The other day, I stumbled on Ann Voskamp's blog "Holy Experience" after Sally mentioned it on "I Take Joy." She has started a gratitude community, and I love the concept so decided to join her call to thankfulness. I have been feeling burdened and alone lately (another post bouncing around in my brain along such lines) and her reminder to focus on God's endless blessings was much needed. She suggests to set a time goal of listing 1000 thankfulnesses. My goal is the end of September ... I write that with trepidation that I may not make it but my attitude could use the challenge. So, to begin with a bang, here are my first ten ...
1. Summer blue skies and temperatures above 70! 2. Helpful kiddos 3. Strawberries with homemade ice cream 4. Allergy medicine! :-) 5. My husband's job 6. My husband! 7. Kid #1 8. Kid #2 9. Kid #3 10. Haircuts
I had an epiphany last week while working my way through Dancing With My Father. One of my biggest battles in mothering and life in general is fighting frustration that arises when I'm interrupted. I tend to be very driven: I love to-do lists and usually have my day planned before I'm out of bed in the morning. While I get a lot done, I probably drive my family crazy and I readily admit that it's too easy for me to let my list take priority over the people in my life.
So I was reading through chapter 5, and God brought to mind an example that clicked with me. I need to treat my children as my job! I know it seems t0o simple to fall into the "epiphany" category, but the more I considered it, the more it made sense. See, when I was working I never got frustrated or annoyed when my boss gave me something to do. Never did I finish a project and throw up my arms in frustration when he handed me my next assignment. On rare occasions if I finished all my tasks, I could do my own thing. But I understood those activities were "extras" that were enjoyed only if the pressing matters were taken care of. My problem since becoming a mom is that I never approached the role as my job. Yes, I know it's the job God has given me at this time and I'm thankful for it, but I never looked at in the same way I viewed outside employment.
After meditating on the concept for a while, I decided to put it into practice. Repeatedly through the day when I'm in the middle of something and one of the kids needs something, I have to take a deep breath and remind myself that they are my job. Rather than hollering an answer across the house or saying "just a minute" for the 167th time, (wouldn't you know that at this exact spot in my sentence #3 just came over and said "mommy, I gotta go potty ....!), I stop what I'm doing to look at what they want to show me, correct behavior (that means taking off the rubber gloves and leaving my sink of soapy water to get down eye to eye and talk to them), offer assistance, answer a question, etc. The results have been exciting. While it always seems like progress is slow when it comes to training kiddos, the change in my own perspective and the little glimpses of growth in my children makes it worth it. I feel good about myself because I know I'm being deliberate in my parenting and mothering my children in a way that I can look back and be proud of.
So my new outlook has been consistent . . . until yesterday! In retrospect, I should have been expecting the speed bump. Makes sense that the enemy would want to try to trip me up. Wouldn't you know that it would be with a major pet peeve . . . potty messes in the restroom. All my kiddos are potty trained and know how to listen to their bodies when they need to go. I understand an accident here and there, but yesterday was a day full of accidents. I felt like I had a disinfectant wipe or laundry basket in my hand all day long. It was simply a matter of them waiting too long. I took it in stride for the most part until late afternoon when their carelessness required baths on a non-bath night which still shouldn't have been a big deal other than the fact that I had planned on getting three very exhausted kids to bed early so my husband and I could have a quiet evening to ourselves. As I watched my lovely plans go down the drain with the bath water, my frustration reached the boiling point. And instead of putting myself into that time-out that I knew I needed, I let everyone know I was upset.
I awoke this morning still beating myself up a bit and doing my best to return to my new calm, deliberate self. Until I came down from my shower and found on my couch the 4 baskets of laundry that I had folded late last night. My calm, deliberate self ran for cover. #3's comment to my reaction was "mommy, you're not happy?" My insides ready to erupt, I carried the laundry up to my bedroom and turned on the radio. "Ironically" Focus on the Family was just beginning their broadcast, today's featured guest - Josh McDowell, talking all about parenting. As much as I wanted to stew, his message was good. I was still folding when Bill Richie from Crossroads Community Church (Vancouver, WA) came on. His message today was on troubles. Honestly, I didn't hear the whole thing as I was in and out of the room putting away clothes. But one part he said resonated. He was talking about casting your cares on the Lord. He broke down 1 Peter 5:7. Cast - to throw onto. He referenced the people "casting" their cloaks for Jesus to ride over on the donkey ... and they didn't have their coats anymore!!!!! Cares - your stresses, anxieties, struggles. The word "cares" comes from a word meaning "to distract, to divide, separate." So God invites, no commands, us to throw our stress, anxiety, and struggles on Him. And this is the kicker ... then we won't have them anymore. If they try to boomerang back, I think we need to cast them again. My problem yesterday was that I took that stress, planted it, watered it, fertilized it, and nurtured it to the best of my abilities! The results were a stressed-out mommy, a child's bedtime prayer, "please don't let mommy get upset like that very often," and a husband who came home to a not-so-peaceful home. Not how I want my kids to look back and remember their growing up years.
Much to my relief (and I'm sure that of my kids and husband!), calm, deliberate me has returned and hopefully will remain forever! I will continue to dwell on the lesson of casting my cares (even spilled laundry baskets!) on the One who wants to carry them. As I close, it occurs to me that allowing God to carry our burdens is another aspect of our spiritual life that requires a close walk with God. Just as we don't tell our struggles and secrets to a stranger at the grocery, how likely are we to surrender that which is closest to our hearts to a God we don't know intimately? This Christian life seems to boil to that one point, doesn't it? Just a closer walk with thee . . . Something to ponder.