Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Advent

She's not asking me why yet. She's a mighty little chatterbox who has lots of words in her vocabulary – functional words like shoe and milk, typical words like bye and outside, unusual words like tickle and clock, and fanciful words that only make sense in her toddler mind – but 'why' isn't a part of her life yet. She's still focused on the concrete, the names and the things and the places. The why is a detail that's harder to reach because we don't know to ask the question until we've run out of answers. The why requires a journey, and many times these broken vessels we call our selves never arrive at the destination.
Struggling during Christmas season

And that is why faith can be so hard. 'Why' is not an easy question to answer. The expectation of hope can be beautiful, but the expectation of an arrival that has yet to come can be like a tiny flame in a dark winter night, waiting in peril for the slight draft that will blow it out.

For those of us who are experiencing a season of so much anticipation, so much expectation, while suffering through all the hurt and disappointment of the seasons before, guarding that candle's flame can feel like a lost cause. What's the use in protecting a fire that doesn't appear to give enough light or warmth?

To everyone who is broken this season, to everyone who is weary and tired, to everyone who has battled loneliness or loss or addiction, fear of the unknown, unfulfilled dreams, illness, financial hardship, painful relationships, or suffering beyond what is even imaginable –

There is hope on the horizon.

That is what this season is meant to represent. Though much of our experience has taught us that joy is hard to come by and pain will inevitably prevail, what we've come to expect is not always what arrives. Joy is coming. We hold the candle to invite Him in so that the peace of His presence can fulfill what the flame cannot.

When she's older and asking me harder questions than “Cookie?”, she may find that at times, the answers don't fulfill the longing. They aren't meant to. There is more to seek beyond answers, beyond expectations. My prayer is that asking why would always point her back to 'who'.

We celebrate. We prepare. And we wait with yearning for the joy to come.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Why I'll Be Rejoicing In November

Oy, this election. You're killing me, Smalls.

Election seasons are hard. This is nothing new, and yet every time one happens we seem to act even crazier than before. I will admit, however, that this one is particularly bad, for reasons of which I'm sure some of us are all too aware.

Beginning long before this outlandish spectacle began, I have often found myself under the spell of discouragement, and even at times, of despair. As the world appears to spiral more and more out of control with each passing day, I get caught up in the horror of it all far more often than I should. It's like a disease that flows over into other parts of my life, affecting even the areas that are supposed to be filled with joy.

That is complete and utter insanity.

Given all I know about God and His promises, and His incredible grace and love, I am nothing but a great fool when I give myself over to the pain and confusion this world has to offer. Why do I hold this redemptive hope in my hands and still walk around like it doesn't exist? I have everything and act as though I have nothing.

Every obstacle should be viewed as more opportunity to grow in grace, to fully understand that my life does not end with my departure from this earth. If it did, I'd have every reason in the world to fret, throw my hands up in disgust, and give up. Instead, I have every reason in the book to celebrate.

God is sovereign. “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2). “The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all” (Psalm 103:19). None of this has changed. Just because I feel as though everything is completely out of control doesn't mean that it actually is.

He is good. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). It doesn't look good. It doesn't feel good. In fact, I'm willing to bet that most of us would describe the past several months (and longer) as awful. But we trust in Him and all His wisdom and might and love because HE is good. Even when we're surrounded by the bad, we're enveloped in the good.

He wins. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). We are already victorious. In spite of ourselves, all that is messed up in this world will not defeat us. We will not remain in the wilderness forever.

I am vowing to remember these points as I set out to change my approach. I've lived far too long under the blanket of defeat, missing out on the peace held out to me just on the other side.

I will rejoice because I still have the abundant life, and I carry blessings with me in each and every step I take.

I will be thankful for that knowledge and remember that until my dying breath, I will fight for what matters.

I will not allow my sense of worth to diminish because I feel as though my voice hasn't been heard.

I will not forget that there is a plan and purpose for it all, even when it hurts, even when it sucks, even when I am in fear.

I will seek to live in the light of glory, praising Him with every breath.

I will not throw my hands in the air and give up and quit fighting and close my eyes and wait for it all to be over. I will not let the fire in my soul burn out. I will walk this weary road, but I will not forget where it leads.


Sunday, July 17, 2016

Laid Bare

I don't belong here. I'm worthless. What's the point?

I felt it when I held my sick, teething baby and wondered why I couldn't be any better at this. Upset and frustrated, I cried along with her, telling myself I didn't deserve children because I couldn't handle the hard parts. Not like other moms could. I didn't have patience, I couldn't handle sleep deprivation, and what kind of mother is angry because she is exhausted? I'm bad at this just like I'm bad at everything else, I thought.

I feel it when I want to write encouraging posts for other Christian moms, so I delve into the latest from other bloggers and writers I've enjoyed, but I can't relate. Their posts are progressive and provocative, and I am not. I question if I even truly have a platform or if what I'm doing even matters or makes a difference. If this is my calling, then why do I get the sense that I don't belong? No one even cares what I have to say anyway.

I feel it when I've spent months working out hard and eating right and doing all the healthy things but still not getting completely rid of the tummy that housed three little souls until their births. It's not enough that I lost all the baby weight and then some because there are other women doing it better. She's had kids too – how did she get that flat stomach and those abs? If she can be that fit, why can't I? It's useless for me. I guess I should just give up.

I tell myself that I'm telling myself lies, but for some reason it's harder to believe myself then. The lie is more comfortable, more convincing. It has been a companion for far too long. It has grown roots and taken up shelter in the depths of my soul like a weed that won't die, and I let it because I've never lived life without it. I know I'd be better off to dispose of it, but I still keep it around, hidden like a secret treasure, because I can't figure out how to let go of something I've held on to for so long.

All we have to do to see how easy it is to believe lies is look at the world around us. We think everyone has gone mad, but it's more than madness; it's the enemy. When the world has been led to believe that lies are better than the truth, we can't be surprised when madness ensues. It's no wonder we are in this place we don't want to be, in the midst of insanity. But if I can't let go of my own lies, what makes me think I can fight the rest of them?

The mind is the easiest place to attack – at least, I know mine is, because I'm already attacking myself in there. I don't matter, I don't measure up, I'm not good enough, not doing enough, not funny enough, smart enough, wise enough, pretty enough, successful enough...I am vulnerable...discouraged...wide open to pain and hurt...and wide open to MORE lies.

I don't want to be here anymore, held captive by thoughts. And quite frankly, I don't have the luxury of being here anymore. There's too much at stake. 

Peace In The World's ChaosIf I could give people on this earth anything at all, it would be to give them the truth – that they are loved by the creator of the universe, more than they could ever possibly imagine. If each and every human soul could feel the love and hope that rests in the promise given to us on the cross all those years ago...if they could see that the lies they've filled themselves with all this time have a purpose, and that purpose is to prevent them from reaching that promise...if only they could see that we are at war in unseen ways…

But I'm speaking to myself. Because I forget all of it when my mind is filled with all the wrong stuff. I can't fix the world, but I can get my head right. I can't convince the world that it's wrong, but I can remind myself and anyone who cares that we don't belong here – and that's precisely why we feel it. We can feel it together.

I can no longer live under the weight of the lie that the enemy is not that big of a threat. It's certainly more comfortable under it – like a child's warm blanket pulled up in the night when sounds get scary. But those sounds are real. The enemy is not just toying with me – the enemy seeks to keep me underneath the covers. Only I can decide what I am going to do with that truth.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

You Have So Many Things To Love When You Love Everything

How To Love WellIt doesn't take much for our children to get us thinking, does it? My oldest draws pictures all the time to express what's in her heart, and although my boy doesn't care much for drawing, he loves to tell us stories and make silly analogies that give us a little bit of insight into the way his mind works. Children are often so much more clever than we 'grown-ups' give them credit for, but what I treasure the most is how they challenge me to get back to the basics, to a simplicity that I lose when I have my head in 'the world' for too long.

You have so many things to love when you love everything.

Ever since she drew this picture, I've had her words rolling about in my head from time to time. There's so much to hate in this world. There's so much to fear. There's so much to wonder and worry about all over the place.

What Is LoveAnd yet she wrote about love. That is what sticks with her, and I'm so thankful. It's not what sticks with me anymore after innocence lost and years of words that don't match the actions. That's the reality of life as we get older and find that we have to return to love...to recall its power...to fight to remember its truth and beauty. It's far too easy to get caught up in everything else.

I am wanting, simply, to love well. I could hate that I'm not always good at it. I could be afraid that I might cause another to forget its true meaning. I could worry that I'll never be able to do it well enough. But those thoughts are NOT the ones that should stick with me.

I have so many things to love.