Mara

My oldest daughter started middle school today.  She attends a wonderful Christian school – the kind where they make you read the Bible but they don’t grade you on it because they just want you to soak in the Word and not be told “I’m getting a C in Bible”.   At orientation night I saw their reading assignments up on the board for the first few days of school…. Starting with Ruth 1.

I have struggled with my quiet times greatly for the last two years – ever since I started working and got a smartphone.  I have yet to find a good work/life balance.  But that’s a topic for another day.  Suffice it to say I wanted to try again to renew my commitment to start my day in God’s Word.   And those words on the board were like an open invitation to me… what better place to start than with the place my daughter is starting?    So after my husband pulled out of the driveway this morning, taking my girls to their first day of school, I sat down and read Ruth 1.

It was a great chapter for me to read at this time in my life, but that’s not what made me want to sit down and write.  At bedtime tonight, I asked my daughter if they had read Ruth 1 in school today and she told me they had.  I asked her if anything had stood out to her.  She said she didn’t get why Naomi told her neighbors to call her by a new name.

19 So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?”
20 “Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. 21 I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.” ( Ruth 1:19-20, NIV)

My daughter went on “I mean, I know names were important, but really?”  I could tell by some other comments she made that she didn’t quite “get” the level of sorrow Naomi was experiencing.   So we talked about these things and I pointed out:

  1. In that day and time, women were not independent like they are now.  Their very livelihood rested in their husbands and their children.   She has lost both her husband AND her two sons.  That meant she had no means to support herself.
  2. A mother is not meant to outlive her children.  It’s just not the natural order of things and when it happens, it brings the depths of sorrow.
  3. The importance of names in that culture…. a name wasn’t just something you were called, it was descriptive.  Naomi means “pleasant”, Mara means “bitter”.  So Naomi’s statement indicates that she has changed in her core.

I then told my daughter that she, too, would feel that way someday.  Everyone experiences something like that at some point.  And, as her teenager years approach, I imagine she will feel that way multiple times.  Women are very emotional creatures, it’s just how we were designed.  Add the raging hormones of puberty and you’ve got a recipe for strong feelings of frustration, depression, anxiety, which can all lead to a sense of hopelessness, as Naomi felt.

BUT, when those times come, we MUST remember, that those feelings are NOT God’s truth.  God’ truth does not change, even in the midst of our raging emotions, even when it seems like our world is falling apart around us.  Whether those emotions are caused by the most intense grief and despair, as Naomi must have felt, or something more temporary, as I’m sure my teenage daughter will experience in the years to come.  Or even as I have felt in my emotional rollercoaster days.  When we are tempted to lose hope, to give up and claim an identity of bitterness, we must remind ourselves that we are God’s children.  He has claimed us.  He has filled us with His Spirit.  The spirit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  That he has a plan for our lives, and that ALL things can be used for His glory.

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Nothing less.

The most astute of you may notice that it’s been quite some time since my last post. A lot has been going on at our house since July and a lot of “stretching” has been taking place. My husband decided to leave his job of 16 years and try to make a career path change. I won’t go into details at this time, but suffice it to say God has been good in helping us trust him during this time. Yes, it’s been hard, but in many ways has been SO renewing for our marriage and our faith. In October I took an (almost) full-time job from home to help make ends meet until God directs Ben to his new job and of course there have been lots of adjustments. So I apologize for the absence – I’m sure you’ve been very disappointed. 😉 I have all sorts of ideas for posts over the last few months though so one of my New Years resolutions will be to post one a week. No promises, though. 😉

Several weeks ago, my husband and I were struggling. He had an interview with a great local company and we were excited about the possibility but then….. nothing.  He didn’t hear anything – from anybody- for weeks. My prayers that week were filled with variations on this theme, “God, we need some hope – an interview, a phone call, something. Just please send us some hope.” After one of those many pleas, God asked me

And where do you find your hope?

I know my hope did not lie in an interview or a phone call or even a job. And just as quickly the answer came in the form of a old beloved hymn.

My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus blood and righteousness.

He is my source of hope, of life, of peace. He is all I need. He is my encouragement. He is my path, He is everything.

Since then, whenever I feel discouraged, if I can remember to sing that song, to meditate on the words, God fills me with his hope and peace. And I am so grateful.

The Solid Rock, by Edward Mote, (c) 1834, public domain.

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

Refrain:
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

His oath, His covenant, His blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.

When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found;
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.

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Faith Training

On Mother’s Day I found myself sitting in church as my Pastor asked how many of us were thinking about how we wanted our kids to spend their summer… I mentally went through the list of activities I was considering for my 8 year old: Swim Lessons, Piano lessons, Gymnastics? Maybe a sport?  Some cooking. She wants to learn to type. Definitely some playdates and some time spent at the pool.  A few trips to visit family and friends.

Then he asked what I was doing to train my children in the ways of God.

Uh oh.

Crickets.  I got nothing.

Train up a child in the way he should go

And when he is old he will not depart from it – Proverbs 22:6

He talked about the difference between teaching and training and how so many parents leave it up to the church to “train” their children – but really what happens in the church is teaching, not training.

 Training happens at home. 

Training happens in the coming in and going out, in the laying down and getting up, in the everyday examples we set for our children and the purposeful conversations and activities we have with our children. Training is disciplined.

And he was totally right.  The summer is such a great opportunity to take time to teach things that we don’t focus on as much during the school year – to develop good habits that we can carry into the busy-ness of the fall.   I started thinking of ways to train my daughter to live out her faith in Christ – “Faith Training”, to coin a phrase.

1.  Bible Study – our family already does a family devotion and prayer at bedtime.  But she’s never spent a lot of time in Bible reading and she’s a good enough reader now that we can do that.  So we started reading through one of the gospels (she picked Luke).  Years ago when the WWJD movement was all popular, I heard a youth minister say “How are you suppose to know what Jesus would do if you don’t know Jesus?  How do you get to know Jesus?  You read the gospels.”  So I thought that was a good place to start.

Since we are just starting, we don’t go too in depth.  We just read a section and then talk about it together – I ask her if she has any questions. If she doesn’t, I ask her to tell me about what she read.

2.  Scripture memory – We are blessed that she has many avenues for learning scripture during the  school year.  She has to memorize a verse every week in school and our church does AWANA which is ALL about scripture memory!  She loves it.  But that all stops in the summer so it’s a good idea for me to continue this important discipline with her. I picked out verses around a theme (Trusting God) and she types the verse out (typing practice!) and we print it out and hang it up and we work on it together.   And I stole the idea of her 2nd grade teacher: after she memorizes the verse she gets a bead…. the beads will spell out TRUST IN GOD if she earns enough. 🙂

3. Prayer  – We pray with our children throughout the day – meal times, bed time, and anytime we have a concern we want to take to the Lord. But mostly what my kids are learning from that is how to ask for things from God.  It’s time I start teaching the oldest one that there is more than that.  I’m reminded of the old acronym A.C.T.S. (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication).  I need to teach her to talk to God about ALL those areas, not just supplication.

I haven’t done much with that last area yet but I’m thinking about getting her a journal and having her write the ACTS acronym down one side of the page and having her write a couple of words to go with each category as she prays that day…. a word or two of adoration, a sin she confessed to God, something she is thankful for day, and then get to the burdens on her heart.

These are just some ways I thought of to continue the process of “training up my children”.  What are some ways you incorporate “Faith training” into your daily or weekly routines?  Have you ever thought about it before?  Comment below and share your ideas – I would love to hear them!

If you’d like to see the sermon that got me thinking about this, click here.  It’s a great message – go listen to it now while it’s still available!

** UPDATE **

Since I wrote this post, I’ve struggled to stay faithful in “Faith Training” my daughter.   But I’m posting this anyway because 1) I’m hoping it will encourage me to stay faithful and 2) I want to hear your ideas!  Just keepin’ it real here.  🙂

 

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Literally stretching

Saturday night found my sweet husband and I doing something in the bedroom that had been overlooked for far too long…. we were flipping our mattress.  (What were YOU thinking?)  My poor hubby has had a very sore back for a few days and we decided before rushing out to replace our 15 year old mattress we should try flipping it first to see if that helped.   In a very ironic twist of fate, while putting the sheets back on the bed, I messed up MY back.  The good news is that his back is feeling much better.  Lucky dog.

This sort of thing has happened to me before – usually involving similarly inane tasks.  (Ant bites, putting dishes in the dishwasher, putting on my shoes…. you get the idea.)  So this morning when I was still having quite a bit of pain I called my chiropractor and they got me right in.  (I love that!)

So my life currently involves quite a bit of stretching now – three sets a day plus daily adjustments.   As I was lying on the table before my morning chiropractic adjustment, with electric stim massaging the knot that is my lower back and hip, and moist heat limbering up the rest of my back (felt SOOOO good…. almost fell asleep.   LOVE that part of the appointment) I wondered “So what is my take away here?”

Here’s what I came up with:

1.  I’m not all that important.  Sometimes it seems like God has to knock me down a couple of notches to remind me I’m not the end all be all, and life with still go on even if I’m not running things.  To quote Eliza Doolittle  “Without your twirling it, the earth still spins”…. thankfully I’m not the one doing the twirling. 🙂

2. When I feel helpless, God’s still got my hand.  After my time on the stim table was done they said “ok, you can sit up now.”  Only, I couldn’t.   That’s the one thing I can’t do right now – I have to roll to my left side and ease up that way.  But the table was right up against the wall on the left side and I had no where to go.  The nurse tried to help me up but she wasn’t strong enough and I was stuck there on the table while they got the doctor.  All of a sudden I felt pretty helpless.

Years ago God gave me a verse that has remained one of my favorites: Isaiah 41:13 – 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.’  He gave me that verse during a season of my life when I felt totally helpless.  And if it was true then, in a much harder circumstance, it’s certainly true now.

3. My family rocks. I came home with pretty strict instructions from the doc: no vacuuming. No loading/unloading the dishwasher.  No carrying full laundry baskets.  No picking up small children.   I was thinking “Hmmmm. yeaahhh…. not.”  But to their credit my family stepped up today and I am so grateful!   Even the 3 year old seemed to understand and did not whine about me not carrying her or picking her up.   Sometimes it takes a little bit of hardship to remind you that you’re all on the same team – and I sure have a great one! Thanks guys!

I’m sure I’ll be pretty much back to normal in a week or two, but in the meantime I’ll enjoy my stretches…. who knows what else God will reveal?

 

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The true tragedy of Lutzenkirchen’s death

Like many in the state of Alabama, I was shocked to learn of the death of Auburn star football player Phillip Lutzenkirchen.   It’s always sad to hear of a young man’s life cut short.  But when I read the article describing the tragic car accident, I got a little upset.  And not in the usual way.

There were four people in that vehicle.  And only 1 walked out of the hospital, “released from care”, as of the writing of the article noted above.  Just 1 out of 4.  Can you guess why?  Go on…. I’ll wait.

Say it with me: SEATBELT.

Only one person in that vehicle was definitely wearing a seatbelt.   The two young lives that were cut short were ejected or partially ejected from the vehicle.  A third, also ejected from the vehicle, is dealing with who knows what kind of physical trauma and I pray that 20 year old girl will recover completely from whatever injuries she is facing.  Perhaps if the other occupants of that vehicle had simply buckled up, we wouldn’t be mourning their lives today.

Over and over again I have read more newspaper stories than I can count where the fatalities in car crashes are caused by failure to wear a seatbelt.   It’s such a disturbing waste of life.  It’s true, vehicles are being designed safer and safer, with crumple zones and air bag curtains and new braking technologies that I can’t even begin to fathom.  But NONE OF THOSE SYSTEMS WILL HELP YOU IF YOU ARE NOT RESTRAINED IN THE VEHICLE!  Millions of dollars in research and design negated by choosing not to use the simplest form of safety equipment in the car.

I don’t know why people go with out them.  In my observations, they tend to be younger adults and teenagers.  Perhaps they think they aren’t cool.  Or perhaps they don’t want to mess up their clothes. Or they want to get closer to their boyfriend/girlfriend… or they are squeezing so many people into the car they can’t properly use the belts… whatever the reason, it’s a HUGE risk.

Please, do yourself a favor, talk to your loved ones about the importance of using a seatbelt.  My oldest child is only 8 but you bet your seatbelt I had a conversation with her about it today! And then I quized her later on why she should always wear a seatbelt to make sure she heard me.  I plan to repeat this reminder from time to time in the hopes that when SHE becomes a teenager/twenty something and is tempted to do something with life-threathening consequences, she won’t even have to think twice.  Because she’ll know how important this “minor” safety issue really is.

 

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