Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Mile in Her Shoes

Can we please get a cart Mommy? My legs are tired!

No, it won't take long sweetie, you can make it.

Thirty minutes later, we left the store, conquered items in hand, exhausted child at my heels.

Husbands are instructed by God to live with their wives in an understanding manner. How much more so we Moms ought to live in an understanding manner with our children.

I am not the greatest cook, but when motivated, I can whip up a great meal, complete with a bread, a salad, and maybe even a set table. But that is on a good day. Most days dinner is simple and to the point. I simply don't have the energy or motivation to do my very best. And that is okay. But do I extend that same grace to my children, the grace to say "Do what needs to be done, even if it is not the very best?" How many days are they a little tired, a little under the weather, or just a little down, and yet I expect a four-course meal of perfect obedience served on fine china with a delicate floral centerpiece.

My little Jordan wanted to shop with me today. She wanted to find a present for sister's birthday. But we walked at my pace, shopped at my eye level, and left grace at the front door. Her little feet do not move as swift as mine. I wonder what a mile through a store must feel like to her. She asked for a cart, so she could keep up with me, so that she could just do what needed to be done. She knew her limits, and I was the foolish one who pushed her beyond them.

I need to slow down, see things from my children's eyes, live with them in an understanding manner and give them grace to do only what needs to be done.

What is better, to have children who strive to live every moment at the maximum of their ability, or to have children who wisely know their limits and do what needs to be done?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Grieving and Rejoicing

Habakkuk 3:16
I heard and my heart pounded,
my lips quivered at the sound;
decay crept into my bones,
and my legs trembled.
Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity
to come on the nation invading us.........

And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.
Nehemiah 8:10

As I wrote my previous post, one single thought continued through my mind. The joy of the Lord is your strength. It didn't make sense. Here I was, processing through my host of bad decisions, regretting how I had not heeded God's counsel to be okay with a fruitless season, and all I hear in my head, repeating over and over again is a single phrase, the joy of the Lord is your strength.

I knew it was in the bible somewhere, Psalms I figured. It sounded like a Psalm kind of thing to say. So I googled it, and lead me to Nehemiah 8.

I froze. Now, I may not know where to find the quote, the joy of the Lord is your strength, but I do know a little bit about Nehemiah.

The passage from June, the one in Habakkuk about a barren season and a promise of finding joy in the Lord, was a prophecy for the Jews who were about to be taken in exile. Nehemiah is the story of their return. Specifically, Nehemiah 8 is about the people realizing their sin that sent them into exile and grieving over it.

Through a simple phrase on my heart, God had led me to the rest of the story.

The people, upon completing the reconstruction of the wall of Jerusalem all gathered together and Ezra the priest read them the law (the bible). The people, realizing their failure wept bitterly. This is how church has felt for me these past months. I come and all I feel is the crushing sting of knowing I have not been doing as the Lord asked me to do. Of course, being way too westernized and concerned about my appearance, I've saved my bitter weeping for the privacy of my home. But like the people of Judah I stand convicted and ashamed.

I would except a big "I told you so" from Heaven at this point. Or a big "I don't think you've cried enough yet, don't you realize just how dumb you were?" But instead, God speaks through Ezra, instructing the people not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.

Is he saying, "suck it up, stop crying, enough already"? No. He says to rejoice. They are not rejoicing for anything they have done, they are rejoicing for the Lord is their strength.

Too often in my walk with God when I am confronted with sin I dwell in my grief. Stewing in regret, I search for any way to make things right again that will relieve my aching soul. But this week, as I was spending time mourning my sin, God was pointing me to the next step. It is time to grieve no more but rejoice in my redemption. God knows my sin, he knows my heart. Not everything has been fixed or made right and there continues to be consequences from my choices. But God has forgiven.

Now I have a new choice. Will I stay in my grief, trying to fix in my own strength problems created from my own stubbornness? Or, will I choose to grieve no more and completely surrender the situation to God? Will I choose to rejoice in His forgiveness or will I continue to sorrow in my shame? Prior to yesterday, I never really understood that such a choice existed.

I have always dwelt in my shame attempting to make things right. Perhaps this is an effort to somehow earn my forgiveness. But that is not where true forgiveness is found. Forgiveness is not granted because I made everything right again. Forgiveness is granted when I surrender. Yes, God make ask me to make things right. But just like a child who needs to let go of the spoon before they make an even bigger mess, I need to let go.

Letting go is hard when I am surrounded by the consequences of my choices. But Lord, you were gracious to show me which path to take. Will you be gracious enough to carry me down it? I am little more than a 2 year old, covered in spilled milk and cheerios, clinging desperately to the spoon. Gently take my hand and help me surrender. Help to hear your voice once again and walk in your ways. Give me opportunities to rejoice as I share with others how you are leading me. Thank you for showing me the light and joy of forgiveness. It feels nice here. Like the afternoon sun falling on my bed during a Sunday nap. Let me rejoice in you.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Barren Season

I heard and my heart pounded,
my lips quivered at the sound;
decay crept into my bones,
and my legs trembled.
Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity
to come on the nation invading us.

Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.

The Sovereign LORD is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to go on the heights.

Habakkuk 3:16-19

In June, it was like a day of calamity was coming upon me. My health was failing, problems were surfacing in my relationship with the girls. I was entering in to a very tough season. God knew this, and graciously gave me a warning. While waiting for a doctor appointment and fighting to hide a panic attack from the others in the lobby, I read the above passage in Habakkuk.

I never knew prophets had panic attacks.

While meditating on the passage, God made clear that I too was about to enter a barren season. With health problems and deployment, I needed to let go of all my ambitions to take on projects. This was not easy to accept because I had big dreams of home renovations while Mark was away. But this call to accept a barren season came with a promise - a promise of joy despite the circumstances and the promise of the Lord lifting me up and setting me on the high places.

My conviction lasted about 2 days. Then out of discontentment and frustration I decided to prove that I really could handle it all. I would, in an amazing feat of military spouse strength, turn this barren season into an amazing show of my talents.

Now two months later, I see the foolishness of my ways. God warned of a barren season, but not a barren heart. The heart that pursues God and accepts the path ahead receives joy and is lifted up. But the heart who foolishly attempts to follow its own path and make its own way may be surrounded by accomplishment but is left with a barrenness of soul far more miserable than any circumstances can produce.

For my summer of effort I am left exhausted, surrounded by unfinished projects. And rather than joy, each of my accomplishments brings me nothing more than regret and frustration.

Thankfully, the Lord in His mercy, has allowed me to learn much from my rebellion. Now, rebellion may seem like a strong word to some. I mean, what did I do wrong? I worked on home improvements, bought things on discount, and paid cash for it all - so how can that be wrong? It was wrong because I knew it wasn't the right time to pursue such goals. So now begins the process of redemption. As I daily think about my choices and pursuits from this summer, and grieve, God continues to show me truth and refine my heart.

Thank you Lord that our joy does not have to be based on our circumstances. But thank you more Lord that when I try to change the circumstances, joy does not come. The joy of You is my strength. Do not let me be strong when I go my own way, please Lord, love me more than to allow me to have joy in my own path.