I have to write about this simply because I think that sometime later (maybe years) I will find it funny. Or maybe ironic. Not so much today.
I joined a new book study with a group of ladies from my church and community. I jumped at the opportunity because 1) I can actually make it to the time scheduled and 2) it's a "marriage" book I have been wanting to read for a long time: What Did You Expect by Paul David Tripp. Last night was our first meeting. We are watching the videos by the same name. In the first episode, Paul does a great little object lesson that left an impression on many of us. I honestly had a hard time applying it to my marriage because I was analyzing how it could be taught to my children. :) This morning I planned to do just that.
It went something like this: I seated all the kids around the table once we were all together and ready for school this morning. The littlest ones skedaddled before we could really get started. I warmed up by asking the kids to raise their hand if they had ever done something mean (hitting, name-calling, etc) to someone else to get revenge. (One child stubbornly refused to participate...already off to a bad start!). I stood with a full water bottle and gave the bottle a little shake. Of course, water spilled out onto the floor. I asked the kids, "Why did water come out of the bottle?"
They dutifully answered, "Because you shook it."
I said, "That's right. Now I'm going to ask the same question, only changing my intonation a little bit. Why did water come out of the bottle?"
They didn't have any trouble with this question either, and answered, "Because it had water in the bottle."
Pleased, I had them open their Bibles to Luke 6:43-45. We read the verses together. I explained that the water bottle represents our outer body, and the water represents all the "stuff" that's in our "hearts" (and in this case, our heart represents our thoughts, feelings, etc). When we get shaken up by life and others around us, that "water" spills over.
It was going as well as could be expected. I had plenty of interruptions and had to refocus them on multiple occasions. We talked about the meaning of the verses. We talked about how the mean stuff we do, say, and think reveals what is truly inside our hearts. Then we talked about how we can get all that cleaned up. I asked them for practical ways (not just theological responses) that we get clean. We made a list on the white board of good, concrete ways to deal with the icky stuff in our hearts. I was losing the kids quickly at this point, but struggled to hold the attention of my oldest 3-4 kids that I knew could grasp the message. I tried to add in one final thought from Paul David Tripp: Everything we do (say, think) is an act of worship. I gave some examples and asked the kids what the person in each example was worshiping.
I finally set them free and turned to Algebra class with Micah and Eden. I warned them that they would probably hear me refer to the water bottle again over the next few days. One of my kids asked very defensively, "Are you trying to say I'm not saved? You just need to stop now."
I was crushed. It was just so frustrating. I replied, "No, I'm trying to say we all need to examine our hearts. We all need the Gospel. We need it every day. We never get past this point right here." ::sigh::
I let it go there. The moment had passed. I was defeated. This is the fruit of my effort...I hoped that at least Algebra would go over without hearing the question, "Why do we need to know this?"
By the time we finished the short lesson, and before I could even put the book away, Malachi came around the corner to inform me that he opened the door to the bathroom and found the floor was covered with water. I quickly followed him to find a disaster: someone (Obadiah, most likely) had pulled up the sink stopper, left the water on, and closed the door. I was so engrossed in teaching that I had NO idea. The floor was so saturated that it was literally DRIPPING into the laundry room below. There was no hope for me. The "stuff" in my heart was pretty much shaken out for the next bit.
Micah and I did our best to grab towels and clean up the mess. I called Mitch, but as I suspected he was in class and couldn't answer my call. I called my father-in-law and asked his advice. He was most worried about me being electrocuted. :) Cute. He told me to crank up the heat, put any fans on that we had, and it should dry. He was right. Hours later it's pretty dry. I think just standing in the laundry room with water sprinkling down on my head in that moment was probably the most overwhelming for me. I didn't even know where to start at that point. Thankfully I didn't have to do much. The sheet rock was spared. The cabinet in the bathroom is ruined, but that was pretty much a done deal anyway--every child since Joshua has had a turn at flooding the bathroom and the poor thing is just a disaster. But I promise, this time takes the cake for the worst ever. Water that leaked into the laundry room spread into the hallway downstairs, but the carpet has never been tacked back down since our water heater broke and leaked almost 2 years ago. I simply pulled up the carpet and spread it over a basket to dry. I only have a messy load of towels to wash now (and I'm praying that my washing machine, which works unreliably due to a faulty water valve sensor, will work for me tonight and not flood the laundry room again). Later I told Mitch we should just put vinyl down in the hallway (or maybe tile) since that piece of carpeting has gotten wet more times than I can count in the past 2 years.
At this point it was around 10:45 am. We were late for snack time, and by the time we got that served and cleaned up, it was time to start lunch. I wish I could say the day went smoothly after that, but it didn't. It was nothing short of chaotic. I tried to focus, but I was pulled in 8 different directions. Why oh why couldn't the older kids just follow the schedule and do the assignments which were clearly written on the board? Couldn't someone help watch Obi? Couldn't they figure out what it meant to clean up the floor? Couldn't they keep their voices down when I asked? Couldn't the preschoolers remember that today they are not allowed to go downstairs since the laundry room was a big, soaked mess? Couldn't Zeke sit and do his math paper for once without trying to play with everyone else around? Couldn't the older kids hold their tongues? Did Micah and Eden really have to fight over who got to use the Algebra book at 3 pm? At one point just before lunch I just leaned against the wall and reminded myself to breathe deeply and slowly. I just had to calm down. I sent up very short sentence prayers for help. It was SO hard. My friend Devona called as we were serving lunch to ask a quick question, and I shared about my day so far. As we hung up the phone I caught that Zeke did something to annoy Micah and Micah threw something at Zeke or hit him or something. Of course Zeke yelled, "Mooom, Micah ____!" I couldn't even stop the tears from spilling out of my eyes at that point. Why does it have to be so hard?
Later in the afternoon I reminded the kids that our study of Ancient Greece (using TruthQuest History) is done and their Investigation Supreme is due today. I assigned it a week ago. I look to see Caleb lounging on the couch with a favorite book that he has read more times than I can count. I asked him, "So, Caleb, do you know how to do the assignment?" He admitted that he did not. I honestly could not contain my displeasure. Exactly what did he plan to do about that? Ask for help? Or bet that mom wouldn't notice that he didn't turn his in? I showed him the assignment in his book, as well as a fill-in-the-blank guide that would help him get started. An hour or so later I stopped by the schoolroom to copy some papers and told him that he wouldn't have to type the exercise, he could hand write it. At that point Micah and Eden had each handed in their assignments. He informed me that he still didn't understand it and didn't plan to complete it. I had no idea what to do or say. I still don't. I am in shocked disbelief. It's not that I can't *make* him do the assignment. Oh, I can think of plenty of things to say or do to manipulate him into compliance eventually. But this is not an issue of an assignment being "too hard" for him. It's an issue of his will vs. my will. It's a heart issue. That's the part that I don't know how to get at.
From there I think the rest of the day was downhill, thankfully. We had another snack, cleaned up, and I started supper. Time flew and before I knew it Mitch was home. Zeke and Josh had a fight about something and Josh slammed a door. This time I didn't have to intervene (and it's probably a good thing or I would have burned the onions AGAIN...I'm such a terrible cook I can't even saute onions properly, ugh). We ate supper, cleaned up, and they were off to church activities. I prearranged with Mitch to stay home tonight while he shuttled the kids to church and did a library run for me.
I am home with just Tirzah and Obi. The first thing I noticed when everyone left was that it was quiet enough for me to actually hear the fan running in the bathroom. Imagine that. I feel a little numb. I thought I would spend my time this evening praying and maybe even crying it out a little. But now I don't feel it. I checked email, read a little on facebook, put things back away in the bathroom cabinet, cleaned up the laundry room, and started a load of laundry. The emotions of the day wash away so quickly. Time slips through my fingers and the moment to pray is lost. It is time to get these little ones ready for bed. The big ones will be home any minute now.
I think the big irony in my day is that I started out with this great object lesson where I wanted to show the kids how our hearts overflow. Then I spent the next many hours watching both my heart and theirs overflow. It wasn't very pretty. It was down right heartbreaking. We will continue to press on in the fight against sin. I will continue to pray--because I depend on God to change their hearts, to give me wisdom to lead them, to put the words in my mouth. It is so hard.