Sunday, November 28, 2010

Rest for the Soul

As I talked about on my last post, I took a class that recently ended called "Renovation of the Heart." It has a tremendous impact on me and is continuing to have an impact on my as I attempt to continue walking in the spiritual disciplines that I developed through the class. The last couple weeks of the class ended up being very, very busy for me, so I have taken the couple weeks since it ended to slowly go through the last 3 chapters. One of the exercises that I went back and did from chapter 11 in the book had really impacted me the last couple weeks. I didn't really think it impacted me so much at the time I did it; I undertook the exercise b/c I wanted to be faithful to finish the class strong and not skimp out on the end of it. I have realized over the last couple weeks that it did impact my thinking.

I was to have Psalm 23 read out loud to me once through, then read again slowly pausing between each verse. ( I read it to myself). The I was to ask the Lord these two questions: 1)What needed to happen for my soul to be restored? 2) What is the first thing I need to do to find rest in you? I sat for quite a while asking and trying to be quiet and listen for the answers. Quite honestly, I was also dozing off a bit b/c I was really tired that day. I felt very impressed that the area of my life that I did not have rest in my soul was my children. I feel pretty much at peace, trusting and restful in most other areas of my life. I was not at rest in regard to my children. My lack of rest is a little different than one might think.

I trust the Lord with my children, or so I think. I do not trust myself, though, with my children. I feel like I have made so many mistakes raising them. I feel like I will realize later that I have continued to make mistakes with them. I try to do right by them. I try to make wise decision in regard to them, but, if I am being brutally honest, I feel like a failure in the area of parenting so much of the time. I didn't have much a role model growing up, and my role models when I started having children were extremely imbalanced. I am old enough to have seen the kids of the church I attended when I first met the Lord and had Ally grow to adults. There was a lot of hurt and mess they all had to work through due to the disciplinary measures and environments they grew up in. So I have tried to strike a balance between the uber discipline of that system and the lack of discipline I grew up in. I sure don't have it figured out and I am so grateful for God's grace and mercy. I have tried to be honest with my children about my weaknesses and struggles. I have tried to keep open communication and not be so dogmatic about what I thought that they wouldn't feel like they could talk to me. I try to apologize when I am wrong and take responsibility. I try to see things from their perspective and not see "different" as "wrong". I never wanted to be one of those moms who put down the kids music and acted like the music from my childhood was so much better. I try to remember how frustrating it was when my parents hated my music, so I listen to their music with them and find that I actually end up like a lot of it. I try not to get overly wrapped up in how they dress, what they do to their hair, etc; I try to encourage the dreams or interests they have and not force my expectations or dreams for their lives on them. I have tried to do the best I can...

But I know that I am not always easy to deal with. I can be irritable. I put way too much pressure on poor Alexandra when she was younger. I have drug them from church to church and only in the last year have put down roots. I have not raised them in an environment to really learn what the Word of God says or how to walk with Jesus. We don't eat dinner as a family and never have. We don't pray together like we should or read the bible as a family. They watched me struggle and lose the battle with alcohol for quite a while. They have grown up in an environment where we have struggled with money their whole lives. Things could definitely be worse, but they haven't gotten to travel or go on vacations. They don't get a lot of extra stuff. They have had to wear worn out clothes or what ever we were given. All this material stuff may sound silly to most, but I just always wanted them to be able to do more than I was able to do. I wanted them to see other parts of the world. I wanted them to be able to do sports, or art, or dance, or whatever. We just have not really been able to do that very much. I was always so busy when they were babies. I didn't learn how to play as a child, so I wasn't very good at just sitting down to play games with them or pretend. I didn't do crafts and fun stuff. Sometimes I wish that I could have them as children now b/c I didn't really appreciate the time I had with them. I wasn't good at being silly with them.

Anyway, enough of that. The point is... I am very aware of the mistakes that I have made. I know that no one is perfect, but I don't really feel like I did as good of a job as I could have. Not that it is all over. I still have years to invest, love and impact them. I just feel like some of the more formative years could have been better. So, I have really struggled with fear that I have messed up my children. I have been afraid that I have damaged them and that they will have a harder life b/c of me or maybe even not serve God b/c of me. Like I said, I trust God, but I have not trusted myself. I have felt like maybe someone else could have done better or maybe I could have done a better job if I had started later in life. What God showed me is that the root of not trusting myself really boils down to not trusting Him.

He gently, over the weeks after asking Him to show me what needed to happen for me to find "soul rest" in Him in regard to my children, started to peel back layers and give me a realistic picture of the truth. I have peace in my life over every thing that happened to me growing up and all the pain. I am at peace with that fact that His grace has carried me throughout my entire life. He knew everything that would happen and how I would react to it and the outcome of it all. He knew when I would walk into that church where I accepted Him as my Creator and Savior. He prepared my heart so that the words of David Fees would penetrate my heart and bring me to my knees. He opened my heart and eyes to set me on the path of the Kingdom. He even chose my parents to be who they are knowing how broken and incapable they were.....

Now, if that is the case for me. If He loves me and His grace carried me and brought me to exactly the place to have my whole world turned upside down and put me on the path of serving Him. Then the same is the case for each of my children. He loves them more than I will ever be able to comprehend. He chose me as their mother. He chose the timing that each of them would be conceived and born. He chose Ally's genetic father. He chose Larry as Stephens father and chose the timing that he would be conceived. He chose Larry to be Ally's father and ordained that they would love each other beyond any genetic differences. God chose me to be mother to each of the three, Ally, Stephen, and Chloe knowing every struggle I have, knowing every mistake I would make raising them, and knowing the outcome of it all. Nothing I have done has been a surprise to Him or thrown a kink into His plan for them. A friend wisely said to me, "Do you think you are powerful enough to mess up God's plan?" Even after that I still struggled with really resting in God's grace for me and my children. But, when God broke it down so intricately, I finally got it. He chose me, knowing how hard it would be for me to raise them and how many mistakes I would make and He actually wove into the fabric of each of their lives and His plan for them all of those variables. It all comes together for good. It all works out. Just as my temperament and environment would shape me into exactly what would balance my husband and how his temperament and environment would shape him to bring about one beautiful union and person out of two.

I have found soul rest. I pray for my children every day and ask God to be merciful and call them to himself. I ask him to set into motion those things that need to be to bring them to where he wants them to be and to do whatever it takes to bring about the most eternal significance and the most authentic and sincere relationship possible. I trust Him to bring that to pass. Salvation belongs to the Lord. I cannot save my children; I cannot make them serve God. I cannot control or protect them enough to guarantee they will have not pain or turn their hearts to God. We all need God's grace and mercy to come to know Him and all we can call upon in regard to our children is His grace and mercy. They will only serve Him if He opens their hearts to serve Him. We can plant seeds, put the kindling around their hearts and model the kingdom, but only God can light the fire. I will continue to seek to be faithful to my children, pray for my children and love them, but I won't fret and worry anymore, b/c He knows all and took all into account.

Below is a really neat scene from a movie I saw a while back that I think illustrates so beautifully how God can set into motion a chain of events that will place us where we need to be when we need to be there.

Stop the Flow

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A lesson in cleaning toilets

This is a post that has been simmering in my head for a few weeks. It is another from the Fright Fest month; I have just been waiting for the time to type it.

Just a little background. I have been taking a class over the last 3 months or so called Renovation of the Heart; the book is written by Dallas Willard. It is about building spiritual disciplines into your life and allowing Christ to reshape you into His image. That has been a theme in my life over the last few months anyway. Everywhere I look God sends some situation, person or resource to point me in that direction. I highly recommend the book. It is not an easy process to begin; the digging can be uncomfortable if not painful, but as Christians that is what we are called to. We are not called to pray a prayer and then live however we want. That is not what the Gospel is about. It is about being totally and radically changed from the inside out. We are called to be disciples (apprentices) of Christ and to live our lives the way He lived. He left us His example to follow. The trick is that it is totally impossible to do on our own and in our own power. Only in total surrender to Christ and His will, Spirit and power can we be remade in His image. The equally tricky side of the coin is that He will not force us to change. He will empower us and even do the work in us, but not if we don't desire it. So it becomes what has been coined grace driven effort. While we cannot do it without Him, He will not force it upon us if we don't desire it. Now we could go really deep and say that really the desire comes from Him as well. If you don't have the desire to have your life renovated and become like Christ, ask Him for the desire and He will be faithful to give it to you. Believe me I have seen it in my life so many times. I knew that I should desire something, but I did not desire it so I would ask Him and He has always been faithful to answer those kind of prayers. The biggest example of that in my life lately has been dealing with my alcohol addiction (read about that here Alcoholic and More on Alcoholism ) So this book is really great about digging really deep and breaking down all the different areas that need to be renovated. It will change your life for the better, but it won't be comfortable.

Because of this class, I was spending a lot of time praying and digging into my junk. I have so much ugliness still inside of me. If I'm not careful it can be disheartening. I have to remember to look backwards at how far I have come on this journey because when I just look forward it seems like I am making no progress. God is so gracious to remind me all the time that I have not "made it"; there is still so far to go; I don't look like Christ even 10% of the time. I am grateful that God uses situation in my life every day to remind me that I can't do this on my own; I cannot boast about the progress that has been made in my life. It is Christ and Christ alone that justifies and sanctifies me.

On to my point in this post. This season at Fright Fest the Saloon (where we handle costumes and makeup for the characters) toilet was on the fritz. It ended up needing the plumbers out every weekend if not all three days of the weekend. After the plumbers would come, then the cleaning crew would come to make sure the bathroom was clean for us to use. The majority of the time it was this same young man who would come to clean. I didn't really pay much mind to what was going on b/c usually I was doing makeup or on my way out to go check out how everyone looked at their posts. One particular day near the end of the season, I needed to use the restroom before I went out so I was waiting on the guy to clean it. I was standing near the door and ended up having a conversation with the young man. When I say young man, I mean he was probably under 25. He was cleaning the bathroom with a smile on his face and talking to me. I mentioned that he must be tired of having to come and clean our bathroom for us. He stated that it wasn't a big deal; the restrooms in the whole park are really old so he is always having to go all over the park cleaning up after the plumber. I was struck by how much pride he took in his job. He really did a good job; he didn't slop through. He was not grumbling or ashamed. He looked me in the face and talked about how it was his job to make sure the bathrooms were in clean condition after plumbing problems. This was a normal, very intelligent, well mannered, nice looking young man. As I waited I was cut so deep in my heart. I don't think that I could take so much pride in being the person who cleans the toilets. I felt so ashamed of my arrogance and ego. I felt the Holy Spirit speak so clearly that Jesus would clean the toilets with nothing but love in His heart for the person who was going to use it. He would not have felt like it was below Him; He would do it with such humility, beauty and love. If I am called to be like Christ, then that is what He calls me to do. I had to ask myself, "If that was my job, could I do it 'heartily unto the Lord' could I take pride in being the person who makes sure that the toilets are lovingly clean for people to sit on?" If I was like Christ, the answer to those questions would be yes; I could not honestly say that I could do that. Honestly, I am still sometimes ashamed to admit I work at Starbucks. That is not meant to put anyone down or make anyone feel bad. That statement is an honest assessment of how far off my heart is from where Christ wants it to be. I know that I could not look at someone in the eyes and say that I clean toilets and do it with pride in my work and worship in my heart. That is a glaring reflection of the pride, arrogance and ego that still lives in my heart. Oh, how ugly I can be on the inside.

I was so convicted. I have since begun praying that God would change my heart and perspective on my job. He gave me the job; He calls me to work at Starbucks and expects me to do it "heartily unto Him". He expects me to make coffee and take orders with love and humility in my heart. I am the one who has taken the gift God has given me in putting me in my job and minimized it to "just coffee". There are no jobs that are meaningless. Every job that every follower of Christ has should be infused with worship. Every job is a solemn and beautiful call to worship our Creator and Savior with our hands. Every moment of our lives is meant to be infused with worship. This is something that was and is very important in a practicing Jewish persons life. A Jewish person sees worship of the Creator God is woven into the fabric of life. In Jesus time that would have been a very prevalent way of life. We seem to have lost this idea. We so compartmentalize life that we cannot see that every thing we do is worship. We aren't called to do God things on Sunday and non God things the rest of the time. Every moment of our lives should be infused with and driven by worship of the Lord Jesus Christ. He wants everything, every moment, thought, and little piece of our hearts. If I could just get my heart wrapped around that idea the toilet guy would not have struck me so strongly. I would have understood that it is just as it should be that he takes such pride in his work and feels so positively about what he does.

Ugh!! I still am filled with so much ego and entitlement. Thank God that His love for me is not dependent on my heart or actions. Thank God that I am saved by grace and grace alone. Thank Jesus that I don't have to clean up my heart. He does it for me.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Baby Boy

Yes, again it has been a very long time since I wrote. October was a very long month. I was intending to only work my yearly Fright Fest job doing makeup out at Six Flags, but things did not go quite as planned. I ended up needing to have a surgical biopsy done which meant that I needed to keep my Starbucks job and insurance. That complication led to me working two jobs; it was a pretty exhausting run. Then in the midst of that I had surgery to have lymph node removed and biopsied. Praise God, the lymph node ended up not being cancerous. Oddly enough, it was filled with blue black tattoo pigment. I didn't even know that was possible. Google it if you are skeptical. I was and I did and it does happen. It is not harmful; it just mimics cancer b/c it causes a very suspicious looking calcification. It was a day surgery which I thought I would quickly recover from, but, as it turned out, now three weeks later, it still hurts. The combination of the above really kind of kept me in survival mode leaving no time to blog. Not that I needed all that as an excuse b/c sometimes I go longer for no good reason. This post, though, has been rolling around in my mind for literally 3 or 4 weeks.

I love working Fright Fest. It is my favorite job of the year. I begin to get excited about July knowing that as we head into fall we will begin planning for the season to begin. I have so much fun working Fright Fest. There are a lot of reason for this. I love Halloween. I love zombies and gore. I love the creativity I get to exhibit making different characters and wounds. Most of all, though, I love the kids and people I get to work with. I become very attached to them over the month of October. However, I realized coming home the second weekend of Fright Fest that I wasn't having nearly as much fun as I usually do. I began to think and wonder, "what is going on with me?" "Why is this just not as fun as it usually is?" I have had to work Fright Fest and another job before, so that wasn't it. As I thought about it and analyzed myself, it hit me what it was. My son, Stephen, had not been coming out. He was what was missing. He made Fright Fest fun for me. I didn't even realize how much joy he brought to the job. It wasn't until he wasn't around that I realized that he was a major part of what Fright Fest was to me. Fright Fest was, "our thing". Because I home schooled him for 2 and half years, he was basically with me every day around the clock for those almost 3 years. We would begin to get excited together and count down the months prior to Fright Fest starting. As it would get closer the excitement would build and even make it hard for him to focus on school. He would stop about every 5 minutes to ask about something or talk about some aspect of the upcoming season. Then it would start and we would begin planning and getting ready every Thursday. We would try to get ahead on school so that Fridays work would be light. We would get up on Friday morning and start packing and prepare to leave. We would drive together in the car, most of the time just him and me. We would listen to music really loud and drive the 45 minute drive into Arlington. The weekend would be exhausting and exhilarating. Friday, Saturday and Sunday I would do makeup and he would watch and wait for time to go to the haunted house to scare the patrons. He would scare from open to close with no break; he would often go without eating all day long and he did all this for free (no pay, just for the joy of doing it). He would come even if he was sick; he never wanted to miss a moment of it. So, it was Stephen; he made Fright Fest so much fun; his excitement was contagious. It was not the same without him.

Over the last few weeks being at work at Fright Fest and especially driving home, I would think about how much I was missing Stephen being with me. Everyone else missed him as well. He is such a fun and energetic force to be around. I began to realize that I was grieving over the loss of that experience. I would sometimes come close to crying as I realize that my little boy is very quickly growing up. He is becoming more independent and needing me less. This year it has really hit me that the time we get to spend with our children is so short. It is over before we know it. They will always be our children, but it changes. When your in the middle of the day to day living, day to day fun, day to day fighting, you think it will last forever. It did not occur to me last year to cling to those moments with Stephen; I did not take time to relish the energy and excitement that we had together. When it ended, I just thought, "we'll do this again next year." last year was really the last year for that. I never get to go back to that. I have the memories, but that season will never be again. People always told me to cherish those moments you get, b/c they are gone before you know it, but I didn't believe them. Now I get to be the one telling people who won't listen to beware b/c in a flash it is over. This year I went from spending every day with Stephen (more time than I thought I really wanted to spend with him) to him going back to school, not attending Fright Fest with me, and pretty much pulling away from me very quickly. He doesn't have much time for me and for the most part finds me to be pretty annoying. I just figured he would always be my little boy. I realize now that I did not stop nearly enough to "nuggle" with him when he asked. He won't even hug me right now. There has always been so many other things I needed to do when the kids were wanting my attention. Those things seem so stupid and unimportant now.

Now, I am absolutely stupid about getting his attention. If I have a moment that he will give me the time of day I will do almost anything from enduring wrestling and arm punching to listening to any and every song that he wants to share with me. If he stops to tell me something or says hey listen to this song mom, I am there b/c I know that those moments will continue to become less and less at least for the next couple years. His latest obsession is Kid Cudi so guess who is newly a fan of Kid Cudi. I don't always appreciate the language, but I do appreciate the opportunity to share something with my son. Stephen also introduced me to T.I. (talk about language). When I hear those songs, though, they remind me of the moments I get to share with Stephen.

Maybe what I really want to share with everyone is take the moments when you can get them. There are so many more when they are young, but remember they don't last forever. Grab up every moment they will give you. When they get older, you may have to share moments in a way different than you may want to or think about. I may not appreciate all the music Stephen appreciates, but if I just forbid it then he will listen to it elsewhere without me. At least if we are listening to it together, we get to share it and I have to opportunity to talk to him about it and maybe give him some perspective on what is being talked about. Just remember there comes a time that you don't get as much control over the moments; you can either try to be picky and miss moments or you can relax a bit and have more moments; they may be different moments than you would choose, but they will be moments none-the-less.