One morning last week as I was running, I was particularly burdened for my children in regards to less than desirable actions and attitudes I had been seeing. I was also feeling a bit panicked about the teenage years that loomed in front of us and the difficulty of navigating through all the issues that come with our culture these days. I felt tired, overtaken and weak--exactly the way a fish must feel swimming upstream. I spent most of the run asking for forgiveness for falling short in so many areas, asking for grace to cover our weaknesses, asking for wisdom to be Godly parents, and asking for divine intervention in the lives of our children.
That day I felt pretty desperate. Do you ever feel that way, so zeroed in on the yuck that you are seeing that you are having a hard time seeing any good? Sometimes I feel so overwhelmed at a situation and so at a loss of words, that my prayers tend to be a few phrases repeated over and over. On this day I just kept repeating:
'Lord, we need you, please help...Your grace is sufficient for our weakness, please be strong where we are weak...Love covers a multitude of sins...please let your love flow in and cover the multitude of sins you see in us and our children.'
As I finished that run and those prayers, the Lord did not provide immediate answers, or some big revelation, but He did impress one thing upon me:
Keep praying, keep praying, keep praying...the most you can do for your children during these years is intercede for them.
I have yet to witness a time that the Lord doesn't show up after a desperate prayer. Now, He may not answer the prayer in a way that we see fit, but He always shows up. Always.
This time was no exception. As I went through the rest of my day and the rest of my week, I felt His presence. I felt His grace, covering me and helping me in my weaknesses. And I saw Him move and answer the prayers of a desperate mother in small, tangible ways.
For one, I saw my daughter, who struggles with doing her schoolwork thoroughly and completely, win a small victory in this area. As I saw her achieve and overcome, I saw God sanctifying. I was reminded that sanctification comes little step by little step, and my job when I see such victories is to applaud and encourage.
The sweetest gift of all, though, was how the Lord chose to show up among my youngest and oldest. You see, these two mix like oil and water. My oldest, Joshua, a natural born leader who thrives in a well-ordered world has little patience for our last born who is the king of chaos. His impatience and irritability with our four year old, Owen, was one of those areas I had been desperately praying over.
...Yet God moves and melts hard places in the most creative, unexpected ways...
Owen spent one afternoon last week making valentines with his grandmother. When we went to pick him up, he proudly sauntered out with his masterpieces. He walked about our van handing out his labor of loves and each of us exclaimed how wonderful it was. All, that is, but my oldest. My heart sank as he tucked his in his book and I wondered frustratingly, 'Why aren't you opening yours?'
But God had a different plan with different timing.
It was a significant moment that needed a more intimate environment than that of riding in a van down the road. It was a significant moment that needed to include our entire family.
Thus, as we conjugated before dinner, Joshua pulled out his valentine from Owen:
Owen and Josh
Two names listed together in the innocent writing of a four year old.
Nothing else written and nothing else needed.
Written in a grace-filled, forgiving squibble.
But the image on the back was the clincher:
The heart of a four-year-old finding and cutting out someone working out because he knows his big brother lives for work-outs.
The Supernatural working out the kinks in a relationship with something super-hilarious.
Using the irresistible, unconditional work of a four-year-old, innocently loving someone who didn't deserve it...
melting the hard in the most creative of ways
Walls came down, laughter replaced bitterness and love covered a multitude of sins.
A mother's prayers answered...
...a step forward...
And the Father whispered:
Keep praying, keep praying, keep praying...