Jesus the Contractor?

I read this blog post last friday. It is about building a castle. How the Lord comes in to our hearts and desires to build beautiful wonderful things out of our hearts and lives. But all we wanted was for him to fix the leaky roof to our humble cottage. I suppose I knew Jesus was a carpenter, but I never thought of him as a contractor before.

On Saturday we had women’s group and I mentioned the post. Jill said something along the lines of “Yeah, remodeling is inconvenient! Sometimes you have to do your dishes in the bathtub.” I can’t get the thought out of my head, that the remodeling of my life, of my heart, of my soul, is likely to be uncomfortable and inconvenient at times.

There are times when Christ brings in the sledge-hammer and proceeds to knock down walls that you had been told were holding the house up. It is scary watching the support walls in your life crumble, only to discover that they were not as necessary as you were told. Or that they were necessary, but He put up some sort of non-permanent solution until the whole thing is remodeled. It sometimes looks like your life will come slamming down right onto your head.

Or sometimes he moves things that have been in place for years. Jesus changes around the light switches in the house of your life, or turns the water off to a particular faucet. It is so hard to unlearn old habits and stop turning on faucets that have worked in the past. That water needs to be cut off so that we will stop using that faucet. But we still go back until we finally have a new normal.

Sometimes Christ comes in and tears down the back deck, and you are annoyed. You liked that back deck; you used it. Where exactly are you supposed to put the grill now? It is really annoying. Why would he just tear down something that was working? But then He puts in the screened in porch of your dreams. Of course the deck had to go.

But mostly, when people talk about the inconvenience of cooking for months on a hot plate and a microwave, or doing their dishes in the tub, or having a family of seven using only one bathroom for a year, they talk about how it will be worth it. They have seen the plans, or designed those plans themselves. And when this inconvenience is all over the house will be bigger, or better, or nicer. The mess will be cleaned up and the dishwasher will be re-installed. The frustration will be over and a beautiful home will be in its place.

I don’t know what the final product will look like. The Lord knows there is a LOT of remodeling to be done in my life. But I know and trust the contractor intimately. And I believe that His design will be worth it.

Cast off Your Chains

Cast off your chains my friends, the ones that have been weighing you down. On the left wrist, the chain reads “try harder” on the right “do better.” Wrapped around both ankles is the chain of “you are not enough” it is held together with the links reading: should. I should be thinking this, feeling that, doing the other.

Should be spending less, should be giving more. You should have gotten to church on time and been more productive. You should be more, do more. You should get your act together. The shoulds link together wrap around your shoulders until you are stooped and shuffling along.

Some of these chains have been there so long, they feel as much a part of you as your arms. Some have snaked into your body and wrapped around your heart until it beats to the rhythm of the chain. Shouldshould, Shouldshould, Shouldshould.

Somehow, somewhere, someone taught you to wear these, maybe even wrapped the first one like a scarf gently around your neck. You are not enough, it read. But now you dress yourself in these chains every morning, some you even sleep in. Never take them off.

Someone may have even told you that Jesus wants you to carry these chains. They are a testament to Him, proof that you are faithful to your God. But these chains, these thoughts of inadequacy, these are not the things the Lord has for you. Jesus came to set you free from these chains.

Look closely, you will find the shackle on your wrist is unlocked. You do not in fact have to walk around today with the weight of trying harder and harder still. Let Jesus take that from you today. Allow Him to be enough…instead of you trying to be.

It may feel awkward, maybe even a little scary at first. New found freedom usually is. But soon you will realize, that without this chain, the one telling you to try harder, that your range of motion is extended. With Jesus holding the weight of that trying, you suddenly have the freedom to do just that.

Soon you will be dancing to the sound of those chains falling away. The sound of the clanking will cause your heart to dance with joy.

And your heart, oh your heart, it will recognize the freedom of the falling chain, reject the chain that snaked its way in. It will no longer beat Shouldshould Shouldshould. Instead it will beat Beloved Beloved. Because you are, just the way you are. No shoulds attached.

Jesus Lover

When people talk about me, what do they say? I have come to the conclusion that people are talking about me far less than I think they are. Seems I am the only one who thinks me so important. But when people do talk about me, what do they say? Oh, that is Abby she is…..?

There are so many things I want to be. A good teacher, (the teacher to some, the one that made the difference), a great mom and wife, a published author one day. All of those things plus the more general terms, kind, honest, funny. I hope people say that too. I hope those labels stick to me like the stickers on my food packaging, like the stamp on the milk container.

There are so many labels out there labels within labels even. Not just mom, working-mom, stay-at-home-mom, crunchy-granola-mom, attachment-mom, ferberizer (I know, really, it is a thing. I didn’t make it up.)

And as a christian, Oh Lord, how we love our labels. I am a fan of telling people about Jesus. I pray for people to meet my savior. If that is evangelism, am I an Evangelical? I believe that the bible is fundamentally true, am I a Fundamentalist? I speak in tongues and see visions, I have occasionally dreamed dreams. Does that make me a Charismatic? I was raised a Disciple but now go to a Baptist church, was baptised in a Disciples church but now take my discipline in a Baptist one. What does that make me? How do I identify myself? What does it mean?

What if I didn’t care? What if I peeled off all the other labels that I and others have attached to myself, wiped clean all the sticky residue, and printed off a new label. Black on white in bold, 40 point font. What if I stuck it straight onto my chest: Jesus Lover.

What if I lived my life in such a way that the only way to talk about me was to talk about Him? “That’s my friend Abby. She loves Jesus.” If I stopped spending so much time worried about if I am doing it all right, and simply concentrated on loving Jesus, what would that mean for me?

Oh to be a Jesus Lover. To think all day everyday on loving Jesus well. To do the dishes and the grading, the laundry and the driving hand in hand with my savior. I wouldn’t spend so many minutes worried about what a good mom, wife, teacher, friend, does. If I failed at one of those it would be okay.

Those are the things that I do. They are not who I am. I am a Jesus Lover.  I love Jesus. Put it on my t-shirt tomorrow and my gravestone someday Abby Norman: Jesus Lover.

If this was where my story began and where it ended, if it wrote everything in between. What a beautiful story it would be.

Biggest Critic. Biggest Fan

I remember when I was too sick, or maybe too sick of being sick, to get up off the couch. I remember my sister, the one who had not yet left for college, coming home to her sister laying on the couch…..again….and yelling at me to get up. Get up, go to school, do something. My illness had not just infiltrated my body. It had infiltrated our entire family. She wanted it, needed it, gone.

Later, in high school, I remember going to her best friends house to get ready for homecoming, my first high school dance. Though she does not remember saying it, I remember her saying that I wore too much make up. Easy to say I suppose, when you get elected prom queen in nothing but lipgloss. Later, she would ask me for make up tips, and I would be vindicated.

I remember her critiques on my outfits and my boyfriends. She was always right about the latter. Some weren’t good enough for me, some did hurt me, some were jerks.

I remember my freshman year when I did not make the musical. To my face she told me that it happened sometimes to freshman, I would just have to wait my turn. To her friends she complained that the freshman girls who did make it were not nearly as talented as her sister. I heard her. I was probably listenting in on her phone call.

Now, Jill is not so quick to criticize. She is the one who tells me “You can’t talk about my sister like that.” She is the biggest fan of this blog. She shares every post and emails some to her friends. She tells me that I write well, that sometimes, when I get it right, she can see Jesus in here. She took me to see her writer friend because she believes, more deeply than I that someone will like this enough to publish it.

I know now what I didn’t know then. That the criticism was coming from a place that screamed both “You can do better” and “You are already enough.” She was critical because she knew I was better than that. She was critical because she wasn’t going to let anyone, including myself, sell me short.

It is this relationship that reminds me, when I hear the Spirit convict me. That God is telling me to change because He loves me deeply. He wants great things for me. He will not let me sell myself short.

Let’s get physical, physical….

I am lying in bed exhausted. My hands feel as though my thumbs could fall off, my fore arms ache, and my back is asking me why in the world I contorted myself into a c shape for about two hours this evening. My feet aren’t happy with me either. The Rooster has had a couple rough nights, and tonight while she wanted to fall asleep around 7:30 or 8, I didn’t manage to actually get her truly asleep until about 9:45. I had her asleep three separate times before the fourth one finally took. Lately we have been coming up with “Roosters Rules for Babies” and the first two are: 1. Never ever leave the baby in a room by herself. Ever. Even for a moment. Even if you have to pee. 2. Babies are for holding, pick the baby up whenever possible.

Loving babies is such a physical act. It is even more apparent with my double helping of babydom. Putting on and taking off clothes, and shoes, and jackets. Picking up and putting down. Rocking and swaying and bouncing and walking. Tickling and hugging and kissing and patting. Holding Rooster in one arm while the Peanut grabs my hand and proclaims “walk!” So we go round and round the three rooms and a hallway that connect into a never ending circle of toddler path. And the feeding. Even the one who isn’t actually being fed by my body still needs to be put in her seat and sometimes needs help with the spoon.

It is exhausting this physical love, even as I reflect on how it is fleeting. There is only a limited window that I will be able to hold both girls as we head for the car.The Peanut will one day take her own shirt off, rather than pulling it over her head and yelling “tuck, tuck!” (stuck, stuck) and there will come a day when the Rooster will no longer want rocked to sleep.

 I never think about the physicality of love, when I think about love I always think about the confessing of emotions or the listening to someone in pain, the being with someone who is lonely. The emotional burdens bared and shared. But that is not the phase I am in with my children, babies are for holding after all.

And Christ, he came as a baby in a physical body. He needed holding and patting and rocking and changing. This Christmas I have been thinking a lot about the physicality of the incarnation. Christ came in a body that grew just like the two bodies that grew inside of me. He was birthed by a woman in labor just like my own babes. He stubbed his toes often as a toddler and fell every couple of steps when He was learning to walk. And later that body was used to physically touch the people society deemed untouchable. He scooped up babies and stroked the hands of old women. He literally carried burdens for people, firewood or well water.

And then the physicallity of the cross, the brutality inflicted on the body that Christ chose for himself. The willingness of Jesus to endure it all. I am struck this advent season, when I think about Christ coming, by the physicality of Christ’s love.

Because You Probably Need to Hear it.

An open letter to someone specific….that could end up being more than one person specific….God works like that you know…….makes the same word just for you.

God adores you, is over the moon about you. If He slept, He would fall asleep wishing you were next to Him and wake up with your name on His lips. He would stay up all night just to watch you breathe.

He thinks of you as His bride. Every romantic thing you have ever seen done at a wedding in person, or on TV, or in the movies, or in your imagination, God wants to do all of those things for you. He wants to surprise you with His love like that. God wants to make you feel that special. He looks at you like the moment a groom lays eyes on his bride for the first time u. Because He is desperately in love with you and wants everyone to know. Everyone.

Like God wants to not just profess His love to you on the jumbo tron at the game, but at the Super Bowl, at every major league sporting event that will be played for the rest of time, and the minor league ones too. He thinks you are just that incredible. And He wants everyone to know that He thinks you are the most amazing person on earth.

If God were a thirteen year old boy He would make bargains with Himself about, “if you would just let me sit next to her in first period.” He would sit in His room and wonder what it was like to just hold your hand. God thinks holding your hand would be incredible.

If God were a thirteen year old girl He would secretly write your name all over the inside cover of His notebook; He would add hearts. He would have a code name for you and rearrange the way He got to class so He could pass your locker multiple times a day.

If you were in a long distance relationship, He would eat ramen noodles for weeks on end just to afford a plane ticket to see you. He would call you at midnight so He could hear you breathing on the other end of the phone when you both fell asleep. He would tell you His astronomical cell phone bill was totally worth it.He would mean that.

God is totally crazy about you. Not the corporal you. YOU, the one who is reading this. He will never get over how much He loves you, loves a million things about you, loves your strengths, and your quirks and the way you…..If God had poker buddies they would stop inviting Him to play because all He does all day is talk about how great you are.

God adores you. He thinks you are incredible, He feels lucky to be with you. God loves you.