When I was a senior in high school, I had a bad habit of waking up late. Really late. The bus would be purring outside while I threw on some clothes, grabbed my gear, and went running down the stairs and out the front door. I could have probably won some sort of Guinness record with my morning pace. When my step-mom would come upstairs later, she always noticed that my bed was made. I may have been lethargic and late, but somehow still "clean". Why? Because that habit was so ingrained in me as a child, it was now (as a teenager) a natural response to years of knowing that the consequence of a messy bed was after-school misery at my mom's house.
Disorder in my house as a child meant screaming, grounding, guilt trips, and the throwing of all kinds of stuff (folded and orderly or not) in a pile in the middle of my floor. Often times I would be greeted with " you didn't do what I asked..." or "what did I tell you..." instead of a "how was your day?" I dreaded coming home much of the time. To this day, I still feel terribly uneasy when things aren't orderly (especially in my own home). I struggle to leave my house without tidying up and cleaning off surfaces. I'm almost incapable of leaving without straightening the pillows on the couch, folding the throw blankets and putting them in their designated place. I'm always anxious leaving and almost always anxious coming home. I still get the same breathless jitters when I come back to a disorderly house that I did when I was young.
"I will. have. order." is the wailing of my soul and my mouth.
The problem is, that makes me the villain, and I really don't want to be that.
While I can justify discipline and I can justify teaching my children with structure and responsibility, I know that the root of my problem is anxiety and anger. My home might be pretty and tidy, but my spirit ... not so much. I often find myself thinking, I hope someone didn't just hear that. I'm ashamed and sincerely convicted about my mouth and my attitude. I want to be a woman of integrity above all. I need to be the same person when someone is watching as I am when I'm alone.
I have to talk myself down off of my angry ledge regularly. I have to be my own advocate when those anxious feelings start flooding in. I push the waters back by breathing and then ... I put myself back into my 8 year old shoes for a moment. I remind myself about the things I wanted and needed when I was little. I remind myself that those legos that I've been stepping on are proof that my kids are being kids. I tell myself that the cluttered counters and dirty floors mean that my family is being fed. I tell myself that a gracious Mama is a good Mama and that grace will have to cover the mess.
I tell myself that our home is lived in and well-loved. Home is all about the heart after all. I still clean and I still quibble but I am actively trying to cover each day with grace. Grace upon grace upon grace. Grace when I fail and grace when things don't go my way.
I know that my own problems with control, anxiety, and anger have a definite impact on my family. I am living proof of this. I don't want to be the kind of mother that my children fear. I don't want my home to be tense. I don't want these walls to be filled with shouting and disapproval. While I desperately want our house to be clean and orderly, my top priority is to help create a safe place for my family. A peaceful home requires sacrifice on my part.
I have to deny my impulses and knee-jerk responses. I have to ignore those nagging feelings and focus on what really counts. I am certain that God is going to meet me where I am in this battle. I am taking it day by day and moment by moment.
Every little victory counts.