I’m not a cultured enough moviegoer to give you a list of the best films of the year; my only qualification for a “good” movie is if I can watch it in 3-D. I’m nowhere near up to speed on current music to talk about the best artists or albums of 2013. If you want to know the top books of the 12th or 16th century, well then, I’m your girl. The only books I’ve read this year are theological ones, mostly Thomas Aquinas and Martin Luther. But books of 2013? I haven’t got a clue. Let’s not even talk about current TV programming, I’m not a reliable source for good taste (three words: Drop Dead Diva). What I can give you as a year-in-review is, well, me. What follows are some of the moments this past year when I was reminded that I don’t have my act together, that I’m not in control, and that I need to be forgiven (and to forgive). In short, these are some of the laugh-or-you’ll-cry moments in 2013 where I was reminded of who I am, namely, a sinner in need of a savior. From comical gaffs to real-life experiences, here are my 6 favorite moments of 2013:
- I hate housecleaning. Loathe it. So, I just don’t do it. I straighten; I make things appear neat, but it’s all smoke and mirrors really, distracting most people from noticing the layers of dust and dirt in both obvious and not so obvious places. One morning, early in the year, my eldest came to me with a suggestion to remedy our dusty and dirty house problem. “Mama…” he began. “You know who’s really good at making things clean?” He waited for my response. “Who?” I asked. “Grammie, your mommy. You should call her and invite her over and then we can have a clean house!” Seriously, little dude?! You two must be in cahoots!
- Speaking of cleaning…. On more than one occasion—and by that I mean often—I have relied on swim-lessons as a means to bathe the boys. How else do you use the oft over-chlorinated YMCA pool to your advantage??
- If developing a new habit is the goal of a year gone by, then count me in! As someone who doesn’t typically swear (nor particularly likes/wants to swear), I’m embarrassed to admit that a certain f-bomb became quite a regular part of my vocabulary in 2013. So much so that I have the real, palpable concern that it might be my infant daughter’s first word… because it’s spoken in her vicinity far too often, as in Why the ___ are you screaming?! Why won’t you just ____ nurse!? For the love of God, just go the ____ to sleep! I’m not exactly proud.
- Speaking of failing as a mother, there have been more times than I’d like to count where I’ve completely misread a situation. One time in particular lingers in my memory. It was a chaotic evening, and my husband was working late. I worked hard to get dinner on the table, the colicky baby nursed and changed, and everything cleared up and cleaned away; all that was left was to bathe the boys (yes, they did miss their swim lessons that week…) and get them in to bed. If you are familiar with colicky infants, you’ll know that the evening time tends to be the worst for them–when the screaming will often reach a fever pitch. This was that time of evening. I herded everyone upstairs, my newborn daughter strapped to me in the sling, screaming and writhing around frantically. I ran the bath, got the boys in it, and knelt down beside the tub to wash their hair. My patience was dwindling by the second. I was barely keeping it together as I washed my younger son’s hair and then moved on to the older son’s. In the transition between the younger to the older, I said to the younger, “Please do not lie down in the tub, you’re taking up too much room.” He moved and I proceeded to wash my older son’s hair, chanting to myself, “just a little bit longer, just keep it together….” And then it happened: my younger son called out, “Mama, loooook…” and I turned to look at him. What I saw was a little boy lying down in the tub when I had SPECIFICALLY told him not to and that he was rubbing it in my face (he typically pushes boundaries, he’s 5). I saw red and hollered in such a way that both boys froze. “WHY DO YOU HAVE TO DISOBEY ME ALL THE TIME!” I slammed my fists down on the edge of the tub. “I’M SICK OF IT! YOU ARE ALWAYS INTENTIONALLY PUSHING MY BUTTONS JUST TO MAKE ME MAD!” My son looked at me shocked; then he wiped the bubble beard from his face. That’s when my heart melted with sorrow and shame. Overwhelmed, I left the bathroom…all he wanted to do was show me his bubble-beard. A few moments later I went back into the bathroom and asked him for forgiveness.
- In late May I had to email my doctoral adviser to say that we wouldn’t be able to move to Germany because of financial concerns. It was a hard email to write specifically for two reasons. One, it’s always hard to tell your adviser that you can’t do something. And two, because the letter signified the reality that I may not get my doctorate, that this long-standing dream of mine might be coming to an end. It’s not easy to hear the creaking sound of a door closing, and it’s even harder to be mature enough to hold on loosely to your dreams knowing that if they are supposed to happen they will because He who started this good thing will certainly accomplish it even if or when everything looks horrible. I wish I could say that as I type this my dogged faithfulness in holding on loosely has paid off; but it hasn’t. I still do not know what will happen with this dream of mine, this desire. And, to be honest, while I’ve tried to hold on loosely to my dream and to be just fine with it, I’ve mostly just clenched my jaw while I’ve entertained and embraced my anger and frustration over my current situation, feeling rather sorry for myself. I’m humbled by the fact that I’m not the pillar of faith I like to make myself out to be.
- It was late January when we found out we were expecting our third child. Three years ago I had experienced our third miscarriage, and over the next three years of trying and hoping we had finally given up any hope that a third one would come. We can’t complain, of course; two healthy boys are quite a gift! And then it happened: I was pregnant again. Most people would be excited. Hope had conquered the day! But I was scared more than anything else because this news was too good to be true and especially too good for me. I spent the majority of this pregnancy waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop. Day by day in the first trimester I waited for the miscarriage. Day by day in the second trimester I waited for the late-term miscarriage. Day by day in the third trimester I waited for something to be wrong that would cause us to lose the baby. Even during labor and delivery I waited for bad news. I wasn’t good enough to deserve such a blessing. And on each and every one of those days, when the fear rose to unbearable levels, I’d have to be reminded that the God I was believing in didn’t exist. I had to be reminded about the real God who took on flesh, lived, died, rose again, ascended, and that through whom I have all I need. I had to be called out of myself and my fear-drenched inner monologue daily toward Him who is the source of my confidence and peace. And it wasn’t that because I had faith I was assured I wouldn’t lose this pregnancy or that something bad wouldn’t happen, but that even if I did lose the pregnancy or something bad happened, it wouldn’t be because I did something wrong or because God didn’t like me. I had to be reminded that the true God is not lingering above waiting for the perfect time to “drop the other shoe,” but has come low to us and into our situation, to catch us when those things that could go wrong do go wrong irrespective of our strength and mental fortitude. “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28)