August 24, 2015

God Keeps His Covenant of Love

"Grandchildren are the crown of the aged." Proverbs 17:6a
For the first time this summer, three of my grandchildren attended Vacation Bible School at my church. This is the same VBS ministry that their mother was part of when she was their age. It gives me great joy to hear the boys sing the songs and tell what they learned during the week. I know their parents are teaching them about our faith at home, too. It is a blessing to see God's faithfulness to the next generation and to wear the crown of God's favor.

I wasn't always able to focus on the blessing ahead. There were times, as a young parent, that I grew weary of constant childrearing responsibilities. I wondered if our family would ever make it through a whole week without someone crying...the kids or me. Some days, I worried that I said don't so much that my children would think that was their name. I believed then, as I do now, there are no low-maintenance children. Christian moms have the Holy Spirit and God's word to guide them, but they still have to apply themselves to the work. Then, there is the added worry that pastors' wives might have regarding the effect of church ministry on their family life.

These are all concerns, but I am here to say:
God loves you, mom.
He is faithful to complete the good work He began in you.
You are probably doing a better parenting job than you think you are.
It is worth the effort.
Keep doing what you know to be right even if you don't get the response you'd like.
Be hopeful for the future because it is full of reward.

I realize that not every pastor's wife has children or the prospect of grandchildren. Not every pastor's wife has offspring who are following the Lord and bringing her joy. I know this can be painful. Although God is not blessing you in the same way that He is blessing me (and vice versa), He is blessing you with His eternal love and favor. Abundantly. Furthermore, if you are part of His kingdom work, you are extending the faith to a thousand generations whether you are a mom or not.

"But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children's children, to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments. The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all." Psalm 103:17-19


August 17, 2015

Practicing Hospitality When All You've Got Is Boxes


When my husband and I were newlyweds we lived in seminary-student housing. We owned a few dishes, a couple of framed prints, and more books than most people. Almost all of our furniture was on loan from the campus free furniture closet. The legs on those dining chairs routinely fell off, and Rob would spend Saturday mornings parsing Greek verbs while sitting on them: a human clamp for drying wood glue.

We decided it was a great situation to begin practicing hospitality. We reasoned that if we could have people over for a meal in our tiny townhouse with its stained carpet and unpredictable chair legs, we would be comfortable having people over for the rest of our lives. We figured embracing imperfection was a good start for a holy habit.

And it was. In that townhouse, we stretched the table into the hall by way of a card table added to its end, and we invited people over. Some of them were fellow seminary students—escaping their own dark-wood paneling for an evening of ours, but many of our guests were members of our church—wealthy professionals whose free-furniture days were long forgotten, if they had ever existed. We conquered embarrassment by deliberate warmth. Come on in, so glad you are here, and just be careful where you sit.

Eventually, year-by-year, the wobbly chairs became slightly-steadier Craigslist chairs, the seminary housing became our own small ranch, and no one had to eat Sunday lunch in the hallway anymore. We acquired new dishes and additional framed prints, and we continued to stack up more books than most people. I developed a system for inviting, for cooking, for serving. Hospitality became second-nature.

(Which is what we had hoped all along.)

And, just as I got really good, we moved. We packed up the habits of hospitality along with our commentaries and we joined a new church community. Our first act of hospitality to our church was to open the doors of our new house and invite them to bring a box from the moving truck on their way in. Hour after hour, they unloaded our stuff, and unpacked it in the kitchen and bedrooms. They saw my odds and ends, my miss-matched assortment of coffee mugs, my embarrassingly large brood of kitchen gadgets. They saw me at my most disorganized.

This group of strangers came into my home, and I couldn’t even find the cups to offer them a drink of water.

I wanted to excuse and to explain—I’ll offer you a drink next time. I’ll have ice and lemon slices, I promise. I’ll give you somewhere to sit.—but I stopped myself. Looking around at my church family busily assembling beds and sorting tablecloths, I realized they were being welcomed into my life. No three-course meal on fine china would ever make them feel as comfortable in this home as unpacking the coffee mugs did. Box by box, these new friends participated in our home-making. And every time afterwards that they step into this house, they will see a picture they hung, a rug they unrolled, a silverware drawer they organized. My house became our house.

And, for me, welcoming strangers into a house full of boxes is a good start to a holy habit.  Come on in, so glad you are here, and just be careful where you sit.
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