As my hard-working hubby started up the stairs I called from the kitchen, “Dinner will be ready in about 15 minutes. Oh, and be careful! There’s a horse in the shower.”
“At least. For all I know there’s half a farm in there. I believe the shaving cream and mouthwash are in there too. Just watch your step. Have a good shower!”
Some people have elephants in the room; we have horses in the shower. They distract from the mildew I finally bleached out yesterday. On bathroom-cleaning days I keep Firstborn near me so that I can keep an eye on him. His reach has improved to “Stretch Armstrong” ability (Google it, young ones) and he loves to relocate items for me. If I turn my back to put away shoes or fold a towel, my sink is instantly full of toiletries. The shower often contains all manner of toys I had intended him to play with quietly- sitting perfectly still as he read a book in a foreign language or skillfully colored a “Thanks for all you do, Mom” card. Maybe when he reaches age 2…or 32.
After 30 minutes of bathroom deep-cleaning I stopped to survey my accomplishments. I had sparkling counters, sinks, and mirrors. The towels were freshly laundered and folded neatly. I could see it, although I had to use my incredible Mom-vision. I doubt anyone else would have spotted the progress through the toy minefield scattered on the floor, the barrage of toiletries littering every flat surface, the trashcan full of non-trash debris, and the sniffly boy looking up at me with an expression that said, “Napping is out of the question, Babe.”
We know that ‘good moms’ talk to their children throughout the day to increase vocabulary, so I set to it. “Sweetheart, Mommy would love to have a safe and clean home for just 3 minutes. Can you be help Mommy put things away and keep things clean?” In true son fashion, he immediately pooped. I took that as a resounding although comedic “nope”.
The fact is that I now don’t sweep until after meal times and I only mop after 8 pm because there is no point; I’ll just have to redo it. My sweet regrouping moment is when I finally get a hot shower…unless there’s a horse in there waiting for me to step on it. The booby-trapped floor from Home Alone used to be funny and inspirational; now I define ‘home security’ as a dog and a floor scattered with Legos.
A big part of life is learning to watch our step, both figuratively and literally. We’ve all ‘stepped in it’ one time or another. It usually happens when we least expect it—like when we think we’ve finally achieved a moment of relaxation or solitude. You never know what ‘gifts’ have been left by others that will interrupt our precious moments of peace. The question is, how does one react?
When I finish cleaning a mess just to discover a new one, my thoughts aren’t always so gracious. I’ve been tempted to use duct tape ‘creatively’ to ensure that my efforts aren’t undone, but Firstborn would probably use his Houdini escape skills and stick the tape to the walls. Then I’d have to clean up sticky residue as a punishment for my bad mothering. It’s always frustrating to work hard at something and then see it all get undone in a moment. A year of family peace-talk progress can vanish in the first 7 minutes of Thanksgiving. A week’s work can be lost into the computer world with one wrong click. 3 loads of laundry have to be rewashed when a sippy cup full of milk is tossed into the basket and breaks. The work may vary, but we’d all rather not have it undone.
Two days ago, my only pair of well-fitting black shoes disappeared. I spent 20 minutes searching the house before changing my entire outfit so we would be on time for an appointment. After more unfruitful searching upon returning home, I finally gave up. The following day as I checked my e-mail, I felt a tap on my leg. Firstborn held my missing shoes out for me and said, “Go”. I declared him a sneaky little thief, thanked him, and took the shoes. Immediately a helping of Mom-guilt and a familiar verse sprang to mind. It’s actually the verse that gave this blog its name. John 10: 10 reads: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
It can’t be denied that kids take things, usually without asking. (Moms of teenage girls, check your closets.) Sometimes I’m tempted to measure what’s been taken from me by motherhood. Oh, to have visible abdominal muscles again! If I could only have a few hours of sacrificed sleep return to me. I’d even settle for knowing where my keys and shoes are on a regular basis. The problem comes from keeping that attitude rather than dismissing those selfish thoughts. Surely every mother is entitled to some alone time and an occasional meal that isn’t shared, but my sons are not thieves who delight in stealing, killing, and destroying all that I try to give or build up in them. He’s just a child in need of teaching.
We all have relationships that can be difficult or have people around us that are draining. Some of us have challenging relatives, co-workers and neighbors. Others work in environments where people literally are trying to kill them. Some are desperately trying to rescue others and trying to save lives. In the past several years (and even days) natural disasters have struck nationwide that have left Americans desolate from the destruction. News members love to capture tearful expressions looking out at piles of rubble– the result of having everything taken from them. It’s crushing to watch. We wait for news of hope; scenes of volunteers and helpers pouring in and victims declaring their resolve.
A worker who brings relief to a disaster is always welcome. I often feel like I am a one-woman FEMA team cleaning up my disaster area after my little tornado destroys my work. All the time we spend trying to build up good character in my child can vanish at any moment. At the time Jesus said John 10:10, he was speaking in a metaphor about thieves stealing sheep; a common practice in those days. Jesus declared himself to be a remedy for all that the devil steals from us- he is a giver of life and life more abundant! If anyone understands single-handedly cleaning up disasters and remaining for damage control, it is Jesus. The sinful nature and the evil in this world continue to steal, kill, and destroy. As I look at my son’s sweet face and the many blessings of this home, albeit messy, I realize that my mess is evidence of a life more abundant. Jesus said that to gain, we must willingly lose. I may not enjoy losing sleep, patience, half of my sandwiches, or my shoes to the call of motherhood but the return on the investment is immeasurable. Often a willing heart makes the difference between thievery and gracious giving. The thing about ‘life more abundant’ is that you never know when a mess will turn out to be a reminder of blessings. Today I am in need of a major attitude adjustment. Rather than feel weary or frustrated, I will choose to see the abundance in my mess. After all, not every girl gets to have a horse in her shower.