verbosevictoria

Painting heart-cries, word by word

Putting “Good Job” to Death April 15, 2014

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Quite unintentionally, I have become a pretty decent fan of Matt Walsh and his thoughts which he publishes at themattwalshblog.com. Today he posted about motherhood, and more specifically, why it is not THE (exclusionary) toughest job in the world.

The man enjoys conflict. This he readily admits.

Even so, his full post makes some hard-hitting points about the perceptions of parenthood in the United States at the moment. I appreciated the clarification that he does not detract from the difficulties and full-time commitment required in being a mother. The point about fatherhood being just as challenging as motherhood had me nodding. I nearly cheered when he touched on the dismissive attitude our culture has towards fathers in general and how debilitating that is for the entire concept of family.

But what prompted me to make a dash for my laptop keyboard was this little sentence tucked into a concluding paragraph: “One day maybe we’ll realize that parenting is designed…to be work — not a job at all, really — that is best accomplished through the harmony of husband and wife.”

Consider this. There are times—many, many times—when I am insecure about whether I am successfully fulfilling the role of mother for my children. In those moments, my wonderful husband and the amazing daddy for our children tells me, “Hon’, you’re doing a great job.” And I am a little relieved, a little disbelieving, and a little mollified that it’s probably just a skewed perspective in my head.

Now, what if the conversation ran like this:
Me: Ahh! I feel as though I’m doing a terrible job at being these poor kids’ mother! I keep making mistakes that will probably send them to lifelong counseling and I can’t DO it all with the house and the blahblahblah…freaking out…blahblah.

Husband: My dear, what you do with our children is wonderful work.

Me: *crickets* Um… Well. That is true. Regardless of how I see my abilities, it’s the kind of work that’s always worth my best. I can’t argue with or doubt that. Silly to freak out, really.

Okay, so in reality, I’m not that quick to turn my hissy fits around to rational thought. But truly, the difference between “you’re doing a great job” and “the work you’re given is great” could be the paradigm shift I need as a parent. The shift in focus is from my qualities and performance as a mom to the REASON I am doing it.

What does Galatians 6 say? “Let us not grow weary in doing good…” (vs. 9)

Hear me out because I’m learning this as I’m typing, which means I’m sharing and not teaching. I may not have this figured out yet. When it comes to the concept of hard work, I get very whiny very quickly, historically. It is something I am having to learn as an adult, having never received the joy in it as a kid or teenager.

In the past, I’ve always felt a little exhausted after reading that verse in Galatians. Maybe even falsely guilty. I do get weary of always having to choose those hard, self-sacrificing, never ending good things.

But what if I was looking at it backwards? What if it is talking about good work, not good jobs? What if work is something objectively good or bad? You can do a bad job in a good work, can’t you? That doesn’t change the nature of the work. Charity organizations are doing good work. But a badly trained CEO may run the organization into bankruptcy. Badly done job, but still within the category of good work.

Being Mom to my five kids who are home schooled and therefore hardly ever out of my minute-to-minute life can be exhausting, of course. (As can being Dad to those five kids after working a rough job every day, Mr. Walsh.) But do I really have a right to call the work of motherhood dreary? Motherhood as a calling, a kind of work, is objectively good. So rather than appealing to my husband out of my insecurities, what if I simply asked for a reminder of the truth?

I could stop being insecure about my mistakes as a mother—not stop improving, but stop beating myself up over my imperfections—and instead…

Instead, I could focus on the work.

I might raise my voice when I promised I wouldn’t, but the work of motherhood is worth an apology and doing better next time.

I might mess up dinner for my family, but the work of motherhood is worth gratitude and sometimes laughing at myself.

I might ignore my daughter’s many, many, many requests to bake something with me on a busy Saturday afternoon, but motherhood is worth listening to the pang in my heart and handing her an apron on Monday morning.

I’m not sure if I’m conveying what I saw in this difference between a job and good work, but hopefully the glimmer of truth in there has caught your eye enough to mine the rest of it yourself. There is something precious here. I intend to keep digging.

 

What I Hear in “Let It Go” (Yes, this is about the movie, Frozen.) March 18, 2014

My family is slow to see the newest films, mostly because we aren’t a very movie-theater-friendly group. When your youngest is one year and your oldest is seven-and-a-half, the possibility for disaster is exponential. Therefore, I am very, very late to the bandwagon of blog posts about the movie, Frozen.

As far as review goes, my husband and I thoroughly enjoyed it. My kids thought it was fantastic. The humor was clean (I’m lookin’ at you, Shrek), the characters grew and changed, the story was a fascinating expression of “The Snow Queen” by Hans Christian Andersen, and the songs were brilliant. It was more like a musical than the typical animated kids film, which was a pleasant surprise for me. I love musicals!

One song, of course, stands out more than the rest. “Let It Go” is written by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez and sung by Idina Menzel. The character Queen Elsa has just exposed her magical ability to manipulate snow and ice in front of her subjects and she sings about the next chapter in her life. From a young age, her father coached her to conceal her gift and separate herself from emotion. The more emotional she was, the more her gift would explode out of her. Elsa is fearful of the hurt she can do (and has done) to her dearest loved ones and to her kingdom. She can’t control her ability. She can’t control how she feels.

And then one day, her choice to hide behind the palace gates is taken. Everyone sees what she can do. Everyone is frightened, including Elsa. So she runs away. She hides in isolation, just as she was taught to do by her father, only now she’s on a mountaintop instead of in her room. On the mountain, she feels a rush, a release. There’s no point in trying to make her power disappear. Alone, she is able to explore her power without hurting anyone.

To me, this is actually a complex part of the movie and of Elsa’s development as a character. As a child, she learned quickly and desperately how to remove her existence from the rest of the world (and even from her sister). She tried to pull her power inwards, tried to control how much it scared her, tried to tame it. With the urging of her parents, Elsa learned to keep everyone out—for THEIR safety as well as her own. But she also received a special prophecy by a troll that it was fear which would consume and destroy her.

Rather than explore what drives out fear, her family embraced fear and held it close. Elsa was a slave to fear. As an adult, when her parents were dead and gone, her sister was desperate for relationship of any kind, and her kingdom needed an involved and confident leader, Elsa was unable to rise to the challenge. She buckled under the pressure. Her fear ruled her, as it always had, and she ran away.

And so, alone on the snowy mountain, in her element of power and far from anybody who feared her, she sings this:

“The snow glows white on the mountain tonight,

not a footprint to be seen.

A kingdom of isolation and it looks like I’m the queen.

The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside.

Couldn’t keep it in, Heaven knows I tried.

Don’t let them in, don’t let them see.

Be the good girl you always have to be.

Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know.

Well, now they know!

Let it go, let it go!

Can’t hold it back any more.

Let it go, let it go!

Turn away and slam the door.

I don’t care what they’re going to say.

Let the storm rage on.

The cold never bothered me anyway.

It’s funny how some distance,

makes everything seem small.

And the fears that once controlled me, can’t get to me at all

It’s time to see what I can do,

to test the limits and break through.

No right, no wrong, no rules for me.

I’m free!

Let it go, let it go.

I am one with the wind and sky.

Let it go, let it go.

You’ll never see me cry.

Here I’ll stand, and here I’ll stay.

Let the storm rage on.

My power flurries through the air into the ground.

My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around

And one thought crystallizes like an icy blast

I’m never going back; the past is in the past!

Let it go, let it go.

And I’ll rise like the break of dawn.

Let it go, let it go

That perfect girl is gone

Here I stand, in the light of day.

Let the storm rage on!

The cold never bothered me anyway…”

(Read more: Idina Menzel – (Disney’s Frozen) Let It Go Lyrics | MetroLyrics)

My soul soared while she sang this song. I’ve seen people describe it as an anthem and that is how it feels. But as she slams the doors of her newly created ice palace, a look of cool confidence on her face, I felt a pang.

Yes, I want to “let it go” sometimes. I want to feel wild and free and able to explore all my potential without fear.

But…it doesn’t work that way. You aren’t freer on the mountain top than behind the closed palace door. You’re still shutting people out, still pulling away. Her frozen powers built embellished walls for her prison.

And that’s what I love about this scene. Elsa is experiencing the exhilaration of releasing responsibility, but it comes at the same price which crushed her since she was a girl. It comes at the price of relationship. It costs her a real life.

This is an invaluable analogy for us, especially us ladies and girls. We would love to toss responsibility and consequences to the wind—we all would, at some point or other in our lives. And in this scene, in this anthem, we yearn to feel Elsa’s pseudo-freedom, to feel her exhilaration. If the movie ended there, if it said, “Well done, Queen Elsa. Go pursue your self-improvement, far from the expectations and needs of others. Become one with yourself. You don’t need anyone!”—I would hate this movie. I would hate it for the lies.

But Elsa doesn’t stay there. She learns to love and BE loved by the sacrifice of her sister (another blog post in itself), and she accepts her part in the world. She is forced to leave her ice castle on the mountain, but she also does not go back there.

It is vital for us to see this for ourselves. The allure of not caring is so strong sometimes. But the price of escape is self-imprisonment. You won’t be better off alone. You’ll just be alone. And you’ll never know what you were truly able to do. Elsa doesn’t discover how to complement her kingdom with her power until she uses love as her source. Instead of making an ornate barred door, she creates an ice rink in summer and saves the comedic sidekick snowman, Olaf, by giving him his own “personal flurry.” (I do wish they had explored how her magical ability fits into ruling her kingdom a little more, but you can’t have everything it seems!)

The only real exploration of your potential is in putting it to use in LOVE.

I do love this song. I love it for being poignant, for being honest, for so accurately encapsulating all I’ve longed to feel as I get weighed down by the struggle against fear. But most of all, I love it for being proven wrong.

Fear and Love do not coexist. Being alone is not freedom. Exhilaration is not true joy, and is swiftly swept away by the fear that sent you out in the cold and built your ice castle.

You were designed for self-sacrificing brotherhood. It is hard. It is exhausting sometimes. But stay, sisters. Stay! When you let go of the fear, you let love in. And love makes all the difference.

 

A Heart Cry February 12, 2014

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Fast Asleep

“You are a woman of God.”

I am.

“You are special.”

I am.

“You are loved.”

I am.

My husband goes through this statement-and-answer with our daughters and sons every night before they fall asleep. Even the baby responds “mmhmm.”

It is precious to hear, like dropping little golden balls into their future selves. I pray they know it all to be true when they are no longer sleeping in beds down the hall from me. I pray they know they are children of God, created and designed for a purpose, and loved. Loved so deeply, surrounded by it on every side, regardless of where they go or what they choose to do. When they are scared or confused or hurt, I pray they can take those golden spheres of truth we’ve dropped in, one by one, and be comforted.

I know I can’t give them their salvation. I know I can’t keep them from pain. But maybe if we give them a wealth of truth to start, it won’t be so hard for them to find the glints of gold on their own. Maybe if we show them truth, show them what love looks like, over and over and over again… Maybe they’ll learn to recognize the real thing. Maybe the twisted imitations won’t be as alluring. Maybe the pain they feel at times won’t be without purpose or value if they can find the golden ball tucked away in the dark.

We hope so. We trust God that we are doing what we can.

These people, these individuals, these precious eternal beings destined for greatness in God’s kingdom are entrusted to us. We don’t mold them. We don’t clip the edges to match our own shapes. We don’t crush who they are under the weight of who we became.

They are unfolding, still delicately but with little increases in vigor and confidence. They need protection, to blossom in health and wholeness. They need guidance, to learn the steps in the journey all must take. They need encouragement, to be brave as they grow. They need prayer, to cover their paths as they go. They need discipline, to choose their design over their default. They need counsel, to navigate the currents flowing between people. They need wisdom, to give them a head start.

But mostly, they need love. Love reassures, comforts, demands better, forgives hurt, rejoices, hopes, perseveres, and is always, always there with open arms.

God be praised, we can pour out His love on them. If our love is a sparkling trickle, God’s love is a luminous waterfall, rushing down and mixing with and overwhelming our trickle. His love cascades on us, on these precious people who are still so young, and flows out from our family into the world He created us to influence.

And each night, before they close their eyes, the daddy God gave them drops another golden ball of love and truth into their very souls–
“You are a man of God.”

I am.

“You are special.”

I am.

“You are loved.”

I am.

“Goodnight, buddy. I love you.”
“Goodnight, silly head. I love you.”
“Goodnight, sweetheart. I love you.”
“Goodnight, princess. I love you.”
“Goodnight, bubby-boy. I love you.”

I love you, Daddy.
Goodnight.

 

“When I Am Afraid” by Laura Hackett -Worship Dance- November 9, 2013

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I wanted to express what I’m learning about clinging to my God the Rock. I don’t choreograph, I’m very amateur, but this is an honest picture of my heart.

 

Why Is Wisdom a Lady? October 9, 2013

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The following is a blog post I made in May 2011. It led to assisting a friend of mine in a talk on Proverbs he was to give that week. I love it when God lets us see a glimpse of His handiwork, no matter how small it may seem. 🙂

When I was a little girl, the pastor of our church decided to have a Q&A time between himself and the congregation by having people submit written questions on Sunday morning while the offering plate was passed. He would review them in the afternoon and answer them as best he could during evening service. (Look, I went to a Baptist, be-there-whenever-the-doors-are-open church when I was a kid, okay? It wasn’t too bad. It boosted my social life. And sometimes I even learned something. :p)

I am a very inquisitive being. I also get a thrill out of asking a really good question. So, being just a kid, I thought it would be awesome to have MY question asked by the pastor. I didn’t want to ask any ol’ question. I wanted it to be good. I wanted it to be original and thought-provoking. Even though no one else would know it was my question, I wanted everyone around me to do that “hmmm” thing while the pastor englightened us to a new and wonderful truth. I asked, “Why is wisdom always referred to as a woman in Proverbs?” (Mind you, I’m like…10 years old when I asked this.)

The pastor answered several questions before mine. They were all pretty standard questions about predestination or “hypothetical” confrontational situations. When he got to my question, he hmmm’ed and kind of chuckled. Then he looked up at all of us in the congregation and said, “I have no idea. Okay, next question!”

I was severely disappointed, oddly embarrassed, and more than a little frustrated. Didn’t he think about my question at all that afternoon? Man, was I glad no one but my dad knew that question was from me… And what kind of pastor who has been to seminary and everything can’t answer a question from a 10 year old girl?!

Precocious much?

Well, I think after 16 years of still wondering that same question, I’ve finally come up with a theory. It’s not fancy or anything and I could be way off, but here goes. In Proverbs King Solomon tells his son to get wisdom at all costs. He describes Wisdom as a woman calling out to anyone who will listen. He says to go after wisdom, to pursue wisdom. Why is wisdom a woman? Maybe, just maybe, the pursuit of wisdom is best pictured by a man courting a woman he loves. He will do anything and everything it takes to gain that relationship with her. It doesn’t matter how many hoops he’s got to go through, he will push through any obstacle to get to her. The desire for that relationship drives him, motivates him. He uses any means he can think of to gain her favor (by the way, my unmarried lady friends, this whole flowers-every-weekend thing is not going to last if you get married–not being cynical, just realistic) and he implements all his manly tools to accomplish this goal. Forget about sex, I’m talking the staying up late to talk, trying to respect her parents, showing off whatever talents he has to impress her–that kind of stuff. It’s a grand pursuit. And I think that is how we are to pursue wisdom. Do whatever it takes, jump through every hoop and over every obstacle, be motivated every day to strive for wisdom.

By the way, the only way to get it is to ask for it, just like the only way to marrying a man’s daughter used to be to ask the Father first.

So take THAT, preacher from 16 years ago! ~Enlightened Victoria

And then the first comment I got was this:

Victoria, Victoria, Victoria…

You probably didn’t know this, but my dad is running our annual church retreat this year, and the theme is the book of Proverbs.  And you probably didn’t know this, but he asked me to give Sunday’s message at the retreat’s end, and I decided to do it on Lady Wisdom.  And you probably didn’t know this, but I’m still working on giving my talk its final form (last minute, I know), and the angle I’m taking with my talk is that obtaining Wisdom isn’t a series of rules to remember so much as it is a relationship, a love affair…

…and I’ve been spending all morning researching how Solomon says to make Wisdom your “sister,” and how “sister” can actually be a term of endearment to one’s fiancee, as we see it in Song of Songs; and how Solomon describes Wisdom as being “worth far more than rubies,” the exact same language King Lemuel’s mother uses of the Virtuous Wife; and I’ve been wondering how to work James 1:5 into the whole thing, where God promises to give wisdom to whomever asks it of him…

No such thing as coincidence.

Your answer is quite awesome.  Can I crib off you for that last bit, about asking one’s bride’s Father?”

Of course I agreed. And we marvelled at how Father cares for us.

 

Why Having 5 Kids Has Not Scarred Me for Life October 5, 2013

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I would love to go into extreme detail about each time God expanded our family, but that would be a very “tl;dr” post. Matt Walsh uploaded a blog recently to give a new dad some perspective. As Mr. Walsh is still pretty new at this, by his own admission, I thought I would expand on his thoughts a bit. (Although, I will say I’ve never had twins and that is an experience to which I cannot directly speak.) After all, people do think we’re crazy on a regular basis for not being “done” by now. Which seems odd to me because 5 kids is not exactly “out there” in terms of quantity.

So here’s how having 5 kids went down for me.

The first time it happened, I was hurtled into a default state of complete and utter shock. There was no going back. I was officially insane.

The second time it happened, I felt kind of vindicated for being put into shock the first time. This parenting thing really was as hard as it seemed.

The third time it happened, I actually looked forward to it all, right down to the dirtiest diaper and the sleepless nights. I was fascinated and in love with the baby phase of life.

The fourth time it happened, I relished as many moments as I was able because it started to hit home–this would not last forever. My time with little ones was going to end eventually.

The fifth time it happened, I rejoiced in the gift of it, of him, of my third son and fifth child. I rejoiced in my calling as a mother and as a steward of these precious PEOPLE God put into the care of my husband and myself.

Although my first time was rocky and difficult, although I was convinced I was a monster for cringing every time my beautiful daughter cried for me, **although it took me months to appreciate her for the wonder she truly was and is–continuing to listen to God by having more children has been the greatest tool He has used in my life for helping me see what a destiny really is.

Destiny is not the golden-trimmed puzzle piece we want it to be. Destiny is not an acheivement at all. Destiny is a posture of life and it is characterized by surrender. I have FINALLY learned, after 8 years of pregnancy, nursing and parenting, that my surrender to God in being a mother is my destiny. It is certainly not the only point of surrender but it is definitely a significant one.

I wasn’t one to plan this, you know? I didn’t daydream about babies. I picked a couple names out at age 14 just so I could join in the girly sleepover discussions. I didn’t even think about being married one day!

God had different plans for me than I had, and I thank Him for choosing me to do something so meaningful.

I’m not scarred by the difficulties of parenting five children. I am being shaped by it. I am in a position of destiny.

Praise God.

(**I did struggle with my first born quite a bit for various reasons. God gave me a strong support system through my husband, my family, and my church. I loved my little girl from moment one but I’m pretty sure I had a mild bout of post-partum depression on top of all the sleep deprivation and general feelings of being confused and overwhelmed. The subsequent post-partum experiences were all very positive, however, for which I thank God.
Just wanted to be clear.)

 

Oh My, So Talented! July 19, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — verbosevictoria @ 9:24 am
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Isn’t it odd what our culture deems to be talent? The value placed on different abilities, the standard of excellence and proficiency… It’s not consistent with actual value. It’s all very consumer oriented.

For example, people with a high intelligence in interpersonal communication are extremely and practically valuable. They are the people who act as diplomats in any and every situation, reading emotions and evaluating possibilities for compromise, facilitating connections between eternal beings forging their ways through time. That is pretty crazy awesome. It might be come through as the gel that holds a group of diverse friends together. It might be a high pressure job of talking with difficult commercial clients to ensure future investment. It may even be a mom who can diffuse the fights between her grown siblings so that Christmas is actually pleasant for everybody. Blessed are the peacemakers!

And yet, if those very same people can’t show a few letters of education after their name, if they aren’t musically inclined, if they don’t tell hilarious stories at parties, if they aren’t the best at getting a job done efficiently, if their social climb is more like a random meander–they tend to feel useless and aimless. Nobody puts an ad in the classifieds: “WANTED: Person skilled at peacemaking and making friends. Job qualifications may be varied and difficult to explain, but will be readily apparent to those with high intelligence in good conversation.” And if that ad DOES appear, nobody thinks it’s a legit opportunity. That sounds like baloney.

It’s so much easier to point to the talent we are used to valuing, but why do we value it ABOVE other talents?

Church is the worst for this sometimes. If you can sing well, obviously you could do worship team. If you can plan well, obviously you could help organize a ministry or work in the office. If you have a way with kids, you could devote the rest of your life to working in the nursery because let’s face it–nobody else really wants that job. (I am only kind of kidding.)

But if you’re “just” really good at being a supportive friend, you may feel like there is no spot in the puzzle where you fit. It’s not true but it FEELS true.

If you’re “just” really good at asking questions, you may feel like talent is something you will never have. Again, not true but it FEELS true.

If you’re “just” a very loyal person, the one who consistently shows up week after week and lends a hand whenever possible, you may feel like you are expendable. NOT TRUE. But it can sure feel that way.

I wish we spent more time in grade school and college and everyday conversation considering how MANY types of intelligence there are. People are proficient in so many ways! It’s such a shame to limit recognition of it to those who entertain or make our lives more comfortable. Yes, concert pianists and video game designers are talented. And that’s fantastic. I wouldn’t want a world without great writers, great painters, great inventors, great philosophers, etc.

But can we all agree to open our eyes and see what ELSE is out there?!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

What is something you are talented in that you never felt was worth recognizing? Example: I can make most people feel at ease within a couple minutes of talking with them because God gave me the eyes to see something interesting in everyone. It isn’t worth making a Youtube video about, but I know He uses me through it.

Next time, let’s talk about using talents. 🙂