Submitting to the Plan

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“Father, create in me a clean heart… and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10

I sat beside my 13 year old today as she got braces. We’ve been talking about this day for months – and, now, no more waiting: the process to straight teeth has begun.

We had a long talk with the orthodontist before today where we learned the transformation of her smile will happen without her even knowing it. He explained the wires and bands he’d apply would push and pull things into place – that it wouldn’t always be comfortable, but that she could be sure work was always in progress. He said what is crooked will be made straight; and what’s out of line will be brought into order. Slowly… slowly… slowly. He said he wouldn’t have to force anything to ‘right’ itself, but with the ever-so-slight pressure he’d apply over time, she’d eventually end up with ‘perfection’.

So at 7:35 this morning, my daughter walked into the office – willingly… a little giddy even. She sat in the chair – willingly. She opened her mouth – willingly. She gave in to the discomfort, dry lips, and multiple hands in her mouth – willingly. They didn’t have to hold her down, or bribe her, or scream at her, or pull rank. They simply said, if you want straight teeth, here’s what we have to do. And, since she wants straight teeth, she showed up and said ‘let’s do it’… willingly.

I was so impressed by her and her maturity. But, even more important, as I sat the foot of her chair with my mommy hand on the calf of her long, lean leg, I was impressed by a very simple truth I often strive to forget: sometimes I just have to submit to the plan.

HIS plan, not my plan. HIS way, not my way.

I know, I know. “Submission” is a dirty, loaded word these days. “Submission” brings up pictures of doormat women, and weak people, and images of everything most of us dread of being. But watching my daughter submit to the plan this morning wasn’t weakness – it was beautiful STRENGTH. She had a heart that understood the greater plan and she willingly said, “I’m in.” No one would call her a doormat because she submitted to the leading of the orthodontist; she wasn’t coerced or pushed around or belittled because she’s taking the opportunity to ‘perfect’ her teeth. To the contrary: by willingly submitting to the plan she can now sit back and allow the ever-slight-pressure to do it’s work for her good.

Just like my girl’s path to straight teeth began by her willingly sitting in the orthodontist’s chair, my path to ‘better’ – God’s ‘better’ – starts with my willingness to place myself before Him and His word. Yes, there will be troubles. Yet, in spite of the tests and trials He may use to make me uncomfortable and mold me through the process, if my heart is right and humbled before Him, I can know with certainty it will all work for good.

When we walked out of the office this morning, my girl had a Starbucks gift card in one hand and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s in the other – two gifts to ‘celebrate’ the day. And me?  I walked out praying for courageous willingness to submit to the ‘treatment plan’ my Father’s laid out for me.  I admit it’s so hard sometimes… it’s hard to let go of me and MY way and submit to His spirit and HIS way – especially when things around me aren’t changing as fast as I want them to. But just as the orthodontist promised my girl his work will make a difference over time, my Father promises that, just as the heavens are higher than the earth, HIS ways are higher than my ways, HIS thoughts higher than my thoughts… and, His plan will make me more joyful, more loving, more forgiving, more patient, more kind, more powerful, more EVERYTHING than I could ever be without Him.

 

Mamas On the Narrow Road

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“Self-control” seems to be the topic of the day around our house.

I’m constantly telling my kids: control your urge to talk back… control your urge to be selfish…control your urge to focus on what you don’t have, and instead focus on what you do have.

All the same while the words come out of my mouth to my kids, the same words come out of my Father’s mouth to me: Elisha, control your urge to fight back… control your urge to be impatient… control your urge to be fearful, to be offended, to be defeated.

I tell my kids, and my Father tells me: Control… control… control.

Self-control is a very rebellious quality these days, isn’t it? I mean, who needs self-control when our bad choices are labeled as ‘diseases’ or ‘addictions’ – and, if we have a ‘disease’ or an ‘addiction’, we, therefore, have no fault. And, if we really have no fault, our choices don’t really matter. And, if our choices don’t really matter, why should we care about self-control at all?

But I have no desire to raise children who are always looking for the ‘out’, or who don’t understand the power of choice. I want to raise kids the way my Father is raising me: with a spirit of love, and power and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7); to understand that every choice has a consequence; and, that pain comes from bad choices, and goodness comes from good choices.

Because the Truth of life is this: we can travel on the wide road, or the narrow road.

The wide road is easy to find – and it’s where we find lots of people to journey with. Everything is okay on the wide road… and, as one of my favorite songs says, “the crowd is quick to push [us] along”. The problem with the wide road, however, is that it leads to heartache. Why? Because the wide road doesn’t require anything from us! It requires no self-control, no discipline; there is no thoughtfulness, wisdom, or moral compass. We do what we want, how we want, according to our own ideas – and that means there is no ‘right’, there is no ‘wrong’, there is no ‘truth’, there is no ‘lie’.  It’s all about us and no one else on the wide road… and no one really knows where they’re going or the ‘right’ way to go because there is no ‘there’ to get to. (I know because I stumbled down this road for far to many years of my life…)

The narrow road, on the other hand, is hard to get to and even harder to navigate successfully. It requires everything from us. It requires we think before we step; it requires we be fully awake, alert, and prepared. It is vigorous, and it requires total dedication and attention. On the narrow road we must pay attention to the One in front of us calling us to follow, but be especially mindful of those that are behind us because they depend on our example to show them the way.  The narrow road requires we sweat, and work, and have a plan; it requires we endure, and persevere, and have a sober mind. Most importantly, the narrow road requires we have our mind set on our final destination because it is knowing where we’re going (and the joy we anticipate once we arrive) that makes the difficult journey worth the effort.

So, let’s all be rebels today, shall we? Let’s rebel from the wide road and CHOOSE to be mamas on a narrow road… mamas that are loving, and powerful, and who gloriously display our super-power of self-control in the midst of a culture (and our own human tendencies) that tells us to be otherwise. And, most importanly, let’s grasp JOY in our journey, in spite of how tough it can be (and, yes! God knows it can be tough), knowing there are little feet behind us traveling our same path and depending on us to lead them to L I F E.

 

Be the Change You Want To See

I love the gym. Not the floofy classes or the cushy easy-glide equipment, but the plate weights and the dumbbells and the free bars. I love the ‘real’ stuff – the stuff that I grew up with. The stuff that I know… that I understand… that I am comfortable with.

I got out of bed early this morning and hit the gym for the first time in weeks. The reality of my life is this: if I don’t steal the time for myself before the house wakes, I don’t make it happen.

I get tired.

I get lazy.

The ‘things’ of the day begin to suck at my skin and I just can’t get my mind right to put for the energy for a workout.

So, when a morning begins like it did today… me awake, the house asleep, iPod full of the best tunes, lots of sweat, 64 ounces of water before 7:30am, and tingling in my muscles, I am sooo thankful for my early years:

  • I’m thankful that working out wasn’t an option – it just was.
  • I’m thankful that my dad didn’t talk fitness… he lived fitness.
  • I’m thankful that my parents raised me so my body would never be a burden; I was raised to be in control of my physical being.
  • I am thankful the gym was home to me and, no matter how much time passes between my visits, I always return with comfort and ease.

That’s what growing up in bodybuilding did for me: it built a foundation of health. No, I’m not a bodybuilder – and, no, I have no desire to spend four hours a day in the gym… even if I had that kind of time in my day. BUT – growing up in bodybuilding grew a foundational desire in me to never let my body get away from me.

I learned from eating and breathing bodybuilding, day in and day out, that my body will be exactly what I feed it and train it to be. Period.

The funny thing is I’m positive my dad wasn’t intentionally training me all those years. He never pulled out a notebook with goals and milestones and ‘things I must teach my daughter before she’s 18’. He never sat me down and delivered bodybuilding sermons, or pontificated on the value of multiple reps and sets for each muscle group. No – my dad just was who he was and I learned by simply walking through life by his side.

Proverbs 22:6 promises that what we teach our children in their youth is what will stay with them:

“Point your kids in the right direction— when they’re old they won’t be lost.” (The Message Bible)

Or, another way it’s said is: “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” (NIV)

Today, just as I am reminded of the importance of the example I am living for my kids, I hope you’re reminded of the same.

Who WE are is who are children will become.

  • Our view of food will be their view of food.
  • How we handle trials will be how they handle trials.
  • How we value our bodies will be how they value their bodies.
  • How we love our spouse will be how they love their spouse.
  • How we respect ourselves will be how they respect themselves.

What WE do and who WE are matters far more than what we say.

  • We can’t preach ‘be kind’ if we ourselves are unkind.
  • We can’t preach ‘be healthy’ if we ourselves are unhealthy.
  • We can’t preach ‘be modest’ if we ourselves are immodest.
  • We can’t preach ‘be humble’ if we ourselves are full of ourselves and puffed up with pride.
  • We can’t preach ‘have faith’ if we ourselves are faith-less.

So today, mamas, let’s walk strong with eyes wide open. Let’s be the women we hope our girls will become.

Let’s be kind so they will learn kindness.

Let’s be generous so they will learn generosity.

Let’s be forgiving so they will learn forgiveness.

Let’s be patient so they will learn patience.

Let’s be bold so they will learn boldness.

Let’s be joyful so they will learn joy.

Let’s be thankful so they will learn thankfulness.

May our homes be where our children eat and breathe life and love and Truth, day in and day out…. so when they grow old, they will not depart from it.

Raise and Release, Part 2

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At the beginning of last school year, my 12 year old baby girl went off to outdoor school… and I thought I was going to break. Why? Because this ‘raise and release‘ thing we  do is emotionally overwhelming.

We raise them – teach them, comfort them, coach them, guide them, nag them, feed them, remind them, stand beside them, stand over them, love them, tuck them in, and wake them up. We pour all that we are into these little ones and then, before we know it, we are standing with them at the tip of a branch surveying the field of life and, even though we want to snuggle them close sheltered from the heartache, and fear, and discomfort, and mistakes that come with walking boldly through life, there is nothing more we can do but stand behind and watch as they fly.

Because that’s life, right? Every season of life brings new ‘work’ – a new flight into new territory… a little longer, a little farther. The work of facing fears – of taking chances, overcoming obstacles, of letting go of mama’s hand and grabbing for His instead. And, without the work, we stay stagnant, wimpy, and unusable for the greatness God calls us to.

So today, in spite of the pit in my stomach and my own deep seated fears of letting go, I did it to my girl again.The branch was a little higher, the view was a little vaster, but the process was the same: I signed her up for an adventure, walked her to the edge, stood behind her with our breaths almost as one, and I said, “Okay, girl, you can do this: fly”.

She was hesitant to jump and test the strength of her wings. We stood for some time in the church parking lot and quietly watched other campers arrive and mull around. I could tell she was nervous; she didn’t know anyone and felt totally out-of-place. The one person she recognized we approached and said hello to, but the girl and her mom quickly turned to other friends and left us to fend for ourselves in the sea of giggling girls and mamas.

(It’s hard not to feel rejected, whether you’re 12 or you’re 40. We all want to be loved. We want to be brought in to the laughs and the conversations. We want to be noticed, acknowledged, desired. We want to feel special – all of us do. And yet, there I was with my girl: face to face with real life. The lot was packed with moms and kids – yet, she and I were an island. No one spoke to us. No one noticed us. Moms and kids grouped up – hugging and chatting and laughing. My girl and I? Totally alone.)

As tears welled up in her eyes over the fear of four days away and not a friend in site, I felt her pain. I remember being 12 – awkward, unsure, out-of-place. (When I signed her up I thought for sure she’d know a girl or two, but with a church our size, I’m guess I’m not surprised she didn’t.) I cut the ice with some mama-talk: “Honey, I know exactly what you’re feeling. Here I am 40 years old and I feel a little anxiety in my stomach over not having a friend in site. But you know what? This is the kind of thing that makes us stronger! This is the type of situation God uses to pull us out of our comfort zone and grow us – and new friends are often part of that journey. I know God has something so great in store for you this weekend – and I know He has a perfect friend for you, too. You’ll see.”

“Mom, stop,” she muttered through clenched teeth as she leaned in closer to my side for protection.

All of a sudden I heard His still, small voice say: This is where the rubber meets the road, Elisha. This is where your girl needs to see how to fly by YOU flying first.

The whisper of encouragement made me stand a little taller and I decided to take command of the situation.

“Okay, let’s look for someone else who is alone and we’ll go make friends with them.”

“Mom, no.”

“Seriously, honey, look around. Who looks like they could use a friend?”

Seconds passed. Minutes passed. Not a word. Finally, I heard a peep:  “Fine, mom – how about her.”

I looked in the direction she was looking and about 10 feet from us I spotted fellow wanderers:  a darling girl and two ladies looking just as lost as we felt.  I put my arm around Selah and whispered under my breath, “Okay – don’t be so obvious, but let’s work our way over there.”

We walked towards the small group and around the backside of one of the ladies and still for about thirty seconds. (It would have embarrassed my girl way too much if I would have just walked to them looking desperate. So, I had to be cool – I had to be smooooooth.)

When I sensed a break in their conversation, I went to work.

I put my palm on the arm of the gal closest to me and she turned around. “Hi – I’m Elisha. Do you all go to church her or are you just here for the camp?” Selah was about 3 feet from me, body language screaming discomfort.

“Oh hi,” the sweet mama said. “Yes, we do attend here.”

We chatted for just a couple of minutes about the services we attend, etc, etc, and then I said, “Yeah, we were nervous when we showed up because we didn’t recognize anyone and everyone seemed paired up.”

“We thought the same thing, too,” the mama said with a lighthearted laugh.

“Well, this is my girl, Selah.”

“And this is my girl, Natalie.”

Selah and Natalie looked at each other, said little girl hellos, and I could feel it: in that instant fear has lost the fight for my baby girl’s wings. (Praise God!)

We continued to talk as the campers were rounded up. It turned out Natalie had forgotten a camp chair just like Selah, so the two girls were summoned to collect one from the church office. Off they went, chatting, smiling. Friends. They were instant friends.

Before we knew it the bus was being loaded and off  the two little birds went. Side by side on the bus, and mine totally embarrassed I was trying to take pictures through the window. But you know what? She was flying! She watched me fly before and then, with confidence, she jumped off, too… and how could I not try to snap a picture of her courage?!

PRAYER: Father, thank you for opportunities like today – opportunities that let my girl test her wings where it is safe, and where You are present. I pray your protection over her and all the campers this week. May Selah and her new friend enjoy each other’s company and may they come back stronger than they left us. Finally Lord, may we mamas never forget that our girls learn more by our example than our words, and may we – Your daughters – be women that exude kindness, gentleness, goodness, and love. Should by chance we ever feel insecure, or overlooked, or rejected, which I know You understand is common for us mamas sometimes, may we be reminded You call us by name – You call us Your Beloved; and, may we stand tall and shine brightly as your Love so the women you’ve entrusted us to raise stand tall and shine brightly as well. Thank you for loving us. In Jesus Name, Amen.

The Scale Is Not Your Friend

Yesterday my 11 year old daughter said, “Mom, we need a scale”.

“A scale,” I asked?

“Yeah – so and so has a scale and when I weighed myself I weighed more than I thought I would. I want a scale so I can keep track of what I weigh.”

“Honey,” I said, “what has you worried about how much you weigh? Do you feel good and strong?”

“Yes,” she says.

“Can you do what you want to with your body without struggle?”

“Yes,” she says.

“Then that’s all that matters. Having the scale’s opinion doesn’t help you feel better or perform stronger – it just gives you a number that means nothing for who you are.”

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We don’t own a scale – and, although we have constant conversations about fitness, we don’t talk about weight in our home.

Weight doesn’t matter to me because it’s just one small piece of the puzzle. What does matter to me is that my kids understand their bodies are a reflection of what they are putting in.  I always tell them that our body gives us physical cues on whether or not we are making the right choices: if our bodies are saying something to us (like with clothes that are fitting to snug, or with sickness, or with fatigue and lack of strength), that’s when we know we aren’t doing something right.

Does the scale help us feel better? No. As I told my girl, the scale does nothing but give us a number that fits (or doesn’t fit) someone else’s arbitrary weight grid. The number doesn’t measure the quality of food we are intaking, how much muscle we have, or whether or not we are comfortable in our skin.

And that’s one of my foundational goals: to raise children that are 100% comfortable in their skin.

I want my children to love good food, love who they were created to be, and are empowered with the understanding their bodies are speaking to them every day. 

It’s not fat grams and calories we have to count, and/or the number on the scale we have to pay attention to… it’s simply making sure that we are in control of our bodies – and that our body isn’t in control of us.