Last Sunday was one of THOSE Sundays. You know the kind where you have somewhere to be after church and you’re scrambling to get everything prepped and packed but no one can find what they need and the toddler is busting out the after-church snacks you packed and ripping them open with his teeth while simultaneously squirting the bottle of sunscreen all over the inside of your bags and another kid is hollering from the bathroom that they need help and when you run to help them, the youngest escapes out the front door…
No? Sundays don’t look like that at your house?
Ok, then. Carry on. Forget I said anything.
(in fact, don’t read on, the rest of this will probably be horrifyingly shocking. I mean, fair warning).
But for the rest of you, when you also pull into church late with your frazzled looks and your tired eyes and your kids also pulling your only clean, nice outfit into a stretched-out tent, one of them crying, one of them running, and one you’re calling because you can’t FIND THEM. . . I get it. Oh, I get it.
Sundays are hard, man.
Last week was no exception.
And to top it off, when we pulled into the parking lot, our youngest began to scream. Scream. He knew where we were and didn’t want to get out of the car, because: NURSERY.
I almost stayed in the car.
“Forget it. Forget all of this. You guys go in.”
Sam assured me we should try it. So we did. And it went as well as I expected, at first. You know when you try it and they cling to you and cry and then set off a chain reaction and other little kids stare at yours and also start crying (and you want to hide your face in shame for even trying and risking such havoc but the nursery workers and other moms assure you it’s all good and you still kinda just want to grab him and run outta there as fast as you can)?
Yeah. It was that.
But then the miraculous happened and within two minutes he had settled down and was playing happily (and so were the other kids he had upset) and we snuck into the service.
Then, I SWEAR someone had clued our Pastor into where I was at and he gave a sermon JUST for me. I mean, it was timed so impeccably that I wouldn’t have been surprised had he stared directly at me or called me out from the front:
“Everyone, especially Bethany, please open your Bibles to. . .”
I’m not kidding.
Because, that week, the Sunday chaos wasn’t the exception, it was the rule. It was the norm. Sunday was the tip of the iceberg on what felt like a very hard, hard week as a mom. A week of trying desperately to finish home school – which is going longer than I had originally planned due to unexpected events, like moving and surgery, that pushed back our schedule. And my firstborn is just so done. So ready for the year to be over. So over schoolwork. So onto summertime and nice days and anything and everything other than math worksheets or phonics. And we had a stressful potential health situation with my middle child (and I blamed myself for not being more watchful or noticing something sooner), and our youngest was just, well, his normal mischievous self in the midst of it all. And I have a couple of photo projects to finish up for people and just can’t seem to do so because every night one of my kids can’t sleep or there’s some pressing issue, or groceries to buy, or my computer gives me a blue screen of death (true story) and then on top of all that, Sam got a notice for jury duty.
And here it was, Saturday night, and I had apparently missed some things when I had initially done the laundry a couple days prior and I was sitting up late that night washing yet another load because somehow one of my kids had NO UNDERWEAR?? for the next day. And I was just feeling so, so defeated.
When Sam asked me if something was up, I poured out my frustrations at how the week went, how behind I felt at absolutely everything, and how it never changes; week to week.
He listened for a bit and then said: “What perfect standard are you holding yourself to?”
“Perfect? PERFECT?!??! ” I retorted. “Pshh…I’m not talking perfect, I’m talking essentials. I’m not talking some pinterest-perfect mom jealousy, I’m talking ‘there’s no milk for breakfast’ or ‘we can’t go to church, we have no underwear to wear’ or ‘sorry, New York State, I did not complete the required paperwork, please don’t make him repeat 1st grade, ok?’ or ‘shoot, I didn’t thaw anything for dinner. . . who wants cheese and crackers?’ or ‘We’re all behind on routine medical/dental checkups’ or ‘what if this becomes a major issue and I didn’t catch it because I was so dang busy with ALL THE STUFF’ or even: ‘my child ate poop.’ (Trust me. You don’t want to know).
“This is NOT me wanting to be perfect. This is me not feeling like enough at the bare minimum of things. I’m always behind. Behind on pictures, behind on laundry, missing something on my list every dang week at grocery shopping. . .scrimping at things I know I can do better – Clorox wipes instead of deep cleaning my bathroom because I don’t have TIME in between chasing Lawrence. Cutting corners on something. Putting the laundry in a basket. Dumping it on the bed so that I have to put it away before bed. Crawling into to bed later than I wanted to and putting it back in the basket. Dumping it on the bed again the next day. Putting it back in the basket at 10pm.”
I’m a planner. I’m an organized, schedule-driven person. And I literally feel like I accomplish NOTHING on most days . Most weeks.
Unless you consider “I kept my children alive and partially clothed and owe $7.45 in library fines, oh, and also I ran that same load of laundry 6 times over the past two days because I KEEP FORGETTING IT” to be “accomplishing” something.
I have a very hard time seeing it as so.
And then I get so frustrated, so overwhelmed, so swallowed up in the never-ending cycle of not-enough, not-done, not-right, and NOT. NOT. NOT. That I just want to throw my arms up, toss it all out the window along with my sanity and ask God why he created me this way.
I mean, why?
Why can’t I be more laid back? More of the “whatever, just roll with it,” mom. Maybe I’d be happier then. Maybe I’d be less stressed out about the stuff I’m NOT doing because I just wouldn’t care!
Instead, I feel like I’m set up for failure. For frustration. For burn-out. I’m caught in this overwhelming, never-enough kind of cycle that no amount of “mom’s day out” or “early-morning running” or “forget it, lets order pizza” or “here’s a new day planner” or whatever kinds of things I try to use to give myself a leg up or a “break” or to keep me sane can fix because I JUST CAN’T DO ALL OF THE THINGS.
I just can’t. They don’t end. They’re never done. I’m never caught up. Never, ever, ever.
“Maybe it’s me.” I finally said, “Maybe I’m the weakest link in this equation. Maybe I just am not enough. And I’m at a loss as to what to do different, or how to be different.”
My poor, sweet husband looked a little taken aback, told me he hated to see me get so down on myself, assured me that I was a great mom, to stop putting so much pressure on myself, and we went to bed.
And there I was sitting in church while our pastor worked his way through a list of “50 things the internet says you should do every day” (which was hysterically funny – think drinking fair trade coffee and using paraben free shampoo and thinking positive thoughts and hand washing and yoga and no blue light before bed and…I mean, seriously, it went on forever and was so, so funny.), and then he posed this question:
“What if you aren’t supposed to be “enough? What if you can’t do it all? What if your life is designed in such a way to make you dependent on Him?”
Think about it. The Old Testament law was CRUSHING.
I mean, have you read that thing lately??
Talk about a to-do list.
No one, not even the Pharisees who professed to live up to every single bit of it, could do it. And even if they thought they could, as our pastor pointed out on Sunday, Jesus upped the ante. “Oh you think you’re following the law? What about in your mind? What are your thoughts? What is in your heart? It’s not just outward action here, your own thoughts betray you.”
Yeah. . . ouch.
If there was ever a picture of how we don’t measure up, the law was it.
But, friends, that’s the beauty of the Gospel. We can’t do it – on our own. We’ll never measure up – on our own. The law looks us in the face, just like the piles of laundry on my bed and the library fines on my card and my child’s face all smeared with…lunch, breakfast? How long HAS that been there?? look me in the face and scream: “You’re not enough! You can’t do this!”
And my “helps?” My planners and my running shoes and my to-do lists and all the things I try to add in to my life to help keep me on track, to help me do it well? They fail me too. Just like the stringent laws and rules the Pharisees tried to follow to make sure they were measuring up to every little detail of the law.
But the wonderful hope of the Gospel is that he did not leave us there then, and he does not leave me here now. Jesus stepped in and paid the price for all of our shortcomings. All of our failures. All of our sins. He took them ON HIMSELF. He bore the full penalty of our sins, FOR us. We were not enough. We were not ever going to be enough. And so he came, and he died, IN. OUR. PLACE. Once, and for all.
And maybe, just maybe, the overwhelming parts of my life, the things I can’t seem to get right, the ways I feel like I fall so short, the pressure I’ve placed on myself to be a “good” mom, a “good” wife; perhaps I’ll never live up to those either.
But maybe that’s on purpose too.
Maybe, if I could do it all, I’d feel like the Pharisees did. Like I’ve arrived. Like I’ve got it together. Like I don’t need His help.
Maybe it NEEDS to be too much for me, to send me running to Him.
Maybe my inability to keep track of every last detail in my kids’ lives is exactly what drives me to my knees, praying for HIS protection, HIS wisdom, and HIS guidance in their lives.
And what’s more, maybe my inability to DO ALL OF THE THINGS at home makes me more accessible to my kids. Maybe if I don’t look like perfect, super-mom, but instead like someone who is trying her hardest but also so desperately dependent on God for his help, it will help them to do the same in their lives. To also rely on Him.
Maybe ALL of this is how His resurrection, His Gospel, His glorious love for me comes and meets me in my mess, in my day-to-day. And then that resurrection power, that grace, that abundant love spills over out of my life and onto my kids. Onto my husband. Onto the store clerks and library fine-takers and everyone else I interact with throughout my week.
As Paul wrote in 2 Cor 12:
But he [God] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
Maybe I don’t need to look like some “other” kind of mom at all. Maybe I just need to be the mom that I am. And to be ok with all the times that I do not measure up. All the times I feel not “enough.”
Because I’m not.
But He is.