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…

Ahhh…internet.  The World Wide Web is back at my fingertips.  To say my life has become dependent on “Al Gore’s little invention” is an understatement.  It feels good to be connected again.  Finally, we have music to listen to while setting up the house, email to keep us informed of all those sales on home decor out there, and Facebook to update us on everyone else’s lives.  Now I can read all those homeschool blogs and be encouraged and inspired to start school again!  (And I can process life at the keyboard once more!) 

So much has happened over the past month or so while I’ve been off the grid.  We are now residents of Katy, (technically Houston, but we will claim Katy).  We are moved in and, for the most part, all the boxes are unpacked.  There is a lot to be put in the right place, but at least most of it is out of the box and has been found.  We are slowly adjusting to our new surroundings—finding the best grocery store and the nearest Target.  This town is full of stuff and I have struggled with information overload when driving down the street.  There are so many signs and so many little shops and restaurants that it can be a little overwhelming.  The kids are all loving having their own rooms and making their little space their own.  I, too, am having fun making this house seem like my own.  We’ve had a few hiccups along the way like leaky showers and struggling to get the refrigerator through the front door in the rain.  The raccoon has made his way off of all fours, which is exciting, but he is even more sneaky as a two-legged toddler.   He’s already demolished a few breakables, which I recorded in this picture for proof:

Image

 For the most part, all is well and is slowly coming together.  🙂

We have met many, many people.  I don’t know if I remember even half of the names of those to whom I have been introduced.  I am sure it will take awhile to remember it all.  Ava, in particular, has made it a point to take advantage of the new place and the new acquaintances she meets.   She has decided that she doesn’t want to be called Ava anymore, and wants to be known as AJ, or at least Ava Joy.  Hey, Jack—I think it’s great.  It’s kind of nice to be in a place where you can somewhat reinvent who you are.  She has a few familiar faces here who will forever know her as Ava, but what an opportunity to redefine who she wants to be.  

In the first days of our time here tensions were thick in our house.  The stress of not knowing where anything was, but needing everything to get anything done, pushed us as parents to the limit.  The frustration of not having room or freedom to play in the midst of boxes or people unpacking boxes was enough to make the kids a little edgy.  Our intense physical closeness with each other was starting to negatively impact our relational connectivity.  We really were in need of a fresh start.  We were in need of reuniting as a family and getting reconnected around something other than where the towels should go and what shelf should hold the cereal.  

We needed some redefining.  

Scripture is pretty clear in our need to be redefined—to hit the restart button.  So many times in the Bible, people were called to something which resulted in them also receiving a new name.  While on the road to Damascus, Saul met the resurrected Jesus. He was called to repent of his persecution of early Christians and instead serve Jesus.  On the road his name was forever changed to Paul.  He became a completely different person when he answered Jesus’ call.  It’s true, yes, that his past identity influenced the way he processed his new life, but he is remembered for his new identity as Paul, the apostle, not Saul, the persecutor.  

2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV) says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”  When we are bound with Christ through our faith and His blood, the old identity dies and our new life in Him begins.  At times we fear this death, even though what we have to gain from it is everything.  It’s hard to truly see and believe how freeing it will be after surrender when we are still on the front side of it.  But once a person experiences that newness of life, it’s like fine chocolate—there is nothing better and no going back.  Psalm 63 says His steadfast love is better than life and our souls are satisfied as with rich and fat food. It’s so good.  However, daily we have to renew and recall this bond.  Daily we have to die to self, only to gain all that Jesus has to offer as He lives in and through us.  Our family needed to spend some time remembering what has already been put to death in us.  We had to recall that in our sinfulness it was like we were answering to someone calling us by our old name, not the new identity Jesus has placed on us.  Through repentance—and not the surface-level kind of repentance, but the kind that is accompanied by humility and a listening heart—our family hit the restart button.  We stopped worrying about where stuff was and more about where we were.  We had to recall why we even made this move—why we were even here?  

We made this move because we distinctly felt called to this place and to these people.  While it was not as dramatic a story as Paul on the road to Damascus, remembering our encounter with Jesus still has the ability to recalibrate our hearts to who we are in Jesus.  Our selfish frustration was only evidence of our dying flesh trying to take over it’s old place in our lives.  But, remembering that we are new creations in Jesus, filled with His power and His mercy to serve one another for a higher purpose than our own, sets our hearts on who He defines us to be.  He has given us new names: lovely, joyful, peaceful, patient, good, kind, faithful, gentle, and Katy-nite (?) We are still working on figuring out that last one.  We are none of these things on our own.  Not even when we try really hard! And this is why we have got to surrender ourselves to our new identity in Him DAILY, HOURLY, with EVERY BREATH.

In all of this, noting that the Enemy wants to draw us back to our selfish ways and away from Jesus, only makes us more desperate to cling to the One who is good.  We have to acknowledge that we will be tempted to revert back to who we once were.  Much like I will refer to AJ as Ava without much effort, so too, will I easily find myself walking amidst the gravestones of past struggles and selfishness.  Without Jesus I am powerless.  Without Jesus I am only on a path to self-destruction and relational discord.  I need Him to be connected to the ones I love in meaningful ways.  I need Him to be connected to who I am and who He has called me to be.

And when I do fail, when I find myself acting out of selfishness or fear, not as I should, I get to die to that—right then and there.  I get to receive His grace and mercy and love even in that moment.  And he still showers me with forgiveness and affection, calling me by my new name as His daughter and spotless treasure.  I get to be a new creation—immediately—because He is just that good and gracious.

It feels good to be connected again—connected to Jesus and who He says I am.  And that connection and knowledge will only empower and strengthen me to be connected in this new community.  Only with Jesus will I find my way—whether to Target or to new relationships or back to internet capabilities.

Anytime we enter a new season of life, or move to a new place, or start some new adventure, we run into surprises that we could never have foreseen.  I am sure that we will run into challenges and questions as we continue to transition.  I am sure that as this move now becomes a part of our “family rehab” story, God will work through every challenge and obstacle to teach us so many valuable lessons as a family.  I am sure we will even learn to more readily answer to some new names, maybe ones like: treasured, valued, and loved.  As we learn more about who God is and how much He really does love us, we will learn more about who He says we are.  I start to get excited when I see a foretaste of the things to come.  He is gently walking our whole family through a rehabilitation journey of our hearts—inclining them towards Him more every day.  I am getting a glimpse into how Family Rehab is going to redefine our family.  This really is becoming a foundational year in our family history.  I hope that our children will look back on this year as a pivotal moment in their lives (hopefully, for the better).  I hope that they look back and remember growing closer to God and to each other.  I hope that they learn that home is a safe place to ask questions and struggle with who they are.  I hope that I learn to speak truth to them in a way that really helps them believe that they are indeed new creations with great purpose.

As we plan to start school on April 1, join me in praying that God gives us great comfort and peace as a family in our new surroundings.  He is good.  He is faithful.  He calls us by a new name.