Thank Heaven for Little Boys

If you asked me to tell you the first word I would use to describe today, it would be “miserable”. I’m dealing with the almost unbearable discomfort of the last days of pregnancy, I’ve got a cold or allergies or something (like I could breathe before that anyway!), my sleep was fitful, short and interrupted last night, and my toddler was crying about everything this morning. Everything seemed wrong. Going to the Walmart 5 minutes down the road seemed like an epic journey that I might not survive. ( I did, by the way. And only forgot one thing on my list.)

And yet, if I think about it for a minute, today has been an amazingly blessed day. Blessed for so many reasons, but mostly because of that same dramatic, crying toddler from breakfast. The boy who sang our favorite lullaby, “Edelweiss,” to me while snuggling on my shoulder because he saw me crying from the pain I was in. The boy who helped load and unload the grocery cart, even though he can barely reach, because he wanted to help his mama. The boy who joyfully snuggled up with me to listen to my birth relaxation cd’s (I may ask him to be my coach at the hospital). The boy who spent an hour gleefully watching the men at the “‘struction site” pouring concrete for a garage (extra thankfulness for a gracious family friend who invites said construction-crazed toddler to “help” at the worksite).


This boy is in paradise. A very dirty paradise. 

My sweet son’s compassion for his family and his untempered joy at things that would seem so small to us truly blesses me daily. I love how he tells me every day about how we are going to go to Heaven and see God and do so many fun things (He strongly believes that a significant part of Heaven has to do with candy. Toddler theology). Yes, he still asks “why?” 8,436 times a day. Yes, he still cries about not being able to wash all the dirt off his toy trucks. And yes, I’m still a little nervous about how I’m going to handle two (two, two!) little boys starting soon. But this I know: God has put these boys in my life for a much bigger purpose than I can begin to understand. I mother them, nurture and teach them; but they recreate me in the image of the Father by the way they love and stretch and challenge and teach me.

From the moment I found out I was pregnant with each of them, until death do us (temporarily) part, I will be thankful. Thankful for the hugs and kisses and made-up songs. Thankful for the sleepless nights that remind me to pray. Thankful for the constant reminders that I cannot rely on myself. Thankful for being entrusted with a responsibility that I know I don’t deserve.

Thank Heaven for Little Boys…

Woven with Thanks

Last night, somewhere between midnight and 4am, I spent a good portion of an hour lying awake for no good reason. This is par for my course as a pregnant mom of a toddler (who still wakes up at least once a night because he needs a graham cracker/there’s a moose in his room/he got lonely). I don’t think I’ve actually slept a whole night through since sometime in 2012. But that’s not the point.

During these midnight musings, I have learned that our parents lied to us as children. If you just close your eyes and lie there quietly, well, it will be quiet and dark. It will not help you fall asleep, and you mind will not suddenly think to itself, Oh, she’s trying to sleep; I’ll quit bothering her with the task list for next week and the panic about whether potty training is damaging her child’s psyche. Since I’m too lazy to be one of those people who say, “Well, I guess I’m not sleeping, I should probably clean out the garage,” and I’m too pregnant to take large doses of sleeping pills, I knew there had to be another way to quiet my mind. So I turned to prayer.

Not prayer that I would fall asleep quickly. I’ve tried that once or twice in the past, and I’ve come to the conclusion that God’s not really in the Ambien business. No, I start praying through the needs of my friends and loved ones. (That’s where Facebook really comes in handy. You know exactly what kind of prayer your friends need, even when they haven’t asked for it, if you know what I mean.) I usually get through several before I start to drift off.  

I haven’t found anything that calms my spirit in the middle of the night like bringing the people I love before God. Not only does it bring peace, but in my intercessions for others, I find God speaking to me. Take last night, for example.

I was starting to run through my list of people and their needs, when that nagging voice of some Sunday school teacher from childhood piped up, “Always begin your prayers with thanksgiving,” (presumably so God doesn’t think you’re taking Him for granted and ignore you). For a moment, I thought, Well how am I supposed to thank Him for divorce or mental illness, Mrs. Holypants? Hmm? But then He showed me a picture of how we can thank Him in even the most joyless situations.

I suddenly imagined our prayers as a basket or cloth being woven. We go in and out, up and down as our lives and circumstances change. We weave the threads of supplication and intercession all through a framework of joy and thanksgiving. Lord, give strength and wisdom to my single-mom friend. Thank you for the ways you have provided for her and the people you have surrounded her with to support her. The struggles I am praying for on her behalf lead me to recall how faithfully God has upheld her even in the midst of a life-storm. Father, bring peace and healing to the one struggling with depression. Thank you that she is bringing awareness to her condition and that she is encouraging others. I want to see her mind and spirit healed, but in the meantime I rejoice in the courage and boldness she has found and in knowing that her transparency is going to bless others.

Thanksgiving is an absolutely integral part of our prayer life. It’s not a magic password to the throne (Thank you, God, that all of the past seasons of NCIS are on Netflix. Ok, I’m listening. Did you see Season 10, Epsiode 5? I mean, yes, go ahead with your request. Um, yeah, could you heal my friend’s sister’s cousin’s dog? I think he’s got mange or something yucky.) Prayer is about change. The more I pray, and the more I find ways to thank Him, the more I am changed, which I believe is the true purpose of prayer.

Prayer, in my personal opinion, is not meant by God as a means for us to manipulate the divine providence and sovereignty. If it were, no one would die from cancer, parents wouldn’t bury their children, and the innocent wouldn’t suffer. So Mrs. Holypants from 4th grade is right, we do need thanksgiving if we are going to have a meaningful prayer life.

Not because it gives us points towards answered prayers, but because as we thank God, we see where He has already answered our prayers and provided for us in ways we never thought to ask. In light of His faithfulness revealed by our thankfulness, we see how pain and tragedy really are part of God’s merciful plan to draw us into a deeper knowledge of Him. Our sufferings become less about how we feel or how we are affected in the immediate, and more about how God’s grace is weaving through a story that began long before us and will continue long after us.

Thanksgiving fills us with hope. It reframes our perspective. It reminds us of God’s promises and His faithfulness that never fails. It reassures us that His mercies are new each day, just as we need them.


How are you thankful?

Giving Thanks

Hello, my turkey and cranberry eating friends!

I don’t really get into the Thankful Thursdays or 30 Days of Thanks. But, in honor of the Thanksgiving holiday, I thought I would do a couple of posts on things that I am particularly thankful for.

One thing I am very thankful for is family. And not just in the 2nd grade, “my-teacher-made-me-put-something-on-my-turkey” kind of family. Real family, with all its many faces and foibles. I am thankful for:

Parents. For parents who cared for me and raised me to strive to be all that God has created me to be, and who still support and encourage me. And for in-laws who raised my husband and accepted me into their family with love.

Grandparents. I am thankful for the unique roles my grandparents have filled in my life, for the grandpa who took me fishing and taught me why you wear long pants when weed-whacking, for the grandma who made road trips fun and taught me to knit, for the grandmother who inspired my love of books, beauty, and the color red, and for the grandfather who encouraged me to be anything I wanted to be and never let a visit or conversation end without being sure I knew he loved me and was proud of me.

Siblings. Growing up as an only child, I think I may appreciate brothers and sisters more than many who grew up in a house full of other kids. I am exceedingly thankful for my brothers- and sisters-in-law who have accepted me as one of their own, and become dear friends, as loved as any natural-born siblings could be.

Aunts and Uncles. I’ve been blessed to have parents who both came from big families, and I have a wealth of aunts and uncles. They have cared for me, taught me, spoiled me, and advised me in every area of life. And without them, I would not have:

Cousins. Cousins are a strange bunch. You often start out close as children, grow apart during adolescence, and then rediscover your friendship in adulthood. Cousins may be very similar to you, or completely different, but no matter what, they are your people. Like siblings, they share your stories, your traditions, your past, and they know all the embarrassing stories, so you have to keep them close, if only for self preservation.

Nieces and Nephews.  I have absolute proof of love at first sight since meeting my new niece and nephew this past week. I am also thankful for the opportunity to get a little taste of having a newborn before I have children of my own.

The Others: Whether you come from a large family or a small one, whether you live down the road or across the country from them, if you are blessed you will find those rare and precious people who, though they have no genetic connection to you become a real and true part of your family. I am thankful to have been blessed with these special others who round out my family.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving, and make sure to take time to appreciate and enjoy the special people in your life!


In This Election Year, Can We…?

Welcome, friends!

I do not consider myself a particularly political person, but in light of the election this year, and what seems like a constant storm of political commentary and confusion both within the Christian community and without, I feel the need to speak up about a few things. So that I don’t overwhelm you, I’m going to break this into several installments. Now, before I start, I want to give the disclaimer that I know I may be stepping on some toes. I will probably be suggesting things that go against your personal grain, no matter what side of an issue you are on. Please know, though, that I am not specifically trying to take sides in what I say here. None of this is in support of any party, candidate, or law. I simply want to open your minds up to thinking about things in a new way, perhaps a better way. Please feel free to comment and discuss as long as you are willing to keep the conversation civil.

So, to start off, I’d like to ask you

Can we stop equating patriotism with piety?

Display your love of Jesus and America at the same time!

I love Jesus; I like living in America. In my mind, the two are not connected. Yes, I have the freedom to love Jesus without worrying about the consequences, but I am not more of a Christian because I am also an American. Sometimes we are told the lie that we live in a Christian nation. That is absolutely not the case, nor should it be, according to our Constitution. We may be a nation with a lot of Christians in it, but Christianity really has nothing to do with the founding of our country (more on that in another post), nor with its continued success – or failure, for that matter. To love God does not mean we necessarily love America, and to love America does not mean we necessarily love God. I have met some amazing Christians who live in India, Spain, Mexico, Palestine, Israel, and many other countries,  and they love Jesus just as much as I do. Not all of them love America, or even see it as all that relevant in their lives. But Jesus, He is always relevant to them.

I fear that at times, and especially in some churches, Americanism is thought of as part of the Gospel. It’s up to Americans to spread the Gospel to the rest of the world, America is God’s second chosen nation after Israel, America is blessed because we are Christians, America is going to pot because we’re not Christian enough, and so on. I get so frustrated when I walk into church and there are American flags everywhere, and when we say the pledge of allegiance or sing patriotic songs during a church service. That’s not church, that’s a pep rally. As I said, I’m very glad I live in America, but I have absolutely no interest in worshiping America when I have come to worship the Lord. Please, please don’t turn our flag, which should stand for freedom, bravery, truthfulness, and strength, into a patriotic idol.

This is not to say that you shouldn’t be patriotic if you are a Christian. You should, to an extent. There are times and places that are appropriate for expressing your joy at living in a mostly free and mostly prosperous nation. You and I are extremely blessed in many ways to live in the U.S. Are Christians in Scotland, France, Poland, Papua New Guinea or Brazil less blessed? If you were to sit down with them and really discuss it, I believe that they would say absolutely not.  I think we need to begin our discussion of how Christians should look at politics and elections by grabbing hold of the fact that we are Christians first, and Americans second. If China, or Mexico, or Russia, or Iran were to suddenly take control of the U.S., would you cease to be a Christian? Would you love God less? I hope not.

In light of this, I want to also ask you,

Can we stop being proud, and start being thankful?

There is a song that makes me cringe every time I hear it. A song that many people love. In fact, in the post-9-11 world, it has become somewhat of a second national anthem for many in America, that is Lee Greenwood’s God Bless the USA.   It’s probably not the best example of patriotic music ever written, but that’s not why it makes me cringe. It’s that word ‘proud’ in its chorus: “I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I”m free…” I’m not proud to be an American, and I don’t think you should be either. Now, before you pull out your 2nd Amendment-protected shotguns and shoot me on the spot, I want to break that down for you.

Besides the fact that there are many, many things that we as Americans should not be proud of in our history (more on that later too), there is the fact that most of us didn’t do anything to become Americans. Most of us did not come from poorer or more oppressive nations and start new lives here, working hard to become citizens. Many of us have not fought in wars to help ensure the freedoms of those in this country or in others, though we should have profound respect and appreciation for those who have.  Most of us were simply born into our “Americanness” and have enjoyed the benefits of living in this country our whole lives.

That is not to say that we don’t contribute to our nation by exercising our rights in government, by paying our taxes, and by building better economies and communities. But very little of that is something we can really be proud of on a national scale. You may be proud of your small business, as you well should be, but your small business has not solved our economic problems as a nation. You may feel good about how you voted in the last election, but your vote alone has not changed the laws, the morals, the culture of the country. You did not declare our independence from Britain, fight in the Revolutionary or Civil wars, draft the constitution, or author the Bill of Rights. You inherited the benefits and blessings of those who did. You have nothing to be proud of, in the strict sense of the word.

What you do have an immense call to be is thankful. You have every reason to be thankful that you live the United States of America. You should be thankful that you live in a country whose constitution outlaws discrimination based on gender, race, or religion. You ought to be thankful that your voice and your vote are taken into account in the choosing of leaders and making of laws. You should be thankful that you are entitled to due process and a trial by jury. You should be thankful that you live in a nation where Mormons, Buddhists, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, and Jews have just as much right to practice their religion as you do. You should be thankful that atheists and agnostics are allowed to live without worshiping anyone or anything. You should be even more thankful that you are free to share Jesus with them all. You should be thankful that you have the right to free speech, and that others have the right to freely voice their disagreement with you.

While I don’t feel that America is the greatest nation in all respects, nor do I think it’s the only place I could live happily, I am certainly thankful beyond what I can express that God chose to bring me into the world here. If we’re going to be Americans, and we want something to be proud of, let’s be proud of our work to uphold the rights of the oppressed, to alleviate the suffering of the poor, to bring justice to all, to genuinely care for our neighbor. And when I say this, I don’t mean to be proud of doing this as a nation, but as individual Americans. What do you say? Because that is a pride I could get behind.