When I was growing up, a friend of my parents was driving her daughter to the mall one day. She and her daughter were enjoying time together, laughing and talking about the kind of prom dress the daughter was looking for, when suddenly, a bicyclist […]
Any long-distance plane trip seems to have free seat-back entertainment anymore, but I prefer to spend long flights taking advantage of unadulterated reading time. Case in point, last week I finished two books, a rarity for me these days. One of the books, Coming Clean: […]
I’ve run a couple marathons. Done some triathlons. Sat silently next to friends whose spouses passed away way too early. I’ve been up all night night-after-night with sick kids, put beloved animals to sleep, stayed behind to sell houses when my husband’s job transferred him to other states, and sat in hospital waiting rooms while biding time for a doctor to share a diagnosis. I’ve tried to nurse a baby while suffering the stomach flu, been the first one on scene of an awful car crash, been woken by the noise of the roof blowing off overhead during a violent storm, and had disagreements with longstanding friends that seemed irreparable.
All hard things.
I bet you’ve experienced hard things yourself. Probably some much, much worse than these.
Some, like marathons or selling houses seem to have a built-in finish line that once you cross it, makes the hard things seem worth it.
Others, like sick babies, car crashes, job losses or friends that die unexpectedly seem to have little purpose other than fatigue, grief, confusion and doubt.
Regardless, life is full of hard things. In fact, there are hard things everywhere we look.
Don’t get me wrong – there’s an overwhelming abundance of the easy things in life too.
The problem is… we don’t recognize when something’s easy.
Running a marathon is a whole lot harder than walking your dog to the end of the street and back. So do you say to yourself at the end of the dog-walking excursion, “Self, that was easy. Thank you God for giving me something easy today”?
Probably not. I wouldn’t. I don’t. I’m human and me-centric most of the time. And as much as I try to find the good in everything, if I’m honest, I’m not actively looking for the good in everything. Per Oprah, I keep a gratitude journal and I try to find those all-important “3 good things” in each day, but there are easily another 2,784 good things in each day that I
fail to notice.
- The new soap makes my hands smell good every time I wash them.
- I’m caught up on my laundry.
- My dog happily eats the lettuce cores, so he’s getting veggies too.
- It’s winter; I don’t have to weed the garden.
- I’ve been able to read more lately.
- My church is pretty awesome.
- I don’t have to eat mushrooms or brusselsprouts now that I’m the grown-up.
- Likewise, I can make chocolate chip cookies anytime I darn well please.
- The cotton I picked in Georgia earlier this year looks lovely on my mantle.
- I’m making progress cleaning out my email inbox.
Yeah, so now I only have another 2,774 good things I didn’t make note of. Why?
Because I’m busy thinking about my “struggle” and complaining about how hard things are. (Sinner, sinner, chicken dinner.)
I sometimes think God talks to me by showing me metaphors in the everyday. For instance, we have a river fairly close to us, and I took the pictures that you see above. In the top picture I adjusted the aperture and shutter speed on the camera, so the water looks smooth and silky.
But the water doesn’t really look that way IRL. (I know that means “in real life” because I have millennials in my life.)
Instead, you can see the water moving or “breaking” as it hits each and every one of those rocks. Rocks are hard things, you know.
But the water finds its way. And it never really breaks, it just takes a different route.
When I was at the river, trying to “smooth” the water by playing with apertures, shutter speeds and such, I could see that it was a metaphor for what I try to do in my life. I want to be able to make my own path forward and downstream smooth and without impediment. But the reality is that life is full of obstructions. Like those rocks preventing the water from flowing in the path of least resistance, my life has changed course because of those very obstacles.
I don’t like deviations to my plans. If I’m honest about it though, some of the best things in my life have come from doing something I didn’t plan to do. I was planning on moving to Atlanta after college and I didn’t. I wouldn’t have met my husband if I had. Or had my three kids. When we moved from Florida, I started running. I never had running on my radar, in fact, I wanted to keep it out of my radar, but running changed a lot of things in my life for the better.
If I put my mind to it, I probably could find more positives that came out of all those deviations than negatives.
Because God works all things together for our good.
Simple as that.
Like the water meeting rock in the river, I changed course.
I change course. Every time.
So if it’s something’s hard, I’ll just rub up against that rock, smoothing out its hard edges. Maybe the next time I meet that challenge, it won’t be as difficult to get around.
God doesn’t make things difficult for us just because. Not because He wants us to have pain or grief or hardship. It’s because He wants good in our lives, and we won’t recognize the good until we’ve come up against immovable forces that cause us to veer in another direction.
Maybe the next time you meet your rocks, your challenges, your struggles, you’ll find that you have to change course too.
Look for the beauty and goodness around you. Just because a river is full of rocks doesn’t mean there’s no virtue in the terrain. Just because your life is littered with strife, weariness and ‘less than’ doesn’t negate the joy and laughter that are there too. Cling to the rock that is Jesus. Recognize that meeting that obstacle means meeting Him. Know that with Him, everything that’s happening is for His glory and your good.
Because He wants nothing more than the best for you.
Somewhere, buried in the foundational concrete in our home, is a shoebox size Rubbermaid container. And in that container is a Bible. And highlighted in the Bible are these verses:
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.” ~ Matthew 7:24 & 25
We built our house and we wanted to let our children know that everything we did, as parents, as humans, was meant to stand on the belief that from God, and God alone, came the structure of everything else. So we had a little ceremony, just the five of us, each of us humbly praying for our home and those in it to always stand on the rock that God is.
We’ve tried to live always standing firmly on that foundation of our faith; sometimes we accomplish it and other times we don’t. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it isn’t.
It’s a foundation.
I was reminded of that small, private ceremony the other day, when my daughter called out to me on Labor Day that the tree house was falling over.
As you can see in the photo above, it’s hanging precariously, wedged in by a few trees, and those trees are all that’s keeping it from crashing down. I’m literally just praying that it doesn’t cause one of the trees to snap and crash into the back of the house. One of the floor joist pieces had rotted, and that’s all it took for the entire thing to begin to list.
This tree house was a labor of love that took much, much longer than it should have. And much, much more money than it should have. What started out to be just a fun family project using up leftover scraps of wood, roofing, and siding that had been laying around the house for a few years, became an all-consuming task that ate up weekends and months and perhaps even years.
We finished it just about the time our kids were a little too old to want to go hang out in a tree house, sadly. They still played in it – a bit – but not with the fervor that they had anticipated when we started building it. Sometimes they went out to read Artemis Fowl books or just get away when they needed time to cool down from an argument with someone in the house, but it wasn’t used the way it was intended to be used.
And really, with our kids grown, we haven’t been particularly strict about maintaining it to the same degree we do our house house.
Which all got me to thinking about building one’s house on the rock.
There’s a reason foundations are made of durable, lasting material: a foundation is meant to hold everything else up.
Even with a strong foundation, things just can’t be forgotten and not maintained.
We need to do our part. We can put our hope and trust in our foundation, but we can’t just let things go by the wayside without keeping an eye that it remains intact. Floods and winds and rains do come, and even small amounts of sediment surrounding the foundation can seep away.
The last half of the verse from Matthew is this:
“And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” ~Matthew 7:26 & 27
I believe everything in life is God-breathed. Everything I see, say, do, hear, watch, read…. He’s showing me something. He’s teaching me something.
I think He’s just reminded me – in a very tangible way – that I need to stand firmly on the foundation that my God is, was, and will always be. I need to remain vigilant about it, not neglecting the understanding that even though He provides me with an underpinning and a beginning, I need to consistently reinforce within myself His sure and everlasting foundation…
Lately, I’ve been having some conversations with friends and family about, well… friends and family. If you’ve read my previous posts about my prodigal, you’ll understand that he weighs heavy on my heart. Despite giving the situation to God, it feels as if someone’s left […]
To my Beloved Child,
There are always two sides to every story. Two perspectives, if you will. Before you read anything else, know this:
I love you. I will always love you. Until the day I die, nothing will change that, and I do mean nothing. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. It’s something you may not understand now, but one day, you’ll get it. You may not be inclined to trust or believe me on much these days, but at some time in the future it’ll make sense.
Right now though, from your side, through the lens of your world, my love for you probably feels like this:
Disappointment. You think that because you’ve made choices I strongly disagree with, you’re the disappointment, not your actions and behaviors. Nope, sorry again. I’ve never been sorry that you were born. Or that you are my child. (Okay, maybe that one time when you were 5 weeks old and I hadn’t slept all 5 weeks, I might have fleetingly wished those 9 months lasted 11 instead.) YOU are not the disappointment. Seriously though, I am upset that the values we tried to impart to you have meant so little in your life lately. It saddens us that everything we tried to teach you, you’ve pretty much thrown out the window. Putting Christ first, the importance of family… It’s baffling that the child who saw so much of the world in black and white has let culture define a world where there’s only grey. No good or evil, just… “do what makes you happy.” Not, “do what’s right.” This brings me to….
Sadness. We raised you to believe that actions have consequences, and unfortunately, some of the choices you’ve made will have repercussions. It’s one of the hardest parts of being a parent – if not the worst part – letting those consequences happen. I’m just sad that you’ll have to feel the pain of those ramifications. If I seem to look at you with sadness, that’s why. I know those choices will cause you heartache at some point. It hurts me when you hurt and I can’t fix it like I did when you were 3. The society we live in tells you that things will be fine if “you do you,” but honestly? It doesn’t work that way in the real world. People are people and not everyone can be happy all the time. Sometimes one person’s happiness means someone else’s sorrow. Not always, but… enough. Regrettably, because not every joy can be shared by all, you might feel…
Condemnation. Because children always look to their parents for approval, when I disapprove, you feel condemnation. You sometimes feel guilt even when you believe you’ve done nothing wrong. (That’s a God-thing by the way, you just don’t recognize it yet.) It’s also a variation on the classic “My mom only had look at me and I felt her wrath” thing. You probably hear it in my voice when you tell me something you know will bother me. You see it in my eyes. Read between the lines of my emails and texts. You want praise and instead you feel judgment. I’ve always been a “heart on my sleeve” kind of person, so it’s been hard for me to hide the sadness and disappointment. Together, those feel like one giant ball of condemnation to you, though, don’t they? Guilt is a very powerful emotion, and much of the time, we feel it because we know we’ve made mistakes.
So what do you do?
Keep us all at a distance. Like the toddler who’s caught with chocolate all over his mouth and a cookie in his hand, yet insists he didn’t get into the cookie jar, you think that if you don’t have conversations, won’t come home, or don’t want us visiting you, you won’t feel our apparent judgment. You’re probably playing up the “what if’s” in your head more being absent from us than if you let us into your life. All those nights as a teenager when you were late coming home, the “what if’s” were always worse in my head than reality. What if you crashed your car? What if you had a flat tire? What if you met someone who sucked you into doing harmful things? Those never literally came to fruition, so my guess is, you think the worst of us and it’s easy to make us the bad guys instead of recognizing that you are sinning. Yes, I’m going to say it: sinning. But you know what you’d learn if you were around us? That we own up to being sinners ourselves. We’re not any better than you, and we’re not any worse. Our sins may be different, but a sin is a sin, and a sinner is a sinner. The only real difference is that we know and try to take responsibility for our sins. We know that there’s only one hope for our sinful nature – Jesus Christ, who died so that your sin – and mine – would be erased. You don’t want to have that conversation because you’ve turned your back on Him. And once you’ve turned your back on Him, it’s oh, so much easier to turn your back on everyone that loves Him – and you – as well. When you don’t have conversations with us, it’s easy to…
Judge and condemn us. I may not have been the best mother, your father, the best father. I know I didn’t have all the answers. My mistakes were more numerous than the stars. And you probably don’t want to hear that I “did the best I could.” But everything I did as a parent, I did only with hope and love for your best. Yes, you might have done __________ differently, or you don’t like the way I __________.
I get it.
I was a child myself before I was a parent. I’ve likely shared some of the same frustrations as you about my own parents at one time or another.
I remember once when you were 14 or so, and your younger brother was doing something that you felt was dumb. Just… dumb. Something like watching a certain cartoon series, or thinking that Captain Underpants was the coolest, and you couldn’t understand why he thought whatever it was was so great. I remarked to you that only a few short years ago, you’d felt equally about that very. same. thing. “But,” you replied, “I know so much more now than I knew then.”
I probably wouldn’t make all the same choices today knowing what I know now. How they would have affected us. Affected you, and your brother and sister. Many I might still make. But I didn’t have the information available then that I have now. So holding my feet to the fire because I made decisions based on what limited information I had then that perhaps hurt or caused unhappiness to you is pointless. I hope you can understand this point, because someday, you’re going to look back at these choices you’re making now, and realize that you didn’t have all the best knowledge then either to make the most informed choices for the rest of your life.
But hey – the good news is, God will use it anyway.
“So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11
Right now though, these are all just words to you. One day though, you’ll understand.
Until then, I’ll keep waiting, watching, hoping and praying.
I love you.
I normally shy away from bringing up issues that have the potential to cause dissent. Things that might be deemed politically correct, or “too” religious, or accepted by the wider culture we live in. Except, the other day I was out running errands, and while waiting […]