Monday, October 27, 2014

Revel in Your Smallness

(Written for my dear, sweet friend whose legs have been made into mush)

I have a picture of my nephew that I just love.  You're going to have to use your imagination because this picture hails from about 9 years ago which, amazingly, was before everyone posted pictures on Facebook for strangers and old high school acquaintances to see. (I actually think it came from a film camera.  I know, right?)

Eben, around 3 years old at the time, stands in sweatpants and a sweatshirt, a precious little baseball cap and squinting into the sunlight coming from behind his mommy's camera.  He is grinning an ear-to-ear kind of grin, and behind him you see the giant scoop of a backhoe resting on the dirt.  I mean, this thing is huge. The enormous claw of the machine stands even taller than this whole little human, and you can see the giant yellow arm reaching up far beyond the picture's edge. It's clear that the overwhelmingly large metal scoop is only a tiny part of the huge machine.

And Eben is loving it.

The contrast is so striking.  The smallness of my tiny, chubby-cheeked nephew just makes the machine look that much more powerful. And it is so clear by the look on his face that simply standing in front of such a huge machine is a genuine thrill to him.

I love that picture because, well, first of all because, oh my gosh he's so stinking cute.  I mean, come on.  But I love it for another reason.  It serves as a fabulous reminder for me to revel in my smallness.

Standing near something that was so big, so strong, so capable of so much was all that he needed to be giddy in his smallness.  It is the bigness of the backhoe and the smallness of himself that makes him love it as much as he does.  Being little shows just how big the backhoe really is.

I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, Paul says, so that Christ's power may rest on me. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Huh? What?  Being strong because you're weak is an oxymoron.  It's nonsensical.  It's dumb.

But Paul backs up his claim.  The man was truly, genuinely, and pitifully weak.  Beaten, tortured, shipwrecked, sickly, beaten again, snake bitten, flogged, stoned, and beaten again, hungry, thirsty, cold and naked.  Folks, he spent a night and a day in the open sea. (I get so stressed out with that every single time.)

This man (whom I will remind you was extremely learned and devout and pious and "perfect") focused his boastings on the things he had suffered. He pointed out the times he was poor and broken! He actually reminded people of his pains.  Because, when I am weak, then I am strong.

But [Christ] said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong. ~2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Paul stood like Eben - small, so small - but leaning on something huge. And strong. And so powerful.  And really, the smaller you are, the bigger He looks.  And the weaker you are, the more impressive your impact.

Be small.  Be weak.  And get a simple thrill from standing in front of such magnificent power. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Why I stopped trying to do life right

I've never been a perfectionist. Ever.  I have always been 100% completely and entirely okay with not being great at something.  I like to do things well, and I try to do them better, but I've never been concerned with total accuracy.

Then I got married.

I was such a stressed out little wife trying to do everything I was supposed to do.  Proverbs 31 overwhelmed me.  Books left me feeling like I had already failed even before our wedding day. I read one book that left me in tears - repeatedly - because it said a good wife will make sure there are always batteries and light bulbs stocked in the closet. My desk light had burned out that morning, I think, and I had no replacement, and batteries had been on my list for a month.  What kind of wife was I going to be?! My husband couldn't even rely on my for the household "essentials". How could he rely on me to be his life partner? (Ironically, that book has become one of my favorites on marriage...ah, maturity.)

Things evened out after a while. My husband gave me so much encouragement.  I talked to wise women.  I found a groove.  I learned to prioritize.  I learned to let go (please, no Frozen interludes here).  I prayed - a lot.  God's grace was so good, mercies new every morning, all that jazz.  He surrounded me with great friends who were also striving to be good wives.

Then I had kids.

There is a dark, sick, mothering subculture that is determined to drive each and every one of us into the ground.  And for people like me, who start out already feeling like I'm failing, it is not a far fall.

Do this.
Don't do this.
If you do this, you are a good mom.
If you do this, your kids will be Christians.
If you don't do this, your kids will be Satanists.
If you have this bedtime, your kids will be well-adjusted.
If you let them eat this, your kids will have a YouTube channel.
Have them in at least 4 sports by the time they're 2.
Don't ever put them in organized sports. Ever.
You owe your kids this.
You owe yourself that.
Oh, and your husband. He doesn't really matter until the kids are gone.
But you still need to be his all and everything. And look good. And wear yoga pants.
But don't dress immodestly.
And nurse them until they're four.

I was drowning.  Gah, I just want to be a good mommy.  I want to love my kids.  I want them to love the Lord.  I want them to care about other people. I want our family to be a light of hope in a dark and doomed world.

And I was doing it all wrong.  And partly wrong.  And kind of right.  And I spiraled.

Then I had that kind of moment where God was like, "look at me," and I was all like, "I'm looking at you," and God's all like, "no, at ME." (My 2-year-old does this.  "Desh, look at my eyes." [face toward me but eyes to the side] "Huh?" "Jeshua, look at me." [eyes to the other side] "Huh?")

So I finally looked at God. I sat. I was quiet. I didn't have a parenting book.  I shushed the blogging voices.  I quieted my own doubtful voice. And you know what God said?

"Look at me more."

And it donned on me.  The only "right" is in Christ. And all of these authors and bloggers and friends and church moms - as well-intentioned as they are - aren't "right".

So I gave myself the grace that God was already giving me.  I narrowed my focus.  I learned to glean from books rather than adhere to books. I started trusting Scripture over anything else. And I have a motto now.

"Abby, stop trying to do it right, and just do it well."

If it says to do it in the Bible, do it. If it says not to, don't. If it doesn't say, seek wisdom.  Pray. Ask wise people. And don't stress out. Look at Him. And maybe try to enjoy it instead of trying to get it right.

"Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ."
                        ~Galatians 1:10

*I just remembered this post I wrote over 8 years ago about letting God lead the dance.  I think it still fits. And clearly I'm still learning.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

My personal theme for 2014

I like themes.

My kids' birthday parties always have a theme. My family draws names for Christmas then we designate a theme. To be honest, I might even be a bit obsessed with the "theme" theme of my life.  I really like to have a theme.

Themes help me stay focused.  They give me a filter through which I can look at the world - or at least a given scenario.  I like my theme to be something short, easy to remember and preferably pithy.  I want it to be something that can pop back into mind when things get foggy.

As I was devising a theme for the upcoming year I was drawn to the ironically simple word "Simplify."  Good grief, if simplifying was that simple, I wouldn't have been thinking about, stressing over, and guilting myself into "simplifying" for the past year.  I. just. can't. do. it.

I keep trying to simplify.  To purge the stuff we've acquired in our 800sq. ft. apartment.  To clear out the clutter.  To have a mail system.  To stay on top of papers and toys and clothes and books and dust and... It is SO desirable to me to simplify.

And simplifying has, for me, proven to be painfully complicated. Where do I even start?

So as I pondered my theme for 2014, I said "of course it is 'Simplify'." But I couldn't convince myself.  Something just wasn't right about it.  So I took a minute to process why I kept stalling out on naming my theme. Here's what I discovered are my hurdles to the "Simplify" theme:
1. Fads fade.  I don't want to jump in head first to something, read all of the constantly shifting material, and then burn out within the first couple of months of purging because I didn't have a real, substantive purpose behind it other than that it sounded good at the time.
2. Every expert has an opinion on how I should go about it. If I just Google "How to Simplify" I would come up with blogs and articles and books and podcasts about a thousand different ways to start, a billion different DIY projects that somehow make my life simpler, and a world wide web's worth of mental clutter for me to sift through and see what sounds the best for my unsimple self.  Talk about overwhelming!
3. I could (and would) compare my simplification to your simplification, because everyone's simplification successes are posted.  I love Pinterest and Facebook.  I really, really do. But I just can't add one more area of potential envy and jealousy to my already overwhelmed and stressed out heart.  I need a theme that helps me get motivated, not stuffs me inside a hole afraid to crawl out because I haven't simplified enough yet.
4. I've always rebelled against trends. I blame this on my homeschooled upbringing, but seriously, look in my closet and you will see that I am always unwilling to embrace a fad until it has begun to wane.  Then I usually get it on Clearance. This isn't a weighty downside, but it's true, and must therefore be considered.
 5. I wanted something that God, not others, would walk me through. Because it is a trend right now there are many people offering valuable insights, but I don't want to rely on anyone other than the Holy Spirit for this process in my life.  I want to depend on Him fully to walk me down the road of letting go of my cluttered life to embrace the freedom He has to offer me.

So no, my theme is not "Simplify". But worry not - I have a theme that has lit a fire under me and I am so excited to see how God moves in my life and shakes my world over the next year.

My theme: "What Is Needed?"

What clothes are needed? What tasks are needed? What words are needed? What does my husband need? What does my first child need? Second? Third? What do I need? 

This is my filter.  I've begun sorting through closets asking, "which of these toys are needed?" I've looked at my to-do list and said, "what needs to be done most?" I've bitten my tongue because I took a second to filter if my words were really necessary. I've sent my husband a text I thought he needed to receive, and guess what - he thanked me for taking the time to encourage him with those words.

I'm only three weeks into this year - into this theme - and you know what? My life is starting to feel a bit simpler. And I'm getting excited to see what else I can pare away so that what is left in my life is what really needs to be here.