The pounding of the discontentment train…

Last night I couldn’t sleep.  My heart and mind was wrapped around a lifetime of insecurity and fear.  In the middle hours of the night, I found my thoughts resting on a lonely island of imperfections and doubts, surrounded by a typhoon of the enemy’s lies.

I know I’m not alone.  The devil’s been brewing up these kind of storms for thousands of years and he isn’t jumping off that train anytime soon.  I’d bet that men and women all over the country shared in my insomnia and self-loathing thoughts last night.  The tracks of that railroad are digging pathways into the hearts and minds of most people.

We aren’t enough.  

We don’t have enough.

It is an overwhelming and intrusive throbbing when that freight train comes to town.  I don’t prefer hanging out on the deserted island of misfits, overrun by hot-steamed engines on a race to wreck my soul.  I’d rather be experiencing thankfulness and joy…maybe even contentment? (If it’s not asking too much.)

My struggle is the same endless stuff of humanity: idolatry.  I think that if my garage were wider, my pocketbook fuller, my silhouette curvier, my schedule free-er, my attitude brighter, my thoughts wiser, my body younger, my energy less ‘tired-er’…life would be better!  And to some degree, life would get ‘better’.  Yet, it still wouldn’t satisfy.  It still wouldn’t fulfill.  ‘Better’ is a lousy substitute for ‘fulfilled’.  Why do I settle?

Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”  Fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore…they are what I’m seeking in all those other things.  Joy and pleasure are what sit at the door of all those other desires and ‘needs’.  They are knocking and tapping out a rhythm on my heart that drums into my veins, pulsing and driving my every movement, my every turn.  They are the undercurrent in hot pursuit of something to fill the void in their beat.  I have tried to fill in the pauses of their cadence with worldly ideals and definitions of perfection, only to be off-beat.  When I try to meet joy and pleasure with these idols I am either rushing or lagging behind.  I never sync with their rhythm, always slightly early or late.

All these other things never satisfy, no matter how often they promise to fulfill. They will never click into the track of true joy and pleasure.

It is only in His presence that the path is made known, where joy and pleasures forevermore walk in step beside Him.  Here, with Him, a solid march is found.  Here, with Him, the tempo of my heart finds its dance and settles into the peaceful rocking of His arms.  When I am with Him, there is no gap in the song.  There is no space to be filled.  There is no need to search for missing cogs.  Nothing lacks.  He is enough.  Whether I think I am enough or not, He is enough.  For in this world, perfection will never be met.  In the midst of my imperfection, He provides contentment.

In Philippians 4:11, Paul continues to challenge me with his satisfaction despite circumstances: “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.”  This world will never give me all that I want, so why do I pout late at night about not getting it, and fantasize of a day when God will ‘bless’ me with it?  It makes no sense…like a clarinet in a heavy metal band…playing in 7/8 with the guitarist in 4/4…squeaking eighth notes on a high F# while the band plays in a roaring Eb.  It’s not cohesive.

It doesn’t make sense.

If I say I trust in Jesus, I need to trust Him with everything.  My faith in Him should be consistent.  If I believe in Him, I should also believe in His promises.  If I rest in His salvation, I should rest in His daily satisfaction.

My prayer:

God, bring me into your presence, where the satisfaction of being with you sings louder than the desires of this world banging at the door.  Make your satisfaction a real thing in my heart.  Help me to see myself how you see me.  Help me to live and think in sync with your will, your path, and your love…without gap or need because all my imperfection and flaws are filled with You.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Flying through a Jungle of Pride…

Last week, I was in full “let’s-try-to-be-a-super-mom” mode.  You’d think, by now, I would know it just ain’t possible.  But, yet, I try.  Along the way, (usually when I start to feel I am way in over my head with paint projects, Pinterest craftiness, or sewing catastrophes) I realize just how far I’ve gone into unrealistic super-hero status.  I start down a quaint and inviting path of creativity that eventually leads me into a jungle full of prowling lions of self-criticism, mocking monkeys of comparison, and howling hyenas of stress.

When will I learn?

My most recent illusion of grandeur began with a trip to the WWII Commemorative Air Show with my three boys.  (Yes, you added right, the hubs counted as a boy that day.)  Gideon was in awe of the planes and propellers, and of course, all the big guns.  So, when the soon-to-be birthday boy, who for the last two years has celebrated with an Easter Bunny Pirate Party (don’t ask), requested to have planes instead, I jumped at the fresh idea.  However, when I asked more details about his desires, I soon realized I was already further into the jungle than I thought.  Not only did he want to have a WWII plane themed party, but he also wanted the Easter Bunny Pirate character to return, including Easter egg bombs and a Pirate treasure hunt adventure.  Mercy.

So I took plenty pictures of the B-17 Flying Fortress from multiple angles, mentally planning how the metal beast could be replicated with edible sweets.

Over.  My.  Head.  

I took note of the bombers and where they sat and envisioned white chocolate pirate bunnies taking their positions with their chocolate guns.

Entering. The. Jungle.  

I started perusing Pinterest for ideas.

Welcome. Jungle. Predators.

Why do I do this?  Why do I submit myself to these crazy ideas and plans?

For a few reasons: 1) I like the challenge.  I am by nature a person who likes to express herself creatively.  It is how God made me.  And as a stay-at-home mother of four, whose responsibilities outside the home have changed since our relocation, I rarely have the opportunity to fully unleash my creative juices.  2)  I love my kids.  My heart overflowed when I witnessed my little boy struck with awe as the gust of wind from old plane propellors swept the hat off his head.  If I can create a birthday celebration that generates even half of that excitement, it’s worth it.  3) Pride.  See, here’s the nasty thing about being halfway good at anything:  we somehow in the back of our hearts think we can earn favor or worth by being awesome at something.  Because somewhere in the process of doing the task or making the speech or singing the song, we give ourselves credit for the abilities we have to accomplish whatever it is.

Have we worked hard?  Probably.  Have we studied?  Likely.  Have we practiced?  Yep.

I can’t speak for everybody, but here’s where I think I go wrong:  I start to assume that the beginning inklings of talent or skill that were planted in me by God are even my own doing.  Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”  (Maybe this is why the night before the party, the airplane cracked in half down the middle and crushed the cake beneath.) However, Psalm 139:13 corrects me: “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.”  He is the source of any good found within me.

Just like my fondant covered B-17 would be nothing without that one initial flake of Rice Krispie’s Cereal with which it started, so is anything good that I can produce without the Father’s design: NOTHING.  It is a challenge, however, to maintain that solid footing in a slippery and treacherous jungle of pride.  We somehow become disillusioned with our size and strength, feeling either invincible under the shade of the thick green canopy, or fearful of becoming prey for the larger and fiercer wildlife.  We forget who we are. The truth is we are small, yet equipped.  We lack control over our destiny, yet are empowered.  We are not our own, yet heirs to an entire Kingdom.

When I focus on who I can become with all my hard work and fine-tuning, I forget who I already am.  When I strive to grow my talents for my own accolades and affirmations, I actually diminish in maturity.  Ephesians 4:15 says, “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.”  Rather than aiming for personal praise, we are to grow up in EVERY way into him who is the head: JESUS.  Whatever we do, it should be done to grow closer to Him.  This doesn’t mean I stop challenging my creativity with icing and modeling chocolate.  However, it does mean that when I find myself seeking the praise of others because of it, then I should stop.  If I am discouraged because my efforts or talents aren’t appreciated, then I need to glory in the joy the process brought me, and give thanks that Jesus gave me the desire for and enjoyment in such a task.  To consider that He loves me enough to give me joy in such things…that draws me to Him!

Yeah…I’m not very good at that thinking either.  But like all areas in which we seek to better ourselves, He is the source and genesis for all of our development, growth, and maturity.  A more fervent trust in Him, greater satisfaction in His favor, and authentic humility in our hearts all start with a little flake of Holy Spirit planted in our inmost being.  Like a mustard seed, it can be small, but He nourishes it and cultivates it into a great tree of beauty.

I’ve got more lofty projects underway, especially this week.  And as I enter a time of intense focus, my prayer is this:

Jesus, may I end this week where I started in the womb, owing all my value, worth, and purpose to you.  May I always be established in You.  “For [Your] invisible attributes, namely, [Your] eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. [Including me.] So [I am] without excuse.  For although [I have known] God, [I] did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but [I} became futile in [my} thinking, and [my] foolish heart [was] darkened. Claiming to be wise, [I] became [a] fool. (Romans 1:20-22)”  Please forgive me and help me to walk forward in newness of life, recalling who I am because of You… only You.  Produce good fruit in me that brings glory to Your namesake.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

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