Grandmother Time

Out with the old! In with the new! I haven’t stayed awake until midnight on New Year’s Eve since I got into trouble in West Tennessee.

My daughter and son-in-law had scheduled a lock-in for December 31. A lock-in is a giant party for the youth and their friends. They are “locked in” (not really) the church gym until the sun comes up. It’s an entire night of games, activities, music, pizza and lots of chocolate!

The kids love it. The youth leaders love it. The parent sponsors love it … until they start yawning … usually around 9:30 or 10:00.

I drove down to my daughter’s house to stay with my granddaughter who was four or five at the time. She wanted to stay up until midnight, so we did. We made party hats, ate anything we wanted to, played anything we wanted to, and had as much fun as two girls can!

At midnight we blew the horns, rang the bells, twisted the noisemakers, clacked the clackers and exploded poppers and pull-aparts all over the house. I laughed ‘til I cried. Then we went to bed. We were exhausted.

When my daughter came home the next morning — having had no sleep and too much junk food, having dealt with a gym full of teenagers all night, having cleaned up after all those teenagers, having expended every bit of energy she possessed plus some she borrowed from next week — she wasn’t laughing.

But she didn’t cry either as she surveyed the damage made by her two favorite girls, the ones she thought she could trust for a few hours alone. Oh, well!

“Sorry,” I said meekly. “The house is a mess.”

“Goodnight, Mom,” she sighed. With a dismissing wave of her hand she wandered dreamily off to the bedroom. I guess I wasn’t in as much trouble as I thought.

I love that girl! Happy New Year!

 

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” — Colossians 3:12-14 (NIV)

 

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Your Mission Should You Choose to Accept It

It was late in the evening on Christmas Day. Ordinarily my daughter would be planning her strategy for the after-Christmas sales. Not this year. They would be leaving soon for the mission field and could only take two suitcases per person with them. They had spent months trimming their possessions to a bare minimum. This was not the time for a shopping spree.

My daughter loves Christmas. Her house is always decorated by November 1, and stays that way into January – one year February. By getting an early start, she is available to help decorate at the church or for friends. It frees up her time to make December less hectic.

When she was a teenager, God always gave us a Christmas mission – a simple thing we could do for others — like the family in our church who had three small children. We would load up the gifts, bring them to our house, and spend days wrapping them. On Christmas Eve the parents would call when their kids were finally — and soundly — asleep so that we could deliver the goods. So much fun for us!

One year it was the young woman who was an alcoholic. My daughter and I knew her from the real estate company where we had both worked part-time. She was a hard worker and pleasant to be with, but she had some problems. When she felt her drinking had gotten out of control, she left the job to get a handle on her life.

I cleaned out her desk, and my daughter and I took her personal items to her house. She invited us in and talked very openly about her situation. It gave us the perfect opportunity to talk to her about the Lord.

“God could never love me,” she said.

“Yes, He could,” I assured her, “and He does.”

“No, God could never love me.”

I shared my testimony. My life had been much like hers before I met Jesus. I thought it would serve to convince her of God’s great love and His power to change hearts and lives, but to no avail. She stuck to her guns.

“You don’t understand,” she insisted. “God could never love me.”

My gentle daughter spoke of her commitment to God and His unfailing kindness to her in very difficult circumstances. Still the woman clung to her misguided notion.

“You don’t know what I have done,” she asserted. “God could never love me.”

I spoke about God’s forgiveness and unconditional love – even in the midst of our sin, but she was not persuaded.

“God could never love me,” she repeated.

We prayed for her before we left. She was so sad and so lonely and so convinced that she was beyond redemption. I hoped that God heard our prayer and would soften her heart and that she would quit being so stubborn and open the door just enough to let him in.

I kept in touch with her – very brief conversations, sometimes only leaving a message — until her phone was disconnected. When she moved, I didn’t have a new address for her. I committed her to God’s hand, thinking I would never know what became of her.

Months later I received a call. She wanted to let me know that she had been wrong.

“God can love me!” she exclaimed.

For several years I was involved in ministry at the women’s and children’s rescue mission. I went once a month to teach the children while others from our church held a service for the women. Usually I had about ten in the class, but in December one year, there must have been twenty or twenty-five – newborn to seventeen years old.

My daughter was with me. Together we quickly put together a plan to get this bunch of rowdies calmed down enough so they could participate.

Imagine what they were going through. They had no home. They were living in a room with their mothers in a house full of mothers and children, not knowing what would happen next, and remembering the circumstances (mostly violent and terrifying) that had led them to this place. And it was almost Christmas.

Always their prayers were, “Dear God, that me and my family will have a place to stay.”

That meant a place of their own, not the Rescue Mission. They didn’t pray for clothes or toys or even money — just a place to stay — a place for just their family.

I took on the older children while my daughter oversaw the younger ones. She had the newborn in her arms and was bouncing a toddler on her hip. The others naturally gravitated to her and became calm little lambs.

After crafts and snacks, they settled down to listen to the Christmas story. I went to great lengths to describe the scene in the stable in Bethlehem at the birth of the Holy Child. Most American kids today have no idea what a manger is or how uncomfortable it must have been to be in a strange place going through tough times. But the children in attendance that night grasped the concept immediately and listened attentively. They wanted to know how things worked out for the baby and His family.

To our surprise the seventeen-year-old girl became indignant. She stood up. With one hand on her hip and the other gesticulating pointedly, her head moving from side to side, she began to protest.

“Why’d they put that little baby in that food box with the cows eatin’ out of it? They didn’t have no business doin’ that. He just a baby. That ain’t right. They shouldn’t be doin’ nothin’ like that. Did his mama know they was doin’ that to him? That ain’t right. Now that just ain’t right.”

She had never heard the story of Jesus’ birth. She was born in America, and in seventeen years no one had ever told her the story of Jesus’ birth. Our hearts were broken for her.

But she got it! She understand exactly the family’s humbled circumstances and wanted to step up and protect the child, to take His part, to identify with His suffering. She spoke the words going through the minds of almost every child in the room. They liked this baby. He was just like them. He was going through some stuff. His family needed a place to stay.

Of course, they really liked the part when the baby grew up and became the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

“Uh-huh. I know that’s right,” our teenager commented. “They change they tune. He ain’t no baby now. He da king!”

Yes, we had some fine times with our God-given Christmas missions. Now it was almost time for my daughter to live it out on a foreign field. But once again He gave her a mission.

“Since you want to hit the sales so bad, why don’t you do my after-Christmas shopping?” I proposed.

Ever since she was little, she was all about shopping. She loved it! The thrill of the hunt, the pretty clothes, the shiny things, the bargains! When she was three, I took her to the dressing room with me while I was trying on a basketful of clothes. She ooh-ed and ah-ed.

“Oh, that’s darlin’!” she ooh-ed.

“That’s just precious!” she ah-ed.

From that point on when I asked, “Do you want to go shopping?” she would jump up and down and squeal, “Go choppin’? Go choppin’?” And off we would go!

“So what do you think?” I offered. “You can go and find the bargains, and I’ll stay at your house and watch the kids. And take your husband with you (he’s a shopper, too). You two can make a day of it.”

I must admit I had an ulterior motive. I am not a shopper. I don’t enjoy it at all. But I do enjoy my grandchildren. My daughter thought I was making a sacrifice, but it was really a little horse trading. I thought I got the better deal. I knew I did.

“Mom, really? You would do that for me?”

Sometimes our grown children are clueless.

“Of course, honey. I’ll make out a list of people, and you select something you think they would like.”

“Really? You trust me that much?”

“Of course. You have excellent taste. Whatever you get will be perfect.”

“Oh, Mom! I’m so excited. We’ll need to get an early start. Some of the stores open at 6:00 am … “

And off she went! Planning her strategy! Visions of 75%-off dancing in her head! She spent $40, purchased gifts for several people, and got enough paper and ribbon to last me at least three years. And she was exhilarated! The thrill of the hunt, the pretty clothes, the shiny things, the bargains!

Now she gets to do that at marketplaces halfway around the world almost every day. And she is exhilarated!

”Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” – Luke 6:38

I Ran

While I was washing dishes at the kitchen sink, my son strolled in and asked me a question.

“Mom, I know if you’re Christian, you’re not supposed to sin. But what if you do? What do you do then?”

“1 John 1:9 tells us, ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’ ”

I love that scripture. It reminds me of my mother when I was little. She gave me a dollar, which was like $20 back then, and sent me to the grocery store across the street.

“Don’t run,” she admonished.

So proud that she trusted me on this important mission, I was anxious to get started. So I ran. I ran, and I fell … right in the middle of the street. Our street was actually a highway, so this was no small matter.

Crying, limping, bleeding and remorseful, I hobbled back to the house and sobbed, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”

“Oh, my!” my mother exclaimed. “Did you fall?”

“Uh-huh. In the streeeeeeeeeeeeet! I’m sorry.”

“Come here. Let’s get you cleaned up.”

The cleansing of the wound was not without pain, but the dressing of it eased the pain considerably. Then came the hard part. As my mother held me and wiped away my tears, I held up the dollar bill. It was ripped neatly in half. I waited for the worst lecture and/or spanking of my life.

“That’s OK. Don’t worry about the money. I’m just glad you’re safe,” she cooed and held me even tighter. I determined right then and there NEVER to run across the street again.

That tender scene from my childhood perfectly describes 1 John 1:9 for me.

“OK, I understand the verse,” my son continued, “But, say you did that, and then you do it again. Then what?”

“ ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’ ”

“And the third time?”

“Same thing.”

“So you can do that, that sin thing, over and over and God will just continue to forgive you?”

“Well, son, the Bible says that there is a time when the Spirit of God will no longer wrestle with the spirit of man and will let man have his way. That’s not good.

“And the apostle Paul said, ‘God forbid!’ that we should keep on sinning just because we are under grace and not the law.

“So I think it’s better to get at the root of the sin and stop it.”

He looked at me quizzically, shook his head and walked slowly out of the room. A lot to think about, I guess.

“Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.” — 1 Timothy 4:12

THE KITCHEN SINK

So there I was again. Back at the kitchen sink. The dishwasher had been broken for a long time. No money to fix it. So there I was again. Back at the kitchen sink.

Divorce causes lots of emotions, feelings, thoughts and bunches of other stuff. It seems that every time I stood at the kitchen sink to wash dishes, all I could think about was how angry I was (How could he just walk away from this beautiful family?). How jealous I was (He had money for oceanside vacations.). How sad I was (no 50th Wedding Anniversary shindig for us).

Well, washing dishes can be a downer, right? So when I washed dishes, I got down. Those emotions, feelings, thoughts and bunches of other stuff weren’t helping either.

The apostle Paul talked about a “root of bitterness.” If you were to let that grow in your heart, you were in for all sorts of difficulties. He said it was better to “follow peace with all men.” That meant I must forgive in order to prevent that most distasteful root from metastasizing to the place where Jesus dwells in me.

According to Pearl S. Buck, “You cannot make yourself feel something you do not feel, but you can make yourself do right in spite of your feelings.” That’s what I had to do.

Now doesn’t that sound like the most sensible course of action? Of course it does. It’s God’s plan for His best for our lives. Just do it. Yeah, do it. Well, how? I don’t know. Give it to Him. How? Lift it all up to Him. Really? Yes. Soapsuds and all? Yes, soapsuds and all. OK, here goes.

I stood at the kitchen sink and raised my hands heavenward, soapsuds dripping off my elbows. “Jesus, I give you all my anger, rage, bitterness, jealousy and hurts. And where they were, Lord, I ask you to replace that huge hole in my heart with your love, your joy, your peace.”

“I don’t want to forgive. I don’t feel like it. I can’t conjure it up. But I know it is your desire for me to forgive. So I ask you to pour your forgiveness through me to him so that I can be obedient to your will.”

The most amazing thing happened. I felt love, joy, peace. I felt such release. My heart was as clean as the dishes I had washed, rinsed in Living Water. The apostle was right. God was right. Wrenching out that root of bitterness brought healing and close communion with God.
That lasted about 5 minutes. And then there I was again literally lifting up the anger, rage, bitterness, jealousy and hurts as an offering to God and asking Him to replace them with His love, joy, and peace. Begging Him to pour His forgiveness through me to the object of my grief.

And then the cycle would begin again.

Eventually it was 15 minutes apart, 30 minutes, an hour, hours, days, weeks, months. I rarely had dirty dishes in the sink anymore. I spent a lot of time with dishpan hands learning how to really forgive.

Standing in line at Taco Bell one evening, you can imagine my surprise when I looked behind me and saw my ex-husband and his wife. I greeted them cordially and continued with my order. No anger, no rage, no bitterness, no jealousy, nothing hurt.
I was considerate, calm, confident.

As I was walking to my car, the Lord spoke very clearly to my heart, “You have forgiven.”

How powerful that was! I had gotten so used to trying to preclude the presence of the root that I didn’t even notice when the work was finished. God poured His forgiveness through me to the one I could not forgive on my own. What a mighty God we serve!

Did I mention that this took eight years?!?

When we moved to another city a few years later, I got a dishwasher that worked! When it broke, I never bothered to fix it. I still stand at the kitchen sink and lift up bunches of stuff to God. He’s faithful.

Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled.
— Hebrews 12:14-15 (KJV)