Monday, September 30, 2013

Romans 1:7 - The Read Over Verse I Couldn't Get Past

So as I laid down to read my Bible last night, and prayed for God to give me eyes to see and wisdom to understand His word, I nestled in to the book of Romans.

My normal reading experience is one chapter per night, normally giving me enough time to study and pray through the material.

Last night shouldn't have been any different.  Romans 1 isn't a long chapter, but I couldn't get past verse 7.  Like, couldn't. get. past. it.  Trust me, I'm a girl about getting things done, and so I kept on reading, but I heard nothing, understood nothing.  One word kept resonating in my mind:  Shalom.

In essence, I didn't even make it past the greeting.  Verse 7 reads:

To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

And when I read through my study notes, one line tinged my heart, "peace is not just the lack of conflict."  It goes on to say that the word is 'shalom', which is a peace about all things.  

Lord, the conviction.  

As a Christian, I have the potential to experience shalom in all places of my life.  

You know, when the lovely daughter is shrieking her pretty little head off because she doesn't want to leave bub's baseball game?  Shalom is possible. 

Or the many nights I've lost sleep over finances?  Shalom.

Or how would we ever get almost 300 chairs set back up after an event in our worship center?  Shalom.  
Or the 'right' way to discipline the kids... 

Or what is going to be for dinner tonight... 

Or the uber stressful change in the schedule... 

Or when are these floors EVER going to get clean?!?!

Shalom.  Shalom.  Shalom.  

Apparently, I feel like the glue that is supposed to hold all of these things together.  I feel I have enough control on these things to manage them.  Failures are mine, but successes are too. 

But didn't Jesus say to drop everything to follow him?  I'm sure it meant more than just physically.  I'm sure the disciples had to drop many of their worries and concerns, and cast them aside, in order to focus and follow Jesus.  

Jesus later promises that if we bring our burdens to Him, He will give us rest.  


There's a great bit of a sigh of relief in that word.  And it's not just the physical, "I just need 5 more minutes, God," kind of rest.  It's the 'God's got this, stop your worrying, you need just OBEY kind of rest.'  And it is good.  

So I guess, tonight, I'll continue on in verse 8, and try to keep in mind that the Lord Jesus is offering me rest...

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

You Come Back, Mommy?

About four months ago my sweet little girl started separation anxiety at a level I've never experienced.

Every time dropping her off for church or small group became a very real, gut - wrenching battle.  Her tears and cries were not that of a fit - throwing toddler, but of a very, very scared little girl who reached desperately for me as I handed her off.  (Luckily 99 / 100 of the check-in workers are sweet friends who have bared with me and loved on me through this.)

Though it was never easy to leave her crying, there was solace knowing only moments after I left she was able to be consoled.  Still, I couldn't shake the desperation she felt.

Then school started.

Our preschool has two 2-year old classrooms, separated by age.  Technically, by three days, sweet girl should be in my class, but it was agreed by all that would probably never work.  Instead, she resides right next door.  In fact, we share a bathroom.  And a chapel time.  And a playground time.  And to say that many days we encounter each other several times would be an understatement.  To say that each time the separation is much more difficult than the first would also be an understatement.  Each time she was more difficult to console.  Each time the desperation seemed greater.

Last Tuesday I broke down.  It was lunchtime, and I had nine children in my class and a sub as a co-teacher (an experienced pre-k teacher whom I worked with last year, who was also sweet girl's teacher last year, so I was thankful).  We had just come in from playground and then had gone to wash hands, both of our classes, in the large bathrooms.  Two moments of separation in a very short time period.   As I walked my class back into their room I could hear her weeping in her classroom, and it continued and continued and continued.  I couldn't eat.  I couldn't think.  All I could do was hear her crying out... wanting me, and me, in the next room, unable to do anything.

I held the tears back for a moment, and then our director, a sweet sweet friend, walked to my door to check on me.  (The whole school, more than likely, could hear the crying child, and our director knows her cry as well as I do.)  And the tears came.  And I wept, on the other side of that one thin wall, with the shrieking little girl in the next room.

I had a talk with my sweet two year old that night, and all it took was one phrase, "I always come back, baby," I told her.  She repeated me, "You always come back, mommy?"  I could hear the question in her voice and see the quiver in the lip... the tears in her eyes.  I reassured her, "Yes, baby, I will come back for you."

This has become a mantra for us.  She will fight back tears, her little quivering lip, being strong and big, and she'll look at me with big blue eyes and say, maybe a little more assuredly each time, "You come back, mommy!"

Tuesday, we got by with {almost} no tears.  And we will take that, friends.

And the Lord whispers.  God tends to continually break me in ways I don't foresee.  This battle, that is still very much raging, has been hard and long and uncomfortable, but in it I've felt this little desperation in myself growing up, a little flame flickering wondering the exact same thing as my daughter, "Daddy, you come back for me? Abba?"  Me, like my little girl, questioning the faithfulness of my Father.

I'm reminded of the strong, faithful promise of our Lord Jesus saying He will come back for us someday, and is with us now.

What a reminder, even when my babies feel alone, I'm always there, I'm always overseeing, and I always, always come back.  How I wish I could express this to them!  How I wish they could understand that I'd fight and give and die for them without a moments thought!

And how much greater is God's love for me!  And how much stronger is God's Word than mine!  He is faithful.  He is good.  His words are true, and even more than me with my own precious children, God is reassuring, "I'm coming back, baby, and I'm closer than you even know, now.  Trust me."  

I, just like my sweet girl, wrestle with the faithfulness and trustworthiness of the one I love, my protector, the one I desperately plead for, not realizing He's. always. right. there.

He's always right there.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Great Need

I've been a Christian for just at fourteen years.  There have been a lot of hills and valleys in my experience.  I've celebrated and shouted from the mountain tops.  I've wept bitterly and cried out desperately when God has felt distant.  My perspective has also changed on some things as I've grown and studied God's word.

The latter led me into uncharted waters, into a place where I could not control my own destiny, into a place where my choice becomes insignificant, or better, no choice at all.  To say it bluntly, God used His word to reform my life and faith, humbling me quickly and bringing me to the realization that there was NOTHING I could do to earn God's favor or forgiveness.  I could not even choose to accept it apart from Him. 

Let me tell you, folks.  This was hard.  Everything I read in the Bible affirmed my new suspicions, but with each affirmation came a gamete of hard questions.  

  • So, since I was not reformed at my salvation, am I saved?
  • Did God really choose me?  (It's obvious I had relied on my own works in the process for a long period of time.) 
  • What about John 3:16 and God loving the world? 
  • So God really DOES choose people for hell?  
And the list goes on.  But even above the questions circling my own salvation, one question left me with many... dare I say it again... many sleepless nights, and it was:
  • But what about my kids?  Does that mean I have no control over their decision?  
Because somewhere in my mind I felt if we read enough scripture together, did enough Bible studies, walked through church doors, served in enough ministries, prayed together enough and worshipped together in our home, I COULD SAVE OUR CHILDREN.  

It's a heavy load.  But I tend to do better when I have control.  Or at least I thought I did.  

And then my oldest, almost 5, rocked my world.  He's obedient, overall well behaved, fun, good spirited, and sweet, but more and more and more we were seeing a characteristic come out in him that scared me:  he has a very hard time trusting.  

It came out everywhere.  In the car, if he knew where we were going, but we had chosen to go a way unfamiliar to him, he heavily doubted that we knew how to get him there.  Upon promise after promise by us to not let him fall (riding his bike, monkey bars, hanging upside down, you name it), he'd doubt us and cry until it was over (in which he'd then express great joy).  He's a 'what if' asker, even if the answer is certain.  Trusting does not come easy for him.  Nor does it for me (obviously, hence my salvation questions listed previously).  

And one day, when we were in the car, traveling yet again to a known destination on an unknown path, he questioned us multiple times on if we really knew how to get there, and it occurred to me.  

There is not a thing I could do to convince this child to be in the faith.  There's not enough scripture to be read, enough worship songs to be sung, not enough prayers to be said at the table that would encourage him, in and of themselves, to trust in the Lord Jesus.  

Now, these aren't bad things, and these things may very well be utilized in bringing him to faith, but ultimately, the Lord must bring him to faith.  HE must do the work.  He must make the blind see.  He must heal the lame.  

I cannot. 

And for the first time, in the car that day, I became ever so thankful that his salvation doesn't rest on my shoulders.  Me, a sinner, a failure, a mere mortal.  To have control over any one person's eternity would be ridiculous.  There is freedom in not having the control I so desperately thought I needed.  

The husband and I decided that, should the Lord choose to save our kids, and we pray urgently and passionately that He does and He does quickly, that we will know for certain that it will be nothing shy of a miracle from God.  

After all, there are those of us who don't trust easily and don't rely on others well, and when God can bring us into a faith and trust in Him that leads us to confidence and assurance in our faith, well, that is something that only God can do.  He satisfies that one great need. 

Praying, anticipating and pleading for salvation - 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Lots and Lots of Open Tabs

Have you ever heard people say they are so busy that they are afraid things may start falling through the cracks?

Or have you seen the e-card on pinterest that explains that a woman's brain is like 4,279 tabs open in a browser window?

That's been my life lately.

I'm just a bit overwhelmed.

But I'm thankful.  I'm thankful for opportunities.  I'm thankful for a job in which I get to see both of my kiddos sporadically throughout the day.  I'm thankful for a house that may be in a little more disarray than I'd like, but provides a roof over our head.  I'm thankful that we've been eating better, even if it does take longer.  I'm thankful for every minute I get to watch B play baseball, even if Tuesdays and Thursdays are our most difficult days.

I'm overwhelmed, but I'm thankful for it.  I'm thankful for the blessing that is children, family, church, income, faith, and service.

And so - since I've been a wee bit overwhelmed, here's a brief overview of where we've been:

Our lovely female offspring has been having some separation anxiety in pretty much every realm of life: church, school, and bed.  What had been increasingly frustrating bedtimes I'm now trying to combat with lots of love, a cuddle session with a story, and an open door policy.  The policy being as long as she stays in bed, her door can remain open.  These tactics come after many miserably failed attempts at a sticker chart (which worked beautifully for potty training), a new doll, many scoldings, lots of different items / activities taken away, etc.

It was in this process the other night that I truly believe the Lord convicted and brought to my mind my own childhood... in which my parents had to put me to sleep on the couch and carry me to my room.  It's the only way I could sleep, and they showed me grace.

In other news, B is baseball playing again.  I think I'd be fine if this was the only sport he ever played, though I'm sure he would do fine in others, and I would enjoy them equally as well.  It's just so... enjoyable.

School has started again, and I'm ready to be 'in the swing of it' again.  Besides, that, it's been well so far!

We are on a healthy eating lifestyle, as a family, which hopefully that accountability will put us on it 'for good'.  We are taking a cheat day a week for the sake of giving ourselves a little leeway.  Let me just say, as sick as my Steak n Shake made me feel today... I'm not sure I care if I ever eat again...

And I'm considering becoming a coffee drinker.  I know, I know, not something you convince yourself to do, but all of this water, and the need for caffeine, and my new love for Starbucks, I'm hoping I can create something (easily and quickly) at home that will be extremely low cal and a good way to start the day.

I just read through the book of Ruth in my study time.  I also 'restarted' a journey notebook, something to write my prayers and struggles, the things I'm thankful for, where I'm reading, and what God is teaching me.  I've found it makes me more attentive.  It makes me apply what I've read more.  And I've grown a renewed love for Ruth.  I mean, really.  How many women marry a man, he dies, and she sticks with her mother-in-law to the extent of traveling to an unfamiliar land and serving to keep them both afloat.  Of course, we know that God provides perfectly for Ruth and Naomi, but to watch Ruth's 'fruit of the spirit' play out throughout the entire book (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control).  The patience alone that Ruth showed the night at the threshing floor, waiting for Boaz to wake.  I'd be a nervous wreck.  I can't lie next to the hubs for any period of time before I feel the need to wake him.  I've been blessed by her story.

And thus, it is 'fall' (read: I hear the temperatures are cooling and even leaves are changing in OTHER parts of the country.)  I love everything about fall.  Granted, here in the south we don't get much fall... but I'm more than ready to relish in it when it gets here.

And yes, I'm counting down days until Christmas.  And yes, I do have half my Christmas shopping done :)

Until next time -