Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Grace for the Work-from-Home Mom, Too

Lisa-Jo over at The Gypsy Mama wrote the other day about how working moms need grace - grace to handle the daily good-byes, grace for handing over their children to others, grace for the guilt they carry. In my journal where I count gifts from God, I write "the ability to work from home, not to leave my baby every day." Yes, it's a gift. It's a blessing. And yet I need my own supply of grace to get through it most days, when I look over my shoulder and see this:

Those, eyes, they beckon. Daily, they reflect confusion, sometimes sadness, sometimes frustration, sometimes desperation. Why can't mommy hold me right now? Why can't mommy play with me right now? She doesn't speak in words, but her eyes say it all.

Working moms who leave home every day aren't the only ones who feel guilt. And at least, I think sometimes, they don't have to face the longing that confronts me all day long.

My husband, a full-time graduate student who goes to school at night, parents while I telecommute to my job five states away from a small desk crammed into a corner of our living room. I leave my desk as often as I can for a quick snuggle, once every half hour or so. When I have a break, grab a coffee or fix my lunch, I grab Baby Girl, carry her with me. But it's never enough. She wants more, always. I do, too.

It's a gift, being there to greet her after naps, watch her play, sneak a kiss here and there and make her giggle. But there are moments when I wonder if it might be easier on her if I were just somewhere else, out of sight and maybe therefore out of mind? Not visibly out of reach across the room, unavailable for cuddling the afternoon away. I worry about breaking something in her, worry about her feeling perceived rejection. The only remedy for my worry - the only insurance of her well-being - is grace.

I don't think my guilt is any smaller than a mother's who leaves. It tears at the heart.

My sister-in-law writes an email asking me if I'm ready for a "local job," meaning do I miss my corporate office life. She says from her view, I have "the perfect from home, make good money." We all dream of that, she claims. I want to tell her dreams are prettier in concept. That my "dream life" quickly turns nightmarish when Baby Girl is screaming for me and I have to go in the bedroom and shut the door against her cries because I have a conference call in two minutes and I can't comfort her right then, no matter how much I want to.
There are days when it just breaks me at the core. At least her daddy is right there.

I get through it with prayers under my breath as I tiptoe behind her to the bathroom, hoping she won't turn her head and break into a full-on cry because I passed without stopping. I get through it with self-reminders that I would rather have sixteen quick snuggles than nothing between eight and five. I get through it by writing down my daily thanks for moments I'd miss at an office. I get through it knowing we are blessed with a warm home, food on the table, and our physical needs met through my days at that little desk, phone headset jammed into my ear.
It's good constant reminding that blessings sometimes come with challenges, and those challenges don't weaken the blessings. I can bear the sting and the guilt, count the blessings, and still need the grace.

Monday, January 28, 2013

What's True Worship?

Someone I love (and who loves me) lamented to me the other day about how Christian music has changed over the years. She said to her, it's no longer "worship music," meaning, I guess, that she personally doesn't feel like worshipping God when she listens to it.

She asked me what I thought. I could tell she was looking for me to agree with her.

"Well," I said slowly, "I think people worship differently. We're all wired uniquely and people connect with God in different ways. I know I personally feel very worshipful when I'm listening to some of the music you're talking about."

It's true. I hear Casting Crowns' "Prodigal," and I'm a weepy mess within seconds. Jason Gray's "Remind Me Who I Am," incites raised arms and an upturned face. Mercy Me's "Spoken For" brings me to my knees.

And then she said it, in a way that sounded both dismissive and condescending:

"Well, then I don't think you have ever experienced true worship."

I was stunned. Then hurt. Then outraged. It only took about ten seconds to cycle through all three emotions. I'm pretty sure she had no idea how she sounded to me, though - she just went on like there wasn't a thundering silence there between us. I guess I was the only one who felt it.

I didn't respond. I felt a strong, uncustomary urge to keep my mouth shut, in spite of the blazing retorts running through my head (and there were plenty of them). I think the Holy Spirit must have been holding down my tongue with both hands. I remained outwardly calm and unruffled, and the conversation moved on to other topics.

Her words stayed with me, though.

I think part of the beauty of creation is that God made us all different, each with unique gifts and talents, needs and desires, personalities and sensibilities. We all relate to people differently, so why shouldn't we all relate to God a little differently? Why shouldn't we all find that we worship a little differently from everyone else?

In Spiritual Pathways: Discover Your Soul's Path to God, Gary Thomas identifies eight different ways people tend to find connection with God. Thomas calls this "spiritual temperament." He cites some good Biblical examples of people worshipping differently - Abraham by building altars, David by writing Psalms, Solomon by making sacrifices, Mary of Bethany by sitting at Jesus' feet. He also gives an overview of the evolution of the Christian church through the centuries, pointing out how different denominations formed in part because different groups of people wanted to worship God a certain way - differently from the churches around them.

Thomas also points out that achieving a "mountaintop experience" or "spiritual high" is not the ultimate goal. What is most important, he writes, is to "through the ups and downs and the routine of life...learn to spend time with God, enjoy him...grow in our adoration and understanding of [him]. And while Thomas offers eight spiritual temperaments to consider, he also offers that for many of us, just two or three of these may be ways we personally worship God. Thomas does not weigh any one spiritual temperament, or any combination thereof, against any other.

I sit in my home office every day, plugged into my iPhone, Christian music streaming into my ears. And every day, because of that music, I experience moments of what are, to me, worship. There are many songs that grab me right by the heart - by the soul - and pull me heavenward.

There are other ways I experience God - time spent outside in nature, prayer, lighting a candle each morning when I wake up, counting blessings - but today's Christian music is also a spiritual pathway for me, a road to worship. My sense of connection with God is part of my unique relationship with him.

This was a reminder to me not to judge how anyone else personally connects with the Lord. If I do, am I not in danger of gnosticism? Am I not prideful? Am I not everything Jesus would not want me to be?

As a Christian, my responsibility is to hold out my experiences, my discoveries, my joy moments to others as a gift, an invitation to find their own joy moments, no matter that they might look a bit different from mine.