Wednesday, April 09, 2008

A Rainy Day

I woke up this morning thinking, "T. S. Eliot was right. April really is the cruelest month." It's cold and gray and rainy here. AGAIN. That immediately put a damper on my spirits as did the fact that the girls were up at 6:30 a.m. and ready to bicker over some doll clothes. And bicker over Cinderella underwear (which is funny since only one of them even wears underwear). And bicker over magic markers. Are you seeing a theme here?

I came downstairs to check the paper online (usually the news is so depressing to me that I just skip to the 7-day weather forecast. Which is also depressing right now.) Then I checked some of my favorite blogs and came across this post from Alysa at Little Things in Life. I laughed and laughed--definitely one of those "It's funny because it's true" things.

Sometimes I read this parenting guy, John Rosemond, and I certainly don't agree with all he says, but he's got some good advice. But one thing he said made me almost throw his book in the garbage and it was that today's parents are such whiners about how parenthood is hard. It's not hard at all! Yeah, I'm guessing he didn't let his wife proof that copy before it went to the publisher.

Parenthood is hard. Not only is it hard labor physically, it tests every single area of your life. You thought you were patient? (Well, I never did, but some people might have.) Not anymore. Alysa wrote about the frustration of her daughter insisting on tying her shoes even though they were late for school, and I felt like screaming out loud with impatience just reading it. Hypothetically, of course I want my children to learn all their skills and be independent. But every time I hear "My do it MYSELF!" or "Mom, I can do it, I promise I can" I just feel like groaning because I know we're going to be here for ages. It's like, not only are they putting on their shoes and socks, they're doing it underwater. Using chopsticks. While I shift from one foot to the other thinking, HURRY UP. GET IT DONE.

In addition to taking care of the children, there are all the mundane tasks around our house. Cleaning the bathroom. Changing the sheets. Sweeping the kitchen floor 782 times a day. My personal nemesis, laundry. It is NEVER done.

I was a missions major at Moody Bible Institute. Specifically, urban ministries. I served as a voluntary staff member at an inner city church. Several days a week I went into one of the worst ghettos in Chicago and served--co-running a tutoring program, teaching Sunday School and children's clubs, mentoring high school students--even though it could get very discouraging there, it was a fantastic, challenging, life-changing experience. I have a heart for stuff like that. Right now, I'd love to go to South Africa and work at God's Golden Acre. I'd love to go to Russia and Ukraine, working with adoption agencies. I'd love to go to China and do...whatever. Sign me up.

What I would not like to do is go fold my laundry and referee bickering. Yet oddly enough, right now that is what I am called to do. Sometimes I think, "Where's my ministry? How am I going to get that 'Well done, good and faithful servant' if I'm not really doing anything important?" Then I am brought up short by a quote I have memorized from this: "Look around the breakfast table. There's your ministry."

There is a book I go to again and again for help and encouragement. It's called "Stepping Heavenward" by Elizabeth Prentiss. It's a journal that was written in the 1800s and covers the life of a woman from her 16th birthday until she is near death in her 40s. I can hardly believe it was written that long ago because each time I read it, I think I wrote it myself this morning. She writes of the grueling work of being a wife and mother and keeper of a house, all while "stepping heavenward." One of my favorite parts is near the end, where she makes an astonishing discovery.

"Instead of fancying that our ordinary daily work was one thing and our religion quite another thing, we would transform our acts of drudgery into acts of worship...'I only wish I had understood this years ago,' I said, 'I have made prayer too much of a luxury and have often inwardly chafed and fretted when the care of my children made it utterly impossible to leave them for private devotion. I have reasoned this way: Here is a special demand on my patience, and I am naturally impatient. I must have time to go away and entreat the Lord to equip me for this conflict. But I see now that the simple act of cheerful acceptance of the duty imposed and the solace and support withdrawn would have united me more fully to Christ than the highest enjoyment of His presence in prayer could."

More than anything, I want to put this into practice. It is hard. I want to do exciting things for Jesus, not some of the cruddy junk He's given me to do. But I have to take a look at myself and wonder why I want to do those exciting things. For me? So I feel good? So I get some glory? So I feel I have accomplished something?

Here's my earnest desire: when I am frustrated with my children, I pray for the grace to speak loving words to them and show them the right way to act. When I am faced with all the chores and responsibilities that are unappealing to me, I want the grace to think, "As much as I love these people around me, my family, I'm not living for them. I'm living for You. If washing this floor brings You glory, then that's how I'm going to wash it!"

So yeah, this is a rainy day. We're stuck indoors. In fact, I've got to stop writing soon because I hear some screaming upstairs. Then I need to clean my kitchen. And I think 3/4 of our clothes are lying on the laundry room floor, waiting to be folded. But I've been listening to this great song, and I think I'll sing it while I'm working:

Bring me joy, bring me peace
Bring the chance to be free
Bring me anything that brings You glory
And I know there'll be days when this life gives me pain
But if that's what it takes to praise You:
Jesus, bring the rain


Alysa said...

Great post - love your thoughts from your heart. We are SO in this same season together, aren't we?
You're refreshing, my friend. Thanks for the encouraging words - needed them today! funny that you mention laundry - i just took some pictures of my unfolded laundry and am about to do a little post on it --- never finished, is it!

jack said...

Outstanding Alice! That takes guts to say/write that - may I be so bold to view things that way as well.

Alice said...

Thanks guys, for your very kind comments. And welcome, Jack, to Guilford Road! :-)