacity to love grows richer and deeper

26. You find yourself not wanting to ever miss out on each child’s first milestone because you know how fast time has flown with the oldest

27. You pray every day that your children will come to know and love Jesus in spite of you

28. You ask God to do great things in and through your children so they can make a difference in the lives of others

29. You start to understand that the daily, difficult, messy, complicated, satisfying, beautiful, mundane tasks in motherhood and raising children are working together for a greater purpose. When you serve them, you serve God.

30. It’s a miracle that you finished this blog post!

Just a Note to Say…

coffee-cup-and-computerI’m still here!

I know it has been several weeks since I’ve posted. I’ve been working on a few writing projects that have taken up most of my hard-to-find spare time- a story for an upcoming Focus on the Family book (yay!), a few new articles, and a book review for my former professor, mentor, and friend Karen Swallow Prior’s new book, Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me. I’m in the midst of her review and will be posting a giveaway here soon so stay tuned.

A lot is happening in our home too. My husband has been thick into remodeling our master bath (quite the project!). As you can imagine with three young kids, it has been crazy. But we are so excited to be nearing the end of it. On Thursday, it will be two weeks until I’m due with our 4th child! It feels like yesterday that I was just writing the post about our surprise baby. Our baby boy will Lord willing complete our family so I’m really trying to savor all that’s happening right now.

I certainly value your prayers in this season of life. Feel free to drop a comment or email. I’d love to hear how you are doing.

As always, thank you for reading!

Writing and The Ups & Downs of Social Media

I’m linking up with Sarah Markley today discussing social media in the writing world.

In college and seminary, I wrote primarily for magazines. I had no idea who my readers were personally. I didn’t have a blog, Facebook, Twitter or an i-Phone.

Shortly after I got married, I joined Facebook. Then after a writer’s conference in 2007, I was encouraged to start a blog. A few years later I joined Twitter for the purpose of networking with other writers and authors but I wasn’t sold on it for a while. I questioned:

Do I really need one more thing to put my energy towards? Will this become a distraction? Do I really need to be on it?

After becoming a stay-at-home mom in 2010, I started to see that being heavily involved in social media was a big deal in order to be a successful writer. You had to let others know about your work and gain a following. And you needed social media to build relationships that could lead to being published.

I understood the necessity of having a good platform but my love and passion for writing was getting shoved under the bus by the hype and noise of social media and self-promotion. I realized this more vividly through Jeff Goins, who helps writers get back to the basics of loving the craft. I wondered:

Could I just write for writing’s sake because I loved it, felt close to God through it, and wanted to encourage others?

Social Media and the Heart of it All

I felt like I couldn’t keep up with everyone else in the social media world. I found myself overwhelmed rather than enjoying it as a tool for connection, edification, and outreach. My heart desired to be noticed by others and my mood was sometimes dictated by how many retweets, responses, blog stats, comments, likes, and shares I had.

After a lot of wrestling the day came when I realized I had to make a choice. My time spent on social media would have to be limited and I would have to be okay with not being excessively involved for the sake of my relationship with the Lord, my husband and children, and my love for writing.

As I started to ask God to help me live in moderation, I found more freedom from the desire to people please, compare myself to others or feel like I wasn’t “being” or “doing” enough in the online world.

The Art of Disconnecting & Connecting

I wrote when I sensed God leading me to write something. I got on Twitter and Facebook a few times throughout the day but it wasn’t the end of the world if I went several days without sharing anything or reading other feeds. I practiced the art of turning my phone on silent so I didn’t feel the urgency to respond to every chime or notification. I set limits on how often I would check email and blog comments. It was more challenging than I thought!

I connected with people and readers more individually through email or a personal message rather than publicly. I started to enjoy the benefits and blessings of social media rather than feeling exhausted or overwhelmed. 

With the ability to share posts on Facebook and Twitter, God has given me the opportunity to connect with friends and readers I never guessed were reading and minister to them in unique ways. He’s also given me the opportunity to guest post for authors that I love and to become a contributing writer to a few sites.

I’ve learned new things and gained fresh insight through social media. And probably the thing I love most is getting to know readers and connecting with them in a more personal way that can’t be done through magazine writing.

Life is Happening Where You Are

I don’t have it all together when it comes to balancing the benefits of social media. It’s a daily choice and discipline to make sure my heart is in line and I’m using it for the right purposes.

Will I continue to use social media in the future? Absolutely. But as a writer, wife, and mom my time will be guarded. Life is happening where I am right now and I don’t want to miss out. There will always be time later to post, share, reply, connect, and write.

What about you? Do you ever struggle with finding a balance with social media? What do you like/dislike about it?

 

On Sailing… and Serving Others With Your Gifts & Passions

On Saturday, I surprised Jeremiah with a boat ride for his birthday. We boarded a beautiful wooden catamaran that seated about 30 people. Scott was our captain. He was super friendly and we knew we were in for a treat on the lake. It was just what we needed after a stressful week.
About 30 minutes into our sail, Scott came by to accept our payment. Jeremiah initiated a conversation with Scott on how he got involved in sailing.

“I got on the computer and Googled ‘how to build a boat,’ ” he said.

“I found all the necessary resources and started building. I never dreamed I’d be taking 35 trips a week and that my business would grow like this…”

Then he said something profound that stuck with both of us:

“I think it’s important to find what you love to do and serve others through it.”

You could tell that Scott had what he wanted in life. He’d been married to his wife of 30+ years, his children were grown and doing well, and he was doing what he absolutely loved. But not only that, he was blessing the lives of a lot of people- every week.

Scott takes a shot of us behind the wheel

During the remainder of the trip, I thought about how God distributes gifts to people and how the purpose of those gifts are to edify and equip the Church. So often it’s easy to get caught up in the what-my-gift-will-do-for-me kind of mentality.

But it’s not about that at all. Certainly, our gifts and passions draw us closer to God, make us come alive, and give us meaning and purpose. But our gifts aren’t supposed to be hoarded and hidden inside our own little box.

We’re supposed to give our gifts away. And if we think anything different, we’re missing the boat.

I don’t know if you’ve found your gift or the one thing you want to spend your life doing. I don’t know if you’re discouraged in that pursuit or if you believe you have something to contribute to this world.

But what I do know is God created you for a purpose and that involves building into the lives of others.

You have something to offer that no one else does and other people need you to draw out your gifts, however that might look and whatever risks that might involve.

When you view your gifts with an outwardly-focused kind of mentality, your life will change drastically. Your perspective will shift off of yourself and onto how God can use you to make a difference in the lives of others.

In middle school, I started journaling. It was how I felt closest to the Lord and it was the easiest way for me to write out my prayers and remember them. It also came natural, just like the assignments did in my Creative Writing classes. After receiving my first publishing contract in college (7 or so journals later), I realized that God was starting to call me out of my comfort zone of personal journaling and into riskier territory of writing for an actual audience.

As the years passed and I started writing for other publications and eventually writing Bible study curriculum for churches across the country, I realized even more that writing was my number 1 passion. But the best thing about it was that I could use my writing to serve and encourage other people and help build God’s kingdom. My focus, including my goals, started to shift. Still today, I’m learning what it means to be outwardly-focused and I’ve found so much joy in the journey.

“Find what you love and serve others.”

I’ll always remember the wisdom Captain Scott imparted to us that evening and I hope it will encourage you too.

*From the Archives*- You Might Also Enjoy Reading…

Daring to Risk a Little More

The Joy of Being on Mission

Five Minutes to Let It Shine

Give Yourself Away

 

 

 

New Facebook Page

For a while now, I’ve loved using Facebook to post info about new blog posts and articles on the account Jeremiah and I share. It’s been great getting feedback from friends I know personally. Well on Friday it dawned on me that I could create a Facebook page specifically for writing.

My hope for this new page is to better connect with you as a reader, and I’m really excited to use this page as a platform for writing and ministry.

Thank you so much for your continued support and for reading my thoughts on faith and life. Click here to “like” the page and feel free to tell your friends. Looking forward to seeing you there!

When You Struggle to See the Light

Yesterday while we were playing on the floor, I stood Rebekah up so she could grab on to the couch and balance herself. She had this big grin on her face as she stared at the wall. She was gazing at the painting we have above our couch of The Last Supper. The light from the sunset shined through our window reflecting on Jesus’ face- not any of the disciples sitting at the table, but just Jesus alone.

It was the sweetest thing. Rebekah looked up at the painting another time and smiled again. And it convicted me.

That beautiful moment reminded me how Jesus’ light shines among the darkness. His light shines into my sinful heart. The sinful heart I’ve had for what seems like… all week- unfortunately! I’d prefer not to have to admit that.

I’ve been angry, impatient, irritable, difficult to live with (just ask my husband), and unable to control my emotions with broken sleep. Did I mention I don’t do well off little sleep?! I’m in a season of struggle spiritually. My time in God’s word has been minimal due to laziness, exhaustion, and my own excuses. I’ve been struggling in this season of motherhood with the demands of a two-year-old and 7 month old, among other challenges.

I’ve felt like I’ve been stuck in a deep pit. And I’ve wanted out!

Well on Monday, I was able to get in the Word after the kids were down and read the first two chapters in James. And on Tuesday, I read the third chapter. And on Wednesday, I prayed that God would keep moving and give me the desire to be in His presence even when I don’t feel like it and even when I struggle.

It’s often that my pride says I need to be perfect and have it all together spiritually or else I can’t come to Jesus. But I’m realizing that’s a lie. The biggest lie there ever was.

We struggle and that’s why we need Jesus. We need him desperately and even when we’re ashamed and try to hide our own darkness, we need only to look to the Light. And to keep looking again, and again, and again so that He can do something great and life-changing within us that we can’t do on our own.

Thankfully, the last two days have been perfect nights of sleep for us. I’m starting to see hope again. I pray that whatever struggle or trial you’re facing (small or large), that you will run fast to the Light and cling to Jesus in your struggles.

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. – 1 John 1:7

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