I’m recycling some of my older blogs because when I read them I notice that I have made progress and that gives me so much hope – hope I want to share with you, because that’s what I’m called to do. If ever there was an overarching theme to my purpose it is to encourage, and also to give a voice to things about which many of us struggle.
2013: “I want to watch Christmas Vacation” said my 8-year-old daughter. She is teaching her “class” of invisible yet apparently very ill-behaved students suspiciously named after her siblings. During their school day she allows them to watch a movie. Best teacher EVER! So I put in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” and let Chevy Chase educate them. For good measure I threw in a few beers and some pretzels to complete the experience. I’m joking, of course, but when I realize how accessible our kids are now that every device has Wi-Fi, it feels like that’s exactly what I’m doing. Add that reality to my already chaotic brain and you’ve got a perfect storm inside my soul.
I don’t know about you, but there are times when I just want to put my children in a bubble and keep them from experiencing the harshness of this world. (And then we have 18 snow days and I completely change my mind. “ILOVEYOUGETOUT” I chirp as I spot the approaching blessed yellow bus and then dance around gleefully in my house that used to have visible floors. And food.) The control freak in me has made lists, as if somehow writing down what I think needs to happen to create order will solve the problem. I’d love to show you some of my lists, which include items like “Aubrey goes to bed at 8:45, big kids at 9:30” and “Mom will have dinner ready by 6pm”. I wish I was kidding. The urge to control is overwhelming at times. And exhausting.
One day recently while I was obsessing over painting our new house that I can’t even enjoy because I’m too busy writing to-do lists, this peace washed over me. It was like God was telling me to breathe. I’ve been living small because when I’m in control that’s the only size life can be. I want to live HUGE and FREE. God wants me to live abundantly. That doesn’t mean material wealth necessarily, but that we see each day as an opportunity to have an adventure with God. He creates order from our chaos. The more I try to create order, the crazier I become. I’m dangling by thread as it is, and the more I try to be the captain, the surer I am that we will sink.
Bad people exist. I can’t change that, or even fully protect my children because unless we teleport to 1850 or join the Amish in Pennsylvania, they will have access to the internet. And unless we all actually live inside a bubble, there will be schedules to arrange and things to clean and paint. (Besides, a bubble is a perpetual snow day. Please refer to paragraph 2.) I’ve realized I have to put down the pen and paper (and the paintbrush) and simply pray. Why do I make it so complicated? Because I’m human, and humans are stupid. Well, not you. Me. I’m stupid. But God knows that, so He fills in the gaps. I’m so grateful. Without God, I’m a goldfish in a bowl. With Him, I can live like a blue whale in the Indian Ocean.
I’m so righteous when I drive. I listen to Christian radio and sing along. Sometimes I even become emotionally moved by the words. I mean I need a halo or wings or something in recognition of my superior spirituality – until someone cuts me off or goes too slow. Then the halo goes flying off and the unholy words go flying out. Can you relate?
Sometimes I think if I listen to or read spiritual words somehow I’ll absorb holiness. If only it worked that way – I’d be Mother Teresa. It’s time for some transparency: I’ve paid attention to my thoughts hidden behind my “I’m ok – everything’s ok” exterior. For example, while driving with my kids one day, we got behind a car going 15 mph under the speed limit. I growled a little outwardly. Inwardly I said things like “Get the H*** out of my way.” I wasn’t even in a hurry.
Driving is just one area in which I struggle with my thoughts. Sporting events are another. At my daughter’s cheer competitions you’d think that I’m calm and possibly even laid back. I sit back in my chair, smile, cheer and clap. But let there be an unfair score sheet and the inside of me ignites to full blown indignation. And, I hate to even admit this people, but a small part of me says “YES!” inside when our competitor’s team makes a mistake…I know…it’s a sickness…
What about our thoughts about our kids? Ooh. I’ll tread carefully here. Do you ever think your kids are ungrateful, entitled little monsters? Do you ever wonder what life would be like if you had bypassed parenting and just opted for goldfish? No? Good. Me either. Moving on…
My point is what we think about affects how we act. Every sin begins as a thought. Every single one. So I need to get back in the habit of taking every thought captive. It sounds difficult, and it is at first, but the more I recognize my thought pattern, the easier it will be to stop it in its tracks. It requires intentionality and purposeful decision-making, but I promise it helps to have those boundaries when temptation comes.
I’m trying to live as if every one of my thoughts could be heard by the masses. If I was exposed from the inside out, there certainly wouldn’t be perfection, but would it convey how much I truly love people, or would my toxic thoughts overshadow? I’m aiming for the former. I can’t promise I won’t make hollow death threats during sporting events, but I can promise I’ll recognize I’m crazy and tell myself to get a grip.
Many years ago in the heart of autumn, I was driving down a beautiful West Virginia road; the grass was still green, the leaves on the trees vibrantly yellow, red and orange accentuated against a crisp blue sky punctuated with brilliantly white cumulus clouds. Ahead I could see a small white church and in front a sign with familiar black lettering asking for roasted peanuts.
I pondered this strange request for at least several seconds. It went something like this: Why would they need peanuts? Why do they have to be roasted? Are there elephants living here that I don’t know about? Why don’t I know about them? I need to see these elephants…
As I approached the sign I could see clearly that it read, Needed: Foster Parents. Aside from realizing I didn’t have my glasses because I “didn’t need them”, I just laughed at my mistaken conclusion and promised myself I would go to the zoo and see elephants soon.
It wasn’t until a few years later that God brought this memory back in a whole new way to illustrate my denial on a much larger scale. In what I inaccurately believed to be my darkest hour, He was trying to show me that I had been driving through my life without corrective lenses that I undeniably needed, drawing conclusions based on an illusion fed by naïve, adamant, and devastatingly misguided pride.
I try not to dwell on what could have been if I would have been more obedient earlier. Instead I stand amazed at how God has brought me through each of my valleys stronger and more ready each day to say, “your will, not mine”. My corrected vision is far from 20/20, but I drew a line in the sand, and I stand on the side of Christ.