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Friday, August 8, 2014

A New Season

If anything is true of this life it is that change is inevitable. Seasons come and go. Some bright and warm like the summer sun, others cold and bitter like this past winter. Some are as still as a placid lake in fall, others abuzz with life and beauty as spring. Ever changing, always moving.

Seasons end. Always. Even in the midst of our pain and suffering, our confusion, or even our elation, they end and a new begins. Just as summer bursts into fall, our lives are in constant flux.

This is a new season. A new beginning and a new ending. A new chance to see the world through different glasses. It is bittersweet, it is lovely, it is chaotic, it is heartbreaking, heartwarming, and it is a challenge. It is new perspectives, new roles, and new identities.

I haven't spoken about it in social media much because it has been a hard transition. At first it felt like fall meeting winter, when that first cold snap hits and the reality of what lies ahead settles into your bones. However, God has had grace on me and has been showing me, ever so subtly, that this is where he wants me and it is not a failure, it is not a flaw, and He will bring good from this season. I can already see some of it, the good that can come when we release our plans to His hands and allow Him to move.

Going back to work means much for us. It means more financial peace and stability, it means moving into a career that I have longed for since the days of "counseling" my friends at the ripe old age of 10, it means facing ideological and theological terms of motherhood and wifedom that we have wrestled with. This idea that mothers aren't "full time" mothers if they don't stay home with their kids. The image I have built up in my mind of what a good wife and mother ought to do, ought to be.

You see, I have always pictured myself as a stay at home mom. Always. In all of our conversations leading up to children we always said I would stay home with the kids until they went back to school. I was determined, come hell or high water, to stay home and be the one to raise my kids. My mother didn't have that luxury and I was bent on making it happen. So we did. We sacrificed and strained and pulled and prayed. For almost two years my husband endured the financial burden of being sole provider, for two years he did all that he could to make it work. I don't know that he fully grasps the gratitude that I have for his hard work and selflessness. He has served and sacrificed for us in ways that many men would not be willing to do.

During the course of the two years I was home, God provided for us time and time again. Literally, provided money and resources that we needed. But as we began to look at the future we had to face the reality that if something didn't change, I would need to return to work. So we prayed and wept and prayed more that God would allow me to stay home, but that if that wasn't possible that God would make a way in the wilderness.

He did and He is. His way in the wilderness was a job and childcare that I trust and a new season of life for the Smiths. As I have made this transition it has been difficult and exhausting. Yet, I feel this sort of life and purpose again. This sort of fight that I had lost along the way. We have wandered a dry and weary land for months and we are beginning to see the oasis ahead and it is a beautiful vision to behold. I have much hope for this season and a lot of nervous excitement. As much as I feared this transition, there is good to be had from it.

By the grace of God, I'm moving forward in hope and full reliance on the One who establishes my steps. For this season I pray that we can find contentment in where God has placed us and a willingness to follow His lead. My career is not who I am, neither is my role of Mother, or Wife. I am many things to many people, but ultimately I am daughter to the King and there is rest to be had knowing that my Father loves me despite my insecurities.

A new adventure awaits, a new season with new life and new purpose.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Beloved

As strange as it may sound, there is rest for my weary bones in scrubbing away scum from a dirty bathtub. The energy expended to clean away the dirt and stains strengthens arms to hold the weight of a stressful month. If I can scrub away the grey, if I can get it clean enough, the world will become a brighter place, one bathtub at a time.

But it returns, it always comes back. No sooner do you get the counter clean that a chocolate covered toddler hand reaches up and you are back to square one. 

That's life in a broken world isn't it? Trying hard to iron out our wrinkles and straighten our edges and the brokenness follows behind us making messes of things we once made clean. I feel it in my soul, this need to be clean, this desire to be good enough, to be enough. If I scrub hard enough, I can make myself clean, I can make things better. If I could just try harder I could be better, I could be enough. 

The divine mystery, that Jesus gives his grace freely and without reservation to the bruised people in a broken world. As my daughter's children's bible aptly says "they were lovely, because He loved them." 

Lovely, because He loved. Beloved. Important.  Enough. Not because of what we do, not because we can put on a facade of cleanliness and order in our lives. Clean only because He washes us in the rains of grace. 

I still scour and scrub and try. Its part of me, this need to be better. I'm learning. I am figuring out how to rest in his grace, to dance in the rain not cower in the storm. Because, who would give their life for someone not yet born, not yet even a thought in a mother's mind?

His ways are higher than ours. I want so badly to understand grace, and that is the problem. I don't know that we can fully grasp it, I don't know that God intended for us to be able to get it, to really get it. There is beauty in the mystery, a freedom to not have to know. To a weary soul there is respite in knowing Who loves you and fights on your behalf. Repose knowing you don't have to scour away the sin, that He has done it for you. 

But by the grace of God, I'm learning. 



Sunday, June 8, 2014

You are Beautiful

Since having a daughter, I have learned that it matters if I think I am beautiful. It matters because it will influence how she sees herself.

Long long ago, when I was young, I began to lose sight of my beauty. It happens that way, doesn't it? The world shatters our once rose colored glasses. We learn through peers, or parents, or a stranger on the street that we are not pretty. Someone tells us we are ugly, and we believe them. The world says to be beautiful you must have blonde hair, blue eyes, and a symmetrical face with nary a blemish to be seen. Women must be rail thin, but with large enough assets, so to speak. We must have a thigh gap, big butt, and a collar bone defined. We must dress a certain way, walk a certain way, and heaven forbid we speak too soft or too loud.

You get the picture.

They say beauty comes from within, that the eye of the beholder is the deciding factor. Yet, the world screams at us that beauty is only an airbrush away. We aren't good enough on our own, even celebrities can't measure up to the prevailing standard. They must be photo-shopped beyond recognition to be deemed worthy of the front cover. Who can attain that sort of beauty? It's imaginary, made up fictional beauty that only exists on paper. A beauty created by contrast and saturation levels, by skimming and slimming of thighs and waists until little is left. A beauty that is seen in pictures and movies, but never in reality, never standing in front of you. Perfection, in terms of beauty, is a fantasy only to be seen in glossy magazines.

This past week it hit me like a train. Someone paid me a compliment on a picture of me and my son, a rarity because I usually hide behind the camera. She said I was gorgeous. I cringed.  Then it hit. That moment when your reality shifts, when you see the world from the perspective of your daughter. I want my daughter to know that she was created beautiful. She is beautiful because she is loved beyond measure by a God who knit her together, who found fit to give her her father's dimple and her mother's brownish blonde hair.

I always wanted my children to look like their father because he is the most handsome man I know. His smile has melted my heart since we were young and in love, walking the halls of a small christian high school. He says he sees me in her, I'm beginning to see it too. In seeing it, I am beginning to revisit all the ways I see myself.

When I look in the mirror, I see flaw after flaw and I work hard to hide them behind make up like smoke and mirrors. But, with age come wisdom and with motherhood comes perspective. My children are, by far, my most beautiful creations. I often stare at them in awesome wonder of what God has given us.

That's it.

Those moments of seeing my child's beauty, I see my own through my mother's eyes. I realize that I am worthy because I serve a God who sees me as such. I am beautiful because I was created unique. I don't have to live up to the standards of the world because this world is not my home.

I want my daughter to know that she is beautiful and I plan to remind her as often as possible. I want the girls I lead to believe me when I pay them a compliment, when I tell them they are beautiful just the way they are. To believe me when I tell them that beauty is far more than a pretty face. From today on, I want to model to them a woman who is confident in who God created her to be, flaws and all. I will never meet the world's standard of beauty.That's ok, I don't serve the world.

Ladies, when someone says you are beautiful, please believe them. You are loved beyond measure by a God who made you, who knit you together piece by piece. You are more than a body bound by time and weathered by age, you are a cherished daughter of Christ. You are beautiful.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

To the Moms

Unless you live under a rock, you probably realize that Mother's Day is swiftly approaching. For those of you reading this who may have forgotten, it is Sunday, call your mom!

But in all seriousness, since this blog tends to run along the more serious routes, I wanted to write a post to ALL the moms out there.

To the Momma who isn't yet a Mom. For whatever reason you are not a Mom yet but someday you plan to be. You have a mother's heart that loves to nurture and care for those around you. Thank you. Thank you for using your God-given gifts and abilities to love and nurture those closest to you. Whether it means making breakfast for your roommate, or watching other people's babies and loving on them as if they were your own, you matter.

To the Momma who has miscarried or lost a baby to still birth. First, my heart aches for you. I know you, I was you. Can I tell you something, you are a Mom in the truest sense of the word. You carried that sweet baby for 2 weeks, 12 weeks, 6 months or even full term. The moment you saw those two pink lines you became a mother. You sacrificed your wants and needs for that precious gift growing inside of you. Then the walls crumbled and everything you did to protect that baby failed you. Even though you don't have a baby in your arms, you are as much of a mother as anyone else. You are not forgotten. Even if you haven't told a soul that you have loved and lost in a matter of weeks, you are not forgotten. Happy Mothers Day to you because you are a mom.

To the New Momma, whether you carried your baby or adopted, bless your heart I bet you're tired. I remember those days of feeling like I was constantly at my max, constantly nursing or changing or rocking. You are awesome. You are tired but you are awesome. Thank you for sacrificing your perfect abs and your wine for that sweet baby who needs you. Thank you for rocking that precious boy or girl at 3 am as you cry your eyes out either totally exhausted or totally in love. You are a good mom, you are doing the best you can and that is enough. Don't worry about what everyone else is doing, love your baby and follow those instincts God gave you and you will do great! As cliche as it is, it is true, enjoy these days, they go fast.

To the Momma of more than 1. Thank you for sacrificing yourself and your needs for your children. They will thank you some day, and if they don't I am thanking you for them. Thank you for giving yourself day in and day out, multiplying your attention to each of your children. Loving more than you ever thought you could love, giving more than you knew possible. You know the power of love more than anyone. You know how it grows and expands with each child you have. You are amazing. You made babies, you carried them in your body and birthed them into this world. No matter how few or how many children you have you know that all the late nights, all the bodily fluids, all the quarrels and quandaries, it's all worth it. Those smiles and laughs and every "lub you" makes all the hard days worth it.

To the Working Momma, you are a good momma. You are showing your kids how to follow their dreams and work hard. Whether you do it out of necessity or choice, you work hard each day so that you can provide for your kids. Quality time is far more important that quantity and I'm positive you know that better than most. Thank you for working day in and day out, working and then coming home to work some more. You are strong and your children will benefit from your diligence and strength.

To the Stay at Home Momma, thank you for working hard, harder than many. You sacrificed your career and probably much more than that for your children and that is a wonderful sacrifice to make. Thank you for working hard day in and day out with no end to your work day, no sick days, no vacation, and no personal days. Thank you for sweeping up cheerios, bandaging boo boos, and scrubbing lord-knows-what off the kitchen floor for the fifteenth time today. Your job is not glamorous, it doesn't pay well, but it is oh so special. You are an educator, a nurse, a maid, a cook, a counselor and so much more. You are doing a good job. You may not have quarterly reviews and pay raises to gauge your productivity, but you have living breathing beings who are being shaped into well rounded citizens. You are pouring yourself into the next generation and that is not a small task.

Thank you moms. No matter who you are, where you come from, whether you have 1 child or 10 you deserve a million thanks. You are valued, loved, and treasured. The things you do now will have a lasting impact because your children and your children's children will benefit from you. Paul shows us this in 2 Timothy 1:5 "I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well." The faith of Timothy came from his grandmother and mother. That's you, you are someone's mother, and someday someone's grandmother and even if it doesn't seem like it now,  you are making a positive impact on your children that will ripple into the future. 

Thank you. You are an inspiration. 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Author of Time

First, Happy Easter! What a glorious day knowing that Jesus conquered death once and for all!

Secondly, we had a baby and now we have children. Yes, you read that right, child-REN. I will post my birth story sans the gruesome details another time. Just know, Gideon arrived safe and sound and has chunked up quite nicely in the last three months!

Now to the meat of the matter. In the midst of becoming a new mom, again, contentment keeps finding its way to the forefront of my mind. I find myself discontent with the current state of affairs and wishing for an easier phase of life. You know, the grass is always greener and so on. Not to blame my discontentment on our culture, but isn't it funny that Americans are always wanting more. Bigger and better. Quicker and easier. What happened to being happy with life as it is given to you, with being just another average Joe. No, now we all have to live in mansions, have the latest technology, and be CEO's of our very own prestigious company. Bonus points for yachts, personal islands, and being an intellectual prodigy at the age of 3.

That's not living. That's not a life-giving, Jesus-loving existence.

Yet, here I sit, laptop in hand, baby in a fancy swing, daughter in her own crib in her own room, wishing for more. If we just had enough money that we weren't scraping by every month, I'd be content. If I just had that nice minivan and some clothes from J-Crew I'd be content. If I just had my kitchen redone and yard in order, I'd be content. If staying home weren't such a financial burden, I'd be content.

Outrageous.
That's not life. That's discontentment mixed with a lack of gratitude.

Contentment is finding joy in what you have, making the best of the life and resources you have been given. Contentment is serving and trusting the Author of Time because he is the one who knows your story. He is the one writing each adventure, each breathtaking moment. When we realize that we serve the One who provides for us, the one who has decided each person's lot, maybe then we will be a little more grateful for the good gifts he gives.

Would life be easier if we had more money? Maybe. Honestly, I don't know. Mo' Money, Mo' Problems, as they say. In this season of life, Jesus has forced us to see that He is the one who provides for us. He is the one who gives me strength to parent through a tantrum, He is the one who puts food in our cabinets, the one who provides a landing when he asks us to jump out in faith. Radical faith, the faith that causes fishermen to quite their livelihood to follow what many thought was just a crazy homeless man, does not allow for us to remain in our comfortable lives. Jesus asks us to step out onto the water and trust that we won't drown when the waves crash around us.

I am richly richly blessed but I tend to see the trees instead of the forest. The desires of my heart were: Have a family, check. Have a home, check. Have children, check. Have a husband who loves me well, check check check. Have our health, check. Be involved in ministry, check. Do I have my nice minivan with a cool moon-roof and video players, no. Do I need it? Heck no. Do I have money to spare, definitely not. Can we put food on the table and provide for our kids what they need, yes.

I may not have the desires that this world and my sin has instilled in me, but I have the desires that God placed on my heart. He hasn't failed me or let me down. His timing has seemed a bit questionable, but again trees not forest. As we have stepped out in faith, He has been there to catch us. He has yet to catch us in a big, soft pile of money, but He catches us.

You see, I get so focused on my needs, my wants that I lose sight of the big picture. Jesus didn't call us to comfort, he called us to discipleship. Who am I but a speck of sand in the dessert, yet He loved me enough to lay down his life that I would live. Why would I think I deserve more when I deserved death. What grace, that I have a home, that I have healthy children, that I have a husband who loves me. What grace that I don't live in a slum, or a shack, that I have food to feed my children. If only my fickle heart could hold on to that truth. If only the world weren't so enticing with its shiny idols that distract from the true prize.

So we push through, run the race with endurance, persevere and every other euphemism for trudging through life. We do it with hope, knowing that we were made for so much more than this. We keep going, storing up treasures in heaven where moth and rust can't touch them. We die to ourselves daily, hourly, and every single stinking minute if we have to, knowing that Jesus has called us His beloved. As the pastor said this morning, we get up, get dressed, and get out because life isn't over yet. God still has work to do! Stop wasting time worrying about what you wish you had and use what God has given you to do the work He called you to do. Maybe if I type that out fifty times I might remember it tomorrow when I'm thinking about all those things I wish I had.

I'll end with this, my prayer:
Proverbs 30:7-9
    
Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die:
    Remove far from me falsehood and lying;
    give me neither poverty nor riches;
    feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you
    and say, “Who is the Lord?”
    or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.


Monday, December 30, 2013

The Waiting Game

Waiting... Waiting... Waiting.

Ever had a big life event on the horizon? You know that anticipatory anxiety you get before big events, those butterflies in your stomach? Yep. Every day. Every Single Day! You see when you get married or have a big birthday or whatever you have an end date. Every contraction, every hour, every weird feeling I think "is this it?"

Even though I have a due date, due dates mean squat. Only like 5% of women actually deliver on their due date. I have yet to understand why they don't give you a due week or due month, lets be real, that's much more accurate.

Honestly, I thought we would have met little G by now. We had a false labor scare the Sunday before Christmas and thought it might even be the real thing, I mean when they checked me I was already 3 cm and 80% with contractions every 2 to 3 minutes. 2 hours after arriving, nothing changed so we went home thinking it would be any day and definitely within the week. Nope. 8 days later, still pregnant.

So I wait, and I wait and I wait.

Big G asked me  last night if I would rather know the end date or if I would rather not. Honestly, if I knew when this would all come to a head I would probably be more anxious than I am now. You see, this pregnancy has been wrought with anxiety and denial. It's not something I planned for and I have had a terrible time coming to grips with the upcoming changes. I also have a daughter to worry about this time around and I am in constant fear of something going wrong and E having to deal with the consequences of that at such a young age.

But God is faithful and trustworthy and I have had to lean on that truth over and over. I often feel lead to read Isaiah 41. I can sum the chapter up in 1 sentence. Do not be afraid, I am with you. Such grace that God has for his kids to give them that hope and assurance. "Don't be afraid of this, I will hold your hand through it. I will be with you." Thank you Jesus.

So we wait in eager anticipation for a little boy who is going to forever change our lives and bring us immeasurable love and joy over the course of his life. Someday in the very near future our little threesome will become four and our hearts will overflow with more love than we can imagine even possible. That's what excites me, so I hold on to that hope and excitement and try my darnedest to focus on what will more than likely go right than what could remotely go wrong.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

What are you living for?

I wrote a brief Facebook post last night in response to an article Dave Ramsey posted on his blog. You can read the original post here: http://www.daveramsey.com/blog/20-things-the-rich-do-every-day

Someone had posted it to Facebook and it piqued my interest. I came away from reading the article completely torn and honestly feeling a bit off-put. Maybe it's because I grew up poor or maybe it's something more.

His (Tom Corley not Dave Ramsey) 20 habits are all good habits and things that everyone should try to do, sure. The problem lies in his assumptions. He bases this article and hid book Rich Habits off the assumption that it is these habits that made people rich. That there is causality, not merely correlation. Causality and correlation are worlds apart. Sure these habits may very well correlate with being wealthy but that does not mean they cause wealth.

I think the hardest part for me in reading this was how it led me to view the poor. This list puts people into categories, rich vs poor. Let me tell you from experience, poor people do not often choose to be poor. They are goal setters but typically that goal is either to survive or to find a way to make enough money to simply put food on the table. They are often hard workers who have lacked the opportunities afforded to more affluent families like education, books, and gym memberships. There is a cycle of poverty, one that takes immense effort to break free from. People do it everyday, I did it, but even though I already practice many of his 20 habits I am no where near wealthy. Which brings me to my final point.

What are you living for? Are you living to acquire wealth and riches. Is that the end game? Sure we all would like to be financial well off or at least stable, but is that your goal, to live a comfortable life? To keep up with the Joneses? Or are you living for Jesus? Are you willing to do what Jesus asks of you? Are you willing to sell all of your possessions and give to the poor if that's what he calls you to?

Mark 10:21-25 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him,“You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. 23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is[a] to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 

Psalm 37:16 Better is the little that the righteous has than the abundance of the wicked. 

Psalm 49:16-17 Be not afraid when a man becomes rich, when the glory of his house increases. For when he does he will carry nothing away; his glory will not go down with him. 

You see, God will bless some and they will be wealthy and others he will call to poverty. In the end we can't take anything with us. We can't make ourselves rich, God is our provider. He is our source of everything good. He provides what we need, not always what we want. The Israelites wandered the desert for 40 years. 40 YEARS. Are you ok if God calls you to wander the desert for 40 years. To be forced to trust Him and his provision and not in your abilities to make yourself wealthy, healthy, and wise? 

The rich young man went away sorrowful because he had put his trust in the provision. Not the Provider.