Learning to Love Myself

2017 has been an interesting year for me. On one hand I had a nervous breakdown and on the other hand I had an emotional breakthrough. But that is just how my God works.

In January my life long struggle with anxiety hit an all-time high. I still can’t go into all of the details because I’m just not ready. But as I am coming out of this fog I can share with you some of the cool things that have happened during my recovery.

When I realized just how serious and debilitating my condition was I hit the ground running trying to get better. I reached out to friends. I saw a counselor. I went to my doctor. I got on some medicine. I practiced more yoga. And then I did something that I’ve never tried:

I went to a hypnotherapist.

I know. I wasn’t so sure what I thought about that either. My counselor actually recommended this therapist otherwise I’m not sure that I would have sought one out. I had no idea what to expect. Was I going to be “out of control”? I felt very vulnerable letting someone “into my mind”. But I know that the Holy Spirit protects me so I decided to give it a shot.

The whole process was very positive and enjoyable. In fact- it reminded me very much of when I practiced visualization and spoke positive affirmations over myself in preparation for Amera’s (very successful and highly satisfying) home birth.

I won’t give you all the details but one thing that we did was extremely impactful. I have thought about it every day since. The therapist asked me to visualize a time when I was extremely anxious. Immediately I saw myself sitting on a hotel bed in Disney World (the happiest place on earth- I know.) with my children surrounding me.

They had no idea that mommy was crumbling inside. I looked terrified, sad and defeated. My eyes were full of tears and the lines between them were deep. I felt what that Bonnie was feeling: panic. Her vision blurry. Her heart was racing. Her hands were shaking. She wanted to scream. To cry. To run. She wanted to be anywhere but inside her own body.

He asked the present me, to go to that scared me. “Knowing that you make it out of that episode, how would the you now comfort the you then?” Suddenly I was no longer a spectator. I was in the room facing this months younger version of myself and I was overcome with compassion. I walked towards her.

I’m not sure why I was so surprised by what I did next. If it were another family member or friend sitting there my response would have been completely natural and authentic. I sat down on the edge of the bed, hurting for this version of myself. I wanted to hold her. To tell her that she was going to be ok. To make the yuckiness go away.

And then I leaned forward…and kissed myself on the forehead. The warmth of my actual tears streaming down my face temporarily awakened my conscience mind from my trance. The older me was comforting the younger me, and I understood the lesson. I have to love myself. I have to show self-compassion when I feel scared or hurt or flawed. I need to be a friend…to me.

I am drawn to people who are hurting. I want to encourage them and stand beside them through the pain. So why not myself? I have always heard of loving yourself to feel worthy and loved and enough, but I needed this very real visual to remind me that I can make my own situation better or worse depending on my self-talk. My thoughts about who I am are powerful. And so are my words.

So I have decided to practice loving myself. Feeling shame doesn’t do one thing to help me become the best version of me. If I’m struggling, I will be extra kind. If I’m not happy with my body I will say beautiful things to it- holding thankfulness in my heart. If I am fearful or sad I will not run. I will acknowledge my feelings and give myself time and space to make the next best decision. If I feel like a failure, I will pick myself up and try again.  And when I’m overwhelmed- I will laugh.

Instead of my worst critic I will be my biggest supporter, because

I am LOVED. I am WORTHY. I am ENOUGH.

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Recovering Homeschool Mom

This past year was hard. I homeschooled my older two kids (1st and 2nd grade) and made up “work” for my little one in the days she wasn’t in preschool. I was SO excited about it. I transformed our never-eaten-in dining room into a beautiful school room with maps on the walls, bookshelves, a white board, a free-play area with legos and games and even an adorable reading nook with a fluffy rug. I was ready.

homeschool

No one in my circle of friends and family ever suggested that I homeschool my kids. If anything I felt the “pull” towards traditional school but I somehow just knew that we would homeschool. I loved the idea of it all- the freedom, the relaxing environment, the time with my babies.

 

Looking back I now see that fear was also factor in my decision. I was fearful of my kids going to “real” school. Not because of the academics (although I’m not crazy about the new math), but because of what they might be exposed to unrelated to education. Not to mention they wouldn’t be under my direct supervision at ALL times.

People would make comments like, “I could NEVER do that.” or “I could homeschool (insert calm child’s name here) but NEVER (insert wild child’s name here.) And I judgingly thought, “You’re the parent? How could you NOT be able to teach your kid? (if you wanted to) You love them the MOST!” Parenting for me has been a steady diet of my own words.

The first couple of weeks were everything I hoped them to be. The kids were excited. I was excited. I loved read-aloud time on the couch, hammock or porch. But then the newness wore off and we got down to the work of school. I tried to make it fun and tailored to their interests. We would slow down on hard days and ride the wave of great days. I was giving it/them my all.

But my kids weren’t treating  me like their teacher. I know this because I SAW how they treated their preschool teachers. (and their teachers always loved them) I got a lot of push back and things never seemed to get easier. I’m sure it’s universal to complain to your mom instead of someone else. I still do. (So sorry mom.) So at the end of most days I was worn out and frustrated and so were they. And then I would have to magically become mom again and be nice to them. I had a difficult time with this:  You were a whiny pain in the butt all morning and now you want a sandwich?! Go make your own flippin’ sandwich! And I assume you want clean underwear in the morning? And a snuggle and a story at bedtime? It was too much. I never found the balance.

Mr. Right was super supportive and sympathetic but I could tell my wearing thin was wearing thin on him as well. Daily he would come home to a joyless wife. Not good. I remember a particularly low point when my mom said something to me that woke me up, “No school is more important than your marriage.” That resonated with me. I was suffering and WE were suffering.

At some point (we are slow learners) we acknowledged that this wasn’t working for our family. We had hit a breaking point. And just to be sure we were picking up the signals, my mind started breaking down as well. I have always struggled with anxiety, but I guess you could say that I have been successful at keeping it at bay. Well, in January of this year the dam broke and debilitating anxiety flooded me. It is too soon for me to write much detail about it but I was suddenly forced to focus on me. I had to get better or things were not going to be ok for anyone in my family.

There was no way I was going to continue to homeschool. The deep desire I had to do so was suddenly absent, and I was left with questions and worries. What were we going to do? We researched private schools and were in sticker shock after multiplying tuition by three. We talked about homeschool co-ops for a short minute until I bravely said out loud, “I don’t want to homeschool anyone. Ever.” That was freeing.

Mr. Right kept bringing up our local public elementary school and I kept shooting him down. Who cared if it was one of the best schools in one of the best counties? Who cared that the teachers (God bless teachers) didn’t want to leave that small school that felt like family. Who cared that the staff and families lived in our neighborhood and went to our salon and attended our church? I had to protect my children!

Here is what I did care about: I cared about protecting my marriage. I cared about my kids making friends and feeling part of their community. I cared about my sanity and health. And I cared about not feeling alone. So I did what any good mother would do. I got on some medicine so I could think clearly, I talked to a counselor and I prayed. And prayed. And prayed some more.

And slowly through the fog His answer became clear. My children are His children. I cannot control everything about their lives. I have to trust that He will lead them when I am not around. And I can’t effectively “mother” them when I am worn down to an emotional and physical mess. As Brene Brown so expertly put it, my breakdown was also my spiritual awakening.  

I had to relinquish my imaginary control over my kid’s lives and trust that God would lead our family and each of our children down the right path. There were so many clues that homeschool wasn’t working: a strained relationship with my husband, strained relationships with my children, a nervous breakdown. And as my heart, being backed into a corner, accepted our reality I soon began to see positive glimpses of our future.

I talked to family, friends, parents, teachers & my counselor and everything pointed us toward the next step: public school. By now I had to laugh because I certainly tried to avoid this. But I paused and even though it was a different time, I thought back to when I was in school. I loved school because I love people. Anyone who has met my kids knows they will talk your ear off and play you a song and show you a handstand, because they love people too. And then the next step was illuminated, and peace overwhelmed me.

It isn’t going to be perfect, but I know it is where He wants us to be. He has called us to be Salt and Light. I still worry: Are my kids salty and bright enough? Are they weird because I homeschooled them or are they just weird? ( they’re just weird) But I have more peace today than I have in a long dang time. I’ve enjoyed these strangely quiet afternoons as I sit in my office writing…and waiting for the school bus. And I am enjoying getting to know my husband better in this new season, and investing in our marriage.

By the way- I think homeschool is awesome…for all of the reasons I set out to do it in the first place. But children, families and mommas need different things in different seasons. So we are walking in the light that we have until he reveals more of the path. And for me the light came in the form of a bright yellow school bus. Will I ever homeschool again? I’ve learned to never say never because God likes jacking with my plans. But it is a little like asking a mother in the delivery room if she wants more kids: Too soon.

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Growing Hope & Chives

Every spring I plant a garden. And every year nothing grows. Ok so a couple of things “grow” if you want to call it that, but nothing even remotely impressive- or worth my effort of planting. One year I got a few snow peas, a couple of tomatoes and a weirdly shaped cucumber. Nothing from my lettuce, peppers or watermelon. Another year I planted strawberries, but whenever they would get close to being red- some little creature would get to them first and eat big chunks out of them. My blueberry bushes apparently didn’t cross pollinate so I would get blooms but absolutely no berries. I had some success with chives, but really? Chives? Chives alone do not make a gardener.

My husband finds endless entertainment in my attempts at growing food. When I present him with a bounty of a single thumb-sized eggplant he’ll tease me about what that eggplant actually cost when you add up what we (he) spent on the raised bed, soil, seeds etc. I don’t think it’s funny. And I don’t know where I’m going wrong, but if my family had to self-sustain off the “land”, we would all die.

Every year I plant and water and hope and every year I am disappointed. But the crazy thing is- when spring rolls around again I get all giddy and start planting false hopes into the hearts of my children as we are driving to Pike’s nursery. I describe to them the sweet fruits and colorful veggies that we will get to enjoy all summer and I even let them pick out what they want to plant. My kids get half of their crazy from me so they go along with it. We break ground together in the sun and plant our garden that we’re pretty sure isn’t going to grow. But we have hope. Silly signs-of-spring induced hope.

I clearly don’t know much about gardening but I do know one thing: If you plant NOTHING, you get NOTHING. Every time. So, every spring I’ll take my delusional crew to Pike’s and choose my seeds and  seedlings carefully. I’ll ask questions so I can maybe this year will be better than the last. And when those couple of snap peas grow, we’ll out go outside to do the happy dance and chew them very, very slowly.

When my efforts in life don’t bring me the results that I want I can choose to be upset or I can choose to keep planting. I can smile at the small sprouts and shoots and do a happy dance when I have something to show for all my hard work. Even if it is small. I have found that most of the work of life is not-giving-up work, that begins with a seed of hope. Hope that whispers, “Try again”, and “Next time will be better.”

When we stop hoping, something in us dies. We aren’t promised positive outcomes and guaranteed results. But we are given a new chance every time we ask for it. A new freshly tilled heart and a seed of hope. To dream and care for and nourish. With each attempt we grow-even if it is just a little.  You are not responsible for the outcome. Be hopeful. Be crazy enough to plant again. And again. Maybe nothing grows.  But more than likely something will grow- even if it is only chives. That’s a start.

Mom-life crisis

 

My mom and I have a running joke when we ask each other how we are doing. It seemed that no matter what time of year it was or what was going on we would say, “I’m ok. Just two more weeks and _______ will be here/be over and things will be great.” Just two more weeks. Two more weeks and summer will be here. Two more weeks and we’ll be on vacation. Two more weeks and that project/deadline/appointment/party/function will be here and gone and I’ll be ok. Just two more weeks that lead to two more weeks that lead to…well you know.

And sometimes in the chaos of the never ending two weeks we hit a bump. Especially mothers. And something cracks.  I’ve had a few mom-life crisis. After my youngest was born I had 3 children under the age of three and lost my mind. Our baby was a surprise baby (aren’t all third children?) and I wasn’t used to my life as a mother of two. Now I had two toddlers and an infant. Crazy Train. I remember when Amera was just a few months old, I went out and got a bad tattoo.  It’s not that the tattoo was bad; it was exactly what I asked for. BUT I WAS NOT IN ANY FRAME OF MIND TO MAKE SUCH A PERMANENT DECISION. I have since then had it worked on AGAIN so that I can stand the look of it. A cover-up of a cover-up. I call that a mom-life crisis.

Last fall I got an ulcer. I thought only old people got ulcers. Certainly not a young healthy, non-drinking, worker-outer like myself.  It was one of the most painful things I’ve ever experienced. And just like in the movies, when I got upset or angry about anything my ulcer would “flare up” and dang it hurt. What the crap? Mom-life crisis. Sometimes your mind tells you you need to go get a tattoo and sometimes your body tells you you need to slow the heck down.

Well this year my mom-life crisis came as a bit of a surprise with anxiety. I struggled with depression and anxiety a decade ago and I had to seek medical care along with counseling to get through it. I did get through it, and I have since then felt deep empathy for anyone going through such a dark time in their life. It is not new territory for me, but I honestly thought that when I stopped drinking 8 years ago my anxiety would never come back. Well, it’s back. Damn family genetics. But I am grateful that my family knows EXACTLY what I’m going through, and my friends have been so supportive. And BIG shout out to Mr.Right, who is my human Xanax, and has seen me through this before.

One of the differences between then and now is that this time I am not ashamed. This time I am reaching out right away. This time I am getting help now and not later. This time I’m a mom. And moms have to take care of themselves for their families. This time I am leaning into others and listening hard for what God wants to teach me through this.

So I told my family. I reached out to my friends. I contacted a counselor. And I went to the doctor. We were not made to do hard things alone. I spilled my medical and genetic history and got a prescription. I did not think I would ever be back here, but I am going to get through this. And I will be stronger because of it, and even more sensitive to those hurting around me. I asked the doctor how long it would take to start feeling better and do you know what he said? At least two weeks. I couldn’t help but smile.

Be healed.

One of my favorite stories in the Bible is when Jesus heals the paralytic man. It reminds me so much of my story, but not in the way you would think.

The man’s friends bring him to Jesus (clearly, because he can’t walk). And not only that. They go to great lengths to get their friend to Jesus who is speaking to a crowd of people in a house that is at maximum capacity. People are spilling out of doorways and windows. The friends can’t wiggle themselves through the crowd, much less carry a man in on a stretcher. (I am reminded of the time my family left a stroller at Stone Mountain because we couldn’t get it through the 4th of July throngs of people.)

Seriously, these guys get Friends of the Year because they could have just said, “Sorry Dude. We did all we could, There is no way we are getting in that house”, and I think the paralyzed man would have understood. I mean, they tried. BUT. They didn’t give up that easily. Someone had the bright idea of going up on the roof, putting a (man-sized) hole in it, and lowering their friend in the middle of the shocked crowd at the feet of The Healer.

I imagine Jesus was in in mid-sentence when pieces of clay and straw started falling on his head. Looking up to see the ever-increasing hole and the growing patch of sunlight, he and the crowd watched a man-shaped mat being lowered to the ground. Slowly. Carefully. I’m sure he smiled (Knower of All Things) as he made eye contact with each of the determined friends. Jesus was impressed.

He was moved by their faith. So he did the greatest thing he could possibly do in that moment for them…

He forgave the man’s sins.

And the human minds in the room couldn’t comprehend the enormity of that moment.

The quiet miracle of a heart healed.

The deafening roar in heaven as the man’s soul was accounted for.

And it was finished. (At least to Jesus it was.)

The Healer of Hearts did just that. And He was pleased. Jesus looked past the man’s physical infirmity and dealt with the more important sickness. The sickness of the human heart. He accepted him just as he was and on behalf of the incredible faith of his friends. His healing was complete. (And I wonder if the man knew, as he looked into the eyes of Jesus, that this was enough.)

Awkward silence.

Sideways glances.

And then- muttering.

Jesus may have been satisfied, but the crowd was not. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind what the paralyzed man (and his friends) went to all the roof destroying trouble for: They wanted a miracle they could see.

When I asked God to heal my voice years ago, I expected (and somewhat demanded) that he heal me physically. And so far he has not. He saw past damaged tissue and saw a sin-sick soul. He heard beyond my strained vocal chords to the sound of my crying heart.

And he did what any Great Physician would do: Triage.

He started with the most vital organ. The heart. And the healing began…

And to Him it was finished. For years I was sad/angry (sangry?) because I wanted physical healing, and I knew He could do it IF he wanted to. And he still could. But I know I my heart is healed because it doesn’t matter to me anymore what becomes of my physical voice. Healing my body now would just be a bonus. He has taught me to sing a new song: the song of a life lived for him.

God desires for us to be whole and healed, but our bodies are sometimes an afterthought. Maybe you get the healing you desire. Maybe it is for you or maybe it is for the faith around you. Or maybe you get the only healing that is irrevocably complete. A heart healing. Something much more important to God than what we think we need. (But it is ok to ask…to mutter…He can be moved.)

Jesus healed the man’s legs- as an afterthought. And sent him on his way.

Healed. Whole. And with a heck of a story.

And “Everyone in the crowd was amazed. All they could do was shake their heads..” (The Voice)

He made blind men see. Lame men walk. But it turns out His specialty is cardiology.

Eating my words

I was a perfect parent until I had kids.

I knew exactly what I was going to feed them (all organic and lots of green leafy vegetables). I knew what I was not going to let them watch on TV (SpongeBob. The horror!) And I knew that my kids would never misbehave in public (A good parent would be able to control their kids).

Yes, looking back I admit that I was Miss Judgy McJudgerson. I didn’t mean to be. I was just naïve to the ways of parenting- because, hello? I DID NOT HAVE CHILDREN.

Since having three little lunatics I have found myself on more than one occasion eating my well-intentioned words.

In my defense I started out strong. When my oldest was a baby, I pureed organic fruits and veggies every week. Poured them in ice trays and re-heated them as needed for a well-balanced baby-diet. Major mom points. When my daughter was born I found that I didn’t quite have the time that I did with just ONE baby, so she was stuck with jarred (albeit organic) baby food. Fewer mom points. And introducing mommy guilt. When my third was born (Surprise!), she didn’t like ANYTHING. Even though I didn’t have the time or energy, I tried making food, buying food, nothing. Oh, and she was a crier. Mad the minute she was born and still has an attitude. (My mom says this reminds her of someone).

Somewhere along the line, my perfect parenting hit an exhausted wall and turned into: survival mode. On date night I would grab little Caesar’s pizza- which is funny because I remember seeing a mother at the pool serving her kids Little Caesar’s when I was without kids (and all-knowing) and I thought, “How could you feed that crap to your kids??”. I’ll tell you how. You’re kids are picky as hell, you’re tired of pleading with them to eat sockeye salmon and did ya’ll know that Little Caesar’s is ONLY $5.00?!? And it’s HOT and READY!?! Dinner. Done. Maybe not many mommy points, but sanity points at this stage in the game are worth more. So, we’d plop the pizza box on the table, point at the baby in the highchair and tell the sitter, “Just throw some crackers at that one.” Then Mommy and Daddy rush out the door flinging children off of our ankles, slamming the door to muffle the sound of the SpongeBob on the TV, and speeding away to enjoy a much more expensive dinner. And much quieter. There is no price for peace.

I also remember saying something along the lines of, ”I am NEVER going to fix 4 different dinners for everyone in this family, I will cook one thing and you can eat it or go hungry.” I’ve finally learned never to say never, because God thinks that’s real funny. It baffles me and my foodie husband who LOVE to eat pretty much everything. My daughter’s tastes in food literally change day-to-day. What she loved yesterday is now “gross”. I can’t keep up. My son has developed a texture issue which has reduced his diet to PB & J’s. That’s it. I’m told it’s a phase and that we should gently encourage him to try new things, but so far The Boy is alive because of peanut butter. (At least it has protein right? Half a mommy point?) The baby still prefers to carb load but at least she’s eating, and crying less. She doesn’t do well with cheese though, so that really throws a wrench in my pizza plans for Friday. So when the babysitter arrives, I tell her, “Pizza is for The Girl, bread sticks for The Little One and just throw a PB&J to The Boy.” And we’re off.

And tantrums. In public. Good Lord that is a humbling experience. I have a big ‘ol space in my heart for mommas whose babies are acting a fool in public. I will admit my kids are good kids, but every now and then somebody loses their freakin’ mind, and you don’t see it coming. The worst one happened to me in Wal-Mart. (I know right? No one probably noticed) One of my children, who shall remain nameless, lost HIS mind in the toy aisle because HE couldn’t make a decision. He had MONEY that he EARNED and CHOICES in the TOY department and all of this JOY was TOO MUCH. Well, we had other errands to run on this glorious day and so I had to start a countdown. Sigh. I told him he had 5 minutes. Was he going to choose a lego set or a remote control helicopter? “BOTH are GREAT choices”, I explained. He looked left, he looked right, he groaned and he moaned and his face began to melt off…and then the time was up. I screw up a lot as a mom, but by golly when I make a decision I stand by it. So I told him we were leaving and we would come back another day. Angst turned into Anger. He screamed at me and held onto the cart with all of his weight and told me we were not leaving. I pushed the cart with my 2 other children in it towards the checkout. Unfortunately I had to purchase something or I would have just left. He screamed and cried and threatened to, “go to a baseball game with the devil”. He knows how to get under my skin: I hate baseball. I made it to the checkout with plenty of looks from EVERYONE. I got behind a sweet lady with two angel girls with her and after about a minute of watching she just smiled. I was too embarrassed to read into it. The lady behind me got out of our line, but not before complimenting my other two for being good. Whatever.

I made it home frazzled and reconsidering my decision to not drink, but we ended up having a great conversation. I told him through tears that mommy and daddy will always love you no matter what you DO or what hurtful things you SAY, because that’s how much God loves us. No matter how good a parent you are, and God is a perfect parent, our kids will exercise their free will to be good or cray-cray. And sometimes they will choose to exercise that freedom in the toy department of Wal-Mart. Have mercy.

My husband was on a business lunch with a friend one afternoon when he asked the obligatory, “How are the kids?” question. “Great. Good. Thanks for asking”, was the response. My husband leaned forward and raised an eyebrow, “Seriously dude. They driving you crazy?” His friend smiled, caught, and said, “Our oldest is about to kill us.” They both relaxed and my husband laughed, “Just checking to see if we were the only ones.” Kids can really complicate your parenting plans. Mine are 4, 6 and 8 and I have no longer have any plans. I have goals and aspirations and good intentions, but I’ve learned to leave the plans up to Him. I believe things will all shake out in the end. In the meantime, I will give my kids love and shelter and feed them the best I can, but that is all the commitment you’re getting out of me. Parenting has been the most exciting and exhausting time of my life, and I am just in the beginning. What I have learned most is that every parent is doing the best they can with what they know and how they are convicted. I will not judge how others parent. Instead I will offer only this advice:

It’s crazy, I know. Pray. We’re in this together.

Guess what else I learned?? Nobody is freakin’ keeping score!! Mommy points only exist in your own head. So let’s all RELAX and ENCOURAGE one another. And laugh at the days to come. And remember, nobody gets it all right. So LET’S DO THIS. Together. No scores.

Will you be my friend?

So here is the deal. I do not have a best friend, but I have always wanted one. Now, don’t get me wrong I have had friends my whole life. I get along with others easily and gosh darn it, people like me. But every time I hear someone casually say, “my best friend yada yada yada…” My mind wanders…

BEST friend? Like THE best? And you two agree on this?

See I get how two people become an item. You start out as friends and then as Bonnie Raitt puts it, “we stare just a little too long…we laugh just a little too loud.” But how do friends become best friends?  I mean, its gotta be mutual. Who makes the first move? Do you ask, “do you want to be my best friend?” How awkward if they don’t reciprocate the sentiment. As someone in search of best friend, I am baffled by the process. I have had people introduce me to their best friend and I always look for a subtle grimace from the person introduced. Nothing. “Wow. They really ARE best friends” I think, “Girlfriend didn’t even flinch.”

As fabulous as the idea of a best friend seems to me, I realize I may have something even better. Sisters. And a mom who feels like a sister. A sister is the closest I’ve come to having a best friend and probably most people feel the opposite. I can’t tell you how thankful I am for my sisterhood tribe that is my family. BUT. Even my mom, and both my sisters HAVE BEST FRIENDS!! So again I am left wondering if there is someone out there for me…

The friends I DO have are AWESOME. We laugh together, we cry together and then they mention their “best friend” in a story and dammit. Is everybody taken?! Maybe I’ll never have a best friend. Maybe I would be too much for one person to claim. After all, there is at least a period of 24 hours each month that I can’t stand to be around me. But everywhere I go, there I am. A thirty-something longing for friendship because that’s where the good stuff of life is. That is how God designed us to be our best- in relationship.

I’m learning to be a good friend. I relish the closeness I have with Mr. Right. I enjoy (mostly) these little people that are raising me and we have a deal that they are allowed to grow up ONLY if they promise to be my friend. Forever. My mom-friend is the first person I call when I have good news. I can count on my sisters to give me on honest feedback on my jean butt pocket symmetry and to laugh at my jokes-even the inappropriate ones. I know my fr-amily and the handful of friends I have will always be there for me for better or worse. When I’m at my coolest and when I’ve failed miserably. And even if all of them have a best friend- I claim them all to be my best friends. Plural. I may never share half of a heart locket with someone…but these people, my people have my whole heart.

My not-so-Jabez prayer

Years ago I read the Prayer of Jabez found in 1 Chronicles 4:10: “Oh that you would bless, and enlarge my territory. Let your hand be with me and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” While a beautiful prayer, sometimes I think that God wants to see that we are handling our current territory before he grants us a larger one.

If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones, – Luke 16:10

Some of us have enlarged our territories so much that we are losing ground. What good is it to reach out wide and fall short with those nearest to us? With hundreds of “friends” and too many obligations we find ourselves distracted and diluted in our efforts. Even neglectful. Some of us have created a false sense of community, ignoring more important things and ultimately robbing ourselves of peace and any realistically manageable territory. Some of us need to pull in the reins. To cut off the excess in our lives that is preventing us from focusing on what is most important. Some of us need to delete that number. To un-volunteer. To scale back the activities and obligations. Some of us need to sign off for a while…or forever.

We were made to be in community with one another-not the world. Hundreds of friends are unrealistic. Jesus had a little over 12. And he chose to invest in them and in face-to-face encounters with people who needed him. Why didn’t he just heal people by the masses? Certainly he could have. But he modeled for us authentic community and that the greatest influence is a personal encounter. We are not omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent like God (and social media), so it makes sense when we try to be everywhere all of the time, and try to be everyone to every body- it robs our peace. Busyness blurs our vision for what matters, and passing time becomes wasting it.

A few years ago I met an incredible woman who has dedicated her life to rescuing children from troubled situations and caring for them in her home. She and her family have taken in dozens and dozens of children right in this community! When I first got the chance to meet her and hear their stories through her story I was overwhelmed. “What can I do?”, I asked with tears in my eyes and a newborn in my lap. I’ll never forget her response, “You just be a good momma to those little ones.” Simple, but profound. It reminded me of something another great woman said, “What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.”- Mother Theresa.  Start with your family. And then the circle of friends you actually hang out with. Be intentional about investing in these relationships and the ripple effect will be huge.

Of course there many who have been called to world-wide ministry to make an enormous impact in the lives of people across the globe. They are doing a mighty work. But it is also a mighty work to invest in one life. To nurture our marriages and love our children and serve our communities. If every family started small, the impact would be far-reaching. Family is the foundation for world peace.

If God gives me a global platform I will follow Him, but until then I will pray:

Lord please enlarge my territory as long as it is still manageable, but help me to remember how you made a difference in people’s lives….face to face. One by one. Help me to pour all I have into only a few so I am not just giving a piece of myself to many. Starting with my family. And then my friends… and then to the ends of the earth. Amen.

Freedom of choice?

Choice is highly valued in our society-especially in America. We all want freedom to make our own decisions. We do not deal with the implications of making poor choices because a poor choice is also a freedom. True freedom, however, requires wisdom because poor choices always lead to bondage. It is so important for the future of our country and the success of our families to inspire and equip our generation and future generations to make the wise choice and not just relish in the freedom of a choice. When freedom is valued higher than wisdom- we are all in danger. To be truly free we need to seek wisdom and understanding from the one who knows best how to do this thing called life…because He gave life to us.

When I was 21 I made a poor choice. I have suffered the consequences ever since, and when If you knew of my choice, you will assuredly say that it was a poor one. I know. Now. That’s the thing about choices- they are obvious to others but not so clear to those who are making them. We see so clearly when a friend is about to make a huge mistake. We can predict the outcome of horrible choices made by others but we are blind to our own predictable path. We use “because I can” as an excuse for carrying out plans to ruin our lives. You have the freedom to make a wise choice or an unwise choice but either way you have exercised your freedom.

 

“Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her and she will watch over you”. –Proverbs 4:6

 

Choice is the simplest form of freedom. Freedom is defined as, “the power to determine action without restraint”.  With each choice you are granted even more or less freedom. The implications of choice are obvious in every arena of life. You make the free choice to spend more than you make you end up in debt. You make the choice to save and spend within your means you reap the benefit of living with margin. You use your freedom to look at images on the internet and suddenly it doesn’t seem like a choice anymore. You make the free choice to use drugs or drink too much and now you don’t have the choice- your body tells you you have to. Where did your freedom go? Tricky isn’t it? Freedom allows us more freedom or more bondage. True freedom requires wisdom.

 

An evil person is sure to be trapped by his sin, but a man who lives right is free to sing and be glad. -Proverbs 29:6

When you are faced with a choice, make the best one. The wise choice. If you are a Christian, be sensitive to what the Holy Spirit is whispering to you and make the choice that Jesus would. Only Jesus can make sense of confusion. In a world that has no absolutes He is absolute. I am comforted every day that my God is not confused. He wants me to be free. Free from sin. Free from guilt. Free from addiction. Free from anger. He wants me to make wise choices that he himself will teach us if we listen, so that we can be free to be glad and our spirit can be at peace. Freedom is fragile. Choose wisely.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What are you wearing?

Once again I found my daughters playing in my closet. Almost every hanger was empty and they were knee deep in my clothes. Their favorites are my heels, boots and “tiny dresses” (I think I need to start hiding those.) “What are you dooooo-ing?” I whined. “You guys have made a huge mess of my things!” My three year old stood up cautiously in my boots that came all the way up to her rear. My five year old wrestled the straps of my sundress to stay on her shoulders, looked at herself in the full length mirror and said, “But Mommy, we want to look like you.”

And I stopped…and looked at them. I was overwhelmed with the meaning behind their innocent play. They just want to look like me. I wondered for the first time in my life, “What exactly do I look like to them?” What am I modeling in my life that they will imitate one day (whether I want them to or not). Of course I have lots to say to my kids on a daily basis, but I know that it is my actions that speak the loudest. I’m reminded when I hear one of my kids speak harshly to another and before I can reprimand them I recall being short with them earlier that day. Ouch.

 “What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

I know that it starts with me. Of course they have free will and will make their own choices one day but for now I have a responsibility to not simply tell them how to live, but show them. Because they want to look like me, I need to clothe myself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (Colossians 3:12) daily, and hope that they are watching: Pulling on my slacks one leg at a time and walking in gentleness and humility. Buttoning up my shirt that holds a heart full of kindness and patience. Rolling up my sleeves and reaching out with compassion to broken hearts. Slipping on my shoes and keeping in step with the Spirit.

They’re listening (sometimes), but they are mostly watching. And I want to be sure that what I choose to “put on” every morning reflects the heart of Jesus. “But Mommy, we want to look like you.” When they are younger it may just be outward appearance, but when they grow older they will inevitably reach for the same spiritual attire that we did. Let us make sure that we tell show them what it means in Colossians 3:14, “Above all, clothe yourselves with love”