Absorbing Difficulty for God's Glory

Absorbing Difficulty for God’s Glory

The warmth of the sun and the glowing reds, yellows and oranges of the leaves beckoned us to the outdoors and we had to follow the siren call. School work was put on hold to be saved for the rainy, cold days that are promised in our near future.

We had great hopes of traipsing through pumpkins to find our favorites, but our plans were thwarted when the word CLOSED became visible on the entrance sign. I had slowed down to make the right hand turn, but continued on instead. “Perhaps the farm to the left will be open,” I thought to myself and slowed down again to head in a new direction.

Apparently by that time, the person driving the truck behind me was displeased at my indecision and slammed on his horn as he passed me.

And I cried.

It was a bit of an extreme response to a not-that-big-of-a-deal situation, but I had too much pent up emotion and it poured out the moment I was pricked.

My husband had spoken truth over me earlier that day. You are absorbing difficulty for God’s glory. Wise words. Beautiful words. But. My rebellious heart responded with I don’t want to.

Ministry is about absorbing difficulty for God’s glory. It often involves feeling betrayed and being mistreated, ignored or criticized. Most of the time, I am able to accept these difficulties as part of the transformational work that God is after either in my own life or in the lives of those who have hurt me (either intentionally or unintentionally). After all, Jesus said, “Take up your cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23 ESV) Ministry is not supposed to be easy and it is the struggle and difficulty that causes me to run to the cross faster than anything else.

But there are days when I have taken too much of it in. When I feel myself collapsing under the weight of it all. When I am at a saturation point and there is no more room to absorb.

As I turned around in the muddy parking lot of the next closed pumpkin patch and headed to the one place I was certain would be open, I reflected and pondered and prayed. Four pairs of eyes were watching me closely, attuned to my emotions. I needed to get a grip.

And then God’s love flooded over me as it always does when I cry out to Him. Becky, you’re not meant to carry all of this. Yes, you will face difficulty for my sake, but they hate ME. Of course they won’t be happy with you. You love me and I know it and that’s all that matters. What they think doesn’t matter.

Deep breaths reverberate through my chest as we pull into the next parking lot, this one flying a welcome flag of OPEN. The invitation draws us in and I begin to feel tranquility wash over me. The bright blue sky contrasting with the bright orange pumpkins and multi-colored mums and the sound of my children’s joy and laughter as they race to find THE pumpkin, remind me to shake off the sadness that has threatened to consume.

You are absorbing difficulty for God’s glory. “But how much can I take?” I wonder.

Well, I can’t take much at all. This I know for sure. I like to think of myself as strong, but the truth is, there is a fragility to me that shocks me at times.

But Jesus! He is my Rock, my Strength and my Redeemer. When I am absorbing difficulty and fully relying on Him, then the difficulty doesn’t stay with me. It’s not mine to fix or to handle. I take it in and pour it out on my Savior. And He takes it all on Himself.

That’s when He’s glorified. When I rest in Him and not in my own strength. I can’t handle much, but I don’t have to, because Jesus is more than enough.

My rebellious heart changes to a redeemed heart. Bring it on! I think, a smile pulling on the corners of my lips.

 

 

 

 

Insatiable Compassion

Recently, I finished reading “Crime and Punishment” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky with my high school “Great Books” class in our homeschool co-op. One of the characters, Sonia, is described as having “insatiable compassion”. Later in the book, when she discovers that the main character is a murderer, her response is surprising. When Raskolnikov says to her, “How strange you are, Sonia. Embracing me and kissing me after I’ve told you about that. You don’t know what you’re doing.” To which she replies, “No, no, there is nobody, there is nobody anywhere in the world now unhappier than you!”

Insatiable compassion.

My class was incredulous with her response. Who responds to a confession of murder like that?!

My response was that God does. That’s exactly how he responds. His love and compassion towards sinners (that’s all of us!) is insatiable.

It’s incredible really. That He would look on us with all of our sin, our failings, and our inadequacies and move towards us instead of running away. How can He do that? It’s because He looks at us with eyes of grace, seeing what He can do to change us and make us right with Him. There is no sin he can’t forgive, no hurt he can’t heal, no brokenness he can’t fix.

I was reading all of these things and having all of these thoughts at the same time that our country was embroiled in the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court and the accusations that were made against him by Dr. Ford. As I watched and read and considered all of the varying opinions among politicians, friends of the individuals involved, and social media discussions arguments, I was struck by how different responses would be if everyone had insatiable compassion.

Insatiable compassion would mean that if a young woman is attacked in any way (whether it results in rape or not!), she would have trusted adults in her life that she could run to. She would know that they would open their arms wide to her, they would believe her, and they would not condemn.

Insatiable compassion would mean that if a young man acted inappropriately, he could admit his guilt and seek restoration. He would know that his actions would not be tolerated, but grace and forgiveness were his for the taking if he was willing to do the hard work of repentance.

But that’s not the world we live in. I was shocked that so many were shocked that Dr. Ford didn’t tell anyone outside of therapy for three decades about what she had endured. When I was seven-years-old, I was at a neighbor’s house. My friend’s dad was watching television and as we walked through the living room on our way outside, I glanced at the TV. All I remember is that a woman was getting into the shower and when she turned on the water, blood came out instead. I had nightmares for ten years afterwards. I never told my parents, because I knew they would not have approved of their daughter seeing what she did. In my little girl mind, I thought they would be upset with me. As an adult, I realize that I should have told them, because it’s the concealing of trauma that actually keeps healing and recovery from happening. My situation in comparison to what so many women have had to endure is so inconsequential, yet it helps me to have compassion. If I felt that I couldn’t tell anyone, then I get why young girls feel incapable of telling their story.

What would change if we all KNEW that we would be heard and not judged if we shared our stories? I have two daughters and two sons and we talk with them frequently about the unconditional nature of our love for them. We don’t want them bearing burdens on their own for fear of losing our love or our trust. I’ve shared my nightmare story with them, because if I saw something I wasn’t supposed to see in a world where I was sheltered and protected by my parents, I do not want to be naive and think that my children will never see something I wish they wouldn’t or encounter a situation that will leave them feeling powerless.

I was equally shocked that so many were shocked that a teenage boy would get drunk at a party and try to have sex with a girl. My thirteen-year-old son has heard “locker room talk” and he has been homeschooled for two years and most of his interactions are with kids who are either Christians or have strong moral backgrounds. It’s a cultural expectation that boys will be boys and while I abhor this expectation, I don’t understand how we expect any different when this behavior is celebrated- until it isn’t. Underage drinking is encouraged by many and tolerated by most. Girls are encouraged to dress in certain ways to get the attention of boys. Do girls deserve to be taken advantage of boys? Absolutely not! But are there societal changes that could occur to make these stories rare rather than common? Absolutely!

What would change if no drinking under a certain age was enforced by parents and compassionate adults? If boys were taught to value girls and treat them as the priceless treasures they are, could they ever force a girl to do something that she doesn’t want to do? My children are imperfect sinners, so we have plenty of opportunity to practice valuing others and it makes me wonder what would change in our society if we all practiced this. If we would all have to come up with three kind things to say to someone if we were mean to them. Or we had to do something nice for someone if we acted in a way that was hurtful.

A lot of opinions get thrown around when political issues arise and it always baffles me when I see Christians speak in hateful ways about individuals or groups of people that they disagree with. It’s almost like we feel we have a pass when we’re discussing these issues. I don’t understand it. We are to be imitators of Christ, which means we need to seek to respond to situations the way He would

With insatiable compassion.

“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” John 8:7

“Praise the Lord, my soul; who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion. He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:1,4,10-12

“But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God,
    slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” Psalm 86:15

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,  not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Philippians 2:1-4

What would change if we actually lived this way? What if we followed Christ’s example and sought to be like-minded in ALL of our interactions? What if we based our compassion on God’s standard and not our own? What if we treated others not as we feel they deserved, but as Christ sees them?

As I drove home tonight from dropping my oldest two off at youth group, I heard the Tauren Well’s song, “Known“. There is a line in the song that says, “I’m fully known and loved by you.” This is the love God has for each one of us. He knows us completely, yet loves us unrelentingly.

He knows what happened at that party all those years ago. Both Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford are fully known by God. There is nothing hidden from Him. But his response is not to run away from them. It is to love them.

Insatiable compassion.

 

 

All scripture references are from the New International Version, Biblegateway.com

Dostoyevsky, Fyodor. Crime and Punishment. Signet Classic, 1968. Print.

 

Summer Adieu

I’m grasping, reaching just a little further, trying to grab on tight, but it slips through my fingers.

Summer is elusive and I confess that it has gone too quickly. I want more.

More fireflies.

More naps in the hammock.

More sounds of splashing in the pool.

More chalk drawings, swinging in trees, campfires, and trips to the beach.

At the same time, I see it just ahead of me. The promises of Autumn.

The changing colors above my head.

The crispness in the air.

The structure of school time.

The sweaters, the boots, the pumpkin everything, and football.

Change is inevitable and this year I am welcoming it more than ever. I love my past and I am fully embracing my present, but I long for the future. I don’t want to stay where I am. Amidst the delights of summer, there has been a dark cloud of unfinished and unknown and unexpected (but not the good kind!). I need something to follow the question marks. I need resolution to the uncertainties. I crave consistency and connection and completion.

And so, we say goodbye to summer. To this new season, we invite you in with joyful hearts. The notebooks and colored pencils, the compass and protractor, the index cards and folders, the textbooks and backpacks- they are all ready to go. We step gingerly into this new year with titles like “sophomore” and “kindergartener” and enter the last year of middle school and the year to decide what instrument to play. We will take on new roles as teachers to high schoolers and figure out how to teach our youngest to read. We’ll move into newly renovated spaces and be able to look out of real windows.

It’s a big year. Momentous. Epic.

I feel a bit like Elastigirl- holding onto Summer while reaching out for Autumn. It’s why I feel stretched thin. And so I relinquish my hold on what was and turn my eyes to what is and what will be.

Things I’ve Learned This Summer~

One of my favorite bloggers/writers/podcasters is Emily P. Freeman. Every quarter, she hosts a “things I’ve learned” writing prompt and while I probably won’t link to it (it has been way too long since I joined in with blogging linkups and I’m not sure I want to jump back in!), I’m feeling the desire to share some of the things I’ve learned in this tough season. So here goes!

  1. Taking a vacation before Summer officially started was one of the best decisions we made. We knew that my husband would be busy with church renovations during this time, so taking time away before it all began was wonderful. There were many amazingly beautiful experiences in the Outer Banks, but one of my favorites was flying kites. It was glorious and magical, one of those never-to-be-forgotten days.  Lesson learned: When presented with the opportunity to go anywhere, take it and make the most of it!
  2. Friendships can be difficult and challenging, but they are worth fighting for. Lesson learned: Be willing to work through difficulties and be grateful for the friendships without pretense.
  3. Working through a book of the Bible over the Summer is one of my favorite things to do. I started working through Jeremiah at the beginning of Summer and made it through Daniel and Ecclesiastes as well. It has been a life giving experience and I have learned a great deal from this focused time. Lesson learned: The more you read the Bible, the more you WANT to read. 
  4. My oldest worked for a week at a local camp and then went back for another week as a camper. When we dropped her off for her week on service crew, I realized that I was not prepared to have zero contact with my teenager for an entire week. She didn’t know anyone at the camp and as a result, I found myself struggling a bit with worry. It made me realize that I have some heart work to do as I prepare to launch my kids into their futures. While I still have some time (three years for my oldest and thirteen years for my youngest!!!), this experience made me realize that I need to prepare myself for what God might want to do in their lives. They have a bit of wanderlust in them (especially my oldest!) and so I need to relinquish my worries and grow deeper in my trust of God’s perfect plan for each of my littles. Lesson learned: Love your kids so well that they are confident in stepping out into the places God has for them.
  5. On my 40th birthday, I was given a gift certificate for a hot air balloon ride with the love of my life. For three and a half years, we have been trying to schedule our ride, but every time we have tried, it has been cancelled. I was hopeful this year. The day started out beautifully, but when I called later in the day, it was cancelled AGAIN! I was so disappointed. We had scheduled the ride to be a part of our 20th wedding anniversary celebration. But earlier in the week, I had decided to work on setting up a fire pit area in our backyard as a gift for my husband. Turns out that we were able to use it that night after enjoying a lovely meal together. Lesson learned: Life is full of disappointments, but working hard at creating special opportunities is always worth it.

It has been a full time in our lives, one fraught with difficulty, but also some significant moments that will not be forgotten (losing the last first tooth, conquering a fear, given access to a neighbor’s pool, being honored for Godly behavior, first time singing on the praise team, going on a zipline, learning how to dive, giving up naps AND sucking a thumb, making new memories with old friends and meeting new friends who we get to support as they prepare to go on the mission field).

So, adieu, Summer! You have been good, but it’s time to make some space for a new season. Until next year…

All My Ducks in a Row

The choreography was exquisite,

the music sublime,

the costumes impeccably matched to the performance.

All that remained was for the participants to learn their parts.

At first, they did—

with wonder and awe they stepped onto the stage,

they wobbled and toppled,

and got up and tried again.

They stretched beautifully here

and leaped elegantly there,

moving effortlessly with the expectations,

hitting all of the right notes in the right timing.

But soon there was a shift;

this one started to lean heavily in the direction of improvisation,

that one wanted more hip-hop and dub step;

when he would move in one direction

she would move in the other.

It wasn’t long before the choreography was forgotten,

the steps that had been meticulously prepared

by the one who thought she knew the way it should be.

Except she didn’t.

What began to unfold was beyond her imaginings.

She soon realized her plan had been too small,

her expectations limited,

her thoughts flawed.

Her choreography had been planned before she met the dancers,

and she soon discovered

that was not her job after all.

Instead her role was to introduce her troupe

to the master Choreographer, the grand Composer, the supreme Costume Designer.

When she relinquished control,

she saw clearly for the first time.

Her vantage point was not meant to be from behind the curtain;

now it was from the best seat in the house.

For a long time now, I have referred to my children as my little ducks, reminding them when we are out and about to follow close behind me. But the older they get, the more obvious it becomes that I do not have my “ducks” in a row, nor do I want them to be. They are each unique, designed by their Creator to fulfill their own destinies. When I remember to get out of the way of His work in their lives, I stand back in amazement. His plan is always better! Always.

As their Mom, I’m so grateful for the “best seat in the house” tickets that I hold! I can’t wait to watch the glorious unfolding of God’s plan in their lives!

 

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