Pain floods my heart often. Ministry can open your eyes to the true horrors of the fallen world around us. I ask the intern, “What’s the best part of ministry so far to you?”
“People…” he says.
“And the worst?”
“The hours…” he mumbles. My answer? People. People are both the best and the worst part of ministry. And what’s worse… is being around and knowing people’s hidden secrets and then realizing how horrible of a person I am without Christ too… again. And again… and again…
I realize that some women in the church would be a better pastor’s wife. A better mother to my kids. A better bible study leader. And a better woman. Hands down. But then I read something in my husband’s upcoming sermon. And shame floods me. I realize… this… this scripture is what it all comes down to in regards to life in ministry.
Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.
But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror.You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like.But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.
If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless.Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.
So… here’s the deal.
Am I listening without always having to speak back?
Am I processing my answers before I quickly fire back?
Am I slow to get angry or am I jumping into drama full-force?
Am I listening to God’s Word in regards to my life?
But not just that… am I listening to His Word and then DOING IT?
Or am I just listening… whether it’s during the sermon or my personal study time… and then I close the Bible, sigh with happiness and just walk away?
We cannot… whether we are in ministry or just attend church… cannot just let it go in one ear and out the other. We cannot. It’s got to stick. Otherwise… what’s the point? What makes us different and not hypocrites?
So…we have to decide, “Okay… I can do this…” no matter how scared you might be with what God is asking us to do. Can we do it? It’s gonna be hard… but I think we can.
“Mom.” My seven-year-old son’s voice broke through my pizza-eating revelry at our favorite pizza joint. Titus had whisked away my phone and was scrolling through photos of our local pound’s adoptable animal photos. He had been begging us for a pet for around a year now.
My husband, Michael and I had tried every excuse in the book to avoid the commitment of getting a dog. “You’ve just had another baby brother… we should wait until he’s older.” “Our house is too small… we need to wait until we move into another home.” “We’re not sure you’re ready for the responsibility of a dog, Titus.”
This time, there was a tone in his voice. Like he meant business. I looked up from my slice of pepperoni and across the table at him. He had a bright light in his eye and an excitement I had not seen on his face in a while. He handed my phone back to me with a photo of a very frustrated, older Huskie dog trying to jump the fence of the kennel at the pound, enlarged and prominent on the screen.
There was sadness in this dog’s face that I instantly understood. A sadness that words cannot define. I was struggling from post-partum depression after the birth of our third son… and that look in the dog’s eyes grabbed me. When I turned to my husband, he rolled his eyes, but made no dismissal. I immediately messaged the pound asking for details.
Within days, we met Dutch for the first time. He was a nine-year-old Siberian Husky, with one brown eye and one blue and he shared my birthday. His fur was so soft; you could not help but stroke his back every time he passed you. One of his ears was bent, while the other stood proud. It only took a half hour for our two older boys to fall in love with him. I was hesitant… who was this dog? Why had he been relinquished? Could he be trusted with my children? Was he a “good dog?”
Those questions and more were all answered by that evening. After laying our children down for the night, my husband and I prepared for bed. Dutch circled the rug next to my side of the bed and lay down. He seemed to wait for us patiently to finish our bedtime routines. As soon as we settled and turned the lights out, he got up and disappeared into the hallway. Worried to see where he was going, I reluctantly left my warm bed and went to look for him. I found Dutch, curled up next to our baby’s crib, sound asleep.
It only took a couple of days for him to flow into our family’s lifestyle. He began barking to sound the alarm whenever someone approached our home. He LOVED walks… so much so, we could not even SPELL the word out loud anymore. He became my vigilant running partner and would run beside the jogging stroller where my youngest was along for the ride. He lay in the kitchen while I cooked, waiting for crumbs to drop to the floor during the process. He was an extrovert and made sure to meet all the dogs in the neighborhood. Everyone remarked at what an amazing dog he was; he was well loved by our extended family and friends.
Of course, he wasn’t a perfect dog as he was terrified of fireworks and thunder. He had an obsession with cupcakes and hotdogs (when I left out two dozen lemon cupcakes to cool; he ate 10—including the wrappers.) We could never leave the front door open, or he would dart out to explore the countryside for hours. He would distract the cats and eat their food; later, his loud toots would clear the living room. He learned to sit patiently next to our baby’s seat at dinner… and the baby learned he could feed the dog anything he didn’t want to eat. Occasionally, when it rained, his arthritis would kick in and he would be pretty grumpy and impatient with the boys’ antics, but he never snapped or showed his teeth.
But no matter how imperfect he was- he was perfect for us… and me. On my dark days, when my husband was at work, he would lay next to the couch where I lay. He followed me around the house those days, making sure I was never alone. He would snooze when I would, and when I woke up, he would perk up his head at me and give me this look of understanding. When the baby would cry, he would gently nuzzle me with his cold nose to wake me up. He was my helper; and he slowly walked beside me until I was back to normal.
He wasn’t just my companion. Our boys began to want him to sleep in their rooms and they talked about sled dog adventures all winter, waiting for it to snow. They dressed him up in costumes, and he sat, participating, as long as his beautiful fluffy tail wasn’t pulled or stepped on. He sat, stayed, shook and rolled over on cue from them. Our middle son, Elliott, taught Dutch to catch popcorn in his mouth while lying on his back.
And finally, Dutch worked his way into my husband’s hesitant heart. One night, only months after his adoption, I heard my husband wrestling him in the living room. When the play was over, I looked over. Both my husband and Dutch were grinning at each other. I watched as Michael stuck his face into the fur on Dutch’s neck and mumbled, “I love you, Dutch.” My heart caught in my throat.
We had a wonderful year and a half with Dutch. I often think that God sent him to us when we needed him the most.
Suddenly, without warning, he got sick one night while my in-laws were visiting. My father-in-law, Pat, took care of him during the night, not even waking my husband and I. We went to church the next morning and he seemed fine. By nightfall, I began to worry again and told my husband to call the vet. But it was too late.
As I was getting ready for bed, my husband crashed into our bedroom, tears running down his face. “Dutch is gone….” was all I could understand. In our grief, my father-in-law decided that right then was the time to bury him. We followed him, numbly, picking a spot in the backyard to bury him (we had just had our utility lines marked in the yard for our new landscaping plans.)
In the chaos and grief of the night, as Pat began digging Dutch’s grave, he hit the gas line that ran into our home. We had to wake our children, call Source Gas and fire department and wait on the cold pavement next door, while our children cried for Dutch. It was awful.
Days later, after everything was fixed, the gas company sent out a man to double check and make sure we didn’t have any gas leaks leading into our home. After finding out we had just lost Dutch, he kindly said he would check our furnace and water heater as well, just to be nice. After tinkering around in our garage for several minutes, he called me into the garage.
“Ma’am, I wanted to let you know, that your water heater has been leaking carbon monoxide into your home since it was installed improperly.” I was stunned. He turned to me. “Not to be blunt, ma’am,” he began again. “But I think your dog’s passing saved your family’s lives.”
Suddenly, Dutch’s death made sense to me. He had always protected us from the time he was introduced into our family. It made complete sense that in his death, he would protect us as well. He was not just a good dog; he was our Dutch.
My husband and I have known in our hearts for 9 years that God is leading us to adopt. We knew even though God had and would bless us with biological children, that He was telling us to leave a spot in our lives for another child. A child not born into our family… but one that would complete our family.
The years have passed, and God has blessed us with 3 wonderful boys. And yet, there is still that ache in my heart that knows our family is not complete. At times, I begin to panic, thinking that we aren’t moving fast enough… but it is during those times, God whispers to me, “Not yet… just wait…” I have to suck in my breath, close my eyes, and just be still. It is hard… but I know that one day He will begin to speak… or shout… that it is TIME!
Michael and I will then frantically begin clearing out that spare bedroom and pulling down the spare bed out of the attic. We will be ready when our adopted child walks (or is carried) through the door. Our boys will be ready too. We have raised them knowing that one day we would add to our family. They look forward to it! Our oldest still asks for a sister. We do not know what child God will send to us… but we know that we already love them.
How can that be? We do not know who they are, what personality they will have, whether or not they will like soccer… but we have a God who has adopted us… and loved us so much that He sent His only Son to die in our place! And with a God like that, love should never be a problem. Sure, it will be hard… but when we follow God into something, He is already there waiting for us.
We have several panels of hooks in our home; hooks that hold backpacks, hooks that hold coats and hooks that hold towels. For some reason, when you buy a panel of hooks, they come in four hooks to a panel. The other day, my OCD self was walking past the hooks, irritated that my husband had designated 3 out of the 4 hooks to our boys. One was left over.
“Who’s supposed to take the last hook, Michael? You? Or me?” I harrumphed.
He smiled, his sweet, endearing crooked smile and said, “Our next child, Meg.”
Call me Meg. I am super privileged to be able to work from home while getting to take care of our THREE! wonderfully, energetic boys, and adopted daughter. I’m wife to a Stud-Muffin of a man (also known as Michael) who has been called to plant a church in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
One of my super heroes
Our life is CRAZY and it never stops.
I sometimes long for peace, quiet, and a simpler farming life… but then I am jolted back to reality with the scream of one of my precious boys in the next room. My daily struggles are: keeping up with the laundry (wait- did I say keeping up? I meant to say “attempting to keep up” and yet never getting there!), keeping the sanity in our home, and most importanty, growing in my walk with Christ. (He is definitely my hero!) Without Him, I would be nothing. Literally. Probably just a shell of a person scraping by.
I sat on our leather couch, laptop on lap, recounting the events of the day. My Facebook profile is up; and the curser flashes where I’m about to post something for the day. “My kids are amazing…” Nope. Delete. “I love my children!” Again. Delete. I found I could not lie anymore to my Facebook friends, because even though I do believe in my heart that my kids are amazing and I do truly love them, today… well, today… it would have been kinda, sorta… a lie.
Today is one of “those” days; when I am fighting everything within me not to throw my hands up in the air in defeat and crawl into the next deepest hole. I know I’ve said this a thousand times (mostly in my head)… but sometimes, everyday life can be wretchedly hard. (A bit dramatic… yes, I know. But sometimes, just how I feel.)
That’s a good word for it. Wretched. When your body feels as though there is no energy left to survive another unloading of the dishwasher. Those 4 minutes are torture! Meanwhile, all you can manage to do is throw up quick prayers for strength and understanding. Usually I am in physical pain when I am wrestling through things/sin/being hurt by others. (Psalm 32 is a comfort for me during those times.) And all this “wretchedness” because of an innocent social media outlet called Facebook (okay- maybe it’s not the only reason why I feel so wretched today… but its the biggest one at the moment.)
Oh, Facebook. How I love and hate you in the same moment. Is it just me- or can one person’s post throw another into a tailspin? One harmless innocent post can ruin another’s day. How do we tolerate social media?
I have a daily struggle with Facebook. I love that it keeps me up to date with my friends near and far. I love that it helps to bridge another communication level with our church. I love that it has helped our church grow. But…
Are we more than our Facebook statuses?
The posts that read, “I LOVE BEING A MOM!!!” make me wonder… is that woman even human? Is that real? (As in, loving being a mother every second of every day… in CAPS?) Does she ever fail at being a mom and wife? Does she realize that she probably is failing? Because I feel like I’m failing most days. I fail when I let my anger seep out at my 5 year old when he’s distracted by his Legos and doesn’t even lift his head to listen to me. I feel that failure when I lose track of time, and once again late to another appointment.
I admit: I have been that Mom… that only posts the pretty pictures where my boy’s clothes match, my house is clean and straightened, and my marriage is PERFECT. And then I realize… wait, Meg… that is such a lie. My kids rarely match their clothes when they pick them out themselves (and do I care anymore? Not really. They’re dressed, aren’t they?) My house… let’s just clarify something… WE LIVE HERE. And on top of that, I stay home and work… so you can imagine that my house gets seriously messy. (As of right now, there is a trail of Cheerios through my entire living room. Will I vacuum? Soon…)
After calling my own precious Mom last week, she excitedly told me about this book that she’d been reading… how it had changed her life (not like Jesus though- haha!) and she was sending it to me pronto. I had actually forgotten about this- and had in fact even forgotten the title… until it arrived today. I immediately opened it and stuck it in my purse to take with me to a doctor’s appointment. (Wouldn’t you know– I ended up waiting for 55 minutes to be shown to the room and spent it reading the book! Ahh!!! Moments.) The title is…drumroll please…. “Unglued” by Lisa TerKeurst. And… it pretty much knocked my socks off. As I read it, I kept thinking… wait- this is written by someone else? Because it totally sounds like me… About 10 minutes in I had a thought, “Why do we do this to ourselves?” Where is it in the “How to Be a Woman” manual does it say, “Here’s how to appear to be perfect all the time”? Is it our competitive nature? Our own perfectionism? Our clouded judgement of other women?
I was convicted. So as of today, I REFUSE to pick up my house in order to take a “perfect photo” for Facebook. I REFUSE to spend hours in the bathroom making sure my makeup is perfect, my kids’ outfits color-coordinate and their hair is combed to perfection in order to have a “candid” photo opportunity to post on Facebook. I will (with everything that is in me) try not to give others the appearance that my life is perfect. Because, it’s definitely not. I am human. And on top of that, I am an emotional, exhausted, (but pretty amazing dance party starter) mom who has no end in sight to the family’s laundry or the dustbunnies that find their way under my refrigerator.
I watched this video last night, and it convicted me. He states in the video,
“We edit and exaggerate. Crave adulation. We pretend not to notice the social isolation. We put our words into order until our lives are glistening. We don’t even know if anyone is listening….”
The world can be a messy place. I am reminded of this as I sit, PJs still on, barefoot and non-showered at 10:44 a.m. on a Thursday morning…. as I work on our family’s budget. OUCH.
‘We’ve got to start doing the envelope system again…’ I think to myself as I stand, balancing my laptop and my lukewarm cup of decaf green tea. I hear my middle son scream at the top of his lungs and then a “THUMP” echoes down the hallway. I pause, waiting to see if there’s going to be backlash… but there is none. I sigh, move my laptop and tea to a higher, out-of-the-reach-of-the-baby location and head to the laundry room, to once again stumble over mounds of laundry (piles after endless piles of laundry…).
One of the many faces of my Middle Heart
My life has become a large wad of lost socks, muddy shoes, and crumbs on the kitchen floor (… and table…and the counter… and yes, my middle child’s bed sheets). Boogers, crusty dishes, soggy dog food, unfinished landscaping, and Legos… are EVERYWHERE. (Seriously. I just found some in my closet. Legos, not boogers. I mean- come on!!!)
I never thought these phrases would come out of my mouth… and yet, it has happened.
– “Please, let me poop in PEACE!”
– “ DO YOU KNOW HOW TO WHISPER???!!!!????”
– “Do you want the dog to eat your face off?”
– “Oh no! He’s eating dirt again…”
At the end of the day, as I sit here writing this blog, I find myself recalling the bad, the ugly… but most importantly, the beautiful parts of my day. That moment, when my ornery child, who just seconds ago was wiggling out of his chair at lunchtime, looks full in my face and tells me that he thinks I’m pretty. The rare occurrence when my youngest baby, after a full day of non-stop moving, shaking, walking and crawling, drops his head on my shoulder and snuggles in, waiting for me to sing him his lullaby. And that heart-stopping moment, when I realize that I can see my eldest son’s head bobbing above the high bar counter. How did he get so tall?
He’s so, so tall!
Those moments make me want to hold onto my children, kiss them at every possible second, and enjoy my ride. This wonderful, exhausting, and live-every-moment ride that my boys have brought into my life.
Oh my heart…
So, yes, tomorrow, as I fold yet another basket of laundry, sweep the kitchen floor for the 100,000th time, and step on yet, another blue Lego piece, I will be still.
And live in those moments.
They will not last forever.
And no sooner than I can blink, they will be gone… only memories echoing through my mind.