Last Friday, I read another writer’s blog post. This in itself is noteworthy because the luxury of reading other blogs isn’t coming my way very often these days. Like many of you, our plates are overflowing with church activities, work, parenting, youth sports, and other responsibilities that keep us busy from sun up to sun down. I can’t seem to find enough time to write my own blog much less to read the work of other bloggers!
But last Friday, I had a moment to myself just about the time the email notification for this new blog post showed up in my in box. So I read it. And I’m so glad that I did. This is what caught my attention:
“For years now, in a lot of different ways, I’ve been telling God that I can get my body where it needs to be but He’s going to have to do the rest.
-I can get my body on that stage to talk about the orphans who need sponsors, but he has to show up and calm me down and speak through me.
-I can get my body to the youth retreat, but he’s going to have to infuse me with energy and the ability to focus on the students when I just want to curl up on my couch and put my feet up after a long week.
-I can get my body to the mom date to hang out with a new friend, but he has to pour his love through me into her, cuz I feel a little raw and unloving and unlovable at the moment. . . .
Sometimes it seems that my part is to get my body where it needs to be and trust God to empower me in the moment, because on any given weekday when I’m juggling all the things, I don’t feel like I have a lot to offer.
And he does. He continues to meet me and work in and through me, even when I feel like a shell of a woman.” — Melanie Dale, unexpected.org
I so get this. Because in this season where it seems that God is turning my world upside down and inside out, I find that I’m having to “act my way into a new way of thinking” in a variety of places in my life. I’ve said this before. But to this point, my focus has been on me. My actions. My agenda. What I can do. And I haven’t left much room to consider how God might meet me where I am (no matter how pitiful that place might be) and empower me along the way. So in the spirit of being more generous with my time (one of the themes in this current season), I took a moment to post a comment. I rarely comment on blog posts, but I wanted to let this writer know that her post meant something to me.
What I didn’t know was how quickly I would reap the benefits of her wisdom.
Fast forward to Saturday afternoon. In the midst of all this upside down and inside out, one of the things I’ve been convicted about is excess.
We all have it.
It just comes in different forms for each of us.
So we’re tearing through our house room-by-room, looking for our excess, and getting rid of it. But instead of mindlessly donating like we often do, we’ve decided to host a garage sale with one of our neighbors, and we’re donating the money to an organization that is doing some really important work. (More on that later.)
This weekend, my focus was on the second floor of my home. The place where our kids live. The place that has been my organizational nemesis almost since the day we moved in. I just can’t get it right up there.
So Saturday afternoon, my target was our oldest son, and his bedroom, bathroom, and closet. I decided to tackle this project after being up way too late the night before serving with my family at Friday Nite Friends and getting up way too early for a 9:00 a.m. baseball game. I was tired before we started, but I had set a goal, and I was going to meet it. That’s just how I roll. Even if it kills me.
The trash we found in there. Oh, the trash. And the clutter. I can’t even speak about it. It shocks the conscience. And I’m still wondering how we didn’t lose him in there!
But we worked hard. Really hard. For about three hours. We got rid of clothes and shoes that are too small, we culled through school papers and art work, sending most everything to the recycle bin, we identified toys we can live with out, we gathered up books that need new homes, and we unfriended some stuffed animals.
But it had to be done.
We even priced all our giveaways for the garage sale. And when we were finished, his room was the cleanest it’s been since the day we moved in. And we actually had drawers, cabinets, and toy bins that were …
Wait for it …
But just as I was about to kick off my shoes, enjoy a glass of iced tea, and watch an episode of The Pioneer Woman, my son reminded me of the promise I made before we started:
“If we work really hard and get your whole room cleaned out, we can set up part of the Halloween village on the shelf above your bed!”
Ugh. Of course he remembered. Do they ever forget?
Eat. My. Words.
Honestly, about this time, I would have preferred a bikini wax or a visit to my ob/gyn over pulling out the Halloween decorations. (And no, the irony of a Halloween village in the midst of my campaign to eliminate excess is not lost on me. So don’t even.)
But I LOVE Halloween. There. I said it. Can we still be friends?
I don’t love the gory, creepy side of Halloween, but I adore the childish, festive side of it. The one that’s filled with pumpkins, candy corn, caramel apples and popcorn balls, church carnivals, kids dressed up as their favorite Disney characters, changing leaves and cooler temperatures, neighborhood festivities, and with any luck? The first fire of the season. We celebrate the coming of fall and Halloween every October. Big Time. And I love it.
And my son was making an honest mommy out of me. I had promised to get out part of the precious Department 56 Halloween Village that my in-laws have given to me over the years and set it up in his room. It’s a tradition we share almost every October, but we skipped it last year because of our move. No one was going to convince me to get the very boxes out of the attic in October that I had finally stowed away up there in September!
So I peeled myself off the sofa and walked with him to the garage. And as I stood there looking at the ladder to the attic I uttered a very short prayer in my head:
“My body’s where it needs to be. But God? You’re gonna have to do the rest. Because I’m tired, and I don’t want to do this.”
Almost immediately, I felt the weight of burden lift off my shoulders. Because I was acting my way into a new way of thinking about this little activity, and I was trusting God to help my head and my heart catch up. It was no longer up to me to make this moment between my son and me matter. What a liberating idea.
And God did show up. In a big way. Much to my surprise, not only did I not lose my self-control (a miracle given the circumstances), but we had a wonderful time together. We visited, we laughed, we expressed our creativity, and at the end, we celebrated our masterpiece together. Thanks be to God and God alone. I had nothing to do with it.
And when we were finished, my son’s toothless grin said it all. He was pleased as a pumpkin. When it was time for bed, he asked to sleep with his village lights on, and he hugged my neck, kissed my lips, and thanked me several times for helping him. It was pure joy to spend such special moments alone with him. And I know he’ll recall it fondly years from now.
This marks the beginning of a slew of family traditions and activities we’ll engage in over the next few months as the holiday season begins. Because during the holidays, we’re all in. (Though this year, our “all in” may look a little different than in years past. I can’t wait to share our plans with you .)
Some of those traditions, I’ll be ready for. Guns blazing. And others? I won’t be. Because I won’t feel well, or I won’t have slept the night before, or my plate will be uncomfortably full despite my best efforts to keep it simple. But instead of succumbing to defeat, I’ll just get my body there. It’s the only thing I have to do.
I’ll ask God to do the rest.
And you know what?
I think he will.