Friday, October 28, 2011

The Joy of Exhaustion

The Circumstance

"One of those days" turned into "one of those weeks" turned into...."what the heck IS this phase?!". Paxton and I had a tough couple of weeks and I was so glad to leave him with James for the weekend, secretly praying that James would experience Paxton at his worst for 3 straight days. But Paxton was an angel. Of course. So I thought the teeth had broken through and we were in the clear, but this was a very hard week. With little energy for much else I resorted to eating poorly which makes me not feel good which makes matters worse. I keep thinking, "I can't wait till this is over" and I just try to duck my head and get through it. But then I think, "Life is hard. Am I going to duck for the rest of my life? Isn't there a way I can enjoy even this phase?"

The Word

Romans 5:1-4
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have[a] peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.

The Application

I was searching for wisdom on the internet (sometimes a risky venture) and came across someones blog that didn't have anything to do with raising children but had a perspective changing quote. His blog was called:

The joy of exhaustion!
"You know.. the best thing in this world is going to bed with a brain that is completely exhausted after a day of playing with logic, numbers and words! Bliss!! =)
PS: Also holds true for other stuff that saps your energy and yet gives you the satisfaction of having lived up to the day. Life!"

I am exhausted because I am a mother. How can I not see the joy in that?! How many women cannot have children and DREAM of being exhausted because of their children? I am exhausted because I am a GOOD mother. I could do less, care less, spend less quality time with Paxton, but I enjoy being a good mother so I mother "all in". Yes, I will put him in his crib for "quiet time" even if he screams through it because it's better for everyone if I get a break, but ultimately that makes me a better mother. Yes, I leave him with a sitter in order to have some time for me, but that makes me a better mother. But on days (weeks) like these when I am worn out, emotionally drained, sensitive, and tired of fussiness, I can praise the Lord that I get the opportunity to be a mother.

The above verse says that I GET to have a peace with God BECAUSE I have been declared innocent according to God BECAUSE of my faith (not because of anything I do); that includes dishes, laundry, preparing meals, etc. If I don't do "what I'm supposed to do" as a stay at home mom, I don't have to feel guilty, and no one can shame me or blame me, because the only One whose opinion matters tells me to stand in His grace. And not only that, He promises that all of this hard stuff is actually benefiting me in the long run.

So when Mr. Fussy-Pants walks up to me whining "MOMMMMMYYYYYYY!" and wont let me get anything done and doesn't want anything I offer and doesn't want to be held but doesn't want to be put down and I'm at my wit's end... I can make the conscious choice to love every minute of it.

Somehow that brings rest to my spirit. That rest honors my husband more than any dinner or pile of folded laundry could ever do.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

If my worst fear happens, He is still King

The Circumstance
My grandpa turned 84 today. I was 9 (give or take 3 years) when they found cancer in his body. I spent countless nights crying myself to sleep. I would play out stories in my mind of my grandpa dying, then bawl for hours before going to sleep. Fast forward 6 years and we see my doctor putting me on anti-anxiety pills because I couldn't sleep at night. I would play scenarios out in my head over and over, saying different things, reacting different ways, and usually not pleasant scenarios. Fast forward 13 years and see me as a stay at home mom, often spending most of my day with an infant who isn't much for adult conversation. I spend a lot of time in my head and if I'm not careful, my thoughts will turn south and I'll be ranting and raving at James before he even gets in the door and he has no idea why (and by that time, neither do I). I used to attend a Christian College where they had the "3-second" rule. We were not to dwell on an impure thought for more than 3 seconds. Naturally I mocked this rule by insisting I just had multiple 3-second segments of impure thoughts. I wish I had understood that this wasn't just a "rule" but a training lesson for healthy living. But I was 18 and knew everything.

The Word
2 Cor 10:5
"...bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ"

Phil. 4:8
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

The Application
Yes, I know these versus. Yes, I know I should "take the high road"/ "live in the red line"/ live always in "prayer and thanksgiving", but doing it is another thing. It takes practice. If I started practicing controlling my thoughts at the age of 9 I would be pretty good at it by now. I'd recognize quickly when the enemy was stealing my joy. I could have spent my time praying and thanking God instead of worry about things that never happened (my grandpa overcame cancer and I made it through high school without too much traumatization). Since it's all about me, I choose to start now. I am thankful that I at least recognize my need to do this. I am thankful for the Holy Spirit to help me fight the battle for my mind. A lifelong practice: taking all thoughts captive, stopping the thoughts that do not honor Christ and replacing them with thoughts that do. Will positive thinking stop bad things from occurring? No. There is no "mind over matter"; I still live on planet Earth. But seeing life through Kingdom-colored glasses (knowing there is a bigger picture that I can't see, but the One who can see it is Trustworthy) will change how I respond to my circumstances. In time, I learn how to trust God more and more. Since it's not about me at all, in all situations (from getting lost while driving in my car to a death of a loved one) I want to say, "It is well with my soul".

TOOLS: Continually be in the Word. Memorize/meditate on scripture. Worship. Journal about answered prayers and how God has helped me through in the past. Know the Old Testament, how God continually fights for His People. Pray. Know that I am precious to Him.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Husband is More Than Just a Roommate You Get to Have Sex With

The Circumstance
I have had many roommates in my life, all of whom have brought a lot of growth in my character. Roommates are good for that. Living in close quarters with others causes rough edges to be worn down. I have said that roommate living is good practice for marriage. I always imagined being married to a man who is my best friend and, like a roommate, we would have a lot of fun together, but with the added bonus of getting to have hot, godly sex. However, I am not still living with my college roommates. At some point, our lives took different courses; we made decisions apart from one another. Also, when I was dealing with serious stuff I didn't run to my roommates for comfort and prayer. Maybe it's just my personality, but I got alone and dealt with Lord about it on my own. And if I really got mad at a roommate I could just ignore them until someone moved out. So if I really think about it, if marriage is just having a roommate I get to have sex with, then when I was living with roommates in college I was just practicing for divorce (or an empty, lonely co-habitation).

The Word
Mt 19:16-22
Now behold, one came and said to Him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” He said to Him, “Which ones?” Jesus said, “ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother,’and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

The Application
The rich young ruler in this passage didn't choose to surrender all for the greatest gift in return. He was too stuck in his independence to fully commit to Christ. He wanted his independence but also the fruit of a deep relationship. I am not co-habitating, I am married. Two becoming one is no longer a natural and easy response like it was meant to be before sin entered the world. I must overcome unhealthy fear. I must face the pain and let the Holy Spirit heal wounds of my past in order to have a future with my husband. I must trust that the Holy Spirit cares about my marriage more than I do and that He can do a greater work in my marriage than I can, if I let Him through prayer and patience. I must become vulnerable to my husband, and forgive him when, not if, he hurts me because he is human. In order to have a healthy, Christ-centered marriage, I want to share the deepest parts of my soul with my spouse. He shouldn't have to learn about what is going on in my life, spiritually or otherwise, after the fact, when I already walked through the tough stuff without him. He wants to be apart of it. And he certainly shouldn't have to wait to read about it in my blog. And why, if it seems so hard to do, is it worth it? Because I, like all women in their honest moments, yearn to be truly known and deeply loved. But I can only go as deep with my husband as I have gone with the Lord. It's all about me and my openness to the Lord. The rest is all about Him. I'm sure glad He's trustworthy.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

I just want to be a sheep (baa baa baa baa!)

The Circumstance
I don’t trust God. It’s a humbling thing to admit, but when I look at the facts it’s the obvious conclusion.
I am anxious. I have a hard time sleeping because my mind won’t rest. I get upset when things don’t go as planned. I get fearful, resulting in anger, when I don’t have a firm grasp of control over my life. I am not patient with James (another fear/control issue). There are items in this world that I don’t have that I honestly think would solve some of my problems if I did have them. I plan plan plan prepare prepare and then run in through in my head over and over until I drive myself crazy. Prayer is not the first thing I think of when I come into hard times
These things are not results of a deep trust in the Lord.

The Word
Psalm 23:1-3
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not (be in) want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul.

The Application
Dr. Robert Flores once mentioned something in a sermon on this Psalm that stuck with me.  Sheep will not lie down in a field of luscious grass if they are hungry. This Psalm shows us that God will take care of our needs so we are able to rest. Also, sheep are skittish; they will not drink from raging waters; He leads them to water where they feel safe. Sheep who are led by a shepherd they trust are able to be still and know he is in control.
In comparison, if I trust in myself, I have every reason to be afraid. I lead myself to raging waters and then dunk my face in full force and then wonder why it’s hard to breathe. I have a hard time with the verse “Be still and know that I am the Lord”. It seems like a catch 22; in order to Know the Lord I need to be still, but in order to be still I really need to Know the Lord.  
I continually need to give up. I go through this often, you’d think I’d be better at it by now. Just give up. Let God lead. Don’t work so hard at something He can do so easily. But what does that really look like?
I can imagine what that looks like for a sheep, but it’s a bit more complicated when I look at my own life, and as I've established, it's all about me.
And that is what enhances the chaos. When I realize that it's not about me at all, and I focus on the Shepherd, I can see He is trustworthy, that I am safe, that I can be still.
I just need the constant reminder to look up.

But don't give me any of those annoying cliche sayings to remind me (like FROG or WWJD). I'll throw the bracelet back in your face.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Sometimes you just have to be there

The Circumstance
I don't usually feel like going to Bible Study, but I choose to go anyway. I never know what may happen; I will most likely learn something that can help me in this life so I make the choice to go. This week was very helpful. I made the conscious decision to open up to some wise ladies whom I trust; they were able to pray for me about some really deep stuff I've been going through. It was freeing and relieving.
I often feel too tired to attend church on Wednesday night. It keeps Paxton up past his bedtime and extends my already long day. But I choose to go anyway because I know I'll learn something I didn't already know or needed to be reminded of. This week as I entered the church I was approached by a dear friend, another wise and trustworthy lady. She shared a dream she had regarding me. I am still waiting for the interpretation to be fully known but it is a special thing to know the Spirit is active on my behalf (and that people are listening).

The Word
Luke 19:2-9
There was a man named Zacchaeus...and he sought to see who Jesus was, but could he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him... Jesus looked up and saw him and said, "Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house."..."Today salvation has come to this house".

Luke 23:26
Now as they led Him away, they laid hold of a certain man, Simon a Cyrenian, who was coming from the country, and on him they laid the cross that he might bear it after Jesus.

The Application
I could stay home and be comfortable and wait for things to happen to me. I could immerse myself in technology to feel connected and to fill my time. I could pass on activities that don't particularly appeal to me. But if I don't show up, I would miss out on a blessing. Sometimes you just have to be there.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

One Thing Leads to Another

The Circumstance
On our way home for Portland I noticed a sign at the Adult Video store that offered 'private viewing rooms'. I mentioned to James how awful it must be to be so ensnared by lust that one must watch porn in the store. The guy (or gal) who participates in such rooms didn't just decide to do that one day; no, they made a less dramatic choice once upon a time and one thing just let to another... Unfortunately this is so easy to do and the phrase "one thing led to another" is very common in our culture, and its a 'weasel phrase', used to weasel out of responsibility for ones actions. This can be used for many things: sex (porn, affairs, abuse), food, alcohol, gambling, theft, drugs, and changing of religious faith or losing touch with the Lord.

The Word
Romans 6:12-14
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

The Application
My salvation has nothing to do with me. Jesus did it all for me and there's nothing I can do to get 'get more saved'. Freedom, however, is my choice. I am not to let or present, as Pastor Al Carpenter teaches in Acts and Romans. Do not let sin reign and do not present myself to sinful situations. I am to make the choice to stop sin before it starts. I am to continually check in with the Holy Spirit and if something doesn't sit right in my spirit it is up to me to turn back, and it's much easier to turn back if I haven't gone very far. It is my choice to surround myself with people who will keep me accountable to holy living. It is my responsibility to look at the long term affects of my decisions. I admit, it is frustrating that I 'can't do what I want' when I feel held back from doing something 'fun and fancy free', but like James said this weekend in his sermon, is it really a sacrifice when the result is freedom? One thing doesn't just lead to another unless I let it. The Good News is that, when I do go down the wrong path, God's grace is sufficient for even that.

Monday, October 10, 2011

I'm so cold! But not as cold as that homeless guy.

The Circumstance
Cold and moody me, irritable and maybe teething toddler, gray and rainy skies= really hard day. It's only October and I'm chilled from the inside out. Today I just wanted to curl up in bed with a warm pile of blankets and nap away the winter....but unfortunately I'm not a bear.

The Word
Psalm 95:1-3
Oh come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. For the Lord is the great God, and the great King above all gods.

The Application
The Lord is worthy to be praised, even when I don't feel like it. Perspective changes everything. My job is to change my perspective. I feel better when I take the focus off of me.

Thank you that I have a home with blankets and a bed. Thank you that we have food, even when "there's nothing to eat!". Thank you that my husband is not overseas in the military, (and Lord bless the wives and children that are in that situation). Thank you that I just deal with gray skies and rain, and not shootings and neighborhood bombings. Thank you for my son's teeth; life would be much harder later if he didn't have any.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Dear Self, remember this

The Circumstance
I didn't need a nap today. Ta da! That's the first time in a long time. Rah! I laugh in the face of fatigue! The day was pleasant, starting with a much needed visit with a good friend while Paxton had a play date elsewhere. I get energized when I make time for myself. When I don't prioritize friendships, I have a hard time with life. So I think to myself, "Self, make visiting with people a priority so you can have more good days". But somehow I forget that. Or, if I'm honest, sometimes I don't feel worthy to put myself first. So easily I let other things take priority; like cleaning the house, playing with Paxton, making dinner, things "a good wife/mother does".... In other words, I must earn my keep. "If I don't _____ then I don't deserve _____. (It sounds awful, but makes perfect sense in my head while its all jumbled in there. This is why journaling is good for me, to clear up lies that sound like truth in my head.)

The Word
Rom 6:14
For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

The Application
I have been crucified with Christ, I am no longer under a law of bondage, I am free. So why do I live a life based on 'good works' to earn my worth? God calls me worthy, therefore I am. Not because of things I do, but because of what He did. Life in the Kingdom of God is backwards than what life teaches us. James rejoices when he knows he has a joyful and healthy wife. He would rather have a happy wife than a clean house or delicious meal. Paxton may have a tough time if I leave him to go have fun, but in the big picture its better for him to have an emotionally healthy mommy. So I need to make it "all about me", because if I do then I can live a life that's "not about me at all". "The greatest thing you can do for your kids is learn to focus on yourself" (Scream Free Parenting, Runkel, 9)
Bottom line: I am learning how and when to enforce personal boundaries that enhance my well-being. In so doing, I strengthen my marriage and ability to parent well, thus creating a upward spiral of health in my life. I'm worth it.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

School in the Wilderness

The Circumstance
I feel like the world owes me something. It affects my mood, attitude, heart, responses, relationships and health. I know I shouldn't and it doesn't and I know the obvious scriptures about pride and humility, but I can't seem to kick it. What gives?

The Word
Ex. 16:2-3
"Then the whole congregation of the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. And the children of Israel said to them, “Oh, that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat and when we ate bread to the full! For you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”
Ex. 16:12b
"And you shall know that I am the Lord your God."

The Application
When I was seeking God's plan for my life after college, I had a moment on top of a rock climbing tower when I felt face to face with God; He told me that I had the choice, I could either go one way where it was plush and green and simple and easy (but I would need to depend so much on Him), or I could go the other way where it was dry and desert and pretty rough going; I'd really have to depend on Him for my every need. It was my choice. I decided I wanted to take the route where I needed to depend fully on God to provide. But now here I am, trying to have both. I want a deep relationship with Christ but I don't fully depend on him. I don't trust him in the hard times, I don't recognize adversity as a time of growth and growing in my faith. I go through life frustrated and angry that I don't have what I expect to have exactly when I want it, like the world (or God) owes me something. I act like it's all about me, but in the wrong way. What actually is about me is my response to what God has given me. Am I thankful? Do I recognize that he is the Lord my God? Do I wish I was still in the land that I came from, though living in slavery it was at least comfortable? How will I choose to react to my time in the "wilderness" God has lead me to? Its only for a season, but will I stay true? What will be the result of God testing my heart? What is not about me is everyone else's lives. No one is responsible for me, my happiness, my well being. And they certainly aren't responsible for my response to life's circumstances.

Lord, I confess my pride to you. I am sorry for being unthankful. I am sorry for not trusting you in the hard times, for not looking to you for wisdom and strength, and for not seeing your hand in my life and how you are working all things together for your glory (and for thinking they should be working together for mine). Release me from these chains of self righteousness. Fill me anew with your Spirit, that I may walk in freedom with joy and thanksgiving. May my cup overflow and affect my mood, attitude, heart, responses, relationships, and health.