I Can’t Do This!

My daughter brought home a doll that would be her “daughter” for the next three nights and two days. Her name was August. Things didn’t go well for either Maggie or August. Or for Maggie’s cat, Mickey. The poor guy was beside himself with worry whenever baby August cried, which was often enough.

Around two hours into her Child Development assignment, Maggie had lost some of the tenacity that makes her so amazing. She didn’t know what to do with the crying doll. She couldn’t figure it out and she couldn’t fix it. (To her credit, I should disclose right now that the baby hadn’t been programmed correctly.)

“I can’t do this!” she cried.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cried those same words or something that sounds like them. I’m a grown woman who’s gone through a whole lot more than three hours of intermittent crying from a baby. I don’t say that to minimize Maggie’s anxiety but to say that – like most of us – I can completely empathize with her.

I remembered the fearless little toddler who had once wobbled and fallen her way to successful walking. This was the same girl who tested a single stair step one day and conquered the other 12 within two days like a boss. My heart broke for her, and I was a bit surprised. This girl is pretty fierce, yet she was buckling under the pressure to “fix” her baby.

My first instinct was to take the baby from her to make it better. That’s what a parent does, right?

ce0b26eb3b3971ff9ee63aa296fc3780Our Heavenly Father feels the same way towards His children as we feel toward our children. He wants so badly for us to let Him make things better for ourselves.

That’s why He invites us to cast all our cares on Him.

That’s why He sent His one and only Son to pay for our sins and secure a permanent home with Him.

That’s why there are so many verses in the Bible telling us to not be afraid.

That’s why He reminds us again and again that He will go before us to make a way where there seems to be no way. He knows the number of hairs on our head and every desire of our heart.

That’s why he keeps pouring out grace and forgiveness every single time we need it.

God doesn’t expect us to handle everything alone. Max Lucado illustrated puts it this way:

“When a father leads his four-year-old son down a crowded street, he takes him by the hand and says, ‘Hold on to me.’ He doesn’t say, ‘Memorize the map’ or ‘Take your chances dodging the traffic’ or ‘Let’s see if you can find your way home.’ The good father gives the child one responsibility: ‘Hold on to my hand.’God does the same with us.”

I3ec4b43543db428aef9763cbff0c0ecbn fact our weakness serves at least three valuable purposes:

God is a loving father, but we must recognize that the gospel is about His kingdom, His plans, His glory. God holds our hand and doesn’t abandon us; but He does so because He has a divine and perfect plan that has already been spoken into existence. It can not and will not fail – even if we might.

Does that mean that we’re merely simple-minded sheep? No. We’re valuable, beloved sheep. We’re the kind of sheep who are cared for, searched for, comforted and guided by the most loving Shepherd we could ever hope for. He knows each and every one of our needs and is never surprised by circumstances. But if we managed everything ourselves, having no need of Him, the glory would be ours, gained through our own strength and wisdom.

In The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom drew this powerful portrait of a caring father:

“Father sat down on the edge of the narrow bed. “Corrie,” he began gently, “when you and I go to Amsterdam-when do I give you your ticket?”
I sniffed a few times, considering this.
“Why, just before we get on the train.”
“Exactly. And our wise Father in heaven knows when we’re going to need things, too. Don’t run out ahead of Him, Corrie.”

So the next time you find yourself crying, “I can’t do this!” remember that you are not alone. Our Father already has the map and the ticket for our journey! Just trust Him to get you there safely. And try to relax and enjoy the trip!

father and child hand

JANIS IAN, VEGGIETALES & EPHESIANS

I have a teenaged daughter who is becoming an amazing young woman. It seems like she’s constantly changing. She reminds me of what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:11: “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” (Except she’s not becoming a man. Just so we’re clear on that! This isn’t “that blog.” 🙂 )

fc7fabfb93939c0e8a77e1e051f899a7
AT SEVENTEEN – JANIS IAN

Some of the struggles Maggie has are so much like those I had at her age – you know, the Janis Ian kind; other struggles are unique to her generation. For example, I didn’t have to worry about how people from all over the world might judge my words or my looks or my choices on social media. I had enough trouble with the people in my school, in my neighborhood.  Then, again, I had to wait for America’s Top 40 so I could press Play and Record at just the right time in order to tape my favorite song. I had to buy an entire album to get my favorite song, and she has iTunes! (The struggle was real then, too.)

Growing up, Maggie’s favorite video was VeggieTales’ Jonah. She loved the idea that the God she was getting to know for herself was the God of second chances. And she understood that those second chances were not only for her, but for everyone else, too. This taught her mercy for others, as well as grace for herself.

 

It also taught her that second chances were unlimited with God. All He asks is that we repent. Ideally, repentance would be a one-time thing. I say I’m sorry and promise to change my ways – forever. But it seldom works that way, does it? We ask forgiveness again because we originally didn’t do it with the right heart.

Or maybe we didn’t really understand what it was that we needed forgiveness for – for getting caught, for making someone mad, or because we have a deeper matter that keeps pushing the wrong behavior to the surface. Or maybe there are some deeply founded beliefs that keep us returning to the same behavior; thoughts that need to be addressed before change can occur. Or maybe we didn’t really fathom how important the matter was to God. In any event, it seems we could easily exhaust God’s grace. And yet we don’t.

I think that’s the nature of repentance – co9ec67cd3ebeb832c3e7dfdef617888ffnstantly starting over and moving forward but with a new mindset. Again. And again. And yet again.

Now, it would be nice to sit back and enjoy God’s grace for ourselves while we remembered – again and again and yet again – all the grievances we suffered at the hands of others, right? Not so fast!

As Paul wrote: As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Ephesians 4:1-6

This is more than Rodney King’s plea that we “all just get along.” (Google it.) As Christians, we are a part of one body and one Spirit. It’s imperative that we get along, or nothing will get done! And because we’re a part of one body and one Spirit, this isn’t just about us and we’re not in this alone. Essentially, we’re children of God – princes and princesses. We need to straighten our crowns, adjust our attitudes and act like it. (Doesn’t leave a lot of room for being offended, does it?)

Will it be easy? Considering that the third word in the first verse is “prisoner”, I wouldn’t count on it – at  least not until we fully fathom that we are a prisoner to Him who loves and is love, again and again and again.

But wait! There’s more. Paul goes on to say that the ultimate goal of our life in Christ, as one body and one Spirit comes down to this: Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (14-16)

We will not always be that awkward, insecure, shy 17-year-old. We will become wise and strong and loving! Can we be honest with others when they hurt us? Yes. But with love instead of bitterness. Because of Christ, we are better than we are without Him.

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (29-32)

Now, there wasn’t an asterisk by this verse, so apparently social media wasn’t a concern then. All I can say is that whatever method they used for communication gave them much more opportunity to carefully consider their words than keyboarding does today. Even those stupid “footballs” that my classmates fashioned their notes into mandated more time for reconsideration than we have now. And we often wrote “Do not show to anyone” on the outside of it.

Paul later tells us that we will be armed with “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:17), allowing us to divide the righteous from the unrighteous. But a sword isn’t something you let a child play with. It’s a piece of the armor of God that should be wielded with training and responsibility. And I think there will be plenty of times that we’ll be called to put the sword at our side and extend an empty hand in greeting to show there is no threat to another. No threat, because we have forgiven as we’ve been forgiven and shown compassion as we’ve been shown compassion by our Father through the sacrificial death of His Son.

Things have changed a lot since I was Maggie’s age, but we can be assured that God never changes. His word is steadfast. His expectations of us are solid. His love for us is never-ending. We are part of the mighty body of Christ, designed to do amazing things for the kingdom of God. And I am excited to see what our children grow up to do for Him!

189acb5abaf0413c8bea59925d7c0410

GUESS WHO?

Have you ever played Guess Who? It’s a two-player game where players ask yes or no questions to isolate a hidden character. You might ask if your opponent’s character is male or female, blond or brunette, wears glasses or not. You get the idea. Essentially, the questions help you eliminate which of the characters your opponent’s person is not in order to determine who the person is. The first player to guess the other player’s hidden character wins.

This last year has simply been the most recent in my search for who I really am. I believe this is something most, if not all, of us do throughout our lives. As our roles, interests, and needs change, we evolve and our very identities change as we age. We become physically, mentally and emotionally more capable as we mature from baby to child to adolescent to teen to young adult to mature adult. We adopt and abandon roles as our lives change – friend, sibling, child, partner, parent, employee, coworker, Christian, voter, consumer, neighbor. And yet, all the while we maintain a core image of ourselves.

It’s that core image that I’ve struggled with the most. This year, I’ve been pre-occupied with who I am in Christ,  who I am as a child of God. It’s as a child of God that I want to grow and thrive. As a child of my mother, there are so many ways in which I simply didn’t grow or thrive; although, I had successes in spite of the way I was raised and sometimes because of how I was raised. There’s a lot to reconcile between the two lineages. One tolerated me, the other treasures me. One held me in disdain, the other holds me in the palm of His hand. One denied me affection, the other sacrificed His Son for me. Two very different caregivers; two very different identities for myself.

So I reviewed the lists of verses that declared who I was as a child of God and meditated on them, reminding myself of them when my heart needed reminding, when my mind suggested I was “less than.” But on the heels of each reminder was a quiet but pernicious doubt.3868d1bcf797b5ee2b985299be4794e9

‘Yeah, but….’

I realized that who my mother had told me I was had become a foundational certainty for me. And it wasn’t just what I’d accepted from her. I’d selectively held onto a lot from the kids who picked me last at play, the boys who showed no interest in dating me, the coworkers who didn’t invite me to join the group for lunch, the people on the street who seemed to look right through me. All of them verified my deepest belief about myself. I was unlovable. While there were those who thought I was smart, funny, sweet, dependable, or talented, I was more convinced that I wasn’t really worthy of attention or affection.  I was convinced of a reality that no amount of kindness could crack. And no amount of scriptural affirmation was going to completely convince me otherwise.

296D57B8-6681-406C-82DD-E8A9B00BD724Then I thought, what if I stopped trying to believe the truth of who I am and started disbelieving the lies of who I am not? What if I started with my conception – the point at which God knitted me in my mother’s womb and created a plan for me? I thought about the rows of babies that shared the nursery at the hospital where I was born and considered that each one had been born just the way God had designed them, which was good. Then we each went home to our respective families, where we were raised by ordinary men and women who were just doing the best they could with what they had. Some of us ended up nurtured and some of us ended up challenged. It’s just that simple.

It ultimately becomes our own responsibility to determine how we want to stand in the world, what we want to stand for, what we want to stand up for. And at some point, we become accountable for our own choices, our own identities. That’s when knowing who we are not becomes every bit as important as knowing who we are. Many of us are children of God, but we’re living without conviction of our heritage, without the fullness of our inheritance, falling short of our ordained potential.

2 Corinthians 5:17 tell us, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”

We can’t don the new clothes God gives us over the old clothes that have worn thin and have developed a stench. The stench eventually leaks through the fabric. We need to strip ourselves of the old before we can put on the new. We need to be cleansed by the sacrificial blood of Christ in order to be wholly clean. Who are you not, and perhaps have never been, or haven’t been since you chose to change? Are you not selfish, alone, tongue-tied, absent-minded, usc04eb15ce15b1aeb817f35a814166545eless, stupid, unattractive, worthless, boring, clumsy, insensitive, broken, talentless? Are you no longer a liar, an adulterer, a thief, a gossip, a using addict or alcoholic?

Today is a new day. We are a new creations!

God has a good plan for us. Satan has a plan for us, too. The plan we bring to fruition depends upon who we believe, who we let define us, who we choose to follow. We can be victims or victors. We can stay bitter, or we can become better. We can hold onto the lies or move forward into a new life. We can choose to disbelieve the lies the enemy has told us and hold on for dear life to the promises of He who is the Author and Finisher of our story.

So never let someone judge you by the chapter they walked in on. You’ve turned the page and begun a new chapter. Your character is still in development and your story isn’t over yet. But I’ll give you one spoiler alert: As a child of God, you’re on the winning side!

WHO IS IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT?

I’ve figured out why it’s so hard to sit in the passenger seat when my teenage daughter practices driving. I have no control, and that leaves me vulnerable. I can give her gentle suggestions, or I can grab the dashboard and gasp as if my life were in imminant danger (which was my mother’s personal favorite!), but I can’t control Maggie. Ultimately, I have to accept that she is doing the driving and I am not.

Brene’ Brown is all about being vulnerable, and her message is very liberating.

f0e12b9f6df8461616811f35218393fc

Which, I suppose, makes me pretty courageous!

Sometimes, vulnerability is the unavoidable spinning of your car on an icy road as you draw closer to another car.  You have no control and you have no idea how things will end. Nothing you say or do will avoid the collision. Sometimes it’s just trusting someone, which allows you some amount of control as you determine how much you trust them and what you trust them with. It’s honestly hard for me to say which is more frightening.

When it comes to letting Maggie drive, I’ve narrowed everything down to one rule: Don’t freak out mom! Don’t follow so close, drive so fast or do anything to freak out mom. Essentially, that translates to “Give mom peace while you’re driving.”

It’s the same hope I have in God. It’s my prayer that God won’t do anything to scare me or make me insecure, but that he’ll lead me in peace. But that has a lot to do with me, though. I know that in Christ I have a Good Shepherd who loves me, in whom I can put my trust. He leads me beside the still waters to calm me. I know his voice, and I know that he will keep me safe from predators – whether they’re literal or figurative. But I have the responsibility to believe this truth. If I don’t trust in Him, it doesn’t matter how gentle He is with me if I’m going to freak out regardless of the situation. When I choose to worry, I lose confidence in Him.steering wheel

I have to be confident in this: God has promised to take care of all things that concern me, and He does it because He loves me. I can trust Him to be in the driver’s seat – even if I get a little nervous sitting in the passenger seat.

He loves you, too! So much so that He’s invited us to cast all our cares and anxieties on Him because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). So go ahead and give it a shot! You might be surprised at what can happen if you’re willing to trust Christ in the driver’s seat.

 

 

 

YOU’RE AN OVERCOMER!

I belong to a Facebook page for people who have been through some degree of post-traumatic stress. I joined because there are still elements of my growing up that still adversely affect my self-image and my relationships with others today, long after the “threat” is gone. I wanted to be part of a group that would help validate what I’d been through. I wanted to see how others dealt with their struggles. To be honest, I was expecting to see stories worse than mine. Unfortunately they’re out there. Some of the group members have been through far more horrifying things than I have. I was one of the more fortunate dysfunctional adults. I was raised by a mentally unhealthy mother and a step-father who was probably as afraid of her as my brother and I were and did nothing to stop her.

Living with a mentally ill parent can distort the way you see the world and yourself. It alters how you trust yourself and others. Learning a healthy perspective of the world and yourself can be a challenge. Sometimes it can take years of dipping your toe in the pool of “normalcy” before you decide to even get into the water. (Imagine trying to get in the pool when you’re terrified of drowning.) This can be especially true if you’ve lived in an isolated abusive or destructive home. And most likely that how your home was – isolated. When you grow up thinking your isolated life is normal, you have to learn what “normal” is. Now, I know…what’s normal? Let’s refer to it as “healthy” instead. After all, there are a lot of “normal” people out there who aren’t especially “healthy”, right?

There will be no navel-gazing today. Someday, we can talk about the past, but not today. Today, we look to the future with hope. I want to just put this quote in front of you to think about.

“Instead of being ashamed of what you’ve been through, be proud of what you’ve overcome.”  Dr. Phil

I know…it’s a quote from Dr. Phil. And before you try to engage me in a debate over his qualifications or practices, just let me say that this is simply a stand-alone quote that I think is valuable to ponder, regardless of its source. Can we agree on that? Good.

Now, if you want a word from a greater authority, we can look at Romans 8:34-39.

Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life –  is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Through the sacrificial death of Christ, we no longer need to be ashamed of the pain, discouragement and fear we went through before we committed our life to Christ. Because of God’s great love for us, we are more than conquerors; we are victorious and free to start anew!

So don’t dwell on your past pain (or failures). Don’t continue to live in shame. Rejoice that God has a good plan for your life. And what he has declared will not return void. If he declares that you have a good life ahead of you – and he has – so it will be. It may not always be easy, but it will be good. And remember, you may have been through a lot, but you’ve survived. Now, through the power of a risen Christ, you can not only survive; you can thrive! Be the overcomer Christ died for you to be.

My Daughter is in the Driver’s Seat!

When I saw the story of the permit driver whose first move was to hit the gas and drive through the front of the DMV building, I assumed the driver was a teen like my permit holder, and it terrified me! It was no less comforting to find that the permit driver was actually 46 years old!

I firmly believe there should be a support group for parents who have to do behind-the-wheel training with their teen. We’re not even talking about insurance yet – just the sitting in the passenger seat, completely at their mercy with no protection other than the occasional deep and audible gasp and grip of the dashboard that tells your teen that if they don’t slow down, they should be fully aware that they may become an orphan.

This is scary stuff, and you have few people with whom to share your anxiety. There are fellow parents out there who could share their experiences with you. There are parents out there who could attend such a support group as proof that teens can learn to drive and that, as a parent, they not only survived the training but survived it unscathed.

Undoubtedly the whole hour of the support group could be summed up in two phrases:
“I thought we were going to die!” and “It’ll be fine.”

I’m confident that either one is just a slight step to the East of the truth. No one’s going to die. At the worst, you might have an accident and see your insurance rates go up before your kid’s even licensed. Still, I seriously doubt that I will get out of this experience without needing a refill on my Xanax!

Of course, someone will inevitably say, “No one ever said it would be easy.” OK, let’s be honest about having children. When the topic of getting pregnant and having a family ever came up, did anyone ever say, “Now, remember that someday that cute little baby will need to drive, and you will need to sit in the passenger seat with absolutely no control.”? No, they didn’t! They encouraged you to have a cute little bundle of joy without full disclosure that it wouldn’t be easy.

But you know what? My little bundle of joy is growing into a fine young woman in spite of my anxiety. And so far Maggie’s been a fine driver. And I have two other things that give me confidence that she will do much better with her driving test than the woman in the story:

  • When she started walking, she fell a lot. Today she’s quite good at walking!
  • I learned how to drive. If I can do it, surely she can.

Long story, short, it’s going to be just fine. Right?