Bean: Oh, well. Back to blowing dust off tables, I guess. Si-i-i-i-i-i-gh.
(Then Bean took a deep breath, blew on my bedside table, and created a dust storm that conjured up images of Miss Havisham's decrepit mansion in Great Expectations.)
I wish I could tell you it got better after that, or that this was just one funny anecdote from our weekend, but the truth is it's an honest glimpse into what life's been like around here lately. We're glum, we're crabby, we're dusty... our lives have felt like one disappointment after another. I've been sick, and tired, and busy, and Al too, rushing out early in the morning and coming home late from work, beaten down by the busy season and the demands of his many clients and employees. Even our usually happy, bubbly kids have lost some of their joy and hopefulness and are taking note of the fact that everything feels like it's crumbling around our ears.
As a Mama of seven years, wife of nine, I've slowly discovered and hesitantly emerged into my role as the tone-setter in our home. Here, I live surrounded by mirrors big and small, faces and hearts reflecting back at me the portrait of all that inhabits my soul. My joy giggles back in Peabody's morning greetings, my tranquility smoothes Bean's brow and lightens her steps, my love and passion stands my husband's shoulders tall and shines his eyes confident and future-hopeful. I center and stake this family's emotional circumference -- nobody gets too much lower or too much higher than my own current mood. And I don't know if every mother sets the emotional tone for her family (do you?), I just know that this mother does. It's a noble role, gorgeous really, in theory, I'm lucky to be the rainbow thread that binds hearts and imbues spirits with joy.
But it's a weighty burden too, and crucible-hot when my own soul loses its way and thrashes and aches and sighs out laments. Because when I drop into the sea of tired, anxious and frustrated, my failure to stay afloat bobbles and tosses and threatens to submerge my family in inevitable concentric circles of not-so-good feelings. Having a husband and kids comes with so many surprising reasons you have to grow up and give up self, doesn't it? I think I knew it, but I didn't really comprehend it until I married up, bore my own children and got into the serious thick of mother-wifely things. Selflessness is pervasive in this maternal role. And it stinks sometimes. I mean, can't a woman just slink off into a bad mood without her entire household being sucked into the vortex?!
Apparently, no. But thank God I've got an enormously selfless saviour to show me how this whole sacrifice thing is done.
Here's the catch, though. I know that God leads those of us with young gently. I believe that with all my heart because I have empirical data to prove it. I've seen tight knots of anxiety and confusion loosen and fall away the minute I yield to the soul-tugs of my Father. I listen in the darkness, I capture the lightness of counsel from those I trust, and God unravels snarled tangles of mother-guilty and mother-baffled and wife-inept *poof* in moments. I have many a personal tale to tell of long, stubborn internal struggles set perfectly right overnight when I've just shut up and yielded. His gentle leading is just... well, true.
But gentle leading relies upon a heart willing and able to hear and respond respond. God's quietly-tugging truth only illuminates a soul open and listening and able to recognize His voice, a soul who follows it quickly and willingly. Lately my soul has trouble hearing above the din of just ... life. The rush and business of keeping everything around here on the right rail and moving forward, coupled with this undercurrent of fear and dread and sadness over my nephew's illness and the suffering of so many other friends and family (it's just been one thing after another, y'all), and complicated by me and everybody else being sick, and then compounded by the negativity I'm spewing out and breeding in the space and people around me. I'm SO not who I should be, which makes them not who they should be, which makes me more irritated, tired and frustrated, and GUILTY, until the din of my self-talk and their fussing and his restlessness grows by decibels and my ears ache for quiet so badly I just want to silence everything with easy, available distractions - my computer, a b*tch-session with a friend, the TV, a bag of Cheetos, or blissful sleep, even though I know intellectually that after I give in to these distractions, the din just comes back all-too-quickly, and much louder, fueled by more guilt and frustration than ever.
As good as they may feel in the moment, distractions solve exactly nothing. They just stir the chaos and fuel the crackling, hissing fire of failure and disappointment and blah. They further the distance between who I should be and who I'm stuck in rut being instead. It's an ugly, ugly downhill spiral without something (someONE) to break in and redeem it. My only hope, my only way back to joy and peace and passion, is God - is my Father, who sees and knows all, has a perfect picture specifically drawn and waiting for me to step inside, and yearns for my reliance on Him, for my utterly overwhelmed, face-first fall into His arms, my eyes locked into His eyes and my ears and heart intent on lapping up His counsel. But it's up to me to fall. Up to me to shove aside distractions, find the only-moments it takes, to make them His, and to quietly listen, believe, and obey.
It's so simple! It's up to me to just shut it all out momentarily, fall into Those arms, to allow myself to be loved and led, to let the Leader do His work in me, so that I can get back to doing His work in my family, setting a tone that points to Him with clarity, joy, faith and honor, and brings out their best along with my own. And now that I've written it all out and mulled it over (for the forty-leventh time - this is a lesson I have to learn over and over again), I guess I'm just going to DO IT.
(And after that, I guess I'm going to dust.)
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