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Sleepless in Misery

Published March 19, 2018 by Dawn

“In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8).

Insomnia and I have a long history. As far back as I can remember, I’ve struggled to sleep. The boogie man was real to me, and I have always slept with one eye open.

We became considerably closer when I moved out of my mom’s house. My kids and I lived in a three-bedroom house and my son slept in the back bedroom for the first few weeks. I didn’t sleep much. His room had a window, and I couldn’t sleep at night, fearing that in the back of the house while I slept, someone might snatch my kid right out of his bed. It was a paralyzing fear, really. I mollified myself by moving my son into the middle bedroom with my daughter. Oddly enough, the middle bedroom didn’t have windows, and after that adjustment, I slept alright for three years.

When I bought our house, nearly ten years ago, I was suddenly faced with an overwhelming problem: my house has six-foot-tall windows in almost every room. Two. In each room. My kids were getting old enough to have their own rooms, and I wanted them to, but the first few months, I hardly slept at all. I was exhausted, to say the least. It was obvious that living every day on little sleep wasn’t going to be sustainable much longer. I was already a single mom with a full time job and college. Sleeplessness was about to wreck me.

When exhaustion had me at my breaking point, the Lord said to me, “You have to deal with this fear.” I didn’t want to. You see, I believed in the boogie man. I had reason to. He was real and every window in my house was an opportunity for the boogie man to steal my children and inflict horrific torture on their little bodies and souls. I was petrified every night! I could lock him out with dead bolts, but my windows scared me so much. Finally, though, the Lord encouraged me to deal with my fear. He said, “Do you believe I can keep you safe?”

“Of course I do.”

“Then you must believe for your children, too. Just ask me every night to keep you safe in your home. I will be faithful.”

It seemed so easy. Just ask.

So I did. I asked the Lord to keep us safe and He was faithful. He has kept us safe every night for almost ten years. I still pray this nightly. And with this prayer came peace in my heart and rest in my bed.

This scripture kept jumping out at me, so I thought I’d share this. It’s awesome that God cares about our lack of peace in certain areas of our lives. I encourage you to pray to Him about what is keeping you up at night. Whatever it is: God knows, He cares and He will take care of you.

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Strength When the Struggle is Real

Published January 25, 2018 by Dawn

I sat here last night and wrote two or three sentences over and over, going back and erasing, writing something else. Nothing flowed because I didn’t even know where to start. A regular reader will have noticed a marked decrease in my blogging over the past two months, and I finally have a word that adequately defines why: stunned.

Like a deer hit with a high beam, I’ve felt taken off-guard. Hit hard and fast with an overwhelming barrage of things, and for a while, I didn’t want to talk about any of it because it would have been complaining and I am currently breaking up with self-pity. I didn’t want to go there. I wanted to share from a place of security and wholeness. So, let’s talk.

A little over two months ago, we took in a little boy who needed a safe place to stay for a bit. He’s six, adorable and more of a handful than I wanted to deal with. It was a God-thing, but it didn’t feel good. First lesson: our comfort is not God’s ultimate aim in life. We have to stop worshipping our comfort and refusing to do God’s will because it doesn’t feel good. Let’s just say this wisdom didn’t come immediately, but more of a chastisement. I was wallowing in my own self-pity and self-centered bitterness. Then, the Word said, “Whoever welcomes a little child in my name, welcomes me,” and immediately I was faced with this dilemma: who’s right? Me or God? I was hurting, but not right.

It’s hard to accept, with gratitude, a child who causes angst in your own children and purposefully annoys them to get their attention. A child who pees in the floor when he’s mad or upset. A child who moves like a sloth through his morning when you have to be taxi to three different schools before you head to work. A child who doesn’t do what you ask unless you watch him like a hawk, repeatedly disobeys, and is one more person not picking up after himself in a house full of people you were already frustrated with for the same reason.

This child has good qualities too, but I was so frustrated with the depth of sacrifice, I couldn’t take my eyes off the things that were causing me to choke, to give him any credit. Not only was my attitude unChrist-like, it was downright sickening. And I knew it.

Then, we added a third into what is now known as “the boys’ room,” (another thing grating on my already-hurting son), when I had to take in a short-term exchange student because they are my responsibility while they are here and this teen’s placement didn’t work out. He’s not a problem at all, but there were more sacrifices: Earlier mornings, shorter showers, less laundry days, putting on make-up in bad lighting and not having time to do my hair. Having one more person to pick up and drive all over every day. One more person eating meals and hanging the door open. My electric bill roiled my stomach!

On top of this – or maybe beneath it is how they feel – are my own two precious kids struggling with hormones, an absent father, pressure from school, pressure from teachers, pressure from friends, and needing me to console and love on them while inside, I’m kind of freaking out. When my daughter hit me with an “I miss my dad” at bedtime the other day, and all I could do was cry with her, the magnitude of how powerless I am in my life hit me hard.

Lesson two: hardships bring us closer to God, and that was why Paul gloried in them. I went to my room and prostrated myself on the stained carpet that desperately needs TLC. Inhaling dust and God-knows-what, I cried out to God because I do know that, although things seem out of control, He is absolutely still in control. I felt held.  I felt listened to as I poured out my soul. Then, I felt taught as the Holy Spirit reminded me that God’s aim in our suffering is to teach us obedience, perseverance, and all the strengthening words we need to help others in their suffering. Paul talked about being offered up on the sacrifice and service of other believers’ faith – he was talking about enduring trials so that the faith of others may be built up. His comfort, his desires, were the sacrifice. All so that others might come to really know God and His power at work on their behalf. This is such a beautiful thing.

I was also reminded that when you tell God you are ready to be used, you don’t get to pick the circumstances and it’s foolish to complain because God is answering your heart cry to be used. It just might not look like you want it to look. And it certainly never feels like you hope it will feel. God orchestrates our lives because we are His. While we are looking for miraculous and amazing things, God is in the people and places of ordinary, everyday life. So many of us will miss our moments to be used for His kingdom waiting on a stage and lights. If I refuse to be Jesus to this little boy, or this Chilean student, because they take up time that I could be holed up reading my Bible or writing, I’ve missed a divine appointment that I’ve prayed for simply because it’s not the way I envisioned my service to the Lord working out. But that’s not the will of God; it’s the will of Dawn. I set myself up as an idol.

When I thought I couldn’t possibly do another thing in surrender, God asked something else of me: I was asked to move our teen meetings at church to Sunday mornings so that the larger group of teens that attend on Sunday morning will participate in a service. I was reluctant, but I did it upon the advice and excitement of others and the peace I received in prayer. But as eleven bustling, energetic teens followed me up to our new classroom Sunday morning during the interim between worship sets, I faced my own fear: losing “my time.” Sunday morning is my time of truly pressing in to God. I mean, I have a prayer-life outside of church and my Bible and I are besties, but Sunday mornings fill me to overflowing like no other time of my week. It’s a time of release and abandon and submission. And when I close my eyes during worship, I feel alone with God and it is glorious.

I walked away from “my time” to teach a group of teens that sometimes, I feel, just want to mess around until the bell rings without really digging into the treasures God lays before us each week. Again, self-pity and bitterness sidled up next to me and cooed in my ears in patient understanding of my plight.

When I got home, I went to my room and laid my face on the dingy carpet again and told the Lord how I felt. Again, God comforted me and then reminded me of Jesus, climbing up a mountainside to pray and being followed by a couple thousand people. Or being chased by a boatload of them across the Sea of Galilee when all he wanted to do was mourn over his cousin, John. Jesus, who, of all people needed a break, stealing away for moments with God whenever the opportunity arose, but never insisting that a time be set aside specifically for him to pray. He made time of the moments in between, instead of making a god out his OCDs. Lesson four: It’s important to be filled, but God does not want you to make a god out of your set times to be with Him. He wants you to be available to minister whenever and wherever, and He promises to meet you in the in-between moments to strengthen and encourage you.

If all of this has taught me nothing else, I have learned lesson five, which is that people will drain us quickly. So many need Jesus, but they will come to us first and they will fill up on Christ through me and you. We are the first image of Jesus people see, and they will earnestly desire Him and seek Him out through us and we will pour ourselves out until there’s nothing left in the bottom of the cup. But emptiness is not God’s will in ministry. Fullness is. Springs of living water bubbling up inside of us. David said, “All my fountains are in you” (Psalms 87:7). We have to be with God in stillness and be filled. He is our source of replenishment. We need Him in order to be the hands and feet of Christ. If even Jesus needed him, how much more will we?

I can honestly say that circumstances have become so much easier, having heard these blessed truths. I can now look down into the freckled face of this six-year-old boy and see Jesus and my duty to Him. I can smile at this child without feeling the weight of the burden I thought he was. I can endure a host of students hanging out in my kitchen at eleven at night, eating my lemon meringue and stealing moments with a Chilean teen who will be leaving in a week. I can smile through the murkiness of mothering children who are experiencing inner turmoil. I can smile at God knowing that while I didn’t ask for any of this specifically, I did ask to be used and this is what it looks and feels like. I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.

 

Godly Parenting

Published November 13, 2017 by Dawn

My fifteen-year-old daughter is a parent’s dream. Yes, I’m bragging. I’m super proud of her in so many ways, not the least of which is the fact that she is a naturally responsible, obedient young woman. But this week, it happened. She finally found herself up against a rule I set for her many years ago. She is not allowed to date until she is sixteen.

Here’s the short of it: She’s fifteen and has a few crushes. She’s really nervous because she’s afraid that this one guy might ask her out before she’s sixteen and when she tells him she can’t date yet, he’ll move on! In utter turmoil, she came to me and asked me to modify the rules so she doesn’t miss this opportunity, should it arise. She was kind of frantic about it, insisting that I explain to her once again why we even have this rule, in hopes that she might be able to poke holes in my logic (she was born to be a lawyer).

I went through it all:

  • Dating is something you do to find someone to marry. Are you ready for marriage?
  • Do you know if he’s a Christian? Why waste time on something that God will not purpose in your life?
  • In the heat of emotion, it’s easy to make decisions based on feelings instead of obedience to God and even more so for people just starting out in their walk with the Lord.
  • Any good relationship is built on a friendship and you can’t even talk to him like a normal person!

These are just a few of the many things we discussed and even though she argued like a pro, there was no poking holes because I, too, was born to argue.

I got the cold shoulder for two days.

I went to my room early the second night to pray and seek God’s wisdom in the matter, because I felt very strongly that this was a good boundary for my kids, and as such, was not budging in it. In my prayer time, the Lord reminded me that the parent’s role in a child’s life is to mirror the relationship of God’s role in all of our lives. Parents love their children unconditionally, care for them, protect them, guide them, discipline them and all of this prepares kids for that day when they become accountable to God alone.

At some point in a person’s younger years, he or she realizes that rules can either be followed or broken. Before that pivotal moment, if his or her authority figure spoke, it was gospel and followed no matter what. Then, an awakening happens. The natural, rebellious self awakens to the temptation of self-will, and that kiddo will struggle against the obedience that is good in favor of whatever their young heart truly desires. So, in my daughter’s case, as in every person’s case at some point, it was bound to happen. Temptation entered the picture in the form of self-will, clouded with emotion and child-like (shortsighted) reasoning.

The Lord also reminded me of the two aspects of God’s will – the permissive will and the perfect will. God understands rebellion. It’s been breaking his heart for thousands of years. Thankfully, though, he knows how we were formed and remembers that we are just dust (Ps. 103:14). His perfect will is the life he envisioned for us when he lovingly crafted us in the secret place. All the wonderful gifts he planned for our enjoyment, the path he desired us to walk in life. The Eden we ruin with our self-will, more often than not. In that moment, we enter into the permissive will of God, in which he permits us to wallow in the mud we so desire, then works all things in conformity to his will. We make choices despite his wishes and our lives are marred and broken thereafter, but God lovingly picks up all the pieces and makes a new masterpiece, if we will let him.

One thing God never does, though, is move the boundary stones to appease our soulful desires. He has set standards before us and guides us through them if we let him, but when we disobey him, it is with an understanding that we have chosen something lesser to gratify our human nature and exchanged his perfect will for his permissive will. Beg as we might, God has already chosen what is good in his sight and he knows that, while we might not see it for the good that it is right now, if we persist in obedience to him, we will one day understand why he set those boundaries.

I explained all of this to her, knowing that in her heart, she has accepted God as her father. I explained that obedience and disobedience are acts of our will, but that God doesn’t allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear, but provides a way out from under it so that we won’t fall (1 Cor. 10:13). That if we truly want his perfect will, there’s a cost we will pay and that cost includes instant gratification, ridicule, and losing opportunities that look good to us. But, I also reminded her, that “eyes have not seen, ears have not heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man, the things God has prepared for those who love him and are called according to his purpose” (1 Cor. 2:9). Her father has crafted something precious, a treasure for her, that if she walks in obedience to him, she will experience in this life.

These two things, I firmly believe:

  1. We teach our kids how to obey God by teaching them how to obey us. When we move boundaries in response to their duress over them, we teach our children that they can haggle with God. But God doesn’t work like that. He doesn’t lower standards just because we find them impossible to accept or live with. He strengthens us in our weakness, but he doesn’t change in response to our angst.
  2. Our children will obey God the same way they obey us. Just as our relationship with them is an example of God’s love and devotion to them, their relationship with us is a reflection of their relationship with God. How they obey us is how they will obey him.

It is important for parents to make standards for their children, express them and be unmoving in their authority. It’s very counter-culture but that is what we Christians were called to be anyway. “Come out from among them and be separate” (2 Cor. 6:17). Our homes should not be governed according to the latest Psychology trend, they should be governed by the Word of God. Our kids should know our standards and we, as parents, should be aware that at any given moment, our kids’ self-wills might dictate their decisions. But we don’t have to move boundary stones to appease them, because when we do, we subjugate our authority and our kids suddenly feel they are the rulers of the household. I work in a high school and I hear students laughing at their parents all the time because they have caved to tyranny.

Let your kids know that when they act in disobedience, they do so in defiance. Don’t change the rules just so they play nice. Remember the saying, “Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile”? Your kids will not respect you for caving to their demands. They’ll just be more persistent in future demands.

I took my daughter to the Bible and read her two scriptures in Proverbs. Chapter 22, verse 28, says, “Do not move an ancient boundary stone set up by your ancestors.” Why is this wisdom for parental discipline? Because we make rules based on our understanding of their age, the trouble they might get into, the trouble we got into and our knowledge of their childish tendencies. We also base our rules on the presumed actions and reactions of others. We use wisdom they don’t have yet because people do not become fully rational, reasoning human beings until they are 25, according to modern scientific research. I also read her Proverbs 23:10, which says, “Do not move an ancient boundary stone or encroach on the fields of the fatherless.”  I pointed out that sometimes, our disobedience to the will of God has consequences that encroach on the field of those around us. Consequences are far-reaching, like the ripples after a stone is thrown into a lake. You can’t stop the ripples. They die out on their own and you can never tell how far they might travel across the surface. If we walk in obedience to God, we are comforted knowing that he is working on something so complex that involves everyone around us, without hurting anyone. The pain comes because we disobey and hurt ourselves, and sometimes, people we dearly love.

In concluding, I would like to add one thought: if we are going to discipline our children in such a way as to prepare them for God’s boundaries and discipline, we must also show them love like God does. We must continuously forgive – graciously, and not with gritted teeth. We must discuss our actions and reactions with them – the why – so they will not be disheartened when obedience is a sacrifice. We must pray with and for them. Our kids have to feel secure enough in our love and affection for them, to fail our expectations and still be willing to climb up into our laps for comfort. This is perhaps one of the greatest aspects of God’s love and forbearance and as parents, we must guide them into that confidence. The hand that hurts is also the hand that heals, in our walks with the Lord. Let it also be true in our relationships with our kiddos.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6).

 

 

The Agony of Our Father

Published October 25, 2017 by Dawn

Can we just not talk about it? I mean, I need to talk to you about something, but I really cannot actually talk about it. It’s still too raw. It still hurts and I don’t want to talk about it. But I need to, as an act of obedience, tell you the deep truth that was dropped into my spirit today. Do we have a deal?

Okay, so here goes: my son … my thirteen-year-old baby, my heart growing up to be a man … this boy that I love so much … he moved out a month ago. He’s been living with his dad. I can’t tell you all the prayers I’ve prayed, or the amount of tears I have cried. The fake smile I’ve plastered on my face to maintain composure around people because life goes on … I can’t tell you about these things just yet because I can’t even bring myself to talk about it with any real depth. The pain in my heart, the ache in my chest, the thoughts in my head. I can’t even.

Today, I got a call from school. They were just checking on him because he wasn’t there. I didn’t even know. I called his dad and found out he was sick.

Without me.

Today was the first day my son has ever been sick without me. He stayed home without me. The first time I didn’t hold him while he suffered. I didn’t even know he was suffering! I got off the phone and broke down in tears.  The Lord, being very gentle with me lately, whispered, “This agony you feel … I feel it all the time. My children choose to suffer without me too.”

Oh, my soul! My heart is breaking! Can this really be the agony God suffers through when His children suffer at a distance? This, guys … this is why Jesus came. Because for thousands of years before Calvary, God watched His children suffer the disastrous effects of sin. The turmoil of living outside of the will of God. The panic, fear, desperation … God watched his children suffer without him until he could bear it no longer. Then he sent Jesus.

But Church, even after Christ, there is still this war. This suffering. Endless agony. Christians living in fear and lost people living in sin. God’s heart, I now know, is breaking for us. How many parents have watched helplessly while their children have made bad choices and suffered drastic consequences? You know, then, the pain of a Father who loves his children. You know the feeling of desperation on their behalf. Can our Heavenly Father feel any less for his children?

If this is you … if you are suffering at a distance because you feel unworthy, I just want you to know one thing: God does not love you because of your worthiness. He loves you because he chose to as he lovingly knit you together in the secret place. He hasn’t changed his mind about you. You may have made choices against his will, and you might be suffering consequences, but you are no less loved than you have ever been because God is unchanging. If you feel the Holy Spirit leading you with this truth, I implore you to surrender and be led into the arms of God. He longs for you. His heart is yearning for your nearness just as much as you are yearning for his. Run to Him. He loves you.

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!