“Work”

I kissed my husband good-bye this morning, just before leaving the house at 8:53 am. He was in his lounging clothes on the couch, having just turned off Game Day so the kids could watch Chuggington.

“I’m proud of you,” he said. My heart lifted.

Now here I sit at “work.” At Westview Church in the “bullpen,” the name we lovingly have given the copy room that doubles as an office for myself and two other staff members. I use quotes for “work” because this building functions as my house of worship, my social hub, my place of employment, and seminary (as a distance learner). My desk is where I dream, write, learn Greek, watch lectures, study my Bible, plan discipleship opportunities, and pray.

Work deskAnd as I sit here, I recognize that though I suppose my husband has reason to be proud of me – specifically, for studying for school right away on Saturday, so I can get home to watch the Ducks game at 3:30 – I am really standing on the shoulders of many, many women and men who worked hard and made sacrifices that allow me to be doing what I’m doing today.

As a woman, I am indebted to the generations before me, who paved the way for our gender to have equality – in my country, in my church, in my family. A few generations ago, I would not have had the opportunity to be a wife, mother, athletic trainer, seminarian, and Director of Adult Discipleship. I stand on the hard work of feminists come before me.

As an American, I am indebted to the social servants who have fought, protected, served, and defended our country so that it has the freedoms it does. Those in the armed forces, those in government, those who serve selflessly in NGOs that attempt to provide quality of life to everyone. My great-great-grandparents were immigrants who didn’t speak English, who came to America and the Midwest farmland for a chance at a better life. They did not have the opportunities for education nor the high standard of living that I now enjoy. I didn’t earn any of that, they worked hard to provide it for me.

As a Christian, I am indebted to the grace of God and the heritage of faith he has given me. I was born into a family already covered in the grace of the New Covenant, and the Holy Spirit has been at work in my life always. I did not earn, deserve, or work for that. It was a gift, a precious gift. As is the calling God has placed on my life, and that of my family – my husband and children.

It is easy to read the news, scroll my Facebook feed, talk to my neighbor, and feel downcast about the world. But the Gospel’s truth tells me my life is a gift. I did not work for it. It was given to me. And in response to that, I can only pray that I live a life worthy of its calling.

Advertisements

losing my life

Joining Five Minute Friday, where we write freely for 5 minutes without second guesses and encourage one another. This week’s prompt: “lose.”

GO

“I don’t want to gain the whole world, and lose my soul,” sings Toby Mac, the old song reverberating through my head.

But I do want SOME of the world. Can I keep some of the world without losing my soul?

I want to take hold of all God wants for my life. All he wants for me. But that is scary, because it means surrendering everything. All my will. All my desires. Emptying myself of the things that I think will fill me up – and trusting that he will instead.

As I grow older, I discover there are layers to my surrender. I use to think that as I grew older as a Christian, I would become stronger, “better,” more faithful, perhaps finally reaching the next “level” of maturity in my faith. Because of course I want to be the best, excellent in all things, especially my faith!

But as God calls me, as he leads me forward, as he gives me hints as to what surrendering to him might really mean for my life, I am terrified.

What if I lose it?

What if I lose what I want? What if I am not happy? What if it’s hard? What if it’s painful? What if it means financial insecurity? What if it means personal insecurity? What if it means sacrifice? Brokenness? Exposure?

Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. ~Matthew 10:39

It’s such an upside down kingdom. God leads me by the hand, beckoning forward, asking him to trust him yet again for just the next step ahead. I trust him. He’s led me this far. His dreams for me thus far have been greater than I have imagined. Rather than being a “giant” I am now just more aware of my self-righteous pride and deep need for my Savior. Feeling so inadequate, he calls me forward, to lose my life.

So I might find it. In Him.

STOP

“somebody to divide it with…”

“Grief can take care of itself, but to get the full value of a joy you must have somebody to divide it with.” –Mark Twain

I know that having community and bearing pain with another at your side is helpful. Beneficial. Healthy. But I love this quote. Because it is true at least for me, that in my dark moments, my instinct is to bury my head in my pillow and throw the covers over myself in tears. But when there is joy…. I just gotta tell someone! Share it!

I see this all the time in my 2 year old. “Mom, come and see!” “Mom, watch this!” “Mom, oooh, look at that!” My Levi is a constant sharer of joy. He and his buddy Henry cause each other some tears… but even more beautiful is the laughter and good times they share.

We have to teach our kids to share their toys. To share their space. To share their life,  their will, their priorities. But joy… it is freely given. And then multiplied! I cannot begin to tell you how many times my kids make me laugh during the day. Many times when I shouldn’t be! But I love this reflection of God in us.

There was a season, just a few short months ago as my postpartum depression kicked in, when my laughter was harder to come by. And so these days I am so grateful for the easy laughter that comes to my lips, shared with my son and daughter. And especially those grins and snickers shared through meaningful eyes with my hubby-love 🙂

I praise God for his word in Job 8:21 –

“He will yet fill your mouth with laughter
and your lips with shouts of joy.”

Here is to laughter and joy, easily shared!

(Written as a part of Five Minute Friday, this week’s prompt: share.)

Mommy’s first day of Lent

Sigh. Oh my. Today! Yikes, today. Today was ordinary and yet extraordinary in its own ways and I’m going to go bananas if I don’t sit down and spew some words at ya. Whew.

Today included:

Repeated lessons to Levi about why we don’t hit. No hitting. Stop hitting. Don’t throw things at Henry. Don’t tackle him. Stop, Levi. Be gentle, Levi. If you do that again you’re going in timeout. If you don’t stay in time out, you are getting a spanking. Timeout. Spanking. Levi. LEVI. LEVI JOSEPH HATTING……

Contrast that scene with ¾ of the way through lunch….. “Mama! Pray first!” “Okay, Levi, go ahead, you can pray. You say the words.” (We bow our heads and fold hands.) “Dear Jesus… Thank you. Thank you for food. For food on table. Thank you, milk. Sandwich. Thank you (for) baby Esther, Henry, Mommy. Dear Jesus. Thank you. Daddy… safe… house. Amen.” And my heart is melting. That is the first time I’ve heard him pray. Usually we prompt him and he repeats after us, or refuses to pray at all and asks us to pray. But here he was. Reminding me to pray and be thankful. Praying at the beginning of lunch wouldn’t have worked, since I had three little ones on my hands who were “hangry”, two of them literally doing a constant cry/whine until they had a piece of food in their mouth, and the other who was “helping” make his peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you for the sandwich.

Today also included my 9 month old (9!) getting into everything. And asking to nurse every 30 minutes, then barely eating at all… because she’s congested? Teething? So distracted by the toys in the living room she just wants to get down as soon as she’s on my lap? Who knows.

Contrast that with her huge, 2-tooth smile that breaks out as soon as she sees the camera and knows it’s awesome if she turns on the charm. 🙂

IMG_3853
Levi’s portrait of his sister

And hallelujah, I did get an hour nap today! Bliss. I woke up as Levi quietly entered my bedroom with his blond bed head and paci’s. He joined me in bed to snuggle- “rub my back Mom?” – and watch Thomas. Sigh. I love him.

It is now 5:02 pm, and I just changed out of my sweats 15 minutes ago so I won’t feel like an unsexy slob when Chad comes home. (He wouldn’t necessarily care, but I do). The mess from lunch is still on the table and the counter, the washer and dryer are full and need to be switched, and there are 3 baskets of wrinkly clean laundry that need attention. My living room is full of today’s toy disaster behind me, with Curious George on the TV so I can vent some sanity into my day.

This is hard. This is so hard. But it is so good. Is this how God feels? ALL THE TIME?

“My children are so difficult, but damn, I love them so much! They are so wonderful!”

The thing with God, though…. Pretty sure his patience lasts a little longer than mine. His love is fiercer than mine. His compassion hits “refresh” instantaneously. His wisdom in fatherhood is perfect. His being, wholly holy. His lap, always open and welcoming. His anger, always righteous. His jealousy, full of passionate love for his own. I am so glad he is infinite. That he carries me. Always. Because man, his job. Running the whole world. Being creator of everything. Loving everything. Judging everything, just in all his ways. That is mighty. Do you think it’s a crazy hard job? Or easy, because he is God, and so powerful, that everything in his nature comes freely, like breathing?

Today is the first day of Lent. Jesus, wash my soul. Father, make me like you. Spirit, bear me up so I might carry my cross. And maybe a baby on my hip while I’m at it.

Pizza Ranch for supper it is.

IMG_3835
Levi’s portrait of Mommy

Winter, head colds & finding God in the doldrums

Oh my word. This month. (As in, this last month). Horrendous! One month of winter colds, during which there has not been a day that someone in our house has not been sick. Really, it’s been most of us. Most of the time. Including me. I shouldn’t complain. I shouldn’t. I am grateful for the pediatrician, health insurance, a home with a heater, food, and ibuprofen. But a month requiring 4 trips to the pediatrician is stressful, so share in literary form I must.

I was taking a lovely siesta on the couch just now (Thursday afternoon), when THUD, CRY…. I race upstairs, glad to find Levi has already put himself back into bed. I hand him his pacifiers (one for the mouth, one for each hand) and he rolls back over, “Thank you mama…” closing his eyes. Sigh. Awesome. Going back to bed during a nap. Glorious. The nice thing is, I had my good “Kat nap” (haha!), so I feel refreshed enough to stay awake. This is the best part of any day, if it happens. When I have satisfactorily had my nap, and the kids are still sleeping. I could be spending this time vacuuming up the shredded paper that is all over the living room floor from Levi’s morning escapades, but writing is so much more therapeutic. And it’s good practice for Esther’s digestive system if she eats some, right?

Except now I hear Esther coughing and stirring through the baby monitor, so I might have to pause and be right back… in like 3 hours. Or tomorrow. Or next week…..

 

…I’m back. It’s now Sunday (three days later). Not bad. I’m having time and space and good creative thought because Esther is home sick with a cold and fever (it’s her turn again), taking her morning nap while the guys are worshiping and eating chili at church. But I’ve just had a fresh shower and leg shave, so I am good! And so is God.

Here are my thoughts.

I was showering and thinking, I should really have “church” here at home since I’m missing out on the worship and word with my congregation this morning. But honestly, the thought of cracking open my Bible and finding a Scripture passage to read and study did not feel appealing. Instant guilt at that feeling followed. *sigh* With the onset of January, I had the desire to get back into regularly studying Scripture, since that area of my spiritual life has been lacking lately. The best time of day for me to do that is in the morning over breakfast, before my children wake up. Well, since we’ve been sick since the new year, I have lacked that time either because I myself needed rest, or my children were waking up early and demanding immediate attention. I had planned to start some reading in Hosea and Psalm 119, since the two women’s groups I’m a part of were going to start diving into those together. I have been to ONE gathering of those two groups in 2016. *double sigh* So goes another futile attempt at “quiet time” since becoming a mother.

But guess what DID happen this month? I received a request from my dear cousin, Leah Everson, to join a Facebook group she started called “Mama’s Soul Group.” This group is “an online community of Christian mamas who explore ancient and new spiritual practices in order to connect with God.” Leah is a mom of young kids, like me, who is also a writer, and God is leading her through the awesome calling of ministering to women through exploring ways to (re)connect with God once the dynamics of motherhood take hold, when we find it difficult to connect with him in ways we previously had. She is encouraging us each week with a spiritual practice other than the traditional “quiet time” of Bible study and prayer. This week was “breath prayers.” We picked a prayer to say repeatedly throughout our days – the same words, as we breathe in and breathe out. My prayer was, “Abba Father” (breathe in), “You carry me” (breathe out). Over. And over. And over again. Let me tell you. It made a difference! The acknowledgement of my Lord through the stress of my day added so much peace and awareness of his presence. I was more conscious of the Holy Spirit’s power and guidance, and his Word more easily came to memory so I could meditate on it as needed.

Wonderful! So through understanding that perhaps I don’t need to meet with God in the same way all the time – or have “church” this Sunday morning in the traditional sense – the Holy Spirit revealed something to me. Being a mother of small children is not a season of life to just spiritually endure. But rather, an opportunity from God to grow closer to him than ever before, because it pushes me to deepen my relationship with him in other ways – ways that will serve me even AFTER my kids are grown – by practicing his presence, worshiping, and meditating on his word in various ways through my busy day. Because from what I’ve heard, busy days don’t end when your kids are out of diapers 🙂

So…. This morning I am worshiping through writing. Worshiping by enjoying God’s presence as the water of my shower cleanses me and his mercy washes my soul. Fellowshipping with him by breathe prayers, acknowledging through them that he is God, I am not, and therefore I do not carry the world and need to shed the mantel of my god complex.

Phew. Can I get an Amen???!!!

If you are also a mother and your heart aches for a closer walk with God, I invite you to check out Leah’s blog The Toothless Grin and the Facebook group “Mama’s Soul Group.” You are most welcome and we would love to encourage you. You are in good company!