Month: June 2017

Walmart Momma

Even though I have recently opted to order my groceries online from Walmart, thus avoiding the dreaded weekly grocery shopping trip (this is Ah-mazing!) I still find myself, on occasion, inside the store. I do try very hard to avoid these in-store visits as I am not a fan of the Walmart environment, generally speaking. If you are unsure to what I am referencing, a quick tour of the Facebook group, “People of Walmart”, will enlighten you.

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Yet as I mentioned, I did find myself inside the store recently. I had not been there too long before I heard the familiar exchange between the non-compliant child and the desperate mom. I’m not sure exactly what the story was because the pair was on the next aisle up from me, but the volume of the exchange was such that I could hear it clearly, and imagine for myself.

Child: Wailing

Mom: “Stop it, Jackson. I said no.”

Child: Wailing

Mom: “Stop it, Jackson, or I’m going to put your toy back.”

Child: Increased wailing

Mom: “Stop it, Jackson, or I’m going to put your toy back and you will get a spanking. I said no.”

Child:  More wailing

I’d like to say this interchange ended promptly with Jackson stopping it, retaining his toy, and avoiding a spanking. But it did not end, and yet he still kept the toy, and as far as I could tell, did not suffer a spanking.

Mostly, I was just thankful to be past all that with my kids. If my grown kids are with me at Walmart crying over a toy and I am threatening to spank them, I have bigger problems to deal with.

I will say that I was tempted to walk around the corner, go up the next aisle, take Jackson’s toy and whack him on the tush… hug his momma, offer to buy her a coffee, and give her some free advice. Clearly she needed to grow a little bit of a backbone with this little man.

But I understand.

Parenting is hard. No parent wants to take from a child. We are hardwired by our heavenly Father to give to our children. Matthew 7 says,

Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

So taking from them just does not often compute. Still, that young Walmart momma could learn a bit from the Lord as He parented the willful children of Israel.

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God laid out for the people of Israel how the relationship with Him was going to go. By way of summary, in Deuteronomy 30, He tells them, “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!” God had given them the parameters, actions that would bring blessings to them and actions that would bring curses. He was very clear, but God has a heart.

So often the nation of Israel would go its own way, and through the prophets God would remind them of their covenant with Him. He would remind them of the curses that would befall them if they did not change their ways and submit their lives to Him alone. He was not unlike that young mother in Walmart, pleading again and again for His children to choose life!

Why? Because like that young mother, God understood better the ramifications of disobedience. While Israel could not fully understand the consequences that would befall them, God did. He could see what they could not. Yet so often, their willful disobedience left Him no choice but to hand down the curses He had promised.

It was important for God to follow through for two reasons. First, to not follow through would make Him a liar. Could a God who did not hand down promised consequences, then be trusted to also hand out promised blessing? Second, God had a plan for His people and their descendants. From the tribe of Judah would one day come the Savior of the world. There was a bigger picture that the children of Israel could not see.

That’s the free advice I would give that little momma in Walmart. I know she was tired. That wailing boy was a handful, but she was dangerously close to losing her credibility with him. I understand why she didn’t want to follow through with her promises of punishment, but she needed to understand why it was important that she did. And there is a bigger picture to consider than one toy in the middle of Walmart. It is a picture of a life in the making, a character to be shaped, and a future man of integrity to be raised.

Yep. Parenting is hard. And for all my young momma friends, hang in there. Stick to your guns. Be steadfast in your love for your little ones, even if you have to follow through on promised consequences. After all, that’s loving them, too.

The Blessing of Honor

As many of you know, my mother passed away just over a week ago. It was completely unexpected and it has been quite an adjustment for our family. My mother was a great mom, and getting used to living life without her in it will be new territory for us all. I spent the last week mostly trying to take care of my dad. He’s so strong and made of good stuff, but even this was enough to shake him a bit. More than anything, I have wanted him to be okay. So I have tried to honor him in the ways that I have attended to him and loved him.

FullSizeRender.jpgAs I have tried to be intentional with dad this week, it has made me think a lot about this whole idea of honor. God thought enough of it that He included it in His top ten. Exodus 20:12 says it. “Honor your father and mother, so that it may be well with you, that your days may be long in the land which the Lord your God gives you.

When I was a kid growing up, I knew that my mom and dad worked hard in their community to live lives of integrity and good character. As a young child, and even into my teenage years, it was important to me that I never did anything that would bring them dishonor. I knew that there was nothing I could do that would cause them not to love me, but I could do plenty to dishonor and embarrass them. That desire to honor them kept me from doing

So

Many

Things.

I used to think honoring my parents was for them, and to a point, it was. But ultimately, it was for my own benefit. That particular commandment is the only one that, if kept, comes with a promise for the keeper. If I choose to keep this commandment, I am promised a life of blessing… a long life of blessing… in the land God gives me.

If you have trouble with that… take a moment and think of families you know. Ones with at least two kids. Ones with at least two kids where one has chosen to honor their parents, and another has chosen not to honor them. How is life different for these two children? I’ll bet you find one struggling in some way, and it will likely be the one who is dishonoring their parents.

When kids choose to dishonor their parents, they grow up into adulthood with an inability to be under authority. This makes it hard to be successful in school, in jobs… in all areas of life, really. They also find it hard to submit to God’s authority in their lives. We are always under some kind of authority. If we do not learn early how to be under authority successfully, we will always struggle. I believe this is why God put it in His top ten.

All of my four children have passed through a high school internship at our church called “2:52”. It is grounded in the verse, Luke 2:52. “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man”. It is a great opportunity, and all of my children bear the imprint of passing through that internship. My youngest, Evan, is spending his second summer in this internship. They are BUSY. They are gone, gone, gone doing this, that, and the other thing. All good stuff with all good people, but still, it feels like I sometimes lose track of who he is with and where.

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I managed to snag him for a moment yesterday to remind him of Luke 2:51. “Then he (Jesus) went down to Nazareth with them (his parents) and was subject to them”. You see, even Jesus was subject to his parents. This comes before the next verse where it says… AND he grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. First, Jesus was subject to his parents, and THEN he received those blessings.

My dad blessed me this week and allowed me to honor my mother one final time at her funeral. As I stood to speak before the crowd gathered to celebrate her life, I was not sure I would be able to get through what I wanted to say about the woman that I called Mom. But a supernatural peace, the one that passes all understanding, came upon me and I honored my Proverbs 31 Mother. I was able to “rise and call her blessed”, and “honor her for the works her hands had done”.

 

“Do Not Worry About Your Life”

I come from a long line of worriers. If you were to ask my worrying ancestors about the practice they would likely tell you that they had a lot of things over which to worry, and so with so much practice, they became experts. This hard won skill was then passed down through the generations to me. But I don’t think it’s just my ancestry. I think you come from a long line of worriers, too. Perhaps to varying degrees, but we all worry about something. It’s due to our human condition. We are not all-knowing, and we cannot see into the future. We cannot know what will happen even one second from now. The only moment we can count on for sure is this one. It is the not knowing that is our undoing.

Because Jesus became a man and walked among us, he had the unique opportunity to understand this issue of worry. He saw how it could consume us if we didn’t put it into the correct perspective. So Jesus addressed the problem of worry. He told us in Matthew 6:25, “Do not worry about your life”. Jesus asked us not to get bogged down in the details of our existence. Jesus wanted us to see that the birds that fly freely around us do not gather to commiserate on whether or not there will be enough food to feed all of them. They truly live in the moment. It’s all they have.

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My little Aunt Jean lives in a nursing home. Dad and I work together to make sure that she is well cared for. Dementia has taken over her mind, and has robbed her of her ability to worry. It has stolen other things too, like memories and independence, but one blessing of dementia is that it has taken her ability to worry. Jean does not worry about anything. The only moment that exists for her is the one she is in currently. It has offered her a unique freedom. She has no anxiety, no stress. She is happy to see me, but does not worry about what might happen to me when I leave.

Andy Stanley, pastor of NorthPoint Community Church, teaches that we worry about the things to which we are most devoted. As he puts it, he does not worry about whether or not I have a job. He’s not devoted to me. When I look to the things I spend time worrying about, it’s usually all wrapped up in my family and the things that impact them. Are they well? Safe? Are their futures secure? As if my worry is some sort of insurance policy against calamity. If I just worry enough about those things, then they will all be fine, and I will no longer have anything to worry about.

Jesus pointed attention to the wild birds because his point was this. They don’t worry, and yet the Lord meets their needs. And then He asks the question. “Aren’t you much more valuable to the Father than they are?” If the Lord meets their needs, how much more and consistently will He meet ours?

Jesus understood why we worry. We lack information. We want information. And in the absence of information, we make some up and it’s usually not good. And this imaginary information becomes our focus. We can dream up a lot of catastrophic circumstances, can’t we? We can play them out to their bitter end and fret our days away.

What would happen if we shifted our devotion? I’m not saying we don’t do the things we need to do to be responsible and take care of “our part”. I cannot expect that my children will just know how to live lives devoted to Jesus if I don’t teach them how and model that for them. But then I’ve done my part. My part does not, then, include worrying about whether or not God will do His part.

What would happen if I am most devoted to Christ, developing my relationship with God the Father, and being filled with the Spirit? What if I choose to put my worries there? What if I seek God first? And then trust Him with the rest? Well, Jesus said then all these other things? These things I used to worry about? Those will be added to me.

Are we really so devoted to our worries that we aren’t willing to take Jesus at His word? We trust Him with our eternity, but not with our now?

Doesn’t His way seem to make life a good bit easier? I mean we can choose to worry and fret if we want to, but to what end? We aren’t replacing worry with ambivalence, we are replacing worry with trust in a trustworthy Father.

Saying Goodbye to Old Things… Making Room for New

This last weekend, we packed up our house and moved it to a new location. Well, not the house, just the stuff inside. I can honestly say that I should be a moving expert. My best friend sometimes shows me her address book where the “B” pages are all full of my previous addresses. Well, now she has to find room for one more.

This is our moving routine. Matthew gets the current house ready to vacate. This usually means fixing or completing those things we have not had time to fix or complete, but now must do before we can sell the thing for what we hope to get for it.

Then the house goes on the market. That means getting it and keeping it show ready, and that means all hands on deck. You never know when those potential buyers want to show up. Have you ever gone to Williamsburg to see the old colonial homes there and the tour guide tells you, “This is a working kitchen”? Well, just because the house in on the market doesn’t mean it’s not still a working kitchen… and bathroom… and den…

Then the house sells, and the reality of “Get your stuff and get out” sets in. That’s my cue. Matthew generally takes care of the fixing and completing, and I take care of the donating, tossing, and packing of our worldly goods. I sort of enjoy this part… to a point. It’s those last two or three days when things start to get a little crossways for me. It’s that last bit of stuff that doesn’t seem to fit into a box, or doesn’t go with anything else that’s left, so things just start getting thrown into a hodgepodge of packing with the hopes of sorting it all out later… and my nerves get frazzled.

Then the moving truck shows up. With four kids… we don’t usually hire movers… we are the movers. This time, though, with our kids being a bit up and out… we were down to two kids still available to help. And help they did! We pulled in a few sweet friends to help here and there, and together we managed over three days to squeeze a four bedroom house into a three bedroom apartment. Mostly.

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As I finished up getting the house ready for the new family to move in… I walked through and thought about both the sweet and joyful, as well as the hard times, our family has had in that house. I watched our kids grow to young adults in that house, and those can be some gloriously challenging years.

With us moving all the time, I used to worry about our kids when they were growing up. I never moved once during my childhood, and I put down deep roots in my childhood home. But early on my husband told me this truth… “For our kids, home is wherever we are.”

Saying goodbye to the old can be hard, but sometimes it’s the only way we can say hello to new things. One thing is for certain… whether you move a lot like we have or not… things rarely ever stay the same. We can’t hold too tightly to what we have if we want to have an open hand for what’s coming to us. That’s been a hard lesson for me to learn. I want to hold onto that bird in my hand so tightly that I miss the ones in the bush that are meant for me.

So for the next few months, I am going to embrace apartment living. I am going to live with two open hands and see what new things come. I don’t want to miss anything new because I’m trying to hold on to the old stuff.