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Keeping all the balls in the air…or not

I never learned how to juggle. I tried. When I was a little girl, I’d throw a couple of tennis balls in the air, one at a time, while keeping one in my hand. It never worked. The balls just ended up escaping and bouncing, as if to say, “Are you KIDDING ME? Give it up, loser girl. You’re no clown. Go back to your Barbies.”
Why, thank you. I believe I will.
You and I know that all moms can juggle. We have to. It’s at the top of the job description. I thought I had learned this when Meghan was born. Remember the days of one child, one mom, and relatively undivided attention? (What in the world was the big deal about one?!)
Along comes #2. Suddenly, juggling equals survival. At any given time, someone’s needs are not going to be met – and it’s usually your own. And you have to be okay with that. You have to be okay with the smell of regurgitated breast milk on your shirt and in your hair, and not being able to shower or do laundry for days. You have to be okay with a child needing a bandaid or a drink or a snack or a hug and not being able to provide immediate assistance. You have to be okay not rushing to pick up a crying baby because your daughter is finally sitting on the potty and  needs wiping.
So you juggle. You try to keep the balls in the air, and you do the best you can, but you have to be okay with occasionally letting them drop.
Women who pretend otherwise frustrate me. They can make you believe their children are perfect, their marriage is perfect, their organic meals and spotless home and immaculate decor are all perfect, but I think they’re just better at creating a diversion when a ball drops. They’re better at facades.
No one can do it all. At least for very long. Or without medication.
So let’s just agree here, in this safe space, that we’re going to be authentic. That we’re going to cheer each other when one of us drops a ball. That we’re going to lay it all out there – all the truth and ugliness and reality of our crazy, messed-up lives – and admit to each other that we can’t do this alone, and there’s no use pretending we can.
In the spirit of authenticity, I share this: I am dropping the balls. Some of them accidentally, some of them on purpose. I can’t do it. My husband, Mr. Super-Ophthalmologist, is off saving the world, one eyeball at a time, in Vietnam. For the fifth time. And I am so proud of him. 
He loves what he does, and he does it very, very well. He shares his gifts and serves others because he loves as God loves – no hidden agenda, no selfish motivation – simply and humbly doing whatever he can to fill unmet needs because God loves everyone. He does not serve to convert; he serves because he is converted. He does it because that’s who he is. And I love him for it.
Michael took his first trip to Vietnam four years ago. Our kids were eight, six, and two. We were stoked. There was such an electric excitement about what God was doing, about what He was going to do. We were a team. Michael went to Vietnam, and I kept our home functioning so he would be free to serve. Our friends surrounded us, prayed for us, collected eyeglass frames and toothbrushes and soap to send with him. Others brought me food and kept my kids. It was a family affair.
The next trip, the next year, brought slightly less enthusiasm. The third trip was horrendous. He had decided to go in May – the end of school, which means recital rehearsals, end-of-year parties, field days, teacher gifts, and a whole slew of mess. And Nathan got three staples in his head. Fun times. Michael came home to a fried wife with a side of exhaustion. I laid on the couch with my eyes half open while he pulled out all the Vietnamese gifts he brought us. I didn’t care.
We agreed that May was not a good time to go to Vietnam.
Trip #4 was tolerable. Honestly, I don’t remember.
So here we are with Trip #5, which snuck up on us, allowing me to live in the beautiful landscape of DeNile. It’s lovely this time of year. We’ve been so crazy with carpools and rehearsals and practices and the beginning of school that we hardly realized he was leaving, until he did.
Our kids are now twelve, ten and six. As I’ve mentioned many times lately – because it’s so darn exciting for me – they can do so much for themselves now, which is wonderfully freeing for me. So Michael’s absence is a wee bit easier.
But still. Our family machine runs far less effectively when we remove one of the main cogs that holds it together. We have fine-tuned our afternoons and evenings like a well-oiled machine. We coordinate meetings and drop-offs and pick-ups and homework and dinner and bedtime with precision.
It’s too much for one person to do alone. One person cannot juggle all the balls at once.
So I’ve decided to let a few balls drop. I will miss important meetings in order to feed my children. Griffin will miss a soccer game so we can go to my nephew’s birthday party. Meghan will miss a dance rehearsal because I can’t be in two places at one time. Especially when one is across town from the other.
Juggle, juggle, juggle. Drop. Bounce, bounce, bounce. The ball rolls under the couch. Bye-bye, ball.
And my house? You don’t want to know. The dishes are piled in the sink, the floors are sticky, the beds are unmade.
Bounce, bounce, bounce.
And that’s okay.
Great freedom comes from letting go. I cannot be the perfect wife, the perfect mom, the perfect Christ-follower, the perfect taxi driver. I am only one woman. Accepting and embracing that simple fact allows me to accomplish what I can with a little more grace and a little more excellence. Not perfection. But a tiny step higher than good enough.
Today, I might just don a red clown nose. Just because.
Bounce, bounce, bounce…


3 thoughts on “Keeping all the balls in the air…or not

  1. I so enjoyed reading this. Thank you thank you thank you. And I can keep a secret about the cancellation this weekend if you want to just leave that one ball under the sofa in exchange for some down time. 😉

  2. You're so right … there's no one in the world that doesn't drop the ball. And no mom is perfect … far, far from it. I can so relate to you … Phil travels often and single parenthood is hard and not fun. I hope God grants you great mercy during this time!

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