The Less-Than-Perfect Holiday

0913229c6aec0a2173854970ec3f9e86It’s that time of year when many families come together and laugh and smile and make memories and post all their best moments on social media to share with the world and be affirmed with comments about how adorable and wonderful and amazing their family is!

And behind those snapshot moments are struggles, conflicts, unhealed hurts, and wishes that things would be better, not just in the family but in life.

Admitting we have struggles, conflicts, and hurts doesn’t mean we’re miserable. It doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy the holidays with family. It simply means we admit that everything isn’t perfect, that there’s opportunity to grow. It means we don’t wallow in how things could be so much better “if only.” We’re willing to be patient, honest, gracious, and humble. We don’t wait until someone else changes before we’re willing to go the next step. We choose to change despite what someone else chooses. After all, we all have a different perspective of the truth of a situation. And most likely, we’re all a little right and a little wrong.

So this holiday season, even today, take a deep breath and resolve to be humble enough to consider someone else’s perspective. Extend some grace. Show compassion. Be authentic with discernment. Take a small step in the right direction. Refuse to expect everything to change and be healed at once. Allow others to grow, and take responsibility for your own growth.

Let go of what needs to go, and hang onto what’s truly important.

Reality Check

78c372262db9b19678466bab9dd41100_400x400There’s something about reading the entire book of Job. We all get the basics. Job was faithful but encountered  beyond what seems to be a fair share of troubles. He struggled, others got involved and gave him all kinds of advice and explanations, and God didn’t say a whole lot until later in the book. And that’s when the reality check comes in.

Basically, “Um, hello, Job. Can you stop for just a second please? Remember me? God? Let me remind you of a few things. In fact, I’ll just ask you a few questions.”

Who is this who obscures My counsel with ignorant words? Get ready to answer Me like a man; when I question you, you will inform Me. Where were you when I established the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. Who fixed its dimensions? Certainly you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? What supports its foundations? Or who laid its cornerstone while the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy? Who enclosed the sea behind doors when it burst from the womb, when I made the clouds its garment and thick darkness its blanket, when I determined its boundaries and put its bars and doors in place, when I declared: “You may come this far, but no farther;
your proud waves stop here”? Have you ever in your life commanded the morning or assigned the dawn its place, so it may seize the edges of the earth and shake the wicked out of it? The earth is changed as clay is by a seal; its hills stand out like the folds of a garment.
Light is withheld from the wicked, and the arm raised in violence is broken. Have you traveled to the sources of the sea or walked in the depths of the oceans? Have the gates of death been revealed to you? Have you seen the gates of deep darkness? Have you comprehended the extent of the earth? Tell Me, if you know all this. Where is the road to the home of light? Do you know where darkness lives, so you can lead it back to its border?
Are you familiar with the paths to its home? Don’t you know? You were already born; you have lived so long! Have you entered the place where the snow is stored? Or have you seen the storehouses of hail, which I hold in reserve for times of trouble, for the day of warfare and battle? What road leads to the place where light is dispersed? Where is the source of the east wind that spreads across the earth? Who cuts a channel for the flooding rain
or clears the way for lightning, to bring rain on an uninhabited land, on a desert with no human life, to satisfy the parched wasteland and cause the grass to sprout? Does the rain have a father? Who fathered the drops of dew? Whose womb did the ice come from? Who gave birth to the frost of heaven when water becomes as hard as stone, and the surface of the watery depths is frozen? Can you fasten the chains of the Pleiades or loosen the belt of Orion? Can you bring out the constellations in their season and lead the Bear and her cubs? Do you know the laws of heaven? Can you impose its authority on earth? Can you command the clouds so that a flood of water covers you? Can you send out lightning bolts, and they go? Do they report to you: “Here we are”? Who put wisdom in the heart or gave the mind understanding? Who has the wisdom to number the clouds? Or who can tilt the water jars of heaven when the dust hardens like cast metal and the clods of dirt stick  together? Can you hunt prey for a lioness or satisfy the appetite of young lions when they crouch in their dens and lie in wait within their lairs? Who provides the raven’s food when its young cry out to God and wander about for lack of food? (Job 38)

Go ahead and continue into Job 39 if you want. It’s riddled with more questions. And I always read these questions as directed not just to Job but to me. And not just to me but to people in general. I mean, what are we thinking when we try to understand what God has done, estimate what He will do, and even try to take some of that control away from Him (or refuse He has it in the first place)?

Don’t get me wrong. I think God is okay with our questions. He’s okay with our struggles. Both indicate we’re working through something, that we’re on the journey instead of indifferent.

I never want to be indifferent again. I don’t have all the answers. I have a lot of questions. Yet I am more certain about who God is the closer I get to Him and the more passionate and persistently I pursue Him.

God is God.

Don’t define Him. Let Him define Himself as you seek and get to know Him. He’s worth the journey.

Blame (No) God

b8afc10650e00bc138f0c57d44e164ee“You speak as a foolish woman speaks,” he told her. “Should we accept only good from God and not adversity?” Throughout all this Job did not sin in what he said. (Job 2:10)

God seems to get more blame than credit and praise. It’s as if we want the accolades of accomplishments while we give the responsibility to God when things go wrong. We might even go to the extreme of declaring there is no God, yet He is the first we blame for pain and wrongdoing.

What we project onto God doesn’t change Him. What we understand about Him changes us.

God is God, no matter what. We can’t fit all the pieces together, but our limits don’t need to change our trust. God is okay with the responsibility He has. We’re the ones that struggle with them, as well as struggle with our own.

Struggling is okay. Questions are okay. Confusion is okay. Doubt is okay. But do all those things with God. Otherwise, we’re simply spinning in our own limited perspective with no true reality check.

Music Monday: You Can Trust That He Knows

No matter what you’re going through, celebrating, struggling with, Jesus knows. In our weakness, He is strong, In our uncertainty, He is the Rock. He comforts our pain. He gives peace among chaos. He doesn’t just fix; He journeys with us. His compassion, mercy, and grace reaches out to us and ministers to us in ways we cannot even fathom.

Because He knows.

Music Monday: Grace wins every time.

For the prodigal son, grace wins.
For the woman at the well, grace wins.
For the blind man and the beggar, grace wins.
For always and forever, grace wins.
For the lost out on the street, grace wins.
For the worst part of you and me, grace wins.
For the thief on the cross, grace wins.
For a world that it lost.

There’s a war between guilt and grace and they’re fighting for a sacred space, but I’m living proof grace wins every time.

You are, too.

Controlling Your Children

98602479We don’t have control over our children. It’s something we should know. We claim our children belong to God, but we invest in them so much that they feel like ours.

It’s difficult to give up control, especially when we try to control along the way. When they’re young, we have to do everything for them. As they grow, we continue to teach them new things, and they soak it all up. They look at us with adoring eyes. They’re curious sponges. We see ourselves in them, because they reflect what they see. But they begin to meet other people. They make friends. They watch videos and read books. Their interests change. They move out. They make their own decisions. At least, we hope they do. But it’s still difficult.

From an early age, we want and encourage them to stand on their own two feet, but when they do, we wonder if the way they’re standing will hold them up for long. We see better ways of doing things because we’ve “been there, done that.” But we haven’t, really. We can’t completely stand in their shoes or see through their eyes. We think we know them well, because we grew up with them, literally. But we’re not them. We can’t decide everything for them. It doesn’t just start when we send them to school; their decisions begin a long time before that. They have thoughts that we don’t even know. We can’t control them. That’s okay.

I don’t know about you but I have enough trouble making the choices in my own life. I don’t handle my own decisions well all the time. I struggle to determine how to follow God each step of the way. What was easy in one situation isn’t easy in another. Yet, I want to add the decisions of my children’s lives to the mix, too?

Of course, there are many decisions we need to make for our children when they’re young. And there are even more that we have to help them make for themselves. Making choices for them seems much easier. It seems quicker to jump in and fix something than to take the time to process alongside them, searching for the best option, teaching them to think instead of giving the summary of our own thoughts. But it’s not nearly as beneficial.

Asking questions and searching for answers is a much more important skill than following answers without a hint of why or how. Self-control is a much more important skill than imposed-control. It takes a lot of time to teach and learn, and sometimes we’re not sure we’re passing it all on well, but as long as we assume control of our children’s lives, we lose the self-control we need for our own.

Surrender control. God is the best parent of all…for your children and for you.