I recently had one of those parenting days where I did the exact opposite of what I believe to be true.
The prophet Paul knows what I'm talking about, "I don't really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don't do it. Instead, I do what I hate." There I was standing at the top of the stairs in my mother-in-law's house on Easter morning. Eyes burning, head aching, body revolting to this whole idea of being a "present" mom. My heart wanted nothing more than to crawl into bed, pull the covers over my head and let my kids have their way with the exposed (and reachable) crystal collection in the dining room or let them terrorize the vintage records perfectly positioned for a few licks of a toddler tongue or at least a good snotting on. The previous three days had been spent without my husband at the family lake house with my two kids and my mother. Sound idyllic? In some ways it will be (once these ever stretching days become sepia-toned snapshots.) I know my brain will only play back the moments filled with sunsets, hysterical laughing, and priceless cuddles in my neck. That's God's grace. But not enough time had passed. The days were still raw. Someday I will forget that I got up a total of 11 times in the last 48 hours to help a restless daughter back to sleep. I won't recall the exhaustion that came from constantly discipling my son over a single lost two-cent plastic dinosaur (among dozens of others) which then caused every waking moment to become a whine-symphony complete with limp limbs and slamming doors. I had not had the convenience of my own home or bed in four days. Neither had my kids. And I am again reminded that no matter how many times I try to convince myself that vacationing with kids is fun, it isn't. At least not with two kids under three. I hear this changes. But at this point, I've tried wine to relax. I've tried coffee to wake up. Both have left me with a headache and a deep sense of my own weakness and an urgent desire to soak myself in the Bible-which usually leads me to the book of James. But I hadn't carved out enough to time to get the Word in and so there I was at the top of the stairs and it all came to a head: the 6:15 a.m. wake up call after my midnight bedtime combined with the miscues and missed opportunities to rely on God. I found myself drowning in the empty side of the pool. I had not put His goodness in and was not getting His goodness out. The bootstrap principle I had been implementing was now threadbare, I have nothing left to hold on to. And I was a terror. My son kept repeating over and over and over and over that he needed his teddy bear. I tried to ignore him as long as I could, but between trying to pack and trying not to fall asleep while standing up the following words flooded out of mouth intended to bite: "Get your own teddy bear, son! I am NOT YOUR SERVANT!" My son's face fell. He just wanted his mommy to show him that what matters most to him matters to her. And instead of taking that moment to teach him how much I loved him by going into the unfamiliar room that he had stayed in the night before–I chose to use it as a teaching moment to chastise a small child for being lazy, when I was really being the lazy one. Pounding down the stairs I left him alone. Hoping my hard words would cure his inability to be self sufficient and that he would bound down the stairs with Teddy in hand and I would pat myself on the back for sticking to my guns. I mean, come on! He is almost three and a half after all! Get it together kid. I know....really pretty heart stuff here. That moment faded and the excitement of Easter eggs and high fructose corn syrup trumped all. I forgot about the moment and it seemed he did too. All good. Finally we had the car packed and we were heading home. Finally I would see my own bed. The kids would be back in their routine. I was going to survive. I was nodding off in the front seat, my daughter was screaming in the back seat and the phone rang. We had forgot something. NOOOOOOOOOOOO! The voice on the other line oozed out like an ominous ransom, "Teddy is here." Daaa-da-da-dum. Both of us exasperated, tired and utterly inconvenienced–flipped the car around and headed back to get the precious bear. The bear that I refused to retrieve for my son. The bear that I denied any responsibility for. The bear that I nailed to the cross in order to declare my power over another. The bear that I declared I was NOT a servant for. I was so much more important than that. And now the bear was putting me in my place. The lesson was no longer mine to teach but mine to learn. When you are face to face with a bad day. Rewind. Look for the missed opportunities where you didn't align your day with God's desire for you. The days are so much better where I wake up and admit, "Lord, I can't do today. I am totally ill-equipped to even pretend I can do this on my own. Show up. Be the loving presence my children and husband need. And show me how much you love me- the broken, beautiful mess that I am." In the words of one of my favorite authors, Jen Hatmaker, "True greatness comes to us through the back door of servanthood." We're in this together, M