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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Even God's children didn't always mind...

With both my boys it was relatively easy to conceive. In fact, with my youngest, it happened without us even trying! Even so, in advance of having children, I prayed for them. In my womb, I prayed for them. After their birth, I have prayed for them. I recently came across 1 Samuel 1:27-28, which says, "I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord. (NIV)".

That's not always easy. Especially when my children make poor choices and the inevitable consequences come, I want to save them. I want to pick them back up and protect them, rather than "give them to the Lord". There are even times I want to bear the consequences rather than see them suffer. But we all make our own choices, and ultimately we all answer for them...on this side of heaven or on the other. I believe strongly in, and hold fast to, God’s direction to “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” I also accept the fact that the book of Proverbs is not a collection of promises that will be fulfilled as long as the conditions are met, but instead are maxims that wisely describe the way God has made the world to operate. Of course, God often blesses Godly parenting, but ultimately our children have free will; they can choose to follow or reject our ways because God created them with the ability to do so. Even the Lord Himself knows what it is like to be rejected by His children (Israel) and to have disobedient children (Adam and Eve). I am reading a terrific book titled, “When Good Kids Make Bad Choices [Help and Hope for Hurting Parents],” which has reminded me of these truths.

Of course I also realize I am not always a "Godly parent". Thank goodness for mercy and grace and forgiveness. The Lord is so faithful. Think of how many times He blessed Israel, even when they would fall back into sin after being rescued by God. I also don't hesitate to ask my kids for their forgiveness when I have messed up. I pray that the humility they see in me (as well as my strength and resolve in other situations), will make an impact on how they treat others, and help them see the benefit of repentance. I also recognize the need to forgive them when they have intentionally or unintentionally hurt me...whether they ask for forgiveness or not. We are commanded to forgive to be forgiven. (Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." Luke 6:36-38 NIV)

And, finally, what I have found most important lately is that my boys know I love matter what. When they were small, I would say, "I love you more than the world is big." And I want them to know that is a really "big" unshakable and unmoveable unconditional love. Regardless of what choices they make, and what consequences come, I will love them. When they are acting most unloveable, that is when they need to hear it the most. Oh, my words may not be accepted at the time, and they may seem like they don't care. They may even throw hurtful things back to me. But I cannot waiver, or I lose an opportunity to live out the purpose I've stated on this blog...that my boys would know they are loved, valued, adored, me, and by God.

I pray something in what I've written has touched your heart, reminded you of a truth, or given you something to praise God for. If nothing else, remember that "Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him." (Psalm 127:3 NLT) If you are a parent, thank God for His gift. If you are not, know that you have still received, or have access to, an even greater gift. The gift of having a Father in heaven who loves you "more than the world is big". He knows every choice you've ever made...good and bad; He knows your every thought...good and bad; and He loves you no matter what. His is a free gift of love, hope, joy and ultimately an eternal life in a perfect place He is preparing for you. It's the best gift you will ever receive.

Oh...and in my next post, I think I will explore how to react when you don't feel like your child is a "gift...a reward" (at least in the moment of chaos, turmoil, pain or even just disobedience). But for tonight, I choose to praise God as both a mother, and as a child of His. Blessings to you.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Calls me "blessed"? I'd be happy to be "called" at all...

I'd like to meet the modern day mom whose teenagers "arise and call her blessed." (Proverbs 31:28 NIV) I would have many questions, and I'd like to shadow her for a week or so to learn from this blessed woman. Better yet, I would love to meet the actual Proverbs 31 woman this side of heaven, so I could further learn from her and grow as a wife and mother while my family still has time to benefit from that! In addition to being a blessed mom, what wife does not yearn for her husband to praise her with the words, "There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!" (Proverbs 31:29 NLT)

Honestly, though, I'd be happy to just be called (anything nice) by my teenager. My beloved 15-year-old started slipping away as he entered his teenage years. The times of mother and son enjoying hanging out together are a distant (but lovely) memory, and even the calls for " you know where my jacket is?" or "Mom, will you help me with my homework?" have all but vanished. Though not quite independent (as much as he wants to be), this son of mine is walking his own path, primarily in the opposite direction of mine and my husband's.

On the other hand, my 12-year-old still enjoys spending time with Mom and Dad...almost to the opposite extreme, where he'd rather be home with us than out with his friends. I worry for his emotional health for very different reasons: Will he learn to live joyfully in the world outside our home? Will he allow his heart to love (and be broken by) others outside our family? Will he develop, nurture and maintain healthy life-long friendships? Will he ever move out, and will he give us grandchildren, or will he be the 40-year bachelor still living at home?!?

So, I have two boys, with very distinctive personalities, and very diverse challenges. I am in prayer daily, if not minute-by-minute, for each of them in completely different ways. It's interesting, my search on for derivatives of the word "pray" brought back 365 for each day of the year. One of those I actually have marked in my Bible, "Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV) I put a box around these verses years ago because they really challenged me. I find them incredibly difficult to follow. It's effortless in the "good times", and it's even pretty easy in specific settings during the "bad times". For example, even in the midst of struggles, when I lose myself in praise and worship at church or listening to a CD in my car, or in the middle of the pastor's lesson or a pointent audio book by a Christian author, I can find joy, and I can even give thanks to God for all He's done for me...on the cross, in my past, and in the moment. But what about when I'm in the moment experiencing pain? Feeling doubt? Grieving over lost dreams and hopes? Having my heart broken by one I love? I can certainly "pray continually", but am I joyful always? Do I give thanks in all circumstances? I find I am probably more like David...crying out to God, "Why have you forsaken me?" in one breath, and then hours or even days later (for David, 22 verses later) I come to end of my rope and lay my troubles at the feet of the cross, and I say, "I will praise you." It has to be a choice, rather than a feeling. A decision, rather than an emotion. As with Paul, it comes from a confidence in the nature of God, who will complete what He has begun: "May God himself, the God who makes everything holy and whole, make you holy and whole, put you together—spirit, soul, and body—and keep you fit for the coming of our Master, Jesus Christ. The One who called you is completely dependable. If He said it, He'll do it!" (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 MSG)

My story goes much deeper than this...there is so much more to tell. I hope to share it with you not so much as an outlet for me, but as a means of providing both you and I with hope. I pray this blog will become a place where we share our struggles, claim our triumphs, support each other, and even grieve together. My story is one of family struggles, grief over devastating and life-changing choices my oldest son has made, concern for my youngest son's emotional health, and a longing for a marriage and home life like the one described in Proverbs 31. I praise God that no matter what I walk through, I am not alone. He is with me. And, He has given me others to join me for the journey. I hope that will include you.

Blessings to you, my new and old friends, family, and fellow bloggers. Until next time...when I reveal "more of the story"...