To the Parent-Who-Just-Can’t-Today

To the Parent-Who-Just-Can’t-Today,

To the new mommy who is trying to figure out breast-feeding, is still rockin’ those awesome post-partum mesh undies, and cries at all the things, I see you. To the weary parent of littles who can’t use the bathroom without interruption, who hasn’t gotten a good night’s sleep since before parenthood began, and who feels their biggest accomplishment today might just be the shower they squeezed in during naptime, I see you. To the parent who faces the child entering the land of hormones, where their mouths can be as big as their mood swings, and are tempted to ask the doctor to medicate one of you so that you’ll both survive, I see you.  And to the parent who is saying goodbye as their adult-but-will-always-be-their-baby heads out into the world, who is flooded with all the feelings, who wrestles with wondering if their precious will be ok and if their parenting was good-enough, I see you. To those parents who feel like they just can’t today, and secretly wonder if they are failing at this parenthood gig, this is for you.

Just breathe– right now, right where you are. Just take a deep breath.  This is life in the middle of the beautiful and hard, the stretch-you, teach-you, touch-all-your-buttons-and-remind-you-that-you-need-Jesus messy middle. Just breathe.  You are not alone.  I am there along with all the others who do the work of showing up for this parenthood gig.

One question: What has captured your focus, the mess or the Maker?

That was the question that whispered over and over in my mind as I observed a newborn baby and her daddy this week.  The baby girl in his arms perfectly surrendered to his care, staring wide eyed up at his face, tiny fingers wrapping and unwrapping around his finger; perfectly held.  The love of the father pouring over his precious child was evident in every detail. The look, the attention, the hold, the provision–he had her and she knew it. Stunning.

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The mess was my focus. The strength was my own. The peace was gone along with my patience, replaced by fear and doubt while everything pulled for my attention and drained my emotions. Sometimes the busyness in the hard is the enemy of our focus and the thief of our peace.  Sound familiar?

The moment I decide to, I can be in the presence of my Father, eyes firmly fixed on Him while he lovingly tucks me in and holds me in the middle of the messiness.

Let this sink in a moment:  The God who heals the sick, who raises the dead, who gives sight to the blind, who touches lepers, who loves on outcasts, who walks into all the pain and all the hard of all the people who call on Him, who remains steadfast in every season, and can do all things is the God who says, “Come to me.”  Why would we not go to the one who CAN when we know darn well we CANNOT? He has us, but do we know it?

So, dear ones, I encourage you to keep your focus fast on Him and not on the mess.  Let your body relax as you lean in and he wraps you in his amazing peace. Let him quiet your heart, equip you with the strength you need today, and listen to His neverending wisdom.  He will hold you in His perfect love even when the storms rage…and that changes everything.

 

A Lesson From My 9 Year Old

I had been running all day and had just realized that I had zero plans for dinner.  Once again all my good intentions of planning everything out had dissolved along with my give-a-crap button.  Cereal? Nah, it just didn’t sound like it would work for dinner, not long term, the girls would be hungry again in an hour.  So, on day 5 of solo parenting, in the heat, with a mouth still on fire from having surgery on my tongue, I loaded up kids and headed to the grocery store.

As we pulled into the Raley’s parking lot we saw him.  A skinny, middle-aged man, deeply tanned with a medium length white beard, holding up his sign that read, “Just hungry and ugly.”  I sighed and did my best to avoid eye contact. I didn’t have the time or energy to help, plus he was probably just scamming. I wasn’t ignorant on how things could work.

Just buy him some food.  It is hot, he is saying he is hungry, you can, so you should.  But I really don’t feel like it at all right now and there was always someone in need…

“Hey mom, did you see that guy?  Did you read his sign?” asked my 9 year old in the backseat.

“Yes baby.”

“Mom, did you see his eyes?  They look sad. You say to always look at the eyes.”

I had purposefully not looked at his eyes actually…

Just buy him some food

“Baby, will you help me pick out some food to buy him?”

With incredible excitement and a sparkle in her eyes, she sat up straight and said, “Really mom?  Can I hand it to him? Can I be the one to give it to him after we get it?”

He is filthy, she is a child, the germs, the what if’s, all the reasons that immediately flew into my head to be solid reasons to say “NO! Baby I will do this.”

What are you teaching her?

Mic drop.

What was I teaching her?  Was I being wise or just afraid?  Why was I even thinking the thoughts I was?  But more importantly, was I teaching her to love others like Jesus did and does?

But Jesus knows about boundaries!  

Wait, DID Jesus have boundaries?  If he did, would they have really walked through this filter I have in my head that screams of preserving and protecting at all costs, always, especially regarding my children!

Oh.

What am I teaching my children?  To be bold and brave or just afraid?  To be generous and kind or guarded and cold?  

Maybe my children are teaching me. Oh Lord, forgive me.  I have so much to learn.

We quickly walked through the grocery store and bought a modest bag full of imperishable items for the stranger begging outside.  All the while, I was explaining to my daughter why we were buying certain things (thinking about his possible needs and the heat), and not just throwing in cartons of ice cream.

Can it ever be a waste to give food?  Really?

I don’t know his story, but I do know I can buy some food.  Does it matter if he is scamming somehow? Nope. Because in that moment I realized that there was so much more happening than just buying food for him and hopefully helping meet his need.  Our sight was changing, my children were learning, and I was learning most of all. Because if someone has to beg, regardless of their intentions, then they are indeed in need. Full stop.

So, with an excitement that left all her limbs jittery, my girlie carefully placed the items into the bag, buckled her belt and sat beaming with readiness to hand over the groceries to the man.

Am I ever this excited to serve another?  Such expectancy. No fear. Just wonder.

After a bit of searching, we found him leaving the parking lot on his bike, seemingly empty handed.  I pulled up, rolled down the windows and looked into his eyes for the first time. Need. My beautiful, brown skinned baby looked the middle aged white man right in the eyes as she smiled and said, “We got you some food.”  Her eyes…love.

As we drove away, I took a deep breath, and looked back at my girl who represented Jesus– to both the beggar and me– as she sat beaming.

“Mom!  That was awesome (her limbs all jittery with excitement again), it is just so amazing to get to help another, right?”

Yes baby.  Thanks for teaching mama today…

 

The Picture

Maybe it was the infertility struggles, maybe it was naiveté, or maybe it was just a really good sugar high from too much cake, but there was a time when I held the lofty certainty that I could be the perfect parent.  I know what you are thinking, “perfect, really?” Well, no, I didn’t process my thoughts in my mid-twenties with that verbiage but let’s just be real, that was the burning desire– I was never one to be content with average performance.  So imagine my horror to find that I could indeed be the crappy parent I promised God I would never be.

I can still remember the moment my therapist said the words, her legs crossed as she pressed down the pleat of her pants, her top painted in warm inviting hues–really her very personage being akin to a warm, soft sweater on a cold, rainy day–safe and inviting– “What about being a good-enough parent?

I could feel the veins in my temple start to throb as the color rushed to my face and I found myself giving the armchair an undeserved death grip while I willed my fingers into its yellow flesh.  What the heck was she saying? Her calmness was disarming and infuriating. How dare she

Would that be ok?” she asked, and I found myself wanting to cuss at her and I really didn’t understand why.

NO! That would not be ok, why would that ever be ok– in a million years, no. Did she not understand my love and devotion to my children? Did she not understand that it was up to me to give them a perfect childhood? To make up for any brokenness that some of them had started life out with? To be Mr. Rogers, Martha-frickin-Stewart and Mother Teresa all wrapped into one? My kids deserved a mother that did it all perfectly and I just needed her to understand her dang job was to FIX ME. As the words rolled off my tongue and touched air for the very first time the light began to dawn, illuminating all the brokenness to my thoughts.

You are wanting to be a perfect mom, but is perfection truly possible?” she said, calmly shifting her hands in her lap as she grabbed her mug to take a sip of her tea.

Oh. Ohhhhhhhh. Dang it. Dang her.  How dare she? Why was I angry with her?  The depth of this depravity was not her doing but she was the one bold enough to point the stage light toward the steaming pile of crap.

Where did that leave me? What would this mean? If what she said was true then I don’t understand the mommy-hood picture I am aiming for anymore. 

The picture.  The picture of the perfect mum.  I knew immediately that this perfect picture hung in my head needed to burn.  It was all a lie. A mirage. It was also a means of torment. The yardstick by which I would measure myself every dang day and find myself failing.  But how could I not fail? I had set myself up for no other option.

Perfection isn’t possible.  The enormous pressure perfection burns into one’s shoulders actually breaks the barer. Yet, I ran after it like it was the great prize that determines my every worth and the entire fate of my children.

Snap.  There it is.  The why. If I do it all right then I will earn my motherhood honor badge and have avoided all the struggles and all the pain and all the problems that could befall my children, ever.  The picture in my head, haunting all my moments and reprimanding me like a brutal taskmaster every time I fell short. That impossible dang picture. The lie.

I sat in my therapist’s office, broken–not because of all the hard circumstances I was trudging through (like I thought)–but because of all the lies that lay buried beneath it all like a festering wound eating away at my spirit.  So, as the tears streamed down my blotchy red face I vowed to understand what good-enough parenting looked like and I finally let the fire burn the perfect picture away.

The freedom…

Good-enough parenting:  Where you work at getting it right a bit more than you jack it up, you deal with your crap and model that process for your kids, and fall heavily into grace in the midst of “I’m sorry’s.”  It is a messy place full of learning about love, compassion, and forgiveness. It keeps showing up, pressing in, holding onto peace and running after the truth that leads to freedom. And, knowing that when all else fails, there is always therapy.