Tag Archives: Israelites

Why I Feel Like I am Sharing in the Israelites’ Journey

Why would anyone be upset with God when their prayers were answered as they had hoped?

For years, the Israelites served  the Egyptians under oppressive conditions . But God was aware of their suffering and the deliverance they longed for was about to take place.

“The Lord said, “I have seen how my people are suffering in Egypt. I have heard them cry out because of their slave drivers. I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to save them from the Egyptians. I will bring them up out of that land…” (Exodus 3:7-8)

Getting what we wish for can be a dangerous thing.

Lately, I find myself resonating with the Israelites’ frustration and perspective. Recently, our family received deliverance. For over a decade, we sought release from financial, work, and medical burdens. It seemed that every time that an impending release appeared possible,  another problem arose to counter the feeling of freedom.

Finally, we entered into a new place. After years of praying for respite from a continuous string of unexpected stresses, we felt rescued and embraced the peace found within it.

For the first few months, we rejoiced. We knew it was God’s hand that brought this blessing. It’s not that we didn’t thank God for anything during the previous years, but this dramatic transition brought physical awareness for where we had come. Truthfully, some of the sources of worry had disappeared. Health had stabilized. Financial issues were resolved. My husband was released from a long difficult job experience. Celebration commenced.

When the Israelites were finally released from captivity, they too praised God. There had been many close calls that seemed to threaten the fulfillment of God’s promise to them.

“They said to Moses,’Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Is this not the very thing we told you in Egypt, ‘Let us alone and let us serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.’” (Exodus 14:11-12)

But when it happened, they celebrated. They sang, danced, and relished in the gift of a respite.

“I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;
    horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.
  The Lord is my strength and my might,[a]
    and he has become my salvation;
this is my God, and I will praise him,
    my father’s God, and I will exalt him…”(Exodus 15:1-2)

But, unbeknownst to them, the release was not without it’s own set of challenges. They were not done moving.

Our expectations of how God will work and preconceived notions of God’s character can result in disappointment. We look at our narrative unfolding through human eyes.

 The Israelites said to them, “We wish the Lord had put us to death in Egypt. There we sat around pots of meat. We ate all the food we wanted. But you have brought us out into this desert. You must want this entire community to die of hunger.” (Exodus 16:3)

God was moving them to a better place. But the in-between space did not match what they envisioned.

Couldn’t the comfort have lasted a little longer?

Currently, we are moving toward a new place again. Not a new home but new jobs. Our transition doesn’t feel as euphoric as it did in the beginning. God’s hand doesn’t seem to be moving as quickly as we wished. The feast has ended. The provision is appearing in forms different than what we planned. Our bodies are growing weary.

The journey seems long and, at times, discouraging. But we know that God never forgot the Israelites. And we are not forgotten either.

We are aware that the vision we hold is not complete. And we will keep trusting (clinging at times) to the promises given to the Israelites along their way.

Because God always wants to lead us to a better place than we were in before. Even if we don’t understand the stops along the way.

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Thursday Thoughts: Why We Can Let Go of Fear in the Unpredictable Moments

Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever go. Joshua 1:9

How do you feel when you are driving along certain of your location and suddenly, without warning, you find yourself forced to take a detour? Many times the detour takes you to your destination through a series of streets with which you are unfamiliar. The confidence you felt in pursuing your destination has changed to anxiety. “I don’t know where I’m going!” is the thought that takes over your mind.

The daily life for a family facing the realities of a mental illness illness or other chronic medical condition can; at times, be filled with moments of unpredictability-a loved one makes and impulsive decision with life altering consequences, a sick child takes a sudden turn for the worse, a new medication is introduced. Any pursuit of stability in your life seems to be thrown off with a detour into the unknown. Our human desire for control seems to have slipped out of our hands. Traveling into the unknown brings a sense of fear.

The Israelites were no strangers to traveling into unknown territory. The physical terrain was not always familiar. Sure, they knew they were headed to the Promised Land but how exactly do you get there? Along the journey, they made poor decisions and struggled with trusting in the promises God made to them in the beginning.

Here, the Israelites are to go forth into unfamiliar territory. The fears are real-life and death is at stake. Yet Joshua proclaims to his brood this promise.

How does this promise encourage you as you face the unknown?

Sovereign God, you have shown us through your actions in your people before us that we have nothing to fear. You are greater than any challenges we face here on earth. Please fill us with your peace as we claim your words through Joshua as our own. Amen

Thursday Thoughts: Why Lifting Your Gaze, Can Change Your Perspective

I lift up my eyes to the hills–

where does my help come from?

My help comes from the LORD,

the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip–

he who watches over you will not slumber; (Psalm 121:1-3)

As we move about this world, it becomes all too easy to let our gaze be set on what we see out in front or down below.  The mind interprets our interactions with our surrounding territory. Most of the time, we walk on level ground. Therefore, our perspective is shaped by what we feel, hear, see, and touch within that area.

However, as followers of Christ, we must remember that there is another Kingdom being built upon the one which we see only at eye level.  The new one is infinite and transforms what our mind and body senses. It is ruled by Jesus, who, came down from the “hills” to point us to it.

It’s easy to allow fear to dictate our perceptions of circumstances here. Changes in health, job status, loss, and looming life-changing decisions tempt us to gravitate to Earthly self-satisfying answers. When we do that, we see ourselves through the eyes of the Israelites. Despite the marvels of God’s hand displayed in front of them, they longed for security in what the Earth can offer.

But we are called to lift our heads and change our view. The answer we need may not be found from the perspective from which we are looking. We don’t need to fear. Our God is aware of the struggles we face. The answer we need will come. We just need to look up.

Dear God: Thank you for extending yourself down from the Heavenly realms to this Earth where you have placed us. We acknowledge that seeking answers purely from our eye-level becomes very tempting. Waiting is hard. Suffering is hard. Please grant us peace as we fix our gaze on the hills and look into your face, and wait.

 

What Comes After the Storm of Mental Illness Calms

Now, what?”

I asked myself this a few months ago. After years, consisting of very long days, of family struggles with mental and medical conditions, the season began to change. At first, I dared not believe it. So many times, there had been brief glimpses of light as we forged through the darkness. But those moments seemed to fade quickly. Once again, we would be left trying to find our footing and walk forward together: my daughter, my two sons, my husband and myself. To say the relationships between us were strained would be an understatement. When one person in a family struggles, everyone is affected.

The dynamics between us does not resemble the picture I had in my mind before my husband and I started a family. My daughter began treatment for bipolar disorder at 9 years old (she is now age 15). My older son (age 18) has battled anxiety and depressionalong with a host of unexpected health concerns along the way. The youngest son (age 13), whom I call the “comic relief,” manages mild anxiety. None of their conditions define them, but they do affect the climate of our home. It hasn’t always felt like the refuge I hoped my husband and I would create. We have tried to initiate traditions, affirm each other’s strengths and attempt to carve moments of time together. We have sought out therapy, utilized resources and developed a support system. Humor has even found its way in. Yet, we couldn’t always keep the storms at bay.

Truthfully, the winds, at times, seemed so forceful I wasn’t sure I had the strength to resist them. My husband and I could be a strong force together; yet each of us developed our own methods of survival. We also felt as if the storm was invisible to everyone else. Mental illness carries a stigma. There are plenty of opinions regarding how to “fix” your child. “If we would just . . .” Meanwhile, the unpredictable nature of episodes and triggers as well as the financial stress and school concerns mount. And in the midst of it all, you are trying to sustain your marriage, pay bills and pray for endurance, provision and healing.

It occurred to me one day that this long season of storms may have finally transitioned into a season of calm. When you are so used to living in survival mode, you don’t always realize the storm has weakened. Weeks no longer seemed packed with doctors’ appointments, evaluating medications, financial distress, school battles, emotional burnout. It may be the beginning of a season of restoration. On the surface, a calm after the storm sounds welcoming. But, truthfully, the implications are daunting.

How do you begin cleaning up the mess?

Branch by branch, piece by piece. I remember a horrific storm that erupted suddenly about 10 years ago. When it was safe, we made our way outside to access the damage. Thankfully, our belongings remained intact. However, our street and our yard were filled with tree limbs and branches scattered everywhere. In order to move toward restoration, you must begin cleaning up the mess one branch at a time. It may take a while. And I’ve learned (reluctantly) that’s OK

Restoring our relationships with each other will take time. One branch at a time. I often wonder how my kids would relate to one another had our situation been different. I will never know the answer. It would be tempting to dwell on the “what ifs,” but that would require looking back. We are heading forward. The medical concerns have not resolved. The winds may indeed return. We have found space to breathe and rest. We have found our footing once again and set our eyes on God; who is in the business of making things new. I find inspiration in the promise given to the Israelites:

See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
Isaiah 43:19 (NIV)

Originally published at http://mudroomblog.com/cleaning-up-mess/, this post also appeared at https://themighty.com/2016/10/when-things-calm-down-parenting-children-with-mental-illness/

 

What the Cubs’ Win Teaches Us All

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Watching the Cubs play in the games leading to the World Series became a family bonding event. I’m sure it was for many others as well. But what I didn’t realize at the time was that a teaching moment surfaced.

I suppose what made the experience unique for us is that sports are not my family’s passion.  Neither our abilities nor our interests lean in the direction of athletics (oh, but we’ve tried.) That’s not to say I haven’t rooted for specific teams. During football playoffs, I become a Bear’s fan with the rest of my city. The energy feeds into the somewhat routine moments of my cold weather days. And who doesn’t enjoy a feast of fattening snacks in the name of football watching (or, for me, socializing?) I suppose that would make me a fair weather fan. I’m OK with that.

However growing up in the Chicago burbs, my kids are well aware of fan frenzy for our teams. So, them, like my husband and I, join in the excitement when one of our local teams is edging toward a championship.

Actually, the Cubs hold about the only long term sports spot in our hearts (except for my oldest son who has chosen to rebel as a Sox fan). Furthermore, we have actually attended Cubs’ games (my son included)!  In this age of digital entertainment and season of discontent, gathering together at a baseball game for the sake of encouragement is refreshing. It’s a tradition that spans through decades of wars, national catastrophes, numerous presidents. One community-many generations-united for the sole purpose of rooting on the home team. We may not know the players personally-but “they” are “ours.”

For fans, disappointments and euphoria intermingle throughout the season….and the years. Yet, loyalty remains. We believe in them. “They” are part of “us.”

Last Wednesday night, in our homage to the home team, our family cozied up to watch the World Series. Together we united in celebrating great plays and clenched our teeth in the 7th inning.

They have to win. It’s been 108 years. ONE HUNDRED. EIGHT. YEARS.

And as the drama unfolded throughout the added innings and rain delays, I felt a desperate wish for them that my usual non sports engaging heart has felt. ever. Could they really win?

Then it happened! Really! The Cubs clinched a title that had eluded them for a century. To see them win brought tears.

You see, besides the obvious joy experienced by exerting skill at the highest level, they kept their eyes on a vision. A collective vision. One that former players didn’t live to see. One that garnered mocking from others-even fans.

That action resonated with me. Inspired me. And made me think about my kids.

They are growing up in a culture of rapid speed gratification and increasing self focus. Waiting is not embraced. Community engagement toward a vision is a somewhat foreign concept. Don’t like what’s on tv? Choose one of the million other channels. Don’t want to wait in line at the amusement park? By a flash pass. Can’t afford a wanted item? Charge it and pay later.  Don’t like what someone says on your Instagram? Block them.

As I was reflecting on Thursday morning about idea that my kids could learn something from the Cubs, my daughter, as if on cue, remarked,“Why would anyone continue to follow a team that never wins?”

My own child’s bemoaning question had confirmed my thoughts.

Once upon a time, loyalty and patience were valued. People are not disposable. Dare I say teams are included. Life is complicated and giving up on relationships and tasks when we are not receiving the fulfillment of immediate gratification robs us of participating in the whole narrative . Most of the time, the end result is sweeter than expected. That includes the shaping of our character.

How did the Israelites react to hardships along their long journey to the promised land? What act did Abraham resort to when God seemingly failed to fulfill the vision originally spoken to him? Humans have always found it difficult to keep focused on the bigger picture. Waiting is hard work when the outcome is fixed to our expectations. Yet, faith is believing in something that may exceed our expectations-in ways that only God can help us see.

Who knew a baseball game would prove to be such a powerful venue for engaging as a family? We will remember that week as we cheered together, Joked during commercials. And celebrated with the fans around the country with whom we shared a common vision. No electronic device or other technology could instantly give us the result we desired.

And that’s really the point- We don’t always have to be in control. Sometimes, life demands that we let go and live in the uncertainty while maintaining hope. 

So while we can focus on the thrill of the win, perhaps there’s a deeper lesson that lies within.