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If you've ever sent your kiddo(s) to Mother's Day Out or Sunday School then you're likely familiar with the infamous Popsicle-stick cross.
Many moons ago such a cross was proudly displayed in my home. My youngest son galloped out of class on a Sunday morn, offered it up with a tender smile, and melted my heart right there on the spot.
My gift came fully assembled with a magnet on the back. I pressed my sweet cross to the stainless steel bill-board in my kitchen for all the world to see--or at least anyone who needed something from the fridge. It was purple. It was precious. And the next day I discovered it was UPSIDE DOWN. Who would do such a thing?
Ah . . . Christopher. The oldest of three sons. Twelve years older than my 'lil cross-maker. Zach's older brothers were not introduced to God in their formative years. By the time I'd rededicated my life to Christ they were teenagers with harsh beliefs about life and God. Beliefs forged throughout the years of self-destructive choices I'd made from a place of utter brokenness. Last year I taught a ten-week series to a group of women who've worked in the sex industry. Straight away a woman in tears said, "I've given my life to Jesus. I don't do the things I used to do. I'm better. My life is better. But I've completely f****d up my kids. What do I do about that?"
You can't script the comments in closed support groups. They're raw. They're real. They're priceless.
I replied, "That's a legit question. I'm still waiting for the church to offer a class on that one. What I know from personal experience is that the wheat and the weeds grow together until the appointed harvest time. Try to remember that you are planting good seeds in a field that was once taken over by weeds. Thank God for every sprout of new life. And when a weed pops up, or refuses to go, remind yourself that the entire field remains in His Sovereign care. It no longer belongs to the enemy."
My older sons didn't attempt to deter me from my new-found faith. They just didn't want anything to do with it. I didn't force them to attend church services. And at times I got flak from Christian parents who did. Rather, I faithfully studied my Bible morning after morning. I did the best I could to parent them God's way. I understood early on, I could not make them love God. And no amount of learning "today" would erase what they'd experienced "yesterday."
And that's how it went for a long time. Until one day it didn't. Christopher showed signs of curiosity. Unfortunately, he didn't ask questions to gain understanding as much as he did to start arguments. In retrospect, maybe he longed for an outward expression of the inner conflict he felt about my new way of life. I did my level best to respond in a loving, non-argumentative manner as he continued to stage conversations of point and counterpoint. He often accused me of shoving Christ down his throat. Though I never did.
My standard reply was, "Christopher, I have not once attempted to shove Christ down your throat and you know it. I believe in Him. If you don't, then you don't. This settled him down. He appreciated that I respected his right to choose for himself as rebellious teenagers are especially preoccupied with their rights. I refused to argue with him.
What's a teenage boy to do when his mother refuses to engage in religious debates? Turn the Popsicle-stick cross on the fridge upside down. It was intended to get a rise out of me. But I never said a word to Christopher about that cross. I knew it was him who turned that cross upside down every night. And he knew it was me who turned it right-side up every morning. This routine stretched on for months.
Meanwhile, storms were brewing. Just around the corner was a temper that would keep me on my knees for the remainder of his high school years. A multitude of prayers would be prayed. Including countless forgiveness prayers having lost my capacity to smile graciously for God's glory. It was time for "spiritual warfare."
I knew I couldn't talk to Christopher about the Bible. I also knew the word of God does not return void. So I sowed seeds in my field. I wrote Scripture on small pieces of paper and planted them in his room: Under his mattress. In his pillow. On the back of the canvas's he'd painted with creepy faces. I even wrote on the bottom of his shoes.
When he went to school, I worshiped God in his room. At night, I slid an open Bible on his bedroom floor. He was surrounded by the word of God and he had no idea. I prayed and I prayed, but by the time he graduated from high school our relationship was so strained he would barely speak to me. Heart broken, I feared my efforts were for naught.
Flash forward: At age twenty-one, Christopher yielded to a mysterious attraction to the word of God. I'll never forget the day he asked to borrow my Bible. Today, at age thirty, he reads and studies his Bible everyday. My son is a devote Christian man. And the popsicle-stick-cross story brings laughter to us both.
I have since asked God's forgiveness for doubting the power of His word just because my son's "God search" didn't happen when I thought it should have.
So mamas, fight the good fight for your children! Prayerfully consider which Scriptures would be the best medicine and don't give up. "Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (that's endures, ladies, not enables). Love never fails...." (1 Corinthians 13:7-8 NKJV)
I was in my thirties before I returned to Christ. And now look at me, all blogging for Jesus. Trust me, no one in my family saw this coming when I was a teenager. Seriously. No one.
"For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, And do not return there, But water the earth, And make it bring forth and bud, That it may give seed to the sower And bread to the eater,
So shall My word be that goes from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it." (Isaiah 55:11 NKJV)
Never underestimate the power of prayer. Who do you pray for? Fight the good fight, try not to run your mouth too much, and keep planting good seeds! Weeds that aren't nourished die over time.
You are not alone,
Published on Friday, August 4, 2017 @ 7:02 PM CDT
Years ago I participated in a speaker evaluation that required me to craft a five minute faith-based teaching. I did everything possible to prepare my "talk." I prayed. I waited to hear from God. I journaled a few ideas, but it didn't come together like I'd hoped. And I am not I'm not a woman who struggles with self-expression.
Every attempt to prepare was met with weird opposition. A crisis at home occured. I was out of town. My computer crashed. Mid afternoon of evaluation day I entered the prayer room made available to conference attendees. With wet eyes, I bowed. Forehead to the floor, I prayed: Lord, I've made sincere efforts to prepare for this evaluation and yet I have nothing to offer. If you don't put Your words in my mouth I won't have anything to say other than, "Hi. I'm Wendy. Jesus heals. Thank you. Good-bye."
Having done all I could, I took the weight of my need and placed it in God's hands. I was called forward. I took a deep breath and opened my mouth. Guess what? God filled my mouth with His words for four minutes and forty-two seconds. The limit was five. I noticed a woman with tears in her eyes.
This is the power of God.
It would have been irresponsible of me to neglect my part. I continued to pray and do what I could do, but in the end my human efforts--while sincere, were not enough. God blessed my sincerity. He blessed me for trusting Him to accomplish what I could not. He moved on mybehalf.
How does this apply to every day life? Simple. Not easy. In 1999, I was a single mother raising a six-month-old baby and two young children. Most days I lacked every thing I needed to give my children the lifestyle they deserved. And I'm not talking about designer clothes and Chick-fil-A after school. I'm talking about a steady, non-dysfunctional upbringing with a clean and sober dad and a sane mother. I loved my children with all my heart, but it didn't negate the fact that they were being raised in a chaotic environment by a woman who'd only ever known a life filled with chaos.
I did the best I could to get to the other side of my personal and family dysfunction. I prayed. I worked. I ran my household and took care of my children. I received wise counsel from mentors and professionals who instructed me to take responsibility for my own actions and stop judging everyone else for theirs. But even only that took me so far.
In the end it was the unfailing love and power of God coupled with my willingess to suffer the intensity of facing my painful past that brought me to the shoreline of healing and forgivnesss. And I received the peace that surpasses all understanding, at last.
The take away for me is: Trust God with what you can do. And trust God to do what you can't do.
"Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (Matthew 11: 29-30)
Chief principle: Don't be hard on yourself. I've made countless mistakes in my personal life and with my children. But nothing--nothing can overshadow the redeeming love of God. I am living proof. Stay the course. It's only a matter of time before you are living proof.
Are you doing what you can? Thank Him for your ability. Have you entrusted Him with what you can't do? Thank Him in advance for His provision.
Your part: What am I doing that I CAN do? [List the need and the actions you're taking to meet the need.] What am I capable of doing that I neglect to do out of fear or sheer unwillingness to suffer?
God's part: To do what I can't do as I rest in His ability to act on my behalf.
There ya go.
Published on Wednesday, August 2, 2017 @ 11:21 PM CDT