It doesn’t change a thing

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While her husband was on a business trip, my younger daughter and her newborn son came to stay with us. What a joy it was to meet each morning through the wide-eyed wonder named Luke.

At five weeks he has already changed so much. Beginning to shake off the sleepy cloak that wraps a newborn’s mind, he is alert for longer periods during the day (and regrettably for his parents, during the night as well.)  When he is awake, his arms and legs engage in a constant stationary dance to music only he can hear.

This morning as he lay beside me on the couch pumping his tiny arms and legs, I began to whisper in his ear. Occasionally he would fix his eyes on me and seem to be soaking in every syllable.

“I love you Luke. You are so beautiful. And even though you really don’t understand how much I love you, it doesn’t change the fact that I do.”

It is doubtful that he understood a word of what I said, but my voice still commanded his momentary attention.

Sometimes I am just like baby Luke. When God calls me, my response involves thrashing around in a crazy stationary dance.  Stuck on the couch looking up at the ceiling lights, neither moving backwards or forwards, my is mind running wild.

What if I fail?

What will people think?

How can I accomplish something so far outside my comfort zone?

Then I remember the promises of God.

I remember that Romans 8:31 says if God is for me, then who can be against me? And according to 1 Thessalonians 5:24,  if God has called me to it, then God will see me through it.

When I’m stuck on the brink of a land flowing with milk and honey, tempted to retreat to Egypt, I can go forth in the confidence that God’s love lies ahead and behind me. Whether or not I believe the promises doesn’t change God.

He remains the same.

The only change is in me when I respond to His promises with faith and love. So when I am faithless and fretful I must listen closely for Holy Spirit’s truth.

The lovely reminder He whispers in my ear.

“I love you Anne. You are so beautiful. And even though you don’t understand how much I love you, it doesn’t change a thing.”

Remembering

Until recently I had a small, round china jar that had belonged to my grandmother sitting on my vanity. Complete with lid, it was just the right size for housing stray buttons and bobby pins. Not exactly a family heirloom, I loved it anyway because it made me think of Grandma.

And when it was accidentally broken, try as I might, I couldn’t hold back a few tears.

I knew it was silly, but being the sentimental person I was, it was inevitable. Years ago when I took the Briggs-Meyers personality test it told me I was “the keeper of family traditions.” No surprise there. It also should have said “keeper of things that other people usually throw away.”

Not in the hoarding kind of way, but I do tend to keep things that hold meaning for me.

Christmas ornaments that my children made in elementary school.

Sweet misspelled notes from my past students saying “You are my best techer”. (No chance of getting a big head over that one.)

Thirty-year old birthday cards from my grandparents – just seeing their scrolling signatures brings a smile to my face.

My first diary complete with lock and key lest anyone try to pry into my nine-year old self’s private business.

Loose pictures, scrapbooks, pictures albums, framed pictures. (A lot of them bearing less than flattering hair styles. Note to Self- you do not look good in a perm.)

Why do I keep all of these things? Because all of them have the ability to whisk me back to a time and  place where I felt loved. That is an amazing thing and one of life’s greatest treasures.

I am so thankful that God created me with the capacity to remember. Not everything that has happened in my life has been good. There have been plenty of tragedies and trials.

But I have the power to choose.

And the things that I choose to remember most are the gifts of love that God has showered in my life. For I know that every good and perfect gift is from the Father.

I thank my God every time I remember you. Philippians 1:3

The Toddler To-Do List

I am not ashamed to admit that ordinarily I like structure and routine. For me, there is comfort in order. However, when our three-year old grandson comes for a visit, life-as-I-know-it changes. In the past six days I have read aloud with expression Curious George Takes A Job no less than a dozen times, sang and danced across the carpet to a spirited version of Go Tell It on the Mountain and loudly applauded successful trips to the potty with exclamations of “Whoopee!”

While Isaiah visited, my to-do list looked like this:

1. Color with fat crayons and don’t worry about staying in the lines.

2. Sift sand sculptures. If you don’t like what you made, flatten it and start over.

3. Lay on your belly and watch the train chug around the Christmas tree. “Choo-chooing” is encouraged, but optional.

4. Play hide and seek in the dark and give away your hiding place by squealing with laughter when you hear footsteps approaching.

5. Giggle ’til your sides ache since practically everything is funny.

6. Go to bed early because you’re probably going to be up at the crack of dawn eating pancakes.

7. Eat peanut butter from a  spoon.

8. Ignore the mounting pile of laundry at the bottom of the basement stairs. Nobody cares that you wear the same pajamas every night.

9. Get down on your knees to pray before you go to sleep.

10. Kiss, cuddle and say “I love you” every chance you get.

11. Repeat number 10.

Next week when the school break is over and I return to my classroom, my to-do list will likely return to its normal state of lesson plans and meetings. And because I love my job I will be glad of it. But I will go with a refreshed spirit and a grateful heart because during those dull December days at the end of the year I had a chance to step out of the ordinary.

The infectious laughter and insatiable energy that only a little soul can bring both exhausted and exhilarated me. Loving the chaos and the calm, I am thankful for it all. After all, remembering Matthew 18:3, if I must become like a child to enter the kingdom of God, then I had better be sure the child inside me is alive and well. Perhaps that Toddler to-do list might just replace my  regular agenda. At least some of the time.

On and on and on it goes

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While dusting the coffee table in our living room I noticed a rather substantial nick in the wood top. Having survived a boisterous family of five, the table is not new, but the dent was. Since my husband is the person who spends the most time in that room I asked him if he knew how it had happened.

Phil had a ready theory that involved our three-year old grandson and the substantial amount of Hot Wheels cars that live at our house.  He recalled that the last time they used the table top as a race track things might have gotten a little bit wild.  Smart strategy. He knows that my love for Isaiah far outweighs any offense he might commit. I just could never be mad at him.

It’s the same way with God’s love for us. So many people waste their time thinking that God is mad at them. It simply isn’t true. The facts are that even when we were still in our sin, Jesus gave up his life for us. He didn’t wait until we made things right because he knew we couldn’t do it on our own. It was out of His great love for us that He sacrificed so we would not have to be separated from the Father.

God isn’t mad at us. He’s angry at the sin in our lives that separates us from Him. Psalm 103:13-14 says that “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.

Just as I know that a three-year old has limitations to his understanding of the world, God knows my own human limitations and has compassion on me in my failures. My sin may separate me from His blessing, but His love for me never ceases . Verse 17 tells me “But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him.

I am the one who turns away. I am the one who exercises my own free will to step away from the light into the darkness. Even so, God’s love for me goes on and on and on.

From everlasting to everlasting.

Forever.

The apostle Paul describes it well when he writes in Romans 8:39 that “neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” What a wonderful thing it is to know that no matter how many nicks and dents I manage to accumulate on the race track of life God’s love for me never ends.