When the Past Collides with the Present and Little Hearts are Broken

 

I was at my wits end. Throughout the day I had told my child to do one thing or another, and over and over again she flat—out—refused! Now, my daughter is typically described (by teachers and babysitters) as a well-behaved, well mannered, obedient child. And normally I would agree. Disrespect, lying, and especially disobedience are not tolerated in this household. Having an only child and not being able to have more, it’s sometimes difficult to be consistent with discipline, but overall my husband and I agree about most things in that area and stick with our bottom lines.

And now I had come to that moment of extreme frustration. Baffled by my child’s blatant disobedience I knew she needed a punishment that would get her attention to the seriousness of the situation. “There will be NO Easter basket tomorrow,” I told her, “And NO restaurant.” The only thing Samantha had wanted for Easter was to visit her favorite restaurant and of course, get an Easter basket like nearly every other young child on the planet. But it wasn’t happening this year. With only hours to go until Easter, I phoned my husband, who was still working out of town, and relayed the message. He was disappointed because, like me, he enjoys giving things to our daughter. But he agreed with me (and despite our “faith” differences, one thing we agreed on from the beginning was to raise a calm, well-behaved, obedient, and respectful child because they are quite hard to find these days).

In an instant, as the sentence was laid down, my little girl’s heart broke. She cried for several hours repeatedly recounting her sorrow for her disobedience. With her sorrow came the request, “Can I get an Easter basket now? And go to the restaurant tomorrow?” And each time my reply was, “No.” And I would be met with a fresh wave of tears.

In that moment, holding my daughter’s sobbing body in my arms, I knew it was time. It was time to tell her what Mommy had done so very long ago. It was time to tell her, though she was still young, how serious sin is and why sometimes the consequences of our choices are not removed.

“You know, Samantha, when I was young I made a very bad choice. I not only disobeyed my parents, but even worse, I disobeyed God. My sin was very serious.”

“What did you do, Mommy?” Her eyes were wide with curiosity. She was realizing her Mommy wasn’t perfect after all.

“Well, I can’t tell you what I did just yet. It was very bad. Maybe when you’re older I will tell you exactly what happened. But for now, all you need to know is that I disobeyed God’s commands as well as the instruction of my parents. I wanted my own way, but what I got instead was a very serious consequence.”

(And, after a few moments of explaining what a “consequence” was, our conversation continued.)

“So, after your Mommy sinned, I received a bad consequence for my choice. I became sick with a disease, something that will never go away.”

Samantha began to cry again, “Are you going to die?!”

“No, no, no. I’m not that sick. It’s just something that will stay with me for the rest of my life, and it causes me a great deal of pain at times. Even though I told God how sorry I was, and even though I asked Him to take away the sickness, He chose not to remove it. Now the sickness reminds me of how important it is to follow God’s word and how God gives me ‘rules’ in order to protect me. ‘Rules’ like obeying my parents even when I don’t like what they’re telling me to do.”

“Ohhh…” She nodded in understanding.

“So, tomorrow, you will not get an Easter basket and we will not go to the restaurant. I know you’re sorry and God knows you’re sorry. I forgive you and God has forgiven you. But that doesn’t take away the consequence of your choice to disobey. Sometimes God doesn’t take away the consequences. And you know what? If I didn’t discipline you for your disobedience, then I would be disobeying God’s instructions. And I will not do that. So, unfortunately, we will not be doing the things you want to do tomorrow.”

We proceeded to discuss examples of people in the Bible who sinned, and whose consequence was not taken away (Adam and Eve, Lot’s wife…etc.). But we didn’t stop there, we also discussed the concept of mercy, and how when Jesus died for us, He showed us mercy in not giving us what we deserved. So now, because we believe in Him, we get to live with Him forever, even though we don’t deserve it. Sometimes we get mercy, and sometimes we need to experience the consequences of our choices to help us remember to listen to God.

We also talked about how our sin not only affects us, but others as well. Her daddy and I were both disappointed that we couldn’t give her the things we wanted. Not only does sin hurt us, it hurts others.

It was a great opportunity not only for Samantha, but for me as her parent. I admit, I was struggling with the idea of not getting her something for Easter, because I knew she would likely be met with a class full of children in Sunday School excitedly talking about all the neat things they received. I didn’t want her to feel left out. But I knew this life lesson was far more important than a few pieces of candy and some plastic eggs.

And you know what? Easter came, and she and I went to church with joy. In Sunday School she received a pencil and a single plastic egg filled with candy. She was so ecstatic at this gift! She practically skipped to the car as we left the church exclaiming, “God showed me mercy and I got something for Easter!”

As a Jesus-loving parent, I cannot tell you how much those words warmed my heart. It wasn’t easy to stick to my guns, as a parent, and enforce this punishment. After all, Easter only comes once a year. But in the end, God was faithful as I was faithful to obey Him (in disciplining my child and actually enforcing it). We both learned that obeying God is better. For her, she realized that the consequence is so not worth the temporary choice to have her own way (and now she’d have to wait another whole year to receive an Easter basket!). And for me, I learned that good discipline goes beyond making sure my child “fits in” or gets what all the other kids are getting. What’s more important than her measuring up to other kids is that she knows Jesus, loves Him, worships Him, and obeys Him even when it goes against what everyone else is doing. These are the life-lessons that will benefit her for an eternity, and that she will remember for years to come. Compared to a candy-filled plastic egg, that’s a pretty nice reward, wouldn’t you say?

I hope you all had a blessed Easter (Resurrection Sunday). In the Aarup household, it was the best we have ever shared together.

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profilepic3Rebecca Aarup is a redeemed prodigal, set free from over a decade of mental illness, eating disorders, addiction, and more. She now enjoys sharing her story of freedom and transformation with a lost and hurting world, as well as teaching about spiritual warfare and the importance of understanding our identity in Christ.

Rebecca is also an author and freelance writer, having written devotionals and teaching articles for a variety of publications including The Secret Place (Judson press), Evangel (Light and Life Communications), and Mustard Seed Ministries. Beyond writing, Rebecca is a wife, home-schooling mom, and Bible student at Liberty University. She lives in Glendale, Az with her husband Chris and daughter, Samantha.  You can read more from Rebecca by following her on twitter and facebook.

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So, what is YOUR word?

psalm143“What will you do?”

As I’ve heard sermons, read books, and sat through lectures throughout the year, I’ve heard the voice of the Spirit resounding loud and clear, “So, what will you do about it?” God has strategically batted that ball back to my side of the net over and over—spurning me to embrace an active faith, and it makes me uncomfortable. But then I remember a prayer I uttered, albeit not well-thought through at the time, for God to make me uncomfortable. Really, that prayer should be right at the top of the list of “things you don’t ask God”, right behind praying for patience or a spirit of forgiveness. Well, I’ve learned my lesson—God answers prayers for sure, especially the character building ones.

At the start of 2012 a friend of mine posted a blog about a challenge (read it here: MY One Word), a challenge to ask God about what “word” to focus on for the following year. That sounded neat, so I gave it a go. I cheerfully got on my knees and asked God what my special word for the coming 2012 year would be, I anxiously listened, hoping to hear prosperity, success, purpose, or anything along those lines. Instead, after a few moments of silence, I heard “perseverance”.

“Um, Lord, really? I mean…really?” Some of my friends were getting words like “go” and “action” and I got perseverance? I didn’t like it; I wanted to take back the prayer. What was God thinking, anyways? I had always been somewhat known for starting things and losing interest over time, eventually abandoning the project or idea. But looking back on 2012, I can see how God used the trials of one of the most difficult years I have faced to break my pride, provide me with ultimate spiritual freedom, as well as teaching me self-discipline and yes, perseverance.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t happy to start a new year, because even though it’s just another day on the calendar, somehow turning the page and writing a new number (2013) just feels like a fresh start. I’m looking towards 2013 with great expectation—expectation in God’s revealed will (HIS Word) and not my own clever ideas. I still haven’t prayed about the new word for next year, but I’m not as scared about it as I was last year. Looking back I know that no matter what, God knows what He is doing and I can really, in fact, trust Him in all things, even the hard, painful, and uncomfortable things. That no matter what the situation, His character is constant, even if I’m not feeling like it is.

His character is constant, yes, perhaps the biggest lesson I learned this year. My character? Not so much. Which is why the prayer, “Lord, change me” has been cried out more times than I can accurately recall.

So, mingled in with words like illness, death, betrayal, loneliness, slander, hatred, consequences, loss, depression, despair, relapse, and uncertainty have been the words of truth—healing, restoration, freedom, hope, peace, purpose, fulfillment, grace, mercy, understanding, and love. All of the awfulness has actually taught me how to be an optimist of sorts. An optimist in God, not in myself. An optimist in His character, not in my ability.

I’ve asked, He has answered, and none of His responses were as expected. Through all of this I am learning that maybe, just maybe, He really does know better than I do.

“Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.” Palm 143:10

What theme has God brought to your year? What “lesson” have you learned through trials or blessings? Post your comment here or join the discussion on facebook.

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profilepic3Rebecca Aarup is an author and freelance writer. She is also a health columnist for The Christian Online Magazine, a contributing writer for Encourage 365, creater of S.E.R.V.A.N.T. Sisters women’s ministry (online), and has written devotionals/studies/articles for a variety of publications. She just released a new Bible Study The Word: Six Lessons from Psalm 119 which is available as a free download on her website or in print form from Amazon. Beyond writing, Rebecca is a wife, home-schooling mom, and Bible student at Liberty University. She lives in Glendale, Arizona with her husband Chris and 5 year old, Samantha.  You can read more from Rebecca by subscribing to her blog (it’s free) and following her on twitter and facebook.

Happy Accidents–A Lesson from Bob Ross

While most kids my age were watching the Simpsons and the Rugrats, as a young child I marveled at the skill of Bob Ross, a Christian painter who had a “how-to” painting program on PBS. I can’t imagine kids these days sitting around watching that type of show, but it was something I found inspiring.

He would take these globs of paint and turn them into glorious masterpieces of art. My favorites were always the oceans. The way he painted the waves, the shades of blue-green, the way he made the painting appear to glimmer—it was magnificent.

But more than all of those things I remember something he said while teaching the viewer how to paint. He said, “There are no mistakes, only happy accidents.” Sometimes he would purposely throw a stray mark in the midst of the beautiful picture only to prove his point. Skillfully working around it, blending it, and adding new colors he made it appear as though it was done on purpose.

Yesterday was a “Bob Ross” moment for me. A few weeks ago my digital camera took its last picture. Since then I had been using my phone to take pictures, but the quality was not the same. Knowing we were about to take a trip to Disneyland (we’re leaving tomorrow!) I was concerned about cataloguing the memories in my usual way—photos. My husband reminded me that we had an HD video camera which could also take pictures. So, I decided to figure out how it works and see if the pictures would be “acceptable”.

I took my daughter to AWANA and it happened to be a beautifully scenic evening with storm clouds glowing in the setting sun. I used the opportunity to snap some photos and quickly realized the quality of this HD camera was far superior to what I thought I had in my now broken digital camera. And then that phrase popped into my mind from nearly two decades ago, “There are no mistakes, only happy accidents.”

In that moment I was overwhelmed by the goodness of God. What I understood to be an inconvenience was actually a blessing. If my digital camera had not broken a few weeks prior, I would not have had the foresight to try the HD camera, and would have missed out on a glorious photo shoot—a divine photo shoot. Few things please the photographer in me more than an awesome sunset or scenic sky picture and those of my friends on Facebook will attest to that fact. But I have never had the privilege of capturing God’s beauty as I did last night. I have no words to express it. Every time I look at those photos I am in awe of my Savior. He planned that moment and in His great generosity He encompassed me with extraordinary feelings of wonder and worship.

Truly God plans all of our lives in such a way. There are no mistakes—even when we deliberately stray the canvas of our lives with ugly strokes of paint. The Master Painter simply takes His paintbrush and makes our mess beautiful. Beauty from ashes; this is the story of the redeemed. This is my story, my painting, and I am so grateful He takes the brush and continues to daily paint my picture with His infinite wisdom and care.

Lord Jesus, on my knees I confess my doubt, worry, anxiety, and disappointment—my unbelief. Help my unbelief and increase my faith ever more!

Lessons From the Vacuum Cleaner

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” Isaiah 6:5

Jesus and I don’t usually talk when I’m cleaning, but today was different. Monday has been my “cleaning day”, with few exceptions, since we moved to our new home last October.

Today was no different. Lucky for me, my husband had just bought a new vacuum cleaner (Why do you do that to us, husbands?) It had been sitting nicely in the corner for a week and he complained yesterday that I hadn’t used it yet. Today was the day!( Now, our previous vacuum had been out of commission for a few months, and I had spent several weeks on my hands and knees picking up the noticeable pieces of garbage.)

For some reason God decided to make His presence evident in the mundane task of vacuuming. In fact, during my 5 hour clean-fest, He revealed countless spiritual illustrations.

The most striking one revolved around the dirt in my carpet. As I vacuumed room after room, making several trips to the garbage bag dumping the vacuum canister, I was brought back to that day in April. The day my life changed. The day I spent 4 hours repenting.

For 4 years I had been on my hands and knees picking up the big pieces of sin from my spiritual carpet until that day in April where God ran His vacuum cleaner over my soul. I hadn’t been off the deep end running amok in all sorts of depravities. No, I had spent the last few years reading, studying and soaking in every bit of God’s word that I could. I served in my church, and was learning how to serve my husband. I was growing. You would never have thought I needed to spend a day repenting of much. I know I didn’t.

When that new vacuum rolls over the dirty carpet, so much is revealed that was invisible to the naked eye.

Just like my living room carpet, I was unable to pick up the finite pieces of dust with my hands. And so it is for most of us. We walk through our lives with our 15 minute devotions in the morning and ten minutes of prayer at night (twenty minutes if there’s a crisis) picking up the big things leaving the particles behind.

Like he did with Isaiah, God desires to sear our hearts with the hot coals of his presence. The problem is we take Him for granted. We take his truth for granted. We take his holiness for granted. We think we’re so much better than we are. Meanwhile, our spiritual carpet collects bags of filth until one day we have an encounter we’ll never forget. God brings us to our knees, rolling over us with His vacuum, sucking out all the junk. He won’t let His children rest comfortably with dirty hearts.

And then it’s done, right? One painful day of brutal honesty and we’re good.

You’d think after 5 hours of cleaning I’d be satisfied with the state of my home, but as I walked through the rooms admiring my labor, I noticed the base-boards. Oh yes, still more work to be done, and by the time I get around to the base-boards, the piano will need dusting, more laundry will need to be cleaned, and I’ll probably be vacuuming again.

Just like our carpets continue to collect dust and dirt, our spiritual lives do the same. He reveals only what we can handle at the moment. The more he purges, the more we notice new areas that need cleansing.

If Jesus walked into your spiritual house today, would you be embarrassed? Well I’ve got news for you. He’s already there, he is present with you at all times whether you “feel” it or not. Does his holiness astound and confound you? Could you claim to be as holy as the prophet Isaiah? Even as righteous as he was, when in the presence of Almighty God, he couldn’t stand his spiritual state.

Today, the lesson from the vacuum cleaner reminds me to stand amazed at the person of Christ and to seek His cleansing frequently, remembering what I am without Him.

“All our righteous acts are like filthy rags…Yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the Potter; we are all the work of your hands.” Isaiah 64:6&8

Rippling Effect

Suggested Reading: John 15:1-11

“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” John 15:11

I was thinking about that day, as it often returns to my thoughts. He appeared to me in such a clear way it was undeniable. His voice spoke soft yet firm, “Your independence from Me has shattered his dreams.”

God opened my heart with surgical precision. I had gotten caught up in, “It’s my life; it’s my body; it’s my choice!” All those “my my mys” destroyed my husband’s heart, and mine as well. Did God reveal this to cause shame? Never. He revealed this to cause repentance.

“If only I had remained in His love, attached to His vine of wisdom; if only…”

As the ramifications of what I did spilled into my psyche, I was overwhelmed with grief. It took at least two weeks before I could confront my husband and share with him my regret.

“I should never have done it, I was wrong, I am so sorry! Can you ever find a way to forgive me?”

It was a nice sentiment, but he had long lived with the pain of my decision and bitterness had set in. It was several more weeks before he could talk about my change of heart. Healing has been a long process for us. In His love, God has allowed me to experience the consequences of my decision. I don’t find this to be cruel, however. I embrace the discipline. Everytime I feel the stinging pain I am reminded of how vital it is for me to remain in Him. Stay in His word, and for crying out loud, ASK HIM FIRST before making decisions.

You’re probably itching to know what awful thing I had done. I had many Christian women advising me to do it. Funny how in hindsight no one was telling me to see what God thought about it. It’s not their fault, of course. It was my responsibility to look for His will, and listen for His voice. Truth be told, I didn’t care at the time what He wanted. It was “my choice” and I made it.

Against my husbands wishes I walked into the hospital and signed the consent. I assured my OBGYN I was never going to have children again. My husband (who does not have a relationship with Jesus) and I had been having a lot of difficulties and I concluded I could not bear any more of his children.

Since then Chris has watched his sisters bear children, boys, which is what he always wanted and hoped to try for. I remember snapping a picture of him with his nephew,

and God began working on my heart. I destroyed that man’s dreams because I couldn’t be bothered to listen to the God I claim to serve.; no wonder my husband doesn’t care for “religion”.

I was certain I never wanted more children, but I underestimated the power of God. He has placed within me a strong desire to have another baby. Poetic justice? I mean, why would God place a desire that couldn’t be fulfilled? Actually, I know God didn’t place that desire in my heart to torture me. In a sense He has branded my heart with the hot iron of His love. Every time I hold my friends baby or see someone else holding their newborn I feel the ache deep within and I thank God for it.

Reminders that my choices aren’t my choices.

They effect others like a stone dropped in a pond. The ripples go out far and wide in ways I couldn’t begin to understand.

I’m a firm believer that God doesn’t waste our pain, and he brought me on my knees that day to bring about a glorious new birth. Is it a physical brith? Maybe not, but a spiritual one; definitely.

He told me all of this so my joy could be complete. Thank you, Jesus, for loving me enough to teach me how essential it is to follow You.

 

Promises in the Rain

“Mommy, mommy!” Samantha raced into my bathroom where I was comfortably relaxing in the shower.

“What is it?” I poked my head out thinking someone or something was on fire.

“Mommy, it’s raining!”

“Ohhhhh….” was the resignated realization of a promise I had made to her the previous weekend. The weather report had predicted rain, and she had begged me to let her play in the mud puddles. I agreed. Then the clouds opened up and it didn’t rain. I had succesfully dodged that bullet, until today.

“Fantastic,” I thought, “I have so many things to do today, and standing in the pouring rain while my 4 year old jumps in the mud isn’t on my list.”

You need to honor your promise.

Sigh. “Ok, Lord, I will honor my promise.”

I got out of the shower and ready to stand in the rain. It occured to me I should bring my camera and record the one time I agreed to let my little girl splash in the mud. Samantha was in her pajamas and flip-flops and we set out. I was immediately overwhelmed by the beauty of my surroundings. The pouring rain, the trees bending under the wind, the smells of fresh moisture, and even my daughter covered in mud. It was like viewing a movie in 3D for the first time, everything came alive to my senses.

rain

I lifted my camera and began snapping pictures, thankful for the marvelous beauty God was showering despite my reluctant obedience.

puddles

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17

Samantha, discovering her dirty feet, decided two hops was enough and wanted a shower.

muddy flip flops

I took that time to catalogue the beautiful treasures God had given me through my camera lens. If I hadn’t obeyed the Spirit’s prompting, I would have missed out on a glorious experience; an opportunity for reflection, praise, worship and teaching my daughter that she can trust me to follow through on my promises.

fresh pathway

“You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever.” Psalm 30:11-12

I learned a valuable lesson this morning. I need to slow down and take time to reflect on the treasures around me:

birds nesting,

birds nesting

flowers resting,

flowers resting

trees growing,

trees growing

and children playing.

muddy Samantha

There’s more to my world then finishing the next project, making the next phone call, or cooking another meal. I need to remember God’s faithfulness and love and delight in his handiwork and maybe the day won’t seem so hectic after all. Sometimes I just need to throw that “list” in the wind and dance in the rain.

“It is good to praise the Lord.” Psalm 92:1

pink flowers