By Denae Jones –
Summertime. It ushers in exciting things that we’ve been unable to do most of the year, like going on family vacations, or catching fireflies, or camping outside. It’s also the time of year when school is out and the kids are home. All. Day. Long. That means the messes that usually got made between the hours of 3 p.m. and bedtime now get up bright and early, stretch, and take off in a full sprint. Messes in our house multiply like Gremlins in water. We can always tell where one child in particular has been because this person who shall not be named leaves a trail everywhere they go. A sock, a half-filled glass, food wrappers, opened mail, orange peels and trails of crumbs like Hansel and Gretel. I feel like I spend most of my waking hours walking behind them turning off lights and cleaning up their messes. (Or at least hounding them to clean it up themselves.)
When you are a parent (or an animal parent) and spend so much time cleaning up after others, it gives you a whole new perspective on how much work someone put into cleaning up after you. I’m talking about the ‘dirty plates left on the counter’ kind as well as the ‘how am I going to get out of this mess?’ kind.
When the really difficult messes rear their ugly heads in our lives, it’s nice when we have close family or a good, trusted friend to confide in to help us make it through. Yet, our gripes and worries and venting can wear down even the most patient friend if we do it too often. We’ve all been in a place where we are half listening to someone talk on the phone while we are balancing our checkbook on the other end because we’ve heard it all before, right?
I was venting to nobody in particular the other day as I was trying to pull my car into the garage only to see bicycles, roller skates and jump ropes laying in my way. Again. And on this day, it was raining, so I had to get out in it, which really defeated the purpose in the first place. As I was grumbling under my breath about how I’ve told them a hundred times, I could almost hear God say, “I never get tired of cleaning up your messes, Denae. There have been many. There will be many more. Calm down. ”
It made me pause because it is so true. How many times have I told God (or my parents, or a friend) that I was sorry for doing something, and then done it again? And how many times has it taken me to make the same mistake before I finally learned from it? And how often have I felt defeated and confused and scared, only to be shown an outcome better and brighter than I ever would have expected?
I am so glad that God never tires of helping us. Or forgiving us. Or hearing us. Or healing our broken hearts. He never takes days off. Even on holidays. He never balances the checkbook while we are talking. He’s not even on the other end of a phone line. He’s right there with His arm around us, feeling our sadness, and knowing that our future holds things that are so much better than we feel in that broken moment.
When I am in the middle of a big mess in my life, I feel better when I pray. Sometimes those prayers are deep and heartfelt, and other times I say things to God like, “I’m too mad to pray right now! You already know everything I was going to say anyway.” Fortunately, no matter how ridiculous our prayers might sound on our end, God hears them perfectly on His end. And I believe that even when we feel like we’ve even made a mess of our prayer, that God is just happy that we came to Him at all. As a parent, I feel that way. I’d rather my kids come to me with anything, as little and silly as it may be, than to not come to me at all.
This week, as I’m picking up the sidewalk chalk and muddy shoes that the kids have left out again, I will try to remember how many times others have had to clean up after me, and be more gentle in my reminders to them. I will try not to tire of answering the same questions, teaching the same lessons, or forgiving the ones I love. May God give me patience… and maybe a new Swiffer.
Have a blessed week, friends!