Poo Piles and Other Fears

James is ready. He’s been ready. I, on the other hand, am so not ready. Potty training has been on our parenting radar for months now, but we keep putting it off for various reasons, some more legitimate than others.

For awhile, I thought my reluctance stemmed from the hassle of it all. The mess. The time. The energy. In reality, I don’t really mind the idea of him running around nudie for large portions of the day – that’s not much less clothing than he prefers to be in these days anyways. I don’t mind adding to his sugar intake for every successful toilet venture. I don’t even mind being sequestered in my kitchen for days on end.

The real reason I don’t want to potty train my two-year-old came to me while I was elbow deep in dish water. I am scared that I will fail.  What if I try to potty train James and, after a week, I’m left with a house full of poo piles and a kid who’s still in diapers?  So, I have yet to try.

fear

Pushing suds around plates and silverware, I began thinking of all the things I don’t do because I’m afraid I’ll fail. I don’t attempt new hobbies, like dancing, because I might not be good at it (or I might not be good at first or I might look like a goof trying). I don’t pursue new friendships because I might not be someone they like. I don’t always write because I might have completely lost my ability to string words together.

As a fairly self-aware perfectionist, non of this is mind-blowing news. It may take a while for me to recognize fear as the source of my reluctance, but it’s not a surprise when I finally make the connection.

What I hadn’t processed previous to that evening, standing in front of my sink with my white rubber gloves on, was how fear of failure effects my faith. Contrary to what my subconscious tells me, my relationship with God does not come out unscathed by such a prevailing pattern in my life.

Sometimes I don’t pray because I’m afraid nothing will happen. Sometimes I don’t say anything because I’m afraid I won’t have the right words. Sometimes I don’t help because I’m afraid it won’t make a difference.

Examined out of the context of my fear, those statements show a selfish, skewed view of my Heavenly Father that I’m rather embarrassed by. I’m thankful that His grace covers my failings. I may still end up with poo piles, but God’s love is greater, stronger than my fears.

Marriage and the Phlebotomist

Marriage

Getting my blood drawn ranks right up there with vomiting on the list of things I hate.  After putting off some follow-up blood work I needed to get done for far too long, the dread had become more all consuming than my distaste of the procedure. So I decided to pull off the proverbial band-aid last week, which is why I was found dutifully sitting in a crowded lab office.

My fellow blood-letters were mostly from a previous generation. The powerful scent of aftershave and Chanel No.5 filled the space not taken up by walkers and puffy jackets. They make conversation with each other about their Power Ball lottery losses, raising gravely voices over the morning news playing on the TV above our heads. While I decide whether to distract myself with Instagram or let all the ambient noises lull me into a false sense of security, I hear my name called from around the corner.

A woman my own age ushers me down the hallway. She reminds me of a girl I knew growing up. Her trim, athletic figure looks enviably good in scrubs; their plumb hue complimenting her unadorned olive skin and bright eyes. We turn into an empty room. I slide off my jacket and take a seat in the chair trying not to stare at the lone vial of someone else’s blood standing sentinel in the collection tray. The phlebotomist asks a few preliminary questions. When I tell her my birthdate, she looks up and smiles, “I’m a five too.”

Pleasantries aside, I push up both sleeves and we begin the banter that always ensues when I give blood…

“Do you have an arm preference?” She unwraps a needle and gets some tubes ready.

“No. I tend to be a difficult stick.”

“What’s your dominant hand?”

“Right,” I reply.

“Dominant sides generally have bigger veins. Do you mind if I do your right arm?”

I clench my right fist and she feels around for a few seconds.

“I think I’ll use a different needle.” The cold sweat begins.

She goes back to the drawer and unwraps another package. Taking off a glove, she hones back in on a spot in the crook of my right arm.

“Well, I think I found one. It’s a little rolly. I bet most people don’t find it because they won’t take off their gloves.”

I can feel my face blanch at the mention of rolly and I don’t hear her finish the sentence. I’ve already been doing deep breathing to keep my heart rate normal, but the thought of her having to fish for my rolly vein makes me feel nauseous. I don’t want to experience the two things I hate most in the same day.  

I’m not sure if she sensed my panic or if she was just being courteous, but she turned around to close the curtain separating the room and the busy hallway, muttering something about privacy. I am thankful that if I do happen to pass out vomit there will be only one witness my shame.

“You’re doing great.” I let my eyes drift away from the glove boxes I’d been staring at over my left shoulder and look at her in surprise. I hadn’t even felt her put the needle in.

As she attached the last vial to be filled, she asked what I had going on the rest of the day. She worked steadily – sliding the needle out of my arm, holding a cotton ball to the puncture site, taping the cotton ball in place –  and listened quietly as I explained I’d be hanging out with my 3 month and two year old.

Her next question took me by surprise.

“Do you like being married?” She paused and before I could answer, added, “Marriage kinda scares me.”

“It’s good. I really like it,” I said lamely.

I’m not sure if she felt a special camaraderie with me because we shared the same birth month or I looked like someone she could confide in, but she continued her line of questioning.  “Marriage kinda scares me. I’ve just been hurt really bad, you know? How did you know he was the right one?”

I stared at her for a moment, wondering how we jumped from what I’d be doing this afternoon to how I knew Tim was the one. While she threw away needles and added my vials of blood to the collection tray, I replayed June 10th to October 30th, 2011 in my mind as quickly as possible, searching for a decent answer. I wasn’t sure I actually had an answer.

Was Tim the right one because he met all the criteria on my list? (Yes, I had created a physical list that I still possess.) Was Tim the right one because our relationship survived a week long camping trip with his family? Was Tim the right one because both of us happened to be available at the same time?

My brief replay of history didn’t yield much fruit, but this felt like one of those God-ordained opportunities to have a meaningful conversation and I didn’t want to blow it. I wish I could say I came up with a profound answer that gave this woman hope and enthusiasm for future relationships. In actuality, my response was lacklustre and riddled with the religious jargon I was meaning to avoid. I slid my jacket back on and walked into the hallway a little reluctantly, feeling like I had indeed blown it.

How do you explain to someone that marriage is created by a God who loves us and wants to be intimately involved in our lives; that marriage is hard and doesn’t preclude you from getting hurt; that marriage is less about finding the right one and more about finding a person who always points you to the Right One

I guess you say just that.

Here’s to hoping she becomes my regular phlebotomist.

the intimacy of reading

The intimacy of reading

I can see the warm light of our living room lamp casting a halo like glow over a basket of books.  I can see the low white bookshelf in my Gramma’s spare room, filled with Angelina Ballerina and other mouse books. I can see the bright yellow cover of my One Year Bible that my mom read out of every night before bed.

Some of my earliest memories are tied to reading and books.Those memories are indicative of a lifelong love of literature. I desire to instill a similar love in James and any future children. We make reading to him a priority, a priority that is easy to keep.

I love the intimacy of reading with James, snuggling as close as his squirmy little body will allow. I treasure the proximity we share as I turn the pages and he grabs and pulls, more intent on eating than absorbing content.

I love watching him engage with the pages, grasping and patting. Sometimes he just stares at the colors, other times he helps me turn the page, eager to discover what’s next. I love watching him learn and grow. When we first started reading together, he was an infant – just a lump of baby flesh in my arms, barely able to stay awake for my recitation of Barnyard Dance.

As he matures, he is more attentive, more aware. He focuses and anticipates the discovery of something new on the next page. Sometimes I point things out to him – the pretty flower, the funny face. Other times I let him discover on his own, waiting patiently for him to find bumble bee or lift the flap to see what’s underneath.

He wiggles and wrestles. He sits and snuggles. He may last through the whole book or he may start crying before we reach the second page.  Even if he doesn’t notice the words or understand the plot, even if he gets distracted or upset, I am always thankful for the time we spend together with a book in front of us.

I wonder if God experiences our time in the Word like I experience reading with James?

I think He cherishes the intimacy developed as we crack open the Bible, lean into Scripture, and rest in His truths.

I think God loves watching us engage with the pages of Scripture, eager to discover what’s next. He is pleased to see us learning and growing.

In our infancy, we are a lump in His Father arms, being bottle fed the words. As we mature as Christ-followers, we become more attentive, more aware.

Sometimes He points things out to us. Sometimes He lets us work things out on our own, waiting patiently for us to discover truth and wisdom.

Sometimes we wriggle and wrestle with discomfort as we read. Other times we sit in silence. We may gobble up chapters or chew on a verse. Sometimes we just sit in God’s lap and cry without having read one word.

Even if we get distracted or upset, God still cherishes the time we spend with Him, His Word in front of us.

Free, at last.

free, at last

This all begins and ends in 2nd Timothy.

The Word of God is not imprisoned.

2 Timothy 2:9

We let our culture and our own finite understanding capture the Word of God, keeping it in chains. But, the Word is FREE and it brings FREEDOM to all who hear.

We let our sin habits shackle God’s truth. Our repeated offenses trap us in harmful patterns, when Scripture offers a lovely tapestry of truths to set our hearts free.

I think of my body image issues – how I’ve let culture complicate my relationship with my body, how I’ve let the world define my beauty and value, how I’ve let my physical appearance become an idol that distracts me from the Creator.

I have bound and gagged the Word of God that says I am (we are all) fearfully and wonderfully made.

There is sweet release when we really live out the truth that God’s works are wonderful – including us! God’s word gives us permission to love what He has created, to love our bodies, our features, our uniquenesses, because they reflect God as a Father and an artist.

The worth of a person is not bound up in their physical appearance. I believe that about others; why has it taken 27 years for me to believe this about myself?

God judges persons differently than humans do. Men and women look at the face, God looks at the heart.

1 Samuel 16:7

Dwelling on the implications of that truth has been one of the most life giving gifts of freedom I’ve experienced lately. When I let go of fitting into a certain physical mold, I am free.

I am free from the pressure to be pretty because my value comes from my Creator, not the created.

I am free to be cherished right now, not just when I’m finally that size or photogenic or wearing that top.

I am free to enjoy a bowl of ice cream in the evening without worrying about it going straight to my bum.

I am free to feel good about myself even if I don’t wear the same pant size I did in high school.

I am free to not fit into some of my pre-preggo clothes.

I am even free to give away some of those pre-preggo clothes that I may not ever fit into again.

I am free to be healthy and strong and build muscle.

I am free to not count calories.

I am free to like my body even if I don’t have a flat stomach or a model physique.

I am free to buy clothes that fit and flatter regardless of the size.

I am free to have seasons of feasting and seasons of fasting.

I am free to not be the “prettiest,” blondest girl in every room.

I am free to be me and not to be her.

I am free to enjoy life without focusing on what I look like.

I am free to be God’s fearfully and wonderfully made creation.

~~~

Small shifts in thinking can lead to major transformation. And, when you aren’t always cognitive of those shifts taking place (or dismiss them as insignificant because they are so small), you wake up one morning and marvel at the new outlook you seem to have adopted overnight.

Start with one small shift towards accepting the freedom we have in Christ. One morning you may find yourself marveling at the transformation God made in your heart.

I know I have.

The Word of God is not imprisoned. Let it set you free.

photo credit: greekadman via photopin cc

camping and the god who goes before us

We were a camping family. Most Summer vacations would find us packed in the mini van, gear and luggage tied to the top, driving to the Redwoods, the Snake River, Yellowstone, or the like.

We were a tent camping family. I was too young to really be involved in the nitty gritty planning involved – kudos to The Parentals for organizing and wrangling us on these adventures – but I wasn’t too young to help set up camp. Campsites needed to be chosen and cleared. Tents needed to be assembled. Firewood needed to be gathered. It was a family affair.

Those things – the deciding, the clearing, the assembling, the gathering – are tedious and, often, tensive. To this day, the anticipation of those tasks remains a hurdle between me and the great outdoors.

I would love to arrive at a campsite where my sleeping bag was already nestled into a constructed tent, my evening coffee was percolating over a crackling fire, and my water containers were full.

the God who goes before usThe Israelites were also a camping family. In fact, they were basically professional nomads. I marvel at families who go on extended road trips across the country or around the world, but the Israelites have us all beat. They went on a rather epic forty-year camping trip through the desert. That is a lot of clearing and assembling and gathering and organizing and tearing down and moving. No thanks.

I can imagine the arguments that erupted from so much camping.

“I don’t want to move those rocks. Why can’t we pitch our tent over there…”

“Mattias, you need to find two more bundles of wood before you go play.”

“We’ve been walking for-ev-ver. Are we THERE yet?”

The sad thing is, the Israelites could have avoided that decades long camp fest.

See, the Lord your God has placed the land before you; go up, take possession, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has spoken to you. Do not fear or be dismayed…It is a good land which the Lord our God is about to give us.

Deuteronomy 1:21 & 25

God had already prepared a campsite for them – He had done the hard work of picking the perfect place, clearing it of obstructions, and making sure there was plenty of food and water. But, what God picked wasn’t what the Israelites had imagined. Instead of seeing the bounty and beauty of the land God had prepared, their trust in God’s provision was blinded by the potential threat of giants.

Along with the whole setting up tents thing, the idea of bears invading camp is enough to make me balk at going camping. My husband is an old-hand at camping. I’ve heard about his past experiences and I’ve seen his expertise first hand. If he says our campsite is not at risk, I should have full confidence in his decision.

The same goes for the Israelites. God had been nothing but faithful to His people – liberating them from Egypt, giving them victories over their enemies, supplying food to eat. If He says the land is safe and ready to be occupied, they should have full confidence in His decision.

God promises to go ahead of you and prepare the way. He may not take the route you expected. He may not pick a campsite with the view you wanted. He may not pitch the tent as fast as you had hoped. He may not rent the space for as long as you’d like. But, God goes before us.

The Lord your God who goes before you will Himself fight on your behalf, just as He did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness where you saw how the Lord your God carried you, just as a man carries his son, in all the way which you have walked until you came to this place.’ “But for all this, you did not trust the Lord your God, who goes before you on your way, to seek out a place for you to encamp, in fire by night and cloud by day, to show you the way in which you should go.

Deuteronomy 1:30-33

Let these words of Moses encourage you. He will carry you. He will seek out what is best for you.

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