Wednesday, May 21, 2014

When life gets small

This week I realized that somewhere in the back of my mind, I am waiting.

By that I don't mean "waiting upon The Lord" kind of way.

But Waiting for more in the most worldly, snobby, ungrateful kind of way. 

Waiting to make more money, to buy a house, to be more successful, to travel, to have everything plus a little bit more. 

"I want a house." I said to my thoughts. "I want a yard, with pretty green grass, I want big windows that let a lot of light in, I want to be able to be noisy and not have our neighbors hear everything." I want. I want. I want.

I realized how quickly I allowed the desires of my heart to be replaced with the desires of the world. I realized just how shallow they were. How shallow I have become, and how they have held me back from seeing the fullness of God in my life.

And so, I said it out loud. I said it several times until the power of the words no longer had power over my heart.

"I may not get a chance to raise my kids in the house that I want." Deep breath.

"I may not get a chance to paint their bedrooms the colors they want, or have a play room, or have enough room."  Another deep breath.

"I might  have to live here longer than expected..."

"I may have to live here for a very long time."

Each thought settled in. Each thought released me from the disappointments that I walked in daily, wanting something different, wanting more instead of wanting what was needed.

And what I needed was this.

I needed to accept where we live, without any expectations set on moving.
I needed to allow the next season of our lives be a season of joy and of grate fullness.
I needed to be content, exactly where we were and where God placed our family.
I needed to save, not for something but for the freedom to move when God called us to.
I needed to invest into the memories of my children, more than the investments of things.

After I compiled a list of these things in my mind. 

I think I was ready to hear Him. God. This was what I heard.

"You are living in one of the best seasons of your life. I have restored the wealth of you family, I have rescued you when you needed me. I have answered every prayer you've prayed, and I have protected you from things only I can see. I have given you everything, all that you need, and I have always honored my promises to you. I have blessed you and will hold my word true over your life".

It was one paragraph that contained my entire life.

And finally,  I saw.

I saw my desires be filled with Gods promise and His perspective.

I saw the importance of our little yard. Our patch of grass and the new seeds that were coming through. I saw neighbors that worked for days trying to figure out the flooding problems and when they did, how grateful my kids were to them. That despite having a yard large enough to play in, what they saw was a yard large enough to grow a garden in. And through my kids,  my heart rejoiced because even they saw that we had more than enough. 

"I am choosing to be grateful for our little yard. I will not let the enemy deny me that which you have blessed me with or let it hold me back from your provision. Those who are wise with little will be wise with much, you said."

I saw my two windows, that I usually complain too much about because of how little light they let in, be enough. I saw that how our home was placed in such a way that it allowed our backyard to experience full sun. And quietly, I knew that the light I desired in our home, was very relevant to how much I actually wanted our lives to shine Jesus. It was vital, really, as both my husband and I agreed that we were living in the season where, how we lived our life and who God was to us, was going to be the foundation on how our children saw and knew Him. 

"I am so grateful that you live in our hearts, God. I will no longer allow my disappintments to diminish your purpose and vision for my life or further, misrepresent you in my children's life. Be the light of the world, you said."

Lastly, I saw the noise that comes out of our duplex.  I saw the one wall that separated our neighbors and us and I felt that just like our actions should portray Jesus, so should our noise. It's the noise of the day to day that God will use to bring our neighbors back to him. Because what they need, is not a pretty picture of a family, they have lived that. What they need is the noise of ours. A full house of a family and every noise that it comes it. They need it more than we need our privacy. And so, the one wall between their lives and ours was just enough for God to work with. 

"I am so grateful that I have your word, living in and through the bible. I will no longer expect a private life, if it means living privately in my faith. Our words become our actions, you said."

This changed everything. It brought purpose and meaning to my seemingly simple life and it changed my heart. Perspective does that. 

And it touched every area in my home. Big things, and small things.
I was finally being grateful and excited. I was finally content, not because I had less, but because I saw how much I had been given. My perspective was broadened and it reached for the eternal like never before.

Hope floats.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Valuable things are rare

Today I chaperoned my son on a school field trip to a theater production titled Fancy Nancy. It was a full day of riding a bus packed with little children and filled with laughter of all who rode in it. I could hear a couple of the adults talking in close range of me, I  could see some of the kids sitting quietly in their seats. And I could also feel the bouncing of the seat behind me. My group, was in fact the more boisterous bunch. They were the ones who played the silly games, poked each other in the eyes, and had trouble containing their excitement on the tiny leather bench that obviously wasn't made to fit three active children. But for being the active little boys they were, they did good, they obeyed my nudges to settle down, made sure they always stayed near each other, and did a pretty decent job asking me enough questions to keep me occupied and smiling.  To sum up our day, my boys did what was asked of them. They obeyed the rules.

As the day came to a close, and a single line formed with the very much, still rowdy 6 year olds, a mother behind me praised her group.

"You were super stars". She told them. "You guys deserve medals for your behavior today".

She praised her team for their cooperation while I seemed to think that their obedience was already rewarded. It was their cooperation through out the year that earned them this trip and because of it they were given the opportunity to watch a children's production, ride the bus with their friends, and eat lunch together outside at the park. That was the reward. That was the medal.

I know she wasn't being literal. But that didn't change the emptiness of her words or the lack of substance in them.

That mother, just told her team that because they followed the rules made for the entire class, they deserved something. They deserved medals, in fact. That this field trip, wasn't good enough for their exceptional demonstration of cooperation and obedience. They deserved some thing more, they deserved individual recognition.

Today this is what grabbed all of my attention.

You see. It's not just her that is guilty of this kind of praise. I am just as much at fault.

Especially because it was made very apparent last week when I took my girls in for hair cuts.

They got the full treatment. Sweet smelling shampoo, pleasant conversation with the hair stylist, blow dry and blow out. They got it all, and the room was saturated with fun and with laughter.

After we had left and seated our van, I asked my girls if they liked their hair. I asked them if they enjoyed the experience. And lastly, I thanked them for behaving nicely.

I mentioned to them that because it went so smoothly, we had an hour to spare and enough time to drive some where.

"Maybe," I said.
"We could go to that thrift store you girls enjoy digging around in."

"Do I get to pick out some books?" Jenny asked.
 "As part of a reward for being so good?"

Ring a bell?

It sure did for me.

And yet again. I was shocked by the ideas that I myself had planted in my children.

Ideas that signified reward for good behavior instead of the experiences they get to be a part of because they have proved themselves obedient. 

But even with an explanation, it was apparent that I have fallen into this trap.

And it's probably been happening a lot. 

Praises that were empty and undeserved rewards, needed to become significant again.
They needed to mean something.
They needed to be forms of encouragement, up lifting and life giving.

The best example I have of this, comes from my own mom.

She did what I believe every mother needs to do more. See saw the strengths in her children and encouraged those areas, but at the same time she was honest about our weaknesses and saw them as opportunities for growth.

Those were the types of things she told us. Not to her friends, not to our teachers, and not really to any one else. She simply told us. As for me, she told me to be better, strive higher and work harder. Until it was engrained in me.

It wasn't that she wasn't proud of us. She simply believed that teaching a child happens in the home and praise is the outcome that you receive from people outside of those walls.

She, like many parents already believed that their kids were the best.

Praise would hold little value if we just went on that alone.

Praise, I have learned should only be given out only when it is due.

Careful not to diminish it's worth.

Thinking about it, I would say that to this day, my mothers compliments to me always hit a bar so exceedingly high, holding such a high place that absolutely nothing or no one could make me think differently.

My mothers praise holds value.

And valuable things, are always rare things.

My mother rarely praised me.