I work with middle schoolers. I'm a youth pastor. It's my life's work and ministry. At the end of each day, I'm blessed to come home to a family that I feel is the biggest blessing of my life. They are everything and more to me. And because they are everything and because I feel so much responsibility for them, I also feel overwhelmed.
I try to set aside the cares of ministry on the short mile drive home from work. I try to pick up the cares of my husband and daughters as I exit our jeep and walk into the house.
When I arrive at home I hear the quick pitter patter of my yearling daughter's feet driving toward me. It's as if gravity increases on her head and arms as she reaches toward me, squealing "mommy" with delight as she bobbles just enough to face plant right before the goal, my arms. As I reach for her, my three year old, who is also making the chariots of fire dash to mommy, accidentally steps on little sisters' finger causing more panic and shrill screaming. All the while, I haven't been to the bathroom in hours and can't hold it a second longer. If you were a fly on the wall(and there probably is a fly on my wall)you'd see me emotionally peeing on a toilet with two kids (also crying) on my lap. I'm not the first person in the world to have children but anyone who has ever had them is nodding their head sympathetically.
My husband, the champion of my world, stays at home with the girls close to 40 hours a week. I do not know how he finds the time or space to use the restroom either. It's as if our kids know when we have a dire need and they will do whatever it takes to sidetrack us from it. Things like mommy and daddy eating, bathing, and/ or sleeping are against kid union regulations for sure.
It seems like I start every homecoming out this way. Tears of joy and pain. There always seems to be something on the horizon. If it's not a virus, allergic reaction, or pollen allergies then it most definitely will be an inability to eat vegetables, obey simple instructions, or to stay focused on one task for more than a few minutes.
Seriously, sometimes I feel like I'm never going to catch up, clean up, or shape up.
I try to hear the advice of people like Erma Bombeck who tell us not to worry about the stains on the carpet or dishes in the sink. Being with our family in this present moment is more important. Laughing. Conspiring together. Loving. Holding. I want all of this but there's still the mess that waits for me in the morning.
Dealing with all of this, while holding on to God's promises and whispering for His strength and courage, leaves me reminiscing about what life used to be like when I was the kid.
Middle school wasn't so bad for me. It wasn't so good either. But there are some things that I absolutely loved about that time in my life that keeps me wishing that I could return to them.
I remember being driven places. I love to be driven places. You can sleep, listen to music, read, draw. Please, drive as far away as you like. I'll hang out in the back. Good night.
I remember saving all of my paper route money to "adopt a whale" on the back of a cereal box. Money wasn't too stressful in middle school. You either have some or your don't. It was kind of nice not having a job or any cash flow.
Every event was a new event. I don't remember one time feeling bored with life. Every class in school was different each day because you never knew what was going to happen, who was going to like who, or what sort of substitute teacher you would have. I don't need the drama but I do wish I could look at life again with those curious eyes, always wondering what's going to happen next and bewildered when in gives me something I wasn't expecting.
I never counted calories in middle school. I didn't care. I didn't have a health conscious whatsoever. I used to eat two #2's at McDonald's on the way home from volleyball games (A number 2 at the time was 2 cheeseburgers and fries. I literally would eat 4 cheeseburgers in one sitting in the 7th grade!) Oh how I wish some of the habits I have formed over the years could be erased. It's good to be healthy and I'm glad I'm not eating this way anymore (my husband is also appreciative), but I do wish eating were as carefree as it once was.
Relationships were more important than getting things done. Growing up and getting a job help mess this one up.
Boldness existed, even if it was quiet boldness as expressed in clothing that no adult would be caught dead wearing. I want that kind of courage again. I don't want hammer pants. Don't get me wrong. I want confidence in who I am, whose I am, and who I am not.
Sometimes I really miss this time of life, getting picked up by the parents, being handed lunch money, being bailed out, wearing my personality in the form of fashion, taking dares, going after relationships with everything I've got--even if it leaves me tripping on the floor and getting stepped on by someone else--it was always worth it.
And then I see that I'm giving this very existence to my kids, my sweet girls, and my sweet (and not-so sweet middle schoolers). I had my time to be in the mini van. Now it's their turn.
Knowing that it's my turn to give back helps give me the courage and sense of humor to keep going every day.
There are some things I'll never "get" as a mom, wife, sister, friend, leader, pastor, writer...but one thing that I do get is that all we have is now and we can't spend our lives wishing we were somewhere else in the past or somewhere else in the future. Spending and investing time in God's presence in the present moment with the people who are present with us is the most important thing we can do in life. And I'm grateful for every moment in life that turns me around and reminds me of that.
Today, I felt like ninja mommy, attacking the mess that is life all day long. And I'm thankful because I know I don't have to be a ninja every day and sometimes (sometimes) my kids really do sleep and give me time to do life giving things like write, pray, and brush my teeth.
I thank God for the people who loved me and carried me through middle school so I could look back on it fondly and remember that it's my turn now.