Life Questions with Elizabeth and Jim
How do I balance all the demands of marriage, parenting, work, church, and friends?
Stretched…you can say that again! The number one heart — cry I hear from women around the world is, “How can I get it all done? We’re busy extremely busy. We have people in our lives. Responsibilities to family, home, even work and church.” When you’re up against the wall muttering a question like this, the answer usually comes when you ask and answer another question, “What does God want me to do? Or, you can put it in a prayer, ‘God, what do You want me to do?’”
Start with your marriage. If you’ve got a husband, he is your Number One Priority. In God’s eyes, you are one flesh with your husband (Genesis 2:24). No other person has such an intimate, close relationship with you. And that makes your husband tops on the special list. God also says wives are to love their husbands (Titus 2:4), pointing out that you honor Him when others see that you love your husband.
And if you have children, they’re next. Wow, to think that God has entrusted you with a child to love and train for Him is staggering. Your little and big ones may not get all your time, but they should get all your heart…and a humongous portion of your time. That is time to spend in laughter, fun, catching up, snacking, working on cool projects, and talking over daily life.
Plus, God directs us to something moms simply cannot neglect, which is teaching children about Him, His Son, His Word, and eternal life. Deuteronomy 6:5-7 is His assignment to all moms: His Word is to be first of all, in your heart. Then, you are to teach His Word to your children and talk of it day and night. So pray, open your heart to God, and speak boldly to your kids.
When it comes to housework, I always pray about what I need to do and how my family and others will be blessed. And most of all, I affirm that my tasks are ultimately done unto the Lord. So, whatever you do, even pushing that vacuum cleaner around between loads of wash, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men (Colossians 3:23). Now, that puts a divine spin on homemaking, doesn’t it?
Since your question also mentioned balancing work and church responsibilities, let’s talk about church first. That’s because you are a Christian first, and then an employee of a company. Sure, your job may require 40-plus hours of your week, while church requires only a handful of hours each week. But God is the priority and His people, and the coming together of the body of Christ in corporate worship. I like how the wording in Acts 20:7 and 1 Corinthians 16:2 puts it. Both of these verses refer to Sunday as the first day of the week. It’s too bad our culture considers Sunday to be the last day of the week. You work all week, then there’s the weekend, and when Sunday rolls around, you know your fun is almost finished. Give this mentality a healthy twist and begin treating Sunday and the people at your church and ministry as vitally important.
And if you worship on a day other than Sunday, consider it precious. When you go to church, go to give something to every person you see. Go to pray. Go to sing. Go to receive the teaching of God’s Word and to have your heart changed by it…then you go to work on Monday.
Imagine now what you have to give to those at work! Joy, love, wisdom, the energy God gives you. You are a full vessel filled up to the brim and overflowing. And, when it comes to the work you do and the attitude you take to your workplace, key in on this principle: You serve the Lord Christ (Colossians 3:24). And there, my friend, is your divine spin on your job. Here’s a few final thoughts on juggling a busy life:
- Watch out for time robbers. What are you doing that is taking large chunks of your time? What changes do you need to make in your schedule? Your commitments?
- Watch your priorities. Remember, God isn’t asking you to do 1,000 things or 100 things. He is asking you to do at least the 10 things listed in Titus 2:3-5.
- Watch your attitude about yourself and your responsibilities. Don’t get down on yourself. Instead, do what you can each day full speed ahead and try your best. Then put your head on your sweet pillow and pray this prayer from Susannah Wesley:
Lord, thank You for a meaningful day, for a day well spent, for I have offered my life and this day to You as a living sacrifice.
Should I tell my children about the mistakes I’ve made in the past that I don’t want them to repeat?
We all make mistakes, probably more than we care to admit. But praise God, Jesus Christ has covered those mistakes. In fact, our blessed Savior has removed those mistakes and sins as far from us as the East is from the West (Psalm 103:12). So, when it comes to recounting those mistakes, the apostle Paul exhorts forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead (Philippians 3:13). Therefore, since Jesus has forgotten your mistakes, so should you. And, there’s no urgent need to share them with your children.
That being said, you can count on your children someday asking about your past conduct. That’s natural. They’ll ask something like, “Mom, Dad, did you do such and such? Did you make mistakes?”
Your first response should always be a prayer straight up to God, “Oh Lord, please help me. Give me a super dose of Your wisdom…quick!” Then, say something like, “Yeah, sure, I made mistakes. We’ve all made mistakes. In fact, that’s what the Bible says, ‘All have sinned’ (Romans 3:23). And, that’s why Jesus came to die. To pay for our mistakes — for my mistakes, and for yours too.”
Without details, you can then let your curious child know that you are a sinner, but that Jesus has saved you from your sin. He paid for your sin. And He’s been changing and transforming you ever since. Take this God-sent opportunity to turn the conversation around to your child and ask him or her if they’ve ever made a mistake. Wow, this gives you yet another great open opportunity to verbally witness to your child, to share the “good news” of Jesus Christ, and that He died for their “mistakes” and sins. Best of all, they can have their sins forgiven by accepting Jesus as their Savior.
Your past is in the past. You have been saved by God’s grace. You are to live in the present for Jesus and be a shining example of God’s grace to your children. Your example and you willingness to talk about God’s saving grace with your children will help them make better choices than you made, starting with the choice to receive Jesus as their Savior so His Spirit will guide them into all truth (John 16:13).
Why is prayer so important if God already knows my thoughts and struggles?
I’m sure glad that God knows about our struggles! I experience great comfort knowing that He knows all about my each and every trial and heartache, what I worry about — even my dreams and goals. In fact, giving thanks to Him for His omniscience is one thing I do every time I pray.
But, God asks believers in Him to pray. Therefore, we should trust His judgment and His reasons for expecting us to pray — and pray! Then, we can start counting the many blessings and changes this act of compliance begins to reap as a result. How does He bless us for being faithful in prayer? Here are a few of my favorite blessings.
Greater closeness to God — How do you become better acquainted with someone? You talk to them. It’s the same way with God. The more you pray, the more familiar and at ease you are, and the less you feel like a stranger. God is never the stranger. He loves us, reached out to us, and wooed us. He redeemed us and sacrificed His Son to save us. No, our lack of prayer is what makes us the stranger to a more intimate relationship with Him.
Who is better to go to with your fears, worries, concerns, and dreads than the God of the Universe? Others will let you down, but you can depend on God to strengthen and protect you, even if you are passing “through the valley of the shadow of death.” And, as the psalmist goes on to say, “I will fear not evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4). No matter what you may face in a day, a sick baby, the loss of a job, a problem with a neighbor, a rebellious child, a cancer treatment, you can know the peace only God can give you.
My life is no different than yours. It’s full of people to see, places to go, and things to do. It seems like I have to make a decision every minute! But, God says to pray about all our decisions and reach out to Him. To ask Him, so that He can guide us. To acknowledge Him, and He will direct our paths (Proverbs 3:6). To call out to Him, and He will answer and show us what we need to know or do (Jeremiah 33:3). To ask Him for wisdom…and He will give it (James 1:5). Since God is all-knowing, why not let Him help? Why not let Him give you direction? Then, when the decision is made, it will be the right one, the one that puts you in the center of God’s will.
Prayer moves us to be other-oriented. In a world filled with selfishness and me-thinking, 100 percent of our time and emotions could be taken up with our three favorite people — Me, Myself, and I. But, the beauty of praying through a prayer list (or, as I call it, my Love List) of those we love and people who are suffering, moves us beyond ourselves and causes us to invest emotion and spend time on others as we lift them and their concerns to God. As Jesus told us in Matthew 7:7, we are to ASK in prayer:
Ask — and it shall be given to you.
Seek — and you will find.
Knock — and the door will be opened to you.
What’s it like living in Hawaii?
I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “It’s a nice place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there.” Well, some people might say that about the State of Hawaii. Hawaii basically has two industries: the US military and tourism. Wherever you look on the main island of Oahu, you see signs pointing to a Navy, Army, Marine, Air Force, or Coast Guard installation. Hawaii has been a focal point for military since before World War II.
However, the other key industry is tourism. For the first half of 2012, 3.9 million people visited the Hawaiian Islands. If you have ever spent time on Waikiki Beach on the Island of Oahu, you probably thought all 3.9 million visitors were there with you on that famous sun-drenched beach. How ever many were there shoulder-to-shoulder with you, guess what? You were only experiencing a fraction of the visitors, because there are tourists also on the other four major islands in the Hawaiian island chain.
Aside for the fact that Hawaii is reported to be the 13th most densely populated of the 50 U.S. states, its weather is worth the 5-plus hour plane ride from wherever you call home. The average high temperature in Honolulu is between 81-89 degrees, and the average low is 65-74.
Besides the weather, the residents are the friendliest people in the world. Even with all the tourism, the Hawaiian people, made up of all races, are kind, courteous, and helpful. This has certainly been our experience, and others have validated our observations. The residents seem to be genuinely happy!
Now, after this lengthy opening, we must qualify that our residency in Hawaii is only part time. We are off to all parts of the US and the world for a lot for speaking. Plus, we have our little cabin in the woods on the beautiful Olympic Peninsula in Western Washington State. But for those contemplating a move to Hawaii or just wanting to come for a visit, we would say, “What’s not to like?”
When we’re in Hawaii, we can power walk 365 days a year. We can look for the green flash most evenings as the sun disappears into the Pacific Ocean. Jim is a retired Army Reservist and enjoys visiting the different military facilities and memorials, as well as taking advantage of services provided for both active and retired military. We also enjoy walking through the lobbies and tropical gardens of different hotels and resorts and appreciating what they have done to provide a beautiful Hawaiian atmosphere.
The most important reason we spend time in Hawaii? There are 5 of our 8 grandchildren who live in Hawaii along with their Navy Lt. Commander dad, Paul, and our daughter Courtney.
What really amazes us is that we manage to do so much writing while we are in Hawaii. Maybe it’s because of the moderate temperatures and the basically stress-free, laid-back island lifestyle. Whatever it is, we have discovered that Hawaii is a nice place to visit. And, if you don’t mind being thousands of miles away from family and on an sunny island with a beautiful sandy beach no more than a few miles away, then come spend time with the other folks who are enjoying lots of sun, lots of sandy beaches, lots of surf, lots of ohana (family) spirit, and zero air pollution.
As the locals would say, “Ho’olu komo la kaua” or “Please join us!”
How do I influence my non-Christian friends without their lifestyle influencing me?
First, let me remind you that a Christian is a lover—a lover of the Lord, a lover of mankind, and a lover of souls. It’s a joy to be surrounded by unbelievers that you know, like, and yes, even love. These people from all walks of life are placed in your life by God—your neighbors, classmates and workmates, those in your book group or exercise class, other moms and your child’s school, your long-time friends. Every time you are with them, thank God that He loved you when you were not a believer, and that He has filled you with His love—a love He fully expects you to extend to others who need Him so very much.
However, being in the world and witnessing for Christ calls for being aware and careful. That’s what Paul advises in Ephesians 5:15 and Colossians 4:5-6: “Be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time….Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person.”
With this sober attitude, next you must remember that you are also a soldier — a soldier heading into the world to do battle for the souls of others. Your battle is not against your unbelieving friends and workmates. They are not the enemy: They are victims of the enemy. They are “held captive by him (Satan) to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:26).
So your job, like a soldier, is to prepare yourself daily as you “put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm” (Ephesians 6:13-17). And, as you gear up for battle and don your armor each day by reading God’s Word and fortifying yourself, pray! Pray for Christ’s love and a firm resolve as you step out into your world and interact with your non-Christian friends and acquaintances. With this kind of preparation and a heart full of love, you will not be the one influenced by the world, but will be the one who influences others with the love of Jesus Christ.