The Forgotten Art Of Christianity

 

I lived two glorious years in Louisville, Kentucky when Lance was in seminary.  I use glorious lightly.  Okay, sarcastically.  There were high moments and irreplaceable people, but my marriage, health, and finances were otherwise poo-poo.  Those years were struggling years and, for a season, miserable at times.  It was when my health went south with chronic migraines that were initially hard to even diagnose, much less treat,  that I learned that there is an attribute that many Christians are lacking and that is bearing each others burdens.

Suffering and enduring with someone else is a very honorable characteristic but very rarely do you think of someone, “Hey, they sure are long-suffering today.”  Fruits of the spirit get thrown out in compliments often, but I don’t know if I’ve ever heard of a Christian being referred to as someone who bears other’s burdens well.

When I first got “sick” with migraines, I had to quit my job.  I couldn’t drive a car for a while because of the dizziness and there were weeks where I didn’t even go outside. It was incredibly depressing and suffocating. I had migraines daily for 8 weeks and then battled them on and off with good and bad days for the whole first year.  When it began I received cards here and there, visits, prayers, and many “How are yous”.  Then as time progressed but what was going on with me didn’t, people sort of dropped off in their presence with me.  I know that people still loved me…still cared, and to be fair, they probably didn’t know what to do anymore.  Ultimately, I don’t think people knew how bear one another’s burdens for a season.  That isn’t a judgement, but rather something most of us are lacking, including me.  Knowing how to be present for the long haul in someone’s strife is difficult.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to walk with someone through something enduring, you will.  It’s coming.  It is so simple to bring a meal to a friend when they have a baby or to clean a friend’s house when their parent passes.  Not only is it simple, it’s almost innate to do those things for people we love.  We WANT to be there for our friends and loved ones.  It’s natural.  However, what is not inherently in our nature, if left to ourselves, is enduring and bearing suffering with one another. Why?  Because immediate sympathy is a fast love response, but long suffering requires discipline.  When all of the emotions of sadness and shock of the initial onset of a burden wears off in to weeks, months and so on, then you aren’t acting on raw love and emotion.  It becomes inconvenient.  It can become a burden on your own time and schedule. It starts taking from YOU.  You can even start to become frustrated with the person who is struggling.

“Take my advice!”

“We’ve had this conversation a million times.”

“Get over it!”

“Quit complaining!”

“They bring me down and it’s so depressing talking to them.”

“You chose to marry them!”

“Make better choices!”

“Go get help!”

“Lots of people go through this sooooo….”

Nothing will show you how highly you view yourself or how much of a servant you are quite like walking alongside of someone through something ugly.

A woman in your church becomes suddenly widowed.  Everyone organizes a meal delivery schedule for the first few weeks.  People help her around the house or with her kids.  People constantly express concern for her and her family. But then, life goes on.  Well…your life goes on.

After all, what are you supposed to do?  You brought meals on and off for threes weeks and that is so hard on your time and maybe finances.  What are you supposed to do?  Just bring meals open-endedly?

Maybe.

If that’s what it takes.  Maybe if that what she needs.  Three weeks is comforting.  Three weeks is helpful.  Three weeks is supportive, but it’s not enduring.  It would be great if no burden we bore outlasted a few weeks of meals and a handful of calls and prayers, but that’s not real life.  Furthermore, that isn’t being the church if we can’t go beyond that.

Life is messy.  We all ebb and flow between good seasons and hard times and for us all, we all have a few issues we seem to battle for a lifetime:  a difficult marriage, illness, finances, un-forgiveness, anxiety, family relationships, infertility, anger and loneliness.

We will all survive deaths of loved ones and unexpected-ed personal tragedies:  your husband loses his job and you lose everything, miscarriages, diagnosis’s, accidents, etc.   With a world like this, the problem is, we are all at some point going to be required to endure and not just for ourselves, but to help others endure also.  If you are honest with yourself, you may have very well floundered in bearing a burden with someone long term.  You may not even have realized that you missed the opportunity.

Suffering, struggle and strife is not fun to be a part of in any way, regardless of whether it’s your suffering or someone else’s, but bearing with each other is an important sanctifying experience for both parties.

A sweet mother who recently passed away of cancer wrote about it like this:

In our efforts to terminate suffering, too often we can be forced to terminate the sufferer when were meant to liberate the aloneness of the sufferer, by choosing to participate in the suffering….choosing to stand with the suffering, stay with the suffering, let the suffering be shaped into a meaning that transcends the suffering.   The staggering truth is:  Suffering is never a meaningless waste of your life, but a meaningful way through your life.

Suffering is a call to come, to show up, to be there.  Suffering can be a gift because it’s a call for presence; it’s a call for us to be present.

If suffering is about bearing under, suffering is a call for us all to be a community to stand together and carrying the weight of bearing under, only to find that we are all being carried by a Greater Love.

Struggling and suffering alongside of each other is about being like Jesus.  It should be the mark of the church which means, bearing burdens isn’t just something for you and your best friend.  It’s for people you share church with.  Not often do other’s problems effect us and rarely do we take them on as our own and let them “inconvenience” our lives, but bearing isn’t easy, it isn’t quick, but it’s required of us and needed from us.  Disciplines require Christ reliance and never come easy, but they deliver bountifully.  As a believer, you are equipped to navigate through carrying each other burdens.  Messiness is guaranteed but you are called to and one day, you will need someone to help carry yours.

So in the end, the question is not if you need to bear a burden.  The question is, will you recognize when it’s needed, how will you bear it, and will you have the faithful discipline to endure.

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galations 6:2″

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Photo Credit: Joel Ham Photography

A Year After Forever: The Anniversary of My Child’s Diagnosis With Type One Diabetes

 

This very hour a year ago I was 36 weeks pregnant and getting ready to go in for a last minute doctor’s appointment. Little did we know, 15 minutes after seeing the doctor, we would leave in a head spin, on our way to Nashville with a type 1 diabetic child.  I didn’t know anything really about diabetes in that moment other than I knew I didn’t want her to have it.  I knew it was forever and little more about what that would mean for our day-to-day life with a newly turned four year old and type one.  In hindsight, I’m so glad I didn’t.  It wasn’t until an hour or so later, standing in a Hobby Lobby parking lot that I realized via a call from my pediatrician that this new life change would mean daily shots for my child.  I remember I just cried with a broken heart.

Today it has been a year since all of our lives changed, and more importantly, Eden’s life changed.  We had a baby two weeks after her diagnosis and it’s been a whirlwind.  To say it’s been the fastest year of my life is an understatement.  To say this has been the hardest year of my parenting life, couldn’t be more accurate.

Most days, diabetes is just a part of our day like brushing teething and getting dressed.  It’s always a thought, always taken into account.  Not even so much as a vitamin enters my child’s mouth without having to account for the carbs in each so that I can make sure she gets enough insulin to cover each bite.  It is an all day long process and while that sounds exhausting, and it can be, most days, it’s just our day.  Blood sugar checks and shots which were SO dreaded and difficult each meal in the beginning, we can give her in her sleep now.  When meeting with her school nurse last week, I told her to have no worries on the blood sugar checks because she would let anyone, including the school mascot, do that for her.  Often times when I come up to her to hand her something or to talk to her, she instinctually hands me a finger.  It’s funny that it’s so commonplace and also, if I’m honest, breaks my heart a little when I let the implications of that sink in.

As common as a type one life has become, there are moments where the gravity of it hits you:  an unexpected low number that makes your heart stop and the little shot dotted bottom of a four year old that has gone through a lot. When I rub her sweet skin and my hands pass over the marks of shots left behind, as a mom, a tiny piece of my heart mourns a little.

It’s taken me by surprise that this first anniversary has been so emotional for me.  I started having short moments of tears starting a few months ago.  I’ve tried to understand why the anniversary would move me like this because after all, she is perfectly fine and healthy and life has continued on.  I have figured out now that it’s because from the second she was diagnosed, I haven’t really had time to pause.  You don’t have time to.  It goes diagnosis, immediate education, immediately giving shots and care, and day after day you learn and go…learn and go.  No to mention, having a baby who has been a 24/7 baby two weeks after she was diagnosed has not helped me to catch my breath.

So now, that’s what I’m doing at this one year anniversary.  Anniversaries make you pause and reflect and in that, I’ve had a delayed emotional let down of all of the struggle I haven’t had time to feel.  In stopping, I’ve felt how much I’ve been just trying to keep my head above water for a year.  There is also intermingled a sense of accomplishment that one of the hardest years of type one is behind us.  By the grace of God, we’ve done it.  It’s a slew of emotions that sitting here in the same hour she was diagnosed a year ago has allowed me to soak in.  I’m a having a sigh.  Not fully a sigh of relief but equally a sigh of, take it all in.  It’s been a hard year.  And I can feel that.  Fully.

Still, I’m thankful.  Thankful for how it all unfolded.  Thankful that it could have been worse or been a worse diagnosis.  Thankful that it’s manageable and that insulin has been around since the 20’s making it possible for children like mine to live not just what would have maybe been a week past full onset, but a whole life.  They are so close to a cure that I am hopeful in her lifetime, that she will know what it was like to live like she did the first three years of her life.

Eden has to have a minimum of 4 shots a day:  a long acting morning insulin, breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Then she needs shots for other things she may want to eat from everyday snacks to special occasions.  We check her blood sugar 6-8 times per day and she has tiny little dot scabs on her finger tips that look like freckles if you look close enough.  My newly turned five year old is sitting watching Sophia the First right now over 1, 460 shots and 2,880 blood sugar checks later.  She’s brave.  She’s strong.  She’s un-phased.  She’s ours.  And I’m just so thankful that she’s here and happy.  We have survived.  She has.

God does, in fact, give us more than we can handle and in that, shows us that He is enough to carry us through rather than letting us believe we are enough.  We aren’t.  We haven’t been.  But He was there in the weeks before we knew what was brewing and when we didn’t even know she needed watching through the night, He did and was there.  He will continue to be and I will have to continually rest in that and teach her the same as she wrestle with this as she ages.  It’s one of the great mysteries of God how He can intricately weave people, purposes, and trials for His people together.  I’m not sure what the next year or years will look like but I know I will have many times were I have to pause like I have done today.  Thankfully, I know that He goes before me and loves my child more than me so come what may, I can know every joy and heartache is accounted for.  We have lived that this year as a family of five.  And when we are overwhelmed and He’s given us too much, thankfully, He’s always enough.  Come what may….

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Response To Reader’s Question About Christians And Plastic Surgery

Of all of the posts that I’ve written, several continually get steady traffic.  One of those posts is one I wrote about whether or not it’s okay for a Christian woman to have plastic surgery.  A reader who I do not know, read that post over a year and a half ago and wrote me this letter last week.  Her name has been removed and this is shared with her permission:

Hello! I read your blog because from about a year and a half ago regarding Christian women and plastic surgery. I really would like a Christian women’s perspective on the personal issue that I am dealing with.

When I was 21, before my wedding I got my lipo on my lower body. I wanted to look perfect on my wedding day and I had been working out and dieting and was not able to get rid of the love handles, my large bottom and big thighs. I was truly convinced at that point that the only thing I could do was have some type of surgery because my body shape is genetic.  I had the surgery and it was probably the worst mistake I’ve ever made in my life because the surgeon botched me.

It is hard to explain without actually showing a picture, but the surgeon left me with many deformities and refused to even attempt to fix them.. I am about to be three years post op and I still feel completely awful about myself. I honestly can’t even wear pants without the deformities on my butt showing. I have big creases underneath my bottom or a “double gluteal fold” that is even noticeable in pants, leggings etc.
> I have met with a few different surgeons to see if they can fix this doctor’s mistake. I have found one that believes he can help. I have been back-and-forth for two or three months about it because I am so scared to schedule this appointment. I have not gotten any confirmation from the Lord. I’m so scared that I’m sinning and God will punish me for making the wrong choice. I just want to be able to look normal again. I just want to have a normal butt. I’m so scared with the way the last surgery went, that I will look worse. I can’t ignore this the rest of my life though when it affects how I look even in clothing.

Would it be vain of me to get surgery? Do you think God would punish me for it? I don’t want to be my own idol and I don’t want to do something that displeases the Lord, but He must see how miserable I have been for the last three years every time I go to put on any sort of outfit or see myself in the mirror….I just want to cry. I don’t even want my own husband to see me naked even though he has no complaints about how I look.

Your blog really helped me in my understanding that christian women getting plastic surgery is not a black-and-white issue. But I wanted to tell you my personal story and see what your opinion was if you had time to give it.  Advice would be greatly appreciated because I’m too scared to go to any Christian woman in my life in fear of judgment.

Thank you.

I want to start by highlighting the fact that you mentioned my older post said that this is not a black and white issue.  Because of that, I can’t with all authority say either way what is the best choice for you, or even what is sin for you.  This, to me, is not a “Yes, it’s a sin” “No, it is not a sin” issue.

As I said in my earlier article, women, including Christian women that may throw plastic surgery and the heart that goes with it under the bus as vanity, are the same women that wear make-up for confidence, tan, color their hair, got braces for perfectly straight teeth, wear body shapers, and so on.  None of those things are necessity and in many ways, these things can be socially acceptable vanities.  I say CAN be because not every woman in their heart is doing those things to be seen as beautiful to the world and not every woman is basing their beauty, confidence, self-worth, etc. in wearing make-up and so on. I do believe in absolute sins, however,  vanity is not always vanity in every example for every woman.

Practically speaking, this surgery may not fix the issue.  It could make it worse.  It could stay the same.  Like you said in your letter, it is a risk you assume.  We know that it will not 100 percent fix your body issues so regardless, I think you are going to have to battle to find your contentment in Christ and not your body.  We all have to do this, sometimes daily.  Circumstances shift, including physical circumstances, and so too will your emotions with every change if your ultimate identity is not found in Him.  Only God is constant.  I think it’s clear that you want your full confidence in Him and not in your physical appearance and that indicates the beautiful heart that you have already.

No matter what you decide to do, ultimately I think you will have to find your satisfaction in Him.  Your identity has to settle in Christ and not your body.  If you are truly in that place, a good outcome from the surgery, no surgery at all, or another botched surgery , you can be content. I don’t say that lightly because I know it is just not that simple.  Contentment is something every person struggles with and then re-struggles with through many seasons of life.  Saying “just find your contentment in Him” is like saying, “Snap your fingers and just have some faith.”  It is the answer, but it is a long process and I acknowledge and understand that firsthand.

Another comment you made is that you don’t want to be punished by God for making a sinful choice.  Your punishment for EVERY sin, ones in the past and ones you will make in the future, was taken on the cross. Punishment resolved. There are consequences to sinful choices, but I don’t see God as a punish-er. He disciplines in love, but doesn’t set out to punish you for every sin.  There is always grace. Of course, I do believe we need to always seek obedience, which I believe you are searching to understand what that looks like in this situation.

My personal opinion of what I would tell you to do right now is wait. That is my cut and dry answer.  I can’t tell you if the surgery is wrong or right, but I feel confident to say that your next move should be to wait until you are sure.  It’s clear you don’t have peace either way and since I believe this issue of what is right or wrong is found in the desire and intentions of your heart and NOT in the act of the surgery, only you can know where you stand in your heart.  I think your struggle indicates that you might be in between wanting the surgery but personally feeling or fearing that it’s wrong.  In these situations, an important scripture to call to mind is below and I would wrestle with this one because it will challenge your heart directly:

“So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”  James 4:17

With this scripture, a man is being convicted of something and acts against his convictions.  For one person in your situation, they may see this surgery as merely reconstructive like that of any other deformity whether brought on by themselves or by something out of their control: wreck, birth, etc.  They may firmly stand in their identity in Christ and do not view the surgery as vanity nor is vanity in their heart.  For another person, they may depend on this surgery more than Christ for self-worth.  They may want this surgery to be desired or desirable or to be more beautiful than other women. They may be seeking perfection. Both women want the same surgery, but the heart and the conscious is different between the two and that is what makes the decisive difference.

R.C. Sproul says it like this:

“The sin may not be located in what we do but rather in the fact that we commit an act we believe to be evil. Here the biblical principle of Romans 14:23 comes into play: “Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” For example, if a person is taught and comes to believe that wearing lipstick is a sin and then wears lipstick, that person is sinning. The sin resides not in the lipstick but in the intent to act against what one believes to be the command of God.”

It is for this reason, I say do or do not have the surgery but wait until you have a clear conscious on what you believe is true, based on scripture and what is revealed in your heart during that struggle.  I would love to provide you with a biblical yes or no to your question, but your answer from God on this may lie in your convictions or maybe it lies in this journey you are on because He has a greater lesson in store for you and your heart.  At the core of this for you, maybe it is vanity and maybe, it’s not.  I say wrestle.  I say wait until it isn’t wrestling.

Prayerfully ask for God to mold your desires and conform them to His.  He will.  Thank you so much for trusting me enough to ask for my perspective and I hope it was helpful to you in some way.  We will talk more privately!

 

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** To everyone else who reads this response, please remember in your comments that you are responding to a real person in the midst of a struggle and deliver your opinion with love, if you choose to comment. The reader will be reading this post. **

**Also, if you or anyone you know has a question or situation needing advice, I love answering these types of questions! Ask on, crony.  Ask on.**

How To Talk In Church

 

As a pastor’s wife, I have a front row seat to a crazy phenomenon.  I sit in our pews in awe like some sort of religious natural geographic behaviorist, charting the habits of Christians at the microphone.  You know what I’m talking about. Everybody is from the year 2015 until they get up to pray and then BOOM, bible character. Timmy Toppins’ speech turns from a Kentuckian to a Corinthian. “I trust the Lord has kept His countenance upon us since we last gathered…” Tommy is going crazy.  Tommy doesn’t know what countenance means.  I start checking my feet for ancient leather sandals and looking over my back for a burning bush because something special is going on here.

I start clapping my hands in front of my face to make sure I’m awake and that this is real life. Is that Tommy Toppins up there?  The same guy that just ten seconds before he went up to pray fluffed his hair, made a Beyonce joke and said, ” I woke up like dis’.” Is this the future? Wait…I mean the past? Every Sunday it’s like my own personal journey through the holy lands during olden times.  At least throw an “um” or hipster word in there so I don’t become completely disoriented.

Yep, everyone LOVES talking like bible characters. This has even permeated getting a letter to support someone’s mission trip that begins, “Greetings in the Lord Jesus Christ.” What happened to “hello”?  What in the Thessalonian church is going on here? I can give you fifty dollars towards your trip, bro.   I don’t have to believe Paul himself wrote me that letter to give a donation.  You’re still going to Puerto Rico. (points like Oprah) You’re going! You’re going!  The whole youth group goes to Puerto Ricooooooo!!!!!!

From the pulpit, to letters, to just the other day my husband text me and said, “Can I go out to eat with some brothers one night this week?”

I replied, “Friends, Barnabas of Galilee, friends.”

See Barnabas didn’t even live in Galilee, but when you are trying to wake someone up out of talking like bible characters, you have to say something not biblically sound to really snap them out it. Jesus fed the five thousand crabs and cheese…anything.

This is serious, y’all.  Contagious even.  If you are asked to pray for your small group and find yourself busting out material from every John Piper sermon you have ever heard, it’s just the beginning. You are on your way to being a part-time bible character.   If this post made no sense to you and didn’t make you laugh, oh brother.  If you thought that “brother” just meant like Christian brother, then you are experiencing the epidemic firsthand.  Let me tell it to you in a way you will understand, “Doth not looketh good for you, Christopher of Bethlehem.”  Go rest ye merry gentlemen and take a load off until next Sunday. Please no one ask Christopher to publicly pray for at least 2 weeks.  Doctor’s orders.  There’s still time.

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Photo Credit:  Joel Ham Photography

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Dear Defeated Mom & Your Misconception About Discipline

 

Dear Defeated Mom,

If you spank or time-out your kids one more time this week, you might go crazy.  You have followed through and stayed the course through private and public fits, blatant disrespect, the food thrown on the floor on purpose, and the unrelenting sound of hearing your children squabble over the Frozen dolls.  You sit down in the pajamas you should have taken off ten hours ago and wonder, what is going wrong?  How did it come to this and where on earth did it come from?  Your kids are acting in ways you swore pre-kids your kids never would.  It must be you…your lack of parenting skills, a result of  you breaking down and yelling, or because you just can’t figure out the right way to get your message across.  Exhuasted at the end of the day, you lay down and face the facts that you are a bad mom and you have failed your children somehow.  Good kids with good mothers just don’t act this way.

But you are wrong.

Some of the most difficult kids are being raised by some of the best parents.  It is a lie to believe that perfect discipline creates perfect children.  I don’t know what belief system you subscribe to but in my book, we are ALL sinners, defiant children and impatient mothers alike.  You cannot spank a child’s temperament out of them.  You can’t yell or even very patiently strip a child of their sin nature to simply defy you.  Disobedience is in our bones. ALL of our bones.  God changes hearts, not the flawless consistency of one’s parenting abilities.  He uses us to mold our children and to teach them to obey and we should do that daily.  However, the belief that if you could just get your act together enough….just pull yourself up from your bootstraps enough on those knock down drag out days, that you could rid your child of their flaws and imperfections, it’s a lie that leaves you defeated and being certain you, mom, are both the problem and the solution.  Ultimately, you are neither.

I know what it’s like to do everything you know to do for days that turn in to weeks and months with little to no fruit. I use to help parents with their children’s behavior issues FOR A LIVING.  I know “what to do”.  But in my pursuit of trying to mold my strong willed child and my toddler rounding the terrible threes bend, I have learned that I have lied to myself, just like you and a million other moms have too.

I know moms who do everything they can and their child still hits at daycare.  I know mothers who have cried and worried about what their children will say in front of other parents, even though they model patience and kind words at home.  And these moms?  Don’t blame them.  Don’t pass judgement.  They keep plowing through in love, discipline, and consistency.  If you do blame them, you have also bought the lie that you can cure humanity with impeccable parenting. Among other things, that is purely un-biblical. It’s hard for me to believe that someone can be a parent and believe that a mother or father isn’t doing something “correct” enough if their kid screams for a sucker in the checkout line one afternoon.

Like all lies, they lead you down a path of second guessing, hurt, confusion, and discouragement.  You, defeated mom, are not a bad mother when you break, and your children won’t go on to be serial killers because they told you they hated you when you turned off their favorite t.v. show.  You have to understand Who brings about the ultimate change and victory in you both.  As one pastor said, “No one has ever been scolded out of sin.”  You can love them, teach them even when they seem unteachable for months, but you can not scold, spank, ground, or sit a child in the corner enough to make them NOT sinners.  You can’t say enough bedtime prayers or read enough bible stories to make them not be sinners. You can guide them with your discipline.  You can teach them the value of respect and obedience and what consequences come from rebelling against your rules and God’s.  Your parenting can lead them into change and into the right direction but you can’t finish the deal.  The fact that they are sinners and that your parenting isn’t enough to save them from that will show through on a regular basis.  It is not all about what you are or aren’t doing.

So, weary mother, this too shall pass and on many days, not soon enough it feels.  You ache to see your kids be shaped by your labors to make them listeners and respectful little people.  But when you don’t see transformation and the fruit trees are bare for seasons on end, remember that this is all a journey with failing parents and stumbling children. God never intended for you to be responsible for their full heart and character.  God changes the heart, we set the stage.

You are a good mom and good mothers feel like they are failing only because good moms are striving. If you aren’t striving, there is nothing to fail at. Your difficult mothering days that leave you broken and despairing aren’t because you are lacking the right techniques. Don’t believe the lie.  God equipped you for your children and His plan for each of you includes you both being sinners and both fumbling the ball.  He will redeem the heart of your child, just like He did yours.  Put the burden of shaping them on His shoulders and not on disciplining out of them what only God can truly transform.  Let your discipline point them to Him and let Him do the redeeming.

Love,

A Mother Just Like You

 

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Photo Credit:  Shelly Griffin Photography

Near Miss: Life Through Anxious Eyes

 

When I sit and think of my life and how things have panned out, I get a sense of relief…a feeling that I have escaped some awful things in life.  It makes me feel an equal amount of blessed and anxious.  I know, I know…weird combo.  I try to keep even my emotions spicy.

The surgery for infertility that came back with a treatable option, oh my gosh, what if they couldn’t have cured it?

The wreck my dad and I saw that we missed by literal minutes.  What if we didn’t pull off to grab chips at the gas station?  That could have been us.

That guy I dated when I was younger? What if I had been an adult and married him instead?  What would my life have been like?

When money wasn’t rolling in that month, what would we have done if family didn’t spot us some cash?  What if we had different families in different financial situations?  It’s so scary to think what would have happened to us.

What if I didn’t go in my daughter’s room and check her blood sugar that night when she was low?  The thought and the weight of possibilities in life can sometimes make me sick to my stomach.

As I look over everything that has happened in my 32 years, I feel like I’ve scraped through some scenarios of life by the skin of my teeth. Situations that are now resolved seem to look like a bunch of near misses.  I can catch myself in an anxious wave of not only the what ifs and questions of what lies ahead, but also in a weird reverse anxiety of what if it didn’t go that way for me?  The “can you imagines” give me a post anxiety that makes me feel like I almost didn’t make it at times.

But, all anxious thoughts have to be countered with truth.  Why?  Because all anxiety starts with a nugget of truth but then becomes so exaggerated that it is no longer rational.  Reason, rationale, and truth center the over embellished anxious thought and brings you back down to objectivity.

The nugget of truth is that I’ve been in some tight spots.  Over dramatized by anxiety, I start to feel like I have barely made it and a lot of bad things could have happened to me if life had swung other directions. However, the reality to ground those thoughts, is really quite wonderful.

While I feel like my life has been a series of triumphs and terrible “almosts”, really neither is true.  My life has been sovereignly orchestrated in both the safe and the scary by an almighty God.  My life is and was a series of “on purpose” not “almost didn’t”.

When Lance and I were broke in seminary and I was chronically sick with migraines and lost my job and insurance, I don’t have to wonder what I would have done had a doctor not given me the box of free samples of the medicine I needed. I don’t have to wonder because he did. I didn’t narrowly miss the grace of having some relief.  God planned to care for me that way. I can wonder all I want about what could have been but our lives are not could have beens.  Our lives are the way there ARE.  There was no plan B.  God knew that He would provide for that situation in THAT way and while it was a mystery to me as to how things will turn out, He knew the answer and what was supposed to happen…did.  It wasn’t a near miss at all.  It was a intentional target hit of what He was doing in my life at the time.  No need to wipe a sweaty brow.

So, your good test results, the bank account that almost shattered, the relationship that ended, all of your what if something else would have happeneds or your what if I had done something differents, you can set them aside.  Your life both in the good and bad, blessings and burdens, and every scary situation, they wear never a near miss.  There is nothing arbitrary about  an attentive God’s care for your life.

You are being watched over in every joy and tragedy by an intentional God and you are not haphazardly floundering about your life’s circumstances. Not then. Not now. There will be no success and no failure apart from His presence. Your life is playing out as it is supposed to under the authority of someone who can shift it if need be and if He didn’t, then it is as it should have been intended for your good.  Nothing, nothing was a near miss.  He is acting out a plan for your life and today, just like ten years ago, He still has the whole world in His hands.

 

I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. Job 42:2

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. Matthew 10:29

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

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.  Proverbs 19:21

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

 

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Parenting: What You Can Expect

Every mom has some sort of fear for their kids.  Most moms fears center in some way around how their kids will turn out.  Will they be healthy? Will they be happy?  Will they marry a good person?  Will they have good friends?  Will my child be responsible, caring, wise? I’ve even wondered in a nervous moment if my kids will be good drivers.  I leave no anxious corner un-turned, even with they are toddlers.  I MUST worry about them driving on rainy or slick roads NOW!

There are many things a mom has cross her heart and mind in a day.  For me, one of my greatest concerns is whether or not my children will grow up to have a strong faith in God.  Just like we can’t guarantee that our kids will be generous because we were or responsible because we tried to instill that in them, faith is something you offer and practice but it’s not surety that your child will love God because you did.  In even the best of homes, your children are completely and utterly individuals of their own hearts and nature.  There are no certainties.  I guess that is what causes a mother to worry:  You don’t know that they will benefit from anything you’ve given them and on most days you wonder if you are giving them all the right things, examples or enough of the good you hope to see in them.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my children and the faith they will or won’t have someday.  Sure, right now they are pastor’s kids and love bible stories and VBS.  In the right home, Charles Manson could have enjoyed all of the same things at 4 years old.  I don’t believe that it means that they are set to go and won’t have seasons of struggle about faith because they sing praise and worship songs as little kids.  I wonder how I can cultivate in them a godly heart and there is this one thought that comes to mind:

You can’t expect more in them than they see in you.

Ouch.

That is sort of true across the board.  Angry parents can’t expect patient kids.  Deceitful parents can’t expect upfront children.  In the same way, parents who have a disconnect between saying they love God and showing their kids how to live in such a way in daily life, can’t expect children who read the bible, apply the bible to their life choices, go to church when they aren’t made to and children who know how loving God is displayed in their relationships and so on. You can want it. You can hope for it.  But you aren’t justified to expect it if you are a poor example of this because they wouldn’t be learning it from you.  We can’t blame children for not becoming more than what we offered.  As an adult, our childhood isn’t an excuse for what we choose to be but while they are young and while they are becoming young adults, you can expect much more.

Yes, children can become anything.  It’s common to have children that are complete opposites BECAUSE of their parents.  A child who hated their drinking father may never touch alcohol.  A child who had to tip toe around their parent’s tempers may be patient and understanding of their future children because they want more and better for their own.  Of course this happens.  I know in spite of anything I do wrong, my children may be better than me and my choices and I hope so.  Still, I’m convicted that while our kids can come out on the other side, I want my children to be inspired and led BY me.  I don’t want them to turn out to have anything noble IN SPITE of me.

I want my children to have a solid understanding of God’s word.  I want my children to use its truth as the thing by which they measure all of their choices.  I want them to pray.  I want them to read their bible.  I want them to have a relationship with God.  I want them involved in church.

When I compromise on a song they hear on the radio, realize that they don’t have opportunities to see me read my bible either because they are in bed or because I’m not, and when I don’t pray with them every night, I feel the burden of selling them a bag of watered down goods.  I want more for them than compromise and “in the middle” and sometimes, I get in a funk and realize, that is exactly what they are getting.  I’m not living what I hope they become and I can’t hope for better than what they are taught.  I want to spur them on to godliness, not be a stumbling block on them getting to the fullness of what a life like that looks like.

I’m not guilt tripping myself and I don’t need to be told that I really am a great mother and that they will turn out to be good children.  Sure, every mom needs encouragement but I’m okay with not hearing those things over these small confessions because it’s not the standard I want for myself and it’s not what I want for them. I should do better.  I want them to see set apart, not blurred lines.  I’m okay with knowing that kids will rise to where a bar is set and that I’m setting the bar.  If I want them to be crazy in love with God, they need to see it bleed from me in every day….even the “it’s raining and cold outside and I’m stuck at home and will run away if anyone else cries” days.  That wasn’t a random example. That was yesterday for me. Cheers to more winter like days to come. Oh, brother.

You can want the world for your children and we all do.  You can’t be perfect and just like you, they won’t be either.  I just want to keep persevering so that one day my children can say, “I learned this from my mother and father and I saw the God in them that they wanted me love.”

You can only expect in them what they see in you.

What are you expecting?

 

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I See The Moon: Parenting The Child Chosen For You

 

After having my third baby, my oldest showed subtle signs of having a hard time with the transition.  One way this showed up is that she wanted to do baby-ish things again.  I guess all older kids start to wish they were a baby once more when the attention shifts to the younger ones for the “Oh, look how littles” or “Oh, how cutes”.  She gets her fair share of praise but change is change.

In the first few weeks after bringing the baby home, she wanted me to start holding her at night, rocking side to side, while singing her a song.  She chose, “I See The Moon” and while I swayed there in her dim room lit by a night light, I listened to the words as I sang them:

I see the moon and the moon sees me,

The moon sees somebody I wanna see,

God bless the moon and God bless me,

And God bless the somebody I wanna see

God looked down from up above and He picked you out for me to love,

He picked you from all the rest cause He knew, I’d like you the very best…

 

I thought about that truth hidden in that old song that God “picked you out for me to love”.  All the time on Facebook you will read statuses of new moms that say, “I am so thankful that God chose me to be his/her mommy.”  It’s a simple yet deep thought of gratitude but it hit me with a deeper realization recently.  It actually hit me not because of a sweet lingering cuddly moment or a memorable great day with my kids, but on a challenging day as a mother.

God picked ME to mother YOU.

When you stare at your new baby and have that thought, it’s an overwhelming sense of joy.  When you find out your oldest child has diabetes, give birth two weeks later and then a few weeks after that your middle child gets hand foot and mouth, we tend to lose sight that we were chosen specifically and distinctly for the children we’ve been given and all of the circumstances that come with them.  We typically rejoice over being chosen on the best days and forget that calling and purpose on the mundane or challenging days.

The child you have been given:  the compliant one, the dramatic one, the difficult one, the special needs child, the introvert, the extrovert, the gifted, the rebellious, the talented, the awkward, the intellectual, the questioner, the back talker, the tantrum thrower, the autistic, the demanding one, the follower, the leader, the passive, the assertive, the irresponsible, the argumentative, the hyper, the stubborn, the inflexible, the strong-willed, the compassionate, the selfish, the emotional, the miscarried child, the easy-going, the sick, the healthy, the risk taker, the rule challenger, the one who is just like you and the one you didn’t see coming….

YOU were CHOSEN for YOUR child by God who in His wisdom had great purpose for how He tailored that child and placed them in your life.  That is a sweet sentiment when it’s easy and a thought that gives you pause when you feel like you are fighting a losing battle with a teenager or an impossible toddler. In both the joy and ease of your child and in the seasons of challenges, it’s so important to keep in mind there is purpose for this specific child chosen with intention for you.  We often think about our children in terms of them being their own person outside of us who we are meant to mold and don’t get me wrong, that is our calling. However, we forget that God is the great weaver and has a reason why He chose to give you that child for His purposes for you also.

God picked our children out for us and knit them in our wombs and He picked us as their parents, but not just for the sake of the children, but so that they would also be transversely used as tools in our own lives.  Children sanctify us.

If you have a difficult child with the stubbornness of 80 mules, maybe God chose that child with that disposition to teach you patience.  It’s likely that God gave you children that challenge you to bring you out of your comfort zone to bring something out in them and in yourself.

God gave me a child with Type 1 diabetes at a very young age of onset.  It will affect her daily life everyday she is alive and it will give her challenges that He intends to use for her good and His glory.  I know there is purpose in that.  But since He is that weaver, it’s beneficial to ask what God is teaching ME through this also.  Trust? Strength?  Dependence?  God’s will for our lives collide with other plans and He has far-reaching purposes beyond ourself for each thing He has go through and for each person He sovereignly places in our lives.

Think about your children and ask yourself, why did God chose me to parent THIS child, because He did.  You should be asking yourself that in all seasons of parenthood and very often because if not, you lose the ever-changing purpose in it and the opportunity for the hard and beautiful attributes of your children to mold and sanctify you.  Yes, we mold our children, but God intends parenthood to mold us also and with His design He is using who He made that child, inside and out, to get it done.

For all the perfect, the ugly, the memorable days, the days full of time outs and lost privileges, the hour with all three crying in the van out of demands and desires, the freeze the moment nights, the fits of the strong-willed toddler, the prideful arguments, the diabetes, the baby that came early in a crazy time, the easy child sandwiched in the middle, the sassy talk, the over emotional responses, the humbling  prayers to help me know what steps to take next with each one to shape their young hearts on days that feel defeating….

May I always see intention in my good times and frustrating seasons of how they were knitted as the people they are for His glory and purposes for me.

And may I never forget to ask why God looked down from up above and picked these three for me to love.

 

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Photo Credit: Shelly Griffin Photography

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