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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Questions And Answers

I think I should be paid in mom bucks for every question I answer each day. If one mom buck equals 60 seconds of alone time, I am fairly confident that I would earn, on average, 297 blissful minutes to myself every afternoon.

Kids want to know "why." We know this to be true -- no debate necessary. My kids question everything and then some.

There are some questions kids only seem to ask in public places, within earshot of some easily-offended old lady or some grumpy-and-having-a-bad-day man-child who can’t afford to share a smile, even with the cutest children in the world (mine).

Things my kids have asked in public places:
“Mommy, did you tooter again?” (insinuating, obviously, that I had done it once already)
“Does she have a baby in her belly?” (answer: not one of the human's what we refer to as a food baby)
“Why do you talk like such a girl?” (to the effeminate man checking us out at the grocery store)
“How did I get in your belly?” (crickets…)
“Where’s your legs is?” (question asked to the double-amputee in the waiting room of our pediatrician’s office)
“Why does Daddy have hair on his tail?” (there's so much to dig through here, I just don't know where to begin)
“Do you want to smell my finger?” (after said finger had been scratching…er…a smelly area)
“Why does your arm shake like jello when I poke it?” (answer: because I wrecked my body for you, my angel)
“How do we go to heaven and live with God?” (asked by my three-year-old, whom I answered with my sage wisdom)
He then followed up that question with:
"Is God gonna ask me why I don’t have pants on and my penis is showing?” (no words for this one, folks…no words)

Kids can also ask tough questions, the kind of questions I like to refer to as “go-and-ask-your-dad" questions:

“How is God everywhere?”
“Why does God let people go hungry when He can make food appear by saying a word?” 
“Why didn’t God heal ____?” 
“How did Noah get two of every kind of animal on the earth in one boat?" 
“What does God look like?” 
“Who made God?” 
“What is heaven like?”

These are the kinds of questions that send parents running for the hills, so to speak…the kinds of questions that are easier just not talked about. But ask children do, and they ask without reservation or fear.

As adults we have lost our nerve a bit. Asking questions makes us (and often others) uncomfortable. We’re afraid we might sound uneducated. We worry that we might stir the pot and draw attention to ourselves. We might be anxious that we won't like the answers we find. For those of who walk with God, we’re afraid that questions equal unbelief, and that it’s unacceptable to ask our questions for fear we might reveal our secret doubts.

Am I right?

I have this friend who questions everything. Let's say her name rhymes with Gristina. She’s a cynic. She picks issues apart until she has dissected them to her satisfaction. She chews slowly on things, and will continue to chew, sometimes for long periods of time, examining her belief system, her theology, and the Word of God. 

I respect her so much.

Sometimes she drives herself crazy. Sometimes she gets so much into her own head that she feels trapped. Sometimes she questions and doubts, and instead of accepting a rote answer as truth, she digs and digs and thinks and thinks. Then she prays and thinks some more. She. does. not. settle. 

And that is the hard path. It can be lonely and dark, especially in a world where many accept the easiest-to-swallow answer, the truth that makes them feel good so they can have a semblance of peace and move on to the next item on their to-do list.


But it’s in the poking and the prodding, in the questioning and dissecting, where we truly learn to own our faith. When we are spoon fed the answers, believing them as truth just as little children accept whatever is told to them as fact, our faith has a tendency to be shallow, void of conviction and confidence.

This friend and I, we are in a Bible study together. She asks her questions and doesn’t shy away from controversy. It’s inspiring, really. She voices her opinions and challenges people on theirs when she feels that they’re not lining up with truth. She does this with grace and humility, and she spurs the rest of us on toward examining what we truly think about various topics. 

She can be a bit of a pessimist and loves to play the devil’s advocate. And she is fabulous.

She knows, and she trusts God, that not all of her questions can be answered on this side of eternity. And she accepts that and walks in faith. But it doesn’t stop her from asking the questions, because who is God if we can’t come to Him as a child comes to his parent with the questions of life? Who is God if He’s not personal enough to allow us to sit in HIs presence expressing our hurts and our pains and our doubts and our frustrations? 

If we couldn’t access the Lord with honesty, it would make Him an impersonable diety who lacks mercy for his fallen creation, and we know that our Heavenly Father is far from that type of god.

God made us and knows us by name. He can count the hairs on my head. And your head. And her head. And so on. Shouldn’t we feel the freedom to come to Him with our confusion or doubts? To ask the hard questions, because we know that He can handle our lack of understanding and loves us so deeply that He desires for us to know Him fully, at least as fully as we possibly can while separated from Him in this fallen world?

So I think we question, we dig. But we do it while tempering our curiosity and our frustrations with this truth: we are, simply, not going to have full understanding and all of the answers while we are a broken people in a broken world.

Paul says is best, I think, in his letter to the church of Corinth:

"We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!” - 1 Corinthians 13:12, The Message

And at the end of the day, when we are stuck in a place of confusion and lack understanding and everything in us wants to just create an answer to our questions about God so that we feel better and can wrap our issues up in pretty paper and with a big bow, we must remember that when we are at an impasse with God…HE WINS. He must always win. We must look off into the distance and remember that we are not home yet, and home is where our Father awaits us to wholly answer our questions. 

"It’s impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that he exists and that he cares enough to respond to those who seek him…Each one of these people of faith [Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah) died not yet having in hand what was promised, but still believing. How did they do it? They saw it way off in the distance, waved their greeting, and accepted the fact that they were transients in this world. People who live this way make it plain that they are looking for their true home.”(Hebrews 11:1-16, paraphrased, The Message)

And that, my friends, is walking with God in a nutshell. Trying our best to discern what is right and true, using the tools He has given us (i.e., the Word of God, the Holy Spirit, wise counsel, etc.), while ultimately resting in the fact that we are not going to have complete understanding until we ourselves are made complete on the other side of eternity.

In the meantime, if you’re a chew-on-the-question type person and you want to help me answer some of the 987 questions I am asked each and every day by my inquisitive children, holla back and help a sister out. If you'd start by trying to answer my son's most recent question, that'd be rad.

"Mom, is that a man or a woman?" (because the jury's still out on that one)

Feel free to laugh!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

People Matter

So people who know me, like, really know me, are well aware that I am a recovering extremist. Not in the terrorist sense, but more in the how-I-function-in-everyday-life sense.

I am fairly certain I have OCD. Like, legitimately.

Before I go any further, I should share that I come from a long line of people who are obsessive and/or compulsive. I'm fairly certain my own father starched and ironed everything he owned, even his underwear, for a long time (until the rest of my family made enough fun of him that we shamed him into stopping, like good family members do). My dad, growing up, was known as "Habit Boy." He's still, to this day, the only man I know who literally scrubs and sterilizes the kitchen sink before he starts to wash the dirty dishes. With a wet paper towel. That he then folds four times and drapes over the edge of the sink in case he should need it. Every. Single. Time. He. Does. The. Dishes. This results, to his credit, in a sink that shimmers like nothing you've ever seen.

It's not just from my father's side of the family, though. My maternal side of the family is full of anal people who like things done a certain way each and every time. If you go to and search under "OCD," my entire lineage shows up, I'm fairly certain. 

All of this is not to point fingers; it's simply to show that I come by my issues honestly. By that, I mean that it's honestly not my fault. (Sounds like some quality time is needed with Dr. Phil, huh?)

I love a clean house. I like an orderly life. I find it hard to think straight or accomplish anything if my home is in disarray, if there are chores to be done, or half-finished work. I'm not the laid-back person who shrugs off the mess and has fun because, after all, it can wait until later. I find it hard to relax and let down when I know that things in my life/home/family/finances are not in order.

After having kids, my problems were exacerbated. A clean house is a sort-of non-option when you have small kids, which can turn you into a looney toon in and of itself. Cleanliness is automatically off the table. But even maintaining a neat house is enough to make a 31-year-old mom like me come unglued. 

This is my life, and probably yours, too. 

Today I prepared for some first-time guests to come to dinner. I folded laundry. Like, ten loads worth (for reals). I dusted. I vacuumed. I straightened. I organized. And then, 15 minutes after our friends arrived, I walked in to find my kids' room looking something like this:

In that moment, do you know what I wanted to do? (That I wanted to throttle my kids goes without saying, of course) 

I wanted to sneak away to the kids' room and clean it up because it was eating away at my brain that their room looked like a hot mess after I had cleaned up the whole house earlier today. I wanted to leave my company with my darling husband, who doesn't like to be left alone in social situations with strangers, and disappear into my boys' bedroom to have a re-do. 

I honestly wanted to do that. Like, I had to fight the urge. 

And then something came to mind, something that my mother has said to me before and will probably need to say again a hundred times:

"People matter before projects."

Immediately my stress over the lego-and-matchbox-car explosion was diffused. Because, honestly, people matter before projects.

Tonight we had the privilege of having new friends in our home. These friends just moved to the USA from Egypt. They know no one and they took a leap of faith to immigrate to America to better their lives, and the lives of their children. Having never been to the States before, this family packed everything they owned and moved to Atlanta a little over two months ago. They are lovely and kind. Their children are precious. They are strangers in a strange place who are eager to assimilate into our culture.

And all I could think about was the mess in the next room.

It makes me think about the time when Jesus visited Mary and Martha in their home. When Jesus arrived in town, Martha invited Jesus in to visit. It was, I'm sure, with grand intentions, and that she wanted to serve Jesus and honor Him well. However, when Jesus came in and sat down, scripture tells us that Mary sat at Jesus' feet and listened to his teaching while Martha was "distracted with much serving." (Luke 10:40) Martha got upset that Mary wasn't helping her with the necessary chores, and she complained about as much to Jesus. When Jesus answered, his response was, to me, unforgettable:

"Martha, are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:41-42)

In that moment, I think what Jesus was trying to show Martha is that stuff can wait. Stuff doesn't matter, in the grand scheme of life. Jesus matters. Relationship matters. People matter.

Tonight I experienced a moment of shame as I saw the ugliness in my heart. Superficial, unimportant things fought for my attention and almost won. However, I praise God that I am a work in progress and that He's not finished with me yet, and that the Holy Spirit whispered conviction to my heart before I wasted what turned out to be an invaluable time of pouring into people who desperately needed it.

In His goodness, He gave me the grace to release my unhealthy obsession with how neat and presentable my home was and instead gave me a love and a passion for the sweet people sitting across from me in my living room. He reminded me that people matter and that projects can wait.

All joking about my family aside, I must confess that I have grown up under the influence and seeing the example of the two most servant-hearted, people-loving parents I have ever seen. All of their funny quirks and OCD-tendencies aside, my parents have been a consistent example to me of loving people before doing projects. They serve. They listen. They help. They pray. And I hope am growing to be more and more like them.

I can only pray that each day I look a little more like them, like Mary, willing to lay aside what is superficial in order to spend my time with people who matter, and, most importantly, with the One who matters most.

Until then, I will wait patiently for the day when I'm perfected once and for all and in the presence of my Savior. Which is gonna be the bomb, because I know that in that moment I am not going to be thinking about my to-do list. 

I would like to think that this picture is a representation of me in heaven for two reasons: 1) I would like to think there will be no mess in heaven, as it is of the devil, therefore negating the need for housework, and, 2) I have always wanted to be Maria in The Sound of Music. 

End Scene (and feel free to laugh).