July 19, 2011

My First “Worst Mother in the World” Moment

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , at 11:08 pm by Tamara

I had my first “I am the worst mother in the world” moment while we were in Colorado.  Adam could only get a few days off, so I flew out with Rean several days before him.  Of course, before a wedding everything is craziness!  There was a lot to get done, but Rean still needed his mommy.  I ended up feeling guilty because I wasn’t helping as much as I wanted to, and guilty that I couldn’t get to Rean as fast as he was used to me being there for him.

Well, by the time we got to the reception, poor baby was just overwhelmed by everything.  I’d barely held him all day, which I think left him feeling discombobulated and upset.  Adam and I had gotten lost driving to the reception and showed up late (well done, maid of honor) so I was upset about that.  Berean really needed to eat, but he wouldn’t take his bottle and it’s not so easy to nurse in a bridesmaid’s dress in the middle of a reception.  I felt so stressed and so torn trying to divide my attention between his needs and everything else that needed to get done and people that I needed to say hi to.  I finally found a back room where Adam could guard the door, and Rean ate and fell asleep like the sweet baby he is.

And then my bad-mommy-ness really began.   It was the end of the night, Adam wanted to dance, and Rean was asleep in his car seat, so I asked someone if they’d keep an eye on Rean while we danced.  We danced one song, and then it was time to send off the bride and groom.  There were supposed to be candles to pass out, but it hadn’t been done yet, so Adam and I ran over to try and help.  Everyone got their candles lit and we went outside to light the path as the bride and groom left for their honeymoon.  After they were gone I came back inside to collect candles and hug goodbye to the people I hadn’t seen in years and barely spoken to the whole night.

And then…I realized it.  I had left Berean inside.  Alone.  While all the rest of us were outside, Rean was sitting in his car seat, right next to the back door, with no one watching him.  And not only had I left him, I hadn’t even THOUGHT about him before I’d gone outside.  And not only that, but I didn’t even realize I’d left him until my Dad realized we’d left him and said something.  I don’t think I’ve ever felt so sick with horror and fear at a mistake.  It would have been SO easy for someone to grab him, car seat and all, and slip out the back door.  One of the catering staff even came by once I was back by Rean and commented how surprised she was to see a baby all alone in the room (translation: “What kind of a mother are you??”)

Well, that was about it for me.  I was exhausted and feeling sick thinking about what could have happened and furious at myself and just wanted to grab my baby and sit down and cry.  I already had been feeling guilty for days for neglecting him, and this was about as neglectful as you can get.  I can’t think of a much worse thing you can do as a mother than put your child in danger.  Everyone else was cleaning up, but I moved Rean into a corner and just crouched down next to him and watched him sleep.  I’d been putting him down all week to do other things, and I was done!

On the drive home I insisted on sitting in the back seat next to him, and I spent the whole drive down the mountain verbally flogging myself to Adam.  How is it that I can feel a compulsive need to check every five minutes and make sure he’s breathing, but I can completely forget about him and leave him all alone?  Being so scared about “what could have happened” suddenly made me see with perfect clarity what I should have understood the moment Berean was born: God has made this little baby my number one responsibility right now, and it’s perfectly okay to sacrifice other things so that I can take care of him.

Adam agreed with me that it’s really hard to switch our mentality to that.  We’re both used to the idea that you’re supposed to find ways to help and be useful, not just sit in the corner.  But now, God has entrusted us with a little life, a little soul.  And right now, more than he ever will, Rean needs his mommy.  Adam and Berean are more important to me than anything else, and it’s okay for me to act like it.  If people are annoyed that I’m sitting in a corner holding my baby, does it really matter?  (And I honestly think everyone there understood, anyway.)  I believe God has called me to take care of Rean, and now it’s up to me to do whatever I feel like I need to do to care for him.  I’m not saying this means I won’t do anything but be a mommy, but I am passionate about taking care of him, and that means I have to say no to anything that I feel will keep me from doing that.

I know this is only going to get harder as Berean gets older, especially if Adam and I go into full time ministry.  There will be a million good things we could spend our time and energy on, and undoubtedly people who will criticize us for not doing what they think we should.  I’m a people-pleaser, and I’m also prideful.  I want people’s approval.  But more than that, I want to take care of the most precious gift God has ever given me: my family.  And I strongly believe that family is ministry, and that I have no right to mentor other people if I’m not mentoring the child(ren) God has entrusted me with.  I am going to have to learn to say “No” to the good so I can say “Yes” to the most important.

Something else became crystal clear that I should have already gotten: even with all my best efforts, ultimately God will have to take care of Berean.  By His grace, nothing happened.  And it’s only by His grace that my sweet baby is still breathing when I check on him for the twentieth time every night.  I’m going to do everything I can to protect and nurture this little boy, but ultimately he is in God’s hands.  And, ultimately, he couldn’t be in a better place.

October 20, 2009

Hosanna

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , at 9:10 pm by Tamara

In the movie “Hotel Rwanda,” there’s a bitter, disillusioned quote by Joaquin Phoenix’s character, a journalist, who says that even if Westerners do hear about the atrocities happening in Rwanda, all they’ll do is say “That’s so awful!” and then go back to eating their dinners. That piercing challenge and condemnation is my favorite part of the movie.

Today I heard about how soldiers in Guinea, Africa, stormed a stadium of protesters and then murdered and gang-raped a still unknown number of women. They reportedly stripped them and then raped them in broad daylight, shoving guns into some of the women’s vag—s and then shooting (I’d be more graphic, but I’m pretty sure our internet filter would block me from my blog). Guinea is a primarily Muslim country, and one woman interviewed reported being told that “Women belong at home, and if you want a political protest, we’ll give you one.” They said this as they beat and repeatedly raped her. It’s feared that many of the women victimized are too afraid to come forward and seek medical attention because of the cultural and emotional shame.

I wondered if I should give a warning before this post. But WHY? Shouldn’t we know? Shouldn’t we care? Shouldn’t we DO something? And WHAT?!? What can I do?

As I sat down to write an update, my brain was schizophrenically bouncing between the mundane details of my life and the things I’ve been researching about human rights, refugees, immigration, etc. I decided the other day that I need a new topic to dig into and gnaw on. Islam has been my “topic” for years now. I’ve read everything I could get my hands on, talked with countless people about it, done presentations, befriended converts from Islam, gone to Islamic countries…. But I’ve been noticing lately that all the new books I pull off the shelf about Islam sound…like something I’ve already read. I know I’m not even close to knowing all there is to know about Islam, but it’s all starting to blur. So, I started praying, “what should I plunge into now?” And *bam!* up came refugee issues. Now where should I go with this? Human rights issues? Effects of war on third-world countries? Immigration and asylum policy? I think I’ll research them all. If my stomach and soul can handle it.

Oh, God’s grace is so deep. Why doesn’t He destroy us all? How can He stand to watch us do the hideously evil things we do? After just a few days of reading about these issues, I feel sick. And then yesterday I read Ephesians 2:4-7 “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”

Why, Lord? How can your grace and love be so deep? And how can I have such a shallow understanding of them?

I don’t think we “go back to our dinners” because we don’t care; I think comes from a feeling of helplessness. I know I feel helpless. I’m outraged and horrified and broken over what just happened in Guinea, and what’s happening in countless other countries. But what can I do? I don’t know. But I’m determined to find out. You can probably expect to hear more about this in the months to come. At least I sure hope you can. I don’t want to go back to my dinner. God, help us to defend the helpless in your name. Hosanna, Lord! Deliver us!

September 13, 2009

Splash!

Posted in Water Droplets tagged , , , at 10:34 pm by Tamara

Several weeks ago I took another dragging, trudging step forward in the vast wasteland known as “unemployment.” I thought that application would probably end (like all the ones before it) in a mirage of hot, scratchy sand, but to my amazement (splash, flounder, gasp!) suddenly the sand dropped out from under me and –water! That’s right, I have a JOB! Thank You, Lord!! And not only that, it’s at a bookstore, a fact I couldn’t be more tickled about. It feels so unbelievable to have the weight of insecurity and worry and guilt for not working suddenly gone; really like I went from dragging my dehydrated, sun burnt self painfully forward to suddenly falling into and floating in cool, clear water. Relief!

I don’t think I scored too high on this Desert Exercise. Mom reminded me of my “retrospectacles” several times—I told her once they were broken. And of course, in retrospect, God came through, both in providing a job for me and taking care of us when I didn’t have one. Sometimes I did okay, but I think my attitude towards Him and His choices for my life was pretty bad several times, especially considering what I know about Him and what I’ve have seen Him do. I suppose that every time I’m ashamed of my attitude towards Him, it’s a reminder to do better next time. I DO see Him growing my faith, and there were some bright spots of trust this summer. And His provision has given me one more stone to add to my monument to His faithfulness—one more thing to remember when times get hard again.

July 20, 2009

Three Chances to Murder

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , , at 4:51 pm by Tamara

He didn’t kill him. I wonder how long he crouched in the cool, damp air, watching the man who was pursuing him with irrational hatred sleep soundly in the center of his camp. He’d had countless other opportunities to kill him, like that day in the dark depths of the cave when he was no more than a hand’s breath away from him—and hadn’t. Instead of accepting the allegiance of the people who adored him and would no doubt fight to see this insane enemy of his displaced, he’d chosen to leave his home and live in desolate mountain places with a band of miserable thugs. Now here he stood watching him sleep while the warrior beside him begged him to let him go and take vengeance at last. Did he think of how unjust it all was? Did he resent that he’d done nothing to deserve this life of running and fighting and nearly starving? But he said no.

“God has chosen him,” he whispered, “And God-forbid that I’d do anything to hurt God’s anointed. God will deal with him, but we couldn’t hurt him and be guiltless.”

And so once again he showed breathtaking nobility and walked away, his faith utterly in God to justify him. He knew that he was blameless before God, knew he hadn’t done any of the things he was being accused of. He resisted the temptation to murder, not once, but twice. And could it even be considered murder? God had chosen him to be king and delivered the evil king who pursued him right into his hands, twice. But he put his beliefs to action and left it up to God. He was not a murderer. He was the farthest thing from it.

I wonder if he rested securely in that, knowing that murder was a temptation he knew how to resist. Did he revel in the joy of facing a great temptation and passing the test? Did he praise God for helping him to do what was right? Did he think that, whatever happened, at least he knew he would never be a murderer?

And then, suddenly, it is years later, and he has been given everything he’s dreamed. God has lavishly rewarded him for the way he has followed Him and striven after His heart. He’s walked intimately with God, heard countless people tell him what an example he’s been to them, how much he’s encouraged them to walk rightly and resist temptation. But now Nathan the prophet is standing in front of him in his rough robes, his eyes full of disappointment and anger and disbelief, and in four words everything shatters to pieces: “Thou art the man.”

He is a murderer.

http://restorationupdates.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/david-and-nathan.jpg

One of our elders spoke on Sunday about David and Bathsheba, and this struck me like it never had before. Up to this point, David was not a murderer. He was the farthest thing from it. He could have written a book on it: The Idiot’s Guide to Not Murdering Anyone, Even Your Worst Enemy. It would have been a best-seller; his blog would have been the top viewed site of the year; he would have received endless fan mail from it. He KNEW how to resist this temptation and had proven himself many times. And then, out of seemingly nowhere comes this hideous chain of events: his adultery with the wife of a man who is not only one of his loyal mighty men but also the son of one of his closest advisors, followed by ordering his murder. It’s a sick, jarring slash across the life of an incredible man of God. Every time I read it, his adultery reminds me that no one is ever above sin, even the best person. But this time Jim’s message made me think just a little deeper. I knew David had never committed adultery before, but I’d never thought about how he’d refused to murder his worst enemy, King Saul, TWICE, and then he murders Uriah, his friend and loyal warrior. What changed?

Was it easier to resist temptation when he knew he was blameless—easier to trust God to solve the mess when he hadn’t done anything to deserve the mess? He knew God was capable of saving his life and making him king of an entire nation, so he resisted murder. But did he think God wouldn’t help rescue him once he’d committed a horrible sin? What did he think would happen if he just admitted his sin with Bathsheba? Did he think God couldn’t, or wouldn’t, save him? Did he feel so guilty that he decided, rather than throwing himself on God’s mercy, that he had no choice but to try to solve this problem himself?

I see this cowering weakness in myself. It’s easy for me to run to God for help when I’m doing well. “My enemies pursue me without cause!” I cry to God, and fearlessly and gladly ask for His help against sin. But what about when the mess is my fault? What about when I go to God, not as a blameless shepherd, but as a horrible failure and adulterer? Is THAT when I start to take matters into my own hands?

Yes, it is. Maybe not to the extent of murdering anyone (unless we’re talking about murdering them in my heart, which is a whole different topic.) But I’m no different than David, and it could definitely go there. What if David had boldly approached the throne for mercy and help in his time of need before he tried to cover it up by murdering Uriah? Maybe he would have gone down in history—yes, as an adulterer, but not a murderer. And I know God would have helped him. He helped David even after he was both, when he cried out simply, “Have mercy on me, oh God, according to your unfailing love!”

Sin is a snare, not just because of its consequences, but because of how powerfully it tempts me to run from God and try to hide my shame. But He urges me over and over again to claim my life in Christ and accept that through faith in His son, I have boldness and confident access to Him no matter what (Eph. 3:12). And I need to use that access. He promises that when I timidly crack open the doors and enter His throne room He’ll welcome me with open arms, no matter how I’ve failed—whether it’s as small as a grumpy attitude or as gigantic as murder and adultery. He promises to come running to meet me and embrace me, even if I’m the prodigal daughter covered in reeking mud from the pigsty. I need to remember that. I need to burn that truth onto my heart and radiate that same grace to others. Like David, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” But what a wonderful, powerful grace it is.

Jude 1:24-25 Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

July 14, 2009

The Breakdown–Part 2

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , , , at 5:17 pm by Tamara

I don’t know why I’ve had such a hard time writing this post.  Maybe (probably) because I don’t fully get it yet.  There’s no “Ba-da-bing!  God fixed it!” ending yet.  But since I don’t feel like I can blog about anything else until I finish this, and since I’m afraid I’ve made some of you wonder if I’m on the brink of losing it completely (ha), I’d better finish it!

So, that said, “Good morning, class; today I’m giving you a pop quiz!  <deep, evil laugh of evilness>”  Question One:  Find the common denominator:  “What if I’m doing something wrong?  What if I’m sinning?  What if I’m not listening to Him?  What if this is my fault?  What if I’m being lazy?  What if I can’t do it?”

I spend a LOT of time trying to dissect those questions, or similar ones.  It was my brilliantly astute husband who once pointed out (during my tirade of similar fears), “There are a lot of ‘I’s’ in those questions.”  That hit me like a ton of bricks—I’d never thought about that before.  His point was that I’d been worrying so much about myself and my actions that I’d lost my focus on Christ.

I tend to be terrified of my own weaknesses and sin nature.  That kind of sounds like a spiritual thing, but it isn’t; not when I get so fixated on my own weaknesses that I stop being fixated on the Lord.  If the definition of an idol is anything I put before God, then I’m actually idolizing my sin nature by acting as if it’s more powerful than God’s ability to convict me, guide me, even rescue me.  If He wants me to walk rightly even more than I do—and I know He does—why would I worry that He’d give me the cold shoulder when I ask Him if I’m doing anything wrong?

That also comes back to a misunderstanding of sin and fellowship.  I thought for a long time that my sin broke my fellowship with God—that He wouldn’t help or listen to me if I was in sin.  But that didn’t make sense to me, mainly because that would create an impossible cycle.  I can never get out of sin without His help, but if He won’t help me or fellowship with me until I’m not sinning, how can I stop?

Years ago one of my favorite teachers at the Bible school, Rick Barth, pointed out to me that what breaks our fellowship isn’t just sin, but our refusal to agree with God that we’re sinning (confess).  He convicts me and shines His light on my sin, and I either agree with Him and stay in the light, or I refuse to listen to Him and then, when the light becomes too uncomfortable, I, MYSELF step out of His light and fellowship.  It’s not that God will only tolerate me so far before He’ll shun me in order to punish me.  He’s always there to gently show me my sin and urge me to walk in the new life He’s given me—it’s ME who either listend or turns away.

This also touches on how deeply I feel like God’s acceptance of me and willingness to work with me is based on my performance.  I know in my head that it isn’t, that He views me in His son and has told me to boldly come to His throne of grace for help.  But I still want desperately to be “doing good,” and I’m afraid sometimes my view of Him is warped enough to think He’ll abandon me if I don’t keep doing well.  I forget He loved me while I was still an unsaved sinner, and worry that now that I’m a saved child who sins, He just might decide to stop loving me—at least until I get my act together.  Which also shows a warped view of myself.  As if Jesus’ death and life wasn’t QUITE enough, and I can somehow work hard enough to make Him love me more.

So what’s the bottom line on all this?  I need to stop pacing outside His throne room, examining every little thing I’ve done, terrified that I might have done something wrong and He’s behind those doors fuming, just waiting for me to come in so He can punish me.  Or ignore me.  Or any of the many things He could do, other what He’s promised TO do: give me grace, mercy, and help in my need.  I need to stop freaking out and get my eyes back on Him.  If I’m doing something wrong, He’ll show me, and He’ll help me.  And if I’m not, it’s okay to just wait and keep moving forward.  More scared analyzing of MYSELF and MY fears and MY failures isn’t going to get me nearly so far as just sitting at His feet and asking Him for HIS assessment and guidance.  And if He chooses not to say anything about me right now, then that’s fine—I can still look at HIM.  That’s plenty to fill my mind and heart.