Thursday, August 21, 2008

Thy Mercy, O God


I am really excited about this next blog entry. It’s written by my daughter Erika: the selfsame daughter who’s going to have a baby in November. The Erika we had a shower for last June (See “Baby Talk” entry from May 31). And that was before we knew she and Richie are expecting a girl. Yes, Woody and I are going to have a granddaughter. We are overjoyed!

And now let me introduce Erika’s first blog entry, written from the mom-to-be point of view. And from Ireland. You may even notice a few “Irishisms” in her writing. As American as Erika is, Richie-speak” has rubbed off on her.
I hope you’ll enjoy meeting Erika, and even consider writing back to her. Every mom-to-be could use a little encouragement, right? Just like every mom!
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It’s Saturday morning, 10:20 am. I am sitting in a small “breakfast room” in our kitchen (by breakfast room I mean a two-seater table at one end of our kitchen) with a lovely mug of coffee (a red mug from Crate and Barrel—one of my favorite wedding presents!). Richie, my husband, is still asleep upstairs and the only sound I hear is the humming of his alarm going off (which has gone off several times—the “snooze button” is a great invention isn’t it?).



This is the highlight of my week. I work in a school/day care centre (we say “crèche” in Ireland) and it is a non-stop, go-go-go life for me in my Montessori classroom of young 3-year-olds. I treasure my quiet Saturday morning with coffee by the computer catching up on emails, or sitting with my journal.

In just over 3 months however, this morning will look very different! You see, as I’m typing this I’m already feeling an eager young life inside me, jumping, flipping, and kicking, eager for her chance in this world—the life of a developing baby girl. A baby girl who will be my daughter!

A baby girl.

My mind is constantly trying to grasp this idea—the idea that I will be a mother, that Richie will be a father, that pretty soon Saturday mornings won’t be quiet coffee time but will be filled with attempts at breast-feeding, crying (probably crying from me and the baby), dirty nappies (diapers), and efforts to soothe and comfort a small, dependent baby.


And as I think of those things, the early days with a baby, I am thankful for two things. First, that my mother will be here to help (you are planning on staying for 6 months, right, Mom?) But mainly, I’m thankful for something that has been a recurring thought in my mind throughout my whole pregnancy so far—I’m thankful for God’s mercy for me despite my desire to control, rather than to trust.

I do pretty well at controlling my life and the situations around me. I say this a bit tongue-in-cheek, because for me, the reason I am good at controlling my life is because I find it very hard to trust God. So often it’s easier for me to control rather than to rest in the truth that God is capable of redeeming—or even using—my mistakes or “dropped balls.” And I feel that while I’m scurrying around, picking up the pieces that I or others have dropped, I hear faint whispers from God saying, “Erika, rest. I can do this.”

Most of the time, I continue on in my flurry.

Why do I continue on? Why do I insist on doing things myself when God is offering rest? Do I really believe that God will take care of these things for me? Will He get the house tidied, or make the meals, or engage in conversation with my husband after I’ve had a long day of kids needing me constantly? No, probably not. But will He maintain peace and harmony in my house even if it’s a mess? Will He provide good health for my family even if we have to order take out or have frozen pizzas tonight? Will He provide me with the strength to engage my husband and care for him even when I’m totally spent?

Yes.

Is that hard as all get out to believe at times? Yes. And my flesh cries out to do it myself: To feel the adrenaline of having things under control, to look like “super woman”—or “super mom” in your case.

But when I’m trying to be Super Woman I’m missing out on deeper things of God. I’m missing out on a moment with Him, on knowing fuller His promise of provision (a provision that goes deeper than an orderly house or homemade meal), and the meaning of the phrase, “my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” My heavenly Father is wanting to give me a kiss and I’m turning my face away from him to get back to cleaning my kitchen.

So here I am, almost 6 months pregnant, and have found myself in a position that I cannot control. The life of this little girl growing inside me is only dependent on me to a certain extent. I can eat properly, exercise wisely, avoid certain activities. But her developing body, her organs, and her health and wholeness are God’s alone to look after and provide. This has been such a lesson in trust, and such an encounter with mercy. When I worry about her, all I can do is go to the feet of my Father and pray that he will protect her. But I also pray that He will help me to trust Him. And I praise Him that He will have mercy on me when I don’t and can’t trust Him.

And He will do the same for you.

When you find yourself rushing around trying to sort out lunches, carpooling, cleaning, and family schedules, and you get wrapped up in activities, my hope is that He will remind you that HE IS ENOUGH. That though all those things are important, they are small in the grand plan He has for you and your family. And my hope for you is the same as my hope for myself: that we will take Him up on His offer to provide, that we will be able to “drop balls” trusting that He will care for the situation and that through it we will know Him more intimately.

And we can praise Him for the fact that even when we find ourselves incapable of trusting, or not wanting to trust, wanting to do it ourselves, that He will have mercy on us and will continue His provision and protection.

I want to finish this off with the lyrics to a song that has recently been an anthem for me. It’s an old hymn that has been re-done by a compilation group called “Indelible Grace” (I highly recommend any and all of their CDs! See www.igracemusic.com). —Erika

Thy Mercy My God

Thy mercy my God is the theme of my song

The joy of my heart and the boast of my tongue.

Thy free grace alone from the first to the last

Hast won my affection and bound my soul fast.


Without thy sweet mercy I could not live here
My sin would reduce me to utter despair
But through thy free goodness my spirits revive

And he that first made me still keeps me alive.


They mercy is more than a match for my heart

It’s wondrous to feel its own hardness depart

‘Tis all by thy goodness I fall to the ground
And weep to the praise of the mercy I’ve found.

Great Father of mercy, thy goodness I own

And the covenant love of thy crucified Son

All praise to the spirit whose whisper divine

Seals mercy, and pardon, and righteousness mine.

©2001 Same Old Dress Music (ASCAP). Words: John Stocker. Music: Sandra McCracken.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Safe Home


Lars is home!!!! I am overjoyed to be able to share with you that our Marine Captain son is home from Iraq. At 2:30 pm on Friday, August 8, his C-130 landed at his base at Cherry Point. And Lars is now home with his wife Kelly and nearly-three-year-old son Bengt in New Bern, NC.
Can you imagine our joy? Our overflowing gratitude? It is, really, almost beyond words. In my head, I keep bursting forth with the Doxology.

We have not yet seen him. We all felt their little family needed some time to reconnect and adjust before any larger family celebrations; those will come Labor Day Weekend. But it is so good to talk with him and know his voice is coming from safe in the USA. And the pictures tell the story: he is back where he belongs—home with Kelly and Bengt.

In Ireland they have a custom I love. When you’re leaving a home where you’ve visited—even for a short time—they say as you leave, “Safe home, now, safe home.” Lars is “safe home.” We praise God! Thank you thank you thank you Jesus!

I also want to thank the many of you who have prayed for him and his family and for us. And I want to ask you please not to stop praying. For all the troops. For the Marines who flew into Lars’ base in Iraq to replace those who came home. And for the men and women all over the world whose families are now praying and waiting for them to come home just as we have for Lars.


Actually, our prayers go even deeper than that, don’t they? We pray for all our children—living at home or grown, single or married, military or civilian—to come “safe home.” Yes, to us and to their families. But even more, safe home to the Lord who wants to make His home in their hearts until we’re all “safe home” with Him.

It’s my prayer for you and for all your children: Safe home, now, safe home.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Doing More Than You Think


Recently I made a very long journey. It was not that long in actual miles (just over 100) or in hours (2-3 each way). But it was a very long journey of the heart.

Woody and I drove down to Wheaton, Illinois, where I grew up and where both of us went to college. The reason for our trip was a sad one: a memorial service for my Aunt Ruth, my mother’s sister. But it also gave us opportunity to drive around several suburbs (Woody spent much of his early life in neighboring towns) that were the scenes of our childhood and teen-to-young-adult years.

As we drove by one place after another where I had lived (my mom was a realtor, so we lived in a number of different homes), I was swept back in time.

I could almost see the kids skating on the driveway on hot summer days at one house—and feel the sunburn I had the next day which, being a Sunday, meant I had to dress up and wear a “prickly dress.” I think it was dotted swiss material—anyone remember that?


Another home reminded me of our crazy standard poodle who actually climbed trees—at least, the tree right across the street, which had some low branches to get him started. A third house was the place we planned our wedding, and where, on the Big Day, an unplugged cord to the clock in my room almost made me late to my own wedding!

There must have been thousands of memories.

But many of them were on a deeper level. I thought constantly of my parents, both of whom now have gone on to be with the Lord. I thought of all the ups and downs that took place over the years in those homes we lived in. The good times, the hard times, the just day-to-day “normal” (whatever that is!) times which take place in all our lives.

Most of all, I thought of my parents’ faithfulness through it all: faithfulness to each other, to their children, and—above all—to God. Most of their days probably seemed pretty mundane. My dad was a hard-working college professor, interim pastor, writer, reluctant Mr. Fix-it, and even part-time farmer. (At one point, Wheaton College professors were given some land on which to plant vegetable gardens to supplement their meager salaries!) My mom was a part-time realtor who managed to “be there” for my brother and me even while juggling many roles as wife, daughter, sister, mother, and realtor.


I’m sure they had no idea how profoundly some of their “everyday” routines would impact generations to come. They had no idea that my brother and I knew that Dad was on his knees in the early-morning hours at his “prayer chair” in our little living room. Or that Mom, a bit later, read her red-lined Bible at the kitchen table. Or that the two of them knelt by their bed every night.

They surely didn’t realize, either, what an impression it made on us that Mom was always home for us after school (well, almost always—occasionally her realtor role had to take precedence, but rarely) so we could pour out all the important events of the day—or at least I could—I’m not sure my brother was quite as chatty! Or the picture my brother and I carry in our minds of Dad’s study door at the top of the stairs: it was always open. Clearly he was hoping we’d pop in and drop in one of the chairs across from his desk to share the latest in our lives.

And when they were reading us Bible stories as part of “family devotions” around the old yellow formica table in our kitchen, did it look as if we were paying any attention at all?

Lifelong imprints, these memories, that have profoundly affected not only my brother and me, but also our children—and now their children. It kind of reminds me of Psalm 78, verses 4–7, where the Psalmist instructs us to “tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, His power and the wonders He has done . . . so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children.”

I thought of this journey last week when I was singing “Jesus Loves Me” to Soren before he went to bed. I thought of the “children yet to be born” part of Psalm 78. And I thought of you.


I’ll bet most of your days seem pretty mundane. It’s mid-summer. It’s hot. It really doesn’t seem like you’re doing much at all. Certainly not accomplishing anything important.

You might be surprised. That’s why I’m writing about my journey back to my childhood. One thing I forgot to tell you: a couple of the places I lived aren’t even there any more. But the memories are. And the imprints for generations to come.

Hmm. No wonder you’re so tired at the end of a day. You’re doing a lot more than you think!

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