Midfaith Crisis – con’t from Failure blog

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Yesterday’s blog piece on Failure was my attempt to wrap my head around a fellow writers statement that “Jesus failed her”.   As I read through the piece, I just couldn’t get passed it.  I can’t think of a time where things didn’t go my way resulting in my feeling as if Jesus somehow failed me.  Even when I feel discontent with God’s answer or lack of movement in an area, I’ve never blamed Him.  More often than not, I will point the finger at myself assuming that my desires were not in His will or perhaps I have been walking in disobedience.  I may even remind myself that I have to be more patient because things happen in God’s timing not my own, or that His answers will always be infinitely better than my own.

I can remember being pregnant with my second, the doctor alerting me to precancerous cells found in my uterus and cervix.  I listened intently at the options before me, what risks each carried for me and the pregnancy.  I don’t ever remember being angry at God over the risks to my pregnancy.  My husband came upon me in the bedroom crying over it, and he told me “God wouldn’t give you a baby just to take it away”.  His words were sweet, but we all know that sentence isn’t true.  Women lose babies.  I said as much to my husband, and told him that her purpose may simply have been to save my life.  I was trusting that however this was going to play out, it was part of God’s good plan.  That doesn’t mean I stopped crying over it, worrying over it, praying that the Lord would protect her.   Had I lost the pregnancy, I would have grieved.  I just don’t recall ever feeling let down by God.

That is not to say that I haven’t had my moments where I have cried out to the Lord, because I couldn’t understand  what He was doing in my life (or the lives of those I care for).  I think that is an entirely different thing.  I can be confused or concerned, worried or sad, and even angry with a given situation.  I just don’t see an emotional response as being the same as feeling that Jesus let me down.  So, as you can see, this was just a concept I couldn’t understand or agree with.  When I read the piece a second time though, something else caught my attention and then I had my “a-ha moment”.

The author penned the term “midfaith crisis” and suddenly it all began to make sense.  At some point, whether via a movie, television show, or happening right before our eyes, witnessed someone going through a midlife crisis.  Mid LIFE crisis is a term we all know, even if we don’t understand it personally.  Entertainment will portray it heavily, as the guy who cheats on his wife with a younger women… or lightly, the man who comes home from work one day with an ear pierced, a tattoo, and a motorcycle.   A result of an nonacceptance of aging, desperately clinging to their youth, or attempting to accomplish those bucket list items before they are too old to do so.

When someone has a midlife crisis, we can at least have an understanding as to why they are making some crazy choices even if we don’t approve of those choices.

A mid FAITH crisis wasn’t really a term I was familiar with, or even a feeling I could understand.  However, when I consider the totality of my faith walk… well, I joined the party on the late side.  Maybe, I will be spared the midfaith crisis… or it’s just lingering further down the road.

As I spent more time trying to understand the concept of the midfaith crisis, I found myself softening to the author and beginning to grasp how she could feel that Jesus let her down.  Sometimes our immediate knee jerk responses are more about our ownselves and perceptions than they are about the other person.  Being able to apply what I understood about midlife crisis, midfaith crisis was a bit easier to work around.  The more I thought about that, the more sense the whole piece made.

If I had to imagine myself as a person who worked hard all of my life, dedicated to my job and family.  A person who volunteered in the community, was a good steward with my money, living a modest life and helping others.   If I think of these things, and then imagine that all through my life I could never catch a break.   I can see how that would bring me to the brink of crisis when I hit that half way point of my life.  You wonder “will it get better?” and you may even begin to take things into your own hands to control a better outcome.  You believe that you worked hard all of those younger years, full of sacrifices, so that your golden years would be easy and carefree.  You worked hard, you deserved an easy retirement.  Then one thing after another comes along that takes you money, your health, etc. away… and crisis strikes.  You feel let down by life, you wonder why you sacrificed for nothing.

I could understand the author’s point more clearly.  Imagine that all of your life you had been a faithful believer.  You prayed every morning, and each evening with your kids.  You were a faithful wife, who was a perfect helpmeet to your husband.  You taught your children about God, tending to their hearts.  Every week you were at service, never missing a Sunday.  Volunteering in the church, leading studies, tithing above 10%.  You heeded the call to full time ministry service or missionary work, selling your belongings and raising the funds.  You put your hands and feet into kingdom work every single day.  Then crisis knocks down your door.  You cry out to God…. “Have I not been obedient to you?  Have I not gone where you told me to go, served as you told me to serve?  Have I not sacrificed with joy, followed you word, shared the gospel… all that you have asked of me?

Then WHY God… why this?  Why now?

Then I felt it, I could understand.

Part of the reason I couldn’t wrap my head around it from the beginning was because I still feel like I fail at following Him to the fullest.  I know I could sacrifice more, give more, serve more, pray more, follow better.  Which is why I lean toward the belief that I let God down, not the other way around.

But, for those who have… and we all know those people exist (even if the number is few)… that serve God, love God, obey God with every bit of their being?

I could understand that moment (however long it lasts) of being honest with God and saying, Lord… you let me down on this one.

The good news?  Our God is big enough, and loving enough to handle that feeling.  He can handle your midfaith crisis.  He knows our hearts, because He dwells there.  He knows that we love him, serve him willfully, and that sometimes the directions He will take us can be tough.  He understands that we are confused, and can’t see what He is doing.  He understands that we are hurt, and don’t see the good in what has happened (yet).   He loves us through it.

As a parent, I would love to be able to give my children all of the desires of their heart.  However, I also know that all of those desires are not good or healthy options.  My 10 year old would be content with eating cake the rest of her life, my middle schooler would love for me to allow her more freedoms, and my high schooler is entering a time in her life where she teeters between childhood and adulthood.  There are times when our answers to their requests are no, and they will cry or get angry.  No matter the words they hurl in that moment… they know that I love them, and I know they love me.  Despite that crisis mode they are in, or the hurt, or the words.

My eldest recently asked me a question, and she started it with:  “I need to ask you something, and I hope you will say yes…”  I knew it was going to be a weighty question, and probably one I couldn’t answer on the spot.  Yet, even with those words spilling out of her mouth… I could sense hope.  She had her hopes up already, even knowing that my answer would not likely be what she wants to hear.

Just as we know our children, our Father knows us.  He hears the hope in our voices, He knows the desires of our heart.  As I reflect on the blog piece that started the wheels in mind to travel down this road, I realized how raw and honest this woman was being.  But, I was also able to see that despite her feeling that “Jesus had failed” her… she had not given up on loving Him.  Her words were not as dire as I first perceived them.

Perhaps, we could all learn from this exploration to be a bit more patient before we jump to conclusions.  To listen better, to read through things a few times before we jump to judgments.  To take the time to process it and see situations or statements from other perspectives, so that instead of judging someone harshly… we can stop and pray for whatever situation they are dealing with.  Quite often we only have part of the story, or we focus on a small detail and miss the bigger picture.

Had I allowed myself to stay hung up on her statement of being failed by Jesus, I would have missed so much more of what she was attempting to share.  I would have missed her endurance, perseverance, honesty, transparency, authenticity, and vulnerability.  I think we could all do well with a dose of being real and raw, with the world… with ourselves… and with our God.

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Failure…

Failure is a funny word to me, because I truly believe that we rarely utterly fail at something.  Sometimes, it is simply a matter of perception.  Follow along with me for just a moment on that thought before we get into the meat of this topic.

Below is a series of photographs from a wedding, several years ago.  At the time, I owned my own confectionary.  This was not my first big event, but it was my first wedding.  The bride wanted a confection bar full of candies, sweets, and treats.  She didn’t want a traditional wedding cake at all.  We decided upon some cupcake towers and a small cake at the top, which was adorned with their wedding topper and serve for the “cake cutting” part of the reception.

What you see here is a very well executed plan, right?  Wrong.  I had a MAJOR failure.  I promised her Jolly Rancher Cotton Candy.  I woke up that morning to make the fresh cotton candy, only to find that there was just too much humidity in air.  The cotton candy, which I had made dozens of times before, was melting before I could even bag it.  So, I bought some cotton candy that was pre-made and portioned it out into the bags.

The bride was happy, there were no gaping holes in the table set up, and there was not a single bag of cotton candy left over.

I failed.  Yes, it was due to circumstances outside of my control… but I still failed to deliver what I promised.  Even if, ultimately, I was really the only one who knew about the failure.

 

The next large event I catered was for a fundraiser.  I met with the planning team and they presented an adorable center piece concept.  They brought out super cute little tiered dessert stands. The plan was to have the stand filled with cupcakes. There would be a giant cupcake “topper”.  The small cupcakes were part of the dessert for the evening.  They would have table drawings for the centerpiece (inclusive of the giant cupcake topper, plus an additional 1 dozen mini cupcakes).  In addition they wanted gift bags for the VIP sponsor tables.  I was super excited to get started.  I measured out the centerpiece they provided to determine the number of cupcakes that it would hold.  Sent them a quote.  The order was set.

When I arrived the morning of the event to set up, to my shock… the tiered center pieces had be replaced.  They made the decision to go with something nicer, which was the right decision.  However, they neglected to inform me of the change.  These new centerpieces were MUCH larger.  Almost twice the width on every tier.  I placed the topper, the dozen mini cupcakes, and it was SPARSE.  I flagged down the coordinator, explained the problem, and she made the decision we would forgo the dozen cupcakes as part of the table prize and instead use them to fill up the tiers.

The following Monday, I received an email from the main chairperson.  She wanted a partial refund because I failed to produce the dozen cupcakes per table for the prize.  She was never informed by the coordinator, and thought I had shorted their order.  I explained what happened, who authorized the decision to use them, and apologize profusely.   In her response, she was very kind and canceled the request for the refund.  However, I never received another order from her or their organization again.

In this case there was a perception that I failed.  I knew that I hadn’t, and that I met my obligations.  However, based on what she could see… the chairperson perceived that I failed to come through.

This weekend I was reading an blog piece in which the author was brutally raw about her feelings, as she declared that Jesus had failed her family that year.  I was really stumped by those words. Jesus… who is perfect, flawless, dependable, truth… failed you?  I couldn’t understand it.  It didn’t seem possible.

In all the years of unanswered prayers, I’ve never felt like Jesus let me down.  Not once.  I can’t think of a time where I looked up to the heavens and declared “Lord, you really let me down this time.  I needed you to come through.”  I was struggling with every single time her words “Jesus failed me” flew past my eyes.  Yet, I not offended … angry … or hollering out “heretic”.

Perhaps, that is because in all of those times where things didn’t turn out the way I wanted them to… I blamed myself.  I told myself that the reason my prayer wasn’t answered or the Lord didn’t show up was because I failed Him.  I feel like I fail God daily.  I never feel good enough.  I question why in the world He would want to use me in ministry.

What I realized was that how we see things was very different.  I was seeing failure in the way I described the first scenario.  In some way, I failed to deliver on my end of the bargain… even if I did my best.  Even if I made up for it in someway.  Even if no one in the world knew or cared about it.  I knew.  I failed.  My focus was there on that place where I failed, versus the ways that I succeeded.

The woman who wrote the blog piece was more akin to my second example.  She was the chairperson who had expectations on how things were going to turn out.  She brought in the right people, and through no fault of her own in that scenario, something wasn’t right.  She turned to the person she trusted to come through, and she said “you failed me”.

You see, she ascertained that failure based on the limited amount of information she had.  She didn’t know that the centerpieces were different sizes, or that it would make a difference in the end product presentation.  She didn’t know that I was never informed of the change.  She wasn’t brought into the decision making being done on the spot to accommodate the changes, nor filled in after the fact of what happened & why.

When the Lord is working out things for us, we are not always clued in to what is going on in the background.  We can’t always see the people or situations that the Lord is coordinating into just the right places, at just the right times.  In fact, sometimes we never will.  We may never see those fingerprints where God was moving mountains and mustard seeds.  So, when the end product (or process) isn’t what we expected… we may feel like God failed us.  He didn’t come through.

On the other hand, we can become so focused on all of the areas where we ARE messing up… that we think we have failed God to the point He is ignoring us.  We may think He is deliberately keeping blessing from us.  We may even think that he is disciplining us.

In the first case, we are so focused on our perception of the situational outcome that we can’t see those who kept their word and did their part.  We don’t appreciate the people who were pressed into hard decisions.  We lose the ability to give people the benefit of the doubt.  We make assumptions, assign unjust blame.  Our vision becomes clouded to the work God is doing, the blessings that are coming, the people who did care, and the hundreds of little ways God came through with something BETTER.  Jesus never fails us, we just perceive that He did because we didn’t get the outcome we desired.

Or, we become so focused on how wrong and sinful we are.  We become so inwardly focused that we beat ourselves up, disqualify ourselves, and stamp FAILURE on our foreheads.  We make vows to never try again, step away from commitments or ministry work, and wallow in how terrible we think we are.  We put up our hands to the Lord, shouting STOP… I can’t be used.  I’m a failure, not Jesus.

Christ died because we are failures at keeping God’s statutes and commands.  Throughout the Old Testament, on a repetitive cycle…   God would move, the people would celebrate, the people would forget, the people would fall & cry out, and God would rescue.  By the time of the New Testament, when Jesus enters the arena… God’s ultimate plan of redemption for his people who just can’t keep it together on their own.  In her piece, she repeated a few times that she waited for Jesus to rescue her… and He didn’t.  I would contend… HE ALREADY DID, ON CALVARY.

And, in that moment we were given victory over sin and death.  We are not failures, but perfected in Him.  By His stripes we are healed.  We need to keep our eyes on Him, not ourselves.  Trusting His word, even when we don’t understand what is happening around us… or God seems quiet or far.

Then, I read the article a 2nd time.  Something else jumped out at me, and we are going to talk about that next time.

We Need Roots to Grow, To Fruit.

Have you been there?  In the place where the Lord has given you a talent and calling, and yet you don’t ever seem to be able to actually USE it?  It can be a very confusing time, frustrating even.  Perhaps, however, our eyes have been to focused on the finish line that we neglected the process to get there.

I just finished reading Banning Liebscher’s book ROOTED, and I found myself taking my sweet time to get through his message.  Usually, I can finish a book of this size in a weekend.   This time, I would often set the book down for a few days to really think about the points Liebscher was making and looking at my own calling and periods of waiting on the Lord.

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If you have any gardening experience you know the importance of a good root system.   Take a beautifully potted plant and pop it in the ground, and you’ll see the plant go into shock and die.  Why?  You didn’t take the time to tend to the roots before you planted it.  A seed dropped in good, fertile soil will produce strong plants in comparison to seeds careless scattered among the rocks. 

Banning Liebscher takes the time to set the context of his book into the Parable of the Soils, and then walks through the value of having solid roots in order that we may grow, and bear fruit.  Not just some fruit, but a lot of fruit.  Not just any fruit, but GOOD fruit.  Not just a temporary harvest, but a long and lasting life of fruit bearing.  But, in order to do this … we must have GOOD ROOTS.

Often when we are waiting for the Lord to reveal our calling or make a move, we feel like nothing is happening.  Yet, it is during this time when the Lord is working on our roots.  He has fashioned life around us, opportunities, and put people in place to create a fertile soil in which we can grow.  Then, like a good farmer, He tends to those seeds.  Weeds are pulled, water and nutrients are provided, and He carefully watches over for disease and pests.

Then after all of the work of preparing the soil, tending to the seeds, building up the roots, caring for the shoots… suddenly life bursts out of those gardens.  And it produces fruit, a lot of fruit. Good fruit.  If we want to produce a lot of good, long lasting, fruit… we have to start with our roots.  That means we dig into the Word, build our relationship with Christ, allow the Holy Spirit access to our lives to move it and shape it, and trust that the Lord’s plans will always be good.  We just need to trust in Him who we have faith in. 

If you are ready to start working on those roots, Liebscher’s book ROOTED is a great way to prepare the soil of your heart to receive, foster, and bear the fruit of God’s Word and Love.

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How Deep is Your Faith?

Some of you may recall that back in June I experienced quite a bit of delays trying to fly out to a conference in Indianapolis.  The benefit that came from those delays was the amount of time it gave me to dig into this book without many distractions.  I had no idea how much that reading was going to impact me while in a city far from my own, and would linger since returning home.

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In the beginning I thought this was going to be a book about deepening my faith.  In many ways I was right.    Exposing shallow faith, where law becomes an idol, and the wake we can leave behind when we are not walking in love and grace.  Recognizing that we have to do more than go through the motions, and that there will be times our faith will take out out of comfort zones into the deep end of the waters.  Pushing ourselves to a deeper understanding of the scriptures and what the Lord expects of us as a response to His Word.

What I didn’t expect to happen was the deeper convictions I was going to feel about how I interacted with this world.  Who was I serving?  How was I serving?  Was it easy, comfortable?  Did it require much of me?

I was great at serving those in my church, but what about the “least of these”?  What real needs have I been engaging?  Was I limiting the Gospel?  Was I limiting my service?  Was I talking a good talk but not walking along with it?  These questions were bouncing through my mind, as I sat in the airport… waiting.

Having a ministry position where I train other leaders, my biggest burden at that point was…

Am I training leaders who are going to go out and serve their people well … or are we just learning how to put on another successful event?  Are we playing ministry or living it?

Had I allowed the Gospel to be too small, was I not seeing the big picture?

This is where the book took me on a new journey about serving, loving, and living the Gospel out in real tangible ways.  Where it becomes more than talk.  Brandon Hatmaker’s words were reeling in my head, as I was walking back to my hotel after the conference let out for the evening.  It was late.  That is when Gregory made eye contact with me.

Gregory walked up to me, tears in his eyes. He was a homeless man, and he was hungry.  I don’t carry cash on me, but directly behind me was a restaurant.  It wasn’t fancy, but it was a better meal than a fast food place.   In Indianapolis, I met a man named Gregory who was from my home state.  I could smell the alcohol on his breath.  I wasn’t sure if I believed his story about being mugged and just needing a few dollars for some food.  It didn’t matter, I knew the man was hungry.

As we walked into the restaurant, Gregory was still crying.  He was sorry for bothering me.  He was sorry for asking. He was sorry for taking our time.  He asked for very little, but I told Gregory to order whatever he wanted.  He first asked for just a sandwich, but I told him to order more.  He gently asked my friend, “Do you think she’d let me have fries too?”.  She smiled and said absolutely, and immediately followed that up with inquiring what he wanted to drink.    In the end we had two sandwiches, french fries, and a large drink for Gregory.   He was grateful, his tears and slurs made him almost inaudible at times.

We prayed over Gregory before we left to return to our hotel.  It sounds like a beautiful moment, doesn’t?

What I neglected to share until this point, was the response of others.  The manager, saw Gregory walk in with us.  She approached us, looked right past my friend and I.  To Gregory, she spoke directly… “Looks like you convinced these nice ladies to buy you a meal.  You can wait here for it, but you can’t eat it outside.  You’ll need to take it and go.”

Her response was as if my friend and I were naive out of towners, taken advantage of by this con-man.  It was insulting to our intelligence and demeaning to Gregory.  He was now a paying customer, and should have been treated as such.  Gregory didn’t leave our thoughts for the rest of the trip, and quite often we prayed for him.  We didn’t see him again before it was time to leave.

Layovers and delays on my return flight home, I kept reading.  Over and over again, I found myself writing in the margins (next to a piece of text)…  Gregory.

From the book:

“It’s true that giving a sandwich to a homeless man on one day is not going to end hunger on the streets of your city.  But it will bless that man today.”

and in another passage:

“You see, after Jesus taught the most significant sermon in the history of time, Jesus didn’t make his way to the next sanctuary to meet  with the religious. He made his way to the next street corner to meet with the outcast. 

By meeting him in his greatest need, Jesus restored more than the man’s health; he restored his dignity. “

Gregory.

A Mile Wide opened my eyes to see so much more than how deep my own faith was, but my willingness to go the distance for my fellow man.  It changed my vision and scope of how ministry was supposed to look, and how I was going to change the way I approached our ministry work of training leaders.  It inspired me to a bigger Gospel.  A global Gospel.  A Gospel that feeds the man on the corner, that restores dignity, fights for justice, helps the Great Commission with feet on the ground.

Lord, I pray for Gregory tonight… where ever he lays his head.  I pray Lord, when I return to Indianapolis next year… I see his face again and we can break bread together.  Keep him safe, bring him to healing, and if I can’t see him again… let it be because he has returned to his family.  I pray for the hardened hearts that have forgotten that Gregory and those who are like him… are human beings made in your image.  Let us treat them as you would.  Amen.

More Than Words

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The email comes:

“Please pray for our family, my husband lost his job today.”

The text message arrives:

“Prayer request, my daughter has cheer try outs today.  This means a lot to her.”

She stops you in the sanctuary:

“I have a doctor appointment this week, they found a lump.  Would you pray for me?”

You pass the terrible accident…

A person keeps coming to mind, maybe someone you haven’t thought of in years…

At bible study you jot down all those names and requests during prayer and share time…

“I’ll pray for you!” –you promise.

“I should pray for that person…” – you consider.

Your intention are good.  The moment passes, the day passes, weeks pass.  You read the headline about the fatal accident you passed by.   You learn from mutual friends that an old friend of yours (that name that kept coming to mind) lost everything to a house fire.  The woman catches you in the sanctuary and thanks you for your prayers, her tests came back clear.

But, you didn’t pray.  You forgot.  You didn’t mean to forget, you were sincere in your promises.  Distractions got in the way.  Life interrupted.  Your own problems grabbed your attention.

We must be more than words, when we agree or offer to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ.  Being distracted shouldn’t catch us off guard, we know how life goes.  Instead, we need to be intentional and take a step beyond words.

Stop in the moment and pray for the person, instead of putting on your to do list.  Grab her hand and lead her to another woman in the church, pray together for her corporately.   Even when you a driving, when you can’t bow your head and close your eyes… we can still call out to the Lord while we drive past the scene of an accident or hear sirens in the distance.  Email or text back a written prayer, so that your friend can see your words and return to them as she needs to.

Prayer is a beautiful conversation between us and the Lord.  Talk often.  Pray when you can pray, cry out when the words fail you.  But, when others come to you for intercession… be present with them in that moment of trial.  Stop what you are doing.  Pray.

So… I saw Bad Moms, and I laughed.

In case you don’t have any clue what movie I am talking about, here is a promo shot:

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First, I’d like to admit right out of the gate I didn’t walk into this movie with naive expectations.  The trailers gave a pretty good indication that there would be some inappropriate humor.  Second, I am not planning on giving away any spoilers.  There were definitely some parts I thought the movie could have lived without, not only for the story line but even in the presentation.  Sometimes it could go too far.  Third, there were some parts of this that were REALLY unrealistic when you are talking about any group of moms.  Lastly, there were also a LOT of truths.

Overall, I laughed and I laughed hard.  At one point I laughed so hard (as I was taking a sip from my straw) that I pushed air through the straw, which caused a small tidal wave in my cup, and that resulted in my drink landing in my eyes.  Which just caused a whole other fit of laughter for myself and those sitting around me.  I laughed until I cried and my stomach hurt.  Yet, there were some moments that I nodded in solidarity.  There were moments that were uncomfortable.  And, yes… as I said before totally unnecessary.

What I want to write about (and I’m up for conversation too) is WHY a movie like this not only resonated with moms but was drawing us in like moths to a flame.

My first thought is probably the most obvious, there is an enormous amount of pressure on moms to be it all, do it all, and do so perfectly.  Whether it is the perfect birthday party, bento box lunches, or simply making it to every school and sport activity… we feel the pressure.  We notice so much of what is around us, like the mom who has the perfect hair and make up in the parent pick up line… when we were struggling to get out of the house with a bra under our pajama shirt.  We see the kids with the perfectly styled hair, accessories, and sparkling white sneakers…. and we just spent the last 40 minutes looking for eyeglasses or a belt.  Other moms dropping their kids off early, and we are 10 minutes late because we had to go back home and pick up the flute that was left behind… or because our darling child took 15 minutes to brush her teeth.

How do these moms do it?  We cast shade in their direction, but really we are asking ourselves… why can’t I do it?

I think there are a number of moms who have run the scenario through their head of just saying no.  No to the requests by the husband, kids, school, coaches, etc.  An opportunity to just walk away from the pressure and enjoy life again.  To make the choice of not being the perfect mom anymore, and instead be the bad mom.

This brings me to my second thought, as you watch the trailers you see a group of women having fun. We are not talking bunko party fundraiser fun, but the kind of fun we had as teenagers  and young single adults.  The fun we had when we didn’t care what others thought, where it was ok to be silly, and there was an expected freedom in the general knowledge we were going to make mistakes and bad choices.  It takes us back to a time when we didn’t have to be an adult, and could just let loose and be free.

With motherhood came some sort of unwritten code of conduct, that we couldn’t be silly anymore.  We began to take everything too seriously, including ourselves.  Let’s face it, books and the advice of television “experts” reinforced this.  Reminding us over and over again that it was time to grow up, put away childish things, and get our heads out of the clouds.  As we did this, many of us sent fun sailing away for good.  We stopped smiling, we stopped laughing, and we stopped being silly.

The movie Bad Moms called out to that free spirit inside of us, that desperately wanted to laugh… and laugh hard.  So, it pulls out all the stops.  The women let loose in a way we couldn’t, and we live vicariously through them.  They say the things that roll through our minds & do the things we secretly wished we could.  (Ok, maybe not all of the things they say and do, but you get the point).

I also believe this appeals to Christian women so deeply because of the bar that is set for our expected behavior.  If other moms are feeling the pressure to be perfect in their every day life, Christian moms understand the additional expectations put on the Christian mom.  To have perfect children that love Jesus, quote the bible, volunteer with the elderly, and gladly donate all their birthday money to the missions fund.  To be women who are serious about the study of the Lord, leading small groups, inviting women over to mentor and pray together, to dress in simple clothes, and be ever diligent in our choices of entertainment.  There is a pressure that all of our time should be so seriously focused on Christ, that we can’t let loose and laugh until our sides hurt.

Confession… I saw the movie on opening night.  It’s taken me almost a month to admit I saw it, because frankly… I expected to be judged for it.  I was worried about what my church friends, my readers that look to me for wisdom, the women or leaders who are reading through my blog trying to decide if I would be the right speaker for their next women’s event… what would these people think of me?

I learned something from the movie though… my eyes were opened to how long it had been since I had laughed so much and so hard.  I realized how seriously I take myself and made the decision not to.  I embraced that silliness is okay and even healthy for my kids to see.  I made the decision that I wanted to laugh more, but with those whom I am the closest to… not a theater full of strangers.  I want that girl posse who has my back, in the most biblical way possible… and who will be silly with me.  Women who know how to laugh, smile, and stop trying to be something that is impossible to attain… perfect.

All of those parts of the movie that I thought were unnecessary, they don’t have to be part of my life.  But the good stuff… I welcome it.  We are all GOOD MOMS despite our imperfections and the times we muck things up… because we are LOVING MOMS.  In the end that is what matters.  The Lord didn’t call us to a life of misery, but of fulfillment and joy as mothers… and laughter.  So much laughter.

Beautification Proximation

paintedhouse

There is a phenomenon that is rarely discussed (but well known) when you live in the burbs, the zero lot line… small yard, everyone is super close to each other neighborhoods.  This is phenomenon is called the “Mowed Lawn Phenomenon”.   Many are impacted by it’s domino effect.

It starts simply, OCD neighbor mows his lawn as he does every Saturday at 8am.  His neighbor notices that OCD man is out there mowing as usual, and sees his nice and tidy yard.  Within a short amount of time, the neighbor also realizes that his lawn needs to be mowed as well.  By the end of the day, the lawn is mowed.  Mr. Works on Saturday comes home after a long day and sees the mowed lawns next to him.  He realizes it is also time to mow his own lawn, as it is looking pretty shabby.  On Sunday, after church, he mows his lawn.  This continues until the whole neighborhood has collectively mowed their lawn.

Until OCD neighbor mowed his lawn, no one realized how shabby their lawn looked.  In fact, even Mr. OCD may not have realized his lawn was shabby either.  He was mowing because that is part of his Saturday routine, whether the lawn needs it or not.  But certainly after mowing, Mr. OCD had a measure of satisfaction in how his yard now looked in comparison to his neighbors.

What I have begun to realize is that this is more than just a phenomenon related to mowed yards.  It’s really Beautification Proximation.  When a neighbor gets a new mailbox, suddenly we think “Hey, we probably need one too”.  Someone in the neighborhood starts a landscaping project?  By the next week the everyone in the neighborhood made a trip to Lowes.  Paint your house?  Let the painting parties begin.

My husband and I decided to paint our house this summer.  By my husband and I, I actually mean my husband… and I blame Dave Ramsey because my husband was holding out for a sale on the paint.  And of course, who paints during the SUMMER in Florida????  Which means paint was on sale trying to talk people into this nonsense.  But, I digress.

We decided to replace the lawn chairs that were in rough shape with some newer ones that fit the house theme better.  Our old ones went to the curb, we knew in less than 24 hours they would be picked up.  To my surprise a neighbor knocked on our door to ask about the chairs before just taking them.  He complimented us on how the house was coming together.  I thanked him.  He then pointed out that now his wife wants to paint their house.  I apologized.  We laughed a moment, and as I walked into the house I shouted to my husband…

“I told you it would happen….”

He replied, “What?   Someone already picked up the chairs?”

“Well, yes.  But that’s not what I’m talking about.  I told you that as soon as we were done painting the house… the neighbors would start.”

I saw it coming.  I knew that a fresh coat of paint was inspiring and motivating… just like new plants in the garden, cutting down old dying trees, and a freshly mowed lawn.  It is the nature of “Beautification Proximation”.

Which basically means when we are near something beautiful, we desire to be beautiful. When we are near something beautiful, new, repaired, or well conditioned… we are more apt to notice our own flaws, chipping paint, and overgrown gardens.  When we see others working hard to make something more beautiful, we are motivated to work hard too.  Which is why we are more committed to going to the gym when we have a friend to go with.  It’s why I painted a house in July… because my husband was out there working hard.

“Beautification Proximation” also shows up when we see something or someone change, and we too desire that change.   A sick person gets healthy, and we want to know how they did it… so that we can be healthy too.  A woman with a hard heart comes to Jesus, and those around her see that change in her… and they want that change for themselves.  When a neighborhood that has been neglected decides to hit the streets cleaning up trash, painting buildings, replacing broken signs, and fixing potholes in the street; we call it a “Neighborhood Beautification Project”.  This project on a main street is meant to inspire the surrounding streets and neighborhoods to do the same.

There is another “Beautification Proximation” that happens when we surround ourselves with people who are different than us.  People who have different life experiences, different backgrounds, different history, different trials and tribulations, different colors of skin, and their day to day lives are full of different interactions than our own.  The more we surround ourselves with the beauty in these differences, the more we change inside.  We see their beauty, created in the image of God.  We see the unfair treatment and injustice they face, despite being created in the image of God.  We can no longer cast our eyes aside and justify what happens in the world.  Instead, we are motivated to change.

When we recognize the beauty of others who are different than ourselves, when we see the trials they overcome, the smiles they wear in spite of fear/worry/anxiety… we want to be part of that beauty.   We begin to see the tatteredness of our own ways.  We become more aware of our careless words, privilege, and attitudes that are not honoring our brothers and sisters, WHO WERE MADE IN HIS IMAGE.  We begin a beautification project in our very soul, because of the proximation we are to beauty around us… because beauty comes from ashes too, when we rise up together and say NO MORE.

Beauty comes from having a heart that loves the Lord.. and to love the Lord, is to love His Word.. .and his Word tells us that we are to love one another.

Lord, create in me a clean heart Lord.  Give me the eyes to see your creation, in all of it’s glory, as you do.  So that in all things I see, I know that it is very good.  Give me a voice that speaks against anything that brings harm to your creation, and those whom you have created in your image.  Give me hands to help, feet to walk, eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart the loves. Amen.