One Hundred Twelve

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I’ve had four babies, lost a lot of sleep, and lost a lot of brain cells since college, but I remember this from my Psychology classes: “Correlation does not imply causation.” Simply stated, just because two things are related, that doesn’t mean one thing causes the other. The example I remember most clearly states that murder rates are higher in the summer and so are ice cream sales. You wouldn’t say that ice cream causes people to commit murder, right? (Perhaps the lack of ice cream might…)

Anyway, I say all that to say this – my phone has been dying a slow, painful death for the past few weeks. It finally gave out completely just yesterday, the same day my new phone arrived. For the past week, I’ve been unable to do anything but send and receive texts. No calls (aside from the many, many butt-dials my phone sent out. Sorry to those of you who received those!), no emails, no Instagram, no Internet surfing. Additionally, for the past week, I’ve played cards with my children, read more books aloud to my children, and been more patient and present with my children and husband.

“Correlation does not imply causation.”

And yet…

I can’t deny the simple fact that, with my phone not even available as a distraction, I was much more present and available to my children. My first instinct was to wallow in the disgusting truth for just a bit – that I’m addicted to my phone. However, I quickly moved on because the fact of the matter was, I was having way too much fun playing cards with my kiddos to be too bothered. Additionally, when the desire hit hard enough, I grabbed my camera to take pictures, instead of my phone. I snapped some (much more quality) pictures, turned the camera off, and returned to the moment. No posting, no sharing, no checking “likes.” What an absolute blessing the death of my phone turned out to be.

Now my new phone is here and it’s a bit more snazzy than the last. The gifs! The emojis! The slow-mo videos! The ability to actually download the latest versions of apps! The temptation is there to return to my old patterns and habits. For now, however, I’ve seen what life looks like when I’m a bit less plugged in, and oh, how sweet it is.

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 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.

One Hundred Three

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Much to my husband’s chagrin, when I first saw Les Miserables, I was Team Eponine. I was supposed to be all romantic and root for Cosette and Marius and passion and “love at first sight.” But I was rooting for the established friendship of childhood friends and wanted Marius to see her devotion to him. Because here’s the thing: I don’t believe in love at first sight. Sure, I believed in it as a college freshman, and for a while I attended every function and every class fully believing that I would meet my future husband. That never happened, and my skepticism about all things romantic began to grow.

I recently watched a video of a musician describing the day she “fell in love with Jesus”. Not for the first time in my life, I was jealous of another person’s story and experience. It seemed more important and impactful than my own. After all, I’m one of those good girls who literally grew up in church and rarely missed a Sunday service. I can’t remember “falling in love with Jesus.” Loving Jesus was always just a given. I was safe in a bubble where it was assumed that I did, and you do, too.

As I reflected upon all of this, I thought about falling in love with my husband. While in my past I impulsively told a handful of boys that I thought I loved them (can you say unrequited?), it wasn’t until Charles that I actually loved a man. But if you know anything about our story, you should know this – it wasn’t immediate. In fact, I was completely against the idea of even dating him. We were just friends who became good friends who became inseparable. It was a gradual process for both of us, learning to trust each other with our stories, spending lots of time together, until eventually we couldn’t imagine life without the other.

So I can’t remember a lightning bolt moment with Jesus. I can’t remember him sweeping me off of my feet. I simply remember his constant presence and friendship throughout the entirety of my life. The relationship and grown and changed and I often take it for granted. But scripture states that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. So I’m the one growing and changing. He’s the one faithfully walking along with me, revealing truth and softening my heart and opening my eyes. His is a “love that will not let me go,” and the fact that I’ve had it forever? That’s certainly not a bad thing.

One Hundred

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We are officially moved into our new home and feeling very settled. We are down to those last few boxes filled with random things like pictures and memories and VHS tapes and other items we want to keep but aren’t sure where to put. Our kids are making messes in every square inch of the place and it really feels like home. After months and months (and months!) of feeling unsettled, it’s a really great feeling.

Over the weekend I opened another neglected box and found two folders stuffed with papers. One folder contained my high school and college transcripts, scholarship letters, college acceptance and transfer letters, and seemingly every single awards certificate I received from junior high through college.

The other folder consisted of essays, papers, and exams from my senior AP English class. I really hated that class. My teacher was very tough and hard to please. I’m sure she made sure I was well-prepared for college and I should be grateful, but I’ll sheepishly admit that I’m not. I read through some of my papers and her comments in the margins. They were brutal and honest and (in my humble opinion) nit-picky. Apparently I missed the tone of every poem we analyzed. I failed to grasp the main points of our authors. I neglected to recognize hyperbole.

As I read through the stack of papers written in my bubbly high school script, I sympathized with the girl who wrote them. My feelings were hurt for the girl who surely had worked her hardest and tried her best on each assignment. I also hurt for the 34-year-old woman who read those words and still felt stung by them. I was frustrated for feeling like the words of my teacher made an ounce of difference in my worth, my standing, or my purpose.

I found one last essay from one of the last months of senior year. It had very few notes in the margins and two lovely sentences at the top: “What a fantastic essay. You are so prepared for college.” My chest swelled with pride and my eyes welled with tears. I had done it. I had finally pleased her. I was good enough, I was smart enough, and dog-gone-it, people liked me.

I snapped out of it. I asked myself why on earth this validation meant so much to me. And, as is my tendency, I beat myself up about it. “Seriously, Keely? You’re still struggling with this? Why do you need others to tell you you’ve done a good job? Why do you need to hear you’ve made someone proud? Do the words of Mrs. G really make a difference one way or another for the woman, wife, mother, and person you are today?”

In another breath I was reminded of these words from Scott Sauls’ book, “Regardless of whether [words of affirmation] is your love language, this desire is in us all, and we never outgrow it. We want to be praised and noticed. In its purest form, this is good and even godlike.”

I am so quick to find fault in myself and pretty much each and every natural tendency I have, that I often fail to see the goodness of Christ in me. Does not Genesis tell me that God declared all of his creation good? And am I not his beloved creation?

So yes, while I can and do twist the good things and fall into sin and seek my worth and find my validation in the words of others, I am not a hopeless case. My task is to continually speak the truth of the gospel to my wandering heart. To remember that I do have worth. I have a stamp of approval from the all-powerful creator of the universe. I am my beloved’s and he is mine. I can rest in the finished work of Christ instead of hustling and trying harder.

I threw away all of the papers and all of the awards. There are eternal words for me to cling to.

Ninety-eight

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I used to have a problem with “praise and worship songs” with repeated lyrics. I got burned out on them after enduring them all throughout high school. I felt emotionally manipulated into worship. I felt pressure to close my eyes and raise my hands because the music was swelling and the words were repetitive and because that’s what everyone around me was doing.

Ever since then I’ve assumed the worst (a very bad habit of mine) and closed my heart instead of my eyes when the repetition starts up.

Not so anymore.

It was while listening to Sandra McCracken last year that it hit me. As she sang the repeated refrain “Put your trust in God, I will yet give thanks to Him,” I heard it with different ears. I heard her pleading with her own soul to do that. I heard her words in the spirit in which they were intended- as a prayer, as begging God for the grace to trust in Him in the midst of hard circumstances and uncertainty.

There’s a Chris Tomlin song that has been coming up on Pandora lately that has served the same purpose. I hear him singing, “You’re a good, good Father. It’s who you are. It’s who you are. It’s who you are. And I’m loved by you. It’s who I am. It’s who I am. It’s who I am,” and I hear the repetition as a means of getting those truths to actually penetrate his head and sink into his heart. And as I join in, I experience the same.

I am a hard-hearted, forgetful soul, who is prone to wander and to leave the God I love.

I need constant reminders.
I need to hear the truth repeatedly.
I need the gospel of the cross to lift up my head.
Every day.

 

 

Ninety-seven

DSC_0018re·gret
rəˈɡret/
verb
feel sad, repentant, or disappointed over (something that has happened or been done, especially a loss or missed opportunity).

My church is studying Lamentations during Lent. On Sunday we were greeted with a big whiteboard with the question, “What is your biggest regret?” and we were encouraged to write our answer, anonymously. I thought about it all throughout the service, but never wrote anything on the board.

My husband and I talked about it on the way home and shared what we considered the biggest regrets of our lives, as well as the biggest regrets of life more recently.

I haven’t stopped thinking about regrets.

We are moving out of our house at the end of the month. So today, I’ve had house regrets on my mind. There are plenty of little things, like aesthetics. We’ve never hung anything on the walls of our master bedroom. For almost 8 years now, the walls have been completely bare. It’s as if weren’t willing to put down roots/a nail in the wall. It wasn’t until our house was going on the market that we finally finished ripping down wallpaper in the bathroom.

There are bigger regrets. I can only name 4 of my neighbors. I’ve never seen the inside of any other house in my neighborhood. I thought about organizing a neighborhood potluck dinner, but never acted on it. Our neighbor’s wife spent most of the past year and a half wasting away from alzheimer’s and I only took him a meal a couple of times. Actually, I made the meals but made my husband deliver them, because I didn’t want to enter into that grief.

I didn’t show enough hospitality. I hosted showers, a few parties, a Thanksgiving meal, but I didn’t regularly open up our home to share with others. I made too many vague, “We should get together sometime” invitations and never followed through with them.

In this home, I didn’t love well. I wasted time and opportunities. I was lazy. I lied. I yelled. I didn’t repent quickly enough. I did damage. I held grudges. I hurt on purpose.

As we close this chapter of our story, I am filled with regret. That’s not to say that there hasn’t been so much good that has taken place here. Of course there has been. Two of our children were born within these walls. We celebrated numerous birthdays here, including my very favorite 30th. Every square inch of this home is colored with memories and laughter. But too much of my life these past 8 years has taken place within these walls to the point that they almost served as a fortress that few were allowed to enter. My life and my world shrunk down until everything outside of my comfortable space was of distant secondary concern.

The green door house, while still not officially ours, is a symbol of hope to our family. It’s a  symbol of redemption. It’s a clean slate, a second chance. A chance to know and love our neighbors. To show God’s love in real, practical ways.

What will God do? How will he move? How we he grow and change us? What kinds of opportunities does he have in store? What does life in the green door house look like? What does life lived out of the green door house look like? The answers are so close I can almost touch them. Pray with me that these desires would be so much more than just desires. That when the Spirit moves, I would act. That I would have fewer regrets and more rejoicing.