Friday, February 7, 2014
You see, I love sleep. I can fall asleep anywhere–it's been a party trick of mine since childhood. I remember my first sleepover when I was ten. I fell asleep in the middle of eight obnoxious young girls and woke to find my face smothered with shaving cream as a societal revolt. Let's just say I stopped associating with those hooligans shortly thereafter.
To me sleep has always been sacred. As it should be to any mom whose fought the battle of sleep training and lived to sleep another night.
In recent months, I have found Mr. Sandman calling me most urgently in the middle of cleaning unidentifiable goo off of the high chair for the fifteenth time in a day while my daughter is trying to climb my leg and my son is cramming chips into the couch. Or when the K-cups run out. Or when the morning coffee wears off. Or when...OK. It's not a matter of "when", it's a state of being these days.
So last night when my lifelong ability to hit REM in under ten minutes eluded me, I was furious. I deserve to sleep. I am exhausted. Why can't I shut my mind off? But I knew what the problem was. Anxiety and worry had thrown a brick on my peace-of-mind pedal and I allowed the idol of 'being in control' to overpower God's control. Peeling myself from what I tell my husband is "my favorite part of our house"–my side of the bed– I walked upstairs at nearly midnight and made tea.
Sitting on the couch in eerie silence, I admitted the truth of the last 24-hours. I had sucked at both my jobs. First, a feature I had spent hours creating was sent to the cutting floor without a second glance. My ego was doing calisthenics inside my heart trying to flex and crow it's preeminence; devising ways to prove my indispensableness. In turn, I was short with my kids and didn't show Jesus well to my husband; deciding to be preoccupied with my own self indulgence. I let worldly "failure" define my eternal worth. That was a swing and a miss.
There was only one thing to do as I stared at the clock edging itself closer and closer to imminent zombie-hood come morning. Throw a hail-mary to God and let him reset my heart.
He flipped the breaker on my soul with Philippians 2:3-7.
Sunday, November 24, 2013
Tuesday, October 8, 2013
This is the first year that he understood what a birthday really was. So much so, that in the days leading up to his own party I would hear him sporadically busting out in the happy birthday song just for the pure joy of it.
He had no idea what was in store. And I loved that. I was able to plan a very Type-A Mother Lion safari party. I wanted to show him how much his spirit and passion for life (and animals) had inspired me over the last year, as well as drove me crazy. That passion had caused me to curse the ground I walked on from time to time (especiallly when I happened to step on another plastic rhino in the softest parts of my feet.)
But he is the only kid I know who cares that there is a difference between a White-Faced Saki monkey and a Mandrill. He also knows that a Bufflehead and a Spotted Towhee are two different species of Pacific Northwest birds. These oddities are something to celebrate.
From Cheetos masqueraded as tiger tails to a snake sub sandwich with a red-pepper tongue, I even hired a family friend who happened to be a local reptile man. Once the party started, it was clear that my son was having the time of his life. Every picture from that day he has a different candy or junk food in hand- a ridiculous smile across his face. And for one day I didn't chastise about candy. For one day, I didn't feel guilt for letting him indulge. I just let him be a kid.
That's what birthday parties are about: unadulterated fun. The party wasn't about how cool of a kid's party I could throw, it was about celebrating my son's loves.
Loving and encouraging our children's gifting is a natural tendency in parenthood. However, I came face to face with my misunderstanding of the Gospel when it came time to sift through my son's gifts.
I wanted to manage. To limit. To categorize.
He had a large turnout, which in turn, meant A LOT of gifts. I didn't even think about that before I noticed a ridiculous accumulation of brightly colored packages overtaking the middle of the room. It looked like Steve Irwin's wedding gift table. I found myself in a state of panic. He can't handle this many toys. He will be in complete overwhelm. It's too much.
After we got home I put a large portion of the toys away. I decided he couldn't handle all that goodness. Too much for one day; let's spread it out.
The next day I went to church. And my pastor Brian launched into this message, "God gives us grace upon grace. Insert the word "gift" whenever you see the word grace. His gifts pile up and up. Who Jesus is is completely overwhelming."
And I humbly realized that I am so limited in my view of the gift of Jesus. Just like my son's toys that were hand-selected by family and friends to bless him on his birthday, I want to let the reality of Jesus' life in place of mine- that ridiculously undeserved gift into my life, little by little. I want to put some of it away for later- I just can't handle all of His goodness in one sitting. I've struggled with grasping what He's done and accepting who He is. It just seems like too much- I don't deserve it. And I'm a Christian.
Brian continued as if he could hear my thoughts, "Be in awe of the Giver, not the gifts."
And I matured in that one moment.
God made clear to me that the point of giving and receiving good gifts is not to gain more, but to give credit back to the One who gives. My son's gifts that I had stockpiled in the linen closet and in the play room to bring out on another day (when he wasn't crashing from a sugar high), were not just things that he had been given, they were physical representations of the love and generosity from people that God had placed in our lives. Stuff suddenly became sanctification.
And Brian explained that sanctification isn't entirely on my shoulders. I am not responsible for refining myself. Jesus deposits His spirit in us and then everyday from that moment on we undergo a day-by-day process that He walks through with us.
Tears filled my eyes in church. I hung my head and shook it in amazement of God's goodness and in his insane talent for perfect timing. I had missed an opportunity to lavish overwhelming love on my son even when I thought he had reached his own "gift limit". (In my defense, CPS needn't be called, he did open roughly, I don't know, 15 gifts.)
But regardless of my reasons then, it's clear now that my son and I are going to have a second birthday party in our living room. We are going to throw wrapping paper everywhere and open present after present. But this time I am going to make a big deal out of the people who gave him these blessings out of their generosity- not the things themselves. I want him to make the connection that these gifts aren't just things to distract us from boredom- they are living, breathing reminders of love. God's love through other people.
We don't always get it right as mothers. But if we leave our hearts wide open, God can use our mistakes.
Here's what I learned from what my pastor presented and my son's presents interchangeably: we aren't good enough–but he gives us His life, an overwhelming, ridiculous, way-too-much-too-handle (no matter what age you are) gift anyway.
We're in this together,
Tuesday, September 24, 2013
While I make it a point to get the Good Stuff in (reading, reflecting and journaling), I still suffer from the constant static of self focus. I often find myself listening to a looped monologue inside my head more than I meditate on Christ's words. For the most part, the monologue runs along the same formulaic rails every day.
Open on a one-way street where I'm talking to myself about myself and wondering how other people feel about me and how that affects how I feel about them. And now pan out to the horizon where I stand below the constant drip of discontent and wonder if I am more or less myself as I am becoming more and more of who I really am. Then fade to a shadowy place where I'm longing to disband the stereotypes of whoever it was that everyone thought I should be by restructuring who I hope to become.
Wow. How revealing. How exhausting. How ugly. How futile.
I know I can't change a single thing about myself by trying. I can't change a single bad trait by making good habits. Pleasing man is a waste of time- not everyone will like me, believe me, learn from me, or care to come to know me.
I believe I am inherently a screw up. But I am irrevocably secured by an amazingly good God.
THANK GOD. Literally. I am so thankful to God, that I, me, the little kahuna- am not where the road ends. I am so glad that my tendency to get lost in self-talk and trying harder isn't necessary. It is so freeing to understand that my identity when riveted upon my own ability doesn't define who I am. My worth is determined by God's grace. His plan. It is determined by His ultimate love story written in the bloody scrawl of a ridiculously perfect man who hung his head in shame so I didn't have to.
So if I know all of this to be true, how come I am still so hung up on how life is supposed to look? How come I still care about the world's opinion? About how I measure up?
Well, how come we all do? Why do we let our ideals- these impossible standards of living that are sold to us at all hours of the day dictate our life decisions? Why do we think that happiness is the zenith of existence?
Happiness is a vapor. It is a 'chasing after the wind' (Ecc. 1:17). We were not made to be happy. We were made to be humbled, held, and reliant on a Hero.
But it is hard as a human to not act like a human. Our world is made to cater to our deepest insecurities. It will tell you that if you can change your marriage, if you can restructure your job, if you can lose those last pounds, if you can finally find the right guy, if you just follow your heart- then life will be perfect.
I can say now that I am getting better at breaking up the incessant barrage of "but-what-about-me's"? I do this by intentionally taking time to read the Word and let Christ inject some truth into my mush of me-ism. His way of life, his servanthood, his giving away, his shunning of the spotlight, his compassion for the compassionless- it causes me to spin some plates; fall out of my hoggish headspace. His beauty causes me to lurch out of my internal blender just long enough to slow the blades. To stop the bleeding. To apply a grace-soaked turnacet to this hemorrhaging heart.
I will take a chance and bet that your inner monologue isn't much different than mine. We all have our own internal paparazzi. And sometimes the pictures we are taking aren't too pretty.
But the good news is that these images, these thoughts, this cycle of self worship isn't all there is. There is so much more. I have found that in those moments when I give up trying to fashion the life I imagined for myself- I am then able to be rebuilt from the inside out. That I am able to be thankful for what I have. And I have SO much. A beautiful family, a loving husband, a job I love, and a life I couldn't have written the script for.
He knew what I needed to be drawn into his embrace. He knew that the interior walls of my mind would squeeze him out, unless I was surrounded by people who show me His beauty or cause me to crawl to him in desperation, day after day. He meant it to feel this way.
And, friends- the storyline He has for you is so much better than what you're trying to create on your own. I went to a woman's conference earlier this year and I heard something that resonates with me to this day, "If you ever feel like all you do is serve others in your life- cleaning up after them, shelving your priorities for them, and putting yourself last- then thank God. Thank Him that for one day, for a few moments-- you got it right."
We're in this together,
Tuesday, September 3, 2013
I over state. A lot. I come from a long line of exaggerators. So, why not blame it on the gene pool?
If my daughter has a cough, I worry that it may be pneumonia and say, "I feel like she has been sick forever. When will this end?"
If my son loses his cool in public, I assume he must be suffering from severe starvation since he had only eaten a raisin that day. "I wonder if he needs a feeding tube?"
Blech. I'm so embarrassing to myself.
If I am overwhelmed, I think I will always feel overwhelmed.
Words like always and forever creep into my daily dialogue without much intentional thought. I'm just trying to prove a point, right? I think, I do feel like I am always cleaning ketchup off the table. I do feel like I may never go to the bathroom alone. I do wonder if my legs will forever be partially unshaved since I rush out of the shower to comfort a child after his nap.
And I know that when I finally have fully-shaven legs, I will miss running out of the shower to comfort a child after his nap.
This morning I read an amazing verse in Psalms. I have had a love affair with these passages since I was young, but somehow I feel like I have never read this before:
The NIV of the Bible, explains the highway to Zion as a "pilgrimage". I would think that this means our lives' pilgrimage. The steps we take everyday towards missionally loving our family, friends, enemies, and strangers. The steps we take towards solidifying the truth about who God is in our everyday lives. Becoming more like Jesus, and yet understanding that perfection was never a part of his plan.
As a young mom with two kids, I can say that my heart's highway has been speeding past at 100mph lately. New jobs, new school classes, new baby, and that some old sleep. I wake up feeling weak. And I am not very coy about sharing those feelings.
But absolutes are so very different than feelings. And God in his wisdom gave us a Spirit that can take us from strength to strength. He can lead us through a valley flooded with replenishment. A rain-soaked Savior in the middle of an insanely thirsty life.
My tendency to complain about my circumstances to the max, shows a very big tear in my faith. It shows me where I don't believe He is strong enough. It reveals that I believe my weakness is all I have in moments that try me. I let my emotions run away with my words.
Instead, I should focus on letting His words run away with my heart.
He takes us from strength to strength.
I want my heart to hold the highways to Zion inside of it, and in order to train my heart to feel differently about my everyday circumstances I need to use my words to speak truth instead of lies.
But its not always the bad circumstances I am trying to manage, it's the good ones too.
Honestly, sometimes I am afraid to speak of the joy I feel in my life for fear that I am not "trying" hard enough for my faith. Wow, that is such an elementary Christian 'no-no' right? And yet, I still struggle with the idea of Christian hedonism (in the words of John Piper). I still wax and wane about my personal belief that God wants us to live life to the fullest- in JOY.
And not just churchy joy because of a successful altar call or a speaking in tongues translation- I am talking about life-giving joy. Joy because of great sex with my godly husband. Joy in wine tasting (not slurping) among gorgeous vineyards. Joy in eating amazing food and in seeing amazing the places He created. Joy in funny conversations and snuggles in cashmere blankets.
We aren't talking about a bland, I'll skip-the-butter-on-my-bread type-of-false-joy. We are talking about a real Jesus-drenched joy lavishly given us on the cross. Its the very joy that everyone wants, but can't find. It's that nagging dissatisfaction that is poured into buying functional gods with extended warranties that go out of style or lose their sparkle after we've lost interest.
You see, I need to relish in the beautiful days. I need to be quick to speak about the joy, and the gifts as often as I am about the struggle. I need to speak unabashedly about those moments when my heart twists in joyful pain over the laugh of my baby girl, the holding of my husband's hand, or the cuddle of my precious son. I need to remind myself that He is leading me from strength to strength.
He wants us to experience the joy of living fully in Him- which means that our weaknesses are made strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
He has the biggest tears in our faith covered. They are covered with a blood-soaked fragment of cloth that will always and forever be all we need to live in the land of plenty and resplendent joy.
We're in this together,
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
I should've known. I can't
Right now, in all honesty I need a shot of humility. I need a gallon of grace. And I need a good kick in the pants.
I keep hearing a voice in the back of my head asking, "Who cut in on you? You were running a good race."
That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. (Galatians 5:7-8)
I'm feeling overwhelmed. Overstimulated. Distracted. And yet, I feel needed. Necessary. I am back in the "job" saddle and I have to say it feels GREAT.
If I blatantly honest, I wonder if I am feeling the pull of improper persuasion like Paul talks about in Galatians.
Because for the last 3 years I have been a mom. A FULL TIME mom with some side-work thrown in there when I felt like I should exercise the typing muscles I used to have.
And now, I am still a stay at home mom, but I actually have a boss on the other end of those emails. I actually have been reintroduced to the hierarchy of results-matter work. I answer to someone now.
But I can not forget who I ultimately answer to.
It's the kind of persuasion that lures me away from my kids to check my inbox for the umpteenth time in an hour or respond to an "important" email that isn't nearly as pressing as my ego makes it out to be.
It is my inner persuader. It is my sin. It is my desire to gain the whole world and lose my soul. It's the oldest trick in the book.
It's that kind of persuasion that lights up my brain when I imagine all of the cool things I am going to do now that I have a label. Now that I am not just 'mom'. Now that I have, what I call my dream job.
It's only been a week and a half.
Let me repeat.
It's has only been 8 working days.
And in that short amount of time, I feel like my heart has been run away with by a trillion stallions. And I realize that I have been in a desert and I have been spiritually thriving. I have been existing on morsels of manna from God to get through every humbling struggle I face as a mom with two little kids. And because of that, I have been experiencing the painful process of growth.
And now? I am in danger of having found a new savior. I am tempted to melt down my newfound gold to fashion calves in the wilderness. I am in danger of redirecting my worship.
Because it's addicting. This accomplishment thing. It's like "Ahhh, that's what purpose feels like. I remember now."
But it's not purpose that I'm feeling swallowed by- not in the way God intended me to be purposed anyhow.
It's the hollow shell of a title that will ultimately give me glory that I'm allowing to fill the cracks in my soul. Those cracks that God gave me so I would turn to Him are now being ignored by distraction. By persuasion. By my own desire to do a good job.
And yes, I should be a good worker. I am a witness no matter if I am changing diapers or changing an editorial layout. So yes, I need to be efficient. Honest. Uphold my end of the bargain.
But my new normal means that I am over the moon and heartbroken all within moments of each other.
I make forward progress at "work" with my eyes glued to the screen, but missed my son teetering on the edge of the couch before he tumbled off. I landed a really cool product for placement, but didn't get to sit on the floor making my daughter smile without watching the clock.
This is a new balance that I need to work on. I am like a wave tossed to and fro. I need to CTFD. (Calm The F* Down) I don't endorse use of the F word, but when someone's right, they're right.)
I believe this new development in my work/life balance is a part of God's plan. So I need to keep Him in the middle of it. Be sensitive to where he leads. Seize the moments I need to and let the others ones go. This is a new ball thrown in the air.
In case you didn't know, my husband can juggle. Not in the metaphorical sense, but in the 'I-may-wear-shoes-with-bells-on-the-toes-and-go-to-rennaisiance-fairs' way. He can literally juggle. When I asked him how he learned to do it in the first place, he said that he had to keep his back against the wall, because his natural tendency was to follow the balls lead and that's when you make mistakes and drop them.
If you anchor yourself against something that doesn't move; something that doesn't change- you can then focus on all of the things you have to keep in motion.
Ok, swish. That's the truth I've been needing to hear. When learning to juggle I need to find the wall. The unchanging God I know and love.
Gosh, I know I am so dramatic. I know that once I settle down into this space I won't be so crazy out of it. I know I won't forget to eat, I won't forget to brush my teeth, I won't try to breastfeed while drafting an email to the publicity department at Nordstrom's. I will settle down.
But I don't want to miss this chance to learn something about myself.
I am only one great opportunity away from thinking I don't need God. We all are.
I am not strong. I am weak.
I am not qualified, I am a vessel He chooses to use.
I am not great, He is just so amazingly good.
He is trying to give me the desires of my heart- and I need to be mature enough to not bastardize that gift.
This is a warning letter to myself.
Knock it off. Go love on your kids. Get in the word. Get off your high horse. Kiss your husband. Stop drinking Diet Coke to keep your eyes open.
Relax. Have a glass of wine. Kiss that sexy man who is wearing your daughter in the Baby Bjorn on the lips. Give long hugs. And laugh. A lot.
Above all, once this transition from stay-at-home-mom to working-stay-at-home mom is complete, I want to make sure I had my priorities straight from the get go.
God comes first. Your family second. And yourself, that needs to always be dead last. Serve like crazy.
Just don't bow down to ego and the dollar because they make you feel important.
I am burnt out- thank God. Because it brings me back to Him.
And so I will smolder in thankfulness. He turns ashes to beauty. Or so I'm told.
"...to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor."
Friday, August 9, 2013
But what made this morning different was that I quickly discovered I was at the bottom of the sugar bowl. Peering down into the crystal-flecked container that still held the sparkle of sugar lost, I felt like Winnie the Pooh in one of his fumbled attempts as snagging the lost drop of honey.
There is nothing more deflating that staring at my steaming cup of a.m. Joe knowing that in its naked form I just don't care for the taste.
Yes, I was born and raised in the Starbucks capital of the nation. Yes, I love coffee. Yes, I love the smell. But alas, "you're not hard core unless you live hard core" and I am so not hard core. (Thanks, Jack Black). But unlike the comedian I just can't drink my coffee that way.
And in realizing that, I was suddenly hit with an unattractive understanding that I have a hard time removing all the extras in my life and in my faith that seem to make it go down easier. I am constantly trying to sweeten the pot. I am habitually trying to manipulate the facts in order to make it easier to digest.
I was lucky enough to listen to Jeff Vanderstelt of Soma church speak last weekend. He stripped down some very fundamental truths about Christian living that felt very much like a straight shot of espresso. No filter. No sugar. No pretty wrapping. Just black.
One Christian word that has always needed some sweetening for me is repentance.
I don't get it. Or, I guess I should say I didn't understand it, until it was explained to me by Jeff.
I mean how can you repent of something that you know you will do again even when you truly put your best efforts into never, ever even thinking about doing it again?
And then I heard this, "Repentance isn't a change in behavior- it's not turning away and not feeling that way anymore. Repentance is a change in belief about God."
He went on to further explain that we will continually forget about God and his good nature everyday. We will always question whether He knows what he is doing or not. But instead of focusing on the behavior we need to address the unbelief. We need to confess that we don't believe God is who He says He is. We need to own the fact that we believe we can do it better.
We need to confess that we try to dilute the taste of truth. We don't like it straight. We want to doctor it up to meet our needs to fit into our lifestyle. I do this, everyday.
And so we need to tell Him that everyday. We need to confess. We need to cut out the fluff. We need to stop trying to function on caffeine and willpower. We need to cut out the craving for the sugar high. We need to focus on the root problem of unbelief. We need to say out loud that we doubt His loving nature towards us.
I recently applied for a job as an associate editor at a local magazine. After reading the specs for the position, I desperately wanted it. The most part-time of all part-time positions, the job also offered the ability to work from home and stay with my two littles under 3. It would allow me to dive into feature writing and work with some of the best freelance writers and photographers in my area as well as get connected to the heartbeat of my community. It felt tailor made for me.
And do you know what I did when I applied for it? I didn't think God wanted me to get it.
Do you know how I reacted when I interviewed for the position and was waiting to hear back? I doubted that God wanted to give me the desires of my heart.
Do you know what I said moments before the call came in that I had indeed got the job? "I just keep getting doors slammed in my face. I guess God just wants me here. I have a sinking feeling I didn't get it. I should have heard by now." On and on and on.
Master doubter. Royal doubtess. UNBELIEF about my good God.
And no, not every desire of our heart is right for us. There were many doors that I knocked on before this that swung shut immediately. Many. There have been several moments of "almost" for me-- all of which ended in an abrupt no with no explanation. But I have to believe all of that is for my good. Every no is saving you for the right yes.
So ask yourself the next time you're doubting his goodness.
WHO is my God?
WHAT has He done?
And what does that say about WHO I AM? (Thanks Jeff! Once again.)
It all boils down to identity. If our identity stems from that all-gracious, all-powerful, all-beautiful throne of God, we can't help but be thrust into the sweet life of His plan for us.
If we are looking for substitutes, trying to create something all on our own, or don't believe he truly cares about our every day lives- we make Him a liar.
And so just that one morning I drank my coffee black. I didn't truly enjoy it- but it reminded me that sometimes the truths that are the hardest to swallow are the ones that are best for us.
We're in this together,