May 142014
 

{There will be quite a few of these reposts as I take an audit of the theology in my past posts. I’m not changing this one, but it’s particularly relevant to me, today. I’ve been in a bit of a mood. This post was originally published on March 1, 2009, just before Baby Bear was born.}

So, I’m about to have a baby. I’m not threatening labor so you’ll all check in five times a day. The birth really could be three weeks away; I just have the feeling that it’s going to be much sooner. Of course, now that I’m actually ready for him he may decide to delay a bit.

This afternoon I was overcome by anger toward Papa Bear (who was lying down while I was cleaning the kitchen). Doesn’t he know he’s not allowed to rest in my presence!? But seriously, I hadn’t even asked him to help. And when I told him my back was hurting, he responded, “Just sit down, I’ll clean the kitchen later.” But “later” wasn’t in my plan, so my anger burned on.

Am I the only one this happens to?

I’ve spent the past hour or so talking to the Lord about anger. I know that anger is a good thing. Anger is from God, but in our sinfulness we direct it at the wrong things. We allow Satan to use it as a weapon against our souls. My guideline for anger is simple: I can be angry at Satan, and at sin, without losing my cool; any other focus and my peace is gone.

Hormonal anger is a little trickier. I think that’s because it doesn’t seem to have an actual place in our spiritual lives. In my own life, at least, I’ve never found it useful. It’s more like a cloud that wants to move in between me and my Creator–separating me from all peace and grace. I guess that its sole purpose would be as something to be overcome.

Any tips?

For me, the most victory comes when I recognize the problem. Maybe it would have been nice if Papa Bear had jumped up and cleaned the kitchen (unrealistic, but nice), but his inability to act like a woman was probably not the real source of my anger.

What is the source of my peace? 

When the kids respond angrily toward their siblings, we go through a little memorized dialog:

“Who fills your heart with peace?”

“Jesus does.”

“Who fills your heart with joy?”

“Jesus does.”

“Can your sister steal your peace and joy?”

“No.”

“Who can steal your peace and joy?”

“NO ONE CAN!!!”

I have talked in great lengths with my children about their ability to give away their fruit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control). We always choose to “loose it”. The Devil can’t make us do it, and neither can anyone else.

At least, that’s what I tell my kids.

I can and will pray for indescribable peace over these next few weeks. But it’s really God’s decision. I know He’ll give me peace in abundance, but He may not give me as much as I’d like. That is, He probably won’t transform my home into a fairy land of self-cleaning kitchens and self-wiping bottoms. He will, most assuredly, have something to teach me through the struggle.

And I really do pray that I’ll learn it.

 

May 132014
 

{Originally posted on December 9th, 2008}

I’ve been reading post after post lately about the pangs of LBS (Last Baby Syndrome). And I’ve been doing my share of pining too. With one still in the womb, I feel silly even thinking about being sad. And this might not even be our last baby. But then again, it might be. What if this is the last time I am 25 weeks pregnant?

One way or another, whether she has one or eleven, every mother will have a “last baby”. Someone will be last. Sometimes she’ll know it at the time of conception, sometimes she won’t grasp the reality until years later. But the sadness will most likely come. It’s really just a matter of time.

For the past week or so I’ve been consciously trying to identify the source of the last baby sadness. Is it wrong? Should we fight it? Shouldn’t we just be so grateful that they are alive, healthy, and growing that we cherish each new stage?

Well, yeah, I think we should feel that way. But we also have the right to be a little sad.

“And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

God, in His complete perfection, really just wants us to stay little too! Now that’s a vast oversimplification of the passage, but I do think it’s relevant. Of course He wants us to grow and change. He desires us to move past milk to solid food. But there is something in us, as babes, that He wants to protect. And I think that thing is very much at the root of our last baby sorrow.

He wants us to be totally dependant on, and completely loyal to, Him. He wants us to need Him with every fiber of our being.

Today I was sitting with the Lil’ Prince, cuddling in a chair. He started to get down to play, and I laughed, “Oh, where are you going?” He laughed, too, and he and settled back down beside me.

“Come play!” His sisters coaxed.

“No, I’m cud-ling mama,” he replied contentedly.

My heart leapt. “He wants to spend time with me!”

And really, isn’t that the whole point?

 May 13, 2014  Christianity, Mommyhood Comments Off on Why We Want to Keep Them Little
May 132014
 

{Because I have gone through some pretty dramatic changes over the past two years, I’ve decided to go through old posts in this category to audit their theology. This one stands fine as it was. Originally posted on January 23, 2009.}

 

For the past few weeks I have been overwhelmingly burdened for marriages. Unfortunately, this burden hasn’t come out of nowhere, but it is a direct result of suffering in my immediate circle of wives. I know God has a deep heart for marriage. He invented it. He designed it for our good, and He clearly created one woman for one man. But it always goes that what God loves, Satan hates. And let me tell you people, we have an infinitely powerful God, but we do not have a weakling for an enemy. Not by a long shot.

So, I’ve been asking God how I should be praying when I intercede on behalf of this crumbling institution (By the way, it’s crumbling because of Satan’s willfulness and our weak flesh, not because of anyone else. You will find me championing many a conservative political cause, but not the “sanctity of marriage”. That, in my humble not-to-be-heavily-weighed opinion, is between us and our Lord.).

In case you’d like to join me (or you have anything to add), here’s my prayer for marriage:

Perfect God and vastly creative Heavenly Father, I come to you in desire of your perfect will for marriage. I beg you to turn our hearts to you and teach us to love the things that you love. Separate us from our selfishness, and give us the grace to lay down our lives for each other.

Give wives the great strength to be women. Teach us to pray with fervency and to speak with gentleness. Teach us to love our husbands as men and to truly understand what they need. Show us how to suffer in silence and how to stand and fight. Comfort us when our husbands fail us, and never let their failures cause us to doubt your goodness and love. Keep our soft hearts soft, and soften them where they’re hard. And help us to weigh your Spirit in us far above our fleshly desires.

Give our husbands the strength to be men. Grow them up in the warrior power of your Holy Spirit. Reveal the true manliness of commitment and protection to their bloodied and used souls. Heal their broken hearts, and be the father and shepherd to their boyishness. Turn their hearts wholly to their wives, and teach them to love with selfless abandon.

Give married couples the strength to fight. Teach us to fight fair, and teach us to fight for the things worth fighting for. Make us one in body, mind, and spirit, that we may truly reflect your son and His Bride. Protect that precious picture through everything that we do. Make us selfless and tender, forgiving and kind, and always slow to anger.

Protect us from offense and temptation. Teach us to speak your words, and to speak them often. Give us time to spend with one another and remove distraction and worry from our minds. Let us return to romance, pure and holy, childlike and fun.

Bless us, heal us, and restore us by the power of your incredible name. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

May 112014
 
uglyhousephotos.com

uglyhousephotos.com

It’s like your whole life (before Google) you thought that chartreuse was a shade of purple. Then, one day out of nowhere, you realize it’s the most hideous shade of back-of-the-fridge yellow that you’ve ever seen. You’re shocked, embarrassed, and mostly mortified that such a color even exists. Your brain begins to rearrange each memory that has in any way contained the idea chartreuse. You now know that Grandma’s carpet was chartreuse. You find yourself correctly using the word chartreuse–simply because you can. In just a few days, the shock has worn off completely. Any memories of chartreuse as purple have all but been erased. You can move happily forward in your new-found knowledge; but barring head injury, you can never go back to chartreuse as purple–even though you might prefer it to be true.

I lived my entire life believing things that I no longer believe, and I’m happy with the beauty of new-found realities. I discovered that chartreuse wasn’t purple, and in the process I stumbled onto mauve. The paradigm shift was sudden, and it’s hard to remember why I believed the things that I used to. The Bible was a conglomeration of inconsistent truths held together by made-up seminary words and highbrow sounding phrases which are found precisely nowhere in the pages of Scripture and are meant to intimidate people like me. And that was okay…because everyone around me believed the same way I did. Until one day when it wasn’t okay, and I started asking “Why?”.

Why was Yeshua killed?

I mean, I know that He had to die for my sins, but why was He hated so? Why did they want to kill Him?

Why were they singing His praises on “Palm Sunday” just to kill Him four days later?

I’ll admit it. This one has always bothered me.

Why did they rest “according to the commandment” if we’re not supposed to honor the Shabbat today?

The women didn’t tend to Yeshua’s body until the third day because they were busy with the Feast and corresponding Shabbats. Why didn’t Yeshua warn them that He was coming to put a stop to such things?

How does a paid debt translate to an abolished law?

Isn’t it either one or the other? If the law is gone, what do I need to repent for? If the law exists, it’s our penalty that He has put under His blood.

It’s silly that these questions (and the answering of such questions) has been labeled as a “movement” within the church. This isn’t a movement as much as a backpedal. Sometimes it’s a sitting-and-pondering rest from all movement. This is not a new thing, but such an old, old thing that it appears as if it is new. This is a “What Would Yeshua Do?” tied as a sign upon our hands. And then a “Ooooh! Oooooh! Then I want to do that, too!”

See, I now understand that Yeshua was killed for teaching against the law. Not the Law (big “L”): the law (little “l”). They didn’t rightly differenciate between man’s law and God’s Law any better than we do today. We still read of Yeshua picking grain on the Sabbath and cry “Sabbath breaker!” like a Pharisee. We don’t even realize what we’re saying! For if our Passover Lamb were to break even the least of all of the commandments, then He would not have fulfilled the Law. He would not have been the perfect sacrifice. We would still be dead in our sins.

The Pharisees hated Yeshua for good reason…almost. Deuteronomy chapter thirteen commands Israel to reject any prophet that teaches against the Law–even a worker of miracles. In fact, they were commanded to kill such a teacher. The Pharisees did well to adhere to this warning; they simply couldn’t see the forest for the fences they had built around it. They were protecting their own laws. They weren’t protecting God’s.

Yeshua and His Father are of one mind. There is no rivalry between them. What is holy to the Father is holy to the Son. The Law of God is the Law of Christ. The Law of Christ is the Law of God. Yeshua is the Word of God made flesh (filled up, more fully revealed), so He had a vested interest in making sure it was being followed in the Spirit with which it was given.

Yeshua pick, pick, picked at these extra and burdensome commandments, and it was this picking that lead to His death. Though, in the end, those who accused Him knew they were killing an innocent man. They loved their traditions. The different sects Yeshua bantered with had differing sets of traditions, yet they often held their traditions as law–as equal to God’s Law. Yeshua continually questioned their interpretations when they added to the Law of God. They didn’t enjoy being questioned, so they bribed false witnesses to claim that Yeshua taught against the Torah. And as a false teacher–a Torah breaker, He had to be put to death. But He wasn’t a Torah breaker–hence the need for calculated lies [Matt. 26:59].

The day we call “Palm Sunday” is more accurately the 10th of Nissan. It’s the day the High Priest paraded through the city with the Passover lamb.  The people would shout and cheer “Hosanna!” as the lamb passed by. But on this particular 10th of Nissan that we refer to as “Palm Sunday,” another Lamb also rode through. This one rode on a donkey. Many in the crowd must have made the connection, and their joy bubbled over in unimaginable praise. Their uncontainable joy made the Pharisees increasingly nervous, and this hastened His trial and conviction so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled. Yeshua had to be killed on Passover.

When Yeshua died, He died on a preparation day. He didn’t die on a typical preparation day, however (the day before the weekly Sabbath). Because the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread  (the day following Passover) is a commanded High Sabbath, Yeshua’s followers had two very solemn Shabbats before they were again face-to-face with their Lord. How badly they must have wanted to visit His tomb in the days between His death and resurrection! But they rested and feasted instead...according to the commandment. It seems walking and talking with Yeshua didn’t prepare one for the abolition of the Law. It seems ten years post Yeshua was not enough time for Peter to understand that a Christian could “eat all things” [Acts 10:14].

It’s seem likely that someone is confused. It seems less likely that someone is Peter.

The audience of the New Testament is primarily Jewish: Law-keeping, law-keeping Jews. The kept the Law for salvation. They kept the law for salvation. This was never the intent of the Law, and the law was never intended. When preaching to an audience such as this, one would rightly downplay the big “L” (and reject the little “l”) just to restore a proper understanding of the grace that had always saved them.

When I read these Scriptures now, they make sense! They make so much sense that I can barely remember when they seemed in any way strange or disconnected. I am truly free from the penalty of a life-time of breaking His commandments (both accidentally and on purpose)! Now I’ll live a life intended to please Him–not according to my heart, but as instructed by His. I’ll do this not to be adopted, but because He’s already given me His name. And now everything is mauve.

 

Apr 062014
 

It’s Saturday, and Saturday is my night. It’s a short night because we don’t get home from church until pretty late. But it’s my night, and I love it.

Each of my children get a night, every week, where they stay up later than the others so we can talk about their lives. As a homeschool mom who has just survived a long winter inside with my children, you’d think I’d know all about their lives without any extra effort…but you’d be wrong. I mean, I know the visible stuff. What I don’t know is the invisible stuff. And the invisible stuff is infinitely more important. On each of these talking nights I learn things I would never know if I didn’t take the time to pry…if I didn’t ask the questions they were dying to answer. I shudder to think of the doors left cracked for the enemy if some small secrets remained hidden to quietly grow and grow. Every night I am shocked, amazed, stunned, and proud to get to know the warriors I am raising. I ask them…

 

“How was your week? What was the best/worst thing about this week?”

“How is your thought life?”

“Have you had any good/bad dreams this week?”

“What are your sin struggles? How can I pray for you?”

“How are you working to improve _____ (something that was mentioned the week before)?”

 

Saturday is my night. It’s the night I take special care to approach the Father as His daughter…and to tell Him about my week. He already knows the invisible things, but He likes to hear from my heart. I know, because He’s a parent, too.

 

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Jan 242014
 

It’s been about six months since we packed up the truck with just an inkling of what we were doing…with only a general idea of where we were going. I left my couch. I left my living room chair. I left the kids’ squeaky bunk beds and my washer and dryer. They wouldn’t fit in the truck, and anything superfluous simply had  to stay behind.

A few evenings before, we’d dragged the red wagon down to the lake and gathered bundles of mint and mullen. We rolled in clover one last time, and we chomped on the earthy red flowers as we sat and gazed over the water. It was low..lower than I’d ever seen it. Fish scales littered the shore and tried their best to turn me away. But it wasn’t working; I wasn’t buying. I adore summer mountain evenings. The air is clean and light and just cool enough to redden one’s nose. It’s quiet, and we sat lulled by the symphony of fish jumping and bees buzzing and birds prattling from shore to shore.  I squinted my eyelids tightly to wall a flood of tears behind them, and I breathed in with all of my might.

“I’m sorry, Father,” I whispered, “if I let Your creation move me more than You do.”   Then we waved at the lake with stalwart faces and promised it we’d be back someday. For now, we’d have to leave it. We were headed to Missouri.

I know most of y’all probably think that this move had something to do with my husband. It didn’t. He hopes to follow the kids out here someday soon, and he gave his 100% blessing to the move. That’s all I’m gonna say about that.

When God is ready for His people to move, He has a funny way of sullying their opinion of the place where they currently are. You’d think making bricks would be bad enough, but I believe it was God who increased the Israelites’ workload just to sour their taste for Egypt. Over the past year (2013) I had lost relationships. My once strong system of support had all but turned and walked away (because I’d decided to walk-out the Torah). I’d denied Jesus (in embracing Yeshua); at least, that’s what some people said. And that’s all I’m gonna say about that.

The only possession I had in the world was my broken-down (but well-loved), single-wide trailer. The previous winter had been bitterly cold, and we weren’t really looking forward to another one — nor were my parents in their only slightly better trailer next door. Coincidentally, or not at all so, they had simultaneously begun a walk in Torah before a single conversation between us. Neither family wanted to move without the other or stay and face another mountain winter (and my health has been poor, making single-parenting increasingly difficult)…so we decided to just become one and to move together.

We chose Missouri for several reasons, not the least of which was a fellowship of believers in the unlikely city of St. Charles (just outside of St. Louis). Passion for Truth Ministries, and more specifically Jim Staley, is the church that Google warned you about. Those warnings put me at ease (cause the same things were being said about me). After almost a full year of personal study in which I listened to dozens of preachers and spent much more time in the Word than I ever had before, furiously digging for truth, I found that no other visible ministry fit my life (the one I believe He has called me to) like the one embraced by Passion for Truth.

To remind y’all of what that is, here is the breakdown:

  • I’m a Christian (there is no need to scorn a label that Paul and Peter did not seem to scorn); but more importantly, I am grafted into the commonwealth of Israel.
  • I am saved by belief in a Jewish, Torah-abiding, Messiah who asks me to walk as He did.
  • Yeshua’s blood paid for the curse (what I had coming for breaking God’s law). It didn’t nullify God’s eternal instructions.
  • The fact that I cannot be perfect is not  a reason not to try (i.e. I can’t feed the whole world, so there is no need to feed one child?? Hogwash!).
  • God absolutely cares about obedience, and I live to make Him smile.

In the end, it wasn’t really location or doctrine or friends (or the lack thereof)…God just said go, so we sold the trailers and ordered a truck. And off we went.

We spent eight days in a Super8 while we, sometimes frantically, searched for a house. Deep breath. I’ll break the suspense: We did find one! Honestly, I let Mom and Dad handle most of that part. The kids and I were poolside. We love hotels, no matter the reason. On our first morning there, Sophie (a.k.a. Tiny Dancer) leaned over her complimentary cinnamon roll and OJ and asked through a quirky grin, “Mom, are we homeless?” “Ummm…yep,” I grinned back. Then she laughed-out-loud for five minutes. Apparently she still trusts me enough to think homelessness is funny. I take this as a very good sign.

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The truck was unloaded…and then reloaded and unloaded again (all thanks to Dad). None of us had any income yet, and it’s never wise to play the “God said to move” card with landlords. Like the Israelites in the wilderness, we wondered over leaving. Had it really been the safe thing to do? And like the Israelites in the wilderness, we gathered (and continue to gather) manna at just the right time. Unless I’m much, much weaker than they were, I think my ancestors in the wilderness were at least somewhat surprised every morning, and maybe a little worried every night. Even when you should know it’s coming, because God has never failed you before, it’s hard to trust provision that has nothing to do with you.

But then, that’s the story of my life.

Dec 182013
 

Last night I warned my daughter that time moves quickly…so quickly…for grown-ups. Of course, she whined about that being unfair — because life moves so slowly for children.

If I close my eyes tightly, and breathe in deeply, I can see and smell two-thousand and twelve. Two-thousand thirteen is still paper thin, and I could reach through and touch the past if I tried to — maybe. There are seasons in our lives when someone rips the vacuum seal on a lifetime of thoughts and experiences; newness explodes in an instant. It’s inexplicably fast, this bursting, yet it contains moments that are tangibly slow. In these seconds you can hear your heart thump — slow…slower…like it’s falling asleep and you’re listening from underwater.

Budum. Budum…budum…bu-dum…

It was Sunday morning, late two-thousand and twelve, and my eyes were blood-shot from study. I hadn’t slept the night before. I stood on the stage in a floor length dress, and I held my great-grandfather’s violin. The pastor called my name, and that snapped me back to reality. I’d been back at home tucked under covers with my coffee and my Bible.

“Sarah,” he said confidently and kindly, “God has spent the past several years teaching you to hear His voice. Now He’s leading you into a new ministry…”

I’d be lying if I said I could quote the rest. I stepped back to steady myself with my bare heel; I blinked away tears, and I smiled. “What if that means I can’t stay here?” echoed over and over in my mind as I gazed out over my family. “Will you still trust that I can hear God?”

In the winter of 2011 I was inspired, compelled by joy, to write the book I am presenting you today. I believe God told me to write what would be a kind of Christianity 101 geared to parents of young children and meant, at least in part, to be a conversation starter for families. As a parent of five little ones, and a thirty-year veteran of Evangelical Christianity, I thought it sounded like a cinch to write. I sat down and began typing a rough chapter outline within five minutes of hearing His voice. I smiled from ear-to-ear and typed like the wind; then He interrupted softly with, “…but not yet”.  I was crushed…and a little offended. One thing was made perfectly clear in that dictated pause between inspiration and execution: I was not yet equipped to write this simple book.

Over the next two years, God has wrecked me — in the very best sense of the phrase. By the end of two-thousand and twelve I knew exactly why He had delayed me that night. More than that, I was grateful. I fell fast into a love affair with my Savior like nothing I had ever experienced. I began to drink Scripture like before I’d been swallowing sand. I was so thirsty. I opened my mind to anything the Bible had to offer; and as I saw and learned things I’d never seen or learned before, I taught them to my children as we walked along the way.

From December two-thousand and twelve to December two-thousand and thirteen I’ve logged over one-thousand hours of study, and I’ve poured them into a book. In my quest for truth I held nothing sacrosanct but Scripture, and I held no one sacred but Jesus. At that moment when the preacher’s daughter allowed herself to question, the bag ripped open. The seal broke. The room spun.

“The morning! The morning!” I cried, “I am caught by the morning and I am a ghost.” ~ C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce

Two-thousand and thirteen was both rapid and steady — faith-testing and awe inspiring. I stretched all sides of the bubble of Christianity, straining from fingertip to fingertip. It transformed into something at times unrecognizable, but it did not break. I’m still here; I still believe. I still teach my children. Only now, I know I why I believe.

And as if any more ado could be possible, I present: Little Children. Big God.

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[click the photo for purchase details]

Little Children. Big God. is an intricate weaving of deep study and childhood wonder as told by Sarah Hawkes Valente, a mother of five young children. Each chapter introduces essential doctrine through beautifully concise narrative—simplifying sometimes confusing scriptures while still preserving their integrity. Sarah challenges us to diligently teach our children, to be continually taught by the mouth of our Father, and to apply His eternal precepts to our everyday lives. This book is for anyone in search of renewed, child-like eyes with which to more clearly see the heart of our great big God.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 December 18, 2013  Christianity 1 Response »
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