Faith

Take It Slow: Five Minute Friday

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I’ve been attempting to find silence and solitude lately. If you don’t already know, I am also a mom of three young children. (Ok, don’t laugh at me yet). I’ve always been fascinated with many of the ancient spiritual practices that are rarely highlighted in the modern church. But I also live a life of noise and chaos, also known as motherhood. But I still believe it is possible for both to coexist; both silence and motherhood. My counselor recommended I begin thinking and praying about how I could work this into my life. I’ve gotten a little better at self-care.(Though I missed my weekly relaxing bath, and I find that I’m feeling the lack). But spiritual self-care is just as important.

There is nothing wrong with the prayers of desperation that are such a regular part of my day. But something in me wanted something more. I wanted to become more aware of the voice of God and more attuned to his presence in my daily life. I am consistently aware of my need for a Savior, but I wanted to reconnect with what it means to be Fathered and loved by the Almighty, just for being who I am. I can look at my 1 year old, and I love him just for being him from the moment he was born. Yet I have trouble believing God feels this way about me. So I am trying to find moments to rest and listen.

But how can I do that when my days are so full and so loud? By starting slow. When I am in the car without the kids, I turn the radio off and try to pray. I take deep breaths and meditate in the shower. When the baby is taking a nap and the big kids are watching TV downstairs, I try to take five minutes to sit quietly in my bedroom with my eyes closed and quiet myself. Choose to slow my soul and let the hurry fall away. I expect interruption and distraction. Then I’m not so surprised and angry about it. I just take a deep breath and begin again. (I am still very much working on this. The other day when both my big kids were pounding on the door I barely resisted the urge to yell “What could you possibly need right now? Can’t you understand I’m TRYING to TALK to GOD!”)

It has been very difficult for me to accept that life is process. I’m always trying to check off boxes and pursue goals hoping that eventually I’ll have arrived and I’ll be able to relax. But life is a constant progression of renovation and transformation. This unsettled nature of life goes against my natural state, my innate personality. I enjoy the destination more than the trip. So finding moments of silence and solitude is part of engaged and accepting the nature of the journey. Finding a place to pause along the road, whether it appears to produce results or not.

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Categories: Faith, Five Minute Friday, Uncategorized, Writing | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Because I Am Weak, I Can Be Useful: Five Minute Friday

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I’ve always hated being weak. I spent most of my life as an overachiever. A lot was expected of me at a young age, and mostly appropriately so. I was encouraged in my areas of talent and ability. But it was also a lot to live up to. There is such a fine line between encouraging a child and expecting the best from him or her, and pushing them into overachiever status. I often felt like I needed to be the best, or I would lose the confidence and love of those around me. I liked being depended on by teachers, parents and church leaders. I didn’t want to disappoint. While I was continually reminded about the unconditional love of my heavenly Father, I found myself carrying over this attitude of overachievment into that part of my life as well. Of course God loved me no matter what, but just in case, I needed to make sure I was giving it my full effort; checking off all the boxes.

But of course I was only human and I couldn’t do everything, I was far from perfect. I had a very hard time taking criticism, not because I didn’t want to improve, but because in that criticism I heard my unspoken fear: you aren’t good enough, and if you don’t “fix” your issues you will become useless and unlovable. Now, those things were never overtly stated, and rarely true. But I heard them anyway.

I like to think that I have improved in this area, and in some ways I have.but it still takes continual effort to have a teachable, correctable spirit. My need to impress has kept me from taking risks because I might do it wrong and someone might notice and tell me so. Since having children, it is easy to question myself constantly. It doesn’t help that our social media culture fosters an environment where each person’s choices become public discussion fodder. Gossip has always existed, but the difference between the village rumors and the internet is that now one mom’s apparent failing becomes a public opinion discussion but without the important relationship of community closeness. When the sweet older lady who helps you wrangle your children gives you advice it’s a lot easier to take than when a stranger half way across the world criticizes you on social media. Because correction should always, whenever possible, come from a place of love and relationship.

This past year I have been learning the hard way that God can use us because of our weakness rather than in spite of it. I took on some major responsibilities last year, ones I had been praying about for a while. Then within weeks, life got very crazy. Suddenly being my usual overachieving self was no longer an option. Instead of just delegating, I was forced to really depend on those around me. It was a position of feeling out of control. This was not how I liked to function. I had been raised to be dutiful and responsible. Without meaning to, my personal mantra had become “do it well or don’t do it at all.” (Not quite the same as perfectionism, for which I am not usually plagued, but close enough to get in the way). So as I saw myself handling my public responsibilities at less than full capacity, I felt like a failure.

I vividly remember a conversation I had with God where I mentally uttered the phrase. “This is not how I wanted to do things.” My spirit was quietly reminded of verse from 2 Corinthians. (Which of course I couldn’t remember verbatim which I why I am very grateful for the internet in helping me locate the full versions of verses of which I recall only a small portion.)
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12: 9-10

I realized that my weakness was not a barrier to God. If anything, he was forcing me to depend on him. When you are firing on all cylinders it is easy to give in to pride. After all, confidence in your own abilities isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But when God uses me, not just despite my frailties but because of them, the credit is his alone. When the children God has given me cause me to come to the end of myself both in public and in private make me accessible and relatable to other moms, his power is being made perfect in my weakness. When we begrudgingly made peace with the idea of renting our house instead of selling it, and now we get random texts from our new tenants telling us how grateful and blessed they feel to be living in our house, his power is being made perfect in my weakness. When I realize that parenting is as much about who I am supposed to become as helping my children become who they are supposed to be, (especially when I have doubts about what either of those things will look like), his power is made perfect in my weakness.

As we look back at our lives, may we be able to say that God, in his mercy, used our weakest places and our deepest failures to do some of his greatest work.

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Categories: Faith, Five Minute Friday, Parenting, Uncategorized, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , | 10 Comments

If I Don’t Do It, Who Will? Five Minute Friday

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What is within your control, and thus your responsibility and what is not within your control, and therefore not your responsibility?
My counselor posed this question to me this week. I wasn’t sure what to say. When you are a mom, it feels like everything is your job, and it all hangs on you. My wonderful husband is involved and helpful, but it’s just not his natural inclination to think about whether the kids shoes are getting to small or whether it’s time to bring the next box of handmedowns down from the attic. Whereas on a daily basis my brain spins with all the variables. The kids health, education, and development. The cleanliness and organization (or lack there of) of our home, our finances and future plans. That’s just the daily survival stuff. Then there are the big picture things like my writing endeavors, where will we be as a couple in 5 year, in 10 years. What do we want our post baby/toddler and hopefully survival mode years to look like.
But the truth is, much of this isn’t within my control and it certainly isn’t all on me. Some of it is the nature of this season. Three small children, a house move, etc. But some of it is the lie I’ve bought. Whenever I’m up against yet another task that I don’t really have time to do, I think
“But if I don’t do it, who will?”
Sometimes the answer is no one. It’s not a necessary task. Or maybe it’s just something that has to be delayed. When it comes to ministry and service everyone always assumes that someone else will do the work. Coming from a ministry family I see so often how the few faithful volunteers are run ragged because no one else can spare the time. But I’m also in a season of my life where I’m practicing saying no. (As I told my counselor, I still feel guilty about it, but at least I’m learning to say it). Or really I’m strategically saying yes. That is something I can control and in fact should.
So sometimes the answer to the question is someone else will do it. (And perhaps my unnecessary involvement will prevent someone else from growing.) In some cases that person is my husband who is willing and able and only needs to be brought up to speed on what I need. Maybe it’s delegating more of my ministry responsibilities in order to train up new leaders. Sometimes it’s as simple, yet difficult, as making my kids do things themselves. It may seem easier to do it myself because then it gets done right and I don’t have to argue with them. But then they aren’t learning important life skills. I’ve learned to settled for poorly organized drawers and the frequent complaint of “Mom, I can’t find anything in here.” as part of the process of letting them learn. (We’re still working on the room tidying.)
There is one more category. Perhaps one of hardest ones for me. Where I leave something completely up to God. These are usually the things that it appears as though I may be able to do something about, our finances or my childrens’ behavior. But that I am carrying alone. Trusting God isn’t necessarily a reason to be inactive, but it can be a call to stop our vane striving and believe that God has a plan, even if it doesn’t look like ours. (Anyone else spend too much time obsessing over budgets numbers and worrying how it will all even out?) We can be responsible without allow duties to consume us.
My counselor has pushed me to spend more time being and less time doing. To meditate on who God wants me to be rather than just what he wants me to do. This is perhaps the antithesis of control. It is that call to stop my constant rush and worry, and trust that I can in fact pause, and just be still. He has it under control.

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Categories: Faith, Five Minute Friday, Writing | Tags: , , , | 8 Comments

It Can Only Get Brighter From Here

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The shortest day of the year has passed. (At least for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere). It was dark and cold, and likely it will feel so for a while. But it can only get lighter from here. I love that the Winter Solstice and Christmas are celebrated around the same time. What more appropriate way to focus on the coming of the Light of the World than when things are at their darkest? For some of us, this holiday season has been on of stress and chaos and worry. Part of me feels like I never truly entered into the season. I know this is a time of celebration, of peace, but it doesn’t feel like that.

But it can only get lighter from here.

I had my first panic attack in 10 years, for no particular reason that I can track down, except the very high levels of stress I’ve been functioning under. My adrenaline level has been running high for so long I’m not sure I could bring it down even if I tried. There are a lot of unknowns headed into this new year. It’s certainly not the way I would have planned it. I like to ease into transitions intentionally, planning ahead, and better yet with a safety net. But it does seems as though our lives rarely work like that.

But it can only get lighter from here.

Around the world, the suffering can seem soul crushing and we feel powerless to make a difference. Compassion fatigue can overwhelm us and we shut down our hearts in self-preservation. But we can’t forget that Jesus, in becoming one of us, opening up his heart to the pain, and torment of all humanity. His heart broke and yet held strong and he carried the sins of all history and future to the cross. I love that the journey from the manger to the cross is one of illumination. It will only get lighter from here.

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Pursuing Peace, Expecting Joy: Five Minute Friday

I was sorting through pictures this year to find some for our family photo books that I make for grandparents this time of year. I came across this picture.

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For some reason it moved me. I remember when it was taken. I was smiling so much my face hurt. It was probably the best day we’d ever had as a family of five. (I’m hoping to talk more about that special day next week).

 

I love this picture of myself. Because it’s one of the first times in the last year that I remember feeling happy. I know I was happy other times. But I never looked happy in pictures. I looked tired, worried, stressed, irritated. But never happy. Because being a mom of three isn’t always a happy time. I deal with lots of screaming, arguing, enforcing of chores and school work, breaking up of sibling fights, butt and nose wiping. In fact there are days when I hardly remember genuine smiles. You know the kind I’m talking about, the ones that you don’t have to think about or remind yourself to do.

 

I have a few very distinct memories of times when my face hurt from smiling so much. One was my wedding (and that was before we even got to the formal wedding photos). Another was in my parent’s dining room playing board games and laughing until we cried. After my daughter was born. My 30th birthday girls game night. Then our Edaville trip. I know there have been others, those are just the ones that stick out in my mind.

 

When I was starting my memoir in college I wrote a chapter that I shared at our final public project reading. Pursuing Peace, Expecting Joy. I’m just realizing now what a perfect description of the Advent season that is. Because for us joy is not a surprise. The Messiah was born! We are no longer the shepherd’s shocked by the appearance of the angels; we can be Simeon. He knew he would see the Messiah and in his lifetime, he believed God when he said it. So he looked for it, watched for it and anticipated the Incarnation.

 

We don’t have to just wait to feel peace this holiday season. Very little about the traditional way this holiday is celebrated in the United States lends itself to peace naturally. But we can pursue peace, seek the Prince of Peace in fact. We can expect joy because we know He already came. We can look for times to feel joy, remember the times that happiness overcame us and we couldn’t stop smiling. We may not be able to force it to happen, but remembering it can and will happen, is half the battle. We can nurture joy in our hearts by drawing close to the Savior Born to us and reveling in all he has done for us, both in the past, now and in the time to come.

 

As you review your year, (as many of us are prone to do during the year end holiday season) whether through pictures or just in your mind; remind yourself of the joy that came, even at times that didn’t appear on the outside to be joyful and the peace that descended into the most chaotic of situations.

 
Joy to the world, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

 

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Categories: Advent, Faith, Five Minute Friday, Writing | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

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