Leaning in

You guys, the chaos. It’s getting the better of me today.

The baby is teething. The toddler is potty training. The older boys are resisting school and anything resembling work with every fiber of their beings, and it’s pouring rain so I can’t just send them outside to play. And I am feeling my grip slipping. It is hard to do homeschool on days like this. It is hard to do anything on days like this.

My temptation on these days is to just become a drill sergeant, barking orders about cleaning all the piles – of laundry, and papers, and Legos, and dishes – and slamming doors, and throwing up my arms, and yelling about all the mess. (ALL THE MESS!)  Storming through it until something gets done. My temptation is to fight.

No one ever helps me! I have to do everything around here! This whole house is a disaster!

See all those extremes in there? No one…everything…the whole house. When they start showing up in my thoughts and words, that’s when I know I’m feeling overwhelmed.

And, I’ll admit, I did do a little of this already. But it didn’t take long to see how that only makes it worse. So much worse. Everyone is on edge, and the kids are afraid of me, and I’m afraid of me when I get like that. Because my insides are in knots, and theirs are, too, and I feel so much anger.

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But look at these sweet little ones. I don’t want to be angry at them. They are my treasures. They look to me for their example. They need me to be even-keeled. They don’t need to be cowering in fear because I’m throwing a giant, grown-up temper tantrum.

So I cried a little and said out loud to my husband everything that was overwhelming me. I said a little prayer asking for help. I asked another homeschooling mom if she had days like this (guess what? she does). I remembered that this is a difficult, emotional season for our family, as anniversaries of births and subsequent deaths of some of our little ones are looming on the horizon, and that sometimes that sneaks up on me in the form of feeling overwhelmed and angry and sad all at the same time.

And then, instead of digging in and tackling the mess – as I’ve been trying to do all morning and feeling hindered by crying baby and pottying preschooler and dawdling boys needing to be told to finish cleaning their room for the hundredth time – instead of buckling down and doing the work, I took a break.

I painted a little and baked some bread. I put on a show and snuggled with my girl. I let the boys play on their tablets a bit and relax. It seemed counterintuitive. Wouldn’t cleaning up one of the messes have been a better use of time?

But the whole house changed.

Or maybe I was the only one who changed, but everything felt different. Suddenly, I was looking at the mess and looking at these little people and feeling love instead of anger. We’re all just doing the best we can around here, them and me, and I realized that I need to give us all a break. And only now do I feel like I can work on some of the mess. Only after the love. It filled back up what the anger drained away.

The fruits of the spirit are not: clean dishes, empty hampers, no dust bunnies, clear kitchen counters, finished homeschool lessons, gourmet dinners, and all toys in their bins.

The fruits of the spirit are: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.

Being an example of those things to my children is so much more important than any other homeschool lessons we might have finished today.

So once more I’m learning this lesson and leaning in to the chaos. Once more I’m prioritizing these people over my own agenda. God help me, it’s like I need to learn it every single day, again and again, but I hope I will keep making progress. I hope it will get easier.

(I’ll keep this post bookmarked just in case.)

Do you have these kinds of days, too?  What helps you get through them?

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