I ask this question quickly as time escapes the morning. The twins were in their corduroy jumpers filled with patterns of fuchsia, lavender, and apple green. My hair was combed, make-up applied, body dressed for March weather. Juice bottles were fixed, snacks were made. It was five minutes to nine and we had to get out of the door now to make it just in time to our destination.
But, where were my keys?
"Adeline, Maralee, do you know where Mommy's keys are?" Grins splash across their faces as they dash into the next room. Following them, my eyes scan the floor for my bright set of jingly objects. I can't find them. Sighing, I go back into the living room, looking for them there. Still, no luck. Adeline comes around the corner laughing.
"Do you know where Mommy's keys are?" I ask, a little more serious this time. She mumbles something silly as she races to her chair. Determined to leave the house, I glance at the clock as I rush to the bedroom to look for the keys in there. They were nowhere to be found.
Cheeks begin to flush as exasperation rises. Stay calm, I tell myself. Walking back into the living room, I find Maralee with hand in purse, reaching for her snack. I grab her hand - harder than I thought I would - and look her in the eyes saying, "You can't have a snack until Mommy finds her keys."
Lips turn under. Eyes fill with moisture. Scared, unhappy scream comes out of her lungs, filling the house with her wails. She looks at me painfully, hurt by my actions.
I feel like a bad mother.
Begging for me to hold her, I leave her on the floor as I search for my keys. It was 9:07. If I found them in the next three minutes we could make it. The morning outing would not be a waste. As the house sounds like an alarm is going off, I search frantically. The toy chest, under the couch, between the seat cushions, in the bed. I open up all the drawers within their reach and even in the dog food tucked away in the laundry room. I glare at Adeline as she plays with her ball.
"Where are MOMMY'S KEYS???????"
She stares at me with no response. Frustrated, I call the Architect. Ask him to leave his work, come home, and help me. I can't think straight. I curse silently. I feel guilty for cursing, guilty for calling, guilty for being mad at my children. Just the other day he had told me to make a spare key for the van. Why didn't I do it then instead of waiting for a moment like this? Still searching, my mind tells me that the key is lost, just like the orange sippy cup with the straw, never to be found in this house again. We would be stuck - here - with no way to travel. Our morning of development and errands was lost. I put on makeup for nothing. There was no way out.
I start throwing toys out of the toy box, hoping to find that the keys had sunk to the bottom. I hear the front door open as husband begins to search. He stays calm, never raises his voice or blames me for calling him home. He can see the stress that I am carrying. I cry out that I was sorry and that THE KEYS ARE GONE. Maralee is still sobbing. Adeline is playing with the plastic plates. The once clean home that is for sale is now strewn about with pillows and toys.
I sit on my side of the couch, watching Adeline play. I knew she had hidden them. "Where would I hide the keys if I was her?" As I sit, I look down at the crumbs from the Cheerios on the floor. My foot was resting on the area rug. Looking a little more closely, I see part of a gold object sticking out from under the rug. Reaching down, I find the keys. Thank you God, I say out loud.
The Architect kisses the girls and me as he heads back to work. I give Maralee her snack cup. It was 9:25 but I was not going to stay in the house. We were going - somewhere. As I used my keys to lock the house, crank the engine, and leave my driveway, I thought about how a good morning could turn sour so quickly. How was I doing as a mom? Was that really the best way to handle the situation? Why do I get so frustrated ALL THE TIME? Staring at my munchkins eating their snacks in the back seat, I kicked myself for not setting a better example. When did life get so hard?
Ann Voskamp writes about this same thing in her book, One Thousand Gifts. She says:
*I look down at shattered glass, glass that brings memories, glass that gives me eyes to see in. And I see: I had thought joy's flame needed protecting.
All these years, these angers, these hardenings, this desire to control, I had thought I had to snap the hand closed to shield joy's fragile flame from the blasts. In a storm of struggles, I had tried to control the elements, clasp the fist tight so as to protect self and happiness. But palms curled into protective fists fill with darkness. I feel that sharply, even in this...and this realization in all its full emptiness: My own wild desire to protect my joy at all costs is the exact force that kills my joy.
I am the reason why my life is so hard. My self - my fleshly self - is consuming me. Instead of feeling joy, I choose to give in to the frustrations and lash out violently. If I am to receive joy and to see life for what it is, I must let go of this self and trust in the hand that is trying to help me. Ann says, "But dying to self demands that I might gratefully and humbly receive the better, the only things that a good God gives. To be nothing in the flesh and Christ might be everything in the soul, to follow after Jesus who "humbled himself and became obedient to death..." (Philippians 2:8 NIV) to follow Christ to the table of eucharisteo, the table of surrender that gives thanks for what is given - this is joy! Joy - it's always obedience.
Only self can kill joy."
Sighing at my prideful self, I pull into the car dealership to make a spare key. I knew that I not only needed a key to unlock my car door, but I needed a key to give my soul freedom to choose Jesus instead of self. A key to living life completely, especially in the moments where Satan seems to have won.
We need it - this Key. Without it, life is spent searching. With it, we can unlock the door to joy.
Till next time, let your light shine!
*pgs. 178-179: One Thousand Gifts, Voskamp, Ann.
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