Friday, April 30, 2010

A Mess and a Savior

It's one thing to read articles on humility and receiving criticism and think, "Wow, that's such godly, helpful advice. Mmm, good stuff." It's quite another thing to apply that godly wisdom when it's *your* reputation on the line--when the criticism is no longer abstract, but personal.

A couple of times recently, I've been faced with a difficult decision: Do I keep up appearances so this person will think highly of me, or do I share with complete honesty the ugly parts of myself? Do I defend myself against this person, or do I quietly accept what's true in their critique and graciously, humbly ignore the rest?

In thinking about these blows to my pride, I've found it really helpful to return to Milton Vincent's words from A Gospel Primer for Christians:

The Cross also exposes me before the eyes of other people, informing them of the depth of my depravity. If I wanted others to think highly of me, I would conceal the fact that a shameful slaughter of the perfect Son of God was required that I might be saved. But when I stand at the foot of the Cross and am seen by others under the light of that Cross, I am left uncomfortably exposed before their eyes. Indeed, the most humiliating gossip that could ever be whispered about me is blared from Golgotha's hill; and my self-righteous reputation is left in ruins in the wake of its revelations. With the worst facts about me thus exposed to the view of others, I find myself feeling that I truly have nothing left to hide.

The truth is: I am a mess. By God's grace, He is revealing this truth to me more and more. And (in the words of my wise mentor) if He needs to reveal that truth to others, may He do so in order that they may also see what a Savior I have and what a Mess-Cleaner-Upper He is!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Calling it Beautiful

I wrote the following several months ago, as part of my self-counseling project for the class I took last fall. Mornings generally look different these days, but this week I am needing to re-preach these truths to myself. Thought maybe a few of you might benefit from the overhearing...

After rising early and having quiet time, I have been on the computer for a while before my two-year-old wakes up. When I hear him, I bring him downstairs, change his diaper. Eager to play, he doesn’t care about eating. So instead of fixing breakfast immediately and starting the day’s tasks, I return to the computer. I don’t feel like making eggs and oatmeal, sitting at the table for what seems like an eternity while Elijah eats. I only want to do what’s easy, pleasant, convenient―and breakfast with a toddler is none of these.

No matter how many earnest pep talks I hear, I don’t really believe the everyday tasks of a mother/homemaker are significant; to be honest, I’m bored with them. Or in another sense, I’m intimidated by them―I’m afraid of not doing them well. The computer was more interesting, and didn’t require much of me.

When I finally start breakfast, Elijah suddenly realizes he’s hungry. He whines impatiently, and I snap at him. I haven’t connected with him at all except in irritation; instead, I’ve communicated that other things are more important than serving and loving him. He’s oblivious at two, but he’ll sense this keenly at four, six, ten.

The time I spent at the computer is time I no longer have to complete today’s necessary tasks. Later this afternoon or evening, I’ll feel discouraged, frazzled, guilty or stressed because I don’t have time to finish my work. Inevitably, those emotions will tempt me to escape again.

By deeming my job uninteresting and tiresome, I’ve ignored the truth that “God is so great that all things give Him glory―if you mean that they should” (St. Ignatius Loyola). I’ve forgotten that somehow, even if I don’t understand the dynamic, God receives my oatmeal-fixing and face-wiping and “eat two bites of egg and then you can have another grape” negotiating as spiritual acts of worship (Romans 12:1).

These monotonous, unglamorous breakfasts are the lines God determined for my life. He arranged my circumstances, my portion, my lot (Psalm 16:5-6). He prepared in advance good works for me to do―in this time, in this place (Ephesians 2:10). So the ordinary tasks I face today are the ones God laid out for me. He calls them good, and He ordains that I walk in them.

Father, forgive my unbelief. You need nothing, and yet You accept the smallest acts of duty as acts of worship, if only they are infused with love. I have refused to offer the small, pretending instead that greater things would be more valuable―deluded in thinking even the grandest thing I did would be more than a speck of dust in Your hands. Teach me to lay down my pretensions of “something greater” and love in this way, in these moments, in the good works You carefully laid out not for someone else to do, but for me to do. Teach me to love over eggs and oatmeal.

When I finally get up from the computer, I can choose to replace guilt and shame with repentance and grace. As I make breakfast, I can ask God to nourish my soul with the truth of the gospel as I nourish Elijah’s little body with protein and fiber. By His grace, I will return impatient whining with gentle words, even an apology―no matter if it is not yet understood; I am laying down paths that will be easier to walk later for having been forged today. And tomorrow, I will choose breakfast instead of blogs. I will choose the portion and cup that have been chosen for me, the good works God has prepared for me to do.

I can’t see beauty when I’m escaping, hiding. The lot doesn’t look grand and glorious when I’m staring at the fence, contemplating how to climb over and get out. But when I turn around and believe what God says about this portion, these boundary lines, His perspective can become my own. I can call my inheritance beautiful.

When I serve my son gladly, even in mundane and frustrating tasks―when I set eggs and oatmeal before him each morning promptly, with no yelling―he will feel secure and loved. As he grows, he will see his mama serving a God who is good, whose purposes are loving and wise. He will learn that whatever our portion looks like, it is good because it is from the sovereign Lord, and because He is in it―He is my portion.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Multitude Monday, Take 156

I think it's about time I share with you all some special things I am grateful for. Over the last fifteen weeks, I've been thanking God for many unusual blessings, including...

450. nausea that was mild and only lasted a couple of months
451. this adorable t-shirt I found on Etsy for Elijah

452. the fact that my toddler still takes great naps, so I can too
453. choices when it comes to care providers
454. maternity clothes a friend generously let me borrow
455. several friends at church all due within a month or so of me
456. the ability to conceive

457. the incredible way He knits babies together in their mothers' wombs
458. getting to hear a strong heartbeat this afternoon
459. the tiny flutters I think I am just starting to feel
460. the gift of motherhood
461. the grace He promises to provide for each new blessing He brings

holy experience

Monday, April 12, 2010

A Fight to See

Amazingly enough, I actually *did* do a little writing last week besides gratitude lists and the Simple Woman's Daybook. I just didn't do it here. Sweet Anna from Hope Road, who's a new mom as of February, asked me to write a guest post on motherhood for her blog. I've never been a guest blogger before! And I hardly feel I have anything worthwhile to say on motherhood; most days I feel more desperate, inadequate and unqualified than anything else. (It at least makes me feel a little better than even Ann has days when she feels her mothering license should be revoked!).

Anyway, not having been a mama very long myself, I don't have a whole lot of wisdom to offer, but I was honored to share a little of what I'm learning with Anna's readers:

It was fitting, perhaps, that I was on a walk with my toddler earlier this week when I was gently reminded of how to faithfully walk out the calling of motherhood. I was listening to a podcast (completely unrelated to parenting) in which the speaker noted that faith is the opposite of three things: sight, fear, and doubt. Of course, this isn't earth-shattering; I know the familiar verse, “we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7)--but I was struck by his first point, the direct way he phrased the definition: “Faith is the opposite of sight.”

The more I grow as a mother, the more convinced I am that motherhood is a fight to see: a fight to close my physical eyes and and view my life and my son with eyes of faith. Faith means trusting not what I see in front of me, and not what my emotions loudly proclaim, but what God says is true about Himself, about me, and about my circumstances.
Read the rest at Hope Road.

Multitude Monday, Take 155

Thanking God this week for..

423. a freshly mowed yard
424. the fact that Elijah only has to go to the dentist twice a year
425. no cavities
426. the gift of literacy
427. imagination and stories

428. endless quantities of books accessible to me
429. prayer time with other moms
430. my good old Toyota Camry
431. maps on the internet
432. opportunity to shop at Costco with a friend

433. Elijah's delight in seeing Llama Llama Red Pajama at the downtown library
434. ducks and flowers at Centennial Park
435. grace to preach to myself
436. His extravagant promises
437. the gift of writing

438. the smell of Steve's freshly-ground coffee
439. my new ESV thinline Bible
440. birthday money to buy it
441. fast, free shipping from Amazon
442. coupons, coupons everywhere

443. dinner out with girlfriends
444. Steve giving Elijah a haircut and bath while I was gone
445. lots of time outside in the sunshine
446. three loads of laundry dried on the line for free
447. opportunities for Steve to help others and have guy-time

448. fellowship with friends last night
449. reminders that He is bigger and more generous than we tend to think

holy experience

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

The Simple Woman's Daybook ~ 4.7.10

Was hoping for a nap on this overcast afternoon, but the little man is restless upstairs and I don't trust him to stay asleep long enough. So, instead, a little Simple Woman's Daybook...

Outside my window...
green, green everywhere! Loving the buds on trees, the splashes of purple along the highway, the peony bushes popping up in our front yard. Steve mowed for the first time this week and cut down all the overgrown, ridiculous monkey grass around our back patio and all the weeds in the front yard. Everything looks so much nicer, fresher, cleaner!

I am thinking...
about taking Elijah outside for a bit before the storms roll in. He just loves running around outside...I don't know where all that energy comes from. And I can see we are going to have to start giving him baths a LOT more often this summer :)

I am thankful for...
the Tuesday night prayer gathering that my friend Lydia has started--she has invited several moms from our church to come to her house and pray for our children each Tuesday night. Last night was only the second one, but it is so refreshing to my soul and I can see it quickly becoming a highlight of my week. So grateful for the opportunity to come together with other women and praise our King, confess our sins, thank the Lord for His grace and intercede for our kiddos and each other.

From the kitchen...
sloppy lentils in the crockpot for dinner; ribs on deck for tomorrow night. We'll be having leftover macaroni and cheese with the ribs--unfortunately it is gross leftover mac-n-cheese. I do NOT recommend this recipe from the Pioneer Woman. I do like this one from, though I think it needs less breadcrumbs.

I am wearing...
jeans with the cuffs rolled up to create cropped pants, a gray Hilton Head Island t-shirt, and my favorite black Reef flip-flops. They aren't the cutest flip-flops ever (I don't really love the wide strap style) but they are ridiculously comfy, so I don't care.

I am creating...
nothing much these days.

I am going...
to be guest-blogging somewhere else soon...if I can think of something to write. Really need to get on that. Yikes!

I am reading...
Still plugging away at Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era--I'm about halfway through. Reading Calm My Anxious Heart with my mentor, Diane. Have recently picked up Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church and Everyday Talk. Our church is still going through (and I am still loving) Total Church: A Radical Reshaping Around Gospel and Community. Meaning to get back to Sacred Parenting and Playful Parenting; still have not started Nourishing Traditions. So many books, so little time! Bible-wise, I'm in Joshua and also starting Galatians with Steve.

I am hoping...
that my new ESV Bible--a thinline, bought with birthday money, so I have something more portable than my huge ESV Study Bible--will arrive this week. And that I can somehow keep the grocery spending low, low, low the rest of the month to compensate for the ridiculous amount of money I spent this morning on my first-ever trip to Costco. Yikes.

I am hearing...
Elijah making occasional babbles on the monitor. The sounds of buses, and middle schoolers exuberant about school being out for the day.

Around the house...
is a disgusting little you-know-what (rhymes with house). Scared the living daylights out of me early this morning when Steve and I were sitting on the couch and it ran out from behind the mantel. AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH I can't even tell you how much I hate and fear those things, irrational though I know it is. The January one was caught in less than 24 hours; I am hoping this one will be dead and disposed of by my wonderful hubby before I wake up tomorrow morning. *shiver*

One of my favorite things...
rhubarb! Found a bunch of it in the freezer from last summer that I'd tucked away and forgotten about, so I made muffins last night--YUM. Can't wait for all the fabulous fresh fruit of summer: strawberries, watermelon, peaches, more rhubarb...

A few plans for the rest of the week...
We'll be heading to a small group prayer gathering at the home of some church friends tonight. As of last week, we're meeting with a couple of families who live near us on Wednesday nights, instead of driving all the way to the church for prayer meeting.

Tomorrow I am planning to take Elijah to the main library downtown for a live production of Llama Llama Red Pajama! He adores the Llama Llama books, and I've heard the main library is amazing, so I'm really looking forward to it. If the weather is decent, I think we'll pack a picnic lunch and spend some time at Centennial Park afterward.

Not sure what I'll be doing Friday--a couple of possibilities still up in the air. Then on Sunday, Lord willing, we will be officially welcomed as covenant members of our church!

A picture thought I am sharing...
two shots from this last weekend: Elijah and his buddy Joel driving around in Joel's Gator (what a riot) and E in his Easter outfit from Grandma & Grandpa. I love putting him in sweater vests...the cuteness just kills me :)

Monday, April 05, 2010

Multitude Monday, Take 154

Thanking God this week for...

393. the cross
394. the empty tomb
395. the Resurrection's promise that one day I, too, will be raised
396. Elijah's recent habit of sleeping in late
397. listening to Elijah sing "Snuggle Puppy"

398. grace to get up early
399. grace to resist temptation
400. long walks in the warm sunshine
401. a new Tim Keller study on Galatians
402. sheets hanging on the line

403. ridiculous, extravagant grace
404. Christ our sin-bearer
405. prayer with families from church
406. new opportunities for mentoring
407. Elijah coming in from play time outside without whining

408. His adoption of us
409. being Emmanuel - God WITH us
410. bright yellow forsythia
411. tiny green leaves
412. big pink flowers on trees

413. painted toenails
414. safe travels to Ohio and back
415. gentle rocking on a porch swing
416. afternoon outside with my best friend
417. getting to see Wicked (belated birthday present from my parents)

418. dinner at Bravo (part two of my present)
419. Elijah's love for our families
420. mercy that caused me to be born again to a living hope
421. an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading
422. the reality and centrality of the gospel

holy experience