Monday, October 29, 2007

The Right Perspective

It’s amazing how a beautiful autumn school day can seem so dark and hopeless. That feeling of hopelessness continued throughout this particular week. Many days, I was on the brink of tears. Several nights, I should have retired much earlier, but there was always a reason to stay up. One night, my husband and I finally watched a movie together, but it wasn’t over until very late. We had been putting off a movie for a long time because we were too tired or had too much to do. I had also been recovering from a sore throat. The soreness subsided, but I became hoarse and the kids seemed to listen to me less when I could barely speak. Other evenings, I would stay up finishing laundry or dishes, going through mountains of mail or balancing the checkbook.
Monday got off to another slow start. I went back to bed after putting Mary back in her crib. I just wanted a couple more minutes of rest. Next thing I knew, Stephen rolled onto my head and the rest of the gang came running in. Sometimes, that is a sweet time, but not today. Mary woke up a little later and both babies needed changed and fed. The kitchen lay in ruins from the night before because I was too tired to clean it. Crumbs were all over the table and floor, food on the high chair, dishes piled high in the sink. Everyone wanted breakfast. Rachel, Jonathan and Hannah had chores to do. Stephen would not stay out of the dishwasher and climbed onto the dining room table when I wasn’t looking. Our two inside cats, Mendelssohn and Nicodemus were making pests of themselves, jumping on the counters, attacking my Indian corn I had displayed for the season and hacking up hairballs. And, there I was, standing in my nightgown and robe, trying to choke down a little cereal and checking my email to see if I had any connection with the outside world.
Three of the children and David were getting sick, too. Stephen had that “glazed doughnut” look where he’s too young to reach for a Kleenex, so his nose runs everywhere. His hands can’t help, but to wipe it all over his face, his clothes, the couch and me. Hannah and later, Rachel developed sore throats and just wanted to lie around. David dragged himself to work and I felt helpless, not knowing how I could make it better for any of them. The one consolation was that Jonathan did not fall sick. He just had a loose tooth that he left in his mouth, hanging by a thread. Oh, and Little Miss Mary had a touch of a sniffle, but was kind enough to sleep extra hours.
While the kids made yet another fort out of couch cushions, I put away clothes. But, I couldn’t just stop there. I had to clean out Jonathan’s closet to find that he had grown out of almost all of his sweaters and long sleeved dress shirts. I became a little discouraged that we had to go shopping again, but at least his closet was organized. I peered into Hannah’s dresser to find total disarray. I had not stored away her summer clothes yet and she had carefully stuffed dirty shirts and slacks back into her drawers. She’s only four, so I sighed and got busy, tossing out clothes for the washer and neatly stacking the summer things. Her dresser looked nice, but I realized that I now had more things to put into storage bins. When there were only a couple of kids, I enjoyed filling and labeling the clothes bins. Now, it seems like a never-ending task. I immediately was reminded of the stack of clothes that were just sitting outside of bins getting dirty.
The kids still had a couple more chores to finish, so I played, the “William Tell Overture” to get them moving. It works pretty well, but I kept hearing, “Jonathan, you have to leave this bathroom. I want to brush my teeth alone!” “I’m not leaving, Hannah. I want to watch you!” “Hurry, the song is almost over!” “Oh brother,” I thought to myself.
Still in my robe and gown, I called everyone together for devotions. As I tried to balance the Bible and nurse Mary at the same time, Stephen repeatedly opened the dishwasher. Rachel would close it and lead him away. Each time, his screams got louder. After several rounds of this, I knew Rachel was tired, so I told her to put him in his exersaucer. He was loud there, too, yelling and spinning all of the toys, but at least I didn’t have to worry about my dishes. We sang a few songs and I read from the Bible, squeaking the whole time and then, we prayed. Stephen was remarkably quiet as Jonathan and Hannah prayed, but when Rachel attempted to pray, he began yelling again. This was too much for Rachel. She cut her prayer short and I yelled a quick prayer feeling very unspiritual. I let the kids play for a few minutes while I changed Mary and then, we read a very convicting missionary story about Hudson Taylor.
Jonathan worked on his Math, Hannah played with the math manipulatives and Rachel copied her Spelling. They were all getting hungry again as I had only fed them cereal. Of course, that’s what I had, too and I became discouraged again because I did not feed them something more substantial like other super home school moms would. This was a time when I succumbed to making foolish comparisons. Other moms would have served healthy fruits, fresh baked bread and plenty of protein. Other home school moms would be dressed in their jumpers, leaning over each child’s work, ooing and aahing over the progress of their very behaved and obedient children. And, there I was, yelling orders, making feeble attempts at giving praise, starving, and still in my robe and gown.
I did finally dress and comb my hair that day, but even combing my hair seemed too difficult. In fact, every day that week when I combed my hair, I would get angry at every tangle, drop the comb, complain again about each tangle, mutter under my breath at my slow pace and look in the mirror with disgust at my same old hairstyle…hair pulled tightly back into a ponytail. I wasn’t any more pleasant about my face or the clothes I wore. Even as the thoughts came to my mind and the words spilled out of my mouth, I realized I had much to confess before the Lord. Why was I complaining about my looks? My hair is supposed to be my crown and glory. My Lord created me just as He wanted and I am telling Him that His creation is no good.
This outlook on my appearance was only one symptom of what was going on in my heart. I was so focused on the symptoms that feelings of despair swept over me. I could not keep up with my housework. Meal planning was a lost cause. Schoolwork never seemed to get done. I felt inadequate in my ability to teach the children or to train them in how to follow the Lord. I compared myself to other home schoolers. I did not even have quiet time with the Lord. I felt as if I had nothing left to give to my husband, to my children, and to God. “Why do I always have to pick up after everyone? When I’m sick, I still have to carry the load.” I knew my complaining was sin, but it was still easier to hold onto my misery and not to hope in God. I needed to let the Lord carry my burdens and to trust Him to give me what I needed. Throughout that week, I continued to hear, “Why so downcast, O my soul? Put your hope in God!”
I was looking forward to Friday when I could spend the night and part of Saturday with my best friend, Kim. David was coming home earlier that day, so I could go to dinner with her. It turned out to be another frustrating day of squeezing in school, childcare and housework that I didn’t want to see again upon my return. I knew that it wouldn’t get finished and yet, I drove myself crazy as I went over the things that needed done. I was trying to leave before 6:00 that evening and I realized I wasn’t even packed all the way. When David arrived, I was so flustered that I could hardly put two words together. I appreciated my husband’s quiet and understanding voice as he took things to the car and tried to settle the children down. I loved these little ones so much, but I had my limits and I thought I may have a greater capacity for love if I had a night away. For a few fleeting moments I pondered how I would miss them, feeling guilty that I was leaving my sick husband and children, but decided to commit my family to the Lord and soon, I was on my way with Baby Mary to enjoy my break!
I arrived later than I planned, but Kim being a mom, too, understood and we went to dinner sharing our two meals and indulging on cheesecake. We talked about the events of our week and laughed hysterically at the wonders of being wives and mothers. I was still feeling discouraged about the week and about this season in my life when I actually voiced the words to Kim that were usually just a thought. “I hate my life!” I was relieved when she admitted the same thing to me. I really don’t hate my life, of course, but those words come to mind when I do not trust the Lord to bear my burdens. I knew this had to be dealt with and it felt good to confess these thoughts to my best friend.
Kim and I had planned to watch a movie or play Scrabble together when we arrived at the house where we planned to stay, but instead, we killed hornets and talked more until Mary fell asleep. The next morning, I woke to the sound of buzzing above my head and found more hornets coming in from the outside. We quickly packed up because the population was growing. Kim continued to smack them with a fly swatter as I took Mary to the car. The woman that took care of the house came to inspect the problem and explained that the exterminator had just paid a visit, but as we left, we heard, “Whack… smack!” I guess the bug guy better do a more thorough job the next time.
We enjoyed a nice breakfast and I did some shopping while Mary napped at Kim’s house. We talked some more and then, it was time to go home to my family. When I contemplated the state of my house, I felt more pangs of discouragement, but I purposed in my heart to relax and take pleasure in my quiet drive home.
As I walked through the door, I was greeted by my boy, Jonathan, who was now missing a tooth, by Stephen who grabbed my legs and ceased to let go and by my sweet and neighing horses…uh, er girls! David gave me a warm smile and was glad I made it home safely.
The house! Well, yes, it was a disaster. The problem of Stephen’s determination to climb on the table and to open the dishwasher was solved by a large bar clamp attached to my appliance and all of the dining room chairs being turned upside down and placed in various places all over the house. I admired my husband’s strategy at outsmarting the little guy. There were dishes to wash and food to be put away and countless other things to be done. Cooking dinner was not going happen that late, so David took the oldest three to town to get take out. It was just me and the babies for a little while. “Why so downcast, O my soul? Put your hope in God!” The words came back and I was reminded that the Lord loved me and would give me what I needed for each task, each day and each moment. This was indeed my life. Right here, right now. God put me in this place for a time and for a season. Is it frustrating? Yes. Is it exhausting? Yes. Does it feel like this part of my life will never end? Yes. But, the fact is that this time will end someday. I will look back and wonder what happened to the days of watching my children grow, teaching them, and picking up after them. My house may one day get cleaned, but it will also grow quiet. So once again, I thanked the Lord for my “five little blessings” and my husband and then, I rolled up my sleeves, pulled my hair back into my stylish ponytail and went to work doing what God called me to do.

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