Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Sick Days

Today I got to stay home with a sweet little sick person, and I've never been so grateful for a sick child in my life.

(He photographs so well, though, he totally makes me look like the sick one here. *sigh*)

Can I be transparent with y'all?
I've been struggling lately, friends.

I struggle with placing too much importance on achievement and performance. I "need" the respected position. I really want the recognition and the gold star.  Motherhood doesn't give that to you. It just gives you a bunch of self-doubt. And laundry.

I realize that being a mom is an incredible job, but I struggle A LOT--almost daily--with trying to find value in what I do, especially as my children grow and start to 'need me less.'

But this lowly feeling is a total lie.

My value is not found in a profession, a title, or how much money I make.
It's not found in how smart, or funny, or qualified other people think I am.
Or how clean and well-decorated my house is.
Or how well-behaved or high-achieving my children are.
Or how fancy the food in their lunchboxes is or how many home cooked meals I make.
Or how successful or doting my husband is.
Or how trendy my clothes are, or how fit I am, or how pretty a picture I take.

Or even how many people like me or like what I say...

It is found in Christ alone and His love for me.

Today, I realized how selfish my ambitions can make me. I would be lying if I said I didn't have a twinge of disappointment surge through me when I discovered I was staying home with a sick kid. I had places to be. I had other things I thought I needed to do. I had "gold stars" I thought I needed to earn elsewhere.
But none of the things on my to-do list were what my heart really needed to feel worthwhile. Turns out, all I needed to do was snuggle up with my child and serve him.
I needed to watch the Captain Underpants movie with his tired head on my lap and hear him giggle at the stupid jokes.
I needed to read him his favorite Berenstain Bears books and help him put flower stickers on deserving characters in the stories. (Mama Bear got a lot of flowers,y'all-- because he's being raised right 😉)
I needed to let my boy teach me how to dance "the floss" so I could cheer on his imaginary football team. (Watch out, world, cuz I'ma do it everywhere now.)

But most importantly, I needed to look with loving eyes on my sweet child and remember that I'm being looked at the same way by my Father in heaven.

Are you tired, mama? Are you doubtful?
Do you feel unimportant? Unnecessary? Underwhelming?

You aren't. You are ridiculously valuable to a most high God. He created you ESPECIALLY! He loves you fiercely and forever. Breathe in that truth. Exhale out every stupid thought that says otherwise and makes your heart unwell..

Let us know His love.
Let us make it known.

(Then let's all dance, because I have a cool new move to try out. 😉)

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Of Deer and Dogs

One of my favorite things about my "little house on mansion street" is that we get to share it with a massive herd of whitetail deer. With all of the new subdivisions going up around the area, the deer have found a bit of sanctuary in our larger forested lots next to the creek. Though our lots are larger for the area, none of us here have spaces big enough to legally hunt the animals, and with plentiful food and an almost non-existent predator population, the deer have all but taken over. Because the deer understand that we are not a threat, they are hardly skittish or afraid of us, and a few "special" ones will even come right up to us.
It's almost like living in the Disney's Snow White, but instead of helping me with house chores, these forest creatures eat all of my flowering bushes and poop all over my lawn.

Even so, I have come to love the deer as a part of the overall experience of living here, and for the most part, I enjoy living alongside of them. However, my dog, Buster, does not feel the same way...

We adopted Buster a few years ago from a rescue shelter. At the time, he was completely malnourished and very weak. He never barked, he never got riled up about anything, and the only thing he seemed to get excited about at all was a good game of fetch. Even then, he wouldn't whine for me to throw the ball, but he would place it in my lap and sit expectantly. He was very expressive with his face, but never vocal. I honestly thought he was mute.

I thought wrong. (So very wrong.)

Once he started gaining weight and strength, he found his voice. Squirrels were his formidable enemies, followed closely by doves. If they entered the yard unwelcome, the whole neighborhood would know. He was a guard dog in every sense of the word, and he had a big bark to match.
When we moved here with the deer, I thought he would lose his mind. Turns out, I'm the one losing my mind constantly dealing with his barking.

The problem with his barking is that it does absolutely nothing. It literally serves no purpose.
The deer know that he's fenced in and can't harm them. As long as they stay a certain amount of feet back from the fence, they're totally free to eat flowers and poop as they please. And, it's not as if he's alerting me that there is something in my yard I didn't know about. I already know the deer are there, because they're everywhere.
So now instead of sweet Buster's barking being an informative tool (Hey Mom, something's here!) or a defensive tool (Here Mom, I'll scare them for you!), it is just a big bunch of noise and a giant pain in the butt.

My husband and I--okay, fine.--My husband has tried to train Buster to "bark better." We don't want him to lose his natural instincts to protect, because that's what good dogs do. But, he needs to know when something is really a threat, and when it is something that can be left alone. The deer are welcome to be in our yard, because they live here too. But there are things that they don't need to be right next to, and then we want to know. Sometimes Buster gets it right for us. Sometimes he barks at the deer in our neighbor's yard across the street--Sometimes I feel like we're making progress. Sometimes I feel like banging my head against the window...

Sweet friends, I worry that many of us are "barking" at things for no reason. There are "deer" all around us that we consider threats that are actually not doing anything other than living in the space that is rightfully theirs too. Does this make any sense?

Instead of saving the day, we are making noise that serves no purpose.
Hey guys, someone is here with an opinion!--We know that. Opinionated people are everywhere.
Hey guys, I am going to "scare back" this person with my noise!--Well, probably not, because they are protected by miles and miles of physical space *AND* the fact that you have no idea who that person even is, nor will you ever meet them. You are not a threat. You are just noisy. And they are still going to poop on your grass.

I used to be so bad about barking unnecessarily. I still don't get it right all of the time. Sometimes something seems threatening when it's not, and we misread the situation. I get that; I really do.
One of the better realizations that I ever came to was that whenever I got worked up, I needed to make this distinction:
Does this opinion offend my online persona or my actual person?

If there is a threat to your person, fight it. If there is a threat to your feelings, you don't have to.
There are a lot of "issues" going on in the world, and I have a general opinion about many of them. Some of the issues might be easy for people to guess my leanings toward, and some of them might surprise people. All of them are mine. None of them are necessarily threatened by people who don't agree with me. Almost all of these things can coexist with the person on the other side of the fence.

Guys, some of us are barking at things that aren't even in our own yards--you know what I mean? Sometimes we get so offended by things that aren't even our things!
How long you should date a person before you marry them, how old you should be when you get married, how many children is too many...
How a mom feeds her baby, how late she lets her kids stay up, home school or private school or public school, athletics or robotics or music or none...
How a person dresses, how a person eats, how a person decorates...

One of the best lines I've heard in a while is if it's not yours, don't take it.
This does not suggest that we ignore injustice because 'it's not happening to us.' If you personally witness someone else being threatened unlawfully or unethically, take it. That is now yours, friend.
But do you actually know someone who is offended by raw cotton stalks as décor? No? Then leave it where it is. You don't have to pick that up! Yes? You're one of the lucky ones, man! Do what my dog and the deer cannot do. Quit barking and open a dialogue. Gain some perspective. Do you have to agree? No. Will it change your opinion? Maybe, maybe not. Will it change the "level of threat?" I really, really think so.

I've found it surprising in my own life how much I can sympathize with and understand another person's argument without necessarily making it my own. I think the biggest lie we've been given as a society is that we have to pick a side for literally everything. There are many opportunities where I can live somewhere, very peaceably, right in the middle. I can understand very clearly the needs of both the deer and the dog and work to serve each of them fairly, within my means.

At the end of the day the earth is one big yard and we are all entitled to share it. Don't mistake our co-inhabitants for enemies. Don't always mistake disagreements for threats. There are real threats in the yard to be certain. But the biggest danger of all *just might be* that none of us are going to know when the real threats show up if we've already tuned out all of the barking.

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:18)

Lord, help us.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Little House on Mansion Street

Our family moved to the burbs outside of Austin, TX, last December. We don't like to brag about it a whole lot, but I'm pretty sure we are the house-finding ninjas of the Army. Outside of our very first PCS, (Army slang for "move,") we have never lived in a neighborhood or house that I wouldn't move back to. This house is no exception.

We found it completely by accident after being let down by a sneaky realtor. One of my favorite kinds of blessings are the ones that happen immediately after you have been let down. I feel like it's God's way of saying, "I see you, I'm here, and I haven't gone anywhere."
After falling in love with and losing the sneaky realtor's house, I was determined to find another house in the same area. The only problem was, none of the listings were in our government-employee price range. (Apparently those lovely Californians had brought their home prices with them when they came to Texas.)
But then my husband found it, all available and vacant, next to the two most beautiful words that can be seen next to a house listing: "price reduced." It was a couple of miles past the original neighborhood I was ogling, but it was off the same main access road and had the same awesome school ratings. We booked the viewing, and I held my breath.

The first time we turned down the road on my street, I thought we were lost. Each custom home was nicely situated on 3 and 4 and 5 acre lots, and the further down you drove, the more extravagant they got. My husband and I just looked at each other.
"Are you sure you're on the right street?" I asked.
"The GPS lady says I am," he answered.

We drove about a mile down, passing a beautiful, stately home separated from the street by a private pond (or maybe a moat??) and then we saw it; our sweet little 3 bedroom 2 bathroom house, built in 1979--still basking in much of her linoleum and wallpapered glory. It has a sunken living room and the tiniest master bathroom you've ever seen and a sad, dreary brown door.

I truly loved it.

As we toured the house and asked questions, we happened to notice some new construction on the lot next door. It turned out that a well-off custom pool and home contractor for the area had decided to build his dream home in that spot. So we would be the little house between the castle with a moat and the 6,500 sq. ft. looker with a dream pool.

Oh man! Where do we sign?!

For a while it was really amusing to me that we were the regular Joes where all the Joneses were. Their kids would drive their golf carts and motorized scooters down the street, while we would have a contest with our kids in the front yard using the three-year-old hula hoop I had bought on clearance for two bucks. We would take family walks in the evening and swoon over two to three miles-worth of beautiful homes and cars and yards and dogs. (Seriously, one of our neighbors said he spent thousands of dollars on each of his rare breed of dog. He had THREE of them!) I always enjoyed looking at all of these treasures, but it was enough for me just to look at them--while I appreciated the beauty that was in those things, I never felt the pull to have them for myself.

But you know what the enemy does to your heart whenever it's content? It's so small and seemingly innocent, you might not even notice it's happening. He makes you aware that other things are attainable. It's not that you are immediately ungrateful for the things you do have, but you start to develop this lingering hope of what you might have someday. And then, ever so subtly...

what you have < what you hope to have. Eventually, the things you do have no longer seem good enough. Sure, they were perfectly good and amusing before, but this other thing might be better. It sure looks better.

That's how you covet. That's how he can take a sweet contentment, the slightest hope for blessings and favor--something we are promised in the LORD!--and corrupt it, turning it into sin.

He's done this from the very beginning, friends.

"Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
(Genesis 3:1-7 NIV)

I used to pride myself on the fact that I was never much of a material girl. My parents didn't have a lot of money growing up, and so I didn't put a lot of stock on things. Then I went to college where EVERYBODY is poor. Then, I married a man in the Army, where we all make modest amounts of money and any nice thing you DO have gets broken during a move anyway.
People, this is the first time I have ever lived anywhere or known anyone who was able to have these beautiful things. And it turns out, after all this time of thinking I was above it, I am not immune.

No one is.

So how do we overcome it?

We seek our contentment from God and God alone. Which is like the easiest sounding BUT MOST EASY TO SCREW UP THING EVER.
It was literally our first sin. That is why it is the first of the Ten Commandments: You shall have NO other Gods before me. Know what the last one is? Thou shalt not covet.
Coincidence? I think not.
It is SO important, SO critical, SO easy to slip up on, that He bookends it. First, LOVE ME FIRST. Last, DESIRE NO THING OVER ME.

Yesterday, I started a Bible Study at my new church on Tim Keller's "Counterfeit Gods". Basically, I am only ten pages into this book and AM RUINED FOREVER. As I entered the room, I was all like, "Man, I wonder what kind of small, little bit of something that's not Jesus is hiding under the surface here" and a single hour later, God was all "YOU BEAUTIFUL IDIOT! YOU LIKE THE THINGS!"
Y'all. Turns out I like the things.

So here I am, and here is where I'm at. I won't stay here, though. One day, in the future, I really will be over all of these worldly things. But that's not today.
Pray for me. Pray for you. Pray for all of us.

"Than any comfort, Jesus is better--make my heart believe.
More than all riches, Jesus is better--make my heart believe.
Our souls declaring, Jesus is better--make my heart believe.
Our song eternal, Jesus is better--make my heart believe."

(Also, feel free to come visit me anytime. I'm the little fella between all the giant mansions.)

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Tough Breaks

I'm just going to say some things here that probably won't make me sound like Mom of the Year. In fact, I'm not even sure that "good moms" are supposed to admit these things to people, but here it goes...

I love back-to-school time. A lot.

I love having my home to myself. I love every blissful moment of quiet. The empty-house hours of 7am to 3pm are MY JAM.
While I do enjoy spending every waking minute with my kids, doing so sure can make it hard to get other things done (and therefore, they usually don't.)

There are mothers who seem to thrive in the summertime. They claim that they love every minute of summer and that it goes by too fast. They weep when their children stroll through the front doors of school, and they anxiously count down the minutes until their children's return.

Let me just say, I absolutely love those moms. I totally understand most of the things that they say.

I just am not one of them.

Even when my kids were small, I looked forward to them being old enough to go to school. I didn't look forward to them growing up super fast. I didn't look forward to them not needing me as much. I didn't even necessarily look forward to them being away from me.
I just looked forward to a time when I could be productive without feeling so scattered. I looked forward to a time when I could complete tasks without pre-school shows playing noisily in the background. I looked forward to being able to finish a project without being interrupted every few minutes by cries or spills or "potty emergencies."

Then, in what seemed like the blink of an eye, it happened. Both of my kids were in school, and I was living the dream.
I have to admit, this whole school-aged kid thing is pretty much as sweet a gig as I figured it would be.

This is certainly not to say that I don't look forward to summertime, or summer vacations, or all of the precious memories we are sure to make. Those sweet moments are not lost on me--no no!

In fact, this summer was an incredibly special time for my family, (and there's not any way to write that sentence and not have it be a huge understatement.) Because of my husband's unique "job" right now, we got to spend the entire summer together. No deployments, no training exercises, no all-day workdays, no late nights, no work emergencies, no middle-of-the-night phone calls. Just us, every day. Our family had worked and sacrificed so much for this time, and I felt like we had totally earned this break.
We literally put all other responsibilities aside. Togetherness was the #1 priority. This summer was an absolute treat, and I was so thankful to have been given that time.

And yet, I still was ready for it to be over and for school to start. It is inevitable with me. Sometime between July and August, I feel a strong sense of longing for backpacks and carpools and extracurricular activities and normalcy. I felt so bad about it--like maybe something was wrong with me. One night as I sat around the family calendar and pondered how on earth we were going to entertain ourselves for the X remaining days until everyone went back to school, I felt a nudge in my soul. Maybe I'm not wrong to feel this way, because we're not made for summer breaks and endless leisure and no responsibilities.
We were made for the harvest.

For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.
1 Corinthians 3:9

Breaks are absolutely necessary and encouraged. My children needed this time with their dad; I know that. My husband needed this time with us. My heart needed this season of togetherness for us.
And then I needed to get back to work.

You see, I have been guilty of letting my fields lie fallow all summer. I took the term "summer break" too literally. I took breaks from working out like I should have. I took breaks from keeping up with housework like I should have. I took breaks from cooking my family proper meals like I should have. I took breaks from doing my morning Bible studies like I should have.

I put my personal projects and my tasks on hold so I could hold my babies; and while I am not for one hot minute saying that is a bad thing, I've got to tell you, moms---that is only one of our jobs!
Our babies will grow up to be fellow workers, too.

They need to see us relishing in our work and not just yearning for our breaks.

((Insert the sound of truth bombs exploding everywhere.))

We live in a world that sings "Summertime and the livin' is easy," but we serve a God that made the summertime; and He says "Wake up and look around! The fields are already ripe for harvest.."

Break time is over, thank goodness. The work is here. I am ready for it, because I was born for it. We all were, my friends.

Hooray for back-to-school. Hooray for getting back to business.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

On Clanging Bells

I haven't written for a while. I know that happens a lot with me.

Most of the time, I let my on-again off-again style go unexplained. (My blogs tend to be wordy enough as it is!) But in favor of transparency, I wanted to tell you why this time.

Sometimes I don't write because I'm busy, and as a mom, I often let my hobbies take the backseat. (I know so many of you can relate!)
Sometimes I don't write because I'm interrupted. For me, blogging requires a couple hours of quality quiet time, and I'm pretty sure that "hours" and "quiet" are rare and magical unicorns that exist somewhere hard to reach and that they almost never hang out together.
Sometimes I don't write because I'm uninspired. I have a lot of thoughts--and let's face it--they can't all be winners. (I apologize for writing two entire blogs about my dirty floors, though I can't promise not to do it again--There's good stuff in dirt, people!)

This time, though, I didn't write because I was tired. I was tired of all the noise on the Internet, and I was tired of adding my voice to the jumble of all the others. The thought of putting one more opinion out there for people to filter through overwhelmed me and shut me down.
Aren't you tired of processing all of the voices? There are so many of them. Mad and angry. Sad and depressed. Scared and worried. Blaming and finger-pointing. Expert and all-knowing. Sentimental and sappy. Egoistic. Altruistic.
And yet, I have been all of those things!! I have made all of those same sounds.

This realization, then, gave me a HUGE feeling of inadequacy. Who was I to sell people my thoughts as if I was enlightened or had everything all figured out?! I promise you, I am one of the craziest people I know and oftentimes, the biggest emotional mess. I get through life because of a merciful God, a significant amount of hand-holding from the sweet people in my life, and fair amount of humor.
...And coffee... And sometimes also wine.

When I write, I write with the intent to encourage others and never with the intention of proving that I have things all figured out. I confess, it may have started out that way in the "early years," but I am over that now. Few should be teachers, and I certainly shouldn't be one.

But I love Jesus. And I love being a mom. I love being married to my service member. I love looking for the bigger picture inside of the seemingly small moments. I love cheering people up, making people laugh, and showing that there is always hope (even for us crazy people.)
And, I just happen to love to write.

In fact, I have become much more motivated lately to make my writing and this blog a "thing." And while I'm still not sure exactly what this means yet myself, I do know that I wanted to tell you that here.

For a long time I didn't want to do this because I didn't think I was good enough.
Then, I didn't want to do it because I thought there was no longer a market for it. Really and truly, how many more "feel-good bloggers" do we need? There are lots of people out there like me, I know, with the same visions to make the same kinds of sounds.
I was convicted when I read something from Jennie Allen's book, Nothing to Prove:
Maybe you have a God-given dream, and you look around you and you see other people doing something similar and that shuts you down. You will get to see God work crazy miracles out of your life if you stop looking side to side and instead consider the good things that are right in front of you. But we look side to side and say, "Someone is already doing it; my dream is taken."

I realized that those other people might want to make my same sounds, but God sent them to make them in other places. I was meant to make them in mine.

You see, there is one God with many children.
One story with many story-tellers.
Many, many, many seeds. One vine.

...One dirty floor. Many, many more stories about mopping. (Just kidding. Probably.)

Thank you to the sweet people who have encouraged me in ways big and small. It is my honest prayer to be able to give such encouragement back to you. And thank you for listening to my noise, as I am pretty sure that's all it was today.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Bland vs. Grand (And Perhaps Some More Mopping)

Here shortly, I will celebrate nine years of marriage to my husband. We are not quite newlyweds, and we are also by no means seasoned experts. We are stuck somewhere in the middle where you ask each other what you want for Christmas and you get a table top grill and a workout DVD for the total damage of $40. (True story.) For Valentine's Day, I got my husband a bag of "Big Hunk" candies that I randomly spotted at the grocery store, and I put them on his pillow for, I don't know...creative flair?? (Why, yes. He is one lucky, lucky man.)

It's not that the romance is dead so much as we are finally becoming comfortable enough in our affections not to have them influenced solely by the calendar date. It is so nice, and easy, and good. And did I mention easy? (Easiness cannot be overstated here.)
Sometimes, romance really is as easy as making time to sit on the front porch together for some drinks and conversation, or pouring a couple glasses of wine while you cook dinner together, or even having a hallway dance party while one of you holds a laundry basket. (True story again.)

I worry about our culture's desire to make everything be grand.

Do you know how I got asked out to prom? In the hallway, leaving the cafeteria, like this:
Boy: Hey Liz. Would you like to go to prom together?
Me: No, sorry. (True, and HA!)

Do you know how I announced my pregnancy on social media? One sentence, no picture: We're expecting another baby!
Gender reveal? Called my mom and dad on the phone. Told all the other people who asked when they asked.
My proposal was pretty nicely done, I won't lie. But immediately afterwards? Dinner at Bennigan's. (Not sure if those even still exist.)

None of these moments in my life were any less special for having been done simply.

I wish I could say that I am still that person most of the time--that given the chance to do these things all over again I would have the same sweet, simple expectations. And yet, I know I wouldn't. I, too, am a victim of the siren's call to always showcase my best. The appearance of grandeur has gotten the best of me.

I strive all the time to make my life seem like more. I put unnecessary pressure on myself for things to appear effortless. I set unrealistic expectations for things to always go perfectly. I cling to an unfounded belief that if I make my life appear just a little more special, then I will somehow actually be just a little more fulfilled.

This always sets me up for disappointment, because while life is beautiful, it doesn't always read as being grand.

And here's the kicker, folks. It's not SUPPOSED to be grand, and we're not supposed to *want* it to be.

-In 1 Thessalonians we're told to make it our ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind our own business, to work with our hands.
-Jeremiah 45 asks "Are you seeking great things for yourself? Don't do it!"
-Proverbs 13:7 says "A pretentious, showy life is an empty life. A plain and simple life is a full life. (MSG translation)
-Solomon, regarded as the wisest man on earth except for Jesus, shares this happy nugget:
"This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them-for this is their lot." (from Ecclesiastes 5)

Y'all, I'll say it... This is depressing.
Not fabulous.
Not Facebook-worthy.
Not at ALL what I picture when I think of abundant life.

I know I just wrote a blog about mopping and you're tired of me talking about it, but housework has to be done--and it ain't grand! Neither is disciplining children. Neither is taking care of sick people in your home. Neither is paying the bills, or driving your kids to and from school and ALLLLL the activities, or making all the meals, or having Saturday be "more laundry day".

These little moments may not seem like a whole lot, but they were never meant to stand alone.

The finest grocery store candy on a pillow is not enough on its own to be a seed for romance. (Shocking, I know.) But when it's paired with all the other memories and efforts and laughter and tears it somehow adds up to nine years of really good stuff.

That's how life goes. These little bitty, totally lackluster things that we spend life doing-when stringed together-make marriages, parenthood, friendships, community, homes--which are some pretty neat things! And then these things, when put together into the same story, make something grand.

That's all our lives are ever intended to be: single threads, seemingly unpresumptuous, but being woven together in God's grand story. It's not our tapestry, but we get to be a part of it. Our highest aim is to become humble, strong threads, made more beautiful by the multitude of all the others above and below and beside us.

We're making things much harder than they have to be. If a showy life is an empty life, then I have no business chasing it. Truly, if my lot is to eat, drink, work, and be happy then that ain't a bad life!! In moments where I want more, I think it takes me two hot milliseconds to realize how much I have, how good I have it, and how content I ought to be. Maybe even to the point of OVERWHELM. Jeremiah 45 says to me, "Do you seek great things for yourself, Liz? Don't do it! because your heart will literally burst with gratitude and awe and you'll just always be a sobbing mess."

Are you striving, friend? Don't.
Stick to your corner. Do your work. Love your people. Be content.

*I promise you don't need to impress me, because I already think you're pretty grand.*

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Adventures in Mopping

Friends, can I publicly admit once and for all what I have only recently been able to say out loud?

I love Austin. I love it a whole lot. I think it might be the best city in America, and I don't care what kind of an Aggie it makes me to think that. Urban living meets cattle ranching. Texas barbecue meets taco trucks meets locally-grown everything. Outdoor adventure FOR DAYZZZ meets live music capital of the world.

Y'all, there is a microbrewery + dog park here. I cannot get over it. It is so wonderfully weird, and I'm completely smitten.

Every time the Army decides to move us anywhere, I go into research mode. Normal people research houses and schools--and I do my share of that too--but the one thing I really get into is trying to figure out where the adventure is in a new place. What are the must-trys? Where do the locals go? What's the main schtick for getting tourists to come visit? I'm pretty sure that I searched for five days before my brain BROKE from all the choices here. I was so excited. We were going to do all the things! We would never be bored! Adventure forever!!!

You know what I forgot, friends? Life is full of like 98% have-to-get-done's and 2% adventure. My kids have to go to school, my husband has to go to work, and I am NOT good at driving in traffic.

For the sake of transparency, here is Liz's real life schedule:
Saturday-more laundry

(Adventure erryday, folks!)

Friends, can I publicly admit once and for all what my brain has only been allowed to think just recently?

I love my life, but I thought it would be more. Do you ever feel that way? I honestly believed that if I worked hard enough at school and did the right extracurricular activities and checked off the right boxes and achieved enough that the doors to success were just going to magically open up for me. I didn't know what job I wanted, but I didn't think it was going to be a housewife. I didn't know what I wanted my Thursdays to look like, but I didn't think they were going to be "mopping days."

I've been talking to God a lot lately, asking Him to show me where He wants me to be and how He wants me to work. My prayers are something along the lines of: God, I know you moved me here for a reason, and I know you have opportunities for me here. Point me where you want me to go. Show me. Open up those doors.

And meanwhile, as I wait on those doors to open...
He keeps putting dust on the furniture. He keeps putting laundry in the basket. He keeps putting dirt on the floors.

Has God ever answered a prayer in a way that didn't feel "grand enough" for you?

A few days ago I was reading a story in the Bible where an enemy soldier who had leprosy went to the Israelites looking for mercy through a miracle of God. The prophet Elisha sent him a messenger telling him to dip himself in a river so he'd be cured, and the soldier became angry. He said, "I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn't I wash in them and be cleansed?"

I thought surely God would have a position for me in Austin. Are not there more opportunities here than there were in any of the other cities He has sent me? Isn't there something that I'm supposed to be doing outside of this house? Is there not some bigger adventure I am supposed to be living here?

After the soldier's ungrateful, self-important temper tantrum, his servants went to him and said, "My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, 'Wash and be cleansed'!"

You guys, if someone would have offered me a job last month--any job at all--I would have taken it and thought that I was doing a better thing somehow.
I'm here to tell you that sometimes God tells you your job is to mop the floors.

Don't misunderstand me. Sometimes the door that opens is grand and glorious for sure, but more often than not, the door that opens seems very humble and small. It is just God's style.

It looks like a woman who won't leave her mother-in-law to suffer and gleans scrap from a field.
I looks like a red ribbon tied in a window.
It looks like a shepherd boy's sling and stone.
It looks like walking circles around a wall playing a trumpet.
It looks like an outcast family and a baby in a barn.

Who am I to say that it doesn't look like mopping floors?

In light of eternity, in the very small corner of God's story that I get to be a part of, there is no telling what my job is and what it means. I am just too finite to ever know. God simply tells us to be faithful with what we're given.

And today He has given me dirty floors, in a house that I share with the most wonderful family anyone could wish for, in the most amazing city in America.

Adventure erryday, indeed!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

On Broken Bones

I am quite the expert at breaking my body parts. I have always been one of the world's better klutzes, and I suspect I always will be. I've endured many a broken bone, surgery, stitches, sports injuries, mystery ailments...(Major shout out to my parents and Blue Cross Blue Shield.) I'm pretty sure that I am, in fact, the Million Dollar Man, just slightly less bionic-y.

As someone who has experienced injury so often, I am very familiar with the idea that the whole is the sum of its parts. As much as you wish that a broken ankle would not affect your arms, it does. The work of the hands is incapacitated because they have to carry the crutches. The comfort of the underarms is compromised because of the constant friction created by the rubber rests. While not rendered completely useless on its own, your other leg works much better and faster with a partner. The stomach feels better without pain meds upsetting it. Even after the ankle is healed, the head doesn't fully trust its strength and overcompensates on the other side to protect your ankle from re-injury---and this constant misuse and misalignment destroys your back. It's a whole thing.

The same is true in a church. When one ministry struggles, the rest of the work is slowed as we scramble to cover down for it. Follow me in this:
When a children's ministry is short volunteers one Sunday, someone else has to step in--this could be a door greeter, or a information desk clerk, or a mom of young children who was really just hoping to sit down and focus on the message today. None of these people had the curriculum beforehand. None of them were prepared. The kids are now getting a glorified babysitter instead of a Bible lesson. Meanwhile, new visitors who would have been welcomed by the greeter or directed by the desk clerk are now navigating the church alone and feel like outsiders instead of valued guests. A mom who needed a message missed it and is likely going home more overwhelmed than when she came in.
This is a stretch, I know, but not without truth. When one part loses its efficiency, the other parts lose their effectiveness. Something's gotta give. Something is sacrificing, somewhere.

This happens with the individuals within our churches, too. When I am broken for whatever reason--sadness, despair, worry, guilt, shame, anger, jealousy, secrecy--I slow down the Lord's work. Because God is God, and His Will will be done, He calls other believers to pick up my slack. But now they are doing their work and mine. Now the extra pressure and burden is on them while I take time to repair myself. If I am broken enough to take some real time to heal, the friction that I created for my fellow believers will start to injure them, too. It could be a while before "the Head" (which is Christ) trusts me to do His work again.

That is why it is so important to work on wellness, to strive toward maturity, and to grow together in unity. Ephesians 4:16 says, "From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work." It's a whole thing.

But friend, even well bodies are not completely immune to sickness. We will most certainly all fall short and require people to pick up our slack. Your pastor is a human who will struggle in his faith. Your brothers and sisters are humans who will grow weary, falter, and stumble into temptation. That is why in Ephesians 4 Paul also tells us to "[b]e completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love." Men have a tendency to want to fix what's broken, but only God can do that. Christ tells us to bear each other's burdens, lovingly, while He heals them.

So to the brother or sister who is feeling the rub from carrying someone else's load, rejoice! Know that with every extra effort, Christ is saying to you "Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your Master's happiness!"

And to the brother or sister who is broken, accept the grace that is sufficient, the strength that is made perfect in weakness, and let Christ heal you.

Then, get back to work.