Family

13 Reasons to Live: Longing for More

It was sunny, a pleasant day for a picnic. We were surrounded by people and laughter and food. The kids were enjoying themselves on the playground. And I wanted to cry.

Our friends had invited us to this African community get-together, where ethnic music soared joyfully from the loudspeaker, competing only with the friendly conversations at the surrounding tables. The warmth of the weather was matched only by the warmth of the relationships. There were still crowds gathered beneath the pavilion when we finally left, after the sun had disappeared behind the trees.

It’s been a few weeks since that day, and I still haven’t quite pinpointed what it was that triggered me to near tears in the midst of it all. In some ways, it was the beauty of the day stirring up a longing in me. You know, that empty ache in the soul that can’t quite be explained.

What struck me most, beyond the abundant variety of delicious entrees, the relentlessly happy music and the overwhelming number of people in attendance, was the strong sense of community, and the joy in the midst. The people were open, welcoming, loving, embracing. Everyone seemed to enjoy one another’s company.

In the midst of the busyness of modern culture, we’ve lost this appreciation of community.

I think much of the depression we face today is due to this lack. We bury ourselves in work and technology and things, all in unconscious effort to avoid what we most desperately need. In our pursuit of the world’s definition of success, we fail in what’s more important: relationships. If you find yourself longing for more, maybe part of what you’re longing for is meaningful connection with others.

We were created for community. And we’ll be lost until we find it.

Community is not just being under one roof at the same time. It’s sharing in one another’s joys and sufferings. It’s bearing one another’s burdens. From what I know of those who gathered at the picnic that day, they’ve celebrated together, but they’ve also suffered together. And that suffering builds strength in relationships. And overcoming together breeds genuine joy.

God has placed you here on this earth for a purpose, and part of that purpose is to contribute your gifts, your personality, your talents, and your life to community. You are needed and you are necessary. You’re here in this generation for a reason. Ask God to show you that reason, and to fill your life with his purposes. Ask him to lead you to strong, healthy, life-transforming community.

And when you find it, you’ll find you have reason to live.

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Carved

Even the ones I love most deeply here on earth will fail me. There are times when they won’t hear me, or see me, or know what’s going on inside of me. And I will fail them in the same way. But my savior has carved me on the palms of his hands, scars from the nails which held him to the cross.

 

Photo Credit: holding hands | “…holding hands with her dad as though she w… | Flickr

13 Reasons to Live: Not Forgotten

Have you ever felt invisible? I have. At least once a day. Often more times than I can count in one day. Completely and utterly invisible.

It happens in my classroom. I say something with what I believe is enough volume for the entire room to hear, but my students continue in their routine as if I’d said nothing at all. The other day one of my preschoolers seemed excessively absorbed in her activity and oblivious to me calling to her, “Sweetie, do you even hear me? I’ve said your name at least seven times.” “No, teacher,” she replied. “You only said it three times. I’ve been counting.”

It’s no different at home, with my kids. Time and again, I make a request to my son or daughter while they’re engrossed in play, unaware of my invisible plight. One time I asked my son why he wasn’t listening, and he told me, “Wait a minute, Mommy. I can’t hear you. Let me get these fruit snacks out of my ears.”

There have been times when I’m pouring out my heart to my sweet husband and he turns up the radio to hear the sports score. And times when I’ve shared an entire story at a family gathering only to find no one was listening. Or times when I’m in the store waiting for help and the clerk walks right past me to the person across the aisle.

It’s one thing to feel invisible, another to feel forgotten. I remember years ago, desiring children while others years younger than me had more kids than they could handle. And after, going through the long, lonely, and painful adoption process…twice. Even today, my heart now filled full with the joy of motherhood, I find myself waiting in new ways, for different things—sometimes tempted to think I’ve been forgotten.

What carries me in the midst is the reminder that I’m not invisible or forgotten before my father in heaven. Even the ones I love most deeply here on earth will fail me. There are times when they won’t hear me, or see me, or know what’s going on inside of me. And I will fail them in the same way. But my savior has carved me on the palms of his hands, scars from the nails which held him to the cross.

He knew me before the beginning and he will carry me through to the end. Not a tear goes uncollected, not a prayer goes unheard, no matter how long I wait in the in-between, or no matter that the answer may be no or not now. He always hears and ever answers, even when it’s not the answer I desire or expect, I know I’m not forgotten.

If you feel forgotten, know that there is a God whose name is El Roi, “the God who sees me.” When no one else sees. When no one else cares to see. His eyes invade our hearts with light powerful enough to split the darkness and birth new life. Knowing we are seen, knowing we are heard…knowing we are KNOWN is reason enough to live.

 

Comic Credit: Bill Watterson, Calvin and Hobbes

Photo Credit: Alone, Man – Free images on Pixabay

These Thorns

Blog_ThornsAndYellow

Answered prayers are most often wrought in pain and tears.

Source: The Thorns of Motherhood

Photo Credit: Free stock photo: Thorns, Spur, Close, Thorn – Free Image on …

Important Things: A Tribute

Blog_KidHoldingFlowersI’ve heard horror stories of families broken up over material possessions when it came time for their parents to move on and let go of their stuff. Sibling relationships, irreparably damaged, because they could not agree upon who should get what thing. Once treasured bonds permanently broken on account of greed and selfishness.

My parents recently moved from their home to a small apartment. In the process, they released many things that had been in the family for years. Over the weeks following, my sisters and I worked together to sort through furniture, décor, and other items. We donated many things to charity, sold others at a garage sale, and kept the most treasured things among ourselves. I can say with gratitude that not once did we fight over who should get what. And that says a lot about my parents.

DSCN7538_2055The most sentimental of items were a decorative plate with the phrase “love is the little things you do” etched beneath a picture of a girl passing a flower to her sister, and a plastic bowl with a picture of a mama bunny tucking her baby bunny in bed. These treasures symbolize what I most value about my mom. They remind me of those things in her character I want to emulate.

My mom has always been quiet and gentle. When I was little, my favorite thing was cuddling in her lap and listening to her heartbeat. She’s a person who loves deeply, and it’s always been evident in her actions. Kind words, thoughtful gifts, and tender hugs have always been her way of communicating her love to us. She’s always been selfless and generous, and she’s passed that on to us.

DSCN7541_2056Among the many things I’ve learned from my mom is that life is not measured in the amount of things we possess, but in the degree of love we offer. Her life has been an offering to us. That’s why a simple piece of art depicting true love and a little bowl representing the nurturing heart of a mother so accurately represent who my mom is. Love is the little things you do. It’s the only worthy investment. It’s the only thing that will outlast us. And it will outlive every earthly possession.

P.S. Mom, if you’re reading this…I hope there aren’t any typos because good “grammer” is something else you passed down to us.

Photo Credit: Hand, Giving – Free images on Pixabay

The Painful Side of Mother’s Day

Blog_CactusFlowerMother’s Day is not a bouquet of fragrant flowers for everyone. For some, it feels more like a fistful of pain-inducing thorns—an unwelcome reminder of things lost. A day meant for honoring mothers becomes a time of remembering the one who was never there, or the one who left to soon. Or it maybe it awakens the droning ache of unfulfilled longing for motherhood.

For many years, that ache was my Mother’s Day companion. Though I was blessed with a good mom who inspired in me the certainty there was no greater calling than motherhood, I was unable to have children in the biological sense. Adoption was always something my husband and I had desired to pursue, so it was no hard decision to journey in that direction. The process, however, was another story.

While the outcome of adoption is always beautiful and miraculous, the process is the emotional equivalent of the pain and exhaustion involved in pregnancy and labor multiplied exponentially and drawn out for years. Despite all the toil and sacrifice, there were times when I wondered if it was ever going to happen. And more times than that I was tempted to give up.

My daughter turns nine this month. Her favorite past-time is playing with her four year-old brother. I sit here now, laptop on the kitchen counter, surrounded by bags of clothes they’ve outgrown. Exhaustion is setting in after a full morning at the laundromat and an even fuller afternoon of dishes, potty training and more. I spent the evening cuddling my son and reveling in my daughter’s smile, knowing God turned all my tears in to songs of joy. My children were worth the wait.

Through all my waiting, I learned that every tear sowed waters the ground for joy to spring forth. And that is my prayer for those who suffer on the painful side of Mother’s Day. May God give you eyes to see through your sorrow, and ears to hear him speak peace to your storms. May you know that our God is the lifter of heavy burdens and the comforter of all who mourn. He is able to sustain the weary, uphold the weak, and repair the broken, turning tears of sorrow into seeds of hope.

Source: The Painful Side of Mother’s Day

Photo Credit: Crown of Thorns, white spiked cactus with little red flower http://www.flickr.com

The Things We’ve Left Behind

blog_rearviewmirrorI admit I was embarrassed to have my friend visit my small apartment. She lived with her family in a large house on the nicer side of town. We’d just moved after years of outreach work in the inner city. Much of our resources had gone to that work, and more recently to the adoption of our two kids. We didn’t (and still don’t) have the material abundance of the typical American family. So I wondered what my friend would think.

In the course of our conversation, she mentioned how lonely she was. Her big house was too often empty, her husband working long hours to cover the mortgage. The kids spent much of their time alone in their rooms, engrossed in whatever new technological gadget excess had afforded them. They had so much, but had lost much more in the process.

When she left, I sat on the couch and looked around our humble dwelling place…grateful. Living with less has afforded us so much more than money can buy. Living simply was a choice we made years ago, not only so we could give more, but that we could enjoy the short time we have together. Having less has enabled us to invest quality time with each other, and with our kids.

As I drive by the large yet empty homes that fill our streets, I can’t help but wonder…what have we left behind in search of the American dream? We think bigger and more equals life. Yet we’ve lost much life in the process. It seems the more we acquire materially, the more we lose relationally on account of the time it takes to maintain our possessions.

Sometimes I’m tempted to think my life is less because we have less. I have to remind myself to remember all we’ve gained in the process. And should we ever be granted abundance, I pray I never come to the point of forgetting what’s truly important.

“Two things I ask of you, LORD; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.” (Proverbs 30:7-9)

 

Photo Credit: Free photo: Rear-View Mirror, Mirror, Car – Free Image on Pixabay …