Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Unsuper Mommy Advent: My Spiritual Anorexia

 Please note that this is blog is not meant in any way to be a discussion of physical anorexia.

Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst." - John 6:35

I am often my own worst enemy. While my kids may provoke and stoke the fires of my sinful heart, it is my own refusal to accept God that keeps it burning. I'm about to reveal something ugly. It's one of those nasty sins that hides inside the mind. It's always been laying just below the surface, but motherhood has pushed it to the forefront.  It's spiritual anorexia.

Here's what happens: A child wakes up early in the morning. He's needy and I'm tired. I grump around the kitchen, cleaning up from previous night (because yeah, I often go to bed with a dirty kitchen) or prepping breakfast. I ignore the slight tug of the Holy Spirit to take a stolen moment to crack open the Bible sitting on my counter. I tell myself I'll get to it. After breakfast. After Isaac goes to school. After the little ones go down for afternoon nap. Always after.

The kids are always especially difficult on these days. There's an abundance of poopy diapers they don’t want to lay still for, an unmanageable amount of tantrums, and outright refusals to obey the simplest requests. I'm tired and I'm mad and I don't know how to struggle through it. I walk by my Bible and shove it in the nearest drawer in the name of a clean kitchen.

No way am I going to open that thing. I'm disgusted with my life. I had simple expectations for the day: a few moments to myself in the morning, kids who eat the meals I struggle to get to the table, kids that play happily with their abundance of toys, a family that appreciates the gift of spending time together, boys who lay flat for their diaper changes, little brothers that don’t protest shuttling in the car to and from big brother's preschool, and obedience the first time I ask. I don't even need all of these expectations met every day, just a majority of them and I can be a happy, godly mom. It's the days that the unmet expectations pile up that my spiritual anorexia creeps in.

Here's the deal: when we work hard, we get hungry. Motherhood is hard work, and it makes us spiritually hungry. Jesus is the bread of life for the spiritually hungry. If I sit down and eat: a chapter here, a prayer there, worship music playing when I can't find time for either, I get an energy reboot. I'm ready again to face the work set before me. But there are so many days when I just refuse to eat. Spiritual Anorexia.

Two reasons I refuse to eat:

  1. A distorted image of myself: I have to admit, after so many failures at life by my power, part of me still thinks I can handle this on my own. I've been a mom for four years, I can handle one day of a napless child on my own strength, right? Oh, I am so wrong. But sometimes my pride just will not accept that, despite the outward sign of anger, I can't do motherhood all on my own. I buy into the lie that I don't need grace; I've got it all together. I see myself as so strong that I don't need spiritual food to be a good mom. 
  2. My desire to control: I don't want to run to the Bible when my life is spinning out of control because I know what I will find there: the God who is in control of everything. I refuse to swallow that bread because I want control. I want control over when I wake up in the morning. I want control over the obedience of my children. I want control over what my family will eat that day. When all my simple expectations go unmet, instead of admitting that God's sovereignty might be trying to teach me something, I cling to the last bit of control I have left: a prideful refusal to accept God's sanctifying work.

I'm cringing over here just admitting this all to you. But maybe some of you are fellow Bible hiders. Fellow God ignorers. Fellow spiritual anorexics. Of course it's cliché, but it starts with admitting there's a problem. God calls that confession.

This advent, I'm camped out in the "I am" statements of Jesus. First, God convicted me of how quickly I refuse to eat the Bread of Life when my circumstances aren't going my way. Then I moved on to "I am the Light of the World" and was reminded of his forgiveness. This "I am" statement is tucked in the midst of Jesus' teaching about judgment. When a prostitute is brought forward to stone, Jesus charges the crowd "let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone" (John 8:7). As the crowd dissipates, Jesus--the only sinless one there--refuses to condemn the woman standing before him. He tells the people, "You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one" (John 8: 15). Later, Jesus tells a group of Jews who believe in him, "So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:36).

Why does this matter to a recovering spiritual anorexic? Because refusal to eat of the Bread of Life is a nasty form of pride. I hate admitting it even exists in my heart. I like to pretend I'm avoiding God's Word because motherhood is just too busy. Oh friends, without the work of Jesus, there is no hope for me. There isn't anything good in me--except Jesus. He doesn't condemn me; He saves me. He shines light into my darkest places. He spoon feeds me when I am doing all I can to avoid spiritual nourishment. Every day the Holy Spirit is working hard at me, pushing me past the limits of my abilities and into God's daily grace.  The best part of about Jesus? He didn't just grant me salvation thousands of years ago, but he is daily saving me from my sinful self. He died on the cross, but he lives to intercede as my Great High Priest (Hebrews 7:25).

If you are struggling with spiritual anorexia, there's hope. Respond to the nudging of the Holy Spirit. Feel the depth of your sin, then accept the immeasurable depth of God's grace. Jesus is waiting with a meal for our souls. Let's eat.

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. - 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

Monday, November 30, 2015

The Unsuper Mommy Advent: neglecting tradition in favor of Just Jesus

I love a good tradition. My childhood was filled with countless traditions and rituals. Pancakes on Saturdays, eating lunch at the same grimy pizza place on the way to our winter condo, dinner out on Fridays, summer weekends at the cabin—my family loved a good rhythm. Once we did something twice, we didn't change it. We developed so many traditions that my best friend wrote her senior thesis about us. December was license for our family's tradition overload: sledding parties, bon-bon making, midnight ice-skating, hiding baby Jesus from the advent calendar, gingerbread houses, presents on Christmas eve, sleigh rides, a Christmas village, last-minute shopping for mom's gifts, Home Alone 2, steamed pudding, and even a New Years' Eve party. We packed it in, adding more as we went along. It was fun, but frankly a bit exhausting.  

After I got married, we tried to develop our own traditions, but things fell a little flat just the two of us. I assuaged my guilt with promises to do more when we had kids. I have 3 little boys now, and we are starting to create a new Christmas rhythm. We are building favorite traditions and scrapping others as we go. As a mom, I tend to get worked up and overworked trying to create magic for my little ones. But there's no lasting magic in making candy cane wreaths or seeing Christmas lights. Perfectly-wrapped presents under a flawless tree are not a Christmas miracle. 

The magic of Christmas is Jesus, fully God coming to earth as fully man. It's the Word, Jesus, becoming flesh to dwell among us. The Christmas miracle is the Son of God coming to earth to take all of our sin and shame so we can stand pure and sinless before God's righteousness 

This year, instead of stressing out about the perfect house, the perfect presents, and the perfect traditions, I want to stress to my children that a perfect God became a perfect man to save them from all their imperfections. I'm not convinced that Christ cares much about a holiday. He cares about us filling our souls with more about his goodness and letting the resulting joy overflow to our children.  

Let's not hold our Christmas traditions as sacred. Let's not let little plans get in the way of God's big plan. I don't want our December to be focused on family fun. I want it to be more Jesus. I'm not getting rid of traditions, but I won't let them overshadow what we are really celebrating:  

Just Jesus. 
Because we can't add to Him or take away from Him. And we don't need to. 

Here's my plan: every day of December, I'm going to seek to learn more about Jesus. Doesn't have to be a new idea, but I have to really learn it. I'm going to dive into the Gospel of John and camp out on the "I AM" statements of Jesus. Who better to tell us about Jesus than the only true expert? I'm going to meditate on each "I AM" statement for a few days, and if that isn't enough, I'll give myself the extra time I need. There aren't specific rules, it's just Jesus.
There will be failures. I'm not perfect at anything, and I certainly won't be perfect at this plan, as simple as it is. God doesn't need my perfection to work; He's got perfection in the bag. I'll give Him my humble best, and I know that He'll bless it. More of Him is always His will.  

As make space in the busy of Christmas traditions for more Jesus, my children will receive the overflow of my transformed heart. I think they'll see less perfect-Christmas Mommy and more Jesus.  

I'll be checking back in here at least once a week with what God is teaching me and posting shorter moments on Instagram using the hashtag #justJesusadvent. I'm sure there will be a couple periscopes involved too. Follow me @UnsuperMommy or friend me on facebook if I don't know you yet! I'd love to have a few friends join me in the simple goal to know Jesus more this Advent.  

This isn't an Advent challenge to complete. It isn't a tradition to exalt. It's not a perfect plan. It's how I'm trying to hold Jesus high above the trappings of the season in my own home. Make up your own plan or hang with me in the I AM statements, but don't slide through Christmas knowing more about shopping, baking, decorating, and hosting, without receiving the surpassing greatness of knowing more about Jesus. If you gain one thing this season, make it more of Jesus.  

Just Jesus. Anyone else in?

Saturday, July 25, 2015

When I think I can't Manage Motherhood

I am not equipped to manage my life. I think it all the time. Like when I make a trip to Target for 5 things with all 3 of my kids, then it ends up with one kiddo in tears and one throwing a fit and me wanting to just leave my kids in the car for the day when I finally make it home. Like the time my mom and I were sure it would be no problem for the two of us to manage my 3 kids and their cousin (ages: 5,4, 2, and 1) for a couple hours at the zoo. Then the baby refuses to sleep and cries for the last half of the trail while the thirty-pound two-year-old refuses to walk or ride in the stroller, so the only way to make progress toward the car is for me to carry him. 

My boys are so close together, which makes for so many situations I can't manage on my own. I can't manage a trip to the neighborhood park. I can hardly manage to take all three outside to our own yard on my own. I know, it's ridiculous. But it's just that they are just a physical handful. And an emotional handful too! I know I'm not alone here. At some point, we all feel deep down in our gut that our children are more than we can manage. 

Today was a particularly tough day. We have been at the cabin (sans Daddy, but with Grandma and Grandpa) for five days. The first few days were great, but my two youngest have not been sleeping well, and the cumulative effect of a few missed hours of sleep every day has taken its toll on all of us. I spent an hour trying unsuccessfully to get my oldest to take a nap. He never naps, but I thought that maybe he was just tired enough to make it work. He wasn't. When I finally gave up, I learned that my one-year-old had been awake playing in bed for the past half hour. He had only slept about 15 minutes. My energy was gone. I could not manage this final hardship. I went back and tried desperately for almost an hour to get him back to sleep, and nothing was working. He needed sleep and I needed him to sleep. I left him awake and crying in his crib, went to my own room, laid down and cried myself. I was finished. 

I threw up my hands at God. Don't you know I am finished? Don't you know I have nothing left to give these needy children? 

"I have given you everything you need for life and godliness." He gently prodded my heart. I didn't want to hear it. I didn't believe Him. He has given me more than I can manage. He doesn't know what it's like to deal with the chaos I have rolled up in the small bodies of my energetic boys. 

Begrudgingly I opened my bible to James. Just because it is my favorite. I skimmed the beginning. I couldn't stomach that count it all joy stuff. I really started at verse 3: "
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him." Yes God, please, give me wisdom on how to parent these boys through their young years. 
But the next verses really convicted me: 

"But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 
For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord;" 

I was doubting. There was no excusing it. 

Every time I repeat my old familiar line, I cannot manage my own children, I am doubting God. Every time I refuse to believe that he has given me everything I need not only to do my life, but to do it with godliness, I doubt him. I fail to trust. I fail to have faith. When I step out in calm waters, its easy to believe that God can give me the wisdom I need to shepherd my children toward his heart. But when the waves of sleepless children and disobedient hearts shake me, I doubt God's plan. I doubt his goodness. I doubt that every small task in my life is a kindness meant to guide my soul closer to his.

This morning I went out skiing. I was busy with my boys when my dad popped in and told me the lake was glass. I peeked out the window and confirmed it for myself. Since turning 30, I have decided that the physical work of skiing is only worth it if the water is going to be perfect. But by the time I got in my swimming suit and wet suit, the boys in life jackets, the ski and rope and gloves secured, the glassy water had turned to ripples.

"We'll find smooth water." my dad assured me. I didn't feel confident, but I since I had already done the work of getting out there, I was going. We drove through the ripples, and I decided it wasn't so bad. It wasn't perfect, but it wasn't waves. Then we hit some boat wakes, and my confidence dropped. Would this tired, broken body of mine hold up? As silly as it sounds, I was afraid. Afraid that I would lose control, afraid I would fall in front of my kids. As I started to bounce, I made my way back inside the wake. The waves bounced around me, but in the safety of the wake, my way was smooth. The beauty of the boat is that it slices through the rough water, leaving a smooth path behind for a tired, scared skier like me. I focused on the strength of the boat and it didn't fail to pull me through the rough to the smooth glassy water on the other side of the waves. 

The beauty of trusting in God is that when the troublesome waters of everyday life start to roll, He goes before us. His promises can make the most dangerous waters glassy smooth under our feet. But this wisdom is not granted when we aren't trusting in Him. God is bountiful with his promises and goodness, but we have to receive them. 

Open up your heart dear friend, God's promises are waiting to guide you through your turbulent waters. God has wisdom waiting for any situation, but you must trust in Him to receive it. He can make the water beneath your feet peaceful and smooth even as the waves rage around you. 

In Mark 9, an overwhelmed father brings his demon possessed son to Jesus for healing. May his honest words be the battle cry of every parent who finds their beautiful children to be more than they can manage:

"I believe; help my unbelief!"

Pray it daily. Whisper it in the moments you cannot manage to trust in God's promises through your own power. Shout it when you need to know God hears you. Then be still and know that He is God.  

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Lent: Letting Go of my Daughter Desire

I know I'm way behind the 8 ball on giving something up for Lent. I want to say Lent started last week? But I don't really know, and I guess it doesn't really matter. This isn't a conventional Lent post anyway. I'm not giving up a thing or an activity to focus more on God. I'm going to give up a desire. It's a good desire; or a desire for a "good thing" anyway. It's not good anymore though, because it has gotten so strong that it is setting itself up against my desire for God. I think that's really what Lent is all about--giving up something to create a stronger focus on Jesus, and that's what this will do. I hope that until Easter I can come against this desire so strongly that after Lent is over, it won't be such a struggle anymore. That's what I'm going to pray for, but I know it won't be easy, because it's something I really, really want.

I hesitate here to even share it with you, because some of you will think I'm kind of an awful person. But I suppose those of you who think I am a terrible person probably have desires or thoughts that make you an ugly sinner like me. I'm just going to share mine and maybe some of you will find comfort in hearing it because you have experienced it yourself. It's a good desire that's gotten so strong and twisted that it has become an ugly sin: I want a daughter. If you don't know me, I've had 3 boys in 3 years. I love boys. I grew up with only brothers, and I thought it was awesome. But because I had only brothers I grew up super close with my mom, and I want that relationship with a daughter of my own. As of right now, I don't think I will get it. People often ask me if we will have more kids. Some people come out and ask if we will "try for a girl" others are more sneaky about it, but I see what they are getting at. Right now more kids is a big question mark that lends toward doubtful, but even if we did know for sure we would have another baby, I recognize after having 3 boys that another baby does not guarantee me a daughter. I know that only God grants babies. I have both struggled with minor difficulty getting pregnant and a baby who came much earlier than I expected. God has made it pretty obvious to me that I have ZERO control over what my family looks like. I could go on and on about why it is a hard desire for me to overcome, but that's not really what this post is about. It's about giving up my focus on that desire. I don't think the desire itself will ever leave me for as long as I live, but it's about staring that desire in the face and allowing it not to have control over me and my love for God anymore. So I have noticed that the desire takes over my thought process in three ways: dreaming, twinging, and sinning.

  1. Dreaming: My dreaming usually comes in the form of choosing a name for a little girl or imagining how I would decorate her nursery or thinking about how a little girl baby might really be little for a lot longer than my gigantic boy babies (but to be fair that's not necessarily true). It's just imagining what it would be like to be able to plan a life with a little girl by my side.
  2. Twinging: This is hard to explain, but it's just like someone squeezed my heart. I'm not the type of person to get depressed, but occasionally I experience this ugh pain wrapping around my heart when I see images of little girls. For example, Pottery barn kids Easter catalog with its running girls in sweet little dresses on an egg hunt or little girls lounging on white cast iron beds with little chandeliers above them. Occasionally it happens on facebook or instagram, usually when a little girl is accompanied by an older brother. Be still my heart. It even happens when my brothers send me videos of their little girls saying the cutest things in their sweet little voices (but PLEASE don't stop sending them, they are also my only way to get a little girl fix!).
  3. Sinning: The other two things can lead to sinning, but they aren't usually sin in and of themselves. These are the mean thoughts that sometimes come to mind when someone is complaining about their daughter. Or when someone mentions how disappointed they were with a child's gender even though they already have one of each. It can be utter jealousy when a friend or even someone on HGTV (to remain nameless!) describes an activity she recently did with her daughter. This can be a lot of things, but they all stem from letting the desire for a daughter rule over my desire for God.

I'll be honest, a huge part of me loves this desire so much, I can hardly give it up. But I know I have to. I know that it's time. God will hold it for me, and as scary as it is to say, not my will, but His will be done with it.

My plan: Bible. It's really always the answer, right? I am writing the following verses on a note on in my phone, and I plan to read them every time I experience a dream, a twinge, or a sin. May God use them to change my heart. Give me Jesus.

Psalm 145:16-19

You open your hand;
You satisfy the desire of every living thing.
The Lord is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works.
The Lord is near to all who call on him,
To all who call on him in truth.
He fulfills the desire of those who fear him;
He also hears their cry and saves them.

Anyone else have a good desire that you need to submit to God's goodness?