Monday, September 1, 2014

learning new songs in the wilderness of motherhood

Therefore I am now going to allure her;
I will lead her into the desert
and speak tenderly to her.
There I will give her back her vineyards,
and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
There she will sing as in the days of her youth, 
as in the day she came up out of Egypt.
-Hosea 2:14-15

The boys in the days after the B&N ban

Back when the boys were one year-old, two years-old, and three years-old, I banned us from the book store Barnes & Noble.

The ban was enacted after one of the hardest days of my life unfolded in that store.

We had eaten at Sonic for lunch, and arrived at B&N armed with new motorcycles from the kids' meals. After walking through the doors we headed straight for the train table set up in the kids' area. This was one of our favorite outings: Mommy read a book while the boys played and socialized.

My oldest had just become potty-trained.

If a newly potty-trained toddler says he needs to go to the bathroom, you run to the closest toilet you can find. 

Here's the first thing I learned during our stay at B&N that day: When a one year-old and a two year-old have to leave Thomas the Train to go to the bathroom with their older brother five times in a two hour period, the screaming intensifies each time.

The second thing I learned was this: Mommy has a hard time carrying two screaming toddlers to the potty and helping a third toddler get on the potty, while attempting to maintain her patience and her dignity.

After the fifth trip to the bathroom, we were all miserable. I decided we should just go home.

The third lesson of the day was: Leaving to go home is ten times worse than Having to go to the bathroom.

I walked out of B&N carrying one flailing, screaming boy under one arm, another under the other, as the third boy wailed and marched along behind me. The agony was intensified when one boy realized he had left his brand new motorcycle inside. After the humiliating exit we had made, I was unwilling to re-enter the store for the motorcycle, because I knew if we didn't find it our re-exit would be catastrophic.

That's when I lowered the edict: No more Barnes & Noble. I was sad to do it, but I knew it would rarely go better than it had that day now that one child was potty-trained and they were all three in the season of toddler meltdown management.

We stayed home a lot for the next few years. No bounce house trips were made. No Chick Fil A playscape lunches were enjoyed. One woman can only do so much with three willful little people. 

At first it seemed like a wilderness. We were stuck. We were deprived of a lot of fun. I felt badly for my children who were missing out. I felt guilty that my ability to manage our circumstances was not more honed. I felt sorry for myself a bit, too.

But it was in that lonely place of motherhood that God spoke tenderly to me. He called me out of my sadness and reminded me of His plan. He gave me hope that I was not only surviving my season of little children, I was molding them for a future I could not see. 

I learned to embrace the pain of my current circumstances, knowing that they passed through the hand of the Almighty. And I comforted myself with the thought that every season ends eventually.

We lifted the ban a couple of years ago. Barnes & Noble can once again be enjoyed by us all. My children ask me to tell the horrific tale of our last day at B&N regularly. They think it is hilarious. 

I tell it and smile at the details of their screaming now. The pain of the day is gone for me. 

When I look back, I only see God's goodness in that humiliating walk out of the store that day. He led me to the end of myself so that I could know Him more deeply.

In the wilderness of motherhood I learned to sing again.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

twenty years of Jesus and imperfect me

Twenty years ago today, this very day, Jesus saved me from my sin, from a dreary life without Him. He wrapped His life and death up in the good news of His sacrifice, tied a knot around my soul, and I was forever bound to Him.

I feel quiet in my soul, relishing the memories, celebrating the deep tides of God’s love through the years. I have been foolish, selfish, and ignorant of what grace really means so many times. And yet, He remains and I am still His.

“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

My veil is off these days, worldly perfection is a ruse and I am casting it aside. All I want is more glorious transformation from Him, and I'm calling this desperation for Jesus a new level of normal Christian life.

It’s a silly question, to ask if God’s children should have pain, imperfections, or find themselves beset by sorrows. We live to die, and we die so that we can live, we carry crosses and wrestle lions, and we are weak in many ways so that Christ can become our strength. Life is hard.

Some people can’t wait to see what God will do with their lives. I have only ever wanted to see how I will be delivered from mine. It is often dark in here and I grow weary of seeking a door hidden so far down the hall it may take me years to find it.

But the moment I gave up groping along the hallway, the door was suddenly right there.

God is vast and unchanging, and yet forever creating new ways to enter our lives and unlock our souls. He supernaturally shapes His voice and hand to fit perfectly into the hell we have created in the midst of our circumstances, our relationships, and our own false beliefs. He rarely comes to us the same way twice. But He never fails to come when we call.

And so He has come again for me. Twenty years of growing have proven one thing to me: I am always smaller and weaker than I need to be, and God is always grander and more gentle than I expect Him to be. The more I grow in Him, the more I need Him, and the more aware I am that His ways are not my ways.

Two decades are a tiny spark in the flame of eternity, and a mere splinter in the door to forever with Jesus in glory. But they are the twenty years I share and treasure with Christ, and they are more than I have deserved and yet less than He plans to joyfully lavish upon me.

Because Jesus is full of amazing-mystery-love-stuff-I-can't-even-fathom and He treasures my imperfect little self who is generally full of nonsense and straight-up crap. Isn't it amazing? He's undeniably worth seeking, following, and loving.

Twenty years down, sixty-ish to go of this normal Christian life, and then on through the door to forever with Him. This journey just keeps getting better all the time....

Monday, August 18, 2014

butterflies, balloons, and the gospel of metamorphosis

In January, I asked God to name 2014 and He told me to call the year "New Things". I didn't understand it, but I liked the way those two words are full of hope and happiness, like a dozen rainbow balloons flying out of your hands up into clouds and distant horizons.

So I named it and I claimed it and this is the year of New Things.

In the Spring we walked up to the front door one day and saw a dozen caterpillars diligently crawling along the eaves of our house, seeking safe places to hide while they became new things. It seemed like a blessing, to be chosen by so many creatures as a place of metamorphosis. We checked their progress daily, finally laughing all delighted with wonder when we saw brand new Mourning Cloak butterflies emerge before our eyes.

Two weeks ago, Boy 3 brought one of those butterflies right in the house from the yard. It was tattered and worn, a broken butterfly with many stories to tell. We let it sit on the windowsill for a few hours that afternoon and whisper its secrets to us. Butterflies are magical creatures, made from God's love of beauty and wonder, and their silent presence is full of His soulful depth.

I don't know if God sent us that butterfly or not, but I know He spoke to me when it fluttered away into our yard later, "Broken wings can fly free, too." Well. I suppose they can, now can't they?

Moment by moment I am learning so many new things this year. Mostly, I am learning that I've been crawling up brick walls for a while now, seeking a safe place to cocoon and transform. This is the year of New Things, metamorphoses, and wings that carry me up to the happy destinations of rainbow balloons.

I may be a little quiet here on the blog while I sort out the details of it all. I will still be writing, I will still be working, I will still be loving Jesus and all that He is doing. But balloons and butterflies and the words of a Holy God are best heard in a quiet place. So, I hope that you hear some words of your own, and that when I am back, we will share all the mysteries we have learned about ourselves and God.

Because that's where this is all leading, isn't it? To a mysterious place called tomorrow, and there is more beauty in that than any other hope that rises heavenward. And for that hope, He is most worthy of our praise.

"I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart;
before the “gods” I will sing your praise.

I will bow down toward your holy temple
    and will praise your name
    for your unfailing love and your faithfulness,
for you have so exalted your solemn decree
    that it surpasses your fame.
When I called, you answered me;
    you greatly emboldened me."
Psalm 138:1-3