Peering underneath the floor boards

Arrogant know-it-alls stir up discord, but wise men and women listen to each other’s counsel (Proverbs 13:10).

I came across this verse one morning in The Message Bible, and read it out loud to Bryan. I’ve come across a lot of arrogant know-it-alls in my life, and had one in particular I was thinking about as I read it. Knowing exactly what I was thinking, Bryan says, “Yeah, but by definition, the arrogant person is going to believe he is the wise person, and all who disagree with him are stirring up discord.”

My response? “Yes, but I know the truth!”

We laughed, and Bryan went back to work, and I went on to more reading. But as I did, something nagged at me – the thought that I often act like an arrogant know-it-all.

All current trains of thought seem to be pointing me in this direction, lately. I can’t seem to escape the fact that I am no different from those I have hated. For the last year I’ve been dissecting several difficult relationships – relationships that are now, or have in the past been paralyzing, broken, stalled, or otherwise disrupted.

Recently, in regards to one particular relationship, I had a Kaiser Soze moment in which everything I had believed to be true suddenly flashed before my eyes in a montage of new realization: that which I judged this person for, I was also guilty of.

Realizing this triggered a domino affect which knocked down several assumptions I’d made in other difficult relationships as well. In my quest for personal justice, in my pointing out the speck in one person’s eye, I was unaware of the log in my own eye. I was crying out for justice and retribution, without recognizing my own need for grace and mercy.

Sufjan Stevens wrote a song about the famous serial killer, John Wayne Gacy, Jr., who apparently raped and killed 27 boys and buried them in a crawl space under his house. In the last lines of the song, Stevens sings,

And in my best behavior
I am really just like him
Look beneath the floor boards
For the secrets I have hid

This is a haunting admission, and captures the essence of Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:27-28: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

These are not easy things to hear, particularly when faced with real injustice and true offense. It’s not easy to extend grace, to forgive, to search my heart for understanding, to identify with that common denominator of sin. I would rather put myself first than put Peace first. I would rather see punishment than reconciliation. I would rather be right than gracious.

But Jesus is transforming my heart. He’s telling me to quit reading the Bible as if it was written for somebody else. He is filling my heart with compassion, and when it comes to one particular person, I actually feel genuine love toward and acceptance of him. Miraculously, I no longer look at him through a lens of judgment. I don’t even look down on him with arrogant compassion.

Instead I feel a sense of camaraderie with him. Kinship. I recognize that I am really just like him, and that maybe there’s hope we could be drawn closer by our shared flaws.

As for the “one particular know-it-all” I thought of when reading the Proverb, I’m still working on it. I’ve written several drafts of a letter. I’ve tried to imagine peace. I’ve tried to imagine a future as friends rather than enemies. And slowly, these images are taking shape. They are coming into focus, and my heart does not clench in anger as much when I think about it.

But I had to first consider my own offenses, I had to consider my own heart. I had to stop pointing outwardly, and start looking inward. It has been a painful year in this regard, but I feel a sense of purging, of cleansing, of dead weight being lifted from my shoulders.

The pains of labor are birthing new eyes and a new mind, and I am hopeful.

If I’m not going to post often, I’ll at least make them really long.

Last week a friend called me at 8:45 in the morning while I was putting on my running shoes. She was in a pinch for someone to watch her toddler that morning, because something came up. I mentally ticked through my plans for that day, and decided it was doable, so I finished tying up my shoes, put the kids in the car, and went to pick up the extra kid.

My goal for that morning was to be at the gym by 9am. But in thinking through my plans and goals, I realized the actual goal was to not dink around all morning until time was wasted and we were chasing our schedule. Having somewhere to be was simply the gimmick I used for sticking to my goal.

Therefor, driving across town to pick up a cute boy and getting back to the gym by 9:45 was still sticking to my plan, because by the time she called I was nearly ready to walk out the door anyway. I was on the treadmill by 10, and had a great workout.

I’ve noticed that on the days I carefully lay out a plan of what we will do and/or accomplish, I’m much more productive. I was busy that day, but because I knew exactly what I needed to get done, it was easy to figure out whether an extra person would disrupt my goals. Also? This may sound like a contradiction, but sometimes having extra kids around makes my life easier, because everyone is happy to play and leave me to get something done.

I’ve also noticed that when I plan days filled with lots of activity – regardless of whether they are fun adventures or boring errands – we are all much happier, and I’m more productive. When I leave large blocks of time for us to wander around the house, we all become aimless. But when I come up with a good mix of being out and staying home, we all appreciate being home much more.

I’m laughing at myself, because the week before this happened, I had another disruption to my day that didn’t go over so well for me. In that post I lamented over the possible misconception that I was flexible:

I’ve always considered myself a very flexible person, but maybe this isn’t so true? Maybe I’m only flexible when I have 24 hours notice? Or when I didn’t have plans to start with? Or when I’m in charge of what gets sprung on me unexpectedly?

I think I now understand that I am flexible when I have a plan.

Proverbs 16:9 says, ” In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.” When I have a plan for my day, it’s pretty easy to figure out how to readjust when something unexpected gets tossed at me. What probably happened the day I wrote that post, is that I started off too slow, or perhaps a little behind schedule. Or maybe I didn’t have a plan at all. I can’t remember exactly, but I’m very familiar with the feeling that I don’t have any idea what I’m supposed to be doing, so I don’t really know what I should do next.

My friend Trisha wrote a great post on being Frantic Busy vs Smart Busy, and I felt she well articulated my ongoing struggle – particularly in this line:

This busy gal [frantic] is not ever getting time to rest or to enjoy those she loves or she does do those things and lets everything else fall apart around her.

If you’ve been around my blog very long, you know the roller coaster ride I’ve been on regarding the enjoyment of my children vs Getting Things Done. Forever I have felt it wasn’t possible to do both. Either my children had a blast hanging out with their mom and my house was a disaster, or I kept a decent house and sacrificed time with my kids, making me irritable to their interruptions and prone to use the tv as a babysitter.

Trisha writes:

I could work myself in to a sweat and “miss” those moments that God has called me to, like playing with my children, affection, words, tenderness, laughter, all in exchange for a folded load of laundry? No, thank you!

This week I’ve been tending to the particulars of Ruthie’s Kindergarten for next year. Like facing your own morality late in life, this has caused me to face the reality that my kids are slowly leaving me, that I will not always have them with me. This reality has swept me into a new perspective on Time. I suddenly realize just how much I am taking time for granted, and how my disorganization with time causes stress on my relationships.

When I’m feeling “frantic busy” I give off the vibe that my children are a burden to me, because their interruptions are disrupting an already chaotic situation. This is not the identity I want my daughter to carry around with her, that her presence in this family is a bother. I would rather she enter Kindergarten knowing that her mother cried all the way home because her presence will be missed.

I’m feeling highly motivated to stay ahead of my schedule, to carefully plan out my days and weeks so there is plenty of room for focused work and focused fun, and enough wiggle room for surprises or adjustments. I’ve been going to bed at ten, falling asleep after reading a half hour, and getting up at six. Did you know that’s nearly eight hours of sleep? Do you know how good it feels to get eight hours of sleep?! Are you aware of how much one person can accomplish in one day on eight hours of sleep?!

I never knew, because I was always dinkin around until the wee hours of the morning.

Oh, and Bryan? You can shut up about being right.

Signs of staying the same.

alexander's bad day.JPGThis has been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

I’d move to Australia, but I don’t think Dave would want my cranky family.

Some things popped up this morning that disrupted the plan I had already laid out. And not only that, but the thing that popped up meant I need to be on the phone and the computer all morning, which means the kids have been either watching t.v. or bugging the hell out of me, or getting in trouble just to get any sort of attention from me.

It is what it is, and it sucks. But I have to admit I’m not dealing well with the stress and the disruption, as I’ve fallen into some old patterns of yelling at and barking orders at the kids.

on the potty with the clockLately I’ve been acutely aware that time as a resource is very limited. Not just in terms of the number of hours in a day, or days in a week, or weeks in a year – but in terms of my ability to steward it well. I’m not sure if this is a word used much outside the church context, but when I say stewardship I mean, what am I doing with the ____ God has given me?

In the case of time, I feel as if I’m always chasing it. Always trying to keep up, but one step behind. I’m always late leaving the house, always late arriving at our destination, and always scrambling at the last minute for a deadline.

One day my kids will be all grown up – did I steward my time with them wisely? Did I enjoy them? One day I may need or want to go back to work – did I steward my time well while running things at home? Someday my gym membership will run out and we’ll decide to not renew – did I steward my time well and use it as much as I was able to? I could go on and on.

When I consider a day like today that was supposed to be wide open for adventure and fun, and instead is filled with chaos of attitude, time, and clutter all around us, I can’t help but wonder how much of this chaos is due to the legitimate wrench in my plans, and how much is due to my lack of stewardship over the time I’ve been given.

If I was a better steward, would I have recovered more quickly and easily from this interruption? Would I have already completed what I am now catching up on?

I don’t like feeling like I’m barely keeping it together. I’ve been working really hard to stay on top of things, and I wonder if others feel as overwhelmed as I do by the basic tasks of paying bills, keeping a decent house, making sure we’re all fed and clothed. I don’t even have high standards! It’s not like I need my house to be spotless, or that I obsess over Martha Stewart-like meals – I have very low expectations of myself.

And still, I find it difficult to meet even the most basic needs.

Keeping Watch?I don’t notice this as much when the train is running smoothly and on time. When we wake up on time and get out the door on time and get done what we need to get done, it still feels overwhelming, but at least I get it done. It’s when something extra and unexpected gets thrown into my day that I seem to lose all focus and chaos sets in. Suddenly, because of this one unplanned thing, I don’t clean up after breakfast, and I don’t start that load of laundry, and I don’t follow through with basic tasks, leaving stuff lying around until my house is full of clutter and my brain is about to explode.

I’ve always considered myself a very flexible person, but maybe this isn’t so true? Maybe I’m only flexible when I have 24 hours notice? Or when I didn’t have plans to start with? Or when I’m in charge of what gets sprung on me unexpectedly?

I don’t know the answer to this, and I was sort of hoping it would come to me as I wrote as things so often do. But it hasn’t – though I feel better for having vented it.

The kids are asleep. I will now shut down the computer and put my house back together and reset my attitude for the next part of my day. God be with you, and thanks for listening.

Signs of Change

lunchWhen Bryan was traveling to San Jose twice a month last year, I never had to make a lunch for him to take to work. He was either gone, or he was working from home and ate whatever we all ate.

Prior to his year of traveling when he commuted into Seattle, I HATED making his lunch. It wasn’t so much the task I hated as much as the nuisance I found it to be that I felt obligated to do it. I had a bad attitude, and was a very passive aggressive bitch about it. I would “forget” or complain or wait until he was putting on his coat then blame him for not having a lunch because he wouldn’t wait for it.

Yeah. Real nice.

(My memoir is going to be a “tell all” all right, but the only bitch getting outed will be ME.)

It just occurred to me tonight as I zipped up his lunch bag and stuck it in the fridge that I’ve actually found joy in sending Bryan off to work with a good lunch. Sure, sometimes I’m tired, or I’m sick of being in the kitchen, or it totally slips my mind – but my attitude is different about it now.

I love taking care of Bryan in this way.

I know about four of you who will totally get the significance of this, and the rest of you are probably like, Why can’t he make his own damn lunch?! But for me? And for him? And the needs and issues and insecurities we both have? And the road blocks we’ve faced in the past? Trust me that this is a huge heart change for me, and a huge blessing to Bryan that goes way beyond matching plastic containers filled with last night’s leftovers.

Two years ago Bryan and I were stuck in a very tight spot, and at the time I would have never imagined we would have the relationship we do now. It’s not perfect, and we still hit our road blocks, but we are no longer contending against one another. In tough situations we are listening to each other more, and working together toward the same end goal: reconciliation.

You may find yourself in your own “tight spot” with a spouse or friend or relative. DON’T GIVE UP. The Great Reconciler wants to see your relationship restored, and he is Able. I know, because I’ve seen it.

Coming to you from my couch.

My mom came to town on Monday, which also happened to be Ruthie’s birthday. I had big plans for her visit, and non of them included her doing my laundry, cleaning my kitchen, or taking out the trash. But because I am flat on my back, writhing in pain, this is exactly how she is spending her vacation – running my household.

I have minor back issues on and off, and visit the chiropractor every three months or so just to keep things in line. But this? This is a whole new issue in a whole new area of my back. I feel as if my vertibrae are grinding together. The muscles in my back are so tense they feel twitchy, and they are particularly tense around my lower lumbar region, which also makes me constipated.

I stretch. I twist. I flex. I take drugs. But I am never comfortable. I am most in pain when sitting or standing up, so lying down is what I do. I have never been so eager to accomplish mundane tasks in my life! I just want to put these towels away, for crying out loud, or fill the dishwasher and clean the kitchen. But in order to do those things I have to hold my breath and hunch over and grab a hold of something.

I can handle being sick, but I can not handle being in pain. I am highly discouraged and frustrated, and just want my normal life back where I can watch other people’s kids or help someone move. I don’t like this not getting anything done, this laying around while other people (like my 70+ year old mother) do my work for me.

I never thought I would say this, but I miss my job. Just goes to show you what a little perspective does to a natural born complainer.

Last Breaths & Connecting Dots

My Grandma – my mom’s mom – died on or around Valentine’s Day a few years ago. She was a sturdy, healthy woman, who simply grew too old for her body to carry her. She died peacefully in her own bed, with Gordy by her side.

My mom was getting her hair done at the time, which is so mom. When she’s old and not so independent, I’ll be taking her to the beauty shop every week to get her hair done. In heaven her hair will be thick and full of body – no beauty shops necessary there.

Gordy adored my Grandma, and she adored him, in her reserved, German kind of way. When my Grandpa died, her husband of more than 50 years, my Grandma collapsed from the exhaustion of caring for him, her body somehow understanding she was no longer on duty. She was in the hospital during his funeral, but Gordy sat with her, quietly holding her hand.

Then years later as she passed away, he was holding her hand again.

I didn’t consider at the time how prophetic this was, Gordy holding the hand of a dying woman, watching her take her last breath. It would be years later that he lay in a hospice bed in his own living room, in and out of awareness, his body giving way to cancer.

I wonder if he remembered that moment, the moment he was holding the hand of a woman when the life went out of her. I wonder if he remembered her last breath, the peaceful silence, the whisper of a soul floating away. I wonder if this memory brought him comfort. I wonder if this prepared him for his own passing.

Jesus knew what he was doing when he called my Grandma home just then, as Gordy held her hand.

When life feels out of control I try to remember that God sees the bigger picture. He doesn’t just see the moment, but he sees the moment in connection with an infinity of moments. In my panic I often run into the street, naked and screaming maniacally about the end of the world as we know it, when all I really need to do is sit and quietly allow the Holy Spirit to connect the dots from one moment to the next.

When life feels out of control I need to ask myself, Do I trust him to carry me from moment to moment, even into infinite?

Danger: hormonal surges in action. Enter at your own risk.

I’ve had a really shitty couple of days. I wake up cranky, I drink too much coffee, my house is a disaster, I yell at my kids, and I’m behind on everything.


And I can’t say that I have any circumstances to blame this on. Yes, Bryan has been working a lot, and yes, we have some personal stress brewing on the back burner, but in all honesty I can’t really blame it on those things.

I’m just being one mean bitch about everything.

You know how it goes when you’re in this mood: every wrong twitch of an eyebrow, every hesitation in response, every nuance of tone triggers you into a rampage. “WHAT?! WHAT WAS THAT LOOK FOR?! WHAT’S YOUR PROBLEM?! WHAT DID I DO NOW?!”

And the person with the twitchy eyebrow runs for his ever-lovin life.

To punctuate my irrational mood, a bookshelf just fell on me. Yes, a bookshelf. And yes, JUST. All the books fell on me, the shelf hit me on the shoulder, and the lamp broke its fall on my back. It’s not a very big bookshelf, and the lamp didn’t break, and there were only a couple dozen books to clean up, but still.

Even my house is conspiring against my foul mood.

I quit what I was doing and went straight to my computer to complain to all of you about my day being so crappy that even a bookshelf fell on me. And you know what? I’m giggling just a little bit right now, because it’s all so silly, and I’m so incredibly dramatic. And spoiled.

I think I would do well to turn on some lights in this cave, put on some Jesus-is-my-boyfriend music, and pop some vitamin-B pills.

Laughing – even if at yourself – really is the best medicine.

Relax and unwind


Hung the “gone fishing” sign on the door this weekend and escaped to a city I would move to in a New York minute if I could convince each and every one of my friends to come along. I just can’t imagine living without my peeps, no matter how strongly Portland courts me.

An annual trip we’ve taken four years, now – except that I think it might be five – we stayed in our favorite digs, visited our favorite spots, and ventured into some new places as well.

In years past I’ve clicked photos and blogged and written of our adventures. But this weekend was quieter, more introverted. The pictures you see here are almost all we took, and I didn’t feel any draw to report our activities (perhaps because much of what we did involved pulled curtains and Do Not Disturb signs, if you know what I mean).

Bryan’s been working long hours these last months – and even as I write he is away at a function until late tonight – so the time together was timely. The challenge for me, of course, is always the re-entry. It’s never graceful. I’m never glad to be back. I’m always more than a little bitter it had to end.

Though I did say to Bryan at one point on Sunday, when I was starting to think about the kids just a little bit, that I couldn’t imagine not having kids. The time I would have! The money to burn! The intact cells of my brain! What would I do with myself, day in and day out? What mystery would there be to uncover? What challenge to overcome? For what stolen moment would I devise an elaborate plan to capture?

So this is what I tried to remember today as Thomas crapped in the bathtub yet again, and as Ruthie woke from her nap in the foulest of moods. I tried to remember that these children are a blessing to me, not a thorn in my side as I sometimes see them. They are a gift given to me. And though weekend escapes without them for marital bliss are important, my heart should always be glad to be where it is.

My Little Valentine. Big Valentine Accomplishments.

ValentinesI’m the mom who forgets she signed up to bring cookies on party day, and runs into Safeway five minutes before preschool starts for the privilege of screaming at her children to hurry up already.

I was also the mom who’s daughter brought Diego Valentines to preschool last year. Period. Because I thought when the flier said to bring Valentines, it meant to bring Valentines – NOT hand painted party bags with custom made stickers filled with homemade candy and cookies and tied with silky pink yarn.

Sheesh. Entering the school years is a whole new ballgame of peer pressure, only I have a calloused heart of cynicism on my side these days.

This year I was so proud of myself! In the spirit of maintaining, I added ‘cupcake mix’ to my grocery list on Tuesday, and remembered to buy frosting and sprinkles (Ruthie’s contribution to the party). Last night the kids and I made the cupcakes, and I had Ruthie sign all her Valentines with the letter R – the only letter in her name she can write at the moment.

Tonight we frosted the cupcakes and filled her goodie bags with jelly beans, a sucker, and her princess Valentines.

This Getting Things Done, this Being On Time, this Remembering to Follow Through thing is exhausting for sure. I mean, I’ve just spent two full evenings engaged with my kids when we normally flop in front of a movie. And Ruthie is so excited about her goodie bags she hugged me over and over before bed, and then came downstairs once, looked at the pile of bags on the table, and leaped into my arms one last time.

Valentine’s “Day” has been a three day affair, if you count the shopping – a big change from waking up in a panic at 3am the night before. AND I’ve had a great time with my kids.

I almost had an over-achieving moment when I realized I forgot to buy cellophane gift bags for the candy, and I was going to run to Target after 9pm and fill all the bags myself. But Bryan was like, Seriously? SERIOUSLY? So I improvised by lining regular ziplock bags with pink tissue paper, and stuffing those with the candy.

I think it says, “Fine, I’ll participate in your silly commercial holidays” without going over the top Martha Stewart. What do you think?

Frankly, I’m just happy I won’t be screaming at my children in Safeway tomorrow morning.

Does this clutter make my butt look fat?

clutter book cover.JPGI saw a commercial for Oprah the other day about the connection between the clutter in your home and the clutter on your ass. Well, they didn’t quite put it that way, but you get the idea. The author’s name is Peter Walsh, and his book really is titled, Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat?

I didn’t watch the show, but the idea really does make sense. I don’t see it as an IF/THEN statement, as in IF you have clutter THEN you will be fat. I see it more as the clutter mindset of laziness, taking shortcuts, and not following through. Here is a quote from the show’s article on Oprah’s website:

“Your head, your heart, your hips and your house are all interconnected, and I really believe that,” he says.

I’ve been kicking around these two verses in connection with an essay I’m working on about my own selfishness hindering my ability to Get Things Done and take care of my family:

For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice (James 3:16).

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life (Proverbs 4:23).

It reinforces my theme for the year of maintenance, though I want to see more than mere behavioral change. I want to see heart change. I want to desire new things. I want the changes in my life to be a symptom of transformation, not merely a result of strong willpower.

Changes are happening, but they are happening slowly. I think I’m okay with this. I feel as if I’m tackling the mess in my mind along with the mess in my house. I’m making changes and establishing new routines, but I’m doing it because I desire to do it, not because I’m supposed to do it.

So far I have not desired to change my eating habits. This would be a nice addition to the New Jen, but frankly I’m still comfort eating. I do, however, desire to exercise, so Jen is maintaining status quo on the scale (though all my pants mysteriously require belts, now, to keep them on).

I’m okay with this for the time being because I am seeing progress in other areas. I am experience a renewal of my mind, and I’m finding joy in the changes that are happening. I have faith my eating habits will change in time.

Thanks to Red Letter Girl for the reminder of the Oprah show!

Weekend Project.

weekend project

We don’t have an entryway.

I have dozens of pictures clipped from magazines of large, high-ceiling-ed entryways with sweeping staircases and homey benches. I have pictures of back door mud rooms with cute storage lockers or cubbies sectioned off for each child. I have pictures of old wardrobes converted to coat closets, of closet system installations, of change jars and old-fashioned telephones atop hall tables.

I had it all figured out, and then I bought a house with no front entryway, no back door mud room, and no coat closet.

We started with a coat tree. I hate coat trees. Thankfully ours never tipped over, but when I cleared all the coats off I found a purse I’d been looking for since last summer and a mysterious red jacket from Land’s End in size 18 months. If you’re the first to hang your coat up when arriving, it takes you ten minutes to uncover it again when you leave.

Not to mention the kids can’t reach it to hang up their coats.

I put together this little ensemble from Ikea for less than fifty bucks. Two basic coat hook racks, and a bench-shoe-rack thing from the bathroom section. We are not a no-shoes house, but with all our bedrooms upstairs it’s not practical to keep the kids’ shoes in their rooms. Having them right by the door saves time and hassle when we are rushing out the door.

At the suggestion of a friend, who is one of my two personal decorators, we flipped the couch to the other side and put the chairs against the wall (you can see the arm of the black club chair). This opened up more space in that corner for a cute little kid sized coat rack that Thomas and Ruthie ADORE. Just like he announced the new kitchen to every visitor, Thomas WILL point out his new coat rack every time you come over.

I may frame some of Ruthie’s art and hang it above their coats.

The milestone for me in all of this – besides the fact we actually hauled out a drill and did it – is that it looks nothing like what I always wanted, yet I’m so happy with it. I needed to adjust my expectations to fit my circumstances. I needed to let go of the picture in my head.

Which I did.

And now I’m well on the road to maintaining order in my home.


I came across a couple old friends on the bookshelf a couple months ago when I was Shelfari-ing through my late night espresso high. I read Thomas A` Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ and Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest waaaay back when I was eighteen or nineteen years old, but as I leafed through the pages I stumbled across a couple passages I had underlined that still ring true today.

Be careful to maintain strenuously God’s point of view, it has to be done every day, bit by bit; don’t think on the finite…. We are here to exhibit one thing – the absolute captivity of our lives to Jesus Christ.
-Oswald Chambers

Never make this plea – If only I were somewhere else! All God’s men are ordinary men made extraordinary by the matter He has given them.
-Oswald Chambers

It is vanity to give thought only to this present life, and to care nothing for the life to come. It is vanity to love things that so swiftly pass away, and not to hasten onwards to that place where everlasting joy abides.
-Thomas A` Kempis

At times, God will withdraw from you; at times you will be troubled by your neighbor, and, what is more, you will often be a burden to yourself. Neither can any remedy or comfort bring you relief, but you must bear it as long as God wills. For God desires that you learn to bear trials without comfort, that you may yield yourself wholly to Him, and grow more humble through tribulation.
-Thomas A` Kempis

I am a slave to my circumstances. I surrender my emotions the them, I surrender my time to them, I surrender my will to them. I am blinded by my circumstances and can’t see beyond them. I am a little discouraged that I could see this in myself so long ago, yet I feel I have only worsened.

Romans 6:17 says, But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

It is my hope for this new year that I will overcome my blindness to the Big Picture, and be able to relinquish control of my circumstances to Christ.


Read a great post over at The Vox Pop’s Reforming the Feminine blog called Agenda Wendy. Here is an excerpt:

Agenda Wendy has a plan. Something occurred to her that would be a really good thing to do. There’s nothing wrong with that. But then woe to the obstacle that gets in Agenda Wendy’s way. Agenda Wendy becomes singularly focused on her agenda and either runs over or resents anyone who gets in her way. Agenda Wendy doesn’t appreciate interruptions.

Hello, my name is A-Jen-da. And you, Agenda Wendy, have most succinctly described who I am and why my husband drinks heavily.

This was a timely post, as I’m thinking of my issues of comfort and control as I look at 2008 and how to best establish measurable goals for change. I appreciated her three points of what she is learning, and need to consider these for myself.

Fa la la la frump.

I knew this was going to be a difficult Christmas season, and I tried to prepare myself for it mentally. Bryan is working long hours (which means I’m working long hours at home with the kids) and we weren’t planning to get a tree since we’re leaving town half way through the month. It’s hard to get into good cheer when things around me don’t look festive, and we aren’t spending time together shopping or baking or otherwise collaborating on the season. Add to this a few days of puking children and unresolved marital tension, and it just doesn’t seem worth the energy to pull out even some of the boxes of decorations.

It’s been the sort of week where I can’t even go downstairs to switch the laundry over without someone destroying something or starting a fight. I lost a contact lens, and my glasses have an old prescription, which makes everything look blurry. All the squinting makes my neck and shoulders tight. This makes me anxious, because my nightmares always involve me not being able to see – either my hat keeps falling over my eyes, or it’s dark, or it’s blurry. Every day I wear glasses feels a bit like reliving a nightmare.

Because of this, I’ve largely given up on Getting Things Done, and instead have made it three fourths of the way through a novel in less than 12 hours. If I could get away with it, I’d be spending my days in bed, hiding under the covers.

I’m feeling depressed, but not the kind of depressed that medication can make better. Whiskey? Yes. But Zoloft? Not so much. I’d like to think that if my circumstances changed I would be able to get out of this slump. But in reality, I know that blaming shitty circumstances is not always something I can get away with.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:4-7).

In the past this passage has always irritated me – it seemed trite and flippant, as if the author, Paul, has no idea what it’s like to be me. But my pastor made a very compelling argument to the contrary: Paul, the man who was shipwrecked, beaten, and imprisoned, and was actually writing these words from prison, might have some credibility when writing about anxiousness. He was not in a position to be simple nor flippant.

I hate that I can’t shake this sermon from my head. I hate that I can’t ignore this passage of Truth. I hate that I can’t blame someone or something else for the way I’m feeling right now. I’m stuck in this really dark place of being angry about the Way Things Are.

The Lord is near, yet my anger seems to be pushing everyone close to me away. Do not be anxious, yet my irritability is contagious. Present your requests to God, but I fear he will not take care of me.

– – –

And there it is, the sentence that, once typed, unplugs the tub and lets all the water out: I fear he will not take care of me. After writing that, I walked away to cry for a few hours. It feels strangely comforting to admit I don’t trust God, especially given that it doesn’t change my circumstances, and that I’m still feeling kind of angry about everything.

I guess I’m craving some of that peace which transcends all understanding. Which Easy Button do I press to get me some of that?

It’s not all rainbows and puppies around here…

It’s been a rough week at the Zughaus. The kids were puking, and I wasn’t getting any sleep. I had to make another trip to the ER with Thomas to rehydrate him, almost had to make a second trip, and throughout it all Bryan had to work until nine or ten at night. Under that kind of stress and exhaustion, he and I haven’t been very nice to each other.

I’ve been patient with the kids to a point, but when one is still sick and the other is feeling better enough to antagonize everyone else I start to lose my mind just a little bit. Posting last night’s video is my attempt at capturing a shining moment in a dark week.

But this morning, when I cheerfully announce that it’s time for preschool and we are actually LEAVING THE HOUSE, and a certain child screams at me to go away because she wants to stay in the bath…these are the moments I break down and cry, right there in front of everybody.

When I spend my week snuggling, and comforting, and worrying, covered in puke and washing load after load of puked on sheets and towels – getting screamed at by those same cherubs I cared for just makes me want to go on strike.

In trying to maintain perspective, I think about Jesus – how he was perfect, sinless, and without fault. Yet in his perfection, he took my lying, angry, bitter sin upon himself and died, taking it all to the grave with him. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). I’ve been thinking about this all morning. I can’t compete with what kind of sacrifice Jesus made for me, but I know he calls me to love others sacrificially.

So this morning I’ve been praying for peace, graciousness, and a heart that desires to serve, even when my service is not always appreciated.