Dear Mamas of Little Ones…

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Photo credit: Micah DeVries

 

I remember being in your shoes like it was yesterday. Just yesterday I was struggling with little ones in strollers and car seats — tiny humans with an insatiable need for fresh diapers and clean clothes and nourishment.  Just yesterday I folded laundry, nursed an infant, and caught up with my mother by telephone all at the same time. (Yes, this was possible, even before cell phones!)  Just yesterday I lacked any hope for the opportunity to take a bath or read a book without interruption. Just yesterday I dreamed, and I mean fantasized, of the things I would do when today came.

I’ll spare you the “don’t blink” speech, because everyone keeps telling you that. In what seems like a pitifully short amount of time, all six of my children have become adults. There’s no stopping it, so here are five things I’d like for you to know.

1. Every little thing you do for your babies matters.  Mount Saint Laundry may seem like a meaningless battle, but you are engaging in the people-building business, and our God recognizes and values every part of that.

2. Like childbirth itself, you will scarcely remember the tough parts of this season, but the precious moments will last forever.  When a stomach bug or strep is ravaging its way through your household for the second time in a month, know that it’s the cuddles you’ll carry with you — and so will they.

3. Perfection is for pictures. You are going to make mistakes.  Daily.  As imperfect creatures, we simply cannot get past our human frailties. God is faithful, and if we press into Him, it is He who will work all things together for our good — and theirs! Always acknowledge your inadequacy and utter dependence upon your Savior, that they may recognize their own need for Him as well.

4. The future really ain’t bad! While I sometimes miss holding my little babies, I adore the joy of this season in which I’m living. There’s an entire area of the human heart that no one knows exists until he or she first holds that creature known as the “grandchild.” I am not grieving that my children are no longer little. Quite the opposite! By God’s good grace, I get to be a part of the lives my children bring into this world. All of the joy and little of the work…so precious and fun!

5. With six kids ages 19 and above, I have yet to do any of those things I’d thought I’d do when this day arrived. Nope! No long baths with a good book as of yet! In the same way that this season has brought unexpected joys, it has brought an entirely new set of opportunities to serve. Just this past Saturday as I spent time caring for my granddaughter, I had the privilege of helping the second in line plan his wedding. Throughout each day, my phone rings with this adult child or that one asking for advice regarding a job interview, a sick puppy, a parenting matter, or a recipe (which shocks you if you know me well). My children are scattered in five states as far west as Alaska and east as Massachusetts. While the nature of their need for me has changed, it has by no means diminished.

Here’s a little bonus for you: This is the most wonderful season of marriage I could have ever imagined. My husband and I cherish the time we are spending together, and enjoying our grandchildren together is an incredible reward for having not thrown in the towel during very difficult times. Time has gifted us with a sweet recognition of what matters and what is of little importance, not just today but forever. Beyond this, I’ve picked up things I had laid down in order to raise my kids, and have also taken up some new things. I’ve gone back to school, pursuing a desire birthed in high school to earn a PhD. I discovered the exhilaration of mountain biking just as I became a grandma, and oh, how I love the trails! Other “wellness” pursuits have fallen into place also, like juicing and essential oils, which has turned into a very profitable business! My husband and I have been freed up to turn our focus toward ministries like Kids Alive which serves children suffering from poverty, sex trafficking, war, and famine. (For more info on this, visit http://www.kidsalive.org.) The doors which God has opened are infinitely more meaningful and exciting than books and baths!

So, sweet mama, it’s okay if you blink.  Tomorrow will bring joys of its own! The same God of grace and mercy who is with you today is already there in the tomorrow.

 

 

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That Day I Realized I Had Created a “Safe Space” of My Own

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If you’re like me, you’ve been reading a lot about secular universities and their newly designated “safe spaces.” These are magical places, where no one can hurt your feelings nor disregard the things you may profess, no matter which absurdities they may entail. If you’re even more like me, perhaps you’ve shared posts about them on your social media sites, scoffing with incredulity at this new breed of mankind, of which one need not interact nor deal with those who disagree with his or her points of view. Preposterous. Ridiculous. Downright infantile.

That was my point of view on the matter until recently when I was confronted with an uncomfortable nudge I believe came from the Holy Spirit, which enlightened me to a startling fact.  I have lived in quite a “safe space” of my own, one which has enveloped me practically from birth. Because of an incredible racial injustice that took place in 1918, I grew up in a verified “sundown town,” where blacks had been driven out overnight and never returned. (There is a faint trickling in now, but ever so slight.) In our town there was basically one religion — evangelical Christianity. There were several denominations, but I didn’t meet my first Catholic until Girl Scout camp in third grade, and wouldn’t meet another until much later, perhaps the one I married. I do not remember my first encounter with a Jewish person, but it was probably during college. I met one Muslim in high school. At the Christian boarding school I attended, there were exactly three African Americans who attended during some point of my four years. I went on to attend a Southern Baptist college, later earning a master’s degree at the largest Christian university in the world, and now I am pursuing a doctorate at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. As of yesterday, my facebook list is all white or hispanic, and for the most part Christian or Catholic. In other words, my world is a very safe space. I’ll be honest with you…the thought of stepping out of that space is not one that provokes excitement or eagerness. Yet, the need is urgent. I must step out.

You see, I have fallen into a way of thinking that delights the enemy of our souls. I have come to see those outside my space as though they are the enemy. I’ve depersonalized them with the very convenient pronoun, “they” — those of whom I simply am not a part. I have been the Pharisee who boasted of himself in prayer, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector,” (Luke 18:11), though I used terms like “liberals,” “abortionists,” “feminists,” etc. Worse than that, I have assumed that I see every issue clearly — that I, an inadvertent “snowflake” who grew up in a completely homogeneous town, could understand what it is like to grow up black. Or muslim. Or destitute. Or Hispanic. Or tempted toward sins that are different from my own. Or liberal. Or…..

When it comes to seeing those who are different from me with God’s eyes, I have a long, long, long, long way to go, and there simply isn’t enough space for the number of “longs” I need to put there.

I am not called to conform others to my image. I am not even called to conform others to Christ’s image. I am called to spread the very good news of the Gospel, one that is based on our universal depravity, not the color of our skin or the circumstances of our birth, and our universal desperation for the Savior, Jesus Christ, who alone can bring salvation and the peace we crave both inwardly and outwardly.

And regarding the Gospel, what good comes of shouting to the blind man, “Why do you not see these things?!!!!” On the answer being “none,” we can agree. So now I ask, “If I start by ridiculing the blind man and scoffing at his every stumble, how much attention will he give when I tell him of the things he cannot see?” Can we still agree on the answer being “none”?

This is it, right here. This is the moment I am falling to my knees and begging God for forgiveness. I have focused on the fruit of men whose hearts are in desperate need of the Gospel I’ve left in the shadows. I have arrogantly failed to connect with those who have experienced trials I will never know. I have failed to connect with those I’ve deemed unsafe. I have tuned people out of my feed if their ideas caused me emotional discomfort. What an arrogant “snowflake” I have been.  O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner!

And please…help me step out of this space.

 

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? Romans 10:14, ESV

 

Time’s Up, Pencils Down

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Every time another of my children launches, I get that same feeling you get on a standardized test when the clock runs out and the exam monitor calls out, “Time’s up, pencils down.” Each time it hits like a ton of bricks. Over? Already?

Sending the youngest child off to college is one of the most excruciating experiences I’ve had as a mother. I longed to sweep him back up in my arms and carry him home.  How did this come so soon?  I remember as clearly as I remember my name his first day of kindergarten when he ran out to catch the bus. The sun had not yet risen, and a small vertical embankment stood between our lawn and the road to the bus stop. He stopped at that point and exclaimed, “I must what I must!” before jumping off and running to join the other waiting children.

That was just yesterday. Now he’s in college over 4,000 miles away, and my season of influence has come, for the most part, to a sudden end.

On the very same day I said goodbye to Calvin and his brother Colson in Alaska, my father’s time ran out as well, when he went to be with the Lord.  My dad’s death should have come as no surprise, as he had been ill for a very long time. Oddly, even though I’d known Calvin was going away to college and that my dad was going to die, both events stunned me. Some part of me had held onto the belief that things would remain just as they were.

I am not unique. We live in an age where people spend their lives in flat denial that all of our days are numbered–that the God of the universe will at some point say to each of us, “Time’s up.” Every person will at a time already appointed stand before the God who is judge. How often these days do we hear the phrase, “Only God can judge,” typically argued by persons who do not believe he actually will judge? Be not deceived. God is holy and He is judge.

We should shudder at this terrifying fact: Every wrong thought, every selfish deed, every angry word spoken, every lustful glance given, indeed every single sin we’ve ever committed in all time will be laid out before God and judged. Not one of us can stand before a holy God and be found even close to worthy of anything but hell.

Except…

Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all. (Isa. 53:4-6, ESV)

The good news is that for those of us who have put our trust and faith in Christ, the price for our sin has been paid. In the greatest but most inequitable exchange of all time, Jesus Christ has granted us pure and complete holiness in trade for our wretched sinful condition for which he died. He has paid our ransom, that we might receive eternal life, escaping judgment!

“But God proves his love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8, Berean Study Bible)

Here is the power and the good news of the Gospel. When we confess our sins and repent of them, calling upon the name of Jesus and putting our faith in Him, we no longer need to fear that “Time’s up” instant nor the eternal wages for our sin.  He delivers us from the curse of sin and death. We are free to live lives of obedience, now and forevermore.

My dad had done this. Albeit late in life, my dad turned from his sin and trusted Christ as his Savior. I will see my dad again on that day when my time is up.

If  you’re reading this and you haven’t given your life to Christ, your time is not yet up. It could be decades from now or this very night. Not one of us is guaranteed tomorrow.  Do you want to continue to live for  yourself and receive the penalty of your sin, or are you willing to lay it all down and follow Christ?  The choice is yours. Make it soon.

 

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, ESV)

 

 

 

I have some news…

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Lately I’ve been burdened by a message growing louder and louder within the Christian community, especially aimed toward women. “You are enough.” There are memes, blog posts, and articles trying to convince us that we can stop striving and rest in assurance that we, in and of ourselves, are beautiful and perfect and good. To be sure, it’s a sweet sounding message. The only problem is…it is a lie.  I’m sorry.  I know this is hard to hear.

Dear reader, it is not we who are enough. Yes, we can be beautiful or smart or athletic or rich, but the one thing we cannot be is enough. We strive hard to become more of all those things so that we can reach a magical point of arrival, but who have you known–who have you ever known who reached a day of believing he or she had reached destination enough? Who has stopped going to the gym because his or her body has hit that perfect point? Stopped going to the salon? Stopped working? Stopped dieting? Stopped attempting to be more, do more, earn more, achieve more? No, we keep striving, because in our hearts we know we are not enough.

We were never meant to be enough…Jesus came and died to become our “enough.” But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8, ESV)  It is in Jesus that we can stop striving. It is in Jesus that we become enough, not because of who we are or what we’ve done, but because the Son of the living God has shed his blood to make us pure, holy, and perfect–a perfection not because of ourselves but but in spite of us. It is not our capability but our inability to be great that makes room for his greatness and glory to be displayed. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made great in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9)

Let us not for another minute puff ourselves and one another up with a lie we deep down don’t believe anyway. Rather, let us proclaim the amazing truth that Jesus is enough! In our weakness, he is strong. In our darkness, he is light. On our very worst days, we remain unblemished in the sight of God, because in Christ we have been made perfect! He is our enough! As John MacArthur put it, “To have Him is to have everything. Not to have Him is to have absolutely nothing at all. All joy, peace, meaning, value, purpose, hope, fulfillment in life now and forever is bound up in Christ. And when a person receives Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, they enter into an all-sufficient relationship with an all-sufficient Christ.”

But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Gal. 6:14)

Jesus is enough!

 

 

 

 

To My Children on Mother’s Day

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It’s that time of year again when Mother’s Day rolls around and I am haunted with questions regarding how I’ve succeeded or failed as a mom.  Always leaning toward self-criticism, I think of opportunities wasted, poorly chosen words, and all those times when I’ve majored on the minors and minored on the majors. 

On this Mother’s Day, I want to take the time to tell you what’s on my heart. If you take nothing else from this life we’ve spent together, carry this with you.

All six of you are at a stage when you’re full of exciting questions—who will I marry?  What will my career be? Where will I live?  Those are great questions, but guess what…they are not the reason you are here.  You are here to know and love Jesus.  He has a plan for all areas of your life, but the secret to finding that plan is to seek him first.  Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added unto you as well.” (Matt. 6:33)

Secondly, you are called to love people.  There are two types of people in this world:  people who know Jesus and people who need to know Jesus.  That’s it.  Our culture has divided people into an incredible number of categories, but there are simply two types.  Love them both. Choose your spouse, close friendships, and advisors from those who know Jesus. 

Thirdly, cling to truth.  Truth is found only in the Word of God.  I’ve come to believe that the difference between knowing about God and actually knowing God lies in digging into the Word.  Don’t rely on fallible man to tell you who God is and what he wants from you.  Go into his Word.  Pursue him.  Measure everything you’re taught against what you find there. 

Our culture has developed a “second opinion” regarding truth and love and sin, so I want to pose a question.  Imagine you went to a doctor and he told you that you have a deadly cancerous tumor in your brain and that if you want to live, you must get it removed and undergo painful and unpleasant treatment.  You are very unhappy about that, so you visit a different doctor who tells you brain tumors aren’t really bad and that you are fine just as you are.  You’re relieved that you don’t need to undergo treatment or do anything different at all.  Which doctor truly cares for you?  Which doctor is going to lead you toward life and which toward death?  Follow the right doctor. That doctor is God, and his Word instructs us that we have a deadly problem called sin.  It resides in each of us, and with it we cannot be reconciled to God.  There is only one cure, and he is Jesus.  Jesus came and paid the price for our sins, that we might have eternal life.  He himself proclaimed that there is no other way to Heaven except through him. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) 

If you give your life to Jesus and allow the Holy Spirit to live in you, you will find the right spouse (or contentment in singleness), the right career, and the right place to live.  No, none of these will be perfect, and perhaps not even your preference.  The key is that no matter where you are in any of those areas, honor him there.   In it all and through it all, trust and obey.  He will refine you and use you and bring fruit as you persevere.

When you were young I used to draw a little dot on a sheet of paper, then from the dot I drew a line to the edge and told you to imagine that line went on and on and on forever.  That dot was this life we are given on earth.  It is but a vapor and then it’s gone.  The line that goes on forever is eternity.  Each of us has a lifetime on earth, but each of us also has an eternity that we will spend either with God in Heaven or apart from God in eternal suffering.  The world will try to convince you that the dot is all that matters…that there is no line.  God’s Word, however, tells you to set your mind on the line.  Set your minds on things above, not on things that are on earth.” (Col. 3:2)  In every choice you make, consider the line, not just the dot—the eternal implications, not just the temporary satisfaction you think you’ll receive.  Every choice matters.

Finally, my children, understand that there will be times when you’ll fall.  Your father and I each have learned what it is like to sin so badly that you feel things can never be redeemed. The enemy was right there to taunt us with the lie that we had ruined our lives, and yours, beyond repair.  But that is always a lie.  When you fall, because everyone who walks will at some point fall, do not listen to the enemy.  Call upon Jesus.  He is our rescue, our only source of hope.  “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)  We cannot fall beyond the reach of his grip.  We cannot commit a sin so bad that his blood lacks power to cleanse us.  Call upon his name.  He is mighty to save.

The greatest honor God has bestowed upon me next to calling me into his kingdom is the privilege of being your dad’s wife and your mom.  You bring such joy to my soul.  I’m beyond grateful that you call me “Mom.” While I’m sure that next year on Mother’s Day I’ll again examine ways I could have done better, I will know for certain I have communicated to you the crucial things you need to know.

And I love you. Always. Forever. Unconditionally. Completely. On your best days. On your worst days. Recklessly. And yet…not a fraction of how deeply your Father in Heaven loves you.

Love,

Mom

A Heart Laid Bare

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This is going to be the most difficult thing I’ve ever written in my lifetime.  I apologize in advance and must prepare you in all fairness…if you are looking for something encouraging, this is not it. You may be tempted to turn away, but I pray, oh how I pray, that you won’t.  This is going to come at a great cost, at such great exposure for more pain.  But please understand…I have to speak now.

The year was 1986.  I was a junior in college, and I had everything going for me….a spot on the dance team, an almost perfect GPA, an attractive, athletic boyfriend, and a belief that I could do almost anything. My goal was to get a PhD and become a psychologist.  I was fiercely competitive, so when the grades for each exam were posted, I was not satisfied unless my student number was placed by the highest score on the list.

But things suddenly changed.  I began experiencing severe illness that made it difficult to attend class.  My boyfriend took me to see a doctor, and that’s where the shocking news was delivered.  I wasn’t sick at all.  I was pregnant.

This was not my plan.  

This would change everything.

So many questions flooded my mind.  This is a Christian college…can I even stay?  Are we able to be good parents?  How will we get by?  But in my heart, I loved my baby.  I dreamed of what it would be like to hold her for the first time.  I wrote letters to her and even poetry.  It wouldn’t be easy, but we could do this.  My boyfriend and I told our parents the news and made plans to marry and raise our baby.

Oh, the pressure that an unplanned pregnancy adds to the stress of a relationship that is already outside of the will of God!  We began to argue incessantly.  He’d storm out the door, and I’d sit crying, asking myself how on earth I could bring a baby into this.  The stress and tension continued to escalate so badly that I began to lose hope.  I realized that we could not be married. Not like this.

So I ran away.

I broke up with my boyfriend, withdrew from school, and moved home.  I still loved my baby deeply and wanted the very best for her.  I weighed out my options, but each one of them seemed to come at a cost to her.  I could keep her, but what about the stigma of being born to a single mom with no money and no good job?  What about the tug of war that would commence between my and my boyfriend’s family over her?  I could give her up for adoption, which seemed like a very good option, but what if they mistreated her?  The one option that I could not consider was the thought of ending her life.  That was wrong, and I did not believe in it.  Not ever.

And then came the doubts.  “Nothing has to change at all.”  “You can go back to your life, just the way it was.”  “It isn’t fair to bring a baby into these circumstances.”  Somehow the lie began to take hold that the most merciful thing to do for myself and my baby was to keep her from being born at all.  So in February 1987, I made the most regrettable choice I’ve ever made.

I took my baby’s life.

Please forgive me, because I have worked so hard to push this out of my mind.  The painful memories are so very repressed, but I must revive them.  It is too important.  I walked into the abortion clinic, wishing to God that they wouldn’t call my name. My boyfriend wasn’t there and didn’t even know that I was doing this.  I dreaded the sound of my name, but inevitably it was called, and I was taken back to be educated about birth control options, as well as what to expect with the procedure.  I was also given a sedative to help me relax so that I would dilate more easily.

When the drug had time to take effect, they began the process of dilating me.  The doctor was all smiles as he spoke to me, but it seemed like he was overcompensating in a strange and dark way.  He noted that I was actually 11-12 weeks along, not the 10 that they’d assumed,   No bother, they would do the procedure anyway.  When the sound of the machine finally commenced, I suddenly came to my senses.  I was writhing on the table as I begged them to stop.  Sobbing, I cried out, “I’ve changed my mind, I’ve changed my mind.  Stop, I don’t want this!”  The doctor became angry, grimacing as he told me it was too late for that.  Everything began to go black, as the nurses attempted to control my movements and the doctor searched for just the right angle to rid me of my child.

Oh, my child, my dear sweet soul.

Darkness enveloped me, as the room began to spin around and around.  What was happening?  Why was everything spinning? I heard the most horrible sound ever, as my baby went from the safe warm place inside me through a tube and into a jar covered with masking tape.  If you’ve heard the sound of a large object being sucked into a vacuum hose, you have some idea of it.  But this wasn’t a sock or a toy, this was a baby!  My baby!  By now, I was heaving, uncontrollably distraught at the emptiness of my womb, and at the presence of my baby in that jar.  The room continued to spin, as I experienced not just the horrific feeling of a body being torn from mine, but the unimaginable sensation of a soul being ripped away from my own.

The procedure was finished, and the doctor and nurses now despised me.  I couldn’t compose myself, couldn’t dress myself, couldn’t thank them for what they’d done.  No, upon being carried into the “recovery room” a bawling mess, I fell crumpled on the floor, holding my stomach, rolling from side to side, unable to so much as keep my gown from making its way off my body and onto the carpet  I lay on that floor in unspeakable physical, emotional, and spiritual agony, grieving the loss of my baby.

And they hated me for that.

The very next evening, I attempted to join my baby.  Believing now that I’d crossed a line that could or should never be forgiven, I loathed myself.  I felt so empty without her, wishing I could go back in time just two days and protect her…keep her. By God’s good grace and mercy, I did not succeed, and slowly, he drew me with his love.  He beckoned me, for reasons I still fail to understand, to come back to him and his unfailing love.  I begged him for forgiveness.  I had him at hello.

That was 28 years ago, and my boyfriend and I have been married for 27 of those.  We went on to have five more biological children and adopt another.  God has been overwhelmingly, abundantly, exceedingly, and most undeservedly kind to us.  Every single day, though, every single day I walk around with a hole in my heart where a baby once was.  And I see the true version of things.  There were answers.  There was hope.  There was a way.  Abortion was not the answer–not for me, and certainly, most definitely, not for my innocent child.

I finally had to tell it, I need to tell it, because I am sick.  I am overcome with a nausea so deep I could produce bile right here and now, because we are silently enduring the most horrific lie.  Having just learned that babies are now being cut open and sold for parts like old cars in a junkyard, we continue to abdicate to the lie that there simply are no better answers for these women.  FOR GOD’S SAKE, not only do we owe babies more than this, we owe the MOTHERS more than this!

Please, can we PLEASE get loud with our love?  Can we not cry out to these mothers who deep down, as I was, are wishing that anyone at all would present them with some hope that there is a better way?  Can we not stand up to our government and tell them not another dollar will we pay for this massacre?  Can we not lay ourselves down for these precious souls who deserve so much more than being sold for parts or even just tossed from a jar?

As a grieving mother, I’m begging you to stop this holocaust.

Note to reader:  In Christian circles, there is sometimes a pressure to embellish one’s testimony.  In contrast, my temptation has been toward minimizing my own.  I long to protect my loved ones, especially my children, from the painful truth.  I pray you join me in recognizing my baby’s story exactly as it took place, in an attitude of grace and prayer for my family.

Regarding Christian

I remember the days when my kids were young…dealing with double strollers and diaper bags and little ones bickering over who got to sit where in the minivan.  Back then I’d comfort myself with the knowledge that one day I’d have both the time and opportunity to take long hot baths while reading the books of my choice…that this season of raising small children was just that–a season.  That was indeed a fact, but oh how naive I was in underestimating the other set of challenges  and emotions that comes in letting a child go.

Three nights ago I lay awake into the wee hours doing what I do quite well–worrying.  The next day Christian would graduate from college.  He intends to move back to Texas to begin his career and hopefully reap the benefits of his labor.  Memories and questions bounced around in my mind like silver balls in a pinball machine.  The number one question was this:  Were we enough?  Certainly there were missed opportunities, ways we could have done better, and more we could have imparted…but in the end, was it enough?  My worrying sessions tend to end in prayer, and this one was no different.  At last I drifted off to sleep, giving Christian over to the One who had loaned him to me.

The next day we set out for the graduation expecting the “same old same old” that graduations bring–speakers encouraging their gowned audience members to go out and change the world.  The first speaker inspired us with stories of some of the graduates who’d overcome incredible obstacles to graduate that day, including a Rwandan refugee who’d lost her entire family, a 74-year-old grandparent graduating with her granddaughter…just to name two.  There were seven degrees conferred to those who had died while completing them.  Seven chairs were adorned with hoods and caps, with seven sets of families and friends seated behind that honored row.  The speaker who acknowledged them is a member of the founding family of the university.  He continued on to address us as he would a close friend, sharing personal details of the lives of his family and others present.  Afterward, the main speaker gave an inspiring presentation similar to any you’d expect at a Christian university.  It was what happened next, though, that undid me.

Sounds of Liberty and LU Praise, a band and a choir, took their spots on the stage and began singing “When I Think About the Lord.”  The audience just sat listening until a few moments into the song, a couple of graduates stood to their feet, arms outstretched in worshipping and acknowledging the One.  Then others stood, followed by others.   The movement expanded into the stands, as more and more friends and family members rose, steeped in the wonder and joy expressed by the choir, lifting hands and faces toward the heavens.  We were not singing, just listening and worshipping. The Creator of the heavens and the earth was suddenly seated center stage at the ceremony.  Tears streamed down my face, as I wept.  I became acutely aware that no, our efforts were not enough…but God was.  His grace and mercy had taken our feeble human efforts and brought our son to where he now stood.  God himself had brought every graduate to this place.  It wasn’t by human hands, though we undoubtedly contributed. And unquestionably, these individuals had worked countless hours over the course of years to achieve this milestone.  But as graduates and audience alike extended our arms in worship of our Savior, we were struck with an an overwhelming and powerful revelation of the faithfulness of God.  He had brought us here.  This was his doing, and what he was carrying out in these lives was far greater in magnitude than the degrees that were to be received that day.

How I long to just stop here and worship.

Sweet mothers who worry…continue lifting those children up in prayer.  There were times I was so exhausted I could hardly pray.  There have been times when quiet trust stepped in and replaced all action.  Still there were other times of worry, fear, and doubt.  If you fret that as parents we are not enough, you are exactly right.  We are not, but God is.  And He is faithful.

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Life is Like That

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It’s been a whirlwind this seven months of living in Virginia.  Oh, how I love waking up every day to the sweet mountain air I remember from my childhood just a few hours south in Tennessee.  As I write, RJ is outside tending to the plants and shrubs, with their beautiful colors.  God is good.

Far away on another continent, people are digging out from under mountains of rubble, hoping to save as many lives as they can….praying for just a few more miracles.  Is God still good?  How many times have we heard this question, as individuals attempt to discount the idea of a God who allows terrible things to happen?

We know that it’s a fallen world, wrought with pain and evil and terrible suffering.  The Bible tells us that it wasn’t always this way.  In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.  And everything he created was good.  We are told that Adam and Eve were given one boundary that they should not cross or else all this death which now surrounds us would come into existence.  Listening to the lies of the enemy, they chose death, forever changing the landscape and experience of our planet.

But have you noticed this?  When terrible things occur, we cry out to God for help and mercy.  We plead for someone who is greater than our suffering.  Somehow in our heart of hearts we know that there is one who can comfort us in our pain. That “one” isn’t some obscure beam of energy and light, he is Jesus.   When Jesus came to earth, he may easily have chosen to forego suffering.  Instead he endured horrific suffering, even unto death.  Evil happened precisely because there IS a God.  In Hebrews 12:2, Scripture tells us that “for the joy set before him,” Jesus endured the Cross.  What was that joy?  It was our redemption–our reconciliation with God in spite of our participation in sinful rebellion that dates all the way back to Adam an Eve.

And here’s the good news:  Jesus didn’t stay dead, and we don’t have to, either.  Jesus rose from the grave, paving the way for every single believer to do the same.  Our lives don’t have to end in tragedy.  No servant is greater than his master (John 13:16), so we as Christ followers should expect to experience suffering at different times of our lives.  Through faith in Christ, though, we are given the same victory over sin, suffering, and even the grave that he achieved over 2,000 years ago.

Whether we are in a season of enjoying sunshine and roses or are in a time of devastating crisis, God is one and the same.  If we are believers, we can trust in Him.  He is good and faithful.  He will comfort.  He will redeem.