I shooed one of my children out of the kitchen, yet again, annoyed that I had to hear another complaint of boredom or some long winded tale about how one of their siblings had grossly mistreated them. It sure felt like we were on day 100 million of this year’s particularly long winter break which continued on and on with the recent bout of inclement weather and now a flu crisis circulating throughout the schools.
“Aghhh, I sighed, frustrated again at how much work all of the kids were during these days without school. I didn’t understand how they could complain of boredom so often. We had purchased this beautiful property in the middle of nowhere on 30 acres of land, the river in the backyard, with the expectation that our children would spend their days romping in the fields, building forts, playing tag and hide and seek and whatever else they were able to convince one another to play, but that wasn’t generally the case. Usually they were inside belly aching about how bored they were.
I returned to prepping for dinner that evening, a slow simmering chicken curry; garlic, onions, ginger and jalapenos chopped and sizzling in the pan as music played in the background,
“I’ll praise you in this storm” belted out an old time favorite of mine by the popular group Casting Crowns.
I’d been experiencing a bit of a faith crisis in the recent months as I desperately tried to remain in control as my life felt more and more out of control. Makes sense, right? Hormonal issues that inevitably arrive with aging, teaching which I loved but didn’t love as much as writing, writing which is my passion but doesn’t really pay the bills – at least not yet, raising 8 kids – now a few teenagers and a toddler; struggling to do right by our handicapped son Lucas, but in pursuing the best options for him also needing to sacrifice more of our limited resources and time. So many balls in the air.
It all felt overwhelming most of the time, and I knew I wasn’t handling it well. Lately I spent most of my prayer time complaining, grumbling, and begging for super human strength to get through the days – annoyed that God would bequeath so many responsibilities upon my aging shoulders.
"Praise you in this storm, huh," I muttered. I had so believed those words during some of the most difficult days of life - as a baby grew in my belly in 2004 – a child proclaimed to be dead even before taking his first breath and then again as my first husband took his last breath here on earth and now, when I had eight healthy children and a healthy husband, a good marriage, all of my needs met, I couldn’t muster up some praise in this pathetic little pity party of a storm I was having for myself?
I wasn’t even sure what exactly I believed anymore. I had faith, for sure, but what did that mean? I had recently enjoyed listening to diverse preachers and teachers of the word and this had in turn caused me to question many of the traditional tenants of my faith including a woman's role, the church, what the first church actually looked like and what is all meant in my search for community, identity, and faith in action.
“Jesus help” I sighed in indignation and frustration.
“Go Play” I heard gently whispered –
“What?” I replied
“Go Play! Stop complaining and stop focusing on the negative and stop stressing about all of the tenants of ME, and stop all of the belly aching and just go play! I made it for you! Bask in my creation, jump on the trampoline with your kids, breathe in the beauty of nature all around, enjoy your life, enjoy what I have created for you – for your pleasure! Take joy in the food you are preparing, savor the chocolate pie, sip the chardonnay, make love to your husband, read a good book, teach your daughters how to sew – GO PLAY!”
Could it be that all of my questions about my life, my faith, and my children could be answered in one simple command? Go Play? It’s what I desired for my children – to stop complaining and bickering and go play! To enjoy what we had purchased for them! To enjoy the beauty of their lives! Could it possibly be that the God of the universe just wanted the same for his child? For me to honor him through my enjoyment of what he's blessed me with?
My perspective shifted as it usually does when the Almighty has words with me. A slow smile crept across my face as I poured myself a glass of chardonnay, wrapped up the kitchen duties and headed to the porch to sit with my husband. As I opened the back door, still slightly hesitant about leaving so many tasks undone, I heard a whisper laced in joy urging me forward,
“Yes, go play.”
Just keep livin!