Saturday, November 21, 2015

Love Isn't Soft

Today was the first real snow of 2015, so of course I made cookies. The four and 2 year old argued over who got to add which ingredient and we all ate too much cookie dough and then too many cookies.

Long after they had lost interest, I kept taking those pans in and out of the oven. And then there was the clean up, of course. Wiping crumbs off the counter, sweeping them up from the floor, scrubbing cookie pans while everyone else played outside or watched a movie.

Watching the snow through kitchen panes while scrubbing at stuck on chocolate, I remembered a story Mom told me. How, when we were little, she bent cookie pans by scrubbing too hard, too often. Shining circles on tin bearing witness to the cookies she baked with her own little people.

I rinsed my hands, dried them off and stretched them out before me. Mama hands aren't soft. Winter is coming on fast and the thousands of times a day that I wash my hands mean they'll be dry - rough. Just like hers were. I remember how they felt when we laced fingers together when I was small. Mama hands aren't soft and cookie pans used often enough are riddled with divots where Mamas scrub too hard, too often.

Why do we think love is soft? Love is tender, yes, but love is also hard. Love is rough. Love is still working long after everyone else has moved on. Love is relentlessly bent toward the other.

After the cookie mess is cleaned away, I bathe the baby in the sink. Then I nurse her to sleep, clean my room as she slumbers and sling her up on my back to make supper when she awakens. Love carries on and on and on.

We are raised up to see love as some puffy pink cloudlike heart. Some luxurious bubble bath of sweet smelling fluff. It's only in the trenches of real life that we see what real love requires of us.

Real love is sacrifice. Real love is in the small things. Real love is digging through last years mittens to find him a pair. Real love is letting littles make a big cookie mess when buying a package would not only cost less monetarily, but it would cost less of you. Real love is giving yourself, your time, your life - for someone else. Real love is stretch marks and aching joints and getting up at three a.m. when someone calls your name.

Real love is rough hands. Worn cookie pans. Babies yanking on your hair while you make supper. Real love is scars.

Real love isn't soft.

The most real love of all was nail-scarred, not cloud soft.

Real love is strong. Relentless. Complete.

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Friday, November 13, 2015

How To Hold Onto Hope

It's 5 am when the baby won't stop coughing. I scoop her up and head downstairs where I can hold her on my chest and hope to get a few more minutes rest before the day begins. She's soon asleep, but despite my best efforts it seems I'm up for the day.

I log on Twitter and read a few news articles. The world is just so full of upsetting things and I'm constantly torn between the urge to bury my head in the sand and the desire to be informed. I pause at one article that makes me soul sick and then, though I know better, commit the cardinal sin of internetting - I read the comments.

And that's when my chest feels like it's been hit by a ton of bricks and that little flicker of hope within me for the human race seems dangerously close to being snuffed out. Scrolling through things other humans have said - some of them truly awful - makes me gasp for air.

These ultra-connected times bring with them good and bad. The good - we can be informed and help people that perhaps before we wouldn't know existed before now. The bad - every horrific event, every evil act seems unbearably close. The ugly - the comments section and the ease of typing things behind a computer screen that should never be said.

I shut down the computer and head into make coffee. It's hardly 6 AM and if I'm not careful, this deep gut sadness can take over my entire day. It's a helplessness that is overwhelming, that feeling of lung-crushing desperate darkness all around, threatening to suffocate every good and happy thing. How can I raise my kids in a place like this? How can I lead them in light when darkness is so near on every side?

But all is not lost. I get my coffee, settle down on the couch and pull up another website. Outside the wind rattles cold and stirs leaves in mini tornadoes down the street, but in here with my baby asleep on my chest, I find something warm. Something comforting, as only truth can be.

I have said all these things to you so that in me you may have peace. In the world you have trouble: but take heart! I have overcome the world.

John 16:33

 In this little house, with all these little precious souls asleep upstairs, I make my choice. As long as there are people in this world who refuse to be swallowed up by hopelessness, there's still something worth fighting for.

It's 6 am, a new day, and though I'm tired and weary and soul sickened, I'm ready to begin. Leading the way with the seven I've been charged with, training up my own little band of warriors to be love and shine hope. It will take courage. It will take strength. It will take the rest of my life.

It's the only choice.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Enough Navel Gazing




It happens most week days around 11 AM for me. A sudden surge of panic as the day is progressing. Either we are snailing through our school day or we have barely begun. The house is messy, the toddlers are nuts. The baby is on my back and my coffee has been in my system just long enough for that jittery anxious feeling to descend full blast. My list is hardly touched, I've got miles to go and we're burning daylight.

"Oh no," I think. "We're not going to make it."

Somehow we almost always do. Somehow the smoke clears around 4 pm and I start to think that maybe today was alright after all. But it doesn't come without a lot of self doubt. A lot of "what the heck am I doing anyway?" A lot of "uh oh. I fail mothering (again)!" A lot of self spiraling.

I'm over it.

Every Sunday, after communion, I sit quietly in our crazy pew at church and ask Jesus to be in charge. To put me where he wants me, to use me be love. Yet somehow by the time Monday morning rolls around, I've concocted a self centered version of what exactly that is. I forget that Him showing up might not look like me being whisked off to inspire thousands at a conference. It might not look like an uninterrupted phone call with someone who needs encouragement. It might never be a book deal or even time for me to sit down and write . 

I get so clouded by what I think is important that I forget what is important to God rarely makes big splashy headlines.

It's getting my husband's coffee ready just the way he likes it so he can grab it easily while dashing out the door. It's letting my toddler change her mind (just this once) about what breakfast she wants. It's that sick baby hiked up on my aching back because it's where she can breathe and rest and heal.

When I spend my time bemoaning my inability to get certain things done, when I allow myself to be consumed with worry over my intentions, my heart, the use of my talents - I'm putting myself at the center. Me, me, me.

The problem with that is when you're all about yourself, there's no room for anything else - least of all loving others.

Right now, right where you are - you are in a position to bless someone. To be the hands and feet of Jesus. Possibly right at this very second. Isn't that really the entire point anyway? 

Sometimes I think we spend so much time worrying about what we're supposed to be doing with our lives that we forget that the entire point is to lose it.

So enough, then. Enough with the navel gazing. The agonizing. The second guessing and the self deprecating. It's nothing more than a distraction from the bigger picture.

The truth is, there's joy in taking it as it comes. In doing the next right thing. In waking up and looking around and finding what needs to be done, finding ways you can serve and not allowing yourself to get distracted by your own human brain.

Sometimes you just gotta get outside of yourself.

Life is about spreading light. There are millions upon millions of ways to do that. God, in all of His beauty and wisdom and grace, has that for every single person in every single life in every single day. I promise you, there is not a minute today that, no matter where you are, you don't have the opportunity shine light. Not when you're "just" a mom. Not when you're "just" in a cubicle at work. Not when you're "just" cleaning up a mess, or driving to the store, or making dinner, or working out. Not when you're sick in bed or unable to "do" much of anything at all.

Jesus, put me where you want me. 

(Right now? At a kitchen table with a baby drooling on my arm while my ten year old whines about math. Sigh. Alrighty then)

Help me to be love wherever I am, to burn brightly in all situations.

(letting baby gnaw on my arm. Not losing my cool but being firm with my daughter.)

And let it be enough.

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