Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Children and the Love of God

As I've gotten older I've realized that every season of life affords us a new opportunity to better understand the character of God. Through every season we are given a greater glimpse of who he is and what he has done for us in Christ. When I was single I sensed his goodness as my all sufficient provider of all of my needs. When I got married I saw the depth of his sacrifice for me as my husband served and cared for me. Now that I have children I have been blown away by how much he loves those who are his own. Perhaps that is why Jesus says this about the good gifts God gives his children:

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:7-11).

For me, having children has been the application of understanding the love of God. There is nothing my children can do that will make me not give them good things. There is no amount of sin that would cause me to stop loving them. The intensity of love that I feel for them has no end. As parents, we give gifts to our children on their birthdays and Christmas regardless of their behavior. We love endlessly. Their behavior doesn't change how we love them and care for them. And for them, that is such a comfort. Mommy and Daddy do everything for their good. Whether that be discipline, teaching, showering with kisses, or training them to sleep at night. Everything is for their good and because of our love for them.

Perhaps one of the reasons God commanded Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply was not just to perpetuate the race but to understand the intensity of his love. As I've grown into my role as a mom this first year I have also grown in my understanding of God's great love for me. And it floors me. Because of Christ's work on the cross, I am his child. Nothing can change that. Nothing can make him stop loving me. Nothing can make him stop working for my good. While it doesn't mean that I won't ever face trials or need correction and discipline, it does assure me that it is never in vain. God is always giving me good things because of his great love for me--even if it doesn't always feel good in the moment.

In every season I am learning more about the God who made me. And I think that is how God intended it. With every passing year he is revealing himself more to me, until that final day when my faith will be sight. Until then (and from that moment on), I will never exhaust the depth of his goodness and his character.

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Truth About Tomorrow (And the Next Day)

I have always struggled with anxiety and worry. The bulk of it is rooted in my sin and distrust of God. But some of it is due to my imagination.  I spend my time imagining scenarios and events, rather than focusing on the here and now which holds plenty of other things to be worried about. If I have a big trip coming up I imagine all that could go wrong. If Daniel has a busy week at work I imagine that the boys will come down with some illness and I will be left to myself to deal with it. My problem so often is that I don't live in the moment. I live in the future. And sometimes the future just looks a little scary.

Last week, Daniel had the flu. It was awful. I have honestly never seen him so sick. He's the type who typically tries to push through illness and keep working. There was none of that going on. He was completely bedridden for three days. I'm not usually too worried about him when he's sick because he just doesn't get that sick, but I honestly was concerned for him. While it was a long week taking care of him and the boys, something else was hanging over my head--he had a long work trip coming up at the end of the week. Taking care of him and the boys for a few days is one thing. It's a whole other ball game when I've got to do it alone for six days after that.

I woke up Friday morning feeling extremely anxious. Even though I had gone to bed fine, the hours were quickly passing and there was nothing I could do about the impending trip and my impending solitude for a week. I knew I was going into the weekend exhausted and that was not what I had imagined for my weekend at all. As I stumbled downstairs to start the morning coffee I prayed in desperation "Lord, I am so anxious about this week and weekend. Please give me the grace to endure. Please help me to take it one day at a time."

And then I sat down and read this:

"Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." -Matthew 6:34

Whoa. God's word is living and active, isn't it? If ever I needed proof that he still speaks, in that moment that was it. I love when the very thing I am praying about is revealed to me in scripture.

God knew I needed to be exhorted to put off anxiety and rest in his good provision for the day. Today holds enough things to be anxious about, if I spend my energy worrying about tomorrow I will miss the fresh grace God has for me today.

Notice that Jesus doesn't say that there is nothing to be anxious about. Fighting anxiety is not an exercise of willing good things to happen or pretending like there are not legitimate things in our life that could make anxiety rise up. There are. The end of the verse tells us that each day has enough troubles of its own. We live in a fallen world. We will have days that are worry inducing. But the hope for us is that the same grace God provides for today's troubles he will supply tomorrow as well. This is how we fight anxiety, with faith in the God who has sustained us in the past and will do so in the future.

Learning to take things one day at a time is a constant battle and prayer for me. I like to take things weeks at a time. And that is where the worry sets in. I have found that for me there is peace and rest in just getting through a day--asking God for grace at the beginning and thanking him for the sustaining grace at the end. Each day has plenty of trouble of its own. But loads of grace to make up for it.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

God's Faithfulness in the Book of Numbers

Have you ever read the book of Numbers? It's not exactly light reading. In fact, it's full of genealogies, lists of tribes and families, and stories about duties, warriors, and God's people getting ready to enter the promised land.

To us, it can seem a little out of date. We don't pay much attention to tribes in 21st century America. We only have a census every few years, and even then it doesn't seem to have a bearing on how we live. We tend to focus only on our immediate family, not the long line of ancestors that have gone before us, or the many extended family that we have.

But Numbers is not a throw away book. God had good purposes in mind when he placed Numbers in the Bible. If all of Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for our life (2 Tim. 3:16-17), then Numbers is for us, too. Numbers is God's word to us. So I encourage you to consider it with me. Crack open the pages of your Old Testament and you will find Numbers four books in, after Leviticus (that's a good one to read, too).

So what does that have to do with us?

A lot, actually.

Why is it so important that the Israelites count their members? It all goes back to a promise God made to Abraham.
And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6 And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness (Gen. 15:5-6).
God promised Abraham (childless, old, and one half of an infertile couple) that he would multiply his offspring until they were too numerous to count, like the stars in the night sky. When God is numbering his people it is not some arbitrary exercise to boost their self esteem in the wilderness. It is designed to stir their hearts to trust him more. The God who promised great things to Abraham is doing this very thing in the most unlikely place--in the middle of the lonely, dangerous, and destitute wilderness.

And this has tremendous implications for us. The same God who preserved and multiplied his people is keeping his promises to us in every circumstance.

The word of God is powerful. Every last letter of it. Numbers, like every other God-breathed book of the Bible, is teaching us that God always keeps his promises. He is always working in the lives of his people. And he is sustaining and building us up even in the most weary wilderness.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A New Year of Projects

I waited a little bit to announce this because I wanted to get my bearings about it all before I started spreading the news. We had a whirlwind of a Fall and holiday season, so the excitement about what our future holds just got swept up in the excitement of buying a house, moving, and traveling for Christmas. But here we are. It is January and the reality is starting to set in that this is really happening.

So what is it?

I am writing a book!

In June of last year (2013) I was contacted, much to my surprise, by a literary agent. At the time I was in the thick of little babies and sleepless nights, so while I shared my ideas for a book project with him, I didn't think much of it. In August, he contacted me again and said that his team would like to work with me to get this book published. To make a long, drawn out story short, in November I signed with Crossway. And so began this crazy journey.

The truth is, this book has been on my heart for a long time. It all began with an article I wrote six and a half years ago on recovering from feminism. Over these years, the Lord has brought people along my path who have encouraged me to turn the idea of the article into a book. So little by little I plugged along at a proposal, always thinking that this was a very distant future project, not a right now one. God had other plans and we couldn't be more excited. I say "we" because this is definitely a family project. Daniel has been so very supportive and encouraging of my writing and we are looking forward to seeing what God does through this little endeavor.

So call me crazy, but that is what our 2014 holds. The manuscript is due June 1, so I better get to writing! My prayer for this book is that God would use it to encourage many women to see that God's plan for womanhood is for them, regardless of their station, season, or position in life. He had a good purpose when he created us as female. And I am looking forward to discovering the beauty of his design with those who read.

And if you think about it, you can pray for me. I have a lot of work to do!

Monday, January 6, 2014

A Fresh New Year

January is always so bittersweet for me. On the one hand, I am sad Christmas is over. Usually we have just come back from visiting my family in Florida (like we just did) and it is back to reality all too quickly. But on the other hand, I love the newness of a new year. I like looking forward and planning ahead. I like anticipating what the year could bring. And who doesn't like a fresh start?

January, with all it's dreariness, does bring with it a sense of new beginnings. It reminds us that we are getting a second chance at this whole life thing. As Christians, that is an encouraging reminder. God is in the business of second chances and giving us grace to try again. He doesn't leave us to ourselves, but instead provides us with a way forward through Christ.

I look forward to the new year not because I have it all together. I don't even come close. Instead, I look forward to the new year because I have seen God work in the previous year and I am anxious to see him work again. As we reflected on all that God did this year in our own family, we were filled with wonder and excitement about what he would continue to do. For us, it was hard to top this past year. We started the year anxiously awaiting the arrival of our twin boys and ended the year with two happy ten month olds. We started the year in a two bedroom apartment and ended in our first house. It definitely was a year to be remembered!

But as we prepare for 2014, we are reminded that not every new year started with such great memories of years gone by. Some of them started with much sadness and longing for God to act. Every year we have had together has been from his gracious hand. And we thank him for all of it. The sweetness of 2013 was only made sweeter by the bitterness of 2010, 2011, and half of 2012. We knew what it meant to be longing, and we knew what it meant to be filled.

For me, this is what the new year brings. Fresh hope. Hope that God will continue to complete the good work be began in my husband and me. Hope that by his grace I will be more like him next year than this year. Hope that my children will continue to grow and thrive. Hope that he will daily give me the grace to love them and raise them, as he so faithfully has done every day this past year.

As I look into 2014 I have no idea what the year will bring. But I do know this. God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. In 2013 and 2014, too.