Thursday, October 18, 2012

Why the Battle for Joy is Really Worth it



A friend sent this post below to me - we often share our parenting struggles with one another, struggles that revolve around our frustration with our children, but also our frustration with ourselves as mothers for our shortcomings - and I was in tears by the end of it. From the blog A Holy Experience, I know it will touch you as deeply as it did me. This is for every single parent out there - ladies, this is one to send to your husbands.

Why the Battle for Joy is Really Worth it
October 17, 2012

Back then I said I'd never  be like him. 

I slammed doors to punctuate the point and to make sure my dad knew it.

You can be tall and 15 and think you know a lot of things.

And you don't think about growing old and looking squishy around the middle and telling teenagers to just turn out the lights.

You don't think about how you can open your mouth and let the sharp side of your tongue tear the innards out of a soul --- and there's no way you can stuff the whole bloody mess back.

I don't know how it happened exactly.

Or maybe the truth rightly stated is --- I really don't want to remember.

How we were late, 35 minutes late, and when I got in the van they were all waiting, all 7 of them, waiting and squashed close in a mini-van that's far too mini for lanky Dutch teenagers and late summer heat and one late mother who can flare into this wide-eyed, wild agoraphobia when facing hours of finger food and paper plates and BBQ small talk with absolute strangers.

It got ugly.

A kid hadn't ironed his shirt.

Over the course of a whole hour and ten minutes of hunting down socks and doing up hair and scouring for one battered croc --- and telling my jangled it's-time-to-go-nerves a dozen times that all fear is fraud and nowhere on earth is beyond the reach of God --- I had told the boy at least 5 times, that he really did have to iron that shirt.

And then, 35 minutes late, he's in the van looking like he's rolled with a bunch of wombats to Timbuktu and back.

Maybe I should have shrugged the shoulders?

Maybe I should have said it didn't matter, let's just go? But I had asked him - five times. More like 5.8975 times and in this insistent, your-mama-she-means-business-voice.

So, to a van full of the waiting and the hot and the frustrated, I say no ma'am. No ma'am, we are not going like that. Back into the house and you have. to. iron. that. shirt. 

And the kid starts wailing. At mock pitch levels. Like I'd just announced an imminent amputation of a necessary limb or the banning of birthdays.

And every nerve ending in this highly sensitive body is already feeling unraveled and gory and I don't even want to go to this thing and I feel the iron weight of time and kids and expectations all pressing down on the lung and his howl is jet thunder in the frayed veins.

And I turn hard toward the bawling kid.

"Out." I'm not proud that I can hiss.

Here's where it'd be convenient to claim I wasn't thinking straight, that some tightening screw had somewhere loosened and the side of the thing had fractured and fissured in the loud sound.

But it's been said and I've laid up nights, thinking about it, and it's true and I say it like this:

No matter the jarring, a jar of fresh water can't spill filthy water.

When you're upset, you upset what's really in you.

 I grab the boy's arm and lean in close to his face. His wracking sobs are hot and hard in my face.

And I'm gnawing. Gnawing on the side of my lip, pulling on my mouth like I'm trying to hold something back, like I'm trying to chew through to something better than this - better than him.

How can you have held the child that came from you as an ember of very heaven and then glare blind angry and stomp him right out? Who can look into a child and forget miracle?

Me --- the amnesiac mother who forgets holy all the time.

I lean in and over, gnaw like a wild thing, and the kid pulls back and wracks it out like this haunt --- like this high and holy haunt.

"When...you...do...that..." His shoulders heave, chocking back all this heart water right undammed. "When...you...chew...your lip like that?" He wipes his face with the back of his arm. "You...look...just...like...Grandpa Morton."

And there's no air in my lungs.

I've caved, in a moment everything's caved.

Like him?

It's like a flashing supernova, the look in a child's eyes and there's a flaring mirror and you see  you are everything you said you'd never become.

You can become everything that once undid you. I'm right tipped, upset and know who I really am and what really spills, and here is why I'll never stop being a grace beggar, a wild Cross-clinger.

"Please...Don't...Do...That..." He can't stop the heaving of his shoulders, his heart.

I'm undone now --- undammed.

And feeling so damned.

How can grace get a hold of you when the past won't let go of you? How do you leave a legacy different from the one you've been left? That's what I've got to gnaw through to. How do you mangle the ones you love most?

"Sor...ry...Mama...didn't....mean...to make you...cry." And he's the one who can't stop.

And I kneel down and let go of his arm. And I hold his face. That's what I should have done, done right at the beginning. What would happen in a world where anger was your flag to reach out and cup a face?

He looks so scared and wrung and thin --- every child's a thin place. I see God.

And that's what comes:

If you don't fight for joy, it's your children who lose.

What do I want my children to remember --- my joy in clean floors, made beds and ironed shirts --- or my joy of the Lord?

You will be most remembered --- by what brought you most joy.

The joy of the Lord is your strength and the person of Christ is your unassailable joy - and the battle for you is nothing less than fighting the good fight of faith.

His cheeks in my palms, they're so white, so wet.

It's his eyes ---  if you've put the fear of yourself into a child, how is there room for the joy of the Lord? Joy isn't an option feature to the Christian life --- it's the vital feature of the Christian life.

Battle for joy or lose your life. Or other's lose theirs.

And I whisper sorry. I tell the boy I know nothing yet, nothing.

Every ungracious moment means someone doesn't understand grace.

And the boy crumbles into me and I hold onto him and a forgiveness I'll never deserve and there's a grace that can hold us, that can mold us, the way joy can bend you soft at all the joints.

And I murmur it into the thick of his hair, that even now He can still make us like Him.

The boy touches my cheek like a flag waving yes. 



When I feel myself getting frustrated or too stern or God forbid, full on Mean Mommy, I ask myself in my head: WILL THIS MATTER A YEAR FROM NOW? It forces me to breathe, take a step back and look with a clear head. It brings me back down to what matters. It lets me focus on God and find strength in Him to deal with whatever I think is a big deal right then in that moment, and I remember Isaiah 41:10. And you know what? If Squish doesn't say thank you for dinner, or has his feet on the table, or Munch is throwing her food on the floor, and instead of getting cranky or stern I realize this silly battle of control to listen to Mommy doesn't really matter in this instant, and I can see. I can see that the greatest joy of my life is to BE HERE. Just be here AT dinner with the three most precious beings in the entire universe to me, and that is what matters.

What parts of her post touched you or resonated with you the most? For me...
- "You can become everything that once undid you." So powerful.
- "You don't think about how you can open your mouth and let the sharp side of your tongue tear the innards out of a soul." (See Proverbs 18:21 for Scripture on this)
- Also, the most touching for me, "you will be most remembered by what brought you most joy."


What would happen in a world where anger was your flag to reach out and cup a face?
If you don't fight for joy, it's your children who lose.


What do I want my children to remember --- my joy in clean floors, made beds and ironed shirts --- or my joy of the Lord?



Battle for joy. 


                                                

11 comments:

  1. Sheridan, thank you so much for posting this. This SLAYED me. I'm not a mama yet, but face the same things with my husband. I need to choose him over the dirty running shorts that were on the bathroom floor this morning. I need to choose joy instead of trying to maintain a clean house after our housekeeper comes. Thanks for the reminder that we upset what's inside us - and I have some more work to do on being joyful in the Lord. Blessings!

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  2. A friend of mine posted this on Facebook yesterday and I was deeply convicted. Especially after I sent my middle to preschool crying. He had on 1 shoe and I refused to put the other on for him. Why? Because I had asked him for 15 minutes to put on his shoes. It was time to walk out the door and he didn't have on shoes. We spent 10 minutes looking for them. His first two pairs were wet b/c he'd left them outside the night before. I was late for a dr. appt. and I hate to be late. I was livid, mean and hateful and it broke my heart to watch my baby limp with one shoe on, head hung down with the teacher up the sidewalk from the car rider line. He was in tears and I was so mad that I didn't even care, until I drove away and put it all in perspective. UGH! at myself and then this post on the same day it happened. Wow.
    On another note..... Your dark hair is FABULOUS!!!! It really brings out the blue in your eyes. I have dark hair and blue eyes and I always get comments on them. I never knew it was rare but that's what people say. What a gorgeous family!

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  3. I cant thank you enough, I SO very desperately needed this..... with all the pressures of a working mama who feels the need to have everything perfect and wonderful and organized the feeling like you are going to snap is ever present and it should NEVER be our children who are the recipients of that . . . never! thank you, thank you a thousand times, thank you for sharing

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  4. This is my favorite of your posts Sheridan. Definitly one I will flag and re-read for the day I am blessed enough to have a husband and children. Battle for Joy... sounds like a new life motto if you ask me!

    xoxo

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  5. I read this too today Sheridan, Ann is a very powerful writer, and although not a mummy yet, her words speak to me of the sort of Mummy, I want to be.

    These words touched me, particularly today -

    If you don't fight for joy, it's your children who lose.

    What do I want my children to remember --- my joy in clean floors, made beds and ironed shirts --- or my joy of the Lord?

    You will be most remembered --- by what brought you most joy.

    It's his eyes --- if you've put the fear of yourself into a child, how is there room for the joy of the Lord? Joy isn't an option feature to the Christian life --- it's the vital feature of the Christian life.

    Battle for joy or lose your life. Or other's lose theirs.

    Every ungracious moment means someone doesn't understand grace.

    Thank you for posting this again - beautiful photographs of you and your family.

    Love from Ireland,

    Nics
    x

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  6. LOVED this post. I am overly obsessed with made beds and clean floors. Sometimes I swear they are still in the bed as I start to make them up in the morning. I cant help myself. Its has if at any moment Traditional Home is going to walk in and ask to take pictures of our house. Well guess what that is probably never going to happen so I need to lighten up. I think I feel like people are judging me, which is actually pretty conceded to think others have time to wonder or make judgement on my decisions. This post has been an eye opener. Thank you for sharing.

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  7. Sheridan, you have no idea how much I needed this post today. God's timing is always spot on!!!!!! Thank you for allowing HIM to use you as the vessel to put out this message.

    BEAUTIFUL pics of your sweet family. Cherish every single moment!
    Hugs~

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  8. Sweet Sheridan! Thank you so much for sharing - this couldn't have came at a better time. This morning I dropped of diapers and "school supplies" for my first precious eight week old baby boy that begins day care next week when I return to work full time. Needless to say, the tears flowed in the car. So battle for joy couldn't ring truer for me. We must continually remember to look up to our savior that loves us and choose joy in all our circumstances and to not keep our focus on the here and now that can weigh us down and to remember all the blessings he has giving us especially our precious child(ren). thank you so much for the encouragement! much love!!

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  9. In summation, "Don't sweat the small stuff."

    My mom always said, "Don't sweat the small stuff, and don't be a martyr." That second half is the part that a lot of people, women in particular, like to ignore. Really, think about how many times you've seen a woman crying because she just cannot handle the children, the house, work, and on and on? And now ask yourself how often you see men crying over the same things? It just doesn't happen. Men aren't raised to feel that there's nobility in martyring oneself for the sake of small things like perfectly clean floors. For some reason, this idea gets put into the heads of almost all women, starting at a very young age. I would encourage Ann, as a best selling author, to consider hiring some help around the house.

    Like Ann said, perfectly clean floors and made beds don't really matter in the end. Isn't it odd though, that this is a revelation that women have to have? I think every woman needs to look deep inside herself when she's upset, and ask how much of what bothers her are things that she is voluntarily doing to herself. Women need to know that there's no shame in asking for help, or hiring help if that's a option, or simply saying, "I'm going to be messy today because I just need a break."

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