Pulling My Hair Out and Thinking About God

I’ve been pulling my hair out with my oldest lately.  The cornstarch and beer incident was only the beginning.  I won’t even list the litany of messes, or start in on the stories of tricks that she’s pulled, because I truly don’t need anybody to go all Court of Motherhood on me.  Believe me, I’m doing a good enough job of serving as warden, judge, and jury myself!

I sent an extraordinarily long confession of a note to my wonderful friend, Kris, lamenting how incredibly awful the Mommy-job and my execution of it was yesterday.  The little things and the big things have just been brutal.  My oldest’s latest tricks is sneaking things.  Sometimes it’s completely innocuous things that she sneaks into her room just to be naughty.  Other times, it’s messy things like the cornstarch.  It happens both when I’m on top of my job as Mommy and fully engaged all day long, AND during the predictable times when I’m shamefully paying more attention to blogs and email than to my children.  I begin each day with resolve to do better, and no matter which way I lean–to the good, attentive Mommy side, or to the rotten, inattentive Mommy side–I’m exhausted by the end of the day.  I have new theories on how to improve the situation every day:  The answer is more discipline.  The answer is more focused attention.  The answer is to never, ever raise my voice.  The answer is to be more firm.  Despite that, every day, at some point I want to throw up my hands and just cry.

Today was a good day with the kiddos.  Today we played with fun, messy things together, we sang songs and danced together, I listened more, and put the girls off less.   And still, just before bedtime, a huge mess was made when I wasn’t looking, a battle ensued over pajamas and I found myself at the end of my rope.

I already mentioned that I judge myself pretty harshly as a Mom.  I do so even more harshly as a Mom who professes to believe in Christ and to have His Spirit within me.  I find myself constantly making comparisons to other Mom’s and berating myself.  (My sister-in-law, Crystal, for example is THE MOST cool headed, loving, amazing Mom I’ve ever seen.  And if she were to ever tell me that she yelled like a banshee, I wouldn’t believe her).  In my head Mommy perfection means never losing my cool, always maintaining a calm, level voice, and never, ever letting my anger get the best of me.  I will never, ever reach Mommy perfection.

So I was mulling over this idea of the model Christian parent today, and I got to thinking about God:  About how He *IS* the perfect parent.  I was berating myself with the litany of ‘A good parent keeps her voice calm, a good parent doesn’t get this angry with her children, a good parent keeps the love of her children and her love of her role as a mother in perspective at all times.’

And then I thought about the story of Noah.  And I thought about how God grieved that he had even created man.  Now I have NEVER grieved that I brought either of my children into the world.  And I truly hope that I never do…  But I was thinking about this.  I was thinking about The Flood and Noah and all.  I thought about how God promised he would never, ever do that again.

And while it’s taking quite a bit of license with the story, I suppose, I couldn’t help but wonder…  Did God, in retrospect (and theologically, I don’t know what God does with retrospect…  He is omnipotent, but does he ever change his mind?  Sometimes, I wonder….),  think to Himself, “Dude–I REALLY blew my top that time.  I will never, ever, ever go that far again.”  Of course this is amusing daydream theology of Val, and I’m not purporting this as an actual theory on the divine, I’m not…  But it just made me think.

Then I thought of the Israelites and how aggravated God got with them.  I thought of the passages in the prophets where God is really angry, and frustrated, and lamenting that his children aren’t listening. 

All of a sudden, for this brief second…  I felt this intense feeling of camaraderie.  God is totally understanding of this parenting gig.  He has been through the full gamut of parental emotions.  He has disciplined with wrath and fury, and then finally with immeasurable grace in the gift of His son and His choice to conquer our sin and disobedience FOR us since we just couldn’t ever get it together.

He gets it.  I mean…  He gets it! 

I am not the perfect Mommy.  I do get exasperated.  I do get angry.  I do even, on occasion, think fleetingly about selling the children on Ebay.  And in these moments a part of me believes that God is looking down on me and saying, “Gosh, Val…  You’re really blowing it as a Mom again.  Get it together, woman.  This is not what I had in mind when I gave you children.”  But maybe, just maybe…  maybe instead He is saying, “Yeah…  I know…  It IS HARD.  They ARE exasperating.  Children DO push you beyond your limits….  I get it, and I’m with you.”

That to me, is a pretty incredible thought.  It’s one that makes me want to rest into Him a little more, and to remember that above all He gets it, He gets me, and He loves me.  I am STILL an exasperating, wayward wandering child of His all too many times, but he hangs in there with me, just like I’m going to hang in there with my children.

So I’ll keep girding up my resolve not to blow my top ever, ever again.    But I’ll also try to keep in mind that The Most Perfect Parent understands the job, and understands me, and he hasn’t given up on me yet.

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My letter is T!

Hope gave me the letter T.  I get to think of ten things that start with T that I love. 

1)  Twizzlers–Who doesn’t love Twizzlers?  I like to tie them in little knots and then eat them that way. 

2)  Twilight–NO, not the book series, the time of day.  I love sunset, and I love the lazy beauty of the last moments of daylight. 

3)  Thinking–I  live insidse my head far too much.  But I have a constant internal dialogue, I am always churning something over nad over and over again.  My favorite thing to do first thing in the morning, as long as something hasn’t gone catastrophically wrong the night before, is to lay in bed quietly and just let my mind wander. 

4)  Teachers–I’m trained to be one, but I don’t like the administrative side of the job, however, I have always loved and admired teachers.  When I say that I mean those who are teachers by profession AND those who answer the divine calling in less formal ways. 

5)  Thunder–I LOVE a good Thunder storm.  We don’t get many (hardly any) in Washington, but long about mid-summer, and fall I crave them.  I find them incredibly therapeutic.  A good thunderstorm sometimes airs out all the pent-up emotions I keep stored inside of me if I follow it long enough.  Husband and I used to very informally chase them during college so that we could sit and watch them together.

6)  Tea–I do love and adore tea.  Hot tea, not cold.  I especially love ‘dessert’ type flavors.  When I have a sweet tooth (which is constantly), sometimes a good brewed cup of tea will take care of it.  I don’t like fruity flavors, or dark flavors, and I stick to herbal teas most of the time, but I love tea. 

7)  Theory–When it comes to science-y stuff, I’m almost always stymied by the math.  BUT I love the theory behind science.  I can’t DO physics because the numbers and formulas freak me out, but I loved understanding the theories behind it all. 

8)  Trucks–Small ones, to be specific.  My first vehicle was a Chevy S-10, and I LOVED it.  Dad still has it and I literally hug it every time I’m home.  I love being a girl driving a truck.  The Flaming Goobermobile (AKA our Mini-van) is fine and dandy for now, but when empty-nestness is my lot, I want a small truck to drive again.

9)  Treats–I love treats.  I give myself lots of treats every day.  I have to work hard to not think of treats as only edible things.  So I ‘treat’ myself with baths, and lotions that smell good, and books, and time to read, also tea as mentioned above.  But I also love the sweet ones–cookies, candy (gosh my weakness is so candy.  It’s really ridiculous), ice cream, you name it. 

10)  Trees (I erased Tator-tot casserole to put this one in because I couldn’t believe I forgot it!!!!)–I  have always loved Trees.  In High School, my friend Carla asked which tree I would be if I could be a tree.  I thought long and hard.  My special verses in the Bible are Jeremiah 17:7-8:  Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord.  They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream.  It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit.   That’s what I hope to be when I grow up.  And that was a good perspective straightener for the morning too! 

So….  Does anyone want a letter to write your own list of love?

From Blah to Beautiful

I’ve wanted this blog to be about the holy ordinary.  I blog about the ordinary.  But how often do I endeavor to find the Holy there?  I want to work harder at that.

I can tell you today that I am blah.  I am in the greyest of blahs.  The sun is out.  It’s a beautiful day.  I’m planning on taking the girls out for a walk and to the park, but I am blah.  I want to escape some more.  Watch movies.  Putter on the Internet, eat cookies.  Stay in pajamas.   Burrow away.  Hide until all I don’t want to do or face goes away.

I made cookies yesterday as an activity to do with C, but also as a way to escape the every day crazies of yesterday.  I tried to make them healthier by substituting applesauce.  They don’t have that snap.  Or richness.  They are very unsatisfying.  I gorged on them yesterday trying to find the satisfying taste I craved.  I came up short at every bite.

My day today feels like those cookies taste.  It lacks snap.  It lacks richness.  My house is a disaster and there is a pile of laundry up to the ceiling.  My kids are energetic, but exhausting, and despite the extra sleep I got this morning I am tired.  I am just tired.

I feel  like shades of grey.

I want to seek out the richness and the snap.  I want a full-bodied taste to my day.  But I have to give a little, put out a little effort.  I just don’t want to engage.

I want to mentally transform the blah into beautiful.  Ann at Holy Experience again convicted me.  Convicted me about gratitude, about seeing with God’s eyes and not my own.  And truly, the spirit has been speaking to me about that.  About seeing with new eyes.  About living in the empowerment of the spirit.  About my spiritual life being about experience.

So today I want to see the miracle of pudgy hands on my thigh, instead of the drudgery of another request to be picked up by Mama with a tired back. 

I want to see the beauty of sisters sitting on a makeshift, very soft bench, made of one of those piles of laundry. 

I want to engage…  To be enveloped and inside of, and tasting the full-bodied richness of my children’s giggles…  And I want to see more than my annoyance and fatigue when those giggles turn into shrieks and screams.

I want to find the Holy in the Ordinary and see the blahs of today transformed into beauty. 

I will have to engage with the present and stop running away.  I’ll have to wade into the mess in front of me instead of trying to hide.  

I’ll have to see with new eyes.

Bullets…. For Blog Fodder

  • Husbandis spearheading a project at church to build a new playground and he’s delighted about it.  We’ve measured the lot and scoped out play sets.  He will also be putting together a ‘men’s fraternity’ to do the construction.  He hopes to be able to drink beer with them. 
  • I ordered a bunch of teas from Celestial Seasonings:  Chocolate Raspberry Bliss, Gingerbread Spice, and Almond Sunset.  All are delicious.  I use them to keep my sweet tooth at bay. 
  • My birthday was yesterday and it was wonderful.  My favorite part of the day was blowing out candles on my cake because Carolyn sang every word and I couldn’t believe I had (have) such a special, big girl who can sing all the words to songs now.  She also helped to make the cake and frost the cake. 
  • Husband and I tried a new restaurant last night over in the town where C has preschool–It was Italian and expensive but SO VERY, VERY good.  We had risotto with Gorgonzola cheese sauce and spinach, a delicious salad with greens and craisins and candied walnuts, and the most amazing chocolate souffle.  It tasted like I was eating chocolate cake batter slightly warmed.  Oh. my. goodness.
  • Then Husband and I wandered up and down the streets lit by twinkle lights and did some window shopping downtown.  It felt like a real date.  It felt like something married couples who are still very much in love are supposed to do.  I was so thankful.
  • I’m very, very, very excited about the Gary Thomas retreat we’re going to in a few weeks.  Gary Thomas wrote Sacred Marriage which was a very eye-opening book for me when Husband and I got married.  I’ve read a few other books he’s written since then.  I’m just so excited to get to hear him speak in person and to get away for extended time with my husband.  It even looks like we’ve got childcare figured out  We won’t be staying overnight, but traveling to the retreat all three days. 
  • Both girls have decided that clothes should be optional.  They spent five minutes after bath time tonight doing a ‘no clothes’ parade around the house. 
  • The people at church all become flabbergasted when they find out I’m 28.  Apparently I seem older.  I’m not sure if that’s a compliment or if I should be offended.

Smart Guys and Kid Stuff

Husband has been trying to get his ducks in a row to finish his degree.  Which means that he’s been doing battle working with the folks at our old Alma Mater for a few days.

One of the professors he has contacted is the head of the history department there, Dr. Huston.  Now, I can’t think of Richard Huston without trying to use the word ‘scintillating’ in a sentence immediately.  Even aside from his love of vocabulary though there’s just sometime special about the guy.  From the fun way he curls his words when he talks to his love of Latin America.

So as I’ve been reminiscing about time in Dr. Huston’s classes, I got to thinking about the devotions he would do at the beginning of every class.  There are two that I remember specifically, and that I have recalled frequently since graduating.  Dr. Huston had us watch a clip of, The Lion King one day, and another day he read aloud from The Velveteen Rabbit.  The thrust of the first devotion was to “Remember who we are,” and the thrust of the second was to ponder what it means to “become real.”

But what has gotten me these last few days, what has convicted me that even though I thoroughly enjoyed Dr. Huston while I was studying under him, I think I wasn’t awake to how incredible of a man he really was, is this:  Here is this incredibly intelligent, wise man.  He’s got a Ph.D.  He’s a professor.  He’s a Fulbright Scholar even.  So this truly brilliant guy is walking through life and he sees God not just in places where words like ‘ontological’ are thrown around, which, I guess, is where I expect the smart people to have their ‘God revelations.’  Rather, in these two instances, at least this really, really smart, wise guy saw God in a children’s movie and a children’s book. 

How cool is that?  Dr. Huston’s eyes are open!  He sees the burning bush where the rest of us sit around and pick blackberries.  And he’s humble enough to be taught by the things of children.

So today, I think, I want to be like Dr. Huston when I grow up.

New Year Doldrums

I haven’t been very excited about the new year.  I didn’t feel that burst of renewal and excitement of what’s to come that it seemed like I should.  I’ve had many days full or the winter doldrums lately.   Things just don’t seem to change.  Or get easy.  Maybe they got easier, but they are not easy.

So I was feeling very ambivalent and grumpy about the new year.  Even at times downright depressed and cynical.  But then I read these posts:

Ann over at A Holy Experience stymies me every time I read there.  This post reminded me that any change I could hope to see come over me and my life in this new year must come as a result of the wind of the spirit.  Gosh does THAT take the pressure off.  It’s not about my ‘resolve in my resolutions.’  It’s about the work of the Holy Spirit.  All I can do is to put myself into a posture to be moved by Him.

Then there’s Jen Lemen’s irrepressible expression of her real self and encouragement for each of us to find our own real selves.  She reminded me hereto stop taking myself so seriously–to stop being so ‘goal-oriented’ about what I expect out of myself and out of the year and to learn how to ‘seduce the most true me.’  She reminded me how important it is to skip, and play with play-doh with my kids, to write, to kiss my husband, and to snuggle with him often, to bake cookies, and sit by fires, and drink hot tea, and cider, and cocoa. 

So it’s not about me.  I can’t make this year be any better or worse than the last.  I can’t fix any of the situations that cause me pain or anger or frustration right now.  Any resolutions I make to lose weight, or be more organized, or even to be kind or more gentle or more Godly…  I can’t WILL myself into any of those.  I WILL fail.  Many times.  But if I lighten up.  If I bend to the breeze of the spirit, renewal can happen.  If I remember to play and to actively love the things I love, joy can be born and reborn. 

That gives me hope in today, and hope in 2009.  It makes me stop looking down in loathing and self-hatred at my perfidious body who has gained far more than a few holiday pounds.  It helps me to stop flagellating myself for the state of my house or the behaviour of my children.  It gives me hope that light is going to come into the dark, barren places even still. 

It allows me to embrace my humanity.

It allows me to be me.

It allows me to be. 

That’s hope.