Monday, January 29, 2007

Proverbs 3

This is the first passage of scripture our girls memorized:

My son, do not forget my law, but let your heart keep My commands;
For length of days and long life and peace they will add to you.
Let not mercy and truth forsake you; bind them around your neck,
Write them on the tablet of your heart;
And so, find favor and high esteem in the sight of God and man.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.
Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and depart from evil.
It will be health to your flesh and strength to your bones.
Honor the Lord with all your possessions and with the first fruits of all your labors;
So your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will overflow with new wine.
My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor detest His correction.
For whom the Lord loves, He corrects, just as a father the son in whom He delights.
Proverbs 3:1-12

The Way They Pray...

We've been teaching our girls to pray since they were able to talk. Here's is Emma's prayer from breakfast this morning:

Father, come to me, Lord. Thank you for George Markey. You know he is very sick. Put Your healing hands on him. Love him. In Jesus' name, Amen.

and Ruthie's:

Lord, thank you for my friend Haley. Bless our family--Mommy, Daddy, Emma, Olivia, and Elvis. Thank you for my oatmeal. I love it. and, Amen. In Jesus' name, Amen.

and Olivia's:

Jesus! Amen!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Allergic Child

Our youngest daughter, Olivia, has food allergies. We started her on baby food at the normal age--6 months. No problems whatsoever. Then, around 9 months, she figured out that her adoring older sisters were eating things that looked quite a bit more appealing. We battled with her awhile but our pediatrician assured us that this was just a logical consequence of having multiple children. So, we obliged her and started giving her little bits of table food. Again, no problems. Somewhere around 11 months, we started noticing that she seemed to have some digestive issues. Also, she was not gaining weight. In fact, she had dropped off her growth chart and we became concerned. Our concerns grew as the problems worsened. We had suspected that she might be allergic to milk and had tried to restrict her diet. Things were not getting better. So, off I went one October day to the allergist's office. After a pretty simple allergy test the results came back: allergies to milk, milk proteins, egg whites and egg yolks. No dairy, no eggs.
Armed with a few wimpy pamphlets, we returned home. I went about attempting to change her diet. The doctor's words echoed in my mind: Just don't give her any milk products or egg products and things should clear up right away.

I remember feeling pretty relaxed about it. Relieved almost. I knew what was wrong with her and I could do something about it. Hah! I had no idea how difficult it was going to be to find "Olivia-friendly" foods. I had no idea how many of my tried and true recipes would not work for her. It was depressing to look through my cabinets and refrigerator and discover that we had very little for her to eat. Eating out was almost impossible. Many restaurants don't even have information readily available about the ingredients of their foods, let alone foods that Olivia could actually eat. I became an expert label reader and starting cooking special dishes just for her.

That approach lasted about three weeks. I wore myself out trying to cook two separate meals, three times a day. We spent a fortune at a couple of health food stores trying to feed her dairy-free and egg-free products. (She turned her nose up at those!) Cooking, one of my passions and normally my favorite daily activity, had become arduous and unenjoyable. I dreaded mealtime. Emma and Ruthie were jealous of the "special treats" Olivia was permitted to have and Olivia cried to be included in our meal. I had reached the end of what I knew how to do and threw myself and our daughter before the Lord.

One day not long after Christmas, I explained to the Lord that I wasn't going anywhere until He showed me what to do. I was frustrated and angry about the situation and knew that He must have a better way. I was willing to do anything He wanted but I needed very clear direction. Opening my Bible, I read through a few favorite passages and was then led to this:

Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble. 1 Corinthians 8:13

I started thinking about why Paul had written this particular passage of 1 Corinthians. The Corinthians were arguing amongst themselves about freedom in Christ. Their city was filled with pagan idol worship. Part of that worship included feasts and some Corinthian believers felt freedom to eat the food at such feasts because it was offered to a false god and therefore, not a sin. Others felt strongly that participation of any kind in such a pagan ritual was wrong. Paul agreed that pagan idols were "nothing" but encouraged believers to avoid anything that might cause a brother to stumble. He explained that their freedom in Christ was not a license to participate in anything they wanted; rather, out of love for their weaker, less mature brothers in the Lord, they should avoid those things that might lead another away from Christ.

In a way, we all have "spiritual allergies." We all have weaknesses in some area of our flesh, areas that are prone to attack. I struggle with my worth in Christ. If I allow myself to wander too deeply into areas of self-pity, introspection and emotion, I forget who Christ says I am: His beloved. Each of us has an area like that, an area where Satan can gain a foothold if we're not walking in the Spirit. What is okay for another is not okay for us. Maybe someone can have a glass of wine with dinner but her brother or sister in the Lord would develop a drinking problem from that same glass of wine. What Paul is saying is that, motivated by love for our brothers and sisters, we should be compelled to also abstain from anything that might be a stumbling block for others.

All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify. Let no one seek his own, but each one the other's well-being. 1 Corinthians 10:23-24

So, I went to the library and scoured the Internet for Olivia-friendly recipes. I decided that if she couldn't eat dairy or eggs, we would avoid them also. If these things were making her sick, we would join with her, motivated by love, to find a happier mealtime for everyone. It's been working. I try to serve meals that are 75% Olivia-friendly. Some meals I do better than others. I'm still searching for creative ways to feed our family. We've tried some delicious recipes and some stinkers. Mealtime is more fun and I'm putting my love of cooking to use in new ways. Charlie and I are praying for Olivia's healing, hoping the Lord will free her from allergies. Until then, though, we'll be right beside her, loving her and discovering a new way to eat.

And, I'm more sensitive to other areas of weakness in my girls. I've been asking the Lord to show me "spiritual allergies" they might have. I don't want to be a stumbling block to them in their relationships with the Lord. Praise the Lord for His faithfulness and His goodness!

(Some of the) Things I Love About My Husband

His smile.
His knowledge of the Word.
His patience.
The way he plays with the girls.
The way he always untucks his side of the bed each and every night.
His diligence.
The way he leaves me a devotion almost every morning.
His understanding of technical things (which baffle me!).
His faithfulness.
His eagerness to serve the Lord.
His friendship.
His eyes.
The way he loves me.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Eating An Apple With A Spoon

If you have ever been a mom to small children, you've had days that are frustrating. You've had days that seemed interminably long, when the children are full of energy and you feel empty. When simple tasks feel like they require an advanced degree in biochemistry to accomplish. Days when you've lost your temper more than once and said things you immediately wished you could take back. Days when you are quite certain your kids have made a pact to declare mutiny on the capsizing ship you call your life.

I had one of those days this week.

It wasn't so much that the day was "bad." Nothing out of the ordinary had happened. It was a normal day in the Henze house but everything felt difficult. Ruthie threw a temper tantrum about her outfit (which is apparently a new phase we're going through) and insisted that it was indeed warm enough to wear nothing but a t-shirt and knee socks. Emma had taken to picking a fight with Ruthie each and every time she perceived that Ruthie was not playing "right" and Olivia had decided to shriek at everything and everyone...all day long. The house was a mess, the laundry was piled sky high and dishes were scattered across every available inch of counter space. By the time we got to lunch, I was frazzled. I had already raised my voice to a volume I have over and over again asked for forgiveness for and was almost desperately looking for my husband's car in the driveway to signal that reinforcements had arrived to help the battle-weary Colonel Mommy. Just then, the phone rang and I knew it would be Charlie saying he was running late. After hanging up, I attempted to re-strategize and make lunch. As the girls and I sat down to eat, I felt completely exhausted. We trudged through lunch, Emma and Ruthie bickering, Olivia shrieking and throwing a good portion of her food to the floor. After excusing the older two from the table, I sat at the table, head in my hands, waiting for Olivia to finish her apple. How was I going to get through the rest of the day?

I closed my eyes and tried to pray. I couldn't even find the words. No scripture was coming to mind. I couldn't even ask for help. I was just so tired. Looking up, I noticed that Olivia was working very hard to eat her apple. I smiled as I watched her. She had already taken several bites from the apple but now she was attempting to use her little plastic spoon to dig into the flesh. It took a good amount of effort but she would eventually dig out a little apple flesh and then put it into her mouth. With each attempt, she grew more and more frustrated until she finally gave up and threw the apple and spoon onto the floor. I thought, "Crazy baby, trying to eat an apple with a spoon."

Then the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart, "Crazy mom, trying to get through this day without the Lord. 'Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.' (Matt. 11:28) What are you doing out here all by yourself eating this apple of a day with the spoon of your flesh?"

I wish I had started the day with the Lord. I wish I started each and every day putting the Lord first, praying and reading the Word. But, my flesh is weak. My intentions are good but flesh is weak. Just a few more minutes of sleep. Just another load of laundry. After I get the kids down for a nap. After I get dinner started. Once we tuck the kids into bed. I'll do better tomorrow.

Eating an apple with a spoon.

There is the Lord's way of doing things (which always works out best) and then there is the hard way of doing things. Too many days I choose the hard way.

Lord, change my heart. Give me Your priorities for each day. Draw me close to You. Help me do things Your way. Thank You for your grace which covers every apple-spooned part of me. Thank You for Jesus Who gives me the right to come to You. Help me to never take that for granted. Thank You for loving me. Amen.

Monday, January 15, 2007

My Favorite Color is Purple

I was born with a port-wine stain birthmark on my face. It's one of those uncontrollable, character-building things that the Lord chose for me. It made childhood difficult--sometimes unbearable--but at the tender age of eleven, I knew deep, deep in my heart that there was purpose in my creation. I knew that God had a plan for me and for the way He had made me. Many, many, many days I have questioned that assurance I felt over 20 years ago. I have allowed myself to wonder if life might have been easier with a different face. Would my outlook be different? Would I have more friends? Would I have better friends? Would I be happier? I have also learned to keep my mind free from those thoughts. They are not productive and not of the Spirit.
When I met my husband, Charlie, God gave me the second greatest gift (next to my salvation in Christ). Even as I write this post, tears spring to my eyes when I think about the way he looks at me. With love and adoration. With respect and tenderness. He looks at me the way a Christ-like husband should--with the eyes of Christ. He knows I am far from perfect but he wants me just the way I am. Meeting and marrying Charlie gave me so much freedom in my heart. It allowed me to trust someone completely.
When Charlie and I learned that we were expecting our first daughter, a secret fear crept into my heart. I have always loved children but I also remembered how cruel and uncaring children can be. I had been the object of many school yard pranks and locker room jokes growing up. Would my own child someday turn into one of those cruel children, or even worse, would she someday resent me because of the way I look? After she was born, I was really too busy to dwell on these thoughts but they lingered in the back of my mind, always waiting to leap to center stage.
As Emma grew and began to develop, we realized quickly that she was a precocious child, quick to learn and eager to soak up all kinds of information. I began to have great conversations with her, even as a toddler. One night, a few months after her second birthday, we were sitting in her bedroom having one of those talks. I had been trying to impress on her the idea that God has a plan for everyone and specifically, He has a plan for her. Out of the blue she said, "Mommy, why is one side of your face light and the other side dark?" Startled, I remember carefully measuring my words and trying to control my fear. I said (my heart pounding like a drum), "Well, God makes everyone different. Some people have dark hair and some people have light hair. Some people have blue eyes like you and some have brown eyes like me. I don't know why God made Mommy's face like this but I know He has a plan." Emma was very quiet for a minute, I could tell she was thinking about it. Then, taking my face in her hands and looking right into my eyes she said, "Mommy, I know why He made you face this way. My favorite color is purple and He knew that I would fall in love with a mommy like that."
Now, I have loved the Lord for over half my life but I fell more deeply in love with the Lord and my little girl that night than I could ever have imagined. Thank you, Jesus, for your sweet, sweet salvation. Thank You for the daily blessings of my life here on earth and the wonderful promises of a future with You. Thank You for Emma. Amen.