It seems like it doesn’t matter. But it does.

It seems like it doesn’t matter. But it does.

“Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.”

Wise Yoda! The little, green guy himself was a big example that what’s inside is more important than what’s outside.

My heart matters.

And I discover that it matters to nurture the core of my being.

But, it’s a struggle. It’s more gratifying to tick off the to do list. All the tangible stuff. It feels good to see the before and after of cleaning the house, doing laundry, and buying groceries.

Taking care of my heart doesn’t show. At least not for awhile.

What’s weird is the invisible, spiritual part of me is the part that lasts – right into eternity. That checklist stuff, although it does have value, is fleeting.

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18

It seems like a waste of time to cultivate my heart. But it’s not.

My outside world may be in shambles, but my heart can be strong.

“God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26

When I come to Him in private quietness … my heart changes. I open His Word – alive and active- and He opens His mouth. He breathes on Me. He speaks to Me. Tender and beautiful. Heart-strong.

Spiritual disciplines feed my soul and bind my heart to His. Common sense says they are a waste of time.

Honestly, they feel counterproductive. I could get so much more done if I didn’t take the time to pray, read Scripture, fast, and go to church! It’s so against the grain to slow and soak in these things when my tangible, immediate, urgent world screams for attention.

And once again it boils down to faith.

I step off the solid cliff of self-sufficiency and fall into His strong arms of supernatural power. And I realize that what my little world needed all along was what only God can do.

God forbid that I doom my world and my own heart to only what I can understand and accomplish. May I take time for His strong, fierce beauty to indwell and change me. I long for the beauty that doesn’t come from haircuts and clothes and makeup and cute shoes.

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes.  Rather, it should be that of your inner self….” 1 Peter 3:3-4

It’s not a waste of time to nurture the hidden person of my heart. In fact, it seems easier to cultivate vibrant, luminous soul beauty when physical beauty is lacking. Thank you for that reminder, Yoda.

 

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The Free Fall of Faith

The Free Fall of Faith

“In God We Trust.” It says so right there on our money. Ironically, a pocketful of cash makes it very hard to actually trust God.

But when the money dries up – and there isn’t a savings account or IRA in the wings- I realize how much I was counting on it to provide for me.

And that’s when the adventure begins.

As Oswald Chambers said, “On the mount it is easy to say- ‘Oh, yes, I believe God can do it’; but you have to come down into the demon-possessed valley and meet with facts that laugh ironically at the whole of your mount-of-transfiguration belief. Every time my programme of belief is clear to my own mind, I come across something that contradicts it. Let me say I believe God will supply all my need, and then let me run dry, with no outlook, and see whether I will go through the trial of faith, or whether I will sink back to something lower. Faith must be tested, because it can be turned into a personal possession only through conflict.”

It’s the terror of free falling.

Terror because I know that I don’t have the power to land safely.

But then comes the palpable exhilaration of remembering that He is my safety.

That’s what faith can feel like. Terrifying, yet fundamentally solid. It’s not a metaphor.  It is true. He is my safety.

“Without faith it is impossible to please Him.” The words rumble up from my soul. A Bible verse that’s full of meaning. I choke up and thank Him for an opportunity to please Him.

I’m thankful for tight finances. What an elementary way to please Him!

The beauty of “not enough” is that I come to my true, generous, trustworthy Provider. There are legitimate needs that I can’t cover.

I ask for wisdom. And He gives generously without grudging. Oh, He wants healing and growth and joy for my family so much more than I do!

“This I know, that God is for me.” Psalm 56:9

As I come to Him in need, He ushers me down the path of supply. I look back, and I’m thankful that I didn’t have the means to choose the path that looked absolutely necessary. I see now it would have led to heartbreak.

So, worship times at church or in the car or at my bedside are full of true, honest praise.

“Let all that I am praise the Lord;
with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.
 Let all that I am praise the Lord;
may I never forget the good things he does for me.”
Psalm 103:1-2

Confessions of a Helicopter Mom

Confessions of a Helicopter Mom

Okay. Deep breath.

Confession time.

I am a helicopter parent.

Always have been.

You know. The mom who hovers around her kids, trying to insure that everything goes well. Running interference to guarantee my kids’ safety and happiness.

I’m getting better, I think. (Or am I? Is that a thing helicopter parents say?)

And in my journey toward healthy momming (I know. No pressure. My kids are almost grown.), I’ve found some great tools to help me along.

Julie Lythcott-Haims’ new book, How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success is a boon. Fabulous tool for all parents- not just us helicopters. Her unique perspective as a long-time dean of students at Stanford University has helped her to track how ill-equipped high school graduates have become in tackling life, let alone college.

I love that she isn’t judgy or preachy. She actually gives historical context for how my generation of parents got this way.

And, of course, the crux of the matter- how do we change?

She breaks down our over parenting into four main categories:

  • Safety
  • Providing opportunities
  • Smoothing all the rough spots, and
  • Getting them into the best college

One of the mindsets that rings true throughout the book is encouraging a growth mindset. The idea that failure is a stepping stone. That struggle is normal. That life is hard. BUT, we can do hard.

I haven’t overhauled my parenting techniques as a result of this book. But, my perspective has been shifted a bit. It has helped me change my tone. I have changed some little decisions.

I am remembering to slow down my knee-jerk, protective mom reactions. I’m learning to be thankful for the hard things my kids experience.

I do my best to listen and support and pray through those inevitable hard things.  But, I know shielding them doesn’t necessarily help them.

Ms. Lythcott-Haims highlights the following list that was composed by the authors of GIST: The Essence of Raising Life-Ready Kids, Michael Anderson and Tim Johansen. It’s a tough list for kids and adults, but I’m shifting my attitude to welcome these types of situations as rites of passage and tools of growth for my kids.

  • Not being invited to a birthday party
  • Experiencing the death of a pet
  • Breaking a valuable vase
  • Working hard on a paper and still getting a poor grade
  • Having a car break down away from home
  • Seeing the tree he planted die
  • Being told that a class or camp is full
  • Getting detention
  • Missing a show because she was helping Grandma
  • Having a fender bender
  • Being blamed for something he didn’t do
  • Having an event canceled because someone else misbehaved
  • Being fired from a job
  • Not making the varsity team
  • Coming in last at something
  • Being hit by another kid
  • Rejecting something he has been taught
  • Deeply regretting saying something she can’t take back
  • Not being invited when friends are going out
  • Being picked last for neighborhood kickball

Yeah, that stuff is hard to stomach. But, it honestly helps me to remember that hard stuff is good for them. May they thrive on hard stuff! May it give them something to push against and build their emotional and spiritual muscle.

This week my daughter was frustrated about something, but I remembered the author’s exhortation to allow my kids to figure out their own way of coping with disappointment so when they get to college and experience hard things they won’t need mom to help them through it. So, I intentionally let her struggle. It was hard, but I kept thinking, “This is for college!”

Parenting is hard. But we can do hard! And I’m thankful for tools like How to Raise an Adult to navigate it with purpose and hope.

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What To Do With My American Grief

What To Do With My American Grief

This week my heart has broken like yours with the violence in Louisiana and Minnesota and Dallas.

I ache. For the victims. And their families. And our reeling country….

And my heart breaks a little bit because I wonder what I would have done if I were the police officer in Minnesota.

What if he is just like me?

I hate racism. I love justice.

But what if fear and adrenaline pull the trigger?

John Ortberg once said, “The evil that is in the world is the evil that is in me.”

I’m sure he could explain the theological nuances and context of that thought. I can’t. But it resonates deeply with me.

If I’m honest, I can imagine myself as a terrified police officer in Minnesota or a terrified black man in Dallas.

Unrestrained fear can lead to ugliness.

King David went against the flow and mourned for the “bad guy.” His personal enemy, in fact. Saul overtly tried to murder David many times. And David could have destroyed him. But he believed that it wasn’t his place. God alone knew the big picture. And when Saul inevitably fell, David mourned.

May our country change. The scary truth is: may I change.

I have unconscious – and sometimes conscious- bias against young African American men in certain settings.

Lord, may Love cast out fear.

Give me courage to change my attitude one situation at a time.

Give me opportunity to love my brother when it feels vulnerable.

May Your Holy Spirit ignite the life and power of Jesus in me. That unconscious and conscious bias would dissolve in the magnitude of Love.

“Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.” Proverbs 10:12

One decision at a time, may we cover the hurt with love.

 

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Unsatisfied

Unsatisfied

To be human is to want.

In his book Soul Keeping, John Ortberg points out that the whole “want” thing is a deep, human drive that is given by God.

Weird, right?

Because it seems to be the root of such turmoil. Jealousy, competition, dissatisfaction. Eventually emptiness.

Even my jaded nine-year-old has gotten to the point that her most coveted birthday presents lose their sparkle in weeks or even days.

How could it be from God? Is there anything that we desire in this life that actually imparts lasting joy?

No.

Seriously, tell me if I’m wrong, but I can’t think of anything.

If anything, getting the thing I have longed for stokes up more rumblings of discontent. Disappointment.

Even when I marvel at the gift of pink and orange sunrise clouds. The beauty and joy are almost palpable. But there is an edge of heartbreak to it always.

It goes back to the famous C.S. Lewis quote, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”

There it is. The reason that even the purest gift of sunrise leaves a deep ache. It’s just a taste. A tantalizing glimpse of the true eternal gift.

“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12

There comes a day when we will know Him fully, even as He fully knows us. And every glimpse of goodness and truth and love remind our deepest soul that we aren’t there yet.

So, I will accept the gifts of laughter and kindness and flowers and chocolate even though a tinge of ache comes with them. I am glad to remember that this is just a taste.

Photo credit: http://www.messersmith.name/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/sunrise_20091119-6w.jpg

 

How To Be a No-Guilt Mom

How To Be a No-Guilt Mom

I have Mother’s Day all planned out. First I’m running a Mother’s Day 5K. (They give you a rose!) Then I’m going to my favorite coffee shop (alone!) to write my annual I Love You So Much letter to each of the kids. Then after church on Sunday, hubby and kids will take a hike with me. Even if some of the offspring aren’t exactly into hiking. It’s my day, doggone it.

Hubby points out that a lot of my Mother’s Day choices seem to involve me being alone.

Whatever. I seriously don’t feel guilty about that.

I revel in the joy of being a mom! No guilt at all as I celebrate Mother’s Day by replenishing my soul to love for the long haul.

The other 364 days of the year however, I carry pervasive, low-grade mom guilt.

Heavy, heavy weight.

At the core: “Am I doing enough? Am I providing enough: opportunity for growth and responsibility and discernment of their callings?”

My true breath of freedom and hope comes when I take time away. To fill myself up on a regular basis. The irony is that sometimes the best way to serve my family is to step away.

So I sit quietly with Him. Just on the edge of my bed, a blanket wrapped around me because I’m usually cold in Colorado.

I look out the window and marvel at the towering, graceful tree across the street. I drink in the serene blue of the sky. The distant, snowy point of Pike’s Peak.

I open His Book, and His true Words pour into my heart.

“I love you. I love you differently than I love other people. Not because I change. But because you are unique. I love you out of the overflow of Who I Am. I Am Love.”

So He fills me up. He quenches the thirsty, wistful parts.

And in little ways I can parent without guilt. I am loved deeply. His overflow helps me to love them deeply. Each one uniquely.

Who knows how my beautiful children will turn out? I don’t.

He gives me patience to keep sowing. To keep loving. To keep disciplining. To keep doing laundry and making meals. To keep having kid dates at McDonalds. To keep reading stories and listening and laughing.

There really doesn’t seem to be much to show for all this little humble work.

But it seems like when Jesus died and rose again and returned to heaven, there wasn’t a lot of showy produce among His followers.

And yet His sacrifice had watered and fertilized the scattered seed of His children. And they grew- slowly, steadily, awkwardly- into the global Body of Christ.

I will trust Him again (for today, anyway) to produce beautiful fruit in the lives of these beautiful, human children.

Walking by faith.

No guilt.

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Joy Will Come

Joy Will Come

Her husband and children died, and now she is alone in a foreign land.

So begins the book of Ruth.

Impossible sorrow.

Impossible because, really, what could redeem that kind of tragedy?

This Steven Curtis Chapman song wafts through my mind:

“Out of these ashes
Beauty will rise
And we will dance among the ruins
We will see it with our own eyes.”

Glimmers of hope in the wake of tragedy.

But what’s staggering about this song is that he wrote it in response to his own daughter’s accidental death. He fiercely holds on to the belief that God redeems all pain and suffering. He doesn’t claim to know what the beauty will look like. But he simply clings to the gut level knowledge that God is the redeemer. The beauty that will rise from such horrible tragedy will result in a fountain of joy. Irrepressible dancing in its wake.

Who could imagine the beauty that would arise from Naomi’s sorrow- grieving her husband and children?

Who would ever predict that it would precipitate a journey back to her homeland, tenacious Ruth in tow?

And Ruth, this Moabite girl, would be grafted into the family of God and become a colorful piece in the lineage of Jesus Christ.

It takes my breath away.

Ruth didn’t know that she was the great grandma of King David or the many times great grandma of the Lord Jesus. But maybe she hung on to the hope like Steven Curtis Chapman does.

In the darkness there is brilliant light.

The gray, dreary dawn is ready to burst into brilliant pink-orange.

Even if we don’t see it until we join Jesus in eternity.

Our sorrow is tinged with purpose and hope. And our faith simply pleases Him.

“Weeping may last through the night,
but joy comes with the morning.”
Psalm 30:5

Photo credit: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/67/Golden_sunrise.jpg