Monday, July 9, 2012

Loving the Inconvenient Way

The Holy Spirit has been convicting me recently about how I act toward and treat my children....especially during the times when screaming is at its peak, chaos rules, or frustration is high.  I demand so much from Jacob, my oldest.  Self-control, pleasantness, and never, ever lashing out or speaking with harshness.  Recently I've noticed his tolerance level toward Joshua and Grace diminishing.  I've spent days (weeks probably) trying to "fix" this problem by really harping on him about it.  I feel like I've been beating my head against the wall.  Then it dawned on me.  The ugly truth that the sin I saw manifesting itself in his life was a mirror image of the sin manifesting itself in my life.  Why is it so easy to see it in someone else and not in yourself?  Coming face to face with it I saw the deep ugliness of it all.

I demand so much from my four year old (FOUR YEAR OLD)!  These are things I cannot do either (and I don't need to tell you how old I am...older than he is and that is all that matters).  God has been showing me these things through Jacob's behavior because I was too blind to see it in myself.  Was I too blind?  Or was I too unwilling?  I have excuses.  Reasons to act that way.  Entitlement, right?  I have three little ones!  Of course I'm allowed to lose my patience, raise my voice, and get all grumpy toward the world in my frustration and annoyance!  Right? 

Being a mom isn't about convenience.  Nothing is convenient.  They don't ever need correction, hugs, kisses, discipline, etc. at a time that is convenient.  Spills always happen right after you mopped.  Boo boos always need kisses when you're elbow deep in raw meat for dinner.  Sibling problems always happen when you're trying to fold laundry.  Discipline is always needed when you're on the phone.  Sickness always comes when your calendar demands you to stay on track with the schedule all week.  Questions always require answers the minute the restroom door clicks shut.  No, it isn't convenient.

When I think about God, my heavenly Father, I can't say I've ever thought of Him as an impatient parent.  He doesn't sigh with exasperation and slam down the raw chicken and storm over to a sibling squabble to rip the treasured toy out of the hands of all parties involved or half-heartedly kiss a boo-boo and send me on my way.  He doesn't get "fed up".  No phone call is too important when discipline is required.  Sickness is a blessing because it is a time to draw near.  Questions are welcomed, regardless of the deep desire for a quick moment of peace.  I mean, God is busy running the world, but nothing, nothing (!!) is too inconvenient for Him.

God has called me to be a mom.  It is a high and important calling.  My job is to point my children toward the gospel in all things.  All things!  That includes how I respond to them when I'm tired, frustrated, fed up, folding laundry, on the phone, in the restroom...  I should expect to seem them mimic the way I act.  How I wish they could see more of the Holy Spirit in me! 

Lord, I pray you will fill me to the brim with your Holy Spirit.  Only You can empower me to love my children in a way that points them toward you in all things.  This, Lord, is the deepest longing of my heart.  Father, let them not be inconveniences.  Let them be great opportunities to point them yet again to your cross and to their need to one day come to know you as Savior.  I cannot do this alone.  I cannot do this by my own strength.  Lord, help me to see all those minor inconveniences as blessings--blessed opportunities to talk more of our dependence on you!  Amen.

I'll leave you with a picture of what God says our love should look like.  My prayer is for the Holy Spirit to empower me to love my children in light of His word:

Love is patient and kind;
 love does not envy or boast;
it is not arrogant or rude.
It does not insist on its own way;
it is not irritable or resentful;
it does not rejoice at wrongdoing,
but rejoices with the truth.
Love bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
endures all things.
Love never ends.

~1 Corinthians 13:4-8~

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Battle Wounds

Battle #1
I took Jacob to the pool this week.  It was a sunny day, hot, and Grandmama had come to keep the babies for the day.  It was a great day for a Mommy and Jacob Day.  These days are rare, so they are special to us.  I had an eye doctor's appointment in the morning so I took him with me, where he did exceptionally well.  Then we headed off to the pool.  We spent about three and a half hours at the pool, in pure chlorinated bliss.  Then it was time to go.

If you've been a mom, been around a mom, babysat a child, or basically been in any public place that involves kids and fun activities, you probably have a good idea of how things went.  What was a wonderful, blissful day all came crashing down into a bad case of the "I don't wanna go's" and just like that, poof, the fun was gone.  Mean mommy came out as I cornered Jacob, telling him to correct the attitude immediately (and perhaps silently pleading with my eyes for him not to cause any further a scene).  We made it out of the pool unscathed only to argue further on the way home about how ruining fun things with a bad attitude at the end of said fun thing does not increase the chances of doing any further fun things in the future.  (For those who are curious, yes, this was thoroughly discussed and appropriate discipline assigned for the attitude leaving the pool--he did not simply get away with it).

Battle #2
I took the babies grocery shopping tonight.  Massive grocery shopping.  Two weeks worth PLUS replacement of all we lost in our dead fridge episode in the past week.  I frequently take them shopping--in fact all three of them--and manage to handle it well.  Tonight was different.  For starters we went at night, the night before 4th of July.  We generally avoid pre-holiday shopping at all costs and also stick to daytime shopping--you know, then we're out with all the other moms with kids and we fit in a little better and our antics are perhaps a bit more tolerated and understood.

First we went to Aldi.  More than once people complimented my cargo.  "How well behaved they are!"  "Aren't they doing a great job helping!"  And they were.  And I basked in the glory of my well behaved sweet little children and thought, this will be such a great trip with them!

Then it down poured right as we were getting ready to leave the store.  It hasn't rained in days--weeks even--and it pours.  I mean POURS!  I was not about to haul my two weeks worth of groceries, two babies, and myself out to the van in it, so we decided to wait it out.  I thought for sure it would end quickly.  It will just dump and move on quickly.  Well, it did, but when you're basically just standing at the exit in Aldi just watching it pour and waiting for it to stop with two 16 month olds in the cart and groceries that are starting to sweat from the heat it feels like a million years.  It let up after about 10-15 minutes (though I swear it took an hour) and we loaded the car.  Only major incident was several episodes of throwing cheese on the floor at the exit of Aldi for rain time entertainment.  It really wasn't THAT bad.

I patted myself on the back and thought I'd better really bust a move at Wal-Mart since it was getting really dangerously close to bedtime and we'd already been in Aldi much longer than I anticipated.

Battle #3
We entered Wal-Mart and right from the start it had a bad feeling.  Grace didn't want to sit in the cart, which is rare for her.  Joshua was mad unless he was holding something (and subsequently throwing it on the floor).  I was flying as fast as I could, but two weeks of groceries is a lot....

I'm not really sure how to explain what happened inside Wal-Mart tonight.  Or really what happened inside my mind.  It all just kind of fell to pieces.  I'm not even sure I remember all of it.  Let me try to hit on some highlights:
  • Joshua chucked a package of toilet paper right out in front of someone going past us and nearly hit them.  At least it was toilet paper and not the can of enchilada sauce I later chased down an aisle.
  • Grace began unloading the cart as fast as I could fill it--cereal in, hot dogs out, rice in, enchilada sauce out.  You get the idea.
  • At one point stew meat came out of the cart and I ran the whole darn package over with the cart.  Thankfully the package remained intact and none of the meat was spoiled, but it definitely looks.....interesting.
  • Joshua began crying.  Scratch that.  SCREAMING.
  • Joshua continued to SCREAM.
  • Grace began attempting acrobatics in the back of the cart while Joshua SCREAMED.  It became apparent that Grace needed to be strapped in (where Joshua was sitting) and Joshua needed to be held.  How to make the switch??  Somehow I managed to put screaming Joshua in the back of the cart (who immediately began attempting acrobatics too) while I took Grace and strapped her in, ultimately causing her to join in the chorus of screaming.  Thankfully she only screamed a little while.
  • I physically wrestled Joshua who wanted to continue screaming and get down and run the entire store.
  • A lady in line behind me took pity on me and sweetly offered to help me unload my groceries onto the belt and also made sweet comments about her sister who had triplets and how it is really hard, but worth it--apparently oblivious to the screaming (she touched me by her thoughtfulness and I really hope to one day pay this act forward to a mom in need).
  • I wanted to cry and almost abandoned my cart, but I'd done it--two weeks TWO WEEKS of groceries were in this cart!  I was NOT coming back.  I had to finish the task.
  • Somehow I picked the longest, slowest line in all humanity.  Did the people in front of me really need to ask the cashier (slower than molasses) to re-bag her items into the larger bags?  Did they have to have five (literally!!) different transactions?  Did they have to have their little kid buying things who just threw wadded up paper bills onto the belt for the cashier to painstakingly flatten and put away?  Did one of their transactions have to require the cashier to open a new roll of quarters that she slowly peeled itty bitty piece of paper at a time?  Did the cashier have to stand there and reorganize her whole drawer after the five transactions had finally completed and gone on....only to make me stand there and wait for her to ring my transaction?
  • Coupons?  Who cares I'd taken the time to clip coupons (probably a good $5 worth).  I couldn't get to them in my purse with Joshua on my hip.  It was a miracle I could even pay.

Yeah, it was that kind of trip to Wal-Mart. I cried on the way home and got so angry and frustrated and annoyed.  All the things I'd sworn my precious children would never do--they did it.  In a span of about an hour.  And I'd endured it.  Mortified is probably too nice of a word for how I felt at the moment.  Sure, I laugh now, but I assure you, I was not laughing then.  And I forgot pizza sauce for the pizza that is on the menu one night this week...

I was reminded of the number of battles I face each day with my children.  Sometimes I win, sometimes they win.  Sometimes the wounds are deeper than others (for both of us).  Sometimes I want to give up, surrender, and wave the white flag.  God reminded me tonight that I simply cannot surrender.  These are just mere battles.  I am at war--war against evil and I must not succumb.  It brings Satan no greater joy than to see a mom lose a battle and think in her heart, "I don't know why I even try."  I refuse to be his pawn.  I refuse to let him win.  I may be beat up, war torn, ragged, and have tear streaked cheeks, but I will not quit.  Praise God I have His mighty strength to pull me through.

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; ~2 Corinthians 4:8-9~