Archive for the ‘Personal Moment’ Category

Last Sunday I went to church and our Pastor annoyed me. Not because he was wrong but because he was right; and on top of being right he spoke with a humble passion and grace which made him even more annoying because I could not discredit him for bad delivery. His sermon was on Christian maturity as described in Ephesians 4, but what grated most against my fallen nature were his comments on selfishness.

I have never thought of myself as a selfish person but as I sat in church pondering the struggles I have had in the last several months, I began to realize that most of them are rooted in a world view that revolves completely around my own comfort. One of my greatest struggles in recent days is what I like to call “relational paranoia”. Yes, I made that up all by myself, but put simply it means that I am constantly worried that I will do something stupid in a relationship that will ruin it for all eternity without any hope of redemption.

Now, this might seem like a demented form of humility but from the sermon on Sunday I am reminded that it is actually prideful and self-centered in the highest degree. Instead of my focus being on the love of Christ and how I can best bring that to life for those around me, my focus is on my own performance. Instead of viewing people as people I am viewing them as my audience. I then strive for an affirmation that should already be there from knowing that I am wholly loved and accepted by the God of the universe and this striving becomes not only exhausting but paralyzing. I am not free to simply love people because I am bound by my own selfish need for affirmation. Please don’t misunderstand me to say that affirmation has no place in relationships because it most certainly does, but when it is the motivation for my actions it becomes something it was never meant to be.

So how do I find freedom? As a mom, I so desperately want to be able to teach my girls how to freely love people without the bondage of this “relational paranoia” but how do I get there myself? I must change my direction. When the voice inside my head begins to tell me that no one really likes me and relational fall out is just one slip-up away, I must turn from this and look to my Savior. If His righteousness is enough to make me right before a holy God then it is certainly more than enough to make me right before men and that is where my security is found. My performance will always be subpar but Jesus takes me as I am, gives me His perfection and sets me free to love each person where they are at not based on the amount of affirmation they give me. As strange as it may sound, what I really want is to forget about me and let the love of Jesus reflect in how I treat all those in my life. This shifts the focus from things I must do to maintain feigned awesomeness to the things Jesus has already done to love me and that I can now do for others. Forgetting about me = freedom.

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In recent days I have discovered something about myself that disturbs me. It is something that has always lingered underneath the surface of my existence, but has never been exposed in full light until I had children… funny how that works.

It all started to come together for me a few weeks ago as my husband and I struggled intensely with our 3 year old about bed time. Each night for over a week our sweet little girl suddenly turned into a maniac; she screamed, threw herself against her bedroom door and stomped on the floor demanding to be allowed to stay up and play with us. As most parents can probably imagine, this pushed us to the brink of sanity. I shed many tears of frustration and spent much time begging God for this season to pass so that my tears could give way to joy once again. Little did I know that this attitude was my real problem; the mindset that my suffering is a roadblock to my joy, is not only incorrect but it is actually the thing that robs me of joy more than the suffering.

I did not come to truly grasp this until I listened to a sermon by Timothy Keller called “Praying Your Tears” which was recommended to me by a friend months ago. In the sermon he makes the point that tears to do not just give way to joy, they produce it (2 Corinthians 4:17). Keller states that we are to invest our suffering and tears into our prayers and that is what turns them into a harvest of joy. This idea affected me profoundly. I suddenly realized how much of my time I spend thinking “If I can just get through this then I will be ‘happy’.” I keep trying to get past my suffering and in many ways I feel guilty that I am suffering at all because it always seems that I should be stronger than that.

I now realize this attitude has cost me much joy, especially in my parenting. My struggles in life will never be pleasant otherwise they would not qualify as struggles, but holding the hand of my Savior as I walk through them will change me and produce a joy that runs deeper than mere happiness. Happiness must always be derived from something, like circumstances or a relationship. Joy is harvested from the investment of our heart, soul and tears. Happiness fades with the changing of circumstances, but joy is as steady as our Savior’s love.

So let’s face it, life is riddled with a wide variety of struggles and many tears, but these are not roadblocks for me to avoid. The struggles are meant to slowly remove the toxin of sin from my heart so that it can beat with a life born of the spirit; the tears are meant to wash away the worldly haze from my soul so that it can breathe the reality of Jesus. However, none of this can happen if I waste all my time trying to get around my pain instead of pouring it into my conversations with God. This means when my 3 year old is throwing a tantrum that could raise the dead, I can freely cry out to Him knowing that in that moment I am learning to trust and pain planted at the feet of Jesus is not wasted but will grow into a joy that surpasses all understanding.

In the heart of the earth there’s a terrible sound.
If you listen you’ll hear it, like a pain in the ground.

It’s a sadness that pulses through all of creation;
A longing to flee from a curse and damnation.

Trees groan as the wind blows their leaves.
Mountains quake with tremors and heaves.

Wolves cry out at the moon in the night,
Like begging for mercy from a terrible plight.

The clouds swirl black and turn into storms,
That rage and leave nothing but vacuous forms.

The earth it cracks and opens its mouth,
To wreak destruction from north to south.

What is the reason? Does anyone know?
I look to the Scriptures to see what is so.

In Romans it says indeed there’s a curse;
It’s ominous, heavy and will only get worse.

But it says there’s hope and the King will return,
To redeem what is His, the curse He will burn.

He will speak to the water, the sky and the earth.
He will heal all their pain and give them new birth.

Upon His return, the wolves they will sing.
The trees will dance like sunlight in spring.

The wind will speak with a language so soft,
It will shelter the soul like a bird in its loft.

The earth will not shake, tremble or crack.
Its heart will have warmth, its life brought back.

So now when I hear the sound of the groaning,
I know it means there will be an atoning.

It says there is more than these things that are fading;
The King will come back and for Him we are waiting.

Romans 8:18-24

I don’t think there are many who would argue with the statement that motherhood is the most thankless job in the world. We don’t remember the years that our mother’s got up with us in the middle of the night, changed our dirty diapers, fed us and cleaned up the countless messes that we made. We take for granted the fact that we always had clean clothes, three meals a day and that our mom sacrificed most of her free time investing in all of our activities and education.

So on this Mother’s Day week I would like to share a list I made of all the forgotten things my mom did to make me who I am today. I realize there are many who struggle with strained relationships with their mothers, but I hope I can at least encourage everyone to look for the good things your mom did and maybe take the time to tell her thank you. After all, don’t we want our kids to be merciful and remember the things we did well despite all our mistakes? I know I do.

All The Things My Mom Did Right:

1.She loved Jesus.

2. She taught me what it means to really love a man by how she loved my dad. She never talked badly of him, she respected him, she served him, she never left and they are still in love today.

3. She was resourceful. My dad was a teacher so we didn’t have any money but my brother and I never really noticed. She was just so good at making what we had work.

4. She made holidays special. Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, Valentine’s Day, it didn’t matter what the holiday was, she always found a way to make it special for the whole family.

5. She was and is always there for me. Even as an adult there is not one time in my life that I can ever say my mother wasn’t there for me. Many times I have needed her and no matter how inconvenient it might have been, she was always right there.

6. She knew how to have fun. My mother loves to shop, eat junk food, go on family excursions and be spontaneous. One of my best memories of her was the day we skipped school to go see the Houston Symphony and watch the Sound of Music all afternoon.

7. She homeschooled my brother and I even when it cost her everything. My mother started homeschooling in the 80’s when it was not the movement that it is today. She not only lost all of her free time but the support of her family as well, and with limited resources she worked extremely hard to make sure we got a good education. Her sacrifice in this will always be an inspiration to me.

8. She taught me how to really care about people. Whenever my mom saw someone who was struggling or hurting, she would always do something; whether it was flowers, a card or just a phone call, she would always find a way to let them know they were loved.

9. She never left. Now that I am a stay-at-home mom I realize what a feat it is to simply stick with your kids when things are difficult. In a world where so many mothers abandon their children, I am so grateful that my mother showed me what it looks like to persevere even when you feel like running.

10. She became my friend. Some have said that you are not to be your child’s friend and that is true to an extent especially when they are small. However, as parents we are to cultivate a relationship with our children in addition to teaching them how live by standards. This is so that when childhood gives way to adulthood, a friendship can indeed blossom. My mother spent much time cultivating a relationship with me, especially as I got into my teen years and this relationship has grown into a friendship that I cherish to this day.

So thank you, Mom for everything you did right. I know there is a lot that is not on this list, but these are the things that have meant the most to me and I just want you to know that you were very good at your very thankless job. I love you so much and Happy Mother’s Day!

“Her children rise up and bless her;” – Proverbs 31:28

Death of a Girl

Posted: March 8, 2013 in Personal Moment
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On a typical morning I sat sipping my coffee and staring blankly out the window. My children ran wildly around the kitchen table and the question running through my mind was “How did I get here? I am in my pajamas at 10:00 in the morning, I haven’t brushed my teeth or my hair and I am surrounded by wild monkeys disguised as human beings… What happened?”

I then began to retrace the steps of my life and in my head I could see an idealistic girl just out of high school with romantic dreams of getting married, starting a family and being a perfect mother of perfect children. I was going to be in control; not like all the crazy mothers I saw at Walmart and everyone would look to me for wisdom and advice.

Then I flashed forward to reality and realized I am the crazy mom at Walmart. Life has long put to death that young, delusional girl in so many ways and that fact begs the question… Do I wish things were different? Do I wish that girl of so long ago was right about everything and still alive somewhere inside of me?

I think almost every mom comes to this place. It’s the place where we must either decide to embrace the journey of becoming a woman or spend our life mourning the loss of a girl we thought would live forever. Every day I spend with my kids, I am convinced that motherhood is a tool that God uses to change us from little girls who think they are always right and can somehow control everything, into women who know that only God is right and we can control nothing. Please do not misunderstand me to say that in becoming women we should lose our sense of fun or passion for life. However, I think it is safe to say that there is much foolishness in our youth that God means to put to death on the battlefields of motherhood and if we are wise we will let Him do it no matter how painful it can be at times.

So for me, the answer to the question “Do I wish things were different?” is no. The girl that I was, with my unrealistic ideals and desperate need to be seen as perfect, is not the person I was meant to be forever; that girl was meant to die so that a woman could be born. And the good news is that the woman I am today is not the woman I will be 10 years from now… God isn’t done with me yet and the little monkey children running around my kitchen table are His gifts to me not because they are easy but because they wreak havoc in the areas of my life that no one else can get to. This is what gives life depth and beauty even though it is much harder than it was before. Quiet moments are not just empty spaces to fill with more activity, they are little pieces of heaven; People are no longer an audience I must perform for, but partners in a journey; Prayer is not just an abstract idea, but the essential element of daily survival, and on I could go…

So what about all the other moms out there? Do you wish you could go back to the girl you were or can you see a depth to the woman you are becoming that far outshines your youth? If I had to guess, I bet you are more beautiful now than you have ever been… even in your pajamas. 

1 Corinthians 13:10-12

Have you ever had to apologize to your kids? I have; and to be honest, the words “Mommy is sorry” can sometimes taste like a mouthful of salt water. After all, I have lots of good reasons for why I lose my temper. Not only do I say the same thing 10 times, in 5 different ways and still no one listens to me, but I also have a headache and have needed to pee for over an hour.

But somewhere in my soul The Spirit reminds me of how often my relationship with God looks very much like my relationship with my children, only His reactions to my childish behavior are always full of mercy and grace. Now I am not saying that children should not be disciplined or rebuked for bad behavior. However, there are more times than I care to admit when my reaction to their poor behavior is harsh and born out of frustration instead of love. (see Proverbs 15:1)

So in the wake of my bad response to their bad behavior I have two choices; I can brush past the whole situation and act like the wrongdoing doesn’t exist or swallow my pride, apologize for my bad reaction and thus demonstrate to them what it means to be transparent.

Transparency is defined as being free from pretense or deceit. It means to be real. As parents, whether consciously or unconsciously, we strive to be seen as inerrant by our children because we fear that if we are seen otherwise we will lose their respect. I believe this to be false. When I was a child, one of the things I admired most about my dad was his ability to say he was sorry. When he lost his temper or made a poor decision, he would always come to me and my brother and not only say he was wrong but he would ask for our forgiveness. In doing this he solidified in my mind that he was always honest and transparent in whatever he did. The truth is, kids eventually figure out that their parents aren’t perfect and because my dad never pretended to be, he won a respect that has lasted on into my adult years.

So, does knowing this make apologizing to my children any easier? Not really. The words still taste bitter coming out of my mouth, because like a true human, I still want to be seen as justified in my fits of aggravation. However, I take comfort in knowing that God is using even my short comings to teach them something about saying sorry when you’re wrong no matter what the circumstance. After all, no one is perfect and if we set a precedence of pretending to be, then how do we ever expect our kids to learn transparency towards us?

Today I am going to be candid and confess that I have a great many fears.  They range from an irrational fear of creepy crawly things to a very real fear of losing the people I love the most, but somewhere in the top 10 list of things I fear is the fear of being known.

For the last ten years or so my husband and I have loosely attended a couple of churches but primarily we have kept the people in them at an arm’s length due to a myriad of bad past experiences. In these years we have learned to feed ourselves spiritually by listening to audio studies produced by organizations like Denton Bible, Breakaway and The Village Church. Our fellowship with believers has primarily revolved around our families and through this we have been sustained and safe.

However, in recent months we have felt the conviction to reconnect ourselves to the larger body of Christ. This of course, means that we can no longer just float on the outskirts of a church, we need to find a body of believers that we are willing to invest in.   In the last four weeks my husband and I have endeavored to find such a church home for our family and I must confess that at times my fear of being known has almost overwhelmed me to the point of running away.

My past experience with church is steeped in legalism. In most cases it manifested itself as a very subtle social pressure and in other cases it was quite explicit but either way, I never measured up and I lived in constant fear of losing approval. I was never myself and always strove to be like whoever was the most spiritually acceptable person in the group, which meant I was never really known by anyone. This was my own fault and it was a disservice not only to myself but to all those who were around me.

Now my struggle is to not repeat the mistakes of the past.  My value is not found in how people see me or in my own attempts at awesomeness, it is found in the fact that I am a child of the King, redeemed and blameless. It is this truth that allows me to be known without fear and to love without reservation or expectation.  So the point of this post is really to just be honest and maybe by being honest I will inspire others to do the same. After all, there is no way to confront a fear unless you acknowledge that it is there in first place.