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Making Peace with Imbalance and Process

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I am what is called a J on the Myers Briggs scale. Part of this is that I like product better than process. I’ve been working through a decorating course and it’s been a bit difficult because one of her big points is that it never has to be finished. But I want it to be finished. I put to put the cherry on top, call it done and sit back and relax. I find it very difficult to relax sometimes. I need to be productive and check things off. But I’m having to accept that life is not like this. (Yes, I know that’s basic logic and most of you probably figured this out ages ago, but I’m just getting to it now so bear with me).

When my daughter turned one, my mom bought me the first book in this series. The authors talked about the concept of equilibrium and disequilibrium. Basically, children cycle between phases of equilibrium where things are more balanced and settled in their body and emotions, usually making them more easy going and pleasant to be around and disequilibrium. During disequilibrium, things are just off. The child is bothered by many things, easily distressed, often unhappy.

(It should be noted here that this is relative to the child’s personality. My son is difficult at the best of times, so you have to very attuned to notice the difference. I usually become aware when he his disequilibrium because suddenly things get worse than I imagined they could).

I’m realizing that this is how my spiritual life is, and probably will always be. How long each period of time will last varies. If only it were as easy to predict as the typical 6-9 month cycle of a small child. I will never arrive and suddenly have it all together. I hate that thought. Because it means I will constantly be in process.

I hate being in process, it feels off balance and involves continual change. I told my counselor that I fear stagnation, but I don’t think that’s exactly accurate. I aspire to experience security and stillness. My desire to continue growing is at least in part because I want to get to wherever it is I’m going. But it’s an impossible destination, because when it comes to knowing God, mathematically we’re dealing with infinity here.

So if I can’t arrive, I need to learn to live where I am and try to enjoy the process. Obviously I won’t always enjoy it, but I can remind myself that the bad still is only temporary and try to lean into the good stuff. (This applies to both parenting and spiritual growth by the way). To cling to grace and accept the mercy offered to me. Remembering that I am loved for who I am, not what I do. God is not trying to trick me. If I am genuine in my seeking of him, he won’t let me miss the mark, even if I’m not sure what exactly it is I’m shooting for.

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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: , , , , | 2 Comments

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

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Photo Credit: Sebastian Anthony Flickr via Compfight cc

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

Be Kind To Yourself: Grace During Times of Transition

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Photo Credit: Hijo de la Tierra. Flickr via Compfight cc

 

I sat down to write this post, wanting so much to share wisdom about how important it is to be kind to yourself. But then I realized something, I am terrible at that. I think I’m being kind to myself when the house is a mess and I haven’t exercises in two months because I’m adjusting my expectations.

Except I’m not. I’m harboring frustration and irritation at myself. Because a more disciplined person would be getting up early to pray and workout so that I could greet the day in a centered and calm manner. Instead of being ripped from sleep by the sound of my children up and already fighting with each other. If I really had it together I would be showered and dressed (extra points for makeup) and already started their breakfast before they emerge instead of alternating hurriedly throwing food at them while I attempt to wash, brush and dress. (This whole back and forth takes until at least 10 AM most days).

I can talk big about giving yourself grace, and encourage other moms to be kind to themselves, but you know what? I’m awful at taking my own advice. Because even though I know I can’t be super mom, I can’t stop trying. There is so much of me that doesn’t get expressed. The part of me that needs to focus on health and wholeness. The part that wants to be strong, and fit instead of saggy and lumpy. The part that wants to change the world, be a “real” blogger, and finish my next book. The part that wonders if I could have a teaching or a speaking ministry if only I had more than thirty seconds to think on a daily basis.

So what choice do I have? I can either continue down a path of negatively and self-deprecation and convince myself things will never get better. (Trust me I have those moments). Or I had just try again tomorrow and learn to rejoice in the small victories.

Today I managed to workout for the first time in a long time. It was at 3:30 in the afternoon while the baby was napping and the kids were miraculously playing without fighting for more than two minutes. I may have worn my workouts clothes all day to get to this small step forward and it’s likely that tomorrow may go in a completely different direction. But for now, for today, for this moment I was able to step out of the rut of survival mode and work towards a better way.

I can feel bad that I “should’ have done more and become disheartened if tomorrow I’m not able to make any progress. Or I can just celebrate the moment. Maybe those little celebrations and private acknowledgment of my small accomplishments are what kindness to myself looks like.

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A Christmas Connection: Five Minute Friday

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December is here and the crazy is setting in. It’s getting too chilly for the kids to go outside most days and I’m attempting to keep the house ready to show at all times. This is not quite the Christmas we had planned. Last night I broke the news to the kids that we won’t be getting  Christmas tree this year. I’m probably as upset as they are. It’s  compromise I’ve agreed to make with my tired, overworked, long suffering husband. Only once in our 13 years of marriage have we not had a tree. It was not  good year.

Even as I try to keep the holiday decorating simple, I’m trying to focus on the things that really matter to me this year. What is it I really want? The treasured moments of listening to Christmas music while sitting by the fire in the light of the tree may not happen. But I can still drink hot chocolate by the fire and listen to a Pandora Christmas station. (Our favorite Christmas CD’s were packed up with everything else non-essential). I can take a few moments to cuddle my children. Today we sang Christmas carols and talked about the meaning of the words and their history as a large portion of our school day. My daughter and I were invited to a Christmas Tea on Saturday. I resisted the urge to say no to the last minute invitation, as I am saying no to so much this year, but I decided to make room for it  anyway. It’s exactly the kind of thing my daughter loves and we rarely have time to do.

If I’m honest, I’m hoping to be remembered. Not to necessarily get fancy gifts, but that in all the chaos and crazy of getting ready to move that I will feel loved, and maybe even a bit appreciated. (Yes, I realize it sounds a bit entitled and self-centered, just being real here). Because there are definitely days around here, especially lately where I feel like the abused house elf (the Harry Potter variety, not a member of Santa’s workshop team). But I also know it isn’t really about me.

As we sang those carols today I was comforted and reminded of the fact that Jesus came to earth for me. To save me. (Ok, yes all of us, but in that moment I needed a bit of a personal connection). I loved the moment explaining to my daughter the line in Hark the Herald Angel’s Sing.

Rise the woman’s conquering seed,
Bruise in us the serpent’s head.

I told her this means that Jesus came to crush Satan’s head and when he did that, he crushed in the sin in all our hearts too. She liked the sound of that.

While I do crave a bit of peace on earth (my son is launching himself off the coffee table as I type this), what I want most of all is to feel a connection with the Christmas story. That it would be more than a story, and feel as epic and earth shattering as it was, and is. Because God became man to save us from our sin and ourselves;  to lift away the veil and allow us to commune more closely with our Creator until the time when we can be together again. What better news is there than that?

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Categories: Advent, Five Minute Friday, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

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