Singing these words today, over and over, trying to get my perspective right…

(You are Good, by Darrell Evans)

You are good.

You are good.

Jesus, You are good.

Jesus, You’re the passion of my heart.

I am fashioned for Your glory

and amazed by who You are.

You are good.

You are good.

Jesus, You are good.

Jesus, You’re my Saviour, You’re my Truth.

You’re a faithful God, forever

and I rely on You.

You are good.

You are good.

Jesus, You are good.

 

and now he’s eight

Two days ago, Nathanael turned 8.  I just realized this morning that I never wrote a birthday post for him.  It probably doesn’t matter to anyone except me, but I felt bad for forgetting.  If no other purpose is served, taking time on my kids’ birthdays to reflect on who they are and to be reminded of how blessed I am by them is almost a necessity for this soul of mine that is all too quick to overlook the good in daily life.

So, I’m taking time now to write about my Bug.  In many ways he is constant.  He has always been slow to speak, thoughtful, helpful, rough-and-tumble, and curious about everything – and he still is all of those things.  He still loves helping with projects.  He will still tell me out of the blue that he loves me.  He still dislikes vegetables.  He is still a voracious reader.  He still has a soft heart.

But there are more things that have started standing out, too.  In our family devotional time, he is always the one who volunteers to pray, or who has a worship song he wants to sing.  He doesn’t often ask questions, but when he does, it is always after he has thought long and hard trying to understand something.  During our individual prayer time with him, he regularly (and sincerely) asks for prayer for things like diligence, wisdom and kindness.

I’m sure there’s more I could say, but this is what comes to mind most often when I think of who Nathanael is.  His genuine heart for the Lord, his genuine love for people, his earnest desire to do right are all so clear in him – and the wrestling match that goes on inside of him when his eight-year old longings conflict with them is so obvious.  I am still so aware of how careful I need to be with his sensitive heart, but I am also seeing a foundation established in him that is showing more and more as he is faced with right and wrong, and sin and weakness, and recognizing who he needs to be.

I love this boy.  So, so much.  I was caught off-guard today seeing him run around and realizing how tall and how strong he is.  Right now, it seems like these eight years went too fast.  But I am thankful for every moment of them.  I’m thankful for him.

 

crumbs

As I was praying this morning, and wondering – for the fifty-bazillionth time what it’s okay to believe God for – I thought of the syrophoenician woman who likened the deliverance she requested for her daughter to the crumbs that fell from the master’s table.  Then, in Luke, I read about the leftovers that were collected after feeding the five-thousand…leftovers, that were more than what was given to Him to use in the first place.  And I felt challenged by this picture that God gives of His oversupply, how He lavishly pours out blessing, how the biggest things we can ask Him for are so easy for Him that even those who might seem most undeserving can receive just by drawing near and believing.

I know how hard it can be sometimes to look at circumstances, or at others’ unanswered prayers – or even at our own unanswered prayers – and still believe it’s as simple as having faith.  Questions about timing or a greater good or how God’s will might be different from our own can make it easy to doubt that He’s willing to do even what we believe He has said He will do.  And, it seems, the bigger the request, the greater the temptation to doubt.  But why?  Even when we make requests for things that seem like mountain-moving miracles, compared to His infinite power and goodness, they are like crumbs falling from the feast He has prepared for those invited to His table.

He is Almighty God.  He is sovereign. He is Creator, not just designer, not just builder, but the One who made substance and gave matter its properties and determined how and why everything would work the way it does.  He is limitless.  He holds the oceans in the palm of His hand, and weighs mountains in a scale.  All that He is is beyond human comprehension.

And He is good.  Unendingly good.  Unreservedly good.  Unconditionally good.  How could I ever expect Him to be otherwise?

just come

Usually, when I come to God, I try to do everything right.  I try to set my thoughts on all that He is.  I try to confess His goodness, His faithfulness, His sovereignty.  I analyze my heart to see if there’s any area where I have fallen away.  I analyze my motives in prayer to see if, somehow, I’ve missed God’s will in what I’m praying for.  I try to believe that He hears and answers, and I try to go forward in hope that I will, at some point, see evidence of that fact.   I try to be mindful of the reality that every area of this life of mine is first and foremost for His glory.

But sometimes, when I feel like I am at the end of myself, and all the prayers I’ve prayed seem to have fallen on deaf ears, and I have no idea how to hope anymore, and the days and weeks and months ahead promise a heart-straining, soul-grating, mind-boggling, strength-draining reality, and I just can’t see why this is what life looks like right now -  doing things the ‘right’ way seems like too much.  And I half-kneel, half-fall in a crumpled heap at His feet and just cry and ask Him to please help.  I feel badly that all of the truths that I should know aren’t faithfully tumbling from my lips.  I feel pitiful for, again, being undone by what most people would probably consider no big deal.  But you know what?  I think it’s okay.  He just wants me to come.

Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in the time of need. —Hebrews 4:16

a favorite poem

Flame of God, by Amy Carmichael

from prayer that asks that I may be

sheltered from winds that beat on Thee

from fearing when I should aspire,

from faltering when I should climb higher

from silken self, O Captain, free

Thy soldier who would follow thee

from subtle love of softening things

from easy choices, weakenings

(not thus are spirits fortified

not this way went the Crucified)

from all that dims Thy Calvary

O Lamb of God, deliver me

give me the love that leads the way

the faith that nothing can dismay

the hope no disappointments tire

the passion that will burn like fire

let me not sink to be a clod

make me Thy fuel, flame of God

this summer so far

I’m not great about writing about everyday life things.  I try, but short of presenting you with a list of things that fill our days, I seem incapable of putting the stuff of our days into words.

But, I can tell you that there is a sweet, toddling, willful, affectionate little girl where I’m sure there was a beautiful baby girl just yesterday.

I can tell you that despite my very best intentions, my gardens have somehow become overwhelmingly weed infested – and though this shouldn’t take me by surprise, it still manages to discourage me all the same.

I can tell you that it is taking me way too long to refinish my screen doors, and I’m paranoid about picking paint colors that will end up looking hideous when I see them on our house – and then I console myself with the reality that any painting that happens will be at such a snail’s pace that changing colors if they prove offensive should really require almost no effort at all.

I can tell you that I still haven’t figured out how to effectively schedule our days so that I don’t hear “what can I do?” every five minutes.

I can tell you that I still love watching kids play baseball, and that our laundry piles shrink but become so much more needing to be washed, and that our Buddy is the only one of the kids that gets sunburned like me, and that Ava stares longingly out the window when the older kids get to play outside but she has to be inside.

I can tell you that we have the best car travelers for kids, that I am thankful for free swimming lessons, that Isabelle has started to love books, and that I never knew how fast band-aids could get used up.

I can tell you that, even though most people might contend we’ve hardly had any warm days, I am ready for warm weather to be done, but I’m nervous about the new school year and my shortcomings that always seem to be the undoing of my homeschooling plans.

I can tell you that Tim and I have very different ideas of what it means to have a break and that it can be hard to find a compromise at times.

I can tell you my mother-in-law is moving almost next door to us in less than a month and…well, that’s really all I can say about that.

I can tell you that I’m still always tired because Isabelle still always wakes up at least twice, but usually 3 or more times a night.

I can tell you that I’m thankful for Tim’s job, and thankful for fresh veggies, and thankful for flowers, and thankful for my husband and kids.

I can tell you that life rarely looks like what I’ve hoped for and it can be hard for my idealistic self to come to grips with, but I can also tell you that God always proves Himself to be more and better than I could have ever hoped for, and that the recognition of this reality – that He is constant, unchanging, faithful and good in the midst of a life that inevitably brings disappointment and uncertainty and difficulty – is necessary for keeping my soul anchored and my gaze set on Him.  And that’s true all the time, but it’s been more obvious lately, so I guess it still counts as a summer thing.

Okay, so it turned into a list anyway.  It’s just the only way I can write about these things, I guess.

because He loves us

The heavens declare the glory of God;
And the firmament shows His handiwork.
Day unto day utters speech,
And night unto night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech nor language
Where their voice is not heard.
Their line has gone out through all the earth,
And their words to the end of the world.-Psalm 19:1-4

When we were driving through Canada recently, there was a breathtaking sunset.  Something about the topography of this particular stretch of road has always made the sky there feel so vast and awe-inspiring, and the sunset seemed almost weighty in its beauty.  And as I made sure my kids were seeing this awesome display of God’s glory, He whispered to my heart - I did this for you.

I was dumbstruck for a moment.  My theology has generally always, only attributed such displays as a one-sided declaration on God’s part of who He is, like a statement of fact, a proof to point to in case anyone ever wondered if He was real.  But there’s more.  It’s God seeking a response of praise and adoration.  The heavens are declaring the glory of God to us, to humanity, and not in a way that makes us run away in terror.  God made us to be drawn to beauty, and then He paints the sky with unmatched splendor.  It’s like He’s saying Look at Me!  See how magnificent I am? See how powerful? See how creative? See how much bigger and better I am than anyone ever? Don’t I deserve your love, your praise, your life?  See what amazing gifts I can pour out to you! 

It’s like the King of kings and Lord of lords is wooing humanity to Himself.  It’s His extravagant love for us written across the sky.  It’s Him giving us the smallest glimpse of His immeasurable beauty, which ends up being more spectacular than anything anyone else could ever hope to offer.  It’s Him zealously pursuing a people He died to be near.  It’s this infinite God desiring praise from us, telling us that we are valuable to Him.  It’s Him wanting to make sure we know: there’s none that can compare with Him.

It leaves me speechless.


when I do dumb things

I’m not always the sharpest tool in the shed.  Occasionally, I forget that I am no longer twelve, and somehow think that I can demonstrate to my children how to climb a rope.  After all, it was the easiest thing in the world when I was a kid.  Now, though?  Apparently, when my feet slip and my full weight is suddenly pulling on my arms, I am only then hit by the obvious realization – um…I can’t do this anymore.  Thankfully, having only gotten a few feet off the ground (I know, it’s sad), I didn’t fall or anything.  But my right shoulder hurt.  By the end of that day, two days ago, I realized that I couldn’t lift or extend it without horrible pain.  Through Tim’s own past experience and a quick look online, it was determined with a fair level of certainty that I have some sort of rotator cuff injury, with the best remedy being ice and rest.

So, here I sit.  I can’t cook, or drive, or make my bed, or pull weeds, or paint our screen doors, or [easily] pick up my little girls.  A friend had a baby yesterday evening and I went over to help out afterward only to discover that there was little I could actually do given my current…uh…disability.  I am realizing how very not ambidextrous I am, how many seemingly simple actions require a lifted or extended arm, and how much I actually can’t stand doing nothing.

Tim alternates between laughing at how I managed to injure myself, and scolding me if I use my arm even a little.  The reality is that the longer this takes to get better, the longer he and our kids have to pick up my slack.  As it is, we feel perpetually behind on lots of fronts, and a silly thing like this can be incredibly discouraging.

In moments like this, I always feel like God is trying to impress upon me the necessity of having a different perspective.  Life has hard stops sometimes.  Like it or not, things happen that we can’t change or make better quicker or somehow cause to work for our advantage.  But God isn’t sidelined when we are, and we have to be careful - I have to be careful – to not assume that this life, that is in His hands, will be undone because things aren’t going according to our plan.  Regardless of how many things seem to fall to the wayside, or how many times we find ourselves overwhelmed by the mountain of projects, or how often it might seem like nothing ever goes the way we need it to go, we can cling to His faithfulness, His goodness, His sovereignty over our days.  And even if a lifetime passes and some things have never gotten done, He is doing a good work in us that He will complete.  That’s so much more important.

Some days make me feel worthless and hopeless and like I’ll never get anything right.   Some days make me wish I were invisible, because then at least there would be a reason for people not seeing or acknowledging me in any way.  Some days, I see myself and don’t really wonder that others would rather not know me more.

I get angry, sometimes.  Angry that God made me this way, with this apparently repellant personality, with these flabby, slouchy genes that require way more effort than I can put in to overcome, with a heart that hurts so easily, and a history that convinces me that walls are always safer.

And I want to dwell here.  I want to etch the heartache and self-loathing into my soul because I don’t want to ever forget.  I don’t want to forget because, if I forget, I might let myself hope for the obviously impossible.  I might think, for a moment, that there could be something lovable about me.  Then I’ll just get hurt all over again.  I know I will.  It’s happened more times than I can count.  I’m tired of being hurt.

In the midst of raising defenses and memorizing this angst, though, God is whispering, insistently, you’re beautiful to Me…I love you.  Over and over.  I want to ignore Him.  I want to say it’s not enough.  I want for Him to know for a minute how it feels to be always rejected…

…oh, wait…yeah…huh.

I’m kind of left without an argument.  But I still don’t understand.  And maybe that’s why it keeps happening.  Maybe there’s some lesson that just isn’t getting through to me.  I wish I knew, so I could make it all stop.

Still, for now, I’ll fall on His grace – this completely, utterly undeserved favor with the God of the universe – and let Him try to put back together this heart that seems permanently broken and bruised.  I keep wondering if He’ll ever stop trying.  I really hope not.

 

is this normal?

Earlier today, I left a cart full of groceries in the parking lot of the grocery store.  I just forgot them there.  I didn’t realize it until we were home and unloading the car three hours later.  Even then,  I wasn’t convinced that I could have possibly had such a massive mental misfire until I called the store to verify that, yes, there was in fact a cart of groceries found in the parking lot.

Tim thought it was funny.  He tried to console me by noting the fact that I’d had all six kids with me, and that I haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in over a year.  But even so, I was seriously upset by my mistake.  I hadn’t been feeling particularly tired today.  The kids had been well-behaved in the store.  I wasn’t frazzled.  I wasn’t at the end of my rope.  I wasn’t dragging myself through the day in a sleep-deprived daze.  I thought I was doing well.  I thought I was on top of things.  I was having a rare moment of not feeling overwhelmed by life, but I failed anyway.

I’m trying to find a lesson in this.  It seems like there should be obvious parallels with redemption, or pride, or sin, or something, but all I can think is that I’m only thirty-six and this kind of thing shouldn’t be happening to me.