Monday, July 21, 2014

Imperfect But Surrendered

Recently, a few people have asked me how I do it.  By "it", I mean they were referring to how I parent while looking like I have my stuff together.  Let me tell you, that is one of the funniest things I have ever heard because I know the truth.  Sure, I can try to keep up appearances by saying “What?  Oh, this.  It’s nothing!”  Or... I can tell them the real story. 

The truth is (and I let them know this) that most days I am barely holding it together.  In fact, on any given day my five-year-old mouths off to me and my toddler runs around the house naked from the waist down because she simply can't be bothered to put her underwear and pants back on after using the bathroom.  The downstairs living area of our house has toys, books, art supplies and snack crumbs strewn everywhere.  I am the frazzled mom in the supermarket, telling my kids to stop running all over the place and grabbing the candy in the checkout aisle.  There are dishes overflowing in the sink and piles of unfolded laundry spilling out of baskets.

It doesn’t take very long after beginning my day for irritation to start rising when I hear my name being called by little voices.  While I pour myself into our children daily- reading to, wiping, disciplining, feeding, answering- I feel like it’s never enough.  There was always something I could have done better, said better, done more of, etc.  Often I am scrambling to come up with something for dinner, reacting badly to disobedient behavior and comparing myself to other moms, thinking “how does she do it?” 

My 2.5 year old daughter is now old enough where her speech delay is sometimes very painfully obvious, and I don’t always deal with it graciously.  After six months of speech therapy, she has made great progress, but it’s still awfully frustrating not to be able to carry a two-sided conversation with her and still having to ask 100 questions just to try and figure out what she wants.  She has the intelligence (and attitude) of a three-year-old, but the language development of an 18 month old, which makes me sometimes baby her unnecessarily.  The constant switching gears between her lack of words and my son’s opposite, never-ending need for dialogue can be unnerving since there simply is no happy medium.

While I interact verbally with my son throughout the day, bouncing back and forth among whatever topics are of interest to him, I don't always feel like I connect with him emotionally.  It takes a lot of energy to keep up with his constant stream of questions and need for physical activity.  It is a struggle to really understand him, and I feel like it comes more naturally to me to love on my daughter.  Maybe it's because she receives the affection more readily, or maybe because she's the youngest and well, a girl, like me.  Whatever the reason, I know I punish my son more often than her and that's not fair to him.  I take his challenges to my authority much more personally, and I flat out lose my temper sometimes when he talks back.  Instead of gently correcting him, I end up lecturing and threatening instead.     

So, if I appear like I am doing anything well, I assure you, I am not doing it in my own strength.  My husband’s work/travel schedule over the last year has meant that I have often had to do this parenting gig solo, and it has forced me to lean on Jesus like never before.  This has been a great opportunity to depend on God in continual prayer. The beauty of not knowing what you are doing and knowing you are not qualified for a task is the desperation to stay connected to God who does know.  You know the saying: He doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called.      

Ultimately I am able to display the fruits of the Spirit (joy, patience, gentleness, kindness) when I abide deeply in Him.  But when I mess up, as I am inevitably bound to do, that is when I can teach my children the crux of Romans 3:23, which is really the crux of the Gospel- “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  I can remind them (and myself) that each one of us needs a savior.  And then humbly ask for their forgiveness.  Trust me, my children do not labor under any delusions that I am perfect.  They see my shortcomings every single day.  They see Mommy lose her cool, get stressed and overwhelmed.  They see all the broken, sinful pieces, but if I model the preeminence of God in my life, then my children will see too how to live out their faith.  Deuteronomy 6:5-7 says “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up."  If they know that I am a sinner saved by grace just like them, no better and no worse, they will be less likely to walk away from that faith when they are older.

A heart that desires to please God can be used by Him to accomplish His purposes, far greater than eloquent speech, or a spotless house, or beautiful Pinterest-worthy crafts, or even perfectly obedient, well-mannered children (none of which I possess).  I don’t have much to offer, but He meets me in my weaknesses when I am surrendered to Him and enables me to do something I could never do on my own.  Ann Voskamp says it wonderfully, “You cry and wonder if you are insane to try to educate these children, to disciple these little hearts, while laundering, cooking, cleaning, managing a household, and still being a wife, a sister, a daughter, a missionary in your community, a servant to Christ and in your faith community. And He smiles and says that He walks with you, has grand and glorious purposes, and He understands radical and crazy!”  Comparing my house and my kids to others' is poisonous, and the Enemy loves to use that as ammo.  God has given me unique talents, gifts and resources so that I can carry out the unique mission He has called me to.  Most days I really have no idea what I’m doing, but I’m clinging to the One who does know.