Thursday, July 3, 2014

When the door opens..or cracks a little

Seinfeld was in my opinion, one of the great comedic television shows of the 90's. My favorite part of the show was always how Kramer always made his entrance: the door flings open and he slides in looking all disheveled and the rest of the cast is always surprised to see him. Here is a little 10 second clip about what I am talking about for those of you who never saw an episode (notice the brick phone hahaha!)

I was thinking about how great an entrance Kramer made over and over again on that show last night while I was thinking about my blog post about the hallways of life. Wouldn't it be awesome if while we are sitting in the hallway, God just burst through the door and slid across the floor right to us and just stood there with one arm pointing so we knew exactly what to do? I guess occasionally He does open the door to the next step like that, but usually it is more of a crack and we have to make a move to push it all the way open. Just thinking about my some of reactions in times when God was ready for me to take the next step had me chuckling at how infantile I can be and yet also brought me shame for how I had treated my Savior. Praise God for His forgiveness and grace and that covers all my faults and missteps.

In my life, there have been times when more than one door has opened and I had to decide because God was pleased with either and could do His work regardless of which I chose. I don't know about you, but decisions stress me out. We are that family that gets in the car and Trey asks, "Where do y'all want to eat?"... silence... or maybe "I don't care." (knowing full well that if we choose a certain place it will be vetoed by the very person who doesn't care.) I will usually list a few options and then more silence. This is beyond frustrating to my poor husband who is stuck driving around town in circles until someone decides. Now granted, he doesn't decide either, so I guess he is part of the indecisive problem too. Eventually, we figure something out and go get something to eat. (we never go hungry that is for sure) Often the decision is made after someone gets fed up (no pun intended) and says "Just pick a place so I know where you need me to go!" God, I am certain, has felt that same way about me before. I can hear Him saying "Just pick one!" Why in the world does it always have to be so complicated for me?

There are other times, however (and more often), where there is not a choice between doors, but a choice to move or stay. You see so often, we get comfortable and convince ourselves that the hallway of life is the best place to be; the safest place. While I cannot argue that it is a safety zone, I can tell you that the "best" is not in that hallway. You see while we are waiting, God is getting things ready for us. He is preparing the way, setting the stage for us to step out of our comfort zone and impact His kingdom for eternity. Most people, including myself,  tend to like things that stay the same. Did you know that the word "stay" and "stagnant" are based from the same root? Stagnant: characterized by lack of development, advancement or progressive movement. Not a great thing to be and yet often we make a conscious choice to remain in the hallway; stagnant. 

Sometimes when we just won't move, God will force the move on us, kicking and screaming even. You know I am a bit of a story-teller, and thinking about that image reminded me of one of those parenting moments when I wish I could become invisible. I was at HEB ( a local grocery store) with the girls, then 8 and 4. Kaitlyn was supposed to go to her friend's house that day but we had not yet been able to reach them. As we were shopping, we ran into her friend, Caity and her mom Donna. Since we were both there, Kaitlyn just decided to hang out with them and go to their house from the store. Now, Amanda was enamored with Caity at that time and wanted to always do everything her big sister did, much to the irritation of my oldest. I explained that Kaitlyn was going to hang out with Caity but left out the part about her going home with her. We finished up our shopping and got into line. Here is where things got out of hand. Amanda figured out pretty quickly that her sister was not joining us and asked why. When I answered her, it was like I had unleashed a mighty monster in the small form of my 4 year old daughter! She began jumping up and down in the basket, screaming and crying that she wanted to go too! I was stuck in the middle of about three or four shoppers in the line for the number 3 register (yes I remember the number) and my mind was racing about how to deescalate the situation. Well, let's just say, Amanda is extremely strong-willed, and there would be no deescalation going on as long as she was not going to Caity's house. All eyes were on me in our small-town grocery store, and there were a lot of them! SO I sheepishly looked at the cashier, told her that I was sorry, picked my screaming, kicking, wailing daughter up like I was carrying a large sack of dog food and left my basket, all our groceries and walked out, feeling the eyes of disgrace as a mom follow me all the way out. I was mortified. I was also pretty angry. We got out side and Amanda (who is being held by her waist at my waist and is face-down) had calmed down to just tears, and less of a show. I sat her on her feet, still grasping tightly to my intense child. I looked at her and said, "Now, I will let you walk if you will hold my hand, but there are cars and you cannot let go because it is not safe." She nodded her agreement, so I grabbed her tiny clenched fist and took a step. Well, I am not sure if I was not speaking her language, but apparently she heard me say "dart out in front of the first car you see. I am your evil mother and you need to break free of my grasp!" because she immediately jerked away and started for the edge of the sidewalk! I hastily ran to her and snatched her back into the dog food position and she commenced to screaming and kicking again. Now not only were the eyes of the entire store on me, but the eyes of the entire parking lot as well. I luckily parked close to the entrance, so I made it to the car and opened the front driver's seat and sat her down. I had to block the door because she was intent on finding Caity and ditching me as quickly as possible. I told her to climb in the back and buckle up. (I drove a minivan and the handle of the sliding door had come off in my hand a few weeks prior, so she was used to climbing through and getting into her booster seat and buckling up.) Can you believe this little angel of mine, who had stopped screaming and was eerily calm, looked and me and said defiantly, "NO!" I was stunned. I thought we were past the temper tantrum, through with the humiliation, and here I stood, a full-grown woman who could not even get into her own car because her four-year-old refused to move! She smiled and said, "I'm not moving unless I get to go to Caity's!" So for the next several minutes we "talked", we discussed punishments and discipline for her actions, we might have even issued a few right there with everyone watching, and eventually she did as she was told and we made it home with nothing to show for our trip except one less child and a worn out mom. 
Kaitlyn and Caity (probably about 4 and 5 here)
Kaitlyn and Amanda around 8 and 4
I tell you this story, first of all hoping you do not judge my parenting too badly based on the actions of my child of four. (She has made it all the way to 15 now and is a beautiful, still very strong-willed, child.) I tell it hoping to paint a picture of how I know I have acted to God when He has a plan for me to do something and I just do not want to do it. Maybe I want the same plan as _____ (fill in the blank) and I pitch a fit because that seems like the perfect plan for me! Wow, do I look like an ungrateful toddler who is pitching the fit of all fits to our God? Are people looking at my Lord with disdain because of my fit-throwing, my tantrum, my lack of respect for my father in heaven? Am I like a stubborn four-year-old who refuses to budge? Unfortunately, too often, I have to say yes to every one of those questions. Even more unfortunate, God has to drag me out to where He wants me to be, often in an embarrassing position, and I am too wrapped up in my fit-throwing to notice that I could be putting myself in harm's way. I have had to beg forgiveness more than once for making my Father look bad because as His child, I acted just like this. So not only did I miss out on the blessing of walking into a new opportunity when God wanted me to, but I potentially harmed my witness in the process and made Him look bad for my actions! A lot like Jonah when he ran off, paid for a boat ride and tried to run from God! I think we often read or hear the story of Jonah and think 'he is just silly' or 'how can you run from God', when we too are so guilty of the same if not worse. 

Jonah 1:3 " But Jonah ran away from the Lord..."

Then there are those times when we are a little more passive about our defiance. No screaming, no kicking, no running into traffic, we just try to quietly say "no" or sneak our refusal in without making a scene. Indulge me for a minute with another fun story correlation from the files of parenting Amanda. 

This had to be close to the same time as the former recollection. Amanda was probably already five by now, and apparently had learned that tantrums will not reward her with her desired outcome. She was about to start school for the first time and in getting ready for kindergarten, we had purchased her supplies, and school clothes and organized her drawers and closets to make for easier mornings. Being the younger sister, Amanda had lots of extra clothes that were passed on from her sister, so she was ready. 

One day I was working around the house and noticed that Amanda had been mysteriously quiet. In my experience with her, quiet was not always a blessing, so I went to check on her. I walked into her room and saw her proudly standing with her closet bi-fold doors open wide and a neat stack of dresses laying across the foot of her bed. Not completely sure what was going on, I stepped closer and realized she was standing with her right hand behind her back. Mother's intuition (common sense) kicked in and I asked what she was hiding. Triumphantly, she brings her fist around to the front to show me the broad line permanent black marker missing the lid that was firmly grasped in her hand. Oh crap! With that, I closed the distance and hesitantly looked at the situation, carefully checking the closet doors and walls for my child's creative mark of the day. Eventually my eyes went to the stack of dresses. I was astonished! You know the mouth-open, silent, mind-spinning, astonished that you can't even think of what to say or do. I looked back and forth between her happy brown eyes and the top dress, a sweet white and sage dress that her sister had worn last Easter. She smiled, looked up and said sweetly, " I don't want to wear the dresses to school." You see, she had decided to make her mark by taking the marker (permanent marker) and across the front of at least 10-15 dresses she wrote two perfectly formed six inch letters:

NO

As I picked each dress up, my astonishment grew. I was angry, but at the same time I found it a little funny and had to suppress a chuckle as I was getting onto her for writing on her clothes. There were two dresses I was heartbroken over and I immediately told her to get the hairspray and worked to get out the thick black words. Amazingly, I did not react as poorly as I usually did and in a rare stroke of parenting genius, I handed down an impactful discipline; she wore them the first week of school "NO" and all. (sweet revenge) To this day though, I think she is proud that she took matters into her own hands with her fashion choices as a young kindergartener.

You see sometimes we try to sneak away and write "NO" across the beautifully cleaned and laid out plans God has for us. Not a blatant temper tantrum so much, but an assertion that we disagree with His choice. How ridiculous of us to think our choices are better than His! I think about when The Children of Israel were in the desert and Moses was supposed to lead them into the Promised Land, but he didn't want to follow God's plan and disobeyed God in front of all of them. The sealed his fate as the leader of the Isrealites; he died in the desert and they were led by Joshua instead. God meted out a discipline for Moses' blatant disobedience. OUCH...

 Numbers 20:12 "But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.”

You see, God will sometimes throw the door open in an exciting  Kramer-like way making it easy to jump through the door. Sometimes He will allow us to chose between more than one opportunity. Then there are the times when we know what He wants, and we react in a negative way, either in a full-blown grocery-store tantrum or a more passive, quiet writing the word "NO". When our initial response is "no", God may drag us there, complete with discipline and lots of conversations, or God may find a Joshua to replace us and just let us stay in the hallway (or die in the desert) if that is really what we want. Wow, how scary is that? Similar to my last post, I urge you to step out in faith, trust that He is way smarter than we are and just go for it! God doesn't usually pick things that are solidly in our comfort zone because He wants you to see what He can do through you once you get out of the way. So here's to fewer HEB and permanent marker moments and to more deep breaths of trusting the One who breathed life into my being to know more than I! 

Proverbs 3:5-6 " Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths."

Romans 15:13 "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."

Blessed more than I deserve
~Stephanie