Tuesday, September 25, 2012

All-Sufficient Grace

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." 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, persecution, and calamities.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.  2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Multiple people in the past month have commented on how I seem to always have it all together.  They have remarked on how patient I am with my children, how peaceful I am, and how cheerfully I go about my busy days.

The irony of this is not lost on me.

I can assure you that I most certainly do not have it all together.  My eyes are red from weeping.  My ability to focus and concentrate is at an all time low.  My patience is worn thin. My body shakes from a mixture of running through life farther and longer than I ever thought I could, forgetting to eat, and the anxieties that are always just below the surface.

But in the midst of this, I have been upheld by God's sufficient grace.  In my weakness, His power is shining gloriously.  Several weeks ago I prayed that the power of Christ would rest upon me, and the Lord has graciously heard my cries and granted my request.  Every morning when I wake up, I am freshly aware of His power resting on me and His promises of sufficient grace for the day ahead.

Anything good that anyone might see in me is not me, but Christ in me.  Any patience I show to my children is not because of any natural patience within me.  It is only by God's grace that I could show any patience to anyone in my present state.  Any peace that I have is the peace of God that surpasses all understanding that is guarding my heart and my mind.  Any cheerfulness that radiates from my soul is a gift from God.

To Him be all the glory.

To personalize a quote from Charles Spurgeon, "God's grace is being illustrated and magnified in the trials our family is walking through right now.  Today, I will choose to bear up under every discouragement, for I truly do believe that all things will work together for my good, and that out of these apparent evils a real blessing shall ultimately spring -- that my God will either work a deliverance for me speedily or most assuredly support me in the trouble, as long as He is pleased to keep me in it....  If I would glorify my God, I must set my account upon meeting many trials.  I cannot be illustrious before the Lord unless my conflicts be many.  Since then, mine is a much-tried path, I will rejoice in it, because I will the better show forth the all-sufficient grace of God.  As for His failing me, I will never dream of it -- I will hate the thought.  The God who has been sufficient until now, should be trusted to the end."

* Photo by Stephanie Lathrop

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Looks Can Be Deceiving

Would you ever believe that this is my little guy with feeding aversions?

Can it be that this is the baby who has lost over a pound in the past week, dropping him off of the growth chart?

Don't let him fool you with his little smirk.

This little kiddo is a stinker!

Sorry buddy, your secret's out!

Now let's get back to that ice cream.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Arise, O Lord!

O Lord, how many are my foes!
Many are rising against me;
many are saying of my soul,
there is no salvation for him in God.

O my God, you know my foes.  You watch them rise up against me, attacking me from every side, whispering in my ear that there is no hope in God.  You hear their deceit, as they threaten to undo me with the lies that there is no salvation for me in God.

I hear my foes as I lie down at night and when I rise, mocking me and taunting me.  And what they say is true.  God has not saved me from all of my afflictions.  There has been no sudden healing.  The enemy pulls me close and I feel his sickly breath as he tells me that there is no salvation for my soul in God.

But you, O Lord, are a shield about me,
my glory, and the lifter of my head.
I cried aloud to the Lord,
and he answered me from his holy hill.

O Lord, you are a shield for me against my foes.  You protect me from the fiery darts of the evil one.  Day by day and moment by moment, you lift my head so that I do not sink into the miry pit.  I cry out to you, and in your mercy, you answer me.  You open my eyes to see that my foes are lying to me.  Truly, there is salvation for me in you, O Lord.  "So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.  For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:16-17

I lay down and slept;
I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.
I will not be afraid of many thousands of people
who have set themselves against me all around.

You sustain me when I lie down.  I awake each morning, get out of bed, and do what you have called me to do because your sustaining grace is carrying me.

May I be like like Sarah, not fearing that which is frightening.  O Lord, you know the fear the grips me.  But yet, I also hear your voice, reminding me to "fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."  Isaiah 41:10

Arise, O Lord!
Save me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
you break the teeth of the wicked.

I am on my knees asking you to arise, O Lord.  Save our family, O my God!  Strike down the arrows of the devil that threaten to undo us.  Break the teeth of our foes, that we would again see your goodness in the land of the living.

Salvation belongs to the Lord;
your blessing be on your people!

May your blessing be on us, O Lord, for we are your people.

Psalm 3

Thursday, September 13, 2012

It's Game Time!

With Wesley and Zach back in school and therapy for Wesley after school three times a week, I am finding that my time with Zach is somewhat limited.  In order to make sure we get some special time each day, I have committed to giving up "mommy time" during nap time/room time each afternoon.  Now, instead of having room time while his brothers nap, Zach stays downstairs with me.  While this has seriously cut down on the amount of time I have to accomplish things during the day, it has been well worth it.

Along with reading books together, working through math books (yes, this is fun for some people), picking up around the house, and talking about our mornings, we also make sure to save some time to play games.  Now that Zach is learning about game strategies, game playing at our house is so much fun.  He has become quite a competitive player, understanding how to place pieces or play cards strategically and beginning to consider the long-term outcomes in a game rather than just playing for the moment.

We begin our friendly banter on the way to school as I inform him that although it's all luck, I am going to win!  His eyes twinkle as he grins and emphatically states that no, actually, he is going to beat me.  This playful exchange continues as I pick him up, we get brothers in bed, and we get the house picked up.  Then, once the game is pulled out, it's on!

It has been such a blessing to see him able to both compete and also enjoy the playing of the games no matter who wins.  Of course, it helps that we have been explaining to him since he was two that it is all luck.  By this point, most of the games that we play are a mix of luck and skill, but luck still plays a big enough piece that the statement still applies.

Some of our favorite games right now are Phase 10, Sequence Letters, Cranium Zooreka, Chess (actually, this would be one of Zach's favorites - not mine!), Guess Who, Quirkle, Uno Attack and Don't Let the Pidgeon Drive the Bus.

I'm off now to get the boys, but you can be sure that in a few hours, Zach and I will be laughing together as I am attacked by an onslaught of Uno cards flying at me!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Remembering Summer Mornings

 My Dear Zach,

I have not forgotten about you!  I'm sure if you were keeping a list, my lack of writing a post about you after promising one several weeks ago could be just one more example of the countless times I have neglected you to address some urgent or pressing issue.  While I know you do not understand right now, I pray that some day you will be able to look back and see that I do love you very much.  I am doing my best to prioritize needs when caring for my family in a very difficult season, and I am very aware that you are getting the short end of the stick.  But I am entrusting you to the Lord and am praying that He will be for you what I can never be.  He will never be too busy to listen to you or help you.  You always have his attention.  Just as you cannot at this moment grasp how great my love for you is, God's love for you is so much greater even than mine that it is beyond our comprehension.

As we enter what appears to be a long, busy, and difficult season, I want to take a minute to remember God's gift to us this summer.  With Wesley at summer school and Liam taking morning naps, God blessed you and I with time together that we have not had since Wesley was born.  The hours seemed to fly by each morning as it always felt our time was cut short. But during these hours each morning, I had the opportunity to catch a glimpse of your heart and enjoy seeing more of who you are.

My favorite memories of this summer are of cuddling on the couch with you, my arm wrapped tightly around you, while reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe aloud.  The Chronicles of Narnia have long been some of my favorite books, and it has been such a joy to share this love with you.  Talking about these stories, explaining things when they are confusing to you, and having the opportunity to talk about Jesus with you have been the highlight of my summer.  How I love listening to you as you explain the allegories, going through the story step by step and telling me exactly who each character represents.  Sometimes your theories are not accurate, but either way, your enthusiasm is contagious.

You have become a book worm this summer!  Every time I turn around you are reading something, from your Lego magazine to my emails (yes, you read over my shoulder) to whatever book you can get your hands on.  Earlier this summer a friend recommended the Magic Treehouse book series as something you might enjoy.  After looking at the books in the library, I was sure that they would be far too advanced for you, so I didn't check them out. But in August I decided to bring one home just to see what would happen.  You sat down on my bed, enraptured with the tale of the black knight, and didn't move for two hours.  In those two hours, you read the entire book.  I soon learned that when checking out books from the library, I needed to check out three or four chapter books at a time in order to increase the time between visits.

Then a month ago you decided to tackle something even bigger.  You asked if you could start reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe all by yourself.  At first I supposed that you weren't really comprehending what you were reading, but then you started coming to me and reading a few sentences out loud that you found to be funny or silly.  I quickly realized that you understand much more than I originally thought.  I now regularly find you sitting and reading on the couch, a chair, or even my bed.

But my greatest joy is your desire to read the Bible each morning.  While I sit on my bed and read each morning, you climb in and join me.  I smile as I watch you carefully open up your Bible and pull out your bookmark to continue reading where you last left off.  I pray that your excitement about reading God's Word will not wane with time but will only grow as you learn more of who He is.  And more than that, I pray that God will use these words that you are reading now to draw you to a saving knowledge of Himself.

Another activity we enjoyed working on together this summer was math.  Math has always been one of my favorite subjects (someday we can talk more about how Mommy majored in math in college), so it has been a joy to share this love for math with you.  Sometimes it was hard to stop you as we would work through page after page in the math book I ordered for you.  Your eyes would light up with excitement as you learned new concepts and applied them to different activities.  There were times when I had to turn away to hide a smile as you informed me that math book number one was too easy and I should order number two for you.  Don't worry, Zach!  The math in this book will get harder as we go along.  We are only one fourth of the way through it.

Your mind truly is analytical in the way it thinks.  When you look at the top row of Legos at the store and inform me that they cost $99.99, which is only one cent less than $100, I have to smile.  That is exactly what I was thinking, too, Zach.  The only difference is that I know the value of $100 and am amazed that those Legos are really worth that much.  Other times you count up the change from my wallet and put it into your piggy bank, telling me exactly how much is going in and how you are saving it to give to friends who are adopting a sweet baby boy.  Your heart for orphans truly is beautiful to behold.

There are so many more things I could say about you, my precious son, but this letter to you is already three times (and several days) longer than I had originally intended it to be. While we still have our rough patches, I can truly say that this summer you have become my friend. There are times now when I see understanding in your eyes as I struggle through a particularly difficult morning.  In those moments, you are quick to help me, comfort me, and remind me that Jesus is with me.  Other times, we talk for hours, sharing the details of our days and just talking about life.  Then of course there are the afternoons we engage in friendly banter while competing against each other in games based mostly on luck.

I love you so much, and I am so thankful that in the midst of the busyness of life, God blessed us with such precious time together this summer.


Friday, September 7, 2012

Be Still My Soul

It is raining outside right now, and the wet darkness seems to reflect the weariness of my soul. The last few weeks have brought with them a busyness and a heaviness that is difficult to bear.  But in the midst of the darkness, God has spoken to my heart.  Psalm 46:10 says "Be still, and know that I am God.  I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!"

I don't need to understand why God is permitting certain things to happen.  I don't need to know what His purposes are or how He intends to work things for good.  I can rest in His promise that He is my refuge and strength.  He is my very present help in trouble.  Even if the worst possible scenarios come true, I need not fear.  Because He is God - my God - I can be still and rest in Him.

Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly, Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul; thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul, though dearest friends depart
And all is darkened in the vale of tears;
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrows and thy fears.
Be still, my soul; thy Jesus can repay
From His own fulness all He takes away.

Be still, my soul; the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul; when change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.