Well. I sit typing this after telling my children through very clenched teeth that if either of them so much as coughs from their beds again tonight they will spend the rest of tomorrow in their room, alone, without Leap Pads or toys or books or food or water. I just had my bathroom time interrupted, twice. My shower interrupted, twice. My pajama-clad body dragged out to the car to pull out the stroller where my oldest child was CERTAIN he had left his stuffed monkey and searched the entire car only to find him sitting in plain sight on the counter where I JUST TOLD HIM TO LOOK.
My day began with the sweetest, most fruitful time in the Word and in prayer. I woke up extra early - by accident - and decided to just stay up and spend some extra time sitting at the feet of Jesus. The Holy Spirit must have been speaking to my heart while I slept. He knew how much I would need the wisdom and presence and power of those quiet moments together.
Because let me tell you, this day went off the rails. And it ended in a train wreck of seething frustration, angry words, and tears on both sides of my boys' bedroom door.
Lucas was impossible today. There's just no nice way to say it. He was thoroughly unpleasant from the minute he woke up. Whining and grumbling and dragging his feet as I tried to sweetly and gently coax him to get dressed, brush his teeth, eat his breakfast, let's help Mommy today dear boy, it's barely 9:00 and I already don't like you. Eli put on the charming Crankypants McAttitude persona that's he's recently adopted - so darling - and my reliably sweet, easy-going baby was not. having. it. today. None of it. But we had to run a couple of errands, as much as I just wanted to stay home. Had to. So I promised them: One stop at the cleaners. Just a drop off, I'll park right in front, you can wait in the car. One stop at Safeway, and we're getting three things. Not "three things that are really ten things I forgot we needed" but an actual three items.
So no, we're not going to ride in a cart. Not the delightful too-small-but-you-still-insist-on-squeezing-in-and-then-wrestling-and-fighting-the-whole-time kiddie cart. Not even a regular cart so that you can ride on the sides no matter how many times I tell you to GET DOWN. No cart. Luke, do you hear me? No cart. Luke? Luuuuke?? Say, "Yes, mommy, I will not ask for a cart." Ok? We're agreed? We're agreed. No cart.
We got five feet into Safeway before Lucas gave me his first, "I want a little cart, Mama." I gently reminded him that no, today we are not going to get a little cart. We only need three things.
He shrugged, and said, "Oh, okay," and proceeded to help me find and carry our three items to the checkout and out of the store in under five minutes. The man stocking produce smiled at my cute kids and the woman in the bread aisle commented on their good behavior, and the cashier gave them extra stickers because they were so sweet and helpful to mommy.
In my mind, I mean. In my mind, that's what happened when I calmly suggested that we didn't need a cart for our three actual items.
In reality, I was Nazi Germany, and Lucas proceeded to yell, sobbing, at the top of his lungs, "I WANT A LITTLE CAAAAARRRRT!!" at least seventy-five times in the fifteen minutes it took me to drag him - yes, clinging to my leg - around the store, yell at Eli (in my best "Nothing to see here, folks!" voice) to get-two-lemons-not-limes-for-the-fifteenth-time, ignore the produce man's aghast face, the disapproving glare of the woman in the bread aisle, and the audible "Wow" of the cashier who scurried away from us as quickly as she could, and get out to the car to just about throw him into his seat and shut the door in his pitiful face.
And then he cried for twenty-five minutes straight. Over a little cart.
The entire way home, I prayed. Out loud. For him, for me, over our car, over the kids, over the cashier, over the whole mess. I practiced speaking the name of Jesus out loud, again and again. I turned the worship music up and sang praises when I wanted to yell expletives to the back seat. And God rewarded my faithfulness with the sweetest time of making up and cuddling and with Lucas taking a much-needed two hour nap.
In my mind, I mean. :)
In reality, he didn't take well to his spanking and he snotted all over me during the cuddling and then he WOULD NOT NAP no matter what I did. And the day just went downhill from there. Eli wouldn't stop whining and arguing and breaking little rules right and left. Maddie teethed and fussed and cried and fell and apparently broke her neck because she cried like a person who has broken their neck. This week is insanely busy, with a family wedding and a trip to Idaho coming up, and I just had so much to do today. I knew I needed to stop and give them the attention they both needed, and I really tried. I set them up with the hose and popsicles and Eli sprayed the hose directly through the screen door and all over the dining room. I took a break when I couldn't really afford to and hauled them down to ride their bikes in their favorite neighborhood spot. Where Luke's tire immediately went flat and his chain fell off and I could not fix it. By the time Ben got home, I got everybody fed, and finally got out the door for my run at 7:30 with Lucas, again, wailing after me... I felt cheated.
I had started my day the way I was supposed to. I had responded to my son's insane tantrum with calm and gentle grace. I was doing diligent work and pouring everything I had into my children and family and home from dawn. I went running when I just wanted to crash because I need to stay disciplined in my training. I did it all right today. And it went so, so wrong.
Here's the truth, girls - some days just suck. Yeah, yeah, in even the worst days we can find little moments of joy and beauty and things to put in our "ten thousand gifts" journals. But some days are just overwhelming rotten. Everyone is working against us, and no matter what we do, we end up feeling like colossal failures.
I think on those days, like this day, it is more important than ever to press in. Get alone with God. Get on your knees, on your face, in the Word, and seek Him. Be diligent when you're too exhausted to be. Be obedient when it is the absolute hardest thing to obey. Be thankful and sing praises when every fiber of your being just wants to scream and curse and run away. And I know, it can be so, so hard. Staying faithful when everything goes wrong and is unfair, when your hormones and emotions and relationships and chaos are just too much to bear. Following Jesus is no guarantee of easy days with fairy-tale endings. His work in us and through us is bigger and better than just good feelings for the here-and-now. "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all (2 Cor 4:17)."
As I set off on my run tonight, I turned up some worship music (although really I just wanted some, like, death metal or something, to express my simmering rage). I charged up my killer neighborhood hill and spouted off my righteous indignation that I had done everything right today and wasn't He supposed to honor that? Where was the reward for being such a good and faithful servant (and a humble one, obviously)? As I crested the hill, an incredible sunset took my breath away (it may have been asthma, but go with me), and I heard the climax of a favorite song - "At the top of my lungs I will sing Hallelujah" - and heard Him so clearly. "Stop. See this? This kind of indescribable glory of pinks and oranges and blues and puffy clouds and just downright Heaven? Here's your reward for today: You get to live, and breathe, and run, and witness some of my best work. Great job today, really. Now go home and be nice to your children."
So I did. And I was. Until the bathroom thing. :)