Thursday, October 29, 2009

She Speaks: Too much broccoli, more prayer

So it turns out that there's always something difficult going on for everybody. (Boy, will this be a bummer post, you're thinking. Well maybe not...)

Rocks hit our windshields. Traffic takes up our days. All our manmade stuff breaks. Even our God made stuff, like our gardens, get weeds and grow knarly and out of control. Our bodies and other people's bodies always have breakdowns going on, whether temporary like the flu, or ongoing like lupus or heart disease.

And then there's the bigger stuff that is kind of just continual. The jobs we were relieved to get or be promoted to get all wacky with discontent or demotions or a quirky co-worker or disillusionment with purpose in general. More serious disease or illness that weakens the body over time and steals life from not just one person but all who want that person to stay around to enjoy life with. Then there's the below the surface, hard to brush off, truth that every single relationship we are in is a good dose of hard work, whether it's simple forgiveness that they used an off tone or more devastating messes that consume every ounce of existance between two people.

I'm not even going to get into the worldwide crises of hunger, abortion, rape, genocide, disease, torment, abuse, slavery, or tyranny.

We are consumed with brokenness. Agreed? It's everywhere. If it's not for you, then somehow you must be playing that hop scotch game of life, avoiding the most dangerous squares, even though all of us at some point or on some days is inevitably going to be just that.

FYI. My gift is discernment. I'm doomed to write like this, though if you can make it to the end, there's always LIGHT. Can't help it ;). It's a gift, if you're willing to see it that way.

So on to my processing.

I had a friend over recently who is going through quite a lot. I actually admire her going through it. A lot of people stuff the kinds of things she is mentally and emotionally navigating and I know she'll come out on the other side of this or even just moment by moment in LIGHT instead of darkness.

My question for her was this: How do you live? How do you continue with life even though this difficult thing is consuming for you, understandably? How do you keep it from becoming an idol?

I ask for two reasons. One, I just think it is hard to function when incredibly hard things are happening. But two, even the things we hate, abhore, or want to resist with an outstretched arm can become our idols: our obsessions and ultimately what we "worship" b/c we think about them all the time and give all of our thoughts and efforts toward them.

I like what she said she'd learned. You get 20 minutes a day to process outloud. It's too hard to not talk about it so you must. But twenty minutes is enough to acknowledge it, work through a piece of it and then let it go again.

And to that, we added prayer. "Let it go" is a joke, right? I mean if it's really pain. If it's really sorrow. If it's really depressing. Then "letting it go" sounds kind of ridiculous. I mean, most of us are violently, wildly shaking and tossing our arms about trying to get this "thing" that is so difficult to un-stick on us, so just "letting it go" doesn't even seem like an option.

But then there is prayer.

If prayer is a piece to this puzzle, then this step of processing might just possibly bring a bit of freedom. Just this second as I am writing this I paused to try to think how to possibly sum up and capture what benefits to prayer there are when it comes to being able to let something go. And immediately came to mind a verse I just read the other day super randomly, maybe just possibly for this moment now.

Psalm 68:19 "Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens."

I think that might be one of the most beautiful pictures of God that I can imagine. The other night at community group (you know who you are!) the husband of my sweet very pregnant friend picked up their toddler and then she went to get the pack n play and he insisted on carrying that too. On Sundays at church, Jason almost always makes it a service to me to lug the kids around so it's easier for me to mingle with friends and so that he can keep a close eye on them. Even in little ways, when someone carrys our burdens, it is such a demonstration of love and we feel such gratitude and freedom for it. So in some spiritual, emotional and maybe sometimes physical sense this verse is suppose to relieve us as it becomes a reality. This verse says that is what he does. Do I have an exact explanation of what that means or feels like? No. But I bet you he longs to demonstrate that to each of us and to ask him to show us personally what that means and should be like for us.

Also, as far as what our little family is going through personally with trials, it is actually a pure waste sometimes how much we talk about things and resist "letting them go" or relinquishing them through prayer. Sometimes we can talk and talk and just circle like vultures but after some time (well maybe after 20 minutes!) we just are kind of over indulging. We're idolizing. Something we say we don't like we find ourselves obsessing over and it doesn't make sense. We're eating our broccoli (or whatever food you don't like). Then another helping. Then another. Then another. And soon we're stuffed with broccoli and want to throw up. (I happen to like broccoli but Jason would definitely be the one throwing up after one bite in this! He he).

So Jason and I's resolve and conviction lately is this: To pray. To not think too much of our chatterboxing that we can solve everything by talking or dialouging or counseling till our brains bleed. We need to encourage more by praying more. And figure things out more by praying more. And in this not only am I putting the burden back where it needs to be (on Jesus' shoulders) but I am letting my heart be transformed to the place it needs to be at the same time. So much happens in prayer. Aligning our heart with God. Talking it out with him. Giving up. Taking on the right heart. Letting him speak. Understanding. Growing. Confessing. Thankfulness for gospel. Trusting. Loving. Being loved. Letting gooooooo.

Less broccoli servings. More praying. Meal done.

Monday, October 26, 2009

She Speaks: My Thing

I've been a little silly on my evening outings with friends lately. Put my kids in bed and get me in a room full of women and I get a little naturally tipsy, no alcohol necessary.

Most recently I was out for an evening baby shower for a lovely, glowing pregnant friend of mine. The beauty who hosted it loves to paint and as I went from living room to kitchen to bedroom, she had wall after wall decorated with her own paintings. That was definitely her "thing." Painting. I thought it was sweet how she could make her whole home beautiful by her very own hand. I went over at some point to grab an appetizer and was admiring all the cooking another friend had done to make the night special. I was scared to pick them up they were so cutely done. In fact, I did end up dropping one as I picked it up too timidly. *Sigh*. Cooking is definitely her thing and thankfully she's moving in with me for five weeks soon ;). You know who you are. Anyhow, above each little treat on the table was a cute little tag with a description of the food underneath a personalized design for the shower. My friend who made them would like to do designs for every aspect of parties like this, from tags to invites to thank you notes. She's good at it and it is quickly becoming her "thing".

So you see a little pattern forming, right? I got to joking with some of my friends at the party, as I admired all the handiwork. And even as we joked, I realized every single person I was talking with that night had a noteworthy signature "thing" that everyone knows they are good at. Personal training, sewing, photography, homemaking, you name it. My silliness at this point all became directed at how hilarious I found it to be that literally everyone's "thing" was obvious except for mine. Especially as shower gift after shower gift unveiled more gifts and talents of each woman in the room. (My gift incidentally was $ towards the group gift). Thankfully, with a lot of sarcastism, I enjoyed letting my jaw drop each time, each "thing" topping the next in awe and excellence.

When in laughter I pressed my friends for what could possibly be my "thing", they finally declared one for me. Scrapbooking. NO. That is stupid. Okay then, Legacy. "Legacy?" you ask. I asked too. Because I like do things that point to legacy - scrapbook, take pictures, journal, teach, write, and create traditions and memories for our family. In and of themselves, these things are not "wow" and unique but altogether they are certainly an expression of the deepest places in me. I haven't been able to dismiss this label since then and Jason confirmed it as well when I got home.

So there it is! I have a "thing"!

Today I was trying to figure out what it is that got to me, underneath all of the joking around about it all. I mean, it was funny. But also there was a heart issue going on in me. I do want my life to be special. I want to stand out and do big and wonderful and noteworthy and awe inspiring things. But is this okay? What's that all about anyway? Isn't that me trying to "find" life when the Bible says that whoever wants to find life must lose it? This means that I have to let go of all I'm wanting in order to find what true life looks like in the eyes of God. I think even Christians, for sure, get very much caught up in being on top, in doing big incredible things and we order and arrange and elevate what we think is GREAT. We all want to be great.

There's a story in Matthew 20 where the mother of two of the disciples comes up to Jesus and basically wants to know if they will be greatest in heaven. Reading it, I'm sure we're all like, Geez. That was bold...and ridiculous. I can't believe she asked that. But basically she's saying, Hey my sons are great right? And I think we all kind of want other people and also Jesus to say that about us.

I mean, when I am jealous that other people have "things" or envy that they do xyz amazingly, I am that mother of the sons of Zebedee coming up to Jesus saying, Hey can you make say that I'm the greatest one?

But here's how amazing Jesus is. Check out his thoughts a few verses later in Matt 20:25-28 "But Jesus called them to him and said, 'You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. IT SHALL NOT BE SO AMONG YOU. BUT WHOEVER WOULD BE GREAT AMONG YOU MUST BE YOUR SERVANT, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

Wooow. I was randomly letting my mind wander around today and thought 'hey i might write about the whole "my thing" idea i was thinking about at the shower' and then i sat down to read the Bible and journal and was reminded of this Scripture and it just all came together. This is what Jesus has to say about greatness.

Do I want to be great? Do I want to be first? Then although it sounds wildly crazy and impossibly ridiculous...the way to greatness is humilty and laying down my life to be THE LEAST OF THESE. Jesus, you defy everything I know in this world. You are so OTHER that I barely know how to wrap my mind around your truth, though when I encounter it like this, my Spirit declares THIS IS SO TRUE AND I AM IN AWE.

To me, Jesus declares "Be not jealous. Do not seek to be above. To compete. To top. Lay down your life, becoming the least of these. Serve. Become a slave for the benefit of others. And this will be your greatness."

My mind is blowing. And yet my Spirit is rejoicing and soaring. With or without a "thing", I run in the path of your truths for you have set my heart free.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Mrs. Speaks "My Mud Pit"

I think i generally avoid books on marriage.

I'm not proud of this. I mean, I've got a ring on my finger, I love my husband, and I want to grow with him over time. It's just that the thought of opening one of them feels ho hum. However, my mother in law recently bought a bunch of copies of a great one she is reading and gave me one. It's called Sacred Marriage. And I'm realizing it's been a little too long since I've been counseled on marriage. My accountability group would certainly concur that this does not mean that I haven't been wrestling like a contestant on survivor in the mud pits over worthy battles in my marriage though. My relationship with Jason is constantly on the forefront of my mind and the Holy Spirit won't let me wrestle free from his refinement for me in this sin area. So it's funny that I've avoided certain written counsel over it.

So the question I'm putting on the table today is something I've been chewing on the first three chapters:

Isn't it ridiculous to look for something in humans that only God can provide?

This is the constant shove I feel from the Holy Spirit on my heart concerning Jason. I have a feeling that my writing on seeing Jason as an idol in my life - so much more than what to expect from a husband - will be a topic on my blog for a long time. Not because I am not dealing with it, but because it's actually the biggest root I have ever had to weed out of my life by the power of Jesus in me. My decisions, my reactions, my hurt feelings, my pursuits, my love withheld, my expressions, and my sighs all say:

I am in this to benefit from you.
I am in this to experience a perfect relationship with you.
I am in this to be served by you.
I believe I can find fulfillment from you.

Does this ring a bell, wives? Or maybe you just read that and go, "Wo, she's got issues." That's fine. I think I do ;) But I bet some of you do too. And if you don't, keep reading so you can understand your friends' hearts who struggles like me.

The headline under the title of this book says, "What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?" True. But I've heard that statement so many times it's kind of bug to read it again. I have this super judgmental place in me that hears something like that and immediately my inner eyes begin rolling and tisking. But as I read the first three chapters the Holy Spirit began to unravel my irritation and started pouring grace in my hands for this probably over used Christian chatter. I heard, It IS true. So let it be true and don't let your heart be seared from it just because it has been said a thousand times.

So I kept reading. And the discussion behind that statement ministered more and more to me. The main thesis is this: "...we use our marriage to explore God. If we are consumed with highlighting where our spouses are falling short, we will miss the divine mysteries of marriage and the lessons it has to teach us." There are two main ways to view marriage - as a way to be fulfilled by that person (happiness) or as a relationship which God can use to show us about Him no matter what amount of benefit it brings to us (holiness). Our relationship with God will outlive our marriage and will carry into eternity, so therefore that earthly relationship is what this author would call the "penultimate rather than the ultimate reality." The "end" is to get to God as we enjoy, struggle with, pursue this earthly companionship.

There was a section that talked about in earlier church history there was seemingly an unofficial stance that married Christians were a sort of second class Christians who had comprimised integrity, as opposed to nuns and monks. "Most of the Christian classics were written by monks and nuns for monks and nuns. The married could at best feebly try to simulate a single pursuit of God; the thought of pursuing God through marriage wasn't really given serious consideration; instead, the emphasis was largely on pursuing God in spite of marriage."

I was so surprised to read this because prior to marriage I thought I was actually pretty great and since marriage the Lord has done nothing but reveal more and more layers of who I really am apart from him. The author goes on to say:

"If you want to be free to SERVE Jesus, there's no question - stay single. Marriage takes a lot of time. But if you want to become LIKE Jesus, I can't imagine a better thing to do than get married."

My goodness. Amen to that. Although I certainly would give myself no credit for being like Jesus since unlike Paula Abdul, all it seems like I do is take continual three steps back, I can feel in my core that at least I am learning the truth about myself. And anything good happening out of that truth is the Holy Spirit claiming ground.

I am learning to see marriage like this. But I've gotta tell you, it's not like a sweet little Bible study early in the morning light with a cute coffee mug and happy Christian music blistfully playing as I close my eyes and my spirit soars with Jesus. (Well, the coffee part is usually true). It's more like a tug of war and every morning I get tears in my clothing. I read these chapters, underline, agree in Spirit, and then ten minutes later I'm selfish, annoyed, grasping, irritable and crying out from the fountain in my heart, "It's about me!!!" Ah. Sin nature. So lovely!

Thank goodness for grace: God's unlimited unconditional patience for this looong journey of learning the humility of being like Jesus. Jesus does with me exactly what I begrudgingly withhold from my marriage - he covers me in grace, keeps loving me, keeps pursuing me, and never gives up hope for what he wants to see in me. Jesus you are teaching me who to be. How is your love so great?

And Jason, my love, I'm meditating, I'm thinking, I'm praying, I'm constantly relinquishing these over the top expectations rising up in me and if Jesus Christ is who we believe he is, this WILL get rooted out. Keep believing in Him in me. Join in that tug of war on behalf of me. I love you.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

She Speaks

I'm changing up my blog a little bit because I find myself thinking, living, experiencing, learning, and being transformed in four different categories of my life all wrapped up into Kelly Chandler Cowan. I'm a 31 year old woman, who feels girlishly young enough to still be grasping at what that word means as I gain years on my age. I'm a wife of eight years who has walked with a faithful husband through a move across country, job changes, babies, constant decisions, and a never ending journey gifted by the Holy Spirit for us to refine one another for His glory. I'm a mama of three who's finally enjoying that crown on my head. And I'm a believer in Jesus' testimony to be God who came down to us in all humility and grace to save us from ourselves and to show me how to live like he did. Woman, wife, mama, believer. I generally find myself living, moving, and having my being in each of these four pieces of me. And I see that I write out of these parts of me as well. So I think for a while when I post, I will speak from the viewpoint of woman, wife, mama and believer as you continue to track with me as I meditate on this life gifted to me.