Some days I am tempted to nominate, second, and approve myself as wife and mother of the year. On these days my activities go as planned, the new recipe I tried for dinner was a winner and all is well and I think, “I GOT THIS.” BUT these days are few and far between. Recently an older cousin stayed with me for a few days. She was such a blessing and she helped me to realize how much I needed help. Being needy in this case is not a bad thing. The old adage no man is an island is so true. God did not design us to go at it alone. On his earthly tour, Jesus, the son of God had 12 disciples. What makes me think that God is expecting me to do this alone? I am slowly recognizing that I don’t have to be supermom and that it is ok to ask for and receive help. This admittance takes a great level of vulnerability and humility. Pride tries to convince me that being needy is for the weak. It whispers, “you are smart enough, strong enough, no one can do it like you can.” But it is true, God does resist the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). And believe me when I say I am in desperate need of God’s grace.
This mindset of asking for help also applies to our walk with God. None of us have to fight the devil by ourselves. Perhaps you are struggling in a certain area but don’t want to admit it to anyone. Purpose in your heart that you will not let pride cause you to carry the same baggage into 2014. Build relationships with godly people, ask for prayer, let down your guards and confess your sins to another (James 5:16.). It brings healing and liberation!
I can admit that I still struggle. Struggle to accept the grace of God. I have such a works mentality. Yesterday I missed my quiet time with the Lord. This was not intentional but baby number 6 got up earlier than usual and required my attention. I am almost ashamed to admit it but I was beating myself up for missing this time. I felt that somehow God was not gonna move on my behalf because I didn’t put in the “work” that morning. Therein lies the problem, there is too much of an emphasis on me doing as opposed to resting and receiving what Christ has already done. Gods grace is not to be abused or taken for granted, nor is it to be rejected…such a delicate balance. Yes we should strive to have daily communion with God, it is a great benefit to us and it pleases the Father. But we must not reject the grace of God when unpredictable moments happen; trust that the Lord sees and will honor the desire that we have to be in His presence.
There has been such an urgency for me to teach Jesus to my children during this season. I don’t want it to seem forced but I recognize there is a battle going on for their affection…and mine! Sad to say but the agenda for most this season does not include Jesus, the very reason for celebration. How do I convey and demonstrate to my children that it is more blessed to give than to receive? I want my children to know that God is not against us desiring gifts, as I have learned through personal experiences that He delights in giving to His children. However I don’t want them to miss the other part of the story, the beauty and power of giving. To not be consumed by, “I have to have this, gimmie now mindset.” Children (and adults alike) need to understand that they are not disqualified from being a blessing to others just because they don’t have money to a give. I want them to realize that they can give the gift of prayer. So this week I had the older children pick someone they wanted to pray for, and prayed for different things concerning that person each day (their salvation, their siblings, their parents, etc…). I desire to do similar activities through the month such as calling or visiting someone we know is lonely , inviting someone over for a meal, write a special note expressing gratitude to an individual, visiting a soup kitchen etc. I also will not beat myself up and think my kids didnt learn everything they needed to learn if I don’t get a chance to do all the above activities.
I am also trying to be deliberate about sharing the story of the birth of Jesus and how they fit into this story. They can never hear it enough, nor can I. They need to understand that this story is so much more than about a baby being born in a manger. I want them to come to love who this baby became, understand and embrace His purpose; still remember and celebrate Him when the lights are packed away and the gifts are unwrapped. I recognize that sometimes my lessons may be a bit choppy, and the kids may not always be as attentive or as excited as I desire them to be. I may not come close to the cute nativity activities I see on Pinterest but I have to trust that in my sincerity to convey the truth of Christmas that the Lord will take my efforts and do a work in the hearts of my children.
One of the most difficult and sometimes frustrating things about parenting is repetition. It’s easy to feel like there is no progress because you are doing the same things OVER and OVER! The end is nowhere in sight. I clean the kitchen, its mealtime and guess what; I have to clean it again. I wash all the laundry, only to wake up the next day to a pile of dirty clothes. And let’s not even get started with the task of training children. I tell my two year old, “No,” only to turn around to see him doing the same forbidden thing. Constant repetition! However, I recognize I must keep at it or settle for chaos if I choose to stop. If I grow tired of cleaning the kitchen, we would end up eating in filth, and thats if we are even able to eat for lack of clean dishes, If I choose not to do the laundry, my family would be a mess. If I choose not to consistently train my children, they will be undisciplined and bring me shame (proverbs 29:15). SO while repetition can seem unproductive, that’s the furthest thing from the truth. Progress is being made!
The same is true for spiritual disciplines. I must not grow weary in repeatedly seekng Gods face in prayer, reading of his word, and regular fellowship with other believers; these habits make me more Like God. The opposite is also true, if I neglect to repeat these practices, chaos is inevitable. I get spiritually disoriented, my anger causes me to sin, I spew out hurtful and harmful words to those I love because I have not been filled up. Lack of repetiton in these areas render me powerless and I am unable to resist the devil (James 4:7). When I don’t spend time with Jesus, My perspective is jaded, I see my children as a burden instead of a blessing. Resentment can build. I become overly sensitive, emotionally unstable,easily annoyed, and have an inward focus (Philippians 2:3-4).
Keep at it, repetition does bring progress, and even perfects!
Take me to the place where I don’t matter. Take me to the place where I am not easily offended. An offense is often present when I think too much of myself…How dare they, do they know who I am? Consume me Lord. Fire of God burn it out. Restore every broken place. Take me to the place where I don’t even notice if I am not noticed! To that place where I am not waiting to hear my name mentioned. TO that place of not caring if I look or talk the part. TO that place where no one, not even me matters, ONLY YOU! God I am so far from that place and only you can bridge this gap. I know that you are not asking me to get to this place on my own, because in my strength it is impossible. You were waiting on me Lord. Waiting on me to desire true humility, waiting on me to be disgusted with pride, my personal pride. God hear the cry of my heart, the deepest places that no one else sees but you. All of you Lord and none of me. Here I am, forgive me.
I’m amazed at how God can create strength during a season of difficulty. I was at the hospital last night visiting Faith (baby # 6) and I had an opportunity to connect with another mom whose son was also in neonatal intensive care unit (nicu). We swapped our stories and the stress associated with having a newborn in the nicu. We were both physically exhausted but God allowed her to see something in me beyond my physical exhaustion. She mentioned that it was evident that I had peace. Here I was physically and emotionally exhausted from running back and forth to the hospital while still trying to maintain some sense of normalcy for the other five children at home, but God allowed this women to see beyond that. She saw something that I couldn’t fabricate. He allowed her to see that He was the one carrying me and that His grace is sufficient . As I encouraged this distraught mom, I in turn began to be reminded of what I knew to be true, God is faithful! I told her of my past experience in the nicu with baby number 5, I told her the lessons I learned, I told her this was working for my good and there was a purpose in all of this. I spoke to her from a sincere place, not from what I heard or read but what I had experienced during my previous seasons of difficulty. I experienced God in a powerful way which birth a greater level of confidence. A confidence that radiates peace even when my body is weary. At the end of the conversation a prayer was said, tears were shed, and hugs were exchanged. I walked away with a renewed strength for the journey because I was reminded.
Difficulty is a thread that has been woven into my life but it has brought such a sweet return. Going through doesn’t feel good, it hurts and yes I have had moments of crying, feeling overwhelmed and being very emotional. I want my baby home with me and not in the hospital . But I cannot deny the beauty on the other side of suffering, and this time around, I am catching glimpses of beauty before the trial even ends. It seems like a contradiction, beauty for ashes? Very true, it’s my reality.