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Parenting in the Middle of a Mess

Amid a jumble of towels and tempers, God was right there to lead the way out.

Shawnelle's son Zay holds a jumble of towels.

The LORD has done great things for us; we are glad. (Psalm 126:3)

I pause as I load the washing machine to listen to what is happening in the next room. The younger boys are working on morning chores. They should be delving into a mountain of dryer-fresh towels. But I hear an argument. Unpleasant tones.

I shove the rest of the whites into the belly of the washing machine and walk around the corner just in time to find a full-fledge tug-of-war.

Shawnelle's boys tussle over the towels.“You fold the beach towels. The bath towels are mine!” one boy hollers.

Another gives his end of the towel a mighty tug.

And I stand there, feeling that we’ve hit a low, if we’re arguing about who is going to fold a towel.

It’s not pretty, but we’re living real life. And we’re experiencing the throes of end-of-summer. The season has been wonderful. But I can tell, from the boys’ behaviors, that it’s time to return to formal homeschooling.

It’s time to hit the books. To find a solid schedule. A multitude of unstructured days have left us surly, and we’re beginning to unglue.

It’s at times like this, on days like today, that I doubt my own capabilities. Today we’re struggling to hit baseline behaviors, and tomorrow we’ll add school lessons and books.

In my own effort, it is too much.

In my own strength, I cannot handle it all.

But I stand in the middle of the struggle. The boys drop their towels. There’s a fast flow of words, and it’s hard for me to untangle the knot and find the ends. So I sit down. Right in the middle of the mess. In a mess of towels and a mess of frustration and a mess of words.

And God meets me there.

On a thrashed mountain of towels.

He meets me right in the center.

Right where I am.

If I consider our homeschool history, there have been doubts and insecurities at the start of nearly every year. There was the fall that I had trouble with my back, and I couldn’t get out of bed. The year I miscarried on the first day of school.

The autumns that we had newborns, and the bassinet was a schoolroom fixture sure as the shelves that held our books. And this year there are some behaviors I need to tame and others I need to teach.

But if I look back, if I consider His works and His faithfulness, I know it will be okay.

One of my favorite Bible stories is the one about Jesus walking on water. Something that draws my attention is that Jesus’ disciples had just witnessed Him feeding the multitudes with the contents of a humble lunch, yet when they saw Him walking toward him, they were dismayed.

They had forgotten His strength and ability and glory.

Lord, in this crazy place of doubt and insecurity, let me remember the great things You have done.

We stay pretzel-legged, towels pooled beneath us, for quite a while. We talk about how we need to treat one another and why. We talk about how God loves each one of us, and He’s told us to love one another, too.

And I understand, as I sit with my boys, that this humble place isn’t so bad. I’m at God’s mercy. At the foot of His throne. Depending. Needing.

And He will be present and He will provide.

Just as He has in the past.

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