Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Encouragement for young mamas...my story...



I got married the summer I turned nineteen and we had our first baby the following spring. I was naively confident of my mastery of both marriage and motherhood. After all, I had helped Mama with the housework and cooking since she had gone back to work after Daddy left us the year I was nine. Equipped with love, a basic knowledge of housekeeping and rudimentary cooking skills, I figured I was ready to face the future in wedded bliss. And, hadnt I been babysitting for fifty cents an hour since I was twelve years old?  I knew all about keeping babies safe, clean and well fed, what more was there to motherhood than that?

Mama came and stayed with us for a week after the birth of our daughter. It was when Mama left to go home, when my husband returned to his routine of college in the mornings and graveyard shift at the factory in the evenings, that reality slapped me in the face. The road of this life I had chosen in my youthful ignorance stretched out before me, impossibly long, impossibly difficult to navigate. My confidence caved in as I realized that I had to try to not just exist, but actually try to thrive within a marriage with a man that was my polar opposite in many ways. His outspoken ways constantly wounded my overly tender, sensitive feelings. My judgmental, critical, perfection seeking ways constantly drove him deeper into the self doubt that already plagued him from his upbringing.

To further overwhelm me, I only had to look at the beautiful brown eyed, dark haired, dimpled baby girl that nursed at my breast. She was perfect in every way and it was my job to not ruin her, to not damage or scar her little spirit. Yet, I knew that just protecting her wasnt enough. I was supposed to help to mold her and shape her into a responsible human being.
 The heaviest responsibility of all was that I was to help her know and love God. The fear that I would somehow misshape and distort her view of God, that I might hinder her relationship with Him, was the biggest fear of all.

The length of my journey in both marriage and motherhood and the greatness of the task before me dropped me to my knees figuratively, yes, but literally as well. Im pretty sure it wasnt of my own wisdom, maybe it was an insight from one of the many marriage and parenting books I devoured seeking some wisdom to get me through. Maybe it was the Holy Spirit Himself who put the prayer in my heart. I began starting my day with this simple prayer, God, I cant do this. But, just for today, will you please help me to be the wife and mama that You would have me to be?It was the only way I knew how to face the longest, hardest, most important role I would ever play, the most critical job I would ever do. I had to ask for divine strength, wisdom and help and I had to face my assignment one day at a time.

If anyone in the Bible faced a daunting and overwhelming task it was Belzalel. He is briefly mentioned in Exodus, chapters 31 and 35. God chose Belzalel to make all of the things He had revealed to Moses for the tent of meeting, the ark of the covenant, the mercy seat, the furnishings for the tent, even down to the priestly garments, the anointing oil and the incense. To complicate the matter, Belzalel could not make them any which way his creative mind wanted to, he had to make them exactly the way God told Moses. God emphasized the importance of sticking to the pattern He had given Moses, because this earthly tabernacle was fashioned after the true one in heaven.

When we read the Bible its so easy to spiritualize away the humanity of the people we read about in its pages. This, in spite of the fact that God seemed quite intent on including the weaknesses, faults and trespasses of just about every person mentioned in its pages. I assume He was trying to emphasize to us that all of them were human like us, with struggles like us. Then there are instances where He doesnt do that, where He leaves us guessing about what a particular person felt or thought or struggled with. Personally, Im more comfortable with the Bible characters like David or Peter, people whose weaknesses are glaringly obvious. I am encouraged that God in His mercy forgives them and in His grace uses them for a great purpose. I relate to the likes of these more than those Bible characters that seem to not struggle like I do.

When the Bible mentions Belzalel, it tells us a bit about his parentage and then, in both passages, mentions that God filled him with with His Spirit, with ability, wisdom, intelligence, understanding and knowledge of all craftsmanship. What these passages dont reveal to us is Belzalels response to the task that God asked him to do. He was the weak, human vessel that God chose to build the Holy Place where the Creator Himself would meet with man, yet we are left to wonder about how Belzalel felt about his assignment. The only clue is found in his name, in the shadow of God. I believe that Belzalel faced his monumental task and embraced his purpose in the only way he knew how, in complete dependence on God. He stayed so close to God that He was covered with Gods own shadow. He faced his assignment in the same way all the rest of us human beings have to, one day at a time. 

Daily, Belzalel took up the task of building Gods earthy dwelling place with his God assigned sidekick, Aholiab. Aloliabs name means fathers tent, which I find interesting considering his role in building the tent of meeting. In the New Testament believers are told by the Apostle Paul that God no longer lives in a tent or a building made with human hands but dwells by His Spirit in the heart and spirit of man. The hearts of those who invite Him in become the holy dwelling place of the Holy Spirit.

Now, at 56 years old, its a wonder to me that somehow that nineteen year old wife and mama grasped the seriousness of the the monumental task she faced. Both in her relationship with her husband and with her baby girl and the two other baby girls that were to follow, she somehow grasped the fact that, in them, she was touching something eternal. In her mothering of those three little girls she was helping God to shape and mold the dwelling place of Gods Spirit, the very temple of God. She asked God to help her to see His pattern for them, to see His unique design and purpose for each one. She embraced her purpose in that season of her life the only way she knew how, with complete dependence on God, praying for His help and wisdom one day at a time.

Many dreams were still tiny seeds in the heart of that young wife and mama, buried so deep she didnt fully recognize them yet. Now they are sprouted enough that I can see them. The dream to write something that will last after I leave this earth is one of them. I have tasted the feeling that Belzalel must have experienced, the sense that the Holy Spirit is giving me wisdom and knowledge beyond myself as I type words that He uses to bless and encourage someone else. It was in those earlier years of the daily mundane of marriage and motherhood, however, that I look back and see the greatest evidence of a special God grace, a supernatural wisdom, a Holy Spirit knowledge and yes, even God-given creativity, that were way beyond my natural abilities. Day by day, God heard my cries for His help and He used this fallible, weak human vessel to touch something holy, to touch His holy place in human hearts. 

still following,

     




at 3-D Lessons for Life

24 comments:

  1. I absolutely love it when people write about those people in the bible that you really have to dig to find. When I've read through Exodus before, this man did not stand out, but now he does! And I love this prayer: “God, I can’t do this. But, just for today, will you please help me to be the wife and mama that You would have me to be?” I can pray this every day of my life!

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    1. That prayer saved my life as a wife and mama, and God's answer is the reason all my children love Jesus and serve Him...it's definitely His grace!

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  2. beautifully written and shared. Thank you

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  3. Elizabeth, what a wonderful parallel between building God's temple piece by piece and 'building' a temple in our children's hearts. (I give your piece First Place. Wink.)

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    1. And I got a sweet email from Matthew who was mortified that he had lost my piece. He apologized and is asking someone to read it and give me feedback. I realize looking back that we have had a month of lots of stress with people going through tough stuff at our church and so my responses to the two incidents at the conference were definitely more sensitive than I might have been normally. Anyway, it was still a joy to write this piece, as well as a challenge.

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  4. I love reading stories like this, Elizabeth. It brings hope to those who may be walking similar paths.

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    1. Dayle, it's as real to me today as it was those years ago, the importance of the task, the impossibility to do it on my own, the cries of my heart to God. He really did come through for me.

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  5. Wow. What a testimony. Thank you for using the gifts God has blessed you with, so very powerfully, just as He intended them to be used, and to glorify Him, Elizabeth!

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    1. Carol, I'm so thankful that God heard the cries of my heart and really did help me...it's His grace and help that I give glory to!

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  6. I always love your stories............

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    1. This was a piece I wrote for the writing conference I went to last weekend. We had to use the passage about Belzalel in our writing. It was a joy and challenge to write it.

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  7. Such an encouraging word for us all, whether we are young and just starting out on the path of marriage and motherhood, or whether we are grandparents enjoying the fruit of our labours. It brings hope of having God walk beside, anoint and equip us daily for whatever task lies ahead. He hears our cries for help and His grace is sufficient for every need.
    Thank you for sharing your story and testimony, Elizabeth. You are honouring God's work in your life as you do so. Blessings :)

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    1. I appreciate your encouragement, Joy. Really, it was God's grace and help alone that my girls grew up whole and loving Jesus!

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    1. Oh Brandee, you are smack in the middle of the hardest, most important job ever! I pray for God's grace and wisdom and strength to be your portion day by day.

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  9. I KNEW this was the piece! I could 'feel' it! And yes, you definitely get FIRST place - you take the prize. I'm so glad you've heard from the man who lost your work. God is so good to prepare us one moment at a time for the task at hand. Your words spoken deep into my heart this morning as I read them. They are so true of young mamas but also true of those of us dealing with dear ones in the last part of their lives - those dealing with issues that make it seem impossible to 'do this'! I am going to pray this prayer each day as I work with my dear, little mother. It is, in reality, like working with a young child. Thank you, dear friend, for sharing your heart and your words - they are a gift from God!
    ~Adrienne~

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    1. I'm so blessed to have your encouragement in my life!

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  10. A beautiful testimony, Elizabeth! God, in His wisdom, has not blessed me with children (and I know a lot of women can't understand why I'm okay with that), but it did help me to read your fears as a young mother because they mirror mine almost exactly! Your faith shines through in your words, dear Elizabeth. Thank you for sharing!

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    1. Thank you, dear June. You bless me!

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  11. This was beautiful, Elizabeth. I love your prayer, "God, I can’t do this. But, just for today, will you please help me to be the wife and mama that You would have me to be?” I am going to borrow it and add that I need "to be the grandma and DAUGHTER that You would want me to be."

    My mama is going to be 85 in July and she is starting to loose her memory. I am so afraid of what the future holds for both of us. I think I am going to need a lot of patience and I need to know THE RIGHT THING TO SAY when she says she can't remember. Your prayer will be a comfort to me. Thank-you very much

    Debbi

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    1. One day at a time God will give you strength and wisdom as you go through this time with your mama. I've been there, friend. He sustains.

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  12. Oh, Elizabeth--we really do have so much in common! We married at 18 and 19, and I was a mama at 21. How I remember so many of these feelings you shared with us.

    Such a personal heartfelt post--with the tenderness of His handprints all over it.

    Thank you. Would have been so much fun if we could've been young mothers together!! XO

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    1. We need to meet face to face sometime, Julie!

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