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).

Last night I sat with a cup of spiced tea in my hands next to my son reading a book.  The pages were lit by only the fading sunlight of dusk and a warm-scented candle.  The soft soundtrack of Pride and Prejudice played over the stereo as we read his library book about…StarWars droids.  Even still it was a lovely setting.  It sounds picture perfect…

Until I tell the rest of the story.

Upstairs a storm was brewing.  Emotions were high and were being unleashed all over the floor.  Literally.  The pads of the feet were not being used to travel the carpet.  An all out rolling and kicking temper-tantrum was underway.

Creating a calm setting amidst the chaos is our new approach.  Giving more credence and attention to the peaceful and quiet rather than turning over the entire state of the house to fits is our current training in Life After Rehab.   We are trying to practically retain sober-mindedness when everything around us seems out of control.  It’s not an effort to just ignore, but to speak calm truth in short increments.  I think it might be working.  The issue is a strong-willed child who will stop just short of every extreme measure imaginable to be in control.  (I don’t know who passed that gene down!)  It’s hard to remain light-hearted and tranquil when your name is repeatedly yelled across the house.  It’s difficult to stay upbeat and truth-filled when someone is telling you over and over that you are wrong and unfair.

All this practice and training in my parenting is forming something else in me as well.  I am learning more about the Holy Spirit in this process.  I am learning that while candle-lit space travel on the pages of a borrowed book takes extreme focus during a spinning child-tornado, it is still possible.  It’s exactly the kind of challenging work the Holy Spirit does.  It’s the precise task the Holy Spirit has been doing since the beginning of time…order in the midst of chaos.

If we truly believe that God is triune–three persons in One–then the Holy Spirit was there at the beginning of creation with God, the Father and Jesus, the Word.  He was the Holy Spirit that traveled across the expanse of the waters, stirring motion into the wind, creating a pattern of currents in otherwise haphazard air.  He was the very breath of God that was blown into the lifeless clay lungs of Adam, triggering inhalation and exhalation, contraction and constriction–a whole organized system of life.  The Spirit is a powerful force.  His movement has not once ceased since that first day of the world’s birth.  If I say I have relationship with Jesus, and acknowledge God as my Father, then what of this Holy Spirit?  If He is an equal part of the Triune, then should not my relationship be equally yoked with Him?  Should I not be conversing with the Spirit just as I commune with Jesus or the Father?

In my weary and parched land of parenting, the Holy Spirit hovers the dusty sand, ready to spill itself over my desert.  He has power to turn my weak, my tired, my poor into churning oceans of bounty and blessing.  There is an oasis to be had, even in the midst of the hot dry sand storm.

I am learning…slowly…but nevertheless, learning how practically to live in the presence of the Spirit even when circumstances seem far from Him.  When I find myself overcome with Him, I am content.  I am peaceful.  I am tranquil.  I am trusting.  And I am entirely without control.  It’s not by my own power or will that I find myself with my cup of tea smiling.  It’s not a vision board or positive thinking ritual that seduces me to happiness.  It truly is the joy of the Lord.  It is His kindness, mercy, and goodness that compels me.  It can seem so trivial…”okay, yeah, yeah, the ‘Holy Spirit’ makes you happy even when kids are throwing fits.”  But until you experience the true satisfaction that comes with calling on the Holy Spirit to overwhelm you with peace, and then you actually sense it, it won’t ever sound legit.

How do I learn this?  What’s my homework?  I take risks.  I am learning to take risks on the Holy Spirit.  I ask and wait…then just hope that He shows up.  I listen and wait…and do whatever I think I might be hearing.  It could merely be a voice in my head…it could.  And I am sure that sometimes it is my own consciousness self-talking myself to do little good deeds.  But there are times I hear a faint urging to do something that would normally be uncomfortable and outside my comfort zone.  So instead of ignoring it, my spiritual science experiment is to take the risk of actually doing it, without hypothesizing.  I do it, then wait and watch for any sign of change.  Little by little the Spirit is revealing to me genuine fruit.  There is a field of little outcroppings springing up as I take these risks.  I am looking into this land and seeing a future harvest rising.  My risks are fruitful, even if I don’t see everyone of them flowering into something.  The more I venture into trusting, the more I am learning to discern His voice from my own.   I am learning what seeds to plant and where.  And I am learning how to sit and quietly watch the grass grow.

His voice tells me, “have some spiced-tea”, even though it’s still a hot and humid September in Houston.  His voice tells me, “light the fall scented candle…in fact, light two of them so that you can’t escape their fragrance, and mine.”  He urges me to sit and breathe deep and marvel at the face of the sweet child by my side, to fluff his hair and tell him he’s dashingly handsome.  His voice tells me to pray for my upstairs child who has gone wild.  He whispers in the quiet of my heart reminders of His truth and His love and His sovereignty.  He hums a sweet melody in my ear that paints a picture of a future adult with a strong-willed passion for Him.  He breathes power into my being…restrained power to be calm, peaceful, and orderly.

He gives me just the right thing to say as I walk up the stairs into the danger zone.

His might overwhelms me.  Emotions dissipate.  I envision Jesus on the rocky sea boat telling the waves and the thunder to stop, and all stood still.  That same other-worldly presence stands on the bow of my stairs, hushing the fury.  The air softens, the dust settles, and I pray over my troubled child.  And then, my sweet confused one asks for forgiveness.

Had I tried to control the situation, the Spirit would have been snuffed out or, at the least, pushed over to the corner.  I am learning.   I am learning Life After Rehab lessons that I thought I knew, but that are gaining depth and circumference.  And these new understandings involve risk and patience.

How do you take risks on the Holy Spirit?  Teach me.  I am eager to learn and am all ears.  I believe the Spirit is at work in all of us.  I believe that in community we gain a richer and more realistic view of the trust seeds the Spirit is sowing.  In taking the risk to share, I believe we encourage each other to invest future risks on the Holy Spirit.  Let’s learn from each other these spiritual fundamentals.

And it truly is risky business.   There is spiritual opposition to the Holy Spirit.  None can overcome the Spirit, but darkness sure tries.  It’s scary to think that stepping out in faith might make us spiritual targets, but isn’t it worth it?  Shouldn’t it be worth it?  I’m in…at least right at this moment I’m in.  I’m learning the value of this risk also.  The fear is not as great when walking with a powerful Spirit.  And He’s there for the taking.

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:13

I will ask for more of Him, the “Him” who is the neglected person of the Trinity…the Him who dares me to trust…I will dare Him to come…and take a risk on what happens.

 

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…

photo 4

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 SUMMER?!?!? WHAT? WHO? WHERE? WHEN?!?”

So it hit me the other day that summer is here.  Oh, don’t misunderstand…I know that it is summer!  We have been looking forward to the days when there’s no school and there are more hours to play.  (Although, with our recent relocation, we’ve really been acting like it’s summer since Christmas.)  So it wasn’t really the fact that summer has arrived that caught me off guard.  What was profoundly shocking about my realization was that our year of “Family Rehab” is over.  When we started this crazy adventure, we committed to taking one school year at home to rehabilitate our family and our hearts.  Wow.  The school year is over.  Those 9 months went by incredibly fast.  This surprising conclusion has raised many questions concerning Family Rehab:

“Was it worth it?”

“Did we succeed and change?”

“Did we learn anything?”

“Are we better for it, or worse?”

“If we’ve learned anything during this year, how do we keep from reverting to old habits and behaviors?”

When a person enters a formal drug treatment program, they don’t stay there forever.  They go through months of overpowering therapy and work, learning how to live in a world that entices them back to their addictions.  It’s an intense time created with the purpose of preparing the person to one day leave the facility in better physical, mental, and emotional health.  When a person is leaving a treatment facility for drug or alcohol abuse, there can be a lot of similar questions to my Family Rehab questions:

“Was is worth it?”

“Did I succeed and change?”

“Did I learn anything?”

“Am I better for it, or worse?”

“How am I going to survive out there?”

“How can I keep from falling off the wagon?”

I did a little research and found 7 helpful steps from a rehab website (http://www.michaelshouse.com) for those re-entering life after rehab.  I think these steps are helpful for our family also as we consider life after Family Rehab.  In the posts to come, I will cover these steps and how they relate to all of us in our every day walk.

First of all, it’s wise to note that going to rehab of any kind, whether for substance abuse or for Family Rehab, doesn’t fix a person and take away their struggles.  Rehab is designed to concentrate on the tools needed to face the struggle head-on and to lead a life of sobriety.  1 Peter 1:13 says, “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.”  Our struggles with sin, with parenting, with relationships, and with coping in this world rely soley on the saving grace of Jesus.  Our hope lies in Him–not in improving our performance or trying harder.  So these helpful tips for diving back into the real world after a season of intentional learning and healing are not the saving secret codes to life.  They are merely help in maintaining that sober-mindedness.  They are merely a way to keep the mind prepared for the action that life throws our way.  These 7 steps I will share over the next week can help make the transition from a slower pace of intentional living back into regular life a little less stressful.


 

Step 1:  Find Sober Friends

“Addictions often form through the influence of other people. Studies on teens, such one published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, clearly demonstrate that peer pressure is a powerful motivator for drug use, as those teens who spend time with pro-drug friends are more likely to use when compared to teens who spend time with sober friends. The same could be said for adults. Those who have friendships built on drugs may find it hard to go to parties, share meals, or otherwise interact and stay sober, as the temptation to use might grow and spread. Sober friends can be vital, as they may be willing to engage in fun activities that don’t involve substance abuse. Temptation levels might fade when people are surrounded by others who are sober” (http://www.michaelshouse.com).


Using this logic from a drug rehabilitation program as a guide, step 1 for Family Rehab is also to find sober friends–that is, sober-minded friends.  1Timothy 3 speaks directly to sober-minded influences or leaders and overseers in the church:

“Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil” (1 Timothy 3:2-7).

It doesn’t take much thought to see the wisdom in seeking out sober-minded friends.  When surrounded by people who demonstrate the qualities listed above, peer pressure alone makes us better people.  But, in the book of Titus, Paul explains the the relationship with sober-minded people is not just one that consists of merely being surrounded my these people.  They have been called to be teachers and we are to allow ourselves to be taught by them.  He writes to these teachers:

“But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior” (Titus 2:1-10).

Wow…I want to be around someone who has been charged with all that and is willing to take on the challenge.  I want to learn from them, study them, and become like them.

In the next phase of our “sobriety”, I think it is important that each member of our family find sober-minded friends.  Not just friends, but mentors–people from whom we can learn.  For Paul and I we have various mentors already in place for different areas of life.  But I think we need to look forward with the goal of really seeking mentorship in the area of parenting specifically.  There are couples God has placed in our lives whose families we admire.  Their children are respectful and follow Jesus with a passion.  Their marriage seems strong and steady.  They speak of their spouses with the upmost grace and care, never slandering or damaging them.  They deal with stressful situations with calm and peaceful ease demonstrating a firm belief and trust in the Lord’s plan.  I want to encourage my children to seek out mentors in older children as well.  (Of course, we have to approve their choice.)  But we want them to start now looking to older and more seasoned believers for guidance and wisdom.  We are naive if we think our children will come to us for advice on all areas of life.  We are also naive if we think we can go through life as parents without mentors.  I want us all to learn how to recognize and make relationships with sober-minded friends.  (Us ladies, find ladies.  The guys, find guys.)  This, however, doesn’t mean that we circle the wagons and cut-off relationships with those who are outside our circles of faith or condone the particular sins others struggle with.  It does mean that those relationship look a little different.  If a women is struggling to respect her husband and is filled with frustration, she probably shouldn’t go vent to her girlfriend who is constantly husband bashing.  That won’t bear any good fruit or set her up to battle her temptation to sin.  Likewise, the man who is struggling with lust probably would not do well to go hang out with a group of guys from work whose relationship is built around frequenting the local strip club.  It also will not bear good fruit, nor set him on a path away from temptation.

Who we spend time with, learn from, and let influence our decisions is important.  In our American culture we tend to think our opinions and convictions are invincible.  But in reality we are so easily impacted by popular trendy beliefs, voices of “intellect” and status, and by merely unconsciously observing the lives of others.  Just like the addict, spending the weekend with a best friend doesn’t seem like a potentially dangerous plan in which safety has to be questioned–and maybe it’s not.  But the purpose of rehab is to train ourselves to at least be willing to ask questions about the people we let speak into our lives…whether the person is as close a relative or spouse, or as distant as Oprah.

Not only do we need to ask questions about current relationships, but we need to seek out sober-minded friends and mentors.  This is a hard process…especially when in a new area like our family currently is.  But, the hard and awkward work of getting to know people and learning about them is all worth the effort if the result is having relationships with people who are courageously marking a path of sobriety before you, and setting up boundaries in relationships that might discourage positive headway on the journey.

My prayer is that God leads us to these good relationships and gives all of us, but especially our children, the discernment and wisdom to identify sober-mindedness and the courage to engage and learn from those who possess it.  I also pray that we cling to those relationships that are already established and have been proven to bear good fruit.  Through all of our life after rehab I pray that we don’t forget our most valuable lesson from the past year—that our greatest friend and influence is Jesus.  His faithfulness is unmatched.  His sobriety amidst trial and temptation is above that of anyone else.  His relationship—a priceless treasure.  His forgiveness—unending.  His love—relentless.

Psalm 25:14 says, “The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.”   He makes known to us His faithfulness to His great promises.  Whatever “Life After Rehab” will look like, we can trust that in His friendship He will let us know the “what, who, where, and when” of each moment.  He has promised to love us, to never forsake us, and to guide us.  And we can trust that He will open our eyes to see the fulfilling of those promises.


Keep an eye out for Step 2 of Life After Rehab…