Confessions of an angry mom, part 1

Today I had the privilege of being part of a panel discussion on the topic of “Nurturing Emotional Health as a Mom” with our church’s moms’ ministry, entitled (appropriately) “Nurture.” I learned so much from my preparation as well as from my fellow panelists. And so I wanted to share here part of what I shared today, in hopes that you too will know (1) you are not alone (2) God meets you (3) you can change. I am experiencing all of that and more in this journey. A journey of “imperfect progress” to quote Lysa TerKeurst in Unglued.

Anger and fear/anxiety are often two sides of a coin. They are two responses to feeling out of control and two ways to seek to regain control. I have lived in both places, and I often still do. Anxiety used to be my prevalent and familiar emotional response to out-of-control situations, like a pending job transition or move, pregnancy with twins, bed rest while pregnant with twins due to preterm labor, trying to feed newborn twins, and the run-of-the-mill daily issues like budget, income, and people pleasing. Anger I was not so familiar with from the inside out. Until my precious daughters reached about 18 months, when they began turning from babies with predominantly physical neediness of me to toddlers with extreme emotional demands of me and a huge emotionality of their own that they brought to each day. I began losing it in angry outbursts, almost but not quite as frequently as they would erupt in a toddler temper tantrum. It became as if we would set each other off. I felt out of control and at the end of my emotional resources. Completely, utterly drained, with no hope until preschool of any relief or refreshment. And I don’t know about you, but as often as I hear “it goes by so quickly!” and really want to believe that, it does not help me to get through these very draining days and weeks that feel as though they are eternal in length and demands.

My anger continued to increase, despite my best efforts at prayer, seeking help, trying to be more self-controlled. And I think that’s part of the problem. It’s not about me being self-controlled, but about me being more Spirit-controlled. I’m learning ways to manage heat-of-the-moment anger and seeking God to heal me of the roots of my sinful anger, preventative care of my heart and soul. My anger is often my temper tantrum against God. I began keeping an anger log – tracking the times when I got angry, what I did in response to what was happening around me, why I became angry – looking at what I wanted in that moment, and then seeking God’s help for biblical truth to fortify my heart.

I noticed the many ways that anger can manifest itself – not only the loud yelling or outbursts, but also criticism, sarcasm, a lingering bitterness or resentment. The object of my anger was not always the one(s) I was acting angry towards. Sometimes I was angry at myself for getting angry; other times I was feeling resentful towards my husband and directing it towards my kids; and yet other times I was upset with my kids but taking it out in an angry resentment towards my husband. Ultimately, I was angry with a God I viewed as controlling yet distant. Far from caring, compassionate, and intimately involved in my day to day battles as a mom to twin toddlers.

Some of the messages of my anger were:

  • “I don’t deserve this. I deserve better treatment, more respect, kids who listen to me, etc.”
  • “I feel so emotionally overwhelmed that I don’t know what else to do.”
  • “I need a break”
  • “You’re getting in the way of what I want.” [Usually peace and quiet and kids who can self-parent – to quote Paul Tripp in his parenting series “Getting to the Heart of Parenting.”]
  • “You are not meeting my expectations.”
  • “I feel helpless to gain control of you.”
  • “CALM ME DOWN!” This last one I am indebted to Hal Runkel’s book, ScreamFree Parenting for, in which he discusses the need to take responsibility for my reactions toward my kids. Saying “you make me angry” just isn’t true. I get angry when others get in the way of what I want/think I deserve/expect in the moment.

I began with a lot of repentance, first toward God (the real target of my anger), then my husband (who would sometimes get fired upon), and most often, my daughters. Who, though often the ones seemingly triggering my anger, were the ones I sinned against in my angry yelling at them and out-of-control fly-off-the-handle moments. I talked to friends, honestly admitting my anger, asking for prayer, and finding that I wasn’t so alone as I thought I was. Hence this blog post, and our morning’s discussion, and each of you who find that this resonates with you. We are not alone! And that is the first and most important step in dealing with anger as a mom. Stay tuned for more in the next few days.


Want to read the rest of the series? Part 2 here, and part 3 here.

Joy in my “lot in life” (Ecclesiastes reflections)

I don’t know about you, but most of the time when I hear or utter the phrase, “It’s just my lot in life,” there is the connotation of reluctantly putting up with what one wishes she could change about her life. In reading through a rather obscure and not often studied book of Ecclesiastes this summer, I am realizing that I’ve got it all wrong. To realize that God has given me my lot in life is meant to bring joy. Why? Not because life is easy – far from it. Ecclesiastes clearly portrays the toil and burden of life that often feels vain and meaningless. Toil, vanity, “striving after the wind,” are popular refrains here. But the writer of Ecclesiastes is pushing into life, seeking to see if God entering the picture makes any difference to life on earth.

I’m only a few chapters in, but he’s already seeming to paint the tiniest bit of hope that yes, life feels futile and meaningless, until you acknowledge God as Creator and Giver of your lot in life. In fact, the ability to enjoy life is in and of itself a gift from God, whether one recognizes this or not. My lot in life – the portion God gives to each of us, which feels heavier and harder in some seasons than others – is given to me precisely to bring me the greatest joy possible. I agree that this sounds different, difficult, and incongruent with my daily experience. Especially because my daily experience of life is filled with many mundane and monotonous tasks. And yet –

To know God as giver will bring joy. There is no joy in my toil until I begin to accept “my lot in life” as something that’s divinely orchestrated not only for my good, but for my enjoyment. Could it be that this is what I too often miss in my focus on God’s sovereign arrangement of the world and my life? I forget that God arranges and orchestrates not just for his glory and my good, but for my joy. There is a joy in this day, in this week, in this month, in this year and in this season that God has arranged the details of my life to provide for me. And God will give me the ability to enjoy my toil and to find that joy.

If you’re finding this hard to believe, don’t take my word for it. Enjoy this passage from Ecclesiastes 5:18-20:

Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil – this is the gift of God. For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.

How my toddlers’ tantrums expose my own

Twin toddlers. Whew. Really it’s a whole new ball game, but then I think I’ve felt like that about every stage of having twins. The exhaustion never recedes completely, just shifts from one stage to the next. The good thing about this age is that they sleep really well and very predictably 95% of the time. Twelve hours at night; two-hour afternoon naps (at the same time). So I should be more physically rested. And I think I am most days. They’re also independent, so getting places is much easier now. They can walk down the stairs to the car; they can each crawl up into their car seats; they (usually) hold my hand when heading through a parking lot. The only things I have to remember to bring with us are diapers and lots of snacks. They eat on their own, so I place their food in front of them, and voila – anything that they are going to eat, they do on their own. No more of me feeding them. All of that is doubtless easier than the first six months when I remember days when I didn’t know how to find time to take a shower, much less anything else. It was survival mode.

But. The emotional drain of toddler twins is not to be underestimated. One tantrum at a time is bad enough, but two of them at the same time? Exhausting. And even if they’re not simultaneous, with two there is just more possibility that a tantrum will erupt at any given time. Yesterday when I was shopping at Bj’s Wholesale Club (my favorite store because they have grocery carts that fit two in, which are easy to navigate), I was looking through the yogurts trying to find one with an expiration date later than tomorrow. (I kid you not – there were none!) While I had my head in the cooler, I was interrupted by a shriek of pain from one twin and turned to see a familiar sight of the other twin clamping down on her arm. Yikes! What do you do then? One needed comfort; the other needed discipline; and we were in public and I was at the start of my shopping trip. So I forewent discipline (a topic for another time) and separated them, putting the victimized twin in the cart as a treat – with all of the other groceries. As you can imagine, this arrangement didn’t last very long since the twin in the cart was enjoying trying to open all of the familiar packages. “Nanas!” “Boo-berries!” “Crackers!” Whew … thankfully, this particular story ends well. I put them both next to each other; gave them another snack in hopes that they would eat that instead of biting one another; and we made it out without any further incidents. I feel like my days are characterized by what feels like endless moments such as this one.

Then I add my own frustration and anger to the mix, and it is not pretty. I remember moments when they were babies and were both crying and I would join in with my own tears. I feel like at this stage, it’s way too easy for me to join in with my adult tantrum as they tantrum. My tantrum looks much different. More socially acceptable (usually). I yell; I tell them to stop; I make empty threats hoping they’ll change; I pout until I get a break and count down the minutes until nap time, or Daddy’s arrival home, or bed time. Then I collapse in guilt and exhaustion and get angry at God for arranging days that feel like too much for me to handle. The truth is that these days are exactly what God’s arranged, and they are too much for me to handle. I need grace. I need grace to pray in the moment instead of getting angry. Grace to exercise Spirit-infused self-control instead of joining in their out-of-control tantrums. Grace to know when I need help and to ask for it. I’m learning; we’re learning; and I am glad for a community of friends and family to support all of us as we go through these days.

Jesus Encounters the Woman at the Well – or should I say, Target …

As our community group studies the book of John together, using the fabulous “good book series” by Tim Chester, we come to this week’s encounter about Jesus meeting “A Desperate Woman” (the Samaritan woman at the well, story found in John 4). Raise your hand if you qualify. Yes, I see those hands. One of the questions prompted me to reflect on how Jesus would address me. If Jesus encountered me, probably in the aisles of Target, and talked of living water, what would he point to as patterns where I seek satisfaction elsewhere? What’s my “if only” that I’m living out of? I share this hoping you will relate to this desperate woman and the Jesus who offers her true Life.

“Heather, look at what’s in your cart. You think that once you and your daughters are dressed well and once your home looks like the pages of Pottery Barn, you will be satisfied. You also think once your life is so-called ‘balanced’ (meaning you feel in control most of the time and have enough time to yourself), you’ll feel satisfied. You’ll be able to exhale when your relationships are conflict-free. Not so, my daughter. I watch you run yourself ragged and overspend trying to be satisfied and feel secure. Stop running. Rest in me, in the midst of the chaos of your days. Let me direct you. Live out of the inner satisfaction you’ve tasted before through my Spirit who dwells within you. Live out of the identity you have in me – you are mine; you’re beautiful; you’re more than ‘good enough.’ You’re righteous. Perfect. Complete. The Spirit is there to help you experience these realities, to believe I am true and deeply satisfying, to free you from places you run for temporary, fleeting satisfaction. Drink deeply of my living water. That’s right. You can start putting back most of what you’ve filled your cart with today. And I promise you’re not trading in joy – you will know it more deeply in me, as you always have.”

Life After Paci & Good Friday

Look at this big girl! You would never know that merely 15 days ago, we were bidding farewell to her beloved pacifier(s). It went so differently than I expected. The actual “paci-release party” turned out not quite as I envisioned it, as so many things in life. Instead of the poetic balloon release, the paci actually weighed down the balloon too much. And so the balloon floated down the stairs of our deck onto the sidewalk, where a few neighborhood dogs were circling for the kill – before I rescued the paci and told the neighborhood kids that no, now was not a good time to come over to play. We only lost one of the helium balloons, and the girls did not escape down the stairs of our back deck in all the chaos (though there were several near misses). We brought everyone and their balloons and paci inside, and Seth very unceremoniously threw away both pacifiers in the kitchen garbage can, telling Lucia that they were going “bye-bye” and she was a big girl now. I think she understood. At least until it was time to go to bed and she kept searching for one. That was the hardest part for me as her mom. I added a lengthy period of rocking instead, and she actually fell asleep without a fuss. Same with naps the next day. I was astounded.

But we have noticed the absence of our beloved pacifier in other, unexpected ways. Like the severity and frequency of tantrums in the week after its absence. Pretty unbelievable, and more than once, I wished along with Lucia that we had her favorite comfort object to help soothe her. She’s having to learn a new way to soothe herself, and so are we. I actually began to count the number of tantrums the girls have been having lately, because it seemed like a lot. And I wanted data to prove to myself that it really wasn’t a lot, or that maybe it was. Yesterday, the total was a very unimpressive 7. But today, we had a two-dozen tantrum day (and that doesn’t count the 2 hours I was at lunch with a friend). Yes, TWENTY-FOUR tantrums between the two girls. No wonder the days feel long sometimes. I was quite thankful for Seth’s presence at home with us today. We all needed him.

No coincidence that it’s Good Friday. I was hourly (no, more frequently) reminded that I need Jesus. I am not the good mom I want to be. I lose my patience when they lose their tempers. My emotions are not sanctified but reveal the many places of false refuge I go to rather than God. I lose it because I “need” peace and quiet, routine, space to think, predictability. I “deserve” all of this … and more. I choose not to follow the Spirit’s leading towards self-control, peace, love, but to indulge the flesh – the part of me that still wants to rebel against God. I pull it together in public. Just like my daughters, who were perfect angels at nursery tonight. The Savior they need is the Savior I need. The one whose death we remember today and whose death we feel in each little “death” to the flesh, each time we choose to die to what I want & think I deserve in order to live to God, to live to the Spirit in me. As I was reminded at our women’s retreat last weekend, we are united to Christ in his death, so it should be no surprise that there are times when resisting sin will feel like dying, too. If only I could attach my sin to a helium balloon and send it away forever. Oh, wait. It got nailed to a cross, taken on by the only innocent One, God’s beloved Son, and it is gone forever. Sin/death/the devil will NOT have the last word. We will celebrate that on Sunday. Praise God that Friday is Good and that Friday is not the end of The Story. Resurrection life is coming.

my in-town 2-hour mission trip

I have desired for a while now to have a chance to get out of my comfort zone (and, yes, my house!) in order to participate in some sort of justice and mercy ministry. When Lisa Mazzio (fellow counselor and psychologist at my church) asked me to join her in offering pro-bono counseling to the homeless served by Trinity during our week of hosting NEST [Norfolk Emergency Shelter Team], I jumped at the chance. I told Seth as I left last night that I felt both nervous and excited, and I half-seriously said that I was going on my mission trip. (A contrast to Seth who’s preparing for a 10-day mission trip to India in the spring.)

When I arrived and walked past crowds of men and women waiting to get in (certainly much more than the 50 who would be selected by lottery), I felt guilty for breezing past in my new boots and the 4-year-old winter coat I’d secretly complained about for being “old” and “unfashionable.” Seeing true poverty has a way of putting petty fashion complaints into perspective.

As I served these people dinner,  looking in their faces and putting a plate of food in front of them, I felt a part of me come alive that’s been dormant for a while. This is Christ in me, who loves the “least of these” (by the world’s standards), who delights in offering a cup of cold water to the thirsty, a plate of food to the hungry, a warm shelter on a cold night to those without. And yet it seemed like so little! For just a week, our church hosts them, and for barely 12 hours a night. How much of a difference could that really make? And that is a reason why we must have faith. Faith that God will multiply even the tiniest of offerings done in his name – that he will multiply the scarcity into an abundance, and that he will use even this small act of service to multiply his grace in my heart.

Lisa and I had the privilege of sitting with one man and hearing his story. All throughout, he kept calling us “angels.” What did we do? We listened; we affirmed his pain; we asked a few clarifying questions; we sought to give him hope that he could in fact change. Simple really. Will it make a difference for his life? I don’t know. I may not ever know. But I know that Christ was there with us, in us, speaking and listening through us. And that will make a difference in my life.

I saw tonight a reflection of myself, spiritually speaking. Lest I become too  prideful and think that my service in Christ’s name makes me somehow better than those I served or that I obtained better status with God through it, God reminded me that when I was thirsty, he gave me something to drink. When I was hungry, he fed me. When I needed shelter, he invited me in. And he continues to do so every day to one as spiritually thirsty as the man we met with; to one hungry for the one who really satisfies, to one who thinks her self-righteousness can clothe her yet it is only fig leaves and filthy rags, to one in need of the shelter of his grace lest I fall under the judgment and wrath I deserve.

Christmas Begins with Confession

What a strange juxtaposition – Christmas and confession? Really, Heather? Are you sure that’s not just mommy brain talking? Well, no, I’m not sure, says the one who is very thankful for a hidden key, who was locked into my office by my twins one afternoon, who knocked over our Christmas tree (pictured here “before”), who currently has red wine splattered all over my kitchen ceiling due to a sauteing attempt gone wrong … ok, you get the point. At some point, I’ll publish a book of funny incidences that have happened since having children.

But for this afternoon, I want to share what I’ve been thinking about this Advent season – that, in fact, Christmas begins with confession. As I have been meditating on Psalm 51 after studying it for a talk I gave at our weekly women’s Bible study, confession seems to be something that I have a hard time grasping. It’s because I want to be right all the time. It’s because I want to be self-sufficient, not dependent on a God who became as weak as a little baby so that He could become my moment-to-moment strength. It’s because I find myself so wrapped up in the culture’s definition of what makes me valuable and worthy that I forget both (a) how unworthy I am of this God’s love and salvation grace and (b) how valuable I am because this God-come-near left heaven for earth to rescue me from the cultural standards I’ll never reach and the sin that makes me grasp at them.

As I have been seeking to count “1000 gifts” Ann Voskamp-style, my eyes have been more open to how ungrateful I can be. In fact, I often view life with hidden bitterness and smoldering resentment. Why is this? Instead of accepting God’s graces as a gift, I am prideful and think that I deserve them – in fact, that I’m so good that I’m entitled to them.

And so in order to celebrate Christmas truly, I must start with confession. Confessing that I am unworthy of the best gift that could possibly be given to me, and even worse, that I am often blind to my need for this gift. Confessing that I need the gift disguised in a baby born to a poor family in a cave in an obscure part of a no-name Israelite town (Bethlehem didn’t have any songs praising it for being little before Christ’s birth there). Confessing that I need others to open their hearts to me in confession so that I will remember how much I need it and how I, too, struggle with sin’s insidious influence. Confessing that you and I are much more similar than we are different because of the rescuing grace of God sent forth in a little baby. It’s a beautiful message that resonates with the deepest part of every person – so much so that we are immersed in a season that celebrates it in every holiday song, each house lit with twinkling lights, every tree adorned with ornaments and laden with gifts. And, no, not every person realizes this or in their Christmas celebration gives glory to the God who “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14)- but one day, they will. So I invite you to start now by confessing with me all the ways you, too, need this humble Savior.

Yea, Lord, we greet thee,
Born this happy morning;
Jesus, to thee be glory given!
Word of the Father,
Now in flesh appearing!
Oh, come, let us adore him,
Oh, come, let us adore him,
Oh, come, let us adore him,
Christ the Lord.

A month’s worth of miscellaneous musings

I checked my blog today and saw that my last post was a month ago. Where has the month gone? After the really fun Wheaton Homecoming weekend, there haven’t been any such exciting events on the horizon. So it’s been a normal month of loads of laundry, endless dishes, priceless grins from 14-month-old twins, terrible tantrums from the same precious darlings, enjoying our fall rhythm (soon to be waylaid by the holidays) of Monday music class, Wednesday Women’s Bible Study, and trying to catch up on errands and perhaps throw in a few play dates on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Fridays are usually Seth’s day off, which we always look forward to, and then it’s Saturday, and then our full Sundays … and another week is beginning again. Our regular routine was broken up by a wonderful visit from Grandma & Grandpa Nelson last weekend, during which they brought much delight and spoiling to the girls (and us as well).

My newest project/spiritual challenge: A friend who was reading “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp said that she was starting a gratitude journal (the idea being to count at least 1000 things you’re thankful for), and I decided to start one with her. So I have been purposely starting my quest to find the graces of everyday life. As you would imagine, some days are much easier than others. The fall walk we took last week with the crisp blue sky as the backdrop for brilliant leaves. Or the evenings out with friends savoring the tastes of fine cuisine and drinks and being refreshed by shared laughter. The challenge (as Voskamp talks about herself throughout her book) is to find these graces in the midst of the really frustrating days and moments. Like having to stay home from church on a Sunday because one of the twins has a bad cough and runny nose (and my husband as a pastor obviously can’t “take turns” with me). Or the day the girls woke up from their last nap of the day at 1:45 pm (having slept a total of an hour), and they were as cranky as I was. [sidebar: calling the friend in my community group who had volunteered to come help on days like this AND feeding the girls some Nerds candy were total life-savers that afternoon!] This is where I’m struggling and wrestling.

And it seems like the more I try to be thankful, the more I am aware of the resentment that lurks in my heart. Which should of course lead me back to finding grace in Christ, asking him for the joy I can’t muster up and asking him to remove the pride whose domain in my heart produces bitterness. So many days it doesn’t.

Enter the other project I’ve been working on the past few weeks: writing the lesson I’m giving this Wednesday at Trinity’s women’s Bible study on Psalm 51. A psalm of confession, interestingly enough. And I, in my pride, initially thought I really couldn’t relate much to David the adulterer and murderer who penned this psalm. How wrong I am! I, who daily leave the Love of God my Savior to pursue other loves in the saviors I set up – like the conveniences of technology, a good sleeping schedule for the twins, a well-managed home, a “put-together” appearance. I invest my heart in these, saying to them, “you are my Savior!” And so I become an adulterer in my heart towards God as I run to other idols. And murder? I’m convicted to remember Jesus’ words that hating someone in my heart is like murdering them. Do I hate? No, of course not … but then, what is gossip other than seeking to bring down another’s reputation? And what is jealousy other than wishing I had what that other person did? And isn’t my anger saying that I alone deserve to be right, an attempt to at the very least emotionally cut off those around me? I need Psalm 51. I, the one surrounded by more graces of God than I could count in a lifetime, who finds it hard to scratch down even one on a “difficult day.” God invites me to worship … through confession. After Wednesday’s talk, I’ll share highlights of my study on the blog as before. Do pray for me if you’re a praying person, that my heart would be open to what God wants to share with me and through me.

awed by the moment and calmed by Jesus’ love

These are the two themes that I feel like God’s been teaching me about – much of it through observing our quickly growing almost-11-month-olds. They are crawling everywhere and into everything. Very curious about life! We love that although it makes our days much busier as well. The hardest part of the evening for them (and all of us) is that 4-7pm timeframe when it’s not yet bedtime and both naps are over for the day. And they begin fussing, which can quickly turn into crying and screaming inconsolably. Almost inconsolably. Some days they can be quieted by something quite simple, childish really (and they are babies, after all). We stumbled upon it accidentally when we started singing to them the first song that came to mind, “Jesus Loves Me.” Most of the time, this will calm Lucia and Alethia. Or at least give a few minutes’ reprieve from the screaming. The words and the melody familiar to them because it has been sung over them by parents, grandparents, friends, has a quieting effect on them. As I noticed this “magic song,” it made me pray for them that they would always be quieted by Jesus’ love. Long after they would outgrow this song, would that the truth conveyed by this little childhood tune sink deep into their hearts! And as I prayed for them, I started by praying for my heart, too, that can be so easily tossed  to and fro by the ups and downs of a day or a month or a year or a season. In case it’s been awhile since you’ve sung that tune, here’s the main verse of that little ditty:

Jesus loves me

This I know

For the Bible tells me so

Little ones to Him belong [and aren’t we all “little ones” compared to God’s greatness?]

They are weak [oh, so aware of this for me!]

But He is strong.

Yes, Jesus loves me [repeat 3 x’s]

For the Bible tells me so.

My best friend’s daughter “sings” this tune by saying “Bible” when you say, “Jesus loves me.” Isn’t that adorable? And how much I have to learn! Truly we are to become like little children in order to know the great truths about our God and King.

As Seth and I move into this new phase of parenting children, training and discipline and instruction are topics we are earnestly seeking to learn about because we are aware of how much they are soaking up each day and how much they begin to be in need of parental guidance. We have begun watching an excellent parenting series by Paul Tripp (one of our counseling professors when we were in seminary), and he begins his series by discussing our need to provide our children with a God-saturated environment. By this he means that we are not only to teach our kids truths about God, but to give our children a sense of awe about God. Which, he points out, cannot happen if we ourselves are not in awe of God.

A book I’m currently reading is helping me to open my eyes to the awe of the moment, the richness of our great God who is present in each moment. And so many moments I skip by or pass over or endure with gritted teeth because I’m missing God. For all of you who can relate, I cannot recommend highly enough Ann Voskamp‘s book, “One Thousand Gifts.” The book itself is a gift to me who has trouble seeing what really matters. She echoes Tripp’s teaching as she writes:

“Every moment I live, I live bowed to something. And if I don’t see God, I’ll bow down before everything else. … How I want to see the weight of glory break my thick scales, the weight of glory smash the chains of desperate materialism, split the numbing shell of deadening entertainment, bust up the ice of catatonic hearts. I want to see God …”

Voskamp writes about how hurry is the enemy of awe, that “Hurry always empties a soul. … I only live the full life when I live fully in the moment. … The fast have spiritually slow hearts.” How this convicts me, who prides myself on efficiency and races against the naptime clock to see how much I can possibly fit into those brief “free” hours of a day! Who, in trying to recruit my babies into my hurried lifestyle, causes exhaustion and stress for us both.

I have much to learn. I am thankful for this moment, this time when babies are sleeping to soak in these truths and ask for grace to keep doing so. If God is present everywhere and in every moment, I only must have eyes to see Him. Which I feel like I am only beginning to do.

my life in piles

So I will be the first to say that this won’t be a profound blog entry, but it’s very indicative of life for me in the now. And perhaps a bit humorous as well. I finally found the perfect metaphor (that actually isn’t merely metaphorical) to indicate how life has changed since having twins. Read on …

My season of life as a mother with 9 month old twins who works (very!) part-time as a counselor and distance education instructor could be summarized by one metaphor, that’s actually also quite true literally: PILES. In order to open my laptop to write these musings, I had to clear off piles of old Christmas cards, unread mail, coupons, photo albums, Father’s Day gifts in the waiting. [note: this was originally written last week – pre-Father’s Day – those gifts have now been appropriately distributed] And to actually get to my desk, I had to move the piles of unwashed laundry from the doorway, carefully making sure I did not mix them up with the piles of washed laundry yet to be folded. There are piles of books beside my bed that I hope to get to one day when “I have time.” And piles of magazines I would like to peruse “when I have a minute.” A growing pile of “to-do” lists on sticky notes littering my desk. Piles of bills and receipts yet to be accounted for in our budget. Outside my office door are piles of baby shoes, shirts, socks that have migrated up from downstairs but have yet to be put away into their closet. And downstairs holds piles of toys and stacks of dishes – which would still be there except for my amazing husband.

And now let’s move into the electronic realm: layer upon layer of unanswered and in many cases unread emails. There is a “pile” of three voicemails from this afternoon that I haven’t listened to yet. The unending “to do” list on my iCalendar, with items that have been and may remain for weeks, months, years?  A heap of quizzes yet to be graded, counseling notes yet to be written, invoices yet to be sent out.

If life wasn’t cluttered enough already, these physical loads are metaphorical for the emotional and mental items that pile up in my head. Of people I want to be in touch with but have lost touch with (since “the fog” of the past year descended), of decisions and plans to make about the girls’ one year birthday party and our 5th anniversary and my 10th college homecoming (which all occur within a two month time period this fall), and of all the things I wish I had time to do but don’t.

Sigh … words from David Powlison’s devotional thoughts on Psalm 131 meet me right now. Here’s part of the intro to this article (well worth reading in its entirety, by the way):

Amazingly, this man isn’t noisy inside.
He isn’t busy-busy-busy. Not obsessed. Not
on edge. The to-do list and pressures to
achieve don’t consume him. Ambition doesn’t churn inside. Failure and despair don’t
haunt him. Anxiety isn’t spinning him into
free fall. He isn’t preoccupied with thinking
up the next thing he wants to say. Regrets
don’t corrode his inner experience. Irritation
and dissatisfaction don’t devour him. He’s
not stumbling through the mine field of
blind longings and fears. 
He’s quiet.
Are you quiet inside?

Its essence is about not concerning myself with more than what I can do. With being content with my limits. And so I ask for the daily sufficient grace yet again, trusting it will be there as I need it.