Monday, June 30, 2014

Gritty Love

Have you heard that love is not a feeling, it's a choice?  The news is true.  It goes so much deeper than emotions that can be tossed around like a row boat in a storm.  Where is the appeal in someone who is patient and kind with you, but only when they feel like it?

Can I be real for a minute?  I don't feel like wiping my kid's butt this afternoon, but I will decide to do it anyway because I love.  It's not because I have this overwhelming sense of fulfillment and joy in diaper changing.  It's not because I sense a mutual respect between me and my 18 month old.  In fact, trying to hold her down while she squirms around on my bed threatening to smear poop on my cream-colored sheets does nothing for me.  Except maybe frustrate me and make me anxious.

Can we take it a notch deeper?  When those who are closest to me cause me to become brokenhearted, I often feel far too justified to submit to humility and forgiveness, but I am called to do it anyway because of love.

 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Love is giving the other person longer than they deserve to correct a mistake.  Love is earnestly praying for those who have smiled to your face and tarnished your name behind your back.  Love is humbling yourself enough to admit your part in the destruction of a relationship.  Love doesn't advertise someone else's sins to make your own a little dimmer.  Love is refusing to let past betrayals control your mind and heart today.  

You may think you know what love is, but you don't really.  Its true definition and example is beyond your wildest dreams.

1 Corinthians 13 is often recited at wedding ceremonies.  It sounds so lush and comfy when two beautiful people are committing to it at the altar, but I wonder if everyone knew the truth, would they still take the vow?  Oftentimes, love is not soft and easy.  It can get gritty and painful, but it's exactly what God has been doing for us since the day he created us in his infinite imagination.  He loves us in spite of who we are, and he calls us to do the same.

Monday, June 23, 2014

A Recovering Approval Addict

I am a recovering approval addict.  There.  I said it.  Now you know me.

I wrestle and struggle with the opinions that others have of me.  The stupid part is, that it's not just confined to those I love, but perfect strangers as well.  I want everyone to like me.  I want everyone, I literally mean everyone, to think I am cool, right, intelligent, funny, and a good mom.

But the problem is...not everyone likes me.  There are people who don't like how I raise my kids.  There are those who have rejected me for following Christ.  There are folks who make judgements about my marriage and (gasp) love life.  Huge bummer for an approval addict.

A weight was lifted off my heart this week when it sank in that not everyone is going to like me.

It sounds like an obvious statement, but to me it was a revelation.  One that brightened up the room and allowed me to take a deep breath.  It was a heart change.  Only one that God can do in a person.  He simply adjusted my perspective.

Galatians 1:10 says:

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

That hits me kind of hard.  If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.  Am I so concerned about what others think that I value that more than God's opinion of me?  If I put the approval of others above the approval of God, how many times will I deny his will in order to gain their human brownie points? 

Sometimes I make decisions that wouldn't seem logical to anyone else, especially a stranger looking in from the outside.  But those decisions are based on the Holy Spirit which lives in me.  

I have accepted the truth that I am not of this world, and rejected the lie that I must conform to it.  Not everyone is going to like me.  And the bigger picture?  I think Francie Winslow says it perfectly:

"...I was CREATED to be filled with God’s approval; sealed with HIS tender gaze of affection.  Wandering around, trying to get filled up by people’s opinions of me is simply a distraction that keeps me from my destiny."

That is such sweet news to me, friend. My striving for the approval of others is not just exhausting, but it is unnecessary and counterproductive to the work God is doing in me.  Set free is what I am!  

So, on days that I feel broken or not good enough based on the judgements of other sinners like myself, I have these promises of God to cling to:

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
Psalm 139:14 (NIV)

You are altogether beautiful, my darling;
    there is no flaw in you.
Song of Soloman 4:7 (NIV)

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?
1 Corinthians 3:16 (NIV)

Monday, June 16, 2014

Why I'm Not Raising My Kids To Be Happy

It is a tragedy for food to be wasted in our house.  On the rare occasion that something is so freezer burnt that I just have to throw it out, I feel like I should bow my head over my trash can and say a few words about the pig who sacrificed so much for so little.

That being said, we don't tolerate too many meal time shenanigans from our oldest.  I cook reasonable meals for a toddler and if he chooses not to eat, he knows that he will not get anything else to eat until the next meal time.  No goldfish and no sticky gelatin snacks in the shape of Ninja Turtles.  Dessert is his weakness, so things can get pretty heated when the rest of the family clears the table and prepares for something sweet.

I will admit that it breaks my heart to see him so devastated that he cannot take part in something that the rest of the family is enjoying.  But it is more important to me that he understands the value of real nutrition.  Without learning this lesson, he will continue to gorge himself on Pez, MnMs, and fruit snacks all day and skip solid meals altogether.  Actually, he would prefer it that way.

Sometimes a temporary unhappiness is necessary to achieve a deeper sense of well being and joy.  I fully believe that God created life, so he alone gets to define it.  I may not like or understand all of his commands.  I may not think some of them apply to me.  But the rock solid truth of the matter is that every single word from God is breathed for us to thrive and have a deeper sense of well being and joy.

Philippians 2:3 says:

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourself."(NIV)

I have experienced first hand the dangers of not taking time out for yourself every once in a while.  A lack of date nights, quiet times, and time to take care of yourself can be devastating to a mom's mental, emotional, and physical health.  Please understand, this is not what I'm burdened by.  My heart is heavy for individuals of all walks of life who have accepted the lie that their own happiness is the ultimate goal of life.  We have mommies and daddies walking away from their families because a little less responsibility feels lighter.  Relationships are torn apart because people find it more comfortable to take the attention off themselves by pointing the finger at others.  Some are drowning in debt over material items because they deserve them.  Meanwhile, the ones who love them suffer as casualties of war.  A multitude of sins are being covered by the excuse of the pursuit of happiness.

We live in a dying world full of broken hearts.  It is saturated with selfishness and the lies our culture feeds us.  How will my children reach those hungering for love if they are misinformed that their happiness is what comes first?

When our chase for happiness becomes our focus, we stop being God chasers.  I would be elated if my children grew up with a deep sense joy.  And I know that will come from being a God chaser. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Put A Bag Over It

During one of my recent grocery shopping trips, I tickled and nibbled and told funny jokes in the produce section trying to get my cranky babies and toddler to hang on for just a few more minutes.  (Yes, I'm the one that actually pushes that three kid cart.) I only had a few things left to cross off my list of food, but it was lunch time, nap time, and I'm-tired-of-being-in-this-cart time all at the same time.  I let Jonah pull down and hold onto the thin, wispy produce bags that I needed for my squash and zucchini.  It takes longer than if I were to just do it myself, but at his age, he thrives on independence and helpfulness.  While I was trying to pick through the bin of squash, I hear, "Hey mom! Look at me!" I turned around and saw Jonah grinning from ear to ear with a produce bag over his head.  I took about a step and a half back to the cart, slipped the little bag off and said, "Jonah, babe, you can't do that. It's not good for you honey." No biggie, right?

In the matter of seconds that it took for this event to occur, another woman shopping near us took notice and made it clear by her shaking head that she did not approve.  Her smug look and short chain of unsolicited comments toward me solidified her judgement.  Suddenly, I was an inadequate mother and I was embarrassed.  I wondered if she was the elusive super mom or if she was just having a bad day.

Motherhood is such a hot topic these days.  Stay at home or continue your career? Breast or bottle? And if you do breast, should you feed in public? Sleep train or attachment parenting? There are just as many ways to parent as there are baby food varieties in Wal-Mart.  And women of all varieties are coming together across all social networks to bash each other over it.

Why?  I mean isn't being a wife and mother hard enough as it is?  It certainly isn't all that I expected it to be.  When I had dreams of having my own family they didn't include financial stress, a child with a heart defect, and no dishwasher.  My dreams did not include the vast variety of disappointments and heartbreak that only come from loving deeply.

But it is so worth it because something wonderful is happening and I get to be apart of it.  God is teaching and changing me through this incredibly crazy thing called family.

With the exception of those who abuse or neglect their children, we all have one common goal.  To raise these little things up to be great people.  What if we could accept each other's differences with a little grace? What if we lifted up instead of tearing down?

In the moment, I felt like telling the judgmental woman in produce to put a bag over her head.  But another onlooker commented on how funny my son was and how he must be a blast at home.  I softened and remembered that I didn't know that woman's story any more than she knew mine.

It's time for us to love more deeply.  God calls us to be in community with each other, not in competition with each other.