Often life is hard, but God is always good

Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category

O Solo Mio – Loneliness

 

Loneliness

Photo Credit: Andi Jetaime

It wasn’t so long ago that I craved solitude – just give me an hour alone so that I could hear myself think. My place on the introvert-extrovert scale rests at about dead center, but as a stay at home mom, the constant verbal chatter of my children often pushed me into a desperate need for silence.

God sets the lonely in families. Psalm 68:6

When I was homeschooling my kids, activities like hiking with my binoculars at the ready to watch birds, swimming distance laps in the local pool, or reading engrossing fiction– all gave me that social break.

But now, it’s lonely time.

Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. Psalm 25:16.

Our second child is leaving home for college. The first one has been gone for almost 3 years. The youngest is busy with her senior year in high school and, as is proper, needs me less and less.

It’s time to transition to working outside the home, but I don’t belong to a workplace community yet. And so, the time I spend in the house is often too quiet.

This lonely feeling is an alert to pay attention to my interpersonal connections – to connect more deeply to the Lord who promises to be my truest friend.

A man of many companions may come to ruin but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24

And it’s time to reach out in friendship to my husband.

I will adjust.

It’s going to be all right.

 

 

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Chicken Before the Egg: Thoughts on Faith

bluebirdschicken

Photo credit: Julie Weatherbee

“For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” Psalm 100:5

My grandmother had faith in Jesus Christ. She walked it out by her acts of kindness, her faithful church attendance, her daily devotional reading of the Bible, and her teaching – mostly through the songs she sang us at bedtime (“Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so”.)

My mother followed in her footsteps, after wandering a while in the fog of Eastern religions during her hippie phase. Mom has faith in Jesus Christ and his love for her.

I do, too.

Today I am reflecting, with gratitude, on how my faith is in God’s faithfulness. The chicken comes first, then the egg, so to speak. His faithful love that is enduring leads to my faith and trust in that love.

Recently, I was served at a restaurant by a young waitress with a tattoo of a Bible verse reference on her forearm: I John 4:19. This is the classic chicken before the egg truth: “We love because he first loved us.”

I pray my children and grandchildren will experience faith – the precious commodity of knowing personally the unending goodness and love of God that “continues through all generations”.

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 11: 6

 

Are You My Mother?

Are you my Mother? bluebird

Are You My Mother by P.D. Eastman

“He shielded and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye, like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them on its pinions. The Lord alone led him;” Deuteronomy 32:10-11 NIV

Are you familiar with P.D. Eastman’s classic children’s book, “Are You My Mother?”: The newly hatched bird emerges to an empty nest and begins a prolonged search for his mother, asking extremely unlikely candidates, “Are you my mother?”, until his own mom returns to his nest with a worm and his heart is filled with a rush of recognition and affection.

I want to point out the parallel between mother love and God’s heart for us. He is like a mother in his protective, compassionate, and intense emotionally-connected nature. When his protective nature is described using the analogy of a mother eagle who “stirs up its nest” and pushes the fledglings out to fly, we are not shown a God who leaves and flies away as the babies tumble earthward. Instead, in this Scripture, the mother eagle spreads her wings and carries the young eagles on them. Our motherly instinct is to allow our kids to grow and be stretched, but we do not leave them. Our hearts, our prayers, and our help remain entirely present for them.

When my son married, my mom’s heart expanded to include his new wife and stretched, with acute pain, to accept his independence, yet at the same time, I am intensely connected to his well-being, and that of his new family.

In addition, we, as moms, feel for our kids when they have physical or emotional pain: injuries, sickness, heartbreaks, or disappointments, God feels for us as well. “Jesus wept” (John 11:23), often used as an example of the shortest verse in the Bible, represents the loving sympathy of God for those two sisters who lost their beloved brother Lazarus.

Our Heavenly Father is depicted as a mother who wants to gather us up under his wings like a mother hen (Matthew 23:37). The Lord is “compassionate, and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.” (Psalm 103:8 NIV) This truth is echoed in Psalm 145, and 86. We can trust this warm, protective love of God and “like a weaned child” can rest upon his breast in trust and contentment. (Psalm 131:2 NIV) Let’s open our hearts to be mothered by God.

Broken Hearts and Infertility

bluebirds - infertility

Photo Credit: Miroslav Petrasko

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Psalm 34: 17, 18 (NIV)

I was twenty-six years old when I got married. My plan for kids was to work full-time for exactly two years then start a family.

Having trouble conceiving was nowhere in my frame of reference, so I was emotionally blind-sided when it happened. Add to that living far away from friends and family when we began going to specialists and taking tests.

The result of all the anxious medical effort was “undefined infertility” and no guarantee if or when we could have a baby.

My yearning for a child burned like fire. How could I feel that horrible? No one ever told me about this desperate pain! For months, I followed my inner city pastor’s wife down the aisle of the church to the prayer altar after services. She always passed my pew with streaks of tears down her face. If she – a church leader- wore her heart on her sleeve, so could I.

My inner world was one quivering cry of doubt and despair. I had no trust in the outcome. I held onto one tiny scrap of faith that God was good and wasn’t punishing me.

There is no way around any mountain of suffering. Honestly, even now, my trust in God is mostly based on what He has already done, not what He will do, but He still acts on my behalf even with that “little faith”.

Now that is a good God – one who doesn’t hold back mercy or help until we are wise, strong or filled with faith.  He leans in when we are in despair and breathes life into our lungs.

Years later, I did become pregnant and we had a beautiful baby boy. Two lovely girls followed. “He settles the barren woman in her home as a happy mother of children.” Psalm 113:9. I am overwhelmingly blessed with the gifts of my children, but they didn’t come as a reward for my faith-filled prayers, spiritual surrender, or organized plans. God just gave them to me, and I am profoundly grateful.

I don’t know why I was spared more years of infertility heartbreak.  I pray diligently for those women I know who are walking through disappointment in this area – for strength, for hope, and for their heart’s desire.

A Willing and Able Helper

Photo Credit: Leon Grubler Creative Commons License

Photo Credit: Leon Grubler
Creative Commons License

The Lord is with me; he is my helper. I look in triumph on my enemies. Psalm 118:7 NIV

As I stood at the front of my church sanctuary last month soaking in the wonderful worship song, I felt the pressure of a hand against my back. It stayed gently and warmly present during the song. Strange to say, when I finally turned around, there was no one there.

That encounter carried a special significance for me: I was struggling with a problem that Sunday, and the previous week my counselor had described my own parental help to my teenage daughter as a gently, supportive hand upon her back.

God was reminding me that He is my helper.   “People of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you.” Isaiah 30: 19

My goal as I write this post is to keep it very simple:

God wants to help us.

He can.

He will.

Let’s ask Him.

Let’s receive it.

Of course, the manner in which His assistance comes varies with the way we hear Him and with the form of our present need.

If we are …

Confused – He gives wisdom

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:5

Tired out/Weak – He gives strength

“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.” Isaiah 40:29

Hateful/resentful – He gives tender heartedness

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

Troubled/Grieving – He gives solace

“But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted; you consider their grief and take it in hand. The victims commit themselves to you; you are the helper of the fatherless.” Psalm 10:14

Self-loathing – he gives forgiveness

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” Ephesians 1:7

Fearful – he gives peace of mind

“So we say with confidence,’“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?’” Hebrews 13:6

Let’s believe and receive the help from the best Source of all!

My prayer today for you and for me: “May he send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion.” Psalm 20:2

What is Your Crisis? Carried on Eagles’ Wings

Photo Credit: Toni Blay

Photo Credit: Toni Blay

 

“You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.” Exodus 19:4 (NIV)

As I sang the beautiful song in church this week, I saw myself standing on a mountaintop as all below burned and crumbled away, with smoke, and waves of steam rising up, as if it were the end of the world. I lifted my arms in praise to God. I lifted my face. I trusted that He is good, no matter the bad news I had received of a friend’s cancer diagnosis. As I stood there, in my minds eye, an eagle soared up to me, swept me onto its back and flew with me above the disaster.

In real life, we are not removed from the world and its troubles, yet somehow God carries us through, without us being destroyed. Jesus himself prayed this: “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” (John 17:15)

When our own family crisis hit back in December, I felt as if I were free falling.

I used to have a recurring dream as a girl about a huge tiger chasing me. In my dream world, I ran desperately away from the danger across an open plain until, suddenly, I arrived at a cliff and helpless to stop my momentum, I tumbled off. Cold, wind whistled past my face as I fell endlessly down into empty space. Each time, I woke up before hitting the ground – but I never was saved.

During this recent trouble in my family, I felt a physical presence holding me up during the worst moments, like an eagle with wings.

Numerous times in J.R.R. Tolkien’s stories of Middle Earth, eagles come to the rescue of the human characters. The final time is perhaps the most dramatic – Frodo and Sam resign themselves to death as they stand alone upon crumbling Mount Doom:

“And so it was that Gwaihir saw them with his keen far-seeing eyes, as down the wild wind he came, and daring the great peril of the skies he circled in the air: two small dark figures, forlorn, hand in hand upon a little hill, while the world shook under them, and gasped, and rivers of fire drew near. And even as he espied them and came swooping down, he saw them fall, worn out, or choked with fumes and heat, or stricken down by despair at last, hiding their eyes from death. Side by side they lay; and down swept Gwaihir and down came Landroval and Meneldor the swift; and in a dream, not knowing what fate had befallen them, the wanderers were lifted up and borne far away out of the darkness and the fire.” (The Return of the King)

Each person was given an eagle to ride. Gandalf swooped down on Gwaihir and the two other eagles came to carry Frodo and Sam.

Illustration: Alan Lee

Illustration: Alan Lee

No matter what we face – or how our situations develop, God sees us with his “keen far-seeing eyes” and rescues us individually. Not only does His presence become tangible, others are with us, too. Support systems get activated when we look around to see who is there for us.

What is your experience of God’s eagle wings?

 

All Experience Required

Photo Credit: Kelvin Trautman

Photo Credit: Kelvin Trautman

“In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1: 4-6 (NIV)

I find myself looking back in my life a lot more since hitting fifty. I am over that hill they talk about and the view from the other side ain’t so bad. An urgency to get things done, to pursue dreams, and to not waste time has set in and I am more brave than ever.

But the experiences of my life (and yours) are profoundly important, not because I succeeded in every endeavor or test, but more because God uses them to mold me and help others.

My adventure this summer (besides welcoming my first grandchild) was to accompany the youth group to Mexico as an adult helper – an interpreter and “mom” figure. The youth pastor told us all that we were to say “yes” to whatever ministry work we were asked to do, and so, when I was approached to preach a thirty-minute sermon in Spanish the next day (no preparation time allotted), I answered, “Sure!”

I rode back to the hotel in the van full of chatting and laughing students, scared silent and staring out of the window with a mind full of “Oh Lord, Help!” thoughts. We were driving through narrow streets with brightly painted adobe walls on either side that were used as the Mexican version of billboards. One advertisement I passed said (translated from Spanish) “More than 35 years of experience!”

My conversion to Christianity, accepting Jesus as Lord in my heart and life, happened 35 and a half years ago! Needless to say, I was greatly encouraged to hear from the Lord that my experience of knowing Him was the requirement, not experience in preaching. I rocked that sermon, by the way!

Some of my past I would like to excise from my history, but long ago the Lord reminded me that He could (and would) transform each part and work it into the whole of my life experience. Healing from wounds has come in the form of time, counseling, encounters with the Holy Spirit, and the love of friends. I didn’t transform all my life events into something good by my own efforts, though I was a willing partner in the process.

All of our experience is required, not just for our personal growth into God’s design for our life, but for the sake of others. Amazingly, as a middle-aged (or “over the hill”) youth helper in Mexico, I was very relatable. One girl said, “It’s like you’re a teenager!” and I replied, “My 18-year-old is still inside me!”

So is the stuttering elementary school girl, the nervous college freshmen, the new bride, and the first time mom. All the pain, the failure, the victory, and the surrender to God mix together into a life that God uses. When we are in the midst of the pain of a life experience let’s hold onto this hope.

 

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