Well, I just turned the big 30. Surprisingly, I have not had a huge meltdown about leaving my 20s and entering “the unknown” (well you know. . . more than the normal). Great story – on the morning of my 30th, my sweet five year old and our little princess (3) sat on my belly while I was laying on the floor and told me, “Mommy, I love your jiggly belly! It’s so funny!” Two things. I am overjoyed that she loves “jiggly” bellies because this could mean her adolescence and body image will be easier to maintain. Secondly, I thank God for His grace in my life because normally a comment like that would have sent me into full blown meltdown mode, and Jamus would have had to come and peel me away from the P90X videos.
Speaking of Jamus, he surprised me on my birthday with a four day trip to New York City! Major brownie points. He did an amazing job watching the kids while I went with a friend to the Big Apple (with the exception of a 4- day “fast” from bathing). They ate a consistent diet of pop tarts, pizza, “sugar cereal” and I cannot confirm this, but I think Mt. Dew may have been involved as well. I found out three days before the actual trip that I would be leaving, and I quickly went into the, “I have nothing to wear mode” (Jamus’ favorite). Thankfully, I had some friends lend me something other than my usual sweatpants and old t-shirts. Ashley (my traveling buddy) and I discussed marvelous plans and ideas for our time in New York. There were so many possibilities it was overwhelming. Notice I said we “discussed.” We did not actually come to any decisions on how our time would be spent, with the exception of the fact that we did pre-purchase tickets to the musical Wicked (although I had to sell Jamus’ golf clubs to pay for it, it was totally worth it! [jk])
Once we arrived in Manhattan, it was very obvious that we were “not in Kansas anymore.” I told Ashley, “We can’t look like tourists, so get your face ready.” Once we signed into our hotel, we were off to see the sights of one of the world’s most magnificent cities (or at least that’s what we thought). However, that’s not exactly what happened. We walked out the door of our hotel without a map. BIG. MISTAKE. The first day, we ended up all over New York City and did not see one thing we wanted to see! It’s a good thing I spent twelve dollars on my Dr. Scholl’s shoe support because I am pretty sure we walked over 40 miles.
When we finally found our way back to the hotel, we cried and complained about how awful New York was and wondered how upset our husbands would be if we told them we were ready to come home three days early. Frustration. We wanted to see the greatness of New York. We had all these amazing ideas. We wanted to see the attractions; the problem was, we had no plan. Instead, we simply went with the flow of traffic and were pushed around all over the place.
After we ate a good snack, we regained composure and decided we would figure out THE SUBWAY. The concierge at the front desk spent approximately an hour trying to explain to these Kentucky girls the great mystery of the subway. We started feeling a bit more confident and that night we made a plan of attack for our remaining days in New York. The next morning we got on the A-train (subway term) and we started to actually SEE New York City! We went to Broadway shows, Central Park, the Met, Madison Avenue, 5th Avenue, and tons of other things. The point? With a plan, NYC was great. Without a plan, it was a disaster.
The Lord used this adventure to teach a mother of three the importance of being proactive in planning our days. I want to be a mother who has vision for the family God has entrusted to me. Motherhood is way too important to simply “wing it.” I have the honor of helping mold and shape three souls! Sometimes I just want there to be a map or a grid system for my family. “Okay, well James is struggling with loving his sister today so he needs to get on Train-B, which will lead him to ‘sibling peace and harmony’. . . Enjoy your ride!” Unfortunately, it’s not quite that easy.
So many days I wake up without a plan for the day and I walk around life aimlessly and then I am depressed at the end of the day because I feel like I accomplished nothing. I have all these great ideas for my children and things I want them to grow in, but I have no idea how to proactively get them there. Now, I realize the danger of this. A parent can be on top of things, checking off her “to do” list. ABCs? Got that. Twenty-six Bible verses this year, check. Eating healthy – yes. These things are all fine and well, but the fact is, we can accomplish each of them and many more, and that still doesn’t guarantee our children will grow up to be little saints. Good parenting doesn’t promise we’ll have little Charles Spurgeon replicas. However, there is something to intentionality in parenting and not simply “hoping for the best.” At least for me, it is helpful to have a plan, because I am not a fountain of amazing Pinterest ideas. It’s not my natural inclination to use the Cheerios to teach the kids a valuable counting lesson. Helen Keller says, “It is a terrible thing to see and have no vision.” I need a plan!
I came home from New York and I throwing up all over Jamus that the Lord was calling me to be a visionary and to get a plan together for our family’s growth. I was very annoyed that he was not as excited as I was. He was not catching the vision for my vision! I think he saw that I had “too many bricks in my backpack” as one writer likes to say. Jamus encouraged me that I was probably making things way too complex. Instead, I should simplify my vision to the Bible’s vision: loving God, and loving people. I am going to sit down and make a plan for our family but I will keep in mind that “The heart of a man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.”
It’s all in the Eyes
I have a vision problem. I do not have a medically diagnosed vision problem (although one time I acted like I could not read an eye chart so I could get some hipster glasses). However, my eyes have a tendency to look to things for satisfaction that only leave me longing for more. In Luke 11:34, Jesus teaches, “Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness.” We generally desire what we continually place before our eyes. If there is Ghirardelli dark chocolate chips sitting on the counter, I am going to develop a very strong desire to grab a handful. I often ask my husband to hide them from me because if they are not in site I generally forget about them. The bible teaches that wherever your treasure is, there your heart will be also. I think you can say that wherever your eyes are fixated, there is your treasure. So how can this vision problem be fixed?
Hebrews 12:1 tells us to “throw off sin” and “look to Jesus.” The reason I can throw off sin is because I am LOOKING to Jesus – who is better than sin, who offers more pleasure than sin. Jesus is the Righteous One, and when I look to Him, I’m reminded that His righteousness has been imputed (or transferred) to me. Then, considering my identity in Christ, I no longer view myself as simply an “old dirty, rotten sinner.” Instead, I begin to see myself like Jesus sees me – as a “saint” who sins. Because of the grace and blood of Christ, sin no longer has dominion over me, and, when I fix my eyes upon Jesus and remind myself of who I am in Him, it frees me up to throw off the sin of laziness, selfishness, pride, and fear. It is when I LOOK to Jesus that I can run this race with endurance. It’s all in the eyes.
I want to challenge you to ask yourself, “where (or to whom) are you looking?” These are a few examples of places where my eyes drift.
Myself. Instead of looking to my new identity of who I am in Christ, I often remember my failures at the end of the day. This leads to sadness and anger. “I screwed up once again. I will never conquer this sin.” The pendulum swings back and forth between thinking I’m a failure and thinking I am a success (this happens way less). They are both pride and are rooted in self-focus. God says, “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and SEEK MY face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 16:9)
Others. It’s easy to compare. “Well, her kid is sleeping through the night (mine only sleeps through family worship). They have tons of Scripture memorized. Her son is already reading. My house will never been as clean as hers. My butt will never be that awesome,” etc.
The Screen. Oh man this is a big one. Did you know that studies are showing that we are becoming stupider from watching Television and looking at our Iphones all day:) I recently got a smart phone (finally) I know I know totally should have had one years ago. I am way behind on things. It’s seriously hard to stay focused in the era of Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, and lots of exciting television shows that always leave you with a cliff hanger and wanting more. As Ann Voscamp states in her blog, No Focus, No Fruit, “Michael Phelps, one of the greatest athletes of all times, when asked how he had such success he said he stayed in the pool longer than anyone else.” For me, this means staying focused when I would like to be distracted. It means being present with those around me when I want to drift into “lala land” on facebook.
I must bring my eyes to gaze into the heart of my Lord. I was recently read the story of Martha and Mary. I can relate to Martha, busy doing things that have to be done. I mean Jesus needed to eat and someone had to fix the food! Things have to get done around the house, but when I lose SIGHT of what’s important, I become bitter and ticked at the end of the day. Mary chose the right portion. She chose to feed from the words of Jesus. This was most important to her. She was SEEKING first His Kingdom and His righteousness. She was not worried or freaking out, she was sitting at His feet and gazing into His heart.
During our trip to New York City, I was constantly telling Ashley to put away the map, “We look like tourists!” I wanted people to think we knew where we were going. Ashley had the right idea. Two Kentucky girls not having a map in NYC is ridiculous and foolish. God has given us His word. It is our portion, our bread for each day. It is our guide to the Father’s heart. When we look to Him we are reminded of His greatness and power. We are reminded that yes, we are a mess and our children are a mess, but God is faithful and He sent His son to rescue us from this mess. I won’t be shocked when I fail because I realize I still have remaining sin, but I need not despair because I understand that God’s love for me is not dependent upon my performance or lack thereof. It would truly be ridiculous not to LOOK to HIM – the author and perfector of our faith. We are walking into a battlefield every day. Although the battle rages on, let’s look to Him who has already won the war. Oh, Lord be Thou my Vision!
( I am so encouraged by my sister Kelly Beth Todd, who is LOOKING to Christ during this difficult time in her life. Please pray for my little sister, a cancer survivor, and her husband Obbie. We are waiting to hear the results from a growth Kelly has removed off of her back.)