The Season of ‘No’

The Season of ‘No’

“We don’t swim in the toilet!” No.

“Don’t feed your breakfast to the dog!” No.

“Don’t eat MY breakfast!” No.

“Don’t pee on the floor!” No.

Whew! You guessed it: these are some commonly overheard phrases in my home. Life with a toddler- what a season! Some days I feel like all I do is utter the word ‘no’ to her in one way or another. It’s a frustration to constantly speak it, but I can, in fact, accurately imagine that it’s frustrating to be on the receiving end of that word as well.

But why do I tell her no, or forbid her from doing things? Is it because I’m a big ol’ bully who just wants to be boss? Of course not. I don’t let her splash in the toilet because, germs. I don’t let her feed the dog because she needs the fuel herself. I don’t let her steal my food because, well, some things are meant for Mom. And I don’t let her pee on the floor because other people need to use that part of the house, too.

Hmm. Sounds like some of the reasons God may tell us ‘no’. Sometimes things are bad for us. Some decisions take away something we need. Some things are simply not meant for us, and some bad choices make messes for other people.

God is compassionate. Despite how it feels, and despite our limited understanding, He doesn’t ever tell us ‘no’ or take away simply because He can. For every ‘no’ there is a reason. Like I tell my kids- I don’t ask them to do/not to do things for nothing. There is always a purpose! Sometimes it’s to their benefit, and sometimes it’s to protect the interest of others. God sees the whole picture; so far beyond what we could even imagine. He knows every detail and all that is to come. Even in our doubt or disappointment, let’s choose to trust His ‘no’s’.

“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can.”

‭‭Ecclesiastes‬ ‭3:11-12‬ ‭NLT‬‬

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Electrical Outlets, Toilet Bowls, & Knocking On Doors

Electrical Outlets, Toilet Bowls, & Knocking On Doors

“No, no!” I shouted as I looked up just in time to see my toddler inch toward the open outlet, fan’s cord in her hand. (How smart she is, I thought, to understand where that goes.) I took the cord from her and wrapped it up, then went back to my laundry.

“No!” I shouted again as I looked up to see that she’d moved on to other interests- in this case, unfortunately, the toilet bowl. I picked her up and took her immediately to the sink to scrub her hands. Then back to play for her while my heaping pile of laundry waited patiently to be hung and folded.

After a few short seconds of sweet silence, I looked up again, this time to see my 15 month old daughter running around with a bra on her head, her daddy’s shirt being dragged behind her, and an array of dish towels and socks scattered around on the floor. “Oh,” I sighed. This parenting thing takes patience.

(Photo credit: Chloe Skinner)

There’s a passage in Mathew that reminds me of my persistent child. It goes like this:

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭7:7-8‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Have you ever prayed for something you really wanted, and didn’t get it? That thought is among the first in my mind when I read this passage. I didn’t let my daughter stick her fingers in the outlet even after she kept going back to it, and there have been some things I didn’t get to have even after asking God countless times. So what gives?

First of all- there is truth in these words. If what we are seeking brings God’s peace, wisdom, and knowledge into our lives and inches us closer to the Kingdom of Heaven- I’m confident God does provide those things after our persistent prayer and ongoing reliance on Him.

But what about when we don’t get what we ask God for? I think it’s no coincidence at all that the very next lines in Mathew are these:

“You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭7:9-11‬ ‭NLT‬‬

When my daughter wants to play in the toilet I’m not going to let her because I know there are germs in there that cause sickness (and are the stuff of my anxiety-fueled nightmares.) When she wants to use her tiny, sticky fingers as a science experiment and see what happens when they get crammed into an electrical outlet, I stop her. When she wants to dine on dog food, I (usually) redirect her. And when I ask for things that God- in His infinite knowledge- knows are not good for me or derail me from my path in life, He pulls me away from them and sits me in front of something better.

We wouldn’t give our child a snake if they ask us for fish to eat (as the passage from Mathew says,) we would give them fish to eat! But sometimes- often unknowingly- we actually pray for snakes, don’t we? So when we feel our prayer isn’t being answered the way we thought it should, sometimes we have to consider that God may be preparing the fish instead of letting us get wrapped up in the snakes. If even I know enough to withhold things from my children that don’t serve them well, then I can certainly trust that God does the same for me.

I remember a kindergarten lesson from my favorite teacher where she once told us that God answers every single prayer, some just not in the way you’d think. If we pray for a bicycle but He knows we’d be in an accident and get hurt, then His answer may simply be ‘no’ because His perspective is so much greater than ours. We may end up with a different blessing instead. God is patient with us when we make mistakes, and He’s also patient with us when we’re running after the wrong things. No matter the circumstances, we can trust that if we’re praying about it, He’s working on it. We just need to be patient with Him in return while He prepares the blessings we can’t yet see coming.

(Photo credit: Brian Harris)

Pursuit of Toddler

Pursuit of Toddler

“I’m so sorry!” I gushed again. I quickly yanked my toddler from behind the dressing room curtain shielding my half-dressed and good-humored friend.

She laughed and replied with a genuine “it’s fine” as she carried on slipping into another stunning gown. Embarrassed, I brought myself upright once again, but without much time to recover. A moment later I was whisked away to restrain my daughter just as her tiny sprawled fingers reached for a pristine white gown to tear from its perfectly placed hanger. She stiffened her body and squealed as I plucked her up, thoroughly unhappy that I had interrupted her reign of terror. (If her older brother was here right now, this would definitely be when he’d declare his embarrassment and try to pretend he didn’t know any of us.) Nevertheless, I was left to my own devices for damage control today.

A bridal boutique is simply not the ideal environment for the untamed species that is a one year old.

Photo credit: Charisse Kenion

The pursuit continued for the duration of our shopping date, punctuated by brief moments of awe and many compliments as I watched my friend make a big decision for her big day. Even in those pauses though, I was keeping track of my little tyrant and planning the next interception.

Long after I’d left the boutique, it occurred to me that my own pursuit of my child was not unlike God’s pursuit for me. Just as I dodged delicate decor, weaved between racks of gowns and rows of accessories, and dove with abandon to catch my daughter before she was able to do damage, God dodges and weaves and dives to pursue me. Even in the moments when it seems His attention is elsewhere, He’s still aware of where I am and the paths I’m taking. He’s always waiting for His next opportunity to intercept when I need His guidance or protection.

“I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me.”

-Psalms 139:7-10

There are no giant mirrors I can hide behind, no bench seats I can duck below, and no pedestals I can climb on top of where He can’t reach me. Even in my wandering and shenanigans He is chasing after me without ceasing, pursuing my soul for my protection out of His great love for me.

God- our father- never stops. He never gets tired or resigns to let us run rampant away from Him (no matter how far off we may feel.) He never shrugs His shoulders and says “oh well” assuming He’s done all that He can do. He stays close because His diligence in pursuing us (much like His love) knows no bounds.

“I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night— but even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭139:11-12‬ ‭NLT

If you feel far off or disconnected from God today- take heart. You may not see Him at this moment, but He sees you and He is never more than an arm’s length away. If He watches out for even the sparrows (Mathew 10:29-31,) rest assured He watches out for You.