Sometimes I forget to spit out the seeds…

Posts tagged ‘love’

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.

IMG_2864

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

Advertisements

Embrace Your Place

I got a call from my husband at about 11:00pm.  “We’re at a gas station now, but I think Jr.’s going to need an x-ray tonight.”  Ugh.  Seriously?  I was in my pajamas, settled in bed with my laptop, thinking about actually going to sleep soon.  But my husband had to get up and out the door for work in the morning, and I did not, so it was logical for me to take the kid to the ER if he did indeed need to go that night.

My 15-yr-old son walked through the door, shivering because it was freezing outside and he was wearing shorts and a t-shirt, in too much pain to change after playing basketball at our church’s open gym night.  He also was holding a paper towel full of ice on his wrist, and it was dripping coldly all over him.

As soon as I saw the pain in his face, and how gingerly he shuffled down the hall, my annoyance at being disturbed vanished. “Can we get a coat on you?”  He winced.  Nope.  I threw a sweatshirt over his shoulders and grabbed a blanket and my purse.

In the next 18 hours (after three hours in the emergency room, an inconclusive set of x-rays, a visit to the orthopedist, a temporary cast on his possibly-broken wrist, and a padded and wrapped possibly-broken elbow on the OPPOSITE arm) I began to do something I had not done in quite a while.  I took care of my son.

I held doors open for him.  I buckled his seat belt.  I held the ice pack on his wrist when his hand went numb.  I put pills in his mouth and held a cup to his lips so he could drink water.  I untied his shoes and pulled them off.  I prepared him food and drink when we got home, and tucked a blanket around him on the recliner before I passed out on the couch.

In the days that followed, I continued to serve him.  There was so much he couldn’t do.  Put his sweatshirt on and off.  Put his socks on.  Wash his hair.  Open a pill bottle.  Pour himself a drink.

This first-born child of mine is independent with a capital I and has been since he was very young.  Yes, he’s still needed me.  To talk to him.  To teach him.  To guide his decisions.  To drive him where he wants to go.  To grant permission for the things he wants to do.  To embarrass him by dancing in the kitchen.  But he hasn’t NEEDED me.

There’s something different about serving him now than there was before.  Babies and toddlers need parents to provide for their every need.  To do everything for them.  The willingness to do those things springs from our love and adoration of them.  But then they learn how to do things for themselves, in leaps and bounds, needing us a little less every day.  We rejoice with pride at their new accomplishments.  But there’s also a pang, with each step toward independence, at the unprecedented separation.  It’s as it should be…..and yet….

I have served this boy-man of mine through this time of healing, and it has been my pleasure.  I’m reading my own words here, and I know it seems like I’m romanticizing something small and mundane.  Of course my child, who is closer to being grown than being born, doesn’t need me to care for his physical needs anymore.  Of course, when the need arose I took up that care again, willingly.  So why all the emotional blather?

This past weekend I attended a women’s conference called IF:Gathering.  My church hosted an IF:Local simulcast, and I was there for over 15 hours over two days, worshiping God, enjoying time with some amazing friends, and being fed spiritually.  What I gleaned from the women who shared from God’s Word and their hearts is worthy of a dozen blog posts.

From my notes:  Embrace your place….when God is ready to use you, He will find you!  and Service is preparation for battle, not performance.

In our small group discussion time, we addressed a question about how to focus on the eternal a midst the practical.  A wise woman in my group (a.k.a. my mom) reminded us that during the years when our lives are consumed with the 24/7 acts of service associated with raising children, we are also ministering to their souls.  We are attending to their eternal souls with our practical, mundane, sometimes thankless service to their physical needs.

Whether they are just hours old and completely vulnerable, or approaching adulthood and quite capable….

Whether the ones you are serving are your children, parents, and siblings….or your neighbors, friends, and strangers….

Serving practical needs IS eternal, because those you are ministering to have eternal souls. 

Mothers, your mothering makes you great.  Your service to your children is service to your King, and it’s preparing you for whatever He has for you in the future.  Never, ever, believe the lie that what you do is only valuable in the moment.

Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

The “M” Word

It’s ironic how a prim and proper word like “modesty” has turned into such a dirty word.  It’s seen as judgmental and legalistic.  And it’s probably a bit cliche for a Christian blogger to write about it, especially in the spring.  I’ve read other bloggers’ takes on this (surprisingly) controversial topic.  Their posts are sometimes greeted with a resounding, “here, here!”, but just as often with mocking and scoffing at the ridiculous notion that public near-nudity is a problem for anyone.

I want to start with a few disclaimers to un-muddy the waters.

1.  A blogger I follow, and heartily enjoy, by the name of Matt Walsh (www.themattwalshblog.com), recently wrote about how modesty is about more than just clothing.  Modesty is about not bragging.  Not showing off.  I agree, wholeheartedly.  However, in the smallness of my immediate world, it’s physical, bodily immodesty that seems to crop up most often.  So it is that that I’m writing about today.  Physical modesty is not the most important measure of character or Christian faith.

2.  I’m not going to evaluate any specific articles of clothing in this post.  There’s value in those discussions, and they certainly have their place among friends, fellow moms, mothers and daughters, and yes, sometimes even a blog readership.  But we will never all agree on how many inches of cleavage or thigh is acceptable, or how long a shirt must be to sufficiently cover a legging-clad booty.  There will be those that argue that culture dictates modesty (which it does, to some degree), and as long as you are more modest than the rest of your peers, you’re good.  Those conversations are worth having, but they are worthless and actually do become all about legalism if we don’t also discuss where modesty comes from:  The heart.  True modesty can not be dictated; it must be heart-felt.

3.  If you know me in real life, or have read my blog, you know that I have recently become overweight.  It’s a mystery to me, but it is my reality.  I have seen other bloggers torn to shreds about their position on modesty because, apparently, being overweight means one thing only…..you are jealous.  My position on modesty does not in any way stem from jealousy of thin women.  Believe it.  Or don’t.  Whatever.

4.  While both men and women struggle with lust, men are more visually stimulated than women.  In general.  It is not an all-encompassing rule, as there are many exceptions.  However, this generalization is a scientific fact.  Google it.  Likewise, it is not only women that are guilty of immodest dress.  Men do this, too, but it’s not as prevalent.  Generally speaking.  Please assume that when I’m referring to women (how they dress), it also applies to men; and when referring to men (how they respond), it also applies to women. 

5.  Yes, men already know that you have breasts, and a rear-end, and legs, whether you are dressed sexily or not.  Yes, they can be distracted by the sight of a “hot” woman, even if she is dressed modestly.  Let’s not ignorantly claim that it doesn’t make a difference how you dress because men are pigs who will stare and gawk anyway.   Let’s use common sense, ladies.  Does a well-built man look the same in a pair of jeans and a t-shirt as he does in just his underwear?  Either way, you can tell what his best features are.  But….not. the. same.

6.  Men are not pigs who have no control.  But they are hard-wired to respond to visual stimuli.  Again, Google it if you don’t believe me.  Yes, they are responsible for their own thoughts and actions and should work to control them through the grace of God.  Discussing modesty is not about blame.

So with all that as a framework, here’s what I want to say:  Modesty is, first and foremost, about love.  You know, that 2nd greatest commandment, right from the mouth of Christ?

Matthew 22:35-40    One of them [a pharisee], an expert in the Law, tested Him with this question:  “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”  Jesus replied:  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

The Pharisees hated Jesus, and were trying to trip Him up, asking Him to choose just one of the ten commandments (“the Law”) as the most important.  Jesus’ answer summed up not only “the Law” in one word, but also His entire mission.  Love covers it all.  If we love, we do not murder.  If we love, we do not cheat on our spouse.  And it’s the love of our Savior that enables us to love others.  So how does this apply to the topic of modesty?

Love one another.  Love your spouse (current or future) by keeping the precious gift of your body just for them.  Love the men and boys in your life by not giving them one more picture of overt sexuality to be tempted by.  Love the women in your life by helping to protect their men from unwanted sexual images.  Love the young girls in your life by modeling self-respect and true beauty.  Love God by keeping His gift of sexuality in its proper, and more glorious, framework.

One blog post I read on the topic of  modesty was followed by pages and pages of arguments, and hundreds of (mostly) angry comments.  An astounding quantity of them were from self-described “Christians,” vehemently defending their right to wear whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted, claiming no personal responsibility for any repercussions, and if men were tempted to lust by their appearance, too bad.  Is this love?