THE NEW STRONG

img_1040I’ve been thinking about the future. It’s that time of year. Looking ahead.

This year I’m especially thinking about My future…what I should do with the Time.

Since I am no longer the sole educator of my children, I’m wondering what might be next. Maybe nothing… but maybe Something. Who knows.

I was talking to my daughter about an Idea. Playing with a vision. Processing. You know….

What do you think? Can you see it?

She’s quiet.

Do you think I could do it?

She tilts her head. I think you’d be good at it…while you’re weak. But if you ever get strong, you’d be awful. You don’t do Arrogant well.

Well, that’s why God gives us daughters. They’re the only ones who can say such things and get away with it.

Probably right.

But I can’t stay sad forever,  I tell her.

She smiles. Sadness is your strength. You’re at your best when you weak. Unsure of yourself. You give the best advice when you’re There.

Well, that explains a lot.

Like this past Christmas Day.

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THE SEASON OF HOPE – LESS

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I heard on the radio that the first week of Advent is about “Hope.” But Hope deferred makes the heart sick, so maybe Advent is really about Heart Sickness.

Every year we sit around our dinner table and light the candles and sing that perennial Advent song.

O, come, o come, Emmanuel, and ransom Captive Israel,

That mourns in lowly exile here, Until the Son of God appears….

Kind of mournful. Makes me quiet.

And we open our Advent book that starts in the Garden. And quickly leaves the Garden in pieces.

That pretty much sums it up. That’s where we live. Outside the Garden. Outside the way things were supposed to be.

This year our Advent began in darkness. As it usually does. Kids bickering. Parents struggling. Stress building. Hopes flagging.

Outside the Garden.

But lucky for me, Christmas came early this year. Back in September God gave me a precious Gift. A Word. Best kind of Gift.

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RETHINKING WHO I AM

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Identity. Whoever we think we are shapes our view of the world. It is a point of view. Point of viewing everything else. It is a controlling factor in how we make choices, what we grasp for, what we hold tightly to. It directs us. Blinds us. Makes us… or defeats us. So I need to think carefully about who I am.

I am not a homeschool mom.

Feels strange to write that.

I have homeschooled my kids for 18 years.

And I have loved homeschooling. When people asked how it was going, I would light up and say, “I’m learning so much! Oh, and my kids are doing great too….”

I used to read curriculum magazines for fun. And I made the most wonderful, lasting friendships in that community.

But lately, homeschooling wasn’t working as well for my family, and it was beginning to threaten my way of life.

It happened gradually. I just didn’t think my children were thriving. They were passing…but not becoming.

And so the “S” word became a topic of conversation. And prayer.

For several years in a row I prayed about School. My husband prayed. My mother prayed. My mother-in-law prayed. It just became a part of the fabric of my prayer life. “Lord, if school is the best thing for my kids….”

But it always stopped there. Once we visited a local Christian school. But that was it.

And so I began my school year last fall with this prayer: “Lord, I’m homeschooling again this year. (Surprise.) But Lord, if you know that school is really the right change for my children, please give me overwhelming wisdom.” That was my prayer. Overwhelming wisdom. I reasoned with God that a little wisdom wouldn’t get me there. My inner gravitational pull was toward homeschooling. I loved it. And I knew it. Only overwhelming wisdom could compel me to take a different direction.

That school year was a testimony to Overwhelming Wisdom.

It came in many ways, but this one was key.

It was One of Those Days. Kids were bickering. Lessons were limping. Even a belligerent No came from my children on that morning.

This isn’t working, fear gripped my heart.

I looked directly into the angry face of one of my children and thought, You are ruining my vision for my life.

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THE CURE FOR ENVY

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There are just so many things I want. They are not bad things. In fact it’s all pretty normal stuff. But I look around and it seems like everyone else has them.

And that hurts.

I look around, and I think…

I want your house. It’s in the perfect location. Always clean. No chipped paint. So up to date and well-decorated.

I want your job. Your significance. My life of mundane tasks feels so infinitely unimportant.

I want your family. It seems so put together and cohesive. Mine is complicated and a lot of work.

And -I want your community. I have many life-long friends, but they are spread out on different continents and in different cities and in different circles. I’m feeling alone. For once, I want a crowd.

So here I am, filled with all these empty thoughts, and it’s beginning to feel a bit like Envy. Like, you don’t deserve all those things. And you think you’ve earned them. And, I’m not going to help you get even more.

“Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.” (James 3:16)

I’ll say.

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ON EXHAUSTION

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I let my kids watch an extra hour of television yesterday. Hate that. I’m just so tired.

It’s the end of the semester, and it’s been another busy one. Weddings, special events, and my daughter graduating from college. I knew I was burning the candle at both ends…and here I am again with a terrible head cold and I’ve lost my voice.

My husband came into the kitchen last night, just as I was wiping the counter clean with my last bit of energy. The dishwasher was started and the coffeemaker ready to go for the morning. He was all cheerful after a successful business call and was opening the freezer to reach for the ice cream.

“Oh no you don’t. The kitchen is closed for the night,” I whisper hoarsely. (I’m so grumpy when I’m sick and tired.)

My husband looks shocked. “Come on, Priscilla. I was looking forward to it.”

“Nope. Look at the time. I just finished cleaning.” I actually don’t think I can face one more, dirty spoon.

“Oh, please!” he pleads in disbelief, with one hand on the freezer handle hoping for a change of heart to cross my countenance.

“Nope,” I stand fast.

Big sigh.

My youngest daughter who is drawing at the island looks up at her dad and advises quietly, “You have to just keep begging and begging and begging, and eventually she’ll give in,” she smiles.

Hence the extra television that day.

Things you learn when your mom is worn out.

There are just so many things I don’t do well when I’m really tired. Like parenting. Or friending. Or basic housework. Or prayer.

That last one got me thinking. Why is it that I feel so little spiritually when I am like this? I don’t feel drawn to God’s Word. I don’t send any faith with my prayers. I don’t sense God’s presence with me. I don’t even feel upset about world poverty. Just nothing.

Then of course I feel guilty. Just a little. I mean, maybe I’m just a fair weather friend to God. And then I start wondering (oh, no!) maybe He is just a fair weather friend to me. When I’m in my spiritual “A” game, he’s my champion. But when the worst of me comes out, what then?

I guess it’s an age-old question. Is God only for us when we are really for Him?

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A THEOLOGY OF RAIN

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I went to two weddings in the last few weeks. Both were family weddings. Both were Christian weddings. Both were outdoor weddings.

The second wedding was all sunshine. But the first wedding rained.

A couple weeks before each wedding, I started to pray for good weather. I watched the weather app on my smartphone. The locations were saved so I could access them easily.

When we arrived at the first wedding, the clouds looked a little ominous. I opened my app to consult the radar. Then there was a sort of misty wetness. Good thing I brought my coat. Then a light rain. And my umbrella. By the time the wedding was over, it was a steady rain.

Believe it or not, it was a barefoot wedding. I kept my shoes on.

As we sat there waiting for the wedding to start, I wondered, how’s the pastor going to handle this one? He was a youngish, optimistic looking guy. But he was a piece of work, in the best sort of way.

He began by welcoming us all with only a passing mention of the weather. Later, he was forced to acknowledge the situation, but he was undaunted. I don’t know if he googled them, but he had a lot of ready Bible verses about the blessing of rain.

At one point, my husband whispered there might be lightning, but it turned out to be only the flash photography.

And I wondered, why. Everyone was praying for a sunny day. At least a dry day. This sweet, Christian couple with all their hopes and plans…. Why rain, Lord?

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LIVING LIFE BACKWARDS

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I think God kind of lives life backwards. He has a calendar and one date marked: The Revelation of Jesus Christ. We don’t know when that is, but He is viewing everything from that point in time.

Getting ready to attend the Gospel Coalition’s Women’s Conference (TGCW16) in June, I’m studying the first letter of Peter. And there it is. The whole book is just littered with references to this great cosmic event to come.

It is on God’s mind. And he tells us it should be on ours too….

Which reminds me of my dear daughter Grace when she was a child. She also has to live life backwards. Especially when it comes to stories.

I recall one afternoon sitting on our family couch with my two girls snuggled up to me for a good read aloud book, The Courage of Sarah Noble. A fabulous little story of a girl and her father crossing New England in the early Colonial days in search of a new home for their family. It’s a journey that has its dangers. Wild animals. People of all sorts who mean harm. That sort of thing.

And just as this little girl and her father are about to set off, her mother takes Sarah’s face in her hands and says, “Keep up your courage, Sarah Noble.”

End of chapter one. And I tell my sweet girls that we’ll read more tomorrow.

But Grace says, “Can I see the book?”

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