Thursday, August 30, 2012

Sanctification is...

Sanctification...
sometimes it comes in a moment with God's Word
sometimes it comes in a moment with hands lifted high in worship

But a lot of times, for me...

Sanctification is

Sleepless nights
and God's peace in the midst of baby cries
Too-early mornings
and a prayer of "help me!" lifted up over coffee

An hour with my own personal hell on wheels
A difficult moment with an insistent child
Hearing myself speak the very words that need to be spoken to me

Sometimes it's rough and ragged

It meets me in the shattered places of myself
The places of deep shame

It is two o'clock in the morning
On my face weeping
It is tears in the shower
and having just that moment of perspective that I needed

It's dirty socks
and dirty dishes
and dirty looks from should-be-thankful children

It's biting flies

And an a/c system that won't stay fixed

It's the irrationally strong, but really-not-that-crazy fear every time my family leaves me that maybe one day they won't all come back in one piece

But it's also trees smashing through roof tops 
and watching God provide grace and help in my time of need.

It's laughter when I felt like screaming two seconds ago

It's looking back and noticing all of the ways that God has been faithful to me

It's letting go if who I think I ought to be
It's watching God create in me someone I never would have imagined I could become

Sometimes it takes me by surprise
all of the many, many ways God is using to change me



Wednesday, August 29, 2012

a blessing in disguise

this is what happens when Mama takes too long!! :) 

This morning Eli smashed his thumb. I wasn't goofing off, I wasn't distracted or on Instagram, I was pouring a bowl of oatmeal for Josiah. I was standing right there, I could have stopped the accident from happening, but I didn't notice that Eli had stopped playing with plastic cups and has started trying to pull a stack of stoneware plates down until it was too late.

Babies are amazingly resilient. Eli screamed when I put the bag of frozen corn on his hand but only because I was restricting his movement. After a few minutes I released him and he toddled off to practice opening and closing the dishwasher. I sat down nearby to watch him, and occasionally pull him off from climbing inside it, and then the wave of mom-guilt washes over me like a flood.

taking photos for my photography e-class...

I have this tendency, whenever something unpleasant happens to my children, to blame myself. If they get hurt - it's my fault, if they get sick - I should have done a better job of keeping them clean, if they do badly on an assignment in school I feel personally responsible for anything less than 100. I don't know if this makes me crazy, or if this is just part of being a mom.

This afternoon, in my moment of guilt and mental self-flagellation I had this one, glimmering redemptive thought: What if my inability to be perfect is, in fact, a good thing?  It startled me out of my funk and I listened to what I can only assume was a Holy Spirit inspired moment of revelation.

You see, I have this standard, in the back of my mind, ever-present as I am ever-lacking. I shouldn't have eaten that cake. I should have used a gentler tone of voice when correcting my child. I should have done this, should not have done that. Some of it might be right, biblical even, some of it I've just picked up along the way. Some of it is really good, some of it though is totally insane. I spend my days and nights swinging from not even trying to live up to such impossibly high standards (whatever - I'm just going to eat the cake anyway, sit on my butt and watch TV) and then writhing in self- hatred, driving myself and everyone around me crazy trying desperately to get it together.

I never get it all together. Not if I'm honest. At least not for more then a couple hours. And then I was probably at church with my kids tucked sweetly into their classes. Before I know it we'll be back home and I'll be screaming at my kids to be quiet for two minutes together because I've got to figure out what we're doing for lunch.

Yeah, that pretty much sums it up. One minute I'm lost in worship, the next minute I'm loosing it.

7022SC
click here to see more photos from this set
But what if there is blessing in that?

Say what?

What if there is blessing in this not-being-able-to-get-my-act-togetherness.

What if it is THAT that truly points me to my need of Christ? What if it is this great, deep, constant lack that points me to the fullness of God? And his ability not just to fill my cracks but to be the substance. To be my redemption. To be my perfection.

There is blessing in recognizing my need. Not just "I want this to be easier" need  but "I can't get through this day without your help" need. Then in asking for help and receiving grace.

This is true on a human level too. I find there to be a lot of blessing in my marriage when I recognize my need "I'm overwhelmed!" or "I think I stained a muscle in my back" and then I ask for help "would you please listen to Katie-Abigail read tonight?" or "can you watch the kids while I go take a bath?" and then receive help with a grateful heart.

If I was all that, if I was constantly together and on top where would be my need for grace? When would I experience forgiveness both given and received? If I had no need for grace there would be nothing left but pride and self-righteousness.



So maybe this gift of mess comes in pretty odd wrapping. Maybe I haven't learned what a friend she truly is. But maybe my lack of having-it-all-together and super-abundance of lack truly is a blessing in disguise.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

My playlist

Worship Music I'm listening to right now:   

click links to hear a couple of my favorite songs 
via YouTube
Wonderful
Waiting Here for You
Already All I Need




Blessings
What a Savior

Secular Music I'm loving right now:

Get Out
Simple Life 


Anywhere Your Love Goes
Here's Where We Begin




small print: all amazon links are affiliate links

Friday, August 24, 2012

Normal is over-rated

33/365

Tonight we danced in the kitchen, I made Quesadillas and the kids picked and grazed and we never really sat down and ate but when I was out of cheese everyone was full, so I'm going to call it good.

Now I'm standing here in my kitchen viewing the mess of black beans, corn and shredded cheese and have this twinge of guilt.

I grew up in a home where we ate every meal together at the table, every day and every night, except for Fridays night (or Saturday afternoon) when my mom made pizza (from scratch) and we watched Star Treck in the living room off TV tables. That is my normal. I think that is anybody's ideal. I am so grateful that during a generation of latch-key kids I was one of those few who got home cooked meals at home with my family every day.

Every now and then though it's good to take normal and toss it aside... just throw it out the window and not feel bad about it.

So right now I am giving you and me both permission to not follow our carefully crafted idealized versions of ourselves and just be. Just laugh, sing, be silly. And above all be grateful because everything is going to be a mess again in five, four, three, two, one - yep, there's the fighting and crying.

Back to the mess.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

BBQ coleslaw sandwich

One of our favorite places to eat is Firehouse Subs, and one of our favorite subs there is the King Hawaiian BBQ coleslaw sandwiches but the last couple of times we have ordered it we have been disappointed with greasy BBQ pork and over-toasted buns. So I thought I'd try to make my own version of it.

Ready

Instead of pork I'll be making this with chicken and I'm going to use pre-made BBQ sauce and pre-prepared cole slaw that I bought from KFC.

Chickens cooking (one is for later in the week)

Step one - preheat the oven to 350, rinse off a whole chicken, if you want to you can rub it with salt it helps the chicken be more flavorful, set it in a 9x9 pan and put it in the oven. Depending on how big your chicken is it will take about 60 minutes to bake, more or less. Make sure you use a meat thermometer to test the temperature.

Chicken done and starting to cool 

Step twoOnce the chicken is cooked let it cool a bit, shred the chicken, then put it in a pot with BBQ sauce and set it one the stove to warm up. Spread out the buns on a cookie sheet and warm them up.

Untitled
UntitledUntitledUntitledUntitled


Step three - Put the BBQ chicken on the buns and top with extra BBQ sauce, a slice of cheese and coleslaw.

Untitled

My version of the sandwich didn't quite have the flavor profile I was looking for - it ought to have had more contrast, overall it was just too sweet. I  love  the Brown Sugar BBQ sauce but I think that for this sandwich I needed more of a vinegar-based savory sauce. Also I thought that the coleslaw was too fine. The cabbage needed to be more of a long-cut style and the sauce needed to be creamier. I think I needed a different type of cheese too. If you have any suggestions, especially about the BBQ sauce - please leave a comment!!  This is a great sandwich and I can't wait to keep tweaking it to make something better.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

getting over myself: life as a road-kill Christian

DSC_6740 sugar cookies2
this is a photo I took for a friend of my mother
I grew up in a Christian home. My parents were Sunday school teachers, my Dad was a deacon, we were the first ones there, the last ones to leave, unswervingly loyal, completely committed. And while I don't think my parents intended for me to develop an "us" and "them" mentality as I began my life as an adult I realized it was deeply ingrained in my worldview. I claimed my place in the elite group of Christians and held onto it with  tenacity while looking down my nose at the "others".

Then I went through a really tough couple of years.

Life knocked me down and ran over me, backed up and ran over me again. There were about four years of hard, then two years of awful and then two more years of really awful. I was living in a soul-crushing pit.

I was fighting God.

I was grieving.

It was bad.

As I began to crawl out of that pit I started calling myself a road-kill Christian. I felt like I walked around with tractor-trailer tire marks on the forehead of my soul.  I was a once-committed Christian.

I struggled. I struggled hard.  And I struggled pretty much alone. I wouldn't let anyone get close enough to see what a mess I was. The most honest thing I'd say was "it's been hard" and then I'd change subject. My life was falling apart at the seams but all I remember thinking is "this shouldn't be so hard!"  I was suicidally depressed but I was thinking "I shouldn't be struggling like this" and "I ought to be over this by now". That makes it really hard to receive grace.

God finally pulled me out of that pit, and then I sat there, on the storm-wrecked beach of my life, surveying the damage and still I felt like I had to hide it. I spent a lot of time feeling guilty. Trying to pray, but feeling like after all of the fighting God and I had been doing lately there was really no way he'd listen to me. Yet I watched as He gently washed the shore, clearing away the wreck of my life with God and gaving me a fresh start. I was storm-tossed but he was redeeming.

As I got to step across the line of "us" and "them" I got to experience the grace of being one of "them". I was one of the sporadically attending non-tithing (or serving) pew-warmers. God's grace was huge in that place. I discovered that while there is blessing in being an active, involved member of a local body of believers I also got a peek into the heart of God and I got to see that to him there is no distinction.

I was clinging to a distinction in the mind of man that didn't exist in the mind of God. There is no "us" committed and "them" un-committed. I got hung up on the wrong set of prioroties. I naturally tend to think in terms of performance and measure myself against a socially-determined performance-oriented list of priorities hoping I can grade myself as above-average. Like average is bad or like less-than average is double-bad and you might as well not even call yourself a Christian. What a lie.

God delights in the humble (and resists the proud) he rejoices in the prodigals, his grace works mightily through the weak. He draws near to the broken-hearted.  But superiority feels good, like a comfy, well-worn bath-robe. It covers those nagging feelings of insecurity and conceals my thoughts of inadequacy. Meanwhile I ignore the wedding gown of grace I've left hanging in my closet.

God has been really consistent about telling his people what gets his approval. Abraham believed God and it was his faith, not his performance, that pleased God.  Through Isaiah God told us that our righteous acts piled up like garbageJesus let us know what he thought about that mentality in his parable about the Pharasee and the tax collector.

Fingers

Here is my confession, I mentioned it recently in a previous post but I feel like I ought to say it again here: I struggle with Quiet Times. Not like, I miss a day here and there. I really struggle to be consistent. I have from Day 1 of my walk with God. Sometimes I am just lazy. Sometimes I have unrealistic expectations that lead to massive disappointment. I have come to accept it as my grace of weakness. I think if it was easy for me I might view my relationship with God more in terms of something I can do. My reality is that this is something I can't do. I need him to constantly return my focus, I need him to constantly renew my passion. I need him to constantly remind me to rest. If it was just me I'd be a million miles away from the heart of God. 

I tend to make a distinction based on performance and that is self- righteousness. Self-righteousness is striving, always trying to get everything checked off my self-imposed list of expectations. God just doesn't consider his children in those categories.  Resting in Christ's righteousness is the way of salvation and we are hurting ourselves and distancing ourselves from God when we define our relationship with him in terms of performance. 

Olympic athletes are never judged by how well they bake. That has nothing to do with their identity as an athlete. In the same way our Christian performance has nothing to do with our acceptance in Christ. His love for us is not determined by the number of minutes we spend in Bible Study and prayer, the percentage of income tithed, the amount we volunteer at church. It is tempting to wrap our identity up in our performance. We are mixing up the categories of identity and intimacy.

Intimacy is only found on the path of obedience. Identity is found in the unearned, lavish love and grace of God to call us his own. It took me a really long time to learn what that meant. It took crossing my imaginary line and walking around with tire-treads on my forehead for awhile before it really started to sink in. To rest in grace and cease my performance-driven striving. To rest in Christ's righteousness is about shifting categories.  When God looks at me he sees the beginning and the end. He sees me as I am today but he also sees me as I will one day be - perfect and without any spot of sin. He sees that now. That type of perfection can't hold a candle to my attempts at ideal. I can't see the perfect-me that God sees but I accept that it exists and I accept that my day to day up and down Christian life is not affecting God's opinion if me. If I'm desperately seeking God's approval and His acceptance all I have to do is turn around. He's right there. Always right there.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

the non-ergonomic me


IMG_3449

I just watched the movie Blue Like Jazz and loved it. It's probably the best Chrstian-produced-type movie I've seen in a very long while. Can I just say I loved the guy who played Don's dad? I've seen him on the tween TV show Victorious and think he is such a brilliant actor. He was more than perfect for that role.

I remember the first time I read the book Blue Like Jazz . It was the first of that type, personal narrative with a point, that I'd read. I devoured it. And it spoiled me for all of my preachy women prose that I'd been reading up to that point. It was like watching TV in color for the first time.

I think I am seeing a definite theme in the message in this movie and in the book I'm reading. It's time to stop worrying about only saying what I think people want to hear. It's time to stop only saying what I think will get the reaction I want.

I am really good at that - at saying what I think other people want to hear. I was really good at that in Sunday School. I slowly realized that what I was saying was not just the right answer, it was the answer that the teacher wanted to hear. Maybe not the right answer but his or her right answer. I knew the right answer, I would say it, I would get praise. It's my brand. I blend.  I find a side of me that I think you'll like and I show that off like it's everything that I am.

When I'm with my people from the old days - well, really only my family now, because when you leave a small conservative church it feels like you are pretty much dead to them, but anyway, when I'm with them I hear myself reverting to a vocabulary that I rarely even think in anymore, but there I am saying "praise the lord" just like in the old days. When my friends were non-conformist I found a way to fashion myself into something I thought they'd like and started reading the un-church books. I have my super-spiritual leader-type friend and my laid-back mom friend and my new-mom friend and it's great that I have these different friends the problem is that I find myself being kind of a completely different person with all of them. Only in all of the people pleasing and mask wearing I totally loose me and I rob my friends of my self. Not like that's an enormous loss, but I do believe in God's sovereignty and that he brings people into our lives at just the right moment. But what if I'm that person that you need me to be right now but I'm acting like the person I think you want me to be. I'm robbing you. That's wrong.

IMG_3444 
It's wrong of me to only tell the part of my story I think you want to hear. The happily ever after where everything turns out okay. It's not like my life is at some sort of dramatic climax, but still - we all have mess. The mess that stays behind the doors of what I want you to believe about me. I like to leave that part out, gloss over, down play, talk about it in the past tense - because doesn't our mess sound so much better like it's a thing of the past?

It's wrong to hide the parts of my story that I don't fully understand and still struggle to process, just for the sake of maybe you'll like the simplified, streamlined ergonomic version of me better that the real life, messy me.

I'm not saying I should start vomiting my mess all over the internet or that I should tell the stories that aren't mine to tell. What I am saying is that I am done hiding. Done self-editing. Done with constantly worrying about who likes me and how they might like me more or less depending on what I do or say. It's time. It's been time for awhile I just didn't know where to start, I needed a little nudge in the right direction.

There's a voice that says "how can you have anything to say? how can you even assume you have the right to say anything at all when you still struggle with that. you know better, you ought to be beyond this, this shouldn't be hard for you." but there's another voice that says "speak anyway. speak from within your mess." and I have a feeling that from one mess to another - it's going to be okay.

Friday, August 17, 2012

behind the mask

Last night I had the delight of meeting up with a good friend of mine and her kids. It's not often that I have a big-kid play date and it was really refreshing. During the course of conversation we started talking about our homes and the messiness of life. She mentioned that from my Instagrams my home seems so serene. I love hearing other people's perception of me - it's usually laughably inaccurate. I'm sure it goes the other way as well. I think of this woman as being very "together" and would never guess that she struggles with bathrooms that need to be cleaned or closets that need to be organized. I was thinking of her and of that conversation as I was writing this post - and that's what the pictures are about. I really didn't want to post these as large images but this post is all about giving you a peek into one of my many less-than perfect days so here I am in all my messiness.

what I REALLY wore
this is an older pic but I really love it - it's so life right now

Yesterday I started reading Grace for the Good Girl by Emily P Freeman and it has found me exactly where I am. I have been having those "did you read my journal?!" moments as I'm reading (the same thing happened when I read Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World and I love it) because she is coming from pretty much the same place as I am with with struggles so similar to my own.

Here is the biggest struggle of all for me - the "shoulds" of life. I think I "should" be a certain way - I "ought" to be just so.  A good wife, an outstanding mother, a good Christian raised in a committed Christian home, a photography teacher... the "shoulds" of life pile up and I drown in them. I "should" have amazing photos of my kids on the walls. My family and home "ought" to  look like a magazine, or at least like the cute blogs I read. I "should" never go to bed without a clean kitchen, I "ought" to be able to have my laundry always folded and put away - I was taught so well, this shouldn't be a struggle for me.

That is not my reality. 

Untitled
my bedroom this morning

I really want you to like & respect me. I want you to want to be my friend, I want you to call me for advice, look up to me as a leader, want to be more like me. So I am really calm and quiet when I'm in public, even if I sometimes yell at home. I only photograph my home when it's clean because that is the "me" that I want you to know. The me I "ought" to be. She is so awesome - so put together, so calm and collected, always. She is so selfless and self-controlled. She is so organized and neat. I desperately wish I was her. But if I can't pull it off maybe I can do the next best thing - make everyone think I'm her - even if really, I'm not.

I'm a mess.

Untitled
my bathroom

I have a pimple on my back. I have three baskets of laundry that we have been adding to and subtracting from all week. I get overwhelmed by the monotony of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, diaper changes, matchbox cars, balls and books that need to be picked up for the millionth time. I resent the ten minutes of quiet that The Hubs gets on his drive home from work. I am sometimes more focused on getting my kids to bed so I can watch my favorite show on TV than I am concerned about cherishing these fleeting years of having my babies in my arms and under my roof. My kids don't always listen and are sometimes downright mean. Sometimes I am mean right back. I am indecisive. I am scatterbrained. I am petty and impatient. I am terrified of being disappointed and petrified of being a disappointment to others. I can be overly critical, especially of other Chrisitians, and especially of Chrisitan leaders. I eat ice cream before bed at night. I really struggle with the whole Quiet Time thing.

Untitled
my laundry baskets

Sometimes I have unreasonable expectations, especially of my oldest child and most especially of my husband. Sometimes I expect my kids to be perfect, and let them know when they have been less-than. I care more about how our family is perceived than the reality behind the perception. I often become so consumed by how hard I am trying to make you like me that I forget to be concerned about you. And while I am trying so hard to appear perfect I come off as aloof and disingenuous.

Untitled
my kitchen

When I only show my good side I perpetuate the lie of the "should" and the "ought".  I am not very good at this, though I'm a tiny bit better than I used to be. I want the women in my life, my friends in real life and online to know that the struggles we face are common struggles. The things you battle with, I battle with too - and loose just as much (if not more) than I win.

Untitled
my dining area and front foyer

Guilt is not a great motivator and the gut-wrenching pain I feel from not living up to my own impossible expectations hinders me from being the woman that I am. It especially hinders God's grace flowing through me.

Untitled
my living room
Josiah playing Lego Batman, Eli is only in a diaper

Life is messy and really really hard. I'm not the perfect woman that I want to be, but when we meet in the less-than and struggle of reality there is room for intimacy and a lot of grace



Thursday, August 16, 2012

Instagrams & what I've been wearing

I didn't realize how long it's been since I posted my instagrams here until I looked back at my last post. IMG_3736 IMG_3466IMG_3478IMG_3479IMG_3480 IMG_3815IMG_3827 IMG_3507 IMG_3444IMG_3494IMG_3543
IMG_3846IMG_3896 IMG_3557IMG_3675IMG_3875 IMG_3917IMG_3912 IMG_3970IMG_3969 IMG_4062IMG_4061
I tried sushi for the first time!  There's a great place near us and it was delicious.IMG_4208 IMG_4120
I so love handprint art!
IMG_4118
Of course they usually take it too far... but they enjoy it so much!


IMG_4228IMG_4231

Josiah dressed up with Katie-Abigail. I have a feeling he is never going to live this one down.

Katie-Abigail is enjoying her birthday presents!

What I've worn
I haven't been taking many "what I' wore" photos lately but here we go...

IMG_3878
LOVE my shorts - and purple!
IMG_3457 IMG_4162
Seriously gotta take more of these!

Sign up to be notified about upcoming classes!!

* indicates required