Saturday, August 08, 2009

The Uneasiness of the Unknown

I'm not an organized person. I never really was, but now I just try to blame it on the fact that I have five kids. I may not be able to find things in my van or storage room or freezer but planning is something I try to do. Keeping track of schedules, appointments and knowing what's coming just has to be done. It's such an uneasy feeling for me to not know.

But the coming week brings lot of unknowns. We are going to family camp tomorrow, but leaving early because Annie is having her tonsils out. We are waiting to hear on test results and medications that need to be timed right before they can do the surgery. After Mike's hospital visit tonight, there is the possibility of a funeral coming. All these things are swimming in my mind. I have no idea how it will all work out and I hate that.

My desire is to know how everything is going to work out and orchestrate it for my convenience, although I would never claim to be a control freak. The problem is that sometimes we just don't know how things will pan out. There will be twists and turns before we get to the end and that can be stressful.

As I was worrying and wondering about how everything was going to work out for next week, it seems the Holy Spirit was trying to get my attention. Instead of worrying, shouldn't I pray and turn it over to Jesus? Why didn't I think of that?

The Israelites had a problem in the Old Testament. God's chosen nation was taken from the Promised Land to Babylon. They had a strong sense of the importance of the land God had promised them. The temple was destroyed which was the sign of God's residence among them. I'm guessing there were lots of people trying to figure out why and how they ended up in Babylon. It seems that their continued rejection of God played a part, but a lot of it was just plain out of their control. The other world powers were battling and the smaller nations were at their mercy.

Jeremiah prophesied about not only the captivity but the release.

"Thus says the Lord of hosts:
'The children of Israel were oppressed,
Along with the children of Judah;
All who took them captive have held them fast;
They have refused to let them go.
Their Redeemer is strong;
The lord of hosts is His name.
He will thoroughly plead their case,
That He may give rest to the land,
And disquiet the inhabitants of Babylon"
Jeremiah 50:33-34 NKJV

Then in Ezra 1:1, God moves. The new king of Persia frees the Jewish people and allows them to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. The captivity lasted 70 years.

In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing:

"This is what Cyrus king of Persia says:
'The LORD , the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Anyone of his people among you-may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the LORD , the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem. And the people of any place where survivors may now be living are to provide him with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with freewill offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem.' " Ezra 1:1-4

It's easy to get so wrapped up in life's circumstances that God becomes an afterthought. He knows the final outcome. He knows the plans and purposes for the detours. What if I looked for Him along the way instead of stressing about the outcome?

As I look back at the ups and downs in my life, I see the detours and unknowns are the times when I've grown and clung to Jesus. What else are we supposed to do when everything is out of our control, no matter how organized we are? Those are the times we are forced to rely on God and not ourselves. Those are the times we are driven to our knees. Those are the times we grow and look forward to our eternal destination with him. When life on this earth is messy, I am all the more eagerly awaiting Christ's return.

So although my problems this week could be worse, it's another opportunity to trust God's plan. And God has a plan and outcome for whatever detour you are on right now. Your redeemer is the same strong, powerful One that redeemed Israel and He will not forget you.

Jeremiah 29:10-14
This is what the LORD says: "When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD , "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you," declares the LORD , "and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you," declares the LORD , "and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile."

Thursday, August 06, 2009

What's For Dinner?

It never fails that my family is hungry at 5:00. I try to ignore the signs and avoid the inevitable but they always want dinner! I don't like cooking in the summer...or spring or fall or winter. It's just a lot of work and I don't know what to make.

I used to hope that Mike would magically show up with pizza or suggest we eat out. As our family got larger there was no way we could eat out and I ended up spending my afternoons in the kitchen. Afternoon is already the hardest time of the day. Everyone is crabby and I'm tired. Add to that the stress of trying to figure out what on earth everyone was going to eat and it wasn't a pretty sight.

At some point, I was convicted that providing good food for my family was part of my service and love to them and something I should take seriously. Dinner time is important for more than just nourishing the body. It's vital to sit around the table at night as a family as much as possible. Many, many studies show that.

When Grant was little, we lived in a tiny little trailer. Our living room and kitchen were pretty much one and the same. We watched TV while we ate. And usually it was reruns like The Simpsons or Seinfeld. As he started getting older we realized that needed to change. Now it's the best time we have to sit together and connect with the kids. It's at the table we find out what's going on at school or with friends.

In my quest to make dinner easier, I tried the cook ahead for a month method. It was great to know what you were going to have but it all started tasting the same after awhile. No one was too excited about the food.

I have a new love: the crockpot. It's so nice to have it going and frees me up in the afternoon to be with the kids or run to piano lessons. It doesn't make the house hot in the summer and it smells so good.

The problem is what to put in the crock. I have a crock pot cookbook but there isn't a great variety of recipes. My kids won't tolerate eating stew every night. Last month I stumbled on this blog, A Year of Slow Cooking. There's a lot of variety, healthy choices and normal ingredients. The author of the blog is also thrifty which I love. Tonight we had Chicken with Pesto and Sweet Potatoes. There was some resistance to the green pesto and gags at the sweet potatoes.

I'm working my way through some of the recipes and made a list based on them so I have the ingredients. I love not wondering what's for dinner. Work needs to continue on side dishes, ambiance, and presentation. It would be nice to get through a meal where everyone keeps their clothes on, we don't spill milk all over the food and no one makes a gagging gesture when you put the food on their plate. But, you know, we are building to something.

Proverbs 31:14-15
She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar.
She gets up while it is still dark;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her servant girls.

Church Without Walls

This week the three older kids are at a Drama Camp at a church in another town. Since it didn't seem worth it to drop them off and run home for a few hours, the little girls and I have been trying to find things to do. Today, we got the day off because Mike had some meetings and took them for me.

There are two other women that I know who are bringing their older kids to the camp. Their husbands are in the Pastor's Prayer group with Mike. So we know them a little but in all the busyness of life and ministry don't see them that often. The last few days, we've spent time together at the park and at the house of the one who lives in town. It's been such a great time of fellowship for me.

We've got some hot-button differences to contend with. Our churches are all different denominations. Some of us are dealing with difficulties. Some of our kids are white, some are not. Some of our kids go to a Christian school, some go to public school and some home school. Some are pregnant (not me), some in the process of adopting (not me) and some are done having kids (Yep Me). But we all love the Lord and are passionate about serving Him.

A while ago, I would never have sent my kids to something at another church, mostly for selfish reasons. I want our church to be the best and biggest. I want us to have recognition. But God has shown me that those thoughts are screwed up and wrong. It seems silly to write this down but, Who should get the glory in any church or ministry? The pastor? The Pastor's wife? The worship team? The Sunday School teacher? The beauty of the building?

No! God gets it. We should be after His glory and nothing else. Churches (that teach about the God of the Bible) aren't in competition with each other. We are all working for the same prize: to share the loving grace of Jesus Christ. And it's been a great thing for Mike to pray every week with all the other pastor's in the area. Now these friends of mine and I thought we should do the same. We hope to gather ourselves and little ones for prayer next month.

I'm glad to know some people in my church are getting fed through the ministry of the Christian school and walking with another pastor's wife in the morning. Those are all good things even though they don't involve me. Don't get me wrong, I think it's important to be committed to a family of believers and to support your Pastor. But God's work is bigger than buildings, egos and denominations. God's work is in the heart.

This picture is proof that we literally attend a church without walls.

But although there are many church buildings out there, some grand and glorious, some humble and small there is only one foundation in the church without walls and that's Jesus.

Ephesians 2:19-22
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

The church's one foundation
is Jesus Christ her Lord;
she is his new creation
by water and the Word.
From heaven he came and sought her
to be his holy bride;
with his own blood he bought her,
and for her life he died.

Elect from every nation,
yet one o'er all the earth;
her charter of salvation,
one Lord, one faith, one birth;
one holy name she blesses,
partakes one holy food,
and to one hope she presses,
with every grace endued.

Though with a scornful wonder
we see her sore oppressed,
by schisms rent asunder,
by heresies distressed,
yet saints their watch are keeping;
their cry goes up, "How long?"
And soon the night of weeping
shall be the morn of song.

Mid toil and tribulation,
and tumult of her war,
she waits the consummation
of peace forevermore;
till, with the vision glorious,
her longing eyes are blest,
and the great church victorious
shall be the church at rest.

Yet she on earth hath union
with God the Three in One,
and mystic sweet communion
with those whose rest is won.
O happy ones and holy!
Lord, give us grace that we
like them, the meek and lowly,
on high may dwell with thee.
Samuel J. Stone, 1839-1900

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Sleep Rules

When I was a new parent, I read lots of parenting books. How to get your child to nurse, sleep, poop and so on. There were a lot of very helpful things I gleaned out of those books.

One of the books was about getting your baby to sleep and keeping them on a schedule. I took that to heart. We kept the schedule no matter what. I read that they need to fall asleep on their own, self-soothe and not be dependent on the parent for sleep. Grant learned to cry himself to sleep.

I forgot everything I learned somewhere down the line. Most of our kids go to bed on their own anyway. Maren screams her head off and kicks the door until she decides to climb back in bed and fall asleep. I know it wouldn't help a bit if I decided to lay down with her. And if I thought it might help, I would totally do it. I mean when you have five kids who has time for books and schedules and sleep rules.

When my kids were all still nappers, I remember a friend saying that their kids didn't nap anymore and I was horrified. I could not imagine making it through a day without the glory of naptime.

But time has marched on and now we don't really have naptime in our house either. Generally if Maren naps she is up until around 1 a.m. so I try to hold her off. But there are those days when there's no way under the sun we'll make it without one. Yesterday was one of those days.

Sometimes when I am putting her down in the afternoon, she pats her pillow and says, "Mommy sleep with me please?" and I think about the rules. I think about the sleep book collecting dust in my basement. And I think I just have to break those rules. Maybe it's because I'm lazy. Or maybe it's because I have 5 kids and I'm stinking exhausted.

But I think I mostly oblige because there is nothing sweeter than cuddling up, exchanging some words and kisses and laying next to her warm little body as she drifts off to sleep.

Sometimes you just have to break the rules. Sometimes your heart knows better than a book. And sometimes you just need a nap.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

In the Pit with Chuck and Abe

I'm reading the book "Paul: A Man of Grace and Grit" by Charles Swindoll. I love his writing because it is so warm and personable it feels like he is sitting across the table from me with a cup of coffee. It seems like it would feel natural to just call him "Chuck". Or not.

So I had read like a whole page and a half of the book when something struck me. He was writing about Abraham Lincoln and all the pitfalls and failures in his life. I had heard about that from other sources lately but being a non-history buff it was new to me. He had so many failures and breakdowns it doesn't seem possible that he became such an important and well-respected President. Here's what Mr. Swindoll said:

"Not knowing any of that, we reflect on a presidency like his and our tendency is to think, My, what a magnificent background he must have had. Then we peer deeper into the dark cave of his past and realize it's riddled with failure and tragedy, heartache and pain. We're surprised. Even shocked.

The steel of greatness is forged in the pit. It's true of all of us. Don't ever forget that, especially when you're in the pit and you're convinced there's no way anything of value will come of it." Charles Swindoll, Paul: A Man of Grit and Grace page 2-3
This week has been a rough one: messes, sickness, crabbiness, fatigue, and rain. It's those times, when things are tough I definitely feel like I'm in the pit. I certainly feel that no one is looking or cares. Let's face it, mothering can be the pits.

If you're worn out, left behind, and sacrificing for your family you're in the pit.

If you're giving it all up until you feel you can give no more and keep on giving, you're in the pit.

If the choices you are making are leaving you strapped for cash and your priorities make you look odd, you're in the pit.

If you're wondering if you will ever have a marketable skill again, you're in the pit.

If you're cleaning up another mess, doing another load of laundry or cooking another meal; you're in the pit.

"You can count on it, the circumstances and events that led to greatness in that person took place in the hidden years when few were looking and no one cared."
Charles Swindoll, Paul, A Man of Grit and Grage, page 1

To me greatness is found in following Christ and becoming more like Him. It's in the pits of life we learn humility, service, gratitude and love. And I'm assured of this: there is Someone looking. He cares about the details in my life that no one else does. He loves me even when I want to cry or scream while I'm wiping who-knows-what off the floor.

I know there are bigger and darker pits, but this is the pit I find myself in now. And I can already see shimmers of greatness emerging. I'm forever changed and I have the privilege of pointing my kids to The One when they are in the pits of their own lives. And that is great.

Psalm 40:1-6 (The Message)

I waited and waited and waited for Yahweh,
And last he looked; finally he listened.
He lifted me out of the ditch,
pulled me from deep mud.
He stood me up on a solid rock
to make sure I wouldn't slip.
He taught me how to sing the latest God-song,
a praise-song to our God.
More and more people are seeing this:
they enter the mystery,
abandoning themselves to Yahweh.

Blessed are you who give yourselves over to Yahweh,
turn your backs on the world's "sure thing,"
ignore what the world worships;