Stop Running Ahead

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stoplightDoes anyone else get as annoyed at stoplights as I do? I understand they are important. Accidents are already frequent enough; can you imagine what things would be like if we had no stoplights?! So I get that. But they’re still annoying. I mean, why is it when you’re running a little behind and you’re trying to get somewhere, that you literally hit every stinkin’ red light? Even the lights that are never red…you’ve always gotten green lights at those intersections. But no! Not this time! It’s the longest red light in the history of the automobile. And you’re sitting there, with your pulse rate increasing, watching the minutes tick by on the clock in your dash. Finally it turns green and with tires squealing, you take off down the street — only to hit another red light at the next block. Seriously.

But then, on those days when you’ve actually succeeded in leaving the house at a reasonable time, that’s when every light is green, and you arrive at your destination way ahead of time. You go in calm, with a normal heart rate, no coffee has been spilled, and you’re pleasant to be around.

So how do you keep from getting behind? My husband with the logically-oriented brain would say it’s good time management, being aware of what you have to do and putting it in order so it’s more easily accomplished, stuff like that. It all sounds great, and I very much admire people that can do that. But I’m way too much of a right-brained person, and often fall victim to my own chaos. I start off so well getting my ducks in a row here…then a squirrel runs by….and suddenly I’m off over there, now getting my monkeys in a row.

In addition to running behind, another problem with getting off track is that you begin to panic and start trying to rush ahead. You start speeding to try and get past  those red lights, and other than the obvious risk of crashing, you risk missing important details along the journey. I started thinking about that as I sat in my car in a parking lot the other day. Having actually left for an appointment on time, I coasted through several green lights, and now was just sitting calmly in my car, enjoying a couple more songs in my playlist. What came to my mind was how I had been “rushing through” my walk with God, and in the process, I was missing a lot of the things He was wanting me to learn.

As I’ve mentioned in past posts, I grew up in the church but walked away, and stayed away for almost two decades. In the 14 years since I renewed my relationship with God, I have been trying to make up for those lost years at a feverish pace. I felt that I had wasted all that time that I could have been working for the advancement of His Kingdom. There was so much I could have done, and so I thought that by running and pushing through things, that I could accomplish what I should have done when I was younger. I asked God to make my gifting known to me, and I believe He did. But instead of taking my time, organizing my thoughts and putting things in order, I stuffed everything into a great big “Jesus bag” and took off running down the road He had me on. Well, the red lights started coming up, and the frustrations rose. I prayed for no more red lights, but I wasn’t listening to God’s responses. I was out there doing it! I was serving, and sharing, and people knew me, and it was awesome! Suddenly the road came to an end, and I had to choose either right or left. I had to change my direction, but the thing was…I had no idea which way to go! So I sat down alongside the road, and asked, “OK God, which way,” and I believe that He showed me. But it wasn’t quite the same road that I had been on. Even though I was still able to use His gifts, it was for a different purpose, and I discovered that I was trying to run this new road parallel to the old one. Like, I could still see all of the sights along the old road, so if I ran parallel to it, maybe I could keep doing what I had been doing. But again, I started running ahead and at the same time getting frustrated because I wasn’t seeing results! I was getting confused, even angry! I started to fear a future where I had no purpose and was no longer able to be a useful instrument in bringing the lost to Christ!

I really needed a good smack. But God is way more gentle than that, and instead led me to some readings. In those pages, I began to see that my zealousness had actually caused my ears to be deaf to the Lord’s leading. In my panicked haste, I missed the sights along the way. I cannot be a useful instrument if I’m running ahead, because I don’t know where I’m running to. I don’t know what it is exactly that God has for me, and the only way I’m going to figure that out is by slowing down, and listening to Him as He teaches what He wants me to know. Because only then will I have been properly prepared for the next leg of the journey, and the one after that.

God has a purpose and a plan for you, and it is specifically only for you! But just because He has given you the gifts to execute that purpose doesn’t mean you know exactly what He’s got in mind for you to do with them. He wants you to slow down, to spend time with Him, soak up His Word, let Him lead. He knows exactly when He wants something to happen, and how you will fit into it. Don’t try to second guess your  progress and begin questioning your effectiveness. As long as you are walking right alongside Him – taking in the sights, learning, growing – all you will see ahead of you are green lights. Then you will arrive, prepared, at the place and time He set aside just for you and it will be amazing.

Céad míle beannachta~                                                                                      (One hundred thousand blessings)

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Making the Choice to Believe – Part Three

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plIn my last two posts, I have tried to share about something I firmly believe in. Whether I actually succeeded in making any sense, who knows. But the more I thought about it, I realized that there needed to be one more post relating to the topic of choosing a life with God. I needed to say something about hope.

We all hope for things, it’s just part of being human. Depending on our life circumstances, what we hope for can be quite different. It could be you hope that the Packers will dominate everyone this season and take home a Super Bowl win. (Personally, I live with the vain hope that the Bears will actually win something this year…) Maybe you’re hoping that your kid gets the lead in the school play, or that you will simply accomplish everything on your to-do list today. Some of us have more serious hopes; that the chemo treatments will work and the cancer will be gone, a missing child will be found, or a much-needed job will come your way after months of unemployment. Whatever the circumstance, hope can be a very powerful tool. And when it’s lost, the result can be tragic.

Psychologists and sociologists have determined, through countless studies, that hope is more than just a feel-good emotion. It actually has direct and very positive effects on how we handle difficulties, achieve our goals and interact with the world around us. Hopeful people are generally more successful regardless of their profession, and they are more apt to recover from a serious illness. Because they are able to take a setback and learn from it, they become instrumental in helping others through hard situations. They also are much easier to work with (in any kind of situation) because they do not feel that they must have full control over the task nor do they don’t feel as if they are the only ones with the correct answer. They are more willing to “go with the flow” because they are not trying to compete with everyone. Hopeful people also do not see it as a personal attack if someone disagrees with them, or uncharacteristically speaks harshly to them. They are more apt to give that person the benefit of the doubt, more quick to forgive and forget. This doesn’t mean, though, that hopeful people never have hard days.

Life is not easy; I think we can all pretty much agree on that. But when you have hope in something, it helps make those really hard days just a bit more tolerable, right? Well, what if that thing you have hope in fails you? How do you move on from there? Even the most positive, optimistic thinkers can hit the bottom. For me, this is where faith has to come in. There is no one thing, or any one person, on this planet that you can put your hope in and it never fail. But, there is a God who cannot fail and He is accessible to you no matter where you are in your life.

Isaiah 40:31 (NIV) – But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Hebrews 11:1 (NIV) – Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

Psalm 119:114 (NIV) – You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.

Psalm 31:24 (NIV) – Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.

The word “hope” is said more than 120 times in the Bible. However, it’s not really meaning the kind of hope that psychologists and sociologists are talking about. Their “hope” is kind of like the simple definition you can find in the Merriam-Webster dictionary; to want something to happen or be true and think that it could happen or be true. The “hope” in the Bible is much bigger than that, because it is hope in Jesus Christ. It is a hope that settles deep in our soul, and it anchors us to what we say that we believe (the word of God). It is firmly grasping what we KNOW to be true; that regardless of whatever difficult things come our way, we have been promised the day when the dark and sad things of this world will forever be gone, and we will again live in the perfect goodness that God originally created for us.

Living in the hope of Jesus will always far exceed the hope of human understanding. When you are facing what you’re certain is going to break you and you think you have nothing left within you to give, if you have hope in Jesus, that well is never going to run dry. There will always be something left to raise you back to your feet.

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In concluding these three “making the choice to believe” posts, choosing to live a life for Jesus does not always mean everything is going to be sunshine and rainbows every day. You still live in a fallen and sinful world, so I guarantee you that hard times will come. But there are three things than can determine how you come through those hardships, and they also can make a huge impact in how you live your life during the wonderful and amazing days; faith, love and hope. How you see God, and if you believe or not that He is who He says He is. If you accept the love that He has for you, and take  comfort in knowing that His love will never cease, no matter what happens or has happened in your life.  And finally, if you have Biblical hope, and know that all good things do indeed come from your Heavenly Father, and that He wants to bless you beyond measure.

One of the times that God spoke to my heart during the years I was not walking in faith, was on a Sunday morning when I had been back in my hometown visiting family.  I had (grudgingly) attended a concert at my parents’ church the night before, and the guest singer performed with the church choir during the Sunday service. The song that he sang was simple in lyrics, taken right from the book of Revelation. But combining that with the beautiful music and soaring voices of the choir, something finally stirred deep down in me, and I thought to myself, I want to be in that place when this world has ended.

“I saw the Holy City
Descending from the sky
So brilliant with the light of God
The city is His bride
There is no temple in this town
No sun, no moon, no lamp
For God’s own glory is its light
Illuminated by the Lamb
And God Himself will wipe the tears
From every weeping eye
No death, no pain, no mourning cry
And every tear made dry.
And now our God will dwell with them
The new Jerusalem
And He Himself will walk with them
The new Jerusalem.”

Now, many years later, I take great comfort in knowing that I can survive whatever comes because I AM going to that place. My prayer is that you too, will make the choice to believe, and we will all one day walk together with our God.

Céad míle beannachta~                                                                                      (One hundred thousand blessings)

Making The Choice To Believe – Part Two

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Have you ever done something, then gone back and looked at it later on, and thought to yourself, “I should have added that,” or, “this would have made it better.” A few days after posting my previous blog, “Making The Choice To Believe,” I went back and read through it and realized that there needed to be more. Some people have it said about them that they “run on at the mouth;” I don’t have that problem…however I definitely run on at the keyboard, so saying that something I wrote needed to have more could be dangerous. I promise that I will try to not ramble and to stick to the point.

For someone like me, who grew up in the church, it might be pretty is easy to randomly say, hey! You know there’s a God, and you just need to make the choice whether you’re going to believe in Him and follow His ways or not. Even though I spent almost two decades “wandering in the desert,” the church of my youth gave me an extremely sturdy foundation. I merely decided that I wasn’t going to build anything on that foundation. When I returned to my faith, that foundation was still there. Maybe a little dinged up around the edges, but it was still there! So I was still able to build on that, and grow in my new relationship with God.

But what someone did not grow up in church? Or maybe they grew up in one that did not regularly teach directly from the Bible; the focus was put more on man-created practices and obligation. How can I say to them that they merely need to make a choice? 

A choice between what??

I believe that one thing many people who are far from God don’t realize is how much He loves us. Every single one of us. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you’ve done, where you are in your life…none of it matters. YOU are His beloved. For some of us, that’s probably a near impossible thing to comprehend because maybe we never have experienced real love. Perhaps it comes from being emotionally (or literally) abandoned as a child, or repeatedly being lied to by others that you let see your heart.  There are countless reasons, and all of them valid. We begin to believe that we are unworthy of love, and over time, even harden ourselves to the idea of it. Many of us  lead productive, successful and happy lives positively interacting with all different kinds of people, but way down deep there is a wound in our hearts that we viciously guard in fear; fear of that wound becoming worse.

I’m currently reading a book in which the author states that the opposite of fear is love. That might not be the first word you think of. If you look up antonyms of the word fear in a thesaurus, you could find courage and bravery, among others, and those might be more logical to you. But love is also an antonym of fear, and no love is greater than the love of God. It is something that heals the deepest cut, erases the darkest sin, and casts off the strongest doubt.

OK, you say, that sounds fabulous, but how do you know that? How can you prove it? I know it because I live in it. I am not perfect and I continue to screw up in a variety of creative ways. But regardless of how much I beat myself up for making mistakes, there is no question in my mind that I am loved by God. I can prove it with God’s Word –

(Isaiah 43:1-5a ESV) “But now”, says the Lord, He who created you…He who formed you…”Fear not, for I have redeemed you! I have called you by name, and you are   mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you. When you walk through fire you shall not be burned and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God…Because you are precious in my eyes and honored, and I love you…Fear not, for I am with You!”                          

(Psalm 91:14-15 MSG) “If you hold onto Me for dear life,” says God, “I’ll get you out of any trouble. I’ll give you the best of care, if you’ll only get to know Me and trust Me. Call on Me and I’ll answer; be at your side in bad times. I’ll rescue you…”                    

(Romans 8:38-39 ESV) For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers…nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.                                                                           

(Isaiah 54:10 MSG) “For even if the mountains walk away and the hills fall to pieces, My love will not walk away from you, my covenant commitment of peace won’t fall apart.” So says the God who has compassion on you.                                            

These are just a couple of the hundreds of verses in the Bible where God reassures us of His love. At this point, you have to make the choice of whether you believe that it is God’s Word or not, and if it is true.

One thing that some may struggle with (I know I definitely did) is coming to grips with the fact that our past lives have absolutely no effect on how much God loves us. None, zip, zero, null. We think that we have to “get better” before we go to Him. That is so far from the truth! HE is the One who makes us better, we don’t do that ourselves. Psalm 34:5 says, “Those who look to Him are radiant, and their faces shall never be covered with shame.” Our mistakes, our sins, our imperfections…all of those things are shrouded by His great love. He forgives us not because He has to, but because He loves us. So you can take all of your garbage right up to Him, whatever it is. Because when you do that, THEN you will truly become free of it.

One of the ministries that I served alongside during my trips to Thailand was one that reached out to girls working in prostitution, under the guise of being “bar girls.” Trying to explain to them how much their Heavenly Father loved them despite where they were and what they were doing was a challenge. Most of them had never been truly loved by anyone. This was just as foreign a thought to me as the country I was in! I simply could not fathom it, surely these beautiful women all had somebody who loved them. Then, on my second trip, I met a woman who happened to be about my age, and that day my naiive eyes were opened to the reality that so many people face. In order to talk with the girls while they were working in the bars, you have to make a purchase. So you order a Coke, a then can begin a conversation. Not being the greatest conversationalist in the first place, I often would rely on translators to carry most of the talks, but this one particular woman actually spoke fairly decent English. She told me bits and pieces about her life, how she had been working in the bars for many years but always was looking for a good man to take her away from it all. Then she got excited as she started telling me that she had finally found that man. He was a little younger than her, but she didn’t mind because he told her how much he loved her and that he was going to marry her and take her back to the States with him. While she’s telling me all this, she’s digging through her well worn purse and finally pulls out a half sheet of crumpled paper. She hands it to me, and says that he had given it to her. On it was where his home was in the States (he had to go back briefly to make arrangements for bringing her in as his wife) and the date that he would be back in Thailand to get her. I looked at the paper and was confused, then she told me that she was unable to read English and could I tell her what the date was when he’d be back, because it had been several weeks already. I looked to the translator I was with, but she was deep in conversation with another bar girl. I didn’t know what to do; should I lie? I knew that wasn’t the right answer, but I didn’t want to tell her what the paper really said. Finally, I just explained that it was a print off of a return flight confirmation (most likely something he printed off at his hotel and had shoved in his pocket); it named the airports he was flying out of and to, and the date of that flight, a date that had long passed. I looked at her as I told her what it was, and seeing the excitement and anticipation drain from her face broke my heart. She knew then that she had been lied to, again, and made a fool of, again. I took that opportunity to tell her about the English classes at the ministry center that I had been volunteering with that week; I said that not only would she learn to speak it better, but also to be able to read it. I also told her that she would also have the chance there to learn about the perfect love of a Father and Friend who would never leave her. She took the pamphlet about the English classes and said that she would go. Honestly, I have no idea if she ever did, and in the return trips to that city in the years that followed, I never went back to that particular bar district. But my prayer is that she did go, and through the ministry staff she learned about something far greater than how to read English. I pray that she finally knows how much she is loved by God, and that she never has to be alone again.

So maybe I rambled off down a rabbit trail there, but my point is that I learned through that experience that there ARE people in this world who do not have the blessing of “human love.” It really made me see how important it is to share about the perfect love that we can receive from our Heavenly Father, because for many, it’s the only true love they’ll ever know.

In conclusion, I’ll ask the questions again; do you believe in God at all? If so, what exactly do you believe about Him? In the video below is a song that is currently one of my favorites. It reminds me that no matter what is going on in my life, I am under the wing of Someone who is greater than anything that comes my way. He is my rescuer, protector and He loves me.

Do you understand how precious you are to Him? Stop trying to “get better” first before you seek Him. Make the choice to believe and live fully in that choice.

Céad míle beannachta~                                                                                         (One hundred thousand blessings)

Making The Choice To Believe

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right-wrong-decision-road-sign-roadside-signpost-10414938We all face a variety of things every day in which we have to make a choice one way or the other in how we will respond to those things.

You’re approaching a busy intersection and the light goes from green to yellow – you make the choice to either speed up and try to beat the red light, or you hit the brakes and wait. You’re trying to lose weight, but at the birthday party you’re attending you discover the dessert is your favorite kind of cake – you make the choice to eat it and risk a set back, or you don’t eat it and stay on track. You’re offered a new job with much higher pay and great benefits, but you’d have to relocate – you make the choice whether to make the move and risk things possibly not working out the way you planned, or you stay put where things are comfortable and familiar.

Some choices we make have fairly minor results. Eating one piece of cake at a celebratory occasion does not bring on the end of the world. But speeding through an intersection could bring the end of you, or someone else, and this result would be horrible. One choice for most of us is whether to believe, or not believe, in God. (Yes, I realize there are still some small pockets of people groups around the world that have not heard the Gospel yet. I am speaking more about those of us who have had access and exposure to Christian influences) There are a lot of us who would say, “sure I believe in God,” and they are being truthful in saying that. But that’s the easy part. Now comes the choice of whether or not you are going to live it out, regardless of what comes your way. Because we are always going to be influenced by the things of this world, and we have to make the choice to be under those influences, or over them.

One way we can hold true to what we say we believe is in how we view who God is, and what He can do. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines God as, “a spirit or being that has great power, strength, knowledge, etc.” and, “the supreme or ultimate reality: as the Being perfect in power, wisdom, and goodness who is worshipped as creator and ruler of the universe.”  I guess that sounds pretty impressive, but really, it’s a very lame attempt to describe the indescribable.

(** First off I have to say that NO church is perfect. Every single one of them, regardless of denomination and size, has good points and bad points, they have ups and downs, and years of decline and growth. What’s most important is that the desire is to always be working to fulfill the Great Commission that was given by Christ.**)     I have this sort of love/hate thing going on when it comes to my own religious upbringing. I was born and raised in a non-denominational, traditional evangelical church with a rich, but sometimes troubled history. Looking back to the time I was growing up there, I can see how the things I was taught greatly shaped my view of God, both good and bad. Unfortunately, during what I perceived as a low point in the church’s history, I left and abandoned many of the good things I had been taught. During the almost two decades that I was not living a Christ-centered life, it was the negative things that I held on to and in doing so, I perpetuated an image of God that drove me farther and farther from Him. However, once I had children, things began to change. I did not want them to view God the way I did, so by trying to give them “a fighting chance,” I ended up giving myself the chance to learn again who He really is. Like countless other churches, I had been taught from an early age about sin; what things were sinful and the cost of committing those sins. And even though the forgiveness of sins was also taught, the things I remembered was how BAD of a person you were for making the choice to commit the sin and the feeling of how disappointed God would be in you for sinning. But most of all, I remembered being afraid of God. I was afraid because of who they portrayed God to be – He was this all powerful, gigantic, thunder and lightning, being of doom that sat on a huge throne up in the sky and watched every single move I made! Well, that was the image I had in my little head, anyway. And when I got older, and walked away from it all, I still had that image in my head. This makes my behavior even more ridiculous because I knew I was sinning, I was making the choices every day, yet I did so still being afraid and  convinced that God was going to send me to a particularly nasty spot in hell when I died because I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER. When I returned to my faith in a different church, and learned about God in a new light, oddly enough the fearful ways that I had always viewed Him have now become my strongest reasons for staying in His presence. He’s still the same powerful Being. But now, I look at that power and I take great comfort in it; I don’t fear anything else because of that power. I don’t doubt, because of that power. He is still thunder and lightning, the crashing waves, He is fire and creation shakes at His command! He is more powerful than death! And in the shadow of all that is where I now choose to be.

So what does the overly-long, previous paragraph have to do with making a choice? Well, it shows the effects of what you choose to believe. Do you believe in God at all? If so, what exactly do you believe about Him? How does what you believe shape your day-to-day, and what do you do when hard times rain down? Because we all know that hard times come, and oftentimes we feel like we are going to collapse under them. How you come out on the other side of those hard times can greatly depend on whether you make the choice to give it to God, or try to muscle through it without Him. In my experiences, muscling it through was not the right choice. Why? Because I could not see what was on the other side. None of us can see that. But God has seen it; He has seen our entire existence.

The choices that we make, large and small, determine the paths of our lives. Sometimes a bad choice can be redeemed, and you get the chance to choose again. But sometimes that opportunity never comes and you have to learn to live with that bad choice. It’s possible to live with the results of a bad choice, even more possible when you’ve laid it at God’s feet. We are not perfect and there will be times when something you thought was the right choice ended up being wrong. But here’s the thing…when you make the choice for God, you can leave the decision up to Him, because He IS perfect.

You just have to make the choice to believe, and live fully in that choice.

Céad míle beannachta.                                                                                       (One hundred thousand blessings)

Figuring It Out

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legal-yellow-pad_5My dad was a planner. He never seemed to do anything that he hadn’t already thought about and planned for, usually writing it all down on a yellow legal pad. I couldn’t even begin to count how many yellow legal pads he must have gone through during his adult life! We would tease him, and joke about how he never went anywhere without one, even sometimes giving him big packages full of yellow legal pads for Christmas or his birthday. It was all for a laugh, though, because we knew that if there was a pad sitting on the table, with a cup of coffee and a pen next to it, he was working on something important. Sometimes it was something fun, like the next summer’s family vacation. Sometimes it wasn’t so fun…like paying bills and balancing the family budget. But whatever it was, he figured it all out on countless sheets of dull yellow paper.

Oddly enough, I tend to want to write things down on a yellow legal pad myself. It’s not like I’m trying to carry on some family tradition. Sometimes I use white legal pad paper. But I can appreciate what it feels like to take pen to paper – writing, figuring, planning, crossing off and starting over, doodling along the side when your mind is drawing a blank. Then to sit back and look over what you have done, and finding a satisfaction in it. I know that in these modern times, most people do that on a computer. They create word documents and charts, spreadsheets and all kinds of other things that are way more efficient than a piece of paper. But regardless of how we all prefer to do it, sometimes those plans we make just don’t go the way it looked on paper…or on a spreadsheet.

Earlier this year, I cleaned out a room that had been “my space.” My space had been moved to another part of the house and it is now “husband’s space.” After several years of it being “my space,” there was a lot of STUFF in that room. All of it extremely important of course…except for those five very full trash bags that went out to the curb. But among of all that STUFF was everything that we had gathered and done in preparation to be missionaries in the country of Thailand. From the time that we committed to a ministry, to the day we sadly made the final decision that it was time to let it go, four years had passed. I held on to everything related to our going overseas, even quotes from a company that helped families move their pets internationally. By the time I had finished going through it all, there wasn’t much left from our going-to-be-missionaries plan; most of it had become irrelevant and outdated. What I kept is now mainly in the form of documents and files on my computer.

It took me a very long time to “grieve the loss” of what we strongly felt was God’s calling on our lives. I actually went out of my way to not read blogs, Facebook posts or anything else that mentioned Thailand, missionary work, etc. I was envious of those who were already in the field, and those who were successfully getting ready to go. Why on earth would God place such a deep longing and commitment in our hearts for it to never come to be? I don’t have an exact answer for that. But it’s possible that God wanted to see if we WOULD commit, if we WOULD obey despite all of the difficulties we faced when we announced our plans. God has a plan for every one of us, but are we willing to trust Him, and follow wherever He leads? We were willing.

In the time that has passed since we let go of a life in Thailand, God has definitely answered some of the “why” questions, many answers relating to our kids. One of the biggest obstacles we struggled with, both within ourselves and from other people, was the idea of taking our kids into one of the most spiritually dark places in the world. We had been there, and had seen it…and felt it. But God reminded me of the story of Abraham and Isaac, and how we must trust Him with our children and obey when He asks us to do something that our human hearts fear to do. Since making the decision to stay, God has blessed our kids immensely, even more than He had already done before. He has shown us glimpses of His plans for them, and we stand in awe of how He is moving in their lives. Sometimes I don’t think they even realize how much their Heavenly Father is orchestrating the masterpieces that they are becoming. But I realize it. I may not know every single thing that will happen or that they will do in their lifetimes. But God has given me the assurance that they have a purpose and a place, and He has given me the gift of witnessing their stepping out into that purpose. I now know that if they had been in Thailand, they most likely would not have gotten the opportunities they had, and have now, to begin fulfilling their purpose.

Which raises the thought – maybe we “heard God wrong,” and going to Thailand would have been a huge mistake. God just saved us from ourselves by stopping the funds from coming in and making it impossible to continue. I would have to disagree with that because there were so many things that went RIGHT during our preparation time. For one thing, God placed a heavy burden on our hearts for a group of people that most church folk find deplorable. That burden is still there, it’s not like it went away just because we weren’t boarding a Bangkok-bound plane. Those people are not just in  Southeast Asia; they are in Europe, and Africa, and South America…and yes, they are right in our hometowns. (I will write another blog shortly about “those people”) What God had called us to do half-way around the world can still be done right here, because the circumstances and the desperate need are still the same.

So as our lives continue on in America’s Midwest, instead of the exotic “Land of Smiles,” we are just figuring it out. We don’t have to figure it out on our own, we just have to be open to what God has already started in us, and let Him lead. We use the talents that God gave each of us, in the places that He wants us right now, doing the ministry He needs us to do. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t think of Thailand from time to time, as I often get reminders. A certain smell that brings back what it was like to walk out of the Bangkok airport and your nose is hit with the scents of spices, florals…and humidity. Seeing something on a TV show and thinking to myself, hey, I know where that is – I’ve been there! Looking out of the window early in the morning when the sun hasn’t burned the fog away yet; in my mind I can see the misty covered mountains in the northwestern Mae Hong Son Province.  These reminders can sometimes make me sad, because I miss being there very much. But I know, and am convinced, that God has all of this covered and when it is time – HIS time – we will move into the next chapter of the amazing story He is writing. Wherever that will be!

Sometimes things just don’t seem to make sense. But that is when you have to trust the most. It’s when you have to believe that everything is still going according to plan. Not your plan…God’s plan! Because you may have everything all figured out on your spreadsheet or your yellow legal pad paper, but if you aren’t trusting in Him and going where He is leading, the chances are pretty good that it’s not going to end up like you imagined it would. It’s when you trust and believe that something even more incredible than you could ever dream up happens. Be patient, and be listening. Because one day a quiet whisper will come…

“It’s time now. Go.”

Céad míle beannachta.
(One hundred thousand blessings)

The Missing Man

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FullSizeRenderYesterday, while I was enjoying the Labor Day parade in my hometown with my family,  our attentions were drawn to the approaching sound of a helicopter. This normally wouldn’t attract anyone’s attentions usually as a helicopter flying around is not uncommon. But as it came closer, what drew parade attenders eyes upward was that it obviously wasn’t the sound of just one, and they were flying rather low. Suddenly they were there, seven of them, flying in a V-shaped formation right over the main parade route. I learned later from a family friend who they were;

“All 7 helicopters were from the Air-One Emergency Response coalition….The two green helicopters are pilot trainers the unit acquired last year from the US Army and the orange and white is a Huey that we use for search and rescue. The black Huey is used for equipment and SWAT team movement and the other 3 black and white helicopters are used for search and rescue in law enforcement support. It was our great privilege to be a part of the funeral for Lt. Joe. See http://www.airsupport.org”  (Thank you, Tom, for sharing the facts!)

They were flying so low that we could plainly see three or four men perched on the landing skids of one helicopter as they were waving to everyone on the ground. They continued on north, and we all went back to watching the parade. It wasn’t too long though that we heard them again, heading back and flying just a little to the east of where they first flew over. I snapped a couple pictures on my phone, just because it wasn’t something you see everyday. It was later that evening that I was told those helicopters had been part of the funeral for the slain police officer from Fox Lake, IL; they had done a “missing man” formation over the cemetery.

Sometimes I’m almost afraid to read the news in the mornings anymore. I don’t want to read any more stories about police officers being killed. Don’t get me wrong, I know that line of work has always held some form of risk. My dad was a policeman for more than 25 years and it wasn’t until I was an adult before he shared with me a few of the hair-raising situations he found himself in. But the risk didn’t used to be getting shot while you’re pumping gas. Or having someone randomly walk up to you in your squad car and start firing. He would be greatly saddened to see how his “brothers and sisters in blue”  are no longer looked at as protectors, but as targets.

There are, what seems to be, a lot of policemen that live in my neighborhood. We joke sometimes about how stupid someone would have to be to come into this area to rob a house or steal a car. Two of these policemen live on our street and we very often see them out in the yard with their wives and young children. I don’t know these men, but I pray for them often whenever I drive past their houses because I know there are little ones in there who need their daddies to come home each night. I can’t imagine the brave faces their wives must have to put on each time they watch him leave for his shift, praying that they will not receive the same phone call that the wife of the Fox Lake officer received just a few days ago. Because these days, the risk is so much greater. And they have no idea if the seemingly innocent person that they just helped across a busy street isn’t going to pull a semi-automatic out of their bag and take them out.

My question is, how did we as a society get to the point where we think that it is okay to do that?! Have we all really taken complete leave of our senses? Are we so hardened that we instantly hate someone simply because they wear a badge on their chest? When I was a child, all the boys wanted to be a policeman or a fireman when they grew up. Why was that? Because they were seen as being good. They were  honorable, they were something positive, they kept us safe. But it seems like in recent years, we as a society have taken such a drastic turn from what is good. Now I’m not so clueless to say that nothing-bad-ever-happened-in-the-world-until-five-years-ago. Bad things have been happening since the dawn of time, and bad people have been the causes behind them. But don’t you ever just sit there in total perplexity and wonder what on earth is going on these days? And I’m not just talking about what our police forces are facing, there are so many other issues going on. Issues where there is little or no common sense applied, where you are expected to hate without reason and acting upon it is acceptable, where the few are allowed bully the many,  where words are twisted and debate is forbidden, where it’s getting harder and harder to have your own thoughts and opinions on things. When did simply disagreeing with someone start automatically meaning that you think they are wrong?

Yes, I understand that every issue I just listed is nothing new. I don’t need any replies to my blog asking if I’ve lived under a rock my whole life. But what I do see as being “new” is that despite all of the negative, there still was some good. I was born the same year that a Baptist minister from Georgia was assassinated because of the color of his skin and because he dared to speak out on what was right. But there was still some good.   I grew up during the Cold War years, with the threat of nuclear attack always looming and a US/Soviet conflict a common topic even in popular films and music of the day. But there was still some good. But now….I wonder. As my own kids are both nearly grown, what is this world they are going to step into? What is this society that they will be a part of? What is missing now more than ever?

There’s a missing man.

And that man is Jesus. In these days where every other religion in the world demands to be treated with respect, there is one that is allowed to be spit on. There are monuments and statues being built to honor other religions, but there is one whose monuments are being torn down because they are “offensive.”  The history of other religions is being taught in our schools, but there is one that is either not taught about at all or is given an antiquated and irrelevant slant. How have we as American Christians come to the point where we no longer stand and fight for what we believe just as much as any other world religion? Why did we all decide to give up? Because to me, it seems like when we gave up is when good started to disappear. Jesus told us that we, as His followers, would be persecuted. How that persecution has looked over the centuries has definitely varied. But never once did His followers back down. Yet today, we have become so conditioned to think that we have to hide what we believe that my son, when making a timeline of his life for a (public) school history class assignment, actually paused to think about whether he should put being baptized as one of the major events of his life!

We are flying around in a missing man formation. And while I definitely do not have all the answers as to how we can fix that, I do know the One who does have all the answers. We need to pay less attention to what others think of us, and be more concerned with what HE thinks. We need to rise up again and say, NO! That’s not right! Because until we do that, things could most likely only get worse. And then whoever is left of us will be sitting in the few churches that haven’t been abandoned and torn down, begging for Jesus to return to take us away from the world we were too afraid to stand up to.

I put a blue bulb in the lightpost in our front yard. It’s not much, but it’s our “public” way of showing support for our police force. I would love to see a day again when a blue light bulb is just that…a blue light bulb. But for right now, I hope the two down the street can see it and know that they go out every day with our love, support and prayers. We don’t need a colored light bulb to show our love and support for Jesus. He IS the light and it shines brighter than anything we could ever imagine. Let’s throw those covers of fear off and show this world what we are really about.

 

Céad míle beannachta.
(One hundred thousand blessings)

My Life With Rachel

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Today I am letting Rachel sleep in. She has a big day coming; one that she has been looking forward to for a long time. Not only is this her high school graduation day but it’s also her 18th birthday. And honestly, I’m not sure how I feel about that…

Rachel’s entrance into the world was not an easy one, but I will spare you the details. Let’s just say it was a good thing she and I didn’t try to do the birthing-thing 100 years ago or it’s possible neither one of would be here now. Four days later, she and I went home to begin life together.

In many ways, Rachel is like me and some days I’m not so sure that was a good thing. When two people, whose ancestors were Celts and Vikings, come to a disagreement about something it’s probably safest for you to leave the room. For her second birthday, Rachel got a sweatshirt that said “Warning: I am two.” Yes, it was funny but you have no idea how true it was. I still have the sweatshirt…with the big scissor cuts across the front that she did to it because she didn’t want to wear it. Yeh, I made her wear it anyway, in public, with the holes in it.

Over the years, and especially as she moved through her teens, Rachel and I have moved up and down the battlefield of wills, retreating and advancing, and from time to time waving the white truce flag when we actually agreed on something. But now, as I reflect on the last 18 years, I can really see how Rachel has become who she is today. Sometimes I don’t think she yet sees it herself. That ancient blood in her veins that causes tempers to flare is also the same blood of courage, strength and determinaition. If she gets it into her head that she wants something, chances are pretty good she’s going to get it.

For example, during her years as a student of tae kwon do, she noticed one of the older students wearing a uniform coat with their name on it and “state champion” across the back. She comes up to me after class and says, “I want one of those.” And so off she went on a quest for her own state champ coat.  She worked hard, but after the first year she missed the title by one point. The second year she worked harder; we travelled everywhere from Orlando to Las Vegas for tournaments, and she ended up with a state title, but in weapons. That was fine and all, and she got a coat, but it still wasn’t specifically what she wanted. Her favorite part of tae kwon do was the traditional Korean forms, and THAT is what spurred her into a third year of lessons, traveling and tournaments. By this time she was also a first degree black belt, which was a considerably more difficult form to learn. But she did it, and when her instructor handed her that coat with her name, two state champ patches and the Wisconsin title on the back? That was one happy kid, and I was one proud mom because she didn’t give up until it was hers.

That determination is just a part of her DNA. I know there are times nowadays when she doubts herself. When she doesn’t believe she’s as strong and courageous as I know she is. When she doesn’t think that she will get to where she wants to go, but I know she will. I see that look in her eyes, even when she can’t see it herself.

In just a couple short months she will leave for college. It is especially sweet because I know how hard she worked for that in spite of recent roadblocks not of her own doing. She thought she’d never get through it, but she did it with flying colors and today we celebrate that courage and determination. Even though she will be less than an hour away, and in a city she loves and is very comfortable being in, I’m not so sure I’m ready to see an empty bedroom at the end of the hall upstairs. Even though she and I can text or call whenever we want, do I really want to see an empty chair at the table for dinner every night?

Well, I suppose I will just have to deal with it; join the ranks of millions of other moms standing in the doorway of empty bedrooms and putting the extra plate back in the cupboard because they forgot there’s one less. I’m torn, I guess, because while I miss those days of having a little girl, I have seen her become this incredibly beautiful and talented young woman. I am so excited to see what God has planned for her, where He is going to take her! And I know, on those hard days when I wish she was here that God will be my comforter. He knows my mamma’s heart.

But that is not quite yet – today she is here, and today we celebrate 18 beautiful years. Happy birthday Rachel, my sweet girl – I love you to the moon…and beyond.

 

My Life With Ian

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That’s the title of a book I should have written. I don’t know how many times my own mother, when hearing about her grandson’s latest “adventure,” would tell me that. Maybe if I was more organized and on-the-ball over the years I could have written it. But I guess it will remain a collection of memories  tucked away in my thoughts, except for the few that I share every now and then when called for.

I knew exactly when Ian would be born. For medical reasons, his birth had to be scheduled. So I knew on this day my son would make his entrance into the world. And that’s about the only thing since, in the last 15 years, that hasn’t been an wild and unexpected, grey hair causing ride.

His first visit to the emergency room was around the age of 18 months, after taking a nose dive into the entertainment center and busting his forehead open. I had to call Steve at work, and tell him to meet me at the hospital. I can only imagine what horrible thoughts were going through his mind; his poor little boy at the ER with a head injury. What he saw when arrived for the most part left him standing there with his mouth open. Instead of finding me cradling an injured toddler and weeping profusely, he sees me running around the waiting area, chasing after “the boy” who’s running wildly with dried blood on the side of his face and a big band-aid above his eye. We did finally catch him and corral him long enough for the ER doctor to stitch his head up. He had a scar above his eyebrow, and you can still see it faintly today. But he’s grown, and the scar is at his hairline now.

In the years since, I decided that I needed to have any entire drawer in my kitchen dedicated to various first aid products. Not necessarily because he’s clumsy (although gracefulness was not something he was blessed with), but because he has such a wild sense of adventure, no fear and the desire to “live on the edge,” as much as a kid can. His second visit to the ER happened when he ran into an electric box near the playground at his school. He literally poke a hole in the side of his head; that time no stitches and they glued his head back together. One day he thought it would be fun to ride a rolling desk chair down a flight of stairs. (He was actually successful with no ER visits.) His greatest torment was when he wasn’t tall enough to ride the big roller coasters at Six Flags. Never mind that he was only 6 years old.

Shortly before his third birthday, we enrolled him in taekwondo. He needed something to do with all that boundless, uncontrolled energy. You can probably imagine that sparring was his favorite part. Any time that he was allowed to go all loco, he was on board. It did, however, turn out to be one of the best things we did for him as it taught him how to focus and control (most of) his wildness. Admittedly, we have contributed to the insanity by obliging his interest in things like skateboards. We even bought him these crazy ones when we were in Bangkok a couple years ago; at the time, only available in Asia. Two separate boards with two wheels…you know, so he would have to balance and have both feet going all sorts of directions? I have to give him credit though – for all of the crashes and catastrophes, he has an amazing level of pain tolerance. I think the two things I’ve heard most out of his mouth throughout his life were, “Well that wasn’t supposed to happen…” and, “Don’t worry, I’m OK!” He’s the main reason I color my hair, you know.

Some people are just naturally funny, and Ian is definitely that. Quick witted and always able to come up with the right thing at just the right moment, that boy has had me laughing till I cried more times than I can count.

There is one thing about Ian, though, that endears him to me more than anything else. And that is his big heart. Without ever having been taught to do so, Ian is the one who will stand by you till the end. If you are hurting, he is the first one to sit down next to you and offer a shoulder to cry on. He has always been a protector of others, even if he’s smaller than the one he perceives as the offender. As an elementary student, he thought nothing of walking right up to the much taller high school boy, who for a brief time was in his sister’s life, and telling him him, “I’ve got my eyes on you.” And he meant it.

It was apparent early on that Ian’s life would be a life of service to others. What that will look like once he’s grown into adulthood, I don’t really know. But what I do know is that God created him, and gave him all of these character traits, for something amazing. I think Ian knows that as well, and the incredible part of it is that even now, he’s willing to follow wherever God leads him.

There are days when I miss my little boy. My nickname for him, “Little Man,” no longer applies and it was hard for me to stop calling him that. The day we all realized that he had grown taller than me was a little sobering for me. But this is all part of the beautiful and heart-wrenching task that God gave me. He probably took one look at the crazy little boy-angel who was flying around, crashing into the Pearly Gates, and tumbling amongst the clouds, and said, “I’m going to give him to her.” I don’t know why God chose me for that boy-angel, but I am so grateful that He did.

Happy 15th birthday, Ian – I love you more than you will ever know.

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Does God Really Answer Prayers?

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DSC_0006#2 Isn’t that a question that all of us have asked at some point? It’s easy to say, “Sure He does!” when everything is going right in your world. But what about when things go completely wrong?

Yesterday marked three years since my dad passed away. Three years of him not being here. Probably the hardest part of him not being here is that his five grandchildren are still growing up and doing so many things…without him. Sometimes it really ticks me off, because it’s not fair. My grandfather was such a big part of my childhood; he was there for everything, even my wedding day. But my own kids, well they got gypped. Twice! (Their other was grandfather suddenly passed away before they even got to school-age) I look at my kids, almost grown now, and I wish so badly that he could see everything they are doing now. I wish that he could watch his oldest granddaughter as she graduates from high school in a couple months, and see her off to college in the fall. I wish he could hear her sing; he was gone by the time her voice had matured into what it is today. I wish he could have seen his oldest grandson, who has spent most of his life clumsily crashing around in one way or another, in a coat-and-tails tuxedo smoothly gliding across the stage with a pretty girl in a ballroom dance. He probably wouldn’t have believed his eyes! I wish he could be there when that same grandson follows the path he chose for himself and enlists in the Marines. A military man himself, I know my dad would have been so proud.

During the long months that he was sick, we prayed…and we prayed…and we prayed. We prayed for complete healing. We prayed for the sickness to be gone. We prayed for him to be able to leave the hospitals and acute care centers that he’d been shuffled back and forth from. We prayed for the miserable and helpless days to be over.

And then on March 23, 2012, it was over.

Now, a nonbeliever might say, “That’s it? He was gone? See I told you God isn’t real.” Even someone who struggles with their faith might see it as God not answering all those countless prayers. But let’s look at it a different way. God DID answer our prayers. My dad WAS healed. The sickness WAS gone. He WAS able to leave the hospitals. And those miserable days WERE over. You might say, “But he died. That wasn’t what you prayed for.” That is true. We prayed for all those things, but in the end we wanted him to be here, with us. I guess if you want to get a little harsh about it, we prayed selfish prayers. Of course, who could blame us? We weren’t ready for him to leave. Yet God understood our humanness. I think He understood our selfish prayers. But the truth is, my dad is now whole again; strong and healthy the way God created him to be, walking the streets of heaven.

However, when Jesus taught us to pray, didn’t He say, “YOUR kingdom come, YOUR will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” He didn’t say Peter’s will, or John’s will. He was speaking of His Father’s will and His will is not the same as ours.

My dad was not perfect. He made mistakes. However, he was a committed Christ-follower his entire life. And while I do not know this for sure, I believe that at some point God told my dad what He wanted him to do. He wanted him to be a servant and my dad did exactly what God asked, even though I suspect he had other plans for himself. He served God, his church, his community, his country and his family until the day came that he could no longer do it. And then God said, “well done,” and took him home.

Couldn’t we say, “hey you know it stinks sometimes that it’s all about YOUR will and we get the short end of the stick down here!” Well, no. We can’t say that. Not if we believe that He is the sovereign One who works all things for OUR good. God sees all the way back to the beginning of time, and all the way to the end of it. He knows what has happened and what is yet to come. He doesn’t need us to further His kingdom, there is nothing that He can’t do Himself. But because He loves us, He has brought us into His plan and He gives us giftings so that we can fulfill what He’s called us to do. We can choose to not follow, and go about our lives as we wish. Or, we can choose to listen to Him and take what He’s given us and bless others with it.

In the days after my dad passed away, my family received countless messages on Facebook and in emails from people whose lives had been touched by him. People who, as kids and teens were headed down the wrong path, and met up with my dad, “the policeman.” But with some tough love, they turned things around, and credited him for helping them do it. After more than three decades of teaching junior high school, former students came forward to tell us how he had always believed in them, and wouldn’t let them give up. I don’t know if he ever really realized the difference he made in people’s lives. But just like him, God had a purpose for each one of them, and if they hadn’t of crossed paths with my dad, they might never have fulfilled that purpose.

There is always a reason when things happen; good and bad. Sometimes we see that reason right away, sometimes it’s not for a few years, and sometimes we won’t know until we are face to face with the Author of our lives. This is where we have to have FAITH. Faith in the God we cannot see. Faith that He loves us unconditionally and works all things for our good. Even when we shake our fists at the heavens and the tears fall down our cheeks, we must keep the faith.

Because God is always there. He hears every word. He sees every tear. And He answers every prayer. Trust Him.

Céad míle beannachta.
(One hundred thousand blessings)

All the Days of My Mom Life…

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So these are my kids. Aren’t they just the cutest? I mean, really. They’re so little and adorable. Last week my daughter got the acceptance letter to the university she was really hoping to get into. And my son asked a girl to the prom.

(insert sound of needle sliding across a vinyl record)  Wait…What??!!

How can she be heading to college? She’s still wearing bows in her hair and loves horses! And he’s definitely not old enough to be asking a girl to a dance. He still has little baby teeth that don’t quite fit together! Oh my….I must be trapped in a time warp or something. Maybe I accidentally fell into the TARDIS and it got stuck on fast-forward?

*sigh*

No, the reality of it all is that this picture is from many years ago. When Dragon Tales was still a regular show on my television, training wheels were still on the bikes in the garage, and the chicken nuggets had to be shaped like dinosaurs. Nowadays, Gotham and The Red Band Society can be heard from the television in the basement, bikes were replaced by a car, and…well…they still like chicken nuggets, but can you imagine if I came home with a bag of them shaped like dinosaurs now? It would just confirm what they already think; that I’m losing my marbles.

You know, I used to have all my marbles. I went to college, I worked a full time job, I used to have intelligent conversations with people. These days it’s not uncommon for me to walk into the room and stand there for 30 seconds or so, glancing around, then walk out because I forgot why I went in there in the first place. I know my kids are sitting there looking at each other like, ” She’s doing it again.” They probably are plotting what kind of caregiver they’re going to get for me because the day will come when I just start opening the front door and wandering away. I’m forever saying to one of them, “Hey, I need you to…did I ask you about…whatever happened to…hmmm.” Again, the looks of pity as I continue to mentally fail.

I try to do certain things to help maintain the marbles I have left. My grandmother is in her 90’s and has always been the sharpest knife in the drawer, so I figured following her example might be a good idea. Like eating blueberries; that’s awesome brain food. Crossword puzzles are fun but I could never do them at the level my grandma does them at. She’s literally a walking dictionary.  I love to read and wish I did it more often than I do. I’m thinking probably when I no longer have to pull dirty clothes out from under beds to do laundry, make meal plans and grocery shop for 4 every week, or figure out what kind of irresistibly desirable souvenirs we are going to make and sell at the next theater production the kids are in, THEN I will have more time to just sit and read. Right?

I am most definitely on the downslope of child-raising. A couple more years and they both will be grown and doing their own things. There are days, believe me, when I can’t wait for that to happen. Like when Little Miss THING rolls her eyes at me and slams her bedroom door. Yeh, some of my lesser proud parenting moments have resulted from that. Or when “The Boy” does half of the things he does on a regular basis – I swear if he had been born first he’d be an only child. Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t bad kids by any means. But they’re teenagers. And no matter how much you plan and prepare for them to NOT be typical teens, one day you find yourself looking in the mirror and asking how the *$@! did that happen?! There are days when I look forward to not having “child responsibilities” because that means the husband and I can finally stretch our nomadic wings again. The only reason that we have lived in the same place for so many years is because we wanted our kids to have a solid place to call “home.” But the day will come when we can hop in the car or get on a plane and just…go. I’m kind of excited about that.

But then I look at this picture of them, from so many years ago, and it makes me a little sad. Sometimes I can’t believe that their childhood is almost over. When people say to “cherish those moments because they grow up fast,” they aren’t kidding.  Sometimes I worry that I will forget about important things. And no, I’m not referring to the “losing my marbles” issue. I’m seriously talking about how things can be  forgotten with the passing of time. We had a little “saying” that the kids and I would say to each other every night before I closed the door to their bedroom. The other day we were actually talking about it and at first I couldn’t remember how it went. That concerned me because it was something special that we did for a lot of years. I started really stressing over other things I could potentially forget about.

But really, is it the actual words that we said that’s most important? Or is it the feeling and the connection that it brought? That last moment at the end of all those days that went by too fast, where, in the quiet of the dark, we whispered goodnights and I love you’s. Do we really have to retain every single detail of birthday parties down to what flavor the frosting was on the firetruck cake? Or is it the feeling that the kids will carry with them, knowing that they were important enough to celebrate every year?  Do we, as mothers, sometimes try too hard to make everything perfect for fear that if we don’t we will somehow traumatized our children so they never are able to grow up and be productive members of society? Oh, the humanity!!!

You know, I used to worry about that a lot. And if we are being honest here, deep down those worries still nag at me. But I’ve discovered that the older I get and the more years of motherhood I add on, the more I have realized that yes, I am going to screw up something at some point, probably on a daily basis. But, you know what? Most nights these two, taller-than-me kids will amble in to my bedroom and give me a hug goodnight. Oftentimes my daughter will crawl into bed and lay next to me for a few minutes. And at that point is doesn’t matter what was missed or screwed up. At that point, the connection that we will always remember is made.

Raising children, and then letting them go is hard. OK, that’s a gross understatement. But I don’t know if there’s actually a word that describes what it’s like. However, as a Christian mother, I understand that my two actually belong to God. They are HIS, and He blessed me by entrusting them to me to care for. He favored me with these two specific little beings, not to keep them close and hidden, but to teach them to the best of my abilities and then set them free to live out their lives in blazing glory that honors Him.

Our legacies as mothers isn’t if our kids had the most popular birthday parties, wore the most in-fashion clothes, had the latest technology items, was the star player on the basketball team, got into the best college or was the wealthy CEO of a Fortune 100 company.  Our legacy should be our children who, as Christ-followers, made a difference in the world. Who lived a life reflecting God’s love, taught to them by us. Who recognized their giftings from God and used them in the way God planned for them to be used to further His kingdom. We all look forward to the day when we stand before God and He smiles and says to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” But for some of us, all of the joy, pain, laughter, tears, pride and heartache will be worth it when He also says…

“You were a great mom.”

Céad míle beannachta.
(One hundred thousand blessings)