Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Of Wisdom, Maturity...and Lifeless Saltwater

Why have I not yet learned to keep my mouth shut?!

It's not as though I don't know better...I usually know when I would be better off remaining quiet. But I lack the self-discipline to follow through sometimes. There is that split second of decision, and because I am unprepared to respond correctly, I find myself caught in a mess of words which never should have been spoken.

I probably experience it most often with my family, since I'm with them more than anyone else. I find myself spewing out thoughtless opinions or criticisms that are not beneficial or edifying. Sometimes hurtful things need to be said, lovingly - but they still hurt. That's not what I'm talking about. I reference those words that come out quickly before I've even given myself time to consider their effects, the words that feel good to get out just for that moment, but quickly fill our hearts with grief and remorse.

Another way this problem of spoken words manifests itself in my life is through sharing frustrations with others. Sometimes we need someone to help shoulder a heavy load we are carrying...and other times the load is burdensome in a way that may stumble...and I should not impose it on anyone else. Striving for truth and honesty is no excuse for complaints, gossip or slander. Somehow in that moment between thought and vocalization of it, I have learned to quickly justify my voice in the name of openness and transparency. I believe God has placed my husband in my life to share those most burdensome loads with - but even more so, God Himself wants to be my comfort and encouragement through such trials. I often don't give Him the time to do that work of healing and restoration - I become impatient and "need" to TALK about it - rather than wait and trust in His Sovereign care.

Stupid. Unwise and immature. Ugh.

Yesterday I did this. I began sharing something with a friend and realized that I may be speaking more than I should. But in that moment of decision I argued that I should talk about it, I needed to talk about it - after all, it was just the truth, why hide it?

Why? Why do I do this?!

It's not that I don't hear or notice the Spirit's prompting, gently instructing me to stop. I simply do not listen to and follow His instruction.

I have a theory - it's nothing new, it's this: words in motion tend to stay in motion.
If I would just pause before I even begin to speak and ask the Lord for wisdom and discernment about what I should say, how I can be honest AND edifying...I know He would answer. Unfortunately, once the sentence starts, it's so awkward and unnatural to abruptly end in the middle that I seldom do - even though that still voice whispers "stop." I should have never begun, and had I inquired of the Lord before I spoke, I would not have likely ever opened my mouth. But stupid, stupid me - I just plow right through a conversation and then at the end of my words find myself recanting with a humiliating apology like I did yesterday: "I have to apologize. I never should have talked with you about these things. Please forgive me."

In maturity and wisdom with my words, I have yet to grow...

"We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check...With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who are made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water...But wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness." - James 3:2, 9-12, 17-18

Sunday, June 13, 2010



This is all I hear. Ok, well…that, the humming of our air conditioner and rhythmic breathing of my baby.

Everyone in my house is asleep. The rare and highly coveted Sunday afternoon nap has fallen upon my family. [Or at least MOST of us…I am obviously not participating.]

I have successfully prepped vegetables for dinner and all the dishes and the laundry have already been done. I feel like I should do something…but I have nothing pressing that needs to be accomplished.

As I sit here, trying hard to relax, I am realizing how uncomfortable the silence is for me. I don’t know how to rest. I have grown so unfamiliar with the practice of sitting down in quiet and just being, that the quiet has become a stranger to me, and as she and I sit here together, our closeness feels awkward.

“Be still and know that I am God.” – Psalm 46:10

I know how to serve and join Him in His work.
I know how to study and gain knowledge of Him.
I know how to stand and praise Him.

But I am so unaccustomed to being still.
[You’ll notice, I had to DO something, so here I am writing…]

I feel guilty for relaxing. I struggle with a sense of urgency – even when there are no pressing obligations to be cared for. And consequently, rather than enjoying the rare quiet moments I have, I wrestle in my mind with the endless mountain of miniscule tasks I’ve yet to accomplish. I know it will never dwindle much. With each objective I check off my list a new one appears shortly thereafter to replace it.

Is our society to blame for this deep rooted restlessness? Have I been taught to be busy or acquired a taste for undue stress? Is it my surroundings? Is it because I have 3 young children and silence is simply foreign to me? Is it sin? Am I afraid to be quiet and pause because I don’t want to listen; to let my mind consider more important and invasive thoughts than the usual, “What’s for dinner?” or “Who is crying?” Is it because of fear? Am I afraid of being alone? Am I so dependant on others that apart from being busy in some social way, I am at a loss for my identity?

I honestly don’t know. I assume it’s likely a combination of all of the above…since each seems to have a valid argument. I do live in a culture driven by speed and fed by constant movement and noise. This is a season in my life when I have 3 children almost entirely dependant on my constant attention and care. I don’t often take the time to wrestle with difficult thoughts. When I pray, it’s often short and sweet…and generally interrupted by a child who needs their bottom wiped [or something equally as glamorous]. I hate feeling alone. I even resent that my husband is napping along with the children, rather than spending time with me.



[That’s the sound I make in my mind when I suddenly realize something. It’s weird, I know.]

I think I just determined that sin was definitely a factor in my dislike of this quiet.

I’m resentful and selfish. I don’t want to pause long enough to acknowledge it, or sit quietly enough to hear that still small voice of conviction pierce through the humming of the air conditioner. I’d rather busy myself with some project I never get to do because my children consume all my attention – yet at the same time, I have no energy to start a project, I’d rather take a nap. Unfortunately, I cannot because I have believed the lie our culture feeds us that I must constantly be busy, or else fail for lack of having "done" enough.

So, even if it is “all of the above”…it starts with me, the decisions I make, the things I choose to believe and where I place my trust and my priorities.

I am amazed that everyone is still sound asleep.

I may head out to sit quietly on the porch – and do nothing, except consider His love. I think, with practice, I may one day grow fond of this “being still”. Maybe she and I will grow to be more than passing strangers or brief acquaintances; perhaps someday we will be great friends.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Stories of a Wise and Loving God

Today is the start of a new adventure for us. [Actually, at least around my house, everyday is the start of a new adventure.] But today's new journey requires a little more faith than the adventurous steps we take in  everyday life. Actually, this new adventure begins with rest for us. However, resting would be easier if I felt just a bit more relaxed, or comfortable in my circumstances. Instead, I find myself facing the truth, that nothing is certain.

Nothing that is, except for God. He is certain, steadfast, unchanging, faithful, and true.

I am certain of His wisdom, and I am certain of His love. I am confident that He will meet our needs. And equally confident that He will require us to face challenges that make us squirm a bit. Yet, even if we face discomfort, danger or fear, we never face it alone...and we never face it unsure of our end. We know that in the end, He holds us. No one can snatch us from His strong and gentle grip. Nothing can separate us from the love of God...and if God is for us, who can be against us?!

As I look around my home, I'm comforted by reminders of His faithfulness in my life. I recall times that we had to make decisions to step out, entirely unsure of the ground we would walk on if we did step - or if there would even be any ground to catch us. And every instance I can remember has proved Him both faithful and good.

Like when my firstborn was 6 months old and I felt convinced that I should stay home and care for him, rather than continue at my job. Unfortunately [or perhaps, too fortunately], my income provided over half of our family finances. Our mortgage was lower than any rental cost I had heard of...and we could change some of our spending habits, although, we certainly didn't live extravagantly. We did have 2 small car payments on our "new" used vehicles. We crunched the numbers, but it just didn't look like it would work out. After months of praying and calculating and aching to be with my baby, we finally decided that we were certain God was asking me to quit my job. And with no idea how bills would get paid and how numbers would add up, we determined that we would step...and prayed He would catch us.

I wrote out a notice for my manager. On the day I intended to give it to her, we were visiting my husband's parents. They sat us down and explained that for the past month God had been laying it on their hearts to pay off the remainder of our car loans, so that I could stay home with our son. They had wanted to tell us weeks ago, but circumstances had kept them from sharing it with us sooner. [Circumstance - bah! God just wanted us to sweat first!]

Or when we moved back into our one bedroom house, with our 2 year old son and a baby on the way...unsure of how we would manage fitting everyone and everything comfortably in here. And God slowing began to strip away things that we thought we needed. He graciously expanded our house, without ever tearing down a wall, or hammering a single nail. We sold our bed. God gave us insight and wisdom as we re-organized and found space we never thought we had. And now, 3 years and 2 more children later, He is continuing to teach us contentment, and a fondness for small spaces. :)

I think of the time that my daughter had a really high fever and we couldn't bring it down. My husband took her to the ER, and I stayed behind at home, so our son could sleep. Those hours waiting to hear an answer were some of the most difficult ever. I prayed and I wept and I paced and my mind was racing. By the time the phone rang with my husband on the other line, with good news to report, the Lord had taken my heart through a journey of fear, anxiety, and finally surrender. I knew that she was only entrusted to my care, she was not mine. And I was heartbroken, but willing to let go, if He asked me to. He didn't that day. And I am so thankful for each morning I wake up to her bright, cheerful smile!

And then there was a time when, despite my husband's hard work and long hours, and our best efforts to balance our finances, we were $500.00 short to pay our bills. It was the end of the month, and we had no way to come up with the cash on our own. We prayed about it and trusted that He would provide for us. A few days later [just in time to make our payments], a couple from church, who we barely knew, handed my husband an envelope. Inside was a card full of words of encouragement and a check in the amount we needed. They had no way of knowing our circumstances, but God had asked them to take a step, and they did, and He used them to "catch" us as we took a step. And in the whole process we were all blessed and amazed by the care and provision of God for His people.

I could go on – He enabled me to carry my children comfortably throughout my pregnancies even though I had severe back pain for years. He softened my parents' hearts, and we were married with their blessing. He provided financially again and again when we were in need. When my husband was away in other countries for work, he brought help and comfort to me through friends and believers I didn't even know. He asked my husband to leave a job he loved, and he did...and we were out of work for nearly a month, and had very little cash saved. God provided for us in the midst of a devastating snow storm, he was able to shovel snow for 9 days straight and earn more money than we normally would in an entire month! When my mother was diagnosed with cancer... When our son's leg was severely burned... He has always been faithful to go before us, and walk with us through each situation.

Once, when I was in my late teens, I was driving down the highway behind a larger truck, and I had an urgent sense to move into the left lane. I did. My mom was riding in the passenger seat and wondered why I was switching lanes; the right lane is safer, right? Suddenly, a huge sheet of plywood lifted from the back of that truck and flew behind it into the right lane - exactly where our vehicle would have been! We were both in shock. How could I have known? I did not know why...I just knew I needed to move, and God had protected us both from what I'm sure would have been a fatal accident that day.

I just think in my mind of all the ways He has cared for us...and I am reassured. He has never once failed me. Oh, He has left me uncomfortable in my circumstances...and He has ignored my hopes and dreams at times. But He has given me contentment in the middle of my discomfort and has been setting my heart on Him, rather than my desires for this life, and all the temporary sweetness it may offer.

So, as I look ahead...not too far ahead, I can only handle a day [okay, more often just a moment] at a time...I may not have any insight into what lies before us. But I know who goes before us…who holds us. And I trust Him. And because I trust Him, I can rest. I am going to enjoy these next few days together with my husband and our children, and not try to figure everything out. I have decided to be thankful in each moment, and determined to wait until He leads us to take a step. And when He goes before us, we will follow - even if it's dark, and we are unsure of where each foot will land. There is no place I would rather be than in the hands of Him who is perfect in both wisdom and love. I have a feeling this adventure will be the next great story we will tell of His faithfulness and provision in our lives.

"You hem me in - behind and before; You have laid Your hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me... Where can I go from Your Spirit?  Where can I flee from Your presence?  ...If I say, 'Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me, ' even the darkness will not be dark to You; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to You.  I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well. ...When I awake, I am still with You.  ...Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."  - Psalm 139

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Sometimes I Just Don't Really Love You

Every once in a while my persistence pays off...
Like last night, at 3:00 in the morning.

"Mom...Mom." My 2 year old daughter called from her room.

I was already awake with my 10 week old baby.  "Yes, darling?"

"Um...well, um, sometimes I just don't really love you."

!!!  Really?  At 3 in the morning, THIS is what you yell across the room to me?  [Thank you, sweetheart.]  "Yes you do."  I calmly replied.

"No, no...sometimes, well, sometimes I really just don't."  the sweet, little voice insisted.

"Yes, you do love me."

"No..." She said with a high and then low sing-songy voice, "No-oh..." [do you know what I'm talking about?] "I do-on't" [again the up and down sing-songy for "don't"]

How can someone be so adorable and mean at the same time?!

"Yes, you always love me.  Now go to sleep, darling."

"Well, Mom, um sometimes I do love you."  [almost apologetically, as though not wanting to completely discourage me]

"I know you do, darling.  Good-night."

............................long pause...........................

"Well, actually Mom, I do love you!"

"Yes, sweetheart.  And I love you too.  Good-night."

"Good-night, Mom."

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

My Evening Went Like This...

5:00 PM:
Suddenly, with no warning whatsoever one of my children bursts into a high pitched whiney yell: "Mooooooommmm!!! I'm hungryyyyyy!"

Me: "Um, Okay. I'd be happy to make you dinner, but it's not ok for you to speak to me like that."

My child then whimpers an equally whiney, "ooookaaay..." and pretends not to know better than to speak the way he did. This is where my second child enters the scene and begins to beg to watch a movie.

Me: "No. It's dinnertime. Mom's going to make dinner and you and your brother need to clean up the mess you made doing crafts."

First child [still whining] demands, "Whyyy??? Why do I have to clean it up?"

Me: "Because it's your mess and Mom is going to make dinner."

My children then walk away pouting and plop themselves on the floor in the middle of the mess and proceed to argue about who has to pick up which piece of paper on the floor. So, far no one has put away anything...and the disagreement escalates to screaming and crying, at which point I intervene, more for my own sanity than any other reason.


I handled it very calmly and rationally and set a great example for them.


[Yes, that was sarcasm before. It was not my finest moment. Oh, but it gets worse.]

After threatening, [and almost hoping they would continue to ignore my instructions so I could follow through] to send them to bed immediately if the 10 pieces of paper, 1 pair of scissors, and 2 glue sticks were not properly put away within the next 2 minutes, child #1 very reluctantly dragged himself around and accomplished the task, all the while complaining that child #2 wasn't doing it. Child #2 picked up 1 piece of paper just to prove him wrong no doubt and then returned to sprawling out on the dirty kitchen floor while I'm attempting to finish dinner with my 9 week old baby in arms.

I set baby down, [I needed both hands for a moment] and now baby is screaming. Child #1 is upset that baby is screaming and demands I pick baby up. At the same time, child #2 is notifying me that she does not at all like my choice of food for dinner and has absolutely no intention of eating any of it. I let her know I'm sorry that she doesn't particularly care for what I made, then instruct her that regardless, she will most certainly be eating some of it.

At this point child #1 asks "what?" I reply that I was speaking to his sister. He demands to know what I said. I reply that I was not speaking to him and he didn't need to know. He begins to yell about me not telling him and that he's mad because he couldn't hear what I said and he wants to know. I tell him to sit down and be "QUIET!"

I serve the meal...and the entire time, child #1 is requesting permission for activities he would like to do after dinner, to which I respond that he needs to finish dinner first and then we will discuss it. "Okay" he replies, and then proceeds to ask again. Child #2 is dropping food onto the floor and complaining that she doesn't like it and "will not eat it at all". "Fine,” I say, “but you will be hungry and I will not be giving you anything else to eat tonight."

Child #2: "Okay."
Child #1: begins screaming and crying "No! No! You can't...she's going to be HUNGRY!!!"

Meanwhile, I'm trying to eat my dinner while nursing the baby who is flailing and crying because she needs to burp, so I lift her up to burp her and that's more painful for her, so now she's screaming. Her discomfort escalates for about 10 minutes or so until she finally pukes all over the both of us and is now ready to nurse again.

The phone rings, and while I'm on the phone, child #2 decides to continue playing with and complaining about her dinner, but not really eating it.

Dinner is cleared eventually, and both children ended up eating at least most of it. I washed the dishes [with baby in my arms...yes, even the pots...I'm just that talented.] and child #1 is now playing a video game, while child #2 is watching. Baby falls asleep in my arms and I gingerly lay her down in her car seat, hoping she will rest long enough so I can squeeze in a shower. [Not only had I not showered yet today, but was also now covered in spit-up.]

At this point I decide to get children 1 & 2 ready for bed and instruct child #2 to go potty. She argues and eventually meanders her way to the bathroom, then sits down and plays. I walk by the bathroom and remind her again to stop playing and go potty. She responds with a snippy, "I am." [And continues to play]

Child #1 demands my attention, I honestly can't remember why, but I adressed him. 

Then, as I turn back around to deal with child #2, she announces with a panicked voice, "Mom, I did not ruin my big girls." [translation: I definitely peed my pants because I was ignoring you and being defiant and now I really wish I had listened because I know I'm in huge trouble.]

We stare at each other for a moment...
Look down at the puddle by her feet...
Look up at each other again...

She says, "Mom, I will not do it again."

Me: nothing. I just breathe. I have no energy left for anything else.

I put her in the bathtub and instruct her to remove her clothing. Then go and get some rags and cleaner to take care of the puddle.

Child #1 is now running back and forth across the house. I ask him to stop, noting that his baby sister is sleeping and I would like her not to be woken up and reminding him that I never let him run in the house anyways. To which he says, "Ok". And I return to my cleaning.

The mess is now cared for and Child #2 has undressed herself quite unhappily. [Apparently mom should be the one to touch the wet and dirty clothing, not her.] Now I hear crying in the other room. Baby is awake. And I also hear thundering footsteps across the kitchen floor. Then I hear it again.

Child #1 is questioned, and indeed he had continued to run through the house. Yes, he fully understood that he had been instructed not to. Yes, he knew it was going to wake up baby. And no, he wasn't going to run anymore. He is then informed that he needs to put away his video game and will not be playing anymore tonight as a punishment for disobeying me. To this he responds with a passionate, "WAHHHHHHHH!!!!" And begins yelling, "WHY MOM?!" over and over, between the "WAhh!"s.

Now I move crying baby's car seat into the bathroom and turn on the water for Child #2 who is now naked and cold. She doesn't like the water on her and screams at the top of her the the bathroom...and it echoed. Nice. Now baby is deaf. [Probably not really, but I was almost wishing I could go temporarily deaf for the remainder of the night.]

I calm her down and realize that child #1 is still screaming. So I put away the game for him, then inform him that he will not be playing for a week now. Naturally, he screams louder. I spank him and send him to his room.

I gather pjs for child #2 and remove her from the shower. Baby is now crying and child #1 is now quiet.  I talk with him about why he was being punished.

I wait for baby to fall back asleep and then shower...finally.

It's now 7:00 and I brush teeth for children 1&2. Child #1 decides his face is dirty and uses a washcloth to clean it off. Then he looks at child #2 and determines her face is also dirty, and proceeds to clean it for her. Child #2 dislikes it and screams. Since baby is still in the bathroom with us all, she wakes up. Child #1 is crying because child #2 is crying and baby is crying because our house is INSANE!

I want to cry...but don't...yet.

I yell at child #2 for yelling [brilliant, mom, brilliant, yell at them for yelling...that's some great parenting there.] [again, sarcasm] and rush children 1&2 off to bed, kiss them quickly and reluctantly, force out an "I love you." to each of them, and then go to comfort hysterical baby...who is wet and needs her diaper changed.

I sit down with fussy baby and nurse her. She again needs to burp, so I hold her up, to which she cries, I lay her down, she cries louder. We continue trying various positions for about 15 minutes until finally she burps, spits up chunky milk all down my chest and clean pajamas and bobs her head searching for something more to eat.   And then she poops and her diaper leaks on us both. 

I just breathe.

I think I need to pray.  And then wash some laundry.