Monday, August 14, 2017

4th Grade

My sweet Eli,

Tomorrow you start fourth grade. I can't believe how quickly the years are passing. You only have two more years of elementary school and  I can't even begin to think about beyond that. But before I get ahead of myself I want to share some pivotal things with you that have marked this summer. 

This summer has been wonderful! The stressful moments have been few and far between in comparison and it's only proven to me how much you're growing and maturing. We've come a long way from the tumultuous struggles last year and struck a delicate balance of relaxation and fun mixed with just enough structure from part-time summer camp and it worked out beautifully for everyone! Your camp counselors would often tell me how creative you are, how they would never think about things the way you do. You challenge people around you to think differently and it causes people to understand more deeply. 

Last week you were having a tough time. You were upset and crying, telling me things get jumbled up in your head. You said the words to me, "I hate my brain! I hate what my brain tells me to do." It saddened me so deeply and my heart grieved for you. I held you as you cried and I prayed for God to give me wisdom and to know how to be what you needed in that moment. You recovered quickly, you always do, and even as I offered continued comfort, you were determined to press on and push through. Somehow you always find a way to make it work. I often wonder how your mind works and in these moments I worry for you and the battle you must face. 

And yet I can't stop there because just today while we were out a bo about your age approached me and asked if I was your mom. I affirmed to him I was indeed and he proceeded to share he knew you from camp. "Eli is really creative! The things he builds and makes are awesome!" I beamed with pride and thanked him for such a wonderful compliment and in that moment my heart swelled beyond what I knew it could feel. All the times I watch you off to yourself avoiding a crowd or busily creating when the rest of the group is engaged in conversation were now painted in a different light. The admiration was all over this boy's words and expressions and he was admiring my boy! You inspire people, Eli! With the way you think and the way you create and how you are - you instill intrigue in those who watch you in wonder as they attempt to enter your world. 

My sweet Eli, as you approach fourth grade tomorrow I know you're nervous about all the things that come with a new year. We already know God answered your prayer and gave you the teacher you wanted. We continue to pray over you and ask for God to further develop you into the person He uniquely and wonderfully created you to be. We watch in wonder as that unfolds each year. 

I'm so proud of you. Even as I tucked you into bed and we talked about our day, you made sure to share what I always say that tomorrow is brand new. A brand new day, a brand new year, a brand new grade, a brand new teacher. A brand new opportunity for you to continue to be the uniquely amazing person God created you to be. 

Welcome to fourth grade!



Friday, August 11, 2017

What a Test

Jesus looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him. So he said to Philip, “Where can we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test Philip. He already knew what he was going to do. John 6:5-6 (emphasis mine)

I don't know how I've never caught it. Maybe I've read it before but today the words leapt off the page. We know the story. Thousands had gathered to hear, see, meet Jesus and the miracle of the two fish and five loaves unfolded to feed the masses. But I'm certain I've only focused on the miracle itself and not necessarily the preamble.

There's so many ways this is speaking to me today. So many new ideas and lessons in a story that seems so familiar.

1. Jesus allowed Philip to be a part of the plan.

Jesus was very specific in his question to Philip. "Where can we buy bread for these people to eat?" It wasn't a matter of if the people would eat but a matter of how to get the food. The wording is so intriguing because it allows me to understand that Jesus had a plan, which we'll soon see, but He was allowing Philip to enter into the miracle that was about to unfold.

As I dissect this passage I'm not convinced that Jesus needed to hear from Philip (see point 3) but He was inviting, including, and asking him to be involved. I think too often we perceive Jesus, whether in the flesh or on His throne, as too lofty for us to reach. Too separated from us to be a part of our everyday situations. And yet, right here in this text, we see just the opposite! The black and white proof that He wants to be in our midst - that He invites us into His. He's at work, often with a plan already in mind, yet He wants to include us in what He's doing.

2. Jesus tested Philip.

This stopped me. Because at first it didn't sit well to think that Jesus intentionally tested Philip. I dug deeper. The Hebrew word for "test" is peirazó. It means to try, tempt, test, to make proof of. I found another translation that read "This was said to prove him." I admit it made me feel better to believe Jesus was trying to prove something in and of Philip rather than just test him. I believe this directly correlates with Jesus wanting his disciples to see Him at work but to help them understand what He was about to do.

3. Jesus already knew what He was going to do.

As mentioned, Jesus allowed Philip to be included even though He already knew what He was going to do. There's another truth to be taken from this. What we can imply is the idea that He wants us to seek Him, to ask of Him, and He will answer. I believe that gives us the reality of knowing He not only listens to our prayers but He wants us to approach Him and ask. By no means do I think this strips Him of any Sovereignty but I believe in His infinite wisdom He allows us the opportunities, at times, to bend His ear with our prayers and petitions.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6

He gives us the opportunity to present our requests to Him. Even though He may already be working things out and have a plan in mind, let's not miss the fact that we're invited to approach Him and be a part of what He's doing. And when we don't seek Him, He often seeks us out.

What about the test? When I read the word I didn't like it but just this week I faced a massive testing of my faith. The thing about this test was I can tell you most assuredly the Lord already knew what He was going to do. I just had to wait and see. There was nothing I could do, it was completely out of my hands, and the only role I played was to be tested, waiting for God to reveal His answer and will.

Do I need to tell you how I responded?

Philip answered him, "It would take more than half a year's wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!" John 6:7

I'm ashamed to admit the likeness I bear to Philip. Riddled with doubt, essentially pointing in Jesus' face the improbability of how to work things out. There's a certain practicality in Philip's response, much like my own. As if to say, "But Lord, this just doesn't seem humanly possible. I imagine He must have laughed to Himself, maybe even out loud. In my mind He must have wanted to remark, "You're right, silly human, it's not humanly possible. But it is God-possible." Maybe that's my own mind's eye of how this conversation might go but I know with certainty He's inviting us to be a part of His mighty plan. In the same way He demonstrated His Almighty power feeding the thousands on that hillside, He revealed Himself to me in this test. I don't always respond in faith, something I know I am continually learning, but He pursues me and allows me to be a part of His miracles. I know I don't always pass the test but I am so thankful He grades with grace!

Friday, August 4, 2017

Still Learning

I don't know how it happened but it's already August. It seems like just a few weeks ago we were celebrating school being out and the freedom of long summer days. Somehow I blinked and now we're bracing for the back-to-school madness.

I rejected the idea of school supply shopping for awhile because I thought that would somehow mean it wasn't a reality. I just couldn't bring myself to it. I didn't want to acknowledge this passing of summer with the finality of packing a backpack and saying goodbye to lazy pool days.

But we did it. Eli and I made a date of it. We got some popcorn and a slushy and went searching for painted rocks before loading up on the mandatory list. We made a fun outing of the ordeal even if it was going to feel like they were stripping us of our summer-time freedom.

In the middle of our rock hunt my nature-loving boy started to veer off. His compulsion to pick up every stick and leaf started to get the better of him (and me). I started to feel my own anxiety welling up as I wanted to regain control and get us back on track but he wouldn't listen. Now we were in deep waters of disobedience and non-compliance and I started to lose my cool. And there it was. In the middle of the sidewalk of Wards Crossing we both encountered a meltdown. Him crying, me yelling, people staring. And then I stopped.

Deep breath.

What was I doing? Was this about him not listening or was this about my own frustration that he wasn't doing what I wanted? This was supposed to be about him and special time together. I didn't want it to be a takeover of emotions and reactions that would later lead to regrets.

So we worked through it. Mostly I worked through my own immaturity and fit and changed my attitude. We managed to strike a compromise without completely losing it. And we successfully ended up with all our school supplies. WIN!

I can't say it always happens like that. There are way too many times when it doesn't. It's been a long road of discovery, research, trial and error, and lots of tears and prayers to get to a point where we can even have this kind of "success." I'm so proud of my boy and how hard he's worked and how far he's come. I'm reminded this isn't as much about HIM as is about me and my growth process. How can I teach him obedience when I can't keep my cool? The internal conflict becomes a reality check of myself and my weaknesses.

Friends, I know how hard this parenting thing is. I assure you that anyone who witnessed the scene in front of Barnes & Noble most certainly thought some crazy lady had lost her mind trying to get a child to comply while said child kicked and flailed for his own way.

I can't stop summer from coming to a close, but I can prevent my fuse from blowing. I can't prolong the start of school, but I can work through my expectations and emotions to help teach AND LEARN valuable life lessons. For him and for me.