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There is a conflict I have been consistently refereeing among my children. I call it the battle of fairness and sameness.
As a mom I’ve made it clear with each child from the beginning that it’s not my job to make life fair, nor will I attempt to reach the standard of treating each child the same. Just the thought of attempting those impossible feats exhausts me. My children are far from identical, even if they all bear a resemblance and share their Daddy’s amazingly long eye lashes. Then there is the difference between the boys and my daughter… age differences factor in, and then each incredible personality comes into play. Fairness and treating everyone the same just doesn’t work in my mind.
That doesn’t mean that each child isn’t treated fairly, or that I don’t love them all with the same profoundly deep love that boggles my ability to understand it.
However, fair for one child isn’t fair for another. And showing love to my daughter in the same way my oldest son feels the most loved would (and has!) cause her to feel suffocated and irritable. Each of them loves it when I display that I know them well enough to know these individualities. They love being called out for their unique contributions to our family, and being fussed over for something their sibling can’t do as well. And all four of them have time in the limelight.
Just not all at the same time. Or even on the same day… or in the same ways. And this is where the battle comes in.
At times they get so focused on what they aren’t getting that all they see is what someone else has, or is receiving. They completely forget what they’ve got and what they were just given. Its like they forget who they are and what they like. Not only that, but when it comes to consequences, they completely forget that they were the ones choosing a behavior to begin with. Well… don’t we all at times?
I can’t make life fair for my children because I can’t make their choices for them. Nor can I forget that they are so incredibly unique, requiring different approaches and styles of instruction. What one child earns another child might get gifted, simply because without the gift they’d never reach the prize. It’s not fair. But the child who earned it needed the exercise in growth to reach his greater potential, while the child who got a gift wouldn’t have tried without grasping encouragement in his pudgy little fingers first. One child has privileges the others don’t enjoy. The others don’t have this child’s responsibilities either… it’s not fair. They are not the same people.
Isn’t it that way with adults too? I found myself complaining to God about the unfairness of a situation. His response was profound in my heart. Child, I didn’t create you for fairness. I created you to know Me and because I wanted to get to know you. I will always do what is right for you, and I will always place the opportunities for your greatest joy within each one of your days. And I will always be cheering you on to choose the things that are designed for your perfect life with Me.
We do this among ourselves though… We walk into a room and size up the competition. If it happens to be our turn in the limelight, life is so good – it’s fair. If we happen to be repeatedly watching others succeed or gain promotions it can be as if we forget who we are and what we really love in life because we aren’t getting the attention or things we see others possess. Jealousy’s monstrous voice says if it’s not fair to me, then it should all at least be the same for everyone… At times becoming so focused on what is fair or how to keep everything the same for everyone that we forget what truly brings us joy. Each of us have an opportunity for immense joy every day if we choose it; if we will settle down and be content with being different. Letting what is fair be different for each person and enjoying those differences.
Differences designed by Creator God, for His pleasure, for our joy should we choose it, and for purpose and destiny in His perfect plan for unity within His family. Just like in my own family, in His family we are all called out for our unique contributions and skills by His love; we all have moments in the lime light. Some of us work for what others are simply gifted. Some of us enjoy great privileges that others don’t because we don’t carry the same responsibilities. Some of us have to wait longer than others, and some of us receive a prize we’ve been waiting years to claim, while others begin their wait on the same day… none of it is fair.
There is something about celebrating.
I mean, when we make it a priority and put it on the calendar. Decided.
Even when there is nothing to celebrate… yet.
My husband recently made the decision to change his employment. He spent time in prayer. A lot of time. He’s loyal and tends toward being the ‘yes’ man, finding ‘no’ very difficult to say. This was not an easy or quick decision on his part, because of who he worked for and his affection for his employer. He sought the Lord for strategy and wisdom.
He heard the Lord’s advice. It was not logical, practical or ‘natural’ to our senses. Standing strong on the words he’d listened to, against sound currents of practical advice flowing freely around him, he gave his notice.
Perspective: He’d been talking with recruiters for several months, and networking with local networking groups without any real leads. It was a gigantic leap of faith that my husband took; resting on the words he heard in his prayer closet.
The next day his recruiter called to set up an interview. My husband then proceeded to so impressed the person he interview with that the recruiter who’d connected them was speechless, having never seen this particular client of his as impressed with past prospects. As events unfolded, my husband found favor with a new company. However, as his last days at his former job came close, he had to continue in the illogical choices, putting into writing his intentions to leave his then current job before any kind of formal offer came through. It was nerve wracking.
Pause. It was in this brief moment of time, in the midst of complete unknowns and letting go with both hands, that the Lord gently prodded; celebrate with Me!
Without sure and solid evidence to stand on, without any real tangible reason, we did just that. We took our family out and celebrated! We rejoiced in the goodness God has already shown us, and we thanked Him for His character that never changes. We celebrated His trustworthy promises, and thanked Him for providing for us the things we hoped for and hadn’t yet seen.
Monday of the last week at work came, and no formal job offer had come through yet. Friday, the last day at his former job, loomed ahead full of all kinds of uncertainty. We continued in hearts decided on celebrating God’s goodness. Our kids had been asking us to take them to see Toby Mac in concert and he happened to be in our town the Sunday following my husband’s last day of work. We bought the tickets, anticipating more celebration. Hoping…
Thursday morning rose and I walked into my room where my phone was on it’s charger. My husband had received a formal written proposal for a job offer, starting the beginning of the following month, one week away. It was exactly what we needed and had hoped for.
We had been celebrating for a week, something we hadn’t yet seen come to pass and on the seventh day we saw it.
There is something about celebrating… it aligns our minds with His heart. It sets up the atmosphere for anticipation of miracles and wonders beyond what we can imagine or comprehend. It places us under His grace, in perfect partnership with His nature, where all things come from Him ~ where our working meets His ability and what is accomplished is indeed the miraculous. Celebration is a joyful display of complete reliance on His nearness and interest in us. And it is so important to Him that He actually set it up in His ancient law, and decrees it for those He loves, who love Him.
I can hear it…. my fingers feel it… a melody, and a song written somewhere just beyond my reach.
My fingers touch the keys. Stiff. Longing. Untrained. Aching…
So many things well up within me. Things I don’t have the words to speak, or to write. Wonderful things. Mourning things. Things heavy with both joy and sorrow; the ache of loss a friend has to face… the triumph of a victory for a family member… desperation for one to understand and another to find relief, to find escape. To speak to all the love that is power, compassion, comfort and strength. To say clearly the perfect words each ear needs to hear, each heart needs to feel… to know.
I will my fingers to fly over the keys, to pen out the things I contain deep inside, to reach the impossible depths and retrieve the unknown language locked away… Literally just beyond my grasp!
There is mercy, favor unmerited, and grace, the power to be what we cant possibly… the link is belief. The key is faith. The force is love. And it is right here… right here.
And so, I lift my hands and rest my palms. I pray. I lift my heart’s cry to the One who hears, who knows without being told, who understands that language I cannot fathom, and who has all the answers. I pray. And I pray. And I pray.
The tears run for those who are hurting. Praises leave my lips for those who are rejoicing. A silencing ache fills my chest for those who are suffering. And for those who are lost, loosing their way… for them I let out a shout. A plea. A sound in the dark, in hopes their ears might hear and they might know they are not alone. Not even close to being alone.
I see their faces. Many I know. Many I love. Some I’ve never seen before. For everyone I let my heart speak… His words covering my own, His thoughts reaching the depths of emotion, His love flowing farther than I can imagine…
In this way, together, His hands over mine, we write the melodies and we sing the songs that bring the changes we long to see.
Holy are You, Lord. Holy are You! Above all else, and every other name. You are I AM, the One who cares. The One who loves. The One who saves. Mighty is Your name. You are like no other. Mighty is Your name!
In the background are the faded noises of busy laughter, the business of getting dinner on the table, dishes unloaded, and the day’s events downloaded by each tiny muffled voice.
A heart beat thrums steadily in my ears.
Beautiful. Life. Steady.
A grounded, rhythmic lifeline to all that seems so incredibly important, and so indefinably fragile… a heartbeat thrums steadily in the silence…
The flutter in my chest rises. I should be with them. Did I tell them I love them today? Did I yell at them too much? Do they know that I love them? What memories have we made? Will they remember that I love them? Does he know how grateful I am? Will he know how much I love him? Does he know how important he is to me? More muffled laughter and clinking plates…
Anxiety flitters around, searching for a place to land… NO. I breath in. I breath out.
A grounded, rhythmic lifeline to all that seems so incredibly important, and so indefinably fragile… a heartbeat thrums steadily in the silence… refusing a resting place for anxiety.
I breath in. I breath out. A heart beat thrums steadily in my ears. But one persistent question looks for a spot to land…
Am I doing enough?
My Bible and three books that I long to read lay tossed around me. My journal just a few inches away. Tears roll down my cheeks as I realize how much I long to do more, to soak up more, to understand more and to live from a depth that draws my family in… to envelope them in the same love and life that has begun to consume me. I long for my husband to know how truly head-over-heals in love with him I am; to show him every day the love that builds him up and pulls him closer, always closer. To shower my children with adoration in measure with the miracles that they are.
Longing. Is it all just a longing?
A stream of scenes roll across my mind as this questions looms larger than life. Feelings… less than loving… rush like rapids over my lungs, and I am gasping and choking on the tears as I recall words, thoughts, attitudes, emotions, all proving me to be completely lacking. Failing.
For a fleeting moment I am trapped in this tug-of-war with anxiety…
The rhythm… steady… beautiful… life. I breath in. I breath out.
Life steadily pounds in my ears. I hear my name. Just a whisper. A life-line.
What do you want to say, Lord?
“Daughter, you measure up. You do enough. You are amazing in My eyes. I am pleased. So much more than you know, Child. I love that you are here, with Me. Waiting, listening. Daughter, you are forever searching out My thoughts, seeking My heart. I know your deepest desires and I love you for them. Daughter, you treasure Me and what I think. You keep Me in the center of all you do, even when you forget, you are quick to remember. I look at you and I see Perfection. Thank you for coming away. Thank you for valuing Me enough to step into the quiet places, to trust Me with the welfare of those babies I knit together. Thank you for loving Me. You are enough.”
In the quiet, steady, silence I can hear it. His heart beating; beating steadily for me.
Beautiful life; His living in me, His power at work through me, on my behalf.
Saturday woke us up with brilliant sunshine. It was the end of a long week. A week we had struggled through, dealing with behavioral issues between children. The constant bickering and arguing revealed how tired they were, and one event left me in complete shock at how sinful the human heart is, even in children. The week had left me weary and drained and feeling defeated. Truth be told, their behavior was an accurate reflection of the sate my heart was in. Fighting off whispers of how much of a failure I am, I cried out to God in desperation.
“I am no good at this! I am completely failing here,” I whispered through tears. His gentle response was so kind it broke my heart. “Child, parenting isn’t about how good you are at it, it is about what I am doing in and through you.”
We had a birthday party to attend Saturday afternoon, a brother and sister who were born on the same day 3 years apart. I keep a bin of new toys in my closet, things that I find on clearance when I have a little extra cash. I intended to have the kids pick an item from this collection later in the morning. But, as I still lay in bed my son came bounding in, all energy, waving a folded piece of paper in the air. In the other hand he had a few items from his toy box.
“Mom! Look, read this!” As I read the card he had written and drawn out in detail he excitedly chatted about the items he spread out on my covers, explaining that these were things he was sure Caelyb, the birthday boy, would love.
I was barely done reading and listening to my son’s excitement when my daughter came in, carying her little bundle. “Mom, will you read my card and look at my spelling? Do you think Ellawyn will like this?” She held up a beaded creation she had worked hard at making. She laid out the rest of her items, things she had been treasuring for years, and explained that she felt it was time to share them with the birthday girl. Her card told Ellawyn that God loves her and that she is His little princess.
In awe, I complimented the kids creations and asked them, “would you rather pick a present from the toy bin in my closet, instead of giving away your things?”
“No!” they responded together. “Mom, I think giving her my things is more special and I want her to know that she is very special,” continued my daughter. “And, I know Caelyb really likes these things. I want him to have them,” finished my son.
That moment revealed to me just how God is at work, despite my flaws and failures. His grace covering over my sinful nature, flowing into the lives of these precious little people and displaying itself in generosity, kindness, and a desire for their friends to know they are loved.
It was a glimpse, as if taking a measure of His work in their hearts, of just how faithful He is to fulfill His promises, regardless of our abilities or lacking.
When I am unable, He is more than able. In my weakness His strength radiates in power, His grace covering over my feeble strivings, completely surrounding my awkward attempts, gently humbling my proud desire to offer what I will never possess. It is not what I have that pleases Him, it is not how I live that brings Him glory. It is His will and His work in me which accomplishes His purposes and brings Him pleasure. It is in full surrender to His compassionate love that I discover complete acceptance in His embrace. Not by my might, nor by my strength, but only in His Spirit will anything of value ever be displayed. “And only by His grace will the fruit of His Spirit be revealed when He takes a measure of their hearts.”
“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you” 1 Peter 4:12
Words, deeds, misunderstanding, hurt feelings. Baggage adding up, spilling over.
Filters and lenses fogged through, emotions intense. Pressure steaming. Exploding all over.
People living with People: Rubbing raw, stabbing deep, wearing thin. Aching. Lonely. Fearfully raging. Clashing and colliding and throbbing and slashing and hiding and blaming and hating and longing… in need.
….which comes upon you for your testing….
I remember words once spoken to me; “She needs a dart board and you are her leader. Seems like God is asking you to break the fall for her, to be the one who catches her hurt and absorbes the mess. Seems like maybe He’s asking you to be His skin and bones for a little while. Seems like a painfully high honor, if you ask me. Seems like that’s what we do when we say yes to being like Him.”
And when standing in the breaking of someone’s fall, my own heart breaks. Shatters. I wonder if He really wants me to say yes to being like Him. When absorbing someone else’s mess requires painful stretching to accomodate the enormity of a life lived outside my capacity, when the swelling tears pieces of me and my resolve to be like Him cracks… In my aching my human, un-god-like, is showing.
“…Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler…” ~1 Peter 4:15
When my human heart bites back in the searing pain of tearing and I no longer suffer stretching for the sake of Christ, but suffer under the weight of my new wounds opening old. When I am no longer breaking someones fall, but falling right along with them, I wonder, how did I get here? When did I turn away from the Healer and become the hurting? When I am an evildoer, and troublesome and have no where to look but at my own failing pride, my own crying for comfort and relief, rather than for God’s glory. When I loose sight. Forget why I am here. When does He come rescue us both?
“Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.” ~ 1 Peter 4:19
In the midst of falling and failing in human error and stringent pride, one thing I do know: His hands stretching wide. It is enough to remind me to land on my knees, my face to the floor. One thing that falling does is break open the brittle shell that said, enough stretching this time! And me, now broken, heart beating bare, each hand His covers He lifts up with care. It is His arms that stretch mine out full. It is His strength holding them there. In this, I am renewed. In His embrace I gain my girth. Together, my skin and bones and His presence, we return to absorbing hurt from the hurting. And when I lean into Him as we break their fall, I can see it. This is how I am becoming like Him.
“Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin” ~1 Peter 4:1