We bought a Christmas Tree.

In the beginning God created it and gave the tree to us for Christmas.  It was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of it. And the Spirit of God was hovering over me as I set out to add the lights:

First, the lights from last year didn’t all survive.  Of the strands that remained, a few of the bulbs were no longer working, but not enough to make a dramatic effect.  So I began weaving the green wires in and out of the branches.

About 1/4 of the way up, I was out of lights.

To the store…

Once home, I opened a fresh new box of 300-count lights, only to realize that the plethora of lights were packed into a mere number of feet.  Three green wires were tightly braided together to form an extremely dense cluster of lights.  Fearing a return to the store, I untwisted and manipulated the 300.  I tucked and stretched.  I stepped back to view.  Nope.  No way.  No how.  The center of the newly donned tree shone as bright as a burning apartment building, while the lower branches twinkled like stars.  I untucked and unstretched.  I twisted and manipulated.  There was no way these lights were getting back into the box.  If only they responded like my son’s tummy when I tell him to “suck it in” to button his pants.

I had to forget the tree for a minute…so I moved on to a new room and found a nice ledge to softly drape my now contorted strand of new Christmas lights.  It was pretty.  Whew.


And there was evening, and there was morning, the first day.

With morning came another trip to the store after dropping the kids off to school.  Promises were made to have the tree ready for decoration when they returned.  Three boxes of 150 lights…double checked…no clusters of lights.

When school was out, next to the tree I opened and untied the first bundle of 3.  I wove under and over, forward and back.  Lots of twinkling sparkles.  Beautiful.  The first box was a success.  I opened and unwrapped the second and went to connect it to the previous strand.  NO!!! No outlet.  I didn’t buy the lights that connect one strand to the next.

I am NOT taking these lights off,” I said to myself.  I continued with the new box, sneaking the cord to the original source of energy down the trunk of the tree.  With what remained, I placed the rest of the lights between arms and fingers of branches.  It wasn’t too noticeable.  Disaster averted.  Onto box three.

I turned to reach for it when I saw that my little helpers had already broken the seal…

photo to untangle the third strand of lights.

I draped the lights over one child and asked them to follow carefully behind me as we circled the tree with the last set of lights.  Again, I threaded the plug down to the outlet first, then climbed the step ladder to start sprucing up the last top third of the tree.  Half-way around the whole tree went dark.

And there was evening, and there was morning, the third day.

Back to the floor to find my chaotic daisy chain of plugs and wires.  Unplugging and switching order and figuring out which lights or line of lights were the culprit.  The section of last year’s lights were to blame.  I stripped the bottom rows of branches and pulled and stretched at the new lights to avoid starting the whole process over again.  It kind of worked.  I figured presents would cover up the bottom anyways…or maybe we’ll go heavy on the ornaments down there.

I headed back to the top untouched portion of the tree and the last bit of lights.  Round and round we went until every light was intentionally placed for the best overall effect.  You’ve got to be kidding me.  About a foot of the tree remained unlit.

I turned to the staircase, where our stockings were hanging, tied over stiff and scraggly garland and one short thin strand of about 50 lights.

With a huff, I forced each tiny bulb under each knot that held each of the 6 stockings.

Back to the ladder, where I just threw the flimsy 4 feet of lights at the peak of the tree, tucked in the ends a little and stepped back to look at the finished tree…FINALLY.

Not too bad, I thought.  But now it was entirely too late to start the reminiscing of each homemade ornament as we placed them on the tree.  Promises broken.

And there was evening, and there was morning, the fourth day.

Bright and early we woke to head off to school.  As the kids made their way down the stairs, I heard while back in my bedroom closet… “What happened to the lights on the tree?”



And there was evening, and there was morning, the fifth day.

I avoided the tree for nearly half the day.  When it finally became apparent to me that I was letting an oversized stick have rule over my day and my joy, I went through the leftover Halloween candy.  Yep…didn’t touch that tree.  I ate green Twizzlers and a fun-size PayDay instead.

And there was evening, and there was morning, the sixth day.

Surely, I can light this stupid Christmas tree in a week.  Today is the day.

After removing 3 strands of lights (I don’t even know where the 3rd came from),  buying one more box of 300 (the right kind that connects end to end, and adding an extension cord with multiple outlets, the tree is done.  It ain’t perfect, but it’s done.

photo photo

No lie, when I stepped back and took the final look, the “Alleluia Chorus” came on the Pandora Christmas station.  You can’t make that stuff up.  Now I’m just praying it doesn’t start an electrical fire between now and Christmas Day.

And on the seventh day I finished my tree that I had lit, and I rested on the seventh day from all the work that I had done. 

A whole week was spent unwiring and disconnecting to produce light in a dark place.  The analogy is not lost on me.  When I am dark in spirit, when my light seems to have fizzled out, it takes time to rewire my heart, to reconnect with the Spirit.  It doesn’t take time because the Spirit is slow to react or that I have to wait for the Father to reset His gaze upon me.  God never leaves me nor forsakes me.  Rather it is I, the twisted and confused amidst the prickly needles of this world.  Because I am slow, because I have to reset my eyes to Jesus, it takes time– intentional time in quiet and still places.  Again, I am reminded that this is Life After Rehab.  When the temptations of relapse make everything a blur, I, like the addict, have to step back and re-evaluate where I am vulnerable and weak.

Back in the series of posts: 7 steps for Life After Rehab, I addressed all of the things that I already have forgotten.  Step 7 was “Stay alert for signs of a relapse”…yeah, that would have been a good one to remember.  I haven’t been alert, as evidenced by buying the wrong kind of lights…twice.

I rewire with a heart of thankfulness and gratitude.  I reconnect with quiet time in the Word and in prayer, becoming comfortable to sit still and just listen to Him…scary as it may be.  I am relit by all of His blessings and all the ways He loves me.  I am recharged by His words of love and forgiveness for me.

“For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.”

2 Corinthians 4:15-17

Feeding the Sheep and Hot Showers

I feel like every post lately has started this way…things have been busy.  While they have been busy, I am recognizing, however, a maintained peacefulness in our house.  Despite the craziness of our daily lives, I do see a remarkable contrast between life before family rehab, and life during.  Our routine at home is more relaxed.  We are having more open conversations about Scripture and life, in general, with our kids.  We are learning together and resting together, eating together and playing together.  We may be a little behind in some of our science and art lessons, but overall, I think we are doing okay.  We are busy, but we are settling in to what life at home and in school looks like.  The girls are already at the half-way point in math and are doing their mid-year reviews.  Both girls are excited to have earned having a sleepover by reading and reviewing a certain number of chapter books.  I am rejuvenated by the impending Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks, excited that we can do fun holiday activities and “sneak” in the math that we have learned as a way to practically apply it to life, and to “sneak” in science and simple life lessons.

I also am really excited for January and February.  I love the Olympics.  It really doesn’t matter if it’s summer or winter.  I love the competition.  I love the drama.  I love the idea that anyone can work really hard and train despite all kinds of adversity.  We are going to research the different sports, the different athletes, Sochi-Russia, and so forth.  The girls will pick their favorite U.S. athlete and write a letter to them.  Then, in February, we will watch and track the Olympics.  I can’t wait.  If it were not for the Olympics in February, I probably would have no creative juice left for the remainder of the school year!

I’ve written in earlier posts about waiting and seeing what God is doing.  I’ve focused a lot on the period of waiting–resting in complete trust that Jesus can do more in our waiting than in our doing we can do.  It’s hard.  I want to do and go and move.  But I am learning.  I went to a Worship Conference last month and heard Jesse Reeves, bass player for Chris Tomlin, speak about waiting.  It hit me to the core.  He talked about all the time that passed after David was anointed king and the time he actually became king.  It was something crazy, like 15 years.  Every time anyone was looking for David during all those years, he was usually found with the sheep.  He was tending, protecting, and feeding the sheep.  He wasn’t out making sure everyone knew he had been anointed king.  He was busy feeding the sheep.  Jesse talked about how Jesus tells the disciples to “feed my sheep.”  It was a good word and a challenging word.  

During our time of waiting in Family Rehab, I don’t even necessarily know what I am waiting for.  I just know, I guess through the work of the Holy Spirit, that something is happening.  It can be easy for me to try and figure it out and wrestle with, preparing and analyzing, but I don’t think God wants me to spend my energy doing that.  He wants me to feed my sheep.  He wants to me tend and care for my children.  He wants me to take care of our house and all that He has currently given to me.  He wants me to fulfill the roles that He has already called me to.  He wants me to care for hurting friends and relationships that are right here where I am.  I can ask questions of Him, and pray and wonder about what the future holds, but I need to be in the field with my sheep.  When God comes looking for me, to tell me that a giant named Goliath is asking to fight, I need to be found in the field tending the sheep, because only then will I faithfully go where He calls me.  For David, protecting the sheep and being with them in every moment, is what prepared Him unknowingly for his battle with Goliath.  He fought off a bear with his own hands!  That gave him the confidence to even stand against Goliath.  Trying to determine what personal giant is hiding around the next turn only produces anxiousness and fear of the unknown.  Counting down the days, weeks, and years until something new and exciting happens doesn’t produce anything good.  Feeding my sheep out in the pasture gives me a peace and a comfort to answer whatever God calls me to.  Being in the pasture gives me a quiet wisdom that only God through the Holy Spirit provides.  I don’t always do this, and therefore, that’s why the message was so powerful and spoke so profoundly to my heart.

To tend the sheep and the pasture, Paul took this week off of work and we declared this week “vacation”–well, kind of.  A little over a year ago, we moved into our house and we never really got a chance to fully unpack and settle.  So, this week was all about organizing closets, cleaning the garage, and purging boxes.  The kids have had school work, but minimal, and we’ve been having fun finding all our lost treasures in the depths of the closets and cardboard boxes.  There is a godly satisfaction that comes with taking care of things.  At the root of Family Rehab, is the desire to take care of our four little sheep, to care of each other, and to turn to the Good Shepherd for all of our needs.

After a garage cleaning session, I was taking a shower–a HOT shower.  When I take a shower or a bath, the water is usually extremely hot.  I don’t think I have always liked scalding hot water.  I think the habit began after having kids.  I noticed that when the shower was hotter, it meant no one else was willing to take the risk of opening the shower door and encountering the burning water-spray to talk to me.  When my bubble bath was beyond warm and steam was rising above the bubbles, no one asked to get in and steal my supply of soapy foam.  I may not get to do very many things by myself these days, but I have created an environment in my showers, that assures some alone time.

Family Rehab has really encouraged me to ask harder and deeper questions.  So yesterday, when I was thinking in the shower about how hot the water really was and how most likely I take these scalding showers as a way to have privacy, it caused me to search a little deeper.  Are there any other areas of my life where I create an environment that causes others to keep themselves at a safe distance from me?  Immediately, I think of the times when I am short of patience or frustrated about something and the childish way I can huff and puff around the house.  When I do this, though I am not purposefully pushing anyone away, I am telling my husband and my children that I am unapproachable.  I don’t think any of us want to be “unapproachable.”   I am sure that all that hot water is taking a tole on my skin, too.  It can’t be good for me.  If it keeps others away, then is it really any safer for me?  What else do I do that is keeping others at a distance and is also harming me?  What emotional barriers and fences do I throw up that are also effecting my heart and my soul?

I know there are answers to these questions.  I feel as though I am only starting to uncover these things in my life.  I know there are more instances when I create scalding walls between myself and others.  It really is a humble thought to think both about the command to feed my sheep and the hot showers I take to keep them away.  In a world that promotes self-care and rest, which is a good thing, we can push that to an unhealthy extreme.  We can promote self in a way that has been labeled as healthy, and in the process create barriers and draw boundary lines that Jesus would probably wince at.  He provides a pasture that is green and plentiful and by quiet waters…what sounds more restful and healthy than that??  I don’t want to seek out my own needs to the detriment of those around me, and ultimately of myself.  This is pretty much all I know for sure about this.  I know that I don’t want to be unapproachable or self-seeking.  I pray for God to reveal to me where I am seeking hot showers away from the pasture.  I pray for God to give me a desire to sit in the grass with the sheep and to take away my desire to self-promote.  And, I will continue to pray that He helps me wait.  I pray that He reminds me over and over that He can do more in my waiting, than in my doing I can do.  I am so thankful that He doesn’t tire of me–that reminding me of His love and His care and His provision is a joy to Him.

To Those Who Wait

I have found a theme song for “family rehab.”  The words of To Those Who Wait by Bethany Dillon seem to sum up the plea of our sanctioned Family Rehab.  Everything from the laid-back and slow tempo, to the crazy time signature of the verses, to the resolution of meter felt in the chorus seems to resonate with my heart.  If I was technologically savvy, I would attach a link to the song so you could hear it…but well, the lyrics will have to do for now:

I am waiting on You,
I’m waiting on You.
You say You’re good to those who wait.My heart’s discouraged,
So I come to You expectant.
You say You’re good to those who wait.Lord, today You know what I need to do,
But You can do more in my waiting than in my doing I could do.
So I won’t run anymore.
I’m waiting on You.

Oh, wretched man that I am!
Free me from my distractions.
You say You’re good to those who wait.

Then confession and repentance
Find me in the quiet.
You say You’re good to those who wait.
Now I know You’re good to those who wait.

Lord, today You know what I need to do,
But You can do more in my waiting than in my doing I could do.
So I won’t run anymore.
I’m waiting on You.

Oh, my soul,
Wait on the Lord.
Keep your lamp filled with oil.
Oh, my soul,
Be not deceived!
Wait for Him.
Don’t be quick to leave.

Lord, today You know what I need to do,
But You can do more in my waiting than in my doing I could do.
So I won’t run anymore.
I’m waiting on You.

I’ve had to remember that we are taking this time to slow d-o-w-n.  This past weekend we were super busy with ministry related things: a wedding rehearsal, a conference, the wedding, Sunday service, and a funeral.  It was non-stop.  Come Monday morning we were all tired and emotionally and physically done.  So I had to remind myself that taking Monday off from school was okay, and one of the reasons we are taking a different approach to school this year is that sometimes weekends just don’t exist for us.

Today, getting back to work went so smoothly.  I thought that if we had tried to do this yesterday, the results would have been catastrophic.  Today we had another breakthrough in math for Helen.  She has been just storming through concept after concept, really mastering each new step.  She has been so proud of her progress, and I, too, am have been proud of her.  Today we worked on subtracting two-digit numbers from other two-digit numbers.  Trying to understand that you can steal a ‘ten’ from the ‘tens’ column when you don’t have a large enough number in the ‘ones’ column tested her abstract mathematical mind.  But she got it!  Pretty soon she was ‘renaming’ all those numbers in the ‘ones’ column and subtracting with no problem whatsoever.  (It may have helped that we sang a little math genius diddy after every problem and downed a few M&Ms.)

Ava is also doing well in math, though the time she spends on it is still frustrating to her.  She is used to getting done with assignments in record time, but with more complex problems that require multiple steps, having to slow down makes her anxious.  She doesn’t like that each of her growing multiplication problems has more and more steps.  I tell her that with each one she gets closer to the answer.  I also tell her that each step is like a part of a secret code that unlocks the answer.  Following the code is a lot quicker than making tally marks for 376 X 45.  I mean, really, can you imagine all the paper and all the time used to count those little lines to figure out that answer?!  And then, you’d probably have to recount several times just to keep track of all those little chicken scratch markings.  That would be far more frustrating.  Despite my reasoning, it is still frustrating to her that her math isn’t just quick and easy anymore.  I think it’s a matter of growing up, right?  I wish life were still quick and easy. 🙂

Oh, Ava…we are so much alike.  The times when I am forced to slow down and wait, I can feel unproductive and anxious to get back to work on the next easy thing.  There are just some things in life that need to be pondered and drawn out.  There are just some life lessons that have multiple steps and each step has to be carefully and purposefully executed.  If only every life “assignment” could be simple one-digit addition.

What a good reminder to sit and wait on the Lord.  As the song says, God can do so much more in our waiting, than in our doing we can do–to trust that takes courage and surrender.  Surrendering all control, all anxiety, and all earthly wisdom and reason over to Jesus is a scary thing.  But in doing so, we are able to reach new understandings of abstract concepts, and in the process some of our desires and needs are renamed. My ‘lack of financial freedom’ is renamed to ‘freedom of time that would otherwise be taken by material things and their upkeep.’  My ‘pile of laundry’ is renamed to ‘mindlessly folding clothes, yet finding myself in the quietness of confession and repentance.’  My prayers for ‘a break and rest’ are renamed to prayers for ‘more oil in my lamp as I wait patiently on the Lord.’  Taking a slower pace and realizing that I’ve got lessons to learn, and that those lessons might take some time, puts me in a posture of receptivity and not in anxious doing.  I am thankful that God indeed does do more in my waiting than in my doing.  I don’t have to run anymore.  I don’t have to go, go, go.  I don’t have to keep up with the worldly standards of success and the schedule that will get me there.  I can slow down and trust that God is doing the work: all of it–the work on my heart, the work on my children, the work the kids are supposed to learn, and the work of renaming us daily as His treasured children of God.

Our bible verse for this week is Isaiah 41:10: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  I think this verse describes some of the many things that God can do when I am waiting.  He can strengthen me, help me, uphold me.  When I am busy fearing or dismaying, I forget that I have a God who is with me, and who has promised to do so much for me.  I have to sit still long enough to let him do.  His quiet is more powerful than my noise.  His stillness more productive than my marathon.  His peace more satisfying than my attempts to rest or sleep.  There is such a good and gracious Father ready and willing to do so much for and to those who wait.  I pray that he renames my desire to be productive–that he transforms my inner wheel that spins uncontrollably.  I pray that He gives me oil in my lamp to wait on Him, and to not be quick to leave–that I may stay and sink into deeper understanding of his abstract and wonderful nature.  I pray for patience and stillness, especially for those times when my “breakthrough” seems to never come.   I pray that during this time of rehab, we learn to wait, not do…and that He truly is good to those who wait.