The Day I “Quit”

I quit. 

I was standing in my kitchen, scrubbing dishes that had been sitting in the sink all day. It was a Sunday. It was gray outside. The wind had been battering against the side of the house for four days, and we hadn’t seen the sun for longer than that. I was exhausted. We were all exhausted. 

Pink eye. Teething. Picky eaters. Kids who won’t stay in bed. A house that kept getting messy. Appraisals and deadlines and closing dates on the new mortgage. Dogs who steal entire loaves of bread off of the counter during the night. 8 doctors appointments in one month. Shots for all of the kiddos. A frail dad who broke a hip and had surgery within a week’s time. 

But it wasn’t about all of that. 

The day I quit

I felt so lost. I felt unappreciated. So dejected. I have been submerged in the world of children for six years. When do I get to come up for air? I don’t know who I am anymore sometimes….

….Besides the chef. And the chauffeur. And the launderer. And the maid. And the person who everyone comes to with their problems even if she is on the toilet or asleep and hasn’t had a good night’s sleep since 2009.

So, I quit. 

Naturally.

Simple as that. I threw a dish towel down on the counter and slammed the lids to pots and pans in the sink, not caring if it was too loud or would wake someone up. I.did.not.care. I felt kinda free for a moment when thinking about just walking out the back door and shutting it behind me. Then what?

Then I cried. And I felt like I was the lowest of the low. 

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I don’t know what my plans for my days post mother/wifehood were. Go back to work? Go back to school? Go back to bed? Go to Dunkin Donuts? Go to the Caribbean? Do I NEED a plan? Can I pretend I wouldn’t miss all of them by day four? Okay, so maybe day five eight.

I wish that I could tell you that something seemingly small and insignificant happened and that suddenly my outlook was changed. A kid gave me a hand drawn card they made me. The husband showed up with flowers and wine. I found $20 bucks and chocolate in my pocket…or a gold brick in my bed.

None of that happened. 

But I decided to give this stay-at-home-parenting-and-wife thing another go. 

Because I have quit before. 

I’d venture a guess that a loss of their sense of identity is a humongous problem that moms face. Where did I go? And when did this 30-year-old woman in sweat pants with bags under her eyes, thoroughly drained by life show up and decide to inhabit my body?  

When did everyone decide that the best things I can accomplish in life involve Crayola crayons and washing socks and running to the pharmacy??? Who decided this for me, anyway?? How does anybody do all of this?

I tell myself that I need to cut myself some slack and instead of shame, adorn myself with grace. I’m simply trying to do the best I can.

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But then you have weeks on top of weeks where it feels like the best of you isn’t cutting it. It isn’t good enough for anyone else. It isn’t even good enough for you. And then you figure, hey, what’s the point? Can I really say that I am making any difference in anyones life??

I don’t really know much about anything. It might sort of sound like I do on random occasions because I get lucky and things come out in a complete sentence. But the truth is that I really, really don’t.

I talk like I know a thing or two about grace and about how it goes hand in hand with parenting and that it heals us when we are broken and utterly spent. 

But the furthest thing I felt when sitting on the sofa once I had cleaned the kitchen was grace. It wasn’t pretty, people.

Then I realized something. 

What I do know about grace is that when I’m in the deepest realms of discouragement and disillusionment and I feel like an utter failure and I ugly cry over stuff being stuck to a baking sheet…when I am looking at myself in the mirror and I don’t know who it is that I see anymore…grace is not in that dark place.  

Grace is not being mired down in our failures. But grace IS there When we are. 
But it’s not in The staying there. Because grace lifts you out. 

Grace is sometimes the voice that says it’s okay if you don’t measure up, because even on the days that you think you do, you really don’t anyway, you just might not notice.

Grace is this really real thing that you can fall into when you can’t stand on your own. It’s there for when you ugly cry. It’s there when you rejoice. It makes the jubilation sweeter and the difficulties easier to bear. 

God says that HIS grace is sufficient, not ours. And that is really the end of the conversation. It’s pretty much as uncomplicated as it gets.

Going back to my chaotic life, no, the dishes didn’t wash themselves. The house is no cleaner than it was. No, things don’t suddenly get easier, things just fall into perspective. 

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So yea, I quit. I was about to print out my resignation and give it to the baby, though she would probably just chew on it, but who cares, it would not have been my problem.

But then I heard, quietly, that it’s okay. From some place that I know wasn’t about me.

And in that moment that was good enough for me, even if I didn’t understand it. Now it’s a new day, and the sun has finally shone its face (get it?!?) after almost a week and I’m okay with the idea of Mondays.

Still, I wouldn’t mind finding $20 in my pocket…or a gold brick for that matter.

I guess I’ll settle for coffee instead.
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Where to Start

Where to start…

I could write about the everyday. 

The dirty dishes. The laundry. The errands. The messes. The children. The messy children. It’s all been here lately. And it’s all been nonstop.

If I had to describe what goes on during most of my days lately, it would be this: I would say that I feel like I’m always working to put things back. Always working to straighten things out. To calm the uncalmable.  Trying to hold out long enough. For what…I don’t know. 

I don’t know about you, but I tend to shy away from calamity and hard work. Heck, if I’m being completely honesty, I outright entirely avoid it when possible.

And you’re probably thinking, “well, yea, who wouldn’t?? And rightly so.”

I always feel like I’m trying to act as a buffer, seeking to do just good enough each day and then I put the kids to bed at night, get a cookie and go to bed expecting to do the same tomorrow.

I struggle with the redundancy and mediocrity that weaves its way through this way of thinking. The frame of mind that says that trying to order the anomalous and structure the unmade is my chief end goal. That if I stick it all out long enough, then I will be doing right by somebody. And that’s all well and good – after all, someone has to wash the underwear and clean the toothpaste out of the sink, right?

But I sometimes get so frustrated with trying to put ‘it’ all back. And at trying to keep ‘it’ all in place. I get so frustrated because I feel like I’m simply swimming against the tide, against what things are destined to be. Do ‘calm’ and ‘clean’ and ‘organized’ go hand in hand with children, parenting and family? Probably not, no.

Something occurred to me the other day while making bread. Hands covered in flour, standing barefoot in my kitchen. Dough under my fingernails, hair sweeping down over my brow and into my face. In some way, the slight discomfort of the moment was…comforting. And the end goal of my efforts (carbs!!) was worth the momentary, (namely because, I like carbs!) albeit nominal, irritation. I realized something:

We weren’t meant for easy street and glamour. We were meant for ‘dirt’, for ‘grime’ and ‘labor.’

That doesn’t make any sense, though, does it? Don’t we all work hard all of our lives while keeping in the back of our minds the small hope that we will save enough money to retire and then the kids can move out and we can all sit down and finally relax? Don’t we expect to run the rat race while hoping and praying for only a modicum of resistance until we’re done? That at some point in our lives, there will be a clearing of the air, so to speak?

Don’t we always hope, and expect that things will progressively become easier and easier as time goes on? This is certainly true for me. It’s what I felt when my children were newborns. As the long, sleepless nights wore on, all that I could look forward to was when they would sleep through the night. And I felt the same way when they were potty training – “from now on, it’s going to be easier.” Only I came to find out that this wasn’t the case at all.

 Then there was the angst cause they were growing up, the realization that no matter how much sleep I get it will never be enough and there will always be wake up calls in the middle of the night to use the potty that are just as annoying as changing the pull-up’s.

I sometimes spend my time wishing it all away, doing just enough so that I can get to the easy part soon.  Come on, already! 

If we keep angling for easy, I think we are going to be sorely disappointed. And if we keep hoping for leisure, we are going to miss out on all of the beauty. 

If I believe that my sole purpose in a day is to clean the house, keep the kids alive and fed and fold the laundry and pick up the mail then I am missing the point to my life. The entire point. If I only work while keeping the silent expectation in the back of my mind that ‘one day, it will be easier and then I can do what *I* want to do’ then, boy, do I have another thing coming.

My life wasn’t made simply for checking off boxes. It wasn’t made for tucking and rolling and waiting for the fire to go out.

It was made to be lost. It was made to value the unshakeable and imperishable. It was made for more than my own agenda. 

I’d like to call this lackluster mentality ‘playing house’. “If we do ‘this’ for long enough,” we think, “it will get easier and we’ll get through it all as long as we keep our eyes on our work and our heads down.”

Playing house isn’t for me. I’m not very good at it. There are currently library books that are overdue in the covers of my bed and crackers all over the floor of my van and I don’t do mornings with needy children very well. I’M. NOT. GOOD. AT. IT.

I get ance and I can’t help but think that I’m missing something, that I’m overlooking the point to it all. 

Momma’s, there is so much more to child rearing, and wifehood and marriage and life than just playing house. The point is to love and serve Jesus, amongst the chores and the tantrums. The point is to let Him rule over your heart and shape it. Let Him do the tending to, the shaping and the ordering. That work is actually for HIM to do. We need to dive headfirst in, and let the winds take us where they will.  

And He won’t forget to categorize anything that matters in eternity’s eyes. We simply need to give Him the free rein to do that, and then keep committing to Him, time and time again.  

And when you yield, you grow. When you give in, your roots lay down deep, your vines are strong and your branches sweeping. 

 

Hebrews 12: 1-2

1)Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,

let us also lay aside every weight,

and sin which clings so closely,

and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us

2) looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith,

 who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,

despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

For the Mom Who’s Had Enough

Were the missing play dough canisters really worth it?

Were they worth the yelling? The words flung carelessly into the hallway air? And then all of the tears. Mommy’s tears.  My tears. Knowing that yet again I failed my children. I failed my son. I failed to serve him, failed to be patient with him and with his four-year old mind. I failed to love him perfectly.

Little children such as these shall see the kingdom of heaven.

And then after what in hindsight seemed like an insufficient apology, because “there really is never an excuse for yelling,”  he forgave me. Simply, quickly and sincerely. He forgave the thoughtlessness. The anger hurled at him. The hurt feelings on his part.

 
Little children such as these shall see the kingdom of heaven. 
 

What does that even mean? That the “little children such as these shall see the kingdom of heaven”? What did Jesus mean when he said that, exactly? I mean, of course he could mean it in the literal sense. But what makes us different from children, anyway? Aren’t we supposed to mature as we grow into the body of Christ? Aren’t we supposed to put away the things of old and prepare to be doer’s and teachers of the word, to be more than undeveloped minds who need to be taught the same thing, again and again?

 

Then why did Jesus bring it back to them? Why did he tell us that to see heaven in its glory, we needed to have hearts like children?

How do I do this? The mountains of dishes. The early wake up calls. The kids who won’t go to sleep. The dirt in the corners of every room. The laundry. The windows with handprints all over them. The carpets that are always covered in dog fur. The interrupted phone calls. The petty squabbles broken up. The errands that go awry. The never-ending array of goldfish crackers and clam shells on the van floor. Who can do this? Who can love perfectly amidst all of this? Who can have a heart like children and be able to take care of children??

 

Little children such as these shall see the kingdom of heaven.

 

I am still learning what that phrase means, and I am learning it from my children. The thing about us adults is that we convolute what really matters. We fret over the wrong things, we make war with what we shouldn’t even be worried twice about. We get buried under everything that we THINK we are supposed to be primarily worried about. When sometimes, the mission is very clear.

 

Our first love.

 

Our first love is Jesus. Our first loves in this world are our spouses and our children. No if’s and’s or but’s about it. How many times must I forget my first love(s)? How many times must I brush aside what truly matters and devote energy and stress and give power to the things that don’t?

 

His grace flows down and covers me. Do we wash in it? Or do we fight it? Do we convince ourselves that there is no room for grace in the presence of the mom that yells, the children that fight or for the mom that wants to just call it a day and give up at 9:34 a.m.? Do we think that grace doesn’t have it’s place on the chore lists? Do we think that we have too much work to do and that grace doesn’t cover the practical and the menial in our day-to-day lives? It does. It IS the chore list. It pursues us. Grace is where the REAL work is done, the real cleansing soap and water, cutting through the grit.

It has much to do, everyday. Because I, we, need it every moment of everyday.

 
Little children such as these shall see the kingdom of heaven.
Little children who forgive repeatedly. Little children who love earnestly. Little children who care only about what matters. Little children who see with purity.

 

Find your grace today. Or better yet, open your eyes and absorb and wallow in grace today. And let it do the work.