This morning my littlest one was trying to fall back asleep after being fed and getting a diaper change. She kept stirring, and couldn’t quite settle. Then she grabbed onto my hand and stilled. As parents, we struggle often with whether we are making the right decisions for our children and our family. We’ve had to make a bunch of big decisions for our family this year and none were easy or chosen lightly. No matter what decision you make about anything, you will have 10 experts from the other side saying that you’re doing it wrong and will permanently mess your child up in some way of taking that path. We homeschool and that’s not ok because socialization or since I’m not a trained teacher I am doing my children a disservice. We discipline too much or not enough. We get told by strangers how well behaved our children are (last night someone told us this, and it always feels good to hear), or have them sneer at us as they misbehave or are loud in some way (bless them, these little ones take after their loud Mama). I hold my babies too much or am horrible for letting any of them ever cry it out. So many everyday things that no matter what you do, you are wrong.
My littlest this morning, by grabbing my hand, taught me something. I’m doing this parenting thing right, at least in some ways. She finds safety and comfort in me. She knows that as long as she is with her daddy or me that she is safe and she is loved. We kiss boo-boos. We hold them when their hearts are broken (and wish we could take all the pain away). We tell them we love them and are proud of them. We pray with them and for them. We aren’t perfect, not at all, but I know all of our children feel safe and loved, and today, for me, that’s more than enough.
Birthdays have typically been something I’ve looked forward to and enjoy. My 30th was particularly amazing since my first baby girl was born that day. I always say it was a good distraction from turning 30. Birthdays are school holidays for us as homeschoolers. The kids enjoy getting to have their birthday off of school. Today is Willow’s and my birthday, so we’re enjoying our school holiday. Well, Willow is at least. 3 years ago is when I realized that I don’t really enjoy birthdays anymore. Instead it’s a reminder of loss.
In June of 2015 my world came crashing down when my mom suddenly passed away. She passed away in her sleep. She had just watched my older two the morning before when I had a doctor’s appointment for my pregnancy with our third baby. It was completely unexpected. I could barely sleep for months after, let alone do anything but the minimum requirement of taking care of my little ones. My 33rd birthday was my first birthday without my mom. It had been almost a year since I had lost her, but it hit hard that day. I did my best to focus on Willow and helping her to have a good birthday. All I wanted to do was stay in bed and wait for the day to pass by. My hubby did his best to make it special and support me. I just couldn’t shake the sadness. The sudden grief coming back full force.
My 34th birthday was a little easier. Possibly because the distraction of spending it at our local Renaissance Faire that we go to each year as my birthday gift. It still hit he at times throughout the day. My wonderful husband is amazing and just holds me when those waves hit.
My 35th was a bit easier still, although it made me think of how my mom would never meet the little one that was growing in my belly.
At the end of April last year, I watched as my Daddy took his last breath. In some ways his death was easier since I got to spend his last weeks with him and had a chance to say goodbye. However, it’s never easy to lose someone you love. I still miss him terribly and some days are really difficult. Today is one of those days.
At 36 years old I’m spending my first birthday without my mom or dad. The sadness is overwhelming. I never thought birthdays would be something hard to get through. I have known some that didn’t celebrate their birthdays at all as it was just a reminder of the grief of losses they’d faced, but I couldn’t fathom it. Not until I experienced it myself. I’m thankful to have had another year. I pray I get more years to watch my little ones grow and spend time with my loved ones. But, just for today, I will allow myself to feel this grief and think of the parents I love dearly that I sorely miss and maybe we can celebrate tomorrow.
We are a very blessed people. Our nation’s foundation on freedom has allowed us to prosper materially. The Thanksgiving holiday tends to hold a magnifying glass over these material blessings from God. We are right to attribute these blessings as being from God, however, if we are not careful, these same things can blind us from the reality of God’s design.
Part of this reality: the blessings He gives us come with a requirement. To quote the late Stan Lee, “with great power comes great responsibility.”
Or, even better, Jesus says very plainly that the blessings that God has given us means that He expects a tremendous amount from us.
Luke 12:48 “For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.”
So with this in mind, I want to touch on three of the blessings that God has given us and their respective responsibilities.
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth.
Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them;
They fill our lives with joy and chaos, pride and fear, love and sorrow. As we teach them about the world around them, we are given the opportunity to rediscover it through their eyes. I personally feel that they are the greatest material blessings God has bestowed on me.
The passage above calls our children arrows. As they grow older and we let them loose in the world, they will never hit the target unless we ourselves are facing it and aiming them with purpose. As Christian parents, our responsibility, of course, is to guide them to God.
I will delight myself in Your statutes;
I will not forget Your word.
With divine inspiration and providence, God has provided us with His Word in the form of the Bible. Through it, we know His will, our hope in His sacrifice, and that through it we are saved. Unfortunately, Satan uses the world to drown out the Word in a sea of noise. This blessing gives us the responsibility to rise above the noise and share it with others to the greatest of our ability.
The Ability to Worship
I was glad when they said to me,
“Let us go into the house of the Lord.”
My in-laws spent several years teaching English in China. There they were unable to worship God unless it was at one of the government-sanctioned churches that taught a heavily modified form of Christianity. Instead, they chose to worship and teach the truth in secret despite fear of persecution. Any time they came back to the states, the joy they felt at being able to worship openly was palpable.
What a blessing it is to be able to freely gather together to worship the Lord! Our responsibility is simple, we are to not take for granted our ability to meet with the Saints. (Hebrews 10:24-25) However, do not mistake its simplicity as unimportance. When we come together, we come to encourage, admonish, teach, and correct each other, as well as praise and worship our Living God.
There are so many more blessings that God has bestowed on us. As the song says, “count your many blessings, name them one by one.” But while you’re doing that, don’t forget to take the time to count the responsibilities that come along with them.
Terry, our minister had a fibrous growth removed and was unable to preach for several weeks. The men of the congregation were asked to fill in during his absence. I was fortunate enough to be one of those men. This is the sermon I offered.