On Locking Myself in the Bathroom

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You know how you suddenly realize that between getting milk and juice and diapers and breakfast and toys and refereeing squabbles about the stuffed giraffe and please don’t hit Sissy..WOW! IT’S TEN O’CLOCK…and I just need a minute, guys? And the words coming out just aren’t full of the love and grace they could be…

Don’t leave me alone up here. You know you’ve had those days. Please tell me you have.

It was one such memorable morning that I locked myself in the bathroom, ’cause the 4 year old can open a doorknob, you know. 5 seconds, max, and I hear the pounding little feet coming down the hall.

They try the doorknob; haha and checkmate!

Whispering ensues.

Giggling.

And then I see them: twenty little fingers wiggling under the door.

Lord, help us.

‘Cause I was escaping and regrouping, trying to have a moment to breathe and beg Jesus to make me a kinder mama…

….and they were already over it.

I’m not saying your words don’t matter…they do. Or that we should stop trying to be the best mamas we can be. Reach for excellence!

But at the end of the day, they don’t need a perfect mama. They need a mama who loves Jesus and knows just how much she needs Him.

Even if it’s praying while she’s tickling fingers under the door.

Getting My Eyes Fixed

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It was a long day before my feet even hit the floor. You know how the accumulation of sick children, interrupted nights, and busy-ness can avalanche onto your shoulders and knock you right back onto your pillow?

It was that. Except that staying in bed isn’t an option when the hungry preschooler and the toddler with the soppy diaper and the bright eyed and bushy tailed baby put their heads together.

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Sometime after a half a cup of coffee (and I do mean the large mug), I drug a thought out of the shadows and scrawled it onto paper before it could escape.

How do I fix my eyes on Jesus?

In this day. In the midst of an abundance of demands vying for my attention. In the midst of my poverty of energy.

When the tantrums leave my head pounding and the noodles boil over and Superman is called out for another lost hiker and the diapers make the laundry room reek…how?

Hebrews 12 is a blood stirring exhortation, making the statement that the only way to live victorious in this world of distractions and disappointments is to focus clear and hard.

Jesus.

So…how?

Maybe it’s changing the diaper for His sake and scrubbing the garbage pail for Him and always, always in my heart nurturing the restless longing that is for Him.

Because it’s Him that I long so soul-desperate for.

Oh, I forget at times, wandering like an amnesiac in aimless living. But fixing my eyes steadfastly, longingly on Jesus cures the forgetting of my soul.

And when the questions that seep like spilled juice onto a clean outfit damp my mind, I can say, Yes! Yes, I was made for more than this!

And so my prayers bubble up, hot and restless like the overflowing pot, splashing across the pages of my journal, and I confess,

How I claw at the veil of separation with fingers earth-clumsy and swollen with the glut of selfishness, desperate to draw the curtain aside.

That He is the antidote to the soul toxins I so greedily consume.

These moments on earth are only the preface to an eternity of pages.

Will I write His name all over these swift and slippery days, stubbornly pinning my soul’s focus on Him?

Because, fixing my eyes…

…fixes my heart.

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The fan stirs muggy night air into turbulence as I gaze at their sleeping innocence. Long, dark lashes caress chubby cheeks, soft breathing and dimpled hands tug at my heart even in repose.

Oh, Lord, thank You.

Three little replicas of their daddy and me, and yet…not. At ages 4, 2, and almost 5 months respectively, they are no rubber stamp of each other or us.

I stroke back the dark, wispy tendrils from my girl’s cheek, blooming with health and energy. She’s my favorite. Fierce, tender, exuberant.

In the darkness, I move to the crib where her brother sleeps. Chest rising and falling steadily, fingers curled around his blanket. My chest tightens with emotion. He’s my favorite, you see. Funny, observant, patient.

Moving to the cradle, I peek in on the littlest of my treasures. I pause, remembering the moment he broke out of the cradling darkness of my womb. Resurrection Sunday. Sweet hope for the future in a world gone mad. This one is my favorite. His name means Messenger of God, and oh, but he is. Sunny, engaging, talkative.

Yes, they are all my favorite in their own unique way. It hushes my soul in wonder as I contemplate…am I my Father’s favorite? Are you? Aren’t we all His beloved?

Wouldn’t it change the way we value others and ourselves if we rightly saw the world through His eyes? And maybe gave others a peek of Him, too? After all, we are His children…made in His image.

Can we just pause for a moment to contemplate that the Parisian artist, and the San Francisco guitar player, and the Arkansas mechanic, and the Russian figure skater, and the Chinese biophysicist, and the African tribesman, and the Indian entrepreneur are all made in His image.

 

Could we, could I dare to bring it closer to home?

 

The homeless heroin addict?

 

The girl at church with the sad eyes?

 

The rude driver that cut me off?

 

All. His. Favorite. Children.

And at night, as I lay my sleep-fogged head onto my pillow, I can picture Him bending low. Brushing a wisp of hair off my cheek with a smile.

 

Because I’m His favorite, you know.

 

And so are you.

Harvesting Hope

Friends of ours are taking a vacation and invited us to pick the produce from their garden, visit their goats and chickens (my 2 year old’s favorite!), and cut as many flowers as we wish (the 4 year old’s favorite).

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Where to begin?  There’s spicy basil, decadently fragrant, practically begging to come to my kitchen.  Prickly, opinionated parsley.  String beans, gently velveted pods hiding amid the leaves. Sun drenched flowers, faces tilted heavenward in a silent invocation to worship.  Tiny tomatoes, golden orange globes stretched to bursting with the goodness of warm earth and sunshine. Joyous invitations, all, to believe that God is a good giver. It’s easy in the glow of a late summer sunset.

But in the icy cold of early spring, there was no color, fragrance, or feast for the senses.

There was only a handful of shrivelled brown seeds, a trowel, and the cold, wet earth. A season before, some gardener took the dead remains and shook out a few hard, dried up husks. A fistful of hope for a coming harvest. It didn’t look like hope.

He brings life out of dead things.

Isn’t that our hope, as believers in a dead Man risen?

He brings life out of dead things.

The blinding pain of this cold earth makes me want to shrivel right up.  I’ve been afraid to ask the hard questions, afraid to point the accusing finger at a God who says He makes all things good.

Where is the good in this? Can’t I ask that?

Can’t we cry, like David, out of the depths of a pain too blindingly big?  Dare we choke out our questions with mingled anger and grief?

Yes.

I have only to read the Psalms to know that the man after God’s own heart had all these questions and more.  God’s answer?

Himself. The I AM.

Aren’t You grieved, Lord?

I AM.

Aren’t You big enough to prevent this?

I AM.

Aren’t You big enough to fix this?

I AM.

Are You ever going to fix this?

I AM.

And I wonder, as my eyes scan the news of war, and famine, and death, and divorce…mass shootings, children abused and discarded and harvested for their parts…devastating diseases that suck the life and light right out…will You make these into seeds? Some day, oh, could I dare to hope that what’s dead and shrivelled and buried could burst into light and color and fragrance?

I don’t see it, or understand it…but could I believe it?

He warns us, you know, that there are some things that we just can’t understand right now. (Isaiah 55:9) Kelley Latta pictured it as a ceiling that only He can raise. I have resented that, imagined cold condescension. But God is our loving Father, and I think He makes the statement to calm my thrashing heart. It’s an invitation to trust.

Is there any other response possible in light of the cross? How can a heart fathom a Love so canyon deep that the very powers of hell are rendered impotent at the whisper of His name?

On a blood drenched hill, a splintered cross and a mother’s tortured prayers are the seeds planted in the darkest hours of our history. Only this, what is unequivocally anguishing, could sow eternal hope.

In Jesus, we are given a frame through which to view the very worst of what this world can throw at us. Hebrews 6 reminds us that God’s promises are our hope, and hope is the anchor for our storm-tossed souls.

I am invited to believe in His goodness and love. Even in winter’s embrace.

And some day, what we have chosen to believe in the face of cold, painful seasons…will burst forth in riotous harvest colors and we will see.

Oh, how we will see!

Until then, I really do believe…

He brings life out of dead things.

There’s a snake in my Eden…

I hate snakes.  No. I really, really, REALLY hate snakes. There is something visceral that stirs in me when I glimpse even a flash of their sinuous bodies, tiny, glittering eyes, and sharply darting tongues.

Does it go back to that long-ago garden? I don’t know.  But something has been nibbling at the apple of my contentedness, and I suspect a snake….

“Peese?”

“Juice!”

“Mama-please-can-I-oh-please-I-want-this-I-will-die-if-I-don’t-have-it-and-I-just-really-need-it!”

“But (insert name here) has one, and I have wanted one forever, and WHY CAN’T I???!!!”

Hiss.

The whining around here has begun to affect my caffeine intake (read that: it’s increasing.) It just plain wears me out.  We do our best to provide for our kids in every possible way, from the spiritual to the emotional to the material…and quite often all we hear is whining.  Superman and I have just about had it.

And it struck me today that maybe my heavenly Father is just about ready to ask me if I want some cheese with MY whine.  Because I do.

Whine, that is.

In the martyrous sigh I heave as I plunge out of bed to soothe the baby again. In the petulant roll of my eyes as I remind my toddler not to hit his sister for the four hundred billionth time. In my sharp words and even sharper tone as I vent my ire over spilled milk, inconvienences, and the just plain messiness of having children. In my often voiced discontent with the old sofa, old TV, old chair. In the mental tirade I give to the frustrating people in my life who just won’t for the life of them concede to my point of view.

Hiss.

And it hits me like a sledgehammer…I let the snake in the fruit bowl when I endlessly unleash the ingratitude that spills so easily from my heart.  I send the invitation for a slithering bundle of hungry serpents when I fret and pout and whine for what I have, and don’t have, and wish I had.

Because my Heavenly Father is so good. He fills my cup to overflowing, and I have the nerve to complain about the dripping sides. I Peter 5:8 reminds me that Satan is a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. I have been darn near devoured by the disappointments, and selfishness, and frustration birthed by ingratitude.

No more.

I choose thankfulness.

If ingratitude is what opens the door to the fangs that pierce my Eden, gratitude just might be the buckshot that splatters my discontent to pieces.

Excuse me a moment.  I’m going snake hunting. Join me?