Great Expectations

After many days of my girls coming home after school barking at each other and having screaming matches from different rooms of the house, I decided that I would have something fun planned for us to do together in hopes that it would keep their mind off of this terrible phase of sibling rivalry. **I have heard this is completely normal for siblings who are close in age but it’s uncharted territory for me…if you have suggestions I gladly welcome them!!**

I had great expectations of seeing my girls faces lit up with joy and hearing sounds of laughter instead of the constant quarreling that has become the norm in our home. My fantasy was playing out in my mind as I created a nature scavenger hunt for the three of us to do together. My girls love exploring and being outside so I thought this would be a home run. I had visions of them skipping while holding hands in pursuit of the next item on the list. I was really proud of myself for having this perfect mothering “light-bulb” moment. (Insert snickering here.)

That afternoon, my girls got home and whined about what snacks we didn’t have as they fought in front of the pantry. I sat them down after their snack and proudly told them that I had a surprise. I handed them a brown paper sack and we headed out the door with the list. They were excited but it wasn’t met with the enthusiasm I had imagined.

We hadn’t been outside even a minute when my older daughter had a major meltdown because what she considered an orange leaf was not at all what her sister considered an orange leaf. A terrible argument ensued over wether or not the color burnt orange was really orange. I almost lost it. I intervened and said they could pick out whatever each of them wanted. Five minutes later, I had to keep another fight from getting out of hand. The fighting continued during most of our walk. This definitely wasn’t what I had envisioned for our afternoon…in fact, it was exactly the opposite.

After every item was found as well as some that I made up that weren’t on the list, I told the girls that it was time to head home and make dinner. My little one flipped out and totally lost her mind. Apparently, she didn’t plan on stopping the game – ever – and nothing would change her mind. (Did I mention my girls are very strong-willed…and stubborn?) It took thirty minutes to get my child to come inside the house, complete with her screaming at me and throwing herself on the ground. If I wasn’t sure before, now I know all of our neighbors will keep a safe distance from us.

I was frazzled and frustrated. I couldn’t believe this “awesome” plan backfired on me. I was expecting joy and peace, laughter and love and my girls running into my arms, thanking me with hugs and kisses for being the best mommy ever. I felt defeated by this whole parenting thing. My expectation of having a perfect afternoon with no fighting was just that…an expectation and it got the best of me. Life is not perfect. Our kids aren’t perfect. I am not a perfect mother. There is no such thing this side of heaven. But even in the chaos of that day there were still a few moments that were beautiful but in the stress of it all I didn’t really pay attention. I was too focused on the fighting.

Thinking about that day in retrospect, I see a picture of life. We have great expectations. We have plans and lofty dreams where everything is all mapped out ahead of us. We expect people to fill the void in our heart and we assume they won’t hurt us but again and again we are let down and dismantled because, *gasp* we are all imperfect. In those moments we can miss the beauty that God wants us to see. Things may not turn out how we expect, but He is still there giving us glimpses of heaven and calling us to let go of our own plans and just do life with Him and cling to Him…even in the chaos, even in the mess and in spite of imperfect people.

That night as I was tucking my girls into bed, my oldest one hugged me and whispered her love for me in my ear. She thanked me for doing the scavenger hunt and talked about all of the “treasures” she found. She remembered only the good things from that afternoon. She was choosing to see the beauty in the midst of the mess of that day. I want to do the same.

Thank you, Lord for loving me…in spite of myself. Even in my problems and when I am consumed with my “junk.” Help me not miss the beauty you give when I’m so busy focusing on my earthly messes. I pray that my plans won’t interfere with what you want to do in me and through me.

Categories: Mommy Musings, Spiritual Reflections, Writing

Sacred Spaces

“I cannot hear because I hear everything. I cannot see
because I see everything. I cannot feel because I feel everything.” Derek Webb

I have a confession to make…I am a tech junkie. It is a realization I have only recently owned up to. It crept up on me slowly, like a silent fog weaving its way into my life, my home and my routine. I am married to a tech-genius, if you will, so I find out about new tech stuff and even own it – sometimes years before the general public. (ie: we had an Apple TV before I had even heard of such a thing and got a Roku several years ago, when I am pretty sure our friends thought we were crazy for dropping cable.) I’m a quick learner so I’ve always been pretty tech savvy and that doesn’t help. My husband and I are totally addicted to technology and I have noticed that it has gotten worse over the years. Even while writing this, I got exasperated because my daughters dance studio no longer has public wi-fi and I couldn’t finish my post when I wanted to. Oh, the horror and inconvenience! 

I was at a Derek Webb concert last weekend where he played his new album, “Ctrl,” in its entirety and explained the meaning behind it. By the way, go get it if you haven’t yet. It’s brilliant. He wrote a fictional short story to go along with the album. You can read it here: Ctrl Story

Basically the idea behind the album comes down to this: By the time we realize how much technology has stolen from us, will it be too late? Webb asks some thought-provoking questions. Are all these technological advances worth what it is costing us in the long run? We are blissfully innocent of the consequences now but in several years, in that moment of regret, will it be too late to un-tether ourselves from technology’s enticing grip?

Webb is a self-professed tech addict but he suggests that before it’s too late society needs to recognize the danger of technology becoming “invisible.” He believes there will come a day when we won’t be able to distinguish between technology and reality. Am I the only one who feels like my iPhone is becoming an extension of my body? If I don’t have my phone on me, I feel naked and lost. I feel disconnected from life if I’m not constantly checking my phone or my computer. I think it’s very obvious that this “technological invisibility” is already happening. Our phone has disappeared into our hands and our lives. It’s simply a part of who we are. That is terrifying if you think about it. Our identity is being shaped by a piece of plastic and metal, with a tiny screen that we stare into all day long. With Facebook, we have been handed a way to “control” our friendships. We can “add” and “delete” friends based on what we see through a distorted lens. We can change how others perceive us by manipulating the pictures we post or don’t post, the status we write or what we “like” and don’t “like.” Our way of thinking has altered with Facebook and Twitter alone.

I have heard Webb say that “technology has become an unnecessary prosthetic we use to touch each other.” This visual cut me to the bone. I am guilty of using Facebook as a way of reaching out to someone instead of taking the time to make a call or talk to them in person. I’ve seen the damage this does to friendships first-hand. It’s tempting for me as an introvert because it’s easier and streamlined. Relationships take work. They are messy and hard. It’s easier to retreat into technology and become something of a wallflower in my friendships. Regrettably, I am also guilty of not engaging with my girls at times because the phone or my computer is creating a wall between us. I tell them with my blank eyes and with my unfeeling replies – “uh-huh, that’s great sweetie” that technology is more important than they are. Technology is like a magnet. It draws me in, sucks me down deep and doesn’t let go. What will happen when that prosthetic becomes the norm? Will our society be content with fake community instead of real relationships? E-mails and texts instead of real conversations? “Sexting” and “cyber-sex” instead of real touch and meaningful relationships? I think this is already culturally accepted. How much power are we giving to these devices that are small enough to fit into our pockets? How much of our self-worth is tied to a Facebook or Twitter account? Do we have any control left?

These words from the song “Can’t Sleep” struck a nerve. 

“I can’t sleep 

I am overwhelmed with grief 

every time I wake

that I must face the thief

who takes away my face

the place where I exist

the real me not a fake

my hands on the controls

till the moment I awake

the robbery takes place

and everything I am

all goes up in flames.” 

Webb reiterated from the stage that he definitely isn’t anti-technology. It is a cautious reminder. To me, this album was a warning in  flashing neon lights to remember that this quasi “connection” technology provides shouldn’t replace the real connections and the more important things in our lives. There are ways to keep a healthy balance in our love affair with technology before it overtakes us. One way he suggests doing this is to put guard rails on technology and leave “sacred spaces” in our lives where technology is absent. I love how that sounds. One of these days, the “On/Off” switch might be hard to find, or even non-existent. We need to locate it now before it’s too late. It’s time to re-evaluate the role technology plays in our lives, change our patterns, take a step back and re-focus. We can take back control but first we need to acknowledge there is something wrong and that it’s only getting worse.

On the way home from the concert, my husband and I decided we needed to take action – even if it is just a small step. We set a time everyday when the phones and computers will be put away and turned off. We promised to be more aware of how much time we are giving over to this beast that eats up hours so quickly. We will put the phone down and give eye contact when we are talking to each other and our girls. We are in the process of setting up some guard rails and in return, we are re-gaining control.

I am desperate for some sacred spaces in my life. Are you?

Click here to listen to one of the songs off of the new “Ctrl” album—–> Derek Webb – Real Ghost

soft light
a right mind
things you can become nostalgic for
full lungs
emotions
things I feel I’ve never felt before
I stood the ledge
took the leap
I wasn’t sure
was I asleep
it felt so real but not as real as this
now all my questions have found their answer here
a soft touch
a deep cut
things that can restore your sanity
a real ghost
without clothes
things I never dreamed that I could be
I closed my eyes
I felt no pain
I wished I could be born again
to my surprise I woke to find it done

Categories: Random Thoughts, Spiritual Reflections, Writing

Heart Swap

I wasn’t doing anything important. I was going about my business the other day and out of nowhere, I thought of two scriptures in the same instant. I knew I needed to pay attention because there are moments that are unmistakably from Him. The verses played on a continual loop in my mind. “Okay, God I’m listening,” I whispered. But why those? “Heart, stone, flesh. Feet, enable, heights.” Got it. Okay! Sounds good!

Wait…what?

So, I looked up the scriptures and read them several times and in different translations. This was the first verse God brought to my mind:

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”

This is the Message version of the same verse:

“I’ll pour pure water over you and scrub you clean. I’ll give you a new heart, put a new spirit in you. I’ll remove the stone heart from your body and replace it with a heart that’s God-willed, not self-willed. I’ll put my Spirit in you and make it possible for you to do what I tell you and live by my commands.” Ezekiel 36:26

But, I don’t have a heart of stone! Do I? Maybe I do…a partially fossilized heart. There are things in my life that I haven’t been willing to give to Him and that can turn pieces of my heart dark and hardened to His ways, His will and His voice. I am so often self-willed, not God-willed. Do I care? Do I seek Him with my whole heart regardless of what the world tells me to do? Do I want a real, beating, open and vulnerable heart…a heart like His? I do. Yes! I want that.

Every time I sing the words to the song, Hosanna by Brooke Fraser, I fall apart a little. It is such a God-breathed song. As I sang the bridge this weekend at church, my heart almost leapt out of my chest. “Heal my heart and make it clean. Open up my eyes to the things unseen. Show me how to love like you have loved me. Break my heart for what breaks yours. Everything I am for you Kingdom’s cause…” I want a healthy heart. I want a heart that truly breaks the way God’s does when there is sin and injustice. I want to be in step with Him as closely as I can and have a spirit that is receptive to every nudge and whisper. I want to be heart of His heart. And yet…I fall so short of that. I am a daughter of Eve. I am a reckless rebel, a doubting Thomas, a betraying Judas. But I am also His daughter. I am His lamb covered up with so much grace. He views me through the lens of Jesus’ blood and sees me spotless. And that’s why He woos me with His Word and plants scripture in my mind…He wants me to see what I am unable to see with my blinded eyes and feel what I can’t feel because of my hardened heart.

The second scripture that I couldn’t get out of my head that morning is found in several different places in the Bible.

“He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights.”

Psalm 18:33, 2 Samuel 22:34, Habakkuk 3:19

 As I read this verse, I noticed that both scriptures were about things God wants to do in me and for me. It was as if the Lord was saying, “If you give me that…if you hand over your empty heart, I will replace it with one that is full and complete. Stop trying to fill it with things that won’t last. Obey me and I will help you. I will show you where to go and I will set you on the high places.” My Father convicted me but not with a voice of condemnation and judgement. He wasn’t guilt-tripping me. He was reminding me that He is worth the spiritual growing pains. It is worth swapping my heart for an upgrade…one that is more like His own heart.

It’s an unbeatable offer…a promise from my Redeemer.

Hillsong United – Hosanna (HD) – YouTube

 

Categories: Spiritual Reflections, Writing

Capture the Moment

“I think that dying is the easy part of life; for in waking each day and living in every moment, therein lies the challenge.” Jeremy Aldana

I am a closet wanna-be photographer. I absolutely love capturing moments of life on film. So yeah, this means I am “that mom” at my girls special events and birthday parties, with my face constantly behind a camera. I’m working on being more present in the moment but I come back to this reasoning – I will probably never say, “I wish I didn’t have those pictures.” But I have had the thought, “I wish I had taken more pictures of the girls at that age.” Or, “Why didn’t we take pictures when we did such and such?” I have spent hours on iPhoto or Aperture, editing and getting hundreds of pictures ready for print so I can turn around and spend many more hours scrapbooking – another passion of mine. Every now and then, my girls and I will spend entire afternoons looking through my 20+ scrapbooks. Our family albums and the girls baby albums are my most prized possessions. I think it is important to see and remember moments we have long forgotten and relive them through our photos.

Recently, I was driving home from an evening event at church, a little overwhelmed and bone tired. Our church is in the middle of a corn field in a low-lying valley and in the fall, the fog rolls in heavy and thick at night. Fall in the mid-west is breathtaking to me. Autumn is slowly creeping her way into the landscape. She can be felt in the crisp night air and smelled in the chimney smoke and bonfires. She makes her presence known in the trees, as the leaves begin to change from green to vibrant yellow and orange – even pink and purple. As I headed down a two-lane highway, a bright light pierced through the fog and caught my attention. It was a perfect harvest moon – radiant and gleaming with wisps of clouds floating in the center, lighting up the corn fields like a giant nightlight. The sky looked like a movie backdrop. I couldn’t stop craning my neck, trying to get a better look. I noticed a great “photo-op” spot with the fall trees in the background and the moon in full view. I pulled over, grabbed my phone, and took pictures…in the pitch black darkness. I really wanted to “catch” that moment. Of course, it was impossible. The pictures didn’t show the full beauty of what I was witnessing. It looked so small on my phone. I just couldn’t capture the moon.

I laugh now because I don’t know why I was expecting to get a great picture in the dark with my phone. I don’t have nice camera equipment. I don’t even have a very good camera. My husband recently told me that the camera on my new iPhone is better than the expensive camera he got me a few years ago. This blows my mind because the camera in my phone is… IN my PHONE!! I would love to get a nice camera someday and explore my love for photography. But sometimes, even great pictures can’t provide the complete and full beauty that God’s creation gives me when I am there, in person. I could take a million pictures of my girls (I’m pretty sure I actually have) but if you never met them and only saw pictures, you wouldn’t really be seeing them – it would just be a tiny piece. A glimpse. Until you are with them and hear their infectious laughter, see them running and playing, feel their little hands grab yours – a snapshot is just not a complete picture of who they are. Even this morning, I was disappointed after taking some pictures of fall trees in my neighborhood. The colors I saw and the colors my pictures showed were not the same. Real life looked much better. Pictures can help tell a story but they can’t tell us everything. Just as words don’t always do our feelings justice. Some things can only be experienced to truly get “it.”

I love this picture of fall. It’s one of the best ones I’ve seen that almost captures the colors the way they really look. But I bet the photographer who took this photo would probably tell you the colors were even more vibrant and the sounds and smells made the moment more beautiful than even this amazing picture reveals.

After I tried and failed to capture the moon, I went home and put my phone in my pocket. I stood alone in the driveway for a long time, unable to pull my gaze from the moon’s glow. That night was a gentle reminder for me to enjoy moments without always trying to record them for posterity or file them away in my photo library. I want to be there. I want to live in the moment, not just remember it from behind a camera (or phone, or computer, or book). Sometimes, there are moments that cannot be captured. Sometimes, a photo doesn’t do the moment justice – no matter how much you crop, “Instagram” or “Photoshop.” Sometimes, it is good to live in the moment and just breathe.

Categories: Mommy Musings

Lessons From The Little House

“As you read my stories of long ago I hope you will remember that things truly worthwhile and that will give you happiness are the same now as they were then. It is not the things you have that make you happy. It is love and kindness and helping each other and just plain being good. ”

-Laura Ingalls Wilder

My oldest daughter and I have started reading the Little House books. She lies next to me, barely breathing – making sure not to miss one word. I read a few chapters aloud. She likes hearing about the sisters and how the family seems to all take care of each other. Little C actually sat still for a few minutes tonight as I read the part when the family thinks a wolf is about to attack their camp and Pa gets his gun ready to keep everyone safe, but it ends up being their faithful dog, “Jack” who they thought they lost when they crossed a deep creek earlier that day. Oh, the adventure and mystery of a life so unknown to the generation raised on iPhones, Wii’s and Wi-Fi!

Re-visiting this amazing piece of literature from my childhood calms my spirit. I have always known the Little House books were great but when I last read them, I guess I wasn’t old enough to appreciate the deep and poetic language.  Wilder describes the landscape in beautiful detail…but not too much detail, just enough to set a child’s imagination free. This is a gentle push over the edge and before they know it, they are listening and falling in love with words and stories.

I’ve come across a few sentences in which I had to stop and just let the words soak into my girls hearts. In the story, the journey has begun and as the first day is coming to a close, the reader is given this nugget, “That prairie looked as if no human eye had ever seen it before. Only the tall wild grass covered the endless empty land and a great empty sky arched over it. Far away the sun’s edge touched the rim of the earth. The sun was enormous and it was throbbing and pulsing with light.  All around the sky’s edge ran a pale pink glow, and above the pink was yellow, and above that blue.  Above the blue the sky was no color at all.  Purple shadows were gathering over the land, and the wind was mourning.” The wind was mourning. Wow. There just aren’t any words for literature like that. Simple yet amazingly beautiful.

At another point in the story, the girls think their dog has drowned and they question their mom asking if Jack can go to heaven. She doesn’t know what to say, then Pa says, “Yes, Laura, he can. God that doesn’t forget the sparrows won’t leave a good dog like Jack out in the cold.” Theology in a nutshell? Perhaps not but it comes close. Such a beautiful paraphrase of scripture. (Can you tell that I’m kinda in love with this book right now???)

There is one line, in particular that grabbed my attention more than any of them tonight. Pa is getting the fire ready so dinner can be made and he is careful not to set the country side on fire by being careless. He says, “Best be on the safe side, it saves trouble in the end.” This sentence could sum up so much of life couldn’t it? It feels like a proverb. Be on the safe side – you’ll be better off in the long run.

 

Categories: Mommy Musings, Spiritual Reflections