Finding Calm in the Chaos

We sit at my kitchen table, big mugs filled with steaming coffee. She is 10 years ahead of me, and I am relishing the time I have with her.  I pepper her with questions, and she  humbly shares her heart. There’s something about the calm, tempered words of the mature believer that makes me stop and take notes. I love my times with women who have been tempered by time, experience…and God.

The words she speaks fill me with life and hope. As I have peered into the new season we are entering, it’s easy to become afraid of the unknown.  Sitting with one who has walked through this season, and who lives it in such a way that stirs up excitement instead of dread, is an amazing gift that I want to offer to others.

There aren’t always answers to life’s chaos,” she says, “Sometimes there is just chaos, and in the end we see that God has changed us in the chaos...”

Sometimes there are no answers…no lessons.  Just chaos.  But God changes us in the chaos.

These words changed me.  They wrapped up everything that God has been doing. As a parent. As a wife. In our life ministry.  In this season of change and loss. I want to know what God is doing.

  • When parenting is exhausting beyond words, I want to know there will be fruit in the end.
  • When marriage feels like we are just going through the motions, I want to know that God is still at work.
  • Every time I face the heart adjustment of a new season, I want the path to be painless and  eloquently laid out before me.
  • When our world is rocked, life doesn’t make sense, we feel the stabbing pain of another loss, and my Christian pat answers don’t work  anymore…

Often  there are just no answers.  Just chaos.  But God is changing our hearts…our spirits…in the midst of the chaos.

And my time with this one who is 10 years ahead of me is used to show me that God has been changing us, all these years, amidst so much chaos.  I am beginning to understand the calm that comes with years and experience, and what it means to let go and allow the chaos to violently swirl around us as God quietly does His work.

And that is enough.

Made In Mexico

You never really know what people are going through unless you take the time to probe. To listen and befriend.  Behind the carefully ironed outfits, the smiles that say, “I’m fine, thank you!”.  Behind the snapshots of a family celebration on Instagram or Facebook.  I think it’s safe to assume that everyone that you come in contact with is facing some kind of personal battle. Something hard. Something that is breaking them or causing a knot to form in their stomach.  Big or small, there is always something. No matter how old or how young.  That means any act of kindness can take on a meaning you never imagined possible.

I’ve never felt so disconnected and alone in my entire life!” I tell him. We are sitting in our living room after a long day, our grown children with their plans. Coming and going.  It’s actually kind of fun and rewarding to watch them live their lives. Spreading their wings. But at times it can feel like we’re being left behind.

Elisabeth Elliot said, “In acceptance lies peace.” Simple. I love that. I am taking it one day at a time. Praying for peace. Choosing to accept the season we are in and be the best I can be in, what seems like, the hardest season yet!  I find that the older I get, especially if you are in some type of  “leadership” position, people often forget that you are no different than they are — that you need encouragement just like those who are younger.  Out of sight–out of mind?   That is often the case.

But then someone bursts through your front door. “Here! We brought you something from Mexico!  We thought of you while we were on vacation!”  A small act of kindness that says you have value, we missed you, we are grateful for you, you are cherished. And you realize that the voice that has been whispering in your ear, “You are alone. You are disconnected!” is not the voice of truth.  It is a feeling, but not a reality. And God has used His people to remind you. God has used the church to remind you.

Wrapped in brown paper, I take the small package from her hand.  “It was made in Mexico!” she says!  And I pull from the wrapping a small, handmade cup.  Beautiful.  (I have a weakness for coffee cups!)  I love it!  Not only because it is beautiful and handmade, but because it was given to me by a young woman who has allowed herself to be the hands and feet of Jesus.  It reminds me that I am not alone.  It reminds me that she values me–that HE values me.

I was remembered. HE has remembered.

When I woke this morning and I felt that knot in my stomach that has become my daily companion,  the reality of this season of life hit me again. My first reaction was to give in to depression. “I will not allow this to grip me today!”  I make my way to the kitchen for my morning cup. There it sits on the counter.  The reminder: “You are valued. You are not alone.”  I make an espresso and I send her a text with a picture: “Perfect for espresso!

I am a part of the body of Christ.  The Church.  And no matter what season of life I am in, my purpose is to know God, to make Him known, and to show the world that I am one of His by showing His love.  Bearing burdens. Blessing others even when I don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes. Because you never really know what people are going through.  You never really know.

I think it’s safe to assume that everyone that you come in contact with is facing something hard. Something that is breaking them or causing a knot to form in their stomach. That means any act of kindness can take on a meaning you never imagined possible.

The 5 Most Important Things God Has Taught Me About Parenting

 

I remember it like it was yesterday. We had been home from the hospital for only a few days, after the delivery of our daughter. It was about 2 AM and we had tried everything we knew to comfort our crying newborn. In desperation my husband, wearing nothing but a pair of boxer shorts, stumbled down the hall to our guest room, knocked on the door, handed over our screaming baby to my mother and said, “I don’t know what to do with her!”  He then wearily made his way back to our bed,  pulled the blankets over his head, and went to sleep.

And so it began. We had no idea what we were doing…and that has pretty much been what has characterized our lives for 27 years of parenting.

It begins when they are infants. We spend almost every waking moment trying to figure out what these little people need and how we are supposed to care for them. We read books. We talk to other parents. And just when we think we know what we are doing — they change.

Every year we celebrate another birthday not knowing what the following year will hold, how they will change as they grow, what kind of learners they will be, how they will do in school, what lies ahead for them, or how they will respond to difficulty. Again, we read more books, talk to more parents, think we might have this parenting thing down. Again — They change.

Finally we find ourselves in the teen years.

We have worked hard. They are older, they know how to communicate, and we feel like we know these kids pretty well.  Then it happens. They change — again!   Why are they acting like that? Why do they respond that way? Why won’t they talk? What are they thinking? I thought we taught them better than that! And what you have been feeling all of these years is again confirmed. You really don’t know very  much!

You feel the same way my husband felt when he stood in front of his mother-in-law in only his boxer shorts.  Helpless. Vulnerable. You wish you could hand them over to someone and say, “I don’t know what to do!” You wish you could walk away for awhile, climb into bed,  pull the blankets over your head, and go to sleep.

The hardest part of parenting has been the sense that I really don’t know what I’m doing. I often feel foolish, helpless, and vulnerable!  So, how should we respond to the mystery of parenting as we live our lives before the watchful eyes of our children?

The most important things that God has been teaching me is this:

  1. I must intentionally walk along side my children and purpose to patiently get to know them as individuals.
  2. I must regularly admit to my children that don’t know it all and be willing to seek forgiveness every single time I respond poorly or miss the mark in some way.
  3. I must rely on, and seek help from, the One who made my children — The only One who knows it all.
  4. I must  make sure that my children know that I am relying on, and seeking help from, the One who made them — The only One who knows it all.
  5. I must pull them close and include them in the relying on, and seeking help from, the One who made them — The only One who knows it all!

The most important thing that we can do as  parents is to stand before the throne of God on a daily basis, hand our children over to Him and say, “I don’t know what to do with them!” Then we can stumbled back to our room, climb back into bed, and fall asleep — finding rest and confidence in the all knowing, all seeing, sovereign arms of the maker of our children.

His Dreams

So many hopes and dreams. They started as small seeds planted. Anticipating. Dreaming. Praying — almost losing hope.

Now I am older and they are still there — those same dreams. Yes, they are still there. Some have come to fruition, some are in process. Confusion sometimes enters in, then the dreams seem distorted and out of place. A storm swirling, blowing those dreams away. And there is fear — fear that if I let go I will lose control. Fear that if I share my dreams, if they become words that spill out into the ears of others, they will suddenly seem foolish. Small. Insignificant. Then what will I have? What will I have if they were foolish, small, and insignificant? What if they are? If they are, then I will wither up and blow away in the wind. Yes. That’s what I’ll do, it seems.

Tears well up. Heart is pounding. If I let go – If I let go – I’ll lose! Yet He pulls at my heart. Waiting patiently. Pulling. Drawing me.  The Power that cannot be ignored or resisted. The ever present Force that whispers…

“I am the One who created them. I made them up. I planted those seeds in the heart of a little girl. I have made them grow and come to fruition. Some of them are still in process. Sometimes they seem out of reach, but don’t forget that the dreams you have, those hopes and longings, are found right in Me. They originated with Me. They are found right inside your home. In the people I have given you. In those who show up at your door. They are present in the now and in the future. Just give Me everything that is you. I will take care of the rest. I promise.”

Yes. I am ready. They have always been His. I pour them out into His open hands. They don’t grow in my clenched fists anyway. They are poured out. I rub my hands together making sure none are left. I brush the seeds off my shirt and pants, yet none of them fall to the ground unnoticed. They all manage to land right in His hands.

I stand there. I wait. I hope. Anticipating. Praying and praying — never losing hope. Waiting for His  perfect timing. Not my timing. Not the timing other’s anticipate or dictated. Not done in the way the world or others say it should be done. Just waiting on the One who has already lavished me with so much — more than anything I ever imagined.  The One who created my gifts and abilities – the Creator of the world. Thankful for all that has come to fruition.  Never losing hope.

Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare.” Psalm 40: 5

For I know the plans I have for you.” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.” Psalms 13:6