If I had written this last week—or maybe even two days ago—it would have been more clear-cut, a how-to post. But it turns out that I can't give advice. Some days, I feel like I've got it--like my expectations are realistic and my patience is deep. Other days, I feel like it's an hourly struggle.
I’ve been struggling to have patience. I always thought of myself as a fairly patient person. When I taught, I could generally maintain patience. When I worked with small children, I used to think patience was a particular gift I had (ha!). But it turns out that in both of those situations, I eventually got to leave. And in motherhood, I just don’t get to leave.
Probably the worst struggles lately have been when I felt entitled to something. It happened even as I wrote that last sentence. Liam suddenly (and urgently, as all things are at three) wanted a glass of milk and started protesting loudly when I hesitated. I felt entitled, like I deserve a few minutes to write.
Now here’s the thing: these situations aren’t clear-cut. Like everyone, moms have needs, real needs. Moms also are entitled to have moments to themselves, and every mom’s need may be different. So for me, it’s been hard to know when to let go and when to maintain a need. It's been hard to know when to draw a limit and what is appropriate for a three-year-old. So I write this to hold myself accountable.
I’m trying to learn to be realistic. It’s realistic to expect that I get to shower at some point each day. But it’s not realistic to expect a long shower in the evenings even though Jonathan is home. At that point, everyone is just a little frazzled, especially the baby. And he will almost always cry for me after about five minutes. For a while, I was so frustrated. Why can’t I just have five minutes of peace in a day? Then I realized I have to figure something else out. So I either shower at another point in the day or resign myself to a speedy shower and crying baby.
The same has been true with writing. I love to write. I don’t hesitate to say that I need to write. But trying to make Walt stay asleep and ensure that Liam is entertained while I write is just not realistic. Instead, I take my moments when I get them, and I have to hold them so loosely unless I have someone watching the boys. Otherwise, it’s just a struggle.
I'm trying to avoid feelings of entitlement while still acknowledging that I have needs. I’m also trying to focus on the good. So often I list the bad stuff in my head, the times I make mistakes, the tantrums, the undone tasks. I count all these things, and they often add up to a bad day. I try to quantify why my day is going badly (or, even uglier, why my life is so much harder than other people’s).
In our Bible study this week, we talked about how God is infinite—how we can’t quantify him. Our human brains want so badly to quantify everything from how many steps we take to how many hours we sleep. Sometimes this is helpful.
But when I count, I often become focused on my limits. I can’t be as good a mom because my sleep was so broken last night. I can’t be patient because it’s 7:30pm and Jon still isn’t home and my patience is at an end.
But God’s economy is so different from ours. I read this verse last night from 2 Corinthians 9:
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.
Abound. My word for 2015 was “abundance.” This year, I’ve been torn all year between choosing “thrive” and “joy.” I knew that with a new baby, I wanted a year that wasn’t just about surviving. I wanted to thrive. But I kept coming back to the verse that calls us to consider it all joy when we face trials. Life with a three-year-old and a baby often makes me feel like there are so many trials all day long.
And I guess maybe thrive and joy get at the same thing. The problem is, I keep trying to find it on my own. By 7:30pm, I probably am out of patience. But God gives abundantly and wants me to rely on Him.
I’m not supposed to be measuring all the ways my life is hard or all the mistakes my child has made (and the ways these are going to ruin his life later). Rather I’m supposed to be living in the abundance of grace and joy that God provides.
It’s not like this is simple for me though. It’s one day at a time, every day seeking grace and patience and joy. Every day choosing to be kind and gentle when I just want to rage or sulk. It's not trying to list all the hard things or (conversely) trying to pretend like things are easy.
So often I think I forget the Gospel in the way I look at my children. God doesn’t count our sins against us. He doesn’t complain about how hard it is to die to himself. He doesn’t make it about his rights. He chooses to be human, to make himself nothing, to have compassion on the crowds even when he probably feels like turning away. He chooses to die for us, to give Himself totally to us. Hebrews tells us he was tempted in every way so he can have compassion on us.
These are the truths I’m trying to live in. Some days I think I’ve got it. But I never do. It’s every day reminding myself of truth again and again and realizing I’ll never arrive this side of Heaven. It's choosing joy but also realizing that deep joy can come only from Him. And there's not a limited supply.
Here's the book we're reading for Bible study about the character of God. And here's a wonderful book I'm reading on kids and discipline. And this is the Bible study I'm still working through on my own.