While you were sleeping

I love to watch my children sleep.

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After the battles of the will, the chaos of creativity, the pushing and pulling and learning and laughing, the discipline and the nurture, the tantrums and the tears; I love to watch them crumpled in sleepy surrender. Chaos at rest. Tantrums forgotten.

In those stolen moments, with the crack of light from the hallway spilling into the darkened room, I marvel at them. My heart squeezes with protective longing. I feel the fullness of tender care, the delight in their little bodies. I see limbs splayed and fingers uncurled. The feisty fury of the day gives way to frailty and sweetness.

They have no idea how much we love them, and even less idea how much that love allows us to weather their defiance and dependence. They still live in a world where they think cupboards magically restock themselves and laundry fairies find their missing socks.

When they are awake, we are all energy and independence – five people doing the dance of life around each other, giving and taking and talking and being. But when they sleep, the true nature of things is revealed: children being raised, nurtured, protected, sheltered by us. Dependent on us, though they are only dimly aware of it. Adored by us, though they have no idea how much.

Sometimes, as I lie on my pillow about to yield to sleep myself, I imagine God watching me sleep. I imagine him looking on me after a day filled with my pushing and pulling and learning and laughing, after my own tantrums and tears, now crumpled in sleepy surrender.

I imagine his heart filled with tenderness, seeing my true frailty after my feisty fury is spent. He sees my defiance. He knows my dependence. He knows I live in a world where I am only vaguely aware of all He does to sustain and provide.

During the day, I imagine it’s all me, all the time. But at night, I am a sleeping child; His child being raised, nurtured, protected, sheltered by Him.

Dependent on him, though I am only dimly aware of it. Adored by him, though I have no idea how much.

And so, in the half light of my room, just before my eyes finally close, I smile up to my Daddy. He watches while I am sleeping.

Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps. (Psalm 121:4)

Father-like He tends and spares us, well our feeble frame he knows (From the Hymn “Praise my Soul, the King of Heaven”, based on Psalm 103)

This post first appeared on 8/19/2013 on the Mothers Council mommy blog.

One little word that radically changed my prayers

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I got that lead-balloon feeling on Sunday when our pastor pointed out all the things Paul didn’t pray for in his letters: people with cancer, busy schedules, promotions at work, successful ventures, hard pressed finances, strained relationships…. Not that those things don’t matter, or that we shouldn’t pray for them, or that God doesn’t care about the minutiae of our lives, but they weren’t on the apostles regular prayer card.

It raised the old question for me again: why do I always find my prayer list filled with immediate needs, when I know that matters like the Kingdom come, His will be done, missions, justice, global worship etc are weightier and worthy of prayer? Why is it that when I do sit down to pray (and my struggles with that are lengthy and complex) I pray for the “light and momentary afflictions”, and so seldom for the eternal things?

I don’t have an answer for that, but this weekend I found one little word which is helping me close the gap between the daily-needs-prayer and the weightier-matters-prayer.

Here it is: instead of praying “God, make it better”, I need to pray “God, make it count.”

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God, my friend is dying. Don’t just make it better, make it COUNT. If she can be better, let it be so, but don’t let this suffering have been wasted. Work it for good. Please show up and show your grace. Make it count.

God, I’m so busy and so tired. I so badly want to pray “make it better! Make it stop!”, but I’m going to pray “make it count, please,” instead. Let me learn grace under fire. Let me learn to say no to the bad and even the good so that there is time enough to say yes to the best. Show your strength in my weakness. Make it count.

God, thanks for a lovely, sweet season in my marriage. Rather than saying “thanks, keep it up, make it better”, please Father, make it count. Help us to be thankful and still work hard at our marriage, not leaving prayer for the tough times alone. Let this good season count.

God, money is tight for so many dear ones. Everything in me wants to ask for more, to make it better. But please Lord, make these tight days count. Teach us to be wise stewards, teach us to give generously now while we feel hard pressed, teach us to pray for daily bread, and to learn the secret of contentment whether we have plenty or little. Make these days of economic hardship count.

God, I’m at my wits end with my kids. They won’t eat, sleep, poop or obey as I’d hoped they would. I want it to be better, please Lord… I know you can make it better, but instead I will pray “make it count”. Help me to be patient with my slow to learn kids, as you are patient with slow to learn me. Help me to show love to them in their immaturity, as you show love to me in mine. Lord, make these trials in parenting count: let them teach me and my children what YOU are like as a parent. Make these long days of relentless loving discipline count.

God, now that I think about it, please don’t just make it better. Not if it doesn’t count.

Please make it count, so that these light and momentary afflictions do the work of preparing us for a weight of glory that outweighs then all.

God, this is my life: in all it’s gritty, knotted and messy glory.

These are my loved ones.

These are my tears.

Please, please, please… Make it count.

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Paying my dues

It is no small thing to take three small kids to the library.

But our books were overdue, fines were accruing, and the kids were antsy for new literary fodder. So we played hunt-the-library-book, got all our gear together and made the trip across town. The kids took turn to return the books into the book deposit slots and raced inside. The eldest two made their choices, carefully laying their fortnights worth of treasures into the bag, while I tried to restrain my destructo-baby from pulling armfuls of books into the aisles. I attempted to do this all quietly.

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After 30 minutes, Mommy was Done. I gathered up the books, the bags, the destructo-baby and corralled the eldest two. As we stepped up to the electronic check out, I realized with horror that I. did. not. have. our. library. card.

Again.

I sighed as I turned around and headed for the tired yet kindly librarian behind the counter. “I forgot my library card,” I confessed. “Can you help me?”

“Only if you’re paying me money,” she replied, and pointed to the “accounts” sign above her head.

“I had a fine to pay anyway,” I said, and offered her my ID so she could look me up. “I never mind paying library fines,” I said, making conversation while she typed. “I feel badly that the books are late and I’m sorry for the infraction, but I don’t actually mind giving money to the library.”

She laughed. “You could consider it your dues,” she said, and told me how much I owed.

I stifled a gasp with a smile. “Wow. I didn’t think a little fine here and there could add up to such a big debt.” I said. I handed over a crisp note, a transaction in green to erase my debts.

“No,” she said, “People are often surprised at what they owe.”

I looked down at the bag of books and asked, “do you think we could take these out? If I need my card, don’t worry – I’ll come back another day”

“Sure,” she replied, and then added a qualification, “now that I know who you are. I mean, people don’t pay other people’s debts, now do they?”

I hesitated, and then mumbled, “not unless you’re Jesus.”

Her head snapped up, eyes widened to see if she had heard me correctly.

I said it again, clearer and with grateful remembrance: “You’re right. People don’t pay other people’s debts. Unless you’re Jesus.” A transaction in red to erase my debts.

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