Last night I put a pic up on instagram and facebook after dinner sometime, and when I woke up in the morning, the picture had over 200 likes and  50 comments on the sites. To some bloggers, that’s nothing, but it’s more responses than I usually get for a simple instagram photo.

Today I’ve been thinking about it a lot.  What was it about that picture that struck a chord with so many of you?  But I realize it wasn’t the photo.  It was the story that you connected with.  Why?  What does this say about us?

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Well, let me back up.  First, let me tell the longer story behind the picture.  Then tomorrow let’s be geeks and analyze your responses.

So much happened on Monday before that picture.  And not a lot of it was great.  It was the first day back to school routine after a long, lazy Christmas break, and I did not plan well for the transition melee that often occurs.  We had a rough morning, a rough afternoon with just me and my littlest, and then it continued to get rougher when the bigger two came home.  I didn’t have my thinking cap on, and decided to treat my family to a special dinner and bought an expensive roast and didn’t prepare it at all until Monday afternoon.  So then I was cramming to try to get all the veggies cut and the meat prepared and in the oven.  My youngest can smell a to-do list on you like a bad perfume and once he sniffs it out, he will do whatever it takes to keep you from it.  That usually means getting my attention in big–very big–ways, all of them destructive.  Our afternoon was a battle. Then the big kids came home, they were tired and cranky.  Two kept ganging up on a third (always a different combo) and I heard “Get away from me!” and “That’s MINE!” and “Give that BACK!” and “MOOOOOOOMEEEEEEEEEEE!” so many times I wanted to scream.  Ok, I probably did scream a little.  More like yelling.  Hollering?  Ugh.  Whatever it was: not pretty.  We all went round and round and round.

One child broke another one’s toy on purpose, another punched a stomach on purpose, yet another put a sibling’s toothbrush in a poopy toilet on purpose and then LIED about it.  To top it all off, they started whining and complaining about what was for dinner HOURS before they even saw it with their eyes, let alone set it to their tongues.  My beautiful, expensive, time-sacrifice of a dinner, and they hated it already and were not afraid to let me know.

And that witching hour?  Between 4-6ish?  Lived up to it’s name.  It turned mommy into a witch.  Yes, I know better.  Yes, I know so many of the “why’s” about their behavior and knew that more quality time with me would help some of it, and I knew my anger was just feeding the fire, but our train was just so far off the tracks I didn’t have the energy to get it back.  I don’t think I did anything horrible.  Please don’t call CPS.  I didn’t even use the demon voice (you know you have one) or spank anyone or say mean things.  I was just. So. Cranky.

And as usually happens, about 3.4 seconds before Trent walks in the door, all my offspring flip a switch and turn into joyful angels.  Something about a new parent in the home pulls them up out of the icky pit they’ve been playing in for hours and they suddenly want to play board games together and sing Kumbaya.  But I was still TICKED!

Trent sat down on the couch and I came to sit down next to him, and the children followed like my little shadows.  And strangely, I thought it was Daddy they would want, but it was me.  The witch.  All three of them clamored to sit next to me, but I only have 2 sides, so one of them actually sat ON me.  I was not thrilled.  I kept picturing the broken toy and the feces-covered toothbrush and SO. MUCH. WHINING.   I was upset but envious of how quickly they got out of their funk.  How could they forgive me so quickly for being that awful?  And did they remember ANYTHING that transpired in this house 20 minutes prior?!  But even in my anger, I craved a flipped switch of my own.  I didn’t FEEL loving, but I chose to ACT loving.

We snuggled on the couch as my beautiful, disgusting [to them] roast finished cooking.  I pulled bodies in closer and kissed heads and didn’t say much.  I rested my cheek on orange, blonde and black hair that was all crowding into my face.  And I just breathed it in.   I asked myself why I hang on to my anger for so long.  I got mad at myself for being so grouchy and losing sight of the big picture.  Aren’t I supposed to be the grown up?  Ugh. I thanked God for my healthy babies and their forgiving hearts.  I grieved for my own actions and what an awful example I can sometimes be.  And I just longed, LONGED for a flipped switch.  A fresh start, a new day, a do-over.

And I realized: I get to have all of that.

That’s when I asked Trent to take our picture, because I wanted to remember it.   New mercies.  Forgiveness I don’t deserve, a clean slate to try all over again.  My children’s grace to me is humbling enough, but to think that the God of the universe will let me start over again?  REMEMBER THIS.  When He sees me, He doesn’t see a cranky, tired mom who can’t get her act together, who messes up over and over again.  He doesn’t roll His eyes in disappointment. He sees the 37 year old girl HE created to be the mother to these three hooligans.  HE sees a mama who will never be able to do it on her own, and He’s standing there waiting to shower me with strength and patience that comes from the only perfect Parent.  And sitting there on that couch, I realized: I’m desperate for my Father and His grace.  I think maybe some of you are too.

“And God is able to make ALL grace abound to you, so that in ALL things at ALL times, having ALL that you need, you will abound in every good work. ” 2 Corinthians 9:8 (emphasis mine) 
PS: The roast was delicious, but they refused to acknowledge such.  Two of them went hungry for the remainder of the evening because they refused to eat cooked and seasoned potatoes/carrots.  
Ok, NOW you can call CPS.