I love to bake with my children. It’s fun to just hang out and make something together. One of their favorite things to make is cookies – of course! I remember when they were very young, and the batter was too hard for them to stir on their own, they would grab the spoon with me and we would do it together. The sheer joy of working together, and their feeling of accomplishment as our joint efforts made the ingredients mix, was priceless. Often that time together led to precious conversations, as the boys would tell their thoughts to me and ask questions about things they didn’t understand.
I want to look at life as one long session in the kitchen with God, making cookies together. Prayer is us enjoying the time together and sharing our thoughts about small things and big things. Our hands are on the big spoon together because much that life brings my way is just too hard for me to handle alone. We stir everything together, delighting in working together, delighting in taking nibbles of the dough, delighting in the thought of what our efforts will yield – and NEVER ONCE worrying about how much flour is on my apron, the counter and the floor, or how many dirty dishes we’re making. The mess is part of the journey.
I read a Chinese proverb recently that said you can’t have a beautiful life without making some beautiful mistakes along the way. I’m so thankful that God’s love for me doesn’t waver because of my mistakes – beautiful or otherwise. I’m so thankful that He will bring beauty from the ashes of my life. I wouldn’t want to handle life’s ingredients alone. I would never consider eating flour, raw eggs, baking soda, a cup of oil or even a cup of sugar alone. Yuck! Yet, mix them all together and Yummy!
Lord, help me to commit every ingredient of my life into your abundantly able hands and then willingly hold the spoon with you, fully trusting that you will make something amazing – something delicious – from it all. Thank you that you promise it will be “immeasurably more than all [I] ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20), that “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived” what you have prepared for me, because I love you (1 Corinthians 2:9).
My apron is on! My heart is willing! Let’s get baking! And may all the glory for anything of worth in my life go to you, sweet Jesus!
Nobody really knows a family unless you live in it. But it can be easy to decide what it’s like from outward appearances. I remember a teenager, who used to live in an apartment above us, once telling me with satisfaction, “I can hear you when you yell at your children.” My reply? “Well, it’s too bad you can’t hear me later when I get down on my knees, look them in the eye, and apologize.”
I no longer have to kneel to look my children in the eye. In fact, two of them are taller than I am. But apologies are still often needed—by every one of us. No one lives above us now, but with one of the community walkways running right outside of our open windows, I know our conflicts are still heard. Today was one of those times when my hubby was sure the whole campus could hear the heated conversation between two of our sons. Sadly, the classic forgiveness scene that followed could not have been heard.
One brother to another: “Hey, I’m really sorry I threatened to punch you earlier.”
Other brother: “It’s okay. I would have done the same thing.”
Together: Laughter—followed by a peaceful, humorous game of Uno
That’s us—five imperfect people living together, trying to learn the Master’s plan for loving each other.
For better . . .
For worse . . .
Forever . . .
We’re a family.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a.
A few months ago, I took my thirteen-year-old shoe shopping. We came home with size twelve shoes. I marveled at how big his feet had become. At some point, he dug a hole in one sneaker from climbing stone walls. This has happened repeatedly over the years. The holes are always in the same spot—where his right big toe is positioned. He didn’t bother to tell me about the hole. I don’t know if he thought he would be banned from climbing, or if he didn’t want to bother me, or—the most likely case—that he didn’t want to go shoe shopping again.
I discovered the hole when we were attending a family reunion. Just what I want—over 200 of my relatives thinking I don’t provide decent shoes for my children. I asked why he wore that pair of shoes, when he had another pair of sneakers (without holes) and a pair of sandals he could have worn. He said these were the most comfortable. The others felt a bit tight. No wonder! When I took him to get shoes yesterday, I learned that his feet went up a whole size in those few months. Yes, my thirteen-year-old now wears a size thirteen shoe! I hope his shoe size doesn’t continue to keep pace with his age!
We had a similar situation a couple of years ago. We were at a library outing then. I looked down and saw that this same son had a large hole in his shoe. Being the very industrious guy that he is, he had duct-taped his shoe together. I was mortified. He thought it was really cool—in a Red Green sort of way. Needless to say, our library trip was followed by a visit to the shoe store.
I reminded my son to tell me when his feet grow again. I don’t need to see dangling toes to get the message that he has a need. As often happens when I am addressing an issue with my children, God whispers in my ear that I need to learn the same thing. No, I don’t wear holey shoes—and my shoe size is not likely to change. But I wonder how many times I have a need or a worry that I don’t bother to mention to God before I try everything I can on my own to solve the problem. Am I trying to duct-tape my problems together? Am I doing that because I don’t want to bother God with my seemingly little issues? If so, why? After all, He asks us to “cast all our cares upon Him.” (1 Peter 5:7) Or is it that I don’t want to do whatever the Lord may ask of me? Am I too proud to admit my actions may have caused the problem—and I may need to make some changes? Am I like a teenager who dreads shoe shopping—not wanting to invest the time and effort in real, lasting solutions?
Well, I would write more about this, but I think I have some praying to do.
“When I was a child, I talked like a child; I thought like a child; I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me” 1 Corinthians 13:11.
“Is it okay if I show this to your children?” My mother was holding my seventh grade report card out to me. I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to see it. I don’t remember much about seventh grade. I don’t have any memory of my homeroom teacher, listed as being Mrs. Bender. As I took the card, I keenly remembered that sinking-stomach feeling associated with receiving grades. I was clueless of what was inside. I was pleased to see that the grades were good. And I had to chuckle at the teacher comments. They ranged from “Excellent work!” to “Nice job, cutie!” to “Learn to keep quiet in class.” We all had a good laugh over that one! I was twelve then. Thirty-two years later and God is still teaching me when to open my mouth and when to keep it shut.
Next my mother handed an “autograph book” to me, one I had that same school year. Along with blank pages for collecting signatures, there were pages on which I was to fill in my favorite things, etc. Reading my response to one question literally made me cry. Even then, as a twelve-year-old, I was already critical of myself—“I want to lose weight and grow taller.” I wasn’t even overweight at that age! What I really wanted was to look like my sister. Was there ever a time when I was accepting of myself? If there was, I don’t remember it. Some things never change.
Or do they?
During that same visit home, I was able to get together with a friend I have not seen in 26 years. We went to school together from Kindergarten to graduation, but then lost track of each other. Only recently did we reconnect on Facebook. We had a wonderful time of catching up. The three hours flew by so quickly. I think we could have met for three days and still not been completely caught up. As I was thanking God that night for that time with my friend, I realized just how special our meeting had been. I don’t think anyone would have looked at us in high school and thought that 26 years later we would be sitting down together at a restaurant talking about how much we love Jesus—and how much He loves us. Indeed, things are changing. God has been changing our hearts in some pretty amazing ways over these years. And thankfully, He will keep working as long as we live.
And you know what? I can’t say that I wouldn’t love to wake up tomorrow morning and be a lot lighter and a few inches taller (something I used to pray for as a child)—but today I know that my looks do not define me. I am defined by being the daughter of the King of Kings. I am Princess Penny, beloved of God, accepted as I am—even as He continues to mold me into the woman He wants me to be. God’s Word tells me that “The King is enthralled by [my] beauty” Psalm 45:11. That’s something I never could have imagined as a seventh grader!
I’m thankful that some things never change. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” Hebrews 13:8. And His love never fails! At the end of this life, my report card will not contain any grades. And there will be only one comment inside, “Covered by the blood of Jesus. Completely forgiven. Accepted by God.” Now that’s a report card worth sharing!
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” 2 Corinthians 5:17.
One hair. That’s what I found draped across my night stand. It’s so thin. I’m amazed that it caught my attention. I picked it up and pulled it between my fingers, amazed at how long it was, remembering what we learned in science class about how strong human hair is. I’m not sure why it fascinated me so much, but I sat and looked at it, and pulled it repeatedly through my fingers. It was just one hair. I wondered how many hairs make up this mop on my head. And then the beautiful truth came flooding through to me–God knows exactly how many hairs I have. And He is so personally involved in my life–so in tune to every detail of my life–that when this hair fell from my head onto my night stand, He took note and changed His tally of Penny’s hair. Yes, He keeps such a tally. God’s Word tells us that “the very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Luke 12:7). The next words of the verse are, “Don’t be afraid.” Indeed, what is there to fear? If the all-powerful God is so keenly aware of such a mundane detail of my existence, why would I ever doubt that He is watching over the more important details? How amazing to consider that He loves me so deeply. Thank you, God, for your tender loving care toward me.