Musings on golden moments, perfection and heaven

My birthday was this past week.  My golden birthday…I turned 26 on the 26th.  And golden it truly was, in so many ways.  By far the best birthday I have ever had.  A simple, lovely day spent with my little family.  Glorious weather: a rainy, foggy morning that turned to an afternoon of sunlight and shadowplay.  My new computer arrived much earlier than expected (and I LOVE it!).  Good food shared with good company (my husband and babies).

And then, in my birthday card that morning, my love topped it all off by surprising me with a night away (with a tagalong baby) at a local B&B…for that night!  It was the same B&B, and the same room, that we had booked for our anniversary last year, but that had to be cancelled because it ended up being in the middle of the week-long power outage we went through.   Aaron had apparently been planning this reschedule since January and I hadn’t a clue.  Yes…I am blessed with an amazing husband.

It’s funny though, and rather sad, that even when we’ve been given so much, we still think that we’re entitled to more.  That afternoon, as I was preparing supper, I was thinking about the upcoming night away.  As you would expect, I was really looking forward to the time, especially because certain things had come up during several recent attempts at romantic getaways that interrupted them and caused them to be different than what we wanted them to be.  And this time, my husband had an injured knee that was bothering him and the sweet baby that needed to come with us (since she still nurses several times during the night) doesn’t have the best track record for staying asleep in the evenings.  So my thoughts went something like this: “Why does it always have to be this way?!  Can’t we ever have a perfect evening together?!  Something always has to mar it.”  Yeah…very spiritual and thankful, I know!

But even before those thoughts were gone, the answer came.  The reason why it always is this way — the reason why life is never totally perfect –is  because we’re not Home yet.  And even though there are often beautiful moments scattered about, those gifts from an ever-loving God, we still live in a fallen world.  And as a result, things will never be “perfect” in this life.   Because if they were, why would we long for heaven, our true Home?

So I have a choice.  I can either whine about all the things that aren’t perfect and be mad when everything doesn’t work out exactly how I want it to — taking offense that not everything will be completely “in order” as I would like.  (Sounds rather ridiculous when put like that, eh?!)   Or I can rejoice in all the good gifts that I have been given to me (for there are more than I can number) and when I’m longing for perfection, remember in Whom it is found.  And remember that someday I will experience Perfection, and amazingly enough, it will be even better than the most romantic of date nights here on earth.

And for the record, our little night away was lovely.  Aaron’s knee didn’t bother him too much and our baby girl (who is turning one tomorrow!) slept very well, giving Mommy and Daddy ample time to enjoy the in-room jacuzzi.  It was definitely the most relaxing twelve hours of the past year.  Truly a gift.

Learning to love

Since before Aaron and I were first married, my mom has often told me that one of the main things she prays for us is that we would learn to love each other.  To be honest, when she first mentioned that, I was confused and a little offended.  What do you mean “learn to love each other”?!  We already love each other more than I ever dreamed it was possible to love someone!  But in the past three years of marriage, I’m beginning to understand more and more what she means.  (I’m not sure why I even doubted the words of a woman happily married for 25 years in the first place, but I was a new bride…what can I say?!)

In the past, I’ve written about the different seasons of love.  And the thing about seasons is…they change.  Constantly.  The love between Aaron and I now looks much different than it did when we first were married, and I’m sure it will look completely different in another three years.  And with the changing of our love comes a constant learning of how to love the other person.  Just as I respond to situations differently in the spring than in the summer, so it is with loving my husband.  The ways I show him love (and the ways that he perceives love — which I’m learning are not always the same) are different now than they were when we were first married.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my maternal grandma.  My grandpa, her husband of over sixty years, died this past Easter morning.  He had battled with cancer for several years, and in the last weeks of his life, things got really hard.  Near the end, both the cancer and his medication started affecting his mind, and sometimes he wasn’t all there.   And yet, my grandma was by his side and loved him all the while.

And I when I think of that, I can’t imagine how I would deal with it.  And then I remember that they had over sixty years of learning to love each other.  Sixty years.  With fifteen kids and going through all the ups and downs of life together, they had learned to love each other in many different seasons and situations and times.

And so, in a way, I wonder if this end season wasn’t that much different than all the rest.  You just hold tight to your love’s hand and know that you’re in this together.

Receiving Jesus

It had been a rather hard evening.  After two busy days with only too-short car naps, we had some very tired kids.  A very fussy baby and a toddler who would start throwing a tantrum at the slightest provocation.  And Mommy’s attitude wasn’t the best either.  I was very ready for bedtime, but at the same time dreading it since our youngest is not known for her stellar sleeping ability.

After supper, we got ready for our nightly “Bible time”.  And frankly, I wanted to skip that night…let’s get these kids in bed!  But we continued our reading in Matthew, tonight chapter eighteen, one that I had read many times.  Obviously I needed to hear it again.

[Jesus said] “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea…See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” ~Matthew 18:5-6, 10 (emphasis mine)

I was brought up short, and quite convicted.  Was I “receiving” my children with the same attitude that I would receive Jesus?  In short, not at all.  Instead I was frustrated with their constant neediness and their apparent inability to just pull themselves together and get a better attitude (perhaps they were just taking their cues from their mommy?  *ahem*).  I wasn’t exactly “despising” them, but I certainly wasn’t being very loving.  At that moment, I certainly wasn’t treasuring them in the way that God treasures little ones if their angels are the ones that always see His face. It was a reminder that I so needed.  I repented and asked my kids’ forgiveness and we all went and bounced on the trampoline for a few minutes.  Peace and joy were restored.

Later that night, I was continuing to meditate on and mull over those verses and what they should look like in my life.  Aaron and I were discussing it and he brought up another view that I hadn’t considered…  When you “receive” a child through becoming a parent, it’s hard.  You have to sacrifice a lot and your weaknesses brought to the surface.  But in weakness, that’s where you find Jesus and His grace. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)

There’s so much grace needed in parenting.  May I continue to show it to my children and cling to it for myself.

Good gifts

(I started writing this a couple weeks ago and then added some final thoughts today.  So the Sunday mentioned was actually several Sundays ago…)

Sunday was one of those beautiful life days.

Nothing spectacular happened, but it was a day filled with many small, simple moments that make me love my life so.  We went to church in the morning, where Aaron led worship (he’s not the main worship leader, but filled in at the last minute).  Came home and had a quick lunch before putting the kids down for naps.  Aaron slept some while I read.  The early evening was spent with the kids.  And then my sweet husband topped off the day with my Valentine’s present.

Like I mentioned, nothing huge happened.  But several times throughout the day, my heart would be filled to bursting at the joy in the little things.  Cedar dancing to Josh Garrels.  Listening to Aaron and Cedar reading “Where’s Goldbug?” (i.e. Cars and Trucks and Things That Go) while I nursed Genoa down for her nap.  How much Cedar and Genoa enjoyed their smoothies at supper.

Sometimes I wonder why I have it so good.  Why do I have such an incredible husband when so many of my friends want to be married and aren’t?  Why have I been blessed two sweet little ones when so many women lose children or aren’t even able to have them?  Why was I born into a country where I have enough food to feed my family, when so many women have to watch their loved ones starve?

I hear about women losing their children or their husbands.  Of others enduring great sorrow.  And I wonder when it will happen to me.  And I find that I can start to live in fear that something will happen.  That God will bring me sorrow to make up for the “perfect” life thus far.  But then I realize that isn’t God.  That isn’t His character.  He wants to give good gifts to His children.

 “Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent?  If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” ~Matthew 7:9-11

We live in a fallen, sinful world.  And I don’t know why horrible things happen to so many people.  With hard questions like those I just have to trust my Father and know that He is good.  And when hard and horrible things come to me, to rest in Him, trusting in that goodness and His grace to uphold me.  And when beautiful and good things come to me, to accept them with a heart full of thanksgiving knowing that this too is grace.  All is grace.  My sweet husband, my precious children, every moment of this life I love.  They’re all gifts.  And for them I give thanks to my Father.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” ~James 1:17

Always grace

Yesterday morning I was able to have a much-needed time of refreshment.  Aaron was able to hang out with Cedar at home so Genoa and I headed to Trader Joe’s for our biweekly grocery shopping trip.  It’s about an hour away, and without her older brother to distract her, Genoa quickly fell asleep and slept the entire way to the store.  I took advantage of not having to answer a bunch of toddler questions and listened to some music (it’s not often that I actually get to listen to music…other mamas of young children with exploding vocabularies will understand why!).  I put the iPod on shuffle and waited with anticipation to see how God would use it.  It may sound silly, but many times the Lord has used “randomly” shuffled songs to show me things and teach me lessons.  This time was no different.

After a couple songs had played, Derek Webb’s “The Church” came on.  This is an incredible song about how the Church is “a harlot and a whore”, yet she is still our Father’s bride and, as the chorus states, “if you love Me, you will love the Church”.  I’ve always been very convicted by this song because I often get frustrated with the state of the Church today, but I need to be reminded that she is still God’s bride.  But this time, as I was softly singing along, I had the realization that I am a part of that Church as well…and as such, I too am a harlot and a whore in relationship to God.  And it’s true.  How many times have I been unfaithful to my heavenly Lover and sought fulfillment in things other than Him? But…there is always grace.  That’s what prompted those tears that made my voice break while singing along in the car.  No matter how many times I take my eyes off of Jesus, no matter how many times I fail, He will welcome me back with open arms.  Hallelujah.

As the different shuffled songs played during the rest of my morning, and as I was really able to listen to the words, this emphasis on grace continued.  On the drive down there was Caedmon’s Call playing their rendition of “Thy Mercy My God“, and on the drive back, Sandra McCracken sang the same song. There was Andrew Peterson’s line about “into the wild of this grace” (from his song “The Magic Hour”) and Josh Garrel’s reminding me that “we’re all castaways in need of rope” and that “even when I fall I’ll get back up for the joy that overflows my cup” (from “Farther Along“).  And Sons of Korah asking, from Psalm 116b, “How can I repay the Lord for all of His goodness to me?”.

Along with this song-prompted realization, grace is something that the Lord seems to constantly be teaching me about.  It touches every aspect of my life.  The book I’m currently reading is called Grace-Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel and even though I’m only through the first two chapters, it has already been one of the best parenting books I’ve ever read.  Our Father has shown us so much grace, and we need to show the same to our children (though that grace is always combined with truth as Jesus came full of “grace and truth” [John 1:17]).

Another book on my to-read stack is Grace for the Good Girl: Letting Go of the Try-Hard Life by Emily P. Freeman.  Recommended to me by a friend, it sounded right up my alley since my entire life I’ve struggled with accepting grace from God and others and trying instead of do it all on my own.

Last year too, with reading One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp and receiving her message of eucharisteo and that “all is grace”, it seems that grace is something that God wants me to focus on.  Seeing grace in the everyday and realizing that all the gifts He gives are just extensions of His grace.  And after recognizing my Father’s amazing grace to me, viewing all others through that grace-filled lense.

And so, I’ve taken “grace” as my word for 2012.  Several different bloggers that I read and respect and am often encouraged by, after much prayer and thought, pick a word that becomes their theme for the year.  Being a word person, I always thought that was great idea, but never really thought to do it for myself.  For me, it wasn’t after a lot of prayer and thought — it happened in a couple song-filled minutes driving a car with a sleeping baby.  But I really feel that grace needs to be my theme for 2012.  And so it will be…and who knows where God will take it?!  I’m excited to see.

Grace to you.

Several weeks’ worth of ramblings

Wouldn’t you know…the Lord decides to convict me of my perfectionism in having to do weekly gift posts and then decides to further the lesson by making the next several weeks’ circumstances such that I don’t get any blogging done, much less recording gifts throughout the week.   But you know the exciting part?  I must be (slowly) learning, because the fact that I totally abandoned my blog and gift notebook for several weeks isn’t even a big deal anymore.  Life happened and I was there in the life I’ve been given instead of frantically trying to keep up with some self-imposed idea that I must record everything here or in my notebook.  And despite wanting to try and fill my gift journal and get to two thousand by the end of the year, realizing that probably won’t happen now isn’t a huge deal either, even though I stopped at some random number like 1865 (instead of nice round 1800 or 1900).  So yeah, it’s encouraging to see that these lessons that I seem to have to learn over and over and over again are making at least a little bit of headway.

Speaking of lessons, another one that has come up numerous times in the past weeks has been that of trusting the Lord with the future.  Along with having company and taking trips and battling nasty colds, during these past weeks, we’ve been seriously considering moving sometime in the near future.  But due to certain circumstances, how we think that will happen keeps changing again and again and again.  A little bit of an emotional roller coaster, but it’s been very good for me to keep learning to let go of my plans, or rather what I think God’s plans are, and just g0 along with the wild ride.  And I also have a tendency to start daydreaming and planning things (in quite a lot of detail!) before they are solidified, and now I’m learning not to let myself do that too much as I get too emotionally involved in something that isn’t even real yet (does that even make sense?!).

I was very encouraged the other day when reading a blog post of another mama of littles.  In it, she mentions a quote from my beloved Anne of Ingleside that I had forgotten, but needed to be reminded of.  Anne, now the mother of six children, is asked if she has given writing up.  And her reply, thinking of her children, is “Not altogether…but I’m writing living epistles now”.  I need to be reminded of that often…especially when the daily “writing” of my littles hardly seems to produce more than a couple crooked letters.  I need to remember the big picture and that my every-day mothering will have long-term results.  And so I’m re-reading Loving the Little Years by Rachel Jankovic…such an encouraging book!

Well, speaking of books, today I received an early Christmas present of an Amazon gift card and so I think I’m going to do some online book browsing now.  I’m guessing I’ll find something on my wishlists

The idol on the bathroom counter

If you ever come to visit us, and use our bathroom, you’ll notice that we have two different soap dispensers next to the sink.  One contains Dr. Bronner’s lavender liquid soap, and the other, antibacterial SoftSoap. A little strange to have two, but those soap dispensers actually represent a big victory for me spiritually.  Let me explain…

After I got married, one of the many things I was very excited about was having my own house and keeping it the way I wanted to.  Between living in my parent’s house to regularly cleaning for several different families to working as a mother’s helper in two different places to living with my in-laws for awhile before getting married…I’d experienced my share of different households.  And in all of those, I saw things I liked and things I didn’t like.  And I came away with very decided opinions (and much anticipation) as to how I was going to run my own household.

One of the big things I wanted was to go all-natural in regard to cleaners, soaps, etc.  I was able to accomplish that pretty easily with cleaners (something that I’ve become even more adamant about now that I have littles).  With hand soap, we started out just using Dr. Bronner’s lavender liquid soap and I thought it was great.  However, my husband really likes SoftSoap and didn’t like Dr. Bronner’s as hand soap.  So he asked if I would mind if we got some antibacterial SoftSoap.  Of course, I said that would be fine, but inwardly a battle raged.  SoftSoap?!  Tops on the list of Triclosan criminals that to me epitomized the conventional way of cleaning  I wanted so badly to get away from. (Triclosan is the substance that kills germs in antibacterial soaps, lotions, etc. that, in short, is not very good for you.)  I felt like it would contaminate my perfect little “all-natural” home. Et cetera, et cetera.

But then I realized…I was being ridiculous (shocker!).  I mean, it’s soap!!  Yes, Triclosan isn’t a good thing to have much contact with, but so are many, many other things that we deal with every day.  Having antibacterial hand soap in our bathroom would not kill anyone, that’s for sure.  And yes, it supposedly “messes up” my perfect little all-natural-ness, but that’s a good thing.  Going green was obviously becoming an idol to me and so it actually needed to be messed up.  My pride over being so natural could end up hurting myself and my family much more than any amount of chemicals ever would.

So I calmed down and let go of it.  We compromised and he let me keep the dispenser of Dr. Bronner’s at the sink too (partly because, at the time, I was in the throes of morning sickness with Cedar, and the smell of SoftSoap [and a billion other things!] made me nauseous).  And every single time I fill our Mason jar dispenser with that antibacterial soap, or when I put another double package of it next to the quinoa in our Costco cart, I’m reminded again not to let my crunchiness become an idol or a source of pride.  While it’s good a thing to strive to care for my family in a natural way, idolatry and pride are much nastier “chemicals” by far.