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....

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

losing jesus

A few summers ago, our family did a whirlwind four days at Disneyworld. Doing Disney with four children under seven means several things will happen.

First, it means there will be at least one miserable person in your party at all times. It may be the kid who is too small to ride Space Mountain. Or possibly the child lying on the filthy floor of a public bathroom because he is “starving” and “dying of thirst” twenty minutes after lunch. Often, the unhappy person is the pack-mule parent, lugging umbrellas, snacks, diaper bag, and three children’s backpacks. This beast of burden is also the same person who can’t believe the vast sum of money she paid in order to endure the sticky heat and the bad attitudes of four entitled and crabby children.

Second, it means lots of counting. “1,2,3,4 kids in line at Pirates of the Caribbean.” “1,2,3,4 children have exited the carousel.” “1,2,3,4 little people walking through Fantasyland.” “1,2,3...where is Finley??? Oh! I forgot. I’m holding her....” Everywhere you go, you count your children. Until you don’t. That’s when you lose one.

We lost two, actually. Technically, my husband lost them. (I was on a ride, so I can throw him under the bad parent bus and keep my stellar-parent girl scout badge.) Also technically, he didn’t lose them; they escaped. Two of the boys wandered out of a gift shop and then kept walking. They made their way from one souvenir cart to another, going farther and farther from him. They realized they were lost, thought about fixing that problem, and then decided they weren't lost at all when they found super duper pop guns out in the great wide open world of all things Disney. This joyous pop gun war went on for twenty minutes.

A very nervous Morgan frantically searched while forming an explanation of the loss of two children to me when I got off the ride. Any parent who has ever lost their child momentarily knows twenty minutes feels more like twenty hours. 

All was well in the end, but it made me wonder what it felt like for Jesus’ parents when they lost him for three days when he was twelve. It must have been horrific, because when they find him in Luke 2 Mary says, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” 

Mary was good with the guilt. I appreciate her early example of how to lay it on thick in the Message version, where she tells Jesus they were “half out of their minds looking for him”, which captures the horror of not only losing your son, but also feeling like you’ve failed God in caring for the child He entrusted to you.

Poor Mary, she lost her cherished son and her calling all at once when she lost Jesus.

Jesus told her she should have known right where He was all the time. (Jesus was pretty cheeky. That's what comes of being an eternal member of the trinity while having completely mortal parents, I suppose.) Bottom line: Jesus wasn’t lost. He was shooting pop guns at the Temple like a champ.

Losing some things is harder than losing others. Keys aren't such a big deal. Wallets are a pain to lose. Lost wedding rings seem tragic. Our naivete is lost one bully, one bad word, one news clip, and one cruelty after another. Some lose their hope after too many unanswered prayers. Others lose their fear in one giant leap of faith. Our youth is left behind the same way my boys left my husband’s side: while we go about our business it wanders away, unseen. We lose our way, lose our words, lose our memories, lose our patience, and some days we may lose our minds.

But we can never really lose Jesus. That’s what Mary learned after she went crazy looking for her son for three days. It’s what the disciples learned after their broken hearts wandered aimlessly in shock for three days after the crucifixion. It is the lesson we all face eventually, standing in the dark, deciding Jesus is right where He is meant to be and we aren't as far from Him as we feel. And so we keep seeking Him, loving Him, learning to be faithful in His ways in the midst of the chaos.

We never know when or where we'll glimpse Him at last. But when we do, we realize that losing Jesus is always the beginning of everything we really want in life. It’s how we find our way home.

Most everything else just fills the time before we find Him, kind of like counting to four endlessly, or shooting a pop gun at your brother in the middle of Disneyworld.

So today, I'm over here counting heads and trusting Him. How about you? 

1, 2, 3, 4, Jesus.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

a safe and biblical marriage

We are back from vacation, feeling rested, feeling loved, and sort of ready for the hectic days ahead in August. My mind is stuck on the memory of one day last week, when Mr. Fantastic and I got caught in a thunderstorm in the middle of vast park.

We were taking a break from real life, having a day for just the two of us: no kids, no phones, no email. We had walked and walked until blisters formed on our feet. The rain drove us under cover, and it was romantic for about an hour, clinging to one another under an umbrella as cars splashed by us. Then it was just cold and wet and slightly miserable.

He loves this kind of stuff. Me, not so much.

If I had my way, I would stay home, paint furniture, read books, drink coffee, be perfectly comfortable, risk nothing, and never know a single true adventure. But this man drags me along with him, giving me his love and the whole world to boot.

fake happy faces in the middle of the storm

I didn't marry someone who lets me get away with hiding from what life really is, from who I am, or from who I could become if I believed the truth about what God says about me. I leaped into love with the person who makes life worth living, and who thinks the wide world fits me perfectly.

This journey of love and marriage we are on is not easy or tame, but it is safe because God is with us.

A safe marriage isn't one that dares us to risk nothing. A safe marriage is one out there on the open sea of life, taking the waves courageously, and relying on only one true Lighthouse as a guide.

I could have married a man who thinks a woman should stay quietly behind him, or one who would keep me securely under his thumb. That would have been easier and harder all at the same time. I could have hidden in a man's shadow and let him be the lord of our little life. But I didn't choose that kind of man. I married this man, the one who takes me by the hand as we shove out into unchartered waters and prays for God to meet us in the waves.

God doesn't always show up when and how we expect, though. We seek a Light we can't always see, a shore beyond this world, and a holiness that a man and a woman are incapable of living without the blood of a perfect lamb. Our God sleeps soundly through tempests, He holds our brokenness as a treasure, and dares us to throw ourselves overboard into His grace and mercy when our wills conflict with His own.

Having a biblical marriage means we need the gospel more than we need air to breathe. Some days we are Samson and Delilah, and I want to cut the hair that makes my husband strong. Others we are both Davids- people born after God's own heart, living humbly and with enough courage to take a sling and a stone and conquer a giant. We often are Ruth and Boaz, living differently than society says we should, but wholly in the will of God. And many days we are the lover and the beloved, knocking on bedroom doors, passionately counting the ways our love offers a refuge for our wounded souls.

After the rain let up a little, we sloshed out of the park. We stopped at an ice cream stand for a chocolate cone. We could feel the tides of our responsibilities pulling us back out into deep waters, but we turned away from them and ignored the waves for just a bit longer.

Life is a complicated mixture of oceans to cross and mountains to climb and moments spent eating chocolate ice cream in the park that give us courage for the journey ahead. For a few more hours that day, we would walk a little slower and savor the sweetness.