Coffee, Kiddos and Canines

One morning, not all that long ago, I had a rough start to my day. I woke up late after a restless, interrupted night of sleep, and completely missed my opportunity to exercise. My life is such that if I don’t get up at an ungodly hour to exercise, it simply doesn’t happen. Realizing I’d overslept, I was upset before my feet ever hit the floor.

Stumbling to the coffee maker, I pushed the BREW button and decided instead to start my quiet time while my cup of Joe, my “liquid human,” my elixir of life, was brewing. I was just beginning to settle into my reading when I heard an unusual but recognizable sound. Liquid was dripping somewhere.

That liquid was my coffee.

The pot, set not-quite-right under the basket, was not catching the brewed coffee. Instead, it was pouring out of the coffee maker onto my kitchen counter…and then off the counter and onto the wood floor below. Puddles, drips, spatter marks on the cabinets…and zero caffeine entering my system.

By now it was only 6:05 a.m. I had already woken up late. Now I’m mopping up my elixir of life from the floor when I desperately wanted to be drinking it instead. (I briefly considered getting a straw and “improvising” my first cup.)

A little later that same morning, my dog dragged half of the mulch out of our backyard and into the house via the fur on his back side. Another several minutes spent cleaning the kitchen floor.

Not too long after that, I was on my knees cleaning the floor for the third time that morning. It was 9:15 a.m., just after a robust breakfast by the two-year-olds I care for, a toddler feast that left more food on the floor than in their little round bellies.

And I was beginning to get frustrated.

I allowed myself to begin feeling like Sisyphus, pushing a rock up a hill, a rock that was destined to roll back down again…probably over his toe. I have plenty of days like this, when I face dozens of these kinds of small irritants. Too often, I end up calling those days “a hard one.”

I’m ashamed to admit it. Many days it takes a remarkably small amount of “difficulty” to get me thinking about how hard my life is. And this is true despite the fact I’ve been on a mission trip to a third world country, where running water isn’t even part of their reality. This is true even though I know so many others closer to home who are facing far more difficult circumstances than a floor that flatly refuses to stay clean in the wake of toddlers and canines.

I know people who are battling chronic health issues that just won’t go away, just won’t submit to our modern medical wonders. Doctors that are out of answers. Conditions for which no drugs have yet been invented. Crushing medical bills that are not at all offset by a much-needed return to health.

I know women who are losing everything they once called home because their husbands are so enslaved to addictions that they can’t see the destruction they are causing all around them…and in them. Women packing up toys, bedspreads, clothes, dishes and furniture, praying it will fit into the much smaller living space they aren’t even sure they can afford on their own, all because someone else refuses to stop drinking, doing drugs, sleeping around, and/or wrecking their finances.

I know families who just can’t get out of dire financial duress. They take one step forward and things clearly outside their sphere of control force them to take three steps back.

Still, I have found that while adopting this kind of perspective can sometimes serve to shake me out of a pity party, it’s generally not enough for me to think, “Well, at least my situation isn’t as bad as so-and-so’s.” It doesn’t help us much to look around and see others in worse circumstances. Maybe that’s because, as we look around, we can pretty easily find others who have life far easier than we have it, too – at least as far as we can tell. Comparison is a double-edged sword, one that the enemy of our souls has far more expertise in handling than we do.

I also think comparison doesn’t help much because that’s not the way God wants us to find peace, by reviewing our temporal circumstances and stacking them up against those around us. In the midst of our circumstances – maybe even especially the difficult ones – God wants us to seek Him, to remember His promises, and to thank Him for all He has done and is doing for us and in us.

Thankfully, by God’s grace, on that Great Floor-Cleaning Day a few weeks ago, I was able to see God’s hand in the way my day was playing out, and while I wasn’t at all sure what He was up to, I had the presence of mind to stop right then, still on my knees, and ask Him, “Okay, LORD, clearly my agenda for the day is not what you have in mind. What do you have for me today?”

And in that moment, I was reminded of at least some of what He has for me. I was reminded of His promise to give strength for the day (Psalm 29:11) and a peace that surpasses all understanding if I will simply bring all my anxieties to Him (Philippians 4:6-7). Yes, even the silly little anxieties of a household that feels chaotic and unclean.

So I ended up that morning thanking God for the perfect position He has me in.

Offering childcare to other families allows me to be at home for my family, while managing care ministry needs for The Crossing community gives me the much-needed chance to interact with adults during my workday. I thanked God that my husband is no longer enslaved to alcohol or drugs and is wholly committed to our family. I thanked Him for my health and the strength He has given me that allows me to keep up with several short people under the age of three. And I thanked Him for His patience with me.

I wish I could say that I frequently respond to petty annoyances the way I did that morning; the truth is that far too often I fail to go to God quickly. However, I am trying each day, before I ever roll out of bed, to remind myself that I have so very much for which to be thankful. My husband starts most of his prayers by thanking God for the gifts of “life and breath,” a turn of phrase that he borrowed from the Apostle Paul as he spoke to the Athenians assembled on Mars Hill to hear the “new teaching” that he was bringing to them.

Like Paul, my husband understands at a deep level that every single breath he draws is an unmerited gift of grace from a living, loving, all-powerful God, a just God who by all rights should have wiped the Earth clean of him long ago. On that count, anyway, my husband is “not as wrong as he usually is.”

Psalm 118:24 (ESV)
This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Ephesians 5:20
Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Colossians 3:17
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

1 Thessalonians 5:18
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Acts 17:22-25
So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.”

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