Writing for (in)courage

Color KeysI open the Scriptures, irritated once again at other people.  I’m hungry for a proven process to live in Christian community.  But I’m equally disgusted by my perpetual need for instruction on how to love well.  I’m ashamed of my inability to overlook another’s sin.

Just tell me what to do, God, and I’ll do it.  Tell me how to do it, and I’ll try my hardest once again.

And I’m surprised.  Instead of finding a plan, I’m reading a love story.  Written to me…

in-general125x125To finish reading the post, head over to (in)courage where I’m guest writing today.  And remember, Beloved, never underestimate His grace.  There’s more than enough.

When the Song Is Too Broken to Sing

broken pianoI sing the song out of habit, the fragmented melody frustrating me more each day.  But I was made to sing, so I repeat the song in my head, on my lips.

The passion evolves into ritual, for the world around me leaves little about which to sing.  The empty traditions, they echo into the deep hollow of my heart.  And while I scorn the song written for me, written for those I love, written for those I do not know,  I’m most terrified by the echo resonating within.

The echo proclaims distance.  Emptiness.  Detachment.  Self-preservation.

The echo bounces off my collection of idols stored deep within, clashing with my fleeting loves, my misdirected passion, my confusion.  How did I accumulate so many?!

Yes, my shallow heart holds treasures so deeply.  Over-planning, control, manipulation of circumstances – all striving to prevent the Songwriter’s music from singing into my life.  Oh, how His Song is often not what I would have chosen.

I’m sure my song was supposed to be different, I think, for if it’s my intended harmony, then I’m so very confused.  I must be in the wrong line, the wrong chorus, someone else’s song.

I play the victim and contribute to the clash until the Songwriter’s grace floods my frustration, until it washes away my self-protection.   He breathes peace onto the pages and anoints wisdom into my sight, allowing me to see His redemption once again.  Yes, He re-arranges the broken into something beautiful.  His Love Story – so complex, so tragic, so passionate, so whole.

I understand, and yet I don’t.  And He’s glorified.

“My intentions are not always yours, and I do not go about things as you do.  My thoughts and My ways are above and beyond you, just as heaven is far from your reach here on earth.”  Isaiah 55:8,9

Art Studio Theology

“They were supposed to make a butterfly,” my friend said.  My friend — the party host celebrating her eight year-old’s birthday in an art studio.  “But they ran out of butterflies, so Grace chose the word PEACE instead.  Really, Grace?!”

Grace chose peace.

art1And they tenderly painted.

art2And blasted heat.

art3And awkwardly navigated through the sticky.

art4And they cluttered.  My goodness, they cluttered until they couldn’t fit anymore drama onto their peace.

art5No one’s looked the same.  No one’s treasure was predictable.  Each one was beauty out of a random mess.  Just like them.  Just like their parents.

I dream of peace — dream of my own definition of peace — but He surprises me every time.

Peace… through His tenderness.  Peace… amidst the heat of oppression and suffering.  Peace… despite awkward confusion.  Peace… reflected in the mosaic of messiness turned redemption.

No, it’s not random at all, I guess.

It’s indeed a masterpiece.  The Maker’s every-evolving Story — forever unpredictable — calm and still and full of rest.

Grace chose peace.  His grace chose peace for me.  I think I’ll choose it, too.

A Homeless Man’s Wisdom

Cursed is the one who trusts in human strength and the abilities of mere mortals.
        His very heart strays from the Eternal.
     He is like a little shrub in the desert that never grows;
        he will see no good thing come his way.
    He will live in a desert wasteland,
        a barren land of salt where no one lives.
     But blessed is the one who trusts in Me alone;
        the Eternal will be his confidence.
    He is like a tree planted by water,
        sending out its roots beside the stream.
    It does not fear the heat or even drought.
        Its leaves stay green and its fruit is dependable, no matter what it faces. 
Jeremiah 17:7-8

churchDisaster comes to the one who trusts in others – or herself.

But she – she who places her identity, security, future in her Maker – she is like a flourishing tree.

I love my Maker, I really do.  I’m slowly understanding the Gospel in more authentic ways even though I gave Him my heart years and years ago.  And yet, I live out the contrast mentioned in Jeremiah almost daily.

My mind knows Strength.  Safety. Forgiveness.  Yet I run to others’ opinions – or to my own achievements – again and again.  I long to be vibrant and fruitful, to be worth something.  But my focus is skewed again, for it’s really not about me at all.  Ultimately, my story’s not about me.

I invite struggle into my life – a desert wasteland – when I equip myself with others and their orientations, philosophies, perspectives.

But she who finds her security and wisdom in the Eternal – she holds no fear in her heart.  No matter what it faces.

I took this picture a few years ago when celebrating our fifteenth anniversary in San Antonio.  When we first arrived at our hotel, I peered out the window only to find this scene.  A tree hugged by the very house of God.  A tree planted by Water.

But it was late at night when we arrived, and a homeless man was lying down on the steps of the church, nestled into the door while he slept.  He got it.

How to Stop Finding Your Identity in Your Parenting

10d76c0b9660719a33d896961c720e16“You can’t find your identity in your children.” Visit a parenting class or get lost in a book.  Either way, you’ll (thankfully) hear this message quite a bit– most likely because we all forget it.  If we’re really honest.

We do our best to tell the world our sons and daughters are unique.  Shouldn’t be put in a box.  Don’t have to mirror their dad in interests.  Don’t have to share their mom’s personality.  I sometimes wonder if I’m really reminding myself.

Despite the very best of intentions, we often mistake our kids for Band-aids, using them to cover up our own regrets from days gone by.

But that’s another post for another day.

Just as my son and daughter can’t dictate my worth, I can’t find my identity in my parenting, either.  I can’t find my identity in my parenting.  I can’t find my identity in my parenting.  You see, I have to preach this to myself.  Over and over and over because I forget.

What’s the difference?  How does finding my identity in my kids differ from finding my identity in my parenting?  In my role?  In my title as “Mom”?

Instead of extracting my self-worth from my kids’ accomplishments, the latter is defining who I am from my own accomplishments as a parent.  As a parent.  And while (I hope) a common thread throughout this blog is a desire for selflessness, for today, let’s focus on ourselves.  Just this once.

I often ponder (too much) how in the world we thought we could be parents.  I mean, really, when you have a soul that will go on for eternity sleeping in your house, it’s easy to feel unworthy and inadequate.  At least I do.

And in the moments when my need for a Savior is flagrant, the fear of wounding my cherished ones is agonizing.  It’s a fear so deep I can hardly pull myself out of it.

But I’m part of my kids’ story.  I’m part of the brokenness they see in the world.  My sin points them to the message that Jesus is radically different from anything and anyone.

“Get over it, Christan,” my husband once spoke into the rivers pouring from my eyes. “You will wound our children.  And those wounds will make them run all the faster to Jesus.”

And I don’t really like that role.  I desperately want to be the one they reminisce about in their college dorms with fondness.  With peace.  With security.  “Remember how mom always thought before she spoke?  How she was so incredibly patient?  How she created a safe environment for us to be ourselves?  Every single day?”

But the job of Savior is already taken.

And while I pray His redemptive work is reflected in my own life and in my interactions with others, I surrender my children over to their Maker.  To their Rescuer.  Even if it means uncovering my brokenness and repenting of my sin to the sweetest little faces in my life.

Really, my identity is just like my kids’ — Desperate Sinners Hungry For Mercy.  And while I hope I’m leading them to the cross, I don’t point to it.  I journey there, too.  And I stand beside them with hands stretched out — just like them — catching all the redemptive blood that fell on that first Good Friday.

“You deserve so much more,” I’ve learned to say to my kids.  I force myself to stop pretending I have it all together and that they are the only ones at fault.  And I tell them.  I tell them they’re so special and deserve a parent that is more tender.  And more thoughtful with spoken words.  And more patient.  And safe.

“I know who that Someone is, kids.  Let me introduce you to Him.”