Rising in Grace and Glory

Because I am married to an unreasonably patient man, we hardly ever argue – except for when it comes to the Ascension.  His (perhaps quite reasonable) conclusion from Acts chapter one is this:

Jesus went up.
The disciples looked up.
Therefore, heaven is up.
My (perhaps quite unreasonable) argument is that on that day when His feet lifted off the Mount of Olives, Jesus was dealing in metaphor.  As a Teacher (THE Teacher), Jesus knew that His disciples would need to see Him leave – to watch Him actually go somewhere else with their own eyes — in order to get on with things.

And so he rose, but isn’t the power of God such that heaven could be anywhere?  Just as Narnia-Through-The-Wardrobe was a place completely “other-than” World War II era England with a different cadence of hours and a population of talking beasts, I tend to think of heaven as a place without a possible zip code — and yet still close at hand.

The immanence of God, the idea that He is right at my elbow and at the same time filling the entire universe, stops me in my tracks:
“’Do I not fill heaven and earth?’ declares the LORD.”

When I read and respond to powerful words that I read in Scripture, I am careful to filter my motives.  Am I rejoicing in this passage because of the unvarnished veracity of those words?  Or is my heart soaring because of a particularly effective combination of nouns and adjectives, because of a plangent metaphor that I wish I had thought of myself?

Given this tendency toward nerdy swooning, I had to read and then re-read Romans 5:2 back in January when I discovered it in The Message Bible:

We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.”

While I’m all the time imagining a closed door and cramped quarters, God has envisioned and provided for open access and my feet standing on the place of grace, planted in the fields of His glory!

I’ve never before chosen One Word for my year, and truly had no intention of breaking with that tradition in 2017, but standing  reached out from those verses and chose me for its own.  That word —  “standing” —  and God’s miraculous gift of hope are calling me to rise from my chair of unbelief, to ascend visibly, not merely for the benefit of others as Jesus might have, but for the broadening of my own view of the world.

With my feet planted firmly in those wide open spaces, how can I continue in my small prayer life with its locus around safety and good health?  I was rebuked in this tendency recently when my oldest son announced that he was starting a prayer group in his work place – a shop environment populated with hard-handed welders, most of whom make no bones about their disregard for the numinous.

Did I launch into immediate prayer for their lost souls?
Did I plead for the efficacy of my son’s efforts to irrigate that parched wasteland?

No, and I can hardly bear to reveal the words of my narrow soul:

“Oh, Lord, they just bought a house, and he needs that job.  Please don’t let this hurt him.”

Stooped, round-shouldered prayers shrivel my courage, but even worse . . .
What if they are contagious?

Since my children are all priceless to me, my deepest desire is for their greatest good:
Wise decisions
Satisfying relationships
Holiness and healthfulness.
But time-bound and short of sight, do I really know what’s best?

This new awareness that I’m standing “where I always hoped I might stand,” means that I can do away with my prescriptive prayers:
(“Lord, do this thing that I have planned for us . . .”)
Standing tall, I want to see over the top of my fears.  In hope, I want to catch a glimpse (however slight) of what’s on the other side of the walls that divide, and, in that ascending, transcend a few of the artificial boundaries that plague the white, the middle-aged, the orthodox, the comfortable.

In The Reason for God, Tim Keller reminds me that at the very heart of my belief system there lived “a man who died for His enemies, praying for their forgiveness,” (p. 21).    This was no sparkling success story for Mary to share at Galilean Tupperware parties.

Or was it?

Jesus’ death calls me to a rising that may take me lower into a humble, peace-loving place of repentance.  His rising invites me to ascend with Him to the people who are outside the gate, unlovely and unlettered, to be carried by the eternally transcendent questions and the answers that I affirm – not merely by the falsehoods that I fight.

Rising, we step through God’s open door and find that He is far bigger than we ever imagined.

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Start Where I Am. Use What I Have.

When my thrifty mother-in-law made mincemeat, she would start with the venison roast from a deer who may have had the audacity to nibble on her tulip leaves.  From there, she would improvise, adding whatever needed using up on that particular day:  a batch of jam that didn’t “set up” just right or an over-abundance of applesauce.  Somehow, the mincemeat always simmered fragrant and delicious.

When I make mincemeat, I follow a recipe – to the letter. But it is likely that if any of my daughters-in-law find a need for that particular pie filling, they will just buy a jar off the shelf.
(Or I will give them one of mine!)

I’m well aware that generational change is a given, but having BOTH a graduation AND a wedding on my spring calendar this year brings it to center stage.  Good and exciting things happen quickly once our kids hit the double digits, so I’m braced and on board.  Change is on the menu whether I like it or not.

I’m choosing to like it.

However, here just below the 45th parallel, where the sun rises in its own good time, spring is still weeks away.

The majestic evergreens and the kindness of low  bushes that turn a deep red after they drop their leaves are all that rescue my mid-winter landscape from a panorama of sepia and gray.  Last night, Venus and the waxing crescent moon were veiled in mist, and the damp cold that is seeping into my bones today tells me that change is on the way.  And I welcome it.

If it’s got to be winter anyway, then let it be cold.  Let the ground stay hard, and let the sky send a fresh, clean blanket of white every few days to relieve the monotony of all that has expired.  Better to walk on frozen ground or across the crunch of snow than to sink into the mud of mid-winter acedia.  Better to bring my mittens, my shovel, and my small resiliency to a beautiful world than to mourn the slow and uncertain advent of spring.

In this season of slow sunrise and early dark when the daffodils snooze and the robins make angry phone calls to their travel agents, I will make fish chowder and fill up the empty spaces around my table with people who need the full feeling that comes from a hearty welcome.  After all, no matter how earnest my intentions, I cannot make less than six quarts of anything.  (And I can’t shake the idea that if Jesus had walked the frozen fields of New England instead of the dusty roads of Galilee, He would have worked His way with a metaphor around an abundant kettle of steaming chowder.)

With sons coming and going, who knows how many bowls I will need to put on the table?  This ever-changing count provides a concrete measure, a confirmation of the vague sensation I carry that someone, somewhere has thrown a lever, releasing a huge gush of life from this busy and crowded home.

This season of change includes Driver’s Ed — Round 4. This time, I’m certain that the boy behind the wheel was napping in his crib just yesterday, while I weeded green beans and scribbled in a journal.  Today, I handed him my cell phone (which he immediately silenced) and told him to call me when he needed to be picked up.

My first cellphone had a tiny antenna on it.  It rang infrequently, but when it did, I usually missed the call anyway, because, buried in my purse, it sounded like a distant chainsaw in the woods.

I still keep my phone in my purse, despite the “fervent counsel” (i.e. nagging) of my children.
Them:  “Where were you?”
Me:  “In the garden.”
Them:  “Why didn’t you take your phone with you?”
Me:  (momentary silence while I try to adjust my wording and tone to be kinder than I am feeling)  “Because I carried a baby monitor around in the garden for ten years.”

Is it a sign of progress that, now, when I hear a distant chain saw in the woods, I run for my cell phone?

A more urgent question:  Am I willing to “outgrow” my crankiness and claustrophobia about technology in order to connect with the important people in my life?

Facebook updates me on the steady advance of the cancer that is tunneling its way through one more friend.  Closer to home, dementia is stealing the self-hood and the memories of yet another precious personality whose creativity and warm laughter are forever lost to this world – while she wanders a locked-down ward and curls up on the wrong bed for her afternoon nap.

Thanks be to God that the offset of all this lament comes in celebration of the full-body smile of my adorable grandson who has absolutely no idea how much joy he adds to the world just by inhabiting his own tiny skin,.  And while it is true that it is the voice of the Lord that “strips the forest bare,” it is also true that when “winter is past [and] the rain over and gone, the flowers appear on the earth . . . and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.  The fig tree ripens is figs, and the vines are in blossom; they give forth fragrance,” (Song of Solomon 2:11-13).  I will bring what I am learning about patience from this cycling of the seasons to my navigation of a life of perpetual change.

I will start where I am with my full days and my inconsistencies and my pitiful mixed motives.

I will use what I have, putting it all in the pot to simmer, and somehow, by the grace of God, I believe that it will be enough.

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The Season of Yes

“You can say ‘no.’”

Immediately, my guard went up.
It was Christmas time, so my planner was bulging its squares with lists of things to buy and to wrap and to bake.  What was my husband going to propose that required this ominous-sounding, front-loaded disclaimer?

Well, it turns out that there was this puppy . . .

A St. Bernard puppy – the dream puppy of my youngest son’s heart.

Could I really say ‘no’?

Well, sure . . . I could have, but how much cuteness would I have missed at the sight of a small boy’s head resting on a big dog’s sprawled body?  How much joy and laughter would be absent each Christmas without Tucker’s howling descant that floats atop our seasonal singing?

It seems to me that many of life’s loveliest gifts come with a built-in refusal clause:

“Be still and know that I am God, (Psalm 16:10 NKJV).

I can say no to stillness.  I am free to fill my life with activity and noise            that drown out the whisper of God’s Spirit.

“In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your path,” (Proverbs 3:6 NKJV).

I can say no to His direction.  I can bulldoze my own path through life.

“With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation,” (Isaiah 12:3 NKJV).

I can say no to eternal abundance.  My bucket can hang out to dry while I   search for joy in ways that leave me parched and exhausted.

Or I can trust God and make room in my heart for the risk that comes with a yes.

The “yes” that bubbled to the surface on the Christmas that Tucker joined our crew was a gift to my family, but it was a gift to me as well, for I learned that I don’t have to play it safe in my love for my family.

Acceptance of inconvenience stretches the boundaries of my heart, while my yes becomes a reminder that Jesus Himself ushered in The Season of Yes with His embrace of God’s great rescue plan for the human race.  Early in His ministry, He made His mission clear:  “I have come down from Heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of Him who sent me,” (John 6:38 NKJV).

This is deep teaching that we revisit every Advent season, but as my sons grow into men, our Advent traditions are no longer about teaching them the message of Christmas.  No, they’ve celebrated with stories and carols for so many years that now Advent has become a time to remember known truth and to rejoice in it together; to offer up our hearts as a family in an echo of God’s resounding YES that came when Jesus poured His glory – and His obedience – into a small body and entered time and space.

Jesus brought with Him the Promise, the Mercy, the Forgiveness, and the Welcome that lie at the heart of what we celebrate every Christmas.  His big, beautiful obedience opened the way for my heart to accept His grace and truth — and sometimes . . . to move outside my comfort zone in this glorious Season of Yes.

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Find more inspiring Christmas reading at BCW’s Christmas Blog Tour!  Click here for the next stop on the tour!

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An Announcement for January

Most of us have a favorite C.S. Lewis book, whether it’s the incisive practical theology of Mere Christianity or the glorious story-telling found in The Chronicles of Narnia.  It turns out that C.S. Lewis’s favorite of all his books was Till We Have Faces.  One Lewis scholar calls it his “most subtle treatment of the relation between good and evil.”

Till We Have Faces is a novel, based on the mythical tale of Cupid and Psyche, and in it, Lewis explores themes such as the selfishness of human love, the limits of reason, the corrupting effects of self-will, and in Lewis’s own words, “the havoc a vocation or even a faith works on human life.”   I’m planning to lead a discussion group about the book starting in January, and am hoping that many of you will join me, so here’s a quick overview of the plan:

  1.  The pace will be leisurely at three chapters per week (about 30-ish pages), which will take us into the beginning of March.
  2. I will be posting weekly starting January 5 (Thursdays) with introductory material and a detailed reading schedule.  My hope is that the comments section here at Living Our Days will become a comfy living room where we can discuss our thoughts on the book.  If you blog, PLEASE plan to include a link to your post about the week’s reading so that we can all benefit from one another’s impressions with more detail than is possible in the comments.  If you don’t blog, no worries.  Just share your thoughts in connection with the weekly reading here, and be sure to visit and respond to others.

More details to follow!

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Celebration and Lament

The walls had been rebuilt.

The people living in and around the city of Jerusalem had gathered.

Along with the fresh aroma of new lumber from Ezra’s wooden platform and his strong voice ringing out over the hum of the crowd, celebration was in the air! Within the barely-renovated city walls of Jerusalem, there was a party brewing, and it was no token religious observance.

For the first time in a thousand years (Nehemiah 8:17), the Nation of Israel was gearing up for the Feast of Tabernacles. “Booths” — little huts, really -– would be cobbled together from branches and set up on rooftops and in courtyards, and families would live in their booths for seven days to commemorate Israel’s wilderness wanderings. Remember, too, that, although Jerusalem’s protective outer wall had been restored, this is all taking place in a city where many houses had still not been rebuilt, (Nehemiah 7:4).

I’m actually a little jealous when I picture this holiday:

An Annual Camp Out!

Gathering piles of branches with the kids, making a cozy nest inside the booth, and hearing the small voice:

“Tell us again, Mum . . . why are we doing this?”

Then the magic of storytelling under the stars would begin in which history flows from memory into the hearts of another generation — with everything made tangible by the show-and-tell of celebration.

Of course, in the re-telling there would be sadness for Jerusalem was still a city in captivity, its citizens still an oppressed people. Forking over up to 50% of their earnings in taxes to the Persian Empire, they were only just beginning to recover from the exile’s comprehensive shattering of their self-perception as God’s people. They were still in the process of learning their way back into fellowship with God. Governor Nehemiah’s gracious pronouncement to kick-off their feasting was desperately needed:

“Do not sorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” —Nehemiah 8:10

And so it is today.

We live with one foot in celebration and the other in lament. Whenever we gather on this planet, it is for an imperfect celebration in which our only hope for joy is to look squarely at the empty seat, at the strained relationships, at the imperfect execution of all our Pinterest-worthy plans. Our only prayer for peace is to own the sadness; to recognize the power that grinding sorrow has over our hearts—and then to throw the door wide open to the feast.

By acknowledging and even embracing lament—an art we have lost here in North America—our celebration can be restored. Our feasting can be deeply sincere, even in a context of deep suffering or deep disappointment.

In the case of Israel, the people had just stood outside for about six hours (yes, stood), “from morning until mid-day,” listening to Ezra as he read aloud to them their saw-tooth record of rebellion. Their tearful response revealed that they were cut deeply with the weight of national failure over the centuries, but Nehemiah’s instructions proclaimed that the time had come for the people to begin, once again, to eat and drink blessing to themselves:

“Go home and prepare a feast, holiday food and drink; and share it with those who don’t have anything: This day is holy to God.” (Nehemiah 8:10)

Until Jesus comes, it will be this longing and this feasting that keeps my heart’s sonar trolling for Kingdom shalom. I will lament the family that could have been if not for alcoholism, if not for mental illness and garden-variety selfishness.

But when I grasp warm hands and gaze at the faces around my table, by faith I will celebrate the family that is because of the forgiveness that lubricates our relational gears; because of much-beloved friends who have been grafted in; because of the cords of grace that hold our hearts in joy.

//

This post first appeared in SheLoves Magazine (November 2015).


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Come Together for the Better

Weekly we gather — seldom daily as they did in New Testament times, the era of ravenous lions and Nero’s flaming, pitch-dipped Christians, human torches to light his gardens.  Lugging our three pound Bibles and a week’s worth of accumulated angst, we gather, having in common our hearts of flesh and likely the scar tissue where hearts of stone rubbed us raw in time past.

“Coming together” Paul calls it at least four times in his Corinthian communiqué, and he chides that congregation for coming together “for the worse.”  By contrast, he launches into what amounts to a reenactment of Jesus’ last Passover celebration in the Upper Room with words that have worn grooves in the church’s collective memory.  “This do in remembrance of Me.”

According to John MacArthur, Paul’s account of Jesus’ last Passover celebration in the Upper Room pre-dates the Gospels, making it the first written record of the event from which we pattern our modern day communion service.  Paul received the story that the eye-witnesses would write about later.  Let that sink in for a moment:  post-crucifixion, post-resurrection, post-ascension, Paul was given the privilege of writing about an event he would never have been invited to at the time.

The bread and the cup had once been the centerpiece of the early church’s coming together.  However, in keeping with human nature, it had become a hollow shell.  Indifferent, ritualistic, unrepentant, and greedy, the Corinthians gobbled bread and slurped wine without a thought for Christ’s sacrifice.  It was Paul’s intent to fill that tradition with meaning once again.

Can we say that what happens when we “come together” each week is “for the better” — for the enhancement, the building up of the Body?  Oh, we will not do it perfectly.  Not now.  Not on this planet.  But do we listen more than we speak?  Do we ask questions like a bridge from heart to heart —  and then really pay attention to the answers that travel back to us on that bridge?  Can we bear in mind that the point of our gathering has very little to do with order of service or music style or whose turn it is to serve in the nursery?

Whatever our tradition — bread cubes and grape juice, matzo and wine, daily, weekly, or monthly — when we gather “for the better,” we receive the story anew.  We lift up the Gospel of Truth and put the wonder of incarnation on display, demonstrating that we are committed to a Kingdom that is both already and not-yet.

Here in New England, church attendance is no longer a cultural norm.  Unbelievers (and even some Christians) have accounted for the church in the column labeled “irrelevant,” but — whether by curiosity or by compulsion — if an unbeliever enters our fellowship, what would be his impression of our “coming together?”  It’s no surprise that Paul had thoughts on this.  His goal was that an “outsider” be convicted, called to account, and overcome by the reality of God’s presence.

If awe is a contagious condition, is anyone who wanders into my fellowship at risk?

Are the bread and the cup, the ministry of the Word, the lifting of voices, and the offering of gifts an empty tradition, a hollow shell —  or does grace flow like wine?

Are hearts nourished with the Living Bread until the truth overflows and splashes, soaking believers and unbelievers alike with the glorious outcome of having come together “for the better.”

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Abundance and Harvest – Still in the Garden

Deep into the days of summer, I’m sharing a post that I wrote last year for my church’s website.  With an early spring snow, this year’s garden is behind schedule, but what a treasure it was to discover hearty, red-veined beet leaves during a just-before-dusk weeding session last night . . .

Once the dew dries today, I will amble up to the garden and pick enough tomatoes to fill my Maine Garden Hod.  There’s no stopping those plants now, and if I don’t hurry up and pick enough green tomatoes for our favorite relish —  well, there just won’t be any green tomatoes up there.

While I’m picking, I’ll take note of the dill’s progress.  Two days ago (when I last picked tomatoes, but who’s complaining?) the sprays of small yellow flowers were pale fireworks.  Poet, Luci Shaw would say, “They lift their lovely, loose exactness.”   Somehow,  in spite of their diminutive size, they were still of interest to the honey bees.

However, today, I expect that I will see signs of the flowers going to seed, a good thing if you like to make dilly beans, as I do.  I have seen lots of recipes for other delicious and satisfying uses of dill:  cold cucumber soup with fresh dill, beautiful heads of dill floating delicately in big canning jars full of colorful veggies.

Someday, maybe.

But for right now, for today, my dill reminds me to dream big, to expect great things,  because soon I will harvest all the dill seeds I can capture.  They will scatter and flee as I snip the dry stalks, but most of it will make its way into a brown paper bag to dry.  Once dry, it will spend the winter in a quart jar,  on a shelf in the basement for next year’s dilly beans.  If it weren’t for the fact that next summer I will be harvesting bushels of green beans, I might even forget it was there; but summer will come again, and the abundance of this fall will result in crisp, pickled beans next year.

Abundance is a lesson some of us have to learn by rote.  My patient husband and I had our first argument (26 years ago) in a grocery store, and the controversy found its gnarled roots in the issue of abundance.  He had grown up in a house where the pantry was full and the spice cupboard was a museum devoted to a long history of past recipes.  On the other hand, shopping had been a day-to-day thing in my growing up years, and it seemed to me that I had unwittingly married someone who wanted to spend our net worth on food.

I’m still learning about abundance, but not by looking into my full cupboards . . . and refrigerator . . . and freezer . . . and pantry.  (We’ve definitely come to an understanding about the merits of a well-stocked kitchen.)   Now, when I need a lesson in abundance,  I go to the Source.   Paul is practically crowing in Romans 11 when he exclaims about the deep wealth of God’s wisdom and His rich and inscrutable nature.

I am exhaust-able, and often exhausted, but I will never exhaust the resources of God and His Word, and so I read and ponder —  not to arrive at a “theology of everything,” (. . . but wouldn’t that be great?).  I come back to the Source  to be reminded of abundance, to dream along with Isaiah and the Apostle Paul about all that God wants to do and His “unsearchable” ability to carry out all that He has planned.

“All these things my hand has made, [says the Lord], and so all these things came to be:”

[dill seed and honey bees,

tomatoes and patient husbands],

“But this is the one to whom I will look:  he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word,” (Isaiah 66:2)

Tremble at His Word.

Tremble at His abundance.

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Parenting Past the Mid-Point: More Thoughts from the Garden

“These bean plants are a mess,” I muttered.  “But, wow . . . lots of beans.”

Our eleven rows of Providers (that’s the variety of green bean we always plant) had lived up to their name, but after four pickings, the plants looked tired, ransacked, plundered.

They looked like us.

I smile when I say that my good husband and I are “middle aged”.  I suppose if we live to be 108, we are middle aged, but the reality is that we are past the mid-point on many levels, and this is most glaringly obvious in our life together as parents.  Parenting feels different in these days of a teenage majority when almost everyone is taller than I am.  It was so much easier when I could put all the “forbidden things”  (cookies, snack food, breakables) on top of the refrigerator.  Now I find myself asking my kids for help with top-shelf-reaches.

So, how does a medium-short mother set boundaries for tall boys who still need them?  Now that we are past the days when someone might eat Drano, does parenting still qualify as my priority?

My vote is “yes,” and my campaign slogan is:  “T.V. is not the default in this house.”  Well, actually, to be honest, it’s more like this:  “T.V. IS NOT THE DEFAULT IN THIS HOUSE!!”   (Can you hear the difference?)

Parenting Past the Mid-Point is a balancing act of “yes” and “no,” of remembering that, sometimes, the “no” has to be for me, and the “yes” for my boys.  Writing a blog post one day, it occurred to me that I did not know what Boy #4 was up to . . . not exactly, anyway.  All his brothers were busy and gone for the day, and he had been left behind.  I kept typing, but the thought was nagging me, chewing ever harder, until a Proverb popped into my head:  “A child left to himself brings shame to his mother,” (Proverbs 22:15)  End of story?  Joel was fine, playing with Tucker the St. Bernard.  It would have made for a more dramatic story if I had caught him smoking, right?  But more and more he is spending time alone, so even though we can’t be “play mates,” and I will never be an adequate stand in for his brothers, that afternoon we sat down together for a read-aloud chapter of The Return of the King, and the blog-post got finished later.

I don’t want to drop the ball on the relationship with this boy, just because there have been three before him, and I’m “ready to do something different now.”  Having come late to marriage and family, most of our friends were raising their last child at the same time that we were still figuring out our first born.  On the phone, feeling the tether of the phone cord (remember those?), I could hear in my friends’ voices the feeling of being tethered.  “I’m trying to figure out what I want to do when _____________ starts school.”  (_____________ was six months old.)  Today, twenty years later, having resolved not to follow in their footsteps — but having taken on the challenge of a summer job —  I still want to be living in the present moment with the fourteen-year-old who is waking up every morning to a new, teen-age day.

Besides just the daily challenge of staying in the game, we are finding that the older our children grow, the more we need godly wisdom.  For us, Parenting Past the Mid-Point has meant parenting through disappointment.  Somehow, throughout childhood,  it seems as if our kids all managed to make the team, ace the test, and nail the audition.  It was inevitable, but, nonetheless, a JOLT, when we entered the days of college applications denied, cars totaled, and job interviews with disappointing results.  Now, I’m happy to say that the sons who experienced each of these calamities have lived to tell about it, are driving intact vehicles today, are enrolled in  college, and are employed.  This may not always be the case in our future, and I know this because I have listened to the sadness of mothers whose sons did not survive the totaled car or persevere in the job search.   On this fallen planet, happy endings are not a given, but I have noticed a tendency to ride through the difficulties in my own life with much more sanity and trust than I do the disappointments faced by my children.    Here’s what I’m learning about making productive use of those times:

  1. Pray for your child, and let him know that you are praying.  In at least one of our disappointments, I was so blind-sided by the “no” that came, I did not know how to pray for that son’s future.  I could see no better road than the one that had been blocked.  It was time to offer that attitude up to God (since it was all I had), and to ask Him for wisdom; not that He would give ME  a vision for my son’s future, but that He would do that for my son.
  2. Share Scripture with your child — not as a period, to end the conversation (“All things work together for good to those who love God.”  We know this will work out, so just stop worrying and put on a happy face and things will be fine  . . .”) —  but as a cup of water to prime the well, to keep the conversation going.  Jeremiah 29:11 reassures me every time that God has my children’s futures well in hand, and Psalm 5:8 gives me words to wrap around my hope for straight paths and righteous living for all my boys.
  3. Do the obvious — love them in the way that you know love to be loved!  That might mean listening to the frustrated rantings of your more vocal offspring; it might mean keeping your mouth shut if it seems as if your questions and suggestions create more anxiety.  It could mean that you sit down and help with resume preparation, provide transportation for a while, or offer encouragement in your child’s love language (write encouraging notes, give him a back rub, or bake his favorite lasagna).

Lest anyone get the impression that Parenting Past the Mid-Point is a desert waste-land, let’s go back to the garden.  Those bedraggled bean plants yielded an entire bushel which resulted in fourteen quarts of canned beans for winter, a batch of dilly bean pickles, and enough beans for dinner besides.

There is fruit.

It is a glorious thing to see the friendships that develop among “grown-up and growing-up” kids.  I love that my boys are friends, and am thankful for the grace of shared jokes from a life time of laughing together; spontaneous visits and phone calls; a daughter-in-law with a sweet, quiet smile; a grandson who melts my heart; the knowledge that values we have passed on and the God we love will hold center stage long after the Mid-Point has past and the End-Point is in sight.

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