Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Apple Muffins and the Work of the Invisible

I was born and raised in Rhode Island, the tiniest state in the union. If you are from New England or have ever visited there, you know that coffee shops hold a prominent place of importance; the drive through lines stretch twice around the building and everyone is addicted to that delightful, splendid caffeinated drink. Even those who don’t really like coffee, hold Dunkin Donuts cups, just as a sense of style. ;-). One of the clearest childhood memories I have is of going to a place called Mister Donut with my Mom and my sisters and sometimes with my Dad. When I went with my Dad, I usually had whatever he did (except if he occasionally chose the coffee roll, of course—that decadent dessert was reserved for adults, not children—that was an unspoken understanding ;-)). My Dad was not a big dessert eater—he would drink pots and pots of coffee—but he would usually order one chocolate frosted donut as his snack, and I would happily imitate him on the few occasions that we went.

But with my Mom, a single baked good comes prominently to my mind—the rectangular apple muffin. I would almost always order this with her. We had a tradition, a habit that my Mom kept for quite a few years while we were little girls. My Mom would drive in our old car to a local library with us girls in tow. There, we would sit –usually in the basement where the children’s section was—for hours with my Mom after we picked a huge pile of books for her to read to us on those squashy bean bag cushions. I can still smell the scent of the old historic George Hail Library in Warren, RI and see in my mind the stuffed animals (taxidermied) that were used oddly as decorations there! My Mom would read book after book to us as we sat enraptured by the stories within their pages. We usually went once a week and literally stayed for hours.

Afterward, she would take us to that place called Mister Donut (now a Dunkin’ Donuts) and after ordering we would file into the orange plastic booth to eat our muffin and to drink a little cardboard container of milk (you could even have coffee milk back then–the official Rhode Island drink--in a little cardboard milk box). It was always a muffin after our library trip, as my Mom considered a muffin healthier than a donut for lunch (at least in theory ;-)). I would almost always have the apple muffin—all of their muffins were baked in a rectangular shape back then, and they would heat them up with butter and put them on a little white plate that needed to be returned to the desk afterward. Not as many things were “disposable” then. The apple muffin had caramelized apples on the top, the kind that must have come out of a can. And I would almost always have that kind of muffin—once I find something that I like, I usually stick with it—I am still this way!

I realize now things that I didn’t realize as a child—that my Mom was investing in us. Her hours of reading were an investment into our lives and hearts. The library time was a special one, but every day at home, especially before we attended school, she would literally read to me and my sisters for hours each day consistently. I can still remember the old green chair that we sat on and the warm sunlight streaming in through the windows where we sat.

She was investing in us. She tells us now that the Lord had laid this upon her heart as she was bringing us up—to read to us like this. And now both of my sisters and I love books—one of my sisters is an English teacher and one is a writer; both use their gifts for the Lord Jesus and are devoted to Him.

It was an investment, a sacrifice. Did my Mom really want to sit for hours and hours every day and read thousands of books to her children? I’m sure that she didn’t always. But she was obedient to the Holy Spirit speaking to her heart during those important formative, growing-up years. She loved us deeply and wanted us to have a good foundation –and part of this foundation she believed, was a heritage of books.

More important to my Mom was that we had a spiritual foundation--not that we were "good" children, but my Mom had a deep desire for each of us that she verbally expressed, that we would love the Lord with all of our hearts and serve Him without counting the cost. This was ingrained upon my young heart even as a little girl and I knew that my Mom was praying fervently for each of her children while at the same time sacrificially investing in each moment of our lives. 

The Lord has given each of us a calling, a chance to invest in our children . . .  

As believers with children there is a universal calling given to each of us and this may manifest itself in different ways in each of our lives, but at the core is the same--to train up a child in the way he should go so that when he is old he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6). We are also called to teach the ways of the Lord to our children though word and example. 

Therefore you shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land of which the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, like the days of the heavens above the earth. 
Deuteronomy 11:18-20 NKJV

We often place this calling into a "category," the "religious" one, among other things-- but training up our children in the ways of the Lord is to be part and intrinsic parcel of every step of our lives. When we have a living and breathing and active relationship with the Lord, this will be infused into all that we do and be poured into the lives of our children through our daily example. 

At times it is difficult--our flesh rises up and rebels against this kind of unhindered giving--we don't always want to keep a schedule, read another book, rock a sick child and sing to them into the wee ours of the night, give up our own plans and dreams in order to invest our time and energy into the lives of our children. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. 

But the Lord calls us to this kind of joyful, watchful, prayerful existence. And in a paradox, we are fulfilled through giving. It is a matter of surrender. It is the process of joy. 

How do we "invest" in our children? Here are several ways, among others, as the Lord reveals to each one's heart the leading of His Spirit as we love and interact with our children on a daily minute by minute basis and listen to His Spirit leading us--

We invest in them emotionally: We take time to listen to them, talk to them, look them in the eyes. We talk to them while they are playing. We pay attention to their emotional needs if they feel lonely, frightened, overwhelmed. We point them back to Christ and relate their "feelings" to His Word. When they are afraid at night, we pray with them, sit with them, and leave a night light on. When they are overwhelmed, we remind them that Jesus Christ is with them in whatever situation they are facing. When they are angry, we direct their anger to God's Word and point them to the way of forgiveness and mercy and of leaving their feelings and emotions in God's hands. 

We invest in them physically: We do things with them--sacrificially. We get off of our phone and play with them, read to them, show an interest in what they are doing and experiencing. We leave some of the chores undone for a few minutes to play a game on the floor with them, to play make-believe, to help them tie their shoes. We encourage them in the pursuits that they are gifted in, in their physical gifts and urge them to use these gifts for God's glory, according to His will--whether in sports, music, drama, etc. We pray with them about how the Lord would have them use these gifts. 

We invest in them spiritually: This is overarching and touches into all of life. It is vitally important and without it we have lost a sense of the majesty of God and His purpose and of His holding together of all things. Everything may be brought back to Jesus. We can pray with a child who has fallen off a bike. We can relate our trip to a yard sale and finding something that we needed to His provision. We can pray before we drive in our cars, asking for His protection and guidance each time we leave our driveway. We can learn memory verses with our children, we can have a daily devotional time with them. We can have a nightly time of prayer and Scripture reading as a family. We can listen to sermons on CD or through a different means at home or in the car (often we are surprised at how much even little children absorb!) The Lord will bring ideas to your mind as you seek Him in your life with your children. I have found that if I am too busy to seek the Lord in my day to day life with my children, then I am too busy and need to surrender something to the Lord and look at my priorities afresh. 

Again, God will speak to each one individually about how He would have each one personally invest in the lives of their children. Listen for His still, small voice and don't rely on all of the voices around you to tell you how to parent. Listen to His voice and to good, Godly advice, and life will become very simple. His will is not complicated, but it is often difficult, and it will require sacrifice and the deep surrender of searching our own hearts. It is worth it. 

When I was a senior in high school, a "dream" of mine came true. I was accepted into the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. I "dreamed" of becoming an English professor. I loved writing; I loved teaching. It is a long story, but the Lord led me down a very different path. And now, each day, I sit in a quiet house and home school my two little children in a very different place than the one that I dreamed of being in. We are told that we will not feel fulfilled unless we follow our hearts. I am a testimony that that line of reasoning is flawed. When we allow our hearts to lead us, apart from the Holy Spirit, we will always end up feeling empty. But when we allow the Holy Spirit to lead our hearts we experience the pathway of the greatest fulfillment and joy. The Lord replaced my initial desire that was not rooted in His perfect will for my individual life and showed me a pathway different than what I planned, a pathway that included raising up two little children to know and to follow Him. 

It is difficult to give up visible glory to pursue an invisible work--we all want to shine and to be noticed for what we are doing--that is part of human nature. And yet, Christ calls us to humble ourselves, to pursue His calling upon our lives with devotion to Him--to invest at times, in the invisible--trusting the end result to Him. This is what we do when we raise up our little ones (or in any other "invisible" work that Christ has called us to), leaving our own ambitions at the foot of the cross and giving into the life of another, into the next generation. 

There is joy in surrender. There is fulfillment in pursuing the will of Jesus Christ with all of your heart. The initial investment is costly, but it is worth it. When we really desire something precious and lasting, it is worth giving up all the gold in the world to obtain the pearl of great price. 


  1. Bekki, I just LOVED reading about your times with your mom as a little girl! I've never been in George Hail Library, but it always looked like such an interesting building to me! I had never knew that was where you and your sister's love for books came from! What a testimony of how much what we pour into our children can effect them - either for good or for bad, and to be mindful and reflective of how we are pouring into our children.

    My favorite time of homeschooling was when we did the KONOS curriculum which used living books to teach. I spent hours reading to my kids and it was such a special time for me and I hope for them as we sat together reading and learning.

    You have shared so much wisdom in this post Bekki. Thank you for your faithfulness to surrender to the Lord as you lead by example and spur us on to do the same!

    I miss you so much! Say hello to everyone for me!

    I love you dear friend!

  2. The reader in our house was my dad. Some of my best childhood memories. I then became the reader in my family. Reading hours to my children and husband. Love your three points about investing in our children. It might not feel like we are doing important work when we are talking to our kids in the car or reading them a book or praying before bed. But these are the things that make the difference. And that they remember.

  3. What a beautifully written and encouraging post! Being a mother is a great calling from God.

  4. Reading to our children & grandchildren is a very special time... One to be cherished & what a faithful Mom you had Rebekah!lovely to find you on Grace & Truth link up :-D

    You're most welcome to drop by for a cup of inspiration,

  5. Thanks for sharing this at Booknificent Thursday on Mommynificent.com! I found it both challenging and encouraging.