Unique

As a mom, I find myself seeking those other moms who have experienced the same things I have. It’s a familiar occurrence. And there have been many times I’ve received encouragement or consolation from mothers who have walked a similar path. Whether it’s the highs/lows of adoption, the strong-willed toddler or a homeschooling roadblock I’m hitting, we don’t want to feel alone on this parenting journey!

We want to know that “little Johnny” has also hit, and bit, and called someone “stupid” or thrown a rock through a window… you know, the usual (can you sense the sarcasm). Or that Ms. Suzy so-and-so also felt like her brain was going to explode and wanted to get in her car and Just. Keep. Driving. Let’s keep it real.

I love my kids with an incredibly fierce intensity and there are so many moments when I wonder, “Am I doing any of this right? Are they going to end up happy and healthy, God-fearing and loving adults someday?”

So we search for someone a little bit further along than we are to give us some security.

I was having that thought today, trying to think of a mom who might have gone through something similar with one of her children. Maybe they could help… maybe they might have some advice… I should give her a call.

But today I took a turn down that ugly side road called “comparison.” It was a quick turn I made. And comparison is not a nice road. It’s bumpy and rocky and it has a really terrible view.

I started flipping through the rolodex in my mind of all the other little girls and little boys I know. “Hmmm… I don’t think they’ve ever struggled with intense anxiety.” “I know that little guy has never yelled stupid at an adult or hit his babysitter.”

But as quick as I turned down the road, God put up a road block and whispered to me, “Did I ask you to be that child’s mother or did I ask you to be Kate and Zeke’s mother (those were just the current two I was worrying over)?”

And He reminded me of this beautiful thought. We know our children are created unique and special and that there is no other child on this earth like them. Therefore, there are going to be many times when we’re not going to find a mom who has gone through the same exact thing we are going through. Because they have never gone through the same exact thing because NEWSFLASH: We don’t have the same exact child!

I know it’s a simple thought but it hit me hard.

Comparison is silly. And silly is too nice a word. Comparison is destructive, detrimental, disastrous, damaging… you get the picture (plus I ran out of “D” words).

I am unique. Kate, Jack, Gabe and Zeke are unique. I was uniquely made to be their mother. To know them, understand them, pray for them and love them uniquely.

And if I found my security in the reality that other mothers go through the same things with their children, I wouldn’t need to go to the One who made us ALL unique!

He wants me to come to Him. Because He knows my children and me better than I know my children or me. He wants me to come. To pry open my hands and surrender the control I strive to hold onto. And to find my security in Him.

He knows that the anxiety today is someday going to turn into the faith to move mountains.

And that the boundless energy and impulsiveness today turns into passion and magnetism for the Gospel in the future.

And my worries and comparison will turn into a testimony of the goodness and faithfulness of the Father.

So I choose to leave my hands open and rest in the One who made us all so very unique.

Masterpiece

I think it’s in all of us. This urge to… cross off. check off. cross it out.
We did it. We met our demands of the day and we can take a deep breath and feel good about ourselves.
It gives us a sense of control. We accomplished something and now we get to cross it off.
It reminds me of a paint by number. I’m sure you remember completing one as a child. Each number corresponds with a certain section and different color. And when you follow the instructions you end up with this perfectly colored illustration. I was the kid who followed each and every instruction. I know there were some of you who could paint a #3 green even though you were clearly instructed to paint it blue. But I couldn’t bear to wander outside the directions.
It didn’t take much thought. Or creativity. But it did take effort. I could carefully stay in the lines, follow instructions and feel good about my completed work.
But I couldn’t look at my piece and call it art. It was just a task. A task that I had successfully completed.
You know, when we live our lives like that, it’s hard to call our existence a masterpiece. We follow instructions. We live our lives how we think we’re supposed to. We put in the effort. But at the end of the day, we’re left with a piece of work that was already constructed for us and we just happened to fill in the lines.
Jesus tells us that we are “His masterpiece” (or His “poema” in the Greek where we derive the word “poem”). But there are many days I feel far from a masterpiece. And I certainly don’t feel like a piece of poetry. So where do I go wrong?
If you’re an artist, you know that a pure piece of art takes time. It needs room to breathe. You need space to allow the creation to evolve and grow. Art must not be hurried.
And yet I rush my own life, rarely creating the time and space for God to have His way with me. Forgetting to stop and breathe; trying to hasten the process. Having a product of my life on showcase surpasses the greater work that He longs to develop; the slow, detailed, often painstaking work the Artist must go through with His creation. I’m over here cranking out paint by numbers and He’s just waiting for me to let Him do His greatest work.
I must pause long enough to let the Artist take the crayons from my hand, let Him grab His brush and create His masterpiece in me.
We are His masterpiece. Let that sink in to your very depth. YOU are His masterpiece. If we truly believe that, we will let Him take over and accomplish what only the Greatest Artist can do.
And let’s remember…the purpose of art is not to produce a product but to provoke thinking; to incite beauty. If we are God’s masterpiece, His greatest work of art, our lives should cause people to ponder the Creator, to reflect His beauty, to stir up their hearts toward the Artist.
Don’t trade your masterpiece of a life in for a bunch of paint by numbers.

Lazarus and the mysterious love of Jesus

It’s hard to pick a favorite story from the Bible. But years confirm the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead is my definite front runner. I come back to it often. And after the numerous times I’ve poured over this passage of Scripture, God continues to peal His heart back in new and life-giving ways.

The story remains mysterious. And even when the actions of Jesus are hard for me to reconcile, the story is laced with His comfort and love. It gets me every time.

John Chapter 11. Take some time to read it first if you can.

Verse 3 sticks out to me first. “So the sisters sent word to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.” Talk about identity. Lazarus must have walked in a way that all those around him knew he was one of Jesus’ favorites, completely loved and adored by His creator! His sisters don’t even follow up with a name; they’re confident Jesus knows who they’re talking about.

Again in verse 5, Jesus wants to make sure we realize how much he loved these three siblings, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.”

Now here is where things get mysterious.

If you’re guessing what comes next after verse 5, you might think it reads something like this, “So Jesus rushed back to the town of Bethany to heal Lazarus.”

But…

It doesn’t.

Vs. 6, “So when He heard that he was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was.”

Say what?

That’s not how I picture love. And do you notice the word “So”? That little, two-letter word literally means “as a result.” He stayed two days longer where he was “as a result” of His love for Mary, Martha and Lazarus.

Convicting. I am so Americanized in my view of love. Too often for me, love equals comfort. Love equals convenience. Love equals someone meeting my needs when I want them met. Jesus flips that concept upside down here.

We see a bit of Jesus’ purpose in vs. 14-15, “So Jesus then said to them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead, and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe; but let us go to him.'”

Jesus finally arrives on the scene in vs. 17. In vs. 20 we see two different responses: “Martha therefore, when she heard that Jesus was coming, went to meet Him but Mary stayed at the house.” I’m going to go ahead and lump myself into the Mary category. I can imagine Mary might be giving Jesus a bit of the silent treatment which I am all too guilty of doing. She knows He is God but she’s still mad and doesn’t quite know what to do with those feelings. She can’t quite reconcile what she knows to be true with how she feels.

And can we put ourselves in Jesus’ shoes for a second? If I arrived on the scene, the FIRST thing I would say would probably be something like, “Hey guys, nobody worry! I’m here and I’m going to raise Lazarus from the dead. You’re about to see quite a miracle!”

Martha tells Mary that Jesus is asking for her. Mary finds herself at the feet of Jesus, weeping, and says, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” How many times have I said the same sort of thing? Lord IF You had done this, IF You would do that, IF You were here.

And here’s where an even greater mystery takes place.

Jesus knew He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. He tell us in vs. 4, in vs. 15 and in vs. 23.

But in that moment, He doesn’t tell Mary that. He lets her weep. He allows her to break.

And in all of His love, He joined her in her brokenness. Vs 35…”and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled and said ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to Him, ‘Lord come and see.’ Jesus wept.”

And here’s where the lines are drawn. Some bystanders see His love. Others question His goodness. Vs. 36, “So the Jews were saying, ‘See how He loved him!’ But some of them said, ‘Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind man, have kept this man from dying?'”

Convicting. Again. Couldn’t He have stopped that storm? Couldn’t He make the pain stop? Couldn’t He heal him? Couldn’t He restore that relationship? Couldn’t He provide?

Do I focus on what I think Jesus could and should do or do I focus on how much He loves me?

But back to the story.

Jesus asks Martha and Mary and others to move the stone from the cave he was buried in. He asked them to move in their pain, within their weakness and trust Him completely. Oh the doubts that must have filled their minds! Martha voices one in vs. 39, “Lord, by this time, there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days.” She doesn’t want to relive that suffering and she for sure doesn’t want to come face to face (or nose to nose) with the stench of death and pain.

Vs. 40, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

Vs. 41, “So they removed the stone.”

God, help me to move the stones you ask me to move.

Vs.42, “I knew that You always hear me; but because of the people standing around I said it so that they may believe that You sent me. When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth.’ The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.'”

Without the mourning, the suffering, the brokenness, Mary and Martha and the people on the outside watching the story unfold, would have missed the greater miracle of life that Jesus wanted to display.

The miracle didn’t come how they expected. And it certainly didn’t happen when they expected it. But they had to trust who was in control.

I’m not going to assume I know exactly why Jesus decided to wait and raise Lazarus after death, but Scripture does give us at least one reason:
Vs. 45, “Therefore many of the Jews who came to Mary, and saw what He had done, believed in Him.” 

Sometimes He trusts us with pain for the greater benefit of those around us.

And sometimes our pain brings us into a deeper level of love and trust in Him.

The real gift is sometimes found in the process of suffering. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of God…. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.” – Luke 6:20-21. “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” – John 10:10. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to eternal.” – John 12:24-25

The process He was doing in Mary’s heart was far greater than temporary pain and suffering.

And immediately following this story in John 11 we see the beautiful result of brokenness and healing that happened in Mary’s heart in John 12. She finds herself completely free in her worship. Hair down, alabastar jar broken, weeping at the feet of Jesus, pouring out her love to Him.

 

 

No more shame

I messed up again.

My desperate attempts to maintain control and push down my hot emotions were futile. The anger rising up in me erupted. The hot, boiling contents spilling onto my four year old.

My immediate sense of failure angered me more. Why can’t I get this right?!?! Where is my own self-control I constantly teach Kate about? Where was my gentleness and patience we sing about in those sweet songs?

I got down on her level and looked into her innocent eyes, my own eyes welling with tears. “I’m so sorry honey. Mommy messed up. I shouldn’t have gotten so angry with you.”

Without missing a beat, she looked at me and said, “You’re the best mom in the world. I forgive you. Our family forgives you. And God forgives you.”

Priceless words to hear from a four year old.

As I was making lunch, my mind meddled in my failure. Inside my head was the familiar beating that guilt and shame took on my Spirit. But as the lies loudened, a soft but familiar voice entered my space. “I didn’t die on the cross for you to hold on to your guilt. I took that too. Your sin and your shame.”

When we hold onto shame, it holds onto us. Christ died for the failure and He also died for us to walk in freedom. Whenever I hold onto shame, I’m telling Jesus that what He did on the cross wasn’t enough and that I need to punish myself a little bit more.

“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” – Romans 8:1-2

 

Ramblings on Time

Chronos: our wristwatch and alarm-clock time. Kairos: God’s time, real time. One of my favorite authors, Madeline L’Engle, in Walking on Water writes:

“Time is to be treasured, worked with, never ignored. Kairos. Real time, God’s time. That time which breaks through chronos with a shock of joy, that time we do not recognize while we are experiencing it, but only afterwards, because kairos has nothing to do with chronological time. In kairos we are completely unself-conscious and yet paradoxically far more real than we can ever be when we are constantly checking our watches for chronological time. The saint in contemplation, lost to self in the mind of God is in kairos. The artist at work in in kairos. The child at play, totally thrown outside himself in the game, be it building a sandcastle or making a daisy chain, is in kairos. In kairos we become what we are called to be as human beings, cocreators with God, touching on the wonder of creation.”

We invented time as we know it. God, of course, created day and night; He gave us the moon and sun to govern our days and give us rest. But this minute by minute, second by second grind we’ve given ourselves over to was manufactured by human invention. It wasn’t until the 16th century that clocks, divided into 60 minutes increments, were even invented.

“To get lost in time.” When we hear that phrase, it connotes a certain freedom, a release from the prison of punctuality, of productivity.  As we’re “lost” in time, we find ourselves unhindered, free, allowing for exploration and creativity. When I think of moments of kairos in my life, I’m brought back to childhood. There’s a reason Jesus said we need to become like little children to enter the Kingdom. Children, I believe, are in the Kingdom on the regular. They freely create, freely play, freely dance, freely sing. Their hearts and minds are not yet controlled by the minutes of the clock. I’ve never seen a three year old worried about being late and my two year olds certainly aren’t worried about having enough time to finish a task. I’m the one who makes them rush; reminds them to hurry.

The God who “was and is and is to come” is certainly not confined to our concept of time. He’s always on His time; never on chronos. There is no beginning and end for Him. He is the beginning and end. He sees events from thousands of years ago simultaneously with what I am currently experiencing. When I need to hear Him call my name, I can turn to the Jesus who, right now, calls Zacchaeus by name out of the sycamore tree. When I need healing, I can call out to the same Jesus who is currently healing ten lepers. When I call on Jesus in my suffering, I can call to the Jesus who is suffering with me in the garden. He exists always as these manifestations.

I never have to make an appointment with Him. He never has to “make time” for me.

And He wants to take me with Him into this Kingdom outside of time. To see people in kairos. To not judge them according to a snapshot of their current state or even a compilation of their past mistakes or successes. But to see them in their entirety, who they are becoming, their finished work in Christ. And to see myself like this. He loves all of me. Past, present and future. He’s known it from the beginning and chooses me again and again.

And He desires freedom for me. Freedom from chronos. Freedom from the to-do lists that “need” completing, free of busy, free of never having enough time. And lose myself in His presence. Only in this “losing” will I be found. Whether I’m writing, playing outside with my children, soaking in a song, being in nature, kissing my husband, may the clock not prevent me from missing who I’m sincerely meant to be and what I’m truly meant to experience.

 

 

Me too.

I realize the people’s presence I enjoy most are the people who I feel most me around. I don’t care how much you know or how impressive your talents are. I just want to know that you like me for me. That you see the beauty in who God made me to be. Instead of fixing me, you just say, “me too.”

That’s who I want to be. I don’t need people to know how much I know. I don’t need them to think I’m impressive. I don’t need to show off my talents. I just need to show them how much I like them. That I see the beauty in exactly who God made them to be. And that I can look at them with all sincerity and just say, “me too.”

Demo Day

They brought the big stuff. Bob cats and chain saws. Dump trucks and cranes. A crew of guys.

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That’s what our yard requires.

I love this place…our new home where we have an acre and a half for the kids to roam and explore, run and play.

But to make this yard all we dreamed of, it required an absolute haul-out. Dead trees, clusters of over-grown ferns and tangled messes of weeds and bushes covered the space. For years this beautiful piece of land lay neglected. No one tended to the weeds, the tree trimming, the continual upkeep to keep the yard the oasis it was originally intended to be.

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And before our new plans could start, the disorder needed removed. Before new sod, new grass, new flowers and bushes could be planted we had to get rid of all the junk.

When we currently look out our back patio over the pool, we can’t see our backyard. There is too much obstructing the view. There’s way more behind the mess; more than what meets the eye.

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With glee, I’m watching these guys rip up decking and saw down trees. I can see so much more of our yard now. And as I watch, the Lord gently reminds me of the season He has me in.

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It’s been demo day in my heart. He’s taking out the dead stuff, the tangled mess that obstructs the view of what could be. He’s got dreams for this heart of mine. But He’s got to do some demolition.

He is revealing the roots. Some are deep and it’s a struggle to pull them out completely. Others are shallow but long and entangled with other weeds. But before the new ground is laid, they all have to be eliminated.

It’s taken time. I’ve had to be patient, following each gentle push as He leads. I’m doing the hard work with Him as He shows me the places that need the most care, the spaces of my heart that have been neglected for years.

He’s been tender with this process.

Chaos into beauty.

Disarray into order.

In Isaiah 60:21 He says we are, “the branch of His planting and the work of His hands.” And in 1 Corinthians 3:9, “We are God’s fellow workers, you are God’s field (literal translation: cultivated land, God’s building.”

That was always His plan. He cultivates. He grows. He nurtures. He is the Creator and He longs to do that with His creation. He has plans for the soil of our heart. Let Him do His work; His demo is worth it. The work, the pain, the time: it’s worth the fruition of His plans. 

And just like me, our yard is still a work in process. There’s still some mess, we’re waiting on pavers and we’ve got some weeding and clean up to do. But doesn’t it feel lighter already? Look at all the new space to run. It’s gonna be fun playing in this new yard of ours for years to come.

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