Teachable Moments

The Key To A Long Marriage

I’ve been married 30 years.  My husband and I have planned an anniversary trip.  We plan to listen to live music, eat at an outdoor restaurant, preferably Irish, watch Magic shows, and participate in one adventure we have never done before.  This is our recipe for having fun; it’s a little bit of him, a little bit of me, and a whole lot of us. We are intentionally investing time and finances in celebrating our 30 years of saying “I do”.  

As I have shared our anniversary plans with others, I have been asked innumerable times, “what is your secret?” or “what is the key?”  I always stop and clarify the question – are you asking what it takes to gut it out or are you asking what it takes to have a marriage worth celebrating?  Everyone, so far, votes for the marriage worth celebrating.

I have thought long and hard, why are my hubby and I able to truly celebrate our married life together?  I’m truly grateful for those nosy friends who thought I’d have a magical answer because it has made me reflect and evaluate and narrow down the essential attribute to a marriage worth celebrating. What is it? Faithfulness.

Faithfulness reflects the heart of God in His relationship with us.  We never have to question God’s commitment to us; God is faithful and therefore, He will always act in accordance with who He is. He acts in faithfulness because He is in character faithful. We never question His love, His presence, His Word and because of that, we have infinite security. We are at peace with God because of His faithfulness. 1 Thessalonians 5:24, “He who calls you is faithful, He will surely do it.”

As believers, we reflect who God is (Eph. 4:24). The more we are like God, the more we give Him glory and the more we will experience peace and joy in this life He has given us. I think this is especially true in marriage.  When we reflect God’s quality of faithfulness in all elements of our relationship, then that peace and joy we have with God is also possible to be experienced between spouses in marriage. 

  • Faithfulness doesn’t take a break – ever, for any reason, and at any cost.
    When we know our spouse will be committed to us whether we are with them or whether they are completely alone. and they are faithful not only in action, but in their mind and emotions, then  security becomes a foundation for all other elements of the marriage to thrive. We don’t worry; we don’t feel devalued; we don’t feel alone.
  • Faithfulness is seen in all ways, without exception.
    Faithfulness means exclusivity.  Sexually, physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually – I am my beloveds and my beloved is mine (Song of Solomon 6:3).  It is not enough for someone to avoid adultery; it means I do not give others room in my heart, my thoughts or my emotions that should only be given to my spouse. It also means I only see and seek the best for my spouse always.  I faithfully pursue to stay in love with them and only them!
  • Faithfulness is not only what we do, it is who we are.
    Faithfulness is first a character quality which is then reflected in our choices and actions. It begins with a faithfulness toward God and honoring him in all of our thoughts, motives, emotions, and even actions. 
  • Faithfulness allows for security and intimacy.
    The key characteristic to intimacy is self disclosure. No one wants to be authentic, honest or vulnerable If they don’t believe the person they are talking to is 100% in their corner. Faithfulness gives a security  which results in both parties wanting to know the other person and to be known by them.
  • Faithfulness is a shared responsibility.
    Charles Spurgeon, the great English preacher, talked about  faithfulness in marriage as a mutual responsibility of both spouses. Faithfulness is the key to delight and contentment in marriage just as our faithfulness in our relationship with Christ results in our delight and contentment in Him.

Dear Reader, is there really only 1 key to a marriage that can make it for the long run and be celebrated at the end of it?  No. Yet, there is an essential characteristic that without it, a marriage might last, but it won’t be celebrated as God intends marriage to be. Friend, we all would do well to take an inventory of our faithfulness in our relationships, first to God and then to our spouse or family. May God find us faithful, reflecting the amazing faithfulness that He displays to us daily.

Faithfully yours, Elizabeth

Teachable Moments

Caring for Newborns in Light of the Trinity

I have a list of blogs about Parenting Newborns I can not stand to read.  Now, I don’t want to throw anyone under the bus, so, suffice it to say, I won’t give you their authors, but I will give you a paraphrase of their titles:

  1. EVERYTHING you need to know as a first-time parent to feel successful and make it look easy
  2. The thrills and fun of learning how to breastfeed your first child
  3. How to thrive on no sleep and no time alone as you care for your infant
  4. How to look your best as a Mommy of a Newborn

And last, but not least….

     5. First Time Parent?  We can tell you everything you need to know in Just One List

What are these bloggers thinking?  They can’t possibly follow through on what they claim to provide, especially as the reader is a first time parent or parent of a newborn.  When I remember my first days as a first-time Mom more than 20 years ago, while it is always a pleasure to take a trip down memory lane, I do not remember any of my moments even closely resembling the above blogs.  Nope – not one!

Newborns are tough and parenting them is not a job for wimps!  While “how to” ideas can be mildly useful for parents, what is more helpful is remembering who we are in light of our God.  We mustn’t forget that our God-knowledge (theology) should still be front and center even if we can hardly think coherently due to the whole “no sleep and no time alone” thing.  Aside from learning to diaper a tiny baby, brushing up on our theology is infinitely the most-important thing we can do.  Really?  Yes, really!  But what theological thought should I ponder (considering there are thousands to choose from)?  The Trinity.

The Trinity is defined as “one God in 3-persons”; we have one God in which there are 3 persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who are each fully God and yet completely distinct.  Within the Trinity, we see how these three persons relate with one another and thus, have a template for how we are to be in relationship with one another. Being made in His image and likeness means we have the potential of reflecting the very essence of God in our relationships.  Since God is Trinity, we know as we begin the journey of parenthood that we can show our children from Day One who God is.

There are several ways we could describe God’s relationship within Himself, but one of His attributes which allow parents to know how to be in relationship with their newborns is that of God always being present.

  • Just as God is always present, we need to be present. God is always there for His children; we see this not only in the OT, but Jesus promised that when He left this world, the Holy Spirit would come to be with us (John 14:15-31).  As parents of newborns, we are to have that same quality of presence with our children. Just like us – who are God’s children and know that we are never alone, never without support, never without security – we want our children to know that when they need us, we will unquestionably be there.  We are the anchor of their world that reassures them that they are not alone and there is someone who will always be there with them in the good times and bad times. John 14:15-31 has Jesus explaining how the Father, Holy Spirit, and Himself are present with us as His people. He is not a neglectful or “hands off” God – NO, He is always there, always present.  Even when we do not deserve it, our God never forsakes us. This quality of being “present” is key between a newborn child and parent as it is the foundation of the child’s security and the attachment that needs to grow between baby and parent.

Dear Reader, we can depend on our God who is reliable to be there for us whenever we need Him.  He is present with us at all times, day or night.  As our Triune God reveals Himself as a  God who is always present, we take that same love and care and pass it on to our children.  May we not be so busy or overwhelmed in the everyday care of newborns, that we forget our God and what we are ultimately doing: discipling our children from day one when they are first born.  May God find us faithful to reflect who He is in our parenting so our children will grow to know and love our amazing, Triune God.

Blessings to you always, fondly yours, Elizabeth

BONUS:  The hymn, In The Garden, written in 1912 by C. Austin Miles, was written about Mary seeing Jesus outside the empty Tomb (John 20).  In the moment of weary weeping, Mary heard the voice and saw the face of her Teacher-Savior. What a joy we have knowing that same joyous moment of reunion that Mary experienced is ours daily as we too know the presence of God and that like Mary, “He walks with me; He talks with me and He calls me His own.”  

In the Garden

I come to the garden alone,
While the dew is still on the roses,
And the voice I hear falling on my ear,
The Son of God discloses…

And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own,
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other, has ever, known!

He speaks and the sound of His voice,
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
And the melody that he gave to me,
Within my heart is ringing . . .

And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own,
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other, has ever, known!

And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other, has ever, known!

Teachable Moments

What Makes Us Special

“Mommy!  Why am I so special?”  was the question the little guy in front of me in the Walmart aisle was demanding his Mother answer.  His Grandma who was with him had just told him that he was so special, had pinched his cheeks and then kissed and hugged him enthusiastically.  Giggling and squirming aside, this little guy wanted a rationale for the explosive gestures of love he had just been showered with.  His mother went on and on about all his cute physical qualities, his amazing personality characteristics and how great he was as a son and brother; lists of attributes which set him apart was the basis of her reply.

Now on first listen, we may not think anything of her answer and in truth, there is nothing really wrong with it.  However, if we leave our “specialness” as people to what we are like, what we do, and what makes being in a relationship with us so wonderful, we actually miss the deeper theological truth we can share with our children.  Yes, tell them how great they are, but let’s not leave it at that.

What makes us special?  In Genesis 1 and 2, God lets us know that we alone in creation are made in His image; we are the object of His special love and the pinnacle of His creation. Being an image bearer sets us apart in some way, so now, we just have to figure out what that way is. Throughout the centuries, it is man’s communicable qualities with God, or his mission and function in the world or his relationship abilities that have been tied to image bearing.  And while all of these have merit, there is nothing that uniquely qualifies man to be set apart which is equally displayed throughout all the human race. We are indeed a diverse bunch!

What is the image we bear?  If we view Genesis 2 as an unpacking of Genesis 1, the one thing that emerges in Genesis 2:7 is that God breathed life into Adam; this can be translated the breath of life or perhaps even better, the Soul of life or the Spirit of life.  If we view this as what makes us special, then this explains why God sees all humans as equally valuable. Only humanity has what is required to be a participant in God’s special love (special providence).

If the soul qualifies us for specialness, then all external factors are secondary.  So whether our children are gifted intellectually or struggle, whether they have perfect eye sight or require braces to walk, whether they connect with everyone or are unable to attach to anyone, every person has a complete God-given soul which makes them equally valuable and a recipient of His redemption and glory; God’s general love applies to everyone.  

How do we communicate this image-bearing specialness to our children?  Children want to hear what makes them special and their unique qualities are great to articulate so it gives them an idea of how God has made them individually unique.  However, there is a specialness about them that has nothing to do with individual qualities but rather celebrates their uniqueness as a part of the human race. Connecting them to the whole of what it means to be human is just as important as what sets them apart from everyone else.  

Being made in God’s image, we as people are special because:

  • We are different from the rest of creation
    • See how beautiful the stars are and the flowers that bloom?  See how fun our puppy is and how cuddly our kitten?  We are more special than these.
  • God is Spirit and so are we; we have a soul.
    • We are the only part of creation that has the very breath of God (Genesis 2:7).  God took His very essence and placed this within us.  
  • As believers, our soul can be united with God.
    • We all sin; but God so values us, He removed the sin that separates us from Himself and unites our soul with Himself if we believe (John 3:16).  He does this for people alone – not angels, not mountains, not animals.  Only people are united with God spiritually
  • What makes me special is my soul, so it doesn’t matter if I’m not the prettiest, smartest, strongest or most popular.  I am already special no matter what anyone else says.
    • Everyone is worthy of compassion, time, attention and help merely because they are human.  Our worth is not based on our comparison to one another, but the mere fact that we have a soul, given to us by God.  We see this truth in the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).

What makes me special?  When God revealed who He was to Moses, he said to tell the people that “I Am” sent you.  We could take this apologetic and echo it in our defense of our worth; I am special merely because I am.  That is enough. We are of infinite value and worthy of respect, and kindness and love merely because we are.

Dear Reader, how freeing it is for each of us and our children to realize our worth has nothing to do with what we can and can’t accomplish, or what our personality is or isn’t like, or what other people do or don’t enjoy about us.  My worth, your worth, their worth is untouchable. I encourage you to give your children a sense of their worth by not just telling them what makes them individually special, but why amidst all of creation, their worth is found in God’s design of them; they are image bearers with a soul and thus, they have an unshakable value.

Blessings to each of you!  Fondly yours, Elizabeth

But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul. (Deuteronomy 4:29)

 

Teachable Moments

New Things

What is it like to introduce two young children (who have never been swimming) to a hotel swimming pool for the first time? I got to witness the introduction of this fascinating new activity while at a retreat with some friends who had 2 small children.  At the hotel, the children, who loved their baths, were expected to make the adjustment to the pool seamlessly. After all, isn’t a swimming pool just a bigger version of a bathtub?  For one of the children, it was just like that – easy, fun and exciting. The other one – not so much. They did not see the joy of an extraordinary size bathtub as a good thing, but rather something to be feared and if possible, avoided.  I could see the terror and confusion in the eyes of this little one who was wondering why in the world their parents would want to go into such a large body of water anyway. This was obviously dangerous.

The problem was not the pool, nor the parents, nor the child.  There really wasn’t a problem, but it was a matter of perception. And this idea of perception when it comes to “new things” is not a new problem for people; rather, we can find it existing all the way back to the people of Israel. Recorded in Isaiah 43:19, God spoke to Israel through Isaiah saying:

“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.”

In Isaiah 43, God reminds His people of who He has proved Himself to be again and again to them, and assures them that because of who He is, they can trust Him no matter their circumstances. This chapter speaks both to the past troubles of the nation in which they experienced God’s protection and His necessary future discipline of them due to their disobedience.  And yet, there will come a time when the discipline is done and God will do a “new thing” and if observant, His people with eyes of faith will see what God is doing in their midst.

As believers in Christ, we can learn from Israel’s relationship with God; we can have the same assurance as the Israelites did that God does not abandon us when something troubling or terrifying comes our way.  He does not give up on us even when we have sinned and need His discipline. We may feel confused or alone, but we can be assured that our God is at work even when we can’t easily perceive it. God may need to ask us just like He asked Israel – do you perceive it? Or rather, don’t you see it?  Don’t you sense it? I am doing a “new thing.”

New things are sometimes hard to face and we may not want to see what God is up to.  Or, we may be lost in the wilderness and we just can’t see it. I know my friend’s young daughter, as she gazed at the humongous pool of water, couldn’t possibly believe that all would be well.  It was new; it was scary, and she couldn’t see why her parents would want this for her. The good news, her parents introduced her to this new thing and she soon realized that this opened up a whole new world.  What helped her acclimate? She hung on to her Dad for dear life as he slowly entered the pool. Because she trusted in him, she buried her face in his neck and just “went with it.” As his daughter, I could see the faith she had in him to protect her.  God was Israel’s Savior (Isaiah 43:3) and He is ours (Luke 2:11). And just as this little girl had faith in her Dad, we can have faith in our Heavenly Father as His children to save and care for us as we enter into the “new things” He has made for us. We can trust Him to care for us even if we have been disobedient and needed His discipline.  Our God is faithful to us and is about doing “new things.”

As Parents or Grandparents, how do we apply Isaiah 43 to our relationships with our children?

  • Remember WHO God is when you are trying to figure out what is going on in life; you can’t comprehend what God is doing until you are sure of who He is in His being
  • Have you experienced a wilderness time in your spiritual life?  Are you perceiving God doing a “new thing” and leading you out of it?  Give testimony to His grace through your words and actions – speak of His grace and then, pass the grace on to others by serving at church, in your community or in your family.
  • Study Isaiah 43 and learn the many ways God revealed Himself to Israel.  He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8) and as such, He is the same God who is with us.  Tell your children who God is and how He revealed Himself to Israel and how you see His attributes in your life.  

May “new things” bring us closer to Him and allow us to worship Him and may we be “perceivers” vs. “unbelievers” to our God who is definitely at work in our lives even when we can’t readily see it. Like my friend’s child first afraid but then full of faith when new things arose, may we also hold on to our Father God and perceive with faith the “new things” God is doing in our lives.

Dear Friends, blessings to you!  I pray for you to have eyes to see and minds to perceive what God is about in your life this week!  

Fondly yours, Elizabeth