There have been some hard days around here lately.
Actually, there has been kind of a rash of them.
I can’t tell if it’s the standard third-trimester rage I’ve come to expect, but it’s kicking in several weeks early? (Oh good! Only sixteen or seventeen more weeks of this!) Or perhaps I’m just kind of worn down from a long run of a lot of hard work. I don’t know. In either case, I’m kind of mad at everything.
And guess who gets the bulk of it?
The little people who are with me and needing me all. the. time.
The ones I adore with my whole heart.
I’ve kind of turned into a stereotypical Walmart mom. (No judgment on the moms in Walmart yelling at their kids and everyone else. Just walking into the place makes me want to yell. Seriously.) I keep catching myself snapping or growling at them through my teeth. And I know it’s me. I know it is. The space I’m in right now is one where I don’t have a lot of ability to pay focused attention to discipline. Pregnancy makes me stupid, honestly. I forget the thing I just told my kid to do (or not to do) and then don’t think to follow up. But at the same time, I have greatly reduced patience to deal with badly-disciplined children. So…
Take, for example, this past Sunday.
It started out very much like the rest, in that I didn’t get up early enough to get through all the things I try to finish before I need to before the girls get up.
So I tried to plow through my list and my devotions while they were supposed to choose one of a few (quiet) options.
Instead, I spent a solid hour correcting them while trying to read the Bible. It was awesome. And then they finally decided to choose one of the things on the list of sanctioned activities (they chose putting away dishes over quiet reading time and some other option I don’t recall right now.) Within two minutes of finally choosing to obey, there was one Corelle dinner plate EXPLODED all over my entire kitchen. Seriously. I have no idea how that happens. But it was on every surface and covering the whole floor.
I had to get them out of the kitchen, clearly, and keep them out while I handled the mess. It killed me… the thing that effectively earned them a time out (despite all my qualifications- I wasn’t mad and they weren’t in trouble, I just needed them not to get hurt while I cleaned up the shards everywhere) was the choice to be obedient. It should never go down this way.
But whatever. You do what you gotta do.
So I cleaned it all up and Brian got up and everyone ate and got dressed and we made it to church (miraculously early?) and settled in.
Anyone reading this who attends the second service at my church knows this (because we are conspicuous), but the girls attend the “big service” with me (rather than Sunday School- some backstory there, but basically they don’t want to go and I’m philosophically in favor of having them learn to sit through the service with me) and we sit in the very front. (That’s where Grandma and Miss Amanda and Miss Kat sit- since Andrew’s in the back, it’s handy to sit near grownups who like them and are happy to lend hands if needed.) Sometimes it works out well. Sometimes, well, they’re preschoolers and kind of squirmy. And occasionally they’re naughty. There is usually a spectacle of some sort. (If nothing else, Katherine worships by twirling, which is adorable and also highly conspicuous and sometimes dangerous.)
This was a naughty Sunday.
The littler one was removed for disobedience of the disruptive variety. Twice. (The first time, on our way out, she grabbed the back of the empty first row of chairs across the aisle and dragged the whole row back a couple inches. Yay!)
We handled it (twice) and made it back into the service (again) just in time for communion.
Both girls have “asked Jesus to be their leader”and both really look forward to “juice and cracker days.” (I kind of cringe writing that. Yes, we talk at length about the meaning of it, why we do it, why they get to do it, what they’re supposed to be remembering, and still, it’s “juice and crackers!” they look forward to.) Our church’s practice is to hand out each element, then wait and take it all together. Katherine is still kind of figuring this out. She’s not quite yet four, so if you give her a cracker, she wants to eat it. We’re working on it.
And then the teeny tiny cups of grape juice come by. And, since we sit in the front, Katherine has a LONG time to hold that tablespoon of Welch’s in her squirmy little hands. And I’m whispering to her about Jesus making the sacrifice for the things we’ve done wrong and how that makes us right with God. Reminding, reminding, always teaching. They’re so small. And I’m grateful beyond words that the girls each truly love Jesus and are trying to learn to follow him, and I pray that Brian and the new little girl also love Jesus at an early age. But also there’s some abstract symbolism that’s kind of hard to convey to the under four set. Jenna gets it a little better. I’m hoping Katherine catches on soon. But at any rate, during my attempt at bringing the truth of it to her in a way that made any sense at all, she was fiddling with this bitty cup and…
Of course it spilled. Of course it did. And naturally, she was wearing the only fully white shirt either of them own right now.
I was aggravated a little (because, seriously, how many times do you think I’ve told her to hold it carefully?) but honestly, what struck me was the poetry of it.
Making a total mess of the thing supposed to be pointing us back toward Jesus right this very second.
Monday morning, I finally, finally got up in time to read the Bible (and most of the other stuff on my morning checklist) before my kids needed any attention from me. And this is what greeted me.
Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.
Dear children. Imitating. If there is one thing in all the world that I know, it’s how “dear children” imitate. Adoringly. Relentlessly. Often impeccably. And, more often, completely imperfectly.
Imperfectly is certainly how I’m imitating Christ’s example of love and sacrifice right now. I do love my kids. And I do try to serve them. In fact, I sacrifice most of my time and (limited) energy doing the things they need me to do these days.
Right now, they are the ones, in this passage, pointing me back toward Jesus.
And I’m making a total mess of it all.
Snapping. Growling through my teeth. Sometimes just out-and-out yelling.
Except when I don’t.
Make a mess of it all, that is.
Because, while none of this “imitating like dear children” had been fleshed out on Sunday, here’s how it went down.
“It’s okay. Let’s try to be more careful.”
“Spills happen. I know it was an accident.”
“I’ll take care of your shirt when we get home.”
And that’s what happened. OxiClean spray does a remarkable job with grape juice, among other things.
And, while my own words and thoughts convict me frequently, as they did on this Sunday and on the one before, now and then the Spirit whispers grace back to me in the echoes of my own words as well.
“It’s okay. Let’s try to be more careful.”
“Bad days happen. I know you love your kids, and My grace covers you now as well.”
“I took care of this on the cross.”
It’s gonna be fine.
Still no idea what to do about the rage issues besides take it one day at a time and ride the crazy hormones out. Any ideas? I’d take them.
How about you? In what way does God use your words to either convict or bring grace to you?
This post is part of a 31-day series called “Grace in Failure.” Other posts from the series can be found here.