These very little fingerprints on my door brought me to my knees, literally, spiritually, and emotionally. To completely understand, I must first give you some background.
I know you might not be able to tell by looking at me, but I am a really clean and tidy person. I have been all of my life and I climaxed shortly after college when I married Patrick. I liked cleaning our home all at once, in one big whirlwind on Friday and would sit back when it was all done and enjoy that clean. Not only did I need everything picked up and put away, but I needed it CLEAN, clean. I became something of a germ-a-phobe. I can admit it now and I have come a long way since that vicious climax. Ask the very man who lives with me; if he could he would concur. The turn came after the birth of my second son when I was outnumbered and I did not have the luxury of alone time at nap intervals throughout the day. I was picking up more than I was "enjoying" and was cleaning the very things I had just cleaned because of two very busy little boys. I wish I could say I was one of those moms who could just let it go, but at times it consumed every inch of my brain. My crumbling point came shortly after the birth of my fourth at a VBS drop off. I was seriously overwhelmed with four under the age of 7, not in being their Mom but in being the homemaker part of being the Mom. I can remember seeing the face of a fellow four-child mom a little further in her season of four, and the tears came tumbling down. She hugged me, let me sob, heard my every last whank, and then gently pushed away and gave me some of the greatest encouragement, support, and validation that I needed. In my hands later that day she placed the book, Sink Reflections, and my meltdown-homemaker-eyes saw hope. It gave me a starting place for getting my home back in order in a way that would not overwhelm me and in the process, helped me to put that part of my life in perspective. I won't say that I still don't struggle with wanting the blue water in my clean toilets to stay a little longer than the usual 3 mins my children allow, but it rarely brings me to my knees. There, it's out, that's my confession of an obsessed recovering homemaker. That's the background, here's the story.
It was a Monday and Mondays inevitably are long and involved. Mondays we are getting back into our groove, we are learning new concepts in subjects, and coming off the freedom of our weekends. Monday is an early morning running day for me and we have violin and piano on Mondays and dance to boot. I also use that as my mopping my floors day and general pick up day. Just typing that causes me to ponder my Mondays and wonder what can be moved, but for whatever reason, this particular Monday, I was going about my day. I had not had my quiet time for whatever reason and as the day moved forward, I felt the old Amy enter. She's usually not bad to have around at times for she makes me more organized and productive, but on Mondays, she can provoke me to discontent and downright agitation. Today was that day. We had struggled all morning with getting our day started, with school, and a trip to our first violin lesson. Later, when I came home and needed to start lunch, I found air soft bbs under the couch, Wii games not put away, crayons on the stairwell, dirty dishes left at breakfast spots, crumbs on the floor, books on the chair, hairbows on the counter, and kitty litter on the laundry room floor. As I am slowly burning from that old overwhelmed feeling, I feel the tears coming. The pity party was going to happen with or without my consent. As the tears flowed, my discontented mind rested on the wrong things. Why did I have to have children who left things about? Why four of them? Why am I the only one who picks up? Where is my husband in all of this? I am so lonely. I can't do this anymore. I don't want to do this. I don't want to do school. I don't want to teach decimals or diagraphs or make my bed. I don't want to be the mom today. The tears of pity flowed even steadier and I stopped. I saw them. The fingerprints on the door caught my eye and I was done. I walked out that very door with the prints, left my burdens and lot in life inside, and sat in a heap on the top step on our porch and sobbed. I sobbed for my loneliness, for my workload ahead of me that day, for the stuff I wanted to do but would not be able to. I sat and cried. I had not cried that hard in months and truth be told, it felt good. I cried until I really felt like I had not a tear left in me. And then it was still. The noises from inside were faded and muffled. As I looked out on the park, it was good. The birds were singing, the sun was bright and promising of the day to come, a breeze was blowing, and it was still. My thoughts had calmed and it was still. It was the first time in a long time I was still and nothing was going through my head. It was still. No one knew where I was, no one was calling my name, no one was looking for me. Slowly, God's Word showed up. My first thought was Jesus washing the feet of His disciples. My second thought was Jesus going to be alone and crowds following him. I thought of His compassion for those same people at a time in His day He too wanted to be alone, needed to be alone. I thought of Him calming the sea with just His words. That's how my heart felt. He had calmed me. The thoughts came flooding in and it felt good. My mind was resting on good things, right things. God then brought a verse to my head that I held so dear in that stillness of my moment, "Where no oxen are, the manger is clean, but much revenue comes by the strength of the ox." Proverbs 14:4. I could be in a place where there were no children, no pets, no one making a mess, demanding my time, needing me. It would be clean, still, and Southern Living-ish. Everything would be where I last put it, everything would be picked up. But that is not the manger God has placed me in. My manger has children, four of them, pets, friends of those four children, dirt from shoes, Lego pieces underfoot, Polly Pocket shoes in couch cushions, and yes, fingerprints on my front door. This is my ministry right now, my manger. "...much revenue comes by the strength of the ox." Revenue: Yield from investment. I get so much from my "oxen," much yield, much revenue. I get to be in their moments, share in their thoughts, teach them to read and divide fractions, I get to snuggle up at night and share bedtime. I get syrup-y kisses, and flowers picked for my vase. I get handmade colored pictures and giggles from upstairs. I am learning to let go of self and serve my family. I am learning to put others first and treat them as more important then myself. I am investing in their lives and they are sharing their thoughts and struggles with me. As a peace flowed through me and I stood up to face my manger and my oxen, I see those faces from that second picture. And I smiled. I may not always love the fingerprints, but I love the children who make them.