Accepting Blessings

 

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There are two particular passages in Scripture that help us to understand the consequences of refusing to receive a blessing with gratitude.  We often talk about blessings as being those things that we wished for.  We say we are blessed when things are going according to our plan.  But God sometimes has a different definition of blessing than we do.  He often sends blessings that are entirely opposite of what we think we want, and yet the impact of goodness that comes with them is even greater than our plan.  Sometimes God sends more babies when we wish we could be done, sometimes God provides a new job in a new city when we don’t want to move, sometimes He leads us to selling our home when we really wish we could keep it.  There are many more ways that He calls us to do something we either don’t want to do or think we are ill equipped for.

In Numbers 14, the people of Israel curse Moses and question God for bringing them out of Egypt.  They complain that the people of Canaan are too strong for them, and they long be back in their days of slavery.  They look at the direction God is sending them and it looks too hard, too risky, too scary.  God has told them there is great blessing on the other side, but they can’t see past the tough stuff they must get through to get to the beauty of the promise land.  God is not pleased with this lack of faith.  He takes the blessing from them because they do not have the faith to see it as a blessing.  Instead he gives the blessing to their children, and they must stay in the wilderness until they die and their children are ready to take the land

In Luke 1, Zacharias is told that he will finally be given the blessing of a son.  But, instead of believing the word of the Lord, He questions how God will be able to bring it about.  Instead of accepting the news with joy and faith, he is doubtful of its truth.  God is not pleased with his doubt.  He strikes him with muteness until after John is born.

When a blessing comes our way, even if it is disguised in lots of hard work, sleepless nights, uncertainty, and confusion, God wants us to receive it in faith.  He wants us to believe that the magnitude of blessedness will far outweigh the hard work that comes at the outset.  When the Israelites were facing the people of Canaan, God wanted them to look past the strength of the opposing army and see a land flowing with milk and honey that was promised to them.  When the angel told Zacharias he was going to finally have a son, God wanted Zacharias to look past the confusion and uncertainty of the situation and receive the blessing of a child with joy and hope.

Many times in my life I have seen a big change on the horizon and groaned with worry about all that needed to be done instead of focusing on how that change would bring with it a greater amount of blessing in our lives. When God called our family to move across the country, I faced my unpacked home with anxiety.  I added up the hours I had in a week and found that I had none left for moving a home, especially with toddlers running around.  I constantly made mental lists of all the details: change of address forms, new internet service, changing banks, finding a church, readjusting my shopping routines, etc.  Of course all these things need to be done and it is necessary to have some level of organization when a change comes, but God wants us to see past all of that and give thanks for the good things that are on the other side.  He wants us to lay aside the worry and the need to have everything figured out.  Fear keeps us focused on the “how” and the “when” instead of giving us the courage and hope to see the great benefits.  The hard work is a means to a greater end.

God is always moving us from glory to glory, refining us, and sanctifying us for our good and His glory.  Often moving from one glory to the next glory seems challenging and sometimes impossible.  This is the way we see God working through all of Scripture: when things are getting hard and the enemies appear to be giants, blessing and glory are right around the corner.  He wants our cheerful obedience.  He wants His people to march around the walls seven times and in the end it is the shouts of joy that bring the walls of Jericho tumbling down.

Idols Crashing Down

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In Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts, she talks about giving thanks for all things.  She spends most of the book focusing on gratitude for the small things like the moon and flowers and chocolate, but she includes the exhortation that is is necessary to give thanks even for tough circumstances.  She calls this hard eucharisteo.  It is hard to give thanks for the tough things.  How do we give thanks for a chronically sick child or a dying friend or financial devastation?  How do we go about actually feeling gratitude for those things?  Voskamp suggests that we begin with the words and the feelings will follow.  Gratitude opens our eyes to good.

If you are struggling to be thankful for hard circumstances, start by thanking God for the fruit.  When God brings you something that you do not like, something hard, we know that it is for our good.  As we thank Him for our circumstances, our eyes are opened to fruit in us that He is using this hardship to grow.  Pruning, although painful, produces a generous harvest.  But you may still struggle to see the fruit because it takes time to grow.  If you struggle to see fruit, give thanks for the idols that you see crashing down. I have often found my hardships to be perfectly aimed at my own personal idols.  I have found that God brings hardship to the area of my life which I have started to love more than Him.  The hardship tears my idols apart, until only God is left to bring me joy.

Before I had children, I loved saying yes to everything.  I loved being involved with every event that I could, I loved running events, I loved being involved with my church and school.  If there was something to sign up for, my name was on the list.  While this is not a sin, I began to make an idol out of it.  I found so much self-gratification out of serving the community this way, that it drove many of my decisions and even friendships.  I took great pride in being dependable.  Then God gave me a baby that needed more from me than I had imagined.  I found that it was nearly impossible to commit to anything.  I was home most of the time trying to figure out nap schedules and nursing and swaddling and how to comfort a colicky baby.  I was lonely.  I felt like I was not doing anything worthwhile because nobody could see anything I was doing.  God took my idols of “community involvement” and “people pleasing” and smashed them.  I had to look to Him for joy and value.

Seasons of life bring their own unique challenges and hardships.  We can welcome the hardships because we know that God uses hardships like a sword, tearing down all the things that stand between us and Him.  Give thanks for all the things that are falling.  Maybe you have are gifted athletically, but you have an injury that will take months to heal.  Give thanks that God will not let you make an idol out of fitness.  Maybe you have always wanted to be married, but the circumstances have not worked out that way yet.  Give thanks that God will not let you make an idol out of marriage.  Maybe you excel in hospitality, but chronic illness is keeping you from opening your home.  Give thanks that God will not let you make an idol our of hospitality.  Maybe you extremely talented in your field of work, but babies or aging parents are requiring you to spend more time at home.  Give thanks that God will not let you make an idol out of work.

 It is not uncommon for the Lord to test us on the things we love the most.  When He asked Abraham for the life of his son, He wanted to see Abraham’s devotion to Him.  God wanted to see that Abraham loved Him with his whole heart.  God wanted Abraham to see that he loved Him with his whole heart.  When you are asked to lay your most prized possession on an altar, prepare to see all your idols crashing down around you.  No matter how much joy they may bring you, when your idols crash you find that God is your only comfort, and that is the sweetest place to be.

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.

Loving Husbands

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I have a very dear friend that lives too far away.  We don’t talk as often as I would like, and we don’t see each other much.  But she is a treasure in my life.  She has never been afraid to tell me when I am wrong and to point me in the right direction.  She is a patient listener, but won’t put up with complaining for a second.  She always says “confront or forget and then move on”, and it is always the advice I need to hear.  But one of my favorite things about her is that she consistently reminds me what a great man I married.  Just in a normal conversation she will say something like “what a blessing that you married someone handy, who can fix things around the house” or “it is so fun to be married to someone with a great sense of humor, you know what I mean, Jon is hilarious” or “Jon is such a hard worker – he will always take good care of you.”  She is a constant reminder that I was given a man who is kind and generous and funny and hard working and handsome and loves kids.  And her praise of her own husband exceeds this.

I think this is an aspect of what Paul is talking about when he says for the older women to teach the younger women to love their husbands and children (Titus 2:4).  Not only are older women to be a good example of how to love and respect, but they can also be helpful in pointing out the good.  Remind the younger women, often and specifically, of what a great gift they have been given.  Help them to keep their focus on the great qualities of their husbands and children.  Point out how God has blessed them.  Show them the respectable things their husbands do and the adorable things their kids do.  If you notice a teenager being helpful, tell their mother.  Help her love her teenager even more.

One of the most discouraging things we can do to a young wife is say something critical of her husband.  Of course all wives know what their husbands’ faults are; women are experts at finding faults.  Criticizing her husband will only make it hard for her to respect him.  Make a point of being a fan of your friends’ husbands.  Make a point of loving your friends’ kids.  This is a huge encouragement to each other, and our words have so much power to give each other courage to be women who forgive quickly and who forget faults and who remember good.

A note for our single sisters

DSCF3879This may seem like it is coming from someone who doesn’t understand what it is like to live for years as a single woman.  I married my husband six months before I turned twenty-four, which is still pretty young.  Within the next few years we had a daughter and now, eight years later, our home is bustling and noisy with people. It seems so long since the quiet apartment years, where my decisions to sleep in on Saturday depended entirely on whether or not I was tired. Even though they did not last long, I do remember those years and I remember feeling very insignificant.

When I graduated from college, I wasn’t sure how to live.  If I wasn’t going to get married (and at that point, marriage was the last thing that was happening), then should I pursue more school? a career? should I move away from my home town? keep working the mishmash of jobs I had accumulated in college?  I had some plans, but I questioned all of them.  I had many friends getting married, having children, moving on to a new stage of life and making new friends.  I felt a little bit stuck.  I also felt like it didn’t really matter what I did because I wasn’t doing it for anyone.  If I worked hard and saved money, what was it for?  Travel? by myself?  It sounded fun, but ultimately felt fruitless.  I remember thinking from time to time that I was just waiting for my life to start, and I couldn’t start it without someone to work for and to love me and work with me to create life.  But I wasn’t stuck; I was growing.  And now I know how silly it was to feel that way.  I was growing in ways that I didn’t know then and I was growing in ways I didn’t think I needed to.  I was learning how to serve others in ways that didn’t feel like serving.

Maybe you are feeling stuck, maybe not.  Maybe you are happy to be single and that is why you are, maybe you would really like to get married but the timing hasn’t worked out.  Maybe you are feeling desperate, or maybe incredibly content.  But no matter where you are, I am always immensely encouraged to meet single women in the church.  As a single woman, you are not bearing fruit in the same way that many married women do.  You are not raising children yet or helping a husband, and it can feel like your fruit is not as important.  But that is absolutely not true.  As a single woman, you are bearing fruit in a way that most wives and mothers are not able to.

During this stage of your life you will be able to find quiet, something any mother will tell is almost impossible after a couple of children.  You are able to create your own schedule and into it you can build times to study and pray and read Scripture.  You can go for a walk alone and memorize Psalms.  You can pray, uninterrupted for longer than a few minutes.  The church needs those prayers.  You can read books, the long books, and study them and research and grown in knowledge and understanding.  Paul says that married women are often distracted with thinking about how serve their husbands, but unmarried women can focus on how to serve the Lord without that distraction.  It is true that our situation is different than the Corinthians at that time, but the practical principle still stands.  A woman without children can sit through an entire sermon on Sunday mornings and can grow in understanding the Bible at a rapid pace.

On a similar note, single women are able to serve in the church in a way that many married women can’t.  Single women often have their evenings free unless they are taken up with homework, but even then there are usually Friday nights and Saturdays and Sunday evenings.  There are so many things in the church that need to be done that many church members who are raising families don’t have the time for.  There are events that need to be planned and executed, there is building maintenance, there are mothers with new babies, there are elderly who need groceries and freezer meals.  You can organize Bible studies and prayer groups.  One of the most amazing meals that was delivered to me after a baby was made by a lovely single woman in our church.  She brought dinner and homemade granola bars and others snacks that we could eat through the week.  Another one of my single friends sent me boxes of clothes that she found on sale when my husband and I were going through a tough time financially.  Don’t be tempted to think that these things are not fruitful – anything that you do to build and encourage other saints is fruit that Lord sees and fruit that He will reward.  Just because you don’t have your own husband and children to help and serve doesn’t mean you can’t be a huge blessing to all the families around you.  Whatever God has gifted you with, use it, give it away, bless others with it.

I know that many of you have full time jobs, and many of you are also in school.  I know that many single women do not have extra money.  This can make it feel like you can’t give much.  You are tired on the weekends, just like the rest of us.  You are busy until late at night and you are up early the next morning.  You might not have the time to plan church events or to attend Bible studies.  But there is something else you have to understand.  Your job or school, whatever it is that is keeping you so busy, is a huge blessing to the rest of us.  If you are a chef, think of how many families you have blessed with your food, how many mothers are thankful that they didn’t have to do the dishes for a night.  If you are a nurse, think of how many people you can serve by caring for their physical needs.  I am always thankful to find female medical professionals for my daughters.  If you are a teacher, you should know that there are incredibly thankful moms behind each of those students because teaching is very very hard work  If you work at Target, bless you.  Families needs Target.  If you clean houses or file insurance papers or clean teeth, thank you!  By your work, you are serving all the families in your church and community.  Houses need to be cleaned, insurance papers need to be filed, teeth need maintenance, and where would we be without all of you who have this stage in your life to do those things?  Your work is a service and it is important.

I want you to know how much you are needed, just as you are.  The church needs women that are not married.  We often talk about how important motherhood and marriage is – and those things are very important – but do not think that just because you are unmarried or without children, you are doing anything less important or less fruitful.  We need you just as you are, Christ needs you just as you are, without a husband, without a boyfriend, without children.  If the church is a choir, all of use have a different part to sing, and He needs you to sing your part beautifully.  For most women, being single is just a short stage of their life.  Your time to sing this part probably has a definite end that you do not know yet.  Don’t waste this time and don’t forget to sing.  We really need you and we are really thankful for your beautiful voices.

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.

 

 

 

Happy Birthday, Miles!

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Today we celebrate one year with our Peter Miles.  I feel like I am on a merry-go-round and I keep trying to grab onto things that are stationary, but life just keeps spinning.  Time is flying, but here we are with another one-year-old.  Here we are, blessed again.

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Whenever I look at this chubby little guy, I remember seeing his tiny beating heart on the ultrasound screen for the first time.  The technician was very quiet during the exam.  She told me there was a problem and my doctor would explain when I saw her.  My doctor showed me the pictures of the ultrasound, and the large portion of the placenta that didn’t seem to be functioning.  She told me that she expected this pregnancy to end in miscarriage.

Days and weeks passed by.  Daily I offered up this little life to the Lord, slowly learning to open my hands and let go of what I wanted.

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At my twelve week appointment, we heard another strong heartbeat.  My doctor was surprised to see me and to see my son so strong.  She sent me to  a specialist in another part of the city, who talked to me about my high risk for a repeat placenta abruption, about accreta, about preemie baby care and at what gestational age he would be able to survive.  On the ultrasound we saw a strong, healthy boy, squirming and growing and heart pumping.  She said I must have many praying for him, because his situation almost always prevented healthy growth in utero.

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Each appointment continued to be a surprise.  Each time our boy measured bigger than expected, and each time the doctors were baffled by his ability to continue growing.   They made sure that I knew that at any moment the placenta could detach and I would need medical care immediately.  They made sure I knew that the risk to my baby’s life would be high if this were to happen.  They made sure I knew that it was likely he would be nutritionally deficient.  I told them I understood.  I understood that this life was entirely dependent on the Lord sustaining my body each day, and I understood there was nothing left in my hands.

Each week brought more peace as each week meant my son was a little bit stronger, and we made it all the way to 38 weeks before labor started.  Peter Miles Taylor was born at 9:00 pm on a warm October Tuesday, weighing in at 7 lbs 11 oz.  My biggest baby, and my earliest.  We named him Peter after my father, Taylor after Jon’s grandfather (who entered the presence of the Father just this week) and Miles because he has been a strong soldier and fighter since his first heartbeat.

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Miles has been such a wonderful addition to our family.  He gives the tightest hugs and eats more than I do.  He weighs as much as his three-year-old sister.  He is strong and doesn’t give smiles easily.  There were so many months last year when I did not know if he would be healthy, when I would get into my car after every appointment and whisper “this life belongs to You, Lord, sustain me to do Your will without fear.”  Every time I hold my son I remember that it is it Lord who formed this strong young boy despite all the dangerous appearances, and I am thankful every moment.

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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.

Gratitude From Easter Sunday

Easter

It’s Easter and the sun is bright in Kentucky.  It is the first warm day we have had in a while.  I rush around in the early morning, cinnamon rolls and ham and deviled eggs on the table, mimosas bubbling, baskets full of toys and chocolate for the children.  The time is never slow enough on Sundays.  I have hair to braid, sashes to tie, earrings, bows, tights.  Where is the other shoe?  Then there is the little man in his spring plaid, watching me throw on makeup with a skeptical eye.  I gather my babies together for a picture on the couch, while my husband rushes around, clearing the table in between photos.  Nobody will be still.  “Smile at the camera!”  I say about 50 times and give up, laughing.  We load the children in the car and rush back in the house to find the baskets and candy filled eggs.  I notice a spot on my dress. Oh well, the baby will be on my lap.  We are finally off, maybe we can make it on time today.

I glance at my beauties in the back seat. Thank You, Lord, for these people You have given me to spend my days with.  Thank You that You are with us, through these busy days and quieter ones that will eventually come, through the days of rejoicing and the days of struggle.  There is no trouble that can come our way that You have not overcome. You guide us with your counsel, and afterward You will take us into glory.  That’s the whole story.  You have given us the greatest gift: life now and life after death.  I am so often tempted to worry.  Why?! There are no days without You! There are no trials that You will not guide us through!  You are life.  There are no battles that we will fight alone, not even death.  Thank You for this Easter, for this resurrection day.

I reach over and grab my husband’s hand.  Thank You, Lord, for him.  Three times you have breathed life into our lives, through my broken body.  A man at church asks if this will be our last baby.  I smile.  Every day I wonder how we were so lucky to have any at all!  I count the number I have, not the number I imagine.  You have been good and You have been generous.

I stand on a hillside of fresh grass while a cute girl in pink gathers plastic eggs beside me.  We celebrate a Man who walked out of a grave.  A gruesome death spun a cute tradition.  You are life, You are new life.  How many mothers wept over their slaughtered sons in the year of Herod when You were born?  And now Your Spirit has spread across the world and I can spend today wiping chocolate from fat faces. This blessing, because You have risen.  This life, because You are alive.