surrendering the pacifiers

Anxiety! I am having anxiety. Why this anxiety?  You’re going to laugh.

We had Levi throw away his pacifiers today.

Bwahahahaha, right? Celebrate the milestone, right?!

Then why this anxiety?!

Levi’s “paci’s” have been his life line. His source of comfort. He lived one whole week before Grandma gave him a “Nuk” to suck on and he’s been hooked ever since. It’s been fabulous. For a while we didn’t know what to call it – “Nuk,” “Binky,” “pacifier.”  We landed on “paci.” Sometime after he turned two we finally got him weaned down to only using it to fall asleep, or when he was really sick. It was my sure fire method of offering him a way to calm himself down. And if you know Levi, you understand he is a very emotional boy, to all wonderful extremes. Most people say, “Oh, what a happy, enthusiastic, charming boy!” Which he is! All of those. But in a bad mood, when he’s in a safe space at home with mom and dad, not getting what he wants, frustrated, tired, or angry…. Look out. He is all of those extremes, too. So pacifier…. Bless it! For quite a while now – maybe a year or more – he’s had three pacifiers. One red, two blue. The red one goes in his mouth. The two blue ones in each hand. Losing one in the middle of the night sometimes necessitates a trip to mom and dad’s bedroom to find the poor lost paci. In the morning, once it’s time to eat breakfast, the paci’s go on the fridge until the appointed time before nap time, when he gets them back and sucking during our bedtime routine slowly calms and soothes him. So, as I mentioned….

We had Levi throw away his pacifiers today.

The garbage “monster” was hungry, so he fed his paci’s to the kitchen trash. What fun! And then he burst into tears. For maybe 30 seconds. And then we were off playing cars and the pacifiers were forgotten. But my heart still constricted. My shoulders were tense. My mind was bracing for a possible tantrum at nap time, when the reality of not having paci’s sets in. But still…. We’ve hit milestones before. A tantrum at nap time has happened for many reasons, and I have handled them all. What is going on in me?

And then my mind identified the issue. I was losing control. An apron string cut, if you will. I controlled his paci’s, and in my hand they were a very effective tool for soothing my child. Not only that, but yesterday Esther cut her own (GIANT) apron string…. On the day her brother turned three and she turned 13 months, she quit nursing.  The night before she had nipped me at her bedtime feed, so I ended the session. Then yesterday she wanted nothing to do with nursing.  I was an emotional mess last night after I laid her down for bed, because she had gone all day refusing my breast. She chose her thumb and lovie instead of me (she gave up a pacifier LOOOOONG ago).

Am I really that much of a control freak, that I’m having anxiety over losing control of what my kids suck on?  Or do I just need to accept the incredible emotional bond that exists between me and them? From the get-go, a baby’s cries cause mom anxiety, and her instinct is to soothe, however she can. Breastfeeding has been a huge part of that, especially for Esther. It was for Levi, too, but after weaning he had his paci’s. And I could provide that comfort.

I can no longer offer those to my children. I guess I feel powerless.

I must find a way to surrender some of my power. I am raising children to be independent adults, not grown-up people who still need mommy. Yes, they are a long, long way from adults. They still depend on me for almost all of their needs, and I have a lot of comfort to still offer them. And I would argue that as adults, we all still need our mom in some way. But they are not my children. They belong to the Lord. And this is just one small step of letting go and letting God. All I have to do is glance at my News Feed to know what is ahead…. Kindergarten graduation. Summer camp. High school graduation. Moving to college. Getting married. Letting go, all of it.

But Jesus gives me such calm and peace… because they are his children, for him to call to himself, for him to watch over. They are in my care for just a short time. So now my heart is humming the melody of a soothing hymn…

All to Jesus, I surrender, all to him I freely give.

I will ever love and trust him, in his presence daily live.

I surrender all, I surrender all.

All to thee my blessed Savior, I surrender all.

We surrendered the paci’s. And my boobs hurt. But it’s alright. My kids are His.  🙂

We are not to forget

It’s the weekend! It’s the middle of February and we had the windows open today, played with sidewalk chalk, and went to the store without coats! We all seem to be healthy today… Woohoo! Praising the Lord for the hope of health and spring. In the meantime, here’s my five minute free write on the prompt “forget.” See a bunch more at the Five Minute Friday link-up.


 

“Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of a hundred and ten… After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel.” Judges 2:8, 10

This passage came up in our family devotional reading the other day, and it was another reminder to me of one of my favorite passages in the Bible. No, it’s not a happy one. It’s a sad one. But it serves as I reminder so that I do not forget…

My mom sent me an encouraging note a few weeks ago, at a moment she knew I needed it. It says “Motherhood is not for wimps… You are making a difference every day.” She added her emphasis afterwards, “You are! You are!” She did not want me to forget.

Our pastor is challenging us with fasting from various things in our life that keep our attention away from focusing on God. When we have desire to go do that thing, we are to remember Jesus, and what he did for us. We are not to forget.

“And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’” Luke 22:19

We are not to forget. Not to forget our God, and the ways he taught us.

We are not to forget. Not to forget the huge cost to save us, because of the Father’s even greater love for us.

We are not to forget. Not to forget to teach our children about the Lord and what he has done for us. Teaching them by being an example, by demonstrating his love, by disciplining as he does for us, and by extending grace and unconditional affection, so that the next generation may not forget.

We are not to forget. We are not to forget that our life and our meaning are significant. Not because of what we’ve done or our great strength, but because he has called us to BE A PART OF HIS STORY… and if we are not, then the world might forget.

Mommy’s first day of Lent

Sigh. Oh my. Today! Yikes, today. Today was ordinary and yet extraordinary in its own ways and I’m going to go bananas if I don’t sit down and spew some words at ya. Whew.

Today included:

Repeated lessons to Levi about why we don’t hit. No hitting. Stop hitting. Don’t throw things at Henry. Don’t tackle him. Stop, Levi. Be gentle, Levi. If you do that again you’re going in timeout. If you don’t stay in time out, you are getting a spanking. Timeout. Spanking. Levi. LEVI. LEVI JOSEPH HATTING……

Contrast that scene with ¾ of the way through lunch….. “Mama! Pray first!” “Okay, Levi, go ahead, you can pray. You say the words.” (We bow our heads and fold hands.) “Dear Jesus… Thank you. Thank you for food. For food on table. Thank you, milk. Sandwich. Thank you (for) baby Esther, Henry, Mommy. Dear Jesus. Thank you. Daddy… safe… house. Amen.” And my heart is melting. That is the first time I’ve heard him pray. Usually we prompt him and he repeats after us, or refuses to pray at all and asks us to pray. But here he was. Reminding me to pray and be thankful. Praying at the beginning of lunch wouldn’t have worked, since I had three little ones on my hands who were “hangry”, two of them literally doing a constant cry/whine until they had a piece of food in their mouth, and the other who was “helping” make his peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you for the sandwich.

Today also included my 9 month old (9!) getting into everything. And asking to nurse every 30 minutes, then barely eating at all… because she’s congested? Teething? So distracted by the toys in the living room she just wants to get down as soon as she’s on my lap? Who knows.

Contrast that with her huge, 2-tooth smile that breaks out as soon as she sees the camera and knows it’s awesome if she turns on the charm. 🙂

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Levi’s portrait of his sister

And hallelujah, I did get an hour nap today! Bliss. I woke up as Levi quietly entered my bedroom with his blond bed head and paci’s. He joined me in bed to snuggle- “rub my back Mom?” – and watch Thomas. Sigh. I love him.

It is now 5:02 pm, and I just changed out of my sweats 15 minutes ago so I won’t feel like an unsexy slob when Chad comes home. (He wouldn’t necessarily care, but I do). The mess from lunch is still on the table and the counter, the washer and dryer are full and need to be switched, and there are 3 baskets of wrinkly clean laundry that need attention. My living room is full of today’s toy disaster behind me, with Curious George on the TV so I can vent some sanity into my day.

This is hard. This is so hard. But it is so good. Is this how God feels? ALL THE TIME?

“My children are so difficult, but damn, I love them so much! They are so wonderful!”

The thing with God, though…. Pretty sure his patience lasts a little longer than mine. His love is fiercer than mine. His compassion hits “refresh” instantaneously. His wisdom in fatherhood is perfect. His being, wholly holy. His lap, always open and welcoming. His anger, always righteous. His jealousy, full of passionate love for his own. I am so glad he is infinite. That he carries me. Always. Because man, his job. Running the whole world. Being creator of everything. Loving everything. Judging everything, just in all his ways. That is mighty. Do you think it’s a crazy hard job? Or easy, because he is God, and so powerful, that everything in his nature comes freely, like breathing?

Today is the first day of Lent. Jesus, wash my soul. Father, make me like you. Spirit, bear me up so I might carry my cross. And maybe a baby on my hip while I’m at it.

Pizza Ranch for supper it is.

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Levi’s portrait of Mommy

Winter, head colds & finding God in the doldrums

Oh my word. This month. (As in, this last month). Horrendous! One month of winter colds, during which there has not been a day that someone in our house has not been sick. Really, it’s been most of us. Most of the time. Including me. I shouldn’t complain. I shouldn’t. I am grateful for the pediatrician, health insurance, a home with a heater, food, and ibuprofen. But a month requiring 4 trips to the pediatrician is stressful, so share in literary form I must.

I was taking a lovely siesta on the couch just now (Thursday afternoon), when THUD, CRY…. I race upstairs, glad to find Levi has already put himself back into bed. I hand him his pacifiers (one for the mouth, one for each hand) and he rolls back over, “Thank you mama…” closing his eyes. Sigh. Awesome. Going back to bed during a nap. Glorious. The nice thing is, I had my good “Kat nap” (haha!), so I feel refreshed enough to stay awake. This is the best part of any day, if it happens. When I have satisfactorily had my nap, and the kids are still sleeping. I could be spending this time vacuuming up the shredded paper that is all over the living room floor from Levi’s morning escapades, but writing is so much more therapeutic. And it’s good practice for Esther’s digestive system if she eats some, right?

Except now I hear Esther coughing and stirring through the baby monitor, so I might have to pause and be right back… in like 3 hours. Or tomorrow. Or next week…..

 

…I’m back. It’s now Sunday (three days later). Not bad. I’m having time and space and good creative thought because Esther is home sick with a cold and fever (it’s her turn again), taking her morning nap while the guys are worshiping and eating chili at church. But I’ve just had a fresh shower and leg shave, so I am good! And so is God.

Here are my thoughts.

I was showering and thinking, I should really have “church” here at home since I’m missing out on the worship and word with my congregation this morning. But honestly, the thought of cracking open my Bible and finding a Scripture passage to read and study did not feel appealing. Instant guilt at that feeling followed. *sigh* With the onset of January, I had the desire to get back into regularly studying Scripture, since that area of my spiritual life has been lacking lately. The best time of day for me to do that is in the morning over breakfast, before my children wake up. Well, since we’ve been sick since the new year, I have lacked that time either because I myself needed rest, or my children were waking up early and demanding immediate attention. I had planned to start some reading in Hosea and Psalm 119, since the two women’s groups I’m a part of were going to start diving into those together. I have been to ONE gathering of those two groups in 2016. *double sigh* So goes another futile attempt at “quiet time” since becoming a mother.

But guess what DID happen this month? I received a request from my dear cousin, Leah Everson, to join a Facebook group she started called “Mama’s Soul Group.” This group is “an online community of Christian mamas who explore ancient and new spiritual practices in order to connect with God.” Leah is a mom of young kids, like me, who is also a writer, and God is leading her through the awesome calling of ministering to women through exploring ways to (re)connect with God once the dynamics of motherhood take hold, when we find it difficult to connect with him in ways we previously had. She is encouraging us each week with a spiritual practice other than the traditional “quiet time” of Bible study and prayer. This week was “breath prayers.” We picked a prayer to say repeatedly throughout our days – the same words, as we breathe in and breathe out. My prayer was, “Abba Father” (breathe in), “You carry me” (breathe out). Over. And over. And over again. Let me tell you. It made a difference! The acknowledgement of my Lord through the stress of my day added so much peace and awareness of his presence. I was more conscious of the Holy Spirit’s power and guidance, and his Word more easily came to memory so I could meditate on it as needed.

Wonderful! So through understanding that perhaps I don’t need to meet with God in the same way all the time – or have “church” this Sunday morning in the traditional sense – the Holy Spirit revealed something to me. Being a mother of small children is not a season of life to just spiritually endure. But rather, an opportunity from God to grow closer to him than ever before, because it pushes me to deepen my relationship with him in other ways – ways that will serve me even AFTER my kids are grown – by practicing his presence, worshiping, and meditating on his word in various ways through my busy day. Because from what I’ve heard, busy days don’t end when your kids are out of diapers 🙂

So…. This morning I am worshiping through writing. Worshiping by enjoying God’s presence as the water of my shower cleanses me and his mercy washes my soul. Fellowshipping with him by breathe prayers, acknowledging through them that he is God, I am not, and therefore I do not carry the world and need to shed the mantel of my god complex.

Phew. Can I get an Amen???!!!

If you are also a mother and your heart aches for a closer walk with God, I invite you to check out Leah’s blog The Toothless Grin and the Facebook group “Mama’s Soul Group.” You are most welcome and we would love to encourage you. You are in good company!

“Time”

After a much too long hiatus from blogging over the holidays, it’s time to get back to the routine of joining the Five Minute Friday gang, writing every week for 5 minutes on a one-word prompt.

This week’s prompt: “Time”

5 minutes, ready, GO.

Ah, “time.” Such a loaded word in our day and age, is it not?

“Not enough time.”

“I didn’t have time.”

“Couldn’t make time.”

Time goes so fast!”

All things you hear, way too much of the time. (haha)

But there is time for everything, “a season for everything under the sun,” Solomon wrote.

Have you ever stopped to ponder that if our planet didn’t revolve around the sun, we might not have a concept of time?

It occurred to me yesterday how God set up our world to go through routine.

As a mom of young kids, you get to be an expert on routine. Routine is helpful, and feels so familiar to little kids, that they seem happier and healthier when there is an expected routine. More compliant, too!

Did you realize God made our world (and us) that way? Think about it. The earth revolves around the sun, and also spins on an axis. That creates a predictable routine of seasons, and 24 hour days. We have a routine of being awake during the day and asleep at night. Most of us have a routine of breakfast, lunch, and supper. We have created a routine of the business world functioning in our country from approximately 8am-5pm for 5 days a week. We still take a “Sabbath” as a nation, with a weekend of some fashion every week. Even annually, we have a routine of when our routine is disrupted, for holidays and vacations.

God gave us a way to mark the time.

I guess all that to say, I should embrace God’s marking of time. It’s not going too fast, or too slow. He designed time to go just as fast as it should, with the right amount each day as it marches along. So I don’t need to wish for it to be any different.

I’m so glad he’s in charge and I’m not.

STOP.

A season with a crack in the door

I’m not sure how to start putting into words what it means to have Christmas truly be my heart’s season of hope.

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The world is a dark, dark place, tainted by sin and the works of its tempter.

Terrorism. War. Murder of babies. Mass shootings and bombings of civilians.

Divorce. Brokenness. Unfaithfulness. Corruption. Deceit.

Loneliness. Depression. Illness. Suffering. Death.

Anyone feel like rejoicing and singing a cheesy song about how Jesus is the Reason for the Season?

It is easy to look around in the world and miss that God is still sovereign. It’s easy to forget who ultimately wins the war.

A great Needtobreathe song played on the radio yesterday as I drove in the dark at 5:00 pm to get groceries. I cranked up the chorus to Rivers in the Wasteland…

In this wasteland, where I’m living

There is a crack in the door filled with light

And it’s all that I need to get by

In this wasteland, where I’m living

There is a crack in the door filled with light

And it’s all that I need to shine

 

That crack of light? It’s Jesus. Pure and simple, the radiance of God, who Himself is Light.

“I could ask the darkness to hide me

and the light around me to become night-

but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.

To you the night shines as bright as day.

Darkness and light are the same to you.”  Psalm 139:11-12

Today as we’re walking through a dark world (literally and figuratively), I’m seeing a crack in the door filled with light. This season, sometimes that crack of light comes through the twinkling of Christmas lights in my neighborhood. A clear moon on a cold night. The sound of an old familiar carol playing. A jingle bell. Snow crunching under a toddler’s booted feet. The laughter of my children. These are the glimpses of heaven. Of victory here on earth. And I have a reason to sing…. I have a reason to worship.

“All of my life, in every season

You are still God, I have a reason to sing

I have a reason to worship” –Hillsong, Desert Song

Anxiety’s Place in Thanksgiving

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

Anxiety. Ugh. It is that ugly partner to depression, the flip side of the coin. We who love the world and the people in it so much that we carry it, work too hard, care too much… pretty soon our hearts are beating hard with thoughts of everything that can go wrong. Do that for so long and POOF, we plunge into stress, tears, anxiety, and depression deep enough that we CAN’T care anymore. We have to go into apathy about everything else in order to hide and protect ourselves before we fall apart.

In THAT place, I cringe and turn away from the beloved Christian response to anxiety found in Philippians 4. I’ve read it too many times. Heard too many sermons. Had it quoted compassionately by friends. Misquoted by the well-intentioned. Let me just say that sometimes, after you’ve petitioned God to remove the anxiety, his answer is sometimes Zoloft!

But here I am, a couple of months past my own bottom, a few months into my serotonin levels normalizing, a few months into having a counselor give me permission to sort through the layers of myself that I previously had no energy to explore…

Philippians 4 is truth. And it pierces my soul – not with conviction to make me feel guilty (“ugh, I’m being anxious AGAIN!”) – but with truth that leads to light (as in a light bulb, “ah ha!” moment).

Dealing with my postpartum depression has led me to a good counselor, a licensed social worker who loves Jesus, has dealt with her own suffering a time or two, and can be the face of God’s grace to me. I’ve learned one of the best things she can do for me is hold up a mirror to myself through which I can see clearly. She sees things in me that I assume are normal or okay because I’ve lived with them so long, and she says, um, no. Not so healthy. One of those is the pressure I subject myself to (firstborn perfectionist, ahem). As I realized the enormous pressure I was putting on myself, underneath THAT I found worry. Worry that if I don’t get groceries, my kids will go hungry. Worry that if I don’t manage our finances right, we’ll end up homeless. Worry that if I don’t initiate intimacy, my husband will not be satisfied. Worry that if I don’t reach out to a friend, they’ll think I’m a bad friend and wonder if I care. But really, just worry I will fail. My mind was full of “I should…” “I should…..” “I should…..” “I should…”   Holy cats, PRESSURE!!!!!!! Basically, if I didn’t [fill in the blank], then the world was going to fall apart.

God complex much? Yikes.

So yes, anxiety in the mind is mental illness. But we are complex beings, which I pretend to understand but really don’t completely, because we are made by a Creator that cannot be completely understood. And there is a piece of anxiety – perhaps in the heart/soul? – that is sin. Because what I just explained about myself – putting myself in God’s shoes – that is not okay. Pretty sure that’s a form of idolatry.

So once I realized I was “should-ing” myself (unhealthy), I wrote the word “should” on my bathroom mirror, crossed it out, and wrote “imperfect progress” instead. “Imperfect progress” is a phrase I learned from Lysa Terkeurst’s book Unglued. We are all works in progress, we are not perfect, and rather than getting bent out of shape about our mistakes and steps backwards, it is much healthier to focus on what God IS doing in our lives, and let him continue making us into his masterpieces. Next, I wrote the word “worry” on the mirror and crossed it out as well, and replaced it with the word “pray.” (See how we’re getting back to Philippians 4?!) It was no coincidence I’m sure, that I have been reading Come Thirsty by Max Lucado as part of a women’s small group. That week we landed on Chapter 11, entitled “Worry? You Don’t Have To.” As part of the chapter, of course Max broke down Philippians 4:6! Paul’s answer to worrying less, he explained, has two parts: God’s part and our part. Our part? PRAY about everything. And have gratitude. The New Living Translation says, “Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done” (vs. 6).

“Thank him for all He has done…..”

We could be here all day thanking God for what he has done. God’s word is FULL of amazing works done for Israel. The Psalms and prophets are full of reminders to God’s people of his ever-enduring love and faithfulness, in spite of all of the Israelites’ unfaithfulness.

We could spend additional time thanking Jesus for his miraculous birth, life, and death, all on our behalf. At the end of his gospel, John wrote, “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” (John 21:25)

And how much more gratitude can we hold for the precious gift of the Holy Spirit? He is God’s very presence in us, as a helper, guide, and comforter.

Finally, we can remember the specific ways God has ACTUALLY and PRACTICALLY done amazing things in our lives. In my own life, he provided me with dedicated parents and a loving church so I could learn about him. He provided my dad with a steady job and sustained our family through difficult years in which he worked a ton of hours. He saved my brother from dying from cardiac arrest playing baseball in high school. He provided a dream in my heart for the career of athletic training and six years of amazing training and experiences that shaped my talents and skills in numerous ways. He provided employment for me immediately after graduate school. He introduced me to my amazing spouse. He carried me and mended my broken heart through a difficult, almost break-up. He sustained me through the stress and thrill of my job. He provided a new job for me out of the blue, knowing it was the best thing for me though my plans hadn’t counted on it. He molded my heart and my husband’s into one through marriage. He created two beautiful children for us to parent, and has somehow sustained us financially after cutting back to one income. He provided a church family for us into which we pour our gifts and receive great blessing. He stretched us and equipped us as youth leaders, when we felt like ducks out of water and totally incapable. And he has never left me in my latest valley through depression, in which I am discovering lush personal growth amid spiritual challenges.

Yes indeed, thank him for all he has done!!!!!!

And as I thank him for all he has done, my heart rests in peace (God’s part in Philippians 4). Why? Because through my gratitude I am acknowledging that the successes of my life rested on HIS SHOULDERS ALL ALONG. It was not me. And therefore going forward, my safety, identity, well-being, and security DO NOT DEPEND ON ME. POOF!!!!!!!! Pressure gone.

So this Thanksgiving? I am THANKING HIM FOR ALL HE HAS DONE. And that means more to me this Thanksgiving than ever before.

“Dance”

It’s Five Minute Friday!  I’ve been gone awhile. But here you go. Five minutes from the word….

dance

Growing up I was not a “dancer” in the tutu-wearing, studio class kind of way. But I did like to dance.

I danced in the kitchen. In my socks, in front of the stove, where I could see a reflection of myself twirling. While my mom washed the supper dishes and listened to a CCM tape of some sort from her boom box. 🙂

I learned from Michael W. Smith’s gravelly voice that “love isn’t love ‘til you give it away” and questioned why people wear that “cross of gold.” I sung along as Amy Grant tried to balance the “hats” on her head. I never liked the song much – sounded minor and funky – and I didn’t really get it.

Back then I only wore one hat – that of a kid. But now… now I get it. I balance a lot of hats on my head now.

But one blessing of being a mom that requires me to wear and juggle and strain under so many hats: when music comes on and I’m at home with my little ones…. my kid hat comes out, and we do a little dance in front of the kitchen stove. Yesterday, we were rapping about “a man with a tat on his big fat belly…”

Happy Friday!  You should go do a little dance 🙂

Others in the Valley

Last week I wrote about blessings in the valley – how though I am going through a “low” period in life right now, God is showing me there are blessings here. Well this week I am learning something else.

Just from bumping elbows with others in my world this week, I have discovered I am not alone. I am not the only parent who has wondered what the heck to do when their infant will not nap. I am not the only mom to struggle with the decision to take medication while breastfeeding. I am not the only one seeking help from a Christian therapist who is real and gets it.

And you know how I realized I was not alone?

I said to those around me, “Hey, you know what, we’re struggling with this… could you pray for us?”

When I reached out, their reply was “Hey sure, and by the way, me too….”

So it turns out that I’m walking through this valley not just for God to teach me… but to be there with others too. I see positive ripples affecting those around me because of the struggles I have faced. My eyes are seeing the truth of Paul’s words played out in my life when he said, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:8-10)

We are SO NOT ALONE!!!! And IN OUR WEAKNESS WE ARE STRONG because of Jesus.

Through our struggles he uniquely places us within the tapestry of the body of Christ, to weave together his plan of redemption for his Kingdom. It makes no sense to use weak thread, and yet he works through it – us – and makes “beautiful things out of the dust” (see song by Gungor).  He turns my valley of trouble into a place of hope.

I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her.
There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor (which means trouble) a door of hope. Hosea 2:14b-15a

How cool of our God is that?

Judy and the next generation

I can’t imagine not knowing the Lord. I can’t imagine what my life would be like without Jesus as my Savior. I would be a mess. (Not that I’m not a mess now, in certain respects. But it would be much worse!) I would be a groveling mess, aching to be loved, chasing after whatever would make me feel like I belonged and had meaning. I would have even LESS patience with my kids. I would expect my husband – or whatever man was in my life – to fulfill me. I would no doubt be seeking to maintain happiness and status with possessions. My heart would have no peace. My life would be filled with worry and fear.

But in his wisdom, God placed people in my life that taught me about him. My parents. Grandparents. Aunts and Uncles. Pastors. Sunday school teachers. VBS and AWANA leaders. Many, many adults who poured into my life. Who talked, sang, demonstrated, and modeled the amazing theology of “Jesus Loves Me.”

Now, it is not by their hard work that I am saved. I am only saved through the grace of Jesus Christ, and the moving of the Holy Spirit in my life to see my need for him and accept his forgiveness. BUT –

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” Romans 10:14

In 1992 at First Baptist Church in Willmar, MN, one spunky lady volunteered to be the AWANA leader for the third grade girls. Her name is Judy Treptau, and today is her (??th!) birthday.

For 11 years, Judy instructed me. She loved me. She spent time with me. She laughed with me. She cried with me. She listened to me. She goofed off with me. She scolded me. She prayed with me and for me. She sacrificed for me. Is Judy perfect? She would be the first to tell you, no. Was her theology 100% accurate all of the time? Probably not. Did she know everything about the Bible? No. But did she love Jesus and live to tell me about Him? You bet. I am not the only one with such a testimony about Judy.

I wonder – where would the church be without people like her?

Apparently there was a generation of Israelites who didn’t have Judy:

“After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel.” Judges 2:10

How sad and horrible is that?

Passing on our faith is so crucial. Witnessing to anyone in our world who does not know Christ is important. But as a young mother having to realize my purpose anew, my eyes are being opened to the importance of passing on my faith to my children. Our pastor is emphasizing this in his current sermon series. Yesterday’s Scripture was from Psalm 78:

“My people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth with a parable; I will utter hidden things, things from of old – things we have heard and known, things our ancestors have told us. We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done. He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our ancestors to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children.” (vs. 1-5)

Parents, instruct your children and other youngsters in your world that need you. If you’re not a parent? The next generation needs you, too. It takes more than just a mother and father to pass on the wonderful life of following our Lord! It takes a community, a family of believers, to walk alongside the next generation and make disciples.

Remember the instructions of the Shema – a central Jewish prayer and the ancient cornerstone of our Christian faith, given by God to Moses for the people of Israel:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:4-9

If Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, Phil, Gary, Brad, Judy, Nancy, Susie, Dave, Bruce, on and on…. If these men and women had not played their role in the body of Christ… who knows where I’d be?

So thanks Judy. Thank you for being a part of the body, for weaving your life into the tapestry of the family of God. You have left a legacy which is now being passed onto the NEXT generation…. for now I am the mom, the youth leader, the aunt….

“…so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.” Psalm 78:5-6

Judy doing Kathy's makeup
Judy doing my makeup for prom, circa 2002
Esther0241
My family today