Monday, July 30, 2012

Sweeter Than Honey

Little Bit has not been sleeping well. Yesterday, I found out the reason why. Two pearly white teeth had busted through her swollen gums.

Lately, her fingers have been the teether of choice. One of them suffered a puncture wound, and it didn't take long for her to use the other fingers with less gusto.

Now, a pacified baby is one of the joys at our house. The children love to make her giggle--my Sunshine Girl most of all. The only problem is that they keep bonking heads with one another.

Sunshine Girl plays a game where she gets real close to Little Bit and pulls back quick and somehow that sends them both into boisterous belly laughs.

It never fails that after about the third try, Sunshine bonks heads with Little Bit. Laughs transform into cries, and in I come for the comfort of a mother's hug.
Discipline is not my favorite part of parenting, but the occasion arises more than occassionally. It was time that my cuddly, loveable Sunshine learn a little something about personal space. I had been learning some tactics from a book called Raising a Sensory Smart Child. Now, here was the perfect time to try it out.
"Imagine everybody has a bubble around them," I explained, "If you get too close to another person you could pop their bubble and sometimes that can hurt, like when you bop heads with your sister."

Holding my arms out straight, I showed her how big my bubble was, then I asked her how big hers was.
"Let's try to stay in our bubbles, okay?"

A nod of the head and a rush off to find more fun, indicated the attention span was spent. I hoped she got it.

Everytime since then, when I've seen her head get too close, I say, "bubble," and she pulls back a little. I think she's getting it.

We all need our own personal space, or boundaries, if you will. Especially moms. We need time to chill, to pray, to think about the important things, the beautiful things, the things that bring us joy. 

It's good to take a time-out in our busy lives to retreat to our own bubbles. But, let's not forget to let in the One who gives us everything we need and more.  We don't need a bubble with Him.

"Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me (Revelation 3:20)."

In fact, many times, Christ is the One who gives us a bubble, or shield, especially in those times when we feel most powerless. He shields us from a mother's worst enemies--fear, depression, and shame.

"Do not be afraid Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward (Genesis 15:1)."

Like Abraham, following the Lord's leading into unknown territory, we can trust in Him when we come to the new places in mommyhood where we feel lost, alone, and totally out of control. Christ knows exactly where we're at, and He is the One who can calm our anxious hearts. 

It is in these places that the enemy of our soul is the most crafty at trying to impress on us that God is not trustworthy. It takes an extra measure of faith to still cling to the promises of God in His Word.

It helps to know His promises in the first place. That's where Bible study and memorizing key verses and passages becomes crucial, even life saving. Believe me, it is worth the effort.

Depression comes on swift and merciless. It casts it's dark shadow over us and threatens to keep us there until we lose all hope we'll ever see the light of day. I know this because I have been there. But, there is hope, and when we lose sight of it, we need someone to rescue us.

We need Jesus.  

When we look to Jesus, the Word who took on flesh and blood, He offers us His protection, His shield to quench all those fiery lies that we are somehow abandoned by God, worthless, or a disappointment.

"As for God, His way is perfect; the Word of the Lord is proven, He is a shield to all who trust in Him (Psalm 18:30)."

True, life is full of disappoinments, but there are days when we feel like we are the biggest disappointment of all. I don't know if you've been there, but sometimes I feel like I want to just crawl under a rock and stay there.

And, that's okay.

God is that Rock. He is our shield. He sings over us, and reminds us that His love is not based on our performance, but on His great, unfailing, love displayed by Christ's sacrifice for our sins on the cross. He will never leave us, never. He will never reject us, not ever.

"You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance (Psalm 32:7)."    

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Rise and Fall of The Senator

Our sprawling family of six trampled onto the boardwalk that lead into the thick of the woods. At the very end, towered The Senator, one of the oldest Bald Cypress trees in the world.
And, by old, I mean ancient, like B.C. (before the birth of Christ) on a historical timeline . Through the process of coring, a sample of the tree's rings was taken, dating The Senator to be about 3500 years old.
When the  Egyptians were building their pyramids, this tree was just a sapling. 

During this time in history, the Egyptians had enslaved God's people. An Egyptian princess waded out into the Nile River.  She intended on bathing and relaxing in the Nile's cool waters.  In the thicket of papyrus reeds, she caught a glimpse of a floating basket, rocking gently to the rhythm of the river.  

Sending a handmaiden to retrieve it , she discovered the basket held a beautiful Hebrew baby. His mother must have hidden him there to keep him safe following the issue of an edict ordering all Hebrew babies to be killed.

The princess had compassion on the child, and she decided to adopt him, naming him Moses (Exodus 2:1-10, NIV).
This same Moses fled for his life years later after killing an Egyptian who was abusive toward a fellow Hebrew. He found himself leaving palace life to become a shepherd in neighboring Midian, leading his sheep to graze along the mountainsides and in the valleys.
One day, he happened upon a bush that was set ablaze, and as he neared the bush, he heard a voice speak his name, and to take off his sandals for he was standing on holy ground.

"I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob (Exodus 3:6, NIV)," echoed the voice.
Moses hid his face for he did not want to look upon God.

After this, the Lord sent Moses back to Pharaoh to free the Hebrew people from slavery and bring them to a new land, a good land, flowing with "milk and honey ."
Moses obeyed God and went back to Egypt. Ten times Pharaoh refused to let his people go.  Because of Pharaoh's insolence, each time, the Lord inflicted the Egyptians with a series of ten plagues...

The Nile turned to blood
The land filled with frogs
The dust of the land became lice
The land swarmed with flies
Cattle were inflicted with diseases
Men and beasts were broke out with boils
Barley was flattened by hail
The land was devastated by locusts
Darkness covered the land for three days 

For the tenth and last plague, the Lord told Moses to have the Hebrews kill a lamb and spreading it's blood over the top of their doorways and one each side.

When the destroying angel saw the blood sacrifice of the lamb dripping onto the ground of the Hebrews' homes, he passed over them.

This was the first Passover.

The Egyptians had no such sacrifice and the firstborn son of each household died.

It was then that Moses was released by Pharaoh and lead his people from slavery out of Egypt, following the pillar of cloud in the day and fire by night.

The Egyptians eventually came to their senses and followed the Hebrews to the Red Sea.

The Lord parted the waters for the Moses and his people and they safely crossed to the other side.
However, when the Egyptians attempted to cross, the waters came crashing down and drowned them (Exodus 5:1-14:31).

The Lord delivered the Hebrews, whom were chosen to be a special people, from whom would come the Christ, the Son of God.

He is our Passover Lamb, whose blood poured out on the tree in the shape of a cross. Christ Jesus delivered us from the penalty of sin, slavery to sin, and from the one who tempts us to sin.

I wondered how large The Senator was at this crucial moment in history.

Gazing up at this giant of a tree, this botanical marvel that had lasted so many years made me think.

How many rings will my life span?

Not many.
From the time of Moses on, this tree had been growing and adding new rings to its trunk.  Each ring, representative of major historical events in the world over millenia. 
Before Florida became a tourist's paradise, the Seminole Indians used this tree as a landmark to find their way through swamps and endless palmettos and pine trees.  In the nineteenth century it became the beloved Senator of Big Tree Park. 

Tragically, on January 16, 2012, the Senator's life was cut short by the careless actions of a young woman who that evening, set it ablaze.  The tree burned from the outside-in, billowing smoke like a chimney.

When I heard the news, my heart sank. A tree of that size and age is not something that can just be replanted. It's gone, along with all it's rings of history. Vanished in a puff of smoke.

Life can be so short. Especially in light of eternity. Will we live by faith or by sight, in the few tree rings of the here and now?

May the short span of our lives be lived in a way pleasing to God, in light of His glory and grace, for eternity is in His hands. He makes the smallest grain of faith grow into a mighty tree, displaying His faithfulness for all to see (Isaiah 61:1-4).

"Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12, a prayer of Moses)."

Saturday, July 28, 2012

A Woman Who Trusts in the Lord

The kids love playing dress up. There is a trunk in our living room that holds a treasure trove of old worn-out dress shirts, hats, and costumes. Some days, the kids are princesses and a knight. Others, they dress up like what they want to be when they grow up.  

Acting out the Nativity, the girls cover their heads with table cloths and my Little Man holds a hockey stick for a staff.

When my Bright Girl was a preschooler, I took her to the park to swing, and there was a muslim woman with a silken head covering, swinging her child. 

Bright girl took one look at the woman and shouted, 
"Look Mama!  She looks like Mary." 

The sweet woman understood and smiled.

Mary was an average, ordinary girl who went about her daily tasks of helping her mother care for their home. Yet, she was a woman who trusted the Lord.  

The day the angel Gabriel appeared to her, she was understandably frightened. He calmed her by saying "do not fear," and announced to her the wonderful news that she was highly favored by God and chosen to carry the Christ Child.  

Mary humbly accepted, with awe and wonder that God had picked her for such an honor (Luke 1:26-38).

It was chore time in Griese home. Bright Girl, thinking it was completely logical, tried to get out of helping by saying, "But, Mama, I don't want to be like Martha!"

She was referring to the sister of another Mary who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to His teaching. Martha rushed to make the perfect meal for Jesus. She became so exasperated Mary wasn't helping that she cried, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself?  Tell her to help me!"

But, the Lord answered by gently, telling Martha she was "worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken from her (Luke 10: 38, 41, 42, NIV, emphasis mine)."

Mary, sister of Martha, was in awe of Jesus. She feared the One who could wake the dead and give sight to the blind. Yet, she sensed His goodness and love and wanted to be near Him.  To be near Him is the one thing she desired.  She put Christ first above all else.

Martha learned a thing or two after this. Their brother, Lazarus was deathly ill and Jesus was about two days journey away. She sent a messager to ask Jesus to come right away and heal her brother. But, Jesus stayed. For two more days.  And, her brother died.

When Jesus arrived at their house, Lazarus had already been dead for four days. Martha was the first to go out and meet Jesus. She wondered why he had not come to heal her brother. But, then with awe and wonder she boldly implored Jesus. "I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask. (John 11: 22, NIV)"

She knew Christ could the miraculous, even raise the dead, and so she asked.  Jesus gave her the desire of her heart.

It wasn't a moment later that the tomb was opened and Lazarus walked out.

Humble acceptance, holy devotion, bold faith. These are the marks of a woman who trusts in the Lord.

May we all experience God in wisdom and in truth, receiving His gifts, seeking His face, and crying out for the grace that we so desparately need, becoming women who hear and trust the Lord.