I can’t take credit for this – I saw it on another blog and loved it… enjoy 🙂
My mother-in-law, Ruth, was not the best housekeeper in the world. If she were alive today, she would tell you the same thing (we talked about it so I know), so I’m not being indiscreet with any family secrets. Six kids, 22 grandchildren, dogs, cats, men who liked to “work on cars”, her failing physical condition and just plain old life wore her housekeeping skills down over the years. But she never turned a soul away who wandered even close to her door.
This led to some challenges as you might imagine.
One summer, one of her beloved granddaughters was getting married. With an extremely tight budget and typical southern hospitality she rolled up her sleeves and went to work making piles and piles of food.
She also hosted piles and piles of people in her very small, un-air-conditioned home… did I mention it was the end of July in Georgia?
We arrived, six of our own kids in tow, to a house that had been exploding with people and activity for many days already. After making I don’t even know how many deviled eggs, potato salad and the like, the day was waning and I needed to give my kids baths and get them ready for bed.
But I gotta tell you that one look at that bathroom changed my plans radically. Without going into the details, there was no way on God’s green earth anyone of my darlings was going to set foot in that bathroom. It was BAD.
With all of the grace and maturity I could muster, I came out and whispered to my husband that we needed to leave, NOW. He was in the middle of trying to fix the air-conditioner, so that wasn’t going to happen.
I was furious. I needed to use the bathroom myself. I couldn’t believe that all those people had been in and out of that woman’s home, knowing her state of health and affairs and not ONE of them cleaned the bathroom! Honestly! What were they thinking?
As I stewed and judged the Lord broke through my nasty rantings – “Why don’t you clean it?”
“Yes, you heard me. Why don’t you clean it?”
I never have a good answer for these internal conversations. But I still argued. I didn’t make that mess. I’m not part of this problem. I would NEVER let my bathroom get like that! Hmph. Clean it indeed – it would take hours to clean it.
“But you still haven’t answered my question. Why don’t you clean it?”
And then the weight of my haughty, ugly, stinking selfish motives came crashing down on my head. I thought, “If I thought Jesus was coming to this wedding, I’d be happy to clean this bathroom for Him. Why am I not happy to clean it for her – my husband’s mother? She NEEDS someone to do it for her – why, indeed, wouldn’t I do it?”
In an instant I knew both the stinging blow of chastisement and the joy of forgiveness. My wickedly self-righteous heart had been changed by God reminding me, “as you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren so you have done it unto me.”
Everything changed in that instant. Instead of looking for reasons to be disgusted, I started looking for cleaning products. I couldn’t find any, so my husband and I went on an errand and got loads of them. We got back and he went back to work on the air-conditioner and I secretly set to work in the bathroom. It was still BAD, but I had a new perspective and just started tackling the job.
It happened slowly at first – one person knocked, and then another. As I wondered what they must be thinking about me taking so long I started to chuckle. It took kind of a long time… let me be frank here – it took me a REALLY long time. There were lots of knocks on the door. People began to ask me if I was ok. Eventually I started to really giggle every time someone knocked (they must have thought I was having terrific problems in there!).
At long last I was able to emerge. It was good to be victorious over the muck that was in the bathroom. I never mind cleaning bathrooms now. I was glad for the chastening of God’s Word in my heart and truly glad for the change in attitude. I don’t mean to be crass, but now when I have a dirty job to do, I am reminded of that day and I think to myself, “If Jesus were coming I’d be happy to clean this bathroom for him.”
It was good to be victorious over the muck that was in the bathroom that day, but it was better to have the scrubbing and cleansing action that went on in my heart.
Giggling in the process? Well, that just had to make it more interesting for the people who kept knocking on the door – don’t you think?
I have a 13-year old son.
For those of you who have ever had one of those, you know how loaded that statement truly is.
For those of you who have not, be compassionate and kind in how you respond to those of us who do – please.
I love my son, as you would probably imagine. But there are days when I could seriously consider options such as military school, residential care, long-term overseas assignments… you get the picture. My sweet boy isn’t always, well, sweet.
But the other day, a glimmer of hope searched out a crack and shone through like sunbeams through the clouds.
Here’s what happened.
We were all furiously getting ready for a 4-day trip which required nice clothes (always a challenge for 13-year old boys), nice shoes (will he ever learn to keep the right one with the left one?), personal hygiene products (for that wonderful “man smell”) and the like. All of the other kids were scrambling around getting their things together as well as helping to take care of the multitude of other details that needed to be attended to before we left. But, sweet 13-year old boy was messing around, being his usual distracted self.
In my frustration I prayed. “Lord. Please help me to know how to parent this child this morning. It seems like nothing I do or say works to get him to pay attention! I’m about to lose my patience with him, which I know won’t help anything. Give me wisdom, Lord, I need it desperately. I know you have plans for him, but right now, he needs to find his shoes. Amen.”
I then took his face (which I noticed is starting to get a few pimples) into my hands and calmly, but firmly said, “Son, there are jobs that need to get done this morning and you’re not doing any of them. I’m going to give you one job at a time. I expect that you will QUICKLY go and get the job done and then QUICKLY come back to me for your next assignment. I don’t want to be upset with you this morning and I’m pretty sure you’re in agreement.”
While my hands were still embracing his cheeks, he nodded vigorously up and down in hearty agreement.
I sent him on his first task – to clean up the breakfast dishes. He started well. And then it happened – another boy entered into the room.
If you have only girls, this may come as a shock to you, but if you have more than one son, you can attest to the truth of this statement: Two boys can almost never be in the same room without coming into physical contact with each other! It’s as if they’re magnetized or something.
Older brothers are especially guilty, I might add, and it was an older brother that I thought would end my son’s one-minute streak of obedient concentration.
But God is a God of 13 year old boys, too.
What happened next stopped me dead in my tracks.
Instead of the usual tussle that normally occurs between two boys in the same room, I heard this come out of my 13 year old’s mouth: “STOP DISTRACTING ME! I’m gonna get in trouble! I have a JOB TO DO!!!”
I almost fainted.
I could not believe my ears. I cried. Those were the most beautiful words I could have heard in that moment.
Not wanting to distract from his focus I didn’t go into the kitchen and let him finish the dishes (which he did), but my heart sang out in thankful praise!
You see, I prayed out of desperation. I needed to know that this daily, grinding, toilsome discipline of this particularly challenging child was accomplishing SOMETHING in his life.
What I didn’t know, was that my son had also sent a prayer up to God as well. He told me later that he prayed, “God, please help me not get distracted so that I can finish the jobs my mom wants me to do without getting into any trouble. Amen.”
And he prayed out of desperation, too. He needed to know that God could help him focus on something that he didn’t particularly want to do long enough to get it done. He knew that he had tried, but had failed. He needed to know that God could succeed where he could not.
And in one fell swoop God answered both of us. And it broke through the cracks of immaturity like my son’s voice through his growing vocal chords – loud and startling and definitely noticeable!
Later in the day, while I was still basking in the warmth of the knowledge of answered prayers, this scripture came to mind and it seems especially appropriate at we disciple our kids:
“And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” Galatians 6:9-10
Never give up. Never give in. When you grow weary, take your cares to Him and in the ordinary parts of your day, He will not disappoint you, but rather will continue to surprise you with His faithful loving-kindness – even when you’re trying to parent a 13-year old.
Confessions of a Veteran Mom
…to sneaking chocolate chips out of the cupboard when my kids aren’t looking.
… to answering, “Nophing,” when they ask, “what are you eating?”
… that over the years my husband and I have occasionally asked eachother why we ever started having kids in the first place
… that there have been long stretches of time where I’ve only changed the sheets on my kids beds when someone wet the bed or threw up on them.
…that sometimes, I like talking about being a mom more than I actually like being the mom.
… to taking longer showers than necessary because the water drowns out the noise.
… that I have actually asked the question, “SNAKE? WHAT SNAKE??”
… that even though I love to grow vegetables, I sometimes only eat them out of a sense of duty.
…to reading books in 15 minute increments… often in the bathroom.
… to sometimes hiding in the bathroom and that when I hear one of my kids calling for me I quickly put the lid down and sit down so that I can yell, “I’m on the potty!”
… to dreaming about the days when my husband and I will have some time alone…
… to recently arguing with one of our teenagers that, no, I really don’t want them all to stay home for ever and am actually looking forward to the day when she and all the rest of her siblings are living somewhere else!
… that I can talk with another woman for two solid hours and not run out of things to say.
… that “Once-A-Month” cooking all in one day is a mean-spirited joke!
… that no matter how hard I’ve worked at making good-tasting, nutritious meals for my family, the babies would still rather eat the dog’s food.
… that there have been times when I thought, “If I hear that kid whine just one more time I’m going to send him into orbit!”
…that only other people’s children are playing three instruments, doing all their chores cheerfully, and never argue with their parents.
… that while motherhood is the hardest, most demanding job I’ve ever encountered, I can’t imagine living my life without these beautiful, wonderful, soul-stretching people that God has given us for – what turns out to be – such a short time. That though we may have struggled in the most excruciating ways, I wouldn’t trade being a mother for anything in this world.