This weekend, I’ve had the blessing of accompanying Jacob to a dog grooming competition in Denver. I am the official chauffeur and dog-sitter at these events. The chauffeuring book-ends the dog-sitting–which involves spending quality time with Jacob’s competition dogs so they don’t bark in the hotel rooms.
The best thing about dog-sitting is that the dogs, all content in my presence, sleep. That means that I have hours to sit and think, uninterrupted. Oh, oh, oh, I cannot even begin to describe the benefit that I derive from this activity.
Last year, I had time (and, at this hotel, FREE internet access) to come up with THIS POST. And THIS ONE. So, I had hopes that I might have the opportunity to sort out some of the multitudinous thoughts that have been flitting around my brain lately. I was not disappointed.
My multitudinous thoughts are associated with the sanctification process that God has been orchestrating in my life ever since Joey’s (okay, I have to say it: unfair) job change in December of 2009. Sometimes it seems I will not be able to actually gather all of these thoughts into some cohesive, practical application for my daily existence. But God keeps pestering me to try. He has used John Piper’s When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy most profoundly in this process. Yet, there have been many times when I think that I am going to be permanently stuck in the last chapter (which is also available as a separate little book): When the Darkness Will Not Lift. And though John Piper has shown me that I can survive even if I am stuck and the darkness never lifts, I still don’t relish being in that dark place. So, so, many of my life-long expectations and assumptions have been challenged in the past year-and-a-half. Consequently, that dark place often manifests itself as lack of clarity and direction with respect to my purpose and focus.
Lately, I had been feeling that if only I had a quiet moment or two to actually sort and sift through the many, many things that I have been learning this past year-and-a-half, I might possibly be able to take a step out of the darkness. I even blogged in THIS POST about some of ideas for change that were rattling around in my head. And this weekend, I was able get a little handle on some of those ideas and, hopefully, develop some practical applications.
So…I am now going to attempt to articulate my thoughts, mostly for my benefit and reference.
First, I am reminded that my family is my primary ministry. No matter what anyone else says or implies about the value of that ministry, it is clearly the ministry to which God has led me. I have no doubts or reservations about that…but, I sometimes get distracted from the importance of it. One practical application of this reminder is that I will be addressing and dismissing false guilt about prioritizing my family ministry over any other ministry opportunity.
Second, I am reminded that my family’s special needs are demanding, draining and exhausting. Three of our children have major special medical needs. Of those three, two have significant developmental delays and learning challenges. Of those two, one has severe behavioral issues. Yes, I sometimes forget to acknowledge to myself how difficult parenting children with special needs is. The practical application of this reminder is that if I am drained and exhausted all of the time, my family ministry is far less effective THEREFORE I will be making time and space for my ART and for rest and reflection (and all of the things I’ve learned to do in When I Don’t Desire God) so I am renewed to serve my family effectively.
Third, I am reminded that my focus is discipling my children and guiding their character development. The practical application of this reminder is that I will adjust my expectations of my housekeeping and cooking. I will revamp my Flylady routine and continue to seriously de-clutter.
Fourth, I am reminded that, for our family, my discipling and character-development efforts are most effective when we are home-based in most of our activities. The practical application of this reminder is that our art and music lessons and, even, our ministry opportunities, will be home-based, at least for a season. (And, while we LOVE, LOVE, LOVE our fabulous art and music teachers and owe them a debt of gratitude, this reminder and practical application also fit our current budgetary restraints!)
Fifth, I am reminded that Joey deserves and needs my support at the bakery. Supporting Joey is a component of my ministry to my family. Yet, this reminder has the most challenging practical application. I consider the bakery location equivalent to “home” in my above references as far as the kids are concerned. However, when the kids are at the bakery with us, there are many interruptions and the effectiveness of my support is lessened. Hopefully, the discipling and character-development I mentioned above will play into the practical application of this reminder.
Sixth, I am reminded that the family members who have supported us the most over the past year-and-a-half also deserve my support, energy and focus. Amelia, Stephen, Levi, Clara, Mom and Dad have been there for us through thick and thin. The practical application of this reminder is that I will be making an effort to be able to meet some of their needs.
So, there you have it. My brain is somewhat relieved to have sorted through all of this and, at the same time, somewhat overwhelmed by all of the practical applications and how to accomplish them. I do, however, hope that this is a positive step in this sanctification process, a step toward clarity and focus, a step out of the darkness.