The Mask

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.
Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
       We wear the mask.
We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
       We wear the mask!
“We Wear the Mask” by Paul Dunbar
Been going through a rough time recently with a lot of changes in my family life as we are adjusting to being a larger family. As with many major changes, conflict can easily follow. Its all part of life that two people share together. But this isn’t about the struggles that I have had with my wife, I have been thinking about the hypocrisy of hiding my struggles from those around me.
I’ve always tried to control and calculate my life once I hit my teenage years and didn’t like change because it left me vulnerable. Now I had to get past certain things for sure to go to college, apply for jobs, marrying my wife(haha). But I’ve always hid parts of me from the different circles that I may be in. Sometimes its not appropriate to be sharing all that you are doing, like at work. Work places may just be better for general conversations unless that is your friend base. For me, my job is my way of taking care of my family and I generally don’t mix my personal life in. Then we have our friends, our church groups or sports groups; what ever it is past there. I would dare to say though that we still only show parts of ourselves to those who we call “friends”.
This is Dunbar’s point. I think there is especially great pressure now with all the social media pushing the pictures of happiness, self help books, Youtubers making slogans like “happiness is a choice” or “Smile More” as if there is a personal solution to every issue we face in life. But we still fall short; and most of us will hide that and act like the times are still good. Recently I opened up to a friend about some of the stuff that I was struggling over with my wife and his response was “I thought you guys were solid.” Solid yes that we took our marriage vows earnestly when we said tell death do us part, but that never meant we weren’t going to have arguments or hurt each other emotionally. We are still broken and are part of a broken world.
Paul wrote numerous times to various churches (I Thess 5:11; Eph 4:2-3; Heb. 10:24-25) about the building each other up. However, we will never know how to build one another up if we aren’t humbling ourselves and living open with one another. Last night, my wife and I were challenged by one of our pastors and his wife to seek out those around us at church and in humility to ask for help and advice for our lives. This isn’t going to people and pouring out our woeful story; this is coming and admitting we are struggling and that we need help walking through or away from whatever is hurting us.
Jesus spoke about those who made appearances on the outward but concealed who they really were (Matt 23:25-29 is a great reference). Its easy to think that when Jesus warned his disciples about the religious leaders, that it wouldn’t characterize us. And yet, all the disciples left Jesus when he was arrested and Peter went on to deny even knowing him. So we can’t say that we don’t share in the same short falls that we see in others. But to end with this thought, James says in 1:6 that if we doubt when we pray (Christians doubting) we are as unstable as water in a storm, which means we have forgotten the power of the gospel and are allowing the power of this world to tell us what is possible and not possible. Let us remember the power of God and let go of our fears, essentially take off our mask. Time to build true relationships with others who believe the power of God is making us new and is completing His work every day to accomplish His plans for us.
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Where I Find Him

Sometimes we need to step away and meet Jesus somewhere. Especially, when we are feeling lost. So here I am, at one of my most favorite domains, a coffee shop. Where I am drawing and listening to gospel filled music. Inspiring me to move forward. In the mist of it all my heart for God exploded. All the tossing and turning of being so lost of who and where I am going finally came crushing down. Being in His presence made me noticed how much of it all was joking me. As well as, realizing how much I’ve missed His presence. God had to remind me again who I’m living for. He meant me in the place where is most special to me. In the beauty of creating. Expressing myself in art is where I find Him. This is how I worship Him. This is where I find His pleasure.

Future/Past by John Mark McMillan

[Chorus]

And you

You are my first

You are my last

You are my future and my past

A Thought on Marriage

So I have a friend getting married this next weekend. He and I have talked a lot about what to expect and he has asked a lot about different aspects of my marriage over the last five years with Rachel. These chats have been good, but ultimately my experience will mean nothing to the battles that he will face in his own marriage. With marriage being as tough as it is, its no wonder the divorce rate is so high especially with my short sighted generation. But there are two things that I must remind myself of to keep me balanced and loving the love of my life.

First, I think we all perceive or claim that we are characterized by this but who’s really fooling them self about patients. My pastor recently described patients from its Greek or Latin root meaning to be “long suffering with love.” Hello, I can’t say that about myself. I will interact with a coworker and turn right around and let someone know how frustrated I am. It’s not in any human being nature to be long suffering, let alone long suffering with love. And yet, this is a lesson that God wanted to teach me in life which is why he decided I should take on the intimacy of marriage at a younger age than most of my peers.

Second is giving grace. Because who really merits that kiss goodnight and a back rub while making dutch ovens under the covers. Or how can I expect my wife to love me every time I break my promise of when I will be coming home. Grace is giving unmerited favor, just as God gave Christ as our payment. I love my wife, but I do struggle at times acting out with such grace.

But really, Marriage has been one of the greatest changes in my life and brought maturity in a way that I would have neglected before. I love my wife and know that we have a long while to go until one of us kicks the bucket and so much more of me will be needed to make all this work. I just thank God that He is good and will provide all that I need when storms come…. or more children, they challenge me to. But as the great philosopher Jim Gaffigan says that his wife is the best thing that ever happened to him and with each child he becomes a better man. This is my marriage, what about yours?

My Social Issues

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Alright, I had a melt down. I think I am finally figuring out the pattern. It’s being isolated and not getting a break. This week I had almost every day a play date or some sort of outing which I would been able to get out and have a little freedom. This week mostly everything got canceled. Unfortunately, stuff like this happens even with my efforts to get out and find some social time. When it doesn’t happen it really comes back at me, because I am that person that does well with interaction and I need a break. Sounds totally reasonable, right?

One issue I come up with is that I am not one of those moms that just because I need a social life I am not going to do things that are a typical mom thing to do. I don’t know what other word to put it. I don’t mean to be harsh. I am a rebel when it comes to being different in some situations.  I am not a library reading/ singing along mom, I am not a mom that does MOPS ( maybe if my own church had one), and I don’t do mass public places/ money activities. If you like that sort of thing. Good for you! I wish I could be you! My social life would be so much more easier. I personally hate them, I don’t feel comfortable mentally and physically in those  environments. I  do try them, but why be miserable with doing things that are not for me?

What is their for a mom in this culture? I would love to go nature hiking, exploring with my kids, and do artsy things, but it’s just not time for me to do that yet. My kids are not at that age for certain activities and my thirty-two week prego belly just can’t function with two toddlers. Plus all that extra needed energy. What do you mommas do that love nature and don’t want to get trapped into the norm of just doing stuff just because? Let’s get creative. Let’s discover what we are uniquely creatively called to be as a woman and a momma. How can we thrive in what God gives to us and enjoy life? Let’s help each other out and think outside the box of what to do, instead of doing things that culture only hands to us. Who wants to bear much fruit with our labor (raising hand)!?

Whenever I get confused about what a stay home mom is suppose to look like, I think of the women in Proverbs 31. It’s a short chapter, I would advise you to read it( I just reread it again). It displays all the things that this women of the Lord was praised over. She did more than just find socialization, entertain her children, and keep the house clean. She worked to provide her home with good things, she gardens and provides for her workers and family, she helps others in need, she dresses herself well and keeps healthy and strong, she sells clothes that she makes, and teaches kindness, she fears the Lord, and EVERYONE calls her blessed.

SHE’S SO AWESOME! I want to be like this woman! Who is fruitful.  Look at all the things she does! I don’t know about you, but I am jazzed right now and encouraged by this woman.  It definitely, gives me ideas of all the other possible Biblical things that a women of God can do with her time. We don’t have to get in that trap of what we think a momma social life is suppose to look like. Our social life doesn’t have to evolve around our children. Our lives doesn’t have to priorities keeping our children happy 24/7. It’s not our purpose. I want to stop beating myself up when I don’t socialize like another mom does. What I am suppose to all do for my kids. What a stay at home mom “doesn’t do.” All the answers are in the Word of God!

Questions:

  • What do you think God is calling you to do individually?
  • What is your favorite daily routine you would like to share on here? I would love to get some ideas. 🙂

Going to the Source

Its been a long two weeks for me. Rachel joined our church on a mission in England, volunteering at a festival in southern England. I know that I encouraged her to go as we felt the calling of the Holy Spirit and that this was a time that we needed to learn and listen to what God was saying, but its been a long two weeks with my boys without her. What did I learn, that I need Love and Patience to continue as a leader.

Funny part about this need is that even though these words seem to have a separate spectrum of character, they cannot be without each other. First, the definition of patience is long suffering with Love. However, I don’t think that most people would define patience within Love. Google defines love as a deep affection for something and then into the modern cultures sexual perspective.

We might say that Patience is a by product of Love, but is it really? Many people are familiar with I Corinthians 14:4-8 (Love is patient, love is kind) which might argue this, but I believe that these two are only part of who we are meant to be in the full spectrum. All who believe that Jesus is God also are submitting themselves to the Spirit of God should be submitting themselves to the fruits of the Spirit which is a work of God (also called Sanctification, just didn’t want to throw that out there as I have friends who are unfamiliar with that word). In Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

My point is this, I suck at all of these, not just patience and love….. but really you cannot live one fully without the others. Its easy to believe that you are a loving person, but if you lack peace or faithfulness, are you really living in love? Our greatest call is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength; and to love our neighbor as ourselves. In love, we reach out to others and put them before ourselves rightly (as not out of command but with true humility) that they may know God fully. But without exercising all aspects of the Spirit, we cannot love. However, our saving grace is that God gave to us his Spirit to bring about the Fruit. Which means to love others means to allow him to work within us and our worship and obedience will result in the love to our family, neighbors, road hogs, or disgruntled coworkers not listening to what I am saying. Yes, I have issues with the people around me. But we will never find perfection as long as we are living, this world is only doomed for destruction after the fall of Adam, but I can allow my spirit to be perfected as I am a sojourner here traveling to eternity.

Really in all, I am missing so many parts of being the humble leader that I need to be within my home. But that’s ok as long as I’m submitting myself to listen to what God is teaching me now and to allow Him to pick me up and chastise me as I fall away or go my own course. That is the beauty of His plan and not mine. Where I lack or try to control, He will use to break me down and use me for His purpose down the road. Another subject is consequences of going my own way, but that is another blog. Seek Him with your whole heart and He will reveal himself (Jeremiah 29:13), and as you continue to seek Him, the Holy Spirit will bring about all who we are meant to be.

(Sorry if this blog is rambling or jumbled in thought. Needed to write again to keep writing as I hate to write and would love to end the habit. As I was about to write, my youngest woke up early and woke his brother up. I have multiple sets of ankles in my side as I write.)

Call to Action

As I introduced myself last week, I’ve felt lead to write about what I have been called to do in my life and ultimately affect my family’s life. I need to lead. I used to think that this could just be managing things within my home, but that blew up in my face. This is where I saw my short comings as a husband and a father, this is where the refining fire began to show me aspects of myself that I needed to learn for our future.

Part of life is that we assimilate what we know or have experienced into who we are. My dad did a great job leading the family which must have taken great strength, especially as we were five rambunctious kids. He has always been a good role model but I lost site as I began to take my own path to support myself and then my wife. I began to learn the manager lifestyle. I’ve always had good or decent managers that I have worked under; but they mostly only worked to run their store and to get duties done. They facilitated conversation and supported those who reported to them.

This is how I was “leading” my marriage and kids. I got stuff done; meaning I went to work, helped with chores around the house, played with the kids… I facilitated conversation, which one can imagine meant my wife was bringing most of the conversation to the table and was asking the important questions about how we were supposed to be raising our children. Talking about placing a burden on our marriage. Oh, and I’m not the most considerate guy, taking to mind that my wonderful wife needs her own time regardless if she is voicing it or not. Managing in a reactive style.

Two years ago, Rachel and I went through a time of painful realization that I was disengaged from the family as I was pursuing what I thought was my calling. As we worked through that year with job changes and moving, I learned to be more of a proactive manager, which released some of the strain in our marriage but I was continuing to manage life instead of  living life under my Heavenly Fathers leadership and learning.

Come this year, I knew God had been working in me as I now have a clearer view of what it means to be a husband and father, a leader. As the leader in the home, I’m not above or the only one handling the direction of the home. But it does mean that I finalize the decisions made within our family; it means I take responsibility when crap hits the fan; it means that my wife can let go of the pressure of being the only one raising the kids as I step in to help raise them. My generation is lost due to the lack of leaders in the home; the lack of men and women stepping in alongside of them when they were younger. The idea that money will bring happiness has driven parents from their kids giving many youth and young adults little discernment on who they should be looking up to as role models. I pray and aspire that this will not be how Rachel and I raise our two boys and coming daughter to be left to be blown around without any roots to hold them fast to truth.

This is my past and what the Holy Spirit is calling me from. He has been calling me for a long time to leave behind my feeble attempts to manage life, but I wasn’t willing to hear that short coming. But now he has broken through that point of pride in my life. Cost of gambling with my pride is much too high for my family’s sake. I have visions for each one of them that I believe where given by the Holy Spirit for me to pour into them, but why listen to someone who doesn’t have the strength to face up to life themself?