Part of the 30 day challenge series

*Edit* I had to do a little revision this morning.  Writing when my brain is calling for sleep is not a good idea, hehe.  Editor-in-Appa said my post sound like a mad ramble. ;]

This is a hard question.  Whatever comes to my mind, I keep thinking there must be something harder.  But the best answer I can think of right now is that it’s hard to maintain a childlike faith in an “adult” world.

Ian, right now you spend the most time with umma.  So whenever I introduce you to anything new — a new environment, a new food, a new person, etc. — you seem unsure at first.  But you keep looking to me.  You trust me.  So you adjust to the new environment, keeping me near, constantly looking to me to make sure everything will be okay.  You try the new food, watching my face.  You may cry with a new person, but if I am at ease with them or tell you it’s okay, you adjust.

You can go through unfamiliar and even scary things (for a baby at least) with trust, because I’m there with you.  You know me.

Sometimes faith in a kind and sovereign God will seem small and stupid and so out of place in the face of Trial, Oppression, Burden, Poverty, Anxiety, Sin, Helplessness, Cynicism, Depression, Brokenness, Death, and Loss.  You’ll want to throw it aside.  Or chuck it off a cliff to its death.

It will be a fight — tooth and nail and all you’ve got — to keep standing in childlike faith, to keep entrusting yourself to the One who is faithful.  Pastor Rod said in a sermon last year, “The Christian life is a constant fight against unbelief.”  It’s a battle we fight with the word of God.  This is what He says.  This is who He is.  This is what I’ll believe.

Just like a child trusts his umma or appa.  Even when things become unfamiliar or scary.  Because we know Him.

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Yesterday, I was reading to Ian from Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing by Sally Lloyd-Jones.  Initially I was reading to him, but the more I read, the more I was reading to us:

What does a rocket need to lift off and go zooming into outer space?  It needs a launchpad.

Do you know what God’s launchpad is in our lives–from which he can do ANYTHING?

Is it great faith?  Our perfect record?

Incredible courage?
No.

It’s our weakness.

God’s power comes to us in our littleness, in our brokenness, in our not knowing, in our not being able.

And when God’s power meets our weakness?

Liftoff!

It’ll be Ian’s first Christmas.  When I look at him, I understand a little more of the cost of Jesus’ incarnation.  Mostly because I’ve never spent so much time with an infant before.  My omnipotent God condescended to become someone’s completely helpless and needy, kissable baby.  He bowed His head and came.  Not just as a man.  Not just as a grown, fully competent man of trade, though that would have been humiliating enough for the Son who simply spoke the universe into existence.  But He came as a baby who had to nurse at the breast of a fumbling first time mom.  And I can’t wrap my mind around it.  The nearness of it.

But other thoughts come knocking this Christmas, too.  They aren’t completely unrelated.

In this season at least — and I don’t know, maybe for the rest of his life — Ian won’t know the fullness of my side of the family.  At least not all at once.  He can’t pick up on everything yet of course, but he’ll experience it by the things he doesn’t experience.  The loved ones he doesn’t get to interact with as much, his family he won’t grow to know as well, just because it’s harder to foster relationships with everyone when each fractured piece has to be cherished separately.  And because of our limited nature, some pieces will be neglected.  Some loved ones will be strangers to him.  And I grieve over this.  Sometimes bitterly.  My son won’t know the fullness and richness that is my side of the family.  At least not as continuously and intimately as I’d known it in my childhood.  (I know this is extremely common.  I know it could be worse.  But common never eases the pain, does it?)  This is not my first fractured Christmas.  It hurt as a daughter.  It hurt as a wife.  But ah — it hurts in a different way as a mother.  I don’t mean Christmas holds no joy.  Not at all.  But it’s a joy mingled with pain.  And I think that’s okay — at least when I consider Christmas in its original glory and un-glory.  Stripped down to a manger, but one containing no one less than the Lamb of God.

So last night before bed, I jotted everything I wanted to remember and tell myself as long as this season of brokenness lasts.  The tone may come across strong.  I really needed “endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” kind of language last night.  Nothing spineless would do against “Apollyon” and Giant Despair.  So in raw form, and in the order they came to mind:

Don’t become bitter.  Who are you to hold a charge against anyone?  You are no better.  The gospel says you are no better.

Adjust your expectations.  They are not Jesus.  You are not Jesus.  That’s why He came.  We all fall short.

Don’t become bitter.  This is worth repeating twice.

Pray.

Our earthly families aren’t the end-all be-all.  They point to a greater, more eternal reality.

God is sovereign.  You weren’t meant for the next home over. He placed you in your family with precision.  Don’t waste it.

Your family doesn’t cause you to sin.  They can tempt you to sin, but sin is always of personal volition.

May it never be that you echo Adam and accuse God with, “…the woman You gave me” — or rather, “the family You gave me.”

Your family is not beyond hope.  That’s why Christmas happened.  Christmas didn’t come for those who are whole — or who look whole or think they are whole.  It came for the diseased and broken.

We don’t celebrate Christmas because our family is together and happy.  We don’t celebrate Christmas for any other earthly reason than this: Jesus entered our world to rescue us from the power and penalty and pervasiveness of sin.

The goal is God’s glory.  Don’t idolize the image of a perfect family.  Is a stable family a blessing?  Yes.  But do not bow to it.

All families are broken in some way — at least on this side of eternity.  You cannot escape heartache or grief or brokenness in any relationship, even as a hermit.  Where memories might cease to assault you, the absence of relationship will takes its place.  Only your relationship with God is safe — and really, only on His part, not yours.  Thank God He is faithful and able to make us faithful to the end.

It’s better to be broken than hardened.  It’s better to be broken than hardened.  It’s better to be broken than hardened.

Don’t forget your church family.  Ask for prayer.  Embrace their encouragement and exhortation.  Love them well.  Remember they’re broken people being sanctified, too.

Love your family, period.  Remember the costly manner in which Jesus laid down His life and by His grace, do the same.  But remember this key difference between you and Jesus in this: He was better than than those for whom He laid down His life.  You are not.

No matter how wearying and how long the labor, or whatever the results or lack thereof, you are called to be a peacemaker.  Peacemaking is dirty work, and you are completely unqualified except in Christ.  Don’t grow weary of doing good.  The labor is ours, the fruit is God’s to give.

Look brokenness in the face.  Don’t pretend it away.  And then tell brokenness to look Jesus in the face.  See who wins.

Thank You for my thorn.

October 18, 2013

We’ve been going through Nancy Leigh DeMoss’s book, Choosing Gratitude, in our new mom’s group at church.  The last chapter we read, “But Not without Sacrifice,” was especially bittersweet for me:

Scottish preacher George Matheson (1842-1906) began losing his eyesight in late adolescence for no apparent reason.  By age twenty he was totally blind, as a result of which his fiancee broke off their engagement.  He struggled for many long months with a broken heart, wrestling with unanswered questions.  The whole experience drove him nearly to despair and he was tempted to quit the ministry altogether.  Yet ultimately he came to the place where he could say, “My God, I have never thanked You for my thorn!  I have thanked You a thousand times for my roses, but never once for my thorn.  Teach me the glory of the cross I bear; teach me the value of my thorns.” (p. 128)

Thank Him for my thorns?  Painful, bitter things!

But valuable — immeasurably so — when touched by His redeeming hands.

It’s raining today in Oakland.  A brightly overcast day with drizzles here and there.  It’s refreshing.  Ian is also napping peacefully right now.  Okay, just checked the video monitor, and he’s starting to stir a little. :]  He’s 6 weeks old tomorrow, and just a handful of thoughts:

1. I’m not in control.

2. I’m not in control.

3. I’m not in control.

4. That’s a very, very good thing.

5. God is in control.

Haha.

But the rain reminds me of this today.  In becoming parents, JE and I have become farmers, in a sense.  We are sowing, tilling, laboring in the Ian field for God’s glory.  We have no control over the weather, the condition of the soil (other than our efforts on it), pests, or other factors.  But we’re called to faithfully labor.  And then trust God with the outcome.

For his soul, definitely.  But even in his physical care.  Eating.  Sleeping.  Even in the littlest littlest things.

He sends the rain and sun in their appointed time.  The weather and all these are no mystery to him.  They are all beautifully appointed.  Baby sleep and hunger and cries and coos are no mystery to him either.  They are all beautifully appointed.  Soul work, too.

Okay, baby’s awake now.  Bye! :]

No further.

May 31, 2013

He gave the waves their limits.  This far and no further.

He uses even men’s evil deeds for the good of those who love Him.  And even to them He says, This far.  And no further.

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good …” (Joseph, Genesis 50:19)

Baby Ian’s middle name is Joseph.  A reminder for the rest of our lives.  Praise God. ♥

No needless suffering.

March 13, 2013

Her, wrestling in thought for some time.

Her, suddenly: Abba?

Her Father: Yes, child.

Her: You are sovereign … right?

Her Father: Yes, child.

Her: And You are kind … right?

Her Father: Yes, child.

Her, faltering: And You …

Her, wrestling again with her thoughts.

Her Father: Go ahead, child.  Ask Me.

Her, breaking: You won’t let him suffer needlessly?

Her Father, tenderly: No, dear child.  I won’t.

Her, sobbing: Okay.

Okay, Abba.

That’s all I needed to know.