Full of questions in a season of change

My eighth-grader and I started having conversations with the high school guidance counselor in January.  Emails.  Phone calls.  Face-to-face meetings.  Then another round of all of the above.

She has filled out forms and answered questions, made requests and submitted papers, sent  emails and then replied to the replies.

We’ve been prayerful, deeply prayerful.  When her plans don’t work out exactly as she wants, we’ve gone back to our knees, prayed again, and tried something new.

While she’s been prepping for her first year of high school, my son is on his own transition to a new season.  Last week  we walked into the elementary school with a folder of paperwork,  I handed over the form and just like that–he’s registered for kindergarten.

We’re praying over that, too, over teacher decisions and classmates and friends he’ll make.

Seasons of transition are seasons that should draw us into prayer and that’s me right now.  Praying my way right on through!

I read in the book of Judges this morning about a familiar Biblical scenario:  the Angel of the Lord visited a barren woman and told her she would give birth to a son.

He then gave her some specific instructions: don’t drink alcohol or eat anything unclean while you’re pregnant.  Never cut his hair because he’ll be a Nazirite from birth and “he will begin to save Israel from the power of the Philistines.”

The woman excitedly told her husband about the message from the Angel and her husband, Manoah, does something I’d probably do:

He asked for more information.

He said, “Let’s pray and maybe the visitor will come back and tell us more about how to take care of this child.”

The Bible says, “God listened.”  He heard their prayers and did indeed return.

I’ve had my own questions these past few months as I’ve prayed for my children, so I “get” Manoah.  I understand wanting to make sure we do this right., wanting all the answers to all the questions.

My daughter breaks down into tears a few times  in this process, and I realize she has this tremendous pressure to do it all exactly right, make every decision perfectly.  If she chooses one wrong class, if she makes one wrong course selection, then maybe it will mess up everything–college choices, career options, the timeline of her life.

I remind her  (and myself at the same time) that God is tenderly gracious.  He guides us and redirects us and when we seek His will, He helps us know what to do.

If she’s seeking Him, she’s not ruining her life.

And I think about what  this means for my own transition season.   At least a dozen people have asked me in the last few months, “What are you going to do when your youngest starts school in September?”

Maybe I’m feeling the same kind of pressure as my daughter.  To make every right decision so I don’t mess up the transition or waste the opportunity.  I have my own questions to  place before the Lord.

I realize today as I read, though, that Manoah didn’t ask the right questions.  When the angel of the Lord came back , Manoah didn’t ask the things he originally said he was going to ask.  He didn’t say, “What do we need  to do to parent our son well or help him follow the Lord or fulfill his calling?”

Instead, he said this:

 “When your words come true, what will be the boy’s responsibilities and work?” (Judges 13:12 CSB).

Oh, Manoah.  I totally get you.

He said he just wanted some details about what they should do as parents, but what he really wanted to know was the end of the whole big story.   Tell me the grand plan.  Tell me everything about what my son is going to do as an adult and what your mission and purpose is for him .

Lord, tell me everything. 

But the Angel of the Lord ignored that question as if it had never been asked and simply repeated what he said before: your wife shouldn’t eat anything unclean or drink any alcohol when she’s pregnant.

He didn’t tell Manoah what’s going to happen 20 years from now. when their son, Samson, became an adult.  Instead, he only told Manoah what needed to happen in the next 9 months.

I need this same redirection for my heart and I need it frequently–that when I need to know what the next step is, He will show me the next step.  For my children and for me.

Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
    don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
    he’s the one who will keep you on track (Proverbs 3:5-6 MSG)

 

What matters more than age

My son says he is “five-ish.”

He’s actually four and his birthday  is in October, so it’s not that his birthday is coming soon.

He’s simply feeling five, so  this is his new token answer.

“How old are you?”

“I’m five-ish.  I actually look five.  Actually.”

It’s because of a little playground encounter a few weeks ago  with two little boys who became his insta-best-playground  buddies.  They climbed all over the pirate ship together, took turns on the zip line, and then spun in the tire.

Finally, they exchanged names and ages.

That’s when my son realized these other guys were five and they were shorter than he was.  So, therefore, he must look five, or at least “five-ish.”

Maybe it’s the  fact that my baby is trying to age himself or the fact that my girls all finished off another  school year and are off to bigger, higher grade levels, like finishing up middle school of all things–maybe it’s me nearing 40 and feeling all the weight of what that means and how that  looks on me….

Whatever the reason, age is on my mind.

I’ve been thinking how age is inevitable.   Growing older just happens, even if we’d rather it didn’t.

Maturity, on the other hand, is not guaranteed.

In her book Unseen, Sara Hagerty says it this way

We’ll mature without effort into  wrinkles  and gray hair, but our hearts won’t mature deep  into God by default.

But what is this maturing, this  growing up  in Jesus?

It doesn’t come by default, so then it must take discipline.  Yes.  Spiritual disciplines.  Digging into  prayer and digging into His Word and serving and listening to the Lord and worshiping.   Yes and yes and yes and again.

It’s not all so  concrete and straightforward, though.  It  isn’t just about studying and reading and knowing what God’s  Word says.

There’s the discipline of repentance and humility.  It’s stumbling our way through living out faith.  It’s getting it  wrong, humbly confessing that and asking Jesus to  renew, revive, refresh and redeem.

There’s the discipline of weakness, maybe that’s the hardest for me.  When I  am feeling most  dependent on Jesus because I’m not strong enough or capable enough on my own,  I  have to lean.  Leaning can feel like so much brokenness and that’s hard, but it’s also sweet because that is exactly when I know Jesus more.

Failing, messing up, making mistakes, feeling frazzled and overwhelmed:  It’s all my weakness on display, but  I cannot pull away from the hard season, from the difficult or the wearying or the unknown or even what I just haven’t mastered yet.

Christianity isn’t about being perfect; it’s about being transformed.

Then there are the quiet seasons, when life seems to just roll  along day after day, seemingly stagnant, same-old, same-old.

Restless.  I can be so restless.

I want to see big results.  Big change.  Big impact.

Then I read the reminder in Isaiah of how to grow in the discipline of waiting:

but those who trust in the LORD will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not become weary, they will walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:31 CSB).

I love  this verse in all of the nuances in each translation.

“Those who TRUST in the Lord”  (CSB).

The NIV says “Those who HOPE” and the ESV says “those who WAIT.”

We trust Him.  We hope.  We wait.

The discipline of waiting tucks itself into seasons of quiet and of hiddenness and of not knowing.  It’s about lingering for direction and looking forward to  seeing God at work, but not seeing that work just yet.

When we trust and we hope in Jesus even in the discipline of waiting, we can soar and we can run,  but oh friend,  we can also walk.

Somehow that walking seems  like the greatest feat to me.  Soaring can be exhilarating, running shows great power,  endurance and strength.

But walking takes unique courage.  Walking takes persevering hope.   We’re not seeing leaps of progress, but  we will  not give up.  We aren’t quitting and setting up camp in a land of complacency or dormancy.

We’re being steady,  daily, consistent, steadfast, and faithful.

When the soaring is done and the running is finished and we’re feeling  bone-tired, still  we walk with the Lord today.   Then the next day, we get up and we walk with Him again, and we will not faint nor fail.

I remember that it takes discipline to repent humbly, to fail graciously,  and to wait patiently.   That means I can buck less against what feels uncomfortable or hard and instead embrace what God is doing in me right here and now.   I’m not just arbitrarily aging; I’m maturing in Christ.  Lord, be at work in me.

I’m giving up on perfect and just doing some good

psalm-37-1

Shhhh…don’t tell my daughter, but I let her down in January.

She just doesn’t know it.

Six years ago, I committed to having lunch at the school with each of my daughters every single month.

Pretty soon, I had three girls in elementary school,:that’s three lunches a month or 27 lunches a year, plus an occasional extra lunch thrown in for a birthday or other special occasion.

My kids are typically on top of this, too.  If I haven’t had lunch with my youngest daughter within the first week of a new month, she starts nudging.

Mom, you know you haven’t had lunch with me this month, right?  When are you coming?

But January zipped right past me with days off school, half days with weird schedules, and what felt like endless doctor’s appointments.

My husband says—You’re eating lunch with them at home on the days off.  Doesn’t that count?

No.  That does not count.

Finally, on the last day of January I resigned myself to the truth:  I’d failed: A five year streak of faithfulness broken by a wacky school schedule and a packed calendar.

 

At the beginning of this year, I set some goals in four areas of my life:  Marriage, Parenting, Ministry, and Self-Care.

I’ve been replacing soda with water or green tea.

I’ve been exercising and listening to podcasts while packing my kids’ school lunches.

But there’s one that’s harder to do. It’s not a box to check off or a physical habit to create.

IT’S THIS:  CHOOSE TO BE GENTLE WITH MYSELF.

It means not letting Mom Guilt terrorize my like the tyrant it is.

It means not listening to my self-criticizing internal dialogue.

It means putting a Lunchable in my kids’ lunch box every once in a while.

It means not beating myself up if I occasionally have to order pizza for dinner or go for the quick-fix like boxed macaroni and cheese.

It means laughing instead of berating myself if I forget, and cutting myself off from chores in the evenings so I can spend some time with a cup of hot tea and a book.

AND YES.  THE STRUGGLE IS REAL TO LET GO AND CHOOSE GRACE.

I still have this nagging sense of guilt that I didn’t make it to the school for those lunches in January.  It’ll probably plague me for a long time because I can’t go back and fix it. I can’t make it all perfect.

Then I read what the Psalmist said:

Trust in the Lord, and do good;
    dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him, and he will act.
(Psalm 37:3-5 ESV).

Trust Him and do good. That’s what it says.

It seems I spend a whole lot of time and effort trying to “do perfect” or “do all.”

But that’s not what God asks of any of us.

God doesn’t expect perfection because He knows we’re imperfect.

He simply asks us to trust Him, “do good” and keep doing good.  Choose the right things.  Show up day after day.  Be faithful.

Even more than that, don’t try to figure it all out or make it all work.

He’s not going to give us the desires of our heart because we worked like mad-women to make them happen.

HE GIVES US THE DESIRES OF OUR HEART WHEN OUR GREATEST DESIRE IS FOR HIM.

And after Jesus, what is it that my heart desires?  It’s to love my kids to Christ.  One missed lunch isn’t going to change that.

You cannot be perfect today.  Neither can I.

But we can trust God and do good and leave everything in His hands.

AND WE CAN CHOOSE TO BE A LITTLE GENTLE WITH OURSELVES TODAY.

SHRUG OFF SOME SHAME AND STEP INTO SOME GRACE.

LET GO OF SOME EXPECTATIONS AND CLING TO THE FREEDOM CHRIST OFFERS.

Originally published February 26, 2016