Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Grace For My Four Year Old

"It isn't fair!" little Ruthie implored.
"What's not fair?" I replied.
"Olivia gets to have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and I don't want to eat Spanish rice!"
"Do you know why we are letting Olivia eat something different?"
"We want Olivia to enjoy sitting at the table with us as a family. And, we want her to learn good table manners and learn to eat bigger amounts of food."
"But it still isn't fair! She's getting what I want and it isn't fair!" And with that, Ruthie's eyes welled with tears and her lips began to quiver. In her little world, dinner had turned into a social injustice of sorts and she was getting the proverbial short end of the stick.

I could see things from her perspective. Here was her little, baby sister getting her way (again) and she was being forced to follow a different set of rules. A set of rules she didn't particularly like or agree with. But, they are rules she understands and is capable of following. As I sat on the couch with my pouting 4-year-old, trying to explain why we extend grace in various forms to each child, I had that funny experience we all have as believing parents. I could already hear that little whisper in my heart, "Come away with Me so we can talk about this. I have some things to show you about My grace."

After I settled Ruthie back at the table, I escaped to the desk and my Bible to listen more intently. I was drawn to the parable of the landowner and the vineyard (Matthew Chapter 20:1-16) who went looking for workers to work his land. He promised each of three groups of laborers a denarius for their work. The problem came when each group of workers was paid at the end of the day. Upon seeing their fellow workers--who had only worked an hour--receive a denarius, the first group of workers--who had worked all day--believed they would be paid more. But that was not the case. Each worker received equal pay. Equal pay for unequal work. brain was letting that one sink in. Then these words caught my eye:

"Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?" Matthew 20:15

Oooohhhh. That's such a great question! Am I envious of God's generosity with others? Am I jealous of the particular grace He washes others in because He doesn't bathe me in the same manner? I thought back to my conversation with Ruthie. I had explained to her that Olivia is only two and so we extend grace to her because she isn't able to follow as many rules or understand all of our meal time rules yet. I shared with her that when she was two, we also excused her from eating everything the rest of us ate at meal time and focused on making sure she could enjoy meal time and develop manners for meals. She smiled at that and then asked, "But, why do I have to follow different rules?" I told her that she was older and smarter and able to understand more rules so Daddy and I hold her accountable to different rules. I could tell she wasn't entirely thrilled with my answer or explanation, but she was no longer pouting. We prayed together and thanked God for the food He had provided and asked God to help Ruthie obey at the table. She hugged me and apologized and skipped back to the table.

Staring at the black and white of the Word, I started wondering if I've been pouting like my four-year-old. Do I run to God crying because I see Him being generous to someone else in an area I'd like to have more blessings in? I came up with a little list...well, at least the things I'm willing to admit:

Pregnancy. Some of my friends love being pregnant. They literally glow and are just happy being "with child." They don't swell or gain too much weight or get crabby or have backaches or sore feet or headaches. It's an enjoyable experience for them.
Finances. God is completely faithful to meet each and every need we have and even some of our wants, but we live prayercheck to prayercheck. It's hard to see others blessed with opportunities to purchase furniture, new cars, new clothes, and vacations.
Teaching Gifts. This is a struggle for me, especially as we home school. Some of the people I'm closest with (including my husband!) have amazing gifts of teaching and are able to really explain information to others. This is not one of my areas of strength.

There are other areas I struggle with, but these are ones I think God is pointing out right now. Just like Ruthie, instead of focusing on obeying the Lord and enjoying the tremendous grace He has poured out on me, I'm focusing on areas in which I think He has short-changed me. But He hasn't short-changed me at all! Just the opposite:

But You, O Lord are a God merciful and gracious,
Slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth.
Turn to me, and be gracious to me;
Oh grant Your strength to Your servant,
And save the son of Your handmaid.
Psalm 86:15-16

God is loving and just and kind and merciful and truthful. In my own human-ness, I don't see the big picture. I don't see why He extends grace to others and not to me in particular areas. And I don't need to.
What I do need to see is that He is my Father and that His love for me and ways for me are perfect. He offers grace to me in each breath He gifts to me.

Lord, God, give me the grace to live each moment of each day for You. Help me to walk in obedience to You. Give me strength and be gracious unto me. In Your Name, Amen.

Monday, February 25, 2008

More Than We Can Handle, Not He

I'm pregnant. I'm tired. I have all-day sickness.
I have the flu. I have small children. I have mountains of laundry.
I hurt my back. I can't stand up, sit down, or lie down. I'm hobbling like an old woman.

This isn't a pity party or a diatribe on the evils of illness and injury and physical inconvenience. Rather this is a reminder, a note to self for future reference and remembering...God most certainly does give us more than we can handle. Why? Because it forces a decision of the heart. Where do I flee when the weight of my choices, my actions, my environment, or even my frail faith are a mountain upon me; waves engulfing me and stealing my breath? Indeed, where do I turn? Do I turn inward? Do I turn to others? Both are poor choices for a multitude of reasons. We as believers in the Almighty power of Jesus Christ have no excuse to run anywhere but to the Source of life, the Mover of mountains, the Calmer of raging seas and gusting winds. Any other choice is a betrayal of the love He has born unto us. So where do I flee?

Psalm 121
I will lift my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
He will not allow your foot to slip,
He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel
Will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;
The Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun will not smite you by day,
Nor the moon by night.
The Lord will protect you from all evil;
He will keep your soul.
The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in
From this time forth and forever.

Make this the prayer of my heart, sweet Jesus. Amen.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

176, thump, thump

We had our first ultrasound today and, thankfully, all is well in watery womb-world. For the last week or so, I've been plagued (maybe attacked) with thoughts that perhaps something was wrong with this pregnancy, or that because it's been a little harder to get excited about child #4 (gulp. We're going to have 4, count them f-o-u-r children!), my lack of enthusiasm would affect the health of this child. Satan was whispering little lies in my ear...

Just exactly how are you going to take care of a newborn and three other children under the age of 7?
Do you really think you can afford another baby?
You are over 35. There could be something really, really functionally wrong with this child, you know.
If you think you're busy now, just wait until this Fall!
What will people think when they see you with a whole van load of children? What a sight that will be!
You should be more excited like you were in your first pregnancy. Maybe you don't deserve another baby.
That's how the enemy works. He uses just enough of the truth to make his argument believable, but leaves out the crucial truth God promises in His Word. He's selling hopelessness and despair, and sometimes (I'm embarrassed to admit how many times) I buy it. I start believing those arguments I hear in my head. They sound like good arguments, and when I'm operating in the flesh, they are the only arguments I hear.

This morning, I realized I could spend the day in fear of what might be, or I could ground myself in the love of what is. What is, is God loves me and cares for me and has chosen me as His own. Each of the lies being whispered to me have an answer...

Just exactly how are you going to take care of a newborn and three other children under the age of 7? Probably the same way I took care of each of the others. In prayer and in constant dependence on the Lord. I don't know how to do it now because I don't need to know how to do it. When this baby is born, I will learn like I have the last three times. It will be challenging, but not impossible. With God all things are possible. Matthew 19:26b

Do you really think you can afford another baby? Well, truthfully, no. I've never thought we could "afford" any of our babies. But all that we have is the Lord's and if He created this baby, then He has provided the resources for his or her life. I may not see those resources yet, but they are already there. He owns cattle on a thousand hill and He will take care of us. Psalm 50:10

You are over 35. There could be something really, really functionally wrong with this child, you know. Yes, I am aware of the statistics. I am aware that I am older (believe me I am aware!). But, Sarah was almost 100 when she conceived Isaac and God had a beautiful plan for his life. And, so what if this child has special needs? If the Lord chooses us to be parents to one of His children who needs special love and consideration, that is His choice and it is the BEST choice for us, not the worst. For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare, not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11

If you think you're busy now, wait until the Fall! Okay, this is a tough one because I am really busy and it's hard to think of being busier and existing on less sleep. But, we have another 6 1/2 months to think of ways to streamline our home and teach our older kids to take on more responsibilities. Instead of thinking of this as a negative, this can be a really positive opportunity for our family to grow. It's also a wonderful lesson in servant hood for our children, as they learn what it means to sacrifice for each other in time, possessions and acts of service. Love one another just as I have loved you. John 13:34

What will people think when they see you with a whole van load of children? What a sight that will be?! Yes, what a sight! The sight of four well kept, well loved, mannerly, clean, appropriately dressed, well fed, behaving children would be a sight in today's society! I hope that when others see our family, they will know that there is something different, something remarkable, something Christ-like about our family and they would be attracted to that something. And you shall be my witnesses...even to the remotest parts of the world. Acts 1:8

You should be more excited like you were in your first pregnancy. Maybe you don't deserve another baby. It's true I'm not as excited about this pregnancy. Let's face it...the mystery is gone. I know how these nine months play out and I'm not all that excited about gaining weight, losing energy and all the other discomforts of pregnancy. Who get excited about that? But it's part of living in a fallen world and I can't change God's plan for pregnancy or childbirth. What I can change is my attitude. Instead of cursing each and every ache and pain and pound, I can thank God for the reason I'm experiencing them. And as for deserving a baby...if I ever develop an attitude of entitlement with my children, I have great, great problems in my relationship with the Lord! I don't deserve anything the Lord has given to me in this life, but I am grateful for every good thing He has blessed me with. Every good and perfect gift comes from above. James 1:17

The key to combating the lies of the enemy is knowing the Truth of the Word. If you, tonight, are reading this and are struggling with half-truths whispered in your ears and to your heart, get into the Word. Combat the enemy with Truth. There is great power in the Word of God. Take the lies and confront them with the Truth. It's uplifting and heart-changing, and balm for our souls.

Thank You, Jesus, for the Word. For the Truth that is You. For the way You provide to combat the lies of our enemy. Thank You for the peace that comes with the Truth. Thank You for heartbeats and new life and for being Emmanuel to me today. Thank You for being with Your children in ultrasounds and x-ray rooms and chemotherapy treatment centers and operating rooms. With us in palaces and mud huts and mortgaged homes and trailers. With us in sickness and health in wealth and poverty and happy days and days of mourning. With us, for us, before us, behind us...God with us. In Your Name, Amen

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Top Ten Tuesdays--Hints About My Recent Absence From Blog Land

Once again, thanks to Ann for hosting Top Ten Tuesdays!

You may (or may not) have noticed my absence from this place as of late. I'm giving you my top ten hints as to the reason for my absence. I wish I were more creative, but I think you will all guess within the first couple of hints!

10. I've been crazy tired, needing to got to bed early (like 8:30 PM early!) and take a nap in the afternoon.
9. I've had a standing date with Mr. Toilet every morning.
8. None of my pants fit anymore.
7. I'm moody.
6. I cry over spilled milk, unmade beds, lost shoes, and , apparently, anything on TV about kids thanking their moms for anything at all.
5. Did I mention moody?
4. My hair has grown an inch in the past month, where it usually grows an inch every three months.
3. We're not making any plans after Labor Day of this year.
2. Charlie has made about a dozen special trips to the store for foods that I've been craving.
1. I tinkled on a plastic stick several weeks ago and the result made me laugh, cry and hyper-ventilate all at the same time!

Okay, how many hints did you have to read before you figured it out? Charlie and I are expecting another little blessing this September. It came as a complete and total shock to us...I'll have to post the story later, when I have a bit more energy. For now, I'll just say that although I'm not feeling physically superb, I am thanking God for the reason I feel so puny. It is a blessing to be used by the Lord in this way and to learn to lean on Him even more.

Lord, Thank You for this new life. And thank You for carrying me through these last few weeks. Help me to rest in You and in Your plan for this season of my life. Thank You for suprises and for not alway letting me in on Your plans. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Check Out This Important Mission!

Shannon from Rocks In My Dryer is one of several bloggers currently visiting projects supported by Compassion International in Uganda. Read more about this project here and pray about supporting a Compassion child.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Top Ten Tuesdays--For Ann

Okay. It's not Tuesday, it's Saturday, but I missed this past week and after reading my good friend Ann's most recent post, I had to make a list for her--and myself! I turned 35 in December, so I'm officially halfway to 70. Leading up to my birthday, that seemed like serious business and cause for reflection. I have noticed a few more aches and pains in the last couple years. I covered up some grey hairs this Fall. I get an occasional hot flash. It's easier to gain weight and harder (much harder!) to lose it. I could be (and have been) pessimistic about aging. At first glance, it seems like all the exciting events are over and all I have to look forward to is watching my children grow up, wrinkles, more grey hair, and my inevitable demise. But, God is so good and has been gently reminding me that He isn't even close to finished with me yet. In fact, it is entirely likely that some of the best moments of my life are still ahead. So, here is my top ten list of things to be thankful for as I age or things to look forward to as I get older:

10. No more dating, finding my mate, feeling insecure about whether someone else can love me and the like. I'm married to my best friend who accepts me as I am and allows me room to grow into the person God has designed. We complement each other perfectly, though we have lots of room for improvement. I'm looking forward to God continuing to knit us together.
9. Instead of thousands of doors to choose from, there are more limited choices for my future, which is a comfort. Looking back, I can clearly see how God has guided me to this place and that He indeed has a purpose for my life. I can see how my experiences of my youth and young adulthood were the foundation for who I am as a wife, mother and child of God. Though I'm sure there will still be doors to choose from, I know from experience that God will clearly guide me through the right ones.
8. Security. Not in things or jobs or wealth or plans or my own efforts, but security in who I am in Christ. Walking with the Lord for 18 years affords me the opportunity to look back and see how God has changed me to reflect Him better. It's exciting to know that He has indeed made me a new creature and that in 18 more years, I will be changed even more. I love that He is never finished with us!
7. The older I get, the less control I feel like I need to maintain over my own life. The more I experience a love relationship with God and see Him meeting my needs, taking care of me, the more I loosen my grip on my life. I'm more willing to let go and fall back into His loving care and plan for me. I'm still growing in this area, but it's great to see some progress!
6. "Be not conformed to this world..." There is so much freedom in getting older with the Lord! It becomes easier and easier to be in the world, but not of the world. I worry less about being trendy, fashionable, fitting in with everyone else, being liked or popular. Though I don't want to stick out awkwardly or be a stumbling block for others, I'm okay with standing my ground on issues that are important to me or are issues of obedience to the Lord. Again, I'm still growing here, but I see some improvements in the last few years.
5. Personally, I love being a slightly older mom. I lived a great life as a young, single 20-something and I think because I was able to do that, I feel less need to "accomplish" things now. Not that I don't have dreams or things I would like to do, but this time in my life has been set aside for parenting. I don't feel torn between fulfilling my own desires and helping my kids achieve theirs. And, I know there will be many years to pursue my own dreams after my children are gone and being a parent will probably help me achieve my goals later in life.
4. I'm beginning to have the opportunity to counsel other, younger women as they begin married life or parenthood. I've noticed a subtle change at church as I've moved from the "younger women" to the "older women" described in Titus 2. Though I don't feel that I have much to offer in the way of experience, I do realize that 35 isn't 25 and with my age comes automatic experience. I don't know that I am wise, but I can share the many ways that God has worked in my own heart. I feel like I'm returning a blessing that many other women showered upon me as a younger woman.
3. Grandchildren. Though it is a LONG way off, I can only imagine the joy of knowing my children's children. All the fun of children without the burden of complete responsibility! And, to see my kids developing that love relationship with their own children...well, what could be better?!?!
2. I know who my friends are. When I was younger, everyone (myself included) was so busy trying to build a career, meet a mate, fit into the crowd. We were all jostling around, vying for the best position on the social ladder. Good friends, trustworthy friends were few and far between. Now that I'm older, I know who my true, God-given friends are. Some live a few blocks away, others thousands of miles. But, they all have the same thing in common: they encourage me in the Lord. I don't have to impress them or compare myself to them. They just care about me for who I am. Age gives me the ability to see who my real friends are.
1. (My favorite!) Heaven. On days when I can't think of any reason to be glad that I'm getting older with every breath, the Lord reminds me that there is a reward waiting for me at His place. Each year, month, week, day, moment, breath brings me one step closed to that eternal reward. And, if I have to leave this life with grey hair, arthritis, cancer, Alzheimer's, high blood pressure, diabetes, wrinkles, saggy skin, weak eyes, and/or deafness--in an instant, I will be gifted with a new body, one outfitted to reflect His glory. I think the contrast alone is reason enough to rejoice in our present sufferings!

So, that's my list at age 35. I can't wait to see what makes the list at age 45!

Friday, February 1, 2008

The Beautiful Home

Our pastor's father passed away a few days ago, so tonight we went to the funeral home to pay our respects. We didn't really want to take the girls with us, but couldn't find a sitter and didn't want to let that get in the way of showing our love to our beloved pastoral family. As we were getting the girls out of the van, Ruthie said, "Are we at the 'beautiful home'?" I said, "You mean the 'funeral home'?" "No, beautiful!" she answered, "You said Pastor Dave's daddy knows Jesus, so it's beautiful 'cause now he's in heaven!"

I love my kids.

A Question Open For Discussion...

I've been reading some devotions on a new site and recently noticed that the authors had highlighted a woman's comments from a previous post and invited others to weigh in on said comments. This woman's comments were bent towards the negative and somewhat biblically unsound. It was obvious from her comments that she has had some unpleasant experiences with other believers and is not completely grounded in the Word.
While I understood the reason those comments were called into question, I questioned the choice to draw attention to them. After a "spirited" debate amongst several commenters, the authors posted a statement that they would be highlighting comments from time to time to point out spiritual untruths or spur discussion.
Here's my question to you, faithful (few) readers: What do you think about this sort of thing? How would you handle this sort of thing on your own blog? Would you draw attention to biblical untruth in a commentor on your blog or would you leave it alone? Delete the comment? Confront the individual? I invite you comments here...I'll tell you what I did in a future post.