Thursday, July 12, 2012

My Salvation

I finally got a full night's sleep!  The baby didn't wake, nobody needed nightmare comfort, and I actually felt like exercising!  (A first in over a year....)  I was elated and ready to tackle the day.  I was even excited to be outside for the first time in a year and announced to the brood that we would be going outside after mommy finished putting the breakfast dishes in the dishwasher and wiped off the sinks.

Then - "CRASH!" I couldn't stop it.....the container of dipping oil Rob had concocted the night before for our dinner with friends tonight went hurling onto the ceramic tile in an explosion of glass and oil and herbs....."Nooooooo!" I heard myself gasp.  And there it was - a huge mess I had no idea how to tackle.  After banishing the children to the school room in their bare feet, and denouncing our outside excursion, I sat down on the couch to drink my coffee and figure out how to clean up gloppy glass.  Wallowing in my self pity, my husband counseled me over the phone in a calculated clean up procedure, and while I was cleaning and practicing gratitude (Thank You, Lord, for the energy to deal with this today; Thank You, Lord, for equipment with which to clean the floor; Thank You, Lord, for whatever I'm supposed to learn, etc....) the toddler decides to urinate all over the school room floor.  Now, through gritted teeth, I am thanking God that I am in the middle of cleaning floors and I can just extend that into the school room, while yelling, "WHY WON'T THIS KID POTTY-TRAIN?????"  And I still have THREE loaves of bread to make and dessert to dress before tonight.  Not to mention having to REMAKE my husband's famous dipping sauce without his intuition at the tips of MY fingers.

A friend recently shared with me a book on "grace."  The author got to a point in her life in which she wouldn't "give up" when she was at the end of herself, she would "give up" before even getting out of bed!  Her alarm clock would go off and she would immediately say, "Lord, I give up today."  I have thought about that a lot and tried to even practice it, but I realize I am still preferring to live life in my own strength.  (The operative word there being "prefer.")  I PREFER to keep my expectations, I prefer to have "me" time and leisure, I prefer being "in control."  God brings me to the end of myself each day, and I still prefer NOT to cry out to Him.  My most comforting moment while mopping the oily floor with angry tears streaming down my face was admitting to Christ I didn't want to call to Him for help.  I wanted things the way I wanted them.  Ironically, peace washed over me and I prayed, "I believe, Lord, help my unbelief."

I have been studying God's words and the annointed words of others' dissertations on His word regarding marriage, family, and children for years and nothing has prepared me for walking in it like getting up every morning and walking in it.  I suppose because the sin in my heart (my pride and narcissism) is only rooted out by exposing it and repenting from it.  Just trying to do better, live better, and self-talking good thoughts in order to live a life that looks satisfying and enjoyable is not the goal of the Christian.  The Christian comes to the end of himself, sees the ugly sin that is woven into his very essence and says in the power of the Holy Spirit, "It is only Christ in me that is all my good!  Lord, help my unbelief!"  The goal of our kind gracious Father is to cause us to persevere unto glory.  How does He go about this task?  I suppose it looks different for each, and yet, we're all diseased with the same black sin.

The verse that keeps coming into my mind these days is I Tim. 2:15, "[A woman] will be saved through childbearing, if she continues in faith and love and holiness, with self-control."  Strange, strange verse. (This verse was also comforting in laboring through 3 home deliveries, but that's another story....)  This verse is in the context of husbands' and wives' roles in the church, but it carries an evolving meaning as I live each day with the badge of wife and mom.  I will be saved through child-bearing, if I continue on, etc.....hm.....I am being saved everytime I get to end of myself with my efforts and energies in my mommy and household duties; I am being saved every time I administer discipline or training of children and feel ineffective; I being saved every night I fall into bed discouraged with my efforts and sinful attitudes during the day; I am being saved every morning I awake exhausted or dreading all that needs to be done; I am being saved every time I spend time playing with or teaching my children; I am being saved with every meal I make, dish I wash, load of laundry I complete, diaper I change, cheek I kiss, idea I execute, laugh I exhale, and love I make to my husband.  And the list goes on!

Let's face it - women are busy!  Busy bodies, too.  Women's minds and emotions are going a million miles an hour.  When a challenge arises, we generally want nearly immediate resolve; when emotions flare, we strive for nearly immediate peace and harmony.  When we have time on our hands, we will fill it with something.  God has made us so talented and fearfully and wonderfully capable and able to accomplish so much!  But He uses the mundane, the constant daily mundane, yet hard, work and interactions with our family to shape us into His image - to SAVE us!  To cause us to persevere to the end!  To root the sin out.  This is just what my loving Heavenly Father knows I need to truly bring me safely to glory.  I am being saved from myself, from the evil one, from death, through "child-bearing."

Being busy all day with household labors, cooking, cleaning; playing with, discipling, training, guiding, loving and protecting children and meeting my husband's needs doesn't give me much time to wallow in myself, pursue empty activities, or just waste time.  I am really living (though it feels boring or like a waste of MY life and talents at times) for eternal purposes.  My own eternity as well as my kids' are at stake.  Thanks be to God that He knows our hearts better than we do.  I would put myself right in hell, and not even care, for all that I want out of life on earth, this side of glory....."But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them,"  Eph. 2:4-10.  Soli Deo Gloria!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

True Confessions

I am an introvert.

According to Myers/Briggs, an INTJ, to be exact:  
Introverted Intuition with Thinking.  
Oh my! This describes me to a "T."  

As an introvert, I turn inward to think, feel, process and decipher situations and feelings.  I always seem to be on a quest for truth; wanting above all else, to get to the key issue in a circumstance.  And because of how God made me and because of His hand upon me, He has turned me to Him and His word, as well as other true sources of His general revelation, for answers to life's twists and turns.  As an introvert, I enjoy reading, journaling, and time alone - any contemplative activity to keep the peace within.

Most of the pros and cons of my personality have been evident to me for a long time.  For pros, I am highly creative and visionary, perfectionistic and independent.  For cons, I am stubborn and unrealistic, critical and independent.  Yet thankfully, the Lord graciously continues to reveal my blind spots - especially because my sinful depravity is always clouding pure vision. 

The biggest reveal has been my "passive/aggressive" behavior in close relationships.  In the Myers/Briggs explanation of my "personality stereotype," when under stress I tend to be overly sensitive to others' criticism, expressing my feelings in uncontrolled ways, behaving excessively, and just acting impulsively.  In my case, these are the times, sadly and sinfully, I've burned bridges.

Life gets very weary when I am surrounded by people for an extended period of time.  I am calmed and "centered" when I can have uninterrupted time of contemplation.  This was very evident when DH whisked me away for two days sans children just before Caedmon was born.  By the end of the two days, we drove home in silence because my brain was free from thought, my body was free from stress, and my senses were full of beauty.  Living with three children, I rarely have 40 seconds of my own thoughts at a time.  Then, add other people into the mix for any length of time and I am drowning in too much energy.  And that, I believe, is the mark of these particular personalities - the amount of external energy one can handle healthily.  An extrovert is empowered by other's energy, while an introvert is drained by others.

Never have I felt this intensity more than during this past pregnancy and now with three children.  I have not wanted to come out of my cave!  Too much energy out there in relationship land!  I feel the need to share this with the general public because if I haven't already offended some friends and family with my passive/aggressive behaviors, I have committed the sin of omission by simply avoiding family and friends as I seek to maintain my solitude.  Or, the third, which is typical of my M.O., just not being truthful at all about my need to retreat, for fear of hurting someone's feelings.  (Thus, being more fearful of man than God.)

The Lord continues to patiently lead me to understand my need for Him during this season.  I am struggling with a highly sensitive season, feeling comfortable exposing my true vulnerable state to only my husband and children and a few longtime friends.  This is a season of adjustment physically and emotionally for me.  I am highly overwhelmed by others' needs (including my own children's some of the time) and sensitive to others' judgments of me right now.  It is enough to be dealing with the sin that is rampant in me and in my home. 

However, the good in this is that I see my need to cling to Christ out of sheer inability to muster up strength within myself to act consistently godly.  It is good to be at the end of oneself to remind us that we are frail and incapable of being godly without the Holy Spirit acting in and through us.  We have a Savior who is transforming us into His likeness and is mainly concerned with sanctifying His bride for His glory on the day of His appearing!  He is concerned for His glory!  He will act on our behalf, because it is HIS behalf - especially when we call upon Him as, "Our Very Present Help in time of trouble!"  Psalm 46:1.

God's word is nourishment.  When we need to cling to the Rock of our Salvation, His Word of Truth upholds us, inflates our spirits, and lifts us out of the mud and mire.  (For reading on being in the mud and mire, Psalm 69 is candid.)  The psalmist is so raw and vulnerable when he sings, Psalm 63:

"O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
     my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
    as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
    beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
    my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live;
    in your name I will lift up my hands.

My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
    and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
when I remember you upon my bed,
    and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help,
    and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
My soul clings to you;
    your right hand upholds me."

sdg


Saturday, February 25, 2012

Little Things

This blog post was featured this past month at "Happy Homemaker Me" http://www.happyhomemaker.me/2012/02/happy-thoughts.html

As it turned out, on the evening of the day I wrote this piece, my water broke and we welcomed our third boy, Caedmon, into the world the next morning.



At 40 weeks and 3 days pregnant with boy #3, I have been inundated with little things.  I have been washing newborn onesies, folding receiving blankets, putting tiny diapers away, and gathering supplies… feeling little kicks and hearing little pitter patters of heartbeats each week….Little Things


All we do as mommies are little things:  cook meals, clean rooms, do loads of laundry, read short books, comb hair, kiss owies, apply Band-Aids, push swings, change diapers, fill sippy cups, play games, praise accomplishments, vacuum….this is our domain, this is our joy….or is it….

Coming into motherhood in my mid-thirties, I struggle each day with my role as Woman.  Who am I?  My time is not my own anymore.  I don’t have the luxury of a consistent, reliable schedule.  I don’t even have the luxury of being consistent and reliable.  It’s always humbling to cancel after saying yes or just saying no.  My body isn’t my own anymore.  I am milk machine, I am nurturer; I am using my arms and legs and hands and head for making sure my family is fed, clean, taught, and safe.  My body doesn’t even look and function like what it used to.  (So much for working out consistently.)  My career is almost non-existent.  Where does this part fit in between cooking, laundry, and quantity time? 

Who AM I then?

I suppose I am all these things—wife, mommy, career woman, and yet, none of them fully...or perhaps, all of them fully?  I am still creative and gifted and intelligent, using these abilities in small ways each day.  But where are the big dreams and goals I had planned to accomplish?  How am I using my educational degrees I earned in school?  Where are the accolades and the recognition? 

Perhaps I have let the world define me for too long.  I have believed the world and the Bible simultaneously.  Yes, God gives us our dreams, talents, circumstances, experiences and even goals.  “The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps,” Prov. 16:9.  Yet, the way never looks like what it does in our minds.  After all, “who can make straight [the path] God has made crooked,” Eccl. 7:13?  But I look at what I used to be and what I feel I’m missing out on now and have reached Discontentment. 

What I need to accept is that those gifts, talents, callings, and passions are applied differently at different seasons of our lives.  And as His beloved daughters, we have a different path than the world.  We are NOT our own.  We do not own our lives.  The world wants us to believe that we can do and have “it” all.  And what’s more, we deserve “it.”  But the truth is we are bought by and dearly loved by the Lover and Creator of our souls, who governs all our circumstances, invents all our steps, guides all our talents and gifts.  What joy to know we are owned and taken care of by the One who has woven each cell of our body together for His joy and glory! 

How does this look on a daily basis?  The Psalmist says in Psalm 131:1-2, “O LORD, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty; nor do I involve myself in great matters, or in things too difficult for me. Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; like a weaned child rests against his mother, my soul is like a weaned child within me.”  As a dearly loved daughter, with my Lover working out all the details of my life, orchestrating all my circumstances and giving me all I need for the step I’m on, I can choose to remain content.  A weaned child, who is not distracted by the breast, rooting around seeking contentment, I rest peacefully against my Lover’s breast.  I sit contented, fed, nourished, not wanting for anything, because, just as the child knows, I, too, am fully provided for, resting in that which has been given to me as all I need.

The Psalmist also makes the determination not to involve himself in those lofty ideas and questions that belong to God and His sovereign plan.  He has determined to not be so prideful as to write his own answers or go his own path in response to those desires and passions that vex him.  Ultimately, to not determine his own path, but to submit to God’s sovereign will.  He “composes and quiets himself,” sitting contently, not being squirmy, by choice, in his mother’s arms.  He trusts all is well.

With the big questions left to be answered and worked out by the One sovereignly organizing the universe, I can joy in the Little Things, and the Little People entrusted to me.  After all, isn’t that what God requires of me, to be “faithful in the small things?” As Jesus said, Matthew 25:21, “Well done, good and faithful servant: you have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.”  Isn’t His joy our joy?

 

So….who am I?  I am the beloved of my Lover, child of my Creator; I am the keeper of my home—watcher of what comes in and goes out; I am the lover of my husband and children, I am a talented, gifted woman, using my gifts as God provides the circumstances and in unexpected ways each day as the path unfolds.  I am a contented child, resting quietly against my Father’s breast, God helping me.  And give me grace for the days I'm not...  Soli Deo Gloria.

 

Caedmon Griffith, born February 6, 2012

 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Good News! (A Conclusion to "The Juxtaposition")

The moment I clicked "Publish Post" my phone rang.  Dear Hubby on the other end asked how I was doing, to which I promptly answered, "Sinful, Hopeless, in need of Christ."  I went a whole day after that feeling convicted, like a failure as a Christian, knowing that I, to refer to my own pen, would never "really want holiness."  I am a failure.  I am, dare I say?, a black-hearted sinner.

As I chose, almost 24 hours later, to really confess this to my Savior, it hit me - The Gospel!  This is The Gospel!  Not that I would reach a holy state of my accord and effort, wanting with my whole heart to serve Him, "but [that] God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them," Ephesians 2:4-10.

The truth is, I will never totally serve the Lord with a pure heart this side of Glory.  I will never count it PURE joy to suffer.  In fact, any joy in suffering comes directly from His Joy in accomplishing His will and purposes in and through me.  I am saved by grace.  I am not saved by grace AND my efforts to be a God-worshiper.  Any good in me is Him.

Therefore, since sin is so woven into every fiber of our being, we are unable to separate the wheat from the tares - inner man being sanctified by the Holy Spirit and outer man rotting away with sin - it's no wonder Suffering is just that - suffering; pain.  There's no way for the Great Surgeon to cut it out of us without us feeling something.  We are attached to our flesh.  It hurts when wounded!

But this truly is THE GOOD NEWS!  The Good News is that even before the foundation of the earth God provided a means of reconciliation to Himself - One who IS Perfection and Holiness to pluck us out of the race to destruction, out of our sin and misery and regenerate our dead estate to life and Peace with our Creator, just as Adam had in the Garden before the Fall.  

Paul starts Ephesians 2 by saying, "You were DEAD in your trespasses and sins...you were by nature, children of WRATH."  There is no way as a dead person that I can do anything to reach up for help.  Instead, God (being rich in mercy....) reached down to me, to us, saving us from His wrath by breathing His Spirit within us, through Christ dying on the cross, taking the wrath and hell for us.  Why?  So that "no one may boast."  We can only boast in our Savior, Jesus Christ!  We can be truly grateful for salvation!  It is not our doing or cleverness - we were dead!  How can we be good or clever when dead?   If we truly understood how sinful we are, how entrenched we are in darkness, how depraved, how wrapped up we are in it all, wouldn't our gratitude for Christ abound?  Wouldn't our joy in suffering abound?  Wouldn't we in gratitude have grace and mercy with others?

The Juxtaposition - Suffering and Joy.  Yes, if we were able to live purely, without sin, we would have opportunity to rejoice fully in God's surgeries that come in the form of trials - physical, emotional, circumstantial.... - but we are fully entrenched in ourselves.  We are being renewed spiritually, yes, but living in the now (on fallen earth) and the not yet (glory), we can't separate ourselves fully from the effects of sin.  Nor are we meant to accomplish this by our own efforts, which are indeed feeble, at best.  This is God's work.  Thanks be to God!

The joyful mystery is, that as we CLING to Christ to walk through the sufferings with us that He has ultimately ordained for us, He brings joy as His purposes are accomplished in us.  His purposes are to purify His bride: infusing His character within us, giving us His mind, causing us to persevere to the end!  So, yes, the pain is real in suffering, the joy is real in sanctification through suffering.  Suffering and Joy, these mysterious companions, living harmoniously juxtaposed within me.  Soli Deo gloria!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Juxtaposition

As I lay here with my son at 5:30 in the a.m., cuddling a wide-awake three-year-old back to sleep, my mind is flooded with friends' cyber comments and blogs about profound discoveries through their trials throughout the recent days and seasons of their lives.  I hearken back to one of my blog entries regarding how wimpy my generation is and think about how struck my friends and I are with the audacity of Suffering taking up residence in our homes.



The many Facebook comments I read from other moms about the challenges of parenting, my Facebook comments about the challenges of parenting, other friends posting about profound trials and struggles, and even the many who admit they are surprised by God's sovereign plan in those trials, take me aback with shame for my generation's narcissistic outlook. Yet, the fact that God is not leaving us to our narcissism - that He is changing our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh, exposing our hearts to true joy by wounding our spirits - is comforting.

The juxtaposition of Suffering and Joy...is this a new idea?  Perhaps for my generation, yes, it is....but then...didn't Christ teach this?  Didn't the apostles write about this?  So....why is this new to us?  Or, maybe more accurately, why don't we believe the Bible regarding this topic?  And, may I submit, why is this not taught to us at our churches?  Has the "Celebration Service" replaced the "Lord's Day Refreshment to Your Souls" service?

Have I spent my whole life dodging Suffering?  Ignoring Suffering?  Scoffing in Suffering's face?  Have I spent my life trying to find alternate uses for scripture?  Or trying to apply scripture innovatively, as if there's something new under the sun and I am a one-of-kind girl?

James 1:2-4 says, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."  Is this merely a good suggestion?  Because this is certainly not my attitude, nor anyone else's I know, when a trial - life-altering or momentarily pesky - threatens my entitlements.  Pure joyPure. 

I suppose if I really desired sanctification I would be rejoicing in, even seeking, Suffering to be my companion, in order that my faith would be steadfast, that the dross which covers me would be burned off, that God's gold would shine more completely.  But I would rather hold on to my sinful entitlements, my ease and creature comforts - my idols.

Thankfully, my Lord does send Suffering to take up residence in my home.  Thankfully, our Lord desires a pure bride in His people more than we do.  He will accomplish His purposes to purify us, His bride, and cause us to persevere to the end.  I suppose if our purposes reflected His will, we wouldn't really experience Suffering at all.  We would gladly wear His robes of meekness and humility, losing our lives willingly, that we might find true life.  In fact that which looks like Suffering, might actually not appear that way to us if we readily rejoiced in God's purposes to transform our sinful states into holiness.  If we really wanted holiness, we would rename Suffering! Calling her...Joy.

My son is finally back to sleep at 6:30 a.m.  Alas I am wide awake.  I suppose I can choose to look at this minor inconvenience as suffering for lack of sleep, or joy in the fact that more dross is being devoured in the Holy fire.