Thursday, May 31, 2012

Sacred Scars

So there I was in this support group for women. We went around the circle sharing our feelings. We sounded like an AA group or maybe Al-Anon.  It was a little strange. There was great amount of openness among the group, and that made me uncomfortable because : 1) I didn't know these ladies, 2) they didn't know me, 3) and the group leader seemed to see straight into my soul. Mine had been tucked away (almost dead) for quite some time. I wasn't even sure there was much of it left.

That is how it started:

  • by hearing others be real and open.
  •  by having my group leader there to ask questions I hadn't thought of before.
  • by opening my mouth and speaking the truth of what I was feeling even when it didn't sound spiritual or pretty. God already knew it all anyway. 

Healing is like that. It happens slowly, almost imperceptibly.

As I continued to meet with these women for nearly two years, I grew to love them dearly, but I wasn't always comfortable. God, through them, cleaned my wounds and applied His medicine. I will tell you truthfully: it hurt.

When all was said and done, I experienced dramatic change, but left with a scar: a souvenir of both the hurt and the healing process. Today that scar reminds me of the good work God has done in bringing me from there to here.

It was in this group that God placed a dream in my heart. My dream was to minister to hurting and broken women. God wanted to use my biggest hurts to create my greatest ministry opportunity. "Your mess is your message," someone has well said.

God wants to use your mess too, because He is good like that. Who else says, "Hey, this is the area you really blew it in. How about teaching others?" Only God would do that. My areas of expertise, today: openness and grace. Because this is where I blew it.

Back in the day, I was not so graceful, but rather self-righteous. I wasn't that way all the time and or with everyone, but overall, a real Pharisee. I didn't really want to "waste" my time with those whose lives were a mess. I wanted disciples whose problems were mostly fixed and were serious about getting into the Word. So easy. So neat. So perfect.

I was not so real or authentic as I thought myself to be, either. I pretended to be happy when I was sad or angry. I smiled and conversed politely when I should have walked away. I said I wasn't hurt when I was. I thought I was an honest person, but my words didn't reveal the truth in my heart. The Holy Spirit had to show me these things through others speaking into my life.

Now, I am one of those support group leaders working with HopeQuest. I get to learn to ask the hard questions. I get to help clean and bandage wounds; and watch a slow, but amazing healing process begin.  Best of all, I get to see lives transformed by the life-giving grace of God.

"Delight yourself in the Lord and 
He will give you the desires of your heart."
Psalm 37:3-5

Friday, May 25, 2012

Mom Enough?

By now we've all seen the Time magazine cover of the young, hip, thin mom breastfeeding her four year old son. It was meant to be provocative, of course. Time is all about selling magazines. They have no wisdom or personal integrity that keeps them from sensationalism.

It appears to have worked, by the way. It flew off the shelves, so look for more of this type of cover to come in the future.

However, I think the question posed on the cover, may be more sensational than the picture. The question Time and all the world wants to know is this: Are You Mom Enough?

If you are a mother, then you know well the demands. They come from all sides and are relentless.
  • The world demands outward perfection. My body must be a rock, my skin must be like a baby's, and my hair must shine, bounce, and cascade.
  • The church can demand perfections too: service without rest, saying yes until there is no margin in my life, doing it all with a smile even if my world is falling apart. And please, please don't tell of your real struggles. Get those worked out somewhere else.
  • My children make impossible demands, as well. "Mommy, mommy, mommy" ad infinitum, from my preschooler and "Mommmmm!" (roll of the eyes) from my teens lets me know I am not enough; they need more, more, more.
  • And perhaps, worst of all, are the times I am not enough for myself. And I ask questions such as: "Why can't I keep the kitchen clean? Get a meal on the table? Work out three times a week? Look younger? Sing better? Make time for friends? Put that closet in order? Get my children to help around the house? Get over that?" 
Lots of questions and behind each one is the enemy. As a friend of mine likes to say, Satan doesn't fight fair. And he never stops asking, "Are you Mom enough?"

The question is there to nag me, to confuse me, to put fear in me. And most of all, it tempts me to grasp for all that I am not and cannot be. And from the guilt and fear, I begin to plan how I will beat that question. I will do this. I will do that. I will do it all and do it well.

The truth is it's less of a question and more of an accusation. 

And my enemy smiles. He's got me where he wants me. Trying harder, striving, trying to control things that are not mine, juggling more than He has called me to, until my head is spinning.

This is when I must stop and turn to my Father. "Am I mom enough?" I ask Him, "Have I failed in this role you have called me to? How can I do it all, Lord?"

"Beloved daughter and princess," He says to me, "you are asking the wrong question. It is not, 'Are you mom enough,' but 'Am I God enough?' And I Am... I Am the all sufficient One. My rivers don't run dry. My streams never cease. Come to Me and rest from this weariness of striving to be someone's all in all. That is not the role of mom, but of God. I have called you to be Mine. I have made you holy in My sight, without any blemish. You are free from accusation. This is all I see."

Ahhhh, sweet freedom. Never Mom enough and not called to be. Thank you, Lord Jesus.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Above Rubies

Sunday was Mother's Day. I didn't get to see my mom; she had been out of town for a wedding and was flying back Sunday evening. I kept trying to call her, but she had neglected to keep her phone charged. Finally, I got to speak to her Sunday night around 10 p.m. Just hearing her voice brought a smile to my face. I could imagine her face and see her laughing.

My mama is valued far above rubies to me. Her love, compassion, gentleness, and nurturing ways gave me a safe place to grow when I was a child. I felt loved, cared for, and valued when my mama was around; I still feel that when I am with her today. And I carry the gift of that belief with me every day: I am valued, I am cared for, I am loved.  That is huge.

Here are some things I love about my mama:

My mom is a gardener. She loves working in the soil and being close to nature. She has never stopped being amazed at all that God creates. I love learning from her about plants and birds and all of creation. Oh, and she is not even afraid of snakes whereas I am scared to death of those things!

My mom is a writer and a wordsmith. She has a way with words. She loves to play Scrabble and she has a great sense of humor. Maybe it is time for her to do a guest blog for me.

My mom can be incredibly forgetful and absentminded. This one may sound a strange thing to love. But I am the same way and it makes for lots of laughter between us. I can remember many Thanksgiving dinners when the meal was over that my mom would suddenly gasp, "I forgot the rolls were in the oven!" I claim it is our genius because we can't crowd our minds with every little detail when we are always thinking such deep thoughts. ( It's either that or early Alzheimer's for me.) We usually just end up laughing so hard at ourselves that we can't remember what we forgot in the first place.
My mom is one of the hardest working women I know. Her house is clean and welcoming. Her food is incredible. Her friends are close. Her family is close. It takes work to have a clean home, meals on the table, and keep relationships a priority. She works to make these things happen. Scarlett O'Hara had the smallest waist in three counties, my mom has the best biscuits in three states.

My mom is an encourager. She sees talent, gifts and potential for greatness in everyone she meets. And she comes alongside of her family and friends and even strangers and says, "Wow! You do a great job at that. Thanks for sharing your gift."

My mom likes to give gifts. It makes her day to see someone else happy and blessed by her generosity. My dad always says she would put them in them in the poor house and give all their money to us (me and my siblings). He's probably right.

There is more I could say about my mom and I probably will in some future blogs. Her life story is a beautiful picture of God's grace and mercy. But for now, I will close with this:

Happy Mother's Day, Mama. I love you! You are a blessing to me and I appreciate you.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Life and Death and Idols

"You cannot serve  two Masters. If pleasing a person is your goal, you will be enslaved to that person. People can be harsh taskmasters when you give them this power over you."  --paraphrase of Jesus Calling, May 3

I once had a very powerful idol in my life. This idol defined my life. I yearned for it and prayed for it. I sacrificed and worked hard for it. All of my choices revolved around how this idol would be impacted by my decisions. And yet if anyone had asked me, "Do you have any idols, Karen?" My answer would have been, "No, of course not. And if you see any, let me know and I will smash them to bits."

I couldn't see how much my husband was my idol. 

If the question were phrased differently maybe I would have been forced to face the truth. Maybe one of these questions would have made things clearer: What feels like life to you? What feels like death to you?

Because my answer to those would have been: It feels like life when Kevin is happy and the kids are getting along. It feels like death when Kevin is sad or angry and when the kids are arguing. My good days and bad days were all wrapped up in things that were beyond my control. It was a recipe for misery, and it was for dinner every day.

I found myself in constant prayer for God to change Kevin. Thing is, people don't change unless the pain in their lives becomes unbearable. And there I was standing between Kevin and the pain God wanted to use in his life. I shielded him from hurts; protected his image; and was the fall guy for all of his shortcomings and sins. It was a painful and lonely place to live, but I honestly believed that if I could endure long enough Kevin would change. God would zap him, and he'd wake up and see the truth. But it didn't happen that way. It never does.

I couldn't save him. I couldn't love him enough to fill him. He was a bottomless pit of neediness, moodiness, anger, and shame.

Unfortunately, I was a "got-it-together" kinda girl. I knew how to get things done. I was strong. I thought I was trusting God. Thus it took years for God to bring me to an end of my own efforts at saving Kevin and being enough for him. My determination to stick it out until God intervened only sucked the life out of me.

I am not God. I couldn't be Kevin's personal Jesus. There was only one Savior, and I was not Him. I was failing, tiring, and growing resentful. And that sin of resentment was eating away at my own heart. I prayed about it all the time. I admitted it to God and agreed with Him about it, yet the hold was there. And right when I thought I was moving past it, Kevin would be there repeating the patterns. The bitterness would begin to churn inside me again, but I rarely let it spill out. I wanted to blame Kevin for my sins, and I often did in my heart and mind. However, the truth is the bitterness and resentment were mine, not his.

 Has a nation ever changed its gods? (Yet they are not gods at all.)
But my people have exchanged their glorious God for worthless idols.
Be appalled at this, you heavens, and shudder with great horror,”
declares the Lord. “My people have committed two sins: 
They have forsaken me, the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns 
that cannot hold water."
Jeremiah 2:11-13

I had exchanged my God for an idol. Family, marriage, and husbands are not worthless; they are gifts from God. But as a gods, they are worthless. They cannot fill you up. They cannot save you. They will not redeem your life from the pit. I had left the spring of living water and was digging a broken well.

I had to come to a place of being willing to lose that image of good Christian family. And that's what it was: an image. Being broken enough to admit it was also the moment God was able to begin a rebuilding. And I couldn't have a God-built well if I wouldn't step aside and let him fill in the shabby cistern I had constructed.

The irony is that when Kevin was no longer on that throne and shielded by my pain intervention plan, God could do a good work in him too. And He did.

The beautiful truth about the Father is that He loves me too much to leave me drinking muddy water. He will bring the pain until I am willing to change my thinking. It may take mere moments or it may take years. He will not give up, let go, or give in. He is a jealous God and an all consuming fire. And His favorite is burning those idols.

And while God is a fire of passion, He is also a true gentleman. He won't force Himself upon you. He will wait on you to say, "O, God I have been living for an idol and I didn't even realize it. Forgive me. Change me. Free me. I take this idol down from the throne of my heart and open the door to You again."

My prayer for you is that as you have read this blog, God has brought to your mind who or what is life and death to you. Dear one, that is your idol. You may be saved, go to church, and tithe, but that thing you define as life is the real god in your heart.

The Father is holding before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose real life. Choose Him.