What to do when I can't reach the mark....

I watch her lean over and with an antiseptic wipe gently touch around his mouth. He's 4, has a pair of lungs on him like a fog horn and I don't know when he last had a bath. I know it was last week....sometime.....I didn't know that a facial clean came as part of the dental hygiene program, and she looks up at me and says, "he has a lot of build up on his front teeth, you need to make sure you are cleaning those well." I smile a weak smile and feign some excuse about him not liking having his teeth cleaned. She says nothing. One child has a cavity, the other has dirty teeth, well he has a dirty face and, oh no, I see the hands, his fingernails are long and dirty underneath. I really should have given them that bath last night. I can't remember why I forgot. Maybe it was because I was trying clean through the piles of lego, trash and miscellaneous items in boy number one's room and being reminded by husband that this wasn't my job and why weren't the kids tidying their own rooms. I internalize a failure - I haven't trained my boys. Or maybe the bath got missed because I was snapping at the children while I was trying to draw a Roman soldier for our new school unit...educate the child, hurt a heart. Yeah, another failure. And then there was this morning, the bible study I pored over, finding inspiration and sharing it with my husband only to find I had read Ephesians instead of Galatians. He looks at me with sympathy and I look back, red-faced, feeling like I wanted the ground to swallow me up. I felt so small. 
So in that sterile room I watch the dirty fingernails and swallow up the comments about my children being homeschooled and, oh how the 7 year old must love Friday school so he can socialize. "Not really," I reply, "he likes it once he is there but he whines about it." Do  my children lack social skills? I look at them and I don't think so. Neither of them know the alphabet song but they are rich in wonder and strategic thinking and curiosity. Why do I feel so....awkward..like I have to explain our choices. 
And I run down my list of self doubt and when the dentist says that my boys have lovely thick hair and should be in a shampoo commercial, I smile, silent, not revealing that I don't think I have used shampoo on their hair since they were babies. And why do I have a hard time admitting this? Their hair is beautiful...no need at all for shampoo....yet I feel accused in my heart. I accuse myself. I don't meet the invisible mark that is always shifting. 
I snap all afternoon, trying to get through subtraction and addition, like my life depended on it. Where is the grace? My tongue gets all sharp around the edges and my own words grate on me. I wish I'd bought ear plugs as I listen to my kids - too loud. And I throw back my own ear piercing comments: Turn the volume down. Don't whine. Listen to me. You are really bugging me right now. Can't you just get it yourself?
I'm all spun up and by the time we get back from the flower shop, me cradling a plant like it was my new baby while my babies race, crash, bang, through the door. I place new baby gently on counter looking for just the right light and warmth environment and big babies course up the stairs like a herd, and then down again with trains of blankets behind them. I surrender. "Watch a movie," I say. "Can you help us mama?" they ask. "No, figure it out," and I grab tea, food, and sit behind the blue screen. 
Finally, here I am, emotions not completely resolved, but I have stilled, a little, and I pause to listen to the small, still voice. The Voice that reminds me that there is no condemnation because I live in Him and He lives in me. The Voice that says, "my grace is sufficient". I will never be enough and working at my own righteousness is never going to get me where I want to be. My righteousness has to be in Him. 
So when my kids are grubby and I snap and I am not the mother I want to be, I am still OK. I can be still. I am OK. I am deeply loved. 
 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future,nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
And this, I choose to believe. 


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