When I Want To Take Away My Child’s Pain

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A word, a sentence, a look is all it takes to arouse a fear lying dormant in the heart.

“Mom, I can’t bend at my knees. I think my leg is swelling up again.”

Fears in my heart rubbed the sleep from their eyes.

“I’m sure your knee isn’t swelling. You are probably a little sensitive to the possibility of it happening again.” I was convincing myself as much as my 9-year-old.

The following day he made mention of pain in his leg. We noticed a limp in his walk. Fears in my heart began to stretch their arms, preparing to come fully awake.

Easing himself into a chair, he placed his left leg out so I could raise the leg of his pants. The chattering of fear could be heard in the background. I talked back, telling fear that it was a different leg than last year. I talked back telling fear that this was a coincidence. I talked back telling fear to go back to sleep. He’s not welcome here.

Inching the leg of his pants up, I swallowed a gasp as my eyes took in the sight of his knee. Begging my eyes not to give away the fear now fully awake, I looked at Zachary. “I think it’s fine. It looks like it is a little swollen, but I’m sure it’s fine. We will keep watching it and pray it doesn’t swell like last time.”

One year ago we had a scare and a painful couple of weeks when his right leg became swollen, fluids drained, tests run, and finally no conclusions, but swelling gone. For a year the fear of a reoccurrence has slept in our hearts.

Now we are reliving the experience. This time in the left leg.

In my own heart, fear feeds on the unknowns and the what-if’s. In Zachary’s heart, fear feeds on the pain, the oversized needle, and the inability to do all the things he loves- running, jumping, and playing outside.

The mama heart in me wants to make everything right for my child. To take away every twinge of discomfort, every ounce of pain.

We pray, friends pray, family prays, teachers pray. I listen to his prayers. I hear the courage that wants to dominate, but I hear the fear that fights for its place. We ask God to take away the swelling. We ask God to bring back the normal function of his knee, his whole leg. We ask God to take away the pain.

As we lay our requests at the feet of Christ, my heart silently pleads with God. Please, God, grant us this. I want Zachary to see how you answer our prayers. I want him to see how you work on our behalf. I want Zachary to experience you.

And I hear His whispers back to me. I strain hard to hear. I freeze, making no movement to be sure I hear Him. I always answer prayers. I work all things for good for those called according to my purpose. My ways are not your ways. Trust me.

I argue with God in the privacy of my soul. No, God, really. I don’t want my child to hurt. I want to take away all his pains. I don’t want to watch him struggle. And more than anything I want him to grow in his faith. I want him to know you fully and trust you with everything he has.

Patiently, God listens to my moanings. He is my child. I love him even more than you do. I want the same things for him.

I see my shallow faith. I see my temptation to believe the lie that my child must get his way to believe God. That my child must have his prayer answered immediately the way I believe is best to believe in the God he’s placed his trust in. I feel the guilt in my heart growing.

It’s a struggle I face daily. Trying to be the Holy Spirit within my children. I’ve written about this struggle.  Thinking I know what is best for them. Wanting to guide them towards safety. Wanting to grow them into who I want them to be.

I want to take away the fears of my children. I want to take away pain. I want them to experience joy. I want them to trust God with all their heart.

But at times I want that so badly, that I try to get in the middle and do it my own way. I think I know best. I think that for my kids to fully trust God, that God must answer every prayer according to how I best see fit. I think for them to trust God, they must get the answers they want from Him.

God always brings me back to Him. To a place of seeing our most desperate need is not to get our own way, but to live out our lives His way.

Softly, He brings to mind many of the prayers He has answered in my own life. Many that He answered in ways I never would have anticipated. Many in ways I never asked. Some no’s, some yes’s, some maybe’s, some yes – but it looks different that you are picturing.

Zachary hobbled to the farmhouse table and eased himself onto the bench by the fire. The place where hearts are shared regularly. The place where stories are told and created. The place where the fire warms us, the food feeds us, and His Word nourishes us.

“Mom, I think I know one of the reasons God allows this to happen to my leg.”

I looked up to meet his eyes that spoke a tenderness commanding my attention.

“I think God allows this pain so I can help others. Now that I know what this is like, I can help others when they hurt.”

The gasp I swallowed out of fear earlier came to the surface. This time it didn’t come from the place of fear.

“Zachary, if I could take away your pain I would. If I could take it on myself, I would do it. But I can’t. God did that for us didn’t He? To save us, Jesus took on pain, shame, and death so that one day we could be with Him in glory.”

He reminds me again. His ways are not my ways. Sometimes He uses our pains and our struggles to create the person in us He wants us to be. Sometimes He uses our circumstances to grow the character needed to sustain what He sees ahead of us. Sometimes pain free isn’t the best place for us. Sometimes it’s there we are most aware of Him.

As a mom, I want to make life well for my kids. I want to take away what hurts them. Kiss the boo-boo away. Tuck them in tightly crowding out their fears. Sometimes, I want it so much I’m tempted to take away the place God wants us to be in that moment.

He sent His son to die on a cross for my sins. He knows the pain of a parent watching their child struggle. He knows that pain more than I can begin to fathom.

Yes, I can trust Him with my own child. After all, my child is His child, on loan to me for a time. My role isn’t to make life smooth and comfortable, removing the rocks along the path. My role is to encourage my child to keep his eyes focused on the One who leads him along the path laid out before him.

 

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Who Bears Your Burdens?

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As I sit in the quiet of the morning, I’m thankful I don’t bear the weight of the burdens I carry. This verse is timely for me, as the past few days and weeks have felt more than I can bear. How about you? Can you relate? What burdens your heart today? I pray you hear these words the Lord has for us and find comfort in the One who bears your burdens today.

Have a blessed weekend!

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Why Sometimes We Need To Stop Seeking A Greater Purpose

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The faint sounds of clapping swirled in and out with the wind. When the wind stilled, the air seemed to carry the slightest noise for miles. Still and calm for but a moment. In rhythmic fashion the wind came and went. Gliding in and out. Each time the sound of clapping returned, then stilled.

I looked up at the trees with leaves that seemed to punctuate the arrival of fall set against the blue gray sky. I watched as the leaves clapped the entrance and exit of the breeze.

Those trees stand tall and vibrant declaring the glory of the Lord. Showing off their changing colors. You can’t miss them. In that fleeting moment, the trees clapped as if to whisper praise to their Maker.

Sometimes our only purpose in a moment is to offer praise to our Maker.

In days those leaves will be a distant memory as they transition into late fall abandoning the trees that will stand tall and bare. Vibrance a memory. One moment they draw all eyes to them, and their purpose is so evident. Another moment, their purpose forgotten. But always a purpose remains. A purpose of praise.

Some seasons I itch for a greater purpose. Some seasons, days, or moments I fail to see how anything I do all day long makes a difference. Some days my purpose is magnified when my golden leaves clap His praise against the bright blue sky. Other days, my leaves have fallen, and I stand and wonder what purpose I serve. Sometimes I feel the weight of the dying limbs of failure and shame. Some seasons bring new growth and accentuate my life’s purposes.

Sometimes I simply spend too much time thinking about myself and looking for my purpose. Sometimes I simply need God to breeze through my leaves and stir up the praise. Sometimes my only purpose is to direct my mind off my purposes and usher in the praise.

Regardless of my season or state, the wind breathes praise. Leaves or no leaves, I clap His praise. Applause and praise to Him who created me and works in and through me to bring glory to Him.

The wind that whips through my soul grows quieter. It softly blows, and I hear the clapping. Praises for my King.

Psalm 145:10-11

All you have made will praise you, O Lord; your saints will extol you. They will tell of the glory of your kingdom.

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When You Tell Yourself You Are Ok And Realize You Are Not

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When you are 5, and your world falls apart, your heart learns to protect itself. When your only sense of security shatters, you learn to calm the panic rising into your throat. When the hurt in the frailest parts of your soul scream in agony, you force it to stay inside. You tell yourself it doesn’t matter anyway. You are fine. You are strong. You can manage.

When your heart whimpers for comfort, you learn to distract it with other things. You learn ways to escape the pain. When you are 5, you turn to things that don’t destroy your life. When you are 5, you don’t see the intricate ways your Heavenly Father is caring for you, clearing a path for you to come to Him at the appropriate time.

When you are 37, it only takes a tone of voice, a word spoken, a smell, a sound to plunge you head first into the icy cold of familiar. And your heart comes to attention. It remembers the drill. It’s ok. Stay calm. You are fine. Blunt trauma to the heart early on leaves memory scars that you try and try to bury. Deep. You push and push determined you can keep them down. No matter how deep you bury, they will resurrect eventually.

You try to live your life relying on God. You try to see Him in every single moment. You try to keep relationships smooth. You try to find joy in the dailies of life. You Try. You hear His whisper. Stop trying. Stop everything. See me for all I am. Your everything. I am your everything.

You are 37. You see the God who loves you beyond any hurt that has ever come against you. You feel His tears wash over you as He reminds you that He will never hurt you. He will never leave you. He will always comfort you.

Your husband watches you dealing with hurts that others have brought into your life. He looks at you with eyes of compassion you’ve never seen like that before. And you see Jesus. And those tender spots created from early childhood trauma, they ache, and you are scared. But you see Jesus when you look into your husband’s eyes. And you hear Jesus through His words and in His voice. I’m sorry you have to deal with what you are dealing with. I’m sorry for the pain you feel.

And you think, “What pain? I’m fine.” And his eyes are filled with tears because he is feeling the pain you are shielding yourself from. He is taking it on when you are not. And he models Jesus to you, taking on suffering, taking on pain, taking on humiliation, for situations that have nothing to do with him. But he loves you so much, he takes it on himself.

My husband is not Jesus. Only Jesus is Jesus. My husband is not my god. I have but one God. But my husband allowed himself to be used by God to provide what God knew I needed and wasn’t allowing myself to receive. Comfort. Love. Acceptance. Healing.

Life can be brutally cruel. Thank God Almighty that life is more than this world. Thank God Almighty I have more than what this world gives me. Thank God I have a Savior.

We live in a dying, hurting world. We are surrounded by pain and suffering. And He is here. To be all the world can never be to us.

I have grieved over what I never had. I have grieved over parts of my life that I wish looked differently. I have grieved over losing relationships I once had. Life is full of grieving. But. There is always a but. God offers new life. God restores, rebuilds, heals. No matter what we grieve, there is always something to give thanks for. Sometimes the thanks hunting takes more energy than we have.

In my grief, I hear God speaking to me. When I stop. When I become still. You were never created to receive total fulfillment here.

There are parts of my life that I could have never created in my wildest dreams. Fulfilling parts of my world that give me more joy than I ever dreamed. And there are parts that have been taken away from me, and I’ve had to grieve what I lost. And there are parts of my life where I never had what I wanted. But that is life. And abundant life is here anyway. Right in the middle of mess, heartache, brokenness, and beauty.

I’m learning that I’m not ok. And that’s ok. Through Him I’m more than ok. He will meet all my needs.

Philippians 4:19 And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

 

Philippians 4:12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.

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When We Fight: Do We Ruin or Reinforce Relationships

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I’m amazed how in a span of 2 seconds, a moment can turn from fun and laughter to anger and hurt. How quickly I can go from thinking positive and loving thoughts to ones I am shamed to own. Seems the harder I attempt to avoid conflict, the harder it pursues me.

He said something. I said something. One of us took it the wrong way, one of us didn’t like the tone we used, one of us became defensive, the other followed the defense strategy. Something silly turned into something beyond ridiculous. Hurtful words were exchanged followed by feelings the enemy wants to become all too familiar.

Then the AHA moment.

When we fight, we are not enemies. He is not my enemy. I am not his enemy. When we disagree or misunderstand each other or whatever has happened that leads us down the path to conflict, we are not fighting against each other. We are for each other. There is an enemy that fights against us and he loves when we get off-course and look at each other as the enemy.

I spoke those words to my husband then sat in silence. And he reached over, grabbed my hand, and said “I don’t want to fight.” Immediately the tension dissolved. It was like the moment you are driving through dense fog, straining to see the road, then suddenly the fog is gone, everything is clear.

Of course we don’t want to fight. Conflict doesn’t have to result in fighting and hurting the ones we love. A simple shift in our perspective can change everything. And save a relationship.

If I could have my way, my days would be filled with complete peace, free of any conflicts or dramas. I enjoy conflict-free relationships so much, I naturally avoid any that seem to be magnets for drama or misunderstandings. I’m not proud to admit this as I know this is not how God intends to grow me in holiness. There are parts of me that can’t be refined when they aren’t put to the test. Conflict is certainly a refining fire.

At the root of many of our conflicts is a desire to get our own way. We are naturally very selfish and think from our own perspective. We struggle to think from another person’s perspective. This is human nature. We become defensive and want them to understand us so much we fail to understand them.

When my husband grabbed my hand and told me he didn’t want to fight me, the hard wall I was erecting around my heart crumbled. I saw him immediately for the person he is to me. My husband, who loves me wholly. He wasn’t my enemy. Because he loves me, he is for me. How easy it is to lose sight of this in the heat of the battle. We forget the ones we love are not our enemies.

I have 2 key verses that come to mind when the heat turns up.

Ecclesiastes 7:9

Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.

Proverbs 17:27

A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered.

I don’t want to be a fool, who is provoked easily. I want to be a woman of knowledge and understanding. Without the help of the Holy Spirit, this is impossible for me to attain.

There is a question we can ask ourselves when we feel conflict arising, and we begin to fight. Am I fighting to win or am I fighting to understand? How we answer that question will change the course of the discussion. When we are trying to understand, we are open-minded, we are understanding, we are empathetic, and we remember this is a person we love very much. When we fight to win, our pride blinds us, we lash out, we are easily provoked, and we will say things that can never be taken back.

There is something else we forget in conflict. God created each of us uniquely distinct from each other. Therefore, we will not always agree on everything. And this is o.k. It doesn’t mean the other person doesn’t love us just because they don’t agree with us. It doesn’t mean we think less of each other. We simply disagree. We tend to put up our defenses when someone doesn’t agree with us. Pride loves that because we begin to dig our heels in convinced we can convince them we are right.

Often, we are very wrong. In conflict, there can easily be 2 right sides that simply see things differently. We don’t have to fight to win, we just need to fight to understand. And love.

During a difficult time with one of my sons, I wrote about realizing who I was fighting against when I fought with my son. I also wrote a letter to my boys about handling their bickering. Both of these posts, I turn back to myself and how I handle the ones I love in my life.

Lord, teach me to fight to understand when I’m in conflict. Put to death the pride in my heart that fights to win and be right. Give me wisdom and knowledge so I can be a woman of understanding who is even-tempered and not easily provoked in my spirit to anger. Above all things, let me put on love for it covers a multitude of sins. 

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Do You Have To See To Believe?

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He had been talking about the upcoming lunar eclipse for days. Charting the moon for weeks for a school project. Explaining to me the science behind it all. Clearly I slept through elementary school science. It never was my favorite subject.

I awoke at 5:00am like every morning, stumbled my way to the coffee machine, and remembered. God was putting on a show. My mind jolted awake without the first sip of coffee. Disabling the alarm, I slipped out the door. The cool air enveloped me, my bare feet tiptoed down the driveway. I looked up. And stopped. Not because of the moon, or the eclipse, or anything seemingly out of the ordinary. Something washed over me. God awed me.

The stars shone with brilliance. Bright, beaming lights in the sky. Clouds moved with such sweet grace that my feet planted right there. Sounds of night played in the background. All was calm. All was bright. Even in the darkness. Isn’t that just like God. 

I made my way further down the driveway, looking in every direction for the moon. I found it. I watched speechless as the fullness of the moon became less visible. I watched the outline of the darkened part, knowing that the darkness would be overcome in moments by the brilliance of the sun. Speechless.

The Son overcame darkness on the cross. One day darkness will be forever overcome. And we wait.

I had to wake Jacob. No way could he miss this. I flew at full speed up the stairs not caring that it was in the 5:00 hour still. Not caring that he might be crazy tired and had to give an oral presentation. He couldn’t miss what God was revealing. Opening his door I made my way over clothes strewn across the floor, patting the bed to find his body still in a deep sleep. Lowering my face to his, I whispered, “Jacob. Jacob. Get up. Come see the eclipse with me. It’s beautiful! But hurry we won’t be able to see it long from our house.”

Rubbing his eyes, he followed me downstairs. I threw a blanket over his shoulders, and together we watched the display of sheer magnificence. “God is amazing. Absolutely amazing.” We watched the last sliver of light disappear. Jacob said, “Mom in about 30 minutes the sun will color the moon to orangish red.”

30 minutes later we made it outside but couldn’t see the moon anywhere. So we crossed the street, moved around, desperately I wanted to see this. I’d been watching for it for over an hour. I had to see this part. The ending. The climax of this event.

Isn’t that how it goes sometimes? We see His work and His power and His magnificence. We wait for more. We wait for the conclusion. We want to see the ending. We want to see the totality. Then we don’t see it, and our shoulders slump, and we walk away. And we forget that because we don’t see doesn’t mean He isn’t still working. What I couldn’t see, someone else could see. Seeing or not, God is always doing.

God displays for us all day every day. Just like an eclipse. This time we all went looking for it. We were all anticipating what God would show us. What if we anticipated encounters with Him like this every day? He does it. Do you believe it?

And then. Through the trees, so far in the distance we had to stand on our toes and crane our necks. A bright orange spot. Brighter. Brighter. Brighter. “Jacob! There it is! Look!” And just like that a cloud, moving with such sweet grace, spread its blanket of cover. We saw no more.

“I can’t believe we only saw a glimpse. For just like 3 seconds.”

He turned his body to face mine. “Mom, at least we got to see even 3 seconds.”

Glimpses of God. They are a gift. We don’t deserve to even see the glimpses.

I felt shaken that morning. Maybe shaken isn’t a good word. Jolted? Awakened? Revived? Alive? Awed? Speechless.

Isn’t that just like God? To leave us speechless. Oh that my entire life would be devoted to serving Him. To knowing Him. To making Him known.

Where do you see God today? Look for Him. He is in every moment. Seek Him.

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You May Be Worn Down, But You Are Not Worn Out

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We pulled into the Goodwill drop off lane when I realized we had a few minutes to spare. We could always make time for a real-life treasure hunt. That week Andrew had been talking about how much he would love to have his own pair of rollerblades. He stressed his own and brand new.

Taking my boys to any store is always an adventure. People must think I don’t let them out very often. They pick up everything as if seeing for the first time.

Thumbing through some books, I caught a glimpse of a one of my boys sporting a bike helmet. My eyes remained on the book in my hand, and I begged myself to stop pondering the possibilities of how many heads had been in that helmet. Another boy took practice swings with a golf club. Near the dishes. And another was trying his hardest to hop on a bike to go for a quick stroll. So much for thumbing through the books. I gently placed the book on the dusty shelf and made my way towards the chaos on the horizon.

As I neared the sporting goods section of the store, all I saw were heaps of messes. How in the world they could find a treasure in here was beyond me. But every 10 seconds someone let out a gasp to signify a new discovery. Then the gasps of all gasps came. “Mom! Mom! Look! Look! Rollerblades! Brand new. Can they be my own? My very own?”

I looked at what he held in his hands. They were not brand new. They were as far from brand new as you could possibly imagine. Beyond used. Worn slap out seemed a fitting description.

I began coming up with excuses why these would not be the rollerblades for him. They probably cost too much money. They probably aren’t your size. Wouldn’t you rather wait for your birthday when you can get the ones you want?

“Mom, look they fit just perfect. Perfect!” Bending over I felt his toe in the skates. Yep, just perfect. To the next excuse.

“We will have to see how much they cost. Rollerblades are expensive.”

“I have my own money. I have $3.”  Great, this will be my way out. No way can he buy the skates for less than that.

“Sir, how much are these skates? They don’t have a price on them.”

He picked them up with a slight look of disdain, which I totally got. The black material had rubbed off, the wheels looked in need of replacing, did the buckles even work? “Hmmm, $2.50 seems about right.”

His blond head snapped up to catch my attention. “Mom, is that less than $3?” Those eyes get me. It’s why I’d wanted to avoid making contact with them. The sparkle begged to take those skates home. To be his very own. And we did.

Those rollerblades had lost their value to someone at some point in time. Their season of use seemed to have come to an end. They made their way to a dusty shelf piled high with other items that seemed to have lost their value. The items on the shelf hadn’t lost their value. They were in a season of waiting for their next purpose. Their next assignment. The next person they would bring joy to. The rollerblades were worn down, not worn out.

I may be worn down, but I am not worn out.

There are days I feel like a new pair of rollerblades. Shiny and new, full of value and use. There are days I feel like the worn down skates sitting on a shelf. Tired and useless, little value. There are days I feel like the skates picked up off the shelves placed in new hands. Life reinvigorated, a new purpose in my heart. There are days I feel like the rollerblades on the feet of little Andrew. This time experienced, these paths are a bit more familiar. I can go a little further because I’ve been down this path before.

Sometimes I feel like the skates that got tired of riding those trails. Tired of the unexpected bumps on the road. Wanting to take a break from it all. I find myself on that dusty shelf conflicted by my need for rest and escape and my need for purpose and use. Sometimes I find when I’ve sat on the shelf long enough, I’m more aware of my need for a new rhythm.

Are you worn down? Do you feel worn out? Are you in a season of shelf sitting, wondering what the point of it all really is? Me too, my friend. God has many sweet messages for us on the worn down days, the worn down hearts.

No matter how worn down we feel, we are not worn out to God. In our most used up state, He breathes life into our every minute. We are His treasure. We may feel like a used up pair of rollerblades in a pile of dusty broken toys, but God sees us as a treasure. And He gasps. Because He doesn’t see our strength, He sees His power amplified through something that looks flat out useless. He sees something waiting to be used in order to bring glory and honor to Him.

So He says, “Come to me.”  When you feel worn down, remember you are not worn out. He breathes life every second of every day.

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Matthew 11:28-30The Message (MSG)

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

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