Friday, July 30, 2010

Favorite posts on Small Belle Speaks #5

Post title: All my kids are adopted (posted 2-2-09)

i never had a close friend growing up who was adopted. i did have one cousin who was, but because no one ever harped on it, it felt just the same to me. i think the first time adoption came close to a personal meaning for me was when i was getting married. i was trying to figure out how to honor my stepdad andy at the wedding. as it turns out i think i didn't give him the honor he deserved. dad walked me down the aisle and then i stopped at the end, andy stepped out to kiss me, and then he went back to his pew. that didn't show him justice. though i had a dad, andy really raised me and chose to be in my life for every single day of it. when he met my mom, i was the extra paragraph in small print that was going to make their marriage totally different. he married her, quite able to read small fonts. and he liked the deal. i didn't realize it was like i had been adopted until later, like twenty years later. and i really have a crazy respect now for men who marry single moms.

as jason and i looked towards having kids i went through a lot of phases. the first being "no way. i am not ready. i don't think i want to stay at home. and i really can't see myself with kids. but i really want to do all that later." then (thanks to our church) it looked more like, "i would like to be ready. being a mom and raising kids is a beautiful honor, like a crown on a woman's life." then it changed to, "is it now? do i have a heart for this? lord, where is my heart? can i see myself as a mom?" then finally, "please lord, this is my desire: for children and to be at home with them." it's totally wacky and surprising how the first and last quote are both from me.

even when i mentally finally caught up with my husband (because of the Holy Spirit, my faithful counselor), who had patiently endured a couple years of waiting, my thoughts around natural and adopted kids were totally different. and i think most people don't move from what i am about to describe. somewhere in my head i wanted to adopt. but it was kind of a last resort, a nice faraway goal, an eventual decision and an afterthought of our own childrearing of blood born children. but interestingly trying for our own child was very much in the forefront and preferred, i guess is the right word. now i should mention something at this moment. i don't think it's wrong to want your own kids and to have a desire for them. don't hear that. i just think it is interesting how we all think they are so different from adopted kids. the sidenote big picture being that we are called to all things, whether "our own" kids or "adopted" kids or to not get to have kids at all. so it's important to be prayerful. yet the heart for "our own" kids from "adopted" kids can be so so not the same. and mine was for sure.

when did this change? well, jason and i did want both. we wanted to try for our own, like most couples. and down the road we've always felt like we would adopt one. when we got pregnant with the girls i began to understand that the whole "our own" and "adopted" mentalities were actually...not far from being the same at all. when the girls were in the womb i could not see them. i could feel their movements. i could sense them physically. i could pray for them. but i did not know them. i couldn't see them or cuddle them. i didn't know what they would look like or act like or what our relationship with them would be like.

and the day they were born...was not their first day of life. they had already been living for nine months, just smaller. they were already around. i had just not met them yet and officially said, "hi i'm your mama." and one day, what we would call their birthday, i got to meet them. it actually felt like adoption. it felt like jason brought a crying kanah (she was first) over to my face and said "this will be your daughter." and i looked over at her, crying, like, who are you little one? you are such a beautiful creation? i wanted to know all about the girls in those moments but it felt like a rushed introduction to who they were. and they were such a mystery to me. some moms have said to me that you will just feel that instant connection. i partly agree with them. there is that moment of awe when you see your own child after birth and you just can't believe they are yours but somehow you know they are yours. but is this because they came out of my body? or because God gave me a huge heart for them? i think the latter myself. because i have never met this person!

but really, more than this instant connection thing, i really really really kind of "got" the whole "our own" kids sort of is the same as "adopted" kids during this time, at the very beginning of being a mom to kanah and grace. these two little beings literally felt like they showed up into my life and i had to get to know everything about them. they were kind of little strangers to me.

there's another evidence to me of this. and i don't know about other moms, but even though i was in awe of the girls from the beginning and certainly loved them, i cannot even compare the love i had then for them to the love i have now for them. i certainly loved them, but now i am love them more fiercely and madly. it reminds me of the verse that we had read at our wedding. 1 Thessalonians 3:12 "may the Lord make your love increase and overflow for one another." i really feel like what began as root and foundational love for my daughters, established by the heart of God, became an increasing and overflowing love for them because God keeps growing my heart for them. it's insanely beautiful and cool. i remember when i was in the "can i see myself as a mom?" stage of pre-motherhood, i didn't know if i would love my children enough. i think the Lord takes care of this for us. there was evidence of this for me with the birth of my daughters and i believe there is the same evidence of this for adopting parents, so i won't fear the day we adopt a child.

regarding the title of this post, and to wrap this up for now, i really do believe that all of my kids both present and future are adopted. i really really believe God has evened out in my heart any differences i saw in my "own" kids verses our "adopted" kids. they are all adopted. they are/will all be given over to our care. we are their caretakers and they belong to God. and God made them (psalm 139). he loves them way more than me - which i can't get my head around - and i honor him by loving his kids. he lets me call them "mine" and entrusts them to me. i am so thankful God has worked on my brain with this because i do want to adopt and pray with all my heart that the Lord will move many families around us to do the same - since all these kids - "ours" and the "adopted" are the same. God this is so cool. and i want to keep understanding your heart.

"but when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his son, born of woman, born of the law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. and because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his son into our hearts, crying, 'Abba! Father!'" galatians 4.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Favorite posts on Small Belle Speaks #4

Post Title: Biggest Loser in Me (posted 1-19-10)

Another season of Biggest Loser has begun. They say it’s the biggest, heaviest group ever. And this year trainers Bob and Jillian joke that they feel like they say that every year, but seriously it’s true and the heaviest guy came in at 526 pounds at his first weigh in. I don’t love everything about the show and much prefer to watch it in the slowest fast forward setting since they drag it out so long, but last season something very unlikely happened in me as I was watching the finale.

I swear the Lord comes to me in the strangest times. Toilet. Stoplight. Head on the pillow. Brushing teeth. Browsing pantry. And, apparently, watching Biggest Loser.

To show everyone what had been accomplished on the final episode, the finalists came bursting through a paper image of their old selves, as if in a victory lap, and with hands raised and audience wildly cheering as they rejoiced in their new bodies. It was literally a miracle seeing who they were before and who they had become. They were clearly not the same people. They had accomplished something that literally felt completely impossible to them. But there they were, changed in a drastic and wonderful way and my heart was so happy that they had physically found freedom from their old bodies. I actually found myself in tears as the Lord gave me a word from him for my life.

You see, I have been on about a three year journey through a sin tendency in my life that has clung to me like static. I have tried to shake it and peel it off and shoo it away and fight it and wrestle it and relinquish it and defeat it with small victories but mainly a lot of frustration that it’s still around. I have seen my sin vaguely on a “oh, who are you?” level and then more familiarly on a “oh, you’re still around?” level and then a couple years into it, it was more like a, “are you kidding me? GO AWAY!” level.

If I could display it in a physical sense I guess it wouldn’t look much different than an overweight person dealing with gluttony. They eat well for a meal and then have got to have that package of oreos and then they work out a couple days and then find themselves doing other things. Back and forth. Back and forth. Ups and downs. Blah blahh blahhhhhh.

Romans puts it perfectly. “For I DO NOT UNDERSTAND MY OWN ACTIONS. (I know!!! Seriously!!!) For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. (I know!!!!) For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man am I! Who will deliver me from this body of death? THANKS BE TO GOD THROUGH JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD!”

I do not understand my actions. True. True. True. This is craziness at times. It is true I literally have in my head who I want to be in certain circumstances. I even pray just before the rocky circumstances or conversations happen, as I usually anticipate them. Then in that terrible moment of testing, I just BAIL on what I really really want! I go for the bait, as my pastor said during Sunday’s sermon. I go for the tempting thing. For the shallow desires in my heart that linger and lay out their tasty bait for me because they know I always go for it.

For me, that would be expectations (what I set as a standard for another), self-justification (really wanting justice for myself and to be treated with absolute fairness) and self-preservation (all about reputation and being right and being on top) and being understood (though it is never promised to us that we will be perfectly understood). Those are my likely baits and they are so alluring. They are certainly something I want, but as the Romans verses say, my heart DOES want to obey God IN MY INNER BEING. Pastor Mark has talked about this before, that my deepest desires are from the Spirit as a Christian. That is what I really really want to do, want to obey, want to carry out. But I just cannot, cannot, cannot seem to carry it out.

The Lord has revealed so much to me over three years about these sin patterns in my life. I have been learning, growing, changing at a turtles pace but thankfully changing non-the-less. Losing my two pounds a week of my “flesh”. Though like a 526 pound human being, the two pounds a week is so torturous and frustrating.

I remember a testimony from a couple of years ago at a women’s retreat. She was telling her dark story and as God would enter the story she would say, “But God.” This part of my testimony has felt dark and grim and low for some time. But lately I feel a turning. And I am sensing that my story is seeing the corner where I will be able to say “But God…” Ephesians 2 has a passage like this. Read this:

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. BUT GOD, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ…”

I am sensing a BUT GOD in my story. I am sensing that I am going to be made able to carry out what I actually want to be and do. You can’t possible imagine how many exclamation points I want to put behind that because I’ve hated who I have been!!!!!! I am so thankful for this turning.

But it’s not like it’s God’s fault and I’ve just been waiting for him to show up. I think he’s just speaking up lately about what this change will take. What kind of obedience it will require. What I will have to lay on the alter. Namely, my baits I mentioned above.

And as my pastor talked about in Sunday’s sermon, God is faithful to provide a way out of our temptation. I can take the door or take the bait. And many times I just have not chosen to go with the Spirit. And even now, it’s only been a week since I have felt all of this changing in me, but I am going with it. And going with it tangibly looks like really really rough, abandoned, scary, selfless obedience in each moment. And I don’t want to do it! But I do want to do it! The me that doesn’t want to do it is the one that would rather preserve self and be treated fairly and given justice and experience perfect understanding and basically sacrifice everything else, especially humility in order to achieve those pleasures. The me that wants to do it is the NEW CREATION in me. The me that God created me to be. She’s the girl that I take joy in being because she’s God’s daughter who delights in Him and in Him being enough for her. When I let her come out, I am free.

I am reading Sacred Marriage, which is all about what I am writing about, but now in addition I am also reading Pursuit of Holiness. I got stuck on like page four and I’m frozen there because God showed me something very important about HIS PRESENCE in my sinful cycles. I know this but I didn’t knooooooow this in my heart in each moment of temptation. The author says about those having trouble defeating sin, “Our first problem is that our attitude toward sin is more self-centered than God-centered. We are more concerned about our own ‘victory’ over sin than we are about the fact that our sins grieve the heart of God. We cannot tolerate failure in our struggle with sin chiefly because we are success-oriented, not because we know it is offensive to God…God wants us to walk in obedience, not victory. Obedience is oriented toward God; victory is oriented toward self. This may seem to be merely splitting hairs over semantics, but there is a subtle, self-centered attitude at the root of many of our difficulties with sin. Until we face this attitude and deal with it we will not consistently walk in holiness. This is not to say God doesn’t want us to experience victory, but rather to emphasize that victory is a by-product of obedience.”

So. How this theology becomes practical is that in my moment of temptation, I need to see that me treating this other person (namely my spouse) the way that I am called to love them is OBEDIENCE to God. If I can see God present in the scenario I am in and find obeying him my highest joy, then I find myself in a whole different ball park. I am less likely to be run by my emotions, led by my instincts, reacting to my spouse’s behaviors and tempted by my baits. I need to see real life in light of what is going on spiritually, with Jesus present in that very room, believing that my obedience or disobedience is something I am doing to him.

So all of this to say that I’m sitting there watching Biggest Loser’s finale from last season and I’m on the couch crying because the Lord is piercing my heart that what happened to those people physically is what He will accomplish in me IN THE SPIRIT. He is going to tear away my flesh, enable me to carry out my deepest desires of the Spirit so that I become unrecognizable from who I was before. And all I could see was my sweet husband sitting in the front row, looking at me like – Who is this wife of mine? Who has she become? And he will rejoice over the new creation in me! Lord let it be as you have shown me. Make me new. Let me come forth in 2010 as someone I would not recognize from last year. I can see her in my mind and I want to see her in the mirror. Can this change come? Yes! “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ my Lord!”

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Favorite Posts on Small Belle Speaks #3

Post title: Ready. (posted 3-3-10)

I love sleep. Sleep is my friend. If I could cuddle with sleep I would. I mean I love it. Jason likes to stay up late and I pretty much would cut off my pinkie (well, my left one) if he would promise to go to bed every night at 10:30 with me. Oh, just realized I wouldn't be able to type. Well maybe my (doing a look over here)...okay I don't want to give up any body parts :) but you get the picture. I reeeally like to go to bed and I reeeeally like to wake up naturally in the morning with the light, without any screaming type noises or little cries at my bedroom door or anything disturbing like that. I like it when I'm laying there until my feet get a little antsy and announce "That's enough!" and I roll out of bed all happy.

So to even write that paragraph I had to dig deep into my memory chasm to remember what that's like. My husband and I have started switching off Saturday mornings to sleep in, but I'm still asking you to feel sorry for me on my sleep in mornings because downstairs all three munchkins keep me lying there with my eyes bugged open because I hear little crashes and tantrums and dress up shoes and tools banging the coffee table until I finally give in. And this is in a house where there is a sound machine cranked up in every room. I don't even get how some families have no noise makers. I'm baffled.

So for a kind of long stretch of time I have known that naptime is not exactly the best time for getting my heart ready for the day, otherwise known as a "quiet time." Right now, as I attempt to write this, for example, Salem is screaming his head off in his crib. I've turned off the monitor, have the food network turned on softly for background noise, and I still have a knot of anxiety in my shoulders. Also, the kids all go down for naps but it's now been pushed back to about 1:30. Not really a good time to get my heart READY for the day, since my heart will not really be tested until about 3:30, which leaves only two hours of mommy time until daddy saves the day :).

I've dreaded the growing conviction that I need to get up at 6ish. But the conviction has finally swallowed me whole and it's inescapable that that's what the Lord has asked of me. Sometimes I think we kind of wait on the Lord to make sure he's really asking something and I laugh at myself thinking about how long I've been avoiding his request of me and saying, Yeah I think naptime is fine. It's sort of working. And on days it's not, it's not my fault. So I tried but it didn't work for today. And I can just do one tonight (though at least for me it's not really helpful nearly as much as the day of). So, now when Jason's alarm starts going off (he sets it early so he can snooze a couple of times) I need to get up. I have been doing a snooze with him, but then it's time. And it's kind of rough, but I have to say that I must have FORGOTTEN that like five seconds ago I was being tortured all night long by sleeplessness with Sa Sa, who thought sleep was overrated. And I must have forgotten completely life with twooooo preemie babies who were not even allowed to sleep through the night until 6 mths because of their underweight issues. Must have forgotten about that. Because when Salem started sleeping until 5, I remember feeling like doing happy dances every morning. I felt like I'd arrived. And now here I am just acting like 6 something for TIME FOR MEEEEE is somehow torturous. No Kelly. You're delirious.

And yes let's talk about how it's TIME FOR MEEEEEE. Time to wake up to the morning light and casually make a cup of coffee and break open my Bible and write in my journal and do my prayer walk around the family room and kitchen and have the Lord prepare my heart for the day. That's amazing time for me. And it prepares me to be a totally different me - the me that I want to be walking in step with the Spirit.

This morning I got up. Salem happened to be up too so I went in and changed him, fed him, and let him play in his crib, which he happily does for about 1/2 an hour. I knew Jason would shortly be in to let him visit with him while he got ready for work. The girls slept peacefully, which they usually do until around 7:30. I headed downstairs to a quiet kitchen to make coffee and cut up a grapefruit and this morning I just felt compelled to pray. So I did. If you know me, you know that prayer for me means outloud and walking. That's my favorite way. I kind of circle the family room and living room and always start with my husband, then my kids, then whoever else the Lord burdens me for. Today was a sweet time over my husband and kids mainly. By the time Jason walked downstairs lugging Salem, I felt ready, excited to see Sa Man, and ready to start my day.

My day. Yes. Well, I even took a few moments to prepare a nice little schedule for the day b/c this was the only day of the week with no plans. I was happy to lavish time on the kids, not worrying about cleaning or cooking or anything. Just time at home today. I had decided to go for a messy project - PAINTING. It was great fun. We used all kinds of brushes and animal and fun shaped sponges and even little sponge rollers with little shapes on them like stars and hands. It was great fun and a great mess but with Salem napping soundly, I loved my time with the little ladies.

From there things got a little testy. The girls just took turns throwing tantrums, getting jealous, fighting, whining, you name it. But. Yes, BUT. I have to say I felt ready. I felt prepared for them as their mommy, their counselor, their mediator, their trainer in righteousness. I cannot say this about everyday. But I can say it about today. And even though their hearts didn't change instantly and we continued and persisted in discipline and correction and sitting down together face to face to walk through what happened yet again, it was okay. Because my heart was okay. Because I do have to say when it gets all "crazy land" (which is what I like to exclaim when who knows what has gone down), it is usually because the mama is crazy inside. Not so uncommon, I will confess publicly to all of you. BUT God is good. And His gospel is real. Which means, when I tell the Lord - I need you to be my Strength today. That is what you promise me and I need that today. Please help me. When I confess that and submit myself to him, He is familiar to me in the moments of crisis and He establishes peace for me. And in that I can avoid crazy land and find myself still being who I am called to be.

A little less sleep? It's worth it.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Favorite posts on Small Belle Speaks #2

Post Title: Wet Cuffs (posted 10-4-08)

i wasn't so sure about it
was even a little angry about it
i was ready to trade it all in for roaches and mosquitos
and heat meant only for steam rooms
and just leave without my bags
i could get all new stuff and
some scavenger would move into our abandoned abode
it kept me bitter and mentally estranged
for about four weeks,
coming before it's welcome and all
poor august wasn't so appreciative
to have it's studly reputation ruined
i mean, did it have to be such a little mouch
when it had so much attention every year already?
reminds me of my girls swooping in on each other's toys
and dashing off, gleefully holding their victory
up over their heads
just as this weather has held it's victory clouds up over
our summer clothes and laughed a little at us
i guess it's fall
because elias and i stomped the crunch out of fallen leaves today
with his smiling green smiling rainboots
while my girls toddled about in pink sweaters and
wispy curls tossed by the wind
i looked out on wavering evergreens today,
rustling in the feel of the new season
the hastas were bowing down
in submission to a damp earth
and i felt cold
from the wet cuffs of my jeans sticking to my bare ankles
which won't dry now until july
i knew i was going to be okay with it though
a couple of weeks ago
in one single day it was decided for me by two blessings
i had lost my favorite sweater
losing things - not strange for me
i've lost many things, the most recent one being
my birth certificate
along with my entire
"important documents folder"
the silly beloved little thing popped out from under
a pile of scrapbooking supplies one day
imagine that
(i claim to be organized by the way)
and later that day i found myself ordering at starbucks
a sign in orange announced the return of the glorious pumpkin spice latte
my heart was changed
i knew i could do it
wet cuffs and all i felt a renewed okay-ness
maybe it was bribery
maybe i had been outwitted by fall's finest gameplay
but by my choice or manipulation
here i am actually looking forward to what comes down to
really really bad weather for a really really long time ;)
i can almost feel the mush of pumpkin seeds on my fingertips
and the fireplace blazing a burn onto my back
and our huddled bodies keeping warm as we walk streets together
fall is here
and after quite a relational battle,
i think we're reconciled with our differences and
i have somehow, miraculously, come to feel that i like it again

Monday, July 26, 2010

Favorite Posts on Small Belle Speaks #1

Doing a series this week of my favorite posts since I have started this blog. Not sure what got me thinking about doing it but whatever it is, I thank "it" because I enjoyed reading over a good chunk of my last year and a half of thoughts. Thought I might post a few that meant the most to me and some that did the best job of hitting exactly what I was trying to say. I'll post one each day this week...

Title: I go cave woman. (posted 6-18-08)

“If everyone in the world was like me we would still be living in a caveman society.” This is what I told Jason as we were driving the other day. He’s not surprised when I say random things like that because I am perpetually random, but he wanted to know what I meant. Here’s what I meant.

We had been in Seattle, coming back from dinner at Purple CafĂ© and Wine Bar, incidentally my new favorite, and we were winding through the streets of downtown. I was noticing the complicated bridge structures and in the blip of just like two seconds it hit me that I would be too overwhelmed and too completely lazy to actually think up, and never mind build, this sort of road system. I don’t even think I could have come up making a long straight road over the course of my lifetime. I’m really serious.

I’m smiling right now just thinking about this button in my brain. It’s the “I’m too tired to think about this” button and I hit it like five times a day and when I do my brain just shuts off. I might still be listening to you but I’m gazing right through you and getting a crunched eyebrow look. I might still be reading that book but really my eyes are running down the page without computing one word. When something gets too hard for me to think about I can feel that limit, literally, and I can either decide that I care enough to go through it or I push the button. I really like that button, by the way. I’m kind of glad it’s there but I feel like I need a nurse to tell me I have a limit on it, like when I had a morphine drip on hospital bed rest.

The times I choose not to push the button are usually people oriented. That’s good for all of you reading who might feel slighted by my button pushing. Yes, it’s true, I usually actually hate the button when it comes to thinking about our hearts. I want to get to the bottom of what is going on in you and me and sally smith. Recently me and two gals were talking and one of them was trying to figure out what to do with an obstacle in her life. And even with one of us in the room being an actual counselor by profession, it was difficult to get to the root of what was going on so that she could walk in freedom. This sort of thinking gets me really excited and sometimes it’s nice because you can use other people’s brains to sort of lily pad jump through ideas and it may take you to some thoughts or conclusions you may not have come to without sort of a group think mentality. Without the lily pads, I might have pushed the button, masked by a “I’ll pray for you” sort of thing.

I always tease Jason about being smarter than me. “Okay, Northwestern,” I say if he gets something that I don’t. Whenever the girls do something really brilliant I tell him they have his brain. I actually really like that his brain works better than mine. I don’t know what it would be like the other way around – having a spouse like me, but he seems to like the way I think and what I say…so I think we’re good. He’s just so good at figuring things out. I think it’s a temptation though for me to get lazy because our married life has access to his brain and so I rely on him to get things done that make my head hurt. Like a little thing – we have two kids’ gates downstairs so the girls have to stay in the living room/kitchen area with me. A bunch of times people (mostly other kids) have plowed through the gate accidentally and it falls down. My response is like – Jason will fix it. But if Jason wasn’t around, I might actually have to figure it out. Is anyone relating?? Other button pushing moments: using the grill, handling our budget and bills, fixing issues w/ the computer (big one!), anything involving something called a “tool,” setting up TIVO (but I overcame that one and now I record my own shows – ha ha!), hanging pictures, etc. You get the picture. I go cavewoman.

The issue though is that I check out when life gets hard for me. The heat comes and I wither and push my button instead of being that tree planted by streams of water that Isaiah and Psalms talks about. I think this whole thing was brought home most to me when I got pregnant. Literally brought home. Terribly ill twelve weeks and on bedrest another twelve. It was the first time, in such an obvious everyday kind of way, that I felt like I couldn’t push the button. If my body was getting in the way and I wanted to escape it, I couldn’t. If it was hard to understand nutrition because I had always just eaten what I wanted, I couldn’t avoid it because with a twin pregnancy I needed double the good stuff. If I wanted to go do something for myself during weeks 22-34, even just run an errand, I had to push through the temptation and keep flat on the couch. And when all the crazy anxious thoughts came about what might happen if the girls came at 27 weeks and how their lungs might not work and my body might have an impossible time recovering because it had been stretched to the limits…I couldn’t check out. It wasn’t enough. I had to pray and take captive those thoughts to Christ. The Lord wouldn’t let me go cavewoman. The button didn’t work.

So now the button kind of works again. Granted Kanah and Grace keep the button hidden from me most of the time, those little mama-mouchers ;). Being a mama means dealing with life the moment it is there. So that has been good for me. But there are times when I see an opportunity to check out…and I take it a lot of the time because when it comes down to it…I do what I want to do. We all do. We take only what we have to take and deal with what we have to deal with and we let a lot slide otherwise. At least that is what I do.

I’ve gone cavewoman like four times since starting this entry early today. That is really hilarious! At some point when I was writing this I was like – it’s just not making sense or coming together. I think I might just shorten it or not figure out what the full circle is. Too much thinking. And then the Lord kept me tuned in long enough to reveal how he put children into my life to deal with this cavewoman side of me. To show me that sometimes I need to work it out with him instead of escaping. And that in other times it is okay to just be really grateful for my smart, helpful husband Jason and all my lily pad partners when it comes to working through things in my life.

Now that I am seeing all that though, my “witching hour” (Jason’s term) is approaching. 10:00 is sixteen minutes away. And about this time of day when all my responsibilities are done, the girls are in bed and life isn’t throwing anything my way, it is finally appropriate to go crawl into my cave. Goodnight everyone.

Friday, July 23, 2010

I'm a Character - Part 2

(Part 2 of some thoughts on Donald Miller's book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.)

Remember the day that you met your spouse, collided into that stranger, or you suddenly lost your job?

Those are what Miller would call “inciting incidents.” I am connecting quotes from a longer segment but this is the short of what he says: “An inciting incident is an event that forces your character to move; it’s the thing that throws your character into the story...It’s how you get them to do something and the doorway through which they can’t return…otherwise the story never happens.”

I thought this idea of forcing the character to move to be very interesting. Maybe because it’s a bit offensive. I mean, we would all like to think that we are motivated and self-assured and we can do what we want in life whenever we want to and that we are not lazy or living meaninglessly. But alas I think for most human beings, we must be forced to move, to change. Even the will power for the goals we have spent time scribbling meticulously is weak and must be renewed daily or else we forget and they fade away.

And when he says forced, he means going through the door of an unexpected circumstance. Something comes into our lives – a person, an issue, a trial, a choice, a change – and we must now react and live out a response or change direction. We might not have chosen it. It might appear good or bad; we might call it a blessing or a curse. But it’s a circumstance and the purpose is to change us. It’s meant to force. Meant to move us. Meant to propel us off the internal and external couches in our lives.

I just smiled because when I wrote that I had a visual in my head of like a beat up frat house or something, with a couch randomly hanging out in the front yard. We’ve got internal couches in our hearts that we sit on and don’t deal with our thoughts or convictions or beliefs and we just sit there. And we’ve got external couches which are like the times we do nothing when we clearly should act and when we take the sidelines when God has said to go and be courageous.

I hate my worn couches in my house and my raggedy couches in my yard.

I hate that they have those indentions that make them sag in the middle. I need to ask the Lord what I have been sitting on, in my heart and in my life. What does he need to change in my heart and in my living?

I need to pay attention to the inciting incidents in our lives right now, trying to force me to move. To grow. To see the Lord. To become more like him. Do I let the incident totally throw off my “quiet time” and I stop praying and go all wild inside with worry and anxiety? Or do I allow this incident to move me to trust? Move me to believe upon who God is? Move me to a courageous faith that God can take this mysterious, unknown, scary circumstance and use it to mold our story into something new, something for his glory and our good – good as he define it.

These are the circumstances the Lord has allowed. The inciting incidents that in some cases he has allowed and in some cases he has written. He is sovereign. Whether they are sufferings or blessings, He is fully aware they have come into our lives and His purpose is to incite, to create, to propel his pure desire of redemption.

These are the very opportunities that give the Holy Spirit a chance to move some furniture.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Sacred Marriage Ch. 2

For Jason: Know that it’s my hope that God will have his way with me. Thanks for your grace.

There’s so much value in knowing how to communicate. In learning how to respond to your spouse. In tweaking the tone in your voice and the body language you wear. In thinking, gosh, even a split second before speaking. And in not throwing things across the room to make a point – I definitely think it was beneficial to learn that I was just looking for some negative attention there :). There are books and books out there on all that marriage stuff that I truly believe are helpful.

But more than helpful is one truth that is the most powerful for my marriage if I just daily wrapped my whole mind, body and spirit around it. I just wish I could breathe it in with a spiritual oxygen mask so I am sustained with truth, and not lies, as I breathe in and exhale out with only a renewed mind.

God gives us a gospel picture of marriage in that he calls himself our husband. He entered into a marriage, a covenant, just like we have. Except the bride he picked looked a liiiiitle different than how we planned of and dreamed of our own spouse. He pursues a whorish, adulterous, stubborn, faithless, rebellious, rejecting, straying, ignorant, careless, wicked people…his Bride. Interesting choice, if you think about it.

This is depicted in most of Scripture through the covenant he made with Israel. Some people often bring up the point that God was showing favoritism when he made Israel his “chosen people.” But it’s clear in Scripture that Israel just made one big fool of herself over and over and over and I’m kind of glad I wasn’t the one that he chose to help the whole world understand that no one is faithful except him. I don’t think it’s much to puff up your chest about. And I can’t puff up my chest either because it’s kind of the point that I am supposed to realize the depth of my rebellion when I read about Israel and I am supposed to see the lengths God goes to to restore our relationship no matter what I do to him.

Hosea is a man God calls to “Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness” and the entire book of the Bible is a story of her straying from the marriage and him faithfully remaining. It’s a picture of our relationship with the Lord. (Poor Hosea). We didn’t start out pure on our wedding day with Jesus either. We came down the aisle adulterers in our hearts. And God put his righteousness on us, just like we put on a white wedding gown.

Derek Webb describes us this way:
i am a @#!*% i do confess
but i put you on just like a wedding dress
and i run down the aisle
I’m a prodigal with no way home
but i put you on just like a ring of gold
and i run down the aisle to you

so could you love this child
though i don’t trust you to provide
with one hand in a pot of gold
and with the other in your side
i am so easily satisfied
by the call of lovers less wild
that i would take a little cash
over your very flesh and blood

So God marries us, his bride. He takes our sick hearts and gives us new ones (which Ezekiel describes as him taking our heart of stone and giving us a heart of flesh). And he leads and pulls and draws out our relationship with him. He does EVERYTHING in our marriage with him. Even the good that comes out of my heart for him, for his glory, is because he put a new heart in me, gave me a Holy Spirit to show me how to respond to him and then literally gave me the strength to carry out what pleases him. Talk about a one sided relationship.

I literally want to CRY. This is so lovely that it pains me. As a side note right now as I squint at my screen here at Starbucks, how do people not want that to be their story? Who would not want that to be true? I mean, the only thing I can think is that people might feel insulted by that description of who they are. But come on, we all know it’s true.

Anyway, just thinking of that extreme picture of a one-sided relationship I have a couple thoughts. One (and please know that Jason actually doesn’t do this, thank goodness), wouldn’t it be annoying if you carried your marriage with all your efforts and continual forgiveness and constant confessions of your own sins (and on and on) and your spouse never did any of that and thought they were so great? That would be beyond frustrating. I have to chill out just thinking of it. That seems like it would be the hardest marriage.

Well, that’s us. We (Christians) kind of get the idea that we’re amazing and we’re busy being the “bride” of Christ pretty well. And we puff up when we pray a lot or know a verse before anyone else or fill in the blank at the end of your pastor’s sentence. Gross. Ugg. Barf. NO. He. Does. Eeeeeeverything. Without him we can do nothing (John 15). Paul says, “What a wretch am I. Who will rescue me from this body of death? But thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

So think about your marriage right now. Think about what things you think you contribute and what you wish your spouse would. Now think about what I just wrote here about your covenant with Jesus. He does everything. You do nothing. Now how RIDICULOUS is it when we get @#!*% off about our spouses not pulling their load? (Just think about what question generally without thinking specifically, especially if it’s something major or detrimental because Scripture does speak to those things differently). On average, our gripes are things that I am sure the Lord is going, “Seriously?” Because he could have a gripe list from the North Pole to the South. But he forgave the list from one iceberg to the other. And my list the size of my hand is growing roots of bitterness in me like no other. IT. IS RIDICULOUS.

When we do that we do NOT understand our marriage to Christ. We just don’t. And even though right now I am writing about this and I get it and the Holy Spirit has revealed these spiritual truths to me and they dwell richly in me, I am still a sinner who bends in my thinking on days I am not alert. And I grow my gripe list and I let my bitter roots grow and I withhold love and it’s all just RIDICULOUS. And on those days I have forgotten. Just like the Israelites. Hosea 13:6 says, “When I fed them, they were satisfied; when they were satisfied, they became proud; then they forgot me.”

Ephesians 5:25-27 says “Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…”

I John 3:16 says, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.”

Being totally absolutely planted, rooted, and watered in the truth that my relationship with God looks like him being completely sacrificial should change 3 things:

1. It should change how I view obeying him. He did everything for me. He gave everything up. He died for me. So in view of his mercy, I should be willing to be a living sacrifice as well. In view of who he is and what he has done for us, “we make it our goal to please him.” (2 Co 5:9) And he is faithful to show us how. Because he’s already done it.
2. It should change how I view my relationships with other people. Jesus just gave his life away. In him, I shouldn’t just see the world and the people in it as for me, but I should see my life as for them, as a light and a depiction of Christ’s workmanship in my heart.
3. It should absolutely change the way I see my marriage and my husband. 2 Co 5:15 says “Those who lives should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” I was dead and now I am alive and I owe it all to Jesus. And it pleases him for me to now take my life and lay it down for others, especially and foremost in my marriage. And in this way my life and our marriage becomes this light that points a sinful world to a reconciling Creator.

So on a practical level. When Jason doesn’t apologize first, I should still step out humbly and recognize my own crap. And ask his forgiveness. And if he doesn’t recognize his junk drawer of sins, I should be patient pray for him so that his heart can experience the freedom that mine does by getting it out. And when I sin against him I don’t justify it or ignore it or make it small. I need to have sober judgement and consider how my sin affects him. And take that to him. And reconcile. And when my list of expectations a mile long of “who my husband should be” is haunting my mind, I must recognize that God is gracious with us, abounding in love and compassion. I must recognize that God has been crazy patient with me and my slow progress to respond to his Spirit. And that God is my God and not my husband. I must recognize that being in this marriage is not about absorbing from my husband all that I need for life, but using my marriage as an avenue to lean on God and learn who He is for me.

And I’m not saying you never communicate or care for each other or ever ever talking about any of your needs down to the little things like needing a date night. I’m not saying something black and white that turns you into a doormat or a silent spouse who doesn’t work through things.

But I am saying that almost for certain most of us don’t view our marriage for grounds to give ourselves away, like Jesus demonstrated for us. I’m pretty sure that living the gospel first with our spouse is the hardest city on a hill ministry we’ve got. It’s easy to love the Sally Janes down the street because we’re not looking to them for what we think we need. But giving away our lives selflessly to our spouses? That’s when we know if this Jesus stuff is real. And if we really have experienced the transforming truth that he gave away his life for us and we’re forever changed by his grace.

Thomas says, “If my marriage contradicts my message, I have sabotaged the goal of my life: to be pleasing to Christ and to faithfully fulfill the ministry of reconciliation.”

I am desperate to live this. I am desperate to scatter the lies that laugh at this. And I know as I die to making it all about me, I gain life. This. Is. True. And beyond lovely.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I'm a character - Part 1

I’m reading another book. I milked Cold Tangerines for like five months because I pretty much love exactly that kind of book and can’t find many of them. The kind of non-fiction book where each chapter is basically an essay on a particular story in the author’s life where through connecting events and conversations they learned something new, and who they are was tweaked by what eventually came full circle. The chapters were like four pages long and that’s all I would allow myself to read and then put it down until I wanted to read the next time.

Then Jason gave me A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, by Donald Miller. Thank you, Jason. I didn’t discipline my reading quota this time and gorged myself on his scrumptious little chapters until I found myself on like page 170 and wanted to cry because it would end on page 250. My girls get a piece of candy from something I called the “treat train” every time they go potty with dry underwear (can you hear me chanting “chugga chugga chugga chugga TREAT TRAIN!!” from the bathroom floor?) And about once a day I feel deserving of my own version of having dry undies and devour a reesy cup. I would really like to eat the entire train because I actually probably deserve all of that plus like 500 mommy medals. But I eat one a day. It’s kind of like that. Now I am back to just taking in a daily treat of uno capitulo and putting it down until the next time.

So the gist of the book is that these movie guys approach Miller to make a movie about his life and as they are piecing it all together he basically has all of these realizations about what a story actually is and how his life lacks them. And I’m not done with the book, but along the way his life goes less from being stories in his head to stories happening in his life. So I found some takeaways that have me thinking. And more than just thinking, I hope, since that is kind of the whole point of his realizations anyway. My posts always end up being too long so I might post my thoughts over a couple of posts.

Here’s one of the first quotes I underlined and appreciated enough to re-type for you. “In nearly every story, the protagonist is transformed. He’s a jerk at the beginning and nice at the end, or a coward at the beginning and brave at the end. If the character doesn’t change, the story hasn’t happened yet. And if story is derived from real life, if story is just a condensed version of life, then life itself may be designed to change us, so that we evolve from one kind of person to another.”

So, I am a character who has been written into life. And Miller says, and I agree, that evidence of being in a story (a good story I guess) is that my character is changing. Kelly is changing. I am evolving internally, from one kind of person to another. It’s helpful for me to think of the “not” version of that. I guess a character who goes through situations and incidents and happenings but stubbornly or perhaps fearfully or perhaps selfishly refuses to allow themselves to change. Maybe that looks like me fighting my own story. I am a wife and a mom and right now I don’t have a job, but actually I am so busy with purpose that it’s crazy overwhelming. And in the midst of what I am called to be doing, maybe I just complain about it or fight it or avoid it. If I do that, I will not evolve inside. I will not be changed by God. I will not really be living a story. I’ll be spitting on it. I really cannot change some of the big storylines of my life right now (you know, wife, mom, staying at home to raise my kiddos). Not that I want to! But what I mean is that sometimes huge parts of our stories are written and we cannot change them but we can let them change us. That’s the part we can resist or let happen. And then there are smaller storylines that I can step out into, like relationships and conversations and pursuits and smaller callings. So I want to see the written stories and the ones I have freedom to “write” in my life as things God means to use for God, to change me, make me different, to make me go from jerk to something redeemed, coward to one who can even help others “fear not”.

Part 2 thoughts to come and for those reading/following Sacred Marriage with me, my chapter 2 post is coming Friday and I intend to be more faithful with posting once a week.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Like one being taught

Sometimes you get something stuck in your head and like a recurring dream, your mind just keeps settling back on it. This doesn’t mean it’s always necessarily good or bad. I guess sometimes we get obsessed with an idea. Sometimes we’re distracted in an anxious way. Sometimes we’ve got gluttony issues with really wanting to steal from the potty training treats (maybe that’s just me). And sometimes it’s something more. Like someone is trying to tell you something. Because it doesn’t feel like you are the one talking in your head.

I just happened to be reading 1 Corinthians 2 today. There’s an entire section in there about wisdom from the Spirit. In it, I saw three purposes of the Holy Spirit and for sure there are many more.

The Spirit is how God reveals himself to us.
The Spirit comprehends the thoughts of God.
We have the Spirit so that we “might understand the things freely given us by God.”

The Spirit is always with me. Teaching me. Talking to me. Reminding me. Almost everytime I read a verse about the Spirit, it’s about me listening and him communicating.

I came across a verse in Isaiah 50:4 the other day that strengthened me about how to continue to be a supportive wife and friend by God’s grace and exactly what that looks like. “The sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught.” This is what the Lord can do, and does. He can give us abilities and motivations we do not have and he does this over a daily process where we are students of his teaching.

I AM LIKE ONE BEING TAUGHT. Do you see yourself there too? Are you like one being taught? Do you feel like someone is wakening your ear to listen?

On a practical level I feel like the Spirit is always communicating a number of things to me but there’s a new one in the mix. He keeps saying one word to me over and over and I haven’t exactly responded to it yet, so maybe that’s why, for now, it’s just one word.


I cannot get it out of my head. I cannot stop thinking about it throughout my week. When I see people’s faces. When I am in community with believers especially. When I think about what I am going to do with my kids that week.

I do not know what I am supposed to do with this word. And honestly I think it’s pretty gracious that he’s just given me A word and not a twelve page document charting out an undertaking that might take the breath out of my chest like I might die if I have to go through with it. It’s like he’s working the value of this word deep into my core. And reminding me that this is what Jesus came to do. This is what form his love took for the world.

Matthew 20:28 “the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

The only other thoughts that have begun to formulate in my mind around this the past few days are that my life as a stay at home mom who loves Jesus should look different. It’s not all about my lovely little schedule and it’s not even all about my kids. I mean, in one light, it is…because God has first called me to give my life away to Him by giving my life away to my husband and kids at home in this season. But I think we can get stuck in that bubble and it can become a bit like we’re knitting an idealistic world at home. What I mean is that I want my children more and more with age and maturity to also learn that life is about giving our lives away like Jesus did. I want them to get their hands in that truth too.

So I don’t know where this is headed. And that’s okay. It’s not like I have an empty day every day and I need to run out and fill up all my hours. I’m already maxed with loving on my three little ones and somehow, slowly, graciously, accompanied by a growing heart burden, I see him kneeding in a new piece of our lives that he wants to make part of how we live.

All I know is that if I keep listening I bet the Spirit will keep talking about this. Because that is what he does. And my heart is perking up. And my ears are being awakened morning by morning. And I am like one being taught.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Sacred Marriage Ch. 1

I used to think it happened to people when they were literally on a mountaintop. With blue skies and the grand view kind of spinning around them in a 360. With a journal below them with written page after written page. I used to think it happened because of lots of time alone, space from whatever or whomever, like a lot of the greats have been known for. I used to think it was because of sitting. Because of how long they read. Because of how long they prayed the change would happen to them.

How do people change with the Lord? How do our spiritual hearts inside of us get transformed, looking more and more like Jesus, if we will let him?

Change does happen on mountaintops. And in coffee shops over a three hour quiet time. And on trips to Africa. And on a retreat all alone. And over time.

But that's kind of where I stopped in my belief about how people change years ago. I saw jobs and being a stay at home mom and even relationships, even a marriage as possible obstacles from becoming who I thought God wanted me to become inside.

In chapter one of Sacred Marriage, Gary Thomas made a really interesting point that resonated with me about marriage, when we think of this idea of how people change to become more like Jesus. He said "Most of the Christian classics were written by monks and nuns for munks 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 think part of me used to think about lots of things this way. That I didn't want things to "get in the way" of what I was supposed to do for the Lord. I saw myself less as someone who needed to be broken over and over again and more as an instrument that the Lord would use for great things and the world (and not necessarily my neighborhood) was my oyster. The Lord uses us for his exact purposes, yes, but the subtle difference I am exposing is my view of self. Am I great…or is he great?

Thomas goes on to say that he was talking to his brother about marriage and he said, "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 more like Jesus, I can't imagine any better thing to do than to get married. Being married forces you to face some character issues you'd never have to face otherwise."

I can say for sure that ten years ago when Jason and I started dated my thinking was not exactly in this box. And if I said, "yeah I believe that," I pretty much had no idea what I was talking about. Because if I really think about it I think I believed much more that my change came about by burying my face in a three hour quiet time and then wandering through my days and relationships as I wished with a light heart.

And lest I am completely, totally misunderstood here, I am not saying not to do a quiet time or that the Word of God is not the most life-changing thing you will ever encounter. It is. I am saying that I did not see the Word the same before marriage because I did not see myself. I did not see how much I needed the Word. I did not read it the same, I did not need it the same, I did not beg God for it to be true the same way. I was in a different season, a different place. There are many days now that I look back and wonder, Was I more serious about my faith then? Because I did not experience these same inner struggles and did not see my sin come tumbling out like I do these days. I just think I am finding out a glimpse of what has been way down within me all along. God says in Romans 3 that there is no one righteous, not even one. Maybe my sin wasn’t as obvious ten years ago to me, but I also didn’t believe that verse as much as I do now, and praise God as passionately that grace exists.

There’s a pressing nature of marriage that pushes on a nerve that’s always been there. We’ve always been damaged, but the pressing exposes the need for Jesus and the gratitude as he daily heals that place. There’s something about not being able to escape from yourself and all of your tendencies because of an ever-present refining circumstance (like marriage) that forces us to see our need for the gospel. This is why marriage is so exposing. This is why we either change in marriage or else we become what we never thought we could hate more. I see this is my marriage and every other marriage around me. We are either changing with Jesus into something more like him, or we are pushing it away and becoming what makes us sick inside.

A devotional I did recently called How People Change described it as “heat” coming into our life through either blessings or trials and depending on whether or not our hearts went to the cross to respond to that circumstance, we either produce thorns or fruit in our life.

A last quote from Thomas I will include here says, “Any situation that causes me to confront my selfishness has enormous spiritual value, and I slowly began to understand that the real purpose of marriage may not be happiness as much as it is holiness.”

I just had my thirty second birthday and what did I do with it? With my busy, demanding life with three tiny children, I just asked for a day to myself. I wanted a break. I was dying inside for that mountain. For that place I could go and not hear anyone and not have to respond to any needs or worry about anyone. I wanted quiet and to not be known or recognized. And I wanted to write. And drink a gallon of coffee. And to just open my Bible and let it fall over me. And for certain it was helpful and spiritually encouraging and rejuvenating. There was change with the Lord there.

But I am not promised that kind of escape. That’s one day in like 200 that I got to be alone all day like that and pretend like I am nun in a quiet convent. But in marriage there are constant conversations, subtle differences in insights and perceptions, there are responses and needs and expectations. And it is a constant reminder that I cannot escape how I am bent, in the sense that I can’t stop the inner battle. But I can escape, in a different sense, by living moment by moment, conversation by conversation, in the Spirit’s guidance.

I was talking to my friend the other day who loves Jesus with all her heart and is an introvert off the charts. She has two very small children and her words were something like I just can’t get that alone time. It’s very hard to find that time in the Word at this stage but…we must. We must. And when it is actually hilariously impossible with the kids waking up at 5 or 6 and crazy circumstances throughout the day and no naps…we still must. We must practice the presence of the Lord. It is then that HE IS ABLE TO CHANGE US, as our flesh rises up and threatens to take over our very being and we CALL OUT to Jesus, who is mighty to save, and he fights our fight for us, as we lay down our will. There have been days that I have longed for that three hour walk with the Lord to give over all my burdens and instead it was this conversation throughout the day, with three toddlers huddling around me, and the Word of God on my tongue.

Marriage (as well as motherhood for certain) has the potential to be the most life changing thing I ever give myself to. All that happens on the “mountain” or in the coffee shop or on a long walk or early in the morning or just away matters greatly because my heart is encouraged. But I know if my heart is being changed by the Lord when the conversations and differences and demands for selflessness come up in my home all the day long. This is when flesh rises up to defend itself against the spirit. And in that heated clash of wills within me, I learn what is deep within the wellspring of my heart and what ground God is getting in me. So I praise God for the change on mountains and I praise him for the change in heat like marriage because of the brokenness. Because of the victories, though painful as they may be. And because of the change.