God always gives HIS best to those who leave the choice to HIM.
Raising a brood of kids for the Lord is not for the faint of heart.
How's that for a starter?
Different ages, different personalities, different weakness and strengths sure keep you on your toes.
And if you have several close together as we were blessed to welcome, you have a whole lot of learning on different levels going on.
I remember vividly having a serious, "this is going to change the world forever," teen discussion with one of my older ones when one of the younger ones wanted to chat as well.
It was Sunday evening, and for a Pastor's home, any deep conversations after 9 border on scary territory and few brain cells left to revive.
We had given all day and just gave the last bit we had when this little one piped up.
I kissed her head, explained that whatever it was could surely wait til the morning and sent her to get ready for bed. She skipped up the stairs and in her classic sing-songy voice called back to us, "I'm not sure I believe in God... Goodnight!"
I can still see us at the kitchen table, dumb-founded, with me holding one arm and hand extended towards the direction of the stairs in a claw-like fashion as if to catch anything else that was going to float down and attempt to hold everything together as Mom's do on Sunday nights.
Child-rearing is not for the faint of heart.
The baby diapers and spit-up give way to Soccer shoes and matching headbands and questions about ev-ah-ree-thing the Lord ever created, including themselves.
You graduate from "Traffic Controller," to "Primary Consultant," and life just keeps trucking on.
It is during this transition that you will inevitably find your first gray hair.
And if you are my husband, this is a crowning achievement worthy of pomp and celebration.
If you are me, you just want to get the dishes done.
And just when you're instructed to get the barrel to put that teenager in- Oh YOU know, the one with the hole in it that you are supposed to "cap" when they hit the big 1-8, you begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
And that light cascades brilliantly on the fact that they are actually becoming productive human beings.
Ones that wear deodorant and purchase their own flossing sticks with their own actual money.
And you faintly hear someone somewhere singing the "Hallelujah Chorus," while a tear of immense gratitude begins to form in one eye.
You just might make it out of parenting alive and which is more, THEY might make it out alive too!
THIS is the phase I am in.
There's still clean underwear checks, but Praise God there's also sleep at night, and even surprise treats from McDonalds on your children's dime.
And this is where I slip into another story.
Long ago and far away....
Or last Christmas right here in this kitchen, I did something I never thought I would do.
I gave my oldest two children their very own Christmas list-
Yes, I did. And it was a time of refreshing enjoyment.
Just one thing from each, after all, they do have college to save for.
Nothing to break the bank or anything, but "I had not because I asked not", was not going to ring in my ears that magical Christmas morning.
They smiled because they had lists ten-miles long for me to purchase for THEM and surely could assuage the woman who brought them into this world THIS CHRISTMAS.
I wasn't worried about my daughter as she is methodical and though her room would tell you differently, she really does have her act together.
It was my son I worried about.
Here I thought giving them my one request a piece would set my mind at ease, but I began to worry that my son would not order my gift in time for me to get it. What began as a feeling of satisfaction and relief began to plague me at the end of each day.
Each opening of the advent door left him an even smaller window to get my gift here.
Didn't he grasp the weight of the season? It IS better to give than receive you know!
Finally I did the unthinkable.
I scanned this sweet, small website for their inventory of this great gift I anticipated.
And my jaw about hit the floor.
They were sold out.
No back orders, no nothin'.
You snooze you loose.
You hesitate, you negate, friends.
This was not some mass produced item, mind you. I thrive on the one-and-only, unique hard to find treasures.
And now they were apparently even HARDER to find.
Dust in the wind,
A heap of Christmas past that even Charles Dickens couldn't work with.
I was in full Dessert Storm "Shock and Awe," mode- ready to unleash my forces on this son of mine.
Visions of Memes with hamburgers minus the bun entitled, "You had one job" flashed across my mind.
He had two weeks to order this twenty-dollar symbol of his undying love for his mother.
My blood pressure rose as my voice quieted.
A hushed Mother should always be a warning sign.
He seemed to slough-off my news of my gift being sold out.
He gave some excuse as to why he had stalled and then seemed over the whole thing, "quick-as-a-wink!"
Fa la la la hope deferred.
In gracious manner I suggested something else that could be snatched on Amazon with two day free shipping that would be salve for this deep exposed wound he had just squeezed lemon juice into.
Without even eye contact he motioned with his hand to send him the "link," and off he went to get ready for work.
To flee the scene of the crime with a lame excuse that he had to go and get ready for responsibility and all that jazz.
I conceded my loss and came down on Christmas morning ready to watch the kids open their gifts and eat way too much Breakfast casserole.
It's just the way of it here at our place.
And this one opened and that one opened and then the older ones wanted us to open their gifts from them.
I opened my daughter's gift first.
It could have been me but it did seem that she had more of an angelic appearance than usual this blessed morning.
The book link I sent her; right here in my lap.
I tried not to look TOO happy so as not to disturb her brother who surely was feeling sheepish as I hugged her with deep gratitude.
Then his present. While handing it to me he mentions that it might not be the link I sent him.
It was at this point that He turned into Charlie Brown's teacher. My mind could only comprehend "Wha wa wa wa wa..."
I smile the, "Be glad you are my flesh and blood," Motherly smile and peel paper in slow deliberate motions.
And then there it was.
The sold-out, you lost your chance, will never be happy because you missed it,
And I am convinced that in that moment I looked like the demanding Veruca Salt from Willy Wonka horrifically sliding down the rejection candy chute.....who met a rather bad end.
I hugged him and thanked him and went on with the show until I could get three enormous heapings of Christmas humble pie and meet him one-on-one.
He laughed at the whole big fat situation and forgave my selfishness like the Champ his father raised him to be.
Did you see what I just did there, leaving me out of that?
We laugh now because it's what we do, but I have allowed the Lord to use this to seal a great lesson of HIS goodness to me on this wicked heart of mine.
How often we reach up to the Lord with our lists of Good gifts and he smiles, reminding us that He knows Christmas is coming and he doesn't need Prime shipping.
Surely I am not the only one who has been humbled by God's goodness right at my door, when my striving to work things out for my own good has failed.
The sorrow I had with my Christmas scheming reminds me of Proverbs 10:22:
"The blessing of the LORD, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it."
One of the very definitions of "sorrow" is distress at your own hand.
Have you ever found yourself distressed by your own making?
Both hands raised here. And Christmas shopping and scheming isn't my own experience with my own DIY distress.
And this points out to me that I have in each circumstance hearkened to my own understanding of what blessing I thought I needed, deserved, and even when I thought blessing should be notifying me on some app of its eminent arrival.
I am ashamed to admit that I have even used finances and time and energy to bless myself when discouraged whilst someone's encouragement via the Lord of Hosts was on its way!
Kind of like when you send a letter to a friend and receive one from them in the very same day? Except this would be sending a letter to myself and receiving one for myself..... You get the idea.
Proverbs 3:5-6 rings in our ears almost like a Nursery Rhyme sometimes doesn't it?
"Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths."
But my heart, and possibly yours, needs to continue on:
"Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil.
It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones.
Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase:
So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine."
I have trusted in my own understanding so often, and when I do, I am taking God off of his throne, micro managing, and feeling like He doesn't have a handle on things.
Juuuust like I did with my son.
A shove here, a reminder there, a double-check on this.... and you have dethroned the very God of heaven.
If my Biblical memory serves me right, I can recall someone else with an eye for that throne as well.
Satan himself was described in this wise in Isaiah 14:13-14:
"For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High."
And all of this scheming that ultimately ended in great sorrow began in satan's own heart.
A heart of pride.
Proverbs 11:2 shows us where that pride gets us,
"When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom."
My son, no doubt, loves me immeasurably, especially after I humbly apologized for my selfishness and pride, but how much more does our Heavenly Father love us?
Care for us?
Want good gifts for us?
Look at Matthew 7:11:
"If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?"
Double-humbling reading this and knowing that it was my own son that wanted to give me a good gift.
How much more does Jesus want to bless
We need just ask for His will to be done and not our own.
To relinquish his throne, his plans, his will and with open hands ask him to forgive us.
How slow I am to learn and how quick I am to lean on my own understanding.
How soon the good gifts he has blessed me with loose luster when I should be overwhelmed with praise for all the benefits he DAILY loads me with.
It's no wonder that the Holy Spirit frequently reminds me to quote Psalm 107:8:
Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!
Today I tidy the bedroom and glance at the Christmas present my son bought for me.
I let it be a stark reminder that it's always best when we leave the best for us to HIM.