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Abundance

A common theme in conversations and thoughts and in my heart and soul for the past few months has been abundance – abundant life and living in the Kingdom and all the good that we’re supposed to experience – now and for eternity.

What I’ve come to realize is that I don’t understand this concept at all. When I’m feeling cynical I blame it on the traditions I’ve been raised in and the culture of fear and shame that Christianity sometimes creates – how can I believe I can live abundant life when it’s so clear that I fail God over and over again, when I am obviously still a slave to sin, when I’m supposed to be humble and patient and gentle, when I’m reminded over and over again that I’m one choice away from losing my salvation.

When I’m in a more honest mood I can admit that my inability to understand abundance comes from fear. What if I’m not really saved, what if the promise of abundant life isn’t really for me. What if I am weeds and goats and bad trees. I don’t live in the Kingdom because I’m still scared that I don’t belong in the Kingdom.

The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.

Luke 14:15-24 has been in my head a lot. There’s layers of truth there, but the one that most often sticks out at me is the truth that I *don’t* belong in the kingdom. The banquet wasn’t prepared for me. I wasn’t invited based on my accomplishments or achievements or honour or status. Yet I am welcome. More than welcome, I am compelled. And there is still room for more.

I don’t need to hoard or hide away the good in my life. I don’t need to be afraid that any minute it could all turn to dust. I don’t need to be scared of being found out – and I don’t need to put on airs to try and fit in somewhere I don’t belong. I do belong, both as I am and as I am being transformed to be. There is no limit to GOd’s grace ,not for me and not for anyone around me. I can share it – all the oy and excitement and wonder and awe and blessings and good and mystery and everything else. I can share my questions and my (mis)understandings. I can share my strengths and my weaknesses. I can share my self and my time and above all I can share love. There is no limit to the love that I can share to those around me, in whatever form they are open to receiving it.

To live abundant life is to live knowing that there is more – more joy and love and wonder and more of God to know and experience and be in awe of. To know there is more and to be aware and experiencing what is in each moment. I still know that I don’t really understand the concept, but I’m trying.

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On Success

How do I measure success? This question has plagued me for the last few years. At 32, I am not where I expected to be in life. I had a 5 year plan, a 10 year plan, goals and expectations. I thought I’d go on to a Masters, eventually a PHD. I thought I’d write books, that I would be recognized. As it is, I am 10 years past receiving my degree and just as long from being in a classroom. I haven’t worked in my field since the birth of my daughter 8 years ago, and the only time my degree comes close to being used is on a volunteer basis or as a sounding board for friends who moved on and were able to do what I coudn’t.

 

Over the years I have learned how to heal, I have battled with depression and learned how to manage it. I’ve managed an illness that kept me hardly functioning for the better part of a year. I have learned how to be a wife, how to be a mother. I have learned skills and ways of expressing myself. I’ve even managed to occasionally get paid for things I enjoy doing. Still, my husband and I are in the lowest tax bracket, and it’s hard to enjoy the time spent practicing my craft when I could be working, earing, helping to support our family. As much as can go on about the benefits of being a full time parent all of the things I am able to contribute – to my husband, our kids, our home and our friends – I struggle against the constant insecurity that it isn’t enough.

 

I’ve come to realize this insecurity comes from my opening question – how do I measure success? If it’s through degrees or professional accomplishments, I am doomed to always fail. If it’s in the form of finances then I feel some mix of guilt and hatred for myself that manifests as misdirected resentment for my husband for not bringing home enough. I have not travelled the globe, I have not made the world a better place, I have not been in the spotlight and applauded. Success has not been handed to me from an outside source, so how will I know when I have accomplished it?

 

I had to learn to let go of the expectations I had put on myself. I had to accept that I am not a woman who will have it all – a career and a family and a spotless home and a full social life. I will never be that person – and I no longer hold resentment for women who are able to have that life. For the first time in a long time I am content with my life – as it is. More than content, I feel proud of the things I have accomplished, proud of my choices, proud of the life I have created and the part I play in the lives of those around me. I measure success in the challenges I overcome, in the things that I learn, in the ways that I give, in the peace that I feel.

While I’m waiting

I am not a patient person. I rarely see the value in the journey, in the process, in the wait. Once I know something is coming, I want it. Now. The worst thing a person can do to me is send a message like “I have something I really want to talk to you about, can we get together next week?” – all I want to do is scream “No, we can get together now!”

There are things in life I am waiting for. There are plans my husband and I have that must be put on hold. It’s not idle time – it’s time of preparation and growth and I know this. I know that the timing isn’t right yet, I know there is a need to wait and there is progress in the waiting, but it is still hard.

My impatience pulls at me, begging me to start something new – a new project, a new goal, a new version of myself that I can be to fill the space until it gets to now. It’s tempting. It’s tempting to want to write or work or study – all things that would give me a different path, things that look good on the surface but don’t really get me any closer to the thing I am waiting for.

So I’m learning to enjoy the waiting. Learning to take the quiet and the moments and the days when I am not pressured and rushing as gifts. Somehow I had gotten in my mind that the pressure was a sign of success – it meant I was doing, meant that there was tangible evidence of my work, of my worth. Waiting is teaching me to let go of that. To rest, to reflect, to savour a cup of coffee sitting in the sun or an afternoon giggling with my children. Waiting is teaching me to be instead of always feeling a need to do.

It’s still hard, still a struggle, but today is a day I think I did it right, and I wanted to remember that, to cherish it and tuck it away for the next day when waiting is hard.

Slowing down.

I’ve had sick kids the last few days. Sick kids means kids at home, means time spent getting water and fixing blankets and cuddling up on the couch. It’s wonderful, but at the back of my mind I’m still aware of the chores and the to do lists and the things I had planned to get done that just don’t seem to happen when there are kids in the house.

I admit I don’t always make the best nurse in these times. I tend to get anxious about what isn’t happening. I feel frustrated and put upon and am constantly going through the lists in my head and trying to figure out how to shuffle things around so it will all get done.

I tried a different approach this time. I cleared my schedule. I sat on the couch with my daughter’s head in my lap. I nurtured her. I played games with my son and we laughed together. I took a breath, I let go of the lists and I experienced life as it was.

I’ve been reading more about slowing down. From blogs by busy moms to a book about worship to the story of Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet to Jesus himself taking time away from the crowds. Changing my mind from seeing “quiet time” as another thing to add to my list to realizing it means being in the moment, being present where I am and finding the quiet there, the lessons, the whispers of the Spirit, the refreshing of my soul.

As I sit

As I sit in my quiet house with my coffee, a thousand things tumble through my head. To-Do lists and reminders and things I want to do with the kids and things we could do as a family and people I need to call and emails I need to write. My world is quiet but inside is not.

Until I make a choice and take out my journal and find a thought to focus on, a thread, and it comes out through my pen onto paper and with the focus comes quiet and with the quiet comes peace.

And then I can listen.

I can listen to what’s deeper than the chatter and the to-do and the should and have to and regrets. There’s a stillness deep inside.

Prepare my heart to worship You, my only desire is to honour You, I’m weak and in need of something fresh. 

Something about music. Something about the sounds and the words sits deep in my soul and comes up just when I need to. It’s a beautiful thing, really. These are lyrics a song that I can’t even find online, a band that I listened to as a teen because they were local and it was something to do. Today, they are my prayer.

Search me today and make me new
Wisdom and hope I pray from you
Break up my selfish, stubborn will
No matter the cost, I’ll serve you still

Sometimes it feels like I don’t know what I’m doing

Yesterday I prayed with my daughter. I’m almost ashamed that such a simple thing is worth reflecting and writing on, but it is. Praying with my daughter is a rare thing. Praying for her or around her is normal. We talk about prayer together. Still there seemed to be some sort of disconnect, like going from “oh I love dancing” to “will you dance with me”.

I don’t know how to do this “raising kids in a Christian home” thing. I have enough trouble with the “raising kids part” and then the “Christian home” side…well, often it feels like I’m having to make things up as I go and hope for the best. We don’t do things the way my husband was raised (as much as he is a fantastic person and I completely adore my inlaws, it just doesn’t work for us), and things from my childhood are no help (in my family the closest we got to spiritual teachings was watching Jesus Christ Superstar). I watch the people around me but they all seem so natural at it, asking questions makes me feel awkward and uncomfortable. Like I should know how to do this. Like it should come naturally.

It doesn’t really. There’s so many things I want for my kids and I’m just not sure how to do it all. I want them to have a deep longing for a connection with the Divine, but I also want them to understand and respect other faith cultures. I want them to be sure of their place in the world but I don’t want them to forget there are others who need. I want them to have strength and courage and be a voice for the voiceless but I don’t want them to miss the point and feel superior to the people around them. I want them to know God and experience his love and grace, but I want them to have the opportunity to seek him out on their own terms.

So they come to church with us. They learn all the things they learn in their program (which I’m assuming is good quality stuff since husband and other people I love and respect are running things). They hear husband and I talk and discuss. They see me involved and participate with us. I don’t hide my faith, but at the same time it’s very much my faith and the problem comes with trying to share that with them.

So today was a big step. When the girl was frustrated and teary eyed, when I was replaying the scolding I’d given in my head, when I remembered that there is more to being good than acting good, I asked her if I could pray with her. Because she is my girl and keeps me on my toes and challenges me more than she’ll ever know, her response was “why?”

Why? 

Because you’re special and amazing and I love you. Because you’ve had a rough day. Because sometimes it feels like no matter how hard you try you can’t get it right. Because we need to remember we’re not in this alone. Because I know you can get past this. Because God loves you even more than I do. Because I get it wrong too and need to remember it’s not all up to me. Because we both need all the love we can get. Because God is good and wants good for us.

I don’t always do it right – as a parent or as a believer or as an example or any of the other things I am in the run of the day, but in that moment, by the grace of God, I think I did.