The Beauty in Death

I’m not a good hermit crab mother. Yes, you read that right. We’ve been trying to keep hermit crabs alive around here, and it’s not going so well. We’ve been through 3 in one month, making good use of that 30-day return policy at the pet store. I think they even might have recognized us last time we walked in with our limp lifeless shell to return.

(Can you find him?) 🙂

Each time, we wonder what we are doing wrong. I go researching again, asking Siri, “Why did my hermit crab die?”, and finding pages and pages online describing many people’s experiences with these little finicky creatures. I change something else about the care we are giving them. Continually. Fresher food… bigger tank… different water source… humidity thermometer… and the list goes on.

The other night I couldn’t sleep, and I lay in bed scrolling through more Internet sites, feeling as I’ve had about enough of this. Wishing I never would have said “yes” to my daughter’s desire to own these little guys and experience this disappointment. After all, she won’t even give the new one a name any more because she’s convinced it will be dead within the week.

“God, why?” I cry out in my weary sleeplessness. “Why does my precious girl just have to keep having reminders of death? Hasn’t she gone through enough at her young age? Can’t she just have the fun of having a pet for awhile without being reminded of the frailty of life again and again?”

But even in that moment, I knew that I had already found the answer. As I prayed about the act of dying, I was researching how to live. Every single death had forced me to stretch myself… to grow. For the crabs, it’s about growing in knowledge. But in life, it’s about so much more.

Awhile ago, I heard something that has unsettled me since. An acquaintance of mine who follows a different religion decided to visit a local church with Christian beliefs. After the service, she shared how disheartened she was that nothing was said about the future of the Christian… about what is still to come. This was crazy to me. After all, isn’t our future the best part of our faith? The fact that heaven awaits… that Jesus came so that we could be forgiven and our future made secure… that He is in the process of making all things new. It’s the faith to trust what awaits that helps us get through the difficulties of the here and now.

I guess it would be easy, when life is going well, to forget about this. To forget to share this good news with others in need of it, and forget to live for what’s coming, simply enjoying today. But death… but death reminds us in ways that nothing else can. It offers a slap in the face that ultimately wakes us up to the reality that this is not all there is. That life is short and nothing we can really do to change that. It is the constant reminder that this world is not our home that forces us to choose whether or not we will view it as such, or choose to live with a heavenly perspective.

And when we choose to bask in that reality, painful and hard as it is, the reminders of the future make life more beautiful. Because each hard day that we experience is one more day we can check off before we experience our ultimate future with our amazing Savior. Each day that we spend missing our loved ones that have gone on before us is one day closer to being with them again.

“If you read history you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next… The conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.” -C.S. Lewis

So we grow stronger.

We love bigger.

We give greater.

Because death may not seem very beautiful, but the perspective it offers can be. And the life that results can be glorious. Heavenly.

Because that’s what it’s all about all along. It just takes death to wake us up to it sometimes.

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When it’s the heart of the matter…

Parenting sure can humble us sometimes, can’t it?  These little people that need so much direction and guidance, yet love so freely with such patience and forgiveness… well, they sure know how to bring out some truths I need to learn without their even realizing it.  If you are a parent, I’m sure you can relate.

We had one of those moments yesterday when I took my kiddos to a local fun place filled with inflatables.  It was supposed to be a fun time of them jumping crazily for hours with one of their friends.  But those arcade game machines were there, and – well, I can’t stand them.  As far as I’m concerned, they are a total waste of money and draw kids to spend it in ways they shouldn’t.  I know – that doesn’t earn me as many “fun mom” points… but I’m just being honest.

Shortly after we got there, one of my kids tattled that their brother had snuck some money in and was planning to spend it on the game machines.  Of course, this is far from the worst decision my kids could make, but even still, I had what I thought was a nice chat with him about how the money could be better spent elsewhere.  After all, he doesn’t have all that much so it doesn’t go too far.  I thought we had come to a nice resolution that he would rather save it for another future and better use, as he ran back cheerfully to the big inflatable Batman slide.

But just a few short minutes later, I saw this same dear boy of mine running around with his hands full of tokens and tickets, and the same other child came up to once again tattle about Brother using his money after all.  (Although at least he shared the wealth with his sister and brother so they all could partake.) 😉 He was a little ashamed but fully acknowledged that he did choose to spend his money, and after that we had another nice chat again about all the ways that money could have been better spent. It was actually kind of fun to think up creative ways to bless others with it.  I talked with him because I love him dearly, and I can see way beyond the current feeling he has and urgency to respond to it.  But ultimately, I can’t really force him to spend money he’s been blessed with in a wiser way, as he gets older and starts taking some responsibility for his actions and learning some wisdom from his mistakes.

Then, after my nice long lecture that he willingly tolerated, and a reminder that I loved him dearly and wanted him to have fun but also learn wisdom with the money he’s been blessed with… it hit me – that’s what I do too.  He’s blessed me.  Oh, He’s blessed me so much.  But I have a hard day parenting solo, so I go treat myself with a coffee or a new Kindle book a reward to myself for making it through.  I feel an extra sense of loneliness, so I go to Target for a few things and end up with some extra non essentials just because they are cute and functional.   And while none of those things are bad, and they don’t really happen all that often for me, the principle behind my actions is still the same.  My Heavenly Father is not enough for me in that moment.  The things of this world lure me in with their simplistic pull of a little momentary fun to be had, in exchange for a patient and quiet trust in a loving God who is jealous for my affections and longs for my heart to be solely His.

It’s October, and I can’t believe there are only three months left in this year.  The holidays are right around the corner, when I take more time than usual to write out gratitude lists and reflect on the Advent season.  But before it all comes October.  The month when the leaves fall and with them, my desires for anything else besides Him can fall too.

So I’ve decided to take up this challenge this month, and am excited to have some friends doing it with me.  Not because I go crazy overboard with my spending and need to reign it in, or because I’ve got to get a handle on my budget.  But because He needs to be enough… and when I first make the choice with my mind not to spend money on anything that is unnecessary, my heart can follow in choosing to let Him be enough.  He is the One my heart craves, and only He can really ultimately satisfy.

And because there are so much better things my money can be spent on anyway, right?  Ask my child.  He now knows of many. 🙂

If you would like to join in on the challenge, I’d love to know about it. It would be great to have even more accountability! 🙂 I’m planning to post an update mid month and at the end of the month.  And whether or not you do, I hope you have a happy October!  Thanks for stopping by! 

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