Saturday, November 14, 2020

mom enough?

 Sometimes, being a mom is amazing. Other times, it's a hard, lonely, miserable mess. All the time, it's a jumble of emotions all tangled together, each one fighting for dominance. It's humbling and heartbreaking and awe inspiring and incredible.

There are days when I think I'm doing a good job, days when the laundry is caught up, everybody likes what's for supper (with 7 of us, that's quite a thing), and people are smiling and laughing and having fun together. Those days make me feel like I know what I'm doing, which is nice since I'm 14 years into this "mom" thing. The good ones are the ones when I get glimpses of who my kids are growing up to be, when I think that maybe I'm not doing too bad at this whole motherhood business.

Other days, there are piles of laundry overflowing the baskets or a load that gets forgotten in the washing machine and somehow smells like a wet dog. Those days are usually the ones when the brothers are fighting and threatening each other within an inch of their lives. They are somehow also the ones when the girls decide I can't possibly know anything I'm talking about because I'm obviously out of touch with everything and gosh, there's no way I was ever a teenage girl. Those are the days when nobody wants to eat what's been cooked (it, of course, is somebody's least favorite food even though they ate it without complaint the last time). They're typically the days when reminding my kids that they need clean underwear after taking a shower is obviously the worst thing I can possibly do.

Sometimes, all I want to do is hide away. I feel like I'm failing at everything important, like I'm letting my kids down and I'll never have the wisdom or strength or patience to get my kids grown up.

What gets to me the most, though, is the thought that I'm letting God down. After all, these kids are His. They belong to Him, and I'm just borrowing them for a while. I feel utterly inadequate to raise them to be who He wants them to be, so ill-equipped to be their mom, like maybe God should have chosen someone else so that I couldn't mess them up. Because my goodness, there are days when I think I've messed them up beyond repair.

It's in those hard times, though, in the middle of my gut-wrenching cries to God for His help, when I'm on my knees with tears brimming, telling Him that I'm not enough and I can't possibly do this and He must have made some mistake because these kids He gave me need someone better, someone with more patience and better homemaking skills and who loves cuddling and who never loses her ever-loving mind... it's in those times that I hear Him say,

“My grace is enough to cover and sustain you.
My power is made perfect in weakness.”

2 Corinthians 12:9

I'm not enough--I never will be. I don't have what it takes to get myself through this life, let alone the kids who have been entrusted to my care. But that's the amazing thing about being a servant of the Most High. "For He understands how we are made, He remembers that we are dust." (Psalm 103:14) He knows I can't do the things He's asked of me on my own. If I could, I wouldn't need Him.

And that's one thing being a mom has shown me--how much I desperately need Him.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

in the storm

 We've been pretty familiar with storms in our household lately. I don't mean the thunder and lightning, wind and rain types of storms (though here in the Arkansas Ozarks, those are pretty common, too). I mean the types of storms that come from doing this whole "life" thing with a group of little people who are in that hard place of turning into big people while learning the hard lessons of what it means to be family, to grow up, and to just be human. Lately we've had some mornings that have made me want to crawl back in bed and pull the covers up over my head.

They haven't been big storms, as far as storms go. They aren't the kind of storms that have us hanging on for dear life, thinking we're about to go under. They are just the ones that seem to last so much longer than you ever thought possible, storms that drag on for so long that you start thinking you're going to give out, that even though the pressure isn't that intense you just can't hold up against it being so unrelenting.

When the disciples set out that night on the Sea of Galilee, I think that's the kind of storm they were facing. We're told that they had been rowing all night and yet still hadn't made it to the other side. Now, it's not that enormous of a body of water-- it's 8 miles wide, which definitely wouldn't be a walk in the park (can you say that about rowing?) for someone like me. For a bunch of fishermen who had spent their entire lives on the water, though... I'm sure the storm had to be unrelenting for them to only be half way across after rowing all night.

I've been in that place more times than I would like to admit. You know, the place where the storm has been going on for so long that you're starting to think it won't ever end. You've been straining to get through to the other side, but you aren't actually making any progress. You're stressed and tired and defeated and scared, and it feels like you're all alone in the middle of the storm.

We all know what happens next--we've heard the story of Jesus walking on the water and we know that the storm stopped when He stepped into the boat. But there's a promise tucked in there that I hadn't noticed before:

"Not long after, He sent His disciples out onto their boat to sail to Bethsaida on the other shore, and He sent the crowd away. After everyone had gone, He slipped away to pray on a mountain overlooking the sea. When evening came, the boat was out on the sea and He was alone on the land. He saw that the disciples were making little progress because they were rowing against a stiff wind."
~Mark 6:45-48a

Do you see it? It's easy for us to overlook (God's promises sometimes are), but look again at that last sentence:

"He saw that the disciples..."

The disciples were out in the middle of the storm, but Jesus saw them.

They weren't forgotten. They weren't abandoned to face the storm alone, even though they felt like they were.

So many times when I'm in the middle of a storm I feel like I'm facing it all on my own. I feel like I've been left to fend for myself, to fight a battle I'm not strong enough to fight. The thing is, though, Jesus doesn't abandon us. He's there, watching, waiting for the perfect time to step in and calm the storm.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

what you want and what you get

 They wanted a Messiah. They wanted him to come as a mighty conqueror, one who would drive everyone else out of Israel. They wanted a warrior to come in and wipe out the enemy, the mighty "Lion of Judah" who would have the whole world trembling at his roar. They wanted someone to step in and stake his claim as King over the whole world, someone who would intimidate most and defeat anyone who dared stand against Israel. They wanted the one who would usher in the end of the world as we know it, the one who would raise Israel up above all other nations. They wanted a Messiah who would come in as a strong political and military leader, someone who would subdue the entire earth under his heel. They wanted a Messiah they could rule alongside of, someone who would make them powerful by association.

We want a very different Messiah today. We want him to come in as someone who is all warm and fuzzy, someone who just loves us no matter what and doesn't demand any changes. We want him to approve anything and everything, to tell us that as long as it makes us feel good he's good with it. We want someone who will make sure we get all the good things, someone who wants us to be "healthy, wealthy, and wise." We want a friend who will be there when we need one, but not one who will speak up when we need to reevaluate our words or actions. We want to be told that "right" and "true" are words that don't really mean anything, that truth is relative and the Bible is just a bunch of stories. We want someone to make us feel good about ourselves, one who says our whole goal and purpose in life is to make other people feel good about themselves, too. We want someone who only cares about our intentions, not our actions, so that as long as we are well meaning and are good people, it doesn't matter what we actually believe.

There's this habit God has, though, of not doing things the way we think He should. He didn't send Jesus to be the Messiah the Jews thought He should be. In the same way, He didn't send His Son to be the "everything goes" Messiah we think He should be today.

Instead, He sent a Messiah who would rub people the wrong way. He sent a King who would be born in a feed trough, who would grow up seen as a Nazarene in a culture that said, "Nothing good comes from Nazareth." He sent a Messiah who would humble Himself instead of lifting Himself up, One who would call on His disciples to deny themselves in order to follow Him. He sent a Messiah who came as a servant instead of a conqueror, One who touched the untouchable and ate with tax collectors. He sent One who would stand up to the Sadducees and Pharisees, who reached out to Samaritans, who became friends with a quick-tempered and hot-headed fisherman. He sent a Messiah who came, in His own words: 

"Do not imagine that I have come to bring peace to the earth.
I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.
I have come to turn men against their fathers,
daughters against their mothers,
and daughters-in-law against their mothers-in-law.
You will find you have enemies even in your own household.
If you love your father or mother more than you love Me,
then you are not worthy of Me.
If you love your son or daughter more than you love Me,
then you are not worthy of Me
If you refuse to take up your cross and follow Me on the narrow road,
then you are not worthy of Me
To find your life, you must lose your life—
and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it."

~Matthew 10:34-39

 He sent a Messiah who warned His followers that their lives wouldn't be easy. He sent a Messiah who refused to throw the first stone but also called the woman caught in adultery to repent, to "go and sin no more." He sent a Messiah who was tempted in every way we are, yet never sinned. He sent a Messiah through whom all of the universe was created, yet who chose to let Himself be beaten, whipped, mocked, spit on, and crucified because God's will and God's plan meant more than His earthly life.

Monday, November 2, 2020

A prayer...

 Dear God,

We're told in Romans, "We are weak and do not know how to pray, so the Spirit steps in and articulates prayers for us with groaning too profound for words." (8:26) Right now, that's where I am. I think it's where so many of us here in the United States are, because right now our country is anything but "United." The division and hatred is wounding so many hearts and causing so many rifts. The most horrific part of it all, though, is not the fact that our country is divided--that's something that has been coming for a long time. The worst part is how those of us who call ourselves Your children are divided.

God, You are holy and just and perfect in Your love. You know we are weak--after all, You created the dust from which You created us. You know our lives here are nothing more than a breath, and You know how much we mess up. Despite it all, You love us. Somehow, for some awesome reason I can't wrap my mind around, You love us. You watch us fail You time and time again, and You love us.

Your mercy is unbelievable and Your patience is unimaginable, but when it comes down to it, Your love for us means that You also discipline us. Just like my mom always told us, "I love you too much to let you act that way," sometimes that's what You say to us.

Father, this nation was founded on Your word. It was started by men and women who called out to You and based their decisions on Your will. Instead of honoring them--but more importantly, honoring You--we've decided that our country doesn't need You. We've pushed You aside and, like petulant children, said that we can do it ourselves. We've pushed You out of everything--our homes, our schools, our courts, even many of our churches. We've grabbed hold of the idea of feelings over facts, of the idea that it doesn't matter what You said, all that matters is what makes us feel all warm and fuzzy. We've decided that you are nothing more than an old man to be placated, shaking our heads with a knowing smirk as we listen to stories of how things used to be.

For so long, we've tried to take control. We've tried to say that we know better than You, that we're better at this "life" thing, that Your word is outdated and irrelevant. We took all the gifts You gave us and threw them away, demanding something bigger and better and shinier and more modern. Demanding that You let us have our way, that You just leave us alone and let us take control and do things the way we want.

And now, God, I'm afraid that You've decided to do just that. I'm afraid that You are doing like you did when Israel demanded a king--You warned them, then You gave them what they thought they wanted. You stepped back and they found out what it meant to get their own way.

Father, forgive us.

Despite our demands, despite our petulance, I know Your will will be done. You are in control, though sometimes that control means our discipline. Please, remember Your children. Through the coming turmoil, remind us that You love us, and that even when we are in the pit You are close enough to whisper.

Psalm 31

"You are my shelter, O Eternal One—my soul’s sanctuary!
    Shield me from shame;
    rescue me by Your righteousness.
Hear me, Lord! Turn Your ear in my direction.
    Come quick! Save me!
Be my rock, my shelter,
    my fortress of salvation!

You are my rock and my fortress—my soul’s sanctuary!
    Therefore, for the sake of Your reputation, be my leader, my guide, my navigator, my commander.
Save me from the snare that has been secretly set out for me,
    for You are my protection.
I entrust my spirit into Your hands.[a]
    You have redeemed me, O Eternal, God of faithfulness and truth.

I despise the people who pay respect to breathless idols,
    and I trust only in You, Eternal One.
I will gladly rejoice because of Your gracious love
    because You recognized the sadness of my affliction.
    You felt deep compassion when You saw the pains of my soul.
You did not hand me over to the enemy,
    but instead, You liberated me
    and made me secure in a good and spacious land.

Show me Your grace, Eternal One, for I am in a tight spot.
    My eyes are aching with grief;
    my body and soul are withering with miseries.
10 My life is devoured by sorrow,
    and my years are haunted with mourning.
My sin has sapped me of all my strength;
    my body withers under the weight of this suffering.

11 To all my enemies I am an object of scorn.
    My neighbors especially are ashamed of me.
My friends are afraid to be seen with me.
    When I walk down the street, people go out of their way to avoid me.
12 I am as good as dead to them. Forgotten!
    Like a shattered clay pot, I am easily discarded and gladly replaced.
13 For I hear their whispered plans;
    terror is everywhere!
They conspire together,
    planning, plotting, scheming to take my life.

14 But I pour my trust into You, Eternal One.
    I’m glad to say, “You are my God!”
15 I give the moments of my life over to You, Eternal One.
    Rescue me from those who hate me and who hound me with their threats.
16 Look toward me, and let Your face shine down upon Your servant.
    Because of Your gracious love, save me!
17 Spare me shame, O Eternal One,
    for I turn and call to You.
Instead, let those who hate me be shamed;
    let death’s silence claim them.
18 Seal their lying lips forever,
    for with pride and contempt boiling in their hearts,
    they speak boldly against the righteous and persecute those who poured their trust into You.

19 Your overflowing goodness
    You have kept for those who live in awe of You,
And You share Your goodness with those who make You their sanctuary.
20 You hide them, You shelter them in Your presence,
    safe from the conspiracies of sinful men.
You keep them in Your tent,
    safe from the slander of accusing tongues.

21 Bless the Eternal!
    For He has revealed His gracious love to me
    when I was trapped like a city under siege.
22 I began to panic so I yelled out,
    “I’m cut off. You no longer see me!”
But You heard my cry for help that day
    when I called out to You.

23 Love the Eternal, all of you, His faithful people!
    He protects those who are true to Him,
    but He pays back the proud in kind.
24 Be strong, and live courageously,
    all of you who set your hope in the Eternal!"

Parents, step up

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