A Holy Riot (or, the time Jesus threw down at the temple)

A HOLY RIOT
or, the time Jesus threw down at the temple
by Jenna Pelias
April 18, 2017

There was a lecture I heard once about the time that Jesus made a whip and threw down on the money changers in the temple, declaring that they’d made the house of God a “den of robbers.” I don’t remember most of the lectures I took in during college. Not like this one anyway, and it’s been on my mind almost constantly lately.

Sitting in a stacking chair at a folding table, taking notes by hand as was the custom in the early 2000’s before everyone carried laptops and Starbucks around like status symbols, I found myself unexpectedly riveted. It was a Bible class or I suppose it had to have been. Which class? Which prof? I don’t remember. I just remember the prof explaining this passage out of the Gospels in a way that made it unfold like the opening of a gift, and it’s stuck in my head forever and ever Amen.

So what was going on? It was exactly 5 minutes and 47 seconds after what Christians today know as Palm Sunday – Jesus had just arrived in Jerusalem ahead of the Passover on the back of a donkey to the streets lined with people waving palm branches and praising God. Quite the spectacle, I’m sure. The imagery of this event is similar but also unlike that of his mother Mary arriving the same way into Bethlehem about to birth God made flesh into the world just over thirty years prior. What a parallel with this Jesus arriving on a donkey first to be born with scattered and bewildering fanfare, then later arriving to the praise of the masses oblivious that He’d come to die. Jewish people from everywhere were pouring into the temple ahead of Passover to bring the required sacrifices and offerings to God. That’s where Jesus went first, too. Perhaps He was presenting Himself to the Father quietly as an offering.

This Passover pilgrimage was not taken lightly. Some would bring only the very best of their own animals after careful scrutiny, and others who were coming too far would bring the money to buy the required animals when they arrived. As the people would show their animals to be inspected by the priests to determine suitability for offering, the animals would often be refused for any imperfection the priest could find, forcing business to boom for those selling *pre-approved* animals like credit cards there in the Temple courtyard. But you couldn’t just buy your offering with the silver or gold or copper in your purse. You had to use the Temple currency. The money changers would exchange whatever coin or currency the people had for the Temple currency at such a high exchange rate that they were robbing the people of the ability to bring the appropriate, required offerings to God. Worship was made impossible. Jesus was furious.

This “den of robbers” were the religious leaders who had set up the House of God as a racket, denying the people access to God by putting too many obstacles in their way before they could even get in the door. People who were thrilled, excited, weary, who had waited and saved and brought everything they had to give, who came from near and far – denied. So Jesus braided that whip and unleashed Heaven’s fury, consumed by zeal for the House of God, throwing tables and driving out the sellers and money changers and people who were holding up this corrupt system of selling your soul to the church in order to get saved. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

What happened next is incredible.  The blind and lame came to Jesus for healing, unhindered. Children sang out in worship. The chief priests and teachers of the law were indignant. (Matthew 21:14-15) A holy riot turned the temple upside down that day. The next time Jesus showed up at the temple He was questioned about who gave Him the authority, but He shut down their line of questioning faster than they could think of the next rebuttal. By the time Jesus sat down at the table for the Last Supper – the Passover meal – He had exhausted Himself teaching in parables about the second coming, holiness, and salvation. It went right over their heads. The plot against Him thickened.

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My little girl pouring out praise to God with all she has in her, hands in the air, on Easter Sunday.

Jesus knew what He was doing all that time. He called His followers to the cross long before He ended up dying on one, remember. And so as He took His last breath the curtain of the temple He’d just undone, was torn. Heaven was indignant. Worship would never be the same.

All through Easter this story of Jesus flipping tables in the temple has been weighing on me. Because there are people here and now, waiting just outside the church, weary, uncertain of whether they will be welcome to walk through the doors at all, never mind participate in worshiping God or getting to know the Savior known as Jesus. When the Gospel is safely hidden away behind lifestyle agreements, boycotts, political posturing, push back *against* social justice as if that’s what Jesus would ever do, backbiting, and arguments over the rules for conduct and Christian behavior – well there’s no good news in there left for anyone except for those who probably don’t even need it.

So what? Would they like a pat on the back for keeping the sinners and hypocrites and prisoners and forgotten and abused and condemned and weirdos and strays out of the pews? Let’s also not forget the faithful who are waking up to the needs and groaning and pain outside the walls of the church, but being told to sit down and shut up or lose support, credibility, and relationship. Maybe it’s time for some tables to get flipped again. Maybe it’s time for that zeal for the House of God to consume us because the Gospel isn’t getting any younger over here and people are being both actively and passively robbed of the ability to worship God. For shame.

Maybe that’s you. Maybe you’ve been kept away because you live wrong, love wrong, look wrong, ask the wrong questions, have the wrong afflictions, or know right from wrong but keep messing up anyway. “Come to ME,” Jesus says. He says that. I cannot stand in the gap to apologize for whatever racket robbed you and kept you on the wrong side of the curtain, but I can pour some gas on the curtain and burn it if that would help instead. We can warm our hands around that fire and I can tell you about my Jesus. Or maybe you’re in it. You love Jesus and you want everybody to know the goodness and mercy of God but the church, the “Christian Machine” which is a whole thing that isn’t looking good for any of us long term, is telling you to shut up and sit down. Boycotting you. Pulling support. Cutting off relationship. Indignant. That is robbery too.

To all of that, I know one simple thing to be true. God is good. He is never going to stop being good. Jesus didn’t die on that cross and kick death in the face to live again and make a way for us to know the Father, just for *anyone* to start putting qualifications on that kind of miracle. When the people caught up in rules and requirements are indignant while right in front of their own eyes the prisoners are being set free and the sick are being healed and the children are singing out praises to God, well maybe we need to just know them by their fruit and let the Gospel speak for itself. We can exhaust ourselves arguing with the spiritually deaf, or we can be empowered by the Holy Spirit to let zeal for the Gospel consume us. Because nobody should be required to sell their soul to the church to get saved. And maybe it’s time for a holy riot around here to remind us of that.

copyright (c) 2017  Jenna Pelias // all rights reserved

Devotion

DEVOTION
When hindsight breathes life into the New Year. 
By Jenna Pelias

We stopped participating in formal church activity for a couple of years once. No attending services or events. Largely disconnected from people and community. Church failures of the highest degree. We were okay with that. You would think that if we were going to stop being part of church at any point in our lives it would have been when Glenn resigned from ministry to deal with issues in his personal life and rebuilding our marriage. That was in 2009. He did in fact stop going for a time, while I continued to attend solo. But it was in 2012/13 that we peaced out of the church altogether.

Rosalie was a baby. Olivier was an extremely busy toddler. Andreas was being formally assessed for autism as we prepared him to start kindergarten that fall. Mateo was 6-7 and a generally easy kid but the needs of his siblings were sometimes hard on him. Our lives were busy and full and exhausting and rewarding and never dull for a single moment ever. 2012 was actually so intense that I need to look at photos to remember what happened and when. I can’t recall most of that year on my own. #momoftheyear

We wanted to be part of church. We really did. We’d go and I would spend the whole time nursing or comforting Rosalie, being called to the nursery to deal with Olivier’s ridiculous separation anxiety, or being called to the preschool room because Andreas could not tolerate church back then – the response from teachers was often an assumption that he just needed to be disciplined more. Mateo didn’t mind Sunday school but with the entire time there spent running between the other three kids to deal with their various needs, we had all come to dread going to church.

The kids didn’t want to go. We didn’t want to take them. Everyone was miserable every time we left. Andreas cried the whole way home and melted down for the rest of the day every Sunday. I think for me one of the “last straws” was going to check on Andreas and finding him sitting in a chair in a corner because he was upset. He wasn’t misbehaving. He was upset. And the teacher couldn’t handle him so she made him go away. I hadn’t yet learned how to advocate for him or even that I needed to. I didn’t expect people to understand or know what to do, as I wasn’t even there yet myself. Why were we doing this to ourselves and our kids? We didn’t even know. So we stopped.

And it was the best thing we ever did for our family.

We started spending our Sundays taking in church services online in our living room. The pressure was off of our kids and we were able to rethink what a healthy spiritual life looks like. We weren’t sure we knew. Glenn had my blessing to do music anytime but I wasn’t dragging my kids along for the ride just to play the part of the smiling, supportive family. There are a lot of ways to support a spouse involved in ministry whether they are paid or volunteer, and for us the best way to support him was to stay home. So that he could focus on being part of the team without worrying about how I was handling the gong show that was our kids and Sunday School. I’m told there were people who had a problem with what they perceived as a “lack of support” for Glenn on my part, but not a one of them ever talked to me about where I was at or how things were going, so to hell with them all was my over-it attitude.

It wasn’t just the kids though. Glenn and I needed time to ourselves. We were still healing and working things out. Church for me had become such a burden. It felt like the walls were closing in on me every time we walked in the door. I needed that time away and to be able to just lay it all down. It was life giving. It probably saved my busted up faith.

A little bit of time passed and we were all ready to try again. We knew that being part of a faith community is important to both of us and something we want for our kids. So in 2014 we joined up with some friends who’d planted a church. Glenn jumped into doing worship with them. I focused all of my energy on getting my kids to go to Sunday School, and stay in their class. It helped that they were together. It helped that Andreas had a couple of years of school under his belt and was comfortable in a classroom. It helped that Olivier had grown out of his separation anxiety. It helped that Mateo and the pastor’s son are best friends. My little firecracker Rosalie wasn’t having one bit of Sunday School and it took a good year or more to get her to stay in that room but I was patient. The whole church was patient with my noisy girl, God bless them every one. She wasn’t used to it and that was fine. We did our best.

We spent 2 years in that church. It was like a hospital where we didn’t have to have it perfectly together and our kids didn’t have to be perfectly behaved and we just had to show up and be part of it. Leaving this past spring wasn’t easy but we had to be obedient to the Lord’s leading so we stepped out. Why? We weren’t 100% sure. It wasn’t for us to know I guess. Glenn still goes back to lead worship for them sometimes and Mateo is still best friends with the pastor’s son, who I am secretly hoping Rosalie grows up and marries one day. So I guess it’s possible to “leave” a church and still be part of it because that’s what we did and it’s weird but it’s fine, somehow.

This year was a year of devotion – to our family. I didn’t see it that way. Hard decisions don’t look or feel like devotion sometimes. When I look back though, everything that has happened and changed since 2009 has been a journey of devotion. Devotion to our marriage and family, in a way that honors God. We have failed so many times in so many ways. But we keep learning from those failures and we keep starting over, every day.

We made a commitment last New Year’s to having a daily time of devotions with our kids. I picked up a devotional book and we read one almost every night before bed. It was so simple. A resolution that actually stuck! When we settled on a church to attend this fall, the decision was based entirely on what our kids need right now for their spiritual formation. Glenn still does music for friends at different churches but our kids need something solid and consistent so we found that for them. I have never had such peace about my kids and church. Everything about our faith lives this year has centered around pouring health and life into our kids. Even when it has involved laying down our own passions and areas of ministry involvement or church preferences.

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It has changed them. It has changed us. The way we think about church, ministry, and family life has been totally altered. At the start of this year I wrote down that I felt God was calling us to make hard decisions for our family, that other people wouldn’t understand. That has been more true than I could explain here.

I wonder sometimes, what the future holds. This year and even the last few years, they’ve felt foundational. What we’re laying the foundation for? I don’t know but I do know that this time of being devoted has been purposeful. Devotion is more than reading a passage from a book. Devotion is discipline. It is prioritizing. It is making hard choices that other people don’t always understand. It is not always knowing why you’re doing what you’re doing, but doing it anyway.

Most of all, devotion is worth it. People in this world are devoted to a lot of crazy things. Family is our crazy thing, as it turns out. Nothing else we do or become is worth it if our family isn’t healthy or the kids are getting our leftovers in terms of time and attention. Some years that has meant loving the Lord alone in our living room and other years it has meant showing up and serving just so that we could learn how to function in church again and this year it has meant hard choices and putting the faith of our kids first no matter the cost to us personally.

I don’t care anymore whether people understand or not. The people who do the most judging are usually doing it from afar, making assumptions without ever having a face to face conversation with us. We’ve been through hell over here and spoken about it publicly. It’s not a secret. Answering hard questions doesn’t actually phase us. We aren’t the most eloquent or polished but we are honest. We don’t have time to worry about whether other people understand or not anymore, because we are too busy living well with and for our kids, and that has been freedom.

I am one of those people who prays for a word for each new year. I’ve been doing it since forever, since before it was a ‘thing’ that I was aware of. Some years it has been an actual word. Some years it’s been a picture or metaphor. This year, my word for 2017 is everything I see in hindsight. My word for the new comes from the old. My word is devotion.

Devotion to old things and new ones. Devotion to my people. Devotion to the God who made me, saved me, and gives me grace every morning. I don’t often tell people what my word/picture/focus is from year to year. I’m not sure why I’m sharing it this year. Except that I wonder if there are others who also need to look back at how far they’ve come in order to see hope and life and freedom in whatever is coming next.

It’s a few days early, but Happy New Year. We’ve come a long way. I am willing to bet that you have too.

copyright (c) 2016 Jenna Pelias // all rights reserved

When Christmas Is Grief and Glory

I felt her crawling into my bed that morning before my eyes were open. Blankets rustling as she shimmied her way 2 inches from my face, she didn’t even have time for a hello or good morning. “Mama what day is it?” she whispered at me, willing me to open my eyes. Good question. I had to think for a second on account of not being awake, before I replied that today is Wednesday. “How many days before Christmas?” she asked. Awake-enough now, I told her that we’ve got 4 more days til Christmas. She jumped off the bed and ran out of the room yelling that she had to go tell the boys how many days before Christmas. I rolled back over, smiling. Rosalie will be 5 in the New Year. She is at the most magical age for Christmas time. The wait is just about too much for her to bear.

But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.”
-Luke 1:13-14

I imagine Zacharias and Elizabeth when they were younger. Filled with a kind of hope and joy unique to newlyweds, anticipating a life together and growing their family. When did days turn into weeks turn into months turn into years, and years and years and years? How long did they hope and pray and plead with the Lord for a child, a family? What did people say? Why was she barren? What sin had they committed for the Lord to deny them? How long did Zacharias petition the Lord on behalf of his wife? How broken was his heart as he watched her keep track of the days, a wait every month just about too much to bear?

“What day is it,” he might ask her, gently, holding her hand in his.
“Never mind love. Maybe next time,” she might respond, quietly.
And he would petition the Lord again.

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Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.
-Proverbs 13:12

In the waiting, they did what people do and continued to live their lives. He a priest, and she his wife. Luke’s Gospel says that “they were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord.” (1:6) Why was she barren? They would never know. As they grew old together and her time of being able to conceive and carry a child had gone, perhaps they made peace with their heartsickness over this tremendous loss of something they would never have. Hope deferred, then eventually abandoned. At some point, their prayers and petitions to the Lord had ceased.

“And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. For nothing will be impossible with God.”
-The angel Gabriel to Mary, in Luke 1:36-37

She who was called barren. Elizabeth, a woman known for perceived emptiness; grief compounding grief. When glory replaced her grief, nobody knew for six months that forgotten longings had been fulfilled in her. She hid herself away, almost a prophetic foreshadowing of the kind of life her son would come to live later in the wilderness. Who can really blame her for choosing seclusion. A seclusion interrupted by Mary, given the news by the same angel who had come to announce Christ in her, too. Young virgin and old woman, each filled with new life. It is no wonder Mary stayed with Elizabeth until John was born. Women? We know we need each other to see life into this world. These women knew it too, because giving birth to a miracle is still giving birth, with the pain and joy and grief and glory all interwoven together.

Zacharias though, from the moment the angel told him what was to come, couldn’t believe it. How will I know this for certain? For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years. (Luke 1:18) He had stopped pleading with the Lord a long time ago. And now this angel announces that the Lord has heard his petition? Now? But how? If prayers were letters handwritten to Heaven, this one had gone lost in delivery over and over again. The Lord had heard it too late. Hope had been deferred too long for Zacharias to believe in the impossible.

I have to confess that sometimes it feels like hope has been deferred too long for me too. There are prayers that have ceased for me over time. For you too I am willing to bet. Petitions for things whose time has come and gone, and so we all learn to make peace with the heartsickness over that which will never be. We think we know better. We’ve grown up, wised up, given up. We aren’t four or five years old anymore, counting down the days until Christmas with our mamas.

But maybe we should be. Maybe our letters handwritten to Heaven in heaving sobs or quiet desperation, are the ones He’s holding closest to His own heart. Awaiting the right time to breathe life into them, even long after we’re sure it’s too late. Maybe with God it’s only 4 days to Christmas and the waiting which feels too heavy and impossible for us, is wrapped up in a gift hidden away until the right time. A gift which may look nothing like what we prayed for in the beginning, but with a fullness, purpose, and beauty of its own.

There is no making light of grief here. There were lost years for Zacharias and Elizabeth before that baby rocked their world, and given their age it can only be assumed that they also lost years with their son that they would have had if he’d only come sooner. But oh the man he became, this son of humble parents who were righteous and obeyed God. His life ordained to call the attention of the Jewish people to the coming of Jesus.

A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”
Isaiah 40:3

What if the things which are hardest to believe for, take the most time, and hurt profoundly in the waiting are the very same things which arrive all out of place but just in time to call our attention to the coming of Jesus in our lives too? The grief, barrenness, unanswered prayers, waiting, seclusion, and even the desert. Yes, especially the desert. Unlikely places as a barn in Bethlehem for the Savior of the world, God with us, to arrive. Yet there He is.

Are we finding ourselves in a wilderness this Christmas? This year? Prepare the way of the Lord. Jesus is coming. We are reminded at Christmas that God became flesh, born to suffer and die, and that He has promised to return. That God has heard our petitions, too late and just in time, and even as all creation groans for a Savior, the weary world is set to rejoice. And we fall on our knees. Angels sing. His Kingdom is coming.

Yes, Christmas is more than counting down to presents.

It is the anticipation of the fullness of joy in His presence. It is the something inside of us that leaps like a prophet in his mother’s womb when we know that Jesus is but a heartbeat away. Christmas may or may not be merry. God never promised anyone a merry Christmas but in this world we do have troubles don’t we? There is so much grief in the here and now that the world can hardly contain its own suffering. We become acutely aware of everything wrong when the season is supposed to be filled with everything right – but that might be point. There is right and there is wrong, and it will all be set right one day. Christmas reminds us that we are called to carry on and keep the faith until it is, heartsick and out of prayers to pray and all.

In Christmas is grief and glory, bringing life where none should even be able to grow, miracles manifested in the absolutely impossible. We live in this tension of now and not yet, all because God is both with us and coming back. And with the earnest faith of a little girl who believes in good things coming soon and counting down every day, may we make every single day count. Even when hope deferred is about too much to bear. Because good things are coming. Jesus is coming. Prepare the way. Amen.

Copyright © 2016 Jenna Pelias // all rights reserved

Overcoming Toilet Anxiety: Wonder Woman to the Rescue

In case the title doesn’t give it away, this is a post about poop. Consider that your TMI disclaimer. I hope that in sharing this story, that I may be able to offer some encouragement to other families dealing with the same issue.

Last week I had posted on Facebook about some progress being made with the child-who-was-afraid-to-poop. My girl is 4.5 years old, and has been otherwise toilet trained for nearly 2 years. Pooping on the toilet though, has been a monumental obstacle for her. It’s partly a sensory thing and partly an anxiety thing. We have tried everything and tried it again. Nothing has worked. She is not constipated. She goes when she wants to and has no trouble holding it as long as she needs to before she feels comfortable going.

This week I think I can safely say that she is turning a real corner in overcoming her anxiety. I’ve spoken with other moms facing toileting problems in older kids “who should be toilet trained by now” and this is really not as uncommon as I had once thought. It’s quite common in kids with sensory processing disorders or on the autism spectrum, though her sensory issues are mild and she is not on the spectrum.

So what did we do? Honestly? Reverse psychology: I told her to poop her pants. Allow me to explain. When school started in September I changed our goal and approach. Where previously all I wanted was for her to  just use the toilet already, suddenly all I wanted was to make sure that regardless of *how* she chose to poop, that she continued to only do it at home. I did not want her to become comfortable at school and start having poop “accidents” there. She generally only goes at home and I wanted to keep it that way.
We changed the conversation and told her that she needs to poop at home and not at school. That pooping is SO good for her body. That it’s healthy. And that if she needs to go in her undies, to try to take off her pants first so that they don’t get dirty too. That she will go in the toilet when she’s ready, and when she’s ready that we will help her.

She would go in her pants and I would tell her “good job, I am so glad that your body is going poop.” She thought I’d gone crazy and would say, “but I pooped in my undies.” And I would tell her again that I just want her to poop, at home, even if it’s in her undies. In her mind I had truly gone off the deep end because I was congratulating her for going poop in her undies. She would hide, someone would notice and tell me, and I would say (loudly so that she could hear me), “that’s okay, she just needs to go poop by herself right now.” Our boys thought I’d gone bonkers too. The stress level associated with pooping had become so high that it was just all bad in her mind. We had to change her thinking to believe that pooping is good. Because it is.

 

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This girl is my treasure. I would move mountains to help her overcome her poop anxiety, if I could.

Well last week, which was about a month into school and our new approach, she started to become willing to try to go on the toilet. At first she could not do it, but that was okay. Just trying without becoming upset was progress. I would congratulate her for trying and remind her that pooping is good for her when she would later go in her pants. But then one day she did it. I could see her becoming less afraid when she was trying to use the toilet so I was not surprised when she was able to go. Soon after, she was trying to go again, and she really *wanted* to be able to do it. She was getting upset but not because she was afraid like before – she was upset because she really, really wanted to go and couldn’t.
So in that moment I made a decision. I went into my room and took out a $10 Wonder Woman action figure that I had put away without her knowledge, intending to give it to her when she went on the toilet or for Christmas, whichever came first. Rewards had not previously worked for her, so that was why she didn’t know that I had this doll. But I figured, to hell with it. I showed her Woman Woman (which she had been asking for), promising that she could have it if she went. Well my girl dug deep to overcome her anxiety and go on the toilet to get the toy. Nothing was stopping her in that moment.
She was delighted. And I told her that if she poops on the toilet 5 more times, that she can get the Bat Girl one to go with it. Which was why, the next day or the day after, she came to me, asked for help, and she went *three times* in one day. My mother was worried about her going so much, but because she holds it for so long, that is just her normal. She will go not at all and then a lot in one day, and then not at all again. She did not go again after that day for a couple of days. I knew that she was going to have to go big time soon.
She did. She tried and told me that she could feel it pushing. Which was a huge milestone for her – being able to identify the feeling associated with going without running and hiding and being afraid of it. Still she couldn’t do it even though she tried her best. She did eventually go in her undies because she had to go so much, so very badly that she was scared to use the toilet. She went so much that I had to dispose of it in the trash rather than the toilet, which happens when she holds it for too long. She was so sad. She really wanted to use the toilet. I told her it was okay. I was just really glad she went poop because I didn’t want her holding all of that in. We focused on how much better her tummy feels and how we don’t want to keep that much poop in our bodies. Why? Because pooping is good for us. It has become our mantra around here.
I wondered if she would go back to going in in her undies after that. She didn’t. She has used the toilet properly twice in the last couple of days and earned her Bat Girl to team up with Wonder Woman, just this afternoon.
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So much has changed for her in the last couple of weeks. Being able to tell what the urge to poop feels like, and not be afraid of it. Being able to sit on the toilet and try to go, without freaking out. Those two things both had to happen before we were going to see success of any kind. Had I known that telling her she could poop her pants would be what helps her calm down and use the toilet, I’d have given her permission months ago.

It’s tough seeing an older child struggle with their own body. I’m not sure how long it will be before she is able to go consistently. She was in a cycle of holding it for so long that going was scary due to the volume, and then holding it more because she’s afraid to go. As she’s feeling the urge on her own and telling us so that we can take her to the washroom, she is retraining her own body to be okay with that feeling. It may take time for her to respond to “small” urges that she has been used to holding in. That’s okay. Seeing her be happy and excited just to try to use the toilet is huge progress. She IS getting it, one day at a time. That one big accident is actually the only one she’s had in a week. It wasn’t as much of a setback as it normally would have been. (Honestly if I pooped that much I’d freak out too.) Being able to go since then has boosted her confidence even more.

Her next goal is to go not one time or five times, but ten times on the toilet – and she will earn Super Girl to team up with Bat Girl and Wonder Woman. Where was the DC Super Hero Girls movie all this time anyway? Maybe all a girl needs is a hero to help her out! There won’t be rewards forever, and I’m honestly not sure why rewards are working now when they never have before, but after 2 years of struggle, it’s a small price to pay. She wants to be brave like the Super Hero Girls and I am so down with a kid who wants to be courageous in overcoming something that has been unbelievably difficult and discouraging.

I don’t know if sharing this story will help one struggling parent or many, but this is such a tough struggle to walk through with an older child that there was no way I could keep the things that have helped us, to myself. I’m praying that she doesn’t regress and that we continue to move forward on this.

I also pray for breakthrough and success for other kids and families trying to overcome toileting issues in older kids as well. I can honestly say that this is one of the toughest challenges I’ve faced with any of my kids and that is saying an awful lot. Hang in there. I’m hanging in there too.

copyright (c) 2016 Jenna Pelias // all rights reserved

I Did (Almost) Nothing All Year

Last September the third of my four children marched off to grade 1, which is the beginning of full day school here. That’s when people started with the question. “So what are you going to do this year with just Rosalie home all day?” It’s a fair question and one I’ve asked other at-home moms myself. At first I thought I was going to work part time from home for my church, but it quickly became apparent that doing so was going to involve trading a significant portion of my sanity, and by October I had to let it go. I considered putting Rosalie in preschool, thinking she’d be bored and need the socialization. That didn’t feel quite right either. Should we join a play group? Put her in a lesson or class of some kind? Join a Bible study or moms group at a church? Hmmm. I didn’t think so.

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First day of full time school for all 3 boys. It was a huge milestone.

The problem was, that last September I had been a full time stay at home mom for 10 years, and I was tired. The kind of tired that you feel in every cell of your body. Exhaustion, fatigue, weariness – all of it, all at once. I had nothing left to give to anyone or anything. What energy I did have was going to Rosalie during the day when the boys were at school, and all four kids when they weren’t at school. When people asked me what I was going to do all day with just Rosalie, I couldn’t think of a single answer that involved doing anything at all. Caregiver burnout of a kind I did not know existed had fully set in and I was quite happy to not have to do anything. The concept of Sabbath for mothers is insanity. When mothers rest, the house burns down. Rest comes in seasons and I felt that this was a season I had come to, quite unexpectedly and not entirely of my own free will.

So I made the unintentional decision to just say no to almost everything. I did (almost) nothing all year from September to June. Rosalie and I spent a good majority of our mornings in bed. She’d wake up while the boys were getting ready for school with Glenn, and crawl into bed with me. While they packed lunches she’d watch Netflix or play Starfall on the iPad. I’d doze off or play on my phone. Some mornings she’d just snuggle in and go right back to sleep. The boys would come give us hugs and Glenn would bring them to school. We’d saunter on downstairs for breakfast whenever we felt like it. Or sometimes Glenn would bring her a cup of milk and granola bar in my bedroom before he left, because we were just not in a hurry to move or do anything or be anywhere.

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Afternoon nap and Netflix, captured by Glenn.

We had some play dates, although almost all of them were initiated by other people. We ran errands. We stayed home and read books, drew pictures, cleaned the house, did nothing, went for walks, played at the park. It was the most unproductive year I’ve had in my adult life. Rosalie didn’t seem to mind. When you live in a house with this much testosterone coursing through it, the times when everything is still and quiet are rare and valuable. She’s as independent as I am and enjoyed quite a bit of alone time with her babies and teddy bears and horses and imagination. At various times over the year I thought for sure I needed to get the both of us out more, but I just could not bring myself to do it. I prayed about it even, thinking that surely God must have some kind of direction or intention for this year of my life.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
Jesus, Matthew 11:28 (NIV)

That verse has come to me a lot this year. It’s difficult to submit to rest and nothingness when you are a type-A, take charge, kick ass, no mercy kind of personality. I did it though, and it was good for me, much as I am loathe to admit it. I’m not sure when it happened, maybe around the New Year, but as the time wore on in this my year of nothing, as I came to start calling it, I began to come back to life again. I had more energy. I felt less guilt over needing what felt like an excessive amount of time to myself, even for me. I was able to think through and process some of the complicated years of raising and figuring out these boys of mine. When you’re in the middle of it, you don’t think. You just do. You move forward in whatever direction you have to. You go to the assessments, you fill out paperwork and answer so very many questions, you call the ambulance while your boy turns blue, you go to a thousand doctor appointments, you get the diagnosis, you try the inhalers and meds, you go to more doctor appointments, you meet with teachers and sign IPP’s and fill out medication release forms, and you just go, go, go. There is no time to stop and that was okay. Until it wasn’t. Until I wasn’t.

Caregiver burnout is a real thing. I’m not a doctor or psychologist or professional but I am a stay at home mother and after 10 years of caring for all of my people, I burned out. And so I stopped. I stopped everything and just did nothing. I loved the time with my daughter and spent every waking moment with her for this whole year just because I could. She was my only yes all day every day. I read when I felt like reading. I wrote when I felt like writing. I purged old toys and clothes and things out of this house at a rate that almost alarmed my husband. After school we played at the park with the boys or went to the lake or for walks. Sometimes I went to church and sometimes I didn’t. I sat down and colored with my kids at the kitchen table. We went to the zoo. We watched movies. I spent time in prayer, in silence, meditating on Scripture and on the words in the songs we sing in worship to God, copying Scripture, and listening for the still, small voice of God. With His help I got myself un-burned out and didn’t feel bad for one second that the only people who got my time or energy all year were my kids and Glenn.

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My yes this year was her.

By spring I was applying to go back to school. Life had not slowed down but I had slowed down in the middle of it and suddenly I could think straight, see straight, and make rational decisions again. Oh this year of nothing, it was necessary and it restored me but it certainly went fast. The funny thing is that when I got my boys back at the end of June, it was them who were burned out from a long, busy, productive school year. They had as profound a need for rest and nothingness as I did last September. Rest is good, as it turns out. I learned a lot about making room for rest, and that a lot happens when you think you’re doing nothing. All of us are rested now and about ready for more.

Now the big question is what I’m going to do when Rosalie goes to kindergarten this fall. I’m taking classes. Not too many. One or two at a time, and all from home. Kindergarten is only half days, less than 3 hours actually. The part of the day when she’s home with me? We aren’t going to be doing nothing this next year. I’m done with that. Now? We’re going to be doing everything. The two of us in the morning, me alone in the afternoons, all four of my rascals the rest of the time, Glenn too when he’s not working. I’m really looking forward to it. It’s time. My Sabbath year of nothing, of rest, of giving myself time and space to breathe and answer to no one but my Maker – it restored me. As He promised.

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Me. Rested. Restored.

Moving out of this year of doing (almost) nothing, it has become apparent that while the concept of Sabbath may be insane for mothers, living life without making space for some kind of Sabbath rest will about drive a mother insane. I’m not good at moderation but I’m going to give it a shot. I don’t know who is reading this, but maybe I’m not the only one who needs to intentionally make space for Sabbath rest. Perhaps I won’t get to the point of needing a year of it again, if I can make a disciplined habit of it instead.

(I’ve already tried to imagine what I’m going to do with myself when Rosalie goes to grade 1 and is at school full time like the boys. We’re over a year away from that and I can’t picture it without freaking out. That much peace and quiet is likely to be way too much me time. I’m going to need to take a lot more classes or find some time consuming hobbies or get a part time job. Funny how moderation works in both ways!)

copyright (c) 2016 Jenna Pelias // all rights reserved

Love Greater

Blood. Not so long ago, it was common medical practice to stick people with something sharp to let the blood out. It was a go to, a cure all, for an astonishing number of conditions. Let the blood out, we have too much of it, balance the bodily humors, and maybe the sickness will go out with it. They were wrong mostly and it seems barbaric, even criminal, today to consider such a crude course of treatment. We are more likely to do the opposite and give a patient more blood when the need arises, than to take it away. And where does the blood for patients come from? Donors. From people who show up at clinics to voluntarily get stuck with something sharp, giving of their own blood to save the life of another.

Perhaps we have not come so far as we think in our current age, because it seems as though the entire world is set to bleed itself to death anyway. And on such a scale as would seem wholly barbaric to those who came before us. With explosives and guns these days rather than 18th century fleams and whatever-passed-for-needles in ancient times, we are hell bent on letting the blood out, certain that in its taking will be found justice or vengeance or righteousness or satisfaction.

We have a way to go in this bleeding, broken world. Medicine has figured out that it is in the giving of blood, not the taking, that lives are saved. It is when people line up ready to bleed for each other rather than to bleed each other out that miracles take place. Jesus said, “greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” And then the God who calls us friends laid down His life, bleeding out on the cross until death came like a shadow, taking even Him.

I think His friends then must have felt something like we do now. We watch the news and wring our hands and wonder how in God’s name this world can ever be reconciled to itself. And the answer comes swiftly: it cannot. It can only be reconciled to Him. Him who bled to death and yet could not stay dead. Who calls us to do the same, for our neighbors and our enemies alike. The power of resurrection is really kind of terrible when you think about it, but it’s the best we have in the battle for flesh and blood in this world. There is a battle waging, make no mistake. Resurrection says that the dead will live, and the broken will be made well, and the lost will be found, and that justice in the end, is in the hands of God Almighty.

The human heart starts beating before it starts pumping blood. We don’t have to bleed to have a heart beat and we don’t have to bleed each other out to make our own hearts beat stronger. The heart of God has blood no longer, yet beats for us like the heart of a parent for their child.

Jesus wept for the dead once. If there is nothing else we can do, we can weep for the dead. And then love the living with the kind of greater love that is willing to give blood instead of take. Our hearts beating for another, instead ourselves. Practically speaking, I don’t know. Be nice. Have compassion. Show up with a meal. Hold the door. Hold your tongue. The latter of those being the hardest challenge of loving people for some of us. Okay. For me. Whether the world needs us to open our eyes, get our hands dirty or simply shut our mouths, if we are looking we will figure it out.

God be with those lost and those living with loss. And may the rest of us be given the almighty kick in the pants that we need, to love greater.

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love

copyright (c) 2016 Jenna Pelias // all rights reserved

Nobody Cares

I am re posting this today as a reminder of what really matters in raising up our kids.

TroubleFace Mom

Wait a minute. I’ve read this before.

Yes indeed. If you’ve read my blog in the past, you may remember this one. I archived it and today I am re-posting another updated version for new friends and new moms and anyone who needs a reminder.  A reminder of that which nobody cares about, but mostly what they do care about. What they care a lot about.

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The first day of school. Ever. It’s a huge milestone for most families, and we are no exception. We kind of make a big deal out of it every year. The first day of school is always cause for celebration in our house. This school year our boys are in grades 5, 3, and 1.  We’ve got three first days of kindergarten behind us, and one last one coming up in September. Maybe it’s a little odd to be talking about the…

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The One With the Interview

So I was interviewed this week by Mandy from We Are His Daughters, a website committed to encouraging women to be bold in their faith. I was flattered by the invitation since being interviewed is not something that happens in my life except for when my family wants to know what’s for dinner and *why can’t we have something else* – so I went for it. I didn’t tell anybody that this was happening because I figured there was a good chance they’d read my answers and change their minds. (Insecurity: I need to work on that.) But they didn’t change their minds and the interview is up as part of their Ministry Monday feature.

I know that not everyone who makes a pit stop at this blog would identify as being a faith-based person, and that’s cool! Don’t abandon ship just yet. For those who are interested, you can find We Are His Daughters on facebook and on wordpress.

Their interview with me can be found here.

Have a good week friends!

~Jenna

copyright (c) Jenna Pelias 2016 // all rights reserved

We Aren’t In Kindergarten Anymore, Toto

We Aren’t In Kindergarten Anymore, Toto
On Parenting A Preteen
by Jenna Pelias

People keep asking me how I feel about Rosalie going to kindergarten. I’m still not even 100% sure we’re sending her, but to be honest I’m fine either way. Kindergarten is 2.75 hours of learning the alphabet, numbers to 10, center time, carpet time, art, music, playing on the playground, and learning how school works. Kindergarten is terrific and she’ll love it whether we send her this year or wait til next.

To be honest, I keep thinking that people who ask me how I feel about Rosalie going to kindergarten are asking me the wrong question. The real question is how I feel about raising a preteen. Our elementary school goes to grade 6, so Mateo has only one year left after this. How about “hey Jenna how do you feel about Mateo going to junior high in a little over a year?” Now that’s a conversation I can get invested in. He just went to kindergarten and now we’re about to start packing it in on his elementary school days. HOLD ME JESUS.

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Mateo’s first day of kindergarten.

We are just dipping our toes into this hormonal world of ditching playing for hanging out, and deciding whether we need to get a spare cell for when the preteen is out not playing at the park with his friends. This afternoon I heard the words, “we have to get that on video” when Mateo was on the trampoline with his buddies and a go pro camera. This is apparently what preteens do. Haul go pros around and film themselves making questionable life decisions. I decided not to look outside – I don’t know if I want to know. I definitely want to follow through on my recent threats to get rid of the trampoline. For real. I feel like we’re just a ticking time bomb to the next broken bone. Third time doesn’t need to be the charm with hormonal preteen boys running around with go pros, am I right?

There is a lot of unknown happening around here. Mateo recently made the decision to occupy the spare room in the basement – alone. He’s shared with Andreas for going on 8 years and now all of a sudden he wants his own space. So he moved downstairs, Andreas moved in with Olivier, and Rosalie is on her own after sharing with Olivier almost all of her life so far. What is happening to my house? Everything is changing.

Last night I went to say goodnight to Mateo – because you don’t tuck in preteens, you say goodnight to them. Obviously. He asked me to pray for him. I prayed and thanked God that in Mateo we have a kid we can trust and have confidence in. Today he was making plans with the aforementioned go pro friends and we were negotiating terms. Where he was allowed to go. When to call. Etc. We definitely aren’t in Kindergarten anymore, Toto.

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Negotiating the terms of his release from captivity aka our home.

This is my life now. Negotiating terms and avoiding the words “we have to get that on video” and praying words that speak life into my kid hoping that he hears us and God louder than all the crap he’s about to hear from this world. Also deodorant. And having their own room. So far that’s all I have in my arsenal.

So ask me again how I feel about Rosalie going to kindergarten. Compared to getting Mateo ready for junior high? Kindergarten feels like a walk in the park. I tried but clicking my heels together three times and saying “there’s no place like kindergarten” won’t bring back 5 year old Mateo. Onward and upward we go, then.

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copyright (c) Jenna Pelias 2016 // all rights reserved