How Long, Lord?

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.

Proverbs 3:5 (ESV)

A letter to God after years of single motherhood.

It’s been years, Lord.

My soul is tired.  

My arms and legs are tired.

My heart still yearns for what I lost.

I’m supposed to trust you, Lord.

And it’s not like I’ve never trusted You. When my kids were small, and I raised them alone, You took my hand, and led me through every turn.

But it’s been nine years of raising these children without Tom, Lord.

I try not to count, and when I pick up the count again, it means I’m tired, and  I fail to trust and I fail to understand.

I fail to understand why You guided me away from marrying for all these years when I so long for companionship.

I fail to understand why no simple financial solution has made up for the sacrifices I made to stay home and homeschool my children after Tom passed away.

I can thank You for my support network, the gifts and abilities You gave me, and the opportunities I’ve had to meet potential suitors.

But really, none of that fixes the hole that keeps reopening every time I think “nine years–how much longer, Lord?” 

And when that hole reopens, it’s like I’ve stepped out into the cold on purpose. And I just stand there, shivering with my lonely thoughts and my back towards You. 

But You’re still there.  Reaching out to me and handing me a coat.

And at times, I have to be honest, Lord, I simply won’t take it. I kid myself that I’d rather freeze than take help from You. 

I know what that’s about.

I’ve trusted you before, and You never fail me. It’s just that every time I choose to trust You, it means giving something up–actually giving everything up! Trusting You means letting all else go.

I remember a time four years ago when I almost stepped away from You.  The world told me I needed a husband. They told me You would bring me one. I thought I found one. The courtship was wonderful. I thought You had found a prince for me.

Until the engagement began, and suddenly I felt a frost come in. The one that was sweet and kind while we dated grew chilling as my children and I were presented with his stringent terms of a marriage in a joyless home.

You reached out with Your coat and told me to come on in. But trust You?  Give up my fiancé? The one that would provide a home and a new identity–away from widowhood? 

I was confused and scared–what would this unbelieving man do to the hearts and faith of my boys who were so focused on You?  I shivered at the thought. Shivered, but still stood there in the cold, considering a godless future over what You had to offer.

Why would I even consider it? Thank you, Father, for allowing that situation to get colder and bleaker, until I finally reached for whatever You had to offer!

I stepped out of the cold and into Your arms.

And it’s still hard. But it’s real. You are real.

And when I’m tired and my heart hurts because I’m still without a husband and my finances are strained, I think with gratitude that it was worth it because I chose to follow You and raise my children in You and serve the widows for You instead of following a wealthy man and serving myself.

But still I’m cold, meaning I’ve taken my focus off You again. 

Let’s be gut honest–I don’t always trust You, God.  Your Word says to, but there are times I grow so weary I forget to open Your Word. I’ll instead get caught up in reading Facebook or emails when I know where Your Truth is. It’s like I’m choosing to go back out in the cold.

What’s wrong with me? I know Your Word says to trust You, but do I reach for it? Like this morning as I write this, I’m spinning in circles trying to figure my own way out of my pain while Your Word  just sits there on the shelf.

And so I will end this prayer with this: I will stop spinning and grab hold of Your Word and trust.

It’s not like I feel like trusting You, but it isn’t always about me, is it, God?

Amen.

And as I ended this prayer, I opened His Word to Proverbs 3:5.Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” (ESV)

A new understanding is exactly what I need, I thought, just before the phone rang.

It was my grown stepdaughter. I told her about the chill in my heart. About my questions. Could I trust God? Why this long without a husband?

“Don’t you see?” She began, her words draping over my shoulder like God’s warm coat, bringing me in from the cold. “If you had married that wealthy, difficult man, you would never have gotten that ministry going. Those four boys would never be the kind hearts that they are today.  You would never have had the time or the heart to reunite my brother and me with our four little brothers, and you may never have had the time to show me how to walk with God. I love you.”

I love  you too, God.  Would you please put a coat on my widow sisters as well? Amen.

 


Kit Hinkle is an author and speaker. She was an original writer of A Widow’s Might in 2008, and after four years with that ministry, expanded it and founded A New Season Ministries, Inc. Once the ministry became established, she turned the leadership over, yet continues to contribute articles while she focuses on her finest career as a home school mother to four teen boys–one of them launched in college. She has lived through corporate careers as a chemical engineer and a management consultant, but now enjoys walks on the beach with her chocolate lab.  She loves to sit with another who is walking through her tough road and show that woman Christ. It’s an honor to participate in His kingdom.

If you are interested in having our team speak, please contact us via email at: admin@anewseason.net

Check out more posts by this author at- Kit Hinkle.

You might also like these posts by our team:

Don’t Shop Hungry

9 Weeks; 3 Years, Forever

Solitude vs Loneliness

 

 

Blended and Bonded

So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

Matthew 5:23-24 (ESV) 

I often write about raising my four boys without their father.

Sometimes their episodes of grief shake me to the core, and I wonder how I’ll parent them through it, only to find I don’t need to know how—God walks me through the “how” every time.

Sometimes I want to hug every young widowed mother struggling to see hope in her children’s lives, and remind her of the power in letting God set her vision for her children’s future.

I write a lot about my boys because they are my purpose for now. I’m it for them—no other parent except their Heavenly Father. It’s up to me and Him to show them who their real Father is—God.

Occasionally I’ll write about my two children from Tom’s first marriage. Raising them in our home was one of the biggest honors in my life.

What a different grief journey it has been as their stepmother. These two live in other states, and emotional separations that often come with blended families add to our spotty connections.

As a grieving, healing mother of a passel of boys, I chose to hone in on the ones still there in my home while waiting for my older stepson and stepdaughter to heal over unresolved loyalties that often happen with children who endure their parents’ divorce.

This week, as I write, that healing is happening.

Tom’s six children reunited for the first time since they were small.

My older daughter (I recently decided to drop the step reference—after all, as children who grew up in my home, they are considered whole parts, not just step parts, of our family) asked me to bring us all together. This was a huge breakthrough for her, as she had been on an emotional roller coaster of love for me and anger over her losses.

You are not going to believe how that came about. Had you spoken with me years ago you would have found me wondering if we could ever restore any connection between our once-blended family. We didn’t have to.  God did it.  Unable to find answers for her anger and pain, she finally turned to a local church and began her walk with Christ.

And one place He led her was to bring back the family of her youth.

Now today we gather in a cute cabin on the teeny little resort island of Put-in-Bay in the middle of Lake Erie.

Can you imagine the joy this brings me? To see Tom’s six kids reunited?  God redeems everything, if you let Him.

I watch them frolic—like Tom did.  They are so alike! My grown son from Tom’s first marriage looks exactly like Tom, and very much like my youngest.  He and my college-aged son share their father’s entrepreneurial spirit and passion for software development.  They spent an evening collaborating on ideas for their next projects.

We gathered at an island resort restaurant, watching their Cleveland team in the playoffs—my daughter laughing with my middle two sons.  She has their same lips—the full round lips of their father.  She also has their free spirit—that relaxed nature and quick wit.

With God’s love, blended families can keep blending, even when unexpected loss had once separated.  Healing does happen.

Jesus tells us in Matthew 5 not to allow the grudges between brothers go unresolved while you go offer gifts at His alter. Sometimes you go about life handling just what’s on your plate because it’s all you can do.  For years, I lived out my purpose in raising my four boys obediently, knowing that there were two more children who needed to be reconciled to these brothers.

Thank you, Jesus, for bringing our family full circle, and together.  May You bring that joy and connection to the young widowed mother reading this and to her children, whether just her own or from blended situations.  And may your love grow in my own six children and spread to my older children’s mother as she and her two children draw closer to each other and to You.  Amen.


Kit Hinkle is an author and speaker. She was one of the original writers of A Widow’s Might in 2008, and after four years with that ministry, expanded it and founded A New Season Ministries, Inc. Once the ministry became established, she turned the leadership over, yet continues to contribute articles while she focuses on her finest career as a home school mother to four teen boys–one of them launched in college. She has lived through corporate careers as a chemical engineer and a management consultant, but now enjoys walks on the beach with her chocolate lab.  She loves to sit with another who is walking through her tough road and show that woman Christ. It’s an honor to participate in His kingdom.

If you are interested in having our team speak, please contact us via email at: admin@anewseason.net

Check out more posts by this author at- Kit Hinkle.

You might also like these posts by our team:

Child Whisperer

Triggers (Part Two)

He Calls Me His Own (an article about step-parenting and grief)

Reliving It: Helping Your Adolescent

Dear sisters who share the same kind of heartache of losing the father of your children.  There are times when I feel my heart breaking for all children who lose a parent, and the night I wrote this, four years after Tom’s passing, was one of them.

Last night I had to set aside everything to simply sit and cry with one of my boys.

You see,  Tom died…  Again.

I expected this, was warned about it. But it nevertheless knocked me off my feet.  Again.

I say “again”, because when a child of six or seven years old loses his father, in a way, he doesn’t really lose him….yet.   The mind of a six or seven-year-old simply can’t fathom the permanence of death.  It takes the adolescent mind of a ten or eleven-year-old to start grasping, at a heart level, what really happened to his father.

And that’s what happened tonight.  In my eleven-year-old’s heart, Dad really died tonight.

And after two straight hours of sobs, he sat up and said, “Mom, it really feels like it just happened—like tonight.”

It started for him with the new aquarium he got for Christmas.  It’s gorgeous—with a cool background and tons of colorful plants, glow-in-the-dark gravel, and a volcano that blows bubbles.  He was marveling at it as he climbed into his bed, and I tucked him in, thinking he is his happy-go-lucky self–until later when he padded into my room. “I miss Dad.”  He had done this many times before, so as I typically do, I followed him to his room and sat with him on his bed.

He told me that all those other times he said he missed Dad, he only wanted me to spend extra time with him.  “This time, Mom, I really, really miss him.”

He cried about not being able to remember as much as he wanted about Dad.  He cried about the teacher at school who would embarrass him by having the class pray for him over not having a Dad.  He cried about missing out on camping and hiking with Dad.  He cried about the kid in school who asked him who signs his papers since his Dad is dead.  He cried about missing Dad’s laugh.

Then he admitted that when Dad died four years ago, he just went through the motions, even though he saw his father die right before his eyes.  “I was too little. I didn’t understand what a heart attack was.  I didn’t know why he was just floating in the water. But even though it was scary, I wasn’t sad.” That night, he told me, after we told him Dad died, he even asked his older brother why he was crying.  When his older brother looked surprised that he didn’t know, he pretended the tears because everyone else was expecting tears.  “Now I know why everyone was crying, and now I can’t stop.”

I spent hours with him, helping him process. You may have to do this with your child when they reach eleven. I hope I did the right things.

“Mom, it’s not fair,” he said. “You always tell me all the great things he did with me, but I was only seven, and I hardly get to remember all the stuff he did.”

“True, it isn’t fair, and I wish you could remember,” I said. “But truth is, all the memories of all the things you and Dad did together are there, locked deep in your brain and heart.  It hurts that you don’t have them at the top of your brain where you can pull them out, but your body remembers, and that’s why you’re the great kid you are today, because deep inside you know you were deeply loved.  Deep down there is a knowledge in your heart that you were held, fed, played with, wrestled with, taken around on Dad’s shoulders, and constantly loved by Dad.  No one can take that away. There are lots of people growing up feeling unloved because nobody did that for them. But you’re special.  Dad really loved you and loved hanging out with you, and deep down you know you’re special because of it.”

That night I was reliving Tom’s death through my eleven-year-old’s tears.  And next to him in the bed across the room was his little brother, who would have to go through the same loss a year later.

These are all seasons, and I’m honored to be able to love this little guy through his loss.

Blessings.

Kit Hinkle is the Founder and Ministry Lead for A New Season Ministries, Inc., and an author and speaker. She has lived through corporate careers as a chemical engineer and a management consultant, but now finds her finest career as a home school mother to four teen boys–one of them launched in college. She loves Pilates and her best friend’s Bosanova Christian yoga-style stretching. Her longing for walks on the beach with her chocolate lab has led her to Charleston where she’s now starting her new season.  To sit with another who is walking through her tough road and show that woman Christ, brings joy and fulfillment to Kit. It’s such an honor to participate in His kingdom.
If you are interested in having her speak, please contact her via email at admin@anewseason.net. 
Other articles by this author: www.anewseason.net/author/khinkle

Would you like to read more about children grieving the loss of their father?  Here are some articles you might try:

Remembering with love, tears, and stones…by Nancy Howell

Grandpa’s Hand by guest blogger Gail Sanseverino

 

How Else Can You Explain it?

Sovereignty of God.

That’s what my eighteen-year-old was teaching on in Sunday School to a group of middle schooled boys.

God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good. Even when the unthinkable happens. Even when you’ve lost it all. God is good. You can fight Him and feel the anger; even want to throw in the towel.

But in time, you give up the fight, and know that He is God, and you can trust His sovereign will for your life—no matter what.

And as middle-school boys often do, fifteen distracted boys shuffled in their seats, letting my son know it was time to move on.

“Prayer requests?” he asked.

There was Jack’s English test, and Sawyer’s basketball tryouts.

Then a boy sitting all by himself raised his hand—“I have a request. My dad died.”

The room got quiet, save for a couple of quiet murmurs.

“Your dad died? When?” Joe asked, thinking the boy was grieving something that happened long before.

“This morning.”

Side conversations stopped. No one moved. My son stared for a moment of disbelief. No questions—not even, “why are you at church instead of at home?”

Because you see, Joe knew why this boy wasn’t home with his mom.

He’d been there—in the midst of death and loss as a preteen. Only Joe, among all people in the church congregation, could have ministered to this boy. And God knew exactly where to place Joe and the boy’.

The others shuffled quietly out of the room and Joe sat with the boy. “How old are you?”

“Eleven.

“I was eleven when my dad died,” Joe said.

The boy was silent.

Joe was too. He knew how useless words were. But the door had opened for this eleven year old to talk with Joe who gets what he went through.

Of course it was no accident. God planted Joe there—if for no reason, just for this eleven-year-old to see and be inspired by what could be a future version of himself.

Thank you, God. You are sovereign.

“Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker– An earthenware vessel among the vessels of earth! Will the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you doing?’ Or the thing you are making say, ‘He has no hands’? “Woe to him who says to a father, ‘What are you begetting?’ Or to a woman, ‘To what are you giving birth?’

Isaiah 45:9

I Have Empty Nest Syndrome

I have empty nest syndrome, and I still have three of my four boys at home! Only my first has moved out for college.

This empty feeling could be the loneliness of missing him already, but it’s more than that.

This past week we were in the family car—me driving, he asleep in the passenger seat. I glanced at him out of the corner of my eye—head bobbing, mouth open, slightly snoring.

I instantly flashed to the same image seventeen years earlier—a toddler in his car seat—head bobbing, mouth open, slightly snoring.

The same Joe. When you’ve raised a child for eighteen years, you feel him—at the core of your being, he’s part of you. You know his voice and anticipate every bold discovery he comes bounding in to announce. You close your eyes and see him at every age—infant—ten years old—fifteen—and now, an adult, saying goodbye.

It’s wonderful and it hurts all at the same time. Every fiber in you can’t believe he’s gone; yet you wouldn’t want to hold him back by asking him to stay.

So you step aside and continue your motherly obedience to the Lord. You’re like a mother eagle letting her eaglet fly.

The Old Testament describes the mother eagle well in Deuteronomy 32:11-12 when Moses commissions Joshua to take over and lead the Israelites into the Promised Land. It’s time for Joshua to fly, and Moses turns him over to God’s care.

The verse is part of a song that Moses sings: “Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them on its pinions, the Lord alone guided him, no foreign god was with him.”

To best understand these verses, it’s important to know how eagles learn to fly. The mother encourages them out of the nest. Either she’ll perch herself nearby and ignore them, or she’ll rattle the nest a bit to make them uncomfortable. Both are attempts to let her young know it’s all right to leave.

I imagine how a mother eagle must feel, watching her little chicks complain when she won’t visit them. She still wants to be with them and care for them. Her heart aches and feels pain when she hears their calls for her.

Yet this is part of their training. She knows—and they know—she is there for them. When an eaglet first tries to fly away from the nest, it can’t master its wings quickly enough and it falls. The mother swoops down and catches it on her pinions. She brings her child back to the nest for another try.

Oh, how I’ve been that mother eagle so much this last year. As a senior, Joe applied to half a dozen colleges. He was hoping for a scholarship at one so that this single mom won’t have to worry about how he’ll pay for his education. How many times did I step back and watch him start the applications, but not complete them as the deadline approached? How many times did I swoop down and nag him, “Write the essay … don’t forget the deadline”? How many times did I let him miss a few deadlines and fall a little? Every time, I depended on the Lord to guide me if I should stir the nest or swoop in to help. Just like verse 12 tells us He will do.

The Lord alone guides us—us mamas and our children. When our kids leave our nest, in a sense, we leave a familiar place too. Do you trust the Lord with the child you just launched? Are you waiting on His ‘go-ahead’ of when to save the day for your child? Or are you disregarding His instructions and swooping in too frequently? If you take your eyes off of the Lord and try to own this launch process with your child, you’ll feel the pain of separation more than you need to.

Sister mother eagles, when your eaglets finally start to fly, listen for the Lord. He’ll tell you when to stir the nest and encourage them to leave. He’ll also tell you when to swoop in and catch them. Trust that your Heavenly Father won’t let you down in this new season either. Keep your focus on Him, not on your child. Your heart will be happier in your empty nest.

 

 

 

When to Ignore the Nay Sayers

“If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done.” Ecclesiastes 11:4 (NLT)

“That’s nice.” If you’re a mom, I’m sure you say this many times too. Translation: I’m busy right now. I don’t really know what to think of that. Or, okay, this kid is attempting something way above his ability level, but that’s nice he’s trying.

When my son was six and made stick men characters using his father’s computer, I said, “That’s nice.”

At ten years old, he gathered his friends in the neighborhood and had them invent weird giants and centaurs with crude drawings. And when these characters hacked it out in sloppy looking animation, I said, “That’s nice.”

But when he turned fourteen and saved his money for a top-of-the-line computer, I thought, hmmmm—that’s a lot of money! But I said, “That’s nice.”

I’m glad I never told him that “that’s nice” meant I wasn’t really sure what to think, because he wasn’t going to let anything stop him.

No matter how ridiculous the characters or games looked, he kept programming. No matter what people said about his passion, he plowed ahead. One kid laughed at him and said, “My Xbox 360 blows away your games.” No amount of negativity, lack of a huge professional development team, or fellow artists deterred this kid’s lone attempts.

Now, at 18, he has a full-blown internet game design studio—all because of a passion he never stopped plugging away at, even when his first attempts were rudimentary at best.

Artists from all over the world work for him—Singapore, Kiev, Costa Rica. His characters are sophisticated, and his programming game physics are so good that professional outfits are courting him. Yesterday he launched his game and found triple the number of downloads he expected.  He’s well on his way. (Just check it out here if you want to see it!)

All from little stick figures made by a six-year-old and a mother that said, “That’s nice.”

The point? If you have a dream and it seems too overwhelming to achieve, keep plugging away.

The prolific author Stephen King has written and published 55 books which have sold more than 350 million copies! Whether you like his material or not, there is no denying that he is gifted and a hard worker. A newbie writer once asked him, “How do I get that good at writing?” King’s simple answer? ”Write.”

King Solomon encourages us in Ecclesiastes 11:4, “If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done.” (NLT 1996) In other words, don’t wait for the top-of-the-line computer before you start drawing! The enemy will try to steal your faith and take you off your path. But you don’t have to let him. Your God is bigger than the enemy and He can help you stick with your craft, build your business, raise your kids … even if your first attempts are crude or novice or are met with others saying, “That’s nice.”

It’s all about staying with your passion and finishing strong. If you want to get good at anything—stick with it.

Five Blessed Interruptions or Invitations to Love Your Kids!

Do you ever find yourself tensing up when joyful interruptions from your kids keep you from getting to your own agenda?

Let me tell you about five blessed interruptions I’ve learned to relax about!

When I’m in the zone, working hard at the ministry, and my kids interrupt– I welcome the interruption.  It feels counter-intuative because I want to get things done, and sometimes the interruptions come at the worst moments when I’m creating. But I keep my office door open and welcome their interruptions. Especially these.

Besides the obvious emergency, here are five interruptions from my kids that energize my work and I gladly stop at any time to take them. I know there are more, but these key “Mom”‘s make my antena go up!

Interruption 1: Mom look what I did!

There will be a moment in my life where it will take an email or phone call to see what they’ve accomplished.  But this child is here right now– flesh and blood, in my room- bragging about the work he felt called to accomplish.  That work gladly surpasses anything I can accomplish in ministry!

Interruption 2: Mom I’m hurting

I am a minister–first to the kids, then to my friends and family, and of course to the writers readers in our ministry. When one of them misses their father or is hurting of something someone says to him, it’s that recognition of yes, I know–I get it, that builds their abiltiy to turn to the Lord with their hurts and know that He’s not too busy with ministering to everyone else. They are valued.

Interruption 3: Mom I just figured out something about God.

Ooooh– if you want to get my attention, if you want to stop me in my tracks– just tell me my kids want talk God-talk with me.  In the end, nothing else matters.  When they get it- truely get why they are here on this planet, everything else falls in place!

Interruption 4: Mom can I ask you something?

I use this as a cue to prepare myself.  There’s something going on in his heart that if not dealt with right away could rip open into something difficult to deal with.  It might simply be a question he has about faith or about Dad, or maybe something more tame like should I button the collar down on an oxford shirt?  But usually these words are the beginning of a admission that there is something I’ve said or done that didn’t sit right with him, and many times I have to be ready to admit as a single mom, I don’t have all the answers and we work together at this relationship stuff.  It’s in that admission when we grow deeper in our relationship as mom-son.

Interruption 5: Mom, where’s my…

Talk about not having the answers.  Oh, how frustrating when that thing he’s looking for went missing.  And many times I know deep inside that it has nothing to do with me and it’s completely his responsibility.  But, I decided early on that I will model helpfulness in my family by beginning with me.  It’s such a sign of love and caring when someone is missing something and the whole family joins in to look.  And thank God they’ve picked up on it, because usually it’s me saying, “Where’s my cell phone?”  Then four teen boys all jump up to offer, “here, Mom, let me call it for you!” So here I am finishing up this beautiful article, and what happens? My twelve-year-old steps in and says, “Mom, what’s for breakfast?” Another blessed interruption!

 

If you are a writer too–even just your own journalist, maybe you’d like to submit a guest blog to our ministry?  Here’s a link where you can do that!

Five Prayers for Your Teen’s College Application Process

We’re coming around the bend towards the finish line…. graduation.

I’ll get weepy, I’m sure.  At least that’s what I’m told. Being involved in nearly every part of a boy’s life for over eighteen years makes his walk across a stage to get that diploma every bit as emotional to me as to him.

But perhaps some of those tears will be a sigh of relief.  That must sound strange coming from someone who has thoroughly enjoyed raising this boy. I can’t complain. He’s won scholarships, kept his sunny disposition, and managed to give equal time to his little brothers in spite of his social calendar.  

Still, there is something about the senior year which changes the nature of relationship you have with your teen. Reality hits–in a few short months real world experiences will start hitting him. My focus has shifted somewhat from watching over him to launch mode, but deep down we both long for that carefree world where we don’t have to think about his future much.

The toughest part of the stress was doing  this alone, and I’m not talking about being a single mom.  It’s not letting God into the process enough.  I took that weight and it could have crushed me! I have three more graduating behind this one, so I had better learn my lesson and start with prayer!

Here are five basic prayers I will use as my second son hits senioritis within the next two yeas,

  1. That he keep a heart for chasing after God.
    As a mom, I can be used by God to help keep the Lord in focus by modeling God-fearing behavior while choosing colleges, and accepting wins and losses without becoming too personal about it.
  2. That he has his heart open to all college possibilities.
    There’s a lesson to be learned from my oldest’s experience.  Being a star student had him thinking big named colleges–Wake Forest, UNC Chapel Hill, Furman.  All great choices with price tags far larger than our family budget.  He applied anyway, praying for merit scholarships that would provide a way.  What a frustration when he got accepted to every one of these schools and had to  turn them down due to funding.  We hadn’t considered until later in the process what gems existed in the network of small private colleges that are eager to give merit scholarships to a student like my son.  Preparing my son’s heart earlier would have gotten him thinking about these colleges sooner and opened up far more choices for him than he ended up with.
  3. That he trusts God for his provision for college, not his own strength or mine.
    Perhaps this prayer if more for my heart than for my son’s.  I found myself anxiety-ridden over an application essay he hadn’t finished while he relaxed and did his own thing.  He noticed friends choosing to go to the expensive schools by racking up student debt. Soon he started questioning my stand on him minimizing student debt.  The discussion over debt versus working versus taking on a less-expensive school can be met with more attentive ears if I’ve prayed for that wisdom to soak in with him.
  4. That he learns the joy of completing work long before the deadlines approach.
    It’s every parent’s complaint. “He lays on the couch while I pull my hair out and shout–‘Just finish the essay!'”  I would never say my son is lazy. Being on four sports teams a year and developing his own softare game proves he is not.  But the pattern of waiting until the final week is enough to drive a mom crazy.  As soon as I let go and allowed him a miss a deadline or two, I found he was tracking with the schedule far better than had I hounded him.
  5. That his mother trusts the Lord to shape her son through the college application process.
    The whole time I white-knuckled it through this process, my friend with older boys counseled me to relax, just spend time with your son and quit making everything about choosing the college.  Eventually he will be out of the home, and your time together now will build sweet memories.

Perhaps the college application process with all its bumps in the road is, in itself a preparation for a life of responsibility.  But I do know if I knew to pray for these specific areas before school began this year, a lot of battlescars could have been avoided.

 

Unplugged in Appalachia

Have you ever had an unplugged moment when you saw the world for what it was—its beauty and its downfall?

When I came home from a weekend mission trip in the Appalachian mountains with my church, my world looked different.
It was as though God pulled the plug on all the distractions that were weighing me down and keeping me from Him.  I thought of one of my teenager’s favorite rock songs called Comatose.  The band Skillet wrote it to describe the world around us as filled with people living in a comatose state—minds saturated with media and world messages that keep us from seeing the reality of God.  The CD artwork shows a little boy standing with a spellbound look on his face and a giant plug, which he must have just pulled out from a wall.  When you open the artwork, you see what he’s looking at—a twisted discombobulation of electronics which must have been keeping him in a comatose state, until that moment.
This weekend brought my family to that moment where the bigger picture came into view.  I wanted to describe it for those of you who prayed over us and wanted to know how it went, and for some of you who haven’t yet tried a mission trip, to encourage you to go and see what it does in your heart!
Some of you are visiting from the Proverbs 31 blog, so you already know the introduction.  The details follow.
My two older kids and I joined a team of thirty people from my church who partnered with Samaritan’s Feet to bring hundreds of pairs of shoes to a coal mining town in Virginia.
The little church we worked with in Virginia allowed us to set up in their basement and added their hands to our team. The pastor there has a heart for his town and welcomed us with open arms, encouraging his church members to roll up their sleeves and work side by side with us–one team on a mission.  We set up twenty stations with basins of warm sudsy water and brought the children and teens individually in with their parents.  Each individual received personal treatment from a team member. These are the steps we went through:
·     Greeting them – We greeted them and explained how we wanted to first honor them by washing their feet before giving them new shoes.
·     Washing – We then began to wash, explaining how Jesus washed the feet of his disciples to show His love and to humble Himself before them.
·     Bracelet – As we washed, we offer the child (with the parent’s permission) a colorful bracelet that helped us to tell the story of the gospel.
·     The Gospel – We had the child, teen, or the parent read what’s on the bracelet. Meanwhile, we talked them through the Gospel story—black for sin, red for Christ’s blood, blue for our faith in accepting the gift of Christ, white for forgiveness, green for growth, and gold for Heaven.
·     Receiving Christ – We ask if they’ve ever accepted Christ and would they like to pray to accept Him into their hearts.  Most wanted to, but we completely respected if someone wasn’t interested and moved on to give them their shoes.
·     New shoes – We dried their feet, placed new socks and a brand new pair of shoes on their feet.
·     Prayer – As we fitted them with new shoes, we asked if there is anything in their lives they would like us to pray with them over.  Most wanted us to.
·     Connection to the church – Many times the final step was to introduce them to the local church (the pastor or one of the church members) to get them connected.
We expected nods and polite gestures as we washed their feet like Jesus did and told them about the Gospel and what Christ did for them.  What we didn’t expect was a rampant grabbing onto the gospel—a more than willingness, a craving to ask Christ into their hearts.
We expected a need for prayer, what we didn’t expect was the shared stories of abuse and neglect and badly placed foster situations and parents in jail or on drugs.  We didn’t expect open hearts that shared their stories and asked for open prayer.
We expected smiles over new shoes, but what we didn’t expect was the need—children walking in on bare socks that stuck out through worn soles of old shoes, feet crusted with dirt and grime and shoes so old that mold grew on what was left of the canvas.Our limited exposure gave some of us an impression that perhaps poor management and oversight in local government only worsened problems of poverty, drugs, abuse and homelessness. We met a woman who had her home razed to make way for a new coal mine. She showed us the photograph of her lost home. She now lives in a trailer like many in the town do. Many children or teens came with no parent. Many don’t live with parents. One downtrodden little girl hardly mumbled to me when I asked if her parents were there. “My uncle,” she whispered as she pointed to an unkempt man in the back of the room. Her little brother explained to my 13-year-old son who was washing his feet, “my uncle kicks me every morning when I wake up.” Brian prayed with him, and walked him through the little bracelet he gave him that explained how Christ died for his sins, and then helped the boy pray to receive Christ.

Another child surprised Brian. “Mom,” Brian said. “When I went to take the boy’s shoes off, I grabbed the bottoms of his shoes but felt socks instead. His shoes had no heels. It was just the top of the shoes and the front– there was nothing but socks his heels were walking on. The little boy was so happy to get a pair of shoes.”

A teen from the church in the town we partnered with joined us in the foot washing. She sat next to my 15-year-old washing feet and praying with people to receive Christ. During a break she shrugged and explained to him what it was like growing up there. “It’s really hard to be a Christian here in the school. So many kids are having sex and doing drugs. It’s not like they even think its wrong because most of their parents are doing it too. It’s hard to not do what everyone else is doing. My brother went to a party and got stabbed and was left to die in a field. A helicopter picked him up and took him to a hospital. That was a while back. I don’t know where he is now. I just know he’s brain damaged now. I’ve lived in too many foster homes to count. I’m a lucky one. I’m in church. No one around here goes to church. They’re all hooked on meth by the time they’re my age and you’re lucky just to finish high school.” Of course as outsiders, we don’t know how much of a teen’s story falls to elaboration, but what we saw was the core reason for the poverty.

Our pastor’s wife chatted with a little boy while painting his face. He and his two sisters and a brother came with a foster parent. “Baby,” she said, “where’s your mama?” The boy said as casually as though she was just at the grocery store… “Oh, Mama, she’s in jail.” His face brightened. “But she’ll be home in about 8 years.”

A woman who so obviously loves the Lord told us she’s a great grandmother (no older than me) who has already raised 18 children. She explained why her five-year-old granddaughter is such a handful. “She was abused in the worst way by a foster dad when she was three. I was so busy raising my other great grandchildren I didn’t even know she had been taken away from her mom and dad until a few weeks passed. I got her out of there as soon as I knew she was in the foster care. I knew right away something was wrong with her because she wouldn’t talk. It was a year later when another family accused the man of abuse.”

Our team drove through the town to pray for it. So many trailer parks, many run down with police ribbons around them because of a drug bust. Methamphetamines run rampant.

The town also has 50 churches– all close to empty except for the older traditionalists. Anyone thinking they need to go across the world to deal with poverty need to open their eyes. It’s a simple car ride to the next state.

Please don’t read this and think the weekend was depressing. We expected the poverty, so we didn’t let it get us down. It’s what God’s doing through the beautiful hearts of a tiny church in that coal mining town and what we were allowed to experience with them that’s uplifting. Here are some incredible moments for me…

A teen girl put her feet in the sudsy water and sulked. I wondered if her makeup and clothing was just the style or a sign that she had already headed into a hard life full of the pain of consequences of poor choices. She was friendly enough and wanted the bracelet I offered. She said she’d never been to church but she’d heard of Jesus– didn’t seem interested. I walked her through the black color on the band. She nodded when I spoke of sin, and did a kind of eye roll when I moved on to the red part of the band– blood. I first described the blood as punishment for sin and her eyes glazed over. No one likes hearing that sins have to be paid for. Then I explained how when I was her age I went to a church that made me feel like I had to live perfectly to get to Heaven and that if I had any sin on me I had to pay for it somehow– either Hell or something I do here to make up for it. Her eyes still glazed over.

“But that was wrong,” I said. I bent down to wash her feet while I kept talking. “Jesus took your punishment for you. He died on the cross so that you don’t have to and all you have to do is accept that He died for you and that you’re forgiven and it’s done. You don’t have to do anything else. You don’t have to work your way into Heaven.” I kept washing and then I heard….

“Really? That’s it?” she said. Startled, I looked up at the teen’s face. She had a surprised look in her eyes and a tear on her cheek. “Is that really true?” she asked. To see the earnest relief in her eyes choked me up. I didn’t want to embarrass the girl so I didn’t pry. It seemed obvious her tears were for something she felt ashamed of and that she liked hearing that it’s easy to be forgiven.

We take for granted that people have already learned about the gospel. So few know it and so many want and need it. She prayed with me to invite Christ in her life and I told her that many people will try to tell her that there are other things she needs to do to get to Heaven but if she’s sincere about accepting God’s grace’s she’s already forgiven. I told her it’s true even if her life takes a rough direction and she makes bad choices. God still loves her, no matter what. She got up and hugged me.

My thirteen year old was washing the feet of a teen that was obviously too old to be a teen- like about 21 or so. Brian is a quiet kind of guy—small for his age so that he looks even younger, like 11 or so. But there he was washing this twenty-something’s feet while talking to the guy about Christ. What a moment to see your child doing that!

Once he was done putting new shoes on the guy he asked, “What can I pray with you about?” The young man, goatee on his chin and earring in his brow, gave Brian a list, “well little guy, ya see that girl over there– she and I have been dating about 3 years now. And we’re thinking on moving in together.” My eyes got big as this guy went on and on with my little boy who never meets people whose problems are bigger than can their parents afford to get them a cell phone. I’m thinking I’d have to rescue Brian and step in to pray in his place.

Brian didn’t need that, and he didn’t skip a beat. He grabbed both the guy’s hands and shut his eyes, praying as boldly and articulately as though this guy’s circumstance was normal and simple. “Dear God, please help this guy and his girlfriend set up a happy home and get married, and help them with their choices and protect them.” He amazed me. It’s so easy to underestimate what God can do with even the smallest of hearts.

And that’s simply who we are. Serving in such a concentrated way doesn’t increase you, it makes you smaller, as you should be. When we returned home and found ourselves in that moment, unplugged from our routine and from the comatose nature of centering our hearts on the problems of the day, we see the reality. That when we finally allow ourselves to become lesser, God becomes bigger in us and we can finally be used. Like little Brian being used to pray with someone twice his size and pulling it off in a huge way.