Learning How To Die

“Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”

(Matthew 10:38-39 NIV

Jesus’ words are fine for reading, but not so easy for living.  Don’t you think?  Pick up a cross?  I’d rather pick up a book and a cup of hot coffee, thank you.  It’s hard, this Jesus-loving life.  There is nothing easy about consistently doing the exact opposite of what I want to do.

Pick up the mess, pick up the school books and the teacher’s manual, pick up the dirty socks and the grocery list, and pick up the attitudes, the eye rolls, the careless words – with gentleness and wisdom.  Whoever thought that the Christian life is a picnic has another thing coming.  It’s a messy cross we die on as we inhale His plans and exhale ours.  But it’s worth it.  The only way to live fully is to willingly die every day.  We meet Jesus at the altar of our wills and get to choose.

“Not my will, but Yours be done,” starts in Gethsemane, before the breaking, not Golgatha, the moment of testing.  Crucifixion of self-will takes years, not hours.  It’s an ongoing process kind of a thing, which appeals to me about as much as a root canal.  You too?  I’m so much more of a “let’s forego the journey, and just get to the destination” kind of a gal.  Process kills me.

Isn’t there another way?  Some way NOT to crucify my flesh and all it wants?  It’s thorns piercing my scalp as I lay down, all day, my will for His.  When “love one another” isn’t fuzzy and soft, but getting up and choosing joy and servanthood along with your clothes every morning, and slipping on thankfulness with your shoes.

It is not the tragedy of the century to spend my life pouring my heart, my time, my talents into others.  Really, it’s not.  Jesus says that if you lose your life, you’ll find it.

It’s packing Superman’s lunch instead of staying cozy with my coffee and devotional.  It is a million tiny deaths, a million invitations to resurrection.  I want to sink, stone heavy into self absorption, to drown slowly in a pool of my own agenda, inhale the poison of bitterness and steep long in offense and martyrdom.  The end is death.

What lures me in, appeals in the moment, will kill all my relationships.  It is only in dying to my way that I burst to the surface and fill my lungs with glorious oxygen.  It is the “no” first so that there can be a “yes” later.

It’s sweeping aside my grand plans to write an epic blog post (a girl can dream, right?) to sit on the floor and play with Mega Blocks when my boys need some attention.  Seeing to my first responsibilities isn’t as appealing after a day spent chasing toddlers and sweeping play doh crumbs off the floor, but it’s exactly what I need to do.  Each and every day.

It’s letting the little hands of my daughter stir the muffin batter when I just want to do it myself and be done, already.  You know what it is for you – the mundane, the quiet, the all but unnoticed thing that’s yours to do…does it feel just a bit like crucifixion to stay and do that thing with faithfulness?  There’s joy on the other side, I promise.

It’s moving into vulnerability with a trusted friend, pursuing relationships that are deep and authentic and grounded in the word of God.  It’s easy to keep the walls up, and not so fun to get real and honest with our friendships.  But it’s what God calls us to do, and it’s crucial for emotional well being.  We need it deeply.

Learning how to die starts in the here and now of living – dying to self and finding the life of Christ.

Because when you do…and you do it for Him…it all starts to become beautiful.  There’s not just the pain of surrendering our desires, there’s the joy that comes only from nudging just a bit closer to Jesus.  There’s the light that sparkles in the little faces upturned to ours, there’s community and communion found within the walls of our homes and spilling out into the relationships that turn friends into family.

Turns out, there’s a whole lot of living to be found on the other side of dying.

Grace, peace, and RIP-to-the-old-you-and-me,

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Valentine’s Day For Real People

Love is in the air.

From candy hearts to florist shops to umpty jillion aisles at WalMart filled with all things pink and red and sticky and…aren’t you just a little bit over it all?  Do we have to go so over-the-top about it?  It’s just a day, for crying out loud – what about the rest of the year?

It kind of just makes me exhausted.  I mean, really?  I have to theme crafts and school projects and heart shaped, candy-enhanced cookie bars?  (Now, if this is your kind of thing, then by all means DO IT and send some over to my kids, will ya?)  But for those of us who aren’t wired weird, crazy with the amazing Pinterest gene, YOU ARE OFF THE HOOK.  For reals.  No one is going to write on your gravestone: SHE DIDN’T OVERDO VALENTINE’S DAY 2017.  (I’m just saying.)

But I’ll tell you what we could all use for Valentine’s Day.

How about a little more Jesus love pouring into and out of these hearts of ours…Anyone?  No, love isn’t all we need, but it’s a darn good start.  How long has it been since we’ve just stopped and soaked it in how perfectly loved we really are?  God loves you, and what’s more, He really likes you.  When we fill up on His love, it changes something deep inside.

It’s a dangerous grace that saves us, that scoops us up and cares about every crevice of our hearts.  Intimacy like that can make a girl swoon – or maybe it makes you want to run right for the hills.  Being loved like that is raw and vulnerable, and horribly scary to those of us who need it.  What I forget – maybe you do, too? – is that God isn’t scared to love us.

I spent way too long afraid to lean into the love of Jesus.  It seemed too saccharine, too fragile a thing to hold a messy heart like mine.

Why should God bother with loving me when He has good people to love?  But here’s the thing:  He’s not overly fond of “perfectly perfect” people.  He likes the you and the me that’s really you and me – the ones we might be a bit afraid to let out in the daylight.  He knows a thing or two about suffering and rejection, and have you read what He endured to buy you back from deepest darkness?  When doubts come, and they will, rebuff them as the lies that they are.  YOU ARE BELOVED, FOREVER.

God is hardly daunted by your mess and mine.  He was there when the shattering happened, when the wounds that rope ugly and old were young and bloody.  He was there in the darkest moments of your lowest lows and all the haunting moments that plague you.  If all that hasn’t scared Him away (it hasn’t), then nothing will.  You are perfectly loved by God Himself and nothing can ever change that. 

But this love doesn’t stop there.  It invites, challenges, compels us to love in the same way.  To care about the crevices in other’s hearts, to move out of our comfort zones and personal dysfunction.  It demands that we don’t stand idly by while others are suffocating under the weight of condemnation, shame, and sin.  When you realize the ridiculous lengths that Jesus went to so He could save you, it makes you want to be ridiculous in the way you love others.

We were made to be lovers – lovers of God and lovers of others – because we were made in God’s image, and all of Him is love.  Love poured out, dripping over, saturating all it touches.

Oh, that we could do a little saturating in our circles – something extra but beautiful, just because Jesus is beautiful.

Maybe it’s doing unrecognized work with diligence, even when weariness crushes your bones.  (More on that coming up in my soon-to-be-released ebook: Tired.)  Maybe it’s a smile as you bend low to lift another up.  Maybe it’s a cup of coffee with a sweet friend, or maybe it’s combing the never ending tangles out with a gentle hand.  Love can manifest in a million different ways, but this Valentine’s Day – and always – let’s do just one thing well.

Let’s love others.  Let’s be a million little glimpses of Jesus to our family and friends and the grumpy lady at the grocery store and whoever, whenever.

And you don’t even have to go all Pinterest about it (unless you really want to.) 🙂

Grace and peace and maybe just a few Conversation Hearts (the light pink ones),

– Kelly

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I Chose This Busy

How many times have we been in the grocery store or the library, and someone stops us?

It happens all the time…

They look at your sweet little faces, smile at me, and say, “You’re busy.”  They’re right, of course.  Life with little ones is full of marathon days and more than a handful of short nights.  But I want you to know something:

I chose this busy.

I could be busy with anything, but I gladly choose to be busy with you.

I chose to fill my life with diapers and little people, laundry and gummy treats and unknown stuff decaying under the couch.  I chose all that when I chose you, and I’d choose it again in a heartbeat.  Oh, I might fuss a little about the Sharpie on the wall, or the ever-increasing-grey on my head, but I wouldn’t want anything else.

I’ll never get back the missed nights of sleep, the freedom to take a leisurely shower and simply use the bathroom without interruption, or the joy of sleeping in on the weekend.  I don’t want any of that back.  I want you.

I will always choose you.

I chose the heartache of feeling like I’m messing this whole mothering thing up, the tears of frustration and exhaustion, of feeling so deeply inadequate. I chose the demands that come when you add 3 tiny people into the mix, and it’s my joy to care for your needs.  I chose the crazy isolation of being a mother of young children – which basically means that any outing is an adventure of epic proportions.  But oh, my darlings…I want it no other way.

You see the eye roll when it’s the end of the day and you ask for peanut butter toast with sprinkles 26 seconds after the kitchen is cleaned up and I’ve finally flopped on the couch.  You hear my sigh when you kick off your little boots and the mud goes flying over a floor I just managed to drag a broom over.

Please, don’t ever think that’s my heart towards you…it’s just the tired talking.

I chose this life, this joy, when I chose to say yes to love.  I chose to lay my heart wide open, and I expect to get it a little tattered in the process.  I chose to be busy with you, and I never once thought all those years ago that it would be you teaching me.

You extract me daily from my self absorption and rescue me from my innate selfishness.  Your sense of adventure challenges me.  Your creativity inspires me.  Your simple joy in the simple things…it humbles me.

It’s the privilege of a lifetime to be your mama, and I don’t take you for granted.

Who can help but smile when they see you all blinking and sleepy coming down the stairs, dragging your favorite blankie behind you?  I’m the richest woman in the world when you settle in on my lap all snuggly and precious.  And the things that come out of your mouth?  Oh, honey.

The character building accomplished with the wild scattering of pipe cleaners, cotton balls, and glitter should not be underestimated.  You, my sweets, glory in the mess of it all, and I shudder.  You love mud and dinosaurs and ballerinas and monster trucks and Disney princesses.  But I chose crafts and trucks and messes and fairytales when I chose you, because I chose to love all of you – all of who God created you to be – fully.  Oh, I don’t get it anywhere close to perfect, and you know it better than anyone.  But I try, and I’ve found that cotton balls and glitter and toy dinosaurs and trucks everywhere aren’t anywhere close to the worst things in the world.  Missing those moments with you – that would be worse.

The red-faced tantrums, the kicking and biting and screaming, the boundary pushing, name calling, infighting, bickering, and disrespect…it’s brought me to my knees, to the very end of myself, and I couldn’t be more grateful.  It’s brought me to Jesus, and what does a life need more than Jesus?  Nothing, my loves.

I choose to stick with this job instead of running screaming for the hills on those days because God has chosen to stick with both of us, and I hope you get to know Him better, deeper, younger, than I did.  He gets all the things right that I get wrong, and I’m trusting Him to fill in the many gaps in my mothering.  When you want to know what love is…don’t just look to me or to Daddy.  Look to Jesus.

Because as much as I chose this life when I chose you…

…He chose us first, and for always.

 

 

 

 

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Faith In The Real World

Faith In The Real World - www.searchingformyeden.com

Did you know that approximately 62% of America says that they are Christians?

Wow.  I wouldn’t have known that.  Would you?

I’m at the library, and 6 out of the 10 people I encounter don’t look to be peace-filled, or joyous, or even particularly kind.  I’m not asking for spontaneous singing of the Hallelujah chorus, but I have to wonder…if 48 of the 80 people I meet at the grocery store are Christians, I don’t care to know anything more about what they believe.  They might have the best theology in all the world, but if it doesn’t change the way they live their week days, I am not buying.

You’re probably thinking, Seriously?  Faith changing the way a person shops for bread and milk?  It sounds a little absurd, doesn’t it?

No, I’m not looking for any radical evangelism in the cracker and chip aisle, but what if faith changed our hearts, one little piece at a time?  What if, over the course of months and years, the practical and continued application of God’s word started changing our hearts?  So that when the grocery aisles are clogged with impatient shoppers, when the other parents at the library don’t pick up after their kids…we have gentleness instead of eye rolling?  When the fur starts to fly at the family dinner table, or social media gets nasty, what if we could bring self control and kindness instead of our grenade launcher…wouldn’t that be amazing?

What if kindness started to soften those harsh words, gentleness blunted our natural abrasiveness, and self-control began to tame that wicked temper?

This is practical.  This, more than any beautifully crafted theological statement from an ivory tower, is the truth of the Gospel.  God changes hearts, and He does it to the day-in, day-out tramp of our every day lives.  Through His relationship with us, through the truth of His word, through other believers, and through just plain old obedience.

Faith In The Real World - www.searchingformyeden.com

I speak from no pedestal of great holiness.

People cutting me off in traffic still make me mad.  When the 3 year old scribbles crayon on the freshly painted trim, I tell him how I feel.  I still huff and whine and act like a brat more than a 30-something-year-old Christian really should.  No, I’m in no way perfect.  I get into snits and have bad days and say what I shouldn’t and do what I know I will later regret.  Kind of like what Paul describes in Romans 7:21-25.  I do what I don’t really want to do, and I keep on cycling through this over and over and over.

No, perfection isn’t practical, but shouldn’t faith make a difference in life?

Shouldn’t there be a kind of softening, a maturity, a growing up that happens over the weeks and months and years as belief gets walked out?  I don’t want to be rolling my eyes and heaving sighs over the kid messes two years from now.  I don’t want to be throwing my hands up and beeping at drivers who cut me off next year.  If I believe that God is good, then I have to believe that He has redemptive plans for traffic, for naughty toddlers, and for grumpy people at the grocery store.

Belief needs to put down roots from our head to our heart.

It needs to do more than inform our minds – it needs to inform our choices.  It needs to be more than a nod of the head or glib words at an altar call.  Biblical belief is not trying harder to be good, but in daily choosing to love and obey the One who IS good.

But can we please get practical?

  • How does a mama who is about to unleash a torrential volley of frustration curb her tongue?
  • How do you stop with the negativity about everything that he does wrong?
  • How is it even practical to grow more kindness, more joy, more Jesus when laundry is a mountain, dishes overflow the sink, and the toddler is playing with the toilet brush?

What does an everyday girl do with the everyday frustrations?

When sickness hits, and bills come due, that’s when we need our faith to get practical.  When loved ones aren’t easy to love, and friends disappoint, how is it possible to translate belief into something more tangible?

Biblical belief chooses to trust that God is for me.

It releases me from demanding an explanation.  I will see some day, and it is okay that it won’t be today.  When I truly believe that God is good, and is working for my good, and desires my best, I begin to look for His goodness.  I stop expecting Him to let me down and begin to trust that it will be okay.  I can begin to relax, because I know that He loves me.

Biblical belief chooses to obey even when I don’t want to.

This can only work when I come to believe that God is for me, because our wills collide pretty fast.  When God says to let my speech be filled with grace, as though seasoned with salt, I tend to buck and kick.  It’s easy when the first grader is doing her school work, and the 3 year old is playing nicely with the toddler, but when they are all a howling pack of orangutans?  My natural inclination is words that are filled with impatience, not grace.  Obedience in the little things, in the hard small every day decisions isn’t trivial – it’s empowering.  It also takes practice…lots and lots of it.

Biblical belief trusts in Christ’s righteousness, not my own efforts.

There will inevitably be potholes in this journey.  Nobody does this thing perfectly, and when we fall on our faces, we need to remember that we are not the sum of our mistakes.  We are the sum of Christ’s righteousness.  This is really hard for a Type-A perfectionist, but it is true.

And if you see me in the library, or the grocery store, or on the road…I hope you’ll see Jesus just a little more than last year.

We are all works in progress, and that’s a beautiful thing.

Grace, peace, and no-more-road-rage,

Kelly

 

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Jesus Comes In The Mess

The laundry piles up like the snow in dingy drifts, and there is no will in me to shovel out.

It’s only a few days till Christmas, and needles from our tree scatter all over the floor like my hyperactive mental list.  Wrap Christmas Eve jammies!  Bake cookies!  Sweep!  Call Keren about scheduling a play date in January!  It goes on and on, endless as the requests for sippy cups of warm milk and orange juice, relentless as my need for a full time laundry helper.  (Applications, anyone?)

My mind skitters back to the phone call yesterday.  My doctor’s voice, telling me that the test result came back as suspectedPeri-menopausal is a diagnosis I hadn’t expected.  Still in my early thirties, I saw more little Canfields in our future.  Not hot flashes and calcium supplements and hormone headaches…the tears come.  Again.  I’m a mess.  Again.

I’m drawn, again, to a God who gave everything to inhabit the mess.

My mess.  My not-togetherness.  Yours.  All those darkened pieces we try to tuck away from the light – His light sees them all, and loves us anyway.  Where in all this love does unwanted news fit?  Bundle it all together, and it’s like a bouquet of cactus stems and orchids.  How do you reconcile the good and the ugly in one messy life?

It hits me like a kiss out of nowhere that if God willingly gave His only Son for us, then everything from His hand must be blessing.  If menopause happens a decade or two early, okay.  Somehow, some way, it must be good.  I would rather have the will of God than anything else in my life.  Hasn’t He proven that He won’t hold back anything good?  And don’t His best gifts sometimes come wrapped oddly?

Like an unexpected pregnancy, or an unplanned trip nine months heavy with child.  Like no room in the inn, like a woman groaning in labor and missing her mother.  Take all the little, fractured pieces, and the sharp edges feel like a knife, slicing hard.  Like the bearing down birth pangs, one crashing right after the other, each one harder than the last.  It’s easy to cry, where is God in all this?

And then, maybe like Mary, the seeing comes, not in making sense of it all, but in seeing God in it all.

Immanuel, joining us, adding His cry to our own.  He’s right here.  My heart slows its wild racing, and I inhale.  Maybe living with eyes open to the blessing doesn’t mean that I have to see the blessing.  Maybe all it means is willingness to see God in the hot, dusty miles.  God providing shelter even while all those innkeepers said no.  God bearing down hard in the labor pains and birthing joy in the mess.  This is the gift of Christmas: God always with us, settling the question of His love toward you and me forever with His presence. 

Maybe those little broken bits of our stories are a mosaic making loveliness out of nothing.

I feel love wrap me like swaddling clothes, jumbling the chipped pieces in me with the raw ones, the sparkly with the shiny ones in a colorful mess.  I am tied up and held together and hushed like a newborn, cradled in grace.  Mary knew that there was joy in simply yielding to the will of God.  Simply saying yes.  Yes.

Maybe you feel the pain bearing down, overwhelming you.  Maybe there’s nothing in your life that seems to make any sense, and you wonder if God even sees.

In the hush of darkness, come to your stable, your messy, rejected places, and find God come to you.

His love looks like ancient promises come true, like a weary teenager resting after birth, like cows and sheep and a Savior all huddled together in a barn.  Like cactus stems and orchids, like a messy life tied together with grace.  It’s there in the diagnosis, in the raw places, in the disappointments and tears and the people who can’t understand that Jesus comes exactly where we don’t expect to see Him.

He’s there, tiny enough to hold in a messy heart and large enough to span the cosmos and all your deepest fears.  He’s the still, small voice that comes after the storm that’s wrecked you.  And He’s the conquering King who will execute righteousness among the nations.

This Christmas, look for your King in the back streets, the stinky places, the rejected spots of your life.

He is there.

Joy to the world…Let earth receive her King.

Will you?

Grace, peace, and joy in the mess,

 

 

 

 

 

 

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