It’s getting personal…

So I have been feeling rather guilty lately about quite a few things.  I seem to be taking everything very personally.  I feel bad about my lack of posts.  I can’t seem to get into the rhythm of regularly writing (or showering for that matter).  My  food intake could be made into the next fast food documentary and how it causes weight gain and lack of energy.  School has been hit or miss.  We did really well for one week.  The girls were on a rotating schedule for making breakfast and we had new “classroom” procedures that were catchy and cute that all the kids seemed to enjoy.  Then the weekend came and we fell off the wagon…and that was 2 or so weeks ago.  Really my guilt is subtle pride.  I wish I could be more, do more, and control more and think I actually possess the power to do so on a good day.  So, consider paragraph #1 my confession and repentance for all of that.  🙂

I also have been convicted about my disdain for pets.  We have a cat that I can’t stand.  He’s so full of himself and I have no compassion or affection for him.  Any animal that retaliates by pooping or peeing on their owner’s personal belongings shouldn’t be a pet in my opinion.  I take every act of defiance from the cat personally.  I think he knows I don’t like him and he knows he isn’t going anywhere either because my oldest daughter would crumble into pieces without him.  He’s got me right where he wants me and it drives me crazy. But the other day, I was reading Proverbs 12:10: “Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel.”  UGH…really God? Now, I have to have regard for the life of the cat?  It’s so inconvenient when the Word gets personal.

Later that day, we were leaving a store and there were puppies outside who were up for adoption.  I had no desire to have another pet, but she was so darn cute and that stinkin’ Proverb was stuck in my head.  So, now we also have a puppy.  I guess Jesus is changing me.  Meet Phoebe:

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She is so sweet and her story is so sad.  She was found in a dumpster and rescued.  Then the family that initially adopted her had a Great Dane that kept sitting on her so they returned her.  All the misfortune of her short 5 months of life has softened my heart for her.

Jesus is working on changing more than just my compassion for animals.  Phoebe has dramatically changed our family routines for the better.  Now we go on walks and play outside much more.  She has snapped us out of an unhealthy physical lifestyle rut.  I am so glad that we gave in to those big ol’ bat ears of hers. 🙂  Through Phoebe, God has reminded me that we need routine that looks different for a different season in life.  I can’t expect to be transplanted from one place to another, keep the same systems and schedules, and be sane.

God has been reminding me here and there through friends and new acquaintances that times of transition and change can really send everyday rhythms and the best of intentions topsy-turvy.  I think God has purposefully introduced me to numerous people who school their children at home.  They have all reminded me that it’s okay to take this time to settle and find those new rhythms and that there is no set time limit on this particular season of life.  This season has included meeting new people and going to new places and just figuring life out again–and that takes time.  I am so thankful for the encouragement that the way things look right now is okay for right now.

Family Rehab has started to focus on personal growth and change and not just coming together as a family. It’s getting personal. Though life right now is at times uncomfortably new, I feel as though we are really walking in a new found health by being forced into trusting Jesus together as a family.  More and more I see how this move and ministry change has enhanced our  Family Rehab process.  There’s nothing like taking a fish out of its round bowl and plunging it into the sea to see what it’s really made of.  There have been times when I am fearfully hiding behind artificial purple coral and other times when I have puffed myself up like a blow fish to give the illusion of grandeur.  Neither is okay.  Neither is displaying trust in Jesus.  I am slowly learning to trust God in how He has made me, trust Jesus in how He has redeemed me, and trust the Holy Spirit in how He continues to transform me.  Every day I am presented with a new opportunity to check myself and my responses to my different surroundings.  I need to learn these things and apply them to my personal life if I want to effectively teach my children how to trust Jesus with the daily stuff.

This past weekend our family was invited to a birthday party.  We were going to be meeting a lot of new people, which for me can be quite overwhelming.  So my heart and my thoughts were already vacillating between fear and arrogance as we got in the car.  Everyone was to bring a favorite food or dish to share.  We decided to pick up some Chinese food from the amazing place we stumbled upon the week we moved.  Because of my anxiety about having to eat, talk, feed the baby, and juggle kids while maintaining conversation, a good disposition and keeping food off my face and out of my teeth, I decided to eat a few egg rolls in the car as we drove to our new friend’s house.  Those egg rolls were so satisfying.  (They deserve at least 30 minutes in my unhealthy food documentary.)

We pulled up to the house as I was cramming the last two-bites-worth into my mouth.  Grease ran down my chin and I panicked when I realized there were no napkins in the to-go bag.  Oh, great…what a way to meet people!  I grabbed something out of the diaper bag and quickly wiped what I could just as the rest of my gang piled out of the car.  No need for a last minute application of lip gloss when you’ve got egg roll grease!  I was instantly reminded of my uncanny ability to focus on the wrong things, fear the wrong things, and try to fix the wrong things.  The evening was wonderful and I had no problems with kids, or eating, or even spinach in my teeth.  (At least no one told me about it.)  It was just a gentle reminder that I am nothing more or less than what Jesus has made me to be…and that’s enough and just right for the season and place in which He has put me.

I don’t often possess that kind of strength and confidence in Jesus and His plan.  I usually feel as though I am not enough and  therefore, have to supplement what God has done for me and in me.  How arrogant!!  I can’t add to what He has done.  I can’t add to what He has called me to do for this particular season.  He knows what is best and He does more than enough to equip me for each and every thing.  He will equip me with time, resources, and His Spirit at just the right time.  And when He does, I will have so much to rely on that things will come with ease and joy.

It’s become a helpful thing to ask myself a few questions when I am met with these “out of fish bowl” experiences.  I need to make the experience a growth opportunity as part of my personal rehab.  First of all, I have to ask myself, “What emotion I am even feeling?”  I know this sounds a little ridiculous.  But I am learning that often the emotion that is seen on the outside, especially by others, isn’t really at all the emotion that is at the root.  When I lash out with impatience with my kids, it’s hardly because they have done something to drive me to that point.  It usually has to do with some insecurity I am feeling about something completely unrelated to them.  Or if I am feeling exhausted and tired, the emotion of sadness is usually at the root of my fatigue.  So it’s helpful for me to ask the question.  It can force me not only to take time to process what is really at the root of my behavior and outward emotions, but also snaps me out of whatever emotional outburst I am having. Then I am ready to deal with it and address the real issue.  Again, I need to learn how to do this myself if I want to train my children to have the same introspection.

It’s also helpful for me to ask myself the following two questions:  1) What is my fear/insecurity/worry saying about myself? and 2) What is my fear/insecurity/worry saying about my God?  Whatever the answers are, they usually are not true.  This process helps to identify the lies that I am believing and to see them as such.  Sometimes the fear or worry that I have is so unfounded and ridiculous, yet so covered in “valid” emotional responses to situations.  It seems really rational in the moment to be freaking out about egg roll grease, but what is that saying about myself and about my God?  It says that I am not capable of creating relationships unless everything is perfect.  That’s not true.  The most precious relationships that I have are the result of being imperfect around others.  It also says that my God can’t provide for me and has somehow forgotten about me and my situation.  But He can provide!  He does provide.  He continues to provide, whether that be time to eat food or someone to help feed the baby while I have a conversation.  And He hasn’t forgotten about me!  Even with slimy-feeling residue on my face, He is in control of the situation and has me in His hands.

Psalm 65:8-10 says, “so that those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe at your signs.
You make the going out of the morning and the evening to shout for joy.  You visit the earth and water it; you greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; you provide their grain, for so you have prepared it.  You water its furrows abundantly, settling its ridges, softening it with showers, and blessing its growth.”

I’m learning.  We are learning.  It’s all a part of Family Rehab, which is shaping up to be a life-long journey.  And, it’s getting personal.  In and through God’s abundant water flow of provision, He is settling my ridges.  He is softening my heart.  He is causing me to grow.

Gratitude for cookies

This week, the girls decided to start their own baking business.  They were inspired by a new 11-year old friend, who also is baking her way to the bank.  I have had to set aside control of my kitchen, handing over my favorite room in the house with tightened and gripped fingers.  I have been amazed at how trusting them with the kitchen has lead to greater responsibility and maturity in them.  The kitchen has been covered in sugar, flour, and raw egg–no doubt!  But, the girls have washed, swept, and scrubbed to return it back to the condition in which they found it.  And the cookies are good… 🙂

This week of Thanksgiving break has forced me to ponder gratitude and thankfulness, as I guess it does with most folks every year.  I look back at the past year and see how unthankful I have been.  I see how worried I have been.  I see how absent the lenses of thankfulness have been from my world view and the view of my personal circumstances.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Man! Really?  Always?  Continually?  In ALL circumstances??  Really?

Really.  Some might call this kind of person an optimist–someone who, unlike the realist, always sees the glass half full.  How, in a world with so many unsettling diseases, unstable people, and unbelievable disfunction can we possibly be told to be an optimist?

God’s will for us is to be people who are able to see the glass half full.  His desire for us is that we see through the frames of gratitude the things to be thankful for in the midst of even the least ideal of circumstances.  Some might ask: “How can I be thankful when my body is being destroyed by a raging cancer?”  “How can I be thankful when I’ve lost my job and can’t provide for my family?”  “How can I be thankful when my spouse has been unfaithful?” “How can I be thankful when the world is full of failing governments, dying people, and starving children?”  God’s will is not for us to be blissfully ignorant in these circumstances.  He does not want us to ignore them either. He gives us good things to which we can cling and a hope in a better tomorrow.  He gives us the strength to see the things of this world and offer a help and a hope.

Only in Christ Jesus do we see something to be thankful for in light of poverty, hunger, and genocide.  It is only in Christ, that we are able to find the light in a dark, dark world.  It is only because of God’s will for me in Christ Jesus that I have a hope to be freed from all of it.  God’s plan in sending His Son to this wretched earth was to set me free from all wretchedness.  He conquered death on the cross to set me free from all the death and destruction around me today.  If I don’t believe this, I don’t have reason to be thankful in the worst of circumstances.  Because let’s be honest:  there is a lot of hurt and sorrow and pain in this world.

I am reminded of a song by All Sons and Daughters.  Here are the lyrics:

When the pieces seem to shatter
To gather off the floor
And all that seems to matter
Is that I don’t feel you anymore
No I don’t feel you anymore
I need a reason to sing
I need a reason to sing
I need to know that You’re still holding
The whole world in Your hands
I need a reason to sing
When I’m overcome by fear
And I hate everything I know
If this waiting lasts forever
I’m afraid I might let go
I’m afraid I might let go
I need a reason to sing
I need a reason to sing
I need to know that You’re still holding
The whole world in Your hands
I need a reason to sing
Will there be a victory
Will You sing it over me now
Your peace is the melody
You sing it over me now
Oh Lord
I need a reason to sing
I need a reason to sing
I need to know that You’re still holding
The whole world in Your hands
That is a reason to sing

Thankfulness is not easy.  Gratitude does not come without a conscience decision, even for the Christian.  Reminding ourselves of what we know to be truth–the pursuit that our loving God has for us, the plan of His redemption for this world, the faithfulness of His provision and sovereignty, and the promise of His return.  We need to be reminded that He has the whole world in His hands.

Because I DO believe that Jesus was born of a virgin (which is crazy) and I DO believe that He grew up and performed miraculous signs and wonders (which is weird) and I DO believe that He died on a cross only to come back to life in three days (which is insane)–I also believe that there is a future hope and a day when He will come again and make all things new.  (It takes faith in that which the world sees as foolishness.)  I have hope in His return.  I also have hope in His promises.  I have hope in His character.  I have hope in His love.  I have hope in a God who is relational and living and isn’t just a mythical creature locked in the words of a book on a shelf.  He is ALIVE.  He is breathing.  He is moving.  He is working to bring the whole world to a knowledge of Him.  His will is to know me and love me and serve me.  His will is know, love, and serve the hurting, the weak, and the tired.  His work in me and His compassion channeled through my heart gives me opportunity to also be a ray of light in this dark, dark world.

So, I can “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”  (Romans 12:12)  I can trust the God I believe in.  He gives me the power to be thankful in all circumstances, because of the hope He sets before me in Jesus.  I can turn over all worries and concerns for the future in prayer to Him.  I can hand over the kitchen.  I can trust His responsible maturity.  I can look forward to sweet things to come out of it.

I sing a little song to Judah every time he goes to sleep for a nap or for the night.  Today as I sang it to him, I thought about the words and applied them to my need for gratitude.  They speak truth into my worry about the future.  It’s an old hymn that my first grade teacher made us sing every morning in school:

I am Jesus’ little lamb,
Ever glad at heart I am;
For my Shepherd gently guides me,
Knows my need, and well provides me,
Loves me every day the same,
Even calls me by my name.

Day by day, at home, away,
Jesus is my Staff and Stay.
When I hunger, Jesus feeds me,
Into pleasant pastures leads me;
When I thirst, He bids me go
Where the quiet waters flow.

Who so happy as I am,
Even now the Shepherd’s lamb?
And when my short life is ended,
By His angel host attended,
He shall fold me to His breast,
There within His arms to rest.

It’s simple truth found in this song that reminds me to be thankful.  I am forever grateful for a teacher who embedded those words into my mind and heart.  I can be a happy, care-free little lamb, when I acknowledge the presence of my Good Shepherd.

The reality is that I have much to be thankful for.  I have a God who provides for me daily and calls me by name.  I have a family that loves me and cares for me.  I have a faithful husband who loves Jesus and seeks to show me how much Jesus loves me through the ways that he cares for me.   I have four children in whom I delight and find much joy.  I have had the opportunity to set aside everything to be with them and undergo “family rehab.”  I have girls who now love to bake and clean.

I have a  warm house.  I have a refrigerator full of food.  I have clean water.  I have too many clothes, too many shoes…too many cookies.

I have a community around me that seeks to love and serve each other.  They love Jesus and live in His grace.  They share that grace with me and the rest of the body.   My family at The Well understands trusting Jesus and His mercies.  They don’t work for His love–they rest in it.  They get it.  They understand having a future hope.  They understand thankfulness in all circumstances.

I have much to be thankful for.  I have much to rejoice about.  I have genuine gratitude that my God has given me new life in Him.  I have freedom.  I have grace.  I have forgiveness.  I have hope.  I have cookies.

Minutes gained, not lost.

Man, this is hard.  I knew it would be and people warned me, but man, this is hard.  Yesterday, we not only struggled to regain motivation from the long Labor Day weekend, but we ran out of M&Ms.  We also had to be flexible and work around getting Gideon to and from his first day of pre-K.  Our wonderful routine we grooved to so well last week was now all over the place.

I tried to be creative and planned on hitting the library after dropping him off.  But the library didn’t open for another 30 minutes.  So what does the Goeke family do when we need to kill some time?  

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Eat doughnuts.

(I’m noticing a theme here…we better be careful, or we are going to have to take the next year off to go through weight loss rehab.)  And eating doughnuts is fine, but that 30 minutes could have been spent getting math done or something else.

It just seemed like the day was wasted away.  And when we returned home, all the binder work seemed overwhelming because there just wasn’t enough time left in the day to get it all done.  The girls were understandably upset.  I had a headache.  I hadn’t had breakfast or lunch for that matter.  And though I didn’t realize it at the time,  I spent the whole day wearing my contacts flip-flopped in the wrong eyes.  To top it off, workers were outside hammering away at the neighborhood street, keeping baby Judah from sleeping during his nap time, and the house seemed to be absorbing every degree of the 100+ temperature outside.

I texted Paul at 1:50 as we left the house to get Gideon, “This is not working for me.” We had only made it through half of a folder the whole time he was gone to school.  This was supposed to be our most productive time because he was going to be gone.

After we made it home, Paul and I wrestled with the reality of our world.  It seems like every free moment is planned and the pace at which we frantically run to complete those plans or meet with those people is unstoppable.  There has got to be a way to do life differently!  Or something is going to give… and it looks like it might either be my waistline or my blood pressure that pops first.

Certainly Jesus did not need to sit down with his disciples or with his mother, Mary, and pull out his parchment scroll calendar and schedule in family time.  Surely, he didn’t have to live by the “at least one evening at home” rule.  He and his “family”- his disciples and all – went with him from city to city from lake to lake from crowd to crowd.  When he tried to rest, he usually couldn’t.  But, when he ate a meal, he reclined and lingered with every bite, investing in meaningful conversation with the people he loved at the same time.  When his plans changed, he found a way to flexibly stretch and adapt.

I think the difference between how Jesus “managed” His day, and how I “manage” mine is a matter of control.  Jesus was GOD.  G-O-D!  And yet, He surrendered his earthly control over to the whisperings and ever-changing winds of the Holy Spirit.  He relied on knowing that His Father was in control and working a bigger picture for the love of ALL his people, not just His Son.  Man, if I worked from that knowledge and trust- that God is working for ALL his people, not just me and my plans, I might view having to waste an extra 30 minutes eating doughnuts, as gaining an extra 30 minutes of time with my girls talking.  Or gaining an extra 30 minutes of time investing in the doughnut shop lady.  (not just gaining a pound or two) If I listened to the urgings of the Spirit, even when those winds seemingly blow against the flow of my plan, I might end up in a bigger, deeper, and wider river of His blessing.  Ugh…Man, I want to emotionally and spiritually “get it” through my thick-skinned heart, and hard-headed brain!

So, after rationalizing putting some folders off until the next day, and giving the kids free-time to play, Paul and I talked and prayed.  Our schedules have not lightened up, our home project list has not dwindled, and our clocks have not miraculously gained 4 more hours.  But what did happen was a something that went on our “Count Your Blessings” Chart.

After the kids were in bed I went to put up our new bible verse for the week…which we all together skipped earlier that morning.  See, I just have the location of the verses written in my planner.  So I’m not always familiar with what the verse is until I look it up to write on the board.  And when I saw the words that Jesus had for us that morning, that I didn’t even take the time to hear, I was humbled and grateful all at the same time.

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“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  If only I had that on my heart and mind when the baby was crying and pulling on my hair in a hot house while the girls found every distraction possible to avoid doing their math.  That was NOT what was on my mind…I really shouldn’t write what was on my mind.

And so, I was reminded that Jesus does live in me, and that it is Him living in me that works out His strength in me.  I may have missed it in the morning, but I was willing to take heed to it last night.  I spent time being thankful for the change in plans.  For seeing those moments as minutes gained, not lost.  I found the strength (from Jesus) to make some monkey bread for the morning so as to allow for a slower more well-prepared pace and to make sure we made time for our bible study before anything else.

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Another blessing that seemed to come out of nowhere was that while the kids got ready for bed, I was able to fully prepare the school work for the next day, and Paul was able to do a long awaited and much needed household project.  By 8:30, all the kids were in bed, our work was done,  and we got a chance to talk and connect in good quality time.  That hasn’t happened in a very long time.  Somehow, our prayers from earlier were answered at least for that day.  Our lives were not immediately transported to a deserted tropical island with no responsibilities or cares.  (I did silently pray for that in my head.)  Nor did we receive a million dollar check from Publisher’s Clearing House.  But for those few hours yesterday, life slowed down and without much effort of our own.

This morning, as the girls copied the verse from the chalk board to their notecards, I told them about my thoughts and feelings yesterday.  How the crazy day made me feel like there was no way I could do homeschooling.  And how this verse, even late at night after a day of discouragement, had been able to give me strength to make monkey bread. 🙂  And that today we can get more done with Jesus than we can plan to get done on our own.  What we get done might look different, but if it’s done because the Spirit has lead us there and our hearts and actions have glorified God in the process, than it’s minutes gained, not lost.

update on today:  it’s already 11:31 and we are still working on folder number 2.  We’ve had snack time and recess… and lunch is right around the corner.  We have 4 more folders to make it through and now the supply of chocolate chips has also drastically dwindled in an effort to make “taking away” in subtraction a little more tasty.  Knowing that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” doesn’t perform a miracle and make everything better.  But, it does transform my heart and mind and renew my spirit.  Jesus is still good and lives in me.  We will be ok. 🙂