When my daughter was born, new policies were imparted to enable women to take six weeks of maternity leave. It may have been more like 12 weeks, I can’t recall the exact terms. I only recall our situation– my spouse was self-employed, I was our provider of health insurance, leave was paid in reduced wages, insurance coverage was paid through COBRA rates… six weeks was all we could afford.
A couple decades ago, digital photography did not exist. I captured images of our baby girl on film, roll by roll. I would have to wait for the roll to be developed to know if I actually captured the moment. I have many strips of film with blurred shots, closed eyes, and the back of her head. That’s just how it was. 18 years later, I haven’t developed prints for years. Many of our memories are filed on social media and backed up to a cloud in cyberspace– I trust they are.
When I think back on my first days as a working mom, the recollection is a roll of film I developed. I discovered a visible gap of time. In one image, there was a baby just a few weeks old. In the next, her dark locks were much thinner because her head had grown. It was clear those days went by without photo evidence. I don’t hold this against myself but I’m sure there are some who just judged the last paragraph. We tend to be overly critical of one another, aren’t we? I use this recollection from 1998 to keep life in balance. Life is, and always will be, a constant and concerted effort to maintain equilibrium in this world.
I’m coming back from a long hiatus today to write. It is similar to the recollection above– I returned to full-time work and I’m trying to maintain balance. My reality is, I’m wondering how I managed life before my last downsizing. I knew weekends were precious and often filled with a condensed and endless list of chores. I know full well what sacrifices I made. Just as I knew 18 years ago there were folks with opinions about my working mother life, I know there are plenty willing to judge me now. The difference is, I’m in a different place. Although I’m working through a constant cycle of obligations, desires and abilities, I have a different perspective on life. My perspective isn’t on things of this world as my ultimate goal. Days are challenging but they aren’t daunting. When people once asked how I managed it all, I was on the verge of tears as a mental checklist of all I did not accomplish immediately flashed in my mind like a neon “Hot Now” sign.
There is much going on in my heart, mind, and family life that I should not discuss in a public forum. I have been personally convicted that the [somewhat] controlled forum of social media is still an inappropriate way to vet my emotions and actions. One of my last Random Musings weeks ago confessed the altar on which I laid my thoughts and actions– not for the approval of my Lord but for the affirmation of man. I value my friends, but who was my god?
The same is true for this blog. I know it was necessary in the process of ‘putting off my old self‘ to write out some things that darkened my heart and mind. I am certain the exercise was beneficial to me as well as those who also needed to confront scars that weren’t healing– they were festering inward and causing an infection that came through my words and actions. The conviction that became unhealthy was the process of putting others on my altar for sacrifice. Even with ambiguous language, those who know me might be able to identify the life experiences with which I wrestled. I wasn’t masking as cleverly as I hoped I was. Honestly, I was seeking vindication on my own terms.
I had about six weeks of hiatus before returning to work mid-January this year. It was similar to my postpartum leave except I was experiencing [yet another] spiritual rebirth rather than a physical birth. It was good to have this time in the presence of God after a healthy year seeking His call. There are two things I learned at the close of the year that are crucial to my spiritual growth.
First, I learned [I am learning] to pray for God’s perfect will rather than talking through desires of my heart and hoping He will bless them. God will honor our will if it is in His Will.
Did you catch that?
I am the youngest of seven. Seven girls, no less. I spent many years fighting for my own way. I was a strong-willed child. If you’ve read my blog, you know I spent years juggling insecurity backed with fierce determination yet hindered by lack of discipline. I might be further down His path for my life had I applied the wisdom so many tried to impart in my life. But God…
His sovereign nature allows us free will to learn at our own pace in a way that will most effectively teach us our lessons. This is His providential will. These lessons aren’t just for our good but for the good of His divine plan and those around us.
I am fierce.
I don’t like to be wrong.
I am trying to be peacefully driven but not irrationally fierce in this back half of my life.
This is why this wisdom has become pivotal in this season.
This leads to the second revelation at the start of my new year, my new life preparation… I’ve come to appreciate pondering things in my heart and wrestling them in my mind before God; not with God. Many shake a fist at God and question if He is truly listening.
He is. He cares deeply. Like a good parent, He has to let us get where we are to go by seeking His guidance, not driving us to our destination. We won’t appreciate the ride from the backseat as much as we will from the front. This is why I appreciate His ways more as I get older. I am finally grasping what I should have years ago. I will continue to learn.
My husband is a good listener. He lets me talk things out without much conversation in return. He has a way of letting me arrive at a conclusion in my own voice. This is a principle I’ve also learned in Biblical Counsel training for our lay ministry at church. Sometimes we just need to talk things out. The problem is, many of us our talking them out to the wrong audience. This is why I’ve learned, why I will continue to learn, I need to be quiet and handle life with the wisdom outlined by God. There is a third element in this process and it makes it a strong three-strand cord. God is my vindicator, just as the scripture above teaches. I just need to be still and let Him work things out.
Life hasn’t been easy. Daily I vet His call on my life before Him through continual conversation. I know I need to be still and wait. In my daily job, as a mother of a new adult, as a surrogate parent of a foreign child, as a wife, as a servant… I need to be still and gently, speak only when the Spirit prompts. Pfft! Heck yea, I forget and stumble over my words and actions. This side of heaven, I am still human. This is why, on the day before Easter Sunday, I am writing. It is a post longer than I know will be read by the average reader. If you’re still reading, you’re not average. You are focused on truth and followed along because you’re compelled to know the ending. It doesn’t end.
That’s the point… It ain’t over until He says it is. Daddy said there’d be days like this. The message of Easter is just that– He said He will return and He is true to His word. Until that time, those of us who call ourselves Christ followers need to keep applying these truths to our lives every day. We aren’t. We claim the name but live for ourselves. We have the gym membership but rarely do the workout.
Perhaps this is why I’m prompted to postpone mopping my floors and coloring eggs today. As with other ‘religious holidays’, I don’t have set of traditions I am painstakingly carrying on. I’ve truly missed writing but know I needed to fast for a season. My season wasn’t an appointed timespan like 40 days prior to Easter but it sort of worked out that way. I lapsed and occasionally posted a status message or prayer request. Often times, I took them down when I realized they were leading in the direction of replying to off-target comments or seeking affirmation. Once the prayer was lifted and heard, the request needed to come down. This statement isn’t meant to convict social media as a whole. I am speaking from the perspective of a former addict. If you’ve been an alcoholic, you can’t drink. I’m trying to examine in my own life what is my god and what is preventing me from time with my God. It is intensely personal. If you feel convicted in this regard, ponder thoughts in your heart, wrestle your thoughts before God, and make changes if you need to. Silently. To yourself.
Social media is a false form of accountability. Ultimately, you still control what you post, what your view, what you absorb, and how much time you commit to this hobby.
I’m feeling guilty right now. I fully intend to publish this post when I finish writing. Please know I’m not doing so for my own esteem. I am writing because I feel prompted to write. Maybe I’m writing for the person who is thinking, “One more day of lent and then I can…[insert indulgent habit here].”
I am writing to encourage readers–
To consider more than 40 appointed days.
To understand obedience from love rather than obligation out of guilt or tradition.
To consider more than trite and trivial sacrifices.
To consider fasting and praying silently. Complete silence.
Yes, we are to pray together as the Body of Christ. Matthew 6 is a chapter I hold my actions to often. In recent months, I have not said more than I have said. I’ve felt judgement but kept quiet. I’m struggling with real issues but I’ve not put them out to air. I need to go through this season to prepare me for the next.
When I talk about the struggles with others, it makes no sense.
When I talk about the struggles with God, it is clear.
I’m writing to encourage the person who might be living in the same season. The season of transition. Of waiting without words. I don’t know exactly how my life, how our lives will end. I do know God is on the move. I’ve needed to recall the wisdom from Ephesians 4-6 quite often in recent months. In all honestly, I’ve needed to keep my mind on the Word in order to keep focus where it needs to be. I once devoted hours to Facebook and other distractions. Life is full as is. If I were to battle before my friends on social media or this blog, I wouldn’t have energy to carry out His battle plan.
This is the image that has been on my mind. When a soldier goes off to war, you don’t hear from them. They are focused. Their location and mission cannot be disclosed. When we proclaim our intentions play-by-play, it gives the enemy intelligence he can use to weaken our strategy. We may see many victories that don’t matter compared to the ultimate prize. It is good to celebrate life and living. For me, I realized I was spending too much time maintaining the facade of life. Being transparent has value but we also need to be put on our armor, not rely on our calluses to protect us… we still have soft parts… do you get what I mean? Some days I forget to put on my armor and the scars of my life are my words rather than allowing the spirit to guide my thoughts and words. The verse below is a key teaching to our faith walk.
I am at war.
Sadly, that war sometimes is fought in the most unsuspecting places, including my home.
Enough said… no juicy sacrifies need to go on the WordPress altar today.
Ephesians 6:10-20 | Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassadorin chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
As. I. Should.