Obedience is the Most Important

There are some mornings when I’m reading my Bible, that I get a glimpse of a peacefully calm life where everything is peachy keen and I’m floating around wearing rose colored glasses with a dopey smile on my face.  Because that’s what God can do for you.  Let you know that everything is A-OK.  That time with him can be calming and peace-giving to your hectic soul.

But then there are mornings when I’m reading my Bible that God takes the ideas I’ve formed over the last 27 years and blows them up in my face.  I can see these ideals laying in a pile before me, and I see a grenade careening to the air hitting the pile with a thud the second before the mushroom cloud ascends and everything is obliterated to dust.  Because that’s what God can do for you.  He opens your eyes to see that while you didn’t necessarily have His Word wrong, you also didn’t see the bigger picture until that moment when he destroyed the old to make way for the new.

Like today.

Hebrews 5 talks all about how Jesus was called by God to be a High Priest; to die on the cross for my eternal salvation.  I’ve heard this a bazillion and one times every time I sit in a straight-backed church pew.

But what no one has ever told me before was that Jesus was in agony over his role in the Gospel.

I knew that He prayed to God the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane that He would be delivered from the cross.  Obviously that didn’t happen.  I really thought that’s all it was. A simple, “Do I have to?  Really?  Okay then, I’ll do it.”  I had no idea that he cried, he pleaded, he sent up prayers of agony that His Father would release him from His calling.  And God heard him.  And instead of releasing Jesus from death, He allowed Jesus to learn true obedience through His suffering.

That’s when it hit me.  Discipline, Suffering, and Obedience are not neat little ideas wrapped in brown paper and tied up with string to be given as presents.  No.  Instead they are abstract and complicated thoughts that have been put into a blender with the setting on high and have been pulsed so hard you can’t extract one without also pulling out the others.  I can’t have suffering without also learning obedience and discipline.  I can’t learn obedience without going through suffering and using discipline.  I will never be disciplined until I go through suffering and learn true obedience.

For Jesus, in this particular example, it was obedience to His ultimate calling.  He wanted out of what He had been preparing for for 33 years.  He didn’t want to suffer humiliation or death.

I hear a lot about this calling Jesus has placed on all our lives.  That we must obey the calling.  That we must go forth and do it.  That we must not be scared or use excuses but to know that He has called us for a reason.

And I believe it all.  But I also think that we’ve started captializing it and putting it on a pedestal and shrouded it with fog machines and stuck a spotlight on it and preached it so many times that the Calling gets all the focus and all the attention.

But what about the day-to-day?  What am I to do when God has Called me to His plan, but right now I still have to clean poop off the floor.  What do I do about my Calling when I spend 40+ hours a week in a classroom teaching students–a calling unto its own, but perhaps not The Calling.  What about those times when I’m being called but I literally don’t have a single dish, utensil, or pan that is clean in my house?  Do I pursue my Calling then?  Or do I pursue my latex gloves and a sponge?

obedience

It might sound a little crazy, comparing suffering through my daughter’s potty training to the suffering Jesus felt when He was told to go die for the world, but that’s what it is.  Suffering.  And perhaps spending three hours cleaning things that are just going to get dirty again isn’t going to save the world, but it is being obedient to my Jesus, who has called me to be a wife and mother alongside my other Calling.  And you might scoff at the bags under my eyes formed from getting up early every morning, because who isn’t tired, but to me I’m suffering from lack of sleep.  But I’m gaining discipline every time I obey God’s call to read my Bible.

I think this is something worthwhile to keep unpacking:  Obedience in the form of Suffering and Discipline.  And I’m starting to think all this talk about intentionality, discipline, and thriving in the midst of toddlerhood is overshadowing and belittling what is Most Important. Obedience in the day-to-day mundane.

 

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The Art of Practicing Discipline

One thing that I’ve been praying for lately is discipline.

This may sound way too over dramatic, but there are some days where I feel as if the day has run me over and I am left sprawled on the pavement, my limbs spread out and bent at weird angles, blood coming out of my ear and pooling on the ground, and all I can do is wonder How the hell do I get up from here?

As I’m lying there on the rough concrete and let my mind do a quick flashback review of how I got to that point and I can almost always point it back to a lack of discipline.

discipine

I’ve always thought of discipline as “not cool.”  Like, if I want to fit in and be popular, discipline is not the attribute that I want to possess.  But now that I’m an adult, I see it being more terrifying than anything else.  It’s an attribute I so desperately want to attain, and yet it encompasses so many parts of my day–the big ideas and the minutiae–that I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to have even a smidgen of it.  It’s too hard to fail at it, ergo, I shouldn’t even try.

But I know now that this is not true.  As I search my soul and my heart to determine what the most important things in my life are, I’m realizing that discipline is an absolute necessity if I want to be intentional in the areas that call for my present state of mind.

Here’s the thing, though, the Thing That Keeps Me From Getting Up:  What exactly is discipline and how can I attain it?

Because I recognize that I am a failure.  I will massively fail at discipline when I attempt to do it on my own.

But God.

But God lifts me up and gives me grace and shows me that spiritual discipline is merely forming a habit that will repeatedly point me back to Him.  Spiritual discipline involves having God–not me–in control of everything, and that all of my actions should continuously point me (and others) back to Him.  And with God, I literally can’t fail.  Because perfection can’t ever be attained.

I’m learning that everything can’t be important, and I’m finding that in the area of discipline the same holds true.  I have a list of a zillion different areas I crave to be disciplined in.  But I can’t do it all at once.  Being disciplined in some areas is more important {right now} than being disciplined in others.

For example, not making my lunch the night before means I’m rushing the next morning and I’m spending time doing a menial task instead of eating breakfast with my family.  It’s not the absence of a lunch I miss in the morning when I’m driving to work.  It’s the absence of spending time with my family, which is one of my Most Important Things.

And when I figure out what’s most important to my soul, {Family} and then I figure out what’s preventing me from making it actively important in my life {not making a lunch the night before}, that’s when I figure out the Most Important Disciplines I need to have right now.

So I’m practicing.  I’m practicing discipline every time I make a lunch after my daughters are in bed.  I’m practicing discipline every morning when I wake up before 5:45 in order to spend time with God.  I’m practicing discipline every Saturday when I make it a goal to do all errands and all cleaning so that I can relax with my family on Sunday.  I’m practicing discipline every night I get everything on my to-do list accomplished so that the hour before we go to bed I can spend that time intentionally talking to my husband.

And knowing that not everything is important is what gives me the courage to slowly get up off that pavement and start again.

Everything Can’t Be Important {Part One}

Lately, I’ve been learning what I’m identifying as the most important lesson I’ll ever learn in my life:

Everything can’t be important.

I’ve been getting caught up lately.  Caught up in being a wife, a mother, a teacher.  In goal setting, praying, dreaming, scheming, running, healthy eating, and so on and so forth.

How do you do it all?  Seriously.  How do you do everything?

I sat down one night in the middle of my laundry, sniffing each article of clothing to figure out if it were dirty or clean because we hadn’t done laundry in so long that I didn’t even know anymore and I just thought, “How do I create a laundry system?  Especially now that I’m working and mom-ing.  How do I wash my clothes when I also need to do all the other gazillion things in my life?”

That’s when it hit me.  Everything can’t be important.  Some things are more important than others.  .

important

So I did just that.  I identified what’s important.  Prayer is important.  God is important.  My kids are important.  My husband is important.  Having a liveable house is important.  Being a hard worker is important.  Getting healthy is important.  Actively being active is important.  Eating better is important.  Writing my book is important.  Writing book reviews is important.  Giving my husband time to go after his dreams is important.  Finding/Creating/Being in community is important.  Laundry is not important.

But even looking at that list makes me overwhelmed.  Look at how important all those important things are.  And that’s when my thoughts became a little more clearer.  I forgot to tack on a couple of sentences.

Not every important thing can have the same value.  Some important things will be more important than others.  And they will change with the season.

And when I think about that, everything becomes clearer.  Not even everything I deem as having high priority in my life can have the same level of priority.  Even in my list of important things there will always be some things more important than others.  And as the seasons continue, those things will begin to fluctuate and change.

I can’t do everything.

But that’s okay.  Because everything isn’t important.

I think, just maybe, I’m back. Maybe.

I completely understand the appeal to blogging for moms.  I finnnnally get the whole “mommy blogger” scene.

MOMS NEVER HAVE ANY TIME ALONE.

And yeah, okay, I totally understood that from the very beginning.  I mean, kids are living things that need you’re attention.  And that they take more effort to grow than plants.  And you can’t really just leave them all day long like you can a dog.

But man I just had no idea how much non-existent “me” time I get.  Sometimes, on my way home from work, I take a quick pit stop at Sonic and stay there long enough to finish my drink.  And that 20 seconds (because as soon as I get it, I start missing those tiny people who won’t leave me alone and I guzzle it down) is about all I get. Sometimes.  Because two tiny people means all the Sonic slush money goes to buying them things to keep them alive. Like shoes.  And underwear.  Because someone keeps peeing in all the clean ones…

But the internet sure does make it easier to have space to yourself.  A little tiny corner of the world where you get to decorate it and not have anyone tell you he doesn’t like flowers, or have matchbox car wheels drug through the paint before it’s dried.  A small little place that doesn’t know that you’re currently wearing clothes that have lived on the floor for the last week because all those dirty, tiny underwears take precedence in the washing machine than your shirt.  Even if it does have some sort of smear from one of those petite hands that stay dirty all.day.long even though you haven’t fed it anything in hoursss.

I totally get it.
MOMS.  YOU ROCK.

But that’s not why I’m back.  I’m not back here stringing words together because I just want a little bit of time to call my own.  I’m not sitting at the library once a week while the husband sits at home playing with our children so that I can play around with my very own toy that is kept far, far away from grubby little hands (that apparently stick playdough in the headphone outlet).

NO.

I’m here because in January 2015 I said YES to God.  I told him I wanted him to MOVE me out of the position I was STUCK in and into the position HE wanted me in.  I was finished with making excuses.  I was tired of where I was at mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.  I needed some action verbing in my life.

So I said YES to a new job.  I said YES to a new house.  I said YES to scheduling, routines, and hard work.  I bought an actual erasable wall calendar so that we could schedule all our work times–and I hate those things.  The husband and I say YES to financial peace and financial discipline every Thursday night when we sit down to budget our money.  I say YES to my kids every time I say no to social media, tv, or other escapisms.

And God has moved.  He has moved me into an area of life I had no idea I could be a part of.  An area of life in which I thought would never have space for me.

But in this season of saying yes, and doing the hard work, and keeping up with the moving and not getting stuck, I have been prompted to say YES, once again, to this tiny little corner all to myself on the internet.

And I have no idea what it’s going to be

I know what it will not be.  I know it will definitely not be a place for me to get stagnant in.  It will not be a place where I fall into the trap of comparison.  It will not be a place for me to escape to.

This is simply a place I’ve said YES to.  For the time being at least.

And I make no promises about what you might fin

On Moving

There’s been a lot of change going on around here.  Getting children.  Moving.  And I keep thinking about this blog of mine.

I haven’t been writing because I don’t know what to write.  I’m a SAHM now, whatever that really means, and to be honest my life is starting to revolve around my family (and Jesus) more than anything else.  But because I’m so passionate about keeping my kids off the internet, it’s getting hard to write about what’s really going on around here.  And honestly, when that’s all I want to write about, the other stuff just doesn’t get out.

Plus, not writing about anything means I’m not writing anything anywhere.  And that’s not really the point either.

I hate that this blog takes up too much of my thinking space.  I hate feeling guilty when I’m not writing.  I hate that I have to look at my stats or wonder how to get more readers or wonder why I feel the need to get more readers.  Remember, I started blogging way back when blogs were just blogs.  Now it’s all about how to get readers and work with brands and make money, and I’m not into that.  At all.

But having this blog is making me obsess over things like that.  And I don’t like it.  And my husband doesn’t like it.  So I’m officially quitting blogging as it’s known today.  I’m done.  Sure, I might come back, but really I’m finished with all this internet world is in to right now.  It’s a space I don’t like to be in or like myself when I’m in it.

I also went through a lot these last few months.  For a while my husband and I felt like we were being attacked by Satan in a lot of ways–in his job, in our church family, in our marriage.  A lot of things I said on this blog were taken in a way not meant to be at all (and I’ve tried really hard not to be so controversial!) and all this started happening right when we brought our children home.  It’s incredibly difficult to describe what went on during these last few months.  But after things started happening I decided that my kids’ first experience of Jesus should not be from people who are aggravated with us as leaders or with people taking out their frustrations on us.  They’ve had plenty of years to experience evil, and they’ll have plenty of times when they come across Christians who are struggling in their sin.  But their first experience should not be what was happening.

I feel this desire to shield them and protect them and keep them away from all this.  As much as I’m hating Texas right now, I can’t help but sigh with relief that we won’t be running into birth family at the supermarket or someone ready to yell at me while I’m dropping off a package at the grocery store.  There are no reminders of what they went through down here and we’ve left behind almost all of what our hurt stems from (and what is left is mostly found online).  I not only want to shield them, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel like holing up into my little space with my family for a time for us all to heal.

But…I’m a writer.  And I have a terrible memory.  And I enjoy this “space” that I can call my own and “decorate” how I want.  So I created a new blog (my 7th? blog) for just my family.  It’s all about our adventures to the Children’s Museum and how we like to eat ice cream in our car seats.  It’s incredibly boring but I love it there.  My plan is to keep it more of an online journal style with something I can print out later.  I want to make our US IN updates into photo books, and start taking (amateurish) monthly portraits of the kiddies and print those, too.

I’ve made lots of friends on this ol’ blog.  And the only reason I’m writing this is because I’m incredibly grateful of your kind words through all our struggles, whether you know them or not.  I’ve loved your own adoption stories and your advice in different situations. So I’m going to invite you to this blog, too.  Knowing that it’s not searchable to the public.  I can’t promise it won’t be terribly boring, but boy it will be terribly lovely.  And safe.

Hope to see you there sometime.

–Caitlin

When you’re not a producer, or a creator. What do you do?

I cannot tell you how many blog posts I’m coming into about “saying No to Yes,” or “stop consuming and start producing,” or about creatives and how they need to stop comparing themselves to others and start actually creating.  I don’t know how it began, but someone somewhere realized that spending a billion hours on pinterest and blogs looking at other people doing things and wishing they had this or that and not actually doing anything themselves.  Then that person wrote about.  And the entire blog world is now up in arms about how creators need to stop looking and start creating. 

These small business owners and handmade shop creators keep rambling on about how comparison is the thief of their joy and stops them from producing their product.  And then other creators start talking about how to get rid of things in their lives in order for them to create more and blah blah blah.

Look, I get it.  I mean, I wrote an entire mini-series on the thing last year when I realized I had to much stuff in my home, my heart, and my head.

But what happens when you’re not a creator?  What happens when you’re not a small business owner, when you don’t own your own handmade shop, when you don’t blog?  What about you?

There’s an entire world outside of the internet that I think bloggers miss.  Yeah, there’s a lot of people who love to read blogs, but not a lot of people who like to write them.  And on top of that, there’s not a lot of people that consider themselves a “creator” or a “producer,” at least not in the terms that bloggers are using.

Here’s the thing.  I struggle to consider myself a part of this group of creators.  Sure, I write, so that means something.  I love a good DIY as much as the next girl and my home is covered in thrifty handmade things because I don’t have the money to buybuybuy.  But there’s a lot of other parts of me that go along with that. 

I’m a teacher, even if I don’t have a classroom.  I’m a personal chef three times a day.  I’m a homemaker, a mother, a friend, a daughter, a student, a wife, a child of God.  I like watching TV, I like reading books, I like playing with my kids, I like going on runs, I like experimenting with essential oils, I like doing a lot of things that don’t put me in the category of “creator.”

So I can’t really relate to a lot of these blog posts.  I think a lot of people can’t really relate.

And then I realized, the terms are all wrong.  It’s less about creating a product, something tangible that you can see, buy, or sell.  It’s solely about the act of creating–anything–and that idea can apply to anyone.

Day in and day out we’re called to be creators or producers.  We create meals for our family and friends, a clean house to relax in.  We produce happy children and a happy husband.  We create wonderful memories.  We produce good work, whether we’re paid for it or not.

Which is where consuming becomes a big hindrance for all of us.  Too much time seeing what other people are doing makes us stop doing ourselves.  Reading too many food blogs makes us order take out instead of creating our own meals.  Looking at too many handmade shops means we start buying instead of being happy with what we have.  Watching too much TV means I live vicariously through people constantly working toward their goals and then predictably reaching them, and I don’t set any goals myself.

So, dear readers of all blogs, dear pinteresters and instagrammers and facebookers, just know that you don’t have to start a blog, start a business, or do DIYs in order to understand what all these blog posts are saying.  Know that we’re all creators and we’re all producers of some sort day in and day out.  And if we consume too much of someone else’s creations, we have nothing for our self.

To Dos

In my efforts to write a weekending post, all I got was staring at the screen and thinking about maybe watching a movie instead.  Which made me frustrated with myself–why am I so undisciplined?? especially with something I love to do??  And that made me realize:

This blog is not necessarily for GREAT! writing.  This blog is for me to get out the sluff before the good stuff begins.  And if that means this blog post isn’t too terribly good, but the other writing I do right after is, then I call that a win.  And if it turns out that this blog post turns into a masterpiece that has literary agents pounding down my door to talk to me, well that would also be a win.

So instead, here’s a rambling post of what I’m thinking and how I’m doing.

After three-ish months I feel I’m finally getting my groove back.  Meaning, I’m not always waking up after the kids.  I don’t always take a nap when they’re napping.  I don’t only watch TV when I have a free moment.  I’m working on keeping our house clean, I’m working on doing laundry, writing, reading, and spending time with God.  To be honest, I credit this with Steady Days, a book I cannot say enough about yet every time I try to write a blog post about it I sound all corny and cliche.  But seriously, this book has changed how I look at each hour of my day.

Getting back into the swing of things means my want-to-do list is getting longer and longer by the day.  It’s frustrating since I can’t do any of it since we’re moving and we have no time, no money, and no space to put my projects.  But I’m keeping my list secure so that when we get there (15 DAYS!) I have plenty of things to start on.  Here’s a quick list:

  • A photobook of our adoption journey.  I started working on this and then I remembered how much I HATE scrapbooking, so I never actually got past the title page.  But I want to do a photobook of the whole thing instead–because I have soooo many pictures.  Any suggestions on what company to use?
  • A photobook of our “Us in…” year.  I wanted to do something similar to this, but I’m being realistic and remembering that if it turns out to be anything resembling scrapbooking, it’ll never get done.  So I’m just going straight for the photobooks.
  • Sew quiet books for both of the girls.  Littlest would absolutely love a quiet book, and Little loves things like that.  She’s also a tad behind academically and developmentally–she knows her colors but not the names of shapes or animals or numbers or other basic things like that.  I love that I can customize it, too, to fit each of their levels.  Here’s my pinspiration board, and my goal is to have them done as Christmas presents.  Anyone done one before?  It’s not going to be hard is it?  Or like a scrapbook??????
  • Sew a quilt with a legit pattern.  Ever since I saw the quilts at the MFA Boston exhibit–these beautiful, hand-stitched quilts with an actual pattern to them, I want to make one.  I’m thinking I’ll do it for our bed, whenever we get one, so it’ll definitely be the biggest quilt I’ll have ever made.

There’s more, I’m sure, but looking through all the links to add to this post is making me procrastinate writing even more, so I’ll stop for now.  Because there’s a pile of laundry calling my name and only an hour and a half left of naptime.