My daughter had a rough day.
Maybe it wasn’t even that the whole day was bad. But when she tossed her backpack in the minivan at the end of the afternoon and slipped into her seat, she started venting.
This was frustrating. That was annoying. This wasn’t fair. That wasted her time. This was hard. That wasn’t right.
She’s such a generally positive person, but all her buttons had been pushed. Every one of them. And the frustrations had piled up into a huge overwhelming load.
Now she felt tired and discouraged, disappointed and defeated, like she just wanted to crash out on the sofa with a pillow and a good book as an escape .
So, we slipped into “soul care mode.”
I let her talk. At home, I quietly turned on the tea kettle and made her a cup of tea. I slipped my arms around her shoulders.
I reminded her that she was almost done. This was all almost finished. Just a day, maybe two, and then summer break was here.
Then I told her my secret weapon. When I have something I just don’t want to do and that I’m dreading, I plan a reward for myself.
When I’m finished making these phone calls, I’ll eat some chocolate. When I have that tough conversation, I’ll read a good book. When I finish the to-do list, I’ll go for a walk.
Then I leap in and get it over with. Just do it already. I think the whole time about that reward and then treat myself when it’s all over.
Because finishing, obeying, and persevering all deserve a little celebration and maybe a lot of chocolate.
We tended to her heart a bit and then I prayed for her.
By the time we climbed back into the minivan, she was at peace and feeling hopeful and ready for what was ahead.
That night, I found myself tending to my own soul a bit. A cup of tea. Some chocolate chip cookies. A good book.
So many of you, my friends, have asked me if we’ve moved yet. It was supposed to be this Monday, then some day this week. Then maybe next Monday. Now we just can’t even say.
We are still here, surrounded by boxes, waiting and waiting to sign those papers and pack that moving truck.
So, I have had a hard day. Maybe even a week.
Most of the time I can cheerfully manage trust and cheerfully choose peace.
But there are those moments when that wave of frustration, disappointment or anxiety just crashes down so hard I’m knocked off my faith-feet and flailing wildly, about ready to drown.
Soul care helps. Cups of tea and bites of chocolate. Planning out rewards for when this is all done. Wearing my favorite cozy, white socks and my most comfortable fleece jacket on an unexpectedly cool day. Good books and my best music playlist shuffling on iTunes.
But here’s the most important thing, more than anything else I can possibly do on a hard day.
I bring it to Jesus again.
I’ve been reading Eugene Peterson’s book, When Kingfishers Catch Fire, and last night just when our moving news felt most overwhelming, I read this reminder:
Instead is a word of exchange. Rather than one thing, there is another. In place of what we have or expect to have, there is something else. Instead usually represents a radical difference. It doesn’t just add a little something to what is already here, nor does it take away a little of what is there. It contrasts and exchanges (Eugene Peterson).
And God does this exchange.
He takes what WE bring Him and He gives US something beautiful instead.
Isaiah tells us the Messiah would come:
to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified (Isaiah 61:3 ESV).
So we bring ashes, and He exchanges them for a garland of victory.
We bring mourning and He exchanges that for gladness.
We bring a faint and weary spirit and He exchanges that for a garment of praise that He slips onto our shoulders.
These exchanges are all over Scripture, promising us that if we don’t hold back, don’t give up and just keep bringing it to Jesus and bringing it to Jesus, then He will do the resurrection work we truly, desperately need.
We bring death and He gives life.
We bring sin and He gives grace.
We bring mess and He extends mercy.
We bring sorrow and He provides comfort.
We bring emptiness and He brings abundant overflowing.