Parenting in light of the resurrection

My son woke up early on Easter morning and he is not a morning person.  He is, instead, a curious combination of early riser plus total  morning grump.

That  means demands, tears, and the request (denied) that we use the tie-dye kits he and his sister received to make “splat shirts” right away, as in before 7 a.m. on Easter Sunday morning.

Mornings aren’t usually rough, but everyone has a  tough start sometimes.  Mostly, I just shrug ours off and move along.

But this day.  This day was harder on the soul.

It was Easter Sunday morning.  It should be holy and sacred and full of worship in all-the-things.  Worship  in my parenting.  Worship in my daily routine and acts of service for my family.  Worship in the breakfast meal and the dinner preparation.

Good golly, we should have JOY!  Joy, I tell you!

It wasn’t  worship, though.  Or joy.

It was  more chaos  then calm.  A clothing crisis (or two or three) and missing shoes despite instructions that all  children should prepare all outfits the night before.  It was a grumpy four-year-old not wanting to leave the comfort  of the couch.

It was the culmination of a weekend when we had seen sin and attitude and outbursts of anger and fighting.

That’s how I ended up at church on Easter Sunday, trying so hard to psych myself up into feeling all the excitement of celebrating Christ’s resurrection, but actually feeling stretched thin with the realities  of me being not-enough.

It hit me in a wave  of realization as we sang about death losing its sting and about the wonderful cross.

I was  distracted by a teen outgrowing her  clothing, a lost pair of white shoes and a four-year-old who doesn’t like waking up.

Meanwhile, I’m supposed to be worshiping the God of the Universe who died on the cross for my sins and then rose up from the dead!

That’s what started my searching:  What does it look like for the resurrection to impact my parenting?   My home?  My everyday morning routine and beyond?

Christ brings  all the power of the resurrection right into my everyday, ordinary life.

We read in Romans:

But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies [a]through His Spirit who dwells in you (Romans 8:11 NASB).

and in Ephesians:

 I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power 20 that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 1:19-20 NLT).

The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead is within us!

He can mightily heal what is broken and  He can re-order any mess that seems hopelessly overwhelming.   No way can an “off” morning defeat me, nor should it  distract me.

It also means He brings peace.

After Jesus’s resurrection, He stood in the middle of a room, surrounded by followers, and He said:

“Peace be with you” (John 20:26).

He knew that’s what they needed with all their fear, worry, sorrow, and their deep grief and confusion.  They needed His peace smack dab in the middle of the mess they were in.

He brings the peace of His presence  right  into my life, too.  Right into my craziest morning with the deepest ache for calm and for quiet, He can speak peace.

He can BE my peace.

Parenting in light of the resurrection also brings great value to what we’re doing here.  It means there is salvation for my children.   No one has to stay the same.  And I get to be part of their sanctification.  I get to witness God at work in their lives and hearts.

Not only does Jesus bring peace.  He brings redemption.  He brings strength for me and He brings grace for  my kids as we come face-to-face with sin and how ugly it is.

Because Jesus died and because He arose, my kids can be forgiven.  They can be transformed over time.  The sin that tangles them up now doesn’t have to tangle them up forever, as long as we’re willing to battle together against it .

I’m a mom who needs Easter.  I  need the resurrection to  keep the right perspective.

He came.  He died.  He arose.

Such grace.  Such love.  Such power.  Such hope.

Such peace.

 

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask

Weddings can be confusing to a four-year-old.

My son is actively preparing for his role as ringbearer in a family wedding this weekend.  By actively preparing, I mean we periodically hand him a pillow to hold and ask him to walk it across the room slowly.

He’s been thinking about this a great deal.  Randomly as we drive about town, he’ll call out questions about all this wedding activity from his seat in the minivan.

“Mom, why do they want girls  to throw flowers?”

There is no context for this question. We’re just driving along.  We ‘re not in church and we haven’t been talking about the wedding.  So, it  takes me a few seconds to  place his question and then it takes me a few more seconds to figure out an answer.

Because—seriously—why does the flower girl drop flower petals to  the ground as she walks?

He also wants to know why he has to carry a pillow?  Why will there be rings on the pillow?  Why he has to look “handsome” in suspenders and a bowtie?  And whether or not he can “run-walk” up the aisle (which apparently is a steady paced walk with an occasional quick-step shuffle forward thrown in).

This is all before he’s even seen the rehearsal.  I can only  imagine the questions he’ll ask after he’ sees the full gamut of wedding traditions, including bouquet-tossing, candle-lighting, and more.

For now, my little guy still considers mom and dad the official source of all knowledge.  He brings us his questions about weddings and more in a fairly steady stream and he trusts us to know or to find out.

That’s something I’m considering because I’m a question-asker myself from way back. I’m always the girl asking the most questions in any meeting or gathering.

And that’s okay, because  I’m also the girl who knows I  can bring all those questions to Jesus.

That’s why I’m stunned as I read this in the gospel of Mark:

But they (the disciples) did not understand this statement, and they were afraid to ask Him (Mark 9:32 NASB).

Jesus declared that He would be “delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him; and when He has been killed, He will rise three days later” (Mark 9:31 NASB).

It makes sense to us in retrospect, but it didn’t make sense to the disciples at the time . He’ll be killed?  He’ll rise again?

They didn’t understand, but they were afraid to  ask.

Why?

Were they worried that Jesus would chastise them for not understanding?  Were they too embarrassed?  Did they fear the answer?

Whatever the reason, the disciples didn’t trust Jesus enough to ask Him the question they all had on their hearts.

That doesn’t have to be us.

In Judges 6 when God called Gideon to lead Israel to victory, Gideon answered the way I would have.

He answered with questions:

“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian…how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” (Judges 6:13, 15 NIV).

So many questions might exhaust me as a parent, but God was always so gentle and patient with Gideon.  He didn’t berate, mock,  or condemn.

Instead, He redirected Gideon’s need for answers to seeing that God IS the answer for the overwhelming and the frightening.

God’s answer was this:

“….Am I not sending you?….I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.” (Judges 6:14, 16 NIV).

He sent Gideon.  He would be with Gideon.  And He promised Gideon victory.

The NLT Personal Worship Bible says this:

The God whom we worship is  not distressed by our questions. He knows that, like Gideon, we often feel weak, inadequate, or overwhelmed by life. He desires our honesty in worship  and wants us to bring to him those issues, questions, and doubts that are on our minds.

And here’s what’s true—the answers he gives might not always be what we’re looking for.  We might not get details we want.  We might not get the confirmation we’re looking for.

But we will receive the reassurance of His presence and His character.  He will be with us, just as He promised  to be with Gideon.

So, keep bringing your questions to Him and trust His answers.

Have mercy on me according to your unfailing love

Today,  maybe for the last few days actually, it seems like I have some words on repeat.

“I’m sorry!  My fault!”

I’ve messed up and made mistakes, said the wrong thing,  planned poorly,  forgotten, and just generally haven’t been perfect.

Oh my, have I had a time, my friends!

Confessions are hard anyway.  When is it ever easy to say, “I messed up?” or “I was wrong?”  But when you’ve said it here and you’ve said it there and you’ve said it over and over in the course of a day (or two or three) to different people for different reasons, it becomes deeply humbling.

Can I get anything right?

And the temptation for me is this–to obsess.  I replay the video in my head of how I got it wrong and feel anew that wave of blushing embarrassment. My internal temperature feels like its 110 degrees and my heart is racing.

Even if I can fall asleep, I wake up at 4 a.m. and review the failures relentlessly because brains go crazy in the deepest parts of the night.

That’s when the self-condemning thoughts muscle in like a posse of bullies, never letting me move along, fretting and stressing over mistakes that are been-there, done-that.   There’s no way to correct them. Only thing you can do is move on.

My son is four and apologizing is hard for him.  We are wading knee-deep in the mess of parenting some character issues:  Being willing to  say “sorry,” just take personal responsibility, receive forgiveness, give forgiveness.

He cries.  He struggles.  He refuses. He complies. He learns and we try it all again.

It’s a journey.

Maybe it’s a journey  that I’m actually still on.  I’ve apologized.  I’ve fessed up and owned up.  That part I’ve gotten down.

But how to un-stick myself from the mire and move along?  How to start  fresh, embrace mercy, and forget what’s behind so I can keep pressing forward (Philippians 3:13)?

Isaiah wrote:

“Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord,
“Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool” (Isaiah 1:18 NASB).

If I know in my head that I’m washed white like snow and like the purest, cleanest wool, how come I sometimes still see the dirt and the grime and feel like a mess?

In his book, Flee, Be Silent, Pray, Ed Cyzewski writes:

….we could all do well by praying, ‘Lord, have mercy on  me, a sinner.’ That’s one prayer in the Bible that we all should feel comfortable repeating daily.  This simple prayer puts us in our place and acknowledges God’s great mercy for us.”

This is a verse I’m learning to pray and not just pray it, but use it as a weapon to  beat back some of that pride and some of that hurtful self-talk.

Scripture is clear about what happens when we repent and ask God for mercy and forgiveness:

Therefore repent and turn back, so that your sins may be wiped out, Acts 3:19 HCSB

then he adds,“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” Hebrews 10:17 ESV

“I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” Isaiah 43:25

 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far does he remove our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:12 ESV

When we confess and we repent, we are forgiven completely and that sin is washed away, blotted out, forgotten, and removed.

I don’t have to hear about it anymore.  God isn’t asking me to remember it, wrestle over it, feel embarrassed by it, or stress out over it.

He’s covered me in His mercy.

The tax-collector who prayed, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner!” in Luke 18 got it right.  I’m a sinner!  But I come to the God of mercy.  Even if I feel unworthy, I am invited in before His throne of grace.

So, I pray this prayer in the night when I wake up to the thoughts that won’t leave me alone, replays of how I got it wrong and what I should have done to get it right.

“Lord, have mercy on me a sinner” and then I wait.

And if I still feel that wave of terrorizing shame, I pray it again, “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner” and I breathe.

God has already forgiven me.  I’m just standing on that forgiveness.  He’s already blanketed me with His grace, but I’m holding onto that grace.  He’s declared mercy, and I’m hanging on tightly to it.

“Lord, have mercy on me a sinner”—Our loving Savior does just that.

 

Seeing faith in action when you look in the kitchen

Funerals for dear friends who succumbed to cancer and funerals for young grandsons and sons , funerals after long-and-exhausting illnesses, funerals for unexpected death, and shocking funerals that remind a whole community of evil in the world– it feels like our church has had its share of sadness and hard losses in the last few years.

While we’re upstairs in the sanctuary, remembering loved ones, telling stories, singing hymns, and being reminded of eternal life in Jesus Christ, there’s this other truly beautiful thing happening downstairs.

The kitchen is abuzz.

Tables are set out and a team of people flit in and out of that kitchen carrying bowls and choosing the right serving spoons.  They cut up fruit and place sandwiches on trays.  They fill pitchers of water and tea and boil large pots of soup.

They are so faithful.  Funeral after funeral, they quietly set out the food and clean up the dishes. They work before most of us arrive and stay after most of us have left.

They do that kind of ministry that matters so much, that has so much impact, the kind that shows people God’s great love by meeting the most practical needs at the time they need it the most.  It’s not flashy or showy.  It’s “just” setting up tables.  It’s “just” setting out food.

But it’s also “just” loving others with self-sacrificing compassion.  These are humble acts, solely motivated by a desire to give.  No one is handing out trophies in the kitchen.

So, I marvel at these faithful few and I learn from them about what it means to live out my faith with obedience to Jesus.

Loving God well does not require degrees or ministry platforms.  It doesn’t require arenas or microphones.  It doesn’t even require being seen by most others around us.

When Jesus finished  rubbing off the grime on the disciples’ feet at their Passover  meal, He said:

If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet (John 13:14 NASB).

We Christians are supposed to be feet-washers.

Paul emphasized Christ’s example in this also:

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servantand being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.(Philippians 2:5-8 NASB). 

It doesn’t mean, of course, that we all have to crowd into a kitchen and serve up meals to  mourners at funerals.  We couldn’t possibly.  I, for one, would probably make a terrible mess of it.

But I can serve.

My faith in Christ is best expressed in service, in kindness, in gentleness, in giving, in  humility, in compassion, in rolling up my sleeves and getting dirty.

In Acts 28, Paul lands on the isle of Malta.  He’d been a prisoner on a ship bound for Rome on treacherous seas.  The sailors fought the storms for more than two weeks, throwing their provisions overboard, leaving them hungry, exhausted, wet, and terrified.

But Paul assured them that God would keep them safe, and that’s exactly what God did.  He washed them up on the shore of this island, where the natives showed them “extraordinary kindness.”

Then, Scripture tells us:

But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened itself on his hand (Acts 28:3 NASB).

In his book The Practice of Godliness, Jerry Bridges says this:

 Under the adverse circumstances of shipwreck, why would Paul have gone about gathering fuel for a fire built and tended by someone else?  Why didn’t he just stand by the fire and warm himself?  He didn’t because it was his character to serve (see Acts 20:33-35; 1 Thessalonians 2:7-9).

Paul was like everyone else: Lost and then saved, probably sopping wet, weary, and hungry.  Paul had every reason to  collapse near the fire and let others tend to his needs.

But instead, he gathered sticks and laid them on the fire.  He did the work.  He served.

Jerry Bridges suggests that “it was his character to serve.”

Paul’s spiritual gifts were probably evangelism and preaching/teaching, not so much compassion, giving, and service.  Yet, here Paul is tending a fire because we are all called to serve like Jesus, to be humble like Jesus, to love others like Jesus.  This is the way we live out radical faith in Him.

May these words be said of me and may they be said of any of us who want so much to be like Jesus: “It’s our character to serve. “

The Light Shines Best Through the Darkness #Advent

My son decisively flicks off the overhead lights in the kitchen.

This is inconvenient since I am actually cooking dinner at that precise moment.

So, I flick the lights back on and thereby initiate a light battle.

Off. On.  Off. On.

Finally, he pushes down the switch one more time and says, “Mom, it’s pretty!”

That’s when he points to the Christmas lights:  Our Victorian village with houses, stores, a library and church all glowing; The garland strung with lights surrounding our nativity scene; the Christmas tree glowing from the living room.

Everywhere there is light.

But it shows up best against the darkness and he knows it.

So, I acquiesce a bit because I understand this quest for beauty.

When I need to see into the back recesses of the cabinet, I turn the switch on.  When I’m finished digging out ingredients and just stirring them into the pot on the stove, I keep it off.

Maybe my son and I are kindred spirits in this.

Each morning, before I have shuffled over to the teapot to heat water for my tea, before I have poured cereal into the bowl for my toddler, before I have fed the cat, I journey around our home and plug in every string of Christmas lights we have.

Only then am I prepared to start the day’s routine.

And throughout the day, I work and clean and write by the light of tiny Christmas bulbs whenever possible.

The light and the glow bring me a sweet, indefinable peace and a little bit of extra joy. It reminds me that even when I feel surrounded by darkness, the Light has come.

That is what Christmas is.

That is what Christmas promises.

Isaiah prophesied:

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. (Isaiah 9:2 ESV).

What a blinding revelation of God’s glory as the Light of Christ shot through the darkness into a Bethlehem night.

So many missed it, though.  So many didn’t see.

But the angels declared it.  The shepherds worshiped. The wise men followed.

And Zechariah sang a song of praise to God at his own son’s birth because he knew the Light was coming:

Through the heartfelt mercies of our God,
God’s Sunrise will break in upon us,
Shining on those in the darkness,
those sitting in the shadow of death,
Then showing us the way, one foot at a time,
down the path of peace (Luke 1:78-79 MSG).    

Maybe I enjoy my son’s pronouncements that the Christmas decorations are “pretty” because I need the reminder to actually look and see.

Too often I’m the one missing it instead of following His glory like Zechariah and those angels and shepherds and wise men long ago.

This year might have worn us down.  It might have exhausted our souls and depleted our reserves of hope.

We’re so desperate for His Light in our darkness.

This week I read in the Psalms a verse that perfectly described my heart this year:

My eyes strain to see your rescue, to see the truth of your promise fulfilled.  Psalm 119:123

We want to see.  We desperately, deeply want to see promises fulfilled, rescue coming, salvation here, prayers answered.

Yet, still we wait.

Advent reminds me to keep looking, keep straining my eyes to see, keep hunting for the Light like it’s the greatest treasure and the truest longing of my soul.

Because Advent is all about the longing, the seeking and searching, the expectant wait and the assurance that the promises are fulfilled.

Christ indeed came.

God’s people didn’t wait forever.

Finally, in God’s perfect timing, the Light cut through the darkness and it shone on His people.

But here’s what else I realize as my son points to the “pretty” lights…

Sometimes we need others to reveal the light for us.

Just like we languish in the darkness, just like we long for hope, for joy, for peace, so do those around us.

And maybe this year, instead of worrying over the darkness ourselves, we can help point to the Light just as Zechariah did in his song of praise.  Just like the angels did as they declared “Glory to God in the Highest.”

Just as the shepherds did as they ran out of the stable to tell everyone about “this thing that has happened.”

Just as the wise men did as they laid their gifts before the small Messiah.

The joy of the light isn’t just in the seeing; it’s in the sharing.

May we see the Light of Christ cut through the darkness this year.

May we also share the Light of Christ, may we seek out ways to be light so that others can learn to see, too.

Originally published 12/2/2016

Bible Verses for the Storms We Face

  • 1 Kings 19:11-12 ESV
    And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.
  • Job 38:1 ESV
    Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind…
  • Psalm 55:8 ESV
    I would hurry to find a shelter
        from the raging wind and tempest.
  • Psalm 107:25 ESV
    For he commanded and raised the stormy wind,
        which lifted up the waves of the sea.
  • Psalm 107:29 ESV
    He made the storm be still,
        and the waves of the sea were hushed.
  • Proverbs 10:25 ESV
    When the tempest passes, the wicked is no more,
        but the righteous is established forever.
  • Isaiah 4:6 ESV
    It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain.
  • Isaiah 25:4 ESV
    For you have been a stronghold to the poor,
        a stronghold to the needy in his distress,
        a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat;
    for the breath of the ruthless is like a storm against a wall,
  • Isaiah 29:6 ESV
    you will be visited by the Lord of hosts
    with thunder and with earthquake and great noise,
        with whirlwind and tempest, and the flame of a devouring fire.
  • Isaiah 32:1-2 ESV
    Behold, a king will reign in righteousness,
        and princes will rule in justice.
    Each will be like a hiding place from the wind,
        a shelter from the storm,
    like streams of water in a dry place,
        like the shade of a great rock in a weary land.
  • Isaiah 43:1-2 ESV
    But now thus says the Lord,
    he who created you, O Jacob,
        he who formed you, O Israel:
    “Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
        I have called you by name, you are mine.
    When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
        and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
    when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
        and the flame shall not consume you.
  • Isaiah 54:11 NLT
    O storm-battered city,
        troubled and desolate!
    I will rebuild you with precious jewels
        and make your foundations from lapis lazuli.
  • Nahum 1:3 ESV
    The Lord is slow to anger and great in power,
        and the Lord will by no means clear the guilty.
    His way is in whirlwind and storm,
        and the clouds are the dust of his feet.
  • Zechariah 10:1 ESV
    Ask rain from the Lord
        in the season of the spring rain,
    from the Lord who makes the storm clouds,
        and he will give them showers of rain,
        to everyone the vegetation in the field
  • Matthew 7:24-27 ESV
    Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
  • Matthew 8:26 ESV
     And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.
  • Mark 4:39 ESV
    And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.
  • Luke 8:24 ESV
    And they went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm.
  • Hebrews 12:18-19 ESV
     For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest 19 and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them.
  • James 1:6 ESV
    But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.

Maybe the No is really just Not Yet

This week, we are teetering on a seesaw, trying to balance two things:

Squeezing out every last drop of summer fun

and

Getting ourselves prepared for school to restart.

That means letting the kids sleep in and finalizing reading logs one day.

It means final trips to  the water park  and the beach and getting back-to-school hair cuts.

Today, my son hopped up into the chair for his trim and the lady cutting his hair asked, “Are you going to preschool soon?”

He said, “No.   They don’t have preschool here.”

This is not  a good sign since he is in fact going to preschool for the first time ever and it starts in just two weeks.

At first, when  we had conversations with him about preschool, he seemed pretty excited.

We bought him a Lego Batman backpack and, after all, what more could you need when heading to school for the first time?  A favorite superhero on a backpack pretty much guarantees academic success.

But when we talked about school, I’d say, “You get to go to preschool this year! Yay!

He’d nod his head knowingly and say, “Yes.  I am.   I’m going to ride on the bus with Catherine.”

At which point, I would backpedal for some clarification.

His heart has been longing to get on that big yellow bus with his sisters for all his little life.   He’d sit on the front porch and cry and cry after his sisters left for the day.

Not just on the first day of school.

Not just for the month of September.

But months and months into the school year our mornings would still be a little sad.

And now, it’s finally his turn to go to school.  Hurray!

Only, not with the girls on the bus.  No, Catherine will go on the bus to  her school and Andrew will ride in mom’s minivan to his school.

After a few weeks of repeatedly having this exact same back-and-forth conversation, he finally came up with a new answer.

“Are you ready for preschool?”

“No.   They don’t have preschool here.”

He thinks that’s the end of the whole deal.   There’s no preschool, which means he doesn’t have to  go  anywhere different from where his big sisters get to go.

What this really about, of course, is timing.

To him, it feels like he’s waited an eternity for his chance to  ride on that bus and two more years of waiting is just too  long.

For  me, it feels like he should still be sleeping in a crib and drinking  a bottle.

How in the world is my baby going to preschool?

The truth is that his time will  come.  The season of bus rides and elementary classrooms, homework and  reading logs will be here.

It’s just not yet. 

And we all can probably relate to feeling oh so ready for the future promise that will indeed come, but is frustratingly not yet. 

We can strive and work our hardest to make the “not yet” happen right now.

We can do everything right.  Do what the “successful” people do.  We can check every checkbox and fulfill every requirement.

But:

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven (Ecclesiastes 3:1 ESV).

There is a season for rides to  preschool in the minivan and there is a season for bus trips to the elementary school.

It takes so  much pressure off of us when we accept our “now” and stop pushing for the “not yet.”

We don’t stress in prayer or nudge God repeatedly trying to get what we want.   We don’t have to feel inadequate, like we’re  not measuring up or accomplishing enough for our families or for our faith.

 

Even Jesus always walked carefully in God’s will and also in God’s timing.

When pushed to minister ahead of schedule, he’d say,

My time has not yet come (John 7:6) or “My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4)

Jesus knew that the when of God’s will is as important  as the what.

Maybe God has indeed told us “no.”

Or perhaps what He is saying is simply “not yet.”

Knowing the difference can change our heart.  We needn’t mourn or grieve.  We needn’t stress or grow weary fighting.

Instead, we  can rest and relax and allow God to give us the beauty of “now” while trusting Him with what is still  yet to come.

 

Letting Go of What I Didn’t Do This Summer

“Can we make  brownies?”

That’s what my daughter asks when I tell my kids we’re going to an outdoor concert along the riverfront.

She asks about brownies because this is what  we do.

We tote lawn chairs to an open area on the lawn, spray on some bug spray, and settle in to  listen to the music while munching on our two favorite “outdoor concert snacks:”  popcorn and brownies.

Sometimes we bring cookies instead or skip the popcorn.

But not often.

Outdoor concert = popcorn + brownies.

It’s an equation we know and love.

My kids love traditions and they eagerly hold me to them.  That’s why we poured the ingredients for brownies into a mixing bowl this morning to make our treat for tonight’s adventure.

Because what would summer be without outdoor concerts?  And what would outdoor concerts be without popcorn and brownies?

Tragic, that’s what!  Full of despair and disappointment!

Of course, that’s just silly talk.  But somehow it can feel that way.

Unmet expectations can push our weary souls right to the ground.

I love our family traditions as much as my kids do, but I also bear the burden of them and I’ve felt that weight a little this summer.

It’s not just traditions, though, that can keep me dancing on the edges of guilt.

It’s mostly what I expect of myself.  Roles I need to fulfill.  Tasks I need to  accomplish.   Must-do’s, should-do’s,  and have-to’s.

It’s endlessly seeing ideas and reminders that I could do more and I could do better.

It’s comparing myself with others and not feeling like I measure up.

Those other moms have their kids accomplishing all  these cool activities  this summer.  Look at how many books they read, places they went, projects they made!

The pressure!

It comes from comparing ourselves with our own past.

I used to be able to read more books, get more done, finish more  on my to-do list, keep my house cleaner, manage more projects.

But that’s not this year, not this summer, not this season.

 

This summer has been teaching me more and more that it’s okay to let some things go.   We don’t have to do every good thing or every familiar thing.

I carried around guilt well into July this year about what I wasn’t doing.

We hadn’t picnicked out at our favorite playground yet.

I’m failing at this summer.

We’d barely made it through one audiobook.

I’m failing at this summer.

We did not run around the yard with an empty mason jar at twilight and catch  as many fireflies as possible, just to release them all at once before going to bed.

I’m failing at this summer.

 

I haven’t written a book, pitched a book, edited a book, or in any way spent one second thinking about a new book.

I’m failing at this summer.

Maybe this all looks differently for you.  Maybe our seasons are different and are expectations vary.

But maybe we can all identify with this feeling of just not doing enough or being enough or  being able to keep up with all our own ideas of perfect.

After all, does summer have to be “perfect?”  Maybe it just needs to be beautiful in its own unique and personal way.

Maybe any day can be beautiful without being perfect.

Does it matter to Jesus if I have the brownies for the concert?

Nope.

Is i t nice to have the brownies?  Sure!

Is it worth stressing over or beating myself up over  for not making brownies?

No.

What else can we let go of?

Are those projects another mom is doing great?

Sure!

Am I a failure as a mom if I don’t do  the same thing as her?

Not at all.

Oh–whisper that again to your soul:  You are not a failure for not doing every good thing you see around you.

You don’t  have to do it all all the time.

Don’t you just love that when Jesus fed the crowd with a few fish and loaves as they sat expectantly on a hillside,  He didn’t demand that the disciples come more prepared?

He didn’t demand that they provide the supply or that they be enough in themselves.

They offered him a little boy’s lunch and He did the rest.

Lisa Harper reminds us of this lesson:

“Just use what you have and do the best that you can”  (Lisa Harper, The Gospel  of Mark).

Tonight I have the brownies to take with us to the concert, but if I didn’t, that’d be fine, too.

I don’t need  to spend the whole evening feeling guilty for what I didn’t do.

I  can be oh so grateful and oh so joyful for the day Jesus gave me.

The past can’t be my home anymore

It’s not often I  zip  around town in my minivan alone.

I’m usually toting a passenger (or two or four or more).

But that night, the stars had aligned and the schedule had been arranged and all of those things so that I hopped into my minivan after some errands in town and headed home.

I drove.

And thought.

Thought.

And drove.

Prayed and thought and drove.

I was just enjoying the sweet quiet as only  a mom of four kids can do  when she’s out by her lonesome self.

It should only take me about 5 minutes to  get home from  anywhere in town now that we’ve  moved to  the new house, but I drove for about 12 minutes before I turned onto a familiar road.

It wasn’t the road to my brand new home, though.  I had managed to  drive far past that, all the way to my old house.

I  sheepishly turned around in my former neighbor’s driveway and backtracked down the road to  what was supposed to  be my destination all along.

HOME.

If I don’t stay alert  even now when I’m making this drive,  I’ll pass right by the road to  my new house and I’ll  trek all the way back to  where I used to  live.

This is me in default mode.  This is what I  fall  back to.

This is where I end up when I’m not paying attention.

We all have these  “old ways,” the habits of the past, the “who we used to be.”   And when we’re distracted, or weary or plain old apathetic, maybe this is where we end up all  over again.

Maybe we default to worry and stress.

We default to overbooked and overwhelmed.

We default to bitter and unforgiving.

We default to resentful.

We default to people-pleasing.

We default to sharp words.

Maybe we don’t even realize it until we look up in a daze and wonder how we ended up back here all over again?

It’s when I start feeling complacent about controlling my tongue,  that I start losing  my temper and lashing out.

It’s when I start feeling like I know how to  keep myself from getting overwhelmed by stress that I just about break down because I’ve let the to-do list nigh on destroy me.

We’re not alone, of course.  This is all just being human.  We’re not perfect and those old sin habits can drag us right along.

That’s why I feel  for the disciples who  kept defaulting to old habits and old ways of thinking.  No matter how many times Jesus explained how He’d be persecuted and killed and then raised again, they didn’t get it.

They didn’t see with spiritual eyes.

There was a day when they set out on their travels with Jesus and forgot to pack the bread for lunch.  Jesus told them to watch out for the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees and they completely missed his message…again.

They thought Jesus was picking on them for leaving the bread at home by mistake.

As i f Jesus needed them to pack bread.

They’d watched Him feed the five thousand and the four thousand, but one day without a full lunchbox sent them right back to that old place of fretting over provision.

Jesus asked them “Do you not yet perceive?”  (Matthew 16:9 ESV).

The Message paraphrase says,  “Haven’t you caught on yet?”

And that’s me at times, defaulting back to my old ways of thinking and doing, not quite catching on yet to what Jesus has done in me and wants to do in me.

What we do then, though, is what matters most.

Because what I want to do is just give up right there.

I’ll never get this right, Jesus. 

I’m such a failure, Lord.  I’m failing at everything.  I want to be used by you and I just….keep….messing….up.

But we can’t give up right there because that past isn’t meant to be our home anymore.

Slowly.  Slowly.  We keep turning the old over to Jesus and letting Him make us new.

Slowly.  Slowly.  He changes us within so our default itself is different.

We default to peace.

We default to joy.

We default to gentleness.

We default to trust.

It’s okay to be in progress.  It’s okay to trip up and mess up sometimes.

It’s not okay to stay there in that old place where we don’t belong anymore.

We have to move back to Jesus, always back to  Jesus.

Jesus, bring us back to you.

 

My Dad is the Boss

“My dad is the boss of you.”

My son explains this to his big sister’s friends, as if it’s an essential fact of life that they need to know.

These older girls climb into our minivan and strike up a conversation with him.

He launches into his typical introduction:   “I am Andrew Christopher King.  And my dad is the boss of you.”

Just like that.

He’s become rather obsessed lately with this hierarchy of authority.  It slips into  his conversations and even into his prayers.

At night, we let the youngest child choose which family member gets to pray in what order during our nighttime prayers.

So, when he chooses, he just doesn’t say the name of the chosen sister.

No, he adds a little clarification:

“Catherine will pray next.  Catherine is my friend and I am the boss of her.”

Or, maybe if this had been a source of contention during the day, he’ll say it like this:

“Catherine, my friend, and she is not the boss of me.”

This is probably all my fault as one of my great Mom fall-backs in the midst of a major preschooler meltdown is to announce, “You are not the boss.   I am the boss.  Mommy and Daddy are the boss.”

Sometimes, after all,  three-year-old kids miss that truth on their own.  They think their own whims and wishes and wills rule over all.  Here they reign in all their tyrannical glory.

Until Mom upsets all that by staking a claim to the boss’s title.

I guess he’s  trying desperately to find at least one person that he can boss around.

Truly, I understand his tiny attempts to assert control over  a big wide world where he has so little say in what happens.

I sympathize with that feeling of helplessness….of things not going the way you want…people not doing what you want them to do….all kinds of life trampling over all kinds of plans.

Maybe our instinctive reaction to life out of control is to  try to be in control.

We try to rescue and save and salvage.  We try to  put the pieces together and hold it all with Krazy Glue.

We try so hard to be the boss.

And the danger of that is, of course, we’re not.   We’re not sufficient for that.  We’re  not capable of managing it all  and doing it all  and running it all.

I am not the boss.

And, instead of that realization being terrifying, it can be liberating.

After all, “My Dad is the boss” and He’s greater than the unexpected and the unknown.  He’s greater than the dreaded date on the calendar and that one relationship that always seems to breakdown into disaster.

He’s greater than the overwhelming to-do list,  the difficult decision, and the impossible circumstances.

That’s what we need to know really.

In John 4, we discover Jesus’ longest recorded conversation in the Gospels, not with a disciple or follower, not with a rabbi or pharisee, not with a man.

Instead, he talked with a Samaritan woman while sitting at a well in the heat of the day.  And she tangled that conversation right up with worries about religious practices and traditions.

She didn’t understand when he talked about “Living Water” or the well or even why a Jewish man would talk to a Samaritan woman in the first place.

So, she asks this question:

12 Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.”   John 4:12 ESV

Are you greater THAN…

That’s what everything came down to for her and what it comes down to for us.

Is Jesus Greater than those we’ve turned to and trusted in?

Is He Greater than anything we face?

Is He Greater than our weakness?

Is He Greater than the mountain that looms and the valley that surrounds?

In a blog  post, author Kelly Minter wrote:

we tend to get stuck: right at that point of believing someone or something—right in the dead center of our lives—is greater than Jesus. Or the reverse, that Jesus is not as great, loving, or powerful as whatever it is we’re hoping will quench our thirst or quell our fears or satisfy our longings.

Maybe this whole issue of who is the boss isn’t just a preschooler’s issue.

Maybe this is for us.

We love and worship and follow our God who is greater than this.  All of this.

Nothing can overwhelm or overcome Him and nothing else could satisfy us or rescue us.

He is Greater.