Monday, March 15, 2010

Don't bother Jesus

The timidity with which I approach Jesus really must be frustrating for Him. I tentatively reach for the grace that I've already been promised, an apologetic look on my face. I imagine my daughter asking for something she needs in this way. Please, can I have just a little milk? I know that I don't deserve it. I'm sorry. I'm just thirsty. I could cry just thinking about it. It would break my heart. I would swoop her up into my arms, grab a straw and the whole dang gallon of milk out of the fridge, and I wouldn't let her go until she knew that I will stop at nothing to provide for her, to love her. As it is, when she asks me for something, she asks confidently, and it is always my joy to give her what she has requested. Even if it's chocolate at 6 a.m. So this flawed, human being, as selfish as I am - I still provide for my daughter and long to give her what she desires and more. We really need to be more acquainted with our role as Beloved. Really.

More than conquerors
Coheirs with Christ
Will rise on wings as eagles
You stoop to make me great
Strengthened with all power according to His glorious might
Greater is He that is in me
Clothed with strength and dignity
Hands trained for war; fingers for battle
Will never be put to shame

All of my life, in every season, You are still God
I have a reason to sing, I have a reason to worship

Monday, March 8, 2010


4:51 a.m. Sit up on the side of the bed. Eventually the rest of me will wake up.
4:53 a.m. Stumble to couch, Diet Coke in hand, finish I John Bible study for tonight.
5:30 a.m. Shower. Makeup. Hair. Daughter.
6:45 a.m. Depart.
7:00 a.m. Still, small voice: Drop Livi off first, THEN go to the cleaners to get your suit.
7:05 a.m. Exit for cleaners, Livi still in truck.
7:06 a.m. Arrive at cleaners, who are closed but supposed to be open. Immediately understand why ignoring still small voice directive was a mistake.
7:10 a.m. Drop Livi off.
7:12 a.m. Call cleaners, make sure they decided to open after all. They did. Proceed.
7:40 a.m. Arrive at office, suit, muffins and Diet Coke in hand. Change. Guzzle DC. Throw muffins on a plate.
7:50 a.m. Overhear employees discussing the marvel of seeing someone's vehicle in the lot that early, I can only guess they mean mine.
7:51 a.m. Swing front door wide open to greet said employees who are unaware they have been overheard.
8:30 a.m. Commission meeting/hearing under way.
12:00 p.m. Commission meeting over. Answering a few questions, avoiding bait to interpret license law and validate complaints that are not mine to validate. Placed in same age class as 60 year-old man. Thanks a lot.
12:30 p.m. Poor sweet employee tells me the music they are playing for the reception is horrible.
12:31 p.m. I tell poor sweet employee that I picked it out.
12:33 p.m. Poor sweet employee starts circling the hall outside my office, waiting for me to get off the phone so she can:
12:35 p.m. ...apologize for offending my iTunes.
1:30 p.m. Reception under way. Mingle, smile, shake, laugh, greet.
2:45 p.m. Why do I wear these pumps??
3:00 p.m. Crash at desk. Eek out 90 minutes of focus time.
4:35 p.m. Climb into truck. Windows down. Music up. Resist urge to kick off heels, as driving barefoot unnerves me.
5:00 p.m. - present: Collect daughter, go to dinner, daughter falls, hits head, waiter gives her a juice box, she spills it all over herself, off to Bible study, clean pants in the truck, listen, share, think, shake the day off by going to Mom's, venting, now blogging, and in three minutes, crashing.

Goodnight, Monday.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Skin

Think about your skin. We have all of these different phrases, analogies and words having to do with skin that we use to describe emotions: thick-skinned, sensitive, raw, calloused, prickly, abrasive,, wait, well, maybe not ashy. But you know.

Skin is our largest organ. It is the thing that people see when they look at us - the thing that they feel when they touch us, the thing that allows us to feel them when they touch us, the thing that shows all of our bruises, bleeding, scratches, blemishes, stretch marks and scars. The poignancy of Shakespeare's, "If you prick us, do we not bleed?" from The Merchant of Venice, is not lost on me as I consider the duality of skin. We all have skin.

Sometimes, my skin is very thin. I show every scratch, scrape, bump, bruise, pinch, tear, poke and cut. You could brush past me, and it would leave a mark. I am already, by nature, a sensitive person, so to be at this heightened level of sensitivity is frustrating and draining, even for someone who knows who she is. My natural tendency is to retreat into myself as far as I possibly can - to put as much distance between my skin and my insides as possible so that every wound hurts less - but I find it's impossible, and all of my vitality stubbornly bulges against the surface of my skin, even while it is threatening to be torn to shreds.

And sometimes, my skin is very thick. Rough, calloused even. I'm unshakable, strong, fortified. The only problem there is that nothing gets through - whether hostile or friendly. Eventually, I'll either end up either sloughing off layers of callouses for days or living with this hardened exterior. That's just no way to live.

All of this makes me wonder: if physiologically, skin is our largest organ, then emotionally, is it our largest organ as well? And in parallel, does it require the same amount of care? We go to amazing lengths - particularly as women - to care for our skin. We drink unthinkable amounts of water each day to keep it hydrated. We eat the right foods, we wear the right amount of UV protection. We spend thousands of dollars a year on products to keep wrinkles at bay, maintain the ever-precious elasticity, enhance firmness and create luminosity. We devote hours to massaging lotions and creams and butters and potions into every nook and cranny to keep it soft, supple, strong and youthful.

So emotionally, what does our "skin" require? I'm going to start with the most basic: attention. When you start to notice that your legs are dry, you don't ignore them. You rub those babies down with some shea butter. You don't sit there and think, "Hm. I wonder why my legs are so dry. Maybe it's the new laundry detergent I am using. Maybe I'm allergic to denim after all. Maybe I need to try a new shave gel." No! You find the thickest, creamiest lotion in the house, and you slather it on your gams until they stop itching and burning. And then you probably slather on some more just for good measure.

But for some reason, the thinner my emotional skin grows, the more I puzzle at why it is doing so. I stall and sputter, wondering how in the world this could have happened, when what I need to lay hold of is the solution...and healing. Perhaps I think that finding the culprit will ease the pain, that some solid detective work will undo the crime. Faulty. In the end, I'm still focused on the pain. What a comfort to know that that there is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded heal the sin-sick soul. Lord, give us the courage to call off the dogs and reach for Your healing instead.

The next thing I think our emotional skin needs is balance. Neither too thin nor too thick are desirable options. We want our skin to be supple and strong. We want to roll with the punches without allowing them to break us apart. When I think of the things that keep me in balance, I think about time with my daughter, healthy relationships, deep rest, a clear conscience, God's presence in my life, good fellowship and of course, the occasional Swedish massage. The things that throw me off: bad decisions, bad news, hectic schedules, disrupted relationships, ignoring my relationship with the Lord, and not enough "me" time. Yes, yes, into every life a little rain must fall. But you've got to give yourself equal, if not greater, parts of sunshine, too. We've got to take measures, both proactive and reactive, to keep our lives in balance.

And then, protection. We protect our skin from the elements in some way every day. In the winter, we wear scarves and coats and mittens and Smartwools. In the summer, we wear sunscreen (if we're smart), more breathable clothing and extra moisturizer. Many women (and some men) wear UV protectant all year round. I'm not saying the elements are our enemies. The things I love most about the changing seasons are the changes in the elements - balmy days turn into brisk nights and frosty mornings turn into sunny afternoons. It's wonderful. Just the same, extreme conditions create the need for some measure of protection. Emotionally and spiritually, we are living in a world of extreme conditions. It is impossible to wander through this life without encountering all kinds of threats to our hearts. Poverty, opulence, violence, oppression, abuse, competition, elation, failure, success, tragedy, heartbreak, LIFE. It's all there. Some things we need to outright shield ourselves from - completely block them out and reject their presence in our lives. Others are okay in doses - unavoidable, even - whether they are good or bad. Either way, we need protection, and I'm convinced that protecting ourselves just isn't enough. We need some Ephesians 6 protection. We need the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit. The belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, and feet fitted with the readiness of the gospel of peace. Only then will we be able to stand [our] ground, and after [we] have done everything, to stand.

It is with only a small amount of surprise that I realize the final parallel between our physical and emotional skin. They both serve to protect us, yet they both need protecting. Just as we entrust our physical bodies to God for protection, so must we also surrender our emotional selves. For healing and protection, balance and growth. We will be safer in no other hands.

I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
Ephesians 1:18-23

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Tantrums and the Still, Small Voice

I stopped writing my ideas down in my Moleskine because I got distracted, busy, etc. I regret that and am immediately making amends.

Today's lesson: listen carefully, and stop being so ridiculously stubborn.

Liv and I had a great morning - we got up early, and I took her to breakfast on the way to daycare, then I headed on to another 2-day session at UALR. When I got to daycare this afternoon to pick Livi up, I was met with a very unexpected surprise. See, lately when I've picked her up, she's been less-than-excited to see me. I know it's just because she's having fun playing with her friends, plus she's all independent now, so I really don't let it bother me. Well, today, she ran to me and just hugged me and clung to me and laughed and it was just awesome. On the way out, her teacher told me that Kohl's was having a good sale on kids' clothes, so I thought it'd be a good idea to run by there before going home and see if we could find anything cute. As I was pulling into the parking lot, though, something was telling me that maybe it wasn't such a good idea - maybe I should just take the kiddo home and enjoy a quiet evening together. But I had already decided that I wanted to take Liv shopping, so we parked and went in the store.

The tantrum history. Literally, this one took the cake. She cried, she screamed, she kicked, she cried some more. All because I wouldn't let her push the cart and instead made her sit in it. Oh, she was mad. Eventually I caved, and she ended up pushing the cart. And after 10 minutes of that, I think it's a safe assumption that everyone in Kohl's knew her name. Literally, the cashier called her by name as we were leaving and told us to have a good night. More crying and kicking ensued when I tried to put her in her carseat. It. Was. Agony. Trying to get her into the house was not any easier.

Finally I managed to get her and our things inside and get dinner started. She wanted to be held, and to watch her movie, so that's what I did. But I couldn't help feeling guilty. Instead of spending the entire evening hanging out and having fun together, we had spent an hour fighting, and 15 minutes cuddling before I had to finish dinner, feed us, and start the bedtime routine. Why am I so stubborn?? What is it in me that couldn't just say: eh, let's just go home. I think I know the answer, and I don't like it. Not one bit. Suffice it to say that this girl needs to get rid of some junk rattling around in my head.

My sweetie sleeps peacefully now. And as I head that direction myself, I realize just how grateful I am that His mercies are new every morning.