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All posts for the month September, 2017

Trusting God on a Fearsome Wave

Published September 27, 2017 by Dawn

I gently laid my phone down on the counter after a major act of obedience and thought to myself, “Well … that was weird.”

I had just sent a text to my ex – the man who had, until recently, been on the far periphery of our lives while I raise two kids solo – telling him I was praying for him. I also thanked him for “stepping up.” Do bitter moms even do that, like, ever?

It was a response to prayer. I had just had a major freak-out session with God about my son because – let’s just say he hasn’t made the wisest choices this week. I immediately reacted (or overreacted), and my son decided he wanted to go to his dad’s for the week.

My son.

This man … he’s struggled to be reliable in the past and I don’t necessarily approve of his decisions and the person he has chosen to become. I certainly have not envisioned the path he took in life as the path I want my kids to walk. I have prayed very fervently over the years that God would send someone to help me in raising these kids because I have never wanted to do this alone. I’m fifteen years in and I have only remained single as an act of obedience. It was not my will. I have crumbled many times over the years. My prayers have run the gamut:

God, please. Send someone to help me in raising these kids. I can’t do this alone.

Lord, if it’s your will for me to remain single, be my Husband. Help me. They are your children and you care about them. Do your thing.

Husband, I need your help in raising these kids.

When their dad decided very recently to begin to pull his life together and step up, my prayer changed. I became insolent and bitter. God, I asked you to send me someone. I’ve been begging for years. I have allowed you to do your thing in my life and when you finally send someone it’s him. You have nothing better than this?

I’m a little embarrassed at my attitude but there’s no point in denying it. The truth sets us free, right? I began to pray for his salvation, and that God would separate him from things that are no good for him. I prayed he would hear God and respond to him. I also prayed fervently that he would move as far away as possible so my kids wouldn’t wander into foreign lifestyles that he might introduce them to.

After a disturbing day yesterday, when my son left to go to his dad’s house, I broke down. I kind of threw a panicked fit. None of this was in my plans. I had just spoken to a few people this past weekend about Job and how Satan was really aiming at God’s goodness. He wanted Job to denounce God and admit God wasn’t good. I quoted the scripture, “Shall we accept good from God and not bad also?” And another, “His ways are higher.” These verses nagged at me while I questioned God.

I am so glad God is patient with us. He listened without speaking for a long time and when I was finally done ranting, I heard Him speak in my spirit: What if, through this need, I can work in both of them? Is it impossible that I can call him up higher by presenting a need you can’t meet? Isn’t his salvation and deliverance what you are praying for? Do you trust me?

Let’s just say I hesitated. Then I acquiesce. Hadn’t God delivered me through my children? I prayed a new prayer then. Please be with him and teach him. Give him wisdom. He might not know how to handle this but you do. Open his ears and his heart to hear and obey you, Lord. I leave my son in your hands.

Proverbs tells us that “as a man thinks in his heart, so he is” (Proverbs 23:7). I can’t keep holding the old man over my ex’s head and expecting him to become someone new. I also know that if this man is the man God intends to raise my son, while also redeeming him, who am I to question? Who am I to remain bitter? I have to stand in God’s decision and be a help and not a hindrance. I can’t let my pride, or any roots of bitterness, endanger the man my son will become. I have to allow God to use this man I had previously had no respect for – I have to respect him as the instrument God intends to use to make my boy a man. I have to pray for him. I have to encourage him. I have to forgive him and allow him to step up. I don’t have to trust this man; I only need to trust God. So I sent the text. I reflected on how strange it felt, but let it be. I freaked out again today, because I am still struggling with memories that haunt me. I have plans for my son. But so does God, and he has two sons to train here. In my son’s life, his dad will become the greater influence while I become the lesser.

God can do anything, friend. Don’t we say that all the time? We sing the songs, we quote the scriptures, but at some point, we have to walk the talk and only then will we know whether or not we really believe God is who He says He is, and is capable of all He claims to be capable of. In what ways is God stretching your faith? Let Him. Don’t argue or fight it. Just let Him.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our LORD Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith-of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:3-9).

 

 

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Small-scale ministry, HUGE impact

Published September 19, 2017 by Dawn

This weekend provided a wonderful opportunity. Well, two actually. Firstly, I had the opportunity to be involved in a youth ministry event. I am always eager to be involved in such things, because I love ministry opportunities and I have been doing youth ministry for almost a decade, so I was very willing, except … the other opportunity was at the same time and it was equally exciting and important. I had a rare Saturday with just me and my son, and I sensed a need in him that some “guy time” always fixes.

I mulled it over for a while, wondering how my son would feel about sitting around in a youth leader training all day. Thinking about what an opportunity it would be and how it might steer him in a positive direction. I had high hopes! My final debate, though, happened in the prayer closet. I asked the Lord which choice was the good, and which was the best. His answer surprised me.

I spent Saturday with my son. I really felt led to put aside the world, and even the ministry opportunity, to minister to my son in his time of need. We went fishing. I even bought chicken livers for the first time in my life because he’s always wanted to fish with them. And even though he left them in my car overnight and I am still trying to get the smell out of my car two days later, I know that this decision was the best one, even though I was tempted to tend to the other ministry in my life.

Dear reader, I share this with you because I know that sometimes, we lose sight of the significant ministry opportunities we have on a daily basis to the people around us, waiting around for something bigger and better. We often chase the spotlight while neglecting to minister in the small things because we’ve been taught that bigger ministries equal greater impact. I don’t think this is true, though.

Jesus spent the bulk of his time ministering to a handful of men and women. He often broke away from the thousands to teach his disciples. After his death, it wasn’t the thousands who spread the gospel and gave birth to modern Christianity. It was just a small group of men and women who knew Christ intimately and loved him more than life itself.

Having been a youth minister for nearly ten years, I can honestly say that the crowd grows up and out, and some of them still take a trip out into the world to taste its fare. There are those who are rare gems, who stay true to the faith you teach, and they do it because they have grown into a personal relationship with God because of their close personal relationship with their parents and youth leaders. They grow to love the intimacy they knew and noticed through their personal closeness with the people who spent time with them. And probably most of that time didn’t feel like ministry or look like ministry. It just felt like quality time.

Don’t neglect the small arenas of ministry waiting for God to open big doors in your life. Be faithful in the little things. You will eventually find such great satisfaction and fulfillment in the little things, that the wait becomes irrelevant. God is always at work, friend, and if you let Him, He will use you every day. It may not always feel magnanimous, but it will always be exactly His will if you walk in obedience to Him. You will not fail to make an impact, you just may not see it immediately. Stay faithful!

Friendly Misunderstanding

Published September 12, 2017 by Dawn

Today, I had recess duty with first grade. First graders have a lot of problems … well, from the perspective of a child. I believe most of them can be chalked up to colossal misunderstandings. Today, a little girl came to me over a what turned out to be a misunderstanding and it struck me as something that happens in the church a lot. I immediately wanted to share it with you.

This little girl comes up to me just completely broken. She’s weeping into her sleeve over something that must have truly devastated her. After calming her heart, I asked her why she was so upset. She said, “I came out to recess late and went to find my friends. They were playing tag. I went up to them and asked them if they were missing a friend … I meant me. I was missing from the group. They said no!” She dissolved into tears again and I stood there looking at her and trying to see this from her perspective. Let’s just say I am not on a first-grade level of thinking …

Finally, it hit me. I calmed her down again and asked, “Do you think maybe they weren’t missing a friend because you were standing right there when you asked it?” She just looked at me in confusion. I said, “Maybe they weren’t missing you because you weren’t gone anymore.” I then told her to find her friends and ask them if she could play tag. She did and all was well.

I was deeply moved by this misunderstanding because I thought about me and my best friend. Not any person, but my Bible. I call it my best friend … I take it everywhere with me. It’s my constant companion. I thought about the times I have read something in the Bible that maybe troubled me or confused me. I think this must happen a lot with anyone who reads their Bible. I believe scripture invites us to press in to God for understanding quite often. We see dimly, after all (1 Cor. 13:12). I have had instances where something did not make sense to me and I prayed about it, asking God to reveal what He meant when He spoke it. Sometimes, He speaks right away. Other times, I have had to persist in prayer over a particular scripture for days, weeks, months, and even more than a year! I can identify times in my life when I had a misunderstanding with my best friend (the scriptures), and found it very difficult to pick up for a time because it offended me or scared me. In essence, I turned from my best friend feeling very betrayed or even abandoned at times.

There are so many divisions within the body of Christ and I believe this is a huge reason why: many of us have had misunderstandings with the Word of God and have sought out our own wisdom, or the wisdom of someone else who frankly, might be as fleshly about their perspective as we might have been. I believe, according to scripture, that the Spirit of God brings unity (Ephesians 4:3-6), and if the body of Christ had taken their misunderstandings to the Lord, we’d all be on the same page. God does not talk out of both sides of His mouth! We can trust Him to reveal His truth in His time. We just don’t, oftentimes. Instead, we are guilty of seeking man’s wisdom when things don’t make sense, and worse yet, taking man’s word for it, even if it doesn’t line up with scripture.

I have no intention of pointing fingers, but I would like to encourage those who are humble enough to admit they don’t know everything: pray about it. God can handle you admitting you don’t understand something in His word. He can even handle it if you admit you don’t like something about His word. He is faithful to reveal to you if you are persistent in your asking. Don’t seek wisdom from others; seek wisdom from God.

You might say to me, “Iron sharpens iron.” I know that it does. But I also want to remind you that Paul, after his conversion, went off alone for fourteen years and sought the wisdom of God about what he later preached. He wrote half of the New Testament, and it wasn’t with man’s wisdom! It is okay to be sharpened by your peers, but we also must be diligent in seeking first the kingdom of God. Man’s wisdom should agree with the Word of God, or should be swiftly discarded.

Don’t abandon your pursuit of God when He seems distant or different. Don’t walk away heartbroken when He speaks a hard word that leaves you dumbfounded. Ask Him what He meant and be willing to wait on His reply. You will not be disappointed! In fact, to the contrary, you will be overjoyed to know your Heavenly Friend on a deeper, more personal level. Be faithful to God, Beloved, because He is indeed faithful to us.

Maybe God Misses You

Published September 6, 2017 by Dawn

James Dobson said something to my mother heart when my kids were very young that haunted me since. He said, “At some point, a boy begins to push away from his mother.” He was talking about bringing up boys, and I was mostly resentful (then) of his wisdom because I faced the daunting task of raising a son on my own, and Dr. Dobson made it sound all but impossible. I have slowly conceded to his points, one after the other, as my son has shown how very much Dr. Dobson knows on the topic (in contrast to how very little I know). This past summer, this particular nugget of truth became revealed. My son wanted to be home as little as possible.

I have always, ever since becoming a mother, wanted my children’s happiness more than my next breath. I have lived for their delight. I have read all the psych books, poured over the scriptures, and done all that I could within my power to secure the perpetual joy and bliss of my kids. I will not sing my praises more than this, because perhaps I have failed … I don’t know. All I know is that this past summer, while my daughter clutched the apron strings just a little tighter in anticipation of high school (which we are ALWAYS reminded is really just a blur in the rearview mirror before you know it), my son pushed us away like we were a plague. The end of summer brought him back home long enough to find out his new boundaries for the school year, then he was off every evening after chores and spending the weekends with his friends again.

Last weekend, he asked me if he could go to his friend’s house and I told him no.

“But WHY?” The badgering began.

Can I admit something to you? I didn’t have much of a real reason. I told him it was because I wanted him to do his chores, which was partly true. He came home and did them, then asked again.

“No.” I just wanted to cry. Why do you want to leave me?

He was getting a little heated. “But I did my chores and I always go to my friends’ on the weekends. Why can’t I go?”

I stumbled through a list of excuses, all of which he had a great rebuttal for. He protested like a legal expert and I had to concede one after the other until I was left with nothing but the truth.

“I miss you!”

He just gaped at me. “Are you serious?”

Tears welled up in my eyes.

“I want you to stay home. I miss you being here.”

I wish I could say he melted then and there into my arms and told me he’d never go anywhere ever again. He didn’t. He actually continued to argue with me, and even though all I had was the truth of my heart’s cry, I used it to combat his defenses until he sulked to his room. I hugged myself and went to make dinner.

Then it happened.

“Mom, come in here.”

He was in his bedroom. I stepped into the doorway.

“I cleaned it up in here. Want to sit with me?”

Did. I. Ever!

To be invited into the sanctuary of my thirteen-year-old son … YES! I went in and sat on his futon. He laid down on his bed, pulled out his phone and ignored me for the next twenty minutes, but my heart was satisfied just being in his presence. When I finally got up to leave (because let’s face it, I can only be ignored for so long before I have to get up and actually accomplish something with the daylight left), he implored, “No, Mom, don’t leave me. Sit here with me.”

I excused myself to finish dinner and he trailed me into the kitchen and helped cook. Every time I turned around, he was leaning into me for a hug. For the first time in months, my son wanted to be around me. I was in heaven.

Do you ever wonder if God keeps us isolated from our friends so He can be with us? Do you think it’s because He misses us? Maybe it’s because He knows that if our attention were on other things, we wouldn’t turn to Him for companionship. Maybe all the times relationships have fallen through, friends have seemingly abandoned us, and family has forgotten we exist … maybe all of the times we felt society shun us was God’s way of giving us a gentle “no” that redirected our attention to Him. Maybe He has a longing for us that hasn’t been articulated so much as shown by a cold shoulder from the world around us. Maybe God just wants to be near us again.

Perhaps, too, we are like my son: pulling out everything we can to distract ourselves, even when God is sitting in the room, and not interacting with Him even though we want Him near. Is it enough to be in His presence? Of course! But we must admit … there’s so much more to God than nearness and silence. Oftentimes, we get this far and we feel like we’ve experienced all there is in our relationship with God, but if we venture out of our sanctuary into His world, and we follow Him as He does His thing, we will inevitably find that God is working on things and we can partner with Him. So often, we invite God to be a part of what we are doing. Perhaps it’s time to stop asking God to make something of us and use us, and instead, we come alongside Him while He works and help in what He is doing. There’s a huge difference, after all.

Yes, I believe God misses us more than we miss Him sometimes. I encourage you to turn your eyes to Him in your loneliness and allow His presence to bring you peace. Furthermore, allow Him to lead you out into the things that He is doing and graciously agree to be a part of His work, whatever He may ask of you. God bless!