When, when, when am I going to learn? I am certain that God is wondering just how many times it's going to take for me to get it through my head that there is a limit to what I can stick on my calendar and actually get done with a sweet spirit.
The school year finally ended, and next was Laeka's high school graduation. I wish that I had been fully appreciating the milestone, living in the moment, and deeply feeling the passage of time, but I was actually just trying to keep one-year-old Charlotte from choking on little things she'd try to put into her mouth.
Immediately after graduation, we hosted four different guests, and my house was full of kids who were constantly at home and instantly bored. Also on the calendar was a wedding and doctors' appointments.
Even though the parents of the senior class had already given a wonderfully fun group graduation party for the seniors, I really wanted to give Laeka his own party. (I had seen the cutest invitation on Pinterest!) This extra little fiesta was scheduled for the day before we were leaving at 6 a.m. for a family vacation.
Adding to the joy and general low-stress atmosphere in the house was the need to provide food for the guests and to clean up the house. My parents were spending the night and then leaving with us on our trip. Having anyone spend the night means that one of my boys has to move out of his bedroom, and the room has to be scrubbed down. In my defense, I had done this a full day ahead of schedule, and then reminded him to sleep on the blow-up mattress in his brother's room.
And this brought me to the crisis point. The morning of the blessed party dawned, and I walked into my son's bedroom only to find… my son… in his bed! Clothes were strewn everywhere, empty potato chip bags were on the floor, and a dog with muddy paws was curled up on the duvet. What's more, he had clearly been eating Cheetos in bed because there were orange powdered fingerprints all over the sheets. And I lost it. All the frustration of the too-busy week found an outlet in this one moment.
What did I want from my son? A simple apology. But the apology didn't come. Instead, he avoided eye contact with me throughout the morning, and tried to make up for his actions by doing all sorts of unpleasant tasks like changing Charlotte's diaper, cleaning out the refrigerator, and mowing the lawn. I appreciated his efforts, but what I really wanted was for him to simply say he was sorry.
When, when, when was he going to learn? Suddenly, that question sounded a little familiar. How often have I responded to God in my own failures in the same way that Jonathan had responded to me? I owe God an apology, but avoid Him instead. I try to make up for my sin by doing other good things, hoping that God will notice those things and ignore the fact we must confess our sin. How much better it would be if I would just own my mess from the get-go, and simply tell Him “I'm sorry.”
In the words of Frederick Buechner, “To confess your sins to God is not to tell [God] anything [God] doesn't already know. Until you confess them, however, they are the abyss between you. When you confess them, they become the bridge.”
When we don't confess our sin, it saps our spiritual strength. As David said in Psalm 32, “Because I kept silent, my bones wasted away; I groaned all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength withered as in dry summer heat. Then I declared my sin to you; my guilt I did not hide. I said, ‘I confess my transgression to the Lord,' and you took away the guilt of my sin.'” True refreshment comes from closeness to God.
When we confess our sin, He forgives. When He forgives, He wipes the slate clean. When our slate is clean, we have a spring in our step and a lightness in our spirit that feels as good as a breeze on a hot summer day.
Praying that your June is filled with days of refreshment and closeness to God!
As I stood in the checkout line at the grocery store today, I noticed the woman behind me showing her daughter the delicious deli-prepared meals in their cart. I looked back at my two bulging shopping carts and thought ahead to the hours it was going to take me to make the meals for the week. She caught my eye and looked at all my food, so I explained that I have seven kids and that three of them are teenage boys. “Oh, enjoy it,” she smiled. “The time goes so fast!”
“Really?” I wondered. Because sometimes it can feel like time moves slowly, and that I've been doing the same things, over and over again, for ages. People say that the days are long but the years are short. I can see how that's true. But my reality is that when little Charlotte heads off to college, I'll be sixty, and we will have been parenting for thirty-seven years. That's a lot of meal preparation.
After I got home and unpacked the groceries, I made a cup of tea. It was 5 p.m. That's the time of day I most want to sit down, but if I do, I find it really hard to get back up. The clock crept toward 5:30 p.m., then 6 p.m., and my family started getting hungry. I announced that I just didn't feel like making dinner. What I really wanted was for Alice from the Brady Bunch to come through the door and make dinner for us. But then I wanted her to disappear, so no one would know that I had an “Alice.” I didn't want anyone to think I was a slacker. No one seemed very interested, least of all my husband, who was reading the paper and only half-listening. So I finally made myself get up to prepare dinner (it's in the oven), and I think we'll be eating around 8:30 p.m.
It's hard to remain steadfast, especially at this time of year. Summer beckons, and the desire to quit working so hard is strong. It can be especially difficult to remain faithful doing the little things well-all those thankless tasks we're tired of doing. Is there an area in your life where you feel tempted to procrastinate or quit? Yet, you know, like I do, that God is asking you to persevere and finish well?
When I feel the urge to settle for mediocrity, I challenge myself with the following thoughts. They help me re-focus and remain steadfast. I hope they'll encourage you, too!
When I'm sitting on the couch at 5 p.m. instead of staying faithful to the little things, it's often because I'm worn out. I've been going all day, and don't feel I have anything left to give. That's when I need to ask myself where I've spent my best efforts. Have all my energies been sapped by activities outside my home so that what I have to give my family is leftovers? Who gets my best? I say that my highest priority is my relationship with God, then my husband, then my children. I'm convicted by Psalm 101:2, “I will walk in my house with blameless heart.” It's going to be hard for me to apply this verse if I've given my best efforts elsewhere.
When I'm feeling tired and bored with my responsibilities, it helps me to look up and look ahead. What is it that I'll want to have accomplished in five, ten, or twenty years? In what way is this small task a part of a bigger vision? Proverbs 29:18 reminds me, “Without vision the people perish.” We don't achieve our long-range purpose or vision through one heroic self-sacrificing event. Purposeful living is made up of many little decisions-small steps of faithfulness. Little things matter.
“Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing. No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).This verse can be applied over a lifetime, and also to every day. At the close of each day, I ask myself, “Have I finished well? Have I given time to the things that matter most? Am I leaving undone things that are going to make tomorrow more difficult?”
Let's resolve to remain steadfast in what God has placed before us. Our summer rest will be all the sweeter when we feel we've given our best to what matters most.
Holding you close to my heart as I pray for you,