The Best We Can Hope For

Forgiveness is really the best any of us can hope for.

And that’s only because perfection isn’t really an option, right? I mean, if I’m being honest (feel free to be honest along with me) my hope most days – as a mother, a wife, a friend, a homemaker, a Daughter of the King, as a person – is be as perfect as possible. Which is hilarious because only crazy people chase after a thing that they can’t ever actually catch… right?

It’s pretty jarring when you actually look it in the face, and it’d be cute to tell you that this obsession with perfection is a product of a difficult childhood (some of it is, yeah sure), or to just pretend like it’s not constantly trying to hijack my parenting or my peace, but apart from good old fashioned self-reflection and confession there is no real possibility of change. And change is what I’m after.

Also hilarious: how the jolt into motherhood makes certain things very clear very fast. One minute I’m working hard to bring this baby girl here, and the next she’s on my chest screaming loudly, wriggly, and soaking wet. I am immediately convinced of two things: (1) this is not about me, and (2) I want to do this perfectly.

Which brings us right back to the problem of chasing after perfect motherhood. And I think it inherently comes from a place of instinct, a super-naturally planted desire to protect this tiny person you’ve just been handed, a recognition of the weight that comes with the title of “mom.” And then the weight gets bent and our prides pokes its head out, winks at us arrogantly. Stand back world, I’ve got this one.

It’s only through the growing side-by-side that we realize how wrong we were, how impossible perfection actually is. Those first nine months of making room for each other are nothing compared to the first nine years. I age and she ages. I learn and she learns. I hurt her and she hurts me. I fail. Is this what I signed up for?

Human relationship? Painful? Yup.

If children are “natural born persons” as Charlotte Mason says, and you just welcomed one into your life, you can bet that there will be plenty of room for heartbreak, and if you’re lucky plenty of opportunity to ask for forgiveness.

I remember the moment that I found out we would have a second baby girl, and the thrill at realizing that my first baby was getting a SISTER. And then the panic that surged up hot immediately after that when I realized that my daughters would undoubtedly hurt each other, maybe even a lot. They’d have a whole lifetime together after all. I hadn’t even gotten up from my seat in the doctor’s office when these thoughts came crashing down on me one after another. Someone I love is going to get hurt.

To be human is to be in constant need of forgiveness. It’s just kind of part of the deal this side of heaven. The trick is to make friends with this need, to see it not as a weakness, but as a gift.

In order to see it as a gift, you need to put your pride down (just put it down, Mama), and pick up the cross, the visible image of both our lack and His longing for us.

I know this sounds like the hardest thing in the world (Jesus called it DYING to yourself, so yeah that kind of hurts), but if you’ll choose to put your imperfections front and center in your relationship with your children it will actually make everything better. It is giving them the gift of truth. They need to know (i.e. to experience, to witness) that we need Jesus too. And if we’re not comfortable with our need, how on earth can we expect them to do this very hard thing called “dying.”

What they don’t need is a mom who is going to single-handedly raise beautiful kids, make beautiful meals, and live a beautiful life. When we attempt to shove our imperfection into the nearest junk drawer, we communicate to our children that grace is something to be ashamed of, that it’s a last ditch attempt to salvage perfection on the rare occasion that you can’t hack it.

This is not truth. And, dear ones, don’t we want our homes to reek of truth? Don’t we want them to reek of the glorious gospel of grace?

Grace is as vital to my Tuesday afternoon as oxygen is – without one I don’t get the other. Grace is the privilege we get to celebrate every single second, third, fourth, and fifth chance we get to try to love each other better. Grace is rejoicing in our deep need for a Good God that came to us when we needed Him most, that stays with us and dwells with us even now, knowing exactly who and what we are. He is not scared of our imperfections. In fact they drove Him towards us, not away.

And it’s Love Himself who teaches us how to mother best. He teaches us how to look sin in the face, douse it with the radical forgiveness of a Faithful God, and then nail it to a tree.

“Love keeps no record of being wronged…” (1 Cor. 13:5)

What if we actually didn’t?

What if we gave and accepted forgiveness as often as we needed to, without exceptions or excuses or cold-shoulders.

What if perfection was never designed to set us free?

Only dependence on Love can do that.

Good Medicine

Photo by Kaique Rocha on Pexels.com

This place is full of fog. One moment I’m blissfully lost in the mystery of what could be next. It could be anything, really. Things are shifting and changing. My baby is almost five years old, and this homemaker life comes with so much room for ingenuity and flexibility. What an incredible gift to have so many options! I plan, I scheme, I dream, I check books out from the library. And the next moment, I can’t see where I’m going. I can’t see two feet in front of me. The not-knowing is the only thing that I know. Where are you taking me, Jesus? Why don’t I know? What is this time for?

As the sun sleeps longer each day, the girls come in from playing more quickly, and the whole world seems to be settling down. All I want to do is join the world in rest. We decide to start Advent a full week early. My brother is marrying my best friend next week anyway (two days after Thanksgiving). They’re leaving the country to serve and love the broken world. Life is moving. Minutes are dripping past. I can’t catch them. And I don’t know what this time is for.

Or maybe I do know, and the trouble is that I don’t want to do it: the waiting.

None of this is what I thought I would be doing. It’s not visible enough, glamorous enough, worthy of acknowledgement. There is no platform or applause for those who wipe butts and teach children good habits day in and day out. The better I am at “my job,” the more tuned-in I am to being present, the less those things are seen, the smaller it feels like I get. I’m not 100% comfortable with the enneagram, but I did brush by it and apparently I’m that number that likes to be noticed, that wants to be thanked and seen and rewarded, that wants to be the best at what I’m doing. No surprise there (for me or for Jesus). Motherhood then, is a series of tiny intentional deaths to that attention-hungry woman, the one I am most practiced at being. She doesn’t fancy being invisible.

Death is uncomfortable. No one volunteers for the electric chair. And this isn’t heroic “take me instead” stuff I’m talking about either, this is the kind of choosing others that no one even knows about. It’s choosing not to yell when your child has a sensory fit and chucks her shoes at your head. It’s choosing to model infinite and immediate forgiveness even when you really don’t feel like it. It’s one hundred thousand patient replies to impatient tiny people with bad attitudes.

Trying to describe the place I’ve been in, I said to my husband that it’s almost like I’m floating above my life, watching and waiting for something to happen. He tells me that I have permission to move (in case I needed it), to take a step in one direction and see what it feels like, see if it fits or falls apart; that it’s okay not to know exactly where I’m headed. So I write a little bit. I wait a little bit. I cry (because that’s how I handle frustration). And because the Voice that I trust seems unusually quiet.

Or is it just that I can’t stand what He’s asking me to do? To get low. To stay low. To pull in, settle down, and let go.

Yesterday I opened up to a devotional by Elisabeth Elliot where she talked about indecision and she said that “the remedy for [indecision] is trust.” She quoted the book of James and said that we should ask for wisdom if we don’t know what to do, “But when you ask him, be sure that you really expect him to tell you, for a doubtful mind will be as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind; and every decision you then make will be uncertain, as you turn first this way and then that. If you don’t ask with faith, don’t expect the Lord to give you any solid answer.” (James 1:6-8 LB)

I know a good piece of advice when I hear it. So I asked expectantly, desperate to put a cap on this restlessness and move forward. We finished with lessons for the day, and though the sky looked pretty mild and sunny, I was definitely resisting the pull to take the girls outside. It’s that part of the year where leaving your cozy place by the fire is painful. We were talking about beauty and finding it all around us, and I wanted to have them put together pinecone birdfeeders so I thought we’d go look for some. I followed them out into the open air. The squirrels hadn’t left us much to work with, but the fallen trees in the creek were covered in bright fluffy mosses and crusty layers of lichen. I followed my Biggest Girl into a tight spot, maybe a small deer path, new to our feet. We squirmed through briars and ducked under thin branches around and through and back up until we realized we were close to home again. I followed them and waited and just listened, so ready to receive, humbled by how little I had to offer these beautiful girls on this late fall morning.

When we got back up to the house with our treasures and stories The Big One goes, “You know Mom, This is just like Pinocchio – that part where he doesn’t want to take the medicine because it tastes bitter, or he thinks it’ll be bitter, but than he does take it and it’s really good and he feels stronger? This is good medicine, Mama. Even though it was hard to get ourselves to want to come out here, it was such good medicine. I think we should make it part of our routine.”

She is wise. We pile everything up on the table, spread colors and paints everywhere, and I did what I don’t normally do. I forgot about the dishes and laundry and dreaming and aching for something else. I lost myself sitting next to my girls, creating something beautiful side-by-side.

Something is happening here even if I can’t see it. It is safe to surrender myself (and even my questions) to the moment that I find myself in because the Keeper of my moments can see right through the fog. If He wanted me elsewhere, He would pick me up and plant me there. If I am here, there must be something right here that is worthwhile. Even if that something is learning how to let go of my life; even if it means learning how to die.

Pint-sized Enemies

My youngest baby turns five this month, which means I’m reminiscing about where all of this began: the infant plus toddler madness. It’s that one-time season that is exasperating on every level, where you are constantly pouring yourself out with very little tangible pay-off. Felt like a good time to republish this one. (Clearly, these sweet girls still have plenty of sass intact.)

Life in the New

It’s eleven o’clock at night. I’m pounding down bites of cold steak from off my dinner plate when the word that comes out of my mouth to describe my current state is “seething.” Oh, is that what I am? Obviously there’s a problem here.

Out of the overflow right? Well, what I’m overflowing with right now is hot injured anger.

“I’m just so sick of being treated like crap,” I say. “I am so COMPLETELY done. I am done-er than done. I am over it, all of it. Find my replacement.”

Matt’s listening. God bless him. So I keep purging. And then the hot tears come; the disappointed heartbroken truth rises like steam from my boiling lips. Honesty’s first impression is almost always an unlovely one.

“It’s just that I let her get to me. I know that I shouldn’t let her get to me. But how can you give someone everything- all your energy, all your…

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