The Overflow! where souls are filled and faith is spilled

The Right Measuring Stick

I’m hiding out in the kids’ new play house at the moment; I’ve got my Bible, my laptop, my daughter’s purple beanbag, and plenty of tears. Ever since Grandpa delivered this sweet wooden haven, I’ve been joking with the girls that I’m so desperate for quiet these days that I just might claim their backyard abode as my own when they’re not looking. And since the school bus has yet to poke its yellow nose over the hill, I am doing just that. Don’t worry; I didn’t abandon my little ones as I ran away; my husband is kindly entertaining the troops inside, and he knows where to find me if absolutely necessary. At the moment, I’m overcome with love for the man who chose me as his wife sixteen years ago. You see, it was actually his idea to send me on “playhouse retreat.” With the sweet sense of humor unique to a man whose lifework involves round-the-clock interactions with pregnant or post-partum women, Rob suggested, after watching me unravel for most of the afternoon, that it might be time to make good on my threat to inhabit the girls’ turf.

I don’t know why I feel like crying today. It could be pure exhaustion (just this morning I made the mistake of ruminating on the fact that I haven’t slept through the night since Rob and I spent a week in Florida a year and a half ago). Or perhaps it’s unusually overdue post-partum blues (eight months beyond the miracle of birth). Or maybe it’s merely that I’ve been using the wrong measuring stick lately to evaluate my days.

Josh-Bob, my tiny fix-it boy accessorizes most outfits with a tape measure. Clipped on to his waistband or hooked through a belt loop, the shiny silver tool is handy for appraising just about anything- toy tractors, cereal boxes, diaper pails and skateboards. Despite the fact that the measurements are useless to a two-year-old who has no grasp of numbers, Joshua spends much of his day measuring random items of interest. After watching him for weeks, I am beginning to realize that I, too, am prone to measurements. In fact, whether I am aware of it at all times or not, I am constantly appraising the “success” of my day. Unlike Joshua who uses just one small tool, I carry a variety of measuring sticks. Sometimes I measure the success of my day based on the ruler of my productivity. I determine my usefulness on any given day based on how many “to-dos” I was able to cross off of my list. On other days, I appraise myself based on the score of physical fitness-how many minutes did I clocked on the treadmill WITHOUT a small child in my arms? Yet other days, I pull out the age-old measure of external beauty and try to evaluate how I look when I glimpse in the mirror or attempt to determine how “put together” I appear as I push my child-laden cart through the grocery store. At least once a week, I gauge my value as a homemaker by the supper that I cooked, the cleanliness of my bathroom, or the empty baskets in my laundry room. And then there are the days that I attempt to use all the measures at once.

The problem with all this measuring is that on most days, I fall short. A toddler’s game of baseball prevents me from finishing the laundry; a fussy baby consumes my morning and once again I forgo the shower and make-up routine in favor of a baseball hat and an extra dose of deodorant. A spilled tube of toothpaste leaves my just-cleaned-bathroom in ruins while afternoon chauffer duty combined with the demands of a nursing baby necessitates my serving cold-cut sandwiches for supper instead of a home-cooked meal. And if I rely on the measurements of others, I’m bound to be discouraged. The raised eyebrows from spectators in the grocery store who skirt around my toddler throwing a tantrum on the floor silently scream, “not good enough.” The child tired of waiting for her ride home from practice moans that I’m NEVER on time and inadvertently communicates, “you let me down.” And the kind woman crossing the street in her sleek and stylish garb unknowingly makes my spit-up-stained sweat suit lose its luster.

So what’s a never-measure-up mom to do? Lately, God’s beginning to show me that I’m using the wrong measuring stick. I still remember a time in fourth grade when my teacher returned a math paper with the word REDO written across the top of the page in bright red ink. A closer look revealed that while the directions had asked me to measure in inches the various lines on the worksheet, I had used centimeters. Once I had redone the exercise with the proper measurements, I received the gold star for which I’d hoped. Perhaps the “gold star” I long for at the end of the day is only attainable if I change my mode of measurement. A clean bathroom is a great goal; but not at the expense of a clean heart. A tasty meal is worth serving, but not at the expense of starving my children’s emotional needs. Just as the numbers on Joshua’s silver measuring tape mean nothing to him, most of the items on my lists and agendas mean little in the light of eternity. On days like this when the frustrating lack of measurable accomplishment threatens to leave me exasperated, I would be wise to set down that measuring stick of my own making and stake my confidence in God’s promises. In Ephesians 3:20, the Apostle Paul writes, {God} can do IMMEASURABLY MORE than we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.

Now that’s a measuring stick worth hooking to my belt loops 

Written Tuesday, September 29, 2009

 
Today’s treasure: {God} can do IMMEASURABLY MORE than we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us Ephesians 3:20
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