The hard way to go

Our nemesis can take so many benign shapes: the ambivalent, even sensual, beauty of the glossy red trike; the prospect of a day at the lake with my husband and children, proffering relaxation with one hand while holding all my unfinished work just out of my reach.

I had two weeks off from school. Two weeks full of catching up on all the things that slid through health crises and school deadlines, writing assignments, and loving and living as if this might be the last summer on this green earth, with these beautiful beings to hug and hold. The laundry was in piles - and I do mean that, plural! - the dishes were stacked up every morning, the floor needed mopping and I was beginning to feel as though I had forgotten to do my spring cleaning - back in the spring, months ago! Somehow I dug out the energy to scrub the cabinets and appliances, get the daily chores caught up, clean bathrooms with my newfound homemade Scrubbing Bubbles solution. Don't get me wrong - there is still a lot of organization to be done! But by the start of fall semester on August 28 (AUGUST, people! Need I say more?), I was beginning to feel as though perhaps I did defeat my nemesis (housework).

All this went spinning through my head the other morning as I stood in the bathroom cleaning out that darn old dry socket of mine. Trikes, frustration, lakes, drowning in duties...I was staring at a faded piece of green construction paper, tattered at the edges. It has been taped to my bathroom wall since 2005, and it's titled "Mama's Rules". I had just made a little chart of sorts for 2-year-old Katrina and baby Rosalie. I was determined to reward good behavior as a means of decreasing the number of times each day that I felt like pulling my hair out. Each child, as any parent knows, presents unique difficulties and joys. It is that familiar dance: positive/negative; curse/blessing; struggle/triumph. Echoed a million times over in the daily walk of this life. Katrina: I slowly descended into the daily-ness of motherhood tending to her small needs in her infancy; I marvel still at her caring, sweet spirit. Rosalie: I was challenged by the impenetrability of her stubborn streak; and awed by her creative, spontaneous playfulness. Amelia: her will to be respected cannot be brooked; her passionate, intense loyalty and work ethic put me to shame. Caleb: his demand for attention rivals all the other voices of the household; his tender desire for touch and tenderness brings out the softness of my experienced motherhood.

Those "Mama's Rules" were wrought of a time that constituted my own personal watershed. It was the moment when I realized that to be blessed is not unmitigated joy. That no matter what prayers are answered, earth is not heaven. Life is not perfect. I was newly married, I had two beautiful daughters and a newly constructed home I could hardly believe was mine, situated in the country on acreage. A hard-working husband who worked overtime to keep me at home with the children. Yet those freedoms and joys became the bars that surrounded my personal prison. I longed for intellectual stimulation, the ability to alleviate some of our financial burdens, the opportunity to escape the daily, albeit minute, demands of childcare; spend a morning sleeping in, or get my shower before 11 a.m.; shed my pajamas for some scrubs. Trade the trivial chores of motherhood (feeding, clothing, teaching) for the seemingly more measurable chores of a nursing career (the feeding, clothing, teaching of the ill and their families). Be done with my work when a shift ended. Here was the iron truth of Scripture, in living flesh and blood: for I was being saved through childbearing (I Timothy 2) daily, hourly, in each minute and second as I allowed my selfishness to succumb to a newly awakening selflessness of motherhood. Using the bathroom with the door open...showering every other day...shouldering puke and touching poop...teaching the alphabet...kissing scrapes...soothing the ruffled feathers after a sisterly battle...finding new ways to teach something for the 100th time. They all constitute sacrifice of self for other: mother for child.

If you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (II Peter 1:8)

BE KIND to children, husband, dogs & friends...
Be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God, for Christ's sake, hath forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:32)

NO FUSSING OR POUTING when kids fuss & pout!
A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control. (Proverbs 29:11)

CLEAN BODY & MIND self-control & patience!
Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; to goodness, knowledge; to knowledge, self-control; to self-control, perseverance; to perseverance, godliness; to godliness, brotherly kindness; to brotherly kindness, love. (II Peter 1:6)

NO COMPLAINING when there are chores to do...
She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family, and portions for her servant girls. (Proverbs 31:15)

SCHOOLTIME once per weekday.
The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left unto himself disgraces his mother. (Proverbs 25:15)

So I set out my boundaries with a piece of borrowed construction paper and a Sharpie. Setting fenceposts in my mind, and, consequently, my life, with a few words of God and reminders from the shackles that threatened my brain. Bullet points that I hoped would bleed into habits and, from them, effectiveness where idleness and snarling selfishness used to lurk. The showpiece of redemption: for I am set apart for good works through Christ's holy Work on the cross that day thousands of years ago. (Ephesians 2)

Behold! He is making all things new...whatever you're going through, whatever you've been through, trust that the God who loves you is in control and is redeeming your life in and through your circumstances. "It matters to me that this is true, not merely interesting, not merely comforting. The chaos of this life, the flood waters, have closed over my head. Yet I choose against despair. I believe that death will one day die, that the love of God will prevail. In the meantime, even if the rest of my path lies in shadow, I will follow the Lamb in trust and in hope. It may be that faith is no more and no less a choice between the words 'it may be so' and 'I will live as if it is so'." (Jared C. Wilson quotes Thomas Schmidt in his book, Your Jesus is Too Safe)

I heard whispers of God at a broken-down honky tonk concert on the crowded fairgrounds, surrounded by the din of humanity and the cacophany of a million confused mixed metaphors as a blues guitar sang in mournful treble and melodic bass pulsed in time to the beat of some heathen drums:

There was a long time
no matter how I tried
the years they just rolled by
like a broken down dance

Make me an angel
that flies from Montgomery
Make me a poster
of an old rodeo
Just give me one thing
that I can hold on to
to believe in this livin'
is just a hard way to go

~ Make Me an Angel, Bonnie Raitt