Refusing to believe I AM NOT

piano keys worship music

I am not a worship leader.

These were the first words that came to mind when our associate pastor asked me if I’d be interested in leading worship at a winter family camp retreat this past weekend.

Let’s be frank. I’m not. I pound on the enormous ebony grand piano in our church with all my heart most Sundays, but I am not the leader, the melody, or the keeper of time. I am the background. The harmony. The filler of sound.

Saying yes was a stretch, not only of my capabilities, but of what I believed about myself.

Even though I stress telling the truth to my children (one in particular that needs help deciphering her imagination from her reality), it’s embarrassing to admit that I routinely lie… to myself. These lies range from big to little: I’m not a good mother, I can’t keep anything together, I’m a mess, I never have time, I shouldn’t say yes, and my particular favorite thorn, I’m not enough.

Sometimes, I can see these lies for what they are – trickery, falsehood, arrows aimed at the heart of who I want to be. Other days, I fall into their wide open trap.

***

This weekend, we had the opportunity for some family play time in the Big Sandy Camp gym during the retreat. One of the activities offered was crate stacking. I’m not sure where this originated, but it’s a unique (and strange) challenge.

The crate stacker harnesses up in climbing gear, and hooks into the belay. Then the stacker starts stacking, creating a tower of side by side plastic milk crates. The operative is to stack enough crates on top of one another in order to touch the ceiling of the gym. Helpers hand, then toss, then all out throw the crates up to the stacker, who attempts to do all of this while maintaining balance, managing fear, and ignoring the burn and tingle of tired muscles.

crate stacking

I watched the process, and point blank told myself, I’m not going to be good at that. 

That was, actually and probably, the truth. I have torn cartilage in my knees and a marginal sense of balance. As much as I love thrill-seeker experiences, my performance abilities are average at best.

But something inside me said, do it anyway.

So I did. I put on the ridiculous harness that accentuates parts of me that don’t particularly need to be accentuated, stepped on the first crate, and started stacking.

I stacked, and squealed, and wobbled, and laughed, and kept on climbing. I felt fear tighten my senses and narrow my vision. I gulped in enormous, burning breaths and felt the green plastic crates swaying under my nervousness.

I stacked until my lower half tingled with exhaustion and nervousness, and then I slowly stood up, still a few too many inches away from that corrugated white metal ceiling. I knew, with the certainty born of experience, that if I stayed up much longer I was going to fall. My feet were numb, my legs were burning, and I couldn’t steady myself enough to catch and climb another crate. My only chance at reaching the ceiling was to jump for it.

I shouted down to my belay that this was it, I was going to jump. And in that moment, I knew I probably would not reach my goal. The probability of my getting enough vertical to hit the ceiling by jumping off a 20 foot stack of precarious milk crates was decidedly low. 

But falling, without trying, was not something I wanted to do either. So I jumped.

I jumped, and I reached, and I missed.

And in that moment of exhilarating failure, I felt the rope catch my body as I stretched my arms wide anyway, realizing that I could still fly on the way down.

jump fly fail

***

Believing the lies we tell ourselves is a common plague. And like the plagues of ancient Egypt, they are dangerously incapacitating.

I am not turns into I can’t, and I can’t turns into I won’t, and I won’t turns into a heart closed off from the possibility of growth in our lives.

One of the lines from an All Sons and Daughters song named Called Me Higher that we sang at the retreat this weekend said it this way: “I could hold on. I could hold on to who I am and never let you change me from the inside.”

It’s easy to hold on to our lies, isn’t it? It’s easy because lies feel like truths in our moments of messing up. Saying I am not confirms something about what just happened, whether it’s failure, or a faltering, or a simple mistake that we’d easily forgive someone else.

Believing the abstract of I am, or I can is much harder. It means trusting our intrinsic worth over our temporal works.

For a person of faith, asserting our I am’s over our I am not’s is an act of belief. It is understanding that God’s words are more than stories and platitudes from an ancient book; they are promises from a living and active Father who wants us to recognize and be secure in the value he created us with.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. -1 John 3:1

I said yes to leading worship. I said yes, knowing full well that I’m not a worship leader, and that very soon, everyone at the retreat would know that too. I said yes because despite my limitations, I love to play, sing, and be a part of a community of praise.

Yes meant possibility. Yes meant growth. Yes meant serving something bigger than my own need to be perfect.

Yes meant that I am not had no power over what could be done if I simply tried.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Twin Toddlerhood – The 18 Month Chronicles


I thought that life with two toddlers (and a preschooler) was, quite possibly, going to be a nightmare.

There. I said it.

I love my girls – don’t misunderstand me there. I was just scared out of my mind to have them actually move. They were so lovely and contained in their bouncy seats, their swings. I could always see their hands.

IMG_6456Fear had me imagining how one would be splashing in the sink, and the other would be heading for the basement stairs. Or one would be noshing in the flour tub, and the other would be climbing into the dryer. Or maybe they’d both make a pact to destroy the only houseplant I’ve kept alive for over a decade.

Perhaps that’s a fear of every mother with multiple children. A mama can only be in one place at one time. But children don’t abide by those rules. Toddlers run all over like the butter you were only supposed to soften in the microwave. Preschoolers slather themselves, and the surrounding walls, in vaseline because they have an owie. On their toe.

Meanwhile, in the middle of me trying to figure out how to quit being afraid of calling my girls toddlers, Gabby got off her knees and balanced on her heels, arms held wide. She was slow and methodical, and immensely pleased with herself. Lucy joined her after a month, and immediately, life changed. Thankfully, it changed in a very good way.

Here at 18 months and fully mobile, the girls are happier. More self-directed. (My three and half year old included.) They are less apt to scream for things they can’t reach, whine for something across the room, or cry because they need a change of scenery.

IMG_20150112_105823_308 (1)

No way, sister. No way.

Along with the physical steps, they’ve started making verbal strides as well. Words are still sparse, but every day I hear them say something new. I also now catch them singing, talking on the phone (any object with buttons), and jabbering to their stuffed animals. They’ve also mastered the art of yes and no. Specifically no.

But by far the best thing I’ve noticed this month is their level of affection toward one another. I’m friends with a lovely group of twin mamas on Facebook and Instagram, and I’d always feel a twinge of jealousy when I saw their twins hugging one another, kissing each other, or sleeping side by side.

kiss

                Love.

Then a couple of weeks ago, I noticed something new. Lucy rested her head on Gabby’s shoulder in the shopping cart. It was the first time I’d seen them intentionally take comfort from one another.

Since then, I’ve seen all three of my girls venture into the territory of sisterly affection. I caught Ellis holding Lucy in our old blue rocking chair, singing you are my sunshine, my only sunshine. Gabby has started giving kisses on demand. Lucy is always game to snuggle with any of her sisters that are sitting down.

It’s nothing short of amazing to me. All of it. The walking. The attempts at talking. The affection.

In all my fearful wonderings about how it was going to work managing two toddlers and a preschooler, I made a big mistake. I didn’t temper my fear with any IMG_7305 (1024x749)daydreams of how awesome it was going to be to see my girls grow.  (Or in today’s case, how interesting it would be to type with a baby sitting on the desk in front of me, randomly poking at the keys.)

That sounds so rote. I know. Don’t worry about the scary stuff!! Think about the good stuff!! Smiley face!! Hearts!!

But please. Promise me something. Promise me you’ll try envisioning your children growing up. Not because I said so. Not because you need another piece of advice to pin, or something  to write on your chalkboard, or another link to store in your phone. Try it because if you’re anything like me, it’s simply too easy to lose sight of the big picture.

We are raising our children to be people.

Imagine your daughter sitting at the piano. Your son designing his first science project. Your teenagers sitting down at the table for pizza night. Think about the first time your child tells you they’re in love.

Fear doesn’t deserve as much space as we give it in this life- motherhood or otherwise. But growth?

Growth deserves all the energy we can give it.