Monthly Archives: September 2014

“Wait…I have limitations?!”

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This post will be a bit different today. I’ve been sitting here wondering what to write for over thirty minutes. I texted my husband and asked if he had any ideas and he gave me one, but I was hesitant to tackle it. Nevertheless, I’m going to be brave and ask that God would direct my words. Thank you for bearing with me as this post will be quite personal.

A week after graduating from Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, I had the great privilege of marrying my best friend, Andy. A week after our wedding, we moved across the country to Oregon. I went through an abundance of homesickness and culture shock that first year as I asked God to help me be content with being uprooted. Before I met my future husband, I was on the fast track to becoming a single missionary in Siberia…yes, frigid Russia. God showed me that he had different and better plans for me. God grew me in college to realize that often the most adventurous path is not the dreamy one we envision for ourselves.

My husband and I quickly realized that having bachelor’s degrees didn’t guarantee financial stability. We worked over a dozen jobs between the two of us those first three years of marriage, just trying to make ends meet. God really helped us learn how to be content with little and how to be grateful for the smallest gifts in life. I sorted cherries, ran a roadside orchard stand, nannied, served as a barista at a local coffee shop, did photo shoots, taught piano and flute lessons, and eventually became the secretary and children’s ministry director at a small church in town. Through all of these occupations, God taught me how to rely on Him for strength and joy.

We became pregnant three years into our marriage and were ecstatic! I was happy, but also worried about the future. I didn’t know if I could be a good mom. I didn’t know how we were going to be able to pay all the bills that would come with a baby. God used my husband and all of our parents to really help me trust in Him better and to relinquish my worry into His hands. When our precious boy did finally arrive last summer, our hearts were filled with joy. It was a very difficult birth and recovery, but God sent both our mothers to help us through this new journey.

After eight weeks of being home with my little one, I went back to work at the church and to teaching piano and flute lessons. Praise the Lord that the church was kind enough to allow me to bring Zane to the office with me! And between Andy’s mother watching Zane, one of my students babysitting, and putting him in the play pen while I taught we somehow made it work for a while. But the wear and tear of trying to be a mom, wife, homemaker while working 40+ hours a week was starting to take a toll on all of us by spring. I was exhausted. Zane was doing incredibly well for being cooped up in play pens and the office during the weekdays, but he was starting to get antsy too. I was constantly beating up on myself because I couldn’t do it all. I wasn’t my cheerful, encouraging self. I was fighting irritability with others (not good when you are in ministry!) and was frustrated that I didn’t have time for relationships outside of my family…I barely had time for them! I was struggling to trust God in the midst of the chaos. But He was faithful to carry me through nonetheless.

After many late nights of praying and crying, my husband and I decided to resign from our responsibilities in ministry that we had been taking on for over two years. We were burned out. It’s humbling to admit. When you’re fresh out of ministry school, you’re supposed to take on all sorts of service opportunities and keep plugging away despite inner and outer fatigue, right? Well, we thought so…until God woke us up from our stupor and said, “This is not what I have for you now.” Ouch. I was being uprooted once again from the life I thought I was supposed to be living. How patient our Savior is with us!

I am writing today to tell you that the last two months as a stay-at-home mom have been some of the happiest times I have ever experienced. I am spending much needed time in the Word and prayer to heal and recharge after the last few years of “energizer bunny” mode. My spirit is being built up instead of depleted as I take time to just be. I am not missing the big moments in my son’s life. I was there to see him take his first steps and say his first words! I can take him on walks and outings before the sun goes down now! I can actually keep the house fairly clean and make more than one home cooked meal a week. I can invest more in other relationships because I have more time and energy now. I still teach piano and flute lessons 3 afternoons/evenings a week, but 10 hours of work is so much more enjoyable than 50!

We’ve had to make some hefty sacrifices to allow me to stay home with our son this year. Our budget is so tight you couldn’t squeeze an extra dime out of it if you tried. We don’t have fancy meals like we may have had in the past at home. We rarely go out to eat. I have a ton of more alone time, which is nice, but also can get lonely. Motherhood is fun, but every once and a while I just really don’t want to pick up toys and wipe off sticky messes for the umpteenth time that same day. There are always pros and cons in life changes, but I am so grateful to be at this particular stage in life right now.

I was nervous to write about this subject today because I know that many of you are in the “burned out-can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel-want to bang my head against the wall” stage right now. If you are there, please be encouraged by my mistakes. I didn’t ask for help enough. Please ask someone in your family or church or friend circle to help you make a meal, clean, watch your kids, share some responsibilities in ministry. I put personal time with Jesus on the back burner far more than I’d like to admit. Please take even just 5 minutes to pray and meditate on a verse to rejuvenate your soul for the busy day ahead of you. I thought it was selfish to take time to care for myself. Please make it a priority to take care of you. How do you de-stress? I am encouraged and refreshed after taking a walk, snapping photos of nature, or reading a chapter in a good book. Find out what simple activity encourages your soul and do it, despite the responsibilities that loom around you. I’ve learned the hard way that if I don’t take care of myself, I am useless at taking care of my family and others. And lastly, I am learning each day that if I don’t thank God for the small things in life, I can easily become discontent and prideful. Even if it’s as simple as whispering “Thank you, God” for an open parking space or a tasty sip of coffee or a good hair day :), acknowledge the King’s generosity and love for you.

My prayer for you and I this week is that we may be vigilant in thanking God for his mercies and be OK with having limitations. May you be encouraged by the tiniest things this week and be refreshed in knowing that you are not alone in the struggles of life. If I could reach out from the screen and hug you right now, I would. We can do this! We can do this in the Almighty’s power and strength! You go, woman! 🙂

“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.” (Psalm 62:5-6)

“With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.” (Psalm 18:29)

“And my God will supply all of your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)

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Living in the Present

photo-3A shy little girl with gold curls clutched her basket filled with rose petals tightly. She gently stepped down the grass aisle in her lacy white dress. Focusing with all her might, she stopped in the middle of the path and rapidly dumped out all of the fragile pink petals. The audience giggled as she finished the long walk to the front with a triumphant smile on her rosy cheeks.

This precious scene from a recent wedding I attended has been revisited several times in my mind this week. I often struggle with living in the moment, taking far too much time and energy to worry about the future. The sweet flower girl at the wedding was focused on her one task at hand. She had a job to do and she did it with fierce concentration and determination.

I’ve been asking God lately to help me live in the present and to embrace each moment with joy. Moving to a new rental recently, learning how to raise a one-year-old boy, striving to be good piano and flute instructor, trying to keep our home organized, pinching pennies while grocery shopping, seeking out meaningful relationships, taking time to encourage others, and seeking to be a loving wife have been keeping my mind busy this last month. It is so easy to let my mind wander into the unknown future and begin to worry: “How are we going to pay bills next month? What if I don’t find other mom friends to spend time with this year? What if I miss an opportunity to encourage someone when they really need it?”

I have to stop myself when I begin this harmful pattern of worrying. I need to remind myself constantly that the future as most of us conceptualize it, doesn’t really exist. God holds it far beyond the reach of any person. When I gaze into the future, trying to make predictions, I am really just exercising my imagination. God is the only one who’s existence isn’t limited by time. Just as that little flower girl dropped petals to prepare the way for the bride, God goes before me too. He ensure that I never set foot on anything except the present moment.

So the next time I find myself fantasizing about the unknown, I am going to stop and wake myself up to the reality of the present moment. I’d rather live purposefully in this present reality than roam aimlessly in a fantasy land. My mind is accustomed to wandering into the future though, so I need to continually ask God to help me focus on the present. He is the only one who knows the future and can guide me in it, moment by moment. Praise Him for lovingly going before us down the aisle of life!

“‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.'” (Revelation 1:8)

“Since no man knows the future, who can tell him what is to come?” (Ecclesiastes 8:7)

“The Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the man who trust in Him.” (Psalm 32:10)

 

Keeping Up Appearances

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Embarrassed and disheveled, I walked into the pizza store for the second time of the evening. My shirt had tiny dirty handprints around the hem. There was sand from the playground sticking to my sweaty skin. My face didn’t have a single smear of makeup on it. Wisps of hair were falling out of my loose ponytail. I was clutching my grass-stained son when I hesitantly told the cashier, “I put the pizza I just bought here on the roof of my van and totally forgot to grab it before driving home.” After I got these pathetic words out, I felt better and decided to make light of the unfortunate situation: “So if you see a steamrolled pepperoni pizza on 12th street, you’ll know who’s it is.” We both laughed and the manager of the store was generous enough to give me a brand new, not run over pizza.

After I got home that night and popped the pizza into the oven, I asked myself, “Why was I so embarrassed?” The answer was an ugly realization-I cared too much about what others thought about me. Ouch. This wasn’t a new revelation though. Through the years I have tried to work on the pride and worry accompanied by keeping up appearances. It’s exhausting striving to make everyone happy all the time and pretending to be effortlessly put together.

Do you ever wish you could just learn a life lesson and be done with it? I am constantly baffled at how fickle my mind can be. I may spend several months wrestling a certain characteristic into submission, only to find that a while later I need to address the exact same subject again. But I’ve found that’s the process of growing in Christ. We can’t fully overcome our own flaws without the power of Jesus’ sacrificial example.

The good news is that the Royal Judge cares about the state of our heart rather than the state of our self-sufficiency. So what is most important to the King, should also be held as most important to me. I need to rely on His strength to overcome the temptation to blend in with the world and appear self-sufficient. I need to remember that most people who appear like they have it all together are actually struggling deeply; often relying on harmful substances and attitudes just to keep up the facade. I need to rely continually on the Savior so I can live more abundantly-continually, not just once in a while when I’m struggling; continually.

So the next time you and I have our own little “flying pizza” moment, may we remember that God’s approval is the only one that matters. May we cling to His promises as we progress through the process of becoming more like Him in this life. May we take hope in the fact that we don’t need to be perfect because Jesus has already come before us to assume that role. May we strive to care more about others than our own self-sufficiency. May we fully know that relying on Christ is not weakness, but strength. May we live in this blissful freedom this week!

“The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

“I have set the Lord continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.” (Psalm 16:8)

“Cease striving and know that I am God…” (Psalm 46:10)