That One Perfect Moment

Every once in a great, great while, I have the joy of lying in bed with the simple content of knowing that my life is positively, absolutely, undeniably wonderful. And provided that I don’t overthink every little aspect and detail, for that one moment in time, my life truly feels perfect. As is. No questions asked. Simply perfect.

That happened to me this past Sunday night–the evening of my son’s seventeenth birthday. God had more than answered the desires of my heart toward my son. His carpool mom, with two of his teammates, had shanghaied him Friday evening for a birthday dinner. Another of my friends had made him rich, chocolaty birthday cupcakes, which she had dropped off on Saturday, complete with a “Happy Birthday” banner, balloon, and candles. But the greatest desire of my heart, God answered with abundance. My deepest hope was that I would feel up to allowing Josh to invite a couple of friends to join us for his birthday lunch, and God gave me that–AND I felt up to having them over for a couple of hours afterward. (Granted, Brad and I laid in bed and watched a movie, but I didn’t have to tell my son “no” to such a simple request!)

In addition, this past weekend our church had hosted a worship conference geared for “the next generation” of worship leaders as well. While my son couldn’t attend as much as he had wanted due to baseball practice and getting kidnapped, he did make it to the bass workshop, where the instructor offered to Skype with him–merely to bless him.

It’s funny how, as a parent, the greatest blessings in life come through watching God tend to our children!

After contemplating the weekend in terms of my son, my heart skipped to my beautiful daughter. She graduates from bible college next month, and her heart is seeking God’s highest for her next step; not grasping for opportunities, merely surrendering to God’s plan…whatever that may be. And I have no doubt that He will never let her down.

Then on to my wonderful husband, who serves his God, our church, our family and me oh-so faithfully.

My heart filled to overflowing.

Suddenly I thought my whole being would burst with joy as I considered heaven. For that momentary sense of perfection on earth will never wane in eternity. We can overthink any aspect we want, and will find nothing lacking. Each little loose end will be neatly tied-up in a gorgeous bow. Every sin forgiven–the ones we’ve committed as well as those committed against us. No weight. No debt. All gone. And all of life’s deeds will be done. Complete. Perfect not for but a moment, but for all eternity.

“O Lord, You are my God; I will exalt You, I will give thanks to Your name; for You have worked wonders, plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness” (Isaiah 25:1).

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The Heartbreak of Spiritual Warfare

I had to run an errand with my husband today. (If you remember that today is Professional Administrator’s Day, then you realize how critical this was!) Anyway, while my husband paused to take a call, I noticed a man from our church with his two children. Excited to see someone I knew, I went over to greet him. I couldn’t believe how big his little ones had become! It was so sweet to my heart!

But he looked at me, smiled politely but distantly, laid his hand on his older daughter’s shoulder, and quickly guided her away from me; all without saying a word.

Bemused, I returned to my husband’s side where, after he finished his call, he leaned close to my ear and gently explained.

“He and his wife got upset with us over [insert issue] and left the church.”

“Didn’t they even come and talk with you first?”

“No.”

“You mean they heard one side of the story, decided it was true, and just left??”

“Yes.”

“oh.”

As this only happened about an hour and a half ago and, never having had someone feel the need to pull their child away from me, I wanted to write while my feelings–as confusing as they are–pulse upon my heart, because I think the destructive lies of the enemy to the body of Christ need to be addressed.

Jesus clearly stated in John 13:35, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” It goes to reason, therefore, that the enemy enjoys wreaking havoc in this department within the body of Christ. He thrills to stir up gossip and dissension within a church, and he’s not afraid to do whatever it takes–he actually delights in it. Using pride to cause malcontent. Taking on another’s wounds to bind someone in bitterness. Encouraging a well-placed smear campaign against a pastor. All great tactics. And, sadly, they work.

In his epistle, Paul’s words serve to remind the church that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). We should stand upon these words as truth; this battle cry should reign in our mindset. Yet in spite of Biblical certitude, we continue to wrestle against our own brothers and sisters in our church family, rendering heartbreak along the way, and destroying our witness to the world.

As for today, I clearly can’t make someone listen to me who is determined to take a stance against me, but I can remember my first line of defense…and offense: prayer. I know from the depth of my being that by becoming entrapped in bitterness toward a brother in Christ, a man wounds himself more than he wounds the one he holds accountable for his bitterness. My heart aches for him and his wife, as it aches for each sweet brother or sister caught in these same shackles by the enemy. And my prayer won’t be against them, it will be for them–that God will set them free. That God would sweetly tend to their hearts so broken by the ugliness of this spiritual warfare.

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because God has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives, and freedom to prisoners; to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting, so they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that HE may be glorified” (Isaiah 61:1-3).

Fifteen Months

Fifteen months today. That is how long I have been in relapse this time around. Fifteen months. Studies show that each time I go into relapse–especially long ones like this–my odds of recovery greatly diminish. But I haven’t given up hope. Life awaits.

Today, however, seems like a good time to reflect on how my past fifteen months have gone–not so that you pity me, but to help you gain understanding into my (and my family’s) reality. In the past fifteen months I have felt up to attending church three–maybe four–times. I have been able to entertain a guest maybe seven or eight times. I have talked on the phone around half a dozen times. I’ve received two cards and one meal. (Though a friend–who never expects anything in return–leaves a potted plant on my porch about once a month just to let me know she still cares. I’m getting teary-eyed about that dear, old friend even now. And a couple of sweet gals send me little “I’m thinking of you” texts. God uses these three in particular to remind me I’m not forgotten.)

I still need to rest in bed around fourteen hours a day–about nine asleep, the other five just lying there. (My remaining ten hours are spent mostly on one of two couches.) I often go days without even leaving my home–not even to step into the back yard. When I do take a mosey out, I frequently need the assistance of a cane. Because Brad now upholds the responsibilities of shopping and schlepping, we rarely have a home-cooked meal–just what we call “scavenging”–so I eat the most basic of meals that I can prepare for myself. Maybe a can of peas or a piece of peanut butter toast. Perhaps some brown rice. (Though recently we’ve discovered that if Brad can get a crockpot meal going on Saturday evening, we enjoy a lovely family dinner on Sundays! And I can usually manage whipping up one meal a week–generally pasta.) Or maybe Brad just grabs something on the way home.

Since my sweet little housekeeper, Amanda, has been away at college, dust abounds. And don’t even mention soap scum! But I’ve managed to stay up pretty well on laundry and emptying the dishwasher.*

And such is my…our…life.

I suppose you may wonder why our lives are like this. I mean, you probably understand that I have ME/CFS, which keeps me off my game, but you may be trying to figure out what happened to the people. I guess I’m not wholly sure myself. I know Brad feels, as a pastor, awkward about asking for help from our body; biblically speaking, he’s been called to serve our body, not the other way around. And, frankly, I understand helping me could be difficult. Meals? Not everyone knows how to handle a gluten/casein-free menu. Housework? Not everyone knows how to clean with baking soda, vinegar and hydrogen peroxide. (And I’m honestly too exhausted to explain either issue. And don’t forget how difficult it is for me to have someone in my home.) At the beginning, two people wrote me notes on facebook telling me to let them know if I needed help; honestly, I was too tired to figure that out, so I told them to talk to Brad. I don’t even know if they talked to him, or if he knew what to answer them. And, hey!, I can’t forget all those people–one mama in particular–who totes our son around. (She pretty much thinks Josh is partly hers now! *giggle*)

So the bottom line is that we just leave it to God, and don’t worry about it. Dust is dust. Scum is scum. Peas are peas.

This reality, however, must continue: my hope rests in Christ alone! As with all other situations in life, if I (or you!) look to others, we will become disappointed and disillusioned. We will lose heart and hope. God never designed other people to fulfill us. AND I trust that God will make something beautiful out of this season. I simply refuse to live a wasted life.

When I was a little girl, I had a grandmother who sewed and quilted. She absolutely loved beautiful fabric. LOVED it! And with all those pretty floral prints, she would sew up for herself some charming, sweet dresses. In her retirement years, she took all her leftovers and hand-stitched gorgeous quilts for each of her five grandchildren. She had tucked away each and every salvageable piece of her dearly loved fabric, and turned them into inheritance pieces for her descendants.

If a simple, homespun grandmother would do such a sweet, kind thing for her grandchildren, how much more would a loving, heavenly Father do for His children? He wastes not one thing. He saves and savors each precious piece, and through His own hand-stitched process, turns scrap material into lovely works of divine inheritance.

“For I am confident of this one thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

He’s making something beautiful in me! How could I not feel His excitement?!

*I would find myself remiss if I failed to mention that I can take myself to my weekly chiropractor appointments (now), as well as stop off occasionally at Sprouts unattended. In addition, Brad takes me out to eat every once in a while. 🙂

What God Came to See

Like all normal parents, I suppose, I relish the joy of watching my child succeed in any venture. When she was in high school, I loved watching my daughter dance or act or sing. I delighted in hearing the applause and accolades just for her. As for my son, I savor each hoot and holler when he triumphs in a sports endeavor–of which there were many in football. This baseball season–not so much.

Nope. From that point of view, his baseball season has been painful. While praising our son on one hand, his coach rarely puts him in a game, which has served as a point of confusion to us all–especially since he’s a good ball player. And I’m not sure it helps too much when other parents come to us and voice their own confusion. While it does comfort us to know we’re not just imagining a skill level he doesn’t possess, it also kind of just “bums us out.”

And I know, that as parents, we do not stand alone in this.

Many parents have walked this path before or alongside us–and many will walk it after.

Yesterday I was able to go watch my son’s baseball game. (For those of you who know me, or who follow my blog, you know this does not come easy.) While I did, indeed, watch his game, I did not for one moment watch my son play. Drained from the exertion it took to go to the game, I immediately went to wait in our car as soon as it ended.

Expecting a disheartened baseball player to slip into the back seat (especially since we gave up four runs in one inning and lost the game), I was surprised when a joyful son took his place instead, immediately inquiring as to my health with his very first words. As a matter of fact, the three of us chatted and goofed around all the way home, simply enjoying the day together.

But yet I could not help those feelings of hurt from arising–all the wonderings of why coach continually excluded my son from playing. Although I have told myself–and others–time and again, “It’s okay; I’m not raising a high school baseball player, I’m raising a man of God,” I could not suppress those disconsolate emotions from raising their ugly little heads.

I finally reached a conclusion: one month–just one more month of baseball. I can do that. Just one more month.

How self-defeating is that?

Then this morning, God spoke a new understanding into my heart. A joyful, illuminated understanding! One I can’t wait to share with you, because if you haven’t felt this as a parent–if you desire God’s highest character in your child–you will.

The greatest thing my son has to offer his team is NOT his bat or his glove–it’s his character. Yet godly character does not prove itself when things are hunky-dory. Godly character proves itself when life doesn’t go as planned–when it’s painful, when you’re getting your nose rubbed in the dirt. Those situations serve God’s greater plan–the witness and testimony that support the words of a Christian. Even a teenaged Christian.

A current statistic says that 70% of teenagers raised in church will walk away from their faith once they graduate from high school. (For a great blog on this, read http://marc5solas.com/2013/02/08/top-10-reasons-our-kids-leave-church/ .) Think about that. Look at your youth group, Christian high school, or, in this case, Christian baseball team, and calculate how many of those teenagers will still serve Christ a year from now–or two–or…

With this in mind, I see that that the truest gift my son can give his team is the way he lives out his faith when the cards aren’t dealt his way. His attitude when coach doesn’t call his name. His encouragement for his teammates when they get to go do what he deeply longs to do.

Learning that God is still good and still God despite painful circumstances stands strong as a lesson one can never embrace early enough. Likewise, choosing a God-honoring attitude–not a self-indulgent one–brings a far greater joy to God’s heart than all the playing time in the world.

So, what do you think God (his heavenly Father, the same One who said, “I will never leave you”) came to see at my son’s game yesterday? I now know, He came to see a living testimony. While all the parents watched to see a son on the field, He came to see eternity taking root in a young man’s heart.

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

“But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart'” (I Samuel 16:7).