The morning alarm on my phone buzzed at me, and I groaned loudly as I peeled myself off of our couch. I had spent the night downstairs, surrounding myself in a heated blanket (is this really May weather?!) and wrapping our shiatsu massager around my shoulders and neck. Pain kept me mostly awake or almost eerily foggy for the better part of the night, and I was unprepared for morning to arrive.
None of my family are morning people, and while I was once an early riser, cancer has changed me into someone who slides out from under covers begrudgingly. This morning was worse than usual, and I found myself frenzied as I tried to get the children ready for school.
Trudging upstairs, I woke my family, standing in the boys’ room threatening no breakfast if they didn’t get out of bed. Yep. It was one of my golden moments this morning.
I made my way to the kitchen, pulling coffee out of cherry cabinets, and eyeing the empty pizza boxes on the counter guiltily–yet one more example of my ineptitude as a mother, unable to provide healthy food for my family. I grumbled inwardly as I threw together wholesome cereal and whole wheat bagels and fresh fruit, calling the children for breakfast late. No one came. Two were still in bed. One was just slow moving. Finally they all sat at the table for a few moments, scarfing down their food while I ordered them like a drill sergeant on the day’s activities.
“No, you’re out of time to finish breakfast, go brush your teeth!”
“You want what with your hair this morning? Nope. Gonna be just a ponytail!”
“Come ON! Stop petting that dog and go comb your hair!”
“Seriously? THAT’S the lunch you packed last night? That’s a snack not a lunch!”
I fussed and fretted, angry at how disorganized and crazed our morning had become. “I’m so over this.” rang through my mind over and over and over.
I sent one out the door fighting back tears. Their tears. Not mine. “Mom, I tried. I’m just so slow in the mornings.”
I still hugged them. Still kissed cheeks. Still told them of my love.
And as I stood at the window with Coopy Doop and waved goodbye, my heart sank as I remembered the words I had just read out loud to my Brian the night before.
Of course we began to run late. Of course my voice became more shrill. My eyes more than a little wild…I did all the things mothers know not to do, and I watched myself do them. But the worst were the words themselves, the words I yelled at a little boy with freckles on his nose…If it had been any other day, I would have pulled myself together soon after his school bus arrived. I would have planned my afternoon apology and gone one with my day. But not long after my first-grader climbed the steps to his bus, his face a mess of freckles and tears, something terrible happened in a first-grade classroom at Sandy Hook Elementary School. This same afternoon, not so very far away, there would be empty seats on school buses. There would be mothers and fathers who would never again say, “I’m sorry. I love you.” (~Christie Purifoy, Roots & Sky)
I sunk to the floor next to my pup and cried, tears of conviction, not a guilt-filled hopelessness or fear, but of the realization that I had hurt my children this morning. I know I am not a perfect mother and I fail them often. I know I place high and unrealistic expectations on myself and I am learning how to give grace to them and to me.
I also know I spent my morning more concerned with feeding their bodies than with feeding their souls.
And as I think of my child, head bent low and shoulders hunched as they ducked into the car with Brian this morning, I am struck with how deeply they need their souls fed. Do they need discipline and guidance? Yes. But it needs to be loving discipline and patient guidance. And even more so, they need to know that even when they fail, they are loved.
This parenting thing is hard. I know, that’s not a very deep statement, but it’s true. These good gifts God has entrusted to me, am I wooing their hearts to Jesus? Am I raising arrows secure enough in who they are to fly far and true in this world when the time comes? Am I more concerned with what goes into their bodies than what fills their heart and mind? Am I showing them how desperate I am for Jesus in this life? Because, I tell you what, doing it on my own just. ain’t. pretty.
Each moment is full of the need of grace. And I fail far more than I succeed, but failing does not make me a failure.
I’ve written before:
Yes, this parenting thing is hard, but if it were not hard, it would not be parenting.
This parenting thing is not convenient, but if it were convenient, it would not be parenting.
These children are gifts no matter how difficult parenting them may be. Difficulty does not diminish the goodness of God. It only increases my dependency on Him and His goodness.
That is how parenting can come. Through Him. Because of Him and His grace. That is only how I can give grace.
It is only when I am not dependent on Him that the lens through which I view my children blurs and cracks and distorts.
But when I look at them through His eyes I see them clearly. The way I need to see them. The way I want to see them. As gifts. And I beg God for wisdom and strength. For grace and love. Because I so desperately need Him and so do my children.
And so I wait for their return today, for time to hug long and hard, to snuggle in this chilly old home, to repent and ask forgiveness, to help with homework and feed them healthy snacks, to do our chores and take breaks together…
to feed and be fed.