Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A Beautiful Life

I inhaled the strong, rich scent of my morning coffee.  I don't often come close to finishing a cup without zapping it two, three, fifteen times!  But the sound of coffee percolating was music to my ears.  Another familiar sound was music to my ears:  my two girls upstairs playing together...nicely!  Okay, so maybe the nicely part wasn't as familiar as I'd like it to be.  My toddler's sweet sounds were also music to my ears.  He was exploring new territory every day as he learned to walk faster and faster and hey, maybe he could run after all!? Nope.  But he sure squealed with pride and delight as he tried, and tumbled once again, onto his cushy tush.  With the windows and doors open, there was a heavenly breeze.  The roosters were echoing each other's cock-a-doodle-do.  The birds were whistling their blissful morning's songs.  In the distance was the steady rumbling of the tractor's motor as my 11-year-old began his morning chore.  Life was good!

At this point, you may be waiting to read what went wrong.  Even as I recount this delightful morning, I'm remembering how many times I've spent my life waiting for the other shoe to drop.  It's sad.  I remember that morning well because it was only days ago.  But mostly I remember that morning well because, as I walked through my kitchen taking in those smells, sights, and sounds, I felt content and grateful.  I basked in that feeling for a while and I gave thanks.  I thanked God for the wonderful gifts He had given me.  So what ended up going wrong that morning?  Nothing.  And most likely everything.  

Nothing tremendous happened to rain on my parade.  The other shoe didn't drop.  There weren't any traumatic events or catastrophes in my little world.  

On the other hand, there was more disaster and sadness in the world around me than I felt I could handle.  At times, overwhelmed is too small a word for how I feel about raising children in these times.  Eventually, the sweet giggles and words my girls exchanged as they played turned to bickering and silence...and perhaps some stomping as one sister decided she was done with the game.  My sweet toddler turned testy tired toddler, as he had been missing one too many naps trying to keep up with his older siblings during the summer days.  And when the tractor needed more gas?  I ended up with more gasoline on my flip flopped foot than in the tank for the first attempt at filling the incredibly antiquated gas tank at the station.  Even after a shower, I could still smell the lingering scent of gasoline on my skin.  Yuck!  The upstairs sink wouldn't drain...again.  As the day grew, there was more bickering, fussing, and whining.  There were more spills and cold cups of coffee...endlessly reheated (a mama's gotta try!).  The day was far from perfect.  Isn't every day?

But I remembered those first perfect moments of my morning.  I have those perfect moments so often.  There are countless moments during my day when I stop and think I love this life you gave me God, when I think I have so much to be thankful for.  Is every day of my life perfect, blissful, and carefree?  Heck no!  You could spend a day with me and see how easily we fall apart, mess up, and let each other down.  I think that is the story with most of us.  That's real.  That's family.  That's life.  So we have a choice each day.  I am learning that I have a choice many moments throughout my day.  Will I focus on the frustrating pitfalls of the day?  Or will I focus on and give thanks for all of the little moments that are beautifully perfect?  Or at least perfect in my little world.  And your perfect will never look the same as my perfect.  My perfect will never--should never--look the same as yours!  And yet our imperfect wonderful lives are filled with opportunities and moments to give thanks.  

This is the life I wanted.  As Ann Voskamp wrote, Every day that you do the hard things that you don't want to do --you're building the family you always wanted to have.

That's the secret!  It's all of the little wonderful moments that make up a beautiful life.  It has taken me many starts and there have been endless distractions while putting together these few words.  I have had to answer way too many questions.  I have had to comfort a fussy babe and instruct a child on proper phone call etiquette.  There are crumbs under the table, pieces of grass on the floor, and too much cleaning that needs to be done before our out-of-town guests arrive in two days.  I haven't had a shower and my tummy is rumbling with hunger.  However, there is also beautiful perfection in this day.  The sky is blue and I hear the birds and chickens.  Perfect.  My soft babe nestled on my lap while I fed him a banana and his sisters giggled at his too-big bites, repeatedly kissing his cheeks.  Perfect.  My older boys have been outside, morning chores completed, playing a rousing game of Nerf gun wars.  Perfect.  Well, maybe none of it is truly perfect but it is imperfectly me.  It is my beautiful life. 

Linking up with Holley Gerth and Jennifer Dukes Lee today

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Wanted: Weakness

If weakness is a prerequisite for God's all sufficient grace and power, then I've got this in the bag!  You know the verse I'm referring to, don't you?  My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9.  I know this verse; I believe this truth; I've written and prayed along these lines.  But yesterday I just laughed out loud as I rehearsed it back to God.  I expressed that if weakness was the requirement for the power and grace of God to show up, then I should see more of His power than any mama I know!

I admit that I may have expressed this flippantly.  Shortly after, however, I said it with vulnerability from an honest heart.  I feel that way so often!  I want to do this mama-thing ten times better.  I fail so miserably at times.  I struggle to feel adequate or enough.  My kids deserve better has been a common theme played in my head.  I lose my patience when my 5-year-old cries in the shower (she's not fond of washing her hair in a bath right now either).  I attempt a perfectly peaceful bedtime tuck-in but fall prey to lecturing about the tidiness (or utter lack thereof) of my daughters' bedroom.  I download devotionals and realize two months later that I never read them with my children.  Plain and simple, there are many moments during my week--or days--when I feel so helplessly weak.  I cannot alone change who or how I am as a mama.  

Oh I do know the mama that I want to be!  I know her so well.  She is full of grace, forgiveness, love and creativity...and most of all she always speaks with soft gentility.  (She does not have that too-loud and sometimes harsh tone to her voice).  She hears from God about how to raise her children and she executes it flawlessly.  So much so that everyone who knows her (or follows her on Facebook) thanks her for her wisdom and grace.  Okay, truth be told, that last part made me chuckle out loud.  If you know a mama like that, be forewarned that she is most likely sharing only the good.  None of us are that good all the time!  I've had to remind myself not to compare myself with her.  Comparison is a thief of joy and is never fruitful for me or my children 

But here's the truth:  even if I could attain this perfect mama status, I would need a hefty dose...and then some!...of God's grace.  Because I've found out that I am weak.  I cannot do any of this in my own power.  I don't want to!  I truly do not want to attempt any parenting without the love and help of God.  I have made an absolute mess of things, as a mama, plenty of times by disobeying his word or not following his example.  But I know that I can come back to his truth and example, and try again.  He has given me grace a thousand times over.  So while it's possible that I may always dream of a better version of me, I hope that my kids remember God's grace and love when they think of their childhood and when they think of their mama.  This would mean that his grace was certainly sufficient in my life and in our home.  

My favorite beatitude has always been Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Matthew 5:3  When I think of poor, I think of helpless.  No, I have not done an inductive Greek study of this particular passage.  But it has encouraged me more times than I can recount.  I have been reminded that when I am helpless, only God can get me through.  I want that dependence on him, no matter how uncomfortable it always is.  He has given me and my husband five little lives to shepherd...and they daily bring me to my knees, dependent on his strength.  I don't always love the feeling, quite honestly, but I would not want to have it any other way than finding myself helpless and in need of God's power and grace to get me through.

In a book I'm slowly reading, I read a few sentences that brought tears to my eyes as I identified with the author.  To preface the quote, she was having a moment complaining to God about her feelings of inadequacy and lack of beauty or charm.  I pictured how I so often feel as a mama.  This is what God impressed upon her heart: 
If I'd made you physically beautiful, you'd be admired.  If I'd made you with showy talent, you'd be held in awe.  If I'd birthed you to a wealthy family, you'd be envied.  If I'd given you exceptional intellect, you'd be relegated to ivory towers.  [If I'd made you a Pinterest-perfect, soft-spoken, patient and solely wise mama, you'd never depend on me to mother.]  Instead, [Stephanie], I made you a bit lumpy, gave you an unexceptional face, commonplace capabilities, unremarkable talents, [average mama-abilities].  You see, for the good works I prepared in advance for you to do, I needed an average, ordinary woman to [parent with grace and] identify with a great many others just like you.*
I took some liberty with the quote, but it spoke to my heart.  God encouraged me to remember that he never intended me to do this mama-thing alone.  It was never his plan for me to have perfect reactions, words, and insights all the time.  When would I need him if that is how I mothered?  Maybe you feel desperately in need of his power and grace in your parenting.  Or maybe in another area.  I think we all do in some area of our life at any given moment...if we're honest with ourselves.  His all-sufficient grace is there.  He gives us exactly how much we need every time we ask.  

*quote from Carole Mayhall, When God Whispers:  Glimpses of an Extraordinary God By an Ordinary Woman

I'm Having Coffee For Your Heart with my friend Holley Gerth today