Who doesn’t love a kid that is all ready for bed? Clean jammies, little minty fresh mouths, and soft blankies pulled up around them. Sweet voices uttering phrases like “Night night mama, I love you”. It’s AHHHH-DORABLE. The problem is that sweet little scene doesn’t come about easily. It happens after a series of repetitive battles that only parents can commiserate with. What should take a child five minutes to accomplish stretches out painfully to 15-30 mins. most nights. I do not understand how single parents do it, I have SO MUCH respect for them. If I didn’t have Ryan to either be the hired gun or at least make sarcastic comments with me so we can make “light” of this frustrating end to our day….well I just don’t know what I’d do. Probably punch a kitten. (I’m kidding cat lovers….or am I??”)
You would think it is a child’s first time EVER getting ready for bed. LIKE EVER. It’s like they have no idea what to do or what is expected of them. AT ALL! I mean Rhett’s ONLY had three years of bedtimes to practice and Bennett has ONLY had 5.5 years of bedtimes to learn and Chloe has ONLY had seven years of bedtimes to master this. Can you tell we are a little over bedtime shenanigans? Nobody wants to end the night with spanks, it just feels wrong but if you sit in the other room and listen to just what the parent says you realize how foolish they sound.
“Brush your teeth! Don’t forget the ones in the back, no all the way in the back….yes up and down not just side to side. Guys stop talking and BRUSH YOUR TEETH. Well that’s the only flavor toothpaste we have so deal with it. I’m sorry Chloe they only had Spiderman toothpaste, I’ll get a girly one next time. Who cares if it’s a superhero…it’s TOOTH PASTE. Just put it on your brush and BRUSH. Why is this so hard? Well you cry if I do it so either do it right or I am going to do it myself. I’m serious….if you don’t get the ones in the back then I will do it for you! Stop talking and brush your teeth. Please share the stool. Why is it so hard to share a stool with your brother? Then take turns. No he was on it first. I don’t care if your foot was touching it first, he was standing on it first. You know what….NOBODY gets the stool you can stand on your tiptoes. If you can’t be kind and share it’s gone. Did you rinse your brush? Please spit all the way into the sink I know it’s you that lets it dribble down the cabinet. LEAN OVER!!! Well I took the stool away so do the best you can. Forget it, just swallow it. Come on let’s get on jammies.”
End battle one.
Enter the next arena…pajamas. Same song, second verse.
“Stop jumping on the bed and take your clothes off. STOP JUMPING ON THE BED AND GET YOUR CLOTHES OFF…are your ears broken? Wear the jammies from last night they are still clean. NO…no new jammies I don’t want to do that much laundry. I’m serious…close the drawer and grab your jammies off the hook. Rhett you can’t just wear just a diaper to bed, put on your jammies. Stop crying, it’s just pajamas. You want your rock star ones? How bout the raccoon ones? You love the raccoon ones, see the little car? Then the jungle ones. Why not? Just pick one please, I need to get Chloe ready. GUYS…stop jumping on the bed and get your pajamas on, final warning!” I assure you we are not “push over” parents. There are punishments dealt swiftly at our house but after pulling a 13 hour day with kids and getting only 6+ hours of sleep as apposed to their 12+ hours, the odds are clearly in their favor. Once, just once I want to see ticker tape fall when I walk down the stairs after we get the kids in bed. No… I take that back… can you imagine the mess? Anal Kelly will have none of that!
It’s so our reality and even though we want to put our head through a wall many nights doing this little song and dance it does, somehow, someway, end up where our kids are snuggled in their beds looking adorable, cuddly and sweet.
The arguments of the last 20 minutes begin to fade into the background and through some miracle of grace we finally make it to bedtime prayers. Although “weather” tends to get top billing most nights on the Thankful Chart, sometimes our kids really blow us away with what they will pray for. Seriously….why are kids so thankful for the “nice day” or “beautiful weather”? Maybe it’s just our kids that are a broken record about the weather. Ryan and I often stifle laughs when our kids thank the Lord for the “beautiful day” as we glance out the window at day three of rain. Me thinks our kids might be on prayer autopilot.
A few years ago when Chloe was about 4.5 and Bennett three years old we had one of those proud parent nights.
Sometime earlier that week Chloe had seen an ad in a magazine I was flipping through about Operation Smile. This is an awesome organization where doctors provide free surgeries to repair cleft lip, cleft palate and other facial deformities for children around the globe. The ad had a picture of a child with a severe cleft palate and Chloe was fascinated and confused. This led to a really good conversation about what these doctors do and how it changes the lives of children not only aesthetically but functionally. We talked about being thankful for being born without a deformity and we should pray for these children and doctors. Coincidently, that same week, my kids were at my parents house and my mom had the news on which had a story about twins conjoined at the head. Again, Chloe’s morbid curiosity gripped her, and my mom talked her through how they were born and what the doctors were going to do to help them become separated.
So back to our proud night. We were in their rooms wrangling them into bed per usual. Bennett volunteers to pray first. Of course he thanked God for the beautiful weather, I’m sure a few friends were thrown in, favorite toys and usually Ryan and I make the cut. Next, Chloe began to pray. What left her mouth was nothing short of beautiful. Words and thoughts far above her four year old pay grade. With deep sincerity she began praying for the children with clef palates, she prayed for the hands of the doctors preforming the surgeries, she prayed for the conjoined twins and for their doctors. On and on it went. I welled up with tears at the deep and empathetic nature of her prayer and that what stuck with her wasn’t that these kids looked different but that they needed PRAYER and HEALING.
Wanting to seize the moment when she was done I began to praise her. “Chloe I am so proud of you for praying for others in need. That is called intercession. This is how God wants us to pray thinking of others before ourselves! I’m so proud you remembered about the doctors and you also realize only God can truly heal them.” She received our words with joy and satisfaction.
Soon a little voice pipes up from across the room. “I want to go again.” Bennett obviously wasn’t so moved by Chloe’s prayer as much as he liked the attention she got. Move over weather…..there is a new song in Bennett’s heart and it went like this.
“Dear God, please help the kids with the funny mouths and the stuck together kids. Amen.”
There he sat proudly waiting for his words of affirmation. It took everything in us not to die laughing. There was no mincing words, there was no finesse, no doubt that he was gunning for the praise that surely awaited him at the end of the “Amen”. Not wanting to disappoint we offered him a few words of watered down praise. We left their room so we could finally bust a gut. Kids provide endless entertainment for us. That’s why they survive those annoying nighttime dramas. TRUTH!
As funny as that was I often act like Bennett. I offer up my words, I do something, I create something, I experience something, I learn something and I feel satisfied. BUT then I start to look around and I sense that others are doing more, are better than me, are getting more praise, are farther ahead, have more stuff, are happier, thinner, wealthier, more spiritual, more accomplished, etc…. A little voice pipes up inside of me that says, “I want to go again.” I let discontentment and comparison kick the door down of my life, my mind, my heart and my soul. What I found great joy in creating now feels simple and amateur. What I saved up for and finally bought WITH CASH…feels second rate….not good enough. My house that I work so hard on and I love so much…suddenly feels generic and uninspiring. That really great lesson I learned or bible study I finished that worked me over and taught me so much now feels like a sunday school lesson for toddlers. What a trap, what a senseless cycle. It’s the hamster wheel of crazy that we eagerly wait in line with our ticket to board. Theodore Roosevelt nailed it when he said “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
“I want to go again.” Why?
But what if we weren’t aware of everyone’s highlight reel. What if we aligned our life with what 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 says. What if….
9 Now you do not need anyone to write to you about brotherly love, since you have been taught by God to love each other. 10 In fact, you are showing love to all the brothers throughout (insert your own city), but we urge you, brothers, to keep on doing this even more. 11 Also, make it your goal to live QUIETLY, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we instructed you, 12 so that you may win the respect of outsiders, and have need of nothing.
So God taught us how to love and we are doing that in some ways but we are urged to do this EVEN MORE.
In searching deeper through a commentary The “even more” refers to:”in showing love to the brethren; which may be done both by administering to them in things temporal, by assisting them in distress, by sympathizing with them, and by giving them counsel and advice; and in things spiritual, by bearing their burdens, forbearing with them, and forgiving them; by admonishing them in love, by stirring them up to love and good works, by praying with them and for them, and by instructing and building them up in their most holy faith”. Do you set out each morning to do these things?
LIVE QUIETLY: “To live peaceably in their own families, and to give no disturbance to other families, by talebearing, whispering, and backbiting; to behave with quietness in the neighborhood, town, or city, they dwell in, and to seek the peace thereof; and to lead a quiet and peaceable life, in all godliness and honesty, in the commonwealth, and under the government to which they belong; and not to create and encourage factions, divisions, animosities, and contentions, in their own church…”
MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS: “not thrust himself into other families, and officiously take upon him, under a pretense of zeal, affection, and friendship, to inspect, direct, or manage the business of others: in short, he should not meddle with other people’s business…”
Work with your own hands and the byproduct of this is respect of others and having need of nothing or, I love the Latin for this “that ye may not desire anything of anyone”; as the slothful man covets greedily all the day long what is another’s, and this desire kills him”
Whooooooo!!!! Are you drinking from a firehose of truth right now? Digesting ten steaks perhaps? It’s a lot to take in but man does God understand the human condition. He understands the peril we put ourselves in when we center our lives around comparing what others have, are doing, have accomplished. How can good fruit come from this? How can we possibly cultivate a thankful spirit, contentment, joy, and peace when we are rubbernecking, adding our two cents, spending countless hours keeping track of others?
One of the main reasons we moved out to the country 18 months ago was so we could take a deliberate step back from being available. We wanted to slow our lives down, be home a lot more and start to invite people IN to sharing life with us. Our very simple life. It was one of the best things we’ve done for our family. It was right for us. My tendency was always to “overbook” the calendar and be available for anyone, anytime because it was quick to scoot here and there when I lived in town. Now we have to turn down more than we can accept. We have had to see our home as our place of ministry and seek the Lord for how he wants us to use it. I can not believe how much my spirit has come to rest by moving outside the city. If you had asked me three years ago would I be willing to move out to the country I would have laughed in your face. Oh how the Lord is gentle. He brought me/us to this place where not only was I open to it, I desired it above all else.
I have not conquered comparison. In my teen/early adult life it ruled my thoughts and was the motivating force for my decision making, spending, and time (mis)management. Now it is something I wrestle with but the Lord over the last few years especially is showing me ways to live that QUIET life which immediately slays the comparison dragon. It’s a molting process that at times is painful but mostly its just freeing. Maybe it’s because I am getting older but I truly just don’t care about most of what was SO IMPORTANT when I was in my 20’s. As the one line in the song “Hosanna” says
“Heal my heart and make me clean, open up my eyes to the things unseen, show me how to love like you have loved me, break my heart for what breaks yours, EVERYTHING I am for your kingdom’s cause. As I walk from earth into eternity.”
Most people won’t understand your desire to simplify and lead a humble and quiet life. Everything, and I mean everything, in our American society paints “normal” as the acquisition of stuff. Live big, live loud, tell everyone about it and don’t be left behind. Nothing could be farther from the TRUTH. Start to live differently, start to live kingdom-minded, let God break your heart for what breaks his. People are always going to question what goes against society. Just show them this….