Do you finish some days that you wish you could just rewind, start over, delete, and have NO ONE ever remember that those words just came out of your mouth? I've just had one of those days and I feel nauseous. My kids are 9 & 10, and we homeschool so we spend most every hour of every day together. That is more of a blessing to me than I could explain here (that's another blog), but sometimes I forget that my constant companions are kids, not adults. They witness every single thing that I do. They know if I sleep past my target wake-up time, if I miss my allotted time to do my private Bible study, how long it's been since I bathed and brushed my teeth; and they know how hard I work to clean, cook, teach, and manage our busy schedule. My point is, they see me in complete transparency and at one point in my life I would have seen that as a suffocating responsibility. But, in the last few years my relationship with Christ has grown to where I honestly realize the goldmine he has given me in the packages of "my children". My transparency to them is not supposed to be a burden, a test, a stage of life that I need to push through, but instead it is a Purpose, a Reason to get up in the morning, a Goal to be the best example I can, of how to use my days to live and love as Christ loves me. It is also the way He intends for them to learn what "not to do", and how to repent. I fully believe this, and this is why I feel nauseous right now.
Just this afternoon I was reminded that my salvation has NOTHING to do with my mouth or my actions. And THANK GOODNESS for that because what I am about to tell you is one of THE MOST embarrassing things I could EVER admit to having done. But I feel the weight of putting this out there so that other women will be reminded (because I know you have all been here at least once) that even in the worst of our mothering moments, God is there (if you're open to Him) and if you will shut your mouth and back away, He can fix the situation so that you don't actually scar your kids for life; so you don't cause irreparable damage to the precious gifts He gave us (our kids). I say "scar" and "damage" because that used to be my biggest fear as a mother -- that I had to be perfect or I would mess up my kids' salvation. How arrogant of me to think that I could get in the way of God pulling my kids to Him? He reminded me of this truth today.
Ellie will turn 11 years old this Sunday and we have planned her party at the very last minute. Today we put a deposit on the skating rink and picked up candy to make a candy cake (because that is what she asked for) that I personally designed after hours of perusing Pinterest (when I should have been sleeping). Not only did I fully design this three-tiered, candy explosion, but I also made plans to make Cotton Candy Lorax pops, bake a rainbow cake that has candy roll out of it when cut ( a surprise for her), jello/cream cheese parfaits (gluten free), banana pudding (for the adults who like "real" desserts). In my mind, I know EXACTLY what the table will look like this Saturday and she will love it!
The problem that I didn't expect, but should have because her brain works similar to mine, is that SHE wanted to plan her own birthday party. The problem is that neither of us girls told the other one, that "we have this handled" and that became glaringly apparent AFTER I got the first layer of the monstrous cake finished. So, after wrapping three tiers of foam in wrapping paper, hot gluing boxes of candy to the large one and wrapping it in a custom ribbon (that I made in the process), and gluing the other two foam tiers onto the bottom one ...... she mentions very casually that she would like to take "all that weird stuff" apart and just have the candy in two bowls on the table; OR she would like to use the candy to build a village on the table, "kinda like lincoln logs". What does that even mean, or look like -- a village made of wrapped up mini candies? I pictured a chaotic pile of candy at a party that looked like "one of those slacker mom's planned" and that is not me (eyes rolling). In disbelief, I naively thought that after I explained my full vision, she would change her mind. Long, long, long story short, she did not change her mind, she did not like my ideas, she did not appreciate that I planned HER party without asking her about it, and not once did she say anything disrespectful or rude. I should have taken a cue from her but I didn't.
Instead of saying, "Baby, this is your party. What do you want?", I actually raised my voice and started to cry. I blurted out how I took the time to research, design, purchase supplies, and start working on this candy cake, and I wasn't about to sit by and watch her turn it into a junkpile of candy on top of styrofoam. Her little face lost all expression as she stared at me with what looked like a mix of stabbing hurt, disappointment, and pity (that I could be that immature and rude). I also didn't stop there. I continued to tell her how she should feel so lucky to have a mom who would do all this for her, blah, blah, blah. Then I ran out of words and I walked out of the room to calm down.
When I came back, she was stressing over how to get the candy on the tiers. Garrett kept swooping in to try to steal some lemonheads without being seen, and I heard her say, "Stop it Garrett! Can't you see that I'm dealing with a stressful personal struggle with my mother??" That was the knife that went straight through my gut. A STRESSFUL PERSONAL STRUGGLE WITH HER MOTHER OVER A STUPID CANDY TOWER??? Her words were "personal struggle" but I knew exactly what she meant. She was hurting and felt wounded by the one person who is supposed to nurture her, and she was 100% right about that. Without thinking, I thought "God help me with this!" I snatched her up, put her little cheeks in my hand and without knowing what to say, God spoke through my mouth and told her, "My precious baby, I want to be fully honest with you. I am being selfish because I finally had a reason to make this cake, and I want to make it (without help) all myself, and I want everyone at your party to tell me what a great job I did, what a great mom I am, and how amazing my ideas are; and I have put those desires over you and your feelings. This is your party and I want you to do what you want to with this cake, AND I know how talented you are and that you will do a phenomenal job. How can I help you?"
That's right -- I said God put those words into my mouth because He knew what SHE needed to hear. I never would have blurted all that out loud (I want people to praise me? - who in their right mind would ever admit that?? out loud???). I don't even know that I realized that those were my feelings until after it came out of my mouth. James 1:26 says, "If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridles not his tongue, but deceives his own heart, this man's religion is vain." I think James wrote that for me, and my conviction, today. I do not believe God wants me to raise "religious" kids, but ones who have a relationship with Him. This all led me to realize (or remember) two things:
(1) My time with my kids is pretty short compared to all of life. My purpose, as laid out by my Saviour, is to teach my children how to live a life full of Christlike love for everyone (not just ourselves). Thinking that I can create or destroy the salvation of my kids is an arrogant human thought. The king of lies would love for me to be suffocated by the pressure AND DISTRACTION OF trying to be the perfect mother (and then have a total breakdown and get on anxiety medicine), but that is not God's goal for me. He asks me to love Him, live for Him, love His children (everyone) and teach my kids how to do the same. That truth is the key to my chains, to my handcuffs, to my prison, and allows me to rejoice in the fact that when I mess up (and I degrade, berate, and belittle my 10 year old daughter over a stupid candy tower just because I want it all to myself), HE HOLDS HER IN HIS HAND, and HE WILL NOT LEAVE HER SIDE. Ellie learned a disgusting and beautiful lesson today. She learned that every single person she knows will at some point let her down, but she can rely on the One Who Created Her (not her parents) to remind her of her place as the special heir of an eternal kingdom, His Hephziba. I can not get in God's way of protecting her. I can only use my low moments to help her see how "we should not act," and then more importantly "how to repent".
(2) Some of you read this and may have related to my initial self-centered feelings of how much I do for my kids and how I am under-appreciated. I would be lying if I said those feelings aren't actually still circling around in my mind even as I write this, but I feel that God is looking at me shaking His head, and thinking "I wish she could see what I see". The Bible says we will never understand a portion of what God does. Right now, I think there are better ways for me to teach my kids how to appreciate my work for our family, than to have my own tantrum. So regardless of whether or not she should have given in and said, "it's okay Momma, do it your way since you put all this work into it" can be debated. On one hand, I wish she had said that and I could have made "my" cake, and I would feel like she learned humility and flexibility. On the other hand she got a great lesson in hanging in there for what she wanted. She was never disrespectful, never raised her voice, and never judged me for my meltdown. She was so sweet and then so forgiving, after my apology. She knows how to stand her ground and I'm certain that one day that skill will benefit her when she's dealing with peer pressure.
The kicker is ... she used my glue gun and made a beautiful candy cake. It's not like the one in my head but it's an accomplishment for her, it's what she wants for her party, and it's a reminder that even when I stink at being her mommy, God has her heart - and I can never mess that up!