Saturday, February 20, 2016

Spoiled Milk.

It's hard when you want something that you can't have.  It's hard when you can't see any reason why you shouldn't be able to have the thing you want.  When you're 2 and you see the milk carton out on the counter, you just expect that you should be able to have a cup of chocolate milk.  When you're 2 you don't understand that if the milk smells funny you shouldn't drink it or you will end up with a tummy ache.  When you're 2 and what you really wanted was chocolate milk, juice just doesn't seem like much of a consolation.  Being 2 you can be hard headed and demanding, you can throw you're weight around or on the floor, to try to get what you want.  Being 2 is hard...  you don't really understand what your older brother means when he says, "Mom, the milk tastes funny."  You just want what you want and to heck with the consequences. 

The sad thing is that I can totally relate to my 2 yr old.  When I get my heart and mind fixed on what I want it, I just want it.  I  don't think about anything other than that thing I want.  I quickly lose my resolve to trust God's plan for my life when what I want and what God knows is best for me collide.  When I ask and the answer is no, I quickly get angry and pout and cry and whine.  What if in that moment God were to hand me that thing I wanted?  What if he just got fed up with me and handed me a cup of spilled milk?!

Sometimes, in our weakness as parents, when we can't take the whining anymore, we give in to their demands, when we know that was not what was best for them.  There are lots of times I have to say no as a mom.  I really believe children are hardwired to ask questions just to hear the word no...  like can I have a cookie for breakfast?  Why, no you can't.  Can I watch TV for 6 hours today?  Why, no you can not.  Can I play in the toilet?  Why, no you can't.  Sometimes, I get so tired of this little game that I give in and say, "WHATEVER....  DO WHATEVER YOU WANT TO DO, just leave me alone."  I know that's not right.  I know I should always do what is best for my kids, but there are times when those little loves NEED to understand what happens when they get what they want. 

I remember one time when my little guy would not leave the rake alone.  I knew it was too heavy and that he needed to leave it alone and I had told him that multiple times, but he insisted on picking up that rake for the 50th time and dropping it right on his foot.  There are a number of lessons I can learn from this situation...  I can remove everything that I don't want him to touch, but when will he learn to listen?  What happens if he never learns to listen to my voice?  One day something far worse could happen to him.   I could have popped his little bottom for not listening, but eventually his not listening brought it's own consequence, and that day he learned for what will be 1 of millions of times, that mommy knows best. 

I have a confession...  I have always been perplexed when I think about that tree in the middle of the garden.  You know the one God told Adam not to touch or eat.   I always thought, well that's kind of cruel Lord...  Why would you put that tree right in the middle of the garden and then tell them they can't have it.  Why wouldn't you hide that tree or put it somewhere else, then all would be well with the world.   That tree was so tempting with a name like "Tree of Knowledge... of good and evil."  Who wouldn't want all that knowledge?  I remember my Mother in-law pointing out to me one time that Adam and Eve already knew all that was good.  They had every good thing they would ever need right there in that garden and the ultimate good was God's presence.   On that fateful day all the knowledge they really learned was evil.   How devastating to get what you wanted only to realize you got a mouth full of spoiled milk.  Shame, separation, brokenness, confusion were just the some of the evil things they learned about that day.  I feel certain they thought back to that day when they found out that their youngest son was slain by their oldest son.... that's an evil no parent would want to learn. 

The other day I was watching my oldest walk upstairs with her Kindle to read in the quiet of her room and I thought about the garden and that tree.  The Internet is a lot like that tree... full of good and full of evil.  My heart skips a beat each time one of my children gets on the phone, computer or Kindle, because I know at the touch of a button they can be transported into a world of evil they could never imagine.  I hope and I pray they will listen to my warnings about the danger and never venture past the safety zones that we have set up, but I know that there is good on there that I do what them to experience, so I warn them, but they have to make the choice to listen and trust that I know what's best for them.

As a parent, I want what is absolutely best for my children.  I would never withhold good from them if it was in my power to do that.  As an adult, I know so much more than they do.  I can't tell them all the horrible things I know that could happen to them if they don't listen.  Just hearing some of the things that happen in this world would be enough to strip them of the their innocence and bring into their world evil they are not able to comprehend.  As a parent, I know that even if they don't understand there are many times I have to say no to them, based on the information that I know that they do not. 

As my Father, God, knows what is best for me.  He knows when something is not in my best interest.  I need to understand and trust that God knows more than I do.  He knows all the variables.  When he says no to me or gives me a warning about something, it is prideful for me to think that I know better than he does.  It's prideful for me to play God in my life and it's childish for me to demand my own way. 

Proverbs 30:8-9 says "Keep deception and lies far away from me; give me neither poverty nor wealth. Feed me with the food I need today.  Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, Who is the Lord?"  Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God."

The writer of Proverbs was smart enough to know that He didn't know his own heart and he didn't know what he needed.  He knew enough to know that he needed to trust God to give him exactly what God knew was best for him.  I want to get to that place, that I know that God is my Father, He is GOOD and He knows what is best for me.   When my wants collide with God's will for my life, may I say with my Savior, "Not my will, but thine be done." 

If I'm too immature to submit willingly I pray that the Lord will never hand me that spoiled milk I'm throwing a fit for. 

Friday, February 19, 2016

This is life.

Impatient. Frustrated. Bone-weary tired.  It's been a looooonnng week.  Sleepless nights.  Midnight puke sessions.  20 loads of laundry.  Another child starts this afternoon.  It's been a long day.  A baby without a nap and a mommy at the end of her strength makes for a rough bed time.   He has fussed and wanted to be held a few times today, so I would pick him up quickly, give him a cuddle and set off to do another chore that must get done.  I have this dream that one day my house will be clean and the laundry will all be done at the same time, so I tried to make that dream come true today...  Momma didn't have much time for cuddling. 

I had all I could take of his crying at the dinner table and realized too late that he hadn't had a nap, he should've been in bed an hour ago.  I yank his fussy self up and take him to my room to change him into his jammies and lay him down for bed, but he's crying for his big brother, because he usually goes to bed with him, but not tonight.   Then he's crying because I won't read him a book, it's too late for that.  He's crying and crying and all I want is for him to calm down and go quickly to sleep like he should because he's out of his mind tired.   All I want is to be done today.  I just want to sit on the couch in the dark and stare into a screen and let my mind go numb for a while.  My nerves are shot.  I'm angry with him for being so difficult so I pick him up and take him to his room and put him in his bed.  I'm just done.  He just sobs.  I plop down on the floor beside his bed defeated and frazzled.   As the anger starts to fade away I realize this IS all my fault.  It's my fault he didn't have a nap.  It's my fault he is over tired and freaking out about everything.  It's my fault that he didn't have his usual bedtime routine and he's all out of sorts.  It's my fault he is laying there crying. 

When I think back through the events of this day and all the times I gave him a quick cuddle, when he came to me to be held, instead of taking the time to really hold him it makes me sad.  My heart softens when I remember how little he still is and that he just wants a little mommy time.  I had to pick up my little one and hold him in my arms.  That's all he wanted.  He cuddled up next to me and I breathed in his scent and my whole body relaxed and I remembered this is really it.  This is what I'm doing with my life.  The dishes, laundry, and mess don't really matter.  He matters.   I needed to hold him as much as he needed to be held, because I had forgotten what was really important.  He fell asleep easily in my arms and I put him back in his bed and left the room feeling lighter than before. 

In a few minutes it was time to put my 5 yr old to bed and I sat beside him awhile and listened to him sing and thought about how he doesn't get right under my arm anymore.  There was a time he couldn't fall asleep unless he was right next to me, but not anymore, he's a big boy now.  When did that happen?  I thought about how quickly he has grown and all the ways he has matured in the last year...  where was I?  I was here, stressing about laundry and dishes and school.  Now he's not my little guy anymore.   I decided I better hold on to that minute for a few more...  and soon he was asleep too. 

Now I'm sitting here in the dark, looking at this screen.  It's quiet and I can have that time I so desperately wanted and not one minute later than I would have.  I didn't have to do all that stressing and huffing.  I didn't have to get so mad.  I could have enjoyed that time a little bit more if I had remembered what I'm really doing with my life.  I chose to have these little children and sometimes the work load that comes with them makes me forget what it's really all about.  I get my mind on having a clean house and forget time is passing so quickly.  One day soon they will be gone living their own lives and I will miss all of this.  

Do you ever have those moments when you just realize your forgot what you were living for?

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Lessons in Legos.

From the kitchen I could hear the ear-piercing howl from an upstairs bedroom.  I knew exactly who it was, but since he does that several times a day about nothing, I just waited for it to end.  After a few minutes of this sound not subsiding I trudged upstairs to see what the problem was.  My oldest was standing in front of her broken hearted little brother and I thought she had done something wrong, so I accusingly asked, "What happened?",  she turned to me puzzled and shrugged.  I sat down beside him and asked what was wrong.  Through tears and howls I finally could make out what had happened to him...  He had come upstairs to find that his Lego batman was missing an arm and that his baby brother had lost it.  THANKFULLY, I knew exactly where to find that tiny little arm, because the day before, little baby brother had brought that prized Lego person down the stairs beaming with mischievous pride, sat down on the couch beside me and started pulling batman apart.  I knew the devastation this would cause his 5 yr old brother so I took batman away and put him up before he could find out what happened, but I guess I forgot one important part...  batman's tiny Lego arm.  How can he be batman with just one arm? 

You see in this house Legos are a big deal.  Each boy has his own Lego sets and no one is allowed to play with those prized possessions unless given permission.  Although we have tried to make baby brother happy with his own mix-matched pieces he still has his eye out for those cool sets of the big brother's, the ones he's not allowed to get his hands on.  To one person in particular (the 5 year old) Lego is the main thing.  He loves those little Lego people and the sets that his big brother has put together for him.  He takes good care of his things and has an unusual attachment to these favorite toys.  He will lose it on anyone who messes with his prized possessions.   His hysterics this morning over those Legos are nothing new. 

I know how he feels...  I had just had a come to Jesus meeting in my closet minutes earlier where I expressed in prayer all my anger at life not being exactly the way I want it to be.  We (including myself) have been sick this week with the stomach bug and even though I began my day with optimism, I quickly fell into despair when I faced the consequences of having been down for 3
 days.  My dining room table is piled with laundry, my kitchen is a wreck, my pantry is empty, trash cans are over-flowing, and there's school to be done.  Sitting down with my kindergartener for school quickly threw me into a tailspin, when his perfectionism wouldn't allow him to make a mistake or to not know everything all at once, in the middle of this drama, my oldest son comes in complaining of being hungry and finds nothing to easily satisfy him.  Just like my 5 yr old searching for that missing Lego arm, I lose it and run crying to the closet, feeling overwhelmed with my crazy life.  Broken and defeated I get down on my knees and begin to complain about this heavy burden that I can't carry.  I unload on the Lord all the ways that I'm failing at life and how he really had no business entrusting me with all of this...  especially if my life is going to be less than perfect.  Doesn't He know that if I'm going to home-school my children I need to have an ideal situation.  If I'm going to teach them anything, then maybe I shouldn't have all these distractions all the time?!?!?!  Doesn't the Lord know how important education is? 

I just finished the book "Reason For God" by Timothy Keller yesterday and one of the things that really spoke to my heart was his explanation of the 1st command.  You shall have no other gods before me.  I always thought that God was like a dictator who demanded me to love him.  How could He just demand that I love him with all my heart, mind, soul and strength.  Isn't that impossible, to make someone love you?  Timothy Keller explained that God designed creation for man as a gift, and then created man and placed him in the middle of creation, with everything he would need and his ultimate need being met in the relationship he would have with his creator.  When man was God-centered he was happy and fulfilled... satisfied.  The minute that man turned into himself and looked around to be satisfied he became completely unsatisfied.  God alone could satisfy man.  When we have idols (even good things like family, children, homeschooling) those things are in the place of God.  These things are wholly unable to satisfy us, they make terrible gods.  Only the infinite, never changing, complete wholeness of God can satisfy our souls.  When we place anything in his place and those things are threatened we become frantic and anxious. 

For example if being a good mom is your idol you will be devastated if that is threatened.  If one of your children rebel you will lose all sense of self, because your identity was in your idol (being a good mom).  If you idol is having a the life you envisioned (like myself) you will be completely undone when that perfection is threatened.  These things can't fulfill. 

When God created man he wanted us to be whole, complete, and fulfilled, but ONLY HE can fulfill us.  When He says have no other god's beside me it is for our good.   Putting our happiness on something like a Lego arm is so destructive for us because if we lose that tiny arm, we lose everything.  What a sad truth.  As I sat in the floor of my closet crying, the Spirit of God whispered to me, "Angela, you wanted me to show you your idols."   In that little moment I realized just how easy it was for me to construct these little earthen idols.  I look at the Ancient Egyptians that we are studying in school and scoff at them for their many gods, but I am no different with my small little idols that could never be worthy of my worship.  I thought of all the little things this morning that had made me angry and one by one I saw how I had made them idols.  Being a good mom, having a clean house, order, routine, clean laundry, smart kids, healthy food... all these things had the power to make me momentarily happy or sad.  All of them were good things, worthy things, but terrible gods.   I was able to see how important is was to daily cast down those idols.  Daily.  Those little statues can be constructed so quickly, without us realizing how they have moved up into the place of God. 

You shall have no other gods...  The command from the One who alone can satisfy us.  If God is my exceeding great reward then all these little things can't bring me down...  If God is my IDOL, then I can't be moved.  If He alone is on the throne of my heart I will always be satisfied because He is all I need.   How about you this morning???  Do you have idols to cast down?

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Tale of Two Gardens.

A few years ago I decided I was going to be a gardener...  sadly that only lasted two season.  Gardening was probably one of the most enjoyable things I've ever tried, but it's definetly work. As with everything I try, I jumped into this venture with my usual gusto and read everything I could get my hands on about gardening.  There was nothing like planting those little seeds and watching and waiting for the tiny first leaves to burst through the soil.  It was amazing to watch the plants grow big and strong.  We all loved to go out to the garden and find the hidden treasure of fruit on the vine, the children would pick the veggies and eat them right there.  One thing is for sure... the bounty from the garden was much for delicious and satisfying than what you buy in the store.  I was amazed by all the little lessons that the garden brought to life.  I truly loved my little garden, but life was busy with a little baby and I had to take a break. 

We had built two garden boxes on the side of our house.  One we filled with some extra special soil we had delivered, that was full of all composted material, because we heard this was the best soil to use.  We didn't have enough of that soil for the second box and thinking that it wouldn't matter that much we filled the second box up with bags of soil we bought from our local Home Depot...  We prepared both boxes exactly the same way, except for that soil, then we waited and watched for our bounty to spring forth. 

After a couple weeks the box with the special soil was filled with tiny little sprouts, the beginnings of tomato plants, cucumber plants, summer squash, mint, thyme, and oregano.  It was so exciting to see the little bitty leaves grow each day and wait expectantly for the first fruit they would produce.  We also watched the second box, but all it produced was weeds.  We would pick those weeds and wait, but nothing happened.  I was very disappointed in this little garden, because I had planted those little watermelon and cantaloupe seeds, in that second box, and I couldn't wait to bite into a big juicy slice of fresh from the garden summer fruit, but nothing happened.  I thought maybe those seeds just took a little longer to sprout, so I kept my eye on that second garden, but week after week, it produced nothing, but weeds. 

That second garden was a lot more work than, the first garden, that was growing lush with the healthy plants that had been planted in that special soil.  We decided to fertilize the second garden hoping it would produce something, but when the little sprouts would come up they would not grow and soon they would be dead...  digging them up we could see that the second garden box was full of pests.   They had overtaken our little garden.  Eventually I gave up on that box producing anything.

The first little box with the rich, composted soil, grew beautiful, healthy fruit that was a delight to pick and eat.  It wasn't full of pests or overgrown with weeds.  It produced enough fruit that we were able to have some of our own and share it with others.  I loved that little garden.  I realized a valuable lesson from the tale of those two garden boxes... soil makes all the difference.

I recalled this lesson as I was trying to chew on  a certain verse yesterday...  Eph 3:17 "That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith: and that you may be ROOTED AND GROUNDED IN LOVE."

I used to think that this verse was speaking about how we should love others, but in the last couple of years, God has been showing me that you could never give anything you don't have.   I was always trying love people or produce fruit, but my soil was depleted.  I was producing no fruit or bitter fruit.  My heart was not rooted in the soil of God's love.   I had nothing to draw from.   In recent years we have heard a lot about how our food comes from depleted soil and how we are not receiving the vitamins and minerals that we need for health and vitality.   Our hearts are in the same condition.  We are trying to produce Christian fruit, but our soil had nothing that offers life to ourselves or others. 

Paul tells the Ephesians he prays that they will be able to comprehend the breadth, length, depth, and height of the love that God the Father has for them, that he displayed through Christ his son.  Paul tells us that we have been chosen, adopted, blessed, and loved all for HIS GOOD PLEASURE.  Paul tries to get his readers to understand that they are the delight of God.  When our hearts are rooted in the good soil of God's EXTRAVAGANT LOVE and grounded in His AMAZING GRACE we will produce abundant, healthy, life-giving fruit of the Spirit.

Galatians tells us what kind of fruit we will produce IF we are rooted and grounded in the love of God...  Love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, kindness, goodness and self-control.  These are not things that you can produce on your own.  The plant can only bring forth the life that it receives from the soil.  If the soil is depleted it can't produce anything, except weeds and pests.  If you are trying to live a Christian life without having fully experienced the Love that God has for you, essentially your like that little second garden box. 

So, uproot yourself from the depleted soil and get rooted into that rich, generous soil of God's love.  Begin to ponder the LOVE of God.  Dwell on the fact that God says he sent his son to redeem a people for HIS GOOD PLEASURE.  Think about what it means for John to say "For God SO loved the world, that he sent his only son, that whosoever might believe in him would not perish, but have everlasting life."  SO LOVED....  His love for us moved him to action.  Think about how he chose you, he adopted you, he DELIGHTS in you. 

When we are rooted in the love of God, our fruit will overflow.  The rich soil of his love, mercy, and grace will satisfy our longing souls and produce abundantly.  You won't have to force yourself to be kind...  when God has been kind to you, you will naturally be kind to others.  You won't have to fake goodness, you will be full of goodness.  You will not have to force patience, because you know the Father has been patient with  you. 

What soil are you rooted in today?  Are you filled with the love of God?  Are you overwhelmed today to be the delight of the Father?  Or are you bitter, angry and frustrated.  Is it hard for you to be gracious, patient and kind?  You might want to check your soil today.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

What every Christian should admit.

Sitting across from me at the table she said, "I believe in God, but this Jesus stuff is a fairytale." Then she apologized as if she had offended me. 

The thing is, I could never be offended about something that I understand so well.   I've been a believer/follower of Jesus Christ for 20 years and the truth is sometimes it's hard for me to believe this Jesus stuff.  It's hard for me to believe that God could become a man and that one man could save the world from sin.  It's hard to believe that he walked on water, that he calmed storms, that he gave sight to the blind, that he healed leoprosy, that he made the lame to stand, It's hard for me to believe that he rose from the dead.  It's even harder to believe that all God wants from me is to believe that Jesus the God/man is the sacrificial lamb of God and that his blood takes away my sin. 

The very essence of faith is working through your doubts.  It would be ridiculous to speak of having faith, if you never asked yourself questions and in turn found answers for those questions.  If you live your entire life as a Christian, but never work through your doubt, you never fully believed. 

I had blind faith once.  Faith like a child, that all the Bible said was true, but when my mom received a cancer diagnosis, a sliver of doubt cracked through my soul.  When we prayed, cried and begged for her healing and were denied that request, that sliver turned into a canyon.  If God was real and the Bible was true, then God would have answered our prayers, because the Bible says "ask and it shall be given you."  I asked and he didn't give.  That was 3 years ago and for 3 years my old faith has been stripped away.  The doubts about God, the Bible, and Jesus were all consuming.   My life in all of other areas didn't live up to my child like expectations and I was completely disappointed by life.  God was a myth and I was devastated. 

It's been the most painful experience of my life to pick my faith apart.  There was a huge self inflicted pressure to "keep up face" to my children and the world around me, but there were rare moments of complete honesty, when I would ask my husband if he really believed all of this and I would beg him to prove that it was all real.  From a historical, analytical stand point he would prove Christ to me.  He would make his case for God and in the end it was left for me to decide for myself.   At the same time, the Spirit of God, would reveal the truth of His Word to me and slowly and steadily my faith began to build again.  It started out small, but this time it wasn't blind.

This post isn't really about proving God, so I'm not going to take the time to do that.  It's more about accepting doubt as a part of faith.  It's about being honest with people, who doubt that there is a God or that Jesus is God, and admitting that it's not always easy for you to believe.  It's about understanding how hard it is for your family and friends to believe all this stuff and loving them through their doubt.  It's about taking someone by the hand and walking with them until they do begin to see God with their own eyes.  We shouldn't be ashamed or embarrassed to admit that we struggle to believe sometimes.  God is BIGGER than our doubt.  He can handle it and HE CAN PROVE HIMSELF.

There was a man once who had walked with Jesus for 3 years.  He had been by his side as he fed 5000 with 2 small fish and 5 loaves.  He was there when the Jesus said 'Peace be still' to the storm that were threatening to upend their boat.  He was there when Jesus gave sight to the blind and he was there when Jesus healed the sick.  But on the day that the other disciples said, "WE HAVE SEEN THE LORD." AFTER Jesus had risen from the grave, Thomas did not believe them, and he said, "Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I WILL NOT BELIEVE." 

And after 8 days Jesus came again to his disciples and this time Thomas was with them and Jesus went straight to Thomas and said, "Reach here your fingers, and behold my hands; and reach here your hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, BUT BELIEVE."  John 20.

Jesus can prove himself and he is not afraid of doubt.  Be honest with yourself and with other people.  It's hard to believe and we all struggle.  Sometimes our faith is strong, other times it is weak.  Either way God is who he said he is and he can handle your doubt.  What would it do to your conversations if you were able to be honest with unbelievers and say I don't have all the answers?  How would it change your relationship with the world if you admitted you struggle to believe?  What wonders would happen if we prayed for other people and ourselves to touch the nail prints and BELIEVE?