Archive for May, 2011

Comfort

I recently made a discovery.  I’m addicted to comfort.

I can’t stand clothes that are tight.  I like to sleep without being disturbed.  I’d rather watch TV than work out.  I prefer being in an air conditioned space than the heat of summer.  I’d choose vacation over work.  And frankly, I’d rather just be having fun.

Maybe it’s because I feel responsible for so many things that I seek comfort to compensate.   Or maybe I was spoiled as the baby of the family.  Or perhaps I’m too idealistic.  Or maybe I’m simply wired this way.  Oh wait… maybe it’s because I’m human!  Certainly we all have our moments of being comfort creatures, but sometimes I think I was served an extra dose. 

My desire for comfort influences all types of decisions I make – the amount of exercise I get, the amount of housework I accomplish, the types of food I eat, even the depth of my relationships.  It’s the root cause of my procrastination.  The irony is that as much as I desire comfort, seeking it actually creates discomfort – usually at a later date.  It leads to weight gain, stress, neglected relationships, longer to-do lists, less sleep, etc.   

Perhaps it shouldn’t have taken me so long to see it… or put words to it.  But I’m owning it, for better or worse.  Now, let me get busy trying to overcome all of my recent comfort seeking as I work overtime to catch up on all that needs to be done.  Maybe then I’ll find the comfort I’m truly looking for.

Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.  Ephesians 6:7

True Love

The love I have for Ashlynn overwhelms me.  It’s the purest form of love I can imagine and the closest understanding my mind can grasp regarding God’s love for us.  Words aren’t adequate to explain it, but here’s my best attempt. 

I love my living children deeply and would do anything for them.  I love them in spite of their flaws and regardless of what they might or might not do for me.  But as every parent knows (why does there always have to be a “but” clause?), there are times when cross words are exchanged.  Kids mess up.  Parents mess up.  Each says and does things that are less than perfect.  Of course, those things don’t change my love for my kids.  I’ll always love them.  Yet, with Ashlynn there was a purity that doesn’t exist with my other children.  Not once did I have an irritable thought or frustration with Ashlynn. Not one negative thought!  And, when I looked at her, I didn’t see her imperfections.  I saw her beauty.  My love for her was pure, untainted.  Again, I love my other children dearly and equally, but our humanity gets the best of us and we’ve therefore had our moments of frustration and disappointments. 

Ashlynn holds a special place in my heart because of this purity I experienced with her.  Surely this is how God intended love to be. So pure and encompassing that it can’t be contained.  It can’t even be fully explained.  What a huge blessing that I was able to experience it and capture those moments in time with her, albeit brief. 

After much thought and reflection, I’ve come to think that Ashlynn’s life reveals a glimpse of how God sees us.  He looks at us through the lens of Christ.  Our sins covered with His perfect sacrifice. He knows we’re imperfect, yet loves us infinitely.  He doesn’t view us with our list of sins and shortcomings pinned to our shirts.  Those are nailed to the cross.  I didn’t look at Ashlynn as a list of defects.  I saw her as a beautiful creation – warm brown hair, perfectly painted pink lips, satin skin – I saw her as my child, deeply loved and cherished.  God sees us the same.  Unfortunately, I forget that at times.  As tears trickle down my cheeks, I’m again grateful that God gave me a living, breathing picture of His love for me.  I struggle to comprehend it… but then I remember Ashlynn and it becomes real.  Sweet salve for my soul, and oh what a blessing!

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! 1 John 3:1

Life is fragile: Cherish it

Recently, I’ve had more thoughts of my daughter.  I’m not sure if it’s because of Mother’s Day, a fantastic family vacation, or several tragic deaths that have occurred in recent weeks.  Whatever the case, she’s been on my mind lately.

Ashlynn was an amazing little girl.  She had a condition that was “incompatible with life”, yet she exuded life.  Perhaps that’s the irony – she couldn’t be contained by life.  I struggle to wrap my mind around it and I struggle to express what she means to me.   She taught me a lifetime of lessons and I am forever grateful that God chose me to be her mother.

Ashlynn reminds me that life is fragile.  We should cherish life; yet, how often do we wander aimlessly without giving life another thought?  How often do we take for granted the people in our lives?  We get busy and become a little irritable.  Or, we’re impatient when our children act like children.  We shun the unpopular guy because he just doesn’t fit in.  Or, we’re careless with our words and judgments. 

God values life.  Every life!  He’s the creator of life, author of life, giver of life… He breathes life into every being.  I was holding Ashlynn when she took her last breath and passed from this life on to heaven.  I’ve experience the transformation that happens when the final breath is gone, when the spirit departs and the body becomes a lifeless object.  It’s forever etched into my mind and serves as a reminder that this life is temporary.

Only God knows the length of our days.  Let’s not take one more day for granted.  I challenge you to stop and think about the people around you. Tell somebody (or everybody) you love them.  Better yet, show them!  Make the most of every moment as you cherish those God has placed in your life.

Be devoted to one another in love. Romans 12:10

Fanning the flames of faith

While watching a cooking show, my daughter inquired about the meaning of dry wine.  She pointed out that since wine is a liquid then it must be wet, and thus concluded that there must be another meaning for “dry.”  I began to explain that dry wines have very little sugar in them and lack sweetness.

I later began to think about what it means to have dry seasons in our spiritual journey.  Similar to wine, there are times in our lives when we seem to lack the sweetness of God’s presence.  We may feel distant, drained, confused, floundering, unsettled, and even alone. 

We know He’s still there, but what happens during those dry spells?  I can’t fully explain them or why they happen, but I’ve certainly found myself in that place.  Perhaps I was too focused on other things.  Or maybe God was trying to get my attention.  Maybe I had been disobedient in some area of my life and He was patiently waiting for me to return. 

Whether it’s a lack of faith during trying times or simply a distant and distracted feeling, there are times that I struggle in my relationship with God.  Times when I need a little lighter fluid to ignite the flames of faith again. 

But just how do we do it?  How do we fan the flames of faith?  Here are four ways to get started:

  1. Give what you’ve got and ask God to do the rest.  God doesn’t expect miracles from us.  He just wants us to show up.  Give Him a willing heart and spirit and He will do the rest.
  2. Search your heart.  Determine if there is something getting in the way of your relationship with Him.  Have you been running from something He’s called you to do?  Are you stubbornly hanging onto to anger, bitterness, or unforgiveness?  Are you wrestling with an ungrateful attitude? Do a heart check and ‘fess up if needed.
  3. Just be.  So much of our world is about doing that we can easily work our way off course – that is, we miss His presence because we’re so busy doing.  I’m guilty of this more often than I’d like to admit.  If you’re prone to always want to do stuff for God, try to be still in Him for once.  It’s possible that you’ve lost sight of Him and His love in all of your busyness.
  4. Pray as you wait.  And wait expectantly.  He wants a relationship with you and He loves you unconditionally.  Ask and He’ll show you how to reconnect with Him.

For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Matthew 7:8

Myth of the Supermom

By guest blogger Gwen Smith

It’ a bird, it’s a plane…it’s Super…..wait, no, it’s just Regular Mom.  Heck, she can’t even fly, and her shirt is stained.  That’s me – I aspire to be Super, but in the end, I am thankful for ordinary, for attempting to be a faithful servant, unshaved legs and all.

Today was one of those days when I could easily get depressed about not having it all together.  My house was a wreck.  Laundry was piled high – both Mount Washmore and Mount Clean-but-Wrinkled-in-a-Basket were taunting me.  The kitchen looked like an oatmeal-and-cinnamon dish bomb went off (which was essentially true).  And the occupational therapist was due at 9:45 for my son’s feeding therapy.   So I attempted to clean the breakfast nook, given that’s where the OT and son would work, and ignored the rest of the kitchen, which was decorated in dirty dishes, as well as the family room, where my girls had left remnants of forts made the day before, and where my toddler had done his usual effective job of emptying out the toy bin all over the floor.

During my mad vacuum session of the breakfast nook, the doorbell rang.  It was the physical therapist.  Not the occupational therapist.  Oops.  Guess I’d mixed up therapists for the day, and I hadn’t cleaned the family room for her to work with Henry.   So we head to our living room, which isn’t childproofed and still has a few random Christmas decorations in it.  We begin to work with Henry, who has Down syndrome and is blessed with a great Early Intervention team.  Then the doorbell rang again.  It was the OT.  Yep, I’d double-booked therapists. 

I felt ridiculous (and many other unprintable things).  Wish the floor (dried banana stains and all) could have swallowed me right then.  Thankfully, both ladies are supportive and professional, and we ended up combining a bit of PT and OT in 45 minutes.  I learned to write more than “Henry therapy 9:30” in the calendar. Not my finest Supermom moment.

Then it was time to corral the girls, ages 7 and 5, for a few lessons which I should have laid out prior to the therapists’ arrival.  We homeschool, and usually I have some simple worksheets and book reading for them to do while Henry gets his therapy.  But given my crazy morning, that hadn’t happened (and neither had laying out materials the night before, which only happens in homeschool dreamworld for me).  The girls, of course, were happily ensconced in the playroom, and the thought of proper nouns and math did not sit well. 

And I could go on.  Like about the part where I dozed off giving Bella a spelling test (really!), or Henry decided playing with a holly bush in the mulch would be fun while mama attempted to glance at the newspaper for a moment’s peace. 

But I think you get it.  Life is messy, busy, crazy, confusing.  For those who have said to me before, “I don’t know how you do it.”  Well, here it is – I don’t.  Yes, I homeschool, but there are days when I threaten the kids with the big yellow bus.  Yes, I am raising my kids to love God, but I deal with confusion and frustration and wonder if I’m doing the right thing.  Yes, I feel blessed to have a child with special needs, but I will also tell you that my back hurts from lifting him and the constant therapy sessions get overwhelming. 

I’m not Supermom.  There is no bread rising lovingly in my bread machine.   My nails are all different lengths, I have a muffin top, and I rarely make it to church on time (or with hair that is completely dry).  I don’t volunteer for eight committees or dress my kids in unwrinkled clothes or faithfully pray at 5:00 a.m. and then run eight miles in the rain while dictating letters to missionaries. 

And yet, instead of grousing about what I *think* I should be doing, I need to be humble and thankful for what I have and what I’ve been called to do.  Because we’re not called to be Supermom – or SuperDad or SuperWorker or SuperChild.  We’re called to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and minds and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. 

Only Jesus is perfect.  Who said I have to be?

So today, I ask you to join me in letting go.  Let go of the expectation that life needs to be perfect, that messes clean themselves, and that SuperWoman is real.  Instead, celebrate the important things.  Your kids were bathed – at some point recently, right?  You are awake and clothed, right?  Food is somewhere in your house, right (or down the street)?  Jesus is alive – Yes!!

Then take on Paul’s challenge – run toward the prize that is Jesus.  Sure, there are times that doing the dishes does not seem like a prize.  Dirty diapers are not in the Bible, are they?  But we can do everything without complaining or arguing.  We can be joyful in the Lord.  We can read of examples of women and men in the Bible who had rude children, frustrated spouses, and horrible challenges much worse than having the Blackberry tossed in the holly bush or figuring out who forgot to flush.  Again. 

Let the snot stain on your shoulder serve as your Super cape.  You are super, just the way you are.  Be blessed in the Lord, for He is good, and His love endures forever. 

Gwen Smith has been married to Kevin, a software engineer, for nearly 15 years.  They have three children ages 7 and under, one by adoption and two by birth.  A former high school English teacher, Gwen now homeschools her daughters and teaches a weekly writing class for homeschooled children.  She advocates for children with special needs and their families at her blog www.gatherfromnations.blogspot.com.