Monday, May 26, 2008

The Miracle of Change

In my scant years, I have experienced both the true delight of change and the discouragement of staying the same. As I look into the mirror of scripture, it is apparent that God desires for His children to be like Him. Yet too often, I walk away from him and see a face in the mirror which resists change. I hold onto who I was. I steer myself into the patterns of the years; choosing to forget what I look like.

In reality, when God looks at me, He sees Jesus Christ, if I am truly in Christ. This is true regardless of my appearance. But when the passage of my life brings about a representation which does not resemble Him more and more, I believe it grieves the Spirit of the Lord. In the same way that a parent would be grieved by a child who was not learning to be upright in his character.
In my past there have been three times of obvious growth. Each time I have grown in my relationship with the Lord, and I believe this is of primary importance. But I have learned something about myself. I am guarded. I am afraid of gossip. I don't trust people easily. My parents had no friends, and so there were no relationships modeled for me. I find them mysterious and difficult.

I think this is why I am struggling now with my parenting and my growth in the Lord. I don't know how to have relationships. I often choose not to try. And this is so messed up because I feel such a deep need for relationships! The people in my life may want to get closer, but I am afraid. Afraid that they won't like me or accept me. I feel worthless because my parents didn't love me enough to have a relationship with me when I was growing up. And it's my turn now. I believe God wants me to overcome this hurdle of woundedness and self-absorbsion in order to build up my kids and model good relationships for them. Like it or not Danielle, you need people, and they need you.
So how does the miracle of change relate to relationships anyway? I don't know exactly, but I guess it has to do with openness. God's forgiveness flows through the door of an open heart. His power of change comes through the same door. If I am closing the door to relationships, I am closing the door on the Lord's power for change. Somehow it all works together.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Hearts, Like Doors...

Will open with ease, to very very little keys. And don't forget that two of these are thank you sir, and if you please.

My children know this poem by heart, and likely yours do too if you're using Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind as part of your home school curriculum. I am always amazed at their ability to memorize things. They memorize new poems and songs, states & countries, the periodic table. And without even trying, they memorize ways of speaking and expressions and all the attitudes that mom and dad exude. Yep. All of them. Good and bad. Consider the exhortations of this poem.

"Thank you sir". Thankfulness is certainly the most important attitude for any mother to have. Consider it's absence.... and know that you are not the only one for whom complaints will rush to fill that empty space. Thankfulness fits the space more nicely, and I believe that it is truly a key. A key to the hearts around you and, more importantly, a key to the heart of God. Scripture teaches us that we are to both be thankful and do everything without complaining. I believe that the one precedes the other. Giving thanks fills up the space and complaining suddenly doesn't even make sense.

My husband recently quoted Tolstoy on happy homes. He said "All happy families resemble one another, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. " I submit to you that thankfulness is certainly a key to the happy family. And I agree that there are many ways to be unhappy, because there are so many things which will rush to fill the void of thankfulness. For example... anger, blame, greed. You get the picture. Thankfulness brings the heart into alignment with God, because your members have ceased to lust and your mind has reached for peace. "And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful." Col. 3:15

The second key is if you please. A focus on positive interaction seems to be the exhortation. Consider the opposite. Negative, unpleasant relationships. Fighting over toys. Combative, warring attitudes. Nothing will make a heart slam closed more quickly than ceasing to be pleasant. Anger, allowed to continue on, is the root of unforgiveness. And as the scripture teaches clearly, God doesn't forgive us if we do not forgive each other (Matthew 6:14-15).

I like to look at it this way. Each heart has a door. When that door is opened, forgiveness (the oil of relationships) flows easily to and from people and the Lord. When that door closes, the forgiveness of others can not come through. That means the forgiveness of other people and the forgiveness of God, though they may continue to flow, are effectively blocked out of our lives. Is God choosing to cut off the flow of grace into our lives? No, but when we move away from His fountain, and instead drink from bitter waters, we are not immune to their effects.

Recently this became so evident as I was dealing with one of my children. This particular child was not responsive to my instruction not to jump on the furniture. He was disciplined appropriately and I requested that he ask me for forgiveness also. At his frown, I told him not to ask if he didn't mean it, because he wouldn't be able to receive it if the door of his heart was closed. Thus was the track for this train of thought laid.

This whole truth is also apparent when dealing with greed. A child may hold onto a toy, or some candy, completely oblivious to the joy that awaits his open hands. A young Christian may hold onto money, thereby missing out on the blessing of God's response. Truly He will throw open the gates of blessing and pour them out upon us. But not if we've got closed hands and hearts.

This truth is becoming more all-encompassing with each moment. But I can't help but think also of attitudes. The one that comes to mind is woundedness. I remember myself as a young wife. I would often hold onto wrong attitudes, like withdrawing in anger, removing affection, averting my eyes from my beloved. I would turn my back and feed these wicked feelings.

I am so thankful that God showed me years ago how damaging such attitudes are. Truly there is nothing like woundedness to close a heart fast. The trick is, to begin to let God unlock your heart, because, truth-to-tell, there will not always be someone with skin on who is willing to unlock that door.

There is a stuffed lamb on my dresser.  I adore him because of his posture. He sits on his behind, with his paws out and his head tilted back in adoration. Whenever I look at him, I am reminded of the most important attitudes that God desires for me to have: my eyes looking up to my father in expectation, my hands open and extended for the giving and receiving of more than just forgiveness, and my lips ready with thanksgiving and good will.

For truly,

Hearts, like doors, will open with ease
To very, very little keys
And don't forget that two of these
Are thank you sir, and if you please.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Kiss Me Soundly!

I had to share a journal entry I found yesterday. I read it to the kids and they died laughing! It is dated August 12th, 2002. We lived in Iowa at the time.

I sat on the bed and pulled Nathan to me and said, "now - kiss me soundly!" He proceeded to kiss me, making as much noise as he could. I said, "that wasn't quite right, let's try again." To which he replied, "that was as much sound as I could muster!" We both dissolved at the hilarity of our "romantic" life. It was good to be married.