what’s the big idea??

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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My Words and My Rhythm

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).

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Real conversation when Paul got home yesterday afternoon:

Me:  I feel like I was the worst mother ever today….

Paul: What ma…(interrupted)

Gideon: AGH!!! (as a plastic swimming fish goes flying down the stairs)

Me: (sigh)

Paul: (laughter)

Me:  Okay, maybe they haven’t been the best kids today either.

At the risk of sounding crazy, at three separate times yesterday, I found myself lying on the floor.  Not playing with anyone.  Not cleaning anything up.  Just enjoying the silence way down there.  It’s like the whole world stands still and peaceful in that little world that exits in the last 5 inches of space before hitting the floor.  (And we even ended school at 9:30 in the morning!)

The day started with our end of the week little tests to make sure my kids are actually listening to me and learning something.  Like I said, by 9:30, we were done.  I promised the kids earlier in the week that if we ended early on Friday we could go visit their friends during recess at school.  Talk about motivation!  So we spent an hour out there in the hot sun at the elementary school playing it up.

My goal for the rest of the day was to clean the house. So, because I had already worked on cleaning the kitchen a little before we left, we ate lunch AWAY from home.  When we finally got home, it was time to get back at it.  But as soon as we walked in the door, a drink slipped through a pair of little hands and it was all over the floor.  Good thing that floor was going to get cleaned anyways as soon as we finished eating.  

The kids were given the task to play or watch a movie and let mommy clean.  This worked for awhile until someone (they shall remain nameless to protect their identity) got a splinter.  When splinters breed with this particular child a new beast is born.  Oh, man…D-R-A-M-A.  That kind of thing tests my patience like none other.  Especially, when I am trying to fix the problem, namely get the splinter out of the finger, and am slammed with a reaction that would suggest I am taking a chainsaw to it.  Momma did not do so well.  I eventually had to just get up and leave, letting the screaming beast figure it out on its own.  I did not speak with love or care or concern at the end of that conversation.  Not a good moment for Mom.

Amazingly enough, walking away actually made the splinter hurt less…go figure.

It was after this, that I had found myself on the floor for the first time…upstairs in my bedroom.  I had just finished picking up all the school folders and books and papers that had been collecting there by my desk all week.  I had picked up the laundry that the raccoon got into and I could actually see the floor again.  

Oh, sweet floor.  You don’t talk back to me.  You never run away from me when I am talking.  You are there…even under the crap I leave on you.  Ahhhh…before I knew it, there I was face down on my floor.  I think I could have even fallen asleep for a little, if it weren’t for the little pieces of paper I could see all the way across the floor on my new tan carpet horizon.  The impulse to vacuum overtook me and stole my moment of floor peace.

After vacuuming I hightailed it downstairs to mop.  I swept first and finally got that done after quite a few interruptions by Gideon and the raccoon.  I sent the girls upstairs to work on their rooms, and Gideon outside with the raccoon in his new swing.  (Don’t worry, he was buckled in and the blinds were open.  I could see them the whole time.)  In the five minutes that lasted, I got about a quarter of the floor done.  Judah was crying.  Time for a nap.  

I got him out of the swing and upstairs to his bed to try and take a nap.  I intercepted the girls going down the stairs to put in a movie (yes, again) because they were tired of cleaning, (if they only knew).  After singing him his song, laying him down, putting in his pacifier, tapping his nose and giving him his love-ie, he smiled at me and I walked out.  Sweet boy. 🙂

And then he cried.  

And cried.

And so started the routine: in and out of his room to “replug” him with the pacifier over and over again.  His sweet smile accompanying every nap-time rendezvous.  In between our little visits, I scrubbed toilets and wiped down counters and carried monster trucks out of my room and back into Gideon’s room.  Then, the girls decided to take a break from the movie and play outside with Gideon.  It was a good thing, because honestly, I forgot that he was still out there.

To take advantage of the moment I laid on the floor again…this time in the hallway outside of the raccoon’s room.  It wasn’t for long.  I was on my back silently pleading… Oh, please…go to sleep, little man.  You have to be tired.  You have to be…(I think I fell asleep, maybe…) 

But not Judah.  He was not having it.  In again, song again, pacifier again, love-ie again, nose-tap again, smile again.  Exit.  Cry.

Stinker.

I finally rescued him from my motherly torture.  I guess he is 7 months old, a real big man on campus. I guess he knows what he needs and he doesn’t need an authority figure to help him see when rest is essential to his temperament.  Sigh. Whatever.

Then the kids came back in.  “Oh, good! Judah’s awake!”, I heard.  (If they only knew.)  They started picking up their rooms again.  One needed my permission to hang stuff on the wall, the other needed my overall help and encouragement to throw away practically everything in her room.  Everything is special and important and has a future use.  If the world comes to an end, I want her on my team.  We will have plenty of McDonald’s toys (and wrappers) to throw at the zombies.

Finally, it felt like everyone had a task and didn’t need my help and I could sit for a minute with a glass of water.  Then, I remembered the three-fourths of the floor downstairs that still needed to be mopped.  And, yes, it was necessary.  This was the sticky area that had previously been polished with a rag and Sonic Ocean Water Slush.  I flipped on some music and got to mopping.  The raccoon was up in his crib, out of actual physical harm, but I could hear him fuss, and little Helen trying her best to sweet-talk him.  I could hear Ava at work in her room.  And Gideon…poor Gideon.  I forgot about him again.  I can’t remember where he was or what he was doing.  Not a stellar Mom day.

But, the floor was finally mopped.  It looked so good.  It was clean and smooth and cold.  Yes, floor-moment number 3.  On my face again.  That little piece of floor heaven looked so good, I even moved the kitchen table out of the way so I could really stretch out.  Oh.  To feel the length of my entire spine release from the pressure of just standing, it was amazing.  The cool floor against my face…and it smelled good…really good and clean.  Just thinking about it as I write makes me want to close my eyes.  It was so peaceful, in those 5 inches above the floor.  So calm.  So clean.  So cool.

“MO———–M!”  “Judah in his bed is not working for me anymore!”  

I picked him up and as I was headed back downstairs, in walked Paul.  I sat on the bench, which was out of it’s normal place.  Oh yeah, now I remember what Gideon had been up to!  I had completely forgot about the fort that Gideon had asked me to build him earlier when I was upstairs with the girls in their rooms.  That’s where he was!   OH…  That’s where he was…waiting for me.   Not a good Mommy day, at all.  All the furniture was rearranged and his entire set of sheets, bedspread, blankets, and pillows were waiting in the center to be constructed into a much anticipated fort.

Thankfully, Paul was already on it, tucking and stretching and building a much needed and well-deserved fort for Gideon.  Gideon ran upstairs to get a few things.  Ava came down the stairs ready to play.  Helen came down, saw the fort, and said, “Y’al’ve been building a fort while I have been cleaning my room?!  That’s not fair…”, and started to play.  (If she only knew.) Paul sat on the couch across from me and just said, “You gonna make it, Goeke?”

And this is where my, “I feel like I haven’t been a good mother today,” comment happened… and the fish flying down the stairs in a loud crash.

I think I wasn’t a good Mom yesterday.  I don’t think I am a good Mom any day.  I often lose my patience.  I often lose my temper.  I often breed my own little devilish beasts that take over my attitude and dealings with others.  

But thank goodness for those heavenly floor-moments.  And while the actual laying on the floor moments are good respite for a day like today, they don’t compare to the floor moments at the feet of Jesus.  When I lay at His feet,  when I sit in meditation enjoying sometimes a mere 5 inches of space between the world around me and the acknowledgment that Jesus loves me, I am surrendering all over to Him.  I don’t get distracted by the paper from the 3-hole punch stuck on the carpet.  I don’t worry about how many times I forgot Gideon, or how I may or may not have thrown Judah completely off a nap schedule.  I hand it all over to Him, asking Him to forgive my shortcomings, to heal the hurts that I have caused.  I can plead to Him- not to take a nap, but for all my restless moments.  I ask him to show me where and how I can love better, and even clean better.  I ask Him to make all this “family rehab” worth it.  I ask Him to give me more floor space- more time with Him to focus on Him.  And sometimes, even literally more floor space for our growing family and all their Happy Meal mementos.

And in those moments before His throne, in His house, if I am quiet and still enough, I can hear him remind me of his forgiveness, his mercy, his unfailing love.  Psalm 23:6 says it this way, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”  Being in His presence, sometimes, face to the floor, reveals my meekness, sinfulness, and weakness.  I need a god bigger than me.  I need a god who actually cares that I find joy in laying on my floor.  I need a god who takes huge measures to show me that even though I fail time and time again, he does NOT ever fail me.  My God gave it ALL on the cross for me, even when I can’t give my own children simple splinter first-aid.  He forgives me and remembers my sin no more, even when I can’t remember where I left my own children.  Through his sacrifice on the cross He cleans me and erases all my sticky accusations of a horrible mom.  Like my clean floor, He washes me clean with his forgiveness and I am clean, cool, and peaceful.  When I acknowledge Him in all my ways, He reminds me of ALL the ways He has acknowledged me…even when I am on the floor.

“…but, God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Romans 5:8

I don’t do anything to deserve my floor-moments with Jesus.  My little piece of heaven that exists somewhere in between my heart and my head is there because of what He has done in my weakness.  It is the gift of Jesus in me, connecting me to the Father and His truths.  

Thank you, Jesus, for times spent in front of your feet, wiping them with tear-filled locks.  Thank you for your gentleness and kindness, loving me there, where I am, how I am.  Thank you that when I am literally sent to the floor with overwhelming tasks, I am still floored by your overwhelming goodness and grace.  And thank you, Jesus, for freshly cleaned, good-smelling floors.