To tell the truth, I should have been standing over my General Electric stove cooking dinner for my family of seven. The day was wearing thin and I had several hungry mouths come into the kitchen where I had been sitting, asking when dinner was going to be ready. “Soon” I told them, dreading the chore set before me. There were still leftover dishes spread all over the counters and dishes overflowing in the sink. I glanced over at them with a look of disgust thinking to myself that perhaps today hadn’t been as productive as I thought.
I knew deep down that the dishes would have to be attended to BEFORE I even attempted cooking since after months of my children being on a seemingly endless losing or breaking dishes streak, we were down to a bare minimum. “I’ll go to Wal-Mart or Target on Friday and pick up some more”, I reassured myself, half knowing that I may just be fooling myself. I’d only be picking up more dishes and utensils if Friday’s eagerly anticipated paycheck wasn’t eaten up by the canker worms called bills. The food bill alone was costing us well over $1200.00 a month and as it was with the absurdly rising food prices, I wanted to cry every time I entered a grocery store.
As all of these thoughts danced around in my head, I readjusted my position at the kitchen table, pressed tightly against our built in bench seating, courteousy of my husband, James, almost three summers ago. Even that reminded me of the fact that I really at the time didn’t have the money to replace the chairs given to me by my mother years ago. The boys had never been easy or gentle on anything in the house, always rumbling, climbing, pushing and shoving each other since they were little. These days at 16, 14, and nearly 13, those boys had a lot of packing power…”I hope nobody messes up my newly painted living walls” I thought almost audibly to myself. My husband had slaved over getting the living room painted just this past Mother’s Day weekend as part of my yearly gift. Well, ` that and the plain fact that he was simply tired of hearing me complain about how I’ve had to live with unfinished EVERYTHING in some state or stage of repair or disassembly.
I had long grown tired of that and God knew I was at my bitter end with waiting. It seemed like almost every stage and area of my life all centralized on one particular theme…WAITING! Oh how I hated the word. Not that by nature, I was impatient. No it was more of a case of wondering when God would get around to answering my desperately needed prayers. As many times as I have prayed for the very same answers, many times, over and over, repeatedly, day after day. I was quite certain that if I were God, and had unlimited power and resources, I simply would have done one of two things with me by now. Either give me the things I needed, which in my opinion didn’t seem like much, some dishes, more clothes, less bills, “more paint”, sort of in the same style related to us in the parable of the judge and woman located somewhere in the new testament.
The woman in the Bible kept enquiring of the judge to settle her plea, and I am not sure what kind of voice she used, whether she used a quiet and meek tone, or whether she was loud and demanding, using a voice loud, whiney and annoying, even the court officers were begging the Judge to just give her what she wanted so she’s get OUT OF THERE. Sometimes I felt like that was me. And I was certain that if I was God and had to deal with someone just like me, which I clearly wasn’t, I would do just that, or use some kind of ethereal universal remote (we all know there’s got to be one, right>) and then with glee point straight down at my little insignificant head and hit the MUTE button. Then I would sit back in my cushy oversized thrown, call for my footstool, kick back and enjoy the rest of my afternoon. I laughed at the thought of God doing just this…then it struck me that that is preciscouly why I am not in charge!
Looking outside my kitchen nook windows, I could see my two boys, Karl; and Joshua, tiressley engaged in some building and construction type of activity. I smiled at the sight of them, thankful that these days the pair had been getting along better than ever. I glanced over to my chicken coop and watched in morbid fascination as our “little” flock of 12 chickens, scratched the earth’s surface looking for insects to consume.
I was thankful that I wasn’t an ant at that moment, although in the grand scheme of things perhaps being an ant really wouldn’t be that bad. Didn’t it say somewhere in Proverbs that we should go and consider the ant and its ways? Ants worked harmounousily together, all working hard toward common goals of collecting the summer’s bounty months before winter ever threatened to arrive. They always had enough of anything they needed. Ants also had a privatized army, ready to defend any hint of an intruder or plans of invasion by a rivaling army.
Just then the shrill scream from my four year old daughter, Julia, pierced the silence and my thoughts. “Katelyn won’t share her lip-gloss” she screamed from somewhere on the other side of the house. Katelyn‘s voice shouted back, “It’s mine, give it back or I’ll …” I closed my ears and stopped listening somewhere after the words “Hit You So Hard…” entered the ball game. “Nope we were most defiantly NOT ANTS” I thought as I bit my lower lip. I’d let my husband deal with it. I got up from the kitchen table just then, guiltily. “Go tell your Daddy” I yelled back to Katelyn, “Mommy’s busy.”
I wasn’t really busy, but I was sure I could find something to preoccupy myself so I didn’t have to play my role as peacemaker. Sometimes it was a thankless job and nobody seemed to really notice how skilled I was at it. Then an idea hit me like a lightning bolt. I am sure if anyone had walked into the kitchen just them they would have seen the actual light bulb proverbially sitting a top of my head all lit up. My eyes spied the brand new Keurig Coffee Maker that my mother had given me as an unexpected gift just the day before. Wasn’t it just the other day that I had voiced my desire for a new one to the heavens-??? Or was that one of kids I had been talking to? I couldn’t remember…and hadn’t been sure that ANYONE had been listening. Evidently SOMEONE had…the realization swept over me like a gentle wave, cooling me off on a hot day at the beach. I picked up my favorite burgundy coffee mug, one of the last remaining hold outs from what had once been part of a large set for 16. I brought the mug over to my Keurig, visions of my oldest son Karl; haven set it up for me previously that morning, floating before my eyes. I smiled, that kid was always there and always willing to help out in my time of need. Another blessing to be counted!
The coffee making process was fairly easy thanks to the Keurig technology. Sitting right beside my husband’s Bunn, I imaged the two in a contest. The Keurig was by far the most simple and fastest to use, hands down. Within a few moments I had a steaming hot cup of coffee in my hands after adding heaping amounts of sugar (I still couldn’t go without the way my mom and sister had) and some freshly purchased whole milk, I was a happy camper. I moved the kitchen table slightly away from the bench and prepared to sit down to selfishly enjoy a moment to myself, when the very same light bulb strung precariously above my head began flashing in excitement. I was about to do something RADICAL!
My feet floated out the door on a cloud of euphoria as I determinedly decided that I might just be able to pull it off! The eyes on the back of my head, kept watch for any signs of the bobbing blond curls of my four year old, Julia, Katelyn’s pink shirt, or anyone else who might think to interrupt my plans. This was going to be “MOMMY TIME!” A date with just me, my coffee cup and my cedar swing bought this past fall for me by my husband as a surrogate for the one he was supposed to have bought for me over 4 years ago but never had. I glanced over to where Karl and Josh had been playing only moments before. Nowhere to be found !I cautiously continued on the weathered path beside my humble lakeside cottage and continued down on the path that led to the gate installed 12-13 years before to keep the kids in. “Now sometimes I entertained thoughts of locking them out!
I lifted the latch and winced at the clicking noise the latch made and the squeaking of the gate’s hinges as I opened it just wide enough to let myself in. I turned back to close the gate gently so no one would notice, and was met at the heels by my furry children, Punkin , my 5 year old pug, and Bocephus, my son Joshes, 2 year old boxer. They yipped and barked in excitement hoping I was taking them with me. I tried to shush them with my hands bushed them away from the gate so I could close it and decided that it literally was either now or never”. I’d have to make this a very quick cup of coffee, if I wanted to get to enjoy it at all!” I thought to myself as I ignored the dogs and hurriedly dashed towards my beckoning swing.
Turns out, I picked the most perfect moment to come spend time alone. The lake lapped at the aging dock, now sinking and falling apart and in desperate need of repair, only a few feet from my swing. My husband had chosen this very spot on purpose since my children loved to swim, fish and frog hunt in the summer. Now I could watch in comfort!
The gentle sway of my cedar swing instantly melted my acres away. Well, not entirely instantly, on the back of my mind, I still had images of the piles of dirty dishes, and dinner needing to be made floating around. I tried my best to suppress them as I forced myself back into the loveliness of the moment. A family of geese honked nearby, swimming in search of a bite to eat or perhaps in search of a place to bed down for the night. I could see in the distance a few boats, fisherman mostly, casting lines, in hopes of the next big story. A few dire hard canoeres and kayakers kept pace with unseen competitors.
Wind blew steadily but gently in my face and ruffled my hair that I had let go natural f, instead of pulling into up into some “do” for the day. As a heavy set mother of five, I didn’t have to try very hard not be vain. The mirror was more than willing to help keep my feet planted on the ground and my modeling career in check. Plans for future weight loss and fitness never seemed to come into fruition but were always on the forefront of my mind. “Perhaps, maybe, just maybe I’ll be able to squeeze some money here and there out of my bi-weekly food budget so I can try the Nutrisystem weight loss plan my sister, Sharon, had been having success on." I thought. My sister had a cute little red teddy bear, with the number 10 embroided on its tummy sitting neatly on her fireplace mantle to proudly show off her recent achievement! I was secretly jealous…
I glanced up overhead at the clouds overshadowing the lake as I sipped “Newman’s Own Blend” coffee, one of the many variety K-kups that had come in the starter pack with my Keurig.” The coffee was good, REAL good!” I said to myself, pleased that I had made a good selection. That’s when I noticed the careful break in the thick, heavily broadcasted clouds. The sun began shining through, its rays streaking down on the gently rippling water like drops of glittering gold, as the parting widened and I began to take notice of all the funny looking clouds, imaging each one to be an angel with a trumpet at hand. I smiled at my childish behavior, recalling how my own kids still liked to do the very same thing. A turtle here, a mountain there. Memories making my heart swell.
After a few minutes of vicarious day-dreaming, I stopped and forced my thoughts to lie completely still. I admired the view set before me, inhaling and taking in the private moment, shared between no one but me and my creator. I began almost sub consciously humming a praise tune, one I knew quite well, but still couldn’t sing on tune. “Funny how these things are always on tune in my head but never when I open my mouth to sing,” I thought. The praise song began playing louder and louder in my head until that’s all I could hear. The words streaming through my brain. I consciously began singing quietly along, in awe of the majestic creative power of my Lord. Still singing, hoping the next door neighbors couldn’t hear me, I began really worshiping the Lord. I couldn’t help it!
The parting in the sky continued to widen before me causing a sparkling effect on the water. That’s when I noticed the sparsely layer of clouds strung high above those parted. It seemed to me like those thin white clouds were actually miles above the earth from where I was sitting. The scene before me was simply breath taking but that’s not what really caused me to catch my breath quite then. It was a thought God must have placed into my head at that exact moment. This was modeled after a verse he had already given me in the Bible. It began like this, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so far has God removed our transgressions from us.” I leaned forward to get a better look at the clouds painted much higher in altitude in our atmosphere than even most planes dared to ever reach. “That far, God?” I quietly questioned him. “ Even farther.” I heard almost audibly in my thoughts, “Even farther…”
My heavenly farther began to teach me a lesson I thought I had already learned but guess couldn’t fully grasp in my earthly wisdom. In those few short moments, God explained simply yet powerfully how everything I had EVER done was completely and utterly forgiven. But not just forgiven. FORGOTTEN. Memories of my personal weaknesses and horrible failures returned and paraded before my mind’s eye like a forgotten IRS tax bill, you mistakenly never paid but realized you were going to hear knock at your door for, VERY SOON! That kind of dread and feelings of guilt washed over me then as I recalled things I wish I had NEVER done but couldn’t humanly erase. God again, in his fatherly way, interjected, and said” See you remember those things, BUT I DON'T!” “
”How is that even possible God?” I answered back in my thoughts. “I wash your slate completely clean. Sort of like you wiping off a chalk or dray erase board. However with me your record is COMPLETELY GONE! SPONGED! DELETED! No longer associated with your name at all, EVER again!” I sat quietly taking in this powerful, soul changing concept, and sat quietly in the stillness as God continued, “I don’t just wipe your slate clean, Jen, I destroy and get rid of any memory or anything that could be traced back to that sin or action I just forgave. I destroy the saved file, the USB hardcopy. When I forgive, it’s gone, just like a government CIA or FBI official wiping their files clean. Only I do it better because I make sure it can never, absolutely NEVER BE ASSOCIATED with my forgiven child, EVER AGAIN! Even the pages of eternity cannot find a trace of something I have forgiven. Satan thinks he can, but it’s what I SAY that holds up in court!”
I stretched my neck, craning to catch the last glimpses of this God appointed and ordained moment.
It never ceases to amaze me how God works moments like this into a busy mom of five’s schedule. I hadn’t planned it, and couldn’t tell you when THE last time I decided to make a cup of coffee and enjoy it in this wonderful fashion. However I would be lying if I didn’t say that my heavenly father, and best friend, didn’t try to teach me little life changing lessons all the time. Sometimes he used my children to teach me what I desperately need to learn or hear. Sometimes, it’s something more personal-like little moments stowed away on my swing.
“God, I really, really don’t deserve this kind of treatment from you.” I told him out loud. I don’t think I could ever repay you for what YOU have done for me. “The swing swayed in the breeze. “ No, you couldn’t but neither do I expect you to. You need to learn to stop trying so hard to earn something I have already freely given you…and that without measure. You can’t be good enough, Jen, to deserve what I did for you at the cross. You couldn’t and shouldn’t try…no one should. That is exactly why I call it, ‘My mercy’ and that’s what I meant by setting you free!”
I had to reach up then as God finished impounding this concept on my heart, to wipe the tears spilling over in my eyes and down my cheeks. When my face was nearly dried, I picked up my now empty coffee cup from off the swinging bench beside me, and stopped the swing to get off. I had a spring in my steps that just hadn’t been there only a half an hour before as I walked excitedly back to my evening chores. The realization of my God appointed meeting warming my heart like an internal flame. I smiled as I latched the gate, no longer afraid that someone would notice and spoil my “alone” time.
A million chores, screaming and fighting children couldn’t wipe THE mile wide smile from off my face! I had already known intellectually speaking that I had been forgiven for all my past mistakes; things I felt embarrassed to recall. However it took a parted sky to help me understand that all wasn’t just forgiven, but more importantly FORGOTTEN AS well!