Washed in Joy

By Lisa Bonnema

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I don’t remember the date, or if it was even day or night. What I do remember is being in the shower and not knowing where the water began and my tears stopped. There was just a constant flow of water that, at the time, felt anything but cleansing. I was shattered and crying out to God desperately: Life had dropped on a bomb on us, and I was still reeling. 

A routine ultrasound revealed that our third child, the child in my womb, had a birth defect and would face lifelong disabilities and a lifetime of unknowns. Nothing was certain or safe, and I was so scared and sad and confused. This was supposed to be a moment of joy – a blessing of new life and exciting beginnings -- and yet there I stood, drenched in sorrow. I felt both devastated and ashamed for feeling devastated. I loved my baby. I did. And that’s why it hurt so badly. I wanted the world for her -- but this was a world I knew nothing about.

And then they came. One right after another. Verse after verse falling over me and filling my mind so quickly that I couldn’t possibly recall them right now if I tried. They were Bible verses I never remember memorizing, yet there they were, covering me with grace and love and hope. It was a sacred moment of God’s presence I will never forget. As I stood there, soul and body bare, His loving and encouraging words gently washed away my fears, leaving peace and joy in their place.

Of course, that wasn’t the last time I felt fear or sorrow over my daughter’s journey. Just recently, I walked through a surgery with her, and the fears were just as real and as raw as they were 9 years ago. But what happened to me that day in the shower felt like a promise from God: His words – the Word -- would be my comfort and my joy. They were what I needed to navigate this new world I knew nothing about. It’s not that they would erase the hard parts or even take them away; it’s that they would remind me of the goodness and victory that are mine. That are hers. That are all of ours. They are, in fact, our heritage.

I have your decrees as a heritage forever;

indeed, they are the joy of my heart.

Psalm 119:111

Throughout Psalm 119, we read about all the reasons we can delight in God’s Word. It keeps us from sin (verse 11). It gives us hope (verse 74). It lights our path (verse 105). In verse 111, however, the psalmist confidently states that the decrees of the Lord are our heritage. The Hebrew translation for “decrees” in this case is “testimonies.” This means God’s story is our story. His victory is our victory. It means the promises of His Word are not only true; they are our inheritance. We can claim them as ours, and when we live by them and stockpile them in our hearts, we can find joy. Yes, even in those moments when we are drowning in doubt and fear.

This doesn’t mean we won’t experience sadness. Joy doesn’t always replace pain. I find they can often be found together. But we do have an assurance that the well of God’s goodness never runs dry. If we, like the psalmist, claim God’s ways as our heritage, we too can be certain that His plans are good. That’s when the joy comes.

And for our mama hearts, here’s the best part: The promises of the Lord can be our children’s heritage as well. Every time we intentionally pour God’s Word into them, we can provide them with a source of joy they will find nowhere else. It is a practice that is tricky in the day-to-day craziness of life, but it is a practice that could be transformative, not only for their tender little hearts, but perhaps even for their grown-up hearts years down the road. God’s Word is not only our heritage; it can be our legacy.

The more I experience the power and comfort of God’s Word in my life, the more I want to share it with my children. Since the first day my youngest daughter noticed her physical differences, we started saying Psalm 139:14 together

“I will praise you because I have been remarkably and wondrously made. Your works are wondrous, and I know this very well.”

During her most recent surgery, when she was struggling through her recovery, we recited Philippians 4:13 over and over again: 

“I’m able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

I’ll admit, there are so many other times I have fallen short in this area. My prayer is that our gracious God will store the few verses I have shared with my daughters in their hearts for the days when they need them most. 

Constant joy is by no means a given when you are a Christian, but I do believe we have constant access to it. Every moment I put myself and my kids in front of the Word is time well spent, even when I don’t feel like one syllable is sticking. When my mind wanders off or my inconsistent attempts at family devotions end in fights and frustration, I rest in the knowledge that God is pouring into a well somewhere deep within our souls and that joy will rise up at just the right time.

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Letters to the Lonely Mom - Letter Seven

How to Cultivate Good in Your Lonely Season

By Elizabeth Cravillion

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Dear Lonely Mom, 

Last year at the end of summer I picked the last few ripe tomatoes off of dying vines and cut a final few zinnias to stick in a jar in my kitchen. I was so grateful for the seeds I planted in the spring as I harvested those gifts. This summer we were moving and I didn’t plant anything, so nothing grew, naturally.

Have you ever planted a garden? It’s such a learning experience. I’ve tried all kinds of vegetables and flowers in my little downtown yard. Sometimes things grow, sometimes they don’t. But for sure if we don’t plant the seeds, we won’t harvest a thing. 

The same goes for our relationships.

How many times have we heard the verse, “Let us not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up” (Galatians 6:10)? It’s often applied to mothering our children well. But it is true for the deep work of growing our relationships with God and others, too.

In the lonely seasons, plant seeds of friendship. Reach out to other women. Host play dates even when they don’t feel worth it. Find a group to connect with. Be the one to text your friends. Bravely reach out to the mom at the library. If a relationship isn’t working, try connecting with someone else. There’s no magic button to friendship. Sometimes it takes slow, hard work. 

Use the lonely season to grow closer to God. Keep showing up to spend time with Him, even if it doesn’t feel inspirational and amazing every day. Serve others in the church. Look for ways to invest in your relationship with God. 

Little seeds will eventually grow a garden . Sometimes you have to experiment to figure out which seeds grow the best in your life. Seasons don’t last forever. They come and go. Use the one you’re in to keep faithfully taking little steps toward connection. They will bloom someday.

MEDITATE: Galatians 6:10, 2 Corinthians 4:15-18

REFLECT:

1. Name some areas of life you’ve seen grow when you’ve invested in them over a long time. 

2. What is one small seed of connection with others you can plant today?


PRAY:

Lord, help me to be patient in the waiting season when I feel alone. You know how it is to be lonely. I trust that You are growing me in ways I can’t see now. I believe that you have friendships for me and that you’ll show me how to cultivate those. Amen.

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Letters to the Lonely Mom - Letter Six

When My Child is Lonely

By Christina Eastman

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Dear Lonely Mom, 

As I walked down the hall I peeked into his room. Laying on his bed cuddling his phone my heart kinda, well it wrung. I don’t know how to help him. It’s all too familiar watching life go on without being a part. A following of instagrammers but the real lifers so disconnected. One of my boys is 16 now and this year has been hard. Not in the sense of wrong choices on his part but because he’s had a few move on with their own lives. And yet he is still here. Longing for true connection and friendship. Yet loneliness fills his room.

Dear momma who’s child is wrestling against loneliness,it’s real. What you perceive may be their reality. Rest assured it’s not something to fear. It’s like so many other moments we can use to teach. It’s the hard work of being a mama. Engaging is so much more complex than ignoring. While my encouragement is simple, it’s our truth as believers. The Holy Spirit is our ultimate comforter and we must teach our children that. 

I suppose it’s really the same for me; I need to do what I’m teaching him to do. It’s ok to turn off  social media. Actually it’s healthy. . It does our physical bodies good to go outside and move. To call a friend and not vomit up what your life is lacking but be that which we so desperately need. To fill our Spirits with His Word; to know, believe and trust in it. The first weapon against my child’s loneliness is helping him to get into God’s Word. 

My kids are deeply involved in church and opportunity for community is all around them. In the moments when it’s not enough, God’s Word is. Laying aside expectations of others and relying on Jesus is enough. 

MEDITATE: John 14:16-18; 26-27

REFLECT:

1. Is your child lonely? Know the difference between loneliness and depression.

2. What  difference would knowing the Holy Spirit as the Comforter make in the wrestle against loneliness?

3. What can I do today to help my child in a practical way?


PRAY:

Lord, help! In the moments I see my child wrestle with loneliness, give me wisdom. If it’s your Word that is needed, illuminate your scriptures for me so that it is easy to stand on and  share. Help me to encourage the healthy relationships you send my child’s way. Father be near my child in moments and ways that I cannot and in the midst of the wrestle give me the strength to be the encourager that he needs. You lead Lord. Amen

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