Sunday, December 29, 2013

This pit sucks

There's a lump in my throat.  I feel like someone is sitting on my chest and I can't take a deep breath.  Desperation struggles to the surface and wants to be heard, my wide-eyed panic suppresses my faith and I want to scream and cry and run.  Panic, panic, panic is the one in charge and all of my striving doesn't cease it.  I turn to the word and find this:

Romans 11:22 "Notice how God is both kind and severe.  He is severe toward those who disobeyed, but kind to you if you continue to trust in his kindness.  But if you stop trusting, you will also be cut off."

The lump returns larger this time, my trust in God is weak and now the condemnation that is not from God but a disguised godlike serpent joins the chorus in my head.  

"You're not going to make it."

"You can't provide for your family."

"Look how you struggle, how the bills aren't paid, how you rely on others to provide Christmas for your children.  Two years in a row now."

"You won't be any better next year."

"Some thing's got to change."

"You need to fix this."


"Failure."

"You're just like ______ who doesn't pay their bills."

"Look how irresponsible you are."

"You're 33 when are you going to get your shit together?"

"It's almost 2 years that you've been single now, why haven't you figured out how to live without child support yet? You knew he'd never pay that consistently.  You should know better than to depend on that."

If all of that self abuse were not enough then the voices of those who have walked through my journey with me join the swelling chorus.

"Your decisions are not well thought out.  Why can't you support yourself?  You play the victim and always need to be rescued."

"You're failing your children, you don't even attend church regularly anymore, that's so disingenuous."

"You take on more than you can handle but if you don't do more you will certainly continue to be a victim."

There's many more of my own failures that are haunting me lately.  That coupled with the holidays and the extra stress and my mom's hospital stay compounds it further.  There have been moments of joy but the pervading sense of me not being enough is clouding the good.  I'm nauseated, snappy and scared.  

I don't know what the answers are.  I only know that I don't have them.  I struggled and forced church to happen for my little family this morning, only to lose my temper and yell in order to make it be so.  I feel lost adrift in the sea among 1000 questions, all the while answering my 8 year old's unending curiosity about the world and how it works.  

I will survive.  I excel at surviving.  But that doesn't stop the panicked feeling.  I'm sick of surviving.  I titled this blog with the sole intention of not just surviving any more.  I have tried hard to learn to rest and not just survive.  I have tried hard to lean into the words of Paul "Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.  Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand."

Except that doesn't happen for me.  I don't get the peace.  I get a little relief from panic for a little while.  I don't point this out to extract pity from you.   For Pete's sake don't pity me.  I point this out to say, do you really?  

Do you really experience the peace of God?  

After you pray for something that is plaguing you do you just get back to washing the dishes like it was no big deal?  That's it?  Is that how it happens for you?  Because that is not the case for me.  

Further on in Philippians Paul says "I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.  For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength."  I wonder as I read this if Paul could do this because he wasn't feeding three littles.  Have you mastered this?  


Have you ascended to the spiritual height of 

peacefulness 

while watching loved ones succumb to cancer, 

peacefulness 

when you don't have money to put gas in the car to get to work, 

peacefulness 

when your children won't listen and you're a loss for how to raise them 

peacefulness

when you have a broken relationship and your attempts to fix it aren't enough

peacefulness

If this is a spiritual gift, a level of faith that one day can be reached, I am far, far from there.  Some older, wiser people would probably tell me that I'll look back on this time and see how strong I was to get through it.  Or they would tell me that the intensity of today's struggle and the pressure on my faith will guard me later on in life in hard times. 

To all of those ideas I say 'You're probably right, and right now I can't care about that.'  I only want a solution, I want to fix my life financially, to fix this stress.  I want to not struggle right now, starting tomorrow or sooner, much sooner, as in now.  I hate this desperation.  And yet the frantic job hunting has been fruitless and I don't know where to turn.  I'm sick of believing it will be ok.  In 1 Thess it says "He alone examines the motives of our hearts." God knows that I don't desire to lose faith, to walk away from his path instead I want to live him and serve him and my family, effectively now.  I want to stop being stressed and move more fully into what God has for me now.  

Perhaps what God has for me now is this struggle, perhaps there is some lesson left for me but if so I have failed to see that.  All I see is my failure to provide.  

Amidst all of this I wonder, where is that peace Paul speaks of?  I certainly have prayed, I'm certainly still praying.  How have I tried so hard to follow and listen only to feel as though I'm not listening well enough to God, or I'm too angry or not spiritual enough to ascend from this mirey pit.  

Am I alone in this?

Have you faced this too?


Have you faithfully prayed and laid things before the Lord and wondered why the peace never came? 

This valley of doubt and desperation feels lonely but I don't think it is.  I don't want to bring you down to join me, but if you're already here and I can't see you, maybe we can begin to push each other toward a better place.  Maybe we can practice church wth each other, tenderly caring for one another, despite our painful lack of peaceful positions.

Maybe peace is found in meeting each other in the pit.  



Friday, December 27, 2013

Making Memories

It's two days after Christmas.  

The cookies are done being eaten.

The presents unwrapped.

The children are in a temporary glow enamored with their new toys.  

I have projects to do and work that needs to be finished and much shorter to do list.  The dishes are calling but I can't hear them over the din of contentment.  

What have the to do lists and the shopping and the rushing taught you this season? 

What has the not having enough, all the while having way too much stress taught you?

I had some less that glorious moments.  Some ones I don't want my kids to remember, the red faced mad momma who just wants them to be cooperative 30 year olds rather than beautiful messy littles.  

Unfortunately, I have yet to find the balance of achieving the praise for the best Christmas ever (my boys said that this year) while also having a calm serene momma.  

But I want to cease to strive.  

I want to stop wanting perfection from myself, so that I can stop wanting it from others, namely my children.  

Nevertheless Monday night I learned a small part of this life long lesson.  I had a family birthday party for Harvey.  It was the day after his birthday and the evening before we'd celebrate our Christmas morning.  Custody schedules suck in case you were wondering.  But because of that our celebrating was concentrated in a smaller period of time.  I invited our family and some friends.  Unfortunately the kids' friends couldn't make it.  I'm from a large family, my mom is one of 12 kids and I have around 40 first cousins.  

These family members have been invited to the kids' birthday parties since the beginning.  I have had parties where family members alone totaled 30 people.  These people know my children.  They know their stories.  They know and remember why Harvey has been missing two front teeth since he was 2.5 years old.  They have watched them grow up.

As I looked around my full, small house and heard the laughter and the big kids (teenagers and twenty somethings)  I realized a value for my children I hadn't thought of before.  The boys, and eventually Eowyn, will remember growing up close to family members.  They will remember that their cousins who were 15 years older than them made it a priority to come to their birthday parties.  They will remember that even after mommy and daddy divorced this didn't change.  They will maintain relationships with both sides of their family and joy isn't divided, it's multiplied.  

I saw Elizabeth (a cousin) heckling Michael (my brother).

Aylah, (my sister's step daughter) and Eowyn deciding they like each other.

Tessa and Talia (more cousins) joining in the fray as the four girls four and under played with Eowyn's toys and jumped down the stairs 100 times or more.  

The adults talked Christmas presents and gratefulness for family and about where the wine was?

And there were no planned crafts or decorations, the food was a conglomeration of whatever I had in the pantry.  

But there was beauty, it wasn't in streamers or balloons or party favors, it was in the smile of all of those who love each other.  

The realization hit me, I have made memories for my children.  Without even realizing it, I have created a tradition.  They're going to talk about the loud crazy birthday parties that their mom had for them.  They're going to talk about their family and they'll be talking about my family.  I have passed something on.  It didn't cost much money and I didn't spend much time creating it, I cooked some food, made a cake and sent some texts.  I even forgot to buy paper plates.  

But it was beautiful.  And I am grateful.  One day they might want their parties to consist of laser tag and school friends, but until they ask for that, we're making memories.  
This is a small portion of the party goers ;-)

Happy Birthday Harvey


Happy Momma

Singing, that smile


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

I will not give up

I will not give up on Jesus because old men decide I don't deserve a seat at the Table where decisions are made, theology is studied and doctrine debated.  I will instead answer them with grace and turn as Sarah Bessey encourages us to and get on with the work I am called to do.  I commit to stop vying for a seat at the proverbial table and instead I will slip down more fully into the seat of my calling of what Jesus, my Jesus has called me to.  For he was never an old man but he can also never be unseated by any of them.  So send me outside, tell me to go elsewhere, there is grace enough for both of us and the Table is irrelevant.


"Let Us Be Women Who Love"

by Idelette McVicker

Let us be women who Love.
Let us be women willing to lay down our swords words, our sharp looks, our ignorant silence and towering stance and fill the earth now with extravagant Love.
Let us be women who Love
Let us be women who make room.
Let us be women who open our arms and invite others into an honest, spacious, glorious embrace.

Let us be women who carry each other.
Let us be women who give from what we have.
Let us be women who leap to do the difficult things, the unexpected things and the necessary things.
Let us be women who live for Peace.
Let us be women who breath Hope.
Let us be women who create beauty.
Let us be women who Love.

Let us be a sanctuary where God may dwell.
Let us be a garden for tender souls. 
Let us be a table where others may feast on the goodness of God.
Let us be a womb for Life to grow.
Let us be women who Love.

Let us rise to the questions of our time.
Let us speak to the injustices in our world.
Let us move the mountains of fear and intimidation.
Let us shout down the walls that separate and divide.
Let us fill the earth with the fragrance of Love. 
Let us be women who Love.

Let us listen for those who have been silenced.
Let us honour those who have been devalued.
Let us say, Enough! with abuse, abandonment, diminishing and hiding.
Let us not rest until every person is free and equal.
Let us be women who Love.

Let us be women who are savvy, smart, and wise.
Let us be women who shine with the light of God in us. 
Let us be women who take courage and sing the song in our hearts.
Let us be women who say, Yes to the beautiful, unique purpose seeded in our souls.
Let us be women who call out the song in another's heart.
Let us be women who teach our children to do the same.
Let us be women who Love.

Let us be women who Love, in spite of fear.
Let us be women who Love, in spite of our stories.
Let us be women who Love loudly, beautifully, Divinely. 
Let us be women who Love.

Originally published in SheLoves Magazine

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Holiness vs Perfectionism

I want to be perfect.  I'm really not kidding.  I expect perfection.  Of myself.  In. All. Areas.

The area I expect perfection in the most is in the way I follow God.  My path toward God and with him is often a meandering one.  I'm okay with that.  As long as I'm meandering in a way that means I'm intently focused on him.  I'm not devout in areas that other Christians are.  I'm much harder on myself on areas that most people totally ignore.  

The problem with this is that I'm suffocating myself.  I'm smothering my own spirit.  Because along the way I have forgotten about my own humanity.  I want so much to follow Christ that I forgot that I am a person doing so.  I am not Jesus, although he was fully man, he was also fully God.  I clearly am not fully god.  I am a person, and the thing about being a person is that God created people, in His image.  He doesn't want me to be him (to be a god), he just wants me to be like him (who already is God).  And since he already did the work of making me like himself, I just need to do the letting go of leaning into who that is.  

I'm so stubbornly determined to do "it" right that I have lost all forgiveness for myself. I begin to believe that because I can't forgive myself that God doesn't either.  Watch out, there's some heresy.

None of it is true folks and the rest from my perfectionism comes at the feet of Jesus, when I say "I can't do this."  I want to sin.  I want to make justice happen.  I want force my will and control my situation.  I want to be the perfect scone baking, house cleaning, seminary studying, working, never yelling, impeccably writing, always praying, pillar of a mom. Thereby making an idol out of myself and who I want to be.  I want my kids to not struggle with the transition back and forth from their father's house every week.  I don't want to be angry at anyone ever, except myself for failing, that's allowed.

But I don't know where I got the idea that any of this was possible?  Where did I get the notion that being angry is always unholy?  God says repeatedly that he was angry.  Where did I get the idea that perfection was attainable? I'm not sure where I got those ideas but I will say that it is a slippery slope the one that says our emotions are bad, sinful and we should not feel them.  Silence your well deserved anger and you will find your ability to find happiness and contentment slipping away.  Squelch that notion inside you that let's go of perfection and you'll find yourself running constantly.  To silence the things that make us human is to lop off parts of us that make us like God.

Hear that again - To silence the things that make us human is to cut out the parts of you that make you like God.

Holiness comes in likeness and communion with God.  It is impossible to commune with God and others with as a false version of yourself.  When you aren't living in harmony with the reality of who you are, you are no longer yourself.  Have you ever tried to have a relationship with someone that lives behind a mask?  Those people that constantly talk about weather, sports, cars or what color they're painting their kitchen.  Those aren't people, they are polite versions of robots masquerading as people.  God has no desire for that kind of relationship.  It's not a relationship.  It's endless small talk.  Small talk makes me what to stab myself in the eye with a fork.

Cut out that part of you that feels angry with another?  Silence it, because you think it's not godly and you think it's bad that it's there.  You've just cut out a piece of yourself that God made.  How many slices do you think it will take before the lion's share of you is gone?  And then what is left of you?  A polite version of a socially acceptable, Christian robot. That's not what God wants.  He wants you.  All those broken parts.  The parts that scream at the top of your lungs at the injustice of life.  The part that eats ice cream instead of going running when you feel unattractive.  The part that harbors that emotion you're scared to admit you have.  Or really isn't sure at all what you believe.

There's not a mask that God will accept.  He's not being a jerk.  He wants the whole, the good, the bad and the ugly.

Once I begin thinking that I'm not handling life perfectly and that I'm not even handling my response to life perfectly I begin analyzing all of my responses, everything I'm doing or saying in life.  I begin thinking and over thinking and thinking some more about how I should or should not be responding, how I should or should not feel about what's going on, what I am or am not doing.  After that quickly comes the part of me that questions every decision I make, questions every decision I have made, losing the anchor of my life.  And then the steamroller that follows is depression.

No wonder I get depressed, I just systematically analyzed every part of my life, the spiritual, intellectual, emotional, relational and physical.  And based on my totally unrealistic analysis I found myself lacking in those areas.  And then the final nail in the coffin of my self assessment is that if I find myself falling this short, how much farther short am I really falling in the eyes of God.

This sucks people and I hate it.  But now I'm aware that I'm doing it.  I have barely slept last weekend.  I couldn't tell you want had me up at night.  Even when I felt safe I still was awake.  I call it haunting the house.  I feel like a ghost as I walk from room to room wondering what I'm doing there.  I know why am there but I imagine if ghosts were real they would wonder as they floated (assuming ghosts don't walk) why they were in someone's house? As I haunt, I wonder, why am I here God?  Why am I awake?  What am I allowing to haunt me?  Is there someone I need to pray for?   Or am I just hungry?  Sometimes it's just that simple.  Although often there's not enough clarity of thought in the middle of the night to get answers to any of those questions and I'm left exhausted, disillusioned and facing a long day in a busy life.

Sleeplessness and perfectionism aren't things I'm alone in.  I remember waking up as a child to my mother having been up all night making bread and scrubbing floors.  But I am perhaps alone in my condemnation of myself at such an unattainable standard.  Perhaps if I can find some grace today for myself I will find some sleep tonight.  Perhaps while holding the reality of my anger, in balance with my less than perfectly svelte self, who is serving fish sticks tonight for dinner, I can find the beauty in my imperfection.  I can stand back and instead of analyzing my shortcomings I can see how those fish sticks gave me more time to help my eldest with homework, allowed me to get a bedroom clean or that my motherly curves are just that, curves and not an indictment on my character.

As I come to peace with my imperfections I see that they are part of the image of God within me.  If I can accept them God is free to work through me as a whole person, not just the whitewashed parts of me I think he wants.   He rejoices in my acceptance of myself, because I am honoring his creation.  I cannot pick out of the parts of me I hate, insult them and call myself names without insulting a creation of God's.

"God created human beings in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them." Gen 1:27

I'm going to rest in my likeness to God, as far fetched as that seems.  He created us, to be like him.  He says so, I believe that.  And because I've staked my life on following him, I must think he's pretty cool.  Therefore, I can't be all that bad either.  

Monday, October 28, 2013

Restoring my faith.

Restoring my faith.

There is little that men can do that will restore my faith in their half of our species.  I've held a pretty low opinion of men as a whole for quite some time now.  That coupled with my reentry into singlehood hasn't done much to bolster my opinion.  I knew this about myself and wasn't sure quite what do with it.  After all I'm raising two men to be.  Simply saying I wasn't going to raise boys to become men like a lot of men I know isn't enough.  I needed a more solid foundation.

As I am known to do I started observing, trying to see what I can that is good in the men around me.  Watching for men that I knew that who were faithful partners, strong shoulders for the loved ones and worked hard to ethically provide for the families.  Not looking for perfection, just consistent good character.

Oddly enough I didn't have to look far.  My love recently said to me 'your father, he's a good man'.  I will confess to you that my step-dad and I have had our share of rough spots.  We didn't talk for a solid year and once we began talking again, it took another solid year until we were on stable ground.  I'll cop to most of that breakdown being my fault.  Although he could have handled my words differently, I started the riff and I own that.  He could have continued it much longer but once the opportunity presented to heal our relationship, he began working on it with me.  I'm sure neither one of us have done much looking back now that we are in relationship again.

Often now my ex has a habit of throwing that riff in my father's face, pointing to it and accusing me of all kinds of horrible things, as if he was totally uninvolved, uh huh sure.  My dad stays calm, he knows we're on solid ground now.  He knows that my ex is just operating as the enemy is known to do, he's being an accuser.  That doesn't come from a place that benefits any of us.  So dad once again shows his character pushes those hurtful words aside and comes to a place of peace with it.

Dad has been there with me for every single court date that I asked him to be there.  He gets up at the crack of dawn is at my house/apartment or wherever I need him to be by 7 am and drives us there.  He pays for parking, doesn't say much and stands by my side.  Dad and I might not have deep conversations while this is happening, but he's with me.  He's showing that he loves me, he's showing his character.  He's being a great dad.  I appreciate it much more than he can know and we joke about needing to have better father daughter dates.

Reflecting on this has bolstered my opinion of one man but what does it do for me in regards to the rest of the male population?  To be honest, not much, he's my dad, he's supposed to be good me.  Of course lots of dads aren't but he is and that's great.  This lead me to more observation and more introspection on my part.  Outside of my dad and men his age, what about men my age?  Are there guys out there that stand by their families at age 26 or 36 or 46?  Are there men in those age categories that stand by their spouses and partners, are faithful, love God and others and work hard for their families?  Are there men that have been with their partners for 5 or 10 years and still love their wives?  Still enjoy them and don't regret having married them?  Maybe a part of me believes that it gets easier if you've stuck it out for 20 or 30 years not to regret having married your spouse.  But how do you feel after 5 or 10 when the kids are still little and there's mess and noise and no alone time and sex has to be scheduled to actually happen?

Again more looking, and again I didn't need to look far.  I found my next door neighbor up early in the morning loving his wife and family well.  They're having a birthday party for their 5 year old.  He was up early scrubbing down lawn chairs and doing whatever else was on the to do list.  Pulling his weight in the family, not leaving the burden solely on the shoulders of his beautiful Brazilian wife.  Yet in the middle of him doing that he had time to say hello and was not grumbling as he served those he loves.  His attitude was simple, this was what had to be done for the party, so I'm going to help because this is for someone I love.

Perhaps it's sad that simple things like helping with a child's birthday party is what it takes to restore my faith in men, because women throw parties like that for their kids all the time.  I know I did it, without the help of my ex.  He actually preferred to 'pay' other people to help with our children's birthday parties then to show up and scrub a lawn chair or two himself.  It's sad that a little thing like that is so noticed by me, but it's noticed because of my story.  Where going to get a gallon of milk was too much of an inconvenience for my ex or grabbing diapers was not his job or going to the ER with me as I was miscarrying was a burden and made me his cross to bear.  He always showed up in time to take the credit for it happening, but for us he was a day late and a dollar short.  As a man he was weighed, measured and found wanting.

But I am learning, there are lots of men out there that do these things and much more for their loved ones.  There are men that will be measured and be able to stand tall, knowing that them being there for their families is a treasure.  Not a burden.  Some of them do these things because they believe that it is their job as a member of their family.  And some do it just because they love the people that they share a house with, whether it's their job or not.  As I type this, my love is outside cutting my grass, not because it's his job, this isn't his house, just because he loves me and it needs to be done and he's able to do it.

Little by little I'm allowing my heart to open up to the possibility that men of character exist, that the men that appear to have character can maintain it over the long haul.  That's the zenith of trust for me.  But in my heart I still have trouble believing that people can maintain their character in the long range.  In the battle ground of my heart I'm always looking, waiting for those who I think may be good to prove that they really are not.

But I'm trying to remind myself that my dad has been going to court with me for over a year. That's a pretty long time.  Chances are if he were going to bail on me, he'd have done it by now.  Chances are if my neighbor Rob was going to stop loving his family he'd have stopped before now.  Their oldest just celebrated his 5th birthday, I bet he's scrubbed a lot of lawn chairs in that time.

In God's Word there are a lot of stories of people who start out in strong faith and character but fail to finish well.  Think about David, his downfall with Bathsheba and the glossing over the rape of his daughter by his son. Not a well finished life.  Not character that lasted right up until the last breath.  Or how about Abraham passing off Sarah as his sister, harloting her out so to speak just to save his own neck.  Again, not character and faith that lasted when tested.

I just want to know where are the people in this life that can hold to a strong moral foundation till the end of their time here on earth.  There are those who never start with a moral foundation of an substance, but of those of us who do, how many of us finish with it still in tact?  Not perfection mind you.  Just a consistent striving to do what is right, to be faithful and loving, and honorable, to find good work and to do it.

I have faith in God that those of us who screw up are allowed to repent and redeem our lives at any point, but I also believe that we pay for those screw ups, whether on this side of heaven or the next.  The thing about Character is that generally it is consistent.  I am not usually surprised when someone I know 'fails' again, because it's the same thing they've done in the past.  I'm more than likely not going to make it through a week of eating well because I rarely make it through a week of eating well.  My character is consistent, and lacking in that area.  So the challenge, the faith that I'm lacking is that the good parts of our character are just as consistent as the bad.  We can hold onto those, we don't all degenerate and if we do it's by choice.

I'm thankful to be able to choose to surround myself with people who make the choice to have good character. And to know it's a choice for them as it is a choice for me.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Prayer Request.

Two of my classmates are in the hospital.  One is there with a heart attack, and is recovering.  The other was in a motorcycle accident over the weekend and had a leg amputated this morning, he's still in ICU.  I have nothing to ask for but prayer for them, their recovery and their families.

Attending seminary is a little different than any school I have gone to before, we love each other, we know each other's stories and share connection.  My heart is grieved by their pain and wants to help.  But I feel immobilized, like I don't know what to do next, so I pray and ask you to do the same.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Will God Give you more than you can handle?

Quite possibly.  This guy nails it.

http://natepyle.com/confronting-the-lie-god-wont-give-you-more-than-you-can-handle/

Morning Rush

Little peak into my morning today:

1) an early morning brisk walk, I enjoyed it; my recently sprained ankle tolerated it.

2) make breakfast, lunches, dress children, down coffee

3) a theology lesson with my middle about the fact that God doesn't take sides

4) dress Nina argue with her about wearing three shirts at once. Go to brush her teeth and find out she has locked the bathroom door and pulled it closed. 

5) give up on the teeth and put everyone in the car. 

6) drive to school when one of my children informs me Jesus told them that Eowyn locked the bedroom door. Another theology conversation about Jesus not usually informing us about other peoples errors rather he talks to us about our own

Good thing I'm going to seminary. Seize the day people :-)

Friday, September 27, 2013

Sabbath?

Last night at school I explored the commandment of remembering the Sabbath, in the Hebrew.  Some people might not find much value in studying Hebrew, but it has enlightened a lot of things for me in scripture.  One of the things is the Sabbath.  God makes it really clear in the original language that we are supposed to remember (in Exodus) or keep (in Deuteronomy) the Sabbath because it keeps it holy OR in another way of looking at the word because the Sabbath is already holy.

I'm a seminary student and I totally own that I give the Sabbath little or no regard.  I do whatever it is that I need to do on that day.  I don't necessarily believe that the Sabbath has to be a particular day of the week, but I have totally abandoned the notion of rest.  I am not keeping/remembering or making anything holy and rest is a laughable concept in my life.

There's a rub here.  Some people would say, well that doesn't really matter because the Sabbath was an Old Testament idea anyway and we're part of the New Testament or the new covenant anyway, so it's inconsequential.  I disagree with that.  I think there is value in taking a day off to remember God.  Practice his presence.  Not do any work.  Heck, I believe not cooking one day a week could be a very good thing.

BUT, how?  How do I do that in my life?  I simply don't have the time.  If I'm not doing some type of work all of my waking hours it won't all get done.  Even with my best focus and my most productive weeks I still now drop balls on a daily basis.

My professor had an insight into this that I appreciated.  The Sabbath isn't really about remembering God, it's about trusting him.  A current doctoral student herself, an adjunct professor, a daughter of an ill father who she cares for and a wife herself, she understands what it means to simply not have the time to do nothing.  Or at least it feels like doing nothing.  I mean really do we feel like sitting around singing hymns and reading our Bibles is gaining us anything when we're living in a world that is pushing us constantly to achieve. We feel like that is doing nothing.  We want to produce.  There are to do list items that need to be checked off, a honey do list that the spouse is nagging me about and somehow I need to write that paper or purchase scout uniforms.  We simply don't have time for this doing nothing crap.

There's the other side of the coin for those of us who struggle to get to church, feel guilty about not going, scream at the kids to get them there or just hate being there because we're restless to get home and get stuff done..  Church feels like one more morning to wake up early and have to be somewhere in the week.  Or it feels like one more part of the rat race we're already on and frankly we want off.  The hamster wheel is spinning too fast and it's easier to meet God in bed with the Sunday paper and a cup of coffee while the kids are watching cartoons.

How in this life do we remember and keep the Sabbath?  What makes it holy?  Are we totally lost in our attempt to set it apart like God asks us too?

I would offer this.  Maybe, maybe it's not about being at a specific place on a specific day.  Maybe it's not about not doing certain things for a 24 hour period.  Maybe the Sabbath is something else entirely.  Maybe it's a trusting and leaning in to God.  It's a release from the pressures of life and an intentional turning over of them for a while.  It's a walking away from the hamster wheel life has us on and it's a pause.

Sometimes I find my Sabbath in making pancakes in the kitchen with my kids on a Saturday.  Something I don't think I have time for, but I stop, I get off the wheel and I lean into relationship.  As I lean back on my creator and trust that the papers will get written, the hours will get logged at work and the house won't really matter if it's not clean.

Other times I find my Sabbath sitting alone pondering my purpose and God's beauty.  And sometimes my Sabbath is in the conversation with a good friend.

God's resting commandment isn't meant to be a burden.  Going to church to worship isn't supposed to be a chore.

The Sabbath is a relief, it's a rest.  Find your way to the rest God has for you.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Descending to Sit with David

I have been embarrassed at the level with which my thoughts have descended over the last few days. Embarrassed that I still don't have it 'together' completely. Frustrated that all the moving parts in my life lead to my innate awareness that life is not something I can control. And then I came to this Psalm sent by a friend and I realized David felt exactly how I feel. 

May those who seek my life be embarrassed and humiliated! May those who plan to harm me be turned back and ashamed! Let destruction take them by surprise! Let the net they hid catch them! Let them fall into destruction! 
They repay me evil for the good I have done; I am overwhelmed with sorrow. O Lord, how long are you going to just stand there and watch this? Rescue me from their destructive attacks; guard my life from the young lions! For they do not try to make peace with others, but plan ways to deceive those who are unsuspecting. Rouse yourself, wake up and vindicate me! My God and Lord, defend my just cause! May those who want to harm me be totally embarrassed and ashamed! May those who arrogantly taunt me be covered with shame and humiliation! Then I will tell others about your justice, and praise you all day long. (Psalms 35:4, 8, 12, 15-17, 20, 23, 26, 28 NET)

I don't have any insight tonight. Only a modicum of comfort in these words.  I have steadfastly refused to return evil for evil. Now at least I can pray that God will do something in the way that David did. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Ordering my time.

The external pressure is getting to me this morning, succeed, nurture, learn, work.  All the forces pull on me cloud my vision and confuse my priorities.  I don’t know how to set them straight, they all seem good, but I don’t know what is best.  I’m striving.  My number one, oft returned to crutch.  Because God and I know what is true.  What is true is that I don’t have all the answers.  What is true is that I really can’t do everything that my life requires alone.  I will not achieve it.  It’s disheartening the knowing that I can’t do it.  I was raised by a bunch of stubborn Irish people.  The thought that I can’t do something is downright blasphemous in my family.  It’s heresy.  But not the heresy of God, although many a sermon has been preached in churches on the gospel of can’t.  God is comfortable with my can’t because he gave it to me like it was a gift.  It was a gift and not a condemnation.  In Irish people religion to tell someone they can’t is an insult, it’s tantamount to saying that you are less than me, because I, I can do anything I set my mind to.  My mother, ever the encourager, will say to me, “Sure you can!” in her best enthusiastic tone of voice.  She’s trying to be sweet while at the same time saying, ‘can’t is unacceptable.’ 

But the truth is I can’t.  Today, I am supposed to be at the library at my school researching a Hebrew word prior to class so that I can finish my homework.  I missed this class last week in order to go to my sons’ back to school night last night.  I can’t very well show up with unfinished homework today.  However, my son Harvey is sick and he can’t go to school today.  Last night during a visit with his father his fever reached 103.7, apparently no medicine was given so we ended up at the urgent care.  Harvey is fine but obviously unable to attend school, so I can’t go to the library, which means I can’t finish my homework because the resources I need are there.  Which concerns me because I already missed this class once and this is only our third class and I don’t want this prof thinking I’m a slacker.  Although Satan’s bent would be to tell me I am one as well.  I’m not a slacker though, my kid is sick and I’m sacrificing ministering to him tonight just to be at class.

In this spring, I learned a hard lesson.  I was constantly striving to keep food on the table and the rent paid.  I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off for $25 here and $50 here.  Low and behold there was still never enough.  I was drowning in legal BS paperwork and trying to care for my family in a less than ideal living situation.  I was exhausted and so freaking stressed out and sick a lot.  God gave me a gift back then of learning that I had to stop striving.  I had to stop trying to do it all.  I was not She-ra and I could not achieve what I was trying to do every day.  He gave me my out, my can’t.  Since then I have vacillated through periods of peace where I know God understands what I need for my family and he will lead me down the right path of securing that to other times when I return to the headless chicken status. 

But today, for right this minute, I’m sitting, I’m quieting myself before the altar (tongue in cheek) known as my impossible to do list and I’m waiting for God to speak.  He’s so gracious and kind to me.  He knows I’m frantic and worried about my son and more than a little ADD.  But in the stillness he’ll show me how to order my time.  He’ll show me what comes first.  Because he’s my father and he is good.  

Monday, September 9, 2013

Pumpkin Musings

I’m so not perfect.  I’m such a mess.  I don’t live up to what I believe.  I lose my temper and my voice gets shrill with the ones I love the most.  My house is a mess a lot and I can’t pay the bills that fill the mailbox.  I live on the edge of surviving and sometimes I live smack dab in the middle of life’s abundance.  I sit and soak up the sunshine of my children’s laughter or smell of clothing coming off the line.  I try to carry the sunshine in my internal, knowing and reminding myself that the sunshine is eternal.  A promise, rising each morning.  The dark night only lasts a few brief hours.  The sun will make it leave, the light can bully the darkness.  Light won’t let the darkness go beyond its boundaries.  But the night can be so black and there defeat is around every corner.  Lurking in the shadows. 

Yet the world turns, the sun rises, warm on my face. Whether sleep has inhabited my night or tossing turning worry, I still am granted a new day.  A cup of coffee and a chance to pray.  To lay the night down at the Son’s feet.  To ask for strength to enjoy today.  To live, to greet the sunshine as though it’s a blessing not a curse.  To find the slippers and a warm sweater, a cup of coffee, and a pumpkin recipe and to call this life, life, not good or bad.  It’s life and it’s meant to be lived not survived.  

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Season

The windows are open, I can feel a breeze and hear the clink of a wind chime I made.  The air has the first hint of fall.  After the weekend's stifling temperatures harken to July this evening is a needed reprieve.  The house needs to breathe, walking to school needs to require fewer water bottles and more sweatshirts.  Listen closely is that the sound of a marching band playing in the distance?  Football season is upon us. Time for the dreams of high school boys to be decided helmet to helmet.  

Where's the firewood? I yearn for the crackle of the sparks as they shoot up into a cool fall evening.  Children return to school.  Schedules are adhered too, yet the changing of the seasons returns life to us after the long suffering heat of summer.  Lunches are packed, suits are drycleaned; back to school we go.  Anticipation follows in our footsteps.  What will we learn? What challenges will we face? Who will we meet?  The scent of fall is change and that change is good.  

The rush of the morning routine is balanced by the gathering of the family around the dinner table and the cool of the evening.  In the madness embrace the stillness of the autumn.  I see a leaf falling through the air of twilight, it is time to rest.  

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Everyone already knows that Miley's an idiot

I know the title is harsh, but her mistake was obvious and public.  Her public scrutiny and possible downfall will be played out in the media and she'll somehow pay for it.  Whether it be embarrassment, or financially or losing fame she will be called to task on her public display of lewdness.  And she should be.  It's sad that she felt like that behavior would be socially acceptable.  And as a warning to all of the young girls and women in my life I will not let you become another Miley Cyrus just like this mom won't let her daughter be one either.

But I'm wondering how many of us have any idea what Mr. Thicke was up there singing about on that stage?  I was curious and so I went and read his lyrics.  I also had the unfortunate experience of watching his video which I will need some healing before I recover from.

He's singing about women wanting it.  At one point in the video letter balloons cover a wall which reads "Robin Thicke has a big #$%@" Apparently if Miley is starving for attention and wanting to know she's beautiful and desirable.  We should all consider Mr. Thicke's ego as well.  He needs to hear this affirmation from a lot of people, so much that he's willing to make a music video to let people know they should tell him this.

Furthermore, if you read the lyrics to his song you will possibly find yourself educated in ways you will not enjoy.  Mr. Thicke apparently has a tendency toward a culture that would not find a woman's yes in the bedroom to be valued.  Now, of course, I don't know Mr. Thicke personally (for which I'm thanking God at the moment).  I'm only observing what he sings about and what I see in his music video.  But while I think Miley is an idiot.  I think that people who promote the idea of force are far more than idiots; they are dangerous.

Are we either still so entrenched in a male dominated society that we automatically excuse him simply because he's a man?  Or is it that we are so oblivious to the words and the constant stream of information barreling toward us on a daily basis that we're not even paying attention the words in the songs we are singing?  (Not that I'm singing that song, but plenty of other people are)

At one point in his video a nearly naked woman has a miniature stop sign on her butt, I will spare you the details of what happens following that.  Seriously people, we need to wake up!  Miley was misguided and stupid and lewd and foul, but if you watch her 'dance' in light of knowing where the song came from it becomes more logical.  She somehow got suckered into this idea that putting yourself out there in the way that she did it was attractive.  Part of the way she got suckered into that very well could have come from her singing partner up on stage.

Neither are acceptable behaviors.  Like the mom at the website I linked to, I won't allow my daughter to become a Miley.  But I also won't allow my sons to become Robin Thicke or men who affirm women for lewdly cheapening themselves for public display.  We're all responsible for the media we take in and the behavior we affirm.  Both men and women.

If we consume what is lewd and foul.  We will become what is lewd and foul.  So Eowyn, you will not be leaving the house in a vinyl bikini.  Rowan and Harvey, I'm sure you won't want to leave the house in a vinyl bikini, but you're going to have other lessons to learn.

Like:
What a yes is and that no is a word that stands alone and is always honored.
How to treat a woman with respect and honor and how to make her feel special and not cheap.
Your words matter and how you speak about and to people matter.
Loving another person is an honor and a gift and should be reverenced in that way.

My littles might not appreciate learning the lessons as they're taught but they will thank me later.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Early Riser

I woke up this morning at 5:48 it was time to give myself a good talking to.  I had a come to Jesus moment and it had to do with my language.  Don't everyone hold their breath it wasn't the swearing that I was having a moral crisis over.  It was the way I talk to my children.  I don't swear at my kids mind you, but I can be harsh.  My tone, my snappy nature, the immediacy with which I want them to do things.  

It's inappropriate.  
It's unacceptable.  
It's not my heart for my children.  
It's not loving.  
It's unkind.  

They are modeling it with how they talk to each other.  And that is NOT OKAY!  So I sat with myself this morning.  Satan had his way for about 5 minutes being my accuser, his forte, before I let God take over...

I may or may not have just jumped up yelling at my kids while typing this blog post.  Because Satan, he's a smart one.  He knows if he defeats me in the middle of this post it won't get written.  And if it doesn't get written it doesn't get published then I might not get the support I need in this area and other people might not get the motivation they need to begin speaking more kindly to those that they love.  

Life has been stressful lately.  I wish a had a word that was more weighty than stressful.  I'll settle for uber stressful.  It has not all be bad stress, although the stress that was bad stress was of some of the worse kind.  As a result I have somehow excused myself for the way I am speaking to my littles.  This folks is not okay.  They are children.  They are my children and although they exited this body that does not give me the right to treat them as if they are less important than me.  

I have had the crap of people treating their own family members however they want to and being pleasant as pie to everyone else.  What kind of a hypocrite would I be if I exercised that type of behavior myself?  I'll tell you, a pharisee type of hypocrite.  The kind that says - this is how you should behave, but you know what, my life is harder than yours so I'm not going to hold myself to that standard.  

That's not me folks.  That's not how I'm going to be, I'm not okay with that either.  

Here's the deal: I'm not perfect.  I'm a mom of three kids, young kids, who have more energy than 30 beagle puppies. I am doing this alone, and yes, that makes it a lot harder.  Much harder than most people realize.  If everyone I know throws their troubles in a pile chances are no one is going to trade their troubles for mine.  No one wants to be me right now and that's ok.  But if I use those things to cushion my ego and allow myself 'wiggle room' in how I treat my kids then I am a hypocrite.  

I can use those things to excuse a messy house, or frozen pizza dinners or my abhorrently long to do list.  I use those things to excuse my now constantly scatterbrained nature.  But I can never use those things or any other stressors in my life to excuse how I treat other people. 

Even if those people are 7 and under, 
Even if those people are here because I gave them life, 
Even if those people have a shrill scream that can make every dog in a 3 mile radius come running
Even if those people own legos - I hate legos
Even if those people cause me to be sleep deprived on regular basis
Even if those people are perpetually hungry and demanding about it
Even if those people will only ever constantly drink chocolate milk
Even if those people don't understand that their mommy just wants a little peace and quiet
Even if those people are talking to me before I have had my coffee
Even if those people solely use the tone of voice known as whining

Because those people are still people.  Whether they are my people or your people, they are definitely God's people.  God loves his people.  He loves even you, even when you're screaming and losing your shit because you're tired, you've been doing physical labor all day and there's no food in the house and all you want is something real to eat and to lay down.  He loves you then.  But he also is loving your children in that moment and he's loving them despite the fact that their hearts are hurting because you hurt their feelings.  

I'm going to say it.  I have hurt my kids' feelings.  That right there makes me feel like a failure.  I have a choice in this moment.  I can choose to embrace this feeling of defeat, I can beat myself up and I can lament on how horrible a person I am.  I can even tell myself that this moment when I screwed up defines me as a person.  

OR

I can choose another path.  God's path, a path of life and light.  This path is the one where I say:

Shannon, you screwed up.  Pretty majorly.  You said some things or used a tone that you're going to have a really difficult time forgiving yourself for.  You're concerned that the littles won't forgive you as well.  But you know how to fix this.  It's not hard.  You apologize, you get down on their level look them in their eyes and own it.  You ask them for their forgiveness, you accept that it might be instantaneous or that it might take a long while.  

After that, you develop a plan.  Because you know this is not how you're going to live your life.  The plan has to include you deciding what is and isn't worth losing your mind over.  The kids running into the street - go ahead honey, feel free lose it.  Shoes - totally not worth it.  Pick them up and throw them (the shoes, not the kids) in the car.  

Then the plan is pretty simple, monitor yourself.  If you're getting out of sync you know that you're more prone to lose it, so make sure you're taking care of everyone in your family not just the kids, take care of yourself too.  

Part of loving others well is loving yourself well.  When we have been ignoring and neglecting our own needs for sleep, good food, time to work out, etc, we are more likely to be short tempered with those we love.  While we're called to love our neighbors as ourselves sometimes we need to remember that our neighbors can inhabit the same four walls we do.  Make sure your mini neighbors are getting enough sleep, enough good food and enough exercise and enough momma snuggles.  Maybe just maybe you'll get lucky and they'll be a little less tyrannical with you.  And if not, if you've met your own needs (to the best of your ability) maybe you'll be better able to deal with the tyranny with grace.

I understand that some of you have highly stressful 60 hours a week jobs, others of you are managing toddlers and nursing little ones, so good sleep, exercise and preparing food all seem outside of your capabilities right now.  Try to find the grace that is needed to meet those needs in small ways for yourself.  I just know that no one wants to get their children successfully breathing to adulthood only to look back with a broken heart on the way you got them there.  

I want to look back after my children have flown the coop and be able to say, wow, I was far from perfect, but I followed God's most important command while they were mine and I loved them as well as I loved myself.  That is an admonition to love myself better and to love them realizing they are fully people now even as mini ones.  Tone, words, body language is something they notice, and they are not immune to yours.  

God give me the grace to love them well.  

Friday, August 23, 2013

I wish life would slow down

I get these calls, and texts from friends a lot.  I can't keep up with your life.  I talked to you last week and 4 major changes have happened since then.  I know, I know.  I shake my head and do my best to fill them in over the chaos of my littles and in between Hebrew and computer work.  Then in the most helpful manner I drop out of the blogging world in an almost drastic manner, causing the rest of my acquaintances, distant family members and random blog readers to also be in the dark.  Not to mention that half the time I am trying to catch those close to me up on my life, something begs my attention in the middle of a half-finished, never to be revisited conversation.  

It's annoying.  I get annoyed at the constant changes, the lack of worldly stability.  Although I know the rock on which my life stands, it's grating to have a tornado of chaos surrounding me.  Lately my soul has been crying out for some temporal peace.  I know that everything here, schedules, houses, money will one day pass away, but it would be great God if there could be a little more continuity in those things for me.  I need that.  My littles need it.  My friends would like to stop throwing up their hands in wonder at how my life will change in the next 24 hours.  

In the times when I allow the chaos to overwhelm me I feel my soul shrink a bit.  To shield out all the noise it goes into self-protection mode.  However, I am trying to embrace a new paradigm.  I'm trying to press into the chaos and realize there is a lesson for me here.  The only rock I have left to stand on in life is God.  I have nothing earthly I can depend on.  I'm sure there are friends and family members who are here for me, but my earthly resources are zapped.  My soul needs rest but my life doesn't allow for that. 

Like many moms out there right now, I'm waiting for school to start for things to slow down.  Although it is a normal to feel that way I don't like it. I want to squeeze in a million fun more memories before the summer ends but I'm hanging on for the ride in between setting up our new home finishing my summer class and getting everyone ready for the next phase. Let us be real folks that phase begins in 4 days people! FOUR DAYS!?!??!  Are you kidding me? I have no idea how everything necessary is going to happen in those days. 

But life has slowed down a little, though y'all might not see it.  There is the beginning of routine, a presence of budding simplicity is starting and family dinners are returning as a normal way of life.  This feeds my soul.  It feeds my littles' souls as well.  Makes room for us to breathe more easily.  


Life will not be easy beginning four days from now.  It will be busy, but it will have a rhythm.  Having all of us out of the house on a daily basis ready to go somewhere and be gone for the day will be challenging.  I don't relish the return of the morning rush.  But here's what I love:

I love that I can walk my kids to school.  And all of the benefits that will have for our health and connection, the conversations we can have (assuming the whining isn't drowning that possibility).

I love that we are all excited about what we are beginning right down to the littlest little Eowyn.

I love that we are settled in our new home.  My kids love it here and we can stay here for a while.  It feels like home and I love that.

I love that we are all increasing in our patience with one another, I see it in my kids and in myself.

Oh, and I love the free curtains I'm making out of my fabric stash with all the free time I do not have.  

Life may not slow down.  At least not in the schedule or calendar sense, but I have found solitude and I will make room in my schedule for rest, God, and lots of love.  Because while chaos shrinks the soul.  Finding peace within the chaos is a test of character.  

Yesterday I did a full day of orientation at my new seminary.  I've been taking one class this summer but now I start full time.  So they do a little orientation thingy.  They asked some serious questions one of which being: how do you take care of yourself?   It was sad folks, I didn't have a single answer for them.  My love (sorry that's all the info you get on him for now) turned to me later and said "Babe I want you to take that question seriously." He was right and I knew it was an issue so here's the game plan folks:

1) Get sleep no less than 6 hours in bed every night, I know what time the alarm needs to be set so I have to work within that structure on the nighttime end.  
2) Dinner every night that I am home with my kids around a table even if it only lasts 10 minutes because they are crazy kids.  Even if it's not homemade from scratch and they won't eat the green stuff.
3) Write and talk to God every day even if it's only for ten minutes, just do it.
4) Find some semblance of an ability to work out, if it's walk the kids to school and then run home, so be it, but find a way to do it.  
5) Schedule time to relax every week and do nothing, ideally with all my people for not less than 4 hours.  

So that's my method embracing solitude within the chaos.  If I care for myself then care for my littles, my love and the world will naturally follow.  Wonder women doesn't exist, neither does superman. Find your balance, solitude and peace are waiting for you.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

No Medal of Honor

I don't get any medals in my life and work.  I will not win any academy awards.  There won't be a Nobel peace prize in my future and when I leave this world I'll be surprised if anyone outside of a small circle of family and friends knows my name.  

My bank account is empty, my house is perpetually a disaster, and I have mounds of grad school work left to do at the end of each day.  

But I don't need any of that to change to bring meaning to my life.  None of those things will give an ounce more weight to my life.  Perhaps my circumstances changing could make things easier.  But that will not make my life more full.  Perhaps fame, or recognition or published books could make me happier for a moment, wealthier for a moment or cause my name to live beyond my last drawn breath.  But I'm not here to ensure that I'm wealthy or well known.  

I know why I'm here and that is to love.  

Tonight after 5 hours of my children running to their hearts' content at the pool, blessing after blessing was heaped upon me.   My daughter fell asleep on the way home from the pool as she is wont to do.  She was tuckered clean out.  And she was a glorious beauty.  Those are ovary ache moments.  When everything within you cries out that this is what you are meant to do.  This person that I'm staring at, I am here to give her life.  To love her, care for her, nourish her soul and protect her.  She is part of my purpose.

Still wet from her swimsuit I scooped her up out of her carseat wrapped her in a quilt and tried to put her down in her momma's favorite chair.  She snapped up yelling 'I don't want to leave the water' and promptly fell right back asleep.  She's wonderful.

Later in the evening as my boys are bounding around their bedroom happily playing with one another (with an energy that cannot possibly be explained) one brother kicks another and injures his sibling's baby toe.  Momma swoops in again, kissing boo boos, wiping away tears and returning with aloe for sunburnt cheeks and chocolate milk for hurt little feelings.  Again the ache, again the blessing, again the entirety of my being cries out: THIS IS WHY YOU'RE HERE!  

And then baby girl awakens, disoriented by the time of day and the impending twilight but at peace because she's home and safe and with her family.  I feed her, finally unpeel the half dried out swimsuit off her body and begin to put her in her pjs.  But the shirt is wrong she needs her tinker bell shirt.  Only the words she uses to describe that sound nothing like tinker bell and I have no idea what she's talking about.  We walk to her bedroom hand in hand and I finally figure out what she's asking for.  Disaster looms because it's in the dirty laundry but I happen to find a perfectly soft shirt for her.  It's light blue and hasn't a trace of Disney character anywhere on it. But it's soft and perfect for her itchy skin.  She's happy with her momma.  And me?

I feel like I lassoed the moon.  

I choose to step over toys in their room trading clean up for extra snuggles and kisses.  I decide to cherish the time I have with them and take an extra look at the mess, thinking to myself "this is my life, and it is good."

I may never go on to do anything great.  I may be mediocre in my career and a terrible house keeper forever, but if I can find the right blue shirt at the end of the day and kiss all the boo boos away? Then I'll take it.  Because this life, it is good.  

That is not to say that all of my life is kissing boo boos and finding the right shirt.  Earlier this week my life was overflowing toilets and mispurposed oranges into balls for an indoor game of catch.  I considered daycare for all of them at that moment.  I am human and every mother has her limit.  But today was a grace, a gift, and a redemption.  Of course, parenting is atrociously difficult at times.  More so when you're doing all of it single-handedly and there aren't any medals or award ceremonies in the future for me.  

I need to remind myself, and maybe you as well.  That if you stop expecting life to be good, it will stop seeming like it is good.  It's not the circumstances.  If you improve here, move here, become a better spouse or get a better spouse, get a better job or church or win the lottery, none of those things are going to change how you view your life.  You have to change it now.  

My life has sucked, I have had every possible reason to bitch.  I have bitched.  I have to get it out.  But then I stop bitching at some point and I move on, because I realize that to embrace that attitude as if it is the entire truth of my life is to allow all the joy to be taken from my life by choice.  

Let me say that another way:


If you choose to continually view your life negatively, your life will be negative, always no matter what.

You have to change how you think about it now, in your present circumstance.  This is what contentment is.  It's not a magic pill, it's not some super spiritual level of enlightenment, it's not more of anything earthly.  It is: taking stock of your life as it is now.  Being honest with yourself and with God about how you really feel about it.  And then letting yourself see the good.  

There is no need to ignore the bad.  There is no need to stifle the tears when they come.  There is no need to stop being honest about the crap people do to you.  Be honest, sit with yourself and your maker in those moments.  Let the feelings come, but then if you can, try to let them pass.  If you need to carry them for a while that's okay but try to watch your spirit for a readiness to lay them down.  And even if you're still carrying them, watch for the good.  Be willing to see it.  Life is never all good or all bad.  Let God show you the gifts he's giving you today.  Be thankful and grateful if you can, even after you've steam cleaned carpets because of a rogue three year old.  

Much Love - Shannon

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Women

I read, a lot.  Possibly my favorite pastime ever.  And reading while at the beach, even better.  I need to go the beach.  Tangent.  Recently I discovered this blogger, Frank Viola.  By recently, I mean, yesterday.  I have no idea if I agree with everything he says or most of it or only this post, so this is by no means an endorsement.  But he wrote this post on women.  And I was blown away. 

As a woman who majored in Christian Ministry and is now pursuing a seminary degree, I have thought LONG AND HARD about what the Bible has to say about women.  What it says about our giftedness, our ministry, our role, the callings we may or may not receive and well, Frank brought up stuff I had never even considered.  

So I am sharing his post.  Linking because I don't want to steal his work.  You should read it. Don't give it more credence just because it's a man writing it either.  ;-)

Frank Viola, God's View of a Woman

After you read, come back here and see my reflection.   















(Did you actually go read it?  Come on now, clicking a link is not that hard)

























(Besides what good is my reflection going to do you if you don't read what he has to say first?)

























STUBBORN
























Okay for those of you who got this far, I'll start reflecting.  


Frank uses the term 'not ashamed" frequently in his article to describe how God feels toward and about women.  I wonder if this is really the best phrase in this discussion.  I think God feels a lot more for women than just not ashamed of us.  I think he relishes our company, desires relationships with us immensely.  Perhaps his use of this phrase is intentional, he places as a disclaimer that he gave this talk in Chile and their culture is very demeaning of women.  But I think as a woman it is so important for you to know that God is a lot more than not ashamed of your existence, desire for relationship with him, your ultimate dependence on him for your health and well-being.  

If God just felt not ashamed of our existence I wonder if he would have created us to begin with?  I think he was looking for a creation that he delighted in completely, not one that just functioned as a necessity.  I don't think God sees us that way. I believe in my brain and my heart that woman was the final culmination of Creation.  The last brush stroke of an artistic masterpiece without which the work would have been incomplete, lacking that essential finishing touch.  Its not just that he ended his creative process with us, it is that it reached its Zenith with us.  

Am I suggesting that in any way we are better than men?  NO, despite a little tongue in cheek jab about our absolute superiority in the area of relationships.  ;-)  No, God did not save the best for last, but he didn't use leftovers either. We are not day old pot roast.  We are not 'oh, whoops, how are they going to reproduce?'  We are not help meet, whatever the hell that is.  God help the next person who uses that word in a conversation with me.  We are not saved through childbirth, sorry Paul, all the barren women aren't going to hell.  We are not unnecessary, relegated to the sidelines in ministry and life.  

Jesus wasn't intimidated by women of ill-repute that let their hair down in public and poured perfume on his feet.  Just as Frank says, our company was not unwelcome.  We were not one of The Twelve. But as Frank talks about there was another group of disciples, The Women and unlike their male counterparts they followed our Christ everywhere even to Calvary.  This isn't to demean the Twelve. I think the reason the Women were at Calvary was because the men who were their crucifying Christ, they just didn't care who the heck these women were.  

Were the male disciples chicken?  Too scared to step up, probably.  But because of the marginalized status of women in the culture of Jesus' day these women were granted an absolution by their society to come and go as they pleased.  It was as simple as no one caring. No one thought a revolution would be started by a group of women crying at the foot of the cross. Unlike Peter, his sword wielding at one moment followed by cowardice the next, apparently he was more likely to start a revolution.  It is sad that the men were not there, but I believe the women that stayed, they received an honorable gift, the gift of being there until the very end with Jesus.  God clearly blessed that when he revealed himself to them first.

I'm thankful we live in a society where we aren't as unnecessary and unwelcome as The Women were back then.  But there are plenty of women who still live in societies like that today.  There are plenty of challenges for women in our society, especially in the Christian community. Whether you walk down the streets of America or an Arab nation where you need a chaperone is irrelevant God values you equally with your male-counterparts where ever you are.  

As you have probably surmised by now, I don't believe that calling or what we do in any church setting should be limited by what gender we are born.  I don't believe this because I don't believe that the Bible supports this thought.  Please don't flood me with verses I know the ones to which you are referring.  But I've read the Bible, the whole way through, more than once.  My conclusion from reading the whole of scripture is that women being inferior is an unbiblical attitude.  I can verse reference you as much as you'd like, but I'd rather you just read the Bible yourself.  Frank illustrated well how in Jesus' ministry and his relationships with women he was lifting them up.  Allowing them to be front and center, encouraging them to do so.  He was not ashamed.  Any shame based attitude that we still hold in our belief systems regarding the position of women within the Church is simply an unbiblical attitude.  I am really not saying that to be harsh.  But I'm also not going to be all mamby pamby on this issue.  That is not God's view of us.  I don't hold this opinion because I sort of believe it.  I really believe it and although I am unlikely to enter into this discussion just to argue with you about it.  If you believe differently, I believe that you are wrong.  I still love you.  And I still believe you can do great things for God.

 I know that some people maintain these positions out of a supposed deference to women.  We are supposed to protect them and keep them safe at home.  This is not NCIS people, we don't have to follow Gibb's rule #1 hide the women and children.  No one is storming the door with an AR.  This is the body of Christ and women have a voice, a unique voice that brings something different to the body.  

I have listened to a fair amount of women preach in the last decade and I have to say it's in no way better than a man preaching but it is different.  We bring a different perspective.  Our lives have taken us different places.  We relate more from our hearts.  Folks, this is good. It's good because God says so.  But it's also just good.  We need to hear more of this in our churches.  We need BOTH men and women speaking to our Churches, ministering in our churches, caring for our babies and loving our youth.  We need BOTH.  Some of the best sermons I have ever heard were preached by men I respect.  Please don't silence their voices either, but let us share the pulpit.  Let us share the Word of God together.  

"Sisters, take your high place. This is God's view of a woman."  Frank Viola