23 April 2015

Of Parenting Four

I recently saw on facebook, this article and video by parents of three who were tired of the judgment regarding their pregancy with their fourth child. I'm not gonna lie, I've had the parody stuck in my head all week - because this is so where we are.

So, this morning, as I'm singing in my head, "Can't you see it's we who love this life?" on repeat in my head, I'm also throwing away one boy's lunch that he didn't finish the day before, because, yes, I'm the mom who most often is only cleaning up the table from the last meal when it's time to eat the next.

And, later, as I'm glad to finally have gotten all the munchkins their eggs and cereal and I'm ready to finally go nurse that precious baby who is fine with the Cheerios but would really like her Momma, I walk into the kitchen to see a gagging little boy who decided one man's trash was another man's treasure and had opted to ingest his brother's day-old lunch I had haphazardly dumped in the sink. And he's now regretting that decision and as I attempt to direct him over the trash can to spit it out, his body decides to be quicker about it and he's vomiting now on the kitchen rug. Not the tile that's easy to mop, but the one 2'x3' patch of wide kitchen floor that actually has any form of synthetic covering.

Meanwhile, hungry baby is now REALLY done with her empty high chair tray and is crying pretty angrily. And I have a three-year-old with vomit on his clothes and a beautiful mess to clean up on the floor. Boy is stripped, sent to wait for new clothes in his room and the floor is quickly cleaned, rug sprayed in the sink, hung to dry on the patio. I grab the baby on my way upstairs, so I can get to feeding her after quickly dressing her brother.

But the brother ended up vomiting further on the carpeted hallway and his underwear, the only remaining item of clothing from the earlier mess. And his only clean underwear is folded on the couch downstairs.

So, now naked boy is running for underwear while, with a baby on the hip, Momma is cleaning up vomit. And eventually setting the baby down while hoping she'll be so satisfied with the toy she found (which may or may not be a choking hazard because who can keep up with what gets left all over the floor by the older three?) that she won't feel the need to grab for the mess and you know you're running against a ticking time bomb - get it clean before she decides to crawl in it.

And before I know it, that mess is clean, that boy is dressed and the baby is settling in to nurse and that five crazy minutes of my morning is over. And I still have over five hundred to go before bed time.

And I'm still humming, "Don't you know it's we who love this life?"

Because we do.

Because while I was cleaning up vomit and finally going to nurse a baby girl, I could hear downstairs the two older ones contentedly reading through piles of library books. And I know that baby girl will be ready to play when she's done eating and will bless me with the most heart-melting grins. And that little boy, stomach now emptied of yesterday's disgusting leftovers, will be telling me silly stories and hurrying to look at the pictures over his siblings' shoulders.

And it's a crazy life, this mothering a herd, but it's also exciting, silly, snuggly, and full.

And I wouldn't trade it. Because sometimes I am overwhelmed by this life, but mostly it is such a blessing.

20 April 2015

Of Our Enemy

Having been a Christian the majority of my life, I find it almost embarrassing to admit: I have only just begun to hate Satan.

Until this point I had only found him mildly annoying - like a bee buzzing in your ear that won't go away, or a mosquito caught extracting your blood who then leaves you with an obnoxious itch that lingers awhile.

I mean, I certainly didn't like the guy. He's the enemy of my Lord, so of course I'm not in his fan club, nor do I want anything to do with him. But I'd also fallen into the trap of otherwise dismissing him.

I had been told before, as a very true fact, that we, as Christians, tend to give Satan too much credit. He, as many would tell it, is the source for all the annoyances in life. When our mission trip flight is canceled, or we're stuck in traffic on the way to church, or our printer dies just when we need it to print the most important document we'll ever need (or, you know, a coupon, whatever). That's Satan. Oh, that pesky little devil. There are even moments, like when traveling and caught in a snow storm in a tiny little vehicle not meant for this kind of weather, we get so egotistical as to think, "Maybe Satan is trying to stop me from getting there because something important is going to happen." Because, of course, I'm so important that it's going to snow across three states and cause a 27 car pile-up on a different portion of road just because Satan wants to frustrate me. Unlikely. Plus, I'm not certain, but I'm not sure he can control the weather. He's not God.

Which, of course, is what this whole mess is about. He's so selfish. That pesky little devil.

But when I'm sitting across from a precious friend opening for me the depths of her soul and the struggles of her flesh, and I am recognizing that these conclusions to which she has come are the direct result of lies whispered in her ear, I hate him. For the very first time, I hate him. I want to drop-kick his ugly face. About fifty-seven times in a row.

Because I've heard his lies before - the ones that say I'm not good enough, or I've failed, or no one truly cares. But those ones are generally pretty easy to pick out. They are so contrary to what I have been told, by people and by God, that, though they mess with me for a moment, or a day, or even a week, I can eventually weed them out and overcome them with Truth.

But when he takes the God-given gifts and attributes given to a beautiful sister - characteristics made to show the very essence of our Creator - and twists them for his purposes, causing doubt and confusion, the kind that wreaks havoc to the very soul and the kind that has turned an entire culture in the complete opposite direction of who they were made to be and how they were made to view a love like no other, the very unconditional love of an all-powerful God, that plain pisses me off (excuse my Baptist-girl version of language, but this is what happens when I'm angry).

And I can hear her words and see a light shed on controversy that has shattered our culture, is changing our laws and has left everyone questioning what we have been told, both in church and out of it. It's all a lie. And Satan is so pleased with himself.

Because maybe he can't control the weather, but he can surely whisper into our ears. And a whisper that is a tiny portion of truth enshrouded in lies is infinitely more devastating than canceled flight, an empty ink cartridge or a slippery road with traction-less wheels.

Yet he has made us so comfortable in our annoyance that we barely even notice the buzz anymore. And we don't hate him. We dislike him. We bat him away. Sometimes we fear him. But we don't hate.

And an enemy we don't hate is an enemy we don't fight.

Annoyance makes us keep our distance. Fear can cripple and gives power to the one from whom we cower.

Hate drives us to action.

It makes us pick up that weapon and swing with all our might.

And we need to fight.

We need to fight not only for ourselves, but for our sister who struggles with who she was created to be and for our church who has been lulled to indifference.

And as we fight, we must remember always, "we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12).

People are not our enemy. Not even those who disagree with us or accuse us with the voices of darkness. We battle not with verbal attacks or empassioned diatribes, but on our knees, "with the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Ephesians 6:17). And we fight as though this is a life or death battle, not for our own lives, but for those of our sisters and brothers, as well as those who are not yet protected by the shield of faith or the helmet of salvation.

Let him hear your battle cry. And let him be the one to cower in fear.

18 April 2015

Of My Fear

This weekend was one of the highlights of my year. I spent a weekend gathered with like-minded women from across the state as we worshipped the Creator of the universe and absorbed powerful teaching meant to move us to action as true women of the Word.

It did not disappoint.

But as the final session wrapped up, I had to be honest with myself about my discomfort regarding one of our keynote speakers. This woman was on fire. And I could not quite put my finger on it, but such was her confidence and passion and boldness in declaring the Word of God as it had been spoken and revealed to her that it simply made me uncomfortable.

Truthfully, a portion of these feelings could have stemmed from my Southern Baptist roots (okay, so my parents always insisted we were not, in fact, Baptist - simply that when it came time to look for a church, these were always the ones they preferred, but label or no, I grew up in a myriad of Baptist churches and received my higher education at a Baptist school, so those roots are very clearly intact), in the face of a woman who was very comfortable preaching in-your-face truth with some charismatic flare. And there's a part of me that says, "Simmer down, woman." And there's a part of me that feels if someone is declaring their teaching with such audacity, I need to be sure to check this teaching with the truth of the Word as I know it. And this is absolutely true.

But more of my discomfort comes from the fact that I have never been so sure about the Word of God that I could stand in front of hundreds of women, without any fear or shadow of doubt, to declare what I know to be true.

And I heard the Lord ask me, "What are you afraid of?"

And if I'm going to be 100% honest with myself (and now with you, which is scary), the answer would be . . .

I'm scared of being wrong.

In this culture of moralistic relativity and political correctness, I'm afraid to cross a line and, more terrifying, I'm afraid to draw that line in the sand. The line that says THIS IS RIGHT. And in so saying, conclude something else to be wrong.

Because it's not okay to say that in our culture.

And I want to be friends.

I don't want hateful words from the other side of the computer screen (or most certainly not in my face). I don't want to be accused - accused of closed-mindedness, bigotry, arrogance and so many other descriptives I don't want applied to me.

And when I was confronted with this honest truth about my soul and what I'm willing to boldly declare, I was boldly told by my Creator,

"If you fear my Truth, I have no business with you.

I have no business with the one who puts her hand to the plow and looks back."

I have been singing about walking upon the water, where oceans rise. When what I have been doing is wading ankle deep - staying close enough to the shore to jump out if I need and where I certainly won't encounter any sharks.

And I have been called out into the waves, into a Truth and a God that overwhelms. And I've been afraid of drowning.

And He has no business with that kind of follower.

He has no business with one who fears the Truth. And, worse yet, should I continue to deny Him before men, He has declared that He will deny me.

So, watch out. Because the gloves are coming off. And the Sword is coming out.

There is a battle being waged. And I have chosen my side.

I will be silent no longer.

09 April 2015

Of Her Big Decision

About a year ago, we were in our pretty new house and one afternoon I was changing a boy's dirty diaper (ah the glamour of motherhood) when from the next room I heard my beautiful five-year-old call out from the comfort of her tiny pink armchair, "I just asked God to come into my heart!"

Wait, what?!

I had a panicked moment of realizing I needed to finish the task at hand - hello, poopy bottom - while my daughter was apparently having a spiritual epiphany next door.

"Baby, wait right there! I'll be there in a minute and we can talk about it!"

I wasn't prepared for this moment. I mean, really, was not prepared for my daughter to just pronounce this simple little act as something to be done as swiftly and matter of course as brushing one's teeth. I knew, at five years of age, she probably did not know quite what she was doing, but at the same time, why couldn't it be that simple? Why couldn't she decide in the simplicity of her little purple bedroom to follow Jesus for the rest of forever? And if she made that decision, why shouldn't she follow through?

But wasn't it supposed to be more complicated than this? Weren't we supposed to have a heart to heart? Weren't we supposed to lead her in some prayer or something?

So, I was torn - between the organic nature of a child making her own decisions, and recognizing the weight of this sort of decision and the gravity with which this decision should be handled.

Of course, we talked - I told her if she was really ready to make this step we would talk with our pastor so he could help her understand what this meant.

Now, it's important to understand that at this time in our lives we were attending our church's Saturday evening service - so, while our church's typical Sunday morning crowd averaged about 400 attendees per service, we were used to sitting in the second row of a congregation of about two dozen every Saturday night. And after nearly every service our little precocious one was always so eager to go tell Bro. Todd whatever her news for the week was - whether it meant showing him her new Bible or her new shoes. She loved talking to him.

But when I suggested talking to him about this most important decision, one she should be thrilled about, she suddenly resisted. Deciding, nevermind, she didn't really want to be a Christian.  I was baffled, but didn't push.

Later, in talking to our pastor's wife, she told me this was usually a good indication if a child was "ready" - because if she truly wanted to become a follower of Jesus, nothing would stop her - not even talking to Bro. Todd.

Thus, we continued to wait. I wasn't eager to push her too early, anyhow.

Fast forward a year, and many spiritual conversations, later, to Good Friday.

We began the day discussing what the significance was. She had read on her calendar that it was the day before "Passover Begins" - so we talked about Passover. She has always been a big fan of the story of the Israelites putting blood on their doorways so the Angel of Death would not kill the firstborn sons in those homes. Yet, when I asked her if she remembered what Passover meant, she began with, "It's when Jesus took the bread and said, 'This is my body, if you do this you will be part of me.' and he took the wine and said, 'This is my blood . . .'"

Here is where I want to thank the amazing staff of our children's department at church - because I never taught her this part of the story. These are all words she clearly must have learned in Sunday School.

Of course, we discussed that further and went about our day. Later, we discussed that at the service that evening we would have The Lord's Supper but they would not have any because it's only for those who have made the decision to follow Christ. I was really trying to prepare them for the moment of the passing of the plate when crackers and juice would pass them by and Mommy and Daddy wouldn't let them have some. Because no one needs to deal with an Emmett who isn't getting a snack when they're trying to focus on the body and blood of Christ.

But, then, the natural consequence of my warning was that everyone suddenly wanted to become a Christian - it's all about that bread and juice (or bread and wine, as Micaiah continued to emphasize). Which meant, of course, I had to spend the next hour or so convincing Emmett that he couldn't become a Christian just to have food in service.

And the subject was dropped.

Until another couple of hours passed and Micaiah, always loving to just drop the spiritual bomb as if it's nothing, came marching down the stairs with the broadest grin I'd seen on her face in a long time, and declared, "I just went upstairs and asked God to come into my heart - and now I'm a Christian! And now we can talk to Bro. Todd and I can get baptized!"

Well, now I was torn. Because here I was, yet again, caught unaware, and not sure where to go from here. On the one hand, that was really exciting news. On the other hand - was she, too, just looking for that bread and wine? And why couldn't she ever do this when her father was home?! So I sent her back upstairs where she and I could talk.

I asked her multiple questions, such as what it meant to ask God into her heart, why she wanted to do so, etc. And the whole time, she had the most brilliant smile on her face. I can describe it as none other than a Holy Spirit change.

And sure enough, as she finished out the afternoon, her attitude (which we'd been fighting with all week) was completely changed. She was helpful and kind and there was always that smile (even days later, when a friend of ours commented to her about how polite she had been, her response was, "It's because I'm a Christian").

At church that evening, she was eager to tell everyone, "I'm a Christian now!" and even continued to ask, "When will I get to tell Bro. Todd?!" (which we did immediately following the service). And after much deliberation, she even was allowed to have her first taste of the Lord's Supper (and when I say much deliberation, I mean, she didn't even get to have her own bread, because I didn't decide until after the plate had passed and I finally tore mine in two to share with her), because I realized I didn't need to wait for her to understand what it meant - she had already told me that morning.

And that everlasting smile - the joy of a changed heart - would not leave her beaming face.

Which may have only been slightly eclipsed by the cries of her brother as we left church that evening, "But I didin't get anything to eat!"