I want to take a little break from all the serious talk about That Child. Don’t worry, I still have more insight to share about raising That Child, but I think it’s important for us to keep laughing and understanding that God has a sense of humor even in the midst of all the hard stuff. At the end of the day He’s always trying to do two things glorify himself, and grow us. It’s really good for us to use the gift of laughter that He’s given us, to create a little levity in what can be very overwhelming circumstances with “That” Child.
So I just want to go through this little list, I actually have eleven items, and i’m hoping that at the end of this you will be able to add your own items in the comments below. I’m sure there’s a lot of other ideas that we could all add to this list, let’s start with these:
You might have a “That” Child if…
#1: You might have a “That” Child if they demand all of your attention.
Can I get an amen?! If you have “That” Child, they demand all of you, they demand parts of you that you didn’t even know you had, they demand the exhausted and the tired and the overwhelmed parts of you. The spent parts of you, the parts of you you don’t know what to do with. They demand it all, and they demand it all the time. Yes they do.
I’m here to tell you that when my oldest “That” Child was still at home, I used to go in at night and just watch him sleep, cause he was so still and he looked so innocent. Laying in there in the bed he wasn’t demanding anything of me. And then I would just go cry.
If you have a “That” Child you know exactly what I mean. They demand parts of you, and so much of you, and the glorious part of them demanding so much of you is it means you need that much more of God. See, the blessing of God sending me “That” Child, more than once was that it caused me to have to lean into Him. I knew that I needed Him, because of how much my “That” Child needed me. And when I ran out of me, I needed God. That was the blessing of it.
#2: You might have a “That” Child if their mood is completely unpredictable, moment to moment.
If you have “That” Child, you don’t always know who’s gonna wake up in their room in the morning. They might be totally agreeable and joyful and cooperative and you will want to know who woke up in their room. And they might be that way to breakfast…but after breakfast, you don’t even know what happens, it completely changes. “That” Child’s mood is all over the map, as are their interests, and their curiosity, and their attention, it’s all over everywhere.
“That” Child they can change, and turn around on a dime, and you keep trying to figure out “What did we do to get the cooperative, and what did we do to get the not cooperative”.
Here’s one thing I’m going to tell you over and over about “That” Child for all those times we’re thinking “I don’t know how to do this, this is so hard, this is so tiring” I want us to take the opportunity to pause, and consider what might it be like to be “That” child.
I’m going to propose this: it is hard to be “That” Child. It’s hard for their emotions to be all over the map. It’s hard for them to not know what they’re interested in, or how to pay attention, or how to focus, or how did they get on this, that, or the other thing? They’re wondering all that too.
It’s not just us.
And they deserve more than a little bit of our compassion as they navigate the intersection in those pre-teen and teen years of not just their “That” Child wiring but also those hormones when they kick in. They don’t know themselves – so we could stand to be compassionate and more caring with them.
#3: You might have a “That” Child if you cannot hear them, you know you must find them.
I had two boys before I had any daughters, and I had friends who had girls first and I remember going over to one of my friend’s house who just had daughters and I was like “Uhm, where are the girls?” And she said “Oh they’re in their room playing” And I thought to myself, Wow, what must that be like? My boys, If I couldn’t hear them I needed to find them, and I needed to find them quickly because you know what? They were probably doing something, that they shouldn’t be doing, and that’s how it is!
Not necessarily sneaky, not necessarily deceptive, although that was certainly true, but I’m talking about doing things because they were just so curious. Things they shouldn’t have been messing with. It’s truly what they needed to do. They needed to chase their curiosity but I needed to be around them when they did, giving them permission to be curious.
“That” Child is very curious, “That” Child wants to know things and investigate things, and if we can give them permission to do those things when we’re with them it cuts down on their need to do those in a sneaky way. But you know what I mean, “That” Child is not generally quiet, so if they are, ya need to find them!
#4: You might have a “That” Child if their thinking rarely precedes their actions.
Yes, you know what it’s like. You’ve told them a thousand times, you know you’ve told them, you’ve trained them, you’ve intentionally interjected truth in their lives, and guess what they do? Not what you say.
But it’s not because you haven’t said it, it’s because they aren’t thinking.
Many many many times I would say to mine: “Wait, think. Were you thinking? You need to pause and think. Make sure you’re thinking.” See, they just rush into action. But the good news is, they’re home with us and we can teach them!
If we can have the patience of the holy spirit over and over again we can teach them the power and the importance of thinking before they act.
#5: You might have a “That” Child if graduation seems really far away.
On The heels of one of our most difficult years with “That” Child as a homeschooling family, we went to our state conference in May. We had just been through 9 months of really challenging character issues and self control issues. I’m not even sure how much we actually accomplished in school that year because we were constantly dealing with these issues. Anyway, it got to May and we went to our state homeschool conference. Our state conference offers a senior graduation and I went in to watch it because I felt like I’ve just gotta get some inspiration, it just seems impossible that we are ever gonna make it to graduation with “That” Child.
So I’m sitting there, by myself, and there was this woman behind me and I began to cry and in her compassion she put her arm around me and she said “Which one’s yours?” She asked this as they filed across the stage and I said “none of them, my oldest one is twelve!”
But as I was looking at those graduates I was like “Oh please God, can we get to that? Can we make it to that? Would you give us what we need to make it to that?” On that day, that graduation seemed really far off.
If that’s you today I wanna encourage you to hold on, God’s got this. You’re on a journey, He’s got a plan, hold His hand, and take one day at a time.
#6: You might have a “That” Child if nothing seems to work.
Yes, it’s difficult with “That” Child. I went through all the books, I read The Strong Willed Child, The Sensory Sensitive Child…I mean I read everything I could get my hands on. I was looking for something that I could actually do to help. If they gave me any indication of time out, or putting them over here or doing a chart or whatever they said I was like “Ok we’re gonna try this”
And I tried, and I tried, and I tried, and I tried, but nothing seemed to work.
And I felt like “My goodness, what am I gonna do?” But again, I wanna tell you, the fact that nothing worked made me again, lean into God, made me go to God. The numbers of times I was on my face just trying to call out to God and say “What do you want me to do? I don’t know how to do this, I don’t know how to train him, I don’t know what to say.” And I would go and God always provided. He always gave me some creative Idea of something to try, He always gave me discernment and the wisdom I need as he dried my tears, and he bonded our hearts together as I leaned into God for that.
So even though it felt like nothing worked from what the world was offering, it gave me an opportunity to go to God and ask God “What do I do for “That” Child? For this specific “That” Child, what do you want me to do?” And He always answered.
#7: You might have a “That” Child if you worry about the effect they’re having on your other children.
This is one of the more serious ones on the list, and I had this in spades when we were going through this really intense time with our oldest, who was “That” Child. I remember just crying out to God and saying “I don’t understand, you sent me 6 more after him, how is it possible? He needs everything! I don’t even know how to do this and I don’t even know if I talked to this child today, I don’t even know if I hugged this other child today and I know I didn’t read to this other child today.”
And I would just cry and cry and cry.
I want to tell you, all of these years later one of the things that we would say to the kids when our “That” Child was having so many problems and one of the other kids would come up and say “What’s wrong? I don’t understand. Why does he have to get so angry? Why does he have to argue with everything? Why does he get so mad?” And we would talk to the other children about this and I would always encourage them to pray for him and we would always pause and pray for him and obviously we prayed with him many many times. Today I can tell you that my kids don’t resent it, that’s not how they remember it because you know what?All of my kids have had issues and we’ve had to pray them all through different things, that just happened to be his thing.
Look, I’ve said this before and it’s very valuable, I wish I knew who to credit with this saying because it is so poignant: “What defines you as a person, is what you believe about God.” And everybody will know that by the way you live, how you give, what you do, and what you don’t do, what you watch and what you don’t read, ok?
What defines you as a family is how you deal with your weakest link, whether that link is a behavior problem today, or some sort of a physical issue, or a mental disability, or an illness, you know like, at your house when somebody is sick at your house it doesn’t mean that you carry on as usual, you tend to the needs of the ones thats sick. And if someone has a learning issue, you tend to the needs of that learning issue.
So, as you’re dealing with “That” Child the rest of your kids are watching and they’re seeing how you deal with that kid, and it is ministering to them, you’re giving them an example of how to deal with their weakest link when they grow up and get married and it’s all about compassion and patience and love, and love, and love, and grace, and grace, and grace.
So the effect it’s having on your children is they’re getting to see God intercede in your family and in you, and do something amazing, as long as you keep pointing everyone to God. The effect on your other kids can be amazingly positive.
#8: You might have a “That” Child if you’ve cried yourself to sleep.
Night after night after night I remember my pillow being just soaking wet cause I just kept feeling like a failure. And you know what? My enemy wanted to keep me in the place where I felt like a failure, he wanted to keep me under condemnation for the days I lost it, for the days I did not allow the Holy Spirit to come and fill me with patience, for the days when I was frustrated and I let him know it, for the days that I didn’t handle it well in a God-honoring way, for the days, you know what, I didn’t wanna ask God, because I knew God was gonna ask me to be patient and I didn’t wanna be.
I would cry myself to sleep, and cry myself to sleep, and ask for forgiveness, and ask for a fresh new day, and you know what? God always gave it.
I wanna tell you, God, in our brokenness that is where He meets us. Over and over, and over in scripture it’s in our brokenness and our desperate need that He meets us, and He comes and does something glorious.
As long as we think we’ve got it, we don’t need Him. But when we know we don’t got it, that we need Him, that He is glorified and we get to grow in our dependency on Him.
#9: Yes, you Might have a “That” Child if you know they know all of your buttons, and they know how to push them all at the same time, regularly.
Yes, My “That” Child was able to find buttons that I did not know that I had, and he was able to consistently push all of them at the worst possible moment. Again, I really believe that the God of the universe, sovereign over all things, has blessed you with “That” Child. This is not a burden, it’s not payback, it’s not a curse, it’s a blessing that God has given you “That” Child To show you your need for God and the opportunity he’s granted you to grow this child into somebody that will glorify his name.
Pushing all your buttons is a blessing!
It’s a blessing to find weaknesses, and failures, and faults that you didn’t know you had, or in my case, I had covered up so well I had learned to ignore. I’m glad that I’ve had that child to point out the issues in myself that I really needed to work on. And that was again when God came and began to heal.
#10: You might have a “That” Child if discipline dominates every day.
Now, I used to have a thing with my “That” Child and when he would disobey during the day I would take away his favorite toy for that day. So let’s say that it was this little train, But, I wouldn’t just take it away from him and put it away, I would take it away and put it somewhere where he could see it and want it, but not be able to get it. And so my husband could walk in, and within five minutes of being in the door he could look at the mantle, and assess how the day had been.
I was looking for creative ways to get this child’s attention all the time. Whether it was putting him in time out, taking away things that he wanted, not allowing him to go and participate in things that he wanted to do, I had charts and graphs going, I was constantly trying to discipline him. Because with these kids what I know is they thrive in consistency but I fail at consistency.
So the discipline was not just disciplining him, but it was learning to discipline myself. The discipline of spending time with God every morning, of praying, of choosing to glorify and focus on God, even in the midst of a really lousy day, just going “Ok God, I’ve blown it. But I Praise you. Thank you for sending me this kid. I thank you, and I praise your holy name for the plan that you have, even though I don’t know what it is right now.”
That’s what it means, everyone of these issues gives us an opportunity to lean into God, or, we can choose to continue to lean into ourselves.
#11: You might have a “That” Child if giving up is really tempting.
I want to encourage you with every ounce of my being, don’t. give. up. Don’t give up on you and your ability to allow the Holy Spirit to work through you and to bless “That” Child, and don’t give up on “That” Child. Too many people already have.
When I started doing this presentation a couple of years ago, I actually called and talked to my “That” Child who is now a college graduate, married with my first grandchild, and pursuing a master’s degree. I called him and asked his permission to continue telling our story, and he said “You know what mom? Tell our story, and tell the moms this: don’t give up on us.”
That is the message from my “That” Child to you as the mom of “That” Child. Now, your “That” Child may not be able to say it to you right now, and it may seem like they’re screaming at you right now to give up on them. But I am begging you, don’t. give. up.
Determine that you are going to trust that God has a plan, and that God has in them a mighty warrior for His kingdom, that He’s given you an opportunity to raise for His glory, and yes, to grow through your junk.
God has a plan.
Remember this mamas: you might have a “That” Child if God has blessed you abundantly, and I pray that you will hug “That” Child, and you will seek God, and you will lean into Him.
In His Grace-
If you would like to read more of my “That Child” series, click here.
I have seven great stories about the births of my kids. I love to tell these stories, just as I love to hear my mother tell about my arrival – including how her water broke, causing the doctor to fall in the hall! And we should retell birth stories.
Having seven kids wasn’t my plan- but that’s a discussion for a different day. I’m very grateful I have two sons and then three daughters and two boys at the end. It has just been a glorious ride and I’m very grateful to have each and every one. But let me tell you, every single birth story was different. Every single one of them was different!! None of them were even remotely the same.
The first one was Charles and his was a forced delivery. I sat, well actually I didn’t sit- and that was the problem. After birth with him I was confidant that I wasn’t doing that again because I didn’t think I’d sit on a hard surface ever again! Some of you know exactly what I mean…
Anyway, I went on to have Anderson the next year and he was almost an emergency C section because he was so large. The thought of a c-section motivated me to practically shoot him across the room (such a visual there, right?!).
Ann, our first daughter, had a very peaceful delivery – it snowed on the day she was born and she smiled almost immediately.
Molly was the only one, my middle child, that I went into labor with and was actually born on her due date!
With Lily I was induced- but she was also very peaceful with a beautiful gentle spirit.
With Joseph I walked miles around the hospital floor trying to encourage him along. He took his time.
With Ben my delivery was pretty much textbook after a busy pregnancy.
All of the different circumstances and details surrounding their individual birth stories, I’ll never forget.
How hard I pushed.
How long I labored.
All the people there with me- My husband and the different doctors.
I will never forget.
And your children’s birth stories are stories worth retelling.
Your kids want to hear them!
(Or their gotcha day. I’ve had several friends who had the blessing of adoption across the ocean, and they love to retell all of us back home. Every single detail of God’s clear provision, as they went across the pond or maybe just around the corner to a hospital.)
We’re blessed by the child that God had chosen for us from the dawn of creation, to be our son or daughter.
And if you haven’t retold them lately, tell them their birth story!
All the details.
How you counted their fingers and toes.
How they cried.
If they had hair.
Who you thought they looked like.
There is just something about hearing your birth (or gotcha) story recounted that makes you feel special.
The circumstances of your birth story, your Heavenly Father knows too. And just like a new father who holds his child for the first time, He had plans for you.
His plan is to work in and through you.
He remembers that day.
The commitment you made to follow and trust Him.
How child-like your faith was when you said quietly in your spirit ” I surrender all this to Jesus.”
How innocent you were about the challenges you would face.
He remembers everything about that special day.
We need to recall where we came from and what He did for us when He cleaned us up.
This will help to keep us humble.
It’s important to admit how much we needed Him then.
And how much we need Him now.
I want to encourage you to tell your kids their physical birth story, but don’t stop there- talk to them about the day you were born spiritually. And if they have given their life to Christ- talk about the day they were born spiritually.
In His Grace-
“Look. At. Me.”
How many times have you said that today?
We say that all the time as moms.
Often when we say it to our kids, we’re flustered or frustrated and we say “Look at Me! Pay attention!”
When I want my kids to look at me it’s because I have something REALLY important and serious I want to convey to them and I want to make sure that I have their total attention.
With no distractions. I want them to tune everything else out, and look at me.
I want them to look at me because I feel like when they’re looking at me- I’ve got their heart.
I feel like I can tell if they’re really listening when they are looking at me. But I can’t tell, If I don’t have their eyes on me.
And I want to tell you a secret… I now have four out of the house and only three at home. But a mama’s ear can tell when they’re not looking at you.
When they are distracted…
Even if they are on the phone! I sometimes catch myself saying “Look–are you listening?” because I can’t actually tell if they are looking. But I can usually hear it.
That practice of imploring your children to really look at you and listen is something that we establish when they’re home, so that when it is the phone call or even Facetime, we still have the privilege of asking them to look at us.
But you know what?
Lift your eyes up.
See when I get distracted it’s because I’m not lifting my eyes to Him.
I’ve forgotten about Him, who alone, sits on the throne.
I’ve become distracted by the things of this world that just don’t matter.
I have let my eyes and mind get distracted.
And I have to admit…
Sometimes, like you, my kids are actually looking at me when I’d really rather they were not watching.
Like sometimes when I may be scrolling through the internet for a few more moments than I need to be.
Or maybe I’m watching a television show that I don’t need to be.
Or maybe at the checkout I’m looking at all the headlines in the rag magazines by the checkout and I don’t need to be.
Or maybe I’m even in the middle of a bad habit that I hope nobody else notices.
And those are the times when unfortunately, I had my kids’ full attention.
Just like you, our Heavenly Father whispers in those moments “Honey, look at Me, Look at Me!”
The key to overcoming those distractions, the key to overcoming those terrible habits that we find ourselves in (because we’re caught up in a sinful world) is to keep our eyes on Jesus Christ.
To focus on our heavenly home and to continually be looking to Him.
Today, I bet you’ve said “Look at me”. While you were saying it to one of your little ones, did you perhaps hear God whisper to you “Look at Me”?
See when we look at Him, all of our stuff, even the things that seem so huge, pale in comparison to the sovereign King who sits on the throne.
I want to invite you to look at Him, especially when we’re so incredibly focused on our kids focusing on us- I think we can say that with more honesty when we make sure that we’re looking at Him.
I remember when we would go to Poppy’s house when we were first married and we would go over and paint the barn or bury a cat or plant a rose bush for Poppy. And on Saturday morning when we would get there I wouldn’t see Poppy reading his King James Bible, but I would see his King James Bible, open on the table as evidence, of where he’d been that morning before we even arrived.
I have a question for you…. When do you want your kids to look at you? What is it you want them to see you doing?
How Many Times Do I Have To Tell You?
A Guest Post at Proverbs 31 Ministries
I have a dare for you. It’s simple. But it’s definitely not easy. I believe it can be the turning point of your relationship with your children and with your heavenly Father.
Look at the list of things you say most often to your children. Do you hear your heavenly Father whispering the same things to you?
Be honest. Let the words sink in. What is God saying to you?
I’m over at Proverbs 31 Ministries today with thoughts on our words – what we hear and what we say. Hop on over and tell me what God might be whispering to you.
In His Grace,
Your Name Here
Remembering names is not my gifting. I want to remember—really I do—but I’m not very good at it. I’m better with faces. Although I don’t like name tags, I need them. If we’ve met, and we see each other again, I’m hoping that grace will prevail. I will reintroduce myself and maybe we can share a laugh!
But God knows each of us intimately. Scripture talks about Him knowing the number of hairs on our heads. Perhaps more profoundly, He knows our thoughts, even our days. Those are things that I don’t even know about me.
My hair isn’t as thick as it once was, but I don’t know the exact number of lost locks. My thoughts often seem scattered and unfocused. And my days? Those are crazy (most of them)—not necessarily in a bad way, but full. And while I’m a planner, I rarely remember what I had for dinner yesterday. I’m glad God knows those things, but they seem impossible for me to know.
It’s the fact that He knows my name. This blows me away. And I think it is so wonderful. My name. Mine. The name my parents gave to me. The one my husband whispers, the one my friends call, the one my kids repeat. I’m not a number to God. You’re not a number. He doesn’t ever forget my name or yours. You are you, by name. I am me, by name.
It must have been startling for little Samuel to realize that God was calling his name, not Eli. God was saying, “Samuel, Samuel!” God’s voice, not just the priest’s. While Samuel listened to and obeyed Eli, while he wanted to be attentive, the sound of his name spoken by the Almighty had to be a powerful moment.
And what about Saul on the road to Damascus? Talk about a crossroads. Saul, passionate about upholding the Law and the traditions, led the charge in persecuting the Christians. He went door to door. He was actively imprisoning men and women. He stood in direct opposition to Jesus.
Then as he was on the road with his companions, set on finding more believers and punishing them. Jesus spoke to him from a bright light, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” Saul was literally blinded by the light. Jesus called him out and gave him a new name, Paul.
The calling of the disciples is a part of the story that we often read as if it isn’t significant or substantial. Wait just a minute. Jesus called these men by name, and they followed Him without question or discussion leaving their work behind them.
Might there have been something different about the authority with which He said their names? Did He exude the qualities of a leader that drew them to His side: confidence, direction, charisma? If we could ask them, I would bet they would say they couldn’t quite put their finger on it, but there was something in the way He looked them in the eye when He offered the invitation by name with the words, “Follow Me.”
Jesus called Mary and Martha by name. This happened on two very different occasions, and in both instances He did so with gentleness and compassion. Jesus said, “Martha, Martha, “ when she had become frustrated with her sister about helping her in the kitchen. Mary seems blind to all that needed to be done and was just sitting and listening to Jesus.
Jesus wasn’t calling Martha out. He didn’t seek to embarrass her. He wasn’t intent on making her feel bad. No. Jesus softly spoke her name. He wanted her full attention. I’m sure He looked her in the eye. “Martha, Martha.” Jesus wanted Martha to listen to Him, not be distracted by what wasn’t being done around the house.
God knows your name. And He whispers in a thousand different ways. It’s in the wind of a storm, the quiet breeze at the beach. You can hear it when the birds sing or the soft rain falls. Sometimes your name is clear in your heart. And every time you hear it, lean in and listen. He knows your name.
What if our seeing all that God wants to show us isn’t about us looking harder or praying harder or doing more? What if it isn’t about us being more discerning or wise or focused? What if, it’s about us being less busy. Walking slower. Pausing. Breathing. Lingering.
Be still must be accompanied with be quiet, “Shh!” They go together. Being still without being quiet negates itself. Being still and being loud misses the point. The point of being still is being quiet, being stilled.
This is a soul stillness that few of us regularly practice. A stillness from the inside out. It’s a stillness that is manifested on our faces as a peaceful contentment. In our actions as selfless service. In our devotions as pure and lovely. Stillness.
It’s the Divine, “Shh!”
In a breeze or a sunrise or the bird’s song or the flower’s bloom. It says, “Hush. Pause. Breathe.” It urges. It insists. It encourages. It draws. “Shh.”
It isn’t harsh, but still halting. Not obtrusive but mild. Not demanding but rather inviting. It doesn’t require but instead welcomes.
Sometimes it presents in the middle of a storm, a tempest that rages and roars around us. When the world seems to be falling apart. When life shatters. When our wounds are raw, our eyes are red, our pillows wet.
Sometimes it echoes when panic surrounds and threatens us. When our head is spinning. When we flustered and overwhelmed, we’ve lost our way and we feel trapped. In the distance we hear it, “Shh-“.
“Be still” and “be quiet” go together. They’re inextricable. They go together. Impossible to separate. Being still means being quiet. Being still without being quiet isn’t possible. Many of us try to practice being still without being quiet. We hope that no one will notice.
We sit still but we aren’t really still. Physically we are motionless, every muscle unmoving. But spiritually our souls aren’t. And our minds are racing. We’re merely still on the outside. We wonder why practicing being still isn’t benefiting us, why we get up and still feel empty, stressed.
Really being still is not about being physically still. Being still on the outside, is an exercise in controlling ourselves physically. And as challenging as that is-more so for some of us than others-it’s being still on the inside that is the real challenge. And, it’s being still on the inside that makes all the difference.
My mind is constantly racing, lists of things to do, projects, calls, meetings, emails, dinners. ‘To do’ lists swirl with, responsibilities, dreams, and ideas. I think about conversations I need to have, notes I need to write. My mind runs and chases, stresses and configures, considers and imagines.
God’s invitation, His gentle, “Be still,” is a providential proposition. It’s a omniscient offer, a sovereign suggestion. He’s asking me to lean in, to quiet myself, to rest in Him. To trust Him. To allow Him to do what only He can do-His good, perfect and pleasing will.
In the Old Testament, in Exodus, Moses led God’s people, the Israelites. God had prepared Moses to led as a shepherd and he was well prepared for his task. (You can review the whole story in Exodus 1-14.) In summary, God had brought Moses to be the Deliverer of His people out of the bondage of slavery under the Egyptians.
God had worked wonders through the 10 plagues and in fact had caused Pharaoh to release the Israelites. But not long after they had left and gone into the desert, Pharaoh changed his mind. He gathered his forces and went after God’s people. It was at the edge of the Red Sea with Pharaoh’s army to their back that Moses said to the people, “Do no fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the LORD which He will accomplish for you today…The LORD will fight for you while you keep silent.” (Exodus 14.13-14)
Here is a perfect example of “Be still”. In a moment of crisis, with their enemies at their backs and the vast Red Sea in front, Moses essentially says, “Be still. God’s got this one. Don’t panic. Just watch and see.”
Wow. When I want to panic, when all seems lost, when the odds are against me, when I’m lonely, defeated, and far from home. When I’m weak, worn-out and weary. When I’ve messed up again.
So, whose at your back? What are you facing? Does your situation seem impossible? Does it seem that there is no way out? Like all of your options are gone? Along with all of your hope? Do you feel like your back’s against the wall? That you’re between a rock and a hard place? Even out of wiggle room?
I tend to want to try and fix everything, everyone. I want to make it better. I’m willing to apologize, and I do. I’m willing to make amends and I have. I do whatever I can to bring about peace and reconciliation. But sometimes it’s not enough. And He whispers, “Shh-“
Let’s dare to hear His “shh” and respond. Let’s dare to be still. To be quiet. To be stilled. Calmed. Silent. Let’s dare to lean into who He is. Let’s dare to be still when everything around us is spiraling. Let’s dare to be still when we don’t think we have time to. Let’s dare to practice His presence. Be still.
How Many Times Do I Have To Tell You – NO
Not only do we dislike saying it, we don’t like hearing it either. In fact, I used to think that growing up meant the end of “no.” After all, I would get to make the decisions, and I certainly would not tell myself “no.” I would tell myself “yes.”
I would tell myself “yes” to Ding Dongs and Oreos and Twix. I would tell myself “yes” to the whole jar of peanut butter, the whole can of whip cream, the whole 3-layer cake. “Yes” to staying up as late as I wanted, watching whatever I wanted, sleeping in the next morning as late as I wanted. “Yes” to expensive shopping sprees and indulgent vacations. “Yes” seemed to be the ticket to freedom, to adventure, to excitement, to satisfaction. But alas, it’s just not true.
“Yes” isn’t the ticket to freedom, not really. In fact, habitual and uncontrolled “yes” without self-control and discernment, without wisdom and restraint, can actually be the road to slavery. It can lead to a prison of our own construction, by our own hands. While we may be free to say “yes” to whatever we want to say “yes” to, doing so doesn’t bring us more happiness. Actually it only leads to emptiness.
What if hearing “no” from our heavenly Father is not negative?
What if it’s not mean?
What if it’s not insensitive?
What is it’s not oppressive?
Is it possible that a sovereign “no” is actually beautiful? Could it also be loving, considerate, gracious, and merciful?
We’ve vilified the One who knows us best. He created us. He has a plan for us. He died for us. When He says “no” we often think that either He doesn’t hear us or that He doesn’t care. Neither are true. He does hear. He does care. In fact, He cares enough to say “No.”
Scripture tells us that Paul wrestled with an unknown ‘thorn in the flesh.’ We read that he asked God repeatedly to remove it. That’s a simple enough request for the God of the universe. Seems to me that Paul’s ministry might be stronger without the thorn. It’s distracting Paul, discouraging him. Paul was a bold and courageous minister of the Gospel. He deserved for it to be removed, deserved for God to say “yes.” Surely if God removed the throne, Paul would have testified of God’s goodness, compassion, and power. But God said “no.” Paul was assured that “My grace is sufficient; My strength is made perfect in weakness.”
God’s “no” wasn’t and isn’t flat or flippant. It was and is rich and multi-dimensional. God’s “no” is actually more like an invitation to go to a deeper level of trust, love, and faith. When He says “no” do we trust Him enough to know that He still loves us? Will you still believe that He has a plan for you? Can we dare to trust that He is enough no matter what the circumstances?
God is not the supreme sugar daddy. Nor is He our bellhop, constantly waiting for us to make a request to fulfill. Neither is He the highway trooper who lies in wait for us to mess up. He doesn’t carry some cosmic lightening rod ready to zap us when we mess up. God is good all the time; all the time God is good. But that doesn’t mean He is obligated to give us any and everything we ask for. He loves us more than that.
Besides, He has already given us everything we need for life and godliness in the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ. We have forgiveness of our sins and the hope of life eternal with Him. “The joy of the Lord is our strength.” He walks with us each day. His Holy Spirit lives inside of us and guides us. He grants us strength for each day. He has lavishly given us all we need.
Here again, the “no” we receive is a lot less about us and a lot more about Him. When we hear “no” we take it personally, and often allow our emotions to get the best of us. We whine and complain when we get a “no.” For what it’s worth, we wouldn’t and shouldn’t allow such behavior from our kids. But we mope. We sulk. We pout.
Think about that for a moment.
What God says “no” they are a divine set up for His glorious plan, for His protection, for His provision, for His praise. God’s ways are not our ways. We base our plans on things making sense. We’re admonished, “lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your path straight.”
His path takes us straight to Him, straight through sanctification, straight to selflessness, humility, and love. His path takes us to the end of ourselves, through the valley of the shadow, through fire and water. On this side of eternity, it’s wonky, full of ups and downs. Sometimes we’re on the path, sometimes not. From this side, His designated path for us doesn’t look straight—at all! But from the perspective of eternity, it’s a straight shot. It’s the way we need to go.
“No.” It’s a little word filled with protection. “No” knows better. It knows that there are things we cannot see, things we underestimate, things we don’t think matter. God’s “no” says, “I love you, and I know what’s best for you. Trust Me. The answer is ‘No.’”
It Doesn’t Matter What Everyone Else Is Doing
The fashion industry depends on it, as do many magazines and talk shows. Certainly ‘reality’ television needs it. I’m talking about voyeurism. Watching how other people live and wanting to live just like them.
The right jeans.
The right car.
The right hair style.
The right house.
The right job.
The right glasses, dinner entre’, and exercise class. All these luxuries are predicated on what everyone else is doing.
Arguably it was the worst in junior high. I mean the worst. We all wanted desperately to just blend in with each other. No one wanted to stand out. Standing out was bad, even scary. Whatever was vogue or cool or hip—that’s what we wanted. We wanted to be accepted, liked, and included. We wanted to prove who we were even though we didn’t really know yet. And we hoped no one noticed.
There is only one person you and I are called to be like. Only one—no one else. In fact, the ultimate goal of the life we have here is to be conformed to His image. To take up His cross and follow Him, to reflect His glory, testify to His goodness, to point others to Him. We are charged with walking in the Light and abiding in Him. To transform our minds, not grow weary in doing good, to stand firm, and be on guard.
It really doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing.
It doesn’t matter even as our culture continues to shift away from God and more toward the individual. Culture encourages selfishness. It advocates for relative truth. Today we see individually defined and lived out loud. It rejects God’s ways and commands, refusing to see them as loving and kind.
Everyone else’s behavior isn’t supposed to set the bar for our standards. God does. And His bar is higher. It’s the cross bar of Calvary. The cross bar of Calvary says come, follow Me, learn of Me, rest in Me, trust Me. The cross bar of Calvary demands sacrificial love, sacrificial living, sacrificial service. The cross bar of Calvary challenges us with these thought: What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and yet lose his own soul, and the first shall be last.
Humility is the way.
Serving is the way.
Honoring is the way.
Dying is the way.
Jesus told us that the world hated Me and it will hate you, too. We don’t like that part. We like the parts of the Gospel where people were healed, the blind see, the deaf hear, and the lame walk. We like lepers being restored. We like sins forgiven. But the part about taking us the cross, about washing others feet, about humbling ourselves—oh, and the part about being hated—we skip over that part.
But that part is what it’s all about. We are here to live a life that matters. Living a life of obedience. Fixing our eyes on Jesus and keeping a hope of heaven. We are live in such a way that our example points other people to Him. We are here as aliens and ambassadors. This world is not our home. We were made for more than this. This is just the preparation for Heaven with Him. Eternal life with Christ and God the Father is what we are made for, perfect fellowship that will last forever.
We keep trying to fit in with the world around us instead of allowing Him to fit us for service above. Fitting in shouldn’t be our goal. As daughters of the king we should stand out. Not obtrusively. Not obnoxiously. Not in a rude or gaudy way. We should stand out because we are standing on His promises. As we live, we are to let our light shine wherever we go because we are children of the Light.
It doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing, but rather what He doing through me and in the lives of everyone else around me.
That is what matters!
Now Is Not The Time
“God’s timing is perfect.”
People tell us that when we are exhausted from waiting. They tell us when we don’t think we can take another step or when we feel like giving up all together. When it feels like the trial or the discipline will never end. When our prodigal still hasn’t returned. When a job is allusive, disease is overwhelming.
The God of the universe Who exists outside of time, interjected Himself into time on time. He wasn’t early. He wasn’t late. He was right on time. Jesus, born of a virgin, in a ‘stable-esk’ setting, to young, weary parents, was right on time.
In Psalms 90:4 and II Peter 3:8 we are told that God is unhindered by time. God is timeless. He doesn’t work on a clock. He’s not running out of time. He doesn’t miss appointments. He is never late. He is only, ever on time, every time.
Our aggravation with time, feeling like there is not enough, like the clock is working against us, like it’s our enemy, is the reality of being created. God’s creation. He set the clock when He put the sun, moon and stars into motion. He set the week with the days of creation, complete with the institution of rest.
And our time is limited. We don’t have forever here. We have forever there, somewhere and for eternity. Only two options: Heaven or Hell. Both are real. Both last forever. One is with God. One without Him. Endless fellowship or endless aloneness. Ultimate Joy or ultimate grief.
God’s word, the Bible recounts instance after instance of His perfect timing. Never early, never late. To the characters in the Bible and to us, He regularly seems like both. We often accuse Him of being late, of being unaware of the time-our time. But He’s not working on our time. He’s working outside of it.
Hannah thought that God wasn’t listening. It’s common for us to think He cannot hear us when He doesn’t answer our prayers, not at least in the way we wanted Him to answer them. We blame Him for being deaf. Or we blame Him for not caring. Or we blame Him for being unable or unwilling.
According to our clocks He’s late. According to our schedule He missed an appointment. According to our alarm He forgot. Nope, not true.
What is true is that He is working on different time table. God is working on a grander scale than we can imagine. He is listening. He is aware. He is busy. Matthew writes that Jesus told His followers that He was going to prepare a place for us. We can know that since His return to the Father’s right hand, He has been busy preparing a place for us with Him where we will join Him outside of time.
That is one aspect of eternity that we don’t often discuss. Here in time the tick-tock, tick-tock enslaves us. It is a cruel master. There never seems to be enough tick-tock for all the laughter, for the rest, for the relaxation. And way too much tick-tock for the waiting and the wrestling. Way too much for the struggles and stress, for the separation, loss and hurt. Way too much. Tick-tock. Time races when things are good. And it stands still, doesn’t move, when the hard times come. Tick-tock echoes.
The Psalmist felt this. “How long, Oh Lord?” David wrote. How long indeed? The moments here sometime feel like forever. Forever since we didn’t hurt. Forever since we didn’t miss. Forever since we weren’t alone or tired or afraid. Forever. “How long?” our hearts cry out. How long?
We are introduced to Hannah in I Samuel. We are introduced to a woman longing for a child. Longing. Tick-tock, time marches. Tick-tock. No child. Tick-tock. No child. Tick-tock. No child. At the doorpost of the temple, she laid it all out. She wept bitterly. I Samuel 1:11:
11 “She made a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and a razor shall never come on his head.”
His timing humbles us. His timing draws us. His timing molds us. Hannah was humbled by her circumstances. She needed God. Hannah was drawn to God, knowing He alone was able. She desired God. Hannah was molded by God, changed; she no longer wanted a son for herself, but for God. She loved God.
God’s perfect timing had a purpose: to glorify Himself and to grow Hannah. Her desperate waiting killed her selfish desires. It focused her on God. It taught her that her son wasn’t hers, but God’s. It gave her purpose as a mother: to raise a son to give back to God. Hannah knew that Samuel wasn’t hers. God’s timing and Hannah’s waiting. His perfect timing and her humble waiting.
I’m betting that like me there’s something you’re waiting on. Reconciliation. Forgiveness. Healing. Employment. Rest. Maybe you’re waiting for a friend, a house or a test result. You may be waiting for an answer to a question or a problem that’s years old. You might feel like your drifting without a direction or maybe you are in a storm so intense that you don’t know which way is up.
You cry out. You shed tears or maybe you’ve run out waiting. Know this: When your Heavenly Father whispers, “Now is not the time,” it isn’t because He doesn’t care. It isn’t because He is unaware of your pain, your heartache, your brokenness. And it’s not because He’s late, unaware of the time. His ‘now is not the time’ is perfect time. It’s an invitation to lean further into Him. An opportunity to trust more, to stop trying to hold it all together and just rest in Him.
Allow your Father to hold you. You with all your tears and questions. With all of your frustrations and even your anger. Let it all out in His lap. Know that He is big enough. He is strong enough. He is faithful. He is good. Know that He is outside of time, but aware of ours. He is never late. Never. Rest in His perfect timing. He’s got it.
I Love You!
As discussed in the previous post, “How many times do I have to tell you?” God’s overarching message throughout the Bible is “I love you!” God’s common grace surrounds us in His creation, His handiwork, the clear evidence of the Creator of the universe.
God doesn’t offer us a formula for religion, an experience. He isn’t far off and away, uninterested or uninvolved or indifferent about us. Our heavenly Father offers us a relationship with Himself. He extends to us an invitation to us for intimacy. Not just an association or an acquaintance or an affiliation, but a deep and abiding friendship. God offers us Himself, to know and be known.
The relationship includes vulnerability on our part, a willingness to submit to Him and His will. Submitting is a beautiful act, it reflects a grateful heart. A grateful heart is a humble heart. A humble heart knows and acknowledges God and doesn’t seek to replace or supplant Him.
Submission trusts God to do what brings Him glory and us growth. Submission allows God to be God; it leans into Him and rests in Him. Submission isn’t easy or natural. But He is patient with us when we wrestle and even rage, when we ask questions or insist on our own way, He remains squarely on the throne, arms extended, love out pouring.
He is the Sovereign of the universe whether we acknowledge Him or not. Our rebellion to the great I Am does nothing to diminish Him. We are the only losers when we choose to reject or ignore or despise His love. His love to us is a free gift. The cost? Our arrogance, our pride, our selfishness and our greed. Death to self. That’s all. Not much, comparatively speaking. I mean we are like dust.
When we spurn His love it breaks His heart. After all, He sacrificed His only Son to pay our sin debt. Only the perfect Lamb of God-Jesus Christ- could pay our penalty. We can’t pay it because we are sinners. Every one of us. Sinners.
Even if I chose to die for a friend, in an effort to pay the price for their sin, it wouldn’t matter. A sinner dying for a sinner cannot pay the price. Only perfection can pay the price. Jesus was the spotless Lamb of God. His perfection qualifies Him to be the payment.
It was a price He paid willingly, not because anyone made Him or under compulsion, but because He wanted to glorify the Father. See, glorifying the Father was always Jesus’ focus. It glorified the Father for Jesus to give His life as a ransom for many, for you and for me. That’s love. Our Heavenly Father’s love.
The hymnist writes:
What manner of love
The Father has poured out on us
That we should be called the sons of God.
What manner of love indeed. That the Father poured out. Lavish. Abundant. Extravagant. Radical. Abundant. Beyond all we could ask or imagine. Beyond. This is the “I love you,” resounding from the throne of Grace, from the Holy of holies, from Heaven itself. “I love you. I’m your Father and I have great plans for you.”
Your birth. “I love you.”
His plan. “I love you.”
Your salvation. “I love you.”
His sacrifice. “I love you.”
Your sanctification. “I love you.”
His Spirit. “I love you.”
Your growth. “I love you.”
His glory. “I love you.”
He wants the best for you and me and the best for us is less of you and me, none of you or me in fact and more of Him. Trusting Him, Depending on Him, Following Him. Being kind and generous and diligent and forgiving. Those are the activities of His children and the behaviors of His children.
Jesus’ birth. “I love you.”
Jesus’ ministry. “I love you.”
Jesus’ death. “I love you.”
Jesus’ resurrection. “I love you.”
Jesus’ sure return. “I love you.”
“He (God) who did not spare His own Son (Jesus), but delivered Him (Jesus) over for us all, how will He (God) not also with Him (Jesus) freely give us all things?”
God’s message to you?
“I LOVE YOU!” (In all caps, boldfaced, underlined, exclamation point.)