The Background

A few weeks ago, I had one of the sweetest parenting moments I’ve had so far.  I was driving and the song “10,000 Reasons” came on the radio.  From the backseat I heard:

“Bess Lor, my soul.  Oh, my soul.  Wor-ip hooooo name.”   

It was Zoe, singing a song she’s heard probably hundreds of times in the background.

“Bless the Lord, oh my soul.  Oh, my soul.  Worship His holy name.”

It’s not a song I’ve ever sung to her with hand motions or an agenda to teach it to her.  It’s just a song I sing to God myself in those quiet moments when Zoe doesn’t need my full attention—when she’s busy or otherwise occupied and it feels like just me and God.

She learned it anyway.

“I love your singing, baby,” I said to her, wiping away a tear.  “It’s beautiful.”  

Then to God I said, “Wow.”  

I think a lot about how to raise Zoe.  I want her to know God’s love and to desire a relationship with Him.  I pray for it, I read about how to foster it, I think about it, I talk about it.  I want to be intentional about the right things.

But I’m realizing that a lot of her early thoughts about God and faith will not come from my carefully constructed lesson plans or mission statements…but from the background of my own life.

I can tell her “God loves you,” and that’s good—but if I rest in God’s love myself, letting His love define me instead of relying on my actions or accomplishments, loving others from the overflow of His love to me—that will speak even louder.

I can read her books about patience and putting others first, but being patient myself and letting her see me put others first will be a better lesson.

I can tell her to be thankful to God for everything.  But when she overhears me singing “for all your goodness, I will keep on singing” over and over again in a season of loss? That speaks much louder than my words.

I’ve worried about what to teach.  But really, it’s about how I live, and what God does through that.

It doesn’t mean I shouldn’t think about faith and how to teach it.  But it means that mostly, I should just work on living it authentically myself.

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I’ve pondered all of this the last few weeks.  And as I stood in my best friend’s church last Sunday, in the hometown that doesn’t always feel like home, the familiar chords began and my heart relaxed into what I can best describe as openness.  And the last verse, which has always seemed a little morbid to me, hit me fresh and new and tied all this together.

“And on that day when my strength is failing
The end draws near and my time has come
Still my soul will sing Your praise unending
Ten thousand years and then forevermore.”

I will not be around forever.  I will die.  But at some point, when I’m no longer here, I hope my daughter will still be singing to the Lord she loves.

This is my prayer.  Not that she never doubts; no that she has a faith just like mine; not that she goes to church every week; not that she can regurgitate creeds or impress everyone with her Bible knowledge.  My hope is that she has found something authentic and real in my faith, in her father’s faith, in her grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ faith—that all that she has seen in the background has developed the foreground of her own life.

And so, as the song says:

Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes.”

I will keep singing.

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Open Spaces

Where have you been lately? someone asked me the other day.

Good question!

Here’s a recap of the last few weeks: we left our house due to some fairly extensive rodent issues, moved in with some friends from church down the street, moved again to a condo owned by some very generous (and vacationing) church members, hosted David’s parents for a few days at our borrowed condo, had David’s installation and ordination service at church (this is a big deal – go David!!!) and then Zoe and I boarded a plane for Minnesota where we are teen-sitting for my siblings.

I also started doing some contract grant writing, and David and I began looking at rental homes in case our house is not salvageable.

Oh, and I’ve gotten five (seriously, five) part time job offers in the last month.

I’m not a change-resistant person.  I truly get excited about change and growth.  But when change or the need to consider making changes is forced on me instead of being something I decide to seek out, it’s never the most comfortable feeling.

That’s why I haven’t been writing lately (apart from the mask story—I mean, that NEEDED to be told.) 

I’ve been working through the changes in my mind and heart, trying to sort out what God is up to and what He is calling me to.

It’s not my time to be here spouting wisdom about anything.  It’s my time to be as quiet as possible, to silence the anxiety that says I need to figure everything out and to listen to the God who actually HAS figured it out.  It’s my time to stop talking and instead to ask, seek, find.

Fortunately, I’ve been in Minnesota where the night life (and…life in general…) is not super bumpin’.  I’m taking advantage of it—soaking up the wisdom of good teaching, good books, time in worship, conversations and prayer with my best friend, and prayerful walks with Zoe through the trails and meadows here.  I’m singing “My Lighthouse” as we walk and “Open Up The Heavens” as I drive.  I feel God working in me as I surrender this time to Him and though I don’t quite understand yet what He’s doing, it’s enough to feel His presence with me and trust that He will sort it all out.

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My best friend has been part of a church plant for about a year, and I got to go with her to the church on Sunday.

I was thrilled to get to see where so much of her energy and passion have gone and to feel our friendship deepen as I experienced a huge part of her heart.  It was also personally refreshing to worship there—to feel that immediate connection with people who love God as fervently as I do, but to hear and see the Gospel a bit differently than how I see it most Sundays.  It was a reminder of how precious this gift of communion with God is and how I haven’t gotten close to plumbing His depths.  In my daily life, I may experience God in certain ways, but there is always more of Him to explore and new ways to experience Him.

The same can be said for my life.  It may have been going a certain way and I may picture it continuing that way, but there is always room for God to do something NEW, something different than what I pictured.  And I continue to want to step out of the way to allow Him to work.

John Calvin wrote, “the only haven of safety is to have no other will, no other wisdom, than to follow the Lord wherever he leads. Let this, then, be the first step: to abandon ourselves, and devote the whole energy of our minds to the service of God.”  

That’s my prayer…that I stop worrying about where I am and start saying “use me where I am or take me somewhere different.  I don’t care which! It’s up to you, God, and I trust you to lead.”

Coming soon, if I can articulate it: what God is doing in my heart in regards to parenting these days.

Parenting Tip

Every once in a while, I read a parenting tip so dumb that I wonder if I am surrounded by idiots.

Tips such as “do not place a Bumbo on the counter,” “talk to your child,” and “do not allow your infant to drink soft drinks” make me feel like a parenting genius because THANK YOU CAPTAIN OBVIOUS, do we really have to spell these things out?!

I’m about to provide another parenting tip—one so obvious in hindsight, but learned the hard way by this parenting “genius.”  If you think THANK YOU, CAPTAIN OBVIOUS…you would be right.

The tip is as follows:

Even if your child is showing TREMENDOUS progress in his/her understanding of concepts and representational thought (i.e. yes, the noise coming from an intercom is actually a person talking! Yes, a stuffed dog and a real dog would both say “woof!” and you can give them both a treat! Yes, toy fire trucks would make the same noise as a real fire truck—good job! Yes, we can see an airplane AND be on one at the same time!)…

…DO NOT TRY TO HELP THEM UNDERSTAND THE CONCEPT OF “DRESS UP” BY PUTTING ON A “V FOR VENDETTA” MASK.

Photo on 6-13-14 at 7.24 PM #3

I’m guessing very few of you have ever contemplated this idea, but just in case you–like me–are also
a) sleep deprived
b) feeling pretty high and mighty about your “teaching” skills
c) in your brother’s room, where the aforementioned mask lives
d) close to your child’s bed time, feeling desperate for a new idea since you’ve been entertaining someone with an attention span of 1.2 seconds since 5:45 am
e) thinking “she likes dress ups—this is a dress up! He looks friendly.  She hasn’t seen the movie, so she doesn’t know its affiliation with political uprising”
f) arriving at the conclusion, “this would be a great teaching moment! I’ll show her how I take it on and off and teach her the word ‘mask!'”

…FOR THE LOVE, STEP AWAY.  

Wave the white flag for the day, put your child in bed early, head downstairs and have a glass of wine while you listen to her scream about the unfairness of being put in bed 10 minutes early.

It will be far better than listening to the wracking sobs and panicked screams you have created through your own idiocy while you nurse feelings of extreme guilt and wonder how many years it will be before you hear about this in a therapist’s office.  Probably 5.

Zoe is now terrified of a hallway.  A RANDOM HALLWAY.  We’re talking body shaking and gasping sobs when we go NEAR the hallway.  If I was going to knowingly introduce any type of neurosis for my daughter, I could have at least timed the trauma better so that it occurred at the same time as an undesirable behavior! It’s been very challenging to change her diaper lately—she kicks, screams, rolls, pulls hair, and sometimes even tries to bite.  Maybe THAT would have been a good time for “V” to show up, you know? A J. Walter Weatherman moment (“…and that’s why you always lie still for your diaper changes!  Because if you don’t, a terrifying masked man shows up!”) 

But no.  I had to pick a HALLWAY for my daughter’s trauma.

Parenting tip: just don’t do this.

Photo on 6-13-14 at 7.24 PM #2Hey, it takes a village, right?

Warmly,
The Idiot of Said Village