Tuesday, August 27, 2013

In the Quiet

Today, as I laid in the quiet stillness of our bedroom, tissues scattered across the bed, hot tea by my side, I noticed something. Something I wouldn't typically notice because on a normal day I am not lying in bed during the midday light. 

Our walls look lavender. Our gray walls, the ones that are supposed to be neutral so as not to emasculate my husband who is currently outnumbered 2 to 1, they look light purple. Feminine, girly, flowery, all things that come to mind when you think lavender. Not masculine, not even gender neutral. 

Oh well, in the evening, when it matters, it looks gray. But, why am I writing about this? What in the world does this have to do with anything?

After I noticed my lavender walls, I began to think. What other things am I missing? What other things are only noticeable in the quiet. In the midday light. You see, I am pretty good at talking to God. Asking Him what he wants to do with us, asking for what we need/want. However, often I struggle with listening for God. Having patience and waiting on Him to answer. Instead, I keep asking, keep talking. 

What am I missing God speak when I cover the silence with the babbling of my thoughts. I've felt distant from God lately, like there is some sort of static making it hard to hear what He is doing, hard to know what He wants from me. That static I'm hearing is my own chattering. There is no disconnect, no technical difficulties, just me getting in the way. 

I wonder what I would hear if I could stand the silence for longer than a minute. If I could just be still and wait in the silence. If I was able to turn off all of the distractions, the constant humming of thoughts whizzing about in my head. If I would be patient enough to wait in the silence to hear God speak. Maybe I would get the direction and affirmation that I desperately seek. Maybe I wouldn't feel overlooked, forgotten. 

You see, God sometimes speaks to us loudly and clearly. But often I have found that it is in the quiet, in the wait that I find God's voice among the many competing distractions of my mind. Those moments, those small whispers, have impact that far outweighs their volume. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Sacrifice of Staying at Home

When people hear I stay at home with my daughter, I often get a response that goes something like "That's wonderful that you can do that" or "Man, I wish we were in a financial position for that to be possible" or "You are so lucky you can afford to stay at home."  (Note: If you have said one of these things to me, please know I take no offense and I hear it often.) Some women who stayed at home with their kids will say things like "I never regretted staying at home while they were young" and "Good for you" taking the emphasis off finances.

You know, I never really know how to respond to the former of the two types of responses. I say that because, financially it doesn't make sense for me to be at home. It is a huge sacrifice right now. My husband lovingly and sacrificially works two jobs so that I can stay at home. Now, we have mitigating circumstances that made it so difficult financially, namely tax bills and medical bills that came fairly unexpectedly and after I had quit my job, but it would remain a sacrifice without those things. And it is not a decision we took lightly, in fact I did go back to work for about 4 months after I had E. So, I know both worlds.

I struggle with this decision daily. But, and this is important, for our family this is what is best. When I was working I was spiraling further and further into depression over not being able to care for my child in the way I felt called to. At home, I feel content and at peace. Obviously, not all of the time, and I often wonder if we are making the right decision. It seems to us that we are. When my previous position opened back up I honestly thought about returning to work for a time. You know, to lighten the financial burden placed on my husband. However, we had recently found out that we were expecting again and knew that when Baby 2 came along, I would need to stay home due to my salary vs childcare costs. So, I remained.

Often when I am rethinking this decision Jesus reminds me, gently and lovingly, that the best way is not often the easy way. Yes, finances would be easier if I was working. Yes, we could buy our children new things, instead of thrifting and going to garage sales. But does that outweigh my desire that I would be able to teach and train my children before they go off to school and I re-enter the workforce? Simply, no. Not for us. I will learn to be ok with little and to be frugal as long as I feel Jesus calling me to remain at home with our kids.

God often calls us to obey and trust him in situations that don't make sense to the rest of the world. So we sacrifice and we rely fully on God to provide for us. I don't think I see it as often as I wish I did, but God is there, moving in the everyday. Providing in small, but significant ways that allow us to keep going. To keep trusting that this is what is best for us. I pray often that God would move us into a time of much where we can bless others the way they have blessed us. But there is something about being in a position of needing Jesus to come through, to provide, that builds my faith. At a snails pace, my faith in Him is increasing and I'm learning how to trust The Provider, rather than trust in our abilities to make it work.

Disclaimer: If you work, or stay at home, I hope this post does not offend. This is what is happening in our life, in our family and I realize this is a highly controversial and sensitive subject. What is best for one family is not always best for another. I fully believe some women are called to work, or called to work for a season, and in no way do I want to diminish the sacrifice that you make each and every day for your family. This post is about my journey in trusting what we feel God has called us to and I hope you would be encouraged to trust Jesus in what He has called you to, whether that be to stay at home, work part time, or work full time.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Climbing the Mountain

There is something about having a child that allows you to see the world through a different viewfinder. Something about getting down on their level, seeing things from their point of view. It brings you to your knees. Humbles you. Makes you think about things that, before, seemed too simple, obvious.

The other day as I watched E climb the stairs (with me standing behind her, of course) I thought about how those stairs must seem like a mountain to her. She is less than 2 feet tall and those stairs are far taller. To me, they are just stairs. I go up, I go down (and then back up because I forgot something). Sometimes tripping along the way. But not E. She climbed them. She climbed that mountain that was in front of her without fear. She knew Mommy would catch her if she fell. She knew she could do it with Mommy behind her. No trepidation, fearless, brave little 1 year old climbing a mountain.

Isn't that life? Aren't we all climbing our own mountains. Some steeper and full of sharp rocks, others that seem straight out of the Sound of Music, green with grass and blue sky above. The difference is the fear factor. That dreadful anxiety that sweeps across the hills of life. Will I ever make it? What if I fall? What if I fail? What if the rocks give way beneath me and I tumble back to the bottom?

You see, E knew better than I how I ought to view my mountain. She knew Mommy would catch her. She wasn't fearful, instead she moved forward boldly. She often checked to see that I was still there, still able to catch her, and then she moved. She didn't wait for me to tell her it was OK. She didn't ask to be carried. She moved, even though she knew that she could not do it by herself.

We ought to scale that ferocious mountain with that sort of surety. That sort of trust in the Catcher, our Protector. The one who set our path on that mountain, knowing full well our weaknesses. We, well I especially, ought to trust that if and when we slip, He will catch us. We ought to check in, constantly relying on the strength of Jesus to propel us forward, that we would know our weakness and rely on the one who gives true strength. Then we move, we don't wait to be carried, we move with the Mighty One standing behind us, boldly and without fear. We listen for His guidance, our True North. And we move, we go, we clamber up that mountain with the grace of a toddler learning to walk. Tripping and slipping into the arms of a gracious God, always there to catch us and put us back on the path He has chosen.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Why I Write

On Friday night our friend Lauren came over and watched our little E so that Greg and I could go out on a date. Those have been few and far between in the past months and it was a wonderful getaway, even if only for a couple hours.

After a little Mini Golf (which by the way, in case you were wondering I am horrible at) we went for some fro yo. Greg doesn't really like fro yo, but thankfully he loves his wife and sacrifices for her from time to time. Anyways, back to the point. While we were enjoying our fro yo outside we talked about various things. One thing that came up was how I have been blogging a lot more recently. I looked at my husband, who hates loaded questions, and shot one at him. "Do you think it's ok that I write what I write on my blog?" Or something along those lines, I'm pregnant, details elude me sometimes.

It was loaded though, I know that. I do that on purpose sometimes. Mainly because I know he is one person who will be truthful with me. He might try to sugarcoat it a little, but I've known the guy for more than a decade and I can read him well enough to know what he is really trying to say.

He shot back an equally loaded question. "Well, why do you write it?"

Hm. Um. I'm not sure. Wait, let me think about this. I was not prepared for that question. I hadn't really thought about it before. Do I write a blog for attention? For influence? Just because?

Let's be real, it's probably a little of all three. However, I think the biggest reason I write is because I am a very verbal person. I like words, although my grammar has a lot to be desired, there is something about putting words on paper (or on a computer screen) that take them from floating about in my head to being worthwhile. It gives my thoughts meaning and reason. And I have a lot of thoughts. Lots of them. Really, my brain is pretty hard to shut down.

So, you all get to see a sort of public journal. For awhile I thought this would be a great focus for my food and my photography, or funny quips about raising children. It hasn't been that though. If you notice I write a lot about God and what He is doing in and around me. Not because I am super spiritual or that I even know what he is doing, but because it takes my questions for and about God and puts meaning to them.

When things are difficult, I write. I write truth because I need to be reminded of that truth. In my writing I make the assumption that I'm not alone in my questions. In my wondering about why God chooses to do what he does. I assume that others might be encouraged by being reminded about the same truths that I seem to need to drill into my own head over and over. God loves us. He has grace on us. He has a plan. That's what it all comes down to really. God's plan doesn't always align with ours and then we are left with unmet expectations that we then have to deal with. We have to question, we have wrestle. We have to wrestle the lies and the half truths that the enemy feeds us, oh they sound good, but we have to get back to the truth. Back to reality.

So, that's why I write. I do want to have an influence, and according to the sermon in church this morning, "we are made to be influential." I want to have a positive impact. But really, I just want to understand God and his truths and the best way for me to do that is to write them down.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Never Ending Battle with Mommy Guilt

If you are a Mom you have undoubtedly struggled with your fair share of "Mommy Guilt." I sense it daily, whether I've spent too much time looking at my phone, forgot to provide 5 different colors of food at dinner, struggled with our decision for me to stay at home, or decided that bath time could wait one more day because I'm tired and getting soaked while attempting to wash her hair just doesn't sound like my ideal for the night.

That's just a small taste of the little things that add up every day. The sneak up on you and smack you in the face with the harsh reality that you aren't good enough. You aren't perfect.

And don't forget how we are constantly comparing ourselves to other Moms. Moms who brush their hair every day. Moms who work and take care of their house and seem to do and have it all. Moms who feed their children a balanced, organic, diet of food from their meticulously maintained garden. Moms who bake their own bread, make everything from scratch, and manage a household full of children. Moms who have organized play dates and lesson plans from the time their child is an infant. 

Can I tell you a secret? You aren't that Mom. And guess what? That is ok. Do me a favor, take a deep breath, relax, and realize that you will never be perfect. 

There is freedom in imperfection. Freedom in knowing hard as we might try, we will never be the idealistic Super Mom we have built up. It's unattainable. Thank God for that.

What if we were perfect? What would our children learn? Would they learn how to set unreasonably high expectations for themselves? Would they beat themselves up each and every time they didn't meet those expectations? What about grace? Mercy? Forgiveness? There would be no room for mistakes, no room for failure. No room to grow and mature. No room for sanctification, for the refining fire that God uses to mold and shape the clay of our hearts when we are broken and vulnerable.

Don't aspire to be perfect. Aspire to be malleable and tender in the Potter's hand. That you would allow God to use your mistakes and your shortcomings to mold you into the Mom HE wants you to be. To allow God's tender grace and mercy to smooth the wrinkles and dimples of an imperfect person. That God would put you through the refining fire and you would come out just as He had planned, scars and all.

Jeremiah 18:1-6: The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Arise, and go down to the potter's house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter's house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter's hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.
Then the word of the Lord came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the LordBehold, like the clay in the potter's hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.

Zechariah 13:9: And tI will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and vI will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’;and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’”

2 Corinthians 12:9: 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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Ok Moms, with grace as your shield and the truth as your sword, go forth and conquer yet another day. Another day that you get to teach your child that even Mommy is imperfect and needs Jesus to save her, to forgive her, to love and care for her. 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Let's Be Real

I've gotten hooked on a new phrase lately. Although it's not as cool as "presh" or "cray cray" or any other new hip lingo (how old am I? 65?) it's slowly working its way into my daily conversations.
"Let's be real" I can't tell you where I heard it or why I have been saying it more lately, but I think it reflects my current state of mind.

I highly value genuineness. But, let's be real, I'm not always the best at it. I think we all struggle with it from time to time, especially when that time is not so fun. Maybe that's why this has become a recent addition to my vocabulary. Times right now are not as fun as I'd hoped.

Let's be real.

Things lately have been rough. BUT, there have been so many glimmers of hope. God has shown Himself faithful in the most difficult of times in my life. He has provided for us in ways that don't make sense (like a $300 gift card showing up in the mail, or $1000 in an envelope with Greg's name on it with no note or name attached). God is providing, maybe we aren't where we want to be financially, but we serve a God who is God of finances and He knows what we need and when we need it.

So how do we show genuineness when life is pummeling us with lemons. We tell the truth. Things suck, but God is good. He is always good, even when it seems like nothing in life is going quite right. We choose joy and hope over despair and frustration. Choosing joy is not being fake. It's not denying that life can be crummy.

Joy says life is hard but what Jesus has done and is doing for me is far better than the negative.

2 Corinthians 4:16: So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.

Joy says this suffering will lead to something good for me and to glory for God. It does not deny our hardship, it makes our hardship purposeful. 

Romans 5:3-5 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

So, let's be real. Our limited thinking tends to focus only on the negative (unless that's just me, then kudos to you Positive Polly, I wish I could be more like you) and in focusing on the negative we forget what God has done for us and we become blind to the good He is currently doing. 

 Romans 12:9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.

Let's be real. Let's be genuine. Let's hate the bad and evil in our lives and hold tight to what is good.