Monday, September 27, 2010

Better Than A Hallelujah?

   1. Praise ye the Lord!
   2. an exclamation of "hallelujah!"
   3. a shout of joy, praise, or gratitude

     So, you might be wondering where I'm going with this. Indulge me for 3 minutes and 38 + seconds, will you?
Click on the link and then come back, okay?

     Are you back with me again? Cool. Thanks. That was one of Amy Grant's newest songs. I've heard it on K-FISH a couple of times and it has a great melody. Amy Grant's voice and singing style has always held a lot of appeal for me. She's soulful, sincere, and passionate. However, as I was listening to this song and pondering the lyrics, I felt my theological hackles being raised.
     To start with, I love that the song is bringing emotional and often painful moments that people experience into view and encouraging honesty before God. That is absolutely wonderful.It's incredibly freeing and healing to be honest with God with our painful emotions. God will not despise a broken and contrite heart. He hears our cries, draws near to us and loves us. He comforts and counsels us like no else can.
     However, in Isaiah we read that we were "created for his glory." We were made to worship God. In the New Testament , in several places, we are commanded to praise God in our difficult circumstances. Rejoice in our hardships, because they are creating maturity in us. Our response to every trial really should be....worship. Praise. That's right, my sad friends, "hallelujah!" Our first cry to God shouldn't be our complaint or our brokenness. It should always be an acknowledgment of his kindness, faithfulness, and sovereignty. That is, if we want to grow in maturity and the character of Christ. 
     Flash back to fall of 2006 for me. Let's see...we were in escrow buying our rental property that I didn't want to buy, Daisy was a small baby with lactose intolerance issues so I had to remove all dairy products from my diet, Chloe was needing several appointments at Children's Hospital to diagnose and get treatment for her severe speech disability, Leanne was having mysterious bouts of vomiting that came whenever and would require hospital trips, appointments with incompetent or rude GI specialists, and I was home schooling Elena, Camille, and Leanne. Additionally, our church decided to take a break from Care Groups that fall. My main source of genuine, reliable fellowship with folks who would hear my burdens and pray for me was gone right during the zenith of all those trials. To say my plate was full,  that I was maxed out, and felt very alone is a gross understatement. I had cried out to God many times and was stretched to the breaking point often.
     However, one cataclysmic decision of hard-won, bare-souled, bottom-of the-rope determination stands frozen in time for me. I was sitting in the bathroom trying to get away from all the kids and I remember BY FAITH  thanking God for all the trials. Offering up a sacrifice of praise because it was the only thing I hadn't done and had no other options at that point. After all, why don't I just obey Scripture? I remember that powerful moment when God came down and lifted my soul up. Something broke in the heaven-lies. It was a momentous turning point. From that point on, the difficulties were still present, but I felt so much better, freer, and had much more peace. All my honest, painful cries to God, which also reflected self-pity and anger at God because of  my circumstances, did not yield the deliverance that heartfelt praise and worship did. In just a few months, all those trials would lift and things would take a dramatic turn for the better. But it began with my acknowledgment of God's goodness even in the midst of crushing, unrelenting discouragement.
     So, dear Amy Grant, your lyrics are a bit off. Nothing is better than a hallelujah.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Up and Running

     The first week of school for all my girls just commenced yesterday. Whew! Here's the rundown of who is where: Elena (10th grade) and Camille (8th grade) are being home schooled, Leanne (4th grade) and Chloe (2nd grade) are at Sierra Madre Elementary, and Daisy (4 years old, pre-K) and Julia (2 years old) are at home with Mom. This is a sampling of  the activities that promise to keep me hopping throughout the year: Elena volunteers at a nearby hospital, Camille volunteers at a nearby library, I volunteer in Leanne and Chloe's classrooms 1 hour per week per child, MOPS twice a month with Julia and Daisy, art, piano, singing and cooking lessons for various children, and a  running program for another child. Then there's Friday co-op classes for my older girls. Thankfully, I have almost no involvement in those - yet.
     Quite honestly, the structure is beneficial. Summer had been very unstructured, unfocused and rather uneventful. I was grateful it was a cool summer, but it was different having Tim home throughout the whole summer and out of a job. I wasn't looking forward to the girls starting school, either. I told myself that I didn't need to look forward to starting the school year, I just had to do it. "Be faithful to what your called to, Laura" I kept telling myself. And sure enough, that first week I had little glimpses of joy and satisfaction at having my time claimed by various activities and involvements that I believe are in my children's best interests. It was also quite gratifying to have just Daisy and Julia with me during the morning. (The older girls are fairly self-sufficient in their school work in the morning.) We went to the library and park several times. I really want to soak in these last few years having toddlers and preschoolers. It's a precious time for me and them and it turns into high school before you know it.
     I'm sure next month I'll be complaining about how worn out I am! I hope to keep a grounded sense of humor, the right focus, and a continual prayer and praise life. I can't imagine managing a household with 6 kids and all their spiritual, educational, social, developmental,  and physical needs without Christ. I don't have that natural love for all these aspects of child raising and the sacrifices I'm required to make can seem challenging at times. I really have many interests that go beyond my home and I look forward to the day when I can begin to explore those interests. But not at this time. This time belongs to my husband and children. I have a whole lifetime to explore my interests. I will never regret throwing everything I have into caring for my children.
     But I really enjoy the quiet at the end of the day when I can curl up with a good book for just a couple of moments, even if I am fighting to keep my eyes open for just one more page....