Archive | February, 2020

Freedom in Christ

29 Feb

I wrote back in November that I planned to start going to counseling. Here I am, on the cusp of March, with 5 sessions under my belt. Has it been helpful? Yes. Has it been what I expected? Not really.

I think I expected my therapist to overthink things like I do, and to give me deep, meaningful, existential explanations to my problems. Instead, the way she has been challenging my thinking has been utterly practical and no-nonsense. When I lament about mounds of laundry, kids’ messes, or frozen pizza dinners, her response is, “So what? Is anyone going to die if they wear dirty clothes or eat frozen pizza for dinner?”

Obviously the answer is no, so that begs the question – then why do I care so deeply? Why does it bother me so much when my house is a mess, or the laundry is undone, or I failed again to plan dinner? Even as I’ve been doing the hard work of trying to let go and be more relaxed about things, I find that there’s a tipping point. I can ignore the mess in order to go play outside with my family, but if I come back inside to find that they’ve made another mess, I lose my crap.

I honestly cannot fully explain why I have this neurotic need for everything to be in its place. And frankly, sometimes I feel fully justified in being neurotic, because isn’t this the way God created me?! This is just who I am. But sometimes it feels like my need for control is controlling me, and I can’t stop being controlled even when I try. I was expressing this to God the other day and He brought Galatians 5:1 to mind,

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

It stopped me in my tracks.

In Christ, I have freedom. Freedom from my own need for control. I do not have to be a slave to my personality that desires organization and tidiness! Armed with that verse, I have the confidence to declare that I AM NOT A SLAVE TO CONTROL. Because of Christ, I can refuse to be dominated by my need for order, and I can instead prioritize relationships.

I have long tried to wage this battle equipped with my own paltry strength. Is it any wonder that I’m still struggling with the same old thing? But this verse has given me something new, infused my soul with gospel confidence. This is my birthright in Christ. This is what He has won for me! I get to live in freedom because of my Savior!

I told my husband about this, and encouraged him, “Please, if you see me going off the rails, remind me of this verse.” I am staking my claim to freedom in Christ, and I will not submit anymore to a yoke of slavery.

Coupled with this promise, I have decided to give up yelling at my kids for Lent. That has, unfortunately, long been the way I deal with the feeling of overwhelm and stress caused by my kids either not listening to me or getting out of control. So, no more yelling. (I am hoping to continue that beyond Lent too.) Instead, I want to pray. Out loud. Instead of screaming at my kids, “We need to go NOW! Get in the car or you will be in big trouble!” I want to say, “Father, we are late. And these kids are not listening to me. Help me maintain my patience and grace, and help motivate them to listen. I trust that we will get to wherever we are going and it will be ok that we are late.”

There’s a quote from Connected Families that I have on my computer desktop – “When kids misbehave, make obedience a secondary goal, and make accessing and walking in the fruit of the Spirit yourself the primary goal.” That is the idea behind “no yelling” – instead of relying on my own power and effort to accomplish, I run to God, confess my inability, and rest in His power to accomplish.

I put this into practice this past Thursday when my oldest daughter was not wanting to go to school, and threw a tantrum. We were 20 minutes late to school, but I walked out of dropoff with a smile on my face. Because I hadn’t yelled, but had instead connected with my daughter and found out that she just plain missed me, which is why she didn’t want to go to school. I am really looking forward to seeing how God works in me over the coming months.

I’ll end with just the amazing feeling that I have of God personally ministering to my soul. I feel so unworthy of even His sideways glance, let alone of His speaking into my struggles. Counseling has been helpful, but the Spirit is the ultimate Counselor.

2020 Focus: Perspective

17 Feb

Can I write a post about my word for 2020 when it’s already the middle of February?

Too bad, I am.

My word for 2019 was Rest, and I’m not going to lie: I pretty much failed at it. Apparently, rest is not something that comes naturally to me (though I am a lover of naps). But since this post is about 2020 and not 2019, we’ll just leave it at that.

My “word for 2020” is Perspective. It’s actually kind of similar to my focus for 2016: Behold Your God, especially this quote from Glennon Melton: “I don’t want a new better life in [2020]. I just want new eyes to see that my life is already staggeringly beautiful.”  (Momastery, Best New Year’s Ever)

New eyes. A fresh perspective. 20/20 vision. (see what I did there?) Hindsight in the present.

November and December of 2019 were rough. ROUGH. I alluded to that here. And going to therapy has been helping. So has re-reading Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts again. Because what is my problem? What has it always been, and will always be?

The problem of all humanity — ingratitude.

Stomping my foot like a tantruming child, demanding my life be different. No, this isn’t the life I want. I want THAT one. The one I can conjure up in my head. You know, the one that’s only roses and rainbows, and involves none of the crap I have to deal with on a daily basis.

But that life doesn’t exist. I know this. The life I want is the glorified life, the life that only exists in heaven. I am yearning for heaven. And I will experience that one day, all praise to Jesus.

For now, I’m here, stuck in the catch-22. I can’t imagine a life without my kids, a life in which I am no longer a mom, and yet being a mom unhinges me some days. It’s this life of wife and mom that often threatens my sanity, but there is no universe in which I could just walk away.

So my biggest need, the solution to my biggest problem, is PERSPECTIVE. Do I view my family as a burden, a hindrance from my true potential, from the life I could’ve had? Or do I view them as my blessing, God’s chosen purpose for my life? My family are who they are. Parenthood is what it is. How am I choosing to look at it?

It is a choice. Gratitude does NOT just happen. Like Ann Voskamp says, ingratitude is humanity’s natural bent. Left alone, we are miserable messes, always focused on the thing withheld.

Gratitude is not just giving thanks, though that is valuable and necessary. It is above all looking for how God is at work in any and every situation. How God can use all things for good. When we give thanks to God for everything, even the hard things, we are demonstrating trust in Him. If we truly trust God, we will be thanking Him for every thing. “All is grace, because all can transfigure” (Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts).

We’re a month and a half into 2020 already, and I’ve already seen this practice of gratitude, of sleuthing for grace, infuse my life with renewed passion, energy, and yes, joy. Now the key will be: CONTINUE. Don’t stop being intentionally thankful.

So, 20/20 vision. Perspective.

A Still Winter Morning

5 Feb

IMG_5993This past weekend, I went to a Women’s Retreat at a place called Camp Lebanon. There were about 100-150 other women there, 20 from my church. I had an amazing time. The speaker was engaging and taught straight from the Bible, the worship music was powerful, and the weather was fantastic so I got to spend a lot of time outside.

Saturday morning, I went on a walk outside before breakfast. It was a quiet, still winter morning. The only sounds were a gentle breeze lightly touching the tips of evergreens, the crunch-crunch of my winter boots on the snow-covered roads, and an occasional sparrow singing its morning song of glory.

I was new to the camp, so I just set off adventuring, seeing what there was to see. I found the zipline (closed in the winter), the snow-tubing hill, a quintessential outhouse in the woods (complete with half moon on the front door), and a slope heading down to the lake.IMG_5995 I walked down to the edge of the frozen water, but didn’t dare venture further onto the lake without anyone else around. Fortunately, I discovered a trail that followed the shoreline. The snow on the trail was packed down enough that I didn’t need snowshoes.IMG_5994I amused myself by trying to guess which animal had left which footprints. I saw (I think) evidence of a rabbit, a turkey, and a deer. 

I stopped every now and then to look out at the lake and the changing colors of the sky.

The refrain from Frozen 2 was stuck in my head–“Show yourself”–and I realized that God was doing just that. Showing His glory, His power, His majesty.

My heart was so full on that walk. I rejoiced in the play of shadows and light on the trees from the sun just peeking over the horizon.IMG_6001 I stopped and gazed at a tree trunk with bark in a wavy pattern.IMG_5996 I took pictures, trying to capture the feeling I had so I could look back one day and remember. Remember how He met me out there.IMG_6005Later I read Psalm 96:11-13 and my soul said, “Yes! That is what I felt on that winter morning walk.”

“Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
    let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
12     let the field exult, and everything in it!
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
13     before the Lord, for he comes,
    for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness,
    and the peoples in his faithfulness.”

This practice of gratitude, this sleuthing for God’s glory (as Ann Voskamp would say), it transforms a life!