Posts Tagged ‘faith’

Anticipation, Advent, Hope

What is it with fall? It’s been the roughest season for our family each year, and this one has been no different. An increase of fundraising events, conferences, school projects are the old bystanders, but even when I look around us, nearly everyone is strained.

Grief. We said goodbye to Pa Shattuck in late October. He lived by himself in the Syracuse, New York, area, and though the distance limited our socialization, he was dedicated to his grandkids and great-grandchildren. He attended every wedding and graduation and remembered every anniversary and birthday. He was a decorated veteran who served in Normandy at age 19. He was active in his parish and in the community. His death came unexpectedly, and it affected us more than we anticipated.

The anniversary of a friend’s death passed in September. And social media has opened up my heart to several families facing unfathomable loss of family members to tragic sickness and accidents. Some days it’s hard to breathe for how much I ache and mourn with people.

Fear. We have Muslim friends, gay friends, black friends, friends from other countries living in the United States – all of whom have expressed fear in so many words. So much hate, or worse, indifference, surrounds us, and it pains me. As a Christian and an empathetic person, I feel frozen, unsure how to bring comfort, peace or truth because I’m embarrassed at how members of the church as a whole are ignoring or misunderstanding our neighbors, environment and role in society. (But on a positive note, there’s hope. We’ve visited many churches in the Indianapolis area this year, and there is a movement for racial reconciliation and community outreach.)

At times, I’m afraid of referencing myself publicly as a Christian for fear of mockery. Sometimes I’m afraid to stand up for my faith, and I’m afraid to disagree with other Christians. I’m afraid I’ll say the wrong thing at the wrong time, and I’m fearful that I’m making a mistake for feeling this way. We don’t want to be hypocrites. We don’t want to be lazy or naive. Our family wants to DO SOMETHING to love our neighbors and take care of the earth God created in addition to prayer.

I fear the Lord, and I pray that he shines through the dirt and grime and mess.

Anger. Usually this follows fear. I’ve found myself lashing out at coworkers, Wesley and Steven. I try to keep a calm demeanor, but when I’ve been racked with grief and fear, it has been difficult. I’ve hung Psalm 19:14 near my computer so that I can be reminded to keep my words and thoughts positive and pure.

Exhaustion. My negative stress level has caused an increased number of migraines and near-fainting spells in the last few months. Do you remember my weird, complicated migraine when I was pregnant with Wesley? Those symptoms have returned on occasion – once while driving. I’m thankful that each time they’ve returned, I’ve been surrounded by understanding, caring people.

We’ve been attending a church regularly for several months – one that seems to desire Kingdom Work like we do. The congregation has slowly worked through Matthew. We just finished a series on the End Days – where Jesus gives a glimpse of what’s to come. After reflecting on the current season, I can’t help but think that these life events might just be part of the “labor pains” that he references in Matthew 24:6:

“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.  Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.”

My friends who have lost loved ones to death, divorce or sickness; my coworkers who are fearful and upset by internal conflicts and national conflicts; those who are frustrated with the church, which can have some things backwards, hypocritical or off-focus; my son and his generation who are concerned about “bad people” leading this country; and their parents, who are trying to process and have open and honest conversations about respect — the only thing in which we have control is our response. In words, actions and thoughts, may it be a respectful, mindful and truthful response.

My response is learning to wait for Truth. Advent season seems like the best transition from fall’s cluster to get good at waiting. While the earth around me is groaning in labor pains, I am choosing to wait on the Lord, which is difficult to do. #trust

Wes and I are reading through the Jesus Storybook Bible for advent, and it might be speaking more to my heart than his. We’re starting at the beginning and seeing how Jesus’ arrival was anticipated throughout Old Testament people’s bad decisions and poor choices. The labor pains started at the fall of Adam and Eve and perhaps it’s just getting more pronounced today.

Maybe we’ll be the lucky generation to see his return, but just waiting for Christmas Day as a symbol of God’s promise of redemption is leaving us anxious enough. #hope

jesusstorybook

Posted: December 7th, 2016
Categories: Leah
Tags: , , , ,
Comments: No Comments.

A Heart Like Hers

mary_jesusIt’s Christmastime, and Mary, mother of Jesus, is constantly on my mind. She pops into songs on the radio (even though I loathe “Mary, Did You Know?”), she adorns front yards and window displays of nativity scenes, and she even makes appearances in the YA book I’m currently reading (The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz) – even if it’s only because the narrator is obsessed with the Blessed Mother.

I find it intriguing that the meaning of the name Mary is “bitter,” yet so much warmth and purity is surrounded by that name. Her response to Gabriel shows a unique and humble spirit of willingness. Today, she is honored not only as the mother of Jesus, but also as his very first disciple.

This week I’m diving into Mary’s life. It’s fitting because of the time of year and because I can learn much from what we know about her. It’s my own form of advent, I guess. I’m not saying she was perfect. I know she wasn’t – she’s human. But I do think I can gain insight from her responses.

  • She quickly got over fear.
    Duh. An angel would scare anybody, but she listened intently to his message. I feel like I live every single day afraid of the unknown. I wouldn’t have been able to concentrate on anything spoken to me.
  • She didn’t ask many questions.
    But she did ask one really good one – HOW?! And when the answer was “nothing is impossible with God,” she knew she didn’t have to keep questioning. No doubting or speculating.
  • She accepted his will and rejoiced.
    Understanding this was a miracle, and that SHE was chosen for it replaced any hesitations she might have had. I would surely jump to what will Joseph think? Will he believe I didn’t cheat on him?? She praised God and announced her servant-hood. And yet remained humble about it all. No boasting.

As much as I admire her willingness, the concept of Mary’s new motherhood has been a struggle for me. I was so on-edge and nervous during my pregnancy with Wes, and I never related to Mary on that level of “awe” and anticipation. Christmas seems to be a time when people announce pregnancies and family growth – or you find out someone is expecting by simply seeing or running into them. It’s been surprisingly hard on me. I have been on a roller coaster of emotions regarding our family size over the years. Right now it’s particularly low, and I find that I’m actually a tiny bit jealous of Mary’s round belly, and later, her cooing little baby.

It’s no secret that this year has been the pits. I explained to a friend a few months ago that I felt like every pillar of my “house” felt weak and unstable. Usually one or two can (and does) lean a bit, but the rest of the foundation is intact enough that the ground settles within time. For whatever reason, God has chosen to shake things up everywhere in 2015 and test my/our ability to duck and roll with punches.

Speaking of, what were Mary’s thoughts when she saw her firstborn son beaten by the people he came to save? Remember that scene in John 19 where Jesus, while hanging on the cross, introduces Mary to John as his “new mother?” What ran across her mind? Surely she knew it was the end of his life at that point. A couple years ago, Wes had an asthma attack during the Easter weekend, and it scared me to the core. I remember reflecting on Mary’s amazing ability to trust God in spite of the world crashing down around her.

This week and leading up to Christmas Day, I aim to have a heart like Mary’s. It’s tiring to be fearful and sad. I’m sick of worrying and doubting. I desire to be willing, trusting and humble. Full of awe.

My prayer is that I look past this year’s terrible distractions and instead “bring” Jesus into my world by expressing his character, power, forgiveness and grace. He’s the best thing we’ve got.

Posted: December 15th, 2015
Categories: Leah
Tags: , ,
Comments: No Comments.

Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love

After Steven left early for a morning meeting, Wes ventured upstairs and hung around the bathroom as I was getting ready.

(Looking in the mirror) “Mama, why is it blue under my tongue?”
“Oh, that’s called a vein. See them in my hands? They move blood to the rest of your body.”
“To help me work and play and move my hands?”
“Yep.”

You can always tell when he’s thinking hard about something, putting two-and-two together. After a couple minutes, deep in thought, he went on.
“Can I listen to your heart?” (I bent down to his level.) “I hear it!”
“Did you know that your heart pumps bloods to your arms and legs?”
“Yep, through those blue ‘vines’?”
“Uh huh – veins.”
“And that’s where Jesus lives, too, right?”

Last week was a rough one for Wes’ discipline and obedience. But “being like Jesus” seems to strike a chord with him, and lately he’s felt guilt and shame – and sin.

Screenshot 2015-11-02 at 9.55.01 PM

At bedtime earlier this week, he mentioned it again. I guess he’s really struggling at school with his friends.
“I don’t know why, but at school I act crazy. It’s really, really hard.”
“Why is it hard to follow directions?”
“Maybe my friends? And when I do bad things, God will punish me and take me to heaven.”
“Well, if you disobey, yes, you will be punished, but you are always forgiven. God loves and forgives you. That’s not how you go to heaven.”

It’s been a little over a month since the death of one of our friends. Wes has been asking many questions about heaven since then, and that night was no different. It’s still a bit scary to him, and he’s afraid that we’ll be separated.

“Mama, I don’t want your body to stop working.” (How we addressed death.)
“Oh, honey. I hope that I’ll have many years with you before that happens. But when it does, we can be together again in heaven.”
“There’s lots of rooms there. I want a nice room in heaven.”
“Me, too! Maybe we can share a room with you and me and Daddy.”

We talked a little more about the wonderful things in heaven, his preschool struggles, and we decided that he could rely on “Jesus in his heart” to be a good example at school: be loving, kind and generous. Listen and obey. We prayed for strength, courage and for our friends’ family, who is coping with their recent loss.

Watching Wes think deeply about his actions and the reason to live has given me pause for thought, too. It pains me to witness his understanding of our world, and it softens my heart to witness his desire to follow Jesus’ example.

As The Jesus Storybook Bible describes it, I am grateful for God’s “Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.” (And for his wisdom on how to respond, teach and demonstrate this love to an empathetic and impressionable four-year-old boy.)

Posted: November 6th, 2015
Categories: Leah
Tags:
Comments: No Comments.


© 2017 | The Shattucks | Leah Shattuck | Steven Shattuck | Indianapolis, IN