Trump Card

"Storytime is pretty much the only place I take them on my own so far," I confessed to my friend Marsha visiting from England. "Catherine listens very well and Camille is doing much better at listening... but I still get nervous when I have all three on my own outside of our house or Ravencrest. What if they don't listen? What if something happens to one of them and another one needs me?" She listened to my rhetorical question with a sympathetic smile and nod.

When Thursday came, Marsha and I agreed to meet up with our kids at the library for Storytime.

One thing I've learned that helps when I take the three kids out on my own is to verbalize my expectations for them. It seems to help both them and me. So, as I drove down the hill to the library with my three kids, I walked through my expectations for them during Storytime:

... Catherine and Camille, when I get you out of your carseats, I want you to hold hands and stay by me while we walk into the library... You are to sit on the circle quietly so that other boys and girls can see the pictures and hear the words...

They quietly went in, sat in the circle and listened. Jack wasn't yet asleep, so I was able to stand in the back of the room where I could see the girls and still rock the stoller back and forth until Jack fell asleep. Camille turned around a few times and smiled at me. I was smiling back.

I was impressed; they had listened to my expectations! I was starting to breathe a sigh of relief... this was going to be a very good outing with the kids on my own.

Storytime ended. Marsha and the boys stayed to play with the trainset in the children's library, but I gathered up my kids to head home for lunch and naps. I sat Camille on top of the stoller where Jack still slept. Catherine walked along beside me. When we got to the sidewalk, we saw a friendly couple walking a golden retriever. Then it happened.

"Oh, NO!" said the couple walking the dog.

I turned around to see what they were looking at, in time to see Catherine step off the curb and eat cement. I picked up Camille off the stoller and set her down while I raced to Catherine.

I hadn't even reached her yet when I heard it... again.

"Oh, NO!" said the couple walking the dog.

I turned around again to see what they were looking at, in time to see the stoller rolling down the sidewalk (on an angle that wasn't there seconds ago) and flipping over the curb.

I stood there for what seemed like an eternity. What do I do? Catherine is crying on the cement behind me, Camille is crying on the sidewalk beside of me, and Jack is flipped over in the stoller in front of me.

The couple and the dog were silent, finally.

Like the stretchy mom in the film The Incredibles, I grabbed crying Catherine, crying Camille, and the remarkably quiet stroller. Flipping the stoller back over, I found Jack was mercifully still safely strapped into his carseat and (even more remarkably) still ASLEEP.

I didn't realize how much I was shaking until I sat in the driver's seat, the kids securely buckled in their carseats behind me. I sat for a while trying to gather myself together. In that instant, in those quiet, shaky moments, the thoughts came to me... the thoughts that come quickly and sharply and deeply when I'm discouraged or afraid or tired.

"What were you thinking, having three kids so close together?"
"How can you take care of three small children well?"
"Your children needed you, and you failed them... all."
"You can't do this."

If you've ever played a trump game (think: "Spades" or "Hearts"), you will understand when I say that I was being trumped. The card was laid. It played on the spot that makes me nervous and makes me sweat circles into the armpits of my shirt. It played on my insecurity of being a mother to three under three.

The trump card has been different at different times in my life - but it's usually played on my identity, as a woman, as a single, when I got married, and now (why am I surprised?) as a mother.

When I get insecure, nervous, or worried, those are great times to ask God to show me His perspective and to ask for His wisdom in how to grow. But when I those thoughts begin to "trump" my insecurities, that's dangerous. I used to get so weighted down by them, discouraged, and buried. God has freed me from the bondage to responding this way (a story for another post), but there's always a choice.

I can agree with those thoughts, and become paralized to life and living it with joy. Or, I can respond to thoughts that aren't true with the ultimate trump card - Truth - and move on, move forward, and grow.

Any good trump card player knows that the key is identifying where the trump cards are. A good way (for me) to identify the origin of those powerful thoughts is to ask:

What are the circumstances surrounding the thought?
In this case, I was discouraged by the situation that happened outside of the library. But the truth is, we have just been given our third child, and I am still adjusting to parenting the three of them. Like any new thing, it takes time to learn. (Hopefully not involving too many more sidewalks!)

Our friend and principal at Capernwray Hall Bible School, Rob Whittaker, pointed out that, right after God declares Jesus is His Son in Matthew 3 comes Matthew 4... Ok, we didn't have to go to a Bible school to learn that. But Rob's point was that Matthew 4 opens with Jesus being questioned by Satan on that very point God had just confirmed.

Do those thoughts take me to a negative place?
"The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy, but I came that they may have abundant life." John 10:10

Is God a part of the equation, or is it truly a "godless" thought?
"...let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of faith..." Hebrews 12:1-2

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