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I found this video fascinating. Plus, I learned that, pretty much, I don’t know anything about Vatican City:
I was so discouraged as I headed to church this morning.
We’re having a bit of a battle with a certain parenting, um, issue … and since Fred is sacrificing greatly to work his second job (in addition to his full-time “real” job) for a few weeks, I have more solo responsibilities about all of that than usual. I also have more cuddle-time and snuggle-time too, so it’s not all bad. But our family is living up to the old nursery rhyme/poem by Longfellow. A lot.
“There was a little girl who had a little curl right in the middle of her forehead. And when she was good, she was very, very good. But when she was bad, she was horrid!”
On an intellectual, thinking person, doctrine-applied-to-life basis, it’s actually all a bit interesting to me. I can’t help but say to myself over and over again as these battles drive the peace and joy (temporarily) out of our home:
“Well. If Jesus didn’t die for this … if the gospel isn’t true for this … if I can’t have any hope in the midst of this … well. Then I am the most wretcehd of women and my faith is in vain. But if the same power that raised Christ from the dead is actually at work right now, over and over (and over!) again, in my life and the life of my child? Then I can and I will persevere.”
And usually I do. But sometimes I am tired and tempted to forget everything I believe. So that’s why we go to church, right?! To be fed by the preaching of the Word and the sacraments. To receive the ordinary means of grace. To pray and be prayed for. To worship. To serve. To love and be loved.
And that’s what happened to me this morning. By a two minute conversation with my pastor and a genuine hug. By a deep sermon from Romans by my other pastor. By the tangible reminder of God’s presence and power and care through the wine and bread of the Lord’s Supper.
Oh. And by one statement from my friend. She asked me how I was and at that moment, I was close to tears having just slugged it out emotionally and prayerfully in this current parenting battle. My friend was kind. Sympathetic. And spot-on wise in telling me exactly what I needed to hear in response to what is happening in my daughter’s heart and in our family in response:
“You know that’s totally normal, don’t you Tara?”
Hmmmmmm. All day long, my heart has been processing the loving truths that are derived from that one simple statement:
This is totally normal? Really? Yes, really.
You mean I’m not a total freak? I’m not the only one with a child who struggles in this way? Other Christian mothers feel the sting of hopelessness and despair at times? Yah. You betcha. Sure.
This season will not last forever? This season will not last forever.
I am not alone? You are not alone.
There is hope? There is always hope.
You see … I know that is true. I do. I confess it and I believe it. I can even give you Scriptural citations that resonate deep within me even as I type those words. But life is hard and sometimes suffering and exhaustion can tempt us to forget even the very things we have staked our lives on. That’s why we are (active, avowed) members of a local church. That’s why we invest in authentic, redemptive friendship. That’s why we read, study, and memorize the Bible. That’s why we pray.
And many thanks to my friend for normalizing the Christian life for me once again. You are a good friend to me and I thank God for you.
Today Fred and I went on a little OLD PHOTOS OF TARA HUNT and we found this one of me back in 2003 … when I was still healthy and strong and fit:
Fred is so loving and kind (and always affirming of me) that he said he still sees me the same way. But I assume that all of my friends who have only known me in the last ten years will think, “Man! That doesn’t look like Tara AT ALL!”
I think you’re both right. I am me back then and I am me now. But I was far more comfortable in my own skin back then as bad health does not lead to comfort.
So thank you for the kind and encouraging notes both here and on FaceBook. And thanks, especially, for those of you who have mentioned that you are praying for me. Redemptive change is never easy! But God is with us and He will finish His good work in our hearts. Guaranteed.
“I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6 (ESV)
I was so encouraged yesterday when Sophia skittered from the room and grabbed her church bulletin, looked up a cite, grabbed her Bible, and then read to Ella and me:
“I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” Isaiah 43:25 (ESV)
She read this to us because Ella was really stuck in despair and feeling hopeless over some habitual struggles in her life. (“But HOW do I get off of this path–the way of defiance, pain, and danger–and get on THIS path–the way of righteousness, happiness, and safety?!”) As we talked with her and prayed with her, we both realized that what she needed most in that moment was hope. And her big sister preached hope to her because she had heard our pastors preach this verse to us week after week after our corporate confession of sin:
“Isn’t that great news, Ella? We can be forgiven! God blots out our sins and remembers them no more. That’s what Pastor Alfred tells us and Pastor Jason tells us because that’s what the Bible tells us.”
Amen, sister! Way to preach truth.
Blessed Good Friday to You & Yours (The First Christian Poem I Memorized as a (Teenage) New Believer)
William Blake (1757–1827)
LITTLE lamb, Who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee,
Gave thee life, and bid thee feed
By the stream and o’er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing woolly bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice?
Little lamb, Who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?
Little lamb, I’ll tell thee:
Little lamb, I’ll tell thee:
He is callèd by thy name,
For he calls himself a Lamb.
He is meek and he is mild,
He became a little child.
I a child, and thou a lamb,
We are callèd by his name.
Little lamb, God bless thee!
Little lamb, God bless thee!
Here is another example of love … my friend, Jennie Strong.
Jennie is a busy mother of two young children with another baby on the way soon. And yet, she invited our dear Ella into her home this week expressly for the purpose of freeing up my schedule to work on my new women’s retreat.
Talk about servant hospitality. That’s Jennie.
She saw a (great) need. She knew it would take sacrifice to meet it. But she is mission-minded and Kingdom-minded and she jumped in with both feet … never making me feel like an imposition; never waving some sort of “friend-quid-pro-quo” in my face. (“You watched my kids for .67 hours so now I owe you 1.24 hours of childcare time.”) No. That’s not Jennie. No way.
Thanks, Jennie, for showing our family care and love (and for serving the PCA women in Pennsylvania too!).
I appreciate you and I love you!
Just in case you’re my event host for next month (and wondering how things are going) … I’m in the thick of winnowing content. This is always an amazing stage of prep for me. I wonder … why oh why do I always have 100+ pages of research and prep when the schedule allows for nothing even CLOSE to that amount of content? I guess that’s the way my heart and mind get engaged and ready to serve. It’s so luxurious to have this amount of time to read and study and pray! I am a blessed woman and I hope I can be even just a tiny blessing to the women of The Eastern Pennsylvania Presbytery next month.
God can and does use weak, sick, discouraged, beat-down, lonely, struggling saints, who cry to him day and night, to accomplish amazing things for his glory.
I remember listening to this years ago and being blown away by what John Piper taught about the life of David Brainerd:
(If you, like me, prefer to read rather than listen, the entire message is also transcribed on that link. One of the many reasons why I love DesiringGod.org so much.)
I heard this message before I ever read D. Martyn-Lloyd Jones’, Spiritual Depression, and it was the first time (other than a snippet of a Focus on the Family broadcast from the 1980’s) that I had ever heard the word “depression” associated with a Christian. I resonated deeply with much of Dr. Piper’s teaching on David Brainerd:
“It seems that there was an unusual strain of weakness and depression in the family … So on top of having an austere father, and suffering the loss of both parents as a sensitive child, he probably inherited some kind of tendency of depression. Whatever the cause, he suffered from the blackest dejection off and on throughout his short life.”
“There is a tremendous lesson here. God is at work for the glory of his name and the good of his church even when the good intentions of his servants fail—even when that failing is owing to sin or carelessness. One careless word, spoken in haste , and Brainerd’s life seemed to fall apart before his eyes. But God knew better, and Brainerd came to accept it.”
“Why does it have such an impact on me? How has it helped me to press on in the ministry and to strive for holiness and divine power and fruitfulness in my life? The answer for me is that Brainerd’s life is a vivid, powerful testimony to the truth that God can and does use weak, sick, discouraged, beat-down, lonely, struggling saints, who cry to him day and night, to accomplish amazing things for his glory.”
Amen & Amen!
I almost didn’t share this photo because I’m embarrassed about the level of Golden Retriever hair and dust bunnies that are on our hardwood floor. But I can’t stop thinking about how lovely and loving this bubble wrap is:
Can you figure out what is going on here? Lilikoi is a bit puzzled. But I’m not.
This is love! Fred loving Sophia and me after we’ve stubbed our toes on our bed frame WAY too many times … he bubble-wrapped our foot nemesis and didn’t even draw attention to doing so.
Serving in secret. Taking care of people he loves. That’s Deacon Barthel!
Not being phlegmatic by any stretch of the definition, my “up” days can be great, but my “down” days are really a drag. Like this morning. For no reason and for good reason, I feel sad, scared, defeated, annoyed, and just plain BLECH. The pull to avoid my duties (and all relationships, including my relationship with God) was strong.
I was tempted to map out a strategy for escapism (which I can easily hide as productivity because I like to escape by doing things). I really felt like doing nothing good, believing nothing true, and feeling nothing redemptive.
But God is kind to me. And even in the cool, dark morning, I could hear whispers of wisdom taught to me and modeled for me over the years:
- Some of this is physical, Tara. Look at a calendar. Ride the hormonal wave and laugh at its absurdity. You don’t have to just endure it or pray through it, you can find the humor in it. (Karen Vowell)
- The pull to unhealthy eating is strong. But why not make just one wise decision and drink that tall cool glass of water to start your day? (Rex Clark) Don’t forget to put it in a glass glass because that makes a big difference. (Joe Adams)
- You really do have big, giant, content-heavy projects weighing heavily on your mind and spirit these days. It’s hard to make a new women’s retreat. It’s hard (and scary!) to think about possibly doing a new book project. These are real burdens; real stressors. Good stress, but stress nonetheless. You can’t accomplish all of your tasks today; so what CAN you do? Sometimes if we make even just a little progress one one thing, life can have a little more hope. (Elisabeth Elliott)
“Have you had the experience of feeling as if you’ve got far too many burdens to bear, far too many people to take care of, far too many things on your list to do? You just can’t possibly do it, and you get in a panic and you just want to sit down and collapse in a pile and feel sorry for yourself. Well, I’ve felt that way a good many times in my life, and I go back over and over again to an old Saxon legend … Do. The. Next. Thing.
The poem says, “Do it immediately, do it with prayer, do it reliantly, casting all care. Do it with reverence, tracing His hand who placed it before thee with earnest command. Stayed on omnipotence, safe ‘neath His wing, leave all resultings, do the next thing.” That is a wonderfully saving truth. Just do the next thing.”
- So you’re feeling lonely. Tempted to have a pity-pot-poor-me kind of day? Ah! I know just the thing: Stop looking at yourself! Get your eyes off of yourself and onto someone else and serve. Who can you bless today? Who can you serve? There is no cure for loneliness like serving others.
- You know … your temptations will lessen if you starve them. Sometimes all it takes is just the tiniest bit of motion in the direction of freedom to walk away from the things that so often ensnare and enslave us. One little step of belief and obedience. Just one. Can you take just one? (You can! You can! There is no temptation except that which is common to man; and God is faithful! He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear …) You don’t have to hide away—emotionally, physically. You can walk out in the light of truth, the dawn of God’s never-changing mercy and love. You are new and you are being made new. You are wanted. God is with you. You don’t have to be afraid. (The Whole Bible)
So off into my day I go! I hope yours is a blessed one too—up, down, or phlegmatically solid and calm.