Thursday, January 21, 2016

Family Matters

Aahhh...Quiet moments to sit and write.  Those don't come often these days.  Instead, I have traded my once quiet days of independence for days of glorious laughter, tickles, Bible studies, tantrums, and squabbles.  And I love it.  I decided I wanted to stop working outside of the home when my first child was born, so I prayed diligently for three years and, finally, the Lord gave me the green light.  And I've never been happier.  Please don't misunderstand that statement.  Some days and weeks are hard.  Some days drive us to separate rooms crying tears of frustration and fatigue, and crying out to God for help.  Being a stay-at-home mom and wife is by far the most difficult job I have ever pursued, but one that the Lord has graciously gifted me and, during these days, He has drawn me closer to Him than ever before.  I am thankful I have the opportunity to see my children grow and thrive each day.

After three years of praying, God finally answered my prayer and I was so ecstatic...scared, but thrilled at the same time.  I was finally able to be with my child (now, children) every day!  I was elated with joy!  I used to sit on my front porch with the Lord in the afternoons while my daughter slept and pour out thanksgiving for the gift of these days that I never thought I would experience.  And I still faithfully thank Him for His blessing, but somewhere along the way, I stumbled.  Somewhere along the way, as God was molding me into an abiding mom and wife, I thought I had learned enough that I didn't need His help any more.  Somewhere along the way, I picked up my family from where I had laid them at His throne and proceeded to carry them on my own.  I've got this, I thought. I've got this mommy and wife thing down pat.  Thanks, God, for your help, but I think I can take it from here.  And my sweet heavenly Father let me.  He let me carry them while He patiently waited and painfully watched.  He watched me struggle.  He watched me tire.  He watched me fall down.  A LOT.  He allowed me to learn the hard way.  He did not push Himself on me.  He loves me more than I could ever imagine, but He allows me to make mistakes and learn from them.  He was there to pick me up, dust me off, and walk with me again toward victory.  What a good, good Father!

So, how did my family...dare I say...become my idol??  How did they rise above God without me knowing?  How can that be when I love God so much and want to honor Him with everything?  Well, for me and maybe for you, I attempted to control my flock.  I called it "caring for my family" when really I was taking the reins from God.  God has blessed me with a loving, kind, and supportive husband and three amazing kiddos not so that I would replace Him, but to enrich and deepen my relationship and dependence on Him.  He has given them to me because He wants me to love Him with my heart, soul, mind, and strength and show my children how to do the same.  He wants me to live boldly while resting in faith.  And pass that faith down to the next generation.  He did not give them to me so I could put them in His place and begin to worship them instead of their Creator.  But isn't it easy for something we "have control over" to quickly become out of control in our lives?  I found that, as soon as I stopped seeking Him and asking Him daily for wisdom, my life quickly began to spiral out of control.  And none of my flock was happy.  I wasn't able to take care of any of them well because I was trying to do it on my own.

Our families, specifically our children, can easily become an idol in our lives if we are not careful.  When we fail to seek God's wisdom, knowledge, and guidance daily, we are pulled in so many different directions that it is seemingly impossible to know which way to go and when.  Our lives become chaotic and our souls become restless and empty.  We find ourselves tired, worn, exhausted.  At the moment we think we can do this family thing on our own, the enemy has already stepped in and we have given him a foothold. We start to seek the best education, friends, play groups, study groups, athletics, and extracurricular activities.  But if we're not seeking God's wisdom and discernment, then whose standards are we using? And what will happen to our flock then?  And have we forgotten the hurting, sad, lonely, needy people around us who desperately need to experience Jesus?  Have we forgotten them, people God created and loves more than anything?  People God placed around us and in the middle of our lives and paths so that He can use us to make an eternal difference in their lives.  What about them?

It is so easy as a mom to bury my head in my own family and excuse it by claiming that "I am just taking care of them," but in reality I am ignoring people who need to see Jesus. I am so immersed in my own needs, worries, and cares that I have ignored the gentle charge of 1 Peter 5:7 to allow God to handle my cares, which causes me to completely miss the cares of those around me who don't know Jesus.  They don't know peace or love or joy.  John 3:16, probably the most memorized verse in the Bible and, I believe the most important and profound, shows us just how deep God's love runs for the world.  He loved the world so much that He gave His only Son so that we won't die, but live forever with Him.  That's how much He loves the world.  I wanted to examine my family's status in God's light and under His perfect expectations.  While I do have a God-given responsibility and strong desire to care for my family's well-being because I love them more than I thought I could love anyone, does that make it acceptable for me to ignore people who are not members of my family?  Can't I do both?  Can't I give my best to my family while also lending a hand, ear, or resources to others God has placed in my life?  Although I used to fill my days with seemingly good activities, I wasn't allowing God to maximize my time and energy, nor was I allowing Him to give me rest.  I ran myself ragged attempting to remain in control of everything.  God has placed us in strategic locations in the world He loves.  So, I believe we can do both; we can love our family well and love others well simultaneously.  I believe that He does not want us to become blind or numb to the people around us, to be so caught up in our own way of living that we miss those to whom He has called us to show His love.

I decided that I can't be so caught up and distracted by "making a life for myself" that I miss the real needs of hurting people.  I decided that I need to wake up, seek God first, and ask Him to order my day and open my eyes to people around me who need His love.  There is no coincidence that I live, work, and move where I do, and no person/relationship is an accident in my life.  May I be on my knees daily so that I'm ready to listen, pray, care for, talk to, encourage, or uplift people when God asks me to.  And may I never come to a place where I feel that I've "got this family thing" covered, that I can do it on my own.  That's exactly where the enemy wants me because that's the place where I will miss the plans God has for me and the "good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do" (Ephesians 2:10).  God's "divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness" (2 Peter 1:3).  I have everything I need to walk in victory; I just need to fix my eyes on Him and allow Him to create my schedule.