My children can probably set their clocks to their mama’s hormone-induced rushing about that occurs toward the end of every single pregnancy they have witnessed. This summer has been no different. My planning and organization often gets the better of me as I try to
cram mercilessly fit every possible item I can into our school schedule up until the very day I go into labor and prefer to even be working on some read alouds during early labor so as not to waste any precious time getting our boxes checked for the year.
Then this summer and this baby happened. I vaguely remember having to be on bed rest due to some early labor signs with my third baby seven years ago. At the time, I think the main reason I was having so many contractions was because I was running around potty training a 2 year old, still carrying around a 1 year old, and hugely pregnant with my third baby in 2.5 years. Schooling wasn’t what put me in bed for those last few weeks with Chavah; physical exhaustion was. This summer, I did have another 2 year old to potty train, but the results were abysmal and with early labor quickly becoming a real possibility I had to abandon my grand scheme of not having two children in diapers again (at least it’s not three, like we’ve already lived through twice). Besides, it’s high time I learned that exerting my will over issues of les toilettes has never worked in my favor with children who simply will. not. go. until they are ready. No box checked here.
I had a grand vision of filling my freezer with neatly labeled THM-friendly meals and having several weeks’ worth of freshly-baked sourdough bread sliced and in the big freezer for the children’s lunches. But chopping onions for 30 different casseroles and kneading dough for 20 loaves of bread while on your feet all day does not bode well for early labor. I had to give up on the “neatly frozen stacked bread loaves” box but gratefully checked the box for frozen dinners due to some amazingly selfless and beautiful women I have in my life helping me. And as God would have it, He provided a way for me to fill my freezer up with whole grain bread on sale for $1 a loaf at a bakery outlet anyway with no kneading required. He’s so good to me. Looking around at some of the organizational projects I had set aside for myself in the month of August is laughable to me now because I really thought I would be up to doing them. Looking at crooked list of check boxes for school and home stuff has been overwhelming me quite a bit lately.
I’ve taken some mental notes of what the past few weeks of our homeschool has been like, and I’m not impressed with myself. Sure, having some stressed out moments is totally normal before a birth. But then I took a good hard look at the me who was working with Noah the other day as he struggled to get control of a bloody nose while doing a reading lesson. That mommy didn’t look with compassion on her son but pushed him hard to finish the reader. I looked at the me putting Ketziah down impatiently so I could wipe up the coffee she spilled on our vocabulary cards even though I know she’s longing for connected cuddles and senses something significant is happening soon. I listened to my tone as I finished up a very difficult math book with my oldest two girls and saw how I didn’t show them grace as they struggled through real algebra for the first time. Didn’t see that one coming when we started out the year, by the way. Word to the wise, “Solving for an Unknown with Multiplicative Inverse” is just code for “tear your hair out right now to save yourself some time.” All in all, I saw fleshliness and anxiety creeping into every corner of my life in the way my nerves were frayed and I took out my frustration on the children for having to be resting and not getting to accomplish all the things on my list.
Last week I had just crossed over into 37 weeks, which is considered full-term but is still not the ideal for a home delivery and that very night, I was up with what I thought surely must be labor. I couldn’t sleep through the contractions every five minutes that never got longer, stronger, closer together. I didn’t fall asleep until 4 in the morning. The whole time, all I was thinking about was the fact that I had so many things left undone. Oil change on the van. Finish Noah’s and Hosannah’s reader. Finish the current IEW curriculum with Jaelah and Selah. Cleaning the house. One last date night with Pete before baby. Several loads of laundry. Several items needing to be picked up at the store. Replace closet lightbulbs. Wash the towels and sheets for birth kit. So many other tedious little things. The sense of incompleteness sucked me into a pit of depression. I really thought the baby was coming, and I wasn’t excited at all because of…my list?
Holy Spirit pressed on me then that what He wants to deal with during this time of waiting until baby does arrive is my sense of completeness and how it differs from His definition. In a totally exhausted state the next day, I read a blog post about Christians being unhappy because they look for happiness and goodness apart from Yahweh Himself. It hit me squarely in the heart. For quite awhile now, I’ve been working through giving up control. God has been showing me the areas where I try to manage and keep His hands off, and it’s been a process of learning to let those things go. I’m still not out of the woods. But now He goes and touches on my very sense of completeness and essentially, goodness? What is so good about finishing a list of tasks? Why does the need to experience that feeling mean that I have to pursue it relentlessly regardless of the cost to my children, husband, or myself? Why does it have to be me who cleans my house and freezes my meals for the sense of satisfaction it brings when I have so many friends willing to help? Is it somehow not a success when I have help? What is it about getting through a school book before the arbitrary deadline I’ve set that seems like such an accomplishment? I am seeing how I’ve been slave to finishing things for so much of my life that I don’t even know what it looks like to leave things undone. Not that follow-through and perseverance are not important aspects of the believer’s walk. But I’ve taken these concepts too far and demanded too much. I believe God is saying that there must be a point in time in my life when I can truthfully say, “good enough is enough.” Where is the me trusting God to fill in all the gaps with His way of doing things? Where is the me finding a way to keep my eyes on the eternal instead of the endless list of undones? Truly, how can I take such a deep breath of relief after I’ve just mopped my kitchen floor when I know full well it will be smeared with jam by dinnertime? The main answer to all of the question is that I’m searching for something that is apart from God. I’m both controlling and getting completeness from it. Cleaning the house is one thing – but attaching my completeness to it and being unwilling to accept anything less is looking for good apart from God. Finishing our school books for the year is wonderful and worthy of recognition. I desire to do absolutely everything we put our hands to with excellence – but there is no true goodness when I’ve pushed my kids so hard that we’ve lost any sense of enjoyment in learning and our focus on God, the Giver of learning. In the wee hours of that morning last week, I found that the question posed to me by the Lord was, “what is truly lost by having a baby before all the boxes get checked?” Nothing! Duh. How absurd that a brand new life would somehow need to be on hold so I could finish a few chores.
In keeping with His merciful nature, God has given me these past several days of not having much labor at all during the nights to ponder what He’s speaking. I have been able to finish several things and check several boxes. However, I am realizing just how deeply-seated this pattern has been in my life and I want to do something somewhat radical to break through to the lesson. What do psychologists call it – cognitive behavioral therapy? I’m going to be forcing myself to do something that up until now has been unthinkable because it’s so uncomfortable for me, but I know I must for the sake of my spiritual growth. Before Ketziah was born, I was cleaning the house from top to bottom every day because I was so obsessive about my checklist being finished on the day she was born. I did laundry constantly so there would not even be a dirty washcloth when little princess was making her debut. This time, I’m going to wash my sheets for my birth kit and wipe down the toilets when they get disgusting over the next couple of weeks, but I refuse to let even a moment of incompleteness wash over me if baby happens to arrive when there are a few dust bunnies on my dresser. No daily cleaning here! And we are going to be starting our school break now, adding two whole weeks on to what was intended to be six break weeks after baby’s arrival. What is the worst that could happen by working in a little extra break time? We won’t get through a spelling lesson. The twins will have some undone piano theory pages. Oh, the horror! I’m going to take some extra time to be fully present with my children. Seeing the yearning in their eyes for something other than pressing through school has really gotten to me and I intend connect with them fully before their new sister arrives.
This is me putting one foot in front of the other in a new kind of trust walk, one that is sure to be messy but one that is increasingly obvious as part of the next level for me. I think completeness goes hand in hand with control, and both have to be surrendered to the Father, Who is the Source of all and is in control of all. Here’s to me learning what that looks like.