The dog needed a walk. I needed… something.
Turns out we both needed some time in the woods.
As I walked, I began praying the Confession, bit by bit. I’d only gotten to “I have not loved You with my whole heart; I have not loved my neighbor as myself,” when words from the devotional I’d read with the kids earlier this morning came to my mind: “Your love is human and limited. It can easily get tangled up with your weaknesses and selfishness.” (Jesus Calling, kid version, p. 139)
It’s so true, I thought. Even in my best efforts to love others, my selfishness is mixed in.
The devotional I’d read with the kids had progressed beyond this idea, reminding its readers to “(t)ake time to rest in My Presence, and let Me fill you up with My Love.” As I walked down the forest path, I thought, “You know how to love me. You know how to love me well. This is precisely what I needed this morning, and every blade of grass, every dandelion clock, every red-winged blackbird I see is a bit of Your perfect love for me.”
One morning last week, as I dropped my younger children off at school, I told each one, “_______, you are loved.” The last one to get out of the car was worried about an upcoming test and had studied the entire way to school—was still studying! “_______, you are loved,” I said.
“Okay.” And the child hurried off.
I laughed a little as I drove away, but then I thought, How often does God say, “Jen, you are loved,” and I respond, “Okay”?
Each of us has love notes from our Father scattered throughout this day.
Lord, help us to notice them.
It was a Saturday morning after a late Friday night. Husband out of town. Schedule packed with kids’ activities and cleaning my messy house (I don’t mind laundry or dishes, but whole-house cleaning brings out my nasty).
I was still in bed but mentally working through my to-do list when I heard my younger three coming down the stairs. I hopped out of bed… and discovered I’d gotten up on the wrong side.
I was grumpy—from the get-go!
They came in with iPad in hand, a Youtube Disney music video blaring.
More grumpy. “Can’t you guys start off the day with a book or a game? Why do you have to go straight to screen time?”
“We’ll just watch this one video, and then we’ll be done, Mom.”
I grunted my assent and went upstairs to begin de-cluttering so I could then clean.
iPad still going.
iPad still going.
Deeper grumpiness, and the homework-and-craft-covered dining room table wasn’t improving my mood.
I stomped downstairs. “I told you guys to stop watching videos after that first one.”
Wide, innocent eyes. “It’s the same video, Mom.”
I looked at the screen, and, yes, it was the same 36-minute long Youtube video.
“You knew I didn’t mean you could watch a video that’s more than a half hour long!”
Suddenly one of my sons was right in front of me. He put his arms around my neck and held his face up for a kiss.
And, honest to goodness, this is what came out of my mouth. “I don’t want a kiss right now. I’m trying to fuss at you and your brother and sister.”
That was when the Holy Spirit smacked me upside the head.
What I’d said sunk in, and I looked down into the face of the son who is getting a lot better at reading my moods—and who wants to fix me when I clearly display my brokenness.
“I’m sorry, sweetheart. You’re right. I do want a kiss.”*
I said my “sorry”s for my grumpiness, got my kids doing something more productive than watching videos (though they would certainly disagree with my evaluation), and went back to straightening.
But though I was more aware and cautious of my mood, I was still in it.
When I went upstairs to check on how Maddie was doing at cleaning her room, she asked me, “Mom, would you want to have devotions with me?”**
Another Holy Spirit moment: I answered, “Mads, that’s a great idea.”
We read it together on her bed.
Then we looked at each other. “That was exactly what I needed to hear,” I told her. “Thank you.”
She nodded wisely. “That happens a lot for me, too.”
In one morning I received the kiss of forgiveness and the olive branch of restoration.
Oh, the lessons I learn from my children.
*The reason I didn’t use a name for this child is that he is at the age when he doesn’t want too much affection in public (“Only side hugs, please, Mom.) and doesn’t want to be called “honey,” “sweetheart,” or “baby” unless it’s inside the walls of our home. So if you’re reading this and you actually know my family, don’t mention this story to any of my kids and please don’t repeat it to any kids they know. If you do, my days of hugging my son may be over for a really long time.
**We gave Maddie the kids’ version of Jesus Calling for Easter. I highly recommend it for kids aged about 8 and up. I used it a couple years ago with high school students, and many of them still preferred the kid version over the adult one.
Yesterday on the way to school we read the kids’ version of the devotional Jesus Calling. It was about troubles. “You’ll have them,” the devotional reminded us (I’m paraphrasing). “I promise you will, but I also promise you I will use them, and I will go through them with you. I will even enable you to smile in the face of trouble.”
At noon, when I picked up PJ, holding his left wrist carefully away from his body, to take him to get his arm x-rayed, I asked him, “Do you remember the devotional from the morning?” He didn’t, so I read it to him again.
“Wow,” he said. “God was right. Trouble did come!”
Yesterday’s “trouble” came when PJ, upside down on the monkey bars at school, slipped as he was trying to pull himself upright. He broke his fall with his left arm (his dominant arm). X-rays revealed that the wrist is broken (a “buckle” break on the ulna) but the elbow is fine.
He was a trooper during the entire process of check-in, x-rays, the fitting of the temporary cast. It helped that he got to watch The Lorax, which he loves, and that the aide gave him an orange popsicle when he was done (which he promptly dripped onto his cast!).
When I walked into his classroom this morning to talk with his wonderful teacher about what he’s not allowed to do right now (definitely no more monkey bars for awhile), she apologized. “I’m so, so sorry,” she said.
“It’s fine,” I told her. “We’re surprised it’s taken him this long to break a bone!”
And actually, as long as the Ibuprofen is pumping through his little body, PJ’s even smiling!
As I read the devotional Jesus Calling early this morning, one particular sentence stood out to me: “I (God) designed you to need Me moment by moment.”
Hmm, I thought, that is the complete opposite of human parenting–or at least of my version of it. I am trying to get my children to be less dependent on me, to be more self-sufficient each year, to increase their problem-solving skills. I often tell them, “Before you call ‘Mo-om!’ immediately, ask yourself if you can do this on your own.”
But God wants me to be more aware of my dependence on Him, more aware of my lack of self-sufficiency and of my inability to control anything.
I jotted these thoughts in my journal, worked out, made sure all the kids were up and moving, fixed Patrick’s breakfast… and then learned that school was cancelled because of all the flooding in our area. My kids literally went off like fireworks. I think you could have heard them from the street.
Was I happy for them?
But I must admit I had to readjust my idea of the day I thought I was going to have. Better get ready to hear “Mom!” all day long, I told myself.
And then I laughed! Because I remembered Jesus Calling and my lesson of the morning.
It was very nice of Him to give me a heads-up!
The other morning I opened the devotional book Jesus Calling to read it aloud to Dave as he ironed his shirt.
“Oh, I have a hard time believing that most of the time,” I said—before I’d even read the first sentence.
“Believing what?” Dave asked.
“Here’s what it says,” I answered. “’I am pleased with you, My child.’ And listen to this: ‘You don’t have to perform well in order to receive My Love.’ Ouch!”
Forty-five minutes later I was in the middle of my workout when son Jake came down to the basement and did what he always does in the early mornings when none of his other siblings are yet stirring: he went straight to the couch and cuddled with our dog, Chai.
“Oh, Chai,” he said, his voice syrupy sweet. “You’re such a good girl. What a good girl you are!”
Feeling a bit like chopped liver—I hadn’t even rated a “hello”—and in the middle of a huffing, puffing part of my workout, I asked, “What has she done to make her a good girl, Jake? She’s just lying there.”
He looked up, his face surprised. “Mom, I love her. That’s what makes her good!”
I love her. That’s what makes her good.
I am pleased with you, My child.
I guess God really wanted to drive the lesson home.
Ephesians 2:8 “For it is by free grace (God’s unmerited favor) that you are saved (delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ’s salvation) through [your] faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [of your own doing, it came not through your own striving], but it is the gift of God;”
I like how the Amplified version puts it: “not through your own striving.” Oh, I strive. And I beat myself up and assume that God feels the same as I do when all my efforts come up short or are revealed to be what they are—things done to make me feel good about myself.
At bedtime the other night, Patrick said something hurtful about a group of people. He said it without thought, just to be talking, but I didn’t let it slide. “Do you realize how hurtful those words were? Do you realize what you were saying?”
When I explained, he DID understand.
And he felt awful.
When I went into his room to kiss him goodnight, his cheeks were tear-stained and he wouldn’t look at me.
I rubbed his head, and he turned his face to me and asked, “Mommy, do you still love me after what I said?”
Man, when any of your kids say that—but especially your adopted baby—it stops the heart!
“Oh, sweetheart,” I said—when I could say anything, “nothing’s going to change my love for you. I Love You! It’s like a fact.”
He loves me!
He loves you!
It’s like a fact.
I read this quote from Jesus Calling this morning: “Living in My presence means living in two realms simultaneously: the visible world and unseen, eternal reality. I have equipped you to stay conscious of Me while walking along dusty, earthbound paths.”
So far, today has been decidedly dusty.
More accurately, I should write that I am dusty today. It’s a “free” day for me, which in actuality means it’s anything but. It means that I return from taking the kids to school and stare at the hundreds of things that need to be done in my house (both general maintenance/cleaning and the still-moving-in tasks that never were accomplished during this crazy summer—seriously, I still have pictures leaning against the walls of the living room and boxes of stuff in the garage). I have no appointments and no writing deadlines that are due TODAY and, and the fact that I had a big deadline yesterday means that I have left even more things undone (because I would ALWAYS rather write than do housework, no matter how tedious the writing task is).
So today my brain is frazzled. I flit: clean the half bath, fill the soap dispenser, think, “would the sheer curtains make the front room less gloomy feeling?” I try them. Nope, they don’t even fit on the rods—and I like the rods. I get suddenly depressed about decorating my house. I just want it done—and that reminds me of the 8th grade teacher I taught with years ago who drilled her students so diligently on the difference between “done” and “finished” (chicken is “done,” tasks are “finished) that when her students came to my classroom they corrected me.
Em and I had a bit of a grumpy morning, so thoughts about that are also swirling. I’m tossing around the pros and cons of taking on a longer-term writing job possibility. Bits of prayer surface. “Lord, I am so unequal to any of these tasks. I’m not even sure what to do today, much less tomorrow or long term.” But praying and listening get swallowed up.
I am not just dust-y. I AM dust, floating, mis-directed by any small puff of air. I imagine Satan blowing me this way and that, aided by my own un-captured thoughts.
The dog begins following me around, reminding me with soulful eyes that I promised her a trip to the dog park where I have planned to have some quiet time and Bible study.
I put her off for awhile, find more tasks to do, more distractions. Finally, though, the look becomes pitiful, and I succumb, as much to the Holy Spirit as to the dog.
So here I am, sitting, letting it all out, hopefully silencing the talk in my own head and listening, be-ing.
I’ve got to walk in the dust, scuff my feet in it even, but I don’t have to BE it.