What I Want to Do, I Do Not Do…

A few weeks ago, I was praying about parenting. I was especially frustrated that day, because it felt as though I repeat myself to my children over and over again, every single day, and I don’t really see much progress.

I was so fed up, I said to God, with much passion and annoyance, “WHEN will Anika listen to me???! Why can’t she learn to obey me??”

And God said, deep in my heart, “When will YOU learn to obey me? What keeps YOU from listening to ME?”

I thought about that for a bit, and finally realized: It’s my heart that keeps me from obeying God. I know what I need to do, but I do not have the strength to follow through. My heart needs to change in order for me to obey Him.

I was sharing this experience with Anika last night, and as I tried to explain it, the verses from Romans came to mind:

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it….What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God — through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 7:15-20, 25)


Jesus rescues me. Jesus teaches me how to obey, and transforms me inside so that I start to do the good I truly want to do.

Trying to explain that to Anika in a way she could easily understand made me want to weep with relief, as I was reminded all over again that I am saved from this mess, and I do not need to do it on my own. “Thanks be to God…!”

Trying to force my children to obey me has not been working very well. I can get as annoyed and frustrated and angry as I want, but disobedience is only a symptom of the true problem – I need to keep praying for their hearts. I need to keep remembering that it is Christ who gives us and our children the strength to do what He wants us to do!

How can I be impatient with my girls, when I turn around, and there is God, waiting to teach me the very thing my children need to learn, as well?

So, Anika and I decided to try all over again the next day. We prayed about it, and we thanked God for second chances and fresh starts, and we will keep going for the heart.

How Ben Really Won My Heart

I’ve been trying to think up something to write about for Valentine’s Day, and just kept coming up empty. No ideas. I’ve already shared the story of how Ben and I met, and apparently I had nothing else romantic to say for Valentine’s Day.

But then last night, a memory popped into my mind of a part of the story that I haven’t shared before, and it has to do with one of the things I love most about Ben.

So that is what I will share with you today on Valentine’s Day:

As I’ve written about before, Ben and I met at summer camp, and became good friends. Because he had a girlfriend, I wasn’t really terribly interested in pursuing a friendship after the summer was over, however. I wasn’t all that good at friendships with boys. I’ve always preferred deep relationships, which usually got complicated with boys, so it was an “all or nothing” deal for me. If he already had a girlfriend, then our relationship wasn’t going to go anywhere anyway.

However, after a few months back at Bible school, I heard that Ben was no longer dating anyone, and we happened to meet up at a volley ball game (which sounds so casual, but really I changed my plans for the evening last minute totally because I knew Ben would be there!). Suddenly it seemed like there was a point to being friends again!

Especially since he was so much better-looking than I had remembered from the summer…

We hung out a bunch of times that winter, but Ben definitely took his time. And my dad had given me strict instructions to play “hard to get”, and not let on how interested I was. (Ben was always his favorite, right from the start, and he really didn’t want me to mess anything up!)

So things dragged on far longer than I thought necessary, and I did my best to be mysterious and all that, although Ben let me know later on that it hadn’t really worked, and he always knew I was interested. Sigh.

Well, I did my best.

Anyway, after a few months of “just being good friends”, I was getting extremely impatient. Around that time, another boy entered the scene. To this day, I’m still not really sure what he wanted, as I wasn’t his type at all. He had dated millions of other girls, so maybe he’d just run out of new material, but for whatever reason, I became the object of his attention for a few weeks.

It was extremely annoying, since I had no desire to be that object. He was very forward and smooth, obviously from all the practice, and it always made me feel suspicious.

On one particular weekend, the Bible school I attended was holding a large event, and I was volunteering in the registration booth. Although Ben attended a different college nearby, he came out one evening for part of the event. I played my little “cool and calm” role, but really inside, I was outrageously excited to see him. He very casually mentioned that we should get together sometime, and I very casually agreed that sounded like a good idea.

Then he sauntered off, and I was completely frustrated with him for being totally unreadable and so annoyingly friendly and unflirtatious.

Shortly after that, along came Boy #2 to my booth, where he proceeded to fling himself over the counter and landed right in front of me, practically in my lap. He said he had come to “help” me, and then hung around, whispering in my ear and other annoying things like that.

When he finally left, and I was done working in the registration booth, I went in search of my best friend to tell her everything that had happened.

I ended it all off by wailing to her, “Why can’t BEN be the one throwing himself over counters for me???!!!”

To which she responded, “Because then you wouldn’t like him as much as you do.”

I chewed that one over for the rest of the night, and for a long time to come.

Ben never flirted with me or tried to manipulate my feelings.

Ben treated me with the utmost respect.

Ben was always kind and gentle, and would never stoop to making our friendship into some kind of silly “game”.

Ben was not “smooth”. He was sincere, and his good, good heart showed all the time. Sometimes he wasn’t exactly sure of how to express himself in the best way, but it made him even more enduring.

Ben was patient and took his time, but was definitely, without a question…worth the wait.

Boy #2 soon got tired of me, and moved on.

Ben kept his slow and steady pace. When he finally asked me out on a date, it was wonderful.

And he has always continued to be genuine, sincere, gentle and patient. With me, and with everyone else.

His good, good heart continues to show, and I love him for it.

photo credit: Morgan Braun

Smelly Rotten Meat Attitude

Oh my word, my house stinks. Words cannot describe the stench. If only the computer screen were “scratch and sniff” – then you, too, could experience the terrible wonder that is my home.

And it’s all my own fault.

I made a beautiful roast. Cooked it in the slow cooker all day. My house smelled FANTASTIC, then. Really, it was so great that I just craved beef all day long. I even ate roast beef for my night snack. Oh, yum.

But the problem was that I threw the meat wrapper into the garbage, along with some meat that had gone bad, and then…. I forgot it there.

Usually I am extremely conscientious about getting the garbage out of the house, but yesterday morning we were in a big rush to leave for the city, and I never thought about that smelly garbage again….

Until we got home late that evening. It was 10:30pm, and the girls were desperate for their beds. It had been a long, busy day, and I was eager to get home. I opened our door…and was greeted with that foul stench. And I knew exactly what had happened. It was the kind of overpowering smell that makes you NOT want to breathe through your mouth, because it feels like you’ll taste the nastiness of it, and you don’t want to breathe through your nose, because then you’ll have to smell it again.

The only option is to stop breathing. And since that’s not really an option, the next best thing is to eliminate the odor as quickly as possible.

I got the garbage out of the house, pronto. I lit candles. I brought in my Easter lily that smells so intensely beautiful that I couldn’t handle having it in the house. Into the house it went.

This morning, things were no better. So I scrubbed my garbage can and threw out everything that had even touched it. And now I’m cooking soup and baking bread (in the bread maker – not quite that hardcore homemaker as to bake it truly from scratch!)

And now we’re starting to get somewhere. My house will smell delicious once more.

Here’s the thing – the whole time I was breathing in stench and frantically battling to save my home, all I could think about was how the sin in my life is like a smelly meat wrapper.

And how annoying – I don’t like it when people have to make a spiritual illustration out of EVERYTHING, and half the time it’s a huge stretch. I like spiritual illustrations that are not far-reaching.

But there you have it. Rotten meat wrappers are like sin.

The reason I thought this is because lately I’ve been struggling with a bad attitude about something. God is not giving me my own way, and once again, I think that I have a difficult situation completely figured out, and I’m slightly annoyed that apparently I don’t get to control the situation, even though I’m obviously very qualified to do so. Whatever.

And then yesterday, once again, I was having trouble writing a blog post. This seems to be happening somewhat frequently. But this time, I knew exactly why I was having trouble. It was because my rotten, stinky attitude was permeating everything, and I was having trouble with praying, reading my Bible, anything that needed to be done with a soft, open heart. I was all clogged up – no inspiration could flow in, no inspiration could flow out. I had forgotten to clean out the bad attitude, and left it sitting there for a bit too long. Before I knew it, everything was a rotten, stinking mess.

Cleaning it out must be thorough. It is not a quick, easy fix. I’ve been dealing with it, but I can detect that a bit of odor still lingers on. And there seems to be two steps necessary:

1) Clean out the nasty stuff.

2) Fill up with good stuff.

I need to get the garbage out, scrub everything clean, and get rid of anything that may be contributing, until I have a squeaky-clean heart.

And then I bring in the candles and flowers, cook the soup, bake the bread – all those things that make a house smell like a home.

Or fill yourself with the things that make the heart a home for Jesus to live in, fill, and overflow.

Stinky meat wrappers happen – I just need to make sure to get rid of them quick!