To Love a Child

“You will learn more about yourself through parenting than probably any other endeavor.” These wise words were spoken to me by my mother when I had just one, young, son. Nearly twenty years, and three additional boys, has certainly revealed things about myself that have thrilled my soul, as well as some not as pleasant. But, in my continued effort to fill my heart with good things, I find the following quote to hit the nail on the head:

Parenting is a journey–an inner journey, an outer journey and a journey of the heart. Parenting brings us to unimagined heights and unparalleled lows. It has the potential to transform our souls, heal our wounds and lift our hearts. But it also has the power to reduce us to tears, time and time again. Parenting can bring out the very worst in our behavior, even when our intentions are stellar. Every wart we thought we had hidden will somehow be exposed in the process of parenting. No experience has the potency to touch us, challenge us, or transform us like the process of loving a child. Parenting offers us lessons in how to grow and to strive and to seek. If we choose to open our hearts to the possibility of transformation, our children will teach us how to love, how to forgive and how to be full expressions of our deepest selves, if only we let them. Their love has the potential to crack open the hardest parts of our hearts, just as our love has the potential to carry them through their lives knowing they are cherished. Under the Chinaberry Tree: Books and Inspirations for Mindful Parenting, xiv.

I believe that parenting is one method of peeling back layers of ourselves that might otherwise remain unseen. But, it also wondrously highlights God’s unconditional, unchanging love for us. Knowledge of how he cherishes us does have the potential to carry us through all the ups and downs of this life. His love, so vast, so profound, reaches out and surrounds us like a comforting blanket.

Yet, within that same embrace, we have such a safe place for our “warts” to be revealed. Being in his presence is like holding up a life sized mirror showing our complete selves, all of our glorious beauty along with our imperfections. Just like we love our own sweet, precious sometimes rotten children despite any flawed behavior, he loves us completely, wholly.

However, the image of our reflection ultimately ought to begin to reflect less of our selves and more of our Savior. As he wraps us up in his loving embrace, he reaches into our darkest places, if we let him. He alone has the ability to replace those dark recesses with his brilliant glory (2 Cor. 3:18.) Parenting is certainly teaching me more about myself than I would have ever dared to ask. But, it is also teaching me more about my heavenly parent. I am more appreciative of being unconditionally loved as his child, warts and all, now that I have learned what it is to love a child, warts and all, unconditionally.

Open our Eyes

Today, a woman in our congregation gave me some eggs from her backyard chickens. This is like a gift of gold. She commented that, “They are good eggs and we have been blessed with more than we can use. Gotta be some perks for being the preacher’s wife.” Amen to that! 🙂

As I put the eggs away, I sifted through the mail and opened a thick envelope from a church member in another state. Enclosed were several photographs of one of my boys involved in some activities at a youth event from years ago. A note was included with this statement, “Enjoy looking back at [name of church] memories with your family.” It was signed, “We love you.”

I record this here as a reminder that God encourages us through his people, and sometimes when we least expect it but need it most. It prompts me to have the attitude of the song, “Open the eyes of my heart, Lord…I want to see you.” I pray for eyes open to see God.

Is it all Meaningless?

Recently, I have been cycling through a personal “everything is meaningless” slump. During an upswing day, I had an epiphany in Sunday morning Bible class. We were studying the book of Ecclesiastes. Not exactly what some might consider to be good, uplifting subject matter. 🙂 However, as we discussed what it means in chapter 3 that “there is a time for everything,” it hit me. I need to swap the lenses through which I am currently viewing life for the lenses of the fictional character of Phil Connors.

In the 1993 film Groundhog Day Bill Murray plays the part of weatherman Phil. In a strange twist of cinema magic, Phil ends up getting caught in an endless cycle of repeating the same day over and over and over again. Cue certain days in my own life.

The monotony begins to get to Phil, and he attempts to control and coerce the day into his desired outcome. His multiple attempts never fully result in success, and eventually the futility of it all gets to him, causing him to become more and more creative in his attempts to permanently end his agony.

It is only after he realizes his inability to alter his painful reality that his attitude and viewpoint shifts. In contrast to putting thought and effort into his desire for personal fulfillment, Phil begins to notice those around him. He starts to see the opportunities available in the day. Eventually, he moves away from focusing on himself and how to achieve happiness through selfish motives.

Instead, he begins to notice the ways in which he can assist others; helping older ladies with their vehicle, taking notice of and caring for a homeless man, etc. Once he changes his focus from himself to others he begins to pursue creative ways to add beauty and joy to the day. He learns another language, to play the piano, and in the process he lets go of his frustration and unhappiness. In their place he finds friendship and contentment. Only then is the spell broken and is Phil able to move on to the next day with all the hopes and uncertainties of the unknown.

A message in Ecclesiastes is very similar: rather than striving solely for our own selfish contentment we ought to take notice of those around us and do good where we can. And, we ought to enjoy our lives along the way.

If you have never had an experience that leaves you viewing each and every day as monotonous…repetitive…boringly the same…like ticking off the boxes of a calendar,…without purpose or meaning, then you have likely not lived long enough, or God Bless You! 🙂 Either way, I encourage you to read the book of Ecclesiastes if you have not.

For those of us who have or do struggle to find purpose in the monotonous or seeming futility of our days here on this earth, may we follow the example of Phil Connors. I resolve now to stop striving just for my own contentment, to stop being so self-centered, and to open my eyes to how I can befriend or serve those around me. I want to begin to notice the beauty in each day, and to create it myself if it does not exist.

In chapter three of Ecclesiastes, the author outlines that there is a time for everything on earth and in this life. In verse 12 he concludes, “I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live.” Here’s to looking for ways to be happy and to do good in this life!

Overflow of the heart

“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Luke 6:45, NIV).

The truth of this passage challenges me to be purposeful about what my heart is filled up with. In the last several years, I have had multiple indications that paying attention to the condition of the heart, guarding and protecting it, and filling it with truth, beauty, and goodness should become a higher priority in my life.

As a minister’s wife, and mother of four boys, what my mouth speaks has sometimes sparkled with beauty. At other times, it has revealed an ugliness that I would prefer to ignore. But, I desire, above all else, to have a pure heart.

So, this blog is a purposeful, intentional effort to collect and store good things. May the overflow of our hearts reap many rewards to those whose lives we pour into.