What I Hate About Motherhood

There is a part of motherhood that I love and a part that I still struggle to accept. And sometimes those parts make a Venn diagram in my head. (Yes, I just used a term from a math book, call the news hotline) I try to make sense of these blended areas of existence, mainly  to stay sane and positive.

I love my children as human beings, naturally. They are cute (usually) and funny (mostly) and they add color and happiness to my life, like herbs I didn’t know were missing from soup. I also love the part of motherhood that has made me run to God and hold on tightly to everything I know about His goodness and love from the first instant of motherhood that blinked on a screen as a line to my now normal everyday life full of amazement that I actually have children, frustrations, decisions, questions and answers, and my own fears for their future.

I hate the collective mommyness of motherhood. I dread the automatic categorization of “moms” who are obviously only interested in things like diapers and the color of spit up and preschool crafts and transforming our housework into kingdom work by swallowing a spoonful of sugar and singing bippity boppity boo. There is a homogony to mothers that is both comforting and repulsive.

Humans love commonality and community and yet we value our personal uniqueness. In being a part of the masses, I am learning to admire God’s skill in making a pattern of image bearers so like one another, all in need of a Savior, and completely different from even their closest human friends.

The other frustrating part of motherhood for me, (or of domesticness in general,) is repetitive nature of trying to maintain dominion over a constantly falling apart domain. Now, I do not mean to say that things like dishes and cleaning and laundry are not meaningful. Of course they have a purpose and without them our world would hygienically struggle a bit. Here is an example of what I mean. I cleaned for six hours one day last week. I scrubbed floors and organized toys and dusted in between making meals and snacks and changing diapers and answering questions and playing evil queens and pirates, and taking a toddler off my Swiffer mop and dismantling her from the top of the piano and so on. It was slow progress and hard to see results. But during naptime, I felt satisfied, despite my lack of a shower that day.

Then naptime ended. Within two hours, there was a scene of destruction in my house that would rival a natural disaster. And everything I had done was undone. The floor was still clean, but it wasn’t noticeable. Wait, floor, what floor? The floor was a carpet of books. The carefully removed dust was floating back again. And new meals had to be made, messing up the shining granite countertops. Crumbs went jumping onto the freshly scrubbed floor. Bedtime meant that I could relive my day all over again, doing the same activities, still without a shower, because clearly I had enjoyed the day so much.

I repeat my work over and over and over.  A little at a time, slowly working toward an elusive goal that is never really met. I fix and disintegration appears. I create and natural causes (humans) destroy or consume. And I find it frustrating not to see progress and results.

But, there are a few ways to look at this.

Isn’t God’s work repetitive? I know it only took Him seven days to create the world, but His work did not end there. Is He not constantly making a fallen world, continually falling apart, stay together? By Him and through Him, we consist. And are we who believe not being saved, daily? Redemption happened once, but is constantly upheld by continual mercy. Forgiveness does not end, but repeats over and over, for all time.

Everyone is labeled in categories and everyone encounters repetition. You need not be a mother to feel the tension. A pastor, a laborer, a teacher, a business executive understands the same ideas.

My work is done. My work is demolished. My world is neatly tied up in brown paper packages. My world is unraveled with a snip of string. And at the same time, I am undone and I am made whole. I am one of many image bearers and I am a unique image bearer. I participate in the groan of creation and yet I will be made new and see the reward of redemption.

Repetition can seem endlessly futile. Or it can be the foundation on which all meaning and originality is built. We find our individuality in God, our Creator, our Heart’s true desire, rather than in our repetitive work. We reflect the constant nature of God through our repetition. In this dance of perfect and imperfect, of blessed yet needy, we pave paths toward the shining light of creativity, reflecting God, unchanging and eternal in the dawn of each fresh day.

Cosmic Sledgehammer or Eternal Redeemer

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I used to think of God as a kind of harsh teacher who would send one lesson after another, periodically spaced, into my life. In this picture, I envisioned that I would head through a hard event and if I could learn the corresponding lesson quickly, the event would end, I would get everything right and then God could be happy and love me. I would then be free to scamper along merrily, until it was time to learn a new lesson. Then He could hammer in another scenario and I would repeat the scene of learning and pleasing Him. These events would repeat one after the other, Him smashing down the hammer of learning, and me responding appropriately and with complete surrender to make sure He was satisfied.

We do not want hard lives. We do not want to suffer. We do not want to be afraid. There are various levels of suffering in our world. There are places in the world that know of more intense suffering than I can handle mentally. Then there are troubles with money, sad relationships, divorce, infertility, monetary struggles, loss, and general fear. I don’t really feel like I have suffered in great measure. Life has been easy, and almost too pleasant. My cynical side says, “you have it too good, something has to correct itself.” After life goes along smoothly for a time, I begin to wonder what might happen next… But, then, everyone’s life is different and what is hard for one person does not come to another’s door. When the potential for hardship looms, it leads me into a place where I am forced to remember that God is loving. That even in the hardest circumstances, God is my help, my salvation. He is the resurrection and life.

I often live afraid of suffering. I’m more afraid of being afraid of suffering than I am afraid when actually going through something hard and trusting God in the process. But ironically, in some respects, it is easier to be in a place where I have no choice but to trust because the circumstances are so far beyond my control that I have no illusion of having options. I like to think I can control my life and minimize risk. That too is faulty logic. I admire people who say that they want to be closer to God and they know they will suffer in the process. I would never pray to bring suffering on myself. I am too weak. And yet, I know there will be hardness and pain in life, regardless whether I pray for it or pray to avoid it.

The hard part of living in this broken world is to understand why, if God is good, there is suffering. Really, the suffering is not because God is good or bad, but because there is systemic evil haunting us since the Garden of Eden. The fall and the resulting need of redemption is the root of suffering’s stem. The truth behind all of the brokenness is that God is there, always present, helping His beloved children along THROUGH the suffering that the fall has cursed them with, not sending hammers down on their heads to make them stronger or more valuable to Him. His children are of value, otherwise, why the need for a redemption plan? He is the one who said, “don’t”, in the beginning. But we did. So, now He holds us close as we suffer under the effects of that original disobedience.

I once thought God was the sledgehammer. I thought He dangled it over the heads of His children, just waiting for the perfect opportunity to judge us for our missteps, to teach us valuable lessons, to make us more incredibly and mindlessly obedient.

And then I became a parent. And I am by far not a perfect parent, as He is. But in no imaginable scenario would I ever tauntingly discipline my children “just because”. (I have read some sadistic discipline advice that does advocate creating teachable moments for children, to test their obedience, but that is wholly unbiblical or extra biblical, whichever word you like.)  No, rather, when the child falls down because they were told not to walk on the ice, or the second child gets hurt because the first child created a harmful situation, or, fill in the blank…., that is when we remind them of how they could have avoided the situation, remind them that obedience matters, remind them that we all are in desperate need of Christ’s help, and comfort them and help them with every shred of breath we have. Of course there is natural frustration at times, because we are not perfect. No normal and healthy parent wants to see their own child suffer. But we know they will, at times. And so we prepare them and help them and comfort them and encourage them as much as we can through these hard times. And that is how God cares for us, but with infinitesimal perfection.  The effect of the fall wasn’t God’s revenge on His creation. Instead, He took the evil of Fall and created good from it – the incredible path back to His arms through Christ on the cross.

There is no possible way in which a cosmic sledgehammer would create the plan to redeem His children when they had enraged his wrath by disobeying His command. A loving Father, however, would look at His children’s disobedience and find a way to rescue them from the tangles in which they were trapped. A cosmic sledgehammer would stand by and watch suffering of His creation with snark and cynicism. A loving Father sacrificed His son to rescue the poor souls who distrusted and still distrust Him. When children fail to trust, we reach out again and again, assuring them of our care and love. Most religions have a God or god like figure who exacts some sort of penalizing retribution upon disobedience. But our God is one who looks in pity with grace and says, forgive them, they do not know what they do. He looks at suffering children and says, come and rest, give me your burdens, cast your cares on me, I am the resurrection and the life. The perfect Father, the perfect Savior, is the one to whom we trust our lives and our souls, as little children who need to be held.

Rudolph, Isaiah, and the Best Years of Our Lives

We stumbled and bounced into the post office, three of us at one time, bundled into hard to move winter coats, with a large pile of crisp white Christmas card envelopes in tow. When we enter small spaces, it can sometimes feel like quite the dramatic entrance. I never know who might trip, if someone will stop and stand still because something “scary” looms ahead inside the doorway, or if the smallest child will suddenly decide she doesn’t want to be held and simultaneously doesn’t want to stand on her own two feet. I negotiate how doors will be opened with a child in my arms, with a four year old who either believes she can handle the world on her own and needs to open even the heaviest doors alone or gets distracted by her imaginary friends, and with the kind attempts – or lack thereof – from strangers to politely help up with said doors. Sometimes the opening of doors and falling into rooms can be one of the trickiest parts of going places with children.

So, into the little post office we bounced. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer stamp posters were decorating the wall, to the delight of my daughter. “Rudolph!” she squealed. An older man attaching stamps to envelopes turned around and gave the girls a big smile. The two girls entertained themselves as I bought some (Rudolph) stamps. The man was the friendly sort, chatty but not overbearing, obviously happy at the sight of two little girls. I started placing stamps on envelopes, with a break in the action for both girls to send envelopes down the letter shoot before they darted under the counter where the man and I were working. He was still talking to them and then he looked up at me with a smile and said to me words I often suspect and don’t dare to voice. “These are the best days of your life, you know.” He said it cheerfully, with no regret, but only enthusiasm.   He told me he had three children, eleven grandchildren, and six great grandchildren. He told me raising his children was the most fun he had in his life. Everyone says time goes fast, but this statement was specific, pointed.

My birthday was this week. For some reason, there are certain years that stump us. The years that are in between the milestones make me pause more than the milestones. These sorts of years remind me that while things like birthdays and Christmastime return annually, but the years never recur again. There has been a bit of pause for me in the last few months. Watching my baby turn into a little girl in four short years and my second baby valiantly fight to keep up with her older sister is an everyday reminder of the overexposed speed that life travels. Suddenly, another birthday is here, one baby face is growing older, and another baby is running and talking. Someday I will be able to type with two hands because there will not be two girls wriggling on and over and around my lap as I write. Perhaps I am odd, but I can get caught up in what my childhood expectations of my life were and in anxiety about what the future may bring. Instead, I am better off realizing that NOW is the life that I am living. The past has left and the future will be in God’s hands. I cannot live with regret about the past, frustration about the present, or anxiety about the future. I can learn from past mistakes, live fully now, and realize God will care for the future.

I’m trying to finish up some books I started awhile ago. In The Luggage of Life, Frank Boreham touches on Isaiah,

It is the intermediate stage that tests the mettle of the man. It is the long, fatiguing trudge out of sight of both starting-point and destination that puts the heaviest strain on heart and brain. That is precisely what Isaiah meant in the best known and most quoted of all his prophecies. He promises that, on the return from Babylon to Jerusalem, ‘they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint/ Israel is to be released at last from her long captivity. Imagine the departure from Babylon—its fond anticipations, its rapturous ecstasies, its delirious transports! Those first steps of the journey were not trying; they were more like flying. The delighted people walked with winged feet. And the last steps—with Jerusalem actually in sight, the pilgrims actually climbing the mountains that surrounded the holy and beautiful city—what rush of noble and tender emotions would expel and banish all thought of weariness! But Isaiah is thinking of the long, long tramp between —the drag across the desert, and the march all void of music. It is with this terrible test in mind that he utters his heartening promise: ‘They shall walk and not faint.’ They would fly, as on wings of eagles, out of Babylon at the beginning; they would run, forgetful of fatigue, into Jerusalem at the end; but they should walk and not faint. That is life’s crowning comfort. The very climax of divine grace is the grace that nerves us for the least romantic stage of the journey. Farewells and welcomes, departures and arrivals, have adjusting compensations peculiar to themselves; but it is the glory of the gospel that it has something to say to the lonely traveller on the dusty tract. Religion draws nearer when romance deserts. Grace holds on when the gilt wears off.

 (pp.72)

I always skimmed over the walking part of that verse. It seemed like that action had to be included to make the analogies complete, but was otherwise superfluous. But a good part of our life includes the walking, perhaps sometimes impatiently, perhaps sometimes wearily. The days spent doing whatever it is we do without seeing grandiose or world altering results are walking days. The phases when accomplishment seems elusive, but work is in process are walking days. We repeat many days over and over without feeling like they are different. We remember time in clusters of days, sometimes with outstanding moments glimmering like stars.

Whether they are the best days of our lives or the worst, they are our lives. I do not know if I am in the best stage of my life. I suspect I may be. There is certainly plenty of happiness and gratefulness surrounding me. I know that years can be hard and life can hold suffering. But the constant is that the God who holds us up when we run, soar, or walk is the God who never changes. He is the God who sent His Son to give us the only comfort and joy in life and death. We look at Advent with anticipation, at Christmas with joy, and through that lens we can see our whole lives. I am not sure that God carries the perspective that there are best days of our lives. We feel that on a human level. But He cares for us completely, at all times. He grants us the years to live, rescues our souls, bears us up as we move through this life. The only way we can run, soar, or walk is by His grace and providence. His is the love that never changes. He is the one that remains the same. And that, through the best years and soaring years, the low years and the walking days, is the great promise in which we find hope.IMG_0248.JPG

M&Ms and the Call of God

I laughed to myself recently when a woman asked me a question that could be classified as “parenting advice.” I was standing in a crowd, chatting with a random stranger from New York City who had a five-month-old baby girl strapped to her, discussing pacifiers, thumb sucking, and sleep patterns. I, who am the Queen of Makeshift Parenting, was doling out parenting tips. Like you should be telling anyone anything, I laughed to myself. I, who forget to change diapers and drag my children to Starbucks with iPads and cake pops while writing academic papers, will most likely not be writing Parenting magazine’s next advice column.

It was an ironically humorous moment that I had with myself. But, on the other hand, I am constantly amazed that being a mother to my children is the one thing that I have never questioned myself on my ability to do. And, by no means do I credit myself with this instinctual epiphany. Only God could give instincts and intuition that I found myself possessed with upon suddenly meeting my oldest daughter. Despite second guessing most of the steps I’ve taken in my life, I have never felt more myself than being these two little people’s mom. I may forget to buy enough ingredients to assemble a fruit and vegetable pirate ship for lunch, but I can read their minds. I may change diapers in the most inordinate places, but I can anticipate their emotions, their imaginings, and their small joys.

Obviously, I make mistakes, like giving my 16-month-old a bite of an M&M, transforming her into an M&M fiend who shrieks and hyperventilates when she sees an M&M bag. I know I will make many mistakes. I know there will be errors in judgment, things I would not do over again, words that I wish I could swallow down into my throat. I know there will be days when I am completely confounded by their actions, words, and attitudes. But when I scan through parenting articles and the scads of comments arguments that follow them, I find it odd how much of what we consider “parenting” does not really matter.

Even though there will be mistakes, my confidence is high and my stress is low, because I know ultimately, it is God who must place His hand on their life. I will do my best to steward this responsibility that He has, for reasons only He knows, believed best to drop into my life. I will model moral living in front of them. I will teach them good habits of life and what having strong character means. I will teach them to work hard. I will teach them to be virtuous, to be kind. I will teach them everything I can and model for them, as much as God gives me grace to do so.

I believe these are things that responsible parents do. However, whether I am a good or bad parent to let them suck their thumbs or eat M&Ms, or whether I live well or stumble and fall in front of them matters not. While I will be the best parent I can be because I want to be responsible, what really matters is that they learn that God loves them, that He is a trustworthy and good Father. What matters is that they learn to trust His word, to know what His will is (from His word). I will teach them to read so that they will be able to read and understand the Bible. I will show them the beauty and truth woven into the world- so they will see Christ around them, even within the darkest examples of need. I will teach them that the Cross is the only thing to which they can cling in a fallen world. I will encourage them to have large souls and love learning, so they understand that God, the author and sustainer of all, is not limited by time or space or geography and that His love and grace are boundless. But ultimately, no matter how hard I work to teach these things, it is only the call of God that will capture their hearts and turn their eyes to see His glory. As St. Augustine, speaking of his mother, writes, “Not of her gifts do I speak but of Your gifts in her.” I will fail miserably as a parent by many standards. I am without ability to mold or change my children. Rather, it is the gift of God when He calls them to Himself.

Someday, it will not matter if my children had a thumb or a pacifier. It will not matter if they had a blanket or co-slept with me, ate adequate servings of organic vegetables, or any other preferences that I might force on them. They may wear braces, they may not learn Mandarin, and they may have to look up a word in order to spell it correctly. While some of these issues are important to quality of earthly life, what I hope most is that they hear and understand the voice of God. Our goodness, baseline moral code, amazing standards of cleanliness, organizational and social skills, and access to a world-class education are not our strengths. Like Samuel in the Old Testament, I pray that they hear the voice of God calling them, that His hand is on their lives, and that His grace is their strength.

 

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Nine

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Nine years ago I stood in a church, with uncontrollable tears, pouring from my eyes. Tears of nerves and terror and joy and excitement. I cried through my entire wedding ceremony in a way I have never cried before or after. I am not a person who likes commitment or being inextricably tied to something. I need exits and escape routes and the ability to breath.  And so, agreeing to marry someone, getting down to the end of the aisle to meet my match, literally and figuratively- the one strong personality who didn’t bore me or infuriate me-was so exhausting and exhilarating that I shook and cried through the entire ceremony.

Saying “I love you” to someone when I knew so little about life seemed incredibly superficial. How did I know I would love him the rest of my life?  How did I know this was going to work? How did I know I could keep this covenant vow that was coming out of my mouth?

And nine years later I sometimes wonder how I could say that then. But not because it hasn’t worked, but because I know now what I suspected then. That our love was untried and untested. That I would someday understand what it meant to love, after great challenges had come in life and pounded against the fortress of love, trying to topple and destroy it. When you say “I do” you often don’t know what you are agreeing to.  Which is better that you do not, because you make a covenant, a committed promise to want the best for someone else, without knowing really how vulnerable you are going to make yourself with that promise.

But “many waters cannot quench love” and covenants are made to be kept, not dissolved like faulty business deals or superficial friendships.  Tim Keller in The Meaning of Marriage says, “When over the years someone has seen you at your worst, and knows you with all your strengths and flaws, yet commits him- or herself to you wholly, it is a consummate experience. To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”

And this, in a paragraph, is what makes me grateful for the opportunity to love and be loved. I am humbled to be given the chance to understand God’s love through this channel. And this understanding only comes when challenges and hard times in life come hurling toward us. It is easy to be twenty-four and dressed in diamond white silk and a black tuxedo with pink roses and white candles and say “I love you” and want the best for the other person. It is hard to manage work stress, and life disappointments, and deaths of loved ones, and critical pregnancies, and sickness, and everyday aggravations and boring things like bills and car repairs and schedule juggling and bad moods and hurts and wrongs we feel from each other and to say, “I love you no matter how hard today was and I want to continue loving you and wishing for your best and pointing you to God.”

I never regretted being married young.  Because, in reality, love is a covenant, not a whim. A covenant that meant no matter what we encountered, we would look for the best for each other.  At times, we fail on that covenant.  But, to quote Keller once more,

“In any relationship, there will be frightening spells in which your feelings of love dry up. And when that happens you must remember that the essence of marriage is that it is a covenant, a commitment, a promise of future love. So what do you do? You do the acts of love, despite your lack of feeling. You may not feel tender, sympathetic, and eager to please, but in your actions you must BE tender, understanding, forgiving and helpful. And, if you do that, as time goes on you will not only get through the dry spells, but they will become less frequent and deep, and you will become more constant in your feelings. This is what can happen if you decide to love.”

And that, a covenant, a commitment, and a promise of future love, is the love of Christ for us.  And through His love, we know what true love is.  Whether there are roses and silk and candles, or everyday aggravation, or deep pain, His love helps us to vow our love and live out our love.

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Photo credit: Sabrina Scolari, Scolari Photography

Beauty Rest

 

 

He will not let your foot be moved;

he who keeps you will not slumber.

Behold, he who keeps Israel

will neither slumber nor sleep.

 

(Psalm 121:3-4 ESV)

 

I gently put the sleeping silky-skinned baby onto the soft pink sheets inside her white crib. I quietly latched the baby gate at the top of the stairs and descended, sliding from side to side down the steps, trying to avoid the creaks left by time and wear. A few hours passed by as she slept silently. As the summer night wore on, the dark air cooled, the breeze whirred slightly in between the trees and I headed toward my own soft bed. Enveloped in a white down comforter, the perfect companion to an unusually cool summer evening, I had just slipped into the first stage of sleep. A bleating cry, sad, disoriented, and persistent, blared out of the white monitor on my dresser. I headed back up the stairs, heedless of the creaking floorboards, stumbled through the baby gate and gathered the crying lump up into my arms. For the next hour or so, I attempted various methods of bribing her back into dreamland. For the next hour or so, she fought sleep, and for the next hour or so, I wondered why sleep must be so elusive. I grumpily thought I was the only person in the universe awake when I really wanted to be snuggled under my white down, sleeping, turning an unconscious wall to the world.

 

Sleep is a business in our world. There are sleeping medications, noise machines, customized mattresses and pillows, sleep studies, sleep labs, sleep research, sleep recommendations and guidelines according to age.

 

We lose sleep for a variety of reasons, some self-inflicted, some understandable battles with insomnia or anxiety, losing sleep because a baby or child is awake. Some reasons seem controllable, many are not. Our minds and bodies are crowded ballrooms of twirling thoughts and actions. Rest is the ever elusive suitor who dodges behind plants and doors and evades our embrace far too often.

 

As I held the crying, squirming baby in the dark night, the words of Psalm 121 came to my mind. “…he who keeps you will not slumber.” A parent is often the lucky recipient of the sleep deprivation prize. Some of us never sleep well after we have children. The baby may sleep through the night, but we do not rest fully, knowing there are others in our house or care to think about.

The darkness of that night was a shadowy reminder that God never sleeps. Our children do not realize that they are interrupting our coveted sleep because we appear at their bedside for them, when they cry. To them, they are not interrupting. To them, we are always there for them.

In similar fashion to our children, we do not interrupt our God. He is there for us when we cry. At any hour, in any time zone, anywhere, and everywhere, our God is awake, listening to the voices He created. He is coming to our aid, responding to our cries, receiving our joy, hearing our jumbled prayers that pour out from crowded minds and noisy hearts.

He has created us to sleep and at the same time has given us children to care for through sleepy nights. As we wake in the night, our lack of sleep underlines our great needs. We recognize that God our Father is by our side, without slumber or sleep. He is our rest, without needing rest. Only a perfect parent could be this complete. Only an eternal Father could be a perfect parent. We stumble and struggle and hope to not fall down stairs while holding a baby. We sit in the dark, bleary eyed, hearing the tick tock of a second hand propelling us closer to the start of a new day. We dread the dawn when sleep has eluded us. But God is not caught off guard by our neediness. He watches over each of us and our tired rivers of thoughts, as we do our children, without a thought for His own rest.

 

“…He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” The nations fight. God does not slumber or sleep. He hears the cries. He ordains the kingdoms of Earth, He raises up leaders and sets down leaders. Without pausing for a rest, He sees His royal priesthood of believers, the Christians displaced from their homes, those who are persecuted, those who live in peace, those who worry over the future, those who worship in safety and in danger, those holding their own babies in the dark of the night, those awake praying for their children in the small hours of the morning.   He does not slumber or sleep as He holds us in His care.

“Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light,” God is our rest for us. The rest that needs no rest. Because of the Cross, because of our adoption into God’s family, we can have strength through unrest because He is our rest. We can sleep because He is our rest. The Cross takes away our fear, it removes our loneliness in the night. Through the darkest hours, we have a Father- who does not sleep.

In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8;

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Summer Stillness

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I took an inadvertent break here through July. Some people announce their breaks, others give a schedule of who will blog for them or that they have prepared posts ahead of time. I did neither. I planned to post, but didn’t. Summer time has its own unique rhythm, for writing and reading. It does not mean that writing and reading do not occur. In fact often, these activities occur more.  But, our mind and souls move differently as the seasons pulse. July was full of movement, people, laughter, sunshine, and very little physical stillness leaving behind wonderful memories of sand covered, salt scented children. I love being busy. I like mental activity as well, but during some seasons, it is hard to correspond physical movement with quality mental activity. Driving on car trips to visit gorgeous places and amazing people provide plenty of time to think, but little time to write out thoughts or process them well. I made the decision early on in July, that rather than pound out words for the sake of hitting the “publish” button, I would process internally, to absorb the life around me, to enjoy the gifts God has given me. I like to plan, but I have learned that plans can only be gripped with a loose thread rather than an iron chain. Instead, sometimes life just comes and writing as a reflection of life sometimes requires less planning and more merely existing.

When wars ravage the Earth, and God’s people are sent fleeing from homes and livelihoods and all earthly possessions, it is hard to sit on a beautiful beach and not feel overwhelmed. Overwhelmed because I do not deserve to sit on a beach while others suffer. Overwhelmed because I realize that the same God I praise for the calm, breezy beauty around me is the same God who has promised good to those fleeing their homes. Overwhelmed because I begin to imagine myself in their shoes and become terrified. Overwhelmed because our Father has told us not to be anxious and that can only happen through His grace. Overwhelmed because our minds cannot comprehend the suffering that some endure, pulling them closer to the cross, to Christ’s image, while others seem to live without care. Overwhelmed because over all, the Creator of the Earth has made each life, cares for each of His children, and will hold each of them without failing.

There are instances each day where my little children do not understand why we are doing what we do. They do not see the larger picture of why we leave the beach at a certain time or why ice cream at 8am is not the fabulous idea it seems to them. They do not know why bedtime tonight is part of the plan for tomorrow. They do not connect why certain choices we ordain for them now, like educational options, cultural exposure, social activities, or event the books we read are carefully planned, thinking of their individual needs, their future mental abilities, or the view of God we hope to give them. In the same way as small children, we cannot see all that God is doing in our world and lives. We live, trusting that our Father loves us, more than we even love our own children. This is the love that compels us to rest, to breath in and out, to know there is a future joy for us.

The peaceful beach, the calm summer evening, the laughing family time, the afternoon with friends, the joy of living are all foreshadowed slivers of God’s good nature. The happiness we know compared to the pain that now exists, is a tiny piece of the joy we will know. The beauty around us gives us the promise that God is not broken, that He will heal us, cure our pain, and right all wrongs one day.

Times of quiet are sometimes not quiet at all. They are often the busiest flurry of activity, thought, and noise. There is a point to being quiet, not adding to the noise. In times of noise, in times of silence, the words of Psalm 146 echo off the caverns of our hearts.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, through the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, thought its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah. Come, behold the works of the LORD, how he has brought desolations on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire. “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted in the earth!” The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah.


Psalm 146

 

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