Friday, July 8, 2011

When Chaos is the Calling

(It's with too much trepidation and hesitation that I finally put out this post. Sweet Mrs. M told, me post already! Well, she didn't say it quite like that, but here it is! And I sincerely welcome comments and questions, because I'm throwin' a lot out here.)
In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.
Proverbs 16:9

Swim lesson photos: playground outside the pool area. I rarely say yes to their playing on it, because it is so hot, and I don't love the sand coming home with us.

I have wrestled and thought much about this post. These thoughts have been percolating in my heart and mind for quite some time and I've prayed a lot over whether and how to communicate what God is teaching me. In the end, I think He is saying trust Me to give you the words.

So here goes. 

First, a disclaimer: this is not a post about the virtues of one particular lifestyle over another. My prayer is that this will be an encouraging look into some of the realities of the Christ-life. These are truths that are new to me, concepts I've not heard others discuss or hash out. So maybe talking here is a good thing, because perhaps others would benefit from the hearing, the sharing. May something here add to you growing toward Christ, increasing in faith. And I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences in these areas, too!

That said, I love being organized. To-do lists, routines, order, plans - they're all part of who I am by nature.

CA took her first preschool swim class. She "passed" her class too (not really a pass or fail situation...more about exposure to the idea of water and swim instructors)

So, the fact that our life has been a rather messy, chaotic affair for the past 4.5 years has not been easy for me. Starting with my fourth pregnancy, which included pretty limiting back pain, our somewhat ordered and routine family life began to disappear. And with a few short-term exceptions, we have never returned to a place of simplicity. Life has not circled back, so far, to a place where I feel in control.

And I have agonized over this inside. The primary thought that hovers in my heart, making me feel heavy and burdened? I bet if I were doing such-and-such differently or better, if I were more disciplined or if I worked harder, our life would not be so ________. You can fill in the blank here - some things I'd put in the blank would be chaotic, cluttered, behind, loud, exhausting, un-routine, unscheduled.

But, oh, my! Has Jesus ever been speaking to me on these things in the past several months! It's been and it still is, a slow drip of Truth, of correction from Him to my heart, training me toward What Really Matters.

 The last day was parents' day, when we're allowed inside the pool area to watch the kids demonstrate what they've learned. I was blown away by EG's diving. From a standing position, she can vault herself crazy high in the air! Strong girl!

One thing that He has made clear to me in this season is that this is what He has for me. I have made many, many attempts at creating order through routines, schedules, and so on. And you know what? They have all been a bust. In my flesh, this makes me feel like a failure. Heck, the chaos and craziness itself can make me feel pretty bummed out about my roles as a homemaker, mom, and wife, because in my limited human mind, it seems that order and tidiness have got to be superior to their opposites. Surely Jesus would rather me have all my ducks in a row before I am prepared to serve, to obey?

But, enter Truth. Enter a Savior Who won't stop teaching me. Throw in the fact that Jesus is the King of an Upside Down Kingdom, where dying to self equals Life, and owning my life results in Death, and a thousand other seeming contradictions.

The teaching He has for me here, now, is this, I think: be confident in Me; be confident in what I have for you. In other words, God wants me to first of all take Him at His word, This is what I have for you; and secondly, to be confident in that word. This means I must stop fretting, cease second guessing myself, quit apologizing to myself and others for what I've been seeing as glaring imperfections in myself and rest joyfully and confidently in the crazy, happy, less-than-balanced life He's given. I don't have to worry anymore about what if I did this differently, or what if I tried harder at that. As a young friend quipped to me recently, Embrace the chaos. For real: love it, rejoice in it, praise Jesus for it!

AH and MK were in the same class. Here they were jumping in to practice their various strokes. They know so much more than I do once they finish these courses. Dolphin kick? What?! They did so well.

This all bleeds together into other Truths Jesus is helping me understand, and forgive me if this is a little disjointed, for truly I am in the middle of this learning.

Lemme 'splain, as Ricky Ricardo would say. God is teaching me, is teaching our family, that there are three big, non-negotiable, Kingdom priorities that are NOT efficient. What are these? Jesus is teaching us that

Relationships are NOT efficient
Discipleship is NOT efficient
Ministry is NOT efficient
When I speak of discipleship, I refer to both my personal effort to seek and know Christ, as well as the responsibility God has given me to disciple my own children and other believers.  (Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Matthew 28:19-20)

I mention all this because the truth is that I crave efficiency, with everything clicking along just so, all color coded and on time and each box checked. But here's reality: there's nothing efficient about the life God has called me to live for Him right now. I've told BB so many times that getting all my peeps on board for a particular family project or whatever is so overwhelming that it usually feels like me trying to haul a train up a steep hill!

Another jump in thinking here - and it does all kind of come together in the end...(smile)...

In my sidebar information, I've written that I am passionate about discipleship. I love knowing that a person has gotten it (meaning more truth, deeper understanding about walking with Jesus). One on one relationship building is dear to my heart. This includes my kids - a long time ago, due to the fact that they had such vastly different learning styles, I started working with each girl individually, reading her the Word or doing a little Bible study with her, and praying with her each day. These days, I still work one on one with the younger three daily and alternate days sitting in with the big three on their devotional time. I want to know that they know how to study their Bibles and what prayer means, and so on. At many points, my willingness to do so has not been what it should be. God, keep me faithful!

Also, in recent months, the Lord has been opening some neat opportunities to get to know a few young ladies in a discipleship/friendship capacity. This is so, so exciting to me. I've always hoped over time that God would allow me to know and encourage young women in the Faith, and that I might be a helper to those newly married, and to ladies with young children.

And what about building relationships with other women? I'm not talking about being a social butterfly, but rather about snatching opportunities to meet and talk with ladies for mutual encouragement in the Christ-life. Sometimes this means late nights and odd hours, so as not to cut into family and marriage time. It's all good, though.

Next to the Lord, it's my relationship with BB that needs the most careful time and attention. We have prayerfully been seeking ways to increase our communication and time spent together as the demands on each of us have grown in the past year. God is working these things out, too. Again, often a late night or odd hours may be the best time. Also, we're seeking to set up an every-other-week date night with a standing agreement that our sitter just knows to be here at such and such time every other Friday or whatever. Then BB and I can go away and stare at each other, or talk, or whatever our relationship needs.

EG is so photogenic! CA made a little friend whom she played with during the big girls' lessons. In the middle photo, they were Ninja Girls and were off to attack a tree. And there's mom, enduring the heat with us in order to experience swim lessons a bit.

I really am getting to a point, I promise. Sort of.

I guess what I'm trying to say, what I'm in the process of learning is this - there are a million ways to spend my time. I cannot do it all. What matters most is God's glory, His love, His gospel going out. This happens through relationships. As I mentioned further back, relationships, discipleship, and ministry are not efficient, check-the-box-it's-done items.
For me these days, it's a choice between pouring my time and heart into other people's lives, inside and outside these four walls, as God wills, or maintaining more order and routine and such. I cannot do both. And I know which is more important. That doesn't mean the choice is easy sometimes. I love building relationships. I enjoy encouraging and being encouraged. Sometimes it is hard to let it go, though - it being better housekeeping or what have you. Often, I want the best of both worlds!

I've mentioned before here that another positive to this unscheduled life Jesus has handed me is that it has made us really flexible people, and that's been awesome on a practical level and a ministry level - being able to jump in and help others at the drop of the hat at times, or meet up with someone who needs to talk at 10pm, or what have you.

And since this is a giant ramble, I'll add this regarding routine - there actually is a guiding factor as to how we spend our time most days. It is this: for BB and me to have time in the mornings seeking to know Christ better; for each child to do the same as early in the day as possible, some with me, some on their own. The day really revolves around making that happen. Meals together include a chapter of scripture, so that we feed our souls and not just our bodies. At times, this is an uphill battle against noise and interruptions. May I be excused to go to the bathroom? This, right as we dive into Romans 3. Then there are the questions, sometimes less than conducive to a deeper understanding of God's Word: What if the disciples only had Tic Tacs and not bread and fish to give Jesus for the hungry people? Ummm, moving on, kids! Oh, and to add to the ambiance, there's usually a tray-banging, squealing baby at the table with us. We carry on, praying God makes the reading and hearing of His Word fruitful. And we do have good discussions during some of our scripture-eating at the table - between bangs and squeals, that is.

Almost everything else just gets done when I can do it, when we can do it. And in the end, it all works out. It's a blessing to see the ways that God accomplishes all that needs attention and work in our family's lives! The kids work hard and are learning how to do various homemaking jobs and to serve the family by helping.

It is good common sense to be organized, to pursue order, to make it so everything has a place. And underneath it all, we have that. But these days, in this season of six young children and adjustments, pouring a large percentage of my time and energy into fastidious homemaking is not God's call.

Right now, I've got the amazing opportunity to disciple my own children in what Christ-following looks like, as well as the chance to speak the truth of Jesus into the young ladies coming up after me. I get to serve my husband, looking for ways to bless him and encourage him for the glory of God.

Trains are a big part of the summer swim lesson experience. The tracks are pretty close to the pool area. Left: loved the vanishing point element. Right: the graffiti on train cars is so interesting and often very skilfully done!

So, onward! Let the energy and liveliness and conflicts and clutter rage on around me, because God is accomplishing His purposes in it all, through it all. He desires an open, available heart. Kingdom things are happening here. But for now God has chosen to remove the feeling of control I'd be having if we were living a nice, quiet life...for now, He's calling me to rely on Him, hour by hour, day by day, to live out His purposes. He's got me flying by the seat of my pants in to all His holy will!

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10


  1. I need to chew on this. I'm facing some decisions right now on how to handle my time (yes, even after taking a part time job). I'm planning to meet with my mother and sister to discuss what to do. . . this is so interesting that you decided to post about this right now! I normally do not surrender to the chaos, but instead pare back any outside activities to we can have a peaceful home life. Then I have energy and joy. . .but you have given me a new angle to look at. . .

    (I did get your sweet note, by the way - going to include it in a post when I - ahem - get the time!)

  2. I feel renewed and comforted after reading your posts, Beth. Thank you for being willing to bare your soul and thoughts.
    And I agree with Margo, I "need to chew on this" as well.

    Wondering with you if our real purpose in this lifetime is solely to lean on Him, seek Him out, practice true faith... therfore we are given the circumstances to help us "perfect" these heavenly traits rather than perfect our earthly skills. ( That thought was mostly to let myself off the hook for the chaos in my own life that seems to whip me around unproductively.) I will admit that if I could get control of the chaos in my life I would not be spending nearly the same time crying out for grace, energy, faith, maybe the chaos can be considered a gift?

  3. Thanks for your responses ladies! They mean a lot to me...just to hear your thoughts.

    And let me say this, I am still very much chewing on all this too!! It's not easy to let go - oh, for grace to trust Him more!

    What a grand adventure it all is and He is so good..

    And yes, the chaos is most definitely a GIFT from His perfect, loving Hands.

  4. Loved the post Beth ... very make one think like ! thanks !