When I am desperate, God is till enough

It got a little dark around these parts on Wednesday.  I have the strong desire to tell you that when my sister therapized me she pointed out my nature to catastrophize things and then make some self deprecating joke or point to my own sinful nature and laugh it off. Isn’t Abby silly, she gets so worked up over stuff when God really has it. Sigh. Maybe one day I will learn. (Insert patronizing head shake and finger wagging at myself here.)

But today the Spirit is leading me to leave it. In that moment, it was that bad. It was worse. Some days this Jesus-filled-spirit-lead living thing is hard. Whether it is because you have as many diapers that need changed as hands every morning, or you drive into work everyday thinking that if you got into an accident you could skip today (hello, first year of teaching), you feel like you are suddenly in a situation that you did not sign up for and you have no idea how to get out.

Even though I try desperately to be a Jesus Lover, to live by the Norman Family Creed, to dismantle the Failure Siren, it all came to a head last week. I now understand better than ever before why the Lord implores us to humble ourselves. Being humbled by the reality of your own sinful nature totally sucks. The difference between knowing in your head that you are a sinner, and watching your sin punch someone you love in the stomach is severe.

In the midst of that I called out, Is God enough? And my call was answered. Because He is enough. He is enough and He is faithful. Not in that, yes, yes, the Bible says He is faithful so it must be true kind of ways, but rather in a visceral I did not deserve His grace and the Lord chose to lift me from my pit of self loathing anyway kind of faithful.

God was enough when  I confessed to my small group ending in “my heart is so ugly”, and they all laid hands on my head and chose to love me anyway. He was faithful in the Peanut placing her little hand on my head and patting. “Okay, mommy? Okay?” and “Jesus, Jesus, Amen.” I hope she never grows out of praying more Jesus over people. I have yet to run into a circumstance that wouldn’t be helped by more Jesus.

Meanwhile the Rooster was tickling my foot and checking for smiles. Bringing me joy, being the change she was insistent on seeing. I suppose you could say that a 7 month old was only grabbing what was right in front of her, but I wasn’t the only one who noticed her looking. I wasn’t even the first. Her looking and tickling and smiling, that is what was right in front. God is enough. He is faithful.

Thursday I received an email from Sarah Bessey.  I hope to never get over how much this means to me. There was a marked change in the way that I write out my life when I read hers. Her honest living and writing gave me permission to be the me God is molding me into. The Lord saw fit that I receive her words to me on my lunch break and cried big fat ugly tears on the keyboard until the bell rang and my freshmen were about to walk in the door. (The only crying that is acceptable in my 9th grade class is the crying I cause.)  She did not smack my hand for bringing her name into all of my mess, but instead offered prayer, understanding that grad-school is hard for the wife too, and assurance that as loud as we howl, it is enough. God is enough.

Then, Friday another email. Grace extended that I do not deserve, hope and restoration chosen when death and excommunication would be easier. Understanding and assurance and the door left open when I was sure it would be slammed in my face. There is no clearer way to see Jesus in a believer than when they extend unwarranted forgiveness to you.

Sometimes God has swooped down and healed my heart. BAM. Done. I am forever changed. I can mark the day on the calendar that He healed my body. It is finished. This change, this enough, God’s faithfulness that I am sure I do need and will need all the days of my life, this is a healing that God is asking me to choose, that He offers in this moment, and this one until the “and this moments” are linked in an eternal chain that I must continue to grab on to.

And I will, continue to grab on to that glorious chain. Because today I know that falling is hard and it can get lonely in those moments when you are no longer sure where that healing is. That chain gets covered in the muck that is the moment right here. But it will be unearthed because my God, He is faithful. My God is enough.

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Thoughts While Zumba-ing

I have been to Zumba twice this week. I seem to think a lot during it. Here they are those thoughts

This is what I like to think I look like doing Zumba.

This is probably more accurate.

– This song keeps saying “I found love in a hopeless place.” That right there is an accidental devotional if I’ve ever heard one. I did find love in a hopeless place. This has to be talking about the cross…right? Even if it wasn’t, it is now.

-I cannot figure out what this instructor wants me to do. Yelling “rhythm” at me certainly isn’t helping anything. I wonder what I yell at my students that is not helping.

– She said she needed to see more booty, but this is the East Lake Family Y. I see plenty of booty in this classroom.

-Oh, that is what she means. White booty don’t shake like that.

-Why do I have a repeating track in my head that says “you can’t dance, you can’t dance.” Who put that there? That is stupid.

-The Peanut definitely thinks she can dance, and the Rooster already spends her time bopping around. I wonder if I can do something to protect them from that sound track. It sure is stupid.

– See, look at her. I am not the most awkward person in the room. I need to get over myself. No one is in here thinking about me.

– Here comes the nursery worker, I hope that is for me. I am dying. Nope, not me…guess I have to finish the workout.

The Cleaning of the Wound

“It is like a festering sore,” she said. “It’s just going to keep bubbling; you’ve got to do something about it before the infection spreads. It isn’t going to get better on its own.”

This is an interesting dynamic for sure. Lately I have been the one speaking in spiritual similes, and I am not sure how I feel about the sudden role reversal. But it is accurate, this description. Sore and stinking pretty much sums up my attitude these last two days. My anger is bubbling, refusing the healing that I know I need.

The grossest part is the way I have been treating this wound. Red and puss filled I present it like some kind of righteous badge. “Look at what has been done to me.” The pain pulses through it and around it to the rhythm of my heart. Theirfault Theirfault Theirfault. When bumped tears roll down my cheeks. Angered flesh mirrors the way I have convinced myself I am entitled to feel. The truth is I have been nursing this infection, unwilling to clean it out. I want to ensure my pain stays with me. A constant reminder of my wound.

The people closest to me begin to smell the rot that is in this wound. My husband, my sisters, they warn me of the infection they sense, it is evident in almost every conversation we have. The poison seems to be spreading to places it does not belong. I had planned on keeping it contained, I thought I was controlling it, but it is damaging things I never intended it to get close to. Spots of red flesh are cropping up in seemingly unrelated places, and the hurt is threatening to invade my veins, join my very blood on a path straight to my heart.

Still I protest. I have a right to this infection. I have a right to feel this wound. I was hurt after all. If I allow this to heal it will be as though I was never wounded in the first place. Isn’t that the point of healing?  I hear the Spirit whisper. I am tempted to tell God to shut up.

I feel like it happens just moments before the infection joins the path of no return. I decide it is time to let go of the pain, and let the Lord clean out my wound. I am well aware it is only His prompting that allows me to ask. It is my nature to cling to this angry wound until it destroys me. It is a little scary, asking the Great Physician to clean me out. I am ashamed at how long it has taken me to ask, how bad I let it get. I know from experience that this is certain to sting. It does sting. This wound is cleansed with an apology that humbles me. In order to release this stench I also must release my pride. My pride it turns out, has been fueling the infection of anger.

As I release my own pride and allow God to pour healing into my wound I can suddenly breathe again. It turns out I had been holding my breath against my own righteous stench, and I didn’t even know it. The Healer leaves my wound raw but clean. The sting was temporary and gave way to relief. I was not aware of how bad I was hurting. How much of that hurt was the infection, and how little the actual wound.

I am left with a pile of clean white cloth, instructions to tend the wound. Keep it bandaged, change them often, watch carefully for signs of infection. The wound is still there, but it is healing. It is not my responsibility to heal the original wound, but it is my responsibility to protect from infection.

From Pee to Living Water

I think sometimes I overlook miracles. Ones that happen everyday so they no longer seem impressive. They happen every day at my house, two under two lends itself to miracles. Two babies with clean diapers at the same time, synchronized nap times, first words, first steps, a not-yet-two-year-old who agrees to go along with the plan. They don’t happen all the time. But enough that I forget they are miracles.

Lord, allow me to pour out you Living Water.

But it is emotional miracles, change of heart miracles, miracles you can’t see I have been noticing lately. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in the healing, the manifestations, the return of $900 for your $500 deposit. I’ve seen them, and plan on seeing more. But the emotional miracles, the ones you can’t see. I’ve been seeing a lot of those lately.

Like the time just this weekend when God changed pee into living water. I wish I was speaking metaphorically here, but I am afraid that a misguided child snuck into a friends house and offered his practical joke in the form of peeing in her boot. A child that she could have ignored, but instead has been kind to. A child no one else thinks about much. His parents are too busy, too sick, too overwhelmed, too underserviced. The best that they can is not enough to meet the needs of the kids they have in the house. So the child sneaks into another house, and pees in a boot. Who knows why really, he probably doesn’t know himself.

The pee in the boot was not the miraculous part. It was the gross part. The miraculous part was the Living Water that was poured back out. The initial reaction was expected, I am calling the police (you should I responded) I am telling those kids I am done (be done I agreed) I am telling those parents that I don’t care how overwhelmed they are, they need to get a handle on those children (it is for the children’s own good I encouraged.) But then we prayed about it. And the bitter, stinky, gross puddle of waste that was pooling in our hearts was touched by the finger of God. And as the puddle rippled…..the piss in my friend’s heart was turned into Living Water. I love praying with Godly people.

I wonder if those kids would like to go to church with us? (I wasn’t so the church’s kids community could handle all that.) I had planned on asking those boys to walk my dog with me, I wonder why I never asked the parents. What would it look like if I were radically kind to those boys in direct response of being pissed on? It would look like Jesus. Like what Jesus did for us. What Jesus does for us. Even when we know we are doing wrong and continue it anyway, just because we feel like it.

I know that there are other miracles that are flashier, water to wine lets you continue to party. Manna every morning lets you keep walking. Being healed of blindness, lameness, leprosy; tumors disappearing all of these are glorious things. But turning a puddle of pee into living water, and watching someone pour it out to the pisser. How do you get more miraculous than that?

This post was written for Just Write. Go check it out!

Ohhh baby (body).

I was walking out to the stadium in a sea of fire drill induced students last week. As I rounded the corner I heard it. One girl to another “I am like going to get soooo fat this semester.” I didn’t have to turn around to know that the girl probably weighed less than 125 pounds. Only skinny girls say that. Only the ones who don’t actually have to worry about anyone else commenting about their weight. Why in the world was she concerned about her body fat? If I still had that metabolism I wouldn’t be wasting time saying “I am going to get soooo fat” when I could be shoving copious amounts of peanut butter m&m’s in my mouth.

This came just hours after I had had a mini break down in my closet because I couldn’t find a work-appropriate-Friday-casual-sweat shirt to put over my post baby body. I looked in the mirror and all I could see was what was wrong. My pull over was just too tight for my vanities comfort. And dress pants are less than forgiving as well. The “bottom half” part of dressing every day is not something I look forward to.

And yesterday, a girl in the special-ed class pointed at my stomach as we were passing in the hallway and said “you are going to have a baby!” Wow…..that…felt….awesome… I couldn’t even yell at her for doing it as developmentally, she is just in that stage right now.

In high school and college I never thought I had body issues. I mean, not the looks kind. No matter whether my body could get me out of bed and to school on time, It turns out that at 5’6″ and 120 odd pounds you do have body issues, you just don’t realize it because society approves of your body. But it turns out I have them. And having babies back to back has brought them out in me.

It is ironic in the worst sort of way. I have never been healthier. Truly. I am stronger than I have ever been (thanks to the healthy weight of the Peanut and five pm toddler dance parties). I don’t wake up every day in pain or so exhausted I am literally puking. I have the freedom to make plans without saying “as long as I feel up to it.” I can grow and birth babies with comparatively minimal difficulties. My body works great. And yet, I have never been harder on it.

When I tell my daughters that it is what is inside that counts, I want to mean it. When I tell them they are beautiful, not they  would be  beautiful if….I want them to believe me. I want to be conscious of my diet and exercise because I want to be able to play with my girls, not so I can fit into all my pre-baby clothes. I want to live out for them “beautiful and healthy comes in lots of shapes and sizes” not “it matters what the boys think, and they like skinny bodies.”

I know that I am slowly making my way back into my clothes, but I also know that my body will be different than it was before. And I want to be okay with that. Proud of that even. I don’t like the way my students talk about their own bodies as the enemy at the ripe age of 15. How did that happen? How did a 15 year old in a size 0 come to fear an extra five pounds above all else? How did a 28 year-old who was miraculously healed of a disorder Dr.’s still don’t even know how to diagnose come to loathe a healthy working body that has fed and housed two beautiful babes? How did that happened?

Could it be that this world offers very little grace? We are told that good enough isn’t good enough! Perfection is the new good enough! That if we only tried harder did more we could and would reach the standard that is in fact impossible to reach. And not just in our physique, in our jobs, as parents, as friends and Christ followers. I feel like the world is screaming at me: If you only tried harder you would do better! You aren’t enough! Bad parent! Bad wife! Bad teacher! Bad, bad, bad, step it up!

It is time for me to tell the world to shut it. There is no longer space in my thoughts for those lies. God says I am enough. My body is enough, whether it fits into my dress pants or not. I am done running on that treadmill that gets me nowhere even as it increases in speed and incline. I will instead stroll hand and hand through the day with my savior, whose burden is light. I will do the best I can, and trust His grace to see me through. Rather than depend on my own efforts. And I will be kind and gracious, even to myself.

This body of mine seems to be ground zero for me when it comes to my year of giving grace to myself and others. And I am starting to understand why. It is the thing I can’t hide. The thing that is out there, not explained away. It isn’t perfect, and that is okay, imperfectly perfect even. Yes, I think we will start calling it that instead. After all isn’t that what Paul said? Something about God’s perfections coming through from my weaknesses?

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

Yeah, that. I think that sounds good.

Where I am at….2011

As I look back at this year a phrase goes round and round in my head “If God put you where you’re at, He will meet you where you are.” And I think that pretty much sums up 2011 for me. It was a big year for my clan and I. Peanut’s first birthday, Rooster’s arrival. Another move by my school district, another fit thrown by me, another perfect fit for this time in my life. Christian started his PhD program. I wrote a children’s book. 

It was a big year, and most of these were big surprises. And ones I certainly wasn’t hoping for but am so glad they happened. I pray I never forget the lessons of this year. That my plans are so small, and God’s plans are so great, and so good. That the less time I spend fighting what is to come, the more time I have to see Jesus in all of the impending chaos. That if God put me where I am at, I can trust that I am stepping into his mercy every single time I step out of bed, even when that is multiple times a night.

A couple days after Christmas I was nursing Rooster in the living room where the Peanut’s new tri-cycle was resting. (Where else but Grandma’s house are tri-cycles allowed in the living room?) I wish I could tell you that I wasn’t resenting the fact that I was the only one in the house awake. But I was. I was so tired. And then I thought of fifteen years from now when the thing with wheels that the girls will want under the tree will likely not be there and will certainly not be operated with pedals. I can already here myself saying “Do you remember the year the Peanut got that tri-cycle? She couldn’t yet reach the pedals, but she got around well. That was Rooster’s first Christmas, she loved that Elephant rattle, we named him Elvis. Those were the days….”‘

I am aware that in some respects I am currently living “the days” the ones I will think about every time I see a little girl. That in some respects, 2011 was the beginning of them. I see the wistful look on my dad’s face every time he sees a couple of little girls climbing all over their daddy. I will long for these moments, so I best do less whining and more treasuring. And at the same time give myself more grace, and permission to have a good cry sometimes. Because that is where I have found His mercies on more than one occasion.

The biggest regrets I have for 2011 are the moments when I was stingy with my grace, both to myself and to others, especially my family. The truth is, sometimes your best doesn’t cut it….But God can cover the rest. If I am nothing else next year….I want to be gracious, to my body as I get back to where most of my clothes fit, to myself as I balance motherhood, teaching, and being a wife, to my husband as he balances all the Lord has for him, to my friends as they heal through the wounds life has inflicted, to my students who are simply teenagers and no one wants to do that again. I want to give grace because the world says it is unnecessary and a waste of time. But I believe it is healing and facilitates the freedom to do better.

I want to do better next year, whine less, treasure more. Let 2012 be the year of grace. God’s grace to me…and through me. I can’t help but being a little nervous writing that. We all know what Christ-giving brought….