Single Mom Sorting – And I Don’t Mean the Laundry

Laundry discipline picOne of the most common aspects of my day is laundry!  May I be candid for a moment?  I dislike it…immensely.

There is just so much of it. Always.  I’ve written about it before (Tripping Over Baskets).  Today, I have another spin on it.

Last week I told my oldest daughter that it was her job to make sure all the laundry was sorted and put away.  Her first effort took a very long time – cell phone and iPod issues – and the resulting “sorting and putting away” definitely left a lot to be desired.  She knows how to do it well so it is not a measure of learning a skill.  I tried to kindly point out that tossing the “folded” clothes on the floor just inside a bedroom door did not equate to putting them away.  She seemed incredulous.

So this week, she hasn’t attempted to sort, fold or put away anything.  Maybe she’s forgotten.  Maybe she’s not realized that I was serious.  Oh I’m serious.  You should see my kitchen table…actually you can.  I’ve attached a picture.  There are presently 8 loads of laundry waiting to be dealt with as well as one in the dryer and one in the washer.  I’m making sure all the laundry that needs to be done is done and ready for her.

Tonight is Friday night.  It’s usually the hang out and watch a movie night.  My daughter is going to be dealing with a lot of laundry while she watches.

I’m sharing this story not to malign my daughterin any way.  In fact, this issue is mostly mine.  When my husband left and I became a full-time single momma I think I made a tactical mistake in my mind and heart.  I began to treat my children as the victims of some terrible thing.  I cuddled and coddled and cared for completely.  I didn’t ask a lot of my kids.  I just felt that they had been through enough and I wanted them to have fun and enjoy themselves as much as possible.  To some degree, I don’t believe it was even a conscious decision on my part – I just did it.  Boy, did I make a HUGE mistake!

In the last few months I’ve become acutely aware that I have raised children who feel they are entitled to anything and everything, who believe that I’m here to serve them (one has even said that in not so many words), who have an excuse for everything, and who are becoming a bit more disrespectful of my role as Momma than I’d like.   Not all my children are like this – only 2 really.  Unfortunately, it’s the two I really need to step up and help a bit more.  I believe I’ve not done well in the last few years teaching them about having a servant’s heart. My goal now is to assist them in developing the habit of helpfulness and a willingness to work.

I’m trying to figure out how to accomplish that goal. Talking to them doesn’t work.  Yelling at them definitely doesn’t work.  And I’m not great at keeping up with charts and stickers and such – plus they are a bit old for that.

My first plan involves this laundry.  I can’t tell you how desperately tired I am of having all this laundry piled on one side of my kitchen table.  I just want to do it – which has been my standard response for the last couple of years.  I just do it – just get it done – most of the time I feel I can do it faster and better anyway.  I have done no favors for my children by taking over everything in the house.

I’m praying for a change in our family.  For God to give me strength to do the hard work of raising my children well.  I have no doubt that my kids will be a bit “put-out”…probably a bit fussy verbally as well.  I think I can handle it.  What I can’t handle is raising children who don’t care, who don’t help, and who don’t take responsibility.

Even though we have gone through some difficult stuff, I should still be parenting in a way that equips my children to be respectful, godly men and women who desire to serve, love and be responsible, honorable and kind.

Phase one of my plan.  That laundry is sitting there until that beautiful young woman gets to sorting.  And next time I ask for someone to do something they don’t get to keep electronics or watch TV or nuthin’ until it’s done!  Lord, please give me strength to follow thru.

Hebrews 12:11-14 “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.  Therefore, lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather healed.  Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” 

This verse is the one I’m holding on to right now – memorizing to be exact.  I believe those drooping hands and weak knees are mine and that the straight path is what I know God is calling me to walk – the path God is calling me to lead my children on.  Discipline is going to seem painful to all of us…me as the trainer and my children who are being trained.  And as I work to lead my children, God is going to train me as well.

My children and I definitely need some healing – both from the actions of their father, but also because I, like every parent, have made mistakes.  God is gracious and compassionate and He will heal , bless and grace us with His peace and love.  He always has and always will.  That “peace with everyone” that the verse speaks of – for me right now I believe that will be the outcome of a house where everyone respects and loves well – a home where we all value each other and seek to serve and love through our actions, words and thoughts.    I’m grabbing hold of this verse and believing that God will get us there!

And I’m patiently waiting for some laundry to be done.  That’d sure give me some peace.

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All You Need to Do is Just…

Recently one of my dearest friends called to tell me she had my next blog topic.  She’d been at a women’s Bible study where they were discussing their crazy busy lives.  After the moms in the group had lamented their situations, one of the ladies shared her “simple” solution which began with the phrase,

“All you need to do is just…”

In this case, the solution was prepare freezer meals.  My friend is practically a gourmet cook and couldn’t think of how that would be an appropriate solution for her problem.  She is one of the most accomplished women I know – a very successful attorney with her own practice and also the mother of a toddler and an infant.  She also finds time to minister to others at her church, help people organize their houses and lives, as well as just simply be a good friend and encourager.  I’m sure there are thousands of other things she does…oh and she and her husband built a 2nd story addition on their home…themselves…while she was pregnant with number 2.  So, yeah…I don’t know if freezer meals are the answer to her already busy life.  The amazing thing about this friend is that she is more than able to handle all that she has allowed to be placed on her plate…if she doesn’t shower daily.  I’m kidding…sorta.

She and I talked about how women really do expect that we can do it all.  I am here to tell you in big bold faced letter

I CAN’T DO IT ALL…

IN FACT, I CAN’T DO MOST OF IT.

There I said it.

Even this exceedingly amazing friend of mine admits she can’t.  Oh, we can give it a try, but really it isn’t very pretty most, if not all, of the time.

I’m sure the lady that suggested freezer meals had the best of intentions.  We all do, don’t we?  We all want to help each other to discover the next best thing.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve put my hope in some product or idea or chart or book that was going to finally make me organized, patient, or thin.

I’m always exceedingly disappointed, because the answer doesn’t lie in my doing something differently, more efficiently, or even better…although all those things would be phenomenal!  I believe as the saying goes it is more about being than doing.

What if when we were all sitting around the coffee table sharing our struggles, frustrations and fears, we offered each other the hope of the gospel?  What if we listened, comforted and empathized, but didn’t try and provide yet another thing to add to our ridiculous to do lists…the ones written down with all the phone calls, emails, chores, and projects we need to accomplish or the ones we keep in our heads that include all our hopes as well as all our failings…you know the lists I’m referring to right?

What if we simply loved one another?  What if we shared our struggles but also the hope we found in Scripture.  Maybe it would look like this,

Me.        “I’m so overwhelmed.  I feel like I simply can’t keep one thing moving in the right direction.  I read books about parenting that convict me and condemn me all at the same time.  I feel hopeless.  I don’t think I’ll ever truly be the mom I’m supposed to be for these children.  How can I expect them to be kind, patient, loving and slow to anger when half the time I’m frustrated, impatient, unkind and angry?  I know I need more sleep…but how?  I know I need to exercise…but what do I stop doing?  I know I need to get my home in order…but these little people keep messing it up behind me.  I know I need to prepare healthy food and snacks…but how do I do that with the schedule we are keeping?  What do I give up?  Who do I say no to?  If I could I would…I’m down to bare minimum involvement in church, school and activities and still I’m crushed by our schedule.  There is no way around it with 1 parent and 5 children.”

A Friend.  “I can’t imagine what you are feeling.  I know it must be so difficult.  Please know that God gave you those sweet children because He knew you were the woman for the job.  God wanted you, with your personality, struggles and situation, to be their Momma.  You and those 5 children is not a mistake.  And God has a plan in the midst of this.  Remember that verse you love, “All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children.”  (Isaiah 54:13) God is the Father your children really need…and He is the husband you need.  He will help you, friend.  He won’t leave you or forsake you.  He’s got your back.  Lean on Him.  I will pray that the Holy Spirit will help you see Christ more clearly and that your circumstances will dim in comparison.  That you will find that peace which passes all understanding to guard your heart and your mind in Him.  That your heart will overflow with gratefulness for the children you have been entrusted with.  That you will know how very much you are loved by me and by Him.  Can I pray for you right now?”

That’s just an idea.  I mean sometimes it might be that you just say, “I’m so sorry.  I’ll pray for you.”  I always find it such a blessing when friends say what they are going to pray for me or even pray for me right then and there.  I love it!

I was talking with a friend at church recently about all the unsolicited advice she gets.  I believe we single moms get A LOT of advice we don’t ask for…or want.  It’s not always easy to receive it gracefully.  I told this friend that I think I’d like to get a t-shirt made up that says, “Just Shut Up and Pray for Me!”

I confess I can’t because my family is anti-shut-up, although you wouldn’t necessarily know that since we all say it and then instantly someone says, “Hey, you can’t say shut up!”  It’s a struggle.  I’m trying to decide if it is a hill I want to “die on.”  But that’s a conversation for another blog.

My point…after all this blathering…is that I want to encourage us all to offer each other some grace…or a lot of grace.  Let’s give each other the freedom to share without condemnation or recommendations.  Let’s extend encouragement and understanding instead of instructions and ideas.

Let’s be honest – most of us know exactly what we need to do practically in order to get our lives in order.  We just find it hard to do it.  Life is difficult.  Growth is a process.  Grace is continual.

What I’d like to add at the end of that phrase is this…  “All you need to do is just…

know you are loved unconditionally

regardless of what you accomplish in a day

regardless of the words that fall out of your mouth on a bad day

regardless of the state of your home

regardless of the behavior of your children

regardless of the comments of others

you are loved unconditionally.

 

“May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.” 

2 Thessalonians 3:5

 

 

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith — that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”  Ephesians 3:14-19

Lovin’ Mommy and Apple Pie

You should like to obey your mommy as much as apple pie.”

As I begin writing I’m not sure whether I should focus on the fact that I say the dumbest things sometimes or the spiritual implications that sentence has on my life.

Although I’m thinking there will be ample opportunities for me to write about the ridiculous things that come out of my mouth so I should probably go with the spiritual application.

Let me set up the scene.  I had picked up my two youngest daughters and we were headed home.   It is an unfortunate fact that I have to drive past a McDonald’s in order to get home.  There simply is no other route.  My 6 year old LOVES McDonald’s apple pies.  And almost every day she requests one.  This particular day she requested one and I said, “Not today sweetie.”  She was obstinate and rude at that point.  I told her that was unkind and she shouldn’t talk to mommy that way.  We had the honor and obey talk.  She said she just loved apple pies soooo much she couldn’t help it.  To which I responded with the aforementioned statement.  As soon as the words left my mouth I wondered what I was thinking.  Seriously.

Once again I’m reminded of the state of my own heart.  I can’t honestly say that I like obeying God more than everything else out there that grabs my eye.  There are things that I perceive will give me more pleasure, comfort, or satisfaction that I definitely like better at times.

I wish that I liked to obey God best of all.  I like that obeying God is best for me, but sometimes I have a hard time convincing myself that that is indeed the case.

How much more difficult must it be for a child to grasp the concept that Mommy actually does know best and that obeying her will have greater benefits than the taste of a yummy, warm apple pie?

I’m always sharing the verses about obeying and honoring your parents…my children seem nonplussed by my attempts to get them to obey because God commands it.  Encouraging through consequences seems to work better.

I think I’m the same way sometimes.  I’m working towards obeying out of love, but often I find myself obeying out of hope of blessing or fear of consequences.  I want to do everything out of love and gratitude for God and His love for me.

And honestly, I’d really like it if my kids did that for me too.  What a blessing it would be to have my children obey purely because they loved God and loved me too!  I believe that prayer is the only way to get to anything resembling that idea.  Prayer for me to parent well, for my children to know they are loved, for my children to love God, for my children to love me, and for my children to understand what it means to honor and respect.

I started this blog 2 days ago, and it has been an exceedingly rough weekend with one of my children.  And I have to be honest that I have shed many tears over this child’s behavior and the condition of his heart.  It is breaking mine.  I read this and once again I am reminded that prayer is a powerful and effective tool I must use.  I have spent the weekend with wet eyes instead bent knees.  Good gravy!! How often do I need to tell myself this!?! 

Once again I’m reminding myself of this verse: 

“All your children shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the peace of your children.”  (Isaiah 54:13)

God has got this!!