Letters to Ivan

Stories

A glimpse of our life

Tired after two nights of little sleep, I napped for 2 hours instead of making dinner and completing other chores. This means that the late afternoon looked rather comical. Amidst carpet cleaning Little Girl’s latest accident, flattening a child’s treasured piece of now-crumpled paper, rescuing a miniature dinosaur from inside a pop-up toy, and reading a riveting chapter in The Silver ChairĀ (the beautiful lady is about to reveal her true, ugly character!), I need to make dinner. This life is crazy beautiful.

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Recent quotes and conversations

Eldest Son: “Were you ever President?”

Mama: “No, I was not ever President.”

Second Son: “Yes, yes you were. I remember when you were Pregnant.”

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A plane flies by and I hear the questions, “Are jets faster than planes?” and “Why are they faster?” and “What is the fastest object?” Oh, for that physics class I never took!

“Hmm,” I respond, “Maybe there is a supersonic something, or maybe a missile (???), or maybe we should do some research at the library.”

“Oh! I know!” my eldest exclaims, “Jesus is the fastest!” The perennial “correct” Sunday school answer šŸ™‚

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My three-year-old son is a maturing protector who schemes to place fire ants and thistles around our home so that any robbers would be first deterred and then found out by their cries of pain. “What do fire ants do?” one interested listener inquired. “Spit fire,” my son replied.

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Eldest son: “Mama, are we rich because there are four of us kids?”

Mama: “Yes, son, we areĀ rich.”

Ponderings

Breaths of Life

“Man shall not live by bread alone.” Deuteronomy 8:3,Ā Luke 4:4

Baby Boy had a fever on and off the last couple days. It spiked last night, giving the kids and me a reason to visit the medical clinic this morning. After shepherding everyone into their car seats, I walk inside and hastily write, “Not things to do but breaths to breathe,” lest I forget this thought amidst talking with the doctor and quietly entertaining four energetic children.

While I feel initially tempted to see all the things left undone as urgent to dos – studying the Bible, preparing food, lessons with the kids, serving dinner, washing dishes – these are all things not “to dos,” but rather daily rhythms that bring about a full, beautiful life. They are breaths breathed for the sake of continuing both physical and spiritual life.

In this season of feeling less-than-adequate for the mountain of good and wondrous responsibilities before me, I cannot live upon bread alone any more than I can rely upon my efforts alone. I must depend on God for wisdom, patience, perspective, and grace to share with the Littles around me. And when I place my trust in Him and walk in obedience, He carries me through the day in His strength.

Ponderings · Reorienting Myself

Revisiting Identity

Today I revisit the topic of identity partly because there are so many things to say and so many ways to say it. Another reason stems from my own continuingĀ struggles with contentment and identity. I write to remind myself and others who may question similarly.

Many people have a deep desire to make a name for themselves, to be “the best” in something, or be recognized. This desire drives us to action. Growing up I was not brilliant, but I could work hard. So I did. Graduating high school early, I married in college a man who exceeded all my dreams, and then moved to a far-away land. I had a degree, I had passion, and I also had no job prospects. Making use of the time, I began my masters and then welcomed my first child. Meanwhile siblings, peers, and my husband all graduated, began working, and earned accolades. I remained at home. No title, no awards, nothing to show the world outside my door.

The desire for external recognition and success runs deep in me and deep in our culture, even spilling over onto the precious and vulnerable people in our lives, people we should be protecting and nurturing and loving for who they are, rather than what they do. In a sermon on parenting, a pastor once mentioned that many parents would rather discover that their child had a learning challenge than accept that their child was, simply, average.

What drives these comparisons? One reason is the craving for fulfillment, and the direct relationship between fulfillment and identity. Fulfillment is a real desire and a real need! As a recent sermon titled Thirsty perfectly articulates, we satisfy this fulfillment desire with something or someone that we worship or value most. The strength of our sense of self depends on the power of what we worship. Whether I situate my worth and find contentment in what is temporary and finite, or eternal and endless, affects who I believe myself to be and how I relate myself to my surroundings.

With an identity and worth grounded in the Almighty God, how people perceive me does not matter. I can be okay bagging groceries. I can be okay with thinking my hardest and earning only “B” grades. I can be okay mothering at home, and doing “nothing else” (though we could have a rich debate over whether that description even remotely fits reality!). I might not be the best according to the world’s standards, but that does not matter.

This confidence happens when I know whose I am. Everything external – good and bad – falls away like water off a duck’s back because I know who defines me. Timothy Keller writes,

What, then, would the effect be if we were to dive even more deeply into Jesus’sĀ teaching and life and work? What if we were to be so immersed in his promises and summonses, his counsels and encouragements, that they dominated our inner life, capturing our imagination, and simply bubbled out spontaneously when we faced some challenge?….When you received criticism, you would never be crushed, because Jesus’s love and acceptance of you is so deeply “in there.”1 Ā  Ā  Ā  Ā  Ā  Ā 

I can be okay with who I am, where I am, and what I am doing (or not doing) when I live for an audience of One, when I worship God and allow Him to define me and my worth.2

The question to ask and answer today: will I choose to be fulfilled by Him?

 

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1 Keller, Timothy and Kathy Keller. The Meaning of Marriage. Riverhead Books, 2011. Print.

2 Guinness, Os. The Call. Word Publishing, 1998. Print.

Ponderings · Reorienting Myself

On Suffering, Part 1

Romans 8:28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”

This is one of the most comforting verses in the Bible. It is also, I think, one of the scariest. For, if God can work all things together for good, then He could allow me to experience allĀ things, including my worst nightmares. I fear losing what I hold dearest. What if’s buzz through my brain, drowning out what is real. Yet I ought to think about what is true, what is real. So here goes an exercise in training my mind, putting my thoughts where I want them to be. Borrowing heavily from Timothy Keller’s response to the question of evil and suffering inĀ The Reason for God, today I will outline three responses to the problem of pain. A second post with further thoughts on this subject will hopefully come soon after.

Christian life is one that involves suffering. Where is God in this inevitable and unhappy aspect of life? How does He work all things together for good? For a first point, just because I cannot understand the reason for my suffering now does not mean that there is not one. Looking back in my own life on times of intense pain, insecurity, or betrayal, I see how I grew through them. Remember Joseph in the Bible and how his trials actually saved his life and that of a whole people from starvation?

For another point, as Christians we believe that Jesus Christ, God Himself, experienced suffering and death. Timothy Keller elaborates, “God became uniquely and fully human in Jesus Christ and therefore knows firsthand despair, rejection, loneliness, poverty, bereavement, torture, and imprisonment.”1God understands our pain. When we more fully grasp the reality and extent of Christ’s sufferings, the following verses take on new meaning. Philippians 4:19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?

For a third point, Timothy Keller, reflecting on Revelation 21 wrote, Heaven is not just consolation for the hurts experienced in life but a “restorationĀ of the life you always wanted. This means that every horrible thing that ever happened will not only be undone and repaired but will in some way make the eventual glory and joy even greater.”2

Or as one of my favorite authors, Fyodor Dostoevesky, wrote,

“Like a babe, I trust that the wounds will heal, the scars will vanish, that the sorry and ridiculous spectacle of man’s disagreements and clashes will disappear like a pitiful mirage, like the sordid invention of a puny, microscopic, Euclidean, human brain, and that, in the end, in the universal finale, at the moment universal harmony is achieved, something so magnificent will take place that it will satisfy every human heart, allay all indignation, pay for all human crimes, for all the blood shed by men, and enable everyone not only to forgive everything but also to justify everything that has happened to men.”3

The God that I read about in the Bible, encounter in prayer, and witness at work in people’s lives is big enough to transform all things, even the hardest and darkest things, for good. He knows, He sympathizes, He redeems.

 

1 Keller, Timothy. The Reason for God. Riverhead Books, 2008. Print.

2 IBID.

3 Dostoevsky, Fyodor. The Brothers Karamazov. Bantam Books, 1970. Print.