Friday, December 4, 2015

Does Mama Still love you?

I’m not going to lie; I don’t like putting my boys to bed. I know that sounds horrible, but it is what it is. All the talks of snuggles and sweet moments before bed have eluded me. I usually get the grasshopper impressions, fake fart noises and incessant laughter that won’t quit. Running around wild with or without undies is the usual around here. After a long day, my patient way of handling things goes out the window and I become someone I don’t like. Hubby has taken over night time routines and I think we’re all a little better off. One night when hubby wasn’t home I was trying to wrangle the monkeys into bed and I unfortunately lost my cool with my middle one. I managed to pray over them and tell them that I loved them before turning off the light. Then I hear the middle one. In his quiet mumbling voice he whispers, “No you don’t.” My heart sank a little that night. All the feelings of inadequacy, guilt and failure flooded over me in one enormous wave. I said, “Yes, I do.” He said, “Then why do you yell at me?” I apologized and said, “I shouldn’t do that, I’m just tired and no one is listening.” He said it again, “I still don’t believe you. I’ll never believe you.” With that I said, ‘Well, I do.” I closed the door.

Not one of my finest moments as a mom. It got me thinking though, “I wonder if they know that my love for them is not dependent on what they do or how angry I get?”  Obviously my middle one doesn’t think so. The next day I asked my other two boys, “When mommy is mad at you, do you think I still love you?” The moment of truth came in one simultaneous answer, “no.” I thought well, let’s figure out why and make it right.

It took some conversations but the greatest impact usually hits right in the heat of the moment when I am delivering their consequence. I’ll tell them, I am not happy with what you just did but even now I love you just the same.” After another infraction or a disappointing event at school, “I’m disappointed in your choices, but I’ll never stop loving you.” After one brother whacks another one, “That is unacceptable, you’ll need to apologize, but even right now I love you.” I’ll tell them when emotions are flying and when they’re not. If I have another moment, I’ll apologize and tell them, “Even when I’m so upset that I can’t see straight, even then I love you.” I’m not letting them think for even a split second otherwise. I won’t let them believe a lie. I’ll say, “Even if you pull all your tickets at school, say a thousand mean words, start a thousand fights or light a match and burn our whole house down. I’ll be so upset with you, they’ll be lots of consequences, but I’ll love you the same. I know you can’t understand but there is absolutely nothing you can do that will take my love away from you. Even if everyone doesn’t like you and you can’t find one friend in the whole world, you can always count on me loving you the same as the day you were born.”

I mess up a lot (see example above) and make tons of mistakes. I feel so out of my league being a parent. If I didn’t know better I would think that God’s heart would break when He sees me messing up, but I know the truth. He already forgave me when He said, “It is finished,” I’m in the process of forgiving myself and trusting in His finished work. I’m in a state of thankfulness for what He has already done at the cross. I’m so grateful His love is agape. Is there anything more wonderful? The best news in the world is His love can’t change. Even when He was dying on the cross the world was shouting hateful words at Him and telling Him to ‘die’ and mocking Him- the creator and savior of the world. You know what He chose to say at that exact moment?  He says, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Even in the depths of our human depravity, He loves. He can’t stop loving. Son, he IS love. In His kindness He gives us love to give away. He gives us forgiveness to forgive those that don’t deserve it. He gives us every good thing. He is the master gift giver. Without Him we try and muster these things up all on our own but it always falls short. The way mommy and daddy loves you is a small imperfect reminder of the way God loves us. Don’t ever say that I don’t love you but even if you’re really mad and you say it anyway, guess what? I’ll still love you- even then.

These boys of mine, they bring me to the cross. I thank God that even in the ugly moments He shows me opportunities to grow. I thank God that in all my imperfections He is still loving me, refining me and teaching me how to be more like Him.  

Monday, February 9, 2015

Free in the Furnace

Sometimes there are events that happen in life which just don’t make sense. Events that are like a consuming fire burning up all the tomorrows we thought we’d have. A million dreams, a thousand kisses and caresses, and hundreds of memories yet to be had… all ablaze in an instant. She will always have a place in all of our lives. Even though we never got a chance to know her, her life in the womb was not in vain. She was loved, is loved and will always be loved. She was wanted, cherished, and adored. She was special, irreplaceable, unique and totally beautiful. She leaves a hole in our hearts that only the Lord can fill.

Thinking about what my brother and my sister-in-law are going through, I keep thinking about my two favorite scriptures in the bible found in Daniel 3:24-25. “Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astounded and stood up in haste; he said to his high officials, “Was it not three men we cast bound into the midst of the fire?” They replied to the king, “Certainly, O king.” He said, “Look! I see four men loosed and walking about in the midst of the fire without harm, and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods!”

This passage gets me every time. I close my eyes and picture the scene as the three men are violently thrown in this horrific inferno. How even the guards who were ordered to throw them in succumbed to death as the entrance to the furnace was too hot to withstand. I picture the king’s expression, the disbelief, as he rubs and squints his eyes as he questions what he sees. Then there are the three men who once were bound but somehow became free- free in the furnace. Walking about with these free men is this fourth person, the Creator of the universe, Immanuel.  He could have prevented that whole situation. He could have performed a miracle and had the men go free before even entering the hell hole. He chose not to. He chose a different path, to physically show us who He is- a God who does not watch from afar as we are thrown in these fiery furnaces of life.

We assert ourselves and want to know ‘why’ we want it all to make sense. We want to say, “Oh, this happens so that could happen and this was meant for this…” The hard truth is we can never know the full picture. How can God’s perfect plan include such horrible tragedies? We demand answers that even if He explained it would be incomprehensible to us. I equate it with a loving mom or dad holding down a screaming child so he can get a painful procedure done that is for the child’s benefit in the long run. There’s no way that small child can understand why a loving parent would hold him down while he screams out for mercy. Only the parent knows that this pain is temporary. Only that parent knows how much they love their child and how much they wish their child could trust them.

We throw our fists up in the air knowing He could have prevented this pain, yet we somehow forget we are arguing with someone who laid down His life for ours. We doubt His goodness because we cannot fathom something horrible being allowed by an all loving God. God-forbid any circumstance shake the core of what we believe and know about His character… that He is truly all loving, all knowing, infinitely holy God who by His very essence cannot be understood. Understanding His character gives us a hope, a faith that no matter what happens; His love is deeper than the ocean. No circumstance can change who He is or the extent of His love. If we only had an eternal perspective how much more life would make sense. God has a way of reminding us of the truth in the most unlikely of places, namely from the lips of a six year old boy.

My boy Silas asked innocently why I was crying. I told him, “Well Buddy, today is a sad day.” Without hesitation he said, “If you change what you’re thinking about, then you’ll be happy.” Even at six years old he instinctively knew that our feelings are controlled by our thinking. It was a profound moment as that little boy’s words sunk deep down in my spirit.

So I took my six year old boy’s advice... I thought about heaven and my brother who passed five years ago, Mike. I pictured Hannah with my nephew Sean playing together. I pictured paradise, laughing and unspeakable joy. I could almost hear the angelic music as I imagined the party atmosphere. I pictured Mike throwing the kids up in the air and I heard his laugh that I miss hearing so much. I envisioned only kind words, peace and everything eternal and forever. No end, no tragedies, no anxiety or stress. This is the true reality. This heart wrenching moment in our fleeting lives seems like the reality, but Christ calls us to faith in the unseen. In the interim where pain and death abide we must be like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. We must walk through the fiery furnace and not be consumed- all because of that fourth man, our only hope, Christ Jesus our Savior and deliverer.

I won’t pretend to know the feeling of losing my baby. The pain must be unimaginable. All I can do is cling to the promises of God. In times of despair preach to myself the truth that He loves us and He sticks closer than a brother. He died for us and will never leave us or forsake us. He identifies with us and loves our children more than we ever could. We will spend forever in heaven because of what Christ did for us. Heaven is the greatest reunion, the happiest, most joyous celebration that will never end.

With all that we know, with all the promises of God afresh in my spirit- my heart is still bruised and battered for our family. Sad that we won’t see Hannah’s bright beautiful eyes or hear her sweet little giggles this side of heaven. We won’t see her brother, Logan hold or try and feed his baby sister. Her purple butterfly room will remain empty and quiet and there will be tears, aches and pains of the deepest kind.

One day we’ll see her again and envy her life that she got to spend every moment with her Creator living in absolute beauty and perfection. Until then, we will continue to miss her. God help us to treasure and protect the hope that we will inevitably forget to have in moments of misery. God we need you now to help us remember your words, help us to hold fast the truth, and help us to trust in what we cannot see to set us free in this fiery furnace- believing in Immanuel, God-with-us.

Friday, January 2, 2015

What blessing?

I’ve been thinking a lot about blessings lately. “Blessed.” I hear it all the time. “Johnny got a new bike? He’s blessed! You have a couple of kids? You’re blessed! Promotion? Marriage? Great friends? Blessed, blessed, blessed!  Are we all blessed? Why? What makes us blessed? If someone doesn’t have those things, are they not as blessed? These are the things I was pondering while making tacos for dinner. I even stopped to wipe my hands with the kitchen towel to look up the definition on my phone. It read, “highly favored or fortunate (as by divine grace). I let that definition sink in as I chopped my tomatoes and grated the cheese. “Blessed.” I think to myself how blessed I am when I see my boys piled high in hugs and love. Then there are other times when I’m cleaning poop off remote control car controllers and breaking up fights… I don’t feel so blessed then. So, which is it? Are blessings only for good times and good attitudes? Is life a light switch of blessings and curses?

Every New Year’s Day, no matter the year, I always relive 2010. Receiving that terrible phone call, looking into Brandon’s deer-in-headlights-eyes. Feeling numb and helpless I hear him tell me in no good way, “Your brother Mike, died.” I heard it, but I didn’t hear it. I couldn’t process those words. I just took it in and mentally went to another place where I wouldn’t let myself feel. It was supposed to be a new year. It was supposed to be full of potential, energy, high hopes… not tragedy. He left behind four young kids, a wife, family and friends that loved and adored him. It was the saddest thing to think about.

A month later, my mother got diagnosed with breast cancer. She would need to have a mastectomy. The following month I had a miscarriage. To say the least, it was a rough start to 2010. That year I wrestled with a lot. The hardest was watching my mom and dad deal with the grief of losing their son. How they would sit around reliving his childhood, breaking out the old pictures, remembering all the stories: funny, ridiculous, scary. Raw unfiltered emotions flying… it was a year of tears, change, new normals, and rolling with the punches.

I had to know, what was considered a blessing in God’s perspective? Are we still blessed when we go through hard times? When I came across Matthew 5, it hit me like a ton of bricks… 

He is our blessing and if He lives in us, we will always be blessed no matter what happens in this life.

3“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    For they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    For they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    For they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
    For they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    For they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    For they shall be called sons of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
    For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Were we blessed back in 2010? We were and have always been blessed. Circumstances don’t dictate that. Why the tragedies? Why the heartaches? I don’t know. What I do know is that God knows the whole picture. I have to ask myself, “Which way am I going to look at this?” Through my eyes? Through his children’s eyes? How about through Mike’s eyes? Well, Mike is in heaven. I’m certain his life now is infinitely better than the life he had here on earth. All of a sudden depending on which way I looked at the same situation, there it was… a blessing peeking through. Choosing to look at it through God’s eyes it’s clear that there’s always a blessing. What about the rest of us? God blesses us too. He promises to comfort us but most of all He promises us eternal life. Hope, faith, trust, assurance. This is our blessing.

This life that we live now is just a blink of an eye compared to eternity. He’s created us to live a life of blessing; to help us remember we’re blessed and to empower us to bless others. He created us to seek the truth and put it into practice to stand for what’s right. He blesses us in so many ways we couldn’t number them if we tried. There’s the blessing of children, great job, clean running water, warm clothes, nutritious food… the list is endless. But like Luke 11:28 says in reference to someone blessing Jesus’ mother Mary, He responds,“…More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” So, in light of Jesus’ words urging us to hear the word of God and keep it, let’s live in the light of His blessing no matter what may come our way this year.

The times when life is terribly sad. When the grief is too much to bear. Even in moments like these, the blessing is not the tragedy… the blessing is in the perspective, in our hope in Christ. Believing that He is all-knowing, all-powerful, all-good. He is our hero and rescuer. Our love. He is the only One who can take the ashes we experience and somehow turn it into beauty.

Today is the first day of a new year, a year filled with mystery to us. God holds this year in the palm of His hands. Whatever may happen there is nothing that can occur that will take away the blessing we have always and forever. No one can snatch us out of our Father’s hand. What greater promise is there?

Lord, help us to look at life the way you look at life. Help us to be the salt, the light, the change. When others see the way we handle life, let them see your wisdom, grace, mercy and truth. Amen.

Have a BLESSED New Year my friends.