Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Oh, What a Wonderful Weight

Most mornings I wake up with it on my chest. A weight of will that is most commonly one of two things: guilt or gratitude.

On the guilty days, I find myself obsessing over the cracks in the back patio and the endless parade of water and syrup spots on the counter tops. I calculate my days to have the least amount of inconvenience and the utmost in comfort. I shy away from anything that will exhaust me. And I embrace anything that will allow me to breathe, slowly and calmly.

These speedbumps in my brain do not fit well with raising toddlers. They also don't fit well with being a Christian really. But by scandalous grace, I'm allowing God to work on those parts of me day by day. Sadly, there are days where I spent more time sweeping the floor than reading their favorite books with them; cleaning more dishes than I play dinosaurs. And my heart breaks over that.

It doesn't break because I feel like I should be spending more intentional time with them–we spend a lot of time together–it breaks because I am still a slave to the idea that I should be doing more to have purpose. In this place I am taking the gift of motherhood for granted; a gift that some ache for and cry over at night.

On the days of gratitude, I remember that this life is not about doing and that I can rest in just-being. For the first time in my life, I wake up facing the day and only the day. I don't plan out my weeks and months based on job deadlines or vacations I am dying to take. I literally can only take it one day at a time because my life is so blank.

It is blankly beautiful; I am just praying for boldness and bravery to fill it up with beautiful creative, God inspired things that tighten the laces on this family unit I've been a partner in creating. But more than that, I want to use this space to run to God. 

I am not one of those moms who always has something unique and fun for her kids to do. I don't plan trips to their favorite places or play dates everyday in succession. For some, that gives them peace of mind and is necessary for their well-being, but, for me, not always "doing" is an exercise in patience and being in this place fully and wholly. It is a discipline for me to be still. To have space. To get bored. And to be led to inventiveness alongside my kids.

And somewhere in there I am in wait for the beauty of the weight to be revealed. The gloriously weighty call of motherhood.

I have a dear friend who lost her second child at 38 weeks. She was able to hold her daughter for 12 hours before she had to let her go. We were talking about her sweet daughter this last weekend, and she described to me how one of the hardest things to process was holding the baby blanket empty; there was no weight against her chest like there should have been. And how strangely enough, the most comforting thing was feeling the one pound weight of her ashes on her lap. The small box was evidence of her daughter's existence, there was a weight to offset the immense amount of nothingness that she was left with.

And this woman, what a warrior. The way she talks about Christ it's like her first language. A portal has been opened between heaven and earth for her, and she lives between them inviting her daughter's memory and Christ's constant presence to be the bridge that connects her to a life of meaning.

And here I am: fiddling with filler when this type of unspeakable and unbearable pain is a reality.

How can I remain too scared or hard headed to reach up for the deep stuff? To let Christ permeate my being; to let the spirit speak continuously–not in spurts when I have presence of mind enough to take myself out of the equation.

I do want to know him like those who speak his language fluently do; to let him fill in those insidious cracks in my character that mirror the cracks in my patio.

The hardest thing for me as a mother hasn't been the sleepless nights or the diapers or the potty training or the tiredness, or the tantrums, or the monotony; the hardest thing has been tricking myself into thinking that there is something beyond these four walls and these two souls that I am supposed to be doing.

Being happy and present: that is one of the biggest challenges facing a Type A, do-it-yourself, creative junkie like myself. I know the answer lies in knowing Christ more and focusing less on me. But I am horrible at surrendering the need to do over to my God. To get out of my own way. To shut up. To sit down. To enjoy. To stop the spinning wheels.

Today my son, daughter and I were still enough to sit in front of the windows long enough to spy three Stellar's jays, four chickadees, and one robin. And while we were trying to name them, the oddest thing happened. A hot-pink headed hummingbird flew right in front of us and hovered for just long enough for it to feel like magic. He didn't zip by in a blur, he hovered right in front of us, face-to-our-faces and simply shimmered before he flitted off to smell the yellow flowers in our bed.

Jesus has been speaking to me in bird lately. A language that I don't fully understand, but it just feels like gift and maybe the beginnings of a dialogue that perhaps will soon flow without stopping. I heard my son whisper as we sat on the ground watching the birds peck and nibble on the seed in a nearby feeder, "Thank you God and Jesus for these birds. I love you so much."

And just like that my heart splattered into a million gooey pieces for two reasons.

1) My son does not whisper. He has two volumes. Loud and louder.
2) That's exactly what I was thinking.

For a brief second my son's heart was laid bare and beautiful. I saw Jesus speak to him the way he speaks to me and he spoke back. It was small window into the wonder that God may be knocking on his little heart already.

After that, we actually had a particularly hard day. But in the wise words of Paul Rudd in the highly spiritual film, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, he explains that the secret to surfing is to "Do less". And in parenting no amount of low or high tides, crashing waves or calm waters can change what I know: the less I do the more I see Christ at work.

We're in this together,

Monday, November 3, 2014

Birds on Full Blast

Last week on an oddly warm fall day I took the kids down to our little pond (an over sized puddle) to throw pebbles in. We were struggling with boots and jackets and zippers and "do it myself's" before we heard it.

At first it sounded like an ornery hum, as if we were standing under the buzz of power lines. Slowly my senses awoke and I recognized the trills, lifts and melodic runs. An army of sparrows, robins and finches filled our entire yard with a symphony.

It was so loud that at first I was frightened. Clutching the little, sticky fingers of my four-year old and one-and-a-half year old, (I promise I do wash their hands ) I was imagining a brigade of angry birds pecking our heads until we ran back inside, but quickly the feeling transformed from fear into wonder.

The volume reverberated through the trees. I kept looking up and around just in time to see little flashes of yellow and red darting from bough to bough. A few of them were ground bound, fluttering their wings in the water; bathing and singing as if there weren't three wide-eyed bystanders invading quiet time. It reminded me in an infinitesimal way of what it must have felt like to be in the garden of Eden. Sharing life with the birds and animals without the fear of death or that enmity between us all. 

I felt as if we had stepped into a portal, where peace was potent. I think it could have been what is often referred to in Celtic Christianity as the "thin places"where just for a few brief moments we experience something otherworldly; heavenly. Where God smacks a sloppy wet kiss on us when we're least expecting it. We tingle and we light up, unsure of what we are experiencing is reality or fantasy.

And then it was gone. The birds hushed just as strongly as they came on. Either taking their party up the street to cooler trees or just dispersing into the world each one carrying their part in the greater song. I am just glad that I didn't miss it. That I wasn't scrubbing the kitchen counters or lamenting over the loss of something trivial.

I felt God. I heard him. I watched him fly on the wings of his creation. To some, I'm sure this would seem like just a crap ton of birds in one place at one time, but to me, it was God. His presence thick and real surrounded by an unimpressive chain link fence and arthritic old-growth trees.

Some people experience this crossover in the middle of unspeakable pain–the death of a child or in the loss of a dream. Others experience it in the mountain top aftermath of new life or beating cancer. For me, it was random–gift. Undeserved. Strange. Obtuse. Without rhyme or reason.

Sometimes you just need to download all of the good things that God is doing to fully appreciate his grace. I am in this season of quiet, where busyness has been replaced with large chunks of time spent at home with space to think, reflect and thank.

I don't deserve this life. I deserve death. I deserve that enmity: the inconveniences and spats and the fear of losing it all. I am ridiculously ill equipped to protect and appreciate what I've been given. But I choose to respond with generosity. I don't always do it well, but my heart wants to give away–to break myself every day to become the person God is trying to mold from the dried out clay.

Today, I am in awe that my God, my Jesus, treasures my fissures and faults instead of locking me out of a life full of joy. He has taken my cup and brimmed it with serious, wake-up-in-the-morning and dance joy. (John 15:11) Not happiness. Not ease. Not perfection. Just good old fashioned gratefulness.

We haven't achieved some major goal. Our little family isn't plodding along on some fast track to financial success or traveling the world making our mark–we are just living and loving and showing up and turning in and hugging and encouraging and inviting and letting go and saying the things we know some of our friends and family need to hear. We're open. Open to seeing God doing beauty among the rubble.

I have been in seasons of life where my sin was so stickily present that it's reckless resin felt inescapable; becoming an unreliable rudder.

But not right now. I don't fuss over my jean size as much. I don't bat eyelashes or ask for more spotlight like I used to. I squeeze and kiss my kids so much more often instead of shooing them away for a deadline or to deal with personalities in a job that I was worshiping. This is my reward: God giving me eyes to see things I was blind to before (Proverbs 20:12). I still have glaring blind spots–God knows that, as does everybody else who knows me. I'm human, I'm captivated by want; by indulgences.

Joy though, I'm discovering, is the counter to the craving. And it's so full. The exchange rate. Blood for blessing. Screw ups for scandalous love. And if I had to guess what joy sounds like I would have to imagine it's something like birds on full blast.

We're in this together,