Friday, May 18, 2012

Vying for Control

This seems to be a reoccurring theme everywhere I turn lately – our human struggle for control. We plead with God to answer our prayers, but we want to give Him pointers on how and where and when. We want to order our days and shape our own destiny, but ultimately, we have very little control. And that bites.

This morning I read what I refer to as the baby wars between Rachel and Leah in Genesis 29-30. Both of Jacob’s wives desperately wanted children. Leah wanted them because Jacob didn’t love her and she wanted to prove her worth to him. Rachel wanted children because even though Jacob loved her, it was considered a mark of shame to be barren.

Leah was fertile Myrtle. She had four sons; Rachel zero. So Rachel, the wife he loved, begged Jacob, “Give me children, or I’ll die!”

He responded, “Am I in the place of God who has kept you from having children?” Jacob recognized God’s sovereignty.

Rachel didn’t like that answer, so she took matters into her own hands. She gave Jacob her maidservant to sleep with, to conceive in her name. Bilhah had two boys in a row. Then since Leah had stopped having children, she stepped it up and gave Jacob her maidservant to sleep with. Zilpah had two more boys. The score was now Leah six; Rachel two. And the story continues, spiraling into a crazy mix of jealously grasping for control.

While it sounds insane to us in our day, we’re really no different. We may not go to such lengths to have children, but we carry out our own dramas in our quest for health, wealth, power, love, and excitement.

Today’s devotional in Jesus Calling (by Sarah Young) says, “Trust Me enough to let Me guide you throughout this day, accomplishing My purposes in My timing. Subordinate your myriad plans to My Master Plan.” Apparently this is a lesson God wants me to learn.

There are so many things in my life I would like to control: my schedule, publishing success, appliances that consistently work, for the people I love to turn to Christ, my aging body, and my husband. However, God is showing me day by day that although my plans seem best from my limited vantage point, He is the One who sees beyond today into eternity. If I want to be at peace, I must trust Him to guide me in His ways.

My favorite definition for faith is: leaning into Jesus, trusting Him to support and hold us, the same way we lean back into a chair with our full weight. We don’t tell our chair when and how to hold us, we simply rest. So today, I will look to Jesus for directions and to equip me for whatever comes. He is sovereign. I will trust in Him.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Equal But Different (Parenting)

Yesterday I had a wonderful Mother’s Day. I received sweet messages from all five kids and my granddaughter. I got to spend time with both my mom and mother-in-law. And my husband showered me with love and honor. Even though we both needed time off, we spent the day traveling and having fun with family.

However, at the end of the day I lay in bed wrestling with Sandra Bullock’s question from Blindside, “Am I a good person or a bad person?” The enemy always knows when and where to attack – when we’re on a high; when we’re exhausted and emotionally drained; and when we’re trying to decipher what’s right. I was vulnerable on all three counts. All it took was a few well-placed words of criticism and I spiraled into self-doubt.

My sisters, parents, and I spent most of the week on a much awaited trip together. For three glorious days we caught up on each other’s lives, prayed, strolled on the beach, sang, reveled in the sunshine, shared spiritual journeys, laughed, ate too much, and watched movies.

One morning, we studied Dad’s Sunday school lesson on Genesis. It highlighted the problems between Jacob and Esau because of their parents’ favoritism: “Isaac…loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob” (Genesis 25:28).

My sister asked me later, “Did you ever feel like Mom and Dad played favorites?”

“Yes,” I had to admit. “When I had to get up at 8:00 on Saturday mornings to do yard work and you got to sleep in, it felt like they loved you more than me. But later, I found out it was because you had been so sick with mono. They knew you needed more rest.” We agreed our parents have loved us equally as perfectly as any parents could, but sometimes treated us differently because of our individual needs and temperaments.

Favoritism is a danger even with grown children. Kelly and I want to love equally, give equally, and provide similar opportunities for success and growth. However, only God can guide us through the labyrinth of choices.

Many of you have kids and step kids you’re trying to raise without playing favorites. Or, you have grown children, step children, and grandkids you want to love and guide. Like me, you don’t want to make the mistake Isaac and Rebekah did.

It’s easy to give more energy and attention to a misbehaving or sick child than the ones who are doing well; they end up feeling left out. Or we encourage and praise the smart, talented, or personable child, and the other kids feel like they don’t measure up. Blended marriages add even more pitfalls. Parenting styles from our first marriage don’t blend with the second. How do we make sure kids from both families feel loved and valued?

Sometimes Kelly and I give an extra hand up when our child has blown it, if we feel that’s what the Lord is leading us to do. At other times it seems best to let them suffer the consequences so they will make better choices the next time. After all, our Father deals with us specifically and individually. He knows whether we need mercy or rebuke, encouragement or a time out. God is our perfect role model.

Even so, I feel inadequate as a parent. My desperate need for God’s wisdom keeps me on my face before Him. I can’t do this without Him. I’ve made mistakes along the way and will again in the future. Yet there is hope, because He is able to work best through a willing heart. And that I have.   

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Happy May Day!

As I was paying at the register at noon I realized the date and wished my handsome young cashier a Happy May Day. He looked at me blankly, “What’s that?”
I explained that it’s a celebration of spring; that people used to secretly hang bouquets of flowers on their neighbor’s doorknob to surprise them. He had never heard of it. A strange sadness pierced my heart.

I left the store suddenly nostalgic with sweet memories. My girls and I used to make cones out of paper together, staple a handle on top, and fill them with flowers from our yard. If we couldn’t find anything blooming yet, we would scour the neighboring fields for wildflowers to fill our baskets. The best part was leaving them on our neighbor’s doorknobs with a note, ringing the bell, and running before we were discovered.

There’s something sweet and innocent about spring and the celebration of it. I know ancient origins of May Day have to do with pagan ritual and dancing around the maypole, but as a Christian, I celebrate the day for the glory of God instead. After all, He created spring, flowers, and joyful surprise. When we rejoice in what He has made and share it with others, we rejoice in Him. And what better way to honor Him than to share His gifts?

#MayDay #giftofflowers #flowersonthedoor #celebratespring

So to you, my neighbors, I give this gift of flowers from my garden of photos. When you opened your computer, or phone, you did not suspect to find these fresh picked flowers on your doorknob, but here they are. Delight in them, my friend. Inhale their fresh fragrance, touch their delicate petals. Be amazed at their vibrant color and intricate design.

The attached card says, Happy May Day! I pray it will be for you. Know that somewhere in your neighborhood, a friend is watching for your look of surprise and delight in this simple gift.

Know too that you are infinitely more beautiful and complex than these flowers. You are loved. I hope you will pass on the joy to someone else today - in your smile and whatever little surprises you give to delight those around you. Wish them a Happy May Day in Jesus’ name. He gave us the beauty of this day as a love gift to us all.