A Day in the Life

“Wow! You’ve got your hands full!”

I smile and nod as I manuever my way through the waiting room, lugging the infant carrier, trying not to knock the people I pass in the head or shoulder. I watch as the older three attack the play area, praying that there’s no fights or trips to the potty in the near future.

“How do you do it?”

Laughing away the question I make my way through Target. Ezra is in the shopping cart seat, Cora is in the cart itself and Eli pushes Silas in the stroller next to me. I try to get our necessities before Silas starts crying or Cora stands up in the cart, prompting a comment from someone about the danger of standing up in a cart (as if I wasn’t aware — they’re quick when your back is turned).

::

Daily I get curious remarks about life with four small children. People look at us in awe (and fear) when we enter a store, office or restaurant. We never got that response with three children…it’s like having the one more tipped us over the edge into looneyville and people don’t know how to relate to us anymore.

A rare picture of the four together...

I know I have a lot of children. I wanted a lot of children (and for those of you who knew me in 2007 when my opinion was slightly different, I beg you would stay silent). These are the children God had for us.

I think that I try to make it look easier than it is. There are many motives behind this:

  1. People already think I’m crazy, so it would be nice to trick them into thinking I’m handling this with ease.
  2. If I let people know what’s really going on there’s the fear that they would run screaming or call the authorities (not really).
  3. I’m prideful.

Yup, #3 is the kicker. I want to appear capable and in control. But, in the spirit of being transparent (something us Christians really like — in others), I thought I’d let you in on what my days as a SAHM of four children really look like.

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Right now Silas is waking up at midnight, 2 AM and 5 AM. Frequently I wake up to nurse him and then fall asleep in our chair in the living room, which means that I wake up in time to put him back in bed, crawl in my own bed and sleep horizontally for 45 minutes before he’s awake again. This does not result in a restful night’s sleep.

By the time I wake up in the morning all three older children are awake. Eli, at 6-years-old, is able to get cereal for himself and, if he’s in a generous mood, he might get some for his siblings. Picture half a box of Cheerios strewn about the kitchen table and floor.

My secret mommy weapon right now is Phineas and Ferb. I’ll confess, my kids watch a lot of TV. During this nursing, newborn stage it’s hard for them not to. I’m trapped in a chair in the living room and if they’re watching TV I know they’re not causing trouble. We tried coloring, games, books and playing in their rooms — all of which ended in fighting, making messes and hurting each other. TV is safe and quiet. I like safe and quiet.

Lunchtime. We pretty much have three choices: PB&J, chicken nuggets or leftovers. These are my options too. Because if I try to make something else for myself the kids will immediately drop whatever food I’ve just prepared for them and loudly explain to me that they really wanted my food but didn’t know we had it. So I eat a lot of PB&Js.

After lunch is nap time, every parents favorite time of day. I explain to them that they’re not to get out of bed or talk or sing or play with Barbies or make a tent with the sheets or get up to go to the bathroom every 15 minutes or any of the other crazy things they come up with not to sleep. But they’re creative and I can’t always cover everything.

Have you noticed at this point that I have yet to take a shower or get ready for the day? Because that usually happens around 2:30 or 3 pm. As I write this I haven’t put in my contacts, I haven’t taken a shower and my blinds are still closed. What do the blinds have to do with anything? Well, I live at a church that has a daycare downstairs. I don’t want the daycare teachers to see that everyday my children and myself remain in our pajamas until 1 pm…because what’s the point in dressing them if we’re just going to be in the house? That would mean more laundry and my laundry machines are downstairs in the garage and they cost me money.

After I’ve showered and gotten properly dressed, I open the blinds and tackle the previous night’s dishes in the sink and PB&J confetti on the kitchen floor that Ezra makes instead of eating. The afternoon is spent in restoring the house to some sort of order. If the kids’ rooms have started to spill out into the hallway I’ll tell them to clean their rooms.

Another moment of honesty: Sometimes I just need a break. These breaks include hiding in the bathroom, hiding in my bedroom or sending them to their rooms to clean (because I know it will take them awhile).

I try to have dinner started before Josh gets home…this happens about 45% of the time. Silas has decided that 5:30 is when he’s hungriest, so I’m usually nursing when Josh walks in the door. What a wonderful husband I have, he comes home and helps me with dinner and the kids as soon as he gets here!

After dinner Josh has been taking the older three downstairs to play while I clean up the kitchen and/or nurse the baby again. Then it is back upstairs for everyone as we brush teeth, put on PJs and say prayers. By 8:30 or 9 PM the older three are in bed and Josh and I are finally able to spend some time together.

I relish that evening time and it goes by so quickly. Before I know it the clock reads 11 PM and I sense the futility of getting in bed just to be awoken in an hour by Silas.

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So here’s the truth. I do have my hands full. And I don’t do it all.

My house in constantly in shambles. My children are usually in different stages of dress (or undress). I wish I could say I walk with them to the park each day for a picnic lunch after we’ve had our morning devotional and worship time. But…this is my life right now. I’m not particularly happy about the TV and crazy schedules, but it’s working for us.

Eli starts kindergarten in three weeks and then life will require more of a routine. I like routine, so I think this will be a good thing for us.

And my response to the question, “How do I do it?”

By the grace of God alone…

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain…

I Corinthians 15:10a

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Not because you told me to

Mrs. Piggle Wiggle always knew what to do.

Parents would come to her, looking for a cure for their “thought-you-saiders” and “slow-eater-tiny-bite-takers.” At the end of each chapter the child was cured.

It was like a literary sitcom.

Recently I feel like I’ve contracted one of the ailments from the book, I am an Answer-Backer.

An other-wise sweet little girl comes home one day with an obstinate streak. When her parents tell her to do something, her reply is: “I’ll do it because I want to, but not because you tell me to.”

“I’ll do it because I want to…”

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go;

I will counsel you with My eye upon you.” (Ps 32:8)

Over the past couple of weeks God’s been talking to me about making a change in an area of my life…a place I had not fully submitted myself to Him and His will. Interestingly enough, there’s also been an increase in “chatter” about this topic in my little corner of the world.

Online. At church. With friends. In books I’m reading. I can’t seem to get away from it.

At first I took it as confirmation of what God was showing me in my personal times with Him. Then it got annoying. I was open to the change, but now I feel like I’m being forced into a change.

“…but not because you tell me to.”

What is it about being told to do something that raises the hackles on the neck?

Pride? Obstinacy? Fear?

I don’t know about you, but for me it’s even worse when it’s something I was already planning on doing.

I have a bad case of “I’ll do it because I want to, but not because you tell me to.” In fact, it’s almost become “I’m not going to do it, only because you told me I need to.”

“Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding,

Whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check,

Otherwise they will not come near to you.” (Ps 32:9)

I know that what God’s calling me to will only lead to better things in my life. I know that He always has my best interest in mind. Even more, I have no objection to making this change…just to people thinking they’re the cause of it.

Ouch! That hurt to admit.

Basically it comes down to pride. However, if I allow that stubbornness to rule me, to block growth God has initiated, then I am really only hurting myself.

“Many are the sorrows of the wicked,
But he who trusts in the LORD, lovingkindness shall surround him.

Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous ones;

And shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart.” (Ps 32:10-11)

Ok…I’ll take a cue from Mrs. Piggle Wiggle and remember that it’s rude to answer back…even more so when you’re answering back to God.

I’ll swallow my pride and make this change in my life, even if other people feel like they’re the reason for it. I need to allow others to hold me accountable, whether I’ve asked for it or not. The result will only lead to me becoming a more effective tool for His purposes.

I will trust Him, be glad in Him, and rejoice that He’s bringing about growth in me.

holy experience

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It’s Not About Me

Courtesy of photobucket.com

The truth is,

God gives you wisdom and direction and morality and His presence and support,

and then asks you to live, to conquer, to risk and experience the whole of life.

People grow when they are in motion.

- Donald Miller

Recently Bonnie Gray over at Faith Barista passed on a challenge from Donald Miller’s blog (did you follow that?).

“What if”

…within limits, the question What if? can radically change our story and our lives. – Donald Miller

The challenge was to come up with 5 “What if” questions for our own life. Bonnie then asked us to follow through with one of those questions and to blog about it today as part of her Faith Barista Jam.

So, what if…

  • I actually trusted God with our finances instead of only turning to Him in times of need?
  • we became full-time missionaries?
  • I wrote a book?
  • I got my Masters?
  • I believed that God could use me now, instead of at some distant point when I’ve got it all figured out?

Wanna know something? This was hard for me.

I’ve always seen myself as a dreamer. In my marriage I’m the one who comes up with the crazy schemes (e.g., move to another state with a 2-year-old, six-week-old and no assurance of work or insurance?) However, I’m also very logical and knowing that I’d have to implement one of these in a weeks time made it harder.

That’s why I picked the last one to talk about today. Because I haven’t actually done anything about it. I’ve thought about it a lot and asked myself questions about it:

  • How would I act differently?
  • What am I holding myself back from doing?
  • What does this say about my relationship with God & my view of Him?

Although there hasn’t been any tangible change in my behavior, my attitude has taken a beating.

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. – 2 Cor. 12:9

I was under the impression that in order for God to use me I needed to have something to give; some wisdom, insight, process to impart that would enlighten others and encourage them. Here’s the problem with that…

It’s not about me.

My ministry, my life, my giftings should all point back to God.

For who regards you as superior ? What do you have that you did not receive ? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? – 1 Cor. 4:7

During my senior year of high school I got a vision of myself speaking in front of a crowd. I felt that this was in response to my prayers for direction for my future, but I also dismissed it because I felt like it was really arrogant. Who was I going to speak to and what did I have to say that anyone would want to hear?

Over the last decade that image has recurred in my mind’s eye, but each time I pushed it aside as prideful and not really from Him. This last year, as I’ve discovered the joy of connecting with others through writing, I’ve dusted off that image and thought, “Maybe.” Still I felt like it was for the future, for a distant time when a wiser, more self-assured Melissa would replace the me of today.

What if it’s not? What if God could use me now, in my imperfection, when it’s even more to His glory?

Like I said, I haven’t acted on this other than to see a shift in my perspective. I don’t actually even know how to move forward in this. One major thing has happened because of this challenge though: I will no longer shrink away from opportunities that might be presented to me. Even more, I will be alert, eagerly anticipating God’s hand moving me forward in this area: writing, speaking, connecting with others…all for His glory.

What are your what ifs?

Wanna take the challenge with me?

Leave a comment below with your 5 questions,

then head over to the Faith Barista Jam & see what changes

God is doing in others as they ask themselves, “What if?”

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