No Sold Sign…Yet

My house is still for sale. I was hoping it will sell quickly but it’s been a month now.

I hate waiting.

I’ve never been a good waiter. The other day I was sitting at a light and heard myself say to my daughter, “Geesh, this light is long.” We had been sitting there for maybe three minutes and I was itching to step on the gas. Seriously? There minutes isn’t a long time…unless you’re a bad waiter.

But there are good things about waiting. For me, knowing a realtor can call any day to ask to bring a potential buyer helps me keep my house tidy and vacuum dog hair more often than I would otherwise. It helped last week when someone showed up without calling. (After they left I wondered if they noticed the pair of one of my grandson’s underwear on the floor in the guest room? Oh well.)

What are you waiting for?

Sometimes waiting is something we can control. Like when you walk into a restaurant and choose to go elsewhere rather than standing in a crowded lobby for an hour while your stomach growls. But often the waiting is providential: God is in control and there’s nothing you can do to speed Him up.

Psalm 40:31 tells us that waiting on God renews our strength. I’m been thinking about this lately. How can waiting make us stronger? Too often for me, waiting makes me nothing but impatient, discontented or self-pitying!

Waiting on a house to sell is nothing compared to waiting for a baby to fill your empty arms, money to buy groceries, relief from chronic pain or that a loved one will turn to God. But I don’t think the reason for the wait is as important as the intended strength the Lord can forge in the process.

Strength through waiting is something only He can grow.

Strength to say no to whining and complaining at His timetable. To trust when delays assault His faithfulness. To cry out for comfort and help when weakness sets in. To repent when treasonous thoughts tempt us to doubt His fatherly love. To fight for joy when yet another day or week or year or decade goes by without getting what we want.

Getting impatient is a common temptation in our debt-infested, eat on the run, hurry-up culture where nobody wants to wait on much of anything. I’m realizing that it’s likely God’s kindness that motivates His slowness at times. Wise parents realize that character is built when kids learn they can’t always get what they want when they want it. And God, as our Father, is the best parent of all.

There’s a part of me that keeps thinking, “Once I really get to the place of trusting God for the sale of our house, then it will sell.” Silly me. That means God is the one waiting for me to get my act together before He answers my prayer. Who does that mean is actually in control, then?

No. God’s plans are not controlled by me or you. Thankfully, even our salvation was His initiative. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” He didn’t wait for us to pursue Him, but pursued us when we were helpless sinners. I think He demonstrated then that the  waiting was on us, not Him.

My house won’t sell because of something I’m doing or not doing…well…other than keeping it clean and attractive for potential buyers. It will sell when God moves the heart of someone to want to hang pictures of their family members on the walls here. Until then, I wait.

And gain strength to be patient, trusting and joyful until the “sold” sign shows up.

We Were Dreamers

I’m taking a quick break from the weighty posts I’ve been doing to share a fun update on our family.

Josh doing sound on the church’s first Sunday.

PJ helps with administration and heavy lifting. 🙂

When our children who now range from almost 18 to 33 were young, Benny and I dreamed and prayed regularly about the day when they would be adults who loved God and served alongside us in the church. Like most parents of young children, we assumed our kids would always live nearby and that we would spend decades together up in Fairfax, Virginia serving side by side. Over the years that dream has been disregarded when moves separated us and when we walked through hardships and sin that tested my faith. We struggled through, and came to a place of peace that the best and most biblical thing we can do for our adult children is to release them to love and follow God’s will — even and especially if that means living in a different city or being part of a different church than Dad and Mom.

Love the greetings from the Little People!

Before I proceed, I want to first express my heartfelt compassion for anyone reading this with a child who is not walking with the Lord or grandchildren you rarely see. The heartache of a spiritually wayward or rebellious child is one of the hardest things a godly mother can face. And being a grandmother whose little ones live far away is a challenge I’ve experienced but am not currently facing. My heart truly goes out to you. I hope my story sparks faith in your heart that God is good. His goodness may not look the same in my life and yours, and you may be in a dark and tempting time in your life, but He remains good and your story isn’t over. I hope my story doesn’t tempt you…but that it encourages you. Our family has walked through some really hard things and challenges remain. Some people look and think we have an “ideal” family. Yet those who know us well know that is certainly not true. We are sinners who have walked through our share of painful situations. But God has been faithful and has done a miracle by keeping us loving and serving together.

The kids enjoy our little children’s ministry.

Janelle enjoys her longtime desire to participate on a worship team.

Before Benny started Redeemer Church in January, we met with all our children to solicit their counsel and tell them what God was doing. At that time Benny communicated to our five married children and their spouses that they were under no obligation to join us on this crazy adventure. He reminded them of what they have heard from us numerous times before: we were available to ask questions and provide counsel at their invitation, but it was important that they spend time talking and praying as a couple, and pursuing the input of others.

To our complete joy, they came to us one by one over several months to say they had decided as a couple that God was calling them to be a part of Redeemer Church. While this was meaningful to me as a mom, it was especially humbling as a mother-in-law. My three daughters-in-law have dear friendships at  and warm affection for the church that was sending us out.  Two of them, in fact, had grown up in the church and had decades of fond memories with the people there. We made sure in each case that they hadn’t felt pressure from us to make this decision and were grateful to hear they each felt the Lord had spoken to them personally. What amazing young women.

Our church has several passionate worship leaders. So grateful!

The night the last of the couples announced to us that they would be coming, Benny and I laid in bed and cried. God doesn’t call all married children to do something like this. But story after story from our kids convinced us that God had moved their hearts and confirmed His will through their own subjective impressions, coupled with prayer and discussion.

We were especially moved when the parents said a big draw for them was giving their children the opportunity to be on a church plant. They wanted them to experience the joy and sacrifice of seeing God grow a church…with their help!

Wyatt here and JJ (below) are pitching in to serve.

Through every trial and storm, through all the years of doubting God’s faithfulness, and through numerous sinful choices that tempted us to believe our prayers long ago were just the sentimental desires of loving parents to want to do life with their kids, God was there. He knew what we didn’t: that Benny would plant a new church in his late 50’s that would include every one of our children and grandchildren.

There are numerous others who are making Redeemer Church possible — we couldn’t do it without them! And I don’t know how long the Lord will allow us as a family to do life and church together. But for now, I’m savoring every moment.

Every moment of watching my grandsons usher or lug equipment or learn to tear down drums with daddy — like he did many years ago with Papa.

Every moment of watching my little people walk up to visiting children to say hi and ask if they want to walk to children’s ministry with them.

Jesse preached for the first time at Redeemer last Sunday.

Every moment of watching my men lead worship; unload equipment; brainstorm with others about how to make things run more smoothly; preach; greet; or load equipment on the truck.

Every moment of hearing my ladies prophecy, head out to help with children’s ministry, invite someone new to lunch or walk up to pray for another woman during a ministry time.

Every moment of watching my Benny setting up chairs or greeting a guest or positioning himself at the podium to preach or grinning over how God provided all the funds needed last month.

Josh leading worship.

Last week I had a wonderful time of fellowship with a dear friend. One of the things we talked about (and that I’ve been blogging about) is how perplexing life is right now. We agreed that in many ways things just haven’t “turned out” like we expected. Another friend and I were chucking about this just yesterday. It’s not that we had a list of expectations in our minds, but obviously we were expecting something and whatever that was isn’t what life looks like right now!

But there’s an exception for me.

Benny doing what he loves!

I prayed and dreamed and hoped and…yeah, expected…that my kids would grow up to love the Lord and His church. I longed for my grandchildren to have the opportunity to be a part of a church where, like their parents, they were trained to serve and sacrifice because every single hand was needed to get the job done. (Which is true in every church — old or new; small or large!) I wanted to watch my Benny spend his latter years alongside his sons working to see the gospel preached through the local church. I prayed that I would have the kind of relationship with my adult daughters and (at the time) future daughters-in-law where we could enjoy biblical fellowship and pass biblical womanhood on to a new generation of little girls.

Our favorite (well, and only) bass player.

So much of my life is different than I hoped and thought. But when Redeemer Church was born and my amazing, humble children and their spouses started signing on to help, I became “like one who dreamed.”

Lauren on her first worship team.

Benny and I dreamed. Talked. Hoped. Prayed. Cried. Battled discouragement and unbelief. Let go. Found peace.

But God heard. Answered. Kept. Sustained. Patiently worked. And then surprised us.

He. Is. Faithful.

Gospel Truths For the Wait

A few of my regular readers have thanked me for being so “real” on this blog. I guess I don’t view it was being “real” but just as being a sinner who lives in a fallen world who shares her life with others like me. Life happens and sometimes in ways that hurt, disorient or tempt us. Your thanks to me shows you find comfort in the truth that, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor 10:13.). Our struggles are common, and knowing that others deal with similar difficulties can bring comfort and hope. I hope that happens for some of you again today.

I love the first half of that verse.  But, honestly, the “that you may be able to endure it” is disturbing to me sometimes. I want it to end with “that you may be able to escape it.”

I was recently interacting with a friend that is going through tough times with some close family members. Like me, she would like to escape the situation because enduring it is uncertain. Will these loved ones make right decisions? Will they reach to God for help? What could be the longterm outcome of unwise or sinful choices? How long might she have to wait and pray and trust God with these weighty situations that are understandably testing her faith, keeping her awake at night, and producing heart wrenching temptations to fear and anxiety?

I sent the following words to her this weekend that encouraged her soul and mine. The comfort wasn’t in my words, but in the gospel truths that lie in them. These are truths I’ve been taught for years by dead authors, wise preachers and caring friends. If you are going through some tough times with someone you love, I hope they will feed your soul today, too.

The story ISN’T over!!  It wasn’t over when you and I were young adults.  It wasn’t over when we sinned and did things that could have had incredibly damaging and longterm consequences in our lives.  It wasn’t over for my mom, who become an alcoholic in her 30’s and nearly destroyed her life, but who lived her last 25 years free from her addiction and fully devoted to God.  It’s never over when God is involved.  Grace really ISN’T resistible for long.  Our loved ones cannot run out of the reach of grace.  The gospel and it’s clutching power is not dependent on their (or our) desire or ability to hang on.  Because Jesus died and rose again, there is no hole they can dig or cave they can run into that allows them to remain hardened to the love and pursuit of a God whose strength and power is utterly unmatched by any person or idol or lust or sin.  But, oh the pain that waiting means!

The truth is this:  God will get us through, my friend.  He will be faithful.  He has proven Himself good and strong.  We will look back in years to come, whatever happens with those we love and whatever choices they make (good or bad) and however long it all takes and we WILL say “It is well with my soul.”  Whether we have to go through many more dangers, toils and snares the grace that has brought us safe thus far WILL lead us home.  It will.  And on That Day we will see the wisdom, goodness and love of God in it all.  Until then, we will struggle and hurt and cry.  But this will end.  Whether on this earth or in heaven (and we never know when we’ll get there — tomorrow or 30 years from now) it will all be over.  

He is faithful.  He just doesn’t usually work on our time table.

So, Lord, help us to trust You, especially with delays that test our faith. You really are in control.  And You really are good.  Always.