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Inadequate. The word came out while I was climbing the stairs with a basket on my hip and my phone crooked between my shoulder and my ear.
I had called my mom at 6:38 PM, a snap decision I made after I strained the spaghetti for dinner. LB was reading a book, Ezra was on my laptop working on a co-op writing assignment, and Russ was watching a YouTube video on his phone. For a moment there, I saw the opportunity to slip away to do something for myself.
I descended the stairs, hollering, “I’m just gonna do a little bit of laundry…I’ll get dinner on in just a minute!”
Not long after, I had acquired a tail in the form of a sneaky seven year old who was my companion as I made several trips up and down the stairs, putting away the laundry that Russ had graciously folded earlier in the evening. It was all mixed up, rather than each family member’s clothes in the basket with his name on it – but I didn’t mind.
The 21 minute phone call at the dinner hour was not my brightest idea. Predictably, the conversation was punctuated by instructions for LB to put underwear in his drawer and interruptions by Russ who was now overwhelmed because Ezra needed help with his writing project and everyone needed dinner. My thoughts were fragmented; my words, doubly so.
It had been two weeks since I had last called – not a problem for either me or my mom. But all day I had found myself craving the support only a mother can give.
My morning had begun at 1:00 AM, when a random power failure hit and all the white noise devices we run at night came to an abrupt halt. I laid frozen in bed, listening to Russ snoring softly beside me. I had to pee, but I didn’t want to move and wake anyone up. My mind raced with intrusive thoughts. It wasn’t storming, so why was the power out? It’s finally happened. The Chinese Spy Balloon took out the power grid and the apoclypse has begun. We will have to live the rest of our lives without electricity. *visualizes scary scenes from The Walking Dead, but without the zombies.*
I also kept hearing (or maybe imaginining) random clatters from the other side of the house. The other obvious option was that someone cut our power so they could sneak into our darkened house and rob us or kill us.
I was also frozen in anticipation of the moment one or both of the boys would wake to a darkened room. I didn’t have to wait long. I heard the cries from LB’s room. I rushed into the hall as quickly as possible, where I heard the louder-and-definitely-not-imagined clatters from the dining room. Freaking robot vacuum was lost. No robbers or axe murderers after all.
I opened LB’s door. “It’s okay…Mommy’s here. Mommy’s here.”
LB was not in bed, but sleeping in a sleeping bag on the floor. So it took me a second to 1) orient myself to the sound of his voice 2) find my child 3) try not to trip over the things all over the floor.
“Was there a power out?!?!” he cried.
“Yes Bud. The power is out. Get into bed, and I’ll cuddle with you.”
I got him settled in bed and turned on a battery-operated LED candle from Dollar Tree that he keeps on his night stand for bedtime “Stuffie Play” under the covers. Thankfully, it still had a charge. “I have to go deal with DB, because he’s lost. I’ll be right back.”
I turned off the robot vacuum, navigated back through the house sliding my feet across the floor to make sure I didn’t trip, and climbed into bed with him. Once he was settled, I went back to bed, where I laid until the power came back on. The whole ordeal had only lasted about 45 minutes, and mercifully, Ezra had stayed asleep through the entire thing.
7:50 AM came quickly and suddenly. I forewent my morning routine of stay-in-bed-drink-coffee-and-check-Facebook-Twitter-and-Reddit-for-an-hour routine and hit the ground running with lists on the white board and highly unrealistic expectations of a productive day ahead.
The day had come to a screeching halt when Russ needed to talk. He needed to process some bad dreams he had…what they were, what they meant, and how they made him feel. The boys had limited “independent” work on their list, because I had several things I wanted to “get my act together” and get done with them: read-alouds, piano lessons, and projects they needed me to help with. Thus, Russell’s external processing session was interrupted multiple times with kids who needed direction beyond, “Go do school and let Daddy and Mommy talk.”
My frustration was rising because I knew they needed my help to get started, but Russ didn’t realize the nature of the day I had planned for them in my head, and hadn’t given me a chance to explain. Finally, I told them, “Just go read in your rooms for a few minutes!” so I could give Russ my “undivided” attention. I say “undivided,” because the conversation I was having (listening to) with Russ was only one tab in my brain of about 100 the rest of my brain was processing alongside. I was listening and hearing, but I was also thinking and planning and sorting and organizing the rest of what needed to be done.
There was also a part of me thinking about this “in-sickness-and-in-mental-health” marriage I live each day. This is the part that people don’t know. The morning rearranged because of a few bad dreams. My inability to meet the needs of my children in this moment because I have to deal with my husband. The pain I feel because all I can do is listen and there’s absolutely nothing I can do to make him feel better. The frustration that grows when I have to surrender my ordered, controlled plans once again to the unpredictable…the unexpected…the unstable…
The day was okay, if not more productive than normal. We finished the last chapter of the history read-aloud we had started almost a month ago. We finished the last of the gorilla books. We even read out of our ACTUAL history textbook for a change. I taught half of a piano lesson to Ezra before I had to cut it short to take LB to speech therapy.
Still, only half of what I had wanted to do had gotten done. The stack of church music was still unsorted, the Christmas decorations were still sprawled all over the basement floor, the budget was still untouched, the picture prints had not been ordered, and the blackened bananas were still not baked into banana bread to keep them from going to waste.
My frustration level stayed at a sustained level of mildly-annoyed-with-everyone-and-everything all day. While this might not be my best day for sure, it definitely wasn’t my worst either. But I felt the guilt of not being more gracious and kind with those I love. I felt pulled in a thousand directions all day. I felt like everything I did was at the expense of something else that also needed doing. I felt like all my busy attempts at progress were inadequate to the task. And I felt like I was doing nothing as well as I should have.
I was too distracted when listening to Russ.
I was too undisciplined when making book club plans and got distracted by the rabbit hole that is Teachers Pay Teachers.
I was unkind when the Ezra cuddled too close during reading time and I felt like he was on top of me.
I ate fruit snacks for snack when doing speech therapy homework with LB when I should have opted for something healthier.
I was too short-tempered and terse while teaching Ezra piano.
I threw together dinner of leftovers last-minute because it didn’t occur to me to plan ahead (even though I knew speech therapy was at 5PM this week.
We did the science and history, but skipped the Scripture memory and Bible study…again.
I forgot to call the pharmacy…again.
So, as I climbed the stairs with a basket on my hip and a phone tucked by my ear, I told my mom, “I just feel so…inadequate to be everything that everyone needs me to be.”
“I know you do. But remember, God picked you to do this job. He is giving you the strength you need to do it when you feel inadequate,” was my Mom’s wise (paraphrased) reply.
It’s nothing new that I hadn’t heard before. In fact, I’m quite certain that at least once a day I find myself asking, “But God, WHY did you think I would be the best one to do this?” But I needed to hear her words again, regardless.
I wanted to talk to her longer, but the household was unraveling without me, so I cut it short. There was dinner and then I went full-throttle “go mode” in attacking the rest of the laundry and getting the boys ready for bed. At 9:00 PM, I was still moving. The banana bread needed made, two weekly medicine containers needed filled, and I desperately needed a shower.
Russ told me that he wanted me to have a chance to watch skating. I told him, “Yeah it’s too late for that. It’s already 10:00! But I am going to climb in bed and just look at my phone for a while, because I didn’t do that this morning.”
“Oh, I didn’t realize it was that late.”
I didn’t put down my phone until 11:45 AM. It was dumb, and I knew it. But as I scrolled endlessly on social media sites, I felt myself still grasping for a small part of my day where I felt like I could control, where I could do what I wanted to do, and no one could tell me otherwise (other than my inner adult voice telling me to go to sleep).
This morning, I had more time to check Facebook while Ezra was still sleeping and LB was “tired” as he cuddled beside me.
An image I had mindlessly re-shared from my memories on Monday stopped me in my tracks:
There’s that word again. Inadequate.
I share a lot less of my daily struggle online than I used to. Partially because I have less time to write than I used to. Partially because Ezra is old enough now that I feel it’s important to protect his personal information and minimize his digital footprint more than I used to. Partially because I cope better than I use to.
But I fear that too often God’s strength gets lost in the bits I do share. For that, I apologize.
I’m no superwoman. Even on my best days, I feel like I’m just treading water…inadequate for the task ahead.
I recently told LB that every day when I wake up, I struggle to get out of bed…because I feel like I’m David, and my day is Goliath. Was David brave? I think he was. But he wasn’t brave because he was inadequate and faced something big alone. He was brave because he was resting in something that was bigger than his inadequacy. His inadequacy became a platform for God to show His strength.
This is another image I shared on my special needs page a few days ago.
I have changed a lot in the six years since I made this graphic about my feeling inadequate. The truth is that I DO know how I do it: I don’t.
I am inadequate. Every. Single. Day. I am inadequate. I am selfish, undisciplined, unkind, angry, bitter, snappy, lazy, and battle this flesh that screams that I deserve a better life with less hardship.
Every day I ask God why He chose me because surely someone else could do a better job.
A few weeks ago, I sat at a dinner table where our Pastor of Ministries turned to me and said, “Aprille, it occurred to me that I don’t know that much about your background.” While my husband and his wife entertained our children and dished up dessert, I sat there and poured my heart out to him. I told him about my dreams as a teenager, how those dreams were dashed in college, and the events that led to my marrying my husband. I told him about the miscarriage, the deployments, and Ezra’s diagnosis.
Throughout the story, I found myself saying, “And so I prayed…” and “Then I prayed…” and “When I prayed…” As I sat at that table, each of those statements was a smack upside the head: “Aprille, do you think prayer might have had something to do with this?!?! Do you think that I might know what I am doing? Don’t you see that it was My will that put you in this family? Do you think that prayer maybe…just maybe…has power that you don’t?”
That night, I recommitted to praying for my husband and my children.
I need you…friend, relative, associate, neighbor, or stranger…to see that I am inadequate. I need you to understand that this online “platform” that we value so much in this digital age exists to show that it is God who strengthens and sustains me and my family. We are inadequate…weakened by our sin, our struggle, and our brokenness. We share these things…boast in these things…so that you might see that God’s power rests upon us.
When all is said and done
When my last song’s been sung
I stand face to face with the One
Who gave all for me
May all I have to show
Be all that mattered most
Making Your great name known
Let this be my only legacy:
Loving my Jesus
Showing my scars
Telling my story of how mercy
Can reach you where you are
And I pray the whole world hears
The cry of my heart
Is to see all the ones I love
Loving my Jesus