Swallowed

I just got home from a week long vacation with my family. We enjoyed the sun and the sand and the water; and I enjoyed my kids! Instead of three tiny Tasmanian devils, I saw three joyful little boys. Instead of constantly averting disasters, I laughed with them and watched them play. It was a much needed break from our everyday.

Now that we’re back, I’m feeling a little like Jonah. He ran the opposite way from what God wanted and he got swallowed by a whale. Jonah was afraid of what God told him to do and was clinging to the ordinary.

Most of the time, instead of following God’s instructions of being joyful and grateful and giving grace freely, I often feel that I run the other way. In the normal day to day of raising three boys 5 and under, I feel like I get swallowed up – by routine and schedule and discipline and exhaustion. I feel like I am trapped down in the dark belly of it all, instead of enjoying the sunshine and waves of my boys’ childhood. I can find myself afraid of changing routine or making a concession for their enjoyment. “If I give in on this, where will it lead?” “If I let this go, will I be able to regain control of the situation?” Although these can be valid questions, I shouldn’t let the fear of the answer swallow me whole. If I were listening to God’s instructions to live with joy and graditude and show grace to everyone around me, these choices wouldn’t be so hard.

Having a break from it all reminded me what fresh air feels like. It reminded me to laugh a little more and let a little more go. I got to spend a week outside the belly of the beast and I think I’d like to stay out!

I’m on a boat!

Lately, I’ve very closely identified with the character of Noah. Follow me on this…

•Everyone thought Noah was crazy for building the ark and talking about rain. (What was that?!) Most everyone I know thought I was crazy for having 3 kids in four years, and then, surprise, it was three boys.

•Noah loaded up every kind of animal and then locked himself inside with them. I have three boys that usually act like animals and I’m trapped with them wherever we go: at home, in the car, at a restaurant, etc.

•Once all were on board, the floods came. After my third was born, the floods came. Floods of sickness passed around, activities, sports, fights, different nap times, literal floods of rain (ever spent an entire day locked indoors with three very active boys?!) and floods of exhaustion!

•I can only imagine Noah spent his days trying to keep the animals from all killing each other, constantly feeding them, and cleaning up poop. That’s my day to a tee!

•I don’t think the ark smelled very good. My house normally doesn’t either.

Noah rode the waves, and I’m sure, thought he was going to sink quite a few times. I’m sure he questioned why he was there and if God would really take him to safety. I feel like my ship is going down almost everyday. I’m lucky if I feel like my head is ever above water at all. I don’t know if I remember what well-rested, organized, solid ground feels like. I often find myself questioning if God knew what He was doing putting me in charge of this herd.

Even after the flood water stopped pouring, Noah had to stay on the ark and wait for the waters to go down. And even after these baby and toddler days are over, I will have many more to wade through. I can only imagine what teenage years will be like with these three!

Although Noah probably felt like he was on that ark for an enternity, it wasn’t actually that long compared to the span of his life. And though this part of my life seems to drag on, it really won’t be that long at all (long days, short years, am I right?!).

When Noah finally exited the ark, birds sang and a rainbow appeared. I’m sure I will feel that way when these three are no longer under my roof and I have all my space and time back.

The difference is, unlike Noah, I will want nothing more than to turn around and go back on my ark. I will desperately miss these little animals.

 

Be still

“Be still and know that I am God” Psalms 46:11

I’ve heard this all my life. So many times. And I’m not good at it. I’m not good at being still. I’m good at going and moving and doing. And my brain is even worse. It’s constantly thinking and planning, problem solving and problem creating. Even if my body is still, my brain is running sprints.

The problem has only gotten worse since I’ve had kids. “Did I pack their lunches?”, “Is the laundry done?”, “Where is his stuffed animal?”. It’s constant. And then, there’s the more anxiety inducing thoughts: am I doing enough to make their childhood magical? Am I doing too much to allow it to be magical? Am I disciplining them enough? Too much?

Yesterday, I was going in to wake up my middle from nap, so that bedtime wouldn’t be too tough and so that we could make it to yet another activity. I gently woke him and was about to leave the room. Before I could, he rolled over and laid his head in my lap. I stared at him, his beautiful messy hair and perfect skin. I played with his hair and rubbed his back.

In that quiet moment, I got my reassurance. These boys were made for me and I was made for them. I am what they need, exactly when they need it. I may not be perfect, but they love me. And that is enough. God knew what He was doing when He created my family. He orchestrated the most beautiful possibility. In that moment, I knew that He was in control and He would guide me in all these decisions both big and small, because He is God. I knew all of this, because for that small moment, I was still.

 

Be Messy

“Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” Matthew 11:28.

Sounds good right. It does to me! Because, let me tell you, I am weary. I don’t know if I really knew what that meant before three kids, but I do now. Tired doesn’t really cover it; I am down right weary, all the way to my bones. If I could sleep for 24 hours straight, it still might not be enough. Every part of me aches for rest.

And the burdens, oh my many burdens. I carry burdens all day everyday like I’m trying to haul in a whole load of grocery bags in one trip. I have the bag of trying to be a good mom, the sack of trying to be a good wife, the tote of trying to be the person God desires me to be, the literal weight my body held onto with each beautiful baby and the shame that weight brings each time I look in the mirror, the rolling suitcase of anxiety I have developed since becoming a parent and all the fears it’s created (I don’t think they could fit in an oversized uhaul truck!) and the depression that always tags along with the anxiety, the cute little clutch of trying to maintain a social life (I always seem to drop it first!) the perilous paper bag of balancing the budget (which always feels like it could rip at any minute), and the box of still feeling like “I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up” balanced on top. I carry it all, at all times. Couple all that weight and bulk with the expansive exhaustion I feel, and I don’t know how I stay on my feet most days. I’m pretty sure I qualify as both “weary and  burdened.”

The verse goes on to say, “and I will give you rest.” This is the part I struggle with. I feel like I go to God and I leave, still heavily weighted down and oh, so very tired. I go to Him and I stand there, telling Him about all the bags I’m holding. I describe each one and show Him the contents. And then I go on about my day, wondering where my rest went. I have trouble remembering that He already knows what’s in each bag. I don’t have to waste my time with Him talking about them. I also don’t have to stand there, holding them all. He knows I can; I don’t have to impress Him with my strength. He knows I’m strong because He made me this way. There’s no shame in going to God, dropping it all in one big messy pile, and flopping down in a matching disheveled heap. There’s no shame in laying my head down and taking comfort in His safety. We both know I have the power to pick them all back up.

I have to remind myself daily to go to God and be a mess. Let it all go and just rest. Some days I succeed, others, not so much. I hope one day to go to God and leave with fewer bags. I don’t know if it’s truly possible to ever leave them all, but it’s an amazing goal. Until then, I’m constantly trying to do better and building some nice muscles along the way.

My Cross

The command- “Take up your cross and follow me”- is familiar to most. I’ve always read this as simply the cross of Christianity. Although not always, but most times in our society, this cross doesn’t carry too much weight to bear. We live in a world familiar with Christianity. And in my world of the South, it’s pretty well accepted. Carrying this cross hasn’t cost me or caused me hardship.

It’s only been in the past few years that I’ve begun to see this command differently. I believe that our cross is not simply Christianity, but also our current situation. Since becoming a mom, and then a mom of 3, my cross has changed many times, if not daily. Some days, it’s light. It’s playtime and story time. It’s play dates and sunshine. On other days, it’s so heavy. It’s sickness and tantrums. It’s teething and sleep training and lots of tears. At this exact moment, it’s the tremendous weight of learning to take turns.

The term “take up” has also began to make me take notice. The verb isn’t pull or  drag; it says take up. As in, pick up and carry. Not begrudgingly drag behind you.

So, not only am I told to make my way with  my cross of the day, but I’m told to carry the weight and continue forward. I’m told to persevere.

Even though the weight is quite heavy many days, knowing this makes it seem bearable. Knowing that I am carrying MY cross and carrying it to the best of my abilities makes the weight just a little lighter.

Psalms 23 – This Mama’s Version

The Lord is my shepherd,

No matter how much they want.

He makes them lie down for nap time;

He shows me they can be still (temporarily);

This restores my soul;

He leads me in the path of holding my temper

For everyone’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of the witching hour,

I will fear no tantrum;

For you are with me;

Your patience and your grace, they comfort me.

You helped me prepare a table before them, even if they won’t eat any of it.

Hopefully, no one’s head is anointed with dinner;

Someone’s cup always runs over.

Surely to goodness, with your mercy, maybe they wont follow me to the bathroom all the days of my life.

And I will dwell in the sweet memories forever.