Tag Archives: motherhood
An unexpected college blessing
My last few posts have been about sending our firstborn to college. There are many emotions surrounding this experience and I have been bracing myself for them pretty much since I found out of was pregnant all those years ago.
However, within this first week of him being gone, our family has been touched twice in a very personal way.
Two friends of ours have intentionally asked me for his mailing address so they can send a note of encouragement or a care package.
That in itself is very kind and we are grateful for their generosity. But their backstory is what melts my heart.
One friend lost her husband last year about this time. It was an extremely traumatic day as he had taken his own life. And, as God would design it, my firstborn and his sister were first on the scene, by my asking.
The short version of that day is we saw something was very wrong, but I was detained, so I asked my two oldest teens to see what they could do to help. None of us ever, ever imagined what they would walk into.
As my friend was called from work to come, among the myriad of emergency vehicles, etc. she arrived to see my two kids waiting.
In the midst of the many emergency responders, there stood my teens–barefoot in shorts and t-shirts.
They stayed with my friend for over an hour, offering her a hug and shoulder to lean on.
A while later, to my utter amazement, I turned to see my two teens sitting in a tight circle linked together arm-and-arm with my friend and her daughter, praying. It was one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen.
Afterwards, my son (who had asked them to pray and led the prayer), gently wiped the tears from my friend’s face.
In the weeks and months that followed, they attended his memorial and helped with dogsitting, meals, etc. A friendship between my kids and my friend organically grew out of a situation no one how to handle.
So when I ran into her at the post office this week, and she asked for my son’s address, it deeply touched me because this time she wants to encourage him.
There is a bond between them that formed from brokenness.
We all waded in unfamiliar waters with this tragedy, and none of us acted like we knew what we were doing. My kids’ genuine humility and hurt for this family was a blessing, and now she wants to bless him back as he lives away from home for the first time.
Her thoughtfulness is powerful. Sacrificial. Healing…for everyone.
I didn’t know my friend well before this event. We were casual acquaintances. Now, there is a cord that cannot be broken, a cord that holds broken people together.
Another dear friend of mine also asked me recently for his address. I was overwhelmed and deeply touched when she did. In fact, when I read her Facebook message I burst into tears–not because of how much I miss my boy, but because of how much she misses hers.
Two years ago, six weeks into her youngest son’s freshmen year of college, he died in a tragic accident. Our entire church deeply mourned for this precious family.
My friend is one of the kindest, sweetest people you’ll ever know. She is always giving and doing for others.
I have thought of her often during this new season of school and can only imagine how hard it must be to see another year begin. My heart stays broken for her.
She and her husband have done many wonderful things to honor their son’s life. It’s been amazing to watch them continue his legacy of faith and friendship.
But mother to mother, I don’t know how she does it. By the grace of God she gets up every day and chooses to walk toward the light and not toward the dark (as one friend said).
Every day she chooses life and I stand in awe of her strength.
Knowing what a giving, tenderhearted person she is, this would be the time she would be sending a care package to her own son. From one care-package sender to another, this thought brings me to tears.
The fact that she remembered my son, as she remembers hers, floods my heart with emotions I don’t know how to process. To say I feel blessed is an understatement. To say I am thankful and grateful isn’t enough.
This beautiful soul, who has grieved in a way that only one can who walks the road of losing a child, has chosen to gather her grief in her arms and turn it into a blessing for someone else.
She is a living testimony of God’s love for this world.
Our family is very blessed that we have family and friends who want to encourage our son while he is away at college. Each and every person holds a special place in our hearts.
But for these two women, who have chosen to give out of their grief, pain and loss, I have no words.
These women come from the most broken of places, yet have determined in their hearts to allow God to make something beautiful out of it.
They have no idea that they also help fill a huge hole in this mama’s heart. Both of my parents are deceased and aren’t here to walk this new season of life with our family–to give our son an atta-boy! in his new journey or us a hug as we adapt to his absence at home.
I highly admire and respect these amazing women. Their joy is contagious in a home that misses our guy very much. They are an inspiration.
Our son may be the one who receives the card or package, but it is all of us who are healed a little bit more by their kindness. ❤
Photo credit here
We took our firstborn to college yesterday. This is a first for our family, so we’re not sure what to expect, feel or think.
Leading up to taking him, I was busy helping tie up loose ends at home. He and I shopped for dorm items. My husband and I went over a myriad of business details relating to school and before we knew it, it was the night before he was supposed to leave.
That’s when it hit me–like a brick. Nausea overcame me.
No matter how many Tums I chewed, Prilosec pills I swallowed, or Saltine crackers I munched on, nothing worked.
After mindlessly chomping my way through an entire sleeve of crackers, I realized something…this felt familiar.
I had horrendous morning sickness when I was pregnant with our son. Just ask my husband.
It took literally hours for me to be able to get out of bed each day. He had to leave a cooler with orange juice and grapes by my side of the bed. It was all I could possibly tolerate in the beginning.
He could not use the oven or the microwave, and anything he ate had to be consumed outside. One whiff of any food and there I went running to the bathroom, again.
Brushing my teeth made me gag.
I laid in bed most of the first three months, getting up only to throw up or dry heave over the toilet.
At eight weeks, I caught a stomach bug on top of the morning sickness. Great.
This landed me in the hospital.
The upside? I got to see our boy way before I normally would have as they ordered a sonogram to make sure he was okay despite how sick I was.
Oh my goodness! What a treat! He was the cutest little human I’d ever laid my eyes on. Look at this lil’ pumpkin! Eight weeks!!
After the hospital escapade, I was back to waffling between throwing up, eating nothing and craving McDonald’s filet-o-fish sandwiches, Boston Market’s creamed spinach, Captain Crunch, Lucky Charms and cherry Now & Laters.
I joke that I can’t believe he wasn’t born with two heads with that meal line-up. :O
The gnawing nausea of morning sickness is like nothing else in the world. My grandmother used to say, “It’s a sick, sick.”
She was right.
With each doctor’s visit during those months, I only lost weight. I remember crying in the mirror, longing to have a baby bump.
But, I kept pushing through the tears and weakness, knowing it was all completely worth it because soon I was going to get to hold my little baby boy.
Two days ago, when the nausea began I realized that what I was feeling was so much like when I was pregnant. But this time, it was mourning sickness.
Even though I thought I had handled it pretty well up to this point, our bodies can’t lie. Stress, pain and grieving find their way out, no matter how hard our minds try to suppress the weight of reality.
When I was pregnant, and the first contractions came, I put on make up, double-checked my hospital bag and celebrated the impending excitement with my husband.
After 56 hours of grueling labor (28 hours when contractions were 5 minutes apart and 28 hours of them 2 minutes apart), my husband grabbed the hospital bag and ran every red light to get me there in time.
On the way I thought to myself, “It feels like we’re packing for a trip from which we’ll never return.”
I was right. Parenthood has a one-way ticket. Once a parent, always a parent, no matter our children’s ages or circumstance.
As we loaded up our van with our son’s college things, I recalled the same thought, “We’re packing again, but this time it is a return trip–without him.”
It’s not a forever goodbye, Lord willing, but goodbye to a season of parenting. He’s still our son, but no longer a child.
There is nothing that really prepares a parent for this experience. Whether it’s college, the military, a gap year or the workforce, change closes the chapter on all we new as normal.
I felt like I was going to throw up all the way to the school. However, once we arrived adrenaline coursed my veins and I was in full business mode.
Much like showtime for giving birth, a second wind rushes in and we moms do what we have to do to survive.
I am a relentless nester, so I was in the zone. I didn’t want to overstep my role and set up his room for him, but I wanted to help a guy who was a bit overwhelmed himself.
I parked myself at his closet in the corner and hung up all his clothes. That was a great place to settle. I wasn’t thinking for him or making dorm decisions for him, but I was indeed helping him – and that made me feel good and connected and productive.
His dad and he wrestled with all of the computer technical stuff, of which I was very fine to not get involved.
No matter how many times we thought through the packing list, cross-referencing the school’s list with stores’ lists, he was still short a few necessities so off we flew to the closest store. We were on a time schedule to get our daughter to work back home. Stressful!
I was not prepared for the hoards of people at this store! It made Black Friday look like a regular old Tuesday morning. Never have I seen a store so ransacked, nearly looted. There was not a pair of nail clippers to be found. Trust me–I looked.
And check out the checkout line–all for college shopping, judging by the cartloads. This is only a third of it!!
Tick toc! Thank goodness our youngest stood in line while we flew through the store like we were on a game show racing the clock to find a number of disjointed items in the least amount of time.
Walking into the bright sunlight in the parking lot, the adrenaline that had peaked in me while in the store crashed in me like a sugar-buzzed child riding home from the circus.
The nausea returned in full force because I knew the next item on the to-do list was…to say goodbye.
We were in a hurry to get back home, but my heart so badly wanted to stay, just a little longer.
Anyone need to go to the bathroom? Thirsty? Hungry? All of the well-worn procrastinations of childhood were now full throttle in me.
Now that our son is an adult, I can say that he is one of my best friends. It was ripping my heart out to think of leaving him.
We unpacked the last of the bags and he walked me back to the van to give everyone one last hug.
Like being pregnant, we had planned and prepared his whole life for this moment. The moment when new plans and dreams and passions would give birth to a bright future full of adventure, hard work and great memories waiting to be made.
He couldn’t stay inside me forever, nor could the dreams he has be fulfilled if he stayed home.
I know this in my head, but tell that to my heart.
And then the day was done. He was unpacked. Our job was complete.
I pulled him close, like when he was born, and held him in my arms and whispered to him how much I love him.
I looked him in the eyes and told him how proud I am of him, all the while my gut is twisting inside me knowing I’ll have to face his empty bedroom and chair at the table.
The rest of us piled into the van, sans our oldest. He stood on the sidewalk, eyes filling with tears as he tried to manage a smile to make us feel better.
It just didn’t feel right. My whole motherhood I’ve always made sure our children were safe, knowing at all times where they were.
Now I’m just going to leave him on the sidewalk? It felt like I was committing treason against his heart.
It felt the same as the first day I dropped him off at preschool. He was crying for me while the teachers smiled and reassured me he’d be fine.
They told me that, for his good, I needed to just walk away, and that the longer I stood there the worse it would be for him.
I remembered those words as I fastened my seat belt, not wanting to leave, yet feeling I needed to go, for his sake.
I plastered on a wide smile, choking on the lump welling up in my throat. I could hardly breathe, but had to push through the tears and weakness of heart so I could let my baby boy go.
The smile stayed frozen on my face as we cheered for him out the windows, waving all the way down the street.
He stood in the middle of the street, watching us drive away until he could see us no more.
That plastered smile quickly faded when my husband immediately broke into an ugly cry. His tears were contagious, and as we drove onto the highway we just cried and cried.
The hole in this cloud on the way home reminded me of the hole I feel in my heart.
When we went to the hospital all those years ago, it was my journey as a mother that was beginning. My bag was packed and I was ready for a one-way road into motherhood, just as my husband was for fatherhood.
Yesterday, it is our son’s journey that is beginning. His bags were packed and he is ready for his one-way ticket to the plans God has for him.
It was a silent ride home.
Today, I awoke praying for him. I spent two hours waking up and going back to sleep, each time praying for him with all of my heart. Praying that God would show Himself in a personal way to my boy who feels very alone among thousands of people.
We hardly ever miss church, but I couldn’t do it today. I couldn’t shower, get ready and absorb a sermon and talk to people. Today, I needed solitude. And that’s okay.
I ventured out to Target, again, and in doing so I accidentally left my returns at home, forgot the shopping list in the van, and left the store without the very thing I went to get – printed photos I spent hours compiling for our boy. And that’s okay.
Things are not normal today.
We are exhausted from all the activity and needed a day to rebound. And that’s okay.
I put on my walking clothes when I got up and still haven’t walked. I just don’t have it in me today. And that’s okay.
My husband has cried off and on throughout the day. Not me. My tears will come when the last of the adrenaline wears off and I’m setting a table for four beloveds instead of five; when my other two teens come home and tell me how their days were and he doesn’t come home; when I watch our dog wait for him by the back door.
For now, I’ve channeled the last bit of emotional energy left in me into beginning a care package for our boy. It’s one way I feel like I’m still involved in this new chapter of his life.
It seems like just yesterday we were buckling him into his infant car seat. However, yesterday we were strapping down all of his belongings to a trailer.
We were just breaking in a new crib, trying to figure out how it worked. We were trying to find wi-fi and ether net cables and shuttled routes.
I was hanging his matching Gymboree baby outfits in his baby wardrobe. I was hanging his adult medium, trendy button-downs and pants in a rented old closet with a lock.
We were finishing reading “What to expect when you’re expecting” and beginning to read, “What to expect the first year.” We were reading, “Welcome college parents” and “Navigating the first year of college.”
We were taking a ton of photographs of him sleeping and us holding him in his nursery. We were taking photographs of him setting up his stuff and with his new roommate in their dorm room.
We were calling family to tell them how he was settling in. I was texting family and friends telling them how he was settling in.
We had a baby monitor on the nightstand. We have our cell phones on our nightstand, just for him–just in case.
We were crying tears of joy that this little guy was ours to have and hold forever. We are crying tears of thankfulness for the last 19 years, knowing now he was never ours to keep, rather God has big plans for him and it’s time to share him with the world.
We were praying blessings over his baby days. We are praying blessings over all of his days to come.
He’ll be fine. Not sure about me for a while.
Morning sickness was hard, but I knew it was just for a season.
Mourning sickness is hard because I know this is the beginning of the rest of his life.
I am looking forward to all of the ways in which our family will grow through this change. But for today, no Saltines, Tums or Prilosec will help this mama’s heart. There is grieving to do. And that’s okay because I have the privilege of watching him become the man he was born to be.
10 things I won’t do as our son leaves for college
Lately I have been stuck on an emotional roller coaster. Life has been changing at warp speed and most of it is out of my control. What I do control is how I
react respond to all of it.
I was involved in a high-speed chase today. While driving to the grocery store for a few simple dinner items, a tsunami of disjointed thoughts racing through my mind chased me down and caught up to me at a red light. Next thing I knew I couldn’t remember what I went to the store for and was inundated with a million fractured thoughts, snipets swirling around me like a tornado about our son leaving for college, employment, new schools for our other teens, and a thousand other things. I felt unglued.
That’s when it hit me. I had to get a hold of my heart and my head. I decided, for the sake of my sanity, I would set up boundaries for my thoughts and feelings during this changing season as I prepare for my firstborn to leave for college.
10 boundaries of what I won’t allow myself to do:
- I won’t replay regrets of what I did wrong in the past as a parent. If forgiveness was necessary, I asked for it and we both let it go. It helps no one for me to hang on to something both of us already put behind us. If it was just my own unattainable bar of expectations that let me down, I will let myself off the hook and realize I am a super mother, not Superwoman. 😉
- I won’t beat myself up for what I didn’t do as a mother. I didn’t try every art & craft project online. I couldn’t attend every single function in which my son was involved. I didn’t always know what was trending about the latest and greatest everything relating to parenthood. But, every single night as I laid my head on my pillow I knew I had given the day everything I had. Whether that everything was 10% or 105% I had to give that day, I gave it. Did I do it perfectly? Absolutely not. But I tried my best and that’s the best I can do.
- I won’t let the busyness of this rapidly changing season rob me of stolen moments of what matters. If our son walks into my home office and spontaneously needs to tell me how much he’s going to miss his family (like he did yesterday), I will stop what I’m doing, look at him and listen (which I did). The little things are the big things, and a never-ending to-do list will not hold these precious moments hostage. I will put
whatwho matters most first.
- I won’t compare my family or my mothering to anyone else. At this stage of parenting, it’s easy to look around and judge myself by using others’ lives as a measuring stick. That only brings everyone down. We aren’t the same as any other family out there, nor should we be. It’s the uniqueness of family that makes life interesting. Instead of comparing, I will remember fondly all of the moments, days, weeks, months and years that write the story we call family.
- I won’t stop the tears. It may happen in the canned vegetable aisle, while driving or walking by his darkened bedroom, but make no mistake I will burst into spontaneous tears. Part of my heart is being ripped out of me and moving to another state. To pretend that doesn’t hurt is not being authentic with myself or anyone else. No, I’m not fine right now, but I will be – and every tear shed out of love over missing my boy will help me get there.
- I won’t stay in the pit too long. I’d love to say I won’t even go into the pit, but as our firstborn flies away, this mama needs to go down into the valley for a little bit. But, I will also be kind to myself and not stay there too long. I have a husband and two teens who need me to not stay there too long. And, I have a future that God has planned for me, so be patient with me. And if I’m having a hard time finding my footing climbing out of the pit, I will ask for a helping hand.
- I won’t miss the beauty of this season. The fact is, our son graduated high school and is taking a giant step toward becoming an independent adult, a productive member of society. This is, after all, what the plan has been since he was born. As much as this transition of him sort of being on his own and sort of not is uncomfortable and painful for me as his mother, we are blessed to have made it this far and will celebrate that victory! I will look forward to watching him continue to grow and will continue to celebrate all the milestones we have ahead of us as a family.
- I won’t try to do this alone. I am a lone ranger by nature, but this is too much to process by myself. I will allow myself to be vulnerable with those I feel safe and let my guard down about how I’m really doing. I will link arms with those who love me and we walk this journey together. After all, if they love me then they are probably grieving him going away in their own way as well. Together, we will be a strong team for each other.
- I won’t stop laughing. Life needs laughter. Hearts need laughter. The body needs laughter. In the midst of grieving our beloved son’s new opportunity, through the tears and “new normals” of him not being at home, I will purpose in my heart to see joy in life. I will keep grieving in its place and welcome the moments in life that make me snicker, giggle, laugh and laugh some more. There is a healthy balance in allowing grieving and laughter to share the same soul.
- I won’t be hard on myself if I fail everything listed above. I am a hormonal, middle-aged woman. I am a mother whose firstborn is leaving the nest. I am emotional. I have a lot on my plate, my mind and my heart. There will be days when I’ve got nothing. No words. No sense of humor. No logical thought. No feeling percolating in my soul. Life is like that when we miss someone so deeply. Sometimes there aren’t words or actions, thoughts or feelings that make it all better. And that’s okay. That’s why, Lord willing, there is always tomorrow. ❤
I ironed his pillowcase
In two days our firstborn will be college-bound. In the midst of a busy summer, he and I have had to carve out intentional time to shop for dorm supplies, of which I know nothing about.
My husband and I got married young, real young. I was 19. He was 23. We were married on spring break and bought our first home when I was 21. That tiny foreclosure was the perfect place to learn power tools, how to be married students, and realize my own independence.
This dorm thing is new to me. I have fought the urge to over buy. Our son doesn’t want any bells and whistles, so when the school’s packing list mentioned house plants – well, he and I laughed out loud at that one.
He can certainly prepare for college on his own, but for me it’s extra time I get to spend with just him whether we’re in Target, Wal-Mart or beyond. We’ve shared laughs and memories on these shopping escapades that I wouldn’t trade for the world.
I’ll do anything to steal time away with my kids.
Minus a couple of technical items, like finding the dreaded required calculator, he’s all set.
Today, however, it hit me. He’s leaving home.
Over the last few weeks I’ve washed his two plastic cups, cheap silverware and his one glass bowl for microwaving and packed them in his plastic college tub. I’ve also washed his sheets and towels and repacked them with the small arsenal of dorm items huddled in the family room.
As I went to tuck the crisp, white sheets in the bag with the other bedding, I noticed the pillowcases were wrinkled beyond repair from the dryer.
The looked like giant, used handkerchiefs.
I tried flattening them with my hands but it was no use.
I tried to just let it go, but I couldn’t. Before I knew it I was setting up our creaky ironing board and plugging in the iron.
hate loathe abhor ironing and avoid it at all costs, ask anyone who knows me – especially my family.
I’m neither patient enough nor good enough at it. For me, I’ve solved this problem by not owning anything that needs to be ironed.
So why on earth would I tackle horrendously wrinkled pillowcases that a steamroller couldn’t fix?
It’s my way of nesting a home I won’t live in for a boy I love with all my heart.
As the iron whistled and blew steam I thought of my firstborn lying down after a long day in a different state and resting his head on these pillowcases.
The same head that I oohed over in his sonogram when I was only 8 weeks pregnant. He had the cutest tiny bobble head with little nubs for arms and legs, but there he was, my baby.
The same head I cradled in the palm of my hand when he was born; that I watched my husband cradle as he swayed side-to-side in the hospital room, singing our baby boy to sleep.
The same head that turned away from baby food he refused to eat, donned silly Halloween costumes and proudly displayed lost baby teeth.
The same head that I held my breath over as he tumbled headlong into the opposing football player’s helmet in the game; that ducked and weaved through soccer players, using his head to launch the ball to his teammates; and that poured over the keys of the piano late into the night.
The same head that suffered a major concussion in Africa on mission and endured an injury at school that could have killed him. The same head I watched proudly drive away with his brand new license.
The same head that towered above the voting booth at his first election. Talk about making a mama proud!
I’ve watched my boy become a man and have learned a lot over the years about when to hold on and when to let go. Knowing time is short, I’ve not taken the days with my son for granted. I’ve counted each and every blessing of raising him.
And after a grueling senior year, we were both so happy to have it over with I shed no tears at graduation.
It’s time to let him fly.
Yes, the same little pumpkin that couldn’t reach the faucet on his own has grown into a tall body that stoops to hug me. As he rests his head on my shoulder, I am taken back to the days of rocking him to sleep in my arms. His long arms now wrap around me and I melt.
He has so many gifts, talents as strengths (most of which he doesn’t even see in himself, yet). I am thrilled he gets to enter this new phase of self-discovery.
But how I will miss him.
Fully able to fend for himself, I will miss kissing that sweet head goodnight.
Mothers grow and grieve in their own way. I never thought I’d feel so many mixed emotions about him leaving, nor find myself looking at him, holding his hand and leaning my head on his shoulder so much as I have this summer.
For me, a mom with a grateful, grieving heart, ironing the pillowcases that will soften his sleep is my way of wishing him sweet dreams – not only for a good night’s sleep, but as he works hard to make those dreams a reality.
And in his pursuit of this crazy thing we call life, I’ll be right here waiting to feel his precious head rest on my shoulders and tell him once again, You can grow up, but please don’t outgrow your mama.
Last week, our family of five plus one stopped everything to go see The Drop Box.
Our oldest was still incredibly welted, red and itchy from his allergy testing. (Who knew he was soooooo allergic to dust mites! He scored a whopping 19 where the doc said a general allergic reaction would be around .5. Poor guy.) We bought popcorn for dinner (fun parents that we are 😉 ) and settled into our seats. I told my husband I’d have to eat it quickly, because it’d feel almost sacrilegious to chomp away during this kind of documentary.
The theater was sold out, so I’m glad we got there early.
For us, even though the movie takes place in South Korea, we were instantly transported back to all of the countries we’ve served. It’s the same, heartbreaking story over and over. The despair. Helplessness. Voicelessness. But…like with the ministries we served, Pastor Lee and his wife are not without hope.
Photo credit: David Kim
No matter the circumstance, every story has the same beginning…pain. However, what I love most about this ministry is that the moment a baby is received from the drop box, Pastor Lee immediately, I mean immediately, holds the baby tight and prays for him or her. I believe that this is the plot twist that changes the child’s story.
Plot twists don’t stop with prayer. They come in the form of medical help, counseling, food, water, clothing, shelter, an education, a shoulder to cry on, a friend to laugh with, and sometimes simply knowing someone in this world cares about them gives hope for another day.
As a woman, wife and mother, I have a strong sense to nurture. This is true for most women. We want to make things better. We will do it at cost to ourselves and not even think twice. However, this leads to physical, mental, spiritual and emotional fatigue if not kept in check.
Pastor Lee understands this about himself as well.
Leaving the theater, I felt both glorious in that this beautiful baby drop box ministry is happening in our world even at this second, and I felt heavy-burdened for the babies in the world who don’t have this option. My heart exploded with feeling overwhelmed at the millions and millions of children who cry themselves to sleep every night for as many reasons as their are children.
My heart wanted to burst as the nurturer in me raised up in the name of helping.
This week, our high school girls devotion group met like we do every week to study God’s Word. The topic in our continuing journey to discover what being a woman of noble character (Proverbs 31) looks like was staying focused.
Shiphrah and Puah were the women we studied. They were brave midwives who, as part of an underground network of Hebrew midwives, defied Pharoah’s edict to kill all Hebrew baby boys at birth. We talked about their tenacity to follow God even it meant risk to their own safety.
They feared God more than man. They obeyed God more than they obeyed man.
These midwives had a laser-focused calling.
Most days I feel like I’m on a small raft in the middle of a huge ocean of need and opportunity. Waves of emotion and passion to nurture in Jesus’ name toss my raft around like a rag doll. I feel like there is no wheel or sails to steer this one soul in a laser-focused direction.
Pastor Lee and his wife have their laser-focused calling. We can name many who do.
But, I am reminded that there is a place for everyone in ministry – even if the place’s destination continues to change.
It’s my most humble honor to serve on mission. Our family is a motley crew who has no idea what tomorrow looks like. We are broken people called to go to the broken.
Years ago, I sat in a sea of preschool moms listening to a testimony from the director of our preschool. She was in the middle of battling cancer. She specifically said, “Some may wonder why I am testifying to God’s goodness now. It seems appropriate to wait until I am past the cancer to give a praise report. But I am telling you now, in the middle of cancer, that God is good. Cancer doesn’t change that.”
Her words burrowed deep into my soul and I carry them with me daily.
God is good and He is enough.
Shiphrah and Puah knew it. Pastor Lee and his wife know it. Each of us who call Jesus our Savior know it. And knowing this truth is one way God qualifies the called.
It’s why the broken can go to the broken.
We don’t have to have a perfect life to reach others. We simply point them to the One who is perfect.
I often think about the prisoners we will meet. I wonder about who they are, but I don’t care an iota about what they’ve done. Who am I to pick up a stone and hurl it at them? I’ve got a rock garden with my name on it that reads guilty as charged.
But, I also know who sets the prisoner free. And as one who has been set free, even in the middle of brokenness, there is a testimony to share – God is good and Jesus is enough.
So whatever venue that looks like (though I’m quite certain it won’t be midwifery) we will continue to go where He leads, schlepping our broken, beautiful mess with us.
I’m learning that it’s Christ’s message that is laser-focused regardless of how, when, where, or to whom He calls us to share it.
Devotion published today!
Just wanted to post that a devotion of mine was published today. I began writing for these great folks years ago, but it’s been a while since I submitted anything so I was a bit nervous submitting a piece. It’s always a privilege to serve with them. To God be the glory!
Here is the devotion url – http://www.christiandevotions.us/viewblogentry/221
Our youngest son’s bunk beds are gone. His bedroom feels so different now. This was no ordinary event; this was God on a mission. I remember years ago when we assembled our son’s new beds. There was much excitement about moving into his big-boy bed. His bunk beds hosted sleepovers with family and friends for years. Now, the top bunk is rarely used and our youngest one isn’t so little. His teenage body outgrew his bed, but his heart had not—sentimental as he is.
It breaks my heart to think of children in our city sleeping on the floor every night. A year ago, I asked our son if he would consider donating his beds. He wasn’t ready. How does a mother take her son’s bed right out from under him? I let it go.
Recently, the same tug came back to my heart. With the top bunk unused, and our son’s body still growing, God made it clear that giving them away was His plan. We read today’s verse in 1 John and I explained to him that, as believers, we have a responsibility to help others—even when it costs us personally. I asked our son to pray about it and wait for God’s reply. The next morning, smiling, he said God gave him a peace about giving them away. I immediately called for a pickup from a local ministry which specializes in beds for children.
That same day, our van broke down. The repair came with a hefty bill. Reluctantly, I postponed the donation because we couldn’t afford to replace the bed and fix our van. Days later, we made a family decision not to replace his bed. Instead, we bought a simple frame for his mattress so both the donation and van repair could continue. I asked our son to give up his bed, not old clothes or discarded toys. I wrestled with my heart over this as his mom, but God’s patient persistence gave us peace and joy that He has a plan for those beds.
We should share what we can live without, but we should keep our hearts open and look for ways to freely give—even when it hurts. This is the generosity Jesus gave us through His sacrifice on the cross. When we give out of excess, that’s great. But when we give out of sacrifice, we become God’s heartbeat for the world.
Don’t hesitate. Give.
(Photo courtesy of morguefile and kconnors.)
(For more devotions, visit us at http://www.christiandevotions.us.)
2014 answered a lifelong question
*** This post may require a pot of coffee. 🙂 For those who make it all the way to the end, I hope it is a blessing. Happy New Year, Kristi ***
I told my friend the other day that I am itching to close 2014. I have a trigger finger on the calendar to turn the page to January 2015. I’m not one to want to hurry life. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Typically I’m faulted with trying to squeeze too much out of a day.
This year, however, has taught me some lessons that have tested the core of my faith. It’s also revealed surprises that no one could have ever expected.
It’s known that we grow through conflict. In that spirit, here are ways in which I was given the opportunity to grow and have a lifelong question answered…Does God give us more than we can handle?
* 2014 began and ended in a medical facility.
This past January, I laid on a table, fully alert and awake while 27 incisions were made from my hip to my ankle to remove varicose veins. This was after previous vein clamping in both legs, which failed in one leg. Even with the best specialty doctor in the city performing the procedure, it was the most bar-barrack, brutal thing I’ve ever experienced. Thinking about it makes me cringe a year later. I will spare the details, but suffice it to say I went into a bit of shock during it. Afterwards, I even told the nurse the wrong city I was born in, and knew I was wrong, but couldn’t remember the right answer.
In my life, I’ve had all four wisdom teeth pulled (including four dry sockets as a result) fully awake and alert with nothing more than Novocain and headphones to drown out the drill. I’ve been through three long labors, the longest being 56 hours – 28 of them with contractions five minutes apart and 28 of them with contractions two minutes apart. My tonsils were removed when my firstborn was just eight weeks old and I was still postpartum. I’ve been rushed into surgery for an emergency appendectomy. I’ve been in two car accidents that totaled my cars: one head-on in which my car flew 20 feet in the air, and one t-boned on the driver’s side. I’ve felt the punch of the air bag as well as the crack of my head slamming into the window. I’ve had food poisoning so horrifically that it required a colonoscopy. I slipped off of a playground merry-go-round in motion and my leg got caught underneath and it drug me around until both the tibia and fibula bones snapped in my leg. I can’t count the sprains and twists in my ankles (I was quite the tomboy). I’ve had five surgeries in the past six years which has left over 38 scars on my body. The 39th being a squamous cancer dug out of me two months ago.
I know something about pain. I know physical trauma. And I can tell you this particular procedure was nothing like anything I just mentioned. The procedure itself is worth the results, but not being able to utilize a tranquilizer of any kind was a war that raged against the core of my sanity. And, this happened just two months after major abdominal surgery.
What makes feet walk straight to the eye of the storm and not turn back?
* Move past that brutal winter and spring bloomed.
I was taking my dog for a walk on a sleepy Monday morning. It was a beautiful, sunny day. Suddenly, my ear picked up on something that set off an internal alarm. I didn’t know what it was, but something definitely wasn’t right. I stopped and listened. What were just people sounds (which I thought were either kids playing or workmen) turned into screams for help.
The next thing I know, I was rounding the corner of a neighbor’s home (whom I didn’t know) only to find the woman rushing toward me with her arm extended out toward me. She pleaded in a deep voice with desperation I have never heard, “Help me!”
She was missing three fingers.
I didn’t know how it happened, but she needed immediate help. I have never been trained for emergency response (except infant CPR when I was pregnant) and my knee-jerk reaction was to call 911. It was just her and me. She was in shock. I was in shock. It was horrible. She couldn’t give me her name or age and I didn’t even know her street number. I needed help in a major way.
She told me that the lawnmower had cut them off. I’ve never, and never want to again, see anything like what I saw. Ever.
I looked up and saw an SUV driving towards us on our sleepy street. I literally jumped in front of it (what was I thinking!) and slammed my hands on the window. I demanded (in as pleasant of a tone as possible) for the man to stop. He stared at me wild-eyed as I told him the situation. He pulled over, thank you God. I was still on the phone with 911 as instructed. Shortly after, the woman’s boyfriend drove up. So here these two men, the woman and by now another neighbor were looking for her fingers in the yard, the gutter, in the mower, while I obeyed the 911 operator’s instructions to stay in the street to help flag down the EMS vehicles which were en route. I was still trying to get her name and age.
In the minutes before anyone else was on the scene, the weight and brevity of responsibility for this neighbor who couldn’t help herself, collapsed heavily on my shoulders. I knew what could happen if she didn’t receive the medical care she needed. I knew time was not on her side. I’ve never been in that position before.
Our family has endured multiple medical crises: a Home Depot incident that put my three year-old in an ambulance with stitches deep in his forehead; our oldest son was impaled by a broken hurdle on the track at school leaving a 1×1″ right angle scar on his chin; again our oldest suffered a severe concussion while playing soccer in Kenya when on mission for which he is still being treated almost four years later; a light saber snafu between brothers knocked out our youngest’s front teeth requiring emergency orthodontics; a playground accident at school in which our youngest got clothes-lined by a thick metal bar square in the head. I could go on with sports injuries, home accidents – we basically have every medical apparatus available to the general public including surgical boots, slings, braces, every size of crutches, etc. I can’t even make this stuff up.
However, I had never been in such a moment where I was alone to deal with it. Like standing in the eye of a hurricane, I could see the urgency and seriousness of the moment swirling around me, yet inside I was calm and stayed focused on the task of getting her the help she needed – all with my dog’s leash tangled around my legs.
After the ambulance arrived, I asked the EMS worker if there was anything more I could do to help. Thinking I was just a curious onlooker, he encouraged me to move along. Next thing I know I am walking once again on our quiet street, as if nothing ever happened. I didn’t know what to think and questioned if the whole thing even happened. I turned around and gazed at the ambulance and knew indeed it was real.
Nightmares plagued me for days. Shock numbed my waking hours. An inner tremor reverberated through my body every moment making it difficult to even hold a pen. But, I knew the thing I needed to do most was to walk by her home again. I needed to do it to get past it. So I leashed up my dog and off we went. As I approached her home I began to shake uncontrollably. But I kept walking. The minute my feet passed by her driveway I turned and stared at the place where it all started. My mind’s eye saw her running toward me all over again and I began to cry. Tears streamed down my face and I wanted to turn around. I passed by the place where the lawnmower sat and people searched. I breathed deeply and kept walking. Finally, I had passed her home that had yellow ribbons tied around her trees out of love and care for her.
What makes feet walk straight to the eye of the storm and not turn back?
* Summer came and our family embarked on a mission trip to Ecuador.
A beautiful country with even more beautiful people. We’d been going on mission for three years prior, but this time was different. The other times we went with our church. I felt safe and sound, snug in the middle of a circle of capable, loving people who were veterans on mission. I was comfortable. Very comfortable even in uncomfortable, and at times dangerous, situations.
This time, however, God led us to serve with an organization we didn’t know, with people we didn’t know. It’s one thing to go myself, but it’s another thing to take our children, even if they are teenagers. The week before we left I came down with a horrible upper respiratory infection. The team leader called us from out-of-state to check in and I could hear the surprise in her voice when she heard my lack of voice. I was so so sick. As I laid in bed I stared at the ceiling asking God why. I needed to get on a plane in a matter of days and have flown with a sinus infection before – no fun. I didn’t want to get my team or those we’d be serving sick.
I crawled to the doctor for any help she could give and she prescribed for me an inhaler. I’d never used one and was wary of its side effects as other family members use them so I am familiar with them. She promised me it would be okay. In the meantime, my primary doctor was trying to figure what was wrong with me because for months I couldn’t stay awake and was known to take 4 hour naps during the day. Add that to a list of symptoms and he suggested sleep apnea. No, not me. That’s what other people have. The sleep doctor tested me and sure enough!
A week before leaving for Ecuador, still sick, I received my c-pap machine.
Touching down in Quito, the minute I stepped off the plane it hit me. Ten thousand feet of altitude slapped me right in the lungs. I’ve never been at that altitude, but thankfully had researched altitude sickness before we left.
As quick as I could, I whipped out my new inhaler and puffed away. The c-pap machine was my lifeline during this mission. Without these two things I would not have been able to stay. By the time we left Quito at the end of the mission, I felt like I was having a heart attack. The headache, tightness of chest, brain fog – it felt like a giant was slowly squeezing the life out of me in his merciless hand. It was claustrophobic to mind and body. As our driver passed by several urgent cares and a hospital, I nearly asked him to stop at one.
Instead, I sat back, closed my eyes and breathed long, slow breaths. Even though the mission was over, we weren’t headed to the airport. Our family was headed to the rain forest.
What makes feet walk straight to the eye of the storm and not turn back?
* The end of summer drew near, and on a hot, typical day our day turned out to be anything but typical.
As Providence would have it, our family was involved in a tragedy no one saw coming. Someone we know committed suicide, and our family happened to be first on the scene to comfort the man’s daughter who had literally just found him. It was surreal. Bound to an obligation I had, I sent my kids to comfort her, not knowing this was the case. I thought it was a heart attack or stroke. I was in a situation that could not pull me away, so as a juggled this situation and my kids going to the need, my heart split in two. Watching my daughter literally hold up his daughter in grief while they pulled his body from the car physically made my heart hurt. Watching a slew of EMS vehicles come and go for hours sent me into a tailspin. Watching from afar my kids be so closely involved left me numb and nauseous.
However, at one point (still tied to my obligation) I asked our youngest to get our other two. They had seen enough after an hour of trying to help. He replied, “I can’t interrupt when they’re praying.” “How do you know they are praying?” I asked as I turned around. My eyes beheld one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen. Our two teens were sitting on the ground in a circle with the wife and daughter, arms locked shoulder to shoulder, praying. Later, our daughter told me it was our son’s idea to pray.
I had nightmares for weeks. Gasping for air in the middle of the night, I woke up crying in a cold sweat. What we saw. What we knew. The pain of that day is inexpressible. I am without words. It rocked my faith to the core. I’ve lived my entire life based on hope that is rooted in faith. It’s how I’ve survived my own personal tragedies.
On this day, hope lost. Like watching the hero die in a movie, I kept waiting for this person we know to get up. To be okay. He didn’t. He wasn’t going to be okay. Hope lost. I couldn’t wrap my head around it for months. I cried through every worship song at church and my prayers were short one-way chats with God at best.
It would have been so much easier to turn a blind eye that day, or close our eyes in fear and ignore what was literally in front of us. I wrestled the mama bear inside me who wanted to protect and shield my kids from the harsh realities of the world.
What makes feet walk straight to the eye of the storm and not turn back?
* Fall came, and it brought a personal heartache like none I have ever experienced.
It is so deep. So raw. Bleeding. I was neither prepared for this then nor now. It put me in a position I never imagined. To make decisions I never thought I’d have to make. I was forced to live a reality that I wanted to run from and hide. It was a sadness and loss like I’ve never experienced. Anger and depression warred in my soul. I became non-functioning. I couldn’t eat, sleep, or perform any daily tasks required of me. I lost purpose for my life. I felt completely untethered to this world. Like being caught in the movie Inception, but without a toggle, I couldn’t tell what was real anymore because everything I knew to be so with this part of my life revealed an opposite truth – and I couldn’t process it.
Instead of being calm in the eye of the hurricane like before, this time I was swept away with the wind and rain and lightening and thunder as it threw my heart around and around and around in its bands. I’ve never been so emotionally bruised and wounded.
I wish I could say the storm has passed, but it hasn’t. It has changed, but it’s hasn’t passed. The bands of the hurricane spit me out, and now I sit in the pouring rain among the rubble of what I thought I once knew as normal life. The rain pounds, the wind whips. I sit with my head between my knees and wait for it to pass.
Tempted to once again ignore the situation and conjure up a false reality through vices which lead to dead ends, I stay in the storm.
What makes feet walk straight to the eye of the storm and not turn back?
* Recently, our teens’ high school received multiple death threats.
It was all the talk to see who would still attend school on the day targeted by the perpetrator. The general consensus among parents at large was to keep their kids home. Social media comments I read gave the attitude of, “Good parents keep their kids home.” But, our family didn’t see it that way. First of all, we left it up to our 18 year-old to attend or not, after all, he’s a legal adult. Second, we spent hours discussing the issue. I firmly believe Psalm 139 which tells us that every one of our days were written in God’s book before any of them ever happen. If it’s not our son’s time to go, then nothing and no one in all of the world can change that. If it is his last day, nothing can prevent that either unless God changes the plan.
Here’s an even more shocking statement – I believe it was an important day for Christians to be at school, so those who don’t have a hope and salvation in Christ can talk to someone who does. They also need to be front line to be hands and feet of Jesus. Does that mean we shove our kids into harm’s way? Not at all. The FBI, local police and school system were all over this thing. The day before K-9 units and bomb squads scoured the property. Officers were stationed on sight throughout the night. There were 20 officers posted on campus during the school day. Doors were guarded. Halls were monitored. This school was probably safer than any in the county because everyone was on high alert includes teachers and students.
Our son was adamant about going. He wanted to defend his freedom and not let anyone else dictate his life through fear and intimidation, not for one day. That morning, I prayed over him and anointed his head with oil. We read Psalm 139:1-18, 23-24 en route to school. We chatted about light stuff. As I dropped him off, it was obvious he was one of a few there. In fact, the school had a 13% attendance that day. As I drove away, I once again gave my son to our Lord as a tear trickled down my cheek.
* This week, while waiting on my husband’s shoulder surgery to wrap up as I sat in the waiting room, I thought about this year.
I am desperate to turn the calendar and close 2014 forever. I prayed that God would make sense of it all, because heaven forbid these situations that confronted me this year would be for nothing except to grate on my last nerve and send me to the end of my sanity.
Here’s the question I’ve always wrestled with: Does God give us more than we can handle?
Looking back at any of these 2014 situations, I get tangled up with the notion that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle. Read Elijah’s words in 1 Kings 19:3-5,
Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep…
Or Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 1:8,
We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself.
David spoke often in Psalm about suffering. Psalm 88:2-4,
May my prayer come before you; turn your ear to my cry. I am overwhelmed with troubles and my life draws near to death. I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am like one without strength.
Job also had a voice in handling the hard stuff. Job 30:15-17,
Terrors overwhelm me; my dignity is driven away as by the wind, my safety vanishes like a cloud. And now my life ebbs away; days of suffering grip me. Night pierces my bones; my gnawing pains never rest.
And Job 6:8-16,
“Oh, that I might have my request, that God would grant what I hope for, that God would be willing to crush me, to let loose his hand and cut off my life! Then I would still have this consolation—my joy in unrelenting pain—that I had not denied the words of the Holy One. “What strength do I have, that I should still hope? What prospects, that I should be patient? Do I have the strength of stone? Is my flesh bronze? Do I have any power to help myself, now that success has been driven from me?
But what about Isaiah 42:3,
A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
Or 2 Corinthians 4:7-9,
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned;struck down, but not destroyed.
Then there is 1 Corinthians 10:13 which is OFTEN taken out of context (ug!). Can we agree to remove this Scripture from this discussion? It’s not applicable no matter how many times it’s misunderstood.
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
So which is it? Does God give us beyond what we can bear or not?
The answer came slowly this year, experience by experience. I have always believed He does so that we only boast in his strength. Others believe He won’t. The experiences I’ve had in 2014 pushed me beyond my limit, beyond what I could bear, so far as I knew.
That’s the key. Bob Marley’s quote, “You never know how strong you are, until being strong is your only choice” is true, to a point. So is my belief that it is God’s strength in us that gets us through the tough stuff as in Philippians 4:13,
I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. (KJV)
In a believer’s life, these two work in tandem. It is Christ’s strength in us, and that strength is there because of a relationship with the One who gives it. There were times this year when I was pushed beyond my limit. I came to the end of myself. But, God’s strength was there. It’s not like His strength was some turbo boost that kicked in when I needed it. It was there all along.
How? Because the deeper I relation with Him, the more He becomes in me and the less I am. So in fact it is His strength in me that is working, though it is working through my words and actions.
Like a glass filled with water (me), oil (God) slowly poured in it eventually fills the cup. The water spills out. It’s not that we lose who we are and were created to be. We don’t lose our uniqueness, gifts, strengths and weaknesses, it is that God is glorified in them and through them.
Uniqueness: Psalm 139:13-14
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
And 1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 18, 27,
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
Gifts & Strengths: Romans 12:6-8,
We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
Weaknesses: 2 Corinthians 12:8-10,
Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take (the thorn) away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
I am able to see His strength working in each of the scenarios from 2014:
* With the varicose vein procedure –
Romans 12:2, Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
His strength produced a new mental stamina and perseverance in me that wasn’t there before. Wanting to jump off of the table and run, I remained still and let the procedure happen. God’s logic and common sense about what is best in the long run for the health of my legs, thus how much I can do with them for the rest of my life, overcame my irrational mindset.
* In the experience with my neighbor and her lawnmower tragedy –
Hebrews 13:20-21, Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
His calm made me calm. No matter how badly I wanted to run away from the situation, His love for a woman I didn’t know overpowered my selfishness that wanted to run. God equipped me for helping with this gruesome task in ways only He could have done with a love that overflowed from His heart into mine.
Driving by her home a couple of weeks ago, I saw her hanging evergreen wreaths on her windows for Christmas. It was beautiful and healing to watch her life move past the incident and see her accept change and a new normal. Having learned more about how God has worked in her life since then (even weaving this tragedy into something beautiful in her life), I can appreciate her willingness to accept change in on a much deeper level. She has been an encouragement to me to accept change in my life. God’s hand was on her hand that day and in His own incredible way He healed us both.
* In Ecuador –
Deuteronomy 1:29-31, Then I said to you, “Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the wilderness. There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.”
As I laid in bed sick as a dog before we left, I felt like God had forgotten about me. Why in the world would He let me get sick a week before a mission trip we had planned for 6 months? I was angry. Looking back on it, if I had not gotten sick, I never would have been given an inhaler, which was vital to combating altitude sickness. I believe He also allowed my sleep apnea symptoms to get so severe I was forced to go to the doctor (something I had procrastinated about for months) so I would have the c-pap machine in time to travel.
There is no possible way I could have stayed on mission without these tools. The altitude crippled me – who knew?
So what I saw as two major inconveniences in my life at the time, the illness and sleep apnea diagnosis, were actually blessings in disguise. God was paving the path for me to get to Ecuador – and stay there. When we’re in the middle of a trial, it’s almost impossible for us to see any good that can come of it. We can’t, because we can’t see the future. But God, who invented time and is already in the future as much as He is in the present, sees the whole, big picture.
I learned through this to not spend my strength cursing the trial, but praising the One who I trust to bring me through it (one way or another) and can even use it for my good. How’s that for God’s crazy economy?
Second, He strengthened me for the task of serving others in my weakness so, like Paul, I can tell others who gets the glory – and it’s not me.
In addition to being able to accomplish the mission’s goals, when we drove past all of the medical help and deep toward the rain forest, God had awesome surprises in store for us. He showed off His majesty in plants prehistorically large and jaw-droppingly beautiful. He showed off His creativity in creatures we’ve never seen. The day we hiked on our own in the rain forest was liberating like no other experience I’ve had. It was mesmerizing. Peaceful. And we felt a little closer to heaven.
Serving with an unknown team, in an unknown land, and venturing into unknown territory cut the apron strings of fear that had me seeing the future with tunnel vision. Now I can look at the big wide world, and all of its possibilities, and give God open hands, willing feet and a heart ready to do whatever He asks.
* Regarding the suicide –
Isaiah 40:28-31, Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
I watched our son dash away from me barefoot as he ran to help them that day. The same bare feet that used to run into the backyard to play. The same bare feet that curled up on the couch to watch Saturday morning cartoons. The same bare feet I used to wash in the sink and cuddle up into a towel. This also goes for our daughter. All the hugs we’ve given her over the years. The hugs she’s received from teachers, friends and family, she was extending to someone who needed to be held.
Our son left a child and came back a man. I saw that he was able to minister to others in their time of need. What he has learned his entire life was put into action that day. Our daughter did the very thing we’ve reared her to do – love others. For me as a mom, it wasn’t a moment of pride. It was a moment of great humility that God would allow me to see two childhoods come to fruition into two young adults who know how to, and are not afraid to, literally run to the need. I count myself immeasurably blessed to have been able to witness it.
However, I couldn’t reconcile hope losing. I understand hope loses every day in many ways. Marriages divorce. Diagnoses stamp death sentences. Job prospects fall through. Our best still isn’t good enough and we watch dreams fade into unrealized memories. This experience was a raw, unfiltered, tangible expression of hope losing. Permanent. Unchanging. Irreversible. It sucker-punched me.
I thought about my last brief chat with this man and wondered if there was anything different I could have said or done. But, without any warning signs visible, how would we know? Oh the guilt.
Trying to work through this was kryptonite to my soul until God scooped my heart up off the floor and held it in His hands. He let me grieve. He gave me time to heal. In doing so, He strengthened me from the inside out.
That strength turned into a fiery passion to helps others. To be more aware of people in my life whether family and friends or those standing in front of my in the grocery store. He strengthened me with an urgency to help in ways that show His love to a broken world. He brushed me off, tied my running shoes and said, “Run. Run to the need.” Just like my children did, without hesitation.
* Trusting God in perilous times –
Isaiah 41:10, Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
It was a normal Saturday when social media lit up like the 4th of July. The threats made against the school were flying all over the place. How does a mother allow her teenager to go to school under such conditions? Again, knowing the authorities had all hands on deck, my mind drifted to other parts of the world in those hours leading up to school.
Thoughts of Christians in northern Iraq, Nigeria, Sudan, and places that don’t make the nightly news. I’ve read so many stories of Christians living 24/7 under imminent threat. Their danger is at their doorstep, yet they are not swayed.
We were faced with a possible threat. The major players were “what if” scenarios that ran through our minds like a movie in fast-forward. Taking a step back, the fact is there is more of a chance of something happening to my children on the way to and from school every single day than this far out possibility.
Our pastor (now retired) once told me a profound truth about living in this kind of fear. He said, “People will always give up freedom for safety.” That thought terrifies me because it is a vicious circle that spirals down toward total loss of freedom in the end.
This situation our family was faced with made us confront our fears of pain and suffering, loss and trauma. But in reality, every day is a risk. It’s quite amazing we all make it to midnight, frankly.
This situation made us face our own mortality and what price we are willing to pay for our Lord. It was a heavy weekend.
My strength came from Ephesians 6:12 because these threats were pure evil –
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
We used wisdom, logic, common sense and mostly prayer to come to a conclusion about our son going to school that day. Doing so, we could wholeheartedly support his decision knowing he had sought God’s will and wisdom.
This, coming from an overprotective mother who would do anything for her children, was surely walking in God’s strength, not my own. My human nature wanted to lock him in his bedroom, far away from any danger.
But, can we do that? Can we prevent all danger at all times from reaching our children? No. There is trust in the One who made them and has plans for them (Jeremiah 29:11). Letting go is the hardest thing a mother can do. It goes against everything in us no matter what we are releasing them to. At some point, parents must relinquish control and let the One who made them, lead them.
* Fall’s avalanche –
Psalm 34;18, The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
I could ask never-ending “why’s” about this. Everything in 2014 combined leading up to this didn’t compare to this. A landslide of the heart. A sinkhole of spirit. An avalanche of the mind. An abyss of the future.
Still, God keeps telling me, “Do it anyway. You aren’t allowed to give up. It’s bigger than you, but it doesn’t have to be stronger than you.” What does that look like in reality? How does one live every day like this? From where does one draw strength to walk this journey?
Indeed, it is this experience that has taught me the most about God giving us what we can or can’t handle. It feels like everything else were precursors preparing me for this.
And that’s the point. One experience in life leads us to the next. We will grow stronger or weaker through them, depending on whose strength we rely on. God gives us things in life that do seem too much to handle from our perspective. But to He who created us, doesn’t He know us better than ourselves? Can we trust Him to know how much we can take?
And can’t the amount of our strength change? Like in exercising when muscles get stronger and bigger, so life’s circumstances are opportunities to grow strength in us via faith in Christ who carried the weight of the world on His shoulders by way of the cross.
The tricky part is realizing whose strength it is in the moment. We are finite and so is our strength. I’ve often read Habakkuk 1:11, Then they sweep past like the wind and go on—guilty people, whose own strength is their god. It haunts me because I am often guilty of this, finding strength in my strength.
In John’s words in John 3:30, He must increase, but I must decrease.
As I decrease and God increases in my life, it is His strength which infuses and vitalizes me. When we feel handling life’s hardest trials are impossible, we are reminded they are not:
Matthew 19:26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Mark 10:27, Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”
Luke 18:27, Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”
So on our own, no, we can’t bear all things. But with God, there is nothing we can’t endure. Our history with Him are stepping stones on our faith journey, and as we look back and see He was faithful, we can look forward and know He will be faithful.
Isaiah 40:29, He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
And in His power, can’t God even turn our weaknesses around and make them strengths?
Hebrews 11:32-34, And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames,and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. (emphasis mine)
At the end of a tumultuous year, I answer the question with a question – Does God give us more than we can handle? How do we really know how much we can handle?
It is He who knows us best. It is He who knows the why’s behind the doubts and is the strength that overpowers our fears. He gives us His strength in infinite ways – wisdom, courage, love, compassion, mercy, tenacity, endurance, perseverance, hope, joy, peace, readiness, self-control, determination, gentleness, humor, and even physical strength to face today.
When we lose ourselves in His goodness and faithfulness, forfeiting our own selfishness and self-righteousness, we find the fabric of our strength in He who knitted us in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13).
Galatians 2:20, I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
We are one. Inseparable. Forever intertwined together in a dance that lessens me and increases Him until I am transparent for His glory.
What makes feet walk straight to the eye of the storm and not turn back?
1 John 4:9-10, This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
Romans 5:8, But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
It’s not about who I am or what I’ve done. It’s about who Christ is and what He did for me – and you. God is love, and this love is irresistible. It makes the journey worth it. Moreover, He is the reason for the journey. He is the journey.
From the first time He said, “Follow Me,” I did so as a baby crawls on the floor with no understanding of what I was really doing or where I was going or why. Now, three decades later of following Him, I understand a little more each day what that means. Requires. Costs. But, the journey we are on together is one I wouldn’t miss for all the world.
God may test my strength, faith and endurance, but He’s also there every moment to infuse me with more of Himself through the power of the Holy Spirit. We may face trials, hardships and temptations from the enemy, and the sheer brokenness of this world, but we are never alone on the path when walking with the Lord.
One unexpected place He led me to this summer was a childhood dream of visiting the Grand Canyon. This summer, nine family members embarked on a whirlwind trip to visit American landmarks. The Grand Canyon was at the top of the list.
Our family was in the middle of a mule ride on the rim of the Canyon when I looked up and saw the most amazing sight. What do you see in this photograph I took?
I see a heart shaped by clouds and clay. Right there, on the back of a mule in the middle of nowhere, God overwhelmed with His words in Psalm 139:7-8,
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
And Romans 8:38-39,
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Psalm 23:6 assures us,
Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
What makes feet walk straight to the eye of the storm and not turn back? Following the Savior described in Philippians 2:6-11,
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
For the rest of my life, I will continue to answer His call, “Follow Me” because He loved me first. We will do this thing together, with His strength as my own, as I wait patiently for the day I see God face-to-face and dwell in His house forever. Will you join me in the journey?
A First Day For All of Us
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 4: 6-8
Today, I join the ranks of mothers everywhere sending their children off to school for another year. As much as I am excited about this day, it is bittersweet. For three years, I treasured homeschooling two of my children (before that, all 3 of them attended private school). Now, my middle schoolers are catching the big yellow bus with backpacks slung over their shoulders and offering me a smile goodbye. My oldest begins another year of high school, and that means college is a year closer. Be still my heart.
I’m transitioning all over again – finding my place in the world. I will have to get used to being without my kids during the day; to the quiet – which has its pros and cons.
As mixed as I feel about our new phase of life (happy for them & sad for me) I must choose which attitude I will wear today as real as I choose my clothes. I choose to look at the good in the day. The sad moments will come, and that’s okay. But, I can’t live in the sadness. God has given me too much to be joyful about that deserves to be celebrated. So, I’ll let the tears fall, but I am turning my eyes and ears to what are His gifts of joy which are meant to be enjoyed. I will unwrap each of them them slowly, thoughtfully and hold them close to my heart. And I will be thankful in all things.
Blessings I count today…
* God is with me every step on this amazing journey of parenthood. He is always caught up to my life, so at any moment I can talk to Him and know He gets it.
* My children are healthy and have an opportunity for a great education.
* They are excited about school.
* God’s provision to send them with new school supplies. We are grateful.
* My sweet husband understands this is a tricky time for me and accepts that moodiness comes with the territory.
* My dog that will shadow me because she will miss them almost as much as I do.
* Finishing projects that have waited for years for attention.
* Caring for my family.
* Caring for others.
* My 2 new neighbors, who have quickly become new friends – invited me on a walk after everyone left for the day. Fun!
* All of my friends and time to catch up with them. They have been so tender toward me with prayers, texts, FB, emails and conversations – knowing this school year is a new normal for me. I have the BEST friends in the entire world!!
* Knowing that not knowing who I am now is okay. Transition takes time.
* Leftover chocolate chip pancakes that I got up before sunrise to make today by special request.
* The smell of my perfume lingering in the bathroom from my daughter who wanted to wear a little today.
* The sound of jazz music still playing in the family room from my youngest son who wanted it to help calm his jitters.
* The aroma of homemade pasta sauce simmering for a “comfort food” meal tonight to celebrate the completion of the first day.
* So happy that I was able to slip Scripture into each of their notebooks for encouragement. I fell asleep too quickly last night to do it, but got it done between flipping pancakes and waking up those who overslept! (Scriptures I used – Philippians 4:13, Philippians 1:6 & Proverbs 3: 5-6)
* Tears of joy and sorrow
* New beginnings
* God’s peace that is beyond my understanding.
* Anticipating my children back in the nest at the end of the day.
* Sharing all of this with my husband, my best friend.
Yep. There is much to be excited about, and I don’t want to miss a second of any of it. Think I’ll go eat a pancake. And I will be thankful. 🙂
Respect: Cost versus benefit for parents and children
Yesterday we discussed respect and why children need to learn it. Today, I want to touch on two main issues that can make or break respect – for children and adults.
Self-control and pride.
These are the muscles that either work for or against respect. When we take away the drama of disrespect and peek underneath at what motivates someone to be disrespectful, typically there is a lack of self-control and an overload of pride.
Disrespect can be shown in any number of ways. Anyone can do it. It’s easy! We just say what we feel with no filter on our mouths. Or, we do what we feel like with no thought or concern of the repercussions to our actions. Disrespect is easy. It’s also very costly. Once a word leaves our mouth, we can never ever retract it. We can say we are sorry a hundred times, but it doesn’t make the word(s) disappear. Sticks and stones – yeah, right. We all know words hurt. It’s why we use them against people-to hurt them. Whoever first coined this phrase was spot on: If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. If everyone lived according to that the world would be a better place.
Disrespect can be shown in many ways without ever physically touching the other person. Deliberate defiance, foot stomping, walking away, eyes rolling and rude body language screams disrespect without uttering a word or producing physical harm. Oh, we are good. We know exactly how to show disrespect if we want to. After all, it comes naturally! And for those who are closest to us, we know precisely the hottest buttons to push to show it.
When parents let a word from a child go here and there, they are in essence telling them what is acceptable behavior. If the child says something out of line either by way of subject matter or foul language, and the parent turns a blind eye to disrespectful behavior, they have just told the child it is perfectly okay to say or do it. A non-response is a response nonetheless.
Parents can, and should, only deal with so much at time. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and if heavy subject matter is being addressed, it is ineffective to try to correct every single thing the child has done wrong right then and there. But, it must be addressed at some point. After conflict, parents just want peace and quiet in their homes, so who wants to dredge up more issues? However, if the issue isn’t addressed, rest assured it will come up again and again. And, every time it comes up, a precedent has been set that whatever the child has said or done is permissible.
Children remember. They remember it was okay to say it, or do it, last time and they are thinking, So who’s the hypocrite now? I could get away with it before and not this time? Who’s the double standard now?
They are right. One thing I often tell my tween and teens regarding peer pressure is this – you have to have already made up your mind how you will respond to a situation. It’s far too much pressure to try to sort it all out in the heat of the moment. You have to have already determined your boundaries, that way, when the moment of decision comes you can simply fall back on what you previously decided.
It’s much the same with parenting. We have to have a plan. We must have boundaries. We must gather the courage to stick to them. Waiting until something comes up in the middle of conflict to determine how you feel about it is not the time to debate within ourselves what we should do. We should already know what we’re are going to do. It takes a lot of pressure off of ourselves to simply follow through with our standard, rather than create one on the spot.
Additionally, standards created on the spot are not reliable. Factors that affect said standard are: the offense committed by the child/teen, how angry the parent is, how volatile the conflict gets, the kind of day the parent has had (what Mom or Dad’s mood is going into the conflict), and likewise what kind of mood and day the child/teen has had. All of those are centered around emotions, and emotions are fleeting and are extremely temperamental (pardon the pun).
Decisions about what a parent will allow the child/teen to say must be predetermined when there is no conflict and the parent is in control of himself or herself. It is so much easier to parent with a plan, rather than make it up as we go.
(Tip – kids see right through a spontaneous plan, and they know how to use it against us. I think they can smell it or see it or feel its vibe (just kidding), but they know us well enough to tell the difference when we are readily prepared and when we are winging it.)
Disrespect is a lack of self-control. We just can’t help ourselves! We know we are right, or even when we know we are wrong – we’re gonna be heard – and whatever it takes to make us feel heard, well, so be it. Yikes. This philosophy will land the growing child grounded and the adult child unemployed and most likely alone.
Self-control and pride. When I think about these two character traits, I see with my mind’s eye, the silly image we’ve all seen before. A person standing with a little angel that looks like the person on one shoulder and a little devil that looks like the person on the other shoulder. They are both debating their point-of-view into the person’s ear.
Self-control is one of the hardest virtues! A lack of it wages war against our better judgement, only sees the moment, and could care less about long-term effects of the situation.
Pride is truly the root, the seed, of a lack of self-control – which leads to disrespect. We don’t want to admit we are wrong, and we certainly don’t want anyone to tell us we are wrong! A heaping dose of pride inhibits us from letting the other person finish speaking, choosing not to slam the door, choosing not to jump in the car and drive off, choosing not to say something we will deeply regret later.
For children of all ages, they are trying to figure this all out. They do not have the life experience of say, getting fired from a job for yelling at the boss, or having security come remove them from the classroom for refusing to participate.
They are in a season of life of testing boundaries. It’s not necessarily always about how “bad” they are behaving. Sometimes, whether they realize it or not, they are trying to find civilized boundaries. When parents don’t teach them boundaries, how do kids know when to stop? If parents don’t have a plan, and therefore are constantly moving the boundary lines, then unnecessary confusion is created and no one is going to come out of that successfully.
There once was a study done with a group of children. They placed the children in a fenced-in yard with tons of fun things to do: swings, toys, slides, you know, fun stuff. The kids had a blast! They were as busy as ants at a picnic. Then, they took the fence away, but left the toys. The same group of kids meandered aimlessly around as if they were lost. They didn’t play with the toys. They just…wandered around. Fascinating! The conclusion was that when the fence was there, the kids knew they were free to do everything inside the fence. When the fence was removed, the kids didn’t know what they could do because they didn’t know how far they could roam or what else around them was fair game to play with.
The same principle applies to parenting in regards to respect. Parents must show children what is acceptable and what is not. They must use the same fence every time. Don’t move the fence around – that won’t help and will only confuse the child.
Is the child allowed to cuss at the parent? Yes or no. Is the child allowed to yell at the parent? Yes or no. Is the child allowed to tell the parent to shut-up? Yes or no.
Is the child allowed to storm off in an argument? Yes or no. Is the child allowed to slam doors, throw objects or turn away from the parent when being spoken to? Yes or no. Is the child allowed to roll their eyes or show other similar body language? Yes or no.
These are the kinds of boundaries that need to be predetermined – preferably before the child is born, but it’s never too late to begin healthy, CONSISTENT boundaries.
Here’s a tough word…any of the above mentioned that the child/teen is permitted to do to parents, he or she will do the same things to their future boss and spouse. How’s that going to work for them? It won’t end well. And, for parents who are still trying to be their child’s best friend in the growing years, allowing the child/teen to get away with these things through rationalizing or justifying in the parent’s mind (oh, they’ve had a bad day, they’ve had a hard life, etc.) is going to result in the child resenting the parent. Why? Because the parent, in either spoken or unspoken terms, told the child it was okay to behave like this, but when the grown child tries to pull this stuff on the world, he or she will quickly find out the hard way the world won’t tolerate it and there is a price to be paid for such behavior. The grown child will, in essence, be baffled as to why the parent didn’t warn them. Why did the parent lead them on in something that is not reality? Why didn’t the parent better prepare the child for the real world? What will the parent say then?
Self-control, pride and respect are a threesome that cannot be separated. A parent cannot deal with one without knowing the other two are in cahoots with it. Again, a moment of conflict is probably not the best time to address every single last issue. The child is not in a position to hear and process all that at once. But, when tempers have cooled down and everyone is thinking clearly and in a receptive mood to listen, boundaries must be reaffirmed and appropriate consequences given for breaking through the fence.
We are not born knowing boundaries. We are born trying to buck them. Take advantage of the little amount of time we have to set up our children for a successful future. It may mean rough waters for now, but the end result is a healthy family who knows their rules and children know their place. The end result will, hopefully, be mature, respectful children who will esteem their parent for better preparing them for the real world.
Bottom line – a parent will count the cost for how they parent now or later. The parent must choose whether to work through the rough spots now, even though they are tired, have hard jobs, have hard marriages, or feel too inadequate to effectively parent, or the parent can choose to turn a blind eye, remove the fence for the sake of a moment of peace and not invest in a plan, but wind up with a grown child who has trouble with work and relationships – including with the parent.
We must decide today – today – how we will parent. There are many great books about parenting available. Invest now and enjoy the payoff later.
<<Check out a great book recommendation on my Books page!>>
Kristi Buttles has been married for twenty-five years to her best friend and is the mother ot three amazing teenagers. She writes devotions for http://www.christiandevotions.us and is a contributor to the book Faith & Finances: In God We Trust. Her blog, http://www.RealDeepStuff.com walks the journey of a woman saved by grace and captivated by God’s mercy and hu…