I’m home alone with a bunch of little siblings for two days. I’m vacuuming because I stepped on a sticky juice spill, and cleaning up the sticky juice spill made me realize how crummy the hardwood is. I’m vacuuming, and the baby sister is chirping the same syllable every split second. I’m vacuuming, and the little brother is pushing the vacuum cleaner along with me, making weird zooming noises and whipping the hose out of my hand every now and then. I’m vacuuming, and the little sisters are singing one note ten octaves above normal.
I’m vacuuming, and I’m about to explode. It’s been a week of little sleep, big decisions and frayed emotions. An introverted week, the one where everything is kept inside and rolled over and over, every minute, until it seeps into one’s psyche, almost. Every nerve in my body responds to the mess, the responsibility, the utter chaos of keeping a big house in the little woods filled with needy, noisy children.
Fingers tap. Voices hum. Computer games blare—and I’m trying to read, trying breathe, trying to live in a tornado vortex. But this is how God distraction proofs my soul.
You know when someone calls a horse “bomb proof”? It’s been trained to not shy at its shadow, to stand still in fire and brimstone, to stay calm when everything around it is crumbling. (I learned that reading one of the million cheap horse series I consumed between nine and thirteen. Happy that I can take one meaningful lesson from that intense period of study.) Those horses do the great things. They’re the police horses, the therapy horses, the horses people trust to keep their head. They’re dependable, unflappable.
I thought of that while living life this week. Every time some annoying anthem began blaring in our house while I was trying to study the feminist impact on the attachment theory between mothers and babies—every time an overly loud voice began laughing uncontrollably and distastefully—every time a sibling came up and poked me or almost slapped me in the face or in all other ways waved a red bandana before my crazed eyes—I kept feeling that I couldn’t snap.
I did once, you know.
The last time I volunteered at kindergarten I was exhausted and emotionally drained, barely getting out of bed on time and remembering to brush my teeth. I didn’t feel like dealing with fourteen hyper students who crawled all over me and bickered and didn’t listen to a thing I said. That particular day was terrible. Every time the teacher left for a couple minutes, the decibel level zoomed. I was usually so calm and collected, never raising my voice even when I was most annoyed—it’s something I’ve worked on—but having all fourteen students up out of their seats and crowding around the pencil sharpener with perfectly sharpened pencils and without my permission—I was going to blow my top.
“I’m going to sharpen my pencil!” exclaimed the normally-tearful girl who I love with all my heart. She was so happy today.
But right then I snapped—nothing terribly explosive or angry, but I blew off a rolling cloud of frustration and bitterness. The smile drained off her face. “Never mind, I’m not going to sharpen my pencil,” she said, hesitantly cheerful and backing away to her seat.
She believed I was a safe haven from trouble—I was the shoulder she cried on and the arms that encircled her when she was struggling to learn. To see her negatively draw back from me spewing the chaos and frustration of my life and messy circumstances—that pricked my conscience.
Perfect love drives out fear. Little ones especially need to know that how they are loved will not change even if they are out of hand or circumstances get a bit choppy. It’s a core they depend on. It’s a core that we, as hearts of the home (and hearts-of-the-home-in-training), should build up and maintain, starting when we are sisters and daughters and kindergarten volunteers.
When life is crazy, especially with imperfect people, it is so important that we be “distraction proofed” souls. We’re unflappable no matter how high the decibels climb. We’re dependable and safe and trustworthy, because in the chaos of existence, we’re at peace. Even in the scattered lives and shattered hopes and every-which-way living, we unite our homes through an inner anchor of grace (Ephesians 4:1-4). We overlook faults and rough edges. We let the fingers tap and the voices hum. We don’t lash out when our personal space is invaded. Our peace isn’t tied to our circumstances.
People respond to that. It isn’t a common trait.
I’m vacuuming, and I let the baby squeal, the brother “help,” the sisters sing, the craziness roll. It will pass. I can wait. A couple minutes later, they’re running around the house five times. I’m inside, typing this down. And now it’s almost too quiet.
by Bailey, Big House in the Little Woods
Picture: Norman Rockwell, “The Babysitter”