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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”
I have always loved reading Proverbs 31: 10-31 “The Wife of Noble Character”. It is a beautiful description of the most beautiful woman, a woman after God’s own heart. I love the lyrical prose and imagery, but I thought it would be fun to re-write it (insert lightning strike), as it applies to my life. What would MY Proverbs 31 woman look like? Some traits I can relate to, but I have no idea to spin “flax and wool” or “supply belts for tradesmen to carry across the sea”. (If you know how to do these things then rock on sista’!) So here is my interpretation of the text. It is not a description of me, at least not yet…it is a description of the woman I hope to be…in my becoming. I’ve included the original text first (without the lightning strikes) for your comparison. What does your Proverbs 31 woman look like?
(10) Who can find a truly excellent woman? One who is superior in all that she is and all that she does? Her worth far exceeds that of rubies and expensive jewelry. She inspires trust, and her husband’s heart is safe with her, and because of her, he has every good thing. Every day of her life she does what is best for him, never anything harmful or hurtful.
How rare to find a godly woman who has her priorities straight. A woman who other women should seek to emulate. She is the most precious thing on earth. A life-giver. A safe place. Trustworthy. She mothers the earth with her strength and dignity, with or without children of her own. Her husband has complete trust in her, he hands over his own heart to her in confidence. She makes him feel needed. She makes him feel strong. When she believes in him, he believes in himself. She is his biggest fan. She encourages him in public, and speaks highly of him to her friends. She pushes away negativity, and chooses her words carefully- full of love for him. She knows her words have the power to build up or destroy his spirit. Other women notice how she talks about her husband. Men notice too. Their mutual respect and intentional encouragement are inspirational.
(14) She moves through the market like merchant ships that dock here and there in distant ports, finally arriving home with food she’s carried from afar. She rises from bed early, in the still of the night, carefully preparing food for her family. She has a plan. She considers some land and buys it; then with her earnings, she plants a vineyard.
Her family is her business and she takes her job very seriously. She is methodical and calculating about where she invests her time and energy. She gets up early, before anyone else, to map out her day. She has a plan. No time or money is wasted. She makes wise choices that will offer the greatest return on investment.
(17) She wraps herself in strength, carries herself with confidence, and works hard, strengthening her arms for the task at hand. She tastes success and knows it is good, and under the lamplight she works deep into the night. Her hands skillfully place the unspun flax and wool on the distaff, and her fingers twist the spindle until thread forms.
Her strength comes from the Lord, so she meets with Him every morning. She reads the Word and prays, covering herself and her family. She knows who she is in Christ. A precious daughter of The King. He sustains her. After she focuses her mind and hears from the Lord, she strengthens her body. She runs. She lifts weights. She does yoga. She is thankful for her health and works hard to preserve it. She is ready for the day, knowing that God will make her efforts successful. Well in to the evening she skillfully threads letters into words and weaves words into paragraphs. Thoughts. Stories. Ideas. Encouragement. All the while praying for God to write His words through her pen. Putting thoughts into ink refreshes her soul, and it is good, and she is satisfied.
(20) She reaches out to the poor and extends mercy to those in need. She is not worried about the cold or snow for her family, for she has clothed them all in warm crimson coats. She makes her own bed linens and clothes herself in purple and fine cloth.
She is aware of those in need around her, and does something about it. She knows that God has taken care of her so that she can take care of others. She is not worried about the well-being of her family, because she has covered them in prayer. She clothes them and nurtures them, and trusts God to protect them from the world. She takes responsibility for her household without neglecting herself. She treats herself well because she knows she is worthy and loved.
(23) Everyone recognizes her husband in the public square, and no one fails to respect him as he takes his place of leadership in the community. She makes linen garments and sells them in the market, and she supplies belts for tradesmen to carry across the sea.
Her husband is known and respected in the community. He loves the Lord and blessings follow him. She is active and resourceful with her gifts; using them for her family and others.
(25) Clothed in strength and dignity, with nothing to fear, she smiles when she thinks about the future. She conducts her conversations with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is ever her concern. She directs the activities of her household, and never does she indulge in laziness. Her children rise up and bless her.
Clothed in strength and dignity with nothing to fear, she smiles when she thinks about the future. She has an eternal perspective and a sense of humor that get her through each day. She is a source of joy to those around her. She sees every conversation with her children, family and friends as an opportunity to demonstrate the love and kindness of Christ. She is not overwhelmed by her family’s schedule. She manages activities to avoid both dangerous extremes of laziness and busyness. She preserves valuable family time. Her children enjoy being around her and she enjoys them. She is the calming center of peace in her home.
(28) Her husband too joins in the praise saying, “There are many women who do well in every way, but of all of them only you are truly excellent.” Charm can be deceptive and physical beauty will not last, but a woman who reveres the Eternal should be praised above all others. Celebrate all she has achieved. Let all her accomplishments publicly praise her.
Her husband is proud of her. He tells everyone how blessed he is to have her as his wife. A charming personality can be manipulative, and physical beauty is only temporary, but a woman whose heart belongs to The Lord should be praised above all others. This is the type of woman that society should honor and all women aspire to be. Pure in heart and in action, her life is a testimony of her Heavenly Father’s perfect love.
I know this is weird coming from your mother, but I’m here to tell you that you CANNOT be anything you want to be. As it turns out, there are lots of things you probably won’t be any good at. And that’s a good thing. It is true that Life is about discovering what you were meant for…about hearing your whisper. But, discovering who you really are, is mostly a process of elimination: Discovering who you are NOT. The good news is: you have a gift. The bad news is: you’re gonna have to cross some things off your list to find it.
In discovering who I am, how God made me, I have discovered a few things I am not:
I am terrible at math. And I am a terrible math guesser. If you ask me to guess or estimate any quantity, I will likely give you a ridiculous answer. And I certainly cannot do simple math in my head. When I run out of fingers I am screwed. Yes, you should strive to learn math because it is necessary (most of it), but I am really ok with the fact that I stink at it. I have a phone. With a calculator. I’m good. (Vocations to avoid if you are bad at math: Accounting, Engineering, any business really, etc.)
I am not a good organizer. When I see clutter I see trash, NOT potential. I am the opposite of a hoarder because I am a thrower-away-er. Mostly because I don’t know where to put things!! I can stick to systems but I cannot myself CREATE systems by which to keep my life in order. I stink at it. Once we had a house cleaner who while cleaning, brought me a box of my own items and said in broken English, “Dis does not belong in kitchen”. Tears welled up as I whined in perfect English, “But where does it gooooooooo?” Organization and Administrative duties are a no go for me. (Vocations to avoid if you are organization-averse: ANY office job, Any receptionist job, being a mom. Kidding. Kind of.)
I have no eye for style. I have absolutely NO idea what colors go together and what textures go together and what is acceptable decorating taste. Period. I can however look at magazines. When I see a picture I can get the picture. With my wardrobe I will just try to recreate the exact outfit the model in the magazine is wearing. In decorating my home, I am a slave to Pinterest. My brain just CANNOT envision what would look good on my own. I have a friend who is has a beautiful home. Every room is tastefully and immaculately decorated with meaningful galleries, full of just the right mix of color, texture and nostalgia. I hate her. Totally kidding. I envy her. BUT, I have come to the realization that I am ok that I have to look to magazines and Pinterest for (step-by-step) inspiration. It’s not my “thing”. (Vocations to avoid if you are style-averse: Decorator, Fashion Designer, Reality TV Anybody, Homemaker. Kidding about that last one again.)
Animals. I think they are cool, but I don’t want to be responsible for one. (Vocations to avoid if you are animal averse: Veternanarian, Marine Biologist, Farmer, Animal Planet employee, Dog Trainer, pet owner. Seriously. I don’t want one.)
Serving and bodily functions. I would make a terrible nurse. Don’t call me over if you are sick because I cannot deal with goop. I do have compassion and I will send over a meal, but I can’t stand the sight/smell/ feel of any bodily goop. When my kids get sick my first thought should be: “Oh no. Bless their heart. My baby is sick.” But my honest first response is: “Oh no. Goop. Bless my heart.” Also- if I sense you are capable of getting your own soup and Kleenex I will encourage you to do so. (Vocations to avoid if you are snot/poop/pike/serving averse: Doctor, Surgeon, Nurse, Janitor, Mother. Dang it. Somethings you just gotta do.)
I have a Business degree from Georgia Tech. That sentence makes me smirk because there is nothing in it that resembles ME. An engineering school (Math), with a business degree (Administrative and more math). What is even funnier (now NOT then) is that right after I graduated, I got a job at an ACCOUNTING OFFICE as a RECEPTIONIST!!! What? I know. Crazy. I was “let go” within a year. Should I have gone to GT? Should I have pursued a different degree? Sigh. Another blog, another day…
In Romans, the Bible says, “Be honest in your evaluation of yourself” Exactly. Don’t waste your time doing things you’re not good at! Cross them off the list and MOVE ON! Seriously. And don’t feel bad about it. I’m not saying to avoid learning or challenging yourself, but don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t good at something. Because you ARE good at something. You just have to discover what that thing is: the thing that God put in your heart for you to discover. Your gift.
Gifts are who you are. Gifts come naturally. Talents are great, but gifts are what you need to “do”. Given by God for you to give away to the world. My spiritual gifts are: Encourager (“get up and get your own soup..see??, you’re not THAT sick!”), Teaching and Exhortation. Learn to operate in your gifts and you will be fulfilled. And you can let the list of “things I’m not good at” get longer and smile and think, “I’m doing it. I’m discovering who I am meant to be.” And that takes bravery and honesty. You cannot be anything you want to be, and you SHOULDN’T. Because you are a very unique piece of God’s great puzzle and finding where you fit is heaven on earth.
Keep trying. Keep crossing things off. Keep in Step with the Spirit. And he will lead you to what you were meant for. When the Bible says He will give you the desires of you heart that does not mean he will give you WHAT you want, but He will place the things TO want in your heart. So babies, you cannot be anything you want to be, but you can be your you-iest YOU, and THAT is all you should be.
I struggled deciding on a title for this blog without it sounding weird, but sex as a parent IS weird so whatever. Lots of things change when you become a parent including your relationship with your spouse. Things get more challenging. There are more decisions to be made and errands to be run. Having the time or energy to have sex seems to be last on the list of priorities.
But it shouldn’t be.
My husband and I have been married for 12 years and have been doing the di-biddy-doo-dah for… well…more than that, and we have decided that while our children may have taken our sleep and sanity THEY WILL NOT take our sex. It has become a game. A challenge.
Yes, sometimes we are dead tired after we wrestle the kids to their rooms at bedtime. We sit down and exhaustedly look at each other.
“I love you.”, “I love you too.”, “Do you want to….?”, “Yeah, I’m about 50/50.” “Me too.” “But, I could rally.” And rally it is. And it is ALWAYS a good decision.
But then there are the days when we chose sleep the night before and we look at each other in the middle of the day.
“Here kids, watch a movie!” “Help yourself to snacks in the pantry!” “Mommy and Daddy will be right back.” “DON’T come upstairs!” And we RUN.
But they always DO come upstairs and that’s when things get hilarious. Goodbye days of steamy passion. Hello days of stealthy pursuit.
KNOCK. KNOCK. KNOCK. “What is it?!” (In unison)
“I need to tell you something.”, “What??”,” I need to come in your room to tell you.” , “NOPE. GO DOWNSTAIRS.” “But I…”, “GO!”
Where were we? Oh yeah. We’re doing this! They will not take away our…
KNOCK. KNOCK. KNOCK. “GO DOWNSTAIRS!!!!”, “But how do you spell “sloth”? “BAHAHAHAHA!” (In unison) My husband, “S-L-O…” Me, “Are you kidding?!” (I almost laughed him out of me.)
It used to bother me to think that my kids were awake and in the house when we were having sex. It would derail my concentration, but then I realized that I’m just gonna have to power through it. Cause they ain’t going anywhere for 18 years and Mommy and Daddy have to handle our business. So it’s a challenge. But we are winning. Quietly. With the occasional exclamation, “STOP FIGHTING!” or “JUST PUT A BAND AID ON IT!” or “WATCH PEPPA PIG!” or “GOOGLE IT!”.
Never giving up.
So yes, things change when you become a parent. Passion turns into Powering Through sometimes, but it is worth it. Different. But a whole new world of interesting. Don’t let your kids take away the reason you wanted to put-a-ring-on-it in the first place. Do it. Often. How often? Well that depends on the couple, but I think somewhere between 1 and 50 times a week is “normal”. teehee. Hopefully you both agree upon the number. Regardless… DO IT.
This is my story, this is my song, Praising my Savior all the day long; This is my story, this is my song, Praising my Savior all the day long.
I’ve told my story to a few friends, and I thought I would finally get it down on paper to share with my kids someday. It’s not an in the beginning type story, I’ll start in the middle of His pursuit of me. And I, in my limited knowledge thought it was in the midst of His forsaking me. Oh but what a glorious God we have, who writes each of our stories in a unique way.
This is my story…
I have ALWAYS LOVED the gym. I can remember my Dad taking me to Alvin’s Gym in Savannah, GA when I was just a little girl. I also have early memories of people complimenting my mother’s legs. (Sorry Mom, I can feel you blushing reading those words.) So I’ve always wanted biceps like my Dad and calves like my Mom. I loved weights, and as fate would have it there was a local Weightlifting Team in Savannah. Some of the kids on the team went to my church and some went to my school. It was right up my alley, so at 14 I started competing in the sport of Olympic Weightlifting. (Clarification- I was NOT in the Olympics…it is a style of weightlifting that is an Olympic sport.) I loved it. I can’t say I was a GREAT lifter, but I won a few medals and really enjoyed the sport. It gave me a lot of confidence as a kid. I continued lifting my first year at Georgia Tech on a local team in Marietta, GA. And then I met a bodybuilder.
I was intrigued…a little smitten…and naïve. I stopped weightlifting and started bodybuilding. I loved bodybuilding. It was still lifting weights, just with a different purpose. Unfortunately for me, however, it was the beginning of the unraveling of me. I can see now in hindsight, that this unraveling was being overseen by the Grand Weaver (Grand Weaver by Ravi Zacharias) who was pursuing me. All of me. As he worked on the tapestry of my life…
I stopped and started a lot of things during this time of my life. I stopped going to school and started doing recreational drugs. I stopped going to church and I started hanging out in the wrong places. And then I made a decision that changed the trajectory of my life.
I started using steroids.
This of course was all new territory for me and like I said, I was naïve. When people think of women and steroids they think of the big masculine look and clearly I don’t look like that. Fortunately for me I didn’t do enough to negatively alter my appearance in any way, BUT I did do enough to get a major wake up call. To explain, I’ll need to back the story up a bit. In addition to introducing me to the gym and working out, my parents were also very musically inclined. My Dad was in the Atlanta boy’s choir as kid and my mother grew up playing the piano and singing. So it was only natural that I inherited the music gene. I LOVED music. I sang ALL OF THE TIME. At church, at home, at school. My Mom told me once that one of her favorite memories of me was overhearing me sing Jesus Loves Me when I was very small, in perfect pitch. I have fond memories of my Dad and I singing in church together, and later my brother and I would sing in beautiful harmony at school concerts and church functions. We were the stand-around-the-piano-and-sing kind of family. When I moved to Atlanta I would sing Karaoke any chance I got, and enter into singing competitions. (This was pre-American Idol, but you can bet I would have auditioned!)
Music was a love, and a gift and an idol.
Well, I think you can see where this is headed. It’s a pretty well-known stereotype of female bodybuilders to have deeper voices. My voice changed. Suddenly I could no longer sing. Music was my life. It was my Whisper (so I thought). And now it was gone. The idea that I had somehow changed the trajectory of my life with a single decision was something I couldn’t wrap my head around. The only think I can compare it to would be a professional athlete losing a limb. It was a loss of identity. And I spiraled into depression. Unraveling.
I saw an advertisement one day in a bodybuilding magazine for a contest. A writing contest about steroid experiences so I wrote about mine: I Am a Woman who used Steroids and Lost a Precious Gift. And I won. $100. Yippee for me. $100 for my ruined life. Years later I searched “steroids and women” in Google and that same article I wrote came up. Haunting me. I can’t find the original post online, but it is still floating around in cyber space and in few discussion threads. Here is one: http://www.leanbodiesfitness.com/threads/i-am-a-women-who-used-steroids-and-lost-a-precious-gift.8723/ .
I found it in on a couple sites, complete and referenced. Some of the responses were, “How sad”, “She was old enough to know better”, and “These are the drugs she should have done…” Anyway, my article that has survived all of these years has been read and thought about and discussed, and I can only hope that my story has helped other young people think before they act. Decisions when you’re young and uninformed can affect the older wiser you. Let me be clear, I am not against YOU using steroids. I am, however, against ME using steroids. (By the way- I feel the same way about alcohol.) I AM FOR a guilt-free life which requires wise decision making and that can look different for each of us.
So I competed in two bodybuilding shows and won my first one. After the distraction of bodybuilding I was left with the “normal” me and my new voice. And I didn’t like either one. I could no longer sing and I couldn’t even listen to music. Music made me depressed. It was like an echo of my former self. I didn’t think I could live without it. I ran from the pain and tried to numb it with drugs and alcohol. I wasn’t Bonnie the Bodybuilder and I wasn’t Bonnie the Singer. I didn’t know who I was.
But the Grand Weaver kept weaving and whispering.
Years went by and Mr. Right and I started going to North Point Community church and 7:22. God was calling us into the light. We were finally making some wise decisions and we got married. I thought I would finally be happy, but I had not dealt with my pain. Finally I sought out professional help from a Christian counselor who my mom found through a friend. Best. Decision. Ever.
Kathy listened as I sobbed my story. “If God made me just the way he wanted me to be, and then I damaged me…how can I ever be whole? What can I do to get my voice back?! What magic prayer can I say so that he will hear me? And heal me?”
I said a lot and she said a lot. She drew some pictures and explained that as long as I keep “filling my cup” with talents, hobbies, relationships, drugs…I would never be whole. And then she asked me a question that I will never forget, “Bonnie, have you ever asked God to give you the GRACE to be OK if he NEVER gives you your voice back?” I unraveled. That was never an ending that I had entertained. I had already decided (apparently from my response) that I was not going to be happy until HE healed me. The tears came hot and hard. I wanted to fire her. I wanted to scream and I wanted to run out of that office.
I had entered into The Brokenness.
And then she showed me a verse from the Bible:
They do not cryouttomefromtheir hearts but wail on their beds. Hosea 7:14
I had done my share of wailing and whining to God about what he allowed to be taken from me.
And then this one:
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18
It’s hard to explain what I actually felt in her office right then. It was the deepest sense of loss and pain I had ever experienced, but I knew I wasn’t alone. For the first time I felt His sadness for me. His child, who was brokenhearted and who he desperately wanted to comfort. I cried and I prayed out loud for God to comfort me, to give me grace, to fill my cup and to make me whole. And a wave of love rushed over me. I felt “hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Corinthians 4: 8,9
And God healed me.
…but not in the way I had hoped. He healed my heart. He met me in my brokenness and reminded me of who I am and who I am not. I am not a singer. I am not a sport. I am not a hobby. I am not a wife or mother. Those roles can bring great joy but they can never replace my HOPE. My Savior. He sustains me.
I am a daughter of the Most High King and HE will forever be ALL THAT I NEED.
Perfect submission, all is at rest,
I in my Savior am happy and blest,
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.
P.S. I still LOVE lifting weights and I LOVE music. I sing all of the time…just not very well. And I’ve learned that music, as Ravi Zacharias puts it, “is not the totality of worship”. When I love on my husband and my children, the four most important people in my life, it is music to my Heavenly Father’s ears…and that is my new song.