I have a friend who likes to refer to our family as a raft, as in, "The Abrahamsons have a veritable raft of children." I have always accepted this at face value, chuckling a little each time I hear it. But this morning, just out of curiosity, I looked up this use of the word raft. In what context, I was wondering, does the word raft mean many?
It turns out the context is a grouping of waterfowl. As in a cluster of waterfowl, resting together, all bunched up, on the water...a raft. Makes sense. But not exactly applicable to a family.
But wait! Maybe it is! Many are the illusions to life as a sea, waters, a river; the nice times are times of calm, the hard times are storms...So, yes, yes, yes! I do have a raft of children. God put us together to comfort and lift each other up, to provide protection and warmth. We are bound together on the sea of life, through waters both calm and stormy.
Now particularly, the reason I was thinking of my raft of children today, in all their glorious variety and mystery, was because this morning I took the time to pray for each of my children. It's not a new thing that I pray for my children. My life, minute by minute, is one of prayerful surrender to God and His wisdom and grace. I'd never survive otherwise. But it's different to actually consciously pray for my children, both thanking God for the blessing each of them is, and asking God's grace and guidance for whatever particular struggles each child is dealing with.
Recently my friend, David, shamed me. And it was a good thing. A good kind of productive shame that brought me to a realization of something I have been neglecting in my life. Dave mentioned his personal Bible study habits. Check this out! He has worked his way through the entire New Testament in the People's Bible series, and is as far as Isaiah in the Old Testament. Amazing!
It dawned on me, though, through this conversation, that it has been a few years since I've been disciplined enough to spend any private time in God's Word. Probably since I put my kids in public school. I used to do my own Bible reading or study in the morning before everyone was up, but now I have to get them all up early. What was formerly a time of peace and serenity has been replaced with a flurry of activity.
We do try to have breakfast and bedtime devotions with the family, which might include any of the following: memory work, Bible reading, singing a hymn, prayers. So I am not totally "Wordless." But just as sitting in church with a raft of children can make it difficult to focus on the message, so too, family devotions can be filled with many distractions. I don't want to downplay the power of God's Word here. I fully believe that God's Word can accomplish those things for which God sends It, even when we don't feel any particular concentration toward or uplifting feeling from It. But it is also good for one to spend some time really studying and meditating upon God's Word. I realized after my conversation with David that I had not done any of that lately.
One of my goals for this new year is to spend some time by myself, reading the Bible. Really it was not so hard a change to make. Generally my alarm goes off at 5:30 anyway, at which time I do any breakfast prep that needs to be done that early, and then crawl back in bed until I have to get the kids up and rolling at 6:15. Now I stay up and have a cup of coffee and read my Bible.
It helps that Matt found us a "new" coffee maker at the second-hand store. We had been using a speckled blue enamel percolator on the stovetop. That gets a little bit putzy, keeping half a brain on the stove, turning the heat down once it starts to perk, and setting a timer,... But now we have a nice Mr. Coffee that even has a timer to start the coffee each morning before I get up. Cool stuff.
Now each morning my coffee starts in all by itself at 5:15. I stumble out of bed at 5:30. I take care of any breakfasty things, such as getting a coffee cake in the oven or starting the oatmeal or rice. I pour myself a cup of hot coffee and add my daily tablespoon of coconut oil. Then I make my way into my favorite morning reading spot and pull out the Bible.
I've been trying to get through Romans, but sometimes I feel quite stupid in the early in the morning. I've taken to reading two chapters each day, one I review from the previous day, and then I continue on to the next. By the time I've read each chapter the second time through, usually I have a handle on it. Some parts of Romans are still not easy, but whether I understand everything or not, it's still good.
Some mornings, I have extra time before I have to get everyone else up. I've been using these extra minutes to pray for my family and friends, and for things of concern to me in the community and world. Most times I tend to lump together all my family concerns. I kind of metaphorically throw up my hands in one of those groanings and sighings that the Holy Spirit understands better than we ourselves. There is so much to pray for, after all, where does one start?
But today, I took time to pray for each child individually. I considered each child and thanked God for the good and wonderful parts of each personality. I lay before Him the challenges and hurdles with which each of them struggle. And I asked for wisdom in handling all that He has given me. After thinking about each of my children, these many personalities, with their gifts and challenges, the various individual logs that compose our raft, I was humbled. I am in awe that God would choose to entrust to such pitiful servants as Joe and I, the privilege and responsibility of raising such a raft of beautiful people. Wow!
God is gracious and good and full of compassion. And He seems to have a higher confidence in us than do we ourselves. But I pull out of the front pocket of my heart one of my favorite Bible passages (it's a good thing they don't wear out over time, isn't it?). And trust what God told St. Paul after Paul asked three times for God to take away the thorn in his flesh, "My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in your weakness."