Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Tyranny of the Undone

I recently posted a status on Facebook that elicited quite a bit of response:

"I am not naturally mother material. I rarely babysat because I never really liked little kids. I like alone time, quiet, order, making a plan and sticking to it, and giving people my undivided attention. ALL impossible with littles. So often I hear, 'This is just a season,' or 'This, too, shall pass.' There must be more than that. What does a mother like me need to *thrive*, not just survive?"

When David was deployed last year, I had to learn a lesson. I was moving more and more slowly as my pregnant belly grew and I felt further and further behind in keeping up with the house and all the things I wanted to be doing. It was overwhelming. Whenever Ashira would fall asleep, I would find myself in a frantic push to get stuff done. Or, nearly as often, I would sit on the couch and Pinterest away for two hours feeling guilty the entire time because I wasn't getting stuff done. Finally, I had to give myself permission to take care of myself in those times. Sometimes that meant ignoring the to-do list completely and enjoying some Pinterest or tv. Other times that meant at least giving myself a time limit (say, 20 minutes) to hurry through a few chores and THEN to ignore my to-do list completely and relax.

What's funny is that here I am, six months later, still struggling to learn this lesson. Only now I don't get chances at quiet very often. I have two kiddos whose sleeping schedules do not always coordinate. I have a husband who works very long days but only works 7 days out of 14, meaning that he is home half the evenings. His schedule is often shifting, so that disrupts the family routine. I literally spend 3-4 hours every day simply nursing a baby! And when the stars DO align and I get that rare moment of peace, I find myself once again under the tyranny of the undone. I find myself thinking things like:

I haven't scrubbed our shower in two months.
I need to make a menu plan for next week.
Will I ever have time to plant seeds?
That laundry has been in the washing machine for two days.
Thank goodness the ants are less active in the winter because I think there is a whole fruit snack convention happening under the couch.
I need to do the next day of my Bible study. What crazy person signs herself up to lead a study when she can't even scrub her shower regularly?

It is tyranny. And it robs me of my joy and peace. The list is unending and demanding and LOUD. Without the quiet moments, I lose perspective completely. I cannot find the patience I need or the humor in my child eating yet another book corner. I cannot show mercy to my husband when he makes a mistake. I cannot show love to him when I am asking him to make everything better because I sure can't. I cannot love my children when they begin to feel like nothing more than a hindrance to accomplishing my goals.

On one hand, I know the solution: to embrace the quiet and shut out the to-do list. I need to remind myself that God doesn't ask me to keep a spotless house, or to cook only veggie-ful, from-scratch meals every day, or to have all the closets full of neatly organized and labeled things.

On the other hand, the solution can feel impossibe, fuzzy, or simply lost. I value a clean home. I value good, healthy food. I value keeping our tiny house under some semblance of organization. But if I value those things too much--if I let them rule me--then the God of Peace cannot rule me. He cannot fill my heart with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Because I have filled it with other things.

Being a stay-at-home mother of two beautiful girls is the hardest thing I have ever done, by far. I have done hard things. I have wrestled with deep emotional wounds and healing. I have pondered the great things of God. I have maintained relationships and severed relationships. But this thing, this hard thing, is hard because it is there every single day. Like the steady drip, drip of water. It can either be Chinese water torture and kill me, or I can turn to God and let the water carve a spectacular canyon of His beautiful creation within me.

Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.


  1. Well said. So many can identify, yet it is so isolating. I am sharing so that others know they are not alone. I still struggle to find that time of refilling without guilt robbing me of my joy of the moment! Praying for you! Enjoy your writing so much!!

  2. Something Left Undone by Longfellow

    Labor with what zeal we will,
    Something still remains undone,
    Something uncompleted still
    Waits the rising of the sun.
    By the bedside, on the stair,
    At the threshold, near the gates,
    With its menace or its prayer,
    Like a mendicant it waits;
    Waits, and will not go away;
    Waits, and will not be gainsaid;
    By the cares of yesterday
    Each to-day is heavier made;
    Till at length the burden seems
    Greater than our strength can bear,
    Heavy as the weight of dreams,
    Pressing on us everywhere.
    And we stand from day to day,
    Like the dwarfs of times gone by,
    Who, as Northern legends say,
    On their shoulders held the sky.