Unexpected Miracle

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Dear Grace,

I just ended the day reading The Jesus Storybook Bible to you. We read “God Sends Help” about how He sent the Holy Spirit to be the disciples’ Helper and dwell in them…how He lit a fire in their hearts and they weren’t afraid anymore. You stopped me at this point and said, “Wait Mummy, I have a question!” and you said in your I’m-being-very-serious-I’ve-thought-about-this voice, “Sometimes Mummy, I feel this flutter inside my heart…and I think it’s Jesus in there…Jesus in my tummy…” And you let it hang there, a question in the air…waiting for me to affirm the presence of the Living God with you, inside you…

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From where I was sitting (well, lying), I didn’t realize at first what was happening. The cares of the day and the thoughts bombarding my anxious busy mind threatened to drown out the quiet profundity of this moment, and the door that God was flinging wide open right in front of my face…if I would just open my eyes and see it! How often I have prayed in your 3.5 years of life for you to desire Christ…for you to see Him as glorious as He is…for you to see your sin and your need for the Saviour…for you to call upon the name of the Lord and be saved. And here it was – the moment I’d prayed for – at the moment I least expected it.

“Well sweetie,” I replied, “Have you ever asked Jesus to come into your life…to change your heart…to make you a new person?”

You furrowed your brow, classic “Kloosterman frown” style, and though for a moment before responding with a concerned, “No…?”

Me: “Do you want to pray and ask Jesus to come into your life?”

You: (emphatically and excitedly) “Yes!!!”

Me: “Ok, well you can repeat this prayer after me…”

I carefully chose each line, and you eagerly, clearly and with understanding repeated after me, articulating the following:

-that you believe in Jesus

-that you know He died on the cross for your sins

-that He didn’t stay dead but is alive

-that you want Him to come into your life and change your heart.

– that you are sorry for your sins (worded as “the things you do wrong”) and want Him to forgive you

– that you want to live for His glory

After we said “Amen” you made the excited noise you make when we’re about to do something that delights you (like go for doughnuts with Daddy or to Finn and Levi’s house) and you displayed genuine joy and excitement that you had asked Jesus to be your Saviour.

Now you’re fast asleep and this Mama is struggling to process what just happened…weeping tears of joy at the miracle I just witnessed…praying that you would bear much fruit in keeping with repentance and that our gracious God would carry onto completion the work He has started in your little heart…praying that He would use you (and me, and Daddy) to lead your baby sister to Him too…and thankful that He is so good to us, even in spite of us.

You see, today I was far from a good Mummy. Today I was irritable, quick to become angry, and very self-centered. In fact, I would say this was by far one of my worst days not only as your Mum, but as a Christian…as a Christ follower called to represent Him on the earth.

How often I fall short of all He’s called me to. How quickly I choose disobedience over obedience…wandering away instead of remaining faithful.

Yet this unexpected miracle with you tonight has reminded me that, even when we are faithless, He remains faithful (2 Tim. 2:13). He is GOOD. His steadfast love endures forever and His faithfulness to all generations (Psalm 100:5).

By His grace and with His strength, “I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations.” (Psalm 89:1)

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God is faithful, Gracie. Welcome to His family. May you taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8).

 

 

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My little copy-cat

Reading to Grace tonight before bed, I read the following aloud:

“God’s people had a hard time not copying everyone else around them.”  (Kevin DeYoung in “The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden”)

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I then attempted to explain the concept of copying someone else’s behaviour by asking if she ever copies older kids, or tries to do what they do. She stared up at the ceiling considering my question and, after about 15 seconds of silent thinking (I know, that’s some deep thinking for a 3-year-old), she said, “No mum. I don’t copy the big kids.” (By this point I too had thought it through and realized that she actually doesn’t really copy other kids. She likes them to do what she does – and this Mama is going to frame that in my first-born’s favour and call it “leadership” rather than “bossiness”…haha).

But it was what she said next that knocked the wind out of me, and made my eyes burn with spontaneous tears.

“I copy YOU, mum. I always follow YOU around.”

Wham. Straight to my heart.

And she’s right, too. She totally does imitate me…copying the things I say (even how I pronounce “tomato” in my Bajan accent), doing what I do, following me around with her toys so she can play by my feet as I do work around the house.

I had two immediate thoughts accompaning my stinging eyes and pounding heart tonight:

1) God help me!

2) “Follow me, as I follow Christ.” (1 Cor. 11:1)

God help me because I am far from the woman I want my girls to become.

God help me because, more than following Mummy, I want my girls to follow Jesus.

God help me because they are going to follow me, and I need to lead them to Him.

And then I heard the call of Christ afresh to FOLLOW hard after Him. This world is pale and poor compared to knowing Him. If He is truly the greatest treasure and the one thing I want most for my children, then I must pursue Him as MY greatest treasure in every moment of every day.

God, make it so.

And may this song I sang with Gracie tonight be the cry of my heart, and my girls’ hearts:

“Give me one pure and holy passion,
give me one magnificent obsession,
give me one glorious ambition for my life,
to know and follow hard after you.
To know and follow hard after you,
to grow as your disciple in the truth,
this world is empty, pale and poor
compared to knowing you my Lord
lead me on and I will run after you”

– William Murphy

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My second baby is ONE!

IMG_20160603_170927       Sweet Ruthie turned ONE on June 3rd (8 days ago) and the poor little lady hardly got to celebrate because she was so sick (cold, cough, fever, etc.). However, I did make her favorite meal (pasta and meat sauce) and she did get to try her first piece of chocolate cake, glazy eyes and all!

Despite the craziness of life at the moment, and the fact that I’d rather be spending time face-to-face with my sweeties than typing here, I realized I didn’t want this milestone to pass us by seemingly “unawares”, nor did I want Ruth Rebecca Kloosterman to feel that her special day was somehow “lost” on us.

Over the past year I have had the privilege of being “Mama” to our precious little “second-born” who started out seeming so “quiet” and “unassuming” in comparison to her assertive, inquisitive big sister. By far one of the scariest moments of motherhood for me was when she got a terrible virus at 2 months old, and landed in the hospital because of breathing difficulties. I am so thankful to God that she made it through that challenge, and that He allowed us more time with our sweet girl. It really made me consider the huge gift that both of my girls are, and the importance of making the most of every moment with them.

Ruth took her time to crawl (between 9 and 10 mths) and she still drags one leg behind her just like her big sister did. She’s still not walking yet, but she pulls up to standing on EVERYTHING and can move around holding onto the couch. Today she let go of the table and took two steps towards me on the couch with no hands! Yay Ruth!

Because she was such a placid, timid baby, her emerging determination and strong will took me by surprise after she started moving. What a vibrant personality you have, Ruth! You yell very loudly when Mum or Dad have to confiscate something that isn’t safe for you to have, and you let us know (again, very LOUDLY) when big sister Grace takes something away from you). Your huge crocodile tears and utter dismay when you can’t have your way absolutely melt me and, if I didn’t know that it would be doing you a disservice to cave to your every whim, I would easily find myself complying with your wishes just to comfort you.

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And you’re still our “timid” one…very sensitive, even (and especially!) to the word “no” said firmly. You cry so easily, and startle so easily…and melt my heart oh-so easily!

Here are just a few things I adore about you to date:

– how you point with your index finger at anything you’re interested in
– how you LOVE to hug dollies and say (Da-yeee) for dolly
– how you say amen (ahh-meen) at the end of every prayer, and remind me to bless our food and pray for you at night by saying “Ahh-meen” before I can even start praying!
– that you can now say Dada, Mama, bible (bah-buh), what the sheep says (baa), what the lion says (your “roar” sound is THE CUTEST), and Hi (you say this JUST like your friend Eleanor – a long, drawn-out, expressive “Hyyyeeeeeee”)
– how you wave for hello, bye bye and night night
– how obsessed you are with my phone
– the fact that you find Grace hilarious
– the way you suck your thumb to comfort yourself, when you’re tired, or to go to sleep
– the way you play with knit blankets when your going to sleep
– how you kiss me spontaneously and at request
– how much you love to snuggle me
– your adorable teeth (4 top, 4 bottom) which you uses so well to eat everything put in front of you (you’re Mama’s girl when it comes to food!)
– how you “sing” so sweetly with your baby words when Daddy or Mummy are cuddling you before bed
– how you never tire of hearing me reading “Time for Bed” by Mem Fox (your favorite book, other than your “Bah-Buh” – your Hug-a-Bible)
– how you yell “Dada” in the morning when you hear his feet, even before you see him (this makes Daddy soooo happy!)

I could go on and on, sweet baby, but I need to go and put laundry on while you and you sister are asleep.

We are so happy God gave us you last June, and we can’t imagine our family without you.

I pray that He gives us many more years to love you and teach you His ways.

Your name means “friend” or “companion” and I am so thankful to have you as our little “friend” in this life. I’m thankful that Grace has you for a friend (she declared to you in the car yesterday: “I’m going to love you forever and ever, Rooey!”).
And most of all, I’m thankful that “there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24). My deepest desire for you, on your first birthday, is that you would come to know what a friend we have in Jesus. I love you, Ruth Rebecca. Xo

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Joy in the LORD’s place

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The sink is currently piled high with dishes, and my laundry basket is FULL of clean clothes to be folded (well, actually, it’s overflowing)…as is the DRYER…while the washer is full of WET clothes that need to be dried. I’ve got laryngitis, the babies are both sick (poor sweeties), and the toys are EVERYWHERE again.

“We say God is enough, but the fact that we hover and worry and fret when our goals and hopes don’t pan out proves otherwise…” ~ Lydia Brownback in “Joy” ~

So, here I am, as the girls both sleep, trying to put my actions where my mouth is…seeking harmony and intimacy with God before seeking to have a clean kitchen and a tidy house.

“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21)

I so often say that my God is enough for me, yet I fret and hover and worry when my household goals aren’t met…when my “treasure” of a comfortable, well-organized life is threatened.

“For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the LORD made the heavens. Splendour and Majesty are before him; strength and joy are in his place.” (1 Chronicles 16:26-27)

God’s Word confronts my obsessive compulsion with cleanliness today, reminding me that the strength and joy I so desperately need are not found in having everything “just so”. Strength and joy are found in the LORD’s place…where He is…in that place of sweet harmony and fellowship with Him, where I see Him over all, and through all and in all.

Oh, how I need His grace to see rightly…to see with a heavenly, eternal perspective! Already, as I am trying to meditate and focus on these truths found in His Word, my mind has begun wandering off to Christmas lists, the Christmas budget, the how-and-when of Christmas shopping…agh!

But I hear the instrumental version of this hymn playing softly from Gracie’s resting time CD, gently calling me back:

“…Let thy goodness, like a fetter
bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love.
Here’s my heart, Lord,
Take and seal it;
Seal it for Thy courts above.”

This is my prayer today…that Jesus would bind my wandering heart to Himself, keeping my mind stayed on Him…keeping me in “the LORD’s place”, even as I go about my everyday, ordinary life.

 

Grace turns two tomorrow

My first born turns two tomorrow, and I wanted to take a few minutes to reflect on this milestone.

There are so many things I adore about you, my sweet Gracie, but here are just a few that God has blessed me with these past year (since you turned one):

– your adorable gasp of excitement when you are enthralled with something

– how you wake up in the morning and call from your crib, “Me ‘wake now!”

– how you say “food, Mummy” first thing in the morning

– how you randomly and spontaneously sing your ABCs from start to finish about 6 times a day, declaring it to be your favorite song

– your ability to count from 1 to 10 (and 12 in the last few days!)

– how you ask “Mummy? Doin’?” as you’re way of asking what I’m doing

– how you recently started saying “love you so much” to express the extent of your affection. And about food, you say: “like dis so much. It’s best Mummy”

– the way you rock and burp and nurse your dollies so tenderly

– how you squeal “exciting!” whenever we tell you something that makes you happy (e.g. tomorrow is your birthday)

– the way you grit your teeth when you “pat Ruthie”, as if trying so hard to contain yourself!

– how you crunch up your nose and eyes and flash your teeth every time I get the camera ready to take a picture

– how you say “Mummy, me obey now” whenever I tell you that you need to be disciplined for disobedience

– the way you walk and run with you legs turned in ever-so-slightly

– the way you watch your feet when you run

– how you tell me that Daddy and Ruthie are your “best friends”

– how compassionate you are, being quick to kiss any injuries I have, and asking “Mummy okay now?” to make sure I’m alright

– how much you love to pray and how you say “Amen” at the end of prayers without prompting

– how you’re trying to teach Ruthie to do the same, holding her little hand while we pray and saying “Amen, Ruthie! Amen!” at the end of prayers to encourage her to say it (even though she’s many months away from talking)

– how you share your food with Daddy and me so willingly

– the way you sway back and forth to music

– how you love to “read” the Bible and how you tell me every time you open it “read uh Jesus, Mummy” (translation: reading about Jesus, Mummy)

– how you always ask to sleep in “Daddy’s big big bed” at night

– how you are sleeping willingly and happily in your crib tonight because I explained to you that Daddy and Mummy can’t both fit in our bed if you’re there too. Your compassionate self wanted to make sure Mum and Dad had enough room.

I could go on and on, sweet girl, but I should take advantage of the fact that both you and your sister are sound asleep and try to get some sleep of my own.

I love you more than words can say, and I am excited to celebrate your second birthday with you tomorrow.

Heading to bed thanking Jesus for the gift He’s given me in you.

My baby girl turns one

On Thursday my sweet Grace Melanie turned one, and today (Saturday) we will have a little party in celebration of this milestone.

I can’t believe how the time has flown. I can’t believe how much Gracie has changed in the past 12 months…from our funny-looking little newborn who was so curious about her world, even from birth, to our little mover with her gimpy gorilla crawl, and now our tentatively-stepping little lady with the inquisitive blue eyes and disarming smile.10622862_342580732572497_5523298213563753936_n

I’ve watched her learn to use her pincer grasp to pick up toys and morsels of food…and now she uses it to pull out every bow/hair tie I put in her hair!

I’ve watched her grow in her love for music, which started with listening intently in her early months, and has changed to a response of delight and an all-out dance fest (rocking back and forth, waving arms in the air) every time music comes on.

I’ve watched her grow in her love for books and reading, becoming a true little bookworm like her parents.

I’ve seen her language skills develop as she’s added new (although sometimes not perfectly pronounced) words to her repertoire: “Mama,” “Dada”, “dog”, “doll”, “book”, “ball”, “no” and, most recently, “comb” and “shoe”.

I’ve watched her personality emerge and discovered that our little girl is passionate, feeling things very deeply and expressing them very loudly! When she’s happy, she’s elated (evidenced by shrieks of joy). But when she’s sad, she’s devastated (evidenced by inconsolable crying and huge crocodile tears).

And boy is she determined! As I’ve watched her strong-willed self mature, I have realized that her stubbornness is both a strength and a weakness; it will serve her well if she’s strong and immovable on the right things, but there will be days (and there already are!) when she’s “wrong-and-strong” and needs Mum and Dad to intervene, directing her towards Jesus who can save her – even from herself.

And as I contemplate all the changes I’ve seen my girl go through this year, I see that so much has changed in my life too! I resonate with these words from Lisa-Jo Baker in “Surprised by Motherhood”:

I didn’t know I was selfish until I had kids. I didn’t know I was angry and quick to keep a list of wrongs done to me, of slight slights, of everything I felt entitled to and was happy to demand…But I believe God loves us too much to leave us flailing in our self-centered universes, so He delivers these tiny reflections of ourselves into our homes with earthquake effectiveness. The walls and the ground shift as we are forced to rearrange our sleep, our interests, our books, our date nights, our bathroom habits, our love of hot food, our blankets, our vacation plans, our entertainment choices, our interests, our bodies, our patience, and the grip on our sanity into unrecognizable new patterns…

I see in [Gracie] how God loves me, how He gave up heaven and Himself for me. How He spread His arms wide to ridicule and suffering, to gasps and agony and wanting it to be over and wanting to be released from this calling that cost Him so much. This salvation, this redemption, this act of bearing children of the new covenant from His body through the mighty act of adoption and delivery on a cross.

…and I would do it all over again…and pour myself out as a love offering, freely given with no expectation of payback. A gift. I lay myself down for my [daughter] who is learning to love because I first loved [her]…and ten thousand times anything I’ve been hurt, I’ve been healed because of this [child] who has taught me what it looks like to see redemption in the reflection of great sacrifice

You’ve changed me, Gracie. God has used you to change me. And I wouldn’t change anything about my life – not the sanity-stripping sleep deprivation nor the continual craziness of our crawl-around days. Because the “mess” and the “tumble” has brought me closer to my Saviour, and closer to you.

Happy first birthday, baby girl. Praying for many more with you.

Caring for my sick baby girl…

Perennially unmade bed. Overflowing waste bins. Dust bunnies accumulating in corners. Piles of unruly laundry (some to be folded, others still desperately in need of washing) camped out in multiple rooms.

ImageOne snotty little face. Two runny, red eyes. Loud, raspy breathing, particularly between 8 pm and 3 am. Chesty coughs followed by uncontrollable, inconsolable crying. Mother-daughter sleep-over parties (three nights in a row now) that are better described as stay-up-most-of-the-night parties. Pacing the floor with an over-tired, struggling sweetie. Exhaustion. Concern. Fatigue. Worry. Recurring thoughts of: “Am I doing all I can?” and, “How else can I help my baby?!” coupled with, “I don’t know if I can do this much longer!” rolling themselves over and over in my head…until…

…they are drowned out by the clear, loud truth, spoken softly to my heart:

“Christ suffered.”

That’s all.

Two words.

I hear them quietly yet firmly silence both my anxious thoughts of, “Is she going to be ok?” as well as my selfish thoughts of, “Poor me…” and “This sucks!”…crushing my tendencies towards fear and self-pity…propelling me towards Jesus and compelling me see beyond my immediate circumstances to a God who suffered infinitely more than I ever could have, with an infinitely perfect response.

Then comes the kicker: “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking…For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that…they might live in the spirit the way God does.” (1 Peter 4:1, 6)

I can think like Jesus? I can have the attitude of Christ in the midst of all this? I can live in the spirit the way God does? This is why the gospel was preached to me? This is what the sufferings of Christ accomplished for me?

I was once spiritually DEAD…a slave, bound to these sins…unable to do anything but cave in to my fear and selfishness…unable to put them to death…unable to have victory over my wrong attitudes and my ungodly responses to my circumstances.

But now, because of the gospel – because Christ lived the perfect life I couldn’t, took the sin I couldn’t defeat, died the death I deserved, and rose to life conquering my sin once and for all time – I can LIVE in the spirit the way God does! I can walk with Him, commune with Him, and tap into His divine power and strength to overcome my wrong ways of thinking and experience the freedom and joy that comes from responding to hard situations with cheerful acceptance, grace and love.

Wow. I have received such a great gift from my God! And now I find myself just wanting to give it away, particularly to my little, struggling daughter who is facing her first real cold. More than anything, I want little Gracie to know the love and closeness of Jesus in the midst of the trials of life…to find peace and hope in Him, regardless of what’s going on around her, or even within her physical body.

And so I wipe her nose yet another time. I cancel my plans with friends and joyfully pace the floors with my baby girl until she falls asleep on my chest. I eagerly look forward to another “sleep over” tonight, which I know will involve way more sleep for her than it will for me. And I do these things, not because I’m a “super-mom”, or because I’m so strong and capable and self-sacrificial, but because, as I serve and love my little girl, I’m united to and fueled by the Perfect One who has given me “everything I need for life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3); namely, HIMSELF.

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“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: …whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies – in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 4:10-11)