Posted in Faith

Simply and Honestly Ourselves

“That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for, those who are simply and honestly themselves before Him.” John 4:23 (MSG)

 

I’m a part of a group of women who are going through the gospel of John and sharing our thoughts in a Facebook group. I’ve been doing my Scripture reading out of The Message for the past couple of months and so it’s that translation I’m reading through this time.  Sometimes reading out of a different translation than I’m used to is just interesting rather than profound, but today was one of those days when it reached right out and grabbed me

The story of the Samaritan Woman at the well in chapter 4 is probably a familiar one to just about anybody who has studied Jesus or attended church for any length of time. In it, Jesus meets a woman at a well and asks her for a drink. She learns that he knows all about her difficult and sin-filled past (and present), he tells her about the LIVING water, and she goes off and tells the people in her village about Jesus and many come to believe because of her witness.

As is the case with EXACTLY ALL of the stories about Jesus’s words and deeds, there are layers and layers of good things to unpack and digest and be fed by.  I could take just that story and write a month’s worth of posts on it. And then come back in a couple of years and see it with new eyes and do the same all over again.

What stuck out at me this time, though, didn’t have as much to do with the content of the story itself as it did with something Jesus said about the nature of God and of worship and of what we are called to- something that Eugene H. Peterson, writer of The Message, thought about in a way I had never had.

Here’s the text from the New International Version, what I’m used to reading and hearing”

23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.

And here is The Message’s version of this verse:

“It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.”

 

 

Being ourselves before the Father.  Being MYSELF.

Worshipping out of our true selves.  MY true self.

 Wow.  My true self.  Who is that even some days?

 

This fallen world is full to bursting with messages about who and what we SHOULD be. As a woman, as a mom, as a CHRISTIAN, I live constantly in the middle of a veritable “should-storm” of ways of being, looking, thinking, feeling, dressing- sometimes who  *I* actually am, how I was created, gets lost in the shuffle. And if I’m perfectly honest, some of the messages I hear seem to tell me that who *I* actually am is wrong.  The world has very different standards from The Maker.

This verse is a reminder of the value of my true self to the One who made me.    Our Father very intentionally made us each as we are, and He did so with greater purpose and intentionality than any of us can muster in our own processes of creation.  And He did this because how we are pleases Him, delights Him- and furthers His kingdom.   He made us just right, y’all.  Just EXACTLY right. Down the number of hairs. on. our. very. head.  He KNIT US TOGETHER HIMSELF, just as He planned for us to be and when we come before Him in worship, He wants to

But in a world that tells us plenty about who we SHOULD be, that divine invitation to come as we are can actually feel quite problematic.  If it comes right down to it, do I even really know HOW to come as I am, just as He made me?  I mean, what is OF ME, THE WAY I WAS MADE BY GOD and what is OF THE WORLD and is part of what has landed on me from the “should-storm” that constantly rages around me?  Do I even know the Truth of me that God wants to see well enough to bring it before Him?  It almost feels like yet another SHOULD being thrown at me.

But God’s requests and invitations stand in stark contrast to the demands of the world.  Just like everything Jesus put out there for us, I know that if I run after it, it will be good. The “shoulds” of the world are a fire that consumes and destroys, the divine biddings of God are a fire that refines and purifies.  If I seek to worship Him out of my very being, then my very being, the one HE created just as He intended, is what I will find.

This challenge, to come as I am before God, is one I’m going to take seriously and really lean into.  I mean, God knows WAY better than I do and I’m quite certain His version of who and what I am and should be is FAR superior to whatever notion I’ve concocted in my head.  And what better, safer, more loving place to do the work of letting down the guards I’ve put up for the world and slipping back into my truest self than in His presence?

Will you join me?  Will you work with me in this season on worshiping God out of your TRUEST self, the way He made you to worship Him?  The things He calls us to are holy, sisters, and I’m glad to be doing them with you.

 

Posted in Faith, Momming

The Sacredness of Struggle: REALness over REELness

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Picture it: Monday morning about 9:30, me dragging my doughy physique reluctantly into the gym, a scowl on my face and a complaint in my heart.  It had NOT been a good morning in momland- at least not in this mom’s land.  Not one but BOTH of my kids had melted down spectacularly in plain view at preschool drop-off  and goshdarnit I had to take one of the little balls of angst with me when I left because only one of them actually attends the preschool where they both melted down. Oy.

I was feeling the realness of the struggle that morning and it was NOT sitting well with me. As I sat stretching before my workout (a loathsome task that reminds me how painfully little flexibility I actually have in comparison to the yoga queens all around me), I allowed a little prayer to grudgingly escape my heart. I’d love to be able to say that I had leaned into the call to praise The Lord in all circumstances but really, this was more like me complaining to the only person around to listen. “UGH!  God why does it have to be HARD? I mean…am I not busting my rear end over here with these kids?  Like, I’m trying my hardest to raise them right- WHY CAN’T IT JUST BE EASY!”

Now, being that God is a WAY better parent than me, when I bring my complaints to him, he does not snap back that HE is not the complaint department and whatever has ruffled my feathers is NOT his fault so he could do with a little more respect from me, thank me very much.  No, he actually acts like he’s just grateful I finally decided to actually talk about it rather than walking around under a storm cloud like I’m Eeyore or something (Huh. Maybe should try that with my own kids sometime).

As I sat there with my hands barely clinging to my toes and my nose resting way, way, WAY above my knees, he poured out grace and mercy and understanding all over me.

“Mom life is hard because it’s supposed to be.  Without the struggle, why would you seek connection?”

 

My mind was instantly flooded with images of the moms I love so dearly, the ones I have connected with over their struggles and mine, and it was laid bare for me in those moments the way the realness of the struggle of raising baby humans is the glue that binds moms together.  I mean, this is true for humans in general.  Anyone who has walked through a challenging season in their marriage (or any other relationship) and come out the other side having worked things out can tell you how powerful struggle is when it comes to bonding humans to one another.  Even groups of strangers who are together during a traumatic experience tend to bond to one another.

But for moms, it feels like there’s something deeper there. Particularly in our culture of social media highlight reels, the Mommy Wars, and Something-to-Prove Motherhood, the struggle can nudge us toward deeper, deeply NEEDED levels of connection- the stuff that sisterhood is made of.

Struggle makes moms NEED one another in a way that abandons pretense and evokes authenticity.

It’s one thing to post a pic on Instagram of me and my mom friends out for some “desperately needed girl time!   #momsnightout  #lovethesegirls” and quite another to sit across the table or computer screen from them asking them what in the heck I’m doing wrong since I CANNOT get my child to stop hitting me.  The way my struggles have forced me to open up to my friends, to lay down my “got it all together” and to really be ministered to by their “me, toos” and their words of experience has bred an authenticity in our relationship that wouldn’t be there any other way.  I mean yeah, we need each other for companionship, release, and reminders that we are something OTHER than the sum of what the people we live with need from us. But when words of love and reassurance from other moms are all that stands between me and desolation and what pull me back from a place of desperation- the realness of THAT struggle is something sacred.

Struggle makes moms real and accessible to one another in world where highlight reels feel like the law of the land.

I remember the early days of motherhood where I would sit with my phone in my hand while nursing my son, stalking the Facebook profiles of the other women in my online moms’ group, CONVINCED that they had it all together and that Mrs. Hot Mess Express over here had  A LOT of work to do to get on their level and be worthy of their friendship.  Slowly, however, that began to change as these women shared their struggles and they began to seem a lot more like me.  This mom had a struggle in her marriage, that mom could NOT get her daughter to potty train, nursing just wasn’t working out for this mom’s second baby, how was that family going to pay the bills and why couldn’t this mom seem to keep her house clean.  It was through seeing that other moms struggled as well, seeing the REALness behind the REELness (if you catch my drift) made them seem like real people, folks I could be friends with.  I mean, some people may be drawn to the girl who seems to have it all together, but she intimidates the heck out of me and being in her presence makes all of my own warts seem larger than life.  If it weren’t for our struggles and SHARING those struggles, we might all walk around looking like the girl who’s got it all together, our sister-moms not feeling like they could draw near to us and become our friends.

As I awkwardly bumbled through the rest of my workout, I grudgingly gave way to a modicum gratitude for the things in my life as a mom that make it less than perfect. The things that cause me to lean on my sister-moms, the things that make us able to relate to one another, the things that make authenticity and the only option. I mean, I wish it didn’t have to be so hard, but I BELIEVE in the power of mom friendships and I’m grateful for whatever it is that makes them deeper and more plentiful.   I’ll take REALness over REELness any day- preschool meltdowns and all. But I would like to be able to touch my toes more easily.  Better get to work on that….

Posted in Faith, Momming

On Surrender: A Kitchen Epiphany

Do you ever have those moments where God uses your kids (or anything else for that matter) to smack you upside the head with an object lesson?  Well, this morning that happened to me, right there at the kitchen island after breakfast.

Cam and Kenzie had finished their Cheerios and were doodling in coloring books and dry erase boards while I puttered around the kitchen, still trying to render  myself fully awake (I may have mentioned before that I’m not a morning person. If you missed it, here that is.)

I wheeled around at the sound of an instantaneous cry of desperation from Kenzie.

“Can you fix it, my board?”  She said tearily.

I walked over to the counter to find that her dry erase board had shed its pink plastic border, which didn’t impede the functionality at all but still feels like a crisis when you’re two and you think you’ve broken something.

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“Sure, honey! I’ll bet I can fix that!” I replied reassuringly, as I walked over to where she was seated to take the board from her and commence the motherly magic that would restore her board to its glory and basically save her morning from the clutches of disaster. You know, like the superhero she still thinks I am.

Apparently Kenzie’s plan for getting the board fixed and mine did not jive.

“NONONONONONONO!  No teekee board!”  She objected as I tried to take the board out of her hand to fix it.

OK, I thought to myself, sometimes we can fix things while they are still in the kids’ hands.

A quick assessment of the jigsaw puzzle of 8 separate pieces that made up the plastic border to this board led me to the conclusion that this was NOT one of those times.

“Honey,” I replied in exasperation, “I can’t fix it if you don’t let me have it.”

As soon as the words left my mouth, here came God with nudge and a chuckle, “YOU SEE?!?!?! DO YOU SEE HOW IT WORKS? I can’t fix it unless you let me have it #boomgoesthedynamite.”  (I totally think God can use hashtags, by the way.  I mean, why wouldn’t He?   He abides in all things that are, have been, and are to come.  #NoExceptions)

He also drew my mind to the DOZENS of times that similar things have happened with Mister Cameron, aka Clutch McGrabbyhands.  Cam has always been insanely handsy and has to touch ALLTHETHINGS and learn everything about them.   He wants to know how everything works, fix things himself, and it can be physically hard for him to let things go, even when it’s clear it needs a grownup’s touch, because he wants so badly to figure it out himself.

I wish I could say that this interaction with God yielded a broad-stroked epiphany, that I am forever changed, and I descended from the mountaintop with a stone tablet-worthy list of “Top Ten Failproof Ways to Surrender It All to God.” Wouldn’t that be nice?  Unfortunately that is not so much the case. Not even a little bit.

What it did give me was yet another reminder of the importance of surrender- and also a loving and perfect acknowledgement that my Father in Heaven knows how hard that can be for me.  He is infinitely more perfect and loving than we are, so as tender as I can feel toward Kenzie as she sat heartbroken over her fractured dry erase board, and toward Cam who just DESPERATELY wants to figure things out for himself, I can multiply that times infinity when I picture Him seeing me holding fractured and broken pieces that I just want to put back together somehow.  As always, when God convicts me, it felt like a warm breeze that lifted me up on its wings even has it opened my eyes to a way I can do better in my walk with Him.

But it also came with what felt like the heavenly equivalent of that look I give Cam when I need him to know that I mean business.  Like, “I love you so much, but SRSLY,  you need to get on this.”  I hadn’t figured on “surrender” as my word for this week- I’ve been much more focused on things like “diligence” and “perseverance” lately. But isn’t it just like God to sharpen my focus to something that is less about me and more about Him?

So, I’m going to go forth into this week focusing on surrender.  Surrrrrrrrennnnnnnderrrrr. Let it roll off the tongue and sink into my heart.  Relax. Sit back.  Make like Elsa and let it go, knowing that as I let things pass out of my hands, they rise to infinitely more capable hands, hands that can make sense of things that to me are a jumble, hands that can bring order out of chaos and beauty from ashes, and hands that can tenderly and lovingly minister to my wounds and my needs as only a parent can. If I come up with any stone tablet-worthy epiphanies, I promise y’all will be the first to know- but don’t hold your breath 😉