Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Why we all need to get ourselves some Radical Rest

Last night was pumpkin carving night. Well, that was the plan. Despite our requests, warnings, and threats, our kids couldn't get their acts together long enough to hold a conversation, listen to a story, or even pray. The annoyed look on my 9 year-old's face when I asked her to pray from someone (anyone) was the last straw. My husband closed out our prayer and I mouthed the words across the table, "We're done". He nodded, and announced that supper was now done. Everyone was to clear their dishes and find something to do. Pumpkin carving night was officially postponed.

The older two kids were bummed, but not surprised. They knew they blew it. But the kindergartner? She lost it. Full blown weeping and gnashing of teeth. No doubt she would have clothed herself in sackcloth and ashes had she the knowledge to do so. As she wailed bitterly and I repeated the daily question, "Has this crying routine ever worked for you," Scott remarked to our princess, "Honey, you don't have a leg to stand on".

This was too much. She went nuclear. Her voice growled, "WHAT?! That's NOT TRUE! What?! You think I CAN'T WALK? You think I'm an OLD LADY?!?!?!"

And we laughed. She didn't, of course. I try to make it a point not to laugh at my children's misery and anger unless absolutely necessary. After all, they should learn to be able to laugh at themselves. This was no learning moment. The tension had to break, and our sweetie had inadvertently crushed it soundly. I wish I could say she saw the humor, but she was too outraged. That was okay though, because the parents saw it and lightened up.

That is a glimpse of what limits look like at our house. And the repercussions of pushing each other past them.

I admit, I keep pushing my own limits. I suck at this resting business.  I am learning, slowly (very slowly), that I don't have to chase the distractions; that my limitations are a gift, not a burden.

Part of me wants to push past my limits. Often times that part wins out. Andy Stanley asserts that the driving force behind that is fear. That if he was to ask us why we do so much, we would likely begin our answer with, "Because I'm afraid if I don't..."

Rest then is radical. It whispers I have limits. It pries my hands open and forces me to offer up the control I keep trying to grasp. It abolishes fear. It is why the Sabbath was, and is, so vital for God's people. It acknowledges that we are reliant on the power, provision, and love of God.

Satan tempts us in our gardens with the lie that we can be "like God". Limitless. In control.

In another garden, Jesus Christ, gave us another option. Submission. We think Christ came to die, but He came for more than that. He came to do the will of the Father. That involved more than His unspeakably horrible crucifixion. It even involved more than His resurrection. It meant His life. His ministry. His rest. It meant all that is still to come.

His rest. His limitations. Isn't that one of the most beautiful truths of the Gospel? He was a real man. (Phil 2:5-8) He could have said, "But if I rest, then I won't get to heal these people... I won't be able to teach this truth," but Christ submitted. He trusted that God the Father knew best. Jesus knew that while He was true God, He was also true man. And that meant He physically. emotionally, spiritually needed to take time to be restored.

We watch eagerly how Christ helped the poor, taught the Word, shared the Gospel, loved the children, and we think, "Yes, I want to do what Christ did!" The times Christ rested are easier to gloss over. They are more mundane. Anyone can do that.

Let me tell you, rest is work. If you've had to do it, then you get what I mean. Rest is a big deal. Anyone can do it- almost no one does. What does that tell you? It is simple and complex. Theoretically easy, practically difficult. Spiritually essential.

Maybe you can't rest from everything. It can be a daunting proposition. In that case, maybe today we just need to look at one thing and say, "I'm going to rest from ______ for a certain amount of time." You can do this. We can do it. And if my permission isn't enough, just look to Jesus and the times He rested and when you get to heaven and He asks you why the laundry didn't make it into the drawers you can just let Him know you were just following in His footsteps. Wait a minute...

Then pray something like this, "Father, Jesus submitted to you and rested. Grant me the same humble and courageous spirit to submit and find my rest in You." Let's pray this for each other, ok?


* And if you are looking for a morning Sabbath, "exchange whispers with God before shouts with the world" with Proverbs 31's new app, first5. It wakes you up in the Word. All lovely and refreshing. I highly recommend it.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Counting on Christ and Keeping Track

You should know I tried this ultra-natural ultra-moisturizing treatment on my hair. In my effort to get rid of all things scented, and not spend a fortune on hair products*, I read yet another article about the crazy miraculous benefits of coconut oil. So I did it. About 10 minutes before my shower I gently coated my hair with coconut oil. I let it sit, then washed it out. Then washed it again. And again.

I think I did something wrong, maybe? It took roughly 5 washings over 3 days to get all the oil out. During that time I shoved my head into a hat and called it good. One silver lining to having sick kids- I don't have to worry about facing the world with straight up greasy hair.

All this to say: I screw things up on a regular basis. And things bigger than tropical hair.

Which makes it tempting to play it safe. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Because I honestly live my life like a giant golf game. Unintentionally, I keep track. And the goal is to have the least amount of screw ups before getting it right. Failure hurts. Why oh why go through it unnecessarily? I look at my kids weekly, after another screw up, and go, "Hey look, I've never done this before."

It's true. I've never lived this day before, raised an almost 10 year old girl like my oldest, or raised any other kid like my other kids.

So the most tempting thing to do would be to tell myself to stop keeping track. I could tell you the same thing. Stop keeping track. Just live. There's only one problem. We can't seem to do it. Sure, some are better than others at it, but at some point do you ever look at something you've done or said, and think, "Really? Again?"

I am beginning to think there is a reason we keep track. God keeps track. For those in Christ, that doesn't have to be a scary thing. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of  your flesh, God made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This He set aside, nailing it to the cross. -Colossians 2:13-14

I believe the "keeping track" part of us is part of God's character in us. The distortion and sin comes in when we use it to focus on ourselves or others. Job kept track of his good works, his faithfulness. God kept track of His own faithfulness, His own greatness. God won out big time. (Job 40-41)

I'm not going to tell you to stop keeping track. I will say that we need to redirect that very natural tendency toward a much more Worthy Subject. Let's keep our eyes fixed on the Author and Perfector of our faith- let's keep track of His faithfulness. His deliverance. His mercy.

We don't need to keep track of ourselves- He does that already. You know when I sit and when I rise... Psalm 139. 

And He does it in perfect love.

How would we live if we just kept our eyes on all the ways God shows us His love, namely in Christ, and stopped worrying about doing it all just right? It would be a messier life for sure, but so much larger than what we can fit into our safe little boxes.

So, can we make a deal? How about when we make mistakes or just blatantly bad choices, instead of putting another tally under our own "screw up" column, we put the tally under God's column- and count on Him to be faithful and forgiving? It will make all the difference.

* By the way, if you know what I did wrong with the coconut oil, or know of some inexpensive unscented products, I'd be so grateful if you shared your wisdom with me. :)

Friday, October 9, 2015

Why I'm Taking a Vacation From Exercising

I had been on my nutrition/lifestyle plan for all of five hours and I was already the expert.

I gave my husband a "chill out" look, and he shot me back an "are you serious", and it became clear that after we had dealt with the children before us, we would need a game plan on how to handle our new lifestyle changes.

Let me back up. I have rheumatoid arthritis. You may know this already. Shortly after it presented 9 1/2 years ago I realized that I was in good company. Or at least plenty of company.

I can tell you of a host of treatments that worked temporarily, but the list is long and that is not the point. Somewhere along the line I realized I was tired. Tired of pills. Tired of health companies. Tired of pain. And I'm not knocking the good people out there who manufacture and distribute things to make people feel well, but I think what I was tired of most of all was the feeling that I was owned. If my life wasn't totally dictated by the pain, then I was owned by those things that take the pain away.

So through a series of "random" events beginning with our sweet church in River Falls calling my husband (again) to be their pastor, I came across a man who pointed me to a woman who could help. Himself a medical professional, he gave me the tools to visit a woman who has treated thousands of clients with RA and seen amazing results. Her tools- foods. That. is. it. I already eat food. This could be a game changer.

Two weeks ago, I watched Karen Hurd's DVD, learned back almost everything I forgot in high school chemistry, biology, and physics, while being quite entertained by her theatrical examples of blood pressure, adrenaline spikes, and the like. You'd understand if you watched it. My husband and I watched bit by bit (it is a lot of information for our after-bedtime minds to absorb, and while watching it with fully functioning minds would be ideal, we have four kids who injure each other at the slightest hint of boredom). I asked him his thoughts. "She's kooky, but what she says makes sense".

Before it was half through I was internally apologizing to my adrenal glands. I'm sorry little adrenal glands. I won't beat you into labor anymore. I will stop jolting you with sugar and caffeine. C'mon adrenies, we'll do it together. You can trust me. We'll be friends. I told you I was tired.

The next day I decided to sneak peek the end while Heidy took a nap. So I folded my laundry and multitasked as usual. That's when she hit me with a curveball out of nowhere.

Her 18-24 month program to heal RA was not entirely food related.

Get this, she wanted me to rest.

Not take a nap every once in a while. We're talking minimize stress, and no formal exercise. None.
So, naturally, I cried.

To understand my tears I should tell you that where we live there are hundreds of non-profits, hippie grocery stores, holistic practitioners, gyms, coffee shops, music, theater, and art scenes, trails and state parks. On top of that, I have become so immersed in the desire to reach out into the community and join along other brothers and sisters, I have been on philanthropic sensory overload. And that's not even counting what is available to my kids. "I'm ready for something different, Lord. I'm ready for the next big adventure. Just point me in the right direction. What do you want me to do?"

His answer? Rest. She confirmed that answer when I met with her last week.

I haven't rested much. I am not allowed. You are allowed. I will give anyone else permission to rest, but me? Well, take a snooze when you get the laundry done. Rest when your flare-up doesn't give you the ability to be productive anyway. I alone put the pressure on.

And God says, that's enough.

In light of this first week I've noticed some things. 1. I really need to be patient and turn the "knowing" looks toward my husband off. Nobody likes a know-it-all. 2. I let too many things bug me. 3. Making a big influence with Jesus is nice, but it will not be accomplished by finding my own lane in the rat race. Things here have been functioning without me for some time and they will continue to do so. I need to pace myself. 4. We do too much. Then we feel like crap, take a pill or a drink, and keep going at the pace that is hurting us in the first place.

Then there is this: I have a lot to learn and a more than capable Teacher, if I will sit still long enough to listen and heal. 

Forget working out. We are working in.

We run such a tight ship in our lives, communities, churches, that we do not leave any room to sit and be still and know that He is God. For ten minutes in the morning? Fifteen, tops? For how long on Sunday? I pray we are beyond watching the clock. Are we taking, making, the time to recognize His presence every day?

So this gift of rest, I really don't think it is just for me. I think it is for you too. You can certainly tell people, "I'd love to, but no thank you. I need some time to heal." They'll give you funny looks, but who is going to say, "Heal? You don't need to heal!" (If they do say that, I recommend walking away and not punching them in the face.) Sabbath it up! Or if you are filled to the brim with life and need a tiny Sabbath, you can just come here, because my lack of running and exercise should give me some serious time to observe and report. I'll try to make it somewhat entertaining as well.

Or, if you are one of those folks who gets this whole Sabbath deal and takes the time and has some words of wisdom for me, share. Please. Share. I'll take all the wisdom I can get. And now apparently I will be able to sit and listen to it. Whatcha think?

Monday, October 5, 2015

True Life, True Love

I realized while trying to sleep last night... I can't even picture what the blog looks like anymore.

In the midst of moving and major life changes, this blog has fallen by the wayside and in the meantime I have been unsure as to whether or not to continue. In the back of my mind I think "Would anyone care anyway? It's not like you are an Ann Voskamp or Lysa TerKeurst. It's not like you have been signed to a book deal and been endorsed by the rad Jen Hatmaker."

I won't pretend none of that is true. But lately I have been questioning God seriously about purpose. He's opened my eyes to the areas in life where I lack spiritual maturity, and reassured me that He has it all in His control. While I feel like He is scrambling to find a niche for me, He has a plan. He has a place for me. He has a place for each of us and His grace is sufficient. In fact, it is all grace. Grace upon grace.

Plus, I physically feel better when I have worked things out in words.

This morning I intended to visit my own blog and remember the format and ambience once again. The funny thing is I saw this draft waiting in the wings and it's not too far off from how I am feeling. So I am posting it. It's incomplete, but I can fix that. It is my prayer that it speaks to you.

We're all a little too eager to define. Too quick on the draw to place our plastic cutout versions of self on the vehicles of life and add up the sum of our parts to create a version of ourselves that makes sense. So when we hit a bump in the road or a pop-up storm and the sticker starts to peel, fade, crumble, we stare in disbelief.


Is that all it takes?

And I've abandoned the truth of who I am in Christ for a stick version that shows one face, while I all the time fosters an ugly side, nurturing it toward independence.

I do not need to be independent.

I do not need to be co-dependent either.

But inter-dependent, that is the plan. It always has been.

And self-empowerment is a lie. The worst kind actually. The kind that smacks of truth, but skirts it because it doesn't want to step in the puddle of muddy honesty. Because truth is often simple, and almost always messy.

It is easy to say the words, to chug along life singing the "I can do it" mantra.

Until you can't.

Until your kids will not obey, no matter how you threaten and bribe.

Until you can't tie your hair into a ponytail, or open a cereal bag, or do VBS song motions, because your muscles and joints refuse to cooperate and "I can do all things through him who strengthens me" (Phil 4:13) seems like a verse made for the truly exceptional. Not for the common struggling straggler. To those in the pit of chronic illness, pain, depression, parenthood, sinfulness, the strength isn't always as apparent and potent as we would like.

It could be the humbling that hurts the worst. Because then we admit that the standard we have set is too high (and way off base) even for ourselves.

It isn't that we can't do things, it is that we read "I can do all things" and assume the responsibility of defining "all" as, well, all. Anything. Everything. And that was never the plan. Adam needed a helper. He could do some things. He could do many things and he did them perfectly, which is more than any of us can hope for in this world. But it was still not good for him to be alone.

The temptation is to read the context of our life into the text of the scripture, instead of the other way around. Paul's situation was dire, but he was speaking of contentedness in all situations. In the face of abundance and need He found He had more than enough to sustain Him and His faith. He had Christ.

And the "all things" no longer means American Dream self-sufficiency.

Paul had Savior Sufficiency.

Then on top of that God gifted Paul with the church in Philippi to meet his needs of body and mind.

There were a lot of things Paul couldn't do, especially while sitting in prison. "All things" couldn't possibly mean self-sufficiency because he was so incredibly limited physically speaking. So you shouldn't be surprised when I say: You can't do it all. You just can't. No one can. And while that means you are limited, it also is evidence of even greater truths.

It is evidence of a God who created you uniquely and who is not content to leave you alone.

It is evidence of a servant God who wants to bestow His love on you in new and exciting ways, often through flawed and lacking people.

It is evidence that God doesn't want to put you or your life in a neat box, but wants to add depth within the mess.

It is evidence that God doesn't do cookie cutter relationships, and His interest in you is the most personal thing in your life.

It is evidence that God has prepared good works for you in the lives of others and He has a purpose tailored for you, struggles and all. And those good works are far beyond anything you can imagine.

It is evidence that you are fully known, and God seeks to meet your weakness with His strength so you can enjoy the grace and fully abundant love He has for you. He loves you so very much.