My husband and I are in the midst of raising four teenage daughters…yes, that’s right, four girls between the ages of 13 and 19. Our oldest will be 20 in a few months, so there is light at the end of the tunnel! Raising these kids always puts me in mind of where they get their sense of worthiness. It’s in our human DNA to belong. This is especially true in kids. When we belong to a group, we feel a sense of worthiness and well-being and are at peace. Instead of my kids getting their sense of belonging from the world, which is fleeting and ever changing, I want them (and me!) to get it from the Lord, who is eternal and everlasting.
Could He really be thinking “You’re all my favorites?” What about when I am not my best self? When I am cranky, selfish, too worn out to care? I’m not even sure I deserve to be a wife or mother some days. I don’t deserve to be anyone’s favorite. Certainly not the God of the universe! That’s when I need to be reminded that God doesn’t love me because of who I am; he loves me because of who he is.
Over the next few days, there were many questions about that door. Why is it there? Where do the things go? Why don’t they come back again? I showed him that the dirty clothes fall into a box near the ceiling of the basement; I open a door on the box and pull out the pieces, I explained, and then I wash everything. He wanted to help pull out the items, and was especially excited at finding some of his own clothes there. Then he asked, “Why can’t I see where it goes? Where’s the other part? Why is it dark?”
This more recent flight was different; it was extremely windy, we had a few bumps, but not the amount of turbulence I would have thought. As we got close to our destination, the captain came on the speaker to tell us we would be having turbulence on our way down to land. He also told the staff to take a seat, it would be bumpier than they were used to as well. Landings are difficult for me, but as we prayerfully descended I was feeling such peace that I just don’t usually have at that point. I was relieved because we were about to touch down and this feeling of relief was starting to flood through my body. But then we weren’t. We were not touching down. We were not slowing down. We were speeding up. We were lifting up. We were going higher and higher. You could hear a pin drop on this fully filled flight. The babies weren’t even crying, singing or yelling. It was quiet. Everyone was scared.
Time has somehow transported us to a new year. Time flies, as they say. It’s an interesting phenomenon that day to day life can somehow move slowly but at the end of 365 days linked together we say how fast the time has gone! This time speedway brings us to the intersection where we find ourselves looking in multiple directions to attain the safest and quickest route to emotional, physical or spiritual wellness.
If I only do ______, I will get to that place of happiness I’m striving for. If I only have more _____, I can move on to greater security. When I lose ______, I will be beautiful. When those people _______, then I will not be a loser.
Can you relate? Maybe you have your own blanks you could fill in which describe your thoughts.
Many years ago, I quit my job because of significant stressors arising from said job. I felt really guilty, as a lot of training and education went into my attaining this job. I really did not think God wanted me to quit, but I was so depressed and stressed that I hated going to work to a job I once loved, (some parts of which I still loved). I had prayed and prayed and saw no clear answer over the course of several years. Then one day, my “Ananias” called to ask how I was. I burst out crying on the phone, as I had had a particularly difficult and complicated night the evening before. I told my friend I needed a “mental health day.” Wisely, she asked me to explain what I meant by that. I told her how unhappy I was, how much I had prayed about quitting or staying, and how I did not hear a clear answer either way from God. My friend’s sage advice, prompted by the Holy Spirit, I am sure, was “Sometimes you have to take the first step in faith and see where God leads.”
Our friendships grow and change over our lifetime, with some staying, some going, and some being just for a season. We know this, but our relationships can still be a source of much confusion when we’re in the thick of a conflict or when a relationship ends entirely. There have been some relationships in my life where I have felt hurt that the other person let me down, or didn’t meet my expectations. I’m sure this is a universal experience! God gave me a wonderful gift when He helped me to realize that I needed to adjust my expectations of others. I could let it bother me that someone didn’t do what I thought they should do, or I could accept that my agenda is mine, and not theirs.
For Christmas last year, my niece gave her parents a gift of discovering their ancestry through DNA testing. My brother and I laughed when he told me this, as our father was a first-generation American, his father coming from Germany and his mother from a German village in Switzerland. Our mother was second-generation American, all her grandparents having emigrated from Germany. Big surprise: the test showed my brother is 99+ percent German. This got me to thinking of my spiritual heritage…
But God’s desire is not for us to compare. His word tells us to be happy where we’re at, to be content with what God has given us and what He has taken away. “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 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.” (Philippians 4:11-12) His desire is for us to be joyful and content in every aspect of life. But why is it so hard? If you’re anything like me, those little devils of comparison chirp their discontent ALL DAY LONG. “Your house could be cleaner. You could be in better shape. You could be a happier mom. You could read more books. Your hair could be prettier. You could be more charismatic, because you’re socially awkward.”
Early each holiday season when the lights and ornaments are brought out from storage and we fill the house with festive decorations, we also bring out an old baby doll our girls used to play with. We swaddle the doll in a faded, worn receiving blanket, place it in a shoebox covered in brown paper with a shiny red bow, and slide it under our Christmas tree. It’s a simple representation of the gift of baby Jesus.
The brown paper box is meant to be a manger, so it’s also filled with “straw” made from ripped strips of yellow construction paper. Many of these strips of paper have statements written on them.