When things don’t add up

There is this parenting phenomenon that I am finding particularly frustrating of late. In our daily life at home, there are days when we are largely housebound, due to a number of factors. Recently those factors have included being sick, Elijah’s nap schedule, my work schedule, etc. On those days, when the kids are getting a little crazy by mid-afternoon, I feel very guilty that they have not had any outdoor play and I completely understand why they are behaving the way they are. That is when being urban and yard-less can feel especially tough.

Then there are other days where I bend over backwards and practically kill myself trying to be the uber-fun mom who takes her kids on outings and plans out exciting things for us to do together. On these days, as exhausting and difficult as managing the three outside of the home can be (think potty-training, nursing, and simply herding the three bodies plus all the junk that goes with them), I know that it is so good for them and they will be happier for it (as will I!).

But then this thing happens where, in spite of my valiant efforts at being the supermom who does the fun outings, they throw tantrums or refuse to walk from the van to the front door, or they scream instead of nap, and end up as cranky and crazy by dinner hour as they would on any housebound day. And I end up deflated, defeated, and ready to turn in my parenting card. Why do I even try to be fun, I ask myself?

I think this parallels how I can feel about my life with God at times. There are those spiritual stretches where I am aware of my neglect, be it of prayer or joy or worship, and it is no surprise when my life begins to feel so crazy and hard. Then there are those other times, the ones where I am reading my Bible and praying and singing and serving and doing all the things that should make everything good. But everything is not.

And I am reminded that just like life with my kids, life with God is ultimately about a relationship, and relationships are just about the most volatile, unpredictable, messy things I know. And relationships are not mathematical equations where if you input something on one side, you are guaranteed a predictable sum on the other. That is why the most Godly family you know can suffer so immensely. That is why in spite of every good spiritual practice, you can feel dead and dry inside. That is why our life with God is not about getting what we deserve.

And that is grace.


  1. Well, as usual sister, you nailed it.
    Heartfelt write. So true.

    It is all about grace.

    I loved the line “…life with God is ultimately about a relationship, and relationships are just about the most volatile, unpredictable, messy things I know.”

    Keep writing, dear soul.

  2. I have visited here a few times and always feel a heart “amen” to your sentiments. I too am a mother of three who are pretty tight although not quite as tight as yours seem to be. Reading this was like hearing the story of some of my own days. When I’m at my best on the worst days, I allow grace to help me filter through what’s going on; the worst days I seem to only ponder in retrospect. I always appreciate your writing when I make it over here. I really appreciated a post you wrote some weeks ago about serving “the least of these” in church. I’ve spent many an hour in the wee ones’ Sunday school and vented many a times wondering where are the men. Your post there was encouraging and helped me continue to pursue my work with the 2-3’s in gladness rather than because nobody else has wanted to do it. Sorry for the lumped together nature of this comment. Please keep writing.


  3. Thanks for this. I found this on Scot McKnight’s weekly meanderings. As the mother of two small children I really relate to part about trying to be fun, and appreciate the comparison to our relationship with God.

  4. Ted,

    Thanks for your kind words and for the link. I always love your reflections and was happy that this post tied in with some of them.

  5. Great! I’m glad you summed it up with ‘grace,’ rather than just leaving it hanging at “relationships are like this” and “it isn’t about getting what we want.” Grace adds another dimension to your stories of parenting, and adds another dimension to my reflection on them.

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