Monday, April 30, 2012

Asking Why is not the Point

I was laying on my best friend's couch.  Lately, I feel drained.  Maybe that is just the busyness spring, maybe it is something more. Regardless of the reason, I am beat.

Sometimes on Sundays, we have a little time to visit, she and I.  We look forward to talking with face to face and the words flow fast and furious from both of us.  Daily phone conversations are fine but time is what we need.  So, there I was, relaxing a minute and telling her about a frustrating event in our home.

You see, we have this drain.  It is the tub drain in the bathroom my children use.  And it no longer works. About a week and a half ago, it suddenly and inexplicably stopped draining... mid-shower.  Now, I have been at this parenting stuff for long enough to know that something went down that drain and that the child who was in the shower at the time it stopped working likely knows exactly what that thing is.  But, no matter how we ask, we cannot seem to get to the bottom of that dilemma.  Which is how I found myself laying exhausted on my best friend's couch, talking it out.

While I was there, Mark texted me from home and said he believed that whatever went down the drain was plastic.  Red plastic.  I sent him back questions and tried to understand how anything red and plastic would be small enough to fit down that drain.  He answered with only two words.



Sharing this with my friend, she asked the logical question I was desperately trying to avoid.

"Why would one of your children break something and send it down the drain?"

My answer came from years of lessons, parenting lessons, living-with-lots-of-kids lessons.

"I no longer ever ask why."

Seems like I could spend years seeking after that answer...

"Why did you push your sister?"
"Why didn't you tell the truth?"
"Why did you trade your sandwich for Oreos?"  (Okay, that one I actually understand.)
"Why didn't you study for your test?"
"Why did you hide this paper?"
"Why is there candy in your room?"
"Why did you speak unkindly to your brother?"
"Why did you misbehave in Sunday school?"

But, the answer is always the same.  "I don't know."  And that does not help at all.

Sometimes I still slip and find myself asking, for 2 millionth time, why in the world something surprising has happened.  Because the truth is, I really want to know.  I want to know why crazy things occur and why they misbehave and why they do not do what I said to do when I said it needed to be done.  And as the words escape my mouth, I can feel the frustration rising and I know that the answer just will not come.  And the truth is, even if it did, it would not matter.

Because why something happened is just not the point.  

Of course I want to be understanding. Sometimes kids just do things, just because they are kids. Sometimes you have a bad day.  Some of my kids have struggles.  Sometimes this is the why behind the things that happen at home.  But, it is not the explanation.  And I can be loving and understanding and compassionate and still know the why is not the point. 

The point is that I am their momma.  And Mark is their daddy.  And the buck stops here.  What we say goes.  Period.  So knowing why they do something matters a whole lot less than actually getting up off our butts to make sure that they know that doing right and choosing right is what we expect today.  And tomorrow.  And from now on.  Yes, they will make mistakes.  But, it is our job to help them learn from them.  It is our job to focus, not on what leads them astray, but on what will lead them forward.

Which means:

-You will be kind to your siblings.
-You will speak the truth.
-You will eat what we send in your lunchbox.
-You will be held accountable for your test and your papers and the state of your room.
-You will speak and act kindly.
-You will behave with and without me.
-And... you will not break plastic and send it down the drain.

Sometimes parenting is hard.  OFTEN, parenting is hard.  But, I want to remember that there is much to distract me from the work I must do with my kids.  I want to know why it all happens and that question still plays in my head.  But, with all my might I am fighting the asking because that seems to offer some reason for something that should have never happened at all.

And maybe, just maybe, when I am tempted to ask, I need to see that as a reminder instead.  There is a teaching moment at hand when I want to ask why.  It  is a time for me to see, though I may have taught it many times before, that I need to teach my child right from wrong, blessing from curse, good choice from bad.  Again.  And again.  Even when I am tired.

That is what really matters.  It matters that I show up.  It matters that I don't give up.  It matters that I focus on helping them choose because the days that I have with them are few.  And when they are grown and they make their choices and their lives are rolling onward and upward, I want to know that I did what I could to help them to be ready for what lies ahead.  Knowing why will not mean anything then.  What will matter is that we have used these days to teach them, to talk with them, to love them, to mentor them, to pray with and for them and to raise them to do what is right and good.

I won't always get that right.  I will fail and miss opportunities and act out of frustration and find myself drained.  Which, really, is all okay.  As long as I get back up, rejoin the game, resume the lesson, and keep on going.  Getting stuck in the mire is normal.  Staying there means I am missing the chance to come alongside one of my four and teach what needs to be taught.  There is joy hidden deep in that work, for me and for all of them.

This job is big but I want to remember that these four children were entrusted to me. And not only do I adore them but I also want to do right by them.

Even when there is plastic down the drain.

Blessings on your day.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Early Church and What I Must Do: Part Two

So, it's killing me.  Those words I shared last week wash over me again and again and I find myself wrestling with what they might mean.  This matter of stuff is big in our lives and I am convinced I am doing it wrong.  All wrong.

When I last posted about this, I asked if you might be willing to read that little bit from the book of Acts.  Did you miss that post?  Go ahead and click here and you can take a peek.  The passage that I just keep turning over is this:

Acts 2:42-47

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Can we just imagine that a second?  Can we just imagine what it would be like if we gathered together and ate our meals in peace and paid attention to what we have been taught and then... AND THEN... released our things to meet the needs of others?  (Yes, the book 7 has gotten under my skin... )

What would it be like if someone said, "My car is broken and I have no way to fix it."

And then someone else said, "Hey, that's no big deal for me.  I fix stuff all the time!  Let me take a look."

What would it be like if we ALL admitted to our own simple needs and also allowed our possessions to be used to meet the needs of others?  I am not suggesting that we give up working and striving to take care of the very things we know we must.  Instead, I am dreaming of a day when can respond to one another in a flow of compassion; a day when we can look at our own gifts, talents, areas of excess and see that these might be used to build The Kingdom around us.  

Here is what I know: The economy has leveled families everywhere.  I know this because we have been leveled.  It is not a concept to me.  Its not something that happens to people who do not plan.  It is something that has happened to so many people that it is hard to really comprehend the number of families and individuals who are struggling in really big ways.  And, something about being in struggle, causes us to pull away... hide that need... cower in shame... and it makes it all so very hard.  

But... what if it didn't have to be this way?  What if this awful economy actually provided us a level playing field where we could come together and share our things because really, it's hard for us all?  What if that is what the church is supposed to do?  What if that's what its supposed to look like?  What if we judged the origin of need far less often and instead, threw open our doors and set the table and shared whatever we had? 

Yeah.  I am a bit of an idealist.  

But, here's the thing... I can live with that.  I can live with being an idealist and truly believing that what I have  here (which I am likely not using) might be needed by someone else.  And I can totally live with the idea that maybe God dreams of a day when His church functions a bit more like Acts 2 and a little less like Hoarders.  Maybe that's a bit snarky but I need to be really clear... I am not finger-pointing here.  I am a part of the problem.  No doubt.  

So I am lost in the midst of this conviction and dreaming of day when we will all know that needing and filling a need is not something hard or shameful... but actually the way that the early church looked when "all the believers were together and had everything in common."  

We all need, friends.  We do.  I do.  And, we get distracted by it sometimes. I know I have lost myself in a place where I felt like needing made it impossible to give.  But, I learned last week that this is not true.  That of my excess, needs can be filled.  I learned that God can show me where to go to help someone who has almost nothing... that He can help me find others that can meet needs I cannot.  And that feels really good.  Like balance, I guess.  Finally.  

Maybe it's good to think about that early church, to wonder what it would have been like. And it is interesting to me to think about what that has to do with the church today. Not the building.  The BODY. What would it take for us to function the way the early church did?   When I close my eyes and imagine it all, people sharing a meal and their thoughts and their things and their abilities, the whole of it makes me smile.  I want my kids to know this picture... and I want them to have a part.  I want to gather them around and shake off the entitled nature that sometimes shows up and open their eyes to the part they can play when they realize that can reach others, too.  

Maybe it's all just a really nice dream... 

But maybe... it's not.  

Blessings on your day.  

Monday, April 16, 2012

Clinging to Stuff and What I Must Do

Lately, my head has been full of thoughts about stuff.  I walk around my home and everywhere I see excess... Excess clothes, excess toys, excess papers, excess... stuff.  And I just think it's not right.  (I may have already lost some of you... I should probably apologize... but this is just the beginning of what I am thinking today.)

So, I am reading this book.  My kids literally begged me not to read it and I was a bit fearful myself.  The book is called 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker and is available on Amazon.

Part of the premise of 7 is that we have too much and that muchness (yes, I am making up words now) just may be something we need to release.  Maybe in releasing, we will find space that God will use to do what He will do.  And... maybe the simplification will allow us to do things we have yet to consider as possibilities in our busy and over-flowing lives.  

Still with me?  

Having no idea if this book might be on to something, some friends and I decided to work through it together.  The first month we chose to tackle is "Possessions".  In our home, we have a serious issue with clothes.  My middle boys have tons, my oldest and youngest have far less.  The current clothing is not the issue at all.  The issue is, we part with very little.  Some of this makes good sense.  When Noah was born, we strongly believed we would have more kids.  So, we sorted his outgrown clothes to be used again.  And then Benjamin wore them... and whatever was left in good condition, Josiah wore... and then... we packed them up and stored them.  I have no idea why.  I do know that I have some tie to them... some emotional response to the small, cute outfits that are part of my boys' lives.  

But, we don't need them anymore.  And yet they are still here.  

So, we decided to tackle our kid clothes issue and sorted out clothes by size and gender for the better part of a weekend.  I did not know what would come of that, but I knew that I could do nothing with any of it if it was packed away in the garage.  In my head, I thought, "Okay God, we are organizing this mess.  We have been blessed and we want to let that blessing bless someone else."  But, I had no idea what would really come of it.  

Then a friend mentioned that they needed clothes for their children.  Then someone mentioned that they knew someone else in need.  Then another person came forward and another and all of sudden, these clothes have a place to go.  

God has His hands on this, you see?

But what about all this other stuff?  A garage with more stuff than space and toys for little kids and maternity clothes and a toddler bed, and... Did I mention I have too much stuff?

Last week, I heard about someone who needs, like REALLY needs, a whole big bunch of stuff.  I am thrilled and a little embarrassed to say that I have many things on this sweet person's list stored up in my garage, doing nothing but taking up space.  But, they won't be there long!  

As Mark and I talked about this, we came to understand that our navel-gazing has caused us to cling to blessings that could bless others right now.  Today.  And honestly, our insistence on holding on makes some sense.  We have been in a tough place for five and a half years and our budget has no hope of balancing.  Finding ourselves in this struggle made us fearful at times.  Stuck in the housing crash, we have lived with two houses for way too long and what we want is to survive.  What we want is to provide for our children and just have enough and so we let that feeling lead us to hang on to whatever we have... even if we no longer needed that thing. It was hard to think about helping to dig others out of a hole when we still felt stuck in our own. So we saved our things for some future (and imaginary) garage sale that would likely provide us little cash when then things we were hoarding could be huge blessings to others.  

I don't like this place. I don't like to choose based on fear or to save things to sell.  I love to think about how God's kingdom is alive and working today.  I love to look for ways to be used by God to do what He will do.  I don't want to be fearful and I don't want to cling to stuff.   Yes, this season has been hard for us but the truth is we are still here.  How dare I focus on my human fears when I have been blessed time and time again?  

It's time to let it go.  Time to release the stuff.  Time to open my heart and my mind and my garage door to those who need today.  If I know what it's like to be stuck and afraid, shouldn't I be willing to help others who are there?  

So, this is the beginning of what has been in my head.  Just the beginning.  And I don't know where it all leads but I do believe that we will learn.  And I believe that when I trust God with the things He has entrusted to me, He will use what was always His to do what He will do.  

So later this week, I will continue this thought.  For now, I would love it if you would read this passage and see what it does for you.  Because I think it has something to say to us and I think it speaks about what the church should be like.  Which is kind of scary and kind of exciting to dream about a little bit.  This passage speaks to the way the early church functioned... and it shows me I have much to learn.  

Acts 2:42-47

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Blessings on your day.  

Friday, April 6, 2012

Something to Try for the Weekend

Today is Good Friday and this Sunday, we will celebrate Easter.  What will you do with your family to mark these important days?

Here is what I know:  Because of these days, because of this truth, my life has been forever changed.

I did not always know how deeply God loved me.

I did not always believe He knew my name.

I did not always go to church, pray to Him, trust His hand or feel His peace.

But, I do now.  And it has made all the difference in the world to me.

Years ago, I realized that I was lost.  Even when I tried to do good, I failed.  Not always... but often.  I struggled to find direction, to feel value, to understand my small life in the midst of a great big world.  God was a concept to me.  A word.

When I was taught about who He is, my life changed.  And maybe you don't believe me.  Maybe you don't get it.  Maybe this offends you or confuses you or comforts you.  I felt all of that... and it was hard for me, too.  But, the reality is I needed a way to connect to God... not the concept... not the word... the One, True God.  And He wanted to connect to me.

Because I am human, because I screw up, because I choose wrongly, because I sin, that way did not exist.  Yep, I was lost.  And it broke God's heart.

With me in mind, with you in mind, with this broken beautiful world in mind, God sent Jesus to make a way.  He was God on earth and told the truth and offered directions on how we can live and how we can find the path to connecting to God.  When Jesus died on the cross (we celebrate this on Good Friday) He did that for me.  And for you.  He did that to make a way, to remove our mistakes and our screw-ups so that we can sit, loved and forgiven, on the lap of God forever.  Through Jesus' sacrifice, we can be loved in a way that we have not been loved before.

When this was made to clear to me, I accepted Jesus' gift of grace.  And my whole life changed.  The trajectory of my simple, small life was altered.

So, tonight we will go to church and mark this day.  We will remember together the depth of love God offered to us through the gift of Jesus Christ.  And I will remember my own "before" and wallow and wash in gratitude for this gift that I have been given.

And on Sunday, we will awake thinking not of baskets and candy (we will have those too... but later in the day) but of the power of The One who conquered death for us.  We will celebrate and sing and rejoice together because if death can be overcome, surely there is HOPE.

There is, dear friend.  In your darkest times, in your loneliest moments, in your personal pit of despair, I promise you, there is hope.  You need only a seed of faith to accept the gift you have been given.  His arms are open wide to you and in them, there is peace.

Blessings on your weekend.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Simple Shots of Simple Time

Part of our day was spent doing our ordinary things... like practicing violin.  Except we had time to wrestle with the hard parts, time to set it down and come back to it, time to perfect the pieces that have been so hard.

And we had time to enjoy the things we love... how Josiah LOVES his apples... while we watched some TV or read a book.  No hurry.  No worry.  Just time for simple things...

And how amazing is it when your big brother, usually so busy with high school, has time to take you in the back yard for a soccer game with your dog?   Pretty amazing until the dog keeps taking the ball....

So nice to have bones in the house to distract said dog... helping her to forget about the ball and focus on more important things...

Now, that's a good bone!  Lexie does not even notice all the soccer fun so close to her!  And look at my girlie's face!  Loves her brother, she does.

When do not have to rush... do not have to hurry... we have time to notice what is happening around us.  We have time to see the beauty in our yard in the midst of this gorgeous spring.

We have time to see the reds and the oranges... the green at the end of a season of brown.  It is not sand and surf but it is beauty.

Sometimes the simplicity of surplus time is a gift all in itself.  If we notice.  If we see.

Wonder what today will bring?

Blessings on your day.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Spring Break

This is the strangest spring break of all time.  Normally, we sit huddled under blankets entertaining a very real possibility of snow or frost.  But today, the trees have leaves and the flowers are blooming and we are hoping for temps in the 70s.  Our spring has sprung and it is gorgeous.

In addition to enjoying the beauty outdoors, my kids are off this week.  While Noah will still have track practices some mornings, we are going to enjoy a slower schedule and some time together... much needed after the past several weeks.

Maybe you are like us and the economy has been none-too-kind.  Our bank account dictates our daily decisions and so our break will have less to do with sandy beaches than with simple activities done around home.  And while this is not what I would choose, there are advantages to it, as well.

As parents who approach our work intentionally, I have found that we often have a strong focus on doing rather than being.  Sometimes this makes for amazing experiences and lots of learning of brand new things.  Trips to the city, listening to orchestras, lots of museums, athletic activity... all really wonderful things.  And, honestly we love to be out and about together.


We also get awfully weary.  It is our natural bent to think about things we can DO together.  But, sometimes we need to DO less and BE more.  Sometimes, the best way to catch our breath is to be home and relaxing, enjoying a movie, playing a game, spending time.  Sometimes, we need long nights asleep in our own beds, waking when rested and moving slowly along.  Sometimes, our own backyard and the forest nearby are just as amazing as a park we paid hundreds to enter and enjoy.

And, as we live these days between Palm Sunday and Easter, we need the space to think it through and reflect on what happened so long ago.  We need some space to reflect.  Prepare.  Breathe.  Remember.

So, our spring break has begun and we are here.  It is lunch time and our bed-heads have only just now been tamed.  My home has been filled with violin and cello practices and paragraphs read aloud.  The sun is shining and we have the time to walk and play and be together.  And while I certainly would not refuse a week in some beach resort, these days have a purpose, too.

So, this week I will talk some about what we will do... and maybe you will, too.  We can share some ideas about how to relax, how to regroup, how to play and laugh and be together during a string of simple days.  And in my head, I will work on contentment... because seeking more and seeking better is not always very helpful to me.  It is easy to get lost in coveting what someone else can do and overlook what sits right here, totally within reach.

So I will close here because in the next room, my kids are giggling without me.

Time to join right in!

Blessings on your day.

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