Red Solo Cup

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Today I write out of obedience.

I’ve felt the Lord call me to sit down and write over the past few days.  I think not because I really have anything to offer, but perhaps because he wants to speak to me.  And sadly, sometimes the only way to get me to listen is to give me inspiration to write.  You all probably thought I was writing this blog to inspire you and partner with you in our walks of life, and I do LOVE sharing life with you, but honestly, I’m learning so much in the process.

Three days ago, a super quiet nudge.  “Write.”

“I can’t.  The babies room isn’t done yet, and I have to sort through all those bins of baby clothes.”

Two days ago, “Sit down and write.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me, do you see the amount of work to be done here?  I’ll write after everything is done, that’s my FUN hobby.  No time for fun.  Besides, that’s probably not even you saying, “Write”, it’s probably my inner self or something I ate because writing right now seems absurd.”

Yesterday, a pretty clear, “Write.”

“I need to just finish all these chores, have you SEEN our kitchen floor?!?  It has transformed into the bottom of  a hamster cage.”

This morning, while attempting to put fresh sheets on the kid’s beds, and finish their laundry with a to-do list still fairly long (the baby’s coming after all!) I hear the Lord say to me a quiet yet interrupting, “Write.”

“I’m literally in the middle of putting sheets on my son’s bed.  Just let me finish all the kid’s beds, then make a grocery list, go grocery shopping, get the kids from school, take them to the doctors for their booster shot, feed the kids lunch, clean up, unload groceries, clean the fridge, wipe down the cupboards, fold all the kid’s laundry and then if there’s time put on some makeup to get ready for a birthday date tonight, I’ll do that, AND THEN, if there’s any time left, and no one needs anything from me, then I will write.  So Lord, maybe in a different season of life, like when all my kids are all in college.”

A quiet response, “Write.”

“Have you seen our fruit bowl?  It has two lemons in it… that’s all.  We’re bare-bones’n it over here.”

“Write, I have something to say to you.”

“Don’t make me cry God, you know how it cuts right to my heart that you’d actually speak to me, and have anything to say, especially when I feel ZERO percent inspired to type a thing.”

“I will speak to you, write.”

“Okay, I’ll go against the very grain of my being and leave these un-done sheets right here on the bed, as an offering of obedience.”  That part was physically painful, I didn’t know whether to cover them up with the comforter or just leave it all.  I just left it, it looked miserable.  I had to walk out of the room with my eyes closed.  I gave my littlest a snack and put on an educational show.  “I’ll give you thirty minutes, even though I really should be making  a grocery list.  I’m going to have to trust you on this one, and let go of my perfectionist desires to power through my to-do list… I will stop for you.”

If you’d had the ability to be around me any amount of time in the past few weeks, you’d see that the countdown to baby arrival has put me into task mode 2013.  That’s when I started writing this blog, and the Lord showed me the hot dog stand word picture, gently reminding me that this life isn’t about perfection, best efforts and a to-do list, it’s about the gentle rhythms of the Holy Spirit and not stressing about little stuff that doesn’t matter.  It’s about truly living each day with him by my side, not pushed to the side.

I’ve made progress, I really have (insert convincing voice to myself).  But I clearly haven’t learned to fully resist the temptation of a thick to-do list and shiny stars of accomplishment over obedience to the quiet voice of the Lord.

Dang.

And it’s not even good for me.  God’s ways are SO good for me, and when I hear his voice to slow down and chill, and I ignore it (because it’s gentle and quiet), I get more and more wound up, and then eventually I snap.  And the snap is never ever pretty.  It usually involves me wearing a grouchy face, my oldest daughter saying to me, “Mommy, I don’t like the sound of your voice.” and my husband giving me that look, like I need to be sent out of the house for a few hours… to release the Kraken somewhere else.  At worst, it involves tears and yelling about why life has to be so stinkin’ hard.

Maybe the Lord is trying to teach me that It doesn’t have to be THAT hard.

Circumstances don’t actually make us happy or unhappy.  The bible clearly says that joy can be found in any and all circumstances, the easy and fun, the miserable and challenging.  We are offered joy, but it’s a choice.  And not the simple kind like, “yea, I think I’ll have an iced tea.”  It’s a painful choice of self-surrender.  It is no simple and done, easy choice.  We have to choose joy.

And when I actually make that tough choice to walk with the Lord and listen to his voice, even when things are a challenge, I don’t stress.  It’s amazing, like non-human awesome.

But the trick is, I have to listen.  I have to actually lean into the Lord.  I have to be IN the Word, GO to him in prayer, seek him and ask him to be near.  It doesn’t just magically happen because I’m a Christian, and a mostly nice person and think Jesus died on the cross for my sins. It’s all choosing.

I have to intentionally seek him.

Still.

Even though I’ve sought him before, read the bible before and prayed before, and had amazing moments of deep inspiration and worship with Jesus before.

Each day is a new day that I desperately need to deliberately seek him.

It doesn’t just happen.

I once asked God about this, saying, “If I know you and I believe in you, how come I can only last a few days on my own?  It’s pathetic.”  He showed me this word picture of a red solo cup, with a few holes poked on the bottom.  Here’s the message I took from it.  It was like the Lord was saying, this is you, your cup is full because you’ve met with me, but after a few days it’s drained and empty again.  You need a refill.  You can’t last long without checking in with me, because you have holes in your cup.  You aren’t designed to just hold stagnant water.  You are designed to use what I pour into you, for yourself and for others.  I pour it in, you pour it out, repeat. You are not self sufficient.

I have to go to him when I’m empty, and probably shouldn’t be all too surprised by that since that is how he designed me; to be in a relationship with God.

He doesn’t force me to action either like my toddler does at seven 6:23 am in the morning, yelling from the bathroom, “MOMMY!!!  I’M AWAKE!!!!!!  I WENT POOP IN THE TOILET!!!!” (any dear parent of a newly potty-trained kid knows one now has to RUN to the toilet in hopes that the arrival was swift enough to save the floor/bathroom/house/world from any… thing messy (ahem).

No, no dramatic urgency, forcing me to run.  He’s just there, waiting for me, when I’m ready to talk to him.  Waiting for me to ask for some more of Him.

And sometimes it’s so easy to think I can do it on my own, and just ignore the re-fill aspect of our relationship.  I think I’m the water source, and am always quickly shocked at how dry my own well is.  I just want to do it on my own, but at the same time I want God helping me, so why the double-mindedness?

Makes me question who the fake mob-bosses are in my life, and why I let them run and schedule my day instead of doing what I know I should.  I think I’ve named them “pretend-righteous obligations, and they are big and have fake guns.”

And where are they rooted?  In fear?  In desire for approval from others?  In the fear of failure, disappointing others, being useless, not being worthy of love.

There we are.  Not worthy of love.

I don’t know if you’ve ever felt unworthy of Christ’s love, showers of blessing and just being in his general presence, but I have.

I think the Lord is trying to present a truth to me that my heart currently has no space for, because I have filled its spot with a fake mob-boss lie.

The truth is, “I am valuable, because Christ loves me.”  That’s it.  That’s where all of my identity should come from.

The lie I believe is, “I am valuable because I accomplish things for Christ and others.  I am a valuable member of this world because I contribute and work hard, and get things done.  I EARN this love.”

How, oh how do I root out this lie?  It’s thick on me like a tough jerky or the bark on a tree.  It covers me and shapes me, but what if that’s not the way God wants my tree to look?  When he peels of the bark of lies, I’m just there, exposed for what I am… it’s like uncomfortable.

But what if it could be beautiful?

The uncomfortable truth is that I have value, simply because Christ loves me.  That’s what the bible says.

That is beautiful indeed.

My value rests solely on the truth that HE LOVES ME, and that’s it.  He puts his arm around me in a big crowd and says, “THIS, this is MY girl.”  And even if others look on and say to themselves, “why would he choose HER?  Look at that scraggly hair, bad manners and she’s not even wearing shoes!”  Jesus is none-the-less proud of me, because HE sees me as made new, even when the enemy or the world doesn’t.  And as we walk together I begin to see that I look more and more like Christ, (Galatians 3, highlight on vs. 27) perhaps he gives me shoes, and I actually choose to wear them.  Maybe comb my hair.  You get the idea.

The truth is, we all come to Jesus looking a little (or a lot) scraggled (Romans 3:9-31).  The bible tells us that.  But once we come to him, we are made new, and beautiful, and the temptation is real to feel out of place, to go back to seeing ourselves like the scraggled kid and try to work so hard for the love we’ve already been given.

Instead, we need to look into the mirror or faith to remember our value.

Thankfully, he is gracious and doesn’t hold it against me that I try to find value all by myself. He just waits for me to remember to go to him.  And even though I come to him dry as a bone, he manages to fill my cup right back up to the top, and within moments I’m left full of life, hope and love for others again.  It’s like taking a nap and waking up refreshed, only better.

As always, thanks for reading.

Don’t Underestimate the God you Follow

So I’ve been hearing the same message lately these past few weeks.

Some might chalk it up to coincidence, others like myself might say, “Hmmmm, I think perhaps God is trying to tell me something, and apparently I’m NOT listening, because he feels the need to keep telling me.”

By the way, each time I hear this message, I start to tear up.

Guys, I’m not the cryer in my family.  I won’t say who is, but it’s not usually me.

Each time, this message hits me like a brick right to the center of my soul, to the core of who I am, and then it sends resonating waves of truth throughout my whole body.

The last version of this message came to me in the car this morning, as I was pondering my life and if it mattered that I try to be a mom and ALL that entails while balancing what I really want to do for myself; invest in friendships, write, spend time with the Lord, pray,  row, paint my nails and pick out outfits, organize my closet and put on makeup, try to do my hair, and snuggle kids past bedtime, and make top-knots in my oldest daughters hair, and put piggies in my youngest even though she pulls them out five minuets later and make a home and have healthy dinner on the table and smile at my husband when he looks at me.

I feel it all pull in each different direction, and I can’t do it all at once.

I haven’t worn makeup in two three days, I’m wearing the same clothes I wore YESTERDAY (it was a decent outfit actually).  I did however make an entirely plant strong delicious menu, grocery shop with three children, get all the laundry done and serve dinner.  I even played a little bit with my kids and gave each one a bath, and snuggled one of them well past her bedtime.

Last night I was so tired by 9pm that I finally decided to stop working and just do my nails.

If I just stop, and let God direct me, like a sailboat in the wind – it’s not so hard.  But when I try and start my engine and get somewhere, I find that even though I’ve gotten somewhere, it’s not the twenty other places I wanted to be as well.  And I keep trying to get somewhere.

So in the car, as I was sweeping up all my frustrations into a big pile of grouchy leaves, God blew them all away with this same message, again.

I was listening to K-Love and Josh Wilson’s song, Pushing Back the Dark came on:

    One million reasons why, you shouldn’t even try.

    After all you’re just one heart, a single candle in the dark.

    And there are shadows here, feeding on your fears,

    That you don’t have what it takes – who are you to make a change?

  But oh, oh, don’t underestimate the God you follow.

     Whatever you do, just don’t look back.

     Oh somebody needs the light you have.

     Whatever you do, just don’t lose heart.

     Keep on pushing back the dark,

     Keep on pushing back the dark.

How can that make anyone NOT want to tear up just a little bit?

Saturday I heard the message during worship when God spoke to my heart and said he wanted to use me to speak to others even though I think I’m unqualified, afraid and not very eloquent, and lacking in pretty much every other way.

And then it was there again in the sermon, when our pastor shared how all the apostles were regular guys, ordinary people in whom GOD did extraordinary things.

I keep thinking that if God is going to use me, I’m going to feel different.  I’m never going to doubt myself or my abilities, my thoughts will always be organized and clever, I will have more than enough time to write and share my inspirations.  I will never get grouchy at my kids and yell, “NO!  NO YOU MAY NOT PLAY BUBBLES OUTSIDE because I am still cleaning up your mess INSIDE!  I am still sweeping up all your crumbs from lunch and I don’t want to clean up ANY more of your MESSES!  ALL I DO IS CLEAN UP YOUR MESSES!  NO MORE MESSES.”  <insert very sad toddler eyes>.  This comes from a mother who has wiped an excessive amount of bottoms and noses and what-not the past four years of her life… and she is tired, and God says in spite of herself, he still wants to use her.

And that makes me want to cry.

Because I am so very, very, very imperfect.

And I’ve believed that God would REALLY, REALLY be able to use me… ONCE I was perfect.

That is not what is actually happening.

Before that it was Wednesday night when I was questioning if anything I was doing in life really mattered and I got a text from a good friend and I felt like Jesus said, this message of encouragement is a reminder from me.  You ARE serving me, what you do matters.  I AM using you.

I feel like God is saying, I am going to use you in the grocery store as a stay-at-home mom, in the preschool drop off’s and pick ups, in the sweeping of the crumbs and the wiping of the noses, in the phone call with a friend and the everyday, ordinary stuff.  

I struggle with the desire to be a REAL writer, and like, full time write.  How dreamy does this sound to me?  VERY.  I see people leaving for work with a briefcase in hand as I drive my kids to preschool and I think, “Wow, what must it BE like to get to wake up and know you get to go work ALL day at something you love?”  Now, that person may have a job they hate, but they get to drive in the car – in silence, if they like, ALL the way to work.  #mycarisneversilent. They get a REAL lunch break #igetup20timespermealtohelpsomeonelittle, and maybe they even have a job they love.  My dream is to someday become a writer, and have that be my REAL job.  To fill out my productivity schedule that I downloaded from the storylineblog.com and actually GET TO DO IT.  I fill it out now, and I’m lucky if no one interrupts me during the 45 minutes I woke up super early for just have time to myself.  I’m trying to get somewhere and go after my goals but I get stymied at 7:45 in the morning until about 8:30 at night.  And if that little genius schedule is right, my brain should only work about 30% to it’s creative capacity by then:-(  But God doesn’t care about brain capacity.

I am a mother and I know I want to be home with my kids, and besides, no one has hired me yet to be a writer, so that also makes things complicated.

So today, my goal for the rest of the day is just to try and serve Jesus in everything I do.  Even though it seems like a job that is not important, and no one says, “hey, I noticed you just spent the last two hours in the kitchen prepping food, giving handouts to little kids, serving a meal and cleaning it all up while kissing boo-boos and refereeing the plasma car race in the backyard, even though you’d rather be writing, putting on makeup, taking a nap, doing pretty much anything else for yourself and not others…”  Well, actually, my husband thanks me ALL the time, but I digress…

Trying to have a good attitude by serving Jesus in smoothie prep

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Serving Jesus in playing trains

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Serving Jesus in cleaning dishes

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Serving Jesus in being an audience to my little girls performances

Look out youtube, this duo sensation is coming to your hit list soon!

And, serving Jesus in writing, currently one of my most favorite ways to serve him.

All I can give him is myself, and although it’s not much, he made man out of dirt, so he’s obviously good at working with what I would see as an general lack of adequate supplies.

Thanks for reading.

banana bread crumbs

(You’ll have to excuse my writing if it sounds funny.  I’ve been reading one of G.K. Chesterson’s fictional novels, and it’s absolutely convoluting my writing style, but I care not, he’s amazing. Try to bear through it, my apologies.)

Earlier this morning, as I was spending my short quiet time reading an article my husband sent me which was explaining in depth a subject in the bible I had earlier in the week asked him about, I had a thought.  The thought was this: why does this read so choppy to me?  Why am I still wanting more breath and depth then this extremely articulate article is providing me?  What am I still missing?  Something feels missing.

This was after at least three interruptions from my son who tiptoed into my room and asked, “Mommy, can I snuggle you?” To which I replied, “in a little bit, when mommy is done reading her bible.”  Then off he went to play trains in his room.

So when I finished off my attempt at quiet time by reading a psalm and the last chapter of 1 John, I prayed and asked the Lord about why that article felt like it was missing something deeper.

And here is unfortunately what he said.  I say unfortunately because it paints me, in my mind as somewhat of a dolt, which I am for obvious reasons, not fond of.

Here’s the word picture.

At first I see crumbs, they are banana bread crumbs, on the ground, under my kitchen table. Now, I have a small toddler living in my home who OFTEN finds in-between meal snacks from the ground, and being that she and the twins are not the cleanest of eaters just yet, it’s not hard for her to do so, so this is a very relatable word picture to me.  So there are crumbs under the table, and in this word picture, when I find a yummy banana bread crumb I eat it and think to myself, “Mmmmm, that’s so good”.  So then I search for another one, and find it and eat it. Sometimes they are small, sometimes they are a bigger type of crumb, but always they are crumbs.  Then, I see lots of people eating at a table, but I am still under it, so it’s just lots of legs and feet, and crumbs falling here and there.  Every time a crumb falls, I am super quick to grab it and eat it.  In a way, scamper about on all fours, waiting for crumbs to fall and gobbling them up.

So I asked Jesus, “What?!  I know that I’m a Gentile and all that and crumbs are for the dogs ect… but we’re in the New Testament times, like all of us have access to God, so why the crumbs analogy?  How come I’m not sitting at the table like the other people eating a WHOLE piece of banana bread, in a restful and peaceful, relaxed state?  Like one of your kids?  Why do I have to hustle for all the crumbs that fall?”

And here we go…

He showed me that I am accustomed to filing myself up with other peoples crumbs.  I have become very good at it.  So, I’m not hungry, but I have to dart from here to there to get enough to eat, scampering about on all fours (Glollum style).  I am definitely not sitting, nor at rest enjoying a meal or snack at the table as was intended.

And do you know what the crumbs are?  God’s truth, his word, from other people.  Here is what I tend to do in real life: I hop from this author to the next, to this blog to the next, from that sermon to this bible study, to that encouraging word posted on fb.  Then onto the inspiration video and back into a book on how God loves us.  I jump.  I jump from here to there to everywhere to hear all about God, his truth, his word and having someone else illuminate scripture FOR ME.  I’m eating their God inspired crumbs and they are delicious, but they are only a crumb of what I could have.

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Why?  Because it’s easier to read an inspirational blog full of truth in five minuets while I stand in the hallway waiting for the laundry to be done washing, while intermittently making sure the kids aren’t getting into something they shouldn’t, breaking something, or breaking each other.

I know it takes time to read God’s word and have it illuminated.  Because until this word picture, I thought I’d done it a few times.  And perhaps I have, but that’s not my habit that is for sure.  My habit is to be filled up on Saturday by the worship and message, then read this book on Sunday, that blog on a Tuesday when I’m feeling down about motherhood or busyness or whatever and top it off with a chapter on Friday about holiness.  All in between are brief moments in scripture where I actually read the bible myself and then move right along onto the next thing.  Not often taking time to ponder, to pray to seek God and actually ASK for insight regarding what I’ve read.

And like I said, all those things are good, but they don’t make a meal.  None of those things are bad in themselves, but collectively, if they begin to override my quiet time with God, if I am so accustomed to quickly hearing God’s truth from a scripture that someone else has shared, then I am indeed in a not-so-good place.

Perhaps I am wearing myself out hopping from one thing to the next, seeking deep and meaningful truth (AND a RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD) from other peoples relationship from God, in five minute segments.

Which is why I say it does not paint me in the brightest of lights.

I don’t stand up and sit at the table because that is work.  Apparently I think it’s easier to stay on the ground and spot crumbs.  I’m quick, it’s fast and and I’m good at it.  But here’s the thing. If I’d just stand up on my big girl legs and go to the table, and then SIT STILL, I might get a whole piece to myself, to enjoy slowly over time and really appreciate it for what it is, and in turn, get to enjoy being at the table like one of God’s kids.

But I’m rarely sitting still physically, and now I’ve grown accustomed to not sitting still spiritually.  In my energetic quest to move onto the next insight, I’ve lost the real idea, which is to sit and ponder and seek God, on my own, one-on-one with him.  Not to find the next book, or the next blog to fill me up.

I get that these are all excuses, but somehow I’ve allowed how most of my day is: full of interruptions, bursts of activity, making meals, breaking up fights and teaching kindness, selflessness and love all filtered through tired eyes just wanting a moment of quiet and peace. All of that I’ve allowed to change how I interact with God.  I’m interacting with him the same way I interact with myself, always searching for a crumb of quiet time to myself, or a crumb of sitting down, or a crumb of writing or even a crumb of a hot meal eaten all in one sitting.

That may sound like complaining and it totally is.  The fact is, my life is different.  Often times my son comes sneaking into my room WELL before my natural clock wants to be awake and well before my brain is awake enough to have a thought or moment with God.

Sitting down with my bible and a pen in the late morning over coffee is a distant fond memory from the past.  And although I say I don’t have time, maybe if I even tried just turning to the bible in all those little moments, instead of turning to insightful blogs, books or sermons, I might learn to tune into God even in the hectic.

God’s not surprised that I do one-thousand little things all day, never sitting down.  He’s not surprised that I don’t wake up and have leisurely coffee with him in the morning, because we both full well know that means him waking me up at 4 in the morning, something I only do when it happens to happen.  I never intentionally wake at 4 am.

However, that doesn’t mean that I need to get my fill through other peoples crumbs about him.

Sometimes I’m tempted to think about how nice it will be when the kids are off and away at college, and I’ll get to wake up on my own when the sun rises and drink coffee and read my bible in peace and quiet.  I start to think about how nice it will be to have time to iron something and then wear it, without worrying someone will snot on it and then all my time (which is currently so precious) was wasted on one hour of ironed shirt wearing glory only to be taken out by 9am and switched for a sweatshirt.

But then I remember, THIS is where God has called me.  Right here in the middle of twenty-two thousand interruptions, in the middle of wearing leggings and long sweaters everyday because they are black and wash easy.  In the middle of half-eaten meals interrupted by “I’m done or more please!”  In the middle of being so exhausted by 8:30pm that I gladly crawl into my bed if only to forget about the long day and relish the sweet parts as I drift off to sleep.

What I’m saying is that if I have the energy to scamper and jump to each crumb, then I can muster the self discipline to SIT STILL before him and trust that he will bring me a big warm slice of banana bread if I just sit at the table and wait.  Other peoples crumbs are nice, delicious even, but they always leave me pining for the real thing.  A whole piece to myself, enjoyed at the table like one of his kids.

So, although there are many good things to be read out there, and I’ve already downloaded 12 free Beth Moore books on my Kindle, I’m going to take a bit of a break, and start to let some of what I’ve read in the bible, during my own “quiet time” begin to sink in.  And in all those little moments when I’m searching for a crumb throughout my day, I’m instead going to let my mind rest, and think about what God is already teaching me, in his word.

As always, thanks for reading!