Better Than A Sharp Poke in the Eye?

Lately, I’ve been reading some stuff. This stuff has lodged in my cerebral cortex and, as I have been going about my business, cleaning my bathrooms and teaching spelling and watching Robert Downey Jr. play Tony Stark in Ironman2 (more on that later), this stuff niggles. It pesters. It demands further review.

Here’s the deal: there have apparently been several different studies published over the past decade that have all come to one resounding conclusion:

Having children decreases your overall happiness in life.

Well. Tie me to an anthill and fill my ears with jam.

You can read more about the studies here, in the April 2009 issue of The Psychologist in an article written by social scientist Nattavudh Powdthavee. It’s a very thought-provoking article, or at least, it provoked many thoughts by yours truly. Don’t worry, I will share them with you. I know you were worried.

Obviously, the idea that children will increase your happiness is inherently flawed. Happiness, as everyone should know (at least intellectually), comes from within, and if you are an unhappy, negative person as a non-parent, you will certainly not become a happy, positive person when you introduce a demanding little suckling into your life.

However, the suggestion, or–seeing as how it has been settled by the intractability of empirical data–the fact that child-free couples are happier than those with children is a bit of a startling concept to those of us, well…to those of us who have ’em, frankly.

Four different studies have apparently shown that, once children arrive on the scene, happiness levels decrease, and marital satisfaction, life satisfaction, and mental well-being all take a serious hit.

Oh my stars and garters, what have we done? I checked my kids; there’s no return address label!

But let’s back up a little bit before we start researching time machines. I’m not arguing with the results of the studies at all. I truly do believe that they are correct, for what it’s worth. It’s just that they beg a few important questions.

First of all, how do we define happiness?

If we are ranking how happy we are, shouldn’t we seek to ascertain if we are all on the same page first?

I would hazard a guess that if your criteria for happiness includes things like a clean house, a peaceful, quiet existence, a toned and fit body, plenty of spendable income, minimal stress, and maximum free time, then having children is almost certain to make you less happy than if you remain childless.

I’m not in any way saying those things are bad, or selfish to want. But thinking you can have them ALL and children too is unrealistic, which I believe hits close to home in the “happy” arena. Many people go into parenthood with a grossly unrealistic view of what it will entail.

The studies were concentrated in Europe and the USA, which is also telling. What other cultures are as steeped in the have-it-all mentality than we are? We are told daily and repeatedly that a certain body and a certain lifestyle will make us happy. Happiness is defined continually for us by the billboards and advertisements that bombard us every moment of our lives. Children are diametrically opposed to that definition.

Let’s look at the facts.

Children will affect your pocketbook. While I do not hold to the popular “how much will it cost to have a child” statistics, it is undeniable that adding children to your life will require certain expenses to increase. Period. You might have to give up weekly pedi-manis. You might have to sell your boat. You might have to give up your home office to make way for the little tyke. You might have to choose between glasses for jr. and the latest home entertainment center.

Children will increase your stress levels. Sure, they bring immeasurable joy to our lives that we would never experience otherwise, but let’s face it: sometimes they can bring levels of grief we never thought possible, too. If you protest that your children have never, ever qualified for that equation, then get out of here. No, seriously. Go away. I don’t want to know you.

The more children you have, the greater your chances for that grief, in the form of sickness, emotional upheaval, or, God forbid, death. You have more to worry about, for pete’s sake. If you don’t worry, you’re some kind of android and, once again, I wish you well, but leave now. Most of us run into issues with our kids, and suddenly it becomes apparent that our superpowers are not going to be sufficient to protect them from everything. And what parent in the world would claim to be “happy” if one of their kids is hurting? And the more you have, the more your chances that one of them is not going to be blissfully content every moment of every day.

Along those lines, can I just say? Having children is cripplingly humbling.  Think about your opinion of yourself before you had kids. You were patient. You were cool. You were intelligent. You were loving. You were kind. Frankly, you were ten shades of awesome. Then kids came along and proved that all previously established levels of the aforementioned descriptives were grossly unchallenged and thus inherently erroneous. In other words: ya never knew just how great you were until you were incessently forced to prove it.

So there you go. The three reasons kids make us less happy:

  1. We can’t have all the crap we want.
  2. We worry more.
  3. We aren’t nearly as bodacious as we thought.

But hold on one minute.

When I see this list, two words come to mind.

Personal Growth.

Now, no psychologist in the world would argue that personal growth is not something to aspire towards in our lifetimes. Sure, our yearbooks all have “don’t ever change!” written in them by our classmates, but who truly wants to remain static, stagnating in immaturity and boredom?

And yet, can I just suggest that personal growth isn’t always a “happy” experience to go through? Frankly, growth is painful, often to the point that it makes you want to lay down and die rather than go on with it. No one going through a trial will say they are “happy”, although once they are through it they will probably assure you that it was for their greater good to have been there. Trials and testings produce character we never could have found in a peaceful little cloister of our own making.

I’m not saying that the child-free have no opportunities for personal growth, just that those with children are prone to daily re-evaluations and personal assessments that might never occur otherwise (should the parents choose to accept such challenges, which is a whole ‘nuther issue).

So, do the results of these studies simply boil down to one real question?

Is happiness, after all, the be-all, end-all goal to life?

It’s a good question. One that we probably don’t really consider on most days. We spend an inordinate time seeking to preserve our well-being, establish a status-quo that ranks considerably above “just okay”, whether we have children or not. But, especially if we claim to be Christians, we are called for quite the opposite: to give our lives away for a greater cause. Happiness was never meant to be an earthly pursuit; our Lord has plenty of it for us where we’re going. Delayed gratification is a concept our culture will never embrace as a whole, but if we individually do not, we will most certainly be desperately unhappy, no matter what lifestyle we choose.

62%

I went to the doctor the other day. The OB. Is there any other kind?

I didn’t want to go to the doctor. He’s a nice Christian guy but I can never decipher whether he’s looking at me with pity, disapproval, or affection. I have tried many times to make him laugh and only succeeded a few times over the years. I think I’m a pretty funny person, but he makes me doubt myself. It would be nice if he’d just flat-out proclaim how he feels instead of keeping his professional opinion under wraps. I could handle that better.

If he disapproves, I could tell him to shut his pie-hole and thank me for the repeat business.

If he thinks I’m awesome, he could scream “W00t!” and go for a high five.

The mental image makes me giggle.

He doesn’t congratulate me this time. We’ve done this dance often enough to know that would be premature. Instead we chat and he nods and shuffles the papers on my chart and says “well, let’s just go down the hallway here and see what’s going on!”

In the sonogram room, I get the distinct impression that he’s not looking forward to this anymore than I am. We’ve been through this more than a few times, and the gentle delivery of bad news is wearing on him…of that much I’m almost certain. He doesn’t turn on the big projector that is turned my way, but keeps his eyes on the small screen for his eyes only. The seconds feel like hours.

“Welllll….” he begins. “We actually have good news today!”

A smile. He turns the big screen on. There is an island of life within, a little strobe light of happiness dancing in the depths. A heartbeat.

Dates are perfect. Growth is perfect. And the heartbeat, of course, could be nothing less.

There are no guarantees in life, ever. My children are gifts, the ones who fill my house with chaos and the ones whose faces I have not yet seen. I have had 8 pregnancies evaporate into mist, go straight from hope to heartbreak. Yet this one, I feel strongly, is destined for terrestrial things.

I’ll be 42 this year. I’ve never felt so acutely that these baking years are coming to an end. I’m okay with that.

But I’m happy for one more chance to fire up the oven.

Entering the Gates

I suppose everyone has their own idea of when adulthood is reached. For some it is as simple as passing a particular year, like sixteen (driving), eighteen (enlistment), or twenty-one (alchohol).

 
For myself, it was not an age but a checklist of mental milestones begun in 5th grade that I perceived would sweep me beyond the simple meandering trail of childhood and through the Great Golden Gates of Maturity. I was certain that the realm of Adulthood was staggeringly superior to the world of submission, school, and simplicity that formed the days of my youth.

 
The Checklist began simply enough:

  • Begin Menstruation
  • Wear a bra
  • Shave legs
  • Get boyfriend

These items were triumphantly checked off in due time, and I congratulated myself on navigating the trail with relative ease. The gates glimmered on the horizon. I would have stepped through in record time, but for one problem: I kept revising and lengthening the list. Items I had not considered in 5th grade became essential additions. Soon it read:

  • Graduate High School
  • Go to College
  • Get Job

Suddenly things became complicated. I graduated and went to college. I got a job (I was the Godfather’s Pizza salad-bar-nazi. Important work, that.) But somewhere in my junior year of high school, A Young Man had appeared. A Young Man who turned my simple list on its head with one crooked smile. He was a mess; a college drop out, unsure about what he wanted and who he was. He had no prospects, but me-oh-my, could he swagger.

 
When The Young Man appeared, all reason took flight, and my list took on a curiously new and urgent direction:

  • Kiss Frequently, and Well
  • Get Engaged
  • Get Married

The sooner the better, preferably. I wanted to be his wife. I wanted to wake up every morning to those soft green eyes, to cook his meals and fold his undies. It became the embodiment of adulthood, this setting up house with the object of my every hormonally-charged dream.

 
The Young Man gave me an engagement ring halfway through my senior year in high school. He proposed under the Christmas tree in suitably romantic style. Our parents called it a “promise ring” in the vain hope that the magic would wear thin and we’d come to our senses.

 
Vain, indeed.

 
By the end of the next year, I had his name. I was eighteen, and he was twenty-one. We lived in a tiny apartment with a waterbed and a small black cat named Buster Ninja Crabb. He went to school and I cooked grilled cheese sandwiches and cookies, reveling in the “Mrs.” on every envelope and medical form. The sparkly ring danced on my finger with its plainer gold partner and reminded me with every load of laundry that I was a Real Lady now. The gates were securely shut behind me.

 
Or were they?

 
Sometimes I felt that I was only playing house, a little girl in grown-up clothes with a grown-up name. No one expected us to make it; fully half the people at our wedding were probably unconvinced we’d last a year. My own parents didn’t make the trip from Norway to Texas for the ceremony, so determined they were to convey their lack of approval and preponderance of doubts.

 
I wanted desperately to be taken seriously. And so I added another item to the list, the One Thing I was sure would seal the maturity deal:

  • Have Baby

 

But when I brought my firstborn home from the hospital, I didn’t feel like a grownup. If anything, I felt less adult than I ever had in my life. None of my play-acting and daydreaming had prepared me for the responsibility of a new life. Even over the next few weeks, it stubbornly refused to sink in. I would find myself wondering if I should call this child’s parents to come and pick her up, because I was fed up with babysitting.

 
Instead, adulthood was calling me. In the middle of the night when she would wake and need me…adulthood was calling. Struggling with breastfeeding, and changing poopy diapers that required four hands and fifty wipes…adulthood was calling. Wondering how to love this being who only ever demanded more from me than I had ever given…adulthood was calling. Persistently. Urgently. Adulthood called, and knocked, and rang the doorbell, and eventually broke the door down to get to me.

 
As our child grew, she was as reluctant to pass common adolescent milestones as I was eager to meet them head-on. I called her a late bloomer, a tomboy…a mystery. Sometimes I wondered if she would ever be content in her femaleness, so vehemently she disdained the trappings of the gender. Encouraging her down the trail to maturity frequently felt like herding a flock of gelatin sheep.

 
Yet, a year and a half ago, I watched as that baby girl pledged her life to a Young Man who possesses a smile and a swagger all his own. If she felt like a pretender at any point, as I had, her serene demeanor never betrayed it. And when she announced (just a month later) that she was making me a grandmother, her contentment only deepened.

 
Watching her struggle to bring my first grandchild into the world, I wept with frustration that I couldn’t make it easier for her. She, on the other hand, wasted no energy on tears, but poured herself out with a determination and courage that left me breathless with awe. When her pelvis’s ability to get a baby through was called into question, she summoned a strength I didn’t know she had and pushed him out with sheer indignation.

 

As I watch her parent my (brilliant, sublime) grandson, I stand amazed anew at her maturity and natural, effusive affection. She has a confidence and joy that it took me years to grasp. My own Young Man and I can only smile and shrug when asked to share how she became such a natural…we are wondering as much ourselves.

 

The process of growth is unquantifiable. It steals softly over your consciousness, incrementally creeping, like the dawning of a new day. Who can tell when the light finally breaks over the horizon? In spite of my best efforts, my daughter arrived through the gate in her own good time. And I find that, instead of being miles ahead, I’m content to walk alongside her and share the journey.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

(originally written for this contest last fall. I didn’t win. Anyone want to give me $3K anyway?)

 

(When did YOU feel like you had reached adulthood?)

 

Just a little Truth

“For the Lord will not cast off forever,

Though He causes grief,

Yet He will show compassion

According to the multitudes of His mercies.

For He does not afflict, nor grieve willingly,

the children of men.”

Lam. 3: 31-33

 

This scripture bears the indentations of my fingernails. It has teethmarks where I have bitten down upon it in the middle of more pain than I thought I could bear.

 

He does not afflict nor grieve willingly.

 

I know I’ve said it before, but oh how I need to hear it again. He does not delight in our pain. Though it is sometimes (even often!) rendered by His own hand, He does not gloat, He does not relish, He does not glory in pain for pain’s sake.

 

Here’s the truth: sometimes the shrapnel of past wars is lodged so deeply in our hearts that they must be broken open again in order to repair the damage.  The probing pierces, the scalpel digs deeply, He is searching our hearts, He is purifying, He is cleansing…He is at work to bring healing.

 

And I gasp and struggle and scream and kick and sob for Him to stop…just stop…I didn’t mean it, I don’t want the healing if it comes at such a price. Don’t touch those areas; don’t mess with my mess…I had it all swept neatly into a box and buried it deep, oh how deeply I dug to bury those hurts.

 

But He knows I did mean it. I do mean it. I want to be whole. I want to be healed. And so I lay in the palm of His hand: spent, exhausted, and drained. He works swiftly. So much easier when I am still. When I am still and quiet I can hear the song He is singing. Through His own tears that wash the infection away, He sings a love song. A joyful song. A song of reparation and redemption and promise.

 

The pain has purpose.  So He promises. And so I trust.

Branded

Cowboy X has been branded.

 

Four and a half weeks ago he reached up with chubby hand towards a mug of tea, just poured from the singing kettle, and learned what “hot” meant.

 

The liquid poured down his 18 month old arm, destroying everything in its path instantly, soaking into pajama sleeve, shockingly ruthless.

 

The shrieking was severe.

 

The clothes were torn off posthaste but the damage was done. Emergency room patched him up and the next morning we headed to Hillcrest Burn Center in Tulsa to see the experts.

 

How a mother’s heart breaks to watch a child in pain. My eyes brim over with memory and grief. How do you explain to a baby that all will eventually come right? How many times can you say I’m so sorry for an instant’s unwatchfulness?

 

When words do not suffice, it is enough to be held, and to hear the murmured prayers of someone who loves you, someone who cares more than words can say.

 

The verdict was deep tissue 2nd degree burn. The flesh peeled away in horrifying thicknesses, later turning white when underlying cells decided the damage was too severe to recover and gave up their battle as well. Twice daily we bathed the arm and slathered on the ointment thick for healing, wrapping and bandaging to protect the raw and vulnerable from infection.

 

Several times I had to sit with head between knees until the spinning world decided to come back into focus. I am The Fainter, The Squeamish One, The One Who Does Not Deal Well With Blood or Gore.

 

It felt so cruel, this bathing and washing. To unwrap his dressings caused him pain. To expose the damage to water and soap, to pop the blisters and gently help the dead skin release its hold did not feel kind.

 

He cried.

 

I cried.

 

Yet it was not cruelty, it was kindness. Cruelty would have been to leave him as he was. Left to itself, the dead flesh would damage further, spreading infection and disease. 

 

Neglect is never kindness. 

 

Xavier, with hitherto untapped wells of courage, submitted to the actions without struggle. Clinging to his sister, tiny feet wiggling continually in an effort to distract, he would bury his face in her shoulder until it was over and done.

 

And the Lord spoke. Oh, how He spoke.

 

This is what I do for you He whispered to my heart. See the dead, clinging flesh? You don’t need it. It’s a danger to you. Let Me strip it off. Let Me bathe the hurt with healing water. Let Me bind up Your wounds.

 

This world wounds. We are every one of us burned by the daily heat of life on planet earth. Some is self-inflicted, and some is poured out by others and we are simply bystanders, injured by default.

 

All of it hurts.

 

We can guard it. We can resist His ministrations, kicking and pushing Him away, telling Him we are fine.

 

We are not fine.

 

But it’s our flesh. It’s a part of us. We love it. We don’t want to see it go, no matter how damaged and dangerous it may be. I loved Xavier’s chubby little wrist. To see the flesh wash down the drain broke my heart. But holding onto it would not have saved it.

 

See what a blessing it is that he submits The Lord whispered again. See how much easier it is to get done quickly…how much less painful it is to him when he does not struggle. My heart does not delight in your pain. My heart delights in your healing.

 

As sure as I wept over Xavier, the Lord weeps over us. He is distraught over the damage of sin in our lives. He is only waiting for us to be still, to hold the battered pieces out to Him and let Him do His work of stripping and cleaning, anointing and binding. It feels like cruelty,  but it is the sweetest form of love we will ever experience.

 

Cling to Him as He works. It is enough to be held, and to hear the murmured prayers of Someone who loves you, Someone who cares more than words can say.

 

 

(This is the injury:)

 

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underneath

 

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cleaning7

 

(And this is the cleaning:)

 

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(This is the trust:)

 

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(And this is the healing:)

 

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Duh

Is it just me, or does anybody else out there ever have trouble with knowing God’s Word sometimes?

 

I don’t mean with the really tricky stuff, like “if you have faith as a mustard seed, say to this mountain *be removed* and it shall be thrown into the sea” or anything of that ilk. I mean the easy stuff. Stuff like:

 

Do you know He died for you?

 

Do you know He hears your prayers?

 

Do you know He intercedes for you?

 

Do you know He sent His Holy Spirit to help you?

 

Do you know He is coming back to earth someday?

 

I can almost hear the “Well, DUH!” in your mind right now. And I understand. As Christians, we “know” these things. I thought I knew them, too.  I had filed them away in my mind under “faith” a long, long time ago. But did I know these things…or did I KNOW these things? Uh oh. There’s a difference?

 

Here’s a quick check to see if you are knowing things or KNOWING things:

 

Does what you “know” change the way you live? Change the way you feel? Change the way you respond to situations? Change…you? In those secret, dark and damp places in your heart where the door is tightly shut and barred and closely guarded…does any of that truth ever get in?

 

Let me be frank here…I have known lots of stuff in my life. I’ve believed in Jesus since I was four years old. I knew the lingo. I could preach it with the best of them. Jesus loves me. Jesus died for me. Jesus forgives me.

 

And then I got alone with the Lord, really alone and quiet before Him, and He very kindly informed me that I didn’t KNOW much of anything at all. Here’s a little illustration of what He showed me has to happen before we can turn knowing into KNOWING:

 

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When we read His word and when we pray, when we listen to solid preaching and when we read truthful books, all that truth goes into our heads. Obviously, it has to go there first. It gets processed there. But it’s not supposed to stay there. If it stays there, it never changes us, not For Real. For it to change us, it must percolate down into our hearts, where it can flow out  to the world around us in daily life.

 

The biggest thing, the crux of my difficulty, and, I suspect, the crux of most folks’ difficulty, is in KNOWING God’s love for us. The magnitude of it. Such a thing could not help but change us fundamentally. I used to think I simply couldn’t know it, that it was beyond my capability. But that’s not what His own words tell me.

 

For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,  that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love,  may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Eph. 3:14-19

 

You see right there? Right. There. He says KNOW the love of Christ, which surpasses knowledge.

 

What? Know something that surpasses knowledge? Yes. The difference is right there, between heart and head.

 

I wanted to KNOW it. I knew I needed to KNOW it. What was wrong with me that I could hold such a thing in my brain for so many decades with only tiny bits of it sporadically getting through to my heart? I asked the Lord. He showed me again.

 

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(highly scientific cross-section view) 

 

Ouch. Here’s the problem. Pride. Anger. Unforgiveness. Fear. These are my own clogs. Your results may vary. They block the funnel, clog it up. Make it downright impossible for those seeds of truth to settle down into the soil of the heart, where they can grow and bear fruit.

 

What to do? How to remove it?

 

What else to do but pray?

 

I prayed for Holy Spirit Draino. Roto-Rooter, even. No matter how it was going to scorch and burn, I wanted it. I stopped caring if it would hurt. I knew it would. And it did. But He is SO GOOD, friends. SO. GOOD. Suddenly (and yes, it seemed just that sudden; I am not overstating the case) He blew my mind with the revelation of all He has done for me. It had never seemed so real. It had never been so close, so fresh, and so precious.

 

So I’m starting with this advice: get some Draino. Get some now. Because anything else will seem like just so much blahblahblah without it. Turn off the computer. Shut out the voices. Get on your face before Him (and no, I don’t mean metaphorically or in your heart, I mean literally, face to carpet) and mean what you say.

 

He will come. And He will pour you clean.

 

Jesus. You are awesome, so faithful and so immediate with help. Please keep me free from the buildup of pride, fear, unforgiveness, and  anger. Let the pipeline be so open that the truth dropped into my mind goes straight into my heart, where it can yield a harvest of Your righteousness in my life. Oh You are so beautiful to me! Thank You. Thank You that You are not disgusted with the magnitude of filth in my life, but eager and delighted to blast it away.

The Mat Doesn’t Taste Very Good, part 2

Here’s the deal: a few months back I determined to attempt to get closer to God than I had ever been. I got down on my face, in the literal sense of the word, multiple times daily (and sometimes in the dead of night) to talk to Him, and to try to hear His voice. I doubled up on my daily Bible reading. I made a point to praise Him in all things.

 

I lasted a few weeks.

 

In those few weeks, there were no mind-blowing or earth-shattering revelations. The clouds did not part. I heard no audible voice. I did not perceive any response from heaven whatsoever. In other realms, however?

 

All hell broke loose.

 

Beneath the surface of my cool exterior (heh), there was a battle raging. The swing had swung, and I was grinding through the mud again.

 

It hardly seemed fair.

 

The harder I tried to “press in”, the thicker the mud became.

 

Doubts, fears, depression, darkness. Deep, deep darkness settled over me. I felt more than ever like the ship tossed by every wind and wave, incapable of receiving anything from the Lord because of my own incapacity for trust.

 

And so I gave up. I got off my face. I staggered over to the corner of the mat to get my eye stitched up and my mouthpiece replaced.

 

And I stayed there.

 

I didn’t know what God was doing. I wasn’t sure I wanted to know. Especially if He was doing nothing at all; watching impassively from the sidelines.

 

As time passed and I slogged up out of the pit, I mustered up the courage to question God. Why? Why, God? What gives? When I draw near to You, You’re supposed to draw near to me, not duck and cover while the devil and my own traitorous nature break chairs over my head repeatedly.

 

Keep wrestling. I heard Him speak to my heart. Just keep wrestling until the blessing comes.

 

I might have snorted aloud when He said it. But I knew it was truth. And I also knew that I was scared spitless to enter the ring again.

 

I knew that He had said everything that can shake, WILL shake. Whatever can be lost WILL be lost. That His trials are the fire by which we are refined. And I realized that is the crux of my fear. That is what causes me, over and over again, to forfeit the match, gather the shreds of my strength and my wits, and retreat.

 

I do not want to lose everything.

 

I am deeply, profoundly afraid that there is nothing in me of substance. Nothing that cannot shake. Nothing that will not be lost. That, at my core, I am a vast wasteland of dross, with no silver to be refined, and when the fire comes, I will simply melt away and be no more.

 

When the shaking is done, what if only dust remains?

 

My Beloved bears the brunt of my fist-flailing. He watches and prays as the tears fall, and holds the glue that pieces me back together. He says the darndest things to me.

 

Even the dust belongs to God  he says. Maybe that’s what knowing Him really requires; the willingness to become dust again if we have to.

 

He’s quite the preacher, that man of mine, though he’s never been paid for it.

 

So I am coming to believe that it’s not about tending to my wounds and hoping that someday I’ll be strong enough to go ten rounds. It’s not about getting out alive.

 

It’s about being weak. It’s about letting the battle rage, and trusting that if all that is left is dust, then it will be His good pleasure to breathe life into it.

 

He’s pretty good at that, after all.

 

He paid the ultimate price for you. My beloved asserts. Because you are worth something to Him. You are more than the dust you are made from.

 

I’m choosing to believe it. I’m taking that promise to the mat. And this time I’m going down for the count.

Metaphor Monday, Except it’s Tuesday

I started a new Bible Study last Wednesday, and I’m totally stoked.

 

Whoa. Legwarmer flashback. Sorry ’bout that.

 

However, I think “stoked” is a great word for what I’m feeling. Dictionary.com (my BFF) defines “stoke” as “to poke, stir up, and feed (as in a fire)”.

 

After just one session, I’m feeling poked, stirred up, and fed. I can’t wait to dive in. I have the hope that springs eternal that this time my fire–that zeal for God–will build to such a height that it once and for all burns off the copious crap that tenaciously encrusts my heart.

 

Stoked. I think it’s time to bring the word back.

 

It’s humbling how desperately I need to be held accountable for my time with the Lord. When I’m not involved in a Bible study, I seem to find the nearest pit and immediately dive in. I don’t know why this is, but I’m hopeful that one day it will not be. In the meantime, I crack open the workbook and get to, well, work.

 

And there’s this metaphor that’s been swimming in my brain lately…

 

Have you ever had a houseplant in desperate need of water? I mean, I would never let a houseplant get into such a desperate state, but…theoretically speaking  *cough*…

 

Have you ever noticed that when you try to water such a plant (theoretically speaking), the water mostly gushes straight through the pot and out the bottom because the soil is all hard and dry?

 

But once it’s plumped back up again, it can receive and hold a lot more than when it was dusty and shrivelled?

 

When I’m away from God’s Word, my understanding shrivels. My discernment dries up. I can only take a tiny bit of His Truth at a time. Often, when I read, it feels like I’m standing under a massive waterfall of His wisdom, but I’m so parched that only a few drops are absorbed. The rest just flows on by.

 

But when I’ve been diligent to seek Him out through His Word, all kinds of revelation begins to flow. I have so much more capacity to hear Him, and to believe and trust Him.  I am able to receive that truth, even if it’s hard truth, and rest in it. The soil of my heart is plumped up and receptive.

 

I pray Hebrews 5:14 for myself: But solid food is for the mature, who, because of practice, have their senses trained to discern good and evil

 

I want to finally grow up! I want to sink my teeth into whatever meaty words He has for me until my fire for Him cannot be doused by the spitting and hissing of the evil one.

 

Stoked.

 

Totally.

Re-runs

Oh friends, I am so tired. Yet I feel the need to be hospitable to you, my dear guests to my bloggy corner of the world, and I want to offer you something. I rummage through my thought-pantry and offer you this, with the humblest of apologies, re-heated and served on the finest chinet…if it tastes familiar, you may have ingested it about a year and a half ago…hopefully it isn’t too moldy…

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I’ve been staring at old pictures of myself lately, trying to figure out where that girl went…that girl who is me and yet if I met her today I would marvel at what different people we are. What parts of her do I miss? What parts am I glad to leave behind?

 

I see her at her wedding with her beloved’s arms wrapped around her and she looks completely blissful, but I know that deep inside her there is a vicious green serpent of possessiveness and insecurity that wreaked no small bit of havoc with their relationship until it was slaughtered a couple of years thereafter. But I envy the near-hysterical excitement and promise of the future that I see in her eyes (and his) as they start out.

 

I see her with a baby in her arms and she looks like the picture of motherhood, but I know that there are many tears yet to be shed over her inabilities to cope and many days of guilt that will leave an indelible mark upon her soul. But I envy the chance she has to start fresh, and I wish so much that I could help her understand that the things that seem monumentally important to her are so very…very…not.

 

I see her standing with her growing family, and with friends and parents and siblings, and she looks silly, or serene, or preoccupied, and I know her struggles and her victories and her every dream and wish and hope…so many still unrealized…and I think, after 38 years, I understand that many of them always will be.

 

Are we more like trees than we think, with layers and layers of our old selves inside of us, each one building upon the last with an ever-thickening bark wrapping its way around us with every passing year? Sometimes I think I feel the knocking of a past incarnation wanting to come out and talk. What would we say to each other?

 

Me (now): hey, what’s up?

 

Me (then): oh, just wanted to see how things turn out.

 

Me (now): that’s not allowed, you know.

 

Me (then): can’t you just give me a hint?

 

Me (now): nope. but will you please stop pursing your lips? there’s this wrinkle starting that you won’t notice until it’s too late…

 

There’s even a picture of me from two months ago, on vacation, that gives me pause. I am not that person anymore either; I’ve been changed in a fundamental way that grew another ring around my core in record time. Can I see the beauty in the growing, no matter how it came about? Can I value the storm for the way it makes me dig in deeper with my roots? Can I lift my hands to God in praise for both the rain and the sun, and trust Him to be the ultimate Arborist?

 

I can. I can because years ago He etched His name and mine on the surface of this sapling and drew a heart around it. No matter how the wind may blow, it remains.