Christ Enters In

It’s officially Christmas time.

How do I know this? Because I bought a box of Christmas Crunch by Cap’n Crunch. You know, with those little Christmas tree shaped crunch-berries in it? And let me tell you, it was gone within 48 hours. And I am not ashamed of it.

I never appreciated the story of Mary and Martha until recently…

Luke 10:38-42

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village.

And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 

39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 

40 But Martha was distracted with much serving.

And she went up to him and said,

“Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”

 41 But the Lord answered her,“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things,

42 but one thing is necessary. 

Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

In my own pride I always thought that I had deciphered all that that text of the Bible had to offer. Jesus is the most important thing. Right, got it. Let’s move on.

It wasn’t until recently, at the start of Advent, that this story began to take on a whole new life for me, as only the Bible can do, even when you have read a passage dozens of times.

I’ve been struggling lately. I’m in the trenches of having three babies now. It sort of feels like that grace period that moms seem to get when they first bring a new baby home is over. And while I am actually enjoying very much that I have a newborn, I have been hating something else.

The current situation of my house. It looks like a bomb went off. All. The. Time.

Let me be honest in saying that it isn’t like my house has it all together the rest of the year. Even when there wasn’t a pregnant belly to lug around or a newborn to tend to, my house could still look like war torn streets of the apocalypse by the end of the day.

I am all about being real. I am all about welcoming anyone into my home, perhaps with the qualifying statement of, “you’re welcome to come in, buuut just so you know my house is messy,” at first but I ultimately have no shame. Because it is what it is.

Lately though I have crossed over from being confident in my home to being ashamed of it. I feel like no matter what I do, no matter how much time during my day gets committed to doing SOME sort of cleaning, it simply doesn’t matter. It will still look roughly the same tomorrow.

If I get the bathrooms get scrubbed, I can only see that the wood floors in the living room need desperately to be mopped because there are dried splatters of juice everywhere. If I get three loads of laundry washed, dried and folded, I can only see that the dishes in my kitchen sink are piled like a mountain.

It’s taken over my life. Which is especially sad considering that something I worry and fret over so much never seems to get any better no matter what I do. It’s a perpetual cycle.

Nothing feels good enough. 

Does it ever, really?

And it always seems to ramp up around Christmas, right? When you have the most stuff to do, when you have things you want to sit back and enjoy, that’s when ish hits the proverbial fan. Or maybe we just don’t notice it as often until the calendar page flips to December. Maybe the pressure doesn’t get to us any other time like it does during the holiday season.

That’s when our eyes pop out of our heads over the angst of believing nothing is the way that it should be. This is supposed to be a special time of year. Somehow we think that means that our kids are going to magically remember to always put their shoes away and not make a mess of the dining room table by littering it with strips of cut paper and macaroni noodles from lunch.

Christmas is supposed to be different. It’s supposed to be “just so.”

Enter Christ. 

Does Christ really care about our messy homes? Does Christ really care that the calendar says that it’s December?

We bought our Christmas tree last weekend. It was a great time for all of us. Although I would have chosen a tree about a foot taller and three feet wider, we ultimately made a more sensible choice. Having a Christmas tree that looks like it ate other Christmas trees sounds fun and even seems that way at first. Until about December 26th.

After a month of having a giant Christmas tree occupying a vast space in my living room, about when the needles start turning brown, that’s when I start losing my mind. Normally I crack first and start taking the tree down because I just can’t take it anymore.

We brought our tree home. Our beautiful tree. Such a picturesque scene, a family in their mini van driving down the road with the perfect tree strapped to the roof. Kids piling out of the car and into the house where we could enjoy hot chocolate together.

All of those lovely images marred by how we promptly had to spend about 30 minutes cleaning up/rearranging everything to even get the tree into our living room.

Because our house is simply that chaotic right now. The tree isn’t decorated yet because we have had holiday activities and obligations pretty much every evening since then. So it sits (stands?) naked in my living room.

It’ll get decorated when we find the urge to ruffle through the attic to find the decorations. How is that the box with Christmas decorations always seems to be in the furthest corner of the attic and buried under the most stuff? Even though it was only put away in, like, July?

It didn’t seem like a page for the memory books. Beleaguered parents who are tired. Who are tired of feeling like they are at the bottom of the heap with day to day life. Just trying to keep it together. Our beautiful tree, surrounded by a sea of clutter.

Isn’t this our Christ?

Who comes to shine the light in our cluttered hearts and declare that it matters not? That those who would receive Him still are all that He desires.

This is advent, people. 

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The beautiful tree, shining in a house cluttered with a sea of funk. This is where the tree belongs. A savior, born to a world full of broken, helpless people.  This is where the savior belongs. Born to humble parents, in a small, unassuming town in a shabby barn. From tiny, unlikely niches, He would light the way.

I cannot stress the following statement enough: Christ did not come for the people who “have it all together.”

If you told me right now that Christ would be standing at my door in 30 minutes, I would guffaw and then promptly melt down because I’m not showered, the kids aren’t dressed, the house is filthy and I would be wondering why He would want to even come to a place like this anyway?

My old farm house with a rusty tin roof and worn siding? I would be a Martha, I would be worried that my home wasn’t ready. And I would be wondering what, if anything, He would want with me? I would fret, I’m sad to say. Even though I know I shouldn’t, I would.

Christ came for me. For all people. For the people who were willing to fling open their doors and the door to their heart and receive Him. And especially for those who make precursory statements such as, “welcome. It’s very messy in here, but you’re welcome to all that I have.” 

He delights when you admit that it’s messy, and still yield to Him so that He can show you a better way. To show us that His promises will long outlast the clutter in our home, the pain in our hearts. He delights when instead of busying ourselves with things that don’t matter, we find time to sit at His feet.

This is why, even though this is a special time of year from a celebratory standpoint, we should not be caught up in making everything just so. Put that Advent Wreath in your messy home. Hang those lights on the front of your old, rickety house. Put that tree in the one corner of your living room that isn’t cluttered. Turn off all of the lights and stare at it. Don’t look around, look only at it.

In much the same way, welcome Christ into your messy heart. Every. Day. Fling open its doors and announce that its messy in here, and acknowledge that it’s not much but that He is most welcome here. Receive Him.

Turn off all of the lights to everything else, and sit at the feet at the one who lights the way.

Oh, right, it’s Monday

In honor of Monday (just why should Friday get all of the glory, anyway??) here is a new post for all of you that is worthy of the label “Monday.” 

If posts about how children can sometimes be annoying attention stealing little worms offends your genteel parenting sensibilities, I suggest that you look away now. 

I love my children. I love almost all children. I have written of that fact numerous times on the old blog. But today??? Eeegats! My kids sometimes have the uncanny ability to drive me up. the. wall. 

Any parent can attest to this with their own children. And for every awful parenting hurdle and story that any mom and dad has, there is always a parent out there with a far worse tale to tell.

I know that I have it good. Most all parents know that so long as our beautiful children are healthy and happy, we have more than we could have ever asked for.

That doesn’t mean that they don’t on occasion make our eyes twitch and require us to self-medicate with multiple cups of coffee early in the morning. Am I right, moms and dads?

Here are five ways that our kids can drive us nuts:

1.) They. Know. 

Trying to squeeze in an extra thirty minutes to yourself on a quieter than usual afternoon? Trying to be somewhere on time? Trying especially hard to conceal something (like that box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch up in your cereal cubbard)? Trying to go to the bathroom for three and a half minutes by yourself?

Are you trying to accomplish ANYTHING with as little resistance or interference from your children as humanly possible?

Guess what? THEY. KNOW.

This afternoon I had timed it so that I could have roughly 90 minutes to myself if I could get my youngest down for her nap just a skoosh early. I could be off duty until her brother got home from school. It would be glorious.

Note the word “could.” If I COULD get her down for her nap early. If she didn’t take her time…chewing…each….bite of her lunch. I had to stand over her and do my best mom voice and mom stare while trying to make her eat muy rapido. 

I am 99% sure that she knew in the back of her perfect little mind that mommy was trying to do something for herself. Her default settings then kicked in and she was therefore programmed to resist as best she could. Our sweet babies – they just know.

They know the mornings that you need to shower since it’s been, like, three days since you last had one are the ones that they should fight like cats and dogs with one another or be particularly needy. Or they know that when your coffee pot has just finished brewing and you were about to sit down with a fresh cup of coffee to enjoy they should bump their head on the side table. They just know. I don’t know how they do it, but they do. 

Why can’t they know useful things. Like the winning numbers for the lotto? Or who let the dogs out?

Making his own fireworks

2.) Dodge and Deflect

Say the words, “bed time!!!” to your children and let the crisis unfold.

They need something to eat. They need a snack. Not crackers, they want string cheese. They need a drink because they had a snack. They can’t find that one special toy. They forgot how to close their eyes. It hurts them to close their eyes. They wanted to wear Ninja Turtle pajamas, not Angry Birds. They need another drink. They want to ask you questions about that one time that you visited the zoo early this year. They need to poop. They should probably have another snack. They are too tired to close their eyes. They don’t want to lay alone in their bed. 

You finally lay them down….

…only to hear little feet coming back down the stairs. They forgot to tell you something. They tell you. Now you need to walk back up with them so that they don’t have to walk in the spooky dark hallway by themselves and tuck them back in bed.

Repeat 32 billion times. 

Doing WORK!

3.) Only you

There can only be one Highlander? Phffft, whatever. Know who there can only be one of? Mom. 

Only mom can…

Wipe their bottom. Tuck them into bed. Read them a story. Feed them. Find their missing toy. Snuggle them. Feed them again. Put their shoes on. Comfort them when they stub their toes. Walk out to the van in the middle of the night to find their tiny stuffed baby cheetah. 

Only mom. Even though dad is, like, literally right over there. 

4.) What do you have?

Did you just make yourself a big plate of lunch that you were hoping to sit down in peace to enjoy? Thinking about turning on the television to watch anything other than Spongebob or Little Einsteins? Tried breaking out the iPad for just a few leisurely minutes with your best friend Pinterest? 

You should know better. 

The second that my television goes on, my children are wondering what I’m watching, why we can’t watch something else, if Paw Patrol is on and if they can watch the one about the Paw Patrol saving so-and-so. Or, when it comes to my lunch, I may have a big bowl of ramen noodles, (I can’t even have food that costs 20 cents a pack and enjoy it in peace) and there will suddenly be several extra heads peeking down into the bowl wondering what I’m eating, if it’s hot and if they can try some.

Try really hard not to laugh at me when I tell you about the times that I have tried to sneak Rolo’s or some other delectable treat into the same car as my children after a trip to the grocery store thinking it would work. They can note the sound of tinfoil being unwrapped from 3 miles away. 

If you have it or are doing it, chances are they’re going to want it or they’re going to want to participate in it with you. This is endearing for making cookies in the kitchen. Not always for when you’re trying to finally eat your breakfast at almost lunch time. 

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5.) They grow up. 

I know, I know. I went into this half-hearted. I can’t really leave off a post like this on a negative or cynical tone. The truth is that this really is one way that my babies drive me nuts. For all of the previously mentioned things that they do, for as insane as they can make us, the sad truth is that…we’d miss them if they weren’t here to do them. We are now accustomed to feeling like a possum and having small beings hanging off of us. We are used to being woken in the middle of the night because of bad dreams.

I am, however, not used to the fact that my son can now swing himself on the swing set. Or that my daughter is starting to be able to dress and undress herself. It comes so quickly, and you don’t always realize it until it’s upon you. They slowly need and seek you out less and less. And it’s mind-boggling. 

So, for all of their mischievous and rotten ways, they’re ours. And they don’t stay this way for nearly long enough. 

Can I get an amen?

There, I did it. I hope you’re all happy.

No parent has it all together

The second day of school, it began.

I laid my daughter down for her nap and as I descended back down the stairs, I was met with….silence. Utter silence.

I’ll be perfectly straight forward –  it was actually kind of blissful. At nine months pregnant, finding silence in the middle of the day where there used to be NONE? It was almost like, “me? So, I can, like, make my lunch AND sit down?? Are you sure??”

If I didn’t have a bulging belly and if my legs weren’t as stiff as logs then maybe I would have danced around or who knows what. What ended up happening was a sort of “I’ll just take my tuna sandwich and go sit over there, thanks” scenario. I felt kind of like the new kid on the block, anyway. It was all so foreign to me.

I’ll take it.

It wasn’t long before unwelcome thoughts creeped up surreptitiously. Doubt. Discouragement. Accusations. Lies. Guilt began to wash over me like summer rain. I had been struggling with the idea of sending our son to school before the year began. So, naturally, at the slightest hint of a reprieve, I began to furiously doubt my decision.

Accusations

We know so many parents who home school and do it wonderfully. Some who have schooled even while nurturing newborns. Why couldn’t I do the same?

Doubt

Was this the best education possible for him? Was I shelling him off to others? Am I tainting him by sending him to school?

Discouragement

And the years before? Did we do enough together? I’ll never get those toddler years back with him. Did I make enough time for him? Does he know that he is loved?

It was like an unexpected storm on a summer evening. It actually hurt in my heart to think that I was short-changing my child. To think that I might be taking the “lazy” way out. How terrible I felt for enjoying that silence, even if only a little bit. Good moms don’t enjoy space and time without their children anyway, right?

Though I combatted those thoughts with truth as best I could, though I did my best to remind myself that Christ doesn’t speak to us with the use of accusations but instead with conviction that riles the soul, and though for a time those thoughts dissipated, I still struggle with them from time to time.

Part of me really doesn’t like sending my little one to school. I truly DO miss him when he is gone. I miss getting to see what he is doing throughout his day. And I certainly hope that I can continue to be as close to him as I feel I am now. I hope to never be a mother who wishes those summer months or snow days away because she can’t bear the thought of being “trapped” with her children for even a minute more than she needs to be. That isn’t why I want to send him to school. That isn’t why my husband and I decided together to send him.

Over the past two weeks I have foraged through my newsfeed on Facebook and have seen so many children starting school, both at home and not. And I found myself subconsciously stacking myself against those other moms. “They’re doing it one way, so I don’t need to feel bad, right? But…they’re doing it differently, so perhaps there is something I’m missing, something that I haven’t considered?”

I’m living my life as a mom comparing myself to other parents. And it feels so empty.

But then I wonder….does any parent, when making any big decision for their children, ever COMPLETELY feel down to their bones like they’re getting it right? We may make what we think is the best decision for them, yes. But sometimes those decisions are only the beginning of what is a path of extended labor for us. And somewhere along the way, when the going gets rough, we probably stop and question ourselves and if we made the right call at all. If we even know what we are doing. Maybe we even wonder what business we have being a parent.

I have thought those exact sentiments before – what business do I have raising children? What business does this sinful, selfish heart have even trying to make beautiful children? And sometimes, it’s just too hard. There are too many choices to make, too many factors to consider. Sometimes, I don’t even feel like making lunch or reading the same book again, how am I supposed to get them to adulthood without damaging them beyond repair?

I have to think that for every assured decision that we make as parents, that there will be plenty where we doubt the next step. Where we are walking blindly, through faith and by grace alone. We hear about the devastating things that are happening in the world on the news, and we wonder what kind of world our children will inherit, and we hold them that much tighter and realize that we don’t always have the answers and we realize that we won’t always be there to protect them. We realize that our love isn’t ever going to completely be enough. 

So where do you even start, and what chance to you have at parenting confidently? You can’t even select the right bottles or diapers or wipes at the beginning of their life without being inundated with choices. A million ways to do things, will you get lucky and choose the “right” one? There is an entire judgmental world out there, ready and willing to tell us that we are getting it wrong.

Something comforts me, though. Well, actually, two things.

The reminder that peace doesn’t explicitly come from our decisions as parents. Peace comes from solely Christ. And knowing Christ, leaning on Him, knowing that we are truthfully, honestly and genuinely trying to seek and follow Him is our only reassurance in this world where there are millions of tidbits of parenting advice. He always gives good counsel, He always reassures us that we are not alone in our journey, any part of it.

Our parenting issues are neither too small, nor too great for Him to be concerned with. Our parenting story is another part of our story; it is refining and sanctifying. There is nothing that He can’t use. And we can always take solace in Him, even when nothing else is working out right.

The second is this: nobody really 110% knows what they are talking about. There is wisdom to be gained from others, yes. But, no matter what, I can almost guarantee you that there will be NO other parent in the entire world whose advice you would want to put into practice 100% of the time. That’s something that the parenting books don’t tell you!

You may read a million blog posts that sound great, you may click-through your newsfeed and wonder, you may research a ton of articles, but ultimately, every single one of those need to come with a precursor paragraph that reminds the reader that, “There is no such things as a parenting expert. No parent has it all together. No parent gets it all right. And no parent ever feels with 100% certainty that they have it all together. So, as always, take what follows with a grain of salt.”

 

That’s right. You can actually take some solace in the fact that everybody screws up. Everybody doubts. Everybody has their moments. When you remember that, it takes the pressure off of wondering what everybody else is doing. And that is really the idea, taking your eyes off of others, putting them on the Lord.

For now, my house is quiet, but probably for just a bit more. I’m going to go and make myself a cup of tea. Don’t worry, I’m sure the moment it’s done and I go to sit down, my daughter will wake up.

 

Happy Friday!