A Phone Call with Jesus

Did you know that Jesus talks on the phone?

Lizzy and I were doing our daily quiet time, and she wasn’t being so quiet.  I was knee deep in my Bible Study Fellowship assignment for the day, trying to finish it before we needed to head out the door somewhere. So I was a little on edge.

I was sitting on the couch, Bible in lap, pencil furiously taking notes. Lizzy kept hopping on and off the couch, grabbing books and toys, asking for my attention (asking what I was “coloring”), and I’d had enough.  Didn’t she know it was time to sit and quietly read her Bible?

She had one of our old cell phones and was yammering loudly on it. I hadn’t bothered to listen to what she was saying, or I wouldn’t have done what follows.

In a loud voice and a tone I normally reserve for keeping her from running into the road, I told her to be quiet and stop talking into the phone.

But then it hit me.  She was having her time with Jesus.  It just looked a lot different from my time with him.

Here’s her phone conversation:

“Hey Jesus”

*Nodding head*

“How you?”

*Nodding head*

“Lizzy fine”

“Alright”

“Okay”

“Bye bye”

Repeat.

Once I realize what I’d interrupted I encouraged her to go back to calling Jesus on the phone.  She half-heartedly repeated it for my benefit and hasn’t done it again since.

Of course, I find this heart breaking.  How quick I am to rebuke and judge.  And how much power I have to discourage.

I was being a religious snob because I thought my way of spending time with Jesus was the best one, the only one.  And I was teaching my daughter that lesson.

I bet her time with Jesus was a lot more fruitful than mine.  It sounds like she heard a lot more from him than I did.

I think next time we sit on the couch to read the Bible, we’ll spend some of that time on our cell phones.

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).

God’s Little “Helper”

Lizzy likes to “help” me around the house.

She has her own little broom to sweep along side me as I use the big broom.  Of course, her favorite way to “help” is to sweep the little piles I’ve made and redistribute them around the kitchen.

My little helper also assists in the cooking process.  She likes to mix things.   After scratching my head to find elements of each meal to mix, I finally gave up and started making up things to mix.  Rice is very popular.  Our rice is well mixed in the Letinsky household.

I often catch myself thinking that I’m God’s helper.  As if the omnipotent God with limitless power needs anything from me.  It’s my pride, thinking I have something wonderful to offer.

I think I “help” God when I offer my wisdom to someone, whether they want to hear it or not.  God has his own method of offering his wisdom, just when the person needs to hear it, in just the right way.

I think I “help” God when I do some small act of service like cooking a meal for people, as if he couldn’t provide for them on his own.  I forget about how he says he provides food for the birds, and so much more for us (Matthew 6:26).

Of course, this doesn’t mean I shouldn’t serve others, as a way to serve and glorify God.  But I shouldn’t imagine that I’m doing anything that God needs from me—that I could do it any better than he could.  I’m not saving him any effort or energy (he’s got limitless stores of both).

I can imagine how God puts air quotes around “help” when he’s describing my service, the same way I do when I talk about Lizzy offering her “help.”

I love having my little helper by my side as I do chores, even though she often makes the process take much longer and have far more complications.  I delight in her presence and the time we spend together.

And I’m God’s child.  He delights in spending time with me.  He loves it when I do things for his sake.

God doesn’t need my pitiful offerings of “help.”  But he welcomes them, despite how much I mess up things.

How do you “help” God?

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)

God is Bigger than This

By NASA. Photo taken by either Harrison Schmitt or Ron Evans (of the Apollo 17 crew)

It’s really handy to have some “go to” phrases, truth for when life gets rough.  I’ve already told you about “God is in control.” That’s been life changing for me.

But my New Year’s resolution to fear the Lord more in 2012 has taught me another one, just as helpful, if not better than the last.

“God is bigger than this.”

No matter what I’m going through, no matter how earth shattering, how grand-scale, monumental, and colossal…God is bigger.

That’s one thing I’m learning about the Fear of the Lord.  When we fear God, we stand (or kneel) in awe of his greatness.   His BIGNESS.  He is big, and we are small.  But he’s also bigger than anything else we can imagine.

I thought my worries were big.  God is BIGGER.

I thought the news about Lizzy’s eyes was big.  God is BIGGER.

When we serve and recognize a mighty God who is more powerful, more life changing, more present, more knowing, more in control, and more loving…we know a God who is BIGGER than everything we encounter, everything that happens to us, everyone we know, and everyone who hurts us.

And all our problems seem pretty dang small.

This doesn’t mean our problems aren’t significant.  The same big God of the universe died for the sin that causes all those problems in our lives.   This big God takes our little problems very seriously.

With that much bigness focused on such littleness, well, you know who wins.

Jesus does.  And so do we, if we place our trust in his BIGNESS.

The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the sky aboveproclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
    and night to night reveals knowledge.
 There is no speech, nor are there words,
    whose voice is not heard.
  Their voice goes out through all the earth,
    and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
    and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
 Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
    and its circuit to the end of them,
    and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

Psalm 19:1-6

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.

WANT!

Lizzy has a new favorite word. And it’s not a pretty one. She points at something and says, rather loudly: “WANT!”

It took me awhile to figure out what she was saying. Her enunciation is a little lacking, but I give her a break, since she’s only 14 months old. It sounds a lot like how she says “WALK” and “WATER.” So, until I figured it out, I was constantly handing her a sippy cup and taking her outside a lot. She probably didn’t mind.

But she says it ALL THE TIME. At the dinner table, she sees different, more appealing food on my plate. *point, point* “WANT!” When we’re at the grocery store, and a toy or a fun looking breakable object is just out of reach, “WANT!” Or, if we’re sitting in the living room, and I’m reading a book that looks more exiting than her books, despite me showing her that mine has no pictures, “WANT!”

You get the idea.

I couldn’t figure out where she learned the word. It isn’t like I was trying to teach it to her.

But I started hearing myself say “want.” And I say it a lot.

I say it when I read the Sunday ads, “WANT!” And I say it when I’m at the grocery store, planning on making something for dinner “WANT!”

By example, I’ve taught her that this is an important word.

She’s quite the mirror into my heart. As she parrots my words and behaviors, I see a not-so-ideal version of myself.

Contentment has been a big theme for me lately. It’s a way God is growing me. But I am constantly reminded how far I am from reaching this goal.

The righteous has enough to satisfy his appetite, but the belly of the wicked suffers “WANT!”. (Proverbs 13:12) (Emphasis my own)

Published in: on October 20, 2011 at 9:15 pm  Comments (3)  
Tags: , , ,