Monday, March 17, 2014

...thoughts on growing old together

While he (Josh, that is) dozed with his head in my lap, I saw something new in his black hair.  Grays.  I began to count them, and as I did, I could recount our history.  Every gray stood for a moment of our lives.  There were 3 close together…one for each of our growing kiddos.  One close to these but not right next to them…this one must be Emma’s.  One for me.  One for the grief of past financial struggles.  One for the seasonal heartaches of the ministry.  These grays tell the story of our life together.

And then it hit me.  I am not going to grow old with this man.  I already am growing old with this man.  We’re a couple of months away from a decade of marriage.  History gets made in a decade.  Years go by in a decade.  I’m not a child anymore…and neither is he.  We’re adults now.  And more history will be made.  And more years will go by.  And more grays will come.

And I’m glad.  “…This is my beloved and this is my friend….” (Song of Solomon 5:16)

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Lamentations and Mercies for Mommies

Have you ever read the book of Lamentations?  If not, read it!  In a very bizarre way, some of it really reminds me of motherhood.  Occasionally, if I am being honest, being a mommy can feel a little like I’ve been taken captive and forced into servitude by a group of small people who often don’t seem to speak the same language as me, but who have huge expectations and demands from me.  I mean, verses like, “…she who was a princess among the provinces has become a forced laborer” (1:1) and “All her majesty has departed…” (1:6) and “The adversary has stretched out his hand over all her precious things…” (1:10) sound a lot like my life!

You see, somewhere in my childhood, I formed a picture in my mind of what it would be like to be a mommy.  It looked something like this:  motherhood would be always fun, always cuddly, always clean, always simple, and always easy.  There would be easy-to-solve problems that would all end in a sort of Cosby-meets-Family Ties kind of way.  My children would live to please me out of their great admiration and love (of me).  I would have always bathed obviously and be dressed very fashion-forward (in my unaffected-by-child-bearing-body), and would have ultimately learned how to tame my curly hair.  My space and my things would stay mine unless, of course, I was feeling generous. Things would be so ideal that even the little trials of daily life would be humorous and cute, bordering adorable. 

Not only is that cheesy, ridiculous, and completely false, it’s nauseating! I apologize for the “quease” factor.  But for one reason or another, as I grew up, that ideology never really changed, which is probably why I was shocked when reality struck.

Do you remember how much you wanted your babies before you ever had them?  I do.  Every month I waited to see if I was pregnant.  I wept when I wasn’t.  And great tears of joy came when I was.  I felt the weight of the blessing that they would be. 

And in that moment, there was no greater joy.

Then I threw up.  Then some months later on, I labored for them and delivered them.  I watched 2 of mine stay in the NICU. 

And I finally felt the excitement of taking each of the 3 of them home…what massive joy!

Then she/he would.not.stop.crying.  My boobs were constantly needed.  There was poop.  There was spit up.  There was pee on my bed.  There was more poop. 

And there was rolling over, then crawling, then walking…so much joy!!

Then there was baby food.  And stains.  There were snacks.  And there were crumbs.  There were just SO many crumbs.  And there was laundry.  There was just SO much laundry.  And there were books to read.  There were just SO many books to read.  And they were stupid books. 

And then there was a first word…such a sweet joy!

Then there was the rest of the housework.  And dinner needed to be made.  And groceries needed to be bought.  Somebody got a fever.  And we were out of coffee. 

And in this moment, I can’t feel the joy.

What an ebb and flow!  Mothers have an immense (no exaggeration) job.  It practically takes a genius to do what a mom does…really…to manage all that she manages takes some real intelligence and gumption.  She is a supreme juggler.  She wears many hats.  And if she tells the truth, sometimes, she feels like a captive in the beautiful mess of her life.  And then His mercy flows in, and joy comes.

“This I recall to mind, therefore I have hope.  The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.  ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I have hope in Him.’” (Lamentations 3:21-24)  There it is, y’all.  Right in the middle of an entire book of pitying in their circumstances, the people rejoice in Him because His mercy is new everyday and because His lovingkindess isn’t ever going to fail!  Woohoo!!!

So, momma’s, take heart.  Today will end.  And tomorrow will come.   It will be a new day.  Look for His mercy.  It will be there and it will be new.  Don’t let a day pass without looking for that breath-taking moment where God gives you that glimpse of His never-ending love…because it is there.

And, momma’s, don’t miss the chance to show His mercy and love to your babies, your adorable little captors.  Because each wipe of a snotty nose, spill, or bottom, every cuddle, every book read or song sung, every dust-busted crumb is a demonstration of God’s great mercy and love in the life of your child.  Motherhood is not about being held captive, it’s about serving.  Serving Him by serving these others in your home.  And though I know we know it, our motherhood is far more than mere home management.  It’s a mission field.  It’s being a missionary to a new and unreached people group.  Our very own people group.

So, sweet sister, “[do not] lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” (Gal. 6:9)  And if you’re starting to feel weary, as any mere mortal might, remember, we serve a great and mighty God Who always leads us in triumph, Who does not grow weary, and Who gave us our babies. Rest there, my friend. 

Though motherhood may be entirely different than I ever thought, I realize the great calling that it is in my life.  Motherhood, thankfully, is not for wimps, it’s for those brave enough to entrust their children’s young lives to the God Who knit them together.  What a relief that He cares more for them than I ever could! 

Let me take this last moment to tell you one more VERY important thing.  My kids rock!  And being their mommy is one of the greatest joys of my life.  The reality of motherhood is hard, but so amazingly rewarding.  My babies are such precious gifts, and I am in no way at all trying to say I wish that my life looked any different than how it does right now…even with the massive pile of laundry waiting for me to fold it! 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Living with Purpose at 31

Well, today is my birthday, and as is typical on birthdays, I am another year older.  I’m 31.  And, really, I’m ok with 31.  I have the most amazing husband.  I have the most amazing children.  And as I think on my life, I really love the station that I am in.  Wouldn’t change a thing about it…except for maybe my 2 year old jumping on the big boy potty training wagon a little easier!!!  (But, he’ll get it!  No pressure!)

But this morning in my quiet time, I was asking God that I would live my life with greater passion for Him in my 31st year, that my choices and desires would be a pure reflection of my love for Him.  I want to see things the way He sees things.  And I want to love the way He loves.  And I want to say what He says.  I just want to be all that He has created me to be, living life in Him to the fullest!

And then I was sort of struck with a strange idea:  what if all Christians lived like that?  What if all of us (believers, that is) loved Jesus passionately…completely abandoning the love of self, money, status, [insert a jillion other options]…what if?

And then it hits me…the question should not be “what if,” it ought to be “why isn’t it?”  Why isn’t this true of believers?  Why is it that I get so distracted by things all around me…mundane things…that I fail to live like He has called me to live.  I don’t mean that I’m out doing huge, wild, crazy sinful things (I’m just trying to do the laundry), but the horrid news flash to my heart is that “whatever is not of faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23).  How many things each day do I do that are of Jane, not of faith in Him?  My reality is way too many.

The truth is, I’ve been saved long enough that I can produce lots of shiny, lovely, godly looking choices.  I can choose things that would never allow you to see that, at times, the only change happening is external change, not internal.  I can change my behavior, and I can fool you…easily.  I can volunteer for things at church, I can make food for someone in need, I can buy groceries for the food pantry, I can write a note to a friend, I can tell you that I’ll pray for you, I can toss out well-known and often misused Scripture, I can even share Christian blogs on Facebook.  But none of that means anything.  A lost person could do all of that stuff.  But somehow in America, all of those holy duties are the very things we’re expecting our fellow believers to do!  Those are the things “good Christians” will do.

But the real key here is not behavior modification.  It’s heart modification.  That is always the answer.  The Christian life isn’t about doing one thing and not doing another.  The Christian life is meant to be all about being.  It’s about what you are.  Yes, there is a turn from sin (i.e. behavior), but that turn originates in the heart.  When we get saved, it’s not that our behavior changes…I mean, it will and does, but only as a result of our having been changed into something new.  We, at salvation, become an entirely new creature…the old passes away and the new comes (2 Cor. 5:17).  Jesus replaces the dead heart of stone and gives us a heart of flesh that His law is written on (Ezek. 36:26; Jer. 31:33)!  Hence, the change in our state of being dead to a state of being alive in Him produces godly behavior, but it’s not the other way around. 

So often, I see blog posts shared on Facebook that talk purely about behavior change as if that’s going to make people truly whole and better and right and pure and holy and like Jesus.  However, things like not watching Downton Abbey, or not ever having a drop of alcohol, or refraining from ever entering a Starbucks again are not the solution for Christians seeking to live more like Jesus.  Walking by faith isn’t about avoiding sinners; it’s about being light in the darkness.  And any faithful behavior we “do,” is to immediately draw attention to Christ, not us.

When our hearts’ eyes are truly fixed on Jesus (Heb. 12:2), He allows us to see our own sinful selves and our own inability to pull off the Christian life.  And, the best part, is that He shows us all of His ability and sufficiency.  He is enough.  I’m not.  The rest of that verse about fixing our eyes on Jesus, mentions that He is the Author and Perfector of our faith.  He begins it all in us, and then He’s the One Who sees it through.  God is big enough and capable enough to handle all the behavior modification necessary in me and you and everybody else in the world.  God doesn’t need me to blog or share blogs. He doesn’t need me to help Him point out sin in every Facebook member.  Folks, people are vulnerable enough to read every single “Christian” post shared and then to try to pull off some major changes in their life.  And that’s not how either conviction or sanctification work. God doesn’t need me or my help or my good intentions at all.  But He chose me to love Him.  And He loves me.  I don’t deserve it even a little.  The only good I produce ever on my own is filthy rags…it’s all got to be about faith in Him.  The world doesn’t need more rules.  The world needs to know it can’t keep any rules ever.  And the biggest shocker of all:  the world doesn’t need to know more about Jesus.  The world needs to know Jesus.  We have to stop screaming rules at everybody, and just lift up Jesus.  He’s it, y’all.  He has to be the love of our lives, so people can see HIM in us.

Before you get mad and rake me over the coals about people’s blogs or Christian service, let me say a couple of things.  One, I know I’m writing a blog, and I am not always opposed to them.  Here’s why:  I’m all for believers equipping other believers to live in a way that most glorifies God.  I’m all for accountability.  I’m all for encouragement of the saints.  But, I am completely against Christians trying to take on the role of the Holy Spirit in each other’s lives.  That’s not our job.  The Holy Spirit does His job well and successfully.  Also, to make massive statements like “don’t watch a certain tv show” and trying to make it applicable to all Christians is out of line, I believe.  Again, the Holy Spirit is great at convicting each believer specifically.  What may be sin to one is not necessarily sin to another, and it’s His place to lay all that out, not ours.  (The exception here is if it is something specifically mentioned in Scripture…say drunkenness or adultery or something like that.  There is a time, a place, a way for sin to be confronted in a brother, and it isn’t Facebook.  God’s Word lays out how to approach a brother in sin.  See Matt. 18:15-17.)  And two, I am in no way trying to say that Christians don’t have things to do…we do!!!  Scripture is very clear about lots of things for believers to act out.  God has specific works that He has planned for each of His children to do.  Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”  So, let’s get busy with that stuff for sure!!!!

So, what’s my point?  Love Jesus.  Live to love Him more.  And when you love Him more, you’re gonna keep His commandments, not out of compulsion or guilt, but out of love, out of a complete life-changing heart transplant.  Faith without works really is dead (see James 2:17).  But works without faith is just busy-ness.