The Bible in Three Words

Leave it to my two-year-old to summarize the Bible in three words.  Kids see things we don’t see through all the mess and complication of life.

I’ve started a daily quiet time where we both read our bibles together, quietly.  I have varying degrees of success with this, but the more we do it, the better it’s going (on good days, I get fifteen minutes of very interrupted reading time).

Lizzy doesn’t quite understand the idea of silent reading, so while I read my Bible, she reads one of her seven children’s bibles out loud (can you have too much of a good thing?).  At first, I found it highly distracting and slightly annoying, but then I started listening to what she was saying.

Most of the time, she opens one of her Bibles, turns to a story, and says “Jesus is alive!!,” then turns to another story and yells the same thing. It doesn’t matter if the story is about Noah or Jonah or today’s example, The Tower of Babel—“Jesus is Alive!!”

And you know, she’s right.

Jesus is alive today, as he was yesterday (in the Bible stories), and will be in the future.  He’s the great “I AM,” the name God shared with Moses (Yahweh).  He is, and he always has been, and he always will be.

But it’s more than that.  Because Jesus is alive, he conquered death on that cross.  That’s the good news, the big deal about Easter, that whole sin, death, suffering thing is over because of him, because Jesus is alive.

Those Bible stories, even the really old ones, where the pictures books focus on the animals frolicking in the Garden of Eden or on Noah’s ark, they’re also saying that Jesus is alive.

In the Garden, when death first rears its ugly head, God promises that Jesus is coming on a rescue mission.  He’ll crush that awful snake (Genesis 3:15).  Jesus is alive!

When Noah builds that ark, and God rescues people he loves from destruction, it’s the same thing Jesus does when he rescues us from destruction, from death and hell.  Jesus is Alive!

And that tower, all about people trying to reach heaven, to build a powerful fortress to protect them and bring them to the level of God.  That’s about Jesus too.  He is a tower, but not one created by man.  He’s the fortress, the sanctuary.  This tower is built from heaven down, bringing God down to us (not us to God’s level). Jesus is Alive!

Why is it that my college students have such a hard time finding the major theme in short stories, but my two-year-old nailed the major theme of one of the longest and most complex books in the world?

Jesus told us this would happen.  The kids get it.  The wise adult’s don’t.

At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children (Matthew 11:25 ESV).

Jesus is Alive! What more is there to say?

 

If you like thinking about how the Bible is all about Jesus, I highly recommend The Jesus Storybook Bible, which is one of Lizzy’s favorites as well. 

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Teachable Moments

As a brand new mother, I freaked out that I wasn’t engaging my newborn with enough structured stimulation. Basically, I wasn’t educating her properly.

I think I saw another mom with a Baby Einstein book, teaching her two-month old to read (or something like that), and I felt the pressure to plan a training ritual for her little brain, including expensive learning tools that all the “good moms” touted.

But then I was sorting laundry with her sitting next to me and held up a sock and said, “White sock.”  Her eyes lit up, and she smiled as I held up another white sock and said the same thing.  I talked about the entire pile of laundry in the same way, and I realized that the best teaching was taking place in them moment, in the middle of my mommy chores and mundane tasks around the house.

Basically, I didn’t need new fangled, IQ stimulating toys.  I just needed some patience and a willingness to find opportunities to teach my baby as they came along—out on walks, in the grocery store, or while washing dishes.

So it’s not surprising that I expect my father in heaven to use more formal methods to teach me.  I am ready and waiting at the appointed times, with the correct materials. I sit in church, ready to learn the lessons he has for me for the week, or I open my Bible, the proper curriculum for lessons, and wait for the teaching to follow.  I’m not saying that God doesn’t use these opportunities to teach.  It just seems like he has a far more varied education in mind for me.

Just like Lizzy learns best during teachable moments, God is also teaching me in the moment, in those little mundane tasks of life.

That same laundry pile, the odious chore I faithfully perform weekly, is a chance for me to learn a little humility (workout clothes smell pretty awful a week later).  I also develop a servant’s heart as I stain stick puke and other bodily fluids out of Lizzy’s clothing (sometimes, I fail to learn the lesson and throw the item directly into the garbage).

The best teachable moments are those really frustrating ones, the ugly times when life isn’t going my way.  I’m learning that God is in control and I am not.  I learn about his grace and my weakness.

The challenge is using those ugly moments to teach Lizzy as well.

She’s there, eyes open, when mom makes mistakes.  I admit, I’m not so great at recognizing those stressful moments as learning opportunities. I forget that she’s soaking up my responses.  (“Uh-oh” has been on of her favorite phrases for awhile now…wonder where she learned that one.)

I’d like to say that the times when I arrive at the grocery store and have forgotten my wallet or when I am late for an important appointment, that I step back and consider how I’m teaching Lizzy to handle the stresses and trials of this life.  If I’m honest, I’ll recognize that the lessons I teach her at these times are about how to freak out and lose one’s cool, instead of asking for help or praying for guidance.  A little laughter would help too.

I think I like those structured, formal, planned teaching moments because they are under my control.  I have a lesson plan.  I have a goal.

It’s not surprising that God uses daily life to teach me. I mean, his son, Jesus, did that constantly with the disciples. I didn’t see Jesus running to the nearest Christian supply store to stock up on the latest disciple training materials.  He used what he had, which was wine, shepherds, figs, fish, and rocks.

Just like for the disciples, learning takes place for both Lizzy and me in the midst of the mess of life. In the highs and lows, we’re both learning.

Here’s hoping that when teachable moments arise, we’re both good students.

Are you a good student, in planned times of learning and unplanned ones as well?

“The ear that hears the rebukes of life Will abide among the wise” (Proverbs 15:31 NKJV).

Faith like a Child

I want to believe like Lizzy believes.  I want childlike faith.

She’s obsessed with “hearts” right now.  Every electronic device in the house has been repurposed as a stethoscope (daddy is proud, of course). The phone, my iPod, the thermometer—all get placed upon our chests.  Lizzy holds the item against us and says “heart.”

She was holding the thermometer to my chest while I was changing her diaper, and I figured that since she knows what a heart is, she might be ready to talk about what it means, its metaphorical meaning of love and compassion.  (You’ve got to know that the literature instructor in me is anxious to teach her about metaphor.)

After she pointed to my “heart,” I told her that Jesus lives there.  And she didn’t look shocked in the slightest.

I just told her that the guy in her picture Bibles, who is at once a baby and also a grown man, is living inside my chest.  He’s also the guy that died but is also alive.  This wasn’t a problem for her.

“Alright,” she said.

That was it.  Jesus is in my heart.  If you ask her where Jesus is, she’ll point to mommy’s heart.

What a privilege it is for me to share these important truths with my daughter.  If only I could so readily accept Truth.

With Lizzy’s faith, I would read that God works out all things for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28), and I’d say “alright.” Meaning, I wouldn’t freak out so much when the dinner I prepared crashes to the floor, where its container shatters into a million shards (tonight’s lovely example).  I’d recognize that God has a greater purpose, even though the situation stinks at the moment.

I’d read that God is the healer, meaning he can heal anything (Exodus 15:26).  So the hamstring I pulled this morning during my workout wouldn’t worry me so much.  God could heal it in an instant, if it worked out according to his purpose (see above).

And the power outage we had this morning for a few hours wouldn’t concern me as much.  I’d remember what Jesus said about the birds of the air and the lilies of the filed, how they don’t need to worry because God cares for them (Luke 12:24-27).  And they don’t have electricity either.

Lord, grant me Lizzy’s faith.

If you’ve never read Robert Munger’s little story, My Heart, Christ’s Home, I highly recommend it.

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:14-19 ESV).

“That” Mom

I was “that” mother today.  You know, the one who appeases a wailing kid with a new toy at the grocery store.

We’re now the proud owners of a baby doll that sits in a pink baby carrier.

And I told myself I’d never be “that” mom.

It was already a rough day.  Lizzy took a miniscule morning nap before waking up and singing in her crib, messing up my plans to eat something nutritious at home before heading out on errands (we ate fast food instead).

My maniacal master plan was to drop off Dan’s car at the mechanic to repair the brakes and walk to the grocery store (Fred Myer) to kill the 2 hours it was supposed to take to get fixed.

But the early wake-up messed up the plan.   Plus, the parts weren’t in, the car needed more work than expected, and we were there for 4 hours. And boy was I tempted to lie about her age to meet the 2-year-old minimum requirement for Freddy’s Fun Zone…aka mom relief center.

So I let her play in the toy aisle when I was at my wit’s end.  Of course, she bonded with a little baby doll with eyes that close and a bottle that I mistakenly encouraged Lizzy to feed it, furthering the attachment.  Lizzy packed that doll around the store in its little carrier as we listlessly roamed from aisle to aisle.

When the car was finally done, I realized we had a problem.

When I tried to remove the doll from her grasp, the four horsemen of the apocalypse appeared, there were tears and gnashing of teeth, and people were stopping by to see if everything was okay.

So I put Lizzy in the cart with the doll.

And the doll stayed there through the checkout line (The cashier had to sneak up behind Lizzy with the scanner to get a price on the thing.).

So we now have a baby doll with a carrier.

And a mom who feels very humbled.

Ever catch yourself being “that” mom?

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:1-2 ESV).

Replacement Baby Jesus

Do you replace Jesus with anyone or anything?

Lizzy has a Fisher Price Nativity Set that she loves, so much that we let her play with it all year.  The manger scene characters mingle with her farmyard animals, and Joseph regularly drives the tractor.

But her favorite piece is baby Jesus. I’d like to say it’s because he’s Jesus, but it probably has more to do with it being a baby.  She likes to kiss it and pack it around the house.

Baby Jesus ends up in surprising places around the house, and he’ll go unseen for days.

So I found another one online.  A “replacement” baby Jesus.  Amazon even calls it that.

And I realized that I have a lot of replacement baby Jesus idols.

Jesus is my “Savior,” but I always find functional saviors, pale shadows in comparison—things and people that temporarily save me but don’t offer the full fix.

He’s my “Helper,” but I look for help in other places first.  I lean onto my husband, good friends, helpful books, and wise teachings.  And Google searches seem to be my favorite helper in the parenting department.

Jesus is my “Peace,” but I seek peace through other means (chocolate, earplugs, exercise), only to turn to him as a last resort.

Who or what is your replacement Jesus?

Place of Refuge

When you’re in trouble, where do you run? More importantly, where do your thoughts run?

Lizzy only started walking within the last few weeks.  She was 18-months-old by the time she took her first steps.  And I knew this was pretty late.  The doctor told me not to worry, but of course, I did.

I ran to my places of refuge.

First, I ran to history, family history to be precise.  I recalled that Dan and I were both late walkers.  Not this late, but pretty late.

But my worries weren’t fully relieved.

Next, I ran for help.  I thought about our insurance and whether it would cover physical therapy for her, if this continued.  And I found comfort in it, but not enough.

Then, I counted the expense of therapy, even if insurance didn’t cover it all.  And I found some comfort in our limited savings in the bank.

After I ran to all these places of refuge, in a matter of a few seconds, I realized that the comfort and security I found was all based on shifting sand.  These weren’t true sources of comfort.

Why didn’t I run to God first?

I keep doing this.  The last place I go is to God.

Why isn’t he first?

He’s the solid rock, the comforter.  He should be my first and only place of refuge.  And my head knows this, but obviously, my heart has a lot to learn.

What about you?  When you have a trial, where do your thoughts go first for comfort, security, and peace?

  He said,

            “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,

                        my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,

            my shield, and the horn of my salvation,

                        my stronghold and my refuge,

                        my savior; you save me from violence.

            I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised,

                        and I am saved from my enemies.

            “For the waves of death encompassed me,

                        the torrents of destruction assailed me;

            the cords of Sheol entangled me;

                        the snares of death confronted me.

            “In my distress I called upon the LORD;

                        to my God I called.

            From his temple he heard my voice,

                        and my cry came to his ears.

(2 Samuel 22:2-7 ESV)

Lizzy’s Eyes

Something wasn’t right with Lizzy’s eyes.

My almost year-and-a-half-old daughter would sit at the dinner table and look at the food on her plate, and her left eye would slowly drift inward and stay there while the other eye moved about normally.

The first time, I thought it was a weird kid thing, like baby acne and cradle cap.  But then it kept happening.  However, I was the only one who saw it (Dan might have seen it once or twice, but he wasn’t sure).  Maybe I was spending too much time with her.  Maybe all that alone time with a pre-toddler wasn’t doing well for my mental status.

But I got worried and took her to an eye doctor near me.

He took a couple minutes, shined a light in her eyes, and said it was phony lazy eye, pseudo strabismus.  He handed me a brochure that informed me I was seeing things, but the delusion was common.  Who knew they had pamphlets for parents who are hallucinating their children’s medical problems?

But it kept happening.  And Dan started seeing it.

And others started seeing it.

So I took her to a specialist yesterday.  She shined lights in Lizzy’s eyes and moved glass lenses around in front of them.

And she told me that Lizzy can’t see very well.  That she’ll need thick glasses, probably for her entire life.

I wasn’t ready for that.

I’d entertained the idea that she’d need a goofy pirate patch for a while, prepared myself for the annoyance of taping it to her head after each bath.  Wash it after spaghetti dinners.  I’d seen kids with patches and pitied the parents for having to keep them on a squirmy toddler’s head.  I wasn’t thrilled about the prospect, but at least I was prepared for it.

The doctor told me that Lizzy’s vision problems were causing her to prefer the stronger eye, her right one, and the left one was just shutting down.  Her brain was beginning to ignore its signals.

Often, glasses correct the issue.  Kids’ eyes start working again and stop drifting around on their own.

But sometimes kids need surgery in addition to the glasses.  But we’ll know better in six weeks if that’s required.

I was shocked into stunned silence for the rest of the appointment.  I asked a few pathetic questions and was thankful to have a doctor at home to explain all these unfamiliar terms to me.

Clutching Lizzy’s eyeglasses prescription, I walked into the eyeglasses store where the doctor sent me, one specializing in baby glasses.  Overwhelmed by all the little pairs of glasses, I stood staring at the display case for a while, while a very helpful and knowledgeable saleswoman took me aside and spent over an hour talking me through what Lizzy needed.

Lizzy howled as we tried to fit glasses on her head.  I had visions of struggling to get her to wear hers when they come in next week.

Back in the car, I lost it.  Life was unfair.  I’d already been through enough with Lizzy’s health.

But the peace that passes understanding came over me.  I prayed for help, and I got it.  Jesus held me and let me know that he was with me in this.  He has big plans for Lizzy, and this is part of them.

I had visions of my little girl, strengthened by adversity.   It’ll be hard to explain to other kids why she has thick glasses, to endure the teasing that little kids dish out to those who are different.  She’ll become a stronger woman for it.

Jesus is calling her to an amazing life.  He’s choosing to refine her from this very early age, as he’s already done with her other medical issues.  All the pain she’s endured with her reflux and breathing problems are part of the same plan.

It’s agony seeing my child pruned, honed, disciplined, trained, and shaped, all before she’s walking.

But I believe that God is in control.  He has a bigger plan in all of this.  And I’m glad he’s in charge of her life, and I’m not (I’m just here following orders).

But in the moment, when the scares and shocks come my way, I can’t say I’m always thinking that way.  So I’m thankful that he speaks wisdom to me and guides me when I need it.  And boy, do I need it.

Parenting is tough.  Thankfully, we don’t have to do it alone.

My New Packing List

Last week, I shared my struggles with packing.  Thanks to some wise words from friends, and a little help from the Holy Spirit, I’m rewriting my packing list.

Amy’s Packing List:

Dan
Lizzy
Dental Floss

That’s it.  So, maybe the floss can get cut (But really, how annoying is it when you get something stuck in your teeth, and no matter how much you try to pry it out with your fingernails, it won’t come out?).

But the point is, I’m bringing what’s most important.  Everything else can get replaced, or I can go without it.

I’m too dependent on my own plans and strength.  I need to realize that I’m not in control.  No matter how well I pack, God is in control.  And he can sanctify me, bless me, and use me, even if I don’t pack for every possible scenario.  Because, really, who can anticipate everything?

God can.

Not me.

Published in: on September 29, 2011 at 8:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

Packing What’s Important

I hate packing. But I love travel. So, I pack.

I’ve long been of the opinion that the way people pack for vacations tells you a lot about the person. The old relationship wisdom says to go on vacation with someone to truly get to know them. And while I think that’s true, you can learn even more by observing how they prepare for that trip.

Exhibit A, my friend

Her method for packing is to wait until the last minute, which of course varies depending on the person, but in her case, it is literally the last minute. A couple hours before the airplane begins taxiing down the runway, she opens her suitcase and dumps the contents of her dresser drawers directly into the luggage. Packing done.

Exhibit B, Me

I make a list. Or several lists. And I begin weeks before the trip, sometimes months, gathering the appropriate gear, making shopping trips to get the items needed, write more lists, and generally dedicate a lot of thought to it. And I always pack WAAAAAAAAAAY too much. The day the airlines began charging for checked luggage was a dark day for me. I can’t fathom fitting my gear into a carry-on, even for an overnight trip.

Exhibit C, my college buddy

He joined me, Dan, and 30 or so other students on a semester long trip around Europe and Israel. I packed the largest suitcase possible. He fit everything into a small carry-on bag, and most of it was packed with books. And he saw just as much as I did and probably had a heck of a lot more fun.

You can imagine how both friends challenge me. I love them, despite their different packing styles, but I also shudder when I consider letting them pack for me.

Now that we have Lizzy, the packing went to a whole new level. All the baby gear far outweighs anything Dan and I pack. And the lists. My goodness, the lists.

Last week, we went on a mini-getaway to the University District of Seattle while Dan attended a conference. I had the cushion of knowing I could drive back home if I forgot something important. Plus, I had two cars to pack, instead of one. But I was still stressed out about the packing (and I barely fit everything into both cars. Sad, but true).

The night before, we prayed that I wouldn’t stress out as much about the packing (this is a recurring issue). That we wouldn’t forget anything important. And God answered our prayer. Not like I wanted, though.

Boy did I forget stuff. I thought my last vacation had a colossal mistake, since I forgot to pack underwear. But this time, the quantity of things I forgot was quite embarrassing, especially considering the amount of lists I made.

And I was tempted, hours after arriving, to drive back home to pick up the stuff I forgot. But I didn’t. And I’m glad I didn’t.

Because I had everything I needed. God didn’t let me forget anything “important” (be careful what you pray for, and choose your terms precisely).

I forgot Lizzy’s placemat, something I rarely leave home without since it lets her eat at a table with us and allows me to scrape the food into a pocket instead of littering the floor with all her leftovers. Instead, I worked on teaching Lizzy to eat off a plate without throwing it and all the food across the room. We had some trying meals, but she’s gotten the hang of it, so much that by the end of the trip, we could trust her to eat off a breakable plate, in a restaurant with white linen table cloths! We were so proud of her.

I also forgot Lizzy’s baby spoons. So now, she’s eating off our spoons quite well, as long as we heap the food on the end of the spoon.

And I forgot my laptop stand. I get carpal tunnel pains when I write without my laptop at an angle, so I have this little collapsible stand for on the road. But I saw a student propping up her computer with its cover and realized that I was an idiot and could use just about anything to keep my computer at an angle.

As I write these examples, I realize how petty I was in worrying about them. It seems silly, now.

But I feel God’s grace, as he’s teaching me, in small ways, how little I “need.” But also, how much he gives me what I truly need. In the end, my lists won’t cover my needs…he will.

I won’t be giving up on my packing lists. If anything, I’m planning a more detailed system for the next trip.

But the anxiety level is going down because I realize that the lilies of the field don’t pack suitcases, but they look great each day with one outfit, without a truckload of beauty products, and none of the baby lily gear.

And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matthew 6:28-34)

Smelling the Roses

Okay, so I know it’s cliché, but Lizzy and I stopped to smell the roses yesterday. We also stopped to point at and smack around some balloons.

I’m an agenda driven person. I like to know the plan for the day long before the day starts. I know how long I’ve allotted to get from point A to point B, and I’m not too happy about detours, interruptions, and unforeseen obstacles getting in my way.

So can you imagine how challenging it is to have a little one who competes with an agenda of her own?

But my plan didn’t account for lovely roses, perfectly in bloom, a beautiful array of purples, pinks, reds, and yellows, free along the sidewalk for anyone to smell and enjoy.

And I fail to notice, like Lizzy notices, that every grocery store has balloons at the checkout stands. Did you ever notice that? And some are gigantic! They also come in animal shapes. Some even play music.

You should hear her try to call my attention to the balloons. I’m in my own world, headed to point B, and she starts saying “Baa boo” “Booo Booo” Baa baaa baaa baaaaaa.” And she points and gesticulates wildly toward the sky. Believe it or not, I sometimes miss these highly elaborate cues.

So Lizzy interrupts my plans. She makes me stop, constantly, and messes up my schedule.

And I’m loving it. Well, sometimes I’m loving it. Because I see how I’m imperfect, and I need reminders to stop, smell, touch, enjoy, and be.

Many are the plans in the mind of a man,

but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. (Proverbs 19:21)