We get many opportunities to choose between life and death. Although we tend to think of the phrase “choose life” in terms of big, major life issues, I think we also get the chance to choose life or death each day. In each waking moment, each decision, each word spoken, I have a choice – am I going to embrace life, savor each moment, use my gifts and talents to encourage others? Or am I going to let my worries and insecurities keep me in a defeated, lifeless, state, almost by default choosing “death”?
In the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 30), God, through Moses, told the Israelites:15 Look at what I've done for you today: I've placed in front of you Life and Good. Or Death and Evil. . . . .: I place before you Life and Death, Blessing and Curse. Choose life so that you and your children will live, really live, (live exuberantly, blessed by God, your God, in the land you are about to enter and possess.) And love God, your God, listening obediently to him, firmly embracing him. Oh yes, He is life itself . . . (Deuteronomy 30, the Message)
Here’s an interesting thought: I bet some of those Israelites chose to stick with the familiar and comfortable, even if it meant “death”. I wonder if, even with life and prosperity and blessing set before them, some of them said, “No, thanks. Change is scary. Choosing life involves too much risk. At least with the old way (death), I know how things work, what to expect.” Some of them no doubt chose to stay with the familiar comfort of their former life . . . even though it was a life of captivity and bondage . . a life of death, if there is such a thing.
Once again, I can relate to those Israelites who may have chosen the old and familiar. My life was good pre-Jubilee . . . but there was that nagging sense that maybe it could be better. Is God calling me to make a conscious choice toward life . . . abundant life, free life?
This daily choice toward life and away from death has a sense of urgency for me lately. You see, I’m not the only one with a milestone birthday this year. My daughter became a teenager this week. And she will need a Mom who is as free from emotional “bondage” as possible. It is hard work to face down your fears and insecurities and whatever it is that keeps you from living life to the fullest. It can be scary. And there are days when I’d much rather just stick my head in the sand and say “Things are pretty good the way they are. Why rock the boat?” And if it was just me by myself, I’d probably be able to live with that. But there is a wonderful, beautiful 13 year old in my life who calls me “Mom”. And she deserves a Mom who is not afraid, who is not held captive by worries and insecurities. A Mom who is fully alive, who faces each new day with reckless abandon. Even when some days the most reckless thing I can manage to do is paint my toenails red! (I am using the word reckless here in its most positive connotation).
There is a song I love called “In My Daughter’s Eyes” by Martina McBride. The line that has completely captured my heart is this: “The truth is plain to see, she was sent to rescue me.” You see, I may not have had the courage and boldness to embark on my year of jubilee if it were not for my daughter. So in a sense, I feel that God is using her to rescue me from a life of complacency and ineffectiveness. Being her Mom and wanting to be the best Mom I can be is giving me the courage to say “Set me free, Lord. It’s okay if it’s hard. It’s okay if I end up with a few bumps and bruises from the journey. I want You, Lord. I choose life.”
When we were on our girls’ trip last week (a group of moms and daughters who get away for a few days every summer), my sister-in-“love” was reading my first blog entry to her Mom. Amidst my discomfort while hearing my own words read aloud by someone else, I had forgotten that my daughter was getting ready in the bathroom of the hotel room. (Now that she is a teenager, “getting ready” has reached a whole new level of intensity!) When Debbie finished reading, Allison peeked her head out and said “Mom, you wrote that? It’s really good!”
So I will keep putting one foot in front of the other on this journey, even when it’s hard and scary, if for no other reason than my teenager thinks it’s “really good”.
Allison was at church camp the week of her birthday so I sent a letter to arrive (hopefully) on that day. I so often tell her I’m proud of her because of the different things she is doing. In this letter, I wanted to focus on who she is as a person. I’m sharing it for two reasons: 1) it’s her birthday and I want to honor her. 2) I hope it might inspire you to do something similar for your loved ones.
I know I tell you I’m proud of you a lot. Maybe sometimes you even get tired of hearing it. That’s okay. But I wanted to take a little time on your 13th birthday to tell you in a little more detail why I am proud of you. So here goes—
You are such a caring person. I see how deeply you care about people – your friends, your family, people who are hurting. You do such a good job when you are working with young kids. At VBS a few weeks ago, I watched you play with a little girl. All of a sudden she wanted to tell you something important, and you immediately got down on your knees so you were looking in her eyes and were on her level. You wanted her to know you were listening and you cared. I was so proud of you in that moment.
You are such a giving person. I have seen you be unselfish over and over again. You are willing to sacrifice for others. You have a heart for people who are hurting and you are generous.
You are forgiving. It broke my heart that you went through the difficulty that you did. But I have watched you be willing to deal with the pain that it caused you. I am in awe of the way you were able to offer forgiveness and grace to the people who hurt you. You are allowing the hard times you went through to make you stronger and better. And you are using what you went through to help other people. Alli, God can do AMAZING things through someone who is willing to let Him use the hard times for good. You are doing that.
I could go on and on because there is so much to be proud of: your musical giftedness, your perseverance when learning something new, your volleyball playing, your good grades, your love for God. I am proud of all of that but am even more proud of who you are – your heart, soul and mind. You are beautiful inside and out. You shine – you always have.
People say the teen years are difficult. But, believe it or not, I am looking forward to them – because it is a joy to be your Mom and God will be with us. And "if He is for us, what could ever stop us? And if He is with us, who can stand against us??”
13 years ago my life felt complete when I became a Mom. And it has only become more complete with each day since.
You are a gift and I love you with all my heart. Happy birthday, sweetheart.