As I am writing this Titus, our 4 month old, is being lulled to sleep by the rhythmic swaying of a swing. That's right. He is, (dare I even say it?), a swing napper. Today I got Braxton and Royce Wendy's for lunch and I didn't even try to convince them that apple slices taste just as good as French Fries. Pretty sure Royce is napping with ketchup in her hair. Hayleigh got off the bus yesterday, took off her winter coat which desperately needs to be washed (girl friend's a magnet for just about every salty, slushy car she twirls past) and I noticed that her shirt was on backwards. Unless she's suddenly taken up streaking at school and hastily redressed herself before the principal caught on, I am assuming she left the house that way. That is super unlikely though since Royce is my streaker and I am pretty sure each family is only allowed one...right? When did I become that mom?
Now before you take up your side to either comfort or condemn me, can I just say something? I don't really care. I don't know if it was the 4 kids in 6 years thing that forced me into this somewhat freeing, somewhat disconcerting space-almost like a purgatory between "good" moms and deadbeats. I am over the false or self-fabricated guilt. I honestly just do not have the time to sweat if someone (okay everyone) is wearing mis-matched socks or to even remember the last time we windexed the fingerprints off the windows. I've got much more important things to worry about.
Like how over the past 3 days Titus has developed this sort of whine-howl thing that escalates every 20 or so seconds that it is ignored and seems, from what I can decipher, seems to indicate he is somehow unhappy laying on the floor mat or in the bumbo seat or basically anywhere else but in my lap. I looked at him the other day, my perfect, fat little cherry on top, and said through clenched teeth "will you please just shut up?!". I tough talked a baby, guys. (And Braxton of course reminded me I had used a "knife word", leading me down a trail of thought involving more knife words. Wasn't pretty. I need so much Jesus.) When did I become that mom?
I wish I could say it stopped there. I have been known to lock myself in the bathroom- the attempted hiding place of any mom, and that is not about to stop any time soon, that's for sure. But lately I have found myself hiding from my kids more and more often. And not just in the bathroom. I will hide behind a book. Hide behind my phone. Hide behind a to-do list. I will hide in plain freaking sight, building up walls to protect me from my their demands, their chatter, their space invasion, to shut out the cries & pleas & affections of the little people for whom I am the only answer and whose affections used to be sufficient currency. When did I become that mom?
The mom who resents her kids' questions & messes & wild pretend that gets too loud, who can't be bothered to be interrupted again, who dreams of escaping? I look at myself and I hardly recognize the person I have become. And I know my kids see it too. Sometimes I see them look at me with hurt & disappointment in their eyes. When did I become the mom to put it there?
So, as Titus naps in his swing, and the ketchup congeals in Royce's hair while she sleeps, I am left with bigger things to worry about than if Hayleigh's shirt is on backwards or if Braxton brushed his teeth for a full 90 seconds this morning (is that even the right amount of time?!). I am sitting here wondering, remembering when I used to be a good mom. When did I become this mom?
I think there are a whole bunch of reasons. I think it happened slowly, a gradual slipping and giving into selfishness, until I honestly started to believe I was entitled to things I could never deserve, and I actually started ignoring (or mistreating) the greatest blessings I could ever have. I think it started when I stopped caring so much about being a refuge for my kids and I started worrying much more about creating or finding my own refuge away from them.
I have this crazy amazing group of ladies, my Bible Study girls, who I am still giddilly in awe that I get to be a part of. We check in with each other every day, to challenge, to encourage, to share, to laugh. I never asked for it, and I never really knew how much my heart was missing it. Its funny how you can miss something before you even had it, without even realizing you were missing it. But God gave us to each other and it is nothing short of a gift, straight from heaven. We are currently studying in Ruth. This week's study spoke a lot about God being our refuge. And it made me realize a few things-about God, about myself, about where I went wrong in this whole mess of becoming that mom.
When I think of a refuge I think of a stronghold-a place to go to escape the battle, find safety, find comfort, nurse your wounds, regroup, gather strength and then maybe after a time get back out there. I think of a refuge as a bit of a last resort, maybe even a coward's way out. I certainly hadn't seen the need for a refuge unless the battle got big, bad and ugly. Then it seemed allowable to seek refuge, find safety and admit you couldn't do it alone.
But what about in the little things? In the everyday stuff of life? Do I really need to seek refuge in the small stuff too?
Today we read Psalm 34:1-10. I wrote down 3 columns in my journal: "God", "Us (people)" and "Us with God". Then under each column I wrote words from the passage used to describe each. Some of them under "us" included "searching, lacking, troubled, wanting, needing protection". Under "God" my list included "answering, delivering, saving, protecting, providing good things". And finally under "Us with God" some of what I listed said " blessing and praising God continuously, glad, heard, found, radiant, unashamed, delivered, blessed, lacking no good thing".
As I looked at the "Us" list I saw myself in it, almost as though while I wrote the words on the page they morphed into a portrait of me- the person, the mom I have become. Searching. Lacking. Troubled.
It made me realize that maybe a refuge isn't just for the big things of life. Maybe it isn't a coward's way out at all. Maybe a refuge, THE refuge, is meant for the small everyday moments that wear us down, just as much as it is meant for the big ones that bowl us over. Maybe the refuge is for the wise person, the one brave enough to admit what she already knows-that there is no way she can accomplish anything good on her own. Maybe I need to stop ignoring God's gift of His refuge, or brushing it off until I know I really need it, as though it is a last ditch option. Maybe making God my refuge needs to be my first battle plan, instead of my escape when things get to be too much.
Maybe it took me becoming that mom for me to realize it. And maybe there really aren't any "good" moms out there. Or maybe the good moms are the ones who don't leave their refuge, but do their work from inside it.
So instead of clumsily trying to erect my own refuge or searching for refuge in places I was never meant to find it, I will find my stronghold, my comfort, my strength in God. I will stop trying to be my own refuge, and allow myself to be one for my kids. I will take the little moments, the everyday ones, the ones that accumulate on top of each other like a giant snowball rolling down the hill and threaten to take my legs out and I will seek God in them. I will ask "God, where are you in this? What am I supposed to learn here? How can I obey right now in this little moment? I want to position myself right under your refuge and continue this battle from there. Show me glimpses of your grace in the small moments."
Maybe that is what good moms really do. Maybe there is still hope for this mom and my ketchup covered, swing napping, mis-match sock wearing streaking crew.