In Everything Give Thanks

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In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. I Thessalonians 5:18

This week we are giving thanks. Thanks for family. Thanks for food. Thanks for faith.

For many of us the holidays are truly a time of thanksgiving. And yet at the same time, the stress and tension of family relationships or circumstantial difficulties can make this time a great challenge. Paul makes quite clear to us in this scripture that it is God’s will for us to give thanks in everything.

This is hard.

I’ve found on this parenting journey a great blessing comes in framing life’s challenges in thankfulness. I am learning to thank God in the struggle, even if I can’t yet thank Him for the struggle. Trials are easier to endure and find peace in if I can keep a close gaze on God. He is above and beyond the trial, yet chooses to come walk with me through the trial.

I will give thanks to God because of His righteousness. Psalm 7:17

In difficulty, there is always something worth giving thanks for. And we can start with the very character of God Himself. He is God no matter what we are facing. And He is still on His throne. He is still “gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.” (Psalm 145:8). He is still light, and He is still love. When we focus on His righteousness, we see our circumstances through very different lenses.

With this new perspective, then, I find three reasons we can give thanks in everything.

Glimpses of His presence and glory– Even in the midst of the most difficult times, God will reveal Himself and make His presence known. Our first born daughter was born with a blocked intestine and had to have emergency surgery on her 8th day of life. All of our family spent Thanksgiving Day that year in the hospital with her. One of those nights we left to get good rest in our own beds, and as we got in the car, the Christian radio station there announced a prayer for “a new born little girl Katelyn having surgery on her intestines tomorrow.”  God gave us a glimpse of His presence that night- a glimpse we needed to keep clinging to Him and to each other to get through the hardest time of our lives. Look around and see the beautiful sunset, a friend’s encouraging phone call, a Bible verse hung on the wall, a caring doctor as glimpses of His presence and glory to keep you going. And be thankful.

Gifts of His love and strength- In moments of fear, frustration, helplessness and loss of hope, listen for the whisper of God’s love over your life. Remember again His perfect heavenly Father love that completely and unconditionally loves you, His beloved daughter. Remember His Fatherly protection and provision. The Christian group Plumb sings the lyric “How many times have you given me strength to just keep breathing?”  Clinging to His love we can find strength to keep breathing and to keep walking even just one small step at a time. “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13). And we can be thankful.

Grace for today and hope for tomorrow- I’ve found on my hardest days that God’s grace comes in different ways. It is grace that brings comfort, wisdom and strength to the present, and gives peace in the midst of the raging storm. It is grace that reminds me who I am and whose I am. It reminds me that God has authored each day I face before time began. But it is also grace that gives me hope for a better tomorrow. Hope is holding on to the truth that this is not our home. Our eternal home is on high in the presence of God, and there with Him there is no weeping, no broken bodies, and no more sin. And we can be thankful- for the now and for the coming.

Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him and praise His name. Psalm 100:4

Of all the things we can give thanks for this week, we can give thanks for Him and to Him- for He created everything, He is over everything, He is in everything.

In everything, give thanks.

Because They’re His, Not Mine

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I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of Him.  For his whole life, He will be given over to the LORD.  I Samuel 1:27-28

Because my children belong to God, and not to me, I can find freedom, peace and rest as I trust them to His strong hands and perfect love. If I live in this faith and keep this perspective, my parenting journey is changed for His glory and for my good.

Because they’re His, and not mine, I know He loves them even more than I do. The great love and endless grace of their Heavenly Father are poured over each child as He protects and provides for their every need.

Because they’re His, and not mine, I can trust them to His care. Whether they are sitting close at my side, or travelling far across the world, our omnipresent God is with them. His eyes are always on them, even when my own are not.

Because they’re His, and not mine, my own worth is not based on their choices. Whether they are shining in righteousness or struggling with sin, I resist taking the credit or the blame. I choose rather to set my own worth on who I am in Christ, which has not changed since my children were born.

Because they’re His, and not mine, I’m free to serve them with unconditional love. Each one is a gift placed in my care by their Creator. May I love them as He would have me. May I serve them with His patience, His grace, His discipline and His wisdom.

Because they’re His, and not mine, I can be their parent and not their best friend. Seeking to please God, and not to please my child, I can keep my place as parent in their lives. I can parent with purpose training their hearts and minds for Christ.

Because they’re His, and not mine, I can see past who they are today to who He is shaping them to be. He has begun a good work in each one of them, and I can rest knowing He will be faithful to complete it. I see His hand working even in the hard. Each glimpse of His presence gives me more patience and grace.

Because they’re His, and not mine, I can live with healthy boundaries, respecting their emerging independence. As they grow, may they take on more responsibility for their own decisions. May I model that responsibility as I live my life before them.

Because they’re His, and not mine, I can keep myself healthy to best serve Him in this role. I can seek to be healthy physically, mentally, emotionally, socially and spiritually. In doing so, I am best fit to honor God in this role. I can live with balance and an eternal perspective.

Because they’re His, and not mine, I can parent for His glory rather than for my own accolade. I can resist the temptation to compare and compete with others. I can seek the contentment that comes in living for the Lord, and not for myself.

Because they’re His, and not mine, I can stand in awe of who He has made them to be- today. When I set aside pressures to perform and pretend and be perfect, I see each child as an amazing creation shaped not by my will, but by the will of God. Each heart, mind, body and soul is a treasure who is worthy of great care.

Lord, forgive me for where my parenting has been centered on me, or centered on my child, and not centered on You. Make me a faithful servant of the children you have placed in my care. Give me your heart to love them as you would. Renew in me the wonder of who you have made them to be. I want to be faithful to you.

 

Hope Trusts God’s Compassion

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The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The LORD is good to all. He has compassion on all He has made.  Psalm 145:8-9

We have seen that God’s character is trustworthy. And we have seen that He created all things for His glory, and is faithful to care for all that He made. He is worthy of our full trust for all that He is and for all that He does. We see more of His heart for His creation as we look at God’s compassion.

One definition for compassion is “to see, care and act on another’s need.” God who is the all-knowing Creator of all sees every need that we have. And when He sees those needs, His response is one of compassion- He cares about what He sees. But His response goes beyond seeing and caring, to having the power to act on the need.  He moves towards us to help with power and love.

We have all passed a homeless man or woman on a busy street corner. We may have seen the need, but did we really care? And if we cared, did we do anything to help? If not, then our response was not one of compassion. Compassion is seeing, caring and acting on another’s need. I’m so thankful God has compassion on all He has made. He doesn’t glance and keep driving, but instead He stops and extends His mighty hand of help.

Yet this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope. Because of the LORD’s great love, we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him.” The LORD is good to those whose hope is in Him.  Lamentations 3:21-25

In the scriptures above, we see several characteristics of God’s compassion that are closely related. We see that God is gracious, slow to anger and rich in love. Gracious means that He gives grace and favor to those who don’t deserve it. He is slow to anger- He doesn’t look at our sin and react hastily, but moves compassionately to respond. And above all else His love for us is great.

A mother’s love for her child is to me the closest taste of God’s love for us that we can experience here on earth.  As we experience the rich unconditional love flowing from us to our child, can we feel God’s love flowing towards us in the same way? When our child makes a mistake, commits a sin, or otherwise acts in a way we wish he or she wouldn’t, and we feel that faithful love and forgiveness still pouring forth, can we accept it from God when we fall short? When our child is hurting, and our heart sees, cares and acts with compassion and help, can we trust God to move towards our hurt in the same way?

Another aspect of God’s compassion is empathy. Empathy is the ability to share someone else’s pain. It is knowing and understanding another’s pain, usually gained from having had the same experience.  Scripture assures us that through the incarnation, Christ experienced the same hurts as we have.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are- yet was without sin.  Hebrews 4:15

Though Christ did not have a child with special needs, we can be assured He experienced doubt, fear, grief, loneliness, disappointment and loss, just as we have. And we can be assured He is able to help us respond to those hurts in a way that grows our faith and honors God.

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.  Hebrews 4:16

God is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. We can trust His tender response to His children. He is good to those whose hope is in Him.

 

Hope Trusts God’s Creation

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Through Him all things were made, and without Him nothing was made that has been made. John 1:3

In the story of creation, we learn that “God created man in His image. In the image of God, He created them.” (Genesis 1:27). Human beings are the only creation that bears the image of God. All human beings have been uniquely created by the sovereign hands of Elohim- our Creator.  Each one fashioned to bring glory to God.

Everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory.  Isaiah 43:7

Jesus teaches us in John 9 that God seeks to glorify Himself through all people, even those with a disability.

“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.”  John 9:2-3

As parents of children with different kinds of disabilities, we may need to wrestle out this issue with God and with ourselves. Can we trust that God uniquely created our child- just as he or she is- to bring glory to Himself? Do we trust His divine design- or are we tempted to consider this an “accident?”

For you created my inmost being, you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful. I know that full well.  Psalm 139:13-14

Trusting God’s creation means trusting God with how He created my child.

Moses wrestled out this issue with God when God called Him to go to the Egyptians and lead Israel out of captivity. He was “slow of speech and tongue” and didn’t feel equipped to take on this great task.  God made clear to Moses that even with this disability, He was exactly who God created Him to be.

The LORD said to Moses, “Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I the LORD?”

We can come to rest in knowing that it is the Lord who creates each of our children, with their unique physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual development. We can turn our hearts to His great plan and trust Him to work all things for the greater good. We can focus on the beauty of God’s handiwork and be thankful for what we have, not discouraged by what we don’t have.

Friends of ours lost their third child late in the pregnancy. It was a very difficult loss. When God blessed them with a fourth child, and sustained them through the pregnancy, she was born with club feet. Their attitude has been a great witness to trusting in God’s perfect design for her, even with this challenge.  Their experience through the miscarriage gave them an attitude of thankfulness for this new life, in place of discouragement that could have otherwise come. They are focusing on what they have, not on what they don’t have.

Trusting God’s creation for my child moves me beyond “Why, Lord?” to “Be glorified, Lord.”

Trusting God’s creation also means trusting God with how He created me.

As “fearfully and wonderfully” as our children are made, so too are we created uniquely by God to bring glory to Himself.  He fashioned us to be the mother our children need us to be.  He uniquely placed us together in our families, whatever shape they may take. We can trust that our personality, our education and experiences, our passions and our interests, our strengths and our weaknesses have all shaped us to be used in our ministry to our children as mothers.

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.   Ephesians 2:10

One of my favorite quotes for ministry is “God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called.”  We may not feel equipped for this calling, yet we can trust God to pour into us exactly what we need to do the work He prepared for us to do. After He reminded Moses of who had created him, He made a promise.

Now go, I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”  Exodus 4:12

Hope trusts God’s creation- how He created my child and how He created me- all to bring glory to Himself.  He will help us, He will teach us, He will equip us for all He has called us to be.

Creator God, Lord of all, may I trust you with every detail you have fashioned in my child, and in me. Be glorified as your hands continue to shape us into all you’ve created us to be.

Hope Trusts God’s Character

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My husband and I and our first born baby had just come home to our little apartment after her birth when she began to get very sick. The doctor told us she needed to get back to the hospital right away. There she was diagnosed with a blocked intestine. In all our fear and uncertainty, with really no idea of what to do, all we could do was what the doctors and nurses told us to do. That involved a lot of invasive testing, an ambulance ride to the specialty hospital downtown, and an 8-hour wait in the emergency room on Thanksgiving Night to be admitted for surgery.  Finally we met the surgeon who would be repairing the blockage. For me, that was when our hope was restored. This very tall, extremely kind and gentle man was known to be one of the top pediatric surgeons in the world. He knew exactly what needed to be done to “fix” our baby girl, and he had the reputation to prove he could do it. Once we knew who he was, we could trust him.

We can place our hope in God once we know who He is. We have to know His character before we can transfer our confidence to Him. The beautiful thing is that God is a God who makes Himself known.

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities- His eternal power and divine nature- have been clearly seen.  Romans 1:20

A second beautiful thing is that He has made us to know Him.

You are my witnesses, declares the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am He.   Isaiah 43:10

There are so many incredible attributes of the great “I AM,” that we could spend a year studying them. But there are several that have been anchors for my soul along this parenting journey. As you read through them, think of how He has shown Himself to you in these ways along your journey.

God is holy. “As for God, His way is perfect.”  (Psalm 18:30) The holiness of God should always drive us to humility. An awareness of His utter perfection, infinitely above His creation, should bring us to a reverence that leads to great trust.

God is good. “Give thanks to the LORD for He is good.” (Psalm 136:1). As children we learn that “God is great, God is good,” but it is through years of experiencing the sweetness of His tender grace in our lives that we come to a much deeper understanding of His goodness. God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good. All that He does is for our good and His glory. Even in the very hard, His goodness is at work.

God is faithful. “Your faithfulness continues for all generations.”  (Psalm 119:90). God keeps all of His promises. Though we may fail to keep the covenant He has made with us, He will not. He cannot be unfaithful to His promises.  “Never will I leave you. Never will I forsake you.”  (Hebrews 13:5)

God is unchanging. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8) The same God we read of in the scriptures is the same God we love and serve and depend on today. His character does not change, no matter how much the circumstances around us do. Because He has always been holy, good and faithful, we can know He will always be. He is an unwavering anchor that holds through the even the fiercest storms of life.

God is omnipotent- having all power. “He was given authority, glory and sovereign power.”  (Daniel 7:14). God is all-powerful. He has power over all because He created all things. He is the Almighty- strong and reigning over all things. We see His power ultimately displayed when He conquered death and rose again. We trust that He will be mighty to save His children. He will be mighty to help us raise our children.

God is omniscient- having all knowledge. “You have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely.” (Psalm 139:1-2, 4). God is all-knowing. His knowledge goes to the ends of the earth, and to the depths of my inmost being. He knows my every hurt, disappointment, and fear. There is no subject He is uninformed of, no question He cannot answer, no problem He cannot solve.

The name of the Lord is a strong tower. The righteous run to it and they are saved. Proverbs 18:10

God’s name is who He is, His character, His reputation. The “I AM” is a strong tower, and when we run to it, we are saved. Meditate on the fullness of who God is and raise your hope to Him. He is worthy of all our trust.

In your name I will hope, for your name is good. Psalm 52:9