What Love Can Do

I referenced the sermon What Love Can Do earlier this week in a post.   Besides being a sermon from CPC Oveido, which is in my podcast feed, the title caught my eye because it reminded me of a book by the same name.

What Love Can Do the book was brought to publication by a great deal of effort by my aunt Gayle Nolan.  She taught college for many years in New Orleans, and the manuscript was brought to her by one of her students.  It had been written by her father, Arthur Miller,  during the 15 minute breaks he had at work at the Cabildo.  Aunt Gayle had a copy of the original manuscript, which was providential — the original hand-written memoir was lost when Hurricane Katrina flooded Arthur Mitchell’s home in the lower ninth ward.  This book is a collection of stories passed down through his family, from capture by slavers in Africa, through years on a plantation in Louisiana, and then after emancipation.

We share our stories — to understand one another and to be understood.  This book is worth reading, to get a glimpse of what love really can do.

 

What Love Can Do

 

Love and Resistance and Carl Rogers

Yesterday I was listening to a sermon from John 15:9-13 titled “What Love Can Do.”  (Pastor Rob Edenfield, Covenant Presbyterian Church Oveido, 13 Nov 2016.)

 

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.

If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.

(John 15:9-14 ESV)

 

Among the many thoughts sparked by the sermon, was was some very discomforting thoughts about loving my family members and laying down my life for them.  It’s not a new thought for me, but laying down my life for my family is wider than dying for another.

Laying down my life is laying down my time, my energy, my physical body, my resistance in the moment. . . to love my family.

I remember in years past being inspired by this idea, embracing it as part of my calling.  “Greater love has no mom than this. . .”

But quite frankly, I don’t like it.  I struggle with it.

My resistance is not because there is something else I would rather be doing.   It is not because I don’t value  pouring myself in to this vocation, where I am, with my family.   In the big picture, I really DO want to nurture and encourage and prioritize them.

But the laying down of my life in the moment-by-moment parts of the day?  It feels like an imposition.  I’m resistant to it.  This attitude comes out in so many situations, and I know my family picks up on it.

When I allow myself to feel those feelings of being imposed upon and the feelings of guilt for those feelings, I stop running away from those feelings.  I can see that part of what feeds into this is my own struggles of feeling like I’m failing.

So where does this lead me?

Going back to the sermon on God’s love. . . He first loved us.  He loves me.  He loves my kids.  He loves my children.

Biblical love is often summarized by referring to I Corinthians 13.  Love is patient, kind, does not envy, does not boast, is not proud. . . and all the things I am not feeling from God towards me nor living out with my family and neighbors.  These words are familiar to me and so unattainable, and so sometimes I tune the familiar out.

When listening to the sermon, and considering God’s love for us, I thought about God’s “unconditional positive regard” towards me.  That is a phrase coined by humanist psychologist Carl Rogers.  While “unconditional positive regard” is not a full-orbed definition of Biblical love, it does capture such a sweet part of God’s love  in that phrase.

In spite of my failures, in spite of my resistance to “lay down my life,” God has shown me His unconditional love, His positive regard.

We love because he first loved us. . . (1 John 4)

Can I rest in that?  Can I let that unconditional positive regard from the Most Holy God be something in which I rest?

He already laid down His life for me.  He’s already shown my boundless love.

Can I let that love flow in to me?  Flow out of me?

I know my kids feel more criticism from me that I even want to admit.  But can I pray that the Holy Spirit fill me with His love, and let unconditional positive regard flow out of me to my children?  Can I lay down my resistance before the Lord and accept His love for my kids is even greater than my love for them?

Reminders to Myself, When Struggling

A friend who homeschools her  kids was sharing her struggles the other day.  I heard in her words such self-condemnation, such self-blame.

When I read it, it reminded me of the downward spiral of thoughts I’ve had at times. . .  “I’m a terrible mother… I’m a terrible wife… I’m a terrible Christian…” These thoughts take hold and have such sway over me, because they are key elements of my calling in life.  Feeling like a failure in areas that are so important to me go swirling in my head.

More often than not, when these feelings take hold in my heart, they have been amplified by hormones.  My post-partum depression felt like PMS on steroids.  Identifying that connection has helped me observe these thoughts and feelings for what they are — thoughts and feelings that are not the full sum of reality.

Do you ever feel that way?  Like the things you value most as a mother are the things you struggle in the most?

Remember, YOU are just the right mother for your children.  God has chosen YOUR children to be nurtured by you.  Regardless of what you are or aren’t doing, YOU are JUST the right mother for your children. THEY are the children God has given to you.

Your strengths and weaknesses are being used by God, in His sovereignty, as they grow in to the people God has created them to be.

I heard my friend share words of frustration — and wanting encouragement to really press in to the effort needed each day.

And I heard her say words  of condemnation — which is not what needs to be taking hold in our hearts.

In the context of struggling to do what we want to do, and the struggle not to sin, Romans 8 reminds me, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1 ESV)

Jesus calls us, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV)

And for me, with all the failures (and good things) through the years, I keep meditating upon the the comfort,

“But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
(Lamentations 3:21-23 ESV)

This is the encouragement I need to hear each day.

Please be gentle on yourself, as you accept God’s gentleness. . .

 

So Many Books

Years ago I remember Pastor Randy saying something along the lines of “buying a book is like buying myself time/permission to read it.”

That is true for me. . . Except sometimes buying the book is symbolic of wanting the permission/promise to read it, and the reality doesn’t always follow.

And, maybe you’ll laugh at this, but I’ve had a crisis of getting older this year. I realized the obvious, but it was a gut-wrenching realization. I don’t have enough time or years left to read what I really want to read, to read all the good books.

I don’t have the same emotional reaction to the infinite info on the internet. People already “curate” content online. I don’t have a problem with more “good” stuff online than I can get to.

But I do struggle with knowing I can’t read all the good books I want to read.

(Thoughts, after reading this book recommendation.)

Book Club

Book Club makes me happy. Hubby teases me by calling it wine club, but really? It’s about women from various walks of life getting together and talking about ideas outside of the day-to-day. 

This month we read “Serpent in Eden,” a true crime story about the murder of Sir Harry Oakes. The appeal? It is set in Nassau in the 40s and gives a great glimpse of the social / historical settin of things I see every day. 

Book club makes me a little bit happier. So does the wine. 

Palm Trees and the Trinity

img_0818

“You know the palm tree in the fairy garden that has three trunks? It’s kind of like the Trinity. It’s one tree, but three.” – A4

***

“Education is the Science of Relations”; that is, that a child has natural relations with a vast number of things and thoughts: so we train him upon physical exercises, nature lore, handicrafts, science and art, and upon many living books, for we know that our business is not to teach him all about anything, but to help him to make valid as many as may be of–

“Those first-born affinities
“That fit our new existence to existing things.”

Charlotte Mason

 

 

 

 

Sugar as a “Shadow Comfort”

My dear friend Anne wrote,

“I’m noting times when I would, before, have eaten in order to help myself. Times of fatigue, stress, Vitaliy being gone, emotional fatiuge or frustration, boredom … and I’m finding other ways to comfort and strengthen and busy myself that don’t involve food. It’s a good thing. When I want to eat for no good reason, I remind myself that I love how my clothes fit and how my body looks, and that’s worth more to me than this temporary, often non-physical craving to eat.”

It prompted me to share a bit about the past year.

I listened to Brene Brown’s “Daring Greatly” via audio book  a few months ago. One of the things she talks about is “shadow comforts.” I thought that was such a good way to consider the things I turn to during stress/anxiety instead of the Lord.

This past year was a challenging one. I was feeding my body/soul the “shadow comforts” of coffee (with lots of milk and sugar!) and wine. My body and hormonal system does not like being fueled by simple sugars. My soul needed more. (And, yes, I was seeking the Lord — but me immediate impulse when stressed was the sugar/coffee)

I feel “weak” to be self-disciplined alone. Last month Hubby and I together made some eating changes and movement changes. (He’s been changing a lot since he went to the Cleveland Clinic in March.)

For me, I had to quit coffee cold turkey — it was too much of a draw. Hubby and I go out for a coffee date after church (a celebration of the Sabbath!) That was good for the first month.

This past week I was trying to see if I can moderate with my coffee consumption — just cafe au lait or a latte, no sugar. Honestly, I think I still need to abstain. (Check out  Gretchen Rubin on habits and abstaining.)  I’ve made several poor choices (with regard to stress/sugar) this week, and I think I need to just keep my mind away from that.

I’ve had more thoughts about the “shadow comforts” and the Lord. . .  During some of these ponderings we sung “Abide with Me” in church.

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.
I need Thy presence every passing hour.
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

I wish Anne was here or I was in Ukraine have coffee (no sugar!) and chat.

Key to Less Stress?

Friends, it’s a new personal record. Fourth time in a year to lock my keys in the car. This time, it’s still running. With a full tank. 
Ironically, earlier today I was thinking about how long it has been since I did that, and it must be related to my lower stress and anxiety. 

Ha.

(Thankfully, we can easily get a duplicate here, unlike Ukraine. Unfortunately, one of my sons had made key-breaking skillz, so my duplicate doesn’t work and I have to call roadside assist. Again. The guy knows me well.)

Meditation on Christ’s Bounties Towards Us (Calvin)

“Every good thing we could think or desire is to be found
in this same Jesus Christ alone.

For, he was sold, to buy us back;
captive, to deliver us;
condemned, to absolve us;

he was made a curse for our blessing,
sin offering for our righteousness;
marred that we may be made fair;

he died for our life;

so that by him
fury is made gentle,
wrath appeased,
darkness turned into light,
fear reassured,
despisal despised,

debt canceled,
labor lightened,
sadness made merry,
misfortune made fortunate,
difficulty easy,
disorder ordered,

division united,
ignominy ennobled,
rebellion subjected,
intimidation intimidated,

ambush uncovered,
assaults assailed,
force forced back,
combat combated,
war warred against,

vengeance avenged,
torment tormented,
damnation damned,
the abyss sunk into the abyss,
hell transfixed,
death dead,
mortality made immortal.

In short,
mercy has swallowed up all misery,
and goodness all misfortune.

 

I read this today and it draws me to prayer, meditation, and rejoicing in Christ’s bounties towards us.  Have a peaceful sabbath of worship and rest.

 

 

(HT: Matthew Sims, Justin Taylor)

Nature Study: Seussical Fruit

 


So much of the flora here reminds me of a Dr. Seuss book. I’ll update once we figure out what this is!

ETA: Thanks to a friend who used to live in Thailand, I’m pretty sure this is part of the Screw Pine / Screw Palm family — most likely Pandanus utilis.

Eat the Weeds is a cool site, which I’ve referenced frequently since moving here.  Like in Ukraine, people in Bahamas forage quite a bit.  The other day dropping off a friend at the airport, I saw a woman picking a couple of coco plums in the parking lot and popping them in her mouth on her walk to her car.