Monday, August 23, 2010

He loves me, He love me not

One of my kids doesn’t like me. I know he loves me, but he doesn’t like me; unless his Daddy isn’t around, or he gets hurt or scared, or wants something I have (like a cookie). I have never had this happen before. All of my kids have preferred me over Rob in their baby and toddler stages. I am really quite surprised by it and feeling just a little rejected. Most days I don’t get too bothered by this, I justify that he is just in a stage and will grow out of it. I rationalize that after having three kids prefer me over Rob, this is only fair and now I know how Rob has felt all these years; at least I think I do.

I try not to expect something unrealistic from my toddler. Maybe we just don’t have the type of personalities that click. We all have people (and kids) in our life that we relate easier to, and some with more difficulty. But the mother in me wants to say “Hey, I carried you in my womb for 9 months, I gave birth to you, I nursed you and gave you nourishment for the first year of your life, I have spent countless nights awake with you, I have sacrificed for you; I DESERVE your devotion!

Hmmm, is this what Christ thinks about my relationship with Him? Do I only come to him when he is the last option I have? Or when I am hurt or scared, and want something? Do I prefer the things of this world over him? Do I value relationships with people on earth more than I value my relationship with him? All of this is just a little unsettling as I think about it and try to determine my heart’s motives.

I will never give up on my son. I will get frustrated with him, but I will never stop trying to show him the love that I have for him. I will never stop sacrificing for him, and I will never stop reaching out to him and waiting for him to give me his love in return-minus the selfish motives. What I feel for my child is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to God’s love for me. As my parent God has created me, given me a new life, provided for me, and even sacrificed his life for me. He is WORTHY of my devotion!

Even though I sometimes act like my two year old and cling to other things, God never gives up on me. He continues to pursue me, draw me nearer to him, and says to me "I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.” Jeremiah 31:3 Our stubbornness doesn’t negate his faithfulness to us “for great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever”. Psalm 117:2 Thank you Jesus, that you never give up on me!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Other Side

The other day my daughter made a very interesting observation. She said, “ In some countries there isn’t any clean water to drink, and in our country we swim in it for fun.” Quite a bit of wisdom for an 11 year old! Perspective is a strange and mysterious thing. Depending on where you are standing, the story can be drastically different. There is an invisible dividing line, and I am often caught off guard at which side of the line I end up on.
To my neighbor across the street who is battling cancer, she is eager to go to work because it means that she is alive and well enough to be there; to the man down the street with the dead-end job going nowhere, every day is dreadful. The woman who can’t conceive a baby lies awake wishing she had a child to hold; while the mother who is exhausted from being robbed of sleep every night by a crying baby longs for a restful night. I can complain about the piles of laundry that seem to multiply while I sleep or I can thank God for the people in my life who wear the clothes I wash. Every day and every situation I am in silently demands I choose a perspective.
How do we reconcile our perceptions with reality? How do I deal with the frustration over expectations that have not been met? There are no formulas for life; no rhyme or reason. Good people die young and evil men live long lives. “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matt 5:45) I’m realizing that I most often find myself getting disappointed when I want God to do things on my terms or at least be predictable. When things don’t turn out the way that I think they should, I have to remember that they have still been filtered through his hands. I am still to have high hopes…but in Him; not in a specific set of circumstances that I think is acceptable. My expectation needs to be in His faithfulness and goodness and love for me, not in whether my situation gets easier or more predictable. It’s when I get stubborn with my wants that I face frustration. The more I seek His will for my life, the more satisfied I am with what he gives me. “And Hope does not disappoint us” (Rom 5:5).
So, when my day (or sometimes my week, or month, or year), doesn’t go the way I had planned or envisioned, I have to remember that God sees the future. He knows that what lies ahead for me is a life “not lacking anything”. (James 1:4) I have to broaden my perspective, and consider that these “light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Cor 4:17) I don’t know about you, but some days, the promise of eternal glory is the only thing that keeps me going; that keeps me from losing my faith. A place where there is no cancer, where things don’t break, pay-checks don’t run short, and feelings don’t get stepped on, where all of the “whys” will be explained. “Where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matt 6:20) “no more death or mourning or crying or pain" (Rev 21:4). Thank you Jesus that this world we live in is not all there is! Help me to keep my eyes on you and not on the circumstances I am in.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Run the Race

For many years I have had dreams at night of running. In these dreams I can hear the sound of my feet hitting the pavement and feel my muscles working, feel the wind in my hair and the sweat on my brow. I have never been a runner. I have always been happy getting my exercise being a walker. In fact every time I have tried to run, I have hated the whole experience and joked that I only ran if I was being chased. But strangely, when I woke up from these dreams I felt more spring in my step, felt a weight off my shoulders, a release from my daily worries, refreshed. I loved having these dreams, yet every time I would work up the nerve to try in real life, I felt like I was embarrassing myself in front of my neighbors-(the ones who peek out their windows). I ended up breathless and awkward, after only a few blocks, and resigned myself once again to the fact that I did not have what it took to be a runner and quit.
After finally weaning my fourth baby and getting my energy back from sleeping at night, I set out again to increase my walking routine, trying to get back into shape. On my walks I thought of these dreams. I started praying and asking God, “Do you want me to run?” Seems like a trivial thing to ask God, but I have learned that nothing is unimportant to him. “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you” 1 Peter 5:7 I felt the desire to try again. So I set out, putting one foot in front of the other and swinging my arms, almost exaggeratedly trying to give myself more “oomph”. I focused on my breathing trying not to hyperventilate, was deliberate in my steps, all the while asking God to give me the strength and perseverance to keep going and not give up. Before I knew it I had made it a half a mile; much further than I had ever made it in the past. I pushed myself to make it just a little farther and then headed home, feeling like I had finally pushed through a roadblock that had been stopping me for too long.
One thing that God has had to continually work on in me is perseverance. I have been known to give up easily on things that prove to be too difficult. I even tried giving up on my marriage at one point until God took hold of me and let me know he wasn’t going to let me quit this time. I had made a commitment to my husband and to God and had since given birth to two children. I couldn’t teach them to give up too could I? It was through those difficult years of putting our marriage back together that I learned to lean on God’s strength and not my own. This was the same strength that was helping me learn to run. If God can put a marriage that was in the process of divorce back together, surely he can help me in the little details of my life.
I have now increased the distance I run up to 2 miles. I enjoy these runs now, look forward to them and make time to for them, yet there is not a time that I run that I am not reminded by my tired muscles and burning lungs to ask for God’s strength and perseverance. “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13
If I think back to my first successful attempt at running, I realize that I have to be focused and deliberate in my steps at life, all the while depending on God’s strength. When I don’t, I end up breathless and awkward and I give up. “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Hebrews 12:1 This is what Jesus did. If he had not been focused and deliberate in his work here on earth, we would all be doomed for destruction. It is only through his work on the cross that any of us has an invitation to heaven. That verse goes on to say “let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:2-3 We have to be focused on the author of life if we are to run the race of life. Only then will we win the prize of heaven. “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” 1 Corinthians 9:24

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Childlike Faith

The other night my husband was giving the kids piggy back rides. Each one of my four kids ages 10, 9, 3, and 1, got a ride up on his strong shoulders. You would have thought that they would have each loved being carried up high safe in Daddy’s care. Not so. Surprisingly it was my older kids that didn’t like it. They were scared, afraid they would fall, and not so sure that their loving Daddy would keep them safe up there on his back. They squirmed and screamed and grabbed for anything they could hold on to- nearly choking him. This was all making it more difficult for my husband to carry them and caused quite a bit of frustration over their distrust. The younger two kids on the other hand, had the time of their life. They did little to hang on, trusting the one who was carrying them, squealing with delight and asking for more! Both my husband and I were a little perplexed over the lack of trust that our older kids had. After all, they have had many more experiences in trusting us to take care of them than my younger children. We’ve never put them in harm’s way, never threatened their safety. How could they not trust us?!

Much like any other family in this difficult economic time we are wondering how our family will fare. We are grabbing at any possibility we can to limit our debt, lessen our expenses and limiting the chances of losing employment. None of these are wrong in and of themselves but I wonder how much distrust we are displaying by getting worried about our financial future. After all God is carrying us through this isn’t he? My husband and I have had years of relationship with him and countless experiences of his provision through difficult times. Why is this any different? He’s always taken care of us before.
How many times does my lack of faith choke out his spirit in my life? How many blessings am I missing out on because of my distrust in his ability to care for me? Nothing takes God by surprise. He never runs out of anything because “he owns the cattle on a thousand hills.” Psalm 50:10 The storehouses of heaven belong to him. He created everything out of nothing.

Just in the way the piggy back ride was a little scary for my kids, sometimes the ride of this life is scary. We are never promised a life without pain or trouble yet we seem to think we are entitled to a life of ease. “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33 Instead of trying to escape the difficult situation we are in, what if we were to ask God what he wants to teach us through it? Why do I get so scared at my possible temporary discomfort? “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” 2 Corinthians 4:17 Nothing happens that is out of God’s ability to use for good. God is more concerned in developing my character for eternity than making sure I am comfortable here on earth. My heavenly father sees the big picture, much like my children’s father did while giving that piggy back ride.

As much as my husband was hurt by the lack of trust of his children, God also places such a high importance on our faith in him that Jesus said “I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." Luke 18:17 My two younger kids have it figured out. Enjoy the ride.

It reminds me of the book by C.S. Lewis, “The Chronicles of Narnia-The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe”- referring to Aslan, “Safe?....Course he isn’t safe, but he’s good.”

Matthew 6:25-27, 33
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.


About one ton. That is how many rocks I have moved. Not in my yard, though I have moved many rocks in my quest to improve our yard. No, these rocks have been moved out of my house. Slowly, day by day, rocks that I don’t want in my house end up there. They are donated by the Derby public school system. My kids collect them when they are on recess and generously bring them home to deposit them on my floor when they take off their shoes. I have vacuumed them, swept them, and even knelt down to pick them up one by one by hand. I don’t have a loving relationship with these rocks; I want them out of my house. They are dusty and messy and uncomfortable to walk on.

Usually by March or April (toward the end of the school year) I am very ready for summer to make its appearance and for the slow trickle of rocks to stop for a while. Then in late July, I find myself wishing for the rocks to return because that would mean my kids are back in school. No longer would I have to listen to their fighting and whining and have them driving me crazy with their constant crumbs. I am willing to trade all of that for just the rocks. Not surprisingly, now that school has started and the slow trickle of rocks has returned, I find myself wishing back the summer that passed all too quickly and the constant chaos that it brought to my house. It is too quiet when they are gone. I have too much time to think my thoughts now, even though I longed for that ability just a few days ago. Isn’t it just like us to always want what we no longer have, or to wish for what we think would make our lives easier? Is what we have ever good enough?

The definition of content is “to appease the desires of” or “to limit (oneself) in requirements, desires, or actions.” Does that mean that when my husband is losing his job, and it seems like everything in our house breaks at the same time, and my days are constant chaos to the point that I can’t even think straight; that I am supposed to limit my desire for something different than what I have? I think that’s what God is trying to tell me. If I desire to trade the difficulties that have been ordained for me, then I am trading exactly what is meant to draw me closer to the God of the universe and instill a strength and wisdom in me that you can’t buy in any store. It’s the dusty, messy, and uncomfortable times in life that change us. I can accept the challenges and let them change me for good, becoming more patient, more appreciative, and kinder; or I can resent those hard times, becoming more bitter, more critical, and more unhappy.

One of my kids won’t be bringing home rocks in her shoes this year. She’s growing up and no longer has recess. Now, she has locker combinations and class periods and has to get herself to the right class on time. Part of me pains at watching her grow so fast. I want her to have rocks in her shoes again. On the other hand, I know it’s for her best and for her strength and character that I don’t hold her back from growing up. Is that how God looks at us? He knows the hard times we will need to have in order to grow and he hates to see us go through it, but he knows it’s for our best. He sees the change up ahead.

I have been realizing that I will gladly take the rocks, the chaos, the crumbs, even the quiet, and be content with exactly where God has me. No more, no less.

…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:11-13