Friday, December 18, 2015

How To Measure Your Worth as a Mom

Where do you have your eye popping AH HA, EUREKA, OMG moments? For me it is usually while driving down the Truman Parkway (probably waaaay over the speed limit... because... the speed limit is stupid). And suddenly I am like, "I need a pen! I need a pen! Where's my pen!?!" And E says, "Why? Whyyyy mommy? Why?!" And I'm like, "HUSH THE IDEA IS STILL IN MY BRAIN FOR TWO MORE SECONDS!!"

Ok.... you see how it goes.

Moving on...
Let me explain... For years and years of early motherhood, I have been SEARCHING for an answer to this burning question: "What are the metrics of motherhood?" or "In motherhood, how do we know, for sure, if we've been successful? How do we measure how we measure up? How do we know we've been living a life worthy of this job we've received?" 

The question isn't about competition and mommy wars (although a lot of people use this as their measuring system. Unfortunately. Away from me you competitioning mommies!)... it's just about knowing, at the end of the day, when you lay your head down (or don't, let's be real), that "Yeah, I did good today" and then letting yourself rest. Every job under the sun has this possibility... except motherhood. But how do we moms do that?

In a day... in a week... in a year... How do we actually know if we've done enough? Or too much?
Or done enough well? Or just scraped by?
Or barely cut it? Or over did it?

We don't have performance reviews. There is no grading scale. There are a zillion opinions and standards out there, and we can simply never live up to all of them or please everybody. Our kids think everything we've done is either the unvarnished work of GOD (OMG PANCAKES FOR BREAKFAST I COULD KISS YOU---AND I WILL---WITH A MOUTH COVERD IN SYRUP!!) or pure crap. Crap I tell you! (I hate you so hard for putting my blue socks on instead of my red socks! I could spit in your eye---and I will---Damn you woman!!)

It's like taking performance review from a Bi-Polar boss on crack with split personality disorder.

You learn early on that these little people are a terrible measuring tool. A terrible yard stick for sizing up your success at this messy mothering business.

I've been a mommy for almost 3 years... 4 if you count my pregnancy. Which I do. Cause... COME ON! Let's give women some credit for carrying the human race in their bodies for 10 months! Mmmmkaaay?!?!! Ok good. Ahem... So... 4 years. I've been a mommy for 4 years. I have never found a great answer to this question. I've found some answers... like Mommy Competition. But no great answers.

So then I'm driving down Truman Parkway... and it hits me.... *drum roll please*...

Measuring our success is SO important to us because we mistakenly identify the measure of our success with the measure of our worth.

Whoa. If I was speaking to you right now, I'd repeat that again...

I need an external system, or another voice, or a reliable measure in my own head telling me "You've done this well" so that at the end of the day, I can say, "Yeah. I'm worth my oxygen, my space, my food, my carbon footprint." My husband has his job. He has a reason. And he get's claps on the back and bonuses to tell him that he has done his reason well. And I covet that. Because I want to know that I've done my reason well. That I'm Worthy.

BTW, Worthy = Worth-y = Having Worth or Characterized by Worth. Full of Worth. Full of value. (We interrupt this regularly scheduled program to add: If you say Worth ten times fast, and stare at the written word, it loses all meaning. Worth.)

Let that sit with you for a second.

Is there anything more beautiful and affirming to the soul than Worth?

Is there anything more dehumanizing and painful than taking someone's Worth away?

One of the key reasons that Motherhood is so hard is because it removes us from the systems of measure that we have become familiar with using to gauge our worth. Grades. Promotions. Pay scale. Authority. End product. Affirming words. Recognition. Everything we have relied on for so many years from our parents, our teachers, our bosses, our coaches, etc... suddenly it's just kind of gone and we're doing this labor intensive, all-consuming, very invisible work and there is no one reliable to tell us we've done well. There's no one to affirm our Worth.

Sisters, let me offer you this with eager, gentle, humble hands...
Being removed from a system of external affirmations that define your worth is a BLESSING.
Being removed from the delusion that we can earn our worth or we need others to define it for us is a BLESSING.

Why? Because this will hyper-accelerate the deep seated understanding of one powerful truth: You Are Worthy. You. Just you. You. Are. Worthy. Loved. Beautiful. Deeply, richly cherished. Pure gold. You are Worthy. Not because of what you do, but because of who you are.

Sweet Mom-ing Girl, you don't feel super blessed because it's hard, but you are in a position that few in this world are priviledged to walk in... where you are forced to begin to understand that your Worth comes from within. No one can apply it to you. No one can define it for you. No one can give it to you in small bits or in giant douses. And no one can take it away. You are learning that just by being present, you are worthy.

Since we're in Advent, I was reading the song that Mary sings after the angel comes to let her know that she's going to be a mom. Go read Luke 1:46-49 (I linked it for you).

Why are all the nations going to call her blessed? Because she was super responsible, super sweet, super virtuous, super with it? Because she was the Pinterest Pro? Because she baked from scratch and healed all ailments with essential oils and vinegar? Because she never let her kids play with singing plastic toys or watch television? Because she never dropped the F-bomb?

She was probably great, but from her own lips she says, "They will call me blessed Because he looked on me." She was low. She was simple. She was an unremarkable teenager... and then he Looked on her. And suddenly she is transformed with worth.

Sisters, as you serve your children and your families and your communities and the world... he looks on you. On your humble state. On your roll as a servant. He looks on you. And you are Worthy.

Let the Worth he gives fill your soul. Walk in its strength. Everything you touch with an awareness of the Worthiness he has filled your being with is blessed.

Every scraped knee. Every sweaty forehead. Every chubby rashy diaper butt. Every weary husband. Every pile of laundry. They are blessed. Because he is good. Because he binds up the broken hearted. Because he redeems. Because he believes in the Best and Beautiful in you... because he made it.

You can believe in it too.

You don't have to hustle to be the perfect mom. You don't have to hustle for approval, or qualification, or back-pats, or a sense of pride. You just get to be free to live into this job with joy... because you're already worthy.

When we already have our worth, the pressure of perfectionism eases up.

The tantrums cease to be a public reflection on our personal failure to raise them up as non-selfish, non-outta control ass hats... and so the tantrums cease to be so humiliating. They become more, kinda, just... humorous?
The messes cease to be a reflection of our own failure to be orderly, peaceful humans... and become cozy chaos that we can live with like a nutty aunt until the time comes to tidy up.
That week where Little Son refuses to wear anything but shark swim trunks and a filthy shirt three sizes too big... next to his school buddies who only wear Gap and Ralph Lauren... it ceases to be a reflection on ME and just becomes a hilarious expression of his personality...

Because I'm already worthy.

My kids can be whoever they want to be... because I'm already worthy. Their journey toward maturity can be slow and steady, with room for failure... because I'm already worthy. Our house can occasionally look like a Hurricane Sandy crash site... because I'm already worthy.

Rather than trying to earn our worthiness through an external yard stick, let's let our internal worthiness ripple out into the work that we do. 

Let your security make your children secure. Let your blessedness bless your husband. Let your freedom free up your friends. Let your Worth be loud and confident and beautiful... because he looks on you with adoring eyes. His little masterpiece.

Measure your success in motherhood by those eyes.

Then spread the love that wells up in your heart around like confetti.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Being Seen

I'm a chameleon. It's actually a trait associated with my personality type... which is always weird because you're like, "Shut up Meyer's-Briggs! You don't know me!" And Meyer's-Briggs just smiles and pats your head like, "Oh you think you're so special. It's cute."

I'm a chameleon. I like to hide in plain sight. I can have a conversation with ANYONE... and they all feel like we have a ton in common because I adapt and bend and relate.

I learned these skills as the oldest child of two extraordinarily different parents who both have very strong personalities. They are night and day different, and I had to be able to connect to both of them emotionally to feel secure. So I learned how to slip in and out of various facets of my personality to draw them into relationship, to affirm them in ways that made them feel affirmed, and (because I was a bratty teenager too once) to light them up when I felt like being a jerk.

I learned that I can control people by dancing around them, figuring them out and bending myself around them. But, really, isn't that just controlling me? I hustle hard to control how people feel and how they perceive me... but isn't that just controlling me?

I trade my freedom for security. A woefully, self-stealing choice.

P. S. -- If you're freaked out right now that I'm playing mind games on you and vowing never to talk to me again, I do not blame you... but let me tell you this... It's not something I'm proud of. It's something I'm trying to get away from. I long to just be ONE ME. To escape the fear of being seen.

That's really what I wanted to write about today.... the fear of being seen.

The fear of being pegged, pigeon-holed, pre-judged, dismissed as a whatever-fill-in-the-blank.
The fear of not being able to Chameleon and win your love, because you've already categorized me and you know who I am.
The fear of being looked at by a million eyes that have secret thoughts about me that I'll never know and can't control... the fear of being seen.

For the first 26-ish years of my life, there were a few things I vowed I would never be:

#1-I wouldn't ever publicly reveal myself. I didn't want to be dismissed as a self-absorbed brat who thought people gave a rat's ass about my inner workings. Who cares.
For a while a blogged about pretty stuff that I liked. I wrote about theoretical research topics. I wrote about imaginary worlds. But I wouldn't write about myself... I wouldn't submit myself to public scrutiny. I would leave people guessing. That way I could still Chameleon. I could still Hustle for love and affirmation.

#2-I wouldn't ever be One of those Church People... that is a category utterly fraught with pigeon holes and pegs and assumptions. Privately, I've always been very religious. But publicly, I refused to be a typical Jesus person.
It was done in self-defense. My beliefs are full of nuance. I pissed off the Church People because I couldn't walk their straight and narrow line, AND I pissed off the non-religious people because I was religious. For a Love Hustler, this was a terrible place to be. So I vowed I wouldn't ever be a Church Person. While all my elementary school friends were saying, "I'm going to go be a missionary in Africa!" I was saying, "Nope. Not me. I'm going to be a Olympic Karate Master!" ;)

I hope you're laughing now. Look at my life!!!

I'm writing about myself... UH LOT. And I'm writing about Jesus... that's perhaps the most vulnerable place of all. Because I know there are those out there who have now officially dismissed me and will avoid me because I'm One Of Those.

But telling the truth is better than Hustling. Freedom is a truer form of Security than a security manufactured by controlling myself and others.

Which brings me again to Being Seen...

I started writing this blog very quietly. For myself. Now It's not so quiet... there are a LOT of people following along. (And I have to be very conscious to continue to write with freedom and without fear.) AND... I was actually asked to speak at an event at my church... and I did... and I think it was a blessed time... but I was SEEN. Like... with EYE BALLS. Looking at me. EEP.

When I'm behind a computer, I can pretend no one will read and judge and dismiss and scorn. I'm alone in my living room... I can be as dramatic as I want and no one is going to smirk in front of me and make me wince with self-consciousness.

But in front of a crowd... holy. stinking. moly. Suddenly it hit me... I am being SEEN.

If you're not a Hustler, a Fear-er, a Controller, a Perfectionist... you don't know how scary that is.

To be seen.

You can't take it back. There's no "Un-Post" button (which I make heavy use of). There's no edit key. You present your deepest and most intimate thoughts... and there are actual FACES watching you and reacting.

Being seen.

It's terrifying.

And it's beautiful.

How deeply we long to be seen. To be known. To be accepted. To be pursed and recognized in the crowd by someone who loves us anyway.

To be seen... it is perhaps my greatest fear. And my deepest desire.

I expect that this will always be a tension in my life. Hustling for love will always be my stumbling block. Chameleoning will always be my default mode... But I'm learning this: While my heart is crying, "WHAT IF I FALL!!!!???!!!"  What if I'm rejected? What if I'm scorned? What if half the people that hear my words pigeon hole me and dismiss me completely and I can't explain myself? What if I fail?..... The Lord is standing by saying, "My daughter. What if you fly? What if the wings I made for you are enough... and the course you take is the one I prepared for you all along? What if the hearts that don't scorn you are illuminated? What if you're brilliant because you stopped running away from Being Seen."

And, words most powerful and most comforting of all... he is standing by and saying, "My daughter... I see you."

I can hustle for your love. I'm good at it. I may never be able to stop. But I can't hustle for Him.
I can angle for acceptance and love here... but there's a truth that I'm only beginning to grasp: All acceptance and love has already been granted me by Him.

His heart for me is that I walk Secure AND Free as the person he has designed me to be.
Secure and Free. Secure and Free. That's a kickin combo! That's a combo I don't think I can ever achieve for myself. And it starts with Being Seen.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

1000 Ridiculous Dollars and What Happened Next

This morning I come cotton-mouthed and jelly kneed... rattled and confused... thoughtful. Wondering. Surprised. Humbled. Self-conscious. Uncertain. Speechless.

Someone just handed me $1000.00.
Yes. One. Thousand. Doll. Lars.
I did not sneak an extra Zero in there.

And... it's not like it was my grandma or something. It was someone I would say I hardly know. Someone my OWN AGE. In a very similar stage of life. They just... freaking, handed us a grand. Like that. The memo line reads: "Gift". The card says, "Please accept this with Joy."

Joy was not my first emotion, actually.

My first thought was, "There must have been a mistake."
My second thought was, "Nope. I will not accept that. That's ridiculous."
My third thought was, "What the actual heck is going on right now?"

I didn't go straight to Joy.
I wanted to rationalize it. But I couldn't. So I wanted to give it back.
This was undeserved. This was unmerited. That made me very uncomfortable.

In our lives, we often get what we have earned. Sometimes we get less than we think we deserve. Occasionally we feel like we have gotten our full due, but we likely had to work our asses off for it. But NO ONE HANDS YOU A REWARD THIS HUGE FOR NO GOOD REASON.
No one does this. No one. This is not a thing. Nope. Nada. Crazy talk.

Then my heart heard a story... it crept silently into my mind... it rattled me.

You were dead in your trespasses and sins... but God, who is rich in mercy because of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead---made us alive. 

By grace... by grace... by grace you have been saved, AND RAISED UP with him, AND SEATED with him in the heavenly places with Jesus Christ. But why? 

So that in the ages to come he might show the surpassing/overwhelming/out-of-bounds riches of his grace in kindness toward us. (Ephesians 2)

Talk about unmerited and undeserved! I wasn't in the dog house for something naughty I did to disappoint. I was in the grave. Yet, he was moved.

He was moved by his great love for me. Why?
He was moved by his great, spilling, powerful passion toward the creature who had no intrinsic beauty, who had done nothing, who could give him nothing, who would cost him everything. Why?
His heart cried out, "I long to show surpassing/overwhelming/out-of-bounds riches of grace to her."

Why? I'm not gonna even lie... it makes me a little uncomfortable.

So often, in the face of so free a gift, so rich a mercy, so great a love, so saturated a kindness... I don't go straight to Joy. First I go to unworthy, unmerited, undeserving, uncomfortable. Then I go to "Why?" And when I can't find a Why, I want to reject it.

But we can't ask why. I mean, we can. Why is a good question. I'm very Pro-Why. But we won't find the answer to the burning Why within the fabric of our own lives. We won't. In a way, we just have to let go of "why" and rejoice. As the card under the stupidly ridiculously over the top $1000.00 check instructed, we just have to "accept this gift with Joy."

We have to let the emotion push up in the back of our throats. We have to let the power of it charge the cells of human kindness and compassion that will fuel our humble walk through this earth. We have to let it galvanize us towards a posture of giving ourselves away. A attitude that says, I can't give myself away fast enough or freely enough or with enough delight... because I was dead. And he loved me. He loved us. We were bound in the slavery of debtor's prison and he poured out heaven's treasure to buy us back... to liberate us... to set us on a free path to live into the fullness of our true selves before him... for no other reason except that it made his heart glad.

There is no Why. There is only Joy.

Before today, I don't know if I've ever experienced so tangible an example of what Unmerited Favor feels like. It humbles my heart so dramatically it's hard for me to explain. It even stings a little. It brings the Gospel into focus. It inspires me to want to live Up And Into grace. To not waste life. To not waste the gift. To touch others with the Touchedness I have been touched by.

But ultimately... I don't think I could ever live up to a gift that big. Whatever I do with my life could never equal what He did with His. Whatever I do with the dollars could never be as significant as the story that it created in my heart. So there is only Joy.

I'm going to resist my first impulses to deserve or to reject. I could never deserve. And it's only my pride that would reject. I'm going to receive. I'm going to receive Grace with Joy.

Receive grace with Joy, friends. The richest treasure is held out to us, and there are a lot of Whys that can get in the way. There's a lot of pride, logic, knowledge, fear, that can cloud the way to a liberated life of love... but there it is. Free gift. If you can accept the ridiculous gift with Ridiculous Joy, how might that Joy revolutionize and galvanize your life? It could change the world.

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Messy Business of Hope

My baby boy is cutting teeth.  (Wait. Stop. Don't bail on me now. It gets better, I promise.)

He is snotty and angry. He is aching and swollen. He rubs his face with his little baby fists and tries to scrape the pain away with his fingers. He wakes up in the night, howling in confused rage.
He doesn't understand his pain. Where is it coming from? Why? What can he do about it?

We are just like this little one in the world.

The past few weeks I have been angry and confused, hurting and bruised, waking in the night with a heart aching, and swatting around desperately at the pain in the world that I don't understand and don't know how to fix.

I see the violence and it disturbs me. Part of me longs to respond with a violence of my own. Part of me longs to become a radical pacifist taking every stand against violence like some kind of Buddhist Nun in jeans. I'm just punching at the air. I'm swatting at the ache with hands too powerless to take it all away.

I yearn to see a more beautiful version of our human experienced lived out. I would hazard a strong statement here: We all do. Pacifists and terrorists. Activists and seclusionists. Presidents and preschoolers. Mommies and militaries. No matter who we are. No matter how big or small.

And we all have theories about how to make the more beautiful human experience happen. Humans have good intentions. We are yearners and fixers. We want to see the More Excellent Earth that lives in our minds. Where pain stops. Where harmony makes us beautiful with one another. We'll even kill for it. Because the pain of the broken life is more than we can bear.

That's why terrorists shoot.

That's why monks pray.

That's why wars are waged.

That's why quilts are stitched by quiet fingers at home.

Because we want a more beautiful world. It lives in our minds and we believe we can bring it out from the shadows by our actions. The problem is, none of us can agree on what The Beautiful World looks like or how to get there.

We are like my teething baby... we are aching and we don't understand the source.
We are doing everything we can to stop it.
We are all coming up short.
And sometimes we just want to give up, go numb, close our eyes, stop our hearts.

Advent is a season that exhorts us toward hope. It calls out to us with a loud voice: "The world you yearn for is NOT FICTION." It tells us about a future where, "Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough ways smooth" (Luke 3:5). Where the tumultuous and jagged imperfections of our world are eased into harmony.

Two things for you....

#1 Don't give up hope. Don't abandon your vision of the More Beautiful World. Hope. Hope hard. Hope long. Hope however you can hope and do not stop hoping. Help is coming.

#2 Rest. Don't fret. When you yearn to see a More Beautiful World, acknowledge that it is the space inside you that compasses you toward God's good heart. He yearns for the same thing. He yearns more desperately and more constantly than you. The space in you that comes up with solutions to take away the pain (for yourself, for your family, for your city, for your nation, for the world) is the heart of God who desires nothing more than a healed and beautiful world. It is only by his mercy and love that he waits another day to make The More Beautiful World true.

When you long to hate the evil people who kill, pray for them that their eyes will be opened to the answers they seek. That in their desperate quest to bring about the More Beautiful World, they would find the Most Beautiful Way.

We are like teething babies. We swat desperately at pain we don't understand. But hope and rest, friends, because we have been promised the answer we seek. The solution to our longing. The blue-print for the Better. It's not an empty dream. It's a master plan. Jesus gave everything (his divinity, his dignity, his life) to make it a feasible reality.

If you don't understand that yet... date Jesus and see. Peek at his game plan and test the waters. You don't have to buy in before you've checked out the goods. Look in and see who he is... He is a life giver, a mission enabler, a dream inspirer, a world restorer, an identity empowerer, a hope satisfier. His way toward The More Beautiful World is beautiful.

You don't have to bat blindly at pain any more. There is light shining in the darkness, showing the way through. Showing the way to mend what is broken. When you are fretful and aching in agony, longing to escape the pain, snotty and unhappy like the baby cutting teeth... reach out and take hold of Hopeful Rest. Assured. Calm. The More Beautiful World is coming.