Friday, November 11, 2011

A New Resolve

It was one of those days.

The Coach knew it as soon as he walked in the door. And as soon as he sat down, I grabbed the opportunity to say, “Would now be a good time for me to run upstairs and take a shower?” and then, without waiting for an answer, ran upstairs as fast as I could, just to be alone with my self-pity.

It wasn’t any one thing that happened, just a thousand little things. Just life. Especially life with a 2 year old, in a new town, without a church family or close friends, five and a half months pregnant…the list could go on and on.

The next morning I woke up with a new resolve…to be a better mom. To be a better wife. To be a better homemaker. To find new ways to save money. And as I sipped my hot tea and contemplated my new determination, I already knew that it wasn’t going to work. Because that determination was not new after all. I’ve had it a hundred times before, and it just never works.

I want to be the woman in Proverbs 31. She does her husband good all the days of her life; she provides for everyone in her household; she makes, invests, and saves money; she gives to the poor and lives a life of ministry; she has a positive outlook on life; she opens her mouth in wisdom; her children rise up and bless her. But the thing is, I can try to achieve that list all day long and I will fail all day long. Why? Because that list is just a record of symptoms.

I usually think of symptoms as indications of something bad, like sickness, but in this case the woman’s symptoms are of something very good. They are symptoms of the fear of the Lord. It’s no accident that Proverbs 31 is placed at the end of a book on wisdom, which starts out by telling us in the very first chapter that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. And Proverbs 31 itself ends with the insight that the woman who fears the Lord will be praised.

It’s not about being a better mom or wife or homemaker or financial expert or gourmet cook. It’s not about making a checklist of all the ways I can improve myself. It’s about learning to walk in the fear of the Lord. Because that list of things that I want to be, that I want to accomplish, are symptoms that can’t precede their cause, or else they are worthless. I have tried to do it backward my whole life, starting with the outcomes and hoping that if I accomplish them, they will change my heart. But the best thing I can do for my husband, my kids, my ministry, is to fear the Lord. And the only way to do that is to abide in Him, to spend time with Him, to seek to know Him more and more.

So, the best new resolve for me is not to be better. It is to look to the One who can change me from the inside, to walk humbly with Him, and to trust that He will take care of the outcomes that I so desire to see in my life.

Saturday, July 23, 2011


Becoming a mom has drastically improved my prayer life.

The other night as I was in bed waiting for sleep to catch up with my ridiculously-tired-yet-unable-to-rest-pregnant-self, I was praying for my kiddos. My prayers for Claire and little peanut #2 went something like this…

“I pray that they will love You with all of their hearts…that they will come to know you at an early age…that they will be pleasing to You…”

And then I stopped. What would it take for my precious kids to be pleasing to God?

For that matter, what would it take for me to be pleasing to God?

There are so many ways that we try to answer that question, consciously or not. And most of them revolve around action…either doing something or not doing something…either effort or sacrifice.

Look at me, I’m teaching a Bible study. I’m serving at VBS. I’m using my talents in the church. Won’t God be proud of me?

Or…I’m leaving all my family and friends to go on the mission field. I’m trading in my desires to spend more time with my kids. I’m giving away my money and possessions to meet needs. God will be so pleased.

But then I think about Claire. I love Claire no matter what and I am most pleased with her when she trusts me. When she runs to me if she is afraid…when she looks to me for affirmation…when she obeys because she knows that I love her and I know what is best for her.

Hebrews 11:6 says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” In all my ways of trying to please God, I am missing out on the simple answer…Trust Him. Have faith. Believe that He is real, that He is love, and that He desires to bless me if I desire to know Him.

If Claire obeys me out of fear, or out of some notion that she can earn my favor, then I really am not pleased at all, because I know that she must not really trust me as her mommy. And it’s a subtle difference, really, because obedience motivated by faith looks very much like obedience prompted by false motives. But that subtle distinction is the difference between life and death, between blessing and curse.

So when I pray for my kids to be pleasing to God, I am praying for them to have great faith. I am praying for them to trust in the Father’s character and goodness. And I am praying for them to lead lives of obedience...and that their obedience would always be motivated by faith.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


I have lots of things to be thankful for.

I’m thankful that food tastes so good. Especially 2 spoonfuls of peanut butter mixed with brown sugar, all hot and melty after 3 sets of 22 seconds in the microwave, eaten just before bedtime. Every night.

I’m thankful for books. And bookshelves. And office supply stores. Oh, the smell of fresh, unused paper…

I’m thankful for Raid roach-killer spray.

I’m thankful that my eyes work. I do play the piano on occasion with my eyes closed, though, just so I’ll be one step ahead in case I ever lose my vision.

Of all the things I’m thankful for, this one makes my top 10 list easily…

I’m thankful for my dad.

I’m thankful for my dad for a lot of reasons. Like, the fact that the worst word I ever heard growing up was “Fiddle.” Oh, you know it’s bad if that word comes out of his mouth. Or the fact that the one image that crops up over and over again from my childhood is one of running into my mom and dad’s bedroom and seeing my dad, kneeling on the floor with Bible and notebook and books spread out on the bed in front of him.

But most of all, I’m forever thankful because I have never once struggled with the idea of God as my heavenly Father. So many people really have a hard time accepting the image of God as Father, maybe because their dad was abusive, or neglectful, or absent. But I don’t. I have other issues, but understanding the fatherhood of God is not one of them. My dad gave me the best possible human example of this, and largely because of his example in my life, I don’t have any problem seeing my heavenly Father as…

Completely accepting of me

Unconditional in His love

Willing to talk and free with His wisdom

Taking delight in me as His child

Faithful to discipline me to keep me on the path of righteousness

Always having my best interest at heart

And now I have another element of gratitude on my top 10 list: the fact that my daughter will have the same experience as I did. I married a man who I am confident will give my little girl an accurate first picture of God as Father. I'm so glad to know that Claire will not wonder what it means to have a father's unconditional love. Spencer is a man after God's own heart, and Claire will one day realize what a rare and precious gift it is to have a godly daddy. My dad is not perfect, and neither is my husband. But they have this in common: The more they walk with God, the more they look like Him. And I can’t think of a whole lot of things to be more thankful for than that.

Happy Father’s Day.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Stuff My Mom Taught Me

  • Grammar matters.

  • Gifts should be personal and well-thought out. Listen carefully all year long to come up with the perfect Christmas gift.

  • Study your kids. Know them. Know their interests, abilities, strengths, weaknesses, habits. Enjoy your kids at every stage.

  • Lock the door. Including the deadbolt. All the time.

  • Life should be narrated through songs. Life is, after all, a musical.

  • Each of your children should have at least one unique and potentially embarrassing nickname (“Wee One”, “Squirt”, etc.)

  • Manicure scissors work better than nail clippers on newborn fingernails.

  • Be unashamedly affectionate toward your husband in front of your children.

  • Auburn rules.

  • Christmas music should be played from October through January, and the whole month of August, and random times in between.

  • Pray without ceasing for your husband and your children.

  • Never put your husband down in front of others. And even though you may disagree with him - and it is okay to voice that to him - in the end you support him. You are his biggest fan, ally, and confidant.

  • If you don’t like your first name, you can change it and then refuse to answer to anything but the name you have chosen for that day. Rachel. Monique. Tessa. The list could go on indefinitely.

  • Listen to people. Really listen to them. And give them feedback. Conversations are not one-sided. Encourage others every opportunity you get.

  • Call when you get there. And when you’re halfway there. And at least two other times before you get there.

This is what my mom looks like (from Proverbs 31)…”The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil all the days of her life…She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue…Her children rise up and bless her; her husband also, and he praises her, saying: Many daughters have done nobly, but you excel them all.’ Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.

That’s what I want to look like, too.

Thanks, Mills, for showing me what a wife/mommy is supposed to look like.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Be Like Me

Lately I have noticed a trend in my Claire-prayers. I pray for her to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus, to have a teachable spirit, to love God with all her heart/soul/mind/strength, just as I have always prayed…but often in the middle of these prayers, a little clause will pop up that goes something like this:

“…and please don’t let her struggle with fear like I do.”

“…and please don’t let her hold bitterness in her heart like her mom.”

“…and please don’t let her be as stubborn or faithless as me.”

And tonight I realized that the best thing I can do for my child is not to pray that she won’t be like me, but to pray for Jesus to change me.

Now, I know that the purest motivation for repentance is to glorify God, to be so compelled by the love and kindness of God in Christ that I come running to the cross. But surely the desire for my daughter to be able to follow my example is a tool for the Holy Spirit to bring me to the foot of the cross. Paul didn’t give his dearly loved young believers instruction and then a disclaimer (“Don’t be like me…”) Instead he said, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1)

I want to say that and mean it. So instead of praying for Claire not to be like me, I will pray for Jesus to transform me into His likeness. And when (not if – because I know it is inevitable) Claire follows my example, I pray that it will be only to run to Jesus as her only hope of change.

Motherhood is good for me.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Demanding Obedience

If you had been in my house this morning, you would have heard a grand total of about two sentences come out of my mouth.

  1. “Pick up your crayons and put them in the box."
  2. “Pick up your shoes and put them in the basket.”

The first one lasted for about twenty minutes. Claire loves to have a task to complete, but the one thing that she always balks at is putting her crayons away. So, of course, when I explained that it was time to put up the crayons before moving on to the next activity, she found plenty of excuses…She tried distraction (“Oh look Mom, it’s Daddy’s contact case…isn’t it interesting??”); she tried pouting and even throwing a minor tantrum, but it did nothing to change my response or my instructions; and she tried running away, but my arm was always too quick for her to get too far away. Finally she put them away, and even closed the box and went to put it up on the bookshelf. I felt like supermom.

That was the first one.

But the second one. Oh, the second one.

It was such a simple request…put your shoes in the basket. She loves to put her shoes in the basket. She has never refused before. I still don’t know what happened. But somehow I went from feeling like supermom to just feeling super tired.

For over an hour (don’t miss that please…OVER AN HOUR), we went round and round. Here was the script that we repeated…

Me: “Pick up your shoes and put them in the basket.”

Claire: Falls down in the floor and screams.

Me: Going about my business, trying not to reward the tantrum with attention. Washing dishes, cleaning the bathroom, vacuuming the floor, etc.

Claire: Attempts to grab a book off the shelf; tries to pull her toys out of the corner; asks for a snack; plays the piano.

Me: Pick Claire up, return her to the middle of the living room floor, and say, “Pick up your shoes and put them in the basket.”

Claire: Falls down in the floor and screams.

Etc. etc. etc.

The tears came harder. The screams got louder and longer. My prayers got more fervent. At one point I thought it was over. She actually picked up the shoes…and proceeded to throw them back to the floor. Oh, the depravity of mankind.

Yes, we did finally end this little scene. She did eventually, with angry tears still spilling from her eyes, put her shoes in the basket. And we proceeded to have major cuddle time on the couch as I reassured her of my love for her. Now everything is quiet. Claire is asleep (or at least pretending to be) and I am – well – tired. And so incredibly thankful. I am thankful that God is a teacher and that becoming a parent is the most intense lesson plan He has carried out in my life so far. (And I know that it’s only beginning.)

The entire time that we were on this merry-go-round this morning, I kept thinking, “Is this how God sees my sin?” I was so grieved over Claire’s stubbornness. I wanted so badly for her to obey so that she would stop crying and be free to play with her other toys. I was so frustrated because I knew that she understood what I was asking, and honestly I just wasn’t even asking that much. I kept putting her back in a position to obey by moving her to the middle of the floor where her shoes were, and yet even when I gently placed her right in front of her shoes, she responded by arching her back and screaming. I repeated my instructions every time so that she wouldn’t forget exactly what I was asking. And believe it or not, I didn’t get angry. I was just so sad.

Why didn’t my one-year-old get it? She caused so much distress for herself by refusing to obey one simple command. She restricted her own freedom by exerting a stubborn will.

I’m beginning to understand more and more God’s heart of love in calling us to obedience. For me, it wasn’t about the shoes. It was about my daughter hearing my voice and heeding my instruction. The shoes really didn’t matter. If they remained in the floor all day, no one would have noticed and nothing would have been harmed. But I want to train her in righteousness now, with simple commands, so that she understands the importance of obedience. I pray for her to have a teachable heart, a sensitive spirit. I want her to understand the joy and freedom brought by obedience.

When God instructed His children as they were standing at the edge of the promised land, He emphasized that obedience to His commands would bring life and fulfillment. Our holy God expects us to live righteously, and His commands are motivated by love. He wants us to enjoy life (Deuteronomy 6:2). He wants things to go well with us (Deuteronomy 6:3). But just like toddlers, we so often buck up at His commandments as if they are restrictive and hard, forgetting that Jesus’ yoke is easy (Matthew 11:30) and God’s commandments are not burdensome (1 John 5:3)!

This post may not make much sense, especially if it turns out to be as scattered as my thoughts are right now. But I wanted to write down what I was thinking before the next tantrum comes along, so I can remember in the heat of the moment God’s perfect love in demanding obedience.

And now, I think I shall go have a cup of hot tea. Or a nap.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Funk

Boy, was I in a funk today.

It's not like it was the most stressful day ever. I have had much busier days with much more going on. It was just a funky day.

Maybe it was because I've been thinking about how the Coach is going to start back to classes in a couple of weeks and then he'll disappear into his little study cave and I won't see him again until May. Maybe it's because my brother and his family were supposed to visit this weekend but now they can't because he has to make up snow days at work. Maybe it was because Little Bit fell asleep in the car while I was running errands this morning and was totally off her nap schedule. Maybe it was just because I am a girl.

Whatever the case, I just wasn't doing too great. I kind of just wanted to sit on the couch and check my email and facebook over and over and not have to think about anything. But that's really hard to do with a toddler. I could feel myself withdrawing and becoming frustrated, and I finally just decided I was going to have to do something to snap out of it.

So I turned on the tv.

No, it's not what you're thinking. I actually turned on the tv, put on a Brainy Baby dvd, and sat with my little girl in my lap while she watched it. My plan: to cuddle with my baby while spending some time in prayer. I thought, I'll just sit in this recliner and count my blessings while my little sweetie lies peacefully in my arms and becomes smarter and more creative just by virtue of watching the "Right Brain" video.

It really was well-intentioned. And it worked for about four and a half minutes.

But then she got antsy, and a foul smell started to radiate from her diaper, and she jumped down and grabbed the remote from the table and started mashing buttons, and the moment was broken.

So much for quality time with the Lord. And the funk continued.

So now, an hour and a half later, after a really long battle to actually take a nap at all, Little Bit is asleep and I am alone. And pondering. What am I supposed to do when I feel the Funk coming on? And how do I shake it off?

A couple of days ago I was reading in Mark 8:22-26. This is the story of a healing that Jesus performed. I have always loved how each account of the miracles of Jesus is unique; how He never healed two people the exact same way; how each time He worked in their lives, it was personal and especially tailored to their situation and needs. This time it was a blind man. Jesus took him aside, away from the crowds, to work with him one on one. He spit on the man's eyes and put His hands on him, and then He asked a question: "Do you see anything?"

Alright, let's hold it right there. I mean, the Son of God just spit in the man's eyes. That's, well, gross, but it seems like a rhetorical question to ask "Do you see anything?" That was divine saliva! The obvious answer, to me, is, "Yes, of course, Jesus. You just spit on him. Of course he can see now."

But that's not what the man replied. Instead, he said, "I see people; they look like trees walking around."

What? It sounds like Jesus messed up. The man can see, but he can't see clearly. Everything is distorted and confused. But Jesus did not really react to this statement as if He was surprised. He didn't even say anything. Instead, He simply laid His hands on the man's eyes, and at once "his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly."

I'm not even going to pretend to understand why Jesus did this. I don't know why He healed the man in two stages instead of one. But the important thing for me to know right now is not why He did, but that He did.

It's not what I would have expected. It's not even what I would have wanted.

But then again, God rarely meets my expectations. He always exceeds them.

I have this verse at the top of my blog: "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts."

I really had the expectation and the desire to snap out of my mood by spending time in prayer. But even after I entered into that time, however short-lived it was with my crazy toddler squirming everywhere, my vision was still clouded, just like the blind man's was even after Jesus touched him. It wasn't until just now, as I meditate on the Word in front of me, that my sight is being restored and I am starting to see clearly.

It's not about snapping myself out of my Funk. It's about focusing on Jesus and letting Him work His miracle in me, in whatever way He chooses. It is about faith even when Jesus does not act the way I expect or desire at the moment. The blind man didn't freak out when he saw trees walking around, and I shouldn't freak out if praying or reading the Bible doesn't work like a magic wand. The blind man seemed to have a peace about the fact that he was standing next to Jesus and that Jesus had the power to complete what He started. I want that too.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The “More-Than-Rules” Book

It was seriously only going to take two minutes.

The fish was out of the oven and cooling on the plate when I prematurely said, “Do you want to eat?” Claire went into panic mode.

“EAT! EAT!” she signed frantically, adding a desperate cry when I did not immediately put food in front of her.

“Patience, love! Wait patiently for just a minute. I don’t want you to burn your mouth. I promise, the fish will be cool enough to eat in just a minute.”

Her signing grew almost violent and her cries turned into a siren blast. Don’t worry, she did get fed. You would think we starve the child instead of feeding her EVERY hour. I don’t know where all that food goes on her twenty pounds. But goodness, I had to wait until it was cool. My command – “Wait!” – was a law of love, out of concern for her well-being, within the context of knowing that she was not going to starve in the meantime!

The chaos had calmed down when Spencer raised a very good question.

“How are we going to teach her that rules are not just rules? I don’t want to tell her a rule – Don’t complain. Obey mom and dad. Be patient. – and when she asks why, just say, ‘Because the Bible says so.’ How do we teach her that it’s not just about behavior, but about the heart?”

Great question. So we started talking about it, and the “More-Than-Rules” book was born. Or, at least the seed of the idea of the book. And really, that’ s a bit misleading. It’s not a book. We simply decided that as Claire grows in understanding, we need to be prepared to shepherd her in the Word of God, not just the “words” themselves. We want her to see God’s heart behind His commandments. So we are going to try to be preemptive in this and think of how we might explain why God has given us certain commandments to obey. More than just abstract or random rules…but loving, gracious rules that reflect a loving, gracious, holy, and powerful God.

I thought I might do this in blog form. And here is a disclaimer, mostly to myself because I get big ideas and usually fall short on the follow-through. I don’t know how many blogs I will post on this subject, how often they will come, how consistent they will be. Not every future post will be on this subject. But I look forward to meditating on different commandments and thinking ahead to how I will present these to Claire. And I have a feeling that, on this journey, I will be more convicted than anyone.

Our goal as parents is to teach Claire to love the Word of God, and to love the God of the Word. Our goal in the “More-Than-Rules” book is to show her God’s heart of love through His commandments, and ultimately to teach her the beautiful gospel over and over again.

“Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in Your law…I delight in your laws because I love them.” Psalm 119:18, 47

Oh Lord, may it be so!