Tozer and a Face Wax

The only redeeming value to the story I’m about to share with you was knowing I got to share this story with you. And thus begins the story of the worst grooming decision I’ve made to date.

All I wanted was a pedicure. Yes it’s “winter” and technically no one sees my narsty toes. But I see them and it makes my mommy heart happy to see pretty colored toenails. So when Bruce offered to stay with the boys so I could get out of the house for a couple hours, I slipped on my flip-flops and ran to the nearest nail salon.

The experience was going just as I hoped. With ear buds in place I listened to lofty music letting the massaging chair knead away any “baby on my left hip” knots. The girl next to me flipped through the latest InStyle magazine, while I cracked open “Knowledge of the Holy” by A.W. Tozer. (I’m weird.)

Halfway through my pedicurist, “Lydia”, asked if I wanted the paraffin leg wax. Wisely I asked how much it would cost… five dollars extra. I told her “no, thank you.” She persisted and so in my typical people pleasing ways, I explained why…”no, that’s okay. It’s winter and no one really sees my legs.”

Appeased with my reasoning on the seasonal use of paraffin wax, she continued with the pedicure while I tweeted the following:

“The man who comes to a right belief about God is relieved of ten thousand temporal problems.”             -A.W. Tozer

As I sat getting my feet massaged the world all made sense with His words. He captured the essence of being God-centered. In order to not be swayed away by the mundane in life, one only needs to focus on the right belief of God.  Oh Tozer, you are one smart guy.

Then with the skill of a surgeon the pedicurist slid flip-flops back on my feet. I looked up as she gestured towards her eyebrows and asked, “Would you like to get your (pointing to eyebrows) wax?”

Self-consciously I brushed my own eyebrows, considering what was being implied. Apparently I had walked around with caterpillars for eyebrows and never been told.

I mean, I had glanced in the mirror while hastily putting on my makeup and noticed a stray hair in need of a pluck. I do own tweezers, but there usually isn’t time for such frivolity.

Given my uni-brow status and the money I’d saved not getting the $5 paraffin wax, I made my first mistake by saying, “Okay let’s do it.”

Immediately she led me back to a little room. A bright floral patterned sheet covered a bed of some sort to which she gestured for me to lie down. After examining my horrific hair situation through a giant magnifying glass, she gestured to my upper lip and asked in broken English if I wanted to get it waxed as well.

Seriously? Have I been walking around like a Neanderthal and no one has mentioned it?

Here I made my second major mistake.

So I nodded “yes” let’s do the lip while we’re here and you’ve got the wax. And I thought, “How nice for her to consider my facial needs and offer to wax my lip for free?” (Public Service Announcement: “nothing in life is free”).

Well, everything went downhill from there. After the upper lip waxing she continued and waxed. my. chin.  Before I knew what was happening, she tilted my head to the right and slathered hot wax on the left side of my face… quickly placed the strip of cloth on top of my cheek and RIPPPP! Searing pain.

I would have walked out right then, but how could I with only half a face wax?

So more ripping and burning. My entire face was on fire.

I was bamboozled. 

Finally she released me to greet a room full of women with my bright red clown face. To add insult to injury when I checked out I discovered my little torture session cost  $30!!!

facewax

My face hurt. My pride hurt. My wallet hurt.

Now I got to face my husband and admit to handling our money poorly…not that he would make me feel bad mind you (When I told him the story he responded with, “Well, I have been calling you Zach Gallifinakis behind your back.”…thanks honey.).

As I dealt with a bad rash on my face and relived my teenage pimply angst, I couldn’t help but think about that Tozer quote…temporal problems removed with the right belief of God. 

You can’t get more temporal and shallow than a botched face wax.

What did this problem reveal? My continued struggle with worrying about what people think.

Yes, God loves me no matter how much hair is on my face or how blotchy it is after attempting to remove my apparent beard. Do I really believe He loves me no matter what? 

Nope. All I cared about was covering up the bumps with layers and layers of makeup. Searching for the perfect lotion to heal my face as quickly as possible…

So I’m putting this puzzle back in your hands.

How we handle these little “bumps” in life, if our reaction reveals our deepest beliefs about God? How do you stay God-centered when you get bamboozled into a full face wax?

(Pst…and also feel free to share any moments you have made similar unwise grooming decisions.)

The habit I couldn’t establish with willpower alone

Two years ago I signed up for my first Hello Mornings challenge. I started off slowly, waking up only 5 minutes earlier than my boys. Then a few weeks later I moved my wake-up time a little earlier…15 minutes before the boys woke up.  I only lost a few minutes of sleep, but I gained a whole new direction to my day.

Then on Valentines Day 2011, I “celebrated” by going to bed at 7:30 p.m. with a fever, chills and aches. For the next week I was bed-ridden with the flu…awful. (my heart goes out to all the mommas who have been hit by the flu virus this year).

Only a month into the Hello Mornings challenge, the flu bug knocked me off my new routine and I stopped checking in on Twitter.

You know who noticed? My accountability captain, Kat Lee, that’s who. 

katandme

photo credit goes to Kat…since I couldn’t find a pic of us on my computer

Kat, a.k.a. my mom coach**, sent me a sweet direct message checking to see if I was okay and if there was anything she could pray for me. Seriously.

Having the author of “Maximize your Mornings” and creator of www.inspiredtoaction.com contact you personally to see if you needed anything because she noticed you hadn’t been up lately…yeah that will get your bottom back in gear.  

If you’ve ever considered waking up a little before your kids, but haven’t signed up for the challenge because you figured you’d be disciplined enough on your own. Let me tell you, if I had done it on my own I would not have established the habit I have now.

Accountability. Positive peer pressure. Community.

Whatever you want to call it, we need people. We need godly people in our lives to spur us on in this walk. God never intended us to pursue Him alone. He created the world with His Son and the Spirit. From before time began, there was community in the Trinity.

(In case this story scares you from joining HelloMornings…don’t be scared. The challenge is set-up to be self-directed with as much support as you desire. If you stop checking in after two weeks and decide you can’t finish the challenge, no one will force you to continue. But if you desire women to come alongside you and encourage you to keep trying even when you didn’t wake early one morning…than this group is for you.)

God is working all around me. He is not waiting on me to get His work done. I have to decide if I am going to join Him in His work. In order to hear His personal calling on my life, I must meet with Him.

I’d love if you joined me this Winter/Spring in meeting with God. Registration started yesterday and the challenge starts January 28th. May we experience the joy of His presence together! (one of the primary goals I have for us here at God Centered Mom this year!).

**A coach is defined as “a private tutor; one who instructs or trains; instructs players in the fundamentals and directs team strategy.” That’s Kat. You feel like it’s a private tutoring session when you read her posts. She gives you a new strategy to approach motherhood. She encourages moms to stretch themselves to pursue greatness. Because our kids already think we are great, we just need to believe it!  

Kat inspired me to wake up for my children. She encouraged me to spend one-on-one time with my boys. She gave me the idea to have my boys do push-ups when they need some discipline. She introduced to my new favorite meal planning program. Let’s just say she’s pretty much the best mom coach ever!! 

Who do you have in your life to keep you accountable? Have you ever shared a new goal with a friend so she would “hold you” to it? 

Im-Maximizing-My-Mornings-300

Pst, one more thing…wrote more about my Hello Mornings story over at the MOB Society this week. Talking about how to stay one step ahead of our boys (also applicable to girls). 😉

onestepahead

 

Satan’s pants are on fire

I sat on the floor clipping Watts’ toenails when Price marched into the kitchen.

“Mommy, did you know that Satan used to be a beautiful angel? Then he decided he wanted to be God and that’s how he became Satan.” (a direct quote, I swear).

I responded with, “You are so right Pricey. Did you know we sometimes make the same mistake as Satan? We think we can be like God and God has to remind us that isn’t true.”

Price kept going with his thought, “Yeah, Satan wants us to be on his bad team. He tells us lies and wants us to not be with God.”

“Buddy, you got it. Remember Satan’s first lie. He convinced Eve she could be smarter than God. He said, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” That’s like Quade saying, “Did mommy really say not to have a piece of candy?” Sadly, Eve believed Satan’s lies.”

“Remember that song, mommy? ‘Satan’s pants are on fire. He tells you it’s not true. He sells you on the pretty fruit.’ That’s talking ’bout Satan lying, right?”

He’s only five and he gets it. There is a battle going on. It’s not visible. For we are each a soul with a body (C.S. Lewis).

Last Thursday at a faith & culture event, I heard the actor, Max Mclean, speak. His voice may be more well-known than his face. If you have the YouVersion Bible app, you have heard him when listening to the NIV translation. He also done wonderful performances of books from the Bible (here is the link for Mark chapter 1)

Max was in Dallas performing in his adaptation of C.S.Lewis’ book “The Screwtape Letters”. This wonderful book is a series of short letters written from a senior demon, Screwtape, to his nephew & protegé, Wormwood. He advises Wormwood on how to keep his “patient”, a British gentleman, from becoming a Christian. How to secure the man’s “damnation”. To keep him directed toward “our Father below” (satan) and keep him from “the Enemy” (God).

photo credit

In the preface to the book, C.S.Lewis wrote, “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about devils.  One is to disbelieve in their existence.  The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.” 

Either extreme is dangerous:

  • ignoring the existence of evil
  • an excessive interest in demons.

In writing my own book, I cannot ignore the existence of evil. I’m walking into the battlefield. Because Satan is the poster child for “pride” and Christ the perfect example of “humility”.

“Pride can degrade the highest angels into devils, and humility raise fallen flesh and blood to the thrones of angels.”-Cantebury Prayers (1893)

We have the choice each day to humble ourselves and admit God as the supreme authority. Or we can go the path of the fallen angel and “consider equality with God something to be grasped” (Phil 2:6)…which even Christ, who was God, didn’t claim.

As I write this book would you pray with me to keep Satan’s lies from my mind. To stay focused (so many distractions) on the message God wants me to share, a message of humility in mothering. With these words I’m striking Satan right between the eyes. “The devil, the proud spirit, cannot endure to be mocked” (Thomas More).

Of course he would have me “feeling not like myself”, keep me from writing these words. He wants to keep me isolated. Alone. Discouraged.

Well not anymore. You chicas are my encouragers. My prayer warriors.

You need a prayer warrior too. If you desire to be a God-centered momma then you are being attacked as well. Can you write in the comments how we can pray for you? Will you pray for the request written right before your own? Like a little bloggy-prayer chain. 

Here is my prayer:

“Lord, keep my mind stayed on You. Don’t allow me to believe the lies that I have “nothing new” to say to moms. Keep me from the distractions of social media. Keep my family safe. May I continue to view this book as your project and not for my glory.” Amen

I wrote this post on Saturday. Monday morning I hired a sitter to watch the boys while I wrote for a couple hours. I had just gone upstairs and opened my computer…literally minutes later I heard Price screaming, “Emergency! Emergency!! Watts is really, really hurt” Then I see the sitter carrying Watts up the stairs. My sweet boy was bawling…and bleeding buckets from his head. Fortunately after 5 minutes of cleaning the bleeding source turned out to be a small puncture wound. Thankfully it wasn’t my first “my-son-is-bleeding-everywhere” rodeo. Unfortunately, thirty minutes of writing time was now gone.

Tuesday during “quiet time” when I planned to write, Knox woke up from his nap early and cried inconsolably for 45 minutes. Tuesday night I went to bed early planning to wake Wednesday morning at 5am to write. Sadly Price was up all Tuesday night with a stomach bug. 

I truly don’t believe this scenarios are coincidences. Please, please stop right now and pray for this project and for Satan to be bound. Quade, amazingly, shared the verse (pictured above) with me. Thank you Lord for a precious son who knows and speaks truth.: 

“The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” Romans 16:20

The only way to write a book on humility {part 3}

In case you missed them…here are part 1 & part 2 of my writing journey with God.

Ahhh, feels wonderful to have shared all my “secrets” here on the blog. To let you know that I haven’t “felt like myself”. To reveal the amazing work God has placed in my path. To be honest about how I struggled to complete His work when I made it about my efforts.

The next part of the story is so so…God.

the waiting 

Phil Vischer said in his Allume keynote that he no longer believed the cute phrase, “God can’t used a parked car.” Through the bankruptcy of Big Idea productions and season of waiting, he learned how waiting on the Lord is the Biblical approach to following God’s will. It’s not about “the impact, but the relationship with God”.

From mid-August until now, I was in a season of waiting on the Lord. Of getting back in the right relationship with Him. The summer I had forced the writing. My writing had no hope because I was hopeless and far from God-centered.

But God was still pursuing me. He gave me bits of truth: a verse on a local church sign, a national news story, the perfect Psalm, a confirmation in a sermon. When each relevant tidbit came my way I scribbled on scraps of paper or in my notebook labeled, “publication” or created a voice memo on my iPhone.

the false barriers

But I wasn’t writing chapters. In my mind I created a false “writing” rule. I believed if I didn’t have hours of uninterrupted time, then I couldn’t write.

With our school schedule and no sitter, I have at least 2, 3 or 4 boys at home at any one time. To me, writing with the boys around was not an option. By the evening my brain was fried after answering a million questions, trying to get our discipline system back under control, changing a thousand diapers/pull-ups, making/cleaning up food, and keeping my home somewhat clean.

Then one day my husband pushed me out the door on a Sunday afternoon. Sitting in Cafe Express with my random assortment of scribbles, I started a new Word document labeled, “brainstorming”. I sorted through my notes and typed them on the page. With each Scripture I typed, His message came back.

the re-inspiration

A few weeks later, right before the Allume conference, I received an email from Bill (my agent). He simply asked if I would be attending Allume and wondered if we could set up a time to meet.

I had bought my conference ticket a year ago. Long before I had been contacted by Bill. In God’s perfect timing our meeting would happen when I was on the “upswing”. A month or two prior, I would not have been ready.

In my mind Allume would be like a women’s retreat. A time to breathe and my soul to be filled. God gave me “soul” time traveling that Thursday from 9am to 5pm. Once I arrived in Harrisburg He had another agenda.

Did you know over and over God put women in my path who had just written books? I received encouraging messages like, “just get started”, “write thousands of words and then go back and edit”, “don’t allow your left brain to stifle the creativity”,  “don’t be afraid to get help” , “It takes a long time to write”.

Even Ann Voskamp, during her keynote, shared the story of getting harsh criticism from an editor. He told her, “Who do you think will read this?” and “Your words will never go very far in this world.” Boy was he wrong. Her words have been read by many (over a year on the New York Times Bestseller list, in fact) and her words have been translated into other languages.

the team-effort

Another huge influence in getting me “back in the saddle” of writing, was Tricia Goyer. She presented, for the first time, a way to be a writer and a mom…successfully. Not ignoring my children. Not feeling them to be a hindrance to writing. But including them in the process.

During family dinners, if she struggles to write a scene or character, they would all pray together. If she was asked to attend a book promotion, she asked instead of airfare for gas money & a larger hotel room so her family could go with her.

Today I was home with three of the boys. Baby knox was taking a nap, Watts was in the playroom, and Price was painting pictures while I wrote this post. Suddenly I heard Watts say, “Mommy look what I made!”. I stood up from the table and looked down the hallway to see him proudly pointing out his Lego duplo train.

His words “look what I made” made me realize, we were all creating. I pointed it out, “Wow Watts! You created something really special…a train. Price you are creating beautiful pictures. Mommy is creating a story. Just like God created the Universe we are making new things.”

The other morning I had finished writing a chapter right as the boys came downstairs for breakfast. They came straight to my leather chair for early morning kisses and hugs. I said, “Guess what guys? Mommy just wrote the first chapter of a book! Let’s pray and thank God for helping me write the words.” They joined me in celebrating a milestone in this book writing. I want them to see God’s hand in this process.

I also really want y’all to be a part of this writing process. You are my “chicas”! Just like when I greet a girlfriend on the phone, “hey chica!” I want you to know I value your thoughts and experience. Let’s do this!!!

Here is my inspiration “pep talk post-it” verse stuck to my computer: 

“Those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” 1 Peter 4:19

The only way to write a book on humility {part 2}

If you haven’t read part 1–> click here

When asked to make 2012 new year’s resolutions I couldn’t. I dreaded the year ahead of me. All I could see were sleepless nights, incessantly feeding a baby, and loss of freedom. While I knew “baby’s first years” were sweet, they were also draining.

Bill’s phone call and invitation to write a book proposal gave me hope. Perhaps I did have a life outside of “babyland”. It was a helpful boost in my fallen spirit. In“part 1” of my story I ended with signing the agent contract…and having broken my foot.

The book proposal

In May 2012 (with a broken foot vacationing in San Antonio), I spoke with Bill about the next step-writing a book proposal.  For those interested, a book proposal includes: a book description, book outline, an annotated outline (with descriptions for each chapter) and three sample chapters.

When I asked about a time frame or deadline, he hesitantly mentioned to a Christian publishing convention mid-July. If I written had a decent book proposal by then he could begin to talk about the book with publishers.

Although six weeks may seem like a short amount of time to write up a book proposal, I didn’t “bat an eye”.  For one reason, I was convinced writing came super easy to me and I would have no problem writing a proposal quickly (pride?). Secondly, I had already arranged for a girl (a teacher) to help me with the boys that summer, 2 ½ days a week, from early June through July. So I would have lots of focused time to crank out a proposal.

God did some wonderful things in those six weeks of Summer:

  • Our sitter brought joy & life into our home…something we (I) desperately needed.She loved on the boys. Dealt with a hard season with transitioning Watts out of a crib. Cleaned up lots of poopy messes. Laughed lots!
  • The times I home with the boys were sweeter because of my time away.
  • I earned a lot of free bakery items at Panera. 😉
  • God humbled me to a whole new level.

The critique

Within a couple weeks of writing I turned in my first, very rough, book proposal draft to Bill.  Our follow-up phone call began with the words, “This won’t be a long conversation…”

So began my education into the publishing process. I learned writing a description for a book proposal is more like a marketing pitch than a description. I learned I have a LONG way to go in perfecting my writing skills. I learned I’m not the female James Dobson or a 50-year-old woman, so I need to stop writing like I am.

When I got off the phone I turned on my computer to edit and basically start over. Instead I left Panera crying and got a pedicure.

One mistake I made last summer was using every free moment to write. I stopped seeing friends. I stopped living life.

Once I was at Panera when two very dear friends were sitting right. next. to. me. But I was “supposed” to be writing, so I didn’t stop and enjoy lunch with them. Big mistake.  As flattering and life-giving as writing a book were to me, by neglecting my life, my spirit began to suffer even more.

The second mistake I made was writing out of MY skill and not plugging into the power of our creative God. I never prayed before writing or read His word. I just jumped right in, trying to impress Bill or be the next Ann Voskamp. My “God-centered” book on humility became all about “me” and nothing about God. Ironic.

“God opposes the proud but

gives grace to the humble.” I Peter 5:5b

The next draft critique included the suggestions: to read books on writing, to perfect my memoir writing skills by reading blogs like Big Mama & Boo Mama (two of his other clients), and to lengthen our time frame to six months.

When he pulled back the time frame I felt the weight of all I’d sacrificed to write this proposal. The sacrifice felt wasted (even though I know now it’s a creative process and nothing is ever wasted…). I had given up my life to write the book God had called me to write. Then I found out I wasn’t actually very good at writing.

Before Bill “broke up with me”, I decided I would give him an out. I told him, “If you regret signing a contract with me. If you think I don’t have what it takes to write this book, I need you to tell me now. Because if I’m not any good I’d rather know sooner rather than later”

Bill, in his awesomeness, said, “Publication is like the Olympics. The standard has been set. I didn’t set the standard. But, I am willing to coach you and help you reach that standard. If you are willing to do the work.”

I left the conversation a little defeated but thankful he still had hope in me. He was my advocate.

The editor

While reading books on how to write (listed at the end of the post), I reached out to some women in my life who I knew were involved in publication. One dear college friend (how God brought her into my life is a whole post in itself) offered to talk on the phone with me.

When I told her the part about reading Big Mama’s & Boo Mama’s blogs, she stopped me and said, “Heather, I’m editing Big Mama’s book right now. After that I’m going to be editing Boo Mama’s book”. It turns out she has worked with my agent before. She is an editor at Tyndale. AND she offered to help me with my writing. How awesome is our God?

God had given me the message. the agent. the editor. Yet from mid-August until mid-October I didn’t touch the proposal because I couldn’t “find the time” with our new school schedule and I felt ill-equipped.  In part 3 of my book writing “tale”, I’ll share how God gave me the boost to get me back on the writing saddle.

Books Bill suggested: 

 

The only way to write a book on humility {part 1}

Most writers have big plans to write books. I struggle to even call myself a writer. If you asked me about my “dreams” I would talk about women’s ministry or speaking. But God has a different plan.

God decided I should write a book.

I’m just coming to grips with His idea. This post should have been written 6 months ago. But back then I thought keeping the news secret was the humble thing to do.

Now I realize it was actually my pride keeping the news amongst a select few. I didn’t want to tell you about writing a book, because what if a book was never published. Then I would have to write a follow-up post: “Nevermind. God didn’t really want to me to write a book.”

But you know what? At Allume I was smacked over the head with truth: the calling to write a book has nothing to do with me. Yes, I have to physically type out the words. But it is 100% God’s message. He has orchestrated details in ways I never imagined (just wait…you will see what I mean). It’s my job to follow where He is working. Stop sitting around. I’m failing by not following. 

So here’s the story of how God decided I should write a book.

The Message…

In the Spring of 2011, while sharing my humbling journey of motherhood to my local MOPS group, God gave me the “God-centered” message of this blog. For the past year or so I’ve chronicled that journey here. Little did I know when I started “God-centered mom” how much further I would be humbled. This message of “replacing me with He” was never mine. It has always been God’s repeated voice in my head to share with others.

The agent…

This past April (2012), we unloaded all the boys from the car after a Sunday night Yancy Nancy concert at church. Given the “later than normal” bedtime, there were tears and gnashing of teeth, from both me & the kids. To escape from the crazy, I pulled out my iPhone to check my email (it’s a sickness I’m working on).

Typically opening my inbox on a Sunday night I’d find maybe an email from Gap offering 30% today “only” (an email I get every other day). Usually there is nothing important or interesting waiting for me, despite my frequent, obsessive checking.

But that night I found an email from an unknown address. I opened it to see these words:

Heather, I am Ann Voskamp’s literary agent, along with others of course, but I see you list her book as a favorite so I thought I would name drop. 🙂 Have you ever thought about book publishing? If so would you like to talk about how it all works? Grace and peace, Bill

Wouldn’t you know my first thought was skepticism? It must be spam. Then, instead of googling: “Who is Ann Voskamp’s literary agent?”.  I sent Ann a direct message on Twitter. Seriously. In my shocked state I simply said, “I know your life is full. Just got an email from a Bill Jensen. Is he your agent? Any information you have I would greatly appreciate.”

Within 20 minutes I received a personal email from Ann. She shared how Bill was in fact her agent, how he was amazing to work with, how he lives gospel, and how he views it as his ministry to help Christians publish the message God has given them. My favorite line (which in only Ann could write): “I am smiling, beautiful friend…God goes before you.”

Then I just sat in silence. Instead of joy, gratitude, and honor, I felt a mixture of shock, disbelief, and fear. I began to project myself as a book author. A pit in my stomach began to form because I had a two-month old baby. Everyone knows moms of newborns don’t write books.

The next day I shared the news with a close friend. Asked for her thoughts on what I should do. She brought be back down to earth. She reminded me how Bill wasn’t asking me to write a book, he just asked if I had questions about publishing. She gave me the wise advice to do “the next right thing.”

The next right thing was to schedule a time to talk with Bill. In classic, new-mom-mush-brain, I arranged our first phone call during the baby’s 2 month doctor’s appointment. But Bill was gracious and we scheduled for another time. While the boys were at school and the baby slept, he and I exchanged our stories and became acquainted.

He told me he loved how God-centered my writing was. He also said he never would have contacted me if he knew I had a newborn, because that is, “cruel and unusual punishment”. Reflecting back, I trust God was present even in this. It wasn’t me who impressed Bill, it was God. Like Ann said, “God goes before me…”

After our conversation the next right thing was to speak again. In that conversation Bill extended me a contract. And I signed it. But again in my publication ignorance I just filled in my name online and emailed it back to him. (forehead slap). Again Bill was gracious. (I took this picture with the hard copy I finally mailed in…unsure if anyone else would ever see it).

Just as he promised, Bill sent me sample book proposals. The next right thing was to study the proposals and begin to write my own.  However, the week after signing the contract to work with an agent towards a book on humility in mothering…I broke my foot. That event launched me into the most humbling season of my life.

“He has shown you, O man, what is good & what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8

To be continued

“the only way to write a book on humility {part 2}–click here

You will NOT fail in motherhood.

I heard a “mentor” speak to a group of Type-A moms recently. She made this statement, “I only started talking to moms about parenting after my children were grown and I knew that had not failed.”

While I respect her waiting to impart wisdom until her children were grown. I have a problem with her last phrase. By saying, she “had not failed” she communicated to a room full of “try-hard” moms that they “could” fail.

I believe God has given us a responsibility to love our children well. To model grace, teach truth & train love. But I do not believe I can keep my children from failure.

I also don’t believe if they “fail” (whatever that means), they are beyond God’s ability to redeem and use them. What if a “train wreck with grace” is what my boys need to truly grasp God’s love?

Didn’t God’s perfect son look like a “failure” as He hung on the cross? But we would not have life eternally with God if Jesus had not taken on all the brokenness and failures.

This past weekend,Tricia Goyer, an author of 33 books, encouraged writers on how to balance life as a writer & mom: how to write God’s message, love your children, and enjoy your life. She has 3 grown beautiful godly children and one little girl she adopted. Yet her past includes an abortion when she was 15 years old. Her first son was born when she was 17 and the father left her.

Had her parents failed because of her teenage pregnancy? Was her life beyond God’s restoration and His ability to use her to minister to others?

Stacy Buck, a passionate, vibrant, woman of faith, has a history of drug use and rehab. Did her parents fail?

On her flight to Allume (Christian blogging conference) she sat next to a 17-year-old boy (apparently dressed like a gangster). She was hoping to meet some women heading to Allume, but God had different plans. Prompted by the Spirit & given her “failed” past, she asked the boy, “Do you like rap?” He responded, “Yah”. Stacy boldly said, “Well, I’m a rapper” (it’s true Stacy can throw down a mean little rap about her life…including her failed past).

Stacy (on the right) with Lara Williams (on the left) having a rap-off. Both ladies love God, words, & their fire-fighter husbands.

Right there on a plane she shared her broken story in a rap. Then he shared his. He had just come out of rehab and was going to live with his aunt. Because of her history and experience she was able to warn him to be on guard for more temptation.

You see after she came out of rehab her family moved to a new city to get a fresh start. The first time she went out of the house alone, “Leon” walked up to her asked, “Do you know where I can get high?”. In that moment of temptation she spiraled down again.

So she warned this smelly, 17-year-old, recovering drug addict to “watch out for Leons”. Advice which could save his life. Advice she would only be able to give because she had been a “failure”.

In her weakness and brokenness, God has lit a passion in her heart to do His work. Because God may allow hard things in our kids’ lives in order to capture their attention.

I have stood in my kitchen, with a burdened heart, and cried out to my husband, “I am ruining our children” or “I’ve failed.”

With full confidence and belief, I want to take hold of your shoulders stand right in front of you and declare: “You. will. not. fail.”

Because you are already a failure. If you weren’t you wouldn’t need Jesus. We are all failures. God has a lot of wayward children. 

Of course the last thing we want to do as moms is “mess up” our children. We get one shot. There are no “do-overs”. But God can handle our inadequate parenting because He is the perfect parent.

This week don’t parent in fear of failure. Parent in love. Don’t feel you have to “fill” your children’s empty vessel. God has already equipped them with everything they need to glorify Him. Your job is to shape all the gifts and uniqueness of your child. Let Him do the rest because really they are His children, His failed children. 

“Fear not, for I have redeemed (made right) you. I have summoned you by name. You are mine.” Isaiah 43:1

When you keep “working” on the same issue…

A few weeks ago I found old prayer journals from my college days. It was discouraging to see prayers for the same areas of sin I’m praying for now. Have I really not grown spiritually in the last 13 years of pursuing Christ?

I heard an author recently say, “spiritual maturity comes after emotional maturity.” Her testimony was actually one of the motivators for seeing a counselor. Because how can I expect to grow in my faith if I’m stuck on past hurts?

How can I grasp God’s grace for me, if I don’t understand grace? If I can’t grasp His grace for me, how can I give grace to others?

When I brought up these ideas to “Sally” (the counselor) she gave me a wonderful visual example. Here is my attempt at bringing her idea to life (an iPhone pic of a Word doc…nothing but the best around here):

There is a spiral with a plank through one side. The spiral is your life. As you grow and travel up the spiral you eventually hit the plank. The plank represents your “issue”. Whether it’s insecurity, doubt, inability to love, difficulty understanding grace…that’s the plank.

Each time you hit the plank you think, “not this again! Haven’t I dealt with this issue before?” 

Yes, the truth is you have. But in reality you are higher up the plank than you were last time you hit it. As you climb the spiral you climb higher and higher on the plank. The progress may not be perfect, but it’s progress (Lysa TerKeurst calls it “imperfect progress” in her book “Unglued”).

In order to achieve spiritual maturity I must obtain emotional maturity. But maturity doesn’t happen in a moment, it happens over time.

“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.  Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.” 2 Corinthians 12:7-8

God gives me a “thorn in my flesh” so I remain close and stay humble. Everyone has a “thorn” or “plank”. Each day is another day of progress. Theologians call it progressive sanctification: “process in a Christian’s life in which he/she is progressively made more holy (set-apart).”

“The process of progressive sanctification is described in Galatians 5:19-23. Progressive sanctification is the journey of producing less and less of the acts of the sinful nature (Galatians 5:19-21) and more and more of the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Progressive sanctification is a process empowered by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) and enabled through prayer and the study of God’s Word.”- all about following Jesus

So, do not be discouraged if you keep bumping up against “that issue” in your life. Whatever keeps you clinging to the Cross was given to you for a purpose. You are growing, maturing, being sanctified to become more like Christ.

Lord, 

As I desire to be more of a God-centered mom than a self-centered one, give me patience in the process. Continue to fill me with your Spirit. May  Facebook & Twitter not replace prayer and Your Word in my day. May I lean into You as I make imperfect progress. 

Amen

When you just don’t feel like yourself…

Something was wrong. No giant red flags, only subtle changes.

Like not wanting to plant summer begonias. A ritual dating back 9 years. Or letting chinese maple leaves wilt from lack of water. Or not returning a friend’s call. Ignoring the phone all together. Emails remained unopened in my inbox.

What used to bring joy brought fear. I used to leave the house 2-3 times a day because “I’m just not a homebody.” But now, now, I hold tight to home.  I traded my party girl status for hermit-dom. Being with friends felt risky and undesirable.

Prayer and Scripture should have been enough to pull me through, right? I should breathe the Breath of Life. But why couldn’t I catch my breath? In one moment the assumed demands caused my heart to race.  While my husband ordered fried chicken at the drive thru, I tried to open the car door and run away.

What would cause a woman who sought God and wanted to glorify Him lose hope? Feel helpless? Feel life so heavy she crumbled under it?

It didn’t matter if I called it an “anxiety attack” or “break down”. What  mattered is after “the event” I could no longer continue without community. I could no longer carry my thoughts, fears, and worries alone.

So, at my husband’s urging, I texted a friend. A friend familiar with the status of my thoughts. This time I simply asked her for a phone number. The “I mean business” text. The “time to stop complaining and wallowing and do something” text.

For the next month I held on to the number she gave me, because “I was feeling better already”. And maybe I didn’t need to see a counselor after all.

During that month of “feeling better” I started sharing my story with friends. Letting them know things weren’t right.  Most were relieved to hear me say the words out loud. Because they saw the difference in my manner and mood…and it worried them.

Surprisingly the more people I told, the easier it became to tell. To say, “You know after each of my babies I feel overwhelmed, anxious, and sad. Perhaps I’ve had some form of undiagnosed postpartum depression each time?”

I was amazed how many responded, “Yes, I know those feelings.” And “Yes, you should speak with someone.” And “Talking is healing. Keep talking.”

After I exchanged stories with one friend, the word “depression” didn’t seem to fit me. I know I’m not supposed to compare stories. But she had suffered deep, deep pain. My current “functioning” state, feeling like “not planting flowers”, seemed far from where she had been.

She comforted me, “Heather, I don’t think what you are experiencing needs a label. You just don’t feel like yourself. That’s enough.”

Because the Heather I know threw fun New Year’s Eve parties in her house with a live band while kids slept soundly upstairs. The Heather I know laughs loud and dances freely. The Heather I know gives of herself without holding back.  The Heather I know answers the phone on the first ring anxious to encourage the woman on the other end. The Heather I know creates and enjoys beauty. The Heather I know doesn’t want to miss a thing. I missed her.

So I made the phone call. I boldly scheduled my first session. Because I want to love the Lord my God with ALL my mind. And my mind has been otherwise occupied. I really wanted to feel like the Heather I know.

When I entered Sally’s* office I discover the cliché is true. I commented on the couch and I loved her already when she replied, “don’t worry I won’t make you lie down on it.”

She loves God. She studied at seminary. She doesn’t want to blame parents. But she said life words, like, “You have come a long way, but you have some baggage to set down. I’ll help you do that.”

The verse, “prepare your mind for action” (1 Peter 1:13) encouraged me to get better. The greek for “prepare” means to “gather up what entangles you”. So by taking care of what trips me up in my mind, I can be ready for action. Putting down baggage so I’m ready to serve Him.

My purpose in sharing what has been going on in my life the past few months is not to glorify it or me. My hope is you will tell a friend if you “don’t feel like yourself”. Tell a friend, even if it doesn’t seem bad enough to be diagnosed.  Because we don’t need labels to feel out-of-sorts.

If your mind is so occupied with baggage and toxic “shoulds”, I hope you find a godly, Christian counselor (one recommended by friends). Sometimes getting a phone number is the hardest step. The second hardest step is making the phone call. I will tell you once you are sitting on the couch there is nothing easier than talking.

For me part of my journey to humility is writing this post. Because the words, “crazy” and “insane” are slang for “wild” and “good”. Admitting weakness feels weak. But it’s not about how I feel. Like Ann told me, “this laptop is my altar”. So I will lay down my pride. Because if you are healed and your mind is free to serve, then you win and God is glorified. But if I only write my story in a journal then it remains in my journal and you continue to feel “not yourself”.

Lord,

I pray for those who read these words. I pray you will stir a desire to love you with ALL their minds. I pray you will give me a deep understanding of your grace. I pray you will continue to work in my thoughts and my “shoulds.” I pray boldness for those who are suffering alone. I pray for friends who can share openly about feelings of anxiety, fear & worry. Friends who can encourage one another to go to You, Lord, so You can take “brokenness aside and make it beautiful.”

Amen

*To maintain privacy, actual name was altered.

Take it one grain at a time…

I’ve shared how the “crazy comes in waves“. Fortunately, as baby Knox grows the distance grows between crazy waves.  There are still moments when all the “should”, “want” and “need” tasks pile up and paralyze me from doing anything. Life feels full. I feel worn empty.

God provided encouragement in the oddest of ways. Remember the sermon book my dad read from at my grandmother’s funeral? (if u don’t remember it’s okay, you can read about it –>here<–).

I looked up one of the authors mentioned in my grandfather’s notes. The author’s name is James Gordon Gilkey (1889-1964). In researching I found Mr./Dr. Gilkey wrote several books (“The Certainty of God”, “A Faith for the New Generation”-1926, “The Problem with Following Jesus”, “You Can Master Life”).

He also wrote these words:

“Most of us think ourselves as standing wearily and helplessly at the center of a circle bristling with tasks, burdens, problems, annoyance, and responsibilities which are rushing in upon us. At every moment we have a dozen different things to do, a dozen problems to solve, a dozen strains to endure.

“We see ourselves as overdriven, overburdened, overtired. This is a common mental picture and it is totally false. No one of us, however crowded his life, has such an existence. What is the true picture of your life?

“Imagine that there is an hour glass on your desk. Connecting the bowl at the top with the bowl at the bottom is a tube so thin that only one grain of sand can pass through it at a time. That is the true picture of your life, even on a super busy day, The crowded hours come to you always one moment at a time.

photo credit (added text)

“That is the only way they can come. The day may bring many tasks, many problems, strains, but invariably they come in single file. You want to gain emotional poise? Remember the hourglass, the grains of sand dropping one by one.” James Gordon Gilkey 

Universal truths and feelings never cease to amaze me. The fact that Mr. Gilkey wrote these words almost 100 years ago and they could help focus a scattered mom’s mind…amazing.

Lord,

I pray I can take each grain of sand as it comes…single file. I pray I don’t get distracted focusing on the grains which have yet to fall. Give me eyes for this moment. To take these tasks and complete them well. Focus my heart on what matters to You. In my discipline and training of those boys may I focus on what concerns You. Give me Your love for those in my life.

Amen.