Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Teach Me, Lord

Multi-tasking mother, darning socks and teaching school

My sister and I are two years apart and all our growing up years, we shared a room. Can you guess which side of the room appeared disheveled most of the time? If you've read here long, perhaps you've guessed it already? was my side.

My head in a book most of the time, I had better things to do. But strangely, I don't remember my mother battling me over my organizational skills or even mentioning that I lacked them. Did she do everything herself, I wonder? While I don't remember any chore system in my home, my sister and I did do the dishes.

I went to college and finished every assignment at the last minute. I knew I was a procrastinator but in my head I didn't connect that with organizational skills.

I became a teacher and still, it didn't dawn on me that organization was a challenge for me. I assumed I functioned like everyone else. Everyone, that is, except people who had nothing better to do than arrange perfect stacks of towels in their linen closets, not an inch out of place.

I didn't want to be a boring towel stacker so my lifestyle suited me fine.

As a teacher I stayed in my first grade classroom a lot of extra hours--evenings and weekends--working on innovative things for the students.

Or so I thought.

Looking back, a lot of that extra time was needed to compensate for poor organizational skills, though the issue wasn't debilitating by any means. I functioned just fine, especially considering I lived alone and answered to no one about my time.

I assumed the teachers who arrived on campus as late as they could, and left as early as they could, weren't dedicated enough. But really, they were probably just more organized...and maybe didn't teach such young students.

Even when I became a mother and struggled to keep my house orderly, I still didn't recognize the problem. As a part-time school district employee working with homeschoolers mostly from my home, my hands were full with a baby and a toddler and a whole lot of paper work. I excused myself from blame because I was so busy.

I visited homeschooling homes as a facilitator and encountered some that were far worse than mine. And when I began homeschooling in earnest some six years ago, I remembered those homes and assumed they went with the territory to some extent.

See, I always had an excuse.

These last months as I've diligently tried to teach organizational skills to my children, the Lord has made it clear that growth is needed in this area for me. As a parent doesn't everything start with us? If we want them to read, we have to read. If we want them to pray, we have to pray. If we want them to work hard, we have to work hard.

I work hard all right. Just not always on the most needful things.

The Lord didn't want me to change because cleanliness is next to godliness, but because I can serve my family better with improved organizational skills. The less time I spend catching up, the more time I'll have to invest in my children and husband emotionally. And in others as well, like friends and neighborhood families.

The Lord was gracious in not burdening me with this shortcoming when my youngest were babies and toddlers. Beth is four now and the Holy Spirit knows I have more time to address this weakness. He always works with us right where we're at. If you're up at night with a baby and have a toddler running around the house too, don't stress about that disheveled linen closet. Hold those babies while you still can.

The Lord's teaching me that procrastination and poor organization are related. The more we get behind on everyday tasks like managing paperwork, paying bills, folding clothes, and keeping a running grocery list, the worse procrastination gets.

And He's teaching me that I can be organized. The deficiency is really a choice I make...a selfish one. The things I want to do, I do first. And the things I must do, I do later, sometimes not finishing them.

In the workplace I stayed focused because I had to finish things on time. But as the sole manager of my home I don't answer to anyone with skin on. If the pajamas aren't folded and put away on time, no one fires me. Perhaps your husband gets involved in the home-keeping somewhat, but mine doesn't ever comment one way or the other. He's been here alone with the children and he knows how difficult it is to get anything done.

What he doesn't know is that I procrastinate on some tasks, like folding. Yes, I'm short on time because of homeschooling, but I could keep up with the folding if I wanted to. When the evening goes sour because the kids are fooling around inside of getting ready for bed, my husband doesn't connect it to the pajamas being buried on the couch.

But I'm beginning to see these things clearly now. A portion of every child's misbehavior can be traced to a disorganized, or an overly-busy home and lifestyle. Not the major heart things, like lying, perhaps. But listening and following through on a parent's directions can be more difficult for kids if the expectations don't remain constant. I'm learning that if I sometimes allow them to leave a few toys on the floor, I have no business getting upset about their cleaning skills.

The hard work of consistency involves my dedicated presence. I have to care enough to place myself alongside them and not shout orders from another room.

A child thinks...for three weeks I'm supposed to fold my own pajamas, and the next week I'm not asked to? One week my chore chart includes taking out the recycling, but the next week it's left off?

My children may have the heart to work hard, but do I give them enough support for success?

Inconsistent expectations lead to inconsistent performance. It's fine to revise chore lists when they're not working, but changing them too much leads to poor performance. Consistency in all areas makes parenting easier and it makes everyone happier.

But as you read this don't forget grace. None of us is perfect and we'll never be. Parenting is a prayer more than anything else.

In the last few months especially, the Lord has shown me that organizational skills do matter. And it's my responsibility to improve my own so that I can effectively teach them to my children. If they struggle in this area it's my responsibility to pray with them about it. I want them to leave my home knowing what their strengths and weaknesses are, so they can have on-going conversations with the Holy Spirit about all of it.

As Christians we only have to pray about something to see it improve. It may seem like our efforts make the difference, but really it's our teachable heart. The Lord can do wonders with a humble heart.

Teach me, Lord. Show me my weaknesses so I can serve you better.

If you struggle with organization I don't have any suggestions. Every situation is different and only the Holy Spirit can solve your issues.

Just start here, as with everything else..."Teach me, Lord".

1 comment:

Vicki said...

So, I think that you wrote this post for me!!! I really wanted to quit reading it more than once.....convicted a little?!?!?

Thank you for this! I really needed this encouragement. I've been trying to improve in this area myself and I've been sliding back into my old habits. So, this was very timely for me!

Bless you! Praying we both get better at it! :)