laboring

My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you…

I’ve learned things about childbirth and labor in the last few years. I learned that it’s not easy, watching my strong and courageous mother, a woman I knew could take on the world, meet her match in labor. I learned that it can last for days as I waited and waited for news of my first nephews’ arrival. I learned that it can go much faster and more intensely than anticipated, when Jameson was born 4 hours and 15 minutes after my water broke, with barely 3 hours of contractions. I learned that it can include complications requiring life-saving measures, as my littlest brother was delivered by emergency c-section, and a niece followed suit several years later. I learned that it requires determination, that it exacts all reserves of courage, that it crashes like brutal waves and leaves you depleted only to find a new depth of strength. I learned that your last labor is not your next labor, and no two are exactly alike.

I learned that no one can promise you or tell you much about how it will go. The only true comfort is this: “There, that contraction is over. You’ll never ever have to do that one again.”

And the greatest joy is that there is a baby.

*****

I learned how to meet childbirth with Holy-Spirit inspired strength from my mother, and I’m learning what it means to be again in labor” as I watch my mother (and my father) persevere in seeing Christ formed in me and in my siblings.

All of those things about courage and perseverance and trusting for grace for this moment and not dwelling on how long that last labor was — all of those things, I see them doing still.

I’m learning that the ecstatic moment when you hear, “It’s a girl/boy!” is only the start of a life of laboring.

I’m learning that “I can’t do this anymore!” needs to be swiftly met with those scripture cards I wrote out for childbirth. He makes me able.

I’m learning to labor alongside. I’m learning that just as I am strengthened by my sisters and friends in a circle around my bed, wetting my sweaty forehead, rubbing my feet, whispering and cheering — so we strengthen one another as we each labor to see others come to maturity in Christ.

I’m learning that personal expectation and desires and any selfish grasping must be done away with. Just as I surrender my body to bring forth a baby, so we lay down our lives — our time, our energy, our money, our everything — to see people find Jesus and His purposes.

I’m learning what incredible joy it is to labor and pray and persevere alongside and then see someone dear be set free, fall in love with Jesus even more, set their hearts completely on Him.

Because this: “I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth.”

*****

“It’s a girl/boy!” isn’t the end.

Neither is their 18th birthday, or high school graduation.

It’s not over until Christ is formed in them. (Yes, that’s a life-long labor we’re talking about.)

This is parenting that all believers are called to — married, single, childless — all.

*****

When the contractions keep coming, bringing these kids to Jesus is plain old hard, you wonder how much longer, and no one can tell you?

There’s this:

“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” –Galatians 6.7-9

these beautiful children

Beautiful. Good. Did you know that Jochabed used the same Hebrew word to describe her new baby boy that God used to describe His creation masterpiece? Well, she did. She looked at that red, wrinkled face, gazed into wet, new eyes, and she said, towb, echoing the Divine words spoken ages before: Towb. Good. Beautiful.

Mine, a role as co-creator. True, I simply lend the makings He gifted me with when I was formed in my mother’s womb. His is the genius, knowledge, brilliance. But for those 9 months, I am as a partner in this creation. And looking at each gift, day after day, isn’t it only right that I would say, heart leaping in echo, Good! Beautiful!

James and trials vs temptations

I’ve been getting a jump start on our fall study, slowly reading and re-reading chapter 1 of James on my own and with the kids.

It is reminding me of something I need a regular reminder of: trials and temptations are not one and the same.

That’s hard to feel when you’re in the middle of real life, though, because trials are rife with temptation. Whether it be a kid slogging through math and messing up your whole morning plan, or something far more serious, such as sickness and disease, trials bring with them a whole host of temptations that I am quick to fall headlong into.

I fall so quickly, in fact, that I end up confusing the issue at hand, and find myself saying, “The reason I’m exploding with anger every day is that my child is taking forever with their math work!” Or, “the reason I’m fearful and anxious is that this sickness is serious.”

Fortunately, those aren’t true statements. If they were, we wouldn’t be able to count trials as joy, would we? We’d be too busy losing our cool and cowering in fear to have anything like joy. No, the reason I am responding in a sinful way is that I’ve given into temptation. God wants to show me how to walk through the valleys of trials without tripping over every loose stone and falling into every chasm along the way. In the situation of slow math, He wants my sight clear enough that I can hear His wisdom for how to help and deal with my child in a constructive way. In the situation of sickness, He wants my heart free from suffocating fear and instead aware of His amazing power and the tender nearness of His presence.

The Holy Spirit wants to help sort out trial from temptation. We are not captive to our situation. When I say, “How can I have joy in this? I’m so afraid. I’m so angry. I’m so resentful. I’m so ____,” the Holy Spirit sheds light on my path and I discover that anger and fear and bitterness and whatever else were temptations I caved to — that I can also repent of, get free from, and then find my feet firmly on the path of righteousness once again.

This post, read a few years ago, articulated so well the things God had been showing me. Maybe you’ll enjoy it, too.

And totally unrelated: I love these people and am so thankful for spontaneous evenings out, enjoying sunsets.

purpose and place

Order.

A place for everything and everything in its place.

Not just as an anti-clutter policy. As a theology.

I read Psalm 104:

“He appointed the moon for seasons;
The sun knows its going down.
You make darkness, and it is night,
In which all the beasts of the forest creep about.
The young lions roar after their prey,
And seek their food from God.
When the sun rises, they gather together
And lie down in their dens.
Man goes out to his work
And to his labor until the evening…”

(But pause for a moment and go read the whole thing. Such beautiful poetry and praise!)

I saw not just a lovely description of Creation, but purpose and place. Everywhere. The nests in trees, the rivers in valleys, the animals of prey roaming at night, men coming out to work by day — order.

A place for everything and everything in its place.

Genesis 1 and 2 are full of such things — the cosmic version of what I do most evenings with the duplos and board books, play kitchen food and baby doll accessories. Except I do it because I see it all around me, modeled in Creation; God did it because it was right and good. He didn’t learn it from a book or a blog. His heart is for each element of His design to flourish and prosper in the purpose and place for which it was designed.

I am reinvigorated to maintain His kingdom standard in my little domain (and so continues the endless separation of dessert fork from dinner fork, dark towels from white…) I realize afresh, with new energy and authority, that He has put me here to discover purpose and place, in the environment I steward, the culture I create, and the people whom I am shaping.

And — oh, what peace and comfort! — I sink again into the certainty of knowing that I was created for a purpose and a place, and that I can find it (and re-find it, and return to it over and over) in Him.

You were created with purpose and place in mind. There is wholeness and freedom for every person who yields to that design. In His mind’s eye, He sees you flourishing and prospering, a tree planted by living streams of water, strong and alive. He sees you that way, and He sees me that way. What a beautiful promise and hope.

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

work + rest

A year ago God used a couple of books to really speak to an area of need and defeat in my life. I was rereading my notes for months, feasting on ideas I’d always known, but that were finally penetrating and changing me from deep within. (Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.)

This year I began a fresh Bible reading initiative — albeit a bit scattered and probably only discernible to me — but one obvious fresh start was Genesis 1. I read it slowly, stopped several times, read it again, pondered for a few days… There is so much to discover about who God is, what is in His heart, and how we were made to be right in those first few pages. So much calling and identity revealed!

This time through, I was struck by the instruction laid out for us as workers and creators, made in the image of God, following His example:

Why did God take 6 days for the work of creation? Why one element at a time, one day at a time? He could have simply spoken it all into being with a single word. He is not limited in any way. So why?

Could it be that right from the beginning, He was teaching us how to work? Was He speaking to me (and those of us who tend to be a bit too driven for our own good) about how our endeavors and tasks must fall into the proper place and time? That we do what is good for today and then sleep, calling it good (and enough, by His grace), and rising again to do the next day’s work?

That is something I felt break in my life over the past year: the sense that in order to be succeeding as homemaker, I needed to finish completely every single day, and that undone laundry, house cleaning, kitchen work, all of it, was a verdict of failure.

There is self sufficiency that is constantly trying to enslave us, and so we actively are called to enter the rest provided us through Christ.

Maybe your propensity isn’t towards laundry-pile-enslavement, but is there something today you’re laboring under, a lack of completion that whispers the condemning sentence of “failure”? We are called to work and stewardship, but also to rest and order. He gives us a day to work, and a night to rest — and in Him, we can do just that: rest.

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Related:

life and peace
Teaching From Rest
Every Good Endeavor

spirit filled days

It’s all flying by so quickly, as always, but even more so? I feel the temptation towards frustration (with what? I’m not sure where I’d pin the blame) but every time the thought flits through my head, I am reminded and convicted:

There is no thing or activity that makes these Christmastime days warm and happy. It is Jesus in me as I lead and set the tone. What a challenge, but what freedom. I’m not waiting for stars to align and circumstances to occur. The joy and expectation, the love and security, the closeness and fellowship that we all hope for so much at this time of year is always, unfailingly available in Jesus.

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Skimming along through Matthew and Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth, I was so struck by the story of humble and average people who loved God obediently, and changed HISTORY for all mankind! When Mary said, “Be it done to me according to Your word,” was she thinking of every tongue, tribe, and nation gathered at the throne of the eternal King? Or was she simply saying, “I’m not really sure what is being asked of me, but I love God and my life is His?”

Too often I think of, “If you love Me, keep my commandments,” the same way a 2yo might — a slight and growing awareness that this will actually be good for me, but so much emphasis on “will I obey?”, on my perspective. Not much thought about the why or wisdom behind it as much as the immediate challenge to my soul and whether or not I will yield.

But history and hindsight show that obedience is about the eternal plans of our loving and awesome God being implemented and executed through mere people, practicing mere obedience as an expression of their deep love for a God they cannot see or feel.

Obedience is an invitation, a portal, to the Spirit-powered current that is the Kingdom of God increasing on the earth (Isaiah 9). How do I get to be a part of that awesome happening? By being like Mary, who said, “Here I am, come what may.” By being like Joseph, who had a dream, woke up, and did what he’d heard.

My parents obeyed, and I was born. And I might not be the amazingly profound Kingdom of God moment books are written about, but I’m here, loving Jesus. My kids are here now, too, being taught of Him. Hopefully lives are being impacted as we touch them and they are blessed. There’s a current of Kingdom power that this lineage got hooked into through obedience.

So here I am. Today. In my very average life, where my big goals are listening to the kids’ piano pieces and decorating cookies. Blow in me, breath of God! Be it unto me according to Your will.

*****


A little disciple-in-the-making.