Monday, April 26, 2010

No Guilt in Life

Today I felt guilty for sleeping in. I felt guilty for getting a late start on our school work. I felt guilty for letting the kids watch a video. I felt guilty for spending time on facebook when there was a pile of dishes in the sink. I felt guilty for letting the paperwork stack up on my desk. I felt guilty for having children who raise their voices at each other. I felt guilty for getting behind on the laundry. I felt guilty for not exercising.

And today the Lord said, "I love you."

He said it in the precious words that a friend sent my way. He said it in the chirps of a mama bird who has built a nest on our front porch. He said it in an email from my mom in Slovenia. He said it in Bethie's giggles as we wildly raced through a math drill. He said it in Avery's belly laughter at the dinner table. He said it in the piano duet I played with Drew. He said it in Aidan's inimitable voice who asked, "Are you just makin' stuff up?" as I prayed with him tonight. He said it in my husband's kiss.

And He said it in my heart, from His word, loud and clear, just when I needed it:

There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

I breathed deeply, appreciatively. I know that this is the truth, this is who I am. I also know that what Anne Shirley says is true: Tomorrow is always fresh, with no mistakes in it. But even when I hit tomorrow's first mistake, I will know that I am loved, forgiven and free.

No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life's first cry to final breath.
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand.

Stuart Townend

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Friday, April 23, 2010

Quiet Endings

Last week I felt old. I sat visiting with a friend as we watched our little girls (my youngest and her oldest, both four) arabesque and curtsy in ballet class. Her younger son, with his head bent bashfully down and eyes lifted in eager expectation, was sending a message that he'd like to chat with me. Little boys are especially yummy, so I was more than willing to strike up a conversation.

"Hey, that's a cool backpack," I eased in. "Whatcha got in there?" Apparently I said just the right thing. His grin broadened and he plopped down in front of me, grabbed the zipper with his dimpled hands, and pulled the bag open. I smiled at the familiar contents. It was full of bright yellow dump trucks, diggers and excavators. He delighted in showing me how this dump truck could tilt and that excavator could scoop.

My heart felt a funny little ache as I realized that I was the older mom, looking back on life with little, little ones. As I shared with his mom the fascination that my boys used to have with all things big, yellow and scoopy, it dawned on me that they've outgrown it. Drew outgrew it quite a while ago, obviously, but I'm not sure when it happened with Aidan. I missed the end.

I recalled taking Drew to construction sites and feeling that it was a grand adventure. We'd bring along our sack lunches, just the two of us, and nibble and crumble in the car while watching the machines at work. But one day we stopped doing that. I'm not sure when that day was. And it didn't happen on purpose, it just did.

Eventually another boy came along, and I delighted in once again hearing terms like "articulated" and "telescopic" flow effortlessly from the mouth of a child still in pull-ups. The construction site visits were less frequent than they had been with Drew (as outings tend to be with three in tow), but there was still the pointing and shouting and lingering when anything big and yellow was nearby.

Along came number four. (Pause for dramatic emphasis. Oh, wait -- my mistake -- there's no such thing as pause with four . . . .) And life was lively and fast and up and down. And somewhere in there, something quietly ended. The something that makes a kid jump up and down over a cement mixer. Many other things seamlessly worked their way into our lives, making the ending things slip away unnoticed. And here I now found myself watching my baby, all ready for kindergarten ("How many more days, Mommy?"), twirl in her big sister's leotard.

As the Mozart strain faded, I helped with the last of the dump trucks. The ballerinas zipped out the door, shrieking as only ballerinas can shriek. My little friend scurried after his mama, she with a babe in arms and a wee sister in hand. I picked up a stray ballet shoe, grabbed my keys, and slipped quietly out of that silent space.

Photo: Drew, age 4
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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Of Pilgrims, Provision and Praise

Last night, Jamie hung the clock on the wall. This piece is my shepherdess. Like Ma in the Little House books who placed her china shepherdess on the mantle whenever their pioneer family entered a new home, so our wedding clock represents home for the Lawson family.

After nearly six months of wondering and waiting, it landed in our laps. I had suspected it would all along, but I believe that the Lord often leads us through the long searching so that we have no doubt that the ultimate finding is so very clearly a gift from His hand.

And a gift it was. One Sunday morning in early March, I sat alone in church. My mind was overwhelmed with the burden of desiring a home but seeing absolutely nothing on the horizon. By the end of the service, I was in tears. I knew that God would provide, but I was weary from the waiting.

The house lights came on, and I felt a hand on my shoulder. Turning around, I saw a family friend whom we've known for years. I wiped my eyes, and she jumped right in. "I heard you're looking for a house . . . ." I was hesitant to get too excited, knowing that our housing budget was very specific (not to mention the square footage needed for a family of six that works and schools from home). But she and her husband were headed to the mission field and needed to get things moving right away. So I gingerly addressed the issue of rent. Her answer floored me. It was exactly what we had budgeted.

The next few weeks were a whirlwind, and on the Saturday before Easter we moved in. We wove in and out of stacked boxes and miscellaneous furniture for days and days, shuffling and shifting. Life, of course, didn't stop. Drew turned twelve (and made sure to inform us that he could now sit in the front seat of the car). Bethie lost herself in the books she hasn't seen for months (and actually ran to the bookshelf with open arms, gently stroking the Little House bindings). Aidan had his first baseball game (and declared that "the catcher's costume stinks" -- this referring not so much to the odor as to the cumbersome gear). And Avery learned to ride a bike without training wheels (thanks to cousin Ethan).

Just as life won't stop, I know that I can't allow my praise to stop. God has brought us very clearly to this home, this neighborhood, this community. He is at work, He loves us, and He is good. And now, our clock is on the wall. I know that the passage of time and the relentless pace of life will only increase the opportunities we have to give Him praise.

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

We All Scream for Ice Cream

I bumped into a friend at Trader Joe's this afternoon. Our daughters were especially delighted -- shopping with friends is a much more diverting way to get groceries. We wove our way in and out of the aisles, the girls chatting non-stop in our wake. After quickly filling our carts, we headed to adjoining checkout counters. I smiled at the similarities in our food choices, especially when I saw the chocolate filled Joe Joe's waiting at the end of each of our counters. The groceries all bagged, we finally pried our girls apart and said goodbye.

Now, I bought the Joe Joe's on purpose. That sounds obvious, but I really did intentionally buy cookies -- their purchase wasn't the result of a weak, impulsive moment. Because I've realized something. My children like dessert. This, too, sounds very obvious. What child doesn't like dessert? For that matter, what adult doesn't like dessert?

But one day last week it finally dawned on me. Every evening after dinner my little quartet chimes, "Mom? Do we have anything for dessert?" Sometimes my answer is "Yes!" (oh the cheers) and sometimes my answer is "Not tonight guys . . . ." (oh the bravery). I realized how much it means to them. I realized that it's not so much the sweet little something to savor at the end of a meal. It's also the anticipation of the grand finale -- the anticipation of that little reward that says, "Let's celebrate this day, even if it's been a long and tough one. We're all together, and this moment is good."

There's something heavenly about dessert. And I want my kids to know that. I want them to know that at the end of the day, at the end of the week, at the end of the month, there is joyous hope. And not just for those grumpy ones who are stalling with broccoli trees on their plate. We all want it. We're all asking for dessert, every moment of every day. We all desperately need to know that there is something sweet and glorious around the bend.

That yearning for the sweet and glorious is the yearning for Jesus. And one day, all craving will be satisfied. One day we'll share an amazing meal with our Lord. And we won't even think to ask for dessert.
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