Archive for the 'Family' Category

01
Mar
14

Eve Taught Me All I Need to Know

Eve, the mother of all mankind, had a huge responsibility and weight upon her shoulders as the first woman, wife and mother. Eve didn’t  get a choice to accept or decline that role; God Himself chose her. God created her from Adam’s rib, put her in the Garden of Eden with Adam, and the rest is history. Or is it?

We give Eve a hard time; we accuse her of blowing it for all of us. I have often thought that if I had been there in place of her that I would not have been deceived, that I would have done things much differently. But even in my few moments of pride in thinking that way, I know I would have done the same thing. I would have grasped for what I was not supposed to have. I would have risked my relationship with God to have my own way. Just like Eve, I would not have been satisfied with the life I’d been given.

The serpent deceived Eve. And when Eve chose to believe the serpent’s lies over God’s truth, she doubted God’s goodness.  And Eve’s sin was not only disobedience to God but also wanting to live a life independent from God, wanting to be her own god, wanting to know more than she needed to know, thinking that God was holding out on her.

In 2 Corinthians, Paul uses Eve’s deception as a warning for the people of Corinth to not be led away from their devotion to Christ. Poor Eve. Paul uses her as a “what not to do” person. But the point of all this: Eve sinning, being blamed by her husband and by every woman in the world for our plight, is that I finally realized it was not the end of the story for Eve. It never is. There is always hope. Always redemption.

There were certainly consequences for Adam and Eve’s sin. God booted them out of the perfect garden; and for women, there is pain in childbirth and a neediness that make some of us women want to cling to our husbands instead of God. But God didn’t boot Adam and Eve out with their leaves trailing behind them. He didn’t let them go off into a wilderness without properly clothing them first. His provision for them showed that He still loved them and would continue to take care of them. They were His children, and I believe Eve saw God’s tender care of her and responded to her Abba Father’s love. Love, not fear.

After the garden, Eve only spoke twice more in the Bible. When Eve had Cain, her firstborn son, she said, “I have had a male child with the Lord’s help.” With the Lord’s help…this seems small and insignificant, but for the first time, it stood out powerfully to me. Because after everything was said and done, Eve acknowledged her dependence on God.

And, if I didn’t see it the first time, God once again opened my eyes to His love of Eve and her dependence on Him when she had her third son Seth, the one born to her after Cain killed Abel. In her final words, Eve said, “God has given me another child in place of Abel.” God has given me..has graced me with…

Eve got it. She was not lost; she was not without hope. She saw God’s goodness, His grace, and she acknowledged His good gifts. And we are not without hope, no matter how badly we have blown it in the past. There is always redemption, always God’s goodness, always God’s amazing grace.

“Tune my heart to sing Thy grace…” I often sing this song to myself, reminding me that I cannot even tune my own heart to sing God’s grace…He has to tune it for me. His grace is not something that I can conjure up…not something I can make appear in my own life. It just is, and I can receive it with open hands and an open heart, or I can shut down and choose to reject it. Eve accepted it. God tuned Eve’s heart to sing His grace.

I’m sure Eve felt very deeply for what she had lost, not just in terms of things and perfection but also in the relationship with God that was different. But I believe she grew in amazing ways because of the trial and suffering she brought upon herself. I sometimes find myself repeating the first part of Eve’s story daily in wanting my own way and grasping for what I think will make me happy, but thank goodness, Eve’s story didn’t end there. And mine doesn’t either. The first part helps bring me to my knees in realizing  that I cannot do this life without God. He has to be the center. I see this in Eve, in her acceptance and acknowledgement of God’s sovereignty and goodness in her life.

So thank you, Eve, for doing the thankless job of being the first one, and thank you for representing us all, showing us that we are all frail and easily deceived. But thank you, most of all, for acknowledging your dependence on a good God and seeing His good gifts, even in the midst of terrible struggles. We see your example of hope, and we see God’s graciousness in providing for all of His children. So, thanks, for pointing us to Him.

06
Feb
14

Courage: I Can’t Do This Without You

We have huge opportunities in our neighborhood, in our community. But honestly sometimes I’m a little afraid. I’m nervous that I won’t do things right, that I will zone out when someone is telling me something important, that I will be confused and won’t have any idea what I’m supposed to do. And yet, God is opening doors and placing opportunities to go outside my comfort zone and offer myself. To show up. Are we willing to step beyond our little spaces and offer a cup of cold water to someone who is thirsty? (Matthew 10)

I like the thought of helping people. I like the thought of volunteering and being useful, but for me the actual doing it is the hard part. Finding the courage to step out and maybe not do things the right way, admit my lack of common sense, admit that I have a directionally challenged brain and just be willing to do what is needed and to be able to a laugh out loud at my limitations and see what God can do with them is still hard for me. But it’s really not about me or my fear, my pain, my insecurities. But what I’m learning is to show up with open hands and an open heart and see what God can do with them.

Some of us from Trinity volunteered a couple of weeks ago to help in our local school with a vision and hearing screening. We had no idea what we would be doing going in there, and I have to admit I was nervous. I talked with one of our church people when we were at the school, and she admitted she had been nervous too, and that after she originally signed up, she thought, “What in the world am I doing?” But she showed up anyway, and she did her job well. Her courage amazed me…she’s 79.

The task that I was given for the screening is one of the things I’m no good at; I had to pay attention to what I was being told and then go find different classrooms. My brain does not work at all with directions and finding stuff. I totally freeze up and cannot even pay attention to what I’m being told. But I honestly did the best I could, and I walked around and around and up and down halls and eventually found what I was looking for. It was good for me to have to try to find my way around; it was good for me to be uncomfortable. It was good for me to have to walk around the building and “own” it.

During church last week, we talked about several more opportunities to volunteer and help in our local school, and a friend came up to me and said that she wanted to do things like that, but she was afraid she wouldn’t be able to do what was asked of her. And this is what I told her…I’m scared too. But what if we do this thing together? What if we face our fears and “kumbaya” it together? There’s not only huge encouragement in it being more than just myself, but there can be real community in serving together, knowing that we’re not left alone with our fears and insecurities, knowing that the people around us are facing the same fear, different situations maybe, but the same paralyzing fear to see beyond ourselves to the world around us and to actually show up in this life we’re called to live.

We’re really in this thing together. Matthew 18: 20 says, “When two or three are gathering in my name, I am there in the midst of them.” Jesus sent His disciples out in groups of two. And it’s pretty amazing when believers are gathered the things that God can accomplish through them. He works individually as well. No doubt about that. But the sense of togetherness, the courage that God can build in a community of people who are focused on Him can be pretty amazing. The energy, the strength, not to mention the excitement of being involved in something that is bigger than ourselves and not for our own glory but for His glory is just a downright “jumping up and down for joy” kind of thing.

Paul and Silas, beaten and thrown into jail, prayed and sang praises together at midnight. The result: the jailer and his family came to know Jesus. Together. There’s something about doing stuff with other people that gives us a boost of courage. A “we’re not in this alone” kind of thing.  We’re serving Jesus together. If I fall down, there’s going to be someone there to help me get back up. I don’t have to do this stuff alone.There will be someone to sing praises with to God.

Even when Jesus went back to heaven, He told His disciples that He was not going to leave them alone. He told them that He was going  to send a Comforter who would be with them always…the Holy Spirit within them, within us to give us courage to be bold and do the things that we cannot do alone, on our own. We are “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.”(Ephesians 2)  But it still takes courage to take the first step and the many steps thereafter. But we don’t have to do it alone.

So whether it’s just me and the Holy Spirit or a whole bunch of people and the Holy Spirit, God can do this thing that He’s called us to do. It’s His kingdom. He’s in charge, and I may not know the specifics of what I am supposed to be doing all the time, but I know this: God has called me to this life, and He’s called me to give this life away for Him, and this absolutely begins in my home and with my family. He may be calling me to other things as well, but it starts with the people closest to me and works its way out. Jesus says in Matthew 5 that we are to let our light shine, so the good works (you know, the ones that God created that we just have to walk in) point people to God and bring Him glory.

I don’t have a lot of courage. I don’t particularly love doing new things. But I know God can do this thing through me (whatever the thing is He’s calling me to do at the time), and it’s even more exciting to see when He does it through others. And then, when we all join hands and hearts and do it together, I almost come out of my skin with joy.

Courage bleeds neediness.

Courage sees hope in dark places.

Courage leans heavy on Jesus and moves in the middle of fear. –Emily P. Freeman, A Million Little Ways, 136

18
Jan
14

Change

We recently decided we needed a change in our bedroom situation.  Jesse (17) and Jeremiah (9) shared a room.  Jonah (16) and Jake (15)  shared the other bedroom. When we moved into our house over 6 years ago, we let the kids pick out what color they wanted their rooms to be.  Jonah and Jake, who are both artistic, were in the 3rd and 4th grades and wanted a rain forest themed room and wanted to draw animals on their walls. I was cool with them drawing on their walls until I fell in love with the blue paint and the green paint (white chair rail in the middle) that I helped them choose, and then I didn’t want them to “mess” up their walls. Jonah wanted to draw vines all over the place, and Jake would have drawn amazing animals.

I prayed last night about the switch in rooms. One of my sons was having a hard time adjusting to the change, and I prayed that it would bring unity and harmony to my teenage sons, and that they would accept each other into the boys’ club with no one left out. (Jesse told me not to call it the boys’ club because that sounded weird.)

Jonah and Jeremiah are now sharing a room. We’re in the middle of painting and moving things around…most of their things are sitting in the hall right now. Jonah likes cool; he likes trendy, and he wanted a rust orange color for his room. I found a burnt orange/brown color on the mistint table at Lowe’s, and he said that would be fine. As he, Julia and I were painting his room, I don’t know if the color that somebody didn’t want was exactly what Jonah really had in mind, but as I finished up tonight, he walked in and called it “pumpkin mocha.” Which means cool. And I’m beyond excited that he likes it so much. He said it looked like a coffee shop. And Jeremiah, of course, he’s 9 and doesn’t really care what color the room is (unless it’s blue…my kids have gotten it into their minds that blue rooms look like nurseries).

Monday after we finish school, we will paint Jesse and Jake’s room gray. Jesse originally wanted “bamboo” like our rec room; Jake wanted “black.” We all compromised and went with “sable grey.” I think it will be nice. Man-cavish. No white chair rail.

I know there will be adjustments. Jesse likes to tease and throw playing cards at people (we watched some movie where the guy threw cards; Jesse thought it was cool and figured out how to do it; Julia and Jeremiah have taken it up as well); Jake likes to be left alone most of the time (I guess he figured Jesse’s throwing cards beat Jonah’s non-stop singing).  Jeremiah doesn’t know what to think because Jesse’s very gentle with him and treats him like a kid brother. But Jeremiah really looks up to Jonah and thinks Jonah is an amazing singer and actor; Jonah has an incredible opportunity to love.

We’re very much in transition. The rooms are a wreck, but my teenage boys are upstairs lying on their beds all watching a movie together, and my heart feels like it could burst.

They’re together. I’m kind of jealous of all that time they’ll spend just hanging out and all the amazing conversations they will have, Jesse getting to bond with Jake kind of for the first time, and Jonah hanging out in their room with them because he’s an extrovert and won’t mind barging in. I’m trying to figure out a way to get the love seat in there because I want to hang out in there too. Teenage boys are really funny.

I’m praying that the change will be good for everyone. I’m praying that kindness will abound, and that they would enjoy the time; it goes by so fast. Change happens. And I don’t want them to miss opportunities to know each other, to love each other, to embrace their differences.

And another thing, I would let my kids draw on their walls now…no matter how cool the paint color. 🙂

01
Jan
14

Surprise Gifts

Jeff just recently became the pastor of a small church in our community. And when I say in our community, I literally mean two streets over from our house (.5 miles on the odometer).  In fact, Jeff walks over there routinely.

For the past few years, we got to know some of the people at Trinity. I went to most of Trinity’s children’s events with my kids, and our family did some community service projects with them. So when Trinity started their pastor search in April, one of my friends from the church emailed me to pray for them as they began their search. But it absolutely never occurred to me or to them that Jeff would be the person to fill the pastor position.

One night in September, we were over at Trinity for a Neighborhood Watch Meeting, and God, in His funny kind of way, had me thinking “what if this is actually a possibility?”

Because I had no idea how Jeff would respond to this idea, I kept this God-nudge to myself longer than I keep most things to myself.  Much to my complete amazement, God planted the same thought in Jeff as well. Once we threw our thought out to our friends at Trinity, then it was just a matter of trusting that God would direct everyone the way He wanted. I had this peace about the whole thing that was surreal. I really wanted to be at Trinity with those people, but I knew God had this thing, whichever way it went.

So when the church called our family to come be a part of Trinity, it felt much like a surprise gift, an unexpected gift that I had not seen coming. Maybe the best gifts are actually the ones I don’t see coming, the ones I haven’t picked out for myself, the ones I trust God to gift me with.

Without being overly dramatic, I just want to say that I love this…the way God led us here, this church body, getting to “be the church” in our very own neighborhood, the crazy bigness of God.

And I absolutely love what God has called me to do: to know and love these women, these families. I feel that this is what God prepared me for…especially after all those months sitting in my backyard, praying and searching and singing and reading and listening, but I feel like this is also the path that He’s been leading me down my entire life. Nothing is ever wasted.

I keep looking at the opportunities that Jeff and I have had over the years,  and I’m surprised (I really shouldn’t be) at how God prepared us for what we are now called to. I never saw this coming. But I believe now more than ever that this is my calling, my purpose in this short life God has given me…to love God, love my family, love this church family, and walk with all of these people toward Jesus.

For those who have done church work forever, I know like this may seem overly optimistic and hopeful in a very naive kind of way. But, honestly, my hope isn’t in the people in our community or in Jeff or even in myself, but my hope is in a God who knows and loves us all very much and has called me to this community, this mission, this life. And I’m grateful.

The hard stuff will come. I know church can get weird and people are messy (me included), and I won’t stick my head in the sand when tough times come, but I don’t want to brace myself against anything either. I just want to be and let it come as it will. And really trust that God is good enough to lead everyone through the places that He chooses.  I know that the struggles and the trials are gifts from a gracious God too. This is faith for me, real and simple.

Above all else, I have to stay grounded, and that means that I have to fix my eyes on Jesus. I can’t make it one single moment without Him. And out of that and as a result of that, I’m called to “maintain an intense love…since love covers a multitude of sins.” As I walked into Trinity Church that first Sunday, I felt a deep sense that the people just wanted to be known and loved. And I know the God who can do these things, and I’m blessed beyond belief that He has chosen to pour His love through me, through Jeff, through our family. 

And, really, that’s all I’ve got. But I’m pretty sure that’s all I need. My life, my heart, my hands are wide open these days, trusting that God will fill them with His good and perfect gifts.

20
Nov
13

taking it all in

We recently went to the church that is in our neighborhood for Sunday morning. As I was preparing everything the night before and making sure my younger children took baths, I began noticing the sacredness of it all, even down to ironing clothes. And in my preparation, I felt like I was standing on holy ground. I had this lightness in my soul, my spirit. I felt open to receiving whatever God has for me and for my family.

And the next morning, everyone got up early, which is unusual in our house. We all hung out for a while around our dining room table with the gas logs flaming in the background.  I noticed it all: my laughing, talking teenage boys dressed in their clean jeans and polo shirts; my youngest Jeremiah just enjoying being part of it all,  and cool Julia dressed in her khaki cargo pants and white shirt with the pink lace around the bottom and her older brother’s shoes that we had found in the attic for her to wear for Halloween (she dressed as a gangster) that she has now adopted as her own. It was all good.

I took in all the joking and the excited talking and light-heartedness and breathed in deeply, holding it within my heart. It was a sacred, holy moment for me in the midst of our family.  It felt like my insides were smiling, and contentment just passed over me in waves.  We all wanted to be together in that moment.

After a while, I realized we needed to eat, so I began making biscuits and eggs, and as I rolled out dough, my fingers and hands sticky with it; that, too, felt lovely and divine. Loving my family by fixing food with my hands felt like standing in God’s presence. It was beautiful. I could taste the excitement for what is and what will be. And even as the morning rolled on, it had a sweetness to it. It wasn’t the craziness that usually goes along with Sunday mornings trying to get everyone out the door (you know what I’m talking about).

For me, noticing the sacred means slowing down and paying attention. It means being fully present, even in all the tiny moments in between the big change of life ones. It’s being fully alive and fully engaged in the life that I’ve been given. And being grateful for every part of it. Eugene Peterson says that “to eyes that see, every bush is a burning bush.”

Right now, as I stand in the present, I’m not worrying about the next hour, the next day, the next month, the next year. I’m enjoying the now and seeing the sacred in it all.

23
Sep
13

gifts

I decided that I needed to take a day and sit outside, praying, reading, thinking, letting go, receiving. I set up different areas in my backyard so that I wouldn’t get too bored being in the same spot. Between that and trying to dodge the sun throughout the day (this 42-year-old girl doesn’t need any more sunspots), this worked pretty well. But the day I kind of planned out in my mind ended up being different, better. A gift.

Before I even ventured outside, Jeff told me that there was a song he felt described me, my relationship with God, anyway. He had left our bedroom quickly that morning because he felt that there was something for him, and sometimes my voice drowns it out. (He would never say this; I just know it to be true :)) And the something that he received was, in fact, for me.

It was a John Denver song that got stuck in his head, and whether or not you like John Denver, the song fits me, not in terms of human love. because I realize this is impossibly sad for someone to try to fill, but in terms of my relationship with God. And it was perfect for my day.

You fill up my senses like a night in a forest
Like the mountains in springtime like a walk in the rain
Like a storm in the desert like a sleepy blue ocean
You fill up my senses come fill me again

Come let me love you let me give my life to you
Let me drown in your laughter let me die in your arms
Let me lay down beside you let me always be with you
Come let me love you come love me again –“Annie’s Song”

I made a copy of the song, took it outside with me and started softly singing this song in my chair, next to my table, piled with my books. By the second verse, I was weeping. I couldn’t even get the words out. I sang it over and over and over. I was grateful that Jeff was the recipient, the messenger. Another gift.

All day, I sat in the backyard with books and Bible and journal and songbook and coffee and tea and water. It was chilly and then warm and then chilly again as night came on. I soaked in God’s presence and His abundance. I heard the birds and the crickets, almost deafening at times and watched and heard the tall grasses in the field behind our house blowing in the wind. I saw butterflies flitting and birds flying. Clouds in the sky came together in one instance and then moved quickly to another position, followed by a cloudless, bright blue sky. Another gift.

For some of the time, I sat under a tree that was just a little taller than my husband when we moved here six years ago. He thought about chopping it down at the time because it was little more than a bush and rather scrawny at that. Jeff wants things to look more manicured. I love overgrown and tangly and crazy. And now, this tree offers shade from the sun. By the end of the day, the tree was raining sap down on me, on my chair, on my books, and now I have sticky dots to remind me of this day. A gift.

This was the Psalm for me for that day.

…I have calmed and quieted myself like a little weaned child with its mother…

That’s what it was like. I felt content, satisfied to just sit and soak in what God had for me, not demanding that He meet my needs, not demanding that He feed me like a child who is desperate to be fed, but I felt content, happy to just be in His presence. Calm and quiet. A gift.

I noticed my tea bag held a special message for me that I never noticed before. On the little piece of paper connected to the string of the teabag that is supposed to sit outside the mug, it said “Be heard.” For me, I always thought asserting myself was presumptuous, and that I had nothing to say. This was a lie that I believed for years. We each have a story; we each have a gift to bring to this world, a gift that no one else has, and it is okay to be heard. My presence matters. A gift.

Jesse came out to check on me around 3 o’clock, and we talked and laughed for a while. He didn’t plan on staying but ended up pulling up a chair and hanging. Jeff came out after a while. And we all talked. Another gift.

As night came on, Jesse came back out to see if I needed a jacket and then brought me a blanket. Julia and Jeremiah came out later, read with me, and we sang “Amazing Grace” together. Julia did numerous cartwheels, and we belly laughed because she was so dizzy that she almost hit the table every time. Then, we watched the stars come out and sat quietly, mostly. A gift.

Jeff took care of the food that day. From my husband. From God. To me.

Solitude. Relationships. Beauty. God. All gifts.

19
Sep
13

cry of my heart

When Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden, God cursed both Adam and Eve in very particular ways. Man’s curse was to have a hard time working the ground. There were going to be thorns and thistles, and he would have a difficult time earning a living. It was going to be by the sweat of his brow. And then, after he spent his entire life working hard, he went back to the same dust that he worked.

Part of Eve’s curse was to have pain in childbirth, which I can attest to after having five children. During those five births, I had 11 epidurals. I finally got it right and felt absolutely no pain with my last child, Jeremiah, but I couldn’t move for almost twelve hours after he was born…part of the price of trying to fight the curse, but, in my opinion, well worth it.

However, the second part of the woman’s curse continues to haunt me. God stated that the woman would need her husband, that her desire would be for him, and that he would use that desire to rule over her. This can happen in a multitude of ways, hence the power struggle in marriage where both parties try to “win” at getting their own needs and wants met through manipulation and control.

As a woman, I want to be loved and cared for, but sometimes it turns into this demanding, selfish neediness that is unquenchable and unstoppable. And my husband, as good and as godly as he is, is still going to, at times, lord it over me or use it against me because he wants his needs met too. We all do. Anyone who’s been married any length of time knows this, has felt this, has experienced this. It’s part of the curse, and, unfortunately, there is no epidural to take that kind of “heart” pain away.

Tim Keller talks about this in his book The Meaning of Marriage.  The woman remains dependent and desirous of her husband, but it turns into an idolatrous desire, and his protection and love become a selfish lust and exploitation. (174)

I find the passage in Colossians interesting because it commands husbands to love their wives and not be bitter toward them. Ultimately, women can make their husbands bitter against them. We can be so needy that not only will they rule over us but become bitter against us in the process. And all we wanted was love. But apparently, it becomes more than most men can bear at times.

So where do I go with my neediness? my sometimes unquenchable loneliness? my thirst for attention? my quest for love?

If I can take my need to be loved to a God who loves me way more than my husband ever could, I can allow my husband the spaciousness of being who he is and not demanding that he try to meet my every need. If I can view Jeff as my partner and not try to make him everything as so many songs try to portray human love, then the curse no longer has quite the hold on me that it had before. And I’m all about fighting the curse. 🙂

I’m not saying this is easy or simple; it’s not. But I do know the Someone Who walks with me when my own neediness threatens to strangle me and when my heart is overwhelmed. I know this God Who never leaves and Who never fails and Who never gets tired of my coming to Him with everything. He alone can handle me, all of me…

(I want to clarify…I’m not talking about any kind of abuse here…that is not what the Bible talks about when it says a man will rule over a woman. A man should NEVER be abusive to a woman. If that is happening, you need to tell someone and get help.)




time flies

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