God has a sense of humor. He also has a plan. With four kids, we struggle to make it to church regularly. Getting all four dressed and out of the house often turns into a chaotic, rushed, can’t find dress shoes that fit, “church is boring”, “get in the car, I told you 30 minutes ago we had to get ready!”, running 10 minutes behind kind of morning.
So last week, we finally made it to church. During the 5 minute children’s sermon they do in the front, my curly, red-haired Sam came back to the pew excitedly peering through his glasses. He had gotten the “mystery box”. What is the “mystery box”? Every week, one kid gets to take home the box for the entire week, bringing it back to church the following Sunday with whatever object he or she decides to put into it. With that object, the pastor then comes up with the children’s sermon on the spot, somehow linking whatever item the child brought in to his teaching.
The following Sunday, my husband ended up having to work. Let me tell you, there is no way I would ever even consider the idea of taking four kids to church by myself. Though my kids have always been well-behaved in church, my husband has always been there. I’m not sure if your offspring are anything like mine, but mine have meltdowns and attitude for me that they would never dream of having in front of their dad. Not sure if I’m just not as scary as him (I know the dogs have no fear of my voice compared to his, even when I try to deepen my tone to sound manlike), or if moms are just always going to be the safe “stress outlet” for kids. Either way, I could not guarantee I wouldn’t have a few embarrassing mom moments and why can’t she keep her kids quiet looks.
I laughed. This was God’s way of making sure I went to church and didn’t use the excuse, “My husband is working”. So up I got, fighting with my kids that hate to wear anything more than NIKE workout pants, making sure teeth were brushed and that Sam had picked out his object for the mystery box, arguing about the importance of going to church, dragging kids out to the car without shoes on…you know…the typical morning but even worse. I even used some bribery that I would take them to make gingerbread houses if they behaved in church.
Let’s just say, by the time I got in the car and started driving to work, I could feel the tears starting to slide down my cheek. This was ridiculous. The children were upset, I was losing my temper and yelling at them, and the morning went downhill enough that I just took away all electronics for the family “until Christmas!” I remember thinking, why does it have to be so stressful? What am I doing wrong? Was it stupid for me to have 4 children when it leads to so much more stress, rushing around, and minimal quiet and one on one time? Was it a disservice to my kids to have so many siblings and such a chaotic life? Should I not have even attempted going to church and just hoped they had a backup mystery box?
We pulled into the church parking lot 5 minutes late. My oldest yelled at me on the way in, blaming me for rushing him and not giving him time to get his coat (December in Ohio can be pretty cold). I remember muttering under my breath, “Lord, please help me. Give me patience.”
Church actually went well. Despite having to give a few taps on the shoulder or glances to the kids, they were very quiet and calm and made it through the pastor’s sermon (and I actually was able to pay attention to the majority of it, which doesn’t always happen when your focus is on keeping 4 kids entertained and quiet). When I saw it was going to be a longer sermon with communion coming up, I guiltily snuck the kids out, not knowing how long these angels would last, and knowing I had to take them to work for a half hour followed by a trip to the grocery store.
By the time we got to the grocery store, we were all laughing, light hearted, and having a good time. I got a text from my husband asking how church went and I responded, “It was a bad morning, but the kids behaved well at church”. He texted back asking why the morning was rough. I thought about it.
I couldn’t remember.
I couldn’t think of any details to explain to him why the morning had gone so wrong, why I was muttering to Jesus under my breath and beginning to cry. I know I had felt like I was losing it. But so quickly all those little things that compounded to chaos and stress had fleeted my mind!
That put an idea in my head. It will pass. No matter how chaotic and stressful a given time may seem, I need to remember that it will pass.
There will be a lot of chaotic times. There will be moments that make you wonder how you are going to survive the next hour. But most likely, the next hour will be better, or the next day. Those moments pass, and once they are behind us, the significance of them greatly fades. If we can remind ourselves in those chaotic moments, in the moments where we are feeling our patience drop and we’re beginning to yell or say things we don’t like…if we can remind ourselves to take a breath and realize this isn’t a big deal and this will pass…we may be able to get through it with a little less devastation. Knowing in another hour or two we will all be laughing again may help us look at the stressful moment in a different light, maybe even attempt to smile at how crazy life can be, realizing that these little things adding up are actually pretty insignificant and that the chaos is worth it.
My devotional that night read, “Do not let any set of circumstances intimidate you. The more challenging your day, the more of My Power I place at your disposal. You seem to think that I empower you equally each day, but this is not so. Your tendency upon awakening is to asses the difficulties ahead of you, measuring them against your average strength. This is an exercise in unreality.
I know what each of your days will contain, and I empower you accordingly. The degree to which I strengthen you on a given day is based mainly on two variables: the difficulty of your circumstances, and your willingness to depend on Me for help. Try to view challenging days as opportunities to receive more of My Power than usual. Look to Me for all that you need, and watch to see what I will do. As your day, so shall your strength be” (Sara Young in Jesus Calling).
We had fun in the grocery store, then we went to a friends house and spent the evening laughing and building gingerbread houses. When I look back on the day, it was a wonderful day… almost perfect!