Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Temptation's Tattoo

I am exhausted.

Not tired, because tired is just the junior varsity version of exhaustion. My bone-weariness has gotten to that point where my eyes burn whether or not I have one, two or three cups of coffee.

As of right now, I am on my second cup and it is two in the afternoon. Don't judge- I'm tempted to grab the energy drink that's been in the back of the fridge for month if this cup doesn't cut it.

But who isn't tired in this country right? We work ourselves to death, vacation less than another other nation, and yet are still on the hamster wheel.

To exemplify this, I should be lying down on the couch since both of my kids are napping, but I have this frenetic energy that has to be put to good use (Hmm... this could have something to do with the caffeine). Regardless, in this moment of quiet I realize that I have some maturing to do. This is especially evident, when all I really want to do is ball up my fists, climb back into my pajamas, and whine about the constant inconveniences I face as a mom.

Instead, I am going to force myself to contemplate what temptation truly is. Because lately I have been tempted to check out. I want to throw my hands in the air and say, OK- I've given about all I can. This girl is tapped out.

But that's just the tired talking. That's not my heart. 

I texted a friend the other day and apologized for being out of it. "I'm so sleep deprived today, sorry." And she wisely responded, "I think we will be forever!!!"

Welcome to motherhood.

And even though I am one of those people that doesn't do well without sleep-- as a kid I put myself to bed and was always sneaking off at sleepovers to crawl into my sleeping bag, it doesn't give me reason to be weak.

Blessed with two healthy kids, an amazing husband who laughs, fights, and clings to me when I need it most, and a God who lived on this earth in the most humble of ways so that I could live-- (even when I am the furthest from humble myself) is enough to keep me going. His grace is sufficient.

I read in Matthew today about the temptation of Jesus. (Matthew 4: 1-11).

What I found most interesting about the section of scripture in Mathew is the way that Satan tempted Jesus. Jesus was ravenous from his 40-day fast and Satan came to him and tempted him to make stones into bread. And the Son of God answered, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God." 

Stones into bread, huh? One of the most crafty of evil beings came up with nothing more than bread to tempt the Son of God. Maybe he thought if an apple worked with Eve he should go for two.

Why wasn't Satan's front line attempt at getting Jesus to sin a bit more glitzy? He didn't lead Jesus to a banquet table loaded with Pinterest worthy foods, award-winning wines and rich desserts-- he didn't dress up the sin in Jesus' moment of weakness. Why?

First of all, aside from the fact that Jesus would have seen right through his attempts to make him stumble- (he is God after all), maybe Satan didn't go to all that trouble- because he knew Jesus was in a weakened state. Maybe Satan knew he didn't have to.

Jesus was starving. He was empty. He was exhausted.

And sometimes in our moments of deepest exhaustion- even the least tantalizing temptations, like stone-flavored bread is something we can easily imagine into Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon. If you like that sort of thing.

When we are tired, even the most obvious of sins become enticing. The sins that we would have snuffed our noses at before somehow become glittering monuments that can solve all our problems.

I wrote a song a few years ago and in it is one of my favorite lyrics.

You light my cigarette,
Because I know better than you do. 
I've got scars all across this heart. 
I call temptation's tattoo.

OK, so no. I don't smoke cigarettes- but this is a country song so there you go.

But the reality of this lyric for me is that some days I can feel the stitches on my heart beginning to pull apart. Its in those moments that I realize some of the scars I've developed over the years are not fully healed- and at any given moment I can give way to old sin. I am getting better now at recognizing the stones that Satan is tempting me to turn into bread and that is where the separation between failing and being lured to fail, divide.

For instance, when I feel haggard and fluffy from two pregnancies- I know I shouldn't read magazines that advertise the best beach bodies in Hollywood. When one of our cars breaks down again and I wonder if I will ever be one of those luxury car moms, I shouldn't start 'googling' safest luxury cars to leave up on my computer 'on accident'. When there are medical bills to pay, I shouldn't hound my husband for a pair of new shoes or a fancy haircut at a downtown salon. These are all stones. Stones that can easily drown me.

Being tempted isn't a sin apparently. That's what God says anyway:

Hebrews 4:15  "Jesus understands every weakness of ours, because he was tempted in every way that we are. But he did not sin!" 

Jesus may not have been tempted to buy a pair of Gucci sandals-- but he understood the base of it all. The desire for more than we have. The temptation to believe that something outside can fix what's broken within. He knew that the temptation led nowhere. The bread was just stones in disguise.

Notice that Satan didn't turn the stones into bread himself and wave the wafting fresh-out-of-the-oven goodness under Jesus' nose. He simply gave him the idea to change something that is into something that could be.

Today, and everyday, when I am feeling exhausted-- I pray that God gives me (and you) the wherewithal to leave the stones in the dirt where they belong and to reach for the Bread of Life. 

In love,

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Leveling the Playing Field

Whenever my husband and I try to save a few dollars by buying a piece of furniture from IKEA or skip on paying the assembly fee for a new grill-- we have a deal. I am the one in charge of following the directions and he is in charge of doing the labor.

It's not that he can't follow the directions, it is just that he seems to believe he should intrinsically know how to fashion a contraption for grilling meat from the recesses of his manly soul. He subconsiouly feels like he shouldn't need a manual. And so I step in, and read it for him- for some reason that seems like a happy medium.

I have learned that following directions is of great importance in life- it allows you to assemble things that will last instead of assembling things that are bound to fall apart when you most want to use them.

I have been a part of Reach's Summer Bible Reading Plan for the last few days- and while I want to make excuses for not doing it with two littles- it's amazing how God carves out these little slots of quiet time where I hear Him whisper that I need to get my exhausted butt in the Word.

This morning I read Psalms 5&6, Matthew 3, and Romans 2- and some of the verses that stuck out to me seemed worth sharing. God took each piece of scripture from these seemingly disconnected books of the Bible and taught me something profound.

First, I learned in Psalms that it is OK to ask God to lead you and make his way known to you.

Psalm 5:8 - Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness...make your way straight before me. 

Just like my husband's tendency to ignore the manual, I too have somehow let myself believe that I should just intrinsically know how to do this Christian thing. And so I feel like I shouldn't ask God to lead me or make his way known to me. But here, even David- who was a man after God's own heart- asked God to make things clearer to him. To S-P-E-L-L it out. 

Then in Matthew 3:10 things get a bit hairier. John the Baptist is telling the "fake" religious leaders of the day who have come to be baptized that 'Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.' John is hitting this common heart issue- my tendency to check the right 'box' even though my heart may be far from the repentance that a life of baptism requires.

Sometimes it is hard to see the bad fruit in our lives- and in my case, even harder to see and continue bearing the good fruit if it becomes duty instead of priveledge. We just assume that if there isn't a ton of ugly sin piling up on the floor that we are doing just fine. It is perfectly OK to ask God to reveal to us where the good fruit is in our lives, so that we will be encouraged to continue to do those things that glorifies God and brings him joy. 

And then Romans 2:1 bluntly lays it out there: You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. 

God sees us through the lens of our hearts. He sees the inside- and that should completely free us if we truly love him even though we are desperately flawed. But instead- I know in my life- I haven't focused on my own problems, but have instead created my own spiritual hierarchy in order to make myself feel like I'm not that bad. The truth? I am that bad. I am even worse than those who judge outwardly.

Leave it to a sinner to take the level playing field that God has created in his wisdom and turn it into mountain riddled with moguls, cliffs, and valleys. My human nature wants to believe the following:

1) I don't need a manual about how to plant my life's tree.
2) I don't need to pay attention to the "fruit" my life is producing.
3) I am totally allowed to judge my neighbor's garden in the shadow of my own branches.

Theses verses tell me the truth:

1) I do need to ask God to lead me- and He will!
2) I do need to ask him to reveal to me what the good and bad fruit is in my life.
3) I need to keep my own cotton-picking-mitts on my side of the fence and not pick my neighbor's fruit apart.

In love,

Monday, May 20, 2013

Car Seat Chaos: The Emotional Roller Coaster of Being Homebound

I am not too proud to admit that I may have just finished crying.

I am also not too proud to admit that it may have been over a car seat.

And, lastly I am no where near too proud to admit that it had everything to do with the way I am feeling in this season of my life as a mother of two kids under 3.

It all began with expectations. You see, today was the day.

This was going to be the first time I was able to meet up with some awesome girls from my church who have been going to a group playdate since my second child was born 7 weeks ago. This was also going to be the only day in Seattle all week that was predicted to be sunny.

All signs pointed to, yes I am doing this! I finally felt confident enough to take both kids as well as rested enough not to fall asleep at the wheel.

I had just fed, changed and packed up my daughter, which was followed by cleaning watermelon stickiness from the crevice of my son's fingers, elbows, and hair follicles-- before taking him to the potty, washing his hands, putting on his shoes, packing his snacks, negotiating which snacks he could have in the car, turning the alarm on and then ushering him toward the car.

Going anywhere with multiple children is a process. It is something you prepare for the moment you wake up. Thoughts like: I better brush my teeth and wash my face at 5 am. That way between 1st child's morning nap and second child's first meal, I will only have to get dressed and run a brush through my hair.

My life wasn't always this way, but now in this immediate season, I don't have time to think about me. I don't have time to be vain anymore and I don't have time to be selfish anymore (although God knows I still try). And I rarely have time to connect with other women. But like I said, today was the day. I was going to enter back into civilization from the dark ages. (i.e.- newborn stage) I was going to get out, just for me.

That was until the awful truth unfolded in slow motion.

I rounded the bend of my walkway, reached for the car door-- and it just took one glance to recognize that an unpredictable seismic shift was going to turn my day into something else entirely.

 My son's car seat wasn't there.
Wait! I have a back up car seat! Yes! I will just go get it. Oh, no. Never mind- my dad took it and didn't bring it back. No, this can't be. Hmm...Can I strap him to the ceiling? Nah. Well, what about the front seat? Does he look old enough to be a 10 year old? He is tall for his age. Maybe if I put a couple of hats on him...

Um, no. Nope. Not enough hats in the world to make this happen. I'm going nowhere.

Tears began stinging my eyes and I realized this had nothing to do with the missing car seat.

Those tears then began to well and roll over the rims.

And I knew that not only did this have nothing to do with the car seat, but my emotions didn't even have anything to do with the frustration that I was feeling towards my husband- whom I wanted to blame for this problem. Whom I wanted to lash out at-- whom I immediately texted with a scathing message dripping in a disrespectful tone. (Let's just say that a lot of exclamation points were involved.)

It had to do with this reality: I'm not seeing anyone. I am stuck at home again. I feel trapped. I feel alone. I feel like I've felt many days before.

This is what I realized. All of this is about isolation. This is about this season of life for moms who stay at home, work, or are somewhere in-between. This is about the need for community.

OK, so maybe you are childless and beginning to feel like I am some kind of a loser. Really? The highlight of your week is hoping to meet up with some Christian church ladies at some boring kids park?

I know what it looks like from the outside: desperation.

But let me tell you what it feels like on the inside: desperation.

Because the truth about motherhood is that it can be lonely. The other truth is that it can also be the most fulfilling job on the planet. But that fulfillment comes at the end of yourself- when the cup is so empty that a single drop of blessing and perspective can become a tidal wave of gratefulness. It comes when you are invited to watch your kids play with other kids and you feel like you've been asked to walk the red carpet. It shifts your perspective from 'everything isn't enough'- to 'I don't need everything to feel like its enough'.

There will be many other play-dates. I will be a part of many of them. Not all is lost.

But today I got a glimpse of this truth: I really want to be in community with women who know Jesus and I really want to be in community with women who don't. I really want to be invested in the lives of others. Because wherever we meet, that 'X' in the middle-- whether it's some random sandbox or some cool wine bar, relationships happen. And those relationships spur us on to become better. To feel connected. To feel what God feels when we pray to him. To speak and listen. To ask and answer. To know and be known.

And while I still wish that car seat would have been in its place- I also have learned something today. I don't want to go at it alone.

And you shouldn't feel like you have to either.

By grace,

PS- I also don't think its a coincidence that this was one of the parts of Scripture from this morning's Bible Summer Reading Plan: Romans 1:11-12 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you-- that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine. And just in case you were worried, the car seat is now back in its place and my husband has been restored to rock star status.