the opposite of drunkenness

IMG_3179I read some words today.*

It was a list. A litany of things that would keep one (myself) from inheriting the kingdom of God. Some of those things I had done last week: fits of anger, idolatry, rivalries, envy. Some I committed within the past few months: drunkenness, dissensions. And as the words wrapped themselves around my heart, I tried to glance away. I tried not to see.

But my kind and gentle Savior led me forward.

I thought the opposite of drunkenness would be sobriety. Or the opposite of rivalries would be forcing myself not to want good things for myself, sort of a lack of competitiveness. I thought it would be robotic control of thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

But that’s not what is written in Galatians. Consider the words that follow. It’s another litany of words. Words we’ve read often and turned into kitchy little plaques that we hang in our homes. I want to pause and rest on these words.

Because the opposite of drunkenness isn’t sobriety.

The opposite of drunkenness is love.

Joy.

Peace.

Patience…

The list continues with kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

And I am led back to that place where it isn’t about so much what I do or don’t do, but what the Spirit is growing in my heart. This is the Spirit’s work in me. It’s the work of love. The work of kindness. The work of gentleness.

And it breaks my heart because I see the lack of that inner-working when I interact with the world. I am not quick to show love and kindness to the ones who are different from me. Or even the ones closest to me. In the name of truth, we forget gentleness. The world looks at our Church and they don’t see our Jesus. Our words have become hurtful and divisive. We don’t make room at the table for the ones who scare us with their different-ness. We tremble at discussion and are fearful of the unknown. We don’t trust the work God does in the hearts of those around us.

We’re so afraid of “false” doctrine that we’ve castrated the Spirit.

We tell people how to read the Bible, how to interpret it and give them rules in place of relationship. We don’t meet people where they are—we ask them to conform before we are willing to bend down and wrap our arms around them. Or if we do, we connect strings to our aid, “Believe this,” we demand. Love is absent. Often gentleness and kindness too. Our hearts are hardened to people’s stories. We stop our ears, and the ears of those around us. We try and silence them—and when that doesn’t work we yell insults and defame characters.

We don’t trust the Spirit is working out salvation with fear and trembling in the hearts of the individual—ours, their’s, and even the ones listening to their story. We are not tender-hearted. We are so fearful of what’s to come, of God being forgotten, that we’re acting like we have to save God—and it’s a desperate act. An act that doesn’t allow for anyone to have a different experience or to ask questions.

Instead of showing the world how good we are at love and kindness and gentleness, we show them how good we are at hate. We are no longer known as the people who love the unlovable—we are the people the unlovable avoid. Rather, they turn to the government to find people to fight for their injustices, to give them aid, food, and shelter.

It’s amazing, really. The things the Church in Acts was known for, we are not. People hear the classification “Christian” and cringe. I know I do too.

We’re not all like that. I know. Some are in the trenches, with full selves and all the messy brokenness creating space for other’s full selves. They strive to bring the kingdom of God to the ones whom God would give it. They read the litany of words stacked against them, and cling to Jesus to make them new, knowing they understand less than an iota, and giving love instead of fear or judgment. They sit. They listen to stories. They allow questions and the unknowns, the unanswerable hanging thick with wait. And with one breath at a time, they make space for the Spirit to do the work that the Spirit does in the Spirit’s time and the Spirit’s way. Letting the stories play out over lifetimes and trusting fear will not overcome.

This is God’s work.

We don’t have to try so hard—doesn’t God say God will bring about God’s good purpose?

I breathe God in.

I breath God out into the world.

*Passage from Galatians 5:16-26

a dose of irreverence

kyler

My kids are ridiculous.

I have to keep reminding Kyler over and over again that people are not her own personal jungle gym. She expresses love with exuberant hugs, jumping on top of people and with aggressive energy. She doesn’t know where she ends and you begin. Bumped heads and a knee in the gut or groin are common. But when she wraps her arms around me and squeezes with all her strength, my heart melts.

Gloria is sassy and spunky—perfecting the use of sarcasm and quick to laugh at me when I misspeak. At her basketball game during half-time music played over the speakers. Gloria danced while the coach gave directions. Of course. I enjoyed watching her. My heart glowed seeing her be so free. She was fully her in that moment.

I love seeing them laugh. I love watching them interact with the world, discovering problems and finding solutions. I love the spontaneity of the ridiculous.

//

Twice a year I help with lunch duty at my kid’s school. It’s amazing watching five groups of fifty kids over the three hour span—the social interactions, the way humor changes, the girls vs. boys mentality, the unfiltered energy their bodies are trying to so hard to contain but seeps out around the cracks. It’s controlled chaos.

At the beginning of each lunch time, one kid is asked to pray. It’s always a battle quieting the room, reminding the kids to listen and to contain that boundless energy. And of course at one point, right after a child started praying, something funny happened, and the kids giggled.

Parent intervened.

Talked about how we approach God as Father, and how we treat our own father. Respectfully. In awe. With reverence.

Somberness.

And it broke my heart a little bit. Because it reminded me so much of my own upbringing. I learned to relate to God as this somber creator, who loved me infinitely, but who was to be taken seriously. Church was about quiet and reflection. Fulfilling duties so God was pleased. There was no play. No silliness.

The games and silliness were separate from and apart from God. Something we were allowed to do before we had to buckle down and work at making God happy.

But.

But what if God delights in the silliness and play?

What if he’s more than somber? What if, more than he wants our awe, he wants us to enjoy him? What if he wants us to feel his absolute and unending delight over us?

//

Today I read Isaiah 52:10.

“The Lord has bared his holy arm…”

You showed the world your guns, I whispered. Maybe that was irreverent. Sorry, not sorry. And then I giggled. It was ridiculous and good. And I thought, maybe God delights in this. Maybe he wants me to lack inhibition, to be fully me. Maybe he delights when I dance in the crowd. Maybe he wants me to be exuberant in my actions even if it’s off-putting because he delights in me loving this world with all of my being.

Maybe he wants me to giggle when something absolutely ridiculous and awkward happens during prayer simply because it’s funny and I’m not a robot. I don’t have to be stoic or somber. Abundant life, full life are the promise—and those are not separate from our emotions.

We remember the grave and the cross—but on this side, it is never separate from the joy of Easter. And there are occasions and times when quiet and reflection are good and needed. And sometimes at dinner instead of praying, we ask our kids to sit quietly for a few moments—taking deep breaths. And giggling and play are set aside for a minute…but there is no rebuke for silliness, no reminders to approach God with reverence.

He finds us in our mess.

He finds us in our silliness.

He is with us in our play.

And he laughs with us.glo

on being brave and becoming

IMG_3712Last night Kyler stayed up too late. It hasn’t happened in awhile but sometimes she is unable to regulate herself and sobs so much she can make herself throw up. In these moments she needs to be held close, hearing my breath and heartbeat as I rub her back, soothing her until she can relax again. She’s older now, so I her lay down on her bed while I scratch her back. It took maybe 30 minutes of soothing lullabies and patience, standing over her bed as I led her back from the edge. Those are my hardest parenting moments—because it’s the end of the day and bedtime and I am moments away from just having some time alone. But I stayed with her.

I told Doug later I don’t know why sometimes it’s easy to make the harder choice. Some nights I will quit and slam doors and yell to get what I want and other nights it’s easy to set aside my wants and needs and be fully present and engaged in whatever battles my kids are experiencing. I knew Kyler was just tired and needed to go to sleep. But yelling at her would have exacerbated the situation. Yelling doesn’t seem to solve much in my house…

//

I read Daring Greatly by Brene Brown a few months ago. It was one of those books I wish I had read years ago. But this was the time when the words would click into place. A teacher once told me it had to the be the right word, at the right time, with the right tone to be life-giving/changing. So while I know the lessons in this book are ones I’ve been figuring out on my own the last ten years and here they are so conveniently packaged into one little book, I wouldn’t have heard the words before now. I had to go the long way round. I needed the years of struggle and battle and mistakes to see the rich, deep earth waiting.

She writes about shame, vulnerability, relationships, and being brave. Her words are well-chosen and full of grace as she confronts our deepest hurts and fears, and challenges us in our own interactions with people. We live in a shame-based world—trying to make people feel bad for a mistake, playing judge and jury more often than friend or confidante. And even with our own children, when their behavior doesn’t match what we’d like to see, we try to make them feel worse about their poor choices. It feels like common-sense that I am my children’s biggest advocate, but so often all I see is mess, rather than the little beating heart behind the mess.

As I write a book about relationships—friendship especially—this book showed me what I have been fleshing out in my friendships. That there is a whole heap of kindness that is forgotten, or a choosing not to be mad because someone misspoke. A trust that they didn’t actually mean to hurt me and I can get to the bottom of things instead of wallowing. That relationships take time, and sometimes years to develop. It’s a slow process sometimes interrupted and set-back. The people I am closest to I have known for over two years and we have grieved together—they have carried my pain as if it were their own and I have carried their’s. There are late night texts, impromptu coffee dates, and driving miles and miles so a friend doesn’t have to go it alone.

I learned I sometimes chose tasks over connection, mistaking them for the same thing. With homeschool and laundry and basketball practice and gymnastics and maintaining friendships, I have used being “here” as enough. I show up. I put in my bit—but I’m not actually in the trenches. I have gotten lazy. After school, I am done with my kids. They go off and play and I sit on the couch and read, or check email, or rush off to a work out. I don’t talk or engage or enter their worlds. I like being around them so much. I get to see their personalities and they way they learn. But we go down the list and when it’s over I want to escape from the little needy hands and all the emotions.

But I’m learning. Relationships take time and energy. They take more than showing up. If I want to know my kids into their thirty’s I have to know them now. I’m learning that my children are little humans with their own thoughts and desires about life and how it works best. I’m learning to see them. I’m constantly relearning how to parent them and shucking off old things that aren’t working for our family. I can’t control them. If Kyler wants to cry for forty-five minutes about going to bed, she gets to make that choice. As her mom there’s a way I can come alongside her and lead her through it. Right now I get to do that—later, it will be her choice if she wants that direction.

I want to be the mom she needs now…and I want to become the mom she still wants when she’s a teenager and a young adult and whatever else she gets, or chooses, to become.

I’m learning that the same work I put into my friendships is the work I need to put into my marriage, and into my kids. It’s been easy when they’re babies to soothe and comfort and to know what they like and dislike. But one of my kids is 12. I have to get a lot more creative about what connection looks like with her. I’ve started noticing others hear her stories because they’ve made time for them—in my task-oriented behavior, I haven’t made room for connection or relationship. I feed her. I teach her. I make sure she has clean clothes and is learning appropriate grooming. But I don’t know her. I’m putting together a Christmas gift list for her and I feel sad that I don’t know what she likes. I forgot connection.

Parenting trumped relationship.

But now I get to try again. I get to build and rebuild the bridges, slowly one step at a time.

I think we all desire connection and relationships, but we have forgotten how hard they are—that they aren’t always easy or fun to develop or maintain…and it requires a huge level of vulnerability because we will make mistakes and have to apologize. We will have to forgive even if we don’t really want too, and we have to be teachable and tender-hearted towards one another. It’s differently hard when it’s my kids, my husband, or my friends. But the attention to detail and the vulnerability are overarching themes I’m seeing—strands woven throughout.

following the light

The lies breathe down my neck…sometimes it’s impossible to bear their weight.

It’s hard to write about adoption. It’s a tangled web of attachment, parenting snafus and mistakes and privacy. My daughter’s story is her’s alone—and it’s not fair for me to broadcast across the universe about learning to navigate her PMS or what brings her pain and what she can sit through. This is none of your business.

 

But…

 

But if I don’t say anything then it’s an incomplete picture. If I don’t write about these hard things then it’s an unrealistic picture of adoption and how it irrevocably changed and shaped our family. How it changed me. So it’s not your business, but I do want you to know something.

Like how I battle shame for the way I sometimes have to give myself a pep talk as she walks in the door. Or feeling guilty when my sister called me out on the fact that as soon as Glo wakes up in the morning, the first words out of my mouth are commands for her to go do something so she would stay out of my way. Whereas, when my other two wake up, they’ll crawl into my lap and we’ll spend time snuggling. Because that doesn’t make me feel like the world’s largest slime ball and it’s super easy to talk about it to every other person on the planet.

There’s a line between being honest and over-sharing.

So I don’t write much about our adoption because so much of this isn’t any of your business—it’s private matters worked out in my heart between me and my God, between my daughter and myself, and between her and her God. She’s got a lot of trauma to work through and a lot of her story with which to come to peace.

I don’t feel like I rescued her. I know logically and in a very tangible way, we saved her life. And I know she is for loving and that she’s mine. I also remember standing outside the door to our hotel in Africa, leaning my head on the door crying in defeat. We’d been there for three weeks and our quiet, friendly, accommodating child had transformed into this needy, destructive, dramatic human I didn’t recognize—and all I wanted was a giant red button to reset the whole thing, to make a different decision that led us to a different place. Those are my weakest and darkest moments. The moments when I wish we had never entered into this.

Our family is knit together and she is mine and I am hers. It’s in my bones. My body and heart would break if anything happened to her—and I know that I know that I know I am her mom. The end.

 

But…

 

But there are moments I think back to before I had kids and I wish my biological children away because I’m tired of piles of laundry and 90 requests in the first hour of the day and I just want to sit on the couch and drink my coffee and not have to be “on” for anyone else; or I crave the days when my time was my own and I could be as selfish as I wanted with what I did and how I did it…But when I think about life pre-adoption there’s this small voice, the cynic inside, who whispers that I really do mean it with Glo. That I really do resent her and the way she upset my life.

And a knife twists, and I submit to the lie that I’m a terrible mom and so I stay quiet and let the guilt and shame eat away. I can’t tell you this because you’ll tell me everything I already know—that I’m broken and wrong and hateful. You’ll see her and see a great kid and assume I’m exaggerating about how hard it is to choose love.

And there probably is a biological imperative that makes staying with your kids that look and sound like you a tad bit easier—

Someone once told me it would feel different when Kyler gives birth than when Gloria gives birth…I’m scared they’re right. I’m scared that blood matters more than choice. I’m scared that Gloria will turn 18 and walk away from us and I’ll breath a great sigh of relief. I’m scared that I’m checking the boxes of what a good mom is, without actually feeling the feels of a good mom. I am going through the motions, but have completely separated myself from her. I’m on one side of the wall and she’s on the other.

 

But…

 

But then the still small voice, whispers–not the cynic, the other one. The one who is lovingly tender as I walk out my life with fear and trembling. The Spirit presses in, reminding me that I too am created and beloved, I am for loving and that I am good. I am reminded of the power of the light, that by writing and speaking–even of the darkest and hardest parts, they begin to lose their power. Shame and guilt give way to grace and humility. I confess my hardness, and am softened.

So, I’m exposing these lies to the light. Here, now I am showing you the darkest parts of me. I am letting the lies have their moment in time and space—and as I write these words, tears drip down slowly, and my heart grows softer and more tender towards myself and towards my daughter. There is grace and love here. There’s a chance for hope and life to speak into these dark places.

 

glo

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