Tuesday, April 21, 2015

midlife and mercy for the mamas and the papas

Growing up is hard to do.

Because we live in the land of the free and the brave; because our parents told us that we could do anything we set our minds to do; because the blessings of capitalism and democracy have declared that we can "have it all"; because of all those things and more, we spend our youths continually growing and expanding. 

It is an adding, this growing up of ours: adding skills, knowledge, responsibilities, privileges, choices, and freedoms.

Remember the shock we felt when our parents didn't think we were old enough to wear eyeliner/ stay up later/ have a voice in a decision about our future/ eat cake for breakfast? Remember the inner smugness we felt when we reminded ourselves that someday, we would get to do it all our own way? And then, recall the joy when we sat behind the steering wheel of our own life and pulled out of the driveway and into the great big world of freedom at last?  

Slowly, adulthood is gathered like daisies from a great big field of beauty. Sure, there are some ant piles that get us along the way, and we fall down sometimes, but we fill up our basket: career, love, accomplishment, adventure, quiet days, grand plans. 

Until the day we realize we are the fullest we have ever been, and we begin to see that, sure, the adding continues, but the basket has a crack in it. One by one, tiny petals are slowly blown away by the winds of time. That sneaky storm of time has blown us into midlife, and we are no longer the starry eyed youths we once were.

Midlife is simply the moment that we realize we have as much to gain as we have to lose, and that there are parts of life we cannot hold forever. We have learned we can't actually have it all, but we also have decided "having it all" may not be as great as we once thought. We take inventory a lot in midlife. We want to keep a firm grasp on what we can and cannot control:

We are losing our patience for Jerry-Springer-type drama in our immediate lives.

We are gaining the Jerry-Springer-type drama of our teenage children and their friends.

We are losing the carefree years of our flashy youth and easy health.

We are gaining quieter years of rich friendships and trusted confidants.

We are losing their baby faces and tiny hand prints.

We are gaining their funny and insightful conversations and the trust of our growing children.

We are losing career options and opportunities. (We are almost as high as we are probably going to rise.)

We are gaining stability and experience, balance and perspective, wisdom and patience.

The past slips away, and we know now that the happy future means letting go of today, so we cling to right here, right now.

We trade our baskets for a sturdy bucket in midlife (much more practical), and along with the flowers of today we gather the water of what can never be taken away from us. Eternity flows from a fountain that washes away everything we gain and lose in life. We are filled for His glory, then drained to show the world His greatness. We learn to receive what is offered with thanksgiving, even when it is destined to be taken away someday.

But there are days the flowers we just finally gathered and placed in that bucket fly out faster than we can stand. We never know what's going to happen to send our bouquet streaming out all over the place.

This time, for me, it was just a haircut. But, as we all know, there's rarely such a thing as "just a haircut".

My sweet daughter has had hair past her waist since always and forever, it seems. Every day, she has worn thick, golden tresses that most women only dream of growing out of their pretty heads. But for a year now she has wanted to cut it off. A mama can only ask her to wait for so long.

Last Saturday was the day it all sort of crashed into place, and the inevitable happened. I know it's only hair. I know it will grow back. But it broke my heart.

I still don't understand exactly why. I suspect it's because being a mama is really, really complicated.

Only a mama knows that even though hair can grow back, the truth that she is no longer a baby, or even "little", changes more than I would like for both of us. The days won't grow back like they once were. I stand here with a bucket in my hand and a field of big girl flowers spread out before me. The field of baby days is far behind us, and I taste the bitter irony of the truth that when we are shopping for prom dresses someday in far off pastures, I will long for these "littler" kindergarten days.

The truth is, my children aren't the only ones growing up. My view from the fountain of forever proves I have a very long way to go, and many buckets to fill before I will be fully grown myself. Midlife is really only the beginning of our stories, as unfathomable as that is for our earthly minds.

There is space here, in the midlife; space to freak out about haircuts and mistakes and the growing pains we face. There is time to get mad, to apologize, to try again, and to hold hands and laugh at all the things we got wrong when we were younger. We have grace and love and truth cheering us on, and a God who delights in who we are every day. We are His every. day. delight. That alone is a miracle I can scarcely wrap my heart around often enough.

And in the end, all the space we give ourselves and others means that mercy triumphs. We will cross the finish line with arms raised up, emptying our buckets one last time for the glory of the God who led us all the way home. Because growing up means finding our way back to the Father who calls us with whispers through the winds of time.

No, it's never just a haircut. It's always a stepping stone to Him along the path. And it is how He wins our hearts.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

dear angry child...

Dearest Angry Child,

I hear you.

I hear your loud words, your cries of distress, your accusations, and your frustration with your circumstances.

I also see you. 

I see your eyes rolling, your fists clenched, your foot stomping, and your red face of ire.

I have been in your place, and I know what it's like. I do, really. I have had words that exploded from my mouth before I was able to catch them. I have lost self-control, had my pride offended, and wanted to make someone pay for the offenses that have wounded me.

Sometimes I am surprised by your outbursts, but the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, I suppose. All God's children have to walk this road of anger to learn what to do with it, and who we want to be when the tempest of our own soul is stirred into a frenzy of fierce emotion.

I, myself, am just now learning that anger is not bad or wrong. It is a part of life. Much like hunger is necessary for us to feel so we will fuel our bodies, we need anger to remind us to fuel our souls. Why would we reach for forgiveness, love, mercy, and compassion if we weren't first angry about the injustice, cruelty, or pain in the world? Anger is an arrow to our merciful, loving, and forgiving God.

What we do with anger may be one of the most important decisions we make for our souls and for the world.

So let's get down to business, sweet child of mine. I cannot walk this path for you. All I can do is decide who I will be when you engage me with your own rage.

I will not yell back at you. I will calmly ask you to lower your voice, or instruct you to go calm down somewhere else before addressing me again.

I will not take the blame. You are mad things didn't work out, people won't do as you please, or that you can't have exactly what you want. As the parent I am often the bearer of bad news for you. Even so, I can't change the rules of life for you, make people do what you want them to do, or stop the world from ruining your plans today.

I will point you to repentance. If you lashed out at people, you need to make amends. The people you hurt are God's children, and therefore worthy of love. You were not loving when you yelled, threw things, and fought with words and fists. Apologize to them and God, and ask Him to help you. Self-control is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, and your life can be changed by the discipline of repentance and prayer.

I will help you find a solution. When you find the self-control to have a rational discussion, I would love to talk about your options. Every problem has a solution, although the consequences of your choice may not be as appealing as you would like. Welcome to life, dear child. Sometimes you have to take what you can get.

I will love you no matter what. Should you choose to let anger win the battle, I will still love you. If you continue to point your finger at me or someone else, I will still love you. If you won't repent, I will still love you. But know now, uncontrolled anger is an unwise and lonely way to live your life. When you decide you want my help, I will be here for you.

In the end, dear child, you must learn to discern which are the battles you have been created to fight. You will learn to fight for God's goodness and His glory. Humility will regulate your prideful tendencies. You are God's warrior, created to stand firm in His righteousness, and He doesn't want you to lose your mighty calling to do that.

I am grateful and proud to be your mom. It is an honor to walk along with you as you learn to love and make peace in the midst of battle. In many ways, mothering you well has been a battle ground of my own soul, and I would not know God as I do were it not for you. When the day comes that you strike out on your own, I will raise a banner of praise to God for all He has done in both of us both along the way.

I know you are still angry, but I also know that this too shall pass. When it does, the love will remain, and all the drama will have been a worthwhile adventure in learning grace and mercy. So hang in there, kiddo.

I love you,

"For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." -Ephesians 3:14-19 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

beautiful shame

I see Your face as it rises over the land,
Who can behold such a vision and not surely die?

I stand amazed.

I crumble slowly in the light of Your mercy,
Fear flourishes within as pieces of me I deemed precious fall lifeless from my grip.

The trumpet blasts- I fall to my knees;
The darkness within me spins as a cyclone, a mighty wind within.

My great need sucks the Word into my soul,
Like spark and wood, Your presence and Your promise ignite.

I am ablaze.

Sparks fly within as Christ my brother opens His arms;
I can't deny the beauty and tragedy of this sacrifice.

I am consumed by this Love and this Lesson,
And born again by the Spirit of the Holy, Righteous God.

I will never be the same again.

He has made my ugliness His glory,
He calls my shame His own and sets me free.

The fear of all I lose for Him subsides in the light of all I gain;
How can a Love like this be for me?

Another beautiful shame has come home.