One Hundred Thirteen

IMG_4909It’s one of the more painful truths of the Christian life, that suffering often produces the most positive change in us. It makes perfect sense, in the way that the seemingly crazy, backwards, upside down way of the gospel makes sense. It makes sense, in the way that the God Man himself was subjected to suffering and rejection to the ultimate extent, so that we will never be.

Pain is pain. Suffering is suffering. There’s no award for who has suffered the most. When I think about it like that, life without a microwave can’t even come close to being placed in that category. It’s a minor annoyance, an inconvenience, at best. But that minor annoyance has been used to teach me, to open my eyes, and prayerfully, to mold me and change me.

It became clear to me, a couple of months ago, that our microwave was acting strange. I would put my coffee in to reheat it, walk down to the basement to start more laundry, then come back to stone cold coffee.

“Huh. Maybe I was in the basement longer than I realized?”

Repeat. Same result. So I put in a container of water and brought it to a boil. Eventually, it did. But then the coffee thing happened again. Then the microwave failed to melt a stick of butter for biscuits. The light was on, the tray was turning, but no one was home.

I managed. I melted butter in a saucepan on the stove. I reheated leftovers in the oven. But I was most annoyed by my inability to enjoy hot coffee as I endlessly bustled about in the mornings.

One late afternoon, about a week or two in the “trial of no microwave,” I texted a couple of friends about mom life. I was struggling with the reality of “never clocking out.” I was angry that my days never really end. My responsibilities never cease. I can sit on the couch after dinner, but the laundry still sitting in the dryer, or on the table calls to me. I walk through the house and see endless piles waiting to be picked up. There are dishes to put away, lunches to pack, dinners to plan, groceries to buy, homework to do, books to return, and no one else seems to care about the PILES as much as I do. And don’t even get me started on the angel baby who hasn’t slept more than 4 hours at a time for almost 13 months now. My work literally never ends.

So I asked my friends, “How do you clock out? How do you decide your work is finished for the day?” They shared some good advice, and as I mulled it all over for a few days (as is my tendency), I realized the large extent to which I bring it on myself. The only one in my house with the expectation of perfection is me.

What on earth does this have to do with my broken microwave?

The broken microwave became an invitation to me to slow down. To wake up early, to a dark and quiet house, and to sit and savor my first cup. To savor the fresh start of a new morning. Not to ignore the to-do list, or the jobs awaiting me, but to fill my tank a bit before I rushed in running on fumes. Then I invited myself to prioritize my tasks. What is really essential? Will the house or the family fall apart if I don’t get to that? Can I delegate some of these jobs out and then be okay with the imperfect results? (Yes, Future Keely, yes you can. Or at least you should.)

Is life without a microwave suffering? No. Is it a trial? Maaaaybe?

Does scripture tell me that trials (of various kinds) test me, and produce patience? Indeed.

Here’s to learning and growing and changing, and hot coffee straight out of the press.

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One Hundred Eleven

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My kids have only been on summer break for a week now, and already there are heart issues to address and character development to hone.

And I’m talking about my own. 

Leftover frustrations from the night before had me behind yesterday before I even started. Then one kid was up before me (by 6:15!), having apparently helped himself to my leftover iced coffee, then proceeded to talk to me (before I’d had my own coffee!) in a voice loud enough to wake the dead (and his sleeping sister). Those two were closely followed by the last two and the five of us were rolling by 7:15.

As it goes, the kids were “starving” for lunch by 10 a.m., so I gently mothered their hearts and encouraged them to prepare their own meals.

I yelled at them to fix their own damn food at whatever ridiculous times they were hungry and not to bug me when “real lunch time” came around. 

I had a meeting at 11:00 and was all set to be 20 minutes early when the coffee drinker spilled his drink (packed precariously in his lunchbox), my daughter’s foot was smashed in the door, and a moving truck blocked the street (on trash day) so I had to make a classic 11-point turn just to get out of my neighborhood. In my frustration at the moving guy doing his job, I ran over a curb, cursed the curb, then punched the gas and made all my kids carsick.

Did I mention my meeting was a staff prayer meeting at my church? 

By the time we were just a couple of blocks away from the church, I could see how utterly ridiculous I was acting and I repented to my kids. We talked about bad moods that we don’t fully understand, hypocrisy, and taking our anger and frustration out on whoever happens to be in our path. I had done it all. I was graciously forgiven by my children. I shared honestly with our church staff. I was prayed over.

My bad mood remained. 

By 2:00 (when my ravenous kids were ready for dinner), the baby was blissfully asleep and I was drinking the last of the iced coffee (a 3-day batch gone in a day!) it hit me: I preach and believe strength and rest are to be found in Jesus, but I look for strength and rest in coffee, in well-behaved kids, in a baby who naps more than 45 minutes at a time, and generally in having things go my way.

Repentance. Forgiveness. Under-reacting. Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Gentleness. Self-Control.

I’ve got a lot to learn. Praise God for his gentle, forgiving nature and for the gentle, forgiving people he’s put in my life, who seem to understand better than I that we are all works in progress.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. – Philippians 1:6

One Hundred Ten

18451601_1515745338444512_1058982181723269952_oI was having dinner with friends last Monday night and we were going around the table, each sharing what we had done for Mother’s Day. Breakfast in bed, brunch after church, a picnic and games at the park, lunch at Sonic and then naps at home…the stories varied but each lady was pretty pampered in some way. I told my rather pathetic story about my husband having to serve in the nursery at church that morning, my kids misbehaving during church, not wearing a nursing-friendly dress (yet again!), needing to cook some chicken before it went bad in the fridge, and in general not having a great Mother’s Day.

We were all laughing and my friend Janet remarked, “I’m expecting a blog post about this!” Here’s the post, Janet, but it’s not the one you were expecting, I’m assuming. 🙂

My oldest is not the most emotionally expressive kid you’ll ever meet, but he’s thoughtful and kind and can be very sweet. It’s all packaged in a dry, sarcastic package that leaves no room for doubt who his parents are. He made me a card and addressed it to “The greatest mom anyone could ever have.” I was incredibly touched by that title, and I pondered it for quite a while that morning.

It struck me that I don’t have to achieve or aspire to that title. That’s how he sees me. That’s who he says I am. It’s not an award to be won. It’s a status already achieved, and he’s the only one who can proclaim that about me. (Ok, so could my other 3 kids…)

I’m choosing to believe that those are his honest feelings, and not just some sweet words he chose for the special occasion. But even if his opinion changes as he ages, there are things that are true about me that are true because of Christ. Those things cannot be achieved or earned. They have already been purchased and secured for me. I’m talking about how God sees me, and who he says I am.

I’ve got that card on display to remind me of these truths, and to remind me of the amazing child(ren) who call(s) me Mom and see(s) me as the greatest.

 

One Hundred Eight

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Earlier this week I was driving around town with my van full of kids (all mine) and with my windows down, enjoying the beautiful spring weather. “Bohemian Rhapsody” came on the radio, so of course I cranked it up and sang it loudly, thoroughly embarrassing my kids.

The next day, packing up the van to take the kids to school, I grabbed our “antique” CD holder so I could put some new music in the van. I chose a disk from my college days and was transported back in time as Third Day, Jars of Clay, Caedmon’s Call, and Leigh Nash poured through the speakers. I instantly recalled lyric after lyric to song after song on the album, despite the many years that have passed since I last listened.

And I was struck with thankfulness that, at one point in my life, all I ever listened to was “praise and worship” music.

My kids listen to a healthy variety of music, mostly pumped through our house daily with Pandora. They love John Williams and Michael Giacchino, but do they know more Ray LaMontagne lyrics or more Sandra McCracken?

The songs on the City on a Hill album spoke truth to my heart throughout the rest of the day. Music has always been one of the most vital ways of keeping God’s truth and word in my heart and on my lips.

On the way to school, I was quizzing my fifth grader for his memory verse test: Hebrews 12:28-29 “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe,  for our God is a consuming fire.” Mac Powell’s throaty growl was ringing in my ears and I realized what an advantage it was to have all of those words hidden in my heart.

Children are sponges, and I want mine soaking up truth, goodness, and beauty. I don’t have to be legalistic about it, but my Pandora stations may get shuffled around a bit.

(This is also on heavy rotation in the van.)

One Hundred Seven

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Today I found myself wondering how much damage I have done in my life, spreading false gospels. Specifically, I was remembering something I believed to be true during my Freshman year of college.

As I am wont to do, I spoke as though I had more wisdom and authority than I did in reality. I remember sharing with my small group, all of us single gals, that we wouldn’t find love (or maybe I said love wouldn’t find us? It’s a distinct possibility.) until we were fully satisfied with only the love of Jesus.

It sounds innocent. Maybe even virtuous.

But it’s wrong.

I met my husband when I was 20, just a year or so after I said and believed those words. Was I all of a sudden fully satisfied with Jesus? No. Certainly not. I’m still not. My heart was and is a sinful, idol-making-factory. And yet I met, befriended, fell in love with, and married this amazing man.

God doesn’t wait for us to be ready, to be good enough, to be worthy of the good gifts He gives. He gives them in His timing. His good, perfect timing.

How many false gospels am I still believing, living, and spreading today? My closest audience is certainly my children, and I have no doubt they are watching. What might they be seeing?

  • That their worth is found in their clean rooms, clean noses, clean clothes, or clean words?
  • That it doesn’t matter the state of your heart, it’s your outward attitude, facial expressions, and tone of voice that matter?
  • That being on time is more important that being well-cared for, well-prepared, and confident?
  • That food makes us feel better?

Thanks be to God, that the true gospel is both so complex and so simple – that we are more sinful than we dare to imagine, yet more loved than we can even comprehend, at the same time. So while they have a front row seat to my failures and mistakes, my anger and frustration, my sinfulness and selfishness, they are also seeing displayed:

  • That their parents repent, ask forgiveness, and name their own sin.
  • That we cannot be stingy with our forgiveness, because we have been forgiven infinitely more.
  • That they are loved, accepted, listened to, and respected.
  • That the cycle of repentance and forgiveness never ends.

Thanks be to God, “who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”

One Hundred Six

untitled-2I have the.best.timing.

In February of 2003, I sat across the table at a Mexican restaurant from my friend, Charles. He was about to leave for a semester in Germany, and we were enjoying a just-as-friends date before he left. We had been good friends for a while, had been on one disastrous actual date a few months prior, after which he had shared that he wanted to get to know me better. I had idiotically responded that I liked his best friend and we endured a few hellishly awkward months. Now, he was leaving for five months, so the timing seemed perfect to let him know that my heart was changing towards him and maybe I do like him like that, okay, see-you-in-five-months-bye.

It all worked out. We’re married.

But I still have a tendency to drop bombs on the guy at the worst possible times: home for lunch for 25 minutes? Let’s rehash the last 3 months and talk about our issues. A long-anticipated date day? Let’s be miserable and talk about our issues. Middle of the night and I can’t sleep? Let me wake you up and talk about our issues.

Sometimes it can’t be avoided. Sometimes, too much time has passed in between face-to-face time and we have to seize any and every opportunity or we will inevitably coast forever. We could do that; we’re stubborn people.

So this morning, as I am wont to do, approximately 7 minutes before he needed to leave for work, I asked him, “So Love, how are we doing?” Unlike usual, I didn’t have anything specific in mind. I wasn’t trying to corner him. I just wanted to hear his (brief) thoughts.

And here’s where we are: right on the edge of another huge life change. Our 4th (and final) baby is due in about 6 weeks. We feel as though we’ve literally just come up for breath after moving and settling in. Right after we moved in I was sick for a solid month. Then we faced a hard summer filled with questions and doubts concerning potential health issues with this baby. Now we are knee-deep in 5th and 2nd grades and Kindergarten and projects and doctor’s visits and deadlines and no time off work and groceries are expensive and…some of that feels almost, blissfully, normal. We can coast here. We can breathe here. Sure, we’re often exhausted, but this is an exhaustion that at least feels familiar.

What does life look like 2 months from now? What does that exhaustion look like? What does that stress look like?

I could lose sleep over questions like those. (I have. It doesn’t help.) What helps is rehearsing what I already know to be true. God is good. God is sovereign. God is not surprised. God has not forgotten me. God has foreordained whatsoever comes to pass. God’s plan is good, pleasing, and perfect.

I need these reminders because I am so forgetful and life is so distracting sometimes. In his grace, God has allowed me to learn this lesson alongside my youngest son. Remember his hard days of Kindergarten drop off? We are still facing those in 2nd grade. And so, every day before I leave him, we pray. And we remember, rehearse, and remind ourselves of those same simple yet profound truths. God is good. God has not forgotten you. God is always with you. God has placed you here with this teacher, in this school, with these friends, for a reason.

And it helps. It helps him, it helps me, it helps my not-so childlike faith to grow.

My timing stinks, but his timing is always perfect.

One Hundred Five

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“And while we may not always believe it or feel it, he continues to hold us in his hand as we stumble blindly through the wilderness.”

I wrote those words yesterday and they’ve been echoing in my head ever since. I’m reading through Exodus right now as well as the book “The Red Sea Rules” and my husband and I are indeed walking blindly through the wilderness. I’ll probably have my Christian card revoked for saying this, but there’s not much I hate more than walking by faith. It’s so hard, y’all!!

I love hindsight. I love looking back on a period of time and seeing God’s gracious hands at work all over it. I love to tell those stories of rescue. But drop me down in the middle of the trial and I will whine and complain and doubt and fear and lose sleep and have heart palpitations and get shingles. I mean, it’s been known to happen.

I’ve been in one haunted house in my life. I was probably 10 or 11 and my softball team went as a group. I’m pretty sure my eyes were closed the entire time, but I still managed to get so scared at what I couldn’t see lurking in dark corners, that I begged my mom to get me out of there and she had a zombie open up a side door and let us out. I don’t like being scared. I don’t like surprises. I don’t like the unknown.

I’m 34  years old and I’m still learning that life doesn’t present itself in the way I want. I don’t get to see the end result. I just get to live day by day and moment by moment. And as a follower of Jesus, I’m expected to walk moment by moment in complete dependence upon him. I’m called to a life of faith and trust and rest. I’m so bad at it.

Maybe that’s why God keeps presenting me with opportunities to practice. He keeps asking me to follow him into the unknown. He keeps asking me to trust his guidance and his plan. He keeps asking me to believe the best, and believe what his word says, and believe that the day will come when I will look back and see his gracious hands all over this time.

Gracious God, I’m so ready for this story of rescue.