Friday, March 31, 2017

God is Faithful

Once a month I speak at chapel for the Lansing City Rescue Mission's women's shelter.
Last night was my March night.
And, once again, God delighted me by displaying His faithfulness.

When I was there in January I met a precious woman who had been at the Mission for just a couple of weeks. She was visibly responding to the message I shared, and I could tell God was stirring her heart - so I sought her out after chapel to talk with her. "H" told me her story, we prayed, and I was incredibly touched by both her pain and her hope.
Before the February chapel service began I saw H and she told me with great excitement that she had just gotten a job. After chapel she told me about the process she'd gone through in finding the job. It was a wonderful story of seeking and waiting and trusting, and the joy H exuded was contagious. I was so happy to be able to witness God's move in her life, and have thought of and prayed for her many times over the past several weeks.
So, last night I was eager to see H again and ask how her new job is going. We sat together after the chapel service and she told me, "Oh! It's wonderful!!!" With a tear in her eye she went on to share that her boss is very pleased with H's performance and just the other day gave her a connection to help H get into an apartment. H told her boss she hadn't expected to be so cared for at work - that her boss's kind gesture was beyond what she had even hoped for.
I had closed my message by singing "My Life is in Your Hands" and H told me when I was singing it was as if God said to her, Yes. Your life is in My hands.

I realize that God's work in H's life may mean she isn't at the shelter when I go back in April. But this is one case in which I will not be disappointed if I don't get to see my friend again.
Because God is faithful.
Because H is in His hands.
And because I know we can trust Him.


Thursday, March 30, 2017

I Didn't Tell a Lie

I told her it sounds wonderful.
And it does!

I told her I'm excited for her.
And I am!

But, well, my mom-heart is a little less than enthusiastic.
The thing is, Elizabeth keeps growing up and experiencing new things. She continues finding bigger and greater adventures to take. (Like the internship she's doing this summer in Vail, CO - about which I was responding in the opening statements of this post.) For goodness sake, she's going to turn 21 years old in a couple of weeks!
She's hardly my little girl anymore.
So, as I ponder her future exploits I find myself forgetting about things like, oh - how colicky she was as an infant, the trouble we had figuring out how to nurse, and the sneaky ways she always seemed to get me into "one more thing" before tucking her into bed.
Yeah, I don't think about the struggles so much these days.
Instead, I'm facing the reality that this coming summer is the last one before she graduates from college. So when she moves home for a week or so in May - before going out to Colorado for the summer - it could very well be the last time she "moves home." Rather than remembering the hard times, I'm considering the passage of time - and recognizing that our time is limited.
The fact is I am reaching the time which, as a young mother, I thought would always be "forever" away.
And while I am truly, truly, truly delighted for my daughter, and I think it's exciting that she has these experiences ahead of her, well, I'm also a little sad.
Because part of my mother's-heart still sees her as my little girl.
And the thought of releasing her to the big world out there?
Well, it makes me feel kinda blue.


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

This Makes Me So Mad!

I had an odd experience yesterday in my Precepts class while we were discussing Colossians 2.
I got mad.
And I don't usually have that emotion when I'm doing Bible study.
But yesterday, well, I did.
You see, one of the main reasons Paul wrote his letter to the Colossians was to warn them of false teaching and doctrine. He said in 2:4, "I say this so that no on will delude you with persuasive argument," and again in verse 8, "See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ."
(He says more of it, but we were only studying verses 1-10 this week.) So - obviously - a large part of our discussion and the teaching time focused on false teaching and our need to be grounded in the Word of God so we know Truth, and can discern lies.
Well, the further we got into our lesson, the more I felt myself getting mad. I was angry that false teachers are out there spouting off fine-sounding philosophies and clever arguments, which are trapping people and leading them away from God. The idea of deceivers lurking around looking for unsuspecting prey to devour with their distortion of God's truth enraged me. But as I was beginning to become furious with people (false teachers, etc.), I realized the real enemy is Satan - the deceiver, himself.
He is the father of lies and will do whatever he can to steal us away from the Truth.
And that makes me so mad!
I sat in class with a heart burdened for Truth, with my spirit longing to protect vulnerable hearts from being lured away, wishing I could destroy deception. But I know I am not able to save the world. So, I pray the LORD of Hosts will crush the devil's efforts to mislead the children of God. And I beseech you, brothers and sisters in Christ, to get grounded in the Word of God so you will not fall.

2 Peter 2:1-3 New International Version (NIV)

1 But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2 Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 3 In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.

2 Peter 3:17-18 New International Version (NIV)

17 Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Confessions of a Mother Whose Kids are Nearly Grown

Dear Mothers of Young Children,
I know you're busy.
I know you're stretched in every direction imaginable, and you typically feel like there is not enough of you to go around. Some days you feel like a failure. Some nights you wonder when you'll ever be able to REALLY sleep again. And there are mornings when you dare to wish your angels would stay in bed quietly for just 10 more minutes.
Then you find yourself in the grocery store trying to get the last few items on your list before Junior completely blows his gasket, when Sissy wakes up crying (Because Junior just poked her face.) and your own tears are about to flow (Because, frankly, you're exhausted and you desperately want to go home and collapse, but you know as soon as you get there Junior and Sissy are both going to need something, anything, NOW!) - when some dear, elderly lady smiles at you and says, "Oh, honey, enjoy them while you can. They grow up so fast, you know. You're gonna miss these days!"
And you, you stare in outright disbelief at this life-form in front of you, wondering how she could produce such a vile message without actually uttering a single curse word.
It happens.
I know - because I've been there.
And I remember when I was there, I felt so hopeless.
I loved my children, but I hated the struggle. I wanted to be a good mom, wanted to cherish each moment, so wished I could enjoy it all. But, dang! Life with young children was so hard, and some days seemed as though they would never end.

Can you relate to the way I was feeling?

Oh, dear mother-friend, hang in there!
Because I've got good news. You're going to make it through the endless days and perpetual neediness. There will come a day when your precious little energy-depletors are going to take care of themselves.
And you're going to love it.
You are totally NOT going to miss those days. (My stance on that statement is this: I miss many of the moments. But I don't miss the entire day. *wink*)
Not when I am able to have a morning like this:
Saturday, I didn't have anything to do in the morning so I didn't set my alarm. Matthew had to work at noon, but he's big enough to manage. So I didn't worry about him. Instead, I lay comfortably in bed as I heard him get up, put his uniform in the washer and get his shower. I smiled at his act of responsibility then rolled over and closed my eyes. Some time later, my husband and I, uh, enjoyed each other. And chose to snuggle up and snooze for a while longer. I must have been sleeping when Matthew left for work, because when I finally got out of bed - it was after 12:30.
Oh, yes, I did!
(And it only had a little bit to do with the fact that I was still healing from being sick.)
Yeah. I am totally loving (this aspect of) this phase of parenthood!


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Down for the Count

Annnnd, the sickness which has been plaguing all my guys has finally caught me, too.
Not sure when I'll be back to blogging...

But I am sure God is good.
All the time!


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Finding Encouragement Here

Nations are in uproar,
kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice,
the earth melts.

~Psalm 46:6
This verse has been riding in my pocket, and stirring in my heart for the past six days.
I have worked on committing it to memory.
I've studied the key words in their original language.
I have meditated and ruminated and appreciated and concentrated and anticipated and investigated but never once become irritated, rather found myself fascinated - by the way God speaks through His Word.

And in my sanctified imagination, I see a picture like this:
Nations are in uproar. That is, my soul hears threats and howling coming from afar. The menacing noise gets louder and closer. The intimidation grows in ferocity - until my heart can take no more.
Then, kingdoms fall. That is, my spirit crumbles under the weight of peril which has been lurking, stalking, seeking to destroy me.
But, he lifts his voice. And a thunderous blare as mighty as a hurricane - yet contained in perfect restraint - whispers, Peace. Be still.
And, just like that, the earth melts. That is, the terror which threatened to undo me is rendered helpless. The danger dissolves and is swept away - at the command of the One who guards my heart.
And I am safe in His keeping.

I pray this picture will encourage your heart, as well.


Monday, March 20, 2017

Friday, March 17, 2017

Lovely Moments

I swear, this volunteer role is just like having another teenager.

That is, I called Lovely yesterday morning to see if I could come over for a visit. But there was no answer.
So I called again in the afternoon.
Still no answer.
And I'm all, What's wrong? Why isn't Lovely answering her phone? She didn't tell me anything about going on vacation. Is she in the hospital? Why didn't somebody call and fill me in on her condition???

I mean, I tried not to think the worst, but I love her. And I couldn't get in touch with her.
She's always answered her phone every other time I've called.
The difference in this instance was troublesome to me.
But what could I do?
It felt strangely similar to the times my texts to a certain child have gone unanswered. And I've imagined that child in some predicament in a fishing boat somewhere. And I have scolded myself for worrying, but what else could I do? It feels like if there is no answer, something must be wrong.

I'm not the only mom afflicted with this jump-to-the-worst-conclusion disorder, am I?

Somehow, I made it through the rest of the day and evening. And I tried calling Lovely once more.
This time, she answered!
And said I could come over Friday afternoon to see her.
So my Lovely Moments are not lost.
Just delayed.

Remembering again, how important it is to cherish each moment.


Thursday, March 16, 2017

There's Just Something Precious...

...about a sick boy.

I have a couple of sickies in my house right now. It started with Matthew (He stayed home from school Monday and Tuesday.) and now it seems to have moved on to Josh.
Except it hasn't left Matthew.
So, I guess it hasn't really "moved on".
Excuse the interruption. Just analyzing my word choice out-loud.
Er, in-writing.
Bahhh, there I go, again!

Anyway, poor Matthew has been practically coughing his lungs out for the past few days. He's spent lots of time in bed, and has been pretty miserable. And, somehow, the whole scenario makes me willing to do nearly anything for him - because he's just so precious when he's pitiful.

Like Monday afternoon, when I was sitting with my heating pad trying to relieve the pain in my back. Matthew plodded out of his room and asked how my back was feeling. "Eh, it's so-so," I responded. With a look of disappointment he said, "Oh, then I guess you don't want to go to Subway to pick up a sandwich for me." (He may be sick, but the kid still eats!)
Truth be told, he was right. I didn't want to go. Sitting with my heating pad felt so nice! But before I could get control of my mouth I heard myself saying, "It's OK. I'll go. You're sick."
And I went.

Then there was Tuesday.
I think I was laying in bed with my heating pad. (It has become my friend!) Must have been somewhere between reading a book and falling asleep, when I thought I heard a voice. But I was too groggy (or lazy?) to investigate. Then I heard it again and my conscience got the better of me, so I rolled out of bed and went to Matthew's room to ask if he had called me. "Yes," he moaned. "Can you get me a drink of water?"
"Sure," I said.
And I did.
Without even a bit of resentment for being dragged out of bed - because he is so darn cute when he's crestfallen.

Which brought me to Wednesday morning.
I was downstairs exercising (Very carefully, avoiding anything which would irritate my back.) when I heard Josh softly call out from his room, "Mom?" At this point, I didn't know what he wanted. Was he going to ask me what we're having for dinner? Did he want me to put something in the wash for him? Didn't he realize I was up early exercising because I had to get to church to do child-care for the moms' group, so I wasn't looking for interruptions to my routine??? But before I could voice my indignation (thankfully!) he asked, "Will you get me an ibuprofen?" and I realized - he wasn't feeling well, either.
Poor kid!
Of course I would get him what he needed. And wearing my leg weights up and down the stairs would do me some good anyway.
So I got the pill and a cup of water, and I didn't even mind walking into his smells-like-a-teenager room to deliver it. Because when my man-child is sullen, he's just so sweet.

OK, I am looking forward to both of them feeling back-to-normal, but I must admit: I kinda enjoy having them docile and thankful for their mom. *wink*

What do your kids do to tug at your heart?


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

My Wishes for The Shack

If you live in America and spend any time on social media, chances are you are well aware of the controversy among Christians surrounding the movie, The Shack. No?
I did my share of reading blog posts and movie reviews both in favor of and opposed to seeing the movie. I read the book several years ago and already knew there were theological problems with it, and after reading a number of arguments for not going to the movie - I decided not to go.

But then my husband invited me to join him and a group of friends for a showing and, well, I accepted the invitation.
Fully expecting to not be impressed.
However, as I sat through the movie I was impressed. Impressed by the beautiful portrayal of the gracious love of God. I honestly was grateful that I was there, that I had changed my mind about going. Because I saw representations of God knowing what we need, and meeting us there. I took in a tender scene depicting that Jesus cares about the pain we carry in our hearts - He cares deeply, and wants to comfort us. I cherished the picture painted of the Holy Spirit making beauty out of the mess that is us. These scenes - and many others like them - welled up within me feelings of thanksgiving and an attitude of praise to God for His amazing love.
And I thought it a shame that so many people would not come to this movie because of the negative reviews and "warnings" that it would lead people astray.
I thought it a shame for people to miss it, because it was so touching.

Yet even as my heart was wooed as I watched, I also had frequent feelings of disappointment. I was saddened by scenes which stopped short of presenting the gospel, and which missed opportunities to declare significant spiritual truth. That is, the movie did an excellent job of depicting the LOVE of God - and that made it touching. But it failed to display the HOLINESS of God. And if it had done that as well, I think the movie would have been powerful, not just touching.
I'm thinking of two scenes in particular, and if anyone were to ever re-do The Shack, these would be my wishes for redeeming them:
1) When the main character was with Papa and asked something like, "So You don't condemn sin?" And Papa replied something like, "Oh, sin is it's own punishment" (and I cringed in my seat) I wish Papa had said, "Oh, yes I do!..." and then had gone on to explain that sin is evil and must be punished. I wish Papa had told about how sin broke the perfect relationship which had existed between God and man, and brought death into our world. Oh, if Papa had made clear that the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
And 2) when the main character was talking with Wisdom and was struggling to be the judge, when he couldn't bear to chose to send one of his children to Hell and cried out, "No! Send me instead!" oh, how I wished Wisdom would have gone into the gospel right there. I was yearning for her to say, "Don't you know? That is exactly what God did for you! He couldn't bear the thought of all mankind being condemned to Hell so He allowed Jesus to die in your place. Jesus took the punishment for sin which you deserved. He died and was buried so you could be forgiven. And God raised Him from the dead so you could have new life. Now everyone who believes in Him and takes Him as their Savior is freed from the grip of Hell and can look forward to eternity in Heaven."
I wish...

So, there it is. My response to the movie, The Shack.
I enjoyed it very much and was delighted by the beautiful picture it painted of the unconditional, unending love of God. But I wish it had also shown the undeniable holiness of God. I wish the gospel had been presented. If those aspects were included I would actively recommend the movie to anyone. As it is, if you choose to go - while I hope you will relish the love of God - please remember it is not an accurate representation of the Truth. Only the Bible can give you the Truth!


Friday, March 10, 2017

Lovely Moments

Whew! I didn't mean to go AWOL on you this week. But between life, intermittent back pain, and lots of naps - I just haven't been writing. Special thanks to those who noticed and checked in on me. *smile*

The good news is, I got to see Lovely yesterday.
I called in the morning to see if it was a good day for a visit and Lovely told me she had company at the moment, but would be free in the afternoon. So we made our plans and said Good-bye.
Well, when I knocked on her door in the afternoon and walked into her apartment I discovered someone else there with her. "Oh! You still have company!" I said. But they welcomed me in to join them.
Turns out it wasn't the same company she'd had when I called. It was a man who lives in her apartment complex who had stopped in after lunch to visit. (A budding romance? I dunno! *wink*)
Anyway, the three of us sat and talked for the next 45 minutes and had such a nice time.
Her guest was just delightful.
Yes, Delightful. That's what I'll call him.
Over the course of our conversation we talked about everything ranging from Tiger baseball and Michigan State basketball to using our hands as a Michigan map to raising kids and following Jesus. I even found out that Delightful attended the same church I've been a part of for the past 23 years. Now he goes to services at the chapel in their apartment complex. And we agreed that this Sunday morning he ought to knock on Lovely's door and take her along with him.
It was true joy to spend time with both Lovely and Delightful, as we shared thoughts and memories and plenty of laughter. Didn't get to the Bible study I had brought to do with Lovely, but that's OK. Next week I'll bring three copies. And if Delightful is there again, perhaps the three of us can go through it together!


Monday, March 06, 2017

Friday, March 03, 2017

Lovely Moments

Late in the morning yesterday, I called Lovely to see if she was up for a visit from me in the afternoon. But I could tell from the moment she said, "Hello," that she wasn't feeling quite right. She told me she had just gotten up, and was a little confused - so I promised to call back later, and said good-bye.
And when I contacted her again two hours later, Lovely said she was still in her night-gown. Laying on the couch. We agreed that a visit would be better on another day, and I hung up the phone - a bit concerned about my new friend.
I mean, having had Grandma live with me and observing her many ups and downs, I fully understand what it's like for an elderly woman to have an off-day. But I've only ever seen Lovely "up". So hearing her "down" tugged at my heart.
And I interpreted that tug as a nudge from the Holy Spirit to pray for her.
So I gathered a list of some of my current prayer requests and went into my room where I spent time with my Father. I entered into time with God by praising Him for who He Is, thanking Him for what He has done, and recognizing that I can trust Him at all times.
For all things.
I prayed for Lovely. I prayed for the members in my church small-group. I prayed for my Precepts sisters. I prayed for my family and several friends. It was an absolute delight to bring these many needs and concerns to the One who knows all things, and who can do something about them.
Then I lay down to take a nap, because I was exhausted.

And when I woke up I realized: even though I didn't get to visit Lovely, I had some very lovely moments!


Thursday, March 02, 2017

I'm a Dork

What did Cinderella say when her photos didn't show up?
Some day my prints will come.

Why do dragons sleep during the day?
So they can fight knights!

What did the paper say to the pencil?
Write on!
Ahhhh, jokes like these make me laugh so hard. I love them! And I enjoy telling them, too. Especially to my boys. But they just roll their eyes at me, snicker, and moan, "Mmooooomm."
I don't understand.
I mean, haven't I raised them to appreciate a clever pun???
Or do they simply think I'm dorky?

It's hard to tell.

See, I like to have fun with them. But it can be difficult to discern whether or not they think I'm funny.
For example:
*The snicker when I tell my jokes. Is it at the joke - because it really is funny?
Or, is it at me - because I'm a dork?
*The fake laughter when I tickle Josh's feet which are hanging over the side of the bed. Is it because my teasing really does "tickle" him?
Or is he laughing at me because I think I'm being funny?
*The yelp Matthew lets out when I sneak up behind him, poke his sides, and call out "Shank!" Is it because I have truly startled him?
Or is he just playing along so I'll think I got 'im?

I don't know.

But in the end, I guess it really doesn't matter to me very much.
Because the other day after I had folded the laundry and was delivering it to each owner's bedroom, I caught a glimmer of satisfaction. That is, Matthew was laying on his bed when I got to his room, so I picked up a pair of his socks and threw them at him.
Landed right under his chin, caused him to startle, and I let out a hearty laugh.
He proceeded to semi-glare at me, then did his classic point-wink-smile gesture - which told me he noticed my effort at humor and recognized that I can be fun(ny).
And even if they do think I'm a dork, I'm OK with it. Because I trust that someday (Perhaps the same day they realize I "knew what I was talking about," after all.) my boys will look back fondly on my teasing and joking and remember the good ol' days.
Maybe they'll even share my corny jokes with their own kids!!??

What do you do to have fun with your kids?


Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Who is "Her"?

God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at the break of day.

~Psalm 46:5
It's March 1st.
Time for me to begin the next verse in Psalm 46.
And as I looked at the verse, my very first question was, Who is "her"? Because the psalm started out in the first person, talking about "our" (v.1) and "we" (v.2) and now it has switched to the third person. So I wanted to get my bearings before I went any further.
Looking back at the previous verse (and because there is a hard break between verses 3 and 4) I felt confident "her" was in reference to either the river, or more likely the city of God. And my consultation with several commentaries confirmed it: everyone with whom I conferred believed the reference was made to the city of God, to His people. The Church. And we are the Church who have trusted in Christ Jesus - who have His Spirit living in us.
Indeed, God is in the midst of us and we shall not fall. Because God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. And He will help us at just the right time.

Sooooo, my friend, what does your landscape look like today?
Are the waters surging?
Is the ground quaking?
Fear not! For if you are a follower of Jesus, you are "her" and God is with you!