Community

To the Ones Who Reached Out to My Child

My son was just trying to make conversation, but it was very one-sided. If he’s passionate about something, he will talk your ear off, regardless of your opinions on the subject. Clearly, the other child on the receiving end of this information overload just didn’t get my son. “There’s something wrong with his brain,” I overheard him say to someone else, and I realized he was talking about my child.

At that moment, I wanted to cry but controlled it to spare myself from being the center of attention at a public place. I wanted to scoop up my child, put my arms around him, and shield him from any hurt, intentional or unintentional, that will come from this world.

But I know putting him in a protective bubble is not what’s best. As cruel as the world can sometimes be, there are people God has placed in my child’s path to reach out to him, and you are one of them. You may be thinking, “Me? What did I do?”

You greeted him.

A simple “hello” goes a long way. Far too many of us are preoccupied with our own world or the world being displayed on the tiny screen in our hands, that we fail to look up and notice the person right in front of us, who could use a simple smile to brighten his day.

You listened to him.

Not only did you say “hi”, but you asked the loaded question, “How are you?” Perhaps, you were not expecting a detailed catalog of all the Minions and their unique characteristics or a list of voice actors from The Lego Movie, but you looked at him and listened to it all.

You hugged him.

I think this assures him of acceptance by you. Isolation is his fear, as is the case with many of us, so a handshake, a hug, or a high-five allow him to experience the human connection that any person seeks after.

You invited him.

He seemed content to be alone, but you went out of your way to invite him to sit with you. Honestly, social situations are still challenging for him, so he probably felt awkward about accepting the invitation. Nonetheless, you took a courageous step with a seemingly simple kind gesture.

You became his friend.

He doesn’t have very many friends. In fact, if you asked him who they are, he would list names of family members … brothers, sisters, mom, and dad. But you … he mentioned you. You became his friend.

Approaching someone who’s “different” can be intimidating. I understand that. After all, if you’re not crossing paths, why take the detour to intentionally go to that person? Why risk the potential awkwardness of the encounter? Would it even make a difference?

Yes, it does … it certainly does.

Family Life

Love Lessons

It was one of those days, where I felt like no matter which way I turned, I was hitting a wall. There seemed to be obstacles everywhere that kept me from going where I wanted to go and doing what I wanted to do. There were challenges with my children: it seemed my voice could not be heard, my directives could not be understood, and my efforts could not be appreciated. So, our homeschool day ended on a sour note. The pity party began.

I give, give, give to this family and get nothing in return.

So, here is where The Lord took me in the midst of my complaining.

“… train the young women to love their husbands and children” (Titus 2:4)

But I do love them, my heart would protest. It is apparent in the time, energy, efforts, and sleep that I sacrifice for them. I am practicing sacrificial (agape) love for them. And, I know I’m not alone in this. Without a doubt, many wives and mothers love their families in this way.

But the Titus verse is a command for women, not to agape love, but to phileo love, meaning to love with affection.

I have been so busy loving my family with sacrifice, I have failed to love them with affection.

My love falls short.

On his way home from work, my husband called, “Let’s take the kids to the park.” My first thought was to respond, “You can take them. I have other things to do.” I looked at the kids, and they were playing happily together on the floor. They don’t have to go to the park; they’re just fine over there. How could I possibly take any time to go out and play with them when the sink was full of dishes, dinner had to be prepared, and the tower of laundry was about to topple over? Thank The Lord for holding my tongue.

We went to the park. I pushed my 2-year-old on the swing while we sang one of his favorite nursery rhymes together. I watched with delight at my 5-year-old boy climb up the hill, diligently looking for the best rocks for his collection. I hugged and kissed my only daughter after she fell and scraped her knee and then ran off to play again. And, I supported Gabriel’s legs as he excitedly swung his arms across the monkey bars.

Before this day, I was missing out on a lot by not phileo loving my children. Praise The Lord that in His kindness, He didn’t let me miss out this time.

Prayer & Devotion

The Betrothal

Han, Chewey, R2, LukeI have a confession to make. I used to be an avid Star Wars fan. I watched the first three movies countless times. And to show the world just how big a geek I was, I even had a few action figures displayed around my cubicle when I used to work in an office. Beginning in 1999, a new trilogy was scheduled for release. I was so desperate to get a glimpse of this highly-anticipated movie that I stood in line for hours to watch a movie that I did not really want to see only because the exclusive trailer for Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace was expected to play there. Now, at that time, I had seen many sequels in my life … many were not very good. But, the latest Star Wars trilogy was not a sequel but a prequel. Why would anyone want to watch something that you already know the ending to? What is intriguing about a prequel is that you gain a greater understanding and appreciation of the original story when you discover the chain of events that led up to it.

There is a prequel in eternity past. A story that took place before our own story. Star Wars and other great stories pale in comparison to this. Though we don’t know exactly what took place and what was said, the counsel within the Godhead resulted in the redemption of unworthy sinners. I know my present reality: that I was a rebellious sinner saved by grace and that I will, one day, stand complete before my Redeemer. The event that brought about this present reality is nothing short of amazing but for its complete revelation, I will have to wait. For now, I can only imagine.

Recently, I read what one author imagined. Though what took place before the foundation of the world is, I’m sure, far greater than this author’s words, the story moved me nonetheless, as I realized how much God loves me. I hope this encourages you to love others and love God more.

Join with me now as I imagine this situation as it might have been in heaven. Once, before the beginning of time, there was a great, honorable, wise, and benevolent king who had a son he loved immeasurably. “My son,” the king said, “I know that you are happy in my presence and that together we share more joy than has ever been or will ever be known by any other. We are perfectly content in our companionship with each other and with our servants, but I would like you to know the joy of being a husband to a bride. I have chosen out a bride for you and will present her to you as my gift of love for you. Will you have the bride that I have chosen?”

“Yes, father,” the son replied, “I would delight to share our joy and love with a bride. If it pleases you, I am willing to go and get this bride and bring her back here, to our majestic palace, to celebrate our marriage. I’m delighted to think how your honor and greatness will be displayed to her! I’m joyously contemplating the sound of your great name being praised in our marriage celebration!”

“My dear son, I will indeed send you to get her. But,” the father proceeded gravely, “the bride I have chosen for you is our enemy. Right now she is a rebel against us, son, and she hates us. She has transgressed our holy laws and is awaiting execution. She is not beautiful or loving yet, but we will cleanse and purify her and dress her in garments that befit a queen. Because of my great power and love, she will be gloriously transformed when I am finished with her. She will be the delight of our eyes and will bear our resemblance in her heart. But she is presently a slave in the kingdom of the Hateful One and she loves it there. She is a traitor and despises us. Also, if you go and get her, you will have to pay the penalty for her offenses. You know that I cannot make her ours unless my righteous laws and judgments have been carried out.”

Christian Cross 11The father stopped and looked lovingly into his son’s eyes. “Would you bear the judgment that she deserves? Would you uphold our holy reputation and love this one I have chosen for you? Would you love her so much that you would be willing to be emptied and become like her, a slave, and then even be humbled to the point of a shameful death in her place? Will you carry out all my decrees and laws perfectly and still be punished as an evildoer? Will you love my name and our future joy with her this much?”

“How wonderful are all your ways, dear father!” the son exclaimed. “Yes, it will be my joy to know that I am pleasing you in this way. When the time is right, I will delight in this, your will.”

“Then I will engrave upon your palms the name of your beloved queen for all time. And although your sacrifice will be great, the joy that we’ll have, when your bride joins us here in our home, will make this, your ultimate sacrifice, worthwhile.”

(Used by permission from Elyse Fitzpatrick, Helper by Design, Chicago, Illinois, Moody Publishers, 2003, ch. 8.)

(Photo credit 1: Paul Mayne)
(Photo credit 2: Waiting For The Word)

Family Life, Trusting God

What is True Love?

No one would disagree that love is the subject of countless poems, stories, and songs. But how many of these truly capture the essence of love?

One person’s definition of love may differ from another’s. Some would say love is found in family, where each member comes home to comfort, acceptance, and familiarity. The love between a husband and wife, committed under any and all circumstances … others would claim that’s true love. There’s also a mother’s love, which drives her to unimaginable sacrifices without the reward of recognition.

But what business do I have in writing about love when I fail so much in it? Oh, I know how to love. I love my husband. I love my children. I love my parents. I love my church family. Certainly, I know how to love when I am loved back. But, there will be many moments when love is not reciprocated or, at least, it doesn’t feel like it. So sometimes I’ll react by withholding my love. But this ought not to be so for the person who has been given a new heart and made alive again after being dead in sin. Withholding love for others will soon pain my own heart and eat me up inside. “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

A few days ago, I struggled with this. My son Gabriel was being difficult to love, and I’m sure I was not the object of his deepest affections either. The day seemed to drag. I felt like Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh, but it was not cute. I was stubborn enough to think I could take this until the end of the day, but The Lord got me up. What is the answer, Lord? How do I get through this? One word: LOVE.

What is love? Do I even know what that means? I thought I did. But my love was conditional. “I will love you if you respect me, if you cause me no distress, and if you love me back.” God showed me otherwise. He showed me, through His Word, what true love is.

“In this act we see what real love is: it is not our love for God but his love for us when he sent his Son to satisfy God’s anger against our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us as much as that, we surely ought to love each other too.” (1 John 4:10-11, TLB)

True love originates from God.  God is love.  On the other hand, I did not love God. Moreover, I turned the other way and placed my love on things that were in complete opposition to Him. But, He loved me in my unloveliness. He gave me a new heart to love Him and to love others. I have no excuse. The strength to love, even when it’s hard, will come from Him.

 

(Photo Credit: laihiu)

Community, Homeschool

Picture Day

105 - School Picture Day

School picture day is usually a highlight for most students. I remember standing in front of the bathroom mirror weeks before the anticipated day, practicing my smile. Big or half smile? Open or closed mouth? Which one is my best side? Don’t tell me I’m the only one out there who did this.

Earlier this week, our homeschool group held its annual picture day. Gabriel took his individual shots like a pro. We waited around for everyone else to finish, and then the call to gather all the children for the group picture came. This is when the tides began to turn. The children were told to line up from tallest to shortest. Obviously, the older children knew what to do, but the younger ones, like my kids, looked very lost and confused. The chatter amongst the adults and children grew louder, and when Gabriel tried to call me for help but I didn’t hear him, he started to lose it. Rearranging the students around is to be expected, but when the photographer kept changing the spot where Gabriel was to stand, that put him over the edge. In the middle of a sea of children, there was my Gabriel, frustrated and crying. God, please help me, I silently prayed as I tried to calm him down. When everything was done, the walk back to the car seemed endless. No longer able to hold back my own tears, I found myself wishing things were different.

What good came out of this? I asked God to open my eyes to see His good, the good that He promises to work together (Romans 8:28). My own tears seemed to blur any hint of good, but The Lord wiped the tears away and showed me.

During the incident when Gabriel was crying, a boy his age reached out to him. “It’s okay, Gabriel,” he comforted. Afterwards when the children dispersed, this boy approached Gabriel and gave him a hug. But my son wasn’t the only one who was the recipient of some needed encouragement. Two mothers approached me at the parking lot, hugged me, and prayed with me. This was the good that God intended from a difficult situation: He showed me love through the selfless actions of others.

When we see someone in emotional distress, it’s not always easy to approach that person. We don’t want to get involved. We are at a loss for words. We are fearful of making it more awkward and worse for that person and for us. Often, we find it easier to turn the other way. The boy and the mothers did the harder thing. They came to us. And we were blessed by it.

We turn toward others and move in their direction. That is how the kingdom of heaven works. Sin scatters people; grace draws us toward each other.*

*Quote by Edward T. Welch (biblical counselor and author)
(Photo credit: Holtsman)

Coping with the Challenges, Trusting God

Trials Teach Love

Trials can come in all shapes and sizes. They can be for a moment or last a lifetime. They can be the result of our own foolishness or what God uses to mature us. They can be endured quietly or lived out for the world to see. We can respond to them with complaint or with rejoicing. But this what the Word of God says,

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)

This verse floods our souls with hope during times we are crumbling. It answers the “Why, God?” when we are desperate to understand our difficult lot in life. My husband once told me with respect to this Scripture passage, “We have to view trials, not as a single event in our lives, but as part of the whole process that God uses to make us more like Christ.”

mother and sonAs my son, Gabriel, has gotten older, things have become … more complicated. To a certain degree, I have expectations that he should’ve overcome certain challenges by now. Similarly, I have expectations that I should’ve gotten past some challenges of my own. It is often difficult to discern if there is something amiss in his communication or if there is a behavioral issue pointing to the heart problem that needs to be dealt with. Sometimes it’s all tangled up together, so as a parent, it is a challenge to make sense of all this. This is my trial.

I love my son. But, there are times, I struggle to love him. Does that sound harsh? Should a mother have difficulty loving her own child? I have heard that it should be natural to love your children, and mothers have an innate nurturing quality about them. Well, this mother’s nature is selfishness, just to name one of many sins. Because of sin, I struggle to love. But because of Christ, I can love. “We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19). There is still a battle waging, but in the end, The Lord enables me to love my son. He is teaching me to love someone who can be difficult to love sometimes. He is teaching me to love the way He loves me.

    Lord, I know that one of your purposes for my trial is my sanctification. Help me not to think so highly of myself that I think I don’t need to go through trials. Take me back to the foot of the cross and see how much sorrow you endured for me. Help me to see that this trial is a result of your love for me. Though at the moment it’s sorrowful, in the end, it will yield the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

 

(Photo credit: PixelPlacebo)

Community, Coping with the Challenges

Reach Out and Touch

Parkop Village, Papua New GuineaMany years ago, before marriage and children, God granted me an opportunity to go on a missions trip for the summer. Our team had landed in a remote location in the jungles of Papua New Guinea. That bumpy ride on the single-engine plane left my stomach in knots, but the warm welcome from the people in the nearby village made me forget the nausea. Mostly children, they were all lined up next to the grassy airstrip, ready to help us with our bags. We were to stay in their village for about a week, which would be our first-hand exposure to tribal missions.

It was a short walk to their village, but it required crossing a creek. My “guide”, a little girl about 9 years old, showed me which rocks to step on in order to successfully cross without falling in. The rocks were slippery, and as I tried to maintain my balance while holding on to my bags, my inexperience definitely showed through. This little girl extended her hand to help me. I immediately noticed that her hand was covered with a dry, scaly rash. I presumed it was ringworm, and for a brief moment, I hesitated to take her hand. In those few seconds, I wondered what impression I would leave this little girl, who had been waiting for our arrival, if I refused to take her helping hand. My split second decision was to receive her act of kindness at the risk of contracting this skin infection. Later, during our orientation with the missionaries, they had encouraged us not to be fearful of physical contact with the people as they can tell if barriers have been placed in front of them. I was so glad the Lord prompted me to hold that girl’s hand. Furthermore, this simple encounter would be forever engraved in my mind and serve as a reminder for me today in my interaction with my son, Gabriel.

You see, Gabriel thrives on physical contact. He learns best when he can physically handle what he is learning. He loves to hug, kiss, and touch. For a mother, I can’t complain. But, we realized, especially as he got older, we needed to teach him about what is appropriate and that there will be times he needs to keep his hands to himself. At one point, his speech therapist even brought a hula hoop to keep around him during a session, so that he can understand how to stay within his personal space. However, there will be times when touch is important, even necessary, in Gabriel’s growth and development. As he has become more aware of the hurdles that he faces, that assuring hug, the encouraging pat on the back, or an enthusiastic high-five gives him the affirmation that he is loved and accepted, despite his challenges. This can be true for my other children, and it can be a reality for many adults as well. The effect that touch can have on us is, in essence, what makes us human and more so, what demonstrates we are made in the image of God.

Jesus Christ Himself did not hesitate to touch the “untouchables” of society. Consider the lepers of His day, who lived in isolation and who would have to cry out, “Unclean!” whenever they came near other people.

And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. (Mark 1:40-42)

Could not Jesus have healed him with only a word? Of course! But, imagine what that touch from His hand did for this leper, who had been deprived of any physical human contact.

holding handsI’m not really a naturally “huggy” person, but I’ve come to learn that an appropriate hug for a friend who lost a loved one or a gentle hand on the shoulder as you bow in prayer with someone in deep distress or a loving embrace for your child, who has timidly asked for your forgiveness are tangible ways we can manifest the love of Christ.

 

(Photo credit 1: John Slapcinsky)
(Photo credit 2: Jonathan Cohen)