May 5, 2015

Praying Through the Grumpies

By Ruth Meyer

In the mad morning dash of getting the kids ready and off to school, there's always someone (often me) who's grumpy or mad. The boys bicker, the six-year old whines that she hates school, the two-year old shrieks for her milk cup and tattles on her sister for looking at her, the baby cries because he’s hungry, and the puppy is inevitably let in at the worst moment and makes the decibel level skyrocket by jumping on everyone. Oh, and at the moment we're walking out the door, one boy suddenly realizes he can only find one shoe and the other pulls out a permission slip form that's due today. By the time we all get in the car I'm usually fuming. Sigh. Can I just go back to bed?

But this morning was different. By some miracle, the kids all woke up happy. I had prepped an oatmeal bake the night before so we actually had something besides cold cereal for breakfast. The baby was calm, and even the two year old's predictable meltdown was handled with ease as I simply swooped her up and put her in her room for a time-out. It was going beautifully. I was experiencing a relatively unknown feeling for a morning. Could it be . . . happiness?

Ah, but then came the crash. The two-year-old, whom I had told not to go outside, went anyhow, and as I was changing the baby, I heard her out there screaming because the jumping puppy was unwittingly scratching her with tiny puppy nails. My third grader went to rescue her only to let the puppy into the house, where she raced around looking for things to chew on. As I scrambled after her I noticed my fifth grader was back in his room instead of getting ready. I yelled for him to get in the car and pointed out that we were running late as usual. He retorted somewhat snidely that he never got mad at me when he was waiting for me, which was not the thing for him to say. Then my third grader remembered I had to sign his planner, so he started rummaging through his backpack to get it out as the clock kept ticking. I finally hustled them into the car amidst much yelling, and as I pulled out of the garage I realized I was wearing a grey shirt, black shorts, white socks, and black high heels because they were the easiest shoes to stuff my feet into at the last second. Plus now I was frazzled. And mad.

After everyone was dropped off and I was driving home, I had an epiphany. It seemed terribly profound at the time, although perhaps that was just my perpetual sleep-deprived brain playing tricks on me. I had been having a great morning, but within the time span of two minutes I reversed course and caught a major case of the Grumpies. But the opposite is never true. If I had been having a terrible morning already, two minutes of peace and quiet would certainly not have changed my feelings so drastically. Why is it so easy to get mad when I’m happy, and so hard to get out of a bad mood once I’m in one?

I’m not the only one who sins this way. Sometimes we feel like martyrs and want others to see how "hard" our lives are, or want to let our kids or husbands realize how underappreciated we feel. Sometimes it's just too much effort to rise above the Grumpies once we've caught them. Yet it’s no fun to be an angry, steaming wreck. Fortunately, we do not have to try to cure ourselves with our own power. How blessed we are that God has given even the grumpiest among us a way to receive help: the gift of prayer.

I know that prayer-as-a-cure-for-the-Grumps sounds like a pat Sunday School answer, almost flippant in a way. But--stick with me--it's not. I don't mean "just pray about it enough and God will give eventually you patience when you need it." When you're in a bad mood, pray right then and there. Out loud. In front of your hubby or siblings or kids or whoever is with you. It is very difficult to hang on to a foul mood when you're addressing God out loud. It's hard to start off a prayer, "Dear Lord," while your teeth are gritted. It’s hard to be mad when you’re praying, “Thank You for providing us with a nourishing breakfast and for giving us food to eat every day.”

When I am doing this with my family, I continue with a mini confession. “Please forgive us for any bad behavior this morning. Forgive me for losing my temper, forgive us for not listening to each other, and forgive us for any bad attitudes. Help us put that behind us and start over.” By then, the ice is starting to melt and I’m feeling a bit better.

Now come the requests: “Please help us to have a good day. Bless the boys with their achievement tests and help them have clear minds and do their best . . . .” You get the picture. This part is pretty easy, and by this point I’m actually using a normal voice again, without underlying restrained anger.

As I say “Amen,” my kids and I have at least calmed down and prayed together. I’d much rather send them out to the van after a family prayer than an argument and/or the silent treatment. Sometimes if we’re having a bad day at home or everyone is fighting I’ll call for a time out session so we can all go to separate rooms to compose ourselves and take a few deep breaths before starting off a prayer together.

The fact is that we all catch the Grumpies from time to time. We will say things we regret, yell when we shouldn’t, and hold on to grudges. Thankfully, God freely offers forgiveness through Jesus every time. I’m not gonna lie to you, I still hate mornings. But hey, maybe tomorrow I'll even manage to drive my kids to school wearing something besides black high heels.


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Ruth Meyer is living out her vocation as a Lutheran woman in the roles of sister, daughter, mother, and wife.  Her greatest joy in life is living as a redeemed child of God, who has blessed her in her many vocations.  Besides her human relationships, Ruth's other interests include music and writing.  She is a church musician and has a special love for Lutheran hymnody.  She also loves to write, and and her children's book, Our Faith from A to Z ,was recently published through CPH.  Ruth keeps her own blog attruthnotes.net.  Her hope is that through her writing you are encouraged and perhaps even challenged in your God-given vocations.

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