Thoughts on Relationships, A Mess Worth Making, by Tim Lane & Paul Tripp
This is the first time (and truly the first opportunity) I’ve had to write since we left home for our Thanksgiving week in Chattanooga and our extended vacation/family time in Florida during December.
I realized when we tried to get out the door the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, it was going to take a mountain of faith and hard work. I really had no idea how difficult it was going to be; there was always “one more thing” to get done. I never did finish everything I needed to, and so have had to bring a portable file box filled with paperwork and bills, etc. that needed to get done over the next few weeks.
Only six hours late :o), we left in our Toyota minivan, ready to tackle the highways en route to Chattanooga, where we would join Megan and Brendan and his family, the Hawks. Ben and Bethany would also be driving up from Mississippi. After deciding to stop that night at a hotel for a few hours of sleep (I needed the sleep; the kids slept most of the time I was driving!), we pressed on Wednesday and arrived just before lunch.
Brendan’s mom, Julie, was so gracious in welcoming us, and Megan’s landlord, Mr. & Mrs. Collins, who live just five minutes from Brendan’s family, had left for out of town the morning before and generously invited us to stay in their home while we were in town.
I cannot describe how exhausted I was after weeks of meetings and paperwork, of tears shed over memories revisited, of late night talks with children who individually are processing through the loss of their dad in different ways. I still feel like I could go to bed and not get up for 24 hours. God is kind, however, to give the “manna” I need each day.
My time with the children and Brendan and his family was a precious gift–everywhere by sounds of laughter and conversation, of kids playing, of braving the “Black Friday” shopping crowds with my children, walking around the old historic district of downtown Chattanooga, or of just hanging out and watching a movie together–reminders that God gives grace, and little by little, life is going to return to a sense of normal, even if it is a new normal.
Our trip continued on to Mississippi where we visited Ben and Bethany in their little home for a couple of days and then on to Atlanta, where we spent a night with dear friends from our old church days, the Garretts. We’ve never stayed in a tall, skyscraper of a hotel in a downtown city, so the newness both our families shared together–all the boys in one room and all the girls in another, with Traci and I and a couple of hers in another room–made for fun, lasting memories. Swimming in a huge indoor pool in December and eating piles of pizza were topped only by the joy of just hanging out with each other and catching up from being apart many months.
After dropping Jesse off at the Atlanta airport the next day to fly home so he could do schoolwork, earn some extra money working and be involved with the youth group band (he’s an incredible drummer) while staying with two dear families in our care group, the four youngest kids and I drove on to St. Augustine for four days in a beach cottage.
This being something else we’ve never done, I anticipated our time to be filled with enthusiasm for being together, seeing the historical sights and spending time on the beach. Well, we did see the St. Augustine Lighthouse and the Castillo de San Marcos (the oldest masonry fort in the oldest city in the US), but we mostly had rain, rain outside and a fair amount of rain in our hearts.
Experiencing loneliness on a much deeper level, I was keenly missing Chris, missing sharing these memories with him as well as him sharing his love and knowledge of history with us here in this very historical city. As well, some of the children seemed to be under a dark cloud the entire trip, which dampened my spirit more than the rain ever could. By Saturday night, I prayed out loud with the children and confessed to the Lord how frustrasted I was with our lack of “togetherness” at times, how inadequate I am to lead our family spiritually in Chris’ absence, and “complained” to the Lord how tired I was of all the kids’ complaining!
I realized, after getting a really big hug from Charity after I finished praying, that it’s going to take much longer than I realized to get back into some kind of routine as a family. To have some of your children express disapproval at “everything we’ve done on this trip” is discouraging indeed, but I must remember that parenting isn’t for cowards!
As I seek God for His help in leading our family, I’m praying too, that not only would I be transparent with my children both as I share my heart and my struggles, but also have God’s wisdom as I address the issues of the heart, taking care to not take the negative comments too personally.
I find that Tim Lane and Paul Tripp’s book, Relationships, A Mess Worth Making both challenging and highly instructional for me, a mother who tends to get easily discouraged by negative, complaining words. So what does God give me extra doses of? Negative, complaining words!
Meant, I believe, not to discourage me further but inspire me to see an opportunity to share biblical truth with my children, I am challenged to remember, it is not my responsibility to see that my words, my instruction, or even my example affect my children’s hearts and change them.
True, God uses the truth of the gospel to change our hearts, but it is His responsbility to change their hearts, not mine. This is where I can rest, and where I seem to have difficulty doing, ask the Lord to help me believe more firmly and deeply.
That’s where I am right now. I want our trip to be a wonderful time of sharing new memories and special time with friends and extended family soon, but I’m asking the Lord even more right now to help me to want His gospel work in our hearts to flourish these next few weeks, by His grace, and for His glory.
If the Lord so leads you, please pray for us–that God would aid our communication with each other by:
–helping us to be committed to each other’s good even as we discuss issues we may not agree on
–giving us grace to be honest yet gracious with each other as we speak
–granting each of us humility as we speak and as we listen
–allowing the truth of the gospel to freely penetrate our hearts and change us in how and why we communicate as we do with each other
–enabling us to be quick to listen and to forgive, and slow to speak and slow to anger
–giving me the courage to lead spiritually, trusting God to lead me and do the work in our hearts that only He can do
–helping me listen to my children’s hearts and not feel threatened by what they say
–helping my children be able to listen to my heart and know that I love them and my heavenly Father
–glorifying Himself in our communication, and that we would come away from our discussions with a greater sense of His goodness and love.
Thank you for praying for us!!!
God is good…all the time,