Like all parents, when the kids were young, we were BUSY! Gilbert worked a lot of overtime and I worked part-time, so life could get overwhelming at times. But it wasn’t until one of our son’s birthdays that I realized how frazzled I was.
We always tried to make the kids birthdays special, and would celebrate with the extended family with a birthday dinner. But we also would try to have a kid’s party for them. David was born in April, so it was a great time of year for a kid’s party. Boys like to run around outside, and we lived in a place with acres of ground. The plans were made for a Saturday afternoon party, and Jim was staying home from work that day to ride herd on the outside activities. I remember shopping for the party bags and decorations wondering: what do you put in party bags for 8 year old boys? Girls are easy: play make-up, stickers and all that glitters. But boys? As I was wandering through the dollar store, I came across a bin of little Swiss army knife-type thingies. I picked one out, and, upon close inspection, I found that as I opened this nifty little thing, each piece was actually a little tool. One stem was a little hammer, one a little screw driver, a little wrench but no knife or blade or anything. It all folded neatly into a compact piece with a chain to put on a belt or backpack or whatever. It was perfect! I couldn’t believe my good fortune, as I reached into the bin and counted out 15 for the party bags. I was set. Each bag would contain a little tool thingy, a hackie-sack ball, and all the sugar I could stuff in to send them on their way. I was also into cake decorating in those days, so I made a cake shaped like a football jersey, with a big number 8. I got streamers that said “Happy Birthday, eight year old”, and I blew up a lot of balloons, then cleverly took a magic marker and wrote an 8 all over each one before hanging them all over the house.
The party bags were filled, the house decorated, and everything set to go. Gilbert spent the morning outside mowing the grass, getting the baseball diamond ready, clearing the basketball court, and making everything ready for the posse of boys who were ready to descend for the festivities. I looked around the house, quite pleased at the way everything was just falling into place. My mother promised to be there about a half hour ahead of time to lend a hand, and all was ready when she arrived. I can still see her coming in the door. Now my mom was the coolest woman alive, but she was a chain smoker and always had one lit. She walked in, cigarette in hand, and looked around and surveyed the great job I did decorating. She looked at everything, the balloons, the streamers, the party bags, the cake. She took a long drag of her cigarette, looked at me, and said “ **expletive**, Peggy, why do you have an 8 all over everything? He’s not 8, he’s 7! This is his seventh birthday. What the **expletive** is wrong with you?”
Ummm… what? Seven?!?! You mean to tell me this kid is only seven? But he looks like an 8 year old, right? Oh, wait a minute-it was my nephew who was 8… Dear God, she was right. My son, the one I gave birth to, was turning 7, not 8. How could I make such a ridiculous mistake???? What was wrong with me?? Mom immediately went to work ripping down streamers, popping balloons with her ever lit cigarette and blowing up new ones, mumbling under her breath the whole time. I went to work on the cake, scraping off the 8 and making more icing so I could pipe a 7 onto the shirt. Somehow we got it all together as the boys arrived. They all had a blast, and I was very happy to hand them all their party bags as their parents came to pick them up.
My mother was still shaking her head as the last of the boys left. She said to me “You’re frazzled—go sit for a few minutes and I’ll start cleaning up”. Gilbert was still outside with David and my nephews, who were spending the night. I went into the living room, and sat down next to the open window, enjoying the smell of spring wafting through the window, listening to the sound of the boys outside playing. The sound of “ swoosh..THUNK!, swoosh…THUNK!” followed by the sound of boys saying “YEAH!” Wait a minute: “swoosh thunk”? What was that?? Gilbert was in the shed but must have heard the same thing I did. My mother came out of the back door at the same time. With curiosity/fear, we approached the boys from different directions. They were huddled around an old tree stump, and in their hands were the handy-dandy tool-thingies that were in the bags. Except they weren’t tool thingies. They were knife-thingies. Pen knives? Where did you get those? “Aunt Peggy/Mom: they were in the party bags!” WHAT!?!? “Yeah, Aunt Peggy—these are the coolest gifts ever! Our mom doesn’t let us play with knives at our house!” I guess there was only ONE tool-thingy in the bin at the dollar store—all the rest were pen knife- thingies. Yep. I sent 15 boys home from my house with weapons. Right about then, the phone rang, and I knew that I knew it would be a mom questioning my sanity. My husband started laughing uncontrollably. My mother took another long drag on her cigarette, looked at me with disbelief that I was her child, and shook her head. I went in to answer the phone and start calling the other moms to tell them to take away the party bags before their sons killed someone or started carving things into the coffee table. They all asked me the same question: “ You mean you just reached into the bin and pulled them out without opening each one to be sure of what you were getting?” I wanted to scream at every one of them “That’s right, super Mom! This psycho mom only opened one—I didn’t open them all, so if you’re smart, you’ll get off the phone and hunt down your kid before he pokes his eye out!” Geez… I didn’t say those things, I just apologized profusely and begged for forgiveness. They were all very gracious and no one called DYFS on me.
It was at the end of this long, long day that my mother’s words struck me. “You are frazzled”. Up until that point I didn’t realize how true that was. I was getting through every day, hoping for the best. I would wake every morning and pray for safety and protection for the family as I ran around packing their snack-lunches. But I never really took the time to pray that God would order my day or help me set His priorities. I realized on David’s first eighth birthday party day, that I needed to rest in Him a little more. I honestly had no idea how to do that. I was too busy.
“Answer me quickly, O LORD! My spirit fails! Hide not your face from me, lest I be like those who go down to the pit. Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love,
for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.” Ps. 143:7&8
Knowing that something definitely had to change before the next kid’s birthday (she would be turning 3, right?) lest I mistakenly buy bazookas or something, I set about trying to spend some real quality time of meditation and reflection in the morning. It wasn’t easy to get my mind to settle down, but eventually, I overcame. I would read the Bible and pray. It was in those times that I learned that God was truly my friend. He was always there. In my happy times, He is there smiling with me. When I am overwhelmed, He is there to settle me. When I am sad or grieving, He is there with comfort. This, I can say, was the beginning of a true change in me as I learned that I could truly rely on God to be there, right where He said He would be (with me to the end of my days).
It is an on-going process, this resting in His presence. It is here that I find Him. He gets me. He understands that I sometimes have a..um…let’s just say “unique” sense of humor. He helps me overcome the urge to cry and snort at weddings, and the urge to laugh and snort at funerals. He watches me fall, and then helps me get up. And I am not as frazzled. I am busy. I am exhausted. I am starting to feel my age. And He is here through it all. I’ve had people say to me that they don’t understand how I can talk about God as if He is my best friend. I say, how can you not? I get great comfort in my prayer time—my time of talking to the Lord. Sometimes the time I spend is short, sometimes longer; sometimes it’s hard, sometimes it’s easy. I am ever-learning how to work with Him, rather than let circumstances dictate my life. Today, I challenge you to spend some time in the Savior’s presence and in His Word, and let Him teach you how to follow in His footsteps of purpose, passion and peace!
“Come to Me. Get away with Me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with Me and work with Me–watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.” (Matthew 11:28,29 MSG)