Thursday, November 30, 2017

Grateful #26- Oh, come, oh come, Emmanuel

This is the last gratitude post, and I have saved it on purpose. This exercise in writing about what I'm thankful for has been wonderful. Writing has long been my preferred act of worship, and reflecting on what I'm grateful for before writing about it has stirred up many thoughts and emotions this month. But there's one thing that ties each post here together- one Person, really, and it's that Person for whom I give thanks today.

A few years ago, the Hill Country Christian School faculty was encouraged to read a book called Jesus + Nothing = Everything. The message of that book is pretty well explained by its title. When we try to add something to Jesus (Jesus + good works, Jesus + a strong marriage, Jesus + happy children, Jesus + acceptance, Jesus + a beautiful body, etc.) we miss out on the everything that Jesus offers.

I struggle with that message all.the.time. It's probably why I'm also enjoying Tim Hawks' series on idolatry and listening to Tim Keller's Counterfeit Gods on Audible. Because I am so prone to want to throw a + in there with Jesus.

It's a wonderful thing to be the recipient of so many blessings from the Lord. Each of the things I've written about this month is something that I am deeply grateful for. But many of the things also can become idols for me- things that distract me from truly worshiping the One True King.

So, let me end with this proclamation. I am crazy about Jesus. I love Jesus. I love Him more than anything or anyone. I love Him because He is the only Person who will never let me down. I know His character, I know He is true, I know He is endlessly patient, long-suffering, gentle and loving. I know He always wants my best. I know He is capable of all things. He is my hope.

But this is also true- I want to add more to my experience of Jesus. I fall into the + something camp so much of the time. I want Jesus to make my life work, make things make sense, make the hurt I've endured go away. I want Him to make things right. I want Him to teach the people who have hurt me and who refuse to acknowledge that hurt a lesson. I want justice... for me... and then maybe for other people too. I am a shallow and selfish worshiper. But, that's exactly why I love him.

Because what I know about Jesus is this- that no matter where I am, no matter what shape my heart is in or what my life looks like, He is worthy of my worship, and it is worshiping Him that will set me free.

Jesus, we are settling in to celebrate your birth. You came here with a mission. You accomplished that mission. You completed the work that set us free. Jesus, it's hard to understand why you allow certain circumstances to exist in our lives, and in the world. But we know that you understand our pain and temptations and sufferings. You have endured more than I can imagine. Please help me to place all these other blessings that I've given thanks for in right order. And please help my heart to worship You alone- whether I am suffering or happy, in turmoil or peace, have plenty or nothing. You are my King. You will never leave me or forsake me. You are the place I go to when life makes no sense. You are good. And I am thankful for You.

Grateful #25- Story Lamm

Today is the last day of November, so it's the last day that I'll write a daily gratitude. I didn't make it to 30, but that's okay. I didn't want it to become a chore. I also didn't write these in order of magnitude. Some days I just wrote what was on my mind. But there are two that I've been saving up for the end. So here we go...

Today, I am grateful for a blonde-headed little person named Story Lamm Wermel. Lately I've observed that when someone who loves Story sees her or talks about her, they can't help but smile. As Story's momma, I am 100% biased, but I think the reason for that is because Story is delightful. She is a sweet and funny and caring little person. And she happens to be ours.

There's something about this little human that makes other people well. Being around Story is like a salve for the soul. After I had Grey, something weird happened to me physiologically. My hormones crashed out and anxiety consumed my mind. I had friends and family praying for me everywhere, but one of the things that helped me the most was stroking Story's long, golden hair while we watched Thomas the Train. In that moment, I felt almost normal.

Like all people, Story was born into sin. She has her moments where sin manifests itself in selfishness, ridiculous toddler tantrums, disobedience. We are trying everyday to point Story to her need for Jesus to be her Savior from that sinful nature.

Even so, I can see how God created this person in His image, and she teaches me what it means to just rejoice in what He has made. One day, Story and I were driving in the car with my dad. As we passed the courthouse and law enforcement buildings in downtown Fayetteville, we pointed the buildings out to her and told her that was where Granddaddy works. Granddaddy, more tongue in cheek than anything, asked her "Story, where do you work?" She responded immediately. "Helper." We both thought that answer was perfect. She is indeed a helper. She helps me all the time around the house, and helps Granddaddy pick up sticks on the farm. How beautiful that she sees herself as a helper. What a profound lesson there is in that for me.

Oh, my Story girl, there aren't enough words to write how much I love you. I love each minute of the day with you, even when I am tired and you are whiny. You challenge me and delight me each and every day. I am so proud of you, and watching you grow is my JOY. You are fearfully and wonderfully made, and you are the perfect gift. I pray that you know Jesus and learn to obey Him so He can make you into the true you He desires you to be. I love you, my Munchie Munch. And I am so grateful I get to be your momma.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Grateful #24- Second Chances

Andrew Grey Wermel is a fantastic night time sleeper. He falls asleep around 8PM and snoozes in his crib until sometime between 3-5AM.  Then, he makes tiny noises that are only loud to my momma ears. I bee line to the nursery to feed him and then he falls back asleep until 7:30AM.

But Grey's days are never as predictable. Some days, he's drowsy all day. Most days, he can snooze a little  in the morning, but he is  awake all afternoon. And others, like yesterday, he is awake ALL DAY long.

I struggle on days like yesterday. My desire to control things and achieve goals is greater than my desire to be patient and nurturing. I saw this come into full view yesterday, and it was pretty ugly. By late afternoon, I was frustrated and exhausted. My house was a shambles of baby feeding accouterments, Christmas decorations and the ingredients for yellow curry. All day, I'd wanted to get those decorations sorted and get that curry started, but Grey wanted to be held.

Finally, around 4:30, I was determined to get something done. I put Grey on the sofa on a green Christmas blanket and marched into the kitchen to start the curry that I had wanted to simmer all afternoon. I pulled out my Ninja to blend the curry paste, and I knew that the noise would be loud for Grey, but I was determined to accomplish at least one goal. After the blending was complete, I peeked into the den but saw an empty green blanket where Grey should have been. Apparently the noise from the Ninja scared him so badly that he leapt off the sofa. He was face down on the rug and crying. He wasn't the only one. I burst into tears as I scooped him up and tried to console him.

I felt so awful about what happened that I went to bed at the same time as my kids last night. I wanted the day to be over, wanted that mom failure to be behind me. But my sleep was fitful. I regretted the anxiety that I allowed to build up in me throughout the afternoon. I felt guilty that I chose my own desire to accomplish something over Grey's comfort and safety.The reality that sin never affects only one person was heavy and painful.

I asked God (and Andy and Grey) to forgive me for letting my frustration call the shots yesterday. I asked my BSF group to pray for me to put aside my desires on those tough afternoons when Grey doesn't want to be put down. Andy was understanding and gracious. My group was supportive and offered words of encouragement. And Grey has been all smiles.

God is gracious, and He knows I am a work in progress. So I'm grateful today for the many chances that I receive from my God and from my friends and family. Yesterday, I didn't get it right, but today, there's a new chance to yield my will to God's desire for me to love sacrificially.

Grey's having an easier afternoon. He's enjoying the pack and play that I set up in the den to keep him safe just in case I have to pull that Ninja out again. And I'm grateful to have another chance to be a better mom.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Grateful #23- Coffee beans and Christmas trees

This morning, I walked down the stairs to the most glorious smell. Coffee and Christmas tree. We got our live tree yesterday- a seven footer that is taking a prominent space in our living room. I came down here this morning to finish up my BSF lesson, and have been drinking in that sweet scent of evergreen while studying Romans. Time to go literally drink some of the coffee that's been percolating since 5:30 this morning.

Today, I'm grateful for Christmas traditions like bringing sweet-scented evergreen trees into our living rooms. Praise God for the eternal life that tree is a symbol of.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Grateful #22- Happy Holidays

A couple of years ago, I wrote a few blog posts about finding joy in the midst of unhappiness. At the time, I was feeling really unhappy. I was weary of the distance between me and my extended family. My two best buddies I'd made while teaching in Austin had both moved overseas. I was struggling under the weight of four science preps (one of them AP). And Andy and I were trying to figure out how to be parents.

On the one hand, as a middle class, educated, employed, married American mother, it seems a little silly to feel unhappy. I have so much. But, on the other, happiness is an emotion. And, like all emotions, it is completely circumstantial.

I think Christians feel guilty or ashamed about feeling unhappy. Maybe there's some good sense in that. An inventory of God's blessings is a good place to start to chase away a superficial case of the blues. But, at the same time, Christians are not "above" feeling unhappy. I think sometimes we feel like we have to "fake it til we make it"to try to sell people on Jesus. But most people have enough Holden Caulfield in them to sniff out a case of the Christian phonies. And there's no need for false happiness. Jesus doesn't promise to bring us happiness, He guarantees our holiness. I think the best thing we can do for ourselves and for the world is to just be real about where we are.The point of writng about my unhappiness a couple of years ago was to work the truth about Jesus into my heart in that unhappy season. It might be a spoiled American white girl thing to be unhappy in the midst of a mountain of blessings, but it was true for me, and I needed to rejoice in Jesus in those circumstances... not so He could make me happy. So He could make me holy.

Things have changed a lot since those posts. And while there are still some troubling circumstances I wrestle with, I'm in a happier season of life. So today, I'm rejoicing in my happiness. My family is close and everyone is well. My children are small and snuggly and delightful. There is enough money to pay the bills. There is no stress of working outside the home. And as the holidays are upon us, I feel even happier. I hope these days of glad tidings are cold and long and filled with traditions and time with family and friends.

Happiness is not a guarantee. It's not something we can trap. It's not something we can work to achieve. But, when it's here, it's only right to give thanks for it. So today, I am grateful for this happiest start to the holiday season.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Grateful #21- To Grandmother's House We Go

Image result for norman rockwell grandmother's houseWhen I was a kid, I sometimes rode my bike down the half-mile drive that led to my Grandmother's house on Thanksgiving Day. I'd pop out my kick-stand underneath her covered driveway and make my way into the house, which smelled like homemade chicken and pastry. The brick three-bedroom, built in the 1940's, was brimming over with my aunts, uncles and eleven cousins, so we kids usually spilled out into the yard to climb the Sycamore tree or walked down to the "front pond" (a glorified water hole in the cow pasture) Some adult, or one of the older cousins, would have to come and fetch us when it was time to eat.

My grandmother had a stroke when I was in college, and we never had another Thanksgiving meal at her house. It's sad to see the old brick house, which, in recent years, has been filled with renters instead of cousins, stand cold and vacant on Thanksgiving Day.

Story can't ride her bike to Grandmommy's house, but one thirty-minute jaunt listening to "Moana song" and we are there- at a brick house brimming with the same aunts, uncles and cousins plus the spouses and children that have joined us over the years. No one makes chicken and pastry anymore. Or chocolate meringue pie, my grandmother's two best dishes. Maybe it's a sort of reverence that holds us back... no living person will ever match hers. The universe is funny that way. But there will be plenty to eat, of that I am sure.

Today, I am grateful for Grandmother's house. A house filled with family members who might vote and think and dress and do differently from one another, but who gather today to eat and laugh and shoot skeet. To catch up and reminisce. To await that moment when my musical cousin might sit at the piano and charm our ears with the first Christmas songs of the season. I'm grateful for my family, and the way we fill up a house until the kids overflow into the yard and field beyond.

As time passes, we make choices. Do we matter enough to one another to try to stick together? Sometimes, it's hard. Distance and difference can win out, and erase ties that once bound. So I'm grateful that Story gets to go to her Grandmother's house today, and be with a family still working to come together and give thanks.

Wherever your family is today, and whatever it looks like, I hope you will cherish those whom God has given to you. I hope you will give thanks for the past you share, and I hope you will choose to love them into the future. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Grateful #20- It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood

Four out of five days a week, Story, Grey and I go to Fayetteville. I'm one of the "rolling stone gathers no moss" types. But, once a week, we spend a day at home. We usually do this on Thursdays but since tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day, we're at home today.

We made pumpkin spice chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast and then took a walk down the street. It's one of those nice November days in North Carolina... so warm in the sun that we didn't need jackets, but not as humid as it could be. As we walked, yellow leaves came cascading down. Story wore rain boots and splashed in the puddles from last night's rain. Our neighbor stopped his truck to say hello and wish us a happy Thanksgiving.

I marvel at the simple goodness of days like today. It seems surreal that on a planet afflicted with sin's curse, I can walk down my street and feel perfectly safe.

What goodness today brings- the warm sun, the smiling neighbor, the houses with their trimmed hedges and aged trees, my daughter, my son,  and the chance to enjoy autumn's golden good-bye. Today, I'm thankful for this beautiful day in the neighborhood.