life:filtered

…learning to live a life filtered by the truth of the gospel.

forgetting what lies behind August 7, 2015

Filed under: seriousness — Stephanie @ 10:57 am
Tags: , , , ,

But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead… (Philippians 3:13)

Regret.

I pack a lot of that around. It is a near constant companion it seems. It looms large in my mind. And while I have regrets in a lot of life’s places, it is most noticeable when it comes to my boys. I regret that I have not been the mother I always hoped I’d be. I have let time slip through my fingers and now the littlest boy starts school in a week. And my mind is full of regret for the time that I’ve let pass by. Have I cheated them out of what I owe them? What will my children remember me for? Will they remember the mother who took them to the zoo and the playground? Or will they remember the mother who couldn’t get off the couch? Will they remember the mother who pushed Matchbox cars around on the floor or the one who was too busy doing nothing? And honestly, I did do the good things once in a while. It wasn’t always a peanut butter and jelly and Caillou. Some days I did the good things. But more days, I didn’t.

And so I stand here at the end of a chapter and I am filled with regret.

I am hard on myself, I know. I beat myself silly over the time I’ve wished away. The days that seemed so long that I couldn’t wait for them to be over, to climb in bed and be done for the day. I beat myself over the head with regret, never giving myself the grace to fall down, yet falling down so often. And shame creeps in sidling up with regret to pull me down even further.

But bad days aren’t every days. There are good ones mixed in there too; those days we played Battleship or passed the football in the yard. When I used to push them on the swings and catch them at the bottom of the slide. The ones filled with laughter and smiles. Days when I loved them well. These are the days I remember and hold on to, though I wonder if they will.

To be fair, I have struggled with mental illness their whole lives. That’s a reason but not an excuse, though I have used it as an excuse. An illness that left me debilitated, not able to leave the bed. One that left me a raging machine, unable to find anything but anger in the messes and tears. I have found no grace for myself in those moments. Only shame and regret. And in that shame and regret, I lug around a lot of baggage. The “should haves,” the “oughts,” and the “might have beens.” They are like weights on my shoulders, pushing me into the ground.

What do I do with the “should haves?” Can I pay them back for all the “might have beens?” God knows I have tried. Tried with trips to McDonald’s and Krispie Kreme. Tried with ice cream cones and slushies. Tried with things, not time. And time is what they crave. What they long for. And I had it to give, still have it to give. Will I?

Regret dies slowly and shame even slower. And I want to know, is there time left to redeem my motherhood? Is there grace enough for the loss? I can never live up to the standards I place on myself. I’m not sure anyone can. There’s always some regret, some way it could have been better, even for the best of us. But we aren’t our worst days any more than we are our best days.

And there is hope born in the ashes of my failure. Which means that I don’t have to live in the regret. I can forget what lies behind. Tomorrow can be a better day. I can live richly with my children in the todays and tomorrows and redeem the time I’ve lost. That time is gone for sure, but the future still lies ahead and that is the part to strain for, to hope for. I’m more than a little sad for the loss, for the time that is gone like water down a drain. But there is hope. A hope that comes from God. It comes from him saying that I am enough even with my failures. I don’t have to live in the shame of what I haven’t done. Shame and regret are tied together like a thick cord. And how do I untie that knot? By resting in the knowledge that I am loved perfectly my Father. And he loves my boys perfectly, too. By knowing that where I have failed them, he has never and will never fail them. I don’t have to live in regret and shame because I am forgiven. Because I am loved.

So there is still hope for me. Hope for football games and soccer matches. Tee-ball games and violin recitals. For driving lessons and first dates. For regular days too; lazy days and crazy days. I can be present now and that is enough. The past is gone. The now is all I’ve got.

And what if this thing that feels like an ending to me is actually a beginning?

©stephanie g. pepper

Advertisements
 

lean hard July 9, 2013

Filed under: seriousness — Stephanie @ 10:28 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

 

“When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.”

Grandma's Bible

Grandma’s Bible

Once when I was young and we were visiting, I picked up my grandmother’s Bible. It was a thick volume, bound in bonded black leather; King James’ English in large print for tired eyes. Thumbing through the thin, gold-leaf pages I came to a bookmark. There wasn’t anything remarkable about it other than what she’d written on it. There, in careful, labored script, were the words “lean hard on Jesus.” That thought puzzled me but not for long. I had no real interest in it so it quickly disappeared. At least, I thought it had. Turns out it had buried itself down deep into my soul and taken root. And a year or so ago, in the midst of an incredible season of darkness, a simple phrase scrawled by a quiet woman on a scrap of paper, pushed through the aching soil of a deep valley. The darkness of that gorge—of depression—is a darkness that can’t be seen but only felt. It saturates every aspect of living—even, and maybe especially, God. Trying to hold on to faith and hope and Jesus in the midst of that kind of oppressive suffering is, well, hell. But that phrase, I can’t say that I repeated it like a mantra, but it would saunter into my thoughts at times when I could barely lift my head.

And so this woman that I barely knew spoke Truth into my life years before I needed it.

I’ve always regretted that I didn’t know her better; that I never found out what made her tick, what she loved, where she hurt. And I wanted to know her secret, the reason she always whispered His name in everything she did, where her peace came from, why she was so content. But she had already given me her secret—lean hard on Jesus—and we never knew it.

We are kindred spirits, she and I; tied together by an invisible thread, in refuge under the shadow of the same wings. Leaning hard on our Jesus.

©stephanie pepper, 2013

 

on being wrong June 14, 2013

Filed under: musings — Stephanie @ 9:48 pm
Tags: , , ,

It’s not the first time I’ve been wrong about high school. I carried a lot of baggage around those days. But one thing I’ve carried around for all these years became a fragment of my identity. A partial definition of me. It lay in my soul like a stone at the bottom of a quiet stream; always there though the disturbance from its entrance had long since ceased. I was so sure that my perception of events was the right one that I banished all thoughts of any other possibility. (Though I had no confidence in myself, I had every confidence that the rest of the world only wanted to hurt me.) And so I nursed that grievance; held it close and sheltered it from the light until it became not a small stone but a boulder that disrupted the flow of my heart.


But I was wrong.


So here I am as the paradigm of my universe shifts around me like so much sand. What I thought of as true isn’t true at all and history has somehow altered its reality. And this grudge I’ve held these 20 years dissolved into dust in a conversation. A friendship reinstated and at least a slice of high school redeemed. And how many other things have I been wrong about?


I was wrong. And I’m glad I was wrong.


And I’m glad that, for once, I found this little bit of hidden brave and raised that stone up into the light. An Ebenezer.


There’s grace in this, people.


© stephanie g pepper, 2013

 

those days June 3, 2013

Filed under: musings — Stephanie @ 2:41 pm
Tags: , , , ,

It’s one of those days. You know those days. We all know those days because we all have them whether we admit it on Facebook or not. When the sandwich you made for lunch was cut diagonal instead of vertical or had cheese on it when it shouldn’t have; the milk wasn’t cold and why did you make broccoli anyway? When the biggest boy and the middle boy won’t leave the littlest boy alone to sleep. And all you really want to do is space out in front of the computer or play candy crush saga and eat that hidden bag of m&m’s, but that only makes the brain fog worse. And I know, because I’m doing it (minus the m&m’s unfortunately). I have to keep reminding myself that bad days don’t make bad people. But most of the time it doesn’t make any difference because that just doesn’t feel true. What feels true is that I’m lousy. And nothing will change that, not even if I pull off the treasure chest birthday cake, the skull cookies and a map for a pirate treasure hunt. It won’t matter because it’s not enough. Nothing I can do is enough. My best intentions fall to the ground and scatter like legos. And then I step on them at unexpected times and curse that I haven’t picked them up yet. Maybe it’s time I ditch my good intentions and lofty expectations and face the facts:  not everyday can be a pinterest day. And the good thing is, Jesus didn’t say every day had to be picture perfect. And most days aren’t. He did say that every day I can choose to lean on his all-sufficient grace, that his power is made perfect in weakness and that he is always with me. And that’s true whether I feel it or not. Whether I made sandwiches cut like Mater or haphazardly slapped peanut butter and jelly on bread. Whether we read books all day, made baking soda and vinegar volcanoes or the trio of boys watched SpongeBob for two hours. And that’s a darn good thing. Because it means that I’m ok. And so are you.
© stephanie pepper, 2013

 

life itself November 23, 2012

Filed under: musings — Stephanie @ 10:37 am
Tags: , , , ,

It presses in hard. This living. Its list of to-do longer than done. Its piles and stacks and heaps. Its needs and spills and tears. Piled laundry. Stacked dishes. Spilled milk; tears. The daily doing it all over. One more time. To get to the end of the day and a bowl of ice cream. From where I sit, longing to snatch a few moments of calm, I hear the tears of the littlest boy, locked out by the brothers. See laundry, once clean, knocked over and trampled on the floor; spilled cereal in hardened milk rings on the table.

And all I want—all I need, is a few minutes of quiet. Solitude. A chance to sit with the Maker and draw life. Breath. And this time, it falls short. Needing a deeper breath, a longer drink. To find the water in the living. The breath in the doing. Turn the to-do into to-be. To look and find the Holy in the common. The Sacred in the mundane. Because it’s there. It must be. Buechner writes, “Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than the excitement and gladness:  touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.” (Frederick Buechner, Now and Then) Holy hidden in ordinary. Jesus in the laundry basket. All moments sacred. Praise in the piles. And the tears of that littlest boy birth a prayer. And somehow, in all the living, that Water keeps flowing and that Life keeps breathing. And it’s enough.

© stephanie pepper, 2012