Friday, December 19, 2014

Stillness and Real Living

I read her article this morning (click the link, you won't be disappointed), and I haven't stopped crying, but it's one of those good cries, the cleansing kind -the kind that washes away facade and leads to better living.  I'm okay with that.  In fact, I've been crying, too, because He loves me enough to bring me to repentance --to change me, to make me new.

It's funny how God works -though articles, people, circumstances, His Word.  On Wednesday night, I had a "moment" -one of those, "What was I thinking kind" of moments after Emily, my seven-year-old won a "wacky-tacky Christmas" contest, and Ethan, my ten-year-old, huffed in the backseat because he had lost.  What really occurred was that Emily let me create her "costume" -a Christmas window I crafted from a piece of foam board, some old paint, a gift bag, and a hot-glue gun.  Don't let me downplay it too much --a friend told me it was "Pinterest" worthy!  Anyway, Ethan wanted to create his own design, but had "crafters' block," and I strategically made him into a "Christmas bag" complete with tissue paper and bows -at the last minute (hang in there -the point will come, and it's a major one!). In the van listening to his disappointment and vow that "he never wins anything,"  I prayed, "Lord, help him learn to lose with grace." But what the Lord whispered back took me my surprise. He said, in the stillness of my thoughts, "They don't need grace to lose, but to live."

Grace.  It's my life song -the lesson He keeps teaching me over and over, and I keep forgetting.  It's the lesson that perfectionism keeps stealing from me -and today, He told me, "Pinterest worthy mom," the need to impress, to over-do, to out-do --took joy right from the fingertips of those babies. And He was so right.

I'm "that mom" -the one whose kids match on Christmas and Easter -who repainted a bit on childhood hand prints -to make the priceless pictures "just right." I'm the one who cleans for 8 hours before inviting anyone over and declares that the house is such a "mess." I'm the one who almost died, literally, when her daughter drank Kool-aid on the day of family pictures and developed an orange-ish mustache in the process.  I dot concealer on scratches before school pictures and practice smiling with Ethan so that his eyes don't have too much squint. Yep, that's me -or it was.

The article I mentioned at the top -click here-was a confirmation of this lesson that He's so willing to teach me.  It simply talks of family pictures -of little girls in stiff dresses and exasperated parents trying to coax little ones into sitting still in order to capture the quintessential family moment -and how such moments, such images, aren't real and fail to capture the beauty of family.  The photographer, instead, prefers moments of living -moments of laughter and messes and Kool-Aid smiles and squinty grins. I looked up from the the article to see the row of picture collages on my hallway wall, and what struck me most was the stillness -the poses and the perfection of curls and matching sweaters and children lined up in a neat row.  I kinda sank a little against the wall to take in the realization of what I had been missing.  I thought I knew that life isn't about stillness --about getting my ducks all lined up in a row, but the pictures say that I have a lot to learn -a lot of grace bottled up that needs pouring out.  I wanted to take them all down, almost ashamed of what they represent -of this part of me that needs something -even a picture - to turn out "just right."

I want to let my kids live --real lives, not scripted one.  Lives where they make a bad grade on spelling every now and then because we were playing Monopoly and forgot about lists of words. Where Kool-Aid mouths are kissed and little boys make their own wacky-tacky costumes and order Elvis backpacks if that's what they want.  Lives whose seeming perfectionism aren't stumbling blocks for others.

When did we fall, I fall, for such lies? --that what's best is what's still?  I have read, many times, poems about holding our children's hands, of how time passes too quickly.  And truthfully, I know this --I do take time to see my kids -to watch Emily's one thousandth hand stand onto the couch and to listen to Ethan's random facts about the Three Stooges and to sit next to Josh and gleam what I can from his day.

But somehow the truth -the beauty of these moments -seems drowned in a world pushing us to be something that we're not --to achieve things that we can't.  Doesn't the unlined face and the unchanged body -doesn't it indicate a lack of life --and yet that's what the world demands, celebrates even.  What is Satan doing here -telling us to hold to things that aren't true --to seek happiness in seeming perfection -- in a facade that doesn't really exist -when it's actually found in the mundane, the everyday, the stretch-marked bellies that held babies and sticky counters where memories were made?  Why is knowing the truth so easy, yet putting it into practice so hard?

One of the redeeming photos on my wall is this black and white photograph of my dad and Josh -who was probably four at the time.  They were dancing --smiling -not at the camera, but at life.  That's my resolve this year -to smile at life -at the imperfection of it all -the changes that come -and to pour out this bottled up grace.  Grace for mistakes and losses and wins and Kool-Aid mouths.  Oh, how I need His grace today -so undeserved -but isn't that what makes it grace?

Let's help one another today -to "get it" this time -to err on the side of grace -and not let Satan take any more of our JOY!

Hebrews 3:13 -But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day!