This week has been tough. My emotions are running just below the surface and range from unspeakable gratitude to nigh unspeakable sorrow. Christmas here is always a bittersweet time for our family, since we are home and yet away from home. We are soaking up the time together, reveling in the joy that comes from reflecting upon the miracle and sacrifice of Jesus’ birth. And yet we are torn, missing our earthly family and thinking of them even more than usual (if that’s even possible). In His graciousness God has blessed us with an amazing surrogate family here made up of an unlikely rabble (I use that as a term of endearment) and I couldn’t be more grateful for them. If only we could have the best of both worlds life would be simpler. Or, perhaps, I wouldn’t appreciate either group – the family or the rabble – half as much as I do in this context.
My heart is awash with so many thoughts, prayers and lessons learned in the last week. The battles always come in the ways in which I least expect them. When we moved here, I had steeled myself for jeers, alienation and gossip for many areas in our lives which are so vastly different from what is considered the cultural norm (though the cultural norm as it were is changing quickly). And in those areas we have been met with almost nothing but grace and at the very least, attempts at understanding. This week, however, I was blindsided by a hill that I barely even noticed was there let alone one that seemed worth dying upon. And from the actions and words of my child, I learned.
What started as embarrassment over what her words may have done to our reputation has turned to reflection and realization of a fault and insecurity that runs deep in this mother’s heart, and has been inadvertently imprinted upon the hearts of my children.
In my zeal and passion to instill and ingrain a love for Christ and His Truth I, instead, have passed along a legalistic set of do’s and don’t’s that entrap rather than set free. I have enlisted an if-then policy that allows little to no room for “mistake”, alteration, or even creativity. This is not to say there is never at time or place for absolutes. By golly, absolutes are the foundation upon which my faith is built.
However, as I endeavored to teach Truth, I was lead by my own insecurity and fear – fear of confusion, rejection, and future bitterness – to lead my words and deeds rather than the Truth that sets free. Oh how I am in need of Grace every day; every hour. Please, God, don’t let my need and desire for approval in the eyes of my peers to ever override Your Hand of guidance and freedom in my life, marriage and mothering. It is in times like these where I lean into the hurt, the wounded pride, the mourning of the joy that has been lost through the years of legalism, to embrace the mercy, grace, and gentle course correction extended to me by the very hand that once chose to remain upon the cross for my sake.
I sat my family down, apologized for bringing chains into our home instead of wings, and graciously they forgave and loved and hugged. We made a plan to bring fun and imagination back into our house, and to allow His love to propel us.
Yes, this week started out with me re-teaching a lesson to my children. And as tends to happen in my soul with matters of faith and the heart, rather than teaching I learned.
We’ve all either been there, heard about it, or had it happen to us. Children are sitting around a cafeteria table; or maybe it’s a group of college roommates hanging out on a Friday night. The time, place, and ages vary, but the outcome is the same. Someone takes a drink; at that exact same moment in time, something funny happens. The giggles begin and eventually turn into guffaws. The poor soul with cold liquid in his mouth tries desperately not to let it escape his ever curling lips. Shoulders shudder and strange noises exude. The more he tries not to laugh, the harder he (and everyone around him) laughs. Eventually, he can contain it no more, but instead of spilling forth from his mouth, the fluid finds an alternative route of escape: his nose. We’ve all been there and felt that delightful burning that can only come when joy and pain collide in a spectacular show.
Growing up, my brother was the king of making things come out of his nose. I saw more liquid escape that boy’s olfactory organ than a soft drink dispenser at the local convenience store! Milk, soda, juice, punch, nothing was safe whenever he ingested it. That child found nearly everything funny! And I’m not talking just a small-giggle-and-it’s-over funny. I mean at the littlest notion, this boy was sent into convulsion of ecstatic laughter that seems to ignite everyone else in the room. Being his younger sister I was, of course, in awe of this ability.
I so looked up to my brother and his talent not only for making almost every liquid known to man shoot out of his nose, but his knack for finding the hilarious in the mundane, the funny in the boring. I never understood how so much joy could well up in a person at such short notice. Now don’t get me wrong, I laughed, and still do. However, the instances of good, hardy belly laughs in my life seem to wane in comparison to people like my brother. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t seem to get up the gumption to just let a good guffaw rip.
What do we do when the milk just won’t come out of our nose? Everyone around us is holding their sides in joyful agony while we sit in the corner chuckle a few times and wait for everyone else to calm down. How do we deal with the loss or lack of joy in our hearts?
You may have expected this answer to come, and if you did, congratulations because you already knew the answer to your own question! The way we get over the blues and into the brightness of overwhelming joy is through and in the Lord. Psalms is full of declarations such as, “My joy is in the Lord”; “The Lord is my joy and my strength.” Our joy comes from sitting at the feet of the Master Crafter and soaking in His radiant delight. If He made the nose, certainly He knows the secrets to propelling liquid from it. So grab a copy of the Word, grab some milk, sit at His feet and let the good times roll!
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Momma Made it Look Easy
I want to remember today. I want to circle it in red on my calendar. Program it into my phone. Set a reminder in my heart. Today. Is a good day. My soul has been fed. And perhaps not in the way you might expect.
You see, I discovered a few years ago that I have a deep need for all things creative (except for crafts. ha!). I need to move, sing, dance, write. Over the course of the last few months my severely malnourished soul has been fed a steady diet, and it’s thriving. I’ve been writing regularly for the past 3 months. I’m involved in a few clubs and courses that involve physical activity. My mind and heart have been fueled, stimulated and challenged by daily prioritizing time with my Best Friend. But this morning, my cup filled up past the brim, and it is overflowing.
Last night I joined a choir. I don’t know any of the songs, I barely know the language as it is instructed, lead, and sung all in Irish. And while I can speak it with relative ease, reading and understanding the poetic nature of lyrics is a whole different kettle of fish.
I spent two hours with a group of people singing in the most beautiful language ever. Using our bodies – mind, voice, ear, heart – to become unified and create something beautiful. The songs continued in my heart and mind overnight, weaving intricately into my dreams. I woke up with my soul full to the brim.
This morning I had just put the Man Cub down for a nap and went to the kitchen to tidy up and get dinner in the crock-pot. I put on some tunes and a song I had never heard before (even though we’ve had the album for years) came on and I couldn’t help but dance around my kitchen. I twirled and shimmied and grapevined around the table, all around the kitchen and living room. I danced. My cup nigh exploded.
Are you feeding your soul? Your soul food likely looks different to mine. However, I believe God instills in us all these needs and interests. Sometimes I fear we mistake holiness and Godliness for piety, stoic, quiet. While there is a time and place for these things, it was not a mistake that God filled me with such a need for music, dance, literature. And it’s not a mistake that the things that fuel your heart do so. He had a reason. And He has a reason for instilling your passions deep in your heart. What speaks to you? What makes you feel alive? What energizes you?
For some, it’s creative outlets, like mine. For others its time out in nature enjoying His creation. Maybe it’s solving a complex problem, using your higher level thinking and reasoning skills. Or perhaps building something; making or doing something tangible. Whatever it is, feed it!
I cannot express the level of my energy today. It’s a joy for me to load the dishwasher, fold clothes, make dinner, change diapers. I am fed. I am full. I am satiated. It’s OK to feed your soul! We’ve heard this before, over and over, that the more we care for ourselves, the better we can care for our families. Why don’t we do it??
And better yet, feed your soul with your family! Sing together. Write a family story. Go on a nature walk. Build a birdhouse. Pursue these things together. With your children. With your husband. Encourage them to find out what feeds their soul, and provide ample opportunities for it. Part of fulfilling His plans, calling and purpose for our lives is feeding, growing and developing the very things which He has ingrained in our hearts.
At times it seems the Christian culture has told us that if we enjoy something, it must not be of God. Dear friend, don’t let yourself be blinded by that lie! While I do not believe in the “if it feels good, do it” principle some embrace, I do believe He has given us interests, passions, outlets and needs in which He delights to see us enjoy! Jesus promised us that He came that we might have life, and have it to the fullest. What joy comes from living fully, through the power of Christ, embracing all that He has created us to be!
Feed. Your. Soul.
We live in a small village in western Ireland – a small village. So small, in fact, that if you blink while driving through it you’ll miss it. We have a small grocery store, an elementary school, a secondary school, some small factories tucked away behind houses, a church and two pubs. That’s it. Whenever we need to shop for more than basic groceries: buy clothes, or go to a movie, or go swimming, we have to leave our village and go somewhere else. Nobody complains too much about it; things are the way they are, and you just have to deal with it. But, we all agree it would sure be handy to have a few more amenities around. Well, friends, we recently acquired one such amenity!
This spring they opened a brand new playground in our village – in our village! I’ll never forget when we took our children to it for the first time. It was tucked into a lovely, shady corner next to the local soccer field. It’s surrounded by freshly planted greens, a lovely brick wall and a safety fence. There were state of the art “big toys”, swings, slides and a zip line. We walked in the gate and set the kids loose. I took a few minutes to get acclimated to my surroundings when I became acutely aware of something. My children were laughing. Not just giggling or chuckling, but all out belly laughing. The kind of laughter that comes from somewhere you can’t express in words; the kind of laughter that you can’t hold back, and would explode if you tried. I saw expressions of joy on the children’s faces I’ve not seen in ages, if ever.
I watched as they ran from apparatus to apparatus, unable to get to each new toy fast enough. Squeals of delight and shrieks of elation brought unspeakable peace and a quiet satisfaction to this mother’s heart. It was then I heard a still small voice, deep in my soul. “Learn from your children“, it echoed to the core of my being. I looked closer at my precious daughters, running free. Free from fear, free from pressure, stress, obligation and guilt. Only one emotion was evident in their sweet faces: unbridled joy. They were free to explore and play and experience within the boundaries that were in place. And you know what? They not once noticed the fence. Not once did they ask why the fence was there; try to figure out how to play as close to outside the fence as possible without getting caught; never once complained that the fence was tying them down, making it impossible to enjoy themselves.
How often do I experience unbridled joy just by enjoying what God has placed before me? When was the last time I was physically incapable of containing my laughter and exuberance? How often do I focus on the fences in my life rather than the plethora of amazing opportunities He’s placed before me?
God has given us vast freedom within the boundaries He put in place for our own safety. Those boundaries are designed to allow us to fully enjoy the life He has blessed us with, without fear of failure or harm. That doesn’t mean we won’t ever get hurt or fall. There were certainly plenty of opportunities for my children to fall and get hurt at that playground today. Goodness knows those opportunities were blatantly clear to this mother’s eyes! And my daughters have had their fair share of losing out on fun times at a playground due to fear of pain. However, that day, they put their fear out of their minds and just played to their hearts’ content.
Let us take a lesson from my six and four year olds. Let’s play and run and frolic until the unbridled joy that comes from living in the freedom He’s given us bursts forth and touches those around us with His light.