Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Homemade Schmomade

The girls' birthday is April 25th. Last year we did the ladybug theme since we called them the "lady babies" all year long. I made homemade ladybug invitations, Jason helped me design ladybug cupcakes, we had ladybug balloons and I even found some dresses with ladybugs from Gymboree. I loved the party with just close friends and family and it was a beautiful 70 degree weather day so we spent it in the backyard. I was so satisfied and happy about it...but for certain the days leading up to it I was a little bit of a stress ball.

Trying to make something just the way I envision it isn't fun for me. I wish I could skip along in the joy of creating and perfecting and using my ideas to make something beautiful...but the making of it is actually miserable for me at times. You kind of get these little dreams for what you want for your kids (or this can apply to anything for that matter) and you just feel like you have to do things a certain way or else it's all crap.

The heart behind the envisioning big things is that I really love the idea of LEGACY for our family. In little ways I pursue this with scrapbooking, writing in the girls' journals, making our family tree, saving emails and cards, videotaping, getting better and better at photography, treasuring words and tones in the girls' voices, etc. I don't just see living life with my husband and girls as something that is for just today, but as stones building into something beautiful for generations to come. There are definitely healthy ways to view legacy, just read psalms. It's chocked full of verses about telling remembering the Lord and telling the generations to come of his goodness in your life.

But my love for legacy sometimes turns into a performance issue and ultimately is my heart wanting our family to be perfect. This is when I know I've scooted off the godly path and have found myself in a muck of stress over what I simply cannot pull off. And not being able to pull something off either 1. strikes me as normal because i listen to those voices convincing me i'm not capable of much or 2. really disappoints me and is hard to let go of and to separate that from my true reputation and my true identity.

As most of you with daily planners or iphones (or whatever the heck those things are) know is that we are nearing April 25th again. If you didn't know, it's coming. Just pretend it's an important date for you like it is for me and pencil it in ;). So even though I AM ABOUT TO HAVE A BABY IN FIVE DAYS, last night i pulled out a bunch of cardstock and circular cutters and tissue and brads and planned on trying to come up with a creative sample for the girls' birthday cards. My back was beat. My belly was tight and achy. And the thought of creating made me want to cry. But I pushed on. I got halfway through a sample, of sorts, of two elephant heads and stopped. Seriously what the heck am I doing? Yes good question. My friend had just emailed me earlier in the day begging me to get Target's cute already made invites for the girls' party and I pridefully trudged on with my banner of excellence, determined to knock down my endless obstacles like final days of pregnancy, loving Jason instead, finishing desperately important more projects around the house before baby, and just RESTING for goodness sakes!

I realized the only two reasons I was pushing myself were 1. pride in my mommy performance and how delighted all would be in my amazing card making talents. and 2. the sounds of my girls' voices one day far off from now in amazement as they poured over their baby scrapbooks asking me, "Wow mom, did you make our invitations yourself?" HA HA HA. I suddenly realized staring at the distorted, not so magnificent elephant heads that it was quite hilarious that I might expect that out of my girls. I mean, I can't imagine ALL OF THE WAYS i have completely overlooked countless acts of love from my own mother. How many will they also naively overlook of mine? A lot of them! why am I doing this tonight when I need to REST?

So on to the confirmation. I read two blogs today that also encouraged me that I needed to confess pride, throw my hands delightedly in the air, and appreciate Target's creative department. The first talked about how motherhood should consume the majority of our time and attention and she was encouraging especially mamas to little ones to be willing to clear away all distractions and to acknowledge that there is a season for everything and the time to train our children is NOW. This ministered to me because I am baking a baby! Baking is a lot of work and doing that alongside of loving my husband like I need to and training little Kanah and Grace is a FULL PLATE. I need to acknowledge this and not try to press a thousand little extras into the equation. The other blog talked about not trying to be the "most" at things because really most times underneath is a pride that desires to elevate self and belittle everyone else. I was encouraged that when we want to accomplish things we should take a look at it - am I enjoying this? am I enjoying using a gift of mine? or am I trying to be "the most ____" in order to love myself more and to want others to see me as more. It's humbling.

Grace is about to come to bed and I've got to get off the computer. To end this simply: I'm buying Target invites. I am buying a cake from a grocery store and couldn't be more excited about that. And will divy up balloons and food to gracious family members. And guess what?! I am going to rest and enjoy the five days with my husband and girls and then I AM GOING TO HAVE A BABY! Let all else fall by the wayside. This is my season AND my joy. Lord help me let it all fall away.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Sweet Tea

With only a week left ahead of me before my baby boy arrives, I decided that I needed to get me and the girls out of the house even though I had a severely aching back, a heavy belly and not much energy. Being in the house all day, without visitors, felt like it would be more brutal.

The girls and I headed out to North Bend outlets. It's the little things when you've got baby girls with you that make a little outting. I decided that we'd have a little lunch out there and then head to gymboree, my favorite kids' store. I would go through the mcdonalds drive through and then herd us into "sawdust" and get a wrap of some sort while we sat in the cozy couch corner.

As I took a right into McDonalds a huge sign faced me: Large Brewed Sweet Tea $1. Let's read it again: Large brewed SWEET tea $1. SWEET TEA!!! This is a terrible southern weakness of mine and it has been somewhat of a unconsented detox to move out west and never have the option of sweet tea at restaurants of any kind. But here it is in the Northwest! And this on the back of learning just last week that there is a CHICK-FIL-A only an hour and a half from here! (It's only the very best chicken sandwich, waffle fry and lemonade anywhere ever - #1 combo baby.)

Maybe these are little blessings lately from the Lord (is that silly to say??) because I have had a couple of small breakdowns lately. They revolve around two things. One...I have been crazy blessed, in what you can only say is divine, to have a handful of my North Carolina friends move out west - and not just anywhere west - but the state of Washington west. (Laurel, Jocelyn, Tanya, Carrie, Kalle, Jessi, Elizabeth). And I really don't have any friends outside of here or North Carolina. Just those two states. Yes, God thing. It's a strange unexpected blessing. BUT now three of them have already moved away (Tanya, Carrie, Elizabeth) and two more plan to leave soon (Kalle and Jessi). And now I am feeling like they are all going to move away at some point and this leaves me quite sad :(.

The other reason sweet tea and chick-fil-a have been a small comfort ;) is because with the new baby on the way of course you wish everyone you love could be close and involved and very present whenever they want to be in the joys in your life. We don't return to North Carolina until September b/c of our crazy lives and we won't have been there in a whole year.

So my heart just has these little breakdowns occasionally when it all seems to much to bear. Jason has been genuinely sweet and compassionate. Both of us know that these little emotional tantrums can't be our guide for where to live and move and have our being. I know in my heart of hearts that the Lord calls us places. And we must always be open to where that may be, whether we are in easy contentment or chosen contentment and even in the missing. I know I will always be "in missing" because my love is great for where I grew up and the people who live there. That will not lessen but what I do with the missing is crucial. It can devastate or be a healthy love but not an idol. I have to trust calling the most. I can only do this by grace!

Grace...and maybe a little sweet tea and combo #1. :)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Ribbons and bows

We have been spending an awful lot of time fluffing our nest in preparation for baby boy coming, tearing out old branches and tossing stray things that have floated in, and rearranging its design. One of my biggest nesting projects has been sorting through all of my files. Jason and I are both keepers and usually can't part with things until they are like eight years old. In my filing case, I'd say more like fifteen years old. I found many files from high school and even older with keepsakes like magazines and missions articles and articles on big events like y2k and iraq and culture. I got a little lost in my digging but it was also kind of fun, but I did stick to my guns for sure about making a big recycle pile. If I haven't needed it or read it in eight or more years, then come on. It's gone. (Anyone else need to do this?)

In my tossing, I came across some material from youth group about "building a testimony." I remember one of the most frustrating questions they would ask you was: "What were you like before you met Christ?" and also "How is who you were different from who you are now?" Over high school and then college years, prior to marriage especially, it was difficult to pinpoint the changes actually. How had the gospel changed me? I didn't have a grand testimony of sin, i thought, and putting together a testimony of the impact of the gospel on me felt confusing since my testimony felt so boring and...the same as my life before.

I am nearing ten years post college and only feel I am just beginning in the past, oh, two years I'd say, to see the gospel as completely transformational in this little life of mine despite the continued simple storyline.

I am in an accountability group with women these days. We meet together mainly to confess sin, apply the gospel, and pray. I'm so thankful for these sisters in Christ. I have felt compelled for some time to have a group meet together in this way and it has been more pure and lovely than maybe any other study I have done because we're first addressing what most groups I have been in do on the side or basically never: talk about our sin. Describing it. Revealing it. Giving the details of it, when needed. And then rejoicing in the gospel of forgiveness that is in Jesus.

Our son is going to be in our arms in eight days. I smile as I write that line. We have books for each of our children that we write in as something comes to mind and I wrote a bit of a serious letter in his the other day. I told him that though we were waiting and excited to love him and welcome him, that I was most certainly going to fail him many times in this life and be much less than a perfect mother for him. Many memories of moments of the girls where I was lazy, or too harsh, or indifferent to their presence, or angry, or wildly ungodly in general came to mind and I realized I would sin against him similarly, in just days perhaps. I would not be able to define love for him. Instead I would mar it for certain, no matter my effort. So I was basically confessing my sins to come, what I knew would come.

Don't be tempted to say in your mind, No you're a great mother! Because the truth is that I am far less than perfect and with Christ it is actually the most peaceful thing to admit my weakness and the need for his power to rest on me. Without Christ, it looks hopeless to say that, it looks dim and gloomy and like I am casting a sad vision into my future. With Christ I can rest and have peace because I know what I can't do. And I know my capacities to fail and sin against those I love most, but I also intimately know THE GOSPEL: that Christ "is faithful and just to forgive me of my sins and cleanse me from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1). I have been SO GRATEFUL for that verse in my life lately.

The few days leading up to group last week I felt a little sick about the sins I would have to confess to my friends. Sometimes when I go to group I don't fear confession. I package up my sins in a way that feels familiar to everyone and in making it all feel normal to everyone in the room, I feel I push away potential judgment or condemnation. But mostly I end up pushing away the gosepl and the Jesus I so desperately want the world to know. If God himself had to die for my sin, then isn't it uglier than I speak of it? Isn't it appalling and gross and sad? My packaging of my sin with bows and ribbons says what the Pharisees have said, "Lord thank you that I am not a sinner like___." I am good enough the way I am and don't have much of a need for your gospel. It's the same heart in me that says, "I don't have a testimony." The same me that read that packet in youth group and didn't understand what I had been saved from because my sins weren't, in my mind, postersized and culturally graphic.

And even with all this in my head, I struggled even this week with letting the blood of Jesus, the gospel, be my only reputation I cared about. I still wanted to word my sins this way and that and before I knew it I was trying to tie ribbons again. Jesus spoke to my heart very clearly this week. My job was to accept the ugly of my sin. To speak it out loud and describe it with truth. And especially to then lean with all my weight on the fact that he would then forgive that sin and cleanse me from it. And to take an enormous, thankful, beautiful joy in the gospel of grace that covered me in front of my friends. I told them I knew I couldn't rely on them saying, It's okay. We understand. We totally relate. We've been there. If I was going to really really embrace the gospel I would have to be okay with perhaps thoughts running through their mind even as they try to give me grace themselves. We are all sinners and it is difficult to even respond to sin with a pure heart like Jesus. We are tempted to compare, evaluate, elevate ourselves, and judge. So I cannot even rely on my friends' approval. I need the approval of God. And I have that as I confess that I cannot possibly earn it. That my sin falls short of it. But that I have a mediator (1 Jn 2) who goes to the Father on my behalf to atone for my sin and to make me righteous when I cannot do that for myself.

I feel like I can give my testimony today if I have to. Not because of the interesting list of sins but because of the ways God has met me in my disgust daily. I feel better today about the sins of my past couple weeks. Because the gospel is changing me in each moment to have grace be sufficent for me. I feel better today about my son coming into the world in eight days. Because the gospel has been changing me as a mom and a wife and I know Jesus' forgiveness and cleansing will be there when I need it again.

I don't think I have ever been this thankful and aware of the gospel as I have the past two years of my life. Forget the ribbons and bows. The ugly is what has made me see the beauty of the blood of the Lamb. I am forever grateful Jesus. What a Lord. What a God. What a grace. I am humbled, changed, and set apart in joy.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Lots of TV, blasted Elmo and so on

The past ten days or so we've been sick, unavailable, and completely inundated (spelling?) with that illness known as Cabin Fever. That's the backdrop for my "looks at my week"...

1. The word of the week for the girls was hands down: "show". I decided TV was our friend this week and was going to keep us all happy and kind to each other. Judge away. I am so okay with it. I even busted out the boppy seat from when the girls were just baby lumps and they took turns crawling up into it with their "essentials" as I call them (their stuffed animals and blankets) to watch a "show." They also learned to say "tv on" and "tv off." SEE? Lots of learning this week! :)

2. Maybe it was all the tv that got me thinking - my goodness I need to be doing some worship time with them like I said I have been wanting to do. So we've been doing a few songs this week like "This Little Light of Mine" and "Jesus Loves Me" with sign language and the girls are veeery into it. I also do Jesus Loves Me every night now with our bedtime routine and sign it with their hands and they just smile and at the end tap their finger tips together and say "moi" (more).

3. My most appreciative moment in the past week (next to reeaallly appreciating jessi, kalle, annie, karla and sondra for putting on/helping with my shower...) was getting two care packages in the mail from great friends Jamie and Courtney. Thanks for loving on our "dittle man!"

4. Our baby boy is due in THREE WEEKS. March 30th. Yes. Crazy town. Baby boy's room is not done at all but the planning is! We purchased the Payton bedding from Pottery Barn Kids on clearance (see pic!) and are planning on painting the walls in navy while leaving the bottom chair rail part white. I also would love to stencil some scripture on the wall. HOW DO I DO THAT? Any ideas?

5. So because April will be written off in a way that I am totally given to baby love, I need to plan the girls birthday now. I am torn between a few themes. ONE: Elmo. I really really really don't want to do an Elmo birthday party but maybe that's why I should. The girls wig out when they see him and I totally just don't get it. TWO: Lambs and Elephants. I know, weird combo! But that's the girls favorite stuffed animals and this year has been all about "lamby and ella" so it kiiiind of works. THREE: Jungle. The girls looove animals and animal sounds and we just did their bathroom in jungle and they are very about it. FOUR: Bears. Karla made them a bear quilt a while back and ever since they love bear stuffed animals and even just how they say bear with that broken sounding "r" on the end is cute. Want to VOTE? If you vote, tell me why. Otherwise I'm not easily swayed.

6. I'm getting tired of sitting in this chair and feel extremely dehydrated so I will end with this...My favorite question of the week was from Jason last night when he asked me VEEEERY randomly, "What if your mom and my mom were in a band together?" Whaaaaat? Yes, read it again and think about the randomness. I was roaring. And especially when Jason started giving them instruments and adding other band members. Can you guess which ones and who else?...Karla (Jason's mom) was the lead singer which is so great b/c she is the most introverted person ever. Jason put my mom on guitar so that she could cock her head to the side like she does when she smiles in her pictures. Don't be offended mom! The other band members were my stepmom Pam who we put on keyboard - just believe me, it works. And her voice is just like someone who would be in a baptist gospel choir. And Pamela Pearce, Kalle's mom, also made it into the band (probably because she reminds us of my stepmom a lot) and she was playing the saxophone and it just really still seems to suit her in my head b/c she can be off doing her own fun riffs and stuff. Anyway, that's the mama band!

Okay, signing off to go do some real writing...

Monday, March 2, 2009

Our recession list

Our list is growing. One couple will not be able to afford their mortgage soon and were living month to month. One couple with multiple kids. One friend who just began his unemployment last week and looks for a new career. One couple out a job with a pregnancy well under way. One family who looks to raise support for a new calling in the midst of a lot of tight fists. A few families through my sweetheart's company who were let go a couple of weeks ago. And more will be added to the list.

If you are on that list, we love you, we're praying for you and we aren't ignoring the spot you're in.

When some of these needs began popping up in our community group - which is about 20 people who gather in our home on Tuesdays for bible study and friendship - I began to feel burdened. I already was feeling uneasy about the recession. About what the news had to say, about what our politicians had to say, about what our stocks were saying, and especially just hearing the word itself. Apart from just losing jobs, you began to hear about many losses, and it puts a feeling into your being. All I can say is it's uneasy.

And the uneasiness was first about me. Am I going to be okay? Is my family going to be okay? Will we get to keep our job even if the other people don't? The uneasiness is definitely a check of my heart on my own affairs first because my heart of flesh is always about me first and foremost. It's a check on me and where I put my treasure. The uneasiness is the overflow of my heart.

And then I had the uneasiness in my heart that was about anything outside of me. So I definitely confess that I wish my heart were more pure. More lovely. More right. More others-oriented that in a recession I would immediately find myself interceding for that list. And that it wouldn't just be a list, but it would be as 1 peter 1:22 encourages, that I would have sincere love for my brothers and sisters and love them deeply from the heart. And over a number of weeks, especially as the list grew, I saw that the overflow of my heart that Christ had put in me developed a genuine concern for our culture, our community and finally specific names of you.

On our way up to our babymoon a couple of weeks ago Jason and I listened to a sermon by John Piper about not wasting the recession. I believe he has written a number of "don't waste your (fill in the blank)" and I just like that he is big on not pushing trials and circumstances away from you as fast as you can, but maybe sitting in them to ask God what he allowed them for, since he is sovereign and loving. I want to list his five main points and then chat about one of them.

Piper said that in a recession God intends:
1. to expose hidden sin
2. to wake us up to the constant condition of the developing world where there is always recession
3. to relocate the root of our joy
4. to advance the gospel especially when the church has the least resources to do it
5. for the church to take care of its body so that no one would be in need

I think maybe the recession is purposed for each person in a different way. Is one of these intentions above meant for your life in this recession? All of them?

I like word pictures a lot. One of my friends has a spiritual gifting of discernment and it seems to come in the form of word pictures a lot to teach people in a way they will remember. A word picture Piper used in this sermon is that we are like beakers filled with water with dirt that has settled on the bottom. The water appears to be fresh and clear, just as we appear to trust God and to not have sin lingering sometimes. But if you give that beaker a little bump, the water gets cloudy to show what was really there all along and it's so quick to permeate all of the beaker with that ugly dirt. He emphasized that the sin (the dirt) we all struggle with is self-reliance. We all need to go deeper with our trust of God. And - and I love this part - GOD IS SO GOOD to expose our motives and what a gift it is to not be blind to your unbelief. I think more than any one thing in the past two years almost God has been peeling layer after layer back on my sin issues, telling me, "I'm not done yet. I'm not done yet. Here's more. I'm still working here..." and two years into him just setting my eyes straight on the subject of confessing sin, I still can't believe he's still working on certain areas of my sinful heart. GOD IS SO GOOD TO HELP US SEE OUR UNBELIEF = OUR SIN.

Another big point both from John Piper's sermon and also just the Lord speaking to me about what to do during this recession, is the reminder that generosity has nothing to do with having an abundance. 2 Corinthians 8 reminds us that the most generous people who encouraged Paul were the ones who gave out of their nothingness, NOT from their prosperity. Not from their prosperity! We tend to want to, or be open to giving when we have that extra portion. And we feel good giving at that time. But what if our cheerful giving that the Lord delights in came from us when we did not have that extra portion. When the recession is hitting us hard in some way, YET the Lord prompts us to share our crumbs? Piper mentions wisely that this kind of giving comes from EXPERIENCING GRACE and being in awe of a God who has been so kind and generous TO US. We learn from the Lord's generosity to us in giving us his most treasured love, his Son, when we didn't even ask for that gift, care about that gift, or notice that the gift had been given.

So the biggest burden on my heart for a long while, confirmed by Piper, is this: what is the church to do, to be, during this recession? Typically we do something like...take prayer requests over those in need and try to remember to pray over them once that week. Or we forget to pray but we remember the need just in time to ask about it the next week. Or we might do none of that. I think I fall into those categories a lot. But what more? What does it look like to obey 1 Peter in these times and to have a sincere love for our brothers, loving them deeply from the heart? Because inside the hearts of the ones on my list is a struggle with faith, fear, perhaps depression, sins of anxiety and despair and also the real needs of groceries, bills, payments, etc. What is the church to do? Who are we to be?

Acts 4:34 says that there was not a needy person among them.

Jason and I are praying over this. Asking God what this means for our family. I mentiond earlier that the Lord may have purposes for each of us in this recession, possibly one of the five purposes Piper listed. I know for sure one of those purposes for me is what it means to not waste the recession by being blind to the body of Christ. I feel the Holy Spirit asking me to pray and listen about what to do. I can't say there is an exact plan but we feel his leadings and we are waiting and praying.

What might the Lord want to do in you? What is being brought up from the bottom of your beaker, so to say? Are you embracing this recession?