Saturday, February 22, 2014

IF: then what?

"In your life, is Jesus useful...

...or is he beautiful?"

"Learn the unforced rhythms of grace."

These two phrases have echoed in my heart and mind since February 7th and I've loved what they have spoken in me. There is a renewal and a refreshing in learning to let go the hand that grasps so tightly at habit, at normalcy. A quenching of long suffering thirst when one is able to let loose the strict bound chains of worry and anxiety of doing it all right, in favor of just living.

These past few weeks I've set a goal of not having goals. Track with me, the goals here are really expectations for to-do list checking, clear counter tops and folded laundry baskets and Martha Stewart home making and I have dropped them in favor of the unforced rhythms of grace. Grace over myself, my children, my husband, my world. Expectations are some times these cell blocks that cage in our joy.

Husband doesn't say, do, help enough.

A bar goes up, joy with no parole.

Kids fight, argue, disobey, make messes.

The lock turned tight.

Friends ignore, say wrong somethings, say wrong nothings

Joy serving its death sentence.

What if...what if...we just lived? Lived with grace enough for people we share our lives with that we could enjoy daily living with out that constant let down of "not enough?" We fill our head space with those not enough thoughts. Of ourselves, our spouses, our kids, our friends. The endless list of not enough, making steal cages bar by bar so we can't feel full. What if all that grace we get from heaven, for all the mistakes and not so mistakes and full out poor choices...what if that was what we gave out? It takes time to LEARN those rhythms.

But I think we could.

I've started simply, with strangers. I realized how often my face of joy is hiding silent cuts at the other. My jealousy of ladies more fit than I at the gym, spouting into judgment that "they must _____ too much, not enough", blah blah. Or you know those thoughts about a friend who is dear to you, yet your mind cuts them for this or that choice? I've been making a conscious effort to TURN OFF THE STREAM OF JUDGMENT.

I realize that there are probably some of you who don't have this, who are naturally sweet, gentle, the criticism not surfacing so ugly. What a gift you have, truly. But for those of us who struggle with steel bars, we know it is mostly because we judge ourselves so harshly that we judge others as such. We have a choice, though strange and unnatural, to hear those thoughts rising, and crush them with the good.

So when I find myself saying, "Self! Why are there ALWAYS baskets of laundry unfolded?!? Why can't you JUST GET IT DONE?!" Or when I'm tempted to question some one's purchase, or clothing choice or tone of voice, or my husband for not doing what I had hoped, or my kids for JUST BEING KIDS...I turn it off, and turn it to good. I am starting to see this whole new world where people aren't just bodies, they are PEOPLE. They have hurts, and awkward moments and a back story that makes them exactly who they are and they are on their own journey and I am just. on. mine. I do the other no good with my negative inside dialogue, so I've been writing their stories instead. I try to see why that lady in line in front of me might be yelling at her kids, see her hurt making them hurt and then compassion wells up.

So here's this, this making Jesus BEAUTIFUL by seeing the beauty in those he loves. What would it take for me to TRULY love my neighbor, a stranger; to see the hurt they hide in their "flaws?" How could we, as women, choose to not compare, to not question motives, but to love fully and let the Spirit guide the rest?

Do we dare try? Could we change our very world?

What do you think? How do we start?

Thursday, February 13, 2014

IF: unpacking

I have a husband, four children, a dog. I say "I have" as if there was any truth to the concept that they belong to me. These are blessings, gifts, facets of my life in which I have great privilege and responsibility. I want, have always wanted, so badly, to do well by these pieces of the divine that I share my days with.

So I flew to Texas, ran to a gathering of women though I knew not how to explain to others what it was that I was seeking, what I would be given were I to attend. I just knew in my bones that I was supposed to go. So after mishaps with tickets, miracles with tickets, miraculously affordable air fare and perfect in-law baby sitters, I came. My Rachel and I, we came. Arms and hearts and minds open to whatever it was God was leading us toward. As I sat in the Austin Music Hall, at a farm table expertly decorated, my friend by my side, I prayed and wrote the first thing that came to mind in my journal.


I felt empty, I felt tired and weary from a life that I didn't feel I was living particularly well. This isn't self deprecation, it's an honest assessment of my feeling that my days were meant for more. I home school my oldest, I nurture my youngest, I serve and honor my husband in every way I can, I keep a relatively clean house, I cook from scratch, but it all has felt so empty and mundane, and at IF, God showed me why.

One of the speakers alluded to IF as to the manna in the desert, the "what is it" that was exactly what each person needed each day while wandering in the wilderness. And it WAS. Every one who attended or watched received something so different, but for me, God showed me that all the things I want to see in myself, my family, my home, my writing, my LIFE, can only be achieved with one thing.


So simple is this truth that it feels absurd. Truly "the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." I have wanted to lead a powerful life, but have not, perhaps in my entire journey as a disciple of Jesus, ever loved Jesus. It feels uncomfortable and odd and foolish to even say that. I know that some who read this will not agree that there is power in it, but I truly believe, in my mind, that "God made foolish the wisdom of the world." I desperately desire for my heart to catch up.

Many facets of the many speakers spoke so loudly to me, but the one that keeps resonating and reverberating in my heart was from Shelly Giglio. She spoke from Psalm 84, verses 3 and 4 say this:

Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young— a place near your altar, Lord Almighty, my King and my God. Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you

A term from my science studies of past was used, describing the sparrow as having a "cosmopolitan distribution," you can find them thriving on every continent. The only other animal with the same global representation? It's us. People. And much like the sparrow, many of us are plain, nothing flashy or attention getting in our very nature, yet God made a place for this bird not outside of his house, but near the altar. How much more does he have a place for US in his house? And I have sat in this emptiness thinking that I just can't "build my nest AND be near to alter of God" because of the daily busyness of life with littles. I think I need to do grand things, that I have to lead devotionals and pray arduously and fill every second of the day with God's goodness, but what I really need? To fill my own heart with a love of Jesus, a depth with God, and allow that to organically flow out in my home.

I don't have a plan for how this will happen, because no genuine relationship was ever built on a process or a plan. Instead I'm taking every day to remember Jesus, finding his love in the word, often just a small passage while my littles eat cereal and I stand at the counter over coffee. I'm choosing the Bible over Facebook, inspiring blogs over Instagram. I'm using different language to bring peace to sibling rivalry, expressing to them that they are each precious and made perfect in Jesus, how then can we choose not to forgive, not to love another? We've had some great talks already about what it means to be precious, and I'm finding that what comes out of my mouth about God, is formulating what I and what my family thinks about Him.

I have so much to unpack. Layers of baggage built up in my heart, layers of truth God spoke over me and my life and the power in this new Esther generation of women that we are. I will unravel it here, slowly, but mostly I will focus on Jesus. I will look at my children with mercy and grace, with less restriction and hard lines and more gentle guiding.

Speak God.
Your servant is listening.