Sunday, July 14, 2013

Oh God How I Need You

Ryan loves it when I sing to him.  I think it has something to do with all the interaction and the fluctuation of my voice; he really pays attention and smiles as he watches my face. 

He's been exposed to a hundred different things--"She'll Be Comin' 'Round the Mountain," "Camptown Races," "I've Been Workin' on the Railroad," "The Blues Man," "This Girl is on Fire," etc.  Sometimes Favorite makes up songs about what Ryan is doing that day so we have a lot of songs that revolve around taking a nap, pooping in our pants and taking a bottle.

When it's just me and Ryan, though, I sing praise choruses.  When he was hours old in the hospital, I walked around our room singing "I Will Rise" while I waited for him to close his eyes.  When I buckle him in the carseat, we sing "One Thing Remains" because it gets a sweet smile instead of a fit.  When I cuddle him at night, I sometimes sing pieces of Nichole Nordeman's "I Am," or "I Need You."  (Lately, I've been introducing him to "We Build.")

Those are the songs I know--the ones I love--but they are also the legacy I want to leave for him.

During our worship services, I hold Ryan and sing quietly in his ear.  Often I pray he hears those lyrics and my voice in his head long after I'm incapable of holding him during a service.  I want God's love and constancy to be carved on his heart, so I'm forever singing and re-singing "Your love never fails/ It never gives up/ Never runs out on me."

I don't know that I could explain to him how deeply I believe those words.

In the not-so-distant past, I can remember sitting on my couch with little but a glass of wine and my sobs to keep me company.  Favorite was at work and my heartbreak settled in for an extended stay when I was alone.  Most of those sessions resulted in me hugging my knees to my chest and repeating the only thing I knew to be true:  Jesus.

Flowery prayer sessions and perfect poetry were worthless then.  Prayer was little more than the name I knew and believed.  I remembered that today when I was feeding Ryan and quietly singing, "I need You.  Oh, I need You.  Every hour I need You.  My one defense, my righteousness, Oh, God, how I need You."

It's funny that in my last three months of complete joy (and chaos--lots and lots of chaos), I hadn't thought about the three thousand prayers of almost wordless desperation that proceeded it.  I'm so grateful for what I've been given, but I don't want to forget the deep sense of neediness draws my heart to whisper to the only One who is capable of providing rest.

Brokenness isn't our problem.  Sometimes I think the issue is we'd rather stay in the desert than see the land we've been promised because we don't want to openly admit we're needy.

I'm praying that on my church family--neediness.  And on my son.

I think it's the only way we'll survive. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

On Confidence: Rightfully Placed

Just like Ray Steven's fictional pirate, there was a time in my life when I wanted to sing and dance in bright, shiny pants.  Paychecks and the need for decent insurance were fairly unimportant, but the idea that my name could be in lights on Broadway was intensely appealing. 

In college, I became a bit of a character actress--unafraid to do something crazy on stage and often going off-script to get a few extra laughs.  Fully committing to the comedic character meant I could interact with the audience in a way I never would have in my own clothes.  To this day, there are people who remind me of my antics as Captain Hook's sidekick in Peter Pan--a part I played 14 years ago.  (Truthfully, though, how could people forget the fact that I sat on the Dean of Students' lap and stuck my foot in his face compelling him to smell my feet?)

My antics on stage may have gotten me attention from the audience, but they never did lead to the one thing I really wanted:  the leading lady.  As a matter of fact, I played boys more times than I cared to admit (and I would be lying if I said it never got to me).  It was fun, but I started to feel like I would never be chosen for raw talent.  Instead, I was designated to the sidelines for my sideshow abilities.  I kept thinking that if I could do it better--really commit to the character and sing my butt off--I might finally gain the approval of the casting agents and find myself in the limelight.

I never did get the lead (and most of my twenties are proof that I would gladly perform for praise),  and I struggled to shake the approval seeking behavior I cultivated in that time period.  I was needy--clinging on every person's word trying to hear something that said I was awesome or worthwhile.

And then God pulled my heart toward women's ministry.

I didn't end up there because I had a deep yearning to lead a group.  I was just looking for an accountability partner--someone to meet up with once a week for Bible study and prayer.  After two failed attempts, I finally stepped out on a limb and hosted my first ever women's Bible study.  (That's a bit simplistic, but it's also not the point.)

I wouldn't call the first study an overwhelming success, but it definitely lit a fire in my heart.  In a few months, I saw God knit a community using a few women and the truth of His word.  Over the course of seven or eight studies (I can't remember the number at this point), our numbers fluctuated but there was a core group of women who turned my heart upside down.  They challenged me, encouraged me and broke my heart for a world that needs Christ.

(Even now, I have multiple handwritten cards I pull from a drawer when I'm having a rough day.)

And while I can describe that experience with a deep, deep sense of gratitude, there were always the frowns.  You know what I'm talking about here, right?  They're probably better categorized as the looks of disapproval, and every person everywhere has experienced them in some capacity.

Frankly, I'm no stranger to the frowns.  As a praise and worship leader, a women's Bible study facilitator and a from-childhood-to-adulthood attender in the same congregation, I had been exposed to my own fair share of the frowns.  They can rattle you--particularly if you're the type of person who needs approval.

But approval is exhausting to mine.  It's not easy to chip away at rock for the tiny diamonds revealed as the result of all that effort.  And let me be honest:  no matter who you are or what you're doing, the frowns will always find something at which to frown.

Initially, the frowns bothered me.  I have cried over rude comments and ill placed pieces of advice.  One time, out of frustration, I asked BigBro what I was doing wrong.  "How can I fix this situation?" I pleaded.  I was in a place where I would've done anything, including stepping away from the ministries I was called to for that season.  In BigBro fashion, he shrugged his shoulders and said, "You do what you're called to do regardless of the frowns."

Not stellar advice for someone who needed the praise of the masses.  (Or, at the very least, to avoid the criticism of the minority.) 

I was ready to throw in the towel because who wants to continue down the path of most resistance?  So it was in that time that God began one of the slowest burning processes of my entire life:  purifying my heart from approval-seeking behavior. 

I've always been a fan of Francis Frangipane's quote:  "To inoculate me from the praise of man, He baptized me in the criticism of man until I died to the control of man."  Praise is a seductive force.  Like a siren, it beckons and we ignore all the warning signs until our ships are obliterated on the surrounding rocks.  We end up drowning in the falsehood of our own self confidence.

Those criticisms ended up being a navigational tool:  I wouldn't go this direction because it would offend this group.  I wanted to avoid this topic because it could lead to hurt feelings.  I wanted to step away from this group because I was stepping on someone else's territory.  If I could eventually get it right, I just knew people would see how great I was so I "dodged, ducked, dipped, dived and dodged" until I boxed myself into a corner.

In that corner, I realized the show was over.  No curtain call.  No final bows.  I wasn't being groomed as the leading lady because I was never supposed to be the focus.

End scene.

Sometimes I feel like Christianity has become such a show.  If we do this or we say that or we write this or sing that we will finally gain the respect and admiration of those around us.  And if that happens?  We can finally feel good about what we're doing in the world.

But what I'm praying?  Is that my heart will not be shaken by praise (or seek it out) because it doesn't belong to me.  My confidence after all is not in myself but in the God who created me and developed anything useful enough to be called a skill.  A confident heart rooted in the knowledge of Christ doesn't require her name in lights--she just needs Jesus.

Perspective.  Whoo.  It doeth my heart good, y'all.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The First of the Posts on Confidence

The "nevers" got me today.

I swore when I became a mom, I would never pass judgment on another mother for a decision she made.  After all, so many of us are trying to make the best decisions we can with the limited knowledge we have until we figure out experience is the best teacher--well, until the next child.  (The next child is never the same as the ones before, apparently.)

I wasn't trying to be ugly or rude; in fact, my comment was rooted in my own insecurities about parenting.  I feel like this is the most critical test I've ever taken and every.single.answer is weighted.  Unfortunately, with four options, the "best" option is weighted 100 while subsequent answers are worth 25, 20 and 15.

(Tell me other moms feel this way, too.)

The cause of my insecurity?  I stopped nursing.

I wasn't supposed to feel guilty about it because I promised myself I wouldn't feel guilty about things that just didn't work.  And nursing?  Wasn't super successful.

The lactation specialist warned me that was a possibility--PCO can affect production--so when I went from making 5 ounces to 3 ounces at the very best feeding of the day (the first one of the morning), I shouldn't have been shocked.  And I shouldn't have been surprised that every feeding after the first one of the morning resulted in less and less.

Favorite and I were constantly supplementing.  Ryan went from eating 4-5 ounces at two months to consistently taking 6 ounces now that he's three months.  He could nurse for (literally) 3 minutes before I had to offer a bottle so he could get enough to eat. 

Right before he turned three months, Favorite and I decided to wean.  In our situation, it made sense.  There were other options, but we felt, given our circumstances, this was the best option for our family.

I haven't felt good about that decision since. 

Logically, I know Ryan won't suffer from this decision.  He is growing just fine.  (Holy crap.  That's an understatement.  My boy is a hoss.)  He is right on track developmentally (even if he hasn't rolled over, but that's our fault.  We never lay him down.  To be fair, though, he's pretty close to sitting up on his own.)

He's also adapted to the change.  He transitioned between nursing and bottle feeding like a pro; he never once developed nipple confusion or any of those other heinous things nursing mothers are warned about.  He was good with the very first formula we tried so that's been a pretty easy process, too.  I'm not even sure he knows there's been a switch.

(We use Similac Advance.  If the Similac people want to send me freebies for promoting their product, I'll gladly take them.)

So forgive me if I don't think formula is horrible or even a subpar alternative.  For us, it was a necessity, and I'm thankful to have that option.

If you're willing to keep that in mind, I promise I won't judge your parenting decisions, either.  Instead, I'll smile and nod my head sympathetically in your direction.

If all decisions are this rough emotionally, we could all use some encouragement.  Right?

How do you handle parenting judgments?  Do you judge other parents for their decisions?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Three Love Languages (OK, there are five, but only three really mattered to me)

At my parents' house, Wednesday was typically called "Wednesday Night Dinner." Our regular crew would sit around the dinner table, eat and banter. And the topics? Well, ladies and gentlemen, that was a deep, deep well. Sometimes my brothers and I would participate in the game we affectionately dubbed Who-Can-Make-Mom-Blush-First. (For those curious souls, my brothers were the regular victors in that game with LilBro taking top prize for making Mom ask what a "Fluffer" did for a living. And before you ask, no, I won't be relaying that conversation here.)

Of course, regular obligations and some rotation in our regular crew have made the original Wednesday Night Dinners a thing of the past.  Now Wednesday Night Dinners take place on Sunday evenings; sometimes they are on Sunday afternoons. (Or Saturday evenings. Or Tuesday evenings. You get the picture.)

One of our more recent topics was love languages.  According to author Gary Chapman, there are five of them:  words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time and physical touch. 

(Guess which one would be a Fluffer's number one?)

Approximately five seconds into our conversation, everyone was trying to guess everyone else's bottom love language--you know, the one your spouse needs that you could do without.

Don't judge.  All conversations have to start somewhere.

Turns out, guessing is unnecessary because there is a very convenient and telling online quiz here.  (Go ahead.  This post will be here when you finish.)  That discovery led to the quietest dinner I've ever had with those people in my entire life.  People stared at cell phones, clicked and chewed for an half hour.

(I'd like to share everyone's individual results.  I have a great story about Gloria's results and the reactions around the table, but I'm not all about laying everyone's personal business out on the interwebs.)

(Alright.  That's a lie.  OF COURSE I'd share personal business if I thought it would get a laugh.  But some things require a foreknowledge I just can't explain here.)

The results were pretty telling, though.  For instance, I would feel loved if you cleaned my house, brought me a present and then offered to hang out.  I do not, however, need you to tell me you like me or hold my hand.  In fact, I need those things so little, they barely scored on the charts (both with a score of 1).  The top three, however, scored a 10, 9 and 8 respectively.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why I appear to have no feelings.

Mystery solved.

Take the quiz and share your interpretation of your results.  I'd love to hear them.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Love Disrupted Me

Every time I have a few minutes to write, I notice I have little to say.  I've stared at this screen for multiple hours with great stories and good thoughts and no words.


I actually have 4 archived posts I managed to start but cannot finish to save my life.  And the only excuse I have?


Love has completely blown my world to smithereens.

For the last 15 years, I've believed love was quiet and unassuming.  Like running water, it changed its charges slowly over a long period of time.  So it stands to reason I wasn't prepared for the way it would rip out all the seams and overflow into every aspect of my life.

It's completely wrecked me and disrupted my orderly world nicely separated into different segments.

And how, I ask you, am I supposed to construct a coherent sentence after that?