Saturday, January 26, 2013

Faithless heart

One of my favorite albums of all time is Amy Grant's "Lead Me On". I know, I know. Tease all you want. It's totally old-school, with an above average dose of circa 1988 synthesizer. But it is brutally honest.

Some lyrics from the song "Faithless Heart":

"At times the woman deep inside me wanders far from home
And in my mind I live a life that chills me to the bone
A heart running for arms out of reach
But who is the stranger my longing seeks? I don't know.
But it scares me through and through,
Cause I've a man at home, who needs me to be true.
Oh faithless heart, be far away from me
Playing games inside my head that nobody else can see
Oh faithless heart, you tempt me to the core,
But you can't have ahold of me, so don't come around anymore."

Now before you think that this is some kind of a public confession regarding unfaithfulness in my marriage, it's not that. That's not even on my radar.

But here is my public confession:

I struggle with the ins and outs, the ho and hum of the life of a stay-at-home-mama. I am all too familiar with that buzz of restlessness, that sigh of dissatisfaction. I want to be sensitive here: I am mindful of the women who desperately long to hold a baby in their empty arms, I am mindful of the mamas whose babies are with Jesus. I am mindful of the single mamas who would love nothing more than to stay home with her children. I conceived three healthy children, carried them mostly to term, and they are bright, robust, amazing children. I have unspeakably more than I deserve. I know this.

But to make myself out to be a Pinterest-y perfect mom who has alphabetized CDs with chronological pictures of each of her children since birth, stored in a weather-proof Sterilite tub in her dust-free attic? The mom who cheerfully makes living room forts and builds snowmen in subzero temperatures? That's not me, folks. Believe what you will based on the highlight reel of my Facebook page, but mommy-hood is a serious struggle for me. Joy is often elusive, lost while I am bogged down in the daily grind of meal preparation, bill paying, and the ineffable pain of stepping on a lego.

We have had sickness in our family for more than a month. I am weary of snotty noses and puke. My kids fight all the time. Over everything. Over nothing. My extended family is far away, and I feel like I am "on" all the time. My baby--who by all accounts is pretty much the sweetest thing ever-- is also a royal terror. She doesn't sleep through the night (not even close), and I-- the firmly attached mama who staunchly believes in baby-led weaning-- am growing resentful of her near-constant demands of "I want more boo-boo! I want nurse!!" Approximately 92483948 times a day. My children might actually have a tape-worm, because all I hear all day long (besides "I want boo-boo!") is "I'm HUUUUNNNNNGGGRRRYYYYY!!!!!!!!" 7 seconds after they finished lunch. Oh wait, there is another thing I hear all day long: (Hit, punch, smack!) "MOMMMMMY, Cana hit me!!!!!" "Mom, Evie took my toy!!" And rounding out the top 40, "Mommy, can you wipe me?!?"

My children are my life. I love them more than I can express.

But I (daily?) fantasize about leaving.

There, I said it.

Go ahead and judge me all you want, but there it is.

Sometimes I want to leave.

Let me first make this disclaimer: I never would. I never could.

But dammit, I just want to put a tampon in without 3 kids asking me what I am doing. I want to drink a cup of coffee without having to microwave it six times because I was interrupted to wipe asses or referee fights. I want to sleep all night long, and get up in the morning when I want to, not when little birdy mouths are opening and closing, chirping for nourishment. I want to be appreciated and recognized for the sacrifices I make, instead of constantly being asked to make more.

The greatest blessings of my life-- the ones for whom I have longed with all my being... in the darkest corners of my heart, I sometimes wish them away. I selfishly long for my own time, my own space, my own stuff (that isn't broken, or colored on, or otherwise marred with sticky fingers).

It is into this climate of stress and selfishness that Satan whispers his sweet lies. "Did God really say...?" "If God loved you..." "You know, this is really your husband's fault. If he didn't work so much..." "I know that you are trying to eat healthfully, but that's just a small cookie and it would make you feel so much better..." "What's this about a 'budget'? Just go ahead and buy that purse on Etsy. You deserve it. It will make you happy." "You know, if you followed your heart..."

And oh, it's so easy to listen. It's so easy to justify and to agree and to believe-- "You're right, I DO deserve that!" "Yes, it's not a big deal!" "I SHOULD follow my heart!"

But into this divided, broken being, Jesus reminds me:

"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?"
(Jeremiah 17v9)

Using my heart as a litmus test for the direction of my actions is despairingly foolish. It will lie to me every time. My heart is desperately sick, and will deceive me at each turn. I don't need its falsehoods and exaggerations.

I need truth.

The Lord my God goes with me.
He goes before me.
He is able to sympathize with my weaknesses, because He has been tempted in every way.
He is mighty to save.
When my heart is overwhelmed, He will lead me to the rock that is higher than I am.
He has not left me without a helper.
I can approach the throne of grace with confidence that I will find mercy.
He knows what I need.
He will strengthen me and help me.
I can come to Him and have rest.
There are new mercies every morning.
All these things that I need will be added to me.
He loves me with an everlasting love.

This is an intense season for me, fraught with difficulties both real and perceived. I have been counseled so many times to enjoy these times, to delight in them. There are moments of that, but can I be honest? I am mostly just trying to get through them.

But emotions aside, today I am taking a stand for truth. Because you see, the promise is only as valuable as the one who makes it. I know that Satan is a liar, and his promises are worthless. I know that he does not want to see me prosper. I know that he does not love me. I know that Jesus loves me more than I can conceive. I know that Jesus has good plans for me, plans to prosper and not to harm me. I know that He has much to teach me in this season, and I want to sit at His feet and listen.

So I will obediently walk on, though sometimes it feels more like trudging. I will lace up snow boots and build a snowman and I will clothespin sheets into the most epic fort ever. I will fold endless piles of laundry, and thank Jesus that we have clothes to wear. I will nurse my baby for the 40th time today, and thank my Heavenly Father for the miracle of her life. I will reread a board book for the 60th time, and thank God for the gift of language. With God's grace, I will choose a gentle answer instead of a harsh reply. I will choose a smile instead of a furrowed brow. I will pray for my children when I want to curse them. I will choose truth instead of a lie. I will choose love. I will choose hope. I will choose joy.

Faithless heart, be far away from me. You can't have ahold of me, so don't come around anymore.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

I don't hate my body

I was just chatting with some dear friends about our body issues. One quipped, "Why can't chubby thighs be adorable on adults? I could just EAT my baby's thighs."

It's true. We're born covered with sweet little rolls. We delight in our children's double chins and dimpled elbows, and-- if I am completely candid-- laugh over their quad-ginas. (Don't know what that is? Use some imagination; chubby baby legs + little bitty girl parts all smooshed together. Awesome.)

And then somewhere around puberty, it starts all going downhill. We get boobs too early, and that's embarrassing. We get boobs too late, and that's even more embarrassing. All of a sudden, we deal with stinky armpits and periods and acne and frizzy hair-- and it's just all wrong. And unfortunately, for many women (most women?), we never really grow out of that awkward-comparing-ourselves-to-other-ladies-stage. We want to raise confident daughters who see their bodies as a beautiful gift from their Creator, but how? How can we tell them that God created them good, when all we see in our own bodies is cellulite, stretch marks, and crow's feet?

I am right there with these self-loathing women. Or, I should say, I was. But two formative things happened in the last couple of years that changed my perspective dramatically.

The first was Ruby's birth. Now, let me first say-- the births of all of my children were amazing experiences. There is nothing like it. But Ruby's was different. It was magical. For Evie and Cana, my births were in the hospital, flat on my back, while a team of nurses and an obstetrician screamed at me to "hold your breath and PUSH!!" I was hooked up to monitors that told me whether my contractions were "sufficient", and someone else told me when my body was ready to have my baby. Because of complications with my pregnancy, I had to have Ruby in a hospital, too. But it was a completely different experience for me. I had chosen a group of like-minded women to assist me, midwives who intrinsically believed in the power of my body, of the rightness of natural birth. No one told me when I was ready to have my baby, no one told me when to push. It was quiet and dark, and for the first time in my life, my body was right. Sure, it was chubby and distended with stretch marks, but it was right. It was strong and capable. A year and a half later, I still haven't lost the euphoria and empowerment of Ruby's birth.

The second thing that changed my perspective was this past November, when my awesome friend Stacey and I ran the Outer Banks Half Marathon. It wasn't what it could have been for me, as a previous injury had sidelined much of my training and preparation. But it was 13.1 sweaty, hard miles of heady "I am woman, hear me roar" power. We finished, sore and completely depleted-- but completely on top of the world. For a woman who, six years ago literally couldn't run A mile (much less many), I felt unstoppable.

Now, don't get me wrong. There are things about my body that I'd kill to change. I am in the process of losing the pounds that have been progressively packed on with each pregnancy. If someone offered me a boob job to shore up the shriveled little sand bags hanging from my chest, I would take it in a heart beat. Microdermabrasion to remove that chicken pock scar from when I was 5? Yes, please.

But the point is-- those things no longer define me. I can rejoice in my body, for while I don't love the extra pounds, I love the fact that my body was a safe haven for each of my babies; they were protected and tenderly grown inside my belly. I can't hate my stretch marks when they foretold the most precious of blessings. My boobs may hang precariously close to my navel, but they have nourished each of my girls; saggy-ness is a small price to pay for the immeasurable joy of being the sole-sustainer for my children's first year of life. My body is not perfect-- but it is the body God designed for me, to complete the tasks that He has given ME to complete. It is strong and it is capable. Next year, I plan to run the 1/2 marathon with a little less chub-rub in the thigh area... but if not, I will simply rejoice that my legs are able to run at all.

Friend-- you are wonderfully and fearfully made. God has plans for you, that only you can complete. He knit you together inside of your mother's womb (and I thought I was crafty!) and His works are wonderful.

When you are tempted to despair at your snug jeans, or at the gray hair that cropped up overnight-- remember that the Savior of the world rejoices over you with singing. He has called you by name, and you are His.

I'd call that beautiful.