Archive for May, 2012

Gratitude, Grace, and Giving

I love learning from kids—and their moms.  Yesterday I heard and saw a “mom-talk” in action.  And I just can’t get the picture out of my mind.

Recently when I spoke at a local Mom to Mom group, I mentioned that we are excitedly awaiting the arrival of our daughter Erika and her family (including her husband, Richie, and their children, 3-year-old Gabriella and 9-month-old Judah).  They will soon be flying here from Dublin, Ireland, and spending over 6 weeks with us this summer.  YAY!!!   We can’t wait!!!

I also mentioned that I was looking to buy or borrow a few things for their use while they are here: things like a small bike with training wheels or a wagon or other outdoor/indoor toys.  One sweet mom came up to me afterwards and said she might have some things for us.  She followed up via email with a very generous offer.

So yesterday, Woody and I went over to her house.  There we had the privilege of meeting her three charming children: Taylor, 8;  Max, 6; and Samuel, 5 months.  We began to discuss some of the things she had put aside to offer us.  Such generosity!  She had all kind of “indoor toys” as well as a couple of small bikes to choose from, and a great wagon.   These were all available for loan, she explained, because of the age gap between her 6-year-old and her baby.

Every mom knows how hard it is for kids to part with treasured toys—often even those they’ve grown beyond.  One of the kids—naturally the in-between one who had most recently used some of these things—began to protest mildly.  Some of these things had been his favorites.   Even though he wasn’t currently using them, obviously he had good memories and wondered if they’d be returned for his brother—and be well taken care of.

Then came the moment of not only mama grace and mama-modeling, but also of mama-teaching.  Gently this mom reminded her kids of all they had and of how great it is to give and to share.  And I remembered the email she had sent me.  She had written of how God had been teaching her lessons in gratitude, and in giving, and how He had been working in her life to encourage her to be more giving and less grasping of blessings she was able to provide for her kids that many kids don’t have.

And so as I stood in her yard watching this mom teach her kids lessons of grace and gratitude, I saw her attitude become contagious.  Isn’t that how it often works?

It made my heart grateful—not only for the generous loans, but even more for the picture I saw before me: As He teaches us, the lessons overflow to our children.

Thank you, Heather—and Taylor and Max and Samuel.  And thank you, God!

What lessons is God currently teaching you that you can pass along to your kids?

Mother’s Day—and Hannah Thoughts

Mother’s Day is coming up soon.  That means I am thinking about Hannah a lot.  No, not necessarily my granddaughter Hannah (though I do think about her a lot—see last week’s post).  It’s Hannah my longtime soul mate from Scripture I’m thinking about just now.

Mother’s Day always stirs up in me a turbulent pot of emotions.  Often there are baby dedications that day.  I love baby dedications.  They always make me cry.

In fact, I cry a lot on Mother’s Day.  First, I cry for joy as I see parents bring their new little ones before the church to dedicate them to God—and to dedicate their parent hearts to raising these precious ones in Godly ways.   Whether or not our church has baby dedications, I cry for joy as I thank God for the beautiful children and grandchildren He has so graciously given us.

But I also cry on Mother’s Day for other reasons.  I cry because I remember many Mother’s Days in my past that were some of the hardest days of my life.  There were the days when I wondered if I would ever be a mother.  And the Mother’s Day after my miscarriage.  I remember these days well.  And I look around church on Mother’s Day and wonder how many women are crying inside as I did for so many years.

I also look around and think about the multiple ambivalences Mother’s Day generates in many hearts.  Those who have recently buried a mother (oh, yes — definitely another reason I cry on Mother’s Day).  Those who have difficult relationships with their mothers—or their kids.  Those who struggle with “mama guilt” about their own mothering—or the child they aborted long ago.  You can be sure there’s plenty of emotion to go around on Mother’s Day, no matter how well hidden it may be behind smiling faces.

All of this makes me think of Hannah.  She and I have been soul mates for a long time.  We have gone through many seasons together.  In my infertility, I often turned to 1 Samuel 1 and read about Hannah’s “year after year” prayers.  Then when a 14-week pregnancy terminated in a devastating miscarriage, I pondered Hannah’s plight all the more.

When Woody and I were finally blessed with children, I couldn’t get Hannah off my mind.  How, I wondered, was she able to give that precious, long-awaited child back to God? When our children were young, I wondered how Hannah was ever able to leave Samuel at the tabernacle.  OK, full disclosure:  There were days when the thought of leaving a toddler at the church to be raised by the staff sounded like a pretty great idea!  But you all know what I mean.

As our children grew older, my Hannah-question changed slightly.  Not only “How could she leave him?” but “How could she leave him there?”  At the tabernacle, which was apparently so full of corruption.  And with Eli, who had not done so well with his own two sons.

All of this drives me back to 1 Samuel 1-2, to Hannah and her story.  There’s a lifetime of learning there for me.   I challenge you to read it as we approach Mother’s Day.  Because the bottom line of it all points to the source of Hannah’s mom-power. The power to wait for a child, to train a child (Samuel in his earliest years and other siblings who came along later), to give up a child, and to impact a child to become a mighty man of God like Samuel.  That power came from God.  And from her relationship with God.  It was prayer-power.

The very intimacy she gained through her deep honesty with God in her barren times was the fuel that powered her ability to do all the rest.  In other words, Hannah knew God well enough to trust Him with what mattered most to her—her child.

It’s the question that lingers the longest for me, as a woman, as a wife, as a mom:  Do I know God well enough to trust Him—truly trust Him—with my children?  Do you?

Learning from the Little Ones

I used to say that everything I know I learned from my kids.  Now my grandkids are taking over—and teaching Nana a lot!

Consider my latest life lesson, from our granddaughter Hannah.

Hannah and her family go to a church where they sing a number of hymns based on Psalms.  Recently they have been learning a song based on Psalm 22.   She knows a lot of the words.  But she knows more: how these words of God can comfort and sustain us.

Recently there was a particularly violent thunderstorm during the night in Pensacola, where she lives.  Her parents, our son Lars and his wife Kelly, awoke to great flashes of lightening and loud cracks of thunder.  They immediately listened for the kids, but hearing nothing from the children’s rooms, went back to sleep.

In the morning, Hannah, who will soon be three, told them, “I cried in my crib last night.”  Surprised, they asked, “What did you cry about?”  “The thunder was so loud outside my window.”  Lars went on to ask, “What did you do when you cried?”

Hannah’s answer: “I sang ‘Be not far off…’”  Words from the Psalm song they have been learning at church.

Wow!  I was immediately reminded how powerful it is to help our very young children “hide God’s word in their hearts” in their earliest years.  They learn so much more than we ever imagine.

But it was also a great lesson for me.  It’s exactly what I need to do when I feel afraid.  It may not be fear of thunderstorms.  It may be concerns about a medical report or procedure, an unknown or uncertain future, or a family member or friend who seems to be running in the wrong direction.

Singing the Psalms.  I remember reading somewhere a very long time ago about a conversation between Martin Luther and his friend Philipp Melanchthon at a time when Luther was undergoing deep depression.  “Come, let’s sing the Psalms.  Let’s sing the Psalms.”

Thank you, Hannah, for reminding us.  Let’s sing the Psalms!

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