Tuesday, November 13, 2012

On letting Christmas happen to you.

New Years Day 2012.  I found myself standing the wake of Christmas 2011.  I had left a trail of wrapping paper, bank statements, and chocolate fondue pots all through the month of December.  And I was exhausted. All I had to show for the Advent season were bags under my eyes, a new bathrobe, and a husband that knew better than to talk to me until I had my first three cups of coffee.

Hindsight can be hard on a girl. I should have smelled Christmas coming around the bend in November.  I should have forecasted it as I swallowed my last bite of pumpkin pie. I should have noticed how the month of December in our calendar was blacked out by office parties, church gatherings, and family celebrations. It was disguised in the taste of Starbucks peppermint mochas and shopping lists, but I should have known. Christmas was coming like a big, fat, overwhelming tidal wave…and I would be swept away.  Christmas 2011 was going to wash over me, knock me around a few times and leave me on the shores of 2012, wondering what had just occurred. 

 Christmas was going to happen to me. 

In November everything it made sense.  This is what the Advent season is about. Tradition.  Family. Community.  Schedule all these things for optimum Christmas experience.  Check.  Then there are pancakes with Santa. Wait.  Also, let’s not forget about the annual Christmas cookie exchange. The craft fair. Choir rehearsals. Grab bags. White elephants. Then December hit.  I burned out the first week.  As we walked through all that we had previously scheduled, I realized it was too much.  My Batmobile had lost a few wheels, but I kept moving.  For the sake of face-saving, for good will towards all and all that.

All these well intentioned things left us in a candy cane induced stupor, stumbling into church Christmas morning.  I was wound tightly, after cooking our traditional breakfast, opening gifts, packing our Jeep full of more yuletide goodness for another family celebration, and outfitting my children in their matching Christmas attire.  I recall feeling inconvenienced that Christmas was on a Sunday. Seriously, I had so much to do.  Celebrating the birth of Christ didn’t really keep with our schedule.

And there it was. 

Laid bare, like an ugly sore airing itself out.  As I sat for the first time in days, I was overwhelmed by a holy sadness.  I had missed it.  In all my fa-la-la’ing, in all my egg nog drinking and outfit coordinating, I had missed Him.  My Jesus, born to a teenage girl without an epidural in a dirty stable two thousand years ago.  The birth that changed the History of Everything.  In my frenzied state of chaos, I had dropped my gaze from Jesus and fixed my eyes on whatever was before me.  Prone to wander, Lord I feel it.  Especially at Christmastime.

I am ever learning.

I know that Christmas time calls for a posture of holiness.  A time that is set apart from all other times.  A time to remember our Infinite God contained in a swaddling babe.  Let’s not pretend like we have wrapped our minds around that last sentence. FULLY GOD.  FULLY DIAPERED.  Should all things Christmas point towards this Miracle? Um, yes. We, as believers that this Event did indeed change the History of Everything, should face our Advent Season head on.  Eyes fixed.  Hearts set. But what does that look like?  When we are standing in November, red sharpies poised towards December, how do we keep our gaze fixed on Jesus?

One of my favorite passages in Scripture is Luke 2:19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” She had just given birth, for the first time, in a barn-like atmosphere. She was unwed.  Mary was a baby herself.  She had strange visitors in the stable, shepherds and men of nobility who confirmed what Gabriel had told her months before. This child she had just birthed was indeed the Messiah her people had been waiting for.  What a rush! Mary’s response?  She treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.  She didn’t tweet about it.  She didn’t make birth announcements on Snapfish.  She treasured her good news.  She pondered that this little baby, borne of her own body, was going to Save her world.  And the rest of mankind.  No big deal.  

I want to be like Mary.  I want to create space in my life to ponder.  I want the opportunity to treasure the Good News that I have been given.  I want to stay calm in the flurry of the Advent season, eyes fixed on Jesus.  For me, that will take the form of more white spaces on our December calendar.  I am committed to protecting set times for reflection and restoration. 

I am going to have to learn to be okay with disappointing people, with breaking tradition so that my heart can be aligned with the One who made it.  I am going to plan meaningful moments and conversations with my children and husband that point towards our Jesus.  I am not going to rush through gatherings, mind already on the next event.  I am going to take those opportunities to look my family members in the eyes and encourage their hearts when we speak.  My husband and I are going to be purposeful with our gifts this year, knowing that all things Christmas should point towards the miracle that is Christ Jesus.

Let the Redeemed of the Lord say so.  Let us treasure what we Know.  Let us ponder how to make this Advent season one in which all things point towards the Promise we hold.  The Promise delivered in baby form. Let’s not just let Christmas just happen to us this year. Let us not get so caught up in all the good things that our Perfect Thing gets lost in eggnog frenzy.  Face it head on, full of intention and celebration.  Let us choose what to celebrate wisely.  Let us not get tangled up in the garland of “should do’s.”  Let’s be okay breaking tradition for the promise of what is sacred and good. 

Christmas 2012.  I can smell it coming.  But I am so ready for this.  I have my red Sharpie, ready to do some damage.  

Monday, October 8, 2012

Lazy Days.

It's been that kind of day.  The kind of day where I haven't brushed my teeth and my darlings are still in their pajamas.  They have watched more TV than usual.  I haven't done a ton of cleaning, and I've spent a lot of time researching various matters on the internet.  Important matters.  Such as what all my friends are up to on facebook.  

If I'm being honest, I'm feeling guilty about my day. I should be doing pumpkin-themed crafts with my four year old and posting it on facebook for the world to see.  I should be making some sort of comfort food dish for my husband when he walks in the door. I should be working on projects that I've left unfinished, and I should probably do something about that massive pile of laundry that's hissing at me in the corner.  And, according to Madeline, I should take a shower.  Should. Should. Should.

Sometimes I operate as if there is some sort of invisible "should do" social audience that I am catering to.  I don't know who they are, or what they look like, but they have managed to influence many of my choices throughout the day. 

Darn the man.  

Darn my make believe people.  

There they are, these invisible people, all up in my head space, telling me what I should and shouldn't be doing. And apparently today is a five-alarm day because I've felt nothing but guilt for not visiting farmers markets or taking my girls on a stroll to talk about deciduous vs. coniferous trees.  Maddie is even calling today Christopher Robin day.  Without correction.

It's strange dressing this feeling with words, because I've tolerated it for such a long time...but I'm constantly feeling the pressure to always be on, always produce,  and always impress.  Must.
 not. deviate. from. this. plan.  Must. be. efficient. at. all. times.  

For some reason, today it makes me angry.  Today I'm flipping the proverbial bird to my "should do'" invisible friends. Also, it's not really swearing when it involves make believe people.

I'm taking my day back.  

Free of judgement and condemnation and made-from-scratch feelings.  Who would view this day as a waste?  I'm alive, I'm learning, my children are playing together and are hanging out with Bubble Guppies and Octonauts. I need today to be like this.  And God knows that.

I know Who holds my day.  

I know who my invisible Audience is.  He is the One that I'm aiming to please.  And since my God made His Rachel this Way, He knows that I need some time to lay low, rest my heart, brain, and body.  I need this lazy day in order to fully face the days ahead of me this week.  My children and husband need rest.  And what I am (not) doing today holds importance of Kingdom proportions.  

So my invisible friends can take up residence in someone else's conscience.  

Seat taken.  

Thursday, September 13, 2012

two rachels

My story really started the day I was born, but for your sake, I will start with a few years ago.  You're welcome.  I was twenty seven when I became a mom.  I thought I was pretty well acquainted with myself.  In my own frenzied ducks-in-a-row way I figured that I had lived enough life, worked enough of my kinks out that my kids wouldn't be irreparably scarred , and had had "enough fun" to settle down and build a family.    I just decided that the door to anything pre-kids would be shut, locked, and that key would be tossed.  I mean, I was almost thirty. Seriously.  That's so old.

And, at the beginning, during the late night feedings and the body change and the hour that it took me to pack a diaper bag just to go to Target I really really really decided that I was right.  I would look at married couples without kids, I would look at PK's (Pre-kidders) at the beach in their bikinis and I would mourn this part of my life that passed.  I seriously must have freaked out the high school girls that I met with, as I would go on verbal rampages about how lucky they were to have french fries for lunch in the cafeteria, and how I would give my left eyeball to sleep in until noon.  I figured I  might as well put on the denim jumper, get the mom haircut, and let my three month old finger paint the walls.  If you stuck a fork in my flabby post-baby arm, you would have known.  I was done.  I felt done.

  Don't get me wrong.  I LOVED (as I still do) being a new mom. I drank in every moment as a stay at home mom, stealing sweet kisses from my baby whenever I could.  I think I cried every night as I rocked Madeline and prayed over her life.  It was a feeling like no other.  I loved the rhythm of life.  I cherished the play dates, the coffee runs, the lazy days at the park and at the beach.  It was so beautiful.  Yet I began to feel a little unsettled.  My pre-mom Rachel was knocking on my hearts door.  She wanted to play.

As I sought God out, I began to realize that my perspective had been pretty skewed.  I fully believed that I had to lay down who God made me to be in order to embrace the kind of mom He wanted me to be. I was ready to do it.  But, slowly and brilliantly, God unraveled this untruth in me.  He allowed me to see that He had created me on purpose.  And that those dreams, passions, and yearnings were from Him, and would be accomplished thru Him.  And that my family was part of that equation of becoming whole.  That everything I'd gleaned from marriage and motherhood was being added unto me, and it was all put back into a better version of myself. There were not two Rachels.  There was just one kind of confused one.  Rachel 2.0.

And some time passed.  I slept more.  Some stretch marks faded (note: the some.  Hey.  I'll take it).  And I began to realize that I was still myself.  Just a little older, wiser, and slightly chubbier.  My passions did not fade.  My convictions and career aspirations were not under lock and key.  And, although I did have a moment of insanity where I bought fleece-lined Crocs, my fashion senses were somewhat in tact.  Most of all, as these two perspectives merged, I felt a beautiful peace taking over.

Although being a mother of Godly proportions requires much sacrifice and teaches much wisdom, patience, and perseverance, I now know that it does not requires death to self.  It requires just the opposite.  Being much alive in the One who holds everything together, and reconciles the old with the new.  Now I can bravely face whatever my God has set before me because I get it.  I may or may not have to go back to this blog and eat my own words a few times, but I'm grasping it.  Stay tuned world:  Rachel 3.0 in the making:)

Friday, August 3, 2012

Sit in it.

It's been a while.  I feel like it's been a lifetime since I've last written, and I can feel it starting to boil in my bones.  Like if I don't write this here post I might explode.  Even worse, what I am learning might fade into oblivion as this life rushes on, up and over me.  These words need to be written.  For my souls sake.

For my God has been doing a Number on me.  It has been a mother of a number.  I have been attempting to outrun, out-talk, and out resource this Number for some time, and God has finally sat on me.  Like glued-me-to-my-chair sat on me.  Sat on me in a way where I couldn't turn my head to the left or right or even cross my legs or anything comfortable because of the weight of this Number.  I guess my God knows this girl pretty well.  It takes nothing short of horse-blinders, duct tape, and a holy megaphone booming in my face for me to allow this Number to sink in.  

Because, since the day I made my two minute entrance into this world  (a story my mom is still telling), I have been what some might call "head-in-the-clouds-ish".  I prefer the term "thoughtful."  I am seriously always daydreaming, scheming, and thinking.  I wish it were more like Brother Lawrence where I am in constant prayer and practicing the presence of God.  Not so much.  Instead it's usually an insanely long stream of consciousness that may or may not exit my mouth at all times. Poor Greg.  His simple, "how was your day?" will turn into a monologue about how I've decided we should adopt a child, open an orphanage, or get my bangs cut.  

Being head in the clouds-ish is not really a bad thing.  But at times, I check into my head so much that I check out of my reality.  Such a tiny, fine line.  When I cross that line, my present life kind of becomes foggy.  It's like I'm sedated, slumbering through each day as I dream about what the next one holds.  It's not just my head I check into.  It's Facebook.  Pinterest.  Gmail.  Texting.  Words with Friends.  The Bachelorette (which, by the way, yay for Jeff!).  Sometimes I'm amazed at how checked out I have been in my day.  Checked out of fully loving on my girls, checked out of quality, quiet times with my Jesus, and checked out of supporting and encouraging my husband.  

And I know this is not how my God has designed this present life to be.  Consecrate yourselves.  For the Lord will do wonders among you tomorrow.   Loose translation:  be fully HERE today so that I can work wonders with your tomorrow.  I'm going to take a wild guess that consecrating myself today doesn't involve watching Teen Mom or spending hours reading Facebook statuses.  

Consecration:  (1) a solemn commitment of your life or your time to some cherished     purpose (2)  sanctification of something by setting it apart (usually with religious rites) as dedicated to God

What is my cherished purpose?  How have I set apart my day to dedicate it to the God who has given me this very day?  This breath?  This moment?  Moment by moment I make a decision: Check out or Consecrate.  And I know that if I choose to (with a little holy duct tape and horse blinders) commit each day to my Cherished Purpose that God will build upon those moments to do wonders with my tomorrow.

And the mother of a Number that God has been working on my heart is simply this:  Sit in it.  This is your life.  Sit down deeply in your beautiful mess.  Don't try to get up.  Don't strain your eyes to look forward or turn your chair around to see what is behind you.  Have purpose in your gaze.  See what I see.  Thank me for what is before you.  Set apart this present life, this moment I have given you, and fully drink of the cup I have given you.  For it is not until you do this that I will do wonders with your tomorrow.  

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


There are many things I like about myself and who God has made me to be.  I am an honest person.  I have good hair. 

However, somewhere along the way in my thirty-one years I have picked up some unfortunate habits/thought patterns that have woven themselves tightly into who I am.  I call them my uglies.  Occassionally they surface like a nasty pimple.  I usually pop them and then get on with my day. Fortunately for me, and for those around me, God is calling me up and out of my uglies and towards him.  This blog is partially to document that and partially to make sure that I am not that crazy.  That others share in some of my struggles.

One of the many uglies that rears it's head every now and then in my life is a little something I like to call idealotry. Besides, this is my blog and I can make up words if I want to! Idealotry is the worship of the ideal life.  It's the running standard in my head of what life should look like pitted against what real life looks like.  The two are usually so far apart that it's not even funny.

And it's not.  It's not funny.  Because what usually happens is that I do not allow myself to be happy unless my ideal life matches my real life.  And seriously, when does that happen?  I want to look like a super model.  I want my children to be scrubbed and brushed and clipped and have halos over their heads.  I want my meals to look like the cover of a Racheal Ray cookbook.  I want my home to look like a Restoration Hardware magazine.  I want my bank account to look like...well, look like somethings in it.

And where it really hits a nerve is with the holy life.  I have this ideal of what a life lived for Jesus looks like.  It's radical.  Like, sell my house, move to a third world country, and start an orphanage with my family.  I have an ideal of what the Church should look like.  This glossy picture of open homes, open checkbooks, open hearts, provision and forgiveness.  I have an ideal of just leaving reality behind and just wearing burlap or whatever the saints of old did and just proclaiming Jesus Christ to whoever doesn't run away from me when they see my fleas.  It sounds pretty, minus the fleas. 

And I'm not even sure that my ideals are mistaken.  My mistake is the amount of control I relinquish to them on a daily basis. 

So, often times I spend my reality; this present life; unhappy.  My reality is not even close to my idealotry.  I am no supermodel.  That's so far from the truth that I laughed out loud as I typed it.  Madeline has been in a time out three times today.  We eat frozen pizzas a lot.  As I survey my present life and the ideal life it breeds discontentment.  A dangerous thing.  Because I get so stuck on the picture in my head that I begin to think that I will only be fully happy if the two match up.  And it sucks the joy right out of my reality.  Thievery. 
And I know that I'm not alone in this.  Daily I listen to loved ones who struggle to find happiness with where they live, what they look like, the amount of money they have and the circumstances that they are living in.  If only we could win the lottery.  If only I could lose these last 20 pounds.  If only I could move back to be closer to my family.  If only...then.  I am in no way diminishing the hardships of anyones life...but where it becomes dangerous is when we refuse to live fully in our present lives because we are so wrapped up in what "should be."  Idealotry is debilitating. 

I also realize that there are times where God is calling us up and out of the way we do life into a higher standard of living.  But I don't believe that God is honored by our daydreaming of the ideal life.  I believe He is honored by us pulling up our bootstraps, with His help, and tackling our days with passion and fervor, even if they are not what we want them to be.   I believe that God is glorified when we hand over our ideals, and instead of living to the impossible standards in our head, we allow Him to guide us and move us into a life more fulfilling, rewarding, and exciting than we could even imagine!

 My God is a God who calls out to the deep.  Who is willing to get dirty with me and sift through the mess that is me...keeping the good, adding more goodness, and throwing my uglies as far as the east is from the west.