Saturday, February 05, 2011

What God Gives, Part One

Today I went to a Sunday School conference in St. Paul.  It was good in a lot of ways.  I spent time with a friend from church on the way there and back.  We squeezed in some shopping.  We saw my sister.  And I got a really good dose of encouragement for Children’s ministry.

The churches at this conference are big.  Like one million dollar preschool wing expansion big.  Like a bunch of paid staff running children’s programming big.  And big can be very good.  But as I listened to the presenter in the first break out session I began to feel a little discouraged. 

We can’t do that.  We are a small church.  We don’t have those kind of resources.  We don’t have a building.  We don’t have paid children’s staff. 

Isn’t it always easier to focus on what we can’t do and don’t have?  It is for me.  I bemoan the things I don’t have thinking that the answer lies there which usually leads to throwing up my hands and giving up.  When I do that I totally ignore what God IS doing with what we DO have.

We have nine adults teaching the different ages of Sunday School.  We went to a conference and we want to meet and pray.  We have kids.  We have Bibles.  We have creativity.  We can pray.

Does God need more than that?  Of course not.  He can work in any situation, in any place.  In some places He works in grand buildings and some places he works in school commons areas.  And when he works where things may seem a little lacking, we can praise no one but Him.  We cannot praise our staff or our rooms or our craft supply closet.  God gets the glory. 

And as I always do I couldn’t help but apply that lesson to mothering.  How many times do we fall into the trap of thinking, I’d be a better mother if we: had more money, a bigger kitchen, a nicer washing machine, a maid or more compliant kids.  Maybe fewer kids would be easier.  Or if we lived in a warmer climate (I’ve been thinking that one a lot lately!). 

I just know I would do a bang up job if we could just change a few things.  If I could just have it all.  Or at least get what I want.

But none of that matters.  God has placed you and I where we are for a purpose.  We are part of His plan.  Why can’t I use the things He’s provided for me and make it work? Why can’t I love what I do, not what I have?  Why can’t I be creative with the things He’s already given me?   I can’t fall into the trap of believing if things were different they would be better.

The challenges God gives us in ministry and mothering are there for a reason.  His grace is perfect in our frailties.  He wants us to grow.  To rely on Him.  To be at peace.  To give Him the glory. 

I don’t have a big fancy house or a church with a million dollar preschool wing, but I do have Christ.  And although those things might be helpful, that is not the bottom line.  The bottom line is Jesus.  If He’s at the center of our ministry and mothering, it doesn’t matter if we are raising our kids in a barn or teaching Sunday School in a junkyard or …a million dollar preschool wing.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

2 Corinthians 12:8b-10

Thursday, February 03, 2011


It’s no fun to be hurt.  I despise getting to the place of brokenness where sadness turns to despair.   Oh, there are plenty of opportunities to be broken in life:  marriage, parenting, family, work.  It seems like every time God brings me through some tough times I think to myself: I’ve got this.  Smooth sailing from here.  But it doesn’t really work like that.  The waves continue to come.

This week it hit again.  I couldn’t stop the tears from falling at church. There might have even been a few sobs.  I hate that.  I couldn’t sing.  I was glad to be hiding behind holding my daughter.    I kept wiping my eyes so my make up wouldn’t run.  I hate that too.  Maybe I should invest in some waterproof mascara.

I’m supposed to be happy at church.  And I’m supposed to be a strong person.  Why would hard, bad, hurtful or painful things keep happening?

The thing is being broken isn’t bad.  The times I have been the most broken are the times God has taught me the most.  I feel like he is talking to me when I read the bible.  I learn that He’s given me more love for Him than I realize. 

There have been many, many times of brokenness in my life as a parent.  Just last night as a matter of fact.  And there will be more.  There will be hard times in my marriage, my church, my finances and my health.

As the waves come crashing in, all I can do is cling to Christ.  Listening to the church sing was some of the most meaningful worship I’ve had in a long time.  I realize I can no longer rely on my goodness or problem solving skills.  Only Him.

Although I don’t go looking for hurt and pain, when it comes it’s by God’s hand.  He allows it.  And He allows it for a reason.  Those are the times I go running to Him.  I cling to Him and His word.  I cherish what He has done for me.

The more I fix my eyes on Him, the less anything else really matters. 

This week I couldn’t help but think I don’t want this anymore.  It hurts too much to pour my heart and soul into things only to have it stomped on. 

And I think God nudged my gaze in Jesus’ direction.  Like Him?  The one who gave it all?  The sacrifice you stomp on every day in your sin.

Hmm, yeah good point.  The Bible promises that as followers of Christ we will share His sufferings.  But don’t miss what He will in turn share with us as we suffer.

Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 

Romans 8:17-18

For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. 

2 Corinthians 1:5

Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who he has given us. 

Romans 3:3-5

So we can’t run away from brokenness and suffering.  It is a promise.  And why should we?  What does the Bible promise in those verses?  That while we share in his sufferings, we’ll also share in his comfort, glory and hope. Wow.

Maybe I’d be a little better off if I shed a few tears in church more often.  Or maybe even a few sobs.  Because the truth is we’re all broken.  And beyond the brokenness and sadness comes comfort and hope!

How could I desire anything else?  Why would I spend all my time chasing the good life, when the great life is right here in the puddle of my tears. 

After the tears dry up, I can look to Christ and rejoice in His comfort and glorious hope.  Praise Him!

Monday, January 31, 2011

No Matter What

Whoosh! That was January blazing by. I got a new computer and it has had to be fixed a few times but I think we are good to go. Now I just have to fight my kids for a turn to use it.

I’ve never been very good at conflict or standing up for myself. Sometimes that transfers to my kids. I wonder if I might let their needs get stomped all over to avoid conflict or letting someone down.

A few times over the last few months I’ve had to step up to the plate for my kids. In big ways and small ways. I would prefer to hide. I want everyone to be happy but that just isn’t the way life works.

This winter we were at a Christmas lighting display and Annie had to use the bathroom. It took a while to find one and of course there was a line. She had all her winter gear on and it was becoming somewhat urgent.

When we finally got to the front of the line, a woman approached and asked if she could go first because she had some health issues and was in an emergency situation. The younger me would have stepped aside and let my own kid pee their pants to accommodate someone else. That’s how I am. And that can be a good thing – putting others first. But shouldn’t I be willing to stand up for my kids?

And I did. I kindly told her that we were also in an urgent situation. She’s five! I didn’t feel like it was right ask her to wait.

We’ve had some issues with an adult involved in another one of our kids activities. The adult was very aggressive in the assault on my child. I know my kids are not perfect. I know they mess up. But there is no reason for me to have to listen to someone rant and rave about how horrible they are. My natural instinct was to just take it and move on.

But I didn’t. I asked her to stop and just cut to the chase of what she needed from me.

Last weekend we had a big basketball game. Jenna’s team was playing two rivals and I wanted to be there. There was also a ladies work day for church. While there are certainly things that come over basketball and times I might have to miss a game, there are also things that are not that important. Things other people can do. Things that can easily go on without me.

While I was at the game I was jumping up and down as these girls were making shots and passes and working so hard. Girls that I’ve helped coach and seen grow. My own daughter. I thought to myself, I can count on one hand the things that would be worth missing this for.

It seems that there are times when standing up and drawing a line in the sand is loving our kids. I don’t think I could see that before but it’s true. They need to know that we are on their side no matter what. That’s the way Jesus loves us.

As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust. Psalm 103:13-14

That seems like a pretty good model to follow. I can’t do it perfectly like He does, but I can reflect some of His perfect love and compassion. He doesn’t excuse sin and wrongdoing but he still loves us. He helps us. He forgives us. He made the ultimate sacrifice for our redemption.

The thing is, our kids need to know that we are always on their side. No matter what. Even when they are in the wrong. They need to know they are loved unconditionally. That we will find a way to work it out. Find a path to reconciliation.

I don’t ever want my kids to feel scared or uncomfortable coming to me with their issues. Or to think that I would find them unimportant or unfixable. Even though I might be disappointed or angry at first. Through thick and thin I am there for them.

They need to know that I will fight for them, sacrifice for them, give for them. Everyday. Always.

I want them to remember me at their games jumping up and down and cheering the loudest because I love them. No matter what. Win or Lose.

They need to know that even when they acted badly, I’ll be there for them. Right or wrong. We will seek forgiveness. God can redeem it.

I am there for them. No matter what.

The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us

Psalm 103:8-12