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Monthly Archives: February 2016
It’s been a long week. I’m at the beach with my mom, my sister, and my two babies, and I’m exhausted.
I was hoping this would be a somewhat relaxing week, that I could be refreshed in mind, body, and spirit by the warm weather and beautiful surroundings. But gosh, as I sit in our condo listening to the ocean right outside our window, all I am right now is tired.
And then all I can think to myself is wow, Wesley, you are a spoiled brat. Here you are in the middle of February in 70 degree weather within steps of the beach, and you’re complaining because you’re tired? Come on.
It’s times like these that I realize how truly weak I am. I like to consider myself a fairly strong, capable person. I’m smart, I can be a hard worker when I need to be, I’m level-headed, I take life as it comes and try not to complain much. But when I’m honest with myself, my heart is spoiled.
I read something the other day by Paul David Tripp about envy. There were two phrases that really stuck out to me. The first was, “Envy denies grace. The assumption of envy is that we deserve what another has been given, when, in fact, you and I deserve nothing.” And the second was, “Envy forgets who you are, forgets who God is, and is confused about what life is about.”
I think the same can be said for almost any sort of complaining. When I whine about my circumstances, what I’m really saying is that I expected, that I deserve, something better than what I have. I should be able to go to the beach and enjoy myself and have my children behave and get a break from the hard work of being a mother for a little bit. My child should sleep through the night for me. My toddler shouldn’t be so whiny. I shouldn’t have to work so hard. I shouldn’t be tired.
Who ever told me these things should be so? Where did I get the idea that I deserved any of this?
I read another passage yesterday out of the same book, this time about the idea of success. Tripp writes, “Everyone wants to think that his or her life is or will be successful. But what is success? Is it judged by the size of your house, the prominence of your friends…or the list of your achievements? The problem with all of these things is that they quickly pass away, and because they do, if you have lived for these things, you will eventually come up empty. Contrast that view of success with the success of God’s work in and through you. God offers you things of supreme value (his forgiveness, his presence, welcome into his kingdom, a clean conscience, and a pure heart). These things will never pass away…This leaves you with the question: ‘What do I really want in life: the success of God’s agenda of grace or the fulfillment of my catalog of desires?’ At the end of the day, what do you long for: for God’s grace to do its work or for more of the stuff that this physical created world has to offer?”
Without God, I am weak, and driven by my “catalog of desires,” as Tripp calls them. I want comfort. I want rest. I want luxury. I want not to feel pain, discomfort, displeasure, exhaustion. But these are earthly desires, and they have only earthly implications. They are fleeting pleasures that in the end will always come up empty.
Last week I wrote about the promises of God. As I remind myself of those promises, I have to ask myself, as Tripp suggests, what do I really want in life? At the end of the day, shouldn’t my greatest desire be for God’s grace, and the promises He gives me, and not these fleeting worldly comforts? I can only pray that my heart would be more inclined toward the right desires, toward the desires that will truly fill my heart.
I don’t know what it is about me, but I’m always gathering information. I’m always looking to find the next big thing to improve my life, to learn how to do things better. I currently have about ten books on my nightstand: one or two baby books, a book on parenting, an organization book, a theology book, my Kindle, and of course Real Simple Magazine, the true source of all great information on how to live life. I’m an information gatherer, a learner, and maybe (I’ve suspected recently) a bit of a self-help junkie.
I took a strengths test a while back (I actually highly recommend it! I think it’s only 20 bucks), and my top three strengths were Input, Ideation and Intellect. Here are the first lines from each description:
“People who are especially talented in the Input theme have a craving to know more. Often they like to collect and archive all kinds of information.”
“People who are especially talented in the Ideation theme are fascinated by ideas. They are able to find connections between seemingly disparate phenomena.”
“People who are especially talented in the Intellection theme are characterized by their intellectual activity. They are introspective and appreciate intellectual discussions.”
Obviously there is a theme here. And that’s great. It’s helpful as a writer, since writing is basically all about gathering information, distilling it, and distributing it to others. And it’s helpful for when I have a problem I want to solve, because I know how to gather information on just about any subject.
The other day, however, I was thinking about all of these information-gathering quests I’m on, and I started to wonder whether I’m using my time wisely in these pursuits. I tend to get caught up in the little things I can do to make my life better, believing that if I can just be good enough at everything, or know enough about everything, my life will improve.
Earlier this week I made a point to use naptime to read the Bible. Of course this was the day that Shook never actually went to sleep and started screaming “I wanna wake up!” after thirty minutes and head-butted me when I went into his room to get him to go to sleep, but I did get a good twenty minutes of study in before it all broke down. And I thought to myself gosh, if I could just channel all of my “learner” energy into my relationship with God, what would my return on that investment be?
All of my books promise big results, life changing even. If I can just get my baby to sleep through the night, teach my toddler to obey my every command, organize my spices alphabetically and only have thirteen items of clothing in my closet. Even if I could accomplish those things, which I can’t, where would I be? Would my life really be any better, would I really be any happier?
The Bible makes promises too. Throughout the Bible, God makes promises to his people, to those who follow Him and seek Him.
“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, declares the Lord…” (Jeremiah 29:12-14)
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:7-11)
“Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.” (Matthew 12:24-27)
This is just a small sampling of the promises God makes to us throughout his word. And the difference in these promises is that they won’t come up empty. Why do I seek after worldly promises, when these promises are so much better, and actually true? What if I threw away all of those books on my nightstand and replaced them with the Bible? I wonder what changes I would see in my life, and more importantly, in my heart.
Thankfully there’s grace, and God meets me every time I come to Him, no matter how long it has been, and no matter how many other things I have been chasing before seeking Him. But I know He wants me to seek Him first. I know He knows how much better off I will be if I start with that.
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:25-33)
This Christmas was all about Santa Claus for Shook. It was the first year we could explain it to him and have him somewhat understand the concept, and it was pretty exciting. We had a great time telling him about the presents Santa would bring, where he lived, how he would come down the chimney, how he would get lumps of coal if he was bad (just kidding, that comes later).
But you know what I realized in the midst of all of this Santa stuff? It was really easy to tell Shook about Santa. He was everywhere, and everyone wanted to make sure he knew all about him. It was not nearly as easy to tell him about Jesus.
Santa is easy. Hey buddy, do you like presents? Well, Santa is a big guy in a red suit who brings you lots of presents on Christmas. Do you want to meet Santa? Well, he’ll be at every event and shopping center we attend over the next month, so you’ll be seeing a lot of him. They talk about him at school, they talk about him on TV shows, he’s everywhere.
Not so easy with Jesus. He doesn’t bring you presents, he isn’t at the mall, they don’t talk about him at school, Daniel Tiger doesn’t mention him. Christmas, this holiday that was begun to celebrate Jesus, has started to overshadow Jesus himself. Even in Christian homes, it’s all too easy to focus on family and decorating the Christmas tree and getting and giving presents, adding in Jesus almost as an afterthought.
A couple of days before Christmas, I tried to explain Jesus to my two year old. We were sitting on the back porch, and I told Shook that Christmas was Jesus’ birthday, and that he was God’s son, and he was sent here to save us. But when I tried to explain to my toddler what Jesus came to save us from, I got stuck. He doesn’t know what sin is. I started to try to think of some analogy from his life that would make sense, but I was at a loss. So I kind of gave up.
Then my husband, the pastor, came outside, and I asked him to try to explain Jesus to our two year old. And HE got stuck too! He started trying to analogize it to getting in trouble and going to time out and Jesus taking away time out…he was close, closer than I was, but by that point my son was way more interested in his Thomas the Train than whatever his crazy parents were trying to explain to him.
And there it was. Jesus is hard to explain. And not just to two year olds. I can barely wrap my head around Him at times, so why would it be easy to explain Him to our children?
So what do I do? Well, I could keep trying, which I have been. The other day in the car he asked me “Where’s Jesus?” and after some hemming and hawing I finally said something along the lines of “Well, He’s everywhere…He’s with us all the time, He keeps us safe, and He loves us…” I later asked Marshall what he would have said and his response, in classic pastor form, was a (jokingly) self-righteous “Um…sitting at the right hand of God the Father Almighty? Obviously.” As you can see we still have some work to do.
But you know what else I’m going to do? I’m going to ask other mothers. I don’t think we were made to parent in a vacuum, and we certainly weren’t meant to teach the gospel in a vacuum. So I’m going to reach out. I’m a learner, I love gathering knowledge. This is what I did with pregnancy, childbirth, sleep training (the myth, the legend…), you name it, I’ve read about it, asked about it, read about it some more.
I don’t know yet what this will look like, but I hope to find some way to translate what I learn to you, through the blog.
Tell me what you think – is this something that is hard for you, teaching your children about Jesus? Something you are interested in learning more about? Something you have been successful at? What resources have you found about this subject? I would love to know your thoughts as I begin this little research project!
“Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher,
vanity of vanities! All is vanity.
What does man gain by all the toil
at which he toils under the sun?
A generation goes, and a generation comes,
but the earth remains forever.
The sun rises, and the sun goes down,
and hastens to the place where it rises.
The wind blows to the south
and goes around to the north;
around and around goes the wind,
and on its circuits the wind returns.
All streams run to the sea,
but the sea is not full;
to the place where the streams flow,
there they flow again.
All things are full of weariness;
a man cannot utter it;
the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
nor the ear filled with hearing.
What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done,
and there is nothing new under the sun.” – Ecclesiastes 1:1-9
I don’t know about you, but I have the constant feeling that nothing in my life is ever truly “finished.” I’ve heard of people making to-do lists and feeling such gratification when everything is crossed off of them, and to me this is about as realistic as seeing a unicorn. Do people REALLY cross off everything on their to-do lists? REALLY? It seems impossible to me. Before I can even get through half of one, I’m already writing another. I have them in all forms – notes on my phone, physical notepads, post-its, phone reminders, calendars…they’re everywhere.
I’ll be the first to admit I’m not great at tackling tasks. I’m a procrastinator, I’m distractible, I give myself WAY too many tasks. I would give anything to be better at completing my to-do lists.
But part of me knows that no matter how productive I become, no matter how hard I try to get everything finished that needs to be finished, it will never be enough. There will always be something else to do. There will always be more laundry. The floor will always need sweeping (How?! I mean honestly. Can I just have one day of clean floors?). My toddler will always pull all of his toys out of all of their places all of the time, always.
Every day is a new day of to-dos, a new day of lists, a new day of tasks to be completed, or to be left incomplete.
I think it’s particularly hard as a stay-at-home mom, when my workplace is also my home. There is no escaping my to-dos. There’s no “okay let’s call it a day, pack it up and lock up the ole office and leave it for tomorrow.” I wake up in my office, and I go to sleep in my office. It’s hard to feel like I ever have a break.
So what do I do about this?
I’ll tell you what I do most of the time. I stress. I get anxious. I go on freak-out cleaning sprees, or I collapse into myself and say “forget it” for a whole day, making the next day exponentially worse. I’m a roller coaster of emotions, the most common one being low-grade stress. I long for just one day when everything is done, when I can truly relax.
But you know what? That’s not reality. Our days, our lives, entire generations, they come and go, we toil and toil, there is nothing new under the sun. That’s just life.
So I’ve got to find a way to be okay. To be at peace with my ever-evolving to-do list, with my never-ending laundry pile. I’ve got to find a way to manage my life, and to manage my expectations, so I’m not a constant ball of stress.
I am nowhere near conquering this (Alas! Another task to complete). I don’t know what the answer is. All I know is I’m not doing myself or anyone else any favors by constantly lamenting the fact that there’s always something else that needs to be done.
I do think the desire for completion, for rest, and for order is a Godly one. God loves beauty and order, it’s obvious from the way he created the world, from the way things were in the Garden. But I also know that we can never expect these things to be fully realized in this world. So we must find a way to cope, but we must also always be looking ahead for what is to come in the next life, when we finally reach glory, and everything is as it should be.
So maybe what I need to do is allow this tension to fuel my desire and my longing for heaven. God wants us to be joyful, but He doesn’t want us to be of the world, even as we are in it. Our treasure is in heaven, and we should always be longing for that. With the little frustrations of day-to-day life, maybe He is trying to remind me that this is not the world I was made for. As C.S. Lewis so eloquently puts it, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”