Thursday, December 29, 2011

In the light

Today was one of those beautifully rare days. Sixty degrees, azure blue sky cloudless to the horizon and back, and a tickling breeze hinting at the coming spring. We still have so many long months of the bitter, dreary winter ahead, but that glimpse was enough to satisfy my longing to hit the pavement, drink in a lungful of sweet, warm air, let it refresh my already winter weary bones. 

And yes, I’ll admit, that after some playtime outside with the kids, I abandoned my hubby with the crabby monsters to spend an hour with the road, the hills, the wind.

And my iPod.

And oh, can I just say how wonderful it was to not have been pounding away mercilessly monotonous minutes on a treadmill. It’s just not the same. The wind kissing your face, whisking away the surface of simmering heat. That extra push in your spirit to crest that mountainous hill. The accomplishment of actually getting somewhere, seeing the distance you’ve traveled. A treadmill might keep the extra pounds at bay when old man winter blows into town, but for me there is no substituting the real thing.

But now I am off point.

Which is the song I came across on my iPod during my euphoric run. An old gem I played on repeat for a solid thirty minutes because it seemed to just move me. "In The Light" by DC Talk. The lyrics poured over my soul, almost a cry to God.

This only serves to confirm my suspicions that I’m still a man (okay, woman—DC Talk is made up of all guys, check it) in need of a Savior. I wanna be in the light, as you are in the light. I wanna shine like the stars in the heavens. Oh, Lord be my light, and be my salvation, ‘cause ALL I want is to be in the light.

There has been a lot of talk about rebelling against the seemingly fruitless pursuit of New Year’s resolutions. I’ll be the first to admit that mine are basically the same every year and usually not super effective motivators. Get in the Word more. Lose weight. Stop crabbin'. Okay, to be fair I am not a total crab, but I do tend to indulge in a little cathartic whining when the situation merits a meltdown of sorts. But hey, I have two kids two and under. I allow myself one meltdown a day. Sometimes two J

But the words to this song wove into my heart, struck a chord, resonated the rest of the day. And I heard the whisper of God breathe into my heart.


Yes, I love the Lord. I attempt to honor Him with my life everyday. But my efforts inevitably fail. The business of life catches up and the whirlwind sweeps me away in a daily scramble of playtime, cooking, cleaning, the eternal struggle of naptime, more cleaning, feeding three boys with bottomless bellies, diapers, storytime, crying, more cleaning, errands, paying bills, temper tantrums, the tidal wave of bathtime, more cleaning . . . And even if those weren’t the things occupying my day, something else would inevitably steal my time. I can’t win. I can’t be devoted enough. Earn God’s grace, His love, His forgiveness, His favor, His blessings.

I am not worthy.

And yet . . . He calls me His own. He loves me and asks only for my heart in return.

How often are we distracted by life, our own goals. OUR plans. Resolutions too unattainable to ever achieve.

What about this one? Abide. Abide in the light and love of Christ this year.

See that you can’t and never will have it all together. And that’s okay. His love, His grace, they are not conditional on your performance. On your ability to check those goals off your To-Do List. You don’t have to be perfect or anything close. If we could earn it, Jesus needn’t have come to this earth and died on a cross.

So maybe this year, instead of focusing on what we want to make of ourselves, what if we just submit to being in the light of Christ. Resting in his arms. Trusting him with our dreams, our goals, and how to get there.

I, for one, could definitely use more rest in my life.

So, this is my New Year’s resolution for 2012.

Anyone else actually trying out a resolution this year? Or is the revolt united across the writers’ world. Oh, yeah, and anybody else remember this song?

Happy New Year! Be blessed to overflowing!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Beautiful letdown

Many have been addressing the issues of failure, rejection, and seeing God’s plan through the fog of disappointment. Thought I’d add my two pennies, for whatever they’re worth.

What happens when we hinge our hopes, dreams, and worth on something that falls through? Having been so sure we were walking in God’s plan and His favor, only to find out that something went terribly wrong. Or did it?

Like me, many of you might find the bitter pill is best swallowed on a stomach full of ice cream. Maybe brownies. Both if it’s a doozie, for sure. Very therapeutic, let me assure you.

So there you are. That unsuspecting dreamer. Hopes high, heart full, blissfully ignorant of the boxing ring you’ve just entered. The right hook of criticism comes so fast you didn’t have time to react and BAM, lands right in that weak spot. And often that’s just the beginning. The hits keep coming.

Limping away, having done everything you could to hold on to that confidence, your dreams are clobbered, but not broken. That is until you inspect the damage. Bumps, bruises, a wicked gash, some broken bones. You’d have to have some crazy lizard skin to walk away from that fight unscathed. And those are just the defensive wounds on the outside.

Most often our hearts are so synced to that one goal, we stumble out of the wreckage of failure alive, but crushed and jaded. Confused. Why, God? Doesn’t Your word say that You want to give us the desires of our hearts? And why do I keep seeing others, even unbelievers, dream come true’s in hand, and not me?

The answer is a simple-starchy staple, though not easily digested and most often, not a super sweet indulgence for your ego.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Bottom line: Gods ways are not our ways. His thoughts are higher. And his promises true. You can’t rationalize the ways and will of God. All you need to know is that He has your back in that ring. No matter what the outcome of the fight.

Sometimes we learn and grow the most when we fail. Refiner’s fire is not a cozy place to be.

And I find, like the nice red-blooded American/country girl I am that a country song say’s it best.

Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers.

Can you even imagine if God gave us the reigns? Do you remember some of those things you wanted so desperately years ago? Those things you labored over in prayed and could have almost wished them into existence as your glorious future laid out before your very eyes.

Thank you, Lord, for loving me enough to not say yes when I asked for fruitless things. I certainly wouldn’t be a happy woman had you let me marry my high school boyfriend who couldn’t quite seem to love me for who I was. And I definitely wouldn’t have two of the world’s cutest baby boys. –Sorry, mom’s, can’t argue with the cold, hard truth. J

And had I made it in music—my life’s dream since I was old enough to belt out Sleeping Beauty’s “Once Upon a Dream” from my car seat—I never would have gone to college and met my husband. The one man who—miraculously—seems to get me. Or even if I had met him some other way, most musicians tour and travel constantly to make a living, and I wouldn’t likely be able to be a stay at home mom. The one dream that was worth more than all the beautiful music never made and all the fame I never really wanted.

We know that hindsight is 20/20. Maybe it was never God’s intention for you to turn that hobby into a career. Maybe you wouldn’t love it as much. Or maybe you are not ready YET.

But the most beautiful thing about that letdown is that no matter what, God is always there to comfort you, to prophesy into those broken dreams or birth a new one. He is waiting for your surrender into His open arms.

And much like the title for my first book, he promises to give us Beauty for Ashes.

Thank you, Jesus!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Take the money and run

Every self-respecting Cardinal fan should be fuming. Maybe a little bit heartbroken, but seeing red! Today, our fair city lost its golden boy. Our star player.

Okay, so we knew it was a possibility. Free agent status and all, but we Cardinals fans have a proud heritage of wild devotion and loyalty to our players, even post trade. We are not a lady easily scorned.

But this is different.

I was imagining a line in the sand. An opportunity for a man to set a precedent. To take a stand. To not let money rule and reign in the land. To establish a legacy of loyalty to your home team, where you got your start. Where your fans–supposedly the best fans in baseball—had your back, all 162 games. To be among the rare few like Stan Musial, Cal Ripkin Jr., Bob Gibson, Mickey Mantle, and Joe DiMaggio to stay true to their home, their baseball family. (The Beach Boys song “Be True to Your School” is currently ringing in my ears.) To establish a legacy based on more than dollar signs and ego-driven contracts to make the most and prove your superiority.

Okay, so millions of dollars in the average mind is undeniably tempting. But let’s put this into perspective just a skotch. The man earns roughly $14,000 per at bat. More than $50,000 a day! My penny scraping mind can’t even fathom that kind of wealth. And further more, what could you possibly do with all that money?

Today, with a heavy heart, we let go of our home-run hero and wonder what went wrong. He broke up with us. Left our hearts bleeding Cardinal red in the wake of a bidding war. Sure there were several million reasons why he did it. And we all know him to be a believer, a good man, a giving man. I am lucky enough to volunteer regularly for his charitable foundation that blesses my incredible friends with Downs Syndrome.

But it got me thinking about my legacy. Not simply what I do, how much money I make or how much I will leave in the bank for my children someday. But the legacy that supercedes the material world that divides us.

An inheritance of the Lord.

As I pray over my children, I also pray over my husband and my ability to train them up right. Will my sons grow up to be mighty warriors for God? Am I setting the right example? Am I exemplifying the love and loyalty of Christ not simply to my rowdy little babies, but to others?

Does money talk to me? Am I easily bought or sold by cost and benefits of this market trade economy? Or is my life about something more?

As I drift through the stages of grief, I find my anger and acceptance have waged a bloody battle and settled on “Good Riddance.” Yes, how very mature, I know, but having only dated one guy before meeting my downright “Mr. Incredible” hubby, I’m not so familiar with the break up scene. “If he doesn’t want us, well then, his loss.” I nod with finality, ignoring that pesky little sting of rejection.

But, lo, my heart will find another. A new king of Busch Stadium on which to hinge another World Championship sized hope.

It’s almost too easy to forget about the overall impact of our lives when we are often just trying to survive the daily grind. So here is my question. And it’s far more loaded than you realize, so be prepared.

What is the one thing that you will want to be remembered for? What kind of legacy do you want to leave?

Wrap your arms around that loving Savior and hang on tight! Might be a bumpy ride, but true greatness is worth every gag-inducing diaper change, every restless night bunking with that combative sleeping toddler with a tummy ache, and someday, every rule that hurts--to keep your teenagers safe.

My hope is to leave behind powerhouse men of God. (Lord, maybe a girl next? Please.)

What about you?

Friday, December 2, 2011

All I want for Christmas

‘Tis the season for giving, and I am on board. I love the whole process of the Christmas Season. The trimmings, tradition, family gatherings, and my once a year splurge on ‘8 Trick Butter Cookies’ with Butter Cream frosting. I can almost smell ‘em now. Drifts of powered sugar in the air and enough butter to pack a grueling Holiday five on my backside to be run off later. Worth it!

There is something so magical about this time of year. Even with the chaotic bustle of last minute shopping (guilty!) and the late night wrapping and stowing of Santa’s deliveries, there is something so peaceful, beautiful…holy, about Christmas. We know the story. Christ the Savior was born of the Virgin Mary, birthed in a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes. Magical. And by the way, go Mary! Au natural. Not for me, but the woman’s a rock star.

I say all this to communicate--in an overly verbose and whimsical way--that I love Christmas! I love the frivolity, the giving, and above all--Jesus. What’s not to love?

But the past few years have brought on some challenges. Sounds daunting, considering what is about I am about to say is so trivial. Here is my big confession. And for my family, I know this is continuing to create problems. Forgive me.

I don’t know what I want for Christmas.

I remember a time, in the not so distant past, where I knew what I wanted. Okay, I might not have had an itemized and tidy little list equipped with prices and stars ranking order of importance like my brother, but I could at least call upon several things to wish for. And subsequently, pass along that tidbit to whoever wanted to know.

But something happened. And I can’t quite pinpoint the problem but maybe it has something to do with a tragically neglected shopping habit. Care free days of impulsive purchases on shoes, purses, clothes, (Oh, my!) where have you gone? Apparently out the window when along came two babies, a mortgage, and student loans. Okay, so not in that order, but you get the idea.

And then the task of shopping was accompanied by a whole new set of senses. Instead of the bright soft fabrics calling from the racks and the sweet smell of imported leather tempting my wallet to fork it over, I hear the shriek of that soft cashmere as my 8 month old spits up over my shoulder, nearly splattering the ‘dry clean only’ money pit. Oh, and that sweet smell, overrun by the filling of one or both boys drawers the instant we find the least convenient place to change a diaper. My appologies fellow shoppers.

I think my former, retail-lovin’ self got lost along the way to becoming the oldest 26 year old on the planet. Why? Does it have to be one or the other? I miss those days. And that girl had some great clothes!

Now, I love my children more than I ever loved shopping. More than I ever loved clothes. More than I could ever put to verse, or song, or sonnet, so I am not complaining about the joy and challenge they bring to my life every day. But Mama needs a Christmas List.

And apparently, Mama needs help! What is on your list this year? What is your must have of the season? And what is your favorite thing about Christmas?

Sending blessing for a very Merry Christmas your way!