To the Mother Who Second-Guesses Herself

mother-and-son-1256829_960_720 (1)Humility requires me to speak respectfully, even in awe, when it comes to motherhood. I have not yet been a parent, and I will never be a mother.

But I have learned this, mothers, thanks to my years in youth ministry: you have regrets. No matter how well your children have turned out, as they cross the stage and flip their tassels, all smiles with relief, you think of their flaws (as if there weren’t supposed to be any) and long to have some days back. Even when I’m thinking, amazed, “Are you kidding? I’ve known your kid for years. They’re awesome!”

The longing is legitimately greater in some mothers. But the mammoth task of motherhood is bound to leave holes. A mother can find the tiniest flaw in her own mother-work, as surely as she can spot a speck of dust on a table.

I want to encourage today. Yet I will never been a mother. I speak better than I know.

But I have been a child.

And I can say this with great certainty to many mothers: your children are probably thinking far better of you than you are.

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Boasting in My Weaknesses???

wreckI hate my brokenness.

I want it to end.

It’s been a tough week at work. The kind that leaves you feeling like a rusting wreck in the desert. Ever found yourself dreading going to work and finding out what little mistake is coming back to bite you this day? You’re breathing, so yes.

I know my weaknesses well. We’re old acquaintances. Not friends, though. I want them out of my life.

Tonight, though, I have to deal with the fact that they’re not conquered yet, that tomorrow hasn’t come yet, that the next opportunity to win hasn’t come yet. I have to deal with the shame and inadequacy that swarm toward this vulnerable chump like flies toward a carcass.

I’m reminded of a familiar saying.

God does not call the qualified; he qualifies the called.

But…there’s a but in my heart.

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“Happiness is Up to You”

celebrate2I entreat you for a respite from our usual Christian talk about how joy and happiness are different things.

Joy is possible in any circumstance, generated by intimacy with God and hope of heaven, not our earthly trappings. I fully embrace that as a central and crucial tenet of our faith. I even embrace the idea, without flinching, that God will withhold happiness if it makes us holier. That is well and truly believed on this blog.

But since I also believe that God does not exactly hate our happiness, let me share a verse from a poem that I ran across yesterday…

I asked God to give me happiness,
And God said, “No”,
He said, “I give blessings,
Happiness is up to you.”

– author unknown

Wow.

Yes, I know…I took this from a larger poem containing a few other ideas that some might differ on. That’s why I only reproduced this paragraph, because…wow.

How many blessings have we received and not made the most of?

Now, I hate that the previous sentence (and others like it) tend to come across so watery, wispy, and commonplace. Sometimes a little jolt is needed to really make a thought come alive. So let me offer a question I once read, one that truly exploded my contentment and easily counts as one of the top five most mind-blowing things I’ve ever absorbed:

What if God were to announce tomorrow that he would remove from your life everything for which you failed to thank him today?

ACK.

duck

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Godrise

riseWe’ve had a couple spectacular moonrises this last week, the enormous full orb majestically cresting the Swan Range, glowing against the cold, solid purple of the Earth’s shadow at twilight. My friends Mark and Cheryl were able to grab a camera and make a whole album out of it. (That is heroism, by the way – it was below zero temperatures that night. Again.)

No fussy, garish special effects extravaganza in today’s movies can give you chills quite like that simple sight, can it? Or like the conjunction of Venus and Jupiter that took place two Junes ago. Your mind knows that what it’s seeing is real, and you are awed – and humbled. Such is the power and artistry of God.

I had a random thought, do what you will with it: The moon prevents our earthly existence from averaging 50% light, 50% darkness. Its “sneaking” the sun’s light back into the night via reflection means that the overall balance ends up tipped in light’s favor…kind of like the balance of good and evil being ultimately tipped in God’s favor.

“Nothing can be so evil as God is good,” wrote Stephen Charnock. That idea stuck with me when I read it years ago. Some unconsciously believe that evil and good are opposite but equal. Cancelling each other out, neither ever quite going away (lest the movie have no sequel). But Scripture says God has won the battle, is winning the battle, and will ultimately triumph entirely.

 

Indeed, in the wintertime with snow covering the landscape, the moon is bright enough that you could drive at midnight without headlights (though I do not recommend it, or accept liability for what happens if you do). A fascinating parallel to the way God can be greatest and closest at the darkest solstice of our own lives.

Some darkness must come today. There will remain a groaning “as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:23).

But one day, it will be defeated. Every tear wiped away. The day is not so far off now. God’s final victory is rising.

I wait eagerly.

In the meantime, God has given me a heckuva universe to watch. I sit slackjawed like a geeked-out kid before his cosmic theater.

 

Photo credit: Mark and Cheryl Reasner

“Everything Beautiful in Its Time” – and Only Then

winterI’ll never forget that May snowstorm a few years ago.

It was only a couple inches, but with the snow sopping wet and everything in full bloom, the trees didn’t have the strength to withstand even that much. It looked like a hurricane had blown through. Branches littering the streets, trees sagging into yards and onto power lines…my mother, out for a walk, had a branch come crashing to the ground only feet away from her.

Things aren’t beautiful outside their time.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

Or try the other side. Ever hoped guiltily for a winter that would dart unexpectedly out the door in February and leave us with an early spring? I have. A good friend once said that spring “feels hopeful.” Certainly more so than winter. I don’t enjoy the brownness of the earth in winter, the gray skies, the inability to smell anything. Some people feel more alive in the crispness of winter air, but not me. Winter is a season of dead. The long, dark nights offer depression, like I’m living on Mars. Give me one month of winter to snowboard and make Christmas look right, and then we can be done. Coming up at eleven: What my car thinks of winter – uncensored! (Why do I live in Montana again?)

And sometimes, spring indeed comes early. A sneaky glee springs within me in those years.

But it’s not beautiful outside its time.

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It’s Okay to Admit that Losing Friends Hurts

friendsLosing friends hurts.

Sometimes I think that if all the energy we pour into avoiding that fact were spent elsewhere, we would have cured world hunger by now.

The memes clutter our feeds.

“We never lose real friends, we only lose fake ones.”

“Be yourself and the right people will gravitate towards you.”

“Those who can’t handle your worst, don’t deserve your best.”

“If they didn’t stay, they were never meant to.”

And today I found myself wondering…Who are we trying to convince?

Over the years, I’ve lost friends. I’ve lost them because of moving. I’ve lost them because they got “too busy to call”. I’ve lost them because they got married and I didn’t. I’ve lost them because they got married and wanted to stay friends, but they were female and it was no longer appropriate. I’ve lost them because they’ve drifted away from God and all the awkwardness that causes in the coffeeshop (I should have fought harder for those). I’ve lost friends because we lacked common hobbies. I’ve lost them because I was really just part of their Bible study, or a hold-over, until they found someone more compatible. And I’ve lost friends simply because one of us changed, or finally revealed their darker side, and the other decided they didn’t like what they were seeing.

I’m not a special case. Life winnows things away, and friends are no exception. It’s left me with a small but pretty unassailable group of close friends I know I can count on, no matter how many the miles and misunderstandings. We’re in it for the long haul. (Hi, DJ!) I want to jump out a window with joy when I think of those people.

But the lost ones still hurt.

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Build Altars in Your Life

ringLadies reading this…I apologize. But I must talk about football for a moment.

Two years ago, my Seattle Seahawks marched into New York City and practically waltzed away with their first Super Bowl win. My football team. Sports snobs will never get this. For a Seahawks fan who endured the 90s, having your team be the champ isn’t just amazing. It’s therapeutic. The NFL’s highest honor at long last.

And five months later, what were most Seahawks fans doing?

Worrying.

Dissecting the draft, analyzing our new free agents, wringing our hands over which star players were leaving…and worrying.

Worrying over whether we would repeat.

Are you kidding me? We fight for almost forty years to get to the big dance, finally climb out of the kiddie pool and shut up the peanut gallery, and we can’t even stop to just bask in the moment? For nine months, we’re the undisputed top dogs…and we have no confidence that we’re the real deal. I walked up to a guy in church wearing a Broncos hat, pointedly adjusted and fiddled with my Seahawks hat in front of him, and he chuckled and went “Yeah, everyone gets lucky once in a while.” That’s what we fear. We don’t want a fluke, a one-off. We want a dynasty.

But part of it is…we just forget. The glow fades and it’s back to prove-it territory.

We do this with God, too.

That blessing was it for a while. I won’t be getting much more.

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