I wrote the other day that I’ve had surgery recently. Not to add insult to injury, but while my life has been temporarily upheveled, I decided to take care of some skin issues resulting from years of sun damage as a child because I figured I’d be home and out of public eye. So in addition to my temporary disability, I now look horrible. It’s one of those processes that gets worse before getting better. I told the doctor, I’m just that vain enough to not want to go out in public until this is done. Dignity is worth something, right? It was the perfect plan to execute my makeover and no one would be the wiser. I’d just show up in public one day with radiant skin and two legs that work just fine. I’d make a subtle, yet grand, entrance like I’m some Hollywood star. Ha!
On the morning after the skin procedure, my phone rang unexpectedly. I must admit, with the surgery and life still blazing a trail at 100mph, I can’t keep everything straight. Perhaps the anesthesia is still working its way out of me. I don’t know. I do know I’m fuzzy on details of the day. When the phone rang, it was a precious mom from our Moms in Prayer group (I have only met these women once) saying she couldn’t find my house as she was en route for our prayer time. I sat stunned. I knew it was today, but in the midst of trying to get 3 kids out the door, 2 of them still finishing homework and one needing to be early to school, I just lost a grip on the day’s calendar.
I gave her directions to my home, knowing she was right around the corner, hung up and took a look around. With Fall here, leaves are continually trekked into our house. I usually vacuum several times a week to keep them out, but I can’t vacuum right now. Opened birthday presents were on the fireplace, laundry was strewn about, and clutter was everywhere.
My family is trying hard to keep the ball rolling here, but with several unexpected things that seem to pop up every day, I know everyone is doing all they can. They are great helpers, but there is only 24 hours in a day – minus sleep.
I hobbled around the house in the few seconds I had to pick everything up. There was just no way. It was what it was.
Then there is me. I’m a mess! I really didn’t want anyone seeing me like this. In fact, at the time the doorbell rang, I couldn’t remember if I had brushed my hair, much less had any make-up on. Earlier, I chose an old, faded t-shirt to wear because of the high neckline to cover the skin procedure, and because of my surgical boot, I chose shorts that, although they are fairly new, the inside seam unraveled after the first wash, so there’s a big hole in my pants. Not to mention my shoes. One gigantic surgical boot and one brown sandal. The doctor said I need to even out the height of the boot so my back doesn’t suffer from walking at two levels, so the only shoe that works is this old brown sandal (that in no way matched my shirts and shorts).
I met not one woman, but three ladies at the door and invited them in. Welcome to my chaos! I said with a laugh. I was SO embarrassed.
I’m not pretentious, nor do I feel I need to impress anyone. But, at least let my house be clean when people come over. At least let me have washed my face and put on decent clothes.
They were extremely gracious – even when one mom went into my kitchen and saw both sinks full of dirty dishes and some unknown sticky substance on the counter after the daily brigade of breakfasts and lunchboxes flew through like a tornado.
I just couldn’t get over being embarrassed. Do I really care that much? I asked myself. But, I never thought I did. Why is this bothering me?
Martha Stewart I am not. We are a crazy house of 5 extroverts who use every square inch of its space. Creative juices flow, and usually so does something my kids want to try to bake or a science experiment, or a string of our dog’s toys that makes it look like a preschooler lives here.
Mess. This day, my house was a mess. I was a mess. There was nothing I could do.
God met me in that moment and reminded me of something He told me a while back. He said, This school year will be a year of healing for you. But…it begins with brokenness.
He wasn’t kidding. A broken foot it is. At least, that all I thought He was talking about.
I didn’t realize that there may be other areas of my life that need to broken to be healed. My foot needed to be broken so the problem could be fixed. So does my heart.
God’s ways are different from mine, but His ways are right – every time.
This particular morning showed me that I want to be accepted and approved by people more than I should. This was the first time these ladies were meeting at my home, to accommodate my surgery recovery, and it drove me nuts that I couldn’t create an atmosphere (or image) that everything is semi-perfect.
It’s not! Life is not perfect! The only bell and whistle I could do was light a cinnamon candle. Whoopie.
I had to accept the fact that I look like a wreck, because physically I am one right now. How humbling!
God brought me from a place of panic that they were on their way, to humility over what my house and myself looked like, to a place where I could see what was most important -prayer with other Christian moms for our kids and their schools.
To live like we are created in the image of God, we make choices to reflect Him in our words and deeds. This requires a lot of dying to self. Approval is an issue I’ve struggled with my whole life. Every time God works with me on this, I feel His fingerprint on specific situations as a gentle reminder that He is not cruel or uncaring, aloof or oblivious. He is acutely aware of our frailties and weaknesses, and He desires for each of us a life of victory.
Living in strength and victory means we are wise enough to discern a situation and respond (not react) to it according to what pleases God, not ourselves. We can trust this process, because God promised He is working all thing good for His children. It’s a precious circle of love. When we break out of the circle and go our own way, we forfeit the blessing of having His workmanship revealed in our circumstance.
For me, I could barely concentrate on what we were praying about because of the state of my house and my body. It really wasn’t pride, as much as it was me wanting these women’s approval that I am at least acceptable.
Truly, it’s only God’s acceptance that I need to crave. When I have it from Him, I am full and satisfied. Everything else is gravy. When I fill my tank with people’s acceptance, I am constantly having to refill it because people, frankly, let each other down. We don’t perform to each other’s expectations. We love conditionally. We forgive when we feel like it. And we are selfish. When we seek God’s favor first, He has freedom in our lives to set us up for success in other areas – like bringing good friends into our lives. Friends who will come to us to pray, when we can’t go to them.
That morning was so uncomfortable for me. But, the lesson I learned in it made me more pliable in the Potter’s hand. A huge benefit to me was that I could scrap the embarrassment over my house and my body and welcome others into our home who have since brought us meals, and I’ve felt comfortable inviting them to sit and chat. Even yesterday, a friend from church brought us dinner, and as we sat in the family room talking, 3 loads of laundry stared at us from the sofa just feet away. Underwear and all! I chose to embrace God’s acceptance of me and enjoy my visit with a dear friend who took the time to come see me. I told her with a laugh, For a couple of weeks, this stuff really doesn’t matter. It’ll get done eventually.
Also, I breached my own vow of solitude to attend my son’s football game yesterday. I look like I have a plague, but who cares! My son was playing football and my friends were going to be there. Those two things were way more important to me. Yes, I looked like a sports diva sitting in a chair with an overhead canopy AND an umbrella fastened to the chair to avoid all sun, and had another chair in front of me to prop my boot leg on. I said to my friend, I wasn’t sure I was going to come, but I knew ya’ll would love me regardless of how I look. She replied, Of course we do! I wanted to show my son, the one who made the love note for me (in the photo above) and left it on my laptop as a surprise, that he was more important than my internal issues…because he is.
Today, between the endless, monotonous hours of icing and elevating my foot, I will shed more of my embarrassment as my family meets two of our favorite families for frozen yogurt to celebrate two birthdays between all of us. I love these families so much, and I know they love me back. I can feel free to show up just like I am because they are family to us. I wouldn’t miss the laughter, fun and memories we make every time we are together just so I can stay home and save face (literally!). No way. Life is too short. People are too precious. We have some very special girls who need to be sung Happy Birthday. Memories are just waiting to be made. I wouldn’t miss it for the world. I’ll even let myself be in the pictures…how about that! This is largely in part to an incredible bog post I read recently by Allison Tate on the subject of having moms photographed despite ourselves. Take a look! click here.
Yes. This whole experience has taught me a lesson I didn’t know I needed to learn. When we fully release ourselves to God, even the secret places, untapped possibilities await. Whatever we’re holding onto, whatever holds us back, whatever holds us down, let’s release it. Then, with open hands and an eager heart, we are prepared to receive the abundant blessings God wants to give us. And that, friends, is healing for the body and soul.