Day 5: it takes abundant grace {to raise twins}

How ironic/interesting/intriguing that just after Day 4’s post about learning dependence through having twins, we got hit with a new wave of overwhelming life events! And so now “day 5” of #write31days is happening on October 8th. I tend to panic if I’m behind what “should be.” I’m a mixture of type A and type B, enough type A to care about meeting deadlines and being on time, but too much type B to be able to consistently do so (without lots of stressing out for me and towards my family). I’d always known that having kids would prove challenging for the being-on-time part of me.

But having two babies at once? Well, that just blew right through any pretenses of punctuality and organization and having-it-all-together.

The problem is that I’ve been in denial and that I try to still act as if it’s only me who has to make it places on time. I do know after 36 years of self-observation how much time I need to get out the door on time. But five years into parenting twins, I still cannot predict how much time one or both of them will take to get out the door. We’ve had wonderful moments of speedy efficiency that surprised even me at their ability to get dressed-eat-breakfast-put-on-shoes-brush-teeth&hair-get-whatever-special-toys-they-must-have-today-and-grab-backpacks in order to get to preschool on time. The problem is that they trick me. I *know* that they can do all of the above in 15-20 minutes, so I assume that they *will* do all of the above in 15-20 minutes any given day of the week. Ha, ha, ha. Silly me. {For a hilarious YouTube video about this phenomena for all parents, check this out.}

The twin connection often means that one of them is operating under the “normal/fast/efficient” timeframe, but there is 100% more likelihood that her twin sister will not be.

And, no, it is not consistently one or the other. They trade off. So A. might be super-speedy on Monday, but L. has a freak-out because “I cannot find my LOVIE!!!!!!!” So then on Tuesday I make sure that L. has her lovie in plenty of time, but unbeknownst to me, A. is the one who will freak out because her green dress is “too SCRATCHY!!!!!!!”

It’s emotionally exhausting for someone who really, truly wants to be put-together but daily confronts the reality that I am not. The smallest things can tilt my well-ordered but precarious “balance.” And twins? Well – picture a supermarket after an earthquake (and an earthquake with multiple aftershocks). I’m still trying to put the pieces back together if I’m honest.

And I’m learning that there is no other better way to be than honest. Anything else? It’s too exhausting. 

During one of the hardest seasons of twin motherhood so far when the girls were 18-months-old, a friend introduced me to this poet-twin-mama, Sarah Dunning Park, who is beautiful inside and out and whose poetry book became a lifeline for me. Click here to read her poem “Resolution” which perfectly captures for me the gap between who I’d like to be and the reality of who I am – and she points to the grace needed to fill all those empty spaces.

If you want to continue to follow along, subscribe to my blog or like my Facebook page “Hidden Glory” to get updates. For the month of October, I’m participating in “Write31Days” and my series is “31 Days of Parenting Twins.” 

Five Minute Friday: try

I love Five Minute Friday – have I said that lately? I’ve accepted the fact that between revising the manuscript for my first book (releasing spring 2016 by Crossway on the topic of finding healing and freedom from shame), and being at home 24/7 with my 4-year-olds during the summer, “Five Minute Friday” posts are the extent of my summer blogging schedule.

Here’s this week’s prompt: “try.”

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photo from kokoamag.com

photo from kokoamag.com

Try feels like a law. Try harder … to be better, to run faster, to exercise more, to eat healthy, to parent calmly, to love fully, to be compassionate, to fight against injustice.

“Try” is a taskmaster, telling me that better is always up ahead, and that I haven’t ever quite made it. It’s like a finish line of a marathon continually being moved ahead a few miles, just when you round the corner and get a glimpse of it.

“Try” tends to be the staple of the church, the way we seek holiness and love.

But “try” doesn’t get you anywhere but discouraged.

Maybe that’s the silver lining of “try.” When I try harder to be better, to love, to embrace, to live according to who I know I am called to be – I forget that it’s not about my effort. It never has been. I can’t save myself. And I cannot make myself holy.

Jesus rescued me from “try” at the cross. Galatians 2:20-21 says that “if righteousness could be gained through the law, then Christ died for nothing.” It hit home for me the summer of grace between my sophomore and junior year of college. And I have to return to this beautiful, soul-liberating truth of grace that saves and grace that sustains and GRACE that will bring me home.

Try doesn’t cut it. Grace frees me from “try” and transforms “try” into “trust.” Trust that God did it ALL at the cross, and rest from “try” – trust that it has been finished, and that “the life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

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day 21: color

photo credit: dvdreleasedates.com

photo credit: dvdreleasedates.com

I call the summer between my sophomore and junior year of college the summer that my faith became technicolor. In my previously black-and-white faith,  grace was a word used merely to excuse sin – “it’s covered by grace! Praise Jesus! I can keep on being rude to my family and hating those different than me, plus do everything I want to do and know that I’m still saved.” I didn’t have a high view or a very personal view of grace, amazing though I professed it to be each time I sang the words of that familiar hymn. 

And then I began to feel my futility in being righteous enough according to God’s standards. I started losing sleep out of anxiety that I was not doing enough for God and under the burden of trying to do everything right all of the time. I cried out to God in my first grace prayer that sounded like this: “God, I can’t do it anymore! You must help me!” 

And wow, color flooded in like the Technicolor scenes of Wizard of Oz once Dorothy leaves Kansas. Grace was everywhere and in everything I read and many conversations I had that summer. Grace carried me and infused strength to me when I had finally professed that I had none left. Grace brought renewed joy to me in the God of my salvation who did my impossible at great cost to Jesus – rescued me from sin and set me free in hope to be a new creation in Christ.

Grace was on every page of Scripture. Romans, Galatians, Colossians, even the Old Testament pointed to it with promises in Ezekiel of a new heart and God’s invitation to his people over and over again to return to him, for he had redeemed them.

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Part of the October 31-days writing challenge. Read the rest of my posts here.

Day 3: new

new snow

photo from larainydays.blogspot.com

“Behold, I am making all things new.” (Revelation 21:5) Who doesn’t love new? Like a white blanket of snow unmarked by footprints, “new” begs for us to venture forth in joyful exploration. And new is what the world will be one day, and new is what we in Christ already are. We are the ones who display the “new” to come – the first sign of what will be fully realized at the end of time and the beginning of eternity.

New means we get another chance, that I never run out of grace to cover my sins and failures, that there is always hope for tomorrow and the next minute to be different. New means that I am not defined by who I’m not – I find new identity daily in grace and mercy that hides me securely in Jesus Christ.

What could this look like today, for you and for me? Not only that I walk in the joyous adventure of my new freedom in Christ, unfettered by past sins or future anxieties, but it means I can relate to you with forgiveness. Giving you a new chance to be who God is making you to be. At the end of a difficult day with my daughter, I lean in close as I’m kissing her goodnight and remind us both that tomorrow is a new day. What hope! What lightness – what fresh beauty awaits and what new mercy will cover tomorrow’s imperfections! I can continue to fight against idolatry and to invite you into the same. You will never be outside of the reach of redemption.

For behold, he is making ALL things NEW.

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Posting as part of 31 days and Five Minute Friday today.

 

embracing imperfection (July edition): living between “not quite enough” and “a little too much”

I’ve felt my inadequacy this month, which I’ll label under the category of “not quite enough.” Today all it took was hearing about a higher-than-expected car repair bill, which sent my heart sinking. Any cushion – any savings goals? They seem to have fled out the window as that bill fluttered into my text messages. A feeling of being defeated. And it’s not just that. It connects with a larger picture of feeling not quite enough as I seek to parent my “spirited” three-year-old twin daughters. I gave up on bedtime last night. I was doing all of *those things* you’re not supposed to do: empty threats, adult-like reprimands that devolved into harsh commands barked from downstairs – “JUST.GET.BACK.INTO.BED!” I felt as if I didn’t have the energy to get up from my comfy chair and interesting TV show (Parenthood in case you were curious) to do more than that. And you know what? Eventually, they went to sleep and settled down. So did I. But this morning roared to a start just minutes after I had settled into the quiet of my journal, and it felt like “you’re not quite enough” was the banner floating over my head as a mom yet again. 

“Not quite enough” is a shame sentence. A statement connecting to that vague sense of inadequacy we all carry and experience, that lurks behind any attempt to do or to be something glorious. Like a writer. I’m wrestling with feeling “not quite enough” as I long to pursue my passion to write, but feel like I don’t have quite enough time and I’m not sure I have quite enough of an audience and a message and would anyone really publish what I wanted to write?

I’m not quite enough when it comes to being a strong wife for my husband as he endures the challenges of full-time ministry as a pastor.

I’m not quite enough of a good friend because so often I can feel swamped by an over-full schedule.

But then the tone can switch, too. And I feel “a little too much” when I look at the scale and see a number there that feels 10 pounds too high. I was talking to a childhood friend who’s also recently reached mid-30s and we were commiserating about how much more difficult it is at this age and after having babies to be in the shape to which we’d grown accustomed.

I felt “a little too much” when I showed up in my full ballet leotard and tights to the “Mommy and Me” class when all the other moms (except my friend and I) had on t-shirts and yoga pants. Oops. Felt a bit out of place that day!

I can be “a little too much” at a dinner party – too intense, too counselor-esque, too brooding, too withdrawn (all at the same time).

But you know what my real problem is? It’s that I have not embraced “not quite enough” and “a little too much” as part of what it means to be a human dependent on a strong God. A God in whom I am more than enough, not because of me but because of all He gives me and all that He is for me. A God who never views me as “a little too much” because He delights in me. Yet I kick against my human limitations while God continues to shower me with grace. A God who says gently in the stolen, quiet moments (few though they be) that how well today went does not equate to how much He loves me. (Thank you, Gloria Furman, in Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full for that thought!) A God who reminds me that who I am is not what my ever-wavering bank account shows or the scale reveals, but it is forever redeemed, forever loved, forever holy because of Jesus’ forever grace. 

reflections on my story

20140617-071914-26354591.jpgTen days ago, I celebrated a milestone birthday. Not one of the big “decades,” but one that felt significant nonetheless. Birthdays are great opportunities for reflection, and every year I enjoy writing a bit about the year prior and anticipating the year ahead. In March of this year, I did a retreat that could be the title for my story: “When Good Girls Get It All Wrong.” This past year has been a year of realizing more and more of the ways I get it wrong when I trust my goodness instead of God’s abundant grace. My story is one of the prototypical “good girl.” I am the oldest of three children with two younger brothers. I attended private Christian school through eighth grade and my worst nickname was “Goody-Goody.” The transition to public high school was terrifying and faith-activating. While experiencing being made fun of for being a Christian, my youth pastor wisely identified this as a form of persecution for my faith. And all of a sudden, God’s Word came alive to me. Passages like this one in 1 Peter 4:12-14 made sense to me for the first time:

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.”

When it was time for college, I ventured out to Wheaton College, hundreds of miles from home. I still am amazed at that courage as an 18-year-old who had never lived anywhere but my small hometown in South Carolina. Those four years were full of long, important conversations that can happen in the context of “all freedom/no responsibility” and halfway through college, grace flooded in for this good girl. I was months away from being a Resident Assistant to a hall of 50 freshmen and sophomore women, and God found me through his grace as I realized how much I needed him. I could not rely on my try-harder goodness to carry me through what had become a crippling bout of anxiety-induced insomnia. The summer between my sophomore and junior year is fondly remembered as “the summer of grace,” when grace flooded into my Christian life – transforming what had been black-and-white into full color. Not unlike when Dorothy in Oz travels from tornado-torn Kansas to the yellow brick road leading to the Emerald City.

I will fast forward a few years to the next major turning point of faith for me: Christmas of 2003 which was bookended by news of both parents’ cancer diagnoses. Yes, you read that right: BOTH. My mom received her diagnosis December 23, and then when we gathered as a family again on December 31, Dad shared that he, too, had been diagnosed with cancer. My parents had always been healthy, and I had taken them for granted. This shook me as a young finding-my-way elementary school teacher who assumed life would continue as it always had. The gift to my faith in the midst of this season of questions and wondering how I would make it through is that I questioned. Really questioned and had to wrestle with a God who did not guarantee “the good, healthy and happy life” to his people. I often felt like I was questioning alone – because so many in my well-meaning Christian community jumped to, “It’s going to be fine!” or wanted to give pat answers that failed to connect with my heart. This journey through questions, doubt, darkness prepared me for the next stage of calling: pursuing a graduate degree in counseling from Westminster Theological Seminary outside of Philadelphia.

My parents both survived (and have been cancer-free for over a decade) and my faith deepened; and the gift of counseling has been the gift of walking with others through their questions, their pain, their suffering; their untold stories of tragedy, grief, loss, abuse, dreams imploding. And it has been the gift of witnessing hope emerging, slowly and painfully at times like a butterfly getting used to its new wings as it emerges from its cocoon. My own hope rehabilitation journey in seminary included the unexpected gift of meeting and marrying my pastor-husband, who persevered despite much resistance from this battle-weary woman who had been through a few too many break-ups by that point to easily entrust my heart to another. Being married to him has been good and beautiful and hard and sanctifying all at the same time, often in the same moments.

And then we had twins. I have talked about my journey of motherhood often on this blog, so I’ll leave it to prior posts to fill in those gaps. [suggested: Trusting God When You’re Expecting, Part 3: A New Chapter Called “Bed Rest“;  Tiny Miracles; Twins: The First Month; Confessions of an Angry Mom, part 12, & 3A Prayer for Potty TrainingTears and TransitionsFor the love of poetryIdentity lessons from “Angelina Ballerina”The one voice that matters mostMind the gap]

Needless to say, for two control-freak parents addicted to self-sufficiency and independence, twin daughters has by far been the best and hardest part of our lives as we find our way back to grace over and over and over again.

Where am I now? Full of anticipation for the next years or decades of life left before I go Home. I want to write. I want to write of hope amidst imploded dreams and war-torn hearts. I want to give voice to suffering and permission to speak of tragedy and to ask the hard questions we too often paste over with faith platitudes. I want to connect with you, my faithful readers, friends, family. I want to hear and share stories yet untold and unheard. To celebrate grace and life and beauty in all its forms, and to beg for redemption and healing for all the pain that creeps in uninvited. I want to laugh, to create art, and to unleash creativity in a million little ways. Join me? I’d be so honored.

 

 

Five Minute Friday: grace

I used to think of grace as a word lax Christians used to excuse their sin. Did I need grace? Certainly not. As a self-professed “good girl,” growing up as the oldest daughter who kept the rules (at least outwardly) gave me my secure identity as a good Christian who didn’t really need grace. That was for those other “sinners.”

And then my sophomore year of college hit. I tried following the law in ways I hadn’t tried before: one-hour long daily devotional times of prayer and Bible study; leading a discipleship group weekly; seeking opportunities to share my faith with others; trying, trying, striving, striving. Where did I end up? Exhausted. Weary. Literally an insomniac plagued with worry for what if … what if I wasn’t doing enough?

The following summer I hit my knees out of desperation. I remember crying out to God, begging for him to help me because I couldn’t do it anymore.

Enter grace. It flooded in like color into my formerly black-and-white world. Grace was everywhere that summer. In the book of Romans I was reading; in our pastor’s sermons every Sunday; in conversations with my best friend who was also undergoing a “grace revolution.” It was like the advent of technicolor into my Christian life.

photo credit: cultofmac.com

photo credit: cultofmac.com

I needed grace, and that’s when I began to experience it. For grace is generously lavished upon all who know that they need it.

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Today I’m participating in Lisa-Jo’s “Five Minute Friday,” a chance to write unedited for five minutes on a word given by Lisa-Jo each Friday. Come join us!

Five Minute Friday: “She”

She is a picture of grace, holding a babe in her arms and leading another by the hand. She is the image of perfect, juggles life and work and marriage and kids and relationships with ease. She eats organic; crafts a beautiful home; sets up elaborate art projects to engage her children’s creativity; all while managing to stay connected to her husband and her God and her friends. And she never spends beyond her budget. She is loving to all, forgives easily, and knows when to talk and when to remain quiet. She has words of wisdom ready on her tongue yet refrains from gossip. She does not silently judge others who make her feel insecure. She does not struggle with the limits of her humanity.

She stands in the corner and silently condemns me when I struggle. She is the shadow of the impossible ideal I feel I must live up to – in order to keep life, what? Perfect? Beautiful? Smooth? She takes the place of God in my heart and my life. She masks him with her demands and deceives me into thinking that she is God.

God rescues me. He gently scoops up my weary soul, reminding me that it is not “she” who sets the standard but HE who sets the standard. And he’s set it high – impossibly so – but he’s fulfilled it already, and so I go free. Free of “she.” Free to be the “me” he is making me to be.

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Today I join Lisa-Jo Baker in her “Five Minute Friday” community. You can also join in here to write for five minutes on a different prompt each Friday.

Five Minute Friday: mercy

Mercy. Grace for the undeserved. We are all undeserving. In a word, this defines God’s love for people. Love cascading into the hearts of ones callous towards him, unaware of our need for him, scornful and dismissive when we think of him. But he keeps loving because that’s what will redeem us. It’s what turns us into people who show mercy. Receiving such a gift.

I think of the faces of Haitians living in the streets, piles of rubbish next to their tent homes. Mercy is what you feel as a fellow human recognizing their dignity beneath the rubble. It’s hard to describe because it’s what we need; the air we breathe. We show mercy because we are always being shown mercy. Not to better ourselves or to prove that we do in fact love the poor and the undeserving. But because we are the poor and the undeserving every minute of every day. Each breath I take is mercy. The ability to think, to write, to love, to savor a sunset and beauty and the sweet hand-in-hand walk with my daughter. All of it is mercy, constantly rushing over me and into me and THROUGH me.

Does mercy run through me? Pride hinders it. Pride tells me I don’t really need mercy, that I’ve somehow earned the grace in which I daily stand. Mercy humbles me, brings me to my knees, the only starting point for any love.

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This is part of Lisa Jo’s “Five Minute Friday,” a five-minute writing prompt on one word every Friday. 

laundry and grace

I fold laundry
in my weary attempt
to organize my thoughts
hoping they will be sorted
so easily
into piles

tidy, categorized by type
with shelves, drawers, or cabinets
to call home
and rest there
till they’re needed.
Then back through the cycle
of use, wash, dry, fold, return.

Is this what your grace is meant to do?
Restore, cleanse, sort out my heart
When I am used up by love?