Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Homelessness, Miracles at Target, & Needing Everything

Two Sundays ago, the kids and I hit Target for groceries on the way home from church. These days, Target trips go like this for us:

The kids run to the toy section together, with the oldest in charge (we all pretend that will go well). I fill my cart to overflowing capacity with every food item that exists in the western world. Then I walk up and down every aisle to see all the shiny, pretty Target things. Finally, I gather my children and refuse to buy four $300 Lego sets and whatever new trading cards they are now collecting ("collecting" means talking about said cards like they are precious metals mined from magical caves in Rainbowland, but then actually throwing those cards all over the place like garbage and never caring if they get ruined or thrown away). 
When I roll up to the check-out with my cart, I see it in that Target employee's eyes every time, "THIS IS NOT ACTUALLY A GROCERY STORE, LADY."  
But Target has cute fall scarves and a rocking toy section, so we keep coming back. 
Once our food is all scanned and bagged, the cart is no longer big enough to hold the stuff I strategically stacked with my Tetris-champion skillz. I am offered a second cart. Then the total comes up on the screen, and Boy 1 shouts the number out loud because he can't believe we have to pay THAT MUCH MONEY
Every single time I shop, as I swipe my debit card I thank God for the money to live so luxuriously: six kinds of cereal, three gallons of milk, all the fruit we want, expensive meat, bread for days, chocolate everything. It feels like a miracle to have so much.

That particular Sunday, when we drove out of the parking lot, we saw a mom and two littles holding a sign that said, "We have nothing. Please help."

And we got to pass a small portion of our miracle on to her.

The kids and I talked about the challenges that mother faced as we drove home. And one of my kids said something that surprised me, "I think it must be easier to love God if you are poor."

I asked him why he thought that.

"Because you need Him so much more. For, like, EVERYTHING."

My son's words keep rolling around in my soul. We have a fairly large homeless community at our church. On Sundays, I routinely chat with some of them, and they really do need God for, like, EVERYTHING. And they need us to make space for them to be seen, loved, and safe.

But I don't think it's easier for them to love God. I just think it's easier for them to admit that loving God is not an easy thing to do. They don't pretend to have it all together. They don't hide their weaknesses and needs, because they can't.

By contrast, people who can get almost everything with a swipe of a debit card easily forget the great provision of God. We forget we need Him for, like, EVERYTHING. Loving God can become one item on the checklist of our very full lives.

But really loving God is hard. Loving God requires needing Jesus so much we are willing to follow Him into uncomfortable places, where our weaknesses become His powerful displays of grace. Jesus always asked ridiculous things of the people who wanted to follow Him: sell all their possessions, forgive everything and everyone, stay awake and pray, believe the impossible could happen, love God more than their culture. Jesus saw the great need of their hearts, and asked them to do those things so they could see their weaknesses and then find God's strength and power.

We find our weaknesses and God calls them gifts. 2 Corinthians 12 says to brag about our weaknesses, because in them His power is made perfect.

There is no great cure for our need here in this life. There is only a God of Great Love who is looking for us to hold up a sign that says, "We have nothing. Please help."

That's when the real miracles begin.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 
When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?”
But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Matthew 19:23-26 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

the one thing everyone should know about us

"We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end."
-Hebrews 3:14

Last week my children and I sat in early morning light, reading. I looked around and asked them a simple question.

"What is the one thing you want everyone- friends, family, acquaintances- to know about you?"

I really expected some funny answers about being "epic and awesome", liking sports, or being smart. But my six year-old piped up first with this:

"I want people to know I love Jesus."

Oh, girl. You and me both.

One by one, the boys tried to think of any answer that was better than that one. No one could. We sat there looking at each other, admitting this one satisfying truth: 

Loving Jesus defines us.

My thoughts ran back in time to the day I first learned that truth. It was twenty-one years ago today that my soul stood on a shore by a small boat.

The boat was the choice to belong Jesus, to dedicate all the days of my life to following Him, to choose to know Him and be known by Him forever. The longer I live, the less sure I am that there was any other choice I could have made that day.

I held in my hand the the gospel. I could not bear the weight of my sin. I was not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, or talented enough to belong anywhere, and yet God wanted me to belong to Him. He loved me because He is far better than anything we can find here on earth.

I got in the boat that day and pushed out into the water. I've been navigating these waters ever since. This ocean has a name. It's called My Song.

In the last twenty-one years I have lived many things. I have felt loved and I have felt lost. I have laughed and I have mourned. In my weakness is God's strength. In my need is God's mercy. In my victory is His goodness.

Around me My Song forever stretches farther than my eyes can see. The words I sing over the waters continually change except for one. But always, I am singing His name.

For twenty-one years this been constant:
 Jesus has always been loving me.

So how could I ever give up on Him? Besides, never giving up is how we make it home. Let's hold onto our boats and listen for His voice. We will get there together.

Here's to the next twenty-one years and beyond. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

ten ways we suffer as moms & Radiant Moms Registration!!!

Last week I saw Halloween costumes in Costco and Thanksgiving plates at Hobby Lobby. It’s a true shock, but Fall is upon us. While I am sad to say that means an end to my favorite season, I am happy it also means the beginning of a new semester of Radiant Moms at Mosaic Church Austin.

Radiant Moms is a monthly gathering of moms, talking about the real life, the real love, and the real struggles of motherhood. We meet at the church in Northwest Austin, have a different speaker each month, lots of food and coffee, and if you are a mom, YOU SHOULD COME!!! We also do Moms Nights Out together and set up playdates for the moms with itty bitties We are a fun people.

Because being a mom will mess you up. Between the hormones, the guilt, the massive shuttling of children from event to event, and the sleep deprivation, it can be a rocky road. Every mother has faced a time or two when they can't keep their rational mind, their current circumstances, and their emotional health straight. We need each other, my sisters.

Below is the link to the registration page for Radiant Moms. We meet on the first Thursday morning of the month, and registration is free if you are not signing up any children for childcare. 


Now as a reward for all that hard work you did registering, I shall list out ten ways we suffer as moms. Because nothing says motherhood like a good martyr complex. Am I right??

Ten Ways We Suffer As Moms

10. It seems like their birthdays should be your special day, too. When Boy 1 turned one, I remember watching him smash a cake and thinking, "A year ago, I was suffering in ways I couldn't have imagined before that day...." I definitely felt like I should get my own cake, my own present, and a parade in my honor. But instead, everyone just looked adoringly at that cute little blonde head, all covered in frosting and sang to him. Welcome to motherhood!

9. Art projects. Pinterest is the place you go to find out that you don't do enough cool stuff with your kids. You should let them melt crayons with a hair dryer, paint canvases with their whole bodies, and cut up endless pieces of newspaper then dip them in glue to make paper maché pumpkins for the fall. But of course, you should also keep up with the laundry, pay the bills, do the dishes, clean the bathrooms, organize a nice backpack station, and create your own stencils while you manage their messy, gluey pumpkins. Or, you could just avoid Pinterest altogether, which is my own personal favorite hobby.

8. Being Amish. Every time the question arises, "Can we play on the Wii/watch Spongebob/go online/hit the Red Box?", being Amish is so tempting. A quiet country life, full of the simple joy of surviving winter by your own hard work and ingenuity looks pretty good. But then you remember that your Maytag would stay in the 'burbs, along with your make-up, the dishwasher, and the latest Pottery Barn catalog. Boo.

7. The cost of responsible living. I want to feed my family only the healthiest organic foods. I want to buy local. I want to drive a vehicle that leaves zero carbon footprint. I want to live in a house run only on solar and wind power. I want to avoid all food coloring. I want them to never know what processed sugar tasted like. I want to research every product we use and be sure that none of them come from areas of the world where unfair labor conditions are oppressing the people making them. Sigh.... This is expensive and difficult to do. I hate that. We can't really financially or time-wise afford all that we want in our lives, and somewhere we must take a step back, prioritize that list, and then accept that the best we can do will have to be enough today.

6. Legos. There are approximately 8 bazillion Lego pieces in our house. These fantastic, creative, intelligence-boosting toys are so cool. My kids build things and then put them on the shelves in their room, the coffee table in the living room, their sister's play kitchen, my real kitchen, my bed, the TV console, the bathroom sink.... If anyone can tell me when it is okay to dismantle one of these 2,000 creations, I will bake you a cake for infinity. When is a pile of loose pieces on the floor no longer a "building station"? When can I vacuum them all up and pretend I never saw them? And how do I help my son understand that the Star Wars Lego set he and his dad built will never stay together forever if he insists on carrying it from room to room? I love Legos. I hate Legos.

5. You want some time off, but you wish for the power to freeze them. I love a night out, a getaway with my husband, or any small break from having the needs of my children at the forefront of my mind all day. But I want absolutely nothing to happen while I am gone. I would like to freeze time while I set sail on a cruise. They should not learn any new information, experience any amazing moments, do any first-time thing (roll over, crawl, zip line, etc), or develop in any way while I am gone. I want to come home to them being exactly as I left them, thank you very much.

4. You want them to snuggle up in your bed- no wait- YOU DON'T!!! Is there any more complicated moment than the day one of your children comes and cozies into bed and you wake up to a child who is a co-sleeper, when you never planned to co-sleep a day in your life? Everyone probably handles it differently, but everyone also loves having the snuggly sweet child next to them and agonizes as the decision of what to do is made. Children are so angelic while they are sleeping. I think I actually wish one of mine would come and cozy up with me right now....

3. You are like a drug dealer, except you specialize in sugar. We are their source. We bake the cookies, buy the ice cream, and pass out the candy. Without us, their dreams of chocolate covered gummy bears would never come true. This is a great place of power. We should never assume that they haven't figured out exactly how to get the most goodies possible from us. Our children are cunning addicts, and even if school days are sugar-free days, they know Sunday is coming and there will be mints in the lobby at church. Eureka, they will shout, as they stuff their pockets.

2. You love/hate it when no one can survive without you. Any time you are away for a day, a night, a weekend, and you find out it did not go well, there is a sickening joy that fills your heart. Sure, you are sad that your husband had to deal with two screaming toddlers in Target alone. Of course you would like to know that your children can be totally happy and secure while staying with their grandparents. Yes, you wish you could come home to a peaceful, happy family. But since none of that is actually what happened, knowing that everything was not completely perfect without you is satisfying on two levels. First: Now other people know what a really bad day with your kids is like, and you will forever be their hero. And second: You know you are needed- really, really needed, and that is one of the deepest longings of every mother's heart.

1. You are torn when they outgrow younger ways. Even though we know that one day they will say "blueberries", and not "boo-bewwies", that the blankie they can't live without shouldn't still be needed in college, that it will be easier to go places when they no longer want to wear a princess dress or a Spiderman costume everywhere, and that they will someday be done with old toys and hit puberty (may we find the strength to endure the hormones), we are sad to leave those things in the past. Littles are happy, joyful additions to our lives, and although we love that they grow out of the sleepless nights, the diapers, and the crying whenever they want something, we miss the babies we once held.

Shoot. Now I want a baby....