Can I have a Time Out?

Today is one of those days where I feel like I have no right to be writing a blog. I contemplated just posting one sentence. “Esther is too grumpy to write today, come back next week.” One of the main reasons I started writing this blog was to set up an accountability that forced me to write regularly. I knew that I enjoyed writing, but I didn’t do it often, and I was looking for an outlet where I not only would have a place to share my writing, but also a bit of pressure to keep writing. Which leads me to today where I would much rather hide under the covers of my bed with a book than attempt to write down my thoughts on anything. But, it’s blog-writing day.  I also wanted this blog to be a place where people could see someone being real. So. I guess I should write.

Have you ever had one of those days where you just needed a good Time Out? Like, listen, honey, you are not playing well, your attitude stinks, and I think you should go to your room for the rest of the day and think about it. How come grownups don’t get Time Outs? Probably cause we would take advantage of it. ME! ME! ME! I need a Time Out! Please, can I have a Time Out???? Maybe that’s one of the worst things about adulthood. There is no Time Out. You have to show up every day or face harsh consequences.

Days like today are the days where I feel like I really don’t deserve the title of Mom. Or wife. Or Christian. Or friend. I am not living up to my own expectations for these roles at all.

Life is also not living up to my expectations. As a teenager, dreaming about my future grown-up-ness, I imagined adventure, romance, excitement, doing things that helped save the world. And here I am. My adventure now entails trying to keep my family warm on a cold day with my little wood stove cause the heater broke down and we can’t get someone to look at it till tomorrow. Romance involves playing Yahtzee together in bed, late at night, and texting silly things to each other during the day. (Ok, I have no problems with the romance in my life, it has evolved from young passion into a solid love and enjoyment of each other, but it doesn’t look anything like the romance books talk about.) Excitement is calling 911 in the middle of the night because someone is shooting off a gun in my neighborhood. Saving the World? Well, I kind of hope that my kids are going to grow up to be solid citizens who will make a difference in the lives around them. And I guess I’m playing a part in that by doing my best to raise them right. But it’s kind of a nebulous achievement. No hard numbers or statistics to point at and say, Look, I have taught 20 illiterate adults to read! Look, I fed 100 orphans today! Look, I just spent a lot of time lobbying and I managed to get this bill passed that is going to help my community! Nope. I can say, hey, I signed my kids homework folder! Everyone in my house ate three meals today! My husband has clean socks in his drawer! All necessary things, but doesn’t feel much like saving the world.

My husband and I both grew up as missionary kids, and as adults we had a hard time settling down. We moved back to Tennessee fifteen years ago and I consider it something of a miracle that we have managed to stay. At least once a year one or both of us get the urge to move. Let’s just sell the house and go overseas. Let’s just move out of the city and find a nice little town to live in. Let’s move out West. Or up North. We call it being “restless”. Really though, it’s probably a good dose of “The grass looks greener over there.” As someone who moved about every two years my whole growing up life, I can tell you that for me, staying in one place is a million times harder than moving around. Staying in one place means you have to go through boring times where everything feels the same every day. Staying in one place means that you have to repair friendships and relationships when they unravel instead of just moving on to a new set of relationships. Staying in one place means you have to constantly adjust your expectations to fit the reality you are living in instead of just not dealing with it and moving on to something better over the horizon. (I am not trying to criticize people who move around a lot. It has its own set of pitfalls and downers and I know people aren’t moving around a lot just so they can avoid permanence. I’m just saying that for me, comparing both, I find permanence a lot harder.)

I am pretty sure that my mood today is a product of discontentment. The grass does look greener in the next yard. I feel like moving. I’m tired of housework. Everything feels blah.

So, I will adopt the cure I always give my children when they are particularly whiny and complaining. Be thankful.

Ok, here goes. I am thankful for my husband. I am thankful for my crazy kids. I am thankful for this old, beat-up house that shelters my children so perfectly. I am thankful for food on the table, a car out in the driveway, my husband’s job. I am thankful for this blog that gives me an outlet for all my personal angst. I’m thankful God still loves me. I’m thankful tomorrow is a new day.

See you all next time. Hopefully I’ll be a in a better mood by then. 🙂  

Drummer Boy, Scrooge, and the Christmas Party

Today we have been preparing for our annual Heneise Christmas Party. We’ve had one every year for the past 14 years, only missed once. It’s a special time for me as a lot of our old friends come who I sometimes don’t see at all through the year. It’s a day of family and friends and fellowship. I love it. But, today, we have been doing the preparing part. Not so fun. Trying to clean the house while we are still living in it.

cleaningoreos

I have a tendency to go a bit crazy when I’m trying to get ready for an event. I promise that I have improved over the years, but the tendency is always there and I have to do some exaggerated deep breathing, put myself in time-out occasionally, and do a lot of self-talk to keep myself from totally flipping out. Here’s a link to a Youtube video that really sums up my state of mind when I’m getting ready for some big entertaining at my house.

crazy mom cleaning for company

So today I made lists for all the kids which detailed what chores they had to do. Organized. Efficient. The kids all got to work and actually had decent attitudes about the whole thing. For the most part. So, my 9 yr old vacuumed the couches. The 11 year old swept/mopped/vaccuumed the living room. The little girls swept/mopped the hall. My 13 yr old swept/mopped the dining room. Many hands make light work. Right. So here comes the almost 2 yr old. He was sitting at the table chewing on a chunk of french bread. All is well. He is where he is supposed to be. Crumbs are being contained. I walked out of the room to do something and turned around and he’s following me, carrying his chunk of bread, shedding crumbs everywhere. I walked towards him with the intention of picking him up and setting him back at the table. He sees me coming, thinks this is some great game and takes off running. Through the dining room, through the hall, through the living room, throws himself on the couch, still holding the french bread which he is now mushing into the couch cushions. I lose it. I’m yelling, grab him, swat his behind and thrust him into my 16 yr old son’s hands. TAKE HIM!! GET HIM OUT OF HERE NOW!!!! I learned many many years ago that when you are angry at your child it’s better to get away from them for a while till you calm down. My son takes off with the baby and I grab paper towels and brooms and dustpans and attempt to undo the damage that little run through the house caused. I’m muttering under my breath. All the kids are keeping their distance. I decide it’s time to give myself a time-out. Go sit in a corner somewhere and get hold of myself.

I stomp back to my bedroom and sit in my chair. Take some deep breaths. Then I start feeling guilty. My kids don’t deserve this. They do not need me to be going crazy about keeping a house clean for the next 24 hrs until the party starts. I sit quietly and I hear the Christmas music playing from the living room. The Little Drummer Boy. “I have no gift to bring…pa rum pum pum pum…That’s fit to give the King… pa rum pum pum…” And I think. It’s true. I don’t have a worthy gift to give my King. Because of course, the sappy, pat answer is, I bring myself as a gift to the King. Well, here I am being grumpy. Yelling at my kids. Being a jerk. Not much of a gift.

I sit quietly a bit longer and then I start remembering the night before. My husband and I went and saw “A Christmas Carol” at the Clarence Brown Theater. It was a wonderful production. I was in tears by the end, truly moved by the story and the actors who portrayed it so well. One of Scrooge’s lines really stood out to me and I started thinking about it again.

 

“Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forebearance, benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business.”

Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

 

Mankind. People. That’s what we’re here for. In Matthew 22:36-40 someone asks Jesus which is the greatest commandment and he says, Love God with everything you’ve got. And then love your neighbor as yourself. (a paraphrase). It came home to me once again. What is the meaning of life?? To love God and to love people. That’s it. What gift can I bring my King? I can continue to love Him and love the people around me. Love my kids. Even though I know they’re going to mess up my house after we cleaned all morning. Love my friends. Love my neighbors. Love the people I see in the street, at the store. That is the gift I have to bring. Love. When Scrooge has a change of heart, at the end, he starts the process of repentance, restoration. In the play he walks into the church. Standing at the entrance, hesitant, uncertain of his welcome. When I watched this I had a vision of the story of the Prodigal Son, when the father welcomes back his wayward son with open arms. And I found myself silently encouraging Scrooge, Yes! Go in! You are welcome! Forgiveness is at hand! That wonderful forgiveness that I need daily, hourly, minute by minute as I mess up over and over again. You are forgiven! You are free from the burden of guilt. Free to love. Get up, try again.

I relaxed my shoulders. I decided. Ok. Right now we are doing the deep cleaning. Tomorrow we will tidy up whatever messes have occurred. Keeping a clean house is not what it’s all about. Let’s go back out there, offer some apologies, and try being patient and gentle again. This is the way to live, open hands offering up a life that is full of love and repentance, and love again.