Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Expectations

But then I recall all you have done, O Lord;
I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago.
You are the God of great wonders!
 You demonstrate your awesome power among the nations. 
Psalm 77:11, 14


Do you know that feeling, in December, when the dishwasher repairman comes to your house to let you know that it will be $300 to fix the control board on your old dishwasher?  How about when you work for what seems like hours to track down a person who can fix your hot water heater, only to be told that it would be best to just replace the entire thing? Do you know that feeling of not knowing where the money will come from to pay for broken appliances during this month of gift-buying?

That was me.  That was us.  Our dishwasher broke the weekend after Thanksgiving. No problem--we can hand wash dishes in the sink for a while.  But then our hot water heater went out. We were warming up water on the stove so that we could hand wash dishes in the sink.  I was making arrangements to drive to a friend's house so we could shower and give the boys a bath.  This was not really how I had expected on spending my spare time in December.

I was expecting to be making cookies.  I was expecting to be mailing out Christmas cards.  I was expecting to be listening to music by the light of the Christmas tree.  I was expecting to put the finishing touches on gifts.  I was not expecting to be heating pots of water;  I was not expecting to use my dish drying towels after every meal.


But this Advent season, God had some expectations of what he needed to show me. First, he orchestrated some events so that my parents would be living with us for a while, and it just so happens that they are happy to help out by doing dishes. Second, he worked through an experienced friend at church who came and fixed our hot water heater by simply replacing a part. Third, he aligned circumstances in another family's life that caused them to no longer need the dishwasher they currently use; so they offered their fully-functional dishwasher to us.

Check, check, check.  

God's lavish provision exponentially exceeded whatever unmet expectations I had.


It's at those times when my Love and I just stand humbly before God in disbelief and ask, "Really?!? Now you're just showing off."

Two weeks ago, I believed that I would be disappointed and stressed by not having my Christmas projects finished on time and be $1000 in the hole thanks to new appliances.  That was my expectation.

God took the liberty to shatter those expectations.

Yes, God has some expectations for me this Advent season.  He expected to continue his work of teaching me how to trust in him.  He expected to show me once again how his riches far surpass my imagination.  And he expected to remind me that his gifts do not usually take the form that most people expect.



I was expecting a working dishwasher and hot water from my tap.  Those things were taken from me, and instead I got unexpected surprises and the joy of knowing that the God of the universe has things under his control.

What a perfect time of year to be reminded that God does not come to us in the ways in which we expect.



He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. John 1:10-12


Saturday, December 6, 2014

My Way

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. Micah 5:2

A couple of nights ago, the boys and I got to hang up ornaments on our tree.  I LOVE hanging the tree ornaments.  I love making everything look just beautiful on the backdrop of evergreen.  When I was a girl, I would try to talk my dad into setting up the tree earlier and earlier each year... that is, until I moved away to college.  Then I would beg him to wait until I after I got home for the break.  Once I was married, Dave and I would set aside a special night, usually the weekend after Thanksgiving, where we would play our favorite Christmas music and take our time decorating our little tree.

But hanging ornaments with two small boys is very different than hanging ornaments with my dad or with Dave.


Even before the box from the garage was opened, there was energy in the air.  As soon as I gingerly removed the first ornaments from their hibernation, I felt like I had stepped into the Belmont Stakes. Noah was pulling ornaments out of the box faster than we could get them on the tree. Fragile ones, sentimental ones, wooden ones, and plastic ones all piled onto the couch in one giant mess of color and hanging wire. Zeke broke two of them within five minutes. There was no background music, there was no careful placement, there was no appreciation of sentiment or order.  It was chaos. And it was not how it was supposed to be.

In record time, the sprint was over.  The ornaments were out of the box and on the tree (minus the two broken ones).  As I put away the tissue paper and ornament boxes, I secretly was wishing that I could have done it my way. 

If I would have done it my way, none of the ornaments would have been broken. The beautiful ornaments would have had prominent placing and the trinket-y ones would have been gathered toward the rear side.  The bows and glass balls would have been evenly spaced. There would have been soothing music and deliberate movement.

But that would not have been the best way.  The best way was sharing the time together, chaotic as it was.  The best way was teaching my two young boys about gentleness and forgiveness.  The best way was sharing stories and memories. The best way was seeing their outward excitement mirror my inward excitement. The best way was having my way messed up.


Because, more often than not, my way is not the best.  More often than not, my way is focused on the wrong goals. More often than not, my way is too narrow to be aware of anything bigger and better.

God continually challenges me as his child, and as a parent to his children, to give up my way in order to take on his way, which he promises is always the best.  He doesn't let me work my way into his graces; he offers mercy and forgiveness instead. He doesn't let me figure everything out; he shows me my need for him instead. He doesn't let me determine what the day brings; he leads me along his path for me instead. 

He doesn't let me focus on all of the "stuff" of this season; he draws my eyes back to himself -- a baby bringing me salvation in a way that I would have never supposed.



“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). Matthew 1:23

Friday, November 28, 2014

Abundance

I woke up this morning at 3:00 to take my husband to the airport.

And now that I'm back home, I'm reveling in the sounds of a quiet house.  The occasional deep breath that my four-year-old takes, while he's asleep in my bed. The hum of the heater as it kicks in to warm the cool morning air. The sporadic snort from my parents who slumber away in the guest room. The crunch-crunch that marks our cat's completion of her meal last night. The complete silence from my two year old, who has been sleeping for the last 14 hours, more or less.

And then there's me, awake with the cat, my Rescuer, and my thoughts.

As I look back on this week and try to soak it all in before the chaos of December ensues, I am thankful for God's divine abundance in reaching out to me, to speak to my heart through the mud and muck in which I so easily find myself.

On Monday, when I was overwhelmed at the thought of all that needed to be accomplished this week--the dishes, the shopping, the food prep, the LAUNDRY, the cleaning, the organizing, the entertaining--God was at work organizing a "daddy-daughter date" to the grocery store. My dad offered to join me on my daunting trip of Thanksgiving food shopping that night.  We somehow found ourselves on the topic of Laundry Day, and what it looked like in his home when he was growing up in the '40s with seven siblings and a widowed mother: 
He and a few others had the job of going out to pump the water, which then they would bring by buckets into the house, to fill large pots on the stove.  Once the water on the stove was warm enough, his mother would carry it, potful by potful, across the kitchen, through their back entry room, and into the "wash kitchen." Once the wash tubs had enough water, she would add the laundry and turn on a machine in the wash tub that would agitate the clothes.  Then she would transfer them to another wash tub (which she also needed to fill up with water), then wring it out through the electric wringer, then rinse it in the rinse tub, which thankfully could be filled with cold water that the children would bring in from the pump.  Then she would wring the clothes again, and hang them up to dry.
In a matter of five minutes, my job of laundry went from feeling overwhelming to feeling like a vacation.

On Tuesday, when I didn't know how I would get all of the food preparations done and the logistics of hosting a meal for more people than I had chairs or silverware, God seemed to take my hand and lead me to a quiet place where he could show me how he was taking care of everything. My brother could bring silverware; my love could borrow some folding chairs from church. Easy for the care-taker of the universe.

On and on it went.  I worried. God redirected my heart.

And so, by the time I reached Thanksgiving Day, it didn't matter one bit that I burned the bottoms of both pans of stuffing or that we got started eating almost an hour behind schedule.

God planned a gorgeous day--the warmest and one of the sunniest days of the month.  We were able to have our meal outside, where there was plenty of room and no one was in the least bit cramped. God orchestrated a lovely gathering of people who were called to be his children, and who also happen to be relatives. Love abounded. Thanks abounded. Laughter abounded. Sparkling cider abounded.


God's provision abounded and abounds and will abound.

And my heart abounds with thanks.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Waiting


You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, 
because he trusts in you. 
Isaiah 26:3

I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!
Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! 
Psalm 27:13-14

About a month ago, my boys caught a virus from preschool. The tiny little bumps of Hand, Foot and Mouth emerged on the bottoms of Zeke's feet one day, and on Noah's several days later. We spent the week working on potty training and raking leaves because we were house-bound.

It's times like those that make me very thankful that the boys like being home.



On the heels of their sickness, I acquired a low-grade fever.  Not high enough to take Tylonol, not low enough to where I felt normal.  I stayed home from church because I wasn't sure if I was contagious with anything.  Dave slept in the living room because he didn't want to catch anything. But then 24 hours extended to three days, and I began to wonder if I should be doing something about my temperature. The nurse assured me that it was fine as long as it didn't get above a certain degree.  Three days turned into six. The doctor was not concerned, as long as the temperature didn't get higher. Six days turned into two weeks. I went in for a check up; I got blood work done (twice); I drank lots of water. Still no reason for my fever.  And yet it continued.

For most of the days during this time, I struggled to go on with my daily activities.  Mind you, I was also in my first trimester with our third child at the time. The fever wiped me clean of whatever energy I had leftover from growing a tiny person. Instead of kicking the ball back and forth with the boys in the back yard, I watched from my camping chair as they would try to kick it close enough to me in hopes that I could reach it and throw it back to them. Instead of chasing them around the house, I had to sit on the couch and do my best to stay engaged rather than mentally slinking away to a quiet, peaceful place.  Instead of easily following my routine of doing the dishes or making dinner, I had to work myself up to what felt like a mountainous task before me.

It was hard.

I knew in the midst of it, though, that God was at work.  I knew that he saw my pitiful state, and that he had enough power for the both of us.  When I felt like crying and collapsing in a heap at the end of a particularly long day, he calmed me with his words of peace and his Spirit gave me just the right amount of strength to remain standing.  He showed me in a very real way that night that he was the answer to every single one of the areas where I was lacking: He is Peace... He is Strength... He is Wisdom... He is Patience... He is Joy.

And my fever lasted for just three more days after that.  Twenty days was enough, I guess.

You can only imagine the giddiness I felt when my body had energy again.  I was beside myself with Joy.  I was capable once again to do the work that God has put before me to do as his child, as a wife, and as a mom.  And how sweet that work is when it has been taken from you for a time.

Now, how sweet are those twenty days of "waiting" in my memory.  It was a time that God was using to show me his power and his love for me--an opportunity for him to teach me and speak directly to my heart.

It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” 
Isaiah 25:9


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Count Down

Dave and I count down with our boys.  I'm not talking about the "10...9...8......BLASTOFF!" variety here, although we certainly do plenty of that.  I'm talking about the "Either you can obey or [fill in the blank] will happen in 5...4...3...2...1" variety.  It's not something we necessarily saw ourselves doing (every parent has the dream that their child will obey immediately without ulterior motivations, right?), but it's been effective at getting our point across.  


If you start counting for this one, he typically gets the job done by Four, Two at the latest.



If you start counting for this one, he stares at the floor for the first four-and-a-half seconds and then tries to sly his way in before the deadline.  I'd say he's got about a 50 % completion rate.  

Neither of them like the consequence that occurs once they are caught in disobedience. Both are moved to action.  But one chooses the quick, safe route.  The other chooses the evasive, risky route.

I love the differences between these two boys.  It is a wonderful gift to get to know two people from birth in such an intimate way--to be able to see how they are formed uniquely, inside and out, from the moment they take their first breath.  Their differences are challenging and entertaining and amazing.  The "differentness" of my second born has broadened my perspective of the "differentness" of my first born.  

And they help me see myself differently and more completely.

I look at their reaction to a countdown, and I wonder how I treat "countdowns" that God gives me.  God is patient, generous and merciful beyond understanding; he is also just and righteous beyond understanding.  So, on a daily basis, he puts the option of obedience or disobedience before me.  Do I eagerly jump on the opportunity to do what I know is right and pleasing?  Or do I test him, to see how slowly he will count or to see how many second chances he will give?



Lord, help me to be an example for your little ones what it means to be quick to obey.


Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it. Luke 11:28


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Wisdom

One of my favorite things to do with my boys is to read books to them.  It doesn't matter if I've read it a thousand times before or none.  If they bring me a book, asking to be read to, it is really hard for me to say no. 

This is handy, because it seems like anywhere I turn, someone is encouraging me to read to my child: the doctor, the pre-school teachers, the grandmas (who were/are school teachers), websites, bloggers, etc.  I'll take all the positive reinforcement I can get.


Reading promotes the bond between reader and hearer, encourages literacy, and stimulates the brain in unique ways.  Reading expands our experiences.  Reading gives us a frame of reference.  Reading is exciting and interactive.  And the bonus is that good stories are really enjoyable--even when they're written for a four year old.


And, I hope for my boys that reading serves as a precursor to knowledge, and that knowledge will pave the way to wisdom.

It's funny thinking about the wisdom of a toddler and preschooler.  It might come in the form of a fear of bees, knowing that bees sting, and knowing that they want to avoid the pain a sting would bring.  It might come in the form of a "sweet face," knowing that sweetness generally melts their parents into a buttery mess of saying okay to whatever question is accompanied by such a face.  

It's a little tricky thinking about the wisdom of parents. What form does it take?  Are the wise the ones who read the most books?  Are the wise the ones who keep the most rigorous schedule?  Are the wise the ones who research the best school for their child?

Nope. None of those, according to God.  It seems as though the wisest ones are the ones who are humble about their own wisdom, and dependent on God for his.

But true wisdom and power are found in God;
    counsel and understanding are his. Job 12:13

The fear of the Lord is true wisdom; 
to forsake evil is real understanding. Job 28:28

Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, 
fear the Lord and turn away from evil. Proverbs 3:7

Perhaps the best way that we can instill wisdom in the children God has given us is not to emphasize how smart they are or how many books they like to read in one sitting, but to help them understand the massiveness of God's wisdom compared to the tinniness of the things they know.

I'm learning to be okay with not being all that wise. It's a work in progress.  As I journey, I take great comfort in knowing that I have unsearchable storehouses of wisdom on my team.

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. 
He will not rebuke you for asking. James 1:5

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Growing

To arrive.

Images of success and completion come to mind, or making it to one's destination after a long journey, or getting to the place where you wanted to be. 

To arrive.

It seems as though we try to break down life into segments of arrivals.

For my preschooler, it is getting to the end of a long day and snuggling down in his bed next to his seven favorite stuffed animals. Or it is getting to go on the donut date with Daddy that they've been anticipating for weeks. Arriving is comfortable.


For my toddler, it is pulling into our garage and yelling, "Home!" Or it is successfully getting his shorts on all by himself. Arriving is joyous.


I grew up with the unconscious notion that there would be a time when I would "arrive." And I would be comfortable and full of joy... When I would get married. When I would establish a career. When I would become a mom. There was a notion deep in me that with those things would come a cease from striving and straining, a peace from the struggle against an unmet desire.

But just like the phenomenon of feeling like you were very grown up in 8th grade until you experience high school, and just like you feel grown up in high school until you experience college, I find myself in the midst of realizing how much more I need to grow. 

God is bringing to light the depth of growing and striving and straining and struggling that is ahead of me.

I will never "arrive" as a wife. The longer I am married, the more I feel this truth. I will continually have areas where I can improve. My love and I will struggle as we experience hard life situations. We will strive toward the goal of a relationship that is pleasing to God and each other. We will grow as we are challenged to love each other as God loves.  But there is no arriving: just striving, straining, struggling, and growing.

And I'm starting to realize that I will never arrive as a mom (so I'm a little slow sometimes...). As I hear the concerns of moms who are twice my age, it is strikingly obvious that there is no arriving in motherhood. There are constantly new battles to fight. There are endless areas of improvement. There is an unending morphing of the relationship between mother and child as years go by. Striving, straining, struggling, growing: yes. Arriving: no. 

These things in my life, these areas of growing, these never-completed roles keep me humble.  And they keep me focused.

Focused on arriving in a place with no more need for striving, straining, struggling or growing.  There is ONE place where I can truly arrive, and that will be my final home.  Heaven. Safe in my Father's arms.  Free from the sin that prohibits completion.  Free from the straining and striving.  Settled and complete. 

In the midst of feeling incompetent or incapable as a wife and mom, in the midst of feeling like the growing pains are too much to take, this is a beautiful truth. Oh, my heart yearns for it. And I thank God for the hope that arriving brings.

I yearn for my boys to know it.  Somedays, I am tempted to talk about next year with more passion than I use to talk about eternity. But instead of making a big deal about a new shoe size or tick on the height chart, I want to draw their eyes to how they are maturing in their forgiveness or how they are growing by leaps and bounds in the way they show love to others around them. I pray that God can use me teach them that the importance of their failures and successes is measured by the way in which those experiences prepare their hearts for eternity.


 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Philippians 3:13-14

Someday, there will be a cease to this journey.  Someday, there will be an intimacy that doesn't need tweaking or redefining. In a beautiful mess, the growing we do here points us to the arriving that we will enjoy there.

This vision is for a future time.
    It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled.
If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently,
    for it will surely take place.

    It will not be delayed. Habakkuk 2:3



Thursday, August 21, 2014

Falling

Before I could even get him out of his room this morning, Zeke had me caught up in a game of Trust Fall.  You know, when one person stands in front of another and falls backward into the second person's arms: trust fall.  It's not your typical two-year-old game (I blame my husband), but two-year-olds are really good at the one thing needed for the game: trust.  Zeke was relentless about falling back into my arms--even if I wasn't ready and had to scramble to catch the little stinker.  He never tried to step back to catch himself.  He never even looked back to see if I was paying attention.  He just trusted.



Earlier this week, Noah started the Trust Fall game when we were at a friend's house.  Noah showed all the kids how fun it was to fall back and have my husband catch him.  The other little kids quickly lined up to give it a try. One, two, three did it, all giddy with excitement once they had been caught. Then sweet little Addison, who's two-almost-three, bravely lined up for her turn.  When she got into place, she took a long pause, looked around her, paused again.  And then, with all the people in the room as her audience, she fell FORWARDS!! I'm still laughing. (Thankfully, the game was being played on carpet, and she was smart enough to catch herself.)  

Little kids are incredible!  They trust!  First thing in the morning, they trust.  Even when they don't quite understand the rules, they trust.

And God loves it.

Dave and I are currently reading through The Jesus Storybook BIble for our devotions every night with Noah. (I highly, highly recommend this Bible. It is beautiful and beautifully written.) Last night, the story was that of Jesus and the little children. As I was listening to my love read the profound words, I was looking at my little child's face.  And there was a beauty there in that moment--the beauty that God brings to little things. He gave me a glimpse of the way he sees Noah, and it was incredible.  



I thought of the way that trust comes so naturally to children.  And I was reminded of God's desire that we would never lose our child's heart when it comes to trusting him.

I was awed by our God who uses simple things in such amazing ways. He reaches into our complex situations and gives us something beautiful and simple. Like a little girl falling forward because she trusts in the one behind her.  Like a little boy falling over and over because he trusts in the one behind him.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight. 
Proverbs 3:5-6


Sunday, August 17, 2014

Freedom


"Me do it!"

Opening up a wrapper.

"Me do it!!"

Putting on shoes.

"Me do it!!"

Watering the garden.

Little Zeke turned two last week. He is smart, funny, strong, silly, quick, and loving. And he is independent.

"Meeee-eee do it!"

He loves that he is physically capable of so many more things than he was six months ago. So, now, he feels as though he is capable of doing everything



It is such a blessing to be witness to the daily achievements and improvements that a two-year-old makes. It's also my greatest challenge these days.

Sometimes, my thought process goes like this:
You CAN'T open a granola bar wrapper; I'll just do it real quick before you realize you didn't get a chance. ... We could be on time if you would just let me put on your shoes. ... You make such a mess when you stir pancake batter--just let me do it!

I find myself grumpy because of how his independence affects my routine. I find myself impatient because of how his independence affects my schedule. I find myself tired because of how his independence tests my mercy.

Mercy.

How often does God look mercifully on me, while I am busy showing him how I can do things myself?

How often do I have the confidence of a two-year-old when it comes to handling tasks that would be much better accomplished by an all-powerful God?

Mercy.

And yet, because of his incomprehensible great love, he sits back and watches. He gives me freedom to try, and fail, and watch, and learn, and try again. Even when it messes with his plans for my day, he gives me freedom. Even when it tests his patience, he sits back and lets me try to do it by myself. Even when he knows an easier way, he lets me fumble down my own.

Because it is in the trying and doing that there is learning. It is in the experiencing and disappointment that our hearts and minds are open to something greater than ourselves. It is in the failed attempts that there is mercy. 

And it is in the total dependence on him that there is freedom.

Out of my distress, I called to the Lord;
the Lord answered me and set me free. Psalm 118:5

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Covet

I did it again.

There I was, just minding my own business, seeing if there was anything interesting in the world of Facebook, and then it happened. An old high-school friend of mind posted a picture of the view from her new office. It was beautiful: a scene of the bay with the bridge crossing over, the cool colors of morning beginning to let go to the brilliance of day.  And I was jealous.

I immediately spun into a cycle of analyzing my mistakes and her successes, bemoaning my seeming inability in establishing a career, wanting to be happy for her and feeling disappointed in me.

This went on in my head longer than I care to admit.  And it is not the first time it has happened.  It rears its ugly head when I see my friends' success far surpass my own in one area or another.  

Coveting.  It is an ugly thing.


I see it in my boys, too.

Today, Zeke was happily playing "catch" (I use that term loosely; it's more like  a throw-the-ball-up-in-the-air-and-then-pick-it-up-off-the-ground-when-it-lands kind of game), when Noah proudly announced his entrance into the room with an "En garde!" and a thrust of his trusty shield.  In less than a second, Zeke completely forgot about the fun he was having and tried to pry the shield out of Noah's hands. A small wrestling match (which included yours truly), and screaming and crying followed (which did NOT include me, just to be clear). 

When I see it in my boys, it is ridiculous. Senseless. Ignorant. Selfish.

When I see it in me, and take the time to view it for what it actually is, it is ridiculous. Senseless. Ignorant. Selfish.

And it takes me back to my Rescuer.  The afternoon that I was caught up in where my friend was and I was not, he whispered into my heart: "You are here because I want you here, Christa.  I do not want you there."

His voice pulled me out of my internal spin and placed me back onto his pleasant path. The one that he has planned just for me.  And that's just where I want to be.


Thursday, July 10, 2014

"Saying Yes to something means that you're saying No to everything else."

This statement came across "my desk" multiple times this week, from multiple sources. Interesting how that happens, eh?

I suppose the opposite might also be true: "Saying No to something means that you're saying Yes to something else."

I say No often.  
"No, you may not have another vitamin." 
"No, you may not jump on the bed." 
"No! We don't use our hands to hit." 
"No, no screen time this morning." 
"No, I'm making dinner right now."

I sometimes get tired of hearing my own voice...


But I know that these No's are good and beneficial to my boys.  In fact, by saying them, I am saying Yes to something else.
"Yes, I care more about your long-term health than your short-term taste buds."
"Yes, I find it important that you learn boundaries."
"Yes, I desire that you use your abilities to help instead of hurt."
"Yes, I want to help your brain develop in a way that is pleasing to your Father."
"Yes, I am doing work that will benefit you."

How can I go about teaching them the purpose behind my No's? I am chuckling as I envision their reactions if I would try to rephrase all of my No's with my Yes's. Our household conversations would begin to sound like something out of a Dr. Seuss book.  But perhaps I can begin to rephrase a few, in the right moments, so as to give those boys a bigger picture of my love for them and my role as their mom.

Speaking of a bigger picture, God has been working this week to teach me a bit about his No's, and how they are really Yes's from his perspective. 
No, I don't want you to be selfish right now, but Yes, I want you to lean deeper on my selfless love.
No, I don't want you spending time on that, but Yes, I do want you to spend time with Me.
No, you won't get money for that, but Yes, you will get a greater reward.
No, you won't understand, but Yes, you will grow.

Understanding the purpose behind the No's makes them a little sweeter. 


Tell me No again, Lord. I'd love to see what your Yes is.


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Messing Up

I mess up all the time.

I don't like to mess up. My husband will agree to the fact that an obsession for being right runs in my blood. And being right means doing it right.

And I feel as though I'm doing it all wrong some days.


Zeke, my strong, capable, smart, figure-it-out-myself almost-two year old, is the reason I mess up. Or at least as of late he has given me plenty of reasons to believe that I am messing up. Just in the last few days, he has pushed down babies, been way too loud, thrown a fit over not getting seconds on ice cream, done exactly what I tell him not to do immediately after I tell him, thrown a fit over needing to hold hands in the parking lot, and hit his brother (many times). I could probably go on, but it's not necessary, or pleasant.

I wonder why. Why does it seem like my parenting with my second boy is not as effective as with my first? Why do I have trouble reaching through to him? Why are there these behaviors that just seem to perpetuate, no matter what I do or say?

And in my heart, I know my biggest mess up. 


When I was a new mom, I was utterly dependent on God for guidance and wisdom. I didn't know what I was doing, and I knew I would mess it up, so I leaned on God, praying that he would work through me, that he would enable me to be a good parent for his son, Noah. 

It's hard to admit, but I've gotten a little cocky the second time around. It is still the desire of my heart that I would be a good parent for my boys, but I don't lean on God the way that I did, or know I should.


So, my little Zeke, forgive me. Just as you mess up in little ways every day, so do I. Tonight, I will begin anew my humble walk of being your mommy. And I'll stop trying to get it right on my own.

Thankfully, there is hope for us both in the loving and gracious arms of our Daddy.


Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
   and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Celebrating Love

I got to spend yesterday evening with the man who holds my heart. My love and I were blessed to be able to celebrate our 8th wedding anniversary with some wonderful (uninterrupted) conversation, some delicious pasta, a cool-of-the-evening walk, and warm mugs accompanying dessert. Some people celebrate with a bottle of wine... we did with decaf coffee. (It was past 8:00, okay!)

The celebration of our anniversary had a unique perspective for me this year. For the last two weeks, I have also been in the throws of planning a celebration for my parents's anniversary--not just any anniversary, their 50th!! Even though theirs won't be a huge affair (thank you, Pinterest, for showing me all the things I won't be doing for my parents...), the preparations for it have given my heart time to consider a little more what my parents' marriage is all about, and how to best honor them and thank them for their years of dedication and love.


You could say I had a lot of catching up to do in my research on their marriage. For goodness' sake, they had been married for 17 years already by the time I was born. I asked about homes they lived in and schedules they kept. I asked about their pets and about their churches. I asked about trips they took together and about their dates. And then my dad said something that gave me pause.

"I was never the type of man who made enough money to take your mother out on dates."

He said it with a twinge of sadness or regret in his voice.

And then he recounted a time that he tried to take my mom out for a special anniversary meal at a Korean restaurant, and they were served cabbage that tasted horrible. And he felt sorry that it did not turn out to be the beautiful celebration that he had anticipated.

I was instantly sad that "dating" was not a part of their married life, mostly because going on dates with my husband is one of my most favorite things about my marriage. I was also blindsided with the reality that God has provided Dave and me with blessing upon blessing--each time we get to go out to spend time together is a privilege. And then I was humbled by the many times I have taken that for granted.

My mom piped up from the background, "We didn't go on dates. We had children instead!"

If you could ask my parents if they would give back any one of their six kids in exchange for more dates, they might stare at you in disbelief that you would ask such a stupid question.

And so, my question is this: in an age when all the marriage experts talk about the importance of dating your spouse, what were the things my parents did that held their marriage together, in love, through the good and the bad? I came up with a few from my perspective. I'm sure they could share more.

Christ is their cornerstone. They are one in faith and service to God, and He has blessed their marriage with many years because of it.

They never let divorce enter the conversation. My mom moved from living a "comfortable" life in the nice home of a successful businessman (her dad), to less-than-ideal church parsonages and pinching every penny. But she still loved her husband and stayed by his side. My dad had to go through many years of seeing my mom battle severe and manic depression. But he still loved his wife and stayed by her side. Their actions of love were strong, even when their feelings of love were probably weak.

They always believed that their kids were God's kids first, and that we were just in under their care for a time. We children were undoubtedly important to them, but it was clear that our parents' relationship with God was their first priority, and that the same should be true for us kids. There is no doubt that this brought a plumb line to our family and their marriage.




I think my folks have done alright with their system. Six kids, each in a relationship with Jesus, married to wonderful spouses. Sixteen grandchildren who love them dearly.  A legacy of craziness and love and grace for those of us who follow them. Not much money in the bank but treasure upon treasure in heaven.

He who fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge.
Proverbs 14:26

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Worry

The heart of a man plans his way, but The Lord establishes his steps. Proverbs 16:9

A man's steps are from the Lord; how then can man understand his way? Proverbs 20:24


Noah needs down time. He enjoys his quiet, personal time. When he was an infant, he would have his most fussy nights following days when there had been a lot of people interaction. When he was only two, I would let him play in the back yard by himself for what seemed like an exceedingly long time to me. But he was very content, digging in the dirt, with his thoughts alone to keep him company.



This week, it seems that he's needed more alone time than normal. Perhaps his brain is going through a "growth spurt." Perhaps he's getting tired of trying to mesh his passive preferences with His little brother's commanding behavior. Perhaps the social and cognitive work of preschool has been overly taxing.

Whatever it is, this mama starts to worry about what the future holds for my first born. I wonder if he'll try to process issues from school by spending time alone. I wonder if he'll react to people he's frustrated with by shutting them out. I wonder if I'll know when things are wrong or when he's made bad choices or when he's spiritually struggling. Will I know? will I even have a clue? or will he just try to resolve it by turning inward?

---

I feel like I didn't worry until I became a mom.

And it's really silly to worry about "what if's" that are ten years down the road. Jesus plainly says not to do it. It's not productive; adds nothing to this day. When I can't even be sure about what might happen tomorrow, there's simply no way for me to know the plans that God has for my life. Or my son's life, for that matter. So, trying to control possible situations that might come up sometime in the future? Absurd. The only thing I should be worrying about is how best to follow him today.

Yet, God can turn these worries into something for his good. 

They prepare me. They prepare my heart and mind for some of the struggles that will undoubtedly arise in a sinful world, as I work to raise these children who have been adopted by their Father. They challenge me. They help me formulate how I parent today, knowing that this gift of parenthood brings with it some great responsibilities. They lead me. Most of all, they send me running into his arms of grace.

I don't know what the best reaction to Noah's alone time is. I don't know how to say the right things now so that I can "solve" his future problems. I don't know what decisions I'll regret and what I wish I would have done differently.

I do know this: his Heavenly Father knows all of that.

And that brings me humbly to my knees, asking God for the mercy to follow him this day, in these moments, praying that I would put myself aside and let His wisdom light the path he has planned for his little royalty.


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Hero


Today you are going into battle against your enemies. Do not be fainthearted or afraid; do not panic or be terrified by them. For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory. Deuteronomy 20:3-4

What is it about little boys and heroes?

There has been quite a lot of hero talk around our house lately. My oldest child recently celebrated his fourth birthday. As a part of that, a handful of little heroes donned their capes and equipped themselves with silly string to attack the villains. And Spiderman was everywhere: on the cake, covering the bike, in books, on a puzzle, and on a sprinkler, for goodness' sake.  It was so much fun.



During a car conversation last week, Dave and I asked Noah if Spiderman was real or fake. (We also have these discussions about Santa, the Easter Bunny...)  "Real," he said. 

I wonder if he was disappointed to discover that day that not only was Spiderman pretend, but so were Batman, Ironman and all the other superheroes he knew. I wonder what was going through his head. Was he disappointed that he would never get to see Spidey swing from building to building? Was he sad that the real world might not be as exciting as the pretend world? Was he wondering why there's so much attention and hype to things that aren't real?

And then I brought myself to sputter out the cliche: "Jesus is our real superhero."

He was kind of quiet in his usual way and then went on to another topic.

What was it in me that made saying something so real feel silly? What is it about our current day that makes Jesus as Superhero seem like a Sunday School nicety rather than the earth-shaking truth? 

Perhaps we get stuck in seeing him in his "alter ego," rather than seeing the power that lies beneath the surface.

I feel like King David had a good grip on God as his superhero:

The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.
    What can mere mortals do to me?
The Lord is with me; he is my helper.
    I look in triumph on my enemies.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
    than to trust in humans.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
    than to trust in princes.
All the nations surrounded me,
    but in the name of the Lord I cut them down.
They surrounded me on every side,
    but in the name of the Lord I cut them down.
They swarmed around me like bees,
    but they were consumed as quickly as burning thorns;
    in the name of the Lord I cut them down.
I was pushed back and about to fall,
    but the Lord helped me.
The Lord is my strength and my defense;
    he has become my salvation.
Psalm 118:6-14


I have never had enemies attacking me from all sides, let alone one side. But I can think of ways that I can draw attention and hype and sing some "Superhero Praises" of God. I can think of ways that my own eyes have seen God pull out his super power. 

I want to begin to share all of those ways God has saved real people in real danger, all the ways he attacks real enemies, and all the ways that he shows his real strength, so that my boys can begin to learn that He is a real hero who can be trusted in any situation, who fights for what is right, and who has won victory for them.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

On Becoming Mommy

Four years ago, people would walk up to me, saying, "Wouldn't it be wonderful if he was born today? That would be a perfect Mother's Day gift!" I was on the cusp of becoming a new mom then, and it doesn't seem so long ago... until I look at my 3 1/2 foot-tall almost-four-year-old boy.



I think about all the lessons I have learned about myself, and how I relate to others (particularly my family). I've learned a thing or two about expectations, exhaustion, patience, endurance, and anger. I've learned a lot about service and sacrifice and love. Being a mom has without a doubt changed me, and I feel like I have become a better mom than I was four years ago.

And then I think about my good friend, who has been a mom for over nine years, and I wonder how I will grow and change and improve in the five years to come.

And then I think about my own mom, who will reach the 49-year mark very soon. I think about all the lessons that she has learned, and wonder if she still finds herself growing in her capacity to mother. I think about all of her experiences and the wisdom she has gleaned from those.


And then I think about our heavenly Father, who has been raising sons and daughters for a very, very long time. I think about his wisdom, his experience, his insight, and his qualifications. And then I think about how sometimes I respond to him with disrespect, or disregard, or distrust. And it seems quite silly to think that I act in ways that do not heed wisdom which has the experience of millennia to back it up.

And then I pray that I would grow into the type of mother who would let the wisdom of the eternal Father flow through me to reach his little royalty.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Copycat

I sometimes feel like I live in an echo.  


If one boy is doing it, the other will surely copy soon. Noah says, "Ow!" Zeke says, "Ow!!" Noah starts digging in the dirt; Zeke digs in the dirt. Noah sings "hi-ho-hi-ho, it's off to work we go" over and over (because it's the only part of the song he knows) and Zeke tries his best to imitate in his sweet singing voice. 

It goes the other way, too, you know. If Zeke decides to forgo his spoon and reaches into his bowl to pull his cereal out of the milk with his hands, Noah will dig his hand into his bowl.  Zeke will take off his shoes in the car; Noah will take off his shoes in the car. Zeke will pour water out of the bathtub; Noah will pour water out of the bathtub (after he has done a quick "parent-check" to see who's paying attention).


They are copycats, and typically their antics keep me laughing.


As Zeke tries to do more and more things that Noah does, he has begun to learn a thing about limitations.  When he wants to break an egg, I tell him he needs to wait until he's a little older.  When he wants some "screen time," we tell him that he can when he's three. When he sees Noah jumping off a high ledge at a playground, something intrinsically tells him that he needs to slither down on his belly until he's a little bigger.

As parents, we see very clearly how some kids are ready for certain things while others are not. 

Perhaps God has such a view of us. 

As I compare myself to friends, family and acquaintances, I often assume that I could or should be doing what they are doing.  Sometimes I feel guilty that I'm not doing the kinds of things they are doing, or like I should be doing more to match their level of commitment to family, church, or work.

How often do I forget to gaze up at my Father in those moments, asking with wide eyes, "Can I do what she's doing?" I wonder how often he would retort with, "Not yet. You need to wait until you're a little older." 


Oh, that I would learn to be a copycat of his timing.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Rest

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy." Exodus 20:8-11

A day without work. A holy, Sabbath day.

Noah likes to watch Curious George (the half hour variety on PBS) EVERY day. it is often the very first thing he asks about in the mornings, "Is Curious George on yet?" Heard by a person like me, who can think of so many better ways to spend time than to watch TV, it usually makes me cringe. I know that routines are important for a three-year-old, but I also don't want him to build his day around making sure he can watch "the monkey." So, I began to establish a "rest from Curious George" on Sundays. It's not on TV, so that helps, but he also knows by now that we won't even pull it up on YouTube, which we routinely do for him on Saturdays. I hope that he is beginning to understand that Sundays are set apart. Different. Special.

And, as is the case most times that I try to teach someone else something, I have begun to learn a little myself about making Sundays set apart, different, and special.

When I was working outside the home, it felt pretty easy to "remember the Sabbath day."  I told my boss that I wasn't available to work on Sundays, and that was that.  The only challenge I ever received was the occasional guilt trip from my boss that she really wanted me to be available on Sundays. Easy.

Now that I have shifted to working as a stay-at-home mom, "remembering the Sabbath" has become a new challenge.  My primary job is that of raising little boys. Can you just imagine? Reading a book, changing a diaper, helping with play-doh, feeding hungry bellies... "Sorry, sweetie, but Mommy doesn't work on Sundays. Do you want to schedule that for tomorrow?"  NOT easy [or possible].

However, God has been challenging my motives for the things that I do on Sundays. Without the excuse of my outside work to cling to, he has opened my eyes to all the ways that I "work" on a day that is supposed to be devoted to him. I used to always do my grocery shopping on Sundays (it seemed to fit best into my schedule then). I used to get a jump start on the week's laundry on Sundays (there's always plenty of laundry around this house...and the washing machine does most of the work, right?)

So I don't do my grocery shopping on Sundays any more. Laundry also came off of the options of things to do on Sundays. I've also been working [hard] on staying off-line (no browsing or Facebooking or news article reading). I'm also trying to minimize the other chores I do around the house, from food prep to yard work.

To be honest, it is hard to give up those things. It seems like if I could just do a little bit, then I won't feel so behind on Monday. And I honestly struggle a bit during nap time, wondering, "What can I do now?" 

And then I remind myself that God will indeed be faithful to show me what to do, or rather, what he is doing. 

Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
my hope comes from him.
Psalm 65:5