“If I had more space I could get better organized,” I thought for the hundredth time as I looked at my cluttered living room. Our family of two adults, three kids, and a cat had outgrown our 800 square foot condo and every available nook and cranny was filled with toys, clothes, books, and papers. “If I was better organized, I would be a better wife and mother AND I’d have more time to serve you, Lord!” God was more likely to answer my prayers for a bigger home if He knew my motivation was unselfish.
I went upstairs and checked on the baby. He was still asleep, and with the girls at school, I knew I had at least an hour of quiet time. I read from John 5 where Jesus heals the paralyzed man by the Sheep Gate pool in Jerusalem, but I was frustrated and I couldn’t concentrate. “God, I know you want to teach me something, but I’ve read this story for years and I’m just not getting anything out of the Bible right now.” I closed my eyes and lay my head down on the cluttered desk next to the bed in our overstuffed bedroom.
Praying for the Holy Spirit to help my understanding of the scripture passage, I imagined myself as an overwhelmed paralytic. I felt the heat of the sun as I lay down on my thin mat. I looked around the pool at all the other disabled people there. I needed someone to help me be the first one into the pool so I could be healed but no one would help me. I was paralyzed for 38 years, so I knew the system and it was not working for me. I thought about the little things that would make me more comfortable, like scooting my mat toward some shade as the sun moved across the colonnade. Then I had an excellent idea. I thought a more comfortable and larger mat was the answer. I was lost in these thoughts when I heard the words, “Do you want to get well?” I was caught up in my imagination, and I blurted out to Jesus, “I want a better mat!” Suddenly, I was back in my bedroom. Jesus asked me if I want to get well and all I wanted was a better mat?!
The lame man in the Bible also did not answer the question. He told Jesus he had no one to help him into the healing pool when the angel stirred the waters. Jesus had plans for that man. He wanted to heal him and change the direction of his life. I, too, needed healing, not for any physical infirmity, but for spiritual and emotional wholeness. It was as if Jesus asked me the same question, “Mrs. K, do you want to get well?” Rather than say “YES!” I’d say, “Give me a bigger house, Jesus! That is the answer to all my problems and frustrations.”
What the Holy Spirit showed me that day was that Jesus wanted to give me so much more than comfort and empathy. Being short-sighted in faith was like asking for a new mat when Jesus wanted healing and wholeness for me. After healing him, Jesus gave the man an action plan, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” I had an action plan, too. I got up and did the work I had for that day.
That time with the Holy Spirit was a precious milestone in my walk of faith. I have learned to trust God beyond my circumstances because His desire is for me to be whole. My Father in Heaven wants to give me bigger and better things than anything I could ask for myself. But first I have to answer the question Jesus asks all of us, “Do you want to get well?”
Many years ago, my little girl struggled to untangle her favorite necklace. Her tiny 6 year old fingers couldn’t undo the knot in the chain. I said, “Give mommy your necklace and I will untangle it for you.” She said, “I want to do it myself!” She worked at it and did her best, but as hard as she tried she could not untangle the chain. After some time, she came to me and said, “Mommy can you help me?” I gladly took the necklace from her and used the tweezers to quickly untangle the tight knot as she watched. Minutes later she was happily wearing her necklace again.
As I worked on the necklace, I realized there were many times I had a tangle in my life that I struggled to undo in my own strength. Surely hard work and perseverance would get me what I needed! But there are times when God allows situations in my life that are beyond me. Rather than struggle and fret and get angry, I need to humble myself and give my tangle over to God. This is a far easier thing to say than to do, but this is what I have learned.
There is a difference between giving up and giving it to God. My daughter could have taken her tangled necklace and thrown it down in frustration. She would have lost the pleasure of wearing a favorite necklace and also the time we spent together as she watched me work. Giving my tangles over to God does not mean I stop working hard and doing my best. Giving things to God means I let go of my demand to have plans go my way. In time, God will bring beauty out of a mess.
God uses my humility to develop a relationship with Him. By coming to me, my daughter acknowledged her inability to do something for herself. That gave me the opportunity to show her what I could do for her. I have been blessed by God’s amazing answers in situations I thought were impossible. Thinking of it another way, I wonder how many blessings I’ve missed out on because I insisted on doing things my way and not getting anywhere. Humility increases my faith in God and deepens my relationship with Him. As a result, I have had encounters and opportunities I never would have experienced if I had maintained my stubborn desire to handle tangles my way.
As always, the best encouragement comes from God’s word. “He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.” (Proverbs 25:9) As a loving Father, God wants to strengthen my faith, but even more than that, He wants a dynamic relationship with me. When I give Him the tangles of my life, He teaches me to trust Him to do what He can with all that I cannot. And a trusting and loving relationship is even more beautiful than any untangled necklace.
When Mr. K and I got engaged some well-meaning married friends told us “This is the best time of your lives!” Mr. K and I were puzzled at their insistent declaration. We wondered, “If this is the best time of our lives, why should we get married?” Well, we did get married and it was bliss! We loved being home together in our tiny little apartment in Pasadena. Mr. K always capped the toothpaste and put the toilet seat down. I learned how to cook. We were a match made in heaven.
We laughed at the idea that our engagement was the best time of our lives. Married life rocked! Sure, we had difficulties like not having enough money, but God always provided for our needs. I finished college, Mr. K got a raise, and we talked about starting a family. It was around this time that our 17 year old nephew died in a tragic motorcycle accident. The next few years passed in a blur of mourning. When we started our family, time seemed to speed up even faster.
Looking back, I don’t agree with our friends telling us our engagement was the best time in our lives, but think I understand them now in a way I didn’t then. What they meant to say was while we were engaged we didn’t have many responsibilities or worries. There were no kids to feed and clothe and discipline. There were no house payments or home improvement projects. Our time was our own and we were free to revel in the euphoria of our young love. And yet…
The years of our marriage brought us a depth of love greater than anything we could have imagined. We supported each other through the births of our three kids and a heartbreaking miscarriage. We experienced the joys of church leadership and the betrayal of those we called friends. The financial stress and strain of mortgages and college tuitions were balanced by the sanctuary of our home and the laughter of our family. Through it all we were each other’s best friend, lover, and confidant
The best time in our lives was not defined by a lack of responsibility but rather by the shared triumphs and trials that made up the whole fabric of our marriage. What our married friends should have told us all those years ago when we were engaged was, “This is the easiest time of your lives.” Or better still, they should have taken us out to dinner and said “Congratulations! The best is still to come!”
During a wind storm many years ago, a tall and stately tree fell down. Someone told me the tree was 30 years old. When it was upright it had pretty green leaves on long branches and a big thick trunk. It was not a severe wind storm that knocked the tree down and no other trees nearby were damaged. I walked over to look at the downed tree with its roots ripped out of the earth and noticed something interesting. The roots were eaten away by termites! The thriving tree above ground was quite damaged where the roots could not be seen.
Thinking about the tree with damaged roots made me contemplate marriage and how an outwardly healthy marriage could have hidden rot. Marriage, like a tree, needs to be attended and given care. Looking healthy on the outside is no guarantee that the roots are healthy, too. It only takes a small crisis to take down a marriage that has no solid roots.
What are the termites eating away at the roots of your marriage? Deal with those termites quickly and thoroughly, or the next storm may take your marriage down.
Early in my marriage I had exactly what I prayed for, a loving husband and three beautiful babies and yet I often cried in frustration. I was so fearful of making a mistake with the huge responsibility of raising three helpless children who depended on me for their survival and development. Was I going to damage these precious blessings with my impatience and stupidity? These thoughts really weighed on me and I felt I was not passing the Good Mother test. I prayed constantly and sought wisdom from the Bible and read every parenting book I could get my hands on. And you know what I discovered? Fear is a paralyzer.
Parenting out of fear creates reactions with uncertainty rather than actions with confidence. Whether we have parenting worries or financial problems or any other out-of-control feeling, fear makes us grasp at decisions in desperation rather than in confidence.
Once I let go of my frantic need to do EVERYTHING RIGHT ALL THE TIME, I had many choices for action. Confrontation with a loved one is an opportunity to connect. When I had a tantruming 2 year old, I learned to model patience, teach love, and show grace. Running away, even mentally, doesn’t help anyone. As much as I wanted to shut myself in my room, pull the covers over my head and eat cheese and crackers in bed (who does that?) I learned to face problems with faith and courage and the support of Mr. K. There is a solution to most every challenge though the best answer may not be an easy one.
Fear is a paralyzer, but faith is an energizer. Let go of what cannot be controlled and cast any anxieties on the Lord (1 Peter 5:7). I’m still learning how to deal with fear, but when I look back on all that God has taught me and Mr. K by relying on Him through the trials of parenting, I see how I have grown in wisdom and faith. The kids have turned out pretty good, too.
The Serenity Prayer
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
Broken promises lead to the breakdown of relationships. But what do you do when you chronically break promises to yourself? Over the years, I have learned to not make promises that I cannot or will not keep so that I can trust my own word.
Whether it is an exercise program (I will work out more) or diet (I will eat less), or how you parent your kids (I will be more patient) or how you deal with your spouse (I will be more patient), the things we say to ourselves are important. If we continuously disregard our own promises, we discount our integrity. Conversely, promises made and kept lead to a confidence in ourselves. The important thing is to do what you say, even if it is a sacrifice of comfort or time. If you cannot trust yourself to keep your own word, why should anyone else trust you?
“The heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful, a puzzle that no one can figure out. But I, God, search the heart and examine the mind. I get to the heart of the human. I get to the root of things. I treat them as they really are, not as they pretend to be.”
Jeremiah 17:9-10 (MSG)
When our three kids were much younger, I got through the hard days by asking myself, “In twenty years what will it matter?” Well, Hubby and I have passed that 20-year mark on the life-long journey of parenting. Our two girls are in college and the little baby boy is 16 years old and 12 inches taller than me. We have passed through diapers, tantrums, and spilled milk at the dinner table. We are completely done with the heavy duty parenting of babies, toddlers, tweens… and almost done with teenage years. It is a great spot to look back and see how far we have come.
Obviously, the kids don’t know about the sleepless nights I spent feeding a newborn every 2 hours; the worry over fevers and finances; the loop in my fatigued brain saying, “Am I doing this right?” They remember an inflatable pool on our cement patio; donuts on Saturday mornings and wrestling with daddy before bedtime.
Now we look back at twenty years worth of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and realize there are no more bath nights and bedtime stories. The training wheels are done, tiny black tap shoes were sold at a garage sale and the tooth fairy will not visit anymore. They are having adventures on their own, but we still have a little more family time to treasure on our journey with our three young adults walking tall beside us.
Hello! My name is Ani Kouyoumdjian. Don’t worry if you can’t say my name. My Armenian name is one that most people do not attempt to pronounce. Over the years of volunteering at my kids’ schools, some teachers and students called me Mrs. K because it was easier to say. I am known as Mrs. K where I currently volunteer as a library aide at a local elementary school.
My favorite time to hear my name called is when I visit a lovely young married friend with five small children. When I go to the door with a plate of PB&J sandwiches and knock, I hear a stampede of little feet and a chorus of “Mrs. K is here! Mrs. K is here!” The door flies opens and I am greeted with a flurry of hugs and smiles. On some visits, my friend and I talk and laugh and fold laundry together. On other visits, the conversation is deeper and we talk about spiritual things and end our time in prayer.
As I start this blog, I imagine myself spending a few minutes visiting with you. Some visits may be helpful and encouraging. Other visits may be cheerful and fun. I hope that every time you visit me, your heart will be glad to say, “Mrs. K is here!” Welcome to my blog!
Love & Blessings,
For the interested:
Ani = “AhNee”
Kouyoumdjian = “Koo-yoom-jun”
Mrs. K is married to the wonderful and supportive Mr. K. They will soon celebrate 28 years of marriage. The K’s are blessed with three beautiful children, The Firstborn 22-year old Daughter, The Middle Child 19-year old Daughter, and The Boy, who will be 17 years old this summer.