It's been one of those weekends that makes me think I should start putting money away for the counseling my kids are going to need years from now, as a result of my horrific parenting.
I know I'm exaggerating, but it's been a very trying weekend. This morning was particularly hard, as every little thing was a battle with the girls. I believe the enemy really targets Sunday mornings, and it sure was the case around here. I was so ugly with my girls, and I'm not proud to admit it. I was so glad to finally be at church this morning, even if I did arrive late. I guess it's no surprise that God orchestrated that Pastor Tom was reading this verse just as I walked in: "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger" (Proverbs 15:1). He followed it with, "Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing" (Proverbs 12:18). Ouch. Pretty convicting.
Fast forward a few hours.
This afternoon I decided to take the plunge and go back to the Crocs sale to get Addie another pair. To my delight, there was NO LINE to get in. I learned my lesson the other day and decided this time to carry Brody in my baby sling instead of the stroller. It was a wise move! We had to park a few blocks away and walk along a fairly busy street to get there, and despite the Scripture I heard this morning, I was quite short and snippy with my girls. I snapped at Addie more than once about holding my hand and staying on the sidewalk. I repeatedly growled at Emma to stay on the sidewalk and quit running ahead and climbing on rocks. As we approached the warehouse, an officer who was directing traffic said, "Wow! You've got quite a crew there!" Afterall, I had Brody in the sling and was trying to hold the girls' hands on either side. We probably looked more like a sideshow than shoppers. I laughed with him and said, "Yeah, I'm either brave or stupid!" (And then I cringed... why would I say that? And why would I say 'stupid' in front of my girls? It's off limits!) He laughed and we kept walking.
When we came out some time later, he stopped me and said, "You're strong." I said, "Excuse me?" He said, "You're not brave or stupid. You're strong!"
I really had to think about it, but it really encouraged me. I'm sure he didn't mean it the way I took it, but immediately I felt humbled. I am strong. Why? The joy of the Lord is my strength, that's why. And in my frustrations, I lose sight of that so quickly.
I've been thinking about his encouragement all day.
I've been so irritated with myself lately when I allow my frustrations and pride get in the way of laughing at the funny things my kids do or softening my tone with them. I find I don't want to play silly games with them or have fun, but instead let myself get burdened by being a grown up and having such important things to do, or holding grudges against them for not obeying. Where's the joy? I even noticed over the weekend that the sparkle that used to be in Addie's eyes seems gone. Her sparkle has been replaced with a whole bunch of whining. Am I to blame? I can't help but think so. I'm sure my bad attitude is rubbing off on them, and that makes me so sad. I've got to snap out of it.
Years ago I programmed my phone to display Philippians 4:4 when I turn it on: "Rejoice in the Lord always!" ALWAYS. ALWAYS. Not just when the girls obey. Not just when Gary's in town. Not just if we make it through an entire meal without spilled milk. ALWAYS. The joy of the Lord can only give me strength if I have it! Last week's joy might not carry over to today. I've got to rejoice ALWAYS.
So tomorrow, I'm turning over a new leaf. I'm going to reclaim the joy I feel like I've lost, mostly when it comes to the way I parent. I'll still have to discipline and be the "bad guy" in the midst of it, but I'm no longer going to be expecting it and be grumpy until it happens. If I'm going to be any good at this mommy thing, I've got to rely on the Lord's strength to get me through, and I've got to start by seeking out the joy that is mine through Him.
Habakkuk 3:17-18 says it all:
Though Emma doesn't make her bed
and Addie doesn't make it to the potty,
though Brody spits up
and Emma spits on her sister,
though Addie whines and complains
and Brody cries and cuts teeth,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
(What? Your version doesn't say it like that?)
I have so much to rejoice about; I can't stay in this grumpified state forever. And if I have joy, I'll have His strength! And if I have His strength, I can make it through these long mommy days.
I might even look back and miss it. I hope so.