God Is Not Impressed with Us

2937639265_8ab19dcc1d_zThere are times I have no funny lines.

Because in real life, decisions are hard. Paths are confusing. My future seems like a mountain looming before me. Who I am to move mountains? In front of me is a hiking trail canvassed with trees and I haven’t worked out in seventeen years. There is no way I can climb. So I pray for answers, but none come. I want the path to be made straight and not so damn high. Basically I want things to come to me, easy and consistent, like water out of a tap when you turn the handle.

But all I hear is the buzzing of flies. The path is still high and crooked, and I’m left sitting cross-legged, in a large wrinkled heap of me. Where is God in times like these? Why doesn’t he answer me at church when I call?

And then I think, “woman, get yourself together.” Think of something funny, something to overcome, something that will boost up your own sagging ego. Write, so you’ll have readers. Sing, so you’ll have listeners. Say something funny, so you’ll be the one who is invited to things. I’m always wanting, like an insatiable thirst. I pick myself up, eat less carbs, wear smaller pants, get more sleep, clean my house, and tell the world that I can knock this hill. I can climb this mountain. Maybe with these efforts, my desire to be heard, to be loved, to be accepted, to be strong, to be married, to be needed – such longing will be quenched. Or maybe if I wait it out, the mountain will even itself out and I’ll be able to climb.

Maybe God will see how strong I’ve become.

The irony is that longing apart from God has no boundaries. There are always more pictures, deeper and richer. There are funnier jokes, less wordy and shrill. There are more friends to love and more wine to drink. More lessons to teach and more decisions to make. Our children try our patience and challenge our stamina. In turn, we take more pictures, write more books, eat less carbs, do more laundry.  We may even disguise our desires as having a higher purpose, a noble goal, a gift we are born to share. We run and run without a finish line. And we are emotionally exhausted.

In the end we are sitting on the floor with a toothbrush, scrubbing until the dirt is gone. And yet we still feel filthy. We walk outside and see that same tall, crooked path. The mountain still looms, despite our best efforts to ignore it. We shut the door and scream, for who likes hiking anyway. Clothes from REI are dumpy and it’s allergy season. Let’s make brownies instead. Maybe we can satiate this never-ending, never fading, always consuming, need of ours to be fully loved.

Self-absorption is tricky. We have to get our head away from the mirror to see it. And all my own efforts – to stand tall and look thin and be funny and be wise –they are all foolish children’s games, round and round and round with no end and no beginning.

God never moved. He never needed me to show off. He didn’t need my service. He was never impressed with my frivolity or my ability to do things. How small and insignificant did I think God was? He only wanted my heart, and my aching desire to be directed at him for comfort. All God wanted is for me to make a choice – to throw myself at his feet and ask. Will you help me, Lord? Will you direct my path? Will you give me the strength in this day to walk this one step up this looming hill? But please don’t make me wear REI, because it’s not that feminine and all the sweaters are drab shades of green.

One step. It doesn’t matter what I look like, what I say, how many people are watching. It doesn’t matter that I’ve treated God in the past like a vending machine, wanting good things to pop out.

I am here now, in comfortable shoes. I am standing outside my kitchen and staring at this mountain I have avoided all my life. I am asking God to please give me the strength to take a step. One foot at a time, as fast or slow as He directs. I ask forgiveness for my arrogance, for my need for acceptance, for my vanity. All I want is to exist inside of the love that only God can provide.

He said yes. He always says yes to this question. So I take a step in faith, small as a mustard seed. I trust God will lead. He always does. And then the funny comes, because happiness comes, and love comes flowing out everywhere. It is sun shining through clouds, butter sliding over potatoes, syrup over pancakes. It covers and penetrates and fills me up.

Today is the day you can tackle that mountain. One step at a time. One prayer at a time. One small breath at a time. Even wearing REI. Even in ugly comfortable shoes. Because honestly, green is a good color on you.




The Hot Chocolate Hike


Texas weather has been a bit schizophrenic lately. One day we have an actual dusting of snow on the driveway that doesn’t immediately melt upon ground impact and Austin closes the schools for an entire day.  There’s a rush on grocery stores and folks bite their lips wondering if they have enough heat to make it through until the weekend.  But by Saturday everyone’s stripping off their hoodies because it’s 75 degrees up in here, ya’ll. Cedar pollen flies through the air like a wildfire haze and everyone I know has a Rudolph nose and sounds like Lauren Bacall with a smoker’s cough.  “It’s just allergies,” they mutter as they set their used snot rag on your coffee table.  Yeah, okay.  Pick that up.

So when the weather warms up for a short reprieve I try to get the kids outside to do fun things together.  Like the other day when we went hiking.  I bundled the kids up into their best REI gear and decided we’d have a hot chocolate hike, which sounded exciting at the time, so I packed a large bag of pretzels and cheese and salami and fruit and a thermos full of thick hot chocolate with marshmallows.

Going anywhere with a three-year-old can present some significant challenges.  Like “I’m tired” or “carry me” or the favorite “I’m scared of the bears.”  Bears? Where are bears? There are no freaking bears.  Keep walking, kiddo.  Then my seven-year-old pipes up with “look the clouds/they are so magnificent in the sky” and skips along collecting items for her nature collection in total bliss until at some point she feels  something strangely wet and drippy on her neck, to which I respond “it’s sweat: you’ll totally survive.”

Finally about half a mile in, the children are panicked that they won’t ever again see modern civilization and I think it might be time for a hot chocolate pick-me-up, so I veer off the trail like ten measly feet and sit down upon the ground spreading out the trail-food bounty.  My daughter just stands in the same spot and points to the sign, which reads “Stay on Trail” and looks at me as if I’d decided to rob Target.  “But mom,” she cries in horror.  She points again to said sign as if I were a terrorist.

I convince my daughter we won’t get shot and confirm to my son the bears are hibernating and yell at them both to sit down and gather for snacks.  See, guys? Isn’t the landscape beautiful?  Do you see that cloud that looks like an alligator? A line of horses trot by which brings a look of sheer panic on my daughter’s face like they might be the regal trail-enforcement brigade and we have gone rogue.  I’ve had just about enough. This is supposed to be a fun family outing so EVERYONE ACT LIKE THIS IS AWESOME.  But my daughter is scowling and my son is so excited about the chocolate that he grabs a cup and begins to guzzle it like it’s Gatorade.  It’s been in a thermos, which means it will stay at exactly 900 degrees until I retire, unlike my crappy travel mugs that can’t keep coffee warm from the house to the car.

Commence the screaming. I leap up thinking there might be a snake or a venomous spider but realize he’s poured hot chocolate down his pant leg and man that must hurt. But he’ll be okay because he’s a tough little dude and all I can see is a slight reddish area on his calf. So I think he’s just being dramatic as he hobbles alongside of me back to the car.  My daughter is now breathing a huge sigh of relief that we’re back on trail and in the legal clear and I hear lots of statements like “will we ever drink water again” and “please hold my sweatshirt because it’s so hot I’m melting.” We’re a very dramatic lot.

Back at the car I remove my son’s socks.  To my horror I realize he has a third degree burn on his foot that’s all blistered up, which has rubbed against his shoes for half a mile. This makes me want to cry and curse the fact that I didn’t immediately call for a medical helicopter to transport him to our vehicle and I feel so terrible I just sit there holding compresses of water soaked towels around his injury and shushing him.  I hate you, stupid thermos.

When we get home, I have a wretched sneezing attack and I have to breathe into a wet rag just to get control of the cedar pollen.  I lay next to my son as he naps holding ice packs on his burn and think to myself how much more fun the day would have been if we just hauled our little selves to the movie theatre and ate popcorn with wild abandon.

And yet despite the dangers, hot chocolate risks, red nose of doom, and peril of going off-trail, I’m determined to get them outside as much as possible.  Nature is good for their skin and their soul and their curiosity and their placement on this earth, so when the weather lifts we’re trekking it to Enchanted Rock, whereby we shall all brave a large barren hill and I shall bring cold water and fruit roll-ups and allergy medicine for all. And we will like it.  Because there will always be movies to see, but they don’t present any real memories to build a life on.  But touching the sky with your hands, feeling the dust under your feet, and getting scalding burns from Williams-Sonoma peppermint hot chocolate – well, isn’t that what makes life worth living, after all?