Just the way you like it …

In this house, we love coffee …

Years ago, there was this young girl who was engaged to this great guy and she noticed that every time his grandmother or mom would bring him a cup of coffee they would say “Just the way you like it,” and it made no sense since they didn’t fix his coffee the same way and it wasn’t the way he fixed his own coffee.  So she asked him “How do you like it?” and he said “Brought to me.”

When the honeymoon was over and they had packed and left Texas, they woke up that first morning in their tiny apartment on the seminary’s campus.  She rolled over and started talking (we’re also BIG talkers in this house), only to find him shaking his head. Reading his expression and his hands pantomiming drinking a cup of coffee, she realized that talking wouldn’t commence, until he had his coffee, just the way he likes it …

When Lucas and Bethany were younger, I was teaching part time and when I’d come home in the afternoon we would cuddle, play and have a snack, but as a young mom with babies only 20 months apart, I soon learned that I would lose my sanity if there wasn’t  “Mommy time” carved into the afternoon.

I never shooed the kids out of the room, but by three every afternoon, the kids knew that Mom was going to sit down with a cup of coffee and watch the Food Network or HGTV.  I also got pretty good at having a canister of homemade biscotti, so that on really hard days, I could reach in and have a bit of comfort.  That hour before the witching hour (you know … when you are trying to get the house tidied and dinner made and still look presentable when your husband gets home, but every potty accident, spill, scrape, and fight ensues? Please tell me you do.) became my respite.  I knew that if I didn’t take that time, no good could come from me.

I forgot about that once Nicholas and Mary Elena came along.  I don’t think Mommy time has existed for a good three years. Until today …

Were you to stop by today, you would see the sofa piled high with folded laundry, dishes done and table cleared except for a multitude of crumbs, ah — the crumbs also line the hallway, and despite my best efforts to have all toys picked up, the kids just don’t ever finish playing until bedtime. And upstairs you’d see three kids in makeshift tents getting more crumbs on the floor with these s’more substitutes (because Nicholas wanted a cracker and saw the s’mores on the package of grahams and said that the box told us that’s how we needed to eat them, and sometimes … just sometimes, those blue eyes are irresistible and you figure out a way to give in without having to light the fire and run to the store for marshmallows), and then you’d see me in my chair with a cup of espresso with perfect crema, topped with milk textured just the way I like it.
See I was rushing around the house today, doing laundry and dishes, and disciplining and fretting and trying to plan out every second of the day and the rest of my life, when I felt like I was being told to slow down and sit down, and that

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
(2 Cor. 12:9a)

and this

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
(Matt. 11:28)

And on other days, with different circumstances, I may have just chalked these thoughts up to adages and not the prompting of a Friend of mine.  It’s true I’ve felt guilty that I haven’t made time some days to just be quiet with Him and to be still and know …

“You will … find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
(Jer. 29:13)

But are you really seeking with all your heart, if all you can manage are breath prayers and whispering or crying His Name? I think He knows and He understands and wasn’t He  “…a man of suffering, and familiar with pain”? (Is. 53:3b)

Sometimes following is walking with and accepting gentle promptings.  I know that I will get the best of my husband’s attention after one (or three) cups of coffee, and the Lord knows that my kids, my husband, my friends and family will get the best version of me when I’ve been quiet and had a cup of coffee just the way I like it.

Just like He is in the business of redeeming, renewing and restoring all that is broken, so He is also in the business of reminding … that He knows me better than I know myself … that there is something truly relational about being still with coffee … that there will always be laundry and that this is a season … that even when my actions are consumed with having things just right at home, that those breath prayers and whispers and pleading for mercy is evidence of my heart seeking … that growth doesn’t happen without grace.

And today, that grace is found in sitting still with cup in hand and letting the house be — real.

Sometimes … Always

Sometimes the ones we trust the most betray us, the community we depend on abandons us, our very minds rage against us —

There are days when no matter how much we try, things don’t turn out the way we planned.  The kids don’t do their schoolwork or they forget what you’ve been teaching them for the past few weeks.

You workout to increase those endorphins, guaranteeing a positive attitude, but it just feels like you’re beating your body into submission and moods plummet and showers don’t refresh …

You get caught up on the laundry only to have to use all your rags to clean up mess after mess, and it’s only spilled milk, but it feels like your soul poured out — useless.Children are taught and encouraged to always include each other, because they’ve been excluded by others and it doesn’t feel good and it isn’t right, and you were always the new kid and you’ve been left out and you never want that for them … but they run from one another, not toward.

You put on music with lyrics to encourage your spirit and they fall flat, and your heart is hard and how did this happen?

Tears fall and words escape the recesses of your heart and you wonder how on earth you can continue.

We find ourselves in crisis mode and we have no where to turn.

I’ve been there — I am here.

I didn’t have an idealized perception of what homeschooling would be.  I knew it would be hard. I knew that breaks would be few if any.  Well aware was I that my children and I are so different and they aren’t self-motivated and being an achiever myself, I figured that would be difficult for us. There have been good days and bad days and then things were good.

Now things are not.  It is hard and this is Los Angeles and we’ve tried the public school and it didn’t work … the teachers were great, I volunteered every week but that doesn’t change the playground or the little boy running into the bathroom as soon as he gets home, because at school that room is a scary one.

Now here I am in a crisis, and I just want to ask “why?” and I want to run. I have asked and I don’t get any answers except this:

“The Lord is near the brokenhearted; He saves those crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).

And I hear it whispered to my heart and I know it is for me and that even when my world is whirling out of control, I am seen … not invisible. I am heard and understood … not ignored. I am known … not excluded.

The wounds are raw on the surface, but the salve of His Spirit is real and refreshing.

I feel crushed between stone and bruised and broken, but I recall herbs and spices ground in mortar with pestle release their fragrance and only when heat is applied do they reach their full potential.

And I must trust.

This place seems so foreign to me — so different from what I expected and yet there is a calling and a command: “Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce … and work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you …” (Jeremiah 29:5,7).

And I remember … Eucharisteo — giving thanks — comes before the miracle.  It’s right there on my wall to remind me, and how often I forget, but He is gentle and sent His Comforter who speaks to my spirit and prays on my behalf when this fragile faith of mine fails.

But I will thank Him

for this house

and His church

and these children, fruit of my womb and His faithfulness, answered prayers

the times we’ve felt wanted, accepted, included

and the times when we haven’t and have grown closer to each other

this man that listens to my anxieties voiced and frustrations and loves, always — just the way He loves His bride.

for new days and new mercies

that as I write this, things calm … children play … oldest boy finally does his math and science … a baby sleeps, but even if chaos persisted He. Is. Here. and He. Is. Strong.

And this, this is true: “‘I know the plans I have for you’—this is the Lord’s declaration—’plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope'” (Jeremiah 29:11).

And I can always, always rest in the knowledge that He is for me and I can trust Him.