Thursday, March 29, 2012

My Nineveh

I know~Who, oh who, begins their blog post with a Veggie Tales movie trailer?  (With hands raised, waving madly and even a tad bit proudly)..that would be me.  As in, "Me! Me! Over here!"

I bought this movie for my little guy a couple of weeks ago.  Never in a million years would I have thought that God would use it to speak to me. As in speak to me again.  About something He'd already spoken to me about.  Sort of in a gentle confirming way.

For those of you who may not be Jonah-savvy, I'll give you the short version of the story.  Jonah was a prophet of the Lord.  He heard from God regularly, and delighted in being able to share with people a "message from the Lord".  He was faithful.  He followed through.  He was a great leader.  He was a man of God.  People trusted him.  When he spoke, people listened.

Before turning in one evening, Jonah was having his quiet time with God.  God told him that he was to go to the city of Nineveh and inform the people of God's great anger and sadness.  The city of Nineveh was a city of great sin.  It was a wicked city, worthy of destruction.

However, God wanted Jonah to go to the city and prophecy to them of His unfailing love and mercy, ultimately leading them to repentance and forgiveness.

Jonah understood exactly what it was that God wanted him to do.  But, rather than follow God's commands, he ran. Picture him with fingers plugged into his ears, yelling,"I can't hear you!  I can't hear you!" (I believe I've attempted this more than once in my lifetime.  I actually believed I could run from God.  Even more amazing is that I thought it was possible for Him to lose sight of me and forget what He'd asked of me in the first place.)

He jumped on a boat headed to Tarshish, which was in the complete opposite direction. It wasn't long before the ship encountered a storm so violent, it threatened to overturn the entire ship and passengers.  In order to spare themselves from God's wrath, they threw Jonah overboard.

A large fish swallowed Jonah.  For three days and nights, he stayed in the belly of this fish...He prayed to God for forgiveness.  He rejoiced that he was still alive.  He promised God that he would complete the assignment that God had for him.  God cause the whale to vomit Jonah up onto dry land.

Jonah went into the city of Nineveh, all the while telling everyone who would hear him about why he was there.  He declared that in forty days the city would be overthrown. The king caught wind of this and ordered that the city fast, pray and repent.  God saw this and saved them and forgave them of their ignorance.  

Jonah was none too pleased with the way God poured out His mercy and forgiveness.  He felt they didn't deserve it.

Has God ever given you a "Nineveh"?  He gave me one...maybe more than one.  But He definitely spoke to me about one.  I had someone in my life from my past who had hurt me immensely.  Someone who had broken laws.  Broken hearts.  Broken trust.  Broken vows.  God spoke to my heart and said,"Let this person know that you have forgiven them.  Tell him how I have changed your heart.  Tell him about Me.  Tell him about mercy and grace and true freedom that can only be found in Me."

Did I do it?  Actually?  No.  I second-guessed myself.  AND God.  I thought,"He can't actually be asking me to do this.  It seems so straightforward, but it could really turn my life upside down.  Am I sure this is even from the Lord?  What if it's the enemy, just trying to get me into a tail-spin?"  I thought that if I had already forgiven him in my heart, there wasn't any need to open up a new can of worms and bring turmoil into my life.  I also didn't know how to go about asking HIM for forgiveness as well.  Weren't his sins greater than mine?  If I did that, he could take the easy way out again, and go back to blaming me for all of his mistakes and poor judgement. The fact of the matter is this.  God sees sin as sin.  None greater or lesser.  I wasn't perfect in this relationship. I am no greater in God's eyes than this person.  What God was asking me was to simply extend the grace and mercy that had already been extended to me.

When God gives direction, he always provides a way.  I know this now.  Didn't know this then.  I would have known it much sooner though, I believe, if I would have done what He asked me to do.  He wouldn't have had to show me in so many other ways, because this would have been HUGE.  It would have impacted me and my life in a way that I would have gotten it.  I would have understood fully.  I would be finer-tuned at hearing His voice.  I would be more ready to jump up and do whatever He asks of me, because I would have had this experience as a reminder that He's always just.  Always true to His word. Always keeps His promises.  Always provides.  And, the blessing that could have been poured out on that other person?  Well, God could have moved mountains...and then some.

How about you?  Has God given you a Nineveh to have mercy on?  Has he asked you to forgive the seemingly unforgivable?  Has He asked you to go back into your past and not only let someone off the hook, but pray for their salvation and their prosperity?  Even that He would move in their lives and use them mightily for the kingdom?

If He has, or if He does, the best thing I can tell you is to just do it.  He is always sovereign.  He is always, always faithful.  Everything He does, He does in the name of love.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Letting Go

Today was a big day for a couple of us in this house...A day of adventure.  A day of "firsts".  A day of excitement.  A day of a bit of melancholy(only on my part).

Perched on my knees, peering through the window, squinting as if by chance I'd be able to catch one last glimpse of him, I waved goodbye to my oldest son today, as the plane he was on backed away from the terminal.  He was armed with a new passport, an airline-assigned wristband, a bagel, his Zune, and a bag full of diving gear.  He was on his way to meet my parents, who are taking him scuba diving for the next handful of days.

I'm so proud of him for all of his hard work.  He finished his diving course a week ago, and took AND PASSED his written exam(and studied on his own!).  Now, he's off to do his open-water tests and explore God's underwater creation...The first time he's traveled out of the country, and he's flying alone.

As I waved goodbye to him one last time, I began to tear up...I stopped the waterworks before they started, but my heart was in my throat.  You see, I'm not ready to let him go.  I know he's in safe hands this time, and I have faith that God will bring him home safely.  

What I'm not prepared for is to let him go away. For good.  On his ownInto unknown territory.  I don't want him to leave.  He is such a source of laughter and sunshine.  We get each other.  We make each other laugh. We finish each others' sentences.  We can have silence for 45 minutes, and then suddenly break into song at the same time, singing the exact same thing.  Just this morning, we did it a couple of times.  When asked a question at the airport, we both answered at exactly the same time and said the same thing. 

I have been so blessed with him.  God gave me such an amazing gift when He gave him to me.  I feel like I haven't had enough time with him.  As a single parent for much of his life, I was busy going to school.  Busy going to work.  Busy dealing with emotions.  Busy with boyfriends.  Busy trying to play catch-up.  Busy trying to figure out who I was.  Busy with regrets.

I pray that I can be the kind of mother he needs now.  The mother he deserves.  That I will stop what I'm doing and engage myself in conversation with him and let him know that he matters.  That his opinions matter.  That the world is a better place because he's in it. That MY LIFE is richer.  Fuller.  More beautiful.  More blessed.  Because of him.  I pray that I make the most of every day with him, because the day is coming~much too soon~when I'll have to let him go.  When I'll have watch him leave again, and trust that God will take care of him.  When I'll have to trust that I've taught him everything I can.  When I'll have to let him step out and live a life of his own; apart from me.  When I'll have to be satisfied with the time and energy I've put into our relationship. 

A day when I'll have to let go and let God.

Here is a song~an old song~it tugs on my heartstrings just as much today as it did before I was old enough to even fully understand what she was singing about.


Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Tiniest Angels

What happens when we lose one of the most precious things God can give us?  What do we do when something happens to one of our own?  What do we do when someone so sweet, so new, so innocent is torn from our lives?  Where do we turn when one of our own children are taken from us? Where do we go when the grief...the burden...the anguish is too much to bear?  What happens when we blame ourselves?  What happens when others form opinions about us that only add to the despair?

While shopping earlier, I saw a woman I know from a place I volunteered at.  She shared some heartbreaking news with me.  She had been at a wake for a tiny two year old little girl who had been playing in the back yard with her siblings, while her mother tended to the newest member of the family, when she fell through a hole into the septic tank.  This is a family that I saw regularly on Wednesdays.  

The mother reported her missing~She was found a few hours later.  I'm sure she suffered.  She was cold and afraid.  She was in physical pain.  I can only imagine how desperate she must have felt; being alone and so helpless.

My heart breaks for her. For the pain and fear she endured before her spirit left her tiny body.  My heart breaks for her family.  For the siblings left behind who, I'm sure, feel responsible.  For the mother and father who will never be the same.  For the extended family who has suffered such immense tragedy and anguish themselves.  

As difficult as it is to put myself in that place; in the place the mother is in right now, I can't help but do so...How would I get through the day~the moment; knowing I wasn't there to watch her?  I wasn't there to rescue her?  I wasn't there when she needed me the most?

As I read reports online of this tragedy, I found myself getting so angry at the comments that people had left behind.  How dare they attack this woman for what happened?  She wasn't at Target shopping when this happened.  She was caring for a two month old baby...Whether she was inside nursing, or changing a dirty diaper...rocking the baby to sleep...Who knows?  I have a toddler myself, and even when I'm there with him, he manages to get himself into some jams.  

I'm sure that it was commonplace for her to send the kids outside to play in the backyard.  So many of these yards in Lakewood have open, gaping holes above the septic tanks(this one was three feet); covered by little more than some sod or dirt and debris.  Most of the tenants aren't even aware they exist~until it's too late.  The landlords don't keep up with these things.  In this specific area of town, there are a lot of non-English speaking people, who are doing the best they can to get by with what little assistance they can find.  Housing is expensive here, so most of them live in the only places they can afford.  The landords aren't quick to inspect and inform them of potential risks.  Their main concern is a steady rental income.

I believe we need to think more with our hearts when tragedy strikes.  It is so easy to jump to conclusions, and to judge others; often forgetting that any one of us could experience that kind of loss at any moment.  In these moments, even with the Lord, the pain can often be too overwhelming to even want to continue to breathe.  It is in these moments of such grief, that we as Christians need to extend our love; our hands; our hearts; our shoulders; and ask for God's ears to hear without condemnation. 

I pray that God speaks to their hearts.  I am thankful that we serve a God who hears our prayers.  Who saves our every tear.  Who knew us before the Earth was created.  Who loves us and wants to bless us in our sorrows.  I'm thankful that God can turn even the things meant to hurt or destroy us into blessings.  I pray for peace and comfort for this family.  I pray for serenity and the ability to forgive themselves and others.  I pray that God will use them mightily as living testimonies to His faithfulness and mercy.  I pray for restored joy and fullness of life in their home.  I pray for restoration and healing. I thank God for the gift of this sweet baby Jen, and the joy she brought to so many while she was here.  Thank You Lord, for being so steadfast and true.  Thank You for never leaving us or forsaking us, even in our darkest hours.  Thank You, Jesus for interceding for us in Heaven, and for giving us the ability to do the same for others here on Earth.  I love you Lord.  My faith, hope, and trust are in You and Your perfect will.  In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.

Please watch this video...Her words speak so beautifully to the brokenhearted.