I have been in a total funk lately. Parenting has been exhausting me. I feel short-tempered with my kids, who aren't perfect, but overall have been behaving well. I've been irritated with my husband for stuff that normally doesn't bug me. And my emotions have been on hyper-drive. I bawled my head off because a house I loved sold to another family even though we had decided to wait to buy a home until we ironed out some financial details.
And no, I'm not depressed. I've been ignoring God. Over the past two weeks, I have frequently been skipping my quiet time with God, almost intentionally, because quite honestly, I don't want to hear what He has to say. The feedback He keeps giving me is not what I want to hear. He keeps saying, "Wait," and "No," to things that seem important to me. And I don't like it. I want Him to see my agenda, my timetable and my desires and say, "YES. Of course you know better than me Jodi. Let's go with your plan instead of mine." And when He insists on being God, I see way too much of myself in our four-year-old daughter, Alli, who has mastered the temper tantrum. She screams and wails and throws herself around and won't look at me to talk things out if she still feels slighted.
So instead of opening my Bible at 1:30 every afternoon like I've done for years, I've found other more important things to do with my hour of quiet, like check email, play on Facebook, and surf Craigslist. I've done it with a little bit of arrogance too, with an occasional glance at my Java Blue Vera Bradley quiet time bag collecting dust on the shelf around the corner from the computer.
Today was a repeat of all the other days of the past two weeks: one minute the kids and I will be having the time of our life and I'll be reveling in the fact that I am the luckiest woman alive to have four awesome kids, sorry that school starts next week. The next I'll be listening to myself correcting their behavior in a nasty tone of voice, counting the minutes till they go back to school and feeling instantly guilty about it. The emotional ups and downs make me crazy, but I wasn't ready to leave my pity-party yet.
I met a neighbor at the park this morning and she told me that a family, with six kids, that lives 4 houses down the street was on vacation this past weekend and visited some sand caves in Puget Sound. The warning flags weren't posted and the entire family watched in horror as a sand cave collapsed on their 15 year old son, burying him alive. They dug for 20 minutes to get him out and by the time they reached him, his brain activity was gone. The medical staff kept him alive long enough for him to be a donor, but they'll lay him to rest this week. My "problems" all of a sudden seemed minor in comparison to what this family is going through.
We came home from the park at 1:30. I put Paige to bed and sent Alli to her room because she was throwing a fit. I glanced at the computer, thought of the family down the street, grabbed my Java Blue off the shelf and parked myself at the counter. For the first 30 minutes of my "quiet time," I listened to Alli cry and wail in her room. She felt her consequence was unjust, that the punishment didn't fit the crime and she wanted to make sure I knew she felt that way.
I chuckled when I read Proverbs 28:5, "Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the LORD understand it fully." I thought, "What is justice? My daughter clearly feels I don't understand what it means." The thesaurus defined it as "conforming to a standard of correctness" and the commentary broke it down farther by saying, "the beginning of justice is concern for what is happening to others." In essence, if I want to be a woman who seeks the LORD, then I need to live a life that conforms to a standard of correctness AND be concerned about what is happening to others. The image of Alli's face with her swollen eyes, dripping nose, and hoarse voice, floated across my mind. The family down the street, who I've never met, started taking on form and I began to feel their pain. I realized that I have been burying my head in my arm, crying in self-pity about things that are relatively insignificant, and my self-focus has made my concern for others dip to an all-time low.
I knew that all Alli needed to settle down was a hug and the reassurance that I loved her, even when she was naughty, and I had been withholding her comfort intentionally. I closed my Bible, went upstairs, gave Alli a hug, stroked her hair and told her I loved her no matter what. I came back downstairs and told God I was sorry for ignoring Him and I asked Him to open my eyes to see His purpose for me in Newberg, on Oxford Street, for the undetermined amount of time that I will be here. I asked Him to fill my heart with justice - concern for others - and I started asking Him questions. "Where can You use me? Who can I bless? Who can I serve? Who can I minister to? Who needs to know You? Help me not to miss Your purpose for me here, in this moment, and help Oxford Street to be a better place because You gave me the privilege of being Your hands and feet on earth."
When I said, "Amen," I realized that my temper tantrum was over and that God was wiping my swollen eyes and the snot from my nose, stroking my hair and whispering, "I love you, no matter what."