Please forgive me, but it’s true. I hate Christmas. Every year, the weather gets cold, the lights go up, my kids get excited, and internally… I totally freak out. While the whole world …
Please forgive me, but it’s true. I hate Christmas. Every year, the weather gets cold, the lights go up, my kids get excited, and internally… I totally freak out. While the whole world seems to get super stoked all I can seem to think is,
“There is a crap ton to do.”
And if you’re the type who loves the holiday shifts and seasonal changes, please don’t let me dump a bucket of cold water on your joy. At ease. Just let me have my moment to air grievances.
You see, I’ve never been great at living in the moment. I totally stink at enjoying the journey. I’ve been known to tough it out on road trips. With kids in tow, I stretch the stops longer to see if we can cut time. I pack snacks rather than stopping at cute diners. We hold our bladders dangerously close to failure. “Please… just get me there.” I don’t know why but the process is so laborious to me… And unfortunately, Christmas tends to feel the same.
While my kids rip red and green construction paper rings and count down the days, I pray it’s over with soon. They look at me with longing eyes. I struggle to find words of excitement… anticipation for Jesus and gifts and family when I know what it will mean for me and all that is going through my mind.
So what is it that bugs me so much??
#1: The Tree: While you might be that family that eagerly awaits putting up a living and real Christmas tree (while Thanksgiving dinner is still digesting), I cannot relate to your excitement. Ugh! Isn’t it terribly cold out there in those woods?? Isn’t it difficult to find the perfect tree, destined to be sawed down, hoisted on top of the vehicle, driven home while riding the brake so that it doesn’t blow right off, then lugged inside and erected in the perfectly cleared, designated spot?? (I can’t lie… last year, we put up a cardboard decal on our wall because it was, literally, the easiest thing I could think to do.) Kudos to the fathers who do the work of sawing. Accolades to the mothers who search and find matching mittens for all the kids who wander the freezing countryside, dead set on convincing you that your home could accomodate a forty foot tree.
I salute you.
#2: The decorations: We all have a box or two (or ten if you are one of “those”). The lights. The wreaths. The ornaments. They all have their place and let’s face it, the mom is the one who gets it done. Last year, my kids spent a Sunday afternoon cutting coffee filters into snowflakes and I spent the better part of a Monday perched on stepladder, taping each one to the ceiling. Now, have you ever thought the the muscles in your forearms are going to die because you were attempting to install a shower curtain?? Multiply that by 300 (the number they happened to craft) and you have my current agony. Anxiety increasing, the clock ticks down that moment I have to pick the kids up from the bus stop and reveal (to their dismay) that I have accomplished only three rooms of flakes rather than four. (The house is 70 degrees…. did they really think that this was going to feel like a winter wonderland??)
#3: The food: There’s always food! Ham, cookies, pretzel mint bark, wine, cheeses, BLT sandwiches (Ok, that’s year round deliciousness)… well, it’s making it really hard to squeeze into my holiday fancy clothes! There are so many social appearances and if at all possible, I’d love keep this double chin at bay. While the kids want to sit and make gingerbread houses, I want to find a way to throw it all away and start chopping veggies for a salad. And it’s all so that I stand a prayer of looking halfway decent at the many events when I KNOW that we’re all deciding whether or not we’ve given up on being our best, most “in shape” selves and lavishing one another with genuine compliments. Let me save you your judgement… I tried this year, I really did, but I couldn’t do enough to impress you. I’m sorry. Please don’t look me up and down. (People can see you doing that, by the way.) I freshened my roots and used a crest whitestrip. I hope it’s enough.
#4: The music: It’s boring. If I never heard Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas is You” I would be a better person. Seriously, every hour on the hour? Really?? Every radio station (which I’d previous viewed as faithful to bringing me an interesting variety) has utterly failed me. The moment I flip the switch and hear those cheesy jingle bells, I shut it off, practically breaking the knob. I crave the silence. This is my own personal rebellion against their shameless repetitiveness.
#5: The gifts: I just can’t. My children have more than they could ever need or want. They’ve never written lists to Santa because they know, full well, that their hearts’ desire will be found under that tree. Every year, I say to myself (and my family, bless their hearts), “We’re taking it easy this year. We have enough.”
But then it usually turns out more like this…
But I digress…
The problem with Christmas is not that it isn’t a wonderful holiday to celebrate Jesus and enjoy family.
The problem is that it has become a season of expectation.
Of the fear of disappointing others.
Of falling short.
Somehow, for women especially, it has become about striving to go above and beyond to make it amazing for everyone. What was once whimsical and fun suddenly feels like a million burdens even before the first flake falls. Decorate, shop, cook, be pretty, sparkle, and consider every single extended family member. To clean, host, show up to every event, every invitation, meet every expectation!
(To be honest, it makes me feel like garbage because it’s just too much!)
So what is there to do??
Well, I’m going to start by extending the most genuine of thanks to my mom.
I didn’t see it when she was baking cookies from scratch and setting out a warm plate for us when we got home from school. I didn’t know that she was sweating over the bills and still managed to get us all awesome Christmas gifts every year. And as kids, our routine was to put up a few ornaments and then abandon her with the entire task of tree decorating because we were bored. Somehow, it always ended up being the most beautiful thing we’d ever seen. We always had matching mittens, boots that fit, warm coats, and hot cocoa with mini marshmallows. She did it all without complaint. She made it special. I’m sorry that I never realized how hard it was. In my mind, the lights just went up magically on their own.
It’s Time to Make A Shift…
And I’m thankful for Jesus. How trite that I complain about my burning forearms when He gave up heaven to become a lowly human… to live and die for my sake. How negative I’ve become about a time and season when the entire earth shifted on its axis.
I think that I might be afraid: I’m afraid that we’ve corrupted salvation with consumerism, materialism at its worst… that in an effort to celebrate the gift that Jesus really is, the lights got brighter, the gifts got more extravagant, the treats got tastier, the dresses got sparklier, the expectations got higher… and it became all about us.
What a mess!
How do we fix this when it feels like our children’s every happiness hangs in the balance??
If I have to ask myself this question, then I know am definitely getting it wrong. If I am so worried that I am going to ruin Christmas by not making it the magical experience they expect, then I have utterly missed the boat… and my children are the ones suffering for it. The only answer that I have is that there is definitely a problem, and if I want to solve it in the world, I have to first solve it in me.
For starters, focusing on this…
For God… So Loved… the World….. that HE gave…
May He transform from me from the inside out and truly bring change in me… I’m owning it. Now I have to let Him be the One to fix it.
Jesus… all I want for Christmas… is YOU!!!
More of You. In my attitude. In my self image. In my grattitude. In the joy it brings me to excite my children. In the way that I show appreciation for my husband. In my salvation.
More of You, Jesus.
(and less Mariah Carey)
We started this journey nearly six months ago, and while that might not seem like a long measure of time, I have been completely amazed at all that God has done in our six month preparation period. Dear friends, I need you to know I’m proud… gut busting, beaming, bragging, impressed. You amaze me.
I’m impressed with how you’ve handled yourselves when we didn’t know what we were doing but decided to go for it anyways. It’s never easy to walk a path you haven’t walked before, but sisters, we RAN it!! And with integrity, somehow!! (Sortof??) Is unbridled passion worthy of “integrity” because I don’t know how to have integrity, but I know passion well and somehow each of you encompasses both so perfectly. I wish you could see yourselves as I do!! You inspire me!
I’m inspired by your willingness to unabashedly follow the Lord’s leading. When we first began our path towards supporting a missionary, I had no idea where it would lead. I pictured myself walking in a new land, slightly scared, but alone with faithful dear sisters in Christ praying. I never could have imagined that we would all walk this precious path together. Each one of you has played an integral and key role! We have turned out to be a balanced team challenging and encouraging one another to stay the course!
Amber, you are the rock. You might just be busier than anyone I know with your kiddos and responsibilities and business, but you were ready in a minute to take on big tasks like finding our flight, getting our tickets, and figuring out our insurance issues. (I am HORRIBLE at all of this stuff!THANK YOU!) Plus, the MORAL SUPPORT! (I can’t even.)
Holli, you were the quiet leader that only I knew was actually leading. They didn’t know how gently you would point me where we needed to go with the most important details at the appropriate times. Immunizations, water safety, fund raising, etc. When I didn’t know what to do next, you did. Your sweet spirit, spot on instincts, and sweet notes of encouragement were so strengthening to the team and myself personally. Leadership doesn’t mean that the loudest voice dictates, and you are the perfect proof of this. I’m so thankful for you and your willingness to be yourself and be fully committed early on and steady through. I wondered if it might just end up being you and I going on this trip, and that would have been just fine with me. I’m so glad for the friendship that this has foraged! You are so dear to me!
Cathy, Mom, Madre, it’s weird that we’re doing this!! But I see how God has led us to mutually love this ministry and to put it on our hearts to get involved. I pray that my inner bratty 12 year old doesn’t come out and get snippy with you because I happen to be sweaty. But I know that even if I can’t help myself, you will forgive me. Thank you for the bucketloads of forgiveness that you’ve doled out already in my lifetime. I pray that you don’t need to do any more of this in our experience. Believe it or not, I am so excited to share this with you!
Jineen, you were a dear friend to me before you decided to jump on the team, and literally breathed new life when we were fumbling for direction. Your spirit is alive with the Love of Christ. You see people. You see their need for Jesus. I see Jesus loving you and so so happy at how you are growing and leading others and taking initiative to follow Him. Your faith walk during this specific time has been amazing to see. Rock on, girl, and move mountains! You were made for this!!
Sarah, your “last minute” addition was a confirmation that this team is being led by the Holy Spirit Himself and not by mere people. Thank you for being brave. I don’t know you very well yet, but I have a feeling that the friendships borne out of this experience will be life long. You are more than welcome here with us. We loved you immediately.
There are so many others who should be credited that helped in various ways that I cannot mention at this time…There were so many that popped up at just the right moment, confirming that God did indeed want us to go. I hope that you know who you are. GOD BLESS YOU!!! (There are not enough exclamation points in the world!)
We intend to travel to Mirebailas, Haiti from September 3-10. Our work will consist of tasks such as helping the Haitian teachers get Grace Academy ready for class, cleaned up and organized (We have flannelgraphs! Woo HOO! I loved them when I was a kid!). We hope to be an encouragement to teachers and staffers in all of the incredible work that they do, but we are well aware that we might end up gleaning most of the inspiration from them. It is something special to see the joy of the Lord radiating in eyes through photographs. To meet these dear workers of the Lord in person is going to be something quite special.
We are also working with a precious nurse who will be spending eight months serving and ministering to the sick in the community. Our two nurses, Holli and Jineen, will help her to set up the clinic as they reach out to malnourished and often critically ill children. We’re with you, dear Larissa.
We also get to hold babies, dear orphans, fatherless and motherless yet adored by God and loved ferociously by Him. We get to pour His affection onto them as we rub their tiny backs and kiss their baby chub cheeks! What an honor! What a gift! We wish we could do so much more. We know full well that our hearts will broken in Haiti,and quite possibly left behind with the babies.
It is our greatest hope to bring the love of Christ wherever God leads us and to take opportunities to share the Gospel, which is already is being shared through Kellie Hurt and Grace So Amazing Ministries. Kellie, you are doing astounding work, God’s work, and we’re so grateful for the opportunity to come, and see it for ourselves, and maybe even help a little. Might we be so honored to participate in widening the path that you are already on. We are longing to hear the heart of the Lord and see and appreciate the world that He has created and the people that He loves. We’re all in this together.
Thank you for reading this long. It was my goal that you might understand better WHO is going, WHERE we’re going, WHY. Thank you for your love and support and prayers, most of all. I just wanted you know how appreciated you are.
Girls, friends, fellow warriors, we’re not there yet but we’re as ready as we’re gonna be!!
God bless you!!
“…but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth, and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.” Mark 4:19
I had asked a friend read the introduction and she responded in a truly profound way. She said:
“I think that sometimes, I’m actually looking for distractions to take me away from the hard things that I should be thinking about and putting my efforts into.”
I realized that she’s right! She’s totally right!
Yesterday, I lived a perfect example of this. We had company coming over and I was trying to clean. In a home with four busy little boys, it is no small task. Looking at the clock, it was time to break the “fake house” out. Though I knew full well that it would only last a minute before the children wreaked havoc, at least, for that blessed moment, I could save face that we aren’t complete slobs. Between the stains in the toilet (and a broken toilet brush) and the extreme need for vacuuming, I looked at the piles around my home and literally shuddered. I did not want to face my lack of determination in tackling this mess. Glancing back at the clock, I found myself longing for a distraction. Any distraction… I wondered, in total, how long would it actually take to clean if if I just put all of the filthy dishes in the oven and threw the rest of the debris in the closet and kicked the door shut? Could I maybe squeeze in a quick distraction before buckling down to do the hardest thing I’ll do all month? Do I have a few precious seconds to check my e-mail, or perhaps find my phone and see if I have any urgent texts? Maybe I’ll just stare out the window aimlessly (Is that a stray cat wandering in my backyard?)?
This situation reminded me that every day, I ask myself questions of deadlines. Will I see anyone today (Is makeup necessary)? Is anyone coming over (Is cleaning necessary)? Do I have a ministry deadline (Is studying necessary)? If not, I probably wouldn’t do anything at all… just melt into a puddle of lazy, unmotivated, lonely, depressed, goo. However, I have an inherent need to be productive, but most times, it seems like everything is against me.
I do my best work while under pressure, but without accountability, I can’t seem to accomplish anything. It’s just a fact. Sooo, what can I do? Do I really need to seek accountability for my spiritual life? I mean, I just started this chapter and already I am struggling to conjure the motivation to bring it to fruition! Pray for me as I proceed!
Have you ever found yourself pursuing something that will distract you from what you should actually be doing? Why do we do that? Why do better things seems so much harder?
While I know that we do it to ourselves, I have to be honest, I attribute most of our distractions as bombardments from the enemy. Just like a pimp who will hook a prostitute on drugs in order to make her dependent on him, Satan keeps our heads swirling with nonsense that we actually believe it’s what we need. True, we’re responsible for our own sin, but he is the great salesman, promoting selfishness, greed, and self involvement like a massive, forever hit of heroin. His ultimate goal is to keep our thought lives from focusing on the Lord and all He has for us.
Bear with me and I’ll show you what I mean. Now, we believe the Bible to be true, and it reveals specific interactions that let us know Satan’s tactics. Let’s get to the bottom of this:
Genesis 3:1-5: In what way did he tempt Eve?
We also find that Satan had an influence on the life of Job.
Reflect on Job 1:1-12. Why do you think that God allows Satan to have access to Job and his life? (also consider chapter 2:1-8)
Now, Lucifer/Satan was an angel, quite possibly the most beautiful and majestic angel that God had ever created. But he couldn’t handle it. Read what happens to him:
Isaiah 14:12-17. What did he want?
Now, consider this… Satan has been given a time frame in which he can influence the people here on earth. It just makes sense that he would use the exact same tactics that drew him away from God initially to draw us away… pride. It is his very personality. He wants to be like God. To be wise. To be influential. To be the same or even over and above Him. He’s always trying to prove himself!
Look at Matthew 4:1-11. In what 3 ways did Satan tempt Jesus?
Why might Satan have attempted to pursue Jesus in this way?
Do you see him pursuing you in the same ways (This might be hard to answer! I found it deeply humbling to admit.)?
The more I look at the actions of the enemy in my life, the more I am convinced that he is working harder than ever. I might be the maker the tornado that revolves around me, but he’s the one tossing all of that junk into it! It never seems to stop rotating, keeping me mentally exhausted, guarded, and often blinded. I feel powerless to fight against it! It is so much easier to procrastinate my whole life away and give myself over to… anything else! It is the easiest thing for me to watch TV and eat constantly, but massively challenging to pray earnestly and think clearly. Moment by moment, I give my attention away to distraction and to the power of Satan, just as Job did. And I don’t even have ANY of the issues that Job had. The poor guy’s children were crushed to death when a big wind collapsed their house. His flocks were stolen or killed. His own health began to fail. He had plenty on his mind. He even found himself dwelling on things about God that were not true.
Job 19:10-11 says of the LORD:
“He tears me down on every side till I am gone;
He uproots my hope like a tree.
His anger burns against me;
He counts me among his enemies.”
If you continue to read for hundreds of verses, Job focuses on his losses. At one point, he says that his wife can’t even stand the smell of his breath (19:17)! Halitosis! Worst of all, his family and friends assumed that he’d brought it on himself! But he knew that he’d done nothing to deserve it and struggled against the grief. Sometimes, the enemy uses our current situations and magnetizes the negative and get swept up feeling sorry for ourselves rather than to trust in God’s plan for our future. We can’t see what’s He’s doing through all of the garbage. (And if you are a person with a spiritual gift for discernment, I know I’m speaking right to you! You are dangerous to the enemy and he desperately wants to turn you into a Debbie Downer. Nobody listens to a Debbie Downer, no matter how much truth she brings.)
It makes perfect sense though, right? Something bad happens and God must be attempting to reveal a shortcoming. In our own situations, we might never get the inside look as to what God is actually doing. If you are finding yourself constantly obsessing over why this is happening to you, let me give you a word of advice:
Stop trying so hard. It’s God’s business. Not yours. (Ask Job. I’m sure he understands by now.)
It’s your business to be honored that you’ve been challenged to rely on Him in order to persevere. You can do this with His strength and I believe that He longs to do it for each one of us. Do you remember the story of Jesus when He was in the boat with the disciples and the storm surges?
Take a look in Mark 4:35-41. What is the significance of the question that they ask Him in verse 38? Write it out. Look at it a few times.
Isn’t that a huge question? “Don’t you care, Jesus?” Honestly, sometimes, I’m not always so sure He does. Isn’t that terrible thing to admit. The super spiritual side of me would love to tell you that I never doubt, but there’s a part of me that just can’t let go of control. When I whip up the frenzied storms, the enemy tosses more refuse into it, swirling around me, confusing me, keeping me so busy with this nonsense that it is all I can see. But Jesus is there in the midst of it all.
“Quiet! Be still.”
What would happen if I actually listened? What would happen if I let go of my need to constantly control everything? I know what would happen to Satan’s garbage… it would drop straight to the ground, never to be swept up in me again. I’m so inspired by that thought! Is it even possible?
In John 14:30, Jesus calls Satan, “the prince of this world.” I sometimes shudder when I consider the many ways that I let Satan influence me. He loves distraction. He loves the little ways he can keep me from being with the Lord. It is his ultimate goal. I think that his favorite thing is when potentially powerful people become hopelessly distracted by pointless things.
Let me give you an example.
I have an ugly kitchen. I don’t know what I was thinking when we bought this house. I’m quite content in every other room. But for 60 years, the previous owner loved her orange and brown “roostered” wallpaper, and was so content with the tiny bit of counter space. The linoleum floor also reflected her tastes, but being so old, the corners were gradually lifting. The adhesive was pulling and dirt collected underneath. Somehow, I missed the gravity of the problems. I think that I was so excited that it had a big backyard I walked straight through the kitchen without taking a closer look! When we first moved in after signing, I couldn’t believe my eyes! I thought I was in the wrong house for a full minute! For most people, the hideous kitchen would have been a deal breaker. I resolved that I could fix it myself.
My ugly kitchen has kept me from so many things. I busied myself for nearly a month to strip the rooster paper and repaint. I obsessed. I planned. I shut myself in. I didn’t answer the phone. I worked hard at it… and nobody noticed! I think a few days after the job was completed, my husband looked around and then said,
Then he went directly to the fridge for a snack.
I also recently hesitated to invite a dear friend over because I’d seen her gorgeous kitchen remodel in facebook photos, though I knew she really needed to talk. I thought she’d judge me. I also held off on bringing the impressionable teen girls in for a cookie bake because I considered my counter space and found it wanting.
How am I spending my time? What am I spending my mental energies on? How else am I hopelessly distracted? There are so many things that I want to do but I don’t have the time or resources, or energy and so I swirl and swirl and swirl. Sometimes, I think that satan is having a field day with me.
Can we change gears for a moment? I’m weary from focusing in on my endless weaknesses.
Look up Genesis 3:15a. What does it say about Satan’s relationship with women?
Is it just me, or do you feel him coming when he does? I believe that this makes us mortal enemies. Is there any validity to this assumption (because that’s all it is at this point).
Dear friends, your sensitivity, your connection, spiritually, to God makes you his worst nightmare every time you are able to deter your attention off of your issues and back onto Christ. He knows full well that if he can keep you distracted, he can keep you from fighting. Don’t give in! Fight the distraction. Fight the guilt. Fight the shame. Fight the inadequacies. Fight the fear. Fight.
Let me elaborate a little on our special roles as women and fellow image bearers of God. When He initially made the first woman, a helper suitable, the word used to describe her was “ezer.” Ezer, in the Hebrew, actually is used for a terminology that tends to also be used for the term “helper/fighter” or “warrior.” In over 10 other examples, “Yahweh” is actually used in the term “ezer.” He swoops in and saves the day in military fashion. Israel was losing the battle and He helped. He rescued. “Ezer” is a mighty and victorious warrior!!
We might feel dainty at times. Sensitive. “Weaker” even. Sometimes, I feel like I can be broken in two with a critical word. But I also realize that Satan hates me because I seem to know he’s coming and I’m usually not afraid to act on it somehow. And I do believe that our sensitivity can guide us to places where we might actually be able to be the warriors we were created to be. Do you believe it yet?
Check out Ezekiel 37:10. It talks about how the house of Israel will be resurrected someday. This passage also represents the prophesy about our own new life in Christ. How does it describe us?
If distraction is Satan’s attack against us, we must wage war against him. We will not be rendered useless because we’re overwhelmed, multitasking/busy women! We will not be found wanting though we may not have rippling biceps! Our battle is NOT against flesh and blood. It is against rulers in dark realms (Ephesians 6:12)!
This is our moment to be empowered with the strength of Christ, to find our way and let go of the things that distract us from living out our God given callings. This is our very purpose! Wouldn’t the enemy love to keep us hopelessly distracted? Wouldn’t he love to keep us in a place of discouragement because we’re mentally and emotionally disorganized?
We choose. Do we become the warriors we were made to be, or do we submit, sit down on the battlefield and let our lives pass us by? Impotent.
We’re constantly wasting our energies on things that really don’t matter.
We don’t need to be grossly sinning to be utterly useless. Sometimes, all we need to be is “too busy” in order to fulfill the purposes of the enemy.
I, for one, want to find a way out of this storm and onto the front line. I realize that I cannot change the ages of my children and the stages of my life that I am currently in, and you can’t change your situation, but I believe that if we do the work of identifying our many distractions, especially the ones that we could eradicate in a moment, we will begin to see clearly our purposes outside of the muttled perspectives that the enemy has given us. He’s a liar.
The lies will always come, bombarding us as dreck making a storm go from dangerous to deadly. But we have a choice: The closer we draw to the Lord, the more clearly we see the difference between the lies and the truth. I’m going to do my very best to seek out truth. And when in the rarest of moments, I dwell on what is real about Christ, avoiding all distractions, I realize something profound. When I actually stop to listen, I can almost hear Him say,
“Quiet. Be still.”
What if I had the faith to believe that it was really true? Maybe then I could see something. There it is just over the horizon. I squint. I lean forward. I can almost make it out. As waves go from swells to utter calm, it’s there before me… It’s the very thing that the enemy doesn’t want me to be able to see, what he has been desperately trying to hide all along.
God’s love for me is unconditional.
And you are, too.
(Introduction to a Summer Group Study)
“If we are a distracted people, a distracted society, it stands to reason that we would also be a distracted church, a church with a diminished ability to think deeply, to cultivate concentration, to emphasize slow, deliberate, thoughtful meditation. What Paul said of the unbelieving Jews of his day could likely be said of many of us today:
‘I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. ‘
I’m hopelessly distracted. Call it ADD (undiagnosed). Call it OCD (I almost wish). Call me a perpetual multitasker (I can’t seem to help it!). Sometimes, I unstack half of my dishwasher and say out loud, “Good enough” shutting it while the top level clinks with those glasses that remain. Other times, I’ll leave the neatly folded piles of six people’s clothing on the floor to tiptoe around because I don’t feel like putting it all away (My family members will grab them when they finally run out of clean underwear.). Bookshelves are filled with stacks and rows of the beginnings of books and stories that I will never finish. I begin with such vigor, a vision of the adventure that could beautifully unfold if I would just see it through, but a few pages in, I toss it on the pile; forever incomplete and soon forgotten.
I’m a procrastinator, and yet so busy! How is that even possible? Help me to figure this out!
I make shopping lists while talking on the phone and help a son with homework and tidy up a mess on the floor as I wipe down a counter and then put dinner in the oven. All the while, I think deep thoughts about my childhood during those rare quiet moments while washing my face or brushing me teeth. Sometimes, I might cry about a time when a childhood friend hurt my feelings. I might not even remember exactly what she said, but it stung like heck back then and now I can’t seem to ever forget it! Or I’ll weep in the car when I think about what my life might be like if I was raising those identical twin daughters that passed away before I was ever able to hold them. I tend to think deeply when I am calm, and then to rev up instantly when I am suddenly needed. I am constantly running as though someone were turning an “off” and “on” switch in my brain. My mind swirls like a tornado, an endless cyclone of wind filled with the chaos of needing to be productive while also pursuing downtime as though it were manna from heaven. Can you relate?
I often ponder the oddest of things at the weirdest of times. I sometimes wonder if my husband loves me. Other times, it’s the only thing I’m sure of. I often hate myself, spending all day thinking back and shuddering over the awful decisions I’ve made and wishing that the ground would swallow me whole. Remorse fills me. Regrets (So many regrets.).
Catching a glimpse of myself in the mirror all I can see is that I’ve gotten old. I’m also getting really fat. I still look like I am four months pregnant and I just know that the day is going to come when somebody asks. I really hate mirrors…especially when I haven’t prepared, sucked in, picked a good outfit and chosen a flattering angle. However, if I happen to have lost a few pounds, it is totally different! I’m likely to spend the better part of an hour (or two or three!) trying on everything I own and admiring myself from different viewpoints in the full length! Heaven help my vanity!! It’s a trap, a vicious game of ping pong between being obnoxiously pleased with myself and then hating it all the very next moment! But you should know, though it is so hard to admit it, most days, I am fully aware of every roll of chub when I bend down to pick something up off the floor. I see every line of crow’s feet around my eyes when I’m just trying to check my teeth for remnants of broccoli. Heaven on earth, I really wish we didn’t have mirrors. I believe that our lives would be so much easier.
Also (do you do this??), I have imaginary conversations that often come out with fluttering lips at the kitchen sink while washing dishes. If you were a fly on the wall, watching me, you’d think I was totally insane! With lemony soap soaked hands, I have meaningless conversations with so many people! Sometimes, these intriguing talks are based on a vivid memory. I might be reliving something. Other times, I am adapting a conversation from the reality of their words to responses of “what I should have said.” I’m my bravest, and most eloquent and powerful self when I am completely by myself, apparently. I’ve got some zingers on deck for those who I feel deserve it! But I’ll never say them out loud! Not to real people anyway! I’m an invisible hero. Powerful in my kitchen, yet ineffective in real life. It makes me feel like such a phony, a hypocrite, a faker.
I have the best of intentions with how I spend my time. When when it gets hard, uncomfortable, or boring, I tend to move onto something that gets my blood moving again. I struggle with committing. Amidst the chaos of my mind, I long for peace and comfort and focus. I’ve been pondering the cause of my nearly constant distraction. It’s relentless, and it is syphoning my joy.
Every morning, I wake up with new ideas and the motivation to attack the day ahead. While the coffee is still percolating, the possibilities flood my mind. Oh the plans I’ll make! I’ll reorganize my closet and purge the stuff I never wear! (Imagine how nice it will be to have just a few of my most favorite things around instead over the overcrowdedness spilling out every time I need a hoodie!). I’ll assemble and cook all of the meals for the week, making a shopping list that will both save us money and keep up on track for a healthy lifestyle (The diet starts today!)! I’ll play with each one of my four children, getting right down to their level and having intentional conversations with them (I can’t remember the last time I did that!)! I’ll watch a Francis Chan sermon while I fold laundry and let go of my materialism! I’ll listen to worship music that will inspire me! I’ll read the Bible and understand it! I’ll pray… pray for my husband, pray for my children, pray for my loved ones, pray for my church, pray for the world, pray for myself (Lord, please help me be a better me!).
And then my day truly begins. I pour the coffee into my favorite mug. Dab of creamer (Hazelnut, of course!). 2 sugar packets (I like my coffee to taste like dessert.). I grab ahold of my worn and weary, leather Bible, a note pad, and sit down in my cozy spot. With the sunlight peeking through the curtains, I relish in this rare moment of calm. Finally. It’s just me and God. Now, where was I? Of course! The book of First Corinthians! The captivating letter that the apostle Paul wrote to his beloved Corinthian church in order to instruct them towards unity and purity in Christ. This is a good one! I open my Bible and let my eyes focus in on the words.
“Now, about food sacrificed to idols…” (1 Corinthians 8:1a… sortof).
Jumping up, my Bible flies off my lap as I rush to the family room! Yes, my three year old child has pulled an entire row of heavy books off the top book shelf and they smashed right onto the floor! Rather than to pick up one and read it to him (as would have made sense in my original epic and amazing plan for the day), I find myself yelling at him to clean up the mess. He looks at me, bewildered, hands in this mouth from the scare of the noise, then runs away to his bedroom to sulk.
I let him.
Picking up about half of the books and placing them neatly on the shelf, in my typical form, I decide that I’m done and leave the rest of the mess on the floor. By the time I make it back to my cozy spot, the toddler son is holding my precious Bible and ripping out the pages. I run over and wrench it from his hands and recover them, folding the wrinkled ones down in a failed attempt to put them back in order. I don’t think that he ate any of them. I reassure myself; They can be taped. It can be repaired. It will be Ok. It will be Ok (I guess I didn’t need the obscure book of Amos anyways?).
I turn on a cartoon so that he will leave me alone for a few minutes, and sit back down on my cozy spot. I pray sincerely.
“God, let’s try this again.”
But I can’t focus yet, because… my fanny… is drenched. Leaning far forward, I touch the couch where my bottom had rested and I know immediately what it is. It smells like…hazelnut dessert.
(Don’t freak out. Don’t freak out. Don’t freak out.)
Yes, my entire cup of coffee has been spilled on the favorite cozy spot and has soaked fully into the upholstery. I can’t decide whether I’m more upset about my hind end, or the loss of my warm, beloved beverage, or the mess on the couch. All three are equally upsetting to me in the moment. And I can’t blame anyone else because it might have been me who spilled it when I initially reacted to the books falling. It might have been the little guy when he was running through the house like a banshee, just being vindictive and knocked it over, or it may have been the toddler as he clumsily reached up for the Bible on the same end table (Is it too early to sit on the floor and cry?). I’ll never know who actually spilled the coffee, but it doesn’t matter. The toddler needs a new outfit. I need new pants. This couch needs to be cleaned to the best of my ability. It is going to smell like dessert forever, hopefully just not sour, foul, dessert, forever reminding me of the morning that I’ve lost.
An hour later, we we’re all cleaned up. Next, the toddler desperately needed a diaper change. I could smell him from across the house. After a fresh diaper is put on, the stink lingers… and lingers. There is another culprit, but this time it is the three year old. While he should be working on potty training, he isn’t. However, in his defense, he is quite adept to removing all of his clothing, diaper, and then doing his business in places where I must wear a makeshift hazmat suit in order to find and clean it all. This was the situation that I walked right into. It about then, I was wishing I had the most advanced CSI equipment to help me to discover where this mess was hidden. I relied upon on my nose, an entire packet of sanitizing wipes, and lied to myself that I somehow found it all…
An hour after that, I’m numb. The house smells like dessert coffee and grossness and I feel absolutely disgusting. Looking at the clock, it’s nearly lunch time. The coffee is hours cold and if I drank it now, I’d be up all night. For lunch, these little knuckleheads are having dinosaur shaped, minced, chicken nuggets and overly salty french fries because that is the best I can do at the moment or I might just crack in half. I really should sit with them but I just don’t want to. I’m too traumatized from the events of our morning to be emotionally present. I can’t wait to get away. I push their high chairs in front of the TV and set the plates on trays. I choose whiny Caillou and now I have exactly 23 minutes to myself.
I should really read my Bible. What was Paul going to say to them about eating food sacrificed to idols? I’m trying to care, but I have to be honest, I kinda don’t. I care more about my own growling stomach.
I microwave some unhealthy leftovers and sit down on a thick towel in my cozy spot (my living room seats seven comfortably but for whatever reason, I can’t make myself move). I grab the remote. I need a distraction!
“Jimmy Fallon, tell me what is going on in the world and make me laugh!”
A blessed diversion and guilty pleasure, I have trouble letting go once the show is over…
Throughout the show, I sporadically pause and check on the boys. They have successfully thrown about 92% of their food on the floor and now they are looking at me like they are hungry. They had also thrown their cups and now puddles of milk have leaked onto the carpet (in case you are wondering, there is NO SUCH THING as leak proof cup! I don’t care what the label says. They all lie!).
I toss fruit snacks on their trays and rush off to take the world’s fastest shower. It’s now or never! What should have been a time of refreshment and peace turns into a mad dash. I wash what needs to be washed and get on with it! I grab clothes from the dresser drawers without looking at any of it. Who cares? I won’t be seeing “people” today… (Do my kids and husband count as “people?”)
With wet hair and fresh clothes on, I’m feeling clean and suddenly human. I put the toddler down for his nap. He screams like I am killing him, though I turn on a noise machine that sounds like the gentle drumming of rain pattering on the roof. I cover him with the soft blanket from his birth. He rips it off, stands up and tosses it out of the crib. I’m not giving it back. I turn off the light and shut the door and the sound of a meltdown becomes fainter and fainter as I walk away, relieved.
The older son is slated to have some alone time to play with his puzzles and look at books. I inspect the house. Everywhere my gaze falls, I see a disaster. Lunch mess. Milk puddles. Toys. Laundry. I don’t want to do this alone. Picking up the phone, I call my sister. I tell her,
“Want to unstack the dishwasher with me?”
“YES!” She exclaims.
This is my first moment of grown up human contact and it is with a person who, quite possibly, knows me best. It is a welcomed, though short lived, door back to sanity when I almost hadn’t realized I was teetering so close to the edge! My sister and I do some simple chores in our own homes, while we talk, though she is several hours’ drive away. I feel less isolated. She’s such a gift to me! Once the toys are picked up, it’s time to say goodbye and see if I can finally focus for a few minutes on the Lord before the little guys need attention. Then, two big kids will get home from school and need homework help, and my husband will come through the door hoping, at most, for a not so stressed kiss and maybe the simplest of dinners! Did I mention that I have four sons? Yes, I do (and they are certainly sweet in spirit but everything physically stinks!).
The rest of my day continues similarly with me accomplishing very little, though opportunities do arise. As per my usual routine, after dinner, I am truly worn out and so I sit down with my computer and reconnect with the world through reading “articles”, doing “research,” and facebooking it up… until…I…am…numb. And after putting the kids to bed with the least amount of effort possible, I watch TV while also simultaneously playing Bejeweled Blitz. The dishes stay in the sink. The trash overflows. I give a few words to my husband and possibly force myself to make eye contact. I do this for hours until I am almost asleep but just barely awake. It is an odd coma, a decompression state that I could not be yanked out of even if there was a fire in the house (I think I’d let my husband drag me out by my pant leg while I continued to try to get five sparkly jewels in a row!)!
And finally, there is darkness and I collapse into bed. As the light turns out, I ponder the events of the day and all that has happened. Though I fight it, the “should have’s” start up. I should have spent more time with the kids. I should have cleaned up. I should have read my Bible more. I should have prayed. I shouldn’t have watched that show. I shouldn’t have said that thing gossipy thing to my sister. I shouldn’t have ignored them. I shouldn’t have cooked that. I should have exercised. I should have called that person back. I shouldn’t have eaten that. I shouldn’t have yelled. I should have hugged him longer. I should have let him kiss me. I should have done so much more. I should have been so much more.
This, is my day, every day. And even if you are not married with four kids, you are still likely in a place of constant, relentless, distraction. I certainly was before this crazy phase of my life began! Dissatisfaction. It’s an inevitable part of all of us! We’ve all got a story and this is mine and it is ever changing. So is yours. Everybody has the spilled cup of coffee that is a messy disappointment, or a coworker that poops on your life (every day, seemingly), or a family member that won’t let you have a moment to breathe. Whether it be your job and those around you that complicate your thoughts and emotions, or if you are in the position of being single and feeling as though your life will only begin once you are joined with your soul mate, or if your past is so rife with aches and pains of the failures and selfishness of those who were supposed to take care of you, we’re all a jumbled mess. We’re distracted by ourselves and distracted by others; Distracted by our schedules and expectations. I don’t know your story, but all I know is this: Distraction is destructive. We all face it and we all fight it. I don’t know about you, but I finally want to overcome. I’m so sick of trying to manage this tornado, these relentless distractions that never seem to cease! I just want calm, and a moment to see God, to really know He’s with me!! How can I when I am constantly bombarded by so many other things!?? How is it possible to see Him with all of this debris in front of me???
What is our perpetual distraction really costing us? Think about it: What is it costing our churches? Our families? Our relationships? Our lives? The truth is this: it’s not enough to simply love God and then never truly nurture our relationship with Him because we are constantly distracted. If our love for Him is truly genuine, we’ll find ourselves longing for Him with our entire beings! However, with the life I am currently living, I can’t even imagine being so focused, but it is all I really want!
Relentless distraction is the key weapon in the arsenal that Satan has against God’s children. His attacks are not obvious and are rarely head on. It’s simple really, and quite ingenious. If he can keep us focused on other things, he can keep us from God. Without hostility, without anger, without resentment, without trauma, we simply forget what we were made for. Like fake detour signs, he simply points us off the path that leads to Christ. It is too easy and it happens when we don’t realize that it is. It’s like a trojan horse. I don’t have to worship Satan in order to let go of God. My distractions are more than enough to accomplish Satan’s goals for me! All he really wants is for me to not see God, to not know Him, to not care. Maybe I’ll forget who God is and who I am in Him. And then He wins.
I was raised in a pastor’s home with an intense focus on Bible knowledge and Scripture memorization. We had countless discussions at the kitchen table of deep theological conversations. Then, I went off to Bible college, learned all about God’s Holy Word, and married an amazing Christian man. I’ve always loved Jesus with my whole heart and wanted to please Him for as long as I can remember. I’ve been told for my whole life that the most important thing I can do is to make sure that I’m close to Him. But He’s physically invisible to me and that is the first hurdle that I can’t seem to get over when I’m struggling to bond.
I know that I’m supposed to read the Bible. I know that I’m supposed to pray. I’ve even been told a magical formula of how to make sure that I don’t miss anything when I’m talking to God in my mind. “A.C.T.S.” (right?) Adoration. Confession. Thanksgiving. Supplication. I used to fall asleep by mid Confession but now I’m great at whipping through it! Check times four!
I’m at church, faithfully, on Sunday mornings, sick or well, and I make sure I attend adult Sunday school, too. And I serve here and there as needed. I read my Bible, even when I don’t want to. I find time. I make time. Sometimes, it speaks loudly and sometimes I can’t hear a thing, but I keep on trying. I study Scripture to ensure that I keep making the highest effort to understand what God is trying to communicate to me. I’m working the system! So why do I struggle with so much sadness and negativity? Didn’t he promise that my joy would be complete in Him (based on John 14)?
I’ve been told, time and time again, that it takes discipline and waking up early in the morning to start my day right. Before the sun comes up (Proverbs 31 woman, right?) and the kids get up. Crack open the Bible and pour out my heart to God with tears and joy and fellowship with him in the quietness and peacefulness of the crisp, dewy, morning air.
I have to be honest… that is a lot of hooey.
These days, there’s nothing beautiful about the morning. I am barely conscious until well after the kids have gotten off to school and breakfast has been served. I’ve become the master at operating effectively when I am still mostly asleep. And it is very normal for me to, figuratively AND literally, chase my Bible around the house, desperately seeking a quiet moment, until I finally collapse into bed with those worn, falling out pages stuck to my face. I have come to the conclusion that I cannot do this, though I know how to, and, indeed, have the desire. I know full well how important this is! I’m just, too, darn… distracted.
I want to be better. I want to finish what I start and live my full purpose, unrestricted by the world and ways it would lead me astray. I want to push through and accomplish more than just mediocrity. I wonder sometimes what God could do with my life if I freed myself from so many pointless thoughts and hollow diversions? What if I could just pick apart those things that were footholds, those areas in which Satan throws disruptions towards me and keeps me from truly doing the things for God that I’ve been called to do?
What could God do with my life if I were completely focused on Him??
Are you anything like me? Are you laying your head on your pillow at night feeling immeasurable guilt for the wasted day you just had, waking up the next with unrealistic expectations to do better? Are you constantly distracted? Relentlessly distracted? If it’s not one thing, it’s another! Is it your past? Is it your family? Is it your self esteem? Is it your job? Your goals? Aches? A heartbreak? Regrets? The pursuit of education? Of purpose? Is there a sadness that you can’t seem to get let go of? Is it lack of motivation or perseverance? Procrastination? Is it something else even that I can’t think of (there always seems to be something!)?
If that’s you, well, I’m sorry to say that I don’t have the answers (Whoops! Were you hoping for a clue? I have to be honest, I was just offering a friend and some good conversation. I’m sincerely hoping that by becoming truly honest we might encounter the answers together!).
All I can really promise you is this; I’m owning my failures and struggles and if you want to, you can, too. This is our moment and this is the place for it. There you go. Lay it down. And goodness gracious, before we do anything else, pray with me! I hope that you know that whoever you are, these many months before your eyes laid on this page, you were prayed for. You are supposed to be here. You are supposed to do this.
You know he’s listening, don’t you??
“Dear Lord and Heavenly Father, we’re battling and it is constant. We’re longing to let go of the chaos of our minds and truly focus on You. We want to stop looking so closely at ourselves and our problems and instead, see You and the things that You want to do through us. We beg you to help us to identify those things that distract us most, that we might begin to know how to release ourselves from destructive thoughts that cause commotion and keep us from You. Lord, we love you. We long to love you more consistently and in a more realistic way. Help us to unravel ourselves and become truly devoted to You.”
Welcome to our adventure together. Here is the title of our study:
“Devoted: Living For and Loving God in the Midst of Relentless Distraction.”
(Are you excited yet? I know I am!)
If you want to talk through this subject together, we’re doing it on Wednesday evenings, 7-9pm at the home of Kathy Sumner (message me for her address). All are welcome and every perspective is truly appreciated. We start June 15th!
Who knows? Maybe we can actually figure this thing out together!
Really? Is that the sole purpose of government? I keep hearing that though most people think that he is morally bankrupt, his business experience qualifies him to lead the US in the “right…
Really? Is that the sole purpose of government?
I keep hearing that though most people think that he is morally bankrupt, his business experience qualifies him to lead the US in the “right” direction. I just… can’t.
I suppose the more important question to ask ourselves is when did financial prosperity become our end all be all? Especially for those who are Christians, we are called upon to live counter culturally, to rise above materialism and lead our nation into a greatness that resembles the image of a selfless and unconditionally loving Savior. How can we justify electing a man who is exactly the opposite?
And I do understand that he is presumed to be a brilliant business man and he might be that (he speaks highly of himself so often). And some believe that our country should be run like a business… with the goal of making a profit. Corrupt businesses are just as common as corrupt government factions, if not more so.
We say that Donald Trump has “tapped into American anger.” I say, he has “tapped” into our greed. He’s full of empty promises and wishy washy plans to bring back jobs and lower taxes, but I ask you this, what “Trump-like” CEO has ever done anything to give to the little people while they collect their millions? They make those same promises, get what they want, and then start cutting away at benefits to minimize overhead nearly every single time. Yeah, he has created jobs, but not for the good of people in a community. It was for the good of making money for himself. That’s what business men do. They are almost always self serving cutthroat in order to profit as much as possible. It’s not personal. It’s business. Right?
A leader, by definition, is a person who guides others to be like themselves, to walk in the same direction together. Leaders create leaders who create more leaders and all are like one another in the major ways. We’re to be inspired by an example. We’re to want what he wants and go where he goes. When I think of what happened this week, I am beyond disturbed.
Apparently, an unaffiliated Ted Cruz supporter posted a picture of Milania Trump that was in a GQ magazine. She’s a model and the picture was taken on purpose. She was nude. She took her own clothes off and posed suggestively and was paid accordingly, knowing full well that thousands would see the magazine. That was the intent and it was during her marriage. She was depicted handcuffed to a briefcase. The assumption is that Cruz’s supporters thought that this would deter Mormon or other very conservative voters from voting for Trump. Here’s the link to the cover pic.
(Just an aside, I feel that Donald Trump is not the picture of morality. Considering that he was unfaithful to his first wife, and then married the woman he was unfaithful with, then divorced her and married another… he does not appear to value marriage, or women all that much. He even sued his first wife for talking about his affair publicly. He is incredibly vindictive and would never let a woman speak negatively of him without repercussions. Rosie O’Donnell, Megyn Kelly are other examples of his brutality with words. In the books that he has written, he writes about women as though their value is to be arm candy and sex appeal. I don’t think that this is what it means to be “the glory of man.” Here’s an example:
“It’s all about the hunt and once you get it, it loses some of its energy. I think competitive, successful men feel that way about women.” (As quoted in TrumpNation, Timothy L. O’Brien, 2005)
Is he a competitive, successful man?)
He also bragged about his many exploits with married women in his book, “The Art of the Comeback.” He stated that it was a miracle that he didn’t contract HIV. And ironically, his “artful comeback” to the comment about Milania’s nude photo was to publicly post an unflattering photo of Heidi Cruz next to a glamour shot of his wife. Wow. Just, wow. First of all, somebody on Trump’s team was assigned the fun job of going through every picture of Heidi Cruz in existence, frame by frame, to find one that made this lovely woman look bad. I wonder what words Trump used when he told the staffer what their task for the day was. Odds are, he didn’t blink. I can almost hear him:
“Find the ugliest one you can, just grotesque. Really.”
Who is advising him on these choices? If they are not deterring him from this, what won’t they deter him from when he is in office?
And then to say that he is going to “spill the beans” on Heidi… well, today it became apparent that Trump sought to do more than just that. He sought to decimate a marriage, ruin reputations, and destroy the Cruz family. In an absolutely incredible coincidence, a story was “anonymously” leaked to TMZ and the National Inquirer (who just happen to endorse Trump), two companies that are known to fabricate truths in order to sell sell sell (sound familiar??), stating that Cruz has had multiple affairs! There appears to be no evidence that Cruz actually has had these exploits as the source claimed, and some of the women have flat out denied it. What kind of a person does this?
Our next US President? The one who will be in the history books?
So what does this tell me? Well, it tells me that Donald Trump has brought the American People to a new low and they don’t mind. How much more of an influence will he become if elected president? Provoking violence among the protestors, his willingness to destroy marriages and families, his utter denial of his involvement(though it is obvious), it is unconscionable. But we refuse to acknowledge the damage that is inevitable because we want the possibility of better numbers in our bank accounts. He’ll stop at nothing to win because he loves winning. He’s a businessman.
But he is not the problem. Did you hear me? I said that he is not the problem. Let me explain.
I hate the ice cream truck. The ice cream, if you want to call it that, is the poorest quality possible. Mostly frozen water with a little milk and sugar and a lot of food coloring, it’s disgusting. I like to buy a half gallon Breyer’s, cookie’s n cream and chocolate waffle cones and it is just about the best thing I’ve ever tasted. It lives in my house and I can go and get it anytime! The ice cream truck sells quarter popsicles for $5. They are deceivers, telling me that they have something that I want. And they are so so so loud about it! The truck can be heard from several blocks with that cheezy tune playing over and over again. The driver is a creep, with a few days growth of beard and a scowl on his face, annoyed by the kids and checking out the moms. He wants something from me and he’s going to park outside my house and let that tune play over and over again until he gets it. But just like Trump, he isn’t the problem.
The ones who come running to the truck with their wads of dollar bills and excitement in their eyes… they think that he has something great for them, but it just isn’t. It’s just a loud, obnoxious tune. Sure, they got to walk away with some ice cream, and instant gratification, but really, what did they actually gain? And they are the ones who keep him coming back to my neighborhood. They keep him gaining a profit. They give him his reason to be there. They validate him and what he is doing and he won’t stop until they stop.
And what will we gain if our leader is a morally corrupt, slandering, lying, manipulative, bully who will stoop to ungodly levels to get ahead? He’s just plain mean. What kind of example is that? If we believe that we can throw our support behind a person like this and still hold our moral head’s high, we are diluting ourselves. How can we teach our children not to use such tactics when in conflict if we won’t put a stop to our leaders who do? What kind of a world will we be left with after all of this?
I don’t blame him. I blame them.
I greatly considered whether or not to write about this. First of all, I’m terribly embarrassed at my behavior but I have promised that I will always be honest. I am greatly comforted when I tell the truth. At times, I consider the backlash of being judged or gossiped about but in the end, I guess I really don’t care. I’d rather have people know about my faults and flaws than to work so hard to cover them up. Such burdens I do not bear well.
I grew up in a house where my parents never touched alcohol. They both had a parent that was addicted and it nearly ruined their childhoods. I often thought about my grandmother and how much my mother wanted her to be present and kind. You see, my grandmother had six young children a husband with a wandering eye. Struggling with her own deteriorating mental state, a failing marriage and so many children to care for, I would imagine that she drank in order to cope with day to day living. She became violent. My mother does not have many fond memories of her mother during those childhood years. It is really very sad.
So there was always this taboo that I grew up with that a sip of alcohol would turn me into an addict. However, as an adult, I learned that drinking alcohol in moderation definitely helped in uncomfortable social situations (“Hellloooo people I don’t know and….. family!!!”). It also seemed to lighten the mood at a barbecue. Conversation flowed better with wine. Game nights were louder and the laughter roared, and I seemed to be able to transition from frumpy mom to romantic wife if I indulged in a rum and coke before sitting closer to my Prince Charming. Alcohol was a special treat in which I indulged in on special occasions and very rarely.
And then I had kids.
Don’t get me wrong… I adore these people. They are wonderful, amazing, and part of me in a way that brings me immeasurable joy! But I am alone… with them… all day. At this point there are four of them ranging from ages 7 years to nine months. My days are filled with changing diapers, cleaning never ending messes, disciplining, yelling, timeouts, feeding them nonstop meals, snacks, and juice cups. And I have to confess, I really struggle to even play with them. I’d rather clean vomit than play “Ninjas” with my five year old or watch the other one play video games or put together train tracks with the two year old. I don’t know why but I am constantly putting them off in order to get them to leave me alone.
“We’ll do that puzzle later, Ok?” (I have no actual intention of doing this.)
“I have to make lunch and then I can play Skylanders.” (It will never happen.)
“Daddy will wrestle with you when he gets home from work.” (He’d better or he’s toast!)
It makes me sort of depressed that I keep making these empty promises to be with my children and I almost always break them. Every morning I wake up with thoughts of all of the things we’ll do together but by mid afternoon, I just feel sad that my motivation is waning and I barely have the fortitude to make a dinner that isn’t baked from frozen. After my 4th child was born, I hit an all time low with feeling overwhelmed and fatigued. My two year old is absolutely fantastic at being two. What I mean by that is that I have yet to find an item of clothing he will keep on his body (this includes diapers) and he also has never been served a meal that he didn’t throw on the ground first. He dumps all drawers, boxes, and containers. He knows how to unscrew caps of sippy cups. He is ah-maaaazing. He makes me want to pull my hair out of my head and yet I marvel at the level of mischief he is able to procure. I adore him. He also makes me nuts.
And so I found that once my baby began sleeping through the night, a small alcoholic beverage seemed to help me unwind easier during those evening hours. Instead of complaining to Prince Charming that my life was so hard, I giggled, blushed, and put my head on his shoulder. And I meant it! It felt good. It felt really good.
A few months later, my baby began to change his schedule drastically, nursing for the last time at 5:00pm and then going to sleep by 6:00pm. Looking at the clock, I began to think about making a decent dinner for my family and I found myself prepping a rum and coke. Not only that, but about halfway into my cocktail, I was sitting on the floor with the boys playing Candyland! By the time Charming got home from work, the house smelled like something home made and the kids and I were all smiles. By bedtime, I was making myself another drink. Why not keep the light mood rolling?
This routine went from once or twice a week to three times and I rationalized my new habit. I made excuses for myself. It’s not illegal. I’m not driving. I’m doing what I need to do to not be a grumpy and miserable person all the time. But it wasn’t all perfect. I noticed that I had moments when I would go from “fun-loving” mom to suddenly “angry and snappy” with them about the messy playroom (that I’d helped mess up, of course!). Or I’d fall asleep early and then wake up in the middle of the night, alert as if I’d had five cups of coffee with my mind racing over all of poor choices I’d made the previous day. I was exhausted the next day, yet looking at the clock to count the hours until I could nurse the baby for the last time and then start cracking ice cubes.
Would you call this alcohol “dependency?”
And then, one evening, it happened. I had nursed the baby for the last time and the boys asked to play outside. It was a hot summer evening so they put on their swimming stuff. I normally would make my drink in a tall, skinny, glass but because we were going outside I used a mason jar with a lid and straw (to keep the bugs out). I had a brand new bottle of cherry rum that I was dying to try in my coke. I rushed because the two year old had opened the back door himself and was already outside unattended (the back yard is fenced in but we still make sure to be out there with him). Then, the phone rang. It was from someone I’d been waiting for and I poured the rum into the jar quickly and without paying much attention. I didn’t really notice that the caramel color of the coke was more light tan than dark brown. I screwed the cap on, grabbed a straw and fled out the door. While the kids played on the trampoline, I chatted away, oblivious to the fact that my drink was disappearing. The sweetness of the cherry was unusual for me and it was easy to drink fast. The kids were having fun. My conversation was flowing easily. I put burgers on the grill.
It was the moment that I hung up the phone that I realized that I wasn’t really sure how long the burgers had been on. I opened the grill door to see them charred. How did that happen? Getting the kids back inside, I was suddenly hit with a wave of confusion. The room was spinning. Tossing my empty mason jar into the sink, I realized that I just might be intoxicated….. In an effort to save dinner, I carelessly threw a bunch of chicken nuggets on a cookie sheet and put them in the oven, barely remembering to turn it on.
And then I heard the key jostling in the door. Prince Charming was home.
Racing to the bathroom, I slammed the door behind me and locked it! What was I going to do?? There was no way I could pretend that this was not happening. I tried my best to think about whether I’d left the bottle of rum out. I couldn’t even remember if I’d brought the two year old back inside the house from playing! (By the grace of God, I did!) I panicked! With every passing moment, I felt worse and worse, more and more disoriented. How could this be? This isn’t me! This cannot be who I am. And so I laid down on the floor of the bathroom with my cheek to the cold floor and tried hard to breathe. My eyes were closed but it felt like I was on a tilt-a-whirl ride. I hated myself. There, surrounded by colorful bath mats and tub toys, I could hear my children playing and talking.
After what seemed like an hour, there was a knock on the door. It was Charming. I was really hoping that he thought that I had a vicious stomach bug.
“Are you Ok?”
To which I responded in my best effort not to slur,
Yep. That was all I had. He was able to give the kids some very crispy chicken and I finally sat up, mortified that he might have figured it all out. Fortunately for me, he is a pretty oblivious guy. I knew I had to talk to him though… about everything. I knew I had to confess and admit what had happened, all of it, because that is just who I am and I don’t know how else to be. For me, such a secret is like a ball and chain around my ankle.
I stumbled into the bedroom and laid down. I called out to him saying that I needed to talk. He laid next to me, quietly for a little while, waiting for me to speak. The words were in my mind but I couldn’t seem to get them out. Maybe it was the lingering effects of the rum, but they came eventually.
“I’m drunk. I’m sorry. They are young and this is hard. You work all the time and I am isolated too much but I also don’t even really want to be around other people because I’m also never alone! I have no control over how my days go. I’m miserable A LOT. I’m so bored! I just want to feel better. I want to love easier. I want to play more often. I want to be happy, even if it is just for a little while. But I know that this is wrong. I made a huge mistake tonight. I’m so embarrassed. I needed to tell you because I don’t want to ever do this again. Can you please forgive me?”
And he did.
He had a lot of questions about why I had been using alcohol to cope with “motherhood monotony” and though he could not understand at all, he was very compassionate. He also told me that it made him trust me more that I didn’t try to cover it up. He felt so sad for me that I was struggling with finding happiness. He was there for me just as much as he possibly could be.
He left me laying there and went to put the children to bed. In the dark room, all by myself, I could hear their sweet voices talking as they read the Bible and prayed. And then I thought of my grandmother. I only met her once and I barely remember it. She had recovered from her alcoholism and went on to be a wonderful mother to my mom throughout her adult years. I wondered if she was ever on her bathroom floor, hating herself. I wondered if she ever burnt the chicken because she was just trying to enjoy her family and forgive her husband for being a scoundrel. I felt for her. Six children is more than four… and my husband is an amazing, supportive, faithful man.
I know why she did it. I get it. I really really do. But I am not her and I never will be and I was going to make sure of that. So I got up from the bed in that dark room and walked through my quiet home with contented and sleeping children and grabbed that bottle of cherry rum. Without hesitation, I yanked the cap off and poured it upside down, letting it glug glug glug down into the kitchen sink. As the bottle got lighter and lighter, I knew I was making the right choice. Relief washed over me.
I’m not saying I’ll never touch alcohol again. After all, there will be the occasional social event which calls for a little bubbly. And I will never judge a person for drinking in moderation at their own discretion. Within the legal age, and without driving afterwards, I have no issue with the choices of others. However, for me, if I feel as though I need a cocktail to get through my evening, with my loving family, then something is just wrong and I need to figure it out and so I am.
Developing coping skills to handle my stress and boredom and sadness is something that others have helped me with and has been a great asset to me. Creating a schedule that allows me to spend time with my children without them inundating me has also really helped. My baby is a great sleeper and so I have been feeling more positive because I’m rested. And I’m learning more and more to rely on God when I am at the end of my rope. By saying no to alcohol, I am saying YES to God being there for me and accepting His help to make me better.
I wish my grandmother had known about Him a little earlier than she did. She must have lived with so much regret. She could never have known this, but I’ve learned from her mistakes. I wonder if she might feel peace knowing how true this is. I wonder if you might feel peace from knowing more about mine.
And that is all that this has been for. It isn’t a story about me but rather, a story about God and what He can do in one sad mom that is just doing her best. I hope it helps.
I’m always writing. I fill notebooks with ideas for Sunday School lessons, Bible Studies, “to do” lists (everywhere), shopping lists, letters, notes, post its, Scripture verses, whatever. My house is so cluttered! Once a week I gather most of it up and throw it all away. After all, the goal was just for me to take the jumbled chaos that gets caught in my mind and put it somewhere else for a little while. I tend to write so obsessively that I was able to organize myself for a time and actually composed a little book that was published a couple of years ago. This was quite shocking considering that as I typed, there were tiny boys constantly pulling at my pant legs and asking for more gold fish. It was a total miracle! And so people have told me that I should try my hand at blogging but I tend to be technologically challenged.
I also don’t read blogs. Anybody can have an opinion about anything and put it out there like it’s fact. I mean, strong opinions can be controversial and I’m really not interested in ruffling feathers. I don’t have any great recipes (but I’d love to try your favorite!) and I don’t know how to turn canning jars into an elaborate light fixtures that will make your home look like an elegant rustic cabin. Deep down, I know that eating organic, raw, clean foods is better for my family but I just don’t care. I won’t do it and I won’t write about it (And nobody will ever convince me to read about it in somebody else’s blog. That is, literally, the most boring thing I can think of.). I also won’t reassure anyone that their parenting is fantastic though it may border on sub par. We’re all doing our best. I know. And I can’t offer you validation if you’re stinking up the place. But I also won’t judge you. I stink, too. I just hope that you’re having more good days than bad. More calm hours than chaotic. More moments to remember than ones you wish you could forget.
But I think that maybe I have something a little special to offer. It may not matter to anyone besides myself but that’s Ok.
There it is. It is weird to say it like that. I might have to delete and find a word that makes me seem more humble. Nope. I can’t come up with one. It starts and ends there.
I don’t know how to be anything else. Some people are able to change their personality to suit a situation or spouse or job. I can’t. I’ve tried. I smile too big and I say too much ALL. THE. TIME. I know that I can be overwhelming for certain folks but I’ve learned to back away slowly, cry to myself that I can’t seem to conform, and just go on being who I am (with lots of exclamation points and happy faces to follow). I’m trying to be Ok with that.
In social situations, I don’t know how to make small talk. I’m the one who will ask the hard questions (like how you felt when your father left your mother…. geesh!) and I might just tell you the worst thing that I’ve ever done because I can’t shut up. Yep, I’ll just tell you about the time that I forgot one of my kids at home. I might tell you how much my house cost or that I am currently sweating through my imitation spanks or that it is soooo hard for me to leave my house without lipstick on (have I said too much already?). See! I don’t know when to say when!
So why am I trying out a blog? Maybe it is to minimize some of the random papers that are floating around my house that I seem to have a need for. It might also be to reach out. I am a stay at home mom and the only girl in this crazy place! It might also be that I’m expressive and it helps me to put my thoughts, ideas, and emotions into words and paragraphs in hopes that someone else might be able to relate, or at least find it entertaining. Who knows. I guess I’ll figure it out along the way.
Deep down, I’m just a person who wants to be a better person. I’m pretty sure that’s you, too. So maybe we can help each other. I think that all we have to really do is care. It means so much more than you’d think. So I’m reaching out and saying hello! My name is Noelle and I like to write! I’m quite dramatic and expressive but I hope that you like me anyways! (And please don’t tell me about it if you don’t!)
And now, how to end this with flair…..
In conclusion, I have enjoyed writing this out and hope that you made it to the end.