In the Middle of It

This week has been a doozy.

I know I write all the time about my “messy” life, and my “messy” house, and my “messy” marriage, and my “messy” kids, and well, you get it. But this week has taken “messy” to a whole new level.

Image

Ironically, this is the playroom… Or it was the playroom, anyway.

Like many others this week, we had pipes freeze and burst, and well, the ceiling fell down.  My daughter says that I was expressionless as I watched it fall to the ground.  Like I didn’t even care.  I assured her that I did indeed care, I just wasn’t surprised at all.  Because that is just the kind of week we had.  This was the biggest of MANY things that just went so, so wrong this week. We had a gogurt incident in the van (no, they aren’t “allowed” to eat gogurt in the van.  I don’t care what the box says, it is NOT portable yogurt.) We had a leak under the kitchen sink that was, of course, next to impossible to find parts to fix… I spilled an entire cup of coffee in the van.  My van is smelling like a yogurt latte.  (That’s not a good smell, by the way.)  And there were lots of problems found with the plumbing once they started working on the leak.  These are just a few of the highlights from this week.  There are lots more.  I won’t bore you with the details.

Little stuff, for the most part, right?  Just everyday kind of things that go awry… Relatively speaking, pretty minor stuff. But a hurricane can be relatively minor.  That is the problem with relativity.  Things can be either huge or small depending on what you compare them to.  But the truth of the matter is this:  When a bunch of small stuff goes wrong all at once, it feels pretty huge.  Even if it’s not. Relatively speaking.

I started feeling kind of down in the dumps about it all.  Yes, I was truly thankful that the damage from the pipes bursting wasn’t as bad as it could have been…. But being thankful for that didn’t really make me feel better about the insulation and drywall all over the soaking wet carpet.  Or the smelly van, or the kids who were feeding off of my skyrocketing anxiety level and acting like little psychos.

I was going down.  Fast.

Here is what happened next:  Friends.  Friends started calling, texting, facebooking, asking how they could help.  Could they bring dinner?  Could they bring a shop vac?  Could they bring dehumidifiers?  Could they help with repairs?  Could they have me over for coffee and make me some yummy muffins?  And with every conversation, every ring of the doorbell, every bite of some deliciousness that somebody lovingly prepared for us, I felt my spirits lift.  And I felt a new kind of gratitude… A deeper kind that was not at all affected by the theory of relativity.  I felt grateful to be loved and cared for.  By friends who likely had their own messes to deal with all week, and still took time out to lighten our load.  I felt grateful for a Father who knew exactly what I needed and sent it right to my doorstep.  And I felt JOY return.  Right in the middle of the mess.  This is the theme of my life, folks.  Discovering over and over again that JOY is not to be found on the other side of the mess.  The JOY is right there–in the middle of the mess.

You make known to me the path of life: in your presence there is fullness of JOY.  -Psalm16:11

What mess are you dealing with this week?  Maybe your ceiling isn’t falling down…  Maybe it is a struggling relationship, a financial burden, an illness, or depression… My prayer is that your eyes will be open to how God is caring for you right there in that mess.  And that JOY will return the instant you recognize His presence in that place.

How to Begin

“We need a behavior chart.”

That is what my husband said to me as we were talking about the new year, and setting some goals for our family.  I immediately grimaced and replied, “I don’t do charts.”

He calmly and with a wry grin said, “You don’t do structure.”

Structure is just so confining,” I said in a really adorable whiny voice.

He proceeded to explain (again) to me why we need structure, and rules, and why we need structure to enforce the rules, and blah, blah, blah. Yawn.

This should give you some insight into our couple dynamic and how opposite we are on so many levels.  He is all rigid and focused and determined, and I am all flexible and floaty and la-dee-dah.  It really never causes friction.  (insert lightning strike)

The truth is, my whole life I have resisted rules.  Even as a dutiful first-born, the worst possible thing anyone could say to me was “You CAN’T do that.” My inner spirited self would secretly and silently respond with “Watch me.” It led to all sorts of fun for my mom and dad. That is a post for another day.  Back to my present self…

I tell you these things about me so that you will understand my dislike for making “resolutions”.  “Resolutions” feel a lot like rules.  And I break those.

I like the word “goals” much better.  It is a little more loosely defined than “resolve”, and while I can summon the motivation to set goals for myself, I can rarely claim to possess much resoluteness. It just doesn’t “fit” me well.

goals:  the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result.

My son’s class is learning The 7 Habits of Happy Kids, and he walks around the house chanting the list of habits he has learned so far.  You can see the whole list here:

http://www.theleaderinme.org/the-7-habits-for-kids

But for today, I have been thinking about Habit #2:  Begin with the End in Mind.  I woke up thinking about it, actually.  What do I want my life to look like at the end of 2014?  How do I want to be different at the end of this year than I am this morning, January 1? What changes do I want to see in my family, my marriage, my children, my ministry, my writing, my friendships, my health, and most importantly, my heart?

Over the next few days, I am going to do some praying and some soul-searching to define those goals.  And I am going to write about them and share them with you.  And then you can ask me how I am doing with my goals, and I will ask you what goals you have set for yourself and how you are working toward them, and we will be one big, happy, accountability-loving community, not breaking any rules.

The first thing I am doing is starting a new journal.  It isn’t fancy.  I dug it out of the “school-supply-graveyard” in the hall closet.  You know, the supplies on that list that you feel like you must purchase before the first day of school, so you spend a small fortune on stuff they don’t need and it sits in a closet waiting on some purpose.  Well, here is your purpose.  Get out one of those notebooks, or binders, or journals, and flip it open.  Here is mine… Remember, I am a writer, not a crafter.

1528614_10152131494774828_1932261831_n

Don’t you love the first page of a new notebook?? Ahhh.  A fresh start.

My first page is really just a list of areas of my life where I’d like to see growth and/or change, which is pretty much every area.  The journal is just a way to track progress and brainstorm and make notes and stuff.  But at the end of the year, it will be the story of 2014. And I want to begin with that end in mind.

I have no way of knowing what this year will hold.  I imagine there will be some hard things, some great things and lots of in-between things.  My biggest and most important goal is to see God in all of it.  Because He is already there, He knows what each day holds, and because of that I can jump in to this year without fear.

How about you?  How are you beginning?  Do you have an end in mind?  How will you work toward that end?

Verses for 2014:

Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NLT)- “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord, “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.  In those days when you pray, I will listen.  If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.”

Psalm 90:12 (ESV)- So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.

Isaiah 43:19 (NLT)- For I am about to do something new.  See, I have already begun!  Do you not see it?  I will make a pathway through the wilderness.  I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.

Get Away

After a week or so of the kids being out of school, I think I have reached my limit of dealing with noise and chaos.  I literally spent most of yesterday afternoon locked in my room hiding. And here we are, at 7:30am on a Monday morning with nowhere to be and we’ve been up since 6am.  So far today I have listened to a piano performance by Hudson (who really has a thing for the out-of-tune bass notes), several arguments, and a lengthy concert by a singing Spiderman toy.  

I love my kids.  Adore them. 

I don’t love noise.  It kind of makes me mean.

Newsflash:  When I am mean I am not really acting like Jesus.  

What did He do when it just got to be too much?  When the people were clamoring for His attention and wouldn’t let him have a minute to Himself?  

He got away by Himself to pray.  

He didn’t roll His eyes and strike a martyr’s pose and keep on trying to meet needs and chat with folks. 

He didn’t just run real quick to the side and yell, “Give me a minute! I’ll be right back!”

He left.  Alone.  And went somewhere quiet to talk to His Father.

“But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.” Luke 5:16

He withdrew to the wilderness, people.  That is not the same as the back yard,  though at my house the back yard sometimes resembles the wilderness.  The point is, He Got Away.  Alone.

There are other examples of Jesus getting away from the noise, at all times of the day, not just His “quiet time” early in the morning.

“Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray.” Mark 1:35

“After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray.  Night fell while he was there alone.”  Matthew 14:23

So, if Jesus needed alone time, why do we Mommies beat ourselves up when we do?  Why do we keep trying to give of ourselves to these little (or big) people who consume us without taking time to let our Father re-energize us?  

I think He knew we would miss this… That we wouldn’t necessarily notice the example He was setting for us.  So He went one step further– In His very first public sermon, He specifically told us what to do:

“Here’s what I want you to do:  Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God.  Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage.  The focus will shift from you to God and you will begin to sense his grace.” Matthew 6:6 (MSG)

What does that look like for you and me?  Obviously we can’t leave our children unsupervised and take a hike on Green Mountain with God while they watch Spongebob back at home.  Let’s break it down:

1.  “a quiet and secluded place”-  a long, hot shower; your bedroom, your closet (works in times of desperation), a quick walk (if hubby is home), or ANYWHERE you won’t be disturbed.  (bathroom? haha)

2.  “be there simply and honestly”- Tell God your frustration… Even if you suspect your own attitude is stinky.  He can handle it.  Pastor Rick Warren says this:

“Here’s the thing – You are not waiting on God, he’s waiting on you. God wants to meet with you.  He wants you to know him as well as he knows you.  If you don’t understand this, you are rarely going to go to God for guidance. There is nothing in your life that God is not interested in.”

3.  “the focus will shift”-  Isn’t that exactly what we need? For our focus to shift from ourselves, our weakness, our exhaustion, to Him, His strength, His energy, and His power in us?

4.  “you will begin to sense his grace”- I don’t know about you, but the first thing that happens when I pour out my heart to God, honestly and without holding back, is a sense of calm.  Peace.  I feel Him soothe my frazzled nerves in much the same way I might soothe my daughter if she came to me in distress.  Because I am His daughter.  And He longs to smooth my hair back from my red face and speak to me in soft and loving tones until I remember that I am not alone or without help.  That I can come to Him with anything, anytime. And that He will always be there, waiting to help.

I sat down to write this because today, right now, I needed to remember.  That I am not alone, that these sweet days that are also hard days matter to God, and He wants to help me.  I needed to remember what to do when it just gets to be too much.  

If your day- or your life- is just too much, He is there.  He is waiting.  Get away.

 

 

.

 

Post-Christmas Mess(age)

Image

“Christmas is messy.”

That was the main theme of our Pastor’s Christmas Eve message.  And boy, was he ever right.

I am cleaning up the mess today, putting away decorations, picking up shreds of left behind wrapping paper and ribbon, and tossing empty boxes outside in the trash.  And thinking, like I do every year, “All that stress, all that rushing, all the anticipation, all the excitement, and just like that, it’s over.”  And as a mom, I have to admit, I am relieved.  I am ready for normal routines, normal food, a normal amount of stress, and normal kids.  Because, I don’t know about yours, but my kids are INSANE during Christmas.  Some toxic combination of sugar, lack of sleep, and stir-craziness.  But the thing is, I know that even in our “normal” state, we are still a mess.

On Christmas Eve, after I read the Christmas Story out of our Jesus Storybook Bible, the best children’s Bible ever, in my opinion… you can get it here:

jsbcover

http://www.amazon.com/Jesus-Storybook-Bible-Every-Whispers-ebook/dp/B007WRPUFE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1388152845&sr=8-1&keywords=jesus+the+storybook+bible

Gracie wanted to go back and read about “the snake” and Adam and Eve.  Christmas Eve, Adam and Eve, ok, sure. So I turned back to the story of how sin came into the world.  And how it broke God’s heart.  And how he promised to somehow make it right again, not because we deserved it, but just because he loved us so much.  And then I thought about that Baby, sent into this scary, messy world to make it right again, to make us right again, and I thought about how many generations God’s people waited for Him, and then how they didn’t even recognize him when he got here.  The only ones who recognized him were some smelly shepherds and some astrologers (more commonly known as the “Wise Men”, but that is likely what they were…) and of course, Mary and Joseph.  And it occurred to me how little has changed.

Because in the middle of my mess, I call out for help… for rescue… And I wait.  I watch and I wait for the miracle.  And I think that for whatever reason, God isn’t concerned or interested enough to intervene.  So I stop asking, I stop waiting, and I stop watching.

What Christmas should teach us is this:  Sometimes the mess is the miracle.

And sometimes I miss it.

The truth is, that life here is just gonna be messy.  Eve sealed the deal for that in Eden, and it has been messy ever since.  And every mom knows, when one mess gets relatively cleaned up, another is waiting to take its place.  Some I make myself, some others make for me to clean up, and some just happen and its nobody’s fault.  But what if, instead of looking for a way out of the mess, we embrace it and look instead for the miracle in the mess?  What if we willingly submit ourselves to whatever it is God can teach us in the middle of it?  What if we choose to search for the good things He is doing right there?  Because there is always good.  Because HE is always good…

What Christmas should teach us is that He isn’t afraid to get in the middle of our mess.  He kind of likes to work that way.  It is his specialty.   And that is why we don’t have to wait until we get everything cleaned up to invite him in.  I think, no, I KNOW he has a soft spot for messy people.  I know because I am one, and it didn’t stop Him from entering into my messy life and making something miraculous out of it.  And if you don’t want to take my word for it, look back through your bible and see who he liked to hang out with.  They were a messy bunch.  Kind of like us.

Invite him into your mess… And you will find your miracle.

It probably won’t look like what you thought it would… It might be as surprising as a baby king in a feeding trough.

It might even be that the mess itself delivers the redemption you are longing for.

“Yoga Pants” or “Why We Don’t Go to Christmas Parties”

yoga-pants-kellyFacebook envy.  That is the category for this post.  Because today I am having kind of a crappy day, and every other person I know is apparently having the best time ever at some Ugly Sweater Party or fancy dinner or something.  And all I can think of is, “I wish I had a reason to wear something besides yoga pants on Friday night.”   I thought of a few reasons I don’t have better things to do than blog about having nothing fun to do.

1.  Kids.  Everywhere.  Little kids, teenagers, in-between-agers.  All either need supervision and/or transportation.  And since I do not have a nanny or chauffeur, that responsibility typically falls to me.

2.  Husband.  I am very social, he is very not.  So we don’t have people that we just call up and say, “hey, let’s go do something fun!” because fun to some people is not having to go anywhere, and watching tv on the couch.  I’m not naming names, here, but it isn’t me…

3.  Job.  My very glamorous profession of SAHM (stay-at-home-mom) is not known for throwing fancy work parties.  Unless you count going to the pre-k party at school today.  Which, I did in fact dress up for.  To the point my oldest asked me where I had been today and why was I dressed like that.  Hey, if it is the only party you go to, you might as well look good.

4.  Friends.  Most of my friends are in the same boat as me.  They are at home tonight wiping boogers and changing diapers or shuttling kids to movies or skating or something.  And wishing they had something fabulous to do.  Or at least wishing they had the energy to do something fabulous.

‘Tis the season.  And I don’t mean Christmas.  ‘Tis the season for meeting the needs of others, for putting myself last (well, maybe not always last, but hardly ever first…) and for trading in the sparkly dresses for the fuzzy socks and comfy sweatshirts.  And yoga pants.  They are God’s gift to mothers everywhere, whether they ever do yoga or not.

‘Tis the season called Motherhood.  But it is just that…. A season.  Not that I won’t always be a mom, but I won’t always have quite so much demanded of my time and energy… And I have a sneaking suspicion I might miss these days when they are gone.  So I am going back in there.  To break up another fight and then to make sure the teenagers aren’t kissing on the couch. And then to probably pull the cat out of the Christmas tree.

Joy and Peace to you if you are in the middle of “the Season” too.