Sweet little Eowyn does not like to be left behind when I go anywhere. "Mii-mee! Mii-mee!" (with me) and the sweetest little puppy dog eyes usually begin the moment she realizes I am leaving. Today it was just for a few ingredients at the store for dinner so I took her with me. When we go to QFC she loves the little kid shopping carts (you know, the cute little ones that adults are too tall to steer, but are sized just right for running into ankles and shins). So she gets her cart and I do my best to keep her from running over every store display;giving the wine aisle a big berth.
We made it through the store today with her little cart and minimal display casualties. As usual, she insisted on throwing every item in the cart at full strength (I don't buy eggs with her). When we were ready to pay she watched the cashier carefully to make sure he rang everything up correctly. On the way out to the car my hands were full and I wanted to keep her with me in the parking lot, so I asked her to "help me" carry the milk that was in my right hand. She agreed for a few seconds, holding onto the handle with me, walking at the same pace. Then she decided that she could carry the milk all by herself. And that is where forward progress ended. She grunted and shuffled as she struggled to hold the milk up off the ground AND walk forward.
There are so many moments in parenting that I feel Father God watching me saying, "Uh huh, do you see yourself in this? Isn't this familiar? You're no different with me than that little child is sometimes!" Ooops. Yeah, you're right. I convince myself that I am somehow more mature or better than the two year old, but in some ways I am worse!
As Eowyn took the milk from my hand today I had one of those moments with God. He said, "Sometimes you take the milk from my hands and struggle, instead of doing it with me and letting me carry the weight." We like to think we are so big and strong until we take from God what is meant for only him to carry and we find out how small and weak we really are.
God invites us to join him in the work of his Kingdom. He gives us jobs, positions, authority, power, strength, and keys to get the work done. He gives us what we are ready to carry as we grow. But some things are never ours to carry, while others are to be carried hand-in-hand with God. Eowyn wanted to be big and significant today; I love her heart. And God feels the same way about us. He looks at us grunting and shuffling under the weight of his burden that we took with all the right intentions and motivations, and he smiles. But we need to learn to recognize when God is holding out his hand to us so he can carry the weight. He doesn't intend for any work to be done on our own. It's easy to feel this on our bad days when we feel unworthy of doing ministry or incapable of having any good outcome. In these moments we might be more inclined to acknowledge our dependence on God. But the truth is even our best days don't qualify us. It is Christ in us that is our hope of glory (Col 1:27).
Throughout the entire process of pursuing our call to Northern Ireland, I have tried to "carry the milk" so many times, thinking I was doing God such a big favor by working so hard. But it was him the whole time.
I spent 3-4 months emailing churches and ministries to find someone we could work with. God did it through one person at a conference.
I spent months looking at houses on rental websites, but God said I wouldn't find it on there. We didn't, it came through one person listening to God and willing to trust him.
In one week, through one person, our visas were fully funded. I didn't even have a chance to carry that one!
I fumbled our visa paperwork, struggled through the application process, messed up John and Judah's middle names...and the visas still came back in less than 2 weeks (average is 6). We are still waiting on Judah's. I have communicated with the right people but I know that God will ultimately be the one to bring it through. I won't be caught trying to fix this on my own!
But this last piece is the hardest one to not try to take out of God's hands: our funding. God says in Matthew chapter 6 that our provision is HIS burden, not ours. The birds don't even sow seeds to reap from them! They do what they are designed to do and God takes care of the rest. My personal challenge is to not try to do God's job for him. I will just have to "help" by holding on and walking with him.
With just weeks left before our move it is time to begin the sorting. As the kids go through their bins of toys and prized possessions, I see the years and stages that the various items remind me of. The years that I now know were the years of buried seed. "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain." (John 12:24) These were years of growing as a family, in number as well as maturity. They were good years of struggle; dreaming but never hoping. The dream had died. We didn't know. We didn't know what the Lord had planned. As I watch the kids go through this process I see a picture of tiny shoots of green that are the first signs of the life from the seed that was dead and buried.
It's a slow process. Jo is methodical and organized. Judah got about half-way through his bin before just dumping the entire contents on the floor, and getting reunited with a long lost sticky hand that he claims "will always be sticky!" His exclamations are followed by demonstrations of said stickiness all over the walls and furniture. Annabeth is somewhere in the midst of a disorganized pile of everything she owns. Eowyn is brandishing a plastic dagger and insisting that she be allowed to play with all of Jo's toys. There's some bargaining over discarded toys, who wants to keep what; a few squabbles, a few exclamations of joy over finding something once lost.
But the sound of what I don't hear is the most amazing.
Not one complaint. (Ok, Judah is complaining about how much stuff he has to haul downstairs...But not about the "why" of the job).
Somehow over the past year and a half of us planning and praying into this call, the kids have joined us in their hearts. There will be challenges, moments of frustration and grief--and that is all to be expected. But they are partnering with us and shouldering their part of the burden. And so they too will inherit the promises: "And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life." (Matthew 19:29)
This time period for us is like a bridge from the old into the new. We have to be able to put away the old and make room for the new that Jesus has for us. The Israelites were given food from heaven, but instructed not to collect more than they needed for one day. Why? Because God wanted them to trust him for each day, not relying on yesterday's provision. What was provided yesterday was sufficient and miraculous for that day. But in hoarding yesterday's miracle, we lose the expectation and space for today's. All of our "stuff" is a reminder of yesterday's provision and encourages us for today, but in getting rid of the left-overs we make room for the miraculous. Out with the old, in with the new!