Sunday, February 14, 2016

Grace from Failure*

Everything about my schedule these days overwhelms.  Four different schools, four separate pick up times, everything in opposite directions.  It has frazzled me such that I forgot my purse twice this week and drove out of the parking lot of the school without one of my older ones when he got out while we were picking up to go the bathroom.  I didn't notice until he called while we were half way home.  

It is a situation which I did not fully understand until we were in the thick of it, managing all of this and which I did not anticipate to be as difficult as it has been. I always believe things will work out, that we aren't called to have an easy life, just a good one.  So on we march, trying to be fearless about such details.

But I admit, I was faltering. The logistics and cummulative upkeep had just beaten me down hard.  I should have noticed when I snapped at a cashier at a gas station.  I almost went back to apologize, but I didn't.  I wanted to stay entitled to being mad.  I told myself it was outrageous that I couldn't get a diet coke when I'd bought 50$ worth of gas. It was petty and I was small.  I was making myself smaller.  That smallness wouldn't stay at the Exxon.  It would follow and nag and grow bigger even as it diminished me, it would encourage me to nurse being tired, cross, hard of heart. Sin does that.  It encourages us to stay frozen in hurt, frozen in pain, frozen in time; to believe things will never get better, to believe we will always be in this moment of feeling like everything is falling away, falling apart and we are lost. 

It is then we need the grace of the cross; because we know that standing at the foot of the cross, Easter looms.  This is not the end and if we're still not sure, the angel even asks us on that morning, "Why do you stay here?" 

We need so many reminders or at least, I do. 

The next day, my son forgot his spelling, his math book and his journal and the journal prompt, and my daughter forgot her math book and it was the second day she'd not remembered, and everyone scheduled for a meeting was unable to attend and there were no less than 8 loads of laundry on my couch needing folding.  My brain short circuited and I overloaded and I cried.  The problem with feelings is they are often disproportionate to the situation.  Kids forget things. It's part of life.  No biggie.  Life happens.  People have to cancel.  It happens.  Normally, I take these things in stride.  I didn't.  Like the steward who shakes the servant and shouts "Pay up what you owe," that was me, ranting that they forgot little things, forgetful I'd forgotten much bigger ones. Yet even if she forgets...

Mercifully, I haven't been thrown into the debtor's prison just yet.  Two hours of phone calls had tracked down most of the material, but I was beaten down tired.  We'd slogged through three hours just to sort of get to baseline done.  I didn't want to pour all of myself out even if I knew that was what is required.  Again, I wanted to rest on my prior accomplishments, to justify myself in wanting to stop; just as I'd wanted to justify my irritation.  Chain screaming to myself "Offer it up! Offer it up! Offer it up!" my children approached undeterred by my prior shouts with still more immediate needs.  Dinner.  Bath.  Teeth.  Diapers.  Bottles. Fights.  Laundry.  Bedtime.

My kids go to Catholic school so there was still a bit more homework than all they'd forgotten and it still had to get done.  "Mom! We have to read this aloud before we go to bed." my daughter announced. I did not want to do this.  I was not in a listening mood or reading aloud mood.  I looked for a child to subcontract the chore out to, but they were all out of drafting range, having secured places to study and/or hide until Mom chilled out a bit. "Offer it up. Offer it up. Offer it up." I told myself.  A book had been brought out of a backpack in hopes of getting a bedtime story too.  Others were coming in hopes of getting read to, I now had a pose of five and two books in the cue. The stack would get bigger and the eyes more hopeful the longer I delayed.  I sighed inside.  It was already a quarter to, and 25 minutes past when I'd wanted to be done with everything.  "Okay.  Let's read." Everyone settled eagerly.

So we read..."Praise God for this world He has made."  It's religion.  I'm being beaten over the head by God! Help! ..."Praise God for the mountains and the sun and the trees....Praise God for the creatures, wild and tame.  Praise God and thank God for all the people He made."  God had won.  The kids had won.  We read the Aristocats too. It only took five minutes, but the world had stopped spinning out of control in those 300 seconds.

It's so easy forget from fatigue, from the chores of the day, from the scourges of the world like bills and sickness and schedules, you get to hold nothing back, but you get to hold all of these people in your heart forever.  It's a good trade. 

And as if to make sure that I got it, because like the steward who received mercy, I can be awfully thick, God piled on.   I went to tuck people into bed.  My daughter is serenading me with the "We're called to be bridges..." from a puppet show she saw that afternoon. Her arms are outstretched in a perfect hug of the world.  "Do you like my song? It's for you!" She beams. She asks for water.  I got her the drink, thinking "God, isn't this overkill?"

To which God responds promptly via my children's next actions, "No."

Then I went to my toddler's room.  I tucked in my daughter.  I tucked in Paul.  I said prayers with her. She gave me a smile and a nod and thanked me for her drink.  I told Paul I loved him.  He laughed.  This was unusual. 

He looked in my eyes. He murmured, "I love you." back at me and laughed again.  I said I love you back.  He laughed again.  He said it again. We did that over and over..several times.  His smile is permanently burned in my mind; it was a knowing smile.  A smile that said I know what you said, I know what I said and I know what it means. His laugh was a "Water" "She knows!" Anne Sullivan type moment. 

The immediacy of it all thundered.  Mercy poured forth for the forgetful stressed out mom from every corner.  I was drowning in mercy, drowning in love, grateful to be saturated in it all, and deeply aware that all of this was a gift beyond any acts I did or could do.  This was not overkill.  This was Lavish love alive.

But God wasn't finished with me yet.

I tucked in my second grader.  "Mom!  I'm worried about 2nd grade." He was the one who had forgotten his books.  "Well, you had a rough day." I offered.  He nodded.   "I want you to do something."  He looked at me, his eyes still filled with stress.  "I want you not to worry."  He breathed out, as if he'd been holding it all this time.  Too much to hold for a seven year old's shoulders I thought.  "Let's put your worry about tomorrow in a box and let it fly away.  You've studied.  You've done what you can. We've done what we can and it's okay.  We'll learn from this.  We'll check to see if we have everything before we leave the parking lot.  It will be fine and don't worry." He sighed happily and was already drifting off to sleep as I flicked off the lights. 

So Sherry...I could hear God chuckling at me.  Did you get all that?  Yes. Yes God I did.  Go to the Exxon.  Leave a note if you can't find the man himself. Pray.   Don't beat yourself up but remember that miracles, luminous miracles are all around you, but sin, even the smallest, blinds you to grace, to goodness, to mercy, to being able to see them or participate in them.  Forgive, forgive and forgive again and don't worry.  I want you not to worry.  Put that worry in a box and let it fly away. I'll take it. Now stop being anxious.  Study this.  Do what you can and learn from this.  It will be okay."

My final words to God on this subject for today?  Wish I weren't so thick.

*Digging through drafts. Found this one.  From originally September 22, 2011.

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