Writing

Take It Slow: Five Minute Friday

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Photo Credit: Paul Saad Flickr via Compfight cc

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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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

Safe With Him: Five Minute Friday

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I was laying in bed last night when the full gravity of it hit me. 14 years this May. I’m so used to saying it, thinking it, that I don’t think I grasped how monumental that is. 14 years is a long time.

I was warned that it would be like this, that the further along in life you go time seems to speed up. In some ways I feel like I’m in the sweet spot for that. The days don’t drag by like they did when I was a kid. Things that are just a couple years away don’t feel like such a long time to wait. (Of course I’ve also learned how fast things can change in just a year).

It has been a rough few months (truthfully a rough last two years). A hard pregnancy and delivery, medication adjustments, work transition, major renovation followed by a full house move and becoming landlords. Little of it looks like I thought it would and yet there are bits of the impossible. It seemed like we would never have a bigger house and yet now we do. It seemed as though student loan debt would follow us forever, and while debt free living is still a few years away, it feels closer and more attainable than in the past.

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But in all the important happenings of these years, I don’t want to lose us. 14 years since I told this man “For better or for worse.” We’ve definitely had our fair share of both. Growing a small human four times over, and trying to find myself again afterwards each time. Dreaming, giving up on dreams, and yet still returning to them again. What I’ve always wanted most is to create a safe home, a space between us that keeps us connected. A force field of sorts that keeps both the bad, and sometimes even the good from separating us from each other.

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I want him to know that I hope in him, believe the best about him (sometimes despite evidence to the contrary) and can’t imagine the years ahead without him. This husband of mine celebrated a birthday this week, and while it wasn’t a major milestone number, the looming big digits ahead seems to bum him out. I think maybe he wonders if he’s doing all he wants to do and being who and what he imagined he wanted to be. But I can only see how far he’s come. 14 years may be a long time, but as I reminded him the other night, he promised me at least 50. So we still have a ways to go. I look forward to the journey.

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Categories: Five Minute Friday, Marriage | Tags: , , , | 3 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

I’m Being Refined, But I Don’t Enjoy It: Five Minute Friday

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Photo Credit: Domiriel Flickr via Compfight cc

This is the third Five Minute Friday post I’ve attempted in the last three weeks. The others died on the page, not because they weren’t worth sharing but because I couldn’t finish the thought. I expressed my gratitude for the blessing of friends and family who helped us through our recent move. I talked about the process of trying to make this place home. As we approach two weeks of living in this house, I feel as though I’m full words but short on strength.

I’m being refined and I admit I don’t much like the process. Because in my case it looks like kids who fight all day and the merry go round of illnesses that never seem to end. I know that somehow all of this will be used for a purpose. But right now I just want to feel some peace within the storm of chaos. As I look at the walls which are my new home, it’s hard not to see all there is to do. The boxes waiting for shelves to be hung and furniture rearranged so they can be unpacked. The practical considerations like, are my children reacting to the latent pet hair and odor of the house is it just yet another cold. (In either case, what do I do about?)

I can feel the heavy clouds of my old friend anxiety beginning to circle. He is indeed an old friend, one that I managed to leave behind me when I became a parent and whose toxic words and tendrils of mental poison I am usually able to ignore and bat away. So I am back on my knees, as I have been many times before. But this time without the same confidence. I know that once over this mountain I will be stronger. But the part of me that believes this might be one barrier I can’t break through is louder this time.

The winter here cannot decide if it will come or not. Instead we are surrounded by gray and damp and mud. It only seems to feed my uncertainty when things as reliable as the seasons don’t seem to arrive as expected. It feels like an anticipated sleep that will not come. Something my body and mind parallel as well.

So I just pray, and breath and wait and hope that tomorrow will be better. Maybe we won’t all get the stomach bug this time. The house will be under control soon. Focus on potential paint colors and dream of summer evenings watching the sunset from our front porch. I’m searching desperately through the dark night for a star to hold me fast and keep me on course. I know I’ll find my way eventually. But the process makes me tired.

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Categories: Five Minute Friday, Writing | 7 Comments

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