Titus panicked as the elevator door closed, Matthias and Tim on on the outside, Titus and I on the inside. Tim couldn't maneuver the stroller in the elevator before the aggressive doors shut in both of our faces. Clinging to my hand, Titus threw back his head and waled. Despite my reassurances that Daddy knew just where we were going and would be on the same floor with us in a minute, Titus didn't relax until he saw his dad again. Onlookers stared as my stricken 3 year old morphed in a moment from THE WORLD IS ENDING to THIS IS THE BEST DAY EVER when he saw the elevator door finally open to reveal his father and baby brother.
Again, the same weekend, we picked up our new van (PRAISE GOD FROM WHOM ALL BLESSINGS FLOW!) from Tim's parents at our rendezvous in Toledo. When I climbed into the van with the boys and Tim never did, Titus questioned "Where is Daddy? Why is Daddy's seat empty?" I had to explain to him that Daddy had to drive back the car we came in and pointed Tim out on the road whenever we were close enough to see him. But it took him a solid 45 minutes of the drive to relax enough to fall asleep, despite it being hours past his bedtime and his little body exhausted from the hotel pool. He knew where his dad was supposed to be, and when his dad wasn't there, his fear kept him awake.
Lately, Titus is all about his dad. And just like the examples above, Titus gets disoriented and frightened at the thought that he is not there, despite the fact that Tim is the most trustworthy man alive. When he leaves, it is with a purpose, and he always comes back. Tim has never done anything to make Titus doubt, but fear still grips Titus' heart.
I see the striking parallel. Even at three years old, Titus is displaying a fundamental need we all have for Abba Father, for the Lord. When we lose sight of the Lord, our Heavenly Father, nothing makes sense, goes right, and there is always reason to fear. Tim is gone for a time and returns to his children, yet the Lord is with us always, although sometimes we don't see Him.
I recently read a small book that significantly impacted me. So much so that my number one goal for 2018 is the title itself: Practice the Presence of God.
It is a tiny book, compiled of letters written long ago by a definitely now dead monk called Brother Lawrence. It details his simple advice to his brothers and sisters in Christ to walk with God. Put simply, being with God is everything. Knowing God is everything and we must spend time with him to be with him. We can be with him at all times, and he desires us to be. We don't have to be doing something special like reading our Bible or going to church to be with Him, although these practices are critical to our faith. But we don't comprehend fully that He is everywhere, in everything, in the Bible study AND in the vacuuming.
It is as if Brother Lawrence, in all his communication to others, was showing us all, like the worried toddlers we are, that our Dad is HERE! He is WITH us! And the knowledge, the reassurance, of His presence? It changes everything.
Here are some key takeaways from the book for me:
1. The sole occupation in life is to know God, be with God, and make Him smile. As Christians, we live in order to please God. We live to the Lord. Everything is simply an expression of that.
We really limit ourselves when we try to categorize ourselves. Am I a stay at home mom? Working mom? Work from home mom? We say things like "I am only a mom" OR we worship motherhood and negate the fact that God is the purpose for which we do anything and everything. For me that meant realizing that God has expressed his image through me in a myriad of ways, and that loving my boys was and is a holy practice. And so is counseling. And so is writing. And so is speaking. And so is teaching.
All is holy when done to the love of the Lord. Knowing God and dwelling with Him through every moment of our lives consecrates the works of our hands, and no work is higher than another. All is worship. All is holy. So today, I will work with joy unto him and enjoy his presence in doing the laundry the same as when I record the Dayton Women in the Word podcast this morning. He is here. He is good. I am His and in each small moment I know and treasure him more.
2. Loneliness isn't a thing anymore. I used to get lonely, during the first year of Titus' life mostly. God was showing me how to have solitude with him, how to intercede, how to be quiet in my soul. My life is anything but quiet now, and I have to make space for quiet in my soul for Him when all around me is not. He's with me all the time, in my writing nook as in my library play group. On any given day, I can be as plugged in or as involved as I want to be, but practicing the presence has released me from the need to be. Our schedule is largely controlled by my decisions, and now I hand it right back to God to manage himself, because I'm not trying to assuage a loneliness in my heart with more activity or social engagement. I already have all I need in Him. I ask, "What would you have me do today? Where should I go? What should I do?" And He directs my every step, with an intimacy and tenderness that I can't accurately express.
3. There is much to do, but I may not be the one God wants to do it, or it might not be the right time. And what I do, I won't do perfectly, but it is still worth doing, broken vessel that I am, for God to show his glory through me.
I get overwhelmed by even the good things God has placed in my life. I feel like if I rest, something is falling or failing. Like the only way to combat the entropy of this world is for me to keep going. God has blessed me with a lot of energy, but sometimes I mistake that energy for the limitlessness of God. I am limited, God is limitless. And so I lay it down, let it fall, ask for grace, and worship the Lord simply in those humbling moments.
I recently had one of those moments. I did not show up for a breakfast meeting with a long time mentee. We had planned ahead, checked in on that plan the day before, and I had communicated with my husband about it. The night before we were up all night with Titus, who it turns out had a double ear infection stemmed by some sort of virus. In the morning I was consumed with finding him an urgent care appointment and finding replacements for our nursery volunteer hour at church. I completely forgot about my breakfast meeting until my friend texted me.
I literally dropped the ball, but not because I am a horrible person. Because I am not God. I apologized, thanked her and God for her grace, and I moved on. No, I should not quite being her mentor. No, I will not let it ruin my day. Yes, I will worship the Lord who loves me the same in that moment as the moment my life doesn't miss a beat. How is God glorified? By a relationship strengthened by grace, not based on a woman who has it all together, but by two women who need Jesus every minute of every day.
4. Conviction and guilt are not the same thing, and with the Lord, conviction is quick and sweet. When you dwell with the Lord, you are not surprised by your sin, for you see it all the time. In dwelling in God's presence, I confess more than I ever have before, but it does not stop the trajectory of my day. When your heart's posture is already on it's knees, it is not a stretch for your actual knees to hit the floor. And it is astounding to me how joy and confession are so tightly connected now, because confession draws me close to my Savior, in whom I experience the fullness of joy.
Yelled at Titus? Lord, this seems impossible, but I rejoice, knowing nothing is impossible with you. If you can raise from the dead, surely you can make me a gentle and patient mother. And so I pray and trust Him every day that He is finishing the gentleness work He has started in me through motherhood. And I see how to be gentle, because you are showing me right now in your presence!
Looking at my phone too much? Lord, thank you for bringing this to my attention. I love you (docks phone in phone dinosaur). And you are WAY better than anything luring me on that shiny beeping thing anywho. AH, now I see what you are showing me! I just had to look up to see it.
And on and on and on. Conviction, confession, joy. In quick succession I can't hardly see where one begins and the other ends.
Did you read that? No more condemnation. Why? Because He is with us. All over Romans 8, I've been studying how the Spirit dwells in us, and gives us life and peace. I'm truly experiencing this phenomenon. We set our mind on him, and He transforms us from the inside out. We begin to see everything through His eyes, as He whispers to us, and we walk with confidence, knowing no elevator door will ever cut off His indwelling presence. The veil has been torn.
I am with God. It is well with my soul.