Closing Chapters

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I keep getting the question “How’re you doing?” with a tone of concern and look of compassion from all my mama friends. Perhaps it’s because I’m a fairly open book on social media and everyone knows I have been cautiously anticipating the pomp and circumstance of my Kyler’s graduation. I keep giving the same, “I think I’m doing okay” answer, which is vague but not intentionally so.

The truth is I think I’m doing okay. I keep waiting for a moment that feels equal emotionally to the significance of completing a task such as raising a human being, but so far they all just feel like moments I’ve had before. Watching him walk into the living room in his cap and gown felt very much like seeing him a tuxedo for the first time. Startling to see him looking so grown; proud of his handsome composure; happy and wistful mixed together.¬†Image

Seeing him open gifts from proud grandparents felt similar to his milestone birthday’s over the past couple years. Watching him receive his diploma reminded me of many award ceremonies attended throughout his school years. Even the hoopla in the courtyard of the Grand Ol’ Opry after graduation ended had flavors of the last day of Governor’s school or summer camp, when he would rush around to say his goodbyes to new and old friends.

If my life with my children is a book we’re writing, it seems all the chapters before have prepared me to walk into this one. I expected all this letting go to feel so unfamiliar and strange, but I’ve been doing it for 18 years it turns out. Small steps like walking him into school for his first day of kindergarten and saying goodbye to him for a month of Governor’s school were laying a path out for me to find. There is no question that the path keeps stretching me out farther than I always want it to. Sometimes I long to pick a spot several years back and revisit our relationship from that chapter in our story. I loved so many moments along the way and It is difficult to accept that each chapter has to close. But even this feeling of longing to go backward is familiar. I have survived it many times. When he began to outgrow his sugary sweet baby days I could not imagine anything ever delighting me quite that way again- but I soon learned a newly talking two year old can do just that.

So as my thoughts lead me down a path of grief- fearing nothing will ever feel as complete as having all my chicks in the nest under my roof, I look back at the path of letting go and embracing the new chapter, and I find comfort. I trust that this is all as it should be; son pulling away, parent watching and resisting the urge to pull them back.

Motherhood- It’s Totally Getting in the Way

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Motherhood- It’s Totally Getting in the Way

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We dug out every type of long poke-y device we could find.Teenage Boysimage

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There’s been a lot of life lately. A lot of grocery shopping and dirty dishes and cats getting hair on things. Oh and laundry. And floors to be ripped up because refrigerators leak sometimes. And then there’s the teaching of Sunday School and throwing birthday fiesta’s and paperwork- always mounds and mounds of paperwork. There are empty pitchers in the fridge and attitudes and sleeplessness (hello-40!) and let me just tell you- some days you wake up and think:

What exactly is happening here?

Didn’t I have plans for my life that involved beautifully dressed children and sipping wine on my patio and impacting the world through my amazing insights into scripture? Wasn’t I going to be at the homeless shelter monthly and learn to speak Spanish fluently and also finally figure out how to grow things? Why am I not at the gym or traveling the world or up to date on the latest viral video?

Motherhood.

It definitely gets in the way of our picture. You know the one you had at 20, where you always answered patiently and the house was “lived in” but still magazine worthy and you were……. well, lovely.

Motherhood does not actually offer that picture. Maybe we’ve confused it with Hollywood. No dear friends, motherhood offers us something entirely different, if we allow the Lord to use it.

Something Better.

Motherhood tackles us and wrestles every ounce of pride, self glory and ego out. It confronts every fear, inadequacy and wound and offers healing. It changes us; if we let it. I suppose I fought it more, those changes, when I was younger. I didn’t want to let go of my pride- I was going to be the one mother who never really screwed up anything important. It was okay with me if I forgot a PTA meeting or didn’t have the matching outfit ready for the picture day- those were acceptable flaws. But real mistakes, actually sinning against my children- I was going to be the one managed to rise above, who had no regrets.

I hid all my fears. Fear that I couldn’t figure it all out, fear that bad things would happen to my kids, fear of failing- but one by one, they’ve all been exposed. Motherhood is not a very safe place to hide out from fear. In fact, it exposes it faster than any other role I’ve ever lived.

And in return, the Lord, through this messy and beautiful and annoying and fun and treasured gift of Motherhood has changed my heart. I no longer believe most of what I used to about myself. I know how terribly sinful I am, but as I love those children He has given me, I get a glimpse of His love for me- unconditional and radically big. I am no longer quite so afraid- because I’ve watched Him use bad for good, turn pain into joy- both in me and my children.

And not every day or week, but sometimes, I get those moments where I think my heart will absolutely burst open with the love or joy He pours into me that I get to turn and pour into my babies. And for those times, I am thankful that Motherhood gets in the way.

It’s Friday, But Sunday’s Comin’

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It's Friday, But Sunday's Comin'

There is a famous sermon with this title that my boss quoted from during our staff devotional yesterday. I immediately felt my eyes tear up with joy at the reality of complete victory over sin and death at the resurrection! Amazing!

But as I think about many people I know and love, I realize they are living in their Friday. They haven’t seen the victory, felt the security experienced the joy. And to them, and for myself, I say- hold on to the promise of Easter! If Jesus could march into hell and march back out ALIVE, He can hold you fast till your Sunday gets here!

Have a joyous, Resurrection Day celebration friends!

And totally eat a chocolate bunny. ūüôā

For All the Brokenhearted Mama’s

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Heartache comes in all kinds of packages. I have felt my fair share, and seen even more in the lives of friends and clients. Lately I am realizing heartache has a strange way of seperating us and making us feel so very alone. So this is my letter to all the mama’s with broken hearts- You. Are. Not. Alone. You really aren’t. I know we feel like there are the “acceptable” heartaches and then there are others. So, please know I’m saying this to all of us. It’s okay to hurt for your kids. Even,

those with children who have drug and alcohol addictions, are in rehab or in jail…..

those with babies who have disease, disability, struggles to eat and sleep and play like healthy kids…..

those with children who have been molested, abused, abandoned…..

those with teenagers dark and brooding, depressed, angry and rebellious….

those whose children are struggling with their sexuality…..

those with teens who are having sex, have gotten pregnant, have had an abortion…..

those whose children are missing, runaways and taken….

those whose children are unwilling to speak, see or have any relationship with them….

those with kids on the spectrum who struggle so hard to fit in, act normal, make friends….

those whose children have rejected God, the church or their families….

Yes, you. All of you. Can I please tell you something? I know it hurts. It hurts when you see the facebook status’s of other mom’s beautiful, healthy, achieving, strong, popular, spiritual kids. It hurts when people ask “How’s Jimmy?” and you have to decide how to answer without lying but without telling the truth either. It’s so hard to sit in church and listen to sermons and realize, you’ve made mistakes you can’t undo. It’s hard to get phone calls from guidance counselors, youth pastors, coaches, teachers- all “just a little concerned” about your baby. It hurts till it feels like you can’t breathe.

And you want so much to fix it! Make it all better. To take away the pain or sickness or lie they believe or wound they endured. But, there is no quick fix for broken. And watching them hurt is breaking you too.

Let me tell you one other thing: God loves your baby, more than you do. As far as you would run to reach them, as high as you would reach for answers- He will go farther. There is no limit to His love, no length He will not go to for restoration. Those mountains you cannot move for your child- He can. He has already come for them, as He has come for you. It may seem impossible for things to change, to stop being so awful- but nothing is stronger than the love that defeated death.

So don’t you dare quit. Cry, scream, sleep, journal, vent, share- but don’t quit! Don’t quit hoping, praying, loving, guiding, talking with and pursuing your kids. And don’t believe the lie that you are alone in this! Every mama faces some kind of heartbreak at some point. Find your cheering section and ask them to hold a mama pep rally. Ask them to remind you that God is good, even when life is bad.

You are not alone.

Psalm 38- Haters Gonna’ Hate, or Why I’m Trusting in God’s Goodness #shereadstruth

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Psalm 38- Haters Gonna' Hate, or Why I'm Trusting in God's Goodness #shereadstruth

When I read David’s cry to God in Psalm 38, I am struck by this: David sees his mess brought about from his own sin without any rose colored glasses.

“My wounds stink and fester because of my foolishness….”
“I am feeble and crushed; I groan because of the tumult in my heart…”

Not exactly the language I use when describing my sin. I say things like, it’s something I’m working on. It’s an area of struggle. David lays out the truth. His sin is breaking him and he longs for God to be merciful and bring restoration. Without that brutal honesty, my repentance becomes a technical step, not a heart-felt response of surrender.

Yet David also feels the hurt from people around him who are gloating or uncomfortable with him in his mess. Friends are pulling away. Enemies are gleefully plotting how this will bring his destruction. The truth is only God loves us in our messiest places in the way that can bring true healing. My sin effects others. Sometimes when I’m honest about it, people will feel ashamed or think I’m being a little “over spiritual” or simply not know how to respond. Other times, people around me may be glad to see me fall. Enjoy feeling a little bigger at my expense. They are not my problem or my solution to healing though, so I can respond like David saying,

“But for you, O Lord, do I wait. It is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.”

We absolutely need community. God is clear about this. But not for forgiveness. Not for restoration from sin. Only God can offer these, and offer he does! Through Christ, there is abundant mercy. While I may feel crushed, Christ was actually crushed for me. While I may hurt over people’s response to my sin, Christ was plotted against, abandoned and betrayed- for me. In my place. And in knowing that grace, I can rejoice even in repentance, that I am never alone and never rejected by Him.

“As for you O Lord, you will not restrain your mercy from me; your steadfast love and your faithfulness will ever preserve me.” -Psalm 39:11

Coffee Shop Fights on a Tuesday Morning, and Other Reasons We need Peacemakers

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You just never know what might happen in your local coffee shop at 8:45am on a Tuesday morning. I was mid-meeting, mid-sentence when a young but very professionally dressed man suddenly and aggressively shoved a bigger man backward while loudly stating “I will not take name calling from you!” The entire coffee shop, all 15 or so of us went silent, looking but trying not to stare at the unfolding scene. Total tension. Was the shoved man going to lose it and erupt into a full on brawl? And you know in those moments, everyone is thinking, “Should I intervene? Should I say something?” but you never know what will help or escalate the situation, so we all sat for about 5 uncomfortable seconds in silence.

tick, tick, tick, tick, tick.

And then in stepped a man. With a joke to lighten the situation (Hey, hey- we’re not still in college guys) and a caution (You need to go on and calm down) as he physically stood in between the two men, arms outstretched, pushing the distance wider between them. The man who stepped in was smaller framed than both the other two angry fellows. I think he would have been in trouble if the situation didn’t diffuse because there was no way he could have physically held them back. But his presence and willingness to step in the middle, risking harm to himself potentially, worked. The men parted ways and we all looked around at each other with raised eyebrows and made little jokes, but went back to our morning. Crisis averted.

This world is a broken, fragmented place. People are on edge. Lives are messy and when those messes intersect, anger often erupts. Miscommunications and hurt feelings and sin and hard times come in between us and we can’t always see straight with each other. My guess is those two men are friends. Or at the very least, did not wake up that morning thinking they would recreate the showdown at the OK Corral in the morning coffee shop. But somebody spoke an offensive word. And somebody lost their cool. And they both could have possibly ended up in a hospital or jail, or banned forever from their favorite coffee shop- if not for the Peacemaker.

Here is what struck me so profoundly about that peacemaker this morning- it was an incredibly active and risky role he embrace to bring peace to that moment. At the least, they could have ignored his efforts or mocked him for them. They could have become angry with him. Or the situation could have escalated putting him in physical harm. I have no idea why he intervened really, but here’s my guess- he was trying to keep harm from occurring to the men and the rest of the folks in the shop. On some level, without knowing this man at all, I think he must have had a noble motive because it required a sacrifice and selfishness does not usually lead to sacrifice.

You cannot aim to be an agent of peace in this world, without getting involved in uncomfortable moments and without risk to yourself. I know we don’t usually have at stake¬†a punch being thrown at us, but there are plenty of other types of risk. Reputation, image, discomfort and others’ anger are not commodities we like to rock the boat on. But, oh does the world need peacemakers! In families, we need someone willing to call for a conversation where there has been silence for too long. In our workplaces, we need people willing to stop participating in bashing each other, and instead build bridges.

Which is what Jesus did for us. We were at war with ourselves and our creator. We had turned to momentary pleasure and it turned on us. We needed someone to bridge that great divide we had created with our sin. But it took more than loving words or kind thoughts. Jesus came into our uncomfortable situation, put himself in harm’s way and took all the consequences, so we could be at peace with God. He was the bridge. As my pastor says, He did not come to show us the way, but to be the way. And so, we who claim to follow Him as Savior, we who have known that great peace when fear and shame are killed and hope rises within- we are called to be like Him. In the world, in our churches and in our homes.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God” Matthew 5:9

Motherhood Hacks, You’re Welcome

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My oldest on my hip at his two year birthday. I have learned more about what works, from trying what didn’t with him, and all first borns should get some reward for surviving!

There are some things that absolutely should come in a manual, handed to you upon leaving the hospital with your newborn. As I was reading a few of my younger mom friend’s questions on facebook tonight, I felt inspired to pass on a few of the ideas, suggestions and divine interventions of wisdom I have been given in my 19 years of mothering. Jesus + this list = You, making it!

1. Never make a happy baby happier. Don’t move their head, offer a toy, pull out the passy. Until they hit verbal skills, crying will be a constant. If you are not hearing wails and whines, for the love of your sanity, leave them be!

2. There is more than one way to cook a chicken. Find your approach as a mom and in your family, and don’t worry about whatever the new parenting fad happens to be. This applies to sleeping patterns, nursing, bottle feeding, immunizations, discipline, TV, diet, education, Santa Clause and all the rest. The main thing is to find a method that works for you and your child!

3. Make peace with daily laundry. Remember when you used to have a laundry day? That ship sailed the day you gave birth. View laundry like doing the dishes and you won’t be so stressed about it.

4. Learn the name of your pediatrician’s nurse. Call her and ask what to try before bringing your child in for an appointment, to avoid contracting every virus in the waiting room. Also, the first morning appointment and first appointment after lunch have the shortest wait times.

5. Bubbles are the best bang for your buck in terms of distractions and diversions. Keep a bottle in the car, for when stuck in traffic or waiting someplace like the car pool line. Keep a bottle in your purse for when the food is taking too long at a restaurant. Keep some at home just for fun.

6. Speaking of diversions, keep a small bag a toys/books/snacks that you only use in a certain, frequently difficult location for your child. That might be restaurants, or church or the grocery store. But the idea is, you have a special little bag that they only get at that time. They look forward to receiving the goodies and it distracts them from being fussy. The Dollar Store is a great place to find those kind of goodies.

7. Once they are big enough to be in the bathtub on their own, let them bathe while you are cooking dinner. Most kids love bathtime, especially if they have toys in the tub, and for many it is calming. This can really cut down on the mania while trying to get dinner cooked, plus it makes it easier at bedtime as they are already clean and in jammmies.

8. Rule of thumb for birthday parties: one guest for every year being celebrated.

9. The best family traditions are the ones you grew up with, have significant meaning or created a really special moment. Try lots of new ideas, recipes and projects- but don’t feel pressured to make it a permanent thing unless it really means something to you. Also, remember whatever you establish will double or triple in cost and energy with each new child added to your family.

10. When going through the “power struggle” toddler years, give your child choices, but limit them. Red shirt or green shirt? PBS or Disney Channel? Often the choice of “nothing” is helpful to offer, as in, “You can have the goldfish for snack, or nothing? Which would you like?” This gives your child some control, and I cannot tell you how many times my kids would choose nothing rather than what was offered.

11. Limit your child to one sport per year. This keeps costs lower, schedules more reasonable and allows for everyone in the family to have their time in the spot light.

12. General rule of thumb: if it’s swollen, put ice. If it’s tight, use a heating pad.

13. Do not be room mom for your first child in kindergarten. Take at least a year to see what the norm is for a room mom so you don’t kill yourself doing more than you need, or feel like a slacker later.

14. Boundaries with Kids is a wonderful book on parenting. Jesus Storybook Bible is a wonderful children’s bible.

15. Kids should quit bathing with their parent or other sibling by 8, or before if they develop a more modest personality.

16. Professional family photo’s don’t have to be done yearly. Every couple years is plenty.

17. Rule of thumb for clothes shopping: if the child doesn’t like it, we don’t buy it. If the parent doesn’t like it, we don’t buy it. Then everything in the closet has been agreed on by both people. Eliminates a lot of battles later!

18. To avoid the battle on “it’s not fair”, have one child cut the cake in half, the other child chooses their piece first. Also, assign seats at the dinner table and in the car.

19. Make a “no discipline” commitment to driving the kids to school and dinner time. Unless the child is directly disobeying in those moments, deal with discipline issues at other times.

20. Say yes to everything you can, say no to things that are physically, emotionally or spiritually dangerous, or cause chaos in the family.

An honest moment

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You know what makes me mad? Coming face to face with the realest parts of me. 

I grew up knowing that God was good. I grew up wanting so much for everyone, I mean everyone, to think I was too. I loved to be loved. Part of it was my personality. Part of it was my siblings were going through various difficult stages that caused me to believe it was my job to make it easier on parents by being “the good kid” in the family. Part of it, truthfully, is I was really good at being good. I mean, so compliant and acceptable and friendly and mature and responsible and annoying good that I fooled everyone. Most notably, me. I came to see that trait or ability, what I would now call dysfunction, as my ticket to earning my worth. People had to like me, love me and generally admire me, because I absolutely would not give them a reason not to. I overachieved. I denied feelings I considered undesirable. Feelings like insecurity, anger, tiredness and fear. Those weren’t the feelings of a godly and mature teenager, I reasoned, so I simply stuffed them down so deep, I didn’t even notice they were there.¬†

But they were, lurking down inside me and they eventually led me down a path that I would not be able to follow. God was at work in the midst of my sincere and insincere efforts to please Him and people and myself too. I see clearly now all the ways, but at the time, well I just kept working harder. I married the first “cool guy” who romanced me. High school sweethearts. Never mind the fact that he was a huge flirt with other girls. Never mind the fact that we had almost nothing in common, and my dearest most honest childhood best friend was reminding me on my wedding day that I did not have to marry him. I married him and almost immediately knew something was wrong. He didn’t seem to love me, or really even like me that much. Especially when we were alone. But, in front of others, we were cute, loving newlyweds. I remember feeling so desperately lonely around our one year wedding anniversary. We were in a hotel where I was working as a trainer for a restaurant. He had come to surprise me, and even brought a beautiful sapphire ring. But when he fell asleep on the bed that night I walked out to the balcony and wondered if he would care if I jumped off. But, rather than sound the alarm bell that something was in fact, horribly wrong in my marriage, I circled the wagons in tighter. My marriage couldn’t be in trouble. I did everything right.

A few years, a few affairs and two babies later, he walked out the door. The chinks in my resolve to be good were weakening, but I still vowed to be the  best single mom ever. Do everything right. Reach out for help gratefully. Tell everyone how God was sustaining me. Never mind the fact that I was angry. Terrified. Ashamed. 

Then along came prince charming. A wonderful man. Godly. A pastor for crying out loud! So now, now I had a shot to really show how good I could be with the right support behind me. Except, he was completely unsupportive of all my efforts to make our life look perfect. To do more than was reasonable. To be impressive to the church folk. It was so infuriating! Didn’t he see how I was helping him? I remember bursting into tears in a mexican restaurant after church one Sunday, saying, I need a vacation from my life! That was the crossroads for me. Somewhere in between bites of chips and salsa something had burst open inside me and it would never go back. Slowly, very kindly, God began to show me who I really was, why He needed to save me and where I would have been without Him.¬†

Codependent, needy, fearful, prideful and outrageously, completely loved by Him. What? I hated it, kind of. You mean, I have to drop the belief that I have earned all this with my good behavior? Then what in the world have I been killing myself being so perfect for??! 

Ah, but like a woman trapped in a suit of armor, every little part of my heart that God began restoring wanted to burst with the goodness of the truth: I was loved completely because of who God is, not who I am. It was like a freedom song I had been belting out from behind prison bars when the door flung open! It’s been a lot of years since that moment in the Mexican restaurant. I still get mad when I have to admit I’m not as good as I want to believe I am. Tonight I came home from work grumpy. I hid out in my bedroom and watched 5 episodes of Parenthood. Because sometimes I don’t like being 40 and having so much responsibility and I want something more exciting. And I know it’s petty and ungrateful and not at all like something Jesus would think or believe. And then I get mad when I have to admit, I’m not good. But oh, He is! He loves me in my pettiness and selfishness and insecurities. He loves me in my strength and gifting and healthiness too. The beautiful point is He doesn’t love me because of what I do or don’t do. He loves me because of what He did and who He is.

 

 

 

Getting Over Myself and others gifts of Motherhood

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I have been a mother a really long time now. Not yet half my life but almost. I often say being a mother is my favorite thing I have ever done. ¬†And it is, but not because it makes me happy. It does sometimes, but that’s not why it’s my favorite. And it’s not because it is so fulfilling, although it is in many ways. No, the reason it is my favorite is because it is the best gift God has ever given me. Before I became a mother I was smart, prideful, fearful, loving, people pleasing, independent and organized. I realize some of those are contradictory, but that is how women trend to be- a mixed bag of strengths and weaknesses, talents and failures, beauty and scars. I generally liked myself a lot and thought I was very likable as well. After all, I was 15 lbs smaller and less wrinkled too. I knew I had some weaknesses but felt that my strengths balanced them out pretty well, and basically I could earn approval in spite of them.

19 years later, I am quite different than that younger woman who began the journey. My children, loving and caring for them, has radically changed me. It has truly been a gift to be a mom, not just because it feels good to love another person so much and with such intensity, but because it is like a fire God has used to refine me. Certainly there have been moments of great joy and hilarious fun, but the real blessing, when I look back, has come through the daily regular grind of caring for three little selves and learning to quit being one big selfish self.

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Kyler, 18 and Klynt, 16…..you have no idea how it delights me to watch them be friends

So in no particular order, here are a few of the refinements my children have been catalysts for in my life:

Learning to quit caring so much about my looks. This one did not happen over night, but slowly I came to see that my external self is not really as significant as my younger self believed. Maybe it was changes from three c-sections, maybe it happened after being spit up on 7 million times, maybe the way my children have always thought I was beautiful, wrinkles and all; I think primarily it comes from realizing I cannot tell my children beauty is only skin deep, while they watch me panic over my reflection. If I¬†wanted them to know their inner self was most valuable, I had to wrestle that truth for myself. ¬†It’s not that I don’t still desire to be beautiful, but motherhood has taught me to define beauty in a new way.

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Emma Joy, 10, full of sparkle and sweetness and a lil’ sass

Humility. This one was painful. Unfortunately in my case, the path to humility came through moments of humiliation. I was shockingly sure of so many things before I gave birth. It took about 5 years into motherhood to begin to see my pride and judgement, and it was not comfortable. In fact, I still cringe occasionally when I remember some of my opinionated and arrogant statements. God used my children’s will and free choices to show me how little control I had, how often my great solutions would fail and how desperately I needed Him to do my job. ¬†Bumping into my own limits like lack of knowledge, tiredness, sinfulness and fear was surprisingly freeing. I began to realize it was okay to admit I do not have it all together and I could surrender to the One who holds me together.¬†

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Could you just die from the cuteness? I always wanted a big brother, and I love watching my oldest and youngest have such a close relationship.

Become a global thinker. Before children, these were my true thoughts about being an American and the rest of the world: So glad I was born here. Whew! Glad I get to enjoy life, liberty and happiness. That was it. It never occurred to me that I had any responsibility at all to really care about the rest of the world. But becoming a mother caused me to see poverty, slavery, war and even the environment anew. What if my babies lived in the poorest country instead of the wealthiest? What if  we lived in a place ravaged by genocide or disease or mass air pollution?  These are still hard questions for me, but I have learned to not get paralyzed  by the overwhelming nature of these issues and do something, anything rather than turn a blind eye.

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He rarely smiles for pictures, this one, but he makes me laugh all the time. 

Quit fearing making a mistake. Children do not come with instruction manuals, as the cliche goes, and so I have made thousands of mistakes along the way. Some have been little, but some have been big enough to feel regret and pain over. My oldest and I were talking a year ago about how my people pleasing in his younger years impacted him negatively. I can look back and see how my over scheduled days made me cranky and irritable when he was moving slow or being childish. It taught him to feel guilty or fearful about having needs. If I could go back and reparent at that time, I surely would. But I have also learned a very freeing truth: children don’t need perfect parents. They need parents to point them to a perfect God who will never fail them. I certainly do my best to love my children well and in a way that shows them who God is, but I know I can’t do it perfectly and that’s really okay.

 

I’ve Found My Trump Card, and I’m Not Afraid To Use It

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I’ve Found My Trump Card, and I’m Not Afraid To Use It

Every day there are a million choices. Options for how to spend my time and energy abound. Sometimes just sitting down to fill in my weekly planner becomes a calculated decision, because I know I’ll be giving up an hour or so in the process. (Which feels crazy even as I type it, but three kids, a husband, a full time job, a busy church community and keeping my hair colored….. Well, it’s time consuming) ¬†And this is the stuff all women face- what matters today the most? How should I spend these hours and what tasks/people/errands/activities warrant priority?

I was cleaning out part of my nasty refrigerator the other day using my 75% rule: if it looks at least 75% better than when I started, high five, move on. (This is a real thing. Not making it up for blog effect. It’s totally freeing to not have to do anything 100% perfectly.) As I was taking out sticky jelly jars and cleaning unidentifiable orange goo out of a tray in the door, I began to evaluate my life. Not the dramatic “what am I really doing with my life anyway” kind of evaluation, but rather the “how are things working lately and should we consider giving up jelly?” As I was considering the ways my time gets used, God and I were having a bit of a back and forth conversation in my head. (Or it could have been out loud. Scott recently told me he hears me talking out loud to myself. So there’s that.) At any rate, while asking God to show me if my time is being spent in a way that honors Him and reflects my life purposes, He brought to mind a verse that we talk about often in my church.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” 2 Cor. 4:16

It got me thinking. There are really just two categories: outward (breaking down) and inward (renewing). This is so simple, but the implications are deep. If every decision I make, from cleaning my fridge to preparing dinner for a sick friend to buying a car to going on vacation can be looked at through this lens, maybe it will help me not to lose heart by spending precious time and energy on things that are just “breaking down” anyway. Now don’t get me wrong, you still have to deal with outward things. Just because they are breaking down doesn’t mean we don’t do some maintenance. But, those things are not ever going to be perfected on this earth. My home will never be perfectly clean, appliances will be in some stage of needing repair, my van will always be ready for some new part, my body will continue to wrinkle and age. Things that are primarily outward will cause me to lose heart and be frustrated, insecure and cynical if I believe my job is to keep them renewed. However, the beautiful part of this scripture is the focus on our inner renewal. Things that are primarily inward, my relationship with Christ, my relationships with others, my heart and mind, my mission- these will bring me great joy as I watch my time spent on them yield fruitful results.

So, here’s how it’s playing out for me in decision making: I’m letting things that are primarily inward trump things that are primarily outward. No legalism or rigid rules, mind you. Just stepping back and asking of the two (or ten) options for this moment, which one leads to renewal? And when I spend time maintaining my home or my bank account or my physical body, I’m doing it with the understanding that it is not what put my hope in Or where I gain my security. That these are necessary parts of this broken world, but they will always be corrupted by the effects of sin. So my commitment to them is “I’ll deal with you as needed”, while my commitment to the inner things is “You trump everything else”.