Worth It (Parents, let’s be real)

22 Aug

(This one is for the parents)

 

I hear petitions from the upstairs as I attempt to patiently review phonics with my 6 year old. The shouts only get louder. Their source: a 3 year old asking me to wipe his butt.

 

Seriously.

 

This is my life. I am a creator, an advisor, a mentor, a restorer, a writer, a lover, and most definitely a fighter.

… aaaand a butt-wiper.

 

I’m also a really terrible homeschool teacher. Because my house is consumed by the filth and fury of 2 boys who embrace all of their boy-ness, I physically cannot entertain the idea of adding more games or activities to the mess. I really can’t. I feel like I swim in a cesspool of childhood germs, wading and washing, wading and washing. So I say no to the shaving cream writing games for practicing handwriting and spelling. No to the painting projects. It’s not going to happen. There’s no surface clean enough for shaving cream or painting projects anyway. Sadly, my son has to learn in the mess for which he is 48% responsible, with the other 52% belonging to the aforementioned 3 year old, my husband, and myself in the following allocations: 48% toddler, 4% adults.

 

Anyway, I’m staring down the littered living room and surveying the carnage of boy-child adventures; dirty socks, mutilated and cut up papers strewn about, disgusting and well-worn shorts, backpacks, and a creepy-as-heck Furby with its cold, dead bug-eyes staring back, silently judging me. This is my living room. This is my schoolroom.

 

This is my life.

 

Every. Single. Day. This is my life, butt-wiping, pseudo-teaching, and straightening up enough to survive. And I have to fight to remain… well, to just remain. I have to fight myself to stay in it because sometimes I just want to jump in my car and drive to the nearest trailhead and hike until I don’t know where I am anymore. And then I just want to listen to what silence sounds like, to breathe non-boy-child air, and to remember that life as a creator/advisor/mentor/restorer/writer does, in fact, still exist.

 

I know all the right things to think and say and feel, I do; That the days are long but the years are short; That I’m gonna miss this; That I’m doing the most important thing. I know. But you know what? I also know that I, in fact, am NOT going to miss wiping butts. And that’s OK. I am NOT going to miss the incessant fighting that fills up all the blank spaces, fighting about really, really stupid things. I am not going to miss stains and spots on EVERY. DANG. THING. No. I am not going to miss this.

 

What I will miss is their presence. I will mourn that the boys whose butts I wipe aren’t going to be here to give me hugs and kisses throughout the day. I will miss the spontaneous songs and the mispronounced words, the lisps and the giggles. I will look at them as high school graduates and think, “You JUST asked me to wipe your butt!” This, and so much more, I WILL miss, more than I can possibly even know right now.

 

So why even write this scattered bit of thought? I think it’s to remind myself that it’s ok to admit the charm of something has faded. It’s ok to feel unfulfilled and dissatisfied with my current state while being completely satisfied with the whole. It’s ok to not enjoy homeschooling while sensing the amazing accomplishment of teaching my kids lessons and skills and traits that they’ll carry with them their entire lives. I think this is the place many of us as parents get with our kids but don’t know how to articulate. Or maybe we feel guilty, I don’t know.

 

When I talk about parenthood, I often tell people that it’s seriously the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and I have plenty of examples at the ready to back up that statement. And then I tell them that it’s worth it, but my reasons for why are a bit nebulous. I have come to believe it’s because the hard stuff is chock full of reality, of ever-present situations and dirty homes and lost sleep and missed showers, while the “worth it” stuff happens in the deep places. It’s in the heart and soul. It manifests itself physically only on occasion, but the overwhelming sense of goodness, and rightness, and, dare I say holiness, involved in parenting is something that I think cannot be bound by words or descriptors. All I know is that it’s worth it.

 

This season will be gone before I know it, and I will no doubt enjoy the empty spaces and the silence, the newfound abundance of toilet paper, and the floor that stays crumb-free for more than 2 minutes. I will embrace the other pieces of me that had been shoved to the corners for the time being, and I will be giddy with possibilities and new adventures. But I will miss them terribly. I will miss the richness of the chaos. I will know that those years were short, and I will say, with more confidence than ever, “It’s so worth it.”

 

… I’ll just be saying it while wearing actual clothes, and probably even makeup.

 

*sigh

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The God In Between

7 Aug

Today I wrote a post for the folks over at Perimeter Pointe. They are some really great folks with some really great hearts. I encourage you to check them out.

Typically when I write for another blog, I only provide a link to their site because I want to help them generate some traffic to their site. But this one today is different. Aside from the fact that I haven’t been regularly populating my blog with content (sincere apologies), I wanted to make this one a standalone because this is a very honest look at where I’ve been in the last few months. I hope that some piece of this can be helpful for you, wherever you are in your own personal journey toward God.

Over the last several months I’ve discovered that I am on a journey of exploration, and have been for quite sometime. It’s one I never asked for and would rather abandon if I’m honest. It’s a journey of questions. It’s a journey of wonder and wander, of treading brazenly and finding the edges- the boundaries- of what a relationship with God looks like. Who is He, really? Where does Jesus fit in all of it? What parts are merely hyperbole that I have taken as gospel since I was 5 years old, and what parts are so foundational that I’ve trampled them my whole life without examining what’s under foot?

You know, just some light stuff, no big deal.

Anyway, in all this exploration and examination, I keep pressing inward. At my weakest and most exasperated, I still manage a half-hearted “God, I just want to know you.” And you know what’s crazy? I think He’s trying to show me, and I continue to be surprised at what I’m discovering.

Something that has been a big “Aha!” moment for me is seeing the way that many churches and individuals relate to and experience God. It has been so revealing for me because, although I serve in these churches, although I love these people and enjoy what I get to help create, and although I feel there is immense worth in creating experiences and environments that foster an ease in approaching God, I do not connect with Him in these ways that have become the new tradition. And if I don’t, then I suspect there are others who don’t either. Now, does this mean that I abandon churches that place high value on creating environments and experiences? I don’t think so. If anything, I feel like I might have been drawn into these places specifically because they are based on a style that isn’t my own. How can I grow when everyone thinks like me?

I don’t think it’s an either/or situation. I think it’s a both/and.

For far too long preference has been mistaken for doctrine.

Let’s just forget that notion, ok? Preference accounts for about 90% of the church experience, so if you’re trying to place some hard and fast lines in the sand in that 90%, you’re going to go crazy. Believe me, I tried. It doesn’t go well for you, and almost no one else even knows there’s an issue.

Instead, here’s how I look at it. This journey I’m on has brought me to this conclusion: There is the God in the experiences- the events, the gatherings- and there is the God in between. He’s the same God in both instances. I just happen to relate more to the God in between. And I have to tell you, understanding this about me has caused me to find more purpose in those pieces of ministry that don’t appeal to me as much. As I whisper prayers to just know God in the day-to-day while separating loads of laundry, I realize the importance of praying this while I’m fostering moments for people to know the God in the experience, too.

I work hard with a group of amazingly talented people to create an experience for those who will walk through the doors of the church. We pray for God to do “big things.” We pray for “life change.” We want to see “amazing” things happen. And I truly want these things, I do. It’s just that when I pray like this, I feel like I’m not connecting with the God in between. So what do I do? When we start praying for “big things,” I start praying for some of us to go out to lunch afterward and look our waiters in the eyes when they ask for our drink orders. I start praying that someone would feel compelled to show kindness and humanity to a stranger and know that this is a BIG. THING.

When we pray for “life change,” I pray for an intense honesty to start bubbling up inside a few friends who’ll be sitting in the crowd, an honesty that drives them to fight and hurt and mend and grow into people who could have never been as strong and healthy without those other people in their lives. I pray for some folks to experience empathy in ways that almost cripple them in the best ways possible.

These things are amazing, to me. And this is the God in between that I so deeply resonate with, the God who takes experiences and then moves them into mundane beauties. I connect with this God who puts on flesh and walks around with us, which is why, in a lot of ways, I connect with Jesus… because he really is the God in between. Big, amazing life-change happened wherever he went, but none of it was sexy. But can he use sexy? You bet. And bombastic. And laser-filled. And I can be a part of all those experiences without feeling the need to latch on and connect the way other people do. It’s cool. The God in the experience meets me as the God in between, and that is overwhelmingly beautiful and merciful and loving to me.

So wherever you are on this spectrum, I encourage you to find the ways God speaks to you without disregarding, running away from, or diminishing the ways you might not connect with. It’s a gorgeous thing when we live as a people with variations and colors and disagreements and preferences, because we find God in all of it- the experiences and in between.

– C

Quiet: Precious vs. Pressing

23 Jan

I had the pleasure of lending a blog post to a series happening over at Perimeter Pointe Church’s site. They are a new church plant in the perimeter area of Atlanta, and the folks heading everything up over there are wonderful!

I would encourage you to click over and read my guest post, and while you’re at it, read some of the past month’s entries all centered around the theme of “Thirsty.” You will most certainly be encouraged.

Enter The Mystery- Advent Project

20 Dec

Hi all!  It’s been a few weeks of reflection, scurrying, moving to a new house, and many other things I will get into once I pick back up with the blogging.

 

Until then, here is a blog I contributed for day 20 of The Advent Project through my church, The Parish.  After reading, go ahead and stick around on their website and read about the really cool vision AND the very first meeting happening this Saturday. If you’re local, please consider joining us.

 

Thanks!

– Candi

 

Calling All Carnivores

22 Oct

* This one is directed to my fellow leaders in ministry. The observations I lay out in this post are for the ones who have stepped into ministry leadership and the responsibility this carries.

I was having a rare conversation with Jonathan the other night, one that included just the two of us and not my lovely-but-far-too-loud-and-chatty children. We were discussing our season of life and what God has been drilling into our heads and hearts. Sometimes we get impassioned when it’s just the two of us because we get to dream about our future and what we hope to see shift in our culture as a result of the work we do, both personally and with/for others.

In one of the soapbox moments, I told him what I had been noticing among some of our peers in leadership and how, by God’s leading, I hoped we might be champions for another way. Here’s my observation:

A lot of us are seeking comfort. We want our faith to stay in suspended childhood. We’re not just comfortable with apathy… we’re actively seeking it.

I’ve seen him. I’ve seen her.

I’ve probably been her.

You know the one. She doesn’t ask questions; he doesn’t rock the boat; everything’s cool as-is, no need to dig and prod. No reason for hard days, much less hard seasons. Who really needs that anyway?

I was sharing my concern over this idea, all emotional and verbose. That’s when Jonathan did what he does and just casually whipped out some RC Sproul that left me “Mmmm-hmmm”-ing and “YES!”-ing like I was in an Assembly of God Church from my youth. So that I don’t get it wrong, here is the excerpt that Jonathan was referencing from RC Sproul’s book Essential Truths Of The Christian Faith:

“In some Christian circles the biblical call to a childlike faith has been elevated to a spiritual ideal that radically distorts the biblical meaning of faith…

There is a vast difference, however, between a childlike faith and a childish faith, though the two are often confused. A childish faith balks at learning the things of God in depth. It refuses the meat of the gospel while clinging to a diet of milk…

The call of the New Testament is to maturity.”

Childish faith. That’s it! That’s what drives us to stay forever young in the things that matter. And boy, is there a veritable buffet available to us for keeping maturity at bay. Social media records it all for us, too, so all we have to do is scroll through the digital buffet line and fill our plates. A little FOMO (for those who’ve been under a rock, this means Fear Of Missing Out) here, a side of overused #hashtags there, topped with a filtered picture of dinner and sprinkled with a misinformed political jibe. And we get our fill. We are completely intoxicated with the minors and mostly uninterested in the majors.

We’ve all done it. We’ve all subscribed to childish faith somewhere along the way.

But I don’t want to be that person. I don’t see how any of us in various places of leadership have the luxury of being that person, not if we’re taking the gospel seriously. If what I read is correct, then we are to explore, expand, and expose others to the way of the Kingdom, and the way of the Kingdom is backwards. It’s like Wonderland; forget everything you know. In the Kingdom of God, the way up is down. The smaller you get, the bigger you’ll be. Simplicity and discipline means wealth and reward.

Some of you will read this and be tempted to roll your eyes and dismiss it as the ranting of someone who forgot how to have fun, someone who takes herself too seriously. This isn’t true. Just ask my kids, or my friends Ryan & Sarah, or anyone else who has ever seen me be a complete idiot and joined in with me on occasion. This isn’t about fun. This is about maturity where it counts. And I, for one, still have some growing up to do.

I suspect you do, too, and in this matter we have a pretty good admonition from the letter to the Hebrew community of faith:

“About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”

– Hebrews 5:11-14

I think the key for all of us, the challenge to take up, is the phrase “constant practice.” There’s no magic formula to any of this. It’s just good old-fashioned discipline and daily surrender to the work of the Spirit in our lives. We as leaders in our faith communities have to remain diligent in the midst of childishness.

Let’s put away the childish.

Calling all carnivores… spiritually speaking. 😉

Talk to me…

Have you seen some areas in your life that are rooted in a childish faith?

Do you think our culture perpetuates childishness? Why or why not?

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