It’s been a whirlwind of a day. This morning started out early. The kids and I left the house at 7:30 am to attend the county’s annual “Breakfast on the Farm”. It was our first time to attend this event, and we even volunteered to help out. N was a great sport; as it turned out, they needed her to wear a costume. So… she ended up in a cow costume. (Did I mention this event was sponsored by the local Dairy Promotion association??) The mom in charge of costumes told me that N was doing a great job. I was proud of her; she had such a fabulous attitude about it all– doing what she was asked to do, made no fuss about the costume, and then she had a blast doing it– walking all over the farm with her “herd” (fellow costumers) and having fun greeting people and having her picture made with little children. She had the most fun out of us all.

After a long morning of fun under a hot sun, we came home exhausted– well, I came home exhausted. The pick-your-own strawberry farm we visit each year was right next to the Breakfast on the Farm event, and the kids could have managed another hour outside– but I was ready to get off the farm and get home!

After a short break and lunch the kids wanted to wash the car. Afterward, I thought I would surprise them all by taking them to see the new Toy Story movie in 3D. And may I say, we all really enjoyed the movie. More often than not, a movie sequel is not as good as the original, but I think Toy Story is the exception. All three of those movies, in my opinion, have been good. I am continuously amazed at the creativity of the human mind; yes, even in a children’s movie.

Oh, one more thing. One of my kids had a meltdown, and the result was conflict amongst them and I had to intervene and sort it all out. This was during the car washing portion of the day, but before the movie part of the day.

I won’t go into all the details of that incident, but that was a pretty low moment for me personally. Everyone kind of lost it, including me. I ended up in my room, I broke down, crying my heart out. I felt like a total failure as a mom. I felt like I was having some kind of meltdown myself– well, admittedly, it was a meltdown for me, too. I wanted a do-over for the day, just over that incident, even though the rest of the day turned out fine; in fact, I wanted a re-do for my entire life. It seemed as if a whole heap of failures fell upon me in that instant, and they all played out before me, like a movie, and I wished I could just start my life all over again. I cried out to God to fix it all.

I feel as if I’m living in a whirlwind much of the time, and I’m trying to understand why. I think there are a myriad of reasons why, and it’s not because of a “busy schedule”, although busyness can contribute to that. And I’m not fooled into thinking I wouldn’t make mistakes the second time around, if such do-overs were possible; no, I’d make mistakes, but they’d be different ones. I guess a reset button on a life isn’t such a good idea, after all, but those were my thoughts in some low moments.

It’s hours later now, my rational mind is getting back in gear, and asking what can I do to make things better next time? What strategies can I put into place for myself, and for my kids, to help them when they have conflict? It seems I am still dealing with issues of disobedience and respect. What is the root cause? And, for each child, it’s something different to address. I have so many questions to answer and issues to address, it seems overwhelming. And these questions and issues don’t just involve parenting and child-rearing issues– the issues are multi-faceted, covering many different areas.

I realize this is part of normal family dynamics. We all need to learn how to get along, learn how to respect and love one another, how to show grace, how to forgive, how to communicate, how to resolve conflict. But add in other aspects of life, such as health issues, illness, busy schedules, tired kids, sleepless nights, food allergies, asthma, marital stress, job stress, financial stress, school stress, summer stress, chores, responsibilities, external relationships, church, weeds in the yard, and everything else in between… I could keep going on… and all the ingredients exist to bake a nice stressful cake. So that is what we ate a piece of today– a nice thick slice of stressful cake. And there was no icing.

Back to this whirlwind… I feel as if I am constantly playing catch-up. I am never caught up. The work is always there. Ok, I can live with some of that. The cycle of laundry and dishes and house cleaning is simply a fact for every household. It’s just a fact, and I accept it. I can live with it. It’s predictable; I know it’s coming and will always be there.

Add the usual stuff to all of life’s other difficult stuff, and it’s a compounding effect, and it can all be overwhelming. I’ve lived long enough now to see that most of life is like this. Most of us have lives that are full of the stuff that can be overwhelming. I think of the stories in my own neighborhood, and of people I know, and people I don’t know, and I realize that very few people I know have lives that are free of the overwhelming. Along with the usual demands of life, most of us have dealt with severe circumstances, deep emotional or physical pain, and immense personal loss.

And what I have also found is that quite often those who have been through the most difficult circumstances are the ones who have deep treasures to share. They are the ones who have sifted and found gold nuggets amidst the dirt of life. They are the ones who have profound words to share. They are the ones who are often full of the greater joy. They are the ones who have found a closeness to God that others long for. And it all came about from their suffering. Not everyone ends up like this; some people only see the dirt and not the gold.

I asked myself today– can such gain be found through only a life without pain and hardship and suffering? I don’t know the answer, really. My hunch is no, but I really have to admit… I don’t really know. Is there a fuller, more authentic, joy as the result of walking through loss? My hunch is– yes— but I haven’t met anyone yet whose life exhibits the converse could also be true… so… I’m wondering.

I’m reminded of a book I read by George MacDonald called “The Light Princess”. In this story, a princess had a spell put upon her which caused her to float (in defiance to gravity) and laugh. She’d laugh at the oddest times, when it wasn’t appropriate to laugh. One started to wonder if she truly felt anything at all, since she would laugh at anything. And then there was the constant threat of her being lifted off into space, so strings were always tied to her to keep her down. Her joy was great, but it was shallow and self-centered, as she showed no capacity to sympathize with others’ suffering. It was only when she was about to lose her greatest treasure, did she turn around.

I can say of myself that were it not for the trials, I cannot say where I’d be today. The trials have taught me truths I may never have learned otherwise. I can see how easily I could have continued on in a blissfully ignorant state. But it wouldn’t be the better place. The deeper, wiser places have come about as a result of some real suffering. I can’t say I’ve enjoyed the difficulties, but I can say,  I treasure the truths, and I like where I’m heading. I can say that my relationship with Christ is all the more real. Without the trials, I don’t know how shallow I’d be, and I’m not suggesting I’m in any mature place right now. I’m in a better place I was 10 years ago, and I hope to say the same 10 years from now. It’s a process of growth and a journey forward and upward.

I’m not sure what to title this post; started out with Breakfast, had a Meltdown, then a Movie, then words about Suffering. I guess this post goes along with the whirlwind theme; it’s spinning, moving, and one thing leads to the next in a circular pattern. The day just all came together, and even with the meltdowns in the middle, it all seems to fit. In the end, I trust my life will also “fit”… and a re-do isn’t necessary, since God can redeem any life out of any circumstance. One day, God will make sense of it all, even the suffering, which often doesn’t make sense. It’s something only God can do.