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Make a plan to get ahead...

He says it while I roll cookie dough between my hands.

"Mommy!  The dragon... laughs!"  

He's playing make-believe with his Fisher Price Little People and in his mind there's a big dragon, probably like the one he saw advertised on Disney Junior last night before bed.  I smile and encourage the play and say, "Oh, no!  He's laughing at them!  They better go hide!" and he courageously stashes them beneath the ottoman that matches the chair in the corner.  I rotate dough into cinnamon and sugar and coat evenly, completely.  Smiling at him and the little brother playing and drooling nearby.

And I think in that moment of pure happy... how the dragon, that Satan... how he must laugh when it all falls down.  He doesn't need to roar to scare us.  He doesn't need to shock us.  He doesn't need to tear us apart with vicious teeth and razored claws.  He only has to laugh... to mock... to criticize the joy, the peace, question the security that we have seemingly found, the grateful we've noticed... and it all unravels fast as we chase for the end before it's gone.  And he... laughs.

It doesn't take much to wreck a blessed day - or a blessed life.  A quick word, a little harsh.  Impatience, hurry, stress, a critical spirit... it punches holes in the walls and leaves us gaping and wondering what happened.  Weren't we just giving thanks?  Just a minute ago... weren't we just being really, really, almost painfully, thankful?

I can hear the cackle of glee.  I can sense how triumphant he must feel.

And in return, I feel like a failure and a farce.

I can come undone so fast.  Nights of fatigue stack up and leave me taut and ready to snap.  And I do.  The yogurt flung all over in a fit of toddler rage over who-knows-what.  The baby that won't nap when I know that's exactly what his body needs.  The shower I had to give up (yet again) so I could do something else... sleep a little more, start the day at 5 a.m. with the baby, stay up late and measure the windows for new blinds.

Sometimes being helpful and being sacrificial just gets really annoying.

And my bitterness stirs the potted pride and before I know it I'm sitting in the middle of the floor, completely shut down and disengaged.  I give up.  I shove away the gratitude journal, lose the pen.  I stop writing.  I stop snapping pictures and coaxing cute video from the boys.  I give up on the idea of ever having a date night again, ever wearing the jeans I wore pre-kids, ever having the energy to run a mile the way I used to love doing.  And I hear my heart howling in my ears, the breath of hope beating truth against my eardrums and I plug and stop the passage of sound because really... I can have it all.  It's the responsibility I want to shake off.

And when I'm low and when I stop looking where I need to... that's when the dragon sits in the corner of the living room where I'm pouting or he's perched on top of the laundry basket that I'm choosing to ignore for the second (fourth?) day in a row.  And he watches and he's all happy and I'm suddenly trying to wash my hands of everything because I'm just, simply, "Done."

I say it all the time.  "I'm so done."  I'm done with the day, done with the tired, done with the needs I can't meet or figure out.  Done with all I want to be and can't.  Done with all I want to do but it seems I never can carve out the space or the energy to accomplish.  But when I think of him mocking me... when I think of me kicking the gifts to the corner... It makes me set my jaw a little.

And when I think of the Giver.. watching and seeing my moods and my tantrums and sometimes just my utter humanity... It makes me want to do better.  Because I've been given better.  Best.  And this is no way to act, no way to speak, no way to let the day go.  I have to redeem it.  Even if I have to catch that dragon by the tail and toss him out on his horned head... that's what I have to do.  Even if I'm emotional, even if I'm strained, even if I'm just plain mad because I feel like being that way... even then.    With the undone and the incomplete... I have to take hold.  I have to make the time, the actions, the words - count.

I can't make excuses.  I can't keep blaming the circumstances or the surroundings or the bad night.  It's not fun, but I have to grow up.  And part of growing up is owning what is yours to own and what is in your control to, well, control.  And change.  And push through.  And deal with.  And knowing, always with open hands, that we can't do it on our own and we're so thankful we don't have to.  Even on days when we're the only adult in the house or the only kind (or seemingly smart) one in the meeting or the only one who seems to be pulling their weight... even then... we're never alone.

This is all I get and it's more than I deserve on this earth.  I don't want to waste.  I don't want to simply consume and forget.  I want to retain.  I want to value.  I want to create.  I want to prove and show with my life - as simple and homey as it is - that I am grateful for the saving, grateful for the daily keeping, grateful for the morning's green mercies.  And I can't do that if I hear him laugh and I do nothing to shut him up.

The sword is heavy, my arms are inadequate, but His is the power and the glory.

Oh and amen belongs right there.

"You are a chosen race, 
a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
a people for his own possession,
that you may proclaim the excellencies
of him who called you out of darkness
into his marvelous light.
Once you were not a people, 
but now you are God's people
once you had not received mercy,
but now you have received mercy."
~  I   P e t e r   2 : 9 - 1 0 

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