Thursday, May 20, 2010

A love story, for kids

A couple years ago, I bought this Bible for my son at Coscto. He was too young to be read something like this, but not too young to be jealous of his big sister for having her own Bible. I chose this one mainly for its simplicity, but the illustrations were really what sold me. And since my little guy was so little, it basically sat on his shelf. Tonight, I was the chooser of the story, and I thought, "Hmm. There's that Bible. Maybe we should be - I don't know - READING it together once in a while!" (Sometimes I am truly a rock star of a mother, and other times I am so lame.)

OK back to the Bible. It's super amazing! Within ten minutes, I had tried to conceal the lump in my throat at least once. Because it is different from the many Bibles we've owned. It communicates that it is more than a compilation of stories, like most Bibles for children are. It is a Story. A Love Story. And it spells out its premise on the cover: Every story whispers his name.

Read this excerpt from Chapter 1 of The Jesus Storybook Bible, entitled "The Story and the Song":

No, the Bible isn't a book of rules, or a book of heroes. The Bible is most of all a Story. It's an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure. It's a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne - everything - to rescue the one he loves. It's like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life!

You see, the best thing about this Story is - it's true.

There are lots of stores in the Bible, but all the stories are telling one Big Story. The Story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them.

It takes the whole Bible to tell this Story. And at the center of the Story, there is a baby. Every Story in the Bible whispers his name. He is like the missing piece in a puzzle - the piece that makes all the other pieces fit together, and suddenly you can see a beautiful picture.

And this is no ordinary baby. This is the Child upon whom everything would depend. This is the Child who would one day - but wait. Our Story starts where all good stories start. Right at the very beginning...

The next chapter is a summary of Genesis, chapters 1 and 2. And so on. In chapter format, like a Story. Each part of the Bible is being woven into the greater Story of the history of mankind, God's tremendous vision, and greater love. (I'm thinking every person should read a Bible like this - simple and beautiful and tracking with the bottom line of life the entire time; we'd get a broad brush understanding of many things most of us simply do not understand. Right? Isn't that appealing?)

Chapter three was really getting me. It's a summary of Genesis 3, including Adam and Eve, the snake, and the Fall. Read how this Bible relates a story with which we are way too familiar, and hence way too comfortable:

The snake's words hissed into her ears and sunk down deep into her heart, like poison. Does God love me? Eve wondered. Suddenly she didn't know anymore...

And a terrible lie came into the world. It would never leave. It would live on in every human heart, whispering to every one of God's children: "God doesn't love me..."

And a terrible pain came into God's heart. His children hadn't just broken the one rule; they had broken God's heart. They had broken their wonderful relationship with him. And now he knew everything else would break. God's creation would start to unravel, and come undone, and go wrong...

Well, in another story, it would all be over and that would have been the end.

But not in this Story.

God loved his children too much to let the story end there. Even though he knew he would suffer, God had a plan - a magnificent dream. One day, he would get his children back. One day, he would make the world their perfect home again. And one day, he would wipe away every tear form their eyes.

You see, no matter what, in spite of everything, God would love his children - with a Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.

And though they would forget him, and run from him, deep in their hearts, God's children would miss him always, and long for him - lost children yearning for their home.

Before they left the garden, God whispered a promise to Adam and Eve: "It will not always be so! I will come to rescue you! And when I do, I'm going to do battle against the snake. I'll get rid of the sin and the dark and the sadness you let in here. I'm coming back for you!"

And he would. One day, God himself would come.

I can't say I didn't feel like the child who was listening to the story. I had a little warm body on either side of me, but I was perhaps the most enthralled. I guess it's because I've lived some of that adventure. I've been the damsel in some of those rescues, I've believed some of those lies, and I've felt the brokenness and the yearning and the embrace at being found again. God knows I love a good drama, and so I shouldn't be surprised to find myself cast in one.

What part of the Story are you in right now? Are you looking around you, sensing your role and grasping how incredibly irreplaceable you are? There is no understudy for your place in the Story or mine. Part of my role is the critical responsibility of opening the eyes of my children to this great Story. I need to teach them who's directing this world, and why they are so important to Him. Not just that they are important to God. But why. There's a big difference, and their hearts will need to know why someday soon. I certainly don't have all the answers to their questions. But we are openly and honestly seeking to know God better, as a family. Our stories are linked in that way, and I pray that one day, God will be able to say that each of our stories whispered his name.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The birds are singing

I have been seriously under the weather. You know that feeling of being so focused on what is wrong with your physical body that all else blurs into the background of life? Suddenly everything else is forgotten. My blog, the birthday party this Friday for my daughter, the dishes, classroom responsibilities, my clothes on the floor....everything just disappeared for a few days.

This morning is the moment I turned a corner, woke up and felt *better*! I looked at my son and was happy to see him...I mean really see him. I recognized him again in all his simultaneous independent beauty and need of me. I remembered my emotion over my daughter turning eight, looking so big, speaking so maturely and leaving me a little bit more every day. And I kept hearing the birds twittering outside in the backyard. They are so loud today.

While I was getting ready, my son asked me these questions. As I brushed my hair forward, he said, "Are you combing your face?" No. Then he picked up a Q-tip and said, "Can I put this in your nose?" No. Then he said, "Why are the birds singing?" I had an answer for that one. "Because they have a song in their hearts."

Today, me too. Thank you Lord for lifting that veil of cloudiness and giving me clarity and joy and strength today.

I hope you too have joy in your heart today and get a chance to listen to the song outside, in whatever way it comes. Giggles, chirps,'s all there to remind us of our good, good Lord. We are His audience, as He demonstrates that all things He has made long to praise Him.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Two places at once

At some point, while trying to not-so-delicately inspire patience in them, I've told my kids, "I can't be two places at once!" And I can't. It is actually impossible with my physical self. So why do I expect my emotional and mental self to be any different? The "places" to which I'm referring right now are being a mother and daughter at the same time. It is so hard for me to fully be in both of those roles at once. This is what I experience nearly every holiday, including today. Mother's Day is extra tricky, since I am both being a mother and having a mother, both being celebrated and celebrating someone else. It is hard for me to be two places at once, so I usually end up doing both things poorly. Being neither here nor there, as they say. And even though I wanted to write a great Mother's Day post, I'm exhausted from my weekend. I'm out of great words and cohesive thoughts. So instead, I thought I'd share a few shining moments from the day.

My daughter's greatest gift to me (besides the apron from Anthro...holla! ...did I just type that?) was her singing in church with her Outreach Choir. They sang a surprise Mother's Day song that I was careful enough to avoid hearing prematurely, as she practiced in her room with the door shut. Today I heard her sing it, and not only shed a tear, but had to hold back a sob sound! It was a song of thanks to moms, and I wish you could all hear it. One of our worship leaders wrote it especially for the kids and it was so amazing. It was not only the lyrics that got me, but the way my precious girl belted out her words with a heart full of joy and emotion. I've heard it about 4 times now and I get emotional every time.

My son's greatest gift to me was a necklace. He loves getting me jewelry. He wants to buy me jewelry for every occasion, and thankfully my husband indulges this compulsion in him. I feel so flattered by my son's desire to pick out something pretty for me because that means he associates me with something beautiful. He is only 4 and he already knows how to make me feel beautiful. What a blessing this guy will be to his wife someday! So when I opened the necklace, I carefully watched his face. To him, it was like I was opening up a million dollars. He was totally engrossed in the anticipation. When I gasped with pleasure at finally seeing the necklace, he was so filled with happiness that he threw his arms open and threw himself towards me to give me a big hug. He was so proud of that necklace and what it represented to him, and I was proud to wear it all day.

My husband's greatest gift to me was his words. I don't always get a lot of words from him. He usually chooses to love me with action and serving and lots of other things. But today I got a beautiful card from him, filled with words of love and thankfulness for me. Then, as if that weren't enough, after we got home from our very long day, threw the kids into bed, and were sitting on the couch totally empty, he took my hand and prayed for me. He thanked God that I was the mom of his kids, and prayed for God to lead me and encourage me in my mothering. It sounds cliche, but it so blessed my heart.

Each gift seems so small, but at this moment, I am filled up by them. Really, these were God's gifts to me today. And I realize He is the only one who can allow me to be two places at once; remembering I'm in God's family, I can be both a parent and a child, fully present in each place. Alright, I'm starting to try to have great words again, and my head is saying, "Stop it." So I will. Happy Mother's Day to my mom, mom-in-law, grandmas, and every mom friend I have who challenges me to be a better one than I was yesterday. Thank you.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Pray today

When I heard the details of the thwarted bombing in Times Square a few days ago, I started to get a little teary. The radio news host kept saying how lucky we were. The car filled with explosives almost went off in the middle of a crowded tourist area. But he had one wrong material. The suspect almost escaped to Dubai. Did you hear that he was literally on the plane, a red-eye to the Middle East? The plane was already taxiing down the runway, and air traffic control got the pilot to return to the airport just in the nick of time. The detectives trailed him by intercepting his cell phone calls - from millitary planes in the sky who happened to be above the cab taking him to the airport. This suspect had drawings in his home of other targeted locations in NYC. A subway train. The Staten Island ferry. Places where hundreds of men and women and children are. It was not luck, my friends. God had mercy on us; God protected us. He disrupted the plans of our enemy. That's why I got a little teary. I felt grateful, not lucky.

Whether President Obama will acknowledge today as the National Day of Prayer or not, our country's president said these words 150 years ago.

In July of 1861 President Abraham Lincoln declared a National Day of Prayer. He wrote the following:

Whereas a joint Committee of both Houses of Congress has waited on the President of the United States, and requested him to "recommend a day of public humiliation, prayer and fasting, to be observed by the people of the United States with religious solemnities, and the offering of fervent supplications to Almighty God for the safety and welfare of these States, His blessings on their arms, and a speedy restoration of peace:" --

And whereas
it is fit and becoming in all people, at all times, to acknowledge and revere the Supreme Government of God; to bow in humble submission to his chastisements; to confess and deplore their sins and transgressions in the full conviction that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; and to pray, with all fervency and contrition, for the pardon of their past offences, and for a blessing upon their present and prospective action:

And whereas, when our own beloved Country, once, by the blessing of God, united, prosperous and happy, is now afflicted with faction and civil war, it is peculiarly fit for us to recognize the hand of God in this terrible visitation, and in sorrowful remembrance of our own faults and crimes as a nation and as individuals, to humble ourselves before Him, and to pray for His mercy, -- to pray that we may be spared further punishment, though most justly deserved; that our arms may be blessed and made effectual for the re-establishment of law, order and peace, throughout the wide extent of our country; and that the inestimable boon of civil and religious liberty, earned under His guidance and blessing, by the labors and sufferings of our fathers, may be restored in all its original excellence: --

Therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, do appoint the last Thursday in September next, as a day of humiliation, prayer and fasting for all the people of the nation. And I do earnestly recommend to all the People, and especially to all ministers and teachers of religion of all denominations, and to all heads of families, to observe and keep that day according to their several creeds and modes of worship, in all humility and with all religious solemnity, to the end that the united prayer of the nation may ascend to the Throne of Grace and bring down plentiful blessings upon our Country.

Let's pray today, OK? Let's petition God for the further protection of our country from enemies, foreign or domestic. Let's pray for wise leadership all the way from our government down to that within our very homes. Let's be humble about our failures, and ask for strength. Let's be thankful for our blessings, and acknowledge that all good things we have are from the Lord. And let's remember that God is not looking to shame us for the things we've done wrong - he wants to reconcile. He wants to make peace with us through grace. And he wants to be on the throne of our lives. Sometimes we need to unseat ourselves from His rightful place. And we need to say sorry for the times we've tried to remove Him from office, or for the times where we simply sidestepped Him altogether.

One study I did a couple years ago defined prayer as the "releasing of God's will upon the earth." There are verses which imply that at times, the Lord's will is on hold until He has an intercessor who will step up and pray on behalf of a person or situation. Let's be that intercessor, for our country and for our families and for ourselves. Take a few minutes - right now, if you can - and pray.

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.
2 Chronicles 7:14-15

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

I love-hate May

I have a love-hate relationship with May. It is the month in which both my kids were born, which means two things: I feel a love and excitement to celebrate how amazing they are on their birthdays, and simultaneously I get a sick feeling in my stomach that they are growing up so incredibly fast. My gut feeling is that I want them to stop growing, stop abandoning more of the sweet morsels of childhood every year. Every May I tease them about my decision to stop feeding them so they'll stay whatever age they are threatening to leave behind. The whole month is very bittersweet for me.

I was cleaning out some of my daughter's school work yesterday. She has a pile of folders and art projects on the floor next to my desk, containing work from the last three months that her teacher recently sent home. She likes to doodle and has always been pretty artistic. I imagine in later years, her scrawling on her folders and notebooks will be about boys and song lyrics and her BFFs. But right now she is only seven and I am eating up every last bit of her littleness, since it seems to be slipping away quickly. In the pile, I found this folder, one with which she started the school year.

If you can't read what it says toward the bottom in the blue colored shape, it says:

My famoly is asam!

(Joyful *sigh*) She doodles about us, about me. She loves our family and thanks God for it often. That makes my heart sing. It is more than I could ask for. However, I will never see this sentence again, on another folder or otherwise. She knows how to spell these words correctly now. Her sentiment may turn up in or on another project. But this particular sentence is a sweet morsel, the words having been already left behind, and one that makes me smile and cry all at once.

A few days ago, my daughter appropriately used the phrase, "absolutely incredible." And to her I say "Quit it!" Quit getting bigger and heavier and smarter and older and less like the child I knew last year.

Time is so unrelenting. I'll make it through to June, just expect me to be back with a similar post same time next year.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Story time

I love books. Love them. I remember when I was young, our town had one bookstore. It was a B. Dalton Booksellers, and my mom took my brother and me there often. By far, my favorite thing about the store was the smell. The smell of a bookstore remains a welcoming and soothing aroma to me. I feel like I am being hugged when I walk into one.

That B. Dalton became a pivotal place for me; I would thumb through the latest junior novels and classics time and time again, finally choosing something that caught my interest. I brought it home and read it loyally. And I fell in love with the feeling of what a book can do. It can stir up your greatest passions, or break your heart. A book can reveal a problem or plant a seed of learning. It can make you feel scared, cry bitterly, or inspire courage. I continue my pilgrimages as often as I can.

I wish today I had more time to read, particularly fiction and classics. But with the little time I do have, I now lean toward books from which I can glean something helpful – marriage and parenting books mostly – and books that challenge my faith. I will include the fact that I spend a LOT of time reading with my kids. I spend too much money on books for them. And when they outgrow certain ones, I have to stop myself from boxing them up and saving them for their kids. (OK, certain ones I will save forever and ever and if a fire burns down my house, I’ll just buy them all up again!)

Books are both powerful and precious to me. In many instances, they act as mile markers for my life. At certain stages, God has given me a book right when I needed it, to guide me and teach me and love me. And for my children’s lives, I always turn to books to aid me in teaching them during transitions and challenges.

When I was pregnant with my second, my daughter and I read Minnie and Her Baby Brother.

When my son broke his leg at 2 years old, we read Maisy Goes to the Hospital.

When my daughter started preschool, we read I Love You All Day Long and The Kissing Hand.

When both my grandparents died this year, we read God Gave us Heaven.

Your head would spin if you knew the number of times I read both the boy and girl version of Once Upon a Potty. (I can nearly recite it: “What was it? Was it a flower pot? Was it a hat? Was it a bowl for the cat? NO! It was a potty!" This one deserves a photo. Motherhood is so glamorous!)

Books are irrevocably intertwined with my memories. They are a beautiful part of the pages of my story. So I decided I would begin to write book reviews on my blog. Most of us love new recommendations, and there are so many great pieces of writing – for grown-ups and kids – that can be instrumental in our own personal stories. (Now I just have to decide which one I'll write about first!)

Ultimately, God is a lover of a good story. That is why our lives are filled with drama and adventure. He is the ultimate author, and that fact forms the basis for this entire blog. We are all enrapt in His story for each of us, whether we realize it, or want it, or not. The idea that I am reading my way through life, and that I am simultaneously being written through life is thrilling to me. God writes only epics, and I love being the heroine of one. I imagine, in my book review posts, you won't be able to separate the story itself from the power of it in my own. Regardless, I hope you enjoy my informal suggestions for a good read, and I hope you have some recommendations for me as well.

God made man because He loves stories.
- Elie Wiesel, 1928