Sunday, January 8, 2012

Life lesson of 2011

I have written this post in my head almost daily since before Christmas, but haven't put fingers to keyboard because I just can't get the right words out.  And then I passed the guy who kick-started all of this in the church lobby this morning, and was nudged again to write it down.  It's basically the biggest lesson I learned in 2011, so here goes.

It started innocently enough.  In LifeGroup.  In the fall 2010 and spring 2011 we were doing what I had previously considered light-weight studies.  You know, back to the basics ... which I, in all arrogance, thought I was basically mastering.

Really?  Mastering?  I should have known I had issues when I immediately assumed I didn't have any issues.

So...  During the second of our light-weight studies, an early homework assignment was to list the names of people in our village who we could pour the love of Christ out onto.

Easy.  I blog.  I'm on Facebook.  I'm in women's studies and couples studies.  I could easily come up with the names of 50 people I was living vulnerably with, encouraging, mentoring, befriending...

And, as I'm sitting there the next week, with my list of 50 people that I can name off the top of my head, the guy to my left says, "I've decided to invite my mom into my village."

I know some of his story - bits and pieces had been shared over the months we'd been meeting.  A painful relationship with his mom.  Hurt feelings.  Significant detachment and estrangement. 

Did I just hear that right?  Did a GUY - a member of that human crowd that's not super capable of saying really heartfelt, sensitive, emotional, vulnerable things in mixed company - really just say that?  (My apologies to my male readers ... all three of you ... I realize that as I sat there in shock - and denial at what was coming my way - that I was preoccupying myself with stereo-typing you.)  And, here I am, clinging to my shallower-than-shallow list of people who are easy to shower with the love of Christ.

Let's be honest...  Is is easy to shower love on people who've never hurt us.  But...  That's not what God has called us to do.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  John 13:34-35

So, that night I let my list fall silently into the back of my Bible and knew that my heart was convicted to give this village thing some sincere thought.

I'd known what the RIGHT thing was the moment I heard my friend's words, but was I willing to submit?

A week later, I came to LifeGroup without my list in hand, but with my list in my heart.  I'd really only added one person to my list, but it was the one God wanted me to invite into my life at that time.  My mother.

I'd committed to call her a couple of times a month, and invited her out for holidays that we'd never before celebrated together.  I even invited her to a soccer game and took her to several doctors appointments.  I saw her more in 2011 than I had in the previous ten years combined.

I began to form a relationship with my mother.  A relationship that was being built on today's circumstances and events, and not on a painful history.  I began to see her from an adult's perspective, for who she is today.  I was no longer looking through the lens of a young, inexperienced, hurt, betrayed child.  Nor was I looking for who she was long ago.  I was allowing for a true second chance.  Allowing each of us to be different.  Allowing room for love to grow.

It's not always been easy.  I have had to shake those old feelings of frustration, hurt and resentment time and again.  A time-out works wonders for me - just enough of a breather to refocus on peace and joy rather than being right (or vindicated).  And I am amazed at just how much I have mellowed.

"God opposes the proud, but favors the humble."  James 4:6b

"Be strong through the grace that God gives you in Christ Jesus."  2 Timothy 2:1

Over the last ten years, I was actually pretty sure that I didn't want a relationship with my mom; but I was also vividly aware that her absence left a hole in my heart.  I praise God for putting us in that light-weight study, with the GUY who shocked me into adding my mom to my village.

“Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you."  Exodus 20:12

Not only am I enjoying the continued mending of my heart, but the blossoming relationship I have with my mom is a gift to each of us.  And to my children.  And even to my extended family, as I have really laid to rest my instinct to keep them all at an arms-length.

Thanks to my bold friend who first added his mom to his village.  I smile every time I think of you and remember how you - unintentionally - inspired such healing in my life.

"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another..."  Hebrews 10:24-25

Thursday, January 5, 2012

For the record

This occurred to me this morning, and I don't want to forget it.

Annual physicals were required under our old health insurance (for a lower deductible), so at the beginning of every year - for ten years - I'd go in for the delightful weigh-in, blood draw, and medical inquisition.

"How about exercise?" asks the kind doctor who must think I just overlooked that on the questionnaire.

An embarrassed shake of the head...  "None.  Unless you count chasing little kids??"

Then two years ago:  "I'm training for my first 5K.  I'm just starting to run, so ... 1-3 miles a couple times a week?"

Then one year ago:  "I got hurt last year.  Runners knee after the 5K, then a pinched nerve, then 5 weeks of physical therapy.  No exercise for the rest of the year.  I'm just starting to run again.  Training for another 5K.  So... 1-3 miles a couple times a week?"

And now.  Well...  I don't think annual physicals are required under our new health insurance, but, let the record reflect that I'm running about ten miles a week.  And I bike on nice days year-round, and I'll swim regularly again over the summer.  And every now and then I do some sit-ups and push-ups.

I'm no longer stationary.

That reminds me of a conversation I had with another mom last summer.  I'd mentioned training for my tri and she replied:  "Good for you.  I'm not a runner at all.  If anything, I guess I'm just a sprinter.  I only run five miles at a time, 2-3 times a week."

So...  If I'm comparing myself to her "not a runner" status, I guess I'm not even a crawler!

Whatever I am, I'll take it.  I'm pleased.  And I'm healthier than I once was.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Blessed bedtime

The boys and I headed upstairs 65 minutes ago, having agreed fairly easily on three books that we'd read before bed.  I agreed to definitely read two, and as much of the third as we could get through in our allotted time.

We breezed through The Robot and the Bluebird (sad ending, but lovely illustrations) and moved on to Jumangi.  Zach loved it, but Luke hid under the blankets in fear!  With a child who fears bad dreams, I couldn't end on that note.  So, with all the optimism I could muster, we picked up Zathura (answering the question - what happens to the Jumanji game at the end of Jumanji?).  I had no idea, but the boys had seen the movie, so they followed along with the book with eager anticipation and advanced knowledge -- and no fear, thankfully!

After 45 minutes of reading, we headed off to bed.

I tucked each of them in.  Kissed each a couple of times.  Layed down and began praying.  Was interrupted by Zach, who had two special prayer requests.  Began praying again.  Then Luke interrupted with three requests of his own.  Prayers complete, Zach crawled back out of bed to use the restroom one more time.  Then Luke crawled out of bed.  Then I tucked them both back in.  Ran downstairs for a puke bucket ... which is most likely more of a comfort item than necessity, thank goodness.  Settled the puke bucket in the kid's bed.  And had been seated in the living room for fewer than 90 seconds before Luke showed up in tears.  He needed more cuddling and more prayers to ward off bad dreams.

As I left Luke the last time, I promised the "five minute trick" (check on him in five minutes) and he asked if I could shorten it to a three minute trick tonight.  I'd already shortened it from ten to five, but I readily agreed to his proposal.  I think he was asleep before I reached his door.

As I was lying there with my youngest son, it was tempting to inwardly complain about lengthy bedtime routines and manipulative children who will do anything to delay sleep - and rob me of my "me time".  About a husband who "gets" to miss many of the bedtime hassles - you know, calling up to kids, insisting that if they giggle one more time they'll lose a privilege.  But Bryan doesn't just get to miss the hassle ... he misses the blessings.  The whispered talks.  The confessions of the heart.  The extra cuddles.  The marriage proposals.  Those few moments where the kids actually stay still and melt into your arms.  Overheard discussions among brothers who share a room.  Inside jokes and laughter shared between best friends ... who can't hit each other at the moment because one's in the top bunk while the other is in the bottom bunk.

Knowing just how drastically Zach has changed between ages 5 and 8, I know full well that these days are numbered.  Before long, my boys will read quietly to themselves; taking Mom out of the story reading mix.  And not long after that, Zach will be staying up later than me!

So, instead of complaining that bedtime sometimes takes an hour ... I'll cherish the relatively still, relatively lovely, hour that I got with my kids today.  And pray that tomorrow brings another.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Here's to 2012

I do not do New Year's Resolutions.  I never have.  But I have a few goals ... and some reminders ... in mind for 2012.  Things that excite me and make me smile.

Eliminate excesses - in all areas of life, but most specifically in the spending of my time and money.  Before saying yes (scheduling or making that purchase) think long and hard, then reconsider.  Is this good, or is this great?  Life is a matter of how we spend our days, and I want to be intentional about spending my days investing in greatness.

Celebrate wildly the completion of my Associates Degree in May.  This wasn't what my sights were originally set on, but I'm tremendously proud and have learned so very much in this journey as a non-traditional student.  With only two classes remaining, my schedule (and what's left of my sanity) thanks me for the lighter work-load and the light quickly approaching at the end of the tunnel!

Be creative.  Write a story.  Take a stab at poetry.  Scrapbook. Sew.  Paint?  Create playdoh sculptures with the kids.  Stretch my imagination and pretend to be a kid again.

Read.  A lot.  I'm shooting for a novel a month, making certain to include several classics.

Run 200 miles.  Bike and swim a lot.  Join Bryan in his first-ever 5K, participate in the OMC Women's Triathlon again, and maybe squeeze in a half marathon in Memphis on December 1.  I would also love to run a 10K charity race this year.

Choose joy over righteousness, grace over judgement, mercy over condemnation.  Be slow to anger and quick to forgive.  Embrace second (and 200th) chances. 

Step out in faith, ask for what I want, fear not the sharing of my heart.

Look for God in everything.