Remembering

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I would apologize for my long absence from writing on this blog, but in all honestly I’m not really sorry. I have been putting all my energy into getting hot dinners on the table, keeping school uniforms clean, corralling the crayons, surviving a thousand winter illnesses (isn’t that always what happens the first year of living anywhere?), and working on a bigger writing project. But here I am, back again, with some thoughts from Psalm 136.

Psalm 136 is a song of gratitude to God for His mercy. The Psalm opens with “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His mercy endures forever.”   The last line (for His mercy endures forever) ends every verse in the Psalm.  The writing walks through the history of creation, through the deliverance from Egypt, through the victories against the Amorites, and through God’s direction in leading the Israelites to their new home.  This was written as a song that the people of God could sing in worship and it acted as a reminder for all the the Lord had done for His people in protecting and guiding them.

One of the common enemies of Christians is fear, anxiety, and worry.  This isn’t a new struggle.  When God’s people first came to the promise land, the spies (with the exception of Caleb and Joshua) were too afraid to pursue the promise because the people dwelling in that land were strong and terrifying.  We still struggle with this.  We are afraid of financial devastation, of illness, of terrorism, of death.  It cripples us.  We are even too afraid of what others think of us.  We worry about the present and the future.  We worry about the past and psychologically our culture is infatuated with defining people by their past trauma.

This is where Psalm 136 comes as a glorious example to us of how to break free from the sin of fear.  We have to remember.  The Psalmist remembers all that God has done and writes a song so others can remember too.  When we look back on our story with eyes of gratitude, scanning our chapters for moments of His mercy, we are reminded of how good He has been.  What if you wrote the story of your life like the Psalm 136?

I was born into a Christian family, with my whole body functioning perfectly, for His mercy endures forever.

I was given nourishing food, education, and siblings to be my friends, for His mercy endures forever.

I was given a spouse to sharpen me and love me and care for me, for His mercy endures forever.

My body was sustained through pregnancies and c-sections, for His mercy endures forever.

I could go on and on.  He has shown mercy to me in a thousand ways.  When we remember all these mercies, the big ones and the little ones, it gives us the faith to have courage in the future.  Remembering His mercy is the arrow that pierces fear.  Remembering is our shield to face the future with the assurance of His protection.  Remembering His mercy is the lens to look at the past without regret or bitterness.  Cling to the good things He has already done and you will find faith that He will be good on every day in the future.

Steps to Contentment, part 2

6. We own everything.  Sometimes the biggest thing that is keeping us discontent is because we are not happy with what we have been given in material possessions.  Espeically in the United States it is so easy to think that we deserve everything and we are really good experts on covetousness.  Christians often react to materialism in a gnostic way, saying that we should not want things in this world because they are only material.  But I don’t think that is why we are told not to covet.  God isn’t saying “Do not covet, because I’m going to take everything away from all of you”  He is saying “Do not covet because I own all of it, I made it, and you are my child.  Everything I have made is your inheritance.”  We have a great inheritance to look forward to in the Lord.  Everything that we have in this world is like a down payment on the blessings we have to look forward to in heaven.  God withholds from us because he is teaching us, as his children, but it is not because He intends to always withhold or because He doesn’t want us to be surrounded by beauty.

7. Jesus suffered too.  It is such a comfort to know that a God who is sinless and perfect chose to take on humanity and experience all of our struggles.  Any struggle that we go through, He has walked through the valley.  We can find joy and contentment even in our struggles because we know that He suffered in order to be our deliverer.  He didn’t suffer so that He would just be able experience empathy, He suffered so that He could rescue us, so that our sufferings can be nailed to the cross and put to death.

8. We have to ask.  James says that the Lord gives wisdom to anyone who asks, and He loves to give it.  When we are struggling with discontent, with being unhappy with how God is writing our story, our first course of action should be to ask for wisdom which will bring contentment.  We shouldn’t be happy with just being able to function through a trial, we should seek and expect complete peace and contentment.  We have been given the Holy Spirit, and we should expect him to work in us.  When those who do not have the Spirit suffer, they can find ways to cope.  But we should not settle for coping.  We should ask the Lord again and again for contentment in our trials.  Everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks will find.

9. We live for God. When we are living for ourselves and thinking about everything we want in life, it is impossible to find contentment.  Even if we had everything we ever wanted, we can’t find contentment in living for ourselves.  But when we know that we have been baptized into Christ, that He has claimed us for His own, then everything we do in life we do for Christ.  It is much easier to find joy and peace with our story when we know that we are living out His perfect will for us.  He is more important to us than anything else we pursue.  We know that if something doesn’t work out, it is because He is orchestrating something else for our good.  Our jobs, our families, our chores, everything we do in service to Him and He is pleased with our work.

10. We are in covenant with God.  The story of Scripture is a story about love and promises: God’s love to His people and His promises to them.  That is a beautiful thing about the covenant that He makes with His people.  He gives promise after promise after promise and He is always faithful to those promises. Every struggle that we face has a promise attached to it.  There is no aspect of our lives that God has not redeemed and that He has not given us a reason to hope in.  There is no relationship so broken that He cannot heal, there is no sickness that he cannot cure, there is no poverty that He cannot provide for.  Even in our darkest and hardest days He has a promise for us from Isaiah 43, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”

11. Dwelling on heaven.  This so easy to say and so hard to do.  It is easy to say that we should just think about the day that we will be in heaven and all of our pain and struggles will melt away, but it is hard to remember it when we are facing every day.  When we are struggling with disciplining a difficult child or when we miss someone we love, it is hard to just look past those days.  The time seems endless until we are made new, and we still have so much to figure out here.  That is why weekly worship and daily Bible reading are so important.  It is hard to keep our focus on where we are going and it is hard to remember how beautiful the promises are.  We have to constantly be reminding ourselves and switching our thoughts to dwell on the sweetness of Christ.  When we do this it does help to put our worries and fears in this life into perspective, and to find contment and peace in our every day tasks.

12. Crying to God. We can not find contentment in ourselves.  We have to be constantly looking to Christ, seeking after God for help.  But, here is the sweet part, He loves to hear our cries.  When we pour out our hearts and tell him everything that is on our minds and hearts, He is pleased to listen.  When we are really struggling to find joy and our words fail us, we have many beautiful Psalms that we can pray.  He wants His people to cry out to Him, to ask for help and give our concerns over to Him.  And even these desperate prays have a promise, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4)

Steps to Contentment, part 1

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Learning to be content and completely satisfied in Christ is certainly a life-long process and a lesson that we are always learning, and always being tested on.  As I am learning and wrestling against discontent, I am always looking for practical and tangible ways to set my course towards joy and peace.  In his book The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, the puritan Jeremiah Burroughs gives many recommendations for how to achieve a content heart.  While he has many wise things to say and many of his ideas have influenced my list, I would like to offer my own version of steps that we can take to stay on course and to be continually growing in contentment.

  1. Accepting that we will never be 100% satisfied in this world.  C.S Lewis wrote, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”  The truth is that we will never find anything in the created world that will make us completely happy.  There is something so freeing about believing that – we can stop striving, stop trying so hard, stop being disappointed when things are not exactly how we want them.  We won’t find the fulfillment of joy until we are with the Lord, and understanding that we are not supposed to find it here can help us to have patience and to be satisfied with continually longing for more.  We are supposed to have a longing, a hope for something better, eyes that look beyond this life.  Eternity is written on our hearts.  We have work to do here, but we will not find complete satisfaction in a world that is under a curse, and we can find contentment more easily when we stop expecting satisfaction from this world.
  2. Understanding our desires.  Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart”.  One of the biggest reasons why we struggle with contentment is because we want something that we do not have.  Our desires are not equal with our circumstances.  We want a house, but we have an apartment.  We want children, but we have not been able to conceive.  We want to be healthy, but we struggle with sickness.  There are many, many circumstances that quickly steal our joy because we do not have what we want.  It is easy enough to say that we should just stop wanting the things that we do not have, but I do not believe that the Lord wants a people who are void of desires.  When we want something that He has not provided, as long as that thing is not sinful, our job is to wait and believe that He will be faithful to His promises.  Our job is to find joy and delight in God, to worship Him and offer thanksgiving to Him, and to continue to pray for that which we want.  We can find so much peace and contentment just in knowing that when we turn to Him He will hear our prayers, and that the desires of our hearts are not in vain.  He hears us and He loves to fulfill the desires of His people. Like with Abraham, He wants to see us willingly open our hands and be ready give up our greatest loves, but He will always ultimately fill us with more than we can hope or desire.
  3. Remembering our sin.  It seems counterintuitive to focus on our depravity when we are seeking after joy.  So, I am careful not to say that we should look to our sin and keep our eyes there.  That would destroy us.  But when we really understand how grievous our sin is to the Lord, when we really see ourselves as a created being who has greatly sinned against our Creator, then we start to see what He has done for us.  When we see our sin for what it really is, we understand the hugeness of His love in covering it.  We were like scarlet, but now we have been made as white as snow.  The contrast is stark.  When we know how much we have been forgiven and how much we are loved, we can not help but to trust that everything else God does for us is out of great love.  This safety that comes from knowing how loved we are by God and the peace that comes through this trust will bring deep contentment.  Remember all the horrible things you have done, remember how He has forgiven you completely for each one, remember how much He must love you to look past that sin, and know that He will always love you and that you can trust Him.  This is peace that brings contentment.
  4. Accepting the thorn.  In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul writes “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” There are many difficulties in life that have no end on this earth.  There are struggles and pain that we know will always be with us.  This is hard and it can make it particularly hard to find peace and contentment with our life when we have these burdens.  But the good news is that it is possible to find contentment even in the midst of these hardships.  Paul says that he had a thorn which the Lord refused to take from him.  His response is not to despair, because he understands that God will take all crooked things, all
    the painful things, and He will turn them into power and strength.  This is hard for us to understand, but when we really believe that Christ is reversing all the evil in creation then we can find contentment knowing that He will redeem the evil in our life too.  He will take a great weakness and a great pain and turn in into something powerful.  We have to be content with knowing that He is doing more than we can see.
  5. Working. When things are not exactly how we would have them, it is easy to spend our energy and thoughts complaining about the situation.  We have to learn to change our thoughts and find our duties. Work is a great kindness from the Lord, and just doing what needs to be done can change our attitude.  Are you tired of small apartment living? Decorate it, make it lovely.  Are you tired of being single? Help a busy mother with her children.  Are you tired of having to work overtime? Be creative in thinking of ways that your company can improve.  Are you carrying a burden of emotional pain? Find others with the same pain and help them in ways that you have found helpful.  In every situation there is something that needs to be done.  Sometimes this means just cooking a feast and setting a beautiful table because the whole family has been under a lot of stress.  Just look for ways to work within your current situation, and spend your energy and thoughts thinking of ways to improve what you have right now instead of thinking of ways that something else would be better.  This kind of work will not only make a tough situation easier for you, it will make a tough situation easier for everyone else around you.

 

Defining Contentment

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Jeremiah Burroughs defines contentment as “that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition”

Contentment is one Christian virtue that Americans have an incredibly hard time understanding and applying.  We have such comfortable lives that we often never have to figure out how to be happy when things aren’t going our way.  And when things do go against our will, we are so prone to blame and point fingers and find someone to be responsible for our discomfort.  When tragedy hits we talk to each other about how strong we are and we think if we just put on a cheerful face then we will have things under control.   But this is not contentment.  Being truly at peace about all circumstances doesn’t come from our own strength.  I would offer this other additional definition  – contentment is believing that a good and kind Father is intricately working out the details of our lives, which results in a deep peace and quietness and strength in our souls.

Being content isn’t about being in a good mood, or having a cheerful personality.  There are so many people who appear to be happy, but their hearts are bubbling with worry and anxiety.  Sometimes a sanguine personality is nothing more than a thick cover over a soul that is constantly frustrated with their circumstances.  When someone is really at peace, through and through, their joy will come out genuinely and consistently, not just in outbursts of happiness.

A content person is someone who is happy with their whole story, with every little detail of what God is doing with them and with their life.  But it does not mean that they ignore the pain.  It does not mean that they don’t cry to the Lord like David, it doesn’t mean that they don’t seek answers like Job, it doesn’t mean that they don’t ask the Lord to deliver them every day.  We can beg God constantly for deliverance while still believing that He is love and while still believing that His timing is better than ours.  That is where we can find the joy within the trail.  When we are at the brink of disaster and the only thread we have holding us is our prayers, we will see Christ in a way that we cannot see Him without the trial.  When all our efforts have failed and we are just waiting for the Lord to fix our situation, we will feel the strength of the Spirit in a way that we never could have before.  That sweet fellowship with God is something to be thankful for in and of itself.

When someone is really content, when they have accepted that all the workings of their lives are being orchestrated by a God who knows them and loves them, all of their worry and complaints and fear melt away.  When I believe that the God who created me, who gave me all my talents and skills also gave me all my responsibilities, I can be content to let go of pursuing my talents.  When I believe that God wants me to spend the evening doing dishes, then I can cheerfully and without complaint set aside the reading and writing and drawing that I wanted to accomplish.  He made me and He knows how my time should be spent.  He is not wasting my life.

Contentment has a long view of the story.  It sees the trial as a valley with a light at the end, as just one chapter of the story.  A content person is not defining their story by their struggles, they are defining their story by their deliverances.  A content person isn’t talking about how terrible it was when the Egyptians followed them out of Egypt, they are talking about the chariots that are at the bottom of the sea.  They are not talking about how hungry they were in the wilderness, they are talking about how good the manna tasted and how sweet the quail was after so long without meat.  They know that no matter what horrible trials they will walk through in their stories, the end is always being welcomed to glory, where there are pleasures forevermore.  The content person knows that when at the end of a good story they will see the purpose for all the dark chapters.

Contentment isn’t lost by changing circumstances, it is constant and steady.  In a way, it is self-sufficient, unaffected by surroundings.  It is so easy to think that if we are just strong people we will be able to stand through anything.  That is what our culture tells us. But the truth is the only thing that is never-changing, that is truly self-sufficient is God.  If we are to find this un-changing contentment we have to be completely resting on Him as our rock, because He is the only rock.  The strength of contentment comes in the peace of standing on Christ and believing He loves us.  And when we are strong we can make the most of all our trials, we can learn the lessons we are supposed to be learning, we can help others who are going through the same trials, we can see all the beautiful gifts that God has given even in the darkest places.  But if we are constantly fighting God’s will and constantly distrusting that He loves us, we will constantly be frustrated with whatever is happening in our lives – with our health or our friends or our family or our bank account or our jobs or our possessions or our church or our school or our responsibilities.  Contentment brings the strength not to complain because we are not desperate, we trust that His timing is better than our wants.  That kind of peace brings a strength that can be a light in all sorts of dark places our trials may bring us, that kind of peace can give us the strength to turn our trials into sweet offerings that bring glory to the Lord.

 

 

 

Beginning Contentment

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It is harsh advice for a suffering soul to be told to be content, to be happy, to be delighting in the rough circumstances.  Is Christian contentment something we should automatically have as a result of being in Christ?  Is it something we do?  Is it an action or is it an emotion?

Psalm 19:23 “The fear of the Lord leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble”

Contentment is fearing the Lord.  It is the absence of other fears.

Philippians 4:11-13 “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength”

Contentment is the strength of Jesus living in us that we might have the power to be rejoicing in every circumstance.

Hebrews 13:5 “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.””

Contentment is being satisfied with Christ and the absence of obsession over money.

1 Timothy 6:6 “ But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.”

Contentment is understanding what we are, that we are from dust and returning to dust, that we have nothing apart from our Savior.

For the person who is in deep distress, making contentment a commandment misses what contentment is.  We just can’t look at terrifying circumstances like chronic pain or loss of life or financial devastation and say “Be content!”.  David and Paul both give us sweet promises to cling to that will help us find contentment: He gives us strength, He will never leave us or forsake us.

Contentment is the result of allowing our deep trust in a good God to seep into all our patterns of thought.  Contentment comes when we know fully that we are loved, that we have nothing to fear, that we have the strength of Jesus filling us daily, that the Lord provides for all our physical needs, both in life and in death.  It comes when we see Christ as the fulfillment of all things.

To experience the peace and joy that is real contentment we have to have a biblical understanding of trials, we have to have the perspective that Paul had on various afflictions and sufferings.  We have to become un-American and stop seeing trial as an interruption in our fulfillment of a good life.  We have to stop questioning God’s love for us just because we have a bumpy road to walk.  When we see ourselves as characters in a beautiful story that God is writing, we can see more clearly what He is doing.  Everything evil that we face is ultimately anti-God: death, sickness, slander, pain, etc.  He hates all those things. They are part of a bigger story in which they are being defeated.  The hardships are ultimately nailed to the cross and taken from us through Jesus.  All our losses are ultimately restored.  The trials are valleys that lead to higher mountains, evils that prepare us for greater goodness, pain that makes us ready for the weight of glory we are promised.  When we are truly able to see these things as part of God’s story, as a good part of God’s story that He is working for us and through us, we are able to have open hearts to be content.  Only then are we ready to believe that He will never leave us or forsake us.  Only then can we stop being afraid.  Only then are we able to be content with all the things He is doing in our lives, both the painful things and the lovely things.

 

Gratitude for the Undone

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Some call it mom guilt.  I don’t know what to call it, maybe just the list of today’s failures.  Whatever it is, almost without fail, I finish my days slumping into a remembrance of all the things I wished I had done but didn’t get to.  Going to the library usually finds its way to the top of the list every night, sometimes it is just the pile of laundry that I still didn’t fold, sometimes it is the dozens of emails that I never managed to respond to, or the fort that I wanted to build with the kids but never found the time for.  Some of these things can be fixed with organizational tweaking, but most of the days I am running around doing one thing after the other, helping one person after the other, and I never make it through my list.  It’s a terrible way to finish a day- completely exhausted, falling into a bed that was never made and letting my mind cloud over with all the regret, the regret of the undone.  But regret cannot stay alive in a heart that is full of gratitude.  Thankfulness can quickly choke regret, replacing it with contentment, contentment with my hours and contentment with my assignments.  If I have really been lazy and disorganized and unkind, then that is another problem that needs to be confessed.  But so many days I try my hardest and still come up short.  Can I just be thankful for the shortness?  Thankful for my finitude? Can I be especially grateful because it usually means I have spent my time serving others rather than checking off my to-do list?  The Lord has given me a life where self-sacrifice is not optional.  Can I be grateful for all the things I do not have and all the things I am not?

When my whirling head finally meets the quietness of evening, Lord, thank you for my headache today.

When my dishes are high and my laundry is spilling over, Lord, thank you that I didn’t get to these today.  Thank you that You required self-sacrifice of me today instead of self-serving.

When I didn’t have time to read to the kids, when I did not make a blanket fort, when I did not get on the floor and do puzzles like I was hoping to, Lord, thank you for my hours, give me grace to do better tomorrow.

When my bathrooms are still not clean, Lord, thank you.

When I have skipped my workout too many days in a row and my skinny jeans still don’t fit, Lord, thank you for this body you have put my soul in so that I can have life.

When I have set a meal on the table that the whole family pushes around with their forks, Lord, thank you for these little failures that chip away at my pride.

When we are going on a week or more of too little sleep and I have drunk my weight in coffee, Lord, thank you for coffee.

When I see the stack of books by my bed that I still have not cracked, Lord, thank you for books and thank you for teaching me without them during this season.

When I’m pacing the halls during service every Sunday, and I hear about 1/8th of the sermon, Lord, thank you for this baby that keeps me from worship, and thank you that you offer me grace even in the hallways.

When my house still isn’t looking very cute and we have lived here a full year, and my Pinterest boards that were meant to inspire just leave me wishing I had the time for a project, Lord, thank you for this house and for all the happens here, for all the games and the meals and the learning and the snuggling.

When I miss another get-together with friends so that I can spend the evening tucking my kids into bed and cleaning up their daily messes, Lord, thank you for my kids and for my friendship with them.

When I have over-spent and under-planned and missed too many phone calls and stretched my time too thin and pushed my body too hard, Lord, thank you for my weakness.  Thank you that I can’t be perfect.  Your power is made perfect in my dog paddle life.

Gratitude from a Miscarriage

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I remember so well the fear that swept over me, the nauseating knot in my chest, as I realized that death had cast his shadow on our family and taken my unborn child.  I wasn’t prepared for the sickening sense of loss I would feel, or for the loneliness that accompanies a miscarriage.  Nobody else knew that child.  Nobody feels the loss like the mother.  I wanted life! I wanted days, time, memories with this person!  The world tries to convince us that life begins at birth, and they numb their pain by calling a child a fetus.  I am not a believer.  I call it a life.  I call it a person, an eternal soul, created by the Lord.  You don’t feel loss for random cell tissue.  Random cell tissue is not created in the image of the Godhead, but a person is.  The pro-choice movement is all about changing the terminology so that mothers don’t believe they are carrying a life.  But if I believe this is a life, then I feel the loss for what it really is: a death. And if I believe this is a death, then I have so many questions…

Why, Lord, would you take a life so early?  Can the dead praise you?  Can the dead proclaim your love? Do you show your wonders to them in the grave?

Your answer came to me from Your Word,  “Where were you there when I laid the earth’s foundation?  Have you given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place?  Who provides food for the raven when its young cry out? Do you know when the mountain goat gives birth?”

Oh, to be like Job and clap my hand over my mouth when You speak.  Would I understand Your ways if I would be silent?  Instead I am like the disciples, trying to place the children where I think they should be, trying to enforce an order that I think is right

You answered me again, “Let the little children come unto me, and do not forbid them, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

Oh, to be like Abraham and open my hands willingly when You ask for my greatest treasure.  He knew Your wonders, he understood Your power, that You could raise the dead if that was necessary to keep faithful to Your promises.  His faith did not forget Your kindness when asked to give up his own son.

What do You do with these souls, Lord, these souls who never experienced the sinful world?

I do not know the plans of God, but I know that He is good and kind and faithful.  And when I do not know or understand, I assume His goodness, I believe His kindness to be greater than I can imagine.

Do these unborn souls have a special place in Your heavens, Lord?  Do You have a unique plan for them in Your kingdom?  Is there a reason why You want them so young?  Can I have the faith to be content with not knowing, believing that if I did know my mortal mind could not comprehend how wonderful Your plan is?

When I feel pain and death, when I feel the squeeze in my heart of loss, am I looking too closely at the story? Should I look further into the future and believe that You will take this and create something perfect out of it?  You are the one who made the mountains with your breath, who used blood to save the world, who used a gruesome crucifixion to conquer our greatest foe.  Can You not also take a dead baby and create something more beautiful than my imagination can come up with?

I find comforts in thinking of my baby with great-grandmothers, with cousins, without pain, in heaven.  Would these seem like small comforts if I understood the real joy they have in Your presence?  Is my imagination so limited that I cannot fully know how great Your kindness is to them?

I want to have on this earth.  I want to have time and memories and experiences and loved ones.  You are teaching me to open my hands, to be content, to store my treasures in a different place.  Maybe this life is not about having, but about learning to live with open hands.  Maybe the purpose of life is to die, and the purpose of dying is to see, and when I finally see, maybe I will understand why it was so important for me to live with open hands.  I believe Your glory will make all my sacrifices seem ridiculously small.  Will You not give back ten thousand times what You have asked of me?  Will You not fill my open hands until they overflow?  Is the weight of Your kindness too much for me to hold now?

My first child entered heaven six years ago this week.  Can I be so bold to consider myself blessed? “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted”  “Blessed are those who mourn”  I believe these things.  As time has numbed the initially sting of loss, I am thankful.  Thankful to be considered by You to give up a child who has never seen day, who entered Your courts after their heart beat only a few months, who is seeing now Your kingdom come in heaven while I still wait to see to your kingdom come on earth.

Moving Advice

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The first time I moved out of state was when I was around the age of 6 weeks.  Needless to say, it was probably the least traumatic of all my moves.  Since then I have lived in 5 different states, 2 different countries, and I have lived in 13 different homes.   You would think I would have some mad packing skills by now, but no.  The truth is that I’m too cheap to buy the right sized boxes and we find ourselves in  ridiculous situations with my comforter duct taped around the TV.  True story.

A year and a half ago we had a big move from Idaho to Kentucky.  I have done many big moves, but not as a mother.  As it turns out, the temptation to worry and stress during a big move is greatly multiplied when you are the one responsible for everything.  Who knew?!

I moved to Louisville without ever visiting, and knowing exactly two people in the whole city.  I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  I should probably spend some time here giving you organizational tips and pricing trucks and whatnot, but let’s be honest, we already know that I’m terrible at that and who cares anyway.  I didn’t know how to move across the country practically, and on a practical level, I still have no clue. Just buy a lot of tape a couple weeks before the move.

The summer that we left Moscow was insanely crazy.  I had a stress headache for 3 months.   I remember standing on the gravel driveway that led to my parents guest house, where we were camping out for a month while we figured out our life and let Jon recover from some debilitating health issues.  I looked over at my three year old Darcy playing in the trees, searching for lady bugs.   I didn’t know where we would be moving or when, but I told the Lord right then that I would enjoy it, and I promised to make the most of wherever He led us.  I knew exactly how to do a move the wrong way.  I knew how to be stressed out and tired and worried and compare the new city with the old city and the new friends with the old friends and the new house with the old house.  I knew how to complain.  I knew how to look backwards at all the things I had left behind, instead of looking forward in the story.  And I knew that my discontent would stream down from me, quickly and undistilled, to my daughters.  So I told the Lord, whatever this new chapter held, I would be thankful for it and I would enjoy it.

That’s really my only moving tip. Moving to a new city is just a changing chapter in your story.  Don’t look back and wish you were still in chapter 3 when God has moved you on to chapter 4 and maybe even 5.

To be honest, I have hardly had to try to keep that promise to the Lord.  It’s sort of like telling someone you will eat whatever they serve you and then they give you Creme Brûlée. We have been surrounded by so many gifts here.  We have already been led through many changes in our family since we arrived, but each one has been wonderful!  The truth is, there is no place in this world that will be my forever home. Christ is king of all of it, and in Him, it all belongs to us.

So here is my hot tip:  start duct taping things together, pray they don’t break on the truck, and then determine to enjoy the new chapter.  And just wait to see what kind of goodness will come overflowing.

Preachin’ to myself today…

“Be content with such things as you have, for the Lord has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.'” Hebrews 13:5

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Be content.  It’s a common slogan of advice given out by Christians, often applied to the size of our house or the year of our car or the color of our hair.  Be content with your paycheck.  Be content with your marital status.  Be content with your weight.  Why?

Be content.

Why? Because Christians shouldn’t store up treasure on this earth?

Be content.

Why? Because God is sovereign?

Be content.

Why? Because I can not loose my salvation?

Charles Spurgeon, in his sermon “Jacob’s Waking Exclamation” from July 21, 1861 said (quoting the 23rd Psalm) “‘Yea though I walk through the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me’  Is the twenty-third Psalm the song of your faith? Have you consciously thought of God standing with you? Then it would not be so difficult to perceive the presence of God.  You will view it as so real that when you open your eyes in the morning you will look to Him in praise.  When you close them at night, it will be like resting under the shadow of His wings. How I wish we could get back to the spirit of the old Puritans who believed in a present God always…Oh to feel God everywhere in the little as well as in the great, in our rising up and in our sitting down, in our going forth and in our coming in.”

God will never leave you nor forsake you, that is why we are to be content.

Be content…because the Lord will never leave you, not today, in this moment, right here, with your unpaid bills and your headache and your graying hair.

God is standing with you when you open your weather app first thing in the morning.  He chose the clouds.  Be content.

God is standing with you when you are late and the traffic is heavy.  He gave you the traffic.  Be content.

God is standing with you when your hands are full of a crying baby and your toddler dumps her smoothie on the carpet and your phone is ringing and your other child is yelling for help from the bathroom.  He loves those children.  And He loves you. Be content. He is there.

God is standing with you when your churning head collapses on your pillow and all your regrets cloud your heart.  He wrote your story today and yesterday.  Be content.  He was there.

Our contentment is not only in cosmic faith, it is not only because ultimately, in the long run, everything will be ok. Our joy is that God is present with us now.  Our contentment is the peace that He is standing with us in our darkest valleys and on our brightest hilltops.

Be content, your Lord who loves you is standing by your side every moment of every day.  He pours blessings like rain on all your hours.  He can see your troubles.  He is watching.  He is planning your way of escape.  Be content.  Pass this test.  Move to the next one.  Victory to victory.