Sunday, May 26, 2013

Sunday Morning: Keeping It Real

Here is what my five-year-old wore to church this morning.
Note the tattoos on his arms, which he applied using a stamp after I tucked him in last night. And if he seems confused about the season, you really can't blame him because it was 46 degrees a few nights ago and 85 last week.

Here is what the three-year-old wore to church this morning.
Now guess which one I helped dress, and which one I didn't see until we got out of the car at church.

Monday, May 13, 2013

An Unexpected Blessing

Have you ever reacted to something differently than you thought you would? Maybe it was the pregnancy hormones, but I am ashamed to admit that when I found out my fourth baby was going to be a boy, after having three girls, I cried. I was surprised. And scared. I knew how to do girls. They were like me. But a boy? What on earth would I do with a boy? And how could he possibly turn out normal in a family of all girls? Would I have to buy him dinosaurs? Because I really don't like dinosaurs--I think they are icky.

A few days later the dust settled and I decided I would just not encourage any dinosaur toys, and I felt a little better. I figured a baby is a baby, and I could do babies, and we'd figure out the whole boy thing as we went along.

Surprisingly, having a boy felt different to me from day one. I had a sense that he and I had a bond that was meant to prepare him to move away from me in a way that was different from the girls. With daughters, you'll always have "girl things" in common with them. But with boys, they grow up and move on to be a man with a family of their own. And that reality somehow makes the bond you have with them all the more sweet. Maybe it seems unexpected in some way.

But the thing I was most unprepared for was the way a boy melts your heart when he brings you a bouquet of flowers. You expect girls to pick you flowers, and you know they like the flowers as much as you do. But boys? Somehow it seems like it was just done for you.

I didn't know I needed a boy, but God did. I didn't know how wonderful and sweet boys could be, but God did. And I didn't know that my life wasn't complete without this sweet face in it to challenge me and light up my life, but God did. I'm so thankful He gives us what we need rather than what we ask for!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Releasing the Creative Wonders Within, Part 2

Last week I wrote about part one of the creative process: just go do it. There is discipline involved in this soul-healing act of creating. Sitting down in your creative space is half the battle. But there's another part too, and that is learning to silence the critic in your own head.

It's not good enough. I don't like this part of it. This isn't how I thought it would turn out. I like hers better....

It's kind of a metaphor for life, isn't it? We look at our circumstances and think we're not doing well enough at life. We feel like we're failing someone. Or everyone. We don't like what's happening around us. Things don't turn out like we expected them to, and we would rather have someone else's life. We acutely feel the disconnect between the-way-it-was-supposed-to-be and the-way-it-is. The curse of sin and death is all around us.

So, what should we do about it? And how does this relate to creativity? I think the way we are supposed to face life is to focus on the constant of God's character and filter our impression of life through the lens of that truth. If you look at the book of Job in the Bible, Job's problem wasn't that bad things happened to him and his friends gave him bad advice (although both of those things are true); his problem was that he lost perspective. He began to view God in terms of his experiences rather than viewing his experiences through the unchanging truth of who God is. God didn't change, and His love for Job didn't change, but Job allowed his circumstances to deceive him. He began to suspect God rather than trusting Him.

I think all of this relates to the creative process. The most important aspect of who you are is that you are created by and loved by the almighty God. And if you rest in that truth, the flaws in your creations don't matter so much. You can ease up on the negative self-talk and enjoy creating because you know your Heavenly Father delights in you and in all you do in His name. Just as you delight in everything your child lovingly creates for you, God lovingly delights in YOU, and in everything that you pour out of your soul and into your creations. Your accomplishments start to not matter so much, because you know deep in your soul that you are loved absolutely. And when you feel that way, you are freed up to enjoy releasing everything God put inside you without worrying about what others think.
The just-turned-three-year-old's self-portrait.

The almost-six-year-old mainly draws monsters these days.

Something I created this week.

So, dear sister, I hope that today you know that you are loved, and I hope that you know that no matter what your life looks like God is still good and He will always love you and work for your good, and I hope that the deep knowledge of those truths enables you to live free from self-criticism, free to be all that God created you to be.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Releasing the Creative Wonders Within, part 1

I started writing this last night, when the children were heading for bed and I was in a peaceful frame of mind. This morning has not been very peaceful, and my children have made me feel like an absolute failure as a mother. The weather outside is cold and gloomy, and the last thing I feel like doing is being this is now for me more than you!

You, dear friend, are an artist. You can create amazing things. And in fact you are supposed to create amazing things. That's why God created you in His image--to create.

So, today, go create something. It'll make you feel better. I promise. Maybe you want to get out some crayons and color something. Maybe you want to write. Or cook. Maybe you want to sew, or make jewelry, or garden. Maybe you want to make music. Whatever it is, go do it.

I give you permission to leave the dirty dishes on the counter, to ignore the laundry for one more day. I give you permission to order pizza for dinner rather than cook. I give you permission to let the kids create along with you or do their own thing, whichever they prefer. I give you permission to give a few precious minutes to yourself, to create whatever makes you smile.

You don't have time, you say? Ninety percent of this creative process is showing up. It's pushing aside all the excuses and going into your creative space (which may be your kitchen table or your yard) and doing something. It's starting anything, even if your first few tries are not things you ever want to be seen or heard by anyone else. It's taking the risk of putting pen to paper or hand to trowel or spoon to mixing bowl.

So stop worrying about whether you  have three hours to devote to it, or if you're in the mood, or if you're going to like what you come up with. Stop feeling guilty about the should-be-doings. And just let the creative juices flow for 15 minutes. Or five. Or However long you have. Put away the excuses and create.

Ready? Set. Go!

p.s. Tell me what you made. But more importantly, tell me how it made you feel. I bet you'll feel happy and content and empowered when you're finished.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Weary of Sin

I woke up this morning with the sun streaming in my window at 6:30. It was heavenly. And then I cozied down in my chair with my cup of coffee and read my Bible before the day began. I was in a great frame of mind...until the kids made their appearance.

Sometimes I wish they would just grow up a little, ya know? Yesterday two kids lied to me and forgot important things I had reminded them about repeatedly. Others bickered with each other and whined when asked to do basic maintenance on their own space (in other words, pick up the pile of socks and underwear in the middle of their room). Today we're at it again--arguing about whether or not to do what mom said, or just plain not doing it and then "running out of time." I'm weary of the task of parenting.

Of course, they are acting their age. It is part of being a kid to be irresponsible (although maybe not quite THIS irresponsible), to lie, to be lazy, to fight against authority...Just like it's part of being an adult to be impatient and unloving. It's all called sin.

In my Bible reading this morning I read Nehemiah 9, which is the account of the people's repentance after the wall was completed. There is a long prayer that the Levites gave, recounting Israel's history and God's faithfulness. I made a list in my journal of all the things it says about God...He is gracious, merciful, provider, creator, slow to anger and full of unfailing love, forgiving, just, true to His word. I came up with 21 adjectives from this chapter. Then I made a list of all the descriptions of the people...stubborn, rebellious, unfaithful, disobedient, obstinate. There isn't one positive description of the people, unless you count the fact that at that moment they were repentant.

It was a good reminder on a day when I'm weary of parenting that this muddle of sin we're in is part of life, but there is hope. Kids will act like kids and adults will act like kids and we are all stuck in sin but for this: "You are a God of forgiveness, gracious and merciful, slow to become angry, and rich in unfailing love. You did not abandon them..." (Neh. 9:17). And He will not abandon us. His gracious help is always available when we ask for it.

If today is one of those days for you, and you're a little tired of the sin in your heart and the sin in those around you, take courage. God is merciful and gracious, full of unfailing love for you and for everyone around you. Even our stubborn and rebellious hearts do not make Him love us any less!