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Press on

Last night we watched the movie "Courageous." If you have not seen it, I highly recommend it. We rented it from Redbox. Because parenting was such a strong theme throughout the movie, it brought to mind my blog a few days ago about my wrong attitude, "We can work it out." Not to spoil the movie, but there is a quote from the movie that has stood out in my mind, "And the hard choice for you is whether or not your going to be angry for the time you didn't have, or grateful for the time that you did have," referring to the grieving process of losing his daughter. I have mentioned before friends of mine that refer to their children as blessings-- do I live each day as if my children are blessings?

Last night my son followed me into the garage to ask if he could have another spear of watermelon before dinner. Granny, who was standing in the kitchen, joked, "I'm surprised he came to ask you! That was bold! I would have said yes, but it is a gamble asking mom." I replied, "No kidding, Granny always says yes." After a few minutes she adds, "You know, my first response to my boys when they asked for something was always no. Later I would think, 'Now, why did I say no to that? It wouldn't have hurt anything!' So, now, I would rather say yes than no." I really try to say yes when I can. If he asks for something after I have already said no, I try to think what my reasoning is behind the no. Why can't he win a few arguements? Why can't he learn to assert his opinion (not a difficult challenge for a three-year old, as it turns out)? But there are so many days when I am just tired of being followed around, tired of constant requests, tired of serving others, when it comes right down to it. Sometimes, I would like peace and quiet. Those times, I fall back on the easy thing. "Want to watch a movie?" "How about you go play in your room for awhile?" "You need to just give Momma one minute." "No more discussion. You need to listen and obey because I am mom."

There was a scene in the movie where his daughter asks him to step out of the car and dance with him in the parking lot. Afraid of looking foolish, he declines. Later, he sits up in bed, weeping, asking, "Why didn't I dance with her?" If I was to look back on yesterday from the perspective of never having another day with any one of my sons, what would I have wish I had done differently? What opportunities would I have felt I had missed? It is such a heavy question, but one that is asked so frequently, perhaps we disregard it. Nickelback sings of living each day as if it was your last. Quoting again from Courageous, "Any fool can have a child." Am I living up to the responsibility that God has given me? The father, sitting at the table with his Bible open, says to his wife, "I'm accepting the fact that I have to learn how to do the hard things. There is so much in scripture about being a father; I never took time to look it up."

1 Corinthians 15:58 says "Therefore, dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain." Let nothing move you. Such a powerful statement. How easy it is to feel frustrated after listening to a baby-- or two babies and a whiny preschooler-- cry constantly for hours or days at a time. How easy it is to feel frustrated when your three-year old has a level twelve meltdown in the middle of the food court. How easy it is to feel frustrated when you finally get the kids in bed, the vomit cleaned up off the floor, the dishes put away, and you finally sit down on the couch to relax, only for your spouse to walk in the door and ask you to do a load of laundry or pack his lunch. Those times, I would like to-- and often do-- react humanly. It feels like everything is in vain when you deal with the same tantrums, the same mess, the same conversations with your spouse day after day after day. But God tells us to always give ourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. Do I always know that? I think I forget when I get frustrated.

Jumping to Philippians, Paul tells us in 2:3-4, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider other better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own intrests, but also to the intrests of others." My work inside the home is my mission field, my service to God. Verse 21 says, "For everyone looks out for his own intrests, not those of Jesus Christ." The note on that one-- even more convicting-- reminds us, "...don't let your schedule and concerns crowd out your Christian service to and love for others." Wow. Our family schedule has dictated our lives for the past year. Having a family schedule isn't wrong (1 Corinthians 14:40, "But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way"). Our babies sleep through the night and it gave us the freedom to make plans outside our home; additionally, it was the only way for me to manage all three boys by myself. Was my attitude with the family schedule wrong? There were times when the schedule got off and I would feel so frustrated because I knew that I would be up all night-- and I was-- with crying babies. Philippians 2:5 says, "Your attitude should be the same as that of Jesus Christ." I just don't know if I picture Christ spoiling a nice dinner with a bad attitude because two 7-month olds missed their nap. While my husband was extremely supportive of the schedule and helped us stick to it, would he have been even more helpful if I had a more selfless approach?

My faith has carried me through these busy, stressful times and has moved me from just "getting through the day" to "enjoying the day"-- a big difference. Paul writes from house arrest, a Roman guard chained to him, in Philippians 1:12, "Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel." I do not face imprisonment, death, or any of those scary things, unless you consider twin toddler-hood exceptionally scary (which, in a way, it is). God blessed me with a houseful of boys. The least I can do is live each day in a way that brings glory to him and witnesses to my children. The verse on my About Kimber page is Philippians 2: 18b-19, "Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance."

Philippians 3:12-16 offers encouragement for such a large task:
"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already obtained."
Press on. There are so many days when I say prayer after prayer, call my girlfriends for support, count down the hours to bedtime, and press on, knowing that God has a plan for each and every day. But I am not perfect. I won't be perfect here on earth. I can only apply the knowledge that I have already obtained, quote the scriptures I already know, and rely on the Holy Spirit in ways I already do, each day growing in my faith, building and building. I slip and fail, just like the disciples did (I love how the disciples have just as many human faults as I do). I swear, a habit I am constantly breaking and falling back into. I say the wrong thing. I forget to call people back. I run late. I burn dinner and serve cold sandwiches. I feel irritated with my husband. I feel irritated with my kids. I read when I should be cleaning. I clean when I should be spending time with the kids. I load up the van and get out of the house when I am tired of looking at the mess I don't want to deal with. I don't do these things every day, nor do I always realize I am doing them. One of my favorite concepts in scripture is Romans 7:15-20 (follow it if you can):
"I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is the sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do-- this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is the sin living in me that does it."
I hear you, Paul. You know what you should do, and you want to do it, yet for some reason you keep on doing the same old things. Despite all this, I press on. Following and obeying the Holy Spirit. Peter tells us in 1 Peter 1:22, "Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart." Love my family deeply, from the heart? That I can do.

Hebrews 2:1, "We must pay more careful attention, therefore to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away." Knowing what I know, I need to stand guard. 1 Corinthians 16:13-14, "Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love." Everyday I need to stand firm in my faith. I will find myself doing the wrong things, but that doesn't mean the whole day is gone; why bother? No. I forget what is behind and strain toward what is ahead. I press on toward the goal. I lean on my God and rely on the Holy Spirit. My children are my ministry field. My husband is my partner in faith. And who know, perhaps our faith inside the home will reach people outside our home?

We want our boys to grow up to be strong, Christian young men that know their minds and are able to make difficult, firm decisions based on their faith. We strive to make conscious, intentional parenting decisions. The movie last night reminded us of what a responsiblity that is and how each day spent with these children is a blessing.

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