Tagged: family

If You Want to Love Your Kids

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Everywhere we go, we’re given messages of what mothers should do or ought to do to prove her love for her kids. We’re covertly told that a mother’s love is based on her works, that every decision she makes is a statement about how much she cares for her child. Natural birth or medicated. Breastmilk or formula. Working or staying at home. Vaccines or none. Public or homeschool. Positive parenting or spanking. Crafts or TV. Processed or organic.

I am guilty of believing the lie, of putting certain things up on a pedestal. I wouldn’t dare claim that any of these things make or break a mother’s love, but I like to cling to my “camps”, the moms who are doing it just like me. Sometimes I fool myself into thinking that I’m “doing it right” and I need to do the world a favor by showing them what’s best.

But the Lord is in the business of kicking legalism to a curb. He finds ways to remind me that I have nothing and can do nothing to earn the approval I so desperately crave. He’s humbling me as I allow him to guide me closer to his heart for motherhood. And I realize now that his motto is not “breast is best” and his priority is not to put every mother into the home. I notice that he doesn’t favor the moms who only feeds her kids organic and he doesn’t punish the ones who send their kids off to public school. I see that he equips parents to love on their kids in unique, individualized ways and that he is found in many different kinds of parenting and discipline.

I know now that the biggest favor I can do for any mom isn’t to go on and on about why they should choose a certain style of mothering or why they should follow my example. The biggest favor I can do for any mom is to point them to Jesus. Why?

Because that “love” we’re putting all our hope and boasting in? The love that’s merely a collection of our good deeds based on our society’s ever-changing standards? The love that’s equated with what we put in our babies’ mouths, how many shots they’ve had, and who’s watching them? Well, it can’t hold a candle to the love of Jesus, the love that led him to the Cross. The love that defeated death for the undeserving. The love that throws shame to the curb. The love that promises fullness of life, both now and for eternity.

The love that he wants to shower you with so you can stop the useless striving and comparing and live in freedom instead. The love he wants to use through you to bring his kingdom near.

You want to leave a legacy? To love your kids in such a way that it stands out, transforms your family from the inside out, and doesn’t leave you exhausted or empty in the process?

Then love your kids as a mom changed and led by the Gospel.

Love your kids as a mom who’s freed from the pressure to attain perfection, who allows herself and others to be the messy, amazing people they were made to be.

Love your kids not as a mom who’s enslaved to her circumstances or emotions, but as one who’s dancing in the grace freely offered from heaven and rejoicing in her redemption.

Love your kids as a mom whose eyes are fixed upward on the Giver of all good gifts and whose hands are raised in praise to the only One worthy of glory.

Love your kids as a mom who’s not moved by the pressures of this world or seeking to outdo the moms next to her, but is rather chasing after God’s best for herself and her family.

Your heart’s attitude and the perspective with which you view motherhood changes when you realize that you need Jesus and his die-to-self, unrelenting love just as much as the next mom. When you embrace this sort of love, you no longer care about how you compare to the moms next to you or who’s “doing it right” and who’s not. You’ll be too busy living out your calling of motherhood with the One who called you to it.

Can you imagine it?

Every day I am amazed at how much the Lord has left to teach me about love. As long as I’m trying to prove my love for my baby through every little thing I do, I know I still haven’t gotten it quite right. As long as I’m secretly comparing and competing, I know I still haven’t the faintest idea of what love is really all about. I mean, forget trying to learn how he wants me to love my kids! I still haven’t figured out how to be loved myself! But I want to.

Because one of the best and most freeing parts of his love is that it doesn’t depend on my perfection. It solely rests on his.

And if I can get this and embrace this with what little time I have on this earth, what can stop me from raising a family of planet-shakers? If the Lord is for me and I actually believe it, who can be against me? Is there anything quite so powerful as a mother on a mission, equipped with the truth that the world so desperately needs?

I’m daring to find out.

Our Marriage After Baby

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I knew my marriage would change after having a baby. I had heard rumors of sleep-deprived parents just passing each other like ships in the night and sexless couples who hadn’t been on a date in ages. Two people so consumed with parenthood that there is little energy or time to devote to one another. A wife and husband resembling roommates more than spouses.

I am happy to report that those things aren’t all that true for us, but Grant and I have still had our own fair share of challenges and did change in many ways after becoming parents to our sweet baby girl just six months ago. We’ve come a long way since coming home from the hospital, but we’re still finding our way back to each other. Regaining what was lost as we gained this precious new family member. Uncovering a slightly different version of ourselves and discovering how they fit together.

The first few months were an adjustment period filled with tears and screaming and laughing and bonding. My hormones did a lot of good when it came to my relationship with my baby. But my relationship with my husband? Not so much. Postpartum rage was very real for me, as is the prolactin coursing through my body from breastfeeding that has basically brought my desire for intimacy to an all-time low.

For a while I just didn’t care. My whole world had shifted from being about me and our marriage to being about her. It felt as though I had blissfully, freely given my whole being — my heart, body, mind, and soul — to my baby. My husband just got the leftovers.

I used to always want to serve him, to be his “helper.” I would make breakfast every morning and dinner every night, keeping the house clean and making sure everything was in proper order. I listened to all of his work stories and encouraged him daily, telling him how handsome and hardworking I thought he was. I would sit and think of ways I could ease his burdens and make him smile. I used to surprise him in the bedroom.

As soon as I had a baby, I no longer cared about serving my husband. All I wanted was to be served by him. I let him do all the cooking and all the cleaning. If I was sitting on the couch and there was something I needed, he’d get it for me. If there was something I wanted done, he’d do it for me. It wasn’t a big deal at first. I literally had just squeezed an eight pound baby out of my body and was now a twenty-four hour milk machine. It was time for me to put my feet up and let Grant run the house for a change. And he loved taking on those burdens in the early days. He’s always had a servant’s heart. If his body could produce milk, I know he’d take on the task of breastfeeding in a heartbeat just so he could share in that burden, as well.

But if there was an appropriate length of time that I was allowed to be a little selfish as a new mom, I had long past it. And if there was an appropriate amount of responsibilities I was allowed to shirk or amount of meanness I was allowed to dish out, I definitely crossed the line. Things got ugly when he would start talking to me about work and I’d simply tell him that I didn’t care. It became exceedingly difficult for him when he’d tell me I’m beautiful or try to make a move and I would just turn away. For months on end, it seemed as though I only cared about my needs and Tessa’s needs. And if Grant had his own needs, I certainly didn’t want to hear them.

Until I began to realize that I hadn’t touched a stove in five months and that almost all of my sentences began with “can you…” Until I scrolled through our text messages and saw that he never stopped sending me sweet words of encouragement whereas I never returned any back. Until he brought to my attention that it hurts him when I turn him away, that there were beginning to be emotional ramifications to the lack of touch and closeness between us. Physical touch is Grant’s top love language. Unfortunately, it is my lowest one. See the problem?

I told myself for a while that because so much of my behavior could be explained by my change in hormones, there was nothing wrong with me or with us. Things were just different and there was nothing I could do about it. But I know better and I’m choosing every day to do something about it now. What does this look like? A lot of asking for forgiveness. Self-reflection. Tons and tons of prayer. But most of all, it has looked like intentionality — intentional decisions to love and serve. Even when my heart’s just not in it. Especially when my heart’s not in it. And most of the time, it’s not. Almost nothing between Grant and I feels natural anymore. What once came naturally requires intentionality. There’s just no way around it.

I still ask Grant for a lot of help around the house, probably way more than I ought to ask a man who works full time on the night shift. But I’m trying to change this. Even though every part of me would rather be spaced out in front of the television by the end of the day, I’m force myself to put some effort into cooking again. To be the first to tend to the crying baby instead of the last. Instead of piling things onto Grant’s plate just because I’d like to see them done, I’m now intentionally mulling over each item on my to-do list, determining whether I can do it myself or if it even needs to be done at all. Usually it doesn’t.

We’re both relieved that I’m starting to crave intimacy a little more these days, but four out of five times that he pursues me, he still gets turned away. If I’m not careful, I can let weeks go by without so much as a passionate kiss. The problem is that I’m waiting to magically want to be close and physical the same way I did before, and it’s just not happening. So now I’m starting to have to make those small, intentional choices. To greet him with a hug and kiss instead of the usual distracted hello. To hold his hand or sit next to him even when I’d rather have my space. To respond to his pursuit despite my lack of desire. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received on this subject is to say yes first and let the desire come later. More often than not, the desire does come.

In order to spend quality time together, we often have to remove ourselves from the house. We go on day trips together, listen to podcasts in the car, and take walks around the park. We tow the baby along in the stroller, letting her be engaged with the sights and sounds as we attempt to reengage with one another again. We’re realizing it’s not the fancy date nights or the spending of money that nurtures our friendship. It’s the small, simple things — a sermon we both enjoyed, cooking or pulling weeds side by side, going through the one year Bible reading plan together, and eating breakfast at the kitchen table as a family every morning.

When life gets busy and distracting, it’s easy to let these small, simple things be the first to go. So we have to be intentional to hold onto them. Sometimes that means saying no to invitations from friends or limiting time with family. The things that once were a priority get put on the back burner for now. We don’t mean to be shut-ins or let people down, but this is how we fight for our marriage. Reclaiming the space, time, and effort we once tried to freely give to everyone and everything.

I think one of the best parts about our marriage after having a baby is getting to see each other shine in our new roles of mommy and daddy. Watching Grant laugh and play with Tessa makes my heart burst with gratitude that the same man who makes such an amazing husband is just as amazing of a father. I love my husband and the life we now have together. I don’t want to end this post without making that clear.

It’s not easy being parents and it’s not all that easy on our marriage. But the Lord knew when he brought us together that he would also bring us a baby girl and that she would change us, challenge us, and make us even better than we were before. I did enjoy the days when it was just Grant and I. But nothing can compare to the joy we have now. And these challenges we’re having to navigate are necessary and good, provided that we allow them to make us into the wife/mom and husband/dad we’re meant to be. This is our sanctification.

I’m sharing all of these things because I want to remind every struggling wife out there that she does have a say in the direction of her marriage. We get to choose to be the loving mom and the loving wife. And we do not, or rather we cannot, do this alone. God in his great mercy hears our prayers and our soul’s longing to be united with our husbands again, to have our marriage be all that it can be and even more. He picks us up in our weakness and carries us closer to the finish line. He takes our desperate “Lord, I need you” and runs with it, renewing the things we thought were long dead. Fixing the pieces of our hearts and marriages that we believed were broken. I know it to be true because I’ve seen it happen for me, my sisters.

I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power (1 Corinthians 2:3-5).

If nothing else, my prayer is that in sharing these things, God might use my weakness and brokenness to show off his great love and power. Looking back on these past six months, I feel all kinds of weak and broken. But if there is glory or praise to be given to him from what Grant and I have been experiencing, let it be. I will be the first to lift my hands and shout, “Hallelujah!”

 

When You Want to Stay While Everyone Goes

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I wrote this over a year ago, but stumbled across it today. Here’s a piece of my heart for you to read. This is why I stay, even as everybody around me goes.

. . . . .

I want to be a stay-at-home mom. And I don’t mean that being a stay-at-home mom is my back-up career for when I’m done working in the office or traveling the world or pursuing my dreams. No, being a stay-at-home is my dream. It’s not my back-up plan; it’s my plan A. And not only do I want to be a stay-at-home mom, but I also want to be a stay-at-home mom who stays. 

Unlike the adventurous-types who pack their bags for Europe after finishing college and have a bucket list consisting of thirty-nine countries to see before they die, I don’t want to go anywhere. I have no post-graduation traveling plans. I don’t have a long list of places to see and things to do. I’m getting ready to plan a wedding with the man I love in the city I love, and we want to build our home here even while knowing many around us are getting ready to leave.

Honestly, a part of me does want to see the world, but not as much as I want to make roots. I know this desire of mine isn’t glamorous or popular, particularly within this young generation that is busy planning study abroad trips, road trips, and mission trips. But this desire of mine… is mine.

When you’re the one who stays while everyone else goes, they’ll make it seem like you’re missing out on a grand adventure. But sometimes making roots in one place is where you feel led, and that is a grand adventure, too. 

Traveling is scary and freeing and breathtaking, but sometimes so is waving everyone goodbye as you keep your feet on the ground and return to the home you’re building. Following your dreams can be the journey that changes everything, but sometimes so is letting God move through you and around you in one place and under one roof.

What a humbling act staying can be, to sit back and watch others fight lines at the airport while you fight battles within the home. You know your life won’t be as popular on Instagram as the cups of tea in India and the chapels in Italy. You’ll be buying diapers and insurance as your friends buy tickets and handwoven scarves. Staying is a humbling act that often comes with doubt and heartache when you know you won’t get the same cheers and encouragement for chasing your dreams as they do.

But when you want to make those roots as I do, you still make those roots because you know in your heart where you belong. And when the world tells you that you’re wrong and there are things waiting to be discovered, you will fight to hold on to the peace that comes from knowing you have a home too good to leave. It’d just be waiting for you to come back. You will fight to remind yourself that they might have a calling to go, but it doesn’t mean you don’t have a calling to stay.

Faithfulness to who you are is a beautiful adventure, no matter where it takes (or doesn’t take) you. You are still on a mission, an arduous journey that is filled with bumps and bruises and beautiful blessings.

For those who want to leave, you have my blessing. I understand the deep longing to see and taste the world. I know that as you step foot in foreign lands and breathe in foreign air, you may very well find a second home that brings tears to your eyes when you know you have to leave. You’ll meet people you will never forget and your heart will ache every time you remember. You’ll come home and tell the ones who stayed all about the trip and you’ll feel like they just can’t relate or don’t really care. You’ll plan to leave again and count down the days until you do, yearning for that adventure just as you yearn to live.

For those who want to stay, you have my blessing. I understand the deep longing to settle down and make roots where you are. I know that as you build a routine and pass the same sights, you may very well discover a feeling of belonging that brings tears to your eyes when you think about leaving. You’ll form relationships with people you will never forget and hopefully keep them through the years through tears and trials and pain. The ones who left will come home and you’ll tell them about your family and your fulfilling job and you’ll feel like they just can’t relate or don’t really care. But you’ll plan to stay and count all the sweet memories you’re making at home, continuing to yearn for the adventure you wake up to each day just as you yearn to live.

What Happened This Summer

Photo by Katie Shelton via Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/78y7jZ)

Photo by Katie Shelton via Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/78y7jZ)

As many of you may know, I spent this past summer in Clarkston, GA as an intern with an organization aimed at aiding refugees in the area and showing the love of Christ. As an intern returnee (I had spent a summer in Clarkston two years before), I was sure this summer was going to be grand. After all, I had been there before and came back with more joyful and God-filled memories than I knew what to do with.

But this summer was not fun for me and I want to explain why.

I should first start off by saying that I didn’t have many meaningful interactions with any of the refugees, which was my own fault and responsibility. I didn’t feel like I contributed very much, except what was expected of me and the little things that needed to get done for the team. My best work was setting out lunch for the outreach teams every day. And I felt a little pathetic as I watched them come back sweaty and exhausted and with good stories to share because I knew that by choice all I did was roll up lunchmeat and cut up carrots. There, I said it.

You see, something not good was in me. Something that didn’t want me out in the community. Something that didn’t want me to give this my all. Something that just wanted to be as far away from where I was as possible.

I was homesick like I’ve never been homesick before. The kind of homesick where any mention of someone’s mom brought tears to my eyes because I missed my own. The kind of homesick where I would go home any chance I could get and then cry when I would have to return.

Don’t get me wrong. Clarkston is an AMAZING place. There’s no other place like it. And God moves in this city. Prayer covers this city and wild things have happened.

But the most wild thing that happened involving me this summer was just how badly I missed my home.

. . . . . .

When I returned home at the end of July, I had a lot of people asking how my summer was. Because I didn’t really know how to explain what happened to me while I was there, I usually just mentioned being homesick and how I was glad to be back.

But here’s the more complete version:

While I was there, I saw myself for who I was.

I saw a daughter deeply longing for her parents and the comfort of home. I saw a romantic counting down the days until she could be back in her best friend’s arms. I saw a girl whose heart was rooted someplace else.

I didn’t know before I left that I would miss my family, my town, my job, and my boyfriend the way I did. I didn’t realize until I left just how precious the things I was leaving behind were. I had no idea that my heart had changed that vastly; it went from wanting to move on from these people and this life just a couple short years ago (maybe even months ago) to wanting to preserve the goodness of it all and never let go.

As I wept for the absence of my mom, I realized I have fallen more in love with my family.

As my soul leaped for joy on the Sunday I was able to visit the middle schoolers I had been leading and loving for two years, I realized I have grown into a ministry of my own.

As the man I love supported me throughout the summer and pushed me to persevere like I never had to persevere before, I knew I have found a good man.

You know that saying, “you never know what you have until it’s gone”?

That was me this summer. And even though most of this summer felt like a waste as I wished for things other than what was in front of me, it also felt like a reminder of who I was.

I am a blessed girl with a heart full of beautiful people.

. . . . . .

But there’s more to the story than just that.

I didn’t just see myself for who I was; I saw my calling for what it was.

I didn’t tell many people why I ended up coming back to Clarkston this summer, but I’m telling you all the truth now: I returned just in case.

I wanted to be sure that there wasn’t a future for me somewhere in there. Maybe that inkling of a missionary’s calling would resonate in my soul again and all would be clear as day. I used to dream of living in the Middle East, swapping stories with women in Arabic and dedicating my life to the heart restoration of the region’s people.

Two weeks in and I already knew — This is not the calling God has for me.

I’ve been afraid of voicing that to people because if you had asked a former version of Jessie, she would say hands-down that that was where she was headed. She was so passionate and determined. I didn’t know how to tell people that it felt like my dreams were changing and God was leading me in a different direction.

I didn’t know that I could be passionate for those things without feeling called to those things.

I know now. This past summer in Clarkston revealed that to me.

Do you want to know where I think my future is headed now?

I believe God has been molding me more and more into a storyteller. A writer.

All summer long I felt the urge to write. I was being inspired left and right and it felt like I didn’t have enough time in a day to make something out of all that my mind and heart was churning with. I longed for peace and quiet, a moment of solitude to get my hands to work so it could craft stories. The writer in me was so anxious, I didn’t know what to do.

(And I just want to take a moment to thank my readers for reading some of the things I birthed during this difficult summer as I was away. I use the verb “birth” because writing required me to push like I had never pushed before. And the result was beautiful. I especially loved receiving feedback on what became my most popular post to date: Christianity Didn’t Fix Me. This summer, I also produced my first post featuring my current relationship and a very important person who you now know as my wonderful boyfriend, Grant. You first meet Grant in When Relationships Are Hard.)

This summer, God continued pushing me towards writing, and after years of guesswork, I finally began seeing more of His calling for my life. And it doesn’t involve a plane ticket; it involves a pen.

. . . . . .

The last thing I want to address about this summer is the stuff that began to surface shortly after I arrived.

I realized while I was in Clarkston that I am a woman of a multitude of wounds. I knew it before, but it had never felt so clear to me until I had nowhere else to run.

Back in January, I knew that this year was going to be a year of healing for me. God said enough is enough. And I guess I finally acquiesced to the idea of letting Him take care of some of this. No more harboring this crap.

And no, in case you’re wondering, being in Clarkston didn’t heal me.

It just showed me how badly I needed it.

It wasn’t pleasant at the time– seeing my weaknesses spread out before me and not having a single idea of how to move past them. Lord, I need you. I painstakingly prayed every day. I didn’t want to look at my wounds in the eye, but I knew it was what I had to do.

And I did. I finally did. Part of facing my past hurt was writing about it, which would explain the darker nature of my posts from this summer. If that made you sad or uncomfortable, I hope you can find joy in knowing that God has been preparing me for greater things and beginning to heal me in several areas. If I hadn’t been in Clarkston this summer, away from my comforts and my home, I don’t think I would’ve been able to see just how badly I needed God to step in.

And He has stepped in.

God did something good with this summer. I couldn’t see it at the time, but it’s becoming clearer now.

. . . . . .

We are in the ninth month of this year. I just celebrated my twentieth birthday and am a month into my third year of college. Time has been passing quickly and there are now things coming up ahead.

I’ve reflected on my summer and now it’s time to look forward to the future.

I don’t know where God is taking me, but I know where I’m hoping it’ll go– a book, an engagement, a full-time job. But regardless of whether these things come to pass this year, I will hold onto this truth: God is good.

Guys, He is so good. I didn’t know if I would make it out of this summer. I knew I’d survive it. But I didn’t know if I would come out of it with my heart still intact.

Well, guess what. I did. And I know God used this summer for His purposes. Sure, my stubbornness and selfishness stood in the way of some potentially great things, but there’s grace for that. I was still meant to be there. I don’t know where I’d be if I had chosen to stay home and not go at all.

I certainly wouldn’t be here writing all of these things now.

Friends and family, thank you for your love and support while I was gone. I truly did miss you.

I wish I had more to offer to you than just this. I wish I could have a handful of awesome stories to share with you about this summer. I wish I did more. I wish I pushed myself harder. Not just for me, but for you. You were cheering me on and I was too depressed and homesick to hear it.

But I hope and pray that after reading this you can understand what this summer meant to me and how it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I’m writing this to show you that I made it. I’m back. I’m alive. I’m different.

And there are good things ahead.

Expectation vs. Reality

How I Wish My Day Would Go:

Wake up without an alarm, feeling completely refreshed and ready to face the day.

Have a heavenly breakfast: sunny-side-up eggs and buttered toast.

Sit down to have my alone time with God–  a fresh cup of coffee in one hand and my journal in the other.

Blog about all the cool things God is teaching me.

Look up at the clock… time for lunch.

Eat leftover Chinese food in bed while watching Gilmore Girls.

Clean my room to a pristine condition.

Go to the mall to buy myself a new outfit to be worn later.

Talk to best friend on the phone for two hours.

Meet up with a friend at Starbucks– or better yet, one of those off-brand coffeehouses.

Have lively conversation about life, philosophy, and God.

Go home to get ready for a hot date. Get to take a bubble bath with plenty of time to shave.

Have my hot date (A.K.A. my boyfriend) pick me up and take me out for sushi.

Coldstone Creamery afterwards. Duh.

Beautiful walk around the neighborhood, holding hands.

Say goodnight and part ways.

I climb into my familiar bed with my dog snuggled beside me.

Fall fast asleep.

Rinse and repeat.

How My Day Really Goes:

Wake up by an alarm, feeling like I could sleep for another twelve hours.

Break my sunny-side-up eggs in the pan.

Sit down to have my alone time with God and realize that I actually only have fifteen minutes.

Get so stressed out by the time constraint that I can’t even focus on what He and I need to be talking about.

Have an awesome blog idea come to me that I forget about later.

Look up at the clock… class awaits me.

Leave class wondering what on earth I just sat through.

Have lunch in isolation. No Gilmore Girls.

Come home to dishes in the sink, laundry to be folded, and an unmade bed.

Try to schedule a phone call with my best friend, but it doesn’t work out.

Ask friends out for coffee. No one can go.

Realize I’m broke anyway.

Get ready to go out on a hot date. Hair not cooperating. Break out into a sweat just trying to pick out what to wear.

Have my hot date (A.K.A. my boyfriend) come to pick me up.

I’m inexplicably moody. Total buzz-kill.

Eat and feel bloated.

Date interrupted by reminders of having to wake up early for work and mother wondering when we’ll be home.

Say goodnight and part ways, not really wanting to leave.

I climb into my familiar bed, dog nowhere to be found.

Have trouble sleeping.

Regretfully rinse and repeat.

What I Gather From This Information:

Life does not go the way I want it. Eggs crack, schoolwork gets burdensome, and moods shift quicker than I have time to adjust to.

I don’t feel like I have enough time for myself or the people who matter to me. I certainly don’t feel like I have enough time for God.

Everything is rushed. Stressful. Unnecessarily difficult.

But every day is different. And that means there are new opportunities to find beauty and joy. New opportunities to make the most of hardships. New opportunities to make mistakes and learn from them. New opportunities to seek God and His will.

It’s okay that life doesn’t go the way I want it. It’s normal, expected.

And every once in a blue moon, I do get that ideal day. It comes and it goes, but I enjoy it nonetheless.

I’m waiting for the next one, but trying not to ignore the good stuff in my other days, too. Which is easier said than done.

But hey, time goes by a lot faster than we realize. And the hard day today could become a beautiful one tomorrow. Or at least that’s what I tell myself.

God’s showing me more and more of what it means to be content and fruitful even in what looks to be the crappiest of days.

So here’s to trying again in the morning.

 

I Don’t Know Why I’m Here

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Photo by Laura on Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/aSqBok)

I’ve been in Clarkston (see previous post for details) for almost a month now, and it’s been hard. 

Not so hard that I want to leave or I’m not enjoying my stay. It’s just the kind of hard where you know you could curl up on a bed and sleep for days if somebody would let you.

I miss my family. I miss having Tuesday night dinners with my grandparents. I miss watching Glee with my mom. I miss being able to talk to my boyfriend every day. I miss phone dates, television marathons, and ice cream outings with friends. I miss sleeping next to my dog every night. I miss my church and the middle schoolers I work with.

But I know I’m supposed to be here.

Why?

Well, I haven’t figured that part out yet.

And I have to keep telling myself that it’s okay to not know.

I’ve been beating myself up for being so clueless. Sometimes I have a lot to do; sometimes I’m free all day and just wander around aimlessly. Setting out lunches, making copies, and running errands are my specialty, but there are days when it feels like that’s not enough.

I keep trying and trying to not waste time, but sometimes that’s how time feels: wasted.

Like I could be doing something more, but I’m not sure what.

Here’s what I’m starting to think: God, in His sovereignty and by His grace, uses His people… even when they don’t feel like they’re being used.

I think about the people in my life who have impacted me, encouraged me, and challenged me in ordinary, non-exciting times. Many revelations have been had over coffee at Starbucks. Warm feelings have been exchanged over brief smiles.

An impactful, godly life sometimes looks a lot like an ordinary life.

Could it be that God is found in my own ordinary moments? That the things I am finding mundane are godly and important?

I pray that this is true.

Maybe as I set out lunch each day I am showing these interns I care. Maybe my offers to pray for the girls I live with will be received with more gratitude than I could ever know. Maybe the way I do the little things shows that I can be trusted with the bigger things.

The truth is, anyone could do a lot of the tasks I take care of. But for this summer, these tasks have been entrusted to me.

And no matter how ordinary or seemingly unimportant they are, I want to treat these things like they’re special.

I don’t HAVE to spend my summer serving here in Clarkston. I didn’t HAVE to commit to this and leave my family, friends, and home.

But I GET to.

What a privilege to be a part of something bigger than myself. I might just feel like a useless pinky right now in the grand scheme of the body working together, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be times I can be a helping hand, listening ear, and loving heart.

I hold on to the belief that God uses His people for His glory— in the highs, lows, and in-betweens of life.

When I’m wondering why I’m here, I’ll tell myself this.

I still don’t have answers, but I have faith.

I Am My Mother’s Daughter

I am my mother’s daughter.

I have the fierceness ingrained in our family, passed down from generation to generation. We are bold, determined, willing to speak our minds.

My mom and I are similar in that we know how to be assertive and go after what we want in life. We can be overbearing at times, and it’s funny how often I hated this trait in my family yet I exhibit it myself.

For so long I saw myself as brash and loud, even obnoxious. I wasn’t too bothered by this fact; I just accepted myself for who I was and saw these things as family heirlooms that were inevitably passed down to me.

My mother and I are fierce women, but for so long I believed that fierceness was all we had. As empowering as it can be to realize that you are assertive and bold, it can also be discouraging.

When faced with serious subjects for most of my life, I was quick to laugh and brush things off. I didn’t think I knew how to be soft and vulnerable or comfort others during times of mourning. My parents and I just always used humor and loudness and name-calling to survive while others used tears. My friends say, “I’m so sorry that happened.” We say, “that sucks. Beat her up.”

It wasn’t until recently that I began to question my identity compared to my mother’s. I love her so dearly, but I knew that there was something in me that didn’t want to be defined the way my mom seemed to define herself. After all, I’m not always loud and brash. I do occasionally like hugs and comfort. I can sometimes be shy and soft-spoken. I just have a hard time convincing myself that these things, these nice things, are a part of me as well.

After  observing the tenderhearted love exchanged between others this past year, I have been wondering if I have that sort of gentleness in me. My grandma has been whispering in my ear all my life that I have a gentle spirit and kind heart, but if I have such things, I sure do have a hard time accessing them.

The unfortunate truth is that my exterior masks my interior all too well, and I have been defining myself by my loudest qualities rather than the secret, softer ones.

All along I have had gentleness inside me; I just haven’t been diving deep enough into myself to find it. For so long, I allowed my confident and bold front to be all that there was because I was afraid, and still am at times, that there’s nothing else to uncover.

To this day I often put up this front. I’ve been told that I come across as intimidating and self-confident. The truth is I’m unsure of myself and afraid in many ways. It’s the fear of vulnerability that keeps my true self from coming out of hiding. There’s nothing worse than feeling ignored or unimportant. There’s nothing more frightening than being yourself and facing rejection.

So for a while I have forgotten how to let myself be myself.

However, I’m starting to find that hidden gentleness in me again, what other people were able to locate while I seemingly couldn’t, and I’m surprised at how quickly I can find it in my mom as well.

I can see it in the way  my mom will call someone out and say things that no one else would dare proclaim, all for the sake of making sure no one she loves is hurt or taken advantage of. She will express her feelings loud and clear, but that’s because there’s a part of her that isn’t afraid of vulnerability and being known. She is determined and a go-getter, but it’s the maternal instinct and desire to take care of her family that spurs her on. She wears sweats and foregoes makeup shamelessly, but she is feminine at heart.

Even though she might not admit it, my mom can be tenderhearted and, well, a girl. As can I.

The truth is that we both have Eve in us. All women do. We, like Eve, are made in God’s image and for a special purpose. We are destined to be caretakers of others. We have a maternal instinct, which can be stifled yet not completely extinguished. If you look at the definition of the name “Eve”, you might be surprised to find that it simply means “life.” Women bring life to others.

My mom and I are not exceptions. We also bring life to others. We will fight in order to protect loved ones. We will speak up in order to preserve justice. We are ingrained with wisdom on how to nurture and take care of others. And at times, we know that there are kind, loving words of truth just behind our lips. We don’t always say them, but the words are there.

Are we loud? Yes. Do we become controlling and overbearing sometimes? You bet. Are we occasionally brash and maybe even rude? Indeed.

But I can’t say that we don’t know how to love or how to be gentle and soft.

My mom and I choose to love with fierceness.

Yes, I will always be my mother’s daughter, and I’m proud of that fact.