Taxi to Heaven

Photo by Jake Heinemann on

It was early on a Wednesday morning when I silently crept into my daughter’s sleeping quarters.  She looked angelic— nestled in the white, goose-down comforter.  I could have gazed upon her loveliness forever.  But, I had a mission.  Up to this point, it had been Mission Impossible.  But I was fixin’ to change that.  I had a plan up my sleeve.  As long as I could carry out my plan in a calm manner, I knew my mission had a 99.9% chance of success.  But, if I did not execute my plan well, my mission had the potential to boomerang with catastrophic consequences.

I took a brief moment to carefully calibrate my mind, invigorate my will and command my emotions.  Then, I set my plan into action.

Sitting down on the bed, I gently stroked Jessie’s cheek, “It’s time to get up Sweetie.  It’s a school day.  Saturdays are different.  Jessie wakes up on her own at 6:30am.  It’s a strange phenomenon that I have yet to understand.

But, today is Wednesday.  Not a sound could be heard… except for the deep, peaceful breathing of my sweet little angel.  I waited a minute or two.

This time I gently rocked her shoulders back and forth, “Come on, Jess.  Gotta get up.  Your Honey Nut Cheerios are waiting for you.“ 

Mournful moans escaped from deep within the white goose-down comforter cocoon.   Then, quick as a wink, out popped a hand that snatched the covers back over her head. Then, an even more mournful wail could be heard across the land.

“I’m ti————red.  Leave…. me…. alo——ne! Go awaaaaaaaaaaay!”

I sat patiently for a few more minutes.  Finally, when I was certain she was wide awake I calmly stated, “Jess, I’m leaving for school at 7:30.   If you’re not ready, I promise not to yell or threaten, but I’ll arrange for a taxi service to get you to school.  I think they charge about $10.  You can use your allowance to pay the bill.  You get to choose— be ready at 7:30, or taxi.

I walked out of the room feeling sick to my stomach.  Based on Jessie’s track record, I was pretty sure she’d need a taxi.  I was tired of chasing my kids wielding an electric cow prodder and issuing threatening commands in order to get them to school on time.

I carried on with my morning ritual of making school lunches and heating my coffee in the microwave at least 25 times— due to mostly minor interruptions.

But this morning, we had a major interruption.  Josh forgot where he was on his morning check list.  Tragically, he had gotten off track.  He had begun item #4 on his checklist before completing item #3.

Alas! Josh had begun to put on his shirt before eating his bowl of Cheerios!  I was awakened to this fact by my son dramatically exclaiming that his morning was now entirely ruined due to the fact that he had not “accurately followed his checklist”.

Now— MY morning was on the brink of disaster.  My sweet angels were pushing my buttons!

I resisted the urge to respond with an avalanche of words.  I counted to 10…. no 25—- while I checked to ensure that my brain and emotions were locked into the “calm” mode.  Then, I kindly reminded Josh that he did not have to complete his checklist in the order it was written, he just needed to be sure to complete his checklist before “7:30 take-off”.  We had had this conversation before, more than once.

Josh loves his checklist.  Ever since I implemented a check list, Josh has been ready on time.  He’ll make a great pilot, astronaut… or engineer.

By now Jessie had managed to slowly and painfully extract herself from the grasp of her warm covers.  The weeping and wailing was extra-ordinary today.

“Stop making noise! It’s too bright!  Turn off the lights!  Stop humming, Josh!  Mama, YOU did this to me!  You are MAKING me like this cuz YOU woke me up!

Josh had re-booted and was back on track with his checklist.  Both he and I became strategic and cautious as we continued our morning preparations.  We did not want to become a victim of the roaming “not morning” person on the loose.  For the next 30 minutes, my 6 year old bellowed and whined—- while it took every fiber of my being to remain calm and to keep my mouth shut.  I had learned from experience that no amount of words were able to extricate my daughter from the grasp of the early morning grumpy monster.

But as the wailing and whining intensified, my blood began to boil and my blood pressure escalated to unhealthy heights.  I grabbed the Super Glue and squeezed a dab onto my lips, in an effort to “let no corrupt communication proceed out of my mouth…”

Finally it was 7:30.  My daughter was still sitting on the big leather chair, hair standing on end, half dressed, with an empty stomach.

“Josh and Jessie, it’s time to get your school bags and get in the car”.  I raised my voice enough to be heard above the noisy din of my daughter’s howling.  Then, I grabbed my keys and walked out the door.

I climbed into the driver’s side of the Yukon, taking extra time to adjust my seat and put on my seat belt.    Josh was already in the car and ready to roll. I glanced at the front door desperately hoping to see Jessie streak through, and launch herself with a flying leap into the car, just in the nick of time.  She had done that before.  Then I opened the garage door and started the engine.  Finally, I slowly backed out of the garage.  I paused again before hitting the button to close the garage.  Just before the garage door completely closed, I saw my little girl squatting in the garage, crying giant crocodile tears as I backed the Yukon out to the street.  It was a pitiful sight and a memory that is forever etched into my mind.  The stand-off was over, but it was too late.

Suspecting it would come to this, I had already put my husband, Corban, on alert and he was standing by.  Quickly I dialed his number to let him know that I had left Jessie at home.  Within a minute Corban was on our door step and in the house.  Corban calmly and kindly told her that he was her taxi service and asked her,”Would you like to pay me now or after school?”

Jessie decided to pay after school but not without declaring loudly, “Mama broke the law!  She’s not supposed to leave a 6 year old alone!”

Corban assured her that Mama had not left her alone because Daddy was nearby and Mama had notified him to come get her.  Of course, Jessie was not persuaded.  However, she did decide to get in the car after her Daddy assured her he would have a talk with Officer Warren to ensure we were following the law.

It was a tough day for me.  I had mixed emotions.  Why didn’t kids come with manuals?  My kids were as different from each other as night and day.  What worked for one did not work for the other.

Finally— it was time to pick up the kids from school.  I wasn’t sure what state of mind Jessie would be in.  Josh hopped into the car with a big hello and a bright smile on his face.  Next Jessie climbed in… with a scathing scowl.  “I’m still mad at you.  You broke the law.  You’re not supposed to leave kids home alone.”

I turned and looked back, “Jess, I did not break the law.  I had a conversation with Officer Warren.  But, he did say that it was against the law for children not to go to school.  If you do not go to school, I could be arrested and put into jail— and charged a $100 fine.  If that happens, I’ll have to sell all your toys in order to pay the fine.  I hope that doesn’t happen.  What can I do to help?

“Will you buy me an alarm clock?”

“Sure, Jess”, I replied

Jessie sat in silence for the trip home.  Once home, I opened the car door and picked her up.  I carried her inside, sat down on the couch and held her in my arms for a long time.  I told her how much I loved her… always and forever… no matter what.  Then, she fell asleep in my arms.

That evening I asked her,  Who would you like to read to you tonight…Daddy or Mama?  Based upon the events of the day, I fully expected her to say, “Daddy”.  But she surprised me,  “I want you to read to me, Mama.”

As Jessie and I snuggled in bed that night after reading stories I asked her, “Do you want to pray tonight or do you want me to pray for you?”

She learned over and whispered into my ear, “Mama, will you help me pray?  I want to ask Jesus into my heart.”

In an instant, the trauma and drama of my day vanished.    “Of course, honey.”  I brushed away the tears as I listened to my little girl invite Jesus into her heart.  Then she snuggled next to me and fell asleep.

For the next few moments, I lay there listening to her rhythmic breathing next to my cheek.  I never would have guessed that a taxi would have been Jessie’s ticket to heaven!

Mama Bull

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We were on a family outing when my 9 year old son blurted out words that rocked me to the core.

“Mama, I feel like you’re the bull— and I”m wearing the red. And you just keeping charging me!”, Josh calmly stated.  I winced as the lance stuck into my not-so-thick hide and blood trickled from my flesh wound.

“Well— then STOP WEARING RED!”, I responded indignantly.

Any illusion I ever had of being considered one of those patient, nurturing, Mama’s, flew out the window quicker than greased lightning.  My own DNA just told me I was a bull—- a sweating, frothing beast charging at my helpless young.  I sat for a moment in awkward silence as those words sliced through my bull-headed brain and landed with a thud in my Mama-bull’s heart.

This was one of those moments when I could either deny the obvious and look like an even bigger fool, or swallow my pride and look at myself in the raw.  I don’t like the raw bullish parts of me.  Sometimes I’d rather deny them or pretend they don’t exist. Other times I justify my actions with a sarcastic response, “If you’re in the bull pen and you’re wearing red, why are you surprised when you get charged by a bull?!”

But wait!  Wasn’t I the Mama who just finished telling my 6 year old daughter, “You are in charge of you.  You can’t control your brother.  You can only control you.”

Jessie had looked at me as if I had lost my mind.  “But, Mama— he grabbed the remote out of my hand.  I couldn’t help myself.  I HAD to sit on his head and punch his ears until he gave me back the remote”.

I understand my daughter’s logic perfectly.  Though I say the words, “I can only control myself— not someone else”… the reality is that it’s just plain hard to control myself when my kids or my circumstances cause my blood to boil.  Especially when I’ve been patient for soooooooo long!  There comes that magic moment when I morph into a screaming drill sergeant… or what my son calls— a charging bull.  My eyes shoot flaming daggers.  The veins pop out as I bark orders and issue threats, intimidating my offspring into action.  I feel justified.  I wouldn’t have to yell, if they would just listen and respond.  I accomplished my goal.  I got the action I needed.

But, I also wounded young hearts with my anger and sharp words.  I know this too well, for my own heart was wounded by the shrapnel of anger and the harshness of words I experienced as a child.  Now I was doing the same.

These are moments of raw agony that try to pull me into the black hole of despair and self-loathing.   It’s so easy to be sucked into the overpowering vortex of my own inadequacy and lack.

But I have another option.  I can fix my eyes on Jesus, and let the stronger power of His unconditional love wash over me like warm ocean waves.  I can run to Him in repentance.  I can let Him draw me close so He can whisper in my ear, “You’re forgiven.  I love you.  You are my lamb”

And as I begin to believe, really believe that I am loved—- that I am His, my heart softens and my tone of voice loses its edge.

Oddly, it also changes the charging Mama-bull into a gentle, Mama-sheep.  It’s a daily choice of identity.  He say’s I’m His sheep.  I get to agree… or not.  He leaves me free to choose.

But, if you ever notice a wooly sheep with a bull’s head charging across the pasture, know that I’m still in the process of being transformed.  So for goodness sakes, run for your life or at least DODGE the horns!

Amazing Love

Photo by Tim Mossholder on

Tears squeezed out of my eyes as I desperately whispered aloud, “God help me!”

In the same moment, I heard the ding of a text message arriving on my phone.  Tears blurred my vision as I tried to make out the words.  “You came from God and He loves you unconditionally.  Your assignment can’t be messed up by your circumstances.”

By now, tears were streaming uncontrollably down my face.  It was one of those days when I felt overwhelmed by regrets and marred by my past.  I wondered if my destiny had been derailed by my uncertainty and mistakes.  I floundered in my motherhood.  My floors were sticky, the counters cluttered and dirty laundry was everywhere!  I had yelled at the kids, been impatient with my husband and frankly, I was just worn out.   I just wanted the world to stop spinning so I could get off for awhile.

But as I paused to reflect on the words and the timing of that text I became aware of His mind-blowing unconditional love that was there for me.  I just need to believe.  My human mind struggles to wrap itself around the idea of unconditional love.  It’s easy to believe when it’s about someone else.  But, in my most ugly, shameful moments can I receive… can I believe, really believe it’s actually there for me?

Later that day I took my daughter to the park and as we sat on the picnic blanket and ate our lunch I asked Jessie, (age 6) a question.

“Jess, what do you know about God?”

She paused briefly and then looked at me with those big blue eyes and said, ” He never fails.  He’s always great.  He never makes mistakes.  He’s always answering our prayers.  He loves us no matter what.

How do you know this, I asked.

With unwavering confidence, she replied, “I just know!  God never lies.  He made all of us and we’re all special.”

Then, she changed the subject, and reached for her jelly sandwich.

Later that afternoon, I was flipping through Facebook and stumbled across a friend’s recent post.  She shared these words written by Ann Voskamp:

You gotta hang in there: You matter– because the very matter of your soul is mined from the heart of God.

Your work is important–because the very weight of the Cross gives it gravity and import.

And your name is forever known– not because of the number of people who follow you, but because of the One who etched your name right in to the very palm of His hand and cries, ‘Come, Follow me’.

~Ann Voskamp

And so, I will.

He loves me while I’m still in my mess.  He hears me and comes running when I call out to Him.  My assignment— my work— my destiny and purpose cannot be messed up by my circumstances or my past.

Mind-blowing love and radical redemption!  I can’t help but follow Him.