Friday, September 10, 2010

Preparing for the Storm

You are at home, eating dinner and looking forward to a relaxing evening with your family, when you suddenly hear tornado sirens go off.

Where do you go? 

Maybe a first-floor bathroom? An interior hallway?

On Wednesday evening, as tornadoes began touching down in the Dallas area, hundreds of people in the metroplex were forced to find a safe place.

At our house, we head for the closet under the stairs. It’s a large closet, with plenty of room for the five of us. (Brett jokes of the day when he can turn it into his “man cave.”) Since it’s our designated “safe place,” I keep our weather radio, flashlights, extra batteries, a fan, and a portable DVD player in there for emergencies.

We’ve had to take shelter in the closet several times since we’ve moved here. My kids know the drill—when you hear the sirens, grab your pillow and blanket and meet us in the closet, where we’ll create a comfy nest of pillows, watch a movie, and have some snacks. This routine keeps the kids calm until we get the all-clear from the radar. 

Brett sometimes teases me about how fanatical I am about being prepared for storms. (He lived in Oklahoma, where tornadoes pass through as regularly as the ice cream truck.) I think it’s because I want to feel like I’ve got everything under control… even though, obviously, I can't control the weather. There's a reason they call these things "acts of God."

Ever since the first recorded natural disaster—the Flood--God has been reminding us that while we can and should prepare for the storms that come our way, we ultimately have to rest in His grace and trust Him to see us through.

In his book Has Christianity Failed You?, Ravi Zacharias pointed out something that I’d never realized about Noah’s ark: 

When Noah was building his ark, God gave him detailed instructions about everything: how high, no higher; how long, no longer; what species to include and in what numbers—details ad nauseum. But when all had been done according to God’s instructions and the door was finally shut, it must have been a terrifying experience to realize there was no sail or rudder on this ark. Who was in control? (emphasis added)

Think about that. If ever anyone was prepared for a storm, it was Noah. After all, God gave him a hundred years to get ready. The ark was Noah’s magnum opus—the culmination of a century of painstaking work in preparation for the greatest storm the world has ever seen. He must have studied the blueprint God gave him over and over as he constructed every detail of the three-story-high, football-field-length vessel. After all, his family was about to spend an entire year aboard this oversized life boat.  

Surely Noah must have scratched his head at God’s design for the ark--with no sail or rudder--and wondered, Who’s going to steer this thing? 

I’ve felt like that before. When storms of life have come crashing down, flooding me with such worry and fear that I feel like I’m drowning, I’ve wondered, How am I going to get through this? Sometimes I just can’t see past the crashing waves of doubt.

Those are the times when I head for the “safe place” of God’s protection. I grab my Bible and seek shelter in the cleft of the Rock, where God’s promises and presence keep me calm. And even with the storm still raging around me, I finally realize…

The God who created the storm is the same God who is going to steer me through it. 

What storm are you facing right now?

Whatever it may be--whether a natural disaster or a tempestuous situation--you can cling to this truth:

God is in control.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

When I Grow Up, I Want to Be . . .

"What do you want to be when you grow up?"

How did you answer that question when you were a kid?

Miss B wants to be a horse trainer. Or a veterinarian. Or a teacher. Maybe all three—she can’t decide. (Perhaps she’ll be a vet who teaches horse trainers?)

J.J., on the other hand, is certain of her future career: she’s going to be an artist. In fact, she’s already trying to sell her creations. Here’s a photo of a drawing she did last week that she offered to let me buy for “only $100.” (She’s saving up to buy a puppy, she told me.) What a deal, huh?

Four-year-old Buddy wants to be an astronaut. Or a baseball player. (Move over, Alan Shepard—Buddy is going to play baseball on the moon!)

It’s fun to watch my kids grow into the people God made them to be. Each one is so unique! Miss B is rhythm and rhyme, J.J. is spunk and sparkle, and Buddy is charm and charisma.

As parents, there are lots of things that we can do for our kids. We can pray for them and raise them according to God’s Word. We can love them and encourage them. We can teach them and discipline them. But there is one thing we cannot do for our kids, no matter how hard we try:

We cannot re-create them.

It doesn’t matter how many parenting books you read or seminars you attend. You could follow the advice of experts or channel your own inner James Dobson. You could diligently instruct and train your child…

But you can’t change who God created your child to be. 

Other people’s kids may be smarter, more athletic, or more outgoing. But one of the most dangerous things we could say to our children is this: “If only you could be more like so-and-so…”  

If only you could make good grades like your brother. 
If only you could behave like the neighbor’s kid. 
If only you could play soccer like the coach’s child. 
If only…

But God didn’t create our children to be someone else’s kids. He created them to be the best version of themselves.

In his book The Me I Want to Be, John Ortberg puts it like this:

As God helps you grow, you will change, but you will always be you. An acorn can grow into an oak tree, but it cannot become a rose bush. It can be a healthy oak or a stunted oak—but it won’t be a shrub. You will always be you—a growing, healthy you or a languishing you—but God did not create you to be anybody else. He pre-wired your temperament. He determined your natural gifts and talents. He made you to feel certain passions and desires. He planned your body and mind. Your uniqueness is God-designed.

Brett and I are doing our best to help our kids move toward a healthy, flourishing version of themselves. No matter where their paths may lead—to vet school, an art studio, or even NASA—we’re committed to support and encourage them as the unique people God created them to be.

And that goes for us grown-ups too. You'll never outgrow the person God created you to be. And no matter how much you admire others' talents or successes, you can't be someone else. You can only be you. The you God created you to be.

So what do you want to be when you grow up? Are you frustrated and exhausted from trying to be someone else—or are you moving toward God’s best version of you?

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Tattle Book: The Good, the Bad, and the Funny

You don’t have to teach your kids how to tattle.
It’s one of those things that come naturally—like breathing and saying “Mine!” and getting a bump on the head right before picture day. And if you have multiple children, you know that nothing brings out a child’s inner Judge Judy than a sibling breaking the rules or, worse, a sibling getting away with something the Tattler has been punished for. (It’s uncanny how kids suddenly remember and respect the rules so much more when someone else is breaking them.)

I thought we had tamed the tattletale beast in our family a few years ago. But as this summer wore on, with our kids experiencing a bit too much togetherness, I noticed that they were starting to hone their FBI informant skills again.

One sweltering July afternoon, while my mom and I were watching the kids swim, I asked her advice on how to curb the tattling. She gave me a brilliant idea, borrowed from our friend Joye, a longtime kindergarten teacher.

“Whenever the kids come to you with a tattle, have them write it down in the Tattle Book,” Mom said. “Assure them that if they write out the situation in detail, you will read it later. That way, they’ll get it out of their system and will soon forget about it. And you’ll have a good laugh later when you read all the things they’ve written about each other!”

It sounded like a good plan, so I decided to give it a try.

I went home and found a spiral notebook in our school supply stash. Since it was a three-subject notebook, I decided to expand the “tattle book” idea. Not only is our Tattle Book a place for the kids to tell us about their perceived offenses, but it also includes a section for Brett and me to “tattle” the good things we catch our children doing, as well as a section for us to record the funny things they do or say (you know, those cute things you think you’ll remember forever but usually forget in a few days).

The results have been hysterical! Our 3rd grade daughter’s tattles on her siblings are long and detailed. (She loves to write, so she’s creating a veritable novel about all the injustices done to her.) Our 1st grade daughter’s tattles are rife with all caps and underlines and exclamation points, making sure you hear how MAD she is!!!! And our 4-year-old takes so long to write his tattles (because we have to spell the words for him) that he’s completely forgotten the offense by the time he’s written it.

The kids enjoy reading and rereading all the positive things their dad and I have “tattled” about them. And Brett and I are trying to remember to jot down all the funny things they do, like when our son mistakenly sang “Jesus diapered all the children, all the children of the world” this week.

I have to admit, the Tattle Book is one of the best ideas I’ve ever borrowed.

Did you know that God has His own Tattle Book? Oh, it’s not called that, of course; but the Bible talks about God having a book where He records all kinds of things about us. For example . . .

  • God records our days. “Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” (Psalm 139:16)

  • God records our deeds. “I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne. And the books were opened, including the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books.” (Revelation 20:12)

  • God records our despair. “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” (Psalm 56:8)

  • God records our deliverance. “Then there will be a time of anguish greater than any since nations first came into existence. But at that time every one of your people whose name is written in the book will be rescued.(Daniel 12:1)

  • God records our destination. “Nothing evil will be allowed to enter [heaven], nor anyone who practices shameful idolatry and dishonesty—but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.” (Revelation 21:27)

Scripture tells us that everything we do and every day of our lives is recorded in God’s book. And it kind of makes you wonder . . .

What do you want God to write about you in His book today?