Doubting Thomas

I’ve been thinking about Doubting Thomas lately. Thomas, the infamous disciple, who couldn’t believe that Christ had risen from the dead until he saw and touched the scars in the palms of His savior’s hands, leads me to consider how I sometimes struggle to believe, to have faith.

It seems sort of silly now, but I recently thought that I might be pregnant. This wasn’t something that my husband and I were expecting, so the symptoms I seemed to be feeling came as a bit of a shock.

I love the children I’ve already been blessed with, and I can’t wait for the day when I can have more. This being the case, it didn’t take long for what started as a slight possibility to turn into a deep seeded hope and desire in my heart.

As soon as it seemed reasonable to do so, I took an at home pregnancy test. When I saw that the test was negative my heart sank. “It’s probably still too early,” I assured myself and determined to try again in a day or two.

Six pregnancy tests and about ten days later, my hope was all but lost as each and every test I took continued to turn out negative.

In my heart, in my mind, in my body I felt sure that I was pregnant, but with each negative pregnancy test I became more and more confused, and I didn’t know what to think. Was it still too soon to tell? Was my body playing tricks on me?

Discouraged, afraid, and full of doubt, I curled up with God and poured out my heart on the pages of my prayer journal. As I wrote out on paper all the movements and feelings of my heart, I realized that the real struggle I was facing was a struggle of faith.

A few weeks ago, one of the pastors at my church said something I’ve never heard before. He said that fear is counterfeit vision. Similarly, I think that doubt is counterfeit faith.

When the pregnancy tests I was taking kept turning out negative, I started to put my faith in these tests. The God of the universe, in this moment, in all moments, was and is with me, around me, inside me, and yet I was choosing to put my faith, in what I could see.

Perhaps it was the same with Thomas. While I’m sure his heart wanted to believe so badly that Christ was indeed alive, he placed his faith in the death he had witnessed just three days ago, in logic, in the laws of nature, in everything that seemed to be true.

Sometimes, it’s so easy to believe in what we see. Believing what we see makes sense, and we humans like to put our trust in that which makes sense. However, Hebrews 11:1 reminds us that faith is about believing in what we do not see.

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1

After sharing my heart with God, and turning my hopes, my doubts, and my fears over to Him, to His will, to His plans, I shifted my faith from that which I could see, from that which scared me, from that which caused me to doubt, to God and His promises. Just like Doubting Thomas, I looked to my Savior and placed my faith in the palm of His hands.

In the end, it eventually became evident that I was not pregnant, and although I was disappointed, my faith in God has given me peace and a reason to hope for the future, to hope for what is unseen. I am blessed with a heart that is not afraid because my faith is found in the heart of my Savior.

No matter what appears to be true in your life today, no matter what you see that may be scary, discouraging, or the cause of doubt, don’t be a Doubting Thomas. As the story of Thomas reminds us, our faith is in a risen Savior. Though our lives may not always make sense, though we may not always be able to see, our hearts need not be troubled. Christ is the source of our faith; Christ is our reason for hope.

The Difference a Daddy Makes (Part 2)

Last week I wrote about my family’s recent struggle with my husband being away from home and the difference a daddy makes in the lives of my girls.

As a result of this struggle, I’ve been thinking and praying about what I’m to do, as a mommy, to stand in the gap while my husband is away. How do I handle the tough mommy moments in a way that will leave both my heart and the hearts of my girls intact?

Because, so often, in the heat of the moment, I feel like I’m doing just the opposite. I lose my patience, my perspective. I lose my determination to show my girls grace. I yell and accuse, and before I know it, I’m failing to win not just the battle of the moment, but the battle for their hearts.

The good news is, as always, God is faithful, and there are three things He is teaching me as a result of this recent struggle.

No. 1: Cover the Day in Prayer

I admit that I tend to struggle with covering my days in prayer. I know that ideally, it is important and helpful to start each day in prayer, especially when I know that my day is likely to be challenging. Despite this knowledge, I am all too often guilty of plowing right into my day.

As the day wears on, stress mounts and tension chips away at my resolve, until I find myself calling to God in surrender (Lord, I can’t do this alone!), or pleading for His help (Please give me patience!).

I am learning that when I stop and take the time to invite Him into my day, or into the heat of the moment, the day or the moment may not become any less challenging, but I, myself, am stronger, wiser, and better equipped to take it on. For me, prayer makes way for peace in my heart, which more times than not, leads to peace in my home.

No. 2: Seek Wisdom

Whenever I find myself struggling with my daughter, I always feel tempted to believe that I am alone. That I am assuredly the only mom, in the history of motherhood, that has managed to screw up this badly. If I allow it, this way of thinking can keep me from missing the blessing of fellowship with other mothers who can offer help and wisdom.

Seeking the wisdom of other moms, forces me to realize that I am far from alone, and that, quite the opposite, I am surrounded by loving and Godly mothers who have been where I am now, and who are willing to help me as I go through times of trial and testing.

I am blessed to be surrounded by an arsenal of wisdom. In my mom, in my sister, and in friends tried and true, I have a wealth of parenting knowledge ready and waiting to help and encourage me in times of trouble. I am learning that when I choose to go to these women and tap into their wisdom, my ability to parent my children in a loving and Godly way increases exponentially.

No. 3: Avoid Getting Caught in the Trap of Perfection

All mothers, at one time or another, feel the pressure of being a perfect mom. Likewise, all mothers, at one time or another, fail miserably at this unrealistic expectation.

As my friend, Amanda and I like to remind each other, our children don’t need us to be perfect, what they do need is for us to be their mommies. They need us to speak to their hearts. They need us to nurture their spirits. They need us to show them Christ.

When I blow it with Aletheia, it is not so much about the fact that I made a mistake, that I let my anger, impatience, or frustration get the best of me. What matters most is how I handle the aftermath, how I make things right with her and with God.

While these moments are never easy and it’s tempting to focus on all that she’s doing wrong, it is vitally important that, as her mommy, I take these opportunities to not just discipline her, but also to show her that I need to be humbled too. To show her what humility, forgiveness, and grace are all about.

As I shared last week, the recent struggle my family has gone through has taught each of us about the difference a daddy makes. This week, God is teaching me, to understand and take to heart, three important differences that help to make a mommy.

The Difference a Daddy Makes

A couple weeks ago my husband, Chris, had to be out of town for business, leaving me and my girls to fend for ourselves for a few days.

Chris doesn’t have to away from home very often, but when he is, my girls and I try to make the most of it. I like to think that we have our fun together, watching movies, getting pizza, and snuggling together at bedtime.

No matter how much fun we have on our own, we always miss him and there comes a time when his absence starts to wear, in one way or another, on each of us. I miss my helper, my partner, and my grown-up interaction. My girls miss their daddy, their source of rough and tumble, and their soft and steady strength.

This time in particular, my four year old, Aletheia, seemed to struggle the most. By day four, she was not herself. As I stared at her exasperated, weary and tired over her impish behavior, I realized this wasn’t about her being defiant or out-of-line. This was about her missing her daddy.

“I just miss my daddy,” she said throughout the day. I did my best to assure her that daddy would be home soon, tomorrow in fact, and that we just needed to hold on a little bit longer. I know at four, it’s hard for her to understand, and I tried my best to give her grace.

Chris did return the following afternoon, and the joy that filled my little girl’s face at the first sight of her daddy spoke volumes to what her heart had been feeling all along: that there is nothing like the love of a daddy.

After a few hours horsing around with her daddy, my girl was back to normal. In the days that followed, I felt like I had gotten my little girl back. Her sweet and loving spirit had returned, and the defiant and grouchy scourge she had been, just days before, was tempered into an occasional outburst rather than a constant creature.

All in all this experience served me with an important reminder of the difference a daddy makes.

With this in mind there is something I would like to say to all the daddies out there:

If, as a daddy, you are ever tempted to think that the role you play in your family is all about making a living, providing, fixing this, or mowing that, please, please remember that to the hearts of your household you are So. Much. More.

A father, or a daddy, is designed by God, to show, model, and display to his children what the love of the the Father is like. You are your children’s first and best example of what a relationship with the heavenly Father is all about.

Your presence in the lives of your children is desperately needed and it desperately matters. Yes, you may earn an income, yes you may provide, yes you may be in charge of a million little things, with a million people depending on you, but no job, or task, or living, is more noble or important as the task of modeling Christ to the very hearts and souls of your children.

As I write this I know that there are those who have either grown into adulthood without a loving father’s presence in their life, or those who are currently seeking to raise a child or children of their own, alone, with daddy removed or nowhere to be found.

Please know that though our situations are not the same, I have the utmost respect for you and your courage, your strength. I can’t change, fix, or take away the hurt that I know you live with everyday, but perhaps I can offer you hope and a reminder of that which is true.

Our heavenly Father is a Father to the fatherless. He longs to be the father you never had. He longs to be the father your children may never know.

As my family has recently learned, our earthly fathers make a huge difference in the lives of those who love and depend on them, but how much more of a difference does our heavenly Father make for all of us, the fathered and the fatherless?

When we love Him, when we depend on Him, He is the difference that fills our lives with love, that makes each of us want to run to His arms and know, in the depths of our hearts, that there is nothing like the love of THE Father.

Growing Pains

My daughter Aletheia is on the brink of turning four, and for several weeks now, I have been hounding her, trying to convince her to remain three.

“Aletheia,” I’ll say, “Why don’t you just stay three for one more year? Do you think you could do that for mommy?”

As a mom, it’s hard for me to watch her grow so fast. Wasn’t it just yesterday that she turned three? I turn around, blink my eyes, and there she goes, sprouting into four.

I had no idea that my finagling was getting through to her until a couple days ago. As I helped her get ready for bed she said to me, “Mommy, I’m not going to turn four, I’m going to stay three.”

At first I was thrilled. Wow! I thought, if only it were really that easy. But then my thoughts turned to her. “Aletheia,” I asked. “Would you really be willing to give up your birthday and stay three for one more year?”

“Yes, mommy, I would do that,” she softly replied.

“Do you want to stay three, because that’s what you want or are you just doing that for mommy?”

“I’m just doing that for you, mommy,” she said. “I want to have my birthday. I want to turn four.”

In that moment, my selfishness hit me square in the face. I was humbled and convicted.

There was my daughter, so innocent, so kind, ready and willing to freely give up her birthday. The presents, the cake, the chance to turn four, everything, all for me. And what was I willing to give? Instead of giving to her, what was rightfully hers, I held on tight and grasped at comfort, security, and everything that I thought would make me happy, all at her expense.

What is motherhood, if it is not a continual and ongoing act of letting go?

In Aletheia’s pre-school class, we’re learning about Hannah and Samuel. It’s been a while since I’ve visited this passage of scripture and as I taught this story to Aletheia, I was struck by Hannah’s willingness to let Samuel go.

After praying, and asking, and seeking God for a son, Hannah let that dearly loved son go, to serve Eli and God. Am I, in any way, willing to do the same? God may not expect me to send my children to work in a temple or serve an old man, but he does expect me to let them go. He does expect me send them back to His loving hands. The hands from which they came.

With my selfish heart, raw and throbbing, I looked into the eyes of my sweet, sweet, girl. “Aletheia,” I said. “As your mommy, it is my job, to make sure that you grow. Each and every year, it is my job and my privilege to do everything I can to make sure you grow into the special person that God wants you to be. Thank you for being willing to love me so much that you would give up your birthday for me, but because I love you, I can’t let you do that. I want you to have your birthday. I want you to turn four.”

Aletheia smiled and we hugged as my selfish grip loosened its hold. As freedom and grace covered us both.

Several months ago, I asked Aletheia what she wanted to be when she grew up. Her answer was pure and simple. “I just want to be Aletheia,” she said. I can’t imagine anything more perfect.

Isn’t that the desire of every mother’s heart? To see our precious ones grow into themselves? To grow into everything God intends for them to be?

I have a feeling that Hannah wanted this too, and in her wisdom she knew that the only way for that to happen was for her to let go. To let go of her own hold, though it be fraught with human love, and give her son into the perfect love of God.

I’m learning to do this too. My attempts are flawed. I can barely handle a birthday let alone sending my child to a foreign temple to work with a foreign man. But as I learn to loosen my selfish grip on her, I know that I am falling safer, tighter, and more secure into His loving grip on me.