27 January 2010

Animals in my Garden

I felt the end of my rope just fly out of my hands. I heard screaming and crying, then a crash as something hit the wall, then something grabbed my leg and wouldn't let go. Somehow I wrestled free of whatever had attached itself to my leg, and I ran like crazy.

I knew I was mere seconds away from a total mommy meltdown, so I made a mad dash for my office and quickly locked the door behind me. It took a few moments before I could form a coherent thought in my head again, but by that time, I'd been found. Now there was pounding on the door and more crying. My ears were buzzing and I could swear I heard a ticking sound like a timer counting down... 10...9...8...7...6... soon my head would explode.


I said nothing. I made not one sound. I hoped that if I was quiet enough, maybe the creatures out there would give up and go away. Maybe they'd think I wasn't really in here.

(knock, knock, scream) “Mooooooommyyy!”

With no water or food, I know I can't stay in here forever, but I think I can tough it out for several hours. Surely I can outlast them. As long as the door holds out. I close my eyes, take some deep breaths, and then I lose the fight with my tear ducts. I plop down in a watery heap and grab a tissue for my runny nose.

“I quit! I'm done! Lord, I don't care what anyone tries to tell me, there is no way – NO WAY – that any of this is holy. As a matter of fact, what's going through my mind right now is decidedly un-holy. Got that? UN-holy! Those little people out there have just pushed me off the cliff. There I go... down... down... down... splat. Come to think of it, I'm not even sure they are little people. I think they might be animals because they constantly spill their food on the floor (and then pick it up and eat it), they chew on books and toys, their room right now is a groundhog's heaven, and every single one of them has peed on the carpet at some point. Oh, and from down here it sounds like a herd of elephants upstairs. And let's not forget the poop, Lord. The poop just never ends around here.”

I'm tired. I'm hungry. I have a headache. And honestly, I'm not even sure I like those little people/animals right now. I want to hear what quiet sounds like. I want to hear myself think. I want a nap. Can I just lay down right here and take a nap?

(wail!) “Moooooommyyy!”

“Lord, they're not going away. But I just can't go out there right now. I'm spent. I don't want to be touched anymore today. I've been grabbed and poked and yanked and clung to way too much and I am touched-out. Patience seems like the elusive ice cream man around here. I can hear him down the street, but he never shows up at my house. I just don't want to deal with them – I want to hide.”

(sniffle, sniffle, whimper) “Mooommaa, where are you?”

Ouch – that hurt. Great – once again, I win the lousy mother of the year award. Criminey.

“Lord, how exactly does this serve You or please You? How exactly is any of this holy and worthwhile again? I'm not even doing a very good job at it today. But I want to... yes, I really do want to. The little people/animals really are precious to me and even when I don't like them I love them and I want to do right by them. Please help me.”

And then, amid my tears my heart is reminded of something. “Cultivate your own garden... do not desire to be what you are not, but rather, desire to be exactly what you are. It is in your present situation that God wishes you to act.”

I've been reading a lot of St. Francis de Sales lately and in this moment, God uses his gentle direction to lift my downcast face and nudge me up off the floor. “Each one loves according to his taste; few love according to their duty or the taste of our Lord.”

Desire to be exactly what I am... Love according to my duty, not my preference... It is in my present situation that God wishes me to act. What am I, and what is my duty? Today I'm a mother, and right now my duty is to those little people. Some of the particulars of my duty involve much cleaning of various and sundry messes and poop. The bulk of my frustration is not so much the normal trials of caring for children as it is my reluctance to devote myself entirely to my duty without wishing I was doing something else, somewhere else.

Quite certainly nothing so much hinders us from reaching perfection in our own vocation as longing for another.” For me the road to intimacy with Jesus, the road to greater holiness, stronger faith, deeper love, and true happiness – yes, happiness – lies outside my office door where the crying little people are. He wants me to be obedient in doing what He has put in front of me today, right now (including the pee and the poop). “Know that God wants nothing else of you for the present but that. Don't waste time, therefore, in doing anything else.”

“Okay, I hear You. I un-quit. I'm sorry. Please give me strength to serve You in this moment in Your rather annoying crying-child disguise. No really, Lord...I love You and I love them. Help me live my vocation well today.”

Just as I'm blowing my nose and gathering my courage, the oldest one knocks on the door. “Mommy? Can you please open the door and let me in?”

“Just give me a minute, honey” I say.

“But Mommy, I really have to go to the bathroom bad! Please let me in!”

Mommy's time-out is over – if I don't open the door soon there'll be more pee on the carpet.


Sharon said...

Thank you for this. I really needed it. It's been one of those mornings for me, too.

mbrandon8026 said...


I awoke this morning thinking of all the Ordinary Heroes I have encountered in my walk of faith the last few years. Everyday heroes are not professional athletes, actors, musicians or the well known. They don't score touchdowns, win Academy Awards, or Grammys.
They are the people who, as I see them, put Christ first in their lives, seeing Him in all those they encounter daily, even those with poopy drawers.
They are not without sin, but seek to follow Him each and every day. They inspire the faith of others by their own walk.
I thought you were on my list of Ordinary Heroes before I read this post. Now, I am certain.
As a father who had to do double duty for a number of years, I can relate to your beautiful story, and I can relate to your conclusion.
Ordinary Heroes do what is required to live and love the Good News.
God Bless You today and everyday. May the knowledge that Christ has called you to be a hero to your dear family, and equipped you to do so be your inspiration when the going gets rough.
But, may you also know that your life of faithfulness to Him and them is a witness to others who are watching and looking for the signs that God is real, and above all that God is Love.


Anne said...

What would mom's do without their time outs? Looks like you used yours well, contemplating God's will for you via the words of St. Francis de Sales. Wonderful!

Michelle said...

I loved your post! I have been on the verge of (or having) a mommy meltdown almost every day lately. My husband is trying to finish his dissertation and is NEVER around. I don't want him around. I want him to finish. But the single parent thing is driving me mad. And I can't vent on my blog because I don't want him to feel bad. I love St. Francis de Sales. Thank you for sharing your timeout with me. I'll have something to ponder tomorrow when I lock myself somewhere. Blessings!

Owner of Homeschool Faith and Family Life Website said...

"I un-quit"
That is the single most adorable, beautiful, poignant, wonderful thing I've ever read on a blog!!!!
Jennifer, you are a TREASURE.
As soon as you mentioned my good friend ST. Francis De Sales, I knew evvvvvvverrrrything was going to be ALLLright.
THANKS for sharing your "sitting on the bathroom floor with my back up against the door crying my eyes out moment" with us...most of us have been down there with you...some of us more than others ::cringe::
and ALL of us grateful that you have reminded us that all we need to do is ask for GRACE...and SURRENDER (that was NOT a plug for my e-book, ha ha)
Truly, this is a beautiful post.
God bless you.

Angel said...

This was so encouraging! My children are growing up, so I don't have these moments anymore. I can tell you, though, from this end, that these moments DOOOO play an important roll in growing in holiness. It's NOT about being the good mums we envisioned before we had kids, rathers, it's about all the un-quitting we do. I still have four kids at home and life with them is peaceful and a joy. Keep un-quitting! I must also confess that I did not lock myself in my room ever-so gracefully. No, I would always slam my door first, breaking hinges and/or knocking dear Crucifixes off the wall. Shame on me. Wretched---but holy. Is that possible? Maybe we should redefine "holy" simply as "un-quitting". Thanks again for the beautiful post.


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