Thou Shalt not Covet

The look in her eyes was devious. She bent low towards her friend, formed her hand into a fist and seethed, “You’d better give me that purple cat or else…”

Yes. Apparently this is how my daughter reacts when coveting. She wanted to borrow her little friend’s toy and when she was told she couldn’t, she turned into a little green monster. After warning her through clenched teeth that she’d better not threaten anyone ever again and forcing an apology from an ungrateful heart, we trudged to the van and drove home.

“Rae, do you know what coveting is?” I asked, glancing back in the rear-view mirror.
“No,” she replied, arms crossed,, face fuming, heart unsatisfied.
“It’s when we want something that someone else has. Like when you wanted that toy your friend had—that’s called coveting. And the Bible tells us we should not covet, but instead we should be thankful.”
“But I really, really wanted it, Mom!” she broke down (and I’m amazed that a child sees sin so quickly.)
“I know. But you have been given so many wonderful things, and by wanting something you don’t have, you’re not honoring God. Why don’t you pray now and ask God to forgive you and then let’s name some things we’re thankful for, okay?”
“Dear God,” she whispered out the window from the back seat, “Please forgive me for coveting. And thank you for my family and thank you that I’m not an orphan. And thank you, Father, for apple trees and that we get to eat apples from them….”

Thou shalt not covet.

Our family’s been on a “Little House on the Prairie” kick lately. In the episode we watched just days after the coveting incident, little Laura thinks she has stumbled upon a river flowing with gold, and dreaming of all the things she could buy, she asks her father, “Pa, if you had all the money in the world, what would you buy?”
Pa, lighting his pipe, laughs and says, “Half-Pint, I don’t even think I can think of anything! All I could ever want is right here in this room.”

That slammed me in the gut. Because, let me tell you, if Laura had asked me that question, I could think of probably 100 things right off the bat that I’d be on my way to purchasing had I found a river of gold….(a charming little house in the wide, open country, a new van that starts every time, a new wardrobe, complete with shoes and jewelry, dance lessons for my girls, piano lessons for myself, a weekly massage…need I go on or have you seen the depths of my depravity?)

Sometimes I fear my list of wants is greater than my list of thanks. So here I am, teaching my child not to covet, when I myself am guilty of the exact same thing. Perhaps I hide my sin better in that I don’t directly threaten God (“You’d better give that to me, or else”) but it’s the same sin. Every time I notice things I’d like to change in my house, or check off things I’d like to buy, or gripe about what’s not working now, I’m essentially saying, “What you’ve given me is not enough.”

Please forgive me, Father. Help me to be thankful for the here and now and for all the blessings you give each day. Help me add to my list of thanks and subtract from my list of wants. Thank you for my family and my friends and my church and my home…and for apple trees.

Home is…

…hot coffee, cupped with both hands as steam wets cheeks

…bread baking, filling cold kitchen with yeasty warm breath

…windows shuddering, as wind beats brick and I feel safe

…dancing girls in princess clothes, tottering heels and wild hair flying

…squeaky stair and worn-in chair

…husband’s hands, rough and warm, familiar and firm

…sauce-splattered stove and dinner-doused plates

…muddy shoes, swollen and neglected on back porch steps

What is home to you? Leave a comment!

Expecting a teenager (Part II)

All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator in all I have not seen.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

I want to wash my hands of it.

The what-if’s and worries reel and whirl in my head and settle in my stomach and I think I just don’t want to do this. The unknowns, the fears, the possibilities and probable failures wrestle me till I’m weary and worn out.  Oh, how I want more faith! How I want to be like David, who trusted God with everything, even his very life!

“The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” (1 Sam. 17:37)

If faith is “trust in things unseen,” then can’t what we have seen certainly increase our faith? David had seen God defeat the lion and the bear, and so he trusted him to defeat his enemy. But we have to force ourselves to remember what God has done, because we “have spiritual Alzheimer’s, always forgetting.”(Voskamp)

I think, instead, that I’m more like Hagar in the desert, who although she had seen God face-to-face, had accepted his promise and named him “the God who sees me”—still forgot. Years later, when she thirsted in the desert, she forgot the God who saw her, and she wept for her fate.

But God did not forget her. And he will not forget me.

I can say with certainty that God will not be mocked, and when he calls us to obedience, he will deliver. Just like with David—he will win the battle.

So I force myself to remember. When I want to run, I force myself to remember. When I want to give up, I force myself to remember. When things do not make sense, I force myself to remember. For the God who sees me is the God who “chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise…what is weak in the world to shame the strong…what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.”

He sees me. He sees you. And he knows how the story ends. Remember…

Try, try again

So many times I feel caught in failure’s fist.  Stuck in self-saturated sin, unrighteous to my core, and wanting to reject the cross because I just. don’t. deserve it.   

I think am like the Israelites.  This special, chosen people rejected God to worship fake, unworthy heaps of metal. They forgot the God who rescued them out of Egypt and saved them from slavery. They followed other nations’ ideals instead of obeying the Word of the Lord.  And then–oh, how it broke God’s heart!–they removed Yahweh from their throne and replaced him with a king made of bones and blood. 

But there is a part of this story I just don’t understand–instead of cursing them, instead of writing them off and picking another people to cherish–God shows grace.  When they come to ask for redemption, admitting that they deserve death (1 Sam. 12:19), God’s reply through the prophet Samuel is this:

“For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself.” (1 Sam. 12:22)

So this is grace.  Not forsaken.  Not because of who we are, but because of who HE is.  He shows grace because it pleases Him.

But I love that God knows humanity’s nature, knows that grace is complicated and messy, knows that we want to both accept it and reject it.  So he says:

 “Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart.  For consider what great things he has done for you.” (I Sam. 12:24)

And this too is grace.  These commands to fear the Lord, serve him faithfully, give thanks for what He has done…all grace.  Because he knows we’ll want to….we need to.  So not only does he allow us to try, try again, he asks us to! 

It’s his grace that redeems, and it’s his grace that lets me wake each morning to try again.  And so I do.

We’re Expecting!…..a Teenager

So here’s the story.
Ever since Hubby and I were dating, we’ve talked about adopting “someday.” But when we had our first child, the thought got pushed into the background, replaced by the constant onslaught of diapers, sippy cups, and sleepless nights.

Last year, however, Hubby came to me and quietly asked, “What do you think about adopting…now?” My response was of course humble and gentle. “WHAT?” I snapped, “Are you crazy? Two little kids is enough right now. Why would you even ask me that?” But in spite of my response, what God laid on his heart was not to be denied, so he began praying (unbeknownst to me) that if this was truly what we were called to do, God would change my heart and align it with his.

Then last September, out of nowhere, I had this recurring, nagging thought that I needed to at least look into adopting. So I talked with friends who’d done it, researched online until my eyes burned…and prayed. After a few weeks I went to Hubby and said, “Uh, so…what do you think about adopting a teenager?”
With tear-strained voice he replied, “Funny–I’d been praying you would ask me that.”

We love teenagers. We enjoy spending time with them, we cherish their stage of life, the questions, the conversations, even the heartache of poor decisions made and regrets formed. And when we visited various websites and saw the great need for adopting older children through the foster care system, our hearts broke. Who will guide these kids as they begin making the tough decisions of adulthood? Who will fight alongside them as they face the challenges of growing up? And once they graduate high school, where will they return “home” for holidays? When they have kids of their own, who will they call “Grandma and Grandpa?”

We’ve done hours and hours of training and reading and talking and praying. We know there will be challenges. We are aware of the risks. And yet, we cannot deny God’s moving in our hearts and his calling on our lives. Will you pray with us as we enter this new stage of life? As the young Samuel said, “It is the Lord. Let him do what seems good to him.” (1 Sam. 3:18)

Grace to a Four Year Old

Today you pushed your baby sister, your face flashing in indignation, and while she fell, betrayed and crying, your self-righteousness suddenly faded to sorrow. Realizing what you’d done–seeing the soul-crushing weight of your sin–you sobbed, “I should get hurt too!”

Punishment is right and just. It’s what makes sense. We should be punished–for every surge of anger, every smug thought, every cruel and taunting word, every pride-filled motive and self-centered motion. HURT is what we deserve.

But then comes grace.

So my reply to you, sweet girl, as you whimpered, seeing yourself as you truly are:

“I know, Rae. But that’s why Jesus died. He took all the pain and punishment, all the hurt that we deserve and he bore it upon himself. That’s called grace.”

I don’t deserve it. And neither do you. And so it remains–amazing (overwhelming) grace.

This one’s for the crapper…

Last night at 10:00pm, I came home from a long day to find our kitchen sink filled with water. “Hm,” I thought, “Maybe it’s just the garbage disposal.” (But, knowing my house, I should’ve thought better. Things are never that simple…for example, when we first moved in, the basement kept flooding. Instead of it being a simple sump pump fix, it was a $2,000 sewage problem at the street, requiring a back-ho and three weeks of showering and doing laundry at my in-laws).

So no. It was not just the garbage disposal.
I called my loving husband, who went down to check the pipes in the basement. After I got ready for bed, I decided to see if he was able to unlodge whatever was stuck in the pipe. As I walked down the basement steps I was greeted by the sharp, foul smell of sewage. “NO!” I cried, “WHY DOES IT SMELL LIKE SEWAGE DOWN HERE?” My husband, however, was not amused with my keen detective skills, and he looked up at me with his arms covered and wet and grimly replied, “Because it’s all over me.” And it wasn’t just all over him–it was all over the carpet, the beach chairs, the stroller…all the things people keep in the corner of a basement.

So no. The clog was not the kitchen pipe.
It was, in fact, somewhere in the main pipe–the 100 year-old, cast iron, cemented into the floor and coated with a century’s worth of other people’s crap pipe. But since we couldn’t unclog it at 11 o’clock at night, we went to bed and figured we’d deal with it in the morning. (Don’t worry–he washed off with the garden hose.)

This morning, as I took our 4 year old over to our neighbors’ house to go to the bathroom, I was explaining to her that we couldn’t use any of the water in the house because it would flood the pipe and end up all over the basement floor. She was not phased by this problem, of course, because to a four year old, going to the bathroom in someone else’s house is not a problem, it’s an adventure. But she did have one concern: whether or not she would be able to see the “Bog”, as she called it, in the pipe. I told her if we could see the bog, then we wouldn’t have this problem.

My poor husband continued to work with the snake, pushing, prying, and unwinding until it, like him, was completely drenched and sticky with sewage. After another hour of “snaking” yielded only toilet paper, he made the decision to cut the pipe.

After another few hours of work, he eventually proded around until he found the “Bog”….

Apparently, our 2 year old, who happens to be obsessed with flushing the toilet, decided that it would be a good idea to flush an old cell phone.
And that’s just how life goes. Sometimes it all goes down the drain…and sometimes it gets stuck.

For the love of little girls

You whine and
You wail.
You screech, scream, and stamp,
And I, shake my fist.

You stumble
You slip
You blubber and bawl,
And I, bag the ice.

You laugh and
You giggle
You wrestle and run;
You fight and
You sleep
You sing song after song;
You chit-chat
You comfort
You dance and you dream–

You’re a constant mess
You’re a fairy princess
You’re the belle of the ball
You’re the fairest of all
You’re sugar
You’re spice
You’re everything nice and you’re mine (!)
And my cup, overflows.

What do you fear?

Please forgive me for not posting in….oh, SO long. I’ve been writing for my friend’s (amazing!) site, http://www.allthingsformom.com, so I’ve been slacking off here.

But I wanted to share something I’ve been challenged with recently: the fear of the Lord.

How many times have you seen a child hit their parent? Or perhaps you’ve witnessed a child speak in a demeaning or disrespectful tone to another adult? Or maybe you’ve looked on as a teen blatantly disregarded the rules so he could be in the in-crowd? Where is the fear of consequence!? Where is the fear of their parents!?

Where is the fear of the Lord?

What is the “fear of the Lord”? It’s talked about all over Scripture, especially in the book of Proverbs. We are told that the “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov. 1:7), that “the fear of the Lord teaches a man wisdom” (Prov. 15:33), and even that a woman who “fears the Lord is to be praised” (Prov. 31:30)

Whenever I think of the fear of the Lord, I’m immediately reminded of C.S. Lewis’ series, The Chronicles of Narnia, where the Lord is symbolically paralleled with the mighty lion-ruler, Aslan. When asked if Aslan is safe, one of the Narnian creatures replies, “Safe? Course he isn’t safe! But he’s good.”

We’ve talk to Rae about how God is the strongest, most powerful being in the whole universe and that he can do anything he wants. She’s asked, after reflecting on this, “Can he kill me?” To which we honestly reply “Yes, he can.” She–WE–should fear him in this sense of being “afraid.” God is not to be mocked. He is holy–perfect, unique, and set apart. We should not casually speak His name nor talk about Him flippantly. We must fear Him–fear His wrath, His perfection, His jealousy. We must fear Him because He is God.

But this fear also brings comfort. When Rae is scared at night, who else should we call on but the Lord to protect her? If He is mighty and powerful, then He is certainly able to save her from the monster hiding behind her curtain! If we truly fear Him, then we can also trust Him. If we know His character–His righteousness and justice–then we fear Him because of this, but we trust Him for the same reason.

So often we are ruled by fear of other things. Fear of Man takes priority over fear of the Lord. We fear what Man will think or what Man will say or what Man will do. This should not be! When my child disobeys me in a store–in front of thirty people–my thoughts should not reflect worries about what others are thinking about me or my child! No! My thoughts should instead revolve around my fear of the Lord and the desire to teach my child to fear Him as well! If I worry and obsess about what Man thinks, my child will come to see that I am a fool and a hypocrite. Proverbs 29:25 says, “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.”

Or sometimes we fear circumstances. And as a result, instead of obeying and doing what we know God has asked us to do, we list excuse after excuse to try to alter His will! Instead of trusting, we worry. Instead of faith, we fret. Instead of being open to radical callings, we resist with barriers and boxes that keep us familiar and safe.

OH, that I would FEAR the LORD! That by fearing Him, I would trust Him more and glorify Him…and teach my children to do the same! That by fearing Him alone, I would gain the wisdom promised in Proverbs, and be able to teach this to my children.

“The fear of the Lord leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied” (Prov. 19:23)

Heaven is…a wonderful place

After tonight, if you were to ask my three and a half year old daughter what heaven will be like, she’d probably tell you something like this: “Well, it’s very beautiful and there’s a humungous pool and lots of barbies and I get to dress up like a princess every day and have icecream for dinner and it kindof looks like my house but even better and it’s funner than even the park or the beach and I can sit on Jesus lap, or Mommy’s if I want to and…”

Rae’s in that “asking questions” phase, and tonight she was all worked up about heaven. It all began with her first random question: “Will we come back here after we go to heaven?” Of course I answered simply “No,” which brought about a torrent of tears: “Why not, Mommy?! I like my house! My room is the best place and I don’t want to live in heaven!”

I think to an almost-four-year-old, home IS the closest thing to heaven. There’s people here whom she loves and who love her, and she feels safe and happy here. So I replyed, “Well, heaven is just like our house…but even better!”
This, of course, led her to dissect her room–she had to name everything and ask if heaven would have it. For exmple, “Will heaven have barbies?” “Yes, Rae, lots of barbies.” “Will heaven have books?” “So many books you can read a new one every night!” “Will we get to wear pretty dresses in heaven?” “Of course! You can dress up every day like a princess!”

So, although there may not be any mention of Berenstain Bears or flowered bedspreads in heavenly refrences in the Bible, I hope that the Lord doesn’t mind me taking a few liberties with the idea of “streets of gold.” Because ultimately, I want her to look forward to heaven! I want her to know that it the only place she truly belongs. I want her to feel completely confident that being with Jesus will be more than her little heart could ever imagine.

Like the old hymn says…”When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be! When we all see Jesus, we’ll sing and shout the victory!” Come quickly, Lord Jesus…