Monday, January 9, 2017

Apple dolls and being poor in spirit

I was awoken yesterday morning and it was immediately evident to me that God had seemingly neglected to provide me enough patience to outlast the day. My seven-year-old had barged into my room with a book in hand, breaking the peaceful silence. She was quick to inform me that it was far too dark in my room for her to be able to read any of the words on the book's pages. 

"So I'm just going to turn on your light for a second," she told me.

Before I could even formulate in my mind what was happening, a bright, blinding beam shone straight into my squinting eyes.

"I want to make an apple doll, Mom," she announced, as if that was was the most obvious thing a person would desire at 7 AM on a Sunday. "Mom, it's time for you to get up. Look! See here's how you do it."

She had shoved the book in front of my face and was pointing to the "simple" seventeen step process.

You have got to be kidding, I thought. This is NOT happening to me right now. I had my doubts as to whether I could successfully create an apple doll with a week's heads-up to plan. For SURE I would be unable to whip one up right now with the measly 30 minutes I had to ready both myself and the three kids for church.

This isn't atypical in our household. In fact, it is more or less our frequent morning routine. I have a child who is bursting with creative energy at all hours of the day and night. She awakens ready to go and expects the rest of the family to do the same. She adores crafting and constructing and is saddened by a full recycling bin. "Think of all the things we could have made with all that cardboard," she often tells me. "And here someone is just throwing it away."

At times I am convinced she was born to the wrong mother. I do enjoy creating but only on MY time, when I've planned ahead and carefully thought it all through and gathered the supplies. My daughter doesn't care about such details; she's always game to improvise.

So back to yesterday. The morning proceeded. I'll spare you all the nitty gritty details but I'll suffice it to say we were all operating under a healthy case of sleep deprivation so there was a lot of whining and neediness involved. I put the kabosh on the apple doll, at least for the time being. We were out of lemon juice after all. There was much disappointment from all parties over all sorts of things. Graham was already at church and I was flying solo, trying to get the rest of us there. The morning was harried. I was harried.

When we finally arrived at church, even the walk from car to building became an ordeal. I marched swiftly in the rain, carrying one kid who simply can't walk when there is moisture in the air. We were trailed by two whining girls whose shoes malfunctioned the entire way. I practiced my Lamaze breathing, exhaling under my breath "God, you didn't give me enough patience for this day."

This was my posture as I wearily made my way into the sanctuary and took my seat in the pew. The morning had reminded me of all the ways I didn't feel cut out for the gig of mothering and I entered church knowing that, left to my own devices, I simply wouldn't cut it.

The pastor was starting a new series, preaching from Matthew chapter 5. His sermon was beautiful and wonderful and fitting. He read to us verse 3 which says:

"Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven"

I'd never really thought about this phrase before - the idea of being "poor in spirit." What did it mean? Poverty isn't something our culture aspires toward. How could this idea of being "poor" be a desirable, blessed thing? Our pastor went on to define poverty for us.

"Poverty is the gap between what is needed and what I have." 

I'd never really thought about it this way before. In other words, what Jesus was saying was, blessed are those who recognize that their calling is impossible on their own. Blessed are the poor in spirit.

Stop for a minute and allow those words sink in. Blessed is the one who recognizes her calling is impossible on her own.

Gosh, was he watching me parent this morning? I thought. In this sense of the word, I had definitely experienced some poverty in the hours that preceded. Though my initial words to him came out more accusation than request ("You didn't give me enough patience!"), they morphed over the course of the morning into a prayer ("God, I need you to step in right now and provide patience where I have none.") This act of crying out to God was a way of highlighting the gap - pointing out the discrepancy between what I had and what I needed. It was a tangible example of this new version of poverty - a recognition that my calling was impossible alone.

I came to church yesterday morning knowing I was empty. My pastor says it's the one whose hands are empty that get filled. On that day it was a lack of patience. The day before that it was a dissatisfaction with my body and my self esteem. Today it will be something new and then tomorrow it will be fear, and the day after that it will be something different entirely. Each day will present ample opportunity to see our inadequacies. And each day we have the choice to continue striving, fighting to do it all on our own. Or we can come humbly before the throne of God, releasing the veil of self-sufficiency, empty, fully aware of the gap between where we are and where we want to be: poor in spirit.

Thank you Jesus for these children and the endless ways they point us to you.

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posted by kelsie