Feed Me With Hope {A Lament of Bad News}

I hear clamor and it catches my attention, which is its intention, the devil’s invention, probably. There is a noise that draws me in and I read and I hear and wish I hadn’t. I wish I had avoided the loud and sat with the silent.

I am that mob on the playground when the fight breaks out and I feed it. I feed on it. Fear-mongers breed epidemics of scandal and what-ifs and they crown propaganda with diadems of disgrace. Always in my face. Always something to fear and a way to prolong the temporary but avoid the eternal.

What are you talking about? What are you feeding me, feeding you, feeding the masses who look for hope and find what you offer?

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When I give a reason for hope, it has to be more than the pot you stirred and more than wishful thinking. More than cotton candy clouds and pretty dreams, more than a way to cope and sand for your head or pillows for your weary imaginings.

I am not looking for a place to bury, for ocean front foundations, for castles wiped away. The hope I know I feel I cling to I have.

Running on.

But it needs fed and tended.

Hope is feet entering the water. Hope is something coming next, something filling now, something new out of that place where you thought you’d drown.

Hope is truth and that hurts sometimes, scars sometimes, leaves you wounded and broken sometimes. But there is always more. There is always a depth with hope and not a shallow-ending.

Everything outside of us is temporary but in us is eternity, one way or another. We are the permanent ones and there is a place for us forever.

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Fill me with what lasts, what endures, what never perishes, and what cures all the cynicism and skepticism.

If you have to tell me bad news, tell me the Good News in the middle, tell me the hope at the end. Tell me there is more than the funeral dirge of this world and the stock-piles I can store up to save a life.

Tell me there is music I can’t even imagine.

Tell me Jesus is a song we can’t quite sing yet, and I’ll keep trying. I’ll have hope.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When They See Your Flaws

I’ve had to admit to some fears lately. I’ve had to confess to less-than-godly parenting tactics that were motivated by a fear of the unknown, of the unpredictable, and of all the things we’ve never parented a daughter through.

She always thinks she’s the guinea pig – the one we test out our parenting theories on.

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We raised a son to 16 and then he left. We made mistakes and we also stood our ground in the midst of uncertainty and God is working all things together.

That boy is back now, as a man, and sometimes you have to listen to parenting advice from your own children. Sometimes you learn best from a reflection on your own mistakes or from the wisdom of hindsight.

An adult child at your dinner table can be an affirmation of God’s grace in the mess of your parenting.

As for my daughter being a guinea pig, she’s partly right. We aren’t testing our theories so much as we’re checking our resolve and examining our motives.

Every single child is different.

Every new season is different.

The decisions we work through with her have to endure our own scrutiny as well as hers, and most importantly, they need to be pure before Jesus.

We have to be transparent and real and honest, and yet maintain some level of respect and authority in our children’s lives.

We have heard from young people who have expressed the hurt and disappointment they felt when they realized the faults of their parents. We can know in our minds that all have sinned and fall short, but seeing it actually work itself out in the lives of those we respect can be discouraging.

We step into maturity when we learn to respect others, despite their imperfections. 

As parents, we cannot carry on the facade of perfection with the illusion of having absolute authority. Somehow, we have to be credible without having it all figured out.

Recently, a child who is too old to do such a thing took a pair of scissors to a wrinkled up two-dollar bill. This child wanted to trim off the crumpled and imperfect edges and preserve the best parts of the bill, thinking that a wrinkled, old currency was worth less than a crisp, new one.

We do the same thing. We want the best-foot-forward kind of life and the crisp perfection of never having been wrinkled. We want to accept our own imperfections quietly, push others to be perfect as we seem to be, and are astonished when our crumpled edges are seen.

It’s too much for parents to be perfect. It’s too little for them to be sorry 20 years later.

We desperately need a revelation right in the middle of our bread-winning, child-steering, crazy-making years. We need a witness to our mistakes and a goad for our timid beliefs, because something greater than us has to compel our actions.

Otherwise, we are raising bitterness in a world that needs the sweetness of grace.

The revelation for me, for now, is that our children need to have conversations with us about hard things, things we’re all uncertain about, and that the unknown should not be responded to with fear. God has given everything we need for life and godliness, and those are the things we need to present to our kids.

We give them swords of gospel truth. All have sinned. 

We give them love that covers a multitude of sins. 

We give them grace because we have received it so freely.

 

 

The Barn

We tend to measure things in dollars and cents, and we like to get a certain return for our investment.

I flew across the country for 8 hours of encouragement, 8 hours of investment in dreams that seem vaporous. It felt extravagant and a little foolish, and for weeks before the trip I sat in awe of the potential for failure in this wide-flung door and far-fetched idea.

Going where? For what?

But along with the confusing kind of awe, there is also the awe of grace and the God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills, the One who opens and no one shuts, who goes abundantly beyond all we could ever ask or even remotely fathom.

Things don’t have to always make sense. As Emily said last weekend at The Barn – we can become addicted to drawing conclusions. Maybe drawing conclusions makes us feel justified, when what we really need is to walk in confidence of the Spirit’s work in our life – convicting of sin, righteousness, and judgement.

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We were accidentally early, so here is a picture of the barn when they were almost done setting up. Seriously. There’s a real fear that Siri will steer you wrong and you’ll never return. Better to be early.

The Barn was lovely, to be sure. The ladies were gracious, gorgeous, generous, real. Emily and Christa wove their words and music so naturally that the whole event felt like chocolate and peanut butter – meant to be. Myquillyn layered furniture and beauty and her signature love-of-imperfection so wonderfully that I almost put my bare feet right up on her coffee table. Almost. But I did curl them under me on the white slip-covered sofa and sink into the comfort of fellowship and art and the occasional kitty darting through.

For a small town girl, it was everything inspiring.

From the hours of tedious travel made better with Rachel – a dear friend who jumped for crazy with me – to the steeping of words and deep-down rooting of thoughts, there’s no way to measure the effect. It was way more than 8 hours.

I’ve only just begun to look through my notes from Saturday. My husband wants details and highlights and I can’t even put words to what are really just seeds, less concrete-and-bordered and more living-and-squishy. No good words yet. Thankfully my husband knows this about me and he is patient. And generous. And says yes to my crazy ideas whenever he possibly can.

What I can say is that love is generous and extravagant and down-home-comfortable and it doesn’t often get defined satisfactorily. But we keep trying and Jesus keeps giving us new facets to examine.  He shows up in people we’ve just met and in those we’ve known for years, and still we are shocked.

He loves me that much?

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When are You Really Living?

I try not to write about writing, because that feels dumb. Not everyone writes or cares about writing – but we all have something. There is something you do when you know you are living to the fullest. For me, it’s writing.

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My daughter asked me if I have specific days I post, and I laughed because I thought her genuine question was a joke about my sporadic writing.

If you’re a reader who likes to know what days certain writers post, so you can keep up and not miss out, I disappoint. I haven’t been writing much lately. I’ve written numerous half-posts that come from half-thoughts that never really get the chance to come to life, to steep long enough to make sense, but I mostly prefer to leave half-thoughts unpublished.

I’ve struggled against this inconsistency and wished it were different, because that’s not how you’re supposed to write. Inconsistent is not how you’re supposed to do anything, and if you create (as all of us should) you ought to do it regularly.

I turn it over to the Lord and then turn it back into a problem and then turn it over, back, over.

I fret about not writing or not having enough time, which is a ridiculous cliche. Did God not know what He was doing when He set the sun and the earth in motion? If Jesus was never rushed while His feet were on earth and if all things the Father had planned for Him were accomplished, who am I to think that there are more things for me to do, than time to do them?

Worrying about time never created more.

But I know that the real issue isn’t time or that I’m not writing many complete sentences these days. The true problem is that I stopped listening. My friend Ashley wrote something that reminded me of that.

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I’ve been focused on completing the worst things first, like paying the bills or exercising. I try to do the housework as fast as I can, cook as easily as I can, delegate as much as I can, and I could really spend twice as much time in the school room as I do.

I want to hurry through the work, and hurry is the death of listening.

When you speed through the days, you lose perspective. You lose the balance of another person’s opinions or feelings or needs, and you only see what occupies your own mind. You miss God speaking. 

I enjoy my days. I enjoy this homeschooling and homemaking life and there is no place I’d rather be. Somehow though, in the middle of all the things I love, I’ve stopped listening to the quietness inside and stopped observing the noise around, and vice versa.

It’s the struggle to produce and the desire to have something to show for your end-of-the-day exhaustion that keeps you, keeps me,  from listening.  Listening doesn’t manifest itself in meals made or bills paid, in piles of laundry, in lessons learned. Listening is slow.

But it happens in the midst of a full life.

Listening happens right smack in the middle of your full and busy life and if you squeeze the day for all it’s worth, you really wring yourself out dry. We wait for a quiet time or a 3-mile run or bedtime and think then I can slow down and listen to this life, to Jesus, to my own thoughts. But it has to happen in the middle. Listening has to interrupt our day, our busy, our fervor to produce, or it’s not really listening at all. 

I want to listen to the still, small voice.

To the loud ones.

To the tension rising and flashing warnings at me.

I want to listen to the season as it changes, inside and out, and know that something is passing but something is coming, too. I want to listen to Life and plug my ears to Duty, plug my ears to all the have-tos and must-dos, and listen for the needs.

I want to listen so I can observe so I can write so I can live.

What are you doing when you are really living and listening? Leave something undone if you have to, in order to slow and listen and let the days swell with the fullness of all the time we need.

 

 

 

Give Them Swords

No matter how many babies we watch mature into adulthood, people will always remark on how your kids are growing. I don’t know why it still amazes us – children grow up, get taller, change into young adults – but we still feel the need to comment on it.

There they are under your roof, day by day, eating your food and marking up your walls, loving you with their morning breath and wearing you down with their nightly breakdowns. You look back at a picture from last year, or six years ago, and realize what has passed – his straight little baby teeth, her unkempt, playing-wild hair, her make-up-less face and his baby-faced smile.

Did you forget that life was moving forward in all the swirl and whoosh of dishes and books and games and questions?

Of course not.

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The real problem I see with this growing-up thing is that the problems grow larger, not just the children. The things they need protecting from outnumber my abilities to shelter these life-loving and living children.

Even the youngest one asks for things I’m not prepared to say yes to, things his siblings never thought of asking for at his age, because those first three-in-three-years have hit milestones so closely together. They are three teenagers doing what’s natural and one littlest brother looking on, asking why can’t I?

So these large problems, they’re not my children, and they don’t belong to my children. They belong to me I think. I’m the one worried and playing out the scenarios and trying to know the unknown.

They want cell phones and driving privileges and extended borders and for crying out loud my son wants to hunt bear, and all I can think of is how can we give them freedom and still keep them safe? How do I manage all the circumstances of their lives so that no heartache comes, no sin besets, and no failure prevails?

There’s not a good answer for that.

This world is full of so many portals-of-sin, so many gateways to a distraction from Jesus and the narrow way. They are in my own life and I hold them in my own hands. I fight them in my mind, and I only wrestle down strongholds of word and deed by His word and I need, I need, a protecting of my own. I need a Jesus-covering like a mother’s love and father’s affection.

I worry that they might make mistakes too big for me to fix, and therein lies so many problems of my own.

If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it. [Gen 4:7 NKJV]

Sin crouches by the door of all who have the choice to do good or not, all of us tempted daily. The ugly part of the beautiful gospel is we all sin. No perfect mother ever raised a perfect child, and who am I, if not far less than perfect?

My children are growing. I’m learning to loosen the grip (really, I am) and focus on equipping them, more than on keeping them safe. It’s tough, like all things parenting and living and following my servant-king, Jesus. But it’s a good-tough, just like He is a good and fearful God.

Jesus came for us sick people. He pounced the sin that crouched and gave us dominion over it, to rule over it as we should. So all those sins I fear on behalf of my children? For the love of God, I must give them swords for the battle – not hiding places to retreat in fear.

That’s it.

Swords for the battle because not even a sinless life is safe, as Jesus proved.

 

 

 

Rest for the Homeschool Mom

Dear Homeschool Mom (talking to myself again):

It’s time. Be it kindergarten or middle school or the last year of high school (are you CRAZY?), it’s time to begin.

I just need to warn you about a few things.

I know you’re nervous/scared/intimidated/overwhelmed. I know your dreams are sometimes fogged with books and schedules. I know your stack of reading material has been mostly school-related this summer, that you’re tired but excited, that your husband/friends/neighbors are a little worried about you.

I need to warn you about the things that will creep in this year.

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1. There will be gaps in their education, and you just need to come to terms with it.

You worry that they won’t get everything they’re “supposed” to get. They won’t know all the things their not-homeschooled-peers know. You fear those gaps in their knowledge as if they were actual holes you all could fall into – swallowed up in another failed experiment where you thought you could actually teach your children yourself.

Do you realize how much there is to know? Do you realize how infinite God is and how many areas of His creation are inexhaustibly discoverable?

If there were no gaps in our education, what would be left for us to discover? What would we find difficult and challenging, and what would grow us?

If we all came out of 12th grade with no gaps in our learning, we would have nothing to share with one another, nothing to pursue, nothing to motivate us to continue our education – college or not.

What are the most important things for your children to know? Give them skills this year, tools that they can reach for when they come across some unknown thing. Give them a foundation for success by focusing on quality, not quantity.

Teach them a few things, well.

Don’t worry about gaps. Worry about being afraid of not having answers. Worry about losing the desire to ask questions. Worry about being the know-it-alls who are so puffed up with their own knowledge that they have no room for wonder.

Scratch that. Don’t worry at all. Prepare and pray. Keep learning, yourself. Model learning for your family and they will follow suit.

2. Your schedule will not cooperate. Your tidy schedule that you made this summer is full of obstinance and pushy-nonessentials that poke at the edges of your spreadsheet. Push, stretch, and soon your well-ordered day has grown to epic proportions.

Trim it down, cut it into size and master those margins because busy-ness and martyr-mom are not medals to wear or crosses to bear. They are leaches to suck the life out of your efforts.

This applies to all of us – homeschoolers or not. On paper we are superheroes who can fill every 1/2 hour slot with notable achievements. We forget about all the milk splashing on the floor and the dog going crazy at the UPS man (bringing more books!) and the phone calls from desperate friends or husbands needing favors.

We forget to leave room for God to readjust our day. Or we forget and leave too much room for others to readjust our day.

Remember: people will think that “we homeschool” means “of course we’re available because we’re not doing anything anyway”. Guard your schedule and open your door to only the highest priorities.

3. It won’t look like the fairy tale you imagine in your head  – everyone happily and eagerly gathered for a great day of learning.

Your children are scattered, literally, across all four corners of your house/property/neighborhood and you’re that mom hollering for them to come home. You’re the only mom hollering this time of day, actually, because the neighbors are sensible and sent their kids to school this morning…

Don’t spend long on that thought.

It won’t be textbook or fairytale or Little Homeschool on the Prairie, at least not everyday.

You ought to stop reading those homeschool blogs if you find yourself wondering, what would so-and-so do in this situation, or, I’ll bet so-and-so’s children would be doing x right now. I’ll bet her house is clean, she knows what’s for dinner, her laundry is neatly folded and put away, and she’s enjoying The Iliad with her scad of sponge-like children…

You can stop that kind of thinking, too.

You live in a beautiful reality and have been given a beautiful grace that is better than any fairytale.

May His grace sustain you on those daysMay you more fully appreciate the ups and downs of your life. May you and your children know God better this year because of His infinite goodness that is beyond finding out – but you keep searching it anyway. 

Press on, mom.

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