#3: Don’t Threaten Me

I asked my daughter what I could do to be a better parent. What she said was surprising. 

A single parent’s life is unique. We have joys, challenges and victories that only God can bring forward in a single-parent situation. At the same time, the Bible and it’s promises still hold true. The godly standard doesn’t lower itself on the excuse of one parent in the home. 

So when I asked my daughter what I could do to be a better parent, I (egotistically) expected a contented answer, something along the lines of, “Oh, Mom. I’m perfectly happy. I know you’re doing the best that you can and I just love you the way you are.” [insert buzzer sound here].

She couldn’t even wait for my question to finish, with her index finger poised to interject her answers. Seeing the eagerness in her eyes, I set a limit of THREE things she can come up with. 

“But I have more,” she said. “I know, but three is all I can handle,” I answered.

Here are the three things she said:

1. You could count to ten before you yell at me. I know you’re trying to teach me something when I do something wrong. But I’ve written down every bad thing you’ve ever said to me. It hurts when you yell. 

I had to fight back the hot-blooded Islander reaction to this one. We’re a warm-hearted people! And sometimes that warmth goes into explosive overdrive! No excuse. There is a righfulness to volume that is intended to prevent harm and alert someone in the event of an alarming danger. Even yelling for cheering on a team is a “good” kind of volume. But God showed me that yelling in the context contempt brings about a deafening sound of rejection, especially to a child.

2. Be patient with me. 

I nearly wanted to pull my hair out. (i’ll share the blessing on the lesson on patience in another post). She was also saying to give her space to figure things out for herself, which takes time. Second Timothy 2: 24-25, “ And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.”  Patience is an active skill and is wonderfully paired with gentleness and a readiness to teach. 

Then, came the big one. 

3. And don’t threaten me. Those times you tell me I can live with dad or other people because you think I’d have a better time there. 

Okay, it’s true. In the heat of disdain (notice my precursor with an excuse?), I might have mentioned very loudly that living with the other parent or other people with big houses and more money would make her happier. 

Instead of trying to explain and justify, the Holy Spirit kept my mouth shut and I took in what she said. Then reassured her that she can add to the list at another time. 

I’m so thankful that she felt safe enough to be honest with me. I’m thankful that the Lord blessed that conversation by sending me back to work to get into the Word and search diligently on how I can change, to pick up loving words that would encourage her, to use volume in the right context that excites her, instead of putting fear in her. 

If you have children, I pray that you would have this conversation with them. It takes humility and holding back our own excuses, but the outcome is love. 

Stay tuned for more stories.

Blessings,

Mahal

God, You Want Me to Give You That?

I made a decision to give something to God that I hadn’t done before. How could I have skipped this part?

I learned from my teenage daughter’s recent trip to summer camp. She said that one of the decisions she made was to give her life to God. Over the next few days, I realized that I had not done that. I knew I was saved, that I loved serving the Lord through discipleship and that people need Jesus. I knew about surrender, but I couldn’t think of a time when I knew I was giving my entire life to the Lord. 

I asked God to show me any missing pieces in prayer. Here is what He showed me in the next seven days, starting with a message I heard preached at a Reformers Unanimous meeting. 

God wants my whole life. Give God my best. This meant to hold nothing back from God. The Ladie’s Bible Study  was studying Romans 8. Verses 16-18 revealed an amazing truth, “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (KJV)

A child of God? This means that I have FULL PERMISSION to do my absolute and unbridled best for the Lord. He’s alive, expectant, interacting, involved. This verse lifted inhibitions I had about goals in my life. I was reminded that there is nothing too big for God. And as a daughter of the Lord, I HAD TO explore the full, earthly potential of my gifts and talents. Go big until I go home!

Give God the things I can’t handle well. This included my debt, which consisted of student loans, a car loan, medical bills. This included any and all guilt I had in my life for not finishing my college degree, for mistakes I made about my money and even not being an elite pro at keeping my home immaculately clean and for not being a gourmet chef. (If any of the moms out there share this guilt, can I get an “amen?”)

Give God my undivided attention. I knew about Jesus being pre-eminent in my life. But I also had damaged perspectives on relationships. There were times I just felt sad over the 25 years of wasted effort of going through relationships, determining if another person genuinely wanted to be with me. I had to face a deep-rooted belief that relationships, to me, were utilitarian because I lacked examples in my life that held the Biblical definitions of love. The Lord showed me the need for sanctification in new friendships. A good percentage of my long-standing friendships are with unsaved people. 

The Lord gifted me with Psalm 42:5 to answer my emotion at the moment, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.” and verse 8, “Yet the Lord will command his lovingkindness in the day time, and in the night his song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my life.” (KJV).

A relationship with God isn’t a system. It’s a daily, dynamic walk because God is alive. When people fail, God is still right. 

God wanted other things from me. To my surprise, I didn’t think I was holding on to them too tightly, until I realized I STILL didn’t give it to Him. Stay tuned for the next post on this prayer journey. 

What have you kept to yourself? What is it in your life that you thought you’d handle for yourself before letting God get involved? Is there an area in your work, home or community that needs your best effort? 

Blessings,

Mahal

 

 

Uncle Charlie and the Chance I Missed to Tell Him God Loves Him.

A friend of the family, Uncle Charlie, was a Jewish, Polish, former taxi driver who went through Alcoholics Anonymous and stayed in a shared two-bedroom apartment, as he pieced his life together, working an administrative job for an international bank. He had one son, whom he tried to parent, but by that time, Jeff was in his teens. They had begun to mend and build the father-and-son relationship, but it had it’s ruts and bumps, as many relationships do when they try to make up for lost time.

Uncle Charlie was an avid smoker. In his words, it was better than “drinking himself stupid.” It tapered off only slightly when he got the cancer diagnosis and he paused on the tobacco when he went through chemo and radiation. I don’t know how he managed to go through treatment and work part-time. I wasn’t that strong.

I was just coming out of my own chemo/rad treatments and was finally able to sit through an entire church service. It was in my heart to invite Uncle Charlie to church. He has visited the church before, and after hearing the Gospel one morning, he joked to me afterwards in his tight-lipped monotone, “Yeah, that was really good. I almost came forward and became a Christian.” Back then, I took it as another comment of the classic Uncle Charlie “almost” jokes. He had a few of those. Even from his childhood, and usually, his bewilderment was what captured the humor of it.

And I thought, “Okay, good. Another time. I’ll invite him another time.” In March, my mother called to tell me that Uncle Charlie passed away. In his last days, he was in a rehabilitation facility, unable to walk, waking up occasionally and getting the days of the week mixed up.

I don’t know what a ton of bricks feel like. But I relate to that expression. Because it’s a numbing weighted feeling that comes over a person when they get news that stuns them.

I thought, “No. I missed it.” I had a chance to invite Uncle Charlie to church. I missed it. I waited too long. I wanted him to know that God really really loved him and he didn’t have to hold on to that guilt of not being able to be the full-time dad to his son, or identify himself as a recovering alcoholic. That he could still find that newness of life and peace and love in Christ!

But I took too long. I missed that chance. And I resolved in my heart, “Never again.”

I am not losing a chance again. I will do my best to direct people to the love of God, with every chance I get.

The Lord strengthened my heart and He allowed me to frame that lost chance properly in my heart so that it didn’t become a stumblingblock. He turned whatever brick it could have been and, instead, He lit a fire. You know, we may not always be able to love and counsel – but we can be ready.

We never know how much time we have, for ourselves or with other people. I finally understood why it’s so important to act on the prompting of the Holy Spirit, when He says, “Now! Go get them. Invite them to church. Let them know God loves them.”

Do you have an Uncle Charlie in your life? Is there something you can do to direct them to the love of God? I pray that you fulfill that chance.

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 15:58 (KJV)

The Blessing of Making Breakfast

I LOVE getting breakfast and lunch together for my daughter. I’m not a supermom. 

Sometimes I wake up before the alarm, only to hear it sound off a few seconds later and my body sinks  even deeper into the mattress. I’m just like any other working mom out there. I have those mornings of wanting “five more minutes” only to get out of bed to avoid the panic of oversleeping. 

But I remember a time when I couldn’t get breakfast for her. It was right after surgery and it continued to the time during chemo and radiation. My eyes would flash open at 430 in the morning because I knew I needed an hour and a half to get myself up, mobile and shuffling to the kitchen to barely zip up the lunch bag and kiss her good-bye. I may never know just how alone she felt, as she left each morning, hearing me let out a big breath as I closed the front door. Or when she came home and I could barely stay awake to hear her stories. Or help with homework.

I got to experience all the details of preparing for school this year with an alertness that I didn’t have in the past two years. So, on a Friday that is probably going to be in the 90’s meddling with humidity, I yank off the cozy blanket. WAKE UP! She’s here. You’re here. Don’t miss this!

I slice fruit. Fry a couple of eggs. Her lunch isn’t a gourmet meal. But I’m so careful, taking in the click and snap of the plastic containers with the salad and teriyaki chicken. Fork, Napkin. The cookies in the sandwich bag. 

6:37am and she’s leaving in a few minutes. She’s getting on a school bus and she might not have time to read her Bible. How else can I be with her today? 

I call her name to double-ask her something about her books, her p.e. clothes. Another reminder. But really, it’s because I want to hear her voice. She comes out of her room and I get a whiff of the lotion she decided to use that morning. I have my back turned to her, as I slice her sandwich into three parts. I hear the whizzing of the spray-on sunblock. 

Clinking of keys and I’m walking with her to the bus stop. The other kids are there already and she turns to face me, “I love you, Mom.” That’s my cue. But I play stupid. 

“I love you, too,” then give her a kiss on the cheek. She’s smiling, looking at me steadily, “Oh, you want me to go?” She nods, discreetly. She’s used to protecting my feelings. I tell her to have a good day. As if I needed one more thing to tell her. Then I walk around the corner, but wait there, until I see for myself that the bus pulls up.

I remember when my big strategy for the morning was how I could get us out of the house fast enough so I could make a show at getting to my desk at the office ten minutes before my clock-in time. Those mornings, it was like dropping off luggage and then I was gunning it to work. Was it worth it? 

The walk home now is less than ten minutes. She started her day and I can get on with mine. But not until after….breakfast. 

I pray you cherish those routines. 

Blessings,

Mahal

Ministry: when they kick you in the teeth, smile wide!

People will break our hearts. They will push our buttons. They will attack our character, the way we dress, and what kind of parents we are. I learned that God’s grace is too big and too good to take this personally. Getting our feelings hurt is inherent in ministry, parenting, relationships and friendships. How we deal with that moment of offense and heartbreak is where God can really show up in our lives. I want to encourage you, that if someone has said something or done something to make you feel like it’s just not worth it, please take that opportunity to get back in God’s Word and meet with Him about what He has set aside for you. And take a moment to think about how you can love that enemy – whether it’s through prayer, through silence/space/distance or by getting another person involved to spiritually tend to the situation. I pray that you can turn to the Lord today and surrender that heartbreak. When they kick you in the teeth, smile wide.

“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” Matthew 5:44