Thursday, September 6, 2012

Thorns and the Good Soil

My quiet times have been anything but thorough lately. The Dude has been waking up long before the sun, and even Praise Baby does not hold his attention long enough for me to complete one or two verses and one or two thoughts in my journal. "Walk, WALK!" He says insistently, pulling on whatever hand he can reach. Occasionally he pulls hard enough that he loses his grip and ends up flat on the floor. Screaming. And banging his head on the tile or the wall for extra effect. Ahhh 18 months. Which seems to be the McVicker terrible twos. I like to think, like every mother does, that my children are advanced.

"NO." He says to almost everything, shaking his head dizzingly to emphasize his point. He also does yes quite thoroughly now, which comes out more like "yeah..SHHH". But it's usually to something I don't want him to have or do.

I love him. Even when he is trying to gauge my eyes out or fish-hook my mouth while declaring the names of every piece of my anatomy. Even when he is climbing on the unsuspecting Aquaman's back and pulling his hair gleefully while attempting to sink his sharp little teeth into his back after 10 subsequent time outs.
I am still slightly baffled how I, the quiet and rather amenable little girl of older parents ended up the mother of two astoundingly convicted and determined little boys, but here I am. I guess God must have known how much delight it would bring me.

But I do miss my long uninterrupted quiet times, and look forward to having them again.
For now I grab the Word in snatches. And I chew over it while chasing wildhearted boys through the grass, and when I'm snuggling them at night.

This was the verse I read yesterday morning:

1" Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. 20 Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.”-Mark 4:18-20

And like it always does when I read it, it caught at me, pulled at me. I was so intent on understanding more about it, understanding more about myself and the soil of my heart that I found myself oblivious to the destructive tantrum going on on the floor underneath me. Until I realized it would soon wake up the whole house.
And I took him outside.
But the verse stayed with me for the rest of the day.

Because I want so much for my heart to be the good soil. And so often I find it full of thorns.

"The worries of this life."

I've always been a worrier, and I used to justify it as part of my personality. Almost like a noble or responsible part of my character. Part of it is my sensitive nature, and part of it is that as a very young child via death and sickness of family members and just being the youngest of 9 children and watching the struggles of my much older siblings, I learned that nothing in life is guaranteed. If things are good and stable and comfortable, they are probably about to change. I used to spend a lot of time worrying, and to ease those worries I'd move on to problem solving. If A happens then I'll just do B, and if B happens, then RIGHT on to C or possibly Ca. It can be comforting to have a plan. Problem is that spiralling rabbit trail always ends up at a point where I realize, if D happens, well that's it. I'm done for. I'm just going to have to trust God.
Probably should have just stopped at A.

Once you have kids, you have much more to worry about.
Which segues right into another thorn that keeps popping up:

"The deceitfulness of wealth."

This morning (which happens to be payday), as we speak, a wonderful thing is happening. The last installment that will bring our emergency savings back up to the acceptable level of 3 months' expenses is being deposited from our checking account into our savings.
It's been a long road. We plowed through those savings (which used to be quite a bit more than 3 months') like lightning since my pregnancy with The Dude began. First, we bought a townhouse and put in all new floors, ceilings, toilets, and slowly replaced the failing appliances. Then the medical bills for the pregnancy, unpaid maternity leave, and unpaid leave for fire academy. Since then we've been plugging away dutifully but it takes us a looong time to save much money these days.
It feels good to have that security, there in the bank. Maybe a little too good.
And then we start thinking what to save for next. And there's too many seemingly unattainable goals. Like new cars when ours start to fail in 5 yrs or so. And since we're completely debt free and intend to stay that way, that's a lot of money to save. Orthodontics, we've been informed, will need to start in about 3 years for our oldest. A new baby in a few years? A bigger house someday? And that's not even counting the long term savings we need to be doing.
It's enough to put me in a sweat, because before you know it, the air conditioning breaks anyway, and you're back to trying to pump back up that emergency savings again.
And that's exactly why riches are deceiving. Because it doesn't matter how much you have, it will never ever be enough.
I've heard it said that you should make it your goal to have enough money not to have to worry about money. I think that's a lie. Honestly, the more money we had the more I would worry, which is probably why we have just enough. I would worry that I had been entrusted with an enormous responsibility, and that I would be held responsible someday for the fact that people are starving somewhere and I'm eating the finest of foods. I already worry enough about that, since, even though we've been going meatless 3 days a week and carefully meal planning we happen to spend an appalling amount of money on groceries.

But, on the other hand, there are some benefits that come with money. Like the freedom to be generous. Not just tithing generous because we already do that. But really generous. And not just with money, but with time. JT and I have had the incredible benefit of not only growing up with supportive and loving intact families, but with parents who shower us sacrificially with time, love, and even financially. Which is one of my motivations in being wise with our money now. I hope to be able to keep the cycle going with our children.

In the meantime, working part-time with two small children, and spending 1/3 of our income just to eat, there isn't a whole lot of time or money available for others.
Which is why I am so excited about this morning. Because Justin's co-workers have agreed to let me take care of their 3 month old while they go back to work...weekly this month and then twice a week after that. It is a win/win for everyone it seems. She doesn't have to go to daycare, and it will give them a boost financially. And I have the opportunity to love their baby even when they can't be there, like our parents have done for us (not to mention get a lot of baby snuggles, and have the opportunity to teach my rambunctious boys how to treasure and treat a girl)

I recently read the Treasure Principle, and I loved how it put things in perspective.

"Financial planners tell us, 'When it comes to your money, don't think just 3 months or 3 years ahead, think 30 years ahead.' Christ, the ultimate investment counselor takes it further. He says, 'Don't ask how your investment will be paying off in just 30 years. Ask how it will be paying off in 30 MILLION years."
-Randy Alcorn

Godly investments involve time too, not just money. And the most lasting investments we can make is in people.

"The Desire for other things"

Like gymnastics classes. Which, after researching and getting excited about for Aquaman; I had to admit were not really a financial priority for our family right now. (And guess what, he's just as happy running around on the beach for free, and probably less stressed from adding one more thing to our  hectic schedule).

 Or a large house with nice stuff in it that honestly we would just mess up anyway and wouldn't have time to adequately clean.
Sometimes the things of this world don't even cost money. Sometimes it's just something I like doing more than something I really SHOULD be doing. Something that, in the grand scheme of eternity, I know is really not going to matter a whole lot.

I really want my life to be fruitful. Like 30, 60, 100 fold fruitful.
I should probably stop focusing on those thorns, and just start being a good listener.
The kind of person who not only hears the word, but ACCEPTS it.
Not for what I'm wanting it to say, but for what it really says.
Some days that soil feels so fertile and soft and rained upon.
But some days, I'll admit, those seedlings start to feel a little choked out.
Those are the days I stop listening, or stop accepting. Or start looking around me at the deceitfulness of this world.

"But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these."
1 Timothy 6:6-8

Contentment. I love that word. Whenever I hear it, I picture my boys when they were infants. Having fallen asleep in my arms, mouths hanging open, the slightest bit of milk dripping from the corners.

And that is my own goal of contentment these days. Safe in the arms of Jesus, having stopped my striving and reaching; letting the last bit of warmth of His provision drip from my stilled soul and water the seed He planted there. Watching it bloom and grow in its own time.

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