Happy New Year, Friends

GoalsToday at lunchtime, my family and I sat around the table chowing down on our black-eyed peas, chips with cheese dip, shrimp cocktail, and “little smokies”.  Our conversation evolved to one regarding our goals for 2015.

“I want to try something new,” I said.  “What, Mommy?”, my children exclaimed.  “I think we should write down our own goals and then some family goals for this year.  We’ll seal them in an envelope and open them up one year from today to see if we accomplished them.”

They were super excited to do this.  Well, at least our older children were.  Our two-year old seemed to be too busy playing with the food on his plate!  We went around the table and spoke about our personal goals, and this is what I was reminded of.

If you give your children the silence and time to speak about their goals and hopes, you can learn so much about them.

My son and daughter both set goals that, if achieved, will benefit them both in a personal way, in a way that benefits our family, and definitely in a way that affects the greater good.  My husband and I told them our goals as well.  Then, as a family, we talked about goals for the new year.  My children exclaimed,

“I want to fill the Blessing Jar up to the very top! “

“I think we should clean up trash in the streets to help keep our environment around us clean.”

“We need to help each other more.”

“We should use calm voices more often with each other.”

As I wrote the goals down, a flow of those endearing little nudges of goodness showered me.  It seems, despite my many unending flaws as a parent, our children are precious little souls who yearn for opportunities to do good.

After lunch, we departed in our various tasks of the day.  Our daughter went to play with a friend at her house down the street.  Our two-year-old ran circles in the living room.  My husband started helping out with the daily chores involved with taking care of a family of five, and my oldest son went to his bedroom to look through a stack of books he wanted to donate.

I locked myself in our bedroom and started going through our closet.  As I pulled things out to organize and donate (if desired), a funny thing started to happen.  I realized that I get frustrated at the amount of “stuff” my children want to keep, and yet, there I was sitting in the middle of my bedroom stuffing trash bags full of gently used clothing, unused jewelry, and items I once swore that I needed.

Five trash bags of clothing, toys my children decided to rid themselves of, and other items, started to take up the space of my bedroom.  And then, my soul was stirred about the many things I carry in my heart that the Lord wants me to rid myself of.

I know there is more space in my life to donate to intentional parenting with my children.  I know that this vessel of life can do so much more.  At the same time, I also know the things that pull me away from the Lord’s wisdom.  I need to stick away these things in a trash bag, and let go of them.

With my children’s words of our family goals today fresh in my mind, here are my thoughts as I enter into 2015:

“God,I want to fill others…other jars of clay…with words that bless them.”

“Lord, I know there is a lot of trash in my life and in the streets of my thoughts that I need to clean up to keep this incredible environment of life clean.” 

“Father, help me to help each other more.”

“Savior, I pray Your voice will calm the waves of contempt in my life, and in turn, will create moments that I can be used bring peace to others.”

Here’s to 2015!  This is a wonderful time to be living on this side of Heaven.  My hope for this upcoming year is that we will all be drawn closer to Origin of Love.  

Now, that is a New Year’s Resolution we can all attain.

Happy New Year, Friends.

 

a life Eternal

In her ninety’s and near death, Elizabeth was thin, frail, and completely unaware that I was with her in the room to which she had called home for many years.  I was in graduate school and chose to do my internship at a local Hospice agency. Elizabeth was one of many clients that I was asked to go visit, provide support to, offer counsel if necessary, or offer a hand to hold.  I nudged her hand, introduced myself, and whispered that I was there to sit with her a while.  She lay there, eyes shut, and not responsive to my presence.  I sat back in the chair next to her bed, looked around a bit, and watched her in silence.

Breath in…breath out…breath in….breath out…then…..Eyes open wide, arms reaching out to the Heavens, and with a strong voice, she declared,

“Oh, the trees.  The trees.  They are beautiful.  The streets.  They are golden…and the music.  The beautiful music….it’s the most beautiful music I’ve heard.  Yes…yes, I see her.  I don’t know her, but I will see her again.” 

I sat there frozen in my chair.  It is not that I did not move.  It is that I could not move.  I watched and listened to her as she spoke out loud.  I felt peaceful, and in that moment, I knew that I was witness to a celestial exchange.  I was partly in disbelief, but mostly in pure belief that I was allowed to hear a vision of Heaven.

As soon as she was through speaking, she went back to the slow, labored breathing to which I initially watched her do.  I too felt as though I could move around, and raised up in the chair, grabbed her hand, and just held it in silence for the remainder of the hour that I was there.  As my time with her drew to a close, I gently got up, leaned over her and said “I’m leaving for now.  Thank you for this time together.”  As I exited the room, I looked back once more at the frail woman lying in the bed to which her soul would escape to Heaven.

As I walked down the halls of the nursing home, I felt elation mixed with emotion and humility.  I kept hanging on to her words that described a Heaven to which my mind could only begin to imagine.  I also clung to the part of the conversation that seemed to include me.  I had never met Elizabeth before, and had never even stepped foot in that particular nursing home.  I did not even think she noticed me.  To my amazement, I realized that I was given a glimpse of the promise of eternal life.

I thought about this experience for many days after I visited her, and heard that she lasted about seventy-two hours after our visit, and died a peaceful death.  I never told anyone at the agency about my experience.  I don’t know why.  Perhaps, I was worried that they would try to apply a medical reason for her words.  Instead, I told those close to me.

While I had similar experiences with the elderly population I worked with, this experience definitely was different from the others.  I witnessed something not of this Earth.  My presence with her was not random.  I felt as though I had been invited into a private conversation between a dying Believer and the One True Mighty Father. 

It has been nearly thirteen years since this experience; still yet, here I am writing about it.  Thirteen years ago, I was barely clinging on to the faith of my childhood.  I had just started going back to church.  My heart was still compounded by confusion of past trauma, regrets, and an unknown future.  I was not yet married, not a parent, and not even sure of the path to which I would walk down.  Sitting here now, a mother to three children, a wife, a professional in child welfare, and a Believer in Jesus Christ, I am mightily aware and thankful for this experience with the sweet soul whose room I stumbled into as a graduate student.

It seems Eternity has been on my mind and heart lately.  Of all the things spoken of in Scripture, a life Eternal is by far the most incredible promise of all.  Perhaps it is the wailing of the world that is happening, or the yearning of my own heart to draw closer to the Lord, but as of late, my thoughts have been pressed on towards our Heavenly Home.

I believe that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, and through Him, we have salvation.  I am not ashamed or embarrassed to say this.  I am not less intelligent, naive, or intolerant.  I am a friend, daughter, sister, wife, mother, stranger, and acquaintance.

I am the person who messes up, or sometimes, gets it just right.  I am the one who overlooks others, or sometimes, bends down on knees for total strangers.  I have a temper, a sense of humor, a serious side, and a quiet side.  I am strong.  I am weak.  I am vulnerable at times, and completely unbreakable at others.  I am a Christian.

Through reading of the Word, and the blessed experience of the one described above, I fully believe in a life Eternal.

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.   -Revelation 22:1-5

At the Feet

IMG_2402I have been thinking about Jesus’s feet lately.  I know that sounds odd, but I keep thinking about His feet as He grew from infancy through the time of His death.  I visualize Him as a precious baby.  I see Mary as the doting mother who kisses them.  She must have washed them, played with His toes, and made sure he was wearing garments to protect them.  The pitter-patter His feet made when he was toddling around must have been sweet sounds to her ears.

Those tiny, and seemingly insignificant feet, were soft and beautiful in the sight of His Earthly parents.

They were the feet of an innocent babe.

As a young boy, His feet must have traversed mighty adventures.  They carried Him swiftly as He explored the terrain and discovered the world around Him.  Those feet were small, and seemingly insignificant, yet tough and capable of keeping up with a boy’s curious life.

They were the feet of a boy whose Earthly life was the fulfillment of a Promise.

As an adolescent and young man, those feet walked Him into places of worship. They carried Him throughout His time of learning.  Those feet were average, and seemingly insignificant, yet they carried a Savior who would soon declare Himself to the world.

They were the feet of a Sovereign and Wise young man.

As an adult, those feet; the ones who were kissed by His mother, whisked Him through times of play, and walked Him into places where His knowledge grew, were the same ones that held His tired body up as He achingly marched His way up to the hill where He bled out.

They were the feet of Sacrifice.

Those beautiful, torn, and weary feet were pierced and nailed to a tree.  They were ripped for us all.  They were witnesses to the most tragic, yet significant moment in time.

They were the feet of the Messiah.

Three days later, those same feet picked His body up, walked Him down a road, and held Him up as He fulfilled the promise of Resurrection.

Those eternal feet are the feet of the Risen Savior.

We are asked to be the feet of Jesus.  We are told to go to places where the least of these dwell.  We are directed to walk into the lands of strangers, and to carry our brothers who are fallen.  We are asked to walk in humility and service to others.

Yet, our feet will not be torn.  They will not be nailed.  They will not have redemptive blood trickling down them.  They will not witness the wail of a Savior’s cry, the tears of His mother, and the agony of pain felt.

Our feet will never leave the kind of print on the world that His did.  If we say we are the hands and feet of Jesus, what are we saying?  Do we fully understand the undertaking that is?

At the feet of Jesus, we find love that lasts, and grace that resonates deep within. Do others find that in us?

His feet.  His glorious and beautiful feet were nailed.  They were broken for us.  They paid it all.  

He paid it all.

His feet.  His weary and worn feet never lost sight of His vision.

His feet.  His glorious and broken feet walked Wisdom into this world.  They carried the breathing embodiment of  compassion that this world thirsts for.   

His feet took Him to strangers, met them where they were at, and impacted them in a miraculous way.

They were the feet of Salvation.

We are the feet of Jesus.  That is both an honor and a challenge.  Are we able to show compassion?  Do we desire to impact others in a way that feels miraculous to them?  

Will others find us at the feet of Jesus?

Related Post:  my scar, His Scars

The Blessing Jar {Part 2}

A little less than a year ago, we started a family project called “The Blessing Jar”. The idea behind it came from my oldest son’s desire to give change to people without money.  We decided to get a jar, start collecting change, and then give it away.  You can read my initial post about this by clicking on this link, The Blessing Jar.

Throughout the year, I didn’t put any pressure on the kids to donate to the jar.  If they found, earned, or were given money, I asked them, “What do you want to do with it?”  I was surprised how often they wanted to throw it in the jar.

Blessing 1Last weekend, we decided it was time to take our jar of change, get it counted up, and donate it.  The jar was not full, but it seemed appropriate for us to do something like this the weekend before we celebrate Thanksgiving.

After all, our family has so much to be thankful for.

We have a warm home, food to eat, and each other.  What more could we ask for?

I started talking to my kids the week before about what to do with the money.  We talked about different options, and they both kept going back to giving money to people who do not have any food.  As a matter of fact, earlier in the week during an outing to the local mall, my daughter grabbed a handful of change and started sprinting towards the guy ringing the Salvation Army Bell.  She said, “Mommy, he’s ringing the bell.  That means he’s hungry.”  She quickly put money in the kettle.  I later explained that the young man was helping others who are hungry by ringing the bell.

We decided that the money would go to a local group called “The Gathering Tree”. This group, started by a doctor and his wife, feeds the homeless in our community, and is a very grass-roots effort with volunteers cooking the food, serving it, and offering support to those who show up.  A  friend of mine is very involved with the group, and has witnessed the heart-breaking stories of many of the souls who walk through the doors.

Thankfully, there are lots of organizations in our community that help out the homeless and down-trodden.  We decided on this group because it is solely a volunteer-based organization.  I have also heard that the volunteers do not ask questions, or judge whoever walks in needing a warm meal.  There are not any qualifying or conditional factors like a lot of programs.  They offer support and resources, and always say Grace before each meal.

Since my husband and I are both involved in social work, I understand the need for rules and policies for social programs.  At the end of the day though, there are still people who are starving, cold, and in need of companionship.  There are still people who just need a kind word, a non-judgmental look, the touch of another human, and a feeling of belonging somewhere….anywhere.  This is one of the reasons why I suggested the group to my children.

From what I have heard, they are people who simply love other people and want or need or feel compelled, whatever you want to call it, to bring a little comfort to the forgotten, desperate, or needy.

Pure. Simple. Love.

I told the kids that when we got there, they would see people who do not have homes.  They might even see children there, too.  When we walked in, we were greeted by my friend who went to get the founders of the group.  Both of my kids stood there for a while, taking it all in.  My son kept staring at all of the people huddled around eating food.

Soon, a red-headed, freckled face little boy with an over-sized coat and a little girl with a dirty face, came right up next to our family.  Both of my kids just stood there quietly.  Every once in a while, they would head into the children’s area and play with a few toys, but mostly, they stayed close to us.

The founders of the group greeted us and I explained the Blessing Jar to them.  Soon, the wife got down on my children’s level, and with tears in her eyes, graciously thanked them for the $32.00 dollars they donated.  She explained what can be done with the money, and how it can help.

Blessing Jar 2Thirty-two dollars from two little ones who had no idea the gravity of the gift they gave.

Thirty-two dollars given with the innocent hope that goodness will come out of it.

After a few tears, and hugs, we left the building and escaped back to our car and warm home.  As I was tucking my son into bed, he said, “Mom, she had a rip in her clothes, and that boy’s jacket was way too big.”  I just listened.  He then went on to ask, “What if that boy doesn’t have a mommy and daddy?  What will happen to him?”  I said, “If he didn’t have a mommy or daddy, the people there helping out would make sure that he was somewhere he would be taken care of by a mommy and daddy.”

My son thought for a moment, and then said, “Like a foster home?  Kinda like what we did for baby…?”  I said, “Yes, kind of, but that little boy does have a mommy, and the coat may be too big, but at least he has a coat.”  As he was snuggling into his warm bed, I asked him if he wanted to save money in the Blessing Jar again. He said, “Yes.”  I kissed him goodnight, and my heart swelled.

The next day as we were getting into the car, he spotted a quarter that had fallen down in-between the seats.  He quickly pointed out that it needed to go in the Blessing Jar!  Our jar is empty now with the exception of a couple of quarters the children have already added, but hopefully it will start to fill up as the year goes on.

I have learned as a parent that it does not take a lot of effort to teach children about grace, generosity, giving, and loving others. Sometimes, children can teach these things better than any adult on any given day.  We just need to stop long enough to hear their hearts speak through their actions, concerns, and musings of life.Blessing Jar3

Our little Blessing Jar has blessed us in return.

There is great joy that comes when generosity and life-lessons collide.

Indeed.

“In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” – Acts 20:35

Dear Infertility (Part 3)

Dear infertility,

I ran into you the other day.  You’ve changed.  I hardly recognize you anymore. I’m sure you could say the same thing about me.

Do you remember the first time we met?  I was young and sick.  I was vulnerable, and innocent in so many ways.  I didn’t understand you at all, and you did nothing to help me understand you.  Instead, you covered me like tar.  I tried to shake you off, but you stuck.  Even worse, as I grew up, you became harder to remove from my skin, my thoughts, and my heart.

You stalked me.  You ridiculed me, and you made me believe false things about myself, and about my future.  I was forced to wear you like some uncomfortable skin.  Everywhere I looked, I saw you.  I could not look at a child, and not think of you.  I heard you hissing painful reminders to me, and I felt you pound on my heart each time I tried to picture myself as a mother.

Oh, you met me where I was at alright.  You confronted me in each vulnerable moment of my life.  You chose to mix me up.  You twisted my thoughts, and tore at me.  You even tried to make me believe that I was half the female my friends were. You made me question my design, my worth, and my purpose.  You did your very best to take me down….didn’t you?

Infertility…you are not bigger than you think you are.  You have claimed power in so many people’s lives, but, you are only powerful when preying on people’s weaknesses and insecurities.

Infertility…you are despicable. 

Can I tell you something?  I felt you tremble a little when I was confronted with the love and the hope of Christ.  My Father met me where I was at, but unlike you, He wrapped a blanket of hope, forgiveness, and shelter for the future.  My regrets slid off of my skin when I encountered Him.

One day, I will stand before my Father in Heaven, and you will not be standing there next to me.  You will not be my sidekick, my story, or my painful moment of life.  You will be gone…gone…gone!  

I used to think that when I got to Heaven, I would ask about you.  I wanted to have a deep discussion about why you came at me like you did.  I do not need this conversation anymore.  I have my answer….I HAVE MY ANSWER.  My answer is a blue-eyed, Tomboy who loves her daddy, a blonde-haired charmer who is always one step ahead of me, and a little brown-eyed babe who loves to cuddle.

My answer is the redemption I found in the unstoppable, unfailing love of Christ, and in the unfolding chapters that have been written for my life.  You did not write my future out.  You did not dictate how my life would go, even though you thought you would. You were wrong.  You were so very wrong.

Dear infertility, I ran into you the other day.  You look different from what you used to look like.  I hardly recognize you anymore, and you feel so different now.  You are lighter…barely even noticeable.  You seem so small and weak compared to how you used to be.

Funny thing is….I must look different too….I must feel different to you.

Truth is….I AM different from the person I used to be, and, praise God for that.

2 Corinthians 5:17-Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

Related Posts:

Dear Infertility

Dear Infertility (Part 2)

Through the Lens of Forgiveness

photo of me taken not too long before my hysterectomy
photo of me taken not too long before my hysterectomy

Forgiveness is something that I’ve always thought I understood.  I’ve never been one to carry grudges.  Truth be told, I never really had to face the hardship of truly forgiving someone until I had to come to terms with the grim reality that my illness, which resulted in my hysterectomy, was caused by infection left in my body accidentally by the doctor who performed an appendectomy on me when I was just 2-years-old.  I had carried the notion for over twenty years that it was a medical mistake, but did not get that confirmation until approximately three to four years ago.

I was told by the doctor who performed my hysterectomy that somehow, during my appendectomy, a pocket of the infection was missed, encapsulated itself, and became something similar to a fluid-filled sac.  The bacterium inside the sac was very opportunistic, anaerobic and in the same family as botulism.  Even though this type of bacterium is commonly known about today, in 1983, I was the second known case of a person having it in the United States.  It protected itself and thrived for many years in my body until, for whatever reason, the sac ruptured.  Perhaps it ruptured because of the heavy weight of something I had carried a week prior on my right hip after exploring my uncle’s farm.  Perhaps not; guess I will never really know for sure.

The summer before my illness, I was healthy, dancing competitively, and gearing up for my 6th grade year.  I did not know that a time-bomb was ticking away in my body.  The doctor who performed my appendectomy nine years earlier never knew either.  He still may not know.

He may not know about how close I came to dying during that fateful time in September of 1983.  He may not know about the spiritual, emotional, financial, and physical toll it took on my parents.  He may not know that my body was never the same again; and, neither was I.  He will never understand what it is like to be the only girl around who never got her first period.  He may not ever know how confused I was during my teenage years, how tormented I felt about what happened, and how I believed I would never find a man who would love me….just me….without the promise of children.

The doctor who performed my appendectomy may never know how the foot-long scar on my belly stared back at me in the mirror, how I regretted that scar, how I wished it away, and how I didn’t want it to show my vulnerability.  He may never know that I never saw myself as a mother, or how I waited until I was almost thirty to get married.  He never sat next to me while driving away from baby showers with painful tears.  He never had to explain over and over again to medical professionals why I had a hysterectomy at a young age, or pretend to understand pregnancy during conversations.  He didn’t have to hear all of the unwarranted words of wisdom given to me from others regarding my barrenness.

The doctor may not know about the heavy blanket of sorrow I wrapped around myself while weeping in my bed, alone, and away from the world.  He may never know how close I came to fully turning away from the Heavenly Father I believed in as a young child.  He will never hear the prayers I cried to my God for some answers; for just one chance to be a mother.

No, he will never know these things…but…he will also never know how I don’t blame him for what happened.  I don’t harbor ill feelings.  I don’t wish to go back in time and correct his oversight.  I feel no need to lash out, tell everyone his name, and speak of how my life was nearly claimed by his mistake.  I have no desire to grieve over my barrenness that was caused by the work of his hands.  I’ve grieved enough.

I have forgiven him.  I know in my heart that he would have never intentionally left this bacteria in my system.  I know that he did the best he could with a very ill toddler whose appendix had ruptured.  Who I am not to forgive him?  Who am I to look at this and think anything different from how I feel?  It was a mistake; pure and simple.

Truthfully speaking, if the mistake had not happened, and if I would have grown into adolescence, gotten married as a young adult,  delivered a baby, and lived life, I don’t know if I would have ever comprehended the beauty that comes out of struggles, and the joy that comes when being encountered with the revelation of the Lord’s penmanship in life.  I don’t know if I would have ever sought to become a foster parent, experienced the humbling path that is walked while loving another mother’s child, or discovered faith while declaring my children’s names to the Lord in prayer for their safety and for His will to be done.

I don’t know if I would have ever grasped the full measure of just how vulnerable I am without the presence of a Living God in my life.  If I had not experienced the darkness of the valley I’ve walked through, I’m not sure that I would be able to completely comprehend that the ability to forgive doesn’t come from my own ability.  It comes from the grace and forgiveness that was first given to me.  I don’t blame the doctor who left the life-changing infection in my body.  I have no feelings for him that would cause one to question if I am capable of forgiving someone.

No, I don’t blame the doctor, I forgive him.  If I would have clung onto the knowledge of this mistake and allowed it to blur my vision, I don’t know how my story would be written.  My life story that I view through the lens of forgiveness is one of pain, but also of promise.

Forgiveness is cleansing.  It leaps, dances, and embraces.  It grabs a hold of one’s heart, tears out the pain, and flies off with it.  It wipes off the lens that life is viewed through, and it retells the story of life without the aftertaste of bitterness left behind in life’s tragedies.

Forgiveness is a mightily freeing thing.

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. -Ephesians 4:32

Friends, Is there someone you need to forgive?  Are you at a place where you feel stuck in past transgressions?  Go to the Lord in prayer. Ask Him to help you forgive.  Unleash what is pulling at you, let it fly away, and forgive.  May God bless you.

 

 

Thoughts about last Monday

I thought twice about writing this one.  I’ve thought even more about posting it.  Actually, I had convinced myself not to write or post it, but upon waking this morning,  I just could not escape the thoughts trapped in my head yearning to be released.  So, here I go….

My intention is not to hurt anyone or be offensive.  My thoughts after last Monday have been “all over the place”.  I want to come away from this post feeling that I’ve taken a tragic situation that the bombing at the Boston Marathon was, and turned my feelings of anger into introspection about where we are as Americans…not just Americans, but Christian Americans.  A part of me feels as though I do not have the right to have an opinion.  Another part of me deeply wonders if I would feel the same way if my spouse, children, mother, father, sister or friends were victims of the attack.  Honestly, I do not know, and pray I will never know what it feels like to be looking at tragedies like these from the inside out.

Like most Americans, I was angry when I saw what happened.  I was worried that there would be more attacks, and I felt sadness for the loss of life and liberty for so many people on that day.  I heard calls for prayer for the victims, the city of Boston, and for our nation.  I did not hear anyone call for prayer for the perpetrators of this act.  My thoughts, (although I did not express them out loud to others at the time), were perhaps we should pray for the perpetrators as well.  Why shouldn’t we pray for them?

Matthew 5:44 – But I say to you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which spitefully use you, and persecute you;

As the events of Friday played out on the television screen, I was shocked to hear how young both men were.  The youngest brother is only 12 & 1/2 years older than my son.  I do not know all of the details of how these two brothers came to the place where they chose hatred.  I cannot comprehend knowingly setting a bomb by anyone and walking away.  I also could not help but feel pity for them.  I pity them for being lost in the mix of hatred and confusion.

They had their whole lives ahead of them.  One was a young father, and the other, just barely an adult.  Now, one is dead, and the other might face death through the justice system.  Please hear me say this loud and clear, I definitely want justice for the victims. I definitely want a trial to be held.  I definitely love our country.  I find it a blessing to live in a country that is free.  I still cannot escape the “what if’s” of these young men’s lives.

What if the chaos they must have felt in their hearts was replaced with the love of Christ?  What if Christians in their communities and schools would have ministered to them through friendships, love, and prayer?  What if they would have been embraced by Christians in a way that left them no doubt who the Lord of love is?  What if….?

There has been a multitude of Facebook posts about the incident.  Some have been deep prayerful desires for healing, while others have been about seeking vengeance on this young man, and any other that would cause harm to our nation. If I didn’t know better, I would wonder if we (American Christians) put our country before our Lord, our patriotism before our prayers, and our flag before our faith. Again, I think of what Scripture says.

Romans 12:19 – Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.

I know it is cliché to ask it, but, “What would Jesus do?”  Sometimes this question is asked rhetorically when determining whether or not to give change to the homeless man on the corner, or to turn the other cheek when facing opposition.  I challenge myself to ask this question when faced with the seemingly unforgivable acts like the one committed nearly a week ago.

I know that my words may alienate some readers.  I hope not.  Writing my thoughts out has become my way of working through times that might cause a stumble in my  faith.  I challenge you, fellow writers and readers, to consider what the Lord would ask of us during this time, and any other.  What is our Christian response supposed to be in times like these?

Our instinct is to seek revenge, but I pray that we would seek a deeper relationship with our Lord, and with each other – friend and foe.

Rest in a Restless World

I’m tired.  I’m tired of pretending that I’m not tired.  I’m tired of getting up each day and going to a job that I know exists because people abuse and neglect their children.  I’m tired of worrying about whether or not there will be enough families out there who want to take in kids who have suffered great trauma.

I’m weary.  I’m weary from trying to shield my children from the news of the day.  I’m weary from the knowledge that humans willfully damage each other, kill each other, and downplay the importance of one another.  I’m weary from the frustration that Christians often worry more about politics than people, or at least, give that impression.

I know that part of my weariness comes from the ups and downs of the human experience.  People are killing each other for their ideologies, perversions, or greed.  Children are left abandoned on the streets to suffer at the hands of evil.  Fathers are turning away from their families to seek what they perceive as greater things.  Mothers are choosing wickedness over their own worth.  People are forsaking compassion for their passions.

Weariness has been on my mind all week, and yet, I fully recognize how lucky I really have it.  I’m not a single mom working three jobs to keep food on the table.  I’m not a small child living off of scraps in a third world country.  I’m not homeless.  I’m not sick.  I’m not hungry.  I am loved.

While meditating on these things, I looked up Scripture that specifically address weariness and rest.  I know there are many more, but here are just a few that I’d like to share.

Exodus 33:14 – 

And He said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.”

Matthew 11:28-30 – 

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy, and My load is light.”

Psalm 62:1-2-

“My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.”

Psalm 62:5-

“Yes, my soul, find rest in God: my hope comes from him.”

John 14:27- 

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you.  Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”

Psalm 37:7-

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.

In my opinion, the last verse I am sharing is the one that turns that fading flicker in my heart into a flame.  It is the one that renews my hope for things to come, and strengthens my resolve to continue yearning for a world where compassion leads.  It causes me to strive to live a life that continues to breathe love.  It especially reminds me that in this world of chaos and confusion, the only true rest and peace in this restless world is found in the glory of the Lord.

John 16:33-

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

Thank you Father for the Blessed Assurance of You.

“I Can Do It Myself!”

When I was around 3-years-old, my mom recalls that my first day at preschool started with me jerking loose of her hand, boldly stating “I can do it myself!”, walking down the stairs, opening the door, and heading right into the preschool.  I’m sure she stood there for a moment just a little speechless and saddened that her baby didn’t need help moving on to the next little adventure in life.

I am now parenting an extremely stubborn and strong-willed 4-year-old daughter who absolutely feels the need to do all tasks by herself, even the ones that cause her frustration.  As her parent, I look on with impatience as she tries to tie her shoes.  I know the end result will not be what she wants, but nevertheless, she attempts the same thing time and time again.  In the end, she gives up, crying, throwing her hands up, and states “Can you just do it for me?”  Even walking into the dance studio, she looked at me and said, “Okay mommy, you can go in, pay the bill, and then leave.  I don’t want you walking me in.”  Oh my!

Often, I tend to get frustrated with my children’s ever-present and willful streak of independence.  Both of my children are fearless, very social, impulsive, and will walk any boundary line we set with one foot hanging over the edge.  While my husband and I have learned to adjust to parenting two children who are boundary pushers, we have also learned that life with strong-willed children can be very exciting.

There are very few dull moments in our lives.  Our children are not really shy about trying anything, and can usually create a buzz of energy just about anywhere they go.  Sometimes, though, we worry about just how far our children will push boundaries throughout their lives.  We want them to make choices that are safe and healthy, and yet, we do not want to break their spirits.  We also know that life lessons are mostly made by mistakes, “do-overs” can be quite humbling, and natural consequences often teach more than any of the words we can use.

Thinking about the challenges we face as parents causes me to wonder how the Lord must feel when we cross the boundaries He so desires us to stay clear of.  He too watches as we push to try to do everything ourselves, live with one foot hanging over the edge, and attempt to do the same thing OUR way even though we usually end in failure, frustration, and heart-break.  While I have thrown my hands up in moments of parenting frustration thinking, “Why are they doing this?!?!”, He has thought the same thing about me.

Our ways of telling the Lord, “I can do it myself” are ones that potentially could be quite destructive.  I think of thoughts and words that have been whispered off the lips of people such as, “I can quit drugs anytime I want”, or “I know how to fix this marriage”,  or “I’ll let go of that issue when I’m ready”, or “I doubt my future will be worth anything”.  For me, it was thoughts like “God really must never want me to be a parent”, and other musings that coursed through my mind.  In other words, I was thinking “Lord, I don’t trust that You have my barrenness in Your hands.”

I am so thankful that the Lord allows natural consequences, do-overs, and mistakes to mold us.  His words teach us how to live, but more importantly, how to love.  I am also grateful that He continuously loves His stubborn children despite our attempts to turn away and not listen.

Mostly though, I remember that when He threw His hands up in the air because of us, they were nailed to a tree.  This act was not done out of frustration, but of intense love.  My salvation is not something I can do myself.

 Then said Jesus, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” And they parted his clothing, and cast lots.  –Luke 23:34 

It Would Be Easy

It would be easy for us to say no to a situation involving a family member that, if all goes through, will distinctly rock our fairly routine family life.  It would be easy for us to say that we are too busy, too poor, too stressed, too hectic, too old, and far too content in our own circumstances to do anything to help.  It would be even easier to say “it’s not our problem”, and walk away living our own life with our own little family.  It would be easiest for us to sit on the sidelines with our own opinions; yet, not be willing to step out in action, in love, and in faith to help.

It would be easy for us to ignore the need, which in turn would ignore the living, breathing lives of those involved.  When we look at the situation at hand though, we know the decision that needs to be made is not the easy one.  Often, the right thing to do is the hardest.  We also know that if the tables were turned, and we were in need of help, we would desperately want the love of family to stand with us.  We also know we have the ability, the means, the love, and the solid rock that is our Lord to carry us through.

It would have been easy for Jesus to say no.  It would have been easier for Him to say He was too busy, too poor, too stressed, too hectic, too old, and far too content in His own circumstances to do anything.  He did not say, “Father, they are not my problem.”  Oh, it would have been especially easy for the Son of God to circumvent the calling on His life in order to avoid hardship.  Because He chose the hard path that led to a bloody and brutal death on a cross, we have been given new life, abundant hope, and eternal grace.

Our life may be changing in the next month or two.  We may have less time, less space, and less money.  We may have to rely on each other for even greater support.  We may have to be even more fervent in prayer, and patient in the progression of things.  We may have to help our little ones understand the opportunity to imprint love onto someone else.  We may lean on the circumstances to help them understand their own stories.

We may face objection, questions, and fear.  We may ask at times why the Lord led us down this path.  We may even face heart-ache.  I can’t help but think, though, that if we didn’t face these things, then our answer would have been far too easy.