Thursday, December 18, 2008


Lately my life has been characterized by this song.

Anyone else sympathize?

Last night we hosted a little Christmas get-together for our small group. It was fun and I was so glad we did it-- but just hours before our guests arrived, that song was the soundtrack to my life as I ran to the grocery store again, cleaned up messes again, and dealt with children who were determined to make messes instead of clean them up... again. Why do I do this to myself? I kept asking as the frantic-ness of my day simmered just under the surface, threatening to boil over at any moment.

After everyone left, I smiled at my family and was so glad I exerted the effort it took to make it happen. I want my kids to remember people in the house, good food laid out in the kitchen, music and laughter and memories being brewed like the apple cider that simmered in my crockpot.

But I don't want them to remember a mom seized by pressure, cracking under it, and being ruled by it. How to make peace with these two sides-- the desire to create these memorable moments with the unavoidable extra stress these things bring about? Because, try as I might, I can't seem to ever be organized enough, prepared enough, or peaceful enough... pressure seems to find a crack to slip through with that missing ingredient that must be bought, that extra need, that unforeseen mess.

Last night just an hour before our guests were due, one of my children (who shall remain nameless) decided to cook some microwave macaroni and cheese. I never buy these things and bought them as a special treat since I knew I would be busy around dinner and figured these would be good "easy" dinners they could make themselves. (The best laid plans, and all that.) This child popped the noodles into the microwave without adding the water. I walked into the kitchen and smelled a horrible (and when I say horrible I mean horrible in the truest sense of the word) stench. You just haven't smelled horrible until you have smelled dry noodles that have been microwaved for several minutes. The clincher was several of my children were standing in the kitchen, seemingly oblivious to the stench that was permeating the room.

By the time I retrieved the container from the microwave, the plastic container was literally melting in on itself and smoking. I had to carry it outside as quickly as possible and then I reeked of burning plastic and noodles for the rest of the night-- and so did my house. Oh we lit candles and opened windows and doors and sprayed Febreze, but I couldn't get rid of the smell entirely. So we explained it to our guests and they laughed and understood because they have kids too.

But still. It was a wrench thrown in the works-- a kink in my plans. Something I could never have planned for that created extra work and extra pressure.

Perhaps one day I will have a peaceful, beatific outlook on life. Things like that won't trip me up or make me feel stressed. I will learn to smile and sweetly say, "Now we will just work together to get this little mess cleaned right up!" I won't worry that my house reeks or that the offending child kept laughing about it-- even though it was most decidedly not funny. I will know that, in the grand scheme of things, little glitches are part of life and not cause for alarm. My stress level won't rise based on my circumstances. I will appreciate things from an eternal perspective instead of a temporal one. I will say with joy, "this too shall pass" because I will grasp just how quickly it does. That's what I am working towards at least.

The thing is, most mornings when I am in the shower, I listen to this song as I start my day.
And I try to concentrate on this truth: Wherever you are, wherever you've been He's been there.
And this truth: It's so wonderful, to be here now.

Because it is wonderful to be here now-- wherever here is. God ordained it, so we must find the joy in it. It might take some digging, but it's there. Because He's there. And when I look at life from that perspective, pressure dissipates. The challenge is to choose to see things that way in the heat of the moment. As the song says, I can not handle pressure. But day by day, with effort and intention, I am learning to.
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Jen - Balancing beauty and bedlam said...

Ahh - I feel your pain. In fact, I just canceled a party at my house for this evening. I have never done that, but everyone was actually relieved to do it the week after Christmas when our calendar is all completely free. It helped when they knew we had to spontaneously be out of town for 9 days. :)

smelling the melted plastic all the way in Greensboro. :)

Sandra in Phx said...

You know, this is a great reminder for me. I lost my joy after the birth of my fourth child (he's 3 now! And now we have a 5th child.) and I have sort of resigned myself to the life without JOY...but that isn't what the Lord wants for me.

Sherri said...

Beautiful post for this time of year Marybeth. Thank you for sharing your chaos with us and reminding me what is most important. What good does it do the ones I love to do things and be frantic and stressed out about it? It drains the love right out of the activity. And it's love I want my family and friends to see from me this year. Thanks for sharing!


rural momma said...

This is a very timely post. Our son is home from college, we have not seen him in four months. Sadly, things are not the same. They are not bad, but not the same. I have had other moms tell me that when kids go away to college (or wherever) and come back that things are different. I didn't believe them. Sadly, it's true.

Please cherish those "oops" moments with your kids. One day the moments will fade and you will smile at the memories. :0)

Shari Braendel said...

Oh let me guess....Mattthew? I can just see him laughing and smiling because it's just so...Matthew! Easy going Matthew! It was certainly NOT Ashleigh. If I'm wrong, I'm wrong, but I really doubt it...unless of course it was Jack! That's my second guess! love ya! Shari