But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair; persecuted but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus so sthat the life of Jesus may be revealed in our body. -2 Corinthians 4:7-10

Sunday, January 1, 2017

2017 Forecast

It has become culturally taboo to actually set New Year's resolutions, and I have not set out to do so. It has never really been my practice to develop any, either.  I have a hard enough time dealing with my inability to reach my own expectations of perfection; the last thing I need are more unrealistic expectations for myself.  No dead-end diets here or fix-yourself-in-three-easy-steps.  However, let's not throw the baby out with the bath water.  Setting unrealistic, "change-my-life-overnight" goals is not equivalent to reflecting and processing the last year while putting skin on the values and priorities I desire for the next year.  And let's just say this New Year came at just the right time, because I was definitely in need of some refocusing, recentering, and reconnecting with the One who makes us all new.

LAST YEAR. 2016. This last year has taken it out of me.  There have been some great highs and wonderful memories, but there have been some valleys and persistent struggles. Sometimes the biggest struggle has been the combination of all the little struggles all struggling at once. Sometimes just too much for me - and I know not for Him - but I only felt the "for me" part.  Work-wise, I would say it has been the most demanding year of my career with a lot of high-speed change and pressure.  I'm a lover of change and challenge and have been fortunate to be a part of some exciting stuff, but there has been an overflow of opportunity in those areas. Parenting-wise, the world of a working toddler mom is an absolute blast, and I am never short of something to giggle about, but it is also extremely high maintenance.  Some people get their soft-spoken, mild-mannered, obedient sweetie out of the first batch; I think you all know, we dove right in - we got this beautiful, strong-willed, feisty leader who is a mountain-mover, no doubt. I absolutely cannot wait to see what mountains she moves throughout her life, which I pray will be for the kingdom empowered by the King, but it does not make it any less exhausting in real time today training up all that potential in the way she should go. Marriage-wise, it's been an uplifting year in that we experienced so much enrichment and encouragement in our marriage but at the same time learned all over again all the hard work and attention required to maintain that type of growth and progress.  Homewise, the normal - laundry, dishes, dinner, groceries, repeat.  Throw in a few homeowner projects.  It sounds like the life of just about any of you, my friends - work, family, kids = stress. But, the last few months of 2016 had become foggy; it has been hard to think, see, or pray clearly about any one thing.  I was drowning a bit in the thick of it all, if you can humor my dramatic flair. To me, it was a call for action; reflection first and then wholehearted action.  The last week of this holiday break has been such a much-needed blessing, to be able to clear the fog, and determine what I can do to keep my lines of communication with the Lord clear and open and my connection to His power, wisdom, and strength in tact.  Because the struggle may have been real but it has not been "TOO MUCH" for my God - it has been exactly where he placed me and what He called me to - it is all incredibly important and worthwhile and necessary.  It IS too much for just me, though, and if I'm going to stay afloat as a living vessel, I've got to keep accessing this living water.

THIS YEAR. 2017. So, I took some time out today for two separate reflective, guided activities developed by two Godly women I highly esteem (Jennie Allen and Ann Voskamp) to process the year we are leaving behind and to purpose intentionality and abundance in the new year.  This is my second year completing Jennie Allen's Dream Guide, and it was a highly fruitful time for me to process some life and identify the gaps of what I've left still unprocessed and make a plan to do so.  Ann released her 2017 super cute printable yesterday via her Facebook page, and I loved it so much I added it to my project today.  I've typed out my 2017 commitments, or conclusions, below.  I did so in part to give myself a digital paper trail and in part to provide myself some community and accountability in all of this.

My prayer is just to use these as guiding lights this year, not my ride or dies - more like fluid steps in the right direction as God leads me gently one step at a time through both the foggy mornings or the clear sky nights.  Some commitments may be just the first step in a direction that ends up morphing a bit throughout the year.  Nevertheless, this is where I'm headed now.  I have simply determined that these are necessary steps to love well, live abundantly, and reflect anything close to the image of my Savior.

What about you friend?  What reflections have you made the last few days?  What will it take for you to love well and live this crazy life abundantly?

Project 1: Ann Voskamp's Printable
2017: This is the year I purpose to...
[Ann provides the first word and you are left to finish the phrases]

Embrace Insufficiency
Engage His Sufficient Power
Be Genuine
Believe His Promises
Break Cycles of Shame
Daily Time in the Word
Do the Hard Work
Let go of Unrealistic Expectations
Learn to Cope
Live Abundantly
Give freely
Grow deeper in relationships

Project 2: Jennie Allen's 2017 Dream Guide
2017: Dream Guide
[Jenny asks the same 4 questions throughout several different categories and sub-categories of life; these are my action steps from all of that processing.]

Spiritual:
I want to read through the Bible this year through the SOLO devotional.
I want to be proactive to meet needs I see within my church and community.
I want to commit to what I realistically CAN do and then selflessly serve by doing it.
I'm going to pray for a mentor, a mentee, and/or an accountability partner.
I want to invest in eternity and not just the moment within my outreach relationships.

Relationships:
I want to control my social media use.  I'm going to install a social media tracking app, and I am also going to set times of the day where I will restrict my use (workdays will be 5-8pm, for example).
I want to be more of a support and "cheerleader" to my sweet husband.
I've got to prioritize time with Jesus so I can be a more patient, mindful and emotionally present wife and mom.

Personal:
I want to finish reading The Broken Way, read Nothing to Prove, and complete at least two Brene Brown books.
I want to process shame in my own imperfections.
I want to process some other areas of my life.
I want to do dance videos at night for exercise.
I want to start every day by drinking water.

Work:
I want to prioritize practicing self-care to combat burn-out and secondary traumatic stress.
I want to be the type of leader of integrity that clearly makes all slander a lie.

Monday, August 22, 2016

I am the branch.

And she unloaded it on me faster than I had time to shut my door to contain it. More life in her 15 years than in my 31, and by life, of course I mean, the brokenness and humanity of it all...the pain...the "that should never have happened to you, hun"s and the "that should never have been asked or expected of you"s or just the red welling up in the eyes and the spontaneous waterfalls over the lids. It was so loud and rowdy, the spilling of the story, the sharing of life. But it was the birth of relationship and trust. Painful laboring. Bittersweet bonding. Blame, despair, then hope. Clinging to the hope. 

I need Him like that. Rephrase: I need to need Him like that. I need to spill it all at His feet without warning or restraint. I need to unload all the brokenness and humanity in me before Him. I need to make the space for the red eyes and waterfalls. I need to re-establish my safe place where I draw the joy, the strength. Because she did, she drew the hope, the joy, the strength right through the air between us...but since I wasn't intentionally and consistently drawing from the well, I was just running on fumes, it nearly emptied me. I need it, because that is where the trust and relationship is continually rebirthed. That is where the blame for self or others turns to hope anyway because all the grace, that is where despair clings to Hope, where sadness reflects joy. 

As I stood amidst the flood, the waters rising higher as the emotions filled the room and she tore down the walls between us with her bare hands and bare heart, I really only could keep my head above water. But today, I've realized I just needed more Him. I needed His Truth not just on the walls of my office but on the walls of my heart. I needed His Song not seared into memory but singing in my soul. I needed to be the branch on the vine, connected and pulling breath and life from outside of myself.  I need to activate my prayer closet again, the space in my life where the most tender wounds are healed and the heaviest weights upon my shoulders are relieved. I need to be tearing down the walls with a bare heart. Because the next wave is coming tomorrow. 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

TOP 10 WORKING MOM SURVIVAL TIPS

Timehop told me today that it's been two years since the anxiety was wrecking me of my maternity leave ending and the life of a working mom beginning. (Thanks by the way to all of you who walked that road with me. God bless that broken road that led me straight to you.)

Upon this reflection, I realized all that had changed in two short years and how we'd made a life out of this working mom situation and how I've grown to truly love my life. 

A few minutes later, I had this.

TOP 10 WORKING MOM SURVIVAL TIPS: 

1. Accept YOUR STORY. As soon as I compare myself to another mom, I typically throw myself into a tizzy. I've slowly come to realize that the only story I can live is mine (and that I'm not even writing it)! And I've fallen in love with it. I'm a 5:00pm mommy (there's only a small club of babies picked up at the late hour of 5:00pm and mine is one of them), and I don't really love it; I accept it. Noelle is a 5:00 baby but she's also a well-loved baby whose Mommy happens to work until 5:00pm. It's how the cookie crumbled, and we are eating it. No sense in asking why it's not a snicker doodle. 

2. CHATBOOKS. Look them up. Use them. No sense in using your .25 minutes leftover at the end of the day to put together handcrafted, beautiful paper mache and calligraphied scrapbooks of every month of life. Unless that's your jam. My jam is using what you're already (probably) doing (social media) and magically turning it into cute little books full of memories with literally no scissors or glue or hours taken from my family. 

3. Sweat the big stuff, not the small stuff. 
This one took me a while, and I still have to be reminded by the champions in my life. But the small stuff will steal our joy. It will crumple our souls in the corner. We've got to keep our eyes on the prize and contribute our biggest energy to our biggest priorities. Worrying about Pinterest-worthy Valentine's (all great when you have the time and inspiration but deadly when you don't) could destroy your sanity, marriage, or  pocketbook if you're not careful. Also narrowing your stress-worthy concerns about your kiddos to your ultimate dreams for their life help tremendously when it comes to stumbling over behaviors or colds or tiny friendships. If you want most in the world for your child to love the Lord and love others deeply from the heart, it quickly narrows the "big stuff" to sweat and helps keep things in perspective. (Preaching to myself daily.)

4. FROZEN ___________. 
Frozen veggies. Frozen pizza. Freezer meals when I've shopped, organized, prayed, and reserved a Saturday. Frozen yogurt. Frozen lasagna. Frozen French fries. These are your friends. No one is hating. 

5. Cleaning days and Clutter days. Occasionally, when I can, I take a day off to clean my house. Sure, I can (and do) it on Saturdays, but as I juggle family time and the mountain of laundry and home, something is always compromised. Either the quality of my cleaning or the quality of my time with my family. So I like to send the Daddy and daughter to school and deep clean when I can. When I can't...and when Saturday compromised cleaning rather than cuddling, we declare a clutter day and live in the mess while we make the memories. We're not going to be nasty, but we're going to have fun. 

6. Fruit Snacks
Pack them in your purse, pocket, console, under your bed, in your shoe. There are few problems these mostly-plastic and barely-nutritious magical unicorns can do. Always have them in hand or nearby. 
 
7. NO.
 I just can't be in every service group, Bible Study, fundraiser, play group, leadership committee, or at every shower, party, or girls' night. I've got 4-5 main balls in the air and they are each so incredibly important. I spend most of my energy everyday keeping those in the air. Adding balls 5, 6, or please no, 7, exponentially increases my chances of dropping ball 1 or 2 which, I've decided, can't happen. So I've learned my limitations, and that it is freeing to say no. That its okay to not be involved in everything during this stage of life, even if it is in area of interest or giftedness. I only have so many weekends a year, minutes in a day, and days in a week.  

8. PRESENCE over PRESENTS.  There is no doubt Noelle is spoiled rotten and virtually every cent that used to be contributed to my wardrobe or recreational activities is now poured into her little life. I'm not even going to try to hide this "growth area" (read: massive weakness) of mine. However, I've had to realize this is no compensation for the time she's not with me. I just cannot have her equate my love, attention, or care with material things. There is no replacement for quality time. So, from the beginning, because I would have it no other way, it has been family time after 5 until bed time and from sun up to sun down on Saturdays and Sundays. Family time sometimes trumps dishes or naps or events. But connecting with each other deeply daily is most important. We eat dinner at the table, we read stories and say prayers in bed, we play and laugh, and hug, and sing because this is what it means to be a family. 

9. On-line shopping and Consignment
To maintain and continue to build upon my very present weakness (and to meet the very real and ever changing needs of a small body that changes sizes about every hour), Zulily and target.com have become my best friends. Even for diapers. Deals upon deals. And all while you're cooking, riding in the car, or using the bathroom. I mean, time isn't growing on trees and neither is the money. Also Facebook friends who sell their gently used cute stuff. And before you think it's as bad as it looks, I am a huge consignment junkie! Since prenatal days, I've been supplying 75% of Noelle's wardrobe with Rhea Lana's, consignment stores, and hand-selected rummage sales. I'm picky, but I'm cheap. It works. 

10. Community.  
You've got to have some friends who you can tell it like it is. They've got to be willing to normalize the sleepless nights, tantrums, sick days, daycare behavior, and the emotional mommy days for you. Because the moment you feel like you're the only one, the air becomes more shallow and the sand starts sinking in. We've got to know no matter our individual situations, we're in this together. And that our current stressor is not going to sink this ship. The friends that can't normalize and support us in our darkest moments without self-righteous, personalized solutions don't need to be our inner circle and community. Have the courage to text a safe friend and say, "Today is the hardest day. Life at work is imploding and life at home is exploding. And my child just let everyone at Walmart know about it." The safest friend sends prayers and hugs. 

BONUS: (the one that's saved me) Set aside the stacks of articles and apps and mommy club emails counting out every tiny detail of your tiny's life for a moment and look at your child. Listen to them as they communicate to you in their own way what they need. My baby girl stayed on a bottle approximately and scientifically 10 months too long, stood late, walked early, said her first word late, spoke full sentences early, hits and misses in her potty training journey, didn't like her crib too much, loves her big girl bed all night, has angelic days and days of terror, and just doesn't fit into a box.  Awhile back I realized meeting her need exactly where she was developmentally was far more important than matching benchmarks in everymom.com articles or living up to stereotypes or others' expectations. It took a bit of bravery to step out on this slippery slope but once I did I slid all the way down to some freedom and realized we're all happy and she's not barely surviving, she's thriving.  

What are your top survival tips? 


Sunday, August 16, 2015

Boxes of People & Oceans of Grace

So, there are these boxes.  Our homes are filled with them, our workplaces, our churches, our Facebook pages, our hashtags, and most deeply, our relationships.  The boxes are what we build around the people in our lives.  We want them to stay inside; we need them to stay within the box's limits.  Letting people out of the confines we put them in is risky, dangerous, and mostly outright terrifying.  Because more than anything, we are all looking for some control and to know what the heck is going on in this world and where there is safety and where it makes sense.  And eliminate the mess.  So, the boxes.  They let us stack people neatly, cleanly, efficiently...and it allows us to keep people exactly where we want them.  It helps us feel that we are, after all, exactly who we want to be. In a room of boxed up people, the risks involved in relationships shrink dramatically because the unknown can't be explored within a box.  We won't be wrong about them if they are crammed inside our box.  We won't be hurt by them if they are limited by its walls.  We won't fall victim to the shell-shock of the failure of humanity when we've already got them locked in.  I know you've seen it, but you may not have realized you, too, have done it.  We all have.  To keep myself from boxing life and people, including myself, in is a conscious, prayerful endeavor of my each and every day, an endeavor I am reminded most to take when I myself get smashed in the box of another.

Today, I got put in a box. I was the helpless mom running out of Wal-mart with a flapping toddler in need of a nap and buckling her into the car with her Dad while I returned to speed shop for our weekly groceries.  Oh the horror that a snapshot of that moment would do to the kind of box you want me to be in.  The parent who doesn't discpline or spoils their child...obviously.  Because any amount of discipline would have prevented that meltdown, right?  The parent who doesn't know what they are doing...definitely.  Because where were my solutions - the rabbit coming out of the hat?  The parent that doesn't deserve the blessing of that beautiful, blue-eyed, precious baby girl...assuredly.  Because aren't blessings things we earn?   And it was a very public moment, so in a lot of strangers' minds, I entered this box of shame.  And my cheeks are still a little pink from the experience of it all. One toddler meltdown has had me question just about every thing in my life.  I'm in the box.  On the other hand, I have all these Facebook friends that like to follow my videos and photos of the sweetest moments I collect with our little girl, the funny stories, the success story of her peeing in the potty more than in her diaper in the last week - hoorah!  And with these chronic "like"ers, I fear I live inside this glamorous parent and family box.  Like I have figured something out and have my stuff together.  Or that our life is pretty much Brady Bunch or Leave it to Beaver, one big dance party (we do love dance parties!), simply a collection of highlight reels, pretty much Disney World around here. Somehow, my Instagram does not accurately express the struggle that is bedtime, petty arguments I start with my husband, and the enormous piles of laundry.

And then there are the articles we read on social media, or before it took over our lives, those little magazines we'd subscribe too.  And its one person saying all Stay-At-Home-Moms are fulfilling God's calling because they fit inside a selfless, fulfills-all-needs-at-all-times-for-their-children box and the opposing view that Working Moms find God's favor by not only having passions and gifts outside the home but using them effectively and efficiently.  Let's be real, y'all.  None of us fit into either of those boxes.  And it wouldn't matter where I spent the bulk of my days Monday - Friday.  I am at war between flesh and spirit.  In my best moments, I am dependent on the Holy Spirit for strength, wisdom, courage, and love and give with a pure, holy motive to each individual God carefully places in my life and path.  In my worst moments, I am looking out for number one, carelessly crashing into those around me with impatience, impulse, insecurity, and selfishness.  I value the places in my life that do not allow me (or force me) into either of these boxes.  I am not a strong being who is insightful and brave and selflessly loves.  God is.  And sometimes I share in His character.  Don't let me fool you; please do not let me sit on a pedastool on any day for any reason.  I am also saved from being a self-focused, ignorant, reckless imbecile through the power and hope of Jesus Christ.  So please don't let my Wal-Mart moment fool you; let me swim in the ocean of grace rather than box me up in my messiest moment.  Don't you all want the same?

Basically, y'all, can we not just live with one another inside oceans of grace rather than isolated boxes of labels, judgments, and walls?  I seriously have known people / had friends? who are completely cool with our friendship, our conversation, even our "Bible Study," until silly me opens up with too much vulnerability and receives the, "Oh REAAALLLLY?" response, implying I have reached the limitation of understanding and grace and disappointed them in some way.  Yeah, not a safe place.  Not an ocean of grace.  Felt like I was swimming and then SLAM, box is shut.  We need to do better for each other and for ourselves.

It's not just our kids, our jobs, our friends.  And I'm not only a victim in this mess but also an oppressor.  We do it to our hubsands, our pastors, our leaders, and the most vulnerable in our society.  Box them in.  Without any grace. It's easier for them to be "lazy," "self-righteous," "extremist," or "damaged goods."  Too easy to decide ourselves the potential or capacity within an individual instead of laying it in the hands of an all-powerful, miraculous God.  How often do we box people rather than pray people through this life?  Do we really pray for each other?

The boxes are what we build around the people in our lives. And ourselves.  When we are free to let ourselves out of the box we squeeze ourselves in, to not only not think to highly or too lowly of ourselves but instead gaze directly into the mirror of His face, we are able to free those around us from their boxes, as well.  We don't need the boxes when we don't have ourselves confined to one.  Because when you're swimming and floating and free in an ocean of eternity, you have no need to shrink others to fit in your control.

Another person can fail and succeed without becoming a failure or a god.  Can't they?  Only when we allow ourselves to fail and succeed without calling ourselves a failure or a god.  I'm preaching this all to myself today, because I've pinpointed my very own, deep-down issue here and going for an afternoon Grace Ocean swim to share it with you all.  On sweet baby girl's best day, for example, I fly high and feel that maybe I was meant to bring 1,000 babies into this world just to love with the limitless love I've been given.  "I was created for this," yadadadada.  On sweet baby girl's worst day, I get so low and feel that she's been cheated by being placed in my care.  And oh this rollercoaster is riding us both.  It's the same at work.  When everything is coming together, excitement is building, and the team is strong, I feel full, satisfied, and at peace. And when things get rocky or threaten to fall apart, I begin to come up with all the people who should sit at my desk instead of me.  These are the boxes I put myself in when I don't swim in the ocean of His grace.  The grace days, those are the truest, the most real, the best.  I am still not sure why I don't choose them each morning above the rest.  But maybe you can help me.  Maybe we can together.  Choose this grace.  For each other.  And for ourselves.  Because...

The boxes are what we build around the people in our lives.  And ourselves.  And ultimately, our God.  God is in a box, He is limited, He is small when we do not believe Him fully and in big ways.  When we do not ride the waves in His ocean and allow His grace to transform first our hearts and then our relationships and our world.  We need a big God. My sweet baby girl much more than she needs a perfect Mommy needs a very Good God.  I'm taking steps to help my heart reflect that.  She, more than anyone on this planet, will someday be most acquainted with my greatest weaknesses and ugliest faults, but in spite of that, if she, as a result of being in my care, can acquire an understanding of His goodness and learn to swim in His grace, my deepest prayer will have been answered.


Sunday, June 21, 2015

#Anything

My Anything is this transient, fluid thing that has worn many different faces over the years as I have tried (and so many times failed) to align my life with the Lord in some kind of radical obedience to His much higher Way. 

My first real encounter with Anything and living life as that prayer was more than 15 years ago when I was a freshman in high school. After close to 8 school changes due to moving, I was finally at a school I would be able to return to the next year and hopefully graduate from. But the Lord blaringly and very clearly showed me that He had a different plan and it would be best for me to follow suit. So from private to public school it was and another transition for me that opened the door to so much good. 

Years later, during my college graduation season, my undergraduate "plans" of attending seminary/graduate school to become a therapist or social worker were hijacked by Anything. Despite the acceptance letters, extensive graduate school visitations, and many reasons to go, there was this big, huge, undeniable call for my husband and I to return to our hometown (never in our plans) and minister to the youth in the community through our home church (also never in our plans; in fact I had been aware of the opening for almost one year and had never applied). What we received in exchange was three beautiful years of sweet ministry that became the foundation of our marriage and family. Today, I can't even imagine it any other way. It was also during those years of ministry that God cultivated our burden for the fatherless and a passion for orphan care that led us to more Anything. 

In effort to learn and relieve the burden that was only growing on our hearts for kids in care, we took foster parenting classes and bought a bigger home with more space for kids. And then Anything whisked us away to totally new surroundings 10 hours from familiarity to a children's home where we could be FULL-tume foster parents rather than fit it into our already full life. So we emptied it. Sold our house and most of our furniture (granted, most of it had been rummage sale fodder to begin with) and closed a chapter in the name of this Anything adventure that became the most beautiful, hard, and full thing we had ever done. In the hardest, darkest times (which there most certainly were; don't ever let it be romanticized), Anything was most important and was literally what kept us moving and alive. There was this bigger-than-ourselves Reason for the difficulty and Source for the compassion and humility that was needed every minute of every day. And we were laser-focused for almost two years and distracted by the fullness of it when Anything came knocking. I was approached concerning an administrative position opening at the children's home to which I quickly and firmly said no. We had not left life as we knew it and moved across the country for an office job and what about my husband? We were in this together. In my simple mind, God certainly had no part in this and they were sadly mistaken. Several weeks later, when the opportunity had been put me before me multiple times, a friend asked me to at least pray about it. I verbally agreed but didn't pray. I knew God had no part in it. And that's when I missed Anything because I wasn't praying it anymore and I had shut out all voices except my own. My husband said I better pray and I said only if he would too and so we did. I ended up having to apply as a result of that prayer even though internal interviews were complete and my interest was very low. And then I got the job. And this peace flooded even though my head was asking why and I was crying about leaving the girls, but His hand was there. And every provision we knew to worry about, and those that we didn't, was taken care of within weeks. House, additional transportation, job for hubby, and answers...because it only took me a few weeks to see what I never could have seen from the outside of the decision...that the position itself seemed to fit me like a glove and felt hand-crafted to my passions and gifts even more than houseparenting had. And I knew I could be an instrument of His peace and reconciliation and was so thankful. 

While in that position we got knee-deep in this pursuit with a former youth and her case worker and the discussion of adoption and my heart was living in the fruition of the possibility when the court moved her out of state with a relative. While that was crumbling and not a second later, we found out we were (surprise!) expecting our next Anything, our daughter. This was was an Anything for us, though I know for many it is THE thing. But we'd been resolved to build our family according to need and only as God built. If a child already needed a family, we wanted to provide that rather than create one on our own. We thought God had been on the same page. Ha. She came screaming into our world as the most beautiful Anything I have experienced yet, and I drank deeply of this Anything with a great maternity leave and now everyday; she is the richest of grace in our lives. God knew we had much to learn and ways to grow that only she can show us. And I am so grateful and thankful that God knew better than me. 

Since then, I have transitioned into a position at the children's home with more leadership where I have been entrusted with guiding our campus through a program model change to a model that is so completely congruent with my relationship with God and others, the centrality of my Christ-centered counseling classes in college, my personal experiences with at-risk youth, and the finding of hope in the dark places of my own life. Um, I would not be leading out in this if I would not have had the exact path that has led me to today, including all my Anythings. And so there is this excitement and synchrony and harmony happening despite the enemy, my personal shortcomings and failings, and I thank God for teaching me this dance of Anything. 

Today, I am learning to find my Anything in the small, mundane moments of every day, asking myself to be careful not to miss them. Because I'm not moving out of town or in the fire of others' pain or selling my possessions or having to adopt "new" (God's/better) dreams, at times I feel distant from Anything. And I know I could easily get comfortable and begin to care more about upgrading my outdoor living space rather than losing myself in the giving of God. So today...it's harder than the bigger sacrifices that were so laced with adventure. Because today, I have to pray Anything every minute and ask for His guidance to not be lost on me. It is such an important place, this one I am in; I've called it my Esther moment of "such a time and place as this," and I could not have gotten here any other way. But now that I am here, I need Him in even bigger ways than I had ever imagined even though they seem smaller. 

And that's something about Anything: it's not so much in the big milestones of adoptions or moves or job changes or babies born but in the quiet surrender of each and every moment of every single day...and laying it all back down after I've Indian-given the heck out of myself and my life. Anything. Right now. Today. Tomorrow. Anything, Lord. What's yours?

*this post was written as an entry in Jennie Allen's summer Bible study of "Anything" - the prayer of surrender of all things to our God*

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Engine Fire

We're all crashing into each other with all this mess and isn't this what life is?    Isn't the only way to keep injury to a minimum to focus on what is within our control which really only is our own mess?

I've grown up believing it's really important to control as much as possible what others think of or see in me. To contribute my greatest energy here, on the outside. Even today, I want to portray so badly the person in my heart I want to be, and I spend a lot of time evaluating my performance in this area. 

But at the end of the day, if I don't face my own inner reality, then I'm only setting myself up for a crash and that crash will affect everyone around me.  

So taking moments is important and really, a much better use of my valuable energy. Moments. When we slow down and reflect. And are honest with ourself and our mirror, and when we are brave, with our friends. Those safe places who are reservoirs for our soul. These moments keep us moving forward because when we are honest, we are able to receive the necessary repairs to prevent the combustion and crash. 

My husband and I have two very different approaches to car maintenance. As soon as I feel the slightest jump or bump from under the hood, I'm recommending a full out inspection and tune up because there was a sign of something wrong and I'd rather it not turn into something much louder and bigger. My sweet, smart, studly husband, though, needs some bigger signs before service. He'd like to at least have our very smart sensoring car tell us something is wrong on the dash or express a level of dysfunction that cannot be ignored. My biggest fear, and all the anxiety in that is just worrying it will be too late. 

Let's keep our car, and ourselves, I'm pleading in check. Let's make sure we don't pass by this moment when the blood rushed so quickly to my cheeks I didn't even have time to hide it and my hands started shaking and I went quiet, but why? Something under the hood is smoking and if I ignore it, I'll regret so much the fire coming in a moment. 

So I sit down and ask myself why that moment drove me wild and why I didn't hold my tongue that other moment and I realize it's mostly because I'm flying solo again. 

I got the idea that my human, 30-year-old thoughts held an ultimate level of wisdom. I bought into the idea that my own strength was not only enough but was maybe even something to marvel about. Like I'm some kind of superhuman, superhero. Before I crashed. 

But the crash. These moments bring me back to the place where my head is bowed and my knees bend low. Because I can't find clear answers quickly and there is so much brokenness surrounding me and I am part of it. There is always a day that proves I'm not the answer to any of the world's problems...and that the broken, tragic issues in this world pile up at a faster rate than I can solve them. And the days I join the pile of the problems - the days I am the problem. Because always, I am not God. I knew that, right? 

And so I need Him and I need the hope. And so I need the moments. I can't go 70 miles per hour 24/7 even if it was all within the walls of a cathedral. I must stop. I must coast into the garage, check in at the counter, and settle in for a tune up. 

Like you, I want to leave the world a better place than I found it, but I'm waking up and realizing really the most effective approach will be for me to empty myself enough that there is room for my great big God to do great big things.  What is He wanting to do in all this space we keep filling up with the superficial, fleeting masses of our pride? 

Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Ultimate Attachment

It's been about a month now that I've been, as part of my job, imparting to others a programmatic set of principles based primarily in Attachment Theory.  In other words, I've spent a month talking about attachment:

....attachment styles, secure attachment, insecure attachment, organized attachment, disorganized attachment, my attachment, your attachment, avoidant attachment, ambivalet attachment, dismissive attachment, entangled attachment, unresolved attachment... 

You get the picture...I've been surrounded by attachment, whose dissection is not the purpose of this post (thankfully).  I believe the greatest byproduct of all my exhortation on the topic is the personal challenge I have found within it all.  I am so thankful I am not in a position that requires me to ask of anyone (whether child or a staff member) something I am not willing or able to do myself.  And we've been taking a good, hard, long look at ourselves and our lives and our attachments and our relationships.  So, I'm in a constant mirror and reflection is all around me.  Around every corner and within every mothering, wifely, supervisory, or other word I utter are now...attachment clues.  I cannot get away from it, and I choose not to leave it behind.  Here is why:

Secure attachment (the highest standard of attachment styles) is a relationship style and strategy that I have found mirrors God's relationship style and strategy to me, to us, as far as my personal experience and theology is concerned.

I don't know about you, but God my Father comes at me with a new day every morning. He is an outpouring of gracious love and care unconditionally without end, and He thrives on our return of love through worship, service, and missional lives.

[Secure attachment exemplifies the consistent ability to give and receive care.]

God my Father is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  He does not change with the coming tides and winds.  Storms do not alter His love or His character.  He is rock solid.

[Secure attachment is founded on the security of an autonomous self]

And God my Father has a voice and is able to express all He is and all He desires from the world. Not only that, His words are loud and powerful and life-changing.

[Secure attachment is characterized by self-efficacy...that is, understanding your place, purpose, and voice in the world.]

But me?  On my best day?  Oh, I am not half of these things.  Under stress, probably none.
I try to act like everything is okay when my internal world is falling apart.  And, honestly?  I put emotional distance between myself and others when their burden may be too great for me to carry because of the weight of what I'm already carrying.  Sometimes?  I try to buy nice things for the people I love to compensate for lost quality time or experiences because I so often miss the mark.

[A dismissive adult attachment style will paint idealized pictures of their history or reality to avoid having to deal with any of it.  Or, they will avoid emotional connections that may challenge one to delve into their history.  They also become people who more comfortable with things than people.]

It doesn't stop there, though.  It's not that simple.  I don't just have one issue; I'm a bonafide mess.

Because I'm insecure half the time that I am not meeting my relationship obligations in every area of life, I can become controlling of my environment (those around me) and if I am doing well enough that moment to not reach out for control, I am intense and demanding and have expectations that are out of this world.

[An entangled adult attachment style is susceptible to boundary issues and seeks to meet their own needs by meeting the needs of others.  This leads to emotionally intense or controlling behaviors.]

I am well aware of my lack of deity and that no human can be expected to exist without some level of these deficiencies.  But, I've also been learning that we pass down all this mess as a parent to our children unless we do something to change it in the process, unless we find security somewhere. And isn't that what life looks like sometimes?  Grasping for security?

And then I remember that God has this perfection about His secure parenting of me.  And the way I figure it, the closer I draw in relationship to Him, the more secure I myself will become.  And not for the benefit of my pride.  Not even just for the benefit of the world around me.  But for the itty bitty me that calls me "MaMa" and needs to see the love and grace of God initially in my life.

Funny that it takes the motivation of becoming a parent to make you run back into the arms of your own Parent.  Funny that in independence we realize our need for dependence that much more.  This happens naturally when we give birth; all new mamas need their mama's help in their own way.  But, we, as children of God, are in great need of our Father as we try to navigate life, particularly this parenting landmine, as we are hoping upon hope that we will contribute to the LIFE and LOVE within our child and not all the fear, pain, and stress...that ultimately, we guide them to the source of all Security.



{All references of attachment theory here are my own summaries of material pulled from the training modules developed by Texas Christian University Institute of Child Development for Trust-Based Relational Intervention that I use as a TBRI* Educator.}