This afternoon I saw my oldest daughter off on a trip to the Czech Republic..many miles away! From the time this child was 3 she was very aware of her Savior, even before her father or I were. She was mesmerized by Sunday school and Christian music. She would ask every Sunday for me to take her to church and eventually was the driving force for her dad to join us. In those churches is where we heard the gospel message and truly gave our lives to the Lord. In Kindergarten, the teachers had nicknamed her little Mother Theresa because she was so compassionate. I remember one day when she was 5 we lived in New Hampshire and she informed me that she wanted to go to the end of the drive way and spread out her arms and sing one of her favorite Christian songs so everyone would know God. In my infancy of being a Christian, I remember being slightly mortified at the thought of our neighbors thinking we were culty or weird.... Many times we would have the talk before we left somewhere, sometimes people don't want to talk about Jesus so lets not talk about religion when we are there OK? and she would look at me with these big eyes and look utterly confused by my double standards. Luckily she was spiritually more mature than me and my misguided attempts never squelched this girl's love for the Lord. Now 13 years later she is going very far away to share who God has made her and I couldn't be more proud. It has not been easy for her to get to that point, she has struggled with anxiety her whole life and a trip with a friend that far away would have seemed impossible a few years ago, but she has grown so much.
As I watched her and her sweet friend load up their suitcases full of their lives to go and share with others, it made me think about our heavenly father and how he must feel similar as he watches his creation go and take on the world. Its hard to let them be who they are meant to be when you know the world is full of things designed to discourage, hurt or disappoint them. That instinct is to protect but you also know they cannot fulfill their purpose unless you let go. They have to choose it for themselves if it is to become precious to them. Something so loving cannot be forced, it must always be chosen. Those times I have wondered, why did God let me wind up in this place, or when I look at my past and wish I had chosen differently I can now see God was walking alongside the entire time and allowing those moments so that I could fully choose, so I could become what he designed. Just like watching my beautiful daughter and her beautiful friend step out and choose what they love and choose to share it.
She was God's long before she was mine and someday someone lucky will have her as his too. A true gift she is to me!! I can just imagine how God must feel for each us, he is our gift and if we chose we are his!
Are we being honest? I mean really honest? I was thinking today about churches....I have attended many different types but one thing in all has remained the same....who are we fooling? We are a bunch of broken people coming together a perfect God. God is really clear in the Bible none of us are good, not one. Yet put us imperfect people together and we end up standing there trying our best to look the perfect part. Attend church services or functions or prayer groups or Bible studies and you will quickly understand the idea of the awkward silence.... Usually when someone is asked to share prayer requests or praises or asked to come forward to pray with pastors or elders. Its funny because today I was thinking about all those moments and thought who are we fooling, anyone who truly can walk through a week and say they can't think of any problem or issue in life that they need prayer in should most definitely have a praise to report! Yet we are silent and awkward and that familiar junior high sweaty feeling starts creeping up the neck...we are afraid to be seen as what we are, imperfect. We are fearful that it will sound too dramatic to ask for prayer in this, or weak to need help with that. Yet if that is true if that many of us do not need prayer and we don't feel comfortable praying for others, what is the draw to corporate worship, why not leave it at home in the private corners. I am learning its because deep down we are seeking it, we want to be around those with the courage to speak up and be real and honest. All you have to do in group of people is break the ice about something that is real and suddenly everyone is piping in almost in relief and in unison. You feel this human connection with someone that you used to hold in this holier than thou place in your mind. Suddenly people are starting to be honest. Yes, this is my once a week make up...and in an hour I am going to go put on my real clothes....Yes, my favorite hobby is watching TV at night.....Yes my child is making me crazy and no I don't think I will miss this stage..... My point is we have too many programs and too many things going on without people feeling comfortable being real. Its why we secretly love that tv show or blog or whatever gives us that breath of ohhh good its not just me..... I am totally part of this culture so I understand the uncomfortableness but I am also starting to see how it has a negative impact on sharing our faith. People who need to see us living real life with real problems and real community to lean on are instead seeing a lot of people who seem to have it all under control and are not interested. So I am challenging myself to be more real and honest....as I can hear my children shudder....they already think I am way to honest at home :)
What's most important, it seems that people have a lot of opinions in the world, but really it comes back to the same thing....relationship. I have watched this played out many times over. From the perspective of a younger sibling, friend, girlfriend, wife, mother of birth and adopted children it always comes back to relationship. Yet it is the one thing that we always tend to put last. All the tragedy if Florida from shootings to alligators really amplifies this in my head. Its tragic to us as a nation, but it is truly life changing for those who shared relationships with all the victims. Yet from an early age we talk about the importance of "what do you want to be when you grow up" with our kids instead of "who do you hope to be?" I have seen the devastation of a young child that doesn't have positive or consistent relationship as a baby, I have seen the tears of the child who really doesn't seem to fit in or feels like they are always wrong. They are healthy, smart, fed, growing people and yet their emotions are not satisfied until they belong relationally. I have seen my own mother at the end of her life relive all the memories she lived with her family and she wanted us all around her. I have watched my children leave everything they are accustomed too and travel across the world with strangers in hope of a place to belong. We all want to be wanted. We don't want to be something that is fit in when there is time. Children seek out relational bonds with parents and siblings, older children and teens seek out relationship with peers and older teens seek out the dating relationship. Yet again we tend to drive our children to believe that education and extracurriculars are the number one thing to focus on because that will get you a better job, more money and happiness?? I have seen kids who are busy from morning to night stressing themselves out. feeling like they haven't or can't do enough. Where does this end up? People married to their career with a family on the side? When we think back to our happiest memories rarely are they tied to moments at work (unless we work with amazing friends!) or even moments at school. So what have I learned....we have it wrong...we need to teach our children and make it a priority ourselves to love each other deeply to regularly remind those most important in our lives that they are our priority, we need to put relationship first even if it means putting work or other pursuits aside. Many things are noble things to do, but sometimes we have to ask at what cost....I can imagine all those people that lost love ones would not hesitate to do anything to bring back their loved ones and spend more time with them....so if we are here with the people we are supposed to be loving and given another day with them, why aren't we??
We are relational beings, God was very clear....money, career, sports...none of that lasts.....but those we love will be impacted forever. If I can pass one thing on to my children I hope it is that they take the time to truly love the people God has put in their lives. Accept them as they are but most important make those people your priority....make them feel like they are wanted.
I like to use this blog sometimes to sort out my thoughts. Today I was thinking about the past and the present and I thought how things have changed. Life year after year becomes more about the end results than the process of living. I am not speaking personally but socially. Life has always had humanity working for its needs like food, shelter, comforts... however an ever speeding up trend has brought about a loss of joy in our society. Today we are so concerned with the end result...the kids must begin academics as soon as possible, to get ahead to get into the "best" schools to get into the "best" jobs to get into the bigger houses and nicer places.....but I wonder do they? I mean is that really going to guarantee happiness and joy in my children's lives.. What do we sacrifice when we make an idol of materialism? Ultimately that is what it amounts to. Is it somehow a failure if the child has a love for nature and is full of joy living a simpler life? What if farming is their passion, or they find homemaking as their jot? Have we failed? Are we even allowing our children to discover their own passions and paths or are we so focused on the "best" we push them along blindly. So many kids today don't have free time, time to explore on their own to be bored. Have we accidentally made childhood too much like the adult world. Competitive sports for kids? Think about it....playing is how children learn, through play, pretend....now we have taken play and made it about the end...how good at that particular thing you are doing. Sit at a 10 year olds soccer game one Saturday morning and listen to the comments and you will quickly see its not about kids having fun and getting exercise...its about winning and being the "best". Learning takes time and each child is different in how they learn and process....but we have made it about the end...how well they do on tests, how early they start reading, we even give awards to kids who never missed a school day...which is actually an award in having a great immune system! Even our entertainment is being the "best" American Idol, the Voice, Dancing with the Stars, Survivor, Amazing Race...... Our culture has no place for those who are not the best. Wasn't that Satan's fall, wanting to be the best....wasn't that Eden's fall wanting to be equal in knowledge to God (being the best). We were never called to be the best...in fact we were called to give up our lives for the sake of the Gospel. Where does this leave a Christian....how can we be the "best" and yet think of others as better than ourselves, how can we live a life of service to others. Its almost taken a weird turn within our religious circles....look around we must be the best preacher, singer, church and when people don't deem it as the best they look elsewhere. How can we be led by the Spirit if we are driven by the world's standards as what is best. Jesus was very clear in Luke we are told...
AsJesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things,but few things are needed—or indeed only one.Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Can you imagine what this would look like today.....
As Jesus drove into the subdivision he went to the home where Martha and Mary lived. Mary spend the day enjoying the company of Jesus and talking with him. Martha was so distracted, she couldn't believe he just showed up on a Saturday, didn't he know that she had soccer in the morning a championship game, then grocery shopping, now she had company so she had to clean up the house, get to the laundry and then get the kids to piano lessons they have a recital in a few weeks, get a yoga class in there or she would never get that 20 year old body back. She just needed a few minutes to put on that makeup and she would ask him if he could come back tomorrow after she worked the nursery at church and stayed for a service, she couldn't miss it, it was about how to simplify her life. Then she had book club which she needed to attend because she didn't spend all that time reading to miss a discussion. Ooh but her if son won his game today he would have the next game on Sunday....and then they had ice skating classes....
I am not shaming busy people, with 8 kids I am busy too....my thought is that we have made ourselves "worried and upset about many things" things that began as fun or service. Maybe if we didn't need the biggest houses we wouldn't need to clean to often, or maybe if we didn't feel the need to look "the best" we wouldn't constantly be trying to turn back the hands of time. Jesus told us the best was knowing Him and spending time with Him. I for one am convicted that I do not stress this all the time in my own life or in my kids lives. I spend too much time worrying about math skills or reading levels. Worrying about what kinds of jobs they will find or how well they will score on their SATs. We have lost focus....we are a bunch of Marthas looking down on the Marys. You will often find that those with less have more joy...all these distractions we have worked so hard to attain have actually become our burden. I need to refocus my life on what is truly best....Jesus.