Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Happy New Year.

Really? I am not an optimist.

Sorry. It is just not my “personality” to be so - not unlike a whole list of Christ-like character traits which I lack in my personality.  Not to say that I enjoy that about myself; in fact, I’d very much like to change. There are a lot of things I’d like to change about myself, but I find this relentless little thing that is persistently in the way...

That little thing is me.

It is not really “me” in the truest sense. I know that I am multifaceted: body/flesh, soul (mind, will, emotions) and spirit (that sorta indescribable part that is, per the Bible, eternal and that makes me more than particles and chemical reactions). The “me” that is in my way is the body and soul part.

Someone I respect told me lately that the body and the soul could care less about the success of the spirit. They are pretty much into themselves. For all of me, I experience this as “doing the thing I don’t really want to do, and NOT doing the thing I really DO want to do.” The harsh me, what my soulish self generally says initially,  is “Man up, girl. Get  some willpower and determine your destiny.” Hard to argue with the success of implementing such a challenge.

But, again, that soul is double-minded - and STRONG on both fronts. The NEXT thing this sad little soul of mine says, generally in the moment of my decision, is “I don’t feel like it.” OR, better yet, “I just feel like it and I want it now.”

Let me get a little personal and specific. You know I do that.

I realize in doing this I risk limiting the possible application of my point in the life of whomever is reading this. But, hopefully, by the end, you will be able to insert your own struggle.

Let me start with that seemingly harmless sustenance that is... chocolate.

I am only half joking that it is harmless. Don’t think I am super crazy for assigning such intensity to a trivial thing. Believe me, there are LOTS of little things that destroy lives. At least they start out little.

So, I strongly desire some chocolate, really, everyday. Seems harmless. In moderation, all is well, right? Well, I don’t moderate well.

And if it were limited to just chocolate (in moderation) I might not recognize the deeper issue within me. But, I have realized how pervasive the underlying drive to go with my feelings is in my life and quite frankly it is robbing me of zoe (which is greek for “abundant life”, not life in the physical sense, but in the God sense).

I hate, and I really mean HATE, to see that I am so controlled by my emotions. I noticed that I don’t do it if I don’t feel like it (say that in a whiny voice for full effect). AND if I DO feel like it, well, it is decided. It is getting done. So the crux of the decision rests upon my FEELINGS.

This is news to me from me. I don’t deny that I am emotional like most women, but I did not really see myself as making many decisions from that place. I always test out in the Myers-Briggs as being one of those judging/thinking types - not the touchy feely type. I don’t tend to inwardly respect emotionally controlled people, although outwardly I might say it has it’s value. I don’t really believe that deep down. Just keepin’ it real. But, oops, I may be one of “those people.” So, I find myself not really  respecting this new found thing going on inside me. But, honestly, this inside activity is not new. I have been doing this all my life. Until now.

This is what some people in churchy language (aka "christianese") call a “stronghold.” That is all I am going to say about that.

Because MY FEELINGS about something are so key to my actually ACTING on something I tend to expend a lot of energy trying to get my feelings to line up with what I really want deep down. But that “deep down” is the realm of my SPIRIT. My emotions are out of their league there. And, my soul, remember, does not give a rip about my spirit or it’s agenda. Which, as a Christian, is the will of God in my life.

So, it’s a New Year. Again. “Yippee,” my Pessimism says. But this is because I have grown cold to thinking much can really change. But this time, this year, IT has to because my spirit is now at the point of dispair if  it doesn’t. And I think the things I really  want in life are at risk of not coming to fruition if my spirit does not take the driver’s seat. To reference a recent political gaffe, my soul and body need to “ride in the back of the bus.” You get the idea?

Here is what is at risk for me: being the kind of mom I want to be, juggling the many talents God has given me (not bragging - they are FROM HIM), keeping the kind of house that will be supportive of my family and provide a refuge, living for longer than 50 years, having relationships that grow over the years instead of fading away, having a marriage that is all that God says it can be. I could go on, but I think you see that this thing that has been operating within me IS as pervasive as I said in the beginning. It is not just about chocolate or dieting or being a better person for the sake of being a better person. And making an action plan to perfect my performance in each of these areas is overwhelming, right. And you know where feeling overwhelmed leads, right?... yes, that's right... to chocolate.

It is about putting my SPIRIT in the driver’s seat.

But, I was clueless as to how to get that to happen. I am concrete, detail oriented. God knows this.  I know it is more complicated than everyone jumping out of the car and running around the outside changing places like I did in high school. I cannot recall what that is called when we did that? If you remember please leave a comment. It is going to drive me nuts. That was fun, by the way. I think I might like to do that again sometime. I digress...

In setting out to find out how to rearrange my Chief Operating Officer (ha) I discovered a very unlikely tool. Since I was fed up, turns out fasting of all things was going to be my approach (pun totally intended). I hated the sound of it. I hated the idea of it. I immediately thought it was not wise. I blew it off as a back door way to lose weight and call it spirituality.

I hope I name your excuse in here too.

I was pessimistic (surprise) that I could actually do it. I thought the idea seemed ridiculous and rationally unrelated to real change. At least any real change that I imagined. I thought that it would not fit my lifestyle well. I thought it might make me be mean to my kids if I felt hungry.

But, I tell my kids all the time, “nothing can make you mean. YOU chose to be mean.” Nice. I need to listen up.

I had a whole host of excuses and conversations going on within me leading up to my fast. And I DECIDED (which I think was my spirit’s first official act) that I would NOT LISTEN to any excuses this time, even if they were legitimate. I started it because I was done with all MY other approaches. I also found a ton of Biblical passages that said this was a good idea if you want to draw closer to God and be able to hear His direction for your life. In the older portions of the Bible, before Jesus, folks fasted when they were mourning or if they wanted God to do something or not do something for them... But, now, per Jesus, we are to fast to draw closer to Him, to get that order right in our lives (SPIRIT in charge, body/flesh and soul following).

So it is an old practice with a new end result. To experience a closeness with God that is far superior to any gratification of my flesh or soul IS MY GOAL. When someone can say NO to food, one of the most basic needs in life, in order to say YES to someONE (who, by the way, cares so much more about his well being than his body or soul does)  his spirit desires, what can he not do in life?? I think fasting may prove to be very effective. I am sure that God is glad I agree with Him. Melissa, Melissa, Melissa. You silly girl.

So, I put my feelings and emotions and bodily cravings in the back seat this year. I chose the first of the year because God deserves the first things. He just does. And every time I heard myself say (not out loud of course) “I don’t feel like it” I INTENDED ALL THE MORE to do it right away. And when my stomach rumbles or I want to eat something other than what I have limited myself to, I say, OUTLOUD (in the privacy of my home) “Hey body, you will not run this show.”

Here’s the thing. On the outside, this does not seem to be that different from practicing will power. But, I know my will is blown around like the wind historically; either bending to my flesh or my emotions and hardly ever to my spirit. And in the long run, if one's will is really the stabilizing force in the "change" - how long will it last? What happens when my will decides it wants something else in the moment of decision? Yep, chocolate.  Which is why I have ended up feeling pretty cynical, sometimes despondent, about life and my success in it. And I KNOW that is not how I am “supposed” to feel about life as  a Christian.

Then guilt can creep in - because "how can I feel this way after all that God has done for me."  Then frustration - when that previous little mantra does not change my feelings. Then disbelief - because my feelings have not lead me to any action. And finally...hopelessness. So it is clearly important to nip this.

This is how REAL God is becoming in my life. He has been more real ever since I “got it” back in 1997. One might say, “If there is a God what does He care about what you eat or how you feel or what motivates you?” But if God is not involved in life of this sort then what good is God? Where can He manifest His goodness and faithfulness if not in the living of my daily life?

I sometimes think, and you may too, that God is too big to give a care about my little life and struggles and feelings. But you know what? His attention to detail IS what makes Him great. We tend to think great people delegate the small stuff because they are just above it. But in God’s economy the foolish things shame the wise, the last shall be first, and the greatest will be the servant of all. And, most awesomely, God practices what He preaches.

He says that He is intimately acquainted with ALL of my ways. It does not get more personal than that. And we can only take God at His word when it comes to describing Him because anything less is making God into an image of our own imaginings. For a human being, a created thing, to have any TRUE idea of God, God must reveal Himself to us in a way WE can understand, even experience. I am so glad He did.

I am going to take Him at His word even though I don’t fully understand the mechanics of it. I know God is worthy. That has not been hard for me to wrap my mind around and even fashion my life after in many respects. But TRUSTworthy... that is the real test. Will I trust what He says even when I don’t fully understand it? Let’s see.

Monday, September 13, 2010

May the Force, I Mean Breeze, Be With You

Now, I am no science fiction junkie. Let’s get that straight. But, something descended upon our home today and it was super welcomed and much needed. Perhaps, even requested.
I spent the better part of the weekend sick, after a week of taking care of a sick family. Each member, individually, fell ill to a nasty little virus whose signature was the deepest bone ache, most intense nausea and other gastroentestinal manifestations I have ever experienced outside of pregnancy. We owe Lysol disinfecting wipes a big “Whatever!” for it’s ability to “kill 97% of viruses.” Or, we are just unlucky enough to attract that resistant 3% that laughs at sodium hydroxide. We’ll likely never know for sure. 
So, today, my husband awoke to the usual 6 a.m. houligan-anigans. Let me describe. 
My son, who seems to have a deep seeded lie in his heart regarding his ability to ascertain a breakfast each day, scavenges the kitchen after waking his much younger sister to join him. He knows not to go into the kitchen and climb up into who-knows-where and start rummaging to get whatever he deems an appropriate breakfast to be. Especially NOT before 7 a.m. 
With three kids (ages 5,4,and 3) a parent has to establish the ‘start time’ - like the time of day when the gun goes off and the race begins. For us, that is at 7 a.m. Before that, awake and rummage at your own risk. And he does, despite loving correction, angry correction, positive reinforcement and yes, that ever growing unpopular negative reinforcement (the back hand). I am kidding. It is not the back hand. It is actually the front of my hand on the BACK of his behind. It matters not, because nothing has deterred this behavior and it is completely exasperating. 
SO, Daddy got to administer the love this morning followed by a resignation that the gun was going to have to go off at 6:30 a.m. today instead of our self appointed 7 a.m. Sometimes acceptance is the best thing you can do. And Honey Nut Cheerios tend to help the tears disappear. He even dressed them and brushed their teeth so that when I rolled out of bed around 7:30 all I had to do was pack lunches, disrobe them, shower them and redress them. It was a smooth process believe it or not. I am not kidding. 
Everyone was in the car and he, showered and dressed, and I ,showered and dressed, departed at the same time this morning. Unbelievable. I dropped off the two at school from 9-1 and took my youngest for a “Mommy and Wibby (aka Libby)” day. She requested Panera for her second breakfast and who am I to argue. So we went there, and chatted and spread butter, a lot. I looked through my delightful Sunday paper with all four beautiful coupon inserts and exciting drug store advertisements (more on that later) and we left, without any hint of an argument, for the library.
Ah, the library. She loves it. I love that she loves it. It has little computers, puzzles, puppets and books of course. But what really makes it great is the librarian who does not care that the toddler area is treated by a toddler like a toddler would treat a toddler area. You follow me? I mean, Libby grabs a book from each shelf, randomly, and then asks the librarian to help her transport all of her selections to me. I am thinking “Oh, this is going to be a nightmare to reshelve.” But the librarian says, “Oh, it is okay. She is so cute.” And I believed her because it was not like she was just trying to say something polite. I can see through that, generally speaking.
We return home for a lunch, again without argument or fussing and then off to pick up her sibs for my eldest’s first KinderMusik lesson - which she LOVED. I took the other two during said music lesson to a previously unknown nearby park that was shaded and LOVELY in every single way. We picked up my big girl after a perfect 40 minutes of play and returned home. 
I started dinner. Are you appreciating the smoothness of this day? I mean, even as I type it I am thinking - whose life IS THIS?? I prepare a lasagne which I have all the ingredients on had to prepare. Majestic. I call my husband as I put it in the oven. He will be home in 20 minutes. Are the stars aligned? I don’t even believe in that stuff. 
He rolls in, hungry and delighted with my dinner selection. My kids eat it all and say “yummy mommy, thank you.” Am I on candid camera? Who has possessed my home? 
After dinner I am cleaning up the kitchen while the fam is out back playing some football. Where is Norman Rockwell when you need him? And as I am cleaning the dishes in the sink and placing them in the EMPTY dishwasher (visualize my bowing in all four directions here).... this entry comes to me.
What FORCE has entered our home today and how can I get a package of it and stockpile it to pull out AT LEAST once a month. You girls feelin’ me?
What is missing in the entire saga gloriously described thus far is the conversation my husband started last  night at the dinner table. It too was brought on, in my opinion, by a Force because it was exactly what I had wanted and needed to hear, perhaps not for the first time, not just from him, but ONCE AGAIN.
I have realized that I am fighting my life at times. Wanting to disengage, wanting to escape. Not anything like in the permanent sense, but in the momentary. Wanting to just exit via my mind - turn on the boob tube, plug in the ear phones, head out to Target, surf the net, read any thing and everything and become so frustrated with the ‘interruptions’ that I disappoint myself in what I am becoming in my primary role in life. And despondent about turning this whole habit around. 
The habit is: always rehearsing the difficulties of life, the hardships, the challenges.... you know those physical aches and pains, those relationships or lack thereof, the financial realities we might find ourselves in... I could go on and I usually do. My husband and I both, I hope he won’t mind me saying, have settled into this...or I should say unsettled into it.
We know this is NOT living a life but rather surviving one. And as a wise tweet recently  posted stated “if you are not doing anything with your life it does not matter how long it is.” Word. I mean, we are doing something with our lives and we even have some vision for what we are doing. We’ve made some hard choices, some poor ones and even some really incredibly wise ones. But I frequently lose my vision. And when that happens as often as it does, all I can see are the difficulties. They are my only REALity. They are speaking louder.
So Stephen says last night that we have got to change NOW the climate in our home - and not as an accusation. At least, I did not receive it as such which is a HUGE miracle right then and there. There’s an entire entry that could be inserted here, but I will spare you.
There is so much arguing and correcting and everything else that normally goes on in a home with three kids, and two really stretched parents. We need some refuge. Some peace. And not the kind of peace where we are all polly-anna and stuff like that, but where there are some things that are true and settled. And those true and settled things rule over the lesser realities. 
The true and settled things are that our stressors, in REALITY, are our blessings. Our jobs, our relative HEALTH, our providentially being born in the USA, our having the opportunity to make choices at all (like where and how to spend our money), our having to balance quality time with our THREE children, our stressing to find some time to focus on our marriage... all these things are manifestations of a blessed life.
THAT is what gets lost when perspective dies. It is a painful place to live. It is a difficult place to remain. I think that is a primary reason God commands us to be in relational community. As with everything He implores us to do, it is not for His ego, but for our good. 
What descended upon our house tonight is a picture of what I think it looks like to do what the Bible calls, “walking in the Spirit.” I am not going to get all mystical on ya, but I do take the Bible seriously, as you know, and the Bible is clear that the Father is in heaven, Jesus is currently at His right hand, and what we have today ON THIS EARTH is the Holy Spirit. And I think when He comes and is allowed to speak louder in my heart than those difficulties, there is a REAL change that occurs.
Now, in my house tonight, it just worked out. Perhaps God was working. Maybe He was answering our humble prayer to take our family and do something in and with it that we just cannot seem to sustain. Maybe. But the way the day proceeded reminded me that what our family needs, what I need, is not some stockpile of star alignment, but the life changing force of the Holy Spirit.
I need Him to remind me, ALL THE TIME. I need Him and His perspective to be more real to me than my sensual reality. I need Him to help me control my tongue. I need Him to give me some supernatural ENERGY.  I need Him to give me eyes to see what is really going on around me. I need Him to give me creativity and imagination. Compassion and mercy and productivity. I have to tell you, I KNOW I cannot do, in this life, all that I hope God has made for me to do WITHOUT the Holy Spirit giving me some power to do it - and some wisdom to even know WHAT THAT IS. God is not “in me as me” as a recent movie stated profoundly. No, God is in me, despite me. Thank God. No really, right now, “Thank God” -  as an equally profound movie of the late 70’s proclaimed (if you don’t already know which one I am talking about... it is entitled “Oh, God”.... John Denver and George Burns plays God... not moving making at its most adept).
I said there was a Force that descended upon my home. It felt like it sorta. But lasting and meaningful Power from the Holy Spirit comes like a breeze. It is not heavy and laden with things to do and accusations. Not surprisingly, because of the God I love, His vision and perspective are maintained most fastidiously by remembering how much He totally loves me. He does not motivate by Force, but by Breeze. It IS surprising how effective His love is at motivating me. His love gives me an understanding of why I am, who I am , what I am made to do and hope that He will help me do it
I place my life and my home and all that I care for in His hands. His very able hands. I really want Him to do something undeniable in me... and you too. He is so good, and what He creates in the physical and in the spirit is beyond description. 
But as you come to know Him and consequently trust Him, you'll find that all those very real distractions, grow dim and the Breeze subtly takes you aloft, on your way to becoming what you deeply needed to be.