Flying through a Jungle of Pride…

Last week, I was in full “let’s-try-to-be-a-super-mom” mode.  You’d think, by now, I would know it just ain’t possible.  But, yet, I try.  Along the way, (usually when I start to feel I am way in over my head with paint projects, Pinterest craftiness, or sewing catastrophes) I realize just how far I’ve gone into unrealistic super-hero status.  I start down a quaint and inviting path of creativity that eventually leads me into a jungle full of prowling lions of self-criticism, mocking monkeys of comparison, and howling hyenas of stress.

When will I learn?

My most recent illusion of grandeur began with a trip to the WWII Commemorative Air Show with my three boys.  (Yes, you added right, the hubs counted as a boy that day.)  Gideon was in awe of the planes and propellers, and of course, all the big guns.  So, when the soon-to-be birthday boy, who for the last two years has celebrated with an Easter Bunny Pirate Party (don’t ask), requested to have planes instead, I jumped at the fresh idea.  However, when I asked more details about his desires, I soon realized I was already further into the jungle than I thought.  Not only did he want to have a WWII plane themed party, but he also wanted the Easter Bunny Pirate character to return, including Easter egg bombs and a Pirate treasure hunt adventure.  Mercy.

So I took plenty pictures of the B-17 Flying Fortress from multiple angles, mentally planning how the metal beast could be replicated with edible sweets.

Over.  My.  Head.  

I took note of the bombers and where they sat and envisioned white chocolate pirate bunnies taking their positions with their chocolate guns.

Entering. The. Jungle.  

I started perusing Pinterest for ideas.

Welcome. Jungle. Predators.

Why do I do this?  Why do I submit myself to these crazy ideas and plans?

For a few reasons: 1) I like the challenge.  I am by nature a person who likes to express herself creatively.  It is how God made me.  And as a stay-at-home mother of four, whose responsibilities outside the home have changed since our relocation, I rarely have the opportunity to fully unleash my creative juices.  2)  I love my kids.  My heart overflowed when I witnessed my little boy struck with awe as the gust of wind from old plane propellors swept the hat off his head.  If I can create a birthday celebration that generates even half of that excitement, it’s worth it.  3) Pride.  See, here’s the nasty thing about being halfway good at anything:  we somehow in the back of our hearts think we can earn favor or worth by being awesome at something.  Because somewhere in the process of doing the task or making the speech or singing the song, we give ourselves credit for the abilities we have to accomplish whatever it is.

Have we worked hard?  Probably.  Have we studied?  Likely.  Have we practiced?  Yep.

I can’t speak for everybody, but here’s where I think I go wrong:  I start to assume that the beginning inklings of talent or skill that were planted in me by God are even my own doing.  Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”  (Maybe this is why the night before the party, the airplane cracked in half down the middle and crushed the cake beneath.) However, Psalm 139:13 corrects me: “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.”  He is the source of any good found within me.

Just like my fondant covered B-17 would be nothing without that one initial flake of Rice Krispie’s Cereal with which it started, so is anything good that I can produce without the Father’s design: NOTHING.  It is a challenge, however, to maintain that solid footing in a slippery and treacherous jungle of pride.  We somehow become disillusioned with our size and strength, feeling either invincible under the shade of the thick green canopy, or fearful of becoming prey for the larger and fiercer wildlife.  We forget who we are. The truth is we are small, yet equipped.  We lack control over our destiny, yet are empowered.  We are not our own, yet heirs to an entire Kingdom.

When I focus on who I can become with all my hard work and fine-tuning, I forget who I already am.  When I strive to grow my talents for my own accolades and affirmations, I actually diminish in maturity.  Ephesians 4:15 says, “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.”  Rather than aiming for personal praise, we are to grow up in EVERY way into him who is the head: JESUS.  Whatever we do, it should be done to grow closer to Him.  This doesn’t mean I stop challenging my creativity with icing and modeling chocolate.  However, it does mean that when I find myself seeking the praise of others because of it, then I should stop.  If I am discouraged because my efforts or talents aren’t appreciated, then I need to glory in the joy the process brought me, and give thanks that Jesus gave me the desire for and enjoyment in such a task.  To consider that He loves me enough to give me joy in such things…that draws me to Him!

Yeah…I’m not very good at that thinking either.  But like all areas in which we seek to better ourselves, He is the source and genesis for all of our development, growth, and maturity.  A more fervent trust in Him, greater satisfaction in His favor, and authentic humility in our hearts all start with a little flake of Holy Spirit planted in our inmost being.  Like a mustard seed, it can be small, but He nourishes it and cultivates it into a great tree of beauty.

I’ve got more lofty projects underway, especially this week.  And as I enter a time of intense focus, my prayer is this:

Jesus, may I end this week where I started in the womb, owing all my value, worth, and purpose to you.  May I always be established in You.  “For [Your] invisible attributes, namely, [Your] eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. [Including me.] So [I am] without excuse.  For although [I have known] God, [I] did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but [I} became futile in [my} thinking, and [my] foolish heart [was] darkened. Claiming to be wise, [I] became [a] fool. (Romans 1:20-22)”  Please forgive me and help me to walk forward in newness of life, recalling who I am because of You… only You.  Produce good fruit in me that brings glory to Your namesake.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

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floored

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.