Down the field

Snacks at halftime (both of my kids favorite point in the game)

This fall, soccer was a family excursion. My husband Matt was convinced to coach our son Jackson’s team. So, several times a week we would pack up and head to the fields.

While Matt was running with the kids and teaching them how to dribble and work together, I was running around chasing Lauren. My plan to keep the snacks flowing so she would stay in one place worked, and didn’t work. When the crackers ran out, she would go around to all the other families and siphon off their snacks or find treats on the ground. No matter how many times I told her she couldn’t eat off the ground, she kept going back.

It was so exciting to watch the team during the games. Each contest they improved, in their tenacity, teamwork and ball handling skills. There were also moments, no matter how many of us parents were yelling to turn around, they would score a goal for the other team. It was a great season, and the kids had a ball, which was most important!

Coaching the kids during the game

In watching from the sidelines these past few months, it became clear to me that you cannot force children to kick the ball, work together, run hard or be aggressive. Though they may have the skills to carry out these things, it has to be their choice. Four-year-olds can be hard-headed, and my son is no exception! Some concepts took the entire season to begin to sink in. It was a lesson in patience for a competitive momma to watch as her son ran the opposite way of the ball and miss passes because he was chatting it up with another player, oblivious to the game. Yet after the whistle blew and people were leaving, he would hustle down the field and kick the ball square in the net!

God gives each of us the ability to make our own decisions. Anyone with young children can attest that they want what they want when they want it. Free will can be frustrating!

God knows the feeling well. He created us with this distinction because without it we would never really live to the fullest. Our existence would be a series of reactions and adaptations rather than choices. Yes, free will means that we can choose to reject God. We can decide to take the wrong path and turn our backs to what is good.

Yet, we can also embrace God’s forgiveness and purpose, and choose to offer our lives back to Him. We can follow our Savior and experience His joy and peace.

Free will is the wonderful freedom to choose Jesus, to stake our eternity in His wonderful promise. It is the decision to submit our will to His.

I was reminded of this amazing gift on the soccer fields this fall. Yes, many times my kids would choose to be uncooperative, but then they would also choose to share and encourage their friends and even listen to the coach. My favorite was the unprompted after-game hugs and kisses.

The season is now over, but this lesson still resonates. I will decide to follow Jesus today, and choose to share with my kids the God who loves us first.

My soccer player

Chinks

I am behind.

For the last week I’ve been feeling my patience run dry, my voice raise louder and my frustration levels rise higher more quickly than usual. These symptoms have been compounding each passing day, along with urges of negativity, apathy and escapism.

As I was trying to catch up with dishes after lunch today, while keeping Jackson and Lauren from fighting so as to avoid the inevitable onslaught of unnecessarily dramatic tears and screams, the house finally grew quiet. That is partly because Jackson had been sequestered into the reading room and Lauren was lingering in the living room. Either way, they weren’t pestering each other, and the house was at last below recommended decibel ratings.

I flipped on the dishwasher, glad to be done with the chore, and went to peak in on the kids. Jackson was engrossed in a book. I walked through the kitchen and turned the corner into the living room, and Lauren was splashing in an enormous puddle on the floor. She looked up at me, with a huge grin on her face (and no hint of “uh-oh, I did something wrong”), and picked up Jackson’s water bottle she had found, showing me her achievement. You could see her diaper expanding out of her soaked shorts.

Lauren sitting in a puddle of her own making in the living room

We’ve all had these kinds of days (or weeks, or months or…) If fact, just now, while my son is supposed to be napping, he calls me from the bathroom where he is sitting on the toilet playing with a sticker book. Of course, what I see first is the toothpaste smeared all over the mirror for no apparent reason.

When I discovered Lauren splashing her pudgy little hands in her self-made puddle, I knew I needed to get things together. The level of chaos in the house was starting to get out of control. And just as I was formulating my battle plan, God let me know that the chaos in my own heart is what I needed to let Him get under control.

You see, God helped me to see today where there are chinks in my armor that have become footholds for Satan to use to tempt me into losing my patience, overreacting to situations and dwelling in frustration. Instead of reverting to my favorite (and comfortable) position of control, I need to put my own Sunday School lesson into action and yield control to my Commander and Savior. I need His armor and His strength to raise up His shield of faith to withstand the fiery arrows of the Devil. Too often as Christians we have this inaccurate notion that the shoes of the gospel of peace are purposed only to bring God’s Good News to others. Today, God showed me that I need His gospel of peace just as much now as I did when I first began my relationship with Him.

So, yes, I am behind on many, many things. There are toys strewn throughout the house, I could Swiffer every day and there would still be dog hair on the floor, laundry is never ending and in an hour I will begin making dinner yet again.

But, instead of those to-do’s, I am sitting here letting God work on me as I write. The Holy Spirit reminds me to “Be strong in the Lord” and that “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”

Now, with His peace and in His presence, I’m going to tackle the laundry.