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Category Archives: Life in Limits

Processing Freedom and Grace

I don’t write this post for any sympathy or empathetic comments. I write it because I know I’m not alone and maybe you and I can process together??

 

It’s been one of those kind of weeks. The kind where you’re just left depleted and you feel there’s nothing left to give. Your very soul is raw and sore . . . the kind of sore you’d imagine from a deep surgical incision. You’ve received somewhat alarming news, your toddler just doesn’t *get* how to pee in the potty and you’ve cleaned carpets and sofas and several pairs of underwear a day. You get your feelings deeply hurt in a creep-up-on-you sort of way and you feel like the doormat whose “Welcome” was stomped on the way through the door. Your life feels like it’s been hijacked and how do you get off this plane ride and regain control? Where do your boundaries lie, and more importantly, where do your *loyalties* lie and how much do you push yourself to keep on giving, or how do you find the strength to just say, “no” ?

 

Familiar words seep through and begin to fill:

 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 

Oh. Oh yeah. Just pray. So I do.

 

I sit Dove-turned-Pixie on the bathroom counter and cut little toenails straight across. I knock glass and it falls, straight into the sink, shattering open. It’s my favorite perfume and it all washes right down the same drain where I spit my toothpaste. I want to cry. Perfume’s expensive and this one in particular was a Christmas present and I can’t believe it was me and not two-year-old Pixie who breaks the bottle.

 

The irony is not lost on me. The perfume’s name is Amazing Grace.  I walk into the bathroom a few minutes later and I can smell its sweetness, resting in the air. But not because I released it slowly, spritzing it on my neck and wrists. It was violated. Violently spilled down porcelain and now it’s gone.

 

And I realize, I’ve been literally shattering myself down the drain, trying to be that Grace. I try hard to be the bottle itself. I try to give it all away til there’s nothing left in me to give and I feel emptied way too fast. I know this is not a rare feeling. I think it’s one of Woman’s most beautiful strengths and one of her strongest vices – trying to be all and fill all and love all.

No one else has depleted me. I’ve depleted myself. There’s only One who has already violently poured down Grace – and rather than wasted disaster, it was perfect rescue. The rest of us, we’re finite, and grace has to first be poured on us before we can share it with anyone else. I can only bestow little grace-spritzes from the Source. It seems obvious, but how hard I, Woman, fight it:

 

I am not the Source.

I am not the Source.

I am not the Source.

 

 

I sniff the remaining scent of Amazing Grace and I shed a few tears. Not because of the lost perfume (well, okay, yes, mostly because of the perfume), but because He gently shows me that Freedom does not come from complete self-sacrifice or giving your life away to every person’s needs. There *is* joy and freedom in those things, if we’re doing those things for all the right reasons, but otherwise we’re imprisoning ourselves to everyone’s whims.

 

No, freedom comes from allowing Him to be the Grace toward all we love. And if we’re lucky, we get to spritz some grace too.

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A Day Wrapped in a Bow

Today offers us an unexpected gift. Just to be home, the three of us girls. Little women with braids and pig tails color in the kitchen and take imaginary day-trips to make-believe ice-skating rinks along with well-loved baby dolls. I let anxiety rise over this very lived-in house and wonder why I just can’t seem to catch up . . . wonder why I spend so much trying when I never seem to succeed. Little voices call “Mama!” from across the house and I roll my eyes as I mop the Pine-Sol and shower water currently dripping down my arm. I mutter, wondering when they’ll ever learn to seek and find me, rather than yelling across the house. I smirk now, remembering my mother wondering the very same thing.

 

I wash and change bed sheets and vacuum dust out of wall corners . . . add a few things to my resident Good Will bag sitting in the closet, for some reason feeling this great need to organize and freshen and live in peace. And even though days like this make me feel a bit restless and I mutter and complain, wishing I could just be left some quiet in order to complete my tasks in a timely manner, I realize that this is what makes a home. Little ones underfoot. Taking a few minutes to potty train and read a book, clean the shower, color on the kitchen floor, scrub a toilet, look for a missing doll, vacuum dust bunnies out of the corner, change a diaper, fix some lunch, make another mess, wipe crumbs from the kitchen counter.

 

This is peaceful homemaking at its best. I will enjoy the day.

 

The ordinary acts we practice every day at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest.

~Thomas Moore

Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

~1 Corinthians 10:31

Why I Still Want to Carpe Diem

So, the other night, this beautiful, fun friend of mine shares a link with me. Says it reminded her of my recent reposting of some old words of mine. About how, apparently, I am not the only mother in the world who receives all kinds of comments from older women . . . in the check-outs, in the bathrooms, in the elevators. Those heart-felt, nostalgic words about “enjoying every minute” of our child-rearing years. Not being on Facebook anymore, I somehow missed the frenzy, as moms shared the link with other friends, giving each other, and themselves bits of comfort. I read the article “Don’t Carpe Diem” this morning. I want to preface this post of mine by saying, I LOVED this post from The Momastery. It made me laugh out loud. It made me quickly blink back tears before I ruined my fresh, just-applied, morning mascara. After reading, I immediately copied and pasted the link and sent it to a friend. I *loved* this writer’s honesty. I could relate to every single word and I loved her message.

 

I’ve been thinking about a dear friend of mine who just became a mother for the first time. She. is. exhausted. She’s running into all sorts of issues that I’m sure she never expected to run into and I honestly don’t know how she’s surviving! But her situation made me think back to my not-so-very-long-ago, first few months as a mom and I realized that there is one tool in my Motherhood arsenal that I wasn’t given. None of us are. And I still don’t have it with my firstborn.

 

Perspective.

 

You know what I mean? Your new bundle of joy is in your arms and everything is fresh and new and unknown. You have no real idea what you’re doing or where you’re going and you’re so scared of screwing something up and you haven’t slept a full night in weeks and it feels like this is the rest of your life, surely. And then your sweet, little second born arrives and you’ve done it all before and you know that they’ll eventually start sleeping and you know that each phase is oh, so short and it makes you realize just how fast you made your oldest “grow up.”

 

And at least for me, with my second, I actually treasured the midnight feedings and the newborn-sized diapers. Because with my second, I had a tiny bit of perspective.

 

So even though, when that little, old lady in the Wal-Mart milk aisle exhorted me by saying “this is the best time of your life” I stuffed feelings of the incredulity of it all, I slowly realized that that grey-haired woman had something that I didn’t and still don’t. Perspective. Maybe she’s a little nostalgic, and maybe she has selective memory regarding the late nights and the trying to find just one second to go pee and all the less than glorifying moments of motherhood. BUT she has also nearly lived the full spectrum of life and surely she must feel some sense of urgency to come up to a complete stranger to say, “Honey, treasure every moment. This is the very best time in your life.”  Even if I had a very outspoken personality, I don’t think I would ever approach a complete stranger with such confidence or say that to anyone unless I felt like it was completely true for myself and that I’d somehow missed it and wished that someone, anyone, had warned me:

 

“You know those nights your longing for? The ones with the full night’s sleep and the days when you can sit and read a book in peace and quiet and do what you want to do, when you want to do it, and actually live that life you’ve been given? I know that life sounds like it’s 18 years off and you’re not sure just how you’re going to live those 6,570 days until your child reaches adulthood without losing your sanity, but that day will come. I promise. And it won’t be all you think it’s going to be and you’ll have wasted those 18 years longing for something that isn’t what you think it is. Enjoy what you’re living. Right this very moment. It’s more beautiful than you even know.”

 

There must be an awful lot of great-grandmothers out there who feel this way if each of us young moms is stopped several times a month with this same exact message.

 

Maybe we do need to listen.

 

So now, when those Wal-Mart trips take a bit longer than they used to because a frail, 80-year-old woman wants to tell me about her babies of long ago and encourages me to stop and just enjoy, I really do try to stop my mind from racing into a frustrated frenzy and try to hear her life-lived perspective.

 

Can I seize every moment like I ought to? No, and that’s why I simply love Glennon’s idea of “seizing a couple Kairoses today.” But I also think that we need to listen to the mothers who have gone before us and are almost done with their life’s races. Why should we assume that we will make it to 80? One month ago, I was truly afraid that my daughters would wake up that Wednesday morning without a mother to dress them or kiss their boo-boos or read them Goodnight Moon. I know it sounds cheesy and I know it sounds cliché, but what if those well-worn storybooks I read with my girls that Tuesday night had been our last storybook cuddle? What if?? None of us are promised tomorrow and none of our children are either. I’m not trying to be all fear-factor here, but really. God knows that I needed a little perspective shaken into me that one, scary night. And yes, this thing called motherhood is the hardest thing I’ve ever done (and I survived nursing school -grin-), and it’s so easy to lose my sanity in the midst of kids going crazy in the Wal-Mart aisles and in the mere day-in and day-out caretaking and gardening of our children’s blooming hearts. I lose my sanity and perspective all too often. Daily, in fact. So for me, I welcome the wrinkled, time-worn, urgent perspective.

 

Yes, tell me again. Carpe Diem. Right here. Right now. There is a beautiful, grace-filled underlying theme in all this exhausting, sometimes temper-filled, sometimes hectic, sometimes less-than-I-want craziness. Help me take hold of it.

The New Horizon

Part of me wants to discard 2011 like a dirty, ol’ rag. It was a let’s-get-down-and-get-dirty kind of year for us. The kind of year where you evaluate every aspect of your life and make some difficult decisions to, hopefully, make things better. The kind of year where your heart gets tangled in a million different emotions and leaves life feeling like one, big, tangled web that somehow swirled and weaved your last bit of girlhood naiveté into a mortal cocoon. The kind of year where friends’ homes and neighborhoods are ripped to shreds by tornadoes and you read stories about riots all over the world, and those earthquakes and tsunamis that hit  so hard and you’re left trying to explain crazy things like that to your wide-eyed, inquisitive four-year-old daughter. The kind of year where your heart brims in fullness, readying to welcome your third child, only for that baby to be taken away from you. The kind of year where your life’s lens zooms in and out as you lie on a stretcher wondering if you’re going to be able to hug your living babies in the morning as that pregnancy loss gushes from your body.

 

It has been a hard year.

 

And yet.

 

Ironically, it has been one of the best.

 

It’s been the year that my husband and I learned to (mostly) stop dancing that passive-aggressive tango we’ve done all these married years and begun to truly learn one another’s steps. It’s been the year where we’ve truly listened to one another’s dreams and desires and haven’t been afraid to share them. The year that we weren’t afraid to let go of certain things in our lives that we’d held onto for so. long. simply because they felt comfortable and safe. The year that my humanity was made crystal clear. The year where the outpouring of love and support from friends was humbly overwhelming and wonderfully healing.

It is truly stupefying how God places things in your hands which sometimes feel like squirming snakes or abrasive stones, but in opening your hands, you quickly realize that they are, in reality, loaves of bread and nourishing fish.

 

So I know that when I trust the Good Father, I can trust that a year like 2011 is a gift. Whether our 2011’s were good or bad, or just plain boring, it is a full, written chapter in each of our life’s stories and not something to wipe clean off the slate, or something to desperately try to erase from our memories. Let’s find the gifts. Let’s find all the fish and the bread of 2011 and learn to be thankful for them in our new 2012. And even better, maybe we can learn from all those seemingly snarly snakes and rough stones and help others with their own confusingly full hands.

 

Today, as my eyes linger over the ornaments and stockings and twinkling lights, just for one more day,  my heart lingers over days and moments that made up my own 2011. And I am finding that those gifts walk with me into the fresh horizon of 2012.

 

Let’s have a happy, bright and hopeful New Year, everyone.

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. ~Plato

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

What They’re Teaching Me

I listen to my girls, in the other room, unwinding from a busy day of play and readying for another night of dreams. I sit in the room next to theirs. Sit in awe and thankfulness, wondering how two such little people teach me so much about life. About myself. About God.

 

They teach me just how human I am. And how this girl who always thought she was so laid-back, so forgiving, so patient, is really just one wrong word or wrong move away from a few more-than-snappy words. They also teach me just how vulnerable my heart is in love and just how easily something happening to those I love would completely shatter my heart. Yes, they stretch my patience limits, but they also enlarge my love with their every growth spurt, new word, or new display of personality.

 

They teach me that one moment of fun and togetherness, and just loving one another’s company, is more important than all the tasks and to-do lists I could write and check off in a lifetime.

They teach me that it doesn’t matter how small you are or how big or vast your journey or surroundings are. Just explore and enjoy and know that all is well in God’s hands. Fear has no place  in the adventuring seeker. Just trust in Him and everything He’s given, opened wide before you.

 

 

They teach me that you never know what you might have inadvertently left behind you, just might become someone’s greatest heart treasure.

 

 

And searching for long-lost provisions, with hands full of questions, underneath what might be considered traditional boundaries is more than okay in the presence of the Father of all surety.

 

 

And running.

 

Just running – headlong into what you once feared because it was unknown. You might just find that it is above your fears, above all you thought scary in its unfamiliarity, might just be what draws your full spectrum of life together. And there, hanging in the balance of the unknown, under the Light Constant, what was invisible becomes visible.

 

So, I try. Just to be a little child.

Loving Love Himself

How to love Him?

 

How to truly love Him?

 

I feel I can’t love Him apart from what He’s done for me. I love Him because of His grace toward me. I love Him because He rescues me. I love Him because He makes me whole. I love Him because of His goodness to me. His provision. His redemptive power.

 

But how do I love Him for just being Him? Can I love Him apart from myself?

 

I feel defeated. Because how can I give my life to a God as a returning gift for what He’s done, when I’m really just hoping (and knowing) that He’ll give me more life? (Luke 6:38) It all feels so selfish.

 

How do I, just a Georgian housewife, who cooks in the kitchen in her bare feet and spins the washer for another round, and empties out the sink only for it to be filled again, how does little me love a God like Him? I try to picture Him. The God who spoke and flung the stars on their ebony backdrop and spun red-hot planets like tops on a table and raised up sunken mountains in the waters deep and dotted this whirling globe with teeming life? I picture Him then and He feels so utterly majestic, so awe-inspiringly powerful and I know that I could never come close to a God like that. How do you love Someone who is so completely Other?

 

And then I picture Him. That God. Coming to a slobber-smeared, dirty manger, surrounded by the aroma of hay. His only sound, a whimper. I picture Him beckoning little children onto His lap and telling stories to those gathered round and that aura of peace and wonder that surely must have infused the very air around Him. How He came to rescue anyone who wants to be rescued and I know. I could love a Man like that.

 

But how do I love Him just because He is? And I think . . . “If I was just a better Christian….” But it doesn’t matter what gaps are left to fill, what “If I was justs” need to be met, when the I AM is completing you. Does He not come, not only to bridge the gap to righteousness, but to bridge every. single. gap? Maybe, if God is love, and we want to love that God who’s love, maybe, just maybe, true love has already begun its work. And in His time, He’s transforming us . . . us made in His image . . . and maybe someday He’ll equate our names with Love too. And maybe then, when we are truly one with Love Himself, the fullness of that love will entirely expunge any thought of how much we want to love Him. Because love will have finally made its match and there will be no give and take. Just Love in all its Completeness.

 

But it will all be because of Him and His work in us.

So I ask myself again,

How do I love a God like Him?

When You Know You’re Not Enough

This will be a bit cliché. But it’s something I have to do. And I question how to write something like this without sounding self-absorbed. Narcissistic. Like a navel-gazer. But then, maybe I am all of those things and that’s my problem.

 

But aren’t there days as women where we just feel like we can’t get our acts together? Maybe weeks of this. Months. Maybe lifetimes. I feel my feet, trudging through just the dailiness and I can’t move fast enough, can’t find satisfaction. Like Eve, always wishing for more than I’ve been given, while watching others seemingly running miles around me.

 

And I lash out at myself, all inside mind you, but the words tear deep and I believe the tongue-forked lies and the wounded beliefs bleed out onto all the ones I hold sacred.

 

If I just was more organized.

 

If I was just a better planner.

 

If I was just a better lover of God.

 

If I was just a better Christian.

 

If I was just neater.

 

If I was just a better wife.

 

If I was just a more patient mom.

 

If I was just skinnier.

 

Or more fit.

 

Or prettier.

 

Or . . .

If I was just.

And I know.

It’s plainly evident.

I’m not enough.

I know I’m not the only one. Don’t we all do this? We compare our children. We compare ourselves. We compare our homes, our husbands, our bodies, our abilities, our  achievements. Everything.

The problem is, we compare them to one another instead of to the Most Perfect. The problem is, we compare them to one another rather than to our former selves. Because hasn’t each one of us been fearfully and wonderfully made? And hasn’t each one of us a Wonderful Worker, completing His work in us?

A friend of mine recently posted an Anti-List. Things she’s not that she’s come to embrace about herself. That my friends, is some sort of freedom. And I’ve been thinking a lot about that over the past few months as well. Maybe it’s part of growing up . . . realizing that God has made us certain people and learning that it’s okay that we’re  not like so-and-so or so-and-so.  Maybe it’s part of the letting go of our hunger for power – not in the ruling sense of the word, but in control sense of the word – giving thanks to God for who He’s made us, instead of shaking our fists, wondering why He didn’t make us the way we think He should have made us.

So I come to another Thanking Milestone. It’s time to thank Him for making me. I gulp.

Because when I know I’m not enough, that I don’t measure up, I can either dwell on my inadequacies, or I can thank Him for His grace in even creating me and for His continued work in me.

So I look up, eyes to the August sky.

#649 these arms . . . no defined muscles, but strong enough to lift my children to high slides, or hug my husband tight

#650 these lips . . . nothing special, but made for smiling and laughing and saying “I love you” and giving kisses goodnight

#651 these hands . . . covered in inherited great-grandmother’s veins, but able to bring Chopin or Debussy right into our living room

#652 this waist . . . larger than on my wedding day, but stretched by life and often surrounded by my husband’s arms

#653 this mousey hair . . . hmmm . . . well, it covers my head and keeps me warm??? 🙂

#654 these spider veins . . . broken capillaries from all those hours, running on the hospital floor

#655 my lack of neatness . . . it keeps my trying and keeps me humble

#656 my lack of patience . . . it keeps me calling on Jesus

#657 my lack of achievements . . . this keeps me standing on the Solid Rock

#658 my lack of being the kind of wife I want to be . . . keeps me digging deeper, giving up more of myself, leaning on Him to fill my gaps

#659 my lack of being a good planner . . . keeps me flexible while trying to learn to use my time better

#660 my lack of being organized  . . . keeps me thinking on how He is a God of order

#661 my words of “if I were just” . . . compel me to re-focus on Him, His continuing good work

#662 that He is not finished with me

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

#663 beach-like breezes in the mountains on an August evening

#664 green swing, swaying, lonely in the breeze

#665 feeding the pond-fish

#666 rocking chairs and lullabies

#667 little voices singing with me

#668 spontaneous dates

#669 a wonderful babysitter

#670 a girls’ day coffee

#671 seeing old friends

#672 that weddings and babies keep us coming together

#673 peaceful Sundays

#674 a good mystery

#675 a sister with long, golden curls . . . still Goldilocks after all these years and how I just. love. her.

#676 a husband who thinks I’m cute in the early morning . . . that he’s just crazy enough

#677 the continued rescue

#678 a job well done

#679 get-aways with friends

#680 5 pairs of eyes, all glued to the screen

#681 minivans to fit us all

#682 summer

#683 Thankfulness. It frees the soul.