Posted in Anxiety, authenticity, comparison, discernment, learning boundaries, Uncategorized

Great Expectations: What to Expect?

I wish it were the novel…but it’s the list in my head.  So many expectations…in every area of my life.  Some are specific and some are inferred.  Some are imperative–feed, clothe, love, educate my child, cook dinner more frequently than not, laundry…make sure my house does not look like the atomic bomb exploded in it.  Most of these expectations are a part of the universe in my head–the dangerous place…

In the 9 months that I have been a mother, people ask me the same questions–“how’s it going?  Do you like being a mom?  How is your ministry going?”  I keep answering (though sometimes I do not believe me) “good, but I am still looking for balance.”  Seasoned moms laugh and say, “good luck with that!”  I have also said, “I wish I had a boss just to tell me what to do next.”

Jack is a precious, precious, precious boy, and I am really enjoying being his mom and seeing Greg engage as his daddy.  In my heart I trust he is doing well.  However, it’s hilarious the panic that ensues when I see other moms feeding different things to their babies or having a special toy, etc. I am like “wow, have I been content with this stage and missed something he needs to continue to flourish?!?!?”  It can be things as simple as a sippy cup or bits of food.  I think to myself….”boy have I gotta step up my game and be on the lookout to anticipate all his future needs.”  Then, I am trying to talk to him all the time like the doctor told me.  More than that, I want to continue talking to him about God and theology from now on…gotta keep that on the tip of my tongue with him teaching as we go.  Then I think, “do I simply sit and play with him enough? Is he catching the tv screen too much, will he get ADD?”  I hope you are laughing by now at the deluge of my thoughts.  Most of the time, I throw up my hands and hold on.  I have really not been anxious about motherhood–though it sounds as if I have been.  God has given me a peace from the time we even learned that we were going to be parents.

Where my thoughts can really get crazy is the expectations to be all I was before and more.  Ministry to young women.  The time to meet with young women has shrunk to two specific days a week.  There is more than just sitting down with them…there is prayer and study and what they share.  I am not enough for them–nor is that the point.  The point is to point them and bring them to Christ as their all sustaining one.  I feel as if I am doing some of the same things with them that I do with Jack…teaching them about who God is, his faithfulness and not fixing them but bearing with them and presenting them before God in prayer.  I told Greg the other day that there is a lot of heaviness in the lives around me right now (but there always is because of the nature of this life engulfed with sin)…heartache, transitions, struggle in marriage, eating disorders, loss, strife in relationships, unbelief…  My expectation problem spirals out of control when I try to be the fixer.  Fixing is much easier than walking alongside with heart work.  I get exhausted, and I feel completely ineffective.  I have expectations of myself to always be prepared, to anticipate needs, to be able to minister to more and more.  I also have them on my mind all the time praying…then I think “am I praying enough, am I praying in line with God’s word?”

The only problem…the space on my plate has gotten smaller because I have this life that I care for continually physically, emotionally, spiritually.  So, I have to learn the balance of what is realistic for me to expect.  I have drawn boundaries to others with my time–Tuesday/Thursday from 8:30-2:30 (when I have childcare), but I have greater expectations of myself on the inside.  And what happens when my expectations cannot match with my output?  I continually feel like I am failing.  Honestly, there are areas where I really am failing, but I remember to lean into my Savior.

I want to be more as a friend to friends who are struggling and hurting.  I want to be better at pursuing friends–I need to just have fun and share my heart.  I want to be purposeful as a wife in loving Greg well.  I want to be organized with cooking and lose this baby weight.  I want to serve the church well.  I want to be a helpful and loving family member.  I want to paint and write and create.  See why I am unbalanced:)?

This morning greeted me with many muscles in my body aching.  I shared this with my mom, and she said, “you are trying to do too much and always on the go.”  I responded with “but I am not doing that much–I’m not getting anything done!”  My reality and my expectations are not balanced.  It is helpful when someone can speak into that–especially when that someone is one that is on the go all the time, as well.  I grew up witnessing a mom that had a full-time teaching job, a part-time job as organist and a full-time job as my Dad’s ministry partner.  I remember her cooking, cleaning, ironing and talking to people every night and not sitting down until 10 pm.  I do not have the energy my mom had, but in my own way, I think I am trying to keep up.

As women, I think we are caught in this endless banter in our head.  We each have different expectations, and many times, we compare ourselves to many people who excel in different things.  At that rate, we are ALWAYS behind and always feeling less than.  My prayer is that I listen to the One who directs and has called me…and listen to what He wants.  I pray He give me the wisdom to have realistic goals and expectations of myself and to serve excellently by depending on Him in those areas.  I had an irregular adulthood in that I had time before kids to develop in ways creatively and and use my time ministerially and personally that most people do not experience until empty nest.  I now am having to readjust expectations to balance well now.  Please pray that I can…I want my heart to be at peace for the long haul.

Hopefully you do not want to commit me after this post…just wanted to be vulnerable to hopefully encourage anyone out there on the expectation treadmill!


Posted in comparison

Rolling around in my head…

Wow, this last month and a half has been crazy!  I am tired! Tired! Tired!  We moved November 18, and I busted my rear to get pictures on the walls and things put away downstairs before Thanksgiving and to get Christmas decorations  up after Thanksgiving  (upstairs is another story:))  My in-laws came for a surprise visit a week and a half after our move.  I promptly got sick with a sinus infection. Jack got sick.  I got sick again with the EVIL stomach virus.  I did not even start Christmas shopping and planning until a week and a half before Christmas.  Then, Jack had surgery –and Greg and I needed valium for the aftermath!  Did I mention I was tired?

Now, it is the day after Christmas and all I want to do is rest and reflect.  With an almost seven month old, there is not as much built in time for reflection.  My motto is that I waited so long for him that I had tons of time beforehand to reflect–I would rather have him than that time!  (That time will come again in my life)   I am blessed to take care of him and be his mom–no room to complain here.     However, in my times of reflection, this is what I have decided this month:

1.  Unless God himself moves us somewhere, we ain’t moving anytime soon!  When I see a box, I get PTSD.  There is still so much to do, but it will have to wait.

2.  I was not meant to be a nurse or doctor–I learned that with all the care after Jack’s surgery.

3.  Christmas in our culture is ridiculous!  Plain ridiculous.  We make it so difficult.  The problem is our pride and our desire for this world to be our heaven.  We want to create this ideal and this experience for kids and families and ourselves.  No gift or experience here fulfills our need inside.  Remember wanting that certain gift…dreaming about it and then opening it and being unfulfilled?  We already want the next thing…

As women, we want to have it all together–cooking and making and buying and performing and throwing parties and mailing the perfect Christmas card.  This season, I just wanted to scream, “Stop!”  We are so noisy in our hearts we forget that this season is about worshipping the One who brought Peace with God in our hearts.  We blow Him off because we are trying to prove that we are happy and can make ourselves satisfied with the things of this world.  By the way, we cannot.

Oh the joy of letting go of all these “have to’s” and embracing Jesus and who He really is and what He came to do in our hearts.  My problem is if I want to simplify that means I will probably disappoint those who have not chosen to simplify.  Instead of being in a race at Christmas, I want to rest in Him and enjoy those around me.

As I think of Christmases to come, I have the opportunity and responsibility to shape how Jack views Christmas.  Greg and I are the ones who teach him what this is all about.  We have to plan now or we will be swept with the tide of this culture.  Nothing here–no celebration, holiday, vacation, wedding, baby, party, house, relationship will satisfy us in our depths.  It is a reminder that Jesus is the one who satisfies and that Heaven and the New Earth are where all things satisfy.  Every disappointment or longing here is meant to point us there.  I don’t want to work to fulfill Jack here…I want to tell Him and point out to Him where Hope comes from.

There are small joys here and glimpses of that eternal joy, but it will not be found in giving him $100s-$1000s of dollars worth of presents that put us in debt or giving him perfect experiences.  It is so easy to get caught up in this rat race.  Oh that my heart continually be found in Christ.

Posted in authenticity, comparison, God's sovereignty and goodness, God's word, infertility, Rheumatoid Arthritis, self-absorption, thankfulness, transformation by truth, Uncategorized, waiting

Ready, Set, Go

Setting my heart, setting my hope, setting mind…These have been words and phrases that I have been fighting to dwell on in the last few days. These phrases come from 2 Corinthians 4-6 and 2 Corinthians 1:10 and 1 Timothy 1:7.
These have been some frustrating days for Greg and me. His Rheumatoid Arthritis has been relentless the last few weeks–including bringing a canceled trip to Texas to see his family this last week. I know it has been hard for him as he is exhausted and frustrated with his body. For me, I have felt stuck. With infertility and RA and being at home with little change in any of it–stuck, stuck, stuck.
In the midst of stuck, thinking on truth does not happen naturally. Self-pity happens naturally. Reaching for numb-ers happens naturally. Escapism calls to me.
I realize I am a bit bored. I know that sounds crazy–or maybe it doesn’t. I am tired of people asking me how I am and not having a different response. Saying “fine” is so much easier and makes me feel more spiritual than “stuck.” For people around me, it seems things are always changing–kids growing, adding kids, etc, etc. (I realize they face the mundane, too.) However, it feels to me that Greg and I are in our old age as empty nesters that are seeing the futility of this life. Nothing seems to be changing in our household while everyone else is speeding by.
I know that some of this is truth–because of sin’s effects, there is futility in hoping in this life. I also know that we have been rescued to think on and hope in truth. This is not the end–here or in eternity.
I am learning, however, that it is a viscious fight to think on truth. I have to be disciplined and focused, and at times, I simply feel too tired and want to escape away by buying something or watching something or eating something. However, when I do think on the truth of Christ—what a salve to my soul! My prayers from scripture have been ” help me set my heart on thanks…help me not lose heart as our outer selves are wasting away–help us be renewed in the inner self day by day…may I see these as what they are–“light and momentary troubles”–help me think on “the eternal weight of glory”…may I remember the “unshaken hope” and remember that on Him have we set our hope…training ourselves for godliness in setting our hope and heart and mind on things above. That is life-giving. That is what I fight for…
Also, I was reminded this morning–through a Bible study that I wrote through Colossians–that my suffering and troubles are used for my good but also the good of those in the kingdom. That, my friends, makes it worth it. There is some point to this. I may not grasp it or understand it–but I trust the Father who knows beyond all what the reasons are.
This morning, as I was studying, I was reminded how my heart has been shaped. I now pray differently for others who are going through pain–I pray for spiritual fruit–for them to think on truth…to gain intimacy with the Father…to know Him and seek Him above all else. I even see, gulp, suffering as a good thing to enter our lives. We are walking in the way of Christ. DO NOT READ that I enjoy it! I enjoy Him–when I fight to get past my self-pity and escapism and laziness and complaining.
I have to choose to be thankful. I even wrote the other day in my journal listing people that God has given me an opportunity to unite with and minister to and learn from in the midst of our circumstantial pain. I was amazed at how quickly I forget where He has and is working. So, my friend, wherever you are today, I encourage you to fight to think on the gospel–truth, Him. Please–that is your choice–what you think on…
Greg and I were talking yesterday, and he said–if we get pregnant, you know there will be people who say “God is so faithful–as if pregnancy and children are something we deserve.” That is not true–God is faithful and it has nothing to do with giving us children–he did not promise us that. He is good and faithful and gracious beyond what we can fathom regardless if we are childless forever. He would be blessing us beyond what we deserve if we have children–may I remember that.

Posted in authenticity, comparison, humility, insecurity, pride, random thoughts, self-absorption, sin, spiritual growth, transformation by truth, Uncategorized

Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen

So, I have a confession. When I became a teenager in the late 80s it was en vogue to carry a photo album in your purse. Insecure 13 and 14 year old that I was, one could not tell. My photo album was filled with pictures of me. Jennifer at a wedding, Jennifer with friends cut out of her picture, Jennifer on her “best” side dawned the pages of my photo album. Lucklily my vanity was not privy to the days of facebook to show to all the world! What one needs to know that has not known me all my life is that I had an intense awkward stage from 2nd to halfway through 9th grades. Buck teeth, huge glasses (I see some teenagers wearing them now–not cool!), bad haircuts and perms, and needless to say, an injured self-esteem. The only person who called me on it jokingly? My youth minister, who still takes jabs to this day…as he should.

Fast forward ahem…some years, and I am on the beach late this afternoon. Two 13 to 14 year old girls were in the surf taking pictures; I suppose to put on facebook. They are in bikini tops, short jean shorts and neon wayfarerers—is this 1989? I offer to take their picture together—they ignore me. Yes, I have reached the age that I am inconsequential to teenagers. (I knew that a few years ago, but I tried to ignore it.) These girls were posing–big time. I thought they might have taken in a playboy shoot or two the way they frolicked. All I could think was “oh, those girls are so insecure.” I remembered quickly what it was to be there–always wondering what others thought of them, holding their breath when boys walked by. It is exhausting, and it still sticks with you–just not to the same magnitude, thank goodness.

Much to my frustration, they were in the way of my view. Like most girls that age (well, let’s say all), they were all about themselves. It made me think of a point in John Piper’s

    Don’t Waste Your Life

where he speaks about the fact that one does not go to the Grand Canyon and think about themselves. One goes and is amazed at God’s glory displayed. (The point being this world is about God’s glory and not us. He goes on to explain that being about ourselves is like setting up a hall of mirrors at the Grand Canyon.) Well, these girls were all about the hall of mirrors.

I was sitting amazed at the beauty of God’s creation and the beauty of His majesty displayed and annoyed at the girl’s self-involvement. Then, like a hammer to my head, I knew it was just like me now. Yes, I am more socially acceptable in serving others and thinking about others, but the kingdom of self gets a lot of attention in my life. There is a huge part of me that is still like that gangly, braced faced, frizzy haired, paranoid teenage girl. Wow, God is so good to adopt me, call me His own, and put His Spirit in me to guide me. There are parts of me that are more like a six year old in freedom of being who I am, but there is this battle with my inner 14 year old everyday.
Were it not for His grace, I would stay 14. He loves me too much to leave me there. So, I could be prideful and say, “wow, those girls have a lot of growing up to do,” or I can face the fact humbly that I have a lot of growing up to do. I ask myself, what are the photo albums of self in my life right now? Please show me, Lord, that I might die to self and live to Christ!

Posted in authenticity, comparison, eternal things, pride, trusting God

Bloom where you’re planted.

Oh, the curse of being a woman–comparison. “If I just had her style, her family, her husband, her job, her finances, her mom and dad, her disposition, her body type and metabolism, her freedom, her city…” I could go ON and ON. Why do we torture ourselves? We dare to compare every hour of the day.
Contentedness is a choice and a gift to be guarded. We make excuses and wish our life away to be somebody else while not dealing with who we are made to be and where we are planted. It is funny how the smallest things tip my scale from content to downright crazy with covetousness.

“Guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.”
Oh, how I have to talk myself down from the ledge with the truth of what REALLY matters. Then, I have to humble myself in the truth to remember that I am not one upping someone else by thinking on things that really matter. That is another form of cancerous comparison. The One we are called to compare ourselves to and follow is Christ. I have to be renewed in the truth of the gospel, in my identity in Him, in my calling for this life, and in the reward of eternity–DAILY.
What is hilarious about women is that we are so self-conscious around each other a lot of times feeling less than or trying to one up that we forget that we are cut out of the same mold. That is, we are all feeling a lot of the same things. Instead of being honest about where we really are, we play the game. We worry about styles and houses, kids and how they are perceived, our husbands and how they are perceived, our choice of staying home or working and how that is perceived, etc. etc. etc. We could actually encourage one another and build each other up in our weakness. YES–everyone around you is struggling with the same concept possibly with a different spin.
I will be vulnerable and tell you one of my struggles. (You are thinking, infertility–duh!) Actually, this is a much more worldly, vain struggle–our house. We live in a 40+ year old house in a plain neighborhood with older people around. It is not historic or flashy. It is in a very convenient location. I am pretty frugal, and I have enjoyed piecing hand me downs and new things together. I probably have a cottage kind of style. I like to paint, so I have a lot of my paintings around. People have described my house as homey. My Mom’s house would probably have that same feel of homey.

When I am at my house, I feel so blessed beyond measure that we can invite people into our home to fellowship, etc. Where I get the discontentment is when I go to other’s houses. Most people I know have newer houses and/or live in “more desirable” neighborhoods. It is easy to get the comparison meter out and think–“I’d be embarrassed to invite them to my house.” I HATE this about myself.

For those who know me, I am a pretty confident person–this is an area of weakness in that confidence. I will admit, it is an area of SIN. I am comparing myself to others, worrying about what they will think about things that really do not matter, and I am being ungrateful to the tremendous blessings God has given us. I forget that I am called to be satisfied in Him alone. This area also impedes my giving and hospitality to others and loving them well. I would tell someone else that they are ridiculous for thinking this–but I think it myself.

I have to preach little sermons to myself about what my calling is–to love others with the love and truth of Christ. In that calling, it does not matter if I am wearing a trash bag or live in a tent. It does not matter if people think my style is cool and complement me.

Girls–we gotta trust Him and remember to bloom where we are sovereignly planted. May I remember today to not trust in houses or personality or circumstances or body type. May I remember to trust in the name of the LORD my God. May I be fulfilled in Him, and may he shake me awake when I start the comparison game all over again!