I awoke at three this morning with the realization that I had failed to refrigerate the vat of chili we had for dinner last night. Fortunately Paul had, but I was wide awake. I tried to read for a bit until Paul asked me to turn out the light. I got up and tidied the kitchen and a bathroom then retired to the couch to read. Finally at seven I passed out only to wake after eight to Paul sitting down to put on his shoes.
I felt terrible, tired and disheveled with a sore throat to boot. Paul handed me a cup of coffee and prayed for both of us. For me he prayed for that I would have strength and energy and that there would be an extra measure of grace in our house today.
Once Paul left for work, I decided my best bet to get going and beat back the angst and dread was to workout. Unfortunately as soon as I started Jack began jumping spastically, having hit his own wall of winter angst and need for exercise. Since the wind chill was far below zero I stopped and rounded up the kids to take him to doggie daycare.
One of my colleagues pitched a fit and tore off her shirt (it was not comfortable!) and socks (they were there and easier to rip off than her jeans) refusing to leave. I left with the other children and the dog to call Paul from the van. Since I was finding just about any form of abuse reasonable, distance seemed prudent. I got Paul’s voice mail, but by then I was calm and went back inside under the pretext of having forgotten something. My colleague was slumped in a chair. I got her dressed, spoke firmly but calmly and ushered her into the van. She apologized sweetly for pitching a fit and being disobedient and I forgave her.
Having dropped off Jackie Boy we returned home and started school. It went well enough until we got to math and another one of my colleagues had a meltdown because she couldn’t understand the assignment. I patiently worked through the problems, but she DOES NOT UNDERSTAND MATH! I told her to go jump on the trampoline for five minutes.
While she was jumping and sobbing another of my colleagues said something to inflame her. I pulled him aside and told him to go get his math. He spent several minutes looking for it and teasing my smallest colleague who was quietly watching a DVD.
I got my other colleague back on her math, continued to work with her, using cookies as manipulatives, did some more written problems, and then let her work on her own. Soon after she had a breakthrough. “You know, this is actually pretty easy.” We talked about how she had a very similar experience last week, yet again with math and how, if we give our brain a chance to think and observe (rather than tell ourself we can’t understand and give up) we are able to learn most things.
Meanwhile my other colleague was not looking for his math but putting snow down our remaining colleague’s back. She was calmly eating it, having spent her piss and vinegar early today. I set the timer and informed my recalcitrant colleague that he had five minutes to find his book. After four minutes and fifty or so seconds of crying, yelling, begging and running around, he found it. I gave him the assignment and he sat down to work, cheerfully.
I went out into the living room and pulled a chair into a patch of sunlight, closed my eyes and concentrated on breathing. I thought about that extra measure of grace that Paul had requested for me. When he prayed I pictured a peaceful day. I didn’t get the peace, but I was given grace. I wanted it on the front end with the kids for me. All three of them were astonishingly needy, but with each one of them I was given the grace to be focused and patient. It is so easy, under great duress, to either verbally abuse or disengage to avoid that and neither choice serves anyone of us.
Two things that are coming up for me every where are the notions of God helping me and me obeying him. Every where: sermons, casual reading, committed reading, assignments, verses sent by friends, you name it. So far there hasn’t been anything on a bill board, but I should probably say yet. I want to hear what he is trying to say to me.
I love the verse that says, “He gently guides those with young.” I felt gently guided today, led, helped. Too often I forget to slow down, to take time and think about what my children need when they are being their most difficult. This is unfortunate, since that is usually when they feel the worst and their need of me is the greatest. The thing is, my task, my call is to gently guide them and, at times, I feel alone in it, as if it’s all up to me and I’m not up to it.
Because he’s in the country, I’ve been calling Paul at work a lot this week, and because he’s been out of it so much, all of us are struggling. He’s not always there when I call, but just taking the time to call calms me and gives me space to deal with my kids appropriately. When Paul is two miles down the road, although he is busy at work, and not always available he seems more approachable. God can seem so far away.
But, this is what is becoming clear, my mission, is to teach my children that God is near, that he is a present help in trouble, that when I call to him he will answer me, that he will gently guide me, that he will help me.
Theology in the abstract is so easy. It is an amazing and exhausting thing to live out my faith day in day out for my own trinity of witnesses, but I am in this too far to settle for platitudes when there is truth to be had, when there is help to be given.
Help me to receive.