Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Time for Extravagance

Extravagant grace. Extravagant love. Extravagant forgiveness.

I never quite understood any of this (and still don't fully) until I read "The Hiding Place" by Corrie Ten Boom. After that book, nothing in life seemed to be as bad as what she went through. My life seemed so small in comparison - my problems became "first world problems."

After my last post, some have wondered about the extravagant grace I was offering to the mother... was it too much? How can I find the room to heap grace upon someone who held the keys to save a life? It's the same reason I can heap grace onto a woman who tells me she aborted her unborn child. The same reason I think there's still hope for men and women who are currently sitting in prison. Does it make the action right? Of course not. Am I lessening the weight of sin and poor choices? Absolutely not.

The guards in Nazi prison camps did horrendous things to prisoners. They humiliated them. They beat them. They killed them. However, in the end after it was all said and done, Corrie Ten Boom, who was the ONLY survivor from her age of women in the prison camp (by a clerical error within one week's time of the mass killing), traveled around trying to rehabilitate former prisoners. She spoke of the need to forgive in hopes that everyone could live in peace once again. But then, it happened... she was faced with the first of her actual jailers. And not only that, but he approached her! Read on to find out what happened...

It was at a church service in Munich that I saw him, the former S.S. man who had stood guard at the shower room door in the processing center at Ravensbruck.  He was the first of our actual jailers that I had seen since that time.  And suddenly it was all there – the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, Betsie’s pain-blanched face.
He came up to me as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing.  “How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein.” he said.  “To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!”
His hand was thrust out to shake mine.  And I, who had preached so often to the people in Bloemendaal the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side.
Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them.  Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more?  Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him.
I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand.  I could not.  I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity.  And so again I breathed a silent prayer.  Jesus, I cannot forgive him.  Give me Your forgiveness.
As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened.  From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.
And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His.  When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.

Corrie later went on to describe that moment as never knowing God's love so intensely as she did right then. His extravagant love and forgiveness. Jesus Christ has died for all of us; are we going to ask for more? Are we going to ask for more when we encounter people who sin so greatly in our eyes that we just don't have it in our hearts to forgive them?

I know of a few instances off the top of my head where I just didn't have it in me to forgive someone who had done me wrong. It hurt too much. It was too close. The wound was still fresh. But I also knew that Jesus had enough forgiveness for the both of us, and as I willingly walked it out, He did the forgiving through me and I was eventually able to say with confidence that I forgave. It wasn't quick, it certainly wasn't pain-free, and reconciliation was not always involved. But forgiveness was there, and continues to be.

Maybe I'm too much- but He was too much, first. None of us deserved it then, and none of us will ever deserve it... EVER. It's risky to offer extravagant grace, love and forgiveness. I'm positive that in this world, that kind of love, grace and forgiveness won't feel good... I might even get hurt. But I'd rather risk the triple jump in hopes that He'll help me land it, than just play it safe and barely get off the ground.

Lord, help me give what you've so readily and extravagantly given me. I'm not perfect, and I won't always get it right. I'm taking a risk right now even talking about this in public, because I'm certain that I won't always get it right. But I do know that when you tell me to love, forgive and extend grace... that you will also provide it. Amen.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

It Could Happen to Me

Two days ago, I was shocked and distraught at the story I read about a one year old child who died in the backseat of a car after her mother forgot to drop her off at the babysitter's house, and then went to her husband's workplace and forgot the child was in the car (because the child fell asleep, I think). Apparently when the babysitter called three hours later to find out why she hadn't gone by, the mom rushed out to the car, but it was too late.

Tears welled up in my eyes as I relayed the story to my husband, watching the sadness on his face, as it must have been a reflection of my own. And then I read all of the comments to the story, where people accused the mother of being a monster, being on drugs, or any number of hateful things that you can think of to say to a mother who just lost her child. And I secretly sat there on the couch and hoped and prayed that nothing like that would ever happen to me... because it could.

I end each day thanking the Lord for protecting my son through my own dingbat actions or inactions. I'm thankful to just make it through each day with everyone in my family still being alive... but mostly my son, because he relies on me. That one's in my court and my husband's court. Maybe all of you moms out there have it all together. Maybe there's no chance in the world that you would ever do such a thing. But I am not like that. I don't have it all together... I barely have a tenth of it together.

Last year my brother was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and he had surgery to remove it. He had described episodes that he was having for months before the tumor was discovered... episodes like forgetting where he was going while he was driving somewhere. Or maybe just stopping for a minute and forgetting even where he was or why he was there. I remember listening to that and thinking, "Oh, it's like mom brain." There isn't a week that goes by where I don't forget everything I own at the house, or forget where I'm driving, or wonder where on earth I left my brain. So, yeah, I've done things that would probably be considered crazy or bad mom-ish... but NEVER have I done them on purpose. And so, as I was reading this heartbreaking story, I thought, "That could happen to any of us. It could happen to me." And don't think for one second that she isn't beating herself up enough without all of the hurling insults from us onlookers.

The first year of my son's life was a total blur to me. Even 2.5 years into his life, I'm still wondering what has happened to my brain. As women, we're expected to have it all together, but I'm here to tell you that NONE OF US DO! We can pretend all we want. We can fakebook all of our glorious pictures of how glorious our kids are, and how glorious we are as parents, but behind closed doors, you know how quickly things can get crazy. Some of us work 40 hour work weeks, come home to work at home, and try to remember all that we're supposed to remember and do and be. And some of us stay home with the full-time motherhood that extends from sun up to sun down and after. I don't care whether you work or not... motherhood is HARD. So, for once, instead of holding each other up to impossible standards, why don't we just hold each other up? Why don't we create a support system and encourage each other once in a while? If I had been that mother, would you be hurling the insults at me, or insulting my mothering skills behind my back, and pretending that you have it all together and that there's no room for grace in my life? Or would you know my heart, and know that I would rather die than to see something happen to someone in my family? What about the people who wouldn't know my heart?

I don't know this mother's heart, but I do know what it's like to be a mother. My heart aches for her. And we all have room to grow as parents. Some of us just haven't seen tragedy, and some of us never will. I'm not saying that we should all be haphazard and just throw caution to the wind with our kids. But deep down in my heart, I know that there's more to this story. I hope there's more to this story. And while I don't know the details, I trust that God does. So I will not be throwing the book at this mom. You can do whatever you want. But be sure to never mess up in your own life because heaven forbid we extend a little grace to each other every now and then. And while you're at it, pray for me... because it could have been me.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Reading Nook!!!

I know my blog posts are once in a blue moon, but I try to save the good stuff for posting. Today was good stuff. I've been wanting to create a better organizational space in John Michael's room, while also creating for him a nice little reading nook (the boy loves his books). Since we were going to be in Atlanta for the 4th this year, we decided to make a pit stop by IKEA on the way home to pick up some goodies. But first, you have to see the before pictures (as much as it makes me cringe).

We still had a changing table in his room, because as much as I wish we were fully potty-trained... we're not. Luckily, that table isn't really a changing table, so I was itching to get it into the living room to have a more functional piece in there as well.

Ugh, the toys. There are soooo many toys! See that tub behind his bed? Also full of toys.

And... this isn't going to get me the "parent of the year" award, but this is real life, folks. Yes, I push-pinned a duvet cover over his window to block out the light. A momma's got to do what a momma's got to do when it comes down to nap time and no real curtain options around the house.

Michael saw somewhere where someone (like my descriptions there?) had taken some Expedit bookshelves from IKEA and turned them into benches. The bookshelves and the storage bins were easy. But as we walked around IKEA, I wondered what on earth I would do for the cushioning on top. When I told Michael to be on the lookout for a long cushion, he spotted these individual blue cushions in the dining area. He's a genius! They worked perfectly!

AND they velcro underneath to keep them in place! I tell you, a genius!

The real test was whether or not Max approved. I'd say we got two paws up!

Next was my curtain issue. I couldn't let the boy keep duvet curtains. Plus, that blue was going to clash with my new bright blue cushions. So, the original curtain that I wanted to put up in his room was crying in a closet somewhere because it was just too darned sheer for nap time. Enter light blocking panels, stage left. I laid out my curtain on top of one panel and cut the bottom off a couple of feet to leave it a tad longer than the panel.

And because the thought of pulling out my sewing machine made me want to curl up into fetal position, I stitch witched that sucka!

Attached my handy dandy clip on holders at the top... (I'm super technical).

And then I picked up the curtain with the overlapping panels and realized the panels were going to gape open in the middle.

 So, I pulled out my MacGuiver belt and safety pinned them together in a few places. Oh come on people! Anything is better than a duvet curtain!

About midway through my toy sorting, two of the Elmos threw down a stomp routine.

And then, voila! The toys were put away, the books were up on ledges (also from IKEA), some throw pillows made their debut, and the new normal curtain was up!

I just love these book ledges. I'm doing some subliminal messaging there with that purple potty book front and center. :)

Blankets and babies are ready for some snuggling!

Look at that awesome, real curtain! The panels do a FABULOUS job of blocking out the light too!

And the last little finishing touch is John Michael's art piece that he painted at Little House of Art in Atlanta this past weekend. I hope to continue to switch this piece out as he continues to create.

That's it for our reading nook! Hope you enjoyed!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A Time for Acceptance

It's funny how the Lord brings back memories to drive home a point, you know? All day long, I've been talking to Him about acceptance, and how that one little thing can make people do crazy things. I have been observing people around me, and how their striving for acceptance can sometimes make them lose sight of the world around them. I've seen myself doing it in ways that I'm not proud of. So I was asking the Lord why it is that we humans strive so much for acceptance, while sometimes stepping on others to gain it. It was quiet all day though. Maybe I was distracted.

Until I started washing my face tonight, and I was reminded of a mother/ daughter moment from Jr. High. I know you probably won't believe this unless you were friends with me back then, but I struggled a lot in the 8th grade. It just wasn't my year. I was awkward, uncomfortable with myself, slow to the good comebacks I'm now a little too privy of, and people made fun of me. I was living in a single parent home with a mother who was literally working herself to the bone while also trying to attend every single extra-curricular event my brother and I were involved in. I was extra sensitive, something I had developed in early childhood. I can remember as a child when someone in my life asked me if I was going to cry every time someone looked at me the wrong way. The answer was yes, and I knew it. I didn't want people to look at me the wrong way. My whole life revolved around doing everything I could to make people look at me the right way. But nothing I did in 8th grade made it any better. It was the only year in my entire life that I uttered the words, "I never want to go back to school there again."

My mom developed a ritual that year that I had completely forgotten about until the Lord reminded me of it tonight. She would get out the little jar of Noxema, we would cover our faces with it, and watch tv in her bed until we could no longer stand the stinging and we'd wash it off. It was something she had done with her mother, and she was passing along the tradition. The time of sting allowance gradually increased, as these moments became some of the best conversations I had with my mother growing up. We still have great conversations, but something about the Noxema drew out more than just the dirt in my pores.

I eventually made it through the awkward year, and turned into the supermodel you all know and love. (cough cough- couldn't help myself) I realized tonight that the awkward year, while I unsuccessfully strived for acceptance, helped me to become who I am today. Not only was I striving for acceptance that year, but there were others who were trying just as hard to be accepted, while keeping the spotlight on me so that it wouldn't show their awkwardness too. Sometimes we think that this is just a kids game, that junior high is the only place for such nonsense. I'm here to tell you that it's very much alive in our workplaces, homes, and churches too. There will always be a boss, and there will always be employees trying to show how great they are at the expense of others. There will always be that one family member who's easy to make fun of. There will always be cliques at work or at church, because we all want to be accepted. The problem remains that there will be that little 8th grade girl in all of us who will eventually get stepped on, or made fun of, or brushed aside... and no one will notice...

Except for the people who choose to build others up; the ones who pull out the jar of Noxema and make that trampled little one feel like they do have something to contribute, that they're beautiful and valuable. Look at how Jesus treated the least of these... THIS is our calling.

"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing." 1 Thessalonians 5:11