Mary, Martha, and the Beauty in the Small…

The world is buried in a cacophony of sound and volume.

We think everything has to be “harder, better, faster, stronger” (shout-out to Kanye for that earworm); everything has to be so much more “-er,” or it’s just not good enough.  We can’t be satisfied with “basic.” In fact, the term “basic” is now an insult! We’ve completely forgotten how to be satisfied with the “bare necessities” that our dear Baloo sang about with such sweet abandon. Everything has to be “Extra,” and if it’s not, well, then it’s “basic,” and that’s BAD. J

It’s so hard to just get quiet.

It’s difficult to get low…to get completely focused…to see the Beauty in the Small.

Last Sunday, I was privileged to be on an “abbreviated” worship team of 3 people. In a church that averages around 50 people or less, we usually have a team that includes a keyboardist/singer, another keyboardist/singer, a guitarist/singer, a bassist, an acoustic guitar player, a drummer, a bongo/cajon player, and 3 background vocalists (of which I am 1). That’s a worship team that’s around 20% of the size of the congregation.

I know that sometimes, there’s a focus on the “sound” that emanates from a team of musicians and singers. Number = volume = emotional impact. I’m not really about that (and that’s not intended to be any kind of a derogatory thought or statement). I’ve been on teams of 40-50 singers, and I’ve been on teams of 2, and one thing I’ve found is that if a heart for worship is there, the Holy Spirit moves. His heart isn’t moved by numbers or volume. His heart is moved by worship, and by a willingness to put ourselves out there to focus on Him.

That’s hard to do when you’re dealing with distractions.

Distractions come in so many forms. As a singer, I struggle with technology (anyone else hate Avioms? Or at least, Avioms that seem to have been chewed up internally by rabid mice? Okay, that hasn’t LITERALLY happened, but my Aviom is constantly going in-and-out, and that is a…problem). I struggle with understanding cues, and with knowing my place. I struggle with my age—am I still relevant as a team member in worship, at 41, when more and more kids and young adults are coming up? I don’t understand click tracks and talk-backs, and I’m not a musician, so I don’t always understand the “right” chord progression. I have this terrible tendency to switch harmonies in the middle of a song if I don’t stay focused, which is a nightmare for anyone singing with me (I’d assume—most people are nice to me about it). More times than not, I find myself rolling my eyes and thinking, “Dear God, I’m a mess. I’m TERRIBLE.” I’m distracted by my own self-esteem, and every single Sunday, I have to push past that to focus on the reason why we come together as a team to worship God: He is worthy. He is so much more worthy of our praise and our attention. He is EVERYTHING, and everything else is NOTHING, so I push it aside—as does every other musician on the team—and we unify in the single focus of worshipping our Savior.

Sometimes it’s messy…but He is always glorified, and we always have the privilege of watching a congregation join us on that journey to praise Jesus.

So, last Sunday, most of our team was at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, taking part in the final One Thing conference. The theme was, “Reset,” and David & I live-streamed as much of it as possible. So many things from the conference really resonated with me…particularly, the discussion led by Corey Russell about Mary of Bethany, and her dear sister, Martha (who is one of my favorite people in the Bible…can’t imagine why).

Martha & I have a LOT in common. Mary and my husband have a LOT in common. My sister and I are about as naturally opposite as two people can get. Mary and Martha were about as naturally opposite as two people can get. J

I identify so strongly with those two sisters.

Martha had work to do, dangit! None of this sittin’ around, listening, whatever! There’s food to make, dishes to wash, things to clean! “You got time to lean, you got time to clean,” right? All of this lounging around, listening to some Guy talk?!?! Ain’t nobody got time for that!!! DANGIT, MARY, GET YOUR REAR IN HERE AND HELP ME!!!!!!!!”  How many times have those words come out of my mouth to my husband?!?  “DAVID!!!!!!!!!!!  Put your tablet/Bible/whatever down and HELP ME!!!” “WHY can’t anyone see that I need help? Why do I always have to ASK?!? Why doesn’t anyone have INITIATIVE to come in here and do the stuff that needs to be done?!?!?!”  Oh, Martha, I love you—I’m so glad the Lord saw fit to put you in the Bible, because women like me NEED to know we’re not tyrants. We’re just the kind of people that see a need and fill it, and pour out constantly….

And we pour ourselves into exhaustion and in doing things in our own strength, because we NEVER take the time to get Small, and get focused.

We never get out of our own heads to find our rest in Him, because we’re convinced in our broken arrogance that the volume of our work, and the number of our works, will turn the heart of God and everyone else.

We break when our efforts go unacknowledged, because we strive so much, even subconsciously, to be recognized and valued.

We so often forget that when we get Small and get focused, then we can hear Him say, “I love you. Just rest.”

BUT WE CAN’T REST, RIGHT?!?!?  THERE ARE THINGS TO DOOOOOOO!!!!!!!

We are distracted, even with our good intentions.

It’s time to stop.

Last Sunday, 3 people came together in worship. It wasn’t perfect; it wasn’t bombastic or voluminous. It was simple…basic (in the best way)…and it was beautiful. It was Small, and it was intimate, and it felt like a healing balm in my heart.

When things are quieter, you have to listen harder. You have to focus more; you can’t be distracted, because then you miss the cues and there’s nothing that you can hide behind.  There isn’t a blanket of sound that covers mistakes or cushions missed cues. It’s stripped down, and it’s pure…

There is Beauty in the Small.

For us Marthas in the world, we “go big or go home.” We’re going to do what we have to do; we’re going to do it to the best of our abilities. We’re going to produce good works, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It becomes “wrong” when it becomes our focus, instead of the Jesus we say we want to serve. How can we hear what He wants when we’re so busy doing what we think needs to be done? If we don’t have those “Mary Moments” where we get quiet and focus at his feet…where we go Small and seek intimacy…how will know His heart?

We “go big,” but ultimately, in an All-Martha world, we get broken.

The Beauty of the Small is that in it, we find rest. We find focus; we find His heart in the simplicity and we are refueled and refocused to face the complicated.

The world throws volume and distraction our way….it keeps us from worship, and it keeps us from that place at His feet that He’s reserved for us.  When we reset, we find our seat with Him…where we are His, and He is ours, and the joy of the Bridegroom for His Bride is complete.

As I stated in my last blog, my husband lost his job shortly before Christmas. There’s a funny thing that happens when your finances get cut by 60%:  You stop running around. You no longer have the resources to fund things to do, so you find yourself staying home the majority of the time. Truth be told, had we done more of that prior to him losing his job, we probably wouldn’t have some of the financial troubles we’re currently struggling with. The sudden lack of income has left us reeling and has forced us to break down expenses, debts, excuses, bad decisions, and a lot of things we didn’t realize or didn’t want to deal with. Staying busy means that you can often ignore reality. Getting suddenly “unbusy” means reality comes crashing in, along with a WHOLE LOT of fear, failures, burdens, and things we hadn’t realized were quite so strong in our lives.

As a family, we’re in a bit of a “forced” Mary-Moment, and the Martha in me is FREAKING OUT. It’s a minute-by-minute process to stop, breathe, refocus, pray, and beg for peace. The conversations between my husband and I have been brutal, and outside of the death of our daughter, this is the hardest thing our marriage has been through. The anxiety is crushing, & while David tends to internalize to the point of my frustration, I am fighting to keep from exploding (to the point of HIS frustration). We don’t know how to deal with or process any of this…but we are. What else can we do?

And where else can we go? We have One place to turn with all of this.

Day by day, we look at each other…we watch our words very carefully, and sometimes, we fail. There’s a lot of unraveling…but as difficult as this is, we are taking the deep breaths and walking the path.

It’s not God’s “fault.” It’s an uncomfortable redirection, and it hurts. I don’t want to say “He has a plan,” because that phrase is so cliché. I want to say that He knows what’s happening, and what’s going to happen, so I will trust Him. We will trust Him…but to hear where He’s taking us, we have to embrace this Mary Moment, to focus, and to stay at His feet, even as everything within me wants to get up and run. “WHY ISN’T THERE ANYTHING I CAN DO TO FIX THIS?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!” It’s not in my nature to sit down and wait.

It’s time to get a new nature.

It’s time to find the Beauty in the Small…to realize the vanity of the distracting…to dull the outside noise and to take off the burden of the to-do list.  It’s time to celebrate intimacy with the Father in quiet and in worship without the vanity of volume.

It’s time to reset.

 

(BTW, if you are looking for worship songs to help you in your journey of resting in Jesus, check out my friend, Bizzy Grapperhaus. She’s written so many songs that I call, “milestone songs;” the songs are Scripture-based, and for me, have truly helped key verses get ingrained into my heart through some of my toughest times. Right now, “Drink Offering,” “Here We Are,” and “Faithful as the Son” are on repeat on my Spotify account. This is NOT a sponsored plug, if you’re wondering; it’s just truth, because she’s awesome.)

eaf3464d30994e3ad12812a571fb4b76

“Let Me Entertain You….” Or How About Not?

My weeks are crazy. I work full-time, I drive around 2 hours/day round-trip for my commute, and I try to run a livable household. I know that’s not anywhere near as crazy as some people’s lives, but it’s a full plate for me. I’m grateful to have my husband as a partner-in-crime, but during the week, we feel a bit like “ships that pass in the night.” It’s why we cram SO much into our weekends, and why my house stays messy. I’d rather make life experiences and memories on the weekend, then deep-clean my house. No kid ever grows up and says, “Gee, remember all of the fun we had while cleaning the house? Remember how much we LOVED a clean floor?”

Nope.

So, my house is messy, but my heart is full, on the weekend.

During the week, however, it’s a different story (okay, my house is still messy, even during the week). During the week, for me, I’m up at 4am, off to work by 5:15, in my office by 6; I leave at 3, get Rico from school at 4, try to come up with something for dinner (and cook it, unless I just say “to heck with it,” and feed him peanut butter sammies), and I’m usually in bed by 8. The days kind of blur together, and I know that’s common.

When I get home from work, there’s this feeling of absolute hectic panic that sents in. What am I making for dinner?!? What groceries do I have? WHAT IN THE WORLD IS THIS CHILD GOING TO EAT?!?!?!?!? Meanwhile, while I”m assessing the supplies, Jericho is throwing a three-ring circus in our little living room, complete with occasional yells of, “LOOK AT ME, MAMA! LOOK AT ME!!!!”

Sometimes, I stop everything and I take a look at the chaos he’s created. His little imagination is the greatest gift, and I love to see where his brain takes him.

Sometimes, I can’t stop (raw chicken, anyone?), and I have to yell back, “I’m sorry, honey, but I can’t! I’m making dinner.”

Occasionally, this conversation upsets him or makes him angry; usually, he just keeps repeating himself incessantly until I finally am able to stop what I’m doing, and give him my full attention.

One thing I really wanted to stress when becoming a mom, was that I never, ever wanted to be too busy to give my son what he needs in life. If that’s a hug, if that’s a cuddle–I always wanted to be able to stop the world and give him that gift. I wanted to be present for every single moment of motherhood. It didn’t come easily to me, and I always wanted him to know he was more important than anything or anyone in my life.

Medically, that hasn’t always been the case. Whereas some women are physically just made to be moms, I’m pretty sure I’m not one of them. After I had my daughter, I went into heart failure. I did the same thing with Jericho (though not nearly as badly). 4 years after having Hannah, I had issues with fibroids, scar tissue, and an abdominal wall fusion that required major surgery. A few months after having Jericho, I had 2 different procedures to get rid of my evil gall bladder. This was followed by a complete hysterectomy (again, scar tissue and fibroids) and a thyroidectomy due to thyroid cancer. Being without a thyroid has been the most challenging part of my entire convoluted medical history; the fatigue, combined with the emotional imbalances that come when you don’t have a thyroid to regulate your hormones, have made things difficult. David has really had to jump in more than anyone realizes, to keep our son well-cared for when I literally cannot get out of bed.

I’ve done really well since earlier this year; earlier this year, I wound up with mono, which meant that I spent a lot of days coming home from work, fumbling through something quick-and-easy for dinner, praying for David to just get home from work, and then going to bed at 6pm. Maintaining that level of fatigue is nearly impossible, and it took some pushing for me to get the right diagnosis with my PCP. Once we knew what it was, and that it wasn’t thyroid-related, David & I both took a breath. Had I been that tired on what was looking like a permanent level? We had no idea what we were going to do.

So, gradually, I’ve felt better and better, and now, I’m back to my “normal” post-thyroidectomy self. My levels are good, our house is still standing, and our child is happy….

Unless I can’t stop everything and pay attention to him.

On Wednesday, Jericho wanted me to hold him for a while. I started to say, “just let me read the paper,” but stopped mid-sentence, picked him up, and put him on my lap. The fact that he WANTS me to hold him, has an expiration date. I’m aware of it more and more, so I take the hugs whenever I can get them…unless raw chicken is involved.

Yesterday, he was running amok in the living room, and wanted to me to come and watch him. I was making dinner and dealing with raw chicken, so I told him that I couldn’t come into the living room. He was frustrated, but I explained that raw chicken is disgusting, and that I was up to my elbows in grossness. His fascination with gross outweighed his frustration, so he acquiesced to my instructions to “stay in the living room!!!”

This means that he promptly came into the kitchen to watch the rest of my food prep.

While I was working on dinner, I found myself having one of those internal conversations with God: “Lord, I wish I had a clone. I wish I could take the time and pay more attention to him, but there is just so much work to be done.” I think my Mom-Guilt was in full play.  I mean, why am I working? I’m working because we’re broke. Why are we broke? BECAUSE I SHOP TOO DANG MUCH. Oh, and we’ve also had 2 million-dollar babies, periods of extended unemployment, one year with 2 mortgages (2008), and blah-blah-blah. We’re in debt. So are most Americans. I work to work on debt and to prevent more. I work to provide a future for my son. I work because I’m good at it, and I like it. I work for a lot of different reasons. The mom-shaming that is so exacerbated by social media is something that I simply do not have time to embrace. This is how I parent. Go parent your own way for your own child. I refuse to embrace the judgment ascribed by so many that do not work, or even by so many that do. We are a double-income family because we HAVE to be. Period.

But my conversation with God, though brief, really summed up a lot. I wish I had a clone, or maybe more hours, or maybe an assistant (HA!), or Rosie the Robot. I wish there was more of me (and less pounds of me). I wish I could be a perfect, always-present parent.

I am not.

And I felt God answer in His way, in His beautiful, gentle way, into the recesses of my heart: “You are a good mom. Your heart is always with your son. Even when you’re not paying attention to him in his way, you are paying attention to him.

It’s not your job to entertain your son.  It’s your job to care for your son.”

Consider me undone, Lord.

Sometimes caring for my son means I focus on making him a healthy dinner, instead of embracing the circus in the living room.

Sometimes caring for my son means I surrender to knowing that I can’t do it all, and to trusting the man God gave me to do more than he should have to do.

Sometimes caring for my son means I tell him, “not right now.”

I wonder how many times God has said the same to me? “Cassidy, My job is to love you…to care for you…not to entertain you.

My job is not to tell you what you want to hear.

My job is not to give you the material things you want (hello, iPhoneX!).

My job is not to make your life easy.

My job is to love you.

My job is to call you to higher things and higher thoughts.

My job is to draw you into Me, and for you to run with Me.

My job is to be your Bridegroom, and for you to understand what it means to be my Bride.”

Oh, Jesus….to be Your Bride…

Suddenly, all of the accoutrements of stress wash off, and I’m laid out before God. I’m reminded of my only job–my Only Job–even above being a wife and a mother.

My job is to love Him.

My job is to make Him the center of it all…the goal of my every day, the focus of my every moment. My job is to be for Him, above all others…and in that, everything else comes into alignment.

Regardless of the chaos of the day, the endless need to give attention to others, the rush, the pace, and the fatigue, He is my Center.

He’s not my “entertainment.”

He’s my heart.