Monday, June 25, 2012

Isaiah - Whose Light?

Who among you fears the Lord
    and obeys the word of his servant? 
Let the one who walks in the dark,
    who has no light, 
trust in the name of the Lord
    and rely on their God.
But now, all you who light fires
    and provide yourselves with flaming torches, 
go, walk in the light of your fires 
    and of the torches you have set ablaze.
This is what you shall receive from my hand: 
    You will lie down in torment.
           (Isaiah 50 : 10, 11)
Have you ever used your cell phone as a flashlight? I have and let me tell you it does not give off much light, even with the flashlight app. (Yes, there is such a thing.) It is enough light to get you to the next step but that's it. It doesn't feel very reliable, even as the step in front of me is illuminated. I would much rather have a large flashlight, you know those really big black ones that light up a whole room.

But God doesn't give us a big flashlight lamp beneath our feet. He gives us a small sliver of light, enough to take another step but not enough to see a few feet in front of us or even the possible dangers around us. We can imagine them there waiting for us in the dark or we see a flicker of movement off to our side. Sometimes we walk on the trail because it is all we have to inform us sometimes we know our destination, we know where God is taking us but we don't know what path the Lord will lead us down.

Let the one who walks in the dark,
    who has no light,
trust in the name of the Lord
    and rely on their God.

I don't like to walk in the dark. Not if I can't see the path before me. I'm not scared of the dark, I am fine sitting on the beach late at night listening to the waves. But I am not going to walk into the water. I like to know where I am going. But God doesn't seem interested in my getting to my destination as much as he is desiring me trust him on the way.

But sometimes we don't. Sometimes we jump off the path, run to Target, grab the biggest flashlight we can find, maybe even some friends to join us on the hike, and then, only with all of our supplies in hand do we try to return to the trail God had laid before us.

But now, all you who light fires
    and provide yourselves with flaming torches,
go, walk in the light of your fires
    and of the torches you have set ablaze.
This is what you shall receive from my hand:
    You will lie down in torment.

Ouch. That one stings.

Do I do this? Do I create my own light in order to see what is meant to be unseen by me? Do I provide for myself instead of waiting and trusting God to provide? Do I walk in a false light created by me?

Do I trust God or not?

Because trust doesn't count unless you are willing to fall backward into His arms.

(Or at least that is what we all learned at youth group camp.)

Are you having trouble trusting God?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Five Minute Friday - Risk

I follow Lisa-Jo Baker (@lisajobaker) on Twitter. She was once the Gypsy Mama but redecorated her blog and is now Lisa-Jo. On Friday's she hosts Five Minute Fridays. Most week's I see the link in Twitter, glance at the word, and move on. Occasionally, when the word chosen starts writing about itself in my head, I join along. The rules are simple - write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.

This week's word is Risk. Ahhh... this word got me thinking. So before I over think it, here are my 5 minutes this Friday.


Here's the thing about risk. It is really a feeling word. Not a thinking word.

I mean yes, jumping out of a plane could result in your death, or not. But is it a risk?

I don't think so. The jumping part that is.

I believe walking with God is safe. IS. I believe that is truth. Not that painful things won't happen. Not that I won't feel overwhelmed and destroyed at times. Not that I won't die if I jump out of an airplane. But I believe that I am safe because I am saved. I am saved from myself, saved from having to earn my way in life, saved from having to worry.

And because I am safe in God, life is not a risk. My life is not happen chance. It is not a series of tests. I am not being asked to step out into an unsafe lane of oncoming traffic, even if my emotions feel that way sometimes.

I guess that is what I am trying to say. I feel risk. I feel nervous when I step out and invite someone over to my home for coffee. I feel anxious when I agree to do something that scares me. I feel worry when I don't know how things are going to work out.

I feel risk. It is feeling. But it is not the truth. The truth is I am safe. Even jumping out of planes. Even if my parachute doesn't open. Because there is God.


Okay so here is the problem with this activity. I feel a need to explain, to clean up my words. But I am a rules follower and I also am a strong believer that if I join in with someone else's game I need to play by their rules.

So I will walk away from this post and hope that someone gets it. I will fight against the feeling of risk in clicking publish and remind myself of the truth. I am safe.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

I Feel Inadequate

I spend a lot of my days as a mom feeling inadequate. I don't know if I really am inadequate - I won't know that until my kids are grown up and talking to their therapists about their childhoods - but I feel it. I feel like a failure a lot of the time, broken only by small glimmers of getting it right for a moment in time.

I watched my bigger boys in a wave pool at a water park last week. They loved the waves. They weren't trying to surf them or swim past them, they were not afraid, they just let the waves bob them up and down, relaxing into the movement of the water. I think most days motherhood is a lot like living in a wave pool. At some point you realize you are in way over your head and have no hope of getting out of the constantly hammering waves so you do the only thing you can which is to relax and let the waves flow around you. And as you bob around in the pool of dirty clothes, making s'mores, dirty dishes, long summer days, bickering brothers, trips to the beach, and whining, you can feel the joy in just being in the pool.

Knowing that all of the negatives come with a positive attached. Dirty laundry from three boys who had a fun day at camp. Dirty dishes from meals we ate at home together. Bickering brothers who were just minutes ago pretending together that they were dragons in a make believe world (that looked an awful lot like their bedroom to me). Days at the beach full of hours of play leading to sun kissed, exhausted little boys that whine on the walk back to the car.

But there are days when I am overwhelmed by my failures. Overwhelmed to the point of tears. I know that I am failing my kids, that I am not enough and that sometimes I choose not to be enough. I get tired of the whining, the noise.

I am harsh.

I snap.

I shout.

I just want to be left alone.

I wonder if I should have ever become a mom.

I never wonder if I my kids should have been born because even in their yuckiest moments, they are still pretty amazing. They are constant reminders that though they share the same gender and the same parental dna options, they are uniquely made. As the Veggie Tales say, "God made them special and He loves them very much."

Which is a good thing because I am not sure my love is enough. I am not sure I love them enough.

I am selfish. I want to sleep. I want to have quiet moments in my day to read, to think, to have a conversation with another adult. These seem reasonable enough but I want more.

I want time to watch that trashy reality show. I want time to play that game on Facebook. I want time to read the funny posts on Twitter.

See, I am inadequate. And I don't say that looking for a pep talk. I know intellectually that I am doing okay. I know intellectually that every good choice I make for my kids means I have to say no to some other good choice for them.

Free time for their imaginations to grow and their brains to problem solve means we don't have time for music lessons and language classes.

Allowing the two hockey players to follow their self chosen passion and play competitive hockey means we cannot let them explore all the other extracurricular options out there.

Birthday parties that conflict with swim lessons.

Bringing them up in the church, praying with them, reading the Bible with them, giving them our faith means that they may get weird messages about God from us.

Gaining my own sanity at the cost of them having too much video game time, which they love by the way, is just another example of the give and take of parenting.

So yes, I know intellectually that I am trying hard to do the best by my kids. But I also know that I am not giving it my best, at least not at any given moment. I know I could do better. And I know I choose regularly to take the easy way out.

And I feel inadequate. Most of the time.

Sometimes I feel like an outright failure.

And then they go to camp for the morning and I love the quiet, I love the work I am able to do, I love being alone, and I feel guilty because all I want is more.

This parenting thing is hard. That's all I'm saying.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Can I Read Your Blog?

We were driving back to my place after picking her up at the airport. The kids' grandma had come to town for a visit. We were chatting about life, about the things upcoming in my life. I mentioned my blog in passing. It was part of the backstory of something I was saying. And then she asked, "Can I read your blog?"

Here's the thing. This woman in my passenger seat is my kids' grandmother, but she is also my mother. It is the grandmother part though that we focus on now. It is the relationship I can have with her right now. Anything more is too complicated, too painful, carries too much baggage.

"Can I read your blog?" The question echoes in my head. Of course she could. This is a public blog. It is open to the world to read. And I do that intentionally because I do not know who might relate to my stories, to my voice, my words.

So yes she could read my blog. But I have never given her my blog address, my blog name. We are not Facebook friends. (She's asked and I've said no.) I don't know if she has a Twitter account. I have not shared this part of me with her. Mostly because I do not want to discuss it with her. I don't want to wonder what she will think about what I write.
Recently, Anne Lamott tweeted,
You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should've behaved better.
I loved this quote. Such power in those words. But the reality of it is so much tougher for me. One of the reasons I write fiction is because it allows me to tell my stories without ever having to debate the accuracy of my perspective.

And so when she asked the question I was stuck. How do I answer? If I say no, she will be even more curious and will probably badger our shared acquaintances until she finds it. If I say yes, I will forever wonder if she is reading it.

I was left with the only honest answer I could find.

"You wouldn't want to read it," I said.

She didn't seem to catch the hint. I would she said. She said she would like to know what is going on in  our life.

I explained it's not a mom blog, I don't write about my day to day life.

She asked again.

"You wouldn't like it," I said this time.

She seemed to finally understand.

Because while I don't write about her often, I do tell my story.

Monday, June 11, 2012

If You Keep Asking I'm Going to Stop Answering

I have been thinking a lot about boundaries lately. It came up when I was overwhelmed by some of the negativity on the forums regarding the school issues in our city. I would see someone post something false or really distorted and I felt a need to respond. I felt compelled. I felt crummy. It was a pretty quick descent from being part of the conversation to being weighed down by other people's anger and frustration and negativity. I became angry and frustrated and negative. I started to be part of the problem as well.

I keep thinking if I explain it, and explain it again, and keep explaining it, eventually the other party will understand. But then I remembered something that happened before each of my sons was born. 

Sometime during my first pregnancy, we (meaning my husband and I) had to decide how who we wanted to include in our birth experience. We have always been a tight knit duo. We had not lived close to either of our families since we had gotten married almost six years before. We had planned on it just being the two of us in the hospital in Santiago, Chile. But then the company sent all the Americans home and we found ourselves staying with my parents while we waited for our belongings to make the slow boat trip back from Chile. 

At some point near the end of the pregnancy, my mom asked if she could be there for the birth. There were a lot of reasons I wanted it to be just my husband and I, and she was one of the reasons. I did not want her in the room with me. I wanted this experience, this starting of my own family, to be just about us, just about my husband and I and our new son. But you can't say all that so I simply left it with we want it to just be us for the birth. She did come to the hospital and hang out during the early parts of labor, but she left when it was time to push. (I had made sure to alert the nurse to the fact that I didn't want my mom in the room for the pushing because I did not know if she would leave. Thankfully she did leave when the nurse made it clear it was time to go.)

When I was pregnant with my second son, she asked again if she could be in the delivery room when he was born. I had to explain again that I just wanted it to be me and my husband not to mention the fact that she had the all important job of watching my eldest while we were in the hospital. She asked a few more times and I explained a few more times. 

When I was pregnant with my third, she asked again. I was surprised that she was still asking, that she was still making me explain that I wanted it to just be my husband and I. She reminded me that this was probably her last chance to see one of her grandbabies be born. She asked again and I explained again. 

She likes to tell me that she has a right to ask, that it is okay to ask for what you want. And I will agree that she can ask but here's the thing I figured out from this experience - just because she is asking doesn't mean I have to answer. If someone keeps asking the same question over and over again waiting for a different answer, it's okay for me to remove myself from the conversation. And honestly if you keep asking the same question over and over, even if you change the wording and reasons, I am probably going stop giving you an opportunity to ask the question. 

Because when someone keeps asking, I'm beginning to realize it is because they don't like my answer. When someone keeps making the same argument over and over, it is probably because they want me to change my mind and cannot accept agreeing to disagree. 

So as I found myself sinking deeper into a funk about this whole schools thing, I finally remembered to apply an important life lesson I learned - just because you're talking, doesn't mean I have to listen and respond. People have the right to free speech and I have to right to remove myself from the debate. 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

From Isaiah - The Fall of...

One of the themes of Isaiah is God's judgment. The book is full of prophecy of God judging those nations that held his people captive - the ruthless, the mockers, the oppressor, the destroyer, the traitor".
"I will rise up against them," declares the the LORD Almighty (Is 14:22) 
"See, Damascus will no longer be a city but will become a heap of ruins." (Is. 17:1b) 
"The ruthless will vanish,
the the mockers will disapper,
and all who have an eye for evil will be cut down -
those who with a word make a man out to be guilty,
who ensnare the defender in court
and with false testimony deprive the innocent of justice." (Is. 29:20-21)
I read past these verses to the ones that I underline, the themes that resonate with me.

Recently though I have been engaging in a forum that is debating a local issue. I assumed that the people involved were all coming to the table with the same desire, to find solutions to a problem. I knew that we would not agree on the solutions and that our understanding of the problem was tainted by self interest. And for the most part that is the case. But there were a few posts that I did not understand. Accusations, belittling, and out right lies. I kept wanting to assume the best, that we were all working to better understand one another, even if we could not agree. But the offensive and divisive posts kept coming, from one or two individuals specifically. And I was flummoxed.

I could not understand why someone would want to divide, to hurt, to demean. I understand pain causes us to do some hurtful things. I understand that when we are insecure or feel bad about ourselves or our situation, we can lash out. But I don't think that is what I am seeing.

You know those evil masterminds in superhero movies, the ones that want to destroy the world just for fun. The ones that know that they may go down in the flames, but still set the city on fire because it's amusing. The ones whose pride is so overflowing that they actually believe they are all knowing, all right, and the only one who should speak. The ones who want retribution at any cost. Those characters that live in movies and novels. I thought that was where they lived.

It turns out that there are people walking this world who are just plain mean and evil. I mean I know Hitler and Stalin and all those other evil dictators, and serial killers, and pedophiles and rapists, existed. All those evil people doing barbaric things.

But I did not realize there are people in this world that are mean just to be mean. When I mentioned this to some friends and my husband, I think they were surprised by my naivete. They have encountered these people in their work, their families, their communities.

I am just now running into this type of villain in my every day life. I am starting to understand the Israelites cries for justice, for God to come and destroy their oppressors. I am beginning to understand the frustration when God does not show up but waits and waits and waits to make His plan known.

And this is from my experience on a Facebook forum. Clearly I lead a sheltered life. Or I choose to see the good in people, even when it maybe isn't there.

Monday, June 4, 2012

From Isaiah - Lessons I Am Quick to Forget

Did you know there are 66 chapters in the book of Isaiah? If I was one of those people that liked to look at the use of numbers in scripture, I would notice that there are also 66 books in the Bible. And I could take this even further and note that the book of Revelation mentions the mark 666 being used in the end times. But I don't really hold to things like number repetition, especially since I doubt Isaiah was broken up into chapters when it was originally written.

That's the thing about prophesy (the inspired declaration of divine will and purpose). We can read into it what we want. The Jews living in Jesus' time were awaiting a messiah king that would conquer the physical world. Many missed Jesus because he did not match the image they had in their heads based on their interpretation of prophecy.

Reading Isaiah there are a lot of things foretold, a lot of declarations of what God will do to save His people. It often looks very specific and much of it did come to pass just as Isaiah declared. But to me Isaiah is about more than the details of what God will do. It is the truths about God that have held me to this book of prophesy.

I have learned a lot from reading the book of Isaiah. But I have to be honest it can be quite repetitive and as a modern day, American reader I am not a fan of repetition. But I, like the Israelites, need repetition because I am quick to forget.

Today I read in Isaiah 46, "I have made you and I will carry you...." But this was not the first time I saw this truth of God as the creator, God as my maker. It is repeated again and again in Isaiah. (Is. 5, 22, 40, 43, 44, 45)

And I read, "What I have said, that will I bring about; what I have planned, that will I do." (Isaiah 14, 22, 23, 26, 37)  God's plan will come to be. It may take time as it often does in Isaiah. I may not see the outcome. But His will will be done.

Isaiah is full of truths that are applicable to my life today. As I read back through my notes from Isaiah, I see these truths repeated throughout the book. (Chapter references)

Do not be afraid. (7, 12, 26, 43, 44)

Do not trust in idols, in man made security. (2, 20, 21, 22, 28, 31, 41, 44)

Pride will lead me away. (1, 2, 10, 23)

God will answer my call. (30, 35, 38, 41, 42)

These are things I need to know, to remember, to place deep into my heart and mind so that I am changed by these truths.

And this is why I love reading scripture without any greater purpose than knowing more about God. I know also that if someone else was reading Isaiah these last few months, what stood out to them might be different. Isaiah is full of passages about judgment and discipline. About God throwing over the evil doers and those that oppress His people. I saw these themes but these were not the verses I underlined, that I wrote in my journal, because they were not the ones I needed in this season.

There are still 20 chapters left in Isaiah. I wonder what they hold for me?