Life Hero

I cannot be the only person hooked on one of those color matching game apps. There’s tons: gems, candies, etc. I’m a smiling vegetable sort of girl. It’s not like I spend a ton of time on this game – at least that’s what I tell myself – but I check in pretty regularly to do some sliding and swiping. It’s satisfying, in the craziness of my life, to see things match up and disappear with ease.

There’s something I notice about myself through these games: I tend play ahead. Even as the vegetables fall, my fingers are already trying swipe my next move. And sometimes, just as I swipe that move, I see something that was even better (it’s even more annoying when the boy points out my mistake). I’ve missed the big move that opened up from the one before, something I couldn’t foresee. My rush, my loss.

I’m learning a lot about life from my Farm Heroes.

It has drawn me to another food-based saga from the Old Testament. The Israelites, wandering in the desert, were given manna every day.

Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.'” (Exodus 16:4)

They were to gather and eat only the day’s worth, storing nothing, with the exception of the Sabbath, for which they could gather one extra day. It was a test of their ability to follow God’s instructions, to make sure their lives were dependent on Him and His plan. 

The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. And when they measured it by the omer, the one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little. Everyone had gathered just as much as they needed.” (Exodus 16:17-18)

Crazy enough, when they did as instructed and measured by God’s standard, they always had enough, even if they fudged a little in their gathering process. God made allowances for their human tendencies and corrected them with grace.

Deliberate disobedience did not meet such understanding.

“Some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell.” (Exodus 16:20)

Looking ahead is one thing, fudging and faltering and being generally human similar. God knows we may mess up in our follow-through, and thankfully He’s full of grace. But when we choose to ignore His instructions, we risk ruining tomorrow. I’m struck by how a beautiful gift is spoiled by moving even a moment ahead without God’s blessing, and I wonder why I’m so blasé about seeking Him even in the littlest things. Do I believe He will say no? Most of the time, when I seek Him, I already know His answers. They are often aligned with my heart, thankfully. It’s the act of seeking His blessing that seems critical, that moment of just bowing my head and remember who knows more.

In Farm Heroes, most of the times my moves stay the same, though sometimes there is one I would have missed. Still, would it kill me to be more patient, and to practice that patience with the One whom it matters the most? Because a missed move is nothing; a miss-step from God is everything.

So my question is, how careful am I to practice live by daily bread, checking my schedule’s rations with the One most capable of managing them? How could I make it more of a practice to live by daily bread, and what difference could that make for a life lived light?

My part, His story

The boy and I have taken to reading together at night. It started out as a bribe–I’ve been bound and determined since before they were born that they will read C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, and they will love them as I have loved them. Of all the books I’ve read in my life, these have been the most loved for their combination simplicity and complexity, for the beauty of both story and prose.

M tried them and passed.

“How can you not love them?” I implored. And yet, he did not love them.

What he does love is time with me, so I made him a bargain: I would read with him for the last fifteen minutes of the day, if we could read The Chronicles…. And so we have.

(Insert parenting guilt: Perhaps I should never have stopped reading with him. Perhaps I have missed out on banking countless moments of togetherness by trading reading together for reading apart. Perhaps that time was critical and without merit lost forever. Perhaps, perhaps–the story of a parent’s life. I love that Christ is so in the moment when our flesh so desperately sticks in the past. What’s done is done, what is will be)

We are nearly at the end of the third book, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and coming up to my most heart-wrenching moment in the series (spoiler alert–if you haven’t read the books, be aware!). Reepicheep, the leader of the mice, is about to set sail for the end of the world, never to return.

No matter how many times I’ve read this series–and it’s a lot–I come to this moment with my heart in my throat. Reepicheep is a strong and noble character, full of life and humor and enthusiasm. Promise. This mouse, two feet tall, is bursting with more promise than almost any other character. And here we will leave him at the end of the world, sailing away into a sea of flowers for adventures untold. This has always been his dream, his destiny, the one thing he wants more than anything else in the world.

Still, I cannot bear to part with him.

I want to hold onto him forever, find out what he might say or do at any moment, be part of his every adventure. I do not think it’s fair to be given a character that’s so incredibly lovable only to have to let him go, even if it’s his heart’s greatest desire and the logical next step in his journey.

The worst part is, he’s right next to me, and she’s sleeping in the other room.

As we’ve approached this final chapter of the book, I’m seeing for the first time how difficult the parenting road really is. We are gifted these children to guide, protect, and grow, only to have to let them continue their own journey alone. Granted, I pray that my children will always include me in their lives, but that’s not a given, nor will it be the same as the closeness we have now. We love them to the point of letting them go.

I do not want to let them go.

“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good? To the Lord your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it.” (Deuteronomy 10:12-14)

As with the characters in a story, we become so attached to the things and people in our lives that we begin to think of the story as our own and thus subject to our own desires. The story is God’s; everything in it belongs to Him. We have our own part, and that it is to fear God, love Him, serve Him, obey Him. It is to make subject to Him all that we have, including ourselves and our children. Even if they are written to sail away to the very end of the world without us.

Holding onto anything as if it’s mine places me in direct conflict with the will of the Lord, and it prevents me from being able to completely focus on my part in the story. I can enjoy the times this part overlaps with the most amazing people, places, and ministries, but I cannot let that enjoyment become confused with ownership, because it never belonged to me in the first place. I belong to Him.

So the question is, what are you holding on to as your own, and how does that weigh you down on the road you are called to walk? How could you shift your perspective to consider it His and not yours? There’s a freedom in that, knowing that you are not responsible for the rest of the story. Leave that to the author of Creation–He’s clearly up to snuff.

The parenting guilt, it lifts as little as I consider this: walking in open-handed obedience to God allows Him to rewrite those missing moments in a way I never can. I rest in His grace; I trust in His competence; I live in His story. In His hands, what is will be good, in Narnia and now.

Engaged and entrapped

It is possible, sometimes, that we still struggle with meltdowns. Still.

In such meltdowns, it is my nature to wrestle with the issue–reason, dig, understand, deal, explain.

This is not helpful.

It’s not helpful because in the midst of these meltdowns, my child is not struggling with something constructive. My child is struggling with sin–unkindness, harshness, meanness, total lack of control, etc. I recognize this because I know the Fruit of the Spirit, and I know that when we’re in that moment, we’re not dealing with those, and this goes for both of us. The more I engage with this sin, the more I become a part of it as my flesh gets drawn in. Somewhere underneath, there is something constructive, something worthy of addressing, but in that moment we’re so entangled in the sin, we cannot reach it.

It’s not just possible but an absolutely certainty that I still struggle with meltdowns even more than my child.

Mine are not as loud as my child’s. Mine are very soft, quiet, and occur almost entirely in my own head. They sound even more awful, those negative tracks that play. They tell me of how terrible I am as a person, how lonely and rejected I am, how inadequate and unacceptable is my work/body/life.

And yet I know there is something constructive under there, something deep in need of dealing, and so I begin engaging them, wrestling with these voices. But the more I dig, the more entangled I become, and while I, at my heart, desire to tend, nurture, solve, and grow through this process–much like my motivation with my child–it does not seem to happen. And then the voices reach chorus level, because: look now, you’ve failed again! See how we’ve proved ourselves right!

Sin is a nasty bitch.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Sin entangles us so easily, and I am helping it out. I imagine that I need to wrestle with this issue as Jacob wrestled, and then I remember: Jacob wrestled with GOD. Not sin. Sin entangles; God sets us free.

Instead of wrestling with sin–just in the moment–I need to reject it. Reject it and RUN. Do not stand around and consider what was just cast off. “Run with perseverance the race marked out for us”–because whatever that issue is, it’s not as important as what God has planned for me: “For we are God’s handiwork,created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)

Those voices are lies, created by the Father of Lies, and the reason Satan’s go-to weapon is words is because they do entangle so easily. I think I’m making progress when really I’m just delving deeper into the sin. I begin to define myself by those lies instead of being who I’m created to be: a worker for our Lord.

That work begins with rejection, with running, and with fixing our eyes on the only One truly able to get to the heart of the problem without becoming entangled in the sin because He is the one who defeated sin. He is “the pioneer and perfecter of faith,” the One who can now attack our sin with joy because He knows He will always win because He has already won. He maybe probably definitely the One who should be handling my heart.

So my question is, are you engaging your sin or rejecting it? Are you focused on who you define yourself to be or who you were created to be? No matter how convincing those voices sound, if they don’t reflect the Fruit of the Spirit, they are lies, and if you truly want to be set free, that’s a job for the God.

Seeing through the storm

“Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!'” (Matthew 14:29-30)

I have been in a storm.

This is my busiest season in a life that is almost consistently busy. I know that our culture bristles at that word, and I agree that busy should never be for busy’s sake, but also–life is busy. It is full and abundant and I struggle sometimes to understand how I am called to be at rest when I’m also called to so many ministries.

I believe it is, in part, a matter of perspective.

We read the story of Peter and see his faltering faith, but I think of the storm. I imagine the biting coldness of the rain, the bowl-me-over buffeting of the wind. Throw in some hail piercing my skin and thunder rolling above. In that howling darkness, the water quaking under my feet, I feel myself drawing inward, curling against the tempest.

Then I feel myself sink.

Peter’s problem was not the storm, though our earthly bodies tell us opposite. The problem is that we believe our bodies, and our gaze follows.

Yes, if your life is less busy, the storm will be less distracting. But I’m tired of feeling stuck because “less busy” is not an option. Trust me–I’ve asked. So there must be another answer, because God would not lay out the storm-focus-faith scenario if the answer to Peter was “You should have stayed in the boat.”

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (1 Corinthians 4:16-18)

Outward, there are storms; inward, God renews us “day by day.” Little bits, long term. We get there by looking upward, lifting our eyes even as the storm rages harder on our upturned faces, and looking past the storm to the Father with His outstretched hands, the Son with His warm embrace, the Holy Spirit with His inward renewal.

Every day.

I know that seems relentless, tiresome, or impossible–day by day, forever?  But you know that phrase, “no pain no gain.” What exactly do you think gains eternal glory? It’s certainly not sitting in a boat.

So my question is, what do you need to look past, and how can you look to the eternal instead? It may not change the storm, but by God’s blessing it will change this day.

Good and perfect gifts

We interrupt this load of laundry to bring you a special stone:

  
Such is life with kids.

My son burst in from the backyard as I sorted through the fabric sea that had become my laundry room. “Mom, can I show you this rock?”

Of course. There’s nothing I would love more in this moment than a distraction.

“It’s really cool ’cause it’s all smooth and black and it’s got this neat line in it.”

Yes, it is really cool. In a backyard filled with jagged gray and white or milky pea gravel, it’s an utterly unique find. A gem.

“I think I’m gonna smash it.”

And off he went, set to smash this gem of a find. Also, I was now putting together the sounds of hammers I’d been hearing. Let’s just chalk that up to fostering independence and creative thinking. And LAUNDRY. 

It got me thinking, though. How often are we just like this? We have a gift (let’s say, I don’t know, writing. Or for you it might be sewing or a love of food/books/basketball/etc.). A special gem placed in our heart by the Creator. A unique and special gift

How often do we smash it with the hammer of our lives, our schedules, or feelings that this gift really doesn’t provide anything truly useful?

God is good to give us what we need. We can get so caught up in what we don’t have, but what about the things we have that we think we don’t need: gifts, and what they could give if we took the time to cherish them. We must need them, or He wouldn’t have chosen them so deliberately.

“Each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed…Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created” (James 1:14, 16-18). 

God gave us our gifts, and He is solid, not shifting. His decisions are not made without the seal of perfection. In other words, He didn’t get your gift mixed up with anyone else’s, and He didn’t throw it in just because it was lying around. We were given these gifts as a sign of the many and various fruits of His creativity, no matter how we try to deceive ourselves otherwise. Their existence is their usefulness, as is their enjoyment. 

So my question is, what are you doing with those gifts? Are you cherishing them? Ignoring them? Or are you smashing them, simply because life (or your laundry-minded mom) gave you a hammer and that seems way more useful, constructive, or satisfying? What are you missing out on through that destruction?

As a side note, my son wasn’t out the door before he changed his mind. The stone remains, beautiful, as are we all.

The Journey Begins

When I was sixteen years old, my sister and I went skydiving. I’m not sure what would possibly possess my parents to let their only chldren jump out of an airplane at the only facility in California willing to break the law (I was underage), but I’m tremndousy grateful for their awesomness. It was a dream for both my sister and I.

And yet, as we reached our jump altitude, a sudden and understandable certainty arose: I will not be jumping out of this plane. I analyzed my options with surprising calmness. I will tell them I cannot jump. I will unstrap myself. They will fly me back down. That’s all there is to it. Despite my dream, my desparation to dive, when faced with an open door and the ground SO FAR BELOW, I was satisfied right where I was.

There was, however, that dream still stirring inside. Before I could say anything, my instructor, strapped to my back, began issuing simple and clear directions in my ear. They seemed so straightforward that even in my deer-in-the-headlights fear, I could follow them. That dream wanted to follow them. Move this way. Now that way. One foot on the ledge. Lean forward. And then:

WHOOSH.

I burst out into the open space below the plane with stomach dropping gravitational pull. We were in freefall for a solid minute before he pulled the cord, after which time we drifted in absolute silence to a rough but solid landing. There are no words to express what those five minutes were like, but the fact that twenty years later I can still see the vast landscape spread before me, hear the wind roaring in my ears, feel the force of my descent whipping around me should say something about how profound the experience was.

I’ve restarted this post so many times that I’ve lost count. I’m not really sure what to say. For a year and a half I have set all personal writing aside. Truth be told, most of my personal projects have moved to the back burner. Instead, I’ve poured myself into my famiily and my job, with really positive results. I know I’m where I’m supposed to be, and even if that’s a really challenging place, it feels good to be there. 

But there’s also been a stirring in my heart to return to writing. It was truly one of the great loves of my life, and while there were some really valid reasons I set it aside, but I am realizing that the two biggest may have been weakness and fear.

Weakness and fear are not of God. They are keeping me from what God has for me.

The thing is, I’m satisfied with what God has given me. I love my family, my job, my life. I love my friends and my chuch and my community. So when God has whispered,”There is more,” I have honestly not been tempted, and He, to His infinite credit, is not going to make me. But I’m coming to see this not as a polite no-thank-you but a trade. I am trading a God-sized gift/dream for satisfaction.

That’s not actually satisfying.

I think about what I would have missed if I had been satisfied inside that plane, if I had let my weakness and fear convince me to trade that satisfaction for those five amazing minutes. 

What am I missing out on now? And for what? Is it really worth it?

I don’t know what to do, but I know I don’t want to waste any more time being satisfied. I have an instructor more powerful than anyone else ever, a conviction that He has something waiting for me, and the willingness to take one step at a time.

The journey begins.

Happy 2014!

I hope that you and yours have been enjoying the holiday season as much as we have. There’s been much lego building, bracelet making, and nap taking. B and I have actually slept in until almost seven on multiple days. We’ve played at Get Air and Legoland, cleaned out the backyard, and consumed our fair share of cookies, chocolate, bacon, and sangria (though thankfully not all at once). I feel so blessed to have wrapped up the year in such a wonderful way.

It truly was a wonderful year. I looked back at my old resolutions and was thrilled to find only one: to live light. And I did! I lived the lightest light: I lived by FAITH.My mantra has been TRUST, and I’ve had to repeat it to myself almost daily. But it’s also led me into new friendships, new responsibilities, and a new career that I absolutely love. If I had one testimony to give from 2013, it’s that trusting in God and living my faith leaves you doubly blessed: first because you leave the worrying up to the One in charge, and second because you experience exactly what He designed you for.

This year, I have a few smaller goals I hope to meet, like purging the closet and garage, appreciating my volunteers, and running a strong VBS (the biggest adventure, since no one in our family has experienced a VBS. No one. Ahem.). But my biggest prayer and goal for this coming year is FOCUS. Focus on God’s will, focus on the tasks required to accomplish it, focus on what matters. As I look at those smaller goals I’ve been tossing around, they really lead back to this one big commitment. I hope I return here in no year feeling like I really know and understand what I’m doing for the Lord, as much as that’s ever possible, and am doing it with intentionality and purpose.

All that to say, this will be my first and last post for 2014. Of course, God always reserves the right to require something different, but for now, I feel like this is the right step. Thank you to all those who have faithfully followed my journey–I wish you all a blessed 2014!