Archive for the ‘Spiritual Life’ Category

Protecting my Stuffed Horse

March 26, 2007

Kate and Stephie Closeup
Kathryn (on the right) is almost three, and a little obstinate lately. Not terrible – she is an eager to please child, funny, and beautiful (biased mom that I am). However, lately she has taken to obeying when and if she good and well feels like it. She has also entered the “MINE!” stage…including every variation thereof (It’s MY turn!; It’s MINE!; No! MINE!)

Well, today, I was packing us up for a vacation we will be taking, and on her bed was a new package of diapers for her baby sister, Stephanie. Kathryn picked them up and brought them out to the kitchen, and stood on top of them and said “I’m surfing!” (I honestly don’t know where she picked that up — we don’t surf, read about surfing, watch surfing or talk about surfing.) So I laughed and then told her to bring the diapers back to the bedroom.

They suddenly became too heavy to carry. “It’s too heabby, mom.” And she grabbed her stuffed horse and made for the den to play. I wavered for a moment. Do I just let it go and take the diapers into the room myself? They were a little bit heavy for a little girl to carry. Then I realized that she carried those “heabby” diapers all the way to the kitchen, she surely was strong enough to carry them back. So I called her and told her again – “Take the diapers back to the bedroom, Kathryn.”
Kathryn fooling around

After the third command, she finally realized I was serious (a blow to my “immediate obedience” philosophy). But by that time, her little sister Stephanie crawled into the kitchen and immediately went for the stuffed horse, which opened the floodgates for Kathryn’s fierce protection of her toy. “No! It’s MINE! MY TURN!” Meanwhile, I was still looking at Kathryn expecting her to obey the diaper request. So she looked at me, glared at Stephanie, and tried to pick up the diapers along with her big stuffed horse so Stephie couldn’t get to it.

Now that was too much for her to handle. She struggled for a few seconds more before putting everything down, and then bringing the horse to me for protection from her invading sibling. Then she, with relief, quickly took the diapers back to the bedroom.

I shook my head and tried to remember what I was doing before that episode. My ABBA tapped me on the shoulder and asked “Do you have a stuffed horse preventing you from obeying ME immediately?”

Hm. There are many assets that I try to protect when God asks for my obedience. I can’t do both – I have to give my assets to Him to hold for me, while I go do what He asks. I risk a spanking if I struggle to do both for too long.

A good example is my struggle not to go back to work. I love being a stay at home mom. It is something I have always said I would do if the Lord ever let me have children. But now we are always so close to broke! So periodically I think – If I would just go back to work, things would be ok. I have worked for the last 15 plus years, and it has always been a source of comfort and control for me. Protecting my stuffed horse. (Lest there be any misunderstanding, let me state here, that I believe that the Lord has NO direct commandments in Scripture about whether or not mothers should or should not work outside the home. This is simply my own agreement with Him).

If I allow myself to dwell there too long, I end up doing a poorer job mothering my children and caring for my husband, which for now is my full time job. So, I have to give my assets (financial in this case) to the Lord for him to hold while I obey. It is really interesting the relief that I feel once I realize that His capable hands are holding the things that I care about, allowing me to obey with freedom and abandon.

I don’t think I ever did finish what I was working on, but somehow it doesn’t really matter right now.

How to Have God Show Himself to You

February 18, 2007

We had finally hit it. The “NO” stage. My daughter Kathryn at 18 months had discovered this word. Along with her happy babbling, she started adding her marked dissent to situations that do not suit her.

Sometimes she just practiced the word for no real reason. In the car…”No no no no no no no..” or while playing “No no no no no no no no” or even when she meant to say yes to a bowl of applesauce she sometimes said “No no no no no no” (and then got mightily upset when I responded with an “OK” and took the applesauce away. Hahaha!)

I have to admit, it became exhausting. I think if she only realized that what I had for her was so much better! Getting a bath, cleaning her bottom, giving her dinner (rather than just Saltines)…

I remember hitting this stage in my Christian life. When I first got saved, I was SO happy and grateful that I just wanted to please the Lord no matter what. Until He asked difficult things of me, like giving up certain relationships or doing the work to change a habit that did not please Him. Then I entered the “NO” stage. Of course, I didn’t categorize it as such because I was so good at disguising my “NO” with really spiritual sounding excuses. I can’t imagine how irritated my Abba must have been.

“Whoever has My commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves Me. He who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I too will love him and show Myself to him” (Jn. 14:21) [Emphasis mine].

The key here is in the last four words. He will show Himself to us when we show our love for Him through our obedience. The more obedient we become, the more revelation of His presence we will feel in our life. Jeremiah tells us, “Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know” (Jer. 33:3).

Do you ever wonder why sometimes you cannot hear or sense God’s presence in your life, even though you know He is there? I did. I have found for me that it is often because at times I do not seek Him with a whole heart, and I am not always obedient to the things He has asked. God does not show us the next move until we are obedient to the first thing He has spoken to us. It is a progressive process. He entrusts the small things to us first, then moves us to the larger.

Sometimes we can become so focused on seeking the activity of God that we don’t seek God Himself. Hebrews tells us that God rewards those who diligently seek Him. In the Old Testament we are told, “But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find Him if you look for Him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deut. 4:29).

Do you have a situation in which you are giving the Lord a sophisticated, well researched “NO”? Let me encourage you to do whatever it takes to change that to a “Yes”. Obey Him! The Lord has such wonderful things in store that we don’t know of! Things that will fill our souls and give us joy…it is what He desires for us – hope and a future. But we must do it His way.

Sometimes, we do not have to seek Him out to know His desires. We simply need to choose to obey His words. The more I seek Him, the more clearly I hear Him. And when we hear Him we must simply obey so that we may be empowered by His presence.

My journey to Clutter Prevention

February 9, 2007

So, I am embarrassed to admit that I was watching Oprah yesterday. Nothing wrong with her show, it is just the “lazy-soccer-mom-stays-home-and-watches-Oprah-while-eating bon-bons” stereotype that I resist. Just so you know, I was emptying the dishwasher and preparing dinner while watching. No chocolate in sight.

The show caught my attention because the girls were still napping (a quiet house!) and because on the show they were cleaning out a really “cluttered” house. If my mother ever watched a single episode of Oprah and saw it, she would have called it a “downright pig-sty”, and would have said they had no “home-training.” But today’s terminology is “cluttered.” I can get with that.

Now, I don’t think our house is overly cluttered, but the potential is one pair of shoes away. Our house is smaller and seriously lacking in closet space. I mean, right now, there are only two functioning closets for clothes – the master bedroom and the front closet. All the other clothes closets have had their doors and clothing bars removed and now have bookshelves or dressers in them to create a more spacious look in the room itself.

So, needless to say, any overflow of shoes, clothing, or accessories have nowhere to go except in the garage in a box. In fact, almost all of my shoes are on some shelves in the garage. Kind of hard to get dressed when you have to go to the garage or dig in a box. Now, mind you, I am willing to admit that my closet is plenty big. I simply have too much stuff. So, either we buy a bigger house to store all 2 gazillion pairs of shoes, or I pare down. Simplify. I decided paring down was cheaper.

So, I watched Oprah. I was inspired to get rid of everything not in “the present”. My closet and the myriad of boxes in the garage were filled with items from “the past” (“I wore that on our first date”, or “I spent way to much money to throw that away!”) or from “the future” (“I will get back into that pair of size 4 pants if it kills me” or “I might need to wear that one day”). I am inspired to try to live in the present.

Well, unfortunately, I realize that I have not fully accepted my present. Why? In the last 4 years I got married in my late 30s, moved to a new town, and had 2 children. I think my brain is still stuck in my career focused, socially active, living by myself mindset. Am I really that stay at home mom who wears sweats 6 times more often than dress slacks? Is my social life now playgroups and birthday parties? Do I really share my house with 3 other people and so cannot take over every closet in the place to store my clothes and shoes? Am I now to accept that my butt is really that big?

I sit here staring at a pile of sequined evening dresses as the reality of my new life hits me with a thud like a chubby unwanted bully. Cleaning out the closet seems to be resurrecting a need for therapy.

Now, mind you, I love my new life with my girls and my husband dearly. I would not trade them for anything. So why is choosing to live in the present and give up my favorite jeans that no longer fit and those 4 inch stilettos that kill my toes so difficult?

Clinging to the past
So many of my things remind me of the past…I have many happy memories, and have some regret about the way I have accumulated things. Ecclesiastes encourages us to live in the present, not the past. Eccl.5:19-20 To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life, that is indeed a gift from God. People who do this rarely look with sorrow on the past, for God has given them reasons for joy.

Living for the Future
The things that I don’t use, I tend to save because I might need them in the future. I mean, should we be out of work and become homeless with no money, at least I will have my black crocodile stilettos to wear while we panhandle, right? And you never know, I might just get back to my pre-baby weight and shape so that I can wear all those size six fancy suits while I avoid being touched by little fingers covered in mashed bananas.

I realize that hording things for some moment in the future is simply worry in a form that is more difficult to recognize. After all, God is the one who gives me a future – He has the plans. My next breath belongs to Him. Jer 31:16-17 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. There is hope for your future,” says the LORD. ”

Now, of course there is reasonable planning for the future that wisdom dictates we do. But I don’t need to keep so many extraneous things to feel secure. God has given me hope for my future. He has given me reasons for joy.

My Present: a reason for joy
So cleaning out my closet and dresser is my first stab at living my life in the present. My sweats wearing, grubby kids handprint wiping, dinner cooking, Volvo driving, big hipped, wonderful, blessed present.
Matthew 6:25-34
“So I tell you, don’t worry about everyday life whether you have enough food, drink, and clothes. Doesn’t life consist of more than food and clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t need to plant or harvest or put food in barns because your heavenly Father feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than they are. Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? Of course not.

“And why worry about your clothes? Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow, won’t he more surely care for you? You have so little faith!

“So don’t worry about having enough food or drink or clothing. Why be like the pagans who are so deeply concerned about these things? Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs, and he will give you all you need from day to day if you live for him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern. “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.