Sometimes life with four small children is, quite simply, chaos. Shall we take today for an example?
A couple of weeks ago, I volunteered myself to cook a turkey for our church’s early Thanksgiving dinner. Church members were encouraged to invite family and friends to come for a dinner and church service — with an emphasis on unsaved family and friends. Looking at the menu items needed on the signup sheet, there was a notable cluster of names at one end of the list, and an equally notable blank space after “turkey.” Why not? I thought. I know how to cook a turkey. I have an oven. I cleared it with Hank first, then signed my name in that conspicuous blank spot — hastily, before I could change my mind.
Flash forward to today — the day before the church dinner. Had I blissfully envisioned making the turkey today while my husband took three children out for a quiet Saturday in the park? So naïve! As it turns out, my husband is preparing for a series of business trips that will have him out-of-town for pretty much the entire month. He’ll be returning home only for brief pit stops/laundry weekends, in between exotic (to me) destinations. Today, he had to get a bunch of things ready for UPS to send halfway across the country, to be ready for his arrival.
The reality is that it was a very stressful day. I was making stuffing, cooking a turkey, nursing a newborn, feeding my children breakfast and snack and lunch in what seemed like one long, continuous meal, and getting lost in a haze of busy-ness that made each high-pitched little voice raised in childlike song collide against my eardrums like the sirens of so many whiny ambulances. I was short and impatient, and utterly unfocused on my children.
Hank had a hard day, too. He was trying to get done whatever it was that he needed to do, entertain children for me off and on, run out and get groceries when I ran out of sugar for the cranberry sauce — why, oh why did I sign up to make cranberry sauce, too? Well, to be honest, I know the answer to that one. It was pride. My own foolish, vain pride. I make a great cranberry sauce, and I wanted to show it off! Well, pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit ends up hot and overwhelmed and cranky in front of a sizzling oven all day long.
Then it was dinnertime. I was just taking the turkey out of the oven and starting to think about gravy, and my children wanted dinner? My wonderful husband resolved this by going to get fastfood takeout to feed our children.
We attempted to get everybody fed in time to go to evening service tonight, but it was not to be. Instead, I decided to put the three little ones to bed. I gave 6-year-old Hudson the choice of going to church with Daddy or staying home and going to bed with the others. Having been pretty much neglected all day today, he was cranky and whiny, and I had no patience for it.
“One more whine, and you’ll lose the option of going to church,” I warned him as he brushed his teeth. And of course, he whined again, to protest this new injustice.
What could I do? True to my word, I had to keep him home. And this led to a fullscale tantrum — his, not mine. But Hank could see how close I was to launching a tantrum of my own, and, true to form as a husband who loves his wife as Christ loved the church, he took over, skilfully talking Hudson down from a meltdown.
I went downstairs and prayed for help. I just felt so helpless, so unfitted for this momentous task of raising these children. Hudson, who tries so hard to regulate his emotions. Little Cragg, who is still learning obedience. How can I possibly help them with these issues when I also have a toddler and a baby clamouring for my attention?
Lord, I am incapable and ineffective. If it is up to me to raise children up to be men and women of godly character, I will most surely fail.
And, as is sometimes the case when one cries out openly to the Lord in humility, the answer was waiting for me all along. It is not necessary that I know what to do or how to do it. His strength is made perfect in my weakness. I need only follow His Word, do my best, and trust in Him for the rest.
Yes, if it were up to me and my abilities, I would fail — have failed already. But praise God, it is not up to me. It is His strength which will bolster me through these difficult periods. And really, as stressful as these moments of despair are, they are far outnumbered by the moments of joy that I have as the mother of these children. Because in the big picture, they are some really terrific kids.
Minutes later, a repentant little boy was before me, tearfully apologizing, and full of hugs for his mama. Yes, some really terrific kids. And I wouldn’t trade this life or these children for the world.
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10
Thank you Lord, for reminding me to look to you this Thanksgiving.
Edited to Add: As I wrote this, I let the stuffing burn! Oh well, at least I made extra.