How to Build a House

efab7e03ee9194b2ee896c635a79ce35A house is built by wisdom, and it is established by understanding; by knowledge the rooms are filled with every precious and beautiful treasure. (Proverbs 24:3-4)

I love this imagery.

I’m not a house builder. I don’t want to be faced with all the big and small decisions that need to be made. So many details. So much to consider. So much as stake.

But I realize I’ve built a home, not all by myself. My husband helped. God helped even more. We made big and small decisions: when and how to rely on God from the foundation to details of decorations. He helped determine the memories we filled our rooms and years with. We tried some things on our own and learned how disastrous that can be. We got off track, then back on track – several times. We did our best. Or rather, we tried to give God our best, because He always gives us His.

Wisdom, understanding, knowledge. The best building materials of any home.

The Things We Don’t See

My dad worked hard. He was a farmer, but that’s not all. In addition to the hours upon hours he spent working the fields, fixing and maintaining equipment, taking care of livestock, and keeping everything in an old farmhouse working well, he worked off season jobs to provide for us.

I didn’t think much of it at the time. I rarely didn’t have something I really wanted. And I rarely saw his absence as a stressful thing. Hard work was just part of farm life. We all had jobs. To me, it seemed more like an honor to be able to help than a burden. I wonder if part of it is because I was the youngest, and getting to do “big kid responsibilities” was something I looked forward to. After all, I saw my mom and dad do things I couldn’t do, then I watched my sisters do things I couldn’t do, so by the time I could do them, I was ready and willing.

I loved taking meals to the field with my mom. She wrapped hot ham and cheese sandwiches in foil, so Dad would have something warm to eat. She filled a large mason jar with ice and brewed tea, placing a piece of wax paper over the top before tightly screwing the lid on. That way, it wouldn’t leak. I remember holding the tea jar and thinking it was freezing cold and holding the warm food and thinking it would burn me. We’d drive the old pickup to the field and sit a couple rows down from where he was. Sometimes he’d stop on his next round. Other times, he didn’t want to stop until a certain time, so we’d watch him work up and down the field.

He rarely took much time to talk. He’d quickly share with mom how things were going. Many times, he was stressed, and I rarely understood the details of what wasn’t working right or why the crops weren’t quite what he wanted them to be. But I loved the smell of the harvested crops and overturned soil. I marveled at how filthy my dad could get. I was always surprised by how loud the machinery was.

I understood things on my own terms.

I didn’t understand exactly how crops turned into money – money we needed to pay bills for months to come. I didn’t understand how stressful a broken machinery part could be. I knew time and money could fix about anything, but breaks seemed to come when both time and money were short. I didn’t understand how much my dad relied on my mom through those busy days, weeks, and months, how much more she had on her plate and mind. They seemed to handle it all in stride. I think if I had asked them at the time, they would have shrugged it off and said something like, “We’re just doing what has to be done.”

I didn’t understand at the time, because my little eyes didn’t have the experiences to see the details around me. As I grew up, I began to understand a bit more. I think we all do. We learn as we grow, and what we learn doesn’t just benefit our present. We begin to understand our past, too. And that helps us move into the future.

I’m still learning. I still don’t understand everything. I still don’t see everything. But I’m learning.And I’m going to work hard at learning. It’s in my blood.


Good Directions

My dad was phenomenal at directions. He knew where he was going. He was incredibly familiar with roads (main, side, and virtually unknown). He loved studying maps. If you asked him the best way to get to anywhere, he’d insist on clarifying before answering: were you looking for the fastest route, most scenic route, least traffic route? What were your goals?

He insisted on everyone in the family knowing how to read a map. Before the days of GPS, we had atlases and foldable road maps, and we never left home without them. A state map was essential to every car anyone in the family drove. We needed to be able to tell which way was north without an arrow on a GPS screen or vehicle display telling us. We needed to be able to navigate.

Dad was phenomenal at navigating, but at times, he was slightly less phenomenal at following someone else’s navigation. He was good at determining where to go, and sometimes he had trouble being willing to follow someone else’s assessment of where to go…even when that someone else was looking at the map while he was driving. He usually thought he was right. And he was willing to err on the side of trying his own way first, even when he ended up wrong. He had a GPS when traveling very far from home, but it was a back up. He listened to his own ideas first, then checked with the GPS, then relied on whomever was navigating – in that order.

He was usually right. But not always.

For years when all the grandkids were young, Dad created a scavenger hunt for Easter. Mom took care of all other aspects of the celebration, but Dad covered the scavenger hunt. He created notes to place all over the property, best accessible by ATV. We all traveled together, with him driving the ATV and the rest of us pulled on a flatbed trailer with bales of straw for our seats. (Well, everyone except for a couple son-in-laws who usually volunteered to stay behind for one lame reason or another.)

Dad got excited when he handed one of the grandkids the first note. And that’s when the problems began. Dad was good at directions, but not quite as good at handwriting and spelling. A lot of notes needed some deciphering. We’d laugh and let the kids try to figure out where the next stop would be, pile onto the trailer, and enjoy the ride to the next stop, where the grandkids had to find the next clue, usually rolled up and tied to a twig, tucked under a rock, or perched on a limb. Some years, the notes had an added layer of security in a plastic bag in case of rain. (Then there was the year a surprise downpour drenched us all. It’s one of my favorite photos of Easter. Even though we’re all soaked, we’re laughing and having a great time. Another favorite is the year we all jumped off the trailer at just the wrong time, causing an imbalance that sent my mom tumbling. She was fine. The funniest part wasn’t watching it all happen in slow motion – although that was hilarious – but was my dad laughing, when that probably wasn’t the wisest choice he could have made at the time.)

As good as Dad was with his own directions, instructions often broke down in translation. Of course, that’s the case with all of us when we communicate. We know what we want to say, but others might not hear it through the same lens. Or we think we know what the other person is trying to say when we actually get their message wrong.

We can still enjoy the time together and appreciate the relationships we have even when there are misunderstandings, even when we end up taking some twists and turns we hadn’t expected. After all, that’s part of the adventure of life together.

A world (or family) in which we all think the same would be a bit frightening and boring.



Worship Today: Family

We often talk about all the great things about getting together with family for celebrations and holidays. And we should. But families go through struggles, too. Family requires commitment, sacrifice, and humility.

The effort is worth it.

Adulting Children

635995551842428548423414045_adultingWe grow up. Then our kids grow up. There’s so much joy in the journey, but it’s also tough. When we have our babies, we have so much hope for the future, but as we face the reality of the future, it is often a bit more challenging than we expected. Our children begin to adult and…

  • We face strangers, hardly recognizing our adult children and struggling with the choices they make.
  • We have difficulty letting go, continuing to try to guide their lives as if they still live under our roofs.
  • We have difficulty helping them let go. They need us, so how can we say no to helping, even when we know they need to grow up and take responsibility?
  • We feel cut off and abandoned when our adult children decide they’d rather do life without us, perhaps even choosing to “punish” us by not letting us spend time with them or grandchildren.

And the list goes on. Each situation and relationship is different, but one thing is certain: parenting adult children brings its own challenges with it. We faced sleepless nights with a baby, safety concerns with a toddler, separation when our children started school, and activities, peer pressure, and struggles for independence through middle and high school. We thought high school or college graduation might let us sigh and enjoy those adult friendships we’ve heard so much about—and we might get to savor some sweet moments—but our kids don’t stop changing and growing just because they reach twenty-one. Hopefully, we don’t stop growing either.

So, what can we do to ease the transition and help ourselves, our adult children, and our relationships? Not every tip that follows will apply to your situation, but let one or two challenge you to try something new.

Step through grief. It might seem like a negative place to start, but if we’re honest, we deal with grief throughout parenting. We move from one stage to another. In fact, about the time we get used to one stage and feel confident about what we’re doing, our children change, and we have to change with them if we want to respond well. Can you imagine parenting a 13-year-old like a toddler? Absolutely not. You can’t parent a 30-year-old like a teenager either. Refuse to get stuck. You might be sad for a moment, but make sure you also celebrate growth and change.

Give your adult children what they need. Not always what they want, and not what you want. This is a hard one, because we’re so invested in their lives, it’s difficult to take a step back, set ourselves aside, and determine the right priorities. It means listening well, choosing our moments to speak with wisdom, and letting them make mistakes and learn from them. That leads us into the next practice:

Refuse to think you have all the answers. You’re been at this adult thing a lot longer than your adult children. Instead of using that as a justification that you have all the answers and solutions, remind yourself that adulthood comes with responsibility, not just for your children but for you. You have the responsibility to be humble, admit you don’t know it all, and face the idea that while you’ve had many experiences that might help, your experiences and your adult children’s aren’t exactly the same. Just as you had to discover some things the hard, long way, so do your children (of any age). If you look back, you’ll probably admit you learned some of the best lessons as you struggled through trials. As much as you want to spare your children some of that pain and angst, overprotection and quick answers might end up robbing them of some essential, albeit rough, experiences.

Lead by example. If you want your adult children to grow in their compassion, mercy, patience, respect, faith, generosity, and love, you need to not only authentically live them out but also grow in them. You don’t have to be perfect. (Good thing!) You may not be able to share every struggle, but neither should you put on a show for them. They’re adults now, and they need to continue to watch you grow as an adult. Your adulting well is no guarantee they will follow in your footsteps, but it’s worth the effort, not just for them but for you.

Stop being surprised. If you find yourself continually hurt, frustrated, and confused when your adult children do the same things over and over, at least give them credit for being consistent. Why be surprised with their predictability? That’s not to say you excuse what they do, but you don’t have to bear the brunt of the stress.

Be responsible, but let your adult children take responsibility. Stop blaming yourself. And stop blaming them, too. Blame only digs a hole of insecurities and hurt feelings that are difficult to overcome. Honestly evaluate yourself often but only with the determination to learn and grow. But refrain from evaluating your adult children too often. You still have influence, but you don’t have the power you once had in their lives. You can pour into them, but be careful not to step into the discipline and control realm.

Give God your whole heart, mind, soul, and strength. This one might seem obvious, but it’s easier said than done. We often say our children have our hearts, or they are constantly on our minds. Of course, we love and invest in them beyond what we can express, but they should never be our focus. They are not our possessions. We don’t know nearly as much as God does. As difficult as it is to believe, we don’t love them remotely as much as He does. They are His creation, and He knows every single detail of their lives throughout eternity. Moments along the way won’t always make sense to us, but we can trust God.

Singing with Joy

After a full day of visiting a variety of towns throughout Israel, we returned to the hotel. It was Friday evening, the beginning of Shabbat (Sabbath), and many tables had been rearranged to accommodate families celebrating together. At least three large families met together for the Shabbat meal. We were blessed as we ate among them. They prayed and recited liturgy. They enjoyed time together as families and friends. My favorite part of their gathering came at the end, when they enthusiastically sang together.

joyThe birkat ha-mazon (grace after meals) is recited every day, but on Shabbat, it is sung with special enthusiasm. Those celebrating the evening of Shabbat sing with joy. They sing unashamedly. They sit alongside others and praise together. Being surrounded by the energetic singing was a sweet blessing.

It was also convicting.

Do I sing with such joy, or even live with such joy, particularly when I’m in a public place?

Does the heart of my praise show on my face?

Do I express praise unashamedly?

Do I regularly involve others?

That evening, the Jewish families taught me something. I wondered what I, as a Christian, am teaching others.

I think I need to change some things. More accurately, I need to let God change me.

How about you?