Mature and Complete

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Last night as I tucked my thirteen-year-old son into bed, we talked about his disappointment in not receiving an academic award at school that he had missed by a hair.  Getting this award was a goal he set several months ago, so as you can imagine, he was feeling pretty low.  “Why even try next year, it won’t happen for me again,” he mumbled. I totally understand that mentality, yet as his mom I wanted to say, “No, try again!  Keep trying until you succeed!” And I did say something to that effect, but truly, when we take a step backward, meet with failure in our lives, don’t we sometimes just want to throw in the towel?

Here is a poem/saying I came across today (serendipitously, and will share with my son) that eloquently spoke to this topic:

Our entire life is made up of choices,

What we decide,

the action we take,

the attitude we display

All represent the steps of life.

 

Sometimes we take two steps forward

And one step back.

Some of us take baby steps

Some of us take giant steps

 

But the secret is not to let that

One step back turn into a failure.

Learn from the backward steps.

Step forward again.

 

~Catherine Pulsifer

God speaks to this topic also:

 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  ~James 1: 2-4

It’s difficult in the midst of failure, unachieved goals, disappointment to feel like it is a “good thing,” but God assures us it is, and that the development of our character, that we are mature and complete,  is one of his highest goals, at which he will not fail!

The Mom List

I was talking to another mom the other day and she was commenting on how parenting is just so darn hard.  And that it doesn’t end when they walk out the door at eighteen.   I silently nodded my head in agreement.

As a parent of two teens and one almost there but thinks she’s 32, I can honestly say that parenting has been the hardest job I’ve ever had (to which my 12-32 year old said, “It’s not really a job, mom, since you don’t get paid for it.”  “Then why does it feel like so much work?” I retorted.  Chuckles and a “good one” from her.

It’s not because of who my kids are that make parenting so hard–they are wonderful people who I am proud to call my children, but because of the fact that they are human beings who my husband and I are in charge of raising and launching into the world as confident, independent, spiritually grounded, kind, loving, merciful, generous, responsible, serving, educated, and oh, did I mention full of self-control and the ability to respond maturely in all situations?

Is that unrealistic?  YES!imagesO3KLQAFT

Yet, if I examine what I wake up each day wanting to instill and teach in my children, this is the list.  Even as I write it out I realize that this is why I go to bed some nights feeling discouraged as a mom. Why do I have such high expectations?  Because as Moms, we just do.  We feel incredibly responsible for raising these little people who have it all together. The more my children grow, the more I realize that they are imperfect people and I am an imperfect mom.

Not that I didn’t know about the imperfection on both ends.  It’s just a short trip down memory lane to remember the exhaustion and the crying and the fits and the “mine!” of three children under the age of five.  And the “holding it together” as a mom as long as I could and then either doing deep breathing exercises in my closet or just throwing all self-control out the window and yelling “Stop pulling your sister’s hair!!!!!”  But what I didn’t know then, was that I wasn’t going to yell or calmly speak them into perfect children, ever.  I know that now.

And I am never going to be a perfect mom.

Perfection is for one person, Jesus Christ.  The rest of us are on journey to grow, fail, succeed, fail again, learn, un-learn, and more growing.  Can we embrace that truth for ourselves and for our children?

I believe that God says to me, “Amy, you are my child.  And while I teach you and move you to be a better person every day, it is a life long journey.  Just remember yesterday when you made a judgment about someone (in your head, thank goodness)? Life-long-journey.  It is the same for your children.  I have entrusted you to raise them, teach them, love them, and give them everything you have while they are under your roof, but their journey as my child is also life-long.  I have GRACE for you, Mom.  You can have GRACE for them.”

Grace for me. Grace for them. Grace for me. (I can throw an extra one in for me (and you)  since it’s Mother’s day).

Can we walk in grace Moms?  Can we stay true to the boundaries we give our children, teach them in the way they should go, invest countless amounts of time and energy into correction and guidance, but at the end of the day, know the list, the character journey for our children, is life long.   Letting our children make mistakes and learn from them is not a reflection of bad-parenting, but quite the opposite. And we can be at the other end with open arms of grace and love.

And we can give ourselves grace and love when we mess up too.

Happy Mother’s Day to all moms out there, who tirelessly sacrifice themselves for their children.  Press onward in this amazing journey!

Our Seder Meal (The Christian Version)

A couple of weeks ago, 18 women gathered in our home for a celebration dinner called the Seder Meal. 012b0460bba202fc2008e14eb82bacb2b74da8cd2d This was the culmination of an offer my mother-in-law, Liz, gave to our Monday night bible study group two months ago—to come and preside over a beautiful time together, remembering our history as Christians through a Seder meal.  The Seder is a traditional Jewish meal, eaten during the Passover Celebration which is one of the most important traditions of the Jewish religion.  Seder means “order,” and the meal is such–done in a specific order, with meaning and symbolism connected to each bite.

Why celebrate as Christians?  Because the Passover event is a significant piece of our history too, as is all the content of the Old Testament.  To understand our history only magnifies the impact of Christ and his redeeming story.  So, we can participate in the Seder, and then 6 days later celebrate Easter!

You can find a Seder Meal Script here.  It will take you step by step through the entire ceremony.  Here are some pictures of our time together with brief descriptions, however I have only scratched the surface with my notes–there is deep and rich symbolism and “order” to this time of fellowship and remembrance.  I encourage you to look at the script and see if you would like to do one for a group of people in your life!

Our evening begins….

Before the guests arrive, Liz, my sister-in-law, Jennifer, and I finish preparing the table.

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We have laid out the Haggadah book, or “Story of Passover” from which we will read during the meal, and some matzah, or unleavened bread. The parsley is something we dip in salt-water and then eat–it is bitter!  This is to remind us of the bitterness and tears the Isrealites experienced during their time if slavery in Egypt.

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The guests arrive and take a seat.  Some of the women have been asked to do part of the “reading” during the meal, so they have place cards to spread them out around the table.  The “Lighting of the Passover Candles” is one of the first parts of the ceremony–we are getting ready to do this.  Also, notice the cups of wine–this is even a plan and ceremony with the wine–no sipping out of order!

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Liz begins.  As the leader, she has the main role of guiding us through the Seder.  She did a wonderful job of teaching and leading us through the intricate parts of the Seder story.

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This is the Haggadah.  It depicts the story of Passover, and in the Christian version, ties the symbolism to our journey with Christ.

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Liz models each step for us–this is the breaking of the bread.

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See how hard we are trying to follow directions?  It is a time of laughter and fun!

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There are some significant elements of the dinner–this plate represents a few.  The “lamb bone” represents the Passover Lamb that was sacrificed to save the first-born sons.  The egg represents new life, the Charoset, the sweetness that God brings after a time of bitterness in our lives.

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After we walked through the Haddagah, we ate a full meal filled with friendship, fellowship and remembrance.  We finished back in the Haddagah to wrap up the night.

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I think it’s fair to say we will all remember this special evening for a long time.  The experience added another layer to the Easter tradition–one of remembrance, history, and foundation in who we are as believers in God and Jesus.  I only hope you can enjoy the experience someday too! God Bless!

 

 

 

 

Great Family Movie

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Last night my daughter, Maddie, and I rented the movie “Grace Unplugged” from the 7-11 Red box by our house.  I didn’t know what it was about, only that it was a family friendly movie that had some Christian themes.  Honestly, I wasn’t terribly excited to watch it, but was willing to give it a try to have some movie time with Maddie.  By the end of the movie I was crying and clapping (inside–real clapping would ensure eye rolling from my companion).

“Grace Unplugged” is about an 18-year-old girl, Grace, and her desire to pursue music in her life, but not without cost.  Themes of rebellion, the temptation of the world, and redemption flow through the story.  It is has wonderful music and impressive acting.  I would recommend this for families with children 4th grade and up–and for adults who just want a good tear-jerker!

In fact the movie was so good, all the kids and I watched it a second time this morning for our “Church at Home” time that we occasionally do on Sunday mornings when Jon is out of town.  After the movie, the kids filled in a couple of pages of questions I had created to dig into the story and how it related to their lives, and we discussed their answers together.  My expectations for these teaching times with my kids tend to be too high (why do they want to sit in weird positions and eat loud food during this time?–well, to be fair it’s only one of them, but I won’t mention any names).  However, I think the movie did a great job of speaking to my kids’ hearts.

If you are interested in doing the discussion part with your family after watching the movie, here are the questions we used:

Grace Unplugged (note, you will need to click on this one more time from the link this takes you to)

I hope you get a chance to see this movie–enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

Chairs, Athleta Models, and God

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“Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with the things you have, for He has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”    Hebrews 13:5

There are times in life when we are just plain jealous. Maybe someone you know just bought a brand-new house, while you’ve  been spending your days trying to figure out how to re-arrange your dated family room furniture to make it seem “fresh”.  Or, you are in a really difficult marriage and it seems everyone you know is happy and content in theirs.  Maybe its a simple thing, like an extremely flattering scarf that your bestie just showed up at your door wearing, and that morning, no matter how much you tried you were just not able to find anything to wear that you liked.

Or that darn Athleta model that is looking up at you from your pile of mail (how many hours DOES she work out anyway??)

COV.ET
verb
verb: covet;
  1. 1.
    yearn to possess or have (something).
    synonyms: desire, yearn for, crave, have one’s heart set on, want, wish for, long for, hanker after/for, hunger after/for, thirst for

Lately, I’ve been coveting time.  I find myself thinking about the lovely women in my life who seem to have balance, and margin–two things that have been greatly lacking in my world for a few years.

I’ve also been pining after new dining room chairs, which after my husband sat in one of our old ones over Thanksgiving and it literally collapsed under him, I excitedly said, “Sit on the other ones now!” hoping the rest of the 12-year-old rustic cabin/mountain/bear/pine tree chairs  would fall like dominoes (OK, I’m exaggerating, no bears.).

What do you long for?  What feels missing?

Jesus came to fill whatever empty spaces we have in our life.  Relationally, materially, spiritually.  He is the only one who satisfies our thirst.  When the woman at the well drew water for Jesus,

13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14

I always struggled a bit with this passage–how does that relate to my dining room chairs?  But actually, it does.  I know that the more I belong to my heavenly father, the more I know him and seek him in my daily life, the less important my perceived material lack (which truly, I lack for nothing) becomes.  Jesus gives us perspective, as he did with the woman at the well.  She was focused on her relational failures (most likely) and her physical thirst, and Jesus gave her hope, which flows eternal when we are in a relationship with Him.   In other words, when the voice of my “wants” in life is turned down, and I turn up the voice of God, I feel content.  I know what I need to pine after and desire, and that is the desire of His heart:

To Live Justly,

To Love Mercy,

To Walk Humbly With Him

Micah 6:8

I did get new dining room chairs, by the way, after I worked hard the last few months at my business and saved up some money, and because my kind husband (who does not give a lick about dining room chairs) gave his blessing on the purchase.  I hold them lightly, however, and know that they only matter when the table is filled with friends and family, giving thanks to God, sharing a meal, and finding joy in each other.

Let’s look to God for perspective, contentment, and peace.  It is overflowing for those who seek Him.

 

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