Tag Archive | faith

No Worst Case Scenario

Granted, I’m an optimist. I like my life, as well as my eggs, “sunny side up.” Pollyanna was one of my favorite movies of all time (I even named one of my daughters after the actress who played the main character, Hayley Mills).

That being said, even if I weren’t an optimist, I would still believe this: With God, there is no worst case scenario.

I was reminded of that just this week, facing a medical situation. Thankfully, the combination of my swollen lymph nodes and bottomed-out iron levels did NOT equal something cancerous.  But they could have. And yes, a couple moments of fear did cross my mind before the hematologist ruled that out and pronounced me simply, profoundly anemic. IV iron infusion, here I come …

Being confronted with fear (i.e., getting my boat rocked) once in a while is probably a good thing. It sure shows me where my trust is, anyway. It reminds me that fear says, “What if?” whereas faith says, “So what!” I want to be a woman of faith. Not flippant faith, but sound, solid faith that knows the facts and looks past them to a truer reality: Faith says that God is bigger than anything life, the world, or the devil can throw my way.

You might think I’m being overly simplistic and maybe I am a bit. But if my life belongs to God, if I’m really trusting Him in the driver’s seat, then I can trust that He will direct. He will provide. He will make the crooked ways straight and the broken things whole.  It’s what He does. He’s a compassionate, powerful, redemptive Father who always comes to His children’s rescue (Psalm 103:8-14). Maybe not always in the ways I would like Him to. But He always shows up!

And in the meantime, I  believe Jesus’ promises: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world … I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you” (John 16:33; Luke 10:19). I am with you. I have given you authority to overcome. Nothing will harm you.

I’m not being a Pollyanna when I say I don’t believe anyone should live held down by fear, anxiety, hopeless, sorrow, or panic: What if? What if? What if???

If IF happens, He will still be there.  He will still be good. He will still provide, direct, redeem, and restore.  It’s who He is. It’s what He does. And I’m so very, very glad about that.

“There are eight hundred happy texts, did you know that? If God took the trouble to tell us eight hundred times to be glad and rejoice, He must have wanted us to do it.” ~Pollyanna

 

Take a Breath!

Little did I know the day I picked up a copy of a book called Breathe at a used book store that I would be learning that lesson in more ways than one. The book caught my eye first by its title, Breathe: Creating Space for God in a Hectic Life. I thought that sounded good (and welcome), and the inviting picture of a comfy chair in a sunny corner looked particularly appealing to stressed-out little ol’ me.

So I took it home with me. It would be a great jumping-off spot for my daily devotions and fodder for reflection about some of the high-impact issues going on in my life and family.

Did I mention last year was a CRAZY BUSY year?

Our eldest two children got married within six months of each other.

Our third child trotted off to Europe for three months and then transferred universities across state upon her return.

Our youngest child started high school (aargh!).

… not to mention a number of writing and editing projects, speaking engagements/work and ministry trips, a growing kids ministry at church, health issues with one of our kids that required drastic diet changes, major car repairs, my husband starting a new career, and well, truthfully … learning to parent young adults instead of children has been a whole new world in and of itself. It’s been a busy, full season of life—and no end in sight!

Ironically, at the same time I picked up Breathe to be my “travel-companion” of sorts during this season, I managed to land myself with the worst case of asthma I’d had in eight years. It got so bad I ended up in the allergy/asthma doctor’s office for a breathing treatment!

Probably not a coincidence, ya think?

God has a way of doing that, doesn’t He? … of giving us a graphic object lesson in the natural realm to get our attention and help us understand something in the spiritual realm. It certainly got my attention!

I could almost hear Him whispering in my ear, “Sit down. Relax.  Take a breath.  Breathe in Me.” So I did. And I am. I’m pacing myself better.  Listening and following a little better (I hope). And certainly breathing easier.

A lot of Keri Wyatt Kent’s book I skimmed through because (season-of-life-wise) it’s more directed at mothers of young children … but the principles and insights have nonetheless been invaluable and thought provoking for me. I recommend it. You can click on the photo of the book above for a link to where you can buy it if you think you might need a little “breathing treatment” of your own.  🙂

The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life.  ~Job 33:4

Got Kids? Pray First, Open Mouth Second

Don’t worry about anything. Pray about everything. ~The Bible

It’s been said that the family that prays together, stays together—but do you know just how true that really is? Seriously! A Gallup poll revealed that among married couples who attend church together regularly, the divorce rate is one out of two.  How sad. That’s the same statistic as for marriages anywhere. But get this: among couples who pray together daily, the divorce rate is one out of 1,153. [i] What a difference!

One of the best gifts a couple can give their children (and each other) is the gift of a strong marriage and family life knit together through prayer. Prayer builds unity and intimacy. We become intimate to whom we pray, for whom we pray, and with whom we pray. Prayer is the key to unlocking extraordinary blessings for children and families the way a key unlocks a gate.

Years ago, Doug came up with a slogan for our family that, in our house, prayer should always be “the first response, not a last resort.” I’d go so far to say that prayer has not only been our lifeline to heaven (and sometimes to sanity!), but it’s also been our greatest and most valued parenting tool.

What that’s meant for this mom, specifically, has been to make every effort to pray first, open mouth second. I’ve had to work on it even harder as my kids have grown and become adults.  More often than not, my role is not to fix, not to correct, not to express an opinion … but to pray.  And then step back and trust God. (Yes, hard to do I know. But He always comes through and I’ve learned to trust Him.)

Proverbs 31: 27 says, “She watches over the affairs of her household.” I skipped merrily over that verse for years until one day I just happened to read it at the same time as I was reading elsewhere in the Bible that day. Isaiah 62:6-7 says, “I have posted watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night. You who call on the LORD, give yourselves no rest, and give him no rest.”

That jumped out at me. I’m a word person. Both roots of those words—watches and watchman—have similar meanings, “to peer into the distance, observe, watch; to hedge about (as with thorns), guard, protect, attend to”[ii] They can also be translated “lookout” or “doorkeeper.”[iii]

How very cool.  I realized way back then that prayer is one of the most powerful roles a mother can play in her children’s lives. So much more can be accomplished for my kids from my knees than from my mouth! Correction, instruction, suggestions, and advice are all very well and good—and necessary.  But years of experience tell me (and I know many other praying moms who will agree with me) that some of the most powerful breakthroughs I’ve seen with my children have been when I prayed instead of only trying to fix a situation with natural means.

My friend Cindy has a sign posted in her family room, where she can see it every day, that says PRAY BIG. I love it.  I think it’s the perfect mom-slogan. 🙂

Have you PRAYED for your kids today?

This post adapted from my book Prayer-Saturated Kids, by Arlyn Lawrence and Cheryl Sacks, NavPress 2007.


[i] Gallup Poll, 1993

[ii] James Strong, “Strong’s New Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Thomas Nelson, Nashville, TN:1995), tsaphah, Strongs #6822, p. 122; shamar, Strongs #8104, p 145.

[iii] The NIV Exhaustive Concordance (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI:1990), p. 1598 and 1643.

A Child’s Original Design

Having five children, ranging in age from 14 through 25, I learned a long time ago that they are all VERY DIFFERENT. What’s important to one means nothing to another. What works for one does nothing for another.  And they ALL have unique interests, personalities, and ways of relating to the world around them. Getting to know each one of them personally, in the special way God has designed them, has been one of the most challenging and exciting aspects of Doug’s and my parenting journey.

Do you know how God has uniquely designed your child, or the children in your life? Have you looked for unique characteristics that give clues to what that design might be—personality traits, character qualities, talents, abilities, spiritual gifts and life callings? Better yet, have you ever prayed and asked God to show you His design for your child?

You can start praying for a child’s design and destiny at any age: when they’re in the womb (as I’m doing now for my coming granddaughter), when they’re in school, when they’re in high school, or even when they’ve left your home. It’s never too early—or too late!

Then, through prayer, blessing, encouragement, and training, you–parent, grandparent, teacher, or other mentor–have the amazing opportunity and privilege to partner with God in seeing His original design for a child come to fruition as that child grows into adulthood. You can help children become who God destined them to be!

“Train up a child in the way he should go,” says Proverbs 22:6, “and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Raise him or her, that is, according to the child’s “natural bent.” The Hebrew meaning of the phrase “in the way he should go” is literally “according to his way.” The Hebrew word for “way” is derek, which means “bent” It refers to a unique inner design or direction. In fact, when referring to our children’s natural bents, I like to use the term “original design.”

As our children grow and mature, and find their way in life and in God’s plan, praying for them according to their original design is one of the ways Doug and I have learned to “let go and let God.” Kids, as they become adults, will inevitably make some decisions or take paths that give parents white knuckles from time and time. We were no exception when we were young adults, and neither are own kids! Interceding for our teens and adult children has helped give us the reminder and confidence of who God says they are, and that He ultimately determines their steps, regardless of what we may see with our physical eyes in the moment.

I want to be sure the prayers I pray for my kids (and soon, grandchildren) will find their way to God’s ears, and then back into their lives by way of a tangible answer. So, with that in mind, I try to align those prayers as closely as possible to God’s heart and will (and not my own)! Finding out and endeavoring to cooperate with His original design for my children is one of the best ways I know to do that. 🙂

Be encouraged.

It’s a journey!

And God is outside of time and space.

He sees the whole picture, for you AND for your children.

You, and they, are in His hands.

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” ~Jeremiah 29:11

(Adapted from my book Prayer-Saturated Kids, co-authored with Cheryl Sacks, (c) 2007 NavPress.)

Merry Christmas 2011!

CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN DAY 10: CHRISTMAS MORNING, CINNAMON ROLLS, AND FAMILY ALL DAY LONG
“I sometimes think we expect too much of Christmas Day. We try to crowd into it the long arrears of kindliness and humanity of the whole year. As for me, I like to take my Christmas a little at a time, all through the year. And thus I drift along into the holidays, let them overtake me unexpectedly, waking up some fine morning and suddenly saying to myself: ‘Why this is Christmas Day!” ~Ray Stannard Baker

Everyone has their memories and expectations of what makes Christmas special, don’t they?  And more often than not, those memories are built around home and family and food. At least, for our family. Activities, too. But first and foremost I think food is the hands-down winner!

My daughter-in-law recently got me turned on to Pinterest, which is where she found a photo of a new twist (pun intended) on cinnamon rolls and asked me to make them. Another winner! Mom’s Homemade Cinnamon rolls are a family favorite, but this idea made them even more fun for Christmas. (Photo above; thought you might like to see how they turned out.)

I loved the quote I found for today’s blog. It’s true. We do tend to have too high of expectations of Christmas Day (and other family holidays) sometimes. The reality is that family ALL DAY LONG is an exercise in patience for even the most loving of families (which ours is, but still …). It’s a great opportunity, though, to learn to wait for each other, honor each other, be forbearing toward one another, to be consistently UNoffendable … and to laugh easily and not think to highly of ourselves.

We did THREE rounds of present exchanging, TWO rounds of full-on holiday meals, and ONE round of an over-the-top spread of Christmas desserts. Not to mention multiple games, walking the dogs in the park (whew, so great to get out of the house and get some fresh air!), and now cleaning up the aftermath … so crazy. So fun. So rewarding. So grateful and happy.

I can’t believe I blogged EVERY DAY for ten days at the busiest time of the year. Wow. I don’t have an excuse now for not doing it any other time, do I? 🙂

Joy and Christmas blessings to all … and to all a GOOD NIGHT!

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” ~Ephesians 4:2

Carolers on My Doorstep

CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN DAY 9 – CHRISTMAS EVE: JESUS, GINGERBREAD, AND CAROLERS ON MY DOORSTEP

“As long as we know in our hearts what Christmas ought to be, Christmas is.” ~ Eric Sevareid

Church this evening – the kids sang, there were cookies and carols, it was great to see friends, and we remembered together why we get to have such a tremendous celebration every year.  IT’S ALL ABOUT JESUS. Even those who don’t really believe get to benefit! Christmas is for everyone. 

We came home to a pan of lasagna nearly the size of my dining room table, which we hardly made a dent in. (That’s okay, I think I’ve got one more good day left in me then I’m going to crash and say “Get me out of the kitchen!” So when that happens it will be nice to have leftovers.)

The checker at the grocery store today wanted to be sure to wish me a “Merry Christmas” today and not a “Happy Holidays.” In a day and age when so many communities are throwing the nativity and “Merry Christmas” out the back door as quickly as they can embrace the more neutral “Happy Holidays” and a panorama of ornaments and snowflakes as representative of the real meaning of Christmas, my community has retained the nativity in the public park downtown (see photo).  I love it! I also love that fact that a group of twenty-plus carolers in Santa hats showed up on our doorstep this evening singing everything from Joy to the World to Frosty the Snowman to We Wish You a Merry Christmas. We gave them all cookies, joined in the singing, and went with them to carol at our neighbors across the street.

Fun to celebrate with family. Fun to celebrate with friends. And fun to celebrate with community.  Christmas is a celebration of God’s gift TO us, Jesus’ life FOR us, and the Spirit’s joy IN us.

Today, I got to experience all of those. Ended the day with gingerbread in the oven filling the house with a delicious smell as it baked and then cooled.  Decorating it will give the troops something to do tomorrow afternoon after presents are done and they’re waiting for ham and turkey. But that’s another blog post … now it’s time to go to bed, and dream of sugar plums and what we all might find under our tree in the morning … 🙂

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.” ~ Matthew 2:1-2

Chinese Food and Remarkable People

CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN DAY 8: CHINESE FOOD AND REMARKABLE PEOPLE AT MY CHRISTMAS TABLE

“If more of us valued food and cheer above hoarded gold, it would be a much merrier world.” ~J.R.R. Tolkien

Problem: we wanted to eat good food tonight but no one wanted to cook.

Inevitably when that happens we head for Thai Hut, teriyaki, or Chinese food.  Tonight it was a combination of the latter two: YUM! I don’t think there’s been a Christmas yet when Chinese food wasn’t on the menu either Christmas Eve or the day before.  That’s just the way the (fortune) cookie crumbles around here!

That reminds me of the Christmas Doug and I spent in Hong Kong. It was the second year we were married and we were living in Japan at the time. Doug was in the Marine Corps and I was teaching English at a Christian school. We were long on dreams and short on money so we came up with a great plan to save enough money to take a fabulous Christmas vacation to Hong Kong.

For the month before Christmas (maybe longer, it’s kind of fuzzy now), we bought no groceries and pretty much ate “c-rats” (commuted rations). This was in 1984, back when military c-rats were the old-fashioned kind–in cans, like in the movies. (Who knows, some of them may have been left over from Vietnam.  After all, we were in Okinawa … you never know …)

Anyway, we pulled it off and managed to spend Christmas in a beautiful five-star hotel in Hong Kong. Christmas Eve we ate at a exotic restaurant called the Pink Giraffe, way up high (like thirty some-odd floors) overlooking Hong Kong harbor and the AMAZING Christmas lights bedecking the city. The way they decorate their buildings in Hong Kong at Christmas is extraordinary. (Totally commercial, mind you. Not a hint of the real Reason for the season that we could see. But beautiful nonetheless.)

We spent Christmas Day and had Christmas dinner with some friends of Doug’s parents … missionaries there who had gone to seminary years before with Mom and Dad and stayed in touch. There were other guests there, too … some remarkable people around that table … including other missionaries who had spent years of their lives serving in Hong Kong and mainland China. I will never forget one of them … her name was Agnes … she must have been ninety and had served with Gladys Aylward in China. I was fascinated, inspired, humbled.

(Gladys Aylward is one of my all-time heroines and her story was memorialized in the Ingrid Bergman movie, Inn of the Sixth Happiness, one of my most favorite movies EVER.)

Not sure how I got on that rabbit trail … I guess it was because I started talking about Chinese food.  Funny how the oddest things bring back the most random (but delightful) memories.

Twenty-eight Christmases later finds me eating Chinese food at Christmas in quite a different location than in 1984… but still with remarkable people around my table. 🙂

“Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts.”  ~2 Timothy 2:22