Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Plea and a Promise

I poured my coffee and shuffled to the school room. My worn Bible lay on Gabe’s desk. I tucked it under my arm. The morning was October-brisk, so I cocooned in a soft brown blanket and settled into our reading chair.
“God,” I began, “raising teenagers is tough. I just don’t know what to do. Lonny and I set boundaries, make decisions, pray like mad, and I still mess up. I second guess our choices. Appear wishy-washy. Lose my unified front with Lonny. Use angry words with my son. Hold a grudge. I feel inept.”
It was too early to be overwhelmed. But yesterday’s insecurities crept into today, and even the light of morn didn’t chase them off. There’d been a barrage of petitions. Where our teen could go. What he could do. And he wasn’t pleased with the decisions his dad and I made. He felt caged by the boundaries that we thought were fair, and there’d been an unsettling exchange. I’d exasperated our son.
I pulled the bookmark from my Bible and opened to Psalms. God speaks to me through the life of David. This man- after-God’s- own- heart sure had his stuff. But David’s honesty with God draws me.
My reading for the day was Psalm 25. I was hooked right away. David asked God for mercy. He’d messed up, was in a tough spot, and needed the Lord to rescue him.
Verses 4-5 are a plea: Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths, guide me in your truth and teach me. That plea resonated in my own heart. Guide me Lord, teach me. I don’t have the answers and I need you to show me your truth.
In verses 8-15 David indentified himself with the humble – someone in need of God’s grace. Then he expressed confidence in God’s covenant favors – God’s mercy and guidance and faithfulness.
Verse 9 says: He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them His way. Lord, I’ve made mistakes, but you are a personal God. You’ve promised to teach me your way.
I sat for awhile and thought about God’s goodness. Like David, I’d made mistakes. But thanks to Jesus, I could claim the same mercy and grace. And it was okay that I didn’t have all the answers. The Lord had taken a plea and exchanged it for a promise.
 I set my cup down, walked to the window and pushed the curtains back to welcome the new day.

Monday, October 25, 2010

My Father's Son

The floorboards creaked. I opened my eyes. Light from the hall spilled into our room, and I saw Isaiah pad across the bedroom in footie pajamas. The green digitals of the alarm clock displayed the time. 4:05.
“I’m scared, Mama,” Zay said. He traveled to my side of the bed and raised his arms. Mine-O-Mine, his well-loved blanket, draped his shoulder.
I pushed the covers back to welcome Isaiah. Then I hoisted him up. “It’s okay, Zay,” I said. “Let’s snuggle.” I rearranged the covers and curved around my tiny, fleece-clad boy. He settled in, and Lonny curled around both of us. Then I closed my eyes against the light.
I was just about asleep when I heard a tender whisper.
“I love you, Isaiah. I’m glad that you’re my son,” Lonny said.
I listened to the rhythm of Isaiah’s soft, even breath and felt his chest rise and fall under my arm. “Lonny, I don’t think he can hear you,” I said.
“It’s okay,” Lonny said.
Then we all fell asleep.
The next day I sat beside Isaiah while he worked on a coloring page. His little tongue poked from of the corner of his mouth as he tried his hardest to stay in the lines. He was lost in concentration, so I was surprised when I heard another soft whisper.
“I am my daddy’s son,” Isaiah said. He head was still tipped down.
“Isaiah, what did you say?”          
My youngest guy lifted his head. He was radiant. Peace, pride, comfort, and joy were evident in his smile. With a strong, firm voice he repeated what he’d whispered -what he’d heard the night before.
“I am my daddy’s son.”
Lord, thank you for letting me raise these boys. And thank you for their daddy. I ask that all five boys would find their identity in You, that one day they’ll stand as men and with this same peace, pride, comfort and joy. Let them confess with their mouths and their lives - I AM MY FATHER’S SON.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Family World

“Do you think home will feel different to Logan? Do you think things will seem odd? ” I asked Lonny. Our oldest son was due home from college. My parents had driven to Wheaton to pick him up. He’d been away for weeks.
“Oh, it’ll feel strange at first. But he’ll be glad to be home.” Lonny smiled and pushed Isaiah on the swing. 
I sat on a crunch of autumn leaves and wondered. Many prayers had been lifted on Logan’s behalf. And praise God – he was adjusting very, very well. His world had grown.
A moment later, my parents’ blue minivan pulled into the drive. The side door flew open and our firstborn appeared. He stood tall and dropped his backpack to the pavement. Isaiah slid from the swing and pumped his legs hard, running to greet his brother. Gabriel popped from the sandbox and followed. Grant and Samuel emerged from the house.
Lonny and I joined the scramble. We all came together in a circle of affection.
“Logan, I missed you,” Isaiah said. He lifted his arms.
“Me, too! How was college?” asked Gabe.
Logan bent so both boys could jump into his arms. He spoke into their little ears and they twisted their arms around his neck.
Then we all moved, in one big herd, to the patio. My parents. Five boys. Lonny and me. Conversation was lively. Sweet stories spilled. There was plenty of laughter. Hugs galore. And nothing seemed to faze Logan. Not that the three little boys sprayed their hair into stiff mohawks. Or that it was October and Gabe still wore frayed Levis without a shirt. Or that a brown cardboard box dangled from a rope on the back deck because the brothers wanted to trap a cat.
It was all normal. It was all good.
I didn’t bother with the questions. Logan would’ve answered, but I didn’t ask. If things seemed different it didn’t matter anyway.
Our son had come home. We’d missed him a lot. And in God’s grace, according to God’s plan, Logan’s world had grown.
But he still fit into ours.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Emerald Green Shells

“Look, Mom!” Gabriel threw the back door open. “See what I found in the garage!” He held an old cigarette box. The kind that opens like a wallet. He tenderly pulled the top back to expose a folded handkerchief. Then, with small fingers, he pulled cloth aside to reveal two emerald green seashells. “Dad said they belonged to Grandpa Reas.”
Gabe had been in the garage with Lonny. They were cleaning. My husband’s parents are moving into a condo, and they’d gifted us with a plethora of stuff from their own garage. The small box had been in the bottom of a big cardboard box – buried under wrenches and drill bits and rolls of electrical tape. Lonny had seen the shells before. He told Gabe that his own grandfather, Reas Anneberg, had found them on the shores of the Philippine Islands when he served as an U.S. Army medical doctor -  World War II.
The treasure wasn’t lost on Gabe. He wanted to see a map. He polished the shells with an old cloth. He carefully returned them to the box and placed the box in his own treasure chest. “I just can’t believe it. I really can’t,” he said over and over.
I’m so glad they found that box – a small treasure lost in a mighty jumble. It will be a keepsake for Gabe. But it meant something to me, too. It was a reminder.
Life is full. There’s soccer and homework and appointments and more. It’s easy for the small stuff to get lost in the jumble. Small stuff like a little boy’s kiss. Or a tiny hand in mine. Or the feel of the morning when the house is still and three little boys slip into our bed.
Such things are a treasure. Like a small, sixty-year-old box holding emerald green shells.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Better Things

“Mom, I’m hungry,” Isaiah said. We were in the checkout lane at Wal-Mart. He pushed to the toes of his blue sneaks and reached for a cardboard cylinder with an image of a smiling bear. “Can I have teddy bear crackers?”
“No, Zay,” I said. “It’s too close to dinner. We’ll be home soon.”
“But I’m hungry.”
“I know,” I said as I flipped boxes of tissues to the conveyor belt. “We’ll be home in fifteen minutes. Then we’ll have dinner.”
“But I want the crackers.”
I stopped unloading the cart and bent to his level. “I know, Zay. But the crackers will spoil your dinner. You had a snack before we left home and I promise you’ll be fine.”
Isaiah’s lip curled down. His eyes watered.
I hugged him tight and went back to the cart business. Then I heard it. The sob. It wasn’t a muffled sob. Or an I’m-tryin-to-hold-it-together sob. It was an all-out, broken hearted, I’ve-just-lost-it-and-I-can’t-pull-it-back-in sort of thing. Isaiah’s face crumpled and went red and tears ran in torrents down his cheeks.
Poor kid. He was exhausted. Fit throwing wasn’t his usual style. I scooped him up and kissed the top of his head. “Isaiah, I love you but you don’t need the crackers right now. They’re not the best thing for you.”
Isaiah wept into my shoulder while I scrambled to write a check. Then I set him in the cart, next to white billows of Wally-World bags, and boogied to the van.
By the time we hit Highway 84, Zay’s sobs had subsided to sniffs and gulps.
My heart hurt for Isaiah. I wanted to give him the crackers. I wanted to make him happy and fill the void in his little tummy. But I thought of the ham and potatoes bubbling in the crock, the green salad and homemade rolls. There was nothing wrong with the crackers, but I had better things to offer. There were better things in store.
As I drove the rest of the way home, I thought about my relationship with God. How often do I go before the Lord, filled with needs and desires? Asking for good things. Maybe it’s a story I’d like to see published. Or a relationship I’d like to have. And often He gives me these good things. But sometimes God, in his infinite and parental wisdom, says no.
Maybe He’s chosen another blessing. Or maybe He just wants to draw me close. Whatever the reason, I can be sure of one thing.
He wants to bless me with better things.
Lord, thank you for loving me. Thank you for knowing what’s best.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Buildin' Up My House

“Where ya going, guys”? I asked. “And what’s with the sheets?”
My three youngest sons were about to bolt out the back door. They carried booty from the linen closet under their still-tan arms.
“We’re heading for the play set,” said eight-year-old Samuel. “To build a fort.”
“Yup,” said five-year-old Gabriel. He brushed blond bangs from his eyes. “We’re buildin’ up our house.”
“What about you, Zay?” I asked toddler Isaiah.
“Me too, Mom. Buildin’ up our house.”
I studied my young men. Their eyes were hopeful. “Okay, but just two sheets. And grab some clothespins from the garage.”
A slur of gratitude preceded the bang of the porch door.
I watched my boys from the window for a few minutes. They’d hustled to their wooden play set. But I was curious and wanted a better peek. So I took up residence on the a-frame swing that sits under our maple.
The boys planned to drape the sheets around the open-slat boards that comprise the top tier of their play structure. They wanted to enclose the square to create a private place. A secret place. They’d secured a rope and bucket for hoisting pirate treasure or animal crackers or juice boxes.
But they were enticed by adventure.
They couldn’t get the fort built.
“Hold this sheet while I clip,” Samuel said.
Gabe held the sheet for two seconds. “I’m taking the binoculars,” he said. “Someone needs to watch for enemies.” He whooshed down the yellow slide and began a combat-crawl through the grass.
“I’ll hold it,” said Isaiah. He grasped the edges with little fists.
But he held the sheet for only a minute when Samuel decided that they’d better gather wood for smoke signals. “Let’s go, Isaiah,” he said. “We’ll pick up sticks.”
After Gabe scoured the lawn for enemy boot prints, he returned to pull the flapping billows of sheet through the wooden slats. But he gave up and decided to swing.
At the end of the afternoon, the boys had some pretty good adventures, but the sheet lay in a twist in the grass and the house hadn’t been built. It was okay. They are boys and they’re full of fun and energy and imagination.
But a thought started rolling in my mind and by the time I’d pulled my sweater tight and walked from the backyard to the side porch, I had some strong convictions.
It’s my heart’s desire to build up a strong house. I want to raise men who love Jesus. Who choose the high path. Who will one day lead their own families and honor their wives and make a difference in their churches and communities and work places.
In my role as mom-to-men, it’s my job to build up my house. To make a home that’s fertile ground for learning. A home where God is central and His word guides our living. Where grace and love and truth trump culture and busy and things.
This takes time. And focus.
The challenge in my life is that there are so many good things. It’s easy to become distracted. My lures aren’t forging for firewood or tracking enemy soldiers – but they’re there. And today, as I’ve watched my boys, I recognize the need to pray for discernment. Where to put my time. Where to put my talents. Where to serve others and live in community and enjoy a sweet abundance of good things while still having the time, energy, and focus to do what God has called me to do first.
Buildin’ up my house.