Sunday, August 26, 2012

Obedience: Baptism

"Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace?  Of course not!  Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?  Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death?  For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism.  And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. 

Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was.  We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives.  We are no longer slaves to sin.  For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin.  And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him.  We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again.  Death no longer has any power over him.  When he died, he died once to break the power of sin.  But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God.  So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to Go through Christ Jesus.

Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires.  Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin.  Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life.  So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God.  Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law.  Instead, you live under the freedom of God's grace.

Well then, since God's grace has set us free from the law, does that mean we can go on sinning?  Of course not!  Don't you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey?  You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living.  Thank God!  Once you were slaves of sin, but now you wholeheartedly obey this teaching we have given you.  Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living.

Because of the weakness of your human nature, I am using the illustration of slavery to help you understand all this.  Previously, you let yourselves be slaves to impurity and lawlessness, which led ever deeper into sin.  Now you must give yourselves to be slaves to righteous living so that you will become holy.

When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the obligation to do right.  And what was the result?  You are now ashamed of the things you use to do, things that end in eternal doom.  But now you are free from the power of sin and have become slaves of God.  Now you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life.  For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord."
Romans 6
I could write a lot about why Joel and I decided to get baptized today...
For me, it was hiding behind infant baptism, pride, and just plain being disobedient...
But nothing can explain why I am being obedient now like reading this chapter from God's Word.
Thank you, Lord, for new and eternal life!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The busy stay-at-home mom...Obedience: Parenting

Oh to be a stay-at-home mom...

Lately I have been on a quest to understand what God would have me to do as a mom of young children...

When Mylin was born I was attending Huntington University full-time, considering myself a stay-at-home mom, but busy up to my eyeballs with learning how to be a counselor through classes and lots (and lots and lots and tons and tons) of homework and research
Then I graduated!!
I immediately began working 2 days a week as a counselor, which is technically part-time, but I also joined the leadership team of a community ministry called Mom Life, which took up 1 day a week of my time and energy...
With those two other days at home a week I would cram errands into one day and a playdate or out-of-town shopping trip into the other
Not to mention I was involved in other ministry's at church and tried to keep up with saying 'yes' to every opportunity we had...notre dame games, Joel's golfing on weekends or camping trips with friends, going to Michigan for long weekends with family, weddings, showers, parties, couple dates, etc. etc. etc.
So basically I was always on the go, stopping only for a brief time at home in the early afternoons when Mylin would nap and so would I
When she was awake I'd be constantly torn between her, housework, preparing meals, reading books, watching ellen, checking facebook, reading blogs, browsing, writing blogs, texting, and visits to our parent's houses
I was going at break-neck speed with my young daughter's life, not enjoying being in the moment

Can any of you relate?!

And then Sully was born.
I'm on maternity leave from work - able to be at home, truly full-time, for the entire summer
After my recovery from his birth, I found myself skirting back into this psychotic over-booked schedule...

One of the first times God gently nudged my heart in simplifying this area was after I spent a morning with a friend who has 3 young children
While planning for us to get together with our 5 children born in less than 2 years...she told me it would be easier for me to come there...since she had 2 boys in carseats and it was hard for her to get out!
God spoke to me on my drive home from this playdate about how I feel like I have to do all of the above explained things (work, ministries, errands, playdates, etc.) but...that is my choice, not my lot.
And immediately I decided I do not have to try to go to the grocery alone with an infant and 2 year old...I don't have to go to all the mom's events offered in our community and put my crying 2 year old in another new nursery setting (another occurence of this summer that has encouraged me to change my perspectiveof what I 'need' to do)
This gave me the beginning of a feeling that had been elusive - FREEDOM!
The freedom I had been previously seeking was freedom from my responsibilities as a mom...not freedom from the obligations that made mothering seem bottom on my list

Then I had another like-minded friend over for a quick supper and catch-up
We were discussing obligations, opportunities, sacrifices, and parenting
And God nudged me again...
For the first time, the thought crossed my mind that even though I may consider myself a stay-at-home mom, that even though I may not be employed or have an income (currently - because of maternity leave), that doesn't mean I'm not 'working'- even full-time, away from my family! this really how God desired me to spend my time that I had designated for my children?
To be full of on-the-go activities?
So on-the-go that I am not able to be home, be still, and enjoy the gifts that God has given me to protect, care for, teach, and train for this short time?
I think not.

And so I am re-evaluating
Being a stay-at-home mom is difficult for me
I always thought I would love the balance of working part-time and staying at home part-time
But why do I desire the time away from my children?
Because I love my job and know that I am gifted in that area and blessed with the flexible schedule it offers?
Or because I think I need/deserve a break from them?

If God is going to use anything in my life to teach me how to be more like Him and how He views me, as his child - it will be parenting.

So, here I am, reluctantly embracing the role of being the stay-at-home mom
But not in our culture's most recognized sense...but as a woman who wakes up each day, tries to simplify her plans, and keep her children first - her priority

This is something I have to remind myself of multiple times during the day...and isn't always something I 'enjoy' - but I am realizing that I do not need to compare myself horizontally to other moms and live up to their standard, but vertically, to my God, who has so much more planned for me through His plan that I don't always understand, and sometimes struggle to survive

Seriously, does anyone else feel like this?!?!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Obedience: simplification

I am attempting to begin a 'series' on our blog about OBEDIENCE in all of it's forms...we'll see how this goes!

God has laid on our hearts the journey to simplify our lives over the last several years
The beginning
The one year update

In the beginning of this journey, we had very specific ideas of what simplification looked like (see 'beginning' post link)
Now, a few years later, this striving for simplicity has become a insistance in my life
Every day I am looking around the house thinking:
What can we get rid of?
What can we sell?
Who should we give this away to instead of selling it?
Who can we bless with this money?
How can we be more responsible with what we have been given?
How can I avoid getting too much stuff?
Which room/cupboard/storage box can I sort through today?

Now, before you think 'Wow, they are selfless.  Look how much they think of others,'
stop yourself...because we are selfish, prideful, greedy sinners.

It is only by God's goodness and grace that He has intervened in our lives this way and is changing our hearts to resemble His more

In the beginning I felt attached to 'things' and 'stuff'
Over the years of simplifying our life I have learned what it means to store up treasures in heaven, not on earth...
This stuff isn't coming with me!

I have gained so much FREEDOM from this life change!

- I don't need paintings and art on my walls - give me pictures of my handsome husband and adorable children
- Our kids do not need gifts for birthdays, Christmas, or ever, really - let's save our money to get them what they need, when they need it...not getting the habit of getting them what they want when our culture says they deserve presents
- Let's celebrate our marriage by spending time together alone, reconnecting and romancing each other - we don't need new gadgets, jewelry, or expensive surprises
- We don't need to shower family with gifts for every holiday, accomplishment, or get together - let's spend quality time together, having real, vulnerable conversations about Jesus: those will last forever...
- Let's be careful with our 'yes's' to protect our time together as a young family - let's minister where we are called, and say no to spend time together playing, teaching, and learning from each other
- I don't want to feel so possessive over things or people that are not even mine - God gave me my husband, children, and family for a short time...but they are not mine forever, they are His!  I am called to care and love for them as He would have me for now...protecting, leading, and guiding them towards Him for an eternity in paradise

How have you learned to simplify your stuff, relationships, and life?!
I challenge you, too, to get down deep inside and consider how else you can simplify your life - enjoy the freedom it brings you!!!

Monday, August 6, 2012

72 hour reunion

Last weekend we had the blessing of having the entire Merkle family together for nearly 72 hours.
My brother Adam (who lives in Alabama with his wife and 4 kids) came back for a long weekend with us before he took the family to Illinois for a few weeks to spend time with Jill's family
The weekend flew by and I barely got any pictures...but I did manage to capture these few!

We went to the state park where all 8 of the 10 grandkids climbed this:

(Including Miss Mylin!)

And we enjoyed eating lots of meals full of lots of food together
We made sure to plan some games of Catan and Qwirkle and stay up way too late!
We pushed each other's kids on swings and chased them around the yard
I had to paint Maddie's finger and toenails (she was looking forward to getting to use Aunt Rachel's polish..)
We read lots of stories and played with legos, read ridiculous children's books and laid around watching our kids figure it all out with each other
God has been so good granting our family with 10 kids in 8 years to grow up together!

Here's a couple shots of the 8 older grandkids

And a couple of the 2 brand new ones

(w/ Uncle Stephen)

It was a blessed time together - we hadn't all been together since last December - and likely will not for another year or more!
We had some family pictures taken too (try getting 20 people, 10 of them children to all look at the camera at the same time...) which I will be posting later!

Thanks for continuing to read even though my posts are few and far between these days
I think I have 5 drafts ready to write...on gardening, obedience (parenting, to God, and more), and Mylin's birth story - can you believe I never wrote that out?!

What are the most recent family reunion activities you have done together?!