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Sharing my heart–The Foundation

September 28, 2007

It is dark here. The rain is pouring down outside, and our house is chilly in the autumn dampness. It’s 5:30am. Apart from the drip-drop of the falling rain, the house is completely silent. A mug sporting an American flag and the phrase “Marine Wife and Proud of It!” sits in front of me at the computer desk, my open Bible and journal beside it.

This morning I believe the Lord allowed me to wake up when John’s alarm went off at 4am because He had something He wanted to show me. The life of a mother is a busy one, and though I know I’ll be tired later in this busy, busy day, I’m thankful that Jesus saw fit to give He and I some special time together without distraction.

For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. . .

Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of
the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all
things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,


And be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith;

That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the
fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His
death…

Philippians 3:3, 8-10

Over the past year and a half, the Lord has been doing a deep work in my heart. He has used scriptures like the one above and others to show me my unwavering and unconditional place in Him. “To be found in Him…”

In Him is all sufficiency… who I am in Christ is not intrinsically linked to who I am in the eyes of others, or based on what I do or don’t do. His love is not based on my own merit, nor in the merit seen by people around me and their ideas of what or who I should or shouldn’t be. It is a vastly deep and at times heart-rending work that is not yet complete–I doubt it ever will be, because of our very human nature–but one that He has begun, giving me more freedom in Him than ever before. I’m just “in Jesus.” Following Him alone, as He leads and guides.

But this morning He brought to light a new aspect of this truth. Certainly not one that I’d never heard before, but one that had never turned a light bulb on in my head like it has now. It started with a brief mention of the subject by our pastor in last night’s service, and churned in my head literally all night long. By the time I awoke a little before four o’clock this morning, my heart and mind were burning with an urgent desire to be shown by my Lord more of this truth.

But by the grace of God, I am what I am. . .
1 Cor. 15:10

I’ve personally been given a freedom in Christ to just live in the knowledge of my identity in Him, which has then played out in some aspects with my relationship with those around me. If, by His grace, I am what I am, how can I deny that same grace to others, both in relation to their own walk with Christ and in how I view them? I confess this is a constant, unending struggle. Years of a critical spirit ingrained in my mind and heart from a young age is hard to undo. It’s a vicious cycle–for many years, even as young as I am now, I was so sure that I knew the best and only right way for how to live this Christian life, that I was quick to pass harsh judgement on anyone who didn’t meet up to my own ideals borne out of a deep-rooted self-righteousness. This, in turn, gave way to living in extreme fear of man, because, if I was judging others so harshly, I was certain they were doing the same thing to me.

And for many years… they were.

But God has used a new realization of Himself, brought about by a breaking point in my late teen years and a number of Christ-centered people (one of which being my husband, others my own parents and my in-laws) who have loved me in Jesus, regardless of anything at all, to slowly but surely chip away at that thinking and give me a new mindset. Eyes focused on Jesus alone.


I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I
will guide thee with mine eye.

Psalm 32:8


But this morning, a new facet of this became clear to me.

How does this foundational truth relate to not only the people I come in contact with daily, but to those I’m with nearly twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week–my children?

Now, let me just say that I’m a believer in young parents not giving out unsolicited parenting advice to the masses that doesn’t suit their season of life or personal experience thus far. And I know that I don’t “have it all together” at this point and never will, nor do I seek to place myself in a place of pretending experience I don’t have. So I’m just sharing with you where my heart is “at”, this early morning, unsure of just where it all leads or how it completely plays out practically. But one thing I hope and pray is that no matter how old John and I are, or how many years we’ve been parenting, the basics of what God’s word says about our relationship with Him and the foundations of how we impart that to our children will never change.

Here’s the light bulb that popped on in my head this morning…

My child(soon-to-be-”ren“) is learning, from me, what it is to be a Christian. His first inclinations of who Jesus is and what it means to even be called a Christian comes from his observations of his Daddy and I. How we relate to Christ on a day-to-day basis, in every situation, is making a lasting impression on our son’s heart and mind, and will form the foundation of how he views the Savior once he is old enough to understand. But it is often said and is oh-so-true that children are the quickest to discern hypocrisy. We can “do” the “Christian parenting things”–pray before meals and bedtime, read Bible story books, take him to church, train his behavior, dress him correctly, school him “the only right way,” etc., etc. But if I tell him with my mouth that our identity is in Christ, and then teach him with my actions that we behave in just such a way that Mommy and Daddy and other people are pleased with us… what will speak louder? If I train him to “behave” in public or even at home, according to a set of rules that I think are applauded by other parents who seem to have it all together, because I want a good reflection on myself… what will speak louder?

I can’t help but wonder how even the littlest things are shaping Troy’s little life. When he wakes up at 3 or 4 in the morning and I’m dead tired… I can’t say my response is always glorious. I want him to quiet down, lay back down in his crib and go back to sleep–certainly not be wide awake for an hour or two. If his does this quickly, he has a pleased and happy mama. If not… not so much. I’m afraid that such a thing–and many others like it–are the beginnings of teaching him that my happiness is derived from what he does or doesn’t do. When he listens, obeys and doesn’t get into the DVD closet for the umpteenth time that day, what is my response? Most of the time, I applaud him and rejoice when he is obedient, but can be quick and frustrated with him if he doesn’t. Not only is this showing him that how we feel at the moment can be the basis for how we act, but it shows him first and foremost that he must “do” something a certain way to gain my favor… it is not unconditional.

Does this mean John and I shouldn’t train our children? Uh, no. That’s certainly not the point or the direction of my thoughts. But, it seems to my feeble little mind, that there absolutely has to be a higher purpose. A reason behind training that goes far beyond our own desire as parents to have children that look the part. How scared I’ve been at times when we are with friends or in public and Troy misbehaves. What are they thinking of us?! After a tantrum in a restaurant which renews my zeal for “training”–I’m afraid it’s often stemmed from a realization that if we don’t get a handle on this, we’ll look like Really Bad Parents.

John and I talk often of the huge responsibility we have to raise our children “for the Lord.” But what does that mean? We’ve been given these little-big blessings to our lives, not for our own benefit, but to point them to Jesus, to bring glory to Him. Not glory to us. He’s given them to us so that we can show them Himself, so that they might in turn do the same to their own children and others around them.

He is our greatest example of a parent–our Heavenly Father. If He has shown us His unconditional love, our freedom to live following Him and not others, how much greater our responsibility to impart that all-encompassing truth to our little ones… while they are yet little. Their first glimpse of Jesus is us… us! How they relate to Him will to a great degree rest in how they first related to us. Am I showing my little Troy that I base my love on what he does–actions that please me–rather than who he is–my son, forever and always? To his young heart and mind that has yet to fully understand the Heavenly Father, his Daddy and I are all he knows of such a concept. To him, our love is simply our care for him and the way we act toward him. We know that we will always “love” him, as parents always say, regardless of what he is doing or has done, but when “love” is defined by 1 Corinthians 13 (patient, kind, not envying, not prideful, boastful, rude or selfish, not irritable–easily provoked–or resentful, rejoices in the truth and not in wrongdoing, bears, believes, hopes and endures all things…) I’m not sure how well that statement will hold up to my actions or reactions.

I recently witnessed a set of parents dealing with some issues with their teenager. I stood in wonder and amazement as I saw them loving this teenager, even through actions that hurt them possibly more than they had been hurt by a child before, and through their pain, giving their child a glimpse of the Savior and Father who had more love for that child than the parents ever could. Through this, relationships were put back on the path to restoration. They gained the heart of their teenager and were, as a family, broken before the Lord. These parents were deeply hurt… and yet, miraculously and completely through God’s grace and strength, they were able to show this teen His love. Are there consequences to the actions of their child? Of course. They didn’t shelter the teen from that. But they pointed their beloved child back to Jesus… and where there could have been extreme anger, wounded pride, walls built between parent and child, a turning away of hearts one from another and from the Lord, bitterness and many other further problems, an entire family is facing a new direction together–toward the Heavenly Father.

Again, I don’t claim to have these heart-thoughts completely “together” or know the end from the beginning. I’m just trying to figure it all out. Parenting is a huge thing… looking to Jesus is the only way we can do it… for our own sake, and for our children’s sake.

When Mama isn’t paying attention, the toddler discovers his life’s calling

September 27, 2007

I just unloaded my camera card, intending to use a specific picture for a rather mediocre post.

Thankfully, Troy provided me with something of a little more, uh, substance.

Announcing: Troy David’s First Attempt at Videography

Important Things to notice: Mama on the phone with a doctor’s office, clearly distracted; Troy on Mama’s lap at the computer desk; Monk & Neagle playing in the background, as usual these days; Mama’s brown flip flops (two of a kind–big accomplishment, you know); Troy’s red Crocs on the floor; and yes, that is the cat box over in the corner. Except we all get an upside down view of it. Special.

Oh, and just so you know who is who, given that there are no credits at the end of this masterpiece, the lighter blue cords are Troy’s pants. The dark blue… that would be my knee. Crucial information, there.

Family prayer update…

September 26, 2007

Just real quick… I know some of you have been praying for the situation with my Gram in Alabama and her surgery…

Things have not been going so great the past few days, and I’ve just finally been able to post an update on my mom’s blog. Thank you for praying… you can click over there to read the most recent update.

Overheard in the Toddler Nursery

September 25, 2007

Sunday morning. 11am service. 2’s and 3’s nursery. Snack time.

Picture eleven toddlers sitting at a horseshoe shaped table, happily munching on goldfish crackers and drinking water from little Dixie cups. Their “conversation” goes from one thing to the next at the same speed as their little feet swing and kick furiously under their chairs.

Teachuhr? Teachuhr–guess what? I don’t go potty in my bed anymo-uhr.” A little face framed with blond curls grinned up at me.

I congratulated her on this amazing and great achievement. I mean, come on, this is monumental.

But then a little dark haired three year old shook her head sadly. The bow in her hair swung back and forth, closer to falling out, with each movement.

“I still have to wear doze spesheeul panties because I still go potty in MY bed sometimes.”

And, of course, now all nine little girls and the two boys felt compelled to tell the group just how they were doing in the nighttime accident realm.

Listening to the verdict, I felt bad, bad for these poor parents…. and wasn’t sure whether to look ahead at potty training with an optimistic expectancy or with fear and trembling.

Then the other nursery worker, Mrs. Malinda spoke up, bucket of goldfish crackers under one arm and juggling cups in the other.

“Guess whaaaaat?? I still go potty in my bed sometimes!”

Every tiny head was riveted at their beloved Mrs. Malinda–beautiful, grown up, and always loads of fun. Eyes were wide. Mouths gaped open.

Then–

Wheeeeew.” A long sigh was accompanied by the little towhead tossed back in relief. “That shoo-uhr makes me feel bettuhr!”

I’m afraid our uproarious laughter burst their little bubble.

Becoming Mama

September 24, 2007

Since Troy was sick with the croup last week, we were following the doctor’s (and the internet’s) suggestion of having him sleep in our room. We set up his porta-crib next to our bed and made sure the humidifier was blowing mountains of steam right in his direction. The week still produced more sleepless nights than we’ve had in quite a while. A couple times Troy ended up “in the middle” in our bed for at least a few hours… and though he seemed to crash out pretty quickly that way, his mama sure didn’t have any such luck. Little wiggly sleepers seem to have as much ability to keep parents awake as a newborn.

Several times during the night last week, I found myself awake for a while, watching Troy sleep and his daddy try to catch a few winks beside him. I would cuddle Troy closer, remembering all the nights–the majority of his first year of life–when that was just his spot for at least half of each night, cuddled next to Mommy and Daddy. These days, we all sleep much better when he’s in his own bed, but the memory of those snuggly nights will always be something I treasure.

As I thought back over Troy’s little life, I pondered what we were doing this time last year. Then I remembered this post I wrote (published on the old blog) almost exactly a year ago.

Yesterday at my parents’ house, Troy was being very “talkie” and so his Grammie took the opportunity to try to get him to say “Mama.” He was staring very intently at her lips as she repeated it over and over, exaggerating the two syllables. Soon he was copying her, and this five and a half month old Little Boy has hardly stopped saying it since. All morning I’ve been hearing “Maaaa Maaaa, Ma mAAAA, Maaama…” Of course, I know that he does not really understand what his saying Mama means, but it still melts my little heart!

Sometimes the reality of the fact that I am this baby’s Mama stares me in the face and completely overwhelms me. He looks at me with such baby-love and trust, believing that I will care for him, love him and guide him.

He doesn’t know my weaknesses or my fear of incompetance. He doesn’t know that his Mama is young and is sure that others are watching her wondering if she’ll be up to the task of raising him with his Daddy. He just knows that this is the person who loves him, feeds him, cares for him, holds him when he cries and blows the tears away.

I know the truth, though. I know that this is an unbelievable responsibility God has given us. He has entrusted to us His little person and expects us to be
good stewards with what He’s given us, not only in caring for him physically, but spiritually–leading him to Jesus. The enormity of it frightens me. It reminds me of how desperate I am for the strength of the Lord in this life long endeavor. In giving us this baby, God has given us the greatest means of drawing us closer to Himself. We see now, more than ever, how weak we are and how great God is. My baby… my blessing… It is all summed up when I hear his tiny little voice learning to mouth the word I’ve longed to hear.

“Mama.”

Just remembering… where we were in the beginning…

And where we are now…

And how much farther we have to go…

ETA: I think an apology is in order for the size all these pictures are coming up if you view entire entries on Bloglines… I didn’t realize that, and I’m guessing the problem is that in the Blogger to Bloglines transfer, the size selection from Blogger doesn’t mean anything to Bloglines. I’ll work on that in the future, peeps.