Friday, March 27, 2020

Promises That Bring Peace

Click here to get the printable!

     I lead what is essentially chapel time at the homeschool co-op our family attends. We divide our weeks at co-op into quarters and as chapel leader I choose different topics for each quarter. I had spent time praying about what to speak for our recent winter quarter, ultimately needing to decide on a topic before the first of January that I would talk about for the next nine weeks. After much prayer, I felt strongly that I should focus on worry, or rather, on how *not* to worry. So for nine weeks at co-op, ending with our final week in the first week of March.

     The Lord does not ever waste any energy. His timing is always perfection, and this was certainly the case in this. As I write this there are many efforts in place to stymie the spread of COVID-19, or coronavirus. We, with the majority of America, have stuck pretty darn close to our home since about the 13th of March, watching and waiting.

    And, much to my chagrin, sometimes worrying. On our last day of meeting, unbeknownst to all of us that we would not be meeting again for who knows how long, the Lord strongly impressed on me that I should write out a variety of promise Scriptures, and so I did. I typed out 43 different Scriptures, from twenty different books of the Bible, each one a beautiful reminder of why we don't need to worry: because God is mighty, because He is control, because He loves us, because He is on our side. I took the printed verses and cut them apart, and each child and parent that day received their own promise, a reminder that God is always with us, and we do not need to worry. I hope that those verses are serving to encourage them during these uncertain times!

    I realized the other day that these verses might benefit others outside of our group, so I thought I would post them here. You can grab the link to the printable up top under the photo. If all you do is print these out and read them, they will be immensely valuable, not because they are anything fancy. As a matter of fact, you could probably type them yourself if you take the time. No, because the are the powerful, eternal, perfect Word of God. It is always worth our time.

   But if you are so inclined, you can do a variety of things with them, beyond simple reading. I printed mine on colored cardstock and sliced them up with my paper cutter and filled a vase with them. I plan to pull one out when I am frustrated beyond these circumstances beyond my control. You could read one each day, or read them all each day! You can encourage your children to adopt one of the verses as their own. Look for the similarities between verses. Look up the surrounding passages and see what the verses say in context. Have your kids group them by book of the Bible, or put them in order by passage. Interact with them and see how they will really, truly take on a deep and personal meaning. 

   God is still very much says to us, "For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, 'Do not fear; I will help you.'" Isaiah 41:13 

This circumstance is not beyond His control, "Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for You." Jeremiah 32:17

He is with us, and hears our prayers. "But You are a shield around me, O Lord; You bestow glory on me and lift up my head. To the Lord I cry aloud, and He answers me from His holy hill." Psalm 3:3-4

   For every promise find a reason it applies to this strange time, or to your life specifically. Make it real, take it personally. It is so, so good. I pray that these Scriptures bring you peace, God is certainly strong enough to keep all His promises. He is working! 

Monday, March 9, 2020

Title Character

"But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him." Philippians 3:7-9a NIV
   I like a good television drama. I want a little uncertainty, and little action, some tears maybe. I wanted to be reminded of my humanity. I like to get invested in the characters, and vicariously experience their ups-and-downs, even in situations that I am 100% certain I will never find myself in.

   But at the end of the day, I want to know for sure that the characters I love the most are going to stick around for another episode. If I have given them precious hours of my life, I don't want to find myself crying at their (albeit imaginary) funerals. At the end of my forty-or-so minute roller coaster ride I don't mind not knowing everything, I want to be kept guessing within reason, but I don't want to have to contemplate that the show might go on without the player I've pinned my hopes.

    And when I am most frustrated by the way the script twists and turns, leaving me hanging, and fearful for the outcome, I often ask myself this: how important is this character to the show? How long have they been around? Is there a foreseeable future to their arc?

    When I begin that type of inquisition, I find that there is one answer that always satisfies: the title character. If the person in question is the title character I know: they're going to hang around. And regardless of what happens, they will either be there or the show will be over. Because it is pretty darn impossible to have a television show about someone when they're not in it. There will be highs. There will be lows. I will probably cry. I might laugh. I may be confused, knowing me that is more than likely. But I can count on that character being there, no matter what else occurs.

     Real life is more chaotic than any television drama will ever be. We watch TV because it redirects our thoughts from our own problems to those of someone else-and we get to turn those off whenever we want. We don't have any indicators for when, in our own lives, those very real characters we call our fellow human beings will exit the stage, and here poverty, illness, death and troubles of all kinds are very much tangible realities.

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV (emphasis mine)
   See, thankfully, none of us is the title character. As much as I want "my" life to be about me, all of this is really all about Him. When Paul talks about the "surpassing worth" of knowing Christ, and how everything else (and I love this particular translation) is "garbage", that resonates so deeply with me. What a relief it is to know that I am not the point of the show! That is far too important of a role for someone with my talents, or lack thereof. I am more than happy to be a bit part in this story. He can have center stage, all day, every day. I know there is no way the show will go on without Him.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Into the Unknown

A picture I unknowingly took before things went south. 
         Wow. I did not think this would be so hard to write about. As a matter of fact, I don't really want to write about it at all, I'd rather just pretend that it wasn't happening, that I wasn't suspended in the terrible "unknown" where the good is as likely to happen (maybe even more so) than the bad, but that is exactly where I am.

    You may be wondering what exactly is going on, well, I would like to know that, too, but I will tell you the little that I know. I want to write it all down, every detail, because regardless of how it turns out, I already know this is a memorial stone. So here is all I know.

   Monday I made (or thought I did) appointments at the eye doctor for the kids and me. Wednesday, the day the appointments were, I called to double-check the time. And was informed that I did *not* have any appointments. There had been a mix-up. A little frustrated, but I was able to reschedule for Friday. We ended up seeing a new optometrist, and he wanted to dilate the kids' eyes. Jocelyn wears glasses, but Carson has 20/20 vision so I thought it was a little odd. But the optometrist felt it was a good idea to do it every few years and Carson has never had it done, so we went ahead. I have had my eyes dilated sooo many times, so I knew exactly what to expect. Which is why when the doctor repeated part of the exam I felt my stomach drop. He asked Carson to look up and to the right with his right eye. And stared. And then asked him to do it again. As soon as the doctor finished looking he said he wanted to "get a few pictures". Again, not the norm. He led him to a machine in a different room and I knew for certain something was off when he could not seem to get a shot of a very specific something. When I saw the images come up on the monitor in the area, even though I am not well acquainted with how the back of an eye should look, I was well aware the large black dot on the image was not right.

      The doctor was wonderful. He informed me my intuition was correct, the chorodial nevus, the official name for the black dot, was not normal. It is like a mole on the back of your eye, and while they are not rare, it isn't something they want to see, because like a mole on your skin, they must be monitored and are often the first sign of cancer. Never something that a mom wants to hear. I was trying not to panic, and I know it seems like there wasn't much at that point to be concerned about, but as soon as the doctor mentioned that they need to be monitored to ensure they aren't cancerous I flashed back to over 10 years ago, to the last time that I was hearing a doctor mention the possibility of cancer in my son's eye.  And, then the doctor proceeded to tell me that this particular chorodial nevus did not have the halo they like to see, or the white dots, in other words, my son might have a common condition, but it was presenting in an uncommon, or concerning, way. Kind of like if a mole has irregular borders, or is growing.

     I did manage to find the presence of mind to ask about the concerns we had when Carson was little-could it be possible that issue had anything in common with this one? Instead of allaying my fears, the doctor immediately started taking notes on everything I said. He did assure me that he was directing us to the best specialist he knew, and that it was important to convey all that information to the doctor at the referral. He did mention cancer, again, and the importance of catching and treating the type of cancer that can be caused by this type of thing as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, much of what he said was kind of fuzzy around the edges, because I just kept hoping he would say, "But I'm sure that is not what this is." He didn't say that.

     And that is where we are. I'm waiting for a referral appointment to find out if my son has cancer. In his eye. Which if he does, he will lose. And cancer that can metastasize and be fatal. I am *really* trying not to think about that. Why do I want to remember this pain, this uncertainty, this feeling of someone holding me by the upper arms, pushing me down? Because God is good. In this place called the "unknown" He is very much known and knowing. I firmly believe that our appointments on Wednesday never materialized because we needed to see this doctor, today. He was the one who would strongly urge dilation, a procedure that I would have declined, except for his gentle insistence. And I have no idea if Carson has cancer, only God does at this point. But the thing is, this memorial stone will be there either way-and I don't want to forget that God is the same, whether my son is healthy and whole, or if he is at this very moment headed towards a painful medical ordeal. I don't want to forget that I need to cling to Him every moment the way I am clinging to Him right now. When the end of this particular chapter of my testimony closes, I don't want to dismiss it as "nothing". God is working here, He is working now, He is working always. And while I can't see how this will turn out, He can. And when He puts the finishing touches on this part of the story I don't want to forget any part of it, because all of it is in His control and He is working it all together for my good and His glory.

     I picked a word for 2020 a few weeks ago. It is "flourish". I always base my word on the Scripture I choose, this year it is Jeremiah 17:7-8:

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
    whose confidence is in Him.

They will be like a tree planted by the water
    that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
    its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
    and never fails to bear fruit.”

     I don't know if this is a year of drought. I don't know if the heat will come. My frail human spirit prays that it won't. But I do know that the unknown is the very best place to trust, and confidence in the Lord will never be misplaced. I know because He always keeps His promises. 

Sunday, November 24, 2019

To Jocelyn, on Your 14th Birthday

Dear Jocelyn,
             Happy Birthday! It is easy to celebrate all the wonderful things you are: Christ-like, talented, creative, loving, kind, smart, pretty. I wish that you could see in you what I do. I see the fears that are fighting to steal that light. I wish I could hide you from those anxieties and protect you from the things that try to steal your joy. However, that isn't truly my job. My job is to teach you to turn to the only One who can take away all your worries, and protect you from anything that comes against you.

      My job is to remind you that He alone can truly bring comfort and peace. My words can only be a poor imitation of His, but as long as I have breath my prayer is to point you to Him. In everything, big and small. I keep telling you that things won't get easier, not to frighten you, but to say that now is the time to fully trust Him. Your dad and I do our best to be a loving, safe haven for you, but we are flawed. We will let you down, frustrate you, at times we will even hurt you, because we too are humans. But if I only teach you one thing let it be this: You can trust Jesus fully. He will never let you down, He will never hurt you, He will unconditionally, eternally love you. He will always be there.

       Life isn't fair. Life isn't for the faint of heart. But Jesus can help you learn to live without fear-only imitate me as I imitate Him. My hope has never been to have a daughter that takes after me, but rather one that takes after her heavenly Father. Perhaps one day, instead of hearing that you are like me, people will say that I am like you, as you follow after Jesus completely, unashamedly, without any reservations. That would bring me more joy than anything I can think of. This is my constant prayer for you as you navigate the complexities that maturing brings:

"Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always." Psalm 105:4
   If you can grasp this now, during these tumultuous, coming-of-age, times you will find true success. I could not care less if you are famous, or rich, or even happy. None of those things matter, what truly matters is knowing that you are worth so much to Christ that He gave His life for *you*. And you were created to "glorify Him and enjoy Him forever". You do not have to wait to be a "grown-up", whatever that means, to do those things. Christ is fully in you now-You have complete access to every promise in Him that you ever will. Don't wait to follow Him without reservations. Today is the day! And all I want you to know is I am behind you, cheering for you, praying for you, and at many times, learning from your example. Jesus is all you will ever need. And it is my honor to be able to remind you of that when you need to hear it. I love you.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Cardigans and Kindness

     Today is "World Kindness Day". And because Hollywood loves nothing better than a tie-in, they have co-opted this celebration by encouraging people to wear a cardigan, which is posited to be in memory of Mr. Rogers, but is really a promotion of the new bio-pic of his life. 

     Since I am a lover both of cardigans and kindness, I am willing to buy-in and, therefore, I have on a cardigan today. I don't really know that this particular "movement" will gain much traction, because here's the thing: wearing cardigans doesn't make you kind any more than it made Mr. Rogers who he was. And I want to say something else: it won't even be beneficial if it only reminds you to be kind. 

    I am quite certain that there are many who would argue that point with me. "Of course being kind is always beneficial!" "Why don't you want people to be kind?!" "What sort of monster are you?" Here is the thing: there is no goodness apart from Jesus. There is no kindness without Him. That is why I said, "only". Being kind serves no purpose if it isn't based in glorifying God, because apart from that, anything we do is only to serve self.

    I know that it seems that unbelievers do a lot of "good". They feed the poor, they clothe the naked, they visit the imprisoned. And all those things, on a surface level, are "good".

"'Why do you call me good?' Jesus answered. 'No one is good-except God alone.'" -Mark 10:18 NIV
"'I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.'" John 15:5 NIV
    Those things that we perceive to be good, noble, perhaps even righteousness, are "filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6) apart from salvation in Jesus Christ. We can do no good thing apart from Him.

     So, as usual, I have taken something rather benign and made it heavy. I've dragged the Bible into something innocent and silly, right? I disagree. I am firmly convinced that every aspect of a believer's life, even the "little" things actually add up to something very important. And I am certain that even pertains to wearing a cardigan.

"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." 1 Corinthians 10:31 NIV

    If what I eat or drink is supposed to point other to God, then I think what I wear can, too. And that is why I am wearing a cardigan on World Kindness Day. Because Christ showed the ultimate kindness to me when He gave His life. When I placed my faith in Him I vowed to "do it all for the glory of God". So while others might be wearing a cardigan to draw attention to the latest Tom Hanks' movie, I am reminding myself that kindness is showing sinners the way to salvation, that true goodness only can be found in Christ alone, and that *any* "virtue" apart from Him is worthless.

    So wear a cardigan today, or don't, but whatever you do remember this:

"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." 1 Colossians 3:12 NIV 1984

   If you put on those things, it won't really matter what else you are wearing, because those suit  everybody and they are not a result of anything we can do apart from Christ. It's a good look for all of us.



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