faith

The Giver

I’m at the point in my life where I am more of the giver than the receiver-aka Motherhood. I have been shopping online and on foot for weeks now, picking out gifts, making sure I didn’t forget anyone, worrying whether everyone has an even number of gifts so no child feels I love one more than the other and then their whole life is ruined by lack of Shopkins. I’m done with my Christmas shopping…I think. Actually, I may need just one more…ugh.

This year I have encountered something I’ve never had to deal with before. My kids have been snooping. In my closet, under the bed, one even had the audacity to tear a bit of wrapping paper to get a better look at her gift. I was a little disappointed with her cunning. I mean, really, doesn’t she realize I’m going to notice the torn paper? You have to at least try to carefully lift the taped edge so that you can tape it back after you’ve taken a peek! Amateurs.

Full disclosure-there have been several times over the last few weeks when I joyfully bought and wrapped gifts for my children…and then there were moments that I wanted to take it all back to the store. Tantrums, bad attitudes, ungrateful spirits rubbed me raw and I thought, “They don’t deserve anything I’ve done for them! Maybe we are spoiling them too much.”

But, here is the truth. No child deserves any gift they get. And no parent gives them gifts because they deserve it. We give our children gifts because we love them and it delights our hearts to do so.

So it is with God. We have received many gifts from our Father, the greatest of which we have planned an entire celebratory season around-the gift of Jesus. I promise you with all my heart that we have not received any of these gifts because we deserved them. God gave us these good things in spite of the fact that we deserve to be forever separated from him. Our depravity is so wretched that we deserve an eternal time out, separated from the holy God who is without sin and always good.

Instead, we receive gifts we couldn’t earn and could never hope to deserve.

God gives his unfathomable peace, unexplainable joy, unquenchable hope, and immeasurable love. We receive it in the person of Jesus. God gives because he is all of these things, and enjoys all of these things, and because of his love for us, he generously shares them with us so that we can enjoy them too.

He doesn’t give us what we deserve, like Santa and his stocking full of coal. He gives us himself. He gave his Son to take our place while we were still wallowing in our sin. He’s done it all-for us. He is the ultimate giver.

I want to give like he does. With love, and joy and delight. Not with a grumbling heart, but rather with a cheerful heart. I want to give even when the receiver doesn’t appreciate the cost of the gift. I’m not at that point yet. My selfishness still tries to get the glory even through my acts of generosity. But as I consider the way God has given to me, I sense that my heart is changing and I’m less concerned with the worthiness of the receiver and more enamored by the graciousness of God to someone as unworthy as me.

Do you struggle with giving?

My prayer for us today is that we would be gracious receivers of the gifts we do not deserve and generous givers that reflect the heart of our generous God.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.            John 3:16

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.                         1 John 4:10

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ…so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.            Ephesians 2:4-7

For When You Can't See Past the Dirty Diapers

Hello Friends,

Here we are at the end of November with the holiday season in full swing. I have really enjoyed taking time this month to reflect on the things God has been teaching me since I started this blog last January. 

I am also looking forward to the beginning of Advent, the expectation of Christ, and sharing some new things with you. 

As I sat around the table with family at Thanksgiving dinner, I found myself talking about my great-grandmother, Sonia. I wrote a post about her back in August and as I recalled her story to my father-in-law this week, I knew that I needed to share her story with you again and remember the encouragement her story offers. 

I hope you enjoy reading about Sonia, and come away from this post encouraged. I am so thankful for you, sweet Mama, and the journey we have taken together this year encountering the Gospel in this beautiful calling of motherhood!

Hugs!

For When You Can't See Past the Dirty Diapers

When I look at my great grandmother’s photo, I get a little lost in her story. Sonia came to America from Siberia when she was around 15 years old after she married my great-grandfather who was an American soldier.

I absolutely love her story, though, truthfully, I don’t know the details as much as I would like, but my crazy imagination sure can fill in the gaps pretty quickly with dramatic ideas of my own.

One wonders what motivated her to leave her family and native country and move to a completely new country with her husband. When I look at her round face, framed by her trendy bob hairstyle, and those mischievous dark eyes, I wonder what her personality was like. I look at my own face in the mirror, contemplating my own dark eyes and wonder if she was introverted and shy at 15 years of age like I was. Or was she extroverted and bubbly like my free-spirited 6-year-old? The way she seems to be glancing away from the camera in the photo above makes me think she was more like my third daughter who can only pause for a moment before something glittery has her running breathlessly through life again, savoring every moment as only a wild child can. Did she get lost in the stories in her head, or was she a practical, no-nonsense kind of gal? She must have been up for adventure to come so far so young. I like to think that I get some of my wanderlust from her.

Sonia and her oldest daughter almost a century ago.

Sonia and her oldest daughter almost a century ago.

Though I don't know her whole story, I know one thing for sure-her life was filled with purpose and directed by the sovereign hand of God. No, she never did great things that made her well-known, but rather she did a lot of small things, like change diapers and soothe fussy babies. The greatest thing she is remembered for is walking faithfully with Jesus. Her children heard the gospel from her lips, mostly in Russian with a smattering of broken English here and there. When my own mother was a little girl, Sonia would read aloud to her from her Russian Bible. Sonia taught her children and grandchildren the truth about God. Sonia’s heart trusted the God she could not see. She trusted Him enough to give up all she knew to follow her husband back to his home and raise her children in a foreign country.

I am inspired when I think of Sonia. Her life reminds me that each of us lives in this time in history, in this place and with these people for a purpose that is greater than we realize. When I think of all the variables that may have kept Sonia from even meeting my great-grandfather, let alone marrying him and moving to America, I am amazed that I am even here. How difficult it must have been to move so far away. When I think about how many obstacles could have completely changed the course of an entire family. My grandmother, mother, sister, I and my four daughters may have never existed, and yet, because of the sovereign hand of God, we do. This is when it strikes me deep in my soul that every one of us is on this planet for a reason. It cannot be by accident.

 

Me with my oldest daughter a decade ago.

Me with my oldest daughter a decade ago.

This understanding changes the way I see my day to day. Too often, I am overcome by what seems like meaningless, mundane work of laundry and one more story before tucking in little ones at night. But this is why I am here. The path I am walking during my very short time here must be traveled by me. No one else can do what I have been put here to do. To live on this planet with a heart that worships the Father, points others to him, and loves my husband and children in a way that glorifies God-this is why I am here. It isn’t fancy. Like Sonia, I am living a very quiet, unnoticed life, but the way I choose to live it will affect the generations to follow.

When I see the way my children are growing and becoming who God has created them to be, I am humbled by the role I play in raising and discipling them. I see all the ways I am unqualified, but God has chosen me to mother them. I cannot take it lightly. This may be the greatest work of my life. What an honor motherhood is for those of us who are called to it! Too often, I complain. I grow weary in doing good. I forget the legacy of faith that has been built by my ancestral mothers before me, that I am called to pass on to my daughters, and that they will one day pass on to their children.

Isn’t motherhood beautiful? Yes, I know the stretch marks and baggy eyelids are not so lovely, but they give testimony to the hard work to which we have been called. The sacrificing of our bodies and much needed rest for the sake of others.

Sometimes, our purpose requires day in and day out mundane faithfulness that can cause us to feel restless, like we are missing out on something everyone else seems to be a part of. Sometimes, it requires gathering courage we don’t have to step out in faith and move away from all that is familiar, trusting what we cannot see for things that we will never grasp in our lifetime.

Whatever motherhood has been for you, hear me when I say it is not by accident that you are here loving these babies. It is the sovereignty of God that has placed you here, at this time, doing this beautiful work of loving the least of these. Clothing those little naked babes, feeding their hungry bellies, wiping away their sorrow with gentle kisses and reassuring words.

You are beautiful, Mama. 

I like to think of Sonia during my most difficult days. This has been a week of just that. The work is overwhelming, the obstacles have loomed large, my skill is lacking, and my heart is weary. But then I look at my great grandmother’s picture and I wonder…what impact will my faithfulness to this task of mothering have on my great granddaughter? Will she someday look at pictures of me holding my little ones and wonder about me? Will she be encouraged or ashamed by me? By God’s grace, I hope to live in such a way, that the legacy of my faith will inspire generations I will never meet to live wholeheartedly for Christ as God has created and called them to.

My prayer for you today is that you will have eyes to see beyond the dirty diapers and piles of laundry for a moment. May you catch a glimpse of the bigger picture that is being painted through your life by the Master Artist's all-knowing hand. I pray that realizing your steps on this earth are established by God would encourage your heart, regardless of the obstacles you are facing. May you live with unwavering hope, that even if no one else knows your name, your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren would hear of your faithfulness to God and praise Him for His goodness that is everlasting!

The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the LORD upholds his hand. I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread. He is ever lending generously, and his children become a blessing. 

 Psalms 37:23-26

 

 

Organized Chaos

“I need to clean those pencil marks off the wall,” I said to myself the other day as I sat in my favorite blue chair. So I got up and walked to the kitchen to get an eraser.

“I should probably get a drink of water while I’m here. I know I haven’t had enough water today…or in the last decade. How have I not died of thirst yet?” I grabbed a cup out of the cupboard and headed to the water dispenser in the fridge.

“Ouch! Agh-stupid lego. I told the kids if I found any more legos on the floor they were going into the trash so here it goes.” I opened the lid to the trash can.

“Yikes, no trash bag. Better put one in before someone dumps something gross in the bottom of the can.” I set my cup and the offending lego on the kitchen counter and grabbed a trash bag.

“Oh no! I forgot to move that load into the dryer! I hope it hasn’t already soured! I better do that right now. “ I tossed the lego in the trash and ran (ok quickly walked) to the laundry room. Relieved that no sour smells seemed to be emanating from my damp, bath towels, I threw them in the dryer and walked back to the kitchen.

“What was I doing before…Oh right, water.” I grabbed my cup off the counter filled it with water and chugged. “There. I’m hydrated.”

“MOM!!!! She won’t give me my dragon!!!!” Sigh. Time to play referee.

Several apologies and negotiations later I plopped back into my favorite blue chair feeling a little unsettled.

“Seems like there was something else…Dang it! The pencil marks on the wall.” I got up and went back to the kitchen.

This is just a glimpse of the daily wandering of my mind and body as I care for my husband, four children, dog, turtle and all of the various habitats, feeding schedules. and clean up that must be done for them. There is always something that needs to be done that leads to something else that needs to be done that leads to something else and NEVER ENDS! Some days I run from one room of the house to the other panting and sweating doing a million little things and at the end of the day I look around at the disaster that is still left.

Did I get anything done? No. But I worked so hard! Then I am overcome by shame and guilt and wonder if I am destined to forever be a failure at adulting.

Perhaps this is the curse of the disorganized. I’ve read many books and blogs on organization and orderly housekeeping and scheduling. I definitely found helpful tips that I occasionally remember to use as I frantically paddle through the rushing rapids of chaos. Setting a timer and working in one area at a time seems to be the most effective for me. Todist, Evernote and my phone calendar have tamed the madness a bit. But most times I am carried from one day to the next like a rumpled butterfly in a hurricane, grasping at flowers as I tumble by. I collect a little junk from one room and move it to the next, rush from children’s activities to the store in an attempt to make the theory of dinner a reality, and somewhere in between the to dos, must dos, and hope to someday dos, someone has a crisis, or needs a snack, and then I can’t remember where I was and what I was doing. Does this ever happen to you?

If so, allow me to encourage you and in the process encourage myself as well.

First, while working towards organizational living does make life a little more easy to navigate, not everyone is gifted that way and that’s ok. It doesn’t make you a bad or lazy person. Some people seem to be able to organize as easily as they breathe. I grew up with one of those people and am now married to one. After years of feeling like my disorganized mind was a defect, I finally learned that my mind is disorganized because it is preoccupied with thinking about a lot of other things - good things - and that is intentional and God-ordained. Studies have shown that the most creative minds are also the most disorganized. So you and I aren't disorganized, we are just really, really creative. Really. Sigh...I know, me neither. But we can be who God created us to be without shame, and that is beautiful and gives us a place to rest from our striving to be what we aren't.

Secondly, you are deeply loved and valued by God regardless of how organized your house or life is. Take a deep breath, my disheveled friend. You are loved as you are. So am I. We may not be able to find our phones at the moment, there might be ketchup soaking into the floorboard of the car and there is a smell in the pantry that should probably be dealt with ASAP, but still we are loved and have gifts and abilities that are created by God and useful for the good of others. Personally, I see how my slightly askew organizational skills really help my very organized and efficient hubby to relax and not take life so seriously all the time. It's therapeutic sometimes to sit in the chaos and appreciate the vibrant life that cannot be contained in spreadsheets and cute, chalkboard-labeled baskets.

And, if you are one of those got-it-all-together, super-organized people with a tidy home and perfectly laundered blouses, please know that you are so loved. We, who stare in confusion at drawer organizers and get overwhelmed when standing in the Container Store, envy you and your ability to appear so at ease in all of your orderly brilliance. You are loved and valued as well and have so many wonderful gifts with which to help others (my closet needs help-just in case you needed a suggestion).

How wonderful it is when we can accept each other’s strengths and weaknesses instead of competing with them! Let’s all choose to do that instead.

My prayer for us today is that we will accept ourselves and each other for whom God has created us to be. May we appreciate the many gifts God has given, and not beat the drum of our own strengths while criticizing the weaknesses of others. I pray each of us will pursue the fullness of maturity God has for us, and embrace his grace for those things we are still learning to do well.

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!                Psalm 133:1

Especially for the disorganized mind:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.     Philippians 4:8