Expect That

I rushed around the house gathering all the things.  We were headed to the pool, and I feel like the preparation is a bit endless at times.  I finally put my own swimsuit on and called the girls to the bathroom.  This day we were putting their hair up so they could actually see where they were swimming.  And then I saw them. The most disgusting, icky, anxiety-producing, tiny bugs in her hair.  I thought I was going to throw up, scream, and freak out all at the exact same time.  I may have.  No mom wants to be here. I dashed around the house trying to gather myself and figure out what I needed to do, searched my phone for undeniable confirmation, tried calling my husband for moral support (never works when you need it); all the while I’m scratching my own head uncontrollably and trying to keep my heebie geebies at bay. UGH!

To spare you all the details, the house was turned upside down. I spent my entire day washing EVERYTHING I owned in the hottest water possible, and in between I eradicated those little suckers one by one in my daughter’s hair (THE MOST DISGUSTING THING I MAY HAVE EVER DONE!). I treated all of us (except the baby).  My mom came over and performed hair-ectomies.  We conquered these little beasts with every fiber of our beings.

We didn’t make it to the pool.  Yes, the pool will be there the next day and the next and the next, but I couldn’t help but be disappointed.  I actually had a moment of wanting to ignore/pretend that the little beasts did not exist…because this wasn’t how the day was supposed to go.  I really was very angry.  No part of me wanted to surrender to THIS change of plans. Seriously.

I thought a lot that day in between my angry outbursts, a tearful phone call to my mom, and endless paranoia.  Expectations for my day were ruined.  Expectations for the summer felt a little bruised, and I’ve completely forgotten what I expected and dreamed about for the year.

Expectations, assumptions, even dreams and desires can all get a little jumbled and distorted in this world ~ broken world. Having children has absolutely ruined any idealistic expectations I’ve ever had.  I don’t say this harshly. Honestly, I am grateful.  I am an idealist at my very core and sanctification is necessary in this area. Valuing how things ought to be in the perfect world comes naturally to me. Some ideals are shared among the general public ~ ideally you wouldn’t have a car wreck, have to work, break a bone, burn your finger, miss a sale, pick bugs out of your daughter’s hair, etc, etc, etc.  I have my own personal ideals too.  A cup of coffee alone in the quiet of my home, a wrap-around porch, a made bed everyday, children getting toys out one at a time, quiet time and exercise before my children rise, date night every week with my husband, eating a peaceful dinner as a family, being a meal-planner extraordinaire, being a gentler mom, etc, etc, etc. (See, I’m an idealist.) Some expectations can’t be qualified as even ideal…they are lofty and unattainable ~ children never fighting, no spills in my house, clean floors, world peace just to name a few.

I have a tendency for my ideal expectations of others to expect that they not sinners or even just DIFFERENT than me. While Christ’s blood washes us clean and makes us righteous, we are only human, and we still reside in a broken world. AND we are also all DIFFERENT. Others are definitely going to destroy our expectations simply because they are living and functioning in this same broken world differently than us.  We will inevitably disappoint others, and others will disappoint us.  I have learned over the years to truly meet people where they are at.  This may mean that I need to ask a few questions to understand where they sit, but expecting them to be where I am is ridiculous and dishonoring. While this lesson began in my dating life, it has continued through friendship, marriage, and motherhood.  Expecting everyone to be exactly where I am is in that category of unattainable expectations.  Yet, it’s where I camped for many years.  It was not only life-sucking but also incredibly degrading to others and unfair.  Trying to get others to sit in my same perspective, life, convictions destroyed and bruised many friendships.  I am grateful for many that walked through this season with me and still call me “friend” on the other side.

Realistic expectations are hard.  It means that we have to set aside our ideals and look at circumstances and people for how and who they really are.  This can feel just as life-sucking sometimes, but I have found that it is indeed the opposite.  When we take a moment to step back and see things for how they really are and accept that, we are able to give freedom to circumstances and to others that allows life to happen and Jesus to reign.  I would venture to say that our expectations of circumstances and others and our fight to meet them often represses the work of the Spirit and what Jesus would like to do.  Our expectations put Him in a box that He was never intended to fit in.  When I choose to be in the moment and expect only what they moment is offering, Jesus will indeed meet with me in that moment.

Choosing to be in the real moment is an invitation for the Lord. JESUS becomes the realistic expectation, and He then guides your heart.  Grace (Jesus Himself) can then be given to others and to the circumstance.

In The Liturgy of the Ordinary Tish Warren quotes Dallas Dillard when he profoundly writes in The Divine Conspiracy, “God has yet to bless anyone except where they actually are.”

Jesus can touch me and move through me and bless me when I can be in the moment of picking tiny, disgusting bugs out of my daughter’s hair instead of still hustling to make my ideal pool day happen.  The thing with ideal expectations is we end up hustling to attain them and all the while missing what is REALLY happening.  Often we don’t only miss the real, we rally against it. Realistic expectations are only hard because you have to be okay with the real world, the real moment, the real person.  You have to have the faith to believe that His intention was always to meet you in the real not in the ideal.

This moment is the real.  This is the moment that you can expect something.

What is the moment or the person offering? Expect that.

Kindergarten Tears

We took a couple of pictures this morning, finished wrapping up teachers gifts, and prayed the Lord’s Prayer on the way to school like we have done every morning this year.  The girls wanted to play on the playground before school.  I told them that we could play after school. Another mom heard me and said, “We have to say yes on the last day.” She has said “yes” a lot more than me this year.  I’ve hurried my girls past her and her little boy more times than I would like to count as she said yes to play and I said, “We need to go.”

My oldest doesn’t love transition. She likes to be prepared for everything. But, if I was going to be honest, she gets it from her mama.  Today was the last day of kindergarten. We chose a sweet Kindergarten that is a part of an early learning program here in town. It is four days a week from 9am – 2pm, but she is totally ready for 1st grade. I loved that she wasn’t gone every day, all day.  Neither of us were ready for that. However, she begged me for months to consider Stay and Play.  This gives them an extra hour of play at school.  I told her she could do it for one day a week the last month of school.  The last Stay and Play was Tuesday, and today was the last day. I wasn’t prepared.

The last week or so I’ve been feeling like the Lord was finally gentling something in my spirit.  Like I said in my last blog, I’ve been waiting for six years.  There is a grief that is coming with this gentling, though.

I wasn’t prepared for the tears that flowed as I stood on that playground.

I cried for all the times I was hurried and overwhelmed.  All the times I said “no” to playing.

I cried tears of gratefulness for the teachers that have loved my little girl this year.  They have seen the BEST in her.  I cried for all the times I’ve missed it.  I also cried for the way these teachers have taught me.  They have taught me to chill out, and they’ve reminded me as I have wrangled all three of my beauties that I will miss it. Today I really understood what they meant.   I cried for my gratefulness of the preschool teachers that have walked with me at another little ELC and continue to. They prepared me for Kindergarten and continue to love me well and give me grace.

I cried for the guardedness I feel towards the other moms ~ all my insecurities.  I’ve wondered for years why I feel so vulnerable with other moms.  I have been so fearful of not being liked or accepted or understood. I cried thankfulness of the other moms that have pushed past my boundaries this year and made me feel loved. I cried because I wish still that I had tried harder and not kept a distance.

I cried behind my dollar floral sunglasses for all the distractions I have surrendered to just to cope. Netflix, Facebook and all the other junk I waste my time doing.  I cried because the days really are long and the years really are short.  You really don’t get these days back.  I cried because it’s taken me six years to take that breath and see that.

I cried because I will miss that place and those people.  I cried because my daughter will miss her friends and teachers, and I remember hating that feeling.  I cried because it all went so fast.

I cried because you never know if what you are doing in parenting is the right thing, but we have a God who always knows.  Thank you, Jesus, that you KNOW.

Last night Ross and I were talking about parenting.  A walk and scooter ride turned into a lesson for my oldest last night. I told him that lately I find myself asking, “In the end, what do I want them to know and walk away with?”  This morning one of my writing friends posted on Instagram about her latest blog.  Her youngest is graduating, and she posted the same question: “What do I really want them to know?”

In the end, I want them to all know that Jesus is the only true way and that He is always with them.  I want them to know that following Him will always be for their good and His glory. I’m glad this is what her teachers wanted her to know this year also.  I feel like this is a stake in the ground for her and for me.

I finished my second year of kindergarten today.  I feel like a little girl all over again.  I feel vulnerable and sad and full of emotion.  I really hate good-byes, and I still hate change.  I also feel proud.  I’ve learned a lot…more than I ever thought.

There’s been a lot of tears this year.  Tears from a precious kindergartener and tears from her mama more than once ~ some days walking away from her kindergarten room.  But today’s kindergarten tears are not cried in vain.  There is deep purpose in these tears today.

The Most Effective Communicator

A good friend texted me the other morning.  She told me she was feeling frazzled with life.  She felt disorganized, and she was frustrated at how she responded to her kids over and over with snappiness, irritation, and yelling.  She texted, “You seem so organized and with it.”

Little did she know that less than 12 hours before I was huffing and puffing to get in the car and head to Trader Joe’s leaving my husband with one crying baby, one sad kid, and one angry  kid.  I just couldn’t seem to communicate without screaming, and I needed to breathe.  I was frustrated with myself and my kids.  I can’t seem to be an effective communicator, and my kids can’t seem to listen.  I started to have it out with the Lord. “For SIX years I have asked you to grow gentleness in me! SIX YEARS Lord.  Seriously.”  He listened attentively and then just spoke, “The most effective communicator has been and will always be the Holy Spirit.”  I pulled into Trader Joe’s and googled what I had just heard.  That had to be a quote of someone’s.  As an author, I’m not really into ripping off someone else’s quote; it’s kind of illegal.  The idea was certainly out there, but no one had quoted that before.  So I wrote it down.

The most effective communicator has been and will always be the Holy Spirit.

I texted my friend back the next morning and told her about getting in my car like Trader Joe’s was my first vacation in six years.  I told her about how NOT with it I really am.  I told her I had been praying for SIX years for the Lord to change my response, my tone, my spirit.  I told her I was with her in this thing. I told her I will pray for her, and I asked her to pray for me.

The Holy Spirit is more dear to me than ever before.  I pray the fruits of the Spirit over my girls and myself in the van almost daily.  I highlight gentleness and patience for me ~ kindness and self-control for my girls.  I will never forget almost 13 years ago when a precious mentor gently reminded me, “You are not the Holy Spirit.” No, I am not the Holy Spirit.  He is the one moving and compelling and changing people.  I remember this more than anything throughout parenting.  I am not the Holy Spirit.  I will not move my children, save my children, compel my children.  The Holy Spirit will do that.

The Holy Spirit is going to do His thing whether we want Him to or not.  I was talking with a friend the other day. I was worked up and passionate about what I was talking about, but midway through talking my voice changed and I began to “preach.” I could hear what I was saying like I was listening to someone else, and I wasn’t sure what the next sentence was going to be.  I knew it was no longer me speaking, but the Holy Spirit had something to say to her.  Probably not even 10 minutes before that conversation, I had yelled or been snappy with a kid in my house. He still spoke through me.

The beauty of the Holy Spirit is that He can take over whether you surrender or not.  If this weren’t true, I’m not sure that I would still be here. Too many times He has protected and led me even when I wasn’t walking near Him.

Which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. 1 Corinthians 2:13 (NASB)

Have you ever been listening to someone talk and their voice and tone change?  If you were nodding off, you look up and start to listen.  We have a gentleman at our church that has a distinct Holy Spirit voice.  It is always so interesting to witness. He will be preaching and the Holy Spirit voice will speak, and more often than not, he ends up tearful.  He is moved by what the Holy Spirit is speaking through Him.

I am moved that the Holy Spirit uses ANY of us. How great is our God that He uses broken over and over for His glory and for our good.

It’s significant that He so often uses broken, because we tend to not trust the Holy Spirit could speak through certain people at certain times.  When my husband and I are odds about something, it’s more difficult for me to believe that the Lord could use him or he could be a vessel for the Holy Spirit.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  In the same way we often feel like people in authority over us are always hearing for us and what they say we tend to take as gospel.  However, it is important that no matter what we hear from someone else, we petition the Holy Spirit to confirm or speak to us regarding this.

It’s an interesting balance between listening and questioning.  Ultimately it results in what we all need to walk in this faith: abiding.  The Lord has spoken to me in and out of obedience.  When I am abiding in Him, though, the communication is often and most clear.

If I can remain in the Lord (abide) while parenting and throughout my days, the words and actions that come from me will be that of the Holy Spirit.  My blood pressure rises even as I type this.  When I was in college I read Andrew Murray’s Abide In Christ.  From then on I had this deep grasp on what it meant to abide, and at the time abiding became natural.  Then life happened.  Abiding feels like this thing I used to know how to do before I became intensely distracted by all of the life that moves around me.

My abiding journey began my senior year in college.  It was a precious year that was a stake in the ground in my walk with the Lord.  I was not in any kind of ministry.  No one was leading or dictating how my life would look any more. I was not leading anyone else (officially). There were no rules.  It was just me and Jesus and some beautiful Jesus-loving people that I loved like family.  It was simple.  And I could hear Him at every turn, and I felt that I was moving with His heartbeat.  Now I can barely hear what I’m saying out loud.

Yet, I know His voice.

 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. ~ John 10:27

I am so glad that nothing can snatch us out of His hand (John 10:28). I know His voice, and even now, though sometimes He has to yell, I know when He speaks.  And I know that what He is speaking is the BEST option.  And I know if I let Him speak through me, what needs to be said will actually be spoken.

Jesus left us with a Helper.  He did not leave us alone.  We do not have to rely on our own ways or pull up our bootstraps.  We can call on the Helper and petition for His move, His voice, His heart.  And when we remain in the Source of the Helper, the Giver of the Helper, we can truly rest in Him.

More often than not, we (our ways, our affections, our dreams and our desires) get in His way of moving.  We hustle to make all of the things of our heart happen and, yet, the Helper knows.  And He’s here.  And He loves us deeply.  If we abide, He will indeed lead us into our good which is ultimately His good.

There was a summer in college that I had the opportunity to work at a summer camp back in my home town.  The draw was not that the summer camp was a Christian summer camp that was at home.  The draw was indeed a boy. I would get to be with him all summer if I worked there. I asked the Lord for wisdom.  I heard a clear “NO,” and moments later picked up the phone and told them I would be there. I called the boy and told him I would be there.  This was the beginning of a horrible summer. Yes, there were good moments, but I often wonder what kind of amazing summer that would have been if I had obeyed.  Here’s where the sovereign God thing can be a bit much…He knew what I would choose before I chose it.  And He was with me the whole time, y’all.  Lots and LOTS of convicting that summer.  He still used me to love on some sweet 6 and 7 year olds.  I learned a ton of Scripture.  He was there the whole time.  But it was not His best, because I chose my “best.”

Right now I often find myself hustling for the kids my heart desires, but this is not the only place we hustle for our worthiness (as my close sister often says).  I think one of the places we do this most is within church and ministry.  We feel the need to help Him move.  Just reading through Acts will remind you that there is nothing but the Gospel and the Holy Spirit that builds the church.  Preach the Gospel, love one another and be subject to Christ in everything…The Holy Spirit will do the rest.  As a communicator, I often think that it might be my responsibility to present Jesus in a certain way for people to see Him and know Him.  But you can build all the on-ramps in life you want to for people, and the Holy Spirit will ultimately be the one that steals their heart, and He will most certainly get all the glory. We do not draw people to Jesus; the Holy Spirit is who does that.  We only need to be willing to surrender to Him.

You are not under the law, with its inexorable do, but under grace, with its blessed believe what Christ will do for you. ~ Andrew Murray

So I want my words to be His, not because I want a changed kiddo, but because I am abiding in Him and fellowshipping with the Most High.  I am so glad that He shows up and uses me as a vessel more often than I deserve.  He even uses me sometimes to communicate Himself to my kids.  Most of the time I feel like I am stripping them of the Gospel because of my brokenness.  But the pressure is indeed off.  He wants to use me. He chose me as their parent, and being a parent is most certainly a privilege that should not be taken lightly.  But the Holy Spirit is not trusting in me…He wants me to trust Him. 

We do not have to demand His presence or His holiness.  We don’t even have to work for it. We must just believe Him, and surrender to Him. He is already here. He is moving, active, and very, very effective.

Carrying their spirit

As Mother’s Day approached I began to think deeply about what I consider motherhood to be.  I posted on Facebook that motherhood is about carrying someone else’s spirit.  You don’t have to be a biological mom to do this.  It is a privilege and an honor to carry someone else’s spirit, but definitely not always easy.  It can also be overwhelming and exhausting.

What does it mean to carry another’s spirit?

One of my mentors often reminds me that we are living in a spiritual world.  There is a physical world, but the spiritual world is functioning too.  There is a depth to this life that cannot be seen, but it can be engaged.

1 Thessolonians 5:23

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 6:12

12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

My oldest has been struggling deeply the last 2 months.  It shouldn’t have taken this child life specialist long to recognize that she was struggling with my health difficulties the last month and a half.  We were sitting in the parking line at school. I had just hobbled my way back to the van and groaned as I climbed up into my seat.  I am over the pain and exertion of energy that just getting in the car is expending.  She says, “Mommy, my mind is telling me that you are faking it.”  “Why do you think your mind is telling you that?”  She replies, “Because it has been SO long…”

Yes, it has been SO long.  My husband and I processed how she is so used to us getting sick and getting better in a few days time.  Also, mommies are just not supposed to go down at all.  We have got to SUCK IT UP.  People need us.  The only other time that I have been down for any amount of time and it affected the order of our life is when I had another baby.  My oldest showed similar signs of intense struggle about 6 months after my third daughter was born.

The controlling mom in me wants to say, “Suck it up buttercup.”  This is how life goes.  But her spirit has been entrusted to me not to control but to carry.

Control – determine the behavior

I’m not sure if you have tried to determine the behavior of a child before, much less your own children. I can tell you from real life experience that determining the behavior of a child is futile and ridiculous.  You will most definitely have to continue to determine more and more and more behavior for them ’til you end up crushing their spirit.  Unfortunately, I can say this because I often do this.

Carrying a child’s spirit is a much different thing.

Carry – Support and move someone or something from one place to another

When you carry a spirit, you bear the weight of the spirit.  You do not determine where it needs to be and tell it how to get there. Instead you pick it up in all of its heaviness and move it to the next place.

This is hard, yet deeply personal.  It says I am WITH you in this.  It means that you have no desire to force someone to the next place or expect them to be there. When you carry a spirit, it also means that you look deeper than what meets the physical eye.  It is the part of someone else that you can’t see, but it’s functioning. It means that you are choosing to be with them in whatever they are in and bear their weight as you get to the next place WITH them.  There is still a goal of movement, but the movement requires strength and servanthood rather than a sideline and enforcement of the rules.

Luke 15:

Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.  

He joyfully puts that lost sheep up on His shoulders.  He carries it.  It has run amuck and not listened to the voice of the Shepherd.  This sheep went and got itself lost.  Jesus doesn’t leave it to teach it a lesson or whip it all the way home. He joyfully picks it up and carries it home.

This is the kind of mother I want to be.  I could be angry at my oldest for telling me that she thinks I’m faking it.  I could completely ignore what her spirit is telling me and just tell her to get over it.  However, I want to joyfully carry my girls’ spirits and help them find their way to truth. Even in the midst of all the hard and wayward times, I want to help them and find their spirit with them.  This is indeed hard.

This takes me letting my Savior carry me.  You won’t know how to shepherd someone else’s spirit ’til you have had your spirit shepherded.  And while the shepherd often leads from the back, we know he also carries sometimes.

I think about this is relation to the leaders, elders, pastors, teachers, friends, mentors…not just moms and dads.  You are going to encounter another spirit in your daily interaction with people. You have a choice to try to control their physical and determine their behavior, or you can choose to carry their spirit.  It really is the difference between the Kingdom way and the world’s way.

In the Kingdom, it’s not about rules.  It’s about boundaries.

In the Kingdom, it’s not about enforcement. It’s about guidance (from behind).

In the Kingdom, it’s not about counting your losses.  It’s about leaving the masses to shepherd the one.

In the Kingdom, it’s not about power.  It’s about laying down your life for another. You may never be powerful.

In the Kingdom, it’s not about controlling. It’s about carrying.