Friday, September 12, 2014

She Shares Truth: Hosea

Today marks the end of an online Bible study I’ve been participating in covering the book of Hosea. So today, a lot of the participants are sharing their truths- what they learned over the last 17 days of study—and I thought I would join in on the fun.

If you’re unfamiliar with the story of Hosea, it’s this in a nutshell: God asks Hosea to marry Gomer. Gomer is a prostitute. It’s hard. She’s unfaithful. She runs away from Hosea. But God uses this as a metaphor for Himself and Israel. The Israelites have run away from God. They deserve punishment and wrath, just like Gomer deserves consequences, but God shows mercy. He beckons Israel to return, and He loves them all the same. It goes deeper and there’s a whole lot more. It’s worth a read.

Anyway, there were three big ideas that this study brought to the surface for me. This is long. Please hang in there.

I     1. I am Israel. I run away from God a lot. What do I mean by this? I mean that even though I know God shows up and provides and works slow miracles in my life, there are times where I run from Him and seek attention, approval, comfort, etc. in other things. I’m a recovering approval-addict. I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t want to be liked. And sometimes I did some things totally out of character for me to win the approval of others. And sometimes it didn’t really matter. God approves of me just as I am. Period. I don’t need to run from Him to get approval. His approval should be enough. The other thing about running is that sometimes when I’ve run away from God, I’ve made some mistakes. For example, early in my career, as I strove to win approval from coworkers and friends, I did some damage on a couple of credit cards. I thought I needed to wear certain things, eat at certain restaurants, belong to a certain gym, go to certain happy hours, see certain movies, etc. in order to be well-liked. But my budget didn’t allow for it. Eventually, when I realized what a mess I was making, God was there for me. He is always there in the return. The thing I never considered until now though? God is with us as we live out the consequences of our actions. Running towards material things and racking up debt in order to win approval had its consequence- I needed to pay off the debt. Returning to God and saying I’m sorry for not letting His approval be enough was a start. And while He is God and could’ve easily put a bonus check or a winning lottery ticket in my hand to pay off the debt instantly, He didn’t But He was with me as I cleaned up the mess. As I canceled memberships, turned down invitations, made and stuck with a strict budget—He was there through all of it, restoring me. So yes, I’ve run from God before. Many times. But I’ve returned. And now I’ve learned that just because I come back, I don’t get a free pass on consequences, but I do get God, who gets in the mess with me while I clean it up.

      2. Hard things. I wrote about this a couple ofweeks ago. God asks us to sometimes do hard, but right things. Lately I’ve been feeling the pull to do the hard thing of loving people that are hard to love. And I said I needed to start with my daughter, because she’s not me and sometimes she is frustrating to love (I’ve never not loved her, just to be clear—I’ve just not loved her as well I could have because I’ve been hard on her and expected her to be exactly like me). Last weekend my husband went out of town to visit his dad and took our son with him. It gave me the chance to love my sweet C exactly how she needed to be loved. It was refreshing and needed for both (though pretending to be My Little Pony unicorns at 7:30am is HARD). God revealed so much about her amazing spirit and personality to me—things I hadn’t really “seen” because of my expectations and frustrations with her. She may have a strong personality, but the girl embodies the whole “dance like no one is watching, sing like no one is listening” cliché. Here's a snapshot of our weekend:
      3. Idols. There are things in my life I tend to idolize and that’s not okay. Idols are anything that we put before God—things we worship instead of Him. During this study God brought it to my attention that I idolize rest. I’m not saying rest is a bad thing. It’s not (I wrote about how sometimes we need it badly here). My idolizing rest was a bad thing. I would obsess over making sure I was getting enough rest. If I felt I didn’t get enough, I let it color my day (“I only got x hours of sleep last night so today is going to stink.”). On days when I didn’t think my rest had been sufficient, I found myself being more negative, living with a short fuse, losing my patience more easily. I’m learning to trust God with the rest He gives me and not obsess over it the way I have for so much of my adult life. I’m praying He redeems the rest I do get. And you know what? He’s been faithful so far. The night I only got about four hours of sleep? Normally that would send me over the edge and into freak out mode, snapping at people and having “woe is me” break down moments. But instead, I went to work the next day, kicked butt with my lesson plan, was patient with my students and my own children, and ended up being rewarded with some pretty solid sleep the next night (which is nice at 32 weeks pregnant). Again, rest is needed and it’s not a bad thing. It was my obsessing over it the way some might obsess over working out or eating healthy (both good things) that was turning it into an idol.

If you’re still reading, thanks! Go check out Hosea. And remember, it’s never too late to return from your running, to do hard, but right things, and to smash your idols.


One Ordinary Mom :-)

Monday, September 1, 2014

Hard Things

I've been engaged in an online women's Bible study for the last several weeks. Right now we're about a third of the way through a study on Hosea. And this post has really left me thinking about a lot. So much so that I decided to blog some of my thoughts just to get them out somewhere.

The general gist of the post is that God sometimes asks us to do hard things, but they're the right things. Just like He asked Hosea to take Gomer, a prostitute, as his wife. I recommend at least reading the post if not digging into Hosea for more about it. Anyway, it was the right thing for Hosea to do, even though it was a hard thing. And as the post puts it, "God never said the right thing would be the easy thing."

So it got me thinking about what hard, but right, thing or things God may be asking of me. I'm fortunate in that I'm not someone struggling with abuse or addiction or hard relationships or bitterness or any number of other hard things that some women out there are struggling with and that God may be asking them to deal with right now. The volunteering I do at church is not hard for me (I play with babies). My job is not hard for me (there are individual days that are hard as a teacher, but I don't wake up dreading work each day). God is not calling me to sell everything and move to a third world country. Or to take an unfaithful spouse. Or to adopt a child. Or any number of hard things He asks of people (knowing the end of the story is worth it). In fact, other than this pregnancy being hard on me physically (um....yeah, let's just say I never knew one could need physical therapy during pregnancy to help ease pain), my life is relatively easy right now. And maybe that's why I've been stewing over this one.

As I've read and re-read it and prayed about it, the theme of the post and of Hosea started to become more apparent and relevant in my situation though: LOVE. The more I've prayed about it, the more God has brought to mind people in my life that are hard to love. And He's put it on my heart that right now, maybe the hard, but right, thing I need to do right now is just keep loving them. Even when I don't necessarily want to make time to listen to them vent or complain (whether or not they willingly do the same for me). Even when I feel like they've insulted me (which brings up some forgiveness issues, but that's for another post). Even when I feel like they are making poor choices (I mean, who am I to judge). Because a little love can go a long way.

And with whom do I need to start? The person on the forefront of my mind is my daughter. And before you think "how could she not love her daughter?" you need to know this: I would take a bullet for her, push her out of the way of traffic, and sacrifice everything for her (and for her brother and her sister). I straight up love that girl like I never thought it was possible to love another human being. But sometimes....she is hard to love. She is strong-willed like me, but unlike me she is not a people-pleasing recovering-approval-addict. Which means that where I tried to be a leader at my school and wanted to be teacher's pet, she could actually care less whom she impresses. Which meant that as a kindergarten student last year, there were some notes home and phone calls about outbursts and impulse control and things that I took personally as a teacher myself. "Why can't she just pull it together like I did?" was the question on my mind on those days. In other words, "why can't she just be more like me?"

Because she's not me. She is exactly how God made her. And sometimes when her personality and my personality collide, she can be hard to love. She can be frustrating to love. But she is oh so worth loving. So I'm trying to throw out the window all of my preconceived notions of how I think she should be based on who I was and just love her for who she is right now. Mothering is a hard thing. Loving your kids can sometimes be a hard thing. But they are right things. God never promised the right things would be easy.

~One Ordinary Mom :-)

P.S. I promise I love my kids something fierce. But I really wanted an honest post. There are a lot of days when my kiddos are easy to love-- we had a lot of them this summer. And this school year has started off much better than last year for my sweet C. But this reminder to keep on loving her even when it's really hard to do it was much needed as we move forward. And as I work on loving her when it's hard, I hope it'll spill over to loving other people in my life when loving them is hard too.