She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she can laugh at the days to come. ~Proverbs 31:25
Pat and I have been blessed to have two sets of kids. We have three older sons who are grown, and three younger kids, who are growing up quickly. Pat and I started young and then, when it came to kids, just kept going. This means that we are oldish for parents, just ask our younger kids who think that we are ancient. We are not usually the oldest parents at back to school night, but we are up there. We take ibprofen for muscle aches. We buy industrial size bottles of Tums. We are not the “cool” parents. Music is too loud, and we are often befuddled by the electronics that our children understand.
From the first queasy bout of morning sickness, through the struggle to birth or adopt our children, to the late nights, driving lessons, and endless efforts with science projects and homework, being a parent is the most wonderfully difficult thing that God will call us to do. But then we shouldn’t lose heart, it was never meant to be easy.
prom dresses and hiking boots. We’ve survived the drama of hair flips and “I don’t want to talk about it’s.” We’ve danced in the kitchen, around a campfire, and at lakeside parties. We’ve watched school concerts, plays, and gone on field trips. We’ve picked flowers and painted glitter on our nails. We’ve waited for our girl to return home safely from dates, Pat having forcefully shaken her beau’s hand before they left for the evening. We love our daughter.
I had one such day recently and the family thought it was humiliating enough to share.
A few weeks ago, on a Sunday morning, our cat, Luna, woke me up a few minutes after five. Pat still rested beside me and I could hear that no one else in the house was up. This was good. So I crept downstairs instead of rolling over. I slowly sipped my coffee, enjoyed the birds singing outside the window, and relaxed before the crazy Sunday morning routine began.
I fed the cat and savored the moments of peace. I tweaked what I was going to say at church, read a few favorite blogs, and checked facebook. I drank my coffee. The cat, full of kibbles, joined me on the chair purring loudly. Around seven, I heard the thump of feet hitting the floor. Kids were coming down.
maple pecan muffins for the family. I had the butter and syrup creamed and the dry ingredients mixed before I discovered that I did not have the required sour cream. I decided to exchange cream cheese for the missing sour cream, because I’m flexible like that. The butter and syrup looked a little melty from all the whipping, but I shrugged and went with it. The recipe usually yields 18 generously sized muffins, but for some odd reason, I seemed to have lots of extra batter. I doled it out between the muffin cups and set the pan to bake for eighteen minutes.
I went upstairs to get dressed and showered feeling noble and a little like the Proverbs 31 woman who gets up while it is still dark and provides food for her family.
Pat and I were chatting when the first tendrils of smoke made their way up the stairs and through the closed bedroom door. We raced down stairs. Smoke hung a foot deep from the ceiling. The smoke alarm that usually calls my children to dinner, was oddly silent.
Burnt maple syrup smoke puffed in my face when I opened the oven door. When my eyes stopped watering, I peered at my muffins. The batter had overflowed and spilled out across the muffin pan then dripped down onto the bottom of the oven. A half inch of black gunk with charred pecans rested in the muffin cups.
Anthony helpfully opened the sliding door to fan the smoke out. Patty cried, “What did you do?” Connor took one look in the oven and cheerfully informed me that I had a muffin mishap, and perhaps he should have cereal.
Now that my culinary expertise had been properly documented for future generations, I started to scrape the blackened crisp off the bottom of the oven. Pat stopped me by closing the oven door and switching it from bake to clean. He wanted to leave the muffin pan in the oven, but I vetoed that. It would be better soaked, and if that didn’t work, disposed of. We hastily re-planned our morning. Pat and the boys would remain at home in case the house went on fire from my muffin mishap and Patty and I would go to church. As a precaution, I lovingly took the fire extinguisher out of the cabinet and placed it next to the oven. Pat informed me that if I was really concerned about him, I would have put the fire extinguisher on the table so he wouldn’t have to get burned getting to it if the oven did actually go on fire. He had a point.
Still hungry and being too considerate to add to the mess, Patty and I went to the diner for breakfast. Over eggs and pancakes we made plans for some girl shopping in the afternoon. At church, my friend Kim suggested we go to Job Lot in Hyde Park. I had never been there.
What a place it is! There is a hodgepodge of, well, everything. Clothing, food, flashlights, paper goods, and area rugs. It was in the area rugs that I once again got into a little bit of trouble. I have been searching for a rug for the living room.
The area rugs were stacked on top of one another in piles. If you have ever had the experience of shopping for rugs, you know that the one you want to look at is never the top rug. In the 5 x 7 pile, I discovered a rug that had the perfect colors for our bedroom. I could just imagine it tucked cozily in front of our chair. The only problem was that the rug I wanted was about five rugs down. A young man who was a store employee wandered by a few times but steadfastly refused to make eye contact. Patty and I were on our own. I came up with a plan. If we flipped the rugs back halfway and then sort of rolled the desired rug up toward the middle, and then flipped the rugs back and did the same thing from the opposite direction, we could pull the rug out without disturbing the rest of the pile. So Patty and I strong armed our way through and the little rug ended up neatly in my carriage.
Still determined to find something for the living room, I moved on to the pile of 8 x 11 rugs which were up on a much higher platform so that they wouldn’t touch the floor. I leafed through and quickly discovered a rug way down in the pile that had possibilities. The same employee had continued to pass by and not make eye contact. Well, my rug technique had worked before, so I decided to try again. Patty and I took our positions on opposite ends on the short side of the rugs. Flipping 8 x 11 rugs over was much more difficult than the smaller rugs. They were heavy, higher up and sagged in the middle as we folded them. Still I was determined and Patty was giving it her best shot. We had managed to get the top rugs flipped and the right rug rolled. I had positioned myself to pull the rug out from under the others when I was startled by a deep voice rumbling behind me. There was a shorter than me, older man who offered to get someone to help me.
“No thanks, I think that I have it.” Silly me. The calvary had finally arrived and I turned them down. I gave an enthusiastic tug and the entire pile of rugs spilled on to the floor. I was mortified. The man paged for assistance and a few guys turned up, including the young man who had pretended that I was invisible before.
Then because God has a sense of humor and to make my embarrassment complete, my friend, Kim came around the corner. What a scene. There I was with the pile of rugs dumped on the floor, the guys rushing around, and the man in charge telling me that they did not want my help to put the rug display back together, thank you very much. Patty wanted to melt. So much for being clothed in strength and dignity like in Proverbs 31. At least this time, no one had a camera! Kim promptly called her mother, Donna, to share the excitement.
Patty and I went home. The house was standing. The fire extinguisher unused. The oven was clean, but the house still smelled like burnt crispies. When we rolled the rug out in the living room, we saw that it was missing a few important rows of yarn in the middle. I would have noticed this in the store if I had ever seen the rug completely instead of rolled up. Pat went back with me the next day to return it. Fortunately, no one was there who had witnessed the great rug debacle of the previous day.
And there it is, in the middle of the muddle, grace generously spilled out like rugs on the floor. Being a parent is about the laughter of making mistakes and doing our best. It’s about dying to self and fanning the smoke of our blunders out the window. It’s about documenting the laughter and dancing in the kitchen.
When our children see us in the midst of our mess, they’ll know that the God we serve, is not about to squash us for not being perfect people. They’ll know that He sees us as we are and loves us anyway. Which is how He calls us to love them.
I want my children to please be quiet. Christ wants them to sing loud praises. I want them to stop rocking the boat. Christ wants them to get out of the boat and walk to Him over the roar of the waves. I want them to be over achievers who always do their homework and make the best decisions. Christ calls them to decide for Him and be His disciples. I don’t want their heart to be broken. Christ wants to give them a heart of flesh, broken for His people. I want them to fit in. He wants to set them apart. I love my children. He loves them more.
And when we fail as a parent, and we will fail, our sons and daughters will see us pick ourselves up and continue the path we have been set on. Our lives are transparent to our children. They have seen us with mud on our face, curlers in our hair, not ready for company, certainly not warrior like. They see us in our un-sparkly selves. They have witnessed our reaction to people who cut us off in traffic and what we do when we knock over the store display. They have eaten at our table. They know that real life sometimes requires fire extinguishers and smoke alarms. They have listened to us talk to our friends, our parents, and our God. For better or worse, our children have learned about marriage and parenting from us. They see our laughter and our tears. They know our sins.
So we teach them about Jesus, the Lamb of God, who takes away our sins, especially the sins of children and parents. When I was young and acting foolish, I remember my parents telling me that they hoped that I had a child just like me. I am so grateful that our God is full of grace and mercy, because parenting matters. God understands. As parents, we are raising greatness. Godly warriors for the next generation.
May you have a blessed Mother’s Day.