That’s how our house imploded.
I, thinking my three children could share, poured some shredded cheese into one bowl, then set it on the table in front of them.
For a short while, they happily took turns driving their fist into the pile, and then shoving a handful of the stuff into their mouths.
But then the pile grew smaller and smaller. The handfuls less and less.
My middle child grabbed the bowl and clutched it against her chest, claiming it as her own.
“Hey! Give that back!” my oldest shouted, afraid that she wouldn’t get enough.
“This is mine!” Middle replied, stuffing another bite into her mouth for good measure.
My two-year-old simply sat in his chair and started roaring.
The noise and demands escalated quickly.
Maybe they’ll figure this out on their own, I thought. Maybe they’ll remember to take care of each other. Maybe they’ll simply ask me for help.
But no one thought to ask for help. No one even thought to ask for more. Heck, in their primal, animalistic state, they didn’t seem to be thinking much at all. In fact, though I was sitting directly in front of them, I’m pretty sure they forgot I was there all together.
And yet, there I was, watching in horror as my children tore each other apart for a sliver of Parmesan.
I cradled the plastic bag in my hands, feeling its heaviness, its fullness, then pressed my fingers against the bulge of cheese that rested inside. I had everything they wanted, and then some.
Finally, I interjected in a voice that topped my son’s, who was now completely red in the face. The chaos quieted.
“Do you not trust that I will give you everything you need?” I asked.
Middle eyed me suspiciously, still clinging to the bowl. “Yes, I trust you.”
“Then why are you working so hard to take care of yourself?” I asked. “Your brother and sister are hungry. If you trust that I will take care of you, why not give them some cheese?”
“Well I’m hungry, too!” Her face scrunched in repugnance, angry that others’ needs were being placed above her own.
“I know you are.” I lifted the plastic bag and it crinkled in my hand. “Do you see how much I have that I can give to you? How about just asking for more?”
Her body relaxed as she smiled for the first time since the fight broke out. She handed me her bowl. “Mom, can I have some more cheese, please?”
I opened the bulging bag and poured some into her bowl. “Now, when I give this to you, you can give some to your brother and sister, and we can work together to take care of each other. Right?”
“Right.” She reached for the replenished bowl and then scooted it toward her siblings. “Would you guys like some?”
Happily, they all dug in until only small crumbs were left at the bottom of the bowl, and eventually they left the table satisfied and smiling.
And yet, more often than not, we act like the quarreling kids who cling too tightly to their valuables. More often than not, we’re too worried about ourselves to recognize someone else. And, always, when we fail to recognize someone else, we also fail to be the hands who fulfills their needs.
Now, more than ever, it seems as though it’s every man for himself.
How on earth did we get here?
That’s how the world imploded.
God, thinking His children could share, gave us lots of good gifts and set them in this one world we have right in front of us.
For a while, we happily took turns buying and trading, and then shoving the things into our lives one handful at a time.
But then the piles grew smaller and smaller. The handfuls less and less.
And y’all, panic has most definitely struck.
We have wiped entire shelves clean so we can have more than enough during these uncertain days. We’ve shouted at one another over grocery items and mask usage. We’ve suspiciously eyed others for an invisible contagion, instead of seeing what was truly before them—another human being.
The noise and demands have escalated quickly.
Maybe they’ll figure this out on their own, God probably thought. Maybe they’ll remember to take care of each other. Maybe they’ll simply ask Me for help.
But not many have thought to ask Him for help. Heck, in our primal, animalistic state, we don’t seem to be thinking much at all. In fact, though He’s been sitting directly in front of us, I’m pretty sure we forgot He was even there.
And yet, there He is, surely watching in horror, as His children tear each other apart for a sliver of Charmin at the grocery store.
All along, He’s been trying to interject, but He has the patience to wait until the chaos quiets.
Then and only then—in the still, small silence—will He speak. But to hear Him, we must stop talking and actually listen.
“Do you not trust that I will give you everything you need?” He asks.
“Yes.” The word drags itself cautiously over my lips as I eye Him suspiciously. “I trust you.”
“Then why are you working so hard to take care of yourself?” He challenges in return. “Your brothers and sisters are in need. If you trust that I will take care of you, why not give them some of what you already have?”
“Well I need things, too!” My face scrunches in anger as others’ needs get placed before my own. Suffocation clutches my chest in a way that only comes from fear. The fear of not having enough. Enough time. Enough money. Enough food and sleep and air. Enough sanity. Definitely not enough sanity.
“I know you do.” The Creator of the universe responds. “But do you know how much I have that I can give to you? How about just asking Me for what you need?”
My body relaxes as I chuck up a desperate plea for grace and provision.
Then, as He has been known to do, he showers me with three meals a day, a means to pay our bills, and a miraculous amount of energy.
“Now,” He adds, “when I give this to you, give some to your brothers and sisters so we can work together to take care of each other.”
My son has disappeared.
Not physically, thank heavens.
But my smiley, go-with-the-flow, happy-to-help toddler has been replaced by some body snatcher who constantly sulks, shoulders drooped, head down, shouting things like, “I don’t want to!” or some whiny form of “Stoooop!”
Mass has become difficult. Nap time is impossible. Getting him to eat a meal? Forget about it. Heck, even playing together is now a challenge.
But we still grind through all those things because we know who he is—who he really is—and, by golly, we love him.
It wasn’t much of a surprise then, when his legs went limp in the parking lot as we walked into Mass. Then he planted his sneakers firmly on the sidewalk, refusing to move another step.
“Come on, bud,” I called.
He simply crossed his arms over his chest and huffed.
I steeled myself for battle, then scooped him off the ground and carried him inside.
“That’s not who you are,” I remind him, as I do several times a day. “You are good. You are kind. You are sweet.”
I go on and on, detailing the person I know he is.
You are loving. You are helpful. You are smart. You are silly. You like to make people laugh.
He relaxes in my arms and rests his head against my shoulder as I carry him inside. My heart melts. There’s my boy.
Maybe, just maybe, today won’t be such a struggle.
Together, as a family, we process down the aisle, get down on our knees to say hi to Jesus, then slide into the front pew.
Then I make a fatal mistake. I whisper my son’s name in his ear.
But the boy in my lap is not my son. At least, not at that moment.
“Don’t talk to me, Mom!” He pushes himself off my lap, scampers away, and then sits, hunched over, legs draped over the side of the pew. As far away from the rest of us as possible.
If he were my first child—heck, maybe even my second—I would have hunted him down and forced him into my lap like a normal child SO HELP ME.
But he’s the third. And his two older sisters both went through this, then turned out just fine. (I think.)
This, I’ve learned, is a developmental stage that his two-year-old brain simply cannot avoid.
And this, I’ve learned, is not who he is.
He’s not the gargoyle at the end of the pew.
He’s the boy who laughs so hard he snorts. The boy who dreams of becoming a basketball player and a priest. The boy whose face lights up when he runs to me first thing in the morning. And, when I scoop him into my arms, he’s boy who gently rubs my back and says, “Mommy, you’re a great Mommy.”
At some point, that boy will return. It might not be today. It might not be tomorrow. It might be after his next birthday, when these twos stop being so terrible. But at some point, he will be himself again.
How do I know?
Because he’s mine.
I’ve been here with him since the moment he existed. Who else would know him better than I do?
I know who he really is, who he was created to be.
I glance his way a few times during Mass, but the boy doesn’t move a muscle.
So I leave him there. Alone. Sad. Separated from the rest of us.
He didn’t need a consequence from me. He was inflicting the most painful consequence on himself.
Finally, somewhere near the end, he looks my way. I open my arms, inviting him to come back, and he willingly runs to me and snuggles into my lap.
As the final hymn plays, he dances at my feet and shouts goodbye as the priest processes away. My heart swells with love for him.
There’s my boy. He’s back.
In that moment, I think of all the times I’ve been moody and self-absorbed. All the pity-parties I’ve thrown for myself. All the times I’ve held God at arms’ length or ignored Him all together.
And how that must really drive Him nuts. Because that, I’ve learned, is not who I am.
I’m the girl who dreams of writing and living in a way that shows everyone how invaluable they are. The girl whose face lights up when she gets to sit on the porch with a cup of coffee and her Bible first thing in the morning. And, when she encounters God, she’s the girl who, with great awe, says, “Man, You’re a really great Father.”
And no matter what, that girl will always return.
How do I know?
Because I’m His.
He’s been with me since the moment I existed. Who else would know me better than He does?
He knows who I really am, who He created me to be.
And He whispers it into my ear if I listen closely enough.
You are good. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. You do not have a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.
Patiently, He waits for me to turn to Him, to choose Him.
To be who I really am.
If you’re anything like us, dinner time looks a lot like the end of the world.
Steam rises in a big, hazy cloud. Metal clangs and crashes. Hungry babies wail at my feet or in my arms, begging to be fed. Then there’s the lone grown up, running frantically, bouncing from place to place, trying to make sure everyone’s okay.
“Dinner time!” I adjust the baby on my hip, swipe the sheen of sweat from my forehead with the back of my arm, and dump a scoop of peas onto a plastic plate. “Time to help the family!”
Some of my kids moan, others resist. But whatever the case, someone leads the way to the kitchen and all my kids stomp in together.
Everyone will have to chip in to get the job done.
One of my daughters retrieves utensils and napkins (whether she got the correct kind or amount, heaven only knows) while the two-year-old carries his plate step-by-painstakingly-focused-step toward the table.
“How can I help?” my oldest asks.
Smiling, I give her a task I know she’ll love. “How about you get everyone’s milk?”
The young girl’s face lights up, excited to use her privilege of being the only kid allowed to pour milk from the gallon. Using all her strength, she heaves the huge jug from the refrigerator, then plops it onto the table beside three small cups. The lid clicks as she twists it off.
A brand new gallon.
She tilts the open container little by little. Her arms shake beneath its weight as she hoists it higher.
Then, like a tidal wave, the milk gushes out, splashing everywhere before pooling on the tile.
“I’m so sorry!” Her brow furrows with remorse.
“It’s okay. Accidents happen.” I hand her a towel. “Let’s clean it up.”
Together, on hands and knees, we wipe up the mess.
Eventually, everyone makes it to the table. Broken, messy, and imperfect. The napkins are scattered on the floor and only half of us have forks. We’re a total hodgepodge. A beautiful, jumbled mess. Some things are there, some aren’t. Like the set of my seven-year-old’s teeth.
But we’re together, and that’s what matters.
The serving didn’t have to be perfect. But it did need to be practiced.
After all, I could do all those things myself—pouring the milk, getting the utensils, setting the table. In fact, it’d probably be easier and quicker if I did.
But I don’t ask my children to set the table so they get really good at pouring milk or carrying full plates (though those skills do come in very handy).
I ask them to do those things so they can practice serving others. So they can make a habit of identifying someone’s need and then working to fulfill it. It’s for their good and the good of everyone around that I ask them to help.
How would they learn to serve, to help, to love, if I did it all for them?
That, I realize, is exactly what God does with us.
If you’re anything like me, when you check the news it looks a lot like the end of the world.
Another spike in coronavirus. Another human being mercilessly murdered. Another riot, another looting, another business up in flames.
Mess after mess after stinking mess.
I look to God then, asking why, why, would He allow this to happen?
Couldn’t He simply take it all away? Conquer COVID-19 and the global quarantine? Give people their jobs back? Eliminate racism and prejudice? Miraculously remove the hurt and anger that burns in wounded hearts?
The answer is yes. He could. In fact, it’d probably be easier and quicker if He did.
But how would we learn to serve, to help, to love, if He did everything for us?
It’s for our good and the good of everyone around us that God asks us to help. He allows there to be a need so we can identify it and work to fulfill it. And boy, does the world have a lot of needs right now.
My heart aches as I scroll through the news, finally becoming aware of some of my brothers’ and sisters’ needs. Never before did I realize the work that must be done.
“Time to help the family,” God says.
Some moan, others resist. But whatever the case, someone leads the way and lots of people begin to march together.
But everyone will have to chip in to get the job done.
Some will need to educate, others to learn. Some will raise funds. Still others will speak out against segregation and oppression. To be honest, I don’t even know all the millions of ways people can pitch in.
But I do hope that we will all eventually make it to the table. Broken, messy, imperfect. Because that is humanity. We’re a total hodgepodge. A beautiful, jumbled mess.
But we’d be together, and that’s what matters.
The serving wouldn’t have to be perfect. But it would need to be practiced.
“How can I help?” I ask.
Smiling, God gives me a task He knows I’ll love. “How about you write?”
My face lights up, excited to put my privileges to good use. Using all my strength, I plop myself in front of my computer and scrub the rust from my writing skills. The keys click as I etch black marks onto the blank page.
A brand new post.
The weight of these words is too much and I struggle to understand—let alone convey—the true state of our current reality. The immense sadness. The danger. The hurt. How these tragedies happened right under my nose without my recognition, and thus, without my efforts to stop them. I’ve dropped the ball, leaving not a pool of milk, but my neighbor’s blood on the ground.
“I’m sorry!” My brow furrows with remorse.
God simply hands me a towel. “Let’s clean it up.”
Everything’s bigger in Texas. Including severe weather.
Here, there is no defined ‘tornado season’. Not really, anyway. At any given time, warm weather can tango with an incoming cold front and transform into funnel-shaped danger.
Typically, Texas reports about 140-150 tornadoes each year, a quota it reached by May in 2019. In October of that year, 10 tornadoes pummeled through north Dallas in one day alone, one of which was an EF-3, the strongest twister in that area since 1976. In its wake, it left $2 billion in damages, nearly 1,000 buildings damaged or destroyed, and 150,000 people with no power.
My kids don’t know those things, of course.
But they do know that tornadoes are powerful, unpredictable, and completely uncontrollable.
And that’s scary.
So it isn’t any wonder that they were in tears recently when our area got put under a Tornado Watch from 3-9pm.
I tried calming them down by explaining that a Tornado Watch didn’t mean there were tornadoes, just that there might be tornadoes. And even if a tornado did come, it wouldn’t necessarily be near our house.
That did nothing.
Then I reminded them of our “safe spot”—the place in our home where we would be the safest.
That didn’t help, either.
Their panicked questions kept coming. For six straight hours.
“What if the sirens go off while we’re in the car?”
“What if the sirens go off while we’re sleeping?”
“What if the tornado sucks us out of our room before you get to us?”
“What if you’re not checking the weather enough and the tornado comes and we don’t even know about it?”
“What if the sirens go off but there really is no tornado?”
What if? What if? What if?
“Baby,” I coo to my four-year-old who’s too hysterical to sleep, “do you think I love anything else more than you and your siblings?”
“No,” she sniffles. “Well, maybe Daddy.”
I chuckle at her answer, then tuck some of her blond hair behind her ear. “Daddy is my favorite person in the whole world, you’re right about that. But he can take care of himself, and he’ll be right there helping me take care of you. So if anything happens, what will be the first thing I run to get?”
“That’s right,” I say and wipe the tears away from her flushed face. “I will run to you and protect you before I do anything else. Do you trust me?”
“Then the answer to all of your questions is, ‘I trust Mom will take care of me.’ Deal?”
“So what happens if the sirens go off while we’re in the car?” I ask.
She meets my question with a blank stare, so I playfully move her lips with my fingers and morph my voice to mimic hers. “I trust Mom will take care of me.”
Her little face brightens for the first time since the clouds went dark.
“And if the sirens go off while you’re asleep?” I ask.
“I trust Mom will take care of me.”
“Good.” I tousle her hair with my hand. “But what if the sirens go off and there really is no tornado?”
She looks at me squarely, the tears already replaced by courage, as a smile spreads into a crescent on her face. “I trust Mom will take care of me.”
I nod proudly, smiling as my little girl marches calmly back into her room, closes the door and stays quiet the rest of the night.
As the door clicks closed behind her, I can’t help but to notice how much she is like her mother.
The one who silently asks God so many “What if?” questions.
I don’t know the stats on everything, of course.
But I do know that life is powerful, unpredictable, and completely uncontrollable.
And that’s scary.
So it isn’t any wonder I was in tears recently when it came time to deliver my newest baby—a delivery I’d been fearing for nine straight months.
Because of complications with my last baby, I was at higher risk of uterine rupture, a situation that could lead to “catastrophic events” for both mom and baby.
It was my worst nightmare.
My doctor tried calming me down by explaining that a chance for uterine rupture didn’t mean it would absolutely happen, just that it might happen. And even if a rupture did occur, it wouldn’t necessarily mean death. Just excruciating pain.
That did nothing.
Then my husband reminded me of our safe pregnancies—the babies who slid into this world without complication.
That didn’t help, either.
My panicked questions kept coming. For nine straight months.
“What if my uterus ruptures and the baby dies?”
“What if I have to have another emergency c-section?”
“What if I die and I never see my husband and kids again?”
“What if, since I’ll be delivering during flu season, my kids have the flu when their baby sister is born? What if I have the flu? What if the baby gets the flu?”
What if? What if? What if?
“Kelsey,” Jesus interrupts my hysterical prayers, “do you think I love anything else more than you?”
“No,” I sniffle. “Well, maybe the Father.”
He chuckles at my answer, then tucks some of my brown hair behind my ear. “Abba is my favorite, you’re right about that. But He can take care of Himself, and He’ll be right there helping Me take care of you. So if anything happens, what will be the first thing I run to get?”
“That’s right,” He says and wipes the tears from my flushed face. “I will run to you and protect you before I do anything else. Do you trust me?”
“Then the answer to all of your questions is, ‘I trust Jesus will take care of me.’ Deal?”
“So what happens if your uterus ruptures and the baby dies?” He asks.
I meet His question with a blank stare, too scared to even approach the idea. He morphs His voice to mimic mine. “I trust Jesus will take care of me.”
My face brightens for the first time since the worry began to weigh me down.
“And if you have to have another emergency c-section?” He asks.
“I trust Jesus will take care of me.”
“Good.” He tousles my hair like I’m a little child. “But what if you die during labor and delivery?”
I look at Him squarely, the tears already replaced by courage, as a smile spreads into a crescent on my face. “I trust Jesus will take care of me.”
Jesus nods proudly, smiling as His little girl marches calmly back into life, closes the door on her fear and tries, instead, to trust.
You know those times when your kind, sweet kiddos transform into selfish savages who are constantly at each other’s throats? (No? Is that just us?)
Well, that’s where we are right now.
I’m no stranger to these stages. We tend to undulate into them every so often.
No one cares about anyone else. No one listens. Everyone simply goes wild.
There’s blood. Screaming. Tears. The other day, my son even handed me a fistful of someone’s hair.
But I know this stage is fleeting. So I choose to love my kids anyway, despite their craziness. And I still, somehow, want to give them good things.
So after dinner one night, I decided it would be fun to dish out some dessert. Not based on merit, simply based on my love for them.
As I cleaned the scooper, I smirked and turned to my oldest, who’d had a particularly rough day. “Do you think you should get to have some ice cream?”
Her mouth dropped open and her eyes longingly stared at the utensil in my hand. She hadn’t considered there being a reward that night. One that she might have to miss out on based on her selfishness and disobedience.
She flicked her gaze to me, still pleading, as she laid out every good deed she’d done that day. Granted, most of them were stretched and embellished.
Smiling at her desperate sales pitch, I dipped the scoop into the ice cream. I’d planned all along to give her the special treat. She hadn’t earned it. It was a free gift. One given out of my love for her.
“I love you, kiddo,” I said as I set the bowl of ice cream in front of her at the table. “You can have this treat just because I love you.”
She gushed with thanks, savoring each bite, while the other kids dug in without thought. I imagine the dessert tasted even sweeter to her as it melted on her tongue, knowing that she didn’t deserve one granule of its sugar.
After they went to bed, I checked some news to see what was going on in the world.
And you know those times when your kind, sweet kiddos transform into selfish savages who are constantly at each other’s throats?
Well, that’s where we are right now. As a culture. As a country. As a humanity.
God’s no stranger to these stages. Heck, just take a look at history. We tend to undulate into them every so often.
No one seems to care about anyone else. No one listens. Everyone simply goes wild.
There’s shootings. Suicides. Wars.
But God knows this world is fleeting. So He chooses to love us anyway, despite our craziness. And He still, somehow, wants to give us good gifts.
So after we close our eyes for the last time, He decided it would be fun to dish out some salvation. Simply based on His love for us.
On Judgement Day, I imagine He’ll smirk at me, shining in his radiant splendor. “Do you think you should get to have heaven?”
My mouth might drop open, my gaze longingly fixed on the Almighty. How many days had gone by without me considering the reward that awaited me? One that I might have to miss out on based on my selfishness and disobedience.
Will I flick my gaze to Him and plead my case, laying out every good deed I’d done over the course of my life? Would I stretch and embellish my acts to persuade Him to open the gates for me?
I shake my head, knowing the answer.
God doesn’t need us to sell Him on who we are. He wants us to tell Him who we are in Him.
Loved. Saved. Redeemed.
Through no merit of my own.
“No,” I’d respond, dropping my gaze—and perhaps my entire body—to the ground at His feet. “I don’t think I should get to have Heaven.”
Every virtue I possess. Every good deed attributed to my name. Every act of charity I’ve done. I only attained those with the help of God.
I am the crazy stage. The wildness. The selfishness.
And that deserves no part in heaven.
I depend solely on God’s mercy to enter His Kingdom.
Smiling at my desperate reliance on Him, He might step aside and usher me into utopia. He’d planned all along to give me the special treat. I hadn’t earned it. It was a free gift. One given out of His love for me.
As I set foot inside, I envision myself gushing with eternal thanks. And as I partake in paradise, I imagine it tasting even better, knowing that I didn’t deserve even one granule of its sweetness.
Posted on July 5, 2019
I do not exist.
At least, that’s how I feel most days.
My older kids have entered this fun, new stage where their ears have become deaf to the sound of my voice. It’s as though my words are nothing but the wind. I could scream that the house was on fire and they’d still sit there, unflinching at the kitchen table, trying to decide if they should use ‘hot magenta’ or ‘primrose’ for the queen bunny’s scepter in their coloring book.
It’s only when they disagree, the argument coming to punches and tears, before they come running to me, fingers pointing at the other in accusation, expecting me to condemn and punish the one who’s in the wrong.
Then there’s my youngest who’s nearing his second birthday, and has firmly decided to remind me of the dangerous combination of having too many emotions and too few words.
In the course of a single day, it’s not uncommon for someone to run away from me and someone else to angrily chase me down.
I’ve been both shouted at and given the silent treatment.
I’ve been hit, slapped in the face, and bitten.
Because to my children, I’m merely whatever they want me to be. A judge. An executioner. A security blanket. A punching bag. A genie who will make whatever they want materialize in front of them.
But rarely, if ever, am I treated like the full person that I am. A person with hopes and a heart for them. A person who wants the best for them. A person who dreams the lofty dream for her children to become saints.
And so they lose sight of the biggest part of my identity. They lose me.
“You know why you treat me like this?” I asked them on a particularly tough day. “Because I’m ALWAYS HERE.”
It was an inappropriate release of anger, really. An expression of my feeling trapped, confined to the chaos, even on the days when all I want to do is run away or sit alone crying in the closet.
But it’s true.
I’m always there, elbow-deep in the foulness, even when I can’t stand the stench.
I’m always here.
To me, those words can be suffocating. A lifelong prison sentence. An unbearable, impossible task.
But in the same moment I shouted those words at my children, God whispered them to me.
You see, I’ve been in this stage lately where I haven’t heard from my Father very much. It’s not for His lack of trying, I’m sure. My ears have simply been deaf to His voice, as though His words were nothing but the wind. He could scream that my life was inflamed with sin, and I’d sit there, unflinching in my living room, trying to decide if I should watch Captain Marvel or Captain America after the kids are in bed.
It’s only when I’m angry or hurt, my arguments usually ending in tears, before I come sprinting to Him.
And during this pregnancy, I’ve taken it upon myself to remind Him of the extremely dangerous combination of having too many emotions and too few words in prayer.
In the course of a single day, it’s not uncommon for me to run away from Him and also angrily chase Him down.
He’s been both shouted at and given the silent treatment.
Because to me, He becomes whatever I want Him to be. A judge. An executioner. A security blanket. A punching bag. A genie who can make whatever I want materialize in front of me.
But rarely is He treated like the full Person that He is. A Person with hopes and a heart for me. A Person who wants the best for me. A Person who dreams the lofty dream for His child to become a saint.
And so I lose sight of the biggest part of His identity. I lose Him.
“You know why you treat Me like this?” He asks me again on that particularly tough day. “Because I’m always here.”
And it’s true.
He’s always there, elbow-deep in my foulness, even when I’m sure He can’t stand the stench.
I’m always here.
But to God, those words are a promise. An eternal covenant. A profession of real, unconditional, unbreakable love.
My son has a severe case of separation anxiety.
As he grows, the issue seems to intensify, despite the fact that I drop him off at his grandparents’ house one day each week so I can have a few hours of uninterrupted writing time (praise God for grandparents!)
To him, it doesn’t matter that his grandparents are modern-day saints who immerse him in love and his favorite books, toys, and tv shows. It doesn’t matter that we’ve done this song and dance every week for over a year. It doesn’t even matter that I always return, full of hugs and kisses, ready to scoop him up in my arms and keep him there as long as he pleases.
The moment we separate, he freaks out.
You’d think he would have grown out of this by now.
But he hasn’t.
To him, separation from me actually hurts. And there’s nothing else in the world that can fill the void of my absence, nothing that can quench the immense longing he has for me.
If he knew me—I mean, really knew me—he’d understand that I am incredibly flawed and thus, by nature, unable to fulfill him. In this regard, it seems silly and unreasonable that he would distress so much over me.
But babies are silly and unreasonable.
So he cries, throwing his tiny, helpless hands out to me, desperately pleading for me to stay.
There’s inconsolable tears. Red, hot cheeks. Difficulty breathing. A desperate chase. And then a painful, constant, unfulfilled longing after I’m gone.
And maybe he’s onto something.
Shouldn’t that be our reaction at the separation we have from our Father?
If we knew Him—I mean, really knew Him—it would validate having intense separation anxiety. After all, God is perfect love, and thus by nature, the only thing that can fulfill us. In this regard, it seems silly and unreasonable that we wouldn’t distress over losing Him.
It shouldn’t matter to us if we are surrounded by modern-day saints or our favorite books, toys, or tv shows. It shouldn’t matter that we’ve done this song and dance since the Fall, when Adam and Eve brought this separation upon us. It shouldn’t even matter that God always returns, ready to scoop us up in His arms and keep us there as long as we please.
The moment we’re separated from God, we should freak out. To us, separation from Him should actually hurt. And nothing else in the world should be able to fill the void of His absence. Nothing else should be able to quench the immense longing we have for Him.
So I’ll cry, throwing my tiny, helpless hands out to Him, desperately pleading for Him to stay.
Inconsolable tears? A desperate chase? A painful, constant, unfulfilled longing? I’ll cling to those.
Because as I’ve grown to know God better, my separation anxiety has intensified.
And that is something I never want to grow out of.
My family has a Christmas tradition that makes most people’s heads explode.
We don’t do Santa.
(I can hear the gasps from here.)
Don’t get me wrong, we still talk about Santa, watch movies and read books about Santa. Heck, we even go visit him. But my husband and I explain to our kids that Santa is a fun game people play at Christmas to show generosity and kindness.
There are lots of reasons we chose to do this (reasons I won’t go into on this post, but if anyone has questions, feel free to contact me at my link above.) But the truth is, my husband and I spent lots of long nights deliberating over this decision.
You’d be surprised how pressure-filled and difficult it was for us to grind our way down this path. We questioned ourselves. We wondered how our kids would respond. But in the end, it seemed to be working out really well.
Until something strange happened.
This year, my three-year-old thinks Santa is real. Even though we have told her the opposite, point-blank.
She knows that Santa is a game people play. She knows the guys in Santa suits are just men playing dress up. And she knows that Santa is a representation of a real man named St. Nicholas of Myra (because she picks a book about St. Nicholas every night at bedtime.)
So, it isn’t any wonder I got whiplash the first time she spotted “the real Santa” (ahem, a gentlemen with a white beard and rotund tummy who was not dressed up as Santa.)
Over and over now, she gawks at Santa-like men until they notice her and wish her a Merry Christmas. Then she flees to me, squealing with delight and clinging to my leg for dear life. Once the men pass by, she looks up at me, doe-eyed, and points a finger in his direction.
“It was him!” she whispers.
At least once a day, she talks about Santa. She loves the guy. And she really believes he will bring her the jet packs she asked for for Christmas. (According to her, they have size 3T at Target.)
This drastic turnaround of hers got me wondering: How can people believe something when they’ve been flat-out told that its opposite is true?
It’s like we’re hardwired to hope and believe.
Even as adults, we have a natural programming to believe. All of us, to some degree, believe in something. Be it a science-explains-all approach or aliens or Jesus Christ or the idea that humans are absolutely alone in the universe.
Whatever the case, the answer is we don’t have the answers, so we believe in something to fill in the blanks.
Personally, I choose to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, who took on flesh, became man, and died at the hands of men for the salvation of humanity.
Sounds a little fantastical, no?
So what’s to say that my belief in Jesus is not some antiquated legend or holiday farce?
How do I know I’m not just a grown-up version of my naive daughter?
I mean, here I am staking my life on God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. How do I know that this is not all in my head? How do I know that any of it is actually true?
Because ultimately we, as Christians, have a faith that is based on reason.
Will my daughter be able to prove that Santa sneaked into our house and left gifts under the tree? No.
Will I be able to prove that Jesus was the Son of God who was crucified, died, and was buried? And that on the third day he rose from the dead and is seated at the right hand of the Father? No.
But proof and evidence are two different things, and what I can do is evaluate Christian claims in other ways.
For one, I can look at historical documents that provide evidence of Jesus’s life and death. From there I can examine any evidence that He performed miracles or rose from the dead. If those stack up, I can start to scrutinize scripture to see if/how it fits with the other evidence. I can also take into account the tradition of my belief system spanning thousands of years and the writings of those who have already asked tough questions about Christianity. And, because they’re available, I can look at the writings of the earliest Church fathers who knew people who actually hung out with this historical Jesus guy.
At that point, you start to get a pretty thick stack of reasons that back up your beliefs.
And that’s totally different than saying, “I believe in Santa because I want jet packs.”
One involves reason, thorough examination, and evidence-based conclusions. The other is based on feelsy goodsies.
So don’t be afraid to ask tough questions. Don’t be afraid to investigate. Don’t be afraid to examine and scrutinize the Christian faith.
And definitely don’t be afraid to believe.
It was a mad dash to the minivan.
We had snacks, we had water cups—though they may or may not have been filled with water—and all three kids were stampeding toward their car seats at the same time. It was even rumored that all the kids had shoes on their feet.
From the looks of things, it would be a successful roundup. (Over the years, my husband and I have somehow figured out how to do this without the use of a lasso or child hypnosis. I know, I’m a little surprised myself.)
I slipped the diaper bag onto my shoulders, shoved my feet into high heels and fastened my watch as I shuffled toward the van (because, as usual, we were late.)
At the push of a button, the van door slid open slowly and I tossed the diaper bag inside. The Elder Child was already fastened in her seat in the far back, her nose pressed to the pages of a book. The Baby was perfectly imprisoned in his pumpkin seat.
From the other side of the van, my husband’s hands furiously worked the buckle on the Middle’s safety belt. He glanced up at me with wide eyes. I’d seen that look many times before. Heck, I was comfortable with it plastered on my face. It was the look of having forgotten something.
“What is it?” I asked. Baby’s milk? Baby’s paci? Shoes? Did the kids not have shoes after all??
“Will you go get the checkbook?” my husband asked.
The checkbook? The request slapped me senseless for a moment. What in the world would he need a checkbook for in this age of digital spending? There was nothing we even needed to buy, for heaven’s sake.
But, there he was, wide-eyed, his hands still fidgeting with Middle’s five-point harness. I took off at a sprint—well, as close to a sprint as one can get in heels—click-clacking through our kitchen to the place where we keep the dusty, nearly forgotten checkbook. For a moment, I stared at the antiquated pieces of paper.
Did he want just one check? Or the whole book?
The whole book would be even more unusual than just one…but hadn’t he asked me to get the checkbook?
I shook it off. The moments I stood gawking at blank checks were moments wasted.
Get the checkbook.
I grabbed the short stack and clomped back through the house to the van.
“Did you get it?” my husband asked, strapping himself into the driver’s seat.
I nodded, somehow out of breath.
“Thanks so much.”
I handed him the blank checks. “Why did you need these?”
“Today’s the last day to get raffle tickets for the Fall Festival and it’s the church’s biggest fundraiser. I wanted to help.”
I nodded again, and finally it all made sense. His request. My response. Everything.
My husband’s request was rooted in love and service, and my response stemmed from absolute trust in him.
Because I know him so well, I trusted him, even when he asked me to do something that made zero sense. And, because I know my husband so well, I sprinted in heels—without knowing why—to do what he asked, trusting that whatever I was doing was good and important.
And it was.
I sat shotgun as we zoomed toward church. What if God asked me to go get the checkbook? Do I know him well enough—trust Him enough—to sprint off in the direction He asks me to go? Especially when it’s cloudy and vague and makes no sense?
I frowned in the front seat, knowing the answer.
When it comes to God, I usually want specific details and a fully laid out plan.
Yet, so often when it comes to God, His requests are the kind that slap us senseless for a moment.
But they are always, always rooted in love.
All I have to do is trust. And then take off sprinting.
My girls have had a tough time making good choices lately, especially when it comes to sleep. They refuse to nap, choosing to giggle beneath the blankets with each other in the top bunk instead. Then they wake up in the middle of the night to do the same thing. For hours.
As the days progress, I see their ability to function dwindling exponentially. First goes the patience. Then the kindness. Then the respectfulness. The obedience. The focus and ability to understand things. The ability to think of others instead of themselves. Everything. Everything goes out the window with each decision not to sleep.
And that’s not even counting the physical effects of sleep deprivation.
Recently, during a particularly unfortunate “nap” session, their racquet woke their baby brother, who also needed to rest.
I propped him on my hip and wiped his tiny, runny nose. “Sad choices have sad consequences,” I reminded the girls. “You’ve chosen to hurt your own bodies by not resting, and now that sad choice has also hurt your brother.”
“Sorry, Mommy,” they said in unison.
“The only way we can go to gymnastics tonight is if you rest and give your body energy. I’ll give you one more chance to make a wise choice. ”
“Okay!” They scurried to their beds and squeezed their eyes shut tight.
Gymnastics, to my girls, is the pinnacle of the week. When that day comes along, they wake up and announce to the house, “TODAY IS GYMNASTICS DAY!” Joy pours out of them in such great quantities, they have to bounce and run so they don’t explode with the emotion. And, when it’s time to go, they actually listen when I tell them to get in the van. That’s the real indicator of their love for the activity.
And I, as their mom, want to give them things they love. I want to take care of them—of their bodies, and of their wants and needs.
But the moment I closed the door behind me, little footsteps stomped up the steps to the top bunk. Then came the giggling.
My heart sank with devastation. I wanted to give them gymnastics. All they had to do was choose it.
But they didn’t.
As I opened their bedroom door, I knew what I had to do. “Girls, we can’t go to gymnastics today.”
Without a word, they rolled out of the bed and started walking out of the room. No emotion. No reaction. Nothing.
I squinted in confusion as they filed past me. “Are you not really, really sad right now?”
They both shrugged. “No.”
My boggled mind tried to make sense of this. “You mean none of this makes you sad? Hurting your brother by not letting him rest? Losing gymnastics?”
Their little shoulders shrugged again. They weren’t being difficult, they were simply being honest.
The consequences to their sad choices were somehow not making them sad. No wonder they keep making those choices over and over again.
I know my sin is a sad choice. That it separates me from God and hurts the body of Christ.
But do I really let that sink in?
What if every time I sinned, I felt the sharp, searing pain of a nail grinding through my wrist? Or heard the agonized cry of the One who took those blows for me? Or understood the gravity of being separated from the only One who makes me feel whole?
Then, maybe, I’d have a better understanding of the devastation that comes from my sad choices.
But instead, I often sin and then keep moving on with life—without emotion or reaction—ready to go do whatever’s next.
As the sins progress, it can be difficult for me to see myself becoming less like Christ. But it’s there. First goes the patience. Then the kindness. Then the respectfulness. The obedience. The focus and ability to understand things. The ability to think of others instead of myself. Everything. Everything goes out the window with each sin.
Then I forge a way past my Father as I go, leaving Him behind me to feel the weight of the devastation.
“Are you not really, really sad right now?” He asks.
I shrug in apathy. “No.”
“None of this makes you sad? The nails in my wrist? The wound in my side? Hurting your brothers and sisters because of your sad choices?”
I shrug my shoulders again. I’m not being difficult, I’m simply being honest.
The consequences to my sad choices somehow don’t make me as sad as they should. It’s no wonder I keep making those choices over and over again.
God, as our Father, wants to give us things we love. He wants to take care of us—of our bodies, and of our greatest desires and needs. He wants to give us Himself.
All we have to do is choose it.