Monday, March 31, 2008

How Is Your Resolve?

“May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.” - Psalm 20:4

The end of March means it is time to wrap up the first quarter of 2008. It is a great time to take a quick assessment of how we are doing with our New Year’s Resolutions.

I set goals each year. Sometimes I do a great job of accomplishing what I set out to do, while other years I completely miss the mark. So far I seem to be on track for the latter in 2008. Here in the harsh light of March, I realize I set entirely unrealistic goals, even though I know better. I must have made them in a moment of extreme confidence. The year I did the best job keeping a resolution was when I made only one. With a singular focus, I accomplished my goal in May.

And while I may not be setting any resolution records this year, the good news is that I still have 9 months to get back on track. If I could grow a baby in 9 months, surely I can get my closet organized in the same amount of time.

Take a minute to review what was important to you on January 1. If you are well on your way towards accomplishing it, treat yourself to a bite of chocolate for a job well done. If your goals are still meaningful but you haven’t spent time on them, consider what might be getting in the way. What time-eater of lesser importance is getting more than its fair share of your attention?

Revise your resolutions as necessary, but do not despair. You still have ¾ of the year left. Besides, God doesn’t love you for what you accomplish. He loves you for your heart.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

What Happens In The Dark

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Mathew 11:29-30)

The raised hand of the fire fighter standing in the road stopped us from turning onto our street. “Where are you headed?”

I told him our address and he explained that a worker had accidentally pulled down a power line with his truck-mounted boom. When the boom hit the line, the driver lost control and crashed through our neighbor’s fence before rolling the truck. Thankfully, he walked away without a scratch, but the street was dark. The power lines were still hot so the fire department wasn’t letting anyone get too close.

As we pulled into our driveway, nervous tears began rolling in the back seat. My children cried, “What are we going to do?”

I gently guided them into the house where I found a flashlight for each of them before lighting every candle I owned. Since the accident happened only about twenty minutes earlier, I figured it could be a long time before the power resumed.

Illuminated by flashlight beams, the kids got ready for bed as they talked about their fears. When will the lights come back on? Why doesn’t the well pump work when the lights aren’t on? How long will it be until we can watch TV? Can I do puppet shows for the family until the TV comes back? It sure is dark in here.

I suggested we pretend to be pioneers who did everything by candle light. The idea helped a little bit, but the kids still wanted to sleep in my bed. We snuggled up and read storied with one flashlight highlighting the words and the other one bringing the pictures to life. We said our prayers, and just as I pulled the blankets up to their chins, the lights came back on. Relief. Although my little one wondered, “Can I still do puppet shows for everyone tomorrow?”

How often in mothering are we caught in the dark? The lights may be on, but we still feel blinded by the dim unknown. Should I put my child in kindergarten this fall or wait one more year? If she plays soccer and baseball this season, will it over-schedule us? Will my preschooler ever hold scissors the right way? The questions we worry over can trap us. Thankfully, we have the very best flashlight available in Jesus.

However, I often notice that He only gives enough light to make it from one step to the next. He rarely shines the beam out into the distance, giving us glimpses of the future, but rather He focuses it right where we need to be, in the present. “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34)

I think Jesus knows that if we saw too much of the future, we wouldn’t turn to Him during life’s blackouts - during the scary and uncertain times when we tend to cling to Him the most. If we knew what lie ahead, we wouldn’t search for that beam of light that is Him directing us every step of the way. And in order for His light to be on my next step and for me to see it, we must be walking together, hand in hand. I think I like blackouts, for that is when His light is the brightest.

How does Jesus guide you through dark times?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Long Distance Memories

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. – 1 Peter 4:10

My wonderful aunt is in the process of giving me a gift. I don’t know that she planned to, but in this particular instance, it isn’t the thought that matters. The present she is giving me is a blog.

A couple of years ago, my grandmother moved from an assisted living center in Colorado to my aunt’s house in Arkansas. Bringing her mother into her home was not only very generous and loving of my aunt, but was truly a lifesaver for my grandmother.

The downside of this situation, however, is that I don’t get to see my Nana very often anymore. I don’t talk to her on the phone as much as I’d like to either, partly because there is something of a trick to catching her awake, and partly because her memory started living a life separate from her body several years ago and phone conversations seem to confuse her. One of my favorite things about my grandmother, however, has always been her beautiful voice. Even at 91, her voice still reminds me of a bell when it rings out, “Hello,” so sometimes I call just to hear her music.

Since living in Arkansas, I have missed out on the stories and the little day-to-day slices of my grandmothers life. That recently changed, though, when my aunt started her blog. She writes about the life of a caretaker, including little snippets of personal conversations and insights into my grandmother’s life that I otherwise would never get to share. Her thoughts give me snapshot memories that I can keep for myself or share with my children who may not have many of their own memories of Nana. Who knew that a cold, hard computer could deliver such a precious, heartfelt gift right to my desk?

You can visit my aunt’s blog at for inspiration to start writing down your own memories and experiences for your family. I remember to make note of the cute things my kids say and do, but keep no written history of myself or other family members. Amidst the business of raising kids, I encourage all of us to take a moment periodically to record an event or conversation that our children will cherish when they are grown. Share any ideas you have for doing this!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Growing To Serve

Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men… - Ephesians 6:7

“Your children are wonderful,” a woman at church told me this weekend. “They are so willing and happy to serve.”

I hadn’t thought about it before, but she was right. My husband and I became deacons in our church when our daughters were very young. When we were ordained before the congregation, the girls stood with us and our then four-year-old repeated all of the vows along with us. The pastor chuckled each time she spoke, but we didn’t stop her because we knew our decision to serve the church in this way would have a big impact on her. We suspected she would spend many dark mornings quietly eating an egg McMuffin while her parents made coffee and prepared the sanctuary for the day’s worship services. She would spend countless hours playing on the church playground while we washed those same coffee pots and tidied up that same sanctuary.

What we didn’t consider was how much she would want to help. She enjoyed passing out bulletins as people entered the sanctuary, then picking them up once everyone else had gone to enjoy the rest of their Sunday. As her little sister grew, the two of them became experts at spotting the tiny, clear plastic communion cups that tuck themselves into the craziest of places among the pews. They found the jobs they could handle and enjoyed doing them. I didn’t consciously process the way my daughters were becoming deacons themselves – serving the church in whatever ways they could, without all of the fanfare of a title or a nametag.

I recently retired from being a deacon because I felt like the girls were getting frustrated with those early mornings, and always being the last ones picked up from their Sunday school classes because Mom was busy getting things ready for the next service. However, this weekend I realized I might have made a mistake. The girls went with me to a mother/daughter brunch at church. When the event was over, I began helping to clean up and asked the girls to gather up any extra programs left behind on the tables. Little did I know that while I was off putting away centerpieces, they not only cleared away all of the programs, but the plastic cups, trash, and decorations as well. Then they helped me finish boxing up the centerpieces.

I did not see, until someone pointed it out to me, how they had grown to know how to lend a hand. Helping has become part of who they are. It seems those early mornings were more valuable than I ever realized.

What experiences have yielded unexpected results for your family?

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Faith to Decide

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." – Jeremiah 29:11

I am going through a phase of life right now that is very difficult for me – decision making. I have several big, meaningful, financially impacting decisions to make and I can’t put them off any longer.

I hate making hard decisions. What if I make the wrong one? What if circumstances change and the choice that seemed right is suddenly all wrong? Worst of all, what if my choice inadvertently creates a problem for my children?

Yet, I know the time has come to make some hard choices. I know this not only because the stress of delaying is killing me, but also because I can clearly hear God saying, “Just pick something – I will be glorified in whatever you decide.”

The lesson before me has nothing to do with the choices I make, but rather having the faith to take the active step of making a decision and trusting God to handle the outcome. I can rest in the assuring words in Jeremiah, knowing that while I may not always see or understand God’s activity in my life, He truly does work all things for good.

Remembering this does not make the selection process any easier, but the act of choosing is less scary because the results of my decisions are in the very best hands.

What choices are you struggling with today?