Dear Sons & Daughters Archives - Page 2 of 6 - Catherine Nelson

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A Script for Miracles

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“Bess, I’m going to hang up the phone and your dad and I are going to pray.”

It was all we could do and the first thing we should always do. This past weekend our daughter was 4,500 miles away in Amsterdam and locked out and alone on the street at 3:00 in the morning. She had gotten separated from her friends and abandoned by her roommate who had the key to their rented room. Her texts were laced with panic and as her phone battery bled out to 1% worth of power, isolation and fear overwhelmed her.

Pat and I were comfortably settled in our den watching the Alabama game with the other 3 kids accounted for and our 2 golden retrievers settled at our feet, but we felt equally as afraid and insecure. Our baby was alone and unsafe.

We held hands and prayed. We prayed lots of specific prayers for Bess and the roommate, but the deepest cry from our hearts was that God would protect Bess and get her to safety.

Over the next hour, I tracked her phone about every 5 minutes, knowing that if it began to charge, she had gotten inside and was safe. When her phone finally registered a charge, I texted her and held my breath as those beautiful 3 dots paced themselves on my screen. Bess texted that a woman who lived nearby had heard her crying and invited her in. She offered her tea, listened to her saga, charged her phone and gave her a place to sleep. Bess felt safe and relieved, but I was still spinning. It took me a little more time to trust this kind stranger and to trust that my daughter was safe.

God had answered our prayers expediently, lovingly and thoroughly, but He did it in a way that I hadn’t expected or scripted and I was a little slow to thank Him. He always knows exactly what we need, but for some bizarre reason, I usually think I know better. I tend to think that I know exactly what I need and what my kids and church and community and country need. I have a plan for how and when all these things should happen and I am happy to tell God about it and ask for His help. I have a serious ego problem.

God doesn’t need my help or direction. He is so patient with me and so generous to keep showing me His sovereignty and love. He keeps showing me this in His word. The very first miracle Jesus preformed was when he turned the water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana. His mother, Mary recognized that the wine had run out and she was concerned for the wedding host. She knew Jesus could fix the problem and so she presented the problem to Jesus. Mary didn’t tell Jesus what to do or how to fix the problem. She just brought the problem before him and asked him to fix it. She trusted Jesus and Jesus preformed a miracle.

Every day that you and I wake up, we will be faced with problems. We will have monumental tasks, deadlines to meet and mountains to climb. As parents, we will cling and release, prepare and pray. When we pray, please remember that Our Heavenly Father cares so deeply about all of our problems. Go to Him first and go with a trusting heart. He does not need us to write the script for Him. He is present and working miracles in our homes and across oceans. Your problems are no match for our mighty God. All praise and glory be to Him alone. Hallelujah!

“ When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” John 2:3 (ESV)

 “By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; 20 for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.” 1 John 3:19-20 (ESV)

 

“Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” Matthew 6:8 (ESV)

A script for Miracles

senior night 2

Smile

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Before everyone donned their Elsa, Storm Trooper and Joe Dirt costumes on Saturday, these 3 Nelsons put on a different kind of mask. The 3 people you see in this picture have really fake smiles painted on. This picture was taken 10 minutes after a heart-breaking loss to a big rival. The visiting team was still on the field celebrating and their band was rockin. Pat and I had our arms around a soaking wet and very smelly lineman, who couldn’t wait to get off campus, but we had one tiny obligation to complete and all it required was to stand there and smile.

Life is full of situations and circumstances where we have to just grin and bear it. We fake it for a lot of reasons, but one very important reason we do, is because we care about others more than ourselves. Everyone has stuff. We have all been wide-awake in the middle of the night consumed with anxious thoughts and worries. We have aching bones and aching hearts, but we don’t talk about those at football games, in the grocery store or the hallway at church. It is certainly more palatable and socially appropriate to avoid the “Debbie Downer” syndrome, but our goal should not be fixed on social appropriateness.

As Christians, our mission and hope is to be conformed to Christ and to love like He loves. Jesus was not a “Debbie Downer”. You will not find a passage in the Bible where when asked about His day, Jesus replies, “ Well, my feet are so dirty and I haven’t been sleeping. I am constantly being followed around by hundreds of people who want something from me. The 12 who are with me the most keep missing the point and I have to explain things over and over again to them. One of my closest friends is about to tell people that he doesn’t even know me, and to top it off, people I love and have given everything for are plotting to kill me.” Jesus was entitled to everything, but He lived to love others and to put the needs of others before His own. He listened and He didn’t have to fake a smile or compassion or joy, because His focus was His mission.

We also have a mission. We were created to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. We do that by making sure our priorities are in order. We put Him first and others second and then we focus on self. When these are our priorities and mission, fake smiles are less often required.

Not everything is rosy and sometimes the spotlight is shining on you. When things are rough and at their darkest, you are not alone. You have divine help to show you the light. God in His compassion and wisdom is present to remind you of all your reasons to rejoice. The smiles on this picture were fake, but if I had been clearer of thought and perspective, my smile could have been genuine and sincere. There are 100’s of beautiful things going on in this picture. That is my son and he’s the only one I have. He is being embraced by parents who adore him and each other. He is playing football for the first time in high school and he is exceling. He is happy and respectful and brings us such joy. We have every reason to rejoice and you do too. You are blessed and you have been given a new day to rejoice in your blessings and to bless others. It is time to smile.

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3 (ESV)

“Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” Hebrews 12:3 (ESV)

“Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2 (ESV)

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8 (ESV)

 

 

bent fingers

Bent Fingers

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At 14, Mary Moore has developed a new condition that contributes to her uniqueness. Over the last few months, her pinkie fingers have begun to curl into hooks. She cannot straighten out her fingers, and thankfully she isn’t in any pain. Yesterday, she was diagnosed with a genetic disorder called “Campodactyly”. Her condition cannot be fixed and will not fix itself. Our little Russian nugget will just have to learn to live with bent fingers.

Before she could begin to generate tears or a reason to pout, her sister and I encouraged her by reminding her of our own “bent fingers” At 6’1”, her 15 year old sister finds that she stands out a lot and there is absolutely nothing she can do about it. I cannot walk in a straight line. I have permanent scars on the inside of each ankle from the constant heel strike my ankles receive any time I walk. As much as I’d like to be able to walk in a straight line, I cannot.

Everyone has “bent fingers”, but so often, we grieve or pout over our condition. We look at all the “straight finger” people and wish that we were just like them. Our bent fingers come in the form of disease, social status, appearance, family dysfunction, health limitations, economic limitations, brain limitations and more, and very rarely do we offer up praise and thanksgiving to God for blessing us with these qualities that make us uniquely us.

Our bent fingers are blessings. Our Heavenly Father created us the way we are for His glory. He is the most wise and most loving and no matter how bent your finger is He did not make a mistake in giving it to you. Instead of trying to hide it or fix it, celebrate it. You are unique. God’s thoughts toward you are more numerous than each grain of sand on the seashore. He sees every part of you and He knows that you are just a little sheep. He remembers that you are dust and every single thought He thinks about you is a precious and perfect thought. His thoughts toward you are based on an honest evaluation of who you really are. If He thinks you are precious, who are you to doubt any precious part of yourself? Give thanks to the Lord who is good and always gives good gifts. Thank Him for your bent fingers.

 

“ Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful.” 1 Corinthians 1:27 (NLT)

 

“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body

and knit me together in my mother’s womb.

Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!

Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.

You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,

as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.

You saw me before I was born.

Every day of my life was recorded in your book.

Every moment was laid out

before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me,[b] O God.

They cannot be numbered!

I can’t even count them;

they outnumber the grains of sand!

And when I wake up,

you are still with me!” Psalm 139:13-18 (NLT)

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It’s only Tuesday

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It’s only Tuesday and the emotional rapids of the week have pitched and plummeted the Nelson family. We have started September with all 4 kids in the house, which is super sweet for this mom. We have celebrated a big win over an archrival in volleyball and whooped over our son’s football highlight films. My husband has had a productive workweek and the youngest got an A on her first high school test. We have also had one kid run a fever, one suffer FOMO, two engage in an infuriating, ridiculous and relentless quibble and a dog that’s battling a stomach bug. Mealtime is supposed to be the sweet, end of the day, highlight for the American family, but when mom spends hours of time, buckets of creativity and a good portion of her budget to put a healthy and delicious meal on the table…. and her kids turn up their noses at anything green… and pick every tomato off their plate… and slide it to the floor so the stomach-sensitive dog can gobble it up, this mom wants to bow out.

I know many of you identify and empathize. Our days are repetitive: Back to work, back to school, more projects, more bills, more homework, more laundry, more ballgames, more tears and interlaced are paychecks and celebrations, triumphs and bouts of unrestrained laughter.

It was a precious comfort this morning to read how wise King Solomon felt exactly the same way. Near the end of his life, and inspired by the eternal Holy Spirit, he filled us in on his pursuit for understanding the meaning of life.

Absorb with me some of his musings from Ecclesiastes 1:

 “Everything is meaningless,” 4 “Generations come and generations go, but the earth never changes. The sun rises and the sun sets, then hurries around to rise again.” 8 “Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content.” 9 “History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before.” 11 “We don’t remember what happened in the past, and in future generations, no one will remember what we are doing now.” 17” So I set out to learn everything from wisdom to madness and folly. But I learned firsthand that pursuing all this is like chasing the wind.”

Solomon was successful and wise. He was a Good King with a great reputation. He had a beautiful home and garden. He made mistakes and had to learn from them. He had kids that reflected well on him and kids that brought shame to his name. Solomon was able to indulge in the pleasures that life affords, and he was also able to find satisfaction in hard work; he realized that all of it is meaningless.

Our lives are just as meaningless. When life is defined by the daily grind and the mountain of laundry is reborn every 3rd day, and the schedule is crammed with 90 minute ball games, and we find happiness in interludes of successes, pleasures and escapes, we are a sad lot.

In His superior wisdom, Solomon concluded that we cannot truly enjoy anything apart from God. It is God who gives wisdom, knowledge and joy. (Ecc 2:25-26) He understood that all the simple pleasures in our wisp of time on earth, and all the roses and thorns and accomplishments, opportunities and major life events are also gifts from an eternal God. Do you, like I do, forget this? I get so entrenched in the temporary that I convince myself that the stuff on my horizontal horizon is the most important. My view is skewed by the temporary. The laundry, and homework and kid-raising and road-paving and people managing stuff is seasonal. There is a time for all of it and in the day it is given, it is to be rejoiced over and determinedly attended to, but we must remember that it is a gift. It has been given for a temporary time from an eternal God. For joy to abound, the eternal must be our goal. After listing all the experiences life has to offer, Solomon shares the secret. He learned that we should accept all that God puts before us as a gift and that the gift deliveries are always perfect in their timing, but if our happiness doesn’t find it’s core in the giver, we will live a desperate and exhausting existence.

Oh dear friends, rejoice! Whatever life throws at you is a seasonal gift. It is fleeting, but the one who gave it is forever. Have a great day!

What do people really get for all their hard work? I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God. And I know that whatever God does is final. Nothing can be added to it or taken from it. God’s purpose is that people should fear Him. What is happening now has happened before, and what will happen in the future has happened before, because God makes the same things happen over and over again.” Ecc 3:9-15 (NLT)

 

SpeedHump

Speed Bumps

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This summer with all its travel, summer reading, camps and pool time has had the included bonus of another student driver in our home. This bonus has increased the level of adventure, drama and a good dose of patience stretching. I’m pretty mortified by some of the words that have filled my car as we try to change lanes on Poplar and avoid ditches on Shady Grove. Practice for fall sports began a few weeks ago and so our driving adventures now twice daily include meetings with the biggest speed bumps in the city. If teaching parking lot safety and appropriate speed wasn’t challenging enough, there is one particular speed bump on campus that my “smart car” refuses to drive over. My Volvo has a safety mechanism that when approaching a large object at a slow speed will force the car’s dashboard to light up like Christmas and shut the engine completely down. The Volvo must believe that this speed bump is a mountain, farm animal, or dump truck, because it consistently stalls out right in the valley of “Mt. Labry”. With the consistency of the safety shut down, I should no longer be surprised or taken off guard when we flat line, but it freaks me out every time.

I understand and value the need for speed bumps and have encountered my share of metaphorical speed bumps a lot this year. In my rush and determination to raise teenagers, be productive, manage a home, stay healthy, foster loving relationships, and glorify the Lord, I have failed, had setbacks and gotten off track. These backsliding times have happened because I have taken my eyes off of the things that are most important. I have “driven off the road” because I have been distracted by the temporal and not locked in on the eternal.

God in His gracious and tender way has put “speed bumps” in my path to slow me down and help me correct my vision problem. These bumps have come in the form of unruly kids, fractured feelings and relationships, sickness, and disappointments. When I encounter these bumps, I usually slow down and earnestly seek the Lord. He loves me so much that when I am dangerously distracted and fixated on myself, He does what it takes to help turn my eyes back on Him. He knows that the perfect place for me to focus is on Him and on things eternal… not on things in the rearview mirror or vanity mirror.

The purpose of a speed bump is for drivers to slow down. At its core, the purpose is safety. When we ignore speed bumps and fly over them, we endanger ourselves and those around us. There is no need to be frustrated by them; speed bumps on the road and in life are valuable focusing tools. There is also no need to be completely flat lined and freaked out by speed bumps. When you find your fast march delayed by guilt, mistakes and disappointments, don’t quit. You have been given a gentle reminder that you are not focusing on what is most important. Accept the gentle nudge of the speed bump and be enveloped by the safe and eternal embrace of your loving eternal Father who is holding on to you every step of the way and will be waiting at the finish line.

“While we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18 (NKJV)

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” Hebrews 12:1 (NKJV)

 

 

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All Alone

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Isolation often seems to accompany tragedy. When our world gets turned upside down and the horror of the immediate assaults us, it is nearly impossible to find sure footing and even more difficult feel the dependable buttress offered by sympathetic friends and family. Our pain is so severe that we feel no one else can really identify or understand the depth of our heartache.

We live in a society that salutes those who can shake it off and extols the brave who can play through the pain. After all, no one likes a “Debbie Downer”.

This has been a devastating week for so many. Memphis is mourning the loss of 3 teenagers whose lives were taken way too soon. The tears in Texas mirror the floods that have triggered them. Friends and family are suffering through illness. Crime is on the rise… poverty too. Relationships seem busted beyond repair and hope feels thin. The pain is real and reality is tragic. Even though we see that people are suffering everywhere, it is easy to feel all alone in our pain. Wise and well-meaning people will tell us to pray about it and to remember that God is with us, and that is true and good advice, but sometimes we need more. We crave the physical sensation of a hug or emotional buffer of a good listener. We need people in our camp that we can cry with and vent to. We are social creatures who covet relationships.

An Old Testament hero who understood pain and rejection and isolation better than most was David. David was anointed to be the next King of Israel, but the current King Saul hated him. David had only ever served and honored Saul, but Saul hated David. Saul believed and spread lies about David and He made it his mission to kill David. David had to flee for his life and hide in caves just to survive. He felt completely alone and isolated. While he was in the cave, feeling overwhelmed and desperate, he wrote this beautiful hymn:

“I cry out to the Lord;

I plead for the Lord’s mercy.

I pour out my complaints before him

And tell him all my troubles.

When I am overwhelmed,

You alone know the way I should turn.

Wherever I go,

My enemies have set traps for me.

I look for someone to come and help me,

But no one gives me a passing thought!

No one will help me;

No one cares a bit what happens to me.

Then I pray to you, O Lord.

I say, “You are my place of refuge.

You are all I really want in life.

Hear my cry,

For I am very low.

Rescue me from my persecutors,

For they are too strong for me.

Bring me out of prison

So I can thank you.

The godly will crowd around me,

For you are good to me.” Psalm 142 (NLT)

 

David knew that God was the true one who could help him. God would avenge his enemies and God would never leave him. David knew whom to turn to and that is the most important, but as clearly as David could see the truth about God, he was missing the truth about his circumstances.

We know that David was not alone in the cave.

“So David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. Soon his brothers and all his other relatives joined him there. Then others began coming—men who were in trouble or in debt or who were just discontented—until David was the captain of about 400 men.” 1 Samuel 22:1-2 (NLT)

“Some brave and experienced warriors from the tribe of Gad also defected to David while he was at the stronghold in the wilderness.” 1 Chron 12:8 (NLT)

“Others from Benjamin and Judah came to David at the stronghold.” 1 Chron 12:16 (NLT)

 

David was surrounded by a support group who believed in him and loved him enough to suffer with him in the cave. The intensity of his pain and rejection blinded him from the reality of his environment.

When we are suffering, we feel all alone. God’s presence and help is all we need, but in His goodness, He surrounds us with human support.

Dear friends, I know you are hurting. God knows too. He loves you and He is always listening and always loving you. There is no wound He can’t heal. Run to Him, but also recognize that He has supplied bonus support from others with you in your midst. Rub the film of the isolation illusion from your eyes. There is a band of warriors in the cave with you.

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Donut the Dog is Going Blind

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Donut the dog is going blind. She barks at everything now. Our home is currently under construction and it puts her completely on edge. All her life, she has been a wonderful guard dog. She has scared off intruders during a break-in and we have been kept safe because of her attention and protective spirit, but her keen sense of awareness is now out of balance. She is slow to recognize my husband, the kids and me. She gets riled up and growls all day long as we come and go. Her security has been jeopardized and she feels insecure and unsteady. Because she can’t focus, things unseen are threatening.

Our family and surely your family too, has had some big nasty stuff to deal with this year. On one dark night, as we ached and grappled with the catastrophe in our laps, my imagination went into overdrive. I envisioned all the horrible things that could happen as a consequence to our trouble. As my fear-wrapped tears fell, I internally barked and growled at all the uncertainty and things unseen. My job for over 20 years has been to protect and love, encourage and teach my kids, and because I was threatened with insecurity, my focus got fuzzy.

As I got to my knees and tried to remain distraction-free, I failed. I created scenarios in my head of all the terrible things that might take place, and then the sweetest thing happened. One phrase from a Bible verse I had read many times popped into my head and calmed my heart. “Whatsoever is true.”

That phrase spoke and still speaks so clearly to me. The only things we need to deal with are those things that are right in front of us and are currently true. Each day has enough trouble of its own. When we look beyond the truth of the moment, we get paranoid, and quite frankly, annoying. A kind, old, and faithful dog will quickly set your nerves on edge when she barks at everything.

We live in a sinful and messed up world. We parent disobedient and stubborn children. We want to do things right and we fail. People are mean. Bad things happen, and when they do, we have to deal with it. We get to learn and hopefully we won’t make the same mistakes over and over again, but we will miss the lesson and retard the joy if we mushroom the misfortune into more than it is.

To be completely honest with you, some of the worst things that I imagined that night on my knees actually did happen. The wounds that were delivered after the original blow hurt just as much, but when they were delivered, I was equipped for that trial on that day. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

As parents we have a special alertness and we tend to be good at catching our kids when they mess up. A parent’s intuition is the real deal, but we need to be sure that our intuition hasn’t been put into overdrive and our keen sense of awareness gotten out of balance. When our kids mess up, they need to be corrected, but their failures are usually not indicators that they will end up as felons, dropouts, or losers.

Encourage and pray for your children. Bark loudly when you recognize danger, but make sure your lenses are clean. Your warnings will have a much greater impact when you save them for things that are truly harmful and at hand.

When we find our security in our kids or marriage or family, jobs, talents, beauty or anything other than Jesus Christ, our security is in great jeopardy. Christ is the only thing solid to stand on. When we depend on ourselves or our circumstances for self- worth or happiness, we will fail and be just as insecure as a blind, paranoid old dog.

Rejoice, Dear friends, You are equipped for today!

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34 (NIV)

 

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true…. –think about such things.” Philippians 4:8 abbr. (NKJV)

 

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”         2  Corinthians 4:18 (NIV)

 

“My hope is built on nothing less

Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;

I dare not trust the sweetest frame,

But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;

All other ground is sinking sand.” Edward Mote 1797

 

“The sky is falling!” Chicken Little

 

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8th Grade Sucks

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Today is the very last day of middle school for the very last Nelson. Hallelujah and Good Riddance. 8th grade sucks. It is awkward, socially dysfunctional, emotionally unstable and confusing. It is chock-full of hormones, insecurities, algebra and smelly feet. I hated 8th grade. My husband and first 3 children hated it too, and now it is finished. I am so happy that I will never have to parent or participate in any middle school activities ever again. I feel free and Mary Moore and I are celebrating.

We are rejoicing that it is over, but we are also celebrating all the things that happened along the way.

I am truly amazed and thankful for teachers and youth leaders who choose to spend their time and talent on and who selflessly love and nurture middle schoolers. I would hope that their mansions in heaven are big and bejeweled. These saints who loved on Mary Moore this year earned those jewels. 8th grade is rough for many, but I think it was especially hard on M2. M2 suffered a brain injury before she was adopted into our family. As a result, she is developmentally delayed and it takes her 4x as long to learn and retain information. This tiny chic rose to the challenge and finished middle school with the same grades that her brother and sister did. She rarely complained. She recognized the mountain before her for what it was and she climbed and climbed. She made it to the top and she is doing back handsprings on the summit.

Looking back on this 4-year arduous, tear-stained, zitty, smelly trek, there were beautiful wellsprings along the way. She discovered that she has an innate ability to tumble like Mary Lou. She is marking 5’1” on the growth chart and we never dared to hope she would get out of the 4’ range. She has a delightful friend group. She has a crush on a boy. She has figured out over 80% of Algebra. She is moving on to high school with a big and still slightly-crooked, metallic smile.

As I reflect on her middle school season, I am encouraged and motivated to keep climbing (or just keep swimming) through the transitional and arduous seasons of my life. Learning patience and humility, mending relationships and eradicating bad habits can be grueling, but these are the times we have to get through in order to be ready for the next season. These lessons take time and they are often painful, but just like a cast on a broken leg they are vital if we are going to reach the summit and stand on steady legs.

We can’t rush the learning. By their very nature, healing, chiseling and seasoning take time. As much as M2 would have loved to skip the 8th grade, she needed to learn foundational math and social etiquette and better hygiene in order to be ready for high school.

If you are in an arduous season of learning, be patient. Just keep swimming. You will eventually graduate and move on. These seasons feel sucky, but they are so good for you. You have to wear the cast if your broken leg is going to heal properly, and you have to endure the spiritual chiseling to be conformed to Christ. While you are in your personal 8th grade season, drink deeply out of the wellsprings provided along the way. There are some amazing teachers and counselors and friends who are all around you. These saints have been put in your midst to encourage and cheer you on.

When you graduate, RUN! Remember the lessons, slam the door and leap into your new frontier.

 

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;

I have summoned you by name; you are mine.

When you pass through the waters,

I will be with you;

and when you pass through the rivers,

they will not sweep over you.

When you walk through the fire,

you will not be burned;

the flames will not set you ablaze.

For I am the Lord your God,

the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;

“You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord,

“and my servant whom I have chosen,

so that you may know and believe me

and understand that I am he.

Before me no god was formed,

nor will there be one after me.

I, even I, am the Lord,

and apart from me there is no savior.

do not dwell on the past.

See, I am doing a new thing!

Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?

I am making a way in the wilderness

and streams in the wasteland.

because I provide water in the wilderness

and streams in the wasteland,

to give drink to my people, my chosen,

the people I formed for myself

that they may proclaim my praise.”

Isaiah 43: 1-3,10-11, 19-21 (NIV)

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The evolution of Mother’s day

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When they were babies, their dad would gather them up early on Sunday morning and take them out for donuts so I could have the luxury of extra primping time and a childfree car ride to church on Sunday morning. When they were in grade school, they made fingerprint flower paintings, crepe-paper corsages and decoupage picture frames that I would find wrapped in brown paper packages tucked in the bottom of their double-handle book bags. By the time middle school rolled around, they would head down to the kitchen on Mother’s day, toast a bagel, pour a cup of coffee and rouse me from my fake-sleep with a breakfast tray. In the past few years, our teenagers have given me coupon books, and candy studded poster board poems, and a car wash.

Mother’s day will bring more changes this year. Our oldest will arrive home this weekend while the others cram for exams. We will spend what will likely be our only Sunday at church together this summer before we enjoy lunch out as a family of 6. While the kids study and unpack, Pat and I will take a nap or spend sometime working in my garden. This mother’s day will not cost a lot of money, take a lot of time or make a big impression when I look back and review 2015, but in its simplicity, it will be glorious.

The simplicity of this Mother’s day fits appropriately in with the simple life I am living. I am so blessed to be a mom every single day I wake up, but I don’t wake up every morning and think, “Wow! I am somebody’s mother… What an outrageous blessing!” I haven’t woken up with that as my first thought in over 20 years. The fact that I am the mom of 4 amazing kids is incredible; it is something I longed and prayed for, but I have gotten used to it.

We do that with blessings. We pray for opportunities, jobs, safety, healing, babies, husbands, and successes. We rejoice when our prayers are answered, but our rejoicing is often short-lived; even the glossiest treasure loses its shine with time. Finding out you made the play or the team is thrilling, but showing up for practice 60% of the way through isn’t always as spine-tingling. The 3rd semester of college isn’t as astonishing as freshman orientation. The dream job becomes the daily grind. Tripping over your husband’s large shoes doesn’t evoke whispers of praise for the fulfillment of the man you longed for. The first cry of a newborn doesn’t sound as melodic coming from the mouth of a 3month old at 4a.m. You grow accustomed to waking up pain-free in your air-conditioned home in your lovely neighborhood in a country that stands for freedom.

On a day when everyone is reminded to celebrate mothers, enjoy the reminder to remember. Be blessed to recall how amazing your life is. This Sunday, I know that dozens of people will wish me a happy Mother’s day. I will hear it from my family and at church and from strangers at lunch. I am giving myself a challenge in thankfulness to use their well wishes as a call to freak out over the amazing truth it is that I actually am a mom. Giving thanks to God for this truth is a lot more fulfilling than taking my own bow. The dream I had as a little girl has been fulfilled 4 times over. I plan on having a personal brain party every time I hear that phrase on Sunday. I may only reply with “Thank you”, but I am going to be enjoying a secret joy dance with God over His choice to bless me by making me a mom. It takes effort to dance, but it is a lot more fun than sitting quietly on the side. When we make the effort to engage in active praise, we escape the numbness of our monotony.

We are blessed when we remember. Sometimes we need cues to trigger our memory and praises. I don’t know all of the ways that you have been blessed, but I know that you have been. I know this because I know that the same God who created the universe and everything in it loves to bless His children.

He answers prayers and He loves to hear, “Thank you.” Enjoy the joy of remembering His blessings toward you. Take time to remember the thrill of the freshness of firsts. The blessing of being healthy or free or loved or married or employed is no less a blessing on day 700 than it was on day 1. You may have gotten used to it, but it is still such a huge deal that you are a graduate or a student or a dad or a mom or a doctor or a teacher or whatever you are.  Be blessed today to find a cue or trigger that will flame the joy of your answered prayers. You are living the life that God designed especially for you. Today is a great day to celebrate.

“The Lord bless you

and keep you;

the Lord make his face shine on you

and be gracious to you;

the Lord turn his face toward you

and give you peace.” Numbers 6:24-26 (NIV)

 

“May he give you the desire of your heart

and make all your plans succeed.” Psalm 20:4 (NIV)

 

“I will give You thanks with all my heart;

I will sing Your praise before the heavenly beings.[a]

I will bow down toward Your holy temple

and give thanks to Your name

for Your constant love and truth.

You have exalted Your name

and Your promise above everything else.

On the day I called, You answered me;

You increased strength within me. “ Psalm 138:1-3 (NIV)

 “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil…..  and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have forgotten your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent.” Revelation 2:2-5 abbr. (NJKV)

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Someone else’s awards day

By | Dear Sons & Daughters | One Comment

Only a few weeks left of school, and the Nelson kiddos are all feeling the pressure of boosting their 4th quarter grades in order to have a better cushion going into exam time. We dread the thought of summer school and mandatory extra help. As much as I am celebrating their efforts and achievement of making it through another year, they will not be celebrated in a bigger forum this year. It is awards season for all our young scholars and we won’t need to clear any shelf space for shiny trophies at the Nelson house. This was one of those years when we struggled to just keep our heads above water. I’m very thankful that our schools average in the A’s from P. E. class into the overall GPA.

The 2014-15 school year has been riddled with struggle. The kids, their dad and I have struggled with understanding new concepts, relationships, poor performance, healthy lifestyle, broken hearts, backsliding, diverted dreams, the frustration of repeated mistakes, insecurities and a constant drain from the lack of time in a 24 hour day.

There have been years that could have been designated as the Year of Nelson. While marching through those years, I am sure I posted more pictures on Instagram and Facebook. I probably peacocked around bowing and eloquently supplying my audience with the nauseating humble brag. I know I said things like, “Thank you, but her greatest attribute is her kind heart”, and “God is so good. I’m humbled that He chose to give these talents to my son.” Blech. I promise, I did not feel humble in my heart. When my kids got awards, I believed they earned them outright and I was thrilled that everyone was exposed to their achievements.

Please don’t misunderstand me. My kids have beautiful hearts and any talent they have is a gracious gift and responsibility from the Lord. They work hard and I am proud of their hard work. I am no less proud when their best efforts are C’s and my adoration of them is not diminished when their neck isn’t encircled with an MVP ribbon, but when I dropped my daughters off at school today, I was a little harrumphed. Today was another spring awards day and I had no reason to change out of my sweats and hustle back for the ceremony. To add to my pissy mood, I noticed that the hems of both of their uniform skirts were out and I wallowed over my constant tether to the mountain of laundry that I had plenty of time to attend to as I wouldn’t be in attendance at awards day.

With Mt. Laundry glaring at me in the den, I knew I needed to spend some quality time refocusing before wielding my laundry axe and strapping on my crampons. Today is Someone else’s awards day, but JOY is set before me.

“Whoever offers praise glorifies Me;

And to him who orders his conduct aright

I will show the salvation of God.” Psalm 50:23 (NKJV)

If you are one of those people who are instinctively able to celebrate the achievements of other people’s children, kudos to you. If you find it taxing to cheer for a kid who has been mean to your kid or difficult to add your extoling voice to the glorification of a kid who wins absolutely everything or if you find it hard to celebrate the smug, we are kindred spirits, and we need the Holy Spirit.

When we set our minds on Christ and celebrate Him, our focus is set straight. In a sinful, exhausting, unbalanced and unfair world, we cannot rejoice with sincerity unless we have a helper. We have to be purposeful about loosening our grip on our rights and entitlements. Our desire for fairness will lead to unhappiness. Our desire should be solely based in Christ and the joy of being claimed by and loved by Him.

I have been watching NBC’s “A.D.-The Bible continues” and I was intrigued by their interpretation of Pentecost. In their depiction of Pentecost, a fireball shot out of the sky like a laser and burst in and all through the room where the disciples have gathered. It was aggressive and frightening and at its conclusion, all 12 disciples were energized, empowered and full of joy. They set out with a focused purpose of telling their neighbors and enemies the great news that Jesus is alive. Before they were heated up with this fiery force, they grumbled and wobbled in fear, but with the spirit, they knew they could do anything.

I needed that reminder of how incredibly powerful the Holy Spirit is. I have been in the habit of thinking of Him as only a helper, but He is so much more. I need more than help. I need someone else to take the lead and captain the ship. I will continue to fail when I try to do everything on my own. I can’t smile about the laundry or be patient as I tutor algebra, but with the Holy Spirit, I can do these and so much more. I can rejoice in everything and love the unlovely. I can celebrate someone else’s awards day and mean it.

The real celebration is in knowing that when I am weak and I fail, Christ gets to shine. Dear friends, I hope that as your school year wraps up, you will find joy in the celebration. You have been given the greatest award that no one can ever snatch away. Today is your award’s day too.

 

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NKJV)

“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[b] neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.  No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39 (NLT)