Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Ironic Gift

I'm up and down the stairs, scrubbing carpet, rushing with her to the bathroom, and throwing in more loads of laundry than would normally be done in a week!  She's still fearful of most toilets for some crazy reason that I can't understand or make right for her.  Running to one to avoid an even bigger disaster is the last thing her weak, feverish five year old body wants to do.  Yep....that nasty stomach bug that we, as parents, dread more than almost anything else.

I myself am tired, unshowered, and certainly not eating breakfast...or lunch for that matter!  Because... Am I feeling okay, myself?  Am I just hot from running around or is it a fever?  Ugh...what if I get sick AND have to care for her?  And my baby?  And my other kids?  Oh God, please don't let anyone else come down with this!  

We mamas have all been there!  And many dads too.  My husband, when available, is an incredible strength and help during these times when our kids have been sick.  But most kids definitely want the comfort of mama.  And--unless my experience is way off the beaten path--it's mama who lies in bed with eyes and ears wide open, praying and keeping watch throughout these nights.  

And yet, somehow there's peace.  Somehow there is strength!  Somehow the most selfless acts of love and care are the ones that come most naturally.  It hits me this morning as my sweet girl peacefully sleeps off her fever:  I am at my best when she needs me the most.

I sit with this revelation for a few moments, as I listen to her soft sounds.  And I realize how amazing this is.  I realize how reassuring this is.  I realize how natural this is.  Because I realize how like God this is.  Just like the true nature of God.

God encourages us, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12: 9).  My children need me to be strong when they are absolutely weak...unable to complete even the most basic tasks alone.  They depend on my strength and comfort.  They expect it without hesitation.  They know I will be there with them, in their weakness, and they rest assured in this.  It is enough!  No, I can't take away the fever or the pain.  But my presence is enough comfort to allow them to rest peacefully. 

I learn so much from my children.  I learn so much about the nature of God by mothering them.  What a gift!  I think this is one of the main reasons that the Bible says children are a blessing from the Lord.*  They allow me the opportunity to take my eyes off of myself.  What a gift!  But in taking my eyes off of myself through serving them, I am offered the gift of perspective.  I see how they see me...and how God desires me to see Him.  To depend on Him.  To trust in Him.  To find my rest and peace in Him.

I hope to soon see my little girl squeezing her baby brother a little too tightly (big grin)!  I hope to soon see her practicing her gymnastic moves all over the house.  I hope to soon hear her giggling when her Daddy tickles her.  I hope to soon see her restored to perfect health.  But I confess that I am grateful for the gift of this weakness...the gift of this perspective.  This ironic gift.

I pray that I will lean into Him when I am weak.  I pray that I will learn to trust and rest in Him when I am weak.  Just as I am quite possibly the best and most complete mother when my little ones need me the most, I pray that I will allow God to be the most completely who He desires to be in my life...when I am weak.  (I hesitantly, but humbly pray that I am weak more often!).  When I am weak, He is strong.  His power truly is made perfect in my weakness.  When I acknowledge my weakness.  When I have no choice but to completely depend upon Him.  This is the gift.  This is the ironic gift of the stomach bug!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

More Than an Attitude of Gratitude

Mid-February seems to be an appropriate time to reflect on my scripture for this year. In years past, my New Year's resolutions would likely by now be forgotten or pushed aside in terms of intentionality. However, since I began choosing a scripture passage for my New Year, I am revisiting it regularly.  
 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6,7
I was reading something today that reminded me of a portion of this passage that might be (or at least in my humanness) likely overlooked. "With thanksgiving..."  How crucial this is!  I am a woman drawn to prayer:  regular conversation with God and intercession as well.  I do try to remember to be thankful on a regular basis. But the more that I learn about my make-up, the more that I realize how prone I am to seeing the deficits.  When I see the deficits, I am more likely to complain...or have a negative attitude.  It's not lovely.  I don't like it. But it's part of my nature.  Therefore, it is all the more necessary that I become deliberate about thanksgiving.

It is not enough to " try to remember to be thankful "as I stated earlier.  There must be action attached or it isn't living, breathing, and growing!  As BrenĂ© Brown explains, " It seems that gratitude without practice may be a little like faith without works--it's not alive." And how can I possibly expect for my children to grow into truly thankful people unless they see this modeled in front of them?  You can't see a belief or an attitude, can you?  Well....most of the time you can't see an attitude...but that's a different blog post entirely!  What you see are actions!

I have a gratitude journal that I write in semi-regularly; I keep it on my nightstand.  I have recently decided that that simply isn't enough for me.  I am making a choice to become more deliberate about recording thanks--or, counting my blessings--throughout the day and throughout the week.  I have decided to record my thanksgiving in a journal that is downstairs also, where I can more readily access it.  One of my hopes in doing this is that my children see my thanksgiving at work!

For Valentine's Day, we gave each of them a journal for recording their own thanksgiving. They were so excited!  With the exception of one very systematic son, who must wait until the end of a day, they started writing immediately. It was precious to see!
I'm hoping that we, as a family, will cultivate more than just an attitude of gratitude.  I'm hoping that we will become doers of thanksgiving, givers of thanks.  I don't ever want to neglect this key element of the promise of peace that is mine, as my requests are presented to God.
 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6,7

I'm having Coffee For Your Heart with my friend Holley Gerth today 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Get Back On The Horse

I was at a stoplight heading home in a bit of a hurry to finish preparing dinner for my family so I could leave for my women's bible study once my husband returned home with our other children.  My phone alerted me of a text which I quickly scanned.  Something to the effect of " soon as I got back to the barn Ella was cantering on her horse--and freaking out--and then fell off when she tried to stop him..."  Oh boy!  I knew that leaving for my bible study on time would not be half as easy with my 7 year old arriving home, most likely in tears, after such a traumatic event at her riding lessons.

We knew it would eventually happen; she would fall off the horse.  It's not something foreign to those learning to ride horses.  We've spoken to other parents whose children have fallen off numerous times, and we've seen such falls as well.  An inevitable fall was always in the back of our minds, no matter how well things seemed to be progressing.  I remember telling my husband "Well, I'm glad she got the first fall under her belt."  However, that was almost enough for it to be her last fall.  If we let her get her would be her last!

Learning to ride horses has been so good for our naturally timid daughter.  Only a little more than a year ago, she was fearful of cats, dogs, and most brand new experiences.  To see her tiny frame next to the horses--even the ponies--was almost comical at first.  We soon began to realize how healthy is was for her to learn to become confident around such a massively strong animal!  And now, the inevitable fall and the necessary lesson of learning to get back on the horse.

My husband told me how good her teacher, Amy, was about that fall.  Ella was already scared to death nervous cantering(running) the horse.  When she fell, so did the tears.  Ron said Amy scooped her up and immediately put her back on the horse, not even allowing for one moment of comfort or complaint.  We would later hear all the complaints...and we would later comfort her as best we could.  In fact, we both spent the following week talking with her, praying with her, and encouraging her.  I sent notes to school tucked away in her lunchbox telling her she was brave and that God was always with her.  But she wanted to quit.  She wanted to never go back.  She tried every tactic!  And I knew we had no choice but to force her to go again, no matter how easy it would be to give in to her fears and rescue her.  We also knew that we could by no means promise her that she wouldn't fall again.  In fact, it's likely there will be many more falls.  No false promises!  All we could tell her was that God was always with her.

The next lesson finally came.  I had to look the other way every time she stared at me with her big brown eyes, silently pleading with me not to put her through this.  We prayed with her in the car before heading into the barn.  This time even I was fearful...not that she would get hurt, but that the inevitable would happen again and that we would have to drag her, kicking and screaming, to any lessons following.  I knew we couldn't let her quit in the middle of fear!  Even if she only rides horses for two more months, we had to help her overcome the fear!  We couldn't allow her to remain paralyzed in fear; we love her too much!

I watched as much of her lesson as I could before heading home to finish dinner for my family.  I was anxiously awaiting the arrival of my family after Ella's lesson.  I held my breath as the front door opened and the chatty crew flooded in.  I looked at Ella, who seemed chatty herself, to my surprise.  Ron said "Ella has a story for you!"  She proceeded to tell me how she had to canter on Dreamer again.  She sounded happy.  She then told me that she fell off.  "But," she exclaimed, "this time I wasn't even scared and I didn't get hurt either!"  She excitedly told me about the rest of her lesson.  She was so was I!  And not because she didn't fall this time.  She fell, but this fall didn't hold the same power over her as that first fall.  And why?

The why hasn't escaped me at all.  I've thought about it over and over since that first fall.  She got back on the horse!  Would she have, on her own?  No, I don't think so.  But Amy didn't allow her one moment of protest:  she scooped her up and put her back on immediately.  I wish I had an Amy beside me every time I fell.  What a gift she gave Ella on that cold Tuesday afternoon.  I think this will be one of those defining times in her life whether she realizes it or not.  She'll likely fall again and again but she's learned the key to overcoming:  you have to get back on the horse!

We all have horses in our life to climb back on.  We each have times of failure or great fear and there's only one way to truly overcome.  We have to allow ourselves, with God's help, the opportunity to overcome.  We will never overcome the failures or the fears if we don't get right back up and at it again.  Certainly God gives us wisdom.  We are not made to do absolutely everything.  He gives each of us passions and gifts that align with the purpose of those passions.  But experiencing failure in an area, even many times over, is not an indicator of our future success.  With God's help we can succeed!  But more importantly, with God's help hoisting us back on the horse, we can overcome the paralyzing fear that so often follows failure.  It would be much easier to walk away and claim we never wanted it in the first place.  It would have been much easier to scoop up our daughter and hold her soothingly and promise she'd never have to ride that mean horse again!  But we would have done her such a great disservice.

Yesterday she had another lesson and she didn't fall at all.  Furthermore, she was on a larger horse.  She told me later how she didn't need help getting on or off Taco.  She was so animated as she explained that she had to kick him much harder to get him to trot but she did just that.  She told me she bridled him all by herself.  She is becoming more and more confident.  I am learning from her.  She got back on the horse...and it's making all the difference!

I am having Coffee For Your Heart with my friend Holley Gerth