Photo Credit: http://oisoioi.com/
Last weekend, the staff women and I took a weekend retreat away. I was so in need of a time of refreshment! It really is such a gift to step back from the chaos, from the day to day things to examine my life, my heart, my patterns. To pray, to talk to other women, to get an uninterrupted morning talking to Jesus, to workout, to listen to songs on my ipod that minister to me. This all helps me be a better mom and wife. And the guys got to have their first guys weekend! I didn’t feel guilty one bit. Of course, I missed my boys!! I had Nick txting me pics the whole time. It was definitely tough for me to restrain the probably way too much amount of kisses I normally give Isaac in a given day. But I made it through and enjoyed my time like it should be enjoyed when you are at a cozy cabin with dear friends.I welcomed Saturday morning because it was intended to be silent to read the word, pray, journal, go for a walk, listen to music, or what have you. What a luxury! Before we headed into our quiet morning, we ate breakfast and a staff girl shared a from the book “King’s Cross,” which I really need to read, but anyway, she shared about the point of our lives as Christians is to be led into God’s arms. What God is doing through all of our circumstances is leading us into his arms. I love that picture because it speaks of God’s fatherly character. He is a father to us. He wraps us in his arms like Nick wraps Isaac in his. We discussed from the book that every woman is experiencing something very different. Our paths are all unique and chosen by God for us to walk through for the purpose of knowing God so near, so sweet that we would be right in his arms, even if we are broken and crying or if we are experiencing great joy. In King’s Cross, it talks about being on a thorny path that is leading you into God’s arms or being on a sunny path leading us into his arms. The reflection question was: What path (sunny or thorny) are you on and how are your unique circumstances (weather painful or delightful) leading you into God’s arms?
Good question, huh? I sat and pondered for a while. How is this unique season of motherhood leading me into God’s arms? I pondered. To be honest, my path feels thorny or sunny entirely dependent on the day at hand. This season isn’t overall thorny, nor overall sunny. The hard moments are really hard. The joyful moments are so overflowing my heart could burst. There are thorny days. There are sunny days. And let’s face it, in the dead of February/March in Minnesota, it can feel like the sunny days are farther or fewer between! Anyway, here’s what I pondered and processed while I was there! These are the ways…I think… that I am being led into God’s arms.
Being a mom breaks me and softens me more deeply. When I get stuck in sinful attitudes, my heart breaks more frequently over that. So where do I go? I may refuse his arms as long as I can, but eventually, I end up there because I can’t resist his kindness, his soft tender invitation. Nowadays… my attitudes are noticed by a little one who is watching and learning and a husband who is on the receiving end of many of my “attitudes.” This makes me cry out the the Lord for repentance. Lord, help me repent. Help my little one see that mommy has a relationship with a God who is so gentle, so kind that she can cry out to him during the day when she’s angry and upset and he forgives her and listens. Help my little one see how gracious and merciful Jesus is by the kind way his daddy treats his mommy when she’s upset. That’s the Jesus I want them to know. The Jesus that can help them in any moment. Being known by my children for the good, bad and the ugly calls me to a greater place of desperation before the Lord. This makes me love his gospel more. This gospel that allows me to be broken, that can change me, free me, transform me, humble me, help me repent. I see my anger in my heart, then I see my son come riding on his little toy car with the biggest, unrefined smile I’ve ever seen- and something softens, something tugs at my soul to call on the holy spirit and ask for his help to change my heart.
Seeing how patient Jesus is with me. Jesus doesn’t require my obedience to him to be a one-time event because he knows I can’t do it. That’s why his obedient life was given in exchange for mine. What a freeing, sweet gift! He allows it to be a beautiful process of breakdowns, repentance, prayer, seeking community and receiving the power of his spirit to help me obey him. He is so patient with me! This makes me long to be more patient with everyone around me.
Its beyond my own strength and understanding. I can’t do it. I can’t. Not on my own. Parenthood is a community project. And dang, sometimes its hard. Its daunting when I forget that God knows just what he is doing! And that he doesn’t require perfection from me, but asks that I humble myself and trust him. I look at the scope of motherhood- all of the seasons, all of the ages, all of the trials ahead. My own limitations overwhelm me. I cannot do it. Lord, I need you. I need to know you love me. I need to know that even when I fail at this, I am yours. Ultimately, I am not a mother. I am your daughter, your beloved, your bride. I’m in over my head, and that is ok. God is the God of my children’s lives. He provides the community I need, and the community they need. I can trust him for that.
Knowing the Lord as Refuge I have a weekly date with Jesus. I go to the same place and order the same thing ever y Saturday morning. Kind of like an old man, I guess Dang, I AM getting older! But you know what? This requires consistency. I go when I don’t feel like going. I need to go. My soul needs it for survival. Nick is so sweet to give me this time away. Jesus is a person who desires relationship with us, so I like to think of him in my life as my most precious relationship to be invested in, knowing intimately, spending time with, talking to, listening, etc. I honestly don’t know why I have not done this regularly previous to this season! My relationship with Jesus feels more like a relationship now more than ever because I am talking to him all the time. About my insecurities, my struggle with comparison, my anxieties, my fears, I am praying for people more, laying down burdens, confessing my sins, I am being in his presence and finding refuge. My Saturday morning times are so refreshing, I love getting away, knowing its carved out time to be with the Lord, to talk to him alone, to ponder his truths, to hide in his refuge. To remember I am loved, I am free, there is a heaven coming where there will be no more tears and suffering. Sometimes I pull my hoodie sweatshirt over my head with my headphones in, and just stare out the window while music seeps into my soul and mind and heart. The Lord always knows what I need, and sometimes that’s all I have energy for! Once, I even fell asleep at Caribou next to the fireplace… yes, I am that mom.
There are tons of opportunities for the gospel. I get to tell Isaac the real gospel in my own life. There are plenty of days where I say repeatedly, “Mommy doesn’t want to obey God right now. I can understand why its hard for you to obey too, Isaac. Mommy needs Jesus right now. Mommy was angry this morning, that’s why mommy needs Jesus to die for her. Jesus loves mommy so much, he loves you too Isaac, more than anyone in the world.” He says in his little one year old cute voice “Chezuz.” He knows that word well. He also calls his string cheese “Cheezus.” Someday he will understand that cheese is not Jesus But seeds… we’re sewing seeds Its not my job to make him understand, that is the work of the holy spirit. He gets to see that mommy is not obedient all the time. Mommy needs Jesus more than anything and anyone. Motherhood creates powerful, real life opportunities to share the sweet gospel of grace to our precious little ones who need to know grace!
I feel more compassionate for others who feel weak or suffering. When I hear Isaac cry, it resonates. the world is broken, its not how it is suppose to be. here on earth, there are tears. There is sadness. it melts my heart towards others who are sad or suffering.. It causes me to pray and long for Jesus to come back and save the lost, to restore all people from their brokenness into his loving arms.
I look at other’s lives as “whole lives.” I think about people more in terms of their whole life, what has happened to them, why they think like they think, what events have been significant that have shaped them from early childhood on… people are not just angry impatient customers at the store… they were once a baby, they were shaped and treated, taught, etc. they are a myriad of life events stringing together that have taught that person who they are and what things are important, etc. People are whole lives. I feel softer to that. I feel compelled to want to know people in a deeper way.
Where the real joy is found. Jesus said that he endured the cross “for the joy set before him.” He wasn’t kidding about that if after his crucifixion he was raised from the dead to be crowned the king of glory. He suffered. His joy came in the end. Jesus also said that there is no greater joy than to lay down his life for his friends. He knew that in his giving, his suffering, he was giving us so great a gift (our salvation) that he could not separate the joy when he thought about the pain. Because the pain meant the joy was coming. I am sure that I don’t understand that to the degree that Jesus did. But I now have a glimpse of that. As I lay my life down for Isaac weather its through sleepless nights, the pukiest pregnancy ever, tantrums, crawling on the floor with him enjoying building towers, letting my child take my entire body from me with stretch-marks to prove it , spending Friday nights pureeing crazy amounts of fruits and vegetables, grocery shopping when my mind is so fried I cannot even remember why I am standing in the pasta aisle when what I need is milk and a rotisserie chicken… yes this is a recap of last Sunday I was standing in the checkout line at 10pm while my eyes twitched, and all in a moment… I was overwhelmed with gratitude for my life, for the privilege it is to care for my husband and son, to do secret little things for them that they may one day never know or remember, but as I stood there in the line, I knew Jesus in a deep way. No, it didn’t initially want to be there. But in the checkout line, I knew that’s how Jesus loves me every moment, that’s how he serves me, that’s how he operates. He gave when he didn’t feel like it. He gives, I take. And only sometimes do I acknowledge and thank him. But he never requires my thanking him or my giving back. He just gives because it makes him happy to see us blessed. In giving my life away to my family and to people I care about makes me happy too, if they are being blessed by it, encouraged and helped. This is joy that lets me feel grateful as I put the last dish in the dishwasher while my eyes are burning. In fact, nothing about my life anymore is on my own terms. Nothing goes the way I always plan. I use to think that the real joy is found in those plans, in that allusion of control, in a quiet environment, trips away with my husband, sleeping in every weekend, getting to do what I want, when I want, how I want. But the real joy is Jesus arms around me while I am scrubbing caked strawberry smoothie off of the refrigerator while a can of rootbeer explodes all over me, and my lovey is in his high chair watching youtube baby Einstein on repeat and eating string cheese. Sure, I’d love to be alone at Starbucks in that moment or on a tropical vacay with the hubs. But this is where the real joy is found. Here on the floor, serving, getting dirty, saying- Jesus you satisfy my soul, I get to know you in the lowly things. You were so lowly for me. Thank you Jesus, thank you. Deliver me from myself, let me see your beauty here.
I am emptied of understanding everything. I frequently don’t understand what God is doing, why he’s doing it how he is. But I am invited to receive his peace in that. To surrender control. To say I don’t know, but I know who God tells me He is in his word. I know his character, and I can bank on his steadfast unchanging heart. I don’t know what he’s doing, but I know who he is. I know what he’s promised. I know what is coming.
Growing in intimacy in relationships. My relationships in life growing and deepening in intimacy because well, I am so weak, and I’m being known in that. As I grow in the gospel, intimacy is the result. Being a mom, I am more tired, more expended, etc. and this all reveals my sin in a really obvious and unhidden way. I snap more quickly. As I see my sin more, I fall more and more in love with Jesus. He really loves me! He really has washed away my sin from who I am. He died for me. Oh I love him now more than ever. He is really transforming me in the mess! As a mom, I am known more in my relationships and more exposed, therefore I experience more connection in my relationships. I have called friends in tears on a bad day, or to ask for help about something, etc. I am walking through life with friends who are coming from the same place of weakness, and this leads me into his arms.
So, at our women’s retreat away, I talked to Jesus about these things. About how this is really hard for me sdays moments. About how I don’t fully embrace the part of life not being on my own terms. But, I knew without a doubt that this path of interruptions, serving, cleaning, cooking a LOT or ordering Domino’s a lot , puking, bruised body parts from birth, unloading the dishwasher a lot, getting dirtier more frequently, dreaming for the lives of others more than my own successes or achievements, snuggling, rocking, laughing, singing, dancing, playing, loving, building up my family, thinking for their needs and expending myself… is the life I really want. Because in the end, there is deep deep joy in laying down your life for your friends. Because people are worth it. This is the path that is leading me into my father’s arms. This is the path that is showing me the craziest joy and at times deepest pains. In the chaos and mess of ourselves and our home, there is deep love in our relationships. There is the holy spirit carrying us through. We have an abundant, abundant, FULL life because of Jesus love for us.
The Lord really is giving me the grace to see all of these things as beauty lately. I know it is a work of him to see the hard days as a gift, a privilege- an honor, really. I am praying he keeps that at the forefront of my heart. What an honor it is to him to meet all of my needs and to love me unconditionally. When this love is in my heart, I can easily be expended and love my family and community without conditions, without needing anything returned or reciprocated.
What is the path you are on that is leading you into his arms? There is beauty in the authenticity. Your path is not someone else’s.. it is the path the Lord chose sweetly, uniquely, for you. Praying you really are led into his arms through it!