Three summers ago, I wandered into my favorite store in Fort Collins, Co., on a specific mission to purchase another charm for my charm necklace. During my previous visit to Fort Collins, I’d found a plethora of options to hang around my neck. Two years earlier, I’d found the word “soul” which perfectly captured my passion for Soul Care. It felt like a treasure hunt as I walked through the doors of the shop…what would God bring me next?

Instead of the abundant stash which normally welcomed me, they were discontinuing their line of charms. A tiny basket awaited me. As I turned the few over, there was one I didn’t have. Play. A word God had stirred in me throughout the previous year. He’d spoken to my heart seemingly audibly, “Learn to play with your children in the dailyness of home educating. You are so driven to finish, you miss the opportunities to “be” fully with them and enjoy the wonder of what I have for you in this privileged journey. Daughter, play.” Outside my home, I’m queen of play. Managing my home, I’m queen of task. The Father’s exhortation was a vision for a deep repentance within me. To favor relationality to order, cleanliness, and completion. To relate to my children as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit might relate…pouring the life the Father has poured into me for their sakes and the Father’s sake. There was nothing wrong with keeping my home ordered, in fact it reflects the God of order I worship. Where I was going awry is that obtaining order became my god, my worship. Something broken within believed wholeheartedly it would bring lasting satisfaction if the floors were vacuumed again, the laundry all put away, blah blah blah. How weak and small was my god. I’m so quick to shift my worship from the only One who will satisfy, to worship the evasive god of “control.”

So the God of the Universe was asking me to give up manic fits of vacuuming at the expense of relating to my kids. Being “with” my children in the books rather than “getting” through it as fast as possible. And so much more. As I placed the charm on my chain, I thought how shallow it reads. Faith, Soul, Play now hung around my neck. My lifeline, my passion, my repentance.

When I explained the newest addition to Cole he exclaimed, “I’ll teach you how to play! You stick with me! I know how to play!” And he does and it is beautiful to see him inhale every moment of life, squeezing out the fullness of the moment…and always wanting to be “with” another.

Repentance, the turning away from and toward the Creator, is war. Since I added Play to my neck, the pull toward control is far more compelling than the repentance. There have been baby steps, but nothing extravagant. Many times Cole has beckoned me, “Mommy, it’s time for your lesson…it’s time to play!” And I have resisted. So much to do to keep order in this home and our lives. To think I passed on five minutes of trampoline fun with my son to wash lettuce for dinner. Oh how I ache to be released from this hideous idolatry.

Two days ago I awoke with fatigue expressing itself in every bone and cell of my body. Dennis texted me the week before, “I’m so tired I could sleep for a hundred years.” I shared his sentiment. The weight of providing and loving 5 rather than 3 kids was settling in. Parenting two new daughters who have obviously run their lives for a very long time is exhausting. Being “with” each child in this transition is demanding. There has been grace abundant. And there is fatigue. And joy. And angst. And have I mentioned fatigue???

So I awoke Friday morning, all achey. Not one bone in my weary bony wanting to bond with my girls, or anyone. The pull to abandon them was strong, frustration rather than gratitude sought reign in my soul. Throughout the day I felt as though I was at war with an opponent seeking death and destruction. Seeking to destroy any ties I’ve established with my new two. With each step, the awareness of my powerlessess to shift my heart grew more apparent. I didn’t feel like relating to the girls, causing them to feel more like strangers than my daughters.

It was one of those days in which I was especially grateful for the gift of walking by faith, desperate for God to shift my heart toward my girls. Some days our bonding felt natural. Today the awkwardness of our betrothal was my yolk. I was okay with living in the tension within me, though not enjoying it. That afternoon I lounged on the couch while cheering them on in their games of xbox kinect. Laughter came. After dinner, I hit the Just Dance 3 Kinect dance floor (in our family room) and shook my hips alongside my girls…for hours. Somewhere in the course of the night, I realized my heart and mind toward them was shifting. Delight overtaking frustration. Pleasure replacing drudgery. Freedom stamping out fear. Because I’d chosen to “play.”

These two girls from across the seas and continents, from a remote Ethiopian village, would be the ones inviting me to freedom. My biological three have tried, with some shy results, leaving them wanting. But with the new two, playing is relational life or death to our bonding journey, and I just tasted the wonder of my heart radically shifting through “playing” with them. The strands of thread (representing this repentance) in the tapestry of my life which have seemed so unpatterned throughout the past three years, in a moment wove tightly together into a brilliantly forecasted pattern. Play would be the vehicle through which my worship of control would be arrested. Though I’ve relinquished bits of the rope over the past 20 years, I can see myself releasing my grip and fighting to move to the other side.

Many times a day, one of the girls grabs my hands, tugs hard and exclaims, “Play mommy!” Feeling the current 15 life demands tugging from one side of the rope, I’m acutely aware of the war. And I know that it is my Christ in those little girls’ hands, beckoning me, “Come play.” And because my choice to play “with” them brings life or death to our bonding, it’s a little bit easier to play. Only the Creator of the Universe could have written such a story. For my choice to play with my kids, means life or death to my worship of Him as well. Only He could know what it would take for this driven mom to surrender her idol of control more deeply than ever. To hunger for Him more than any created thing. To thirst for Him more than order, believing that only He will fill me with a love that satisfies.

And the grace abundant…that my biological three are still in our home and will have the pleasure of enjoying their mom’s repentance.

“My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in your weakness. Most gladly, therefore, I would rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”