Thursday, February 18
Just a few mornings ago my two year old grabbed my hand and begged me, implored me, nudged me and eventually tugged me away from the kitchen where I was wrapped up in the usual morning grind with unrelenting perseverance to finish the tasks at hand (just one clean spot in the house, just one!) .
"Come on, Mom! Come upstairs with me. I want to show you something!" she said, looking up at me, as her small hand grabbed first at my leg, pulling me away from the sink, and then reached up for my hand.
I held my ground for a minute. I kept my foot firmly planted in front of the sink and almost muttered those words that all mommas utter more than they mean too..."Not right now honey...I have to finish this first."
Oh, but one look at that face. That face! She gets me every time. The dancing blue eyes, the cheeks, the persuasive smile, the way she so eloquently expresses herself at 2 1/2...She was being incredibly persistent, not backing down. Momma, you're going to pay attention to me now! every part of her seemed to be saying.
"Momma, I have something to show you!" is what she said instead...a game we often play.
Sometimes the "something" means she cleaned her room (well, kind of). Sometimes she has lined up her stuffed animals. Sometimes she has pulled every last thing out of her bed, or every book off of the bookshelf and has thrown them into a haphazard pile on the floor. Those are always the funniest "surprises".
"Wow, honey...um...wow. That's...a...That a great great pile you've made there!" I'll stammer as she beams proudly and I conjure up how we'll gracefully clean this mess up at some point later today...maybe.
On this particular morning, the "something" was a carefully constructed pyramid she had crafted out of a set of Melissa and Doug puzzle blocks. The blocks were carefully stacked, six at the bottom, then five, four, three, two, all the way to the one at the top. She and I had made block towers before, but she had never done it by herself. It was quite impressive, actually.
I was delighted to have seen it, and simultaneously reminded myself that I had almost missed it.
I almost said no. I almost told her that I needed to finish the dishes first. By that time she would have been onto other things, or would have knocked it down, or would have forgotten about the thing all together.
While a block tower is not monumental by any means, it was significant in her day, and it was a moment she wanted to share with me. A moment away from the grind. A moment to focus on her playfulness, her creativity...a moment that said, without a spoken word, that she IS absolutely more important than the dishes.
As she led me up the stairs, holding tightly to my hand, I found this question rattling around in my mind...How often does God, in the same way beckon me away from the grind. How often does he say, "My love, I have something to show you, come this way."
How often do I actually miss what he wants to show me because I plant my foot on the floor just a little bit harder and play the mommy martyr card? "But these dishes, and this laundry, and these floors, and the grocery lists, and the lack of sleep, and the dust, and the very dirty mudroom...God, did you see the water marks on the hardwood floors in that mudroom... from the gritty, grimy snow boots that have been in and out ceaselessly this week? I must not stop!"
Sometimes He is extra gracious with me, and persistent. He tugs at my leg and then takes my hand and pulls me away, and I am always, always, thankful for it.
But sometimes, I wonder if I've missed it.
Missed the chance to take in the snowcapped trees, and their massively reaching arms that seem to be reaching out to the sky in praise. Or, the chance to have a meaningful conversation with a mom I kind of knew, but hid from, in an aisle at Target. Maybe I missed the chance to hear one of my children sing, or dance spontaneously because I was tirelessly pursuing productivity. Maybe I (gulp) squelched someone's desire to sing when I pushed us all too quickly to move onto the next thing, rather than just...staying...in...the...moment...just...a...little...bit...longer.
I know I write (and talk!) a lot about this very topic. Sometimes I'm tired of hearing myself say the same things over and over again...the broken record spinning in my head. I hope I don't sound entirely like a broken record to you. If I do, forgive me.
Maybe, just maybe, one of these days I'll get it. I'll be that lady who can write about how she takes in every magnificent moment of the day, from the sun slowly peaking up over the horizon in the morning, to the gloriously beautiful sight of those sleeping faces, innocent and sweet, that I pray over before I go to bed at night.
Someday I'll arrive at the zen, the focus, the true practice of the presence of God as much in the middle of the overtly glorious as in the microscopically minute and mundane moments of the day.
But, until then I'm a total piece of work. A piece of work in progress, which is, ultimately and hopefully, a good thing.
I'm a slowly sanctifying, fitfully faithful, blissfully blundering, hot mess of a momma on many days who is trying my best to manage this thing called life and motherhood as gracefully as humanly possible.
And, I suppose if I had it all figured out, I wouldn't have much to write about...and that wouldn't be any fun after all (;
Thursday, February 11
Oh friends. You should have seen me last Saturday afternoon.
No. Actually, I'm really glad you didn't see me last Saturday afternoon.
I lost it.
Blubbering, crying, slamming doors lost it.
If you're thinking, Oh my goodness, she doesn't look like that type. The blubbering, lost it, slamming doors type! You'd be right...most of the time. I credit my faith, God's grace, and a somewhat consistent prayer life for helping me to hold it together most days. I'm relatively patient with my kids. I don't do a lot of yelling because I am starkly aware that I DO NOT want my girls to remember me that way. And I rarely, if ever, slam a door in the house.
But, life got the best of me on Saturday. Actually, the house, the cleaning, the STUFF!, got the best of me.
I had spent the entire morning cleaning the house-- picking up toys, putting laundry away, cleaning the kitchen, and sorting through CD's, DVD's and books in the living room. The CD/DVD project took longer than I expected, and Aubrey (as 2 year olds are prone to do) started to dump other stuff (her toys, puzzles, games) all over the back of the living room. At this point I was still holding it together though. Ok, ok. I've been preoccupied, this is not her fault. She's just playing and doing what two year olds do. Lots and lots and LOTS of what two year olds do.
I continued my organizing project, eventually sent the girls up to clean their rooms, which they did half-heartedly in about 10 minutes time, we ate lunch and the girls settled on the couch to play a Wii game.
It was getting late in the afternoon and I knew that I still had errands to run--for Birthday parties, Valentines stuff, grocery items-- more to do than I realized I had time for. The tension was starting to mount. I was still purging and organizing the back of the living room and our window seat, whose internal contents had become a haphazard dumping ground for puzzles, games and toys, and was feeling increasingly frustrated.
It was about this time that I started to think about how little time I have to do more pleasurable things (anything aside from cooking, cleaning and managing stuff!), and how much time I spend managing other people's schedules and stuff. In my frustration this is what went down...
"Ava, Ella!" I shouted, as I pulled dozens of games and puzzles out of the window seat and started throwing them into a pile on the living room floor. "I need help!"
They completely ignored me and continued to play Mario Brothers.
"Girls! This is NOT MY STUFF! I spend all of my life sorting it and I'd like some help!"
"Mom," Ava said, somewhat sarcastically, "It doesn't ALL need to be done on Saturday!"
And that's when I blew my lid.
"Turn that video game off now and get back here and help me!"
They did't turn it off fast enough. I marched over, hit the power button on the television, sent Ava up to her bedroom and then proceeded to pull the rest of the games out of the window seat, throwing them on the floor, one at a time while my six year old watched with her eyebrows raised.
Oh my goodness, I'm damaging my six year old for life, I thought as I continued to angrily throw puzzles.
I finally sent her upstairs, more calmly, because she at least asked if she could help. I realized I needed time to cool off without bystanders.
But before my cooling off would commence I marched my angry self up the stairs behind her, told Ava to never, EVER talk to me like that again and then slammed her door shut.
I went back down to the mess of games and puzzles, sat on the window seat, and cried a few crazy mom tears before Scott found me and tried to talk me off the ledge. He reassured me that, a) I wasn't crazy, b) we don't have a ton of time for ourselves, c) this parenting gig IS harder than we ever imagined it would be, and d) that he supported my efforts to purge and to ask for help in the process.
Scott invited the girls back downstairs where they apologized for not helping and for their snippy tone about the house cleaning. I wasn't ready to apologize for my door slamming (that would come later), and simply accepted their apologies and offers for help.
Sadly, my tone sent Scott on a grumpy, downward spiral for the rest of the day. Just about the time that I started to regain my composure, patience and stamina, he was throwing paint brushes around the kitchen and barking about his own (understandable) frustration.
The day felt like an epic family fail.
This was not how we envisioned our lives as parents, or how we thought our family Saturdays would go down.
The reality is that sometimes we just have bad days. Sometimes the pressure cooker of parenthood pushes you to your limits. Sometimes you collectively throw puzzles and paintbrushes all on the same day.
But, God...God is good. He redeems the mess...the figurative and the literal and can turn it into good.
We pulled the pieces together that night; apologized to the girls, apologized to each other and made promises for a new, good and better start the next day.
The next morning, while the girls were still sleeping and I was fixing my morning coffee, I happened to glance up and read this verse that has been taped to the side of our kitchen cabinet for months.
It was a convicting reminder. I laughed at the irony that I had boldly tapped it to the side of the counter during a time when the girls bickering with one another was getting out of control and I was tired of being a constant referee.
Perhaps God knew it was I that would actually need the reminder several months later...
I called my husband, who was on his way to church to play on the worship team that morning..."Babe, I just read this verse! The last line...it got me. Remember last night how we said we felt like we were not living the lives we wanted to live...we weren't!"
When the girls got up that morning I read the verse to them and apologized, again, for my angry behavior the day before. I explained that it's ok for mom to ask for help, and that they need to be respectful in their responses, but that my choice to slam Ava's door in anger is never, EVER what we do when we're mad.
"Girls, was that a good choice or a bad choice...the slamming of the door?" I asked, somewhat sarcastically and in my best teacher voice.
They smiled. "Bad choice, mom."
We had a much better day on Sunday (:
I realized I had been slow to listen and quick to speak during my Saturday purge. The reality is that a family of five does need to work together, and Ava, of course, should help when I ask (and not be sarcastic!), but there was a bigger picture lesson going on here.
In the midst of the mess, and the busyness, and the striving to get it all done, I let my focus on a clean house take me away from my focus on a clean heart...one that accepts that "full" and "messy" are part of this season we are in, and gracefully works through the details of decluttering and cleaning one day at a time, often at a pace much slower and more laborious than I would like!
The reality is, and I can hardly believe I'm saying this, that Ava was probably right...It did't all need to be done on Saturday.
We did finish our living room purge and I got most of my errands done. And, better than all of that, God was doing a deeper work in my heart that day...I vowed to never, ever slam a door again (I'm hoping I can hold true to that one!), and to listen more and say less.
So, we venture on. One messy, grace filled day at a time. Digging deeper into what really needs to be purged (the living room or our hearts!), and are thankful for grace in the process.