28 December 2015

Of Failure and Focus

I've been anticipating the snow. I love waking up to fat flakes falling on the ground. Our fireplace is fully functioning, again, so a day curled up in front of the fire with my favorite littles and white snow on the ground sounded lovely. So when I peeked out my window this morning and saw all my dreams coming true, I was happy to go see if the children had thought to look out their own windows . . .

"Mommy! It's snowing!" Yep, she'd seen it. As I attempted to greet her enthusiasm with my own, it started, "And you said, if it snowed . . ."

Oh no. What did I "promise"?

" . . . Callie would come over and we'd play in the snow!"

No. Wait. No. I distinctly remember this conversation. I distinctly remember indicating that if there were snow on the ground, her best friend's mom would most likely not be interested in driving her across town to play in the snow. Not to mention that which wasn't said: it stresses me out enough having my own three tromping in and out of the house all covered in freezing wet-ness, let alone three extras. No, I most certainly did not ever agree to a play-date in the snow.

"Well, baby, I don't think that's going to . . ."

"Well, we can at least go play in the snow! I can't wait!"

At this point I had to walk away. I could no longer handle the excitement. Because her snow day dreams and my snow day dreams just had a head-on collision and I couldn't handle the impact.

And this is when living in a semi-depressed state* makes living just hard. I suppose I can't guarantee it, but in my little, deluded brain, other people can handle this. Other people can hear the excitement of their kids and get excited right along with them. They can hurry them back into their rooms and get them bundled up to play.

All I can do is curl up in a ball on the couch and cry.

Because suddenly this snow day took on a whole new meaning.


These children have so many excited expectations to what it means to see snow out their windows. And try as I may to make their dreams come true. I will falter on some minor detail and then these blessings will turn to monsters quicker than I can imagine. And their world is ruined and it's all my fault.

You think I exaggerate, because you can see in the above scenario she handled the change quite well, because they often do, to the surprise of us all. But, depending on the level of exhaustion in these little ones, I am guaranteed at least a handful of arbitrary melt-downs a day - from their favorite food on the wrong-colored plate, to having to take a five-minute break from coloring so they can empty the dishwasher, to not having the right pajama top to wear with their favorite bottoms. It seems that no matter how much parenting success I have, failure is always quick on its heels. Or, at least, failure in their eyes.

Mom has failed me because . . .

On an intellectual level, I understand. This failure is in their heads. The plate color is irrelevant and in no way makes me a bad mom. Doing chores is an important life skill and in no way makes me a bad mom. Clothes are sometimes in the laundry, and their not wanting to wear the clean clothing actually available in their drawers does not make me a bad mom.

But for some reason, in that moment of tears and yelling, all I can do is hear the words, "You have failed me." And all I can manage in response are my own angry words.

Because that fixes the situation.

Which brings me back to the couch of tears as a blanket of white envelopes the backyard. And I can see a future of crushed dreams and Mommy-failures and angry words and hot tears. And I'm crushed before the day can even begin. And all I can know is that I need to be back in bed, saving up energy to handle these crises well, while really hiding from the world so the failure can be pushed aside for at least another hour.

And then He reminds me of the lesson He spoke into my heart just yesterday:

"Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men." (Colossians 3:23)

And not because this is a new verse or because it helps me at all, or is any less burdensome, to feel like I'm supposed to have a worshipful heart in all these endeavors to make them happy, but because it means all these endeavors are not to make them happy.

All these endeavors are for the Lord.

Every action I perform as a mother isn't with the end goal of producing happy children who rise up and call me blessed, but for pleasing the Lord.

So, if I serve them food with love and they react with harshness, it does not matter. I am working for the Lord, not for them.

If I ask them to serve their family and they respond with anger and bitter words, it does not matter. I am working for the Lord, not for them.

If I have presented them with pajamas they don't wish to wear, it does not matter. I am working for the Lord, not for them.

If I have the energy to bundle them out to go outside, but not the energy to bundle myself up and join them, I am not condemned. I work for the Lord, not for them.

Their response should never dictate my own. In my response to their anger, tantrums and disrespect, I am to honor the Lord. Even when it feels like they don't deserve my kindness.

And this rule applies to all people, not just the little dictators living in my home.

Not to say this thought doesn't overwhelm me, either. But I can know my heavenly master is much more forgiving and understanding than the little ones on earth.

So I can breathe deep. And I can face this day. Because as I go about my day with a compassionate heart, kindness, humility, meekness and patience, I can know I am doing this for the Lord, as one of His chosen ones, holy and beloved. I do this for Him. Not for them.

*I say "semi-depressed" because a) I am in a much better place than I was a little over a year ago, but those days of darkness continue to knock on the door of my mind and b) I have never been officially diagnosed with Depression and I do not want to put myself in the same category as others who have most likely struggled with far more than I. Yet I am there, somewhere, wading through this fog.

04 December 2015

Of Anticipating Advent

The New Testament story of Simeon has long been a favorite of mine (for reasons documented here) and this Christmas season I have been blessed with the opportunity to share a devotion with a precious group of ladies whom I adore. So, of course, Simeon is on my mind and I've been working to flesh out his story and his words even more. What does it mean for Jesus to be "a light for revelation?"

As I have researched and cross-referenced, I have come across the words in Isaiah 40, which declare:
"Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
    and cry to her
that her warfare[a] is ended,
    that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the Lord's hand
    double for all her sins.
A voice cries:[b]
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
    make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
    and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
    and the rough places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
    and all flesh shall see it together,
    for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”"

And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed . . . made manifest, as my footnote indicates.

And Simeon, the Scripture says, is one of these who eagerly anticipated the comfort that had been declared, this glory of the Lord to be revealed.

It has often been stated that the 400 years represented by the gap between the Old Testament and the New are the "silent years" in which God did not speak to His people. Yet, as the angels appearing to Zechariah, Mary, and Joseph indicate, as the Holy Spirit speaking to Simeon that he would not die before he saw the promised One indicates, God was anything but silent during these times.

Just as He is anything but silent in our time.

We live in a time not unlike that of Simeon. His people had waited over 700 years since Isaiah spoke his prophecies declaring this Messiah - 400 years since any prophet had spoken ever. They watched their people be overthrown, tossed around by the kingdoms of this world and then come under Roman rule. Times were difficult. And these people who had been waiting and watching and praying, asked, "How much longer, Lord?!"

And here are we, 2000 years since that first fulfillment of prophecy, yet 1900 years from the last confirmed Word from God to all people. The canon was closed and God turned "silent." And the people watched. And they waited. And they prayed.

And we continue to watch. And wait. And pray. And cry out, "How much longer, Lord?!"

Yet, we do not wait without hope. We have this hope that is Christmas - this evidence of promises fulfilled. We do not know His timing, but we know He is faithful.

And that's what this season of Advent is truly about - feeling the weight of this anticipation. Of watching, and hoping, for this Savior of the world.

It's not simply finding a creative way of counting down 24 days, awaiting the presents, or the meal, or the cookies, or even the starlit wonder in the eyes of children, waking in the pre-dawn hours to unwrap what they have been anticipating.

It is a time of hope and anticipation, to truly grasp what the world felt as it waited from the dawn of time for a Savior of God's people, and for all people, everywhere, to emerge and mend what was broken. And as we live in a world that seems beyond repair, we must know what that was like. We must know this anticipation and hope. And we can see the day coming - the day that represents the birth of this Savior, this God made flesh Who came down, His glory made manifest for all people. And we can rejoice knowing, while we remain in the dark, we can unwrap this greatest gift we have been anticipating and understand, the dawn is yet to come. There is still a day coming.

But it will come. Let us wait with wonder.