I was thinking back to our November and what a blessing it was. We didn't do a whole lot in the way of going places or seeing people (though we did get a couple of great visits with family), and with the weather turning colder we weren't out and about as we usually are. Truthfully, November was somewhat trying, as a parent, because I mostly stayed home with the boys as obedience has been somewhat of a battle. "NO" has been a battle cry around here. Being a parent is one of those things that you hear people say is so hard, but you don't understand just what that means until you are in it. I have had some difficulty in teaching this necessary lesson of discipline and obedience to mine. I think it is hard for me to parent because I've got obedience issues myself; how do I try and instill in them something that I'll never master this side of heaven? As I lay awake this morning, unsettled and praying, I was humbled by the realization that these struggles are blessings and I failed to recognize it this past month. Hindsight is always 20/20, and when you're exasperated by another instance of a child not listening, one who constantly turns and sprints away from you and you can't drive home how important it is to "stay by mommy" or to "listen and obey when I ask you to do something" then you can easily miss the opportunity for joy that you've been given. I certainly did. I'm so grateful for the privilege to raise these young ones and have all of these moments, both difficult ones and fun ones, to help them learn how to live, to develop their character, and to point them to the One who did this life perfectly. I think of families that will not be cuddling up with their precious gifts this morning and I think of how many moments I forget to be thankful for with mine.
I asked my husband, last night, what we would say to our kids if they were slightly older and capable of knowing what happened yesterday. I am, honestly, glad that for now they remain innocent and don't have to know what the world is fully like. This morning, as I prayed, I was reminded of how so many people react to situations like this...the natural inclination to ask how a loving God can be in control if things like this happen. I acknowledge that events like this are met with deep emotion and "why" is certainly the question that abounds. I anger at this evil and I shake my head and don't understand how or why...and I don't necessarily think we are supposed to know. In sharing this hurt with God I am given a renewing of my faith and hope, though. I cannot imagine what the mom of a victim is going through today, nor do I pretend to understand what the mom in Kenya feels as she watches her infant waste away in her arms because there is no food; I have never felt the pain that a parent in Haiti does as their child lays on a floor of dust, waste and garbage without medicine for an infection that could easily be cured; I don't like the injustice and I don't like the hurt that this life is full of. However, this life is not it for me. At times like this I am so overwhelmed with THANKSGIVING for the hope and future that I am promised. My God is just and He will right all of these wrongs...in fact He already has when Jesus died on the cross and rose again. How dismal a world this must be for the person without Jesus...to not know the hope that He, alone, gives. To not trust that, one day, He will swallow up death forever and wipe away tears from all faces (Isa 25:8); to not rest everyday in the knowledge that even in trials we can be certain of His love and His perfect plan...even when we don't understand it. And, I am convicted of how much more thanksgiving I need to do in my life.
This morning, as I read and prayed, I had a wrestling match. I look at yesterday and I think ahead to what awful things could take place as my children grow. I think how much more accessible things will be to the would-be criminal with technology advancements and moral decline, both rapidly accelerating at breakneck speeds. I fear for my boys. I think, "Come, Lord Jesus, come!" because a world like this is no place for a child. Then I was pointed to 2 Peter 3:9, when we are reminded that God loves all of us just as a Father loves a child, and He is patient and doesn't want any of His children to perish, but to come to know Him, repent, and turn to Him. I was also reminded, as it is Advent, that God loved us so much that He sent His son into this world (this world that I just described as being 'no place for a child') as a newborn King...born to die so that we could live. We forget what the first Christmas was like. After Jesus was born, there was another "massacre of the innocents" that took place. God knew the type of world He was sending His only son into...that is exactly why He sent His son. God endured the most excruciating thing a parent can so that all could be made right in this fallen place. So, when I get fired up and ready for the closing chapters of Revelation to play out down here right now, I am stopped cold by the thought of God's patience and love. The brokenness of sin is on display everywhere on this earth. That is exactly why Jesus was born, to be the Light in this terrible darkness and to expel it forever. His light cannot be hidden, and I am so grateful for it in times like this. At this time of Advent, I am so thankful that He came to us, He bridged the gap, He willingly left Heaven to come into this dark, dark place to save us. Although we might want to know the answers to "why" and "how", we instead get the answer to "Who" it is we need. He is here and He went through it all and continues to go through it all with each of us; He never leaves and never gives up on us and sustains us through the unthinkable. Immanuel...God with us.
So, I pray. I pray and I pray. In chapter 6 of Ephesians, Paul instructs believers to put on our armor for battle (because life is a battle), and stand firm in the Lord. The armor is mostly defensive, meant for protection in this sinful world. What gives the armor an impenetrable power is prayer. So, I pray. I pray for comfort for those going through an agonizing hurt. I pray for peace that surpasses our ability to understand. I pray for wisdom as a parent, for strength to hold fast to His truth in a world filled with lies. I pray for my boys to gratefully accept the greatest Gift, offered freely to everyone but rejected by many, so that they may receive salvation and realize the hope that is found in Christ. I pray that, more and more, we will love like Him.
Love is patient; God is love; God is patient, and that means I need to ask Him to help me love better, more patiently. As I reflect on a November of obedience issues in the wake of a morning of unthinkable tragedy for so many families, I am many things...one is: convicted. I need to be more intentional. I need to soak up all moments together with my boys (even the ones spent disciplining and correcting) instead of choosing to see the trials as a burden. I want to be patient and I want to lovingly correct them. Looking back on a month of missed thanksgivings, I am reminded of my own need to be grateful. I am so grateful for the time with them, because each moment we get here is a gift. Yes, in November there were time outs and spanking spoons, and frustrations, probably, abounded from all parties at our house. These trials, whether they are parenting or otherwise, are a given. However, as my 2 year old, clad in Woody the Cowboy pajamas, climbs up on my lap this morning and nestles his head on my shoulder, I know that every moment is a blessing. What amazing blessings!
I hope you had a great Thanksgiving and that your Advent season has been a time of focusing on God's promise, fulfilled in a baby boy born over 2000 years ago. I hope that this unsettled feeling that we all must have right now sticks around as a reminder that God has planned something even better for us for eternity. May your Christmas be filled with CHRIST; may you rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances because this is His will; may you squeeze those you love a little tighter today and make the most of your time together. God bless the rest of your 2012.