Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Breaking Free from Shame

My house is in a state of disaster 80% or more of the time. That other 20% is when my mom is visiting or someone is coming over or I have a rare burst of cleaning energy. And please understand me: when I say disaster, I mean disaster. Solidified, stinky milk in sippy cups hiding under the couch (or in plain sight) disaster. Can’t walk across the room without doing a dance of tripping, dodging and hopping while still managing to step on sharp cornered blocks and legos disaster. I have bought the same thing more than once because I can’t find the original somewhere in my house disaster.

[One day I thought Instagram and Facebook deserved some realness from me. Play a game of I Spy with this picture… can you find the black dog/dirty Thomas the Train underwear/Radio Flyer Bike/Multiple empty fast food cups?]

And I’ve felt a great sense of shame over my inadequacies as a housekeeper. You see, I know how to clean. I am a very skilled organizer. I just don’t always feel like doing it. And I’ve carried this truth deep in my heart and allowed it to hold me prisoner. I let it stop me from inviting friends over because it meant I’d have to clean. And most likely, life would somehow become crazy right before a playdate was scheduled and I wouldn’t be able to get things presentable fast enough. Or there would be so much to do that actually starting was too daunting. So I stayed home by myself, sitting in the craziness and denying the inner hostess in me the opportunity to come out.

And then, this past spring, a new friend (as in we’d talked a few time at our mom’s group and she’d ridden in my equally messy car once) needed a place to hang out between our group and her son’s doctor’s appointment. Thanks to a weekend of painting, my house was even worse than normal. Furniture was pushed in random places, you couldn’t see my kitchen counters, table, or even the couch because that’s where we threw everything that had been on the floor. We had basically decided to ignore the idea of cleaning up after ourselves in order to get as much painting done as possible. But I knew I needed to invite her over. So I offered my house and said I’d do dishes and we could visit.

And you know what? She didn’t judge me. She saw the reality of my house, but she accepted me as her friend anyways. And I think that experience of me being truly vulnerable about a very ugly side of myself jump started our friendship. It took us to a place of honesty and realness very quickly. And even more than that, setting aside my shame and refusing to allow it to hold me prisoner freed me. It freed me in other relationships (several friends have visited with me while I washed dishes and cleaned my kitchen since). It freed me to be honest about myself with others and, in turn, help them take power over their own shame. And it freed me to be a better housekeeper. My house is still a disaster a lot of the time, but I am not so intimidated by it that I can’t start cleaning.

Shame shows up in our lives for so many different reasons. And I’m sure it would be easy to put a scale on actions/sins/facts about ourselves and try to place some as worse than others. But the truth is: shame, regardless of what causes it, affects us powerfully. It holds us captive and keeps us from allowing God to change us and use us. It stops us from being able to fully embrace the truth that God loves us no matter what—that it was while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).

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I love Lamentations 3:21-23. The author shares about how he can’t forget the bad that has happened in his life and, because of it, his soul is downcast. But then, “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” No matter how many times I do something that fills me with shame. No matter how much ugliness is in my soul. No matter how many times I try to convince myself God’s love can’t cover everything that’s in me. His compassions—His mercies—are new every morning. He is faithful to cover us anew, to free us from our shame and then, when we mess up again or allow it to hold us captive once more, we can have hope. Because His compassions will never fail. They are new every morning.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Learning to Truly Believe that He Loves Me

I’ve been reading through the book The Fitting Room: Putting on the Character of Christ by Kelly Minter during my quiet times and my faith has been rocked. In a good way. The book is a study on Colossians 3:12, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothes yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” I’m used to skipping over the first half of the verse and focusing on what these virtues of a believer should be. But Kelly starts at the beginning, really diving into what it means to be God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved.

I asked Jesus in my heart at the age of 3. I grew up loving church—excited to go to Sunday school, active in youth group, attended Bible studies, went to a Christian college and then worked in the church. I’ve never been through a season of hating the Bride of Christ even though I’ve seen some very ugly aspects in the humanness of it. But through all of this strong faith-centered life of mine, I’m not sure I’ve ever fully grasped in my heart how passionate God’s love for me is. Or if I ever have, somehow along the way I’ve allowed my mind to mistake that deep, unconditional love for one that is conditional on my actions, or simply forgotten the feel of it.

Colossians 3:12

When this book firmly pointed out that I am chosen, holy and dearly loved I felt my heart breaking, wanting to not only know that God loves me but to truly feel it—and to then have it permeate every aspect of my life. I am realizing that while I am very confident in myself, I am incredibly insecure in how much other people love me. My head knows I am loved—I am told frequently by so many people that they love me. But I have a hard time believing that my husband both loves and likes me. I worry that relationships mean more to me than they do to my friends. I put up barriers and pretend that things are “no big deal” so I can’t set myself up to be hurt in case love is not returned. And even bigger than that, I have a fear in the back of my mind that if I ask God to show me how much He loves me that I will then be placed in a season of trials and removal of those closest to me in order to learn to be content in love from God alone.

I’m not at a conclusion point in grasping in my heart how great God’s love is for me. But I am taking a step forward, following Kelly Minter’s advice to “pray that God would help you see His love and understand it more fully (Matthew 7:7-8).” I am repeating over and over to myself that I put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience because I am chosen, holy and dearly loved. Not that I am chosen holy and dearly loved because I put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. I am listening to the song Oh How He Loves Us on repeat and taking to hear the words that He is jealous for me, that His affections for me are great, that His love for me is powerful like a hurricane and I am a tree being bent beneath the weight of it.

I love Kelly’s words, “But what happens when we really get it? When the flower of our hearts begins to unfold under a covenant of love? When we’re not waiting to be leveled but can trust the heart of God? When we can lean into the virtues as freeing and distinguished ways to live life as opposed to confining, legalistic actions that are meant to garner God’s approval? …I have been on a steady pursuit of God’s love for many years, looking for its manifestation in the lives of dynamic believers… And of course, as soon as I write that I have been on a steady pursuit of God’s love, I am keenly aware that His love has been on a steady pursuit of me—before I was even formed in my mother’s womb. …I have prayed that He would help me stop trying to wrangle His love by my effort, that I could take a deep breath and fall back on the immovable truth that His love for me is without condition. And when the sufferings and tragedies of this world seem to yell in the face of such love, I hope for His transcendent presence that doesn’t always explain but never forsakes.”

Monday, June 3, 2013

Capturing the moment

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It’s a daily occurrence where I have to just stop and stare at my children.

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Sometimes they’re just super cute.

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Of course, we have our ugly moments too. But I try to really take in these precious little snapshots of who they are right now. As a mom I want to live in the moment—to embrace the now rather than wish it away for a future stage. And it’s especially fun when they take joy in experiencing the moment as well.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Her Children Call Her Happy

One of my greatest hopes for my children is that someday they will look back at their childhood and remember our home as a happy one. Of course they’ll have memories of me yelling at them, tension between their dad and me over [insert countless scenarios here], and sibling squabbles. I’m sure there will be remembrances of sorrow, pain and loss. But ultimately, I would love it if a general sense of joy settles over their memories of the growing up years.

I’ve found myself thinking a lot about how my own attitude and behavior is key to this dream coming true. A while back I spent a few months camped out in Proverbs 31, intent upon truly learning from this example of a woman worth far more than precious jewels. I determined to glean attributes from her that could be applied to my daily dish-washing, nose-wiping, diaper-changing, patience-testing days. And the verse that has been repeating itself in my mind lately comes from the conclusion of this woman’s description.

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“Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her.” Proverbs 31:28.

Know what’s so special about the meaning of the word blessed in this verse? My Bible’s commentary explained, “Blessed… that is, one who enjoys happy circumstances and from whom joy radiates to others.” Her children call her happy and radiating joy. They see that she is happy with her life and respond about it.

It would be easy to say that she was the model woman, so of course her children would say that about her. But she wasn’t just handed that title; she worked hard for it. All of the hard work she did—her dependability, attention to detail, relationships built—culminating in her role as a wife of noble character brought her joy. A genuine and real joy that was visible to those closest to her: her family. She didn’t make them feel guilty about all she did for them. She didn’t complain about her work load and begrudge them for it. Instead, she found joy in her circumstances.

It made me think about my responsibilities—both in caring for my home and caring for my children. If I were to do the work I need to do, to the extent I should do it, would I have a joyful spirit about it? Is my grumbling because I know I should and could be doing better at taking responsibility for my home, actions and attitude? How often do I reflect a joyful spirit over managing my household? When I talk with friends, do I reflect joy in serving my family? As my children get older, will they call me blessed, or happy about my circumstances?

We can have really good days and we can have really bad days in my home. It seems that one of the only constants is that, at some point, my three year old will have an emotional melt down (and some days, that point happens every hour… half hour… five minutes). And as awful and exhausting and exasperating as those melt downs may be, they are not what ruin the day. It is my response that is the deciding factor. If I join him in the pity party of the century—resenting his behavior, dwelling on unaccomplished plans, admitting defeat and betraying my age by straight up pouting—happiness cannot be present in our home. But if I remember that I am the adult, I am called by God to this great position of motherhood, and God will equip me for my ministry (2 Corinthians 3:4-6), then my day is changed. My children will arise and call me blessed.

Being happy in my circumstances doesn’t mean that they are ideal. It doesn’t mean that I have achieved all that I can in motherhood. And my children certainly aren’t perfect. We all lose it sometimes. But in the end, I can take responsibility for myself. I can oversee the affairs of my household and do it with a joyful spirit. Because what greater reward will there be for my hard work than to have my children arise and call me blessed?

Monday, April 29, 2013

Heavy Hearted

My heart has found many reasons to be weary this past year. I have cried tears. Battled fears. Questioned the future of relationships. Sought answers. Been silent. Pleaded for miracles. Dealt with anger and unforgiveness toward others. Feared. Felt isolated and alone. Supported. But through all these heavy moments and thoughts, none of them resulted over any difficult situations directly in my own life. The emotional weight has been for those I love.

bear one another's burdens

Galatians 6:2 became a reality for me. It’s simple and short: Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. One loved one has dealt with false accusation and misrepresentation while another has been desperate to make some sense of his puzzled mind. A friend is in a season of deep grief as loved ones passed away within weeks of each other. A usual rock in my life has needed my strength and support as frightening moments overwhelmed her. A friend from college is facing a devastating diagnosis for her son. I see people deeply grieved by broken relationships. I’ve stood next to them, whether they knew it or not, shouldering some of their burdens. Lifted them in prayer. Ached deep within me for their pain. Longed to be a source of encouragement. Simply felt heavy hearted for them.

While I feel a great sense of contentment for where God has me, these twelve months have whittled away at some of the day to day happiness that used to mark my life. I delight in my children while wishing I could set the world straight on a few things. I laugh at a funny moment with my husband while also feeling my heart plead with God to give others wisdom in making life and death decisions. I share pictures of the fun changes I’m making around my home and then read a devastating Facebook status.

These twelve months have also brought an awareness of God’s sovereignty and power, His peace and comfort, and the joy that comes with bearing one another’s burdens. In Him I take refuge. His righteousness rescues and delivers those I love (Psalm 71:1, 2). Even though I’ve seen troubles—many of them bitter, He will restore my life and will comfort me once more (Psalm 71:20, 21). He is always with me, guiding me with His counsel (Psalm 73:23, 24). And through this awareness, I’ve felt some of the weariness lifting. As though a season of lament is warming into one of new life and hope.

Tonight a friend posted a song that I have had playing on repeat for the past hour. As my tears well up once more, the words wash over me, reminding me that those I love have not been forsaken. He is constant. He is only good. He is sovereign. He is a faithful God and we belong to Him.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Settling into Contentment

***This post originally was a guest post I wrote for Designs by Sessa, and I'm now sharing it here.***

In the house I grew up in my parents had a beautiful, large, fenced in front patio. My dad is a lover of plants and growing them, and my mom has a green thumb with flowers so the brick patio was surrounded by beds, boxes and pots full of a colorful array of flowers. Summer evenings were beautiful out there with our mild Oregon weather and breezes coming over the coast range. So let’s imagine we’re sitting in the wicker furniture my mom had carefully arranged out there, holding glasses of iced tea, and have some kindred spirit conversation about what my heart has been learning.

I’ve been on a bit of a journey over the past year and a half—learning more about myself, my role as a wife/mom/Christian/friend/crafter and ultimately coming to a place of contentment. In November of 2011 I stepped down from my job as Children’s Ministries Director at our church to be a full time stay at home mom. My new title was the role I had longed for, dreamed of since childhood and stepped into willingly. However, I still found myself in a grieving period as I saw one stage of my life come to a close. I think grief in any life-stage transition is to be expected. After a few months of spending a lot of time cuddling with my son, watching a whole lot of TV and slowly regaining my energy (only to then get pregnant and lose it all over again), it was time to figure out who I was.

I’ve found that I’m a terrible house keeper, but if I develop a routine I can maintain a tidy kitchen. My son and I spend a lot of time together, but we connect more through morning cuddles than we do through playing together with toys. I love time with friends, but most days I’d actually rather spend time at home with my kids. I love sewing and crafting, but unless I’m feeling emotionally overwhelmed, I don’t really make the time for it. And even though it isn’t true, I convince myself that my husband thinks I’m falling short in my duties as a stay at home mom.

While all of the above statements were true of me when I worked as well, how I see myself, and accept that self, is changing. One of my former volunteers sat next to me in church on Sunday and at one point said, “I think you’re a quieter person than I thought you were.” Her words have been rolling around my mind since then and I think she’s right. While I’m still just as talkative as ever and don’t mind being in front of groups or adding to the life of the party, my pace of life is quieter, and as a result, so is my heart. I know that I am in the role I am called to and I find myself content with that fact.

Being content with where I am in life doesn’t mean that I need to just accept my flaws and ignore the areas in need of growth. Instead it’s meaning that I allow the peace of Christ to rule my heart (Colossians 3:15). It’s knowing that I can’t overcome my failings or act in spite of them on my own—my adequacy is from God (2 Corinthians 3:4). And being content means remembering that He has searched me and He knows me. When I am steady and consistent in my quiet times, shining His light to those I meet and marveling at His glory at every turn—He’s with me. But He’s also with me when I am at my lowest—screaming at the dog, tripping through my toy-littered living room and trying to dig the least filthy sippy cup out of my dirty dish filled sink, as my dusty Bible asks for my attention. He made me. He has searched me. He knows me—the deepest part me that even my husband and mom don’t see. He knows the struggles, the fears, the hurts, and the guilt that plague my mind. And through all of that, He wants to pour out His love on me. And so I rest in that fact. I rest my heart. I rest my mind. I rest my spirit. I rest my weary body. I rest. And when I find myself with that unsettled, discontented, tired and worn feeling once again, I plead: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24. And He will be faithful to mend, heal, convict, strengthen, challenge, and ultimately, bring peace. And when that peace comes, so does the contentment.

Psalm 139 23-24

(As a side note to those of you who feel like this place of peace and contentment is impossible for you to reach, take a moment to listen to THIS song and follow along with the lyrics. I have felt this way so many times (even in recent days and weeks) that it brings tears to my eyes. There is hope. Redemption does win.)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Delighting in His Creation

I had a lot of fun preparing Reese’s nursery in the months leading up to her arrival. Before I even knew she was a girl I was pinning feminine inspiration. And then once we knew that pink would be the way to go, I allowed the creativity to flow through painting, sewing and designing. Every element of her room was well thought through. The exact placement of wall hangings were so clearly thought out ahead of time that once they were actually hung I would just stand back and smile.

Nursery Vingette

I imagined rocking her in the chair. Changing her on the dresser. Turning on the lamp at 3 am before feeding her. Laying her in the crib and her smiling at the mobile. I couldn’t wait for her to love the room as much as I did.

Coral Dresser Makeover

My favorite element in her room has become the birds that hang over her dresser. She wasn’t very old when she first noticed them. And since then, every time I lay her on the changing pad, she instantly looks for them. She smiles at them, talks to them, and her eyes light up when my head bumping them makes them dance. While I know these birds are adorable and I loved them from the start, they have become my favorite because she delights in them.

Framed Bird Houses and Hanging Birds 2

The other day at the moms’ group I attended, my pastor’s wife talked about how much detail I had put into creating Reese’s nursery and how I did it with the intention of my baby girl loving her space. She compared it to how God has created such a beautiful world around us and He delights in our enjoyment of it. I’ve always seen how creation reflects His glory and marveled at the beauty of it. But I don’t know that I’ve ever stopped to ponder the care he put into creating it for me or how much joy it must bring Him when I delight in it.

How precious that the Creator of the Universe—the One who spoke all of creation into being—not only displayed His power and reflected His glory through it, but also made it for my enjoyment. Oh how much bigger I want to smile, greater I want to marvel and more I want to praise Him for it.