My life feels busy—sometimes crazy busy. While homeschooling five kids who are in various activities, it feels like a lot of juggling to make it all work. And although I aspire to have a clean and organized home, the reality is that I am so not there. I can even feel the chaos creeping in—a few more dirty dishes in the sink, a few more books piled on the counter, a few more puzzle pieces left out. Then, if I’m not careful, it’s full on crazy-town house, where there is crusted play dough on the carpet, piles of dirty clothes, and don’t even ask about the kitchen. What happened? Why is it so chaotic? Because kids? Because I’m a bad house keeper? Because my hubby doesn’t pick up the slack?
It’s not really any of that. It’s that my surroundings begin to dictate my feelings, and I have let the chaos in. It enters through my perception of my circumstances. Because the truth really is that even if I had a perfect system and was on top of my schedule and my house was perfectly clean and my kids were actually tiny self-cleaning robots, these things would not guarantee my sanity—and I would not automatically have peace. Because there would always be something else. Because the enemy doesn’t play fair, and even if I had the best hand, he’d throw in the ace he’s hidden up his sleeve. He cheats by whispering: You aren’t good enough. You haven’t cleaned up enough. You are failing miserably, and it is your fault. And nothing could be further from the truth.
Because it’s not an equation. Because a clean house doesn’t equal success whereas a messy house equals failure. Because there are seven of us and we are all still learning how to live together. Because we all need grace Every. Single. Day. Grace says, I refuse to judge you for your sticky floor because I see your heart and know that making pancakes with your toddler says love so much more than a freshly mopped floor. Grace says, yes the space is cluttered but let’s work on this together as a team—without blaming or casting judgment on the sloppiest child (who also may be the most creative). Grace says, in the midst of the chaos—the whirling storm of judgment beating down on your soul—choose peace.
In the gospels, there is an account of Jesus calming a literal storm. Jesus was with his disciples late one night on a boat, and a “furious” storm broke out, where waves were actually crashing into the boat. The storm was so terrible that the disciples thought they were going to die. And in the middle of this awful storm, Jesus was sound asleep. He was at complete peace in the middle of complete chaos. The chaos was around but it was not within. “The disciples woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’ He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.” (Mark 4:38-39)
I am reminded of Jesus on that boat when I think about my daily struggles. When I choose to reject those critical voices within, the storm calms and there is peace. Because there will be seasons that things don’t look perfect on the outside. There will be sticky counters and messy projects and piles of laundry. And so the storms will rage. But looking past the outward, going deep within—that is the place to find rest. And this is a reminder to me, to choose peace in the middle of my mess.
Please don’t lick the cat. This is one of the things I say a bunch of times everyday. Combine that statement with other fun ones like: Curtains are not for swinging. Don’t tackle your brother. Don’t dig your underwear out of your butt in a room full of people. And my personal favorite – Wash your hands after using the bathroom EVERY time…even if you just aimed, shot, and flushed the toilet with your elbow.
I cannot give an accurate number of times I say these things in a day, especially to my five year-old son. I have said them in so many different ways, including phrasing them positively. As a teacher, I learned early on to avoid words like “don’t” and “no” when giving rules, correcting and redirecting children. However, I have realized that NO matter how much I DON’T use these words, my children still break the rules. Maybe “break” is not the right word. They treat some rules like they were never rules at all.
I am in the season of repetition, correction and redirection. My mother often said a phrase to us that I did not understand until I had children. “How many times did I tell you to __________? I sound like a BROKEN RECORD!” I grew up in the era of cassette tapes and CDs. We didn’t own a record player, so this did not hit home for me. She should have yelled, “I sound like a SKIPPING CD!” This I understood.
Recently, I spoke with a friend, whose son also required support in learning rules and good habits. She explained that it took a toll on their relationship. I, too, feel like I spend so much time telling my son what NOT to do that I do not get the chance to truly enjoy our relationship. She inspired me to find different ways to help my son develop good habits in a way that blesses him.
When thinking about helping my son learn lessons, etiquette, and rules, I consider how God teaches me. I often wonder how many times God has to teach me the same lesson again and again. How many times have I forgotten His words…the very words I repeated when in distress?
It seems like God often teaches me the same concept through several different types of circumstances – same lesson, different delivery. Sometimes it is through His Word, or a sister in Christ. Other times it is through a series of events, each one designed to help me get a handle on what God is trying to show me.
After talking with my friend, I realized that my son is not learning what he needs to know because I am not teaching the way he needs. I am not as patient when I have repeated myself a bunch of times. I truly sound like a broken record the fifth time I find yellow drops on the toilet seat or when one of them is forcing the cat to snuggle because he is “so fwuffy”.
My husband often says that our son has learned to tune me out. So, I need to be creative in how I get him to retain information. This does not just pertain to the practical lessons like hand-washing and good aim. I need to be intentional about finding ways to teach him God’s ways as well. Furthermore, I want to cultivate a relationship with him because of who he is, not what he does correctly or incorrectly. This is my current mission.
During my time as a parent I have learned that God pursues and desires a relationship. The lessons He teaches me affect my heart and have the capacity to turn my heart towards Him. I have also learned that most lessons are not simply taught and grasped. Often times much effort and energy goes into preparing our children to function in the world. A solid relationship helps. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
This seems much easier said than done, but at some point, it needs to be done.