Just a little glimpse into our week. We’ve been home a lot, doing tasks around the house, staying in instead of facing the cold or rainy weather, doing crafts and reading books. In reading Emily Freeman’s book Simply Tuesday last year (“last year” sounds weird to say, still), she talks about grounding ourselves in our present moments by keeping track of what fills our days. She does this by keeping a list called “These are the days of..” I’ve been finding myself mentally making a list, smiling over some moments, mourning others, and keenly aware that these days will soon fade into others. These things that are so common to me right now I will pretty much completely forget in a few years time, the way that winter slowly gives way to spring, frost melting and crocus pushing up through soil. These days so full of children, diapers, immediate felt needs, discipline, correction, training, tiptoeing in the early morning hours so as not to wake the baby, squeezing in tiny moments of prayer and scripture, etc.
These are the days of…
the kids banging on the window while they watch brandon leave for work
vacuuming around the toys
a never-ending laundry basket
usually tidy but not always clean
philippa playing dress up in the laundry basket
noah says to me, “picture this” meaning, take a picture of this.
“adventures in odyssey” playing in the car
The year is two weeks underway, and already it is off to quite a start. Brandon and I have spent some time looking ahead and have been totally overwhelmed with some of the needs and demands this year is going to present to us. We are facing potentially one of our most challenging years yet financially. We are not seeing the growth and healthy response to the gluten-free diet that we should be seeing from Phoebe and have more medical work ahead of us to figure out why. We hope to buy our first home. We may need a new car as Brandon’s well-loved car nears 300K miles. We celebrate our 10th anniversary in May. We have a family trip planned in the summer that we don’t want to miss. We have some medical needs to deal with in 2016. Our firstborn will start school in the fall. And other things I can’t mention.
The only appropriate response we’ve been able to muster to all that is to come is prayer. We have been totally brought to our knees in dependency and pleading with the Lord for wisdom, for guidance, for provision, for help.
I asked Phoebe the other night what she wanted to pray for and she said happily, “I want to ask God to give me everything I want.” I thought to correct her at first, but then found myself nodding with understanding. Isn’t that essentially what we’re doing when we pray? In so many ways, we’re bringing our “wants” before God, asking Him to give us all the things we think we want and need.
“Keep us safe, Lord. Keep us healthy. Turn the children’s hearts to you. Provide for our needs. Work out this difficult situation. Help us, Lord. Bring justice. Forgive us. Forgive them.”
More than teaching her to be careful what she prays for, or to somehow imply that there is a right way to pray to God, I want to teach her to be real before Him and bring her whole heart before Him. I want to teach her that it’s the safest place for all her honest emotions. The place where she really can bare her soul, respectfully and honoring Him, of course, but with vulnerability + transparency. Isn’t this what He urges us to do, to bring our requests before Him, to pour out our hearts to Him and to ask for what we need and want? The beauty of children is their innocent asking, their constant and unabashed neediness. Yet as we age, we learn that usually getting everything we want strangles the life right out of the soul. We learn that we don’t really know what’s best for us, even though we think we do. We learn we can safely ask God for anything in accordance with His will, and yet we surrender all our requests to the safety of His will, knowing that even a good request, even a godly desire might be refused because He is after greater things for us.
Maybe He is after greater things than a totally safe life.
Maybe He is after greater things than perfect health.
Maybe He is after greater things than all our needs met all the time.
Maybe He is after greater things.
In our neediness, in our brokenness, in our failure, in our struggle, in our emptiness, in our loneliness–isn’t this where we grope for Him? Where we are are most reminded of our dependency?
I read this scripture the other day in Proverbs and felt like I finally understood it.
No ill befalls the righteous,
but the wicked are filled with trouble. (Prov. 12:21)
Really? No ill befalls the righteous? My life is full of ill!
Maybe the same things/events/circumstances happen to both those who follow God and those who don’t. Maybe the difference isn’t in what occurs, but the way each responds to it. Maybe all that the enemy plans for my harm, destruction, and discouragement, the Lord uses to drive me deeper into Him. Maybe what could derail me instead deepens me in Christ Jesus. Maybe that’s how whatever could be called “ill” can somehow, in the mysterious ways of God, in the wisdom of God that seems like folly to man, can somehow be called “blessing.”
When I bent to pray over the New Year in the early morning dark all alone, when I pled for Him to give me direction over this year and when I sought Him for a word over it, He clearly whispered Psalm 93 in my spirit. It speaks of waters rising, waters threatening to swallow up, to overflow, to drown. And yet, it speaks of Him reigning supreme. I believe He was wanting to tell me ahead of time what kind of year I can expect to have. I believe some things are going to come in this year that will make me feel totally out of breath, totally surrounded. (We are two weeks in and already feeling it.) He has spoken so much comfort and strength to me through the Scriptures. And this is the beauty of following Him, this is the beauty of knowing Him: He promises to go with me, to go before me, to carry me, to comfort me, to strengthen and establish me. He promises that nothing can come to me that He will not work for my good. He promises that in the end, not even death can separate me from Him. For the child of God, nothing is empty, nothing is meaningless, nothing is not ripe with blessing and fruitfulness, if we are willing to receive it, if we are willing to be open to it. The blessed life is not always the feel-good life. But what is my good? My good is to be near Him. To behold His beauty. To experience the power of His presence. To hear His voice. Sometimes the hardest of circumstances, the most desperate of times, the greatest of griefs are what it will take for me to experience Him the most deeply. He is faithful.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.