Saturday, October 08, 2011

"I don't know how you do it"

It seems that I hear this comment more and more lately:  "I don't know how you do it."

I struggle with that for a lot of reasons.  First of all, what exactly is "it"?  When I sit down and really try to put myself in someone else's shoes mentally, I realize that they have "to-do" lists, demanding jobs, pressures, and stresses just like I have.  It is hard for me to imagine how they accomplish the things they do in their lives as well.  I don't know any adult sitting back skirting through life without challenge!

I realize the statement is meant to affirm and encourage.  And to some extent, it does.  It is good to be appreciated for the work that I do.  But if I dwell on it, the statement presents some problems.  First, it allows me to wallow in self-pity.  Let me explain.  When someone says, "I don't see how you do it," I might be feeling internally exactly the same thing.  In moments of exasperation, I wonder how in the world I am supposed to do "it".  All these things on my to-do list can never be accomplished!  Moments of despair pop up.  In those moments, I say things to myself like "Why should all this be on me?  Why am I even trying?  It's not making any difference!  I'm failing miserably."  And next comes self-pity.  Well, other people can't do this either.  I am right to despair.

Next comes doubt.  Should I be doing this?  Shouldn't I {fill in the blank}?  I look for a way to relieve the burden I feel.  I use both constructive methods (such as reading books and prioritizing my list, taking things one step at a time) and deconstructive methods (looking for ways to "escape" my responsibilities).  Reading books sometimes creates more problems, because such-and-such method worked out so well for someone else, yet it didn't click for our family.  More doubt.  I look at other large families that have similarities to ours.  Our family doesn't look anything like theirs. While some families I look up to are setting examples on how to live life, I feel like we are setting examples on how not to live life.  We must be doing it all wrong.

And Oh! the I even need to explain?  This one is easy.  Every wrong thing I or my children do, every forgotten chore, every sinful thought piles up and up and up until a mountain of guilt towers over me. 

Or on the opposite extreme, I face pride.  Pride in my own accomplishments.  I believe that I am doing something incredibly remarkable and I have every right to claim super-mom status.  I am doing something better than someone else.  Am I really?  No.  I know the spiritual battles that are waged every day on my heart and many on the hearts of my kids.  I am not doing better than others.

Self-pity.  Doubt.  Guilt.  Pride.  Enemies that distract me from doing my job.  Do they come as attacks from Satan?  Or are they just products of my own flesh?  Some days I want to blame the Old Liar, but I know that many days my "flesh monster" does a good enough job all on its own without any provocation needed.  

Giving into these heart sins robs me of joy, love, peace, patience...well, pretty much all the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)!  

So how do I do it?  ::sigh::  Some days, especially lately, not very well.  I feel like I have been completely emptied of myself.  Poured out.  I keep fighting and trying and I don't see results.  I don't see any changes in my own heart, in my children, or in my marriage.  I want to give up.  In the middle of the day when 4 kids are crying at my feet, I stare at the ceiling hoping for a cure.  When it's quiet and I have time to pray, I beg for help.  When an unkind word passes my lips, and whether it felt good to let it slip or immediately felt bitter, I wish I could take it back, especially when I hear my children copy exactly what I have said/done in frustration or anger.  In the middle of the night my thoughts constantly turn back to the things that I can't undo or redo or make right on my own.  Things are broken...I'm broken...and I can't fix it.

I won't give up.  Day breaks and I am met with new mercies (Lamentations 3:23). Strength to keep fighting.  I won't be able to do this on my own.  My family won't look perfect.  I won't look perfect.  I have no idea how things will turn out.  I have faith that God is working in my life and He will use it for good.  But the images of "good" in my head are probably not what God has planned. 

Today I won't dwell on the results I don't see.  There is not a recipe for a perfect life.  Wouldn't that be easy?  If I put these ingredients together, bake for the next 18 years, viola!  I will have a perfect family and a perfect life.  It isn't like that.  When I catch myself expecting it to be, I am always disappointed. 

There is only grace.  The cross.  Christ.  The good news.   

"Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."
(Hebrews 4:14-16 ESV)

How do I do it?  I don't do it.  I try.  I fail.  I slip into feeding my flesh.  I repent.  Christ restores.  I begin again.  He is both the how and the why.

So here I am.  Trying to put a brave smile on my face so you will know everything is ok.  But it's not really.  Everything is wrong because of sin.  I'm tired of trying to make my family look the way I think everyone else expects us to look.  Let's keep it real.  We are who we are.  I will keep fighting, yes.  Sin is messy.  It's a battlefield here. 

Oh but I should smile!!  Everything is right because of Christ.  He has already won the war.  There is grace and forgiveness, a promise that He will make it all better.  He will wipe every tear.  I don't have to wait for some day in the future--joy is mine today!  

    Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
        and uphold me with a willing spirit.
(Psalm 51:12 ESV)

Lord, reign in our home.  Let us not grow weary or discouraged in the fight against sin.  Help us to keep fighting.  Help us to hold on to faith and hope even when it seems we are doing nothing right.  Do right in us.  We do this by Your power in us and for Your glory.  Amen.


  1. Jennifer Collias10/08/2011 4:56 PM

    I love how you say Christ is the how and the why. I too get asked " how do you do it", and yes sometimes that's meant to affirm and encourage, but often I get a sense that some mean it in a more unfriendly "WHY do you do it?" way. The answer is the same regardless! Christ is the how AND the why! :-)

  2. Jenny AKA frogmama10/09/2011 12:31 AM

    Such a...comprehensive post! Wow. I pray that you will feel especially refreshed tomorrow at church and thoughout your week!

  3. I only have two kids and I get asked, "How do you do it?" every now and then.

    And I'm like you--I feel like I have to be perfect, and I always see what good others are doing and don't give myself enough credit for the good that *I* do.

    At the end of the day, God alone knows our struggles and our hearts. God bless you, Steph, for being honest. He knows your heart, and He knows that you're only EVER going to be you--the you He created. :)

  4. I love your blog! Your kids are s cute! I happened to run across your blog a few weeks ago. I had a bit of a tough day. The PA at my son's Drs. office looked at me today and said "You have a lot on your plate. I don't know how you do it". You see our fourth child was born with several complications and now is growing really slow. Looks like he'll be getting a g-tube placed soon. I think I may write a post along the same lines today. I hope you don't mind.:) Thanks for the encouragement.:)