Delight, Trust, Wait

Fall 2011 151“Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).

My heart jumped when I read that verse several years ago as my husband and I were trying to decide if it was God’s will for us to add another child to our family of 4. Already blessed with 2 daughters, I believed that we were meant to have a son, but our life circumstances kept us wondering if having more than 2 kids would be pushing the limits. For 4 years, I had been praying regularly for God to give us clear direction, but lately I’d become so focused on getting an answer, I let worry and discontent creep into my life. I’d forgotten to rest in his presence and delight in his company every day. I’m ashamed to admit that I was focusing more on my prayers than on the one I was praying to.

I knew what the desire of my heart was, but I needed to trust that if I stayed in close relationship with the Lord, my desires would also be in alignment with his will. I think sometimes we want to cherry pick the decisions we consult God on. We might go to him first in the middle of a health crisis or tragedy, but we like to do other things on our own. Psalm 37:5 says, “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him…” Often, it seems a lot easier to just do what we feel like doing than to commit everything we have and do to his control and wait for his timing. I can’t tell you how many times during those 4 years I wanted to just decide something one way or the other so that the decision would finally be made. Sadly, not giving God control of our decision distracted me from the incredible blessings I was already surrounded with.

Maybe you are in a season of waiting too. Perhaps you’re waiting for a dream job, a dream spouse, a dream baby or a ministry to come to fruition and the wait has become longer than you ever imagined. “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;..” (Psalm 37:7). Take heart and remember that he is with you. You have not been forgotten! Rest in his joy and delight yourself in the knowledge of his love for you while you are waiting. He knows the desires of your heart and when we align ourselves with his will, we can trust that he has our best interests in mind.

Right about the time I began delighting in the Lord’s presence again and realized that my happiness wasn’t dependent on whether or not this desire ever came to fruition, I arrived at my mailbox one day to find a letter with my name on it congratulating me on my pregnancy from one of the large baby product companies. Not only was I not expecting, I hadn’t signed up for anything or done anything that would warrant such mail. My husband and I laughed it off as an ironic coincidence. But week after week, other companies sent random baby items to my mailbox. One day I’d discover baby shampoo samples, another day it’d be a box of formula. By the time two tiny newborn diapers arrived, it was pretty obvious that it was more than just a coincidence. Doesn’t God have an awesome sense of humor? I can’t tell you how much I delighted in finding those special treats in my mailbox each week. Through prayer, advice from Christian friends, daily reading of scripture and dreams, God made his will for our family clear in his time.

On a beautiful morning in July of 2008, I found out I was expecting our third child. After I shouted praises quietly (my girls were still sleeping), I stood there wondering what to do. At that moment, only God and I knew about the little one to come. I opened my Bible and my eyes fell on these words, “I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him” (1 Samuel 1:27). My son, Coleton Samuel, was born 5 years ago. He brings such joy and delight to my life! All those years of waiting make his presence with us now that much sweeter.

God gives the most incredible gifts. But the most amazing gift he gives to us is his presence! I don’t know what your heart’s desire is, but he does. And I know that whether the ending is sweet or bittersweet, he will always walk with us. It just doesn’t get any sweeter than that. Whenever I’m tempted to try and rush this thing called life or make a decision on my own because I’m impatient, one glance down at my little boy reminds me of these three steps; delight in the Lord and embrace joy today, trust him to take care of your tomorrows, and wait patiently for his timing.

*This article was originally published in the Winter 2011 issue of Between the Lines magazine. You can read the full issue here.

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Parenting 101: Think Outside of the Box

Cole train 2

This photo of my son, who kept his pacifier much longer than any book or speech therapist would advise, was taken by my friend Julie.

When my oldest daughters were little we took a trip to visit a dear friend. The visit was wonderful except for one problem. My friend’s infant son and my oldest daughter had to sit next to each other in the car and while my daughter had a very large personal bubble, my friend’s son was obsessed with constantly laying his hand on her. This small infraction resulted in her screaming her head off everywhere we went. We tried to think of any possible way to resolve the issue, but came up blank. We couldn’t switch the car seats around for safety reasons, and we could not convince an 8-month-old to stop touching my distressed daughter. We were at a loss until my friend’s mother suggested we tear apart a cardboard box and put a piece of the cardboard in between the kids. It was so simple, but would it work?

Before our next outing, we placed the cardboard between the seats, loaded the kids up, and prayed for a scream-free ride. I watched as his little infant hand made its way over and stopped right at the cardboard as my daughter was oblivious of his intentions from the other side. I’ve never seen anything look so ridiculous and marvelous at the same time. I’m pretty sure the “Hallelujah Chorus” may have broken out spontaneously in the light of that Texas morning as we enjoyed a quiet ride and a pleasant conversation.

The very first words of Genesis tell us that God is creative. And just as he created the wonders of the heavens and earth, he also chose to create us in his imagine. “When God began creating the heavens and the earth, the earth was a shapeless, chaotic mass, with the Spirit of God brooding over the dark vapors” (Gen. 1:2). I love how the Bible refers to the earth as a shapeless, chaotic mass. I don’t know about you, but sometimes my life as a mother feels like a shapeless, chaotic mess! But his word tells us that we are not here by accident. Likewise, he has given us our specific children to parent for a purpose.

As a writer my job is creative by nature. But I’ve never used my creativity more than in my role as a parent. There isn’t a single day when I’m not looking for creative solutions to inspire, educate, discipline, and manage life with my children. And kids are the ultimate game changers. Just when you get one stage figured out, they are on to the next stage. Proverbs 22:6 tells us we should, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” This verse was so helpful to me as a young mother surrounded by the advice of well-meaning books and friends. It helped me to understand that there is no one-size-fits-all style of parenting. Every child is unique and should be raised according to his or her individual needs and leanings.

So what does that mean to me on a practical level? It means that I’ve got to think outside of the box when it comes to raising my four unique children. Here are some personal guidelines that help me parent my kids creatively:

  1. Do what works. I take advice, but then use my discernment in all things. If I find something that produces good fruit in my children then I do it even if it seems unconventional or ridiculous. I walked our first daughter in a front pack every day for 6 months because it’s the only way she would sleep. She stayed happy and I stayed fit and, no, I don’t carry her anymore.
  2. Roll with it. Our second daughter insisted on wearing a Tigger costume every day for 6 months. Which was replaced with a swimsuit (in the dead of winter), followed by various crazy outfits. Whenever I felt the urge to control her choices, I had to remind myself that she was simply expressing her personal taste and it was NOT a reflection on me.
  3. If you resent it, change it. This may seem contrary to #2, but this is all about picking my battles. Some battles aren’t worth fighting and some absolutely are. When it comes to sleep, I am militant about my no-kids-in-our-bed policy. For me, sleep is a deal-breaker, and I would be a very unhappy momma in the morning. Instead of allowing resentment to grow in my heart, I pray and ask God to help me find a creative solution. For our oldest daughters, that meant putting them in the same room at night.
  4. Steal a moment. With 4 kids and a husband who travels frequently, it can be extremely difficult to find one-on-one time with my kids. So I have to get creative and steal moments with them, whether that means taking one who needs some extra love on an errand and sneaking in ice cream or chatting with one in the car. It also means giving them all of my attention when a little one comes to me with a question or wants to discuss something.

When I feel overwhelmed, I remember that God has entrusted me with these precious children and they are gifts from him. Only a cruel God would give me a child without giving me the tools that I need to raise her. But our God is good, and he has given me everything I need to love these children well. Through his word, prayer, and the power of the Holy Spirit, I’m free to raise them one crazy, creative day at a time.

*This article was originally published in the Summer 2012 issue of Between the Lines magazine. You can read the full issue here.