Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Heart of the Matter: Snacking on Sacrifice

Or... "The One in Which I am Embarrassingly Honest"

What is sacrifice? To quote the dictionary, "the surrender or destruction of something prized or desirable for the sake of something considered as having a higher or more pressing claim."

But if I'm honest, I usually think of sacrifice as "something I am willing to give up--for a limited time, as long as it's not too hard."

In disciplining my children, I am learning the value of finding consequences that matter to them. I can take screen time away from Lamb day after day after day to no avail; but if Monkey loses screens for the day, he is humbled and repentant. Why? Because that is something "prized or desirable" to him. (For Lamb, by the way, it is reading time. Who on earth would think you'd have to take BOOKS away from a kid???) I need to find a way to hit close to home so that the consequence makes an impact.

Now, sacrifice is not about punishment or consequences, but still, the point remains: it needs to hit close to home. I could give up broccoli for the rest of my life, but it would make no impact. I could even give up Starbucks--and yes, I would probably get whiny wistful when I pass one, but it really wouldn't be a sacrifice, because it's just not that important to me.

Sacrifice is about surrender. Or something prized or desirable. For the sake of something higher (BETTER). Sacrifice is about making tough choices.

I have an immensely easy choice to make... and I have made it embarrassingly difficult.

Earlier in this series, I alluded to it. A year ago, I really felt God calling me, pushing me, to make some small sacrifices. Specifically......... I felt like I needed to give up television. ( how ridiculous is this? TELEVISION.) I realized that I was giving too much of my emotional energy to Castle and Beckett, to Bones and Booth, to Olivia Pope. At the end of a frustrating or tiring day, I was turning to the Dunphy family to comfort me and cheer me up. I needed to make a change.

At first I thought, "OK, no problem. I'll give up television for a month." And in the back of my mind I was thinking, "Thank goodness for the DVR so I don't actually have to MISS anything! Whew! Really dodged a bullet on that one!"

Wait... what? What am I actually sacrificing there? I'm just WAITING. Not GIVING UP. If I were going to SACRIFICE it, I would need to just walk away. No DVR. No catching up online. Just.walk.away.

So I did the only logical thing left to do. I blew it off. "What difference does that make?" I justified to myself. "Of course I would give God ANYTHING--you know, like, important stuff. But that's just small stuff. It doesn't matter."

But it does. The little stuff matters. And here's why: because in the battle between flesh and spirit, the one that wins is the one you feed the most.

Every time I choose between right and wrong, no matter how small it seems, I am feeding either my flesh or my spirit. Every little morsel makes one of them stronger. And every time I have sat down in front of the TV for the past year, I knew which one I was feeding.

The little stuff matters.

So I have to decide today who I am going to feed. And if I really and truly want to go deeper, I have to stop feeding my flesh.

You might be reading this and thinking, "Why on earth are you making this such a big deal? What is wrong with enjoying a TV show?" It's a fair question. There is nothing wrong with television in itself. This is not a rant against Hollywood or entertainment or having a show (or a couple of shows) that you enjoy and like to follow. This is a big deal because I have made it a big deal in my life. My unwillingness to give it up was the problem. Look at the definition of sacrifice: "the surrender... of something PRIZED." I don't want to prize my television shows. I don't want them to be important to me. But I have made them just that. They have become an idol in my life, something for which I have been willing to forego a deeper relationship with Christ. It is humbling to type that out, to see it in print, but it is true.

Today. Today I am going to stop feeding my flesh in this matter, and start feeding my spirit. As of right now, I am planning to give it up through October, but who knows--maybe it will turn into a long-term change. For now, I am going to focus on being more intentional with my time--but more than anything, I am giving it up because I want to be able to give God anything. And for the love of Pete, folks... TV should be the least of my "anything" to give.

It's not a big sacrifice. But it's one I need to make. To starve my flesh a little. To hear the voice of God better. To know what the "anything" is that He really wants from me.

So who is on this journey with me? Has God been knocking on your heart? Have you felt Him say, "Before you promise anything, will you give me something?" What do you feel has taken a place of higher importance than it deserves? What small decisions can you make to stop "feeding the flesh" and start "feeding the spirit"?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A little privacy, please!

This may be a little too personal. Just be warned.

Lamb: "Mommy! Mommy! Moooooooommmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmyyyyyyyyyy!!!"

Me: "I'm in the potty."

Lamb: "I know! I need to go potty! What do I do?"

At this point, it's important that you realize that there are FOUR bathrooms in our house. FOUR.

Me: "This is not a problem I can solve for you. You're going to have to figure that one out on your own."

Lamb (dejectedly): "OK, I'll use the potty upstairs."

{5-second pause}

Monkey: "Mommy?"

Me: "I'm in the potty."

Monkey: "OK. Mommy?"
Me (hoping that I sound more patient than I feel): "Can I just.go.potty?"

Monkey: "OK. But Mommy?"

Me: "Does this need to be handled RIGHT NOW???"

Monkey (saddened): "Nooooooooo. I'll go start my homework."

{5-second pause}

KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK (on the bathroom door)
Roo: "Min!" ("Come in!" This is what he says when he wants to open a door.)

Roo: "Min!"

Me: "Buddy, I need.just.a.minute.PLEASE."

{5-second pause}

Roo: "Mommy! 'Ere go."
And he slides a magazine under the door.

For the love. Where did he come up with that?????

It's super cute. I have to admit. But a little privacy would be nice too.

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Gift Giver

My husband is a fabulous gift-giver. This is one of my favorite things about him. It's also quite intimidating, when it comes to birthdays and anniversaries and Christmas and such. I always try to have a great idea, because I know that whatever he gets me is going to knock my socks off. From handwritten notes to flowers to the year that he "bought" a penguin (sponsored one in my name at the zoo--I absolutely LOVE penguins) to this year's surprise trip to FLORIDA (yes, a COMPLETE surprise--I didn't know about it until we pulled into the airport!), he amazes me over and over. But the best part is never the actual gift, no matter how great it is. The BEST part is always the look on his face. He is every bit as excited as I am, maybe more. He loves to give gifts.

And now... now, he has passed that along to one of our children.

Every day when the kids get off the bus, Lamb comes in first. We catch up a little, go over the papers in her backpack, get started on the snack... and then Monkey comes in. Always a few minutes behind. And always, ALWAYS bearing a gift. Sometimes it is a dandelion, sometimes a clover, sometimes a leaf, often it is a rock. But every single time, it is given with a look of complete and utter love. THAT is the gift.

My heart has been stolen, not by this rock, but by the hand holding it.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Heart of the Matter, Part 3: What if?

I haven't written as much about this journey as I thought I would have by now. Not because it hasn't been on my mind, because it has. Constantly. Not because I have "gotten over it", because the knot in my stomach just seems to grow each day. I haven't written because I have been in the middle of an internal battle.

If I write these things down, I need to DO something about them.

That is the crux of the issue. How far do I want to dig? Because at some point, I can't turn away from what I find. And I feel like I am rapidly approaching that point. Like a girl in a scary movie, I have approached a closed door in the middle of the night. Do I open it?

And here is the question at the center of it all: What if?

A day or so after I started this series, a dear friend came over with her boys for a play date. And bless her heart, she came prepared. She told me that she had been feeling a lot of the same things. She even brought the book Anything with her. She was ready to dive in with me. There is something beautiful about having a friend on the journey.

And as we sat and watched the kids play, she asked a question that I had been pondering as well. "We say that we are so blessed as a nation, that America has so much and what a blessing that is. But what if it's not? What if it's just the opposite?"

But my people would not listen to me;
    Israel would not submit to me.
So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts
    to follow their own devices.
--Psalm 81:11 & 12
What if God has thrown up His hands and said, "Have it your way"? What if the many, many things that we call blessings--abundance of stuff, abundance of food, abundance of "opportunities"--are really just distractions? What if we are replacing God with His creations? What if He has so much more--if we are willing to go with LESS of what the world says we need?
Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
--Matthew 10:28
How many of my daily fears center around issues of my soul? Don't most of them have to do with far more mundane things? I worry about dog hair on my furniture, about finding black shorts for Monkey to wear to soccer, about how much money to spend on a shower curtain. I worry about what my husband thinks, what my friends think, what people at church think, what the woman who sees me at Target thinks.
What if I'm worried about all the wrong things?
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
--Matthew 6:19-21
I want to provide for my children. I want them to be well taken care of. I want them to love our home, enjoy our home.
What if I'm going about it the wrong way? What if I'm teaching them that security comes through stuff, that our lifestyle is normal and expected?
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.
--Psalm 37:4
My heart desires so many things, and it never seems to be enough.
What if I've been living out this verse all wrong? It doesn't mean that God will make all my dreams come true if I follow Him. Rather, that He will turn my desires into His desires. If I let Him.
In Anything, Jennie Allen talks about the night she realized that she needed to truly turn her life over to God, to seek Him above everything else. She wonders what might have happened if she had blown Him off, and she concludes, "I might be stuck with the mediocre life I was so afraid of losing at the time."
What if this life that I love, that I cling to so dearly, that I do fear losing... is just "mediocre"? What if there is something more, something BETTER, if I just.let.go?
My heart is pounding. I don't know what that looks like. I don't know what changes I need to make or where to start or if my family is ready to start with me.
So I will pray. And I will dig. And I will open that door.
Are you ready?