Tuesday, March 17, 2015

When You're Just Not Good Enough

Finishing ANYTHING has never been easy for me.

I'm easily distracted, I fly by the seat of my pants, I'm a professional procrastinator, I'll get to it sometime is my life-long motto. Oh, and I LOVE naps.

If it weren't for grace, I'd say I'm a quitter.

But, Sarah. You have five children. Nope. I've been this way since I was a little girl.

I have this distinct childhood memory of my sister and I staring at the disaster that was our bedroom after being told we had to clean it up or we'd get no supper. We both flopped on our side-by-side twin beds and plotted for an hour (or hours - who was counting? We weren't.) about how we might go about it.

We wrote out our plan on little wooden chalkboards. Erased it. Then wrote a new plan when we realized Plan A would mean we'd have to get up and actually do something.

Then we were so worn out from all the planning that we sat down on the floor amidst the mess and created a lavish Barbie wedding with a roll of toilet paper.

I'm sure hours passed before either of us ever gave a thought to the fact that all the planning, the chalkboard lists, and the really, really good intentions would mean the eminent banishment to our bedroom for the rest of our lives.

Sometimes I think I was just never taught. I didn't have organized parents. I didn't grow up in an organized house. When my mother said, "Clean under your bed", I threw everything in the closet. When she said, "Clean out your closet" - (worst scenario EVER for a kid who was told last week to clean under the bed), I shoved everything under the bed.

I'm thirty {ahem} years-old now. But, wow - I am still that eight year-old shoving messes from one place to another. When I clean out my closet - now, as a grown-up, a mother of FIVE children - I put everything in my bedroom. If I need to clean my bedroom, everything goes back in the closet.

Mess shuffler? Does that sound right?

Sometimes I feel like I'm a prisoner of what I can't be, don't know how to be, wasn't taught to be. You may see me as Sarah - she sings, she cooks, she blogs, she mothers.

But listen: It's easy to share successes. Take pic, edit, filter, post. Repeat. Repeat, again.

But, I am full of doubt about who I am - every day. I'm scared and overwhelmed by all that I'm not. I look around and see what is unfinished and all that is unworthy and unwelcome in this Pinterest world we live in. I see the secret closets and the drawers full of yesterday, yestermonth, yesteryear. A mess of stuff I shuffle around in my head - things I want to do, to be, to actually complete.

And, the mess that sits upstairs in my bedroom AND in my closet is so catastrophic that even if the spirit of transparency hit me like never before in my life, there is no way in tarnation I would let you see a photo of it.

But, more than ANY of that, I know the secret places in my heart. The places that are dirtier, messier, and more unlovely than any bedroom, any closet, any drawer.

But, can I tell you why my soul is not discouraged? Deep down - in the places that define me?

Because when God looks at me, He doesn't see all that I am not. God sees who He is making me.

Because while He is making me new, He has enough grace for me. For ALL OF THIS.

When I feel like a quitter who just. can't. get. it. together, I cling to this grace-filled message of hope that God gave to us because He knew we would need it - and I preach it to myself:

And I am sure of this, that he who began
a good work in you will bring it to completion
at the day of Jesus Christ.

Philippians 1:6

YES. I'm easily distracted.
I fly by the seat of my pants.
I'm a professional procrastinator.
I'll get to it sometime is my life-long motto.
And, YES, I love naps.

But, I have THIS promise:

God is not a quitter. He carried His own cross up a hill and died for me in the most glorious finish in history. My life is His work. He doesn't give up.

He isn't giving up on me. He isn't giving up on you.

I may not be organized. My bedroom might be messy. And, the drawers and closets and secret places in my heart that I don't want anyone to see scream out "You are not good enough, Sar."

But, I have God's promise - that He began something marvelous in me when He made me His, and until I fly through the ribbon at the end of my life and finish this race, I will cling to the grace and promise of knowing that I am His project, His plan, His girl.

And, He's not finished with me yet.

So, today. THIS promise:

See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.

Isaiah 43:19

Grace for secret closets.
Grace for messy hearts.
Grace for naps.
Grace for little girls with chalkboard plans.
Grace for their little boys with sticky fingers and muddy shoes.


While He's doing His great work in me.

While He's doing His great work in you.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

What Every Messy Mom Should Know

I am currently buried under weeks of mess.

My kids were out of school for FOUR HUNDERED AND THIRTY YEARS thanks to the recent snow... plus ice plus snow plus ice... that we Southerners CANNOT DEAL WITH, bless our hearts - and the wreckage left behind in my house could rival New York City after Ryan Seacrest and his hair rock in the New Year.

My house is a mess. I am behind on every. single. thing and I'm waiting for some magical kind of "feeling" to bolster me out of the squalor and snap away the mess in a Mary Poppins-esque sing-a-long jubilee.

I am, however, trying to stay on top of the papers. Because the papers show no mercy if you let them go and the process of digging out from underneath them is more than even I, Procrastinator Extraordinaire, can handle.

Several years ago, I was sorting and stacking and filing and lamenting the fact that no matter how fast and furiously I pedal on this bicycle of motherhood, I will never escape all of my messes around here. The laundry will never be done. The dishes will always pile up and even if I do actually pull out the vacuum at a time OTHER than when company is coming, I'll still find cobwebs up high where the walls meet.

Shaking my head, I looked down at this. A paper that Jack brought home from school. Very simply and appropriately titled, "Daddy".

I saved it.


There are a million things I love about it. Not the least of which is that my boy loves his Dad.

As I smiled and read through all that was written on it - the misspelled words, the eraser marks, the "mistakes" in capitalization and punctuation - it was the last line that caused me to pause. It pierced right through me.

"What I love most about my Daddy is that he loves me."

It echoed - over and over.

What I love most about my Daddy ...

...is that He loves me.

I sat there - staring at that paper. Amidst my messes. Looking around at all that I'm not. Staring at my failures and shortcomings as evidenced by my messy house and messy life and messy everything else and in those words - I felt God's love jump right off the page at me.

What I love most about my Daddy is that he's proud of me when I do a really good job.

Yes? NOPE. Never.

What I love most about my Daddy is that he loves me.

Is that He loves me.

Here's what I saw on that paper that day: God loves me. Simply because I am His.

He accepts me. He cherishes me. He has a heart to see me grow, but He is infinitely patient with my struggles because I am His child and I need never doubt, never wonder, never DO anything to earn His favor or grace, but just accept the love that He has for me.

May knowing of God's steadfast love for me be enough for this messy girl today.

May it be enough for you, too.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Words That Changed Motherhood For Me

My early days as a mother weren't easy for me.

Are they easy for any of us? Is ANY stage of motherhood ... easy? I haven't met one yet that didn't KICK MY TAIL TO THE MOON AND BACK, AGAIN.

But, those first days, months, years - when I first became a Mom - I was a walking hot mess.

I just struggled through so much of it.

- Why am I happy and sad and happy and sad and happy...?
- How am I supposed to keep ANYTHING clean?
- Why am I so mad at my husband for sleeping all night when I'm awake?
- Am I the only mother who doesn't have her crap together?
- How am I going to keep my toddler alive while I feed the baby?
- When, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, does it get easier?

I looked up at God, eyes filled with hot tears and had a lot of "Why and How and What and When" questions about anything and everything because it was all so new to me and I felt like I had to figure it all out or I was going to permanently ruin my young children, serving them life sentences in a therapist chair: "My Mom was a crazed lunatic. How much time we got?"

And, I pictured God, looking down at me and shaking his head with stern disapproval at all of my failings and emotional breakdowns and missteps and ungratefulness because FOR THE LOVE, SARAH, DIDN'T YOU BEG ME FOR CHILDREN and I wondered why He gave me these little creatures if He KNEW I couldn't handle them.

And, then one day, when my two oldest were newborn and baby, I read this verse, Isaiah 40:11, for the very first time as a mother:

"He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
He gently leads those that have young."

And, I broke down. I fell onto the floor and wept.

He gently leads those that have young.

He does?

Well, that's me. I have young. Me, Lord. See me down here? I have young. And, I'm so tired and I'm so hungry for approval from you and them and those gawking strangers over there and everyone who is watching me flail about and I'm DESPERATE for leading and wisdom and I don't know what I'm doing.

But, OH GOD, is it possible that You - Creator of these tiny creatures and Lover of my soul - aren't sitting there judging me but
are ... gently ... helping me find my way?

Could this be?

This truth? It penetrated my very being and it was HOPE in my heart and peace to my soul.

Mamas and friends - He isn't grabbing us by the upper arm and jerking us to and fro. He isn't yelling and rolling his eyes and He, unlike us, never loses patience. He is gently leading us.

He is helping us.
He is leading us.
He loves us.

And, He is doing it all. Gently.

He is tender to our questions and merciful in our fears. He is loving our children when we aren't lovely and He is keeping us from harm when we don't understand why He won't let us wander away to find less than His best for us.

The day I first read this verse, motherhood changed for me. I stopped looking at God as my disciplinarian, and started seeing Him as my strength.

My friend. My gentle and wise Shepherd.

If He would die to save me, would He not walk with me, too - leading and prodding as I limp worried and wander and ask and struggle?

He did. And, He does.

So moms like me, moms with questions and fears - when we look up at God, arms stretched out in worry and eyes heavy with mother love poured out and "Oh, God, I don't know what I'm doing here", wanting to know how to make it, how to manage it all, how to love our children well.

Let's remember:

He carries us close to His heart.

And, He is gently leading us.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

For When Christmas Is Both Joy and Sorrow

I always feel nostalgic this time of year.

I suppose everyone does. My dreams and daydreams and quiet moments, rare as they may be, are flooded with memories.

I remember my first Christmas as Jason's wife. Life was new, again. I woke up with my best friend next to me, and yet, he was a stranger. I'd only known him as my husband for 10 days, and I couldn't get enough of how wonderful and new he was to me.

I remember my Dad. Whom I lost just over 10 years ago to suicide. Who loved Christmas and who loved me - just for being me. Over and over, again. I remember my Dad.

I remember the first Christmas I spent with a broken heart. Everyone around me wore happy, plastic faces, and I wore grief. I was an unlikely Grinch, only my heart had been trampled on and refused to grow, and I desperately wanted to sing with the Whos. I couldn't find my song.

I remember the year I got a baby carriage. It's the first Christmas I remember. I wore my blue, polyester "Chatterbox" nightgown - perfect for the "Will she ever stop talking?" little girl who wore it at age six and still appropriate today - as I pushed my new baby doll around our house on Sherman Avenue. It snowed that year.

I remember Christmas 2004 - my first as a mother. My newborn son was my world. He was the baby in every manger I saw, and "For unto us a child is born; a son is given" made my heart cry out a thousand thanks to God every time I heard or sang or read it.

I remember my Playdoh Fun Factory. And, my hand sewn Cabbage Patch Doll because a "real" one couldn't be found. I remember my first pair of Guess jeans and my karaoke machine. I remember the mixed emotions of Mom's new engagement ring and our new Atari and all of it blends together in one big mental montage of Christmases past.

While we decorated our Christmas tree this year, I sat and wept for what had been. I wept for my Dad, whom I miss so much. I wept because I now have four sons and a daughter, and they are the best gifts I've ever gotten. I wept for the beautiful sacrifice my parents made to give us a toy-filled Christmas each year.

I wept for my broken heart 20 years ago. I wept for the broken hearts of those I love today.

I wept because, given the choice, I would never go back to the hurt and pain, but I want to close my eyes and relive the moments and gifts that took my breath away.

As this memory-filled montage plays over and over this morning, this week, this Christmas season - I look back and see how Christmas has been this broken and beautiful mix of joy and sorrow. And, the more I get to know and love people, it seems that's the way it is for most of us.

Here's what I know about Christmas:

I need the baby in that manger.

In the hard things - the ones that have broken and wrecked my heart - I need a Savior.
In the blessings - I need the One True King that brings eternal joy.
In the mix of hard and blessing - I need the Prince of Peace, whose love never waivers with the sway of my heart.

Jesus. He redeems our past. He redeems today. He is the hope for our future.

Friends - while the world around us grapples with both laughter and tears this season - remembering the past, hurting or joy-filled today, confused about tomorrow - we often forget they are listening and watching, and instead, we grab a megaphone to shout how our various Christmas traditions differ: Santa or no Santa, real or fake, Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays, colored or white, one present or ten. We can be so easily lured into launching social grenades at one another as we look to defend our way of celebrating Christmas.

This Christmas, if we can tell anything to the broken, the joy-filled, our children, new mamas holding their newborns, the homeless and orphan, the oppressed and hurting, and every soul who gets to hear, see, and read our voice, can our loudest shout be:

"We have GOOD NEWS to share! Do you want to hear it?"

Out of love for the Gospel, that has the power to SAVE and redeem lives, and the hope-filled message of Jesus' birth, let's not squander this season in the name of who is the "rightest" in how we celebrate. We are in the same army. ALL YEAR LONG. Fighting to share with a hurting world the same GOOD NEWS:

• God will never hand you over to despair.
• God is strong and mighty to save and He will never let go of you.
• God is the Hope you are looking for - this Christmas and every day forward.

Our broken and hurting world needs OUR Savior.
Our blessed and indulged country needs THIS King.

Let's fight, together - however we celebrate this time of year - using this Christmas season to tell the world:

Your Hope.
Your Joy.
Your Peace. In all circumstances.

He's here.