Hanging by a Thread

threadTonight was exceedingly rough.  I really dislike those nights.  So instead of sleeping I decided to write.  I can’t sleep anyway…don’t want to wake up any friends…and I’ve already poured out my heart to God face first in the carpet.

I’m back to those days.

My face in the carpet days.

I don’t have a closet to hide in anymore…oh how I miss my closet.

One of the many things that broke my heart tonight was all my interactions with my littlest girl.  The transitions our family has made have been really very difficult for her.  She is feisty anyway and put a change in the mix and she’s just…well, REALLY feisty.

Unfortunately I have about 2 minutes worth of patience left at the end of the day and I can’t seem to be the mommy I want to be.

I want so much to be kind, gentle, and patient mommy, but right now I’m so blasted tired after work and staying up late to finish coursework or classwork or planning or grading or just being plain sleepless like tonight.

So I get fussy about my daughter’s fussiness and then mommy guilt comes crashing down.

I’m gone more than I am with my children.  It is yet another huge change that has occurred in my life in the past 5 years.  And, honestly, I hate it.

In my short amount of time with my children I want to love on them…and yet, this little one and I can seem to do nothing but butt heads.  According to her, I’m the meanest mommy ever.  Of course that is her response to being in trouble.

Tonight I told her that it was her choice whether she got nice mommy or mean mommy.  It sounded good in theory…at least it did about 2 seconds before I spoke it aloud.

But something seemed off…I couldn’t put my finger on it until she and I talked later.  I told her, “You have to make better choices.”  She gave me the reasons for her bad choices and all involved other people.

To which I said, ‘You can’t let other people determine how you are going to act.  Your behavior is your choice.”

Ouch.

THAT’s why my good mommy/bad mommy comment didn’t feel right.

Why does my 7 year olds’ behavior determine mine?

I’ll tell you why…I’M HANGING BY A THREAD!

Tonight as I lie in bed trying desperately to fall asleep, feeling like I’m going to have a heart attack, and begging God for something…I don’t know what…I began to pray more than I have in days, weeks.

I realized that the things that have changed in my life lately have been very good in some ways, and just so very difficult in others.  I have such guilt for working…such guilt for not providing a better situation for my children…such guilt for being tired, impatient, easily angered, and overwhelmed.

And sometimes I just want desperately to go back to life before…not even life before divorce, but life right after.  Life when everything was awful but I had perspective and peace.

I want perspective and peace again.

I know why I don’t have it though.  I haven’t made any time to pray…just those “Hail Mary” prayers I make on a daily basis.

I don’t make time to be in the Word – that would make such a difference.  I really need to do that…forgo more sleep I suppose.  Ugh, how is that even possible?

I don’t really know but that will be my first prayer…that God would provide time in the Word.

My second will be that God would provide time with my children…good, fun time with my children.

My third will be that God will enable me to handle the responsibilities He has given me with more grace and peace.  (I’m too afraid to pray for patience).

My fourth will be that God gives me perspective on my life…that I will remember that He is sovereign and I am not.  Good gravy – I have control issues.

I made decisions based on the knowledge that I had.  I trusted that God was leading me.  I did that whole step out in faith thing.  And although tonight I’m a mess, I know that God led me.

I just need to keep reminding myself that just because things are hard doesn’t mean that they are wrong.

I need to handle things better. God has given me the tools to handle things…His word, His strength, His wisdom, His peace.

I need those things very much.

And God gives them…just need to ask.

I’m asking.

Still hanging by a thread….but I’m thinking now it might be changing to a thread of hope.

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.  Romans 12:12

I Should Have Hugged Her

Image         I was sitting here just finishing up my quiet time and it struck me.

I should have hugged her.

My 7-year old broke her toe last week.  We are gimpy together…same foot even! It would be comical if it weren’t so pathetic.

She won’t let me take a picture of our matching feet – no fun.

This morning she didn’t want to wear the special shoe or use her crutches.  She was in tears and since she has reached the sassy sevens, she was quite rude with her words.

PRAISE GOD (and seriously this is a BIG praise) I kept my voice and manner calm and I recognized what she was feeling…angry, frustrated, embarrassed…

And I tried to talk to her about my foot and compare the two…yeah…that didn’t work.  Sassiness just got sassier.

She looked so sorrowful about the whole thing.   I convinced her to put on the boot and got her a super fun sock that matched the skirt she was wearing and even let her bring her pretty sparkly black shoe in her backpack.  Not sure what I was thinking on that one because I’m pretty sure she’s gonna sneak it on her foot as soon as she steps into school.   🙂

Anywho, we got in the car, still with a bit of an attitude, but I, by the grace of God, kept my calm.  I can struggle with getting frustrated particularly as we are trying to get out the door to school.  We had already missed the bus — well, we really didn’t miss it, it was a conscious decision to miss.  I didn’t sleep well and I decided to push snooze…many, many times.

After about 2 minutes in the car, Lizzie was her usual sweet self.  She apologized and we had a lovely little ride to school.

And as I sat here, foot propped up, with Bible, journal, books and homework surrounding me, I thought for a minute that I really really wished I’d taken the time to hold my daughter.

I was so intent on getting out the door that I didn’t take the time to hold my precious, hurting little girl.  I didn’t add to her hurt this morning, but I wish I had comforted it.  I wish I had loved on her.

There are a thousand things I wish I had done or done differently in any given hour, day, week, month, year…  I carry guilt around like a scarf around my neck…sometimes it seems to choke the life out of me.

I’m pretty confident I’ve shared my propensity to hold on to mommy guilt.  In fact, I have plenty, enough to share if you need any.  But I doubt any parent needs extra guilt.  Most of us carry around a fair amount.  And if you don’t feel guilt, that is a blessing and I won’t share any of mine with you!

This past week I heard a snippet from an interview with Desmond Tutu.  He answered a question regarding parents being able to forgive themselves for mistakes they made with their children.  Among other things, he said something that really struck me.  He reminded the interviewer that parents are not omniscient.  And that parents make decisions with good will towards their children.  I’m completely paraphrasing…he said it much more eloquently.

What blessed me was the reminder that all those things I’m second-guessing now, I did with the belief that I was doing the right thing by my children.

I’m not talking about the choices I sometimes make to yell, or fuss, or say things I wish I hadn’t.  I’m talking about choices and decisions we make that aren’t made in anger, frustration or selfishness.

This morning was a minor moment in the life of my daughter, and I made the decision to keep the ball rolling towards the car and school.  I just wish I had taken a moment to stop the ball and hug my girl.

Will that harm my little girl?  Doubtful.  I didn’t withhold affection or rebuff her, I just showed my affection and love through words.  So do I really need to beat myself up about it like I tend to do?

Nope.  Definitely not.

And when she gets home from school today, I will greet her with a huge hug, ask her about her day and love on her.

God has not called me to live a life of guilt.  It is not His plan for us as parents…and we certainly don’t want to model guilt for our children.

I remember years ago doing a Bible study entitled Sonship.    One of the most amusing and profound quotes from the study was, “Cheer up!  You are worse off than you think!”

The point was that our sin is much worse than we think, BUT God’s love, forgiveness, mercy and grace is much bigger than we think too!  Tim Keller says it something like this – we are much more sinful and flawed than we ever dared believe, but more loved and welcomed than we ever dared hope.

Do you see it?  There is no place for guilt – mommy or any other – in this Christian life.  God has blessed us with grace.  Grace.

I’m trying so hard to understand that word.  To truly grasp its meaning for my life.  I don’t think I will ever plumb the depths of its meaning like I want to.  I want to immerse myself in it, drown in it, be swallowed up in grace.  I want it to be the defining feature of my life.  To be something that I live – something that I breath in and out.  Something that my children see…see as clearly as they see the kitchen table.

And yet, I constantly struggle with my sin and my focus again and again is back on me.  Me. Me. Me.

Grace calls me to focus on Jesus!  Jesus, only Jesus.

Jesus.  Grace.

What does that look like to this mommy plagued by guilt?  This momma that wants to drop everything and run over to the elementary school and give my 7-year old sweetheart a hug?  This momma that second-guesses everything a thousand times and more?  This momma who wants the best but can’t seem to provide it?  This momma that loves her children passionately?

What does living grace look like Lord?

Well, I know one thing…it’s not about how well I do anything.

I can’t earn grace…neither can you.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.  Ephesians 2:8-10

And I know that it’s not about what I think about me.

God loves me period.  When God looks at me he sees his perfect Son and the way He lived His life.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us

in him before the foundations of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.  In love, he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ

according to the purpose of his will to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.   Ephesians 1:3-6

And it’ not about how I do or don’t do this parenting things well.

God is the perfect parent who loves my children perfectly and will work in their lives regardless of me.

All your children shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the peace of your children.  Isaiah 54:13

And really grace isn’t about me – I want everything to be about me – But grace is about Christ.

The only way I can get my head in the right place is to recognize my need for Christ – to understand that I am a sinner (…a big fat sinner) in need of a Savior (…a gigantic loving Savior), who loves me (…that same ole big fat sinner) despite all my flaws and guilt and sins.

I cannot be the woman or mother I want to be without Christ…and when I try, that’s when that blasted guilt comes creeping in…actually it doesn’t creep in, it crashes in and falls on top of me.

I guess I have to ask the question, “Do I trust God?  Do I trust His grace?”

Because if I do, I want to rest in it.

I have to allow the reality of God’s grace to seep into every part of me.  And I must grab hold of my new identity in Christ and not allow the old guilt-ridden self to have any place in my home.

Do I trust that God’s grace is enough to enable me to raise my children…to do this life?  YES!

So live like it, Sue!

Simple and not so simple

I think to some degree it is simple.  If I’m in the Word of God and praying and seeking Him and praising Him and thanking Him.  If I’m living a life of praise and thanksgiving, then the focus of my heart is on Him, not me.

Not focusing on me is a very good thing.  I never like what I see when I look at me.

When I look at Christ – I like what I see….I LOVE what I see.  And what I see is now what is ME!

I’m defined by Christ…by the life He lived!  Not by the life I’m living.

 I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength!  Philippians 4:13

It’s not about what I do well or better or even what I fail to do.  It is simply and completely about what Christ has done.

I have to stop second-guessing because that is not the focus God wants me to have.  I want to stop looking behind and start looking ahead – God has a great plan for us after all.  I’d like to watch it unfold!

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.  Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own.  But one thing I do:  forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:12-14