Well, here I am sitting in my office on this huge old desk which Todd and I can share, trying to follow up on my to do list. You know that never ending list that if you don’t have it, you get lost in overwhelming “to dos”? yeah, that list. Okay, I confess, I’m moving backwards on my “to-do-list”.
After mailings, reviewing the budget, checking my emails and following up on calls and prayer time, I decided to check on my blog. I realize, “hey I missed lasts week’s blog”. Didn’t I have it in my “to-do-list”? AND didn’t I remind myself, at least twice, to get it done? So what happened?
Turns out that things just happen at work that distracts you and veers you away from your “to-do-list” or plans that you have for the day. For me it was these lists of over 150 members that I have been trying to organize, locate and find. Doing so will in turn allow me to create ANOTHER concise list… yeah, before you get confused. My second list is an updated list of contacts and follow ups for outreach. In order to be able to have that I had to “clean” out all the lists that I have found… and then find people. Turns out it takes a long time to do.. a LONG TIME.. like more than 3 weeks..
If you see my “to-do-List” you will find that item repeated over, over and over again, cause is a long…long…long process. I even had to split the task into 3 Lists. Then into more specifics or detail ones: In town, passed away, Transfers, Not found, No IDEA… I have learned that my habit of “If you do it, do it right the first time”, can be, as my husband says, an obsession. Or it could be that ADHD part of me. Regardless this task and it’s process, hard or not, has to be done.
Work has a way of grabbing much more than your attention, it grabs your time, your thoughts, and even your tranquility. It gets into a point that items on your “to do list” can drag you down and be time consuming. The worst thing is that it can cause a great deal of frustration, just like people can, you know? WHen they complain? Or you have a long line in front because such and such machine broke down? Yeah, like that!
I realized that certain people can handle those difficult situations better than most. Others are great with people regardless of the situation, others are patient with the computer more than most and yet others can handle “items” more than others. It all has to do with our personality and skills yet frustrating times come. So what do you do to keep from yelling at someone, picking up the computer and throwing it across the room or just (in my case) grabbing all the papers and feeding it to the shredder, where i really felt they belong. We walk away and take a breath.
Several things I like to do when work is getting overwhelming, frustrating or when there seems to be no end in sight.
Turn on or “up”, the music. For me is worship music. Depending on the need for escape or relaxation, I will listen to different styles or languages (English or Spanish). It really relaxes and I find I can work with a more relax and peaceful mind when I do.
Take 5, take your break, even if is just five minutes. Breath a little, talk to the one who works next to you. Share a little of your life, the funny thing that happen, say the day before. You can share your frustrations or difficulties of what you are dealing with. Sharing with others is helpful cause they may have advice that will help.
Take a knee, not like the football players take it, but a real down to earth knee to the ground and heart lifted up. Pray to the Lord that He may help you. Ask for comfort, peace, patience and more. You know your frustrations, well so does God. Only God can help you through the day. Sometimes a little short prayer is enough. It keeps your heart in-tacked.
Pass it on, not ALL, just some. Divide your task or the situation with another worker and pass on some of the load. I gave Todd the 1st finished list and had him do the contacting letters and some phone calls. If it was a person, I would have asked Todd to talk to him/her. If it was a situation, I would have asked Todd to help me… and so on. I even went around the people here at the church to help me find the “Unknowns”. Big HELP. One thing I have learned is that others can help you, JUST ASK. It does wonders to your sanity.
I found that this week is a lot easier, not only because I finished the lists, for the most part, but because I did the above things. It makes this week easier as I continue to contact those who I have found in the area. I have had great conversations too. I even have had the honor to place them in my prayer request list. (Which is yet another list..) Since the hard work is done and all those crazy lists are more organized, “yay” for me, I can work more calmly.
So as I sit here listening to worship music, in English, I can only relax, enjoy and smile. The fact that hard work may take a LOT of my time, patience and mind is nothing because, for me, meeting people is such a unique blessing. I hope and pray that I get to see face to face some of those names that I have on my list. I guess one has to find the joy in all they do. 🙂 Cause every job is unique, full of unique situations and unique people. But most of all, a UNIQUE YOU!
Yep!! She won’t tell me if she is having a boy or a girl. What is a mother to do?? After all, she got her ultrasound several days ago and she is MAKING me WAIT until Sunday! That’s like.. almost a WHOLE week! Come on! You only need to open that silly envelope and flash it to the laptop camera…I WONT TELL!
The reality is that I was not born a patient person. I was the 4 year old that could be told “you can have one whole bag of M&M’s if you will only sit in front of a bowl of them for 5 minutes without touching any.” Somehow after trying every possible way to patiently wait for my whole bag, including sitting on my hands, I was done for within 3 minutes, maybe even 2. I could only WAIT so long. My body could only sit still for so long.
It has been very difficult to just learn the art of patience. Growing up, I really do believe, that my dad would have some twisted satisfaction in teaching patience. He purposefully would make me stand there, waiting for Him, to give me permission to talk. Just so I can ask him if I can go to Yvette’s house to play. If I wouldn’t wait, the answer would be “No, you weren’t patient and interrupted me.” The last thing I wanted to do was to get him mad. So I waited, waited and waited until my mind and body wanted to explode. So I would wait the only way I could think of, keeping my mind busy with my imagination. I imagined all that we would do if Yvette would come over, but just so Daddy wouldn’t forget my presence, I would grab his hand. I would find myself playing with my fingers then, swinging his hand, then his arm. The LONGEST 2-3 minutes of my life.
His explanation to me in life was that Patience would teach me maturity. Yeah right…. like maturity would happen…. I hated patience. If patience was a girl, she would be the one I would have avoided. I wanted the answers then and there. I wanted to solve issues then and there. I wanted to enjoy life then and there. No time to WAIT. WAITING was just a WASTE of TIME. I had better things to do in LIFE than to WAIT.
As life goes on, patience seems to test me. I think I learned it better during my teen and college years. I had to WAIT a lot then. I had to WAIT in the offices, in lines and in the classroom. I had to WAIT for financial aid to tell me if I got my scholarships. I had to WAIT for my professors to grade my papers. I had to WAIT for companies to get back to me during Job search. I had to WAIT for the cute guy to finally ask me out… Well you get it. I was literally FORCED to have patience. I found myself talking to strangers, reading or just studying. But it wasn’t enough. I was antsy constantly. Yes me. So I finally did the only thing I could think of, I prayed: “Lord, teach me to be patient.”
I found myself asking GOD to work on my patience daily. So much so that I got a bumper sticker on my car and a key chain (which I still carry) that reads, “Be patient, God isn’t finished with me yet.” Though I had learned to distract myself in the process to make it easier, I still felt anxious. Patience became that companion that always follows you, but you really don’t want. Through scripture I figured that the only way I could conquer the lack of patience was prayer. I then learned that patience was not just a sign of maturity but a lifestyle, a needed character trait, and as I grew in my FAITH, I found that it became more and more part of me. Soon patience changed from a necessity, to an everyday pouring out occurrence. It flowed out as part of a new me. That prayer had become a daily prayer until one day the Holy Spirit just increased my PATIENCE as He did my LOVE for people, my HOPE, my KINDNESS… well, it turns out, it was part of my lack of SELF-CONTROL.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
All of a sudden, half-way through college I realized that my dad was not talking about human maturity, (This is a good thing, because I was failing there), but CHRISTIAN maturity as growth and the process of sanctification. Then, all the pieces started falling together, and I found out that patience was somehow becoming part of a trait that I never knew I had. Yet, I had to practice it. I had to realize that even though I hated being patient, I could do it because the Holy Spirit helped me.
God knew my weakness, and so He gave me 3 girls, a ministry that constantly ministers to kids and teens, and guess what? I had no choice than to be… you guessed it… PATIENT. It seems that if you are not very patient, the best way to practice patience is having kids, ministering to kids and working with them. The trait that I lacked, God increased it and moved it into a fruit that I have to use constantly. I could not have done it without the transformation and the power of the Holy Spirit. All because one day I went to my knees and said. “LORD, I WANT MORE OF YOU!! I NEED MORE OF YOU! THERE HAS GOT TO BE MORE.. I WANT MORE OF YOU.”
The uniqueness of having patience teaches us to be more creative, more imaginative and helps us do more. How else are we to kill the time in line, at the doctors office and so on. We wind up having to learn to use our time more wisely. We meet people, learn more by reading, spend time with our kids, you know, to keep them out of trouble, and so on. Patience teaches us to extend patience to those who don’t have it. It helps us understand others and in turn we learn to be kind, especially when they aren’t being patient. We learn to be Christlike with others, by being patient with them. Patience teaches us those unique values, like peacefulness, kindness, loving, compassionate and more. We learn to overcome difficulties, endurance and more. But most of all, we learn to depend on God.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”
Today, I wait.. and WAIT for the day my oldest daughter and her hubby to do this crazy modern thing called, “Reveal Party.” Whatever that is.. until then, I keep myself distracted, occupied and, well.. you know: Praying for patience 😉 Knowing that in the end, regardless, I will be EXCITED. One more unique little gal or little guy to add to my heart! I’m so excited!! So patience is not so bad after all… unless… it is a girl and they name her “Patience”… :O nah…they wouldn’t…would they???
[ I wrote this article over 15 years ago. It is still as true today as it was then]
We all know the story of Jesus coming up to the Samaritan woman at the well in John chapter 4 (v. 1-26). I remember the first time I heard the story as a child, in Spanish, in Puerto Rico. I was about 6 years old. I have heard it many times since then and I’m still intrigued by the story.
We are taught about the grace of of Jesus towards the “sinner” and about His offer of living water for those who “thirst.” Yet, it seems to me that there is more to this story than that which we are so easily led to conclude. This story is not just about Jesus’s offer of eternal life as much as it is to whom he offers it and how. This story is about how Jesus reached out cross-culturally.
Jesus begins by talking to this woman. A basic “Howdy do?” He speaks to a Samaritan which was considered a “taboo.” It was the custom that neither culture related to each other, much less talked. Not only did the two people groups go their separate ways, they literally went hundreds of miles out of their way to avoid the land where they lived. AND A WOMAN? This is even worse. Not only did Jesus dare to go through their land (already breaking through boundaries), but he even DARES to TALK to a woman, and not just any Samaritan woman, but an adulteress. Three strikes!
Jesus opens His conversation with, “Will you help me please?” Jesus does not ask if he could help HER, but the other way around. By asking her if she could help Him, he shows true humility. To allow someone to HELP you is one of the most hardest things for some people to do. It is an act of Humbleness. To ask an outcast woman from and outcast people is an even bigger deal. After all, Jesus had much more to offer this woman, He had eternal water. This is the most important lesson that Jesus teaches us in cross-cultural ministry: To HUMBLE ourselves.
Jesus asked a simple question. He didn’t care what the answer would be. In fact, He knew what the answer was before he asked. Yet He asked anyway. He knew it would be the opportunity that He needed to open a conversation with her. He didn’t come to her saying, “I’m a Jew and I have a lot to offer to you. I want to help you by giving you eternal life.” Jesus went about it differently. He knew that He had a need and that this woman who struggled in life could still help him. She was a woman whose culture and life was different in all ways. This woman could still fill his need. He was thirsty and had nothing to draw water with. She did. In turn, Jesus saw her need, and in order to help her, he had to start a conversation. His goal was to come to her with humility. He didn’t want her to feel threatened or fearful. He wanted her to feel comfortable. After all, He was in HER territory. Therefore, this dialogue had to be within HER comfort zone. By this action Jesus showed her that he might be a Jew, but He was NOT above her, and was willing to ask for her HELP. We see a WILLINGNESS to consider others as equals, and to make others comfortable.
The first lesson in cross-cultural ministry, is to break down barriers by opening a dialogue allowing the other person whom you have come to help (serve) to first HELP (serve) YOU. By this I don’t mean to “demand,” but “ASK,” “Will you help me?” or “Could you help me?” In North American society I have learned that people don’t ask for help unless they have to. North American culture lives by the rule that says, “Everyone takes care of their own business.” To other societies this seems obnoxious and proud. As Christians, Jesus teaches us to put aside the wrong things we are sometimes taught. Let me say this from a Latina point of view: It is necessary for people to put aside their preconceived notions that they can not talk to us because “we” don’t understand them, and if we do, it is only to “teach” us. They make sure to make the latina knows it is her job to learn to speak English, and not the American’s job to learn Spanish. Many people come to me saying, “You are in America now, you need to speak English.” What people don’t realize is, it is not the language that makes me Latina, it is the whole culture that is different. I am different in the way I converse, think, do, eat, and so on. In the Latin culture (or Hispanic culture), for instance, to not ask others for help (even if they have little), is seen as arrogant and prideful. We also know that if you need help, it is our duty and desire to help you because we are all Familia. We then expect you to help us when we have a need. On the flip side, the Latino and other minority cultures, are also afraid to ask for help, but for other reasons: we believe that we will not be helped. Due to the experience that we have been told, “Help yourselves.” Or “if I help you, you wont learn.”
Jesus did not demand water from the woman at the well, and I’m so glad he didn’t. She would have felt offended and would have left right away only to come back with several Samaritan men to throw Jesus out. The story would have been different: “Jesus runs away from the angry Samaritan Mob.” Jesus didn’t do that. He sat at the well, the Samaritan’s well. When a woman approached the well he kindly asked, “Will you give me a drink?” Jesus in turn offered His help. He awaits for her response, within her cross-cultural context and on her grounds. He offered to fill her need. This is compassion, to offer help and fill the needs of others. Yet, permission needs to be there. American culture, just as much as other cultures, needs to learn to ASK.
Help is seldom asked for filling the need that we have. Maybe because we don’t think they can. Maybe because we think that they are too different and will not understand. Maybe we think we are here to help them, not the other way around… Today however, the Hispanic population and other minority groups are increasing in the USA rapidly. Sometimes Americans don’t realize that many Europeans are in “their territory” just as much as Hispanics are in “yours.” (Many minorities have been here for generations, and Everything from California to Texas was once Mexico.) Goodness, even I forget when I cross from the Anglo-white culture into the Latino and back. Let us then be humbled in our approach to cross-culturally ministry. Let us be compassionate and willing to reach out in their context with LOVE and humbleness. Let’s learn from Jesus and how he approached other cultures. Only then will you be given the opportunity to offer your help and service to other groups.
Let me then be the first one, “Will you give ME a drink.”
Our budget is in turmoil. Okay, not in turmoil just… just shrinking. Now we have to revisit it and tighten the already tight belt. Sometimes I feel suffocated, light-headed, or on the verge of panic when I think of it. The worries come and ask, “What Am I going to do??” Taking a new job has a way of doing that, at least for ministers. We must be the first ones to be willing to take less, and give more. We are willing to help whenever and wherever. We are willing to be the first line item to take the cut until things change. Our hearts are definitely invested and we trust God… but our pocket books… well, the pocket books just don’t agree with you or the math.
So, we decide to redo our budget. The giant question is: What we need vs. what we REALLY need. Forget the needs vs. wants idea… that was left behind like several ages ago… at least 2 decades ago. So much for a temporary thing. Sure we make more than we did when we started, but I can account for that thanks to inflation. (We once made much more money because we were in-between ministries.)
Yet, I have to check myself, because even when “X” amount of numbers in the income line do not exceed “X” amounts in the expense column, and it doesn’t add up… we are some debt because of semi-new/used vehicle. Thanks to the fact that the car that had been paid off for more than 3 years ago went and decided to collapse on our last vacation trip. It just rolled over and DIED. Fixing it was worth more than the car and the amount we had. And in a little town God provided! It was a top notch, last year’s model. Not a High end car but an economical, American car that had what we needed, new car warranty and all for 40% less with less than 6,000 miles. God is good!!
With that said, we took God’s hands and walked into a new ministry. At first we were concerned. Will we have to go back to being bi-vocational? Yes..ugh.. We were wrong, I mean we should and normally would have to, my superintendent would “Highly suggest it.” (Please know that I love my superintendent, and I’m not just saying that because he may read this, because I’m sure he wont..LOL). The thing is that God had gone before us and taken care of our needs:
First, I had paid my health insurance for the year so I don’t have that expense. Since we don’t make much we were able to get a healthcare subsidy, but because it is still so expensive, I went with the lower end of coverage. We save what we can to pay high deductibles. Regardless, I have coverage, not much, but enough to get by.
Second, I had saved every thing I could in preparation for our move. Todd and I both worked at substitute teaching and this allowed me to save one paycheck of every 4 checks. Sometimes 2 of them If I could. I was also able to save my tax return and still able to pay my daughter’s college bill for the semester. (Mind you, thanks for her scholarships, it was HUGE. So I paid it in 3 months time.) Not that the savings will carry us through… it creates a cushion for emergencies even after moving expenses. We just don’t have to worry..much anyways. Somehow God has kept our savings intact even when I have to dip into it.
Third, that new car God provided? Well, my monthly payment is $176. I pay a little more between $180-$200 to bring down the interest as much as possible. I mean, why give the companies more money when all I have to do is pay and sacrifice a little more each month. Over time, most of the money winds up being in my pocket, not theirs. I understand other people wanting to get these expensive cars, with all the high end stuff, brand new or used with many miles at low payment. I learned to take my time, research and yes, expect a miracle of a deal. My vehicle wound up being $10,000 less than the sticker price plus my $5,000 down. I learned that if I can pay a good portion in cash, we can pay off the vehicle in 4 years or less (preferably in 3 yrs average). It must have a monthly payment that is low, really low and reasonable for the type of car, mileage and age. It takes patience, research and lots of prayer.
Fourth, it turns out that the church I am at had a college endowment for students of the church that go to our Nazarene University. My daughter is the only one. It turns out what is given to her per semester is roughly the amount I was having to pay. Plus she was accepted in the internship program so that covered her part. She had not been able to find a job in the Spring while at school so her portion was not in her savings at all. (This is all a God given gift).
Yes, God has gone before us. Yet, we had a part to play. We had to take responsibility as faithful, trusting, called servants of God.
We revised our budget. EVERYTHING was tightened. The question to answer was: What is the minimum we can live off while things were tight. Realizing a second job was not right for now, either one of us. Realizing that the church needed us 100% of the time, and last, realizing and eventually, knowing that somehow God will provide.
In the meantime we have sacrifices to make:
No eating out weekly much less, daily! We go out ONCE a month if the money is there and we limit $10 per person plus tip. We rotate Restaurant pizza 2x a month, setting a budget for $15-20 bi-weekly and the other 2 weeks, frozen pizza. NO JUNKY fast foods. Eating leftovers or sandwiches when out and about. This means I have to cook more often. That means more time in the kitchen, which in turn, helps me keep it cleaner. So what about groceries? See #2
No JUNK FOOD! Avoid, avoid snacks, chips, pop as much as possible. This is hard for my husband who grew up drinking sodas like water. I have to limit his intake, which is not easy. So no more 7-eleven, Sonics or whatever… generic sodas if needed all the way. We have Fruits, popcorn and granola bars for snacks. Hey, I suffer too! It means no candy for me. (I’m hoping one trip to ROSS and one bag of their sour gummies at $3-4 a month is feasible.) We purchase everything generic, and frozen vegetables are better and not much more than the canned. Buy on SALE, and yes, on clearance. Right now I’m trying to stay at a $225-$250 grocery budget here in Texas with 4 adults. Luckily, for my budget, one of my girls is going back to college so it will be easier and hopefully the second one will get a job… but she has her own bills to pay.
Cell phones- I’m highly considering cutting data usage to save us $20 a month and cancelling a phone that is not absolutely necessary. In the meantime we have learned that buying an “AT&T GO” phone for $20 or less, and adding us to the plan saves an additional $15-$25 per person, per month which is added to our “plan.” We spend less on 5 cell phones and plans in a year than some people pay for a single phone. I mean really, add up the costs. Why give them your money for a phone they expect you to throw away. We just keep the phone until it is no longer working. We have saved over $500 a year doing this.
No ENTERTAINMENT outside the house. Now before you all think I’m crazy or faint in disbelief: Let me say that we do budget for ONE event out a month. But we keep it simple. Beside that, we have found out that our family movie nights consist of staying at home, renting a movie, the pizza mentioned above and popcorn. We have learned that family games, whether it be board games, Xbox or the like, also makes for a great family time. Hanging out together not only brings you closer as a family and adds more fun memories but also helps with a budget.
AVOID STORES outside of your list. This is is my weakness… I love sales, clearances, antiques, garage sale shopping and more. So I am having to restrain myself to what I need only, or just $20-30 a month for shopping for home and clothing. (Or roll it to the next month for a funner time later). If you are tempted to go to one of those stores just repeat after me, “I DON’T have the money for …”. Also, when shopping, stick to your list as much as possible. Or send the one in your family that hates shopping. They will go in with the list and back without seeing anything else. (Unless you know that there is a clearance in electronics, then don’t send in your husband alone).
AVOID NAME BRANDS: Don’t get the expensive stuff, health and beauty supplies especially, avoid the fancy brands. Consider a lower cost brand, generic for most. Learn to always buy generic medicines, and such. This will save you half. You don’t really need to go to “ULTA” to buy the items you find at Walmart for 30-50-% less. Basically, be smart. Do your research. DON’T be IMPULSIVE, And if you can’t help it, make sure it is more than 50% off and you NEED IT.
Credit cards are FOR EMERGENCIES, especially if you are in DEBT. If you know you don’t have the money to pay it in full then don’t buy it. If you are expecting the money to be there the next month due to a bonus, an extra paycheck, a raise, or overtime, make sure that you have paid off your debts first before using it. It is ESSENTIAL NOT to RELY on your credit card for your everyday expenses. Unless your debts are paid and you are in a habit of paying it in FULL, MONTHLY; leave your credit card at home. You can call the credit card company and set a limit that you can afford until healthy habits develop. I started at a $250 limit while in college, than added $250 increments as time went on and FROZE it at $2000 (in case of emergency). That is to say, you DON’T spend your limit, is just there in case you need it. I usually use my credit card for: Christmas, vacations, emergencies, big items and work. (Mostly because I hate to carry my debit card or cash during those times). I make sure the MONEY is available to pay it in FULL on a monthly basis. I just refuse to give the company more of my money. So yeah, they don’t make any money from me. So if you are one of those that only pay your minimum amount, month after month, I’m sure you are their favorite customer…cause the moment you can’t, they will garner your wages and all that interest, you made them rich. Me? well, they won’t get rich from me because I don’t give them a chance. Which means: I get FREE service and they pay me to use their money. YAY!!!
So those are my sacrifices, and our new, hopefully temporary, budget. (Please note that numbers 6 & 7 ones are constant rules for our standard BUDGET)… did I mentioned that I haven’t gotten my haircut yet? Yeah… sacrifices. I will have to wait for Christmas for my perm, and do my own hair dyeing too. I think I’m going to have to use Todd’s hair grooming set to groom my dogs for the next 4 months… that alone will save me $200. That said, I better save for Black Friday as well… (Lucky for me, I do have points saved up).
I say all this to say, God has provided: our home, our food, our medical needs, our daughter’s college bill and more. So, we are trusting in God that all these sacrifices will be rewarded someday. I hope one of those rewards is going on a mission trip back to my Island of Puerto Rico. And when my minivan is no longer running, God will provide us another vehicle.
However, there is one area we will NEVER sacrifice or CUT DOWN ON: Tithes and Offerings. Since God has provided we return to HIM what he asks, what He needs to continue to reach people in our town, in our state, in our country and in our world. He does that through us. As HE has been faithful, we too MUST be FAITHFUL to HIM. So we give 10%, our tithe, and more for missions and special offerings, because we are GRATEFUL and we LOVE HIM.
I Give to GOD because HE has given all to me and continues to provide, daily. I have a new car, a van that runs well, I have no credit card debts, I have a home, yes even internet, food is on the table, our lives are not missing anything. And this crazy unique budget that I have to do… well, I would do it all over again if HE asks. I have FAITH that someday it might be easier and I can then tithe and give even more. Someday, I will be able to relax by the beach and enjoy my family…in the meantime I will dream as I watch a clip of a beach, true HULU (only $6.99 a month). And if I get desperate, there is always the lake nearby…
Some say that your kids grow up in the “blink of the eye.” That’s not true. It takes millions, if not billions, of blinks. As they grow it seems that the “blinks” are not enough to get them to grow fast enough. Sometimes if feels like, “come on and blink now already!” What they should say is “TREASURE EVERY BLINK.”
Now that my girls are older, I do miss those days: the days when they played together, shared their stuff, laughed. You know, before the fights and tears came into play. Yeah, those days. Those are the days that we miss the most and treasure the most. Raising children can be fun, and yet, challenging. It has moments of bliss and moments of tears. It has moments of peace and moments of “war.” The writer of Ecclesiastes was definitely a parent.
I think that the hardest thing to do is watching your kids hurt. As the years go by that “hurt” comes with different experiences and in different forms. Nonetheless, it is the hardest thing for a parent to watch. We want to keep them from hurting, we want to shelter them from those times. However, it is those “hurt” moments that we learn from the most, that THEY learn from the most.
Through these moments that cannot be avoided, we learn to deal with many issues in life, making better decisions. We learn about fear. We learn to console each other. We learn the do’s and don’ts of being a kid (and for parents, of being a better parents). We learn to keep an eye on the “warning signs,” so as not to fall in the pit of “hurt” again. We learn what to avoid and what to jump into. We learn how the world truly is and not just the utopia we wish it was. But most of all, we learn how much we need God.
Parenting is a skill, learned if we are smart and wise, and do not go at it alone. We need God with us every step of the way. He is the ultimate experienced parent. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that without God, I’m a horrible parent. It is God who inspires me to be a loving, patient (though sometimes my patience seems to run low at times), grateful, giving, compassionate (the list goes on, you get my drift), and empathetic parent. I need those characteristics, God’s characteristics, to be the best parent for my children. It is not easy to allow God in the mix at times. We are humans and sometimes our prideful humanity gets in the way. I have to be a humble parent, especially when I mess up. I have to allow God to build me and shape me to be a BETTER parent everyday.
“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had” -Romans 15:4-5
God inspires us to be the best, unique parent that ever walked on earth. Overall, God teaches us to be better “teachers.” He teaches us to comfort our children when they hurt. He teaches us to forgive them when they break your favorite mug. He teaches us to expect more of them as He expects of us. God teaches us to encourage their abilities, gifts and skills. God teaches us to keep them humble by reminding them “because I’m your mother,” now that’s fun. 😁 We need to be reminded as parents that it is through the grace of God that we can shower grace on our children. The same is true with patience, mercy, love, and forgiveness.
We often think that we can solve everything by giving to our children, but that is not a solution. Giving can be a demonstration of LOVE, but is sometimes only cheap manipulation. Kids need, hugs, time, encouragement, teaching, help, and more… all those areas in our lives that we use to show God how much he loves us, we need to show our children. It is through the bonding relationship with God that we learn to have a bonding strong relationship with our children. God helps us guide them through the difficulties of life, the sad, the good, the beautiful and the ugly. There is so much more that we learn from God and should learn, that we in turn need to teach our children. Most of all, we need to teach our children how to LOVE GOD, the how and the why.
Building a strong relationship with our Triune God is what allows us to build a strong relationship as parents with our children. Learning how God helps us deal with the “hurt” helps us deal with their “hurt.” I really do believe that parents grow in experience and this allows God to better us. After years, we become better and ready to be the BEST unique parents we can be. Of course, by then, it might be too late. They all have grown up. So what now? “You ready to be a grandma?” yeah, then that happens. Now you have to learn to be a unique grandma… yeah, in the “blink of an eye.” Time to learn to be the BEST grandparents ever…. (Just waiting for that moment😉) What a unique sense of humor God has.
In the meantime, I continue to do my BEST to be God’s BETTER and Unique Parent everyday 😊
“Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates..”
“When you pass through the waters
I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. 3 For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior..” —-Isaiah 43:2-3a (NIV)
“How can we love something that’s so small, so much?” My husband asked as we sat on the carpet, my arms around him while tears rolled down my face. He held onto me tightly and pulled me closer. I could feel his tears falling on my neck.
His question echoed in my mind. How can we love something that’s so small, so much?
“I don’t know,” I cried, “but whatever it is, it must be the love God feels for us. It’s a godly love…”
To any other person that has never been in our shoes, we were crying over an embryo that was lost at 6.3 weeks gestation.
To us, however, we were grieving for our baby. Our tiny, innocent baby that never did anything wrong. A baby that was wanted, prayed over, and loved dearly for 3 beautiful weeks. A baby we imagined bringing into this world. A baby that would be rocked in our little beige glider. A baby that would be named and spoiled with love. A baby, that at just 6 weeks, had a tiny, flickering, yet strong heartbeat just the day before.
Our baby, that we created.
A beautiful life.
As we sat there, two broken spirits, devastated by the news of losing our tiny baby, we felt the heart-rendering pain God must have felt when he watched his Son die. We felt the pain God must feel when He watches his tiny world, his tiny creation, suffer. It was in that moment I understood what it means to have true, parental love; to love something, even if it seems insignificant, with all our hearts. How many times have we, ourselves, felt insignificant, and yet God loved us deeply anyways? Yet, even when we feel small, God looks at us as if we were bigger than life itself. He loves us more than life itself. I understood that, in that moment.
When you get pregnant, especially in this day and age, you find out there are so many apps you can download to help keep track of your pregnancy and tell you something new about your baby each day. It’s amazing to me that by 5 weeks, just a week after I found out I was pregnant, Baby B had a developing heart. Not quite pumping, but growing. Once you start tracking your baby’s development, you start getting so excited about each and every milestone. Knowing that our tadpole-like alien baby was already growing so quickly and becoming more and more human-like made me wonder how people cannot see a developing embryo as a growing human being. I mean, it had a fully functioning heartbeat by 5 and a half weeks. I just couldn’t imagine our baby being anything else but our baby.
Thinking of this made me think of the Bible scripture of how God knew us as we were forming in the womb. All I can think about is how much God already knew about our baby. Perhaps he knew our baby would suffer, and that’s why he so quickly took it home. Perhaps he knew the baby could not live outside the womb, and could not stand to put such an innocent life through so much pain. These are the thoughts I can only cling onto in order to understand why? But in the end, the why does not matter. What matters is how we cope with the pain. Where we go with our grief. What can we do with our story. With my story, I want to tell you something. No matter how small a baby is, God loves that baby.
No matter how small you think your prayers are, God still cares.
No matter how small you think your pain seems compared to the rest of the world, God still weeps with you.
No matter how small your situation may seem, God is invested in it, and ready to fight at your side.
No matter how small you feel, God loves you more than you could ever understand.
That is something my husband told me, they day I started spotting. I cried on the bathroom floor, imagining every worse possible scenario. Joseph took me into his arms, and said.
“Celeste, do you love this baby?”
“Of course I do.”
“Do you think God loves this baby?”
“Do you know that God loves this baby even more than you do, even more than I do, even more than you can imagine?”
I paused. I couldn’t imagine such a love. I nodded my head.
“He loves this baby more than us, and he cares for this baby more than we can understand. Do you think with that great love, God would want to protect our baby and give it the best possible outcome?”
Even if the best outcome was hard for us to understand, we have to trust that no matter how small, our baby meant the world to Jesus Christ. The baby was His creation, as much as it was ours.
So friends, I leave you with these thoughts. I hope you don’t weep for us, but know that in every situation, God cares more than you can possibly understand. He cares about the biggest heart, to the very tiniest heart beating for life. He cares about the strongest, as he cares about the weakest. He loves the bold, as much as he loves the fearful. God loves us with a burning, sacrificial, and ardent love.