Blueberry Musings

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.
(1 Corinthians 3:6-7)

In the not-quite-cool of a July morning in Tennessee, I picked blueberries as I talked with my Father. One thing at the forefront of my mind was my teenage son’s seeming indifference to all things having to do with God and His church. As I spoke to my Lord about my concerns, the old, familiar mom-guilt rose to the surface

The thing is, I homeschooled my kids for years. My son, the oldest and now a rising senior, was taught at home from Kindergarten through his freshman year of high school. Currently, he attends a private Christian school, but outside of school he does not seem (to me) to have interest in the things of God.

Oh, he aces his Bible class. They grew up in the Word at least. However, this last year or two have made me question how well I modeled a life of faith.

In my fervency to lead my kids to God, did I actually push them away? Was I too stringent? Too critical? Too lenient? Too lax? Did my walk not match my talk? Or was it a walk that my son found uninteresting because I shared too little of my joy or my delight in God? Was I too stern-faced and solemn? Have I given writing too much emphasis? Too little?

The mom-guilt train chugs on and on. Its refrain is unchanging: I have failed. My efforts are not good enough.

And it was into these failures the Spirit of my God spoke in wordless truth. If I could put words to the experience, it would go something like this: Whether you failed or not is irrelevant. How does it change the present? You cannot change the past and bemoaning it is not the same thing as learning from it. However, one thing is true: your efforts aren’t good enough. But I AM. Do you trust Me?

There in the blueberry bushes with one elbow covered in spider webs and a few purple stains on my hand, my King reminded me of something. He alone has the power and ability to draw my son – or anyone else – to Himself.

This doesn’t free me from obedience or due diligence, but it is nonetheless freeing. Even if I were to perform flawlessly, my efforts would be inadequate. I cannot save a single soul.

But my God can.

He is both the Author of faith and its Perfecter. The question is not whether I was successful in leading my kids to Christ. The question is: Am I successful in trusting God to bring His own work to completion. In short, do I trust Him – even if it means one or more of my kids has to walk through the dark valley for a time? Does my love for Him compel me to trust in His love for my children?

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
(Romans 8:28)

On my way back to the house with a container full of blueberries, I repented of my unbelief and chose trust. Specifically, I vocalized my trust to my Lord that His Spirit will work and produce fruit in my son and all my kids.

I may have planted a few seeds of devotion, I may have watered them, but it will be God who makes the fruit of His Spirit grow.  Until then, I will remain faithful in prayer, eagerly anticipating the work God will do in and through my family.  I will trust God to work out even our errors for our eternal good.

Whatever happens in these next weeks, months, years, or even decades, I know my God will bring about His purposes.

And He will do it in His time, not mine.

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.
(James 5:7-8)

 

 

Gross But Good

… the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
(Matthew 20:28)

Last Friday night, I spent some time with my 14-year-old and two adorable little girls wearing a sweatshirt and yoga pants merrily festooned with vomit.

It was glorious.

Well, OK, not the vomit of course…

My Sweet Potata had agreed to babysit for some friends but had neglected to tell me the two previous nights had been sleepless for her. Once my gang arrived home from school, her bleary eyes and slumped shoulders told the tale even before she could confess.

So I decided to tag along and be her wingman. We had a fantastic conversation on the drive over, and the first couple of hours were filled with joyful giggles and silly games. At the appropriate time, my no-longer-little girl tucked the two sweeties into bed we both settled in to do a little reading.

Twenty minutes later, I was bathing the youngest while big sister provided Sweet Potata with a detailed narrative of the differences between her sister’s vomit and the one time she had thrown up.

At this point, I wasn’t sure if excitement or illness had caused the event, but I was thankful God had worked things out so Sweet Potata and I could switch hit. Once the little one was bathed, Sweet Potata sat with the sisters and read books while I cleaned up the crib. Not long after, she had big sister back in bed while I held the little one in another room.

Seconds later, said little one was back in the tub and my clothing had acquired some distinctive new attributes. Even still, it was a wonderful evening.

You see, now that my own children are teens, connection with them does not always come as easily as it did when they were small. They no longer believe I know everything and in fact are often convinced I am not even capable of spelling my name correctly. They definitely doubt my abilities.

But all of it – the pulling away, the incessant questioning of my motives, the disbelief that our family rules are there for the good of each person, the reluctance to believe my insistence on a hygienic household and on the nutritional deficit of Pop Tarts have merit– all of it is a natural and necessary part of growing up.

But as a parent, it is a painful part.

And crazily, as I sat in the floor with the towel-wrapped toddler by my side (because my lap was, shall we say, no longer a pleasing place to snuggle), I had a powerful glimpse of the enormity of God’s love for me.

Like my teenage daughter, I spent much of my life pulling away from my Father. In truth, I rejected Him entirely.

All of humanity did. We all wanted to go our own way, test our boundaries without the pesky interference of thoughts for the future. We all disbelieved His laws were given out of love and concern for us. We all sinned and fell short of His glory.

Yet so great is His love that He did not give up on us.

Instead, He sent His Son away from Glory to immerse Himself in humanity. The Creator subjecting Himself to all the vile things which occur in a human body since the day sin entered and brought decay and death into His creation.

While here, Yeshua reached past the festering reek of leprosy and touched those who were infected by it – despite the social stigma of being unclean.

He raised the dead. He endured being spat upon, mocked, and brutally tortured. It is likely there were times when He was covered in worse things than vomit.

Suddenly, as I sat with one arm wrapped around a sick little sweetie, listening to my daughter’s voice mingled with big sister’s and ignoring the clammy funk of my own clothing, I realized something.

Yeshua came and suffered the nastiness of being human because it was worth it.

To me, all the cleaning up – and yes, even the light coating of vomit – was worth it. That night, I was able offer friends who are dealing with so much a chance to have some time alone together. I had the privilege of offering comfort to one I claim as a part-time daughter.

But most of all, it was worth it to reach through the wall of adolescent stubbornness and bring a little restoration into my relationship with my daughter. To talk with her and enjoy each other as we did when she was small. To know I was there by her side in a difficult situation.

And that is precisely why my Lord came. To restore the connection He once had with His beloved creation. To walk through the yuck with us.

For Him, I believe, it was worth wearing a bit of foulness to walk and talk with His beloved children once more as He used to before sin entered the world.

Which just makes me love Him even more.

For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.
(2 Corinthians 1:5)

Magnify

southcumberlandhike008I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the humble hear and be glad. Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together!
Psalm 34:1-3

Sometimes we trudge through our little worlds in weary tedium, forgetting that we are a part of something so much larger and more magnificent that even our dreams do not brush against the truth of it.

But there are other times when for some obscure reason of particular attentiveness on our part or perhaps out of sheer compassion, God lets us glimpse the tiniest fragment of His work. At such times, an almost dreadful sense of the enormity of His scope crashes into our bland little realities, leaving us breathless and reeling in the wake of His unfathomable love for each one of His creatures.

I suppose it is times like this that reality of what Jesus did on the cross seems truly personal. Perhaps it is just me, but I find that I can often be utterly convinced of God’s love for His people and yet somehow my mind almost makes His love a thing vast and vague rather than concrete and specific.

But it is not vague. Not at all. His love is intensely real, vibrant, alive, and intimate, as I have been recently reminded.  I know that, of course. I have known it for as long as I have known Him, and yet it is always wild and wonderful to be allowed to see it in action. It still thrills me, and I pray it never ceases to do so.

Let me share with you an experience that is small but not at all meaningless to the principal players.

In order to begin, I need to take a glimpse back into the dark and aimless days before I met Jesus. There was a time when I built a little sham house up around me; a little fun-loving persona that I constructed and adopted in an effort to escape the dreary prison my own mind had become.  Yet this counterfeit version of me had little to do with who I was, and indeed was itself a deceit that only increased the strength of my prison. I was a total slave to sin and believed that I always would be.

Then something happened — a death quickly followed by new life — and my delicate house-of-cards world imploded, laying bare the bars that hemmed me in. It was the first time I had an honest glimpse of the ‘me’ I had attempted to create, and she was not a pretty sight.

Sometime after that, I met Jesus and He began the slow process of healing years of willful blindness, unlocking my prison, and drawing me (albeit reluctantly at first) out into the freedom of reality. He showed me the ‘me’ He always intended and began the sometimes painful process of remodeling.

Somewhere in all that mess, I lost the baby book my sweet mama had made; her treasured memories of her firstborn and photos that were the only one of their kind. For some mad reason, she entrusted this to me at a time in my life when my very life should not have been entrusted to me — call it the blind love of motherhood. Anyway, I lost it.

Soon after meeting Jesus, I prayed and begged God to find this thing. My poor mama had already endured much hurt in her life, and it killed me that I had added to it. I asked God for some time to move the heart of anyone who would find it to contact me or to lead me to it if that were more plausible.

And the years went by… and I gave the thing up for lost and asked for forgiveness instead.

Out of the blue just about two weeks ago, a girl I had known in the middle of my most self-destructive time actually found me — in a very roundabout way. She recalled my baby sister’s somewhat unusual name and through that channel reached out to my sister’s friend who I just so happen to be friends with on Facebook.  M__ forwarded the message to me, and I could not believe it. This lady had found my baby book in a recent move and had been trying to find me.

M__ had not even gotten the message until months later (it was sent in March), but I immediately texted the phone number I was given and believe it or not, she had continued to hang onto the thing.  I was in awe.

Since I now live in a different city, I reached out to family members and another sister was able to meet her and retrieve the book. My plan is to surprise my mama for Christmas. I have wept tears of joy over this — I am so thankful that this one, seemingly insignificant desire of both my heart and my mother’s has been granted.

Sometimes God may take years longer than our impatient selves think necessary, but I know in my heart that He has His reasons. Either way, we will see if I can actually wait for Christmas or not…

There is more. So much more I could share, but some experiences are not my own but someone else’s story in which I was able to play some very small part. Often, there are people I begin to pray for without understanding why they are on my mind until the Lord reveals the amazing work He is doing.

In just such a way, I was able to see a step of victory for a sweet sister in Christ just yesterday — and the celebration within my heart overflows into many words of praise. Our God is truly marvelous and amazing. Oh magnify His name with me today!