Stories of Remembrance

Throughout the Exodus God maintains a delicate balance as he raises up his chosen people.

First he seeks to be known, punctuating each display of his might and miraculous provision with, “Then you will know that I am the LORD.”

Second, even as the story unfolds in the back-and-forth struggle of God’s faithful love for a stubbornly faithless people (who bear a uncomfortable resemblance to us today), the Lord is intentional about archiving stories of remembrance for the generations to come.

After they cross the Red Sea and escape the Egyptians God tells Moses that when they reach the Promised Land, the Israelites are to consecrate their first-born sons, and the first-born of their flocks to the Lord as an act of remembrance:

In days to come, when your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ say to him, ‘With a mighty hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

Exodus 13:14

When he provides manna in the desert he again preserves a remnant:

Moses said, “This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Take an omer of manna and keep it for the generations to come, so they can see the bread I gave you to eat in the wilderness when I brought you out of Egypt.’”

Exodus 16:32

Reflections on Remembrance

God does not wait until the Israelites’ journey is complete before instructing them to capture and share their stories. Our walks with God are never complete. We always are inadequate in our faith, and continually learning and growing in our walks with him.

Our children — and every child of God with whom we engage — need to hear about our journeys, perhaps even more so than the destination.

I tend to shirk this responsibility by leaning on the fact that I lead a pretty ordinary life. God moves in my life in ways that I find to be spectacular, but there is no parting of the sea or manna showing up on my front lawn. Will others be moved by my mundane stories?

The honest answer is, “Who knows?” Faith is a gift of God; it’s not the result of our works–or our stories themselves. God simply teaches us to be obedient in sharing what he has done and is doing in our lives…as it unfolds.

Finally God makes an interesting point of preserving physical signs. God told the Israelites to save some manna so they could show future generations God’s handiwork. This is a little tricky, but it got me thinking about what physical artifacts I can preserve.

Steps to Remembrance

So let’s get practical. If the faith of our children — and our children’s children — depends on these stories, how do we get about it in earnest? What can we do right now?

Here’s a list I’ve come up with; feel free to add your thoughts in the comments to this post.

  • Share your stories. My in-laws rode a tandem bicycle cross-country when they first retired. They arrived home with two storylines, one about the people and experiences they encountered, the other about God’s protection and presence throughout the journey. One of the stories I remember to this day was that they were almost out of water with miles to go, and my mother-in-law prayed from the backseat for God’s help. A few miles later  a random car rolled up, and a stranger offered them water bottles.

Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.

Exodus17:6

Practice spiritual discipline and talk about why. My sister-in-law used to read her Bible on her phone during her morning quiet time. Then she realized that to her children it looked the same as if she was perusing Facebook or reading email. So she reverted to her physical Bible so her children will see God’s Word in her hands each day.

When our children see us read the Bible daily, come to worship with us on Sundays or serve others as a family, it is good and right to talk with them about why we do these things and for whom.

Share God’s Word. My kids tease me about it, but I am shameless in pointing them back to Scripture on questions of right and wrong, problems they are facing or as an encouragement of their infinite value and worth. I write them letters about who they are in God’s eyes, personalizing the verses with their names. I text them verses weekly.

God speaks to us powerfully through his Word, reminding us of his truths, but the seeds must be planted in order to bear fruit.

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Keep a journal; write in your Bible. When I study the Bible I make notes in my journal. An effective technique I’ve adopted recently is to read and and then answer three questions (Anne Graham-Lotz’s 3-question study): 1) What does it say? 2) What is God saying? 3) What is God saying to me?

This photo is of the Bible owned by one of the most passionate Bible teachers I know. BibleIt is testament to the truth that, “When your Bible is falling apart, you are not.”

Consider creating a priceless treasure for your children in your well-worn Bible, filled with the record of what God is showing you, even if it means leaving a broken down, dog-eared, highlighted and cross-referenced tome.

Make and preserve symbols of your faith. It took me a few minutes to even think of symbols equivalent to manna in my life, but I have them…so do you. One that came to mind is the wedding band I gave my husband for our 21st anniversary. I had it made because I had come to deeply treasure his faith leadership over our family. Since two of our four children are adopted from Korea, I had the band inscribed in Hangul with the citation “Joshua 24:15”:

As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.

The ring serves as an instrument of witness for him on a daily basis, and one that I hope our sons especially will preserve and remember as they enter into their own seasons as heads of their households.

The message God teaches us throughout Exodus is to begin today to be intentional about the legacy of faith we are planting in our children.

As a result of Joshua’s bold witness, Scripture tells us he created a legacy of faithfulness:

Israel served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had experienced everything the Lord had done for Israel.

Joshua 24:31

Foolish Hearts

My nephew is the ultimate Daddy’s boy; in his three-year-old way he makes it clear that he is only interested in his father’s time, attention and opinion. It sounds and looks something like this:

“Son, would you like to have special ‘Mommy Time’ today?”lukey

“No thanks, I’ll wait for Daddy to get home.” 

Or:

“Mommy loves you so much. Do you love Mommy?”

“Nah, I just love Daddy.”

You’re laughing; I know you are. I am too; I can’t help giggling every time I hear these stories, mostly because the little guy has no idea what he’s talking about!

He only has the luxury of his perspective because he has such an amazing momma. What he fails to see through his toddler eyes (maybe it’s his gorgeous long eyelashes getting in the way) is that she makes his world go round: She makes his bedroom cozy, prepares his meals, gets him to and from school, takes him to the doctor, and shapes his experience of the world on a daily basis…not to mention that she loves him to the moon and back.

Excruciating

At the risk of sounding like a “Jesus Juke” the analogy of my nephew came to mind  as I was contemplating Jesus’ suffering on the cross and how we as humans have no idea what true separation from God would look and feel like.

But we can glimpse it through the work Jesus did on the cross. For the longest time I only saw his physical suffering because it was so excruciating. (In fact, the word excruciating is derived from two Latin words: ex cruciatus, or out of the cross. Crucifixion was the defining word for pain. (Ravi Zacharias))

But that’s not the full story. Jesus took on the sins of the world (1 John 2:2). Having existed eternally in perfect union with God, Jesus experienced total separation from God in our place. Because it was spiritual in nature–exiting outside of time and space–he experienced it eternally with infinite pain. And he did so once for all of us. (Hebrews 10, 1 Peter 3:18, Romans 6:10)

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Matthew 27:46 (NRSV)

It is by Jesus’ example that we can come to understand that true separation from God renders all other suffering trivial and irrelevant by comparison. Paul grasped at this:

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

Romans 8:18-31

Easter People

The fullness of this truth is still remote to me, just barely perceptible, and yet it is changing me.

It provokes me to consider how many people, myself included some days, go about life as if we are of this world, in control, and God is simply a useful and occasional accessory.

When we do so we display the same naïveté as my young nephew–but on a spiritual scale. Like fish who don’t know they are wet we often seem blissfully ignorant to the God who created the world and all that is in it, the one who shapes our experience of the cosmos and gives life to each breath we take.

For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man.

Romans 1:20-22

We only have the luxury of our delusion because of Jesus. Thanks to him we never have to experience true separation.

Evangelism

I worry that an insidious passivity is creeping into our culture when it comes to God. Similar to baseball, God is being rendered as a sweet, nostalgic idea that belongs to generations past, yet enjoys some lingering support out of sentimentality for an innocence that has long since passed away.

But just as my nephew’s momma loves him too much to cajole him with all the good things she does for him, how much she loves him and how lost he would be without her, God expresses His love for us with similar patience.

Each day He allows us to choose anew whom or what to worship. But one day we will make our choice for a final time; one day we will choose  life and love or separation from God–the source of those things–for eternity.

If I am aware that people are fooling themselves into living as if there is no God, what am I willing to do about it?

Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.”

Psalm 14:1 (NRSV)

 

The bottom line is if I really grasped Christ’s suffering on the cross I would make a fool of myself if it meant ensuring that even my worst enemies got every opportunity to see and experience the good news.

We are fools for the sake of Christ, but you are wise in Christ.

1 Corinthians 1:10

Stress is a Heart Condition

Riding the wave of peace and tranquility from Friday I awoke on Saturday and hurried to the grocery store to pick up supplies for the morning’s Brown Bag Ministry. Five minutes late and a loaf short, I would spend the rest of the day trying to catch up.

I got home to find that my husband, who had just finished aerating, needed a ride to the airport and someone to take the aerator to its next user of the day, albeit three hours late.

I finished those errands and turned my attention to kids and dogs waiting to be fed, dishes to be washed and laundry to be folded. Frazzled, frustrated and fatigued I realized with dismay that it was just past noon.

How had Friday’s peace fled in less than 24 hours?

What’s on Your Mind?

A delicate tension exists between faithfully and lovingly serving my family, and overdoing it to the point that I find myself in an unholy place of resentment and exasperation … and it is in such times that I start sounding embarrassingly like my sister, Martha:

Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.

Luke 10:40

Jesus’ response isn’t an indictment of Martha’s busyness so much as her mindset, her words (and tone, I imagine) exposing the condition of her heart:

Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things...

Luke 10:41

I understand where Martha was coming from. After all she likely spent days cleaning, shopping for food and coordinating the prep work to host their special guest. And she had been the one to get up early, despite her fatigue, to await the rabbi’s arrival in Bethany and extend the invitation to their home.

And yet it was Mary who now sat at the feet of Jesus, savoring the moment Martha had worked so hard to make possible.

The Greek word to describe Martha’s mindset, perispao, literally means to “drag all around, to be too busy, too distracted.” Anyone feeling Martha’s pain about now?

A Servant’s Heart

When Jesus speaks truth into our lives we can choose to reject it or allow it to change and refine us. It seems that Martha followed her sister’s lead in this regard and chose the better part, because later — when her brother, Lazarus, becomes ill — her encounter with Jesus reveals a very different heart.

She starts out in typical Martha fashion by saying, “Lord, if You had been here my brother would not have died.Only this time she follows what sounds like accusation with an affirmation of faith: “Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.”

“Your brother will rise again,” Jesus says, challenging her by His reply. 

“I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day,” Martha affirms a second time, faith pouring forth from her heart full of grief.

No doubt Jesus was moved by this little rock of a woman, for He blesses her newly refined heart with a monumental revelation and an invitation, calling her boldly into an even deeper relationship:

I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.

Do you believe this?

John 11:25

Martha is confident in her response: “Yes, Lord, I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.” (John 11:27)

What a gift Jesus bestows on His faithful servant.

I love how the encounter ends because it is so human and so…female: “When she had said this, she went away and called Mary, her sister, saying secretly, ‘The Teacher is here and is calling for you.'” (John 11:28) It seems that Martha chose to keep this special moment to herself, at least for a little while.

 

Life in the Balance

I know women with a heart like Mary’s, and many with a heart like Martha’s. But in truth, I believe most of us have hearts that beat like both, and the beat we follow can be as fickle as the day.

We relish days that we can sit peacefully at the feet of our Lord and fill our hearts with His truth and His love. Other days we find ourselves busy with many things.

Jesus’ message to Martha, and to us, is that it is possible to be busy without letting it drag us all around, causing us to feel too busy and too distracted.

Ultimately it is our responsibility to guard our hearts and ensure that whatever we do, we do with a joyful heart:

  • What do your words reveal about the condition of your heart?
  • Are you faithful in doing everything for the Lord, whether it is glorious — like sharing his Word with someone in need — or mundane like making a Tuesday dinner?
  • Are you equally faithful to seek time each day to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to His Word?

 

 

Secrets Mothers Keep: On Roots & Wings

empty nest

Empty Nest

I originally published this last year as my first child prepared to go off to college. Apparently it struck a chord with many momma’s of the “cap-and-gown set” as it was my most shared and commented post. So I offer it again for the Class of 2016’s mothers:

When I was pregnant I remember being astounded by the secrets the women in my life had kept from me. It’s a wisdom of the ages that lets us sense what a sister doesn’t need to know…until she needs to know.

Roots and Wings

This week, I experienced this phenomenon again. As I prepared to take my first child to college, I grasped with new clarity why the “one word” God gave me for the year was brokenhearted. I texted my mom about the mix of emotions forming on my horizon. My mother replied,

“Had the same feelings about all of you. But this is life’s plan, not an easy one. Not something you want to tell your children. You learn as you experience. Pray every day for strength. Wonder why I go to church? If I can do it you can.”

She knew about this and didn’t warn me? Another holdout! Then I began to look around; after all, I had watched plenty of my friends release their children from the nest. I imagined that it was hard, but I had no idea how hard. And in that moment I realized that the women who knew, who could have warned me, weren’t talking. (I say this with a smile.)

As the days dwindled into hours more and more girlfriends came out of the closet, sharing their experiences. Several really strong women I know admitted they had taken to bed for the first few days and grieved it out. Others talked about sitting in their children’s bedrooms mourning the emptiness.

But then, the old cleanup lady Time shows up. She’s slow and not very efficient; she always leaves something behind. But, she works her way through that mess of Grief one sweep of the hand at a time. I look at those same girlfriends and see that they have accepted new normals in which their children will never all live under the same roof again and where when “Mom” is yelled in public it’s less likely it is for them. 

Another unique theme for this life milestone is the shared heartbeat between children and their mothers. My mom characterized it this way in her text: “When u hurt, I hurt.” My girlfriend says of her freshman, “When I know she is happy I will be.”

And therein lies the divine mystery of motherhood; it is the good Lord offering us the tiniest of glimpses into what it is like to live and love with complete “other-centeredness.” Just as He is for us in all things we are for our children…always. Their joy multiplies our joy; their pain breaks our hearts because we would gladly spare them, substitute ourselves for them. While we almost never can, He did.

For the love of our children, as my mother so wisely said, we pray for strength that we may not burden them with our pain, but instead lift their joy on the wings of ours so they can fly higher, freely and often farther, than they otherwise could (or we wish they would). 

Mother and sonThis transition to college is an unusual one because it is such a mixed bag of emotions that usually are not experienced together:

  • Joy for my child’s accomplishment and the good things in store as he embraces this new adventure
  • Grief because the family we have spent 20 years building is now dis-integrating, albeit in the healthiest of ways
  • Regret because I really do wish I would have played dinosaurs longer instead of doing those dishes; I wish I could have responded with grace instead of fatigue and anger so many times when he was young; and I wish I would have lived every moment like these recent ones, hanging on each as precious and fleeting.
  • Fear for my child so far from home, and fear for myself about what I will become when “Mom” isn’t my first calling any longer
  • Anxiety about my child in the big bad world, about him being lonely or stressed or sick without my being able to comfort him
  • Anticipation of pouring everything I have into my three other kids’ needs; anticipation for my son and the amazing things I see blossoming in him at this very moment

Today we’re stand on this edge of this new reality — at the boarding gate literally and figuratively. On Tuesday I leave him…and life will never be the same. Even if my sisters didn’t warn me, I draw strength from their examples. My mother-in-law, who treasured motherhood in the same way I do, told me once, “There is life after children and it is good.”

I’m counting on it.

What God Has to Say:

  • I have loved you with an everlasting love. Jeremiah 31:3
  • It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Galatians 5:1
  • Everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. John 15:15-17
  • Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Matthew 28:16-20
  • I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. John 16:12

And finally, as Jesus prayed for his disciples and for us now in John 17: 6-11, may we as mothers be able to offer this same prayer as we release our children:

I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them….Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. 

Please feel free to share your experiences, wisdom or learnings about your children leaving the nest. 

Read more: Jane Brock offers a corollary post on this topic called “The Velveteen Rabbit.” I encourage you to check it out.

Woman’s Work

Today is Mother’s Day; it’s the day we celebrate, remember, thank and love our mothers, mother-in-laws, aunts, grandmothers and the other women who helped shape who we are and who we are becoming.

From Biblical times through today God consistently uses women to lead His children home. So today’s post is offered in gratitude for the gifts given to me by the women in my life, and by their Biblical sisters who modeled it first.

Praying on your knees. From as early as I can remember my mother knelt with us by our bedsides each night to recite a prayer she created, a prayer of thankfulness for our families, our country (she’s always been deeply patriotic) and for the blessings of each day.

At the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)

Spiritual discipline. My mother took us to church every single week of our lives. I don’t remember ever missing a Sunday, whether away on vacation or out on Lake Erie, our weekend itineraries were structured around it. Sometimes all of us, including my dad, would resist and cajole her to bend “just this once.” She never did. And today it’s a habit we’re instilling in our own children.

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6

The Word. I didn’t grow up reading or studying scripture outside of church. So when my sister-in-law brought her Bible on vacation I watched, wondering what she was reading and why. Her daily habit and out-loud thinking about Biblical principles seeded an interest in me that grew over time.

So love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength. Memorize his laws and tell them to your children over and over again. Talk about them all the time, whether you’re at home or walking along the road or going to bed at night, or getting up in the morning. Write down copies and tie them to your wrists and foreheads to help you obey them. Write these laws on the door frames of your homes and on your town gates. (Deuteronomy 6:5-9)

Pray without ceasing. My mother-in-law prays all day long. She “has fun with God” as she likes to say, engaging Him in every aspect of her daily life. She seeks Him and finds Him in everything. (Learn more about mothers-in-law here.)

Miriam, Hannah and Mary all have prayers of praise recorded in the Bible.

Commend your children to the Lord. One of my dearest friends walked a long, lonely road with her child through nearly a decade of rebellion and struggle. Her faithfulness and selfless love were an inspiration and are now a well of wisdom for my own times of struggle with my kids.

Hannah prayed fervently for a child and when she conceived Samuel she commended him to the Lord before he was even born, giving him to Eli to become a priest and serve the Lord. (1 Samuel 1-2)

Steadfastness. Another friend of mine was recently called “steadfast” by her son, who as a young adult is beginning to see the many ways she built and sustained a wall of protection around him and his siblings through the tumult in her life.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the women I know who live Proverbs 31 with courage, beauty and grace:

She takes good care
of her family
and is never lazy.
Her children praise her,
and with great pride
her husband says,
“There are many good women,
but you are the best!”
Charm can be deceiving,
and beauty fades away,
but a woman
who honors the Lord
deserves to be praised.
Show her respect—
praise her in public
for what she has done.

Perseverance in Suffering

Has any time or season of suffering caused you to question or doubt God?

When this question was raised in my Bible study group it elicited powerful responses, stories of Cancer. Addiction. Murder. Depression. Suicide. Death. Rejection. Pain. Sadness.

My group is a pretty typical cross-section of American women who seem to have suffered extraordinary pain, but is such adversity really extraordinary?  As I carried their stories with me through my week I realized that while I categorize suffering as the exception, all that hardship in one place suggests something different, and so does Jesus:

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33

 

Why, God?

Our first response to suffering is often to cry out, “Why?”,”Why me?” or more pointedly, “Why, God, are you allowing this to happen to me?” The Bible offers two causes of suffering:

  • The first is as a natural consequence of living in a fallen world; it is somehow easy to overlook that we are engaged in a spiritual war between good and evil (opposition).
  • The second is that, as any good Father should, God allows us to experience the consequences of our choices so we can learn and grow (refinement).

While it’s natural to seek a reason for suffering it’s not always possible. And if we insist on it we may miss the bigger story God is telling, as He reminded Job:

Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge? Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone — while the morning stars sang together and all he angels shouted for joy?  Job 38: 4-7

 

How Do We Endure Suffering?

One of the longest seasons of suffering in my life was the four-and-a-half years my husband and I struggled to start our family. I’d like to tell you that I walked through that experience with humble endurance, but at the time my walk with the Lord looked more like a sprint, with me glancing back only occasionally to see if God was following.

When prayer “failed” I tried putting my faith in everything from conventional medicine to hypnosis, and I even resorted to wearing  Kokopelli jewelry (a cute, if impotent, fertility idol). After exhausting my own resources I slowly turned back toward God, out of ideas and ready to hear His. You see, suffering and faith tend to go hand in hand because the arrival of the first precipitates a confrontation with the second.

We glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. Romans 5:4

It turns out the traits in this passage are interdependent and essential steps in a victorious journey through suffering. Let’s break them down:

  • When we suffer our survival instinct motivates us to seek some way to bear it, and that often leads us toward God.
  • God is faithful to comfort and strengthen us, even if He does not intervene to end our suffering. (See Joseph’s imprisonment, the persecution of Daniel’s pals and Paul’s persistent, yet purposeful physical suffering as Biblical examples). As a result we develop what the original Greek refers to as a “proven character.” In other words our character is not reliable until it has been tested, and suffering accomplishes that work.
  • And then we begin to realize we are in fact standing up under circumstances with the power to crush us — and that it is because God’s strength undergirds us — and so we experience hope. We start to  “expect good” because we are empowered by the One true source of hope.
  • And we’re never made of fool of for hoping in God because, regardless of the outcome to our current situation, we experience the enduring blessings of God’s abundant grace and the comfort of His Holy Spirit.

As God explained to Paul in denying his pleas to be relieved of the “thorn in his flesh”:

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:7

Paul then writes to the Corinthians and to us:  “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

 

What Good is Suffering?

Paul’s powerful words are challenging to internalize when real suffering shows up in our own lives. Unlike Paul I lamented my struggle and became blinded to the good God was doing all around me, and as a result I missed out on many blessings and much joy during that time.

Despite my lack of cooperation my suffering was not wasted. I joined Resolve, a fertility support group where I met my lifelong friend, Wanda, whose friendship and family have been a tremendous blessing. And I heard others’ stories of “resolving” to live child-free, pursue fertility treatment or adopt.

I regularly revisited the notion of adopting; it was something I had felt called to do since my youth, but like an insolent child I remained insistent that life happen on my terms. Then I met a woman who was adopting from Korea and something inside me clicked. I felt an immediate, strong draw to that story, and began to research Korean adoption. I knew in my heart that was the direction in which God was leading us.

At the time we made the decision to adopt we had a 50/50 chance of being able to conceive in the coming months as the result of a long overlooked medical issue. But even with that potential at-hand our will had at last been submitted to God’s will. We wanted our choice to adopt to be just that, so we moved forward without waiting to know the outcome. As it turned out I was pregnant when we finalized our first adoption and pregnant again 15 months later. God then called us back to Korea to adopt our fourth child.

Now more than 20 years later I need only reflect on the journey or look into the faces of my four children to see the beautiful tapestry God was weaving, and I would not change a single day of that heartache and pain for the blessings they gave birth to.

Another important fruit of this season was an increase in empathy for others. We have since supported many couples walking through infertility and adoption. We share our story of the good work God did in our family, and we encourage others to persevere and hope confidently in God, while acknowledging that it is a difficult and painful road to walk.

 

He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 2 Corinthians 1:4

Ready to learn more about suffering? Try reading, “Today is the day to…trust God in our suffering” on the After-Oakdale Chronicles blog.

 

There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays

It is less exuberance than a sense of completeness I feel with [my son] home. ‪#‎grateful‬

Just a few more hours … he’ll be back from college and our home will feel complete again. It’s just not the same when [my child] is away.

The first is a quote I wrote on my Facebook wall at Thanksgiving; the second is a quote from my friend’s Facebook wall as she awaited her son’s return for the holidays.

This experience of completeness has come as a surprise to me. I thought it would be different — joy, excitement, giddiness perhaps. But that’s not it at all. It’s  a sense of restoration, that feeling of re-orientation when things are back in place, as they should be.

We Can Go Home Again

My teaching leader in my Bible Study Fellowship astutely observed that our role as earthly parents is to send our children out of our homes and into the world to make them independent; God’s goal as Father is to draw his children back home, back into full dependence on Him.

Perhaps the peaceful tranquility we experience when our children are all under our roof is intended as a foretaste of our eternal home. Just imagine what God has in mind in drawing His children home:

But, as it is written,

“No eye has seen,

nor ear heard,

nor the heart of man imagined,

what God has prepared for

those who love him”

these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit.

1 Corinthians 2: 9-10

The Long Road Home

BSF’s study of Revelation this year has focused on God’s loving patience in withholding His righteous wrath from his beloved, if rebellious, children. This is made profoundly clear in Revelation 6: 9-11:

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained.

They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?”

Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters were killed, just as they had been.

At first this sounded horrific. What kind of Father would stand by and allow his children to suffer and die? But, God knows that the temporary suffering of these faithful ones and their witness to the Word have the power to draw a few more rebels into eternal life .

Now that is quite a different picture, isn’t it?

Yet I wonder who these souls are. Aren’t we all rebellious sinners at heart…indeed, all but One. Perhaps this is why John’s  verse is as ubiquitous as it is inescapable; consider anew that:

God expressed His love for the world in this way: He gave His only Son so that whoever believes in Him will not face everlasting destruction, but will have everlasting life.

Yet Paul makes it clear that those of us who have been given some ability to see and accept God’s amazing love and grace are called to All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation 2 Corinthians 5-18become witnessing souls to our brothers and sisters:

It wouldn’t be the same this holiday without all of my children home. Fortunately for us God feels exactly the same way.

 

An Open Letter to Daughters-in-Law: Take a Page from Ruth and Naomi

mother-in-law

(Originally written as a gift to my mother-in-law for Mother’s Day 2001)

Today I am one of you, a daughter-in-law, but tomorrow I will be one of them…a mother-in-law. As the mother of two sons, I encourage you this Mother’s Day to make a decision to love your mother-in-law.

Josephine Kirsch
Josephine Kirsch

Through 10 years of marriage it was not until I had sons that I began to see things from my mother-in-law’s perspective. And with that awakening I’ve been able to push aside the trivialities that divided and instead enhance my life with another close female friendship and another perspective on motherhood from a woman whose parenting I have come to deeply respect.

You can — and should — do the same for yourself, your husband and your family. Here are some things my mother-in-law has taught me:

  • Your children grow up, and quickly. My mother-in-law always said that she wished she had her babies back. I used to wonder why she didn’t just move on. Now I know. She has moved on, but even when you love every day of mothering as she did — and I do — the days fly by too quickly. Before you know it your children are walking, going to school, dating and leaving, and that’s if you do your job well. And when it’s over, most of us, given the chance , would do it again in a heartbeat.
  • You never stop being a mother. I’ve come to appreciate that my mother-in-law simply wants to share in the lives of her adult children in whatever ways she can. There is nothing she wouldn’t do for any of them. In return for that unconditional love I make a conscious effort to involve her in the little things in our lives that help her stay connected — the photos of her son and grandchildren, the one-liners our preschooler comes up with, first steps, first teeth and firsts in general. I understand that motherhood thrives in the little things.
  • We’re not the same, but we share the same pains and joys. I always joke that women have nothing to say to each other until one of them leaves the room. While men seek common ground it is the territorial nature of women to focus on differences. As she has slowly shared her life and experiences. I’ve been humbled and awed by the adversity over which my mother-in-law has triumphed. She has shown me that while we may be very different people, as women we share life’s joys and pains in a unique way. And after all, no one’s husband is more like mine than hers.
  • Mothers just want their children to be happy. Maybe I wouldn’t have been her choice for her son; maybe I would have. But at the end of the day my mother-in-law wants her son to be happy. That’s it. If her children are happy she will have the peace of knowing her life is a success. So, the most important thing I do to love my mother-in-law is love her son.

To read this you may be tempted to say that I’m just one of the lucky ones who got the rare, tolerable and even lovable mother-in-law. I think so. But I also think that attitude can be a cop out. It’s easier to focus on the reasons your mother-in-law drives you crazy than to make a proactive decision today and every day forward to love her.

My goal each day is to be the type of daughter-in-law I want my sons’ future wives to be for me. That decision to love has given me the opportunity to get to know an incredible woman for who she is. I will always treasure her unique place in my life. It’s been one of the greatest and most rewarding surprises of my married life. I urge you to give yourself the same gift this Mother’s Day.

Secrets of a Domestic Goddess

domestic goddess

Banana BreadI am from a generation of women called to careers outside the home. While this movement creates valuable advancements in the form of economic independence, personal achievement and financial reward, it sometimes devalues the role of a woman in defining and sustaining her family’s experience of home.

As a result, we now refer to cooking, cleaning and laundry as chores, and they certainly can be. But, I must confess that I experience a sort of guilty pleasure when I make a fabulous dinner, get all the laundry done (a short-lived milestone) or beat back dirty socks and dog hair to create a spotless living space (even shorter-lived).

Fortunately, the Lord has put in my path a few Godly women who, while they all work outside the home, possess an unabashed passion and prowess for home work. They are among the ranks of those I fondly refer to as domestic goddesses. Here is a brief glimpse of these women at work:

  • Meg starts her day by rising before her husband to make fresh brewed coffee and a breakfast sammie for his commute. She cuts fresh fruit for her boys, and makes sure their lunches have something homemade.
  • In between conference calls, Lynne packs snacks for her son (and his friends) to enjoy after soccer practice. She always has freshly made salsa in the fridge and pumpkin bread in the oven.
  • Tricia makes flashcards to help her daughter study, and has been known to crank out an extra set for her friends. She made 80-plus fleece scarves for her daughter’s band fund-raiser. And she sews her own curtains.

Why do they do it? They have come to know and treasure the secrets of a domestic goddess:

1. Providing nourishment is one of our first and primary roles as women.

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? (Isaiah 49:15)

2. As mothers, we are the embodiment of Christ’s love to our families.

As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem. (Isaiah 66:13)

3. We are called to serve one another, a calling that begins at home, is modeled for our children and then ripples into the world around us.

Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord. (Ephesians 6:7)

Serve one another humbly in love. (Galatians 5:13)

This is not to say that every woman is obliged to do such things and love them. And it is not to say that men can’t find similar satisfaction in them.

I simply seek to lift up and celebrate these women who quietly reign over their domains with benevolence and good cheer, providing comfort and wonderful memories for their families.

So friends, no more sweeping your domesticity under the rug. Stand proud of who you are and what you do, and know that other women see, admire and seek to share in your secrets. (I can hear those pans rattling in your honor!)