Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Ten Years Strong: Choose Well

Year 10: from the shores of the junction between the St. Lawrence and Lake Ontario, Kingston.  

I write from the Canadian Thousand Islands today, from a beautiful little cottage on Landons Bay near Gananoque.  My husband and I traveled here, just the two of us, to celebrate a beautiful little milestone--ten years of marriage--and like a decade of marriage, we've never done anything quite like this before.  My parents have our boys (thank you!), we don't have much to be responsible for this week, and we haven't felt this serene in...probably ever.  Even on our honeymoon, we were learning how to be actually together for the first time ever, so "serene" only described bits and pieces of our three-week road trip.  

We have had a good ten years, but you know what's interesting?  It is only in this past year that I feel like I'm beginning to understand how this thing--this life of marriage and parenting and loving Jesus by loving people--I'm only just beginning to understand how this thing works.  And in a lot of ways, prayer for example, I'm still taking baby steps.  

When I think of it this way, fifty or seventy-five years of life and learning alongside this man doesn't seem improbable or boring.  I'm beginning to understand that with Jesus and the good man He gave me, fifty or seventy-five years of life and learning really is a thrill, really is an adventure worth committing to, really is very beautiful.  

And do you know how it happened?  The gist of it is that I CHOSE WELL.  There is a long version to the story, one that involves a couple of decades of the Lord setting me up well.  But through those decades there were plenty of opportunities for me to choose poorly.  Sometimes I did, and the Holy Spirit allowed me to experience the consequences but was faithful to work all things together for my good, because I love God and have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).  But despite temptations of various kinds, when it came down to it, I chose the important things well.  I chose to give Christ charge over my life, and later I chose to say yes to an important question asked by a very, very good young man.  

This does not mean I am always "happy" about my circumstances.  There are plenty of opportunities for me to realize what a selfish old grump I am, and the Holy Spirit allows me to experience the consequences.  But as I continue toward Him, continue choosing the important things well, He is always faithful to work all things together for my good.  He is worth everything, and so is my husband, and so is my family.  

"Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
And it is well with me."

Our wedding day: July 4, 2007.

Year 1: We reenacted our first date, hiking up Giant Mountain in the Adirondack High Peaks.

Year 2: A windy, rainy boat cruise on Raquette Lake.

Year 3: We welcomed our first son two weeks beforehand, and our pictures didn't usually focus on the two of us.

Year 4: I was office manager at Beaver Camp, and finally got a picture of our family near the end of the summer during teen camp Coffee House.

Year 5: Office manager again, teen camp Coffee House again.  Two babies this time.

Year 6: 4th of July celebration with friends.

Year 7: A quick anniversary picture in the field while visiting my parents.

Year 8: Joining in the 4th of July Boat Parade on Pleasant Lake, visiting Andy's dad.  Pregnant with baby #3.

Year 9: We periodically shouted things like "Hey, that guy over there is awesome!" while hosting our California cousins.  We were in the thick of "doing life."

Thursday, March 16, 2017

It's Not You, It's Me

I so often have a hard time enjoying my children.  "Often" as in, pretty much daily.  

I love my children, and literally for as long as I can remember I have looked forward to being a mama.  I practiced on my little brother from the time I was five.  Then I was everybody's favorite and most reliable babysitter (if I do say so myself...).  Then I had "favorite little kids" that I would invest myself in as a young adult.  I've always loved children.  

So it is with a bewildered heart that I find myself, over and over again, feeling put out and put upon, annoyed, overwhelmed, distracted, frustrated, like my plans are being held up because of my children.  I have my own agenda, and over and over again, because of them, I feel foiled again!    

These are real feelings.  

Regularly, I see Facebook posts from friends who seem to just adore everything about being mamas, getting Warm Fuzzies all the time as they look at and interact with their children.  These girls all just seem to embody "mother" in all the best ways.  To lay their lives down for the sakes of their children is one of their greatest joys.  

And I'm over here like, "What is this?  Why don't my kids get it that they're supposed to be perfect already?  I want to love being their mama, but they're messing it up for me!"  

Remember, I love my children.  But these are ugly, real feelings.  

Talk about my own worst enemy.  

I am so, so selfish.  And I wrestle with my own selfishness all the time, because when I go ahead and get around to acknowledging it's there and a Big Problem, I still just want things my way.  I'm having an argument in my head between the proverbial angel and demon, all the while knowing the right thing to do, and just stubbornly sticking with the demon.  

I remember almost eight years ago, a pastor praying prophetically over Andy and me, assuring us both that these (yet unborn) kids of ours would follow the Lord all the days of their lives--but that it would NOT be easy--we could not just sit back and say "we got a word from the Lord (about this)"--it would be HARD WORK training our children in the paths of righteousness.  

It IS hard work.  But I have always thought of it as hard physical work, directed toward shaping my children.  

It didn't occur to me that the hardest work might be primarily spiritual, and primarily within myself.  

Sanctification is Hard Work.  But if I don't deal with myself more than anybody else, I'm not only a hypocrite who doesn't actually grasp unconditional love and grace--but my kids know it.  They are perceptive little buggers.  

"Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  Be wretched and mourn and weep.  Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you." James 4:8b-10

"Search me, O God, and know my heart!  Try me, and know my thoughts!  See if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!"  Psalm 139:23-24

"I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.  And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you.  And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh."  Ezekiel 36:25-26

Oh, and there's a happy paradox: it is through all the (genuine, heart-wrenching) wretchedness that Undivided Joy is born.  

I am (very, very slowly) learning.  Jesus, bring me from head knowledge to a heart of flesh.