Unfailingly Loved

Unfailingly Loved

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.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

He Came

From all outward appearances, it was just an ordinary night.  Shepherds slipped on their  cloaks, grabbed their staffs and went to work, out in the fields. Sheep grazed.   Innkeepers kept busy, filling rooms to capacity and turning away those who he could not accommodate.  Mary and Joseph travelled busy roads, with a throng of others, doing what they were ordered to do -- register for the census.  Cows mooed and donkeys brayed and they ate their food out of the manger trough, just like they did every day.  Dogs barked and kitties purred and mothers tucked their children in to bed. The stars twinkled, breaking through the backdrop of the night sky.  The wind blew.

People talked and walked and worried and laughed and cried and wondered about their lives.

It was just another night, following just another day, in the middle of just another week, part of just another year.

And then He came, unexpectedly -- at least from most of man's point of view -- in to the cold, dark, hurting, world.

He came.

He came for the lonely and the busy and the preoccupied and the forgotten.

He came for the the angry and bitter and unforgiving, and for the unforgiven.

He came for those who hurt and those who hurt others.

He came for those who lost loved ones and those who were lost themselves.

He came for those who wanted to give up hope or give up everything.

He came for the less-than-perfect and for those who thought they were perfect.

He came for those who were looking for Him and for those who never even gave Him a second -- or first -- thought.

He came for those who strived to please God and for those who thought they were so far gone that it would never be possible, anyway.

He came for those who made mistakes and for those who believed they were a mistake.

He came for the miserable and the meek.

He came for those who looked to have their act together and for those who never acted as they should.

He came for those who were broken and bleeding and brought chaos wherever they walked.

He came for the ill and the broken and the broken-hearted.

He came for those who were abused and confused and refused to believe.

He came for the neglected and the negligent.

He came for the weary and the wealthy and the poor.

He came for the restless and the resentful and for those who resisted love.

He came for those who felt purposeless and plain.

He came for the orphaned and the fatherless and the heartless and the helpless.

He came for the disabled and the abled.

He came for the ones who could not sleep because of their choices, and for those who could not get out of bed, for the same reasons.

He came for all people, all shapes, all sizes, all sorrows, all sins.

He came for people from the past and the present and the future, and for you and for me.

Sometimes I forget it, neglect it, don't believe it ~ I forget that Jesus came. When I am weary or lonely or stretched thin in the trials that the Lord allows in my life ~ I forget Jesus came.  When I feel restless or ordinary or useless or like giving up ~ I forget Jesus came.

I forget or neglect or don't believe, that He came for me, so that when I am hurting and hopeless, and even when all is well, I can have hope and rest and peace in Him.

Dear reader, wherever you are today, on this Eve of Christmas, whether in warm or cold weather, whether surrounded by loved ones or all alone, whether filled with excitement and joyful anticipation of Christmas or not feeling festive at all, remember ~ Jesus came.

He came, because He loves you.  Say 'yes' to Him, today. Allow Him to show you how His coming made all the difference in the world, and still does today. And take a moment to thank Him and take a moment to tell someone else, "He came."

Blessed Christmas, dear ones.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Coveted Life Saver Story Book

It was the early 1970's. For several years, shortly after Thanksgiving, as the teacher announced the great Christmas gift exchange, visions of Life Saver Story books began to dance through my head.

I pictured myself holding the rectangular, firm cardboard book between my hands and opening it up, setting my star-struck eyes on the delightful contents.  I imagined the neat rows of side-by-side Life Savers, in their colorful packages, stacked one on top of the other.  And if I really focused, I could even smell the cherry, lime and orate scents of the individual Life Savers, as my mouth watered.  Ahhh. Sigh.

I don't what exactly what it was about the wonder of rolls of Life Savers, bound in a book, but all I knew is that it was the greatest gift garnered at the grace school Christmas gift exchange.  At least, it was for me.  How sweet it would be to have my very own supply of Life Savers to relish in my room, throughout the Christmas season!

Here's how the gift exchange worked.

Each student brought in a gift with their name scratched in the 'FROM' space, leaving the 'TO' space specifying if it was to a girl, if you were a girl, or a boy, if you were a boy.  We didn't pick names, but rather were to buy a generic gift -- a gift everyone would like.  I suppose the teacher did it this way to prevent someone from getting a downer of a gift if someone who didn't like them, picked their name.

The gifts were brought in the week of the Christmas party, and placed under the small tree in our classroom.  Slowly but surely, brightly colored packages of all sorts accumulated under the tree, waiting for the big day.

I knew the shape, the size, the detailed dimensions.  And I didn't have to imagine smelling effervescent fruity scents; I was pretty sure I could smell them, through any thickness of wrapping paper, as the gift entered the classroom.  I kept a very close eye on the tree and it's growing pile of gifts. I watched to see who brought what and hoped beyond hope that I'd be the lucky recipient of the Life Saver Story Book.  Spotting more than one of the coveted cardboard books under the tree added to my joy, and some years, the odds seemed to be in my favor.

On the day of the party, the teacher sent us out for recess, right before the celebration. Oh, how the excitement mounted, as we stood frozen outside on the playground, waiting and wondering.

I remember coming in, chilled with goose bumps percolating beneath my skin.  I'm not sure if they were from the cold or my eager anticipation that it would be my special day.

I didn't care about the cookies or the Kool-Aid, all I wanted to know was -- would this be my year to get the Life Saver Story Book? Finally?

I slipped off my coat and held my breath as I slowly walked through the door, savoring every moment. While were were out, I knew the teacher would have set a present on each of our desks.  I don't know why she did it that way, other than maybe she didn't have to deal with kids trying to influence her or maybe there were never quite enough gifts, so she could pull a few extras out of her desk drawer, to cover for the ones who couldn't afford to participate that year. No student left behind when it came to the Christmas party gift exchange.

I tried to contain my excitement, while trying to brace myself for disappointment.

Rounding the corner of the door frame, my eyes drifted across the room and settled on my desk.

And each year, my heart fell.

Resting on my desk was a different gift than I imagined -- a smaller one or a bigger one or a softly wrapped, oddly shaped package.  And each year, I can remember forcing a smile, sitting down and opening the gift that was chosen for me, by my teacher.

I didn't want to hurt any one's feelings, surely not the person who picked out what was on my desk, or possibly offend their mother, who more than likely was the one who went to the store and picked it out.

I tried not to look around the room to see who got the gift I wanted. I tried hard not to be jealous; it was really hard.

I never did get the Lifesaver Story Book. I'm not complaining or dwelling on dashed dreams of the past.  Really, I've gotten over it, but every year when I see them on the store shelves I think of those days when the great gift exchange consumed my Christmas thoughts and my heart had to find contentment in what I was given.

I some ways, it's not so different today.  We hope for one thing, and sometimes, get another.  My heart no longer is set on material things, but rather less tangible, more valuable desires, like peace and joy and relief from stress. And some days, I still sit down and try and smile seeking to find contentment in what the Lord has given.

The reality is that we may not always receive the things we want at Christmas, but we have been given the most precious gift of all -- Jesus.  My heart still yearns, but it now finds restful satisfaction in Him -- let's face it, the One and Only Life Saver, in the "sweetest story ever told."

What did you wish for as a child?

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