Sometimes I forget to spit out the seeds…

Posts tagged ‘Christian’

Jesus Had Our Back

My family has been very fortunate. In our immediate, nuclear family of mom, dad, and four sisters, we’ve experienced few truly difficult situations. And then last year, we entered what my mom at one point called “the darkest chapter.” The GRACE, looking back from this point, and the HOPE, looking forward, are almost indescribable. We’re now closing that dark chapter, and I want to tell you, unequivocally, that –

Jesus had our back.

My baby sister, Christina, is 18 years younger than I am. We didn’t grow up together, but as she approached adulthood, we grew infinitely closer. We started to really feel that sister-thing.

Christina met a man, and fell in love. We all loved that man, too. My children were drawn to him. My husband became fast friends with him. When that man was marrying my sister, and his friends bailed on him, my husband stood up with him at the altar as his best man. We were happy and excited to add that man to our family.

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One year later, that man decided to quit our family. In the most abrupt and shocking way possible, he ended his marriage to my sister. I had been praying for them for a couple of days, because Christina had asked me to. I knew they’d hit a rough patch, like every marriage does. But I never in my wildest dreams imagined I’d receive a text from Christina with the word “divorce” in it. I stared at my phone in disbelief, then turned it to my husband so he could read it. His face fell in shock and confusion.

At first, we all prayed fervently for reconciliation, but it quickly became apparent that the man had no interest in that. A group of that man’s friends, including my husband, tried to meet with him – to encourage him, to support him, to mentor him in this hard thing called marriage. He refused. He cut all ties…. ghosted himself…. dropped a bomb and walked away. He changed his status on social media to “single,” and deleted all photographic evidence to the contrary.

We had to tell our children that their uncle was leaving their aunt, and leaving our family. I sat, with my husband clutching my hand and tears running down his face, as we told our older children exactly what was happening. At first, we told our little ones just to pray for him, but later had to explain the full truth. A few months later, our then-five-year-old mentioned her uncle in the same breath as her great-grandpa who had died. She said she was sad about them both, and it took my breath away. She seemed confused, because she knew her uncle hadn’t died, but that’s what it felt like to her. He was there at every birthday, holiday, and family gathering as far back as she could remember; and then one day he was just gone. But children are resilient, more than I ever realized; they are, and will continue to be, absolutely ok.

As the days, weeks, and months went by, and more details were revealed, I became angrier than I’d ever been in my entire life. As a person who never cared much for swearing, I was surprised at the language circulating in my brain. Regular words seemed painfully insufficient. I asked God where He was in all this. Why hadn’t He warned us? Why did He allow my sister, who was always seeking Him for her future, to choose a man who would do this? Why hadn’t there been some colossal sign that none of us could ignore?

Most Christians I know have tried to rationalize the intricate web of free will, God’s will, and His omniscient nature. We eventually have to be willing to suspend our confusion and grab hold of faith, knowing that our human minds are just not capable of truly understanding the Almighty God or His ways. We know He’s intrinsically good, and that’s enough. But when we’re faced with tragedy or betrayal, we wonder “why?” all over again.

And then, I began to see God work in me, turning my consuming, blinding anger into compassion. I realized that what was missing in that man, what allowed him to walk out on his promise with seemingly no hesitation or remorse, was a confident knowledge of how much he is LOVED by Jesus. I was able to pray for him instead of curse him. I’m not saying I was instantly “over it,” because the anger, even now, creeps up on me again and again. There are times that I feel more anger than anything else, as more of his actions come to light. It feels like an endless cycle of choosing to forgive, being blindsided by some new piece of information, and giving in to the vengeful fantasies which can never be fulfilled. But my Jesus is always bigger than the anger, and He pulls me back around.

While I was struggling with how this affected my family and me, I was trying to be there for Christina, while not knowing exactly how to do that. She processed what was happening to her with grief, anger, courage, venting, faith, snarkiness (laugh so you don’t cry all the time!), prayer, patience, strength, and intelligence. Some things that she went through I saw right as they were happening. Other things she held close and then downloaded to me all at once, which was overwhelming at times. But I knew that Christina needed to be free to deal in her own way….there was no blueprint for her to follow.

I also began to realize that the stereotypical Christian response of “God hates divorce” is very simplistic, and even misleading. God created the covenant of marriage, and it is in His perfect design for it to be permanent during this life here on Earth. And so it grieves Him when that covenant is treated casually, violated, or destroyed. It also grieves and angers Him to see His children mistreated, abandoned, belittled, abused, and neglected. I think it’s so, so important to emphasize this point: while God does hate divorce, and in the perfect world He created no marriage would end that way, what grieves Him the most is the damage that is done to His children.

When I really began to see what God was doing for Christina, I was amazed. I knew He had been there even in that first, devastating moment, holding her in His arms, as she received the biggest blow of her life. I absolutely knew He’d be faithful to her. And yet….He did things in her that I never expected; that sometimes I didn’t even understand. He protected her in ways I couldn’t have imagined, preserving her precious heart for the future, when it easily could have been consumed with hardness and bitterness. As I watched Him work miraculously in her life, I was in awe of His GOODNESS, and MERCY. Wow! I can’t wait to see what’s next for this fabulous sister of mine!

God knows the plans He has for [Christina]. Plans to prosper [her], and not to harm [her]. Plans to give [her] HOPE and a FUTURE. ~Jeremiah 29:11

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We Can’t Be All

In my last post, I talked about embracing your place.  Seeing the eternal value of serving others in mundane, physical ways; specifically in the role of motherhood, but really, in so many others, as well.  Immediately after publishing that post, my mind was swirling with an addendum.  What if, along with embracing our place, we embrace each other?

Let’s call this Christianity 101.  In a way, it’s really Humanity 101, because the basic premise applies to us all, regardless of spiritual beliefs.  But bear with me as I stick to the Christian verbiage, because I’m not sure what the secular translation would be.

The Body of Christ.  Sunday School basics, right?  We all have our own part to play, based on our gifts, skills, and passions.  If we work cohesively, it’s a beautiful thing.  If we try to take over someone else’s role, it just doesn’t work.  If you’re familiar with Psalty the Singing Songbook, you might remember the song about the Body of Christ.

“I am the eye, I go blink-blink.  I am the eye, and I can wink.  I am the eye, but I can’t think.  That belongs to my friend the brain!”  And so on, each part declaring their strengths, while acknowledging that they can’t do it all.

Even worse than shoving our self in a position that belongs to someone else is if we devalue their role.  If we mock their passion as something unworthy of their efforts.  You may think you’d never do that, but it happens subtly.

What does that look like?

It is usually expressed with some version of, “there are more important things to do/fight for/promote”

If someone lobbies for the change of unjust laws, someone else will say that this is just our temporary home. Why bother?

If someone stands up for freedom of religious expression, someone else will say there is no persecution here; others are dying for their faith.

If someone fights for quality school lunches, because there are kids in our country who rely on that meal to sustain them, someone else will say that somewhere else in the world there are children actually starving to death.

If someone tries to defend children’s rights to genital integrity, someone else will say that children are being murdered in the womb.  Death is worse.

If someone decides they are going to stop wearing leggings, or bikinis, or low-cut tops, and encourages others to consider doing the same, someone else will say that it only matters what’s in their heart. Only salvation matters.

We end up tearing each other down, belittling causes and ministries that are not only dear to someone’s heart, but also God-ordained.

If you don’t feel passion for another person’s cause or ministry, that’s fine.  We are not all required to be a part of all things.  Remember that Body of Christ thing?  Do what you are designed, or called, or gifted to do.

Jesus is…. Loving.  Compassionate.  Blunt.  Serving.  Forgiving.  Confrontational.  Patient.  Humble.  Cunning.  Strong.

He is all those things, and we’re supposed to represent Him to the world.  To be those things as we do His work, whatever that is for us, personally.  To live so that others will see Him.  In us.  How can we be all of those things?

We can’t.  Jesus is all.  We can’t be all, and we can’t do all.  Embrace each other, and trust Him to use each of us to cover all the bases.

That’s Not My Calling

Once in a while, I hear homeschooling referred to as a “calling.”  It perplexes me.  I’ve never, ever thought of it that way.  I’m always a bit intrigued as to why someone would see it that way, when to me, it’s just one of a thousand parenting decisions I’ve had to make along the way.  So I looked it up.

Calling.  Vocation, profession, or trade.  (dictionary.com)  By that definition, I suppose homeschooling could be a calling.  It’s definitely a vocation, i.e., a job.  I’m teaching my children for several hours per day, plus grading, planning, testing, shopping, etc.

A strong impulse or inclination.  (dictionary.com)  Yes, it fits here, too.  I always knew I would homeschool my children.  I received a good education through public school up until high school.  I chose to switch to homeschooling for both academic and social reasons.  The familial benefits were not a factor initially, but definitely became apparent after the fact.  So yes, I would say I had a strong inclination toward homeschooling my own children.

But these are both secular definitions.  “I was called to ….” takes on a whole new depth of meaning when spoken by a Christian.  It’s more spiritual in nature.  “Calling” becomes Christianese…..one of those words that potentially confuses and turns off unbelievers and Christians alike.  So what does this special version of “calling” mean?

Calling.  The God-appointed vocation of a Christian. (Wikipedia Glossary of Christianity)  This definition implies that God spoke to you, through one of the many ways that He does, and put forth a special request on your life.  Something specific to your gifts and talents and passions.

Some would still say, even by this hyper-spiritualized definition, that homeschooling is a calling.  I disagree; and here’s why.

If you are a parent, it is your responsibility to train and educate your child.  That is biblical, moral, and logical.  All parents must decide how they will go about that.  They may choose to send their children to a public or private school to be educated.  Responsible parents who choose those options will still be involved by getting to know the teachers, helping with homework, and familiarizing themselves with the curriculum being used.  (Side note:  In public school, I had mostly decent teachers, a few amazing ones, and a couple of duds.  Don’t settle for a dud!)

Other parents will choose to educate their children themselves, taking on the full responsibility.  Some will do this for their child’s entire academic career, and others will utilize public or private schools at some point.  In any case, we are each responsible for the education of our children.

I did not choose homeschooling for my children because I felt called by God to do it.  I chose it because I felt it was the most favorable of educational choices.  I had to make a decision about how to educate my children, and I made it.  Other parents view the same options and decide that sending their child to school is the most favorable choice.  Are they “called” to do this?  I think most would say they simply made a choice.

This post is not about homeschooling, though.

Who cares if we label something a “calling” or not?  Does it matter how we categorize our decisions?  In contemplating this, I tried to think of what my calling in life is.  I don’t mean my purpose….I know that my purpose in life is to love God and to love others.  I don’t mean my job…..my job is to be a wife to my husband and a mother to my children, raising them by the grace of God to adulthood.  I honestly have never had the experience of a spiritual calling to any specific choice, ministry, or vocation.  What if I had waited for it?

If I’d waited to be “called” to have children.

If I’d waited to be “called” to homeschool.

If I’d waited, as a non-crafty and very shy mama,  to be “called” to plan and teach crafts to fellow moms in my MOPS group.

If I’d waited to be “called” to serve in children’s ministry at my church.

If I’d waited to be “called” to use my writing to glorify my God.

The bottom line is that if I’d waited to be supernaturally “called,” I would have missed out.  I’d have missed out on so much blessing, so much grace, so much learning, and so much joy.

I’m not trying to minimize the impact of a true “being called” experience.  I know many who have had these specific moments in their lives.  But I don’t believe that all of God’s work comes about in this way.  It often comes more quietly, in the seemingly unremarkable decisions we have to make.  It comes in the service we give out of a sense of obligation, which then blesses us like we never expected.  It comes through the natural progression of God’s plan for life, and marriage, and families.

I encourage you to not miss out on God’s best for you by saying, “that’s not my calling.”

 

 

 

 

Evil is Cool

The world I’m raising my children in is nothing like the world I grew up in.  I never imagined that everything would change so drastically, so quickly.  The differences are evident in a myriad of ways:  technology, fashion, education, pop culture, all of which would be fun or interesting to muse about.  What has gripped my heart, though, falls into the pop culture category.  We, as Americans, have become incredibly desensitized.  Our kids, especially.

We are a culture of profanity.  A culture of vulgarity.  A culture that embraces evil.  A culture of disrespect.  A culture of obscene excess.  A culture of shallow materialism.  A culture with blatant sex in every corner.  A culture that drowns its sorrows in self-abuse.

Sounds pretty hopeless, doesn’t it?  How can we possibly raise children to adulthood without them being desensitized to all of that….that disaster I just described?  Will they get to the point of not even noticing that it’s going on around them?  Will they accept it as just “what kids do” these days?  Even if they choose to not be a part of it, will they fail to be shocked by what they see and hear?  When they stop being shocked,  they become part of it.

As parents, we have the tough job of setting the standards for our children.  What will we allow them to watch, listen to, read, or even say?  What friends will we permit them to hang out with?  We want to protect them, and to teach them how to protect themselves; but there comes a point when we have to allow them to begin to make their own decisions, and pray we have equipped them well.  It’s scary.   I’m slowly entering that realm myself, in my parenting career.

In our home, God sets the ultimate standard.  Not because we have to live up to some perfect model of the “Christian life”  in order to please Him…..let’s be perfectly clear on that.  Salvation doesn’t hinge on our performance, or how well we follow the rules.  It’s free, and unconditional.  But God’s Word is good, and every bit of it has a purpose.  His warnings to guard our hearts and our minds, to be careful of what comes out of our mouths, to avoid giving the appearance of evil….these guidelines aren’t just suggestions.  They are a recipe for a joyful, fruitful, peaceful life in which we can serve Him more wholly and make a difference for His sake.

I realize that Christians have differing opinions about what things are good, and pure, and worth allowing into their lives.  I tend to ere on the side of caution.  We don’t know how much violence will trigger recurring fear or anxiety in our child.  We don’t know how much nudity or sexual innuendo will trigger an obsession with lust (no human can escape the feeling of lust, I am sure, but we’re talking destructive levels here).  We don’t know what brand of evil, demonic influence, or darkness will intrigue them to delve deeper.  Clearly we can’t shield them from any of these things forever, unless we go the deserted-island-family-commune  route.  But we can delay and control their exposure, so that we can have those crucial conversations with them.

We’ve all seen evil disguised as good, but what about the other way around?  What about something that’s inherently good, with a solid, Christian message, that’s draped in an evil costume to appeal to our “modern” sensibilities?  Because evil is cool.  Darkness is fascinating.  It draws them in.  I’m not really comfortable with that brand of trickery.  That, to me, is a perfect example of desensitization.