Saturday, June 6, 2015


    "Only self can kill joy.  I'm the one doing this to me. The demanding of my own will is the singular force that smothers out joy - nothing else.  Dare I ask what I think I deserve? A life with no discomforts, no inconveniences? What do I really deserve?" - Ann Voskamp "One Thousand Gifts Devotional"

    I had started off the day going to see a friend....a friend who is really sick....a heartbreaking I really can't wrap my head around.  Of course the visit was more of a blessing to me as I experienced their peace despite what others may see as hopelessness....where there should have been despair, there was still hope....and peace, knowing that the One who sees and knows all is in control and has the perfect plan, despite what our human eyes may see.  You would think this would have offered me some perspective as the day went on.....

    Within moments, the whirlwind of the day kicked up....we ran errands, came home, hurried through lunch and put one down for a nap.  I got to work tackling bills and papers forever piling up.  The interruptions were constant.....can you play with me...can you do this....that....but I had so much to do.  The millionth interruption got to me and I spouted out something about not being able to get anything done, in a whiny voice."  The recipient started to cry.  How could I make him feel less important?  I apologized...we talked....I promised to take a break shortly and give time for what really matters.  I know my impatience is unfair....they're kids....totally reliant on me, and desiring my time and attention for this season of life....  But there's just always so much to do.....and I'm just so tired...I had read that at 34 weeks pregnant, the fatigue often sets back in....I'm wondering if it's just in my head now, or did a switch really flip because I can hardly keep my eyes open and my patience is ever waning.    

      The second bus comes and it's time to help with homework.  After finishing, I keep my promise and play for a short time.....but the piles and lists are calling.  My hearts not in it and when I feel like I've fulfilled my duty I try a second time to tackle them.  Someone needs help changing into a costume...another is having computer issues.....and still another has awoke from their nap and is calling.  The clock shows that it's practically dinner time and I haven't given it a single thought.  I'm still trying to pay the same bills from earlier in the day.  I satisfy two kids and go up to get the third, who I find need of a bath, bedding tossed in the washer again (didn't I just do this yesterday?)  I have myself a good cry as I bathe him...he's not sure what is happening as the black mascara runs down my cheeks, but he insists it must be painful with his repeated pointing and "ow" so he kisses me over and over.  Now I'm crying even more.  If only I could see through a child's eyes....  We come downstairs and within seconds...mama...mama...mama....

      I cooked dinner as the three of them came in and out with their requests......and I listened as they played...and giggled....and needed me some more.  I could feel myself softening....feel the are precious gifts....and each moment, a gift too.  The soaked child, the piles, the lists....the constant calls for my help, time and attention.  This is my main ministry in this stage of life....why do I downplay the importance and complain at how hard it can be?  Why do I fail to see what's truly important.....there will always, always be piles and so much to do.  Will there always be little lives in need of molding, nurturing, loving.....wanting to receive what I have to offer?  I think of my morning visit and wonder how I could take all of this for granted......

      We eat dinner (late), everyone gets cozy in pj's and we continue a movie we started yesterday just for a little while.....coming together.....slowing down and really just being together.  We pick out a board game that's new to the kids, one from my childhood, and set out to teach them how to play.  They're all excited.....time together is what they really wanted all along....our focus and attention.  So many giggles.....the game is really over their head, but they're learning, and they're saying how fun it is.  It's about being together, I know.  It doesn't escape me this time that I almost missed out on this.  Almost missed the opportunity to enjoy some of life's most precious gifts in my life...and to show them that I value them.  

      And as I type this, weeks later now because I'm behind with everything, I have a walkie talkie next to me that is paging me every 5 seconds (no exaggeration).  And another who has stopped me after just about every word I type to ask another silly question, or think up something to tell me.  And I'm thankful that right now I'm remembering....because it's so easy to become impatient...and what good does that do for any of us?  None that I've seen so far.  But stopping, and being in the moment with that many many benefits....  

                                                              How blessed am I?

The morning after this day, I open my devotional and again I am reminded.  I feel like I am reading about often have I been exactly where she is....

"What in the world were you thinking? How many times have we said no running?  I am just....."  I'm spewing and it's ugly and the words are so frazzled with frustration they fray midstream.  I can feel the slow smothering, the tight choking, and I can feel it in the throat, rising.  My knees are stiff and it's jarring, how peace can shatter faster than glass, the breakneck speeds at which I can fall - and refuse to bend the knees at all.  I look into the faces of the guilty and a son arcs his eyebrow, shrugs his shoulders, nonchalant.  I hold my head in my hands and ask it honest before God and children and my daily mess: Can we really expect joy all the time?  I will struggle to heed this until I am no more: "Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy", and I will listen and again I will listen and I will wrestle to put skin on it: "Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again Rejoice!"  
I gnaw my lip.  The body howls when joy is extinguished.  The face shrivels pain, the voice pitches angry cry.  "No man can live without joy" is what Thomas Aquinas wrote.  And I confess it is true, I have known many dead waiting to die.  
The glass lies everywhere broken.  I may feel disappointed and the despair may flood high, but to give thanks is an action and rejoice is a verb and these are not mere pulsing emotions.  While I may not always feel joy, God asks me to give thanks in all things because He knows that the feeling of joy begins in the action of thanksgiving.  I know it well after a day smattered with rowdiness and worn a bit ragged with bickering.  Joy doesn't negate all other emotions - joy transcends all other emotions.  Only self can kill joy.  I'm the one doing this to me. The demanding of my own will is the singular force that smothers out joy - nothing else.  Dare I ask what I think I deserve? A life with no discomforts, no inconveniences? What do I really deserve?
God does not give rights but He imparts responsibilities - response-abilities - inviting us to respond to His love-gifts.  And I know and can feel it tight: I'm responding miserably to the gift of this moment.  In fact, I'm refusing it.  Proudly refusing to accept this moment, dismissing it as no gift at all, I refuse God.  I reject God.  Why is this eucharisteo always so hard?
.........A circle of children stand around me, watching, waiting.  Long slivers of transparently blades, lie before me, catching light.  I humbly open my hand.  Without a word, one by one, they come to the outer edges and they kneel too.  And I humbly open my hand to release my will to receive His, to accept His wind.  I accept the gift of now as it is - accept God - for I can't be receptive to God unless I receive what He gives.  Joy's light flickers, breathes, fueled by the will of God - fueled by Him."....
 - Ann Voskamp "One Thousand Gifts Devotional"

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