Friday, August 30, 2013

breathing in grace

Recently another pastor's wife emailed me with some heartfelt questions about parenting, life, and the ministry. Her questions reflected the same ones I've had over the years, ones I think so many of us moms share.

How do you balance the needs of the church and your family's needs?  I know that I will never be enough for everyone, only Christ can be, but I feel so much pressure... that I want to crawl in a corner and hide.  Do you ever feel that way or have you found a way to see through the pressure ?

I feel this mama's struggle. I am so familiar with it, I could have written those questions myself on any given day over the course of my marriage.

I think the biggest thing I've wrestled with since getting married, becoming a mom, and entering the ministry, is finding a balance.

I don't know about you, but I have struggled on and off for years with wanting to be the best at everything that I could possibly be....and feeling like I'm falling short. Pathetically short. At everything. I'm like a circus clown, juggling way too many balls in the air, and they are flying everywhere. Every now and then I'll get two or three going at once - but it only lasts a second or two - and those few seconds can't even add up to a minute at the end of the day.

Do you ever feel like this ?

Here's an example of an ordinary day at the Rice Ranch...

I get up early enough in the morning to have some alone time with Jesus. I have time to pray, read my Bible, and gather my thoughts before life rushes in. I'm feeling ready to take on the day when my kids wake up.

This feeling of contentment and I-can-handle-anything lasts oh, about five minutes. Because as we gather for breakfast, child A wakes up in a grumpy mood and does not want what's on the menu this morning : eggs and potatoes and fruit. He wants cereal and milk, but we're trying to get away from processed stuff and switch to more whole foods... only child A does not give a hoot. Meanwhile, child B is crying because child C sat on his barstool when he ran to find the binkie for child D. To this day I can't figure out how my children determine which barstool/spoon/blanket/pencil/younameit is theirs, but I can guarantee you this much: it's the one they don't have.

So as I'm stirring eggs and reminding children A, B and C about the proverb written on our dry erase board -  people with understanding control their anger; a hot temper shows great foolishness - my husband calls and reminds me that child E (who is with him) is going to get his driver's permit today. And he needs his birth certificate, do I know where it is ? As I ponder this great mystery (because it is one) child F informs me that our 15 year old dog just peed in the corner of the living room because child G let her out of the laundry room and didn't take her outside. I tell Sam that I will call him back in a few minutes...because I haven't added any eggs to my pan yet and it is now smoking furiously on the stove top. 

And just about this time, child H decides she doesn't want her bowl of cheerios anymore (she hasn't gotten on the whole foods bandwagon just yet) so she carefully moves them to the counter next to her high chair. Which results in almond milk splattered all over the floor and cabinets, and now child B is slipping across the linoleum on his way to let the dog out...who is also slipping and slurping along the way.

And that was just the first half hour after my morning devotions.

For the next twelve hours I will : try to make sure six children get their school lessons done for the day, drive one child to basketball practice and another to work, squeeze some (homemade) speech therapy in for Lily, run to the store for some missing dinner ingredients, clean the sheets on our bed because Hayden threw up in the middle of the night, call someone in church who is getting ready to have her baby and make sure she's okay, find the music for one of the new worship songs we want to do at church because I feel like our song service needs some life infused into it, comfort a teenager who feels like he isn't being understood, apply medicine to a child who sliced his toe while playing outside, break up several more arguments about whose turn it is to get on the computer, call the dentist to schedule teeth cleaning appointments for everybody, and do several loads of laundry. And there's also lunch, dinner, a quick date for ice cream with Sam and grading some school reports to squeeze in before bedtime. And if it's a church night, add all the preparation for getting eight children there into the mix, and put a song list together, and you have one. very. busy. day.

So yes - sometimes I feel overwhelmed.

And I so very desperately want to do it all - all of this parenting and being a wife and being a pastor's wife and being a friend - with grace and with a smile on my face, but truthfully sometimes I just really don't.

So what's a mom to do ? I have to - absolutely have to - find a balance.

What that means in practical terms is this: I am going to drop some balls. 

It is inevitable.

I have to realize this and not continually beat myself up about it, and pray for God's grace on it all. I have to ask Him to fill in the cracks, so to speak. And there are a LOT of cracks in my life. I used to think that being the best mom meant there were no cracks - no dropped balls, no spilt milk, whatever analogy you want to use for - no mistakes. But at this stage in my life I have a deep and profound appreciation for ...


I need more of it every day.

The longer I'm a Christian the more I realize how very far I fall short, and how very much I need God's daily grace poured out on my life.

This means so much...

It means when all hell is breaking loose in the kitchen I can stop everything and tell the kids I need us to work together as a family. It might mean asking my husband to come in for five minutes when he drops our boys off after morning prayer to have a quick family that involves instruction and encouragement and prayer for our day. 

It means we take the time for the absolutely critical things : like saying I'm sorry, and talking about what it means to be a Christian in the home and not just at church. 

This also means I need to carve out just a little bit of time for myself. It's just like those instructions you get on an airplane : put your own oxygen mask on first and then you can help your small children. 

Mama can't help anyone breathe if she's lying on the floor gasping for breath, right ? 

So every now and then, when I feel like I'm suffocating, I must - read MUST - get a break. Whether that means taking the baby in the stroller and going for a quick walk by myself, or running out for a coffee/tea date with Sam... or even just something as simple as telling my children it is "quiet time for one hour" - which means everyone goes to their room with a book while Mama listens to classical music by herself downstairs. Whatever my source of oxygen, I must find it. 

Because when I'm breathing better I can think a lot more clearly, can't you ?

When I'm breathing better I can think clearly enough to realize that there really is no reason to cry over spilt milk...

When I'm breathing better I can make better decisions, like delegating some responsibilities (like new worship songs!) out to wiling people... 

When I'm breathing better - breathing in grace - I can think rationally. Instead of worrying that our church isn't growing because I don't make it on time to prayer every service. Or letting my mind be consumed with what is or isn't happening in our ministry. Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither are good churches. And I bet the guy leading the city building project back then didn't have a perfect wife either. Heck, she probably even burned a few eggs while she was cooking his breakfast once or twice.  

If I'm going to survive this wife/mom/pastor's-wife/friend/sister/taxi-driver/teacher/woman thing.....I have to have grace.

That's the bottom line. 

Grace from Heaven, grace for others, grace for myself. I have to let it get ahold of my way of thinking, let it permeate everything I do.

Hebrews 4:16 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.


Naomi said...

You forgot about Grandchild A! lol! I feel so bad about the babysitting thing last night =((((( Please let me get the worship songs ready for you! What can I do!! text me!! HUGS!!!!


Leah said...

Oh Patti, I have lived your post and I only have 3 kids! Thank goodness for God's grace when we can't handle it all :)

Queen Zara said...

Thanks for that timely encouragement! Sucking in great big gasps of grace today! lol

Jenna said...

This was so encouraging to me. I'm a young Mom of 3, 6 and under and I feel overwhelmed a lot. Thanks for your wisdom! I'm the oldest of 9 and looking back I don't know how my mom did (and still does) it all. She is my best friend, and my dad is a pastor so I bet you guys could share lots of stories. ;)

cathy said...

Bless you, my dear friend.....HE blesses us all


Allison said...

I know you say all this happens, and I'm sure it does. Yet somehow, it never ever shows --and I've known you for almost 10 years! Love, admire and appreciate you! I hope and pray God helps me to be as good of a mom as you!

Allison said...

You say all of this happens, and I'm sure it does. Yet somehow, it never ever shows! --and I've known you for almost 10 years! I hope and pray God helps me to be as great of a mom as you are! Love and admire and appreciate you and all you do! Xoxoxo

Teena said...

Grace. Grace... God's grace...

Have you ever heard Worn by Tenth Ave North?

Great words.... Hugs

cara said...

Well, that sounds like my day, but I still do not know how you manage the pastor's wife jig because I do all of that and cannot imagine time for being a pastor's wife. You are gifted my friend!!!! Oh, and you have a few more kiddos than me.

And right now I need LOTS of grace!! It seems like I need the most after having a baby when he/she is around 2-5 months. That is when things get really crazy busy around here. But good busy!!! Tonight I over heard a mom saying how thankful she was out of those baby years as she was babysitting a baby. I am SO thankful I still have a sweet baby!!!! :) I know you are enjoying your precious, little guy SO much too.

I need grace, and I am praying that I can extend that same grace out as much! xoxo

Cindy said...

I'm also learning this whole, 'it's okay to let a few balls drop' thing but the Lord is teaching me personally that people are more important than things. If it's between doing the laundry and writing that letter, send the letter. If it's a choice of vacuuming or taking a neighbor out to lunch, choose the neighbor. It's bringing peace to my life as well as building relationships, and Christ is all about relationships.

Krista said...

just lovely.

Beckey said...

Your past two posts have been so encouraging. Motherhood is shaping me into who He wants me to be and I so need grace as I stumble through. It's nice to know that I'm not the only one with crazy filled mornings and days! Praying for your family as I know being a pastor's family has unquie challenges and God is faithful through them all!

Beckey said...

Your last two posts have been so encouraging. God is using motherhood to shape me into the woman He wants and I need grace as I stumble through! Praying for your family as I know that being a pastor's family has unique challenges, but He is faithful through them all!

carlyrae said...

Thank you for this post!
I just had my first baby back in May and I already find that between pioneering, being a mom, wife and friend there are sometimes not enough hours in the day.. but I find myself growing with each new phase and challenge.. and you said it, Grace!(even for myself) and of course getting/keeping my priorities straight!
I hope you guys have a wonderful revival this week!
xo, Carly

MotherT said...

My children are all grown and have families of their own, Patti, and I still struggle with the "dropped ball" syndrome! My hubby and I have been Sunday School teachers (and he does the bus ministry) for many, many years. Now with grandchildren in our home several days a week, I sometimes feel like I'm back in the early days with all the craziness of potty training and starting with preschool teaching.

Grace is one of the things I cannot do without! And His Peace that passes understanding! I've never met you except through your blog and IG, but I am praying for your strength and wisdom to multiply to meet the needs in your life!

Faith Kopp said...

After reading this blog I am thinking of canceling my trip. Ha ha 👵😘😍💋