pattersons-26

Hope for those discouraging days…

From last year, but the truth is the same: Just in case you’ve had one recently…

~

Some days end with tears. You too, right?  I don’t know about you, but sometimes I can feel the pressure mounting. A hard day, some unpleasant conflict, challenges with the kids, sad news, incessant rain, sometimes it can all just mount up, slowly through the day, and the next thing you know you’re reading aloud Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and the kids are asking, “What’s wrong with your voice?”

Well, kids, it’s cracking because I’m about to cry but now’s not the time, I have fifteen more minutes until you are tucked warmly into bed, and then I can crawl into bed by myself and cry my eyes out and let all those waves of discouragement just crash over me.

Maybe you don’t do that. I don’t very often, but I had one of those days recently, and woke up the next morning and the first words that ran through my mind: I don’t want to do this day.

But that wasn’t really an option, so I pushed off those warm covers and dragged myself into the cold morning. I found coffee waiting for me (that good man!) and this small gesture of love lured me out of my pit, just a tiny bit. I curled up, under layers of quilts, and pulled my Bible onto my lap.

Hot coffee and His Truth. Even the worst funk is no match for that combo.

In the way that only He can, by His Spirit, through His Word, these ancient truths, always fresh, envelope my heart and bring me back to light, back to hope. Two friends, who I texted to ask to pray for me, responded right away with Scripture. (Note: Pick friends who bring you back to the Word when you are down!)

Despondency is no match for Truth. The darkness is no match for Light.

His Word is sharper than any two-edged sword. It discerns our thoughts, motives, intentions. Nothing is more powerful for diagnosing the heart-issue, what’s really going on. All other wisdom falls hopelessly short — only His truth is strong enough to cut through to the core.

And the voice of Jesus, gently, softly, authoritatively, sets aright all that had been off and heals what is broken. He carefully leads us out of lies and self-centeredness, back into truth and joy.

I slowly read and re-read the Beatitudes, Jesus’ precious words for the weary, with promises and perspective to put everything aright in our souls. As I read, wrote it out, prayed, I could clearly see my wrong-thinking. I could see the skewed perspective.

Though I hate crying, the discouragement was so helpful, because it brought to the surface something out of whack.

When we respond to discouragement by masking it, faking it, or covering it up through coping mechanisms — shopping, eating, vegging out, escaping– then the issue isn’t solved, it’s just buried deeper. It’ll surface again, guaranteed.

But when we respond to discouragement by going to the Truth, the Source, the Life, He will speak that word that brings all hidden things to light, that reveals and comforts and changes us from the inside out.

In that way, discouragement actually works to our advantageit brings that broken place to the Light. Therefore, when we come through it, with renewed hope and faith, we aren’t just at the place we were before …

we’re further ahead. 

We’ve seen new truth. In some critical area, we’ve been healed. We aren’t who we were before, we’re better. We’ve proved God’s faithfulness, experienced His love, and come through the fire just a little lower, but better, than before. We’re worshippers in a whole new way.

Friend, if you are tempted to turn away from Him in your time of discouragement, to turn to a “filler” or some sort of escape, can I just plead with you to turn instead to the pages of His truth? His Word never returns void, it always accomplishes His work, it always reveals sin, brings light, brings life. If we turn to him, this discouragement can actually leave us better than before. Such hope!

{Happy Monday. Thank you for reading.}

Pattersons-114picmo

My day-in-the-life …

Sometime around 7 they shuffle out, sleepy-eyed, their pajama-pants falling mid-shin, reminding me how fast they’re growing up. But we still snuggle.

They find me in my favorite chair, the big one with room for a little beside me and another on my lap. I slide my Bible to the side, set my coffee down, and gather them up, pushing back the blanket so they can crawl beneath. I kiss their cheeks, right next to their mouths so I can breathe in their morning breath. I’m weird like that, I love their smells.

Thus begins our day. …. Read the rest over at Simple Homeschool! Thanks!

Pattersons-474

Everything can change in an instant

Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
    but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.

(Prov. 13:12)

Everything can change in an instant. 

Five minutes before Jesus said, “Come forth!” Lazarus was dead.

Five minutes before Jesus broke the bread, thousands were famished.

Five minutes before Jesus said, “Ephphatha!” the man was completely deaf.

Five minutes before touching His garment, the bleeding woman was 12-years hopeless.

Five minutes before Jesus said, “Talitha cumi,” the little girl lay lifeless.

It’s darkest before the dawn, and it’s bleakest five minutes before the miracle.

As I journey through Genesis again this year, I was struck all over again by Joseph, faithful in prison, completely in the dark the day before he interpreted Pharoah’s dream and was instantly promoted. Overnight, he was put in a position of power, in order to save many lives, was given a wife, and saw the incredible fulfillment of God’s plan for His life.

But just the night before, as he was sleeping alone in jail, he must have felt confused, alone, lost, forgotten.

I remember last year, I had shared with our Bible study women about an area of discouragement. A long journey. Years. Some confusion.

And five minutes after I closed my eyes in sleep that night, a message buzzed on my phone.

The answer.

Literally, it had come to pass, I just didn’t know it. As I listened, and learned, I realized God had done what I’d prayed for, waited for, longed for.

In an instant everything changed. 

How easy it was, then, to rejoice in this new perspective on challenges! I was ready to shout to the world, “God does answer prayer, people! Trust Him! It might take time but He is faithful!” In the rearview mirror, that long rugged path of struggle and confusion is just a distant ribbon of road, past and forgotten. I was brim-full, overflowing with hope, ready to encourage any weary travelers along the road of prayerful perseverance.

But two days later, another hope plummeted.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick. How quickly my hope wavers, heartsick. Yes, God accomplished one amazing feat, but this one? Maybe this is the one that’s too audacious. I’m so foolish for praying for something so seemingly impossible. Why risk disappointment? Why subject myself to these tears, this heartache?

Why not just “accept” the circumstances and move on?

Because Jesus didn’t tell us to do that.

Because just that morning in my Bible study with the kids our passage was Matthew 7:7-11. Heidi had moved her tiny finger along the lines, slowly reading aloud in her sweet little-girl voice,

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”

The kids giggled at the thought of me handing them a  stone for lunch, or dishing up a bowl with a slithering snake in it. Of course not! They understood this lesson loud and clear.

Jesus knew we’d need encouragement. He knew we’d lose heart and lose hope. He knew we’d be tempted to believe that our Father doesn’t want to give us good gifts. He knew we’d be stray from truth and begin crafting theologies to justify our experience instead of pressing in to see our experience fall in line with God’s Word.

He knew hope deferred would make our hearts sick, but He urges us to keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking, because that answer is a tree of life. It will buttress our beliefs and give us new strength to fight. There’s nothing like experiencing the power of answered prayer.

No wonder there’s so much opposition, urging us to quit.

But let us remind ourselves: Everything can change in an instant.

{Keep on asking, seeking, knocking. Don’t give up! Happy Monday; thank you for reading.}

Kari-13

Low enough to see inside …

This lesson from last year came back to me in a fresh, profound, unexpected way. Maybe I’ll get to share more details later, but for now, this: …

I stood tall at the door, arms folded, that familiar wave of overwhelm sweeping my mind into hopeless thoughts. Sure, it was just a bedroom. Kids have messy rooms, I get it. But this. This particular kid’s quirkiness translates into chaos on another level altogether.

The intense emotional attachment to objects translates into keeping everything–wrappers, scraps of paper, tags off clothes. The passion for creating inventions out of boxes translates into cardboard contraptions cluttering every corner, wires attached, duct-tape holding them together. A fascination with science translates to a half-dozen bottles, various experiments, growing salt crystals and green things and jars teetering on the edge of the table. The voracious appetite for reading translates to towers of encyclopedias, right at arm’s reach beside the bed, covers torn with frequent use, dog-eared pages. The love of Legos translates to countless “creations” that cannot be stowed in bins, must be left out on every available surface. The typewriter, his new love where clicks out stories, means strewn papers with half-written plots. The fascination with flags and signs (?!) translates to another dozen or so papers taped to sticks, papers taped on the wall, door, papers taped everywhere.

Every time I address it, I can feel my blood pressure rising, anticipating the battle: he gets defensive, upset, I get harder, firmer, harsher.

Hence, the overwhelm. Maybe, you’d say, it doesn’t matter. Who cares if he has a messy room? But our responsibility as parents is to prepare our children for life. This doesn’t just fix itself. With all my heart I want to give him the tools to thrive, and that includes an orderly space. The ability to tidy. Not perfect. Not spotless. I don’t mind boxes or Legos or weird taped papers on the wall. But this was out of control.

So I stand at the door. Point. Bark. I bend to move a box, but fail to recognize its function, breaking off some antennae-ish thing and bringing him to tears.

*sigh*

Those weird irrational thoughts begin formulating in my mind, those ones we moms have in desperate moments. I could take everything away and make him earn it all back one item at a time. I could make him sleep in the hallway, on the floor. He could lose access to his room. Would that be severe enough?

It’s dinnertime and we all need a break, so we head downstairs. Earlier, he had said this was the best day ever. We’d been outside all day in the cold sunshine, we’d adventured and explored and played baseball with our housemates. It was one of those glorious childhood days.

But now he hung his head, discouraged, eyes red with tears. I picked him up into my arms,

“Ok, babe, we had the best day until 4:30. Then we had a struggle. Let’s return to joy, ok? We’ll figure out your room. Don’t worry. I love you.”

He managed a smile and nestled his face into my neck.

We ate dinner and cleaned up.

“What should we do for family night?” I asked.

Dutch, as if suddenly remembering something, lit up:

“Oh mommy! I haven’t gotten to show you Hobbes’s room! Can you come see?!”

Hobbes (and Max) are his best friends, two well-worn stuffed animals who never leave his side.  I can’t turn down that light in his eyes, so I let him take my hand and lead me up the creaky stairs.

We come to his room and before the birds-eye view can overwhelm me, I lower down, with him onto the floor. I look past the scraps of paper, to where he’s curled up next to an upside down detergent box. It’s white with A-L-L spelled out bright, a low, wide opening in the front.

“Oh, neat, hon!” I smile.

“No mommy, look inside.”

I have to lie down all the way to be low enough to see.

But I do.

I peer inside. Oh!

Oh, he’s right! There is unbelievable detail, a place for Hobbes and Max to hang their stockings (!), a large piece of artwork on the wall, (“It’s a real Van Gogh, Mommy!”), a picturesque window, even a cut-out piece of flannel on the floor (“It’s carpet!”). It was a stuffed animals’ dream-home, to be sure.

He had poured his heart, his time, into creating a special room for his favorite friends.

We were both lying there on the ground, his face was right next to mind, peering inside. I turned and kissed his cool cheek, looking into his lit-up eyes.

Of course. Why hadn’t I seen it before?

I have to get low enough to see inside.

From the top, it’s trash. All I can see is cardboard-box chaos. I see garbage, mess.

I look down and see a lack of care.

Could it be that when he looks up at me he sees the same?

Not saying that solves everything, but getting on the floor is empathy-in-action and at least it’s good place to begin.

When we look inside cardboard boxes we see inside hearts.

{Praying we get low enough to see inside. Thank you for reading. }