Sunday, April 20, 2014

Making Roots and Breaking Roots

My daughter and I chose a purple daisy to plant in the backyard this afternoon.  I realized for the first time today how incredibly wondrous it can be to dig a hole.  As it came time to plant our little flower I broke apart the fragile roots that tightly held together their soil in the shape of it’s former container.

Life suddenly made more sense.

I’ve been struggling with change lately, even change that isn’t certain.  As I’m praying with friends who are thinking about moving away or moving on I can’t help but dread the amount of effort it takes to make new friends.  I can’t escape the fear that I won’t find a friend like them ever again.  I know from experience that change creates opportunity and I know in my head that God has many unseen wonders for my heart to explore that I’ll never experience if I stay in the same place forever.  Still, it hurts.

It’s supposed to hurt.

I thought about that poor little daisy as I ripped the knotted end of its roots off.  It had dedicated so much of it’s energy to growing those roots.  Those roots knew right where the boundaries were, the nutrition came from, and held everything together tightly.  Do not let this analogy fool you, I have a total black thumb.  Even with the irrigation system it will be a miracle if this poor daisy survives.  Still, even I know that you have to replant flowers for them to grow larger than their current pot.

Only the relentless heart really lives.

This Daisy is going to regrow it’s roots.  It isn’t even a choice, it’s a law of nature.  My heart feel less relentless, sometimes.  I question if I have the energy, I resent the brokenness that comes with change.  I wish I could not grow roots that would be broken, but they all get broken.  The only unbroken roots are the ones who never expand their borders or reach deeper to soak up all that they can from their world.

My roots, God's garden.

I’ve heard people say to hold things with an open hand as a visual of surrender, leaving everything in our lives open to be taken or changed by God.  I’m not sure that’s the right picture.  I think God wants us to make roots.  He’s given us an environment and community to soak up and fully wrap ourselves around, not separating our heart or hedging our emotions. When it comes to life’s inevitable changes, I’m ready for my roots to be broken.  I expect it to hurt, but I know that there’s exciting changes ahead- not just for my friends with big announcements but for my ever expanding heart.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

He Smelled like Lavender

Jesus smelled like lavender. 

His last week on earth, Mary anointed Jesus (John 12:1-8).  She poured Nard over his entire body and washed his feet with her hair in adoration and abandonment.  Jesus’ followers looked at her in confusion, disgust, and derision.  Jesus looked at her in recognition and love, and bound their stories together for eternity- her act of sacrificial worship and his coming act of sacrificial love (Matthew 26:13). 

I learned this week that Nard is believed to smell like lavender.

Mary emptied the entire bottle over Jesus.  His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane was only 4 days later, which means Jesus likely smelled like lavender his final days on earth and even as they led him away for crucifixion. 

His body had been anointed for burial almost a week before his death, and it was the smell of lavender that reminded him every day that the cross was coming.  A redolent aroma, picked up by passing breezes, whispering the love he had for mankind.  Bringing readily to mind an image of a woman’s dark hair tangled around his feet every time the fragrance brightened.

As he kneeled in prayer in Gethsemane, tears flowing, I imagine his posture of prayer with face pressed against his forearms, his wrists.  As the agony of anticipation seized his body, he may have smelled that soothing aroma of lavender.

As I worship this week, eyes toward Easter, I’ve been anointing my world with lavender.  Lavender hand lotion and oil, room spray, and candles surround me.  I purposefully breathe in the fragrance to bring to mind being by Jesus’ side his final week.

I need a reminder that my lavender anointed savior is near this week.

I need reassurance that death has been conquered.

Good Friday this year is the 7th anniversary of losing my dad to cancer. 

From the time of his diagnosis in stage 4, he was anointed for burial.  I wish that he could have been purposeful and wise and reconciled all the hurt during his final days, or even simply said goodbye.  The tumor in his brain didn’t allow that.  Like Jesus, he too was barely recognizable before his final death.  The violence of radiation had raged against his skull. I felt powerless as I watched it happen. The circumstances of death and grief are wildly different in significance and severity between my own personal loss and the cross.  Just know that I can't sing words or say phrases about death in any sort of mindless way.  My heart breaks.

The cross is why I follow Jesus.  Jesus did more than pay the price on the cross to make it possible for me to be forgiven.  He walked through the darkest valleys of the human existence and came out the other side.  He knows how to navigate pain, grief, and separation and lead onward to a place of peace, hope and joy.  He's not a plastic savior, or a superhero.  His heart and his hands have scars.

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
-1 Corinthians 15:54-55

Jesus is the resurrection and the life.  He is the promise of freedom for the soul after the death of a broken body. He turned the universe upside down.  His dramatic victory over death was in some ways quiet, mysterious, brutal.  Smelling like lavender.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Being Important

Eye contact is something I miss, as I seem to disappear behind my double stroller.  I wonder if one day I'll feel seen and heard again.  If someday I'll ever be important to someone who doesn't need me to feed them.  I wonder if I'll ever be successful or influential or seen as more than a "mom".  I wonder if it makes me a bad mom to wonder.

I've formulated several versions of the thesis that "I am important" through motherhood only to have them crumble beneath my feet the moment I try to stand my soul upon them:

This time is only a season, a short chapter of my life. If I wait patiently then one day I'll be important.

...only I've found that living for the future makes it almost impossible for me to enjoy the present.  When I look at my kids I don't want to find myself rushing them to get older, need me less, and get out of my way so I can go back to having ambitions beyond having every piece of my laundry clean at the same time. That's not my heart.

What I am doing is more important than it looks.

...only I am too honest for this.  I have read much better bloggers than me attempt to romanticize the life of moms.  I'm not saying that kissing boo-boos and washing dishes aren't at times mundane disguises that hide deep relationships, beauty, and connection. Most days serving my family is simply an act of love made all the deeper by the fact it is totally unexciting. I have lived too much life to actually find my importance in changing a diaper, no matter how much hidden meaning one may try to attach to it.  

What I am doing is important because one day my sacrifices will pay off in my children's beautiful and important lives.

...only I love my kids too much for this. Their future is not what I'm hanging my importance or success on, they are too fragile to bear that weight and I love them too much to come to them asking them for validation.  I'm their mommy.  I let them know they are important and loved and ask nothing in return.  

Then, one evening not too long ago I heard a whisper that changed my life.  Forever.

It's not about being important.

I'm important to many people who love me and to God himself, but I don't need to feel important by being admired, having a big platform to be heard, or chasing an increasing level of feeling successful or influential.

Once I let it sit with me it, my heart got happy.  Joy returned.  My soul felt whole. It's not about being important.  It's about living in freedom instead of searching for validation.  When I let go of needing to feel important I can serve my family out of love and not feel bitter or degraded.  I can hope for my children's future and not feel pressure to control it.  I can live right now in love and freedom and not wait anxiously in jealous greed for something that was never promised to me.  

Does giving up on being important mean I'm giving up on life?  

I'm not giving up on goals or dreams, but I am giving up on making goals and deadlines that cost me more than I want to give of myself.  I am giving up on loving myself and pursuing my own need to feel admired, respected, successful and important.  I'm choosing to love others more.

It's tempting for me to imagine that every gift and talent I have been given are meant to uniquely equip me for an exciting mission that I am personally passionate for and produces an incredibly important accomplishment for God.  The truth is that I have been gifted simply to encourage and invest in others (1 Corinthians 14, 1 Peter 4:10-11) and God looks at the heart, he doesn't play favorites- even with people who are influential or powerful for Him (Galatians 2:6).  We are encouraged not to judge anyone, including ourselves.  No more worrying about whether I have the Holy Spirit in a big enough way or am on a big enough platform or impactful enough mission.  All God asks me to do is have a good heart and let Him commend me in the end (1 Corinthians 4:1-5).

Jesus washed the disciples feet (John 13:1-17).  No one would argue Jesus is important, but he knew that holding on to his importance would keep him from showing love in the way he needed to.  He chose love and reconciliation over glory and importance and was undeterred from his mission no matter how often misunderstood (Philippians 2:6-8). Jesus rejected every opportunity for importance and glory that came his way. I say that I want to be like this infinitely wise creator of the world who chose to hang out with fisherman, and yet I get frustrated by the limitations of conversing with my own toddlers. 

Humility and love have their shields raised against the ravenous appetite of self-importance. Instead of writhing in the fear of never being successful, influential or important I can love and serve without any agenda other than making Jesus smile. I never took it seriously when Jesus said the last would be first- or had the faith to live my life like it was true until now.