Monday, September 21, 2015

Note to Self: To See the Beauty in the End

I am up to my eyeballs in Exodus 3 this morning and had to stop.  I love studying to teach {and read that humbly, please, because I don’t take it lightly one bit.  Freaks me out EVERY. TIME.}  but I needed some “marinating” time and a chance to pin some of these floating thoughts down.  I turned 45 last week and birthdays always make me thoughtful, but this one slipped by sandwiched between a surprise trip to Georgia, missing time with my neighbors in our home, changes to a 12 year work schedule and a difficult parenting week.  I was sure celebrated-- Jeff leads in that, but it was overshadowed by the reality that life doesn’t always go how we think it would or should.  I don’t like one bit that my Mom was so sick she had to be hospitalized.  I want her to be healthy all the time. I don’t like change so when they start messing with my work schedule it puts me out of sorts.  I also don’t like that I have to dole out consequences when my children disobey.  And I certainly don’t like their choosing disobedience.  So today, kids are at school and I’m thinking.  And since I am in Exodus 3, it’s God and Moses I am thinking about.

I am often struck by the intricacies of the paths God weaves in order to carry out His plans.  I mean, it’s nothing to Him because His mind is capable.  Mine?  It begins to overheat.  Think of the ramifications of all of it-- what family you are born into, the personalities of your parents, their love for God or lack of it, your siblings or lack of them, their personalities, your extended family- cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, the neighbors or friends you had growing up, their parents and siblings, the teachers you had, the babysitters who kept you, the church you did or didn’t belong to, the coaches/instructors you had, the kids in your schools, the moves you may have made, the people who loved you, hurt you, invested in you, ignored you, the jobs you had, the books you read, the trips you took, the deaths you endured, the classes you took, the movies you saw, what you chose after high school, who you ran around with, who you met at “random” places who became friends for life or someone you never saw again-- and a zillion other factors.  Do I believe God had and has purpose in all of that?  You bet I do.

We all see it in Moses- the Levite mother who made the waterproof basket {in, like, 1400 BC?!? And LifeProof thinks they are clever}, the sister who watched him float to safety at the exact time Pharaoh’s daughter was bathing, how Moses’ mother was chosen to nurse her own son-- but the one I never thought of before was the two midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, who let the Hebrew baby boys live-- Moses being one of them.  Who were these women?  Who were their parents?  How were they raised?  They defied the command of an evil ruler. Risked their lives to save baby boys.  Who were their biggest influences as they grew from child to woman?  How did they become midwives?  What paths led them to Moses’ mother’s birthing bed that day?  God had it all figured out-- nothing surprised him on Moses’ birthday.  He knew Shiphrah and Puah would be in place that day, to save the baby that would grow into the man who He would use as the instrument to deliver His beloved people from the bonds of slavery.  And the story goes on..... and it makes my brain smoke thinking through all He ordained.

I can’t think on my life very long because it’s too much.  God’s got it so I don’t have to but to look back and see His Sovereign hand on my life is many things-- mind-boggling, humbling, encouraging, and awe-inspiring.  There are many, many big events but I wish I remember what factors were involved in my getting to camp in the summer of1990- the week I met Jeff-- and what got him to work that camp that particular summer.  And then I think of the timing, the conversations, the relationships, the choices that led us to our adopted children.  See?  I can’t think of it for long.  Too much.  Too much grace.  But it’s His hand, His work, His sovereignty-- and why do I ever doubt it?

Do I really think at 45 He has stopped?  That His hand of grace has been removed from my life?  That the paths and the weaving together have somehow come to an end?  Can I really think that the circumstances in my life RIGHT NOW aren't leading to a greater purpose than just the clock ticking off a day?  Most of you reading have the advantage of looking back a few years.  What do you see?  What paths weren’t chosen for you but now, you see great purpose in it?  What paths did you choose and can you see God’s sovereign hand using that to get you in position for something else?  How have you responded to the circumstances in your life- big and small?  Can you see His work?  Do you believe He’s got everything to do with it?

Did Shiphrah and Puah have ANY idea?  Did they  live to see the Exodus?  To see Moses, chosen of God, deliver the Israelites from the hands of the Egyptians?  Did they live to be free?  Most likely not, depending on their age, but we can bet their children or grandchildren did.  And unbeknownst to them, all because two midwives related to them decided to defy a king and save the life of a Hebrew baby boy.

My quick trip to Georgia to help out with my Mom?  The hard weeks of parenting that drive me to pray and self reflect?  The neighborhood we chose to make a home?  The changes taking place at my job?  What has that got to do with anything?  I don’t know but I do know God’s hand is gently nudging it all in place.....  just more pages that make up this big story that one day I can look back on........ and it can be a beautiful one.

So... notes to self:  To see the beauty in the end, I must pray to stay soft, not allowing regret or anger to harden me.  I must pray to be yielded to His will and purposes knowing that His plans for me ARE always good because He can’t BE anything other than good.  I must be fully devoted to Him willing to go as His hand leads because it’s only in Him will I find the satisfaction and abundance for which I crave.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Sailing {Birthdays with Jeff}

No husband is perfect.  I won’t belabor that fact.  HOWEVER, Jeff pretty much hits the mark when he gets it in his mind to celebrate someone.  I seem to be his favorite person.  This year for my 45th birthday he took me sailing.  At sunset.  With a yummy dinner and a gooey dessert to follow.  Just the two of us-- and of course, the sailboat man because we didn’t have a clue how to, you know, SAIL.  We learned a lot though--  our captain was an instructor and gave us just enough information to make it interesting.  We weren’t there as students.  We were there to enjoy his gift and that sunset. 

  I don’t know how we made it through the night without a picture of us together but alas, we did, and I regret it.  

As you can see, it was a beautiful night.  I am grateful for Jeff making these days special.  He is way better at interrupting the “regularly scheduled programming to bring you....”  always something really wonderful and a GREAT memory.  Thank you, Jeff.  I am blessed to be celebrated by you.  I love you!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

66 Books to Remind Me

Sometimes in the midst of life-- no matter the season-- you just forget why you do some of the things you do.  As I parent, I have this ongoing list in my head of the things I know that are right to teach them, to require of them, to coach them along in, but because I roll over into task mode so effortlessly, I lose sight of the ‘why”-- which is really what matters. Sometimes, I snap out of it on my own and other times, a kids’ comment, a choice, a reaction to something has to explode in my face for me to realize my error.  The why, then, becomes very clear.  Explosion.  Just in the last few days.

My kids are older now and able to make a few judgment calls on their own.  A few.  They still need some direction in many areas, of course.  At 13 and 11, there are still conversations, cultural ideas, bad theology, even people and just plain sin that I want to protect them from for a tad longer.  I think, “I’ve got a little more work to do before I let them loose to navigate THAT.” But sometimes I don’t feel like doing the work.  And sometimes I let my guard down and forget. I am not sure which makes me madder.

No surprise, I know, but my best tool for this kind of work is His Word.  Day in, day out, moment by moment, thought by thought.  I can’t tell you how many times Romans 12:2 replays in my mind during conversations these days.  Verses 1 and 2 are foundational to any form of discipleship and as I watch my kids grow up in a different block of time than I did, verse 2 just gets bigger and bolder to me.

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

On a basic level, the pattern of this world is no different than it ever has been.  We have been separating ourselves from God’s standards since, well, forever.  The gap is more gaping but the pattern hasn’t changed.  Influences of this world want our minds, our lives, our hearts to be conformed to their patterns, their ways of thinking, their lifestyles, their preferences.  That is why it is so critical that WE and our kids are shaping our ideas about culture and responses to culture by reading His Word, allowing Him to shape all of our thoughts so as words filter through, they can be either labeled as Truth or as lies— or just plain nonsense.  I have wondered many times how many of my thoughts/ideas are conformed to this world and I don’t even realize it—and worse, if I am passing on Krista-isms on to Julia and Brighton. I pray often that any darkness in me would be revealed by the light of His Word.

I previewed a show the other day the kids were interested in watching and was intrigued by two things:  It was a GREAT show-- good writing, interesting characters, complex plot.  Number 2- However, even in the first episode {the only one I watched}, the agenda was clear.  Blur the lines between right and wrong.  “There is no right or wrong”.  One character had an attribute that was forbidden in his surroundings -- punishable by execution -- and as he struggles with it, he tells a confidante, “I was born this way.”  And later, “I am not a monster, am I? Tell me why I am like this.”  And later, "It just happens.”  It’s a little like the problem I had with the really good movie Inside Out.  I SO wanted the little girl to have some CONTROL over her emotions- for HER to be able to choose and not be victim to the whims of her emotions.  We do have choices, right?  Our culture is ALL ABOUT choice, yes?  The writers are masters at conjuring up empathy for these characters.  We’ve just got to be mature enough to discern whether it’s a healthy empathy or not— and coach this in our kids.

These are subtle and blatant messages that paper the walls of our kids’ minds.  Our minds.  A steady diet of what we see on any screen will AFFECT THE WAY WE THINK- translating into responses or reactions and become the way we live.  And all of that influences greatly every relationship we have-- whether with a spouse, a boyfriend, a son or daughter, a friend, co-worker, our parents, the cashier or the waiter.

I love the kids my children get to hang out with.  These sweet faces are just one more motivation for my kids to be GOOD friends and an influence that blesses these people. 

This is why I can’t forget why I do some of the things I do-- WHY it’s important for my family to be in His Word regularly, WHY I preview things, WHY I review things with trusted sites, WHY I talk through things with my kids so I can hear how they understand something--in light of what they’ve been taught-- or what they’ve caught.  They need to be able to recognize the pattern of this world for themselves and be diligent to renew their minds all day long.

I want their “transformation” to be a heart decision because of time spent in His Word and not a behavioral modification to please me.  I want their non-conformity to be their heart’s desire birthed from their love for the Savior and not because they get to keep their privileges.  The good news is that I can’t create this.  I can direct, coach, advise the “heart why”-- but I can’t create these kinds of desires.  The Holy Spirit through His Word can.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
Matthew 5:6
“Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
Psalm 37:4

Only He can conjure up this kind of appetite.  I pray it will be so in my kids.