Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Call to Rest, Part 1

{So tired, he couldn't even make it to the bed.}


I'm writing this on the heels of a 3-day practicum with some of my fellow homeschooling mamas. It's always encouraging and energizing to learn and share and laugh with these other crazy, likeminded souls. We homeschoolers all tend a bit towards over-thinking and stressing about curriculum choices and a million other things.

But we're really not different from the rest of the moms on the planet in that we simply fret. A lot. About our kids, our husbands, our laundry.

A couple of my friends talked honestly and openly with me about how they can't just sit down and relax until the house is tidy and the laundry is caught up. They feel the need to have all their ducks in a row before they allow themselves any rest or creativity or fun.

Their husbands want them to relax. Their kids don't care so much about the state of the house. Their own moms tell them to enjoy the fingerprints on the patio doors because one day they won't be there. And they know their mamas are right...

But they just can't seem to give themselves permission to rest. And honestly, I could relate to every word of their lament. Not all of us have Type A, perfectionistic tendencies. Some of us may feel inadequate because we don't. But I think most of us as wives and moms and women struggle with inadequacy and guilt and control regarding what we do or don't do, how we task or fail to task.

So what's the deal? Why do we spin our wheels like crazy and make so many {unnecessary} demands of ourselves? Why can't we relax, much less rest?

I haven't been able to stop thinking about these conversations and naturally, I have some thoughts on the matter. As is the case with everything I write, the thoughts are for me most of all.

If God doesn't call us to a clean house or finished laundry, why do we obsess toward these ends? There are no scriptural laws about housekeeping, are there? {Please tell me there aren't.}

For those living on this side of the cross, God has written his law on our hearts and given us his Spirit, but we override his Spirit-penned laws with our own laws and requirements. We tune out the Spirit with our endless toil. And in so doing, we neglect an important thing he does call us to: rest.

In her devotional book, Jesus Calling, Sarah Young writes this:

Glorifying and enjoying Me {Jesus} is a higher priority than maintaining a tidy, structured life. Give up your striving to keep everything under control--an impossible task and a waste of precious energy.

We trade God-peace for visual peace. We attempt to find rest in clean-house righteousness instead of in Christ's righteousness.

Believe me, Jesus does not judge you for dusty baseboards and popcorn kernels in your couch cushions. Why should you judge yourself?

In fact, when Jesus was given the choice between the hostess slaving away in the kitchen and getting everything just right {Martha} and the supposed slacker who simply "sat at the Lord's feet" {Mary,} He affirmed the latter. "'Martha, Martha,' the Lord answered, 'you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken from her.'" {Luke 10:29-32}

I would never claim to know more than Jesus but functionally, I live as if I do.

And believe me sisters, I do feel the tension. I can see and touch and bask in the loveliness of a "tidy and well-structured" existence. I am positively giddy over a clean kitchen and neatly-folded stacks of laundry. These are tangible things that make me feel better and in control of my environment.

But like Martha, I become consumed and "distracted by all the preparations." Jesus calls me to rest at His feet.

I get that it's unnatural to live by faith and not by sight. Faith feels vulnerable and dependent and scary, like driving a car without a steering wheel. To rest in someone else's sufficiency instead of our own? That just seems plain weird, foolish even.

We love to quote Matthew 11:28-30, the verse about Jesus inviting those of us who are "weary and heavy-laden" to come to Him for rest, that He wants to take on our burdens.

But really, is Jesus going to actually show up and clean your house because you're "resting in Him?" Is He going to physically do your work for you? Probably not. But it did happen to me one day about a month ago.

It was a grueling day among a string of grueling days. I was emotionally drained and spiritually clueless. I had nothing left. Nothing. It was 5:00 and I literally peeled my tantrumming 3-year-old from my front lawn, placed him in his bed, and shut the door. And then I flung myself across my own bed, crying and heaving and praying, "Jesus, I don't know what resting in you looks like but this is my attempt. I've got nothing. This is me giving up. You're going to have to take over."

A friend was coming at 6:30 to take me to dinner and she was bringing a sitter with her. I desperately needed to get out and step away from my own mess. I was walking through a trial of real consequence and my crazy house just seemed to mirror that mess and chaos.

Though it was the end of May, I still had winter clothes in my kids' drawers. The bins of summer-wear lined the hall and every size and season was strewn about the place. I mean, I really needed to get it together. But there I was, limp as a dishrag across the bed, unshowered and undone and unable to do much of anything.

My dishwasher was broken and stacks of dishes were teetering on dirty countertops and I still needed to get supper ready for the kids. At that moment, dishes and supper and showering and parenting felt like climbing Mt. Everest. And then the phone rang. "Maybe this will be good news," I thought, "something supernatural and divine." {Seriously, I was grasping for anything.}

It was the student loan people telling me I had not paid the right amount on that month's bill and asking me for money. "Really God? This is how you answer me? Showing me I can't even pay a bill right that is the same amount every. single. month?"

And then the phone rang again. Begrudgingly, I picked it up. It was my friend and neighbor, calling about something I can't even remember. And then she asked me how I was doing. I blubbered and sputtered and probably sounded like a lunatic.

"I'm coming to wash your dishes," she declared.

Five minutes later she was standing at my suds-filled sink, a bundle of energy, speaking Truth into my empty soul.

As she cleaned my kitchen and talked some God-sense into me, my heavy spirit lifted and I felt a bit of energy return. I cleaned myself up, put a frozen pizza in the oven, and spent the evening eating Mexican food and catching up with my dear friend {not to be confused with my dishwashing friend.} My kids had a ball with the babysitter and were safely tucked into bed when I returned.

And what had I done to accomplish all of that? Nothing. I simply received what was offered.

And because this particular friend loves to help in tangible ways, she convinced me to let her help me with a project I was just too tired to conquer. Three days later we put away the aforementioned winter clothes and I breathed a sigh of relief and thanksgiving.

So yeah, sometimes Jesus does show up and clean your house. He calls others to be His hands and feet and dishwashers.

I know that none of this changes the world. And it may all seem ridiculously inconsequential to you. But God, creator of the universe, is teaching me so much about rest and trust and broken appliances here in my own little corner of the world.

Here's the thing. I could have just soldiered on alone. That's what I normally do. But in giving up and falling backwards into His arms, He showed me that resting in Him is actually the most productive thing I can do.

I gave up. He came in. I received. Stuff got done. I found rest.

I could tell other stories of the ways in which He's provided at just the right moment. But for every one of those there are countless moments far less dramatic. Moments when I rest and trust and call out to Him...but I still have to wash the dishes and take care of my children.

Sometimes He provides me with strength to complete the tasks I need to do. These days, He often shows me that rest and trust simply lead to acceptance.

Accepting imperfection in the form of toothpaste globs, smeary mirrors, dust bunnies, and dirty dishes.

Accepting that even though I function best in an environment of visual peace, God is teaching me how to experience His peace in the midst of chaos.

I don't have a pat answer for my fellow friends who are tired of striving and aware of their perfectionistic ways, yet feel unable to be any other way. I can simply tell you what I know best and that's my own story, what I'm learning on this unpredictable journey towards rest and imperfection and hard-fought surrender.

Hopefully we can glean from and encourage one another. And sometimes wash each other's dishes.

My next post will pick up where this leaves off. It's about yes and no and opportunity cost. Make sense? Probably not. Join me anyway?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Unfixable Life

I've worked on this post here and there with equal amounts of frustration and dismay. It's one of those seasons in which I have both too much and nothing to say. I read what I type and think to myself, "That doesn't even make sense." And so I hit delete.

As I type this time on a Monday, I think about all the undone I had planned to get done: a run on the loathsome treadmill, some quiet time and journaling, the making of beds so that things look a little more, well, fixed up.

But it's after 10 am and I leave for an appointment in an hour and have checked not a single thing off the list. Hooligan boys run and squeal and wrestle while I make empty threats and drown them out with Today Show and too much coffee.

I have nothing to show for my day thus far and I feel lassoed by shame, wondering why I can't snap my fingers and arrive at a state of togetherness.

Now it's a Tuesday, late morning. I sit down to write, thankful that my blog is not a pet. Otherwise it would have died of neglect weeks ago. I'm still in my pajamas {again} and need to change one kid's pee sheets before I make another attempt to climb the treadmill and drag squealing kids to the pool.

Anxiety, exhaustion and undone are constant companions and I blame it on the "unfixable life," the intersection of real hardship and real life and real questions.

In a recent e-mail from a friend, she told me that's she praying for me in the midst of my unfixable life. I haven't been able to get that term out of my head.

It's such a perfect description. Fixing what's broken is just our natural response. Embracing the broken feels ridiculous. And lazy. It feels like failure. Life in limbo is just plain uncomfortable and weird. Unfixable days feel maddening and slow.

So every moment requires a surrendering of self to the One who saves the broken and sees a masterpiece in the shards...even though all I can see is mess. I've always had plans and to-do lists and quick-thinking at my disposal. Others come to me for counsel and words. That's because I mostly usually know what to do.

Until now.

God, could you just give me some wherewithall? Could you make me less dependent and vulnerable right now? Because I am sort of missing my resourceful, know-it-all self.

It is simply not my nature to not know how to fix something or clean up a mess. I am a mom. I fix and clean up for a living.

I know that God could breathe fixed into the unfixed right now if He chose to. But He's showing me that the real fixing requires real living. Real rolling-up-your-sleeves and wading into the mess.

He doesn't give me fixed but he does give me hope. And it's hope for you too: He's in the mess with us. In fact, He is closest to us in the mess, whether we feel Him there or not.

That is so comforting to me. Feelings lie and emotions are untrustworthy, but His promises are true, always and forever. I write to remind myself. Knowing that "The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit," comforts me in the midst of these unfixable days.

Knowing He's close even helps me not to be quite so hard on myself. He gives me grace to give to myself. Grace to accept the dirty dishes and clamoring kids and Today-Show-instead-of-quiet-time, lazy Mondays.

In the midst of the unfixable, I gulp down this sobering reality: He doesn't save us from the mess. He saves us through it.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. {James 1:2-3}
I want fixing. He wants completeness. I want to be less lacking. He says to hang on, that one day I won't lack anything...when perseverance finishes its work.


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