Chubby Fingers and Communion

IMG_20160325_092312

Oh man. I don’t usually blog on consecutive days, but this, I needed to tell this. It is the clearest illustration yet of the secular and the sacred exploding together in my week.

We decided to brave a Maundy Thursday service last night. It was a beautifully written family style dinner service of sorts. Casual. Warm. Soup and bread. With the whole family.

And well, I have been growing fond of this little church I’ve been visiting. It’s cozy. It seems genuine. So when my worship minister friend invited us to join them for the service tonight, a little spark made me consider it. I didn’t think it would actually happen, I told her, because TODDLER. He is a nightmare in situations that require sitting or being quiet or anyone else’s agenda. But I got brave (foolish?), and after discussions with Ryan, we went.

We ran into another family that we enjoy, the only other family we actually know at the church, so that was a nice way to start. My friend had made a place for us with their family at the back table. Good. I was a little nervous, but things were falling into place. And then the service started.

Let me point out here that my youngest child is borderline obsessed with my music minister friend, so when she got up to read the scriptures and conduct the service, well, he got a little noisy. But just a little. It wasn’t so bad. I mean we didn’t hear much of the John passage she read, but it was still fine. I saw her smile at him briefly, and it made me feel safe. We were still sailing fairly smoothly, and he sat blissfully in my lap while I sang (probably with a little too much gusto) the first hymn, What Wondrous Love is This. Happy sigh. Seriously delicious and holy hymn words in that one. Lovely.

And thennnnnn things started to break down a little bit. The pastor stood up to give a small talk pertaining to radical hospitality and the call to really love each other. He gave instructions for us to engage in real conversations about real things during our impending meal. Or I think that’s what he talked about. I don’t fully know, because toddler. I thought the day had been saved because my friend came to sit, and my baby went to snuggle with her. But he’s not quite three, and a couple minutes of snuggling was all he needed to recharge. So then it started to get loud. And unpleasant. He wanted to talk. He wanted to interrupt and be noisy and whine when I shushed him. He did not want his toy. He did not want his milk. He wanted down. He wanted to “go to work.” He wanted to make me crazy. I tried to no avail to convince them that we were actually praying, in hopes that he would do that cute bowing-of-his-head and get all reverent looking. Any guesses as to how that worked?

I sat there trying to be brave, trying to pretend like this wasn’t making me a little nuts inside. In my head I know that no one else is bothered by these shenanigans, but inside my heart it is a different story. I also tried to ignore the fact that my other two children were now joining the noise and the interruption fun, and my mommy glares were not working. They never seem to work when you need them to the most.

Mercifully, the small sermon ended (I know in my head that the sermon was probably less than five minutes, but in real mommy minutes it felt like the entirety of the High Priestly Prayer combined with the Sermon on the Mount), and it was time to eat. The soup was delicious, and the bread was the perfect compliment. My kids don’t understand soup, though, and of course wouldn’t eat it. But we did engage in some meaningful conversations, I think. We tried. Toddler ran around. It was all very imperfect and interrupted but good. All throughout the evening my friend practiced radical hospitality for us while still doing her job. Towards the end of the meal, she tried having her daughter watch the youngest child in another room for a bit to bring a reprieve for us.

As the dinner finished, it was time for communion. And just as communion instructions were given, my youngest returned. loudly. Sigh. But then in the middle of that gym-turned-sanctuary, holy stuff happened. I watched my oldest take communion from his little buddy. It was his first time, I think. He looked so grown up. And I received communion from my worship minister friend, the same bread from which my oldest had torn his piece. And as I turned to pass the elements over to my husband, my toddler wanted in on the action. “The body of Christ broken for you,” I said as he took his little piece of bread into his still chubby fingers. “The blood of Christ poured out for you,” I managed, as he dipped that little piece of bread into the juice cup, commenting and making yummy noises as he ate. Loudly. And he wanted more. And we gave him more. And we all stifled our giggles through the closing prayer.

The whole evening was kind of a nightmare in some ways. But that moment. I hope I never forget that moment. The weight and glory and beauty of that moment wasn’t lost on me, though I didn’t fully appreciate it until processing it afterwards.

The body of Christ. Broken. For you, my little ones. The blood of Christ, for you. Yes, you are invited to the table, little man. You, and everybody else. And we don’t have to get our acts together before we come. We can be loud and needy and disruptive, and by the miracle of the cross, we are still welcome.

The body of our Saviour Jesus Christ,

Torn for you – eat and remember

The wounds that heal, the death that brings us life

Paid the price to make us one.

So we share in this bread of life,

And we drink of His sacrifice

As a sign of our bonds of love

Around the table of the King.

(The Communion Hymn)

Amen.

Advertisements

Being Serious and Grateful

I really thought I would be funnier in my blog. I really wanted to be witty and funny and cool. But I’m a 30 year old religious mother who is processing the world, a world which just this week reminded us that life sometimes punches you right in the gut. I like to think that sometimes I can be funny. Some bits of my posts might be clever, mostly because kids can be so hilarious and adorable. But lately my posts feel weighty and big, like something I didn’t even really intend for them to be. Not in a bad way necessarily. Just… Weighty.

So when I sat down to work on some blog thoughts, I kept annoying myself with how serious I was becoming. I started a post about this fresh blanket of snow and the resultant snow day, and I ended up in thoughts of God washing us and making us whiter than snow. I mean, that’s true and all, but still. SO serious. And that wasn’t even the worst one. I literally started working on a post about the little jerk mice who have been infesting my house, and I could not stop finding lessons in humility. Again. All true. But…

I’ve honestly been feeling a little guilty and silly about how all my posts seem to turn to a very serious place. I am normally such a happy and bubbly person! Even if I start somewhere fun, like I mentioned, I seem to meander my way into deeper thoughts and perhaps ideas that are above my pay grade. But you know, life is like that. There are lots of great, funny, light moments in the journey, but we often unknowingly meander into deeper water before we realize what has happened. We are wandering along, enjoying the view, and then suddenly loved ones die, tragedies strike, and terrorists seem to win. People become mean and downright nasty. We struggle with anxiety and depression and wondering what in the world we should be doing. And yet through it all there are those bright spots of grace, little fresh breaths of air, the things that sustain us in the midst of the deep water. Like little life rafts when the water is choppy and deep, the grace moments pop up, giving us somewhere to rest even if just for a moment. We often can’t have one without the other, the life rafts without the deep water, and I don’t know if we are necessarily meant to, at least in this life.

The other thing is that I know that some of you don’t believe in Jesus. So when my posts constantly point back to him specifically, well, it may not be super helpful to everyone. But beyond the fact that this blog is all about the intersection of the sacred and the secular in my life, I have also thought about it, and the truth is that I can only really speak about that which I know. Jesus is my thing. He’s my wheelhouse. He’s my anchor. I serve him extremely imperfectly, and boy do I struggle, but I constantly find myself feeling like Simon Peter when he was questioned about abandoning Jesus and almost whined as he said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69) That’s been my experience over and over again: plenty of times when it would have been easier to just throw the whole religion thing out, and just as many realizations that He alone as the words of eternal life. So I guess you could say I am stuck, in the most wonderfully blissful and perhaps strange way you can imagine. 

Today I’m choosing not to feel bad about the weighty nature of my blog posts or about the Jesus nature of them. I want to be honest about my journey and to tell my fellow travelers that they are not alone. And this is my life: full of contradictions and full of Jesus and full of both light and weighty things, simultaneously.

And hey, it’s Holy Week, the week we Christians remember the passion of Jesus and all the things He did for us as he prepared to lay down His life. That’s weighty, when I let myself contemplate the fullness of it, so I probably get a pass for being a little serious this week. And the horrific hardships in the world, those are serious too. Meanwhile, here I sit in my ill-fitting snowflake pajamas, bleary eyed, draining my second cup of coffee, wondering what I’m going to to do with these crazy little humans on this unexpected snow day (sigh) at the end of March (sighhhhhh). But we will probably laugh and giggle and experience one or two of those little grace moments I mentioned. I may be kind of serious, but I am also completely grateful. So the sacred and the secular will collide again, and it will be mashed up and messy and wonderful. I hope you find a messy collision of the secular and the sacred today, too, friends.

On doorknobs and nice things

My beast of a toddler busted a door knob the other day, because he was slamming the door open out of anger. He has a temper that’s in full force these days, because toddlers. I said to him, “you are why we can’t have nice things.” Because I’m nice (imperfect) like that. But it’s true. The kids are often why we can’t have nice things, like, you know, doorknobs.

… And fancy couches, clothes that are predominately white, clean floors, meals that are relaxed and contain fancy ingredients, clean cars, silence, and the list goes on.

A non-parent friend joked recently to us about how our kids really tie us down, which is also true. We don’t party late at night, we don’t take impromptu trips or romantic getaways, and much of life these days is determined by these three little people who live here with us. 

 There’s no way around the fact that life with kids is different, exhausting, depleting, and sometimes utterly exasperating. Ryan didn’t want to have to buy and install a new doorknob that day (it was the door to the garage…). I get tired of the broken dishes, the marked up furniture, the mundane cleaning, and the ruined clothing. More than that, the emotional requirements of parenting seem well above my pay grade on any given day. My resources often seem to run dry. (Don’t even get me started on how absolutely minuscule my parenting issues are when I consider those who face much deeper and more significant challenges like terminal illness parenting, special needs parenting, etc. I probably sound like a broken record here, but I’m sending you a hug today.)

But y’all. This motherhood thing is my calling. I was put on this earth to serve Jesus, love Ryan, raise my boys, and love people. I count myself infinitely fortunate to be living this life, especially in view of the fact that so many of my friends have longed for and prayed for children of their own, to no avail. I do not shrug off the weight of that statement easily.

AND, sure, there are many astounding benefits to mothering these cute boys. They’re adorable. They are sweet, funny, energetic, and life-giving. They keep me young (and simultaneously age me and give me gray hairs 👵😏😉). Being a mom gives me purpose and teaches me lessons I had never imagined. And some days it is ridiculously fun! I get to play for a living. Even at the end of hard days, there’s no other life I would ever choose. Ever. But I think it goes beyond these benefits to something that is, or at least should be, more universal in the Christian experience.

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Philippians 2:3-8

What this passage reminds me personally is that motherhood is my own daily opportunity for service that mirrors the humble Savior who came “not to be served but to serve” (Matthew 20:28). Here in the midst of the laundry and the dishes and the snotty noses and the broken everything, I can choose to “count others as more significant” than myself. While serving might not mean that I humble myself to the point of death (though let’s be honest about the love of a parent, through which we would gladly do that), we face perhaps the equally challenging task of serving others with gratitude, giving up selfishness, and welcoming even the mundane tasks of life. One thing I love about this truth is that it puts motherhood in the proper light. Motherhood itself is not the highest good or the only right thing for a Christian woman to do. Motherhood IS beautiful and amazing and holy, even among all the broken doorknobs and forfeited things, but lots of other callings and journeys are just as beautiful and challenging! Motherhood is ONE niche, and happens to be my niche, where this whole sacrifice business can be practiced, tested, and beautified. 

It’s not pretty, this isn’t a novel concept, and I am a major work in progress. I have trouble finding a servant’s heart especially when I first wake up (cofffeeeee… Where is my coffeeeeee???), and the dinner to bedtime hours are sometimes just brutal (you know this, moms, amen). I looked at my littlest one this morning, though, and realized how utterly fortunate I am to be laying down my life for these little men, whom I already so ardently adore. So maybe this week I’ll start with with something simple like NOT being snarky/ telling him he’s the reason that I can’t have nice things. I clearly have much to learn. I hope and pray that the boys will get something good (well mainly I hope they just get Jesus) from growing up with me as mom, but I do at least know that God is using their childhoods to shape and refine their imperfect, grateful, sometimes crazy momma.

 

 O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life. (St. Francis of Assisi)

Our various callings can be (or feel) similar to dying as we lay down our agendas, our selfishness, and sometimes our desires to prefer someone else. It isn’t glamorous, and the heavenly equation is too lofty for me to fully understand or explain. I just know that I wouldn’t trade this life of humility and service and inexplicable JOY for all the beautiful doorknobs and nice things in the world.

On Interruptions and Frustration

I recently heard a pastor say that “frustration is interrupted striving.” This has stayed with me now for several weeks and is ringing true in every area of my life.

“Frustrated” might be one of my most frequently used words if I am honest about my vocabulary. (Also, the word “just”– which is probably another representation of frustration– is a word I’m trying to use less!) After all, I have three young children. And although they are increasingly independent, I still deal with an awful lot of poop, for instance, as well as other unglamorous realities of motherhood on a daily basis. But more than the mundane, more than the disgusting things, I frequently find myself simply JUST FRUSTRATED. In ALL CAPS. I get frustrated at them, at myself, at the shortness of the nights, at the length of fussy days, at the overwhelming weight of it all. But Why? Why am I so frustrated all the time when my life is so, so sweet?

Frustration represents a difference between what I had hoped would happen and what actually transpired. I had hoped for a full and long night’s sleep; I was actually awakened early by little excited voiced and wasn’t able to get back to sleep. I had hoped to sit down and drink coffee; my children needed food and milk and help with buttons and “WHERE IS MY TRUCK?” I had hoped to complete several of my to-do items while the toddler nap; he decided not to nap today because that’s lame, apparently. (PS, if anyone required me to nap daily I would thank them and hug them and cry happy tears while baking them cookies). Frustration is a part of life- mom life and otherwise- and some of the issues are truly unavoidable. Bodies fail us. Jobs get lost. Cars, appliances, and furnaces break. Circumstances change. Life is frustrating, but ever since that sermon, I have been pondering if perhaps there are some areas in my life that warrant a change. If frustration is interrupted striving, perhaps I need to find some areas in which I can focus on striving less. Perhaps my expectations are off. Maybe my to-do list is too long!

Let me make a distinction here. I am NOT talking about abdicating responsibility. I am not talking about breaking promises or failing to follow through when you commit to completing a task. I am a firm believer in being a person of your word. Among other things, I am a believer, a wife, a mom, a daughter, an involved school parent, a friend, a preschool board member, a soccer mom, and someone who likes to dabble in the arts. These various roles yield an assortment of commitments during any given season, and I do my best to complete the commitments to the best of my abilities. And like everyone, my plate stays pretty full. Life is like that. And I’m not claiming to have answers for the looming deadlines, for the commitments that cannot be cast aside. Still, scripture often speaks to the idea of waiting, resting, and being still, such as in Isaiah 30:15:

“In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” 

And perhaps even more pointedly, I love how Psalm 46:10 reads in the NASB:

   “Cease striving and know that I am God…

   So surely there are some areas in which God is calling me to strive less furiously. Because the truth of the matter is that I actually can trust God with the details of my days and weeks and months and years. It’s okay to rest. It’s okay to trust. In fact, that is the call of childlike faith: less striving, more trusting. When I think of practicalities of this call, I believe will look different for other people, but for me, it means that I have been home more often lately. It means that I am intentionally slowing my pace a little bit. It means that sometimes I take a long walk with a toddler just to meander and to play hide-and-seek and to dawdle. It means I’m saying no to extra commitments more frequently. Most of all it means that I am trying (very imperfectly) to embrace the messiness of life’s interruptions as the blessing which they can be, instead of allowing them to be a constant source of frustration in my life.

As I working on this blog post yesterday, I had a glaring opportunity to practice these “less striving” and “less frustration” ideals of which I speak. I was striving to complete this post. The toddler, on the other hand, was not having any of my computer shenanigans. He demanded that I build his train track, and he then demanded that I actually sit down on the floor and play trains with him. I say he demanded it because let’s be honest about the tact of toddlers: they don’t have any. He was screaming that horrendous high pitched scream that is often in the soundtrack of my days now, and I heard myself telling him that I felt like his fussing was killing me (I’m a good mom that way). But! I paused and tried, ever so imperfectly, to embrace this interruption. The little guy just wanted his mama to sit down on the floor and be with him. And while I might have found it frustrating that my task was being thwarted, he wasn’t asking the world. So I decided to lay down my striving and just sit. Did the blog post have to be finished right then? Of course not. So I stopped. I ceased striving. I rested a little bit with him. And surprisingly I felt strengthened by the interaction; our relationship was strengthened, and the frustration started to dissipate.

20160317_165159

Fast forward to the end of the night as I waited for hubby to finish his work so that we could hang out before bedtime. Just as I sat down with the intention of pounding out some more lofty thoughts on frustration and interruptions, he apparently finished his work and we started talking. I think under normal circumstances, I would have immediately felt frustrated that my one task had been thwarted… again. But since I had already encountered this interruption before, I felt just a little prepared for it. And you know what I felt? Happy. I felt ready to lay down my striving. I felt excited to be with my hunk of a husband, and I felt thankful that he still likes me so much that he wanted to hang out with me, too. Because you know what didn’t need to be finished last night? This blog post.

This is where I am as I seek to ratchet down the frustration level in my daily life by simply striving less. And hey, I realize that these aren’t super spiritual examples, but lately I’m finding that the lines between the secular and the sacred are kind of blurry. It makes sense to me that if Jesus was God’s son who became a humble man (a lowly carpenter type of man!) to save us, then a lot of my faith activities will actually be quite humble, earthly, and simple. Faith moments in my life these days often involve laundry (a great time to pray), snuggles (rest), a good book from a fellow traveler (encouragement and grace), or train tracks (fun. and rest. and togetherness). Less striving. More resting. And in the process, I think I am finding a path with more gratitude and less frustration. So here’s to today’s interruptions! Whenever it is possible, may we reject the striving and frustration, and may we instead welcome the gorgeous little blessings that can come so unexpectedly through our interruptions!

 

On becoming a “reader”

They say that “children become readers in the laps of their parents.” My poor parents.

  Growing up, the hobby of reading belonged to my mom and to my brother. My brother was guilty of staying up well past his bedtime, reading anything and everything he could get his hands on. He was a fast reader who devoured books. I, on the other hand, strained at a sloth’s pace to get through a book without losing interest. It wasn’t for lack of parental effort! Mom and dad both read to me for countless hours of my young life. Bless them. They REALLY tried. My dearest childhood friend also joined in the valiant quest to make me become a proper reader. That girl was a voracious reader, a fact which no doubt has contributed to her brilliant mind, and she also subjected me to countless hours of read-aloud time. I quite adored it, though. I remember particularly the loveliness of reading together on the massive porch swing during my family’s summer vacations. But while I still thank my dear friend for all of her efforts, it didn’t seem to do much to spur my personal interest in pleasure reading. As for my beloved childhood activities, instead of reading I favored drawing and singing and swimming, and mostly… I liked talking. I’ve always preferred talking with a friend to, well, most other activities. I have an abundance of words. We know this.

   It’s not that I couldn’t read or didn’t know how. I was an excellent student, maintaining honor roll grades and excelling for most of my entire academic career. I read lots of things! Okay, I read the required things. At the high school and college levels, I even managed to enjoy some of the required reading! But as for pleasure reading on my own time, just because? Not so much. I chalked it up to a personality difference,and I hoped that my other strengths (like talking?) would carry me through life.

  Even into adulthood, mom and dad both encouraged me to read. Mom especially would insist that I simply had not yet found my niche. She was convinced that someday I would find a genre that would pique my interest, and on that glorious day I would realize that reading wasn’t so bad after all. Even my dad, who used to be my non-reading-partner-in-crime had begun reading significantly more in recent years. I was happy for him! But for me? Still nothing. Until last fall, most of my adult reading attempts were tied to a specific goal or group or some end result. Primarily I read cookbooks, spiritual living books, and parenting books (blech). There was no reading for reading’s sake. That all changed last October.

   It’s beyond perfect that my recent literary love affair began when I traveled alone to the wedding of that same book-pushing childhood friend. We are all grown up now, and the whole beautiful October weekend was full of joy and laughter and fantastic company and gratitude (and incredible food, I mean, nom nom).  As I wandered the gorgeous little streets of her neighborhood the morning of the wedding, I found myself in a quaint little used book store, where I romantically perused the delicious-smelling pages. I could be a reader if I wanted to, right? And there was this one memoir about a woman who lost her friend to cancer, with a pretty cover and a title that screamed my name: Let’s Take the Long Way Home.

   On my travels home the following day, I devoured that book, sobbing my way through the various airports and layovers. Having just lost a friend to cancer months before, this memoir reached into my heart and put ink to so many emotions I had not yet expressed. Simply put, I found healing and catharsis in that book. But it didn’t stop there. I discovered in the following months that my mom was right, again (as always): I just needed to find my niche. And it’s people. Of course it is. I probably should have known. I cannot get enough of true stories about people– memoirs and the like. There are so many incredible stories in the world, and I feel so thrilled to be discovering some of them. So, mom and dad (and KK!), it took 30 years, but you managed to make a reader out of me!

   And okay, maybe there’s nothing particularly spiritual about reading memoirs.  Everyone can enjoy reading different genres for different reasons. But I have found that reading has been a lifeline for me during a somewhat stressful time this winter. Snuggling up with someone’s story reminds me that I have a story, too. For all its imperfections, I know that God is weaving together my story, full of beauty and absolutely full of His faithfulness.

“Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;

And in Your book were all written

The days that were ordained for me,

When as yet there was not one of them.”

Psalm 139:16

On Politics and Jesus and Kindness

20160309_160027

   One night at dinner I was explaining to the boys my frustrations about Trump as the presidential candidate. I explained how the president needs to be someone who is smart, kind, and a good leader. One of my boys immediately started jumping up and down in his chair and saying “ooo, ooo!” …and pointing at his daddy.  He is so right. If only!

   Last summer, my oldest sang in a children’s choir for the first time, following in the steps of his momma and making her very proud. One of the songs in the concert that week was one called “Be Ye Kind,” a simple song with this text:

Be ye kind to each other

Have a tender heart

Treat everyone with love and fairness

No matter who they are

Be ye kind to each other

In all you say and do

Just do unto others

As you would have them do unto you.

    Listening to those children sing timeless truths, with their little hands shoved in their pockets and proud smiles spreading over their cute faces, it all seemed so simple. Yes! Be kind to each other! Isn’t that the secret to so much human interaction? Kindness! Fairness. Do unto others!

But now it is 2016, and we are in the middle of an election cycle. A big election cycle, with much on the line, and many people seeking to become our nation’s next president. Kindness seems so far away these days. I choose, in general, not to discuss politics on my social media, partly because I find it to be so futile. I have never once heard of someone changing his or her mind on politics due to reading someone else’s Facebook status. It just doesn’t seem to work that way. And I happen to have good friends who land all over the political spectrum, and I love them all. But lately I feel disheartened by the political vitriol that I find lurking all over the place.

    So here are my thoughts, in the “for what it’s worth” department. First, I wish we would all stop invoking the name of Jesus for our own political gain. I’m not talking about standing on principle, which is a great thing. I’m talking about implying that Jesus would vote for your candidate if He was walking around today. Or that Jesus would co-sponsor your bill. Or that Jesus hates your opponent. There are people who love Jesus on both sides of the aisle and everywhere in between. I know this because of all of you, my friends from different walks of life. Ten years ago, it would have pained me to admit that Jesus is not bound by our political parties. But I have changed a lot since then, and anymore I wish that people, all people, would stop trying to use Jesus for political gain. Instead, I think we should all start striving to be more like Him personally. To know Him and to be like Him. A lot of our problems could be helped if we just acted more like the One we claim to follow.

    And okay, second, I fully admit that I am a crazy bundle of beliefs which will not fit neatly with any one candidate or political party, ever. I am both pro-life and pro-gun-control, for what I consider to be the same reason: life. And the list of fascinating dichotomies goes on. That being said, I can love you even if you don’t agree with me on these or other issues. And I don’t think you are evil or stupid. And I truly believe we can still get along.

    Which brings me to my third and final point: Kindness. Kindness is where I believe I can find my Jesus, where we can all find His grace, regardless of political persuasion and in the midst of a disheartening political landscape. I think about that song that my precious boy performed in his choir concert. Be kind to each other. Have a tender heart. Treat everyone with love and fairness, no matter who they are. This is the call. I don’t mean being a doormat, and I don’t mean being without opinions (clearly I don’t mean that), and I don’t mean that we won’t sometimes squabble. We will disagree. But we can also, always, choose to be kind in our disagreements.

    Kindness may theoretically cost nothing,  but in practice it will require much from us. The path of kindness will require fewer words and more listening. We will have to look for the best in everyone, even when we are skeptical that there is anything good to find. And sometimes, kindness will cost us much, much more.

Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:32

And what was the attitude of Christ when people were unkind to him?

For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.” 1 Peter 2:21-23

    I could be wrong about this (I’m used to being wrong because I’m 30 and a mother…), but it seems to me that Jesus-brand kindness means we abdicate our right to revile in return when being reviled. Jesus-brand kindness doesn’t utter threats. Jesus-brand kindness trusts the Father with the outcome. Jesus-brand kindness is full of forgiveness. So that’s my plan this political season. Quiet trust. Doing what is right (notice that Jesus committed no sin!). Forgiveness. And I choose kindness, a call that is simultaneously simple and supernaturally difficult. That’s the aim for me between now and November, and beyond, and I invite you to join me.

Pick Your Battles

Parenting. It isn’t for the faint of heart.

   Parenting is hard, y’all, and my oldest is only seven. To my readers who are further down the parenting journey, I know you’re facing much deeper and weightier issues than we currently endure. Still, there are days when I just cry because of how hard it is. It’s wonderful and terrible and fulfilling and depleting all at the same time. I simultaneously love and loath the monotony of it all. The same messes to clean. The same lessons to teach. The same words or actions to correct. It’s a lot. So you have to choose your battles. I am a firm believer in this.

   Here’s a fun fact about a battle I do NOT choose. I don’t often make my kids eat vegetables. Because they often hate them. And some of them tend to cry the big tears when I even seem to suggest that they might give one little bite of broccoli a try. It is as if I’m peddling poison, guys.

   Let me be clear that there are some child behavior rules I insist upon: You don’t hit each other or me. You use kind language and reserve potty talk for the bathroom. Seriously, I know it’s impossible to stop all the potty talk, but it just makes me feel better if you go stand by the potty when you do. You do your best to be respectful, and even if we disagree, you still have to obey eventually. You go to school. Yes, you have to. No, putting your body face down in front of the door will not convince me to keep you home. You have to sleep in your own bed because I just can’t share my bed with you no matter how much I love you. You apologize when you’re wrong. And we both know you get to hear mommy say sorry a lot because she’s just as human as you are.

   But enforcement of eating vegetables? I only have energy for a limited number of battles during any given day, and vegetables just aren’t first in my ranking system. They really aren’t in my top five. And sometimes I feel guilty because, you know, mom guilt. And veggies are good for you. And I wonder if Jesus cares about my kids eating vegetables? Probably not, right? I’m too tired to even consider that possibility anyway so don’t comment.

   While I’m over here picking and choosing which battles to wage, my spirit wonders if I’m picking the right ones. Are these the right issues, Jesus? What am I missing that is important? And it strikes me that we are repeatedly told in scripture that the one big aim in life is just to Love God.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind. {Luke 10:27}

   Beyond that primary goal, the other daily parenting battles I pick really are secondary. And my family looks different than other families, and that’s perfectly normal and good. Furthermore, when it comes to the rest of the parental issues, my Jesus cares a whole lot less about which battles I pick and a whole lot more about how I wage them.

Do everything in love. {1 Corinthians 16:14}

But how? How can I do everything in love? What does that look like in normal mom speak?

– Love would freak out less, and focus on keeping calm when my kids are losing it over the vegetables <or insert any other abhorrent food or activity here> again. And let’s be honest: parental calmness during the 4 to 8pm slot would be some kind of true LOVE MIRACLE.
– Love would act more like a servant in my attitude (Philippians 2) and less like the bossy, exacting mother I so often hear escape my lips. I was a little convicted when I heard one child say to another this week, “For CRYING OUT LOUD.” Oh mercy. Let’s lead by example, Sarah.
– Love would approach each behavior correction as an opportunity to show true, humble, Christlikeness– not as a power trip to get my way. I’m not working on training little robots to make me look good. I’m working on little souls and teaching them how we live grace in each and every day.

   So I’m working on those things this week. I’m trying to keep the main thing front and center, and no matter what, I want to do all the things in love. It’s easier said than done, because life is chaotic, and coffee only goes so far, and tempers are frazzled, and all of us are sinful. For those rough bits I just keep casting myself on the grace of the One who loves me in the midst of the sacred and the secular, and everywhere in between. And yes, child, you still have to go to school.