God’s generosity in the middle of my mess

I posted about “the mess that is me” on Thursday morning and then had a horrifically messy mothering day. Okay, maybe “horrific” is too strong, but by the afternoon I was whining like a petulant child. “God, why on earth did you give me four children when I have no real nurturing skills? Not only am I going crazy, but I’ve got to be damaging them! I fuss at them for using snotty tones with each other, but they’re only copying mine. And then I get frustrated and yell! They’re going to be scarred for life.”

Guilt to frustration, frustration to guilt—back and forth the pendulum swung.

Dave came home near the end of my apologizing to Jake. Jake gave me one of his incredibly grace-filled hugs and left and Dave asked, “What’s up?”

I explained: argument between children; I’d intervened; was fussing at PJ for breaking his promise—again—to his brother and sister; then Jake interrupted, twice; and I yelled at Jake. My conclusion: “I’m an awful mom!”

To which my husband said, “Hon, kids are resilient and God is good. They’re fine—and you need some time alone. I’ll leave ahead of you (

Judy and Kelly, our international daughters, have been home with their parents for almost a week now. Em made these brownies for them  just before they left. Love you, girls!

Judy and Kelly, our international daughters, have been home with their parents for almost a week now. Em made these brownies for them just before they left. Love you, girls!

end-of-season soccer party for the high school team Dave coaches) and I’ll take some of the kids with me.”

We had this conversation in the basement bathroom, where I was getting ready. For about five minutes after, there were the usual back-and-forth sounds on the floor above me. Then, suddenly, nothing! None of PJ’s running/stalking footsteps (how can a kid who only weighs 45 pounds make so much noise just walking?), no music blasting, no singing, no talking. Dave had taken all four kids plus the extra friend with him!

Silence. I breathed deep and gave thanks and took my time getting to the party.

When I arrived, I hung out with several soccer mothers and decided to be honest when asked, “How was your day?”

Several gave honest answers in return and real conversation rather than small talk happened. Women a few years further along in their mothering journey shared real advice and they did NOT tell me to “treasure these years—they pass so fast.” (Not that it isn’t true—it’s often just not real helpful in the middle of it.)

At the end of the evening, I left refreshed—and more grateful.

After the kids were in bed, I checked email and found a link to a blog post by Donald Miller in my inbox: “How to Avoid a People Hangover” (here’s the link: http://storylineblog.com/2013/06/04/how-to-avoid-a-people-hangover/), an article about how he, as an introvert, has to have his alone time. I read it to Dave. “This is me!” I said.

He gave me the look. “Haven’t I been telling you that for years?”

“Yes, but I’ve always felt guilty for needing alone time, but when I hear it from someone who also needs it—who feels drained creatively when he doesn’t get it—it’s like permission.”

He gave the look again.

I fully believe that motherhood is a calling from God.

But it’s GOD’s calling. By that I mean that HE is ultimately responsible for it, and though he’s called me to be one of the two primary caregivers for these four, He doesn’t expect me to never take a break.

In fact, He made me to need alone time.

Donald Miller affirms that he needs time away from people. I call kids “people on steroids.” At 9, 9, and 7 (and sometimes even at almost 13), they don’t understand boundaries; the bathroom is still not off limits; when they call “Mo-om,” I’m magically supposed to answer, no matter what.

That’s all good, wonderfully good.

But so is the fact that I’m an introvert who feels re-charged with alone time.

And God knows all that.

How good, how incredibly good He was to me on this quite-messy past Thursday. He knew what I needed and He provided it.

And in my being able to receive, I learned more about how generous He is, right in the middle of my messiness.

the mess that’s me

Dog and husband hanging out in our new bedroom/my office. Yes! After 9 months of moving our bed from laundry room to old playroom to new playroom--as our great contractor Ben remodeled our basement. Our new bedroom has a door! A door! Woohoo!

Dog and husband hanging out in our new bedroom/my office. Yes! After 9 months of moving our bed from laundry room to old playroom to new playroom–as our great contractor Ben remodeled our basement. Our new bedroom has a door! A door! Woohoo!

It’s summer—but the pool’s not yet open, so my kids have been home a LOT! Every time I enter a room, be it their bedroom or a family area, I discover a new mess. We’ve already had the conversation about Mom not being a personal slave, about how my job in regards to their cleanliness is not to pick up after them so they can continue to be slobs for the rest of their lives but to prepare them to be good roommates (perhaps even spouses) and employees who notice and take care of their own messes. (There was a lot more, but I’ll spare you! I probably should have spared them!)

Ah, that word “notice,” as used in “notice their own messes.” It’s key for any sort of progress. Yesterday I sent the boys off to clean their room. They returned in three minutes. “Done,” they announced.

No way. I’d seen it that morning—and hours had passed since then, enough time for unheard-of chaos to happen.

I was right—shirts dripping out of drawers, dirty underwear peeking from under the dresser, a pile of clothes that looked like PJ had worn them in a mud wrestling event, granola bar wrappers on the floor, Legos in various stages of construction on every surface…

But here’s the thing: THEY thought it was clean.

I John 1 metaphorically fleshed out.

“If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” NLV

The Amplified expands that first phrase to “(If we) refuse to admit that we are sinners.”

Sinners: unlike God, missing His mark of perfection, incomplete in strength and knowledge and will.

Here’s my version of that first phrase: “If I refuse to admit that I am messy.”

Messy: not perfect, prone to do/say/feel the wrong things, carrying baggage (some of it unknown), unable to truly know and follow the “right way.”

This past weekend—graduation weekend—I had a conversation with one of the international students that went something like this:

International Student (IS): I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I don’t think I’m doing a good job saying goodbye with my friends, and there’s so much to do, and I know I’m not spending enough time with God, and that makes me feel worse and…” (She’s crying now.)

Me: What do you mean by “not spending enough time with God”?

IS: I’m not having devotions or praying. I can’t seem to get it all together so that I can.

Me: You don’t have to. Actually, you CAN’T. And He doesn’t want you to try. He wants you to come IN your mess, IN your humanity, and He wants you to cry out to Him. Right now you feel like God’s withdrawn because you’re so confused. He hasn’t; you’ve just built a wall between you and Him. He knows your mess and your inability. He died for it! Now let Him come into it and comfort you.

Lots of tears then, lots of hugging. So much better.

And as the old perfectionist (that’s me J) shared advice with the young perfectionist, I was preaching to myself.

I often don’t acknowledge my own messiness to God. I often try to deal with it in my way—which is the equivalent of my boys shoving clothes under beds, cramming overstuffed drawers halfway closed, and brushing litter into a pile in a corner.

In doing this, I cut myself off from the Gospel that God wants to work out in my life every day. I hold back from redemption.

If I’m going to embrace God’s redemption, I must also embrace an acknowledgement of my messiness.

He loves to cleanse.

And I need it…

‘Cause I am messy!