I've had a lot of time for reflection lately. We've been in the process of getting our visas for months now, with hang up after hang up, promises, runarounds, and printer mishaps. It's been a roller coaster.
Now Ramadan is starting, which makes the government processes very slow since they are only open a few hours every day. So again, we wait. And I actually have time to read, to think, to examine my life and my thoughts and pray about how I need to get right with God. It's uncomfortable, this waiting. It's not something I would choose. I want to get on with my life!! I want to unpack our things, get settled, hang pictures, start "preschool" with the kids, drill holes in the wall and organize! It is gets under my skin that I must impose on the hospitality of others. For months. That I have to cook in someone else's kitchen and always be worried about breaking something that we can't afford to replace. That I can't get in a routine because I don't know what our life will look like a week from now.
There are these moments of sweetness that I miss when I am caught up in the busyness of life. Like the relaxed rhythm of walking the baby to sleep while I chat with the kids, not worried about some pressing to-do list item. The joy of cooking dinner every night, because that's the only goal I have for the day (besides keep the kids alive, fed and happy). Enjoying the sweet conversations I have with my kids now that they are more verbal, and the ability to talk through those teachable moments instead of missing them because "I don't have time to deal with it right now".
But on top of those precious gifts, God is going deeper. I have been reading on my Kindle for iPod touch while I nurse and walk the baby, so I actually finished a book in the last week! It was called 7, by Jen Hatmaker. In it she walks you through the journey she and her family took to simplify their lives. Not a blueprint, but very thought provoking. I have also read some in Kisses From Katie, about the girl who went to Africa and adopted 14 girls. She wasn't always as crazy as she is now, but God broke her heart for the hurting and poor, and so now she is blissfully off the deep end. :)
So I have been reading these books about excess in the American lifestyle. In our lifestyles, as middle class Christians. And God has been changing my heart. There is so much going on its hard to even write down, but I will try and share a few things. For starters, I want to give away even MORE than I already have. I have given away a lot of clothes, but I still have WAY too many. There are people in the world who don't have any shoes at all, and I have about 10 pairs. Which is not even that many, compared to a lot of normal people I know (i.e. not rich). And it's not about numbers, really, it's not. It's about my heart. Why do I have those shoes? Why do I care so much about my appearance? And then it goes deeper. Why do I care so much about the way my house looks? Ouch. Even today I was thinking about how much time I spend planning out my house. What joy I find in organizing (I told you I have a problem), in decorating, in coordinating everything so that a room just comes together perfectly.... I have definitely realized it is a bit of an idol. If you can call anything a BIT of an idol.
A lot of this has come to light because of the utter dependence I have had to have on God. When we first started waiting, there were about 7 moments every day I wanted to scream like a two year old and stamp my foot and say "I can't do this!! I don't WANT to wait!". And each time I had to take a deep breath and give it to God. And with every build up and dive in the roller coaster, it's been more trusting, more surrender. In this season of our lives, I literally NEED Jesus to get through the day. Plus the fact that it's ENTIRELY out of our control. It's all up to the arbitrary immigration system down at the government office! Maddening, unless you know someone who softens and hardens hearts. Even then, still a little maddening. I am completely helpless. Thank you God, that I NEED you to get through the day.
So, not only do I want to give a bunch of junk (er, valuable property, as-was), I am also thinking about my time. I am realizing that some things are just going to be off limits for me. Because here is where I am getting hung up: I say that I wante to help the poor, but I don't really know anyone who is particularly needy. Or, I say that I don't have time to meet new people, unsaved or poor or whatever, because I can't keep up with them. My life is too full. But wait! What is it full of? What am I spending my oh-so-valuable and limited time doing? Here comes some honesty.
And it's not just what I DO, it's what I meditate on. I spend time thinking about me, my house, my clothes, my makeup, my kids clothes, etc. and I complain that I don't have time to read my Bible or pray. Oh God! Help me discipline my mind so that in those moments of opportunity I seek your kingdom and not my own!
There have been a lot of other factors in this thought process. An old friend of the family passed away. I am comforted to know he loved Jesus and I'll see him again. Actually he was one of the godliest men I have ever known in my whole life. But it was also a reminder that life is SO short. And why do we spend SO much time and thought and energy on things that don't matter? and shame on us we teach our kids to do the same thing.
So while some of the things I have listed, or thought about and not listed may not be bad things, they are out of my life. At least, they are knocked off the throne. By the grace of God. I am not able to always focus on our eternal Hope in my own strength! But it's my goal. And now my eyes have been opened I hope I will be more sensitive to things in the future.
So elaborately themed kids parties, hand painted drapes, personalized princess dresses, and other popular pinterest items may appeal to me, but they distract from what is important. I want to de-clutter on a deeper level. I want my home, my thoughts, and my time to be simplified to the point that I am open and free to see the needs around me and be able to meet them.
So I guess that's where I've been these past few weeks. I don't know if anyone reads this old xanga blog, but I hope someone was encouraged. :)
God revealed an idol to me last week. And it was super ugly! Oh my word, I had no idea it was hiding out in some corner of my heart, and I had no idea how really hideous that corner had become until it was ripped away and my flesh basically convulsed in protest. I don't want to give details because it doesn't really matter and I don't want to throw blame on the people that actually did the ripping. It was quite unintentional, and even if it wasn't right, God knew that idol needed to be removed. And praise him that he is continuing to change me and make me holy! The only detail I will give is that my reaction to all of this was horrible. I literally got angry, then stomped off, pouted, paced my room with tears steaming down my face, blubbering like a kid who lost his dog to cancer. It was pathetic really. There are children watching their parents get murdered, and mothers watching their babies die and I was crying over a thing. And I had the nerve to call it "suffering".
All to say, I am beyond grateful that this was revealed to me. Thank you God for opening up my heart and ripping out the nasty stuff. He has even put me in a position where every day for the next month I will be visually reminded of my idol and will have to give it to him again and again. The first few days it was hard. I kept seeing the reminder and having wistful (idolatrous) thoughts. But I just kept telling myself: THAT is an idol. THAT was higher than God in your heart. THAT was between you your Lord. And you know what? It's getting easier. The high place is being torn down.
A few nights ago, after a week of sick kids and then me getting sick, I had a rough night. I was having a problem with everyone and everything. Finally, after talking with my husband (grouching AT my husband) I realized the problem was me. Duh. And the reason was obvious. I had barely been spending any time in the Word, any time in prayer, and any time in worship. I was starving my spirit and feeding my flesh. So by God's grace I have been better. I have been spending more time feeding on the Truth. And I see this picture of how I should live. I've seen it before, but it is being refreshed and renewed. It's a thought that, as a believer, I should do ALL of my every day life in relation to God. Trials, sufferings, dishes, cleaning, kids, relationships, being a wife; in all those areas my external circumstances really don't matter that much. Or at all. I just look to Jesus. Am I being wrongfully treated? Look to him. Am I struggling with my tongue? Look to him. Are my kids frustrating and exhausting me? Look to him.
I have had so many frustrations in the past few weeks. Life is crazy, and though I have a ton of awesome help with the kids (TWO girls staying with us to help me out!!) it doesn't change certain struggles that I have. Being motivated to eat well or go study. Getting frustrated with my husband instead of being "the church" to him (and looking to Jesus!). So I can see all the more how much I need change. I need Jesus. Yet even in the revealing of so many weaknesses, I am still encouraged. Because when we look to Jesus we see that he is our Hope, he is out Joy, he is our King. Why else would all this crazy world be worth anything? It's not. But HE is worth it.
Today we had a party to see all the people we have done life with the past two years. Some of us are finished with this phase in life, some still have a bit of time left. Some are moving far, some are moving close, some will stay. But it has been an amazing time of growth and relationships, at least for me. I am so blessed to know these people! Seeing everyone made me very reflective, and also teary eyed, as I am prone to be! However, what I wanted to really talk about (and craftily avoid the sad reality that we have to say goodbye) is Pioneer Woman's potato skins. Ellen and I spent all day on them. And because I have a tiny oven and was making them for 30 people, my oven was literally on for five hours. :) And yes, they were divine.
So today was a good day. George slept well last night, and so life is better. Praise God for all his goodness to me, despite the idols in my heart (revealed to me in a rough day this week). He is always faithful, praise him. I am in awe. And extremely grateful for yummy food. His gifts come in all shapes.... ;)
So I have been thinking a lot about mothering lately. So many thoughts swirl around my head throughout the day and I don't have time to write down 2% of them! But here is a go.
I know that I don't have all the answers. I have definitely learned that after three kids! We tried full on CIO with the first one and really feel we took it too far. However, I'm not really wanting to share a bed with all three kids and be with them every waking moment. I treasure them! But it is definitely a burden to be responsible for them 24/7, so I am grateful for those moments when I am awake and they are asleep. In their beds. Anyway, my thoughts haven't really been centered on sleep methods and etc. They have been geared that way tonight because at 1:30am all three of the kids were awake. And we haven't struggled with jet lag at all and we've been home three days. Is there such a thing as delayed jetlag? :)
I have really been thinking more about how blessed I am to have three healthy kids, but knowing that that doesn't mean I need to have 18 to be even MORE blessed. Yes, we will probably have more kids, but that number is between us and the Lord!
I've also been thinking about training and instructing in righteousness. What does that look like? How do you apply it to 2 & 3 year olds? How can I love my children fully, in compassion AND discipline?
I am inspired by so many mothes that I know. God had given me a personality that sees the best in people, and as I watch my friends parent their children I see so many examples and different methods of loving, Godly parenting. Some things I will emulate, some things I will not. We all have the same goal, but different methods, different personalities, different kids.
Just watched most of this parenting series by Paul Tripp. It is excellent! I can't recommend it highly enough! Love this line, "parenting isn't about using our power to get our kids to do what we want." He talks about the heart, the fallen nature of man, the gospel. All in relation to parenting. Love it. Please check it out! http://www.paultrippministries.com/gettingtotheheartofparenting
So I guess this whole, rambling post is just to share what's been on my mind. Of course, right now I am lucky because I have an extra set of hands as I go about my parenting! Thanks, Ellen, you're awesome!
Please continue to pray that I will have wisdom and grace. Have patience and firmness. That I will seek Christ and not a parenting method. Love you guys!!
P.S. not sure why some of the pics are smaller.... Though maybe it's just my browser? Sorry about that!