The last three days of 2017 will be mostly spent at the hospital where I work. So if not now, I won’t have much of a chance to reflect on 2017 or make plans for 2018 before it’s here.
Today I went to the gym after waking up late (7:30 am is two hours of sleeping in for me), took my teenage sons to their dental cleaning appointment, got a replacement florescent light bulb for our kitchen and then stopped here at our local library to capture maybe an hour of intentional, prayerful thinking on what has happened this year and what I am aiming for the next.
I asked my 13 and 14 year olds this morning to consider three questions:
- Something you’d like to learn?
- Something you have questions about?
- And something you are interested in?
They looked at me like I was from Mars. That’s pretty much where it stands right now as far as their opinion of me anyway, so I wasn’t offended. Somehow, in the last year, I’ve become the parent that doesn’t know anything, and does things that NO other parent does to their kids. Things such as, ask them to put away their youtube/snapchat/instagram, video games, phones and take their earbuds out so they can consider three questions. Yep, I’m that parent.
This leads into both a reflection on 2017 and a resolution for 2018 when it comes to being a mom raising men.
A Hard Year For My Kids
My kids had a hard year. If you’ve read my blog much, or my about me page, or if you know me well at all you know that I am working the mom thing from a difficult marriage point of view. The difficulty specifically lies in what I’ve dubbed being a One Peter Three Wife. Another way I’ve coded this kind of marriage is an “even if” marriage. 1 Peter 3:1-2 in the CSB version says it like this:
In the same way, wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands so that,even if some disobey the word,they may be won over without a word by the way their wives live when they observe your pure, reverent lives.
See that “even if” in there. All marriages are hard, or at least have hard seasons somewhere. But the man or woman who finds themselves in a marriage to a spouse that doesn’t love God’s word, doesn’t follow Christ, doesn’t “obey the word”… we find ourselves in a particular kind of hard marriage. The kind where some might think you should bail because a divided house is sure to fall anyway. But Peter doesn’t say that. And neither does Paul. Peter says, “Even if you find yourself in a difficult marriage to an unbeliever, try to win them over without preaching to them!” And Paul says, “If they are willing to stay married to you, stay married. You might win them over!” (my paraphrase of 1 Cor. 7:12-16).
So, I’ve been in one of these “even if” marriages for 24 years. And it hasn’t been easy. We’ve been separated and on the verge of divorce more than once and 2017 was one of them.
This year my sons have had to live through the fear and sick feelings that come with having parents who aren’t in a stable marriage. I remember those feelings. I was one of those kids too. But I see God’s grace so much in this hard year for my kids. They have seen first hand what it looks like to trust Christ in relational trouble. They have seen and heard their mother’s prayers. They have seen God work repentance in their parents. And they have seen God work reconciliation and healing and true change.
Good In the Midst of the Hard Stuff
In 2016 Connor had told me he didn’t want to go to church anymore and was very adamant about it. In 2017 I’ve seen God use Valley Life Church to draw Connor and Ryland into relationships at church through the youth there. Connor now goes to youth group almost every Sunday. Ryland wanted to proclaim is faith in Christ and be baptized this year. God is so faithful! He’s been with me and my boys through the fire this year. He’s heard my prayers and he’s at work in my sons and marriage.
2017: The Year God Put Us In A Church
I had been bouncing from church to church for a couple years before 2017, but after summer vacation I decided to commit myself to Valley Life Surprise. Valley Life is a member of the Southern Baptist Convention and Acts 29 Ministries. So I guess you could say I’m a Baptist now, but I would say I’m a very grateful Christian. Valley Life Surprise is a church plant in the west valley. Just weeks ago, we purchased a building so that we have a base for the mission of reaching out to our community with the gospel. We’re a small church, but I’m confident God is adding to his church, even in this little spot in the world. I love that the gospel is preached at Valley Life every Sunday no matter what passage of scripture is being preached. The good news that God has give his Son in our place for our sins so that we could no longer live for ourselves but for Him is pointed to constantly. I love that!
First Step In A Dream-Direction
In 2017 I, finally, started working on getting my bachelor’s of science in nursing through an online program at Grand Canyon University. This is really a first step in following a direction I’ve been dreaming and praying about. It won’t be long and my teenage sons will be out of the house on their own. When that time comes, I’d like to be ready to give myself to the needs of whatever people God would lead me to, as a nurse. Possibly a nurse practitioner. Maybe it’s because of the healthcare changes I hear about politically. Maybe it’s because I work in a hospital and see first hand so much of the fruit of our broken system and unhealthy lifestyle as Americans. Maybe it’s because I just happen to be a nurse and feel Christ’s love compelling me to give to those who can’t give anything in return. It’s probably a conglomeration of all those things. And it’s pushing me in the direction of wanting to further my degree in nursing so as to put myself in a position to provide healthcare for those who can’t access it. So far the classes are going very well. There’s lots of reading and writing, which I enjoy. Sometime soon comes the dreaded statistics class. That might not be my favorite.
As I look back at 2017 and see God’s faithfulness and mercy, I feel encouraged by His ways and words to take hold of his promises for 2018. Not that he has specific promises that I know about for 2018, but he has specific promises. And I want to lay hold of them in 2018. God’s word is true. He does what he says he’ll do. And his ways are made known to me in Christ. So I can look to the scriptures, and look to Jesus and believe that he will do certain things.
I resolve to lay hold of the promise that God will work all things together for my good to conform me to the image of his Son (Rom.8:28-29). In 2018 I want to have a constant view of my life that says, “This is God’s tool to serve me in making me more Christlike.” And the only way to change the way I think about life so as to have that view spill out of me when I’m shaken is to renew my mind! And the only way I know to renew my mind is to start putting God’s word in it more.
With that desire in mind and that promise in view, I resolve to begin memorizing scripture. I’ve never followed Beth Moore, read any of her books or done any of her Bible studies. Nothing against her at all, just never have read her. But, I tripped over her launch of a group on Facebook the other day where she is starting a community online committed to memorizing the book of Galatians. It’s intimidating. I’ve failed at completing goals for memorizing large portions of scripture before, but I want to do this! I need it!
When I told my kids I was considering memorizing Galatians the critical response I got emboldened me to do it even more.
This leads to another resolve: To read my Bible from my Bible in the house, not from my phone. I do most of my Bible reading on my phone. And that’s fine except I’ve been thinking about how often my kids see me on my phone. They don’t know what I’m doing, they just see me on my phone. I want them to see me in my Bible. Here’s a promise I can cling to in seeking to press God’s word into my memory:
If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. John 15:7-8
This leads to another resolve: Read 4 books other than the Bible this year. I love to read, but I rarely get through a whole book in a year. I know that sounds crazy, but I usually only get bits and pieces of books or articles. And that’s really because I don’t carve the time out to read. In 2017 I read 5 books other than the Bible. All of them assigned books by our marriage counselor. I can make a goal to read 4 books and do it.
Don’t Grow Weary In Training Your Kids
This is a big one. I grow weary in doing good often. And I see in myself a tendency I saw in my dad: to “give up” whenever things don’t turn out how I want or people don’t respond favorably to me. The giving up I’m talking about is an attitude of despondency. Not a surrendered trust in God, but a faithless, hopeless pouting about how hard things are. This attitude is what I see in the story about Israel fearing going into the promised land because of the giants. God scolded them because they looked at the giants but they didn’t look at the greatness of their God! I do that. I hate it that I do that, but I do. And I when I catch myself I wanna smack myself upside the head and say, “Shape up Sheila! Look up! Your God is the Creator of heaven and earth! He could have wiped this earth off the map a long time ago but he waited for you! You are HIS! You have Christ and all that is Christs forever! Stop pouting. Get your tail out from between your legs and get out there and restrain your kids from the evil their bent towards. Teach them the gospel. Teach them God’s ways! Don’t pay attention to their eye-rolling responses. Keep tilling the ground of their hearts. Keep planting the seeds of truth. Keep watering with prayer. God will be faithful! It won’t be for nothing!”
A promise I can cling to for that resolve:
“You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” -Deuteronomy 11:18-19
“so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty,but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11
There’s more in my heart than I can fit in this blog post. God knows. I’ll spend time writing in my 13 year old “Faith” journal probably sometime on New Year’s day. But I better wrap this up for now. I have hungry teenage sons and a husband on his way home from the gym. They might eat each other alive if I don’t get there and cook something.