Sleeping Through the Storm

 

I originally started to write this post for Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop. However, a late night watching the paths of  tornadoes, early risings from the kids, and a canceled kid-swap day due to a stomach bug kept me from getting this post published Thursday morning. After contemplating the topic some more, I decided this post is actually perfect for ‘Journeys,’ but since Mama Kat gave me the inspiration, I’m linking up with her, as well.

3.) What is going on in the bedroom? Describe a memorable sleeper.

 

For the last five years, sleep has been a commodity. With three children came three more reasons that I would never be able to count on a consistent routine of  a solid eight hours. Every night this week, my husband and I have either been stalled in our desire to go to bed or ripped from a deep sleep due to cries in bedrooms down the hall. Last night was different, however. Last night my own worry kept me awake, causing me to grab only a couple of hours here and there.

I had known all day that a storm was coming. The day before our trusty meteorologist warned through the radio that there was a chance we’d wake to thunderstorms, and even though that morning passed without those flashes of lightning, he warned that another system would arrive around eight p.m. I took notice, and I sent my husband an e-mail asking him not to work past six; tornadoes were supposed to accompany this storm, and I wanted him home with us before the fireworks began.

The kids were ready to make their way upstairs as Matt arrived home, and we had everyone tucked into bed by 8:15. I went downstairs to check my phone that had rung while I was rocking my daughter, and I noticed a missed call from my dad. I called him, knowing that he doesn’t usually call me in the evenings.

“I just wanted to make sure that you’re ready for the storm,” he said after I told him I saw I missed his call.

“Umm…no. I mean, we know it’s coming, but we haven’t done anything, yet.”

“Well, if you guys want to come over here and stay in the basement, you’re more than welcome.”

I got a little nervous after his suggestion. After all, Dad had never invited us to share the basement for any other storm. I told Matt the offer, but he didn’t think we needed to make the drive over there. We’d just take the necessary precautions here.

Together we pulled tray-tables and plastic bags full of party decorations out of the downstairs closet. I stacked plastic totes with red lids full of Dr. Seuss hats and paper Thanksgiving turkeys, butterflies and sundry other creations made in preschool. I found small boxes of pictures that had not yet made it to albums, and I retrieved around six blankets that Matt and I cuddled under on those rare nights when we watched a movie. And while I was preparing for the storm, I was performing a mental checklist of the items I would need to organize this closet.

Matt found all the bike helmets from the garage, and I grabbed a football helmet from the playroom. We had four helmets and five of us. I ran upstairs and threw down the massive pillows that adorned our bed and grabbed the flashlight from Matt’s dresser drawer. I remembered seeing Caleb’s little flashlight under his bed when I had hunted down the missing Easter candy earlier, and I got on my stomach, squirming my way under his bed until I could reach the little light. I set the two flashlights next to each other on my nightstand in case the power went out while we were asleep.

We were ready.

While sipping warm soup at the kitchen table, I sent my sister a text asking her to tell Dad that we were prepared now; he didn’t need to worry. She texted me back with Dad’s offer of the basement again and concluded with the words “good luck and god speed” if we decided to stick it out at our house.

Godspeed?

I had never in my life heard my sister or anyone in my family, for that matter, use those words. I reached across the table to show Matt the text, and I admitted that I was officially scared. What kind of storm did we need to expect?

After our quick dinner, I ran upstairs to take a shower before the thunder and lightning began. And as is typical for me, my thoughts took off as soon as I was alone getting ready for that shower. What if we’ve made a mistake and should’ve gone to my parents? What if we went to my parents, but the storm hit there and not here? If we have to take cover, how will I keep the kids calm? What would I do if anything happened to Matt or the kids?

I began to worry. I knew a storm was coming, but I didn’t know when, and I didn’t know exactly where. And while I didn’t want to dwell on morbid thoughts, as I kissed each kid goodnight again, I wondered if I would get the chance to do the same thing in that same room again tomorrow. I was assuming the worst–that the tornadoes would hit us–based on the urgent nature of the newscasters and the number of friends on Facebook heading for their basements. And I found it strange to know a disaster was coming and to have to sit tight and wait. And I found it unnerving to know that what I was waiting for could change my life forever.

But praying and waiting was all there was left to do. We made the best preparations we could, and now we just needed to see if they were necessary or not.

 

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I pretended to read  on the couch where we continued to listen to the excited weatherman and watch the giant red blob work its way across the screen. I peered over the top of my book as the weatherman gave the countdown for each city in the path of the mile-wide tornado. Floyd, you have two minutes to take cover. Sandy Springs, you have eight minutes to get ready–you are in the direct path of the storm. And I knew I wouldn’t sleep tonight.

But I woke up an hour or so later on the couch to the boom of thunder and sound of rain beating on the windows. I immediately sat up and focused my tired eyes on the T.V., looking for the red blob and the small cities named on the screen. It was almost one a.m., and two different storms were nearer, yet they looked as if they would slide by us, one overhead, one below.

Matt was sound asleep. I tried to wake him, desperate to know if he had a plan for how we would hear if we needed to take cover. All of the preparations would mean nothing if we slept while the storm was knocking at our door. Matt said he’d turn on the radio on his nightstand, but I was not comforted knowing that I woke Matt, not his alarm, most mornings. But, alas, we didn’t have any other options, and from what we could tell, unless the storm turned, we should fare okay.

Good sleep was hard to come by that night. Chloe had acted upset at bedtime and awoke crying again after we had fallen asleep. And at five a.m., I again jerked awake to hear the conversation on the radio that the threat of dangerous weather for our area was now over. I no longer needed to be afraid; we were safe.

Even though I try to wake up at five most mornings, I decided to go back to sleep. I was exhausted. Unfortunately, my kids decided to wake an hour earlier than usual.

As I went about the morning routine of getting the kids ready for school, putting tray-tables and unused helmets back in their places, I thought about the preparations Matt and I made the night before. We didn’t know when or exactly where, but we knew the storm was coming. And while we hoped for the best, we didn’t know if we’d be counted with those who had lost something precious in the storm.

Almost 300 individuals lost their lives as a result of this storm system that swept through the southeast. As I poured milk in cereals bowls, I thought to myself that their end is no different than the one I’m going to face–I will die, too. The only questions are when and how.

And just as I prepared for a tornado last night with pillows and flashlights, there are preparations to be made for that moment when I will cease to exist in this life, that moment that we all know is coming.

I know I have areas in which I need to improve, habits I want to correct so that I’ll leave this Earth with no regrets. But I also believe that when I leave this world, I’ll enter another where I’ll meet my God. And when I see Him face-to-face, I will tell Him, “I tried to prepare, but I have done nothing that can make me worthy to enter into your presence, nothing except for one preparation–to love your Son who thought me worthy to die in my place.”

We all face the same end. The end of the story is not a surprise–it’s just the journey that’s different for all of us. So are you prepared? Do you know what you believe? And if not, when do you plan to prepare? The storm is coming while you sleep, and there is no guarantee that there will be time to get ready when you wake up.

Journeys

Please keep the families devastated by this storm in your thoughts and prayers today. Click here if you’d like to make a donation to the American Red Cross to help these disaster victims.

Have you ever had to prepare for a literal storm coming your way? What thoughts ran through your mind? How much thought have you given to the fact of your own mortality? Are you ready if you died today?

 

 

 

Ten Things My Daughter Says

For the second night in a row, my husband and I are up at 11 p.m. and cannot  go to bed. Last night, we were held captive by the power of Easter candy sugar highs on our son and daughter, obviously tired but unable to fall asleep. Tonight, we are subject to the tears of our little girl brought on by a lost binky. And since that daughter is rolling all over my lap, unable to sleep without her precious pacifier but fully capable of spewing out sentences that her not quite two-year-old self can already say, I decided to write this post in her honor : Ten Things My Daughter Says

10. Mommy, where’s my bing-kee? (Oh, how I wish I knew)

9. I want ‘andy. (candy)

8. I want choc-it (chocolate–are you noticing a pattern?)

7. Mommy, Hammah Gyace is spit-in on me! (Hannah Grace is spitting on me)

6. Mommy, Ha-yub is hittin’ me! ( I was so relieved to learn that she could tattle on both her sister and brother, Caleb)

5. I do it! (Of course you do. How silly of me to think you needed help)

4. Mommy, hep me, peas. (help me, please. And dear Lord, help me, please, too)

3. I need to go potty (any time she wants to get down from her highchair, stroller, or out of bed)

2. Two minutes. (Her request for her mommy or daddy to stay in her room for just two more minutes at bedtime)

1. Hammah Gyace–look ah me! What happen? (to her three-year-old sister having a tantrum)

Clearly we have a very bright, independent, and, perhaps, bossy little girl. Now if she would just stop talking, I’d love to go to sleep. Linking up with Oh Amanda for her Top Ten Tuesday.

Top Ten {Tuesday}

What I Don’t Deserve

A whisper broke the momentary silence, filling the black room.

“Did you have fun at Easter?”

“Yes!”

I reached over across the bed and grabbed my husband’s arm. After enduring a bedtime routine that started at 7, we thought we would finally get to go bed at 11 after bringing the two trouble-makers in our room, making little pads on the floor with the new blankets their Grammy made. But our three-year-old couldn’t resist the temptation to talk to her brother one more time before finally drifting off to sleep.

Randomly throughout the day Hannah Grace would order me, “Ask me what I did today in church,” and when I would comply, she’d scream, “Jesus is Alive!!!!”

I guess a day with that much excitement, that much candy doesn’t turn off quite so easily. And I have to admit, the frustration I would normally feel if my children were up for four hours after we began bedtime gave way to the warm sensation that filled my heart. The day spent celebrating did me good.

Many days I focus on what I don’t deserve–disobedience, totaled cars, fatigue–and those thoughts are never productive. But this day was different. I was consumed with my unworthiness.

I looked around and saw my parents and siblings, laughing and playing with five young children running around the yard. My heart ached for my sick nephew and my sister and brother-in-law at home with him, missing our celebration. I remembered the image of my husband, vacuuming and setting out chairs as we prepared for the day. And I smiled at the beauty of my two daughters dressed in purple flowing dresses, my son growing tall, but still my little boy in blue.

I don’t deserve this.

And I thought about my deeds that should leave a dark stain on my soul. And,  yet, I am marked white as snow, pure in His sight because of this day, Easter. Of all the blessings I don’t deserve, His gift is the greatest.

Today was different. As I thought about all I don’t deserve, the greatest gift that I don’t deserve, everything was put in perspective. I realized the magnitude of my unworthiness, and my heart was glad.

 

 

 

Linking up with Michelle at Graceful and Jen at Finding Heaven. How did you celebrate Easter? What does Easter mean to you?

 

Accepting Simple

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After years of remembering ‘Good Friday,’ certain aspects of the day can fade from my memory. Yet one scene took a front seat in my mind as I watched a passion play with my in-laws.

While hanging on the cross next to Jesus, one of the criminals is acutely aware of his own depravity in light of the goodness of Jesus. He proceeds to rebuke the other criminal sentenced to die with them for the insults he throws at the Son of God:

“Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.[d]

43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23: 40-43, New International Version, 2010)

And I’m struck by the simplicity of the story.

This man didn’t know the doctrine of the Trinity. He didn’t formulate his position on the ideas of predestination versus free will. He didn’t state his preference for infant versus adult baptism. And he didn’t recite an eloquent ‘sinner’s prayer’ highlighting each key tenant of the Christian faith.

He simply knew that he deserved death for his sins, and he turned to Jesus.

And thankfully, that story is just as simple for me.
Remember me when you come into your kingdom.

Remember me, a sinner. You didn’t deserve death, but you died so that I wouldn’t have to.

It’s that simple.

Journeys

What strikes you about ‘Good Friday’? Share in the comments below, or link your own post describing a spiritual journey. And have a Happy Easter!

 

Lessons for Students

 

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I had a brief career as a high school English teacher. My love for literature and desire to do something meaningful with my life brought me to that profession, but after a few years, I pursued other avenues and am now home with my own children. I still think about many of my former students from time to time, however. My last year teaching, I was saddened by a general attitude that I saw among my students, and I wish I could go back and address them. If I could, these are the words I would tell my students:

Just because something is difficult doesn’t mean that it is pointless, and just because something is difficult doesn’t mean that it is stupid. If you don’t learn to push through these hard lessons in school by doing your best now, then you will have set yourself up for a pattern of quitting later. Working hard does matter, and you will not be rewarded now or later for mediocre work.

For some of you life is hard now. Some of you have crappy parents–I’ve met them–but don’t let anyone determine your destiny except for you. We don’t all start on a level playing field, and some of you will have to work a thousand times harder to start at the same point as one of your classmates–so work a thousand times harder. Life isn’t fair, and the sooner you get that idea out of your head the better. If you want to succeed, take the steps to make success happen.

Success is not measured by the amount of money you make. True success is living your life in a way that, at the end, you won’t be ashamed to stand before God. True success is finding that which brings your life joy and meaning, and giving your all to that cause.

Follow your dreams, but understand that all dreams come with sacrifice. Our society doesn’t like to talk about sacrifice, but it is a word you need to embrace. If you want to be a musician or actress, go for it! If you want to serve in the military, make us proud! If you want to become a doctor, wonderful! If you want to stay home with your children, do it! But understand that for any career choice, you will sacrifice something–money, family, holidays, personal freedom–the list is different for every choice. Decide ahead of time what you’re willing to sacrifice and what you’re not, and stick to your convictions. Then work hard, and make your dreams happen.

You will not feel happy every day of your life, even if you’re going after your dream. Learn to persevere–persevere in marriage, persevere in your job, persevere raising your children. Do not believe the lies of Hollywood; there is no ‘and they lived happily ever after.’ Achieving that ‘happily ever after’ takes hard work through many rough patches, but stick it out. Marriages worth something, careers worth something, families worth something all have time, sweat, and tears engrained in them.

Make good choices now; unfortunately, the choices you make now can and will affect you later. Wait to have sex. Even though our society is inundated with sexual images and has completely cheapened the act God gave us as a gift to share with our spouses, you don’t have to give in to the pressure. Any choice you make regarding an unwanted pregnancy will have lasting consequences. And while you should take the risk of pregnancy and STDs seriously, you should also take your emotional health seriously. Sex will bring you closer to the person with whom you’re sleeping. That person should be worthy of you–wait until you find that one person. Wait until you’re married. Sometimes old-fashioned ideas are actually good ideas.

If you want to buy something, save your money. If you don’t have the money, don’t buy the item. You do not have to have an iPhone or an iPad or designer clothes. Learn the difference between needs and wants now. Establishing a pattern of bad financial decisions now will limit your choices later.

Finally, figure out what you believe and why you believe it. Examine your faith. Your parents faith or lack thereof is not enough to get you by in life or an excuse for whether or not you believe, and these excuses will not count if you do stand before God one day. Of all the decisions you make, this decision is the most important. You will face many trials in life; to whom will you call out when they come? What is the purpose behind the decisions you make?

And if you make a decision to follow after God, then really follow! The world doesn’t need any more half-hearted disciples. The world needs more people who truly loves others, care for the poor and the underprivileged in society, and treat every human being with kindness and dignity.

And at this point, I would gently nudge my students awake, tell them to wipe the drool off their mouths, and remind them that I am always here to talk about any of these issues if they need me.

 

Linking up with Mama Kat for her Writer’s Workshop and Michelle for ‘Thought-provoking Thursday.’ Come back tomorrow and link up your own post for ‘Journeys.’ What life-journey are you currently taking?

Mama’s Losin’ It

 

In the Garden

As we poked seeds into the little holes we dug with our fingers, an excitement filled my body. Our second garden was taking shape, herbs next to their compatible vegetables instead of separate like the year before, a new bed dedicated to wildflowers by the lone Dogwood tree.

Last year was our first attempt at a garden, and I found fulfillment in the experience. When I’d walk out in the mornings to water the plants already thirsty from the Georgia heat, my mind would dwell on the spiritual. I’d think of the Master Gardener and His precision pruning. I’d think of the circumstances of life beyond my control, the seasons of drought or the times of refreshing rain.

But as I was sitting with dirt creeping in my socks and filling the small spaces between my fingernails and skin, my thoughts weren’t nearly so deep. Nor are they this morning.

Instead, I am an anxious little girl waiting for Christmas to come, wondering what presents I will unwrap in the morning,

wondering if our stockings will be filled to the brim with peppers this year unlike the year before,

wondering if the kids will sneak their gifts before Christmas day arrives.

Do you have a garden? What is the most fulfilling part of the experience for you?

In the Dark Belly

As the days grew longer and my belly bigger, I began to marvel at this life growing inside of me. Crammed in this watermelon-shaped space were two little legs that would find the need to stretch, revealing just how tight my skin had pulled across my belly. Little fists and elbows used my insides like a punching bag, and Matt and I would look with amazement as one side of my stomach would bounce in and out in its quick rhythm.

And during this time, I wondered what it felt like to live as this developing fetus, crammed into a dark space, living every day rolled up in a little ball amidst warm water and the constant sounds of the mother’s heart beating, her voice echoing to down below. Frankly, to this claustrophobic lady, the concept seemed terrifying, yet we know that babies don’t enter the world with a mind full of phobias–they don’t want to be dropped or experience loud noises–but beyond those two conditions, they are at peace.

I’m always amazed where my mind travels during a sermon at church. As we were studying the story of Jonah, and the pastor was describing Jonah’s anxiety at finding himself in the dark belly of a fish, my mind traveled to when I was pregnant and recalled the three different times I pushed babies from within the darkness of my belly to the light of a new world.

In the story of Jonah, Jonah disobeys God and tries to flee from his calling but, instead, finds himself trapped inside a giant fish. The first time we see this prophet pray is when his anxiety is at an all-time high, when he has no where else to look but up:

The engulfing waters threatened me,[b]
the deep surrounded me;
seaweed was wrapped around my head.
6 To the roots of the mountains I sank down;
the earth beneath barred me in forever.
But you, LORD my God,
brought my life up from the pit. (Jonah 2:5-6, New International Version, 2010)

Like Jonah, we have experiences in our life that bring us to the height of anxiety. Our anxiety over our jobs or lack of jobs in a tough economy, anxiety over parenting and rebellious children, anxiety over secrets in our marriages–all of these anxieties squeeze out our breath, leave us feeling like we are trapped in a small, dark place with no way out.

And my pastor pointed out that these times of anxiety in our life are a signal for us to communicate with God, a time to get on our knees in prayer and share our worries with Him.

But my mind kept traveling to the image of the developing baby, also in a small, dark place. This baby, kept in its warm home for the perfect amount of time until his fingers and toes are developed, his eyes ready to take in those first fuzzy images of the mother ready to hug him close into her bosom, his lungs ready to take its first breath outside in the new world–this baby who undergoes a traumatic ordeal to leave its small, dark home for a wide-open space. Yet this baby enters the world without fear.

While Jonah lay trapped in the belly of the fish, he grew. He learned there was no escaping the will of God, and he learned who is sovereign. And, perhaps, we are kept in our own dark spaces so that we, too, can grow. And we will grow, and we will learn until we can look up with peace at that wide-open space on the other side, trusting that we have a Father waiting to hold us close to His chest, whisper softly in our ear, a Father from whose arms we will never fall.

 

Linking up with Michelle today. What’s your giant fish?

When I Don’t Know W.W.J.D.

Two days ago, I had a blasphemous thought: Would Jesus have remained sinless if he had had to parent my kids? And while I know that that thought shouldn’t have crossed my mind, it did. And, truthfully, on this particular night, I was convinced that even Jesus would’ve lost his cool when He saw his little kids lying amidst papers and toys strewn across the playroom floor after two weeks of ordering them to clean up. I was convinced that the sounds of whining and crying from his oldest and the touch of toddlers clinging to His leg while having tantrums would’ve had Him calling one of the disciples to come babysit so He could head to Starbucks, hiding from the sight of any people three feet tall and under.

After a miserable previous week, I had started this week off fresh. With a new idea tucked away in my brain, I loaded up the girls and headed to Target for some incentive stickers. And even though the Disney princess stickers cost $6 when a pack of butterfly and flower stickers cost half that amount for twice the number, I went through the check-out line with the princesses and a pack of Star Wars stickers for Caleb. After all, for the incentive to work, the kids had to be excited about their prize. I was sure they would pick up their toys for a sticker.

 

So when we reached the end of the week with two barren charts except for a few stickers awarded ( one sticker stolen, not earned) merely for the kids to realize that they could, in fact, earn stickers, I threw up my hands in desperation. And as I hung my head in defeat and contemplated if Jesus would, in fact, sin, I also thought about a question that I was first asked my senior year in high school.

My mom had come home from the Christian book store one day with a handful of bracelets.

“What are these?” I asked.

I looked over the letters ‘W.W.J.D’ embroidered on the cloth.

“It stands for ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ and when someone asks you what it means, you’re supposed to give them the bracelet.

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I remember giving some to my boyfriend and hearing his experience having given his away to a girl in his math class:

“She told me it was really hard to smoke wearing that bracelet!”

In high school, when I asked the question ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ I knew the answer. He wouldn’t want me to rebel against my parents by smoking. He wouldn’t want me to cheat on tests or make fun of the awkward boy in my math class. He would want me to try my hardest, act respectfully to my teachers, love my neighbors.

But the other day, as I stood in my kitchen and asked myself that question again, I answered honestly I don’t know.

I thought about the life of Jesus, and since he was not a human parent to any children, I could only look to how he treated those he encountered.

I considered the option of teaching my children in parables:

There once was a mother Wolf spider. She had three children who crawled around under her legs and wouldn’t grow up fast enough. So she ate them.

I wasn’t sure that parables would be the most effective method for my young audience.

And I wasn’t sure what method to use instead. I didn’t know if Jesus would praise the ‘Naughty Step’ or give a swift spanking. I wasn’t sure if He would hand out stars on chore charts or box up toys that had littered the floor one day too many. I wasn’t sure of much other than that He would love.

He would teach them in a way that they would know their sins without feeling the weight of condemnation, being clothed in forgiveness instead.

And they would know love.

And it is this love that would compel them to obedience, to following the One who called.

I find the job of ‘mother’ extremely frustrating sometimes. I have more questions than answers, and I feel the weight of my responsibility to these three precious lives. And most mornings, I wake up not knowing how to discipline a child who isn’t motivated by punishment or reward.

But I can start with love.

And while I don’t know how to do it as perfectly as Jesus, I do have that motherly instinct. And I know the love Jesus has bestowed on me.

So I start there. With love. Some days it’s all I have.

Journeys

Have you ever pictured Jesus as a parent to your children? How do you think He would respond? Join in the conversation below, or add your own post describing a spiritual journey you are currently taking.

And for those wanting to embark on a different kind of journey, Nikki invited me to share my thoughts on potty-training. I find the timing of these two posts ironic, the one where I say I don’t know how to parent and the next where I give out advice! I’d love for you to check out her site and add any other tips on potty-training that you can offer.

 

 

What I Lack

I lack sleep, little girls staying up three hours past their bedtimes trying on leotards and baby oil, waking up twice in the middle of the night crying for lost binkies.

I lack space, never having a moment sans children, even my own bed not serving as a refuge against little bodies climbing in and taking over.

I lack patience, sometimes not finding the calm within me to deal with disrespect or disobedience, my last nerve chewed on and spit out by 7:00 p.m.

I lack ideas, not knowing the next fool-proof technique to get little kids to pick up their toys, having exhausted all the creative options I could find.

But, sometimes, I take a minute to look around at the round faces breathing heavy, listen to the raspy snores escaping tiny mouths, feel the thick bedding wrapping a cocoon of warmth around healthy bodies, and I realize

I lack nothing.

Mama’s Losin’ It

Participating today in Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop. What do you lack? And come back tomorrow to share your own Journey!

I Take It Back

 

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Over the past six months or so, I have analyzed myself in search of those areas in which I need to improve. I’ve done my best to find contentment in circumstances that I’d otherwise like to change, and I’ve tried to highlight the joy in the simple pleasures of life. I heap a lot of guilt on my shoulders when I find I’m not enjoying my kids, so in the midst of craziness and chaos, I’ve learned to take a deep breath and say, “I am blessed.”

Yet even with these goals as my mindset, I’ve noticed that I’m not content. I’ve tried to figure out why, and when I hear myself complaining, I find I’m repeating some of the same sentences over and over:

I need a break. I need some alone time. I just want to sit down for a minute.

But the reality of the situation is that I’m not going anywhere, and alone time is very hard to come by. However, this weekend I had an epiphany. I started asking myself why I couldn’t seem to get that minute alone or the small break that I needed. Why was I going to bed so tired every day, waking up more tired, and not feeling fulfilled?

And I realized it was because of that stupid cleaning routine.

Nine months ago, I wrote that I had found a cleaning routine that had changed my life, and for nine months, I followed this plan religiously. Every single day, I made sure to clean the rooms assigned to that particular day of the week, and if I didn’t finish or missed the goal for some reason, I made sure to finish on one of the other days.

Don’t get me wrong–the plan is good. If one follows the plan, one will have cleaned the whole house in a week. I liked the structure of the plan, and I liked feeling like I was giving my family a clean home, and it was the cleanest it had ever been.

But sometimes a clean house isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

In order to achieve this clean house, during the one hour that the kids had their ‘Quiet Rest Time’ in front of the T.V., I scrambled to accomplish the task at hand for the day. If I didn’t finish, then I’d either extend T.V. time and feel guilty, or I’d try to finish at night after the kids were in bed and Matt and I had had our late dinner at 8:30 or 9:00. And if I decided I was too tired, I had extra chores the next day. Forget about extra tasks like sorting through random papers and organizing closets–there wasn’t any wiggle room in the schedule.

And what did I have to show for this effort? A messy house two minutes after I cleaned it and a frustrated spirit that I hadn’t finished a book for pleasure in about six months.

The problem is that I had become a slave to a plan, a plan created by a woman that I had never met, a plan that she had made for herself. And while the plan is good, it wasn’t working for me.

Who said that I needed to clean my whole house in a week? Why did I feel the need to take on this goal at the expense of my sanity?

When I reread over my post, I saw my good intentions. I wrote about the flexibility of the plan, how it was just a guideline, but I didn’t stick to those intentions. I, instead, let a cleaning routine control me and rob me of something I had never realized was so precious–a moment to do nothing.

And I’m sure I’m not the only one. Perhaps a cleaning routine has never dictated how you spend your hours, but maybe you are a slave to something else.

Perhaps you are controlled by the need to work out. No matter how you feel, whether or not you really should take care of some other items on your list, you feel guilt if you don’t hit the gym. It’s no longer a matter of obtaining good health and showing discipline–you have become a slave.

Or maybe you can’t say ‘no’ at church. Your family really needs you right now as you have a wife and house full of kids, one a newborn, but the church needs you. How can you tell your church ‘no’?

Many times, good things aren’t good for us.

Cleaning my house is definitely a good thing, and I still plan to clean every day–as I stated in my original post, I want to fight against idleness and take my job here at home seriously–but I also realize now that if I don’t occasionally take a moment for myself, I will continue to burn out. And if I continue to burn out, that joy that I am so desperately seeking will continue to seem elusive, out of reach.

And, frankly, I’d rather have my children suffer a dusty house than a cranky mama.

To what are you a slave? What is robbing you of your joy?