Monday, March 31, 2014

balance, or something

I'm trying to catch my breath right now

First, because I have rodent heebie-jeebies. My cats were fighting over a dead mouse in the kitchen. I didn't want them to eat it because I was sure it was a victim of the Decon I'd set out last week, so I smacked it out of kitty's mouth with a broom. The thing is, it wasn't dead.  But I had it, wiggling, under my broom. And everyone's sleeping. And I just wanted to get to my computer and write... finally... for the first time in forever...

But this mouse.
It all worked out, and he won't be back.

Now, to catch my breath. It's just my laptop and me, FINALLY, after days of longing glances and so many urgent needs everywhere getting between us.  I'd climb any mountain, swim across the ocean, and dispose of any rodent...

Ok, enough. I'm happy to be here. It's been awhile.

I'm trying to catch my breath.
The pace of life has been insane lately, and my reason for blog silence.

My quiet moments have been filled with study lately. I'm leading group discussions on two wonderful books right now (Broken and Gospel Motivation.)  These are challenging books, but rich food for the soul.

I'm also participating in a group called A Balanced Life, which is a group that meets to encourage both physical health and spiritual health. I do the devotion portion of this group.  And it's almost funny that I am teaching on this topic, when I've taken the sticky note that said "prepare for A Balanced Life" on my to-do list and moved it to "tomorrow" so many times.

How can there be balance amidst such chaos?

That is a good question indeed.

My husband is keeping crazy hours, being a pastor AND going back to school to get his PHD.  This place suddenly reminds me of college life again- there are piles of books everywhere, and I have to make sure he has enough Pepsi fuel stocked.  But in college he wasn't also daddy, and I didn't say things like "If you're not going to sleep, at least take your vitamins for goodness' sake!"

We just got through spring "break," which was neither spring nor a break.

And oh, the children. Sometimes they are sweet little chicks and I just sit and delight in their sweet little peeping laughter.

And those other times?  They're like hornets, mad hornets, and they sting each other and then everyone's crying and they look to me for comfort and I'd rather just swat them all. But no, I must teach the hornets, discipline them and love them, each in the way that they need, because some are born with sensitive skin and others are born with thick heavy armor.  And the armored ones have soft places and the soft ones have crusty spots, and I'm amazed at the way their little stingers can hurt even a mommy heart.

home, sweet home


What do they need?
There is always something.

And also, what can I give?
(My dear husband gently reminds me that I should ask this question, too.)
What can I give?
Not all things.
I am not God.

So I go to God with the welts and questions, seeking help and healing and balance.

He gives me Jesus.
It is enough.

Jesus, with his wild grace, forgiving sins and using sinners to do good in this broken, mouse-infested place.

Jesus in this place where everything is fragile.

Aggie scared me last week.

She had the dark circles under her eyes and wanted to sleep.  When we woke her for dinner, she was scared. Of the noodles. On her plate. "They're creepy! I can't eat, it's too scary!"  She was completely terrified.

What was this episode?  Hallucination? Could she have been stuck in her dream?
I stared at her head.
I gave her milk and snuggles.
And I called the doctor.

I was back there, right back in that place. I know she's not mine, God, but please not now, not that.

It's been several days.  Doctors are not concerned, and she seems fine. Tonight she would not stop talking, not unless she was singing at the TOP OF HER LUNGS.  I love the way she sings, especially in church when she knows the hymn. I can't help but stop singing and listen to her sweet voice, and let it sing hope and faith down deeper and deeper into my heart, as it is in hers.

This will not last forever.
This pace, this chaos.
This everything.

How, then, shall we live?
How do we order our days?

I'm not sure a balanced life is possible, not if "balance" means having and keeping all things in order, in one's life and one's heart, so that all emotions are smoothed away, and there is no stress or worry or anxiety.

But I consider these verse from Jeremiah 17:

But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”


Like a tree planted by the water-

God has planted us, and He is our stream; He is that living water welling up into eternal life.

By grace we have been saved, by grace we have been planted.   By grace our trunks grow strong, grounded in the love of God, fed by His Word.

My branches get tired in the battering wind, and they are sore from the little people climbing and plucking my fruit.

But God is my stability, and He grows my roots down deep into Him.

My branches are weary, but the weariness just reminds me of my need, my desperate need to drink
deeply of the love of God in Christ, to fill myself with His Word.


How then shall we live?
What does it look like to be a child of God, rooted and secure, and yet tossed about by the demands of life?

In tihs house, today, it looks like considering April Fools jokes to do to the kids, and googling "strep throat symptoms."  It looks like reading our favorite Elephant and Piggie books, and fishing rocks out of the baby's mouth. It's dancing in carline and cutting cheese and apples and one more cup of coffee.

It's ignoring, for just a little longer, those five loads of laundry that need to be put away, so that I can finally finish a blog post.  It's drinking, sipping, gulping, all day long, from the well that cannot run dry.

My outdoor Christmas lights are still up, and the shoes on our front porch are muliplying like rabbits, but Jesus is here.

It is well with my soul.

Plus, the big kids will be home soon and I'll make them clean it up.
That, or we'll just go to the park.

Maybe we'll find some balance on the balance beam. 
Har har.





photo credit


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

a heart list

As you know, I love lists. This list by John Bunyan, surprised, convicted, and comforted me all at once. It is good to know I am not the only child of God with a list like this.


I find to this day seven abominations in my heart:
(1) An inclination to unbelief.
(2) Suddenly forgetting the love and mercy that Christ shows us.
(3) A leaning to the works of the Law.
(4) Wanderings and coldness in prayer.
(5) Forgetting to watch for that which I have prayed for.
(6) A tendency to murmur becuase I have no more, and yet a willingness to abuse what I have.
(7) I can do none o fhtose things which God commands me, but my corruptions will thurst themselves upon me so that "When I would do good, evil is present with me."

These things I continually see and feel and am afflicted and oppressed with; yet the wisdom of God orders them for my good.

(1) They make me abhor myself.
(2) They keep me from trusting my heart.
(3) They convince me of the insufficiency of all inherent righteousness.
(4) They show me the necessity of flying ot Jesus.
(5) They press me to pray to God.
(6) They show me the need I have to watch and be sober.
(7) And they provoke me to look to God, through Christ, to help me and carry me thro
ugh this world.

Amen.

---- John Bunyan
(from the Treasury of Daily Prayer.)


Hold my hand!


Monday, March 10, 2014

Dear expectant mama— on being immature


Have you ever seen a grownup stop the car and run out into a field just because it looked fun? Or run with her shopping cart and ride on it across the parking lot? Or climb up a tree and throw things at people below? 
That would be too weird. 

Unless…
Unless she had kids with her.

As your belly stretches, I am sure you have felt the weight of this new vocation pressing heavy on you. Yes, it is challenging to be a mother. Yes, you do have to start thinking about safety hazards and carseat laws. You have to grow up in so many ways. But … has anybody told you this yet? There is a wonderful, child-like joy mixed in with this calling.

Sure, you will make sure you are guarding the edges of the dock when you run down it with her. And you might even make sure the snow is not yellow before you eat it together. But think of it— those wonderful things that you loved to do when you had a little body, and no worries? You get to do many of those again! Motherhood will actually provide a healthy outlet for your remaining immaturity! That girl, the one who likes to jump on trampolines, listen to loud music, and swing on swings- she doesn’t have to die!

I can still do this.
And you won’t understand this, yet, but I have to tell you: In some ways, these things are better the second time. Sure, this time I know it’s truly dangerous to get caught in a riptide, and that’s terrifying… but to watch a child discover the water for the first time? It’s amazing. Seeing him curl his toes in the sand, and discover that it doesn’t taste good; watching his delight as he throws rocks in the water, and seeing him laugh when they make a “plunk” EVERY time!

You will lay a sheet out on the grass in the summer, and you will kick off your shoes just to sit with your baby. And you’ll remember that other grass in that other lawn when you were little, and you might want to turn on the sprinkler. And you can! It won’t be weird at all! Your child will probably think you are the smartest person on the planet!

There are moments- sweet, fleeting moments- when the weight of your years lifts away, and you will feel what it is like to be a child again! You’ll get swept up in a glorious fall evening, or knocked over by waves upon waves of grace, and you’ll remember how to give a full-hearted from-the- belly laugh. And your little one will laugh with you, and it will be the most beautiful echo you’ve ever heard.

It’s not all fun and games, but SOME of it is! When the weight of the one you are carrying bears down heavy, allow yourself to look backward, into your favorite moments from your own childhood, and then imagine your child, your favorite little person in the world, there with you, sharing your marshmallows.

Hang in there, mama, when your baby is heavy.
Lighter moments are coming.

— Emily


this applies to Grandmas, too! 




Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ash Wednesday is hard on a mother’s heart.




It is one thing to consider your own mortality. But I remember the first time the ashes were placed on my baby girl. Something inside me wanted to reach out and stop the pastor. My heart said No! That black stuff does not belong on my sweet little child. But the pastor put them there, and every time I looked at them I was surprised all over again.

            Little Lorraine quickly forgot the ashes on her head, and had no understanding of why they were there in the first place. She smiled and flirted with me with her big brown eyes all during church, and I was struck by her cheerfulness in contrast to the portent of death on her forehead.

            My children are mortal and I would rather not think about that. It is easier to pretend that life will keep going just as it is right now, to imagine that I will be here to comfort and love my babies forever. It is not hard to join the world’s denial of death. There are plenty of things to distract myself with, and when then thoughts come anyway, I can soothe myself by putting it so far in the future that it feels less threatening.

As adults, we know that the smooth skin on our babies will not stay perfect forever. We know that toddlers (and teenagers) are not invincible, even though they believe they are. Yet we are still shocked when they get the high fevers we cannot treat, when they do something dangerous (like eat glass!) and have to be rushed to the ER. We are shocked to be reminded that we live in the “valley of the shadow of death,” and that our children are vulnerable to this death just as much as we are.

           God’s word intrudes into our comfortable little worlds to remind us of what we already know: this life is not going to last forever. It is easy to get caught up in training our children merely for life in this world. While it is a good thing to have a house that runs smoothly and children that are clean and relatively kind to each other, that is only a part of our vocation as parents.

           This life is not going to last forever. We need to say this out loud to ourselves, and to our children. We must remember those ashes, and take to heart those ER trips. We must teach our children that they live in fragile bodies in a dangerous world, and remind them that their hope is in God alone. Every minute of this life is a complete gift from a Father who loves us more than we can imagine—a Father who plans to have us with Him in heaven forever. His grace frees us to live with joy in these mortal bodies. His love frees us to giggle like toddlers, sometimes, even under the shadow of death.

ash wednesday photo: Ash Wednesday Ashwednesday.jpgChrist is Risen—He is Risen indeed.

As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;

for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.
As for man, his days are like grass,
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.
But from everlasting to everlasting
the LORD's love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children's children-
Psalm 103:13-17




(written on the old blog in 2005)
photo credit photobucket

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

when the ache tries to suffocate



Don’t let them in, don’t let them see
be the good girl you always have to be
Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know…


The advice seems to make sense, when there is something to hide, something that might embarrass us, or hurt someone else. And yet it suffocates, and one can’t help but ache for Elsa and her secret.


For ourselves, and our secrets.


The mask gets heavy sometimes, doesn’t it?
The pleasant smile, the patient voice-- it’s not all phony, of course, but sometimes it is.  


The heaviness of this place can suffocate, too.  
Sin-- our own, and that done too us-- presses down heavy on our chests.  
 
Conceal, don’t feel.
Distract yourself.
Don’t ask that question.
Hide it. Numb it.
Smother it with melted cheese and a huge smile.


“Where is God in all this?” we wonder to ourselves in the darkness.
And there, in the darkness, our enemy begs us to stay:


Don’t ask that question. Pretend you already know.  Pretend you’ve never wondered.
Pretend you’re just “too busy,” or you’re “fighting something,” or it’s “just a headache.”


Conceal, don’t feel.


How often I am tempted to numb my own heart.


Surely there are circumstances when we must simply keep moving, and do the work in front of us, despite the way we feel, despite our Big Questions.


And so I don’t try to discuss the issues of my own heart with my preschoolers.  I may ache, but regardless, they still need to eat dinner.  I (try to) put on my pleasant voice and pray to be upheld until I can take off the mask, put on my PJs, and exhale.


But, oh, how I need to exhale.  I need to let it out.  We all do. The ache and the questions, the heaviness of this place, the way it weighs on us, the way the fog rolls in and it seems like the enemy is winning every battle.


Adults are supposed to have all the answers, and yet here we are, in grown-up bodies, with skinned knees, and heavy questions.  And we are still afraid of the dark.


And the enemy whispers:


Chin up.  Be tough.  Fake it till you make it.
Don’t ask for help. They’ll think you are weak.
Don’t be a wimp.
Don’t search His Word, call your pastor, or lean on your church family.  


Don’t run to God like a terrified, hurting child.  
Grow up already.


No, I argue.  I cannot grow up, not if it means being hard and strong and cold.  I refuse to numb the ache, and I can't hide it, either.


So I join the others, those weary sinners in need of grace, and we bring our aches and our big questions to God, where He promises to meet us.  


In His church, in His Word.


And there, we hear others speak for us, those shocking words which we do not dare say,
words of grief, or anger, questions of the aching heart:


“Why have you forsaken me?” David cried aloud.
“Why have you forsaken me?” Jesus moaned from the cross.


The question lingers, but we are not the only ones asking it, and that is some comfort.
Others have breathed in the stale air of a dying world, and they, too, have gagged and choked.
Others have questioned like us, and hurt like us, and sinned like us.


And those others have been helped, forgiven, redeemed, rescued from this place.


God’s promises cut through the cold air, like a warm breeze carrying a hint of spring, and we breathe.  We inhale hope, and exhale pleas for more; for spring to hurry.


Free us from this place, Jesus.
Deliver us from evil.


Deliverance is coming, because Jesus has come.
And again we pray, come, Lord Jesus.



-----------
Today, I dare you to ask your questions.
Ask others, and ask God.

This is the fifth post in the series: 


Will you (re)learn how to be a child with me?
I double-dog dare you.

--------------------------
If you liked this post, consider sharing it with a friend!

You may also enjoy my published works:

an inspirational story of God’s grace



and for Mothers who tend to everyone else— May Jesus Himself Tend to YOU. 

not just for Catholics...

Suddenly, it's March, and Christians all over the world are talking about Lent.

Why? Here's some food for thought.

Give it up for Lent
So why fast? Why abstain from something? Simple: for the benefit of your neighbor. The truth is, our lives are filled with things which satisfy US, they make US happy, and provide enjoyment--for US! But to give up things that we normally do or use in order to use the extra time or money for prayer, for hearing and studying God's Word or for doing good to those around us--now THAT is something useful.

Giving up or slowing down

Instead of a fast, let's call it a "slow."
Thoughts from me on lent.

You may also enjoy:

and another one on fasting
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