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Finding PEACE in the trials of life

Papa Bear is a trainee pastor. This means that every now and then he gets to preach. I love it when that happens. He has a keen insight and a philosophical outlook that really speak to me, and I enjoy hearing what he has to say. Last week Sunday our pastor was away on a conference, and Papa Bear got to preach. Here’s what he spoke about:

Finding PEACE amidst the trials of life

As Christians, we seem to have this world view that life should be easy for us. Somewhere along the way we picked up the idea that the meaning of the term “God’s Blessing” was the way would smooth, plain sailing. We imagine that people will like us and see the good in us as we strive to be more like Jesus. We imagine that, by sheer dint of hard work, (and a bit of judicious planning) our financial woes will be a thing of the past. We expect to be safe from all external harm – crime, accidents, political chaos and so forth. And we expect that we will have good health until we drop dead from the simple accumulation of minutes on the face of the planet.

Why do we believe these things? There’s certainly no Biblical support for this world view whatsoever, and there’s also no anecdotal evidence available from a cursory glance around the planet. Everywhere we look – whether we’re looking around us at the people who share our space on this planet, or behind us, at the people who’ve gone before us in time, the evidence suggests strongly that a life of peace and comfort is not likely to be a reality for ANYONE – and much less likely for a Christian than for anyone else.

Jesus explained this very truth to use when He said, “18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. 19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. 20 Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. 21 But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin. 23 He that hateth me hateth my Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works which none other man did , they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law , They hated me without a cause.” John 15:18-25

Charles Spurgeon explained the attitude we should adopt like this: “If we cannot believe God when circumstances seem to be against us, we do not believe Him at all.”

Let’s take a look at five facts about trials that will help us to gain peace as we face them each day.

  1. The predictability of trials – they’re a fact of life

    Another famous line from Charles Spurgeon explains it like this: “The safest part of a Christian’s life is the time of his trial…Smooth water on the way to Heaven is always a sign that the soul should keep wide awake, for danger is near!”
    Romans 12:12 – Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;
    The implication is that tribulation is a part of life. Note what it says in the book of James:
    James 1:2 – My brethren, count it all joy WHEN ye fall into divers temptations;
    When – not IF … we ALL face trials and temptations.
    Acts 14:22 – Confirming the souls of the disciples, [and] exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.
    Psalms 34:19 – Many [are] the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all.

  2. The endurance (permanence) of trials

    Trials will always be a part of everyone’s life – whether you can see it or not. Your trials are as bad for you as Joe Soap’s mine are for him.
    1 Corinthians 10:13 – There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God [is] faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear [it].
    We keep getting tried until we acquire the lesson.
    James 1:3-4 – Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
    Note: “let patience have her perfect work …” – in other words, let the trial finish making you patient, so that your heart can be perfected in the lesson you’re learning. Resistance is futile (and painful J)

  3. The assumption of trials

    We assume they’re to be endured, but in fact we should see them as opportunities for growth.
    Romans 5:3-5 – And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; 4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope: 5 And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
    We assume we should be exempt from them but in fact trials have been promised to us.
    1 Peter 4:12-15 – 12 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: 13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. 14 If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters.
    We assume we’re alone in trials, but in fact this is when God is most near us.
    “As sure as God puts His children in the furnace he will be in the furnace with them” Charles Spurgeon
    Psalms 23:4 – Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou [art] with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
    Hebrews 13:5 – Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
    We assume we can’t handle it
    Philippians 4:13 – I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

  4. The comfort of trials

    God is with us, and He strengthens us:
    John 16:33 – These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
    Even the worst of times works with God’s plan for our ultimate good:
    Romans 8:28 – And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to [his] purpose.

  5. The end (purpose) of trials – our maturity

    To establish us:
    1 Peter 5:10 – But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle [you].
    To work together for our own good
    Romans 8:28 – And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to [his] purpose.
    To perfect us (make us mature, complete)
    James 1:2-4 – My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
    We are promised rewards for faithful endurance
    James 1:12 – Blessed [is] the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.
    Romans 8:18 – For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time [are] not worthy [to be compared] with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
    Revelation 3:21 – To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.

What should our response to trials be?

Positivity (JOY), patience and prayer.

Romans 12:12 – Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;

James 1:2-4 – My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

1 Peter 4:12-15 – 12 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: 13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. 14 If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters.

John 14:16 – And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;

James 4:7 – Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

And finally, another quote from Spurgeon to round it all off:

“Hope itself is like a star- not to be seen in the sunshine of prosperity, and only to be discovered in the night of adversity. ”

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Israelitis: surviving trials with grace

English: King Solomon in Old Age (1Kings 4:29-...

English: King Solomon in Old Age (1Kings 4:29-34) Русский: Царь Соломон в преклонных летах (3Цар. 4:29-34) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Growing up, I used to marvel at the fickle nature of the Israelites in the Old Testament. They witnessed the power of God. In a very real way, the Almighty dwelt among them,  guided and directed them, loved them and led them. He showed them the way. They went astray. For hundreds of years He gave them warnings and grace, and finally, he had the grace to lead them into captivity: the ultimate payment for their waywardness.

 

King Solomon puzzled me most of all. After all, he met the Holy One personally – not once but THREE times! He spoke to God. More than that: God spoke to him! God asked Solomon what he wanted – and then gave him that! And so much more. It’s astonishing. But it’s not nearly as breathtakingly astonishing as the fact that Solomon went astray. He was one of the worst, worshipping idols, and leading all of Israel into the same trap.

 

Solomon’s folly was so great, it ripped the kingdom in two. The devastating effects of his mistake have been felt through the centuries, and still have an effect today.

 

What I could never wrap my head around was the fact that these people, who had not only a national legacy of walking with God, but who had also had personal encounters – often one-on-one – with the Living God, could ever turn their backs on Him. I couldn’t even begin to conceive of it. How could it happen.

 

Well, now I know.

 

All it takes is one bad harvest.

 

Think about it. You work hard all year. You observe the Sabbaths and the New Moons. You’re faithful in tithes and offerings, and you never miss either a feast or a fast. You’re kind to your neighbours (even when they don’t deserve it), and you raise your children right. You follow the law. You’re good. And you’re blessed. You have enough to eat and drink, a lovely home, healthy kids. What more could you hope for?

 

But then, for some reason, the crops fail one year.  You can’t figure it out. Didn’t the prophet Malachi promise that if you were faithful in your tithes, you’d be blessed? Was he wrong? Was he lying? What’s the story? And even though you know it probably won’t do any good, you take a peak over the mountains to see how the Syrians are doing. To your surprise, they’re doing well. It doesn’t take long for that surprise to boil into anger. You’re disappointed; you’re frustrated; you’re confused.

 

You’re betrayed.

 

Why has this happened? Who did what wrong? Who has led me astray? Have I been worshipping the wrong god all this time?

 

Those deceitful words are the beginning of a steep and slippery slope into despair and apostacy, my friends. The first seeds of doubt quickly take root in the fertile ground of your indignant rage. You wonder where the fault lies. You don’t want to doubt God, of course, but you know you’ve done nothing wrong. The only alternative left to you is the belief that perhaps those self-righteous, power-hungry priests have led you astray for their own selfish ends. Perhaps the Philistines have been right all this time. Or the Babylonians. Or those accursed Syrians. Perhaps the fault was never yours, nor God’s. Because He wasn’t there. And all your well-meant devotion has achieved is to make it impossible to feed your family. For a whole year. A year of effort wasted. A year of poverty and desperation ahead.

 

You determine to do better. And so you worship the gods of the harvest, the gods of the seasons, the gods of family and health – anyone, anywhere, who promises any hope of a better year next year. You’re desperate, alone and betrayed. What choice do you really have?

 

And all it took was one harvest.

 

I know what that’s like. Unlike the faithful Israelite in this story, all it takes for me is a week or two. A late payment from a client; a few panic-stricken days wondering what in the world I’ll conjure for supper – these are all it takes for my weak, faltering faith to be shaken to its core. I’d love to be strong and faithful like Job, but almost invariably I turn out to resemble more closely Job’s wife, with her shameful, infamous, “Curse God and die!”

 

Despicable.

 

Human.

 

So, in light of this human condition, I was very encouraged today to receive a study, via email, of the tests we face as God’s ambassadors here on earth, and why it matters so much that we pass them.

 

Thoughts on the tests we face in life:

 

  1. Tests will always happen

    Regardless of your faith, you will face trials. A life spent questioning this fact is a wasted life. Far more noble to pursue a life of meaning: uncover how you can grow and help others as a result of your personal tests.

  2. Tests keep happening until you learn the lesson

    So get on and learn it. Unlke school, where failure to grasp a test the first time around was complete failure with no hope of redemption, the tests we face in life give us second chances. And third. And more, until we’ve grasped what we should be learning from these trials.

  3. At the end of a test – there’s another test!

    You may have a break between tests, but it’s little more than a temporary reprieve. Don’t get to comfortable, and don’t expect the calm periods to be your due. They’re not, and that expectation will set you up for disappointment and bitterness, time and time again.

  4. Test can deliver delightful results

    Tests give us the opportunity to clarify what we’ve mastered, get rid of “junk” we don’t need in our lives, change our perspective, change us for the better, and equip us to help others. Tests also grants us the unparalleled opportunity to become humble, as we realise we all truly are equal.

  5. There are five kinds of tests we face:

    1. The Wilderness Test – this is a test of time, in which nothing seems to change for long periods. It’s easy to get discouraged, like Abraham did, and eventually take things into our own hands. The results are pretty much always disastrous.
    2. The Failure Test – this is a test in which everything we do seems to fail. The trap here is frustration and hopelessness. We need to keep the faith that God keeps His promises, and hang in there.
    3. The Betrayal Test – this is the test where someone you trust betrays you. It can be the result of misunderstanding, or the malicioousness of others. During this test, bitterness and hardness of heart can destroy us. Guard your heart with all dilligence and don’t let the bitterness take root.
    4. The Authority Test – we do not understand the power of being under authority. The key to passing this test is submission, and we need to behave with grace and dignity as we accept the authority God has placed in our lives. Remember: there is always something to be learned.
    5. The Obedience Test – here we battle between God’s will and our own. It’s not wrong to put your request to God – even Jesus did so in the Garden of Gethsemane, when He asked God to take His “cup of suffering” from Him. But when Jesus passed this test, the entire world was given the opportunity to be saved. We too have the opportunity to be part of something phenomenal if we can just pass the test of being obedient to God.

 

Sometimes, it seems like all five tests strike at once, or a few of them sneak up in combination. Even so, passing the tests will result in a new level of growth, closeness to God, and depth of peace you’ve never experienced before.

 

Have you faced any of these tests? Or are there some I may have missed? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject.

 

Love,

 

Vanessa

 

Empty arms: ten things I learned from my miscarriage (not recommended for sensitive readers)

changes-and-mistakesRecently, a friend of my suffered the devastation of a miscarriage. The timing of her pregnancy wasn’t perfect. (It never is). The circumstances weren’t ideal. (Is there such a thing as “a good time” to have a baby?). Many people view it as “fortuitous” that she has “been spared” some of the tough decisions that lay ahead for her. Thankfully, they’ve had the discretion to keep that opinion to themselves, and they’re right to have done so. In light of this, I felt it time to share the following story, and some thoughts on losing a child you never had a chance to know.

I feel your pain

Some years ago, a lady found out she was pregnant. The timing was terrible. It often is. But this was particularly bad, at least to her mind. She had recently lost her business, and her husband was unemployed. They’d just moved into a house they couldn’t afford, and they had two small children to feed, clothe and educate. They had no medical aid.

To make ends meet, husband and wife had both taken freelance contracts wherever they could get them, and were working around the clock. They had no rest, no money, no health and no time. The family was subsisting on popcorn and el-cheapo peanut butter, lubricated with heavy doses of caffeine. The stress of survival was taking its toll on their marriage, too. The thought of bringing another person – a completely helpless, needy, dependent person, deserving of love and care – into that mess was unthinkable. Wrapped in silent misery, this lady kept her secret, crying quietly to herself when she thought no one was around.

About eleven weeks in, there was a flutter. Something stirred in her protruding belly, and for the first time in months there seemed to be a faint flicker of light and hope at the end of a very dark, lonely tunnel. She began to imagine names. She wondered about the baby’s gender, and imagined how he or she might look. The tear streaks on her haggard face began to fade, and a dim light returned to her eyes.

One morning every one had left for work and school. Working away at her computer, she felt a sudden, very sharp pain in her abdomen. She tried to get up and stretch, and fell to the floor in agony. She could hardly walk. The spasms were blinding. She began to be aware of a damp sensation she hadn’t had in months, and knew instinctively what would come next. In a haze of cramps and fear-fuelled resignation, she made her way to the bathroom. She hoisted herself onto the loo, and let nature take its course. Sobbing with a mix of pain and despondency, she looked at what she’d lost, and saw her child just once.

Then I flushed the loo, and buried that day in a box somewhere hidden from everyone. Because this is my story, and that pain was mine, once, too.

It’s taken more than four years to find healing. It will probably take the rest of my life, and it has impacted who I am in so many ways.

10 things I learned from my miscarriage

1. It’s not your fault.

I blamed myself. I was foolish enough to fall pregnant in the first place. I was careless with my health and I killed my child. That line of thought haunted me for years and sapped my will to live. Eventually,I had to realise that there was nothing I could have done. Sometimes bad things happen.

2. You’re not being punished.

I blamed myself for making the bad decisions that led to us being in the position we were in. I felt that my foolishness and my failure to heed the warnings in God’s Word created the situation I was in. My friends, God is not cruel. He is not vindictive. He created nature and a natural course of events, and He allows that to play out to its logical conclusion. But He doesn’t hurt us in capricious and senseless ways.

3. Biology happens.

The fact is, nature takes its course. Pregnancies happen. Births happen. Miscarriages happen. People die. These and a million other details are what make up LIFE. We live it every day until we stop, and then we’re dead. If only the best planned, most loved children were born, and the mistakes were always intercepted by a heavenly force, a nine-year-old in Brazil wouldn’t be a mom right now. A loving couple with ample means wouldn’t be barren. It’s not cruel or fair. It just is what it is.

4. Don’t take on the guilt.

Understanding that these things sometimes “just happen”, don’t allow anyone to add to your guilt. Furthermore, let your guilt go. It doesn’t help you. It will not heal you. You don’t need it or deserve it, so let it go.

5. It’s okay to be relieved.

When it happened to me, I felt an avalanche of emotions. I was overwhelmed. I was exhausted. I was devastatingly sad. I was transported by relief. The relief was the killer, though. As if I didn’t feel guilty enough, I now felt even more responsible for my baby’s death in that some part of me – however infinitesimally small – could see the upside of the situation. Sometimes there is an upside. Sometimes you see it. That’s okay. In fact, that can keep you sane. It doesn’t make you a bad person.

6. Talk to someone.

Get the help you need. Unburden your heavy heart, and find someone who will hear you and love you. It took me a long time to do this, and I damaged a lot of things on the way as a result of my own brokenness.

7. Give yourself time to heal.

Don’t expect to be better right away. Sometimes you’ll never be “better” in the sense that some people mean it. You will probably never again be who you were before. You may be better than you are right now, and you may be a better person than you were before – I know that is true for me. But I can only claim to be healed by the grace of God in my life. I certainly cannot claim to be “whole” in any other sense. Expecting that is setting yourself up for disappointment. I chose to embrace the change and see where it led me. So far, so good.

8. Let yourself grieve.

You have lost something, after all. Even the worst things we lose cause us some grief at their passing. It’s not that we miss the ‘thing’, necessarily. Rather, it’s that we miss the familiar. Now, an early term miscarriage hardly robs us of the familiar. But it robs us of a very specific and clear hope. The baby I don’t have is a specific person who is not sleeping on my lap as I type. It’s a particular body not sharing our dinner each night. Just because I didn’t know that person doesn’t mean that I didn’t want to – no matter how ludicrous that truth may seem. I’m allowed to be sad. You are allowed to grieve. The pain and the loss are real. Bottling it up will make it worse. Trust me.

9. Don’t rush into anything.

Many years ago, the popular thinking was that the best way to heal after a miscarriage was to rush ahead and fall pregnant right away. There are a number of reasons that this is bad advice. For one thing, you lost that baby for a reason. Get checked out before you subject yourself to a repeat performance. For another thing, your body needs time to recover from what is truly a significant trauma. Thirdly, your heart needs time to repair. Furthermore, relationships can take strain in the wake of a miscarriage and a strong relationship is essential to weather the potential storm of another pregnancy – whatever the outcome may be this time around.

10. It’s okay to be angry.

Yes it is. Feel it, accept it. Then move on. Be angry, sure. But don’t stay angry. It helps no one and hurts you. You have enough pain: don’t add to it.

I am not a counsellor or a therapist of any kind. I am compulsively fasicnated by how people work, and how I work, and how life works. This blog is a chronicle of my journey to understand it, and hopefully some of what I have learnt or experienced over the years will help someone else. To quote a favourite saying,

“If I can’t be a good example, perhaps I cna serve as a horrible warning.”

If you have thoughts on this or have experienced miscarriage yourself, today I’d be grateful if you shared your story in the comments. I really have hardly mentioned this to anyone, and it feels a little strange to share it in such a public forum. If it’s helped in anyway, let me know. If you disgaree with anything I’d really be interested in what you have to say. Let’s discuss it. Thank you for reading.

– Vanessa

Doubt. Without it, your faith does not exist.

Red Riding Hood is a deep thinker. She ponders ideas and philosophies, turning them round and round in her beautiful young head until she begins to find the sense, the meaning behind it all.

This is most apparent when it comes to pondering her faith. We feel strongly that it is our duty to teach our children what we believe to be true. If we saw them heading towards certain and imminent death – walking onto a busy highway, for instance – we’d be compelled to stop them, correct them, and show them the right way. The safe way. To save them from certain death. In the same way, it is only right that we teach them what we believe to be the only way to be truly Safe.

Truth first

The truth is like a lion: let it looseHaving said that, we encourage them always to seek the truth. Truth is robust. It cannot be contained. It cannot be ignored. It cannot be denied. It certainly should not be feared. Above all, it must be sought. I encourage my girls to ask questions, to keep digging into all they know, until they are completely satisfied that they have found the truth. And then I encourage them to dig some more. No question is taboo. No answer is too unpalatable to be given.

No matter the cost, we must know the truth. I want to know the truth. I want to believe the truth. It’s not a case of wanting what I believe to be true, although of course I want that. Who wouldn’t want the assurance of knowing that their beliefs are true? And who would wilfully continue to believe something they know to be false, after all?

Quetions are our friends. They lead us to truth. So the girls are never discouraged from asking as many questions as they can think of, to anyone who will take the time answer.

A shaky foundation?

Red Riding Hood has a persistent fear. She is concerned that her faith isn’t real. We’ve covered this ground over and over again, and it’s taken me some time to get to the heart of the problem. This week we had a breakthrough. Even though Red believes in the fundamentals of our faith, sometimes she has doubts. These very doubts provoke the questions of all true truth seekers.

When I understood that, I could address her fears properly for the first time.

The fact is that it is these very doubts that create the need for faith. They justify faith. Without them, all we’d have is knowledge. Knowledge is good and pure, valuable. The Bible tells us that the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. That is the way to pure truth. But faith is a beautiful thing. It brings with it a sense of mystery, an aspect of the divine. Faith sets us apart from the animals. Faith makes us human. It gives us purpose. It gives us hope. Faith gives us the strength to keep going.

Without faith, we are less than we could be. Less than we ought to be.

And if we have no doubt, we cannot have faith. Our doubts define the course of our life’s journey towards truth. But they serve a higher purpose in creating the requirement for a deep, unwavering faith. In these ways they do us a great service.

How about you? Do you ever doubt your faith? Do those doubts make you question the validity of what you hold to be true? I encourage you to recognise those doubts as opportunities for growth. Allow the questions they give rise to to lead you down new paths of enquiry. Embrace the faith that holds you to the truth. And never, ever fear truth. As St Augustine famously said,

“The truth is like a lion. You don’t have to defend it. Let it loose. It will defend itself.”

Your kids are awesome! Do they know what to do about it?

Children are phenomenal

Be vast and brilliant

Be vast and brilliant

Alright, it’s time to ‘fess up. I love kids. If you only know me through this blog, then that’s probably already obvious to you. But if you know me in real life, not so much. In “real life” I always say that I don’t like kids generally; I like specific kids. Specifically mine. But I’m realising that that’s simply not true. (I’ve long-held that belief because at one time we thought we couldn’t have kids, and pretending not to want them was easier than facing the pain of that loss. More on that some other time).

Children are magnificent. They are bold and courageous. Vast and brilliant. Their potential is infinite, and they know no bounds. They have no idea what they can’t do, so they blithely do whatever takes their fancy.

A child’s view is fresh and untainted. Through their eyes, everything is new and sparkly. Each moment brings new wonder, and their joy and genius can be contagious – if we let it be.

They need to know

Do they know? When last did you tell your daughter that she astonishes you? That her strength and resolve will stand her in good stead all her life? That being independent and courageous is a good thing – a grand thing? How often has your son heard you admire his innovation? Does he know that those heart stopping moments when he disappears up a tree make you proud as much as they terrify you? Does he know that his gentle care of an injured butterfly breaks your heart and delights your soul?

Do they know how phenomenal they are?

You need to recognise it

Do you know how phenomenal they are? Do you get so caught up int he hustle and bustle of every day that you lose sight of the great and infinite truth that this precious moment is the only one of its kind that will ever exist – anywhere? Your daughter will never be nine years old and utterly uninhibited again. Never again will she be eleven years old and self-conscious for the very first time. Your son will never offer you that particular, tiger-striped snail as a grandchild ever again. He will never throw that particular stick in that wild, abandoned, utterly delighted way ever again. There may be other snails, other sticks. There may be other milestones, other daughters, even. But this one millisecond is the only one of its kind there will ever be. Ever. Do you see that? Do you feel the desperate need to bottle it, to ponder it, to guard it in your heart and bring it out in quiet, lonely moments, worthy as it is of endless admiration? Take notice now. Don’t let another frazzled second pas in which you fail to see the gift you have in front of you this very moment. Invest in the ultimate success of these precious gifts we call our children, almost as if they could ever belong to us. We know better, don’t we?

Amazing is not faultless

Just because our children are infinite in their capacity to delight and bless, they are not perfect. Recognising the pleasure we have in every moment with them is not the same as overlooking the areas that need work. Each and every one of us has room to grow. We must grow, learn, evolve all the time. We should take active steps to develop our intellect, our spirituality, our relationships, our skills, and our bodies. We’ll never reach the place where we can say, “Okay, I’ve arrived. I’ve done enough in this area. I can stop developing here.” Because the day we say that is the day we begin to die. Rather, we should learn to be adaptable to the change that attends every stage of life, and embrace it as tangible evidence of our personal development.

In the same way, we need to be cognizant of the fact that our kids aren’t done yet. They need us. Our job is to do whatever we can to help them be the best they can be, and that implies that they’re not already the best they can be. They’re not. They’re flawed human beings with failings and shortcomings. Be aware of that. Enjoy it, because those so-called “blemishes” on  their perfect selves ground us, humble us, and often delight us with their innocence. These, too, will pas (if we do our jobs right!), and we need to nurture our children through the rough patches into the exquisite gardens they can be.

Just don’t expect more than they can deliver. In fact, don’t expect anything. Swop your unreasonable and unfounded expectations for a sense of expectancy, renewed every morning by the imminent delight that your privilege,a s parent, allows you in seeing them mature and navigate the perils of growing up – all with you at their side, faithful ally and trusted navigator.

Amazing comes with a responsibility

The best way to find oneself is to lose oneself in the service of othersSo, what do we do about all this awesomeness? Here’s the thing: with great power comes great responsibility. Our children have a responsibility, and we should ensure that they know this. It’s not enough to reassure them that they’re great. Trust me, they know it. If we do our jobs right, our children will have a strong sense of self-worth and a well-established self-image. They’ll be confident and bold. They may also be entitled, a blight that afflicts more and more of the next generation. Business owners complain daily about the trouble they have finding dependable staff. School leavers have a sense of what they deserve that beggars belief. They feel that lazing around texting their friends or gossiping on Facebook is their inalienable right, and they actively defy any who disagree – from parents to employers to authorities. They certainly make no meaningful contribution to society. Whatever spark of greatness they may have been born with is utterly diluted by years and years of ego-stroking. Parents alone are not to blame here. Peers, the media and society at large have developed such a strong fear of raising insecure, withdrawn or shy youngsters that we’ve overbalanced entirely and tipped the scales in favour of morally bankrupt sociopaths. 

We have a deep responsibility, and it’s one we should never dream of shaking off lightly. We must teach our children to take responsibility for themselves. We must teach them to be strong and independent of us (wholly dependent on God). We must teach them to recognise and value their strengths, wherever they lie. We must teach them to use these strengths to serve. We need to redefine the common, hollow definition of success from “the one with the most stuff at the end is the winner” to something far more valuable: the value of significant service. Nothing has more reach. There’s no greater way to impact this world or leave a legacy, then to devote your talents to the service of others – no matter how small or great that act of service may be.

What will you do about that?

Since the moment I found out I was pregnant, I’ve been telling my daughters they’re wonderful. They truly are divine gifts, and I am so very grateful. They know that. We work together to identify their strengths and talents, and workshop ways in which these can be used to enhance the lives of others. We honestly appraise areas for improvement and then work on those as a supportive team. We boldly identify things that may possibly never be “fixable”, because sometimes we’re just made that way. Honest appraisal leads to authentic acceptance and allows to appreciate the strengths and weaknesses in others like the multiple facets of a sparkly gem. It also leads to humility. Knowing we have areas of strength as well as areas of weakness makes us humble and grateful for what we have.

This is how I am working with my girls to develop both confidence and character. What’s working for you, in your family? I’d love to hear your comments.

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart.

Yesterday, my “Slaying Dragons” exercise did not get off to a good start. Around midnight last night, it dawned on me that I had tried to do it in my own strength, without so much as a word of prayer. How foolish! I found this on Facebook today and thought it a fitting reminder to get me back on track.

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine understanding

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine understanding

Running over

“Great peace have they that love Thy law: and nothing shall offend them.”

On Friday night our Church held it’s monthly Family Fun Night: snacks, board games and a short devotion. As always, it was a lot of fun, and I think everyone got something out of it. We made friends, shared food, and generally enjoyed ourselves enormously.

Psalm 119:165 (above) was the text of the devotion, and boy did that hit home. Lately, I’ve been more and more aware of just how negative I can be. I think of myself as a generally optimistic, upbeat person. Certainly, I have an eternal hope that lends and air of peace to every trial. But even so, I find myself afraid, stressed, short-tempered, angry and even festeringly bitter. It’s true that a few hours of sleep usually sorts me out, but it doesn’t change the fact that my reactions can be very selfish and sinful when the heat is turned up.

Our visiting pastor explained that if we’re immersed in God’s word each day, we too can have great peace, and nothing will offend us. In other words, the little things won’t matter so much. We won’t get annoyed by the shortcomings of others or ourselves. We won’t blame people for simply being what they are: fallen human beings. Just like us.

What's running over? Coffee or honey?

What’s running over? Coffee or honey?

He used an illustration that really spoke to me. I’ll paraphrase it a little: if you fill a cup with hot, bitter black coffee, and you trip over a bump carrying that coffee, disaster ensues. The coffee falls out of the cup very easily. You’re likely to burn yourself and others. There are bound to be stains all over the place – some of which you may not find for years. Some of which you may never find at all. Even though coffee is delicious and sometimes just what you need to get you through the day, we all know it’s not exactly a health drink. It’s not good for you. And the hot, bitter liquid can do serious damage when  it gets spread around.

On the other hand, what if you filled a cup with honey, instead? Honey’s pretty stable. It’s hard to spill (especially if it’s the super-good-for-you raw kind). But even if life gets frantic and you hit a bump and spill the honey, what’s going to come out of your cup? Sweet, delicious honey! It’s good for your skin. It’s good for furniture surfaces. If you leave it and don’t clean it up, you may have ants for a short while, but they just clean up the mess and get on their way. Very few people mind having a little life-giving honey spilt on them. No one likes having scaliding hot, bitter coffee all over them.

When your life gets bumpy and your cup runs over (with blessings or challenges), does what’s inside you easily spill over the edge? And what comes spilling out of your cup? Dark, bitter, scalding vitriol? Or gentle, healing sweetness?

I pray God’s gace changes what’s dark and bitter inside me to cups of honey.

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