(written earlier this week...)
I think when I start my day circling my family room and kitchen with a coffee cup and prayer, somewhere in me I think it guarantees a perfect day. Because 4:00 p.m. comes around every single day and somehow either I have dementia or else I am in denial, because when my kids have their 19th tantrum, I am somehow shocked that all of this was possible. I mean I got UP and had my quiet time!
Yesterday was actually horrid. Have those horrid days? It’s actually worse when you wake up all Snow White like, as I did yesterday, waltzing around with your coffee, convinced today is going to glisten and glow. It has more potential to send you straight into the forest, like she did, terrified of all the evil in the world that she had no idea existed. That’s probably why it ended so badly. Yesterday I kind of forgot that evil existed. I kind of forgot that that included the evil that lurks in my kids and me. And that even if you have yourself ready before they wake up and a nicely gift wrapped schedule for the day, the script is not yet written for the emotions, the interactions, the fights, the words, and generally for all of the capacities of sin that flow from the heart. There is no script yet. The Director hands you that as you go, which is just not fair.
I hate improv. And that’s kind of what we are doing everyday here, know what I mean? My kids throw me a new manipulative request and the spotlight is on me – act! Respond! Say something! And it better be good! Life is more than unjust in this department for introverts. Come on! We were made to stare at life and respond later. But if I did that I would literally have no friends and my kids would run the house like little bandits, tying me up in chairs and stuff. It would be cool in heaven if conversations were kind of floating or paused, like in that teen witch show, and I can just ponder every response for a long, delayed while, while you...I don’t know, drift somewhere in a waiting room.
Having hope in your schedule with no script is just like what happens sometimes when my husband and I have our date night. It doesn’t matter what you plan, how good the ideas are or how fancy the food – if I don’t prepare my heart before we go – it ain’t gonna be pretty. I am going to have skyscraper expectations, dump all my junk on him, get my feelings hurt if he even waits two seconds to ask me how I am doing, and the date will be over before we leave the neighborhood. It’s just that crazy of a season, so it takes a little more of a fight with my inner wild woman to appear…well, a little normal ;). (Incidentally, the name Kelly actually means “warrior woman”, so you know I was probably born with more fierce issues than most). Maybe one day normal will not feel so unattainable, but these days, it’s quite a feat! So it’s much better if I focus a little on my side of our date script ahead of time J.
So back to yesterday’s script. On the paper of my mind, the day read:
Bible verse/signs with kids at breakfast
Playdate with friends at our house
Kids help “serve” our community group with little chores (oddly and thankfully they think it’s like a game)
Playdoh and beads while I cook
What happened looked more like:
Kids not eating
Tantrum followed by a bigger tantrum
Salem stealing backpacks, Gracie throwing wild uncontrollable fits, Kanah screaming
Playdate – (actually good and should have had her stay all day)
Only one of my kids serving, the other rebelling in timeout – again
Short nap for one and no naps for other two
Needed six hands to help them with a terribly needy, envious round of playdoh
Salem fussing (infinitely til bedtime)
Sheer miracle to get simple tacos on plates for last minute dinner.
20 people show up for community group (kicker: I do the childcare with friend – great humorous ending of script for the day)
I don’t even know how to write this one into the list, but somewhere later in the day I noticed an odd feeling an pulled my shirt forward to find the shelf of my camisole full of crushed cookies. The worst, most confusingly laughable part is that I do not remember any incidents that would land me swimming in cookie crumbs, nor do I even recall giving them cookies that day…hm. That’s kind of a good word picture for the whole entire day.
So when I woke up the next morning I instantly faced a sinking feeling that today would be exactly the same. There was no chance it would be good. I was going to fail miserably, my kids would drive me crazy, and I was not sure why starting my day the same way with a quiet time would even matter at all. I mean, look at my day yesterday!!! So I snoozed til 6:30 and finally felt motivated enough to crawl out of bed and get the coffee going.
I started reading Proverbs, like usual, and Jason came down to say goodbye and pray for me before he headed off before work to his accountability group. I got up from my quiet time, prayed with him and mumbled two or three grumbling comments about the day ahead and gruffily went back to my reading with a stubborn attitude of who cares. So instead of reading on, I got up to start circling my kitchen and family room, praying outloud with urgency and near anger. I just decided to be honest, because that’s all I had and it went something like:
“Lord I do not understand! I really am struggling to see how this matters! My day was horrible yesterday. It was nothing like I wanted to be. I am getting early in the morning. I am reading. I am praying. What else am I supposed to do? Lord I want to trust you but all I feel is oozing cynicism. I am overwhelmed by it. This isn’t working.”
That sort of helped. Sometimes if I am feeling cynical I stop reading or I just don’t even get to prayer, with a rolled eye sort of mentality and move along to getting ready or breakfast. But this is what the whole “crying out to the Lord” thing in Psalms and Proverbs is about. So I am circling, crying out, and then: He speaks. He spoke so quickly, before I could make another lap, that it surprised me.
I do a verse a week with my kids when I am on track with them. I have the ones we did the first half of the year listed on Word and now, so as to help them hide it in their heart even more deeply, instead of doing new ones we are just randomly going back over the old ones. So I literally just picked a verse and wrote it up on our board a few days ago.
So I’m walking, panting my prayers, and I look up and see:
“Jesus helps those who are being tempted.” It’s Hebrews 2:18 and the whole verse in the exact wording reads “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” And I can’t explain to you the influence, other than the Holy Spirit is powerful, why sometimes we read the Bible and it’s like skimming a book and other times it’s like you get knocked down by an evangelist on a stage. But I stopped dead in my tracks and I promise you I felt something a lot stronger than my cynicism at that moment. I felt BELIEF and GRATITUDE fill my heart in that exact moment I read that verse. His power flooded the words on my board and he gifted me with FAITH in them and the cynical chains from that morning were broken.
I heard him in my head say: This is true. Believe it for yourself.
With an unrecognizable heart to who I was moments before, I hurried back to sit down and look up the Scripture which immediately struck a cord with another Scripture that, for a second time, rebuked me and poured life into me all at once:
James 1:5-8 “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.”
I have read this chapter soooo many times. I have rarely memorized chapters but this one I actually have. And it doesn’t matter because God makes things come alive that seem old sometimes. He is powerful like that. And all I could hear, as if I had never heard it in my whole life was, “Kelly you MUST believe and NOT doubt. You MUST BELIEVE.” The wisdom he desired to impart to me about my circumstance was that I was allowing the “faith,” if you will, of doubt to consume my belief system. Otherwise you will be like a woman who is unstable, which is exactly how I felt that morning without my belief securely written on my heart. I felt floundering and lost and bitter and frustrated and mad. And certainly: unstable. I think the wording is so interesting, so compelling, so commanding: You MUST believe.
I suffer in my own forms of temptation. I live sacrificially as a mom daily, sometimes laying my life down willingly and other days by force because I don’t want to do anything except love myself. But this is my road of sanctification. This is how Jesus is making me mature and complete. And on this road I suffer very particular kinds of temptation: unrighteous anger, impatience, selfishness, comparison, self-pity, despair, depression, isolation, and bitterness. I feel these evils lurk around me on their own schedule, using our family’s scenarios, dialogues and scripts to tempt my own heart.
And the reason these verse so touched me was not because it promised me we were going to have a great day. Not because it promised me my kids would behave a certain way. But because my deepest need in that day of chaos was that I would be able to be strong and this verse declared to me: in your every moment battle of your heart, I am more than able to help you in your temptation and you must thrust all of your belief on that and choose with all of your strength to overcome doubt.
Nothing else is promised. But what is promised is that I will be given the strength and the way out of my temptations and even the lines to say. And in the unscripted improv of my life, that is enough.