Saturday, June 9, 2018

My Favorite Baby Products Round Two

When I was pregnant with baby number one, I remember feeling so overwhelmed choosing baby products.

Bumbo.  Boppy.  Nosefrida.  Ergo.  Mamaroo.  K'tan.  Wubbanub.

 As I scrolled past the words on my screen they sounded like gibberish.  It felt like learning a new language: the secret language of motherhood.    I knew some of the basics babies needed like diapers and bottles.  But then there were so many things I hadn't even fathomed could exist like a wipe warmer and a diaper genie (which FYI doesn't grant you three magical diaper change-related wishes--I know, I was bummed when I found out, too).  Plus, there were so many different styles, models, and brands of everything.  I didn't know where to start.  What really helped me were recommendations from other moms.  Hearing what they found useful was a great starting point for me, so I thought I could provide the same for other moms.  A couple of years ago, I made this list of my favorite baby things that we used with our first son, Emerson.  While I still love those items, this time around I have some new faves to add to the list.

Zutano Booties

You know how everyone wants to give you tiny sneakers (or ballet shoes if you have a girl) because they look stinking adorable on babies' little feet?  Well, those are super fun, and good to have for pictures or special occasions, but here's how it goes most of the time with those shoes:  you finagle babies feet into them while he/she squirms and kicks and fusses and then they stay on for all of about 36 seconds at which point you toss them in your diaper bag because you can't imagine going through the whole shoe-applying process again.  This is why I love Zutano Booties--they actually stay on!  As an added bonus, since they are booties, you don't have to bother with socks.  Have you ever tried to find newborn socks in a load of laundry fresh from the dryer?  When babies are first born they are notoriously cold so it's good to have something to keep their toes cozy.  These booties get the job done with very little hassle.  Low-hassle has been a large priority for me as I adjust to life with two very needy nuggets.

Haakaa Silicone Breastfeeding Manual Pump

Okay, silicone pump, where have you been all my life?  Seriously, I have not used my big machine pump once since baby number two came along, and I have over 25 bags of breast-milk in the freezer currently!  What?  With baby number one I thought I was pretty much a pumping pro on those rare occasions I had a freezer stash of five or more bags.  I am a stay at home mom, so I don't need tons of expressed milk.  But I also love to pretend that I have a life outside of my children so I need to have some breast-milk available in the event that I choose to leave the house without the infant.  This manual pump was perfect for that.  I hate pumping.  I never make time for it.  It involves making sure several parts are available and clean.  Plus it kind of makes me feel like a cow on a dairy farm hooked up to one of those milking machines.  This little silicone guy makes expressing milk so easy!  All I did was suction it to one boob while I fed baby on the other.  In those early days after your milk comes in, you can tend to have a lot of supply.  So during that time I'd just use the Haakaa once or twice a day--usually in the morning when I was nice and full--and I'd always get 2-3 ounces for zero work!  All I had to do was suction it on and feed baby, then put the milk in a bag and pop it in the freezer.

Solly Baby Wrap

Some lovely friends of mine gifted me with this for baby number one, and I definitely used it with him, but am using it much more frequently with little brother.  I have a toddler to take care of so those times when little one really struggles to sleep I can just throw him in the wrap and go about my business.  I also have loved it for small outings:  the farmers market, the grocery store (because only one kid can fit in a shopping cart, so I found it easiest to wear the baby and let the toddler sit), the park, church (can I get an amen!  Wearing baby seriously makes my church experience so much easier and more enjoyable), even just playing in the backyard with my first.  The Solly Wrap may look intimidating at first--gee that's a lot of fabric--but I've found that once you get the hang of it it's actually pretty simple to use.  It's soft, light-weight, easily to pack and go, and is laced with magical baby sleeping powder.  The wrap makes soothing your baby and getting around with him/her a snap.

Backpack Diaper Bag

How did I survive without this before?  Okay, let me just say that I loved my first diaper bag.  It was beautiful and had tons of storage.  (I still use it for times when one kid goes here and the other goes there).  But, I do remember it feeling cumbersome at times.  It also occupied one of my arms and slid off if I needed to quickly assist my son or bend down for some other reason.  The backpack stays on better.  It frees up both of my hands.  I can even hold one of my kids while I'm wearing it.  There are so many options out there currently as backpacks are kind of trendy right now.  Ours is a Skip-Hop and I love it because has lots of pockets for organization (I hate digging through a big open bag and not being able to find anything).  I also love the clips it has that make attaching it to our stroller super convenient.  Plus, it looks cute.  I don't know if that's a priority for everyone, but it's definitely a bonus for me.  I'd say that if you have two or more kids a back-pack diaper bag is a must-have.

Dwell and Slumber Dresses

Probably my favorite thing to use for those early days after labor and delivery were my Dwell and Slumber dresses.  Yes dresses, because even though I told myself I only needed one somehow I ended up with two...They are soft, loose, flowy, and basically the most comfortable thing you could wear.  Plus, because of the way they hang and the pretty patterns and colors available, you can look put together and feminine while still experiencing the comfort of lounging in a pair of sweats.  They have snaps down the front for easy access to the goods if you're nursing.  And pockets that you can keep your snacks or phone in.  I got my first one while I was still pregnant (it was heavenly in those last couple of months when basically nothing fit) and my second one right before delivery.  I actually wore one of them to the hospital, and the other right after giving birth.  They were comfy enough to sleep in, but looked cute enough to wear home.  When we left the hospital I basically wore them on repeat for the first month+.  My body had changed.  My tummy felt round and squishy, my breasts were heavy with milk and often disproportional so I found that these dresses were some of the only articles of clothing that I felt good wearing.  I highly recommend buying one or two for recovery from birth (or even for maternity, or if you just like to feel like you're wearing pajamas without actually wearing pajamas).  They might seem a little pricey, but really they aren't when you consider that all D+S gowns are ethically made in the USA.

Halo Bassinest Swivel Sleeper

We keep our babies in our room with us for the first few months while they're still little enough that they're up multiple times a night to breastfeed, and while I"m still obsessively checking in on their breathing.  I think it's pretty common actually.  So if that's your plan, I would recommend getting some sort of bassinet.  With our first son, we used a Pac-N-Play with a bassinet insert during the early days.  We loved that option, and especially loved how the Pac-N-Play was still functional and useful after we moved baby to his crib in his own room.  This time around, we were in a new place and our bedroom had less space.  The Pac-N-Play would technically fit, but it would make the room feel pretty cramped.  So we opted for something smaller.  I absolutely love the Halo Bassinest for this purpose.  It is tall and sturdy (read:  my toddler can't knock it over or destroy it).  It is flat which makes me feel better about following safety recommendations.  The sides are mesh, which again helps me feel safe enough to sleep at night.  The sleeping space is large enough that baby has a little room to grow in it (just in case he gets too big before we're ready to transition him to his crib).  Plus, my favorite feature is that, as per its name, it swivels.  In a small space, that makes it so much easier to get around.  I can easily turn the bed so that I can fit beside it.  I can swivel it closer to the bed to take baby out of it to nurse in the middle of the night, but the swivel him further away from the bed while he snoozes.

What would you add to the list?  Did any of these products work for you and your little one?  New/soon-to-be mamas, any other questions about brands or products?  I'm no expert, but I'd be happy to let you pick my brain.

*Click here to read my first post about favorite baby items*

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Just Like God

Do you ever feel like you're missing it?  Like beautiful, profound, holy things are happening and you're just not seeing it?  Like just beneath the surface God is invisibly weaving miracles and you're too busy, or tired, or angry to notice?  I had this wake-up call about a month ago.

Somewhere between my dreams I heard the faint jingle of our chubby French bulldog's tags against her collar.  I lurched from my sleep and headed to the living room hoping to catch her before she peed on our carpet and throw her out the back door so she could do her business where nature intended.  Our squatty girl has a small bladder and sometimes still, at three years old, struggles with this potty training thing.  Naturally, at this point, I was already feeling annoyed.  I had been awoken from a dead sleep at 1:30 in the morning in order to prevent having to scrub yet another urine spot out of our cream-colored carpet. 

Out of the big glass window, one of my favorite features of our living room, I saw what just barely registered to me as snow falling.   The lights from the elementary school across the street illuminated the fluffy flakes drifting from the sky as the whole world slept.  The grass outside was frosted with a thin layer of the beautiful, glistening, stuff.

I had to wake my husband up.  He is a snow enthusiast.  We just sat on the couch for a few moments with matching groggy grins, taking it in together.  This snowfall was completely unexpected as it was the middle of February after an almost dry winter.  In fact, the weather had been in the 60s just a week prior.  This really felt out of the blue and therefore surreal.

Then a thought crossed my mind that filled me with instant bitterness.  "What if we get a snow-day tomorrow?"  I asked my husband.  As a stay-at-home-mom who's married to a teacher, the prospect of a snow day usually fills me with glee.  With it comes help with the baby, an adult to talk to throughout the day, and bonding with some of my favorite people on the planet.

This time, though, a snow day meant only that I wouldn't get to sub.  I had been substitute teaching once a week as a means to get out of the house, keep my foot in the door of education, and to earn a little bit of income.  My friend and I happened upon a really great system.  Both former teachers and current SAHMs to one year old boys, one day a week she watched both boys while I subbed and vice versa. 

Recently, there had been several weeks when, for whatever reason, I hadn't been able to sub.  Sometimes I couldn't find an opening on a day that my friend was available to babysit.  Sometimes the small district I worked in just didn't have any openings at all.  The previous week, I had a sub job scheduled for a Friday, and my friend got sick on Thursday.  Every time I missed a job, I felt frustrated, stressed, and anxious, mostly because it meant loss of precious income, and let's be honest time away from my child, that I treasured.

When I feared I was about to miss out yet again, because of a snow day of all things, I thought,"This is just like God to do this to me."  It seemed like the stars had aligned just perfectly to deprive me of subbing that day.  As if God had orchestrated this.  My job was for a Wednesday, the district had no school that Friday, and my childcare buddy was unavailable Thursday--this was my only chance to sub that week.  My natural inclination was to assume that God would rearrange the weather no-less, just to short-change me.

I felt those words crawl out of my throat, "It's just like God to do this to me."  When I heard them play back, I knew they could have only been birthed out of some ugliness in my heart.  What was I believing about God?  I was essentially believing that God was intentionally holding out on me.  That he knew how much I enjoyed subbing and how much I would love to have that money, and yet he plotted behind the scenes to take those good things away from me.  Isn't that the original lie that Eve believed in the garden of Eden?

Here's how it went down in Genesis 3:

"Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ” 4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it."

The snake (aka Satan) essentially tells Eve, God isn't protecting you.  He's holding out on you.  He knows that you would get this good thing from eating the fruit, but he is choosing not to give it to you.  Sound familiar?

Lies can only be quenched with truth.  The truth is that God is a good father.   "Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God" (1 John 3:1). The bible describes me as a child of God.  What parent doesn't want good for their children?  Sure, we may sometimes deny their wishes out of protection or preservation.  But I know that as a mom, I am looking for opportunities to bless my son.  I love to say yes to him.  It's not always possible (you can't have jello for every meal), but when he wants something and I know it's also in his best interest I delight in giving it to him.

God is no doubt the same.  The bible says, "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? So if you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!" (Matthew 7:9-11).  God is a better parent than me!  If I love to give good things to my children, then of course he loves to give good things to me.  God isn't arranging the cosmos behind the scenes to hurt or deprive me.  It is quite the opposite, "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future," (Jeremiah 29:11).  He is looking for ways to bless me.  He is working all things together for my good (Romans 8:28).

So, what came of that snowy night?  Well, instead of school being cancelled it was simply delayed:  we had a two hour late start.  That meant that I got the whole enchilada: extra time with my husband, an opportunity to sub, and the full day's worth of pay that comes with it. Not only this, but because of the snow that brought on the two-hour late start I'd received extra blessings. 

When I arrived at the school and made my way to the preschool classroom that I happened to be working in that day, I began to read the sub notes.  The nitty gritty details were scrawled across four plus pages of yellow lined paper.  The words "toileting," and "diapering," quickly caught my eye.  Here I was doing this at least partially to get a break from diapers, and this job would require me to wipe behinds additional the one that was waiting for me at home? That bitter feeling crept back into the pit of my stomach.

Then, a paraeducator walked in and informed me that due to the late-start,  preschool had been cancelled for the day.  Preschool took place in the early half of the day.  The rest of the day the teacher I was filling in for worked with small groups of kindergartners.  It also happened to be Valentines day.  Which meant that said kindergartners would be spending the day eating pink-frosted heart-shaped cookies and passing out cards that read things like, "You rock, Valentine," rather than doing their regular school work.  My job for the day was exceptionally simplified. I had essentially nothing do to for the morning, and in the afternoon I'd basically be watching kids delight over their treats.  God had lightened my load.

 Additionally, I ended up helping another teacher with some of her prep-work in lieu of teaching preschool, and she encouraged me.  In side conversation we approached the topic of staying home full-time to care for young children--something I constantly doubt and wrestle with--and she told me that she believes it makes a huge difference.  She said that as a preschool teacher, she can tell the kids who have had a parent (or relative, or great nanny) provide their full-time care.  She said that it has the potential to make a difference in development, manners, and demeanor.  She described these children as confident.  This is something that I desperately want for my children:  for them to know that they are loved and to feel secure.  I felt encouraged to press on in my work as a stay at home mom.

It turns out that it was just like God, to do this to me.  It was just like God to give me those sweet moments in the middle of the night to appreciate his beauty alongside my husband.  It was just like him to give me extra rest.  It was just like him to remove the burden from my day.  It was just like him to arrange for me to hear the very encouragement that my heart needed.

Why did I expect cursing, rather than blessing to come from God?  I believed a lie about the very nature of God.  We inform our view of the character of God based on a lot of things.  Past experiences, past hurts, past disappointments can often seep into the way we see him.  Sometimes the enemy of our souls whispers about God into our ears.  We can start to believe that he wants bad for us rather than good.  We can start to question whether or not he really loves us; whether he is really for us.  We can start to expect God to behave based on this false character that we have assigned to him.  When we view God through these tainted lenses, we can miss out on what he's doing.  We can mistake things he's intended for our good as bad.  We can even see blessing as cursing.

How are you viewing God today, friend?  Are you just waiting for him to bless you?  Are you believing that he is a good father who wants the absolute best for your life?  That because he didn't withhold even his son from you, there is no good thing he would deprive you of (provided that it's actually in your best interest)?  Or like mine was, is your view of him distorted?  Are you anticipating the next heartache he's going to bring your way?  Are you just waiting for him to leave you in the dust?

Let's remind ourselves who God is, what he's done for us, and how he feels about us.  Rather than viewing our God based on what we know about our situation, let's view our situation based on what we know about our God.  So that the next time God weaves together a miracle in our midst, we'll think to ourselves, "It is just like God to do that."

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Jesus is not Santa Claus

Recently, the president of the United States asserted that "We're saying Merry Christmas again,"  as a valiant defense against the supposed attack on Christmas, and Christian values in general.  And, well, that made me feel angry.  Because he used his platform to declare to the world that the thing Christians are willing to take a stand on is the right to tack Jesus' name onto a holiday that has pagan roots and is often more about consumerism than Jesus' love.

 Don't get me wrong, especially in recent years, I feel moved during the Christmas season.  I enjoy the peppermint this and that, I celebrate our family traditions, I relish in cheesy Christmas movies, and during December my house tends to look like someone threw up red and green all over it.  More than that, though, reflecting on the notion of a God who leaves heaven to come to earth and enters into the most humble of circumstances in loving pursuit of humanity changes me.  I love setting aside time to remember that each year.  However, sometimes I wonder what associating Jesus with the not-so-spiritual aspects of Christmas has done to our collective psyche.  How has the connection impacted our views on God and who he is?

I think that sometimes we look at God like he is Santa Claus.  Santa is generally looked on as a positive character.  He is loving and kind, generous and jolly.  Those are words that the average person might use to describe God (assuming that person believes in him).  Saint Nick is an old man.  Both he and God are often portrayed with long white flowing hair and beards.  Santa's thought to be omnipresent, "He sees you when you're sleeping, he knows when you're awake."  That's another characteristic that links him with God.

Santa is primarily a gift-giver.  Lots of folks view God this way.  He's the guy you go to when you want/need stuff.  But Santa has a naughty and nice list.  If you do enough good, and don't do too much bad, you make the nice list.  If you're not "good, for goodness sake," watch out.  You might end up with no presents, or find the ominous gift of coal lurking at the bottom of your stocking.  The bottom line is this:  we ask Santa for (material) things, and if we've been good enough he gives them to us.  Do believe that Jesus is the same way?

We treat Jesus like he's Santa Claus when all we do is ask him for stuff.  We send up prayers like, "Dear Jesus, please give me an Xbox, and an iphone 8."  We often ask for things we don't need, things that would not add value to our lives, or even things that would be destructive were we granted them.  I don't think this is necessarily wrong to do.  The bible talks about having childlike faith, and I want to be dependent upon God the way my son is dependent upon my husband and I.  That naturally leads to looking to him for things I want/need.  I think it's to be open and honest with God about where I'm at.  That includes bringing my desires to him. 

 Ultimately, though, I also want to ask God to be sovereign over my desires.  To change my desires--make them more holy, more selfless.  I want him to give me whatever it is that he knows is best for me.  Plus, if that's all we ever talk to God about we are missing so much.  God wants to have a relationship with us.  He wants to walk with us in intimacy through life.  He wants to hear about your day.  He wants to share with you his dreams for your life and his heart for humanity.  He wants to just be with you while you're doing the dishes or walking the dog.  He wants to express his love to you and for you to express it back.

Sometimes, we act like, in suite with Santa, God has a naughty and nice list.  Only, instead of coal the perceived risk is hell-fire and damnation.  (Try fitting that into a stocking).  I think we often sense that getting into heaven, or earning favor with God works on a system similar to Santa's.  Don't do too many bad things.  Do enough good things, and you're golden.  You'll make it to heaven.  Or at least, God will give you good gifts.  This is so contradictory to what the bible actually says, and to what I personally have experienced in relationship with Jesus.  Take a gander at these bible verses in Ephesians:

"But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast."

The path to heaven here is described as undeserved.  It is declared a gift from God.  The clarification is made that this is not based on works.  It can't be earned.  It can only be received through faith in Jesus.  The passage also speaks of the kindness Jesus wishes to show us.  The good things he desires to give us.  We see words like "grace" and "mercy," used.  Mercy:  not giving someone something bad even if they deserve it.  Grace:  giving someone something good even if they don't deserve it.  That is a stark contrast to the naughty and nice list!

The bible reiterates this point in Matthew:

"For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust."

God is a good father who likes to give us good gifts and that is not based on our behavior.  That, is the Jesus that I want to contemplate during the Holiday season.

With all due respect, Mr. President I am bowing out of the battle.  Someone else will have to fight the war against Christmas.  As a Christ-follower, I'd much rather stand for the downtrodden.  For the widow and orphan.  For the poor and the broken.  For the outcast and the oppressed. I'd rather stand for love.  Sure, I'll still say, "Merry Christmas," most people that I know do, religious or otherwise.  I might also say, "Happy Hanukkah," or even *gasp* "Happy Holidays," at times in consideration of my friends.  That doesn't mean that I won't be celebrating, even the pagan rituals, because evergreen trees smell amazing.  But I want to use the Christmas season to reflect on who Jesus really is.  To be in communion with him.  To celebrate who he is, what he stands for, and that day when he appeared and my soul felt it's worth.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Reckless Love

This is one of my favorite songs as of late:

According to (the new Webster?), "reckless" means:

utterly unconcerned about the consequences of some action; without caution; careless 

Reckless, is usually considered a bad thing.  Think, "You kids are being so reckless!  Make better choices!  Eat your vegetables!  Wear a helmet!"

Why then, use this word to describe God?  A creator so precise in his actions that he knew exactly where to place the earth:  were it a few million miles closer or further from the sun, the planet could not sustain life.    How could that God, ever be described as reckless?  Certainly he is not akin to a some careless hooligan.

I think the key portion of the definition is "utterly unconcerned about the consequences."  No, God isn't romping about the heavens all willy-nilly.  I think, that in this case, reckless love, refers to God knowing the consequences of his actions, and being unconcerned about them.  In fact, utterly unconcerned about them.

He does not love cautiously, only to those who will accept it or give it back.  He just loves. He loves every human. If you think about it, there's nothing in it for him. He has everything he could ever want.  He doesn't need to even give humans a second glance. Yet he still chooses to love us.  He pursues us relentlessly.  Unconcerned with what the response will be.  Unconcerned with the results.  Unconcerned that  the very people that he pours out his life for, often reject him, condemn him, or ignore him.

Jesus bore the weight of each person's sins, knowing that they would keep right on sinning.  He left his heavenly oasis, knowing he'd be rejected on the planet he had a hand in creating.  He died a torturous death, just to offer the free gift of salvation, knowing that none deserved it, and many would not receive it.  None of this concerned him.  Without caution, without care, he just went on giving and loving the very people that would spit on him, and curse him, and rip the flesh from his bones.

I don't know how to love like that.  If I'm honest, most of the love I give is very calculated.  If I really think about it, many things I do in the name of loving others, serving, or giving are actually about me.  I rub my husband's back knowing that  he will be happier with me.  I initiate time spent with my friends, desperately attempting position myself as a priority in their lives.  I give a thoughtful gift hoping that at some point in the future I might get one back.  I make investments in others hoping there will be a return.

And if not a return of love personally directed towards me, I at least expect there to be some results.  I want to be able to pat myself on the back for accomplishing something good in the world.  I want an impressive story to be able to tell.  I want something to boost my resume.  I want that student to come back and tell me that I've made a difference in their life.  I want that look of gratitude that makes me feel like maybe I'm a good person after-all.

In my short life I have seen glimpses of truly selfless love.  First, I think of my husband with his students.  (Yes, he gets paid to work with them, but he could easily get paid doing something less taxing).  Philip works in a self-contained special education room.  Most of his students are non-verbal, or almost non-verbal.  The chance of him getting a thank-you or a you-changed-my-life speech from one of them are slim to none. Every day he uses his best energies and strategies to teach them things they've often forgotten by the next time he sees them.  He gives them skills that might allow them independence, knowing that many of them will never move out of their parents' homes.  He builds relationship with each one knowing that it in some cases it will never be reciprocated.  That's reckless love.

I think of my dear friend, who reached out to me when I was at my darkest.  She had nothing to gain by loving me.  She dipped into her precious time and resources.  She gave me very one-sided phone calls and text messages.  She encouraged me.  She was courageously vulnerable with me, so that I would know I was not alone in my grief.  She gave me notes and gifts.  She prayed for me.  She gave to me during a time when I literally had nothing to give back to her.  I like to think she was unconcerned about that.

I think of my (now) sister-in-law, who gave everything to care for my brother when he was in the throes of a battle with cancer.  They were just dating at the time.  It wasn't like she had already made the, "in-sickness-and-in-health," promise.  She didn't owe it to him.  She had no guarantee that they would even stay together long enough for him to return the favor.  In fact, she didn't even know if he would make it through this.  Still, she gave up her job.  She set her dreams and ambitions aside for awhile.  She spent countless, weary hours tending to his every need.  I know it wasn't easy.  Even if she would have gained nothing from this, I know she still would have done it.  That is love without caution.

I think of motherhood.  As moms, much of the time you are giving so much to someone who can't, won't, or doesn't give back to you.  Not to mention, you never know what the result of your careful parenting will be.  Let's be honest; there have to have been serial killers who had great moms.  For all I know, Mrs. Hitler was a wonderful woman who loved her kids well (actually, I was fascinated to learn more about her story).  There's no guarantee that you are going to raise a loving, life-changing, or even somewhat civilized human.  I'm not saying that what we do as mother's makes no difference.  I'm not saying we shouldn't do it with intentionality, or that we won't reap a reward for our labor.  I'm simply stating the fact that sometimes a mother might do her absolute best and never see her investment come to fruition.  You can't control people.  You can only love them. And, that, as it turns out is pretty reckless.

I think of countless other small ways of loving without conditions.  Giving money anonymously:  without thank-yous or accolades.  Reaching out to people you feel rejected by.  Showing kindness to the naughtiest kid in class, the one that will never give you anything but further grief in return.  Having a conversation with that person who will talk your ear off and not so much as ask how you're doing in return.  Praying for healing or life change even if it never comes.  Sitting with someone in suffering.

Dear Jesus,

The distance between your goodness and my goodness is great.  In fact, I'm not sure that I've actually ever done something completely void of selfish intent.  Will you take my heart?  Will you make it more like yours?  May I reap the benefits of your love.  May I soak it in.  May I look at it in wonder.  May it pour out of me.  Like water permeating a sponge, flowing from every orifice.  Teach me to love the way that you love.  Love through me.  Help me to be unconcerned about  the consequences of my investments of time, energy, and talent.  Rather, I want to love unconditionally to the point of recklessness.  I want to throw kindness around like it's confetti--even if that means that some of it just winds up lying on the floor.  Lord, you are good.  More of you, and less of me.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Following God Like a GPS

As a language-minded person, I can't help but love metaphors.  I am also a person who happens to be terrible at directions--like I have managed to get lost in a town with an area that is less than three square miles.  While I have joined the 21st Century by owning a (30 dollars from Walmart) smart phone, I don't have a data plan.  Which means I can't access most of my apps, including the Global Positioning System (GPS), unless I'm connected to WiFi.  So I am not accustomed to the ease of having a GPS with me 24/7.

I often rely on printed directions from Google Maps or Mapquest (along with frantic phone calls to my husband) to get me from point A to point B.  So, when I decided to make a two-hour drive to an area I was unfamiliar with, I borrowed my mom's GPS.  The soothing sound of a woman's voice giving me gentle reminders where and when to turn, and letting me know I was on the right track put my mind at ease.

As I was following the twists and turns of the freeway, taking in the picturesque hills of sage brush, and singing along to my Taylor Swift album, I started thinking about my GPS as a metaphor for God.  I think we often view following God like following those printed off (or written down, if you're more old-fashioned) directions.  When, really walking in step with Christ functions a lot more like navigating with a GPS.

When using turn-by-turn directions, you know every step of the journey before you embark on it.  While--as a planner--I feel like I would love it if life worked this way, it just doesn't.  Honestly, though, that might be for the best.  Looking at all the steps together, I sometimes get so overwhelmed!  I start to question how this will all work, and wonder if I can actually do it.  I think if I really knew all the details of how my life was going to go, and what God was going to ask me to do along the way, I might feel the same.  Like a GPS, I've found that God often tells us where and when to turn in the nick of time.  We don't necessarily know the next step miles--or years--in advance.  Rather, he gives us a direction right when we need to use it.

Following a set of turn-by-turn directions evokes a lot of fear and anxiety in me.  Here's the thing:  it is so easy to make a mistake with those as your guide!  You are busy trying to make sure you're going the speed limit, and staying between the lines, and eating your road-trip snacks.  Meanwhile, you need to keep an eye on that sheet of paper with barely readable font that has all the answers scrawled onto it.  Sometimes I get confused because the directions want me to do something like make a "slight right," whatever that means, and I have nothing to encourage me that I'm going the right correct way.  In fact, I've gotten myself completely off course before and not even known it until I was obviously miles away from my destination.  The GPS, however, reminds me multiple times that my turn is coming up.  It gives me a visual, and a glowing arrow to help show me where to go.  And once I've made my turn correctly it gives me an affirming DING.  It is much harder to miss a turn when following a GPS.  I think God's the same way.  I don't think he tells us what he wants from us one time, and if we're not listening well, then, too bad.  I think he gives us lots of hints, nudges, and reminders along the way.  I think he reassures us when we're on the right track.

Perhaps the biggest pitfall of having the directions printed, is if you make one wrong turn, you're kind of screwed.  You're left to your own devices to attempt to navigate your way back onto the path.  The GPS is far more forgiving.  If I misunderstand the directions or don't make a lane change fast enough, the little woman who lives in the GPS extends me grace and finds me another route.  Sure, I might not take the intended path.  The one I inadvertently choose might even be a little longer or more difficult than the original plan.  Either way, my destination remains the same.  I continue moving in the overall same direction.  I think that's how it is following God.  We aren't going to do it perfectly, but we don't need to panic when things go awry.  In life, I often feel like I am following that sheet of directions, like if I make one mistake, if I take one turn outside of God's will, I am out of luck.  I will have to figure things out on my own, and there's a chance I'll never make it back to the right path.  Meanwhile, God just says a calm, casual, "Rerouting."

How do you view following God?  Do you want him to map out your entire future for you right now?  Do you feel anxious that you might miss a direction from him?  Do you experience a lot of fear when you think about making a mistake?  Does this sound all too familiar?  I am, often, right there with you!  Perhaps we need to stop viewing following God like following a sheet of directions.  We need to think about his path for us as less fixed.  We need to trust that he is going to help get us where we need to go; that he is going to make it known to us when he really needs us a to make a change.  And perhaps most of all, we need to believe that it's okay for us to get it wrong sometimes.  Let's trust that many paths can get us to the same destination.  If we're surrendered to him, he'll keep us moving in the same overall direction.  Let's treat following God more like following a GPS.

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