The man can talk a mile a minute, but my ears at 6:00 a.m. don’t hear that fast. I hear “hongottagetupoversleptgetthekids”, and a vague sense of panic pierces the fog in my mind. Panic is not the best emotion to awake to, and it set the tone for the morning. We had exactly thirty-five minutes to get four children from conked-out, pajama-ed, hungry, and bed-headed to fully awake, clothed, washed, fed, combed, back-packed, and school-ready.
My husband received a withering look from me as he bopped out the door at 6:25 quipping that “the kids are all ready, bye”. Catching the look he stood framed in the doorway. “What?”
“Ready? Right.” I said it like a veteran, a seasoned and wise old soldier who knew that it was never that easy. The war is always in the last five minutes, no matter how calm the morning has gone up to that point.
The clock was counting down and a very familiar scenario set in. One son couldn’t find his shoes. This is a son with chronic shoe loss. We have worked with him tirelessly (never mind, we in fact tired of this very quickly) to develop a habit of putting his shoes right beside his sock basket each and every day. Because the drama, oh the drama, is so unnecessary. So he wandered around looking for his shoes, his little socked-feet an affront to reason and sanity and all things good.
Then comes the high-pitched panic tone in his voice which somehow triggers one in my own as the usual shoe-hosting sites come up empty. Then the other son can’t find his jacket. WHAT. For the love. See, there’s a whole little row of hooks just at kid height in their changing room. For jackets. Only for jackets. Because of many tearful, panicky mornings when such things couldn’t be found. This son has a tendency to exhibit a mournful, high-pitched wail when he’s frustrated. I am incapable of hearing this sound in the morning without anger. He comes out wearing a jacket that fit him two years ago and though the sight of his ill-fitting apparel is frustrating, I let it go. And by the way, now he can’t find his backpack.
“BACKPACKS DON’T HAVE LEGS AND WALK AWAY”, I hollered, looking at the clock in desperation, as he insisted that he had set it down “RIGHT THERE” (in a high-pitched wail). So we tore through the house looking for the missing backpack, crashing into rooms and out of rooms, all the while me muttering words like “ridiculous” and “miss the bus” and “really?” and some sort of low growl unique to me in the early hours before I’ve had coffee.
Turns out that sometimes backpacks do have legs and do walk away. When one son thinks that he’s being helpful when he sees his brother’s backpack on the floor as he’s heading out to the car, thinking that it was forgotten, not realizing the confusion and thundering voices and panic that he triggered when he walked out with it. So now I’m yelling at the “helpful” son and we’re piling into the van, because there is no time for walking to the bus stop.
We whip into a parking lot near the old stone church where an ominous number of kids are waiting for the bus. Ominous because they’re high-schoolers and they always get there at the very last fashionable minute, so it means we’re barely making it. “Go-go-go!” I cry, because we didn’t come this far just to miss the bus by mere seconds. We run across the road and have one last tussle with a jacket that is half inside-out and should have been on the offending child ten minutes ago when he first was told to put it on.
I gathered my frazzled flock in my arms and prayed, “Dear God, please don’t let us have another morning like this….”
Kisses and hugs and I turned to the one son and said into his sad face, “Wow, sometimes backpacks do have legs and walk away. I’m sorry I yelled at you”. The bus arrived and there was no time to earn a smile of absolution, but he did wave to me from the window. My shoulders slumped and I trudged back to the van, fully aware of my failings before the sun had even risen.
Before you tsk-tsk us for not preparing for our mornings better, let me assure you that their lunches were packed the night before. All laundry was caught up and put away in their drawers/cubbies. We had checked all their homework and all contingencies were thought to be covered. But mornings like this just happen. There is some diabolical chaos that erupts from sleep-fogged minds trying to complete very basic routines at 6:00 a.m.
And I screwed up. And dare I say, I couldn’t find my shoes either? Mercy.
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.'” -Lamentations 3:22-24
Oh I have so far to go. I know that I can’t be perfect, but I do want to be better. I want my children to see me being refined year by year, growing more patient, loving, and wise. I want them to see a godly example of confronting frustration with a peaceful heart, a faith that can weather the blows of a morning-gone-mad.
I don’t want to wake up failing, but rather praying, praising. I want to respond to missing shoes with grace and humor and patience. I want to smooth ruffled feathers rather than ruffling them yet more in frustration.
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” -Philippians 1:6
So, taking hold of the promise that God is making something good and new within us, that regardless of our mistakes He is at work, let us hold on to hope, even when we wake up failing, even then.