My life feels busy—sometimes crazy busy. While homeschooling five kids who are in various activities, it feels like a lot of juggling to make it all work. And although I aspire to have a clean and organized home, the reality is that I am so not there. I can even feel the chaos creeping in—a few more dirty dishes in the sink, a few more books piled on the counter, a few more puzzle pieces left out. Then, if I’m not careful, it’s full on crazy-town house, where there is crusted play dough on the carpet, piles of dirty clothes, and don’t even ask about the kitchen. What happened? Why is it so chaotic? Because kids? Because I’m a bad house keeper? Because my hubby doesn’t pick up the slack?
It’s not really any of that. It’s that my surroundings begin to dictate my feelings, and I have let the chaos in. It enters through my perception of my circumstances. Because the truth really is that even if I had a perfect system and was on top of my schedule and my house was perfectly clean and my kids were actually tiny self-cleaning robots, these things would not guarantee my sanity—and I would not automatically have peace. Because there would always be something else. Because the enemy doesn’t play fair, and even if I had the best hand, he’d throw in the ace he’s hidden up his sleeve. He cheats by whispering: You aren’t good enough. You haven’t cleaned up enough. You are failing miserably, and it is your fault. And nothing could be further from the truth.
Because it’s not an equation. Because a clean house doesn’t equal success whereas a messy house equals failure. Because there are seven of us and we are all still learning how to live together. Because we all need grace Every. Single. Day. Grace says, I refuse to judge you for your sticky floor because I see your heart and know that making pancakes with your toddler says love so much more than a freshly mopped floor. Grace says, yes the space is cluttered but let’s work on this together as a team—without blaming or casting judgment on the sloppiest child (who also may be the most creative). Grace says, in the midst of the chaos—the whirling storm of judgment beating down on your soul—choose peace.
In the gospels, there is an account of Jesus calming a literal storm. Jesus was with his disciples late one night on a boat, and a “furious” storm broke out, where waves were actually crashing into the boat. The storm was so terrible that the disciples thought they were going to die. And in the middle of this awful storm, Jesus was sound asleep. He was at complete peace in the middle of complete chaos. The chaos was around but it was not within. “The disciples woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’ He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.” (Mark 4:38-39)
I am reminded of Jesus on that boat when I think about my daily struggles. When I choose to reject those critical voices within, the storm calms and there is peace. Because there will be seasons that things don’t look perfect on the outside. There will be sticky counters and messy projects and piles of laundry. And so the storms will rage. But looking past the outward, going deep within—that is the place to find rest. And this is a reminder to me, to choose peace in the middle of my mess.
I can remember the instance so very clearly. I was at a discount grocery store, doing my biweekly grocery shopping for our family of seven, so you can imagine what my cart looked like. It was near closing time, and I had made my way to the register without anything falling out of the cart or spilling onto the ground. After I had unloaded about half of my items on the conveyer belt, I noticed the woman behind me—a complete stranger—with only a handful of items in her arms. I thought, “I should have let her go in front of me.” I was already feeling a bit awkward—as I kept piling my load of groceries on the belt—and sweaty as the florescent lights seemed to beam down on my face.
“I like your shoes,” she said. I looked down and was shocked that I actually put on decent shoes for this late night shopping trip, and I thanked her, mumbling something about where I had bought them. When I was finished paying, I began to bag my groceries. The woman was finished in no time, and I was still fumbling through my items, trying to locate the eggs so they wouldn’t mistakenly get placed on the bottom of my cart. At that point, she uttered four words that resonate in my mind to this very day. Those words were, “Can I help you?” Can she help me? I didn’t even think twice and quickly blurted out, “No, no, that’s okay, I’m fine.” The lights dimmed in the store and all the remaining customers left, including the nice woman. And I was still standing there bagging my own groceries. Alone. “Why was it impossible for me to let her help me bag my groceries?” I thought. Why couldn’t I have simply said, “Yes”?
The reality of my life is that I spend most of my time with little people who rely on me for their every need, every day, all day long. There are short breaks when my husband gets home from work, or on week-ends when we are all together, but still– on those occasions– I am basically still taking care of everybody. I’ve kind of been programmed to do everything independent of others. The up side to this is that I feel accomplished. I feel as if I’ve done my job as a mom and a wife, if I take care of every last detail, on my own, sans help. The down side to this is that I am exhausted by the end of the day. AND, if I have my hands in all the details, I’ve not left room for the hand of the Almighty to move. While He’s purposed me to be this helper to my family, He alone is The Helper. He longs to help me. But, just like in the grocery store that night, I have trouble receiving that help. Major trouble. Oh, I can offer other people as much help as they need. I can make ten breakfast casseroles for the homebound, babysit a friend’s crying kid, even do a late night coffee run. I can help others. But when I say, “Yes, please help me,” this means I am on the receiving end of the help. Saying yes means I’m weak. Saying yes means I don’t have it all together. Saying yes means I’m not in control. Saying yes means I need— someone else. And, saying yes means I’m humble enough to receive it. Ouch. The reality is, if I can’t receive help, my heart has become proud. I am challenged to admit that I am not holding the world on my shoulders—because only He can do that. And He is the One who sees my needs—sees my lack—and sends His helpers to bear the burden of life that I too often try to carry myself.
In the scriptures, in the book of First Corinthians, a man named Paul said, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, does not boast, is not proud.” Love is not proud. To make the shift from pride to humility is all about opening up the heart and allowing the love of Almighty Father God to consume and fill all the places– even the places where pride may want sneak in and dwell. Even those places can be filled by His all consuming and great love. In Psalm 46, David reminds us that God Himself is “our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” He is the one reaching down His love to us, in very identifiable ways. God sent help to me that night. Help that I was too proud to receive. Who knows? The woman at the store very well could have been an angel, sent to bless me. So next time, by God’s grace, I will humble myself and take the help. With five kids, I certainly could use it.