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Friday, August 2, 2013

The Crazy Life I Live

It's been a stressful week for me.

Let me just say to all single parents out there: I take my hat off to you - in the most powerful, non-literal sense I can muster.  It is such a challenge to parent single-handed.  To think there are parents out there who do this all the time is mind-boggling to me.  You have my utmost respect.

Sam and Caleb are on a trip to the Philippines with a team from our Church.  And I encouraged this.

What was I thinking?!?!

Well, I was thinking it would be good for Caleb.  It would be good for our family.  It would be good all 'round.  And it is.  In ways I never imagined.

It is good for me to experience these almost two weeks without the help of dear husband.

It is good for me to see what I take for granted.

It is good for Sam and Caleb to experience and serve in a far-off place.

It is good for my children to grow in grace with me.

It is good for me to see my shortcomings even more than I already did.

It is good for me to struggle, to question and to lean hard on God.

It is good...

But it doesn't always feel good. 

Many people think more of me than they should - like that I'm a 'great Mom' and all.  Well, whatever.  There are moments when no amount of singing my praises can convince me - like when I've yelled in frustration at my kids and they are all in tears, sobbing because of my harshness and then I think, 'Yup.  I'm the worst Mom ever.  She didn't deserve that.  You lost control.  You let anger win.'  And on and on the self-abasing talk goes.

This kind of guilt - guilt I call: Legitimate guilt - is okay.  It isn't the fake Mommy guilt of 'oh, my kids stayed up 20 minutes past bedtime and they didn't get their bath tonight...I must be such a bad Mom.'  No - I'm not talking of that.  That's another issue.

I struggle with anger rage.  I guess anger means you're an angry person, which I don't think I am.  It's the eruptions of rage that I fight against.

It has to do with expectations.  Like, I expect my kids to obey - and then they don't.  Or I expect them to keep track of their stuff, and they don't.  Or I expect them to put stuff away, and they don't.  Or I expect them to help each other, not fight, pretend to be polite, do my bidding, work hard, eat what I serve, never complain... and then they don't, or they do, or they do whatever I wish they wouldn't.  And then I lose it.

I think I am justified in losing it - when I'm losing it that is.  Later, I realize I wasn't as justified as I thought.

I am tired, disorganized and trying to unpack in a house we moved into a month ago.  I am living with a Mother-in-law and four children from 10 down to 1 in the middle of summer with no school in session except Latin class for Priscilla.  Many Moms can handle this.  What's wrong with me?!

Two nights ago it was getting later and later.  I was trying to get the kids down.  But it wasn't working.  In frustration I said to Hannah, 'Sorry, honey.  You'll just have to cry.  I've tried to help you settle but you're not working with me.'  Five minutes later she puked.  Everywhere.  On the bed.  On the floor.  All over herself.  In her hair.  It was nearing midnight.

I start by stripping the bed.

I take her to the bathtub.  I ask Timothy for his help.  He says he'll help her in the bath.

I get the laundry in and start scrubbing the mattress.  I clean up the floor.  I check on Hannah every couple minutes.

She's crying.

It's cold water.

'WHAT?!?!  WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?!?!  Why would you bathe her in cold water?!'

'She turned it on herself.'  Great.  And why didn't you just turn it off, I wonder to no-one in particular.

I take her out.  Priscilla holds her while I finish the clean up.  The laundry had begun and used all the hot water.  Hannah is shivering.

I boil water on the stove.  I make a warm bath - 2nd bath of the evening.

She bathes, with help from older siblings.  We get her dressed and ready for bed, again.

Then I smell her.

'Priscilla - did you wash her hair?'

'No, I thought Timothy did!'  Here we go again.  I am so tired.  When do I get to go to bed?

By this time the hot water had kicked in.  Bath no. 3 was started.  Hair was washed.  Back to bed.

1 a.m. How will I make it through this week?!  How will I get up before 7:30 and get Priscilla up and out the door to Latin class? 

Then the thought hit me:  God was not surprised by the evening's events.  In fact, He ordained it.  He knew how little sleep I would get.  He knew the challenges I was facing.  He knew the frustrations I was up against.  He knew.  He allowed it.  Therefore, He would enable me to get through.  I must be able to live on less sleep, or God wouldn't have allowed this... I thought to myself.

Sometimes I think, Why did God trust me to be Mom to five kids?  I am in over my head.  I've bit off more than I can chew.  I don't feel capable.  I'm afraid these kids are short-changed a more normal, enriching childhood!  

Then I have to stop myself.  It is not that I need to depend more on God.  I already AM completely, utterly, helplessly dependent on Him.  It is more that I need to see how dependent I am.  To trust Him in the hard moments.  The moments when I'm thinking, "I didn't sign up for this!!!"  In these moments I can do nothing but rest on the small understanding I have of His sovereign goodness over every detail of my life.

He gives grace for each moment.  Even the moments when I'm sinning.  When my temper flares.  When I ought to be empowered and submissive to His will to control my frustrations.  These are the moments when I need to remember He is in control.  My expectations were misplaced.  His sovereign hand is in this moment of chaos - and it is a good, guiding and merciful hand.

And I throw myself on that mercy to take me through another day, another hour - another grace-filled, utterly dependent moment.


And at the end of the very long day I thank God that my single-parenthood is very short lived.

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