Many hard times have come our way in the last year. I’m still not to the place where my initial response is what I would like it to be. When we receive bad news of one sort or another, I typically throw my hands up at God, yell out in despair, anger or disappointment and then just cry. But, by God’s grace, my improper attitude or response is taking up shorter amounts of time. Prior to this year of hardship, it may have taken me months to bounce back from the difficulties in life. Lately, its only lasted a couple of hours! To what do I ascribe this transformation? The grace of God working in my soul and a much deeper understanding of His promises found in Scripture. I have never thought of myself as a “strong” person. Oftentimes growing up, I felt I lacked the backbone needed to make it through life without unraveling. My dad used to tell me that with some things I had to get “tougher”. I only wish he could witness the strength God has girded me with in recent months. We have weathered quite a bit, and instead of unraveling, God has deepened my faith in Him and given me strength to continue enduring.
One of the closest friends I have known in this life gave me this quote on Friday, only minutes after receiving the news that our court cases were not heard for the boys. Its from Sarah Edwards (wife to Jonathan Edwards-outstanding preacher in the 1700s during the Great Awakening) in a letter to one of her children shortly after Jonathan’s death.
How timely this friend spoke into my life…the idea of God’s rod in my life correcting my incorrect thoughts about Him and training me in righteousness and godliness through this very difficult process of waiting for my boys to come home. May I close my mouth and trust Him. And may I learn to not fear the rod, but kiss it, as it is the very means that I become like Christ.
MOWA didn’t write new letters of recommendation for our cases today, but have promised it will be done next week. Yes, even I am not sure what this means, other than it will be at least next week before we know if we’ve passed court or if our cases have even been heard again. I am so very sad and so very heartbroken. I know God will gain glory through this, even if I can’t understand how or see why. I often hear the Spirit whispering to me “Walk by faith, not by sight.” I am certainly trying and asking God to give me the faith to keep walking. Though, I know for at least today, He is carrying me…I am too weak and too weary to walk.
Molly Kate and I just returned home from a morning of fun at Six Flags Splashwater Kingdom with the Wheelers (also compliments of the Wheelers…our very dear friends here in Louisville) and my neighbor knocks on my door. I open it to find her holding a vase of pink gerber daisies, a box of strawberry cheesecake Jelly Bellies (mmmm!) and a note from my awesome hubby. Apparently we have a surprise date night tonight to my fave Cuban restaraunt to celebrate 1) my upcoming birthday and 2) our 3rd court date tomorrow! He knows me too well…this will be an excellent way to keep me from sitting around worrying all night! I’m off to get ready…yea!!
While the thought of a real garden, full of greens, squash, tomatoes, various fruits, etc. absolutely thrills me, the reality is I won’t have one in the near future! Not knowing where we will be in the next five years doesn’t exactly motivate me to put a lot of money and effort into a garden that I will have to leave. So, this summer I attempted some container gardening. I had read several articles about various things that grow just as well in a container as in the ground, so I thought I would give it a whirl! And look, I actually have produce (and herbs)!
until we go to court for the third time. I wonder how many times I broke down in tears today? I trust God…I can say that honestly. I know I am not worthy of the high privilege of raising these boys. I am humbled. I am also more than ready to wrap my arms and heart around them and let them know that I am here. I am here and I am committed to loving, nurturing and shepherding their little souls for as long as God will allow me. How I pray that God will have mercy on us, on them, on those seeking to do what is best for these precious children and let us pass. As our friend Adam prayed so sweetly for us last night, “Please, O Lord, give us the desire of our hearts.”
I know you are praying…thank you. Pray that I will love God well this week, trust His love and goodness to me and not be afraid of bad news (Psalm 112:7).
I just had to share this story and thought it might encourage some of you who are wondering if your children will gain anything by sitting in the Sunday morning worship service at your church. And keep in mind that Molly Kate is still a month shy of two years old! After last week’s reading, I suggested to Kevin that on Saturday nights we read the passage that will be preached the following morning with Molly Kate instead of the usual reading from The Big Picture Story Bible. Yesterday’s sermon was Paul’s conversion experience on the road to Damascus from Acts 9. We read this with Molly Kate and explained how Paul’s eyes went blind and then he could see again. We squinted our eyes tight to explain not being able to see. Fast forward to Sunday morning. One of our former elders and now pastor in Atlanta, Aaron Menikoff, has begun his sermon. As he’s reading through the text and gets to the verse where Paul is blinded, Molly Kate turns to me and says “Paul” then squints her eyes! She was totally listening and comprehending! Kevin had a look of total shock on his face and my heart just delighted in the graciousness of God to speak to such a little one! Just one experience and it completely confirmed for me that all the work of teaching her to sit in the service will be worth it. God’s Word does not return void and as she listens to bits of sermons week in and week out, I pray God begins a mighty work of salvation in her heart!
I borrowed a friend’s copy of this book on Monday and finished it last night…a very quick read, though not lacking in content by any means. I was actually quite surprised to find that a lot of Castleman’s writing about Sunday morning worship was very convicting. How many times do I rush to worship with an unprepared heart or even worse, an indifferent attitude. I was encouraged to think highly of Sunday mornings…to even spend my week looking forward to this special day that God has set aside for His people. I was also pleased to gain some helpful insights and practical ideas for guiding my children into worship as well. She certainly furthered my belief that children should sit with their parents during church services but also that parents should be actively seeking ways to engage their children in the service (i.e.-helping them learn the hymns or worship songs, teaching them to listen to the corporate prayers and asking them to be listening for a particular part of the sermon like a story, etc.). She gives a rough guideline of introducing children to the services around age three or four. I personally think four is a little late for our family, but that’s one great thing about this book. Its a helpful tool or guide for parents to use as they think about the best way to begin teaching their children to worship (for this purpose I am referring to corporate worship within a local church), but a wise and discerning parent can tailor her suggestions to best suit the needs of the family, the particular child and the given church situation. I would especially recommend this book to any parent who has questioned if children’s programs during an adult service or “Children’s Church” where children participate in an entirely different service are really the best way for children to learn how to worship and love God.
Kevin and I have talked at length this week about the variety of ideas we’ve been introduced to through this book. Molly Kate has already proven to us that she can sit through our morning service (though I do plan to continue bringing snacks while she’s under three). I’m going to try to limit the activities that I pack for her…I’m thinking two of her board book bibles and since the stickers really helped her sit still during the sermon, I’m planning on writing one verse from the sermon on a piece of construction paper and letting her decorate it with stickers. Then we’ll use that verse as our memory verse for the week! Of course, I’m doing the majority of the memory work, but I tell you she is already memorizing right alongside me! If I say “Children” to begin Ephesians 6:1, she says “obey parents” all by herself! Lastly, I think we will continue to allow her to go to nursery during the evening service. One friend always used to say “Never set your children up for failure.” I think about this all the time and given how tired Molly Kate is by the time our Sunday evening service rolls around, I know we would be setting her up to fail by asking her to sit through another hour long service. Who knows…by the time M gets home and she sees him staying with Mommy and Daddy during both services, she may decide she wants to as well! But for now, seeking to introduce her to more of our awesome God by having her the Sunday morning service with us seems to be what God would have us to do.
I’ve been going round and round in my head the last few weeks about what to do for Molly Kate’s upcoming birthday. Not knowing exactly when the boys are coming home, I’ve been holding out on nailing down any definite plans. I also don’t want to start a precedent that we don’t intend to follow (i.e. – having huge birthday parties for every child every year!). So, I’ve decided that this year, we are just going to have a few friends over for cake and ice cream on Molly Kate’s actual birthday. Then, should the boys come home this August, we might have a “Welcome Home/Summer is Ending” party some time in September. At any rate, I made Molly Kate’s first birthday cake last year and really want to continue this tradition so long as the requests don’t end up being to outlandish! Yesterday I asked Molly Kate over lunch what kind of cake she would like for her birthday. She said “Pink”! I said, “Okay, we can do a pink cake. Would you like it to be a certain animal or object?” She said “Eee, eee, eee” which translates “monkey”. I asked, “You want a pink monkey cake for your birthday?” Oh, you should have seen the look of sheer delight and anticipation at the thought of a pink monkey cake and the squeal that followed! So, a pink monkey it will be!
I really wasn’t planning on introducing Molly Kate to our church services this early (she’s not even two!), but because hand/foot/mouth was circulating our nursery, Kevin and I decided to go for it yesterday. I wasn’t so much worried about the sitting still part, but definitely the being quiet part! Our sweet girl loves to talk, so I couldn’t really see her sitting in the pew and reading a book without saying the word for every picture in the book. Instead, I packed snacks, stickers, crayons and a coloring book and…she made it through the entire hour and 15 minute service! We only had to walk out one time to be verbally corrected and refocus on what we were doing…I was so proud of her! And it definitely warmed my heart to see her understand why we were singing (God) and she especially loved praying…she gave a loud and vocal “Amen” after each one!
I borrowed a friend’s copy of Parenting in the Pew to read this week, so I hope it will further help me and Kevin decide how we want to approach introducing our children to worshipping God through our weekly Sunday services. But for now, we’re definitely going to keep bringing her to the morning services and pray that the Lord uses that time to draw her little heart to Himself.
Kevin’s response after his first taste of this recipe tonight…”This might be my new favorite meal!” So, this recipe will definitely be added to our monthly rotation. I was surprised that the meal was pretty cost-effective for us as we keep sour cream, frozen chicken breasts, black beans, cilantro and Dijon mustard on hand. I did make a few modifications (I always do!). For the sauce, I omitted the jalapeno pepper…I knew MK would not eat it if it was too spicy. I guess when the boys are home, I’ll have to make half spicy and half not! I also used onion flakes instead of chopped onion. Overall, a success and Kevin even has two left over for his lunch tomorrow!
Click here for the burrito recipe and here for the sauce!