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Archive for January, 2012

Bend lower, Liz…

Bend lower, Liz.

*****

It all started over the summer.  I was getting Annelise and I ready for church because Royce left early to lead worship.  The phrase “getting Annelise and I ready” sounds so simple, but at this stage it’s definitely not.  She’s at that awkward age where she won’t be confined to a play device anymore, but she’s not old enough to be trusted on her own.  So I was hugely pregnant and had to wrestle every bathroom item away from her as I strategized in my head how to shower, get ready, get her ready and get out the door.

By the time we left (late of course), I was so frustrated.  Mad even.  I had this dialogue in my mind the whole way to church.  “There is no way I can do this.  I’m exhausted before I’ve even left the house.  Royce just can’t lead worship at church anymore.  Not during this season.  It’s just too hard.”  I got to church, dropped Annelise off at childcare and walked into the service partway through the songs my husband was leading.  I settled into my seat and looked around.  At all the people in our church being led in worship by my husband.

And God said to me, very gently and very kindly, “Liz, he can’t do this if you don’t do that.”  

And I started to cry.  One, because honestly I was kind of mad.  This wasn’t what I signed up for.  I wanted to be noticed and appreciated.  No one will ever come thank me for getting our kids ready for church (and putting make up on, no less) so that my husband can lead worship.  

I also cried because I knew that God was right.  My husband is an extremely gifted worship leader.  I would say he’s one of the best.  God could have knocked me down in my pride and frustration and sin.  But instead, He gently asked me to bend my knee in humility.  To serve my family so that His bride could be served by my husband.

He asked me to bend lower.

******

I read a blog (http://kissesfromkatie.blogspot.com) about a 22 year old missionary to Uganda named Katie.  She has adopted 13 little girls and is raising them on her own.  She is an incredible servant.  One day in June, she wrote a post about bending low and meeting Jesus.  That we become more like Him as we serve.  

She said, “I bend to sweep crumbs and I bend to wipe vomit and I bend to pick up little ones and wipe away tears. I bend over a big pot of stew and I bend to fold endless laundry and I bend over math books and spelling sentences and history quiz corrections. And at the end of these days I bend next to the bed and I ask only that I could bend more, bend lower.  Because I serve a Savior who came to be a servant. He lived bent low. And bent down here is where I see His face.” 

God put words to the feelings I had been having.  

Motherhood is an inherently selfless venture.  You give up all control–when you eat, when you sleep, when you go the bathroom, what your agenda for each day contains.  You must stop stirring the soup because you must bend down to pick up the little one clamoring for your attention.  You must get on your knees every night to check for toys and other treasures under your couch.  You must fold endless piles of tiny clothes.  You must get out of your warm bed on a cold night to feed a baby who needs you.  Don’t get me wrong, there is great joy in the venture, but it is a daily dying to yourself for the sake of another.  

A daily bending lower.

*****

I read another blog (http://sammyadebiyi.com/blogs/sammy-adebiyi/wait).  My good friend Sammy talks about his dreams when he was younger of being the youngest, most anointed preacher in the world.  I think back to what some of my early dreams as a Christian were…

I wanted to be the next Beth Moore.  I wanted to speak to crowds of thousands of women and tell them about Jesus.  It sounds very noble, and I’m sure the fruit of a ministry like that would have been enormous.  But as I remembered this dream, I had this thought, “That would have been cool, but I think what I’m doing right now is making me a lot more like Jesus.  I might have been able to tell more people about Him, but I think this (daily serving) is making me more like Him.”

So I bend lower.

*****

I’ve wrestled for a long time with the passage in scripture where Jesus talks about feeding the hungry and giving water to the thirsty and visiting those who are sick and in prison.  I’ve battled because honestly, I just don’t see those people in my everyday life here in Cincinnati.  I was afraid God would one day look at me and tell me that I didn’t serve the “least of these”. 

I asked God over and over what to do.  I know we can (and do) give our money.  But I felt frustrated.  What was I to do?  Load my girls up in the van every day and drive to downtown Cincinnati and see if I can find some people who seem hungry and thirsty and give them some food?  That’s a grand idea, but I can barely make it to Target.  I don’t think a trip downtown would be very practical in my day to day life.

Then, one day, God told me to look closer to home.  And I saw it.  It’s not very glamorous, but I have two little people for whom I meet every need they have every day.  When they are hungry, I feed them.  When they are thirsty, I give them something to drink.  When they are sick, I look after them, even in the wee hours of the morning.  They are my “least of these” right now.  I get to serve Jesus when I serve them.  

The privilege of bending lower.

*****

I still forget a lot.  I look at the Lord and grumble and complain.  I beg Him for more sleep.  I resist the serving.  I try to maneuver my life in such a way that my needs get met.  I run from the responsibility of living out the Gospel in my home.  It’s too hard sometimes.  But still, when I look to the Lord and stop complaining for a moment and listen, He whispers to me, “Bend lower, Liz.  It’s worth it.”  He reminds me because He loves me.  He reminds me because He wants me to be more like Him.  He reminds me because those who are last will be first.  He reminds me because those who are great in His kingdom are those who serve…those who bend.  And I, well, I want to be great.

So I bend.

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Two Years

My sweet Annelise–

Happy birthday little girl!  You are growing up so fast.  Momma can hardly believe it.  You’re like a real little person now, not at all like a baby anymore.  Two years ago today, you made me a mom, and I’m ever so grateful to have you in my life.

You’re doing so many fun things right now.  You’re talking to us ALL. THE. TIME.  You learn new words almost daily.  You say mommy, daddy, help, up, down, off, bite, sister, yeah, no, please, amen, poop, meow, dog, baaaa.  I could go on.  I’m so proud of all the words you’re saying now.  And a bit relieved.  Just a couple months ago, I called a friend who is a speech therapist to ask her about you.  I was starting to get worried that you weren’t talking enough.  You would only say two words at a time.  You would say them all the time for a couple of weeks and then you’d retire them and work on a couple new words.  Now, you’re finally bringing some of those words out of retirement, and Mommy is breathing a sigh of relief.

It’s really fun for me to be able to talk to you and understand you and see you see the world.  I love driving in the car with you.  You’ll be sitting quietly or singing and then you’ll shout out something you see.  “Dog!” “Slide!”  I’m looking forward to sharing more and more of these little moments with you.  Moments where we really understand one another and can interact with the world together.

You are also such a big helper to Mommy right now.  You throw things in the trash for me.  You bring me the wipes when it’s time to change your sister.  You carry your own bag when we go places and walk very nicely with me, holding hands in the parking lot.  You help put toys away.  You bring your sister her binky or a toy when she starts to get fussy.

You are a very loving big sister.  Sometimes your love for your sister can be a little over zealous or misguided, but you definitely want to love her and help take care of her.  You sit by her and put your arm around her to read at night.  You run to tell me “Sister cry” when she is sad.  You insist on helping sister roll over when maybe she doesn’t need help with that…

You are an equally good momma to your babies.  You carry them around, snuggle them, walk them in their stroller, lay them down, cover them up.  You tell me when they cry and bring me diapers when they poop.  You have also seemed to name all of them “Sister”.  I feel so proud of the way you care for them.  I pray for you often that you will grow up to be an includer and love others well – with the same kind of love you show your babies now.

As good as you are most of the time, you definitely have your toddler moments.  The other day you laid on the kitchen floor sobbing and kicking the floor because I wouldn’t let you play with the dishwasher.  I’ll be honest, I really don’t know how to best handle these displays of emotion.  So I videotaped you and sent it to your dad.  I’m sure you’ll be happy to watch that back some day 🙂

Every day that hour before dinner is a rough time of day.  You’re hungry and needy and I have to be in the kitchen cooking.  Usually Daddy can distract you so I can cook.  I’ve thought several times about putting up a baby gate so you can’t get in the kitchen during this time.  But, I don’t know…I guess when you think back to when you were a kid, I don’t want your memories of me in the kitchen to be of me trying to keep you out.  I’m trying to think of ways you can help me more because you love to be my little helper.

Your personality is evolving more and more.  You are active and hands on.  You love to climb things…especially Daddy.  The two of you wrestle and tickle and play on the ground every day, and you just laugh and laugh.  You are very wary of strangers and give them the stare down, but around people you know well, you are a ham – the center of attention.  You love to look at books and point out all the things you know.  If you do something that makes me laugh, you will do it again and again and again.  Even if it’s borderline dangerous.  You sing in your bed.  You play hard and sleep hard.  You are an early to bed, early to rise kind of girl.  You have no fear.  I love your bigger than life personality.

I want you to know on your second birthday, my dear Annelise, that I love you more than I ever could have imagined.  Being your mom has been the greatest joy, the most humbling privilege of my life.  Even on the longest of days, I wouldn’t trade a second of it for life before you.  You have added life to my life.  You have multiplied my love.  You have deepened my understanding of the Father’s love.

I love you forever.

Momma

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