Monday, February 28, 2011
I stop my hobbled movement with the realization that every habit begins this way, even habits of the heart.
At initial planning the establishment of the habit is born out of optimism, eagerness, and confidence. We determine to do something - Bible memorization, consistent prayer, journaling - with the best of intentions. We make lists, buy notebooks, print off schedules - all with hopeful expectation that some area of our life will be forever changed. And then we begin. The first day feels good. We may spend most of the time just getting our bearings and deciding out how to go about the whole thing, but all in all, we feel good. The second or third day is when the pain hits. We find reasons to skip this one day, or only put in a half effort. Our habit muscles are sore, and life is so demanding.
Muscle is developed through challenge - changing the way we used to do things and beginning something anew. The pushing and pulling breaks us out of consistency and complacency and strengthens our spirit-muscles. When adversity strikes, we are better able to pull out our super-hero abilities because we have trained ourselves to use power that is beyond ourselves - the Holy Spirit, the Word of God.
Muscle is developed through repetition - the daily use and commitment. The soreness from this new regimen can disappear in two ways:
1. by refraining from exercising altogether, which will remove the pain, but leave my body unchanged
2. by continuing with the exercise, which allows my body to adapt to the new demands placed on it.
Our spirit-habits are the same way. We can slip back into the old way of doing things to avoid the pain, frustration, or inconvenience and remain unchanged. Or we can continue the habit and allow it to transform us.
The question is, what will I choose?
Hebrews 12:1-4 "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."
Christ chose the cross. He traded pain and condemnation for real results. He fixed his eyes on the Father's will. Let us "fix our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith." Choose to continue the new habit until our spirits adjust to the change, and it becomes a part of who we are. The new muscles will form, the pain will subside, and out faith will be stronger.
What new spirit habit are you working on?
Saturday, February 26, 2011
I cannot describe her outward appearance, for it is difficult to discern. Her beauty within shines so brightly, that I never notice what her physical features hold. Except her hands. They cradle her coffee cup. Larger hands really, than I would expect. Hands that appear calloused from hard labor, but at the same time, guiding, tender, and soft. We visit silently about life, talking to God, praying, reading, and resting.
Somewhere in my ponderings, I hear the pitter patter of little feet upstairs, and She quietly leans back in her seat. Already, her non-verbal communication indicating a separation from She and I. As the little feet descend the stairs and the familiar voice of a child sounds out with my name - "Mommy".........
You can read the rest of the post over here at (In)courage today, where I am writing to inspire and encourage women. Would you be so kind as to join me there?
Friday, February 25, 2011
I'm not just talking about the piling of laundry, dishes and Kleenex. Although, now that I mention it, that stinks too.
I'm talking about the piling of frustration, anxiety and irritation.
Can't these kids just stop moving for one second? Does it matter who had the toy first? - They haven't played with that toy in weeks and now they want it at the same time? Can they just ask for something to drink rather than whine for it? Is there some sort of rule that when one kid cries, everyone has to find their own reason to join in? Gabe is hungry, Ryan is mad, Robby hit his head and Becca found the bracelet Robby broke last week. Tears ensue, both from the kids, and welling inside of me as I grasp for patience and compassion in a clammy, tired body who just wants peace and rest.
I always want peace and rest.
Even when my body is well, my spirit yearns for peace and rest. And just like now, the emptying of me - all I have left to give, my strivings, my ambitions, my plans, my energy, my emotions - when I find myself empty, at the foot of the cross, it is then that I am filled. Filled with peace and rest.
He fills me up. He gives me just enough patience for another moment, just enough compassion to see the situation in a different light. He unfolds a new perspective - one that looks from the eyes of eternity, the eyes of a Father. When I pray, "Lord, I have nothing left to give. Nothing left to be taken from me. I am one second short of a welling, tear-ridden ball of mess - one two-year-old tantrum away from collapse." I will remember that of anyone, He knows what it means to be emptied - and Oh, so much more! When they whipped him with metal-laden straps, ripping his flesh, he had nothing left to give. When the crown of thorns pierced his head and blood flowed, when they nailed him, nearly naked to wooden beams, He had nothing left to give. And yet, he did not cry out in his anguish - "Father, I am empty, and yet they demand more". Instead, he looked at his feet where his mother stood and spoke words of comfort and security, arranging for her welfare in the midst of His death.
So when I feel empty, and another little hand is pulling me for more than I feel I have left to give, I will not pretend I am the one on the cross sacrificing myself for my children. Oh no, the focus is not on me or my sacrifice.
No, I will be Mary, humbly at the feet of Jesus begging for His provision, and knowing He provides.
Friday, February 11, 2011
I wonder. When did life get so nearsighted? Task to task, appointment to appointment, meal to meal? The wonder of creation, water rising to the clouds and falling back again.
She looks beautiful. I breathe.
Sometimes we just need to breathe. To inhale life slowly, and to exhale with understanding and contentment.
The boys can wait. I climb back outside of the van and stand in the white sparkling flakes, cold and tender on my cheeks. I breathe. And time stops.
Thursday, February 10, 2011
I look for more verses for the kids to memorize - which ones will remind them how we expect them to behave? Or how about them memorizing ones on obeying, complaining, fighting - the ones that most often address the things I am disciplining them for. Wouldn't that make my life easier?
Which Bible would be best to read to the kids? Is it this one or that one? - Should I question them about what they are learning, or are they too young for that? Should I suggest that my oldest child, just beginning to read well, read her own Bible?
They could memorize events in the Bible. We could study people in the Bible. We could talk about creation. We could make crafts about Bible characters or events. We could draw pictures. We could color pages, sing songs, and chant hymns. We could.......
The fact is, I have tried many of these things, and struggle to keep some consistency to them. But somewhere, I hear a whisper that focusing on these things just gets us acting like Christians. It gives us head knowledge, and gives me false comfort that the kids will somehow become closer to God through study.
While study is important, the real factor that will change them is a loving momma who is fully, clearly, devoted to Christ. If I individually focus on Christ instead of these things, knowing and trusting in Him more each day, I will be modeling that which is required of God.
Don't get me wrong - disciplined study and intentionality in pursuing God as a family is crucial. It teaches children to be more disciplined and gives them a curiosity to learn more about who God is. But more important, is a heart filled with love for Him - that which will give us life, pour out into our families, build and sustain relationships, have eternal meaning. It should be an intricate knitting of God to our children as they become woven into the fabric of our walk with Christ.
That's Great, but How?
It always comes back to surrendering, doesn't it? The pain of the nail pounding through the flesh, breathing when it is hard to breathe, submitting when my will seems so strong - I hesitate. Sometimes surrender hurts.
And yet full surrender is what God calls us to. Not to bring us pain, but to free us to experience true joy. Where we can say with the apostle Paul - "I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." (Philippians 4:12, NIV)
When we take each moment - and show gratitude for it. When we look at the responsibilities placed before us and lift them up to God as a work of service for Him. When we choose to recite the truth of scripture rather than have anger-building, fear-attacking, resentment-growing conversations in our minds. When we realize that our children are people, given to us for a short time to train to be adults, not possessions to mold. When we trust in His word and fall on His grace, and we give that same grace to others.
So I do this in the best way I know how - one day at a time - falling, tripping, running, crawling, rejoicing and sobbing at the feet of Jesus in all circumstances....and looking up.
Matthew 17:8 "When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus."
"Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight."