Sunday, May 20, 2012

Two quick stories

Seven children.  
Beautiful, faith-filled, Jesus-loving, world-transforming children.
Ages 5-11.
Team Goal: To raise $5,000 
for the Pregnancy Resource Centers 
in the Steps for Life event.
Reached: $6,125 (thanks be to God)
The winners?  yes, the "Under His Wings" team was first place fundraisers in their age category, but CEO Larrry said it best...the real winners are the men, women and children that will be served this year at the Pregnancy Resource Centers.  We agree.  All for the glory of God.

Two quick stories:
 Friday morning 6 out of 7 of the kids had reached their personally set fundraising goals. The seventh was only shy by $45.  The cut-off for entering sponsor information was noon.  We were all together at our Friday Co-op and an idea was spoken during the morning Latin class...if we worked hard and finished early, the four older kids could have a little time to go door to door to seek sponsors.  Yes...let's do it was the unanimous, hearty response.  Finishing early, we prayed together at the door and sent the four kids down the road...less than a half hour later, four excited youth returned with 70 more dollars for the PRC.  We quickly entered the info online and everyone at the Co-op celebrated over the reality that every one of the kids on the team were able to reach their goals.  We had watched them ask just about every person they came into contact with over the past month, and their enthusiasm never waned...down to the final minutes they wanted to do everything they could to raise more funds for the men, women and children that receive compassionate care and truthful information in the name of Jesus at these centers. 

Last night, after we returned from our family rejoicing together over a little Chinese food, MJ came into the office carrying a box.  "Mom, do you mind if I destroy this box?  I have an idea."  I answered that I didn't mind and went back to what I was doing.  A little later, I went to investigate and found she was making a container to collect her change in which she had decorated with "Steps for Life 2013." 

I am a very blessed Mama!  
A very pleased Mama! 
Papa is very pleased too!

Thank you to everyone who came alongside with prayers and finances...God is at work.  We are so thankful He is pleased to give us the privilege of being a part of His work.  We know the Redeemer, the Healer, the Restorer...we are Under His Wings.  He is our Refuge, our ever present Help.  But there are many who are still held captive by lies and and in bondage to fears...they do not yet know the comfort of His love.  The body of Christ has the unspeakable joy of being His hands and reach out to the hurting, the confused, the ones who need to hear that they too can be forgiven and move forward in faith as they come to Jesus.  Being involved with the Pregnancy Resource Centers is one of many wonderful ways to do this...we are thrilled to be part of this work and the kids wanted me to thank all of you who joined them in this year's Steps for Life.  It is definitely a cooperative effort.

They will know we are Christians by our love!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Chloe's shower

Yesterday a group of beautiful Jesus-loving women gathered to celebrate the God's gift of life, the life of Chloe in particular!  She's a sweetie, and here are a few words I was allowed to share at her baby shower:

Raising Chloe for God’s glory…
Hello faith, goodbye pride and fear!

Col 1:15-18 tells us: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.  And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.

May God grant all of us the desire and the grace to live in such a way that in all things Christ may have the preeminence!  Apart from faith in the Living God, we are rebels seeking to exalt ourselves and our own plans.  But as recipients of faith, we’re to be all about His glory.  We’re to delight ourselves in Him and His ways.  As Christians, this is the arena in which we daily fight the good fight of faith.  We are called to die to self and live unto Christ, right?  This applies to all of us, young or old, married or single, parents or not. 

But in particular, what does that look like in parenting?  There is plenty that could be said, I’m sure, but I just have two main ideas. 
  • I was thinking about you Brenda as a new Mama on my way home from Friday school. 
  • I was thinking about the preeminence of Christ in all things. 
  • I was thinking back to when my kiddos were younger, and simultaneously considering conversations I’ve had with friends with grown children and lessons they’ve learned along the way. 
  • Melanie had mentioned to me earlier in the week that there was no devotion planned. 
  • In my swirling mind, two main thoughts kept resurfacing and I wondered if maybe God was wanting me to share them today.
  • I called Melanie and she welcomed the idea…I’d like to ask God to bless these thoughts and encourage us all with them.

Let’s pray. 

A) Brenda, first I want to encourage you to remind yourself regularly that Chloe ultimately belongs to God.  She is His workmanship.  She’s made for His glory.  And God in His wisdom and providence has entrusted her to you and Aaron to raise her up.  Your job is to daily point her to Jesus. 
  • Live before her in a way that demonstrates your belief that this is His world and He rules it. 
  • Teach her about Him creating a good world, the rebellion of mankind and the gracious love of the Father to send His son to redeem us. 
  • From her earliest days, read God’s word aloud to her and delight yourself in Him before her eyes. 
  • Let her hear you sing His praises.
  • Pray with her and for her every day.
  • Let her see you and Aaron forgive each other and move forward in faith and love. 
  • Seek the wisdom of God together. 
  • And even though it is true that only God can change hearts; only God can give faith to our children; aim for her heart.  Pray for her heart. 

Does behavior matter?  Sure.  But in your directing and correcting, point to Jesus.  If your concern is only outward behavior, check your heart for pride.  You may have fallen into thinking that your children are YOUR workmanship created for YOUR glory and that you can control them if you just apply the right methods. 

The truth of the matter is, Chloe will sin at times.  She will misbehave.  The question is, will you respond with anger because your pride is hurt or will you respond with compassion that reminds her of her need for the blood of Jesus to wash her clean?  Will you shout the message “how could you?  I haven’t raised you to do stuff like THAT?”  Or will you humbly come alongside and strengthen her weak knees as a fellow sinner saved by grace? When she is resistant to your pleading, and your corrective efforts, will you faithfully plead with God on her behalf?   

And the truth of the matter is also that Chloe will for behave well at times.  Will you remind her at those times that God is at work in her, and how thankful you all can be that He who has begun a good work in her has promised to complete it?  Will you pause to give praise to God together?  Or without one thought of Christ will you burst with pride, seeing her as a reflection upon yourself?  I dare say there is a difference between being pleased and being proud relative to our children. 

Another way pride sneaks into parenting is when we get fixed on our own plans instead of submitting ourselves to God’s.  We can see our children as assets or obstacles to OUR plans.  When we’re running late, and our child fills her diaper to overflowing just as we’re finally heading out the door, how do we respond?  Do we REALLY believe God ordains ALL things that come to pass?  Can we trust Him with the “blowouts” of life?  Can we trust His grace to be sufficient when OUR sleep is disrupted repeatedly?  I had to wrestle that demon to the ground again recently…night after night sleep was interrupted by boy wheezing, dog barking, girl bleeding, restless husband elbowing and more… after a number of days I was feeling pretty justified in being put out by it all…easily irritated, barking at the kids, the whole gamut.  Then in mercy God made me aware that the problem was pride…wanting MY way, not submitting to HIS.  The problem was not REALLY the kids, the husband, the dog, or the shower fixture that made a loud bump in the night.  I became so set on MY need for sleep that I was forgetting that God is fully capable of giving me the grace to live on interrupted sleep.  Once I repented, it was yet a number of nights before I was given sweet uninterrupted sleep again, but I quit being irritable and started trusting God to strengthen me.  Pride gets in the way of the preeminence of Christ so lose it whenever it finds you.

B)  The second area I want to encourage you in Brenda relates to fear.  You and Aaron will make so many choices as you raise Chloe.  It can be mind boggling and it started before she was even born, didn’t it?  You understood from the moment you discovered you were pregnant that how you took care of yourself would affect her, right?  I bet from the getgo that discussions about what kind of diapers to use, schedule feeding versus feeding on demand, and so many other things started to matter to you in a way it never did before because now YOU were going to be responsible.  

Then here came sweet Chloe into your arms…and questions began to flood your sleep-deprived mind (Facebook status’ while you were still in Holland kept us all informed J):
  • How do you get her to sit in a car seat without screaming?  
  • What do you do when she’s clean and fed but she won’t stop crying?  
  • And that is just a tiny tip to this decision-making ice berg! 

Everyone around you has opinions galore; advice asked for and unasked for, but in the end you and Aaron have to make the choices.  It can be scary and overwhelming at times. 
  • Sometimes you have to make decisions on the spot.
  • Sometimes you can take time to think it through. 
  • You love this little one SO MUCH and you don’t want to do her wrong. 
  • Let me encourage you to live by faith, not fear. 

Fear will paralyze you; faith with equip you with all the grace and armor you need.  Remember that it is God who gives life and it is God who redeems.  Remind yourself that He draws straight blows with crooked sticks every day so He can use people like you and me.  It is NOT by your choosing perfectly that Chloe will fare well, it is by His grace.  Remember that He loves her perfectly, and you can rest there whenever fear rears its ugly head.

That is not to say that it doesn’t really matter what decisions you make.  God does use means.  He will use you and the choices you make in Chloe’s life.  But we are to make those decisions in faith, not fear.
  • By all means, consider your options.  It isn’t always clear to us but we can trust God to direct our steps as we search for answers.
  • Prayerfully seek out and benefit from the experience and insights of others in the covenant community.   
  • Most of all, do not forget to ASK GOD for His wisdom, my friend.  He tells us in the 1st chapter of James that as we come to Him in faith and ask for wisdom, He will give it liberally and without reproach.  Whether we are searching His Word, hunting down info on the internet, or interacting with believers, we need the discernment that only God can give and He promises to give generously to those who ask.  Though I listed this last, do not think of asking God as a last resort…think of it more like breathing…you need to ask often to live. 

I was thinking about when Paul laid in my arms in the hospital, non-responsive.  It was a minute by minute choice to trust God rather than cave to fear in those long hours.  Sometimes the choices we make don’t have so much to do with a fork in the road decisions to make (should we use cloth or disposables?), but choices about how we respond in the situations we face which in turn teaches our children how to respond.   Bekah has had nose bleeds, significant in number and volume, from the time she was little.  Certainly there have been many decisions regarding her care, but also decisions of response.  We began to believe early on that God in His wisdom has ordained these in her life and ours to draw us closer to Himself, and to mold us into Christ’s image, and He has.  People who have witnessed Bekah bleeding tend to make comments about how composed she is, and she really is.  She doesn’t panic.  She trusts.  We trust.  We pray and we sing and we wait upon the Lord to stop the bleeding in His timing, and we seek medical intervention when she bleeds too long.  It is God’s grace at work in our life that we haven’t panicked, but rather chosen to calmly pray aloud for God’s healing and help to trust Him.  Fear will rob you of the amazing opportunities to trust the sovereign goodness of God, and to point your children to Jesus when hard things hit in their lives and yours.  But faith lets you hold unresponsive boys and comfort/care for bleeding girls without doubting the goodness or power of God, and God grows you all in the process. 

Brenda, we rejoice with you and look forward to seeing how God will work in and through you and Aaron and Chloe for His glory.  Good bye pride; good bye fear…hello glory.  May God bless you richly as you walk with Him in faith.  Thank you for letting me share a couple of thoughts with you.