My New Year’s resolution of “I Signed Up For This” has done me a lot of good, for several reasons:
1. It has connected me with many new enthusiastic readers, all of whom I love and appreciate dearly. Hi, you’s guys! Welcome to our online community of randomness.
2. It resulted in my first ever magazine article (Yippee!).
3. It has actually worked.
Most days, I feel like a new woman on the motherhood, homemaking and homeschooling front.
Like, you know, a grown-up or somethin’.
And I can’t TELL you the last time I sighed when I loaded the kids up in the car. January 1, at the latest. (Two months may not seem very long for some of you, but for a perpetual sigher, it is like a millennia!)
As far as resolutions go, this one (by the grace and help of God) has seemingly reformed me, through and through.
except for that frustrating day last month.
And that horrid afternoon a couple of weeks ago.
And last night, for a spell.
And, um…all day today.
Even though a “mantra” or a resolution might pull a sinful woman like myself out of habitual and mindless complaining, there are days – lots of them – where I need something more.
Today was definitely “one of those days”…
A random foot injury caused me to acutely feel every step I took, and in a two-story house with four little ones underfoot (pun intended), that’s too many to count.
Another covering of snow outside our windows was causing me to feel hemmed in and blahhhhhhh.
The children were rabid with cabin fever. I actually think they had foam coming out of their mouths.
I couldn’t think of anything to fix for lunch OR supper.
Rebekah’s hair was a tangled mess and I couldn’t find the hairbrush anywhere.
There were about two thousand tiny pieces of Play-Doh under the kitchen table.
And the list went on and on and on and on…
By 3:00 p.m., I wasn’t only sighing, I was hissing.
What had begun that morning with just a hurt foot continually climaxed to the point that a typical littering of Play-doh in the kitchen made me want to lay in the floor and cry like a baby; my despair had stacked up so high that I was being buried underneath it, and I felt like I was drowning!
I really knew that things were beyond my reach when I told myself “remember, you signed up for this…” and myself responded by saying “shut up, Mrs. Gore!”
On any other day, none of the things I mentioned above would necessarily cause me to want to throw in the dish towel.
Which is my point, exactly.
Rarely are the toughest days circumstantial, usually having more to do with how we are feeling on the inside than what is actually taking place around us.
As this kind of sinkhole frustration can be very common in the “trenches” of motherhood, I thought it would be a good idea to pen my thoughts on a day when I needed more than a New Year’s resolution, in case it might be a help to someone else.
Without further ado…
What do we do when “I Signed Up For This” doesn’t work?
1. The first thing I always try to do when I want to implode is to take a moment to pray.
This doesn’t have to happen in the quiet privacy of my room or in the church sanctuary. In fact, on this day, it took place in our schoolroom with kids running all over the place. I sank down onto the antique steamer trunk that holds all of our curriculum, I put my elbows on my knees, I propped my chin up with my hands, and squishing my cheeks up and down with my fingers, I began to talk to God.
“What is UP with me today?…”
What followed was a good moment of introspection coupled with many minutes of wordless pleas for help, in which I identified that my problem, as usual, had little to do with what I had been handed that day, and more to do with my lack of purpose, discipline and contentment.
I’m not being hard on myself and I’m not heaping unnecessary guilt upon my head; this is just pure, unadulterated truth, that I have a gloriously sweet and blessed life, yet, when left to myself, I will always, always find something to complain about.
Talk about sobering.
But while this sort of “digging in” is always painful, I really believe that if I skip this step, I will miss something huge.
Here’s what I mean: imagine if life was composed entirely of comfortable moments. For instance, a morning at the spa followed by a shopping spree followed by a deliciously catered lunch followed by a nap followed by an idyllic walk through the countryside, day after day after day…
Or even in less grandiose terms, imagine if my life as it is was frustration-free. My foot would not be throbbing, my menu would be planned, my children would be so thirsty for knowledge that they would sit on the edge of their seats and drink in my every word, I’d know where the hairbrush was hiding, and I would be constantly aware and accepting of the fact that what I’m doing here is important and eternal.
Sounds dreamy, doesn’t it?
But that’s exactly what it is: a dream.
And while a hiccup-less life is what I sometimes (always) long for, without the hiccups…
I would never grow.
I would never conform into something that looks less like me and more like Christ.
And so, while it might seem like the spilled milk and the beyond-energy-filled 1st grader are random happenstances in the day, they are so much more than that.
Or, rather, they can be.
Being at the end of our rope reminds us of how tiny we are. How fallen. How needy.
They remind us that there is a Care-taker on whom to cast our burdens.
And, as a result, they allow us to pursue holiness when we probably wouldn’t be otherwise motivated to do so.
This is why it is a good thing that “I signed up for this” doesn’t always work.
And this is also why, although I truly adore “me-time”, I never want to run to it first, because doing so would be like applying a band-aid to a mortally gaping wound.
My wounds need antibiotics, not bandaids.
And so I run to my Father, where healing and change are found.
2. After I have asked for help from God and confessed my sin, I feel very free, happy and wise to look for help from outside sources.
In the vein of “I Signed Up For This”, yes, our children and our homes are completely and 100% our own responsibility, and we are not entitled to outside help or relief. We shouldn’t whine about it. We shouldn’t expect it.
But on the other hand, we are not meant to walk this life alone.
Do you feel overwhelmed at the mountain of tasks that lie before you? That’s because there is a mountain of tasks lying before you. You can’t tackle that by yourself.
Do you feel like you just can’t do it all? That’s because you can’t. If you can find me a woman who can cook three meals a day, spend time with the Lord, bathe and groom all of her kids, teach them all their different lessons for the day, bathe and groom herself, nurse a baby every three hours, clean the entire house, buy all the needed groceries and school supplies, do all the laundry, read aloud to each child, and still be sane by 3:00 p.m., I so desperately want to meet her and learn all her secrets.
In my house? It’s just impossible. I need help.
And help can look a thousand different ways…
Sometimes it is enough to simply put a movie on for the kids so I can retreat to my room for some alone time. Television, when used wisely and in moderation, can be a great friend in times of need!
Sometimes my husband takes the big kids to the church in the afternoon while the little ones sleep, giving me a chance to clean or write or nap or simply to cry without an audience.
Sometimes I call my mom and ask if she has a day she can help me deep-clean the house.
Sometimes we all just load up in the van and drive around town counting animals.
Sometimes we retreat to mom’s house for afternoon coffee and snacks.
Sometimes I ask my husband if we can get a pizza for supper.
Sometimes we do a joint supper with friends to brighten up our routine and pull us out of the doldrums.
I could go on and on, but it is less about the particulars, really, and more about the principle: after engaging in combat with the “old woman” that still hangs out in my heart, and after diligently chipping away at the root of sin that my despair has illuminated, I seek to start afresh and give myself a break…
Because it is just an incontestable fact that sometimes mommy is broken and needs to depend upon her support system, whether that can be found in a husband, a church family, a mama, a sister, a family member, a friend, a neighbor, or, yes, a 30-minute show on Nick Jr.
There is no formula, really, to any of this, and being a mama is no different than any other calling: there are easy moments, there are joyful moments, there are average moments, there are very sad moments, and there are excruciatingly difficult ones…
such is the rhythm of life and sanctification.
But every moment counts, and can be used for God’s glory and for our good.
I’ll try to remember that the next time I’m sitting on a trunk in the schoolroom squishing my cheeks and trying really, really hard to hold it together. I hope you will, too!