My daughter fell recently and got a big scrape on her skin. It was bleeding, and the skin was ripped and tender. With tears streaming down her face she asked me how long it would take to get better. I told her the pain should go away soon, but her skin would look different for a while as it healed. The tears intensified as she said, “look different? But I love the skin I’m in!”
Her sweet little comment reverberates differently in my ears today. I just watched another video of a black man being killed by white men. It was gruesome and gut-wrenching and utterly shocking. Two videos in as many weeks.
As a white woman, I have often felt that I don’t have the voice or experience or proper background to speak about racism, aside from affirming that racism is an evil that needs to end. But I have a little girl who notices the slight skin differences in our mixed white and Indian family and thinks they’re beautiful. A little girl who has no understanding or thought of racism. A little girl who loves her daddy’s “brown” skin and her mommy’s “light peach” skin and her own skin that “changes colors – sometimes it’s brown and sometimes it’s peach!” I love the skin I’m in.
I want to be a part of raising this next generation that can whole-heartedly look at each other with love and respect, honoring the skin we’re all in.
The Bible is very clear on the subject of racism. It clearly states that there is no room for division, segregation, favoritism, or racism in the Body of Christ.
Galatians 3:26-28 says “for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, though faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
And 1 John 2:9-10 declares “Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling.”
Some of my brothers and sisters, whom I love dearly, are hurting right now. I don’t have to know “the whole story” of each shooting video to know that it brings an extra layer of pain to an entire culture of people. I don’t have to know the details of who, why, and how to know that years of overt and systemic and hidden racism can shape a nation. I don’t have to completely understand the intricacies of how black people feel to extend empathy and love and support. I don’t have to personally be wounded to feel the pain.
I don’t know if these white men were motivated to kill these black men because of the color of their skin. But I do know that these murders were brutal, 100% avoidable, horrible, and grievous to the heart of God. I DO know that these acts bring a complete other layer and level of pain to my black friends that I may never understand. I DO know that some of my black friends and loved ones still feel the sting of racism today. I DO know that each time something like this happens, it leaves them feeling more vulnerable. I DO know that if I were raising black children I would be having different conversations with them than I have to have with my children.
A black man struggles for air, helpless as police and bystanders watch, and barely murmurs “I CAN’T BREATH.” A layered phrase if I’ve ever heard one.
Black friends, I don’t know the depths of what you are going through. It is hard for me to imagine that racism can still exist in our nation, let alone in our churches, but I know that it does. This broken world we live in continues to crumble each day. These divisions widen, and we just yell louder at each other. The media takes advantage of any outrage they can latch onto and stoke the fire of discord. It feels nearly impossible to have a conversation about these differences without walking on eggshells, desperate to not offend or say the wrong thing.
When I say the only answer to this is Jesus, it is not a cop-out. It is not a platitude like a casual “I’ll pray for you” when we don’t know what to say. The literal ONLY answer to a division of this magnitude is God.
The rest of the passage in 1 John 2:9-11 says, “Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.”
Lord, open our eyes. Let us see the parts of the body of Christ that are in pain right now. Let us be sensitive to the wounds of our brothers and sisters. Let us walk in the light of unrestrained love. Help us to see the ways we cause division and help us to see how we can bring unity.
We need You to bring healing to the hurting hearts. We need Your red blood to cover and cleanse the souls in our black and white and brown and peach bodies. We need Your mercy to fill the gaps between us, Your grace to unite what divides. We need Your Spirit to examine us and reveal any sin in our hearts that cause us to look at anyone as less than. We need to align our thoughts and actions with Your pure Word. We need to be Your hands and feet as we interact in a broken world. We need to allow Your love and the fruits of the spirit to come out of our hearts and mouths as our first reaction, not skepticism or hate or prejudice. We need Your peace and love and mercy as we navigate these waters.
Whoever loves his brother abides in the light. Lord, let us live in that light.
Easter this year feels different. So different. I have sewed masks instead of ruffled dresses. I have scheduled a crew of ten people to come to our physical church, instead of asking the entire choir to wake up extra early for a pre-service rehearsal. Our family of four will probably eat leftovers for Easter dinner instead of a big meal with 20 family members because 1) social distancing and 2) there is SO MUCH COOKING in quarantine!?!
My spirit has been buoyed by all the churches stepping out of the box and bringing light through social media and the internet like never before. There is so much beautiful content out there now to center our hearts back on Jesus. But there is also such a strong undercurrent of mourning that I can’t shake.
This is not how it’s supposed to be. This can’t be right.
How do we help a hurting world when we can’t touch them? How do we give to the needy when our jobs have shut down? How do we say goodbye to family members when they’re in isolation? How do we comfort the anxious and depressed and fearful when we can’t gather together? How do we stay strong when we have no control over our resources, our security, or our future? Our churches and our ministries are working harder than ever to push through the hindrances and bring hope. And I know God can and is using the smallest mustard seed faith and the shakiest live stream to absolutely change the world.
But this is hard. This is not how it’s supposed to be. It doesn’t make sense.
I think that Jesus felt some of these in the garden. As He walked along the path the night before His crucifixion, He said, “my soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.” (Matthew 26:38). He prayed to God, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” (26:39)
When I have read that verse before, I’ve never really paused at that colon. “… let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will ….” I’ve read the sentence as a complete thought, barely lingering on the fact that Jesus asked to avoid the coming pain. I knew that He ultimately chose surrender and sacrifice and agony. He was always going to choose it. His love was and is and forever will be greater. From the first moment sin entered the world, He knew He would be the spotless Lamb. Asking to be spared was just an odd phrase that didn’t really fit in with my picture of Jesus.
But He did. He said it. He asked to be spared. With the weight of the world, the salvation of humanity, and the promise of heaven weighing greatly on His shoulders, He asked for reprieve. He asked for it to end before it even came. He asked to avoid the pain.
He was intimately connected with pain. He was born in a rush of pain. He knew the extent of the pain to come. He was able to better connect with humanity in their greatest moments of pain. He asked His followers to partake of the pain. He never promised prosperity. He promised pain.
So why was He asking to avoid it?
“… let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will ….” I’ve got to admit, I don’t really use colons that often. I’m more a fan of run-on, incomplete, stream of thought sentences. So I looked them up, and according to grammarbook.com, “a colon means ‘that is to say’ or ‘here’s what I mean.’ [It is] used between independent clauses when the second sentence explains, illustrates, paraphrases, or expands on the first sentence.”
Jesus asking to let the cup pass from Him is Jesus asking to avoid the pain. But He acknowledges that the will of the Father could explain, illustrate, or expand on that pain. His will could paraphrase the pain – extract meaning from it that might not be readily visible. Jesus was showing His humanity in the most relatable way of all, yet that wasn’t the end of His sentence.
Jesus was showing us how to deal with our heavy hearts, our “sorrowful souls.” We can feel the weight of mourning. The weight of despair. We can want to avoid the rocky terrain that He has laid out for us. We can ask Him to let the cup pass from us. To help us avoid the pain. We can fall on our faces with the heaviness of it all. But that’s not where we stop. That’s not the end of our story.
Our pain has a purpose. Our pain has a meaning. Our pain has either been designed by God or allowed by God to prepare us for what comes after that colon.
Pain : purpose.
The colon uniting the two thoughts is the turning point.
It doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t feel right. Jesus did nothing wrong. Why should He have to die for my sins? The pain is too great. This isn’t how it should be. We can’t gather in our churches. We’ve lost our jobs. We don’t have the resources to provide for our families. We have no control, fear is fighting to take over, and our security is being threatened.
In this grammar situation, it is first the pain then the thing that clarifies it – His will. God’s will for our lives encompasses the pain, it explains the pain, it translates the pain, it defines the person. It’s not the other way around. His will isn’t affected by the pain. His plan isn’t hindered by our grief and sorrow or by fiery darts or wounds. Our pain doesn’t clarify anything. Our deepest trial isn’t the end of our sentence. It’s merely the first half of a colon sentence. His will is the end. His purpose is the defining factor.
Lord, I can’t bear this sorrow, but what I mean is, I am willing to follow your plan. Lord, this hurts too much, but in other words, I trust You. Lord, let me avoid this pain, but what I mean is, Your ways are higher. Lord, help my unbelief, but that is to say, I believe You.
Jesus isn’t afraid of our heavy hearts. He can handle our grief and confusion. He has intimately felt that yearning for reprieve. But He has made a way to turn our mourning into dancing. He can take our filthy, stinky ashes and replace them with radiant crowns of beauty. He can wrap up that sorrow and transform it into joy. He can turn the bitter waters in our cup to sweet wine. We just have to follow the grammar of pain that he laid out. Place a colon at the end, not a period.
The weird thing about March 2020 and the whole Coronavirus scare is … well, honestly … I can’t finish that sentence. Because the weird thing is everything. All the things. Each one. There is nothing normal about the life we are all living right now.
I took my one-year-old in to her pediatrician for a recurring ear infection and left with the recommendation to quarantine ourselves. She had an upper respiratory infection, and our local hospital’s standard practice is to treat all upper respiratory infections in little ones as if they were COVID-19. Most cases are mild in children, and Selah didn’t fit the qualifications to be tested. So we hunkered down for the good of others as a precaution. We have one week left to go, and I think I have about two days’ worth of nerves left. So we’re in a pretty good spot. Ha!
I have started this blog post approximately twelve times, and each time I launch into writing about some other aspect of this quarantine life. So in effort to not give you 50,000 words on Laundry: Why Do We Still Have it During Quarantine? or on How to Survive When You Lose Your Job and Your Health and Your Church Building and There’s No Bread: A March 2020 Life Guide, I’m sticking to this one today. Our quarantine bucket list.
Aside from God, my husband’s humor, and copious amounts of coffee creamer, there have been two things that have kept me afloat during this quarantine: 1) making a list and 2) throwing the list out the window. I am not one of those moms who scheduled everything out that first week school closed. You remember those moms? The ones who scheduled out activities and lessons and theme-based snacks and all the family time? How are you ladies doing? Are you tired? Come on over to our side, mamas. There’s plenty of room on the couch covered in Goldfish crumbs. Just turn Daniel Tiger back on. It’s fine. Remember that line – “it’s fine.” That’s your new motto. Not “it’s great” or “it’s award winning” or even “it’s admirable.” We’re in the apocalypse over here. IT’S FINE.
But back to my list. I knew that these days would put me in a fragile emotional and mental state. My husband’s job is affected by all of this, and I now have no childcare options so that I can do my job. We have had surprising behavior problems (with our children, not the grown ups – unless you count me eating cookies with my head under the blankets), and being in isolation has a way of just messing with your mind. We were watching some show about this guy on death row who got in trouble in the prison, so they put him in isolation. So, isolation is the punishment for people ALREADY on death row?! Yet, here we are. Isolated and doing just great. Wait, where was I going with this?
Oh, yes. MY LIST. So I made a big chalkboard list of guidelines and activities and called it our Quarantine-tastic list. The other working title was Let’s keep Mommy out of the mental institution. But it didn’t look as cute in calligraphy.
I broke it down into three categories: daily activities, special activities, and home projects.
The daily activities are the things we need to do around here to keep us sane. We take family walks outside – keeping at least 6 feet distance from others and yelling UNCLEAN if anyone comes too close of course. We read lots of books. It’s helping my Selah monster stay still for two seconds and it feels like it’s helping our brains grow. We clean up each day. Normally I’m the opposite of a clean freak and fine with some clutter, but our brains need the extra space these days. A clean home is one thing I can control right now, and that feels better than I can explain. And lastly, we have quiet/iPad time. Selah takes a nap, Ruby gets to play on her iPad, and I get to just sit down and stare at the wall in silence without anyone touching me or snotting on me. (My husband has been working most of the days in his office downstairs in the basement. I’m not making him take a nap. Ha!)
There are other things I do daily like church/personal work, pursuing my relationship with God, and eating cookies, but this is a small, manageable list that I can involve both girls in. Your daily list may look a lot different, but this is what’s working for us!
Next, we have special activities. These are just a few free and easy things that my four-year-old can look forward to. Our list is to bake a unicorn cake, play with sidewalk chalk, have a picnic under our tree, make a big fort, and find + paint rocks. There are a billion ideas out there for social-distancing activities. These worked for us since we can’t go out anywhere.
And lastly, we have a home list. I’m like 98% sure that I won’t cross off any of this stuff, but at least it makes me feel better as a person that I acknowledge them. Ha! As self-employed parents of little gremlins trying to figure out life in quarantine, we don’t have any free time these days. And if we do get free time, Timothy spends it on work and I stare at the aforementioned wall. But each time I pass our list I see the home projects written down, and it gives me hope that somehow they will get done.
So, my tip one was to make a list. It’s been a lifesaver in feeling like we have some control in the uncontrollable. My second tip is to throw the list out the window. Some days you’ll wake up feeling great and powerful and hopeful and ready to do all the things. Some days you’ll wake up with the weight of this chaos weighing heavy on your heart. The uncertainty and fear will creep in. Some days it takes all of your energy to continually give all that back to God. To fight the doubt away. To not snap at your children or argue with your spouse over meaningless things or eat all of the Doritos or to let dread make himself at home. On those days, throw out the list. Put on worship music. Let your kids have some extra screen time. Take a nap when your baby takes a nap. Lock yourself in the bathroom and cry for a bit. This is not normal. Living like this is not normal. Do what it takes to clear your brain. Then after a few hours, pick the list back up again. Take your kids to the backyard. Look up. It’s okay. This won’t last forever.
“He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler. Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday. A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee. Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked. Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone. Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet. Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him. With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation.”
My friend, Dacia, runs her own business from home and has two adorable little kids. She recently posted on her IG stories about being home alone and randomly catching herself calling out “what?” She just laughed about it and said, “that’s how many times my name (aka ‘mom’) has been called in the last 24 hours … I’m just conditioned to call out ‘what?’ every so often.”
If that doesn’t sum up the life of a mom, I don’t know what does.
Motherhood is made up of countless mundane habits and tasks repeated over and over and over again, punctuated by thrills of novelty. Motherhood is answering to “mama” so much, so often, that you can hear it ringing in your ears long after your children are put to bed. It is chopping up food into bite size pieces for breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, and snack, and then washing the highchair, sweeping the floor, wiping the hands, and cleaning the bib after each meal. It is pushing the toddler on the swing until your arms are numb, but her giggles somehow infuse the strength in your limbs to continue. It is nightly zipping him up into soft pajamas and getting sloppy, sticky kisses professing his undying love, even when you feel you don’t deserve it.
Sometimes the monotony of motherhood can feel overwhelming. Your job is never done, your tasks never complete. A lawyer can deliver a beautiful closing argument and close her case. A surgeon can mend a heart, then wash her hands from the surgery and go home. An artist can paint the last stroke on a canvas, then seal up her paints and hang the art in a gallery. Yet a mother kisses a boo-boo, washes behind dirty ears, mops a kitchen floor, folds soon-to-be dirtied clothes, and then prepares to redo it all the next day.
As a work-from-home mom, I have been guilty many times of looking at these monotonous tasks as the things keeping me from more meaningful work. I have looked at women in other seasons of life, maybe without children or maybe with older, more independent children, and envied their freedom to go after dreams or callings or giftings that God has given them. If I didn’t spend so much time serving my toddler and pre-schooler, would I have written my book by now? If my mind didn’t feel so numb at the end of a needy day, would I be farther along in what I think my ministry should look like? Am I less valuable to the world and the Kingdom since I spend all day scraping up dried gummies from the kitchen floor and fishing random items out of my baby’s mouth? Am I showing my daughters how to be a dynamic, world-changing woman if my biggest accomplishment that day was successfully clipping my one-year-old pterodactyl’s fingernails?
This never-ending repetition of a mother’s tasks can feel like the very thing holding you back from getting the “good” work done. But what if, in fact, these mundane tasks are where the miracle is?
GK Chesterton wrote, “Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”
It’s okay, go ahead and read it again to let it sink in. Bro. GK was speaking straight to my heart.
Now, the daily (hourly) task of diaper changes may not at first appear as glorious as the way the sun daily rises, but they both carry a hint of the consistency for which our Father is known. He has a limitless imagination, yet He has been content for thousands of years to keep on creating daisies with sunny yellow centers and long white petals.
God is known for His unchanging, consistent, never-failing ways. He doesn’t look at the sun and say, “I need excitement! How about you rise from the west today?” He doesn’t look at Monday and say, “I just created you last week. I’m tired of it. Let’s just not do Monday this week.” He doesn’t look at the lilies and say, “My glory and worth are better shown in big, public arenas. Clothing you is not worth my time.” No, He doesn’t say that at all.
Matthew 6:28-30 says, “And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?”
He arranges petal on lilies in the field that won’t even last a day. He tells the sea at each tide how far to come in. He holds the earth up every second of every minute in the vastness of space. He creates winter, spring, summer, and fall, and then starts all over again without fail. He provides us with new mercies each and every morning.
Yes, He does great and mighty miracles – stories that we pass down to our children and their children. He heals blinded eyes and gives children to the barren and shrinks tumors and speaks in rolls of thunder. But are those moments of loud, earth-shaking, breath-taking feats of His power more “important” than the daily acts of sustaining and protecting and speaking and leading and guiding He does for us all? Would we dare tell God that His unfailing consistency isn’t as miraculous as the moments He surprises us?
If God can be glorified in the consistent clothing of the lily, then surely He can be glorified in my consistent tasks of mothering. Surely He looks at the mother, wiping her little one’s runny nose for the tenth time that day, with the same reckless love with which He looks at the one standing on stage speaking to hundreds. He is God of the unimaginable universe, yet He counts our hairs one by one on our head. Surely I can slow down enough to read my daughter her favorite book a few more (hundred) times.
The never-ending repetition of a mother’s tasks is not the thing holding us back from getting to the “good” work. It’s not what we need to check off a to-do list before finally going after our calling or gifting or purpose. Maybe God is taking this time in the trenches to mold us mamas into an image more like Him? Maybe it is a season where He is using the monotony to strip the excess off us. Maybe it’s not always the loud moments of acclaim on social media, but the quiet moments in the basement folding clean footed jammies that He looks at us and says, “Yes, I see My light reflecting from her.”
There are God-reflecting miracles in the daily mundane of motherhood. There is beauty and glory and power in the daily sweeping and disciplining and cooking. We just have to look closely not to miss them.
Either two days ago or twenty-five years ago, our country started preparing for a global pandemic. I’ve honestly lost all notion of time at this point. Ha!
But here we are, an uncertain amount of time later, with our children home from school, restaurants shut down, events cancelled, churches changing their methods, doctors issuing new warnings every day, and not one loaf of bread to be found for miles.
While I feel small and insignificant in light of the chaos that is going on, I serve a God Who is bigger than it all. I didn’t want this time to pass without doing what I could to make a difference. Now, I can’t cure the virus or calm all the panic or create toilet paper. I’m even highly doubtful of my bread baking abilities. But I can use my voice and my art to try and shine a light.
So I have created an 8-page digital coloring book filled with hope and trust and faith in Someone bigger than us. My idea for these pages is two-fold. One, your children are now home 24/7 with no outside activities to engage them. (Don’t worry, I included several non-floral designs for the little men in your life.)
Our children are little sponges, and can soak in stress and worry that we think we have hidden. These coloring pages are an activity that they can do that has been steeped in prayer. As they color them, you can use that time to explain the words on each page and what they mean to you. When was the last time you explained “peace” to your four-year-old? Somehow the process of condensing down these big ideas into easily-understandable ones for children makes them come alive in a new way.
That leads me to the second purpose of these pages. I think they would be great for adults of all ages. You can color them with crayons or markers, or you can download them onto your tablet and color them in your favorite art app. The act of coloring is slow and methodical. It is perfect for those of us who have racing, busy minds. Let the time spent filling in each stoke be a time that points you to the Peace Speaker. Think about the words on the page and how they are related to what the Promise Maker has spoken over our lives. Turn off social media for a bit and make something with your own two hands. Give Him an opportunity to speak to you.
This may sound crazy and a bit much to put upon a coloring book, but God has used smaller things to minister to His people before. And we don’t really have time right now to do anything without making God a part of it. We are literally relying on Him for our daily bread in some cities and towns. If we approach Him boldly and expecting to hear from Him, I have no doubt He will meet us there.
(This set of coloring pages is completely free, and don’t worry – I’m not asking for your e-mail either. It’s simply a free gift – no strings attached!) There is a User Guide included in the download link that will hopefully answer any questions you may have about using the coloring pages. I hope it blesses you! And I hope you have some fun!