Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Look of Love

We love because he first loved us. – 1 John 4:19

I joyfully watched my niece get married last Friday. With the ceremony held in a garden, it was, of course, beautiful. My daughters were flower girls, and I smiled with them in shared excitement as they sprinkled petals down the aisle ahead of their cousin.

My favorite part of the night however, was not the stunning wedding gown, the amazing bouquet, or my adorable girls trying to line dance in their full-length flower girl dresses. My favorite part was the way the groom looked at his bride. His entire expression transformed every time he turned his gaze towards her. His eyes softened, his cheeks relaxed, and his face filled with pure love.

That is how God looks at us—with pure, unchanging, all-consuming love. I hope my husband and my children see that look from me, but I know the truth is that sometimes my expression is less than they deserve. I hope my new nephew-in-law (or whatever you call your niece’s husband) never stops looking at his wife that way, but in reality, they will probably have the same bumps all couples experience.

But God never has bumps in His relationships. When we screw up and wander away from Him, He may discipline and correct us, but His love never changes. Even when we defiantly run in the opposite direction, He doesn’t get frustrated and give up. He insists that we ask His forgiveness and make things right, but He adores us every step of the way.

Are you feeling God look at you with love today, Mom?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Dangerous Encounters

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. - Isaiah 41:10

My family lives in a rural area where we share our dwelling space with wild animals. We routinely wait for mule deer to move so we can pull into the driveway. Over time, the sound of coyotes howling in the night stopped pulling us out of our slumber. We learned little tricks to make life with our land-mates more successful, including the installation of high-frequency devices that minimize eight-legged visitors.

When we first moved in, we would regularly go to the lower level of our ranch-style house and be greeted by fifteen to twenty European house spiders in the hallway. These “intruders” are venom-free, but creepy all the same. And despite their harmless nature, we were relieved to find a device that kept most of them out of the house.

Unfortunately, not all of the spiders we live with are safe. Occasionally a deadly, venomous black widow finds its way in. We know where they wriggle into our home, so we monitor that area diligently, and regularly spray an insecticide around the perimeter of the house.

Last week, we busily prepared our yard for a big Mother’s Day celebration. After being neglected all winter, the yard needed a lot of attention. My husband recruited our daughters to help by loading some small rocks into a wheelbarrow so he could roll them away.

That night, my six-year-old crawled into my bed around 4 am saying she couldn’t sleep due to bad dreams about spiders. I asked if she had seen a spider recently, and she affirmed that three shiny black arachnids lurked under the rocks the girls moved earlier in the day. In our yard, we only have one type of shiny black spider – black widows.

A sick twist grew in the pit of my stomach as she relayed the details of finding the spiders. She and her sister hadn’t seen one in quite a while and didn’t recognize them as dangerous. In their ignorance, they didn’t think to tell anyone. Horrible thoughts invaded my mind as I pictured my babies sitting face to face with death. My older daughter smooshed one with a rock. Thinking of her getting that close made me want to throw up.

But then a wave of peace washed over me as I remembered that I am not the only one who loves my girls and works like crazy to protect them. Their Father safeguards them better than I ever could. Whether I am there or not, He always has them in His sight. I cannot protect them from every danger the world throws their way, and reality shows me that God will not. But their safety is out of my control more often than I like to admit, and I am thankful that they are sheltered in the very best hands.

Coincidently, I have had a few conversations this week with people paralyzed by different fears. They are well-founded, rational concerns, rooted in real-life troubles. However, we tend to respond to fear with knee-jerk reactions (like my initial response to the black widow incident, which was, “Let’s sell the house and get away from these blasted bugs!”).

The most we can do to avoid disaster is to take proper precautions (like reminding the girls to stay away from shiny black things), use common sense to the best of our abilities, and trust God. We cannot live in constant fear of what might happen, or let the unknown dictate how we go through our days. Living in fear means we’re not living in faith.

What fears are you or your kids facing right now? What can you turn over to God in trust?

Friday, May 8, 2009

Timing Really Is Everything

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven. - Ecclesiastes 3:1

Yesterday, my eight-year-old went outside to ride her bike. This may seem like a routine thing for a kid to do, and not something worth blogging about. For most third graders, bike riding is as normal as walking. For my daughter, however, this is not the case. Her nemesis took the form of a bicycle about two years ago.

With training wheels as her constant companion, my little biker did pretty well cruising up and down our long (and bumpy) country driveway. But one sunny day, we decided to try riding on a long, smooth, concrete path in town. Our adventure progressed so well that my husband and I thought it was time for our daughter to try a genuine two-wheeler, without training wheels.

As I am sure you can guess, I wouldn’t be writing about this event had we gone on to enjoy a successful bike ride. Instead, fast forward to the present day where any mention of bike riding sent my daughter into hiding. One day I insisted she practice, with me holding her on the bike. I explained that “someday you will have to know how to ride a bike. How else will you get around at college?” She quickly rebutted with, “I’ll drive.”

Yesterday, however, she came home from school and said, “I’m going to try riding my bike.” I have no idea what brought about this change of heart, and I was too dumbstruck to ask any questions. Instead, I watched in amazement as she sat on the bike with her feet on the ground and found her balance. She set her peddles into a precise position, then went into motion. At first she only went about half of a yard before her feet sought solid ground, but within thirty minutes, she was riding her two-wheeler, all on her own, to the end of the driveway and back.

That night I told her how proud I was of her for riding her bike. She said, “I guess I’m finally tall enough to fit the bike.” I assured her that she was tall enough the day we bought it for her. What had grown was her confidence, along with her sense of determination. No matter how much her dad and I (as well as her sister, grandparents, cousins and friends) had tried convincing her that she could do it and would enjoy it, no one could make her ride a bike. She would never do it until she was ready.

Timing is a funny thing. We all have things that we should be able to do, yet somehow we aren’t quite ready to take the necessary steps. I often meet moms stuck in this phase of limbo when it comes to being consistent in their discipline techniques. They know they should be able to discipline their children, they want to do it, yet something holds them back from actually doing it.

We all know that you can’t make a kid use the potty until he is ready, and all of the potty-training know-how in the world won’t make him ready.

Most of us have known high school seniors who, despite good grades and big ambitions, just aren’t ready to go to leave home for college.

Accepting when the timing isn’t right can be frustrating. Overcoming a readiness hurdle, whether in ourselves or in our children, requires both prayer and patience until something within eventually gets into gear and we move forward. Forcing the issue gets us nowhere, especially when it comes to kids.

I am grateful that the time is finally right for my daughter to be a bike rider. Now if I can just hold out until she is ready to use the brakes…

What are you wishing you were ready for but the timing just doesn’t seem to be right? What are you wishing your kids were ready for?