uptomytoes

Hope & Humor for Single & Divorced Parents

Big Things…BIGGER God

Lately it seems that everyone I know is going through something.  Not little things…big, giant, crushing things.  It feels like every day a new heartbreak is revealed to me.   This week I found myself wishing I could be blissfully unaware of all the issues that surround me.  Unfortunately that is not the place or situation God has given me.

I believe I’m called to comfort with the comfort I’ve been given.  But the reality is I am a single mom with 5 children and a couple part-time jobs.  What do I do to be the friend and encourager I want to be when I can barely be mommy and encourager for my children?

Don’t we all struggle with this dilemma to some degree?

There are some pretty big things going on around us all.  Some people who could use a listening ear, a hug and a word of encouragement.  I believe God calls us to be there for each other.  But when your own life is overwhelming, what does that ministry look like?  Today God gave me some perspective.

O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. 

But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.  O Israel, hope in the LORD, from this time forth and forevermore.  Psalm 131

How beautiful is that?  God completely spoke to me.  He’d been preparing me for these verses for days.  I was finally ready to say, “God I don’t know it all or even most of it.  I’m choosing to trust you”

I don’t need to keep trying to figure things out that are frankly none of my business.  What I do need to do is pretty clear.  Trust God.  Calm down.  Be quiet.  Rest in my Savior’s care.  Hope in Him.

The reality is that there is no situation that I can “fix” on my own.  There is no person that I can truly comfort the way they need to be comforted.  There is no longing that I can fulfill.  No heart that I can change or heal.  When I get all twisted in knots over someone’s situation, or even my own, it’s usually because I’m trying to take things into my own hands and figure out a way to make it better.

When will I learn to turn to the Lord?  When will I understand that all I’m supposed to do is calm and quiet my anxious thoughts and let God use me the way He knows is  best.

So often I want to jump in and fix things…including almost everything in my own life.  Sometimes there are fixable things… like my attitude, my schedule, my focus…you know, my stuff.  But much of the time the things that truly bring me anxiety are things that I try to carry that really are out of my hands – things that serve only to bring disquiet to my heart and mind when I take them on as my own.

God desires for me to give it all to Him…even my friends and their concerns.  I like to help people…I like to listen…I like to encourage…I like to be needed.  I might use the word “like” but “love” is probably a more accurate word.  I believe that my desire to help is good but sometimes I think maybe my motivation isn’t.  Maybe I want to be the hero of every crisis or at least someone known as one.

My Father is showing me that He has everything handled and I don’t need to stress so much about things.  I don’t need to wrap myself up in knots trying to figure out what to do because He has already revealed my recipe for peace:

  • Approach things with humility – understand that I don’t have as much power, strength, and ability as I think I do.
  • Don’t think I can fix everything…some things are too enormous and only God can handle them.
  • Calm and quiet my soul…relax and let God handle it.
  • Hope in the Lord for today and all my tomorrows.
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My Assignment – Watch Me Work

I’m so gooooood at my ministry.  Each day I seem to get better at it.  Sometimes for a brief second I think maybe God is giving me a different focus…but then almost immediately I realize, “Nope, this is my calling.”

My ministry – my calling – seems to be to make other parents feel better about themselves.  Seriously, I’m so gifted at this.  Give me an assignment and watch me work!

Today I realized that I’m particularly equipped – or ill-equipped – to do this well…or not well….

This is Teacher Appreciation Week at my children’s school.  I’m room mom for one of my kids, which was a dumb decision in the first place!  Someone should have known better than to allow me any organizational responsibility.  I can only assume it’s an assignment from God so that some other room mom will feel better about herself.

As I dropped off my children this morning – running later than I planned (as usual) – I rushed in with my trays for the chocolates and cookies the children were supposed to bring in for today’s treats.  Some other mom had already collected the treats from my students – thank goodness!!  I had about 3 minutes to assemble the trays and deliver them to two different classrooms all with my 5 year old meandering behind me.  I say meandering because I could NOT get that girl to move faster than snail’s pace.  I’m sure I looked as harried as I felt.  She and I needed to race to her tutoring which of course was on the other side of town.

I had an awful realization as I took all the goodies into the kitchen to assemble them.  The other room moms were decorating the trays!!  I mean REALLY decorating them.  Doilies, ribbons, bows, cute candies….ugh.  I had NOTHING to decorate and NO TIME to do it.  I decided to just rush my pathetic trays to their respective classrooms and hope that the teachers didn’t notice how lame their trays were.

Thankfully everyone knows me by now.  They know my situation, that my heart is in the right place (most of the time), and that I can’t give the illusion of having any part of my life “together”.  The bummer is I really want to be that awesome room mom – the one that does everything well.  The one that blesses with her creativity.  I used to be a creative and organized person – now I’m a gitterdone person, a please-let-me-just-do-whatever-it-takes-to-check-this-off-my-list person.  Oh well…maybe my teachers were still blessed.  The trays DID have chocolate on them. It’s the thought that counts right? (And the chocolate.)

Just to prove my point, I’ll give you some examples of my ministry successes :).  When my little girls are wearing mismatched clothes, sock and shoes (on purpose), other mom’s smile, nod and feel a bit better about their clothing battles.  (It appears that I lost my battles but in reality I didn’t fight them – as long as they are clean, I’m cool.)  When my children are often 5 minutes late because it’s difficult to be in 3 places at once – it’s got to make someone feel great about being on time. When my kids are getting out of the car and papers, hairbrushes, water bottles and various odds and ends fall out behind them – someone has to think, “At least my car doesn’t look like a giant purse!”  When my yard looks like I’m raising the Beverly Hillbillies minus the oil money – my neighbors must cringe, but their yards look great in comparison.  When my youngest daughter is used as a sermon example not once but twice – other parents just gotta think, “Thankfully my child doesn’t say stuff like that!”

It’s funny (kinda).  I used to be that parent – the one with well-behaved kids, a beautiful lawn and a life pretty much in order and on time.  But God allowed all that to change – my children are still well-behaved for the most part, but now I have two precious little girls who challenge all my previously-attained parenting wisdom.  I used to have a well-manicured, weed-free lawn but then the lawn caretaker (a.k.a. husband/father) left and I decided it was better to work on keeping my family weed-free in the spiritual and emotional sense.  So now the yard is clover green – which my girls think is just beautiful because the weeds have flowers!  Life used to be what I expected it to be until suddenly it wasn’t …

Thankfully God works miracles even through me and my difficult circumstances.  And I’m up for however God wants to use me – whether it’s words that encourage or a life that blesses through its brokenness.

Tomorrow is the 4th day of Teacher Appreciation Week – wonder how God’s going to use me next?

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Heaping on My Heart

My heart’s desire is to write about real things – not just the fun things that happen in a day but also those gut-wrenching things that drop us to our knees — I’m realizing that is more difficult than I originally thought.

Part of the problem is I’m usually an upbeat person, and when I write about the things that I’m really struggling with my family and friends tend to get worried.  So here’s the warning and the admonition:  I AM FINE.  This is my life – been living it for 3 years now and doing okay.  So please don’t worry…I’m asking it and God commands it!  So don’t worry…I’m just sharing honestly.

Tonight has been the culmination of a rough week.  Rough in every way possible it feels.   I started to make a list, but I’ve decided against it.  We all have our lists.  Looooong lists.  Little things that pile up and drive us nuts.  Or big things that just wallop us and leave us stunned.

This week has been an equal opportunity week – make me crazy with a thousand little things then finish me off with a strong wallop (or ten).  And being crazy and stunned makes me fussy and my words harsh.  And I’m sure when I’m having a particularly awful week my children sense it and are compelled to make it worse.  I’m kinda joking – I know they don’t do it on purpose.  I set the tone for my home.  Fussy mommy = fussy kids = not so peaceful home.

It’s 11:42 pm to be exact and my head is throbbing, my feet are sore and I should be asleep.  Unfortunately, I’m wide awake out of annoyance.  It’s Friday night. I really want to be hanging out with my teenagers, but I figure I should end this day as soon as possible and go to bed.  Sometimes it’s just really important to make the day stop.

When I came upstairs I discovered two little people chatting the night away in their beds.  Needless to say, that was unacceptable and pretty much ushered  me into Grumpy Mommyland – never a good place to go with a headache.  A visit to Grumpy Mommyland looks surprisingly like a toddler temper tantrum.  I’m frustrated with EVERYTHING!!!

Seriously, I want to change so much – and not just my little world but everyone’s world.  Unfortunately, I simply can’t.  I’m left again with prayer being my only option.  Only option…as if it’s a bad option.  It’s the best option.

There is one benefit to being completely overwhelmed, I don’t waste time trying to figure out other ways to fix things.  I know my limitations…there are a lot of them…and fixing my life is a glaringly obvious limitation.

Only God can handle this messy life… and only God can handle my fist clenched, teeth gritted, head aching, exhausted body self.  He can, thankfully, take care of me and all my stuff.

I decided I would indeed write a list of the things that are stressing me.  I was surprised that really none of them are things I can actually fix or change.  Well, actually I’m pretty sure I can change things for the better if I just stop focusing on them as if I had some control over them.

Why can’t I just trust that God has it all under control?  I KNOW God has it, even when it feels like there’s not one thing under control in my life.  I believe He has a plan….a good plan.  And seriously it just has to be a faith-thing because there are days….

I do struggle. Even though He has proven Himself to be completely trustworthy, I still struggle.  I pray and ask God to take it.  Tell Him I know that He can be trusted to handle it.  But apparently after I give it to Him, I steal it right back.

I guess this week I haven’t even really let God take any of it at all.  I just keep heaping all the cares, concerns and issues on my heart and in my head until it feels like collapse is imminent.  This never serves me well…never.  Case in point – this night.

The reality of this divorced, single mom life is there are a lot of things to stress about …a lot!!!  But, dang!  I do NOT want to keep doing weeks like this past one.  I gotta figure out how to live without focusing on all the difficulties, challenges and issues!  I just gotta.  Sometimes it just seems near impossible.

My plan is to pray that God will show me how.  I know He will.  And I’m excited to see what He will show me.  I’ll be sure to share!

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Slippers

I can tell I’ve changed because all I want to do is find a way to spend the whole day in my slippers.  Believe me, I’ve never been a stay in your pjs all day kinda gal.  I think it might be my Army brat upbringing.  We just didn’t lounge around at our house.  And, honestly, I like that…I like the get up and get on with your day mentality.  But now…I really would like to get up, have a cup of tea and sit back down… in my slippers… all day.

It’s a new me…a tired me.  I love that I get stuff done, well, I mean…I love the idea of getting stuff done…I mean if I could actually get stuff done, I’d love it!! Unfortunately, I don’t get as much done in a day as I’d like to…I tend to just run around like a squirrel in traffic – barely missing being squashed by oncoming semi-trucks.

It must be what the slippers represent…a quieter, comfier existence.

And really aren’t we all exhausted at the end of the day…don’t we all just wanna have our feet up?  I wake up and my feet are already tired just thinking about the day ahead.  I can’t figure out how to get ahead of the curve — I’m scraping the guardrail as I fly around the curve on two wheels with my eyes shut and my hands griping the steering wheel for dear life…now that’s a visual. (And regardless of what my children tell you, I do not drive like that in actuality!)

I find myself slipping on my slippers even when I know that I actually can’t keep them on beyond the walk down the stairs to the front door.  It’s the little comforts even if they are only for a minute.  Take what you can get, right?

I’m not sure I can tie this into a spiritual truth…I’m thinking about it, because God tends to use all these silly little things to reveal something to me.  Something precious and sometimes quite small.  My slippers aren’t anything special (see above picture)…I got them for myself from one of my kids for Christmas (another single mom thing) and they were inexpensive and on sale…like I said, nothing particularly amazing.  But they bless my feet.  Maybe that’s the realization…that blessings come in big and little things…like a warm Mocha or soft candlelight or fragrant blossoms in the garden or a pair of comfy slippers.

I’m seeing a theme in my life…recognizing the joy in little things.  I’m surrounded by little people that I love so it’s only natural that I find joy in little things!  So I’m going to slip on my slipper and put my feet up and relax… for a second cause someone is yelling my favorite name…”Mama!!!!!!!!”

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Tripping Over Baskets

So is anyone else completely overwhelmed by laundry?  Can I please just have a day where it’s all done and it actually stays done?  Could my children just stop wearing so many clothes?  Oh, and the damp towels!!  I mean, really, how can people use so many towels in one week?

I think all I ever do is laundry.  There are always baskets and baskets and baskets in one stage or another throughout my house.  There is the over-flowing dirty clothes basket in the bathroom, the folded-but-not-put-away baskets in the hallway, the not folded or sorted baskets outside the laundry room, and the baskets piled high with dirty laundry in the laundry room.  And the one basket of clothes I’m gonna have to wash again because, for the second time, I didn’t take it out of the washer in time to avoid that familiar mildew scent.  Then there are the clothes strewn all over my children’s bedroom floors, and the piles of clothes my youngest children tossed out of their dresser in order to find the only pair of shorts they EVER want to wear.  There are even the nicely folded and sorted clothes on the kitchen table – that is, until we need the tabletop and they are pushed aside, over and into things.

I wanted to find some marvelous spiritual application in all that laundry.  Perseverance?  Character development?  Contentment in chaos?  Joy in suffering?  I tried to think of something each basket of laundry in its particular location and situation could represent in my Christian walk.  I couldn’t think of any.  I guess sometimes chores are just that…chores.

I have realized that maybe the lesson for me is to do things without complaining.  I’ve been trying for…ahem…40+ years and I’m just sure one of these days it’s gonna click.

As a single parent, the laundry nightmare is particularly daunting.  It seems that it shouldn’t have changed that much.  I guess it’s compounded by the unmanageable amount of chores and responsibilities we single parents have.  There are so many tasks to do and, unfortunately, laundry sits in one of the top spots.

I think the key to most of the housework battles we face as single parents is to embrace the chaos – to simply enjoy a full house, noisy nights, messy tables, sticky counters, yucky floors, and loads and loads of laundry.  I’m thankful for all those clothes because there was a time not too long ago when I worried about being able to provide for my children.

I’m constantly trying to teach my children to do everything without grumbling or complaining.  Must be another “do as I say, not as I do” thing.  But, dang it, it shouldn’t be.  I want it to be 2nd nature for us to give thanks in all circumstances (even buried alive in laundry), pray without ceasing (even that the laundry would decrease a bit), and rejoice always (even if it’s just for the 5 minutes there is no laundry in a basket.  Wait! Does that ever happen???)  I have determined to strive to model thanksgiving instead of grumbling no matter how the clothes pile up around me.

So even when I trip over the laundry for the umpteenth time or find 6 damp towels on my children’s floors, I will resist the urge to complain.  Instead I will pray for a way to give thanks despite the difficult and overwhelming things in my life and that includes the laundry!

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