Experience Life

Let me be honest. In November I pretty much had reached my limit. I’m a homeschool mom with 5 kids, 2 with learning challenges and special needs, I was going through my fifth miscarriage in 2 years, had made several life-altering adjustments, had endured one of the most devastating trials of my life during the summer, and then was struck with the horrible effects of topical steroid withdrawal. I was at my lowest point when the Lord rescued me by giving me grace, hope, and a renewed desire for life with much prayer and support from dear friends and family. During this time, I didn’t realize that I had allowed the stress to strain every aspect of our family life. I was just surviving with a lot of checklists and schedules but little grace, much prodding and pushing without gentleness, deadlines and results without beauty. Awakening from my pain-filled stupor, I craved to bring order, beauty, and restoration back to my family.

Thanksgiving was around the corner and it was the perfect opportunity to reflect upon the blessings rather than continue to dwell on the difficult. We spent hours brainstorming about our dreams and desires. We made plans for travel, for read-alouds, for activities, for goals. I knew we would forget the sweetness of these slowed-down days and eager chatter. I wanted us to continually be reminded of God’s goodness to us through our struggles and hardship and to mark the wonders and joy of the life He gave us. I wanted it to be beautiful.

I came up with a mural covering a large wall in our foyer. The kids all contributed their talent to the work. After 100+ hours and a lot of paint, our Experience Life wall was done. Our unfinished bucket list lines the stripes and our completed experiences are scattered in the leaves throughout. What a delight to walk by it or fill in another leaf!

Oh, how cliché but through it all, I was reminded that every detail, every stroke, every colorful event – whether it represents bright happy times, or the darkest, blackest shadow – has the Master’s touch. What tremendous hope it is to know that He who started a work in us will see it to completion! Firmly believing in the truth of Romans 8:28, I find courage to face these challenges because of Christ and His unfailing love for me. I want to share this truth with my children and teach them to draw strength from Him who is able. I want them to know that everything in their life isn’t just random meaninglessness rather it is beauty in progress. 

(Inspired by artists Karla Gerard and Chrissie Grace. Thank you.)

Pinterest http://www.pinterest.com/5solasmom/experience-life-wall-mural/

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God’s Sovereignty and Human Responsibility

Taken from the chapter bearing this heading in his book The Sovereignty of God, Arthur Pink offers his argument of why God’s Sovereignty does not negate man’s responsibility for his rebelliousness against God. I think I will grapple with this one for a very long time… but here is a quote that gives me a perspective that I will have to mull over….

How is it possible for God to “withhold” men from sinning and yet not to interfere with their liberty and responsibility – a question which so many say is incapable of solution in our present finite condition.  This questions causes us to ask, In what does moral “freedom,” real moral freedom, consist?  We answer, it is the being delivered from the BONDAGE of sin.  The more any soul is emancipated from the thraldom of sin, the more does he enter into a state of freedom – “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).  In the above instances God “withheld” Abimelech, Balaam, and the heathen kingdoms from sinning, and therefore we affirm that He did not in anywise interfere with their real freedom.  The nearer a soul approximates to sinlessness, the nearer does he approach to God’s holiness.  Scripture tells us that God “cannot lie” and that He “cannot be tempted,” but is He any the less free because He cannot do that which is evil?  Surely not.  Then is it not evident that the more man is raised up to God, and the more he be “withheld” from sinning, the greater is his real freedom!

That hurt…but what amazing grace

I am profoundly moved by an article that one of you linked to.  I vaguely recognized Ann Voskamp’s name from I can’t remember where.  However, her article “When Bad Things Happen” is incredible, especially when followed by “Scandalous Faith in a Good God”.  

Please take the time to read this and meditate upon it.  Echoing her words, how many times I writhe and complain when the storm clouds come instead of declaring “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”  Incredible, powerful thoughts in this post, penetrating the tender shell of a mother’s heart.

There are No Accidents

The other day I met a beautiful, sweet lady suffering from dystonia, a painful disorder of the nerves that causes distortion and excruciating spasms throughout her body.  As I helplessly watched her body bent over in pain, I tried to soothe the cramp that seized her arm while praying that the Lord would bring relief. Why would a terrible condition contort the lovely body of a godly woman who loves the Lord?

Lauren Olivia was a bouncing 8lb baby born with no suspicious signs of her condition.  At 4 months, her growth drastically came to a near halt and after 8 months of x-rays, geneticists and DNA tests, we found that our daughter was a dwarf.  “It could be worse” was what I kept getting told.  While I truly was grateful it wasn’t worse, it was bad enough for this young mother and it’s going to be bad enough for my little girl. Did God make a mistake?  What did I do to deserve this for my life?

My pastor’s brother was motorcycling the other day in the mountains and had a horrible accident.  He was airlifted to Charleston sustaining a broken femur, broken ribs, collapsed lung and broken back.  Why didn’t God protect him and just give him a close call instead of a tragic collision?

If God was a bystander, allowing evil to wreak havoc and stepping in to clean up the mess (as I previously believed He did), I think little would comfort me even when it ‘works out for good’.  Deep inside, I would question His wisdom, question His power, question my guilt, question what other random, undesirable event would shake my world and turn it upside down.

My pastor’s brother had an amazing prayer request that brought tears to my eyes.  He didn’t ask that God would heal him, he asked that God would use this to change him, teach him and draw him closer to his Savior.  My chest aches as I consider this.  What a precious understanding of God’s Sovereignty.

Contemplating the Sovereignty of God is an amazing exercise.  It makes you realize that you are safe in the eternal purposes of our Creator God.  There is meaning to events in your life, there is reason in tragedies and trials, there is a goal to our daily struggles and ‘accidents’.  As John Piper explains, God is not the doctor in the trauma unit patching up the wounds inflicted by life and the enemy.  God is the Physician holding the scalpel, carefully determining the intentional cuts and sutures so that He can heal and transform.  Some might think that’s an awful picture of a frightening God but honestly, the sideline God scares me even more.  The Bible speaks of an all-powerful, ever-purposeful, wise and intimately loving God who cares for me.  If He planned from eternity past to inflict His only Begotten Son for my sake, wouldn’t He lovingly be involved in every single aspect of my life – a life purchased by the blood of His Son?

Elizabeth Elliot recalls a lady she met who was born with no legs.  This lady wrote a letter to comfort the new parents of a limbless baby: 

The first thing I would say is that all that this entails is at least one hundred times harder on the parents than the child.  A birth defect by God’s grace does not rob childhood of its wonder, nor is a child burdened by high expectations.  Given a supportive, creative, and loving family, I know personally that I enjoyed not a less-than-average life nor an average life, but as I’ve told many, my life has been not ordinary but extraordinary.

I am convinced without a doubt that a loving Heavenly Father oversees the creative miracles in the inner sanctum of each mother’s womb (Ps. 139), and that in His sovereignty there are no accidents…

As humanity we see only the imperfect, underside of God’s tapestry of our lives.  What we judge to be ‘tragic-the most dreaded thing that could happen,’ I expect we’ll one day see as the awesome reason for the beauty and uniqueness of our life and our family.  I think that’s why James 1:2 is a favorite verse of mine.  ‘When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives, my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders but welcome them as friends.’ 

“People with disabilities are God’s best visual aids to demonstrate who He really is.  His power shows up best in weakness.  And who by the world’s standards is weaker than the mentally or physically disabled?  As the world watches, these people persevere.  They live, love, trust and obey Him.  Eventually the world is forced to say, “How great their God must be to inspire this kind of loyalty.”

“You as a family have been chosen in a special way to display His unique Masterwork.  I pray that your roots of faith will grow deep down into the faithfulness of God’s Loving Plan, that you will exchange your inadequacy for the Adequacy of Jesus’ resurrection power, and that you will be awed as you witness the fruits of the Spirit manifested in your family.”