I have a guilty pleasure. Don't judge me, ok?
I like to watch The Bachelor. And not just The Bachelor, but every spin off and every aspect of the franchise. I'm talking Bachelor, Bachelorette, Bachelor in Paradise, Winter Games; you name it, I've watched it. I'm not proud of it guys. Please still be my friends...
Anyway, a really common theme among contestants in these shows, is when they talk about wanting to find a 50/50 partner in life; a teammate if you will.
As someone who has played team sports, most of her life, let me just tell you, this is not how teams work. 50/50 does not make a successful partnership. Half of each partner, does not make a whole. If you are going halfsies on everything, you are setting yourselves up for failure. This goes for any relationship, teammates, family, friends, significant others, spouses. Are we all going to be 100%, 100% of the time? NO! Because try as we might, we are not actually Christ Himself. But that is precisely why 50/50 will never work. If 50% is your bar; your best, on your best day, to meet that relationship half way, then your bar is too low, my friend. What happens when you have a bad day? God didn't call us to go halfsies in love. He called us to be all in, 100%, and He showed us what that meant.
While we were still sinners, while we were less than our best, Christ died for us. He gave 100 for us, and he asks this of us as well.
As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
He so much as told us that we should give people our all. He gave all of Himself, for us. He died for us. He didn't give us 50, and wait for us to come the other 50. No! He gave 100! He came all the way. He meets us right where we're at, and He loves us.
And in marriage especially, He tells us that we become one.
So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.
If you take two pieces of clay, and slide them together so that they are touching, you have 50/50. They have met half way. They've met in the middle. But what are they sharing? They are not sharing anything but that space in the middle where they touch. They are saying, I've come this far, but I go no farther. That is not really sharing a life, is it? That is being equal, being two parts of a whole piece, that refuses to get messy. Those two halves are very easy to pull apart.
But when you take those two pieces of clay, and mold them together, that is when they become one piece. They are no longer standing there, side by side, saying they will meet the other half way. They have joined together. They have given all of themselves to the other, and then become impossible to separate.
A very wise man, who counseled my husband and me in our premarital counseling, once told us that for a marriage to work, it should be 100/100. Basically, that if I am putting my husband first in my decisions, and he is putting me first in his decisions, we will be as one; not half the time, all the time. This is more then meeting in the middle. It is showing the person you love that you're willing to come all the way. If you are both doing this, from there then, compromise becomes easy.
Yesterday I returned to church after some excruciating back pain kept me from going last week. My husband was playing on the worship team and had to be there early, so that left me to get all four kids out the door and to church by myself, and mornings are still the worst time of day for my back. We managed. We got there only 5 minutes late, which is the earliest we've been all year. We took our seats, and since the music was already playing, I stood to sing. After a while, my back wasn't feeling great, so I sat down.
A war almost immediately broke out between my two daughters for the closest space next to me. A war that my oldest would never win, because all of the older siblings will sooner behave themselves and forfeit to the baby, to avoid getting into trouble causing a scene. Forgetting that I had a whole other side to sit on, my youngest was pushing my older daughter away from me. She did not want to share. I gently tried to explain that she could sit on my other side, but she continued to push her sister around. Finally I just lifted her up and tried to place her on my left side, which was wide open! And she screamed, "NOOOOOOO!" and pulled that stiff as a board toddler routine so that lifting her was almost impossible and added additional strain to my back.
I lost it.
Throwing caution to the wind, I swiftly lifted her kicking and screaming over my shoulder, and carried her out to the toddler room. With several walls and doors between us and the sanctuary, I sat her in a chair, and sat down across the room from her. She proceeded to kick and scream even louder now, because she really loves worship music and wants to be out there. Me too, kid!
After her third warning about rocking the chair that shouldn't be rocked, so that the legs slam into the floor, I took her to the couch in a side room, and closed her in there by herself. The screaming became louder, because now she really wanted to be with me. She didn't want to be alone, even if it was only a door between us.
As I sat there, near tears myself, from the frustration of a 4th child who tends to take up all of my energy and most of my time, leaving scraps of a mommy for her siblings, I realized how much like her I have been.
Last week I was unable to sit at the computer to type up the Monday message, due to horrible back pain. I had to record my message on Instagram instead. For those of you who may have missed it, click HERE. I talked about how this back pain seems to be an ongoing lesson of mine. See, I allow my world, my life to fill up with distractions, and I ignore God, not completely, but just enough to be able to do what I want and then cry to Him when things don't go my way. I find it difficult to hear Him and listen to Him amidst the noise I, myself, have created. I believe many of us, if we're being honest with ourselves, struggle with this every day.
Then, when things don't go my way, when I become hurt because of my own poor decisions, I immediately blame Him. Just as Charlotte was mad at me for removing her from the worship service, and couldn't see how this was a direct consequence to her own actions, I too cry out to God as though He is the reason I am suffering.
And when I feel as though He isn't there, as though I am suffering all by myself, it takes me far too long to come to the realization that my separation from God is my own fault.
As Charlotte cried out for me from the other room, she realized something. She knew that even when she was mad at me, she didn't want to be without me. Her cries changed from screams of frustration, yelling about what she wanted (and couldn't have), to crying out, Mommy! Mommy! Can you be with me, pleeeeease!?
Any parent who has been through something similar knows the heartbreak of hearing your child cry out for you, when you are trying to teach them a lesson. Because we love our children! We want to be with them, we want to hold them when they cry, and take away the hurt, and wipe away the tears. We do not enjoy their suffering, even when, or especially when we know it is self inflicted. Nothing can separate them from our love.
No matter how loudly she screams, no matter the size of her tantrum, no matter how embarrassing it may be to drag her from a public place, looking like the world's worst mom, I will never stop loving her.
Folks, this is how God feels about us! He wants to be with us. He wants to hold us in our suffering. He wants to comfort us in our pain. He doesn't even care if the pain we're suffering is at our own hands. He loves us still!
Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ, but we sure do know how to distance ourselves from Him when we want to. The next time you're feeling alone or abandoned, check yourself, because you could be allowing distractions, anger, frustrations, or your desire to just do what you want, to distance yourself from Him. He is always there, just waiting for an invitation.
We have to stop kicking and screaming long enough to invite Him in.
Friday was the last day of school for our children. It was only a half day, and I attended the awards ceremony which took up most of the day. One of the things they do, which I love so much, is in the last hour of their final day, the teachers each take their classes up to the alter and speak a blessing over each and every one of their students. As I sat there, and I watched children crying with the sadness of moving on from their beloved teachers, and teachers choking up and wiping away tears; one particular teacher sweetly sobbing as she led her class out of the chapel for the last time, I thought, how could I have ever worried about sending our children to school?
Let me backtrack just a little. When our oldest two children were 5 and 4, I began homeschooling them. I homeschooled them until they were 8 and 7, after having our fourth child. The homeschool schedule became difficult for me to keep, and I was struggling with serious back trouble after a very large baby. I was tired and stressed, and felt as though they weren't getting the best of me. As the thought of sending them to school crept into my mind, I was then filled with such a devastating guilt, that I would often cry over this decision. When I reached out to a couple of homeschool mom friends of mine, who were doing it with more children than I, I was left more discouraged than ever. There seemed to be this general idea that we were supposed to suffer, that it was for the greater good, that it was supposed to be hard. Don't get me wrong. It is hard. If it were easy, so many more families would do it. But I was made to feel like a failure, as though my friends, with 2 or 3 more children were tougher and stronger, and pushing through, and I was just giving up on what they felt was the best option.
They did not mean to make me feel this way. Of that I am certain. I believe that they were trying to encourage me to do what I had originally felt so called to do. But what I really needed to hear was, It's OK.
It's OK to need help. It's OK to change your mind. Sometimes, it's ok to quit.
You. Are. Enough.
Life is fluid. It doesn't always flow easily. There are sometimes steep drop offs, often jagged rocks, and turbulent waters, but it keeps moving. As we move through it, sometimes we need to adapt and adjust to the changing currents.
The thing about being enough is that we have to be able to recognize when we need to make changes, when we need to ask for help. Truth?
Sometimes we aren't enough.
What I needed to wrap my brain around, in that moment, was that I wasn't quitting on my children. I wasn't quitting because it was too hard, or because I wasn't good enough or smart enough to do it. I was adapting. I was changing the plan to better suit the needs of my children. I was asking for help. I was praying. And while a few of my friends didn't understand what I needed, God did.
And so, this little school that was randomly suggested by an acquaintance in passing, this school that wasn't even on our radar to contact, suddenly became one of the greatest decisions of our lives. It is a place where our children are literally loved to tears, a place of great growth and learning, a place where our children are learning how to walk with Jesus, a place that has afforded me the opportunity to coach my son in a sport we both love, a place we can trust with our children while I now have more freedom to grow a business from home and contribute to the income of this ever growing family. But listen, it is a place we never would have thought to look...on our own.
The enemy will tell you that you're not good enough. The enemy will tell you you're a quitter. The enemy wants you to feel like a failure, and if you're trying to do all the things on your own, he will feel victorious, and you will feel defeated. Because you aren't meant, on your own, to be enough. You weren't supposed to be. You were designed to need Jesus, and what He has to offer, is more than enough.
My youngest, had slept long past the time she would normally wake from her nap. I went up to wake her, and as I opened the door, her sleepy eyes slowly opened. She didn't look grumpy. Nor did she look like she was quite ready to move. I walked over as she lifted her arms up to me, and I slowly lifted her into my arms. Sitting down on her sister's bed, I cradled her 3 year old body over my lap, and rocked her back and forth, asking if she enjoyed her nap.
In the stillness and quiet of the room we just sat there for a moment. With her face pressed up against my chest she calmly asked, "Mommy, what are you doing?"
"I am rocking you," I replied.
"No, you're not," she said, in a very matter of fact tone.
"I am cuddling you," I tried again.
"No," she said again with a deep sigh. "You are giving me breath so I can breathe."
If you knew my wild, strongly opinionated, and volume control challenged 3 year old, you would understand what an absolutely precious moment this was. She simply needed to recharge, and she clung to me.
What if, in our completely exhausted moments, when we don't feel like we can move, or even get out of bed, we clung to Jesus like a phone to its charger.
What if we just sat, in the stillness, like a cradled child, breathing in His presence?
If ever there was an eye opening moment for me, showing me how to be more child-like, this was it. When I become fatigued, stressed, or frustrated, I tend to busy myself even more. Even in my rest, I am browsing on the computer or on my phone, reading a book or crocheting. I fill my rest with distractions. When am I ever just still? When are any of us just still?
My 3 year old, who is almost always go-go-go, taught me a valuable lesson in stillness. When you are tired, when you need to recharge, turn off the noise, put away the distractions. Allow yourself to be held in the quiet presence of the Lord. Take a deep breath, and allow Him to breathe new life into your exhausted body.
If you are a Christian, chances are you have read Proverbs 31. If you are a wife, or a mother, or a woman desiring or engaged to be married, chances are you have read this and thought, "How on earth...?"
I know I have often thought that this is a ridiculously high standard to be upheld. This woman is perfect. This woman does it all. This woman never sleeps. She makes everything by hand. She's a wife, a mother, an entrepreneur.
She is not real.
She is a standard of measurement, and not even for women. It is believed that Proverbs 31 was written as advice, from a mother to her son, who would grow to be king. He is named at the beginning of Proverbs 31 as King Lemuel, but some have speculated that it is actually advice from Bathsheba to her son Solomon.
When you look at this from the perspective of motherly advice, how much more sense does this make? Of course we have ridiculously high standards for our children. Of course we want absolute perfection for them. Also, we know that seeking those high standards has a natural way of weeding out that which is not good for them.
Reading over Proverbs 31 this weekend, I gained a new perspective, and a new appreciation for its importance, and I felt as though I was seeing it with fresh eyes. This woman we try to emulate (or not, due to fear of inevitable failure), was not only (very likely) designed to advise a future king in choosing wisely, but she has servants. (v 15) When I think about how much I could get done, how many patterns I could write, how many chores I could get done daily, how much more quickly I could grow my work-from-home business, if I had hired help...well, the answer is a lot. This is a well off woman clothed in fine linen and purple (v 22), with a respected city leader for her husband (v 23), and servants to help her each day.
Does this discredit who she is? Does this make her any less worthy of striving toward? No. Because we learn, at the end of the chapter, the most important thing.
Her virtue determines her value; not the ongoing list of her daily chores, not her business transactions, not her fine linens. In fact, later on (v 25) we no longer hear of her fine linens, and instead see that she is clothed with strength and dignity. This is a woman who fears the Lord. This is a woman who does all things for the glory of God. This is a woman who serves her husband, her children, and her community by loving God. As such, then this is a woman who took the commandments seriously.
Moms, even God and even...even the Proverbs 31 woman rested on the 7th day. Let that sink in. By all means, strive for those high standards. But remember, we will all serve in different ways. The Lord has given us each different skills and talents with which to serve. He has also given us a day of rest that we so often refuse to take. Take it. And thank and praise Him for it. It's not about the hustle. It's about the heart.
As a wife, mom of 4, and business owner, finding time to spend in the Word, can be difficult, so I get it! Come join me each Monday for a simple message of hope, faith, and encouragement amidst some honest mommy moments.
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