I Am a Sinner. What a Relief!

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“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9).

Given our culture of positive thinking and self-empowerment, this may sound revolutionary, but here it goes… I have found that remembering that I am a sinner and in need of Christ’s perfect righteousness and salvation provides instant relief, comfort and peace.  By reminding myself that I’m not innately good, without Christ, I am brought back to a state of surrender, which leads to a peace beyond understanding.

It’s been several years now since my transformation from living disconnected, in my head, and out of touch with my emotions. I typically embrace living in the moment, feeling my feelings, and connecting with Christ and the people in my life.  However, the ego is a funny thing.  After feeling strong and capable, happy and fulfilled, because of letting go and trusting God, I will then slowly, gradually, and without detection start striving for control.  I start to believe my thoughts that tell me how things ought to be, how other people ought to behave, how the world around me ought to operate.

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Our thoughts are pretty ridiculous at times and I’ve been tapping into my observing self lately to watch how my mind operates. Thoughts will hook me and I wrestle with deciding whether or not they are true.  One of the most important lessons I learned from The Happiness Trap is to focus on whether or not a thought is helpful, whether it helps you live a life you value, rather on whether or not the thought is true.  Ultimately, my perspective and wisdom are very small.  Typically, when I’m striving to reconcile unhelpful thoughts, I’m actually struggle with a need for control.

I’ll remind myself – “Kelsey, you’re a sinner. You aren’t innately good and right in this or any situation. God’s grace is what brings life and salvation to you and everyone else.”  I am then able to relax, breathe, and start praying for God’s wisdom to guide me to take action to improve whatever situation or circumstance is plaguing my thoughts.

One of the concepts in Lutheran theology that brings wonderful relief is that we’re simultaneously saint and sinner. Because of Jesus’s sacrificial death and resurrection, those who are baptized into his name are saints.  But, we are still sinners living in this fallen world.  No matter our efforts, we are breaking God’s perfect standard on a daily basis.  There is good inside of us – the Holy Spirit of God – which leads us to love and do good deeds.  But, we certainly cannot boast in these actions because they’re motivated by God, not by our sinful humanity.

By remembering my sinfulness, I’m immediately brought down from the elevated place my ego has lead me. By recognizing my extremely limited perspective and wisdom, I turn to God for guidance.  By recalling that my thoughts are misleading and without value, I am able to dismiss them and turn my attention to connecting with the people around me.  By connecting with people and praying for God’s wisdom, I am able to find ways to love and good deeds to do.

Teddy Voices and Mommy Guilt

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It all started Tuesday evening when Mateo made a comment about wishing I had picked him up earlier from school.

“Mom, why did you pick us up so late?” he asked.

I knew I was facing an unusually busy weeknight of work due to a client deadline once we got to home. In addition to it being bath night and dinner need to be made and homework checked. The mom guilt that always seems to be hiding just around the corner settled in.

“Teo, mom is doing the best she can,” I answered with a sigh.

After working until close to midnight on Tuesday night, fortunately on and off so that I could balance it with making dinner, giving baths, reading stories, and cuddling with my kids, I expected to wake up Wednesday morning feeling exhausted. Instead I woke up cheery and energized.  Good ol’ adrenaline.

When Sienna jumped into our bed, per usual, she brought her teddy bear along. Teo soon joined us for cuddles in our bedroom. We talked a bit about the day, and I mentioned that I was driving to Irvine for work and would pick the kids up a little earlier than normal because I had the T-Ball draft that evening.

“Why can’t you pick us up a lot earlier?” Sienna asked.  (Obviously, pick up time from the afterschool program is a big topic of conversation at our house!)

Mommy guilt reared her ugly head again.

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Several months ago, I started doing “Teddy voices” with Sienna’s beloved teddy bear. Basically, I animate the bear like a puppet and he asks the kids questions, tells them wacky things, and basically is my irreverent alter ego.  The first few times I did this, we were all in hysterics.  It was a great release to have the cute little teddy bear say things that a mom couldn’t say to her kids.

“Teddy voices?” I asked the kids.

“Yes!” they cheered.

In a slightly deep, silly voice, Teddy asked the kids, “Do you know all that mommy has to do?  What’s mom responsible for?”

Teddy went on to explain that mommy has a job which helps pay for our house, food, clothes, and fun.  She’s going to be coaching T-Ball for the next few months too.

“What else does you mom have to think about?” Teddy asked.

“Insulin!” Sienna replied.

“Yes, she also has a very serious medical condition to manage,” Teddy replied.

We talked about my Stephen Ministry training and what mommy was learning.  Then, Teddy explained, “But, most importantly, your mom makes your meals, cuddles and gives kisses, reads with you, and spends time with you.  Everything ultimately is for you because you’re the most important part of her life.”

“I love you guys so much,” I said.

“You? You mean Teddy says that your mommy loves you,” Sienna corrected my slip-up.

“Oh yes, ‘Mommy loves you very much'” Teddy said.

This tender moment helped set the tone for my day.  It felt good to communicate to my kids that mommy really is doing the best she can, while balancing a lot of responsibilities.  By having Teddy tell them, they were more attentive and I could talk about myself in the third person.  It helped me to step back and look at myself more objectively.  Just as I give my kids a lot of grace to make mistakes as they grow and learn, I’m also growing and learning all the time.  Giving myself grace to do “the best I can” helps take the pressure off me and hopefully shows the kids that we should be kind and forgiving to one another.

A Birthday on Potato Chip Rock

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For my 37th birthday on Tuesday, Dennis and I planned a “date day” to hike Mount Woodson to the famed “Potato Chip Rock.”  It was a beautiful day for a hike and awesome to do this relatively busy trail on a weekday, so we didn’t have to stand in line to get out on the rock.

After dropping the kids off at school – and listening to Teo’s pleas to “…spend your whole birthday with you, Mommy!” – we ate a delicious breakfast at Nutmeg and then drove to Lake Poway to start the 8 mile roundtrip hike to Potato Chip Rock.

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It was so fun to spend most of my birthday hanging out with my sweet husband.  We’d enjoyed an usual stretch of one-on-one time the past few days.  First, a date night on Saturday evening: we watched La La Land (loved it!!) and had dinner at Rock Bottom Brewery.  Next, we dropped the kids off with our good friends at church on Sunday morning so we could attend a baseball/T-Ball clinic for 3 hours!  I’m going to be the Manager and Dennis is going to help coach Teo’s T-Ball team this year.  Doing drills and learning about coaching techniques together was bonding and just ridiculously fun! Now we celebrated my birthday with hiking, talking, and sharing the experience of seeing these spectacular views for the first time.  So much wonderful togetherness!

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After ascending for four miles of rocky terrain, I didn’t consider the possibility that the rock itself would be challenging to access, but it was!  There’s one boulder that you have to climb up and then jump this gap over to Potato Chip Rock.  Dennis went first and offered me his hand.  I took his hand and just jumped… a little marriage trust exercise that fortunately worked out.  Getting back off the rock was even more of a challenge, but the nice little community of hikers helped one another.  I felt pretty pleased with myself for being brave and going for it!

This birthday “date day” felt like the perfect way to celebrate during my “Year of Essential”.  We didn’t spend a lot of money, got out and enjoyed God’s creation on a beautiful day, and I got to spend time with the person who is the most essential in my life.