Going to Jesus

One afternoon, I was sitting on the couch watching our kids play when my toddler, who had spent the last minute or two filling a small tote bag full of puzzle pieces and toys, approached me and said:

“I’m all ready to go.”

“Where are you going?” I asked.

“To Jesus,” was her nonchalant reply.

And, dear reader, I am incredibly embarrassed to admit to you that I had no idea what to say. I stared at her, mouth gaping open in equal parts pride and horror.

I was proud, because moments like this affirm the success of our efforts to establish a household culture where the name of Jesus is known just as well as any other family member’s name. I was happy because I want my children to want Jesus. And here she is, my sometimes-terrorist toddler, telling me she wants to go to Jesus!

It would therefore seem odd that I should be horrified. But immediately I wanted to tell her there was no need to go to Jesus today. It was too soon! Maybe later. In about sixty seconds, I wrestled with all of my hopes and desires for her and all of my knowledge about for whom and by whom she was made.

Can I be totally honest with you for a moment? I live in dread of loss. I was hyper-worried about miscarriage during our kids’ first trimesters – and even beyond in some cases. Sometimes I get super worried if my husband is unusually late coming home from work – what if there was an accident? I don’t even like to write about it because I feel like I’m tempting fate (as if that’s a real thing). If one of my parents calls and leaves an ambiguous voicemail asking me to call back from some unspecified reason, I really come unraveled, fearing the worst (this is, legitimately, a response learned by experience, but that’s another story for another day).

I really do believe that God will provide in all things. But with this particular thing, I have a lot to learn from Mark 9:

And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.” – Mark 9:14-24

I believe, but there are places in my heart where I still have doubts. I have to ask for Jesus to have compassion on me, to help me. I still have to cry out, “I believe; Help my unbelief!”

In the end, I didn’t have a chance to reply to my toddler. She moved onto the next thing (“I’m eating a cupcake!”), completely oblivious to the stupefied internal turmoil in which she’d left her mom. And because I was so caught up on this area of unbelief in my life, I missed a chance to witness to my child that was served up so perfectly, practically on a silver platter. What a perfect time it would have been to pull out the Bible and turn to the book of Luke, where Jesus tells his disciples to let the children come to Him! I should have said, “It’s so good that you want to go to Jesus! Jesus wants you to go to Him!”

So this was, first, a very good reminder that these opportunities pop up when you least expect them, and vigilance is incredibly important. And, lest you worry that I am overly exercised about my perceived parenting failures, she has provided me several opportunities since this episode to affirm her desire for Jesus.

But this little minute-long conversation with my two year old in our living room was a really good reminder of the mercy and help I need from Jesus in all things, but in particular, some things more than others. Thankfully, “…from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” (John 1:16)

To Thee I run now with great expectation
To honor You with trust like a child
My hopes and desires seek a new destination
And all that You ask Your grace will provide – Sandra McCraken, Grace Upon Grace

Crouching at the door

Last week, I read something online that made me incredibly angry. As usually happens when I read a news headline I want to post about but know it won’t be fruitful, or a social media post that tempts me to argue, all of my old desires for keyboard warfare came back. But, thankfully, God really changed my heart in this area and has taught me ways to deal with these temptations.

I’ve learned that the best method of dealing with this is to remind myself of God’s justice, His mercy, and all of the things He has done and will do. So while sometimes I’ll reach out to a close friend or my husband to share my opinion on the issue just to get it out, I will generally turn on my my Easter playlist on Spotify, and spend some time worshipping God in the middle of my kitchen.

I know it sounds a little odd. But it works! It’s hard to stay mad at anything temporal when you’re singing “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him… one little word shall fell him! YES AND AMEN!

So, last week, I put this method into practice once again. Afterwards, I was properly re-centered and went about my day, feeling rather good about life. You might even say I was feeling a small bit proud of myself for having shut that sin down.

And then our youngest decided not to nap.

Just the day before, I published my post about hindering my kids in their walk with Christ, and there I was absolutely losing my mind over my kid not napping. She’s only ten months old, so the finer points of my speech was lost on her but my attitude was not. I was mad. She cried. I got angrier as she cried. She cried more. Finally, in His mercy, God intervened with a phone call from my husband. We talked and prayed.

After we got off the phone, I tried to get her down again. As I was rocking her, God’s words to Cain popped into my mind:

The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.” – Genesis 4:6-7

And later, reflecting on this whole episode, I was reminded of Peter’s admonition:

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. – 1 Peter 5:8

There I was in my kitchen that morning, thumbing my nose at Satan’s very face, singing brazenly that one little word would fell him. It never once crossed my mind that he would continue to prowl around my house seeking for a way to devour me. I was not watchful; I was proud. And not even proud for what God had done – I was proud of what I had done. And devour me Satan did, in a way.

Ironically, I sang about this very thing that morning:

Did we in our own strength confide,
Our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side,
The Man of God’s own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is he;
Lord Sabaoth is his name,
From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

My striving was losing, but thankfully, Jesus’ is ultimately not. Because I am in Christ, nothing (not even precious naptime being lost!) will separate me from my God and my king because what Jesus has done for me. Thanks be to Christ Jesus!

Do Not Hinder Them


This is the most frequently uttered (screamed? shouted?) word in my house.

Our toddler recently entered that stage of toddler-hood that is especially trying. Up until last month, she would have good days and bad days, and good moments and bad moments, but overall we weren’t really surprised by her behavior. But one morning a few weeks ago, it was as if a different person woke up in her bed. Everything is a fight now. “Time out” has been a frequent occurrence – and what’s worse, I think she actually likes it. Sometimes she’ll hit her sister just to get into “time out.” And then she sits and laughs at me.

I know some of this is a reaction to changes happening in our household (potty training and the introduction to the big girl bed, for instance), but nothing I do seems to help. I keep reminding myself that this is temporary, and eventually she’ll move on from this behavior to something else (most likely equally frustrating). I pray and pray and pray and despite my best efforts I’ve still lost my temper, yelled, and slammed a door or two.

A week or so ago, I was reading in the book of Luke, and came to the passage where Jesus welcomes children who are brought to him:

Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” – Luke 18:15-17

I’ve been reflecting on that verse, “and do not hinder them,” in particular, since then. And today, I was listening to a sermon podcast (it was really good – give it a listen!) centered on Mark 19:

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” Mark 19:42

Can I be honest for a minute? I am so discouraged. I’m so discouraged thinking about how I’ve behaved, particularly when my oldest screams or tries to slam a door – because she learned that from me. I taught her how to act out in anger. I taught her that sin. I have already hindered my kids. It would be better for me if a millstone were hung around my neck.

And, at the same time I feel discouraged, I have found encouragement. Despite what I deserve, God has already paid the debt for my transgressions. I know that I cannot do good on my own power. I know that if God has set my children aside for his own possession that nothing I do will prevent them from going to Him.

But I still don’t want to be the reason my kids have doubts, or the reason why my kids know how to do bad things. And I know that all trials and tribulations (however large or small) sanctify us.

Maybe God is sanctifying me by teaching me to trust his ability to redeem my girls. Maybe, despite my head knowledge, there are places in my heart that I’m keeping away from God. Places where I’m secretly harboring the expectation that I can, by my own power, save my children.

I don’t want to be the reason my kids have doubts, or the reason why my kids know how to do bad things. So I go back to the slog. I keep praying. Keep trusting. Keep reading the Bible. Keep praying. Keep trusting. Keep trusting. Keep trusting.