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!

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Be the bridge

As I waited with K for her teacher her to lead her class into school, I felt the tug of small hands on my legs. I looked down to find a wee one–two-ish, perhaps–looking just as startled.

The mom called him over and I laughed. “All the legs look the same from that angle.”

“Oh, I wish my legs were like yours,” said the mom.

This struck me as funny for two reasons. First, of all the blessed body parts I’d gift to another woman, my legs wouldn’t be one of them. I’ve come to accept them–their muscular nature, their structure, their cellulite–but I don’t love them like I love my hourglass figure or red hair or delicate wrists. To hear someone else longing for what I discount was strange.

But this led to the second thought: you’ve already got legs like mine.

They’re strong enough to run after small children, to take you up and down play structures. They’re flawed, or rather, they’ve got their own character. They’re unique to you, enough so that it only took a second for that child to realize that he didn’t want these legs. Not because they weren’t perfect, but because they weren’t part of you.

I wish we could see our common bonds more, instead of focusing on our differences. Yes, that mom trains for triathlons and you don’t. But you both have hobbies that you love. That woman is happy without children while you’ve got a carful–but you both enjoy the fullness of lives, however different they may be. No matter what the divide is–homeschool versus public, organic versus processed, all natural versus epidural–we are women making it work.

The next time you’re tempted to start a mommy war, take a look at your enemy. She’s got something in common with you, I can guarantee it. Let it build a bridge instead of a wall, that we may run this race in support instead of competition.

Cookie Monster

Me: I made some chocolate chip cookies.
B: Oh really?
Me: Yeah. It’s a new recipe, so tell me what you think.

I really don’t have to say that last part. It’s a running joke in our house. I’m always on the hunt for a different recipe. For almost everything, but especially chocolate chip cookies.

This quest for perfection spreads across my whole life.

I tie it back to my childhood, when only A’s would do. When it was simply to celebrated to get an A-, or even a B, or God-forbid, something even lower.

I had ulcer issues starting in high school. Obviously.

No one is perfect. I don’t expect myself to be. But that means I expect to fail, in big or little ways, in everything. Even chocolate chip cookies, even though I’m a crazy skilled baker.

As much as I recognize this trend and the ridiculousness of it, in the modern world of Pinterest perfection and blogs and Facebook, we’ve created a culture based not just on overachieving, but on presenting our achievements to everyone we do and do not know. It’s hard NOT to feel inadequate when you have to face these fronts every day, especially when you’re already so hard on yourself.

I may be able to tell enough in my family and my commitments, but when it comes to me, I never feel like I am enough, because I will never settle for the enough that I am.

In this dissatisfaction, I leave no room for God.

Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant —not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Corinthians 3:5-6)

I’m not meant to be enough. Not ever. Because I’m meant to need God to cover the rest, to let me stop at good enough and let Him handle everything else. Adhering to the letter–in this case, the grades, or the perfect recipe, or the Pinterest post that recipe came from in all it’s multi-photographed glory–kills. Life abundant comes from accepting our shortcomings, our imperfection, our need for God.

That’s also easier said than done. Good enough doesn’t feel good at all, not after a lifetime of perfection. But when the soul is downcast, “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God” (Psalms 42:11).

So I hope. I hope that I can make more room for God, that I can rest in good enough, that I can teach myself and my children that God is our savior, regardless of how our chocolate chip cookies turn out. In fact, He saves us from having to worry about things like that.

I hope and I hope and I hope.

Saving Grace

Meet Grace.

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Don’t get attached. Grace only stayed for the weekend.

I’ve missed our cats for a long time, even to the detriment of our garden. The kids have been asking for a pet for almost as long. We went through several options–rat, guinea pig, bunny, bird, dog–before deciding that the pet we could all agree on, the pet who belonged in our lives, was a cat. Even B was willing to put up with allergies for her presence (I married a very good man).

So we adopted Grace. She was, I kid you not, the sweetest cat I’ve ever met. Loved to play, but also loved to cuddle. Adored people–she’d purr as soon as she was picked up.

Trouble was, that love was not quite reciprocal.

The kids admitted she was cute. And sweet. And perfect. But she freaked them out. K could not come through a room if Grace was within ten feet. Neither child would sit on a couch if Grace was out. They’d perch on their barstools and try to read or watch tv, all the while swiveling in place to keep eyes on the monster beneath.

The monster weighed just under three pounds, mind you.

B was allergic, as anticipated. And the kids were downright frightened. Everyone looked to me, the affirmed cat lover, for guidance.

I had nothing.

Sure, Grace was lovely. But from the second we brought this bundle of joy home, I had a sinking sensation in the pit of my stomach: this is too much.

I’m so glad Grace wasn’t a person.

Lately, after a season of rest, God has been piling on the commitments, the callings on my heart, the desires to do. Every time I face another opportunity, I pray: Is this what you want for me? Is this too much?

The answer has always been a perplexing no, even when I’m sure it should be too much. God is heaping my plate and I’m still trying to tackle it fully and cheerfully without questioning the how or why.

Until now.

Because I had wanted this for so long. Because I prayed and prayed and prayed about this. Because we spent a gob of money adopting a cat. A picture perfect cat.

I’ll confess, it went through my thoughts more than once: Really, God? Really?

But as I prayed through, I realized the blessing of this experience. For one, I was able to recognize enough. I can trust in my connection to God more completely now, having known immediately when yes was the wrong answer.

I also have closure on my feelings of remorse over losing our first two cats. It’s not a cat I miss. It’s those cats. It’s the life they represented, when we were young and immature and just starting out, B and I. But it’s so wonderful to see that I’m not the same person I was then. I love that I’ve grown and matured. I love that I can say to that young and hurting self: it was too much–we let them go because it had become too much.

And I love that I can say that’s okay. With all eyes on me, I took a deep breath and said what we were all thinking: “I think this is not meant to be.”

So back Grace went, with wild fanfare and final hugs and many shed tears on my part. But I was learning all over again what God’s already tried to teach me: substitution is not healthy, and boundaries are there for a reason. I also know that if we were the wrong family for Grace, it was only right to see her off to the right one. It’s Micah 6:8 in action: acting justly by making the fair decision, loving mercy even when it’s painful, and walking humbly with our Lord no matter how confusing it might be (and for the record, we’re checked on Grace daily until her adoption–and I still pray for her growth and happiness. But in a world of more-is-better, we also discovered that right now, our family is enough. That’s a saving grace that will last a lifetime.