“All for one, and 5 for 2…?”

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.

IMG_1916 IMG_1918 IMG_1923

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.


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?”

And the yeast rises…

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…

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:


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.