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Christian Living

Posts Tagged ‘Christian Living’

When the Sickness Comes

“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

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In the Master’s Hand

Clay in the Master's HandSeven years ago I sat in the surgery ward of the county hospital with a three-month-old baby in my arms. This week an older child lay in the bed beside me. The feeling doesn’t change.

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.

God.

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.

God.

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.

Wood in the Master's HandI 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.

Stone in the Master's HandSuch transformation hurts.

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.
~Jeremiah 18:6

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Clearing the Queue

Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
~Psalm 90:12

We subscribe to Netflix. (I know. Who cares, right? Stick with me.) For a “low, low fee” we receive a DVD in the mail. We watch it, send it back and receive another one. Good movie. Good popcorn. Good company. Not quite enough room on the couch. No movies to stock at home. Good times.

We also can instantly watch thousands of other programs, simply by adding them to our instant queue and clicking “play.” It’s really, really simple.

For a long time, I liked adding things to our queue. When everyone else was in bed at night, I would sit at my computer and add “things” (carefully selected “things,” of course) to the queue. I’d rate what we’d seen so the automated powers that be at the Netflix headquarters could, in their ultimate techno-wisdom, suggest more things that I’d love! I’d look through their suggestions and add those to my queue. Never mind that they were often wrong. I kept doing it! My queue was up to 386 shows–wonderful, interesting, educational, quality, uplifting shows. Yup…386 of ‘em.

Why? Because I didn’t want to miss anything. I didn’t want to miss the great special on Roman architecture when we study the Ancient Romans…in six months. I didn’t want to miss the eye-opening documentary on the children of World War II when we study the twentieth century…in two years. I didn’t want to miss that great chick flick that I would never watch because I never watched chick flicks. In fact, I never watched any flicks in my queue.

On the rare occasion I sat down to watch something, I spent the entire time sifting through the 386 shows in my queue and never, ever, ever watched any of them.

Put on your listening ears. It’s life application time.

My life queue, much like my Netflix queue, had gotten too long. I spent all my time researching what we would do, organizing what we would do, planning what we would do, dreaming about all the things we would someday do, getting other people’s opinions on what we should do. They were all wonderful, interesting, educational, quality, uplifting things. I didn’t want to miss any of them. I spent whatever time I had left over sifting through my life queue for something to fit into that precious bit of remaining time. I was busy, I was exhausted, but I wasn’t actually accomplishing anything.

I was so afraid I would miss something, that I was missing out on my own life.

Did you catch that?

I was missing out on my own life.

I don’t remember a time in my adult life when I had not struggled with the heavy chain that my life queue had become. Projects were started and not finished, children were disappointed by one more “we ran out of time,” friends were neglected, my husband had a cookie drought. I was involved in everything, but truly involved in nothing. Even when I completely cut out my out-of-house activities, my want-to-dos took over.

It was my husband who finally helped me understand this debilitating obsession with not wanting to miss anything, thereby missing everything. Yes, it hurt. Yes, I cried. Yes, I did something about it.

I lugged six enormous bags of magazines to the library, magazines full of wonderful, interesting, educational, quality, uplifting things that I would never do. I filled two garbage bags with catalogs full of wonderful, interesting, educational, quality, uplifting things I would never buy. (Don’t nag me about recycling. Being nagged is not currently in my life queue.) I emptied filing cabinets, boxes and binders–all highly organized, all full of wonderful, interesting, educational, quality, uplifting things that I had not looked at since the time I organized them. (I didn’t recycle those either!) I threw away countless notebooks full of wonderful, interesting, educational, quality, uplifting things I need to know to be healthy and productive, and it was the most empowering and productive thing I ever did with those notebooks.

I purged wonderful, interesting, educational, quality, uplifting things from the stack of piano music that we would never play, and left the music we love. I ceased my ongoing search for wonderful, interesting, educational, quality, uplifting things to add to our homeschooling queue, because what we’re doing already is good enough. I took the grocery savings book I’m writing, which, by the way, is full of wonderful, interesting, educational, quality, uplifting things about feeding your family for less, and I filed it away for a day when my queue has room. I closed my email account so I did not have to deal with the 15,000 emails that poured in while we were traveling through the States this summer, emails that may or may not be filled with wonderful, interesting, educational, quality, uplifting things. And I purged my Netflix queue.

Then I sat down and watched a show. The whole thing.

The purge continues.

The GirlsI’m giving the boot to lonely socks, because, let’s face it, they ain’t never (and I mean AIN’T and NEVER) going to be anything but lonely socks. I’m bidding a joyful adieu to those horrible based-on-the-movie Disney books I can barely tolerate reading. I’m getting rid of every self-help book I can lay my hands on, and finishing my read through the Bible. I’m saying farewell to the curtains that never got put up, the art supplies that never got used, the curriculum nobody likes, and the patterns and material that remind me how much I did not get done when my bigger girls were small.

But it’s not about the stuff. It’s about the mindset. Most importantly, I am purging my mind of the things in the world that tell me I’m not good enough because I feed my children macaroni and cheese from a box on Tuesdays, because they’re not studying Latin in third grade, because I’m not involved in a single organization, because I haven’t sent Christmas cards in four years, because I don’t know what herbs will cure the croup, because I’ve made only $500 over the past five years, because my thighs jiggle, and because, by golly, I still wear my favorite cardigan from the 90s…the early 90s. I’m purging unrealistic expectations, negative opinions about our family and our God-directed choices, legalistic (but not Biblically supported) mandates, and unhealthy comparisons.

FamilyI am standing taller, smiling more, and getting things finished. My family is having fresh smoothies every morning because I don’t spend an hour sifting through the daily 250 emails. I am more patient. I have time to kiss my babies, kiss my husband, pet the dog, and kiss my husband again. I can see my desk, find my dictionary, and my phone is always charged…and that’s a really big deal for me.

Best of all, whenever a new idea, a new plan, a new curriculum, or a new “thing” pops into my life, I just pop it right back out with no regrets. There’s nothing out there worth missing what God has given me right here.

And I will restore to you the years the locust hath eaten.
~Joel 2:25

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Enough of Not Enough

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 good enough.

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.

Perhaps. Perhaps. In fact, all of these not-enoughs are painfully true at one time or another. But to you, my little voice, I say this.

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

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The Hiding Place

Any concern too small to be turned into a prayer
is too small to be made into a burden.

~Corrie Ten Boom

I don’t often like to read sad stories. If I find myself perusing my shelves looking for a page-turner, I generally skip over anything that will make me sad. Doesn’t life itself offer enough opportunities to cry without intentionally adding more?

So I pass on Anna Sewell, Francine Rivers, John Steinbeck, yes, even E.B. White. Charlotte, after all, does die, and Wilbur never again finds quite as dear a friend as his octopod companion.

Corrie ten Boom

It was a light, cheerful read I sought when, in my childhood bedroom for a recent visit back home, I searched the bookshelves, my eyes caressing each treasure, greeting each old friend, looking for a companion. I surprised even myself when I pulled out Corrie ten Boom’s The Hiding Place. I had read the book before and knew the story, the heartbreak, the death, the pain, the loneliness. I read it anyway.

And I will read it again.

There are many stories about the Holocaust, but this one is different. This one is about forgiveness, gratitude, and Home. This one is about the life of a Christian, a very real Christian–not a saint–learning very real lessons.

It is more than just a history book. It is as relevant to our lives today as it was when Corrie ten Boom first penned it, including everything from the blind denial of the political state of the day to the necessity of thanking God for all things as part of His providence, however unwelcome, including fleas.

Corrie ten Boom’s message and experiences are valuable lessons worthy of your time. Read it, reread it, and praise God for the fleas in your life.

Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow;
it empties today of its strength.

~Corrie Ten Boom

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Behind the Clouds

    The desert can be a beautiful place. Can be. Unfortunately for my beauty-thirsty eyes, our little corner of it is not.

      Our desert valley was once an agricultural center. Crops were grown, soil was depleted, our valley was left in dry desolation. Most areas can recover from unwise land use. The desert cannot.

      Our valley is u-g-l-y, ugly…if you don’t look up.

      We are surrounded by mountains. When I say surrounded, I mean that to leave our valley on one side, we have to climb several hundred feet through a mountain pass. To leave on the lower end, we skirt the mountains.

      Surrounded.

      They are pretty all year, but in the winter, they are beautiful. Ah, what a paltry description.

      In the winter the mountains are awe-inspiring!

      Truly breath-taking.

      Beyond words.

      Sometimes, in our valley, God covers the mountains, and all we can see is the ugliness that is our barren, over-worked desert. Clouds hang low, covering the splendor that we westerners love.

      But then he reveals his purpose. The clouds part.

      And God’s work is displayed anew.

      Our beautiful mountains are made even more inspiring with their crowning snow-capped glory, God’s work behind the clouds.

      Such is the walk of life. When God covers the mountains of life and all we can see is the tired, barren, over-worked desert, the beauty is not gone. It’s just hidden while God is at work. The clouds will be parted. The crowning splendor will be revealed. Maybe not today. Maybe not soon. Maybe not while we still have the power of breath. But in His time, in His way, in His eternity and through Christ, we will see the mountains of God behind the clouds.

      Get on your knees and look up.

      You absolutely must click on this photo.  You won’t receive three wishes or have your wildest dreams realized, but you will certainly gain a greater appreciation for the beauties of Creation and the power of an Almighty God.  Be honest: you probably would have blown those three wishes anyway.

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      Christian Martyrs

          Voice of the Martyrs estimates that 176,000 Christians passed into Christ’s arms in the past year through martyrdom.

          Read that again.

          Approximately 176,000 people like you, like my man, like my children, like my grandparents, mother, brothers, were tortured, imprisoned, murdered.

          Not in the Dark Ages. Not in a century gone by.

          Last year!

          Why?

          What was their crime?

          They trusted Christ as their Savior.

          When told to renounce their faith, to recant as it were, they did not.

          Here I stand. I can do no other.

          I wonder…

          …were I so squeezed, what would I do?

          My faith, my conviction, my heart tells me I would stand tall for my Lord, for not just the name but the person, the deity, the saving reality that is Christ.

          I know the truth, that the only people who need fear are those who walk without Christ.

          Yet, am I audacious enough to think that I could stand strong?

          The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

          And then I remember.

          It is His strength, not mine, that carries me safely to His arms.

          Run the race and trust Him to catch you at the finish line.

          Lord, hold us up. Teach us to entwine our lives so fully in You that when we are squeezed–and we will be squeezed–our lives are a reflection of your love. Strengthen us with your divine strength. Remind us, as you do, that the powers of Satan, the world, even death are nothing next to you. Uphold those who are persecuted in your name, and teach them and us patient endurance. Show us your will.

          Gentle reader, you must know that the estimated number of Christians persecuted each year is growing in unbelievable numbers. Please, please pray, and teach your children to pray. This is a reality hard to imagine in our modern world, especially in the Americas, but it knocks, no, pounds at our door as well. Pray, pray, stand firm, and pray.

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