Archive for the ‘Christian Living’ Category
Twelve years ago we trusted God with a move across the country, far from my home and family whom I dearly love, but near my husband’s father. Then the precious man we so love died, the few remaining relatives moved away, and our visitors dwindled. Now there is nobody nearby.
Our trust has made us lonely.
Six years ago we trusted God with a move out of the city, over the mountain pass, 70 minutes away from our church and the people that had become like family to us. Then sickness, weather, and finances took over and we rarely make it over the pass except to see specialists and doctors. Now that second family and church home are distant, unfamiliar.
Our trust has made us strangers.
Four years ago we trusted God and took the plunge into the Christian music ministry. Then the economy and our main business collapsed and we were saddled with expenses we could not afford and that a ministry could not support. Now that ministry is floundering and we are left feeling frustrated with gifts we know must be shared, but with no means to share them.
Our trust has destroyed our finances.
Throughout our marriage we trusted God with our family size. Then we discovered that one of our children has a painful chronic illness and requires expensive, lifelong medical care. Worse, we learned it is genetic, meaning each of her many sisters, her brother, and even our unborn baby have a strong chance of getting the same thing, some even exhibiting early symptoms. Now…now…now…there seems so little room left in this beaten-down, trodden heart for trust.
Our trust has brought pain to a large number of children, those we are called to protect, and that is too much for any parent to shoulder.
When the tears are spent, when heartache becomes the norm, and when the wrenching fear in the pit of your stomach becomes a familiar, almost constant companion, where do you turn? When friends and family stop visiting or calling, when help fades into the background, and when you want to scream at the next showered, manicured person who chirps “everything will be fine” and then walks away from the pain, who is left? When your children look to you for help and comfort, and you have none to give, what can you offer? When hope has become a nostalgic memory, and trust is the very last thing your intellect is telling you to do, what is there to lean on?
When trust, quite frankly, hurts, and you feel deserted and betrayed, what do you do?
I ask God, not crying, not yelling, not pleading, because I am too spent for childishness, drama, or even feeling. I ask God quietly.
“What do I do?”
The answer that comes in the still of the night, in my sleepless, numb exhaustion, is equally quiet.
Trust in the Lord forever, for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal. (Isaiah 26:4)
We add the price of every item, always rounding up just in case, and cheer out loud when we come within pennies of our goal. Walking out of the grocery store, I grin and nod at the first two girls to ever steal my heart. They grin back, hop on the backs of our two shopping carts, and propel their improvised scooters through the parking lot to where we always park the Bagabus–downhill.
After loading the van, young legs power the carts back uphill to the cart return while I pull the van up to the gas pumps a few feet away. We huddle outside, laughing and chatting as I push the inordinate number of buttons required to fuel a vehicle in the twenty-first century.
And then he shows up, his clothes a little ratty, his hair a little messy, his eyes a little hopeful.
“Times are tough,” he explains. I agree. They are.
“Outta gas. I live way out in….”
“It’s okay,” I interrupt. “I’ll help you out.”
“Really? God bless you. Oh, God bless you all.”
And I watch and calculate as the numbers click higher on the gas gauge, his container growing full while my van sits empty, the warning light reminding me I do not have gas to get home.
I watch as he asks God’s blessings on my children, and I mentally review my best kung fu moves should he show the least sign of questionable behavior.
I watch his eyes carefully, looking for signs of deceit as he thanks me and God-blesses me and I inexplicably thank him back, and I do not regret helping him, even if he is lying.
I watch him walk back to his buddy and talk as they pour my liquid gold into his hungry truck, and I imagine them mocking us and our kindness and our naivety.
I watch as we drive by and he waves and thanks us and God-blesses us and I wave back and know I did not do enough.
I did not give him gas to get Home.
Not once in all my watching did I open my mouth to share with the stranded man the fuel he really needs to get through the tough times, to get Home to God’s arms. Not once did I share with him the joys of Jesus. Not one word did I speak from the message of Life that every man needs to hear before their bodies run out of gas.
He spoke God, but I don’t know if he knows God. I know God, but I did not speak God.
I gave that man more gas than I could afford and a warm smile on a cold evening. I gave that man nothing.
I am very blessed to be a guest author at Positive Parenting 3-6-5 today where I wrote about our Thanksgiving traditions. Pop on over and check it out.
While you’re there…
Look around the site. Donna of Positive Parenting 3-6-5 is a Christian homeschooling mother of seven. She has three daughters serving their Lord on the mission field. She also has boys at home as young as 11 that she is schooling.
Donna’s site is an encouragement to parents at any point in the parenting process, whether awaiting a first child or nurturing grandchildren. She offers Godly wisdom and practical advice to establish strong family bonds and nurture a very real Christian faith within your family. She never speaks down to you, but always makes you believe you really can raise Godly, Christ-centered, family-lovin’ children in this godless, self-centered age, because, you know what, you really can. It takes conscientious effort and an eternal perspective, but you can do it, and Donna can help you.
I admire Donna immensely. She is a mentor and a blessing. Check her out!
“I wanna-wanna do it by my own self,” she tells me in her two-year-old speak.
They wanna-wanna do it by their own selves. They are “big” now. Too big for help. Too big for snuggles when there is playing to be done. Too big for sitting with Mama and counting fingers and toes. They wanna-wanna count by their own selves, because they can finish faster. Counting goes faster when you skip numbers.
And then the fevers start, and the tummies ache, and there is fear and confusion, and the hot little foreheads and red eyes don’t wanna-wanna do it by their own selves anymore. The soft, hot arms reach out to find Mama. The little voice cracks in its feverish stupor as it whispers, “Don’t leave me, Mama.” The little legs stumble over to a Mama resting within arm’s reach and a frightened voice says, “You’re too far away. I wanna-wanna sleep by you.”
And I wrap Mama arms around hot bodies and lie awake listening as their thick breath slows into sweet, healing sleep. And I stay, knowing I am comfort.
Perhaps this is why God allows, some say causes, sickness in our own lives. Perhaps we are counting too fast, skipping numbers. Perhaps God knows what it is we need, regardless of what we wanna-wanna. Perhaps He knows we need to stumble to the God within arm’s reach and say, “You’re too far away. I wanna-wanna have you in my heart, always on my mind, and forever in my view leading the way.” Perhaps He knows we need the feverish forehead, the weakness, the pain, the fear, the dying to open our voices to whisper, cry, shout, “Don’t leave me, Abba. I can’t do this by my own self.” Perhaps He knows it will take a crushing blow to stop the speed-counting and turn our hearts, minds and lives toward Him.
And He wraps God arms around hot bodies and lies awake listening as our thick breath slows into sweet, healing sleep. And He stays, knowing that He is Comfort, He is Life, He is All.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.
~II Corinthians 1:3-4
When the nurse takes your child away, the child you have borne, nursed, tended, and loved, there is an emptiness and you turn to the only place worth turning.
When the doctor tells you that all is indeed not right, that your fears were not the imaginings of a hypochondriac mother, but in fact correct, there is an emptiness, and you turn to the only place worth turning.
When you turn to God, the perspective changes. What is pain becomes joy. What is loss becomes opportunity. What is lifeless clay, dead wood, or hard stone becomes beauty with purpose.
I see now that the child I was gently trying to shape with education, family time, Bible readings, and chats, is in the only place worth being, in the hands of the Master. My careful designing, delicate sanding, gentle rubbing are all acts of a mother without the Master’s vision. A wimp. A dreamer. A woman afraid.
The Master takes the clay and breaks it down and builds it back up until the day it is ready for His delicate design.
The Master takes the wood and hews large chunks, chiseling away the dead wood until it is ready for fine sanding.
The Master takes the stone and attacks it with a vengeance, bringing forth form from stubborn stone, until it is ready to be polished by the rubbing of the Master’s hand.
Such transformation can only succeed in His hands, in the hands of the Master.
The Master knows when to force and when to touch gently, when to chisel and when to sand, when to cut and when to rub smooth.
As a mother, I let my children fall, so that they may pull themselves up and walk. I let my children fail so they may learn the hard work of success. I let my children know disappointment so they may enter life with realistic empathy, not an entitlement mentality bred by misguided parenting.
As the Master, God does the same. He lets us fall. He cuts and hews. He polishes and adorns.
Making us what He wants us to be.
Making us His.
Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand,
so are ye in mine hand.
At 26 months, little Rebecca holds her audience of one Mama spellbound as she relates the story of the Three Little Pigs. It is filled with emotion and hope, fear and trepidation. Finally the story reaches its climax. The Big Bad Wolf pounds on the door of the third Little Pig’s house.
Does the Little Pig let Big Bad in? Does Big Bad eat Little? What happens? This Mama needs to know!
Rebecca closes the book, sets it down, and looks me seriously in the eyes.
“Mama. I wouldn’t let the Big Bad Wolf in our house.”
“Neither would I,” I assure her.
And off she runs, her trusting smile pushing out her cherubic cheeks, her soft curls bouncing at the nape of her neck.
“Or would I?” I ask myself.
How often does the Big Bad Wolf come knocking on my door and I open it with a warm welcome? He doesn’t always announce his intentions as bluntly as Rebecca’s wolf: “I’m hungry. I’m going to eat you and your children as soon as you open this door.”
He doesn’t always wear an identifying tag: “Caution: Big and Bad. Stay away!”
Sometimes he shows up as a catalog of “needs,” too easily twisting joy into grumbling and malcontent.
He slides in through magazines and websites, seemingly innocuous, turning attention toward obtaining an ideal–the perfect homeschool, the well-adjusted family, the ideal marriage, the successful businessman, the cool mom status, the clean (or even clean-ish) home.
He surfs in riding the wave of the media–a curse word here, suggestive commercial there, inappropriate song messages everywhere.
He even rides in on the backs of family and friends–a little gossip, a few comparisons, misplaced criticism.
He can be the inexplicable lure of a wild time or the entrapment of legalism. He can be the controlling arm of anxiety or the sneaky grip of fear. He can be the desire to fit in–fashionably, financially, socially, in the world or in the church. He can be the temptation of complacency–good enough, close enough, just enough. He can be the eternal lie–I can make it without Christ. He can be a small nagging doubt–am I “Christian” enough? am I good enough? is grace enough?
He also knew that sometimes these straw and stick houses of ours would not be able to stand up to all that huffing and puffing. That’s where his promise comes in, a promise of hope for all the Little Piggies…and Little Lambs, too. A promise for me. A promise for my Littles. A promise for you.
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. John 10:1-15: ”
Take that, Big Bad Wolf!
There is a little voice inside of me that has been a nagging beast to live with, a real fun-sponge, sucking all the joy out of life. It’s the “not-enough” voice.
You’re not smart enough.
You’re not pretty enough.
Your children are not trained well enough.
Your house is not clean enough.
You’re not loving enough.
Your homeschool is not productive enough.
Your writing is not earning enough.
Your habits are not consistent enough.
Your character is not solid enough.
Your cooking is not healthy enough. (And have you even tasted it?)
Your little light is not bright enough.
You’re not friendly enough.
You’re not improving fast enough.
You’re not gentle enough.
You’re not strong enough.
You’re not perfect enough.
Christ died for me. He loves me . . . enough.
Not the Hallmark kind of love, which isn’t enough, but the “you can’t imagine the hell I’d go through for you” kind of love. The love that takes all my not-enoughs and sends them on a long walk off a short pier.
I will continue to struggle on in this life, making mistakes, falling short, taking too many do-overs, disappointing myself, disappointing those I love most, disappointing people I don’t even know but who are just looking for someone to get down on, never attaining close to “enough” in anything.
I will never be enough. Period. But He is.
If He forgives my not-enoughs, maybe, just maybe I can too.
So, little voice, little buddy, little pal, little scourge of my existence, you can just take your self-deprecating self-centered not-enoughs and shove ‘em back down your throat, and, while you’re at it, you can take that long walk off that short pier, ’cause I’m listening to another Voice now.
My grace is sufficient for you,
for my power is made perfect in weakness.
~2 Corinthians 12:9