I love circumstances when they work in my favor. As a mother of two very young children, my days at home can easily be described as good days if my circumstances go well. The toddler didn’t test her limits to an excessive degree. The baby napped well, synchronized her naptime with the toddler’s, and they let me get housework done. I love good circumstances because I am embarrassingly prone to self-pity on a bad day. If the baby woke before I was ready for her, while the toddler was being particularly needy during our morning routine, and everyone decided to give Mommy blowout diapers to clean up, while dishes piled in the sink and Mommy hasn’t been able to sip her now-lukewarm coffee and the house is a mess and curse Daddy for going to work today and leaving Mommy here to deal with this madness in anonymous solitude, I move so quickly in self-perception from Blessed Mother of Two Healthy Girls to The Poor Woman Stuck at Home in a Nightmare. When the bad days are bad, I struggle deeply with the adjustment from one to two children. It depends so much on the circumstances.
The root of the word circumstance is circum (“around”) and stare (“to stand”). I am humbled by my lack of footing in something other than circumstance. I can be genuinely moved by the photos of little Aylan Kurdi’s lifeless body washed up on the Turkish beach, reminded for a brief period that I have more than I know in my life circumstances to be thankful for. But five minutes into arguing with my toddler about why she cannot have Cheerios for dinner and why her milk cannot be in a cup without a lid so that she can watch it swish swish swish out of the cup onto the wood floor, I have already forgotten how to be thankful for my healthy children, the extra milk in the garage fridge, and this wood floor in this house that we own. Circumstance is so relative, and so fleeting. But I confess I depend on it for my joy and a gracious attitude towards others. So much. Too much.
Every morning when I pray with the toddler before breakfast, my prayer is somewhat the same, but I mean it just as much every single time. “Thank You Lord for new mercies this morning. Help us to live in Your grace.” I am fighting every day to live in grace that covers my immediate circumstances but also moves beyond them. To know that God is very present in my middle-class chaos, but also, always, prompting me to remember that my life and my family are part of a bigger picture in a world with refugee crises and much greater needs than our own. To know that God is very present in this five-minute argument with my toddler, but also, always, prompting me to remember that my best life guidance for her is to show her a gracious Savior who loves her and her Mommy in our worst and lowest moments.
Lord, move me beyond trying to stand in my circumstances, and help me more and more to stand firm in Your grace.