Being Thankful for Dirty Dishes

Recently I was asked to think about what is easy for me to be thankful for and what is difficult for me to be thankful for.  Of course, my immediate response was that I am so thankful for my husband and my three beautiful children. Each one has blessed my life in ways I can’t even fully define, and whenever I think about what I’m thankful for, their faces immediately come into my mind.

However, when I think about what I struggle to be thankful for, my immediate answer involves all the stuff that goes along with having this amazing family — cleaning up after them, putting away the piles of clothes and shoes, cooking the meals, doing the dishes, and dealing with the clutter.  The tasks never end, and frankly, this list of “to do” items gets in the way of accomplishing my personal agenda, which usually involves reading a good book or finishing a project I’ve been working on.

Then it hits me . . .

I’m not thankful at all!

My great-aunt was an amazing woman who loved the Lord and lived her life to serve Him and to serve others.  She has always inspired me.  One time when I was in her home, I noticed a plaque hanging on her wall:

Thank God for dirty dishes,

They have a lot to tell

While other folks go hungry

We are so very well.

With health and home and happiness,

We shouldn’t want to fuss,

For by this stack of evidence,

God’s very good to us.

The first time I noticed this, I took a piece of scratch paper from my purse to scrawl down this beautiful reminder.  After my great-aunt passed away, this plaque was given to me as a way to remember her.  Today this plaque hangs in my kitchen to remind me that even when I struggle with the day to day list of mundane tasks, each item on my “to-do” list is actually a blessing. 

So, I have decided to commit to being thankful for the tasks. I’ve started working on my own poems to remind me of the truth when the irritation of the tasks overwhelms me.

So, here are just a couple:

Thank God for Dirty Diapers

Thank God for dirty diapers

Though stinky, foul, and gross;

Each poopy mess remind me,

That I am blessed the most.

The child whom I hold and love

Is healthy as can be.

Her body works just as it should,

And God’s been good to me.

While other mothers fear and wait,

And pray for perfect health,

My baby eats and laughs and plays

More precious than great wealth.

This second one hits closest to my heart because the laundry is my least favorite task.  I may have to hang this in my laundry room:

Thank God for Dirty Laundry

Thank God for dirty laundry

The piles, the mess, the chore;

For all are proof of God’s great love,

His provision and much more.

For every towel and shirt and sock

Are evidence of such.

The stack of clothes I’ve folded,

Reminds me I have much.

I know that I can’t just be thankful for all the easy stuff unless I am also thankful for the “so annoying”, the “so irritating”, and the “never finished” in my life, too.

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Today, I choose to be thankful for the dirty dishes. 

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It’s The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of

Years ago as a young adult, I went white water rafting with a group from our church.  I was home from college for the summer, and my parents invited me to join them and a group of friends for this adventure in the Colorado Rockies.

When we arrived, I met this vibrant, enthusiastic, and adorable couple who were probably a few years older than my parents.  They were teasing each other and flirting — splashing each other with river water, laughing, and talking to each other like close friends.  As I observed them, my first thought about this couple was that it must be a second marriage for both of them.  They were simply too much in love and enjoying their time together too much to have been married for very long.

As we spent time together in the raft and I continued observing and listening, I learned that they had been married almost thirty years, had children and grandchildren, and they were, in fact, still very much in love.

For the rest of that day, and even up until today, I am still moved by their relationship and frankly shocked by my initial interpretation.  The behavior I witnessed between those two people did not fit my paradigm for marriage when I was in my early twenties.

Quite honestly, I simply had not seen this before.  My parents were committed to each other, but they certainly didn’t flirt, laugh, or goof around together.  My youth pastor at the time had referred to his wedding ring as “the world’s smallest handcuff.”  Additionally, I had witnessed a lot of friends and relatives who had been married for a long time and seemed, at best, resigned to their relationships.

I’ve always been a dreamer, and even as a child I believed in romance and “happily ever after”.  I longed for a “romantic” story in my life.  That same youth pastor would chide me on different outings when I would talk about the stars and how beautiful and romantic they were.  “You know, Kim, relationships are work and romance does not last.”  Quite frankly, this is the message I received from everyone around me.

Falling in love is wonderful but being married is just a lot of work.

However, this fun-loving couple challenged that notion and gave me hope that a happy marriage is possible.

I’m reflecting on this today because, sadly, I have just found out via Facebook, that another good friend’s marriage has crumbled and she’s hoping to build a new life with someone else.  Truly and in all sincerity, I wish her the best.  I’m happy for her, and I hope that this new relationship brings her joy and peace and fulfillment.  My words are not judgment — it just made me think and wonder.

Why am I so happily married?
Why am I so confident that we are going to stay together?
What makes the difference?

I know that I don’t have the answer, and I certainly do not have the perfect marriage.  But I think I have one idea from my own experience.

When my oldest two daughters were toddlers, I was driving in my car to the grocery store.  I was feeling rather unfulfilled as a stay-at-home mom.  I think deep down I believed that somehow I deserved something more meaningful out of life, and changing diapers, doing the laundry, reading Chicka Chicka Boom Boom for the 23rd time in a day, and falling asleep on the couch at 8:30 pm from exhaustion were just not cutting it.  The reality — I was discontented.

I’m pretty sure I was stewing on something my husband had failed to do or say, and I think he may have said that he had to work late because I remember that I was feeling very frustrated when I first started listening to the words of a Carly Simon song that was playing on the radio.  This song was incredibly familiar to me — I had probably heard it hundreds of times and could sing every lyric.  But, I hadn’t really ever listened to the words:

“And you’re feeling closed in by the same four walls

The same old conversation with the same old guy you’ve known for years;

But use your imagination, and you will see,

It’s the stuff that dreams are made of . . .”

I started to cry, and as I pulled into the Fareway parking lot, I sat in my car and let the tears roll.  These were the kind of tears that well-up from that place deep in your soul and just spill over involuntarily.

It is the stuff that dreams are made of.

Marriage, children, home, family, memories — all of it!

I am so quick to complain or find fault, and this emotional amnesia fuels that heart of discontent until I begin searching for something else.  Then, suddenly, a song that I don’t even like all that much comes on the radio, and reminds me that I’m living the dream.

I believe when it comes to marriage, I am learning what Paul described in Philippians 4 — “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (vs. 12,13, NIV).

Living in contentment is the living the dream.

A couple of weeks ago, I woke up and my husband was still sleeping  (which never happens, by the way, because I love to sleep and make the most of every moment to do it.)  On this rare morning, as I looked at him, I realized that a part of what makes this a dream is working through all the hard stuff together, staying committed, and pressing on through all that life brings in spite of what we face, what we say to each other in anger, or what we forget to say because we take each other for granted.  As he slept, I could still see the boy I fell in love with almost 25 years ago within the man I am married to today.  I felt overwhelmed with peace, joy, love, thankfulness, and my very own “happily ever after.”

Contentment.

It’s just the everyday stuff.

It’s the stuff that dreams are made of.

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Reflecting On This Day

I was starting a new chapter in my life.  My precious 4 year old, Elizabeth, was going to her first day of preschool, and I was nursing her 7 month old sister, Maggie, on the bed in my room.  I’m still not sure why I decided to turn on the TV, but I have a recollection that this seemed like something “school mothers” do — they watch Good Morning America, drink coffee, make pancakes, and pack lunches.

As soon as the image became clear, I felt a tremendous thud within my chest as I took in the tragedy and the horror that was unfolding.  The World  Trade Center was burning.  A plane had flown into the Pentagon.  A split screen showed black smoke billowing in two major cities. I audibly gasped, and the girls came running into the room.

“Mommy, what’s wrong?  What happened?”

I couldn’t formulate an answer; there was no way to explain this to my baby girls.

“I’m not sure, but something bad is happening. Come up here with me.  We’re going to pray.”

And so, the four of us sat on my bed in Loveland, Colorado, and joined a massive chorus being lifted to heaven pleading for God’s mercy to rescue, to protect, to heal, and to save.

When the South Tower began to collapse, I listened as seasoned news anchor, Peter Jennings, couldn’t even process what he was seeing.  He kept saying, “It looks as if part of the building is falling away.”  No one wanted to believe that this was possible.  The ache in my chest intensified, and I could feel each beat of my heart as I realized in that moment that thousands of people had just died.

Life changed in an instant.

Elizabeth went to preschool as planned.  Emily and I read books and played at the park.  Little Maggie giggled and smiled as she sat surrounded by all her little toys.

All I could think about was that my children would be growing up in a world marked by this day.  They would live their lives in the shadow of terrorism.

Fear.  No control.  Unknown.

Later that day when all three were napping, I poured out my heart to the Lord.  I was crying.  I was in pain.  I was afraid.

The Holy Spirit led me to Psalm 46:

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Therefore I will not fear though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging . . . Come see the works of the Lord, the desolations he has brought on the earth.  He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear, he burns the shield with fire.

‘Be still and know that I am God;  I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’

The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”

My answer that day — Just be still.  

Twelve years later, I find myself thinking about that morning more than I have in years.  Perhaps it is because I put all three of my daughters on buses this morning.  They will be at a retreat with their school to hear from God about what He wants to do in their lives and how He is going to work through them in the future.

The house is very quiet.

I have been thinking about the fact that my sweet Maggie has never known a world before 9/11.  For her, the Twin Towers are just an historical image seen in old movies and photographs.  There has been a war going on for the entirety of her life.  How is this shaping her?

Well, here is what I see.

Just as she did twelve years ago, Maggie wakes up every day with a smile on her face.  She is still willing to take risks.  She wants to see the world.  She doesn’t live in fear.  She longs for friendships with all different kinds of people.  Honestly, she loves life!

Have we just adapted to a new normal?  Have we forgotten?

I don’t think so, and here’s why.

Terrorism rocked our world that day.  Terrorism still rocks our world.  When I think about the families of Sandy Hook Elementary School, I am reminded that terrorism lives in our backyards.

Giving into fear is always a choice.  Choosing to live in a place of peace is also a choice.

I think many of our children today are well aware of the tragedies that they may face.  I think they understand that people have given their lives to keep them safe, and (as entitled as many believe them to be) I think many are unspeakably grateful for this sacrifice.  I think they know that the world can be dark, terrifying, and unjust.

When I watch my girls embracing life, trusting God, and looking to the future, I believe that they are demonstrating what it means to live in the confident hope promised in scripture:

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”

In so many ways, they are setting an example for me.  The terror of that day hasn’t crippled them or isolated them.  They still care about people and hope for the future.

It’s tough to think about letting them go.  I worry about them experiencing the “big bad world.”  Yet, when I reflect on a day like today, I am reminded that even in the darkest moments, God still reigns eternal and His purposes endure.

I still look for answers and I often cry out in fear and pain.  Then I hear Him whisper to my soul:

Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.

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Am I Good Enough? (Part 2)

Recognizing that I have already written on this topic, I feel compelled to revisit it in light of what the Lord has been showing me in recent days.

Our church has been going through a study of Ephesians, and the messages have dramatically impacted my understanding of my identity in Christ.  The whole of Ephesians chapter 1 convicted me in a powerfully new and fresh way.  In Christ, I am chosen, adopted, redeemed, guaranteed a spot in eternity, filled with the Holy Spirit, and given access to the same power that raised Christ from the dead.

Wow!

Even as I review all that I have been thinking about, I am humbled and impressed yet again by the power of the truth behind this portion of God’s Word.

Two weeks ago, this truth became even more significant to me as Pastor Jeff Henderson spoke from Ephesians 2:8-10.  Most of my life I have stopped at verses 8 and 9, which emphasize the fact that I am saved by grace and not by works.  But Pastor Henderson focused on verse 10 — “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (NIV).  He talked about how God has already prepared good works in advance for us to do and that we can accomplish these because we are in Christ and have access to the power of God working within us.  He talked about how this requires confident humility. He also offered a great strategy for the moments when the enemy tries to remind us of our shortcomings and our failings.  He suggested that we need to speak out loud — “Jesus says I can.  Jesus says I am.”

Pastor Henderson was filling the pulpit for our regular pastor, who happens to be Louie Giglio, a world-renowned, highly respected, “almost prayed at the Presidential inauguration”, famous pastor.  As Pastor Henderson was sharing about the aforementioned strategy, he stated rather honestly and transparently that this was the only way he could walk the stairs onto the stage at Passion City Church and complete the good work of speaking to us that God had prepared in advance for him to do.  As his internal voice was saying, “Who do you think you are?  You can’t do this!  You can’t speak for Louie Giglio!”, he was saying, “Jesus says I can.  Jesus says I am.”  His voice cracked as he shared this personal experience, and his testimony to God’s power and the work of the Holy Spirit was compelling and humbling.

Since that message, I have been working on this strategy in my own life, and I am beginning to see how God is erasing the tapes and silencing the internal dialogue that makes me question whether or not I can accomplish anything or if I am really good enough to be used by God.

The one voice that seems to linger says something like, “Well, I am sure that God hasn’t prepared ‘good works’ for you that are all that important or special.  You get the run-of-the-mill good works cause you’re a run-of-the-mill type of person.  You’re not really good enough to do something important.”

As I’ve been processing all this, my husband and I attended our new community group for Passion City Church.  It’s always a little awkward to meet new people and talk about life to strangers.  Again, when the internal voice is saying, “You’re ordinary,” it’s difficult to feel like I have anything meaningful to contribute to these people’s lives.

As I met some ladies and shared about the start of the new school year, I was asked where my children attend school.  I responded that they go to Providence Christian Academy in Lilburn.  One of the ladies in my group said, “We were one of the founding families of that school.  Our son was a part of that first graduating class.”

I was completely blown away by this because I had heard the story of those families.  I have been told about how they stepped out in faith, purchased an old strip mall, renovated it in a matter of days by working all hours of the day and night, and trusted that God would take care of the details.  The school wasn’t even accredited when they opened, but they trusted God to take care of their children and their educational futures.

Since moving to Georgia, Providence Christian Academy has been the greatest blessing to our family.  It is a genuinely Christ-centered environment where my girls have developed friendships, grown in their faith, and received a top-notch education.  Needless to say, I was very excited to meet this woman.

As the conversation in our group turned to the topic of our identity in Christ based on the sermons from the previous weeks, we were asked to think about what God thinks about when He thinks about us.  This same woman that I had just met shared very honestly that she thinks God thinks, “You are a mistake.”

So honest and so real.

Others in the group reminded her from scripture that God doesn’t make mistakes and that He clearly has a plan and purpose for each of our lives, but the internal dialogue for this woman was so strong that I could tell she struggled to believe it.  Suddenly, I was reminded of the conversation we had when I first arrived, and it’s as if the Holy Spirit gave me a giant elbow nudge.  I put my hand on her leg and said, “I don’t see how you could see yourself as a mistake, when you did something for me that blessed me when you didn’t even know me.  You stepped out in faith and started a school that continues to honor God and teach young people.  What you did impacted my life because you were willing to trust God.  I am eternally grateful to you! There is no way that you could be a mistake.”

What is interesting to me is that even with this specific example, she didn’t see it as any big deal. She sort of downplayed it and talked about how it happened a long time ago.  However, as we continued talking, she began to see that her faithfulness was a clear example of a way that she had accomplished the good works that God had planned in advance for her to do.

Later, she leaned over and whispered to me, “Thank you.  I really needed to hear that.”

Is it possible that in that moment when I responded to that Holy Spirit nudge that I was part of accomplishing the good works that God had planned in advance for me to do?

When I reflect on my interaction with this new friend, I see so much of myself.  I see so many of the people I dearly love who bypass the joy and power of walking with Christ because, frankly, they think most of what they have done for the Lord is insignificant, unimportant, or perhaps even a mistake.

Oh, how this paralyzes us from being effective for Him!  Truly – it’s tragic.

The truth of scripture — “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10, NIV).

I believe that God is using this to truth to transform my heart.  It is true that my good works may never involve mounting a stage and speaking to 5,000+ people.  However, maybe my good works involve sitting with someone who needs to be reminded of the truth and hear again, “You are not a mistake.  You are in Christ and He loves you.  He has a plan and purpose for your life.”

Perhaps God is even saying to me, “The good works I have planned in advance for you to do include washing the clothes for your children to wear to school tomorrow, shopping for the groceries, and preparing a healthy meal for your family to enjoy.”

Whatever it is, I can trust that God is saying I am His workmanship and that He has planned good works in advance for me to do for Him.

When I struggle to feel good enough, I remember the challenge and strategy offered by Pastor Henderson, “Jesus says I can.  Jesus says I am.”

And, as the Lord keeps teaching me, I plan to add to the list.

When the voice inside says, “What you’re doing isn’t all that important.  It doesn’t really qualify as a ‘good work,’” I can respond with confident humility and say, “Jesus says it is!  Jesus says it does!”

For I am God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for me to do.  This is the only answer I need.

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Assumptions

After watching the news for any period of time over the last week, one thing has become clear — making assumptions about people can be dangerous and even deadly.

I can’t presume to speak with authority about the Trayvon Martin case because I haven’t followed it all that closely, and I am not familiar with the laws that were applied.  All I know is that it feels like injustice.  A man observed him and made an assumption about him that he was potentially dangerous based on the way he was walking or his hoodie or his race; a fight ensued, and the teenage boy ended up dead. 

Sad.  It is just so sad!

Assumptions.  If we are honest, we all make them, but we generally do not appreciate it if others make them about us.

I am particularly struck by this idea after spending a weekend with dear friends up in Tennessee.  Our group began meeting as newly married couples almost twenty years ago.  We forged lifelong connections with each other based on our stage in life, our struggles and joys within marriage, shared loss and pain, and most importantly, our faith in Christ.  Most couples in the group were in graduate school when we began meeting, and, as a result, the group was destined to split up after people graduated and moved on.  Although we have dispersed all over the country, we have continued having these reunions for seventeen years.

I love these people.  Over the years, the Lord has really shown me that it is a love unlike any I have experienced in my other relationships.  We have maintained a commitment to each other.  We have been accountable to each other.  We have a shared history and painful journey that binds us together in a unique relationship most similar to what I believe Paul was describing when he talked about “the body of Christ.”

However, through two recent pieces of correspondence, it has come to my attention that some in the group have made assumptions about me — what I believe, my political viewpoint, my stance on different issues, and perhaps even my ability to have empathy. 

This is an icky feeling.  Why do they think this?  We spend very little time at our reunions discussing politics.  Are these assumptions based on statements I made back when I was twenty-three?  (That thought is simply terrifying!)

Truly, the college debater part of me wants to confront this issue head-on and discuss all the ways in which these assumptions are unjust and unfair.  I want to stand up and defend myself.  But then I realize that if I engage in a debate about this I am simply traveling the same trajectory that led them to make the assumptions in the first place.

As I have been reflecting on this experience, I have been humbled, as I often am, about my own issues with making assumptions about others.  I am not immune from this.  I am certainly not more mature or better able to handle my internal dialogue in a more appropriate way.

All this in combination with the news reports about the assumptions made about Trayvon Martin has generated some serious self-reflection.

Why do I make assumptions?

Most of my assumptions about people are based on my own life experiences.  I filter information through my own lense.  There are certainly the assumptions I make about people I encounter in the grocery store or the neighbors I wave to when getting my mail or the parents I talk to during carpool.  These are primarily based on external factors — looks, attire, language, and behavior.  Perhaps people might refer to these as judgments.  I would like to believe that somehow I don’t do this, but . . . sadly . . . I do. 

But what about the assumptions I make about the people to whom I am closest and I love the most — my siblings, my parents, my lifelong friends, and even my own husband and children?  Based on my experience at the recent reunion, this question has troubled me most. 

I have an amazing memory.  It’s not necessarily something I am bragging about, but it’s just a reality.  And much like the mixed blessing of eternal youth identified in Tuck Everlasting, an amazing memory has its drawbacks.  I can relive an experience in my mind as though it’s happening in the present.  Great for days like my wedding or the birth of my children — not great for my most embarrassing moments or the horrible arguments I have had where I’ve said things I wish I could take back.

This memory plays into my assumptions — like it or not. 

“This is what happened last time, so this is probably how it will be this time.” 

“Well, last time we were together, she said this, so that probably means she is still upset about that situation.  I should avoid that topic.”

Worst of all — “I can’t really be myself around so-and-so because last time I was somehow rejected or made to feel bad about myself.”

These assumptions change my relationships.  They keep me tied to a future that suggests this is how it was and this is how it always will be.

This is lazy love.

As I was processing my own issues with having assumptions made about me, I suddenly realized that what I really wanted from these people was genuine love — love that accepted me where I am and didn’t create unspoken expectations based on the past or their interpretation of the past.  A love that asks questions instead of making assumptions.

Am I willing to do this?

Suddenly, the rubber meets the road.

“Love is patient and kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, NIV).

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3,4, NIV).

How different life would be if we all could look through this lense!  How different the outcome in Florida would have been on that night back in 2012.

But, most humbling of all, how different my life would be if I stopped making assumptions about the people I love and consider that each day is new and not rooted in the past or dependent on the same types of outcomes.  

What if I could simply love people as Christ loves me?  Perhaps this is why he gave the command in the first place.

 

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To a Mother in Haiti

Today, my little girl boarded a plane.   She will be gone the whole summer.  She will be in Haiti.

It seems like yesterday that I was holding her in my arms and rocking her to sleep while singing “Jesus Loves Me.”  I don’t know when she turned into a young woman.  Sometimes I feel like I missed it.  It went so fast.

It’s so hard for me to let her go.  I think about her sleeping on the ground in a tent without a pillow and I struggle to sleep.  I wonder if the rain has leaked in and soaked her sleeping bag.  What if she is shivering?  What if she gets sick?  Who will hug her if she feels lonely?  Who will take care of her if she needs it?  I want to keep her with me where she’s safe.

Then, in the midst of my own self-focused pity party, I thought about  . . .

You

Years ago you had to let go of your little girl.  I can’t even imagine . . .

When faced with the decision to let her go recognizing that the only option was to allow her to go somewhere that could offer her hope for survival; all the while knowing that this place was not with you.  Praying, perhaps, that someone would be there for her when she was sick.  Hoping that there would be someone to hug her when she felt lonely.  Believing that someone would take care of her needs because you couldn’t.

Letting her go . . .

Before she left, my daughter told me in a note that she believes God is calling her to Haiti and that her heart is there.  She went there with her dad two years ago, and in a note to him she said, “Only you can truly understand how I can love it so much.”

On her wall in her bedroom, there is a verse that reads:  “Defend the cause of the weak and the fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed.  Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked” (Psalm 82:3-4).

She feels called to be a part of defending the cause of the fatherless and showing Jesus’ love to those who are in need.

My daughter wants to be in Haiti.

I want my daughter here with me.

I am privileged and selfish.

I have more than I could ever ask or imagine.  I was privileged to hold my baby girl, watch her grow and learn so many things.  I had enough food to give her and a warm bed to lay her in every night.  And now, even after all that abundance,  I am struggling to let her go.  The longing of my heart is to keep my daughter with me – to hold her close and make sure she’s okay.

Yet, if I got what I wanted, your prayers and longings for your daughter would go unanswered.

I write today to encourage you.  Our great and loving God has heard your cries and He sees your heart.  He is providing for your little girl! For a little while, my daughter will be there to hug your daughter when she is feeling lonely, to offer her help if she is sick, and to take care of her just as you would if you were able.  Your daughter will be loved.

Even as I say this to you I realize that my daughter will be loved, too, as your daughter offers her a hug when she’s lonely or helps take care of her when she needs it.

Somehow in all of this I am beginning to understand what Jesus meant when he said, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39).

Even though we may never meet this side of eternity, I want you to know that today, I’m praying for your daughter even as I pray for mine.

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Wholeheartedly

For me, one of the saddest statements in the whole Bible is found in 2 Chronicles — “Amaziah was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years . . . He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, but not wholeheartedly” (25:1-2, NIV).

When I read through the Bible, I actually love how the story builds from the patriarchs through the Israelites’ slavery in Egypt, to God’s deliverance of His people through Moses and eventually their victorious entrance into the Promised Land.  I look forward to the stories of David and the beginning of the story about Solomon.

But . . . then it all starts to fall apart.

In a strange way it reminds me of some of my favorite movies.  Take The Little Mermaid for example — when she is holding the quill and getting ready to sign away her voice to the evil Ursala, I want to scream at her (and sometimes I do), “No!  Don’t do it!”  Or, in Dear John when John opens his last letter from Savannah and she breaks his heart.  Somehow, I always wish I could just grab that letter out of his hand.

I don’t want to see the “sad” part of the story.  I don’t want it to go badly for these characters.

For the Kings of the Old Testament, once they walk away from God, it all goes badly!  Whenever I get to the story about Rehoboam being given the choice to ease up on his people (advice given to him by the older and wiser advisers) or increase the burden on his people (advice given to him by the young men who had grown up with him — 1 Kings 12:6-15), I want to scream at him, “Ease up!  Be good to your people!  Return to God so that you won’t lose your kingdom!”

My screaming never works.

Still, this is not the saddest part of the story for me.

“He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, but not wholeheartedly” (2 Chron. 25:2, NIV).

Why is this so sad?  Well, he knew what was right.  He obviously had an understanding of God’s plan.  He made some right choices, but he didn’t do it with his heart.

The Message says it this way, “But, he wasn’t wholeheartedly devoted to God.”

Was he just going through the motions?  Was he too caught up in the business of being king that he missed it?  Was he just arrogant?

Later in the story, it explains that he took plunder from conquered peoples and began worshiping those gods as his own. He abandoned the truth and began making decisions based on his confidence in himself, which ultimately led to his downfall.

Sad!

Yet, the greatest sadness for me is that Amaziah’s lack of wholehearted devotion meant that he missed the best that God had for him.  God had promised that anyone who followed Him and obeyed his commands wholeheartedly would be greatly blessed (Deuteronomy 31).

God says, “‘You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart’” (Jeremiah 29:13, NIV)

Amaziah had the opportunity, and he missed it.  Other kings never even made an attempt to follow God.  Those stories are sad to me, but still not as sad as a king who almost got it right.

As I reflect on this, I am reminded, sadly, of all the ways in which I allow my heart to be led astray or miss the opportunity to be devoted to God wholeheartedly.

When I choose to turn on Live with Kelly and Michael instead of exercising . . .

When I choose to scream at my kids for leaving a mess instead of just talking to them . . .

When I forget to consult God about a big decision or any decision . . .

When I keep eating and I’m not hungry . . .

When I read a novel in preference over my Bible . . .

When God brings a friend’s name to my heart and mind and I forget to send a note of encouragement or pray for her . . .

When I give into my flesh a hundred times a day instead of choosing to obey the Holy Spirit . . .

She did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, but not wholeheartedly.

I know God’s not looking for perfection.  He just wants my heart — my whole heart.

My greatest prayer is that my children and my children’s children won’t want to rip open the fabric of time and scream at me to make a different choice.  My hope is that instead they would read about me:

[She] did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and walked in the ways of [her] father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left” (2 Chronicles 34:2, NIV).

She followed God wholeheartedly!

 

 

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