Thursday, May 18, 2017

Holding on and Letting Go...



We spend a lot of time telling our children, "Don't let go!" As we were walking through Six Flags yesterday, I can't tell you how many times the question, "Does everyone have a hand?!" came out of my mouth.
Basically, everyone is supposed to be holding someone else's hand (or onto the stroller) as we maneuver through crowded areas. There is something about holding on to each other that makes us feel safer. It's easier to stay together and stay on task when we join hands and hold on tightly. (It's also comforting to have others at your side, like our amazing Mimi who came along with us yesterday to help with the kids.)

But with as many times as I told my kids to not let go yesterday, I also found myself telling them the exact opposite! Like the moment when I was trying to sit Evangeline onto the carousel horse, but she clung tightly to her momma out of fear of the unknown. She squealed in delight as she was in line watching each horse go round and round and up and down, but she cried in fear when she was given the opportunity to experience it firsthand. In those moments, all she wanted was for her momma to hold her closely so she could watch it all unfold from afar.

Lucy, on the other hand, is the exact opposite. There is no ride she doesn't want to try. She raises her arms in abandon as she screams in excitement through the unknown twists and turns of each roller coaster. She has excitement for the unknown, with an inner confidence that she is still safe in the hands of the operator of each ride.
And then there is my sweet Gabriel. I don't think I will ever forget how terrified he once was of everything about Six Flags. He wanted nothing to do with any of the rides or characters. He still wants nothing to do with the ginormous characters (notice his absence from the photo here with Tweety Bird--he was hiding behind my back and holding on tightly to my legs!), but he was eager to ride as many rides as he could. Slowly, but surely, he's learning to let go and experience things. 

And then there's my Annie Beth--so eager to go on all of the rides, but not quite big enough yet. She's still growing, and it is difficult to not grow impatient in the process. (Animal crackers help though;-) 

Lastly, there's the momma--me. I used to ride every single ride that I could get on! I loved the thrills and the excitement, but as I've gotten older, I've found that most of those circular motions just make me feel sick! Lucy told me yesterday, quite sincerely, "Momma, I feel bad that you don't get to ride very much because you have to stay with Evangeline." I responded, "It's okay, baby. This way, I get to watch all of your reactions as YOU are on the rides, and that's just as thrilling for me as if I were getting to ride it myself!"
You see, life is full of so many seasons. And with a large family full of kids at various ages, the Lord is really working on my heart on what it means to truly embrace each of those seasons...

My incredible "Tiny Toller" (Evangeline) is at the season of learning to let go. Yes, I want to hold her tightly and keep her safe, but I also know there are so many amazing things she can experience if she will just let go and try. Her fear often overtakes her willingness to try, but I continue to be patient with her, knowing that she will eventually learn. Our Heavenly Daddy does the same with us. He loves us and encourages us through our fears. God is so ever patient with us as we learn to trust Him, which is the place Lucy was at yesterday at the amusement park. She had confidence in who was in control, and she was simply there to "enjoy the ride." God so desires that for His children--for us to trust Him and let Him take control so that, like Gabriel is learning, we can experience all of the amazing things He has for us when we are willing to let go! But then there are seasons like my Annie Beth is in. Those are the seasons where we so desperately are ready to move on, but God is telling us "not yet." He is still molding us and growing us so that we can be prepared for exactly what that next step is that He has for us. He wants us to trust that HIS timing is always best, and if we will let Him, He will give us the grace to handle that time in the waiting room. 
Just like my kids had to be reminded yesterday to "hold on" AND to "let go," this roller coaster of life we are all on is much the same. Once we are finally willing to grab a hold of His goodness, we don't want to let go--it becomes comfortable and safe. But the Lord reminded me this morning that we aren't meant to hold on forever. Just like my kids find it hard at first to grab each other's hands, we often think that holding on for very long is the hard part. However, it's often the letting go that becomes the most difficult task. What will happen when we let go? Will we fall? Will we forget? Will our hands be filled with something uncomfortable? Or what if it's a season that our hands are going to be completely empty? Just as I ask my kids to trust that my requests of them are to keep them safe, God reminds me that I need to trust Him to do the same. Do I believe He is going to take care of me and that His best is truly THE best? 

The Truth is that He IS a good Father! He can do nothing less than what is the very best, and He invites us to experience that with Him, just like sweet Mimi accepted our invitation for a day of Six Flags fun.Whether we are waiting for our turn to come, nervously stepping out in faith to the unknown, cheering others on from the sidelines, or in the midst of enjoying the ride, God simply asks us to be willing to follow Him. We don't have to fear or hold tightly to the past--we can eagerly anticipate what He is doing now and wants to do in the future! (And I think it's okay to munch on a few animal crackers in the meantime;-)
"Do not be afraid, for I am with you...forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a NEW thing! Now it Springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland." (Isaiah 43:5a and 18-19)

Friday, February 3, 2017

Taste and See...

It's a common scene at our dinner table. I spend time trying to make something yummy for my family, but when I set it in front of everyone, I'm met with moans and groans from my picky, unadventurous eaters.

"I don't like that!"

"Ew!"

"I'm not eating that!"

It took me awhile to figure out that you simply cannot force a child to eat something. Yes, you can force the food into their mouth, but you can't make them digest it, because if they truly don't want it, while they may still swallow it, they're just going to throw it back up. This would be Lucy and chicken.

Yes. Chicken.

I don't understand how you can't like chicken, but it makes Lucy gag every.single.time!

We all have foods that we don't care for, but with children, they so often want to just stick to what they're used to. They'd prefer fish sticks and peanut butter and jelly (not together!) over some mysterious looking dish. And while some of us love experiencing new things, many of us prefer to stick with what is safe and known.

As I was perusing Facebook this morning, a friend of mine posted a verse I've heard many times:

"Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man that takes refuge in Him." (Psalm 34:8)

Maybe it was because of the yummy mini bundt cakes leftover from our home group last night staring me down from the kitchen counter, but whatever the reason, when I saw that verse this morning, my mind immediately halted at that first word: taste.

We live in a society that has rejected God and His Truth in so many ways. When It is presented, it's met with responses similar to a child who gets broccoli on their plate. "I don't like that!" People reject It without ever tasting of It. You see, if we truly taste of the Lord, we will always find that He is GOOD, and it will only leave us hungering for more and more of Him. We can't MAKE anyone partake of His goodness though. Just like force-feeding a child, if we "shove Jesus down the throats" of others it's only going to come back up...and not in a pretty way! But perhaps, just like when introducing new foods to our kids, if we will repeatedly present Jesus to this hurting world, we can hope that one day, they will choose to give Him a try, filling their plates-their lives!-with the things of Him. I know if I will do that, I'll find myself going in for a second helping...and many more, because when we taste of Jesus, we will see that He truly is so very, very good! 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Clearing the Path...

Lucy had the opportunity to audition for a play this last month. She was beside herself with excitement over the thought of getting to portray one of her very favorite characters: Lucy, from "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe." (I actually got the name for my Lucy from reading that book back in junior high. I love everything that her character represents!) She was constantly reading over the script and rehearsing lines; she was determined to get that part!
I had no idea how many other little girls felt the same way though. The amount of little girls with braided pigtails in their hair lined up for auditions was overwhelming! (My conservative guess would be at least 30.) I was SO proud of how Lucy bravely marched herself into that audition room and delivered her line boldly, passionately, and with excitement. She felt confident in her performance, and she was SO anxious to hear the results.
My view peeking into the audition room:)
So when I get the email the following day with the cast list not including her name, my heart didn't just sink down into my stomach--it felt like it hit the floor. My mind raced, wondering how on earth I was going to be able to deliver the news to her. I took a deep breath and asked her to come over to where I was. I grabbed her delicate hands and looked into her precious face and asked her, 

"Do you know that Jesus loves you, and that He has an amazing plan for you, even if it's not the one you want it to be?" 

I think she knew what was coming as she nodded and said "yes." I held her for a long time and found myself crying, knowing that my baby was hurting, yet also trusting that God had a plan and wouldn't waste this hurt. As I hugged Lucy tightly, I suddenly had an image of Jesus holding me close over a decade ago, when I would find myself almost unable to breathe through the tears after discovering, over and over again, that we weren't pregnant. He held each one of those tears, knowing He had something amazing in store while still hurting with His child. 

I believe with all my heart that God never wastes our pain. I know He hears our cries, and He longs to hold us through the hurt, assuring us of His love for us. I think we so often want to be told, "It's going to be okay."

But God didn't promise us that.

In fact, He told us we WOULD face trials in this life. ("In this world you WILL have trouble..." John 16:33) But He also told us that those trials produce "perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame..." (Romans 5:4-5a) In other words, our trials bring us closer to Him, and the closer we are to Him, the more we can feel Him embracing us. It's a mystery to those who do not know Him as their Father, but God blesses us with trials so that we can know His love more deeply. 

As a momma, I don't ever want to see my babies hurt. But as a child of God, my desire for my babies to know and love Christ trumps anything else. If we could see all of the fires we will be asked to walk through, I have a feeling we would never leave home without an extinguisher. We'd have our kids wrapped up in a plastic bubble to shield them from hurt and from harm...but it would also keep them from feeling love and experiencing blessings from others.  My heart so desires to say I can praise God through the storm. I want my kids to see that in me so that they can learn how to do the same. You see, while storms can do a lot of damage, God uses them to provide the Earth with
practicing for this weekend's audition
refreshment. So, when we go through trials, God is actually raining down His blessing upon us.

This weekend, Lucy has another opportunity to audition for a musical. It's an opportunity that she would not have been able to take had she gotten the role she auditioned for last month. This one is through an educational theatre run by a Christian woman who desires for children to learn all the wonderful aspects involved in theatre. I'm so excited that the Lord led us in this direction! And He did so by clearing a path that was only made visible after a storm...