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

Children and Family, Teachable Moments, Uncategorized, Young Adult, Young Adults

Our Stories and Tears

When we put up our Christmas tree it always takes longer than I originally think it will, and that’s because of the number of ornaments we have collected over the years…and the tears that come when putting them up.  Oh, they’re happy tears; I oooh and aaah over each precious ornament, reminiscing over why it’s so beloved. My favorites are definitely the ones my children made or were bought with them in mind as they reached a significant milestone in their life.

I don’t think I’m alone in this. I’m quite sure most of you know exactly what I am talking about.  What’s interesting to consider is why our stories are so important to us. The ornament may be cute or clever, but the story behind it is what makes it important.  

The tiny ballet dancers that are front and center on a prominent branch with their tulle skirts and shy smiles, these little ladies remind me of the hours of dance rehearsal and Nutcracker practice I got to enjoy as a Dance Mom.  One tiny dancer is learning to stand with grace and strength in 3rd position and the other is pointing her toe – my daughter was doing the same thing at that young age and we were so proud of her as she persevered to improve her skills.

The Spider Man ornament holds a memory from the year 2000, while all 5 of us as a family were eating dinner, our boys who were 5 and 2 at the time announced that they were going to grow up and become Spider Man.  They believed he was the best because of how he could swing between tall buildings and they liked the color blue. It totally makes sense because, hey – who wouldn’t want spider webbing spurting out of their palms? And his superhero suit is super cool.

The last ornament I’ll share with you is a pair of angel wings.  In 1997, I had a miscarriage. This little life I was privileged to carry only lasted a few months and was born so prematurely, the sweet baby wasn’t able to survive in this world.  My mother-in-law bought us this ornament to remind us that we have one child already in heaven, singing God’s praises along with the angels. We honor all life and as such, are grateful for this reminder of God’s comfort and provision for us at that difficult time.

God himself has a story to tell of his son; we tell that story every Christmas as we remember the conception and birth of Christ.  Jesus’ best friend John tells God’s story at the beginning of his epistle this way, And the word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14). Every Christmas ornament we hang tells not only our stories, but points us back to His story as well.

Dear Reader, what an opportunity we have. As we share our personal stories about how we decorate and celebrate Christmas, we can also remember to share His story which is the reason we are celebrating in the first place. Let’s pray for these divine conversations. Listening to one another’s stories is one of the best ways we can honor one another.  Romans 12:10 says to “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourself” and James, the brother of Jesus, urges us to be “quick to listen” (James 1:19). The world will know we are truly followers of Christ as we exemplify to them an other-worldly type of love and honor through the gift of listening well to one another.

As always, dear reader, thank you for listening to my stories.  May you have many divine conversations this week to share both the story of God’s son and to listen to other’s cherished Christmas memories.

Children and Family, Teachable Moments, Uncategorized, Young Adult, Young Adults

I want MUCH MORE for Christmas

I went to a major retailer in the area to pick up some milk the day before Thanksgiving.  As I made a beeline for the dairy department, I noticed a group of women who walked around in circles occasionally talking to themselves or one another…I couldn’t help but wonder if they were practicing a new dance, if they only turned left when they walked, or if they were planning a mission impossible. I covertly stepped into an adjoining aisle to stake out the situation. After just a couple minutes I knew what they were doing. And while I thought what they were doing might actually be helpful, I confess I also thought they were bordering on the obsessive. They were planning their strategy for what they would do at the beginning of Black Friday shopping. They were planning the hunt to make sure they bagged their retail prey the next day. They knew they would be up against fierce opposition and they were going to make sure they were in the best position possible to bring home the prize.

I will confess I love retail therapy and I can do it as well as the next person. But I have never seen so much time and energy going into buying a thermal sweater. Boots, handbags, Christmas pajamas, and new Bluetooth headphones were obviously on their lists as I tracked their strategy meeting throughout the store. I came to the store for milk and left with an appreciation for how people fill their time during the holidays.

This made me reflect that I might not be so different from them.  What random, unique, seemingly-unavoidable activities suck the time and energy out of my calendar and then, out of me?  We all know that during the busyness of the Christmas season, it is easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of travel, volunteering at the food pantry or ringing a bell for those in need,  and worrying about which presents to buy for family members. For others of us, finances are tight and we strain ourselves the extra amount to make ends meet; family relationships are fractured and we have to navigate difficult choices. While I love cooking the turkey and making the cookies, the planning, shopping, serving and clean-up can sometimes feel like I’m crumbling just like the cookie I took out of the oven too early.  The season brings much joy but much stress at the same time. Let’s be honest, the song I’m really singing on Sunday morning could sound more like this:

Joy and stress to the World, yes, my Lord has come. Let earth receive her King (and the gift I just bought you). The glory of Buying the right Gift. Let Heaven and Nature Sing….while I try to get everything done and figured out.

Make up your own hymn with contrasting realities – excitement and worry. Good memories and Nightmares. Christmas brings such a multifaceted array of emotions that sometimes it’s hard to navigate through these emotions and focus on the meaning of the season.

Pause with me and reflect.  Isn’t it true that we can SAY “I put Jesus first” but how often have I spoken platitudes to that effect all day long, but what’s really going on internally is much more raw and disappointing than that.  I am thankful for my precious strategic shoppers who recently reminded me that there is so much more for me to fix my mind and heart upon during Christmas time than the worry and stress of the current calendar and circumstances.

Oswald Chambers in “My Utmost for His Highest” states nicely that “we are never free from the recurring tides of the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the lust of other things entering in.” Like a flood these distractions will always seek to pull us away from time with our Savior. We shouldn’t be surprised that Christmas comes with life-distractions that will sneak in from every angle during the season to take our hearts and minds off of Christ. We have the greatest opportunity to focus on our Savior all the more during this season. I just need to grab onto this opportunity with both hands and I can’t do that without acknowledging the problem and then reminding myself of the amazing solution that awaits my attention.  My current problem has a remedy that was spoken over 2000 years ago.

Jesus teaches us, If God so beautifully clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:30-33)

But now – I suggest to you this same passage seen through the eyes of the author of The Message,  “If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.”

Dear reader, when the much more of the season’s busyness tries to push out the much more of our Savior, let’s aim to praise Him and remember Him amidst our circumstances. Will you join me in striving to seek first His Kingdom, push away the worry and the stress, and dwell on the much more that He only can give?  Blessings to you dear Reader – I wish for you Much More of Jesus during this blessed season.  

Always His and yours – Elizabeth