Mayweather Musings

ImageMay seems to bring a cheerfulness unmatched in other months. The promise of hope and excitement fills the air as school finishes for the year and we celebrate graduations and the thrill of completion.  We’re planning summer vacations and starting to enjoy warmer weather (finally!). This May, I find myself anticipating my husband’s college graduation and reflecting on being out of Bible College myself for a full year. In some ways, it seems like I was just there yesterday, and in others, a lifetime ago.

The first year has come with a full dose of reality in just changing residence alone; no longer do I live in a place where praying with your neighbors is common and alcohol, smoking and general mayhem is outlawed.  Some things, however, are not very different. My last year of Bible college, I was also a full-time mother, which meant that even in the midst of studying and worship teams and early morning practices, my family took precedence. My husband was finishing his degree, and when I would come home from class, I would exchange my smart-looking school clothes and worship attire for torn jeans and stained shirt as I made pb&j’s and changed diapers. While other Bible college students were formulating ministry plans and leading worship among many, I was leading worship for my little brood of three. Although sometimes frustrating at the time, considering the environment, I can see how the Lord used this to prepare my heart for the next year.

A year later I find myself in the same stained-shirt attire and attending to the business of the toddler crowd, while somehow muddling through my first year of homeschooling completely by myself. My neighbors don’t pray with me (although they probably pray that my children don’t scream so much outside!), and due to a move and unforeseen life-stuff, contact with adults my age has dwindled mostly to Sunday morning interactions and savored trips to Target. I haven’t worn dress pants in at least a year, and whatever grace God gave me to match clothing together has pretty much ceased to exist. I still treasure the worship moments I get, whether in a public setting or at home on the stinky carpet, but I’m not standing in front of crowds anymore.

I can’t say that much of this is a surprise. I knew upon graduation that the next year of my life at least would be dedicated to my husband completing college – something we will be celebrating this Friday. While others went off with grand plans of ministry and “stepped into their calling,” so to speak, I knew my next year would be a lot of what we like to call “Armor Bearing” ministry – serving another’s vision instead of your own. And that’s not to say that I don’t feel like motherhood is my first vision, my first priority – I truly do. It’s just that I was aware certain things would be set aside while we focused on Daddy finishing school.

The funny thing is, I couldn’t see at the time how God would use this year to draw me even closer to Himself and even more intimately into His presence. In my experience of working in full-time, church ministry, sometimes it can be easy to fall in the trap of only finding God’s presence and the beauty of His holiness in that special church setting. It’s so easy to “feel God” and sense His presence when you have morning chapel services everyday. It’s easy to worship with flawless guitars, clear vocals, and harmonies in just the right place. My heart is moved quickly in an ambience void of whining, yelling, and little people biting your leg (or pinching, whichever they prefer).

Don’t get me wrong; I love and treasure amazing worship services. I attend a healthy, thriving church where the worship team humbly serves with excellence, and God is glorified in their sacrifice. But being home with my littles – waking up with them every morning, attending to boo-boos, discerning attitudes, apologizing for homeschooling in frustration – has shown me another side of worship leading.

It is in this place, where the sometimes mundane, unglamorous reality of everyday life meets holiness. It is here where I find His presence dwelling in earthen vessels; where the stuff of heaven meets the confines of earth: feebleness, exhaustion, frustration and sarcasm. It’s here where His strength really is made perfect in my weakness. There are no flashing lights to lessen the glow of frustration on my face, or reverb to buffer the sound of my irritated voice. You know 2 Corinthians 4:7, that talks about treasure in earthen vessels? I’m pretty sure Paul was specifically talking about mothers there. The place where all that is good and lovely and pure meets all of human limitation, and we make an exchange to rely on His strength instead of our natural ability – BAM! – that is the place where heaven meets earth. This is the place where His presence shines in my imperfection.

A resounding theme for me this year comes from one of my favorite songs, “Holy Spirit,” by Bryan and Katie Torwalt. The line “Let us become more aware of Your presence / Let us experience the fullness of Your goodness” has become my heart’s cry. In school, we spent time waiting on the Lord. Whether it was with beautiful music playing or sitting in silence, we taught our hearts to hear His silent words. I have found this year a continuation of that process, but without an amazing worship band playing. Instead, I’m becoming aware of His presence while spending 3 months on a couch, drained of the worst morning sickness I’ve ever experienced, and hearing my heavenly Daddy whisper to me, “It’s gonna be okay. I am holding you through this.” I’m finding His goodness in a busy household where everyone needs something at once; in the daily craziness that includes at least one spill a day; in teaching my daughters to take a deep breath and respond instead of react. This is the stuff of heaven.

This year I’ve found that my heart needs to seek Him 100 percent of the time, not just when my family needs direction or when the mood of a public worship service moves me. The more time I spend in the light of His goodness, the more I’m aware of how beautiful He is and how the things of earth –even personal ministry goals – pale in that beauty. It creates a hunger in me for more of His goodness, more of His touch even on the days I think I have it all together.  His Presence is not a nice, calming, quiet complement to my hectic mommy day, like a good cup of tea: It is the very essence of life – that Zoe-life that gives breath to this body. Without it, I don’t just have a ‘hard day.’ Without it, I cease to be who I was created to be. It is necessary to my daily life, whether on or off a platform.

At the end of this school year, our family is again in a season of transition, and we’re praying about what is next. I’m trying not to do my normal thing of freaking out and not enjoying the day-to-day. That’s not easy for me! But as we wait, my heart is drawn to Exodus 33:14, where Moses is in the desert talking with the Lord, going through his own season of transition:

The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

That is enough for me.

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First Responders

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Maybe you’ve noticed this by now, but this blog doesn’t exactly stick to one focus. I wish I could say it was only about fearlessly mothering: boldy mothering when no Mom has, umm, mothered before, but it just isn’t the case. The more I try to focus on this one topic, the more I end up going in a different direction with my next post. Instead of wallowing in chocolate and frustration concerning this debacle, I realized this is because these two topics that I’m passionate about – fearlessly mothering and the awesome presence of God – are quite intertwined. For me, I cannot have the former without the latter. I simply cannot be a fearless mother without the living, breathing presence of God infusing my daily life. If I try to do this without Him, I become legalistic and my perfectionist streak takes over, and I start complaining about ridiculous things, like the fact that my two year old doesn’t know his alphabet yet. See? Ridiculous. I have to parent with His presence, each day, otherwise I become a bit ridiculous. For that reason, I’m informing you now that most likely every other post will concern the presence of God and what I’m hearing from Him, and have absolutely nothing to do with children or Cheerios or dirty diapers entirely. So consider this the non-Cheerios post for now, and let the dirty diaper smell fade into the background.

As I mentioned here, I forewent the New Years resolutions for the month of January and decided instead to concentrate on waiting on the Lord, without an agenda or a Big Fat My Needs List. It hasn’t quite been a daily thing yet (still working on that), but this past month has been so beautiful. Intimate. Restoring. I have learned much about calming my heart and quietly waiting on Him, even though I’m not exactly a quiet person. It’s almost like a tithe of my attention and affection: before I speak or interrupt, I’m learning to give Him the firstfruits of my attention, devotion, love, opinion. He gets the first interaction. I find my words changing from saying things about feeling the presence of God (although we can definitely feel His presence), to developing an awareness of His presence continually with me. Waiting on Him, by myself, somewhat locked away and with no agenda, has brought me to a place where I am not sitting around waiting for goose bumps, but instead am quietly listening for when my Beloved wants to speak (if at all). It is incredible. And normally, yes, He does grace these times with a thick, tangible sweetness and peace, like a cloud. But He’s taken me from seeking that to coming simply to worship Him because He’s worthy.

In the midst of this, I’m starting to hear Him call my heart during other times of my day. I’m sure He’s called me before, but this time I’m actually listening. When I’m frustrated about something and I’m standing in front of my kitchen sink, I’ll hear Him say something like, “You seem worn and tired. Come rest in Me a minute,” or after an interaction with my children that didn’t go well: “That was frustrating. Take a minute to sit with Me.” If I did hear Him say things like that to me in the past, I don’t remember heeding it often. I’d brush it off and continue what I was doing, knowing that the weight of our domestic household rested on my shoulders alone (cue sarcasm font). But now that I’m taking the time to wait and listen in the quiet places, I’m learning to obey in these moments, as well. I’m finding my Father wants every bit, every smidgen of my day – not just those moments I designate “Quiet Time.” I’m realizing that I don’t want to take these tender moments He sprinkles throughout my day for granted. I want to respond to His presence the first time, every time. I want to listen to His words the moment I hear them, even if it’s momentarily inconvenient to my schedule.

On a practical note, this doesn’t mean I run off to my prayer closet every time this happens. I realistically cannot bust out my newest Jesus Culture album and have a worship sesh on the spot while my four-year-old sprinkles milk around the kitchen as she pretends to be a helicopter. But I do have time to slip away to my room for a moment, or maybe just sit on the couch and close my eyes, and let my Father finish what He saying in the ongoing conversation we share throughout the day. As I train myself to listen, I’m realizing it’s not as hard as I thought to hear Him speak. My own fear and doubt were holding me back way more than my inability to hear Him.

I’m don’t write this to add one more thing to a weary mother’s growing list of demands. However, I find that when I respond to my Love’s call, when I heed the voice of my Father throughout the day, His voice becomes clearer, and I rest in His peace more often. I quit viewing my time with the Lord as an event or a moment in a worship service, but instead as an ongoing dialogue in a loving relationship. His continual presence in my life leads me to His rest and emboldens me to be fearless.

What I’m listening to: Waiting Here for You, Christy Nockels; Holy Spirit, Bryan & Katie Torwalt

What I’m reading: Psalm 139:7-90; Psalm 27:8, 14; Psalm 62:1; Psalm 63:1-3