It’s okay to be happy…

I recently bought a new set of crisp white linens for my bed.  As with most things I buy, I justified the purchase because the price was unbeatable.  Once I got the sheets home, washed, and on the bed, I realized that the fitted sheet was just a tad too small for our rather thick mattress.  I honestly didn’t care much, because the dazzling newness of the bedclothes made the tight fit worth it.  That is, until I woke up at 3 am with fitted sheet all crumpled beneath my upper back, my face smooshed against the bare mattress.

This blog post fits my heart as well as that sheet fits my mattress.

I’ve noticed a trend in our Christian sub-culture, blogs, and books.  In an effort to be authentic to the world and real with the details of our lives, we talk and write with an Eeyore attitude on life.  Understandably, we want the world to know that as followers of Jesus, we don’t have all our crap together, nor does our faith require us to.  We fear the world sees the church as a country club of hypocrites who fictitiously act as if we have polished lives.  To some degree, this is unfortunately how the church has come to present itself.

However, I believe we inadvertently swing to the other side of the spectrum.  I have been prone to this settling: far to one end, only acknowledging to everyone how horrible I am at most things.  I am guilty of blogging Debbie-Downer-post after post.  For the sake of honesty, I try to share genuine struggles and the humorous bad mom moments of my life.  That’s in truth who I am and what my life looks like.  So, I don’t take issue with sharing our problems.

I have, however, grown weary of the lack of hope-filled solutions, the absence of higher calling, and fewer challenges to seek joy in the midst of struggle.

I was recently telling my husband my thoughts on how the Christian sub-culture has taken up valuing the bad day, the “worst-mom-ever” tweets, and the “it is what it is” posts.  We embrace them because we identify with them.  There is a sick comfort in knowing others struggle as we do, and hopefully more.  I am guilty.  I do this.  I am this.  And I apologize to you, reader.

I was telling my husband I felt the need to write about this challenge to the blogger, to Christians: that it’s okay to be happy.  Our aim is not to trump each other with our worst.  We are missing our call when we highlight the bad and dramatic details of life.  We are called to cling to what is good, right?

I was all up on my high horse about this post…until Monday, when the elastic in the new linens popped at the corners.

Monday morning, I crammed all the cranky kids into the packed car along with a rug that needed to be returned.  After dropping the oldest three off, little Judah and I headed to run the errand.  It was early, but we had quite the drive ahead of us, especially in Houston traffic.  (Or, so I thought).

We pulled into the parking lot at 8:15 am.  The store didn’t open until 10:00 am.

In went the movie and out came my phone to check emails.

That’s when I opened it…the kind of email that stops a day.  A delivery that holds expected and unsurprising news, yet when it opens its mouth and announces, the words suck the wind out of your lungs.  A simple email of fact: time called and last breath taken.  I sat, salty tears and all.

Then the A/C stopped working…8:23 am.

I was hot, sticky, snotty, and already done with the Baby Songs video on loop.

We got out and walked from one store front to the next in the strip mall.  Finally, at 9:00 a few stores let us in.  We purchased little unneeded things to distract from the slowness of the clock ticking and the looming speed of life’s inevitable end.

At 9:50 am, I was standing outside the automated glass doors of World Market, shoeless toddler on hip, eye liner smudged under my right eye, and my bangs pasted to my drenched forehead.  Open. Open. Open.  For the love, let me in.

The rug was carried in and I handed over my receipt.

“Now I just need the card you used to pay for this…”

I knew I didn’t have it.  I had asked for it early that morning, and in the chaos of backpacks and breakfasts on-the-go, it never made the switch from his wallet to mine.

I asked for any possible bend of the rules, a loophole in the fine print, mercy from the manager…

NADA.

After a trip across town to pick up the card, a ditching of my oven of a car, an AWOL child at the school pick up line, and another trek to World Market (this time in the traffic I had earlier feared and will all four kids), I was finally headed home.

After a late dinner with Daddy still at work and a rushed bedtime, I contemplated my previous goals for the day.  What was even left of it?

I thought about this challenge to wear joy as proudly as we wear our hot-mess.

I had been so on fire to write.  Now, the sheet didn’t fit.  The post had popped.  It was an altogether uncomfortable ripple in my spine to derive joy from that day.  My face had been smooshed between the raw naked facts of death and my idealized happy sheets.

Perhaps this is exactly the circumstance to address our glamorization of ‘blah’.  The facts that my laundry is piled in the corner, my child still struggles to know his letters, and my diet consists of leftover opened packages of fruit snacks washed down with lukewarm coffee shrink in comparison to the certainty of death.  It comes for all of us.  There is no system to beat it, no folder to organize it, no app on which to schedule it.  It is this thought that strings together my emotional rant about “I suck” blogs and binds them to an in-your-face raccoon eyes in World Market brand of reality:

While we are breathing…while we have breath…shouldn’t we long for more?

Are you really satisfied with reading another blog about a mom that failed to turn in a permission slip?  Are you finding ultimate joy seeing yet another post about the shortcomings of discipline tactics, albeit humorous?  If all I do is write about how much of a struggle life is, then I have failed you.

Because here’s the thing:  I have a solution to all of my many daily problems and shortcomings…Jesus.  He gives me value and worth when I feel like a worthless invalid who can’t keep up with society’s expectations.

If all I air is my dirty laundry and imply that living among the muck is good enough, then again, I have failed you.  Jesus conquered death and now lives in me, and this causes me to look more like Him…like a conquerer of sin and despair.

Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

When life tests us–with its ridiculous refund regulations, its sin, its filth, even its death…we are to be transformed, changed, and renewed.  We are to better see and understand what is good, acceptable, and perfect (Jesus). If I read an entertaining blog that recounts a child’s fit due to the tag in their shirt, I want to be left with more than a few laughs.  I want to learn how to discern the will of God in and through that experience.  If I take in an article about depression, I want to it to put out the face of joy.  If we, as the church, want to be honest and authentic with the world we live in, then we have to offer them more than just the daily crap.

We have to offer them the genuine and real Jesus, who has the ability to redeem our every situation, heal our broken hearts, and actually call us forward to better.

Do we need to be honest that right now our fridge is packed with only ketchup and coffee creamer?  Sure.  Do I need to know that Jesus loves me even when I don’t have a monthly meal plan or clean toilets?  Absolutely.  But I also need to know that Jesus desires better for me and empowers me to do the things I feel I can’t.

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

He wants me to know it’s okay to be happy.  He wants you to know.  It’s okay to write a blog post that’s about the hope I have, the good I see, and the joy I’ve been given.  It’s okay, even in the face of sin, cancer, and death to have joy and lightness of heart.

After all, it is the ability to possess joy and peace in the midst of even the worst day, that makes our message stand out.  The fact that we struggle only joins us with the rest of humanity.  We all struggle.  We all sin.  We all don’t have our crap together.  We all face the same end.  But the message of Jesus provides the ultimate solution for all the problems we face: beauty in the mud…fertility out of the barren…life out of the dead.

I’m keeping the sheets.  Tonight, when I climb in, I will tug at the elastic, pulling each corner to its limits, covering all.  As I wrestle in the wee-hours of dark to find peaceful rest, if a corner pops, let it be a reminder to me.  My weak heart is prone to shorten the length of His love and mercy and grace, especially as I toss and turn through this difficult life.  However, His sovereign solutions never fall short for my plethora of problems.  He came so I could have life abundant (John 10:10). He lives so that I may live (John 11:25).  I am more than a conquerer through Him (Romans 8:37).  It’s okay to be happy (Psalm 63:5).

Lent: Day 20, 21, and 22…

Day 20: Trampolines

Spring Break is officially half spent. All we’ve done is sleep in and have people over. It’s time to get out. The kids have been begging to go to JumpStreet, a trampoline park. So we added trampolines to Lent.

The older three headed to the main section of the park while Judah and I hit the “7 and under” area. I put him down in front of the trampoline, took my seat on the floor against the wall, and told him, “jump.” He looked at me with an impish smile, looked back at the trampoline, and ran into my lap. I stood him up, pointed to one of the dozen inflatable balls lying around and again said, “Go…jump.” He got up and ran to get a ball that was in the middle of the trampoline, but abruptly stopped at its edge, curling his tiny toes to keep from falling.

He surveyed the land for a bit, walked over to the space in between the brightly colored trampolines, and slowly lowered one foot on its rigid surface. Then, he slowly walked, one foot strategically placed in front of the other, down the one-foot-wide green non-bouncy strip.  Like a tightrope walker, he methodically ventured. He paused as he came parallel to the ball in the center of the trampoline, the wheels turning in his mind to plan his next move. Just then, another toddler jumped on the opposite end of the trampoline, and wouldn’t you know it, the ball rolled directly into Judah’s little body. He looked back at me with amazement as he reached his short arms around that gigantic ball and pivoted on his solid path to make his way back to me.

As he walked, the large ball impaired his field of vision, blinding the two feet directly in front of him. As he neared the end of the green runway, he miscalculated the end of the trampoline and took a sharp left turn towards me. He caught the corner of the trampoline, running four little steps on it’s bouncy taut skin. Immediately, his 2-year-old body gained momentum and speed, and he instinctively rose to the tippy tops of his toes. His eyes were too large suns peering over the horizon of that big red ball. Before he knew it, he was back on the solid floor face to face with me. He lowered the ball, looked at me and said, “whoa.”

What joy he was missing walking along the safe edges of life. Me too! I never thought I’d be publicly thanking JumpStreet, but, yes, thanks is in order. I am grateful for the reminder that sometimes joy is just on the other side of risk. I can trust God that if he tells me to “jump” and go fetch a ball that lies in the middle of an ominous unstable place, He isn’t throwing me into danger. I can trust that He’s pushing me to experience new things and the fullness of life. whoa.

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.”

Psalm 28:7


 

Day 21: windshield time

Today we headed to Austin. I love the space of green that exists along vast expanses of highway, in between the buildings and busyness of cities.

As we drove, the kids watched Finding Nemo and the adults had a chance to talk and catch up. I’ve been forced to ask some hard questions of myself lately, involving purpose and life goals. I have some decisions laid before me that require the investment of time and money, but first I need to know if that’s the path God wants me to walk down.  It was good to discuss my thoughts and feelings with someone who knows me like none other. It was enlightening to hear how he sees me and the purposes to which he thinks God has called me.

I’m thankful for a partner, for his insight, and his patience with his often confused and bewildered wife. We call these car ride conversations having ‘windshield time’. It was good to add this to Lent, to take the time to ponder and reflect on these questions. Processing my own goals while considering Jesus’ life and the purpose to which He was called, is humbling and recalibrating.  It’s also amusing to have the conversation with Dori in the background singing, “Just keep swimming…swimming, swimming, swimming…”

If God can speak through a donkey, he can use an animated fish, right?!

“Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.”

Proverbs 27:9 

“Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.”

Proverbs 19:20 

 


Day 22: familiar places and faces

Today we visited Buda Elementary. When we were discussing our trip to Austin, the girls pleaded to go to recess at their previous school so they could see old friends. It happens to also be the school where The Well gathers every Sunday for church. It was surreal to be back, comforting to be “home”, yet sad to know that we would not be staying. It was just a year ago, over Spring Break 2014, that we piled into the moving van and relocated…how timely to be back for a visit.

Today we added familiar places and faces to Lent. In doing so, we treasured the past and gained hope for the future. We made sure to hug every familiar person and take in all the memories of the place…painting the paw prints on the sidewalks, Easter-egg hunts in the courtyard, and doughnuts by the nurses office, to name just a few.  I remember the first day of Kindergarten for our oldest, so many years ago, and worrying about leaving her with people I didn’t know. Now, I call them friends and trust those people more than ever. Recalling this makes me view our current home and surroundings in a refreshed light. One day, I will look back at this first year and remember the fear of starting a new adventure, only to bask in the love and memories that God is already fostering.  I’m excited for the new stories that He is writing–for us, for The Well, for Buda Elementary, and for our new family in Katy.

“O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you; I will praise your name, for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure.”

Isaiah 25:1