Third Sunday of Lent

Gracious Father, we give You praise
And thanks for this Holy Communion
The body and blood
Of Your beloved Son

ah, this is so good. I need this.

Maybe this truth will help me be in a better mood,

give me a better attitude,

help me focus in the right place.

The body is broken
God’s love poured open
To make us new
Lord, make us new

Thank you, Lord.

Thank you for mercy,

for grace.

Abba Father, we bless Your name
And take part in this Holy Communion
Make us all one
To love like Your Son

Yes, Lord.

How my heart longs for that true fellowship of believers.

Wait. Is Phoebe fussing? Didn’t the downstairs neighbor say that she can hear Phoebe crying sometimes? Does she think I’m a terrible mother? I better go make sure Phoebe is okay.

The body is broken
God’s love poured open
To make us new
Lord, make us new

CRASH.

My eyes snap open. Despite the one million times I have told her not to, Ellie has climbed into her doll crib, and, obviously, the bottom fell out.

ALREADY? I just wanted to listen to this one song. I just wanted two minutes and fifteen seconds of peace.

The body is broken
God’s love poured open
To make us new
Lord, make us new

“It’s not your fault, It’s my fault.”

Before I can even open my mouth, my two year old short circuits the thoughts that would’ve made this situation all about me and not about her. All about guilt and not about grace.

And somehow, we have a quiet conversation about how important it is to listen to mommy and to choose to obey, even if my eyes are closed. And I gently remind that little girl that she has her own crib and this one is not it.

And somehow, the bottom of that plastic doll crib fits right back in there and it’s almost like it never broke in the first place.

And somehow, He keeps finding ways to be Immanuel. God right here in our life. The God who came to live with us. The God who isn’t only there when I have a quiet space, ancient prayers, and cup of coffee, but the God who wants to be found. Right smack in the middle of crying babies and disobedient toddlers, if I will only ask to see him. The God who doesn’t need silent spaces or special weekends to change my heart.

The God who is right here in my living room, making me new.

With Child: A Guest Post Series.

The response was overwhelming. Granted, it took a few days. They are all mothers, after all. Each one has a lot on her plate. Those first few days were full of sweaty-handed waiting and continuous phone-checking that would rival any junior-high girl with a serious crush. After more than a year of praying and thinking and dreaming, I was waiting. Waiting to see if anyone’s heart had ever felt the same way mine did. All I had done for months was hope & pray, and once I hit that red send button, there was little I could do but hope & pray some more.

And then the ‘yeses’ started trickling in. Filling up my inbox day by day until there was a yes for every email I sent out.  From women I have shared countless cups of coffee with to women I know almost entirely by the words they write online.  “Yes,” each one wrote, “I will share my story.”

It has been a long time in the making- the gathering of these momma hearts. In different and deep ways, the stories these women are living flood my heart with grace, tug me closer to Jesus, make me a better mom, a better friend, a better wife.

It’s no secret that just a simple Google search will return an overwhelming amount of articles, videos, and websites that might lead us to believe being a momma is actually about the kind of diapers we use, or about how we feed our babies or clothe our babies or birth our babies, or about how many hours we spend at home or at work. I’m beginning to believe that I’m not the only one who forgets that motherhood is mainly about Jesus. How he makes us more like him. How he makes our children more like him. How he makes his name famous. How he accomplishes his mission in the world.  How he allows our families to participate.

WithChild

Over the next ten weeks, you are invited to join us as we tell a different story about Motherhood, as we look for Jesus, specifically in the journeys we take into motherhood.  Each of these sweet women are going to share different stories of the ways that the Lord has used the journey into motherhood to make them more like him, to illuminate the gospel, and to glorify himself. I am so excited to introduce these women to you and to share their stories with you. We are excited to see what the Lord will do with these stories. Each of the next ten Tuesdays, will you join us with a cup of coffee and discover the Jesus in our stories?

too much, not enough

“Alarm. Alarm. It is 7:25 am.” Oh is THAT what my phone’s voice sounds like? Apparently Eliana has somehow permanently changed my phone so that it talks to me now. Like I might be sitting in my Bible study and it might say something like, “YOU have a TEXT MESsage from…” I roll out of bed and pad down the hall to the bathroom. And I feel…tired? sad? upset? I can’t put my finger on it, so I try to push it out of my mind. That’s when the words start swirling around in my head. Ones that were spoken to me weeks ago, but are just as fresh as if they were spoken yesterday. Words my heart knows well. They aren’t pretty words. They’re ugly. And they don’t paint a pretty picture. On good days, I know that the picture they paint looks nothing like me. But on days like today…

I squint at my reflection in the mirror. My lips are chapped. There’s that pimple on my chin. My bangs are too long. I need a haircut. It’s true, I think. I am a mess. Not just my personality, but the way I look, too. I bend down and shove my hair dryer back into a dark corner of the cabinet and shut the door a little harder than usual, wishing that I could shove those thoughts in there, too.  I hastily start raking a comb and straightener through my bedhead.

For as long as I can remember I’ve struggled with being too much and not enough all at the same time. Too tall. Too loud. Too intimidating. Too enthusiastic. Too intense. Too emotional. Not relaxed enough. Not outgoing enough. Not happy enough. Not flexible enough. Not intelligent enough. Not spiritual enough. Not organized enough.

I don’t know where this stuff came from. Probably a combo of my own pride and perfectionism and the horrible belief I caught as a teenager that if I do the best, God will love me best.  I’m not really thinking about that now, though. It’s repeating in my head like a chant. too much. not enough. too much, not enough. 

My two year old comes into the bathroom, “Hi Momma. You seen my letters?” I nod, motioning to the box where her foam bath letters are and muster up a smile. At least she has no idea what a mess her momma is, I think.

I fumble my way through the rest of the morning routine. Stuffing breakfast into my mouth while I try to feed Phoebe, absentmindedly handing pieces to the little girl who said, “Momma, you share that scone with me?” We finally make it to the car, and Ellie starts singing along to T-Swift. Normally, I’m in love (who isn’t), but I just can’t with her today. I rifle through pile of CD’s, one eye on the road, and a neon green disc falls into my lap. I swap “1989” for “Not a F Up?” and tearfully beg the protesting toddler to “give momma some grace today, please.”

“Not a F Up?” is, perhaps surprisingly, a collection of songs, most of them about Jesus, designed by my best friend to remind me that I am not, in fact, an F-up, even on my worst days. We made these CDs for one another right after college, when we kind of thought swearing made us cooler Christians, and we were just generally angry about… most things, really. It’s got a bunch of songs by Caedmon’s Call and other bands that you tell people you like so that they know you’re a Christian, but like a cool Christian. So, basically, what I’m saying is we rebelled by writing “F” (literally, because we wouldn’t actually write the whole word) on burned CD’s full of songs about Jesus in an effort to sort out all the feelings we were having. Oh, man I am awesome. Clearly.

I laugh and make a mental note to ask her if I’m remembering things right when I hear the familiar opening guitar strums of one of my favorite tracks on the CD and turn it up.

“And maybe all that I’ve to do
Was done a long time ago.”

Ugh. I honestly can’t cry right now. It’s just not conducive to driving.

“Because there was life before my life,
Was provision before my need,
Was redemption before my sin.
For the sake of the world, I thank the Lord
That the truth’s not contingent on me.”*

Despite my best efforts, a tear slips down my face. And those words that have been swirling in my head? For a moment, they’re quiet. And my heart is quiet. Where condemnation has been spoken, peace is spoken.

And it’s not because I quit thinking about those ugly words long enough that I forget. It’s not because I got distracted by a good episode of TV or because I am now paying attention to keeping my girls from peril. It’s not because I thought up enough nice things about myself to even out the scale.

It’s because of Jesus. It’s because the Truth spoken over my life isn’t “you’ll show them.” Or “once you’ve been walking with the Lord long enough, you’ll figure it out.” The Truth is Jesus. Here before me. Strong before my weakness. Redeeming me before my sin. It’s because when I am weak, then I am strong.

I sigh and look out the window as the song continues. The peace in my heart is refreshing. But it’s not permanent. Later on in the day, I will raise my voice with my daughter. not patient enough. I will forget to start making dinner until 6pm. not organized enough. Tomorrow, I will find that I’m holding a grudge against someone while trying forgive. not spiritual enough.  I will be frantic about my to-do list. not flexible enough. 

I don’t know how long those words are going to swirl around in my head. I’m pretty sure this isn’t the last time I’ll hear them. But for now I take a deep breath and anchor my heart in the Truth, whispering this Psalm to the chapped-lipped, tired momma who looks back at me from the mirror.

“But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared…

Hope in the Lord!

For with the Lord there is steadfast love,

and with him is plentiful redemption.” 

*I hope someone enjoys the vintage Derek Webb in this awesome 90’s video as much as I did. YouTube is the greatest.

First Sunday of Lent

It’s past 11:30. The tears are fresh on my pillow, and I’ve just slipped into that dreamy place between waking and sleeping when I hear her. It’s quiet at first, so that I fall in and out of that light dozing a few times, unsure of what’s going on, but then I am sure I hear her.

“Moooooooommmmaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhh.”

I’m standing next to her bed before she can call my name again and I’ve gathered her in my arms.

“Snuh-gguhl.”

It’s kind of a routine.  She hasn’t been sleeping through the night for a few weeks now. At first, I didn’t mind it, but the last day or so, my attitude has moved from gracious to annoyed. Sometime, I stopped being enamored by the way her golden hair curls against her neck, the way her head rests, slightly upturned, next to mine, and the way her chubby toddler hands find my face in the dark; sometime it all began to blur into constant kicking and thrashing and loud mouth breathing. I noticed it tonight, and at first I couldn’t figure out what had happened- when everything had shifted.

But I think now I know why. I think it’s because this week I’ve been living frantic. I spent the week trying to get the house ready for Eliana’s second birthday party, and I’ve been babysitting again, and Phoebe really doesn’t like to be put down. And it’s been a week like so many weeks during high school and college where I shove food into my mouth while standing and find myself going from one appointment to the next with little down time and I can’t remember which meals I ate and which ones I just thought about eating.

And even though this week marked the beginning of a new season of the church year, I barely noticed as we slipped into Lent. And even though I desperately longed to feel the ashes smeared and hear those words whispered “dust you are and to dust you shall return,” the pressing of time felt so near suffocating to me that I didn’t go anywhere.

Dust I am and to dust I shall return.

I have long confused busyness with importance, overcommitment with faithfulness, stillness with laziness. Having two children under the age of two has forced me to live slow. To take my time to stop and listen and rest. To give myself grace when the laundry piles and the cabinet doors grow sticky, and the bathroom mirror boasts those toothpaste pockmarks. I have simultaneously gloried in the simplicity and felt guilty for it. Exulted in the freedom to focus on my children, to soak in every single moment and complained about being bored. Laughed at sweet silly toddler phrases and cried about not being important.

These first few days of Lent have looked a lot more like striving and a lot less like trusting. A lot more frantic and a lot less peaceful. A lot more harried and a lot less hopeful. So far, Lent is doing exactly what it is supposed to do- reminding me that sin is so much more than just the things I do wrong– it’s the very basic ways my heart doesn’t work properly. How deep, how fundamental my sin, how desperately I need a Savior.

Dust I am and to dust I shall return.

act your age

Well someone might as well have whirled right around and punched me in the stomach the way the air rushed right out of me and that sickish feeling started churning around right there in the very core of me.

It isn’t a nice feeling.

The last time I had that feeling it was looks across tables and harsh words whispered in ears so the teacher wouldn’t hear what those girls really thought about me. It was the mean looks and the harsh whispers and the “you can’t sit with us,” just like Regina George would say. I was 10 or 11. I write that now and I’m thinking I was that young? And the hurt felt so big.

It didn’t feel any smaller at 25.

But at 25, you have to do something. Because when you’re 25, you’re big and you’re grown, and you are supposed to act your age.

 

When, in the name of the healer they hurt you.

When the place that should bring wholeness brings brokenness.

When gentleness is replaced by recklessness.

 

Even then, especially then, you have to act your age.

 

And the next morning, when I woke up with that sickish feeling still churning and I sat in that rocking chair with my baby girl in my arms and my big girl sprawled on the floor reading books, And I wondered how on earth am I going to act my age? And I started singing because it makes baby girl smile and big girl giggle. And then the words coming out of my mouth wrap right around me like the sweet Savior’s warm arms.

 

“Jesus Christ

Shine into our night

Drive our dark away

Till your glory fills our eyes.

Jesus Christ

Shine into our night

Bind us to your cross

Where we find life.”

 

This is what it means to act our age, to grow up in our faith. That when that sickish stomach feeling is churning and those words are echoing, begging us to feel that hurt all over again, to cling to it and remember how someone did us wrong, we choose to look at Jesus. Because we know that the very same way Jesus’ love covers our own ugly sin, it covers those sins that get done to us. And when we think about and we wonder how we will ever address that situation or how we will live in peace, we remember that Jesus’ sacrifice is just as sufficient for those sins done to us as it is for those sins we do. And that his grace fills us, even when hurt tries to empty us. And that in our very dying to that ugly desire to make them feel that very same hurt they made us feel, that very same breath-emptying, heart shredding, stomach churning ache, we join Jesus right up on that cross, and he breathes that air right back into us, draws that heart right back together, and calms that stomach churning the way he calmed the salty sea all those long years ago.

And it turns out that act your age doesn’t mean that we pretend nothing bad ever happened. It doesn’t mean we ignore injustice or we go around justifying meanness. It means that we choose to say yes to everything that Jesus did. That we choose to believe that the wounds of our sweet Lord are just as much for the things done to us as for the things we do to others. We say yes to everything he promises he will do, even when the story doesn’t look like it could possibly end well. It means we say yes to letting that gospel light be the thing that fills up our senses when we want to gaze at the masterpiece of our own self-pity. It means that we say no to a grievance story and yes to a nourishing story.

Act your age means that we believe that Jesus knew what he was doing when he showed us that running to death is really running to life. 

Dear Modesty Blog Posts

Dear Modesty Blog Posts,

It’s over.

I will not be reading you this year. I have a list of things I am going to do, and there’s just no space on it for slut-shaming, guilt, and women objectifying women. Last year I spent too much time crying and trying to explain that I’m not all “women should get to wear nothing and no one should care!” That posts like you paint a better picture of beliefs hidden deep in our hearts than what is hanging in our closests. And it’s not very pretty.

Also, my daughter is walking now. There’s just no way I would be able to stay on top of you. I’d get lost somewhere between how thick my tank top straps should be and why it’s okay for you to talk about women like they’re food items or objects. So, this is a break up letter. It was fun (I guess?).

Additionally, I just can’t fill my heart with that stuff anymore. It makes me angry, and if I’m honest, I’ve gotten a little prideful, a little annoyed. I need to fix my gaze somewhere else.

So I’ve decided I’m going to do something different with my time this year. I’m going to read about what Jesus actually said about women. How he treated them. How he talked to them and about them. I could be mistaken, but I don’t remember his first concern being how they looked.

Instead of getting angry about how the church treats women, I’m going to spend some time amazed by how Jesus treated them.

Instead of trying to raise a hue and cry about how wrong we’ve got things, I’m going to rejoice about how right Jesus got them.

And instead of judging everyone I see this summer based on how much or how little clothing they wear, I’m going to try to look at them like Jesus would. I’m going to try to look at myself like Jesus would.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from growing up Christian, it’s that I still have so much to learn. Thank God for a gentle, meek, and gracious Teacher who always tells the truth.

In short, I don’t really need you anymore.

Lindsey

Join me? Let’s just say no to the modesty blog posts and yes to everything Jesus says about us.