Monday, September 25, 2017

What You Are First

Let me begin with this brief but necessary statement: I am not an expert. Looking back at my last post, I guess that's what most bothers me about A LOT of people getting access to platforms, big or small, and presenting opinions as truth and using their lives as a sort of cornerstone from which we all should build ours.

But I'm less fired up today so suffice it to say: God is not a copy and paste God. Truth never changes. But in order for us to work out Truth in our own lives, we have to stay close to the Holy Spirit because it does NOT always look the same.

"All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work."
2 Timothy 3: 16-17

This diversity in how we walk out our callings carries a very beautiful tension in it. I rub shoulders everyday in friendship with women who are living by the same Truth and the tasks we are called to are very different.

I got a phone call with a friend this weekend that my heart didn't even know it needed.  She'd called wanting clarity on something that recently God had been talking to me about but I hadn't had time to fully process. God's sneaky like that. He knew I needed to rehearse those same truths, and I was not going to do without impetus from somewhere else.

Her initial text said this:
"Hey Charis, I remember you sharing a few years ago how sometimes motherhood is hard for you because of the different dreams that were on your heart. I am totally in the throes of that right now and I'm really wanting to learn how to find peace in this season."

In all honesty, deep into this fourth kid business, my dreams have shrunk to both the immediate and practical:
to have empty laundry baskets and a floor that cleans itself,
to teach Cade to aim when he pees,
to work out in peace,
to literally be in a hut on an island where there's a whirling fan, a massive bed with white linens, and I am told to sleep for as long as I like- and since my quality time bucket has a hole, Chad can be there too but he has to be watching football on his ipad with earphones in and my kids can be playing in another room being supervised by my favorite highschooler Chloe.
THIS IS THE EXTENT OF MY DREAMS LATELY.

But while we talked, I grabbed my journal and went to an entry I had written just a few weeks before that I'd almost forgotten about.

About a year ago I was asked to step into a role at our church that felt so out of my comfort zone and gifting zone (to be honest) and while it's not a part-time or full-time job, it requires a lot of my emotional and mental space some weeks. Ever since I accepted it, I've had this new wrestle in my heart. Is this "yes" stealing from my kids? How can I possibly be a good mom and a good anything else right now? Can I do both things well? Did call me to be a mom, or to be this?

I am not sure if men deal with this struggle. I've never heard Chad consider quitting his job because he thinks its taking him away from the kids. He has never once said he felt guilty for leaving them with me. Maybe some men do feel guilty. In our home, that's not the case. So Chad hasn't really understood me when I'm anxious for my children, wondering if they'll look back on their childhoods and not think they were truly epic. And if it wasn't, could it be because Mom was distracted, irritated over a million other things, and half-hearted? (Because somehow in my messed up thinking, if I didn't have this "job" to think about, I'd be Mary Poppins. Surely, right?!)

I took all this mess to God. I have so many friends who work part-time, full-time and feel CALLED to what they're doing. And I don't doubt them. But the wrestle is real. I was trying to sort through my own callings, leadings, promptings, purpose, designs, etc. As I journaled, I felt like God said it all boiled down to one question:

WHAT ARE YOU FIRST?

As Bill Johnson says, when God asks a question, I don't assume I know the answer. So I wrote out what I felt like He was saying.

First, you are a daughter. This teaches you worship, and identity. You are not an orphan. You are not a victim.
Second, you are a wife. This teaches you love and faithfulness. You were created to be a lifelong companion to Chad, equal in worth, suited to best walk out life with him.
Third, you are a mother. This teaches you leadership, how to champion people, and how to cover them well.

Everything else is fruit of those roles. I learn who I am by prioritizing being a daughter of God. I don't have to fight for my giftings, for my advancement, for my recognition, for my "time" in the spotlight. I can trust the Father with all my dreams, island get away and all.

In my life, the second role I received after being a daughter was being a wife. I learn how to love and how to be consistent and helpful, truly useful and practically beneficial by creating a safe place for my husband. It is a gift to walk with him. It is a privilege to know him. It is good to tell him that I believe he was created to lead our family well, and he doesn't have to be passive. Eve showed us all what happens when we take the reigns from our men. NOTE: IT DOESN'T END WELL.

And after I was made a wife, I became a mother. I learn how to lead others, how to believe in others, how to forgive, how to fight on behalf of others, how to inspire others, how to make others great by being a mom. Motherhood has taught me self-forgetfulness in the truest and sweetest ways. I am not jealous of my kids giftings, I am not trying to vicariously live through them, I am so proud of who they are and what they're like and they haven't even begun to try and impress me.

If I can be a daughter, then be a wife, and then be a mother, in my heart first, I can take on other roles without getting them confused. Being anything else doesn't take away what I am first and foremost in my life. I don't know what roles you'll walk in, what things you're taking on, and I don't have a cut and clear vision for what to say yes to and what to say no to. It will probably shift for so many of us all throughout our lives. Women's lives are so seasonal and transient that way. But staying connected to the Father, staying connected to what we are FIRST, as a daughter, teaches us how to live everything else out.

"So friends, take a firm stand, feet on the ground and head high. Keep a tight grip on what you were taught, whether in personal conversation or by our letter. May Jesus himself and God our Father, who reached out in love and surprised you with gifts of unending help and confidence, put a fresh heart in you, invigorate your work, enliven your speech." 2 Thessalonians 2:15-17 MSG



Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Buy the Truth, and do not sell it

Yall. My writing lately. I just want to say I have four kids and I haven't slept through the night in four months. I am hanging onto threads of sanity some days and mostly resemble that hamster that teachers keep in elementary classrooms. AM I MAKING ANY PROGRESS? IS IT JUST ME OR DID I LITERALLY JUST LOAD ALL THIS SAME CRAP INTO THE DISHWASHER YESTERDAY? HOW IS LAUNDRY DAY AGAIN? Lest that sound like I am complaining, I am actually a very happy hamster. I run the wheel and I like it. So there. But, it's still hard to measure my actual progress. Thank you, Jesus, for GRACE.

Onto the actual purpose for this blog: 

BUY THE TRUTH AND DO NOT SELL IT proverbs 23:23

What a lovely command that is from Proverbs. I want to purchase the Truth for my life and never ever let go. But I am tempted to ask the age old question today, what is the Truth? And what does it look like to purchase it? To spend my life on it? Because I certainly do NOT want to waste time and money buying opinions and preferences. 

 I am feeling pretty angsty today. It's going to translate into this blog and in all of the all caps words...can't help it. Angst will come out even if only through punched out letters on a keyboard. I was up several times last night feeding a tiny human and reading chapters of a book written by a popular Christian author and I've had so many debates in my head with this author (who shall remain nameless) that I am now feeling like a two liter of soda someone shook up all day. SOMEBODY LISTEN TO ME. 

This is my real issue with most Christian books: we are mostly opinion. Even when we quote a lot of verses, how we apply them can be opinionated. We can maneuver and manipulate and try to project on our audience the lens through which we see life. The problem is, nobody else has the exact same experience or mentors or childhood or factors that make up that lens. So I'm really bothered by this book because I wish the author would have started out something like this: 

"Hey, these are my humble attempts at making sense of life. I am trying to read my Bible every day, stay in a healthy community, and process with the Holy Spirit on all of these issues. But most of this book is what I am learning or have learned and so it comes with a lot of opinions. Please don't use me to create a theology around. Please keep your brain intact the whole time. Glean where you can, leave what you need to. Feel free to disagree with me. Because, after all, the Truth is not a methodology, a systemized list of rules, or even a philosophy. The Truth is a Person and His name is Jesus. He asked in John 14 for the Father to send the Spirit of Truth to us, and so you have to consult with the Holy Spirit and ask Him for truth. I am truly sorry if my opinions on the following pages are presented as fact. Please be discerning and take what bothers you to people you trust and the Holy Spirit. Enjoy reading my thoughts." 

This introduction would help me so much. It would set me up with expectations, and a careful filtering system. I wouldn't have to dislike the author so much. I wouldn't get so worked up. Oh, you just totally disarmed this whole firing squad in my head. You are not God. I am not either. Your experience with life isn't threatening Truth. We are not against each other. We are working this thing out side by side and we don't have to see everything perfectly alike to move the same direction. I can hear you and not have to think if I keep reading you are going to slowly dismantle all of my history with God. Thank you, boundaries. 

Do you ever try to reduce all your learning into once sentence? Like when someone asks how you've been or what's on your heart and you're scrambling not because you don't have anything but because HOW DO YOU SUMMARIZE EVERYTHING.
If you and me were to strap all the kids in some double joggers and take a walk this is what I'd answer to that question:

I am learning that we can be on the same team and not have perfect agreement on every topic.

 Like, I actually have ZERO friends who see life just the way I do. My own husband is on my team, he is so for me, he is my biggest encouragement. But he doesn't agree with every thought process I have or have to feel all my feelings or think all my thoughts. 

Sometimes in conversation with Chad, I'll be mystified when he doesn't come to the same conclusion that I have. So I spend the next day and a half presenting the situation from a bunch of different angles, helping him examine it just the way I do and am always disappointed that he still has a different conclusion. He has original thought. His brain and my brain are really different. Different used to mean division. WHAT?? YOU LIKE RAP MUSIC? HOW DO WE SHARE THE SAME BATHROOM?? 

Do you know how glad I am that Chad and I are different? I am so glad he doesn't share my tendency to overdramatize, overshare, overprocess. When something happens that sends me reeling, I am so grateful to ask him for his thoughts because his reaction is usually so wise and centered and so NOT MINE. Thank You, Jesus, that opposites attract. 

I am also realizing lately how much I assume people agree with me. In regular conversation, I am tempted to alter certain phrases, swap out words, add in a few sentences so that what someone else is saying is actually what I wish they'd say. Like, how can I convince myself we perfectly agree so I feel peaceful with you? But maybe the whole point isn't that my closest friends and I would automatically agree on and think the same things. Maybe listening, and hearing what people are saying is more important than agreeing with them. We can actually have a conversation where we disagree and neither of us tried to persuade the other one. What a revolution that would be. 

Do you know what is the scariest thing? GOD DOESN'T AGREE WITH ME. (I almost wanted to add 100 percent of the time and now I'm laughing out loud. WHAT IS MY PROBLEM.)

I am so obsessed with being right. Maybe that's not your bent. But it's for sure mine. I think it's actually RIGHT that I never use garlic from a jar but I press my own garlic cloves and my hands smell like it for days, and I've actually been offended that my sister overcooks her egg whites in front of me because softly scrambled eggs are gospel truth. I cannot believe it when a friend likes a hoppy beer or unsweet tea or gas station coffee (why is this all revolving around food?). I guess the point is, I think even how and what I eat is right. 

Opinion can so easily feel like truth. Preference can feel like truth. But that doesn't make it true. Are you ever amazed when one of your closest friends can watch, read or listen to something you hate? Or are you ever genuinely stumped when they are friends with someone that you just cannot seem to get into? Being different is so exciting and terrifying at the same time. 

I guess the point is, it would be worth the time to sort through our opinions and truths and figure out which is which. Is it true that everyone should do this and this or is that just my opinion? We'll actually have to crack open the Bible and weigh our thoughts- " A JUST WEIGHT IS HIS DELIGHT". I love how Psalms says that God stores up sound wisdom for the upright. I can ask Him what He thinks. Truth is not at the mercy of my opinions, or anyone else's. We are so dreadfully impatient to figure out where the boundaries are- to push for rules and codes and bedrock so we can justify our lives and our thoughts. I am so glad that the gospels don't disclose what kinds of food Jesus ate or what His hour by hour day looked like. I am certain that what we have in the Word is enough to build a life on. The other things, the opinion things, can be left as opinions. We can have them and celebrate them and share them, but we cannot make other people obey them or absorb them or adopt them. 

Thank you Jesus, that YOU are the Truth. The living, breathing, forever reigning Truth that we all so deeply long for and crave. Reveal Yourself today. 

Friday, February 24, 2017

On Being A Mom

How to be a mom and retain my patience, peace and personality

How to find sustainable rhythms in motherhood- getting used without getting used up. I'm three kids deep, the fourth nine(ish) weeks from being born. 

I homeschool one in kindergarten. I only just stopped nursing a kid a few months ago and a few months into my fifth pregnancy. I miscarried a baby in July. I am training up a little man warrior, and will get to walk with three little women. I grew up with nothing more on my agenda than being a wife and mom- and being a missionary to Ethiopia. I've fulfilled the first two. And yet the life goal of motherhood has stripped me of my pride like nothing else ever has.

I am still constantly frustrated and ashamed at my own lack of patience, lack of time management, lack of foresight, lack of enjoyment in the mundane and daily tasks that motherhood entails. I get so busy cleaning up after them, I forget to enter into play with them. I stress over sleep patterns and eating patterns and wonder if I should or shouldn't vaccinate, what health tips I am totally missing. 

Motherhood for me can oftentimes bring my greatest failures to the surface, just asking me to try and overcome them. But God.

How do I meet God here?
How do I juggle three little lives and still try and retain my own joy, my own personality? How do I be a mother and be me?

I never want to NOT be inspired by my friends who are moms. None of us do it exactly the same. I learn stuff from moms of one and moms of seven. I learn how to do laundry, how to travel, how to discipline, how to not fight every battle, how to laugh, how to educate, how to feed, even how to birth children from my other mom friends. But there's a fine line between inspiration and comparison and shame. I struggle with finding peace in my lane of motherhood. Am I doing this thing right? 

I think the short answer is no. I'm not doing it all right. I'm imbalanced in so many areas and probably missing a lot of the pieces on the way. It reminds me of a Melissa Helser thought- she describes how when she first started parenting she was asking God about it and felt like He said "teach your kids to need me. There will come a day when they will outgrow their need for you, and that's a good thing. But they will never outgrow their need for me." 

If I've ever known my neediness for God as a human, it's in motherhood. Nothing lays my heart bare like mothering, nothing pushes my buttons more, nothing makes me more defensive or feels more personal or jeopardizes more of my love or takes up more of my thoughts. I have to ask my kids forgiveness a lot, and together we have to go before God and let Him bring peace. My kids watch me repent- almost daily. But I'm believing even that is a win. 

Its my finiteness that will press my kids to know Jesus. Where I fail, He won't. My kids don't need a mom who did everything right, they need a mom who knows how much she needs Jesus. They need a mom who demonstrates for them what to do when they reach the end of themselves. They need a mom who can say, guys, I am going to let you down- but JESUS won't. I don't have all the answers, but Jesus does. 

Me pretending to be a mom-goddess wouldn't benefit my kids in the long run. They'd think and expect perfection from themselves was Gods idea. They'd have major dilemmas when they got on their own and realized they also fail at the very thing their heart loves to do most. 

Where my imperfection and motherhood meet is the perfect launching pad for the Holy Spirit. It is the breeding ground for actual salvation. My kids need to see me in need of grace, and receiving grace, and activating grace so they will know how to do it in their own lives. So, scary insecurities about motherhood, I don't have to listen to you. Fear of messing up, I won't bow to you. Lies about my own personality getting reshaped, I'll reject you. My kids are seeing first hand what happens when Jesus walks with a human and stoops low to make her great for the millionth time. They're going to know Jesus isn't afraid of, intimidated by, or disgusted with weakness. They're going to know He "gently leads those with young". 
Being