Monday, January 30, 2017

The Parenting Advice that I Have Never Read in a Parenting Book

I have a lot of regrets as a mom.

There's not a single moment as a mom that I can point to and say "this is the ONE moment I would do differently". Because there are a million moments I would take back and do differently.

If I HAD to pinpoint something, I would say that I wish I had stepped out of denial sooner. Which translates to...I wish I had known Jesus sooner.

Because Jesus is the one thing that has changed everything.

The thing is, I read tons of parenting books.

I wanted to be a good mom. I wanted to nurture and be a safe haven for my kids...but I wasn't. And no amount of "how to be a good parent" books made a difference -- except to increase my self loathing, condemnation and hopelessness.

The biggest change for me began the day I truly surrendered to God.

Don't get me wrong, I didn't become June Cleaver overnight. But a healing process began. My eyes were opened to the pain and anger I had been denying. And as I allowed God to peel back the layers...to remove the dirty bandages I had placed over my wounds that were now putrid and festering...to reopen those wounds so that I could face them and let Him heal them. I began to forgive others and myself. My heart began to be able to mother differently -- better.

But guess what?! I'm still not June Cleaver.

I struggle with being intentional. Now that my kids are old enough to not climb into my lap with a book or ask for hugs and kisses, there are days when I go to bed and realize that I haven't touched them all day.

And sometimes I relapse into fear and control and I yell at them and bark at them in impatience.

And...I struggle with keeping my word - both in commitments to do things and following up on chores or groundings.

So, I point my kids to God, who loves them perfectly. And I make sure that they know that I need Him desperately and I seek Him passionately and continually too. And I submit to God, admit my powerlessness and His sufficiency every.stinkin.day.

And I pray. Cause I know that the God who loves perfectly will do His thang in them.

And I find comfort in knowing that they have had a front row view of God's power to change lives.

PS...I recently read The Good and Beautiful Life and even though it isn't technically a parenting book...it's a great one to read to become a better parent. :)

Friday, January 27, 2017

The Catch

Sometimes  I feel like a fraud. Sometimes when I want to express my love to God, the words catch in my throat because my actions aren't always aligned with those words.

Peter comes to mind in those moments.

He was quick to declare his love, faith and loyalty. But his actions were not always as bold or in agreement in their declarations. And sometimes, he completely missed the point.

And yet, even when he denied knowing Jesus, Jesus never denied knowing him. And when He missed the point or got it wrong, Jesus didn't tell him to go away. Or render him useless and relegate him to being a silent observer.

He invited him out onto the water. He ate dinner with him. Included him in private, intimate moments. Appeared to him and taught him after the resurrection and then filled him with His Spirit and used him to implement and teach and govern His Kingdom on Earth.

My deficiencies do not render me useless to God. They render me humble and reliant on Him. They embody opportunities for God's glory and power to make themselves evident.

Should I sin with abandon based on that?

NO!

I should get over myself, open my spirit, accept His grace, trust Him to do His work inspite of my weakness.

And sing and dance and tell everyone around me about my awesome God and what He's done for me!

And you should too.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

What God Did

I stood my ground in my bare feet.

After 14 and 1/2 years of marriage, we stood in the kitchen. Contemplating. Surrendering.

Neither of us had ever really let the word divorce settle to the ground. Always afraid that the ground would explode if we did. We both regretted. We both wished from time to time. But it was never REALLY a road we were willing to take.

I had manipulated him into marrying me. Because I was dead inside. Because I opened my soul and allowed Satan to plant his claws there.

I didn't know that knowing I hadn't been chosen would leave an emptiness in my spirit. I was selfish and impulsive and manipulative and I groped the control of my life out of God's hands and I coerced events to get what I wanted.

But I didn't get what I wanted. And to this very day, if I could take it all back. I would.

And so, even though I admitted my lies and manipulations years ago, as he struggled with fidelity, I took each revelation and indiscretion as lashes that I deserved, ripping and tearing at my flesh.

So we stood in the kitchen, fourteen and a half years of pain spilling out around us. Of infidelity and lies. Souls weary from the burden. God had brought our marriage a long way. But the pit seemed darker than ever. It seemed like each layer that was peeled back just revealed another level that needed peeling back. And...

After 14 and a half years of knowing he hadn't really chosen me, I was done trying to hold it all together. It was time to let it go. To let the chips fall where they would. If our marriage didn't survive...then it didn't survive.

And I felt my spirit surrender. The world wouldn't end. The ground wouldn't explode. It would be difficult and painful but we would all be okay. Divorce was an option.

Was there too much pain? Had we hurt each other too much? Could we really have an intimate, REAL marriage that could give glory to God?

We stood in the kitchen.

We searched our hearts. We cried.

And we chose.

We chose each other. For real this time. Without any manipulation or coercion. He chose me. And I chose him.

And for the first time, I felt chosen. We started being super honest. Stopped making assumptions and started asking questions.

When conflict arises, we get to the heart of the issue instead of fighting about silly things that aren't really the issue.

We aren't perfect. This isn't 'happily ever after'. But it's real.

And all those weights that felt like they were holding us down, finally let go. Because we let them go.




Monday, January 9, 2017

Things I Learned (or relearned) in 2016: Part One, Probably

1. My kids success isn't always in God's plan.

I prayed that my child would win. Not for bragging rights or for the parental status it would bring. For my child.

So, I watched my child run like the wind...way behind all the other kids. And my heart sank. Why couldn't God allow my child to be good at this one thing? Why couldn't He allow my child to be successful this one time?

I blinked back hot tears as my heart hurt for my child who was obviously working as hard as they could...and still losing by a large margin. And I asked God why.

It took a few minutes for the answer to come, but I realized that my child is not the only child on the field and I am not the only parent praying for their child to win. Obviously they can't all win.

So I changed my prayers. Instead of praying for my child to win, I prayed that God would do whatever He thought best and to help my child not find their worth in their loses or wins but in the Father who loves them regardless of how they perform. And I thanked God for whatever He was doing to draw my children to Him.

2. Elton John is NOT singing "hot do-o-g" in Rocket Man. He's singing "oh no no no".

I liked the song more before I learned this.

3. Communication is hard. Bad communication and NO communication is harder, but is so embedded in me that it's really hard to break out of it.

Good and open communication makes life so much easier. It's baffling how often I used to make assumptions and act on those assumptions. Like, I would immediately judge why someone did something and then react to them as though it were true. But the thing is, if they didn't tell me it's true, I have no right to assume it is. In fact, I have no right to try to guess why someone else did something. If I am going to assume anything, it should be that their intentions were good. And when in doubt, ASK!

I can't even tell you how much I appreciate being on the receiving end of being asked. And how much I abhor it when I am punished for something I never even THOUGHT, much less acted on. Both encourage me to be more open in communication.

4. "Grace without truth is enabling. Truth without grace is bullying"--Jean-Anne Cooper

5. God is so much more bigger than I ever knew. Yes, more bigger. He is so much bigger than rules and walls. He is alive and active and beautiful and good. And He is in me. And that's the most beautiful part. Me. The girl who struggles to keep her home clean, the girl who has moments of doubt, this ex-Judas girl. He is in me and He is changing me.

6. God's community is so much more than "going to church". It's more than refreshments after church. It's forgiving without being asked to. REALLY forgiving, not resenting and SAYING I forgive but actually forgiving. It's INCLUDING, not condescending. It's serving. Not out of some codependent need, but with a heart that is indwelled by the Spirit and with the mind of Christ. It's full of safe people who don't believe or repeat or listen to ugly things said about another. It's bearing one anothers burdens and honoring each other. And saying the hard things. It's laying down my "rights" at Jesus' feet and allowing others to have their way instead of demanding my own. It's a LIFE. Not just a day of the week.

So far, I think the theme is...the Majesty of God and the breaking down of my walls of biases.

Monday, January 2, 2017

This is Hard to Say...But it Needs to be Said

I cannot express to you how much I do NOT want to say what I am going to tell you.

A while back I went through spiritual formation counseling.

The process began by personality tests and spiritual gifts assessments and then, and over a period of weeks and months, I was given spiritual disciplines assignments to complete and then I would report back periodically how each task had gone. It was all in an effort to find how I personally connect with God.

Bible reading, meditation and journaling were all very productive for me. Surprisingly though, silence and listening and community are all major players as well. Who would have thought?!

But, there's a major way that I connect with God that I had kind of missed.

I've written before about how I get great ideas when I'm washing dishes. But, at the time I was acknowledging this, my idea of connecting with God was much more narrow than it is now and so I didn't recognize it as connecting with God.

For the past little while I have been gobbling up every bit of Gods word that I can get. I have been reading the Bible and praying and journaling and listening to others explore God's word and spending time in community. I just am desperate for more of God. For His word. I want the mind of Christ. I want my flesh dead and my spirit alive and nourished and filled by Jesus and the Spirit.

All of this has been very valuable activity. And I wouldn't give back any of it but for the last 24 hours or so, I have felt the need for silence. For just sitting with God. To process it all and soak it in. But I've been struggling to accomplish that. It's like I just couldn't shut my brain down to just listen.

And so, today when I FINALLY went into my kitchen to clean it...I dug in and began the dirty work of washing dishes and bringing order back to the chaos,..I felt my spirit rest. And my soul connect. 

And I finally made the connection...(and believe me, I could NOT want to NOT say this more than I do. If I could bring on the writer's block at any moment...NOW would be the perfect time.) IconnectwithGodwhenIcleanmykitchen.

There, I said it. Whew! That was tough.

It's not just that I get good ideas when I wash dishes. For some reason, my spirit finds God's in the soap and water and scrubbing and restoration of order.

I don't know if cleaning the kitchen in particular requires a level of submission that Bible reading doesn't...actually, I take that back...I know it does. I could read my Bible all day every day...but even though I know that cleaning the kitchen is good for me...sometimes I put it off for long periods of time without doing it. It's dirty and time consuming. Like foot washing.

So...as much as I hate to say it...cleaning my kitchen is a spiritual discipline that I need to engage in more often.

Here is my before and after:



Sunday, December 4, 2016

My Way

My website, the one I've been writing from, will likely be offline in the next few days.

I've read articles, books, etc about how to get a blog off the ground. I maintained a Twitter for a while, made sure I had visual aids for my blog posts, posted on Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook.

I tried to make my site appealing. Because I'm a writer.

For a while I had a paid subscription to Lysa Terkheurst's website created for women who want to write or speak. I've tried to implement her suggestions to make my writing more appealing.

I've submitted my writing a couple of times to (in)Courage...only to get the same form rejection letter both times.

I've reinvented myself a million times, looking for whatever it is that successful writers have that draw people to them.

But most of all I have tried to follow God's leading, to listen for and follow His will. To use whatever gifts I have to draw people to Him. And that has mostly led to a lot of transparency on my part. A lot of confessions and just laying my brokenness in all it's broken glory out there for all the world to read.

I don't regret that. I don't regret any of it. But my blog isn't off the ground. What I think a successful writer is...I am not. I don't get a lot of shares on Facebook, I don't get a lot of page views and nobody is knocking at my door to publish a book.

The thing is, I am not going to stop writing. Because, for whatever reason, I believe that it's what God has given me. Even if my blog never gets off the ground and (in)Courage rejects everything I ever submit to them. I am not going to stop.

I am a writer. This is my thing. This is what God has given me. Even if nobody reads it or shares it on Facebook or ever wants to publish it. I am not going to stop. Because if God entrusted it to me, I am going to use it for His glory and nothing else. Page views, shares and publishers become irrelevant. If He uses it for something else, hurrah! If He only uses it to fill my time to keep me out of trouble...well okay then.

To God be the glory, forever and ever. Amen.






Go Your Own Way

I felt like a dirty mop. 

I drug myself from my bed, readied myself for work, worked for 8 hours...with a one hour break in the middle where I would do chores or run errands that I wouldn't have time to do after work...I picked up the kids and came home and made dinner super quickly, and then we all headed out the door. 

Sometimes there was no time for dinner prep or dinner at all

I felt like a dirty mop being used for jobs I wasn't prepared for. I was tired and frazzled and I never saw my kids in a meaningful way.

So a few weeks ago, my husband and I made a decision to bow out of all of our evening entanglements. Some we could stop immediately, others would require notice.

I really think it was the best thing we've ever done.

I have time to make good, tasty meals in the evening. We use real dishes. And we all sit at the table and we pass things. And we laugh. And water comes out of our noses.

And tonight, I threw potatoes

Sometimes it's hard to know what the right thing to do is. The things we were doing in the evenings were good things. Right things. 

It's just...both Michael and I felt an overwhelming push to simplify. To make dinner. To sit at the table together and pass things. To laugh until water comes out of our noses. To throw potatoes.

And I just can't imagine ever regretting this. Others may not agree. But for now, it's right for us. 

I see God doing something here. Here in the dinner making. The table sitting. The potato throwing. In the release of my own will and desire to please people in order to allow Him to direct our paths.  

The thing is, something just clicked for Michael and I a while back. We've always just kind of accepted the life we had because we thought it was ALL we COULD have. But, for whatever reason, we finally realized that we can have the life we've always wanted. And this simplification is kind of step 1 in our overall plan. 

We've submitted our plan to God and are following His lead, and I am excited about where He is going to take us!