Wednesday, February 15, 2017

To the Mom Who Doesn't Have Time to Herself

Your time is not your own.

I know that's true, because mine isn't either.

On any given day, my time is stretched as thin as cheap leggings. And Lord knows I have a couple of those, which have now found their rightful place in the lingerie drawer. You're welcome, husband.

But you know what I've found when it comes to spending time with God in this spread-thin-season? He is faithful. He can do mighty things with our small moments. He can do transformative things with our tiny time. He doesn't need much, he just needs your best.

We've prostituted the word best, to look like perfection. Like abundance. Like candles and arias. Like cathedrals and quiet time. That's a lie. That's not the way of the God of the Bible.

In this season, my best looks like reading a Psalm or two while grabbing my coffee out of the microwave or flipping open the Bible while the kids are magically entertained by an old balloon that's been floating at half mast in my living room for weeks.

In these small moments, God meets me. He'll meet you too. He probably already has.

It it isn't pretty. It doesn't look impressive. It looks kind of sloppy. Like the rest of life.

But I have learned to stop apologizing and instead recognize the small square of space that I am given each day. I have identified the temptation to fill that sliver of space with something that will leave me suffering want. Because I have finally noticed, on good days, that the numbing agent of choosing want over sacrifice desensitizes our souls to the call of Christ.

Giving God our sliver of smallness reminds me of what we see the poor widow doing in Luke. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on. (Luke 21:1-4)

Out of her poverty she put in all she had to live on. 

If you are a mom, you live in an impoverished season of time. Right now all God wants is what you have. He isn't asking you to give him something you don't possess. He is a God of astonishing intimacy. And mercy.

But the widow, she put in all she had to live on.

All she had. He wants that. He deserves that.

Even if it looks like scrolling through your Bible app while hiding in the bathroom. Begging him to connect the dots of what you just fire-hosed to refresh your sleep deprived soul.

We have to stop scrambling to produce margins of time that look a certain way before we meet with Jesus. We may not get it. Chances are, we won't.

He knows. He knows your challenges. The struggles. He knows that you are physically pulled at and climbed on and yelled for. He knows you're interrupted a thousand times a minute and that your heart is afflicted and storm tossed and sad and tired. He knows you don't have fun a whole lot. He sees the sacrifice, the love you give, the cuss words you say under your breath. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. (Psalm 139:2)

He loves you. He longs for you. The pulse of your wrist infatuates him. He longs to run his fingers along your face, with a deep heartsick love. Your blood was bought with his, and yet we spill it out for other gods.

The gods that tire us out. The gods that cut us open and drain us until we get lightheaded and come to our senses–begging his forgiveness.

It's no picnic, raising our kids and losing ourselves. This transformation is a battle field. You need to know He is on your side. Fighting for you. Has a plan for you. He wants to show you what He has done. Who He is and why that makes all the difference.

Practically, this may look like ceasing the spin and grabbing hold of the small moments by the throat. Stopping. And choosing. And stopping and choosing again. Those five minutes here and there compounded over a week add up to a deeper understanding of the Man who says he is the lover of our souls. And of the God who says He knows the hairs on our heads. And that He cares about our small life.

The same small life that I spend standing at the kitchen sink more than anywhere else right now.

These are the kitchen sink days, my friend. So why try to make them the cathedral ones?

We're in this together,

Thursday, February 9, 2017

To the Mom Who's Drowning

I have never been a strong swimmer. Mainly, because I never practice.

My mother-in-law is a triathlete. She asked me to train with her one summer. I was too proud to admit I didn't want to swim or was too out of shape to even attempt what she could. So what did I do? I said, "Yes, I would love to train to do a sprint triathlon with you!"

I should have known early on in my relationship with her son that this family was VERY different than mine. These folks were fast-twitch fibertastics who were visibly excited about Christmas Eve runs together. You know, like for fun. There was no rest and repeat cycle in this family. There still isn't. 

As I started to train for the triathlon,  I discovered that the biking wasn't awesome, the running I could handle–but the swimming. Nope. I just kind of half floated and doggy paddled my way to a side ache.  So I never ended up racing with her. I just kind of pretended to train. Knowing full well, that I wouldn't be able to do it. That I just wasn't prepared for the swim. 

It was uncharted territory. 

And this my friends, is motherhood.

I had my third child 9 months ago. If anyone knows about what it feels to be drowning, it is I. And anyone who has entered into the deep waters of parenthood. We start on the dry sand, warm with dreams for our pregnant bellies. Then we get our toes wet through baptism by fire in labor and delivery. Then we wade deeper and deeper year after year into the waves that are unpredictably stormy and calm within seconds of each other. 

And then one day we realize we are on the brink of going under. 

It doesn't matter if you have one child, two or seven, or if those kids are babies or toddlers or teenagers. If there is one thing I have started to realize is that wherever you are at in the parenting spectrum it is the hardest place–simply because you have never been there before. You have no practice. 

When I feel the waves crashing over my head it is usually in moments like these: I'm crying in the parking lot of a carpet store, or into my purse so no one hears me. Or I can't get the kids to stop fighting. Or when my heart breaks because my in-the-middle daughter wants to give away the baby, because she feels invisible. Or when my husband is carrying so much on his shoulders and I still don't have sex with him because I'm just too tired. Or when my oldest son is struggling in Kindergarten and his teacher suggests occupational therapy. 

These real talk moments. These are the times when our chins slightly dip below the surface of the water until our faces are splattered with salt and tears and we don't know which is which. The waves simply do not let up; slapping us in the face; atagonizing us. We begin to panic.

These are also the times when Jesus is my absolutely lifeline. Oftentimes, if I'm truly sucking in salt water I turn to Ecclesiastes. 

Misery loves company I guess. 

And yet, Ecclesiastes is refreshingly honest. It is one of those books that you can tell was written at the end of things. After a few lessons have been learned and tested to be true. There is slight cynicism to the words, but with a wise monocle over Solomon's right eye. 

Solomon was one of the most prominent sages in the history of Jewish culture. He wrote this book at the end of his life as a summation of sorts of what his biggest learning lessons were. And man, there's so many lessons to clutch to our chests for the mama whose underwater. 

Ecclesiastes 3:14 "I perceived that whatever God does endures forever, nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it."

To the mom who's drowning: God has done it. Whatever the worry. Whatever the fear. Whatever the struggle. Whatever the secret. Whatever the bloody mess. He HAS done it. He has won the battle for your heart. For your kids' hearts. He is a wonderfully wasteful God who would spill his guts all over again to invite you into his forever. Rest. He has done it. Subtext: you can't do it. So stop trying. 

Ecclesiastes 5:4 "Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few."

Ouch. This one stings at first. And then it becomes absolutely freedom. If we know our place, we no longer struggle with insecurity. God is in heaven, we are on earth. He is in control, we are in chaos. Be still before him. Quiet your heart and be wise with the words you toss up before the King. He deserves respect. He deserves thoughtfulness. He invented language. He knows every nuance of word and silence, and that unbelievable truth should only increase your ability to choose select words like Anne Lamott suggests: Wow. Help. Thanks. 

Ecclesiastes 5:7 "For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity; but God is the one you must hear."

So this isn't what you thought it would be. You aren't the kind of mom you dreamed you would be. Your kid isn't the type of child you thought you would have. The edges don't line up sometimes: the puzzle hangs in a scattered mess with wide gaps and ill-fitting pieces. Let those dreams die a dead, dead death. Let those expectations get rolled up in the next diaper you change. If you feel pained because the dreams you had have hidden themselves in the immense challenge at hand, say the hard words: It's vanity. My vanity.

If you find yourself talking, talking, talking but not seeking, seeking, seeking; flip the script for a week or two. Listen instead. Open the Bible. God is the one you must hear, because my friend, we already know what we are going to tell ourselves. And it's one of the reasons why you feel like you have weights tied to your ankles in the open sea. 

Ecclesiastes 7:21-22 "Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. Your heart knows that many times you have yourself cursed others."

I have heard my children say they hate me. Not often, but I will never forget the first time I heard it. Like my insides were on fire. Do not take these curses to heart. We are all bound to the curse of man. This includes inflicting hurt on those who've inflicted hurt on us because they were hurt. The heartbreaking cycle should not take residence inside the mama's heart. We need to be diligent in staying heart whole. Figure out a process for emptying those words from your mind. Mine looks like open palmed prayer and a bubble bath. (Ok, just open palmed prayer. Bubble baths? Ha ha. That's hilarious.) 

Do not take hurtful words from your kids' mouths, from other mom's mouths, from your husband's mouth to the inner sacred chamber of your heart. Lock that place up tight. Fill it up with the love that Christ has for you. Look for places in His story where he talks about your value. And remember that kids are a rebel force obsessed with fruit snacks and the word 'no'. Their words can not be trusted as truth. 

Ecclesiastes 8:15 "And I commend joy, for man has no good thing under the sun but to eat and drink and be joyful, for this will go with him in his toil through the days of his life that God has given him under the sun."

Commend joy in your life. Give gladness a pat on the back. Linger on the moments that fill you up so full that you experience a different type of drowning; a life giving end-of-selfness. And chill out. I have learned to chill out as a mom. I am someone who is just sliiiiightly uptight in general. The wisest man in history (ok, second wisest. Jesus wins.) calls our bluff: stop thinking you are so important and all of this matters so much. Instead. Eat. Drink. Be joyful.  Sometimes moms want to suffer in silence. We want to cling to our pain and call it purpose. Nada. The second wisest man in history's prescription: Eat. Drink. Be joyful.

For this will go with him in his toil through the days of his life that God has given him. 

There will be toil. There will be tears. There will be days of drowning. 

But friend, there is joy. It just requires a little practice. 

We're in this together, 

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Dust Pan Diaries

Yesterday, I thought about starting a blog or an Instagram feed dedicated to the fascinating piles of dirt I gather everyday in my kitchen. So I did.

Monday's morning dirt, 8:15 a.m.
-512 pieces of dried egg from my 9-month-old's high chair (did he even eat anything?)
-23 blonde hairs from my daughter’s forced hair brushing session.
-A billion bread crumbs from the unending toast I make. (It never fails that once I start putting the jam and peanut butter away, some yells out in panic: “What are you d-d-d-oing? I need toast too!”Out it all comes again.)

Monday's afternoon dirt, 1:45 p.m.
-Four army men lay splayed in defeat.
-A few death-trap Legos (how come the tiny ones are the only ones that fall to the floor?)
-Three unidentifiable food objects (you know, my code for UFO's)
-A handful of dried rice.
-A clump of my hair.
-A single pink rhinestone.

Monday's afternoon dirt (Part 2), 1:47 p.m. (Two minutes later...)
-An accidental drop of an entire pound bag of M&M's by the hands of one sneaky son.
-Oh, and there's one random Barbie shoe.

Part 2's pile of "dirt" incurred weeping and gnashing of teeth. RIP thin candy shelled friends.

As great of an idea that this was, it did cause me to stop.

To give God a small moment to whisper over my shoulder. To let the deep places in. Anytime, I begin to get annoyed by a matter of routine that I have to do over and over, I must ask myself: what is there for me to learn? Am I allowing myself to be taught?

I am not too proud to accept that my kitchen's dirt just might have the ability to reveal truth that some of the books on my nightstand can't even teach me.

Because, it is here. Right here. In this mundane moment that Jesus longs to meet with me. Meet with you. No scented candles. No worship music. In the middle of the mess. You just have to look past the pile. And so, I let the silence speak.

What am I really doing here? Why am I sweeping so much? Why do I feel this intense push to gather the grossness, to pursue order and cleanliness? Why does it bother me so much when life gets messy, dirty?

I let the idea roll around, while I shove the broom back into the coats/storage/toiletries/random-purse/kids-hiding-spot/supply closet. Pushing hard against the door, I tell myself for the one-thousandth time that I need to get a wall organizer for my cleaning tools already.

And as I step away from the door, I happen upon it. The reason that my dustpan is preaching to me today.

Just like the closet door conceals the reality of my messiness (or my mom-ness with three kids six and under at home), so does the sweeping. The constant need for control in the chaos. And guys, my life is chaos. I don't like my mess. I don't like to see what dirt my family has accrued over the day. I shiver to think about what the pile would look like if I didn't sweep the instant something sticks to the bottom of my foot. Which may be every 3.5 seconds.

 I spend a lot of my time gripping the broom handle. Sometimes with gritted teeth, sometimes in a trance that makes my life easier to handle. Sweep. Sweep. Sweep. Progress. Progress. Progress.
I want to sanitize my life. I want no traces of grime, gunk.

And this is just another outlet for me to exercise control. It is a necessity that I clean my floors as often as I do, lest my baby die from eating the death-trap Lego's and the clump of hair. But, the difference now is that no pile of dirt will ever be just a pile of dirt again.

Instead, sweeping can become worship. And the task that used to drive me to performing and pretending can actually become a messy vehicle that reminds me of my need; a portal into prayer.

My dirt can now dress itself in thankfulness; it can become a quick Polaroid of play and mistakes and patience. This dust can produce life, if I let God breathe into it–just like he did at the very beginning.

One day my dust piles with be smaller. Maybe they will just be dust. A faint reminder of the days when dried rice, rhinestones and Army men used to push it underfoot. My heart hurts when I think about that. When I truly think about it. So when I sweep now, I will do my best to thank God for the random Lego, raisin and candy wrapper.

It's evidence that I am still at work with my babies and that God is still at work with me.

We’re in this together,