Paper Thin

“Do you have Netflix? My husband and I like to watch Monk together after the kids are in bed. We find it’s a nice way to relax.” My jaw dropped. For the longest time I believed my friend didn’t even own a television, let alone a service like Netflix! I can’t express how much that one sentence of transpareny helped me.

One of the lies I have believed has revolved around not being a good enough Christian. There have been certain people in my life who, when I am at their house, I assume don’t do some of the things I do. (Like watch Netflix) I make the conclusion that they must be a better Christian because they don’t allow their kids to watch T.V. like I do, allowing the cycle of inner insuffiency to continue.

The moment my friend said what she did, God spoke loud and clear, “Things are not the way you perceive them.” I was thrilled to know my friend was more human than I had imagined! (I can hear her laughing about this right now.) Last week as our kids played together she suggested they play their Wii game system. I remember thinking, “She has a game system??!!” Once again I was surprised to know her kids occasionally played video games.

It was through this second revelation that I began to understand why it’s so important not to compare myself to other people. Truthfully, I don’t know what goes on in their lives behind closed doors. I make my own assumptions and crucify myself against them.

I was also motivated to continue being transparent. I usually don’t have a problem spilling the beans about my personal struggles, but these situations encouraged me even more. Maybe someone else out there could be helped if they knew a Christian like me has struggled with eating disorders and depression. I am a new creation in Christ and I have been set free, but I’d still like others who may not be there yet to know there is hope. I want them to know things aren’t always what they seem with the people they think are perfect. I want them to know their transparency could be useful for someone else who is struggling.

God used my friend to help me get through one of the most diffuclt (and wonderful) times of my life. I am thankful she opened up to me about  personal issues that brought her off the pedastal I had placed her on. She’s normal just like me. We may struggle with different specifics, but the end result is the same. We’re both redeemed children of God on the same journey through His school of transformation.

I am also thankful she doesn’t preach at me. Even when I was deeply distressed, on the verge of suicide, she never preached to me. The only thing she did was ask to spend time with me in fellowship. Over the past 6 weeks we have grown closer as friends, but I’ve also experienced life in the family of God as it was meant to be; transparency, openness, truth, and encouragement. Through us our kids have learned what authentic relationship looks like. They pray together before lunch, play together in the sun, and worship together in church. (Mother’s Day was interesting with 4 kids ages 5 and under and 3 adults trying to mainatin order during the sermon.) I love her kids as if they were my own, and I know she feels the same about mine.

(Here she is playing with my daughter at the park.)

(Our kids: Caleb, Samantha (mine), and Micah.)

I would  urge those of you who want to put your best foot forward: while there is nothing wrong with this, consider being a little paper thin in your approach. Reveal yourself as you really are, and don’t worry about “what they’ll think”. Maybe there is someone who needs to hear that you’re a real person who does real things and has real struggles. Don’t waste your journey by keeping it a secret; allow God to use it.

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Demolished Expectations

I have a nasty habit of having expectations as high as a skyscraper. Usually they crumble with as much force as a scheduled demolition. This time I asked God to lower my expectations, if not demolish them completely.  I wanted to be proactive,”Lord, please help me to have a grateful heart.”

Mother’s day arrived, and I remembered my prayer. Yet I still found myself oddly expectant of something great. Unfortunately for me, God hadn’t forgetten my prayer.  Deep down, despite my prayer, I expected to come home from church to a beautiful bursting bouquet and an expensive electronic device I hinted at wanting the day before.

Near the end of the Sunday class, my phone began to vibrate. I saw my husband calling and had the immediate sense it wasn’t going to be good. He never called me when he knew I was in church. As soon as the class let out I called him back.

“What’s wrong?” I asked immediately.

“I’m broken down on the side of the road with a flat tire, and the cheapest one I’ve been able to find is almost $300. Apparently I have a ‘rare’ rim size.”

I felt disappointment drench me like a broken dam.

God allowed me plenty of time throughout the Mother’s Day message to ruminate over my shattered expectations. He reminded me I had asked for divine intervention on this issue. I was beginning to think I should have been more specific. “One dozen roses instead of two, Lord, thanks.” With new resolve, however, I decided to be ok with whatever waited for me, choosing to be thankful for my husbands safety and ability to get what he needed for his truck.

After the service ended, Samantha and I were walking to the car when she erupted in tears. After 30 minutes of hysteria she finally told me what was wrong which further exasperated me. She was mad because there was a toy she didnt get to play with in Sunday School. Really?! By the time I got home, I was nothing short of ticked off. First the flat tire, now this. My pout-fest rivaled that of a 2 year old. When I walked in the door I found 2 roses in a vase and a chocolate cake covered in strawberries.

At first I thought it was sweet my husband spent a couple bucks on flowers despite our recent financial burden, but then I noticed the checkbook. He had obviously found a used tire much cheaper than anticipated. I glanced back at the flowers and felt anger brewing rapidly. What made it even worse was knowing full well (thanks to the Holy Spirit) my attitude was wrong. He had that much money to work with, and I got two little roses! Not to mention the decadent chocolate cake; don’t get me started! He knows my struggles with an eating disorder, yet he still purchases tempting food as a gift! Doesn’t he know me at all?!

He handed me a piece of paper freshly printed. It had pictures of him with Samantha, and some other meaningful memories. It also said something about me being a superwoman. He had made me a card. I was even upset about that.

I sat on the couch and sulked while Samantha continued her cry-fest in her room. Eventually everything calmed down, and, sensing my disappointment, my husband insisted on taking me to a restaurant so I didn’t have to cook. With all the attitude I could muster I agreed.

The meal was one of the best I have ever had. I was immediately pleased. I guess it’s rare that I eat something so delicious I feel overwhelmed with gratitude. This time, though, I know the Holy Spirit was working. I ate my meal in absolute bliss and noticed my husband. It was at that moment God chose to show me my ungrateful, selfish attitude. I apologized to Chris, and expressed my thanks for how hard he tried to make my day special. I admitted I had been a…well, I admitted I was less than a superwoman.

Later that afternoon a migraine set in, capping off the day with an exclamation point. I had completely forgotten about my sensitivity to red wine which I had drank with my dinner. (I might drink a glass of wine once every few months, making the irony even more poignant.) This morning I still have this migraine, but I am oddly aware of God’s presence in the chaos of yesterday.

Everything that happened was a direct result of God answering my prayer to adjust my expectations. He didn’t just adjust them, he annihilated them. Even more ironic, he used me as the tool; revealing heart issues that needed correcting and offering me an opportunity for repentance.

“To Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be the glory.” Ephesians 3:20

 

A Mother’s Joy

“May she who gave birth to you be happy!” Proverbs 23:25b

Suggested Reading: Proverbs 23:22-25

The Holy Spirit tugs at my heart and I am reminded that my parents are my parents forever, and they’re the only ones I’ll ever have. Life is short, and I still have a responsibility to them. This obligation goes way beyond physical needs being met, or nursing home bills being paid. I’m talking about the emotional state of my parents.

As Mother day draws near I am prodded to look deep within and how I am contributing to the joy of my mother. I can’t always give her what she wants or needs materially, but according to God’s word, my godliness (or lack thereof) has an effect on my mother’s inner joy. That’s a lot of pressure! I’m starting to understand what that looks like, though. Godliness isn’t just about “doing”, it’s about “being” all God has designed me to be, from the inside out. Seeing with God’s eyes allows me to appreciate how He feels about my mom, and how she deserves to be treated, regardless of past hurts.

The Master Creator formed my mother in the womb (Psalm 139) and created her for a specific purpose; He loves her and went to the cross for her. It is my honor as her child to replicate the love of Christ over her. There is no mention in Proverbs of how I was raised, what was said, or how I was treated; it simply has nothing to do with how I am to love my mother (or father). How I love my Mom (not the feeling love, but the active love), and anyone else for that matter, is only contingent on the value I see. If I see her through the eyes of my Heavenly Father, then I will be motivated to love, honor, care for, listen to, and encourage her with the love of Jesus.

I looked hard to find the perfect gift for mom this year, not because she needed it, but because I wanted her to understand my love for her through the giving of a special “thing”.  But Mother’s Day isn’t about breakfast in bed, pretty flowers, or new appliances; it’s about reflecting the love of Jesus to my mom every day of the year, and choosing to love her as God does, without expectation.

My mom, Sue, dressed up for an old west re-enactment.