Loving and Losing

I have spent the majority of the last twenty years either pregnant or nursing. And raising children.


Image courtesy of Siriani Photography. Copyright 2011

Now, half my children are mostly raised. One daughter is married, one taking a gap year between high school and beyond, a third is a senior finishing her AA through a dual-enrollment program, and a fourth is an accomplished freshman athlete. My parenting responsibilities with them are basically done. And that is difficult…more difficult than I imagined.


Obviously, I am not the first to face this transition. Nor will I be the last. To be honest, though, I wasn’t prepared. Time has gone too quickly. Even though I’ve treasured as many moments as I could, even though many told me the years were short, even though they aren’t all gone yet, time has gone far too quickly. I wish I could get it back.

That realization, however, doesn’t prevent me from wasting time with my other children. My youngest isn’t even five years old yet. And stretched out before me are too many choices, too many obligations, too many opportunities to miss out, on something.

When I started my parenting career, nobody told me how painful this journey would be…how I would, at some point, no longer be able to control every aspect of my children’s lives, and how badly that loss of control would hurt. Nobody warmed me that being a mother was like wearing my heart on the outside of my body, with little protection from damage.

Nobody warned me.

That I remember…

Honestly, even if they had, I don’t know that I would have been able to understand. It’s like trying to explain flying to someone whose never been on a plane, or trying to explain snow to someone in the Amazon Rain Forest, or trying to explain giving birth to someone whose never been pregnant. It is very difficult to do.

So, I will pass on to other mothers the warning I wish I’d received…that parenting is painful, if you’re doing it right. And that pain is a sign that you’re doing a good job, you’re “fully vested” in the process. You see, if you were parenting and your heart wasn’t involved, that would be a problem. Can you really parent well when your decisions are based on how to protect yourself from pain?  Probably not…

And, in the end, that shouldn’t be the goal. Not if we truly love our children.

There is an old poem, the author of which I can’t remember. Nor do I recall the context in which I first heard it, but the concept has stuck with me for years. The basic gist is, the real test of love is for me to give someone the freedom to reject me. That is what we do with our children; we pour our hearts into them, investing countless hours, incredible passion, and unimaginable amounts of money, only to watch them walk away. Whether they embrace the values we so diligently tried to instill, or practice the lifestyle we modeled, or engage in the endeavors we invested in is totally up to them. What they do with what we’ve given is, in many regards, a test of our parenting…and regardless of the outcome, there is a level of pain.

The question is how to respond to the pain?

How we answer that question will, to a large degree, determine what kind of relationship we enjoy with our adult children. If we withdraw and guard against further heartache or disappointment, our children may interpret that behavior as rejection and respond in kind, ultimately ending any hope for a health relationship. If we stay engaged, give freedom, and keep our hearts open, a whole new relationship can develop, a beautiful relationship built on mutual trust and vulnerability.


Image courtesy of Marchauna Rodgers. All rights reserved.

We’re still in the building stage. I don’t have all the answers. But I do know that I want to stay engaged with my children, in spite of the pain, because the pain of no relationship is far greater than the pain of a different one.

Can You See Me?

Can you see me? Because I want you to. But, as badly as I want you to see me, I’m terrified that you will; if you see me, then you can reject me. And rejection hurts.

image courtesy of josef.stuefer via flickr

image courtesy of josef.stuefer via flickr

The really crazy part is, if you don’t see me, I still feel rejected. And it still hurts.

I want to be seen, but being seen is scary.

Do you know me? Do you really know me? Maybe more importantly, do you want to know me? Because I want to be known. But, my fear of rejection overshadows that desire, too.

courtesy of istock. Used by permission.

courtesy of istock. Used by permission.

Do you see me now? Because some of the time I don’t want to be seen…not really. Being seen involved being exposed. And being exposed almost always means pain. If you really see me, you will see that I am not perfect. To be seen is to be vulnerable. And vulnerability is very scary.

I think vulnerability is scary for anyone, but it is especially scary for me. You see, growing up someone very close to me told me that once people got to know me, they wouldn’t like me. So, the very thing I longed for, the very thing we’re designed for, became an incredible source of fear and pain. I needed to be seen, but being seen would mean being known, and being known would mean rejection, and rejection means pain.

Yet, to a one who needed to be seen, God has become El Roi…the God who sees.

And what is more precious than to be seen by the very Creator of the Universe? What can be more amazing? Even just thinking about it makes my head spin!! The Creator of the Universe, the One who holds everything together, arguably the most important being in the Universe, sees me. Not only does God see me, He knows me. 

God knows me in ways no human being ever will. He sees not only my appearance, He sees and knows my heart. 

He sees and knows my heart…and He loves me anyway. He loves me so much that He sent Jesus to die for me, to set me free from the pain of sin and death. How incredible is that?! 

I still struggle with fear of rejection. But, as I begin to more clearly understand the depth of God’s love for me, and as I learn to live in light of His love instead of in fear of man’s rejection, the sweetness of the fellowship is beyond description. And it is anything but painful.

Just Be Held

The words to “Just Be Held” by Casting Crowns are so powerful. You can find them here, and the official music video is here.

Lately, I’ve needed to just be held…life has certainly hit me out of nowhere. And I don’t know how not to hold on desperately to anything within my grasp. I am on my knees, and answers seem more than far away…they seem non-existent. What does it mean for God to be on the throne? What does it look like or feel like to be held, to have Him hold my heart? As I type this, I really don’t know.

I feel desperation, like the father of the boy who was demon possessed in Mark 9. And like that desperate father, I’m crying out to Jesus to help my unbelief. I am struggling with unbelief…not the kind that wonders if God loves me or if He is still on His throne, but the kind that wonders if this pain will ever stop…the kind that wonders if I will ever again see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living (Psalm 27:13). Because life doesn’t feel good right now, and “being held,” raising my hands, believing God is holding my heart…

none of those have made the pain go away.

When I was growing up, I thought Romans 8:28 meant that God would fix up my mix-ups and life would feel good. Then life collided with my beliefs and I discovered what a bad theologian and exegete I really was. God doesn’t promise to fix up my mix-ups and make life feel good. Jesus actually said that life would be hard, but we didn’t need to worry because He has everything under control (John 16:33).

So often, however, it feels like God is anything BUT in control. Life hurts. Bad things happen to good people. Good people do bad things. Bad people win. And the good guy finishes last.

How do we reconcile that with what we read in Scripture?

How do we come to terms with the fact that life doesn’t necessarily feel good?

Honestly, I don’t know. But I do know that Scripture has much to say about suffering.

Psalm 34:18 says that God is near to the brokenhearted.

Psalm 147:3 says He heals the brokenhearted.

Isaiah 61:1 (ESV) says:

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted…”

This is Jesus. It is how He described Himself in Luke 4:18. The words are almost exactly the same.

What does it look like to let go? What does it feel like to really be held by Jesus…to truly trust Him to that degree? I don’t know…yet. But, I have a feeling that the God who came to earth to bind up the brokenhearted can show me.

I’m counting on it, actually.

Guaranteed Outcomes?

I wish life had guaranteed outcomes. I really do.

Image courtesy of FrameAngel at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of FrameAngel at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


I wish that it worked like a vending machine; you put a certain number of coins in, you make your selection, and tada…whatever you want comes out of the little slot.




Or you go to the coffee shop and give them money and they give you a cup of joy with foamy creaminess.

Photo courtesy of Marchauna Rodgers. All rights reserved.

Photo courtesy of Marchauna Rodgers. All rights reserved.

Unfortunately, life does not have guaranteed outcomes. You can invest your entire life in something, only to have it collapse into a heap before your eyes. You can invest your life’s savings into a “guaranteed” investment opportunity, and watch your future disappear in moments. You can make “all the right choices” and still deal with negative consequences, through no fault of your own.

That can be especially true in parenting.

Parenting, it turns out, is much like a crap shoot. You can make your choices, but you really don’t know what the outcome will be for a very long time. And even if you do all the things that “experts” recommend, you can’t guarantee outcomes, especially as children get older. It isn’t like when they are young and you can control all the details of their environment. In the end, control shouldn’t be the goal anyway. Having worked with college students professionally and raising a few of my own, over-controlled home environments leave children weak and unprepared for the real world when they leave home, and be assured…they will leave.

But, it still seems like we should have some guarantees…some sort assured return on our investment, especially when we try so hard to be faithful. And when you don’t get the outcome you expected, prayed for, worked towards, and invested in, it is very disappointing. Such has been my reality lately. God and I have had many a serious conversation on this issue, usually involving tears, and a great deal of meditation on what the Bible says about parenting.

And what the Bible says about parents.

Which led me to Daniel.

In the opening verses of Daniel, we find out that Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were all taken to Babylon after Judah fell.

What I find intriguing about Daniel and Co. is that in a generation so corrupt and disobedient that God sent them into captivity, these four young men were different…very different. They were so in love with the Law and the Law Giver that they resisted the peer pressure and indoctrination of the Babylonian Empire, remaining true to God and His ways through out their lives; Daniel for more than seventy years.

That didn’t happen by accident.

It happened because their parents did a fantastic job raising them

in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

We can tell by the outcome that these parents did a good job, in the midst of a perverse generation where so many others failed.

Judging by the results, these parents did everything right. And I am very confident watching their boys be carted away by the lawless, heathen Babylonians was not the outcome they’d expected. And they probably never knew what the real outcome was. If they were anything like me, they struggled with what God allowed to happen.

On further reflection, though, I’m struck with the reality that God loves our children more than we do. Indeed, Jeremiah 29:11 is just as true for them as it is for me…God knows the plans He has for my children, and His plans are for good, not harm…for them or for me.

Romans 8:28 & 29 talk about God’s plans as well. He promises to use everything in our lives to make us more like Jesus.

That is absolutely the outcome I desire for my children…what more could I want for them than to be more like Jesus.

I am beginning to learn, however, that it won’t look like I want it to; it won’t be the neat, tidy package all wrapped up with a bow like I planned. My children will experience heartache and disappointment. My children will make poor choices and suffer consequences…consequences I would try to protect them from. But, in my desire to protect them from pain, I might also prevent them from truly knowing God, from being able to find comfort in Him. After all, when do we get to know God the most intimately?

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Through pain.

We can’t get to know God as Healer until we need to be healed.

We can’t get to know God as our Strong Tower until we need some place to hide.

We can’t get to know God as Comforter until we need to be comforted.

It is in those moments, when we most need Him, that God helps us understand His love in a way ease and comfort never will.

Suffering can build intimacy and faith.

Suffering can develop trust and confidence.

This has been true in my life. And as painful as the process may be, it is what I pray will be true for my children…

intimacy with God…a deep abiding confidence in His character, regardless of circumstances.

As I walk a broken road with children whose hearts I can no longer protect, the One who has so faithfully carried me is proving that He can also carry them. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Not Job

The last few weeks have been some of the most painful in my entire life. Worse than when my first pregnancy ended in miscarriage…worse than when subsequent babies died…worse than when my sister died and we were abruptly reassigned. Pain I didn’t know could be experienced has overwhelmed my world. And new injuries are coming almost every day. It has been emotionally, mentally, spiritually, even physically exhausting.

In the process of seeking the Lord (because I absolutely can not cope with this on my own) Job has come to mind. But, perhaps, not for the reasons you may be thinking.

A cursory reading of Job will provide some powerful passages and examples on how to deal with adversity and grief. Yet, it is the opening chapter to which I want to draw your attention. After God gives Satan permission to “stretch out [his] hand and touch all that he has”, Satan does!

Verse thirteen says that Satan picked a day when Job’s children were having a great time partying at the oldest brother’s house. Who knows what the weather was like…the kids were partying, it probably wasn’t too bad…but Satan unleashed a storm of epic proportion. First, Sabeans took Job’s oxen and donkeys, killing all but one servant, who brought news to Job. Scripture says “while he was yet speaking” another servant brought more bad news; all of Job’s sheep and the servants tending them, save one, had been consumed by “fire from heaven”. “While he was yet speaking” another servant came and described how a Chaldean raiding party had come and stolen the camels, killing all those who cared for them except one. And while he was still speaking a servant came to deliver the final blow…his seven sons and three daughters were dead, killed in a freak wind storm that destroyed the home they were in.

Even with giving a generous twenty minutes for each servant to bear bad tidings, Job received news that his fortune and family were completely decimated in just over an hour?! And then, because of the man that he was, Scripture says Job “tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.’ In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.” Job 1:20-22 ESV

After Job’s entire life had been destroyed, he fell on the ground and worshiped. Wow. That is not the response I’ve had. When I’ve been driven to the ground, it has been in pain and grief…it has been to cry out in misery. It hasn’t been to worship. And while I wasn’t there and can’t speak to Job’s state of mind, I’m not thinking this was a “sacrifice” of praise, either. It sounds like his natural reaction was simply to praise God!! Wow.

I am not Job. I am so not Job. On one hand, that makes me very happy, because it doesn’t take very long to recognize that his life is not one I’d like to experience?! Yes, he had way more wealth than I can imagine, and God restored both his wealth and his family. But the journey he took, the abandonment by his friends, the rejection and blaming he experienced, even his own wife begged him to “curse God and die” because watching him suffer was so awful.

On the other, though, I recognize that God has never had a conversation with Satan about me this way, because I’m not Job. According to chapter one verse one, Job was “blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.” Job 1:1 ESV

I am not Job.

Through this process of experiencing more pain than I realized was possible, God has given me a sneak peek into my unregenerated heart. It is ugly! And Hell hath no fury like a woman spurned, even (or especially?) if that woman is a mama. Some of what I’ve seen in my heart is ugly ugly ugly!! Most people would probably think of me as a fairly good person, a good Christian, a good missionary. I don’t drink or smoke or chew or spend much time with those who do. But my home will never be on the cover of Better Homes & Gardens. Martha Stewart will never feature my home or ideas on her network. We’ll never have a reality show like the Duggers (though people have suggested it…but ours would be a tragic comedy along the lines of AFV meets Duck Dynasty, punctuated by screams or panic attacks or old fashioned tantrums…sometimes by Mommy, lol). In the end, though, however good somebody looks (or doesn’t look), God’s Word is true, in our flesh dwells no good thing.

Yet, in spite of what ugliness dwells in the deep recesses of our hearts, ugliness we ourselves may not recognize (we certainly won’t want to!!),

God’s love is bigger…

God’s love is stronger…

God’s love is better…

And He is enough…

Enough to care for Job in his grief and pain.

Enough to carry me in mine…

and you in yours,

especially because we don’t deserve it…


Go Tell John…

Luke Chapter Seven records what is probably the lowest point in the life of John the Baptist. He has been faithful to his call to “proclaim the way of the Lord.” He has been the voice in the wilderness. He has stepped into and filled the shoes of the prophet Isaiah. And now, he is sitting in prison, awaiting execution. And he is struggling; he sends two of his disciples to ask Jesus if He is the Messiah, or if they should look for someone else.

Perhaps this is my feminine perspective, and perhaps I’m projecting some of my own struggles onto this champion of the faith of whom Jesus spoke so highly. But, I have to wonder if, as John is sitting in that prison cell, seeing Jesus (whom he knows to be the Messiah) not restoring Israel to it’s former glory; is he questioning his entire existence. After all, his purpose in life was to proclaim that Jesus was the Messiah.

John is not the Messiah. He’s not perfect. He makes mistakes, and as a prophet – a truth speaker – he has probably spoken truth without enough love to balance the message. People don’t really like truth-speakers; they are brusk, intense, rough around the edges, rude. John struggles (like the rest of us) with distractions, jealousy, insecurity, disappointment. It appears, from his question, that John is disappointed in Jesus. Perhaps I’m reading into his comments again, but it seems even a hint of desperation lace his words…everything he’s lived for, everything he’s worked for, everything he’s sacrificed; all he’s invested his life in…was it worth it… or was it a waste?

That is what I really think John is asking.

Whether I’m reading into his comments and projecting my own emotional issues onto this man or not, it is clear John is struggling, greatly. I believe he sends his disciples to query Jesus in a moment of desperation, even despair. Have you ever been there? I have been. If you read my post, “Lessons at the Foot of a Giant” you know I was there just recently. It was a truly miserable place to be.

Perhaps this is what encouraged me so much. First, John is human!! He struggles too. This man of whom Jesus spoke so highly, this greatest of all prophets, this fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy…he got discouraged. He wondered if he was completely wrong. He had proclaimed Jesus the Messiah, after all. Yet, for all his passion and understanding of who Jesus was, John didn’t understand God’s promised Messiah. He had bad theology and it left him hopeless, in despair. John was probably looking for Jesus to come restore Israel to its former glory; that was, after all, the common misconception of what Old Testament prophesies pointed to. When the man he believed to be the Messiah didn’t fill his expectations of what the Messiah would do, John lost sight of what was important. He looked at his circumstances, and he (appeared) to lose hope. Did he feel like a failure? I don’t know, but it is easy to surmise that he did. And in feeling like a failure, his focus was in the wrong place.

Second, Jesus reminds John what is really important…and it isn’t John!

When Jesus responded to the disciples of John, He pointed out that He was doing what the Messiah should be doing. He was raising people from the dead, cleansing leapers, restoring sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf, making lame men walk, preaching the Gospel to the poor. Important and valuable, but not so commonly associated with the picture of the Messiah. Most Jews, chaffing under the thumb of Roman control, were looking for more. John was looking for more…he was looking for “significant” impact. John was looking for Jesus to meet his expectations. But Jesus didn’t come to meet John’s expectations, or anyone else’s for that matter.

Jesus came to meet God’s expectations, and when those things were done, Jesus came to die…on the cross…for the sins of mankind.

Not the fancy, triumphant behavior of a reigning king. Not the picture John had when he baptized Jesus, or when he challenged the Pharisees, or when he exposed the wicked behavior of the local ruler. Jesus didn’t meet John’s expectations. And John was disappointed.

Have you ever been disappointed in Jesus? Have you ever expected life to be different? Have you ever wondered if perhaps the reason you were on earth was futile and wasted? I have. And, I think John did too.

When Jesus responded to John’s cry, He understood, in ways we can not, exactly what John needed. He was, after all, God. And responding with all the wisdom of the Creator, He spoke words we would also need to hear. “Go,” He said to John’s disciples, “tell John what you have seen and heard—the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.” Luke 7:22 NLT

He didn’t say it in so many words, but Jesus assured John that He was indeed the Messiah and no, they didn’t need to look for another. John’s life was not wasted; he had done what God intended for him to do, and he could rest in peace.

Scripture doesn’t tell us how John responded to Jesus’ answer. Did he go to the grave confident in how he’d invested his life? I don’t know. But when I think about success and what I’m investing my life in, I am encouraged. Success isn’t defined by the world’s standards, it is defined by Jesus. And in the end, I want that to be enough.

Jesus was answering in a way He often does; not the way we expect.