Monday, August 27, 2012

From "In the beginning" all the way through "Amen."

Every night we read from a Children's Bible. There are so many that are favorites of mine the kids:

The Jesus Storybook Bible

My First Read and Learn Bible

The Big Picture Bible

First Bible Stories

And Lauren's favorite as of late, that we read every. single. night.

The Toddlers Bible (Thank you Aimee! It's so cheesy and she loves it so much)

What I've discovered in reading from children's Bibles the last couple years, is that it's like reading the stories for the very first time. I hear them in new ways. I see them with new eyes. I ask new questions and wonder new thoughts.

I watch in awe when Samuel becomes obsessed with Lazarus in his burial clothes and the 'why' questions are endless. I am profoundly amazed when Lauren wants to read repeatedly about the burning bush and she knows it's Moses that God is talking to. 
 

Yet I wonder how much my kids understand from the pages of these stories. And I wonder if they think these stories are the same as Curious George and Clifford and Little Red Riding Hood or Jack and the Beanstalk.

Are these just tall tales about big boats and kings and miracles?

Do they think that Abraham and Joseph and Peter and Jesus are all just characters in a very long book?

Do they understand that Noah and Moses and Enoch and Hannah and Jonathan and Aaron and Miriam and Timothy are not just our friends and cousins, but they are people who walked on this earth and whose stories are told in the B-I-B-L-E?


So here's what I've decided:

1. I will faithfully, daily, read S
cripture to them. I might read a verse or two from my Bible. I may read from a children's Bible or devotional book. Sometimes I read from a toddler Bible with just 20 words summarizing a story. But if we are to live according to Scripture, and know the truth of God's Word, then they need to hear Scripture from a young age. However....

2. I can't take responsibility for their comprehension of the material. Their understanding of Scripture is up the Lord working in their hearts and not because of anything I do.

3. I will pray for Scripture to permeate their hearts and lives. Here's specifically what I pray out loud, at night, when I put them to bed:

  • That they would understand and believe the Word of God is living and active.
  • That they would hide God's Word in their heart.
  • That the Gospel would cause transformation in their hearts and lives - because no one and nothing can bring about transformation like the Word of God. 
  • That they would know that they know that they know that the grass withers and the flowers fade, but the Word of God stands forever. And ever. And ever. 
  • That they would long for nothing more than to know God through His Word. 
  • That God's Word would be a lamp unto their feet and a light unto their path. 
  • That God would give them teachable hearts to learn through the pages of Scripture.
  • I thank God for the stories given to us that we can learn from and be encouraged by. I thank God for the lives shared with us through the pages of Scripture because they have so much to teach us. 
  • I pray most of all that this broken, lazy, spiritually complacent mama would be covered by the grace of Jesus so that her children fall madly in love with Him even when she fails them daily.
4. I will do my best to create an atmosphere where my children can question and doubt and wonder about the things of God. Together we can search for answers and together we can find promises to claim and truth to believe. So when Samuel asks me 'What does God look like?" and 'When are we going to Heaven?", I can engage in real conversations with him. And tell him that no, Jesus does not look like dad, even though dad just told you he is handsome and looks just like Jesus did.

5. I will be honest with my kids about my struggles with Scripture. That I don't understand it all. I take verses out of context. I don't read it every day. Sometimes I don't crack my Bible open for weeks and instead waste time reading ridiculous fiction novels and watching Netflix marathons. And I don't know the order of all the books and I've never read through the Bible and there are plenty of things that confuse me. 

6. I will spend my whole life telling them no other words have ever been written or will ever be written that compare to the story that starts with, "In the beginning" and ends with "Amen." I will do my best to impress on my children that Scripture is not a list of rules to follow or things that they need to do to be good. Rather it's a true story about what's already been done and the only thing they need to do is believe it with their whole heart and give thanks to God.

7. While I am fully supportive of imaginative play and reenacting the Christmas story with baby Jesus, there is a limit to what I will tolerate. Only one person can use spit to heal a blind man...and it's not you Samuel, so don't ever spit in your sister's face and cover her eyes with mud again. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

This might be the most important thing I’ve ever written


If you recall, June was a hard month.

I don’t need to rehash it because I know many of you had (have) hard months too:
Your spouse isn’t sure if he/she wants to stay married. The past is painful. The present hard. The future unknown. The counseling is helping some…but every day is a fight to remain positive and stay the course to the commitment made years ago.

You’re loved one is battling an illness. The illness is winning and they’ve chosen to stop treatment. They’re letting go…it’s freeing. It’s devastating. It’s difficult to envision life without them. You grieve a little more each day.

Your career continues to be an uphill climb. Just when you think you’re getting a grasp on your finances, and not living paycheck to paycheck, you’re outta work for a week and you get behind on bills again. You work more and get paid less and all for….what?


We all have our hard things and that’s why what I’m about to tell you is so important.

What I’m about to explain offers peace and freedom and joy to replace the hurt and frustration and confusion that comes with hard times and tough situations.

On June 2nd I started the Daniel Fast. This is a 21-day fast according to a few Biblical passages in Daniel about abstaining from meat, dairy, sugar and processed foods for a period of 21 days in order to seek the Lord in a deeper, more focused way.

June 2 is the day Ryan’s journey with his new career came to an unexpected halt.
Through my tears and frustration I spoke with my brother, and he told me he didn’t think it was a coincidence that the same day I started fasting, we received this news. He texted me on day 2 of my fast that he was fasting for Ryan and I and to continue to stay the course.

I dislike fasting. I mean really, who doesn’t? It’s abstaining from food. And I really really really love food. I bake and cook and look up recipes and swap recipes and find ways to make recipes healthier for my family. And sometimes I throw healthy out the window and I make really good homemade brownies that we eat by the spoonful (mostly me but I share a bite or two with the other humans living in my home).
Fasting forces me to reject everything in me that my flesh cries out for: eating food when my stomach says it is time to eat.

In the midst of our heartache in June when I wanted to comfort myself with sweets or whatever homemade goodness I could create out of my kitchen, I chose to eat food within the Daniel Fast guidelines. And on day 4 of my fast we got more news that the other employment option Ryan had been pursuing, one that seemed so promising, was no longer available.

It seemed the longer I fasted the more bad news we received. But fasting requires such a Spirit-centered mind and such God-dependence, that looking back now, I believe I was exactly where I needed to be during such a time.
As I wrote previously, it was emotionally draining walking through those weeks. When people asked how we were doing and tried to encourage us, it led to awkward, hard and frustrating conversations.

It wasn’t just that Ryan still didn’t have a job. It’s that what he had poured his heart and soul into for two months, what had cost us more than $1,000, had unexpectedly ended. We started looking at our future differently because he was going to be self-employed and we talked to family members who are also self-employed. We interviewed daycares and preschools and chose to enroll the kids in a Montessori school.

And two months later this future we were working toward abruptly ended. And two years of unemployment snuck up and slapped us in the face again.

So when we told people there were few words to truly explain the depth of pain associated with what happened. Yet the expectation that they would respond appropriately was there.

And, of course, no one met my expectations. Because how could they….unless they had walked our exact road and felt my exact feelings and knew exactly what I was experiencing.

The second week of my fast, during my lunch hour, I left the office and walked outside. I sat on a bench at the park across the street and lamented to the Lord.

“No one understands.”

“I understand.”
“It hurts when I’m relying on someone to comfort me or encourage me and all they really do is let me down because they say the wrong thing.”

“I understand.”

“I know I shouldn’t have expectations, but I do.”

“I understand. You need to release everyone else from your expectations Stacy. They can’t understand. They are not walking your journey. Only you are. Even those who care deeply about you cannot truly understand.”

“I know. But that's so hard to do.”

“Think about your friend D. You love her so much. You have cared well for her these past 8 months as she has been walking a new road and journeying through a diagnosis she never expected. But even you can’t completely understand. Not really. Because you’re not in her situation and you have never journeyed through what she’s facing.”

“I try to understand.”

“I know you do. And so does she. Just like others in your life. They try to understand, but they don’t always. You’ve got to release them from that expectation. Expecting them to understand only leads to blame and hurt and frustration and impatience and discouragement. It’s not their job and it's not your job to understand everyone’s situations. It’s your job to love in spite of not understanding. It’s my job to understand.”

"Letting go of expectations God...that's not an easy thing to do. I don't know how to do that. Yet, it's caused me such pain through my miscarriages, infertility and now unemployment when I have expected others to understand what only you can."

As the sun warmed my face on that sunny June day, God's words spoken to my heart warmed me through and through.

God understands. When the dishwasher and the stove and the hairdryer and steam mop and the docking station and the cars break, God understands. When the 401k is emptied, God understands. When you walk into the WIC office, hating that you need to be there to receive government support, God understands. When depression and discouragement beckon every single day, God understands. When household roles are reversed and arguments are often, God understands. When job advice is frequent and work opportunities are few, God understands. When tempers are hot and job leads are cold, God understands.  

“To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his.”-Job 12:13

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.”-Isaiah 40:28

“But God made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding.”-Jeremiah 10:12
Know this friends: when hard times knock and pain comes and life doesn’t turn out as you expected, the God of the Heavens understands. When friends and parents and spouses and siblings and co-workers and pastors want to understand, it's only God who truly does. Release others from the expectation that they should understand.

In your singleness, in your longing, in your grief, in your weariness, in your confusion, in your trusting, in your waiting: release.

Release.

Release.

And grab tightly to the freedom that comes with recognizing what only God can do. Releasing expectations replaces hurt and misunderstandings with joy and peace.


God longs to comfort you with His truth, embrace you with His love, show you His grace and overwhelm you with His understanding. 
 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Another family experiences the gift of adoption

Back in May I posted about a family who was on the local news and was using social media to get the word out about their desire to adopt. 

After the news story, Ryan reached out to this family and I connected with the mother. She has kept me updated on their adoption journey. They were chosen by birth parents a couple months ago and as of 4:30 p.m. CST today, the newest member of their family is here to stay.

I am so thrilled for them. It brought me back to four years ago...the emotions, the excitement, the fear, the need to trust, the joy of seeing God's planand years of prayerscome to fruition.

In God's beautiful timing He grew the Thompson family and they are celebrating tonight. My heart is full for them. Thank you Jesus. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A runner, a writer, or a Christian?

Last week I read this New York Times article about Ryan Hall – the runner who is representing America in an Olympic marathon on August 12.

It’s a very long, very interesting, very inspiring read.

After reading the article I even considered taking up running...for a brief moment. 

The pinnacle of the article was the following statement:

“I was a runner who happened to be a Christian,” Hall said. “I needed to become a Christian who happened to be a runner.”
I was so intrigued by this statement – this conviction by Hall – that I immediately replaced the word runner with writer.

“I was a writer who happened to be a Christian. I needed to become a Christian who happened to be a writer.”

As I pondered the statement I thought about myself…my life…my faith. Am I writer who happens to be a Christian? Or am I a Christian who happens to be a writer?
So much of my life is about my writing: my work, this blog, assisting others when they have a need for writing.

I come alive when I write. Similar to what a different runner once said: I feel God’s pleasure when I write.

And while I believe God has given me the gift to write for His glory, first and foremost He created me to be in relationship with Him. That’s what I mean by Christian: I’m talking Jesus-loving, Christ-following. I don’t care if you’re Baptist, Lutheran, Catholic or non-denominational. I don’t care if you go to mass or church or Sunday school or other. I don’t care if you meet in a cathedral, school, 100-year old building or you’re part of a home church. When I say Christian I mean your relationship with Jesus. How you talk to Him, if you talk to Him, and how that impacts your life. I mean the gift of grace that is yours when you enter in relationship with Him. Not what your parents taught you. Not what your friends believe. But what you believe about the Gospel – the story of God’s grace – and His boundless love for you.  

So, what about you? What word would you replace with runner?

“I was a ______________ who happened to be a Christian. I needed to become a Christian who happened to be a ______________.”

Stylist, nurse, teacher, designer, accountant, chef, sales person, counselor, assistant, specialist, speaker, musician?

What about the non-professional roles in your life: neighbor, parent, spouse, cousin, sibling, colleague, volunteer, coach, friend?

So how do we do that? How do I become a Christian who happens to be a __________?

All Christ. All the time. Him in me. Jesus must become greater, I must become less.

Then it’s not about us, it’s all about Him.

Then these words that I scribble out here are not the result of falling in love with writing in 8th grade or a four-year journalism degree or endless hours of journal-writing and book-reading.

These words are a result of His Word transforming me.

Ryan Hall I think you’re onto something. Something even greater than recording-breaking runs. 
 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A Writer's Prayer

I came across the following writer's prayer at http://www.29lincolnavenue.com
As a writer, this is the prayer of my heart. But really, couldn't we all whisper the words of this prayer for whatever ways we 
communicate (phone, email, online, in person) throughout our days?  


{THIS} WRITER'S PRAYER

Lord,

First make me a listener. Give me ears to hear what you are speaking. Shut out the noise all around and let it be your voice that rises above every other.

I ask for eyes to see the world brand new every day. Let the miraculous lovely rise up out of the crazy busy and may it be like a snapshot of life frozen before me. May I see IT. May I see You, daily.

Help me, Jesus, to never stop learning what you are teaching. Let me alway sit in the classroom of grace and write every lesson on my heart.

And when I do write, give me the gift of hesitation with consideration. Remind me Lord, to insert a holy pause before I publish, anything – be it a blog post, a letter, a tweet, or status update. Whisper in my ear, “Does this bring Me glory?”

Inspire my heart.

Move my hands.

Be glorified, always in my words.