Friday, April 18, 2014
I learn this everyday as I watch my kids interact. The most revealing moments come in the oddest of situations. For instance, if my daughter is playing with a broken spoon (I swear, I give her cool toys, but it's the trash she ends up liking most) my son will notice her simple joy and his envy-tastic wheels start spinning.
How come she's happier with that broken spoon than I am with my embarrassingly abundant collection of toys? It must be because that spoon is better than what I have. Must. Have. Broken. Spoon.
In an instant my son will literally dart from across the room–leaving his super cool dinosaur collection and 500-page Dinosaur Encyclopedia (which I spend hours reading and thus butchering six-syllable scientific names in order to appease him) to snatch the utterly worthless from her hand.
He has no idea why he does what he does. Once the broken spoon is in his possession he realizes it's well, a broken spoon, and it wasn't worth the effort. He drops it on the floor and my daughter scoops it up giggling and runs in the opposite direction to protect her treasure.
My son forgets what he has just learned, chases after her, and the whole process starts again.
What's the difference between my son and daughter's perspective of the spoon? Somewhere inside my son believes he is being lied to. He thinks someone is holding out on him. He thinks what he has been given isn't enough. And even worse, he can't appreciate what he has in light of what he doesn't have.
Just in case you're worried that I am playing favorites, I am also aware that my daughter is just too young to realize that she is playing with a broken spoon and that someday that trash she is obsessed with may be her prom date–but that's an entirely different blog.
So let's hit the pause button and take a moment. Let's admit that even though we are parents to these little terrorists and that we should be experts in managing this type of behavior, we aren't. This is because even as adults we still do this. We look at our kids, our bodies, our jobs (or lack thereof) our faith, our freedom, and our "right" to be whoever it is that makes life easiest–and we declare it our property.
We wriggle free from the grasp of God's best and cling to our stuff with a kung-fu grip. We, in some capacity, believe that we have a right to declare what is ours. And most often, this means that our hearts and our souls are off limits. We snatch our identity right out of God's hands and we put him in the line up among the hundreds of other distractions we entertain ourselves with and pick him up to play with only when it serves us most to do so.
And when I say "we", I really mean me. If I'm honest with myself: I still want a broken spoon.
I want more. I want to be liked by everyone. I want my kids to be liked by everyone. I want to impress people. I want to surprise people with my giftings. I want all of this worthlessness in light of what I know to be meaningful:
I am currently reading Out of the Spin Cycle by Jen Hatmaker per my dear friend and pastor's wife's recommendation. If you don't own this book I suggest you buy it- NOW. She speaks to our responsibility as parents in one of her chapters. And it resonated with me.
She said that our children will "learn innocent shrewdness–or not– from you. It is not your responsibility to raise perfect prototypes of holiness, fit to set on a pedestal and admire. Your job is to send your children into this world as disciples who understand their mission and who will contend for God's glory."
She goes on to say that it is not our job as Christians to defend Jesus, but to represent him. And today, I can honestly say that is a terrifying thought. But, I can represent him to my children–and to the people I share my life with–in the middle of my most debased humanity by laying down the trash I am obsessed with and admit I'm far too easily pleased.
Today, in this moment, I am still playing tug-of-war with Jesus over a broken spoon. But the redemptive idea is this: I am a broken person. He broke his body for me on the cross. He rose again to do away with that brokenness. And even if I spend the rest of my life laying that down at his feet when I continually forget what is of value in the shadow of the valueless- that's all he asks.
All he asks is that broken people admit they desire the broken spoon.
We're in this together,
Tuesday, March 18, 2014
I've been pregnant for a total of 560 days. I have been in labor for 34 hours. I have lost countless hours of sleep. I have been moved to tears of joy more times than I can count. I have lost my temper, lavished love, given a million kisses, comforted feverish children, sat on the cold bathroom floor through potty training and flu season, and danced in the kitchen barefoot with my arms wrapped around my husband and my babies–sometimes at the same time.
For those how have been married a long time, seven years probably seems like a drop in the bucket of monogamy. But for those newlyweds that are still trying to figure out a weekly menu that will utilize the pancake grill, waffle maker, indoor grill, outdoor grill, and panini maker they received (Here's a hint: you won't use any of them nearly as much as you will the Crockpot, trust me.)–we've put in the time now to qualify as married folks, through and through. We've been hitched just as long as Brad Pitt was in Tibet. So basically, forever.
When I look over the last seven years I have memories of my life. My wedding. My husband. My kids. My broken and mended heart. My loss. My gain. My success.
But if I were to squeeze in the footnotes of my prior number breakdown–I'd have to bring your attention to the source. Right before I walked down the aisle my dad prayed one of the sweetest prayers of my life. When I found out I was first pregnant, I prayed, "Lord, what now?". When I was in labor, you better believe a few prayers were blasted out on high frequency. When I've been in tears during the terrible twos–exhausted from trying to manage emotions– God gave me eyes to see that I was just like the unruly child in front of me. I've spoken harsh words that I had to ask forgiveness for–another time I relied on Jesus to annihilate my pride. Every big moment of "my life" has really been nothing but an introduction paragraph to the true story being told. The life that I grip with greedy hands in a contunual effort to hi-jack a heart that doesn't belong to me.
It belongs to my Jesus.
So the story. The big idea. The celebrations we toast, the birthdays we celebrate, the deaths we mourn- all of it has nothing to do with us and everything to do with the one who is for us. Lucky for us, our Master Rescuer is the author. Even so, I can admit I keep trying to steal the pen and scratch my name into the byline.
Jesus knows that about us. And so, on purpose, he picked a ragtag team of disciples to follow him, and they–like us–always seem a step behind where God was trying to lead them. This week Pastor Brian preached on Mark 10:35-45. In it, James and John are asking to be seated at the right hand of God in heaven. They are looking for a reward for their faith, tangibly. They want to see results. They want to see the numbers crunched and the end result to be a splendid success. They want a pat on the back. And even though they are asking about heaven, which would seem a disclosure of faith in where their future will be, they are still focused on their own glory. Their own security. Their own story.
And Jesus says, "But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,"
Pastor Brian asked something that resonated with me on this topic, "How often is our greatest desire not our greatest need?"
Here the disciples were: face to face with God. They knew who He was. They knew He could be trusted. And they still couldn't hand over the script. They still wanted to make it about them. And Jesus doesn't throw the book at them. He doesn't storm off and pout in the desert about how lousy his friends are at listening to what he has to say. He tries again. He points them forward. He says, serve. Serve and you will be great.
How often is our greatest desire not our greatest need?
For me, all the time. I could write an entire list of things that I desire. And most of them would seem practical. A laundry sorter. A boot tray. A gardener. An unlimited budget for kids clothes, school fundraisers, fashionable (but reasonable) clothes, doctors appointments, dentist appointments, gas, groceries, gifts, etc. But what is my greatest need?
Yep, it sounds like a Sunday School pad answer. Its sounds too simple. It sounds childish. It doesn't sound like something a really intelligent person would say.
And the best news is that until you know the Guy, it won't make sense. But when you do, you'll lay down that battered, busted heart that you're intent to dig your nails into while blood lines drip across white knuckles- and you'll get a new one. A new heart.
And that's the end of the story; right where you let Him begin.
We're in this together,
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,