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!
Below is a journal entry I wrote shortly after our fifth child Isaiah was born. A day after his birth, Isaiah had to be admitted to the NICU and eventually underwent three surgeries. This was a season of intense pain for our family because every day was so unpredictable and his life fragile. Today, Isaiah is totally healed (yes God is still in the healing business). I chose to post this today because we often look for God to do something new and tend to have spiritual amnesia and rob God of the glory and the praise He deserves for what He has already done. Today as I reflect on what he did for our baby boy, I will PRAISE HIM!
Journal Entry from August 2012
Yesterday I was gripped with a sudden fear that Isaiah may die. It pained me to think of this. I tried with all my might to “pull” through this fear, but it was overwhelming. I could barely find the strength to fight, I felt paralyzed. I rebuked the devil, declared that God had not given me the spirit of fear but of power love and sound mind, but must admit I was still struggling. I also felt bad that I couldn’t be there for him at all times to just hold him whenever I wanted and whenever he needed me. Isn’t this what a mother is supposed to do? Talk about feeling inadequate and guilty. As I went through the day, I could hear in a still small voice, “it pleased the father to bruise the son.” I couldn’t remember where the scripture was taken from, but as I tried to sink in self pity, the scripture kept on ringing in my spirit. It was puzzling to me because I could not comprehend HOW (not why) God could handle seeing His own son crucified. I understood the theology behind it but as a parent I couldn’t understand the emotional aspect of it, you know, the feeling part.
Right before I went to sleep last night, I struggled to open the bible, but I finally did. I turned to the book of James and came across James 1:2-4 “Count it all joy, (ANIKA), [ when you meet trials of various kinds, 3for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4And let steadfastness have its full effect that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. This was not even the scripture I was looking for but God knew it was just what I NEEDED! Why is rejoicing in suffering such a resounding theme in scripture….AWWW! What is there to be happy about when you are suffering? I obviously missed that memo yesterday. I didn’t want to hear what the scripture was saying at the moment but all I could do was smile because I knew what the Lord was speaking to my heart. As I sat and reread and reread and reread that passage, a great peace came over me, a peace that exceeded anything I could understand (Philippians 4:7). Amazing how the word of God gets to the heart of the matter and cause all fear to dissipate.
I can’t understand all the why’s behind the what’s during this season of my life, but I have to learn to not just accept it and say the Lord knows and He is going to bring me out, but I have to rejoice (not just lip service) even in this because it is ultimately about God getting the glory and Him perfecting me.
So this takes me back to the scripture that was ringing in my spirit yesterday, I looked it up and found that it was Isaiah 53:10,“But it was the LORD’s good plan to crush him and fill him with grief (Speaking of Jesus). Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have a multitude of children, many heirs. He will enjoy a long life, and the LORD’s plan will prosper in his hands. 11 When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of what he has experienced, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins. God could rejoice in what Jesus went through because He knew what the end was going to be…my salvation, our salvation. Jesus’ story did not end in suffering, it ended in triumph! God provided an awesome example for me to REJOICE IN THE MIDST OF THE SUFFERING. It was easy for me to speak faith when all of this began. I thought it would end just as quickly as it started but this is not the case. Isaiah is still in the hospital, and even after he comes out, there is much adjusting that we will have to do. There is also another surgery awaiting him when he gets a little older to reconnect his intestines. I don’t know all the details of Isaiah’s story and what God has in store for him, but I must learn to press pass my feelings and begin to rejoice as I am in the MIDST OF IT because in the end God and God alone will get all the glory! Can I live at this place EVERYDAY as I wait for the full manifestation of Isaiah’s healing? I pray for the grace to do just that.