Why is no one in this house capable of moving the dirty dishes twelve inches from the sink to the dishwasher?
Why am I the only one who knows where the recycle bin lives and what is supposed to go into it?
And why are there jackets and backpacks sitting on kitchen chairs?
The old beer commercial queried, “Why ask why?” Good question.
There are times I walk into my kitchen and come close to despair. I so appreciate a tidy kitchen with clean countertops, a floor that doesn’t have dog hair and leaves tumbling across and a table that doesn’t have four empty cups and a newspaper stuck to it. It is a kitchen of dreams, not reality. The kitchen I have is one where a family spends a significant amount of time.
When despair creeps in, I receive a nudge from the Holy Spirit and am reminded that without this blessed family, the kitchen would be clean but soulless. This maxim extends to the rest of the house as well. Without this awesome family, the front entry would be clear of shoes and boots, the back hall wouldn’t smell like feet, the dining room table would be guest ready. Without this glad family, there wouldn’t be an errant soccer ball rolling around through the living room, the bottom of the stairs wouldn’t be cluttered with stuff to be taken up the stairs and I wouldn’t find single mittens under chairs. There would always be toilet paper on the dispenser, milk in the fridge and dirty tissues in the garbage can not next to it. Without this hallowed family, I would be lonely in my castle of clean. That’s a good reminder, Holy Spirit.
When I signed up for this parenting gig, there were some things I didn’t know. For example, I can be okay with an unkempt house. I can wake up several times in the night and still function reasonably well the next day. I can keep my wits about me while three people talk to me at once. I also can only do this with God’s help.
Whether it’s been potty training (no small feat) or getting someone off to college or the myriad of challenges in between, it has been made clear to me that this really is God’s work. In what other job are we ladled with such diverse responsibilities in such challenging (and cluttered!) surroundings with such high stakes and higher rewards? I’m not sure such a job exists.
I have a vivid memory of sitting in my living room when my oldest was months old and realizing the enormity of the love I feel for him. It was a recognition that I would do whatever it takes to protect him. It was a little frightening to know that I have that desire and capability and also empowering. This tiny creature given to me from God was relying on me to be his mother and I was ready to step up. What I know now, that I was too exhausted to know then, is that it was the Holy Spirit giving me what I needed to get the job done. I also know now that I was never alone in the nights of moving from barfing kid to barfing kid, easing liquid into them to prevent dehydration. I was not alone in the endless loops of driving to and from soccer and swim practices (and thanks to guardian angels the kids weren’t alone when I was late picking them up). Nor was I alone in the tension headaches born of worry and in the arguments about appropriate behavior. God was right there with me every step. Mary, our perfect Mother, was interceding.
And I’m not alone in those moments of unsolicited teenage hugs or dinner table conversations that explode into laughter. I’m not alone when things go surprisingly well, when they help out or offer comfort, when I see that they may in fact be turning out to be decent people.
Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more. (Luke 12:48) In the great responsibility that is raising children, much help is provided. We may feel alone when things get hard and dark and we may cry out in frustration and even anger but we are never alone. We have a spiritual squad of cheerleaders in God our heavenly Father, Mary our loving Mother, Jesus our supportive friend and the Holy Spirit who somehow manages to give us those needed nudges.
Being in a family is hard. I can’t lie. There are days when I’m kind of glad everyone is off to school for the day. But then they come home and the house lights up, the dogs wiggle and no matter the mood they return with I am happy to see them and all is right. In my very biased opinion I have great kids but it’s only because of God’s good grace. It had little to do with me. Left alone, I would have botched it.
God is good. All the time. And if we let him, if we ask, he will take beautiful care of us and our families. So, cheers to stinky shoes, sticky plates and socks on the floor!