It’s Not a Performance

A flier came home from school last winter announcing a theater performance opportunity for kids, and I immediately thought of our daughter, Morgan.

Many people don’t know this side of our middle daughter, but she has been turning things into stages for her whole life. The couch, the built-in bench in our dining room and an overturned Rubbermaid tote have all been used for performances over the years.

When I asked her if she would like to try out for the Missoula Children’s Theater performance of The Secret Garden, she said, “YES!!!”

I stayed for the first few minutes of the audition. There were more than 80 children and only about 50 parts. During the first tryout exercise, the quiet Morgan most people know showed up. As I left the auditorium, I was already mentally preparing my “mom speech.” You know, the one telling her how proud I was of her for trying something new and stepping out of her comfort zone. How I was excited she has a passion for theater and she can learn from the experience and try again another time.

After the audition, Morgan came running toward me, and it was immediately apparent I wasn’t going to need my speech. She had gotten a part as a flower in the garden with other first grade students, and she was very excited!

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There were several rehearsals that same week and two performances the following Saturday. All of the kids did great, but I was particularly proud of Morgan, of course. I was very proud of her for doing something she loves, for stepping out of her comfort zone to try something new, and for doing a great job.

As I stood in the theater after the performance, I realized I mostly was just proud because she’s mine. I love her not for what she does or for how hard she tries or for how well she performs. I love her because she’s my girl!

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Some proud mom tears were filling my eyes when it seemed like God interrupted my thoughts, right there in the theater. He reminded me that His love is kind of like the love I have for my children, only it’s so much better — beyond what I can even fathom!

He loves you not for what you do or how hard you try or how well you perform. God loves you because you are His. (1 John 3:1.) You are His child!

My pastor has been teaching from Galatians, and he has used the phrase, “The Gospel is a promise, not a performance.” You probably know that, but if you are like me, you forget from time to time. It’s easy to start operating in performance mode, checking things off a religious to-do list.

Yes, we show our love for God through obedience to His commands (1 John 5:3), but His love for us is not dependent on how well we obey. In fact, the Bible tells us in Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were sinners, Christ died for us.”

One of my favorite passages of scripture is Romans 8:38-39 which tells us nothing can separate us from God’s love. Nothing. Let us remember that. God has lavished His love on us! We do not — cannot even — perform to receive His love.

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Linking up over with Jennifer Dukes Lee, who lives in the opposite corner of Iowa as I do, and her #TellHisStory weekly link up.

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Delayed Arrival

I recently posted this on Twitter: “Last night [my two-year-old] successfully wore undies to bed! WE ARE DIAPER FREE!!!!!!!”

Guess what’s happened since then? We’ve gone back to night diapers and had a day time accident nearly every day.

I recently wrote Change is Possible — a post about feeling like I had accomplished so much by not quitting my running plan, even though it got tough. I got up extra early to run at a time when I had plenty of excuses to not follow through.

And you know what? No, I didn’t quit. But, I did realize that I had not arrived. Just because I had a sense of accomplishment didn’t mean that I was finished. There is still work to do. There are still days to run before I “complete” the running program. I still have to set my alarm, put on my shoes (and extra layers, a hat and gloves — brrrr it’s cold in the morning), and go run.

I am always a work in progress. I will never arrive. And just when I think I have, someone is going to pee in their pants.

“… being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

There is comfort in that verse. God is working, and will continue to work, until we are finished.

But sometimes I find that verse discouraging. Sometimes I just want to arrive. I want to be complete. I embrace the “Learning. Growing. Becoming.” catch-phrase at the top of my blog, but sometimes I want it to say “Learned. Grown. Became.” It sounds grammatically awkward, and it’s also not humanly possible.

I understand that I am a work in progress — and so are you — but I easily get frustrated with what I haven’t learned. I recognize I’m learning some valuable life lesson, and I wonder why I’m just learning it now? Why did I not “get it” at some earlier time? How is it that it’s taken me 30 some years to see some issue so basic to my own personality? Why have I never understood some issue so basic to maintaining a good relationship? Why have I not grasped a concept so basic to the nature of God?

It is easy to get stuck looking at what I don’t know, don’t do or don’t understand. This is something I find myself doing often. (One of those personality things I’m just realizing about  myself.)

I actually started writing this post a few weeks ago, but then I got stuck with feeling so “un-arrived” that I wasn’t sure where to go with it. In the last few weeks, potty training has improved and I finished my running plan. (Woo hoo!) I feel confident in saying that my daughter is potty trained and in saying that I have learned to run. The truth is, there really hasn’t been an “arrival” in either of those areas. We do still have an occasional potty accident, and I still need to exercise on a regular basis and sign up to actually run in a race. (My Facebook status the other day: Woo hoo! I finished Couch to 5K! Now to keep from heading back to the couch …)

The only thing that has changed is my perspective. I’m not trying to “arrive,” I’m just thankful that I’ve moved from where I was. I’m not changing diapers and I’m not being a couch potato. Sure, I’m still going to clean up some accidents, and yes, I still have some (a lot) of work to do before I reach my fitness goals, but I have to stop and look at how far I have already come.

This is a key principle that I’m seeing as I read thru the Bible. In the Old Testament, the Israelites built altars or stone monuments in a place where God had shown up and saved them or provided for them. They put up the stones to help tell others that this was a place where they saw God, but it was also a way to remind themselves of how God had worked. In the New Testament, people often quote scripture or tell stories of Abraham, Moses and others. Those stories of God’s provision are central to their faith and current situations.

I must learn to do the same!  I have to look at the things I have already learned, many things that have become so much a part of my life that I rarely even notice them. I have to remember what God has already revealed to me and how much He has already worked in my life.

Yes, I can see how some life lessons would have been better learned years ago, but I also have confidence that ” … He who began a good work in me will carry it on to completion.” I have many more lessons to learn. My arrival is delayed indefinitely. And that is OK.

Pockets of Joy

I have been amazed with the energy and excitement of my 2-year-old daughter.

If she’s in one part of the house and wants something in another room, she runs to find it as fast as her little legs will carry her.

She’s always asking, “Where we going next?” As though every place we go is a new adventure.

She is very interested in trying new things and doing them by herself. “Me do it!” she says.

She notices the sound of trains, planes and loud trucks.

She sees sparrows in the grocery store parking lot.

She finds bugs outside — and sometimes inside the house.

She proudly shows me how she properly used the potty.

And she gets very excited when her shorts, skirts or pants have pockets. “Oooooooo! Pockets!” she says, as if it’s the most joyful thing to be found.

Thank you, Lord, for little legs, planes, trains, bugs, birds, potties and pockets. And for little children who remind me how blessed I am to have all those little things I often don’t even notice.

Just Obey Already!

Soccer night.

I appreciate the opportunity for our oldest son to play soccer, but getting there three nights a week by 5:45 can be a challenge. We usually rush through supper, run around looking for somebody’s shoes (often shoe-napped by our smallest shoe wearer), and hustle out the door.

It’s really not a pace that I enjoy. We’re tolerating it for the six weeks of soccer.

On one particular night, Dad was going to drop Mom and Andrew off at soccer practice and take the girls to a nearby park. This seemed ultra confusing to the kids. Andrew, who likes to think and plan through life, didn’t understand. He was also upset that his sisters were going to the park and he had to go to soccer.

Mom got tired of answering questions.

“Andrew,” I said, in my snippy mom voice, “Sometimes you just need to obey and you will understand how it all works later!”

I immediately wanted to retract my tone. I mean, he just wanted to understand. I was the one choosing to be annoyed by his questions.

But I also was immediately struck by what I said: “Sometimes you just need to obey and you will understand how it all works later.”

Sometimes I need to just obey God and trust that I will understand how it all works later.

How many times is it easier to wonder, question, worry and question some more about God has in store? He rarely gives us the big picture — He just asks us to take a step. One step. It often leaves me wondering: But how will this look? Is this all there is? What will others think? How will this affect my family long-term? Who will pay for this? What if it’s a complete failure?

I’m sure you’ve had similar experiences. Wondering if you’ve made the right decision. Worrying that you don’t have enough money. Contemplating how you can escape a tough assignment. Thinking about what other people might think of your decision. It’s human.

We don’t have to ignore the questions or worry or wonderings, but we need to turn them over to God. Tell Him our concerns. Ask Him to give us the strength. Plead with Him to help us remember how He has provided and worked in the past.

As I read through a Psalm a day (well, not every day, but most) I see this repeatedly. The writer is often distraught, worried, sick or feeling forgotten by God. Yet in the midst of trials or struggles, the writer remains firm in following the Lord. He remembers what God has done in the past and continues to be a faithful follower.

Psalm 77 starts with the writer in distress, unable to sleep and obviously worried about the future. Then he changes his perspective:

 10 Then I thought, “To this I will appeal:
       the years of the right hand of the Most High.”

 11 I will remember the deeds of the LORD;
       yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.

 12 I will meditate on all your works
       and consider all your mighty deeds.

 13 Your ways, O God, are holy.
       What god is so great as our God?

 14 You are the God who performs miracles;
       you display your power among the peoples.

I was basically asking Andrew to do the same thing. “Hey, Buddy, you can trust me. You might not know all the details, but just remember that I have taken care of you in the past, and I will do so in the future. Nothing I ask you to do will be out of my control.”

God is trustworthy. Nothing in life is out of His hands. It is good to “just obey and understand how it all works later.”

*Edit: I originally used the word “safe” instead of “good” in that last sentence. I try not to edit and reword things I write too much, or I’d spend my whole life doing that. 😉 However, it’s really not always “safe” to follow God. It’s risky. It’s hard. It means taking jumps off of cliffs sometimes and wondering if there will be a soft landing. Sometimes we need to do it. Sometimes we need to just obey.