We held the glowing cake in his line of remaining vision, behind him and to the left. Four candles flickered as the air swept currents of “Happy Birthday” notes swirling around our living room. Calvin’s eyes danced with excitement at the candles, his grandpa’s arms and the siblings crowded around.
This fourth birthday was the first to see him alert and lively, not teetering on the brink of life. All night long he tried to talk loudly, waved his arms in short uncoordinated little punches and kicked his legs in jerky stiff movements. Nothing works the way it should but it was pure beauty to his family.
This daily care of Calvin, this daily entering his world and being satisfied with altered joys is giving us glimpses of the Father’s love that take our breath away. It’s not made up fancy, it’s real hard-core Bible truth, this Father-love and delight in His own. My eyes have read the words over and over but my heart and mind dismiss this grace when I think of my heavenly Father thinking of me. I forget what it means to be “in Christ” and the satisfaction accomplished for sinners.
An unspoken theology follows my footsteps and steals joy and isolates me from God (and I would bet a good number of you too). It tells me this perfect, awesome God rather reluctantly saved me. And once saved He now puts up with me with much frustration and disappointment as I fall often on the road of life. I live under the law and fail to grasp the grace there is for me in Jesus. I hardly dare whisper “He delights in me! He loves me!” I dishonor His love and Christ’s work when I fail to believe it.
What if Calvin were to respond to me that way? What if he stopped moving and responding to me because he was ashamed of his movements being uncoordinated, awkward and impaired? What if he limited his responses to me because of it? I look for and find delight in every expression he gives. I laugh and smile to see him filled with joy that comes from any exercise of his rigid body; I rejoice in him regardless of improper, uncoordinated and clumsy movement. It’s not a perfect example, this earthly relationship, but it gives me a glimpse into the immensity of the Father’s love and delight in us because of Christ.
Even after grace our spiritual deformities leave us crippled with weakness and sin. But this does not make God dismissive or distant from us, ”As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.” Ps. 103:14
My praise is too rusty, fickle and feeble. I fall, I fail, I’m slow to learn. But the Father tenderly comes and turns my eyes to Jesus again. He sees life springing in my heart, the seeds he planted and He longs for fullness.
These signs of life, responses to grace and love are joy to our Father’s heart. Why? Because we’re so wonderful? No, He delights in us because of the satisfaction of Christ on our behalf. As we hope in Christ, His reflective glory is written upon us and brings praise to the Father (Ephesians 1!). He sees the stirrings of life and the resemblance of His likeness in us as we respond to His grace. He delights in us as we delight in Him.
“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love.” Zeph. 3:17
The days are getting colder and dusk is licking up the lasts wisps of light by dinner. This means we are huddled more than ever around books! It continues to be one of our favorite times of day; if you’re looking for some suggestions these are some of the books we’ve enjoyed the last few months:
I’m partial to the 1964 first edition. The illustrations are timeless and the sketches give just enough enticement for little minds to wander into the imaginative world of chocolate rivers, mini-men and candy that lives only in dreams. The greatest benefit of this book is showing us our own flaws (pride, selfishness, arrogance) through the exaggerated characters of the golden-ticket winners. Little Charlie, poor yet resiliently happy, opens little one’s eyes to wonder, hope and the possibility of happy endings. Noah loved this one and upon opening any candy shouts, “I’ve got a golden ticket!”
We read this book as summer turned to fall. It was a great window for a bunch of city kids to peek into what it takes to survive in the wild. The story is about a young boy, Matt, who lives on his own in a cabin in the wilderness as he awaits his family’s return. He learns how to make fishing hooks and rabbit traps, how to leave a trail and discern Indian signs. We all felt the loneliness of the long days, the thrill of survival and the rewards of loyalty as we romped through these page of wilderness Maine. We did try out the movie after reading the book; it was a huge let-down after the book and I wish we wouldn’t have bothered.
This was a great fall-time read. Much of the story focuses on the great salmon run in Alaska which coincided with much smaller fall-time salmon runs in our region. The two most valuable features in this book are the descriptive writing about nature and the strong character development of the young boy, Mark Andersen. It gave us breathtaking views of the Alaskan wilderness, detailed information about the fishing industry and heart-moving glimpses of loyalty, determination and friendship between a boy and his magnificent friend, Ben.
I can’t tell you how much reading together benefits our family. Whether it’s Darryl and I reading to each other chapters from P.G. Wodehouse to G. Vos as the night closes, me reading kid’s books in the living room with kids piled everywhere, or gathered around the supper table making our way through the OT narratives–it always brings smiles, togetherness and earnest discussion. It creates a natural platform for really knowing one another and growing in understanding together. Quality family time really is about a shared simple togetherness.
I love these thoughts on reading together from Edith Schaeffer:
“Whether it is with small children, adults, or a group of varied ages, there are questions or thoughts that simply burst out at times as the book is shared together, and which open up opportunities for knowing each other and each other’s responses and attitudes in ways which no other “entertainment” could ever do. Attitudes and ideas come out which might never be brought out in ordinary conversation.
It gives the family a background for thinking and growing in their concepts and understanding, together, rather than always separately.”Read More
It seems like pride and self-righteousness are two things all of us pretend we don’t have. We like to appear humble but almost every one of us is tempted to make a big deal of “me” and a small deal of “Jesus.” We can even turn brokenness and suffering into a trophy for self instead of surrendering it to Jesus. The good news is that Jesus died for self-righteous and proud people. Sinners who often put themselves on a higher standing than God and others. His Spirit can transform our souls, giving us bigger eyes for Jesus and smaller eyes for self.
When people look at me do they see a person filled with Jesus? Or do they see just another person “full of self”?
I’m writing about this at Not Alone today, you can read it here: Does Suffering Make You a Better Person?Read More
Today I’m blogging over at Not Alone about the blessing of having biblical traditions a part of every day family life. I’d love to hear your traditions!
Life is moving quickly here at the Dedert range. Calvin has had a fantastic summer of good health. I think it was almost 8 weeks of no lung infections, glorious! Yesterday he became sick very suddenly with a lung infection; it’s astounding how much his condition can change in a few hours. Last night as we worked continuously with him, trying to ease his breathing, we breathed thanks for the wonderful weeks we have had with him.
Because he has been feeling so good for so long (8 weeks is some sort of record!), we were able to witness new things he was doing. We stood around with absolute joy watching him kick his legs and swing his arms vigorously while giggling when Darryl came home from work. His awareness of us was at an all time high and he tried so hard to participate in every way his little body allowed him. We have spent most of our summer evenings being beside him and soaking up the delight that he gives with every ounce of his being. I think we are beginning to understand the meaning of the word “cherish”. We’ve been remembering to take videos on the camera more often, catching many of these happy moments.
We had planned to send Calvin to school a few mornings a week, he loves it! All of it is contingent on his health, the Lord knows.
Most mornings Evie can be found here:
The other three littles have had a fantastic summer:
Darryl and I have been hard at work on a side business, the Common Table. His arms are having to stretch a little farther around me each month.Read More
It was a beautiful August day that found the kids and I headed out to Toys R’ Us to scoop up the super scooter sale. The kids were chatting as I drove down hard roads, me looking ahead but really seeing Calvin sitting on the bed where I left him with the nurse. And feeling guilt. Guilty that he wasn’t with his momma but with a nurse he didn’t know, guilty that he wouldn’t get a chance to ride those $15 buck-a-piece joy rides. Some days I hate it all, the reality of this brokenness. That’s the truth of it.
And at the bottom of it all, I hate my play in it. It sounds like crazy talk, people like me who feel like they let danger walk right in and take their child and look back each day and kick themselves with guilt (real or imagined) at what they could have or should have done. But there’s no going back. There’s no backing up and protecting anymore. And all you have is one another in heaps of brokenness, sitting at Jesus’ feet begging for undeserved redemption and regretting all that is so wrong.
We sat at the dinner table, Darryl holding it all together while I tried to feign eating salad with tears as the dressing. “Mom’s just extra sad today about Calvin,” he explained. “But why?” she asked in nine-year-old astonishment, “he has a wonderful life with us.” And I longed for her simplicity.
People can talk til they’re blue in the face with rationale and logic and all the it’s-not-your-faults ever uttered. It doesn’t penetrate the remorse, the guilt that clings to our dirty souls. So is there hope for people like me who feel the weight of guilt pushing down so hard it’s hard to see tomorrow? What if you did take a person’s life out of negligence? What if you did cause irreparable damage to another?
How do I live with the fact that I did carry out a pregnancy in Cambodia? That perhaps something I had done (or had not done) may have resulted in contracting the virus that affected our son. Is the reality of the gospel big enough for this? Can the gospel conquer our (my) guilt, verified or not? Where can we go with our soul-suffocating guilt?
Take refuge in God’s providence. If you are in Christ then he really does use “all” things, the mess-ups and sin of it all, and work it for good. He uses it to change us (repentance) and make us more like Jesus. When things seem out of hand and we’ve caused it all to smash to smithereens, He holds it. All the smithereens and wrong deeds and mistakes. It’s never out of His hands or too broken for Him to work.
Give your guilt to Jesus. When guilt blinds us so that even the cross seems irrelevant, focus on who Jesus says he is and what the Word tells you he is. He is Immanuel (God with us guilty ones), Light of the World (shining into our most dark and shameful crevices), and Man of Sorrows (not removed from our grief, he weeps with us and dies for us so our tears can be forever wiped away). He is the Vine (a lifeline to escape this death and grasp life), a Redeemer (taking the ashes we want to forget and making beauty), a Lamb (taking your guilt upon Him, taking it from you!) Do you see? Feed your guilt-ridden soul with Jesus.
Plead on the promises of redemption. I’m glad my kids think Calvin has a great life, however, I often feel like he is living the years that “the locust have eaten” and I live for the reality of the promise that God will take these years back. His loss is staggering and still can fill me with despair. Because Jesus bore our loss and conquered despair, we can plead the reality of the promise that this brokenness will not compare to the glory that is coming. I repeat daily the promises of God that He does not intend our destruction but complete redemption in Christ. And I pray God continually shows that in ways here in this take-a-breath-then-it’s-gone place and then forever in eternity.
One day He will make all things right. At the end of the day I may come to grips spiritually and intellectually with my own burden of guilt but Calvin’s condition doesn’t change, he will always suffer the effects of brain damage. I long to see my son restored in body and soul and would give my life for it if I could. Can you imagine how God must see our brokenness and long for the day He will heal us completely? He too is waiting to restore His own; there must be many good reasons why He hasn’t done so today. So we can live patiently in the hope of the coming restoration while still daily limping along with our guilt, giving it over and over to Jesus. He overshadows the darkness within, battling for the inches of our souls until glory, where there is no more shadow of guilt.
J.J. Heller’s song “Your Hands” seems fitting.
“Disappointment is similar to anger in that there are legitimate and illegitimate reasons to feel it. If some evil has caused the event of our disappointment, the emotion could be right because evil defiles God’s glory.
But whatever the cause, if our emotion is growing in the soil of love and faith, it will produce righteous fruit, like contentment or just action or gracious forbearance.
But if its roots are in the soil of selfishness, it will bear unrighteous fruit, like jealousy and selfish ambition, which are themselves evil and defile God’s glory.”
Jon Bloom from Not By Sight.Read More