Joining the Dance

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On Saturday, I finally worked up the courage to clean my son’s room.

I knew it would be the very last time I would clean it for him. When he moved away, he had left a sundry of assorted items on the floor and on the shelves, along with a basketful of items that he said weren’t his. That, along with a few other things, have sat in that empty room since he moved out in June.

I told myself that I was just too busy to get to it and had reminded myself that it wasn’t really any hurry, but I knew full well why I was putting it off.

Cleaning that room was going to make me sad. And it was going to remind me that my life was never going to be the same again.

But Saturday was the day.

And so I gathered some garbage bags, the vacuum, and my courage, and opened the door.

As I glanced around the room, I could almost hear echoes of the past. A little boy’s laughter. A sibling argument. A middle-schooler pesting a sister. A parent-teen discussion. It was all in the past. A loud, trying, crazy, happy, chaotic past.

I tried to find perspective as I cleaned the room. I thought of the possibilities and what I could do with the extra space. I eyed up the closet and contemplated filling up its shelves.

And, yet, somehow it just didn’t seem right–this filling up of a space that had been–and would, in some ways, always be–our son’s.

In the midst of my melancholy, I recognized the importance of pushing on and of finding the good in the now. Of seeing the possibilities and potential of this time in my life. Yes, life is changing but it’s not all bad.

God is teaching me and drawing me to Himself in a deeper way right now, as I am able to spend more time in His Word. I cherish the relaxed time I have with my youngest child and husband. And I love spending time with all of my kids (this includes the wonderful kids that have joined our family).

And, so, as I cleaned the room, I was also trying to clear away the last vestiges of sad nostalgia that had taken up residence in my mind this past year as, one by one, I have watched my three oldest kids start their own lives. And I somehow grasp the importance of enjoying this moment. There is so much to take in and savor and to love about life right now. When we get hung up in yesterday–whether it be a good or a bad past–we miss so much.

Life keeps changing. Some changes are good and some are not. Some change we can control, but there is much we can’t control.

But there is always one thing we can control: Our attitude. We can choose to dance and move in step with the change or we can choose not to. Growing sad or depressed won’t keep change from happening, it will just make us miserable.

And so on Saturday when I finished that room, I was ready to join the dance of change. Oh, I know I will still have my moments of tears and sadness, but I am ready to intentionally grab hold of my new life with joy and expectation. I had prepared that room for new opportunities–just as I am becoming prepared for new opportunities.

 

Ironing for Jesus

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The other day, as we prepared for yet another wedding, I watched my brother and sister-in-law. They efficiently and diligently did every task asked of them without complaint or attitude. I have seen them do this before. Since they never complain and no job is too small or “beneath” them, they are wonderful to have around! While we have had so many helpful relatives and friends give us a hand these past few weeks, on this particular day there were just a few of us and I watched my brother and his wife closely. As they quietly worked, much got done and there was no drama. They willingly and gladly did anything necessary to help. By the end of the day, I was convicted.

On the way home that day, I asked the Lord to help me be more like them. I told him that I wanted to stop complaining when a task is boring or hard. Or when I’d rather be doing something else.

Little did I know that God would present me with a situation that would test my earnest prayer the very next day.

We had tablecloths to iron. Lots of tablecloths to iron. Somehow I ended up at an iron (probably because no one else wanted to do it!) But these weren’t just any tablecloths. These things were so difficult to iron. There was no feeling of accomplishment even when I’d spend 15 minutes on one tablecloth. I am convinced that many of the wrinkles in these rented cloths were permanently in place.

This made for a pretty discouraging task. For a variety of reasons–

It was hot.

It was boring.

And there was no possible way to do it well.

As I watched everyone having all the fun of decorating the venue, I stood at the ironing board, dutifully doing my “mom” thing but not with a very good attitude. I was bummed and started complaining inside my head. And then the complaints started spilling out of my mouth.

And that’s when the Holy Spirit challenged me.

Did you really mean what you prayed yesterday? Because this is a test.

No, I didn’t hear the words. But I was convicted.

I made a choice to stop complaining in that instant. What did it matter? Why not spare someone else from having to do this awful job and let others have the fun? The only reason I even cared was because I was thinking only of me. If this was my job, then I would do it cheerfully. I went to work and, instead of being resentful about missing out on all of the fun, I put on some uplifting music and chose to enjoy watching all of the activity.

Thankfully, God was so kind to me and provided my mom to help me with the ironing a little later on. But not before I learned a good lesson. Sometimes we don’t get to do the fun job or the job we think we should. Instead we are asked to do the job that we don’t want to do. The one that perhaps we think we are too good for. And that’s when our true character shows, isn’t it? That’s when we see who we really are inside. Because anyone can be pleasant and diligent when they are doing what they want to do.

Thankfully, the Lord hasn’t given up on me yet and so, while this could have ended up as one of my many spiritual failures, in this particular instance I made a choice, through the nudging of the Holy Spirit, to respond correctly and started ironing for Jesus.

One of my favorite verse came to mind while I did so–

Colossians 3:23-24  And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.

Are you doing your mundane or hated tasks with a joyful heart and pleasant attitude? If not, I encourage you to, this day, think through your attitude. For it is here that Satan can so easily ensnare us. We Christians don’t always view our bad attitudes as sinful, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are sinful.

Let’s improve our characters by making the conscientious choice to smile in the boring tasks. To praise God through the difficult demands. And to be humble when asked to do something we think is beneath us. For in doing so, the light of our Lord and Savior will shine ever so brightly through us!

 

For My Middle Child

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We have four kids. But since the second born is the only son in our family, there has only ever been one middle child in our family–0ur sweet daughter, Adrienne. Saturday is her wedding day. This Saturday! How can that be?

All of us moms have regrets about how we did things, but I think we have extra regrets when it comes to our middle children. Somehow they seem to get a little lost in the shuffle of things and end up not getting as much attention. I grow sad when I think of the cracks she fell through in my overwhelmed moments of being a mom.

Those of you who have more than two children may understand. With our first child every moment, every new milestone is full of wonder and excitement. With our last child, we pay special attention because we know that every time they do something new it is the last time we will have the blessing to watch from our “Mom” point of view. But those middle children, well, they can get a little neglected in the excitement of their older siblings’ “firsts” and their younger siblings’ “lasts”.

And, while I do think my middle baby always knew she was loved, I also think that she had the typical middle child experience. With that in mind, I write this post. I want her to know just how special she is and has always been to me.

As I was scanning old photos of the bride-to-be into my computer this past week, many special moments and precious memories came rushing back.

I remember when the ultrasound technician asked me if I wanted to know what I was having. I had guessed correctly with my first two and, assuming I was correct again, I told her I would love to know for sure, but that I was 99.9% sure I was having a boy. She told me that she was 99.9% sure I was wrong. I was so happy and excited to be having a girl! I had really wanted my oldest daughter to have a sister, since I had never had one.

When she arrived that hot August day, she was welcomed with great joy. She was such a calm and happy baby– until she was about 18 months, when, suddenly, she started thinking of things my other babies had never dreamed of! She explored the toilets and cabinets and climbed on dressers and got stuck behind sofas and under tables.

There was even the time we were vacationing at a cabin and we found her with some blue around her mouth. We figured out that she had eaten some mice poison she had found under one of the beds. I look back on those few minutes as some of the most worrisome of my life. What happens when a two year old eats mice poison? Thankfully, she didn’t eat enough of it for it to make her sick. But it was one of several frightening moments we would have because of her escapades.

But as she grew up, she became the child in our family who would give up the biggest piece of cake so one of her siblings could have it. She was our peacemaker and always wanted everyone to be okay. She thought of others and went out of her way to be kind.

In her teen years, those qualities grew quite dim and we struggled through all of the normal life changes. But how gratifying to see those qualities of her girlhood begin to shine again so brightly as she readies herself to begin her new life with her husband.

I am so thankful for all of my children. So very thankful. But I wanted to write this special post for my middle daughter. Today I have no deep spiritual lesson or challenge to grow to offer my readers. Just a few memories and a special message for one of my children–

Adrienne, you may have gotten lost in the shuffle on occasion, but you are loved deeply and our family would never be the same without you. I can’t wait to see how God uses you and your future husband for His glory.

I put a little video together from some of the old photos. I have to admit that I cried a bit while I worked on it. I am so happy for you but so sad for me. But this is the way of life. It is what we moms do. We raise our babies so they can go and live their own lives. Thank you, Adrienne, for being a woman who wants to honor the Lord with your life. Thank you for marrying a man who wants the same. We, as parents, couldn’t ask for more. We wish you the best as you move far away. While we will miss you so much, we know that the Lord will travel with you, keeping you and guiding you. I love you.

Why Are We Losing Our Kids?

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One of the most frightening things about being a Christian parent is the big question mark that lies at the “official” end of our training time. The bags are packed, we say our good-byes, and we watch the car drive away while the question is ever-present in our minds, demanding attention. Will our kids follow Jesus?

And so often today the answer to that question is no. So many good Christian families are losing their kids these days. Over the past ten years, I have watched many parents grieve the choices of their teens and twenty-somethings. A few of these kids come back to the faith, but most don’t.

So why are we Christians losing our kids? While there probably isn’t just one answer to this question, I whole-heartedly believe that it does have a great deal to do with one thing, in particular.

Christians are having a love affair with the world.

We love the world. Oh, yes, we do. Ask any Christian these days what they are listening to, watching, and doing on the weekends, and you will see that many of them do the exact same things as the rest of the world.

In the old days, we would be taught that to love the world is sinful and that in order to be holy, we must love the things God loves and hates the things God hates. We were taught to separate ourselves from the world and to be different. We were to stand out among unbelievers in a noticeable way. These sermons, books, and lessons were based on the plentiful scriptures about the dangers of loving the world and the stark contrast of worldly and holy living: Romans 12:1-2; James 4:4; I John 2:15-16; John 15:19; John 17:14; 2 Corinthians 6:17; Titus 2:11-12; I Peter 1:14-16; I Peter 4:3-4; I John 2:16. And while people still struggled with loving the world, they knew it was wrong to do so.

Fast forward thirty or so years. Worldliness is not only not taught against, it is actually encouraged! We are told in many of our churches that we need to be like the world to reach the world (if you spend any time in God’s Word at all, you will recognize this for the blatant lie that it is). We are told that to have standards is equal to being legalistic. And that to not allow our kids to attend school dances or R-rated movies means that they will be too sheltered and won’t understand the world. As if somehow we will become better witnesses for Jesus by participating in the debauchery of the culture. We are told that things like bikinis and gambling and drinking alcohol and entertainment aren’t any big deal and that to have standards about these things is completely unnecessary.

And while we listen to this garbage that is surely found nowhere in scripture, Satan is stealing the hearts of our kids.

Think with me for just a moment.

If our kids are listening almost 24/7 to music that glorifies sex, drugs, and violence, should we expect them to follow hard after Jesus?

If our kids are watching horrid violence, sexual perversions of all types, and hearing abundant bad language on the screens that are before their eyes, should we expect them to have a vibrant faith?

If our children want to be like the world and we don’t discourage this (and many times even encourage them)– by how they dress, what they attend, and who they hang out with– should we really be surprised when they find holiness and reading God’s Word boring and unnecessary?

Really?

And I would add here that, as parents, we are often so tempted to want to be cool and hip to our kids. We don’t want to be that downer parent who doesn’t let our kids do what everyone else is doing, so many of us– even if we don’t really feel a peace about what is going on– will capitulate to the begging and the demands.

In fact, many of us take it a step further and in trying so hard to be the cool parents, we ourselves ignore God’s commands for purity and holiness. We wear immodest clothing, watch sinful movies and TV programs on a regular basis, and tune our radios to music that is anything but godly– all in the name of being “cool”.

And I get it. It is tempting. I have been the mother of teenagers. In fact, I still am. It is so very hard to stand your ground when all the world– and even most of the “church”– is telling you to relax and just go with the flow.

And if we Christian parents aren’t trying to be cool, we are often at the other end of the spectrum, burying our heads in denial. Look, I don’t care if your kids go to public school, Christian school, or are home-schooled, they are going to run into bad kids. They are going to be given pornography website addresses and they are going to be offered horrible, ungodly advice. They will have classmates who cut themselves, are addicts, or struggle with eating disorders. They are going to deal with threats, bullies, and unkind adults. They are going to deal with temptations and circumstances that we can’t even imagine. We need to help them! The need is urgent. Burying our heads in the sand at this moment could mean spiritual death for our kids!

Let’s teach them that we find our standards in God’s Word and this is what we base our life upon. Let’s live what we are teaching them. And then let’s be a safe place that they can go to share their worries and concerns. Don’t raise your eyebrows and and control your expressions of disgust or surprise. Many times our kids are facing really BIG problems and we need to be there for them.

I wish I could tell you that we did everything right. But, of course, we didn’t. It is truly only by God’s great and marvelous grace that our kids are living for Him. We had some rough, heart-breaking moments. We feared for their salvation and futures. We praise Him for His great kindness and mercy to us and give Him the glory!

Raising kids is a scary, daunting task. Especially for Christian parents. We so much want our kids to live for the Lord, but we can’t make the decision for them.

However, there are some things we can do to encourage them to choose Christ. The most important thing is to encourage them to love righteousness and hate evil. We need to show them that peace and joy are found in following Jesus– not in a love affair with the world. Teach them to obey Christ in all areas of their lives– not just the politically correct ones. (i.e. of course, we are told to help the poor, but this is just a small portion of what it means to be a Christian– it is certainly not the defining trait of a Christian, as we are being told these days by the mainstream church). We need to teach them by our words and by how we live that our worth and purpose is found in our relationship with God, not in the things of this world.

We won’t be perfect, but we need to show them what it means to be going the right direction and growing as a believer.

It’s not about perfection, it’s about direction.

And, finally, pray. Pray often and pray hard for the souls of your kids. Pray that they would hunger for God’s Word. And that they would love righteousness and hate evil.

Satan will try to trick you into believing that your kids are a lost cause–that it is impossible to raise godly kids in this culture and in this era, but don’t you believe him! It is not impossible– not when God is on your side. And God has provided His precious Word as a guide.

Yes, it will be extremely hard and require much courage.

And, yes, it will take sacrifice.

You will probably lose a few friends through the process.

And, yes, there will definitely be frequent moments when your kids and their friends will think you are uncool.

But keep your eyes on the goal. Don’t let them stray. You have a job to do. You can’t afford to get distracted. God will guide and direct you. You will make mistakes, but His grace and mercy will cover them. Stay humble and stay teachable.

And, finally, give up your love affair with the world. Because if you don’t, it will cost you. A lot.

 

To Everything There is a Season

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Lately, I have been really pondering this thing called life.

How fleeting it is. And how sad. And how lovely.

I think it’s pretty natural for most people to start reviewing their lives a bit when things start changing for them. As you already know, life is changing for me. With an extremely busy husband and two very busy young women living at home, I find myself alone more often than not these days. This is quite an adjustment for a mom who used to home school four kids. No children’s laughter ringing out loudly in the evening air. No passionate arguing. No calling of “Mom!” from across the yard. The house seems to almost join my sadness in its eery silence. It gives me way too much time to think.

And so how appropriate that in the past week of our Bible Challenge I read Ecclesiastes. How poignant to read these words–

To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:

A time to mourn,
    And a time to dance;

A time to gain,
    And a time to lose;

These are just a couple of phrases from Solomon’s poem about life. But these especially struck me, being where I am at in life just now. I feel like I should add a verse:

A time to raise children
      And a time for them to start out on their own.

Of course, Ecclesiastes 3 is best left without my addition. But it is certainly something I have been contemplating much lately.

But it’s the first part of that poem that we really start to understand and think on as we grow older and become more familiar with death–

A time to be born,
    And a time to die;

Here in America, we seem especially inoculated to this thing called death. With modern medicine, we see less of it than any other group of people in all of history. And so it scares most of us. And we hate it. We hate to see anything die (even baby birds, if you remember my post from Monday). But, much more so, we hate to see people die. And so when something like the church shooting in Charleston happens, we struggle with it. Why were these people ruthlessly murdered? It just seems so cruel and tragic.

I heard John MacArthur’s thoughtful response to this event the other day and it really makes sense in light of Ecclesiastes. He first shared that he had been in Charleston for a conference and had met many of the African-American pastors there. He had been welcomed there with open arms. He asked us all to pray for the Christians–our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ–that are hurting there. He was heart-broken. And then he added one more thing–

He said may this remind us that death is a reality. We are all going to die. May this remind us why we need to keep sharing the gospel. Because the only thing that can take away the sting of death is salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ. Because our lives are so much more than these fleeting moments on earth.

Those aren’t his exact words but my paraphrase of them. As I thought about his words, I realized just how distracted I can become by the things that aren’t important in the light of eternity.

We can become a bit depressed as we read these words of Ecclesiastes 12:a–

For who knows what is good for man in life, all the days of his vain life which he passes like a shadow?

And the words of James 4:14–

whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.

But then we realize the hope that is within us as believers! We have many promises in God’s Word on which to build our faith (Romans 8:28-39; I Peter 5:7; Isaiah 41:10; John 11:25-26; I John 3:2-3; Philippians 3:20-21 to name a few).

This hope we have in Christ us should make us different in this world where death is such a non-negotiable part of life–

1. We should have a “peace that passeth understanding”. (Philippians 4:7)

2. We should remain hopeful– even in the midst of the worst circumstances. (I Peter 1:3-5)

3. We should have the true joy that comes from standing guiltless before God through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice. (2 Corinthians 8:1-2)

4. We should have a driving need to tell others about salvation and the promise of eternal life we have because of it. (Romans 10:14-15)

But instead, so many of us Christians are apathetic and distracted. We don’t really care if our neighbors and co-workers know the Lord because we have enough of our own problems.

We don’t have hope or joy or peace, because we have invested heavily into the things of this world and this is where our treasures are–worldly, precarious treasures that come and go like the wind.

No matter where we find ourselves–whether young or old, poor or wealthy, single or parent–we need to ask ourselves these questions:

What am I doing to make sure that anyone who comes in contact with me knows that I have a hope within that doesn’t compare to anything that the world offers?

What am I doing to make sure that my treasures are in heaven and not on earth?

Life is fleeting. And we are all going to die. These are two facts we cannot escape.

Am I leaving a legacy that is befitting one of God’s servants? And have I liberally planted seeds to further God’s kingdom?

The Thing Anger Never Accomplishes

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Anger is just one of those things we justify, isn’t it? We can come up with so many different reasons why we should be “allowed” to be angry. Such as–

Someone said something unkind

Our spouse didn’t meet our expectations

Someone isn’t giving us something we want

Our co-worker isn’t carrying their load

Our kids are too noisy or too defiant or too annoying

The line is soooooo long

We are cut off on the highway

Our phone quit working

We spilled coffee on our laptop

The dog chewed a hole in the carpet

There are over a million reasons that we Christians will use to rationalize our angry outbursts or our seething, simmering, cold silences.

As in —pretend they aren’t sinful. Pretend they aren’t our fault. Pretend that we aren’t to blame for our anger. We convince ourselves that it is someone else’s fault. It is certainly not ours.

When we do this, we do feel better, don’t we? At least on the surface. This requires no repentance. No work on our part to change. No guilt.

The past few weeks we have been reading in Proverbs in our Bible Challenge. There is so much wisdom in this book of the Bible that I have found myself liberally highlighting many of the verses there. But the verses on anger may have been especially appropriate for me with this read-through. Let me tell you why–

Recently, I have fallen prey to this dangerous anger game. I would be irritated or frustrated and instead of taking responsibility, found it easier just to blame it on someone else. Even as I write, I find myself a little reluctant to take full responsibility for my anger. After all, she did this…or he said that

And then my Sunday School teacher said something the other week that stopped me in my tracks. (Thank you, Morris!)–

Your anger will never accomplish anything for God’s righteous purposes.

I felt like he was speaking directly to me (and–if I’m honest– maybe to my husband, too!) We have had an interesting last few months. Interesting seems a good word, since I don’t want to complain. Most of what is happening is really good–some of what is happening is not so good, but, through it all, we are very aware that we are so blessed. But what all of these changes have led to is a whole lot of stress and intensity of feelings that is a bit outside our norm as a family.

My teacher’s words struck a chord deep within as I realized that I had been trying to use anger (it’s cold, punishing silence and the occasional unkind outbursts) to try to make things the way I want them to be. Or to fix something. Or to make someone feel guilty. Or to change someone’s mind.

There are many reasons to be angry and to act on that anger– but none of them are for God’s glory.

Anger can be a very effective tool. But there is always a way that we could do it better and more effectively. Anger is never the best way. Sure, we may be able to make our kids obey us by screaming at them, but if we train them to only respond when our voice reaches a certain pitch, then they will continue in that same pattern with their own kids. How much wiser to keep our voices low and demand obedience immediately, with consistent consequences to follow.

And let me make something very clear– I am not saying that we did this right. I am here saying we didn’t do this right. Anger has always been a struggle for us in our family. We can see the fruits of it in our kids’ lives and we are sending them off into the world to fight their own battles with this sin. We could have done such a better job in this area. Oh, we never threw plates or shouted obscenities, but we did let many angry words fly over the years and for that I have great regret.

Especially when I think of it in light of the words of my teacher.

I remember someone talking about angry words years ago and comparing them to toothpaste– once they are squeezed out of the tube, you cannot put them back in. Our kids don’t forget the mean, hateful things we say in the heat of an argument or temper tantrum. Neither do our spouses and other family members. Self-control–that fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23–is very much in need when it comes to this sin of anger. For even if we are angry, we need to think first and confess before we act on it.

If we are human, we will have to admit that anger is as natural a feeling as being happy or sad. We humans, without exception, hate our plans being thwarted. Sure, some of us get worked up much more easily than others, but we all have our limit. We all have our threshold of when enough is enough. How that looks is different for all of us. Some of us are screamers. Some of us grow icy cold and quiet. Anger is a sin in both cases, although screamers tend to have more pieces to pick up after it’s all over. Some withhold conversation or physical touch in order to punish, others may yell and curse– or even occasionally throw something –but both reactions are sinful reactions.

There are a few sins that have become extremely accepted by the church — to the point that we rarely even discuss them anymore. I believe anger is one of them.

I have no idea today if you have fought this battle, are fighting this battle, or aren’t even convicted about this. You know where I’m at. I need prayer. These next few months promise to be so happy and exciting, but also stressful and demanding and, yes, even a little sad. I want to rise to the occasion and be a good testimony– I don’t want to flounder in my own wants and desires, demanding my own way. I want to remember that anger never accomplishes God’s righteous purposes!

I hope that you feel the same way. Here are some verses to get us started on our way to battling this sin.

Proverbs 16:32
Ephesians 4:26
Ephesians 4:31
Ephesians 6:4
Colossians 3:8
I Timothy 2:8
James 1:19
Galatians 5:16-26
Matthew 5:22

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Weekend Reflections

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Today’s post is not typical and there really isn’t going to be any spiritual lesson. Instead, I am going to try to encapsulate my emotions from this past weekend just a bit. We had my son’s wedding on Saturday (which you already know) and then we had my parents’ 50th Wedding Anniversary party on Sunday. S0, before we go any further, I will answer the question I know you are thinking– yes, I am a bit crazy to do that. That has already been established.

However, just so you know, my brother is from out-of-town and this just made the most sense. Plus we were able to use the wedding venue and the wedding centerpieces, so it came together pretty easily–especially when you have a sister-in-law and a daughter who should really go into party-planning as a business…

Now that we have my sanity (or lack thereof) established, we can move on to some of my impressions from the weekend.  As mentioned above already, this is certainly not my normal kind of post but I thought I would share this here because so many of us share the same emotions when it comes to our children and our parents. I’ll get back to my normal style on Thursday.

So, first, my impressions of Saturday–

I guess if you read my blog, you are already familiar with the fact that I have been on an emotional roller coaster regarding this wedding. Let me say first and very clearly, this roller coaster had nothing to do with my son’s choice of a bride. She is the perfect choice for him and we couldn’t be more thankful. The fact that her parents are some of our closest friends is a very special bonus. It’s the stuff in life you could never plan! I think, rather, that it was partly because it was my only son’s wedding and I knew he now would officially have another woman as his priority in life. Some of you will get what I’m saying and some of  you won’t. I also think it was because the reality of the empty nest is starting to set in now.

But, last Monday, I started to feel so much better. Over the course of the next few days, I had three or four dear, dear friends text or tell me in person that they were praying for me. I could feel their prayers holding me up and I had a great week last week. Prayer is an amazing thing.

And, this morning, I am okay. I am really exhausted but I’m okay. Although, I cannot lie–there is a big empty sadness that fills me when I think about my son’s room never being occupied by him again. It’s just so…strange.  No one ever tells you when your babies are little what it feels like to watch your birdies try their wings and fly off away into their own lives. I find myself wishing I didn’t feel so deeply. It makes it so much harder.

But we are so excited for our son–and for our two daughters– and their future lives. They have all grown up to be responsible adults who want to follow Jesus and have found spouses who want to do the same. What more could you ask as parents? While there may be some mourning over what was, I stand amazed (and also filled with a bit of relief if I think back to the question marks of the teen years!) when I look at my adult kids. They are not perfect kids and we are far-from-perfect parents. We take no credit. God is so good. And He is so faithful.

Which leads me to my impressions of Sunday–

As people started to file in to my parents’ party I saw many dear friends that I hadn’t seen for so many years. Memories of yesteryear filled my mind. And I had to think of how God uses certain people in our lives at certain times and then they leave the stage of our lives and we move on. It’s the nature of life. We move, we change jobs, we change churches, and we become disconnected. And it makes me thankful for two things–first, that we are graced with the presence of so many dear friends throughout our lives. People who have supported us and encouraged us just when we needed it. What an incredible blessing from God! And, second, for the really special friends that God gives us that hang around our entire lives. At the party were a few friends that my parents have remained close to through all of the changes in their lives. They have a special connection (I call it a “kindred spirit”) with my parents and have been with them through thick and thin. If we are fortunate enough to have just a few “kindred spirit” friends, we are beyond blessed. True friends are hard to come by. They are a treasure and should never be taken for granted.

And as we celebrated, the absence of several relatives was felt. But, for me it was the absence of my mother’s brother, Larry, that was felt most deeply. He has gone on to be with the Lord and life on earth–at least for this family–will never be the same. He is still so sorely missed. I know that all people are missed, but Larry was special. He was one of those uncles that you knew cared about you. That you could go to if you ever needed anything. And he made us laugh–oh, how he made us laugh. I know that life will never be the same without him.

I was also filled with such thankfulness as I thought about God’s sovereignty in putting me in this particular family as a tiny baby. Why me? Why was I so blessed to be put there? I have no answer for that. But I do have a very grateful heart.

And so this weekend was filled with emotion for me– the hope of the future and looking back to the past. It was a lot to take in. To say the least.

But I guess if there is any lesson to be had here, I would leave you with something my dad said when he shared a few words yesterday.  He said that before any children joined the family, he and mom had talked about the fact that nothing would ever be more important to them than that their children would come to know the Lord. That would always be the priority. My parents were not perfect, but that was always the priority. They held to their word.

They now have a son who is a preacher (and an amazing one at that!) and a daughter who writes about biblical principles. But their decision has also affected the lives of their grandchildren. For we, their children, have also made that the priority with our own children. And it is our prayer that our children will do the same.

If you have young children– or even if your kids are older– I encourage you to make the same priority in raising your kids. Nothing is more important. No sports trophies or academic accolades compare. No stage or glory or awards matter more than this one thing–that our kids love and serve Jesus.

Weaknesses and unkind words and unloving actions have abounded in my families. They were part of my life growing up and they are part of my life now. But if we keep the Lord our priority, he is so faithful. He is so faithful. He fills in the gaps of our weaknesses and honors our commitment to Him. It is truly hard to explain the joy and peace that fills a heart that lives for Him. Life isn’t perfect and there are hard times. But, through it all, it is well with my soul.

I know so many of you have experienced the same faithfulness. You have experienced God’s great love and grace for you. We don’t base our Christian walk on that experience (as is so common today) but, the experiences confirm what we know to be true from scripture. They confirm the promises we read in God’s Word. I leave you with just one of those promises–

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him! (Psalm 34:8)

 

A Few Favorites on Parenting

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As you may already know, our family has two weddings scheduled for this summer and the first one is this Saturday. It seems like I was just updating my About Me page with the engagements of our son and our daughter a few weeks ago, but here we are already. Wow, that nine months went fast!

As you can imagine time is at a bit of a premium this week, so I thought I’d share a few of my favorite posts on parenting. One of the disappointing things about blogging is that the things you have written in the past seem forever lost, as most people are generally looking for something new and fresh when they go to a blog. But some posts are worth re-visiting. I hope you will agree with me!

Would you consider sharing one or two of these posts on social media if you enjoy them? Thank you so much!

Are We Dropping the Ball?
The importance of a godly legacy

A Letter to My Children
Remembering what is really important as we raise our children

Pushing Too Hard
Knowing when {and when not to} push our children

Parenting With Purpose
Five things I have learned about parenting

7 Steps to Raising the Perfect Teenager
Some helpful tips on raising teenagers

 

 

Getting a Glimpse

Kids (July, 1999)

Let me first share this: From the time I was a young girl I never really wanted anything more than to be a mom. While my friends looked forward to going to college and having fascinating careers, I was simply biding my time until I’d {hopefully} get to fulfill my dream of being a wife and mom. The Lord did bring a wonderful guy into my life while I was at college. It wasn’t until the summer before my senior year that he would ask me to marry him. A couple of years after we were married we found out that we were having a baby. And that was the beginning of my “mom” dream.

But no one ever tells you what you will feel like when the final curtain is getting ready to close on your dream. When all the work and tears and joys and fears that involve raising kids is just about coming to a close. And, yes, I know that I will always be a mom. But what being a mom looks like to adult kids is a very different thing. It is a new role for a new stage.

Which leads me to an incident in my past that I haven’t talked much about.

When I was pregnant with my fourth child, I felt unusually ill. This was uncharacteristic for me in pregnancy but I never suspected that this meant anything was wrong. I excitedly told everyone I was pregnant very early on. After all, I had had three healthy pregnancies. I surely wouldn’t have a miscarriage now, right?

Wrong.

Around week ten, I vividly remember going to the bathroom one Sunday afternoon and spotting a dot of blood. Of course, I had heard that it is quite normal for some women to bleed a bit in the early stages of pregnancy and so I tried to comfort myself with that thought, but somewhere deep inside, I knew that it was over. I had never bled in any of my pregnancies and I just knew that this was a bad sign.

The next morning I called my doctor and they had me come in right away. When they ran the necessary tests, the doctor came into the room and told me that I had what they called a “blighted ovum”. It was a fertilized egg that had just stopped developing and no one really knows why.

I was crushed. While it was comforting to know that we have a 5th child who is in heaven right now, since we believe that life begins at conception, I would never get to meet this child on earth. I mourned  the dreams and the plans that died that day. But, if I am honest, I was also disappointed that my life hadn’t gone according to my plans. I had planned to have no more than 2 1/2 years between any of my children. Now that was completely ruined.

To top it off, it took me awhile to get pregnant again. I grew a little more frustrated with each month that passed by. I hadn’t wanted this fourth one to be so far behind the other three.

But here’s what I didn’t know at the time–

I did not know that my three oldest children would get married in the span of thirteen months.

I did not know that my house would grow eerily quiet in the evenings.

I did not know that there would only be one or two at the dinner table most nights.

I did not realize the storm of emotions that would surround all that’s going on in my life right now.

My BabyAnd so yesterday when my youngest was sharing how hard it is to be the one left out of all of the wedding and honeymoon talk going on in our family, I had to just stop and think for a moment. I looked at her and I almost started crying. How kind of God to give me a daughter for an extra couple of years in this time of emotional upheaval in my life. Because He knew what I would be feeling. He knew that I needed her to be a few years behind the others. He knew.

And in that instant, I caught just a glimpse of how God’s ways are higher and wiser than mine. It reminded me of Isaiah 55:9–

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.

God’s ways are surely higher than mine. And, many times, we never truly understand how it all fits together. We don’t understand why He has allowed the painful events in our lives and many of our “whys” are never answered.

But–every now and again–when we review the landscape of our lives, we can catch a glimpse of the tapestry. And we stand in awe at the wisdom and mercy of our heavenly Father.

I am so thankful for my four children. I am thankful for the Christian spouses He has provided for them. I am so excited for them to begin their new lives together! But I am also thankful for my sweet baby. I am thankful that she will be around for a few more years than I planned. Most of all, I am thankful that I serve a God Whose ways are higher than my ways.

 

Praying for Our Children

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Many years ago, when I was just a young girl, I became aware of the fact that I had some grandparents praying for me. I also learned that my parents were praying faithfully for me. I know that their prayers affected the course of my life and the life of my brother (and cousins). I can see now how God worked despite some less than perfect circumstances.

And so when our children were born I realized the importance of prayer because of this godly heritage with which I had been so incredibly blessed.

When we met our oldest daughter for the very first time, we felt so overwhelmed and even a little scared. We knew the instant we held that first baby in our arms that we had been blessed with an awesome responsibility.

The heaviness of this settled in through the next few weeks, as we took our newborn home and got settled in. This wasn’t just a baby. This was a new life with the potential to do great good or great evil in this world. It was a life with the potential to bless others or to cause great pain. And this new little life was born a sinner (Romans 3:23) and in great need of a Savior (John 3:16).

Along with recognizing the seriousness of this responsibility, came the awareness that who she married also had the great potential to make or break her life.

I wondered how in the world we would be able to bear these great responsibilities, especially the ones that were outside our control– such as who she would marry.

And so, early on, I started praying for her and for her future husband. I had no idea who he was, but I was praying for him. As the other kids came along, I did the same. So I can confidently tell the young men and woman that my children are marrying that I have prayed for them for most of their lives!

Through the years, as I would pray for my children, I would find it easy to get distracted by the problems and trials that loomed in front of me at that moment and I would find myself praying directly about these situations. And there wasn’t anything wrong with that.

But somewhere along the line, I learned that I needed to be praying for their spiritual health most of all. If they weren’t right with God, then their career and who they marry wouldn’t be chosen well. This means that how they would raise the future generation would be in jeopardy.

And so I latched on to Mark 12:30 and have been praying that for my kids for a very long time.

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

I’ve asked the Lord to help my kids to do this.

I’ve prayed through this verse for them when I would fall into bed exhausted after watching four young children.

I’ve prayed through this verse for them when they were teenagers and their spiritual future looked very, very bleak.

And I continue to pray this verse as I watch them start their own lives and make choices completely independent of their parents.

A few years ago, I was talking to my brother (Pastor Dean) about this subject of praying for our children and he mentioned that he also regularly prays that his daughter will love righteousness and hate evil. As he spoke, I realized the wisdom in such a prayer. The Psalms talks about this subject over and over again. If you are reading the Bible Challenge with me, you will have just read through many of these with me. And so I started praying this for my kids, as well.

Another prayer that I try to pray on a regular basis is that my kids would love God’s Word. The keys to a healthy spiritual life are held within its pages. There is no possible way to be a godly man or woman without reading and studying the Word.

And, finally, I pray very regularly for my future grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I pray that they would be bolder and stronger Christians than me. That our family would grow deeper spiritual roots, instead of being one of those families that gradually falls away from God.

My kids are not perfect and we’ve had our struggles and continue to do so. In fact, we will sometimes talk about how we wouldn’t want to be judged for our parenting skills on how our kids behaved as teenagers. How they were in school was not always the best example and they did not always make the best choices. Adolescence can be a very difficult time. But I just kept on praying through it, sometimes with many tears.

The spiritual battles continue and I continue to pray. Satan wants the hearts of our kids. If he can distract us by the temporal and keep us focused only on the present trials in our praying, he will have won half the battle.

God is faithful. He has answered so many of my prayers for my kids. There were times that I doubted and feared that we had lost a couple of them. But God heard our prayers and saved them. I get choked up thinking about his great mercy and kindness to us through those difficult times even now.

Our prayers will never make our kids perfect and they will still struggle and make bad choices and still have so far to go. But then I guess so do you and I.

This reminds me of something I once heard John MacArthur say: It is about direction, not perfection.

If our kids are headed in the right direction, we have much for which to be thankful.

So let’s keep praying for our kids. God is faithful. He knows them better than we do. And He loves them even more than we do!