Thursday, September 30, 2010

Take a deep breath!

I have a lot of inner chaos. I want to be the best mom ever and spend lots of time with my kids, but feel guilty that I'm ignoring the loads of laundry, cooking and cleaning that needs to be done. SO... I try to be an awesome housewife and have a relaxing "haven" for Matt to come home to, but I feel guilty that the boys are entertaining themselves while I try to get everything done. I want to have a servant's heart and help those in my church and community when they have a need. I want to go with the flow and be available at a moment's notice to help them unpack, keep them company, bring them a meal. But I feel like my family suffers when I do it. They don't get enough attention from me and my house falls apart. SO... I try to fully invest myself in my family first. Of all the people God has placed in my life, I want to show them that they are the most important to me. But, they're a full time job and after a (short) while I start to feel disconnected from my friends and like I'm not involved in what's going on around me. I begin to think maybe I'm being selfish to be so inwardly focused that I can't see past these four walls. SO... I get antsy to be more involved at our church... do community groups, women's Bible study, hang out with the couples we're getting to know more. Get to know some of the girls I hang out with on a deeper, more spiritual level. BUT... I long for more quality time with Matt and the boys... just us... as a family. It seems like the moments we have together to just relax and enjoy each other are rare. BUT... I want to spend time with our extended families... both sides... I think all of the above are good things and if I could accomplish all of them, maybe I could near pefection! Perhaps I could write a book and become a millionaire. Ahh... but wait, I forgot to add that to my above list of things to accomplish. That might cause a glitch... Breathe in... breathe out. There's this impossible word always looming over my head: BALANCE. It seems impossible to me because I don't do it well. At all. I've said before... I tend to be extreme. When I get one thing figured out, I give it my all and everything else suffers. I thought women were supposed to be good at multi-tasking!?!? I have wild swings to correct problems and end up creating new ones. How do I get the pendulum to slow down and dangle somewhere gently in the middle? How am I supposed to be the perfect, well-balanced person that I want to be? I should probably start by realizing I'll never be perfect. Gulp! Realizing I'll always be sub-par is a little hard for me to swallow. Ah, but wait! I can get around this one! I AM perfect and not sub-par at all... well, at least when you bring Christ into the equation. I am covered in his blood and stand before him spotless. Really? Spotless? Like totally acceptable to God? I've always struggled with this one. I'm always trying to earn God's love... even though I've always been taught that salvation can never be earned and is by grace through faith alone. It's hard for me to swallow that I don't have to pay the consequences for my sin. Tit for tat, ya know? I do something wrong, something bad happens. That's how it works. I do something good, something good happens. I read my Bible, pray, etc... God loves me more. Horrible theology. I would put anyone in there place who came up and tried to pass this rubbish off as truth, yet I live it all the time. No wonder the Gospel isn't just for the unsaved. I need to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ everyday. I need to proclaim the gift of salvation to myself all the time. I am in constant need of a reminder of who I am without Christ and who I am with him. Thank goodness I can dwell on the latter part. I am blameless and pure because of what he did for me. My good friend Katie and I just had a conversation last week about how we used to think of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) as more of an elementary part of our Christian walk. We thought of them as the outline to salvation... the story behind the cross. As we "matured" we moved on to Paul and his writings. More and more lately we've been brought back to Christ. Not just the Gospel message, but the teachings from the son of God himself. Why do we tend to look past them? So, another baby step in my Christian walk. I'm finishing up studying Proverbs and then it's back to the basics. The basics are essential and foundational... not just something to address and move on from. I want to immerse myself in the Gospels for a while. Remind myself of the teachings of the Master. Delight myself in the mystery, beauty and power of the Good News. Whoa! Major rabbit trail... but maybe there' s something to all of it. Can the Gospel help me be more balanced? Well, maybe. One thing I've noticed is that when I'm thinking more frequently on what Christ did for me, I tend to see things a little differently. Like... "Holy cow! I'm a really bad person and I can't believe he chose to save me from eternal damnation. He is so generous! He is so loving! He is so merciful! Wow! I didn't deserve it and now I stand before him as his beloved, blameless child." Now THAT is a gift from someone I can trust and love in return. And I begin to lean more on him. I pray more. I keep life in perspective more. I notice he's guiding my steps. Hmm... that might be a good way to approach balance. Have God help me make my decisions. That's a brilliant thought! :) So what would that look like? I don't know. Maybe I'll listen to the Holy Spirit and some things on my "good list" will happen and some won't. Maybe he'll guide me as he faithfully does when I seek him and I'll choose the right things to say yes and no to and the best way to use my time. I've always kind of lived with this unspoken motto guding the way I live: The Gospel... BUT life still happens. I think it's time to rearrange my thinking and my motto: Life happens... BUT the Gospel!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Losing Steam...

For the last few months, I've been so excited about life in general. I've enjoyed motherhood, my marriage and my relationship with God. It's been one of those rare times in my life when things just flowed naturally. I read the Bible just because I wanted to, not because I knew I needed to. I walked around the house with a spring in my step, whistling as I did laundry, changed diapers and cooked dinner. I found myself not getting frustrated with Matt very often (I love him with all of my heart, but he wakes up so stinkin' perky, that I usually have to try to balance him out with some grumpiness. :)) Over the last few weeks I've felt this surreal feeling begin to fade. I've tried grasping at the few straws that remain in hopes of holding on to this feeling forever, but, alas, I think I grasp in vain. As I laid in bed last night thinking, I told Matt that I needed something to write about. I actually have a million things I want to write about right now... things that I'm learning, but I have nothing conclusive or worthwhile to say about them yet. I'm at the beginning stages and I think it's going to be a while before I've got anything figured out enough to put pen to paper and make any sort of sense of what God's teaching me. But I want to be learning. I told God this morning that I want PASSION and PRODUCTIVITY. I feel like if I had those two things, I would get back most of what I feel like I'm losing right now. But how? My old method was to try harder. Set up a time for daily Bible study and prayer that became less and less passionate and turned out to be the exact opposite of what I was going for. My heart becomes disconnected and legalism sets in. Not really up for that right now... But, I'm not really willing to just sit back and watch all that the Lord has done in me recently fizzle out... So, I got up a little earlier this morning. Had some time to get prepared for the day. Showered, sorted dirty laundry, read a chapter in Proverbs, checked my e-mail and facebook, and now I'm writing. I like feeling like I get a chance to breathe before the boys wake up. When the Lord first revived my heart, I was staying up after Silas' early morning feeding and getting ready, working out, and just getting prepared for my day. Now, I usually get up in time to get ready, but it leaves me feeling like I'm playing catch up all day. I have a hard time accomplishing anything but taking care of the boys. No laundry, cleaning, errands, food... and then the house starts to feel chaotic because I'm always two steps behind. You can only ignore the mountains of laundry and lack of food for so long... When I get to this point, sitting down to read my Bible becomes low on the priority list because I'm barely keeping my head above water. That's been the last few weeks in a nutshell. So maybe my passion for God would get a boost if I actually had time to think clearly instead of "trying harder." I thought I'd never say this... but maybe cleanliness really IS next to godliness. (If you saw my home even on it's "clean" days, you'd understand that I'm using the word cleanliness very loosely here.) But I'm thinking maybe there's something to having my life organized enough that I'm able to have some still, quiet moments before the Lord. So maybe "Organization is next to godliness" is a better phrase or maybe even "Organization provides time for godlinesss" in my case. And maybe if I'm organized I can take better care of my family too. I know no other way to do this than to get up a little earlier. Sigh! So... less snoozing it is! This is my first attempt at getting back on track. We'll see how it goes... I'm only one day in and already I'm feeling more refreshed and excited about what the day has in store! Here's to learning and growing more!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

So I must not be the only one...

In response to my recent post on prayer, my childhood friend, Amanda, recommended a book called, A Praying Life by Paul E. Miller. You know he's gotta have something semi-intelligent and engaging to say with a last name like that! :) So, I've been reading it lately and let me just tell you, I like it! It's fresh and real and could actually help me overcome some of my many prayer "issues." I don't agree with everything he says, but um... I'm kind of hard to get along with. I rarely agree with everything anyone says. ;) I'm going to write several posts about various things that have been eye-opening to me, but I wanted to begin with an excerpt that stated much more eloquently what I was trying to put into words in my last post. He begins his book with story about his teenage daughter who had lost her contact in the forest floor on a family camping trip. He said, "Let's pray," and her bitter response was, "What good does it do? I've been praying for Kim to speak, and she still isn't speaking." Kim is her younger sister who has autism and is unable to speak. He goes on to say this: Prayer was no mere formality for Ashley. She had taken God at his word and asked that he would let Kim speak. But nothing happened. Kim's muteness was testimony to a silent God. Prayer, it seemed, doesn't work. Few of us have Ashley's courage to articulate the quiet cynicism or spiritual weariness that develops in us when heartfelt prayer goes unanswered. We keep our doubts hidden even from ourselves because we don't want to sound like bad Christians. No reason to add shame to our cynicism. So our hearts shut down... The most common frustration is the activity of praying itself. We last for about fifteen seconds....and our minds are off on a tangent. We catch ourselves and, by sheer force of the will, go back to praying. Before we know it, it has happened again...Then guilt sets in. Something must be wrong with me. Other Christians don't seem to have this trouble praying. After five minutes we give up... Something is wrong with us. Our natural desire to pray comes from Creation. We are made in the image of God. Our inabilityh to pray comes from the Fall. Evil has marred the image. We want to talk to God but can't. The friction of our desire to pray, combined with or badly damaged prayer antaennae, leads to constant frustration. Complicating this is the enormous confusion about what makes for good prayer. We vaguely snese that we should begin by focusing on God, not on ourselves. So when we start to pray, we try to worship. That works for a minute, but it feels contrived; then guilt sets in again. In a burst of spiritual enthusiasm we put together a prayer list, but praying through the list gets dull, and nothing seems to happen. The list gets long and cumbersome; we lose touch with many of the needs. Praying feels like whistling in the wind. When someone is healed or helped, we wonder if it would have happened anyway. Then we misplace the list. Praying exposes how self-preoccupied we are and uncovers our doubts. It was easier on our faith not to pray. After only a few minutes, our prayer is in shambles. Barely out of the starting gate, we collapse on the sidelines --cynical, guilty, and hopeless. I could go on and type out the rest of the chapter to show how well he articulates how I fell (but I think even what I've already done is copyright infringement so I should probably stop :)) . If you connect with this, seriously, buy the book. If you don't, seriously, help me out! :) I'm about half way done with the book and am excited to write about what God has been teaching me about himself and me. I've got a long way to go, but I'm determined to not let this area of my life just slide anymore. Please pray for me... then maybe if I have a breakthrough in this area I can attribute my praying life to prayer itself! :)