Hello Friends, I was honored to share the below article at overacup.org this past week.
March 2013-March 2014 was a doozie for me. Mostly in a good way. I’m different for it, positively.
There was lots of change. Our family welcomed our son. I completely underestimated how tiring it would be to have a 3 year old, work full time, and a newborn. My husband and I changed churches from where we had worshiped for over a decade. During the Winter, we had 12 weeks of someone in our house being sick. I pushed myself in writing and grew more vulnerable than I ever imagined. The new normal included a constant sense of feeling overwhelmed.
Hallelujah! I have emerged, one year later, richer. What made this year of learning different? I began viewing fellowship with my relationship with God, my girlfriends, and my husband in new, “out of the box” ways.
Typically, I approach the Bible hungry: relishing the words, note taking, questioning, searching, studying. To this day, I can’t bring myself to part with the several dozen journals I filled in the early days of knowing God. Despite this passion, there was several instances in the past year where I just didn’t have the energy to be me. Time devoted to this was unequivocally used for little beings that I love dearly and at some moments sucked the life out of me. If I wasn’t meeting an immediate need, I was preparing for the next: packing bags for two in daycare; completing the practical logistics of loving a household of four. I lived in tension between continual exhaustion and continual desperation to maintain a thread of spirituality.
I had always, secretly struggled with the “be still and know God” command. Truthfully, I stunk at it. Both the concept and the practice made my skin crawl. I’m wired to associate productivity with worthiness. I wrestled with how simply being still with God could lead to an intimate connection with him.
It was time to see this “be still” approach in new light. I began practicing being still. Then I added thinking about one scripture at a time. One scripture at a time! This was really hard for me. At first I felt like I was compromising, failing, cheating. I felt restless. But after practicing, I started enjoying this time with God. I’ve started keeping a log called “God Moments” where I jot down a scripture and how it helps me. I challenge myself to keep these meditations to 100 words or less. The fewer my words, the more I can savor the richness of His.
Also, I’ve started a habit of creating morning salutations to God: a greeting just for Him that lovingly humbles and sets my mind for the day. I usually make an effort to greet my husband and children in a loving way, why not also God? The one I currently use is “Lord, today is yours. Thank you for sharing it with me. Help me to bring good to you.” I repeat this as I lay in bed or sit on our patio before getting the kids up.
My fellowship with God grew more rich at Sunday service. I saw, with new eyes, the importance of a vibrant children’s ministry. These are people who lovingly interact with my kids so I may be still and know God. While in service, I really don’t think about my children. I’m not thinking about them, because I’m thinking about God.
As I drew near to God in new ways, my approach to making new friends grew as well. Typically, I approached friendships with women as if I was getting into a pool – I would slowly wade into the shallow end. Something about growing older, busier, and closer to God makes me want to change that approach. I am ready to cannon ball into the deep end. I love hearing what makes women tick, what makes them shout in victory, and what makes them cry. I want to hear their story and know what keeps them going.
Joining an online bible study community has been a cool way to branch out. Until this year, I had thought of it, but hadn’t ever tried it. I think in a warped way, I thought that inviting others in on a quiet time was cheating: like when you turn an individual project into a group project at school. I was totally wrong, connecting with others has provided a great encouragement and brought new light to the scriptures. Plus, here is my favorite part: online, unless I specifically ask, I don’t have the foggiest idea of any worldly particulars of those I discuss God. I have no idea what kind of house or apartment they live in, what kind of car they drive, their degree of fashion, or if/where they work outside the home, or even their hobbies. I see their heart for God, how the scriptures teach and encourage them, and participate with them in their trials and victories. It is a very unique forum where I quickly receive one of the greatest gifts from other women: vulnerability.
One of the paradigms of Christianity is the more we reveal our weaknesses, the more attractive we become. Gone are the days where I seek out the women who appear to “have it all together.” Instead, I appreciate the global network of humble hearts, that despite their own busy lives, take a few minutes to invite me in on their chaos.
In fellowship with local women, I learned something valuable – always have at least one girlfriend where you feel comfortable inviting yourself over. Sometimes, it is the presence of a spiritual girlfriend that helps you from losing your mind. Before this year, I would never have been so bold to literally contact women and invite myself over.
I also had new appreciation for the long term friendships who, while I often couldn’t respond immediately when they contacted me, stuck in there. A continual willingness to check in, and leave a message, understanding that you are loved even if you don’t get a call right back, is pure gold.
Our marriage, too like gold, has been tested and strengthened. Our teamwork went up several notches. There’s nothing like adding a baby to the mix that ups the ante for teamwork. Over the past year, through trial and error,we created a system of working together that is by far the best it has ever been. We haven’t had a lot of time alone together, but we have had a lot of time helping one another. We’ve shared the load and better understand the other’s strengths and weaknesses to tackle the household needs. We’ve encouraged each other’s individual dreams, in remembering that we are interesting people outside of parenthood. We’ve started a joint hobby that we both sincerely enjoy. We’ve been frustrated, bewildered, sick, and gleeful. At times, we have felt poor in pocket and poor in Spirit, but neither last long. Ultimately, we are hanging on together, both willing and desirous to help the other up when we fall.
Part of life’s reality is at times we will fall. There were several moments during this past year that I would have liked to stop, sob, and hide. The challenging moments forced me to change both my outlook and my activity. Graciously, God leads me in fabulous fellowship.