Monday, August 29, 2016

The Voice of Comparison and Hearing His Song

I’m sitting with a friend, at my table, and she shares from a deep place. The tea kettle is slow to warm, but words come fast.

She’s hurting because she’s comparing herself to others.

She’s hurting because she’s hearing lies.

We sit at the table and I listen. But I don’t see what she sees. I don’t see the shortcomings. The not- enoughs. The second-rates and falling-shorts and maybe-someday-I’ll get-it-rights.
I see a beautiful woman made more lovely by her heart for the Lord.

I see a sweet soul longing to shine bright in the light of His love.
I see His grace, His love, in the way she touches her children. The way she loves her husband. The way she's reached into my life. They way she reaches for others, too.

But she’s listening to the voice. The voice that nags. The voice that lies. The voice that slips over our souls like dark, sticky tar if we let it ebb in.
It’s the voice of comparison.

And I can see that she’s tuned in because I fight the voice, too.
She’s younger. She’s more fit. She’s a better writer. I’ll bet her kids never throw fits that make her stark ravin’mad. If they do, I’ll bet she handles it better than I do.

It goes on and on. Important things. Petty things. Vain things. Spiritual things.
Her house is cleaner. She’s more successful. She looks better in jeans. I wish her talent could be mine.

So I sit at my table and listen. I listen to my friend’s heart. But as I do, I begin to hear something else, too. It’s the truth of His Word. It’s the tune of His promise. It comes loud and clear until it’s strong as the beat of my heart.

The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17 NIV

And I begin to think.
Does the Lord ask me to pull my worth from the weight of a stack of sisters?

He asks me to trust Him. To obey Him. To praise Him. To give thanks. To love Him and to love others.
Does the Lord compare me to any another woman? Does he tell me I should be more? Does he expect me to possess all the best qualities of everyone I know?


Not at all.
He comes close. He takes delight in me. He gives me gifts and talents and a life that is uniquely mine. He singles me out . Lifts me up. Pulls me near. He’s given me His Word and He’s filled me with His Spirit. And he comes close enough to whisper.

Close enough to sing.

The teakettle whistles. My friend shares, and I listen. When her heart quiets, I’ll share too. But I have a new prayer.
It’s for my friend.

 It’s for me.

I’ll pray that the voice of comparison would fall silent.
‘Cause we’re lost in the song of His love.


Monday, August 22, 2016

When Being A Mother Means Becoming A Child (Launching Kids)

I’m in the coffee line at Sunday school when a lovely young mother shares her heart. Her first child will be attending preschool soon, and her emotions run deep. I get it. Beside me stands my twenty-four year old son, home this summer for an internship, but off for his second year of law school in two days. This week another son will attend public high school after a childhood of homeschooling, and there will be only two left at home. My children are growing and changing and it’s good. Very good.

But letting go is hard.

It's common to motherhood, and if we allow it, this stretching is a spiritual experience. We let go in varying degrees – from preschool to adulthood - but it’s still an unclenching of the fist. It’s uncurling our fingers and stretching open palms to the Lord.

Releasing our children, as they grow, means opening our hands.

As the young mother and I chat, I think of stretching times and remember when Lonny and I left our firstborn at college. He stood on the sidewalk in front of his dorm, and I watched him in the mirror as we drove away. He grew smaller and the ache went bigger.  I feared that when Lonny and I returned to our hotel room, the seams of my soul would split. And they did. But then Lonny’s arms slipped around me, and the unexpected happened.
We danced.

It wasn’t romantic. There was no music. It was just the two of us, holding one another, hurting hearts pressed close.

The Lord was with us.

Open hands are hands that are ready to receive.

I’m learning, as I grow in my relationship with God, that I can always find comfort in the promise of His Presence. He doesn’t change. Growth doesn't separate us. In fact,  as I grow, He comes closer.  There's not a life stage or experience I'll walk through alone. He's faithful to provide - for my child and for me. Sometimes the grace is within expectation, but sometimes it’s too tender and beautiful for my imagination.

Like an unexpected dance.

And I can trust in God's love, care, and provision, because really...

letting go of children means becoming a child.

At the sweet center of child rearing is the gut-drive to provide for my boys. It began before I fed their bellies from my body and stretches through a lifetime of days. It’s soul-giving. It’s offering all I have for the benefit of another. My boys can count on it - even in my flawed human state. And the Lord offers the same to me – only His love is perfect and His grace is limitless. I can rest in His arms and find comfort in His care. I can let the truth of His Word cradle me and allow me to hear His heart.

 And it beats a rhythm of love.

The young mother and I chat while the line inches along and soon I fill my cup. My son and I press through the crowd and find a table. He pulls my chair back, and his smile stirs my heart.
Next week he’ll be gone, and my life will change in a lot of ways.

But it’s okay.

Because of my Father, I can live open-handed with my child.

The eyes of all look to you, and you give them your food in due season. You open your hand, you satisfy the desire of every living thing.
Psalm 145:15-16

Monday, August 8, 2016

Childlike Gratitude - A Prayer for When He's Grown

I'm driving home. The van is quiet.  The evening is thick with humid haze.

"I have it figured out, Mom." Zay's voice comes from he backseat, still small and sweet and ringing with the beauty of little-boy.

"What's that?" I ask.

"The prayer. The prayer I'll pray when I'm grown."

"Do you want to share?" I ask.

I peer in the rearview mirror. Zay's head dips down. His fingers lace on his lap. "Dear Lord, thank you for this day. Thank you for our home. Thank you that when I was little, I had a good mom and dad and all that stuff."

He's quiet for a moment.

"And thank you for Jesus."

I need to be watching the road but this form of precious pulls me hard. I make a turn and notice that Zay's eyes are open now. He's watching Iowa cornfields blow by.

As I drive, I think about my own life and how my prayers of thanksgiving can often be scant or nonexistent. I think about Isaiah's wide-eyed-child awareness for what I take for granted. I think about how busyness can be a thief - ebbing away the beautiful until there's only stripped-down stress.

 I don't say a word out loud.

But in my spirit, as God's child, I think about my son's prayer. 

And soundly say Amen.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. Psalm 100:4

Monday, August 1, 2016

The Goodness in Growth (Getting Mighty in the Lord)

We’re at our first outdoor swim meet. The water gleams still and smooth as the swimmers stand behind the blocks. The sun is high.  There’s quiet calm.

And when Gabriel takes the block, he’s confident. When he dives and breaks the water, his form is slim and sleek.

As my son moves down the lane, I remember his first meet. He’d been watching Sam for months and was excited to have his turn. But when he dove from the block, his arms and legs splayed frog-like.  He hit the water with a red-belly smack.

He’s grown so much.

He’s worked so hard.

Lap after lap. Day after day.

Watching Gabe inspires me. It causes me to consider the growth in my relationship with Lord. It challenges me to not stay in the same spiritual place. I want to grow in knowledge, strength, and sensitivity to the Spirit. I want to stretch in obedience and in trust. I want to grow to the point of peace, the kind that passes understanding, because there’s rest in the Lord’s Presence.

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. Colossians 2:6-7 NIV

This passage is underlined in my Bible. It’s scored over in neon-pink. It speaks to my soul. Paul offers encouragement to anchor and grow. Learning to live in Him takes us to new depths of grace.  When my faith grows stronger, gratitude grows, too. Learning to live and breathe in the peace of His Presence and brings joy to each day and light to any darkness.

But spiritual growth doesn’t just happen.

Like anything else, spirit-growth takes dedication. Time. Focused attention and deliberate choice. It’s a willingness to open the Word and sit at the Lord’s feet. It’s choosing to know Him, to talk with Him, to rest in His Presence and seek His face.

A thriving, growing relationship with the Lord takes dedication and time, but the reward is the sweetest under heaven.

Gabriel pulls himself from the pool. He walks toward his coach, and I see his time on the scoreboard. He’s a young swimmer in his division, but he skimmed a few seconds off his record. Gabe’s coach offers instruction, and my boy smiles as he makes his way to us, leaving wet prints on warm cement.

And prayer, bright as the day, beats through my heart…

Lord, may we always grow…