Let Wisdom Replace Doubt: Five Minute Friday

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I was raised with a very strong sense of duty. You show up on time, keep your commitments even if it’s uncomfortable or inconvenient. I recognized early on in life that there are lot of things you do because it’s right and good, not necessarily because you want to.

Then enter parenthood. Suddenly the list of shoulds became huge and sometimes they contradicted each other. Baby should sleep in bed with mommy vs. Baby should never sleep in bed with mommy. Children need to play independently especially outside vs. Children should never be left alone outside for any period of time.
Other times the standards set felt insurmountable. Children should rarely, if ever watch TV, have sugar, wear clothing made of two kids of fabrics. (Ok, I made that last one up.) Being a mom meant a world filled with new levels of obligation and oceans of new guilt. With every decision I made, there was enough evidence and social pressure from the opposite opinion that I doubted myself constantly. Staying at home, homeschooling, the list went on. It wasn’t that I was too overwhelmed to make choices, just that I was almost never confidence I was making the right ones.

Sometimes even when I was unhappy with the course I’d set, I felt powerless to try and change it. Why put in all that extra effort if it wasn’t necessary, I was still going to feel guilty and tomorrow a study will come out to suggest that my original choice was right all along?

It took me a long time to silence the voices of duty. Honestly, they are with me still. But quieter whispers now instead of demanding shouts. It is easier to ignore them and try instead to replace them with words of truth. Not that I don’t fulfill my responsibilities, I’m just more deliberate what I commit myself too. But I haven’t yet learned to quiet the murmurings of guilt when I read another article or see another volunteer need.

Sometimes I let them become quite loud, and they drown out the beauty and the wonder of this life that I am both carefully chosen and yet accidentally found. (Because so much of life with that strange combination of intentionality and serendipity).

But I’m working hard to pray for mercy instead of cling to impossible standards and ask for wisdom instead of being wracked with doubt. All my shoulds and oughts were covered by the blood at the cross, and that doesn’t exclude my parenting ones.

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Frustration Friday: Five Minute Friday

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Before I was a parent and I was full time in the workforce, I lived for Fridays. There was a wonderful energy and an extra surge of efficiency that came with Fridays, especially on a wonderful spring day when the weather was good. I would fly through the afternoon and the world always seemed to look brighter. Then I became a parent. Fridays now seem to be the final gasp, bare minimum, “dear God, isn’t this week over yet?” kind of days. The time when I reevaluate my life and am always seemed to be found wanting.

I aspire to contentment. Because being happy with where I’m at, contrary to what our culture may portray, is not the same as apathy. But sometimes I’m not happy with where I am. Because I don’t feel like I am enough for what I am facing.

I don’t feel like I’m strong enough to be the wife my husband needs. I’m definitely not patience enough to be the mother my spirited children need, especially my 5 year old son. (Also known as Calvin or the Tasmanian Devil. We often say that Robin, like bagpipes is best enjoyed outside). As a home school mom I often feel as though I am ill equipped to educate a self declared hated of learning and a gifted child who is rarely still. This doesn’t even begin to touch my goals as a writer and my other ministry work.

I feel as though I have to be more, to do to even have a chance of succeeding. No one wants to fail as a parent. (Not that I’m even sure what failure looks like aside from my child growing up to hate me or becoming a criminal of some kind). Yet I’m constantly reading books and articles, and attempting to improve myself. The same goes for my marriage. I’m always afraid that simple satisfaction will lead to stagnation in a relationship that is ever changing. I can’t just be a wife, I have to be the best wife I can possibly be (while also of course being the best parent, writer, teacher, etc).

I tell myself that I am enough, that God fills the gaps where I am deficient. But those are encouragements for a Sunday morning, when the world feels new and I tackle my week with ambition and purpose. Right now it’s Friday, and all I can see are dirty floors, cranky kids and an unshowered mama who isn’t sure what’s for dinner.

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What An Orange Giraffe Cup Taught Me About Contentment and Trust

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I’m in one of those crazy seasons where God is teaching me so much about myself through my children, especially through my one year old. Some of it isn’t necessarily for sharing. (I’ll spare you insight on the parallels between redemption from sin and a diaper blow out.) But yesterday during the church service God did speak to me through a sippy cup.

I was on my own with three kids during opening worship as my husband was serving. My mom provided a helping hand, but soon my sister and her three boys arrived as well, so she quickly had her hands and lap full. I had the baby on one hip and was trying to keep an eye on the other two as they colored and visited with their cousins. I try to encourage them to sing and read the words to the songs, but thus far I’m just happy we actually get through the service each week without me completely losing my mind.

Suddenly my usually happy one year old began to thrash and squawk. He had spotted the sippy cup belonging to his cousin sitting in the row in front of us. As chance would have it, today my sister and I had selected identical cups for our youngest children; an orange Nalgene with a giraffe on it.

I tried to explain to my son that it was not his cup. I kept saying “If you are thirsty, I have one for you.” But he, being 18 months old, naturally didn’t listen to reason. So I finally handed him his own cup that I had stowed out of sight in the diaper bag. He immediately began to calm down but still stared suspiciously at his cousin’s cup even as he guzzled from his own. At that moment, I felt God speak to my heart.

 

“Why are you so quick to complain about what others have? Can you not see that I am providing all that you need and that I am even anticipating your future needs?”

 

My son could not understand why his cousin had something that he was convinced was his. Except it wasn’t his. But he was unable comprehend that I had anticipated his need and had already taken care of it. How often do I lack the faith and understanding to realize that God knows my needs, even before I do?
He has gone before me to prepare the way. He will supply all that I need. It is so very easy to see what others have, and respond in envy or even entitlement. I cry out that it isn’t fair, especially when it’s something that feels so very necessary or is an long held desire. But in those moments, I lose sight of who God is. He is a loving Father, who wants good and wonderful things for me, but also what is best. I may squawk for my neighbor’s cup, when in fact God is preparing for me exactly what I need at the right time.
He has provided for your needs, don’t look at what others have, look at what He has already given and trust that He will provide whatever else you might need.

The Quiet: Five Minute Saturday

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It’s the empty day. Good Friday is over but Easter Sunday is still on it’s way. Though our culture has filled with day with egg hunts and food prep (I know I’ll spend most of today cleaning my house). But it is essentially a day of silence. The day God was quiet with the world.

The man who so many had set his hopes on was dead. He was buried in the tomb and all hope seemed lost. Saturday is the day of doubts, the day of grief. For the disciples, as good Jews, it was also the Sabbath. A return to normalcy and yet not. Because things would never be normal again.

Grief is like that. We feel like things will never be right again. After all the hubbub of funerals and memorials have past, we are left with the emptiness and trying to find a way to create some kind of normal again.

This is where we have the advantage. We know that Sunday is coming. But that doesn’t mean that we should skip the experience of the silence. I heard a counselor once say, lean into the pain, because there is no avoiding it or going around it or rushing through it.

Today is a day of unknown waiting. I think a lot of can feel this. We know all that we hope for, but it feels uncertain. All we can hear is the quiet and wonder where God is. As you fill your day with celebrations and pleasant diversions, take a few moments to think about this grief day. Connect with the pain and waiting in your own life. It may feel like a dark time. But the dawn is coming.

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The World Is Broken, Anything Else is Mercy

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I’ve heard it so many times, “I believe people are essentially good. I don’t know why bad things happen to good people.” Except humans aren’t essentially good. Anything except the bad part is the miracle.
Am I over stating things? Maybe, but perhaps not. Because the world is a messy and broken place. I think part of why we often feel disillusioned with life isn’t necessarily just because bad things happen, but because we feel surprised that they do. It’s Ok and normal to be angry about the difficulties that happen in life. But sometimes that anger is really rooted in entitlement. We think that we don’t deserve the bad things that happen to us. We get caught up not so much in frustration with the challenges themselves but that they have happened at all. We want a reason, or a justification of why bad things happen.
Disasters may not be of our own direct making, but they are the result of a sinful and broken world. We are all part of that world and contribute to it in one way or another. But the beauty and wonder of salvation is that we don’t have to be limited to that brokenness. In fact, God made a specific plan to save us from it. Jesus. The perfect man who lived a blameless life and took all the pain and deserved punishment of all the world through all of time onto his shoulders. So yes the world is broken, but it is also in the process of being renewed, and reborn. So are we.

Like so many things, it comes down to attitude. Instead of just being angry when it all falls apart, we can be grateful when it doesn’t. I am by no means suggesting that we become cynical and assume the worst will always happen. But rather than when laws of entropy are thwarted and things aren’t lost, broken or destroyed, we can see in that moment the mercy of God. Because we all deserve hell, both here on earth and for eternity. Yes, I know that isn’t a popular idea and I’m sure a book by that title wouldn’t sell many copies, but that doesn’t make it less true.

We can also see the potential opportunity for redemption. I think this is what the scripture meant when it said all things work together for God for those who love God and are called according to his purpose. It doesn’t say only good things will happen, but that all things will somehow be worked together for good. We have a long history of examples to look toward.

A small example from my own life. I was very upset by some behavior I saw from my daughter. Despite all of my best efforts she seemed to be moving away from the things I had taught her and I felt powerless. A friend reminded me that while she is a strong minded kid, she is likely not more stubborn and willful in her sin than John Newton or the Apostle Paul and yet God got a hold of those men and used them to build his kingdom, despite all of the horrible things they had done in their lives. God’s mercy at work. Not based on behavior, not based on merit, but redeeming even the worst of men and disasters for good.

Keep Dreaming

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My husband and I were having a conversation the other night about dreams. Because we’ve just come through a season of survival mode. Looking back I almost can’t believe how long it lasted. I began packing up my house last summer, we made an offer on a new house in October and didn’t get a signed lease for our old house (now the rental property) until early December. Now we are starting into April and while my house is becoming livable, it is also still full of boxes. I’m still struggling with getting back to a routine and making sure all the necessities are covered.

While the whole moving process was a big part of our future dreams, during that time many other things had to be pushed to the side. We are both creative people and our creative activities have always been a big part of our personal self care. But during this survival mode season, much of that has had to take a back seat. Suddenly, the long term dreams and aspirations surrounding those creative endeavors seem like lost and forgotten dreams.

I was lamenting the fact that I seem to have given up on my dreams. (And that my wonderful and creative husband seems to have given up on his.) Then it occurred to me that there is more than one kind of dream.

 

Abstract Dreams

These are the things that sound nice, but may or may not ever happen. Somewhat along the lines of wishes, but I would call them more than that because usually we have invested a great deal of thought, and sometimes even preliminary plans into these dreams. Sometimes because they are entirely outside of our control (like winning the lottery), or simply highly unlikely or because they will require a complete lifestyle chance that we aren’t prepared for. My husband and I have a dream of sorts to travel the country with our kids and home school on the road. While it’s a fun idea, it doesn’t matter enough to us to do the work it would take the make it happen right now. That doesn’t mean never, but until we are prepared to take this dream to the next step, it will remain where it is.

 

Concrete Dreams

Concrete dreams are the kind that motivate goals. They may be likely or unlikely, but they meant enough that we are making measurable steps towards them. One of our dreams is to be debt free (or virtually debt free, I’ve decided to be Ok with a mortgage of some kind). So that means I have to do the math to figure out how to pay down our student loans faster than the current rate. Even if the steps feel small, they still have measurable success; even if it’s just $20 or $30 a month.

If my goal is to publish a book, reading books on writing, blocking out time to write and reading books in my proposed genre are helpful concrete tasks towards achieving that goal. Yes, given the number of people who claim to want to be published authors and the odds of being successful enough as an author to support myself and my family may not be in my favor. But I feel that even if I fail at that aspect of the dream, but in the process I produce work that I am proud of, I won’t really have failed.

I always struggle finding a balance between not dreaming at all (because it feels like it will never happen) and being Ok with dreams that I know are unlikely to happen. If something is really important to me, I need to be willing to make the lifestyle and financial sacrifices to make it happen.

 

Look Back and Remember

I also need to be willing to look back at my life and see where the dreams are coming true. My life may not be glamorous, but much of it is exactly what I always said I wanted. My desires and dreams may have changed a bit, that’s OK. But it’s still important for me to look objectively at my life and acknowledge with gratitude the dreams that have come to fruition. I have three beautiful children. We have been able to move out of our attached home into something a little bit larger. I am able to stay home with my children and home school them. These are all part of the dream I had when my husband and I were first married and I was working jobs just to pay the bills. Most of the paid work in my life hasn’t provide me with much fulfillment, but it was a means to an end.

 

Reassess and Categorize Accordingly

Sometimes we really do give up on a dream, but that doesn’t always have to be negative. Regularly reevaluating how we spend our time and money is a wonderful tool towards this end. If I believe that my dream is to run a marathon, but I can’t even bring myself to walk a mile, let alone take up running, I need to reconsider whether this is really a concrete dream or be willing to chance my behavior. Realizing that something we’ve been working toward is no longer what we want can be freeing. I can stop feeling guilty about what I’m not accomplishing and funnel my time, energy and money into something that I am really passionate about.

 

Enjoy the Journey

We also need to be able to enjoy the process. Life will never been perfect. It’s easy to think that when we have the house, the spouse, the kids, the dream job, the bank account life will be perfect and we’ll be able to relax. That once the kids are older, more independent, out of the house or we retire that suddenly we’ll be able to do all the things we’ve dreamed about. But I would counter that if something is a deeply held desire (i.e. concrete dream rather than abstract one) we will be working towards it now, at least in some capacity, rather than waiting for tomorrow.

 

Waiting Is OK

I think it is also OK to deliberately defer dreams. This doesn’t mean giving up on the, but rather making an intentional choice to pursue something at a later time. This is a hard one for me, because part of me is filled with the deep fear that some how I will miss out on the things I was meant to do. I have dreams regarding writing and speaking that are simply not possible right now. Why? Because other dreams have taken priority. The one’s involving a family, homeschooling and ministry that I am currently involved in. Because I am only one person, an I cannot do everything. (I am going to say that one more time, mostly because I need to hear it, but maybe you do to).

I CAN NOT DO EVERYTHING!

No one can. Despite what it meant appear on social media, none of us has it all together. We all must decide which dreams to pursue, which to defer and which to let go of. While there maybe be a sense of sadness or resignation in the process, it shouldn’t be a deep abiding grief. This is where may faith will show, because I firmly believe that if we seek God constantly and consistently in the process, he will be faithful to guide us. It is much easier to defer or even let go of a dream when we believe that God is faithful to guide and mold the desires of hearts into the best possible direction for us.

 

Ask yourself these important questions:

What dreams in my life are abstract?
Which dreams in my life are concrete?
Are these dreams in the correct position in my life? Do some abstract dreams need to become concrete through deliberate goal setting and intentional investment or do some need to be deferred or released as I pursue something else during this season?

Always keep dreaming, all kinds in all ways. Let that inspire and sustain you through the difficulties of today without allowing you to miss the beauty of the present.

Just As I Am: Five Minute Friday

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This is such a fitting word for someone going through the existential journey I have been on for the past couple of months. Because identity and purpose have been heavy on my mind lately; who I am and how I define myself.  Because I live in a culture that focuses so much on what I do as the definition of who I am.

When you are a parent who primarily stays at home and doesn’t have much else to show for her day than piles of dishes and laundry, defining myself by my accomplishments isn’t very appealing. I don’t produce much in the way of product because most of the tasks in my life are perpetual. Dishes will be used and washed, clothes worn, meals eaten faster than they are prepared.  Much of the rest is immeasurable. I cannot quantify the hugs I give my children or the discipline and encouragement I dispense (often more of one than the other, depending on the day).

It is easiest to define myself as wife and mother but if I wasn’t those things (or if I suddenly ceased to be those things), I am still someone. I can focus on my identity as author, dancer, creative artist, but again, even if those were stripped away, I am still someone.

As I’ve labored over this concept for the past few months a friend commented to me something that has stuck fast, and I keep returning to it again and again.

“Something that God is teaching me is that my most important ‘job’ in life is not to be ‘productive’, but to love Him. If I never work outside the home again; if all of my life is spent driving children, wiping bums and noses, limiting screen time and folding laundry, I am just as loved and valuable to Him as if I was a globe-trotting evangelist – and that’s what is really important. My value needs to be in what He thinks of me, not how ‘productive’ for the Kingdom I feel.”

I strive to live like I really believe this. That even as I pursue God’s will for my life, investing myself in dreams and desires that I believe he has given to me, I need to be willing to build all of that on the immutable and unchangeable foundation of my identity in Christ. That I am a loved child, a daughter of the king. Nothing I accomplish in my life can make me more worthy of that position in the heart of God than my redemption through the blood of Christ has already made me. It is done, finished. With that comes a beautiful freedom to explore because I cannot fail, not really. Because even if my strivings, godly as they are, come to nothing measurable; I am loved just as I am for who I am.

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