Monday, May 19, 2014

Stretch Marks and Surrender

She said that she was just being honest. 

She had two babies and she didn't think that she wanted to have any more--because she "wanted her body back." 

She was "just being honest" and she said what so many others are thinking--

But I wished that she hadn't just left it at that, "honest" though it was. 

And I look down at my eight-month-pregnant belly and I touch the stretch marks--all red and glaring and unlovely and think--

There are things more important than stretch marks--(and won't I get my new body in heaven, anyway?)--

And I think of my tiny daughter and the baby growing inside of me--and the stretch marks become a thing of almost-beauty, a thing of surrender, a thing of sacrifice. 

My body for the life of another, for the sake of another life brought into the world, a little person, a precious soul. 

The stretch marks take on a new significance. 

And I hear people talking and they speak my sometimes-thoughts--the thoughts that are selfish and unlovely--the thoughts that need to be yielded and surrendered to the One who purifies all things--

And they say, in essence, that they want to have all of their children in the span of a few years, so that they can "move on" with their lives, with their careers, with pursuing the things that bring them momentary happiness. 

Are children just another "nice thing" to tack on to our existence? Or is there something deeper? 

Children are eternal beings, eternal souls loaned to us for a season--that we may point them with all of our energies towards the Eternal Father who gave them to us. 

And we sometimes think--"oh, let me 'get past' this difficult season with my children"--the time of teething, or of sleepless nights, or cranky days, or times when our children are needy in some way. We wish that they would "hurry up" and be able to talk, or walk, or ride a bike, or go to school. 

But I'm learning--and it struck me recently--that every season in our children's lives is a gift. 

It struck me last night when I was awake with my daughter from 12:30 am until 3 in the morning-- when she finally fell back to sleep--when I felt overwhelmed and heavy with sleep and forced my weary pregnant body to give just a little more--even though I didn't want to. I found that I could take His strength and trust Him. 

Whether it be learning to walk or to talk or to tie shoes or to ride a bicycle for the first time--

Or whether it be the sleepless nights, the teething, the tantrums, the cranky days, the setbacks--these are gifts too--unlikely as it may seem--to teach us to depend more upon our Heavenly Father and to entrust our children to Him, and to His wisdom. 

Each day is a gift, an opportunity to depend upon the Lord in whatever set of circumstances that He hands us with our children. 

And sometimes it is really hard, and we feel like we are "losing it," and we just want the day to be over, for the turmoil to stop. 

But He gives more grace in those situations, in whatever form it may take . . . He gives us grace, if we will depend on Him and surrender. 

I want my body back . . . 

Or my career back . . . 

Or my freedom back . . . 

Or my time back. 

But it isn't mine---

Sometimes I forget that--

It belongs to Him--it is "mine" only to surrender, to serve, and to yield. 

Children can be very good teachers . . . 

So I yield to Him--

My body--just as Jesus did, and bore the scars of submission and sacrifice. 

My career--because my "work is to do His will," in whatever form that may take as He directs my steps.

My freedom--because in Him only is my soul truly free--not in doing what I "want" or what the world says that I should want or deserve.

My time--because "my times are in His hands." 

Children aren't a thing to "get through," but rather to embrace, to cherish, to love, to raise up in the fear and submission of God. 

And sometimes it is hard--but ultimately, worth it. 

And the blessing rests upon those who will surrender. 

My body, my freedom, my time, my plans . . . and hand them over to Him--the One who is all-wise. 

And trust. 

That the seed that is buried will yield its fruit in due time--to the joy and blessing of our eternal hearts. 

Photo Credits: Amalia Lindegren [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons   (little girl)
Henri-Edmond Cross [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons  (mother with baby painting)
By William H. Majoros (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons (robin)

You might find me on these link-ups:

Strangers and Pilgrims on EarthThe Modest MomWhat Joy is Mine, Yes They Are All Ours, Missional Call, A Mama's Story, Mom's the Word, Rich Faith Rising, Time Warp Wife, Cornerstone Confessions, Mom's Morning Coffee, So Much at Home, Raising Homemakers, Hope in Every SeasonA Wise Woman Builds Her Home, Woman to Woman Ministries, Whole-Hearted Home, A Soft Gentle Voice, My Daily Walk in His Grace, Messy Marriage, My Teacher's Name is Mama, The Charm of Home, Graced Simplicity, Children Are A Blessing, Mittenstate Sheep and Wool, Imparting Grace, Preparedness Mama, A Look at the Book, Essential Thing Devotions, Count My Blessings, Beauty Observed, Christian Mommy Blogger, Renewed Daily, Soul SurvivalGood Morning Mondays

Monday, May 12, 2014

My Father's Voice

“Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

-C.S. Lewis


Sometimes I still think that I can hear his voice . . . 

Down in the kitchen--gruff and deep,the low tones of a winter's night wrapped in sandpaper.

And I can imagine his heavy-work-worn hands, the scar on his thumb where it was almost lost in a carpentry accident. 

And I can hear him calling me "Fuzz;" his nickname for me because of my frizzy hair and remember the way that he made his coffee midnight-strong in the morning. 

I used to wake up around the same time that he did--5 am--he because he didn't want to "waste the day," and me to be able to pray before I went to school. 

We didn't want to waste the day . . . 

But his Day was wasted and he turned away from the Voice of the Father, the voice that once called him and beckoned the proud heart to Himself. 

The proud heart that broke --

Broke his family and his God and hardened into a molten rock, so thick and deep and stony, and it wouldn't be broken, only used to crush. 

The hearts of the ones who loved him most--

The hearts of the ones who called him husband and daddy--

The hearts of the three little girls who held his hands and sat on his lap, and who craved his love and affection and attention.

The heart of the woman who lived and built her life around his--who always wanted the best for him and forgave the lies over and over and over.  

They almost broke. 

But the Lord uses stones that try to crush to purify and to magnify His grace and mercy through heartache and loss.

We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. (II Corinthians 4:8-10)

The Father of mercy--who causes grief, but will yet show compassion . . . 

And I learned through those days, those years dim with sorrow and mourning and wishing, praying that things could be different, that my Heavenly Father is enough--

That He fills things that are empty with joy--

That He makes rivers from deserts

The wilderness into a road--

And the Valley of Achor into a door of hope. 

Sometimes I still hear his voice, 

But it has grown fainter--

And my Heavenly Father's, stronger--richer--fuller--bright and strong and full of hope and redemption--has grown more beautiful and real to me.  

I can hear my Father's voice. 

Monday, May 5, 2014

Part 3: The Perseverance of Prayer

“Never, never, never give up.” 
--Winston Churchill

“The joy which answers to prayer give, cannot be described; and the impetus which they afford to the spiritual life is exceedingly great.” 
--George Mueller

"If we desire our faith to be strengthened, we should not shrink from opportunities where our faith may be tried, and therefore, through trial, be strengthened.” 
--George Mueller

"The Giver"
To give a thing and take again
Is counted meanness among men;
To take away what once is given
Cannot then be the way of heaven!

But human hearts are crumbly stuff,
And never, never love enough,
Therefore God takes and, with a smile,
Puts our best thing away a while.

 Thereon some weep, some rave, some scorn,
Some wish they never had been born;
Some humble grow at last and still,
And then God gives them what they will.

--George MacDonald
Poetical Works, Vol. 2

Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, saying: “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’  And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, ‘Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’”
Then the Lord said, “Hear what the unjust judge said. And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?" 
(Luke 18:1-8)

Past summer and walking the long lonely corridors of Barrington High School.

Past the summer that he left, that every week I searched in vain for his family in the long, wooden church pew. 

And they weren't there. And he didn't come back. 

I was so sure -- so sure -- that he would come back. 

So sure that I wore the same dress three weeks in a row -- the one that I wanted him to see.

But there were greater lessons to learn and deeper things to surrender. 

My heart at 18 was "yet unripe," as Christina Rossetti would phrase it -- yet unripe, and the Lord had many lessons to teach me about the patience of waiting, waiting upon Him. 

And I thought that I could love him -- that this was the one that the Lord had for me, though I had never let on to him that I felt this way. 

I believed what the Lord said in the book of Job -- that no purpose of His could be thwarted, if the plan and the purpose were truly of Him. 

I believe in the sovereignty of God. 

And yet, the Father took him away -- and I was so sure--

So sure, so I didn't understand why the Father took him away. 

But now I understand that it was to teach me -- to give me my first great lesson in surrender and the need for persevering prayer. 

So I prayed. And I cried and I poured out my heart to the Lord in poetry and journal and prayer. 

And I offered back to Him what I thought that He was giving to me -- offered him back to the Father and surrendered my will. 

My first real lesson in persevering prayer. 

He left in June. 

And then, 7 long months. 

And I didn't call him and I didn't write him -- I just left it in my Father's hands -- my personal conviction is that a man should pursue a woman and not vice-versa -- and so I left it in my wise Father's hands -- and I prayed. 

And I read Tennyson and wept--

And I read the Psalms and I wept--

And I went to school and I poured my heart into my work and prepared my college applications and I wrote and I prayed and I wept. 

Until I surrendered. 

Not my will, O Lord, but Yours---

I think that it was December 17th.  Just before Christmas -- as the hope of promise, of salvation born was drawing near. I see things symbolically, for better or for worse . . . 

My will surrendered, not clinging anymore to what I wanted--

He called. 

Seven months later--

And we talked -- and he asked if we could "keep in touch" -- the boy who would become a man and marry me--

Many lessons in surrender yet to be learned -- but here, the first promise -- the fruit of persevering prayer. 

copyright Ben Eshman
And he said, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Make this valley full of ditches.’ For thus says the Lord: ‘You shall not see wind, nor shall you see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water, so that you, your cattle, and your animals may drink.’ And this is a simple matter in the sight of the Lord; He will also deliver the Moabites into your hand. Also you shall attack every fortified city and every choice city, and shall cut down every good tree, and stop up every spring of water, and ruin every good piece of land with stones.” Now it happened in the morning, when the grain offering was offered, that suddenly water came by way of Edom, and the land was filled with water. (II Kings 3:16-20)

Persevering prayer -- the intervention of the hand of God -- the hand of God and not man -- the arm and strength of God alone, that all the glory is His. 

How easily do we, do I give up, despair of God's help when we pray? 

What we see as so overwhelming, so impossible, is a "simple matter in the sight of the Lord..."

He wants to teach us to pray. He wants our dependence to be upon Him . . . 

Open your mouth wide and I will fill it . . .  

And there are times when something that we desire may not be His will for us, but do we even begin to seek Him in prayer over things that we don't know the outcome of?

Because He will teach us -- as we submit our will to His, as we pour our hearts out in prayer, even as Jesus did in the Garden, He to the sweating of agony's blood--

Take this cup away, and yet not my will . . . 

How far will we go to pursue Him? And how easily do we give up when things don't seem to be going well, when  it doesn't seem like the Lord is listening? 

If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you,
Then how can you contend with horses?
And if in the land of peace,
In which you trusted, they wearied you,
Then how will you do in the floodplain of the Jordan? 
(Jeremiah 12:5)

There are times when something that we desire may be His will -- if we will pray, in persevering prayer--

You have not because you ask not . . . 

And often these are the situations that the Lord uses to teach us to rely upon Him, to surrender to Him--Until our will is one with His -- when we have surrendered -- and then He grants us "the petition we have asked of Him, the beloved thing that our heart desires -- (see I Samuel 1).

Some humble grow at last and still,
And then God gives them what they will.

And we sometimes get this idea into our heads that it doesn't matter -- that it doesn't matter if we pray or not, because "God's will" will be done, regardless.

We forget the mystery of prayer -- of persevering prayer--


And Elisha said to him, "Take a bow and some arrows." So he took himself a bow and some arrows. Then he said to the king of Israel, "Put your hand on the bow." So he put his hand on it, and Elisha put his hands on the king's hands. And he said, "Open the east window;" and he opened it. Then Elisha said, "Shoot;" and he shot. And he said, "The arrow of the Lord's deliverance and the arrow of deliverance from Syria; for you must strike the Syrians at Aphek till you have destroyed them." Then he said, "Take the arrows;" so he took them. And he said to the king of Israel, "Strike the ground;" so he struck three times, and stopped. And the man of God was angry with him, and said, "You should have struck five or six times; then you would have struck Syria till you had destroyed it! But now you will strike Syria only three times." II Kings 13:15-19

Do we stop striking the ground of persevering prayer so easily, or do we continue to strike it in hope -- all of our strength and mind and trust engaged in the God who hears?

There is power in prayer, mysterious power in persevering, believing prayer, coupled with submission and trust in the Father's wisdom and sovereignty.

A mystery -- to be embraced by faith. 

At the same time that we must accept the Father's will and submit to His authority, we are also admonished to knock at the gate of faith's door through prayer -- that it may be opened to us. 

Persevering prayer . . . and the pleasure of the Father in "granting the petitions that we have asked of Him," to the praise and glory of His grace. . . 

To encourage and fortify our hearts in Him and build a deep, trusting relationship--

And bring glory to His name.