Monday, June 2, 2014

FYI -- I Have a Love/Hate Relationship with Recipes

Can I just tell you?  I have a love/hate relationship with recipes.  Let me explain.

I love to bake.  I love the way it all works out.  The reading of the recipe, the careful measuring out of the appropriate amounts of this and that, the baking for just the right amount of prescribed time, and perhaps especially, the end result. 

My mom always said, "If you can read, you can follow a recipe with success."

That's the other thing I like -- success.

But, I also hate recipes. Specifically, I hate (and yes, I know hate is a strong word) -- I hate parenting recipes.  And they're really starting to wear on me.

I hate parenting recipes that tell us if we discipline in a certain way and pray in particular ways and have enough faith, and take all the right 'seven steps' , then -- tra-la! -- out of the oven of our efforts, we will joyfully produce a perfect cake of character in our kids.

Sigh.  I wish there really was an easy, fool-proof recipe, for raising kids.

Can I be authentic with you?  I used to think if I did everything right my kids would turn out right, and they wouldn't be tempted to do bad things or have bad attitudes or _______, you fill in the blank.  Perhaps, you know what I mean.

I knew that perfection wasn't possible, but I did hope that if I did what the experts said to do, I would not fear for their futures, or wrestle with rebellion or stay up late wondering if they were making good choices or bad choices, or ever worry about them again.

And through the years, (and my kids now range from 10 years old to 20 years old -- all 5 of them), I read books (okay, devoured books) on what to do and what not to do as a mom. I attended conferences for moms, listened to radio shows, and talked to people who I believed knew what they were doing.  I prayed and I loved and I disciplined and read devotionals and God's Word to them, 
and ...

I was pretty much convinced that when my children were 6 months old and 2 years old and 4 years old and 8 years old and even 13 years old, that if I did everything according to the perfect parenting recipe -- I'd be good as gold, and so would they.  In those days, I may not have admitted to thinking this way -- but I did.

Insert:  reality.
Insert: their own free will.
Insert: God's story for them.
Insert: recipes and formulas don't always work. 

Cakes don't always rise evenly.  Cookies don't always taste good.  Souffl├ęs don't always fluff up nicely, but sometimes -- they fall.

And so do our kids -- just like we do.

Sometimes, no matter what we do and how much we pray and how many Bible verses we pour over and into our kids, they still make choices we wish they wouldn't and they struggle.

And it's hard.

It's hard to know that despite our best efforts and intentions and parenting techniques and ability read multiple helpful, well-meaning books on parenting, sometimes, it's not all about us, or what we do right, but about what God is doing.

Double sigh.

Sometimes, God has a different story.  

A story for His glory.

And I'd rather THOSE stories NOT be written for my kids.  I'd like His glory to be reflected in sweet stories, not sour, painful, suffering, maybe even sinful ones.

Bottom line thought for today, the best I can do with and for my kids, is trust God.  Yes, I am to do my best.  Raise them according to His ways. Pray for them. Pray with them.  Guide them.  Love them.  Discipline them. Pour truth in to them.

But most importantly, I need to trust God -- trust them to God.

I wish parenting was an easy "follow the formula -- read the recipe" kind of
job.  Boy, do I ever.  I wish it took a cup of this and a tablespoon of that, and a wish and prayer, to make the perfect character cake in my kids.

But it's not an easy formula or recipe.

And truth is, if it was,  then who would need Jesus?  I sure wouldn't, and perhaps, neither would they.

Friday, May 2, 2014

The Endless Sea of Lonely

This is for my friends whom I love dearly, and for those readers who I do not know, who hurt deep down in their souls --  for those who know the loneliness of grief, of broken relationships, of sorrow, of shame, of chronic pain. I hope this speaks to your heart.  The Lord knows who you are and what you need -- take heart, He loves you.

The Endless Sea of Lonely

Waves wash over me,
Wetting my soul with sorrow.
They leave me cool and quiet.
On the endless sea of lonely.

Eyes cry dry,
Every ounce of me is worn and weary.
I sit in silence.
On the endless sea of lonely.

Outwardly, I look fine.
Dressed, not stressed, refreshed.
But inside, I am laboring and lost.
On the endless sea of lonely.

Memories mix together,
Of days of joy and days of pain.
Times past swirl with fears of tomorrow.
On the endless sea of lonely.

I sit in solitude, in a crowd of chaos.
Inward shame shouts loud,
My ears numbed by outward noise.
On the endless sea of lonely.

Hopeless, helpless,
I feel tossed, holding on tightly to the edge.
Bracing myself for more nothingness.
On the endless sea of lonely.

Stomach unsettled, breathing shallow
Arms weaken, legs tire.
Heart hurts with hollow pain.
On the endless sea of lonely.

And then one day, a change.

Light shines out from the shore.
A whisper reaches me, softly, gently.
Hope calls my name.
On the endless sea of lonely.

And then hope comes, it runs.
In the form of love,
It steps inside, beside, resides.
On the endless sea of lonely.

It is He,
Simply, silently He breathes.
“I love you and am here for you,
On your endless sea of lonely.”

“Life will be hard, and sorrow-filled.
But I am yours and you are Mine.
It is Jesus. It is Me.

Always, forever, unfailingly.”

(Several months ago, I wrote this poem to a writing prompt, on a writing website, Faithwriters. The word was lonely.)

Monday, January 20, 2014

Not 'If' but "What' -- My Honest Struggle with God's Faithfulness

I'm not particularly proud of it, and actually, even a bit embarrassed and disappointed in myself.  I wish that I was more godly or more certain, but today, and in the days surrounding today, I'm not.  I'm struggling, specifically, with God's faithfulness.

My challenge, though, isn't so much with if God is faithful. I really, truly, believe He is. He says He is, and I take Him for His Word.

It's the 'what' that has me wrestling.  What does His -- will His -- faithfulness look like today and tomorrow and into a thousand tomorrows? 

That's the part I'm not sure about, and well, I'm worrying about.

It's like there is a huge chasm between my belief that God is faithful and my embracing the hard-core, real life circumstances of what His faithfulness actually looks like.

Historically, January is a difficult month for me.  Twenty years ago, our oldest child was born prematurely and eventually diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy.  And although I will tell you that I have seen God's faithfulness along the way, from where I'm standing today, I'm struggling with fearing what His faithfulness may look like for all the tomorrows.

I have friends struggling with the same question.  If God is faithful (and He is), what might that faithfulness look like, and what is His faithfulness when ______________?

What does God's faithfulness look like in a marriage that is suffering?  We claim His faithfulness when a marriage is restored, but is He any less faithful when the marriage struggles for years or falls apart?

What does God's faithfulness look like in a difficult and debilitating health situation that is not healed?

What does God's faithfulness look like in mental illness, when it is untreatable and the person struggles in and out of depression and anxiety for the rest of their lives?

What does God's faithfulness look like in the life of a child who walks away from the Lord?

What does God's faithfulness look like amidst people's wrong decisions that ripple out hurtful consequences, harming other people?

And, it's not just 'what may His faithfulness look like,' that weighs on me today, but the 'how then' that overwhelms me.

How then will I live in light of His faithfulness?

How then will I handle His faithfulness, when it doesn't look like faithfulness to me?

Questions and more questions echo off the walls of this chasm between what I believe and what it looks like to embrace the outcome of God's faithfulness.

And the echo seems to get louder and louder each day.

I'm not looking for pity or judgement (please don't do that to me), just sharing with you my honest questions.  Maybe you have them, too, in which case, come walk with me.  You are not alone. We can look for the Lord together.

Or maybe you've walked where I'm walking, and are now further down the road than I.  Please call back to me and tell me that even if everything isn't 'okay,' I'll be okay.  I know it's true in my head, but my heart is struggling to find rest.

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