Today is my father’s birthday. He’s no longer here to celebrate it, but each year on this day, I still say a prayer and send him a wish. It’s quiet, and it’s ours.
Memories Can Be Sweet
When I was in junior high and high school, my father and I would get up early in the morning, before either of us had to leave for the day, and we’d drink Irish Breakfast tea in the quiet kitchen. Living in the PNW meant waking up to complete darkness and rain streaking the windows. Tea was a perfect accessory to strengthen our resolve to leave the house.
It was a calming ritual that made even the worst days a little easier to deal with. That short amount of time was always a wonderful experience, especially considering neither my father nor I were morning people.
The pang of my father’s absence still lingers in my heart; sometimes more poignant than others. This morning was one of those moments where sweet memories I hadn’t thought of in years flooded my heart. I found it fitting that they came to me while spending time with my Heavenly Father, and drinking my morning cup of Irish Breakfast tea.
Memories Help Us Grow
Though my father is no longer physically with me, and we haven’t shared the early morning silence of a rain-soaked morning since I graduated from high school, those moments led to the moment I had this morning. Everything we experience in life leaves a mark on us, whether good or bad. These experiences with my father leave me with the desire to make similar memories with my children.
Remember today to embrace the good moments, even amid the chaos and pain of living life in this fallen world. God doesn’t promise it will be easy, but He does promise it will be worth it.
As a teenager, one who obviously knew it all, I believed I would be a certain way as an adult. I was one of those people who believed I knew how to handle whatever life had in store for me. This included parenting.
*Insert slightly insane laughter here*
There is a meme floating around the internet that states: “I was a perfect parent. Then I had children.”
It would be funny if it weren’t so incredibly accurate. Too many people (me included) believe they’ve got it all figured out–life, fitness, parenting, their make-up; only to have reality kick them solidly in the solar plexus. My old friend, Reality likes to remind me of its presence regularly.
When I was still a perfect parent–living under my parents’ roof, wearing clothes they bought for me, talking on the phone (a landline!) they paid for; I swore I would never treat my children the way my parents treated me. I wouldn’t keep my children from doing what they wanted, make them do chores, or tell them no. I would be different. I’d understand them, and treat them with “respect”.
I’m sure God chuckled at my plans. My parents did.
Before the birth of my youngest my niece and I spent some time sitting on a bench overlooking the Puget Sound. The sun was warm, the sky was clear, the seagulls were begging scraps of our lunches, and it was a much-needed break from the hustle and bustle we’d been dealing with for the last few months. Taking a few moments to enjoy the beauty the LORD has created, and to truly appreciate it helped to relax my anxious heart.
It also helped me to understand something about myself.
I’m not a perfect parent. In fact, teen me would spend a lot of time rolling her eyes at adult me. I might have thought my parents were strict, but they were nothing compared to how I am as a parent. Part of this stems from a moderate battle with anxiety, but not all of it. Simply put, my priorities have changed, as have my views.
God is the Perfect Parent
God has blessed us with three beautiful children, not to be perfect parents, but to teach them and train them up in what is righteous. Much to their dismay, that includes horrors like sweeping, making their beds, and cleaning bathrooms, and picking up toys. It also requires them to spend time with us, to not put their friends above the LORD or their family, and to forgive each other when we stumble.
Something else that comes along with this is the amount of freedom we allow our children to have. Our eldest is only nine, and regardless of how my husband and I were raised the world is a much different place today than it was twenty years ago. Yes, she can play outside without constant supervision, but there are rules that have to be followed, and consequences if those rules are ignored. This is a relatively new freedom for her, and I still have several bad moments where I want to keep her in the house away from any chance of getting hit by a speeding car (see, anxiety). I’m taking it a day at a time, and maybe I’ll be more relaxed when they’re visiting me in the retirement home.
The point is, there are no perfect parents on Earth, except God, and of course those who have never had children. We as a society (especially women) spend so much time judging the merits of one person over another that we seem to forget we’re all just stumbling along doing the best we can. Have some people lost their way? Yes, but that isn’t for us to judge. There are people in this world who have been called to help those who have fallen. Instead of casting blame and pointing fingers, it’s time for us to come together and build each other up, and to raise our own children with love, compassion, and grace.
Each day the media gives us detailed accounts of how dark and broken our world is. Whether you get your ‘news’ from television news reports, printed newspapers and magazines, or social media–you’re being bombarded with doom and gloom. The worst minutes of strangers’ lives are plastered, shared, and argued over. There is so much heartache, and no answers or solutions coming from the people participating in the often lengthy and irrelevant comment section. Everyone has an opinion, and while we are entitled to an opinion, shouldn’t we think before stating it?
Yes, this should be obvious to everyone, but so often it isn’t. These actions can’t be laid at the feet of the unbeliever either, but rest at the dusty soles of each person. I’ve seen loudly proclaiming Christians tear people down in the guise of fellowship just as I’ve seen athiests and agnostics do it.
God created all of us, and our job is to share His gospel with others. This doesn’t mean we’re supposed to browbeat unbelievers or malign their name. Our world is currupt enough without turning our faith into a tool of corruption. When we do that, when we use Jesus as a way to bully others, we aren’t doing His works, we’re doing Satan’s.
Instead of pointing out the faults of each other maybe we, as Christians, could spread around some joy.
That’s the amazing thing about Jesus. He brings joy. People loved Him and followed Him. They were willing to give up their material possessions and their careers to join Him. They were willing to give up their lives to follow in His footsteps, to spread His teachings. This didn’t happen because He condemed each person He came in contact with. It happened because He not only had joy–even through His trials, He was joy. He was and is the light.
You, LORD, are my lamp; the LORD turns my darkness into light.
2 Samuel 22:29
During the last eight months I’ve focused on joy. Not just the word, but all that it signifies, and so far I’ve realized one very important thing. Even in the darkness that has been covering our world, there is still joy. There is still light. God is still here, with us. During each and every trial, during every painful experience, He is beside us.
Knowing that this world is temporary, that the life we live on this earth isn’t the best there is, that’s joy.
Instead of pointing out the faults of everyone and adding to the darkness, choose to add light to the world. Choose to add JOY.
This day is holy to our LORD. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.
Today, social media is blowing up yet again about the death of a man and the ensuing riots in the Milwaukee community. Everyone has an opinion; some with first-hand knowledge, and others (like myself) who have only heard about it through various news sites and blog posts.
What concerns me most about the posts, aren’t the facts behind the event (a man with previous criminal experience pointing a loaded gun at a Law Enforcement Officer), but the way the narrative is framed. Our society automatically adds in the race of each of the involved parties, then for added effect we’ll throw in a few derogatory terms such as “thug” or “pig”.
But no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
Suddenly entire communities go on the defensive. There is no understanding or steps taken to create change. What there is instead is division. Communities aren’t coming together to talk things through in a calm and useful way; hatred is spewed from the mouths of angry citizens. Families are attacked by strangers, while simultaneously attacking others. Our words have power, and with the ease of access to outlets the internet and social media have given us, the more powerful those words become.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.
Twenty years ago, an officer may have shot someone, regardless of race, during the course of their day; if you lived on the other side of the country or the world, the probability was you’d never hear about it. The reach of words and emotions didn’t extend that far. The power wasn’t that great. Today, someone in another country can’t eat dinner without the rest of the world having access to it. People become famous off of digitally recording actions most of the world would be embarrassed by. We are a world where reality television has become an idol. We live in a time that equates fame with money and an extravagant lifestyle–religious and non-religious alike. Helping people has become another money-making empire, and is too often done as a tax write off than out of any true desire to change the circumstances of those in need.
We are broken. We’ve been broken longer than anyone reading this has been alive. We’ve been broken since Adam and Eve made their choice and disobeyed God. We’ve continued to walk a sinful and deadly path since Cain killed Abel.
No amount of police shaming or race shaming is going to fix what is wrong with our world. Neither will stereotyping, race-baiting, or hash-tagging. Truthfully, the color of a person’s skin is the least of our worries. Sin doesn’t care what color our skin is, it simply looks for a chink in our armor. We don’t need other countries to destroy us, they just have to sit back and wait for us to destroy ourselves–to allow sin to destroy us, one choice at a time.
The truth is, there is no easy answer to this. We are only human. Weak and sinful; we crave the joys of the world more than those of our forever home, and because of that, we’ll never understand why we witness our country, and on a larger scale, our world, falling apart. As a Christian, my heart clings to faith. Faith in My God who knows what happens tomorrow. Who knows where this is all going, and which person or community the lesson is for.
In Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will.
Maybe it’s for me, or you, or someone none of us have met. I don’t know, but I do know one thing: I’m trusting in Him.
In case you’re feeling terribly alone today, please realize you’re not. The LORD is with you. He has been with you since before you took your first breath. He never leaves you or forgets you. Those are human failures, and Our LORD doesn’t fail.
Be peaceful today, dear friends, and let His wonderful light shine through you.
Since my word for 2016 is Joy, I’ve spent more than an average amount of time contemplating what Joy is, and why I need to focus on these particular three letters.
While there are several good words out there I could learn from during the next twelve months (Love, Forgiveness, Understanding, Patience, etc.), they’re not the ones chosen.
Such a small word, yet one with so much power behind it.
What is Joy? Is it just a word, a feeling, an action? Are we naturally born with it, or is it something that has to be learned? What does it feel like?
Will Joy teach my heart to feel lighter when it physically feels so heavy? Will it bring a smile to my face when I want to cry? Will it change who I am so drastically that I’ll look in the mirror and wonder who the glowing, happy, smiling person is?
For these first eight days of 2016, I’ve taken stock of each moment throughout the day to see where the Joy might be. Sometimes it seems to be obvious (I say seems to be, because honestly, I’m not sure I’ve ever truly noticed Joy the way others have); other times I question if I should consider that first bite of chocolate chip cookie as something worthy of such a powerful word.
I have ended up with a lot of questions.
Is there a gauge for measuring Joy? Is there a wrong way? A right way? Does it come from the inside only, or from outside forces as well? Is it hereditary? Can I share it with others? Once I have it, does it stay with me forever, or do I need to keep searching for it?
As this week comes to a close, I rest my questions at God’s feet. I’m sure throughout the year He will answer several of the questions, while helping me grow and change.
My prayer is that the LORD will use Joy to help me strengthen my relationships, not just with my own family, but with those who are still searching for answers only He can give.
“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness , peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”