Ahhh…I’ve got the first day back to school under my belt.  (Technically, half a day, but I’m counting every minute of it.)  And lucky me, my husband was out of town for all the craziness.  Lucky YOU…because as I finally sit down after yesterday’s long and monumental hours, I’ve no adult with whom to process except those of you on the other side of my computer screen.

After the kids were dropped off with all their school supplies (and I ran the trips back to the car for miscellaneous things left behind), I had quite a productive morning.  I cleaned up the house a bit and then set to work putting crock-pot meals together.

The beginning of the school year makes me leap into hibernation mode–not necessarily that I desire to sleep all the time, though those days do come every once in awhile.  It’s more that when school starts, I act like I will be trapped in a cave for the next 9 months of the year.  I prepare and gather as if winter were about to hit hard and cover the streets with snow until spring.  (I remind you, I live in Houston, TX.)

After yesterday morning, my freezer looks as if it’s been stocked my an Alaskan Bushman.  I’ve got fillets of salmon, beef stew, marinated chicken, pounds of pork tenderloin, roasts, even sausage, all Ziplock-bagged and Sharpie labeled.  If only I could get into pickling and making my own jam, we’d be completely set.  The snow ain’t comin’… but the blizzard of life is fixin’ to hit. (Again, I’m Texan.)

Two years ago, we took our kids out of the school system and embarked on our year of “Family Rehab”.  We had been caught in a snowstorm of flurried chaos and busyness, giving the best of our days to others and losing sight of our children’s hearts in the black-out condition of our calendars.  We were tired.  Burned out.  Undone.  Rehab was a necessary and defining decision for our family.  It didn’t go quite as we had planned, but that’s usually how God works.  We had no idea what would ultimately bring about our healing.

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:9-11).

Now here we are two years later, figuratively gathering wood and counting our jars of pickled herring.  I find myself asking, “Has anything changed?”  “Did we rehabilitate?”  “Have we relapsed?”

When we started Family Rehab, we intended to pull away, hunker down, get healthy, and push the reset button.  We built our cabin and boarded up the doors for a bit.  We lit some candles, grabbed some blankets, held each other tight, and tried to hear the faintest sound of falling snow outside the frosted windows as we shivered inside.  We desperately trained our ears to hear the Spirit.  We twitched from our selfishness-withdrawl.  We hadn’t been discipled in how to properly cope with the American rat-race–relying on His truths and directed thankfulness.   We were not prepared either for the craziness that is marriage, family, ministry, etc. and we needed to learn the art of being still, listening to His voice.  During that year, we didn’t stumble across a trendy new way of organizing school papers, or spend time researching the best meal plans for busy families.

The healing for our addiction was found in storing up truth, then resting in the still, whispered, and very powerful presence of God.

As I mentally review, I think I can safely determine that we are, and have been, transitioning out of recovery into long-term sobriety.  We’ve learned the necessity of gathering spiritual fuel and provisions.  We’ve walked with mentors and guides who have taught us valuable lessons for the harsh environment we all live in.  We are still in our “Life After Rehab” season, putting His truths to the test and practicing the slowness of mind and spirit needed to daily and deeply commune with Him.  This beginning of the school year marks our 1-yr chip of sobriety, so to speak.  It hasn’t been a prefect year, by any means, but we continue to learn in fuller ways what it means to sit still in the presence of the Lord.  And honestly, He’s done way more in the past year than we ever did in all our years before Rehab.

“You can do more in my waiting, than in my doing I could do.”

– To Those Who Wait by Bethany Dillion

This year, with snow showers in the distance and busy thunder rolling, I find myself eager to sit still in the presence of God, snuggling under protective blankets of His Word, my stocked and loaded freezer sitting in anticipation.

So, here’s to slow-cooked cream of mushroom and chicken!  “Cheers!”, to a warm cup of cocoa in the middle of the blizzard, listening to the sound of wind’s howl.  “Woo-hoo!”,  to walking with children down a snowy path until their eyelashes droop with icy dust.  “Amen!”, to heavy quilts of His truth!  And a prayer to remaining sober-minded, full of gratitude, brimming with joy for all that He has done, in the midst of impending winter.

“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13).

Sometimes life doesn’t make sense.  In a world and culture that loves rhythms and systems, order and reason, sometimes life runs against the current.  Chaos abounds, and it’s enough to drive us all mad.

So what do we do when the chaos hits the fan?  What do we do when the world’s run amuck and we don’t know up from down?Here’s my laptop confession:  I eat chocolate and TV binge-watch.

We are not promised order, as we define it.  We are not guaranteed to always understand.  However, we are ensured that we don’t have to know the ins and outs of all that lay before us.  That truth is a really hard pill to swallow…chocolate is much easier.

As a parent, much of my “order” is defined by good behavior, and the procedures to get there involve discipline and consequences.  I am learning, however, that grace is chaos compared to behavior charts and house rules.  Grace, as it rubs against the grain of our daily structure, order, and expectations, usually asks us to forgive uncomfortably.  Grace requires understanding, not strict obedience nor lax leniency.  It demands time and action that unquestionably directs others toward Jesus.  This doesn’t always follow the steps and procedures that I have deemed responsible.  Grace-filled parenting erroneously appears irresponsible and “soft.”

How do I reconcile that in my heart?  If we are to live under grace, and extend grace to others, and to live in Gospel-centered community, we must train ourselves to think outside common sense, order, and definitions.

Forcing ourselves outside of common sense is quality practice.  Jesus and His “upside-down” kingdom runs counter to all cultural common sense.  The first shall be last.  Debt is freely cancelled.  Those are not lessons from Kindergarten.  From early on, we are groomed to follow the line leader and to take responsibility for our actions.  We are taught how to fill our sticker-chart of good deeds.

Having a plan, asking questions about the plan, and having a back-up plan feels responsible, and there are times when this is required of us.  So when we are occasionally asked (or forced) to not have a plan, we can feel lazy, dull, and even immoral.  To practice frivolity, at least to some degree, stretches us outside our common sense limits and our desire to control the chaos.  Grace often resides beyond these personal boundaries and the limits we’ve drawn.  Perhaps we should push ourselves outside these cultural guidelines so often, that functioning against the cultural current begins to feel normal–less uncomfortable.

Today the kids have their Valentine’s parties, and so we’ve been getting our “creative” on.  We decided to order cards from the store, so the other night we had a photo shoot.  In an effort to practice frivolity, we threw out common sense.  It seemed more like Halloween than Valentine’s, and I believe we successfully thought outside of the box.  (Pinterest makes it really hard to be truly unique.)   We stepped beyond order and reason, and with a little bit of crazy and a whole lot of laughter, we came up with a plan–a plan of non-sense.

Ava’s favorite candy is Three Musketeers.  I’m sure there is someone smarter than me who could have drawn a connection between the sword-toting trio and Valentine’s Day love, but I had nothing. We bought the candy, a fake mustache, and inverted Gideon’s pirate costume.  Ava, who has an amazing ability to defy inhibitions, slapped on the facial hair and hat, and began hamming it up for the camera.

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I love this girl.

This musketeer embraced the utter non-sense of it all…and we laughed.

The lack of meaning and connection became the thrust of our message.

You see, when we cling to reason and order, to practicality and systems, we miss musing in the senseless things of life, or at least the things that seem senseless to us.  I mentally draft connections from one event to another, or apply meaning to a situation that just simply doesn’t exist.  It’s my meager attempt to make sense of life, to organize the chaos.  Meanwhile, I miss the freedom in the chaos, notably that I don’t have to figure it out.  When I don’t know what to do with my kids and their behavior, I find myself holding fast to proper procedures and guidelines.  In turn, I miss the beauty of extending true grace…that which is undeserved.  My rules are all about what is earned and deserved.  Grace doesn’t fit in that box.

The clear message of Scripture is that God has His plan and we are in it…somewhere.  From the first meal in the Garden, mankind has been tempted by “knowing.”

“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.” Genesis 3: 6-7

….and since the first instruction in the Garden, it hasn’t been humanity’s place to know.  

“And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden,  but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Genesis 2: 16-17

I desire what isn’t for me (namely, knowing the plan and controlling the situation).  Not much has changed since the Garden.  Eve and I have much in common.  One would think I could learn from her story.  For when her eyes were opened, it didn’t go well.

I desperately want to see the big picture, the plan that lies ahead…at least how the next few weeks will pan out.  I want to make sure my children respect authority and obey the rules, often at the expense of grace. But it isn’t for me to know and it isn’t for me to withhold that which is so freely given to me.  And if all that I seek to see was indeed revealed to me, I can only assume that the irresistible knowledge I crave now wouldn’t satisfy in the end.  I can only assume that without grace, my children would grow up to be wonderful, respectful citizens, but who sit in constant judgment and have ongoing relationship inadequacies, including relationship with their heavenly Father.

SO…I practice.  While cute on a Valentine’s card, I currently struggle to experience non-sensical joy in the midst of chaos and unknowing.  I’d like to say I could, because after all, that’s what a Proverbs 31 woman would do: “laugh at the days to come.”  But let’s get real…when the chaos hits the fan, trusting God’s plan worry-free is a set of skills most of us lack.

So I practice the skill, even in silly photo shoots, which honestly, takes no risk.  But even that little taste of embracing the self-adhesive mustache makes the crazy around me slightly more palatable. Can you imagine if I practiced this skill with grace? That takes guts!  I can only imagine that the effects on myself and those around me would be astounding.

As I fumble and muddle through all this, here is my hope…it’s for you, too:

“For the sake of my servant Jacob,
and Israel my chosen,
I call you by your name,
I name you, though you do not know me.
I am the Lord, and there is no other,
besides me there is no God;
I equip you, though you do not know me,
that people may know, from the rising of the sun
and from the west, that there is none besides me;
I am the Lord, and there is no other.”

Isaiah 45: 4-6

When we are not trusting, when we do not know or acknowledge Him, He is still faithful.  He still equips us–with peace and with grace.  When we are in the wilderness, He continues to guide, though we whine and complain with every step.  He continues to know us and our cravings to understand and make sense of the desert.  He calls us by name…even when we resist to call on His.  He promises to make at least one thing known to us…Him.

He will supply us with frivolous grace, and even more opportunities to shower others with the same.  He will sustain us in the chaos, when we don’t see a way.

Romans 9:15-17 says,

“For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’  So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.'”

It is because of His faithfulness that I am compelled to respond with trust.  I trust not because I can make sense of the situation, or predict the future.  I can trust that when grace is given, Jesus takes care of the consequences and conviction that my guidelines and sense of justice want to establish.  I will not walk forward in hope because I have a glimpse of what He is doing.  I know it depends on nothing of me, no will or exertion, not even an optimistic outlook, and therefore, I am free to not have one.

(gasp…)

I press on with wishy-washy hope and just try to trust.  I will start with baby steps and simply try to trust Him with the plan, and with the aftermath of His grace.  (Accompanied of course by chocolate and tv drama).

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

Proverbs 3:5-6

Here’s the final Valentine: (completely non-sensical)

IMG_0501 “Roses are red, violets are blue.  All for one…and 5 for 2?”

I’ve been particularly absent from the blog lately.  I could say I’ve been busy with the book and general life stuff, which I have, but actually it’s been a matter of pride.  My blogging is usually a time of solitude with Jesus, and there is no good excuse for short-changing time with Him and time to process life through His Word.  See, things have been rough.  Some of my children have not been adapting very well to our new school routine and my embarrassment at the fact has kept me from publicly writing about it.  My shame has inhibited me from processing it through Jesus, which doesn’t alleviate the humiliation, but only perpetuates it.  So, here I am, a little apprehensive about fingering the keyboard and revealing a deep heart issue.  I genuinely don’t know what truth or big idea Jesus will conclude this post with but I know I will need to hear it.  Thanks for joining me in this humbling process.

The worst day was a Monday a few weeks ago.  We had already been in school for half a week (which went wonderfully, by the way) but it was the starting day for public school.  One of my children (I’m not going to mention names…because it gets ugly) was throwing a massive fit about having to go to school.  Everything was wrong.  Clothes were wrong, socks were wrong, shoes were wrong, breakfast was wrong.  I tried to help, but the anthem was, “You won’t even help me…You won’t even listen to me.”  I broke.  My temper flared and I was undone.  After the socks and shoes I had graciously put on, and I had patiently tied, had been kicked off for the second time, my self-restraint was gone.  Once everyone else was ready and it was time to go, the shoeless child was forced into the car, disheveled hair and all.  After kicking and screaming the entire drive, when we arrived at school, the walk into the building was dramatic, laboring, and exhausting.  When we made it to the office, I struggled to pry one child off while keeping another from escaping and running back into the parking lot.  I was mortified.  The walk down the hallway to the classrooms was coupled with mini-body slams against the wall in an effort to stop any progress towards the room.  I smiled the whole time, as if to say, “No one else look, all is fine here! heh…heh…”  Finally a school staff member removed the child suction-cupped to my leg and I made a run for it.

On the way home, I called Paul, tears rolling down my face.  I was sad for my child, hurt by the words of my child, ashamed of my behavior, and embarrassed that my child was reflecting poorly of my parenting.  I was questioning every decision I’ve ever made on behalf of my children.  I was a mess.  But even then, I did not appear nearly as melodramatic as after the next event.  A cop stepped out in front of my car and waved me over.  Ugh…a school zone.  “Seriously, what’s the big idea?  What is up with this day?” With 12 minutes left in the designated time slot for the reduced speed, I was caught going the full speed…and on the phone.  I chunked my cell to the opposite side of the car and veered over.  I got a ticket from a very unfriendly sheriff.  This day was not getting any better.

I cried myself the rest of the way home.  Poor Judah sat in his carseat, wondering what in the world was going on.  After gaining composure, I thought, I can redeem this day.  I will bake cookies.  I will let my children know that I am sorry for the morning by having warm chocolate chip goodness for them when they arrive in the afternoon.  So I set to finding a recipe and checking the pantry for all the supplies as Judah took his nap.  I had everything except the baking powder.  So I googled substitutions online and found something that might work.  I was now racing against the clock to be done by the time Judah woke and we had to head back into the car for pick up.  I mixed and pre-heated and dropped rounded spoonfuls.  When I came back to check my act of goodwill, the oven-light revealed yet another failing of the day.

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There was no part of this day that I had any control over…ahhh…and I think I just stumbled on the clear message of the day.

Control.  I’ve got none of it.

So what do I do with my lack of control?  The lack of control over my temper that morning?  The lack of control over my children’s behavior? My lack of control over what other’s are thinking about me?  My lack of control to pay attention to the flashing school zone lights?  My lack of control when expressing my frustration and emotions over the phone?  My lack of control over the chemical properties of baking soda and the reaction it has (or doesn’t have) when combined with lemon juice?  Apparently, my instinct is to turn to shame and embarrassment, which all stems from pride.  I assume I have the ability to be in control.  Or maybe even, I assume that I have the right to be in control of these things.  If I didn’t assume that control was mine to be had, than why would I feel a sense of failure that I was unable to achieve it?

Nothing is mine to control.  Control is not mine to achieve.  So when the wheels are spinning off and heads seems to be devilishly rotating while spewing green words of hurt at me, I don’t have to turn to shame.  It’s life.  I can’t control any of this, especially the redeeming part.  I can’t muster up the best plan to redeem my day and somehow make it all better.    Jesus is doing something in these moments.  He’s still good and He is working all things out for my good and for the good of those around me.  So, when I am having to let another adult rip my child off my body, its a necessary step in the process to overcome their separation anxiety.  It’s good for them to not cling to me, and this season, while hard, is developing them into the young adults I long for them to be.  That police officer probably got kudos for the number of tickets he wrote that day, I don’t know.  But, somehow I have to believe that it was good for him, and probably good for me to become more aware of my oversight of school zones.  The cookies…well, Jesus did redeem the cookies.  My attempt to redeem the day resulted in imperfection, but He turned that into something worthwhile.  They were flat, but chewy and good.  My taste-tester, Judah, approved.  And when I handed each of my kids a baggie of sweetness as they entered the car at pick-up, they were all smiles.

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Jesus redeems more than just my failures.  He redeems the little things in the little moments of my little day.  The only purpose in Him having my cookies turn out okay was to love me.  How often do we believe that He cares that much?  How often do we experience His goodness on a day that seems like a waste?

Life After Rehab was not guaranteed to be easy.  It was not promised to me that after rehabbing, we would receive an awarded ability to control.  No, if anything we were promised to face challenges and learning experiences that would leave our lack of self-control laid bare and our depravity raw.  I need Jesus.  Even when I make cookies.  I need Him and His presence to satisfy me and to assure me.  This is rehab 101: God is bigger than me and I am powerless on my own.  I thought I had learned that lesson last year, but it’s daily implications still impact me.

We have continued to struggle in the mornings.  I have continued to try and control.  Jesus is softening me, breaking me down so that my inability to control is fully revealed to me, and if needed for my sanctification, revealed to everyone around me.  (I really hope I don’t require that.)  Growth is labor-intensive.  Figuring out how to walk a rehabilitated life while thrown into the mix requires the same intensity and intentionality as figuring out how to do it in a season of removal and distance.  It requires a dependency on the Holy Spirit to listen and look at life in a different way.  We are learning.  If only I had spent the time processing this lesson earlier, I’d probably saved some shame, disappointment, and feelings of failure.  But there is grace in this too.

I am thankful of His reminders.  “You’re not in control.”  “It doesn’t matter what they say, I know your heart.”  “Stop trying to assume what others are thinking about you, and think on what I am teaching you.”  “Slow down.”  “Take deep breaths and rest in me.”  “Enjoy me and my presence, and have a cookie to tangibly taste how good my plan of redemption is.”  “Don’t forget to talk to me.”

You know, those cookies…those paper-thin cookies were my moment of communion with Him.  Through that sugary manna-like treat, He reminded me of His presence, His goodness, His redemption.  He gave me something physical to put in my mouth so I could remember the sweetness of His faithfulness.  I think I’m on to my next big idea…chocolate chip communion wafers. 🙂

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Yesterday was the first day of school.  The official introductory step over the threshold into Life After Rehab.  We’ve been building up anticipation for this event, buying school uniforms, backpacks, and those coveted new box of crayons.  The night before was full of anxiety and fierce emotion for the kids.  (Some children more contained than others.)  We recognized old patterns return.  We caught sober-mindedness fleeing the building.  We saw lots of kicking…

But somehow, through the insanity, as parents, we remained calm and level-headed.  That’s not to imply that we have mastered anything at all, but it did show some return from our rehab year.  More pointedly, it was the fruit of the Spirit that we witnessed.  Our stretch of Rehab has trained us, if even a little, in allowing the Spirit to assert His temperament over our own.  

So much anticipation…

This past weekend, I made monkey bread in preparation for Sunday morning.  The kids usually request doughnuts, because they know I’m a softy for fried sweetened gluten and special Sunday morning outings, especially when we are running late.  But in an effort to break the habit, I thought that I’d let sugared monkey bread dough rise over night in the oven so that I could quickly bake it in the morning.  I have a poor habit of never reading a recipe more than once.  If I’ve gotten the general idea of the dish from the first go around, I figure I will remember enough for the next time.  This usually works out well for me, except when baking.  You have to be precise and accurate with measurements of flour and yeast.  There’s a good deal of behind-the-scenes science and chemical reactions going on in that kitchen kiln, that I seriously should have learned by now not to leave any of that finite math to estimations. 

I’m a slow learner…

Sunday sunup, Ava had generously volunteered to surface early and turn on the oven to bake the monkey bread.  But when she opened the door to take the swelling dough out and let the oven pre-heat, this is what she discovered…

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Thank you, Daddy for thinking to take a picture. 🙂

The softened butter and crystalized brown sugar slid off off the rounded clouds of dough and sat on the floor of my embarrassingly dirty oven.  All that salty sweet bliss…sigh

Ava and I pulled the mess out and sat it on the counter.  We gently tugged at the gooey-ness and discarded the extra dough into another pan…no way we were wasting all that goodness!  As we nipped and tucked, no matter how gentle our efforts, air escaped from the bottled dough bulges.  

So much anticipation…

for that monkey bread.  Those 8 nighttime hours it sat in wait–rising, multiplying, gaining grandeur and fluff.  We all were looking forward to its butter-soaked delight at dawn.  What we found was not at all what we expected.  It was shocking.  It was profound.  It was super-sized.

Yesterday morning when we woke for school, I fully imagined the worst.  I don’t know if that designates me a horrible mom, or a prepared mom.  But what I observed was not at all what I anticipated.  The kids were all fed, dressed (including socks and shoes, which usually equates minor surgery), and smiling…early.  Yes, early.  We appeared at school and had to actually wait in the hallway because we were too early.  (“Early” happens even less than wearing socks and tennis shoes.)

 

Yeast is a peculiar thing.  This cooking agent that is so small, when given exactly the right ingredients (in the right proportions) develops into the amazing goodness that gives sustenance and satisfies the rawest of needs…hunger.  We had been craving for something in our family.  We had been hankering to taste that which satisfies, that surpasses the expectations of mere bread, that which bounds over the limits of American success.  Rehab taught us that only Jesus satisfies the appetite to live life to the fullest.  And like yeast, He comes in ways that we don’t expect and ways that we can’t prepare for.  He comes in forms that do not simply fill us, but overwhelm our tins with exciting and fantastic satisfaction.  Though we don’t set the menu, we still anticipate the meal He is preparing.  As we wait to encounter what He does for our children and for our family this next year, and the years beyond, we have no idea what He will do, or how He will do it.  But, we get to wait in suspense.  We get to watch the dough rise and fluff.  We get to smell the artisan bread waft through the house.  We don’t know yet what’s to come from this season, but it brings joy to watch the yeast double and swell.  It builds our enthusiasm and anticipation.

It’s difficult to see life’s dough topple over out of our plans and not tug and pull at it’s unexpected bobbles.  We like to control.  We prefer to help out with the plan God has already put into motion.  We love to amend the dimensions of the pan/plan and how long things should have to bake in the uncomfortable fire.  When we get pushy with the strategy of God we can puncture the thin skin on those delicate bubbles of dough.  He desires for us to marvel at the size and magnitude of our anticipation.  He wants us to experience the full goodness of those light and flaky layers once they are perfected in the baking.  When we implement our own program into His sovereign unknown providence, we steal our own glorious anticipation…the anticipation He desires us to marvel in.  We deny ourselves the fine and intricate pastry he’s prepared, and end up with chewy and dense life moments that ferment bitterness at where we’ve been and how we’ve lived…what hardships have been dealt our way.

Oh, I pray that we don’t get anxious for His blessings–that we don’t preemptively pop His bubble–that we don’t steal His thunder–that we don’t scheme to discover the plans for our own surprise party.  Until He serves up the monkey bread on his precise time table, I pray that we hold no expectations, but only hold our breath in joyous anticipation.  

Let the yeast rise…

Well, today it’s back to the grind.  We just wrapped up a week and a half of vacation…glorious, glorious vacation.

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There were numerous moments during this furlough that renewed my spirit and challenged my heart.  This was more than a break on the beach with a margarita in hand…although I’m not denying that happened.  This trip will forever stand out in my mind as very transformative.  And, so, in true “life after rehab” fashion, I feel as though I need to intentionally ponder and reflect on the meaningful moments, so that I can treasure them in my heart and share them with you.

However, as I open up the computer today after the long hiatus, I struggle to find my words and my rhythm.  I sat on the beach last week and actually read a book from cover to cover.  It was amazing.  Not only was having the freedom, time, and ability to read a whole book without interruption amazing, but the content of the book I chose has also left me somewhat speechless.  Ann Voskamp’s one thousand gifts has been so enlightening and transforming.  If you haven’t read it, please do.  It is worth every minute of your time.  The combination of her poetic prose and down-to-earth writing is a humbling joy to read.  There is no way I could ever write in such a masterful way.  It is truly amazing.  In her book, she writes of her own revelations on thankfulness and recognizing God’s gifts in the every day.  It has made me realize how much I neglect the sacrament of thanksgiving and how often the Bible speaks of its’ importance.  I feel as though there is a whole undiscovered path to joy whose trail head I have been aimlessly walking past.  I am anxious to unearth more of “eucharisteo”, as I have been inspired by Voskamp’s own hunt.

The “sleuthing” that she refers to–this treasure hunt for the things to be thankful for–urged me to seek God and His blessings during our vacation.  I found myself swooning over tiny sand-dwelling creatures and huge panoramic views of slate blue sky meeting shimmering crystal waves.  I stumbled upon restfulness, with my eyes closed and ears focused on the hush of the waves, the rhythm of their meter, rocking my soul to peacefulness.  I can’t really explain it, but as I sat still and took in some of the amazing sights and sounds around me, I felt as though I was being wooed my the Creator, reminded of His serenading love.  

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Voskamp is on to something here…and it’s more than “positive thinking.”  In counting my blessings, I am forced to not merely count, but to consider them, and the Giver who gives them to me.  I am forced to be still and know that He is God.  I see how big He is and how infinitely small I am.  That doesn’t really fit the criteria of American dream setting and the “do what makes you happy” kind of joy in which we are encouraged to partake. Being small–knowing my mortality–these are not “positive” thoughts.  All things will come to an end…including me.  Reminding myself that I don’t have control over anything in my life sounds like depressing pessimistic water-cooler talk.   But in actually seeing the God I believe in, feeling His endless pursuit of me in the form of beauty, and knowing that He is bigger and grander than me, I am fueled by a humble peace, a sure contentment, and a deeper, more satisfying joy than simply seeing the glass half-full.

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This kind of detective work requires sitting at the private investigator desk searching through files of evidence.  It takes time and intentionality, which eerily sounds like the slow process of Family Rehab.  My journey to restore family and home isn’t done.  Jesus is restoring my heart–my joy.  Life After Rehab looks less like returning to normalcy with all the appropriate sobriety tools gained from being secluded in a rehab facility and more like continued study and rehabilitation with the distractions of everyday life now being added into the mix.  I still have so much to learn.  And as Voskamp also mentions, learning takes practice, practice, practice.

In addition to reading books, Paul and I had the opportunity to watch a documentary entitled,  Holy Ghost.  (You can watch the trailer here: http://www.holyghost.wpfilm.com).  The whole movie was guided by the Holy Spirit.  “What the what!?!?!,” you say?  No plans were made, except ones that were the result of ‘inner voice’ urgings or visions.  As a “conservative” Lutheran, some of the conversations recorded in the street scenes, in which the Holy Spirit was called upon to send a physical sensation through a person’s body, were a little wild.  But, honestly, it was no more untamed than what we read about in the book of Acts.  The movie features such celebrities as Lennie Kravitz, Brian Welch, and Fieldy from Korn.  As I watched people step out in faith, taking risks, and even entering into places that are dangerous for Christians, I again was struck by how intentionality and stillness were key in seeing all that God had in store for them.  How can one discern the voice of the Holy Spirit if they are not still enough to focus their hearts and minds to intentionally hear Him?

I think about all the practicing I do.  I consider all the rehearsing that goes on in my mind.  I add up all the time spent mulling over the lies of the world that tell me I’m not enough or of any value without the perfect body, successful children, or tons of money.  I compute all the energy and time I’ve spent repeating the same failures or hurtful behaviors.  What am I learning?  What am I teaching myself?  How much of the life-giving lawn of truth am I repeatedly treading worn down paths of lies over its’ surface?  What opportunities have I lost in the meantime?  What holy risks have I avoided or squashed because I was busy in the practice of listening to another’s voice?  What routines, patterns, and new trails have disabled my senses from hearing God’s audible voice?  What amount of blind ignorance has limited my vision for His kingdom, His glory, and my ultimate joy?

Jesus says in John 14:26, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

“Life After Rehab” might as well be called “practice”.  I haven’t yet learned.  I need training.  I need the Holy Spirit to teach me.  Sometimes it will be hard.  Sometimes it will bear fruit that I could never have imagined.  My prayer is that I am teachable, moldable, and pliable.  My prayer is that my senses are so overwhelmed with the Spirit that I can’t help but walk in unabashed gratitude and risk.  Life is about to get busy and hectic with school and work.  I pray that I find the words of the Spirit in the midst of the mayhem (that they fill me with truth and with holy pomptings) and the rythym of His grace, blessing, and spontaneity in the mundane (that it moves me into new depths of sobering joy).