Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Spring!

It's Spring Break, and things are looking up.

Because, for whatever reason- it's ok.

I'm ok.
JT is ok.
Aquaman, he's ok.

The Dude: A-ok.

We are different. So is everybody. My family doesn't fit neatly into our cultures definition of "normal". And who cares?
I heard God say it, just the other day. Catching a glimpse of my tired and discouraged face in the mirror. He said "YOU are fearfully and wonderfully made." And I could feel the affection in His words.

I'm a wife who is a blessing to my husband.
I'm a wife who believes that for me being a blessing to my husband doesn't just mean taking care of the house and making babies. It means seeing the sorrow and weariness in his eyes. It means recognizing that HE is fearfully and wonderfully made just as he is.
It means going to work.

I'm a very good nurse. I'm a really good mom.
Not because I'm anything special, but because, for the most part: I've learned to be accepting of myself. To stop trying to be someone that I'm not- to just be the me that God made me to be. Because that's what my husband needs, what my children need, what the people that I encounter at work need.

My children are secure. They're different from other people too, and they're ok with that. That's exactly what I want for them. Freedom. Confidence.
Not self-confidence. God-confidence.

That God made no mistake in making them.

"To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand- for the Lord is able to make them stand." Romans 14:4

Some of my struggle has been feeling like we are not like other families- particularly beachside. We both have jobs, but we don't have much money, and definitely not a lot of nice stuff. My husband works most weekends. Yet, even though on church and t-ball mornings I struggle with the insecurity of feeling like a single mom, I'm NOT a single mom. I am deeply in love with and loved by my husband.
But we have different callings than most. My husband has been called to the beach. We sense it more every day, despite seeming disapproval from most everyone else.
It doesn't pay that well.
But the position we hold, the status, the money- it is not proportionate to the effect we have on peoples' lives.
God uses the man on the beach as well as he uses the man in the fire suit, or the suit and tie.

Work is not an end unto itself. It must have a purpose, a motive...a heart.

God's provision for us has been nothing short of miraculous. The multiplying of the loaves and fish. The clothing comparable to those of the lilies. He is a Good God, even in our floundering.

One of the greatest gifts of all has been the gift of being close to our parents.
The amazing sacrifices they have made to be there for our children when we are at work. And how they make us feel that it's not a sacrifice at all. I love to see how their relationships have grown and developed over the years. It was hard during infancy. Hard for them because I have fussy babies who never sleep. Hard for me because I was insecure as a mother, and worried that I was somehow failing them.

I wanted to be there for all of it, as if I am the most important person in the world. I'm not.

Our parents have loved and cared for our children, and helped them develop parts of themselves that I truly believe would not be if it wasn't for their relationships. I am so grateful to God for His provision for our children so that JT and I have the freedom to be what we have been called to be.
I don't take it lightly. I know that it is a luxury that most don't have.

"Set your minds on things above, not on things on the earth."
Colossians 3:2

The goal of our family is heavenward.

"And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of an inheritance- for you serve the Lord Christ."
Colossians 3:23-24

What a blessed assurance to my heart are these words. And we give the details to Him.

Spring is emerging as a time of hope and anticipation. I can feel the tension releasing.
A long anticipated moment arrived this week, and instead of jumping on it- JT and I stepped back. We looked at each other. We loved each other. And we found peace in doing nothing.

Waiting.

The boys have grown up so much this winter. Aquaman is such a boy- with his "shooting fire holes in your belly" with his finger guns, and his painfully jabbing elbows.
 He is going to be such a responsible man someday. I can tell by the way he worries about getting to bed on time. The way he tackles his brother when he's trying to do something dangerous. The way he told me the other day: "I don't want to grow up and be a man yet. Because I have to keep living with you and getting punished so that I know the right things to do when I'm a man." He was so serious and earnest and not at all resentful about it, and it was such an encouragement to me as a mom. I respect him deeply, even as a 4 year old. And I can really feel his respect for me..

And The Dude, brand new 2 in all its glory, just could not get any cuter. His legs are stretching out long and lean, and every morning he asks for "broccoli and grapes" immediately upon awakening. He has this crooked wild eyed funny looking way about him that is going to charm him out of a lot of trouble. He is furiously dedicated to just about everything, and fully committed to "doing it the hard way". But every once in a while, I'll catch a glimmer in his eyes. And expecting opposition, I'll find eager compliance.

Another ray of hope.

Everywhere we go there is energy and opinions and curly heads, and almost everywhere we go, there are smiles.
What a blessing is spring-time, and the upcoming Easter weekend. A time of starting over. What has been frozen begins to thaw, and becomes new. Alive. Life is raw and powerful. The painfulness of it sensitizes us to new things, and for that I am grateful.

I don't know what He has in store for us the rest of the year. I know it is big. I know it will be hard. There is a quiet sorrow, a mourning for the way I thought things were going to be.
But my heart feels...for the first time in a long time...strangely still.

Peace. That's what that is.

It's walking beside the quieted waters. It's being led, instead of doing the leading.

"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever." -Psalm 23:6

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Clothed in Scarlet

It's been quite a month really, and quite a year.
In the past 3 weeks we have had high fever viruses leading to bronchitis and an ear infection, and Saturday morning I entered The Dude's room like I always do at 3:30 am when he was crying for me, and found his bed soaked in vomit. Oh goody. The 3rd time in 6 months we've had this experience, although at least this time I wasn't sharing the bed with him.

We were up from 3:30 am on, since he spent the next couple of hours watching yo gabba gabba and "modern marvels: the monster truck" and vomiting some more. Aquaman joined us at 4:45 since he woke up crying, and I was afraid he was going to join in the puke party.

By 7 am when JT left for work, and I sat down to write in my prayer journal, all that came out was: "it feels like every time we stagger to our feet, we get knocked back down again."

We're tired. Trying to wean in the midst of nonstop illness feels pointless, not to mention wearying. There has been a lot of crying in the middle of the night. A lot of The Dude taking my face in his hands and shouting "no!" at me. He's mad. His comfortable and comforting nights at his favorite all night diner are coming to an end. He doesn't know that, even though he is saying goodbye to something good. He is also coming in to something better.

I'll admit it's been shrouded by my own ambivalence, but it has made me much more merciful towards him in it.

Nursing, though quite literally draining, has been one of the greatest joys of mothering young children for me. The comfort and connection. The few minutes of silence. The side view smiles.
As always, I don't know what the future holds. This may well be the last few weeks that I nurse a child. A part of me is intensely relieved, and a part of me isn't quite so sure.

Which is why I can understand when The Dude gets a little controlling in the middle of the night. Ordering me to turn on the music, then turn it off. To get him some water, and then to put it away. Life is changing, and he feels like he's losing control. So he grasps at anything he CAN control.

I can identify with that.

We're coming out of 2012. A year I easily described as one of the best of my life. So far, of 2013, I can't really say the same.
It seems to be a year of transition and change. And let's be honest, when things are going well, who wants change?

But changing seasons is a reality of life.

And this year has been feeling a little wintery. The cold. The weariness. The uncertainty.
The physical pain.

I've been forced to scale back a little. I've started laying down over the weekends during The Dude's naps. I've had to turn a blind eye to the dust bunnies in the corner.

And Sunday, as I lay in a heap on the floor after the virus to end all viruses hit Aquaman and I at the exact same time, when we still had 3 hours before JT would be home- I realized something.

My family seems to be under attack right now.

This year there has been physical injury and illness, loads of career uncertainty, and personal self-image struggles.
We are reeling and tired.

So this morning I read Proverbs 31.
It's where I always go when I don't know where to go, who I'm supposed to be. Honestly, in my exhaustion, she has been bothering me again. How does she do so much without wearing down? That's a whole other blog entry.
But the verse I read today, was Proverbs 31:21


"She is not afraid of the snow for her household, For all her household are clothed with scarlet."

In the literal sense, as I've always taken it, the Proverbs 31 woman takes care of her family. They are prepared for the winter: financially and otherwise.
But I remember the other day reading someone's suggestion that perhaps, like many verses of the Bible, there is a figurative meaning to this verse as well:

It's winter here, 80 degree Florida March, but it's winter. And I don't have to be afraid of the snow that falls. Not because we're prepared with warm clothes and amenities, but because my household has been covered by the scarlet blood of Jesus.

I remember the story of Rahab, who kept the Israelite spies in her home. Her family was spared destruction when she left a scarlet cord outside of her home.

So I'm remembering that there's nothing to fear. Sometimes I get so caught up in God's omnipotence and all-knowing that I forget that this was not how things were meant to be. He did not intend His creation to stagger around in confusion and difficulty. Yes, it is still better than we deserve, as sinners. But it's not His intention. That's why He sent His son to die for us. And it means we're not always protected from things like norovirus and identity crises. But we can be protected from the fear of those things. And from the discouragement that creeps up into our hearts when we can't seem to catch a break.

And this is one calling of women that I do not find daunting. I have only to clothe my family in the blood of Jesus. To pray for my husband and children. To point them all to Jesus.
To climb into the safety and refuge and everlasting comfort of His arms.

"He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters."
Psalm 23:2

I guess it's because I've always derived so much Heavenly comfort from the outdoors, but this is always my go-to verse in times of distress. I was praying it while I was cleaning up 4 year old vomit and swallowing my own. (this is an experience everyone should have at least once in their lifetime, I feel certain that my confidence level has increased by having survived it).

I think I like it because it reminds me what He wants for us. Peace in our souls. The kind you feel when you take a walk and listen to the way the birds chirp. The way you feel when you look out over a large body of water.

It's realizing that life is much better when we forget about ourselves for a while. Our troubles and failures. And remember the God who stilled the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, and the turmoil of the nations." Psalm 65:7

It is God who stills the waters, and then leads us beside them. I can feel the end of the winter coming. We're clothed in scarlet, and we'll soon be walking by quieted waters.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Unconditional Love





I think I thought my days of insecurity were over.
Long abandoned to the chaos of childhood and the idiosyncrasies of the young adult.

I've been feeling pretty confident, really. I didn't think it was in myself.
I had it in my mind that my hope was in the Lord. That my identity rested firmly in Him.
I'm quite sure that it did.
It's funny how we can set out from a good place at the slightest angle, and somehow find ourselves where we didn't intend to be.

I'm a giver, by nature, in its most Spirit filled form. Bordering on enabler when the flesh has too much of a say.

A man-pleaser, despite my true longing to be otherwise.

Young mother-hood and wife-hood have at its very core, a need for self-sacrificial service, and I have thrived on it.

But this week, one morning, God revealed my heart to me.

I'm afraid.

I've been moving on overdrive. Helping to earn an income to feed my family, reach out and serve the families I work with, support my husband's nontraditional career which boasts an incredibly irregular schedule and little time together as a family, and incubate, nurse, cuddle, and discipline two very spirited little boys. All while trying (and constantly failing) to maintain old friendships and make new ones, and somehow keep our home from falling apart.

I've been awful at it, and I've probably been too good at it.

Because I just looked up to Jesus, and realized that I'm afraid.
Because I can't keep up this pace forever. And I'm not afraid that things won't get done, if I don't do them.
I'm afraid that I won't be loved, if I don't do them.

What if I woke up tomorrow morning, and I couldn't, just couldn't make myself get out of bed?
What if I couldn't do one single thing?
Am I loved for what I do for others, for God, or am I loved because...I am.

I know the answer to that question, deep down I know it.
I know the answer that I found in Him, as I called to Him in the song that came back to me as if I were back in high school:

"If I could just sit with You a while, if You could just hold me
Nothing could touch me though I'm wounded, though I die
If I could just sit with You a while, I need You to hold me
Moment by moment, 'till forever passes by."

-Dennis Jernigan

That He'd hold me as long as I needed to be held. Even if I didn't make any money, or dinner, or the beds.

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast." Ephesians 2:8-9

Sometimes I get so focused on Ephesians 2:10- about being God's workmanship- created to do good works- that I take my eyes off the God part.

It's not about me, at all.
Cheapening grace doesn't just mean taking advantage of God's mercy. It means trying to add to it with our frail efforts.

This world can be so confusing. Everywhere you go, success, and intelligence, and hard work are constantly touted as the greatest virtues.
But they're useless without first: humility.
That comes from realizing we have nothing in us that is successful, nothing in us that is intelligent, and no good and honest hard work coming from ourselves.
And the talents and ability to go long periods without sleep: They are gifts: gifts from God, to be used for His purposes, not for our own satisfaction.



 
“Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it: unless the LORD guards the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late,
to eat the bread of sorrows: for so He gives His Beloved sleep.”

Psalm 127:1, 2.

It is vital that we, as mothers, recognize that we are not to be loved for our service.
We are loved because we are God's creations. Loved when we were small and helpless and ugly and completely incapable of doing anything, let alone anything right. That's what we still are.
And why is it so important that we understand this?
Because it is the only way we will teach our children the Truth. The only way we can unconditionally love our families and the world at large is to accept unconditional love for ourselves.  


It's a mental tightrope, balancing teaching my sons (especially being that they are so sensitive) to use their manners, be helpful to others, and follow the rules, while also modeling to them that even if they're incredibly rude, lazy, and rebellious, it will not change my love for them.
I hope that one morning, when they wake up, and find themselves incapable of producing anything worthwhile in themselves, they will see the smile shine from somewhere deep inside of my heart for them.

For this will very well be the prelude to the finest hour of their lives.

"Humble yourselves before the LORD, and He will lift you up in due time."
James 4:10

Becoming smaller, that He may be magnified.
I'm praying for His magnification in my life.

Praying that my eyes might be removed from my own continued insufficiency and reminded of His all-sufficiency.

I'm tired, and I'm humbled, and I'm slowing down.

He is moving, and I am waiting. That's right. In my pink snuggie. On my comfortable chair. Feeling loved.

And breakfast isn't even ready.