Monday, July 28, 2014

The Life Relocation Program

"Tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it... Yet." - L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

I don't deserve a fresh start. And yet I get one.

Every. Single. Sunrise. 

Every morning–I get to start over. 

That's the insane infatuation that God has with us. He forgives us before we even bite into the apple. He kisses our mouths with the juice of the forbidden fruit streaming down our chins. He pursues us while we are running in the other direction. He pulls us close when we arch our backs like infants during a midnight wail. 

His mercies are new every morning. Even when we are failures. Which if we are human, we are. We fail. All the time. And even when we've let him down time and time again, He still chooses to write us as principal players into the greatest romance of life. The only romance that fulfills. The one between the Creator and His created.

Mercy is the magic.

What a miracle. In an age of criticism and chronic opinion, Jesus is a safe place. To know that the God of the universe–the one who knitted your bones together; bent over with furrowed brows; exercising the utmost concentration–knew we would fall apart at the seams.

He created us fully knowing we would throw ourselves to the ground. Shattering the art. Breaking the beauty. And he broke himself for that very fact. 

And as I sit in my kitchen, where I've written every word since I've been a parent, I realize I will soon be saying goodbye to this place. 

We are selling our house.

Soon this home–where I saw my babies take their first steps, throw their first temper tantrums, witness a bubble for the first time, utter their first words and take their first falls–will be someone else's address. Soon, this home will be a memory. A yesterday that I can't redo. A fuzzy recollection that will keep me company when my son is off to college and my daughter is studying for her high school finals.

And as I look back on the first four years I have been a parent: It's bittersweet.

I spoke too harshly too often. And yet, I exchanged I'm sorry's and I forgive you's richly. I cried too much over things that inconvenienced me, and yet I embraced the unexpected. I complained over the stains on the carpet, but really I was just discontent with imperfection. And still, there's a side of me that loved watching my daughter eat tomato soup with gusto while splattering the walls and staining her dress. I loved having uncooked spaghetti fights in the kitchen with my baby boy even when I surveyed the damage; dozens of snapped sticks of imagination scattered to high heaven all across the floor.

I am a contradiction. My wills are at war within me. I loved chaos as much as I loathed it. 

All in all, we became a family here. In this place. The one that I wasn't sure I even wanted when we bought it. And as we prepare to plop a 'for sale' sign in the front lawn, it reminds me of early parenthood: it wasn't what I thought I was looking for but it was exactly what I needed.

As we look for a new home, I won't be looking for something perfect. I will be looking for a place big enough to invite strangers, new friends, old friends, the lost, the found, the happy and the despaired from all walks of life to drink wine and smell my favorite candles over a large table.

I want a place that will symobilize the growth we've experienced as we have become a family of four. I want a place that will be a safe haven and yet an open door for anyone who knocks. I am excited to recreate our new normal. I suspect it will be something we won't expect; but it will be place to shape the formative years; where we emerge from the thicket and begin the ascent.

This new house won't be the change we seek. Because the change has already happened. We are different. Not better. Just better at starting over. Better at admitting we need a fresh start. 

And so as we embark on the process of finding a new place to lay our heads, I am tired in the best way possible. With heart muscles sore from use and mind muscles sore from faith.

I have no idea where we are going, but we're going together-as a family. Be looking for the house warming invite. I'll be pouring Sauvignon Blanc. Naturally.

We're in this together,

Thursday, July 17, 2014

An Extra Raft


Such a glorious word. A gospel word, even. It suggests that we have more than we need. That the work has been done. That we can rest in the overflow. I have come to learn a thing or two about this word in the last few months. 

I had an audition for a national commercial last week. It was the first one I had gone to in over a year. I got a callback from that audition. I waited for four days, which felt like forever, all the while hoping and praying that I would get it. A fragile ego I nursed, hoping for a win.  

I got the call yesterday that I didn't get the part. But I wasn't left empty handed, I was asked to be a union job extra. In the acting world, an extra is basically a body. Someone who shows up without a name and without a  single line and just does what they are told. It was the smallest role I have ever accepted. 

And yet, I took it with thankfulness and joy. Because I am learning the true meaning of what it means to be and have, extra. 

After recently walking away from a job that consumed every ounce of extra time I had on my hands, I was squeezing essentials like bathroom breaks and even meals into the margins of my day. I was scurrying around like a squirrel with cheeks full of nuts who had a bounding black lab chasing my tail.

Days faded into one another with nothing but deadlines, criticisms, diapers, naps, mess making, mess cleaning, writing until my eyes burned, waking with my eyes still burning, coffee that never stayed in my cup long enough, and frayed nerves that snapped at the littlest detour in my daily, rigid schedule. All the while I prayed for God to make clear to me if I wasn't doing what I should. I can't help but laugh. The Spirit within was telling me what I didn't want to hear.

But now? It has stopped. The spin cycle has subsided.

I jumped off the merry go round mid-twirl, stood up on wobbly legs marked by scraped knees, and I carried my bruised heart and broken will, home.

There are still the diapers, the laundry, the endless snack fetching, mess making and mess cleaning. But I've been breathing. I've been feeling space in ways I wasn't able to before. I've been exposed to extra. And it feels so freeing. Except for when it feels frightening. (Of course.)

I am a planner. This is the first time in my life where I have stepped out onto nothing. Well, maybe not the first time. My wedding day I walked down the aisle into a white page of unwritten script. When I held my firstborn in my arms I couldn't see past the moment. I didn't have an inkling of what was to come. And it cradled me just as much as I cradled him.

Sometimes not knowing is the most beautiful part of painful endings that roll into new beginnings. It's that sliver of time that suspends itself between what we thought we knew and what we are completely clueless about. And no matter how much we try to see beyond–no level of guessing or strategy exists. We are forced to walk in the dark holding the hand of God. We have to feel with our hands along the walls and take timid steps that snap sticks and rustle fallen leaves.

In these dim moments we are tempted to live in fear of an opportunity-less life–like nothing good will ever come our way again.

But when we begin this blind journey, our eyes begin seeing things that were hidden before. Things about our dreams, our passions–who God created us to be. For so long my biggest fear in life was being ordinary, someone that just lived life quietly, simply. As I've matured in my baby-like faith, I have come to realize that God tells us to "aspire to live quietly" in 1 Thessalonians because he realizes the gift to be found in the extra.

Not extra stuff. Extra whitespace.

And it is in this most recent "whitespace" (which I have learned so much about from Bonnie Gray and her delightful book), I have discovered something amazing: My life road, like so many of ours, is a river.

I left home at 17 to pursue an acting career. That ran upstream into pursuing a music career. Which twisted into pursuing a book deal and a writing career. Then it ran over the smooth rocks and dropped off a jagged edge into a freelance photojournalism career. But through it all, these streams have all confirmed that I am made for all matters of creating, performing and artistic expression and I've even found that I can make a mean jam sandwich and slay dragons. Who knew?

The highs and lows of each pursuit pale in comparison to how God used each to patch together a life raft that I have needed time and time again. One that is fashioned from planks of trust built upon the rotten-turned-repourposed soft spots of my sin. One that is tied down and reinforced with strong ropes of forgiveness and embrace. One that is propelled by the wind of his will, and I'm just along for the ride.

It twists and turns, dips and dries out, floods and forges. It is exhilarating like a waterfall and quiet like a glassy lagoon. If we surrender to the river mentality of life we may come to a new understanding of our own gifting in the light of where God is leading.

Tethering ourselves to the "foundation of God" isn't enough if all we plan to do is to leave it in the foreground while we fly, accomplish and check off to-do's. Jesus isn't interested in safe distance from our real needs and desires. Jesus wants to wipe the tears when we think we are crying alone. He wants to clink glasses full of rich, ruby-red wine when something needs to be celebrated. He wants to kiss your eyelids while you dream. He is that personal. He is that in love with you.

Only calling on him when our balloon deflates or we hit the bottom, cheats us out of the small, quiet rivers we ignore with sights set on the ocean.

For so long I looked at my career, motherhood and my "calling" as a bridge I was building to get from somewhere I didn't want to be to somewhere better. And that isn't the way God designed our life to be.

Instead, if we let ourselves flow freely through the hands of his will we will embark on an adventure fashioned from his strengths to offset our weaknesses so we can accomplished those God-sized goals he's placed inside of us.

Take time to drink in the beauty of every day ordinariness. The symphony of sparrows in the early morning; the tight hug of your child when he whispers, "I love you so much mommy." These are the ordinary moments that are potently poetic. Don't miss them–like I have so many times–to blaze a trail across a ravine that God never intended for us to have to cross.

Jump into the cool river. The water is nice.

We're in this together,

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Pool of Envy

Kids squeal. Water splashes. The smell of coconut oil and chlorine drift on the breeze. To a child, we have reached paradise. A swimming pool in the summer.

Plastic toys spill out of beach bags and float around like time bombs in the water. Parents drift alongside their offspring wading fast and slow in hopes to head off a meltdown by distracting them from a new toy that has been momentarily abandoned; seemingly available for the snatching.

Conversations rise and fall as kids come and go for naps, lunches and bathroom breaks. "But he has a green squirt gun dad! I have a red one. I want a GREEN ONE!" And we try and explain: they are the exact same squirt gun. Just a different color. But logic falls with a dull thud. Our soft voices and gentle, but urgent, pleading become echoes in the canyon of that's-way-cooler-than-what-I-have. They can not hear us. They will not hear us. They are entranced by the unattainable.

And here I am bobbing like a cork next to my daughter and watching my own son literally run back and forth from content to discontent as new balls, water guns and float toys enter the scene. His little three-year-old brain spins; trying to process emotions and longings that he can't name–anger and awe and envy. Grown up issues that he is absolutely defenseless against.

And I realize that we are not born with the innate understanding on how to be happy. We have no clue what it is that will satisfy us and what will leave us empty and itching to get our hands on what someone else has. We are born full of want.

On this particular sunny day in paradise, it started and ended with rocket ships. My son's new friend Carson had brought in two "rocket ships"–actually airplanes. One was red and one was yellow. I saw the storm swirling overhead. Thunder clapped. Lightning struck down. Envy unleashed. "Mom! He has rocket ships. I want a rocket ship!"

Carson was not about to share the rocket ships. My son begins explaining that he needs to share. Carson disagrees. The combination of too much sun not enough breakfast and the teetering insanity of toddler reasoning culminated into chaos. The tears begin. The scene is made. It is time to go. NOW.

As I am trying to navigate an escape route with hand signals to my husband across the pool we begin hastily gathering our wits. Our son continues to melt down. This triggers rapid spelling, "He just needs a N-A-P," I yell. My husband grabs our daughter and begins gathering our stuff, shooting back, "I know, and F-O-O-D." I nod incessantly, "Yes, and he needs to go P-O-T-T-Y." And it continues that way for a minute or two as I try to coerce my son into leaving the rocket ship battlefield.

He sees us moving toward the exit and panic ensues. "No mom!" I don't want to go!" Tears begin forging into waterfalls. His chin quivers. "I'm happy mom! I'm happy!" Wails and arm slapping enter the negotiations. "Mom, see I'm happy!" Tears running in thick streams. He truly thinks I will believe that he is happy by telling me that, even though his blotchy and exasperated face tells the real story.

My face flushes red. Half-embarrassed by the scene we're making over Carson's inability to share (as if my son has never withheld a toy from someone for the sheer joy of it) and half-embarrassed by my own reflection that I am beginning to see in my son's broken little heart. His brokenness over the stuff. The sense of loss. The fear of missing out.

And I suddenly feel bad for him. He can't identify envy. He doesn't understand why it is twisting his heart in knots. He doesn't understand that this behavior is going to cost him what he already had. A fun afternoon in the pool.

And more than all of that, my sad little son is letting the idea of losing something he never had become more important than trusting that mom and dad knows what he needs most. Rest. And sustenance. A cool, calm dry place out of the hot sun.

We successfully completed Operation Escape the Pool of Envy after a couple of failed attempts. But I made it out alive and with enough composure that I am able to detail the encounter with some clarity in this blog.

As I was finally tucking my son into his bed. I felt it.

Whether we are three or thirty-three, the hunt for happiness will never end well when we don't trust that our Father knows what is best for us.

Rest for the restless.
Rest for the brokenhearted.
Rest for the unloved.
Rest for the overworked.
Rest for the unemployed.
Rest for the disliked.
Rest for the ordinary.
Rest for the overlooked.

Rest. Not relaxation. Not something that we dream of during toil filled weeks. Not a vacation. Not a break from reality.

Soul rest. The kind that we will find when we close our eyes to the distractions and temptations of want and we open our eyes to what we have right in front of us. Empty space. Open hands. Ready to accept the good news of grace. It is more than enough.

Nothing more, nothing less.

Rest in that.

We're in this together,

Friday, June 20, 2014

Oh, Joy, the Crumbling Continuum

I've been wondering why I am enchanted with words. They wrap around my brain like an eagerly anticipated gift and I'm a gap-toothed child with frosting smudged across her face reaching up with open arms. They never leave, even though they do lie quiet in times of stress or run in the opposite direction when I am trying to squeeze them from a place too tight for flow.

I welcome this acrostic addiction with an appetite for more. I invite flowery, fickle and downright bad ideas to run amok through the elongated gates and trails of my mind. I find joy in the plunky metamorphosis of letters turning into silky ribbons of delicious thought emerging chapter titles, songs and bite-sized breaks of blue through the clouds.

And I am thankful. I am thankful that I have this love to share with my children. I am thankful that when the world feels unsafe and unkind I can escape into the mind of C.S. Lewis or Anne Lammott or Brennan Manning and Jen Hatmaker– those who have lived life with their ear to the door of God's heart hoping to hear a symbiotic morse code that will spell out the exact answer we seek. And they do.

I've found that while God does often speak in cryptic collections of stories and ideas–he doesn't leave us to fumble the puzzle back together on our own. When we are hurting, lost or desperately seeking His face he isn't so mysterious. (Matthew 7:7). He's actually quite plain. Blunt. Transparent.

I am between the spaces right now; where the sunset over a tranquil lake transports me to a hotel room in my soul that I've never checked into. And yet, it is as if that is the only place in the whole world that could possibly be home. I don't think of heaven often, but when I do it is sparked by random moments of beauty. When dew slips from petals into a pool of rainwater. In the squinty corners of my children's eyes when giggle fits ensue. Those are times where I can't contain the joy I feel and I instinctively put my hand over my heart. It's what C.S. Lewis called the "pang" of joy. And it is worth more than comfort. It is a preview of something we were created to live in continuously.

Comfort has been the god that often snatches the position of most importance when I don't tend to the wilds of my want. I have been taking inventory around my home of the "comforts" I was afforded when I had an income. There's several pair of shoes that are colorful and yet, they seem crass. As if they represent me flipping over a table in the temple or me handing over my birthright for a meager bowl of watery soup. OK, so that may seem a little strong. But it is excess. And excess isn't eternal. It's moth food.

I have a few more dresses than I used to. A few more beauty products. A few more clothes for my kids which have now been washed, shrunken and demoted to consignment quality. Innumerable Starbucks cups found their way into the trash along with their bought-status green straws. But most boldly and evidently, as I look around and take inventory of this blank space I find myself in, I notice a skin that has been shed. I notice that what I was once wearing has now been cast in the dirty clothes. It was a uniform of I-can-do-it-all-myself–as if a title of nothingness could trick my heart into believing that I was anything more than naked and ashamed.

I feel so free from that skin, which now I can properly identify as a suit of armor. I catch moments of dusty sun now. I revel in the sound of birds out my window. I itch to bring beauty in.

And that's where I feel reintroduced to the place of purpose that God carved into me with a chisel and a gouge. That place of tenderness and trepidation. The place where I am able to notice God. To give him credit. To cite the source.

And that's why the words have been assaulting me with the most welcomed show of gunfire. I've been cracked open wide. Without our fissures and faults, there would be no way for Him to encourage us to "let it crumble". There would be no crag for him to establish his greatness among our garbage. Be thankful for your bruises–the places that if pressed upon would burst us to bits.

They are the marks by which we feel for our way and open into a bright meadow that is decorated with  quiet and clarity. It is only in times like these that I am able to wipe the steamy film from the mirror to see myself through the streaks of condensation. (1 Corinthians 13:12) For now we only see as a reflection in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

You are already fully known by your Creator. These humans we share our lives with; they can only know us in part as we can only know ourselves and others. That's the journey. Realizing that this isn't about getting to know ourselves or hoping that someday someone will "get us". This life, this discovery–I believe–is about allowing ourselves to accept that will only be ever truly known, cherished, accepted and trademarked as beautiful by the hands of God. The ones that knit us together in love. (Col. 2:2)

We're in this together,

Monday, June 16, 2014

Hopelessly Unhinged

This has been an interesting week.

I quit my job. But it doesn't stop there.

An eighty-year-old woman in the aisle of Fred Meyer told my 14-month daughter to "shut up" as she was repeatedly squealing because of the balloons overhead. An acquaintance accused me of trying to reap the spoils of her divorce by asking about buying a painting in her home. And I had someone tell me that they were hurt that I did not acknowledge them while they wore a t-shirt heralding my old band days. While these things are not the end of the world I am fighting the temptation to pull into my turtle shell and be done with it for awhile. A reformed introvert who still struggles with internalism, these little cuts are beginning to gape. I can feel the blood draining from my face.

I am far too sensitive. I take things too much to heart. I know this about myself. But Jesus knows that even more.

I will be the first to say I don't do life well all the time. Honestly, I think I only have peek-a-boo moments of goodness where something bursts forth from a place beyond my own humanity and I am able to harness it long enough to help someone. Or support someone. Or forgive someone. Then it's gone and I'm back to being obsessed with myself.

The only comfort I can find is that Jesus knows me. He knows this wasted heart, and that I desperately want to please. And unfortunately that desire to please gets me into trouble. I set myself up for failure.

Jesus knows I don't say the right things all the time. He knows that I walk wide-eyed into misunderstandings. He knows I sin. I covet. I gossip. I envy. I assume. The world can be cruel. And sometimes I wonder if I'm not wired to handle it all. The comments. The assumptions. The accusations.

It can simply be, overwhelming. I have always been easily broken. I have a thin skin and I've tried to make it thicker. But for those of us who God made this way; sensitive, big-hearted and trusting–it's okay to admit we can't do this on our own.

And in this hard season, where I feel isolated and clunky in my attempts to re-find my footing–I am tripping over my good intentions. But more so now than ever I am so thankful for my church and my closest friends. I am so thankful for other broken people who put their foot in their mouths and those that are familiar with the gift of grace and are much more willing to give it freely to those who don't deserve it.

I know I don't deserve grace. I know I say stupid things. I trust people blindly. I don't always think through the things I do. But I keep being reminded of God working all things together for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). He knows we are unhinged and spastic. He knows we can't hold a train of thought and that we can't see ourselves crashing until we are among the blazes sometimes.

And that's the peace I have right now. Because I know I love Jesus like crazy. I know He's seen me at my worst and He still longs to know me. That is why I believe what I believe. Because I am imperfect and impolite and imposing and marred and stitched up and He still welcomes me with arms open wide. He still invites me to His throne to hear his gentle voice and to forgive me for the bazillionth time with no strings attached. Seriously, none.

And for a screw-up like myself that is more than good news, it's what this tired and beat-up heart needs.

Sometimes people think that religion is unforgiving. But for me, it's the opposite. My religion–Christianity– is nothing but forgiveness. Pure and potent, like the most intoxicating drink you'll ever taste. It's a reality that never goes away once you acknowledge you need it. As long as you keep His truth in front of you, what's behind you becomes glassy and highly apertured. Fading into the fog of forget-about-the-past.

I feel such joy knowing that I have a clean slate and a life washed white every single morning (Psalm 30:5). I will continue to hold fast to my firm belief in a Man who came as God to fulfill ancient prophecies and give us the gift we could never earn–a direct line to His goodness. He left us with the blueprint on how to live life in community with Him and those who love Him.

I am worn down. I am vulnerable. I am broken. I am sad. I am feeling attacked.

But by God, I am forgiven. And loved. And held. And kissed. And unconditionally accepted. No matter what I do wrong tomorrow or what I forget to do right the next day, Jesus has it covered. Dear friend, if you've ever been misunderstood, wrongly attacked, rightfully attacked or left to feel like you don't matter. You do.

You matter so much that you don't have to do anything right to be righted. Rest in that.

We're in this together,

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Texting with Jesus in the Thicket of Nothingness

Sometimes I wish Jesus sent text messages.

My life is such a ball of harried busyness these days–it would simply be more efficient. I'm an editor for a local magazine, a mom to two kids under four and a wife to an energetic mountain climber who only needs six hours of sleep. Doesn't take much imagination to get a clear picture of the daily tiredness I encounter. So what? We're all tired. Moms are exhausted, it's a reality. But that isn't what bothers me.

It's the why I'm tired that bothers me. I'm beginning to think that I'm moving yet, going nowhere. Typing yet, creating nothing. Getting ahead, yet falling behind.

You see if Jesus could send texts that would fit so much nicer into the grid of my life. I barely have a moment to change the toilet paper roll let alone consult with Him on how to use the fourteenth temper tantrum of the day as a teaching moment. I don't have moments to gather myself and listen to the whisper of His wisdom when my kids are screaming for more juice and my work is drilling my email with negativity and complaints.

And you know what? I think I may be in sin.

Believe me, I really want this to be untrue. I want people to tell me that I'm doing a great job juggling it all. I want my husband to be proud of how hard I work. I want my children to know that mommy isn't just a mommy, she has other talents outside of wiping running noses and making a mean jam sandwich. But why do I want that?

And I sit here. My fingers poised on the keys. And I am at a loss. I don't know why I want that. Jesus made it so very clear in his Word about what is of value to Him that it may have well been a text message.

JesusMartha (Megan), dear Martha (Megan), you’re fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary (someone else) has chosen it. [Luke 10:41-42]

Me: What was that G-man? I was too busy editing a piece about dive bars and folding the laundry and loading the dishwasher and changing a diaper and calling my mom and reading the "news" (Facebook) to understand what you mean. Can you repeat it?

Jesus: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind [Luke 10:27]

Me: Sorry, too tired to talk about this. Going to watch Parenthood. 


And I'm, done. Ready to turn my brain off for some sanity. All I want is just a sliver of escape that I desperately deserve. Right?

Yes, I deserve to find rest in Him. But that's not where I go. I don't run to the Bible or my journal. 

I run to an empty room inside my mind where no one needs me, it's quiet and clean. And I'm alone. It's a fantasy of what peace must be like, but my imaginary happy place is counterfeit. Real peace is found in the wise whispers I can't hear over the clanging of my own complaints. 

Do less. Breathe more. Spend time with me. Spend time with your kids. Let the accolades go. Don't believe the hype. You are not talented. I have given you those gifts. Love your husband. Stop blaming him for your state of mind. Stop blaming Me for not speaking clear enough. Stop blaming yourself for getting caught up in the thicket of nothingness. Return. To. Me. 

Jesus was and is so counter-cultural that even two-thousand years after His death he is still breaking down the truth of what life should look like when lived in alignment with His best for us. And it looks drastically different than anything we will see on TV, in our friends' lives and even in the church. 

It looks minimal. 

Sell all you have and give to the poor. [Luke 18:22]

It looks plain. 

He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. [Isaiah 53:2]

It looks unimpressive.

For your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. [2 Corinthians 8:9]

But dear friends, it looks peaceful. 

I am leaving you with a gift--peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don't be troubled or afraid. [John 14:27]

I have traded in my Savior for a schedule. I just want efficiency. I just want a yes or no. I want to treat him like my assistant who has an amazing sense of direction.

But you know what He really is? He's the point. He's the plan. He's the promise.

If I am completely upfront about my current heart condition, I should say that this probably won't change anything in my life immeadietly. I am stubborn and full of vanity. But I do know this, that Jesus is relentless in His faithfulness. He will not let me waste myself away to dust. Instead, I am opening up my weary heart for some soul surgery.

I've been joyless. I've been run down. I've put busyness above belief.

One last text would need to be sent.

Me: I ask forgiveness for being too distracted to be a disciple. Don't let me get away with it. You are my first love. Show me how to fix it.

If you ask the hard questions about how you've designed your life, He will provide the real answers. I pray I'm not in the middle of folding socks when He does–God knows how hard it is for me to break away from that.

We're in this together,

Sunday, May 4, 2014

I'm Not Your Servant

I recently had one of those parenting days where I did the exact opposite of what I believe to be true.

The prophet Paul knows what I'm talking about, "I don't really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don't do it. Instead, I do what I hate." 

There I was standing at the top of the stairs in my mother-in-law's house on Easter morning. Eyes burning, head aching, body revolting to this whole idea of being a "present" mom. My heart wanted nothing more than to crawl into bed, pull the covers over my head and let my kids have their way with the exposed (and reachable) crystal collection in the dining room or let them terrorize the vintage records perfectly positioned for a few licks of a toddler tongue or at least a good snotting on. 

The previous three days had been spent without my husband at the family lake house with my two kids and my mother.  Sound idyllic? In some ways it will be (once these ever stretching days become sepia-toned snapshots.) I know my brain will only play back the moments filled with sunsets, hysterical laughing, and priceless cuddles in my neck. That's God's grace. 

But not enough time had passed. The days were still raw. Someday I will forget that I got up a total of 11 times in the last 48 hours to help a restless daughter back to sleep. I won't recall the exhaustion that came from constantly discipling my son over a single lost two-cent plastic dinosaur (among dozens of others) which then caused every waking moment to become a whine-symphony complete with limp limbs and slamming doors. 

I had not had the convenience of my own home or bed in four days. Neither had my kids. And I am again reminded that no matter how many times I try to convince myself that vacationing with kids is fun, it isn't. At least not with two kids under three. I hear this changes. But at this point, I've tried wine to relax. I've tried coffee to wake up. Both have left me with a headache and a deep sense of my own weakness and an urgent desire to soak myself in the Bible-which usually leads me to the book of James. 

But I hadn't carved out enough to time to get the Word in and so there I was at the top of the stairs and it all came to a head: the 6:15 a.m. wake up call after my midnight bedtime combined with the miscues and missed opportunities to rely on God. I found myself drowning in the empty side of the pool. I had not put His goodness in and was not getting His goodness out. The bootstrap principle I had been implementing was now threadbare, I have nothing left to hold on to. And I was a terror. 

My son kept repeating over and over and over and over that he needed his teddy bear. I tried to ignore him as long as I could, but between trying to pack and trying not to fall asleep while standing up the following words flooded out of mouth intended to bite:

"Get your own teddy bear, son! I am NOT YOUR SERVANT!"

My son's face fell. He just wanted his mommy to show him that what matters most to him matters to her. And instead of taking that moment to teach him how much I loved him by going into the unfamiliar room that he had stayed in the night before–I chose to use it as a teaching moment  to chastise a small child for being lazy, when I was really being the lazy one.

Pounding down the stairs I left him alone. Hoping my hard words would cure his inability to be self sufficient and that he would bound down the stairs with Teddy in hand and I would pat myself on the back for sticking to my guns. I mean, come on! He is almost three and a half after all! Get it together kid. 

I know....really pretty heart stuff here. 

That moment faded and the excitement of Easter eggs and high fructose corn syrup trumped all. I forgot about the moment and it seemed he did too. All good. 

Finally we had the car packed and we were heading home. Finally I would see my own bed. The kids would be back in their routine. I was going to survive. I was nodding off in the front seat, my daughter was screaming in the back seat and the phone rang. We had forgot something. 


The voice on the other line oozed out like an ominous ransom, "Teddy is here." Daaa-da-da-dum. 

Both of us exasperated, tired and utterly inconvenienced–flipped the car around and headed back to get the precious bear. The bear that I refused to retrieve for my son. The bear that I denied any responsibility for. The bear that I nailed to the cross in order to declare my power over another. The bear that I declared I was NOT a servant for. I was so much more important than that. And now the bear was putting me in my place. The lesson was no longer mine to teach but mine to learn.

When you are face to face with a bad day. Rewind. Look for the missed opportunities where you didn't align your day with God's desire for you. The days are so much better where I wake up and admit, "Lord, I can't do today. I am totally ill-equipped to even pretend I can do this on my own. Show up. Be the loving presence my children and husband need. And show me how much you love me- the broken, beautiful mess that I am."

In the words of one of my favorite authors, Jen Hatmaker, "True greatness comes to us through the back door of servanthood."

We're in this together,