Good Things

Martha Stewart likes to promote the fun, fanciful, and fine with the above phrase. From vegetable noodlers to warm slippers, these are the things to have right now, to enjoy life to the fullest. I read something today that reminded me what the true ‘good things’ really are.

I guess a woman with cancer refused treatment because she was pregnant. Then, the baby, a girl, had to be taken at 24 weeks and did not survive. Then, the mom died, two days later. She leaves behind a husband and five children. Man, right there is a couple of people I would just love to hug. I will look for her in Heaven, but him? He’s got a very difficult row to hoe. I doubt it is feeling very much like a good thing to this husband and father that his wife and baby are gone.

A BSF lesson question ties into this, too, in a strange way. It says, “What results of suppressing the truth (see Romans 1) do you see in your own life and what will you ask God to help you do about it?”

I wrestled a bit with this thought, then concluded that maybe a good place to start would be to isolate some problem or issue I am having right now; perhaps this difficulty is a result of me suppressing God’s truth. But then I thought, that isn’t the only reason we have trouble in our lives. It may be just as likely the bad thing is not a result of my sin, if we’re talking averages.

And let’s not forget these dear ones who hardly know how to move forward without their sacrificial wife and mother. Nothing in this says, they must have suppressed the truth to get here. In fact, this has God’s truth written all over it, but it still hurts. So. Badly.

Sigh. But who of us really know if we would trade a single tear, a single blow, a single loss, if we could see it all the way He does. I would be willing to bet we’d see them as Good Things to rival Martha’s any day.

My Thing

The kids and Luke left to run just a bit ago, and I was left holding the sauce spoon, holding down the fort, holding in my complaints about the way of things sometimes. Even with bigger kids, a lot is left to me, and some days it gets hard to keep a good attitude. Part of the game is learning to love it, learning how to do, whatever my hand finds to do, with all my heart.

The other day I was moaning to Luke that I didn’t have a ‘thing’, an activity that fulfilled me, gave me some joy (I mean apart from marriage and family; that wasn’t the origin of this conversation. I can’t remember what was, ha). Luke immediately returned, “Homeschooling! You have that!” and it was like a light bulb went on, one that has been screwed in the hole for some time, just not screwed in all the way. Luke wants me to embrace homeschooling, to take it seriously, to work at it with all my heart. All these years I have tried to have as little to do with it as possible, like an acquaintance I would only see occasionally, but never dream of having into my home for dinner. Something is clicking with me. I’m not allowed to hate homeschooling. It is hurting my children, but it is hurting me more not to be all in, and allow myself to be changed through the process of teaching my children. I want to repent of this spirit asap, and am working on making time each day even this summer to get up close and personal with what the Lord might want to do in and through us next fall.

Luke and the older four leave for Lynchburg Monday for a week. While I will miss my biggest helpers (see griping above), I am looking forward to having some extra time to myself. The calendar is empty, since much of the to-dos these days involve these five. My to-do list can be a little more focused:

Read to the littles every day and take them to the library

Clean house

Read

Paint

Blog

Cook yummy things that Luke hates

Soak up some sun

If I get any of that done, the week will be well spent.

I’m learning that at this stage of my life, my ‘thing’ needs to be me enabling others to have their thing. It will likely be my most rewarding work.

“Well done, thou good and faithful servant…”

 

Reaching Out

I read a blog post today where the lady was very critical of “trendy churches”, with their “coffee bars”, as missing the point when it came to truly reaching those who are hurting. She described the loss of her husband to cancer and noted that it wasn’t her trendy church she credited with helping her get through her difficult time, it was Jesus.

While I wholeheartedly agree that our church programs may or may not be hitting the target, this article seemed to be a little disjointed, if not running on parallel tracks. On the one hand, this woman has experienced a great loss. But to say the things she did about megachurches didn’t seem to go with that. Maybe her own church was unthoughtful or absent while her husband was suffering, and she is now resentful. But it almost seems as if the article is a ‘fake news’ type of publication, where someone grabbed this woman’s story and decided to make it a bash on modern church growth strategies.

This blog post did get me thinking, though. Is it really up to the church at large, the administration, to reach out to those suffering and widows? Yes, James tells us to look after widows and orphans, and no good church would ignore them. But I thought about how those who are hurting would typically be touched: if I met up with such a person, I might invite them over to my house, or to join me in a small group of people with something in common (mommy group, men’s group, etc). I probably wouldn’t invite them to church right away, keeping the connection one on one for a while. In this model, the person would be experiencing the love of Jesus, and the love of the church, but through an individual member of it. At this point in our relationship, my church’s coffee bar or salad bar wouldn’t have much to do with it.

I’m sorry for this woman’s loss, but I don’t see how her church’s flaws play into it. And yet, she now has a deeper awareness of others in their suffering, and Christ’s strength is made manifest in her weakness. In this she can delight.

Easy Button

Days like today should be the norm, but they’re not. I got groceries this morning, the bill wasn’t too high, the items fit well into the recycled bags I bring to Aldi. (Weeks that I don’t have enough bags for it all I get really embarrassed for some reason. First world problems, right?) The kids went down for a nap reasonably well, and I now have a window of free time to choose an activity. For me. To do. By myself. Cool.

But, like I said, this is not what happens every day of the week, and usually what does happen requires great struggle and sacrifice on my part. My wants and needs are often marginalized. I am often asked to put others and their needs first. My gut reaction is usually to complain, even if only inwardly, I didn’t ask for this! Why me, why now?

The first study question of my BSF lesson hit me squarely in this. ” How does this passage (John 18:1-27) show you the Lord Jesus Christ chose to suffer and was not a victim of circumstances? ” Wow.

You could almost say that most trials of life, and our choices while handling them, fall into either one of these categories. We can choose to suffer, ie. die, to ourselves and submit to what we can learn from the experience, or play the victim, and hold on to our rights we think we have to a happy life and NOT this happening, with any number of resulting fits and tantrums, even if only inward ones. I’m queen of the second category, by the way. I’ve played the victim all my life. Jesus is King of the first category, one of many reasons He is holy, so completely ‘other’ in His behavior. I want to be able to look at life and my choices in it the way He did while He was on earth. Not least of which would be His determination in His final days, arrest, and crucifixion. The only Person who could ever have truly played the victim, didn’t.

 

What He Would Say

I was reading a children’s story Bible to the boys one day, and when we came to the page with a picture of Jesus sitting with some children, I asked what Jesus might have said to these little kids.

“He told them to be quiet and to behave,” Kenan was certain in his reply.

As funny as it was to hear, it was a little sad, too. Is that what Kenan thinks Jesus wants from his four year old self? Good behavior? Is that the message he is getting from home and church, that all important be-quiet-and-then-we-can-do-fun-stuff?

I thought some more about Jesus and the children. I love the pictures that have Him holding the infants and kissing them. He was all in, whatever crowd it was. Newborns or lepers, they were all welcome at His side. I do wonder what He had to say to these littlest of all, most powerless, most helpless. Would He have told them of the heroes of old, like David, like Elijah? Would He have told them secrets of the world to come, what their rooms would look like? What most important things could He impart to a group of young that He may never see again? I imagine it would include, Love God Who Made You And Loved You First. Love Your Friends. Love Your Enemies. Love And Obey Your Mom and Dad. In These You Will Be Blessed.

It starts to sound like Keeny’s answer. Be quiet. Listen for God’s voice. Behave. Honor your parents and do what they tell you. This is the path to knowing God for each and every one of us.

You will say, “How I hated discipline! How my heart spurned correction! I would not obey my teachers or listen to my instructors. I have come to the brink of utter ruin in the midst of the whole assembly.” Proverbs 5:12-14

Redemptive Winds

I was reading a magazine article about peacemaking, and the thought came to me:

Have I been the victim in a conflict so long it has become comfortable? If so, am I willing to go through the painful process of resolving the conflict and reconciliation?

That is a tough one. As things develop, and I make choices to be open to change and improvement (in my heart first), I hope I can answer yes to the second question as easily as I do the first.

A quote in Little Britches applies here, too.

“You know, a man’s life is a lot like a boat. If he keeps his sail set right it doesn’t make too much difference which way the wind blows or which way the current flows. If he knows where he wants to go and keeps his sail trimmed carefully he’ll come to the right port. But if he forgets to watch his sail till the current catches him broadside he’s pretty apt to smash up on the rocks.” -Father, to Ralph

In my boat, if I have made a habit of taking every offense to the Lord, and have done all I can to avoid bitterness, those big winds of hurt shouldn’t throw me off course. But, if I haven’t been tending to those weeds of resentment and have allowed them to take root, I’m in trouble even before the storm hits. In this most recent event, I think I could see some real maturity in my reactions and responses. But it also revealed my penchant for being ready to forgive but not being ready to give when the situation requires give and take. It is a lot easier to walk away and say, that’s not worth it, they are not worth it. But people are worth it, and as long as there is hope of peace I must be willing to pursue it.

“So then, let us pursue the things that make for peace, and the building up of one another.” -Paul, to me

God’s Celery

That title may have originated from VeggieTales, not my subconscious, though these are very closely linked. I’ve seen all the shows (old ones, not new ones) so much it is easy to speak veggie.

I’m on a sort of diet, inspired by the book Why We Get Fat. I’m eating a lot more vegetables, and today was really looking forward to a celery snack. When I went to the fridge for some celery to put in tonight’s meatloaf (yes, in that, too), I saw that my bunch of celery was gone, and a bunch of that had been purchased by someone else was unopened but obviously old, yellow and rubbery. And it might have even been purchased that way, in haste. I fumed to Aliyah that I should take it back to the store, but I didn’t have all day to start dinner. I took a stalk and diced it up, grumbling why people had to eat MY celery.

If you’ve read any devotionals ever, you know where this is going. No, it wasn’t my celery, it was God’s celery. I have no claim to anything on this planet, not even my next breath. So thoughts like this began to calm me down.

Later I had the chance to run to Walmart to get, wait for it…celery. And milk and half and half and clif bars and nuts. God is so generous with me that I can afford these things. But you know what I was thinking as I packed the car? “I should tell (the person who bought that bad celery) to take it back and exchange it so they can get some more celery.” Immediately I thought, wait. I just bought celery. What would Jesus do? He would go home, throw away the bad celery, and tell the family to help themselves to the celery He just bought. There would be plenty more where that came from when we needed more.

Remember, God made you special and He loves you very much.

Be Mine

And a lovely Valentine’s Day it is, too. Temperatures have to be in the fifties outside, and the sun is so welcome. I cannot complain about this mild winter, although a rough one was much more expected after the multiple mild ones we have had in recent years. One of these days in September, that Indian will show up at the feed and seed, warning us about what is to come. You just wait.

Yesterday Luke was home sick from school. During our time of study, we again broached the subject of “why isn’t this going more smoothly?” since Carol is here and helps out, and since I am well past the postpartum excuses for lack of progress. Luke has especially been concerned with our lack of writing, and the kids’ consequent lack of writing skills. He admonished me that I should be going through the different writing styles with them and helping them get familiar and capable in writing. Aliyah is planning on taking the ACT soon, and will need some confidence writing-wise, as that is one area of the test that is looked at more closely. I complained how it would be difficult to take more time, looking up these things on the phone, and was about to go into (again) how inadequate of a teacher of writing I would be, anyway, except Luke cut me off with, “Well, that’s your job. I don’t necessarily like everything about my job, but I go and do it each day.” If I wasn’t immediately mortified, I might have laughed at the irony of him sitting in his pjs, home from work, saying this. But it was a timely rebuke.

I had just been reading over some notes from a Bible study lecture that said when we are troubled, like Christ, we should say, “Father, glorify Your name.” Now, I am not certain of all I could do to respond correctly, but I did know it would include picking up the phone and looking up some good writing websites, and planning future times of putting together good instruction for the kids. This would glorify God and not myself.

Today went okay; we brainstormed a thesis statement for an essay. I think the kids had a pretty good handle on how to do it, to where we should be ready to write the essay soon. There is a whisper of fear here, though, as I feel like I’ll come to a place I don’t know how to move forward. Consulting Luke will be my first stop, as he is sure to be able to help.

 

Payoff

At Mommy and Me today the ladies were talking about how meaningful it is to be able to stay home with their children. One mom put it, “You’ll never get that time back!” I look at Kenan, and Elijah, and now Julia, and though I of all people should realize how short this time is, I still find myself chafing, wanting the days to pass more quickly. My attitude stinks when it comes to the daily challenges that each little brings.

This week may not be the best one for introspection, what with my hormones still out of whack and VBS taking away all their playmates every evening. So we have had a Toy Story marathon! And tonight we go to a graduation party, one reason being I don’t want to be stuck home with them another night. The week has gone well, though. Last night I actually got Julia to bed for the night before the kids came home, so Kenan and Elijah and I could enjoy some outside time, watching for the van. We talked about what color the van was, and the house, and the shed..Elijah would run to Grandma’s car and call, “Mama, Mama” until I answered. He’d point to it and say something like ‘Grandma’s car’ then run back to me and do it all over again. Then we sat on the steps and the boys checked my hair for ticks. Pure country, let me tell you.

The girls got their first paychecks today, and it got me thinking about all of the ways we are blessed. I may not notice in the thick of it, but I know love can’t do anything but pay off in the end. Keep doing it, my friends.

Precious

He was a boy who was a little too old to be buckled into the cart with seats at Target. I recognized right away that he must have some disabilities. But I also noticed his smile right away. This was a happy, beautiful child.

Dear mama, thank you for giving him life. Not just allowing him birth (although that is becoming less common and destroying life that might be imperfect more so). Thank you for giving him the best life. Do you know how I know?

His bib.

It is bright white, not a stain on it. He must soil them with drool and food, but you take care of even this small detail. Thank you for caring.

We walk out to the parking lot together, you carrying your child and me carrying my purchases. It is raining, so you pull his hood up and over his head. By his wide grin and upturned face, though, I don’t think he minded the raindrops one bit. Another lady is headed in the same direction and we share a smile at your son’s joy.

As I watch you buckle him up while I pull away, I pray for you, Dear Jesus, gird her with strength for this day, and the days ahead. I am guessing even the difficulties of his care can reach a monotony. If she does not know You, I pray that You would reveal Yourself to her; may she see You in that precious boy’s smile.

I know I do.