Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Call Me June Cleaver

Yesterday in the grocery check out I stood with a cart of items and both kiddos.  I stood behind a woman whom I won't describe for the fear of passing a judgement myself or encouraging you to pass a judgement, but for the sake of this particular post, I will only say that she was alone.

I just had my wisdom teeth taken out last Thursday, and the bruising at the point of this grocery trip looked like something worked up in a bad domestic violence episode of COPS, so I was out to make little eye contact, grab what we needed and get out conversation free.

I would have hit the self check out, but the line for that was full of carts loaded beyond capacity, so I chose the shortest line possible.

As I approached, the previously mentioned woman was loading ten or so items on the conveyer, finished rather quickly, and was waiting her turn.

I was talking to B, the oldest of my two.  That's when the conversation started.

"Skippin' school today, huh?" She grinned.

I'm no truant so I smiled and responded, "Only preschool right now, he doesn't start Kindergarten until the fall."

The conversation flowed rather easily from there.  She asked B if he was ready, which, of course, he can't hardly contain his excitement, and she said, "Momma will be glad, too."

And the smooth flowing conversation stopped.  I couldn't decide which to address first: my son, and assure him that his starting Kindergarten will be a very sad day for me, as I'll miss him greatly, or her, as his starting Kindergarten will be a very sad day for me, and I'll miss him greatly.

I quickly blanketed the statement together.

She stood looking somewhat surprised and somewhat like, "yeah, sure," and that's when I realized it... maybe I'm not the norm.

When you thrive on mom blogs and frugal living websites where people are cutting corners, clipping coupons and skimping on family vacations and outings to be able to be at home with their children as long as they can... you begin to think you are the majority.  More and more of these conversations, though, have shown me I'm not.

I'm not passing judgement on women who want to work, have to work, or feel the need to be away from their kids from time to time.  I am one of them.  I've been in this funk of trying to figure where I fit amongst the mom world.  I'm not really a SAHM anymore, except from mid-May to mid-August, and a couple days a week.  This time of year, I'm more of a full time working mom, clocking in around 36 hours a week.  So do I feel both sides?  Yes.  Do I need a mental break during naptime?  Yes.

I'm beginning to think - however - I was made for a different generation. Maybe I belonged in the 40's or 50's when it was still the norm for a housewife to put on a dress, fix a good meat and tater meal, and raise the children during the day.  When they went to school full time, she was there to send them off, and had a plate of warm chocolate chip cookies when they reached the door in the afternoon.  June Cleaver? Maybe.  I'm okay with that.

I think the hardest part for me to grasp in the whole grand scheme of things, are the women like the one I met in the grocery aisle.  She's not the single mom working her rear off to get food on the table.  She's not the 9-5 working while her kids are at school and longing to be with them.  She's the "I'm free and I'm so glad someone else has them 5 days a week, 8 hours a day mom," and I. Don't. Get. That.

I would be June Cleaver.  I'd bake cookies, I'd clean house, I'd serve and love every blasted minute of it.  I'd expect no plaque on the wall, no trophy, no promotion or applause, because I feel at the end of the road, when they leave the house and are on their own, I'd have the one thing that would really matter most --- years and years of memories that I won't be able to get back, tattered roughly to a promise to love them well...

At that - I'll go back to my job(s), because it's hard to survive on one income in this day and time, and I'll work hard at work, and I will love them and miss them fiercely while I'm away.  I'm sure there will be tears at kindergarten drop off, probably more than once, and all from me.  There may come a time where I may work and they may beat me home, or I a time that I may be able to greet them with warm cookies and hugs, but one thing is sure, you won't hear me breathing relief that they aren't with me... even when a day is hard.


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Let It Go

I've never fully touched this on my blog, not to the extent of exposing my own hurt in the matter... but I feel now is as good a time as any.

Something happened to me during the summer after my junior year of high school, we'll call it a major call to repentance after a brief period of rebellion, but it changed everything.  Jesus consumed and covered every bit of me and every part of my life.  It was noticeable, and apparently, it was offensive. Thus- my senior year was hard.

I was bold, possibly to a fault, but not the blatant 'you're going to hell' bold.  No, but I did have a t-shirt I made that said "Elect Jesus Christ personal Lord and Savior" during election time.  I talked about Jesus, sang about Jesus, and carried my Bible everywhere.  It effected the choices I made with friends, conversations, and extracurricular activities.  It was only a matter of time.  Before I knew it I was being called Jesus... as if it were derogatory... by people I'd been friends with my entire life.  I became lonely very quickly.  I was voted 'most likely to change after high school'.  (And I hope I have changed... that my passion for Jesus is more intense and sincere now than it was then... but I'm sure that's not what they were implying.)

All of that to say this:

It's amazing where you'll find worship.  We have grown to be very fond of the movie Frozen.  How fond you ask?  We saw it twice in the movie theater, it's been preordered since January 7th, darling daughter owns an Elsa dress, and is soon to have fathead wall stick ons, a gift from Gaga for her birthday, and an Elsa doll from her brother.  We also own the soundtrack.  The kids can almost sing every word to most of the songs.  It was on this cd that I heard the Demi Lovato version of the song and these lyrics spoke to the 2003 version of myself... and were re-enforced to my 2014 self.

I posted a line of the song on my facebook a week or so ago.  A friend posted the exact same lyric today and it occurred to me, 'wow, it's not just me,' and I felt the need to share.

I'm posting the lyrics and emphasizing the ones that brought great joy to my heart, that His work in my life was so revolutionizing that it was easy to leave the life I once had... and that He's continuing that work in me.

Let it go, let it go
Can't hold it back anymore
Let it go, Let it go
Turn my back and slam the door

The snow glows white on the mountain tonight
Not a footprint to be seen
A kingdom of isolation and it looks like I'm the queen
The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside
Couldn't keep it in
Heaven knows I tried

Don't let them in, don't let them see
Be the good girl you always had to be
Conceal, don't feel, don't let them know
Well now they know

Let it go, let it go
Can't hold it back anymore
Let it go, let it go
Turn my back and slam the door
And here I stand
And here I'll stay
Let it go, let it go
The cold never bothered me anyway

It's funny how some distance makes everything seem small
And the fears that once controlled me can't get to me at all
Up here in the cold thin air I finally can breathe
I know I left a life behind but I'm too relieved to grieve

Let it go, Let it go
Can't hold it back anymore
Let it go, Let it go,
Turn my back and slam the door
And here I stand
And here I'll stay
Let it go, let it go
The cold never bothered me anyway

Standing - frozen in the life I've chosen
You won't find me, the past is all behind me
Buried in the snow

Let it go, let it go
Can't hold it back anymore
Let it go, let it go,
Turn my back and slam the door
And here I stand
And here I'll stay
Let it go, let it go
The cold never bothered me anyway...
(let the music go on)
let it go, let it go
Let it go, let it go

As you can see... it started with one line... "I know I left a life behind, but I'm too relieved to grieve" and the more I studied the lyrics, the more worship I felt... the more thankful for His work in my life.  Where my life would be without Him, I'd prefer not to know... more than happy to leave that life behind... 

Lettin' it go... day after day... and changing for the better... 


Thursday, February 13, 2014

I Don't Care the Streets I Walk -- So Long as I Walk With Him

So ---

I've tried, previously, to write a novel. I immediately felt how daunting the task of developing characters and plot, but I mostly felt the burden on developing the environment.

I don't know that most writers feel the pressure I'm getting ready to describe. Goodness, I don't even know if I'd consider myself a writer, but I know that as soon as I started to develop characters, I was reminded of someone, either past or present, in my own life. It could be someone I had deep relationship with, but it could also be someone that I just knew by acquaintance. Suddenly - I was overcome with this fear that if something did ever come of this story I was creating people would assume that 'so and so' was really 'so and so'.

This led me to want to take on the daunting task of creating a new environment, like maybe if you move the characters to a place no one knows, they won't jump to many conclusions. What I found about this is that it is incredibly difficult to write about a place you've never been, even if you've read and read and read and read about it.  It's difficult to artistically describe streets you've never walked. Until you've lived, breathed, smelled and tasted a place, you don't really know the place.

And isn't the same true in our walk with Christ?

I can read and read and read and read. I can yearn for knowledge. I can take extra classes. I can consume the Word, meditate on it, pray it, and recite it, but if it never becomes more than words, more than a hypothesis of truth, then, well, we can't really describe the streets, suck in the air, or know the taste, particularly of seeing that the Lord is good.  {Psalm 34:8}

In student ministry, and even in our adult lives, when encouraging others to share their faith, we've encouraged them to share their own stories, with the idea, "No one can argue with your story."  It wasn't until recently that I've wondered how many of them (dare I say 'us') don't really have a story aside from a conversion experience.

Look back in Deuteronomy and the Isrealites were encouraged to mark themselves and their homes with reminders of what God had done in their lives.  This passed from one generation to the next, "Look at my story.  Look at what the God of the universe has undeniably done for us."  It was more than words on a page.  They were living and breathing a reality that was more than a theory... more than a profession of belief.  God was undeniably in their midst.  He lived amongst them, and they had proof.

For myself - I can look back over the course of my own Christian life and point at the times I felt the same proof.  I can describe a time that I walked alongside an active God who was a participant in my mundane life, and I've never felt such power, pleasure and intimacy.

Sadly, these have been seasons.  There have been seasons of walking with the author, and others of just reading His book... wondering about Him... believing what He says, but not really seeing it come to fruition in my own life.  These have been seasons of remembering. I've looked back and said, "I've experienced God in my life...," but the season becomes further and further and further in my past.  The experiences seem like a fairy tale in another life, rather than a life I've ever lived.

I was the one who stopped walking.  I was the one who became satisfied with just reading His Book.

It's high time I walk again with the author, that I see His view, I hear His voice, and I taste and see that He is good... and it become more than words written in a book or on my heart.  Lord, may it become a very real experience that I can taste, see, and feel, and describe to others. May there be proof of the work of the Gospel in my own life.  May the Gospel become a reality to me that becomes the center. May the Word of God be posted boldly on my walls... alongside the momentos of faith that have proven themselves real in a life only lived in the presence of the Author.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Falling in Love

Sometimes it's good to remember.

I think it's scriptural.  The Bible itself is a reminder.  It reminds us where we came from and what is to come. Jesus commands us to take the supper in remembrance of Him.

I may be over - spiritualizing this, but I wanted to prove a point that remembering can be good and sometimes much needed.

The other day I felt the urge to pull out old scrapbooks I hadn't looked through in years.  To my great pleasure I found old e-mails from the hubs (when he was still the 'boyfriend') that I'd thought had been long lost in the shuffle of life.  I've thought of these emails many times, my memory failing me on the exact words expressed, but remembering clearly the feeling that came in response to their reading.

Finding them was like uncovering an old treasure.  My eyes and heart were glued and hung to every word.  I was instantly transported back to a day before kids, lying in my old bedroom, staring at the ceiling of a shadowy room and wondering about 'some day'.  I could instantly hear the "uh-oh' of ICQ chat. For some, I can remember the exact moment I read it for the first time.

There's something about falling in love.  Reliving it can make you fall in love all over again.  At the time of receiving these emails all I could do was beg God to make the days pass quickly.  I just wanted to get to 'living my life' with this incredible man.  Little did I know He was building an essential foundation for a love that would transcend the happenings of life.

He knew life would happen.

He knew we'd go on the road as newly weds.

He knew we'd have to learn how to disagree in the confinements of a tiny hotel room.  There'd be no grass to mow.  There'd be no errands to run to 'take a minute'.  There'd be no running back home.  He knew it'd be us.  Us and Him... He knew those words in those emails might just get us through.

He knew ministry would make us busy.  He knew youth kids would take a great deal of personal time.

He knew our babies.  He knew there'd be ball practices and school projects.  He knew there'd be long collicky nights.

He knew there'd be rough patches.

He knew seasons would come.

He knew the demands of life.  He knew I'd need the memories of falling in love. He knew I'd need the reminder that he was just as enamored with me as I was with him.

And littered amongst those emails are reminders that one of the biggest draws to one another, was, indeed, Him.

If we ever get off-center, we have a reminder of what brought us together to begin this thing we've started.  If we ever can't figure it out, we can agree that Jesus had it figured out since then.  Since those gushy emails, since those first moments of love, since the moment of knowing that no one else mattered any longer, He has been the center.

So I'm not only thankful for the memories of humid July baseball games or late night trips in his parents' convertible, I'm not only thankful for the privilege to serve alongside him in ministry for a season in our lives, or even the sweet breeze on graduation day, but I'm thankful for a God who drew my heart to a man who had a heart for Him, and gave him a heart for me.

Sweet love.


Saturday, February 8, 2014

He's Good for More than Just in the Dying

Busy season has come.  This woman who longs to be at home with her babies takes on two jobs for three months out of the year.  I'm not complaining.  I'm grateful to have these jobs as they supplement our income and help us do the 'extra' things like go on vacation or build a small cushion if something goes awry.  Regardless -- my gratefulness to be trusted with such jobs does not erase the longing in my heart to be with my babies.  

Amazingly - though my time is shorter with them this time of year, my absence from them leaves me worrying less about the condition of the house and more about the condition of their hearts.  I worry less about doing dishes and more about playing house... or teaching word families... or playing Just Dance on the Wii.  More silly.  More fun.  More quality time.  

Had it not been the busy season, I may have missed a sweet, sweet bedtime with my sweet, sweet boy the other night.  Sweet boy typically asks for Daddy to put him to bed, so my role in the nighttime process is normally a kiss, a squeeze and a reminder of how much I love him.  Daddy happened to be gone this night, too, so it was all me.  

I spent half an hour tucking in my son that night.  We talked about his day.  We talked about our plans for the next day.  We talked about Kindergarten (which is rapidly approaching, to this mother's dismay).  

We also talked about death. 

It's been a heavy topic of choice by him lately.  

He begins the conversation.  

I can see his countenance change when he says it. 

I can see the weight he carries.  

My heart breaks.  No.  It crumbles and shatters into pieces much to small for repair. 

The one experience I cannot deliver him from is the one experience he fears.  

How many times must I bear his stating, "Mom, I don't want to die."  This night, I'm certain there was tears in his eyes.  

He's feeling it.  He's recognizing the weightiness of our sin.  He's understanding the permanence of the consequence.  

So am I.  

The conversation was lengthy on this particular night.  I always remind him of the Gospel.  I always remind him that death is not a moment to be feared, but for a Christian, death is passing from this life to a better life, a life with a Jesus that we can see and hear and maybe even touch.  

What is this promise, though, to a little boy who wants another day to jump at 'the jumpin' place', or wants to get married some day, or wants to go to kindergarten?  What is this promise to a little boy who is still lost?  It's a heavy, heavy burden to bear.  It's the inability to understand that Jesus is better than anything this world has to offer, and no matter how much I tell him that, until he knows Jesus, he cannot understand.  

Again my heart crumbles.  

"I don't want to be a kid and die," he says, and I can only promise that we'd do anything in the world to keep him safe.  I remind him God is in control. 

I wonder.  I wonder where this fear has developed.  I wonder why the focus on death, and I wonder if we -- the church -- are not part of the problem. 

I look back over my own personal experience, and so much of the pre-Christian life is littered with reminders that Hell exists, that we will die, that Jesus is a solution to both problems.  Somewhere, deep in our good intentions, we focus so much on Jesus in the dying, we forget that Jesus is just as necessary in our living.  

Don't get me wrong.  I'm thankful that my son is hearing the Gospel.  I'm even thankful he's aware that he will die some day and that our sin has put us in that situation.  I am just trying to make a more conscious effort to talk about the Jesus who is active and relevant in my life now, not just the Jesus that rescues us from the precipice of Hell and introduces Himself at the gates of Heaven.  I'm making a point to remind my sweet five year old that my very breath is a precious gift from the God of the Universe.  I'm reminding him that those fun things he so badly wants to be here to enjoy -- are enjoyable because God has given us that enjoyment.  

When your five year old responds to your statement, "We don't have to worry about dying if we know Jesus, if we have Him in our hearts and make Him the boss of our lives," by stating, "I'm afraid to have Jesus in my heart.  I don't want to die," you ache all over with the realization that we've made Jesus the means to a better end, but have left Him from most else.  

The prayers that I had mentioned in a previous post regarding my petitioning and weeping at the gates of Heaven for my son's salvation have become that much more urgent.  Now those prayers are tied to the cry that my son's fears would be erased, that Jesus would become his all in all... in life, and by default, in death, and, if I were honest, that God would protect him in a way I never could, that He'd shelter him and envelope him until that assurance becomes real in his life.  

My strength is only so great. 

My resources only so good. 

I can't save the little boy alone, not physically, and certainly not spiritually. 

And that is how I rely on a very real Jesus, at a very real time, in the land of the living.  I am oh so thankful for him in my dying, but I know I need Him now in my living.  

I know a little boy who needs this Jesus as well.  

May he know Him.  May he love Him.  May his worries cease, his fears erase, and his joy increase. 

Storming the gates on his behalf --- 


Sunday, February 2, 2014

Lessons Learned In the Front Row

For those of you just tuning in to my little part of the blogosphere, I have two littles, 5 and "almost 3". Little 1 is a boy who could be summed up in a nutshell as being fun, yet cautious and analytical.  Black is black, white is white, and he remembers everything. 
Little 2 is a girl who throws caution to the wind, loves adventures, and has a smile that will probably deliver her from many punishments in her life.  That being said, to know she has disappointed you can completely crush her.  

So as adventures would have it, today was no ordinary Sunday.  Little 1 has been expressing an interest to attend 'big church' with me rather than attending his normal children's church.  Little 2 isn't one to protest, as she doesn't love being most places that I am not, so last night before bed I offered to let both littles sit with me during the big people worship service.  My five year old had one request: pen and paper. 

The morning transpired like any other Sunday morning, a harried experience with feeding, brushing, and dressing on the forefront of the priority list, all the while in the back of my brain I'm wondering, "What was I thinking?" 

Side note for those I addressed earlier... I'm the worship pastor's wife, which means it's just me and littles during the music time for this mornings adventure.

As tradition follows, we were walking in the worship center just minutes before the service would start. I gathered my flock and waddled us, heavy winter coats and all, to my normal position in the front row. I gave another quick briefing that we were going to sit quiet during the message and not squirm, and our adventure began. 

Now... it should be noted that this is not the first time my kids have been in a worship service, and in all of the other times before my biggest request was of Little 1 to stop sitting when he'd been asked to stand, but I found out today would be much different.  When the music started, so did the dancing. Lots and lots of 5 and 2 year old carrying on and giggling, and my anxiety heightened.  The dialogue in my head went something like this:

Ok... so they are dancing... that's ok.  Right? 
What do you mean that's OK?  This was... is... a Baptist church (isn't it?)... but there's at least Baptist people.  I have to stop them.  What will THEY think? 
But what do I say to them?? Stop, this isn't the place for that? 
What if they are a distraction? 
Oh crap -- *insert Little 1's name* is in the aisle.  
People are laughing... 
Little 2 keeps throwing herself on the chair. 
Do they think I don't have control of my kids?!!!  

And the panic ensued.  

I'll tell you - this is not a problem I expected to encounter today.  In no way was I prepared.  As my worship pastor husband was on stage singing, I was on my own to let the chaos (controlled chaos) ensue, or to reign them in and crush their fun... and possibly their spirits.  

It should also be noted that this -- this music time -- has been the driving force behind Little 1 wanting to attend the big people worship service.  Remember, he feels... analyzes and remembers everything. 

There comes a point in parenting when you realize that you have to learn to parent your kid.  Let me re-emphasize... you have to learn to parent YOUR kid... with his / her traits, thoughts, feelings, and history in mind.  Ultimately -- I have been pleading, begging and storming heaven's gates on behalf of my kids for sometime, but it has been urgent for Little 1 since he's turned five.  Maybe it's the Lord pressing it on my heart.  Maybe it's because I know he's been asking so many questions.  Either way, I knew the decision I made today during that worship service would be a decision that would stick with him... one way or the other... good or bad.  

And at one point I leaned down, pulled him back from the aisle into the space in front of his chair and the words, "stand still and be quiet" ALMOST came out of my mouth.  I'm telling you... it was something supernatural that stopped them, because every embarrassed fiber in my body... every bit of concern that was flooding my emotion that other people may think poorly of me, was overwhelmed with the image of a naked David dancing in the streets saying, "I'll become even more undignified than this," and my words stopped.  

If there is one thing I do not want for my son to do at church, it is stand still and be quiet.  There are 100's of churches that have 100's of people who are standing still and being quiet, whose lives aren't being changed, who aren't passionate about the Gospel, who aren't contributing to their body of believers and who exist only to fill a spot on Sunday morning.  (I'm not saying all people who stand and be quiet are like this... but...)  

I'd love to say that I mastered this parenting opportunity and my kids danced in spiritual joy, and I sang, undistracted and lifted my own heart to God, but that would be a lie. 

I continued to worry about the eyes that lie behind me and the judgments being made.  I continued to stress that I was not leading them well, that I was making the wrong decision, and after many attempts to control the dancing and to distinguish some invisible line that crossed from 'acceptable' dancing to 'unacceptable' dancing, I picked up Little 2 (much to her displeasure and dissatisfaction) and pulled Little 1 over to me with 'the look.'

For the remainder of the last song before the greet time Little 2 squirmed crying in my arms (heard well during the quiet parts of the song... so much for not being a distraction), and Little 1 sat crushed, pouting in his chair.  And I'd stolen the joy.  

The divide is GREAT on what I felt in my heart at that time.  There are so many attributes of God that I long for my children to grasp and understand and to love.  I want them to joy in Him and to know that HE delights in THEM.  What a moment for rejoicing and dancing and celebrating!  I also want them to learn a deep awe and reverence and fear for the Lord.  For He is great and powerful and awesome.  

And the moment happened.  The moment that I realized that a beckoning Savior, the Jesus who said, "Let the little children come to me," when the disciples felt they were too much and not dignified enough, He was not harsh and feared.  No!  He was welcoming!  The Jesus and the God that my 5 and 2 year old know of at this moment is a God who is exciting and is excited about them.  That's what they are taught in children's church.  That's what they are taught at preschool, and generally, that's what they are taught at home.  

You know, at one point I told them, "It's okay that we dance, but this is not a time to be silly." 

What an idiot.  I may as well have said to them, "God doesn't want you like this, He doesn't understand that you are 5 and 2 and that silly is part of who and what you are right now," like the disciples, "you are too much.  He doesn't have time for this."  

Epic. mom. fail.  

During the greet time, our sweet piano player came and told the kids how much she liked their dancing. Moments later a male friend, and deacon, came from across the church to tell me gently, "just let her dance, she's fine," in reference to the little girl who sat crushed, still on my hip.   

They both were a God send.  I needed the council.  I needed the wisdom.  And mostly, I needed to hear that voice reminding me, "They are not too much.  I want them like this."  

For the next three songs of the worship service, that's exactly what I did.  I let them dance.  I let them be kids.  I let them offer what they had to offer in that worship service, be it childlikeness, or silliness.  My children haven't had a salvation experience yet.  They also haven't been schooled in what we have built to be 'church etiquette' (which most doesn't come from scripture anyway), and I know He can handle them, exactly like they are, right now.  He did create them, after-all, and I'm guessing He found pleasure in their dancing.  

The rest of the service went on without a hitch.  The kids sat quiet and traced hands and scribbled on paper.   Towards the end, Little 1 was listening, making out what he could from the pastor's message, and watching as I turned to the pages in the Bible that matched with the verses on the screen.  We made it through the last song, a slow song, with no dancing (yet no instruction NOT to either), and we pulled out of the parking lot with a little boy who wanted to go again next Sunday.  I call that success. 

Sure, there was no conversion experience this morning (though I'm still rallying and petitioning for it), there have been no great theological questions or conversations, but knowing the children in which God has given me to parent, I'm almost certain a particular little boy will remember when his mom let him dance in the aisle, soul bared, little boy joy overflowing, and that he'll remember enough to take it with him.  

You know... we are called to not conform to the patterns of this world, and that has been a prayer for my kids, that they'd stand apart, that they'd  be different, and that goes for more than just at school, or at their workplace, but I'd pray that they'd even stand apart in their churches, that they would be unashamed as Paul was unashamed... that when the time is right, they'd be undignified as David was undignified, and mostly, that the excitement that they have for the THINGS of God right now (church music, reading their Bibles, playing their Bible app, talking about the Lord), would birth into excitement and intimacy that they'd have for the Lord Himself, and that excitement would carry on to make them mighty harvesters for the Kingdom of God.  

May their excitement never be quenched.  

May their hearts always dance for the Lord... 

Even when their knees are bowed... 

And may I experience that excitement in my own life.