Rubber Gloves For Mother’s Day

On Mother’s Day at 5:00 a.m., I was jolted awake by a bang on my bedroom door.  Everyone knows that Mother’s Day is a day to let a mother “sleep in” and feel pampered.  So I ignored the bang and sank down further under the covers.

BANG!  BANG! BANG!  “Mommy!” a tiny voice screamed at the door.

No, this couldn’t  be happening.  Didn’t my kids get the memo?

“Mommy, I need your help.  My bed is all wet,” cried Nate, my four-year-old.

As he opened the door, a familiar, unpleasant smell barged rudely into my room.  It was last night’s dinner in reverse.

“Did you throw up?” I asked incredulously.  Clearly my child was not getting this whole “pampering” thing.

“Yes,” he whimpered.

I brought him into his room to assess the extent of the damage.  Still half-asleep, I couldn’t bring myself to turn on his light.  Somewhere around his bed, the terrain became “unstable,” and my feet quickly reminded me that you should never step into potential mine fields in the dark.  My eyes finally adjusted to the glow of the nightlight, and in a blue-tinged haze, I saw the gruesome carnage of his stomach’s battle with last night’s dinner.  The damage was extensive, an ominous start to my special day.

Flash back to yesterday’s devotional reading.  I had been lounging in my overstuffed chair, sipping hot tea and reading about facing problems with the right attitude.   In retrospect, it’s a lot easier to face problems by reading about them in a comfortable chair while drinking tea.  The actual battlefield is a whole different story.

My devotional had recommended thanking God for problems.  But I must confess that I did not face the vomit-fest with a hearty, “Wow, THANK YOU, Father!  I am so very THANKFUL that this happened so you can teach me to rely on your strength in my moments of weakness.”

I think I uttered the slightly altered version, “WHY ME?!!!”

I had plenty of time to analyze my response while cleaning.   Donning my worn pair of rubber gloves, I was outside spraying down Nate’s things with a hose and scrubbing them with a hard brush.

“Happy Mother’s Day to me,” I sang.  My boys watched from the open window and gave constructive criticism on my cleaning job.

“You missed a spot in the corner,” offered Luke.

Nate was thrilled to discover what he thought was my biggest problem.  “I know what you need for Mother’s Day!  New rubber gloves!”

Later on the boys added to the festivities of the holiday by fighting with each other.  That’s when I realized that I had unrealistic expectations about this holiday. Contrary to what Hallmark would have us believe, Mother’s Day is not a day when our children magically transform into angelic beings for twenty-four hours.  It is not a day for children to bow down and worship at Mommy’s footstool.  Any holiday that focuses on selfishness is going to fail.  Mother’s Day should be a holiday for mothers to reflect on how thankful they are for their children.

I thought about Hannah from the Bible.  Her soul yearned for a child, and she poured her heart out to God for deliverance.

1 Samuel 1:10-11

In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the LORD.

And she made a vow, saying, “O LORD Almighty.  If you will only look upon your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life…”

God gave Hannah baby Samuel.  She kept her word, and after Samuel was weaned she brought him to be raised by Eli the priest in the house of the LORD.  She was so thankful for her son that she was willing to part with him and give him back to God.

Here is a mother who was not waiting for breakfast in bed on Mother’s Day.  In fact, her Mother’s Day came once a year when she expected nothing, but rather gave a gift to her son:

1 Samuel 2:19

Each year his mother made him a little robe and took it to him…. 

God then blessed Hannah and gave her three more sons and two daughters.  I’m sure she had days where her kids got sick and even fought with each other.  But she was a thankful woman indeed.

The more things that went “wrong” on my Mother’s Day, the more I laughed and thanked God for my three children.  They are certainly not perfect angels, but they are my gifts from God. If kids were supposed to be perfect, they would be born with halos.  Instead, they come out of the womb crying – a much more realistic picture of the days to come.

I never want to forget that like Hannah, I  also had once prayed for children, and these imperfect-yet-wonderful kids were the answers to my prayers.

That’s all I really need for Mother’s Day.  And maybe a new pair of rubber gloves.

The Days of Whine and Noses

Certain things are just meant to be together.  Peanut butter and jelly. Kermit and Miss Piggy. Back seats and whining.  I am convinced that car manufacturers actually install a device in the back seats to induce whining and route it through the surround sound system.  For activation, all it takes is the pressure of about thirty pounds.  Amazingly, the vehicle doesn’t even have to be moving to trigger this phenomenon.  If only the imaginary brake in the passenger seat could work as well.

Nothing raises my hackles as quickly as a good whine.  In fact, I didn’t even know I had hackles until I had children.  I thought they were reserved for dogs and chickens, but now I know better.  God designed hackles on the back of a parent’s neck so that we could know when we have reached our limit and need to come to Him for help before we implode.

God first realized the need for hackles when the children of Israel were wandering through the wilderness.  At first, the trip probably seemed like an exciting adventure.  But then they backed out of the driveway and for forty years the vast, barren wasteland echoed with the ancient equivalent of “Are we there yet?” and “Stop touching me!”

When the Israelites complained about the food and begged for some sort of fast food treat, God provided His children with a snack called manna, also known as “the grain of heaven” and “the bread of angels.”  But were they thankful? N-o-o-o-o-o.  They complained like a bunch of disappointed children on Christmas morning.

“What’s this?  A wafer?  Pfffff!  Where’s the beef?”

Suddenly the car came to a grinding halt and God threatened to “come back there.”

Numbers 11:18-20

 18 …’The LORD heard you when you wailed, “If only we had meat to eat! We were better off in Egypt!” Now the LORD will give you meat, and you will eat it.

19 You will not eat it for just one day, or two days, or five, ten or twenty days,

 20 but for a whole month– until it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it— because you have rejected the LORD, who is among you, and have wailed before him, saying, “Why did we ever leave Egypt?” ‘”

The threat of quail coming out of their nostrils probably brought some radio silence for a few moments.

God truly understands what a parent is going through when a child is whining and complaining.  I witnessed this truth when my kids were recently sick with a cold.  With this illness, my normally happy children gave birth to some sort of internal beast that made Oscar the Grouch seem downright jovial.

Maybe they didn’t have quail coming out of their nostrils, but their noses morphed into faucets of gunk that even the formidable team of Hans Brinker and the Kleenex company couldn’t plug.  The level of whining reached epic proportions and raised my hackles as though hundreds of miniature soldiers were standing at attention on the back of my neck.

At one point I buried my head under my pillow and tried to squelch the toxic combination of constant nose-wiping and whining.  Acting like an ostrich didn’t help, so I tried begging instead.

“God, please.  I can’t deal with this.  I’m going crazy.  Why do they have to be sick like this?  I’m so tired of wiping noses. This whining is unbearable…”

Like the sudden scrape of a needle across a vinyl record, my speech was interrupted when I got smacked in the middle of the forehead by the hand of irony.

Yes, I was whining.  I must have sounded to God exactly how my children sounded to me. The angels were buying their heads under pillows. Worse, I was probably even raising their hackles.

I put up with this for forty years, remember? 

I certainly did not want to be responsible for causing God’s head to implode.  As I bowed my head, I suddenly remembered my wedding vows.

in sickness and in health, for better or for worse

I had pledged these words to my husband, but what about my children?  When everything was going smoothly, it was so easy to focus on my overwhelming love for them.  But add a little tribulation, and I was transported back to the whining wilderness with the children of Israel.

Opening yet another box of Kleenex, I took a deep breath, gathered my little ones, and resumed my position as Royal Nose-Wiper and Whine-Taster.  As I held them close to me, a painful lump formed in my throat, but I knew it wasn’t the beginning of illness.  It was simply the realization that these kids are growing so quickly, and someday I will long for the Days of Whine and Noses.

Frying Eggs with Paul

Whenever there is a heat wave, somebody has to quip, “It’s hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk.”  Between gum wads and animal business,  I don’t even want to walk on the sidewalk, let alone fry an egg on it. Besides, a much better place to fry an egg would be on a metal slide at the playground.  Nothing works better to make you rue the decision to wear shorts.

Most people agree that high temperatures are far less tolerable when combined with humidity.  During the weather forecast, meteorologists state the humidity level, and we amateurs take their word for it.  Would we ever know if they were wrong?  They could be making up some random number, and we would remain clueless.  Thankfully, those of us who have naturally curly hair can gauge humidity by how closely we resemble a Chia Pet.  

According to experts, relative humidity is an estimate of how saturated the air is with water vapor.  If you want to do your own calculations for finding the relative humidity, you take the mass of water vapor and divide it by the number of temper tantrums your children have per hour.  Then you multiply this answer by the level of crankiness of everyone under the age of 99.  The final calculation looks like this:

Mass of Water Vapor ÷ Tantrums/hour × Crankiness = Relative Humidity

A recent heat wave sent the nation into a tizzy.  My kids surprised me by choosing to play upstairs in the sun-baked living room, rather than stay in my air-conditioned office.  At one point, I came out of my frigid cave to make sure the kids were not stuck to the floor like the same melted gobs of goo that make me avoid the sidewalk.  (I’ve heard tales of people getting stuck to their vinyl car seats, only to be rescued in the next cold front.)  My vision was a little warped due to the frying of my eyeballs, but it appeared as though my children were playing as if nothing was wrong.  As they were laughing and gallivanting about and completely ignoring the heat, I wondered, What is wrong with these people?  Clearly this was a fluke, and the apostle Paul would have been proud, for he had “learned the secret of being content in any and every situation” (Phil. 4:12).

This past winter the cold seemed unbearable, and in the summer the heat seems unbearable.  When will I learn to be content? Even when Paul was in prison, he and his roommate were able to keep their cool and find joy.

Acts 16:25

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.

Unless you are a paid Broadway actor, periodically bursting into song is an expression of joy. Paul kept his Savior as his example and mentor.  He knew that even though Jesus had been beaten beyond recognition and crucified, he never complained.  Any complaint sounds so ridiculous compared to what Jesus endured.  No one can understand “heat” the way he did.

I don’t think we fully realize how bold Paul was to be singing “Kumbaya” next to hardened criminals.  The pressure cooker was on, and the heat of the situation was scorching, but Paul stayed content and made the best out of his situation.

Paul’s actions went beyond taking lemons and making lemonade. If it was hot enough to fry eggs on the sidewalk, Paul would have been cheerfully humming and serving up a brunch to his fellow prisoners.  Somewhere in the midst of all this heat, if we look carefully through our melted eyeballs, we can still find contentment.  Just watch where you’re walking.