Ever come to the end of a day and wonder, “how did I get so grumpy”?
Today’s guest post is from Meredith Carr from Oceans Deep. She writes great stuff about seeing God in the midst of life with little ones! And today she’s going to give us an answer to the “ick”–that grumpiness we all feel sometimes.
Recently, my husband and I had a “mountaintop” kind of weekend, where we were alive and vibrant with stimulating spiritual conversation. It was the type of moment you wish could carry on in perpetuity! And, for this tired stay-at-home mama, such refreshing fellowship with other adults was a very welcomed reprieve from the difficult “conversations” with my toddlers and the constant Sesame Street soundtrack playing in my mind. So on Monday morning, I was on guard after such a great weekend, certain that the enemy would be on high alert to steal my joy, kill my hope, and destroy my vision.
Yup. Mission accomplished.
Girlfriend, it was a day.
Kids crying. Kids whining. Kids fighting. There was no shortage of spit up and messy meals and poo. I got poo on my shirt and didn’t even change it, because I was just that—I don’t know—worn out, I suppose. The thought of making one more trip up those stairs simply didn’t seem worth it. So I wiped it as best I could and went on.
I was half way through my Costco shopping trip before I caught a glimpse of the Greek yogurt finger-painting on my new Capri pants, the creative work of my 1-year-old daughter. No wonder I got so many interesting looks!
The day went from bad to worse as the impact of my 2-year-old’s refusal to nap blossomed into a full-on tantrum meltdown of epic proportions. To top it all off, on Monday evenings my husband attends a men’s group—so he basically drops in long enough to eat the dinner I’ve miraculously managed to prepare in between refereeing “toy gate,” then swoops out to enjoy calm, mature adult conversation, conveniently missing the bedtime shenanigans.
I’m dismayed and discouraged by the chaotic state of my house, but more so by the messy state of my heart.
I feel an edge of bitterness, resentment, and under-appreciation; basically, the makings of a legit pity party. How is it that the pity party mentality is so unattractive in others, yet so appealing when it comes to ourselves?
I’m trying to fight it. Trying to fight the emotion, the lies, the pride, and the frustration. It’s what I call collectively “The Ick.” Ick is a very (non)scientific term that includes any and all emotion, feeling, juju, etc., which leaves us feeling grumpy, disconnected, and distanced from our Heavenly Father. When it hits, I feel as though I’ve taken a wrong turn and slipped right down the rabbit hole, and I’m powerless to shake free from the dark cloud swirling above my head.
I can’t stand this feeling and the way it permeates every aspect of my day, turning my joy into emptiness.
The juxtaposition of my weekend and weekday has me screaming inside, what is the solution? What is the answer to The Ick? I long to steer my heart back on track after it’s taken this kind of downturn, or avoid it altogether!
Can you relate? If so, here are some tools God is teaching me to implement whenever I feel The Ick coming on:
Put yourself in time out.
Metaphorically speaking, that is! Isn’t it staggering what parenthood teaches us about ourselves and about God? Seemingly every week I’m learning something new, having some fresh “aha” moment on account of my little ones. In my experience, “time out” has just as much relevance for adults as it does for recalcitrant toddlers. I’m forming the habit of putting myself into time out whenever I find my heart being drug away from steadiness and sanity because of The Ick. But rather than sulking in the pack-and-play, I take this time out sitting humbly and desperately at the feet of Jesus.
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Psalm 142:1-2 says,
I cry aloud to the LORD; I lift up my voice to the LORD for mercy. I pour out before Him my complaint; before Him I tell my trouble. (NIV).
The idea of “pouring out my complaint” always sounded good on paper, but it felt a bit silly in practice . . . with people starving to death and war tearing lives and bodies apart, does God really have time for the things shaking up my spirit? Again, parenthood provides wisdom: have you ever once looked at your hurting child and thought, there are so many bigger problems in the world right now, I simply don’t have time to deal with your problem? Of course not!
And the same is true of our Heavenly Father. I’ve been awestruck at the peace I’ve gained by running to Him and telling Him all the things—big and small—that hurt my heart and threaten to take my joy. Steal away for a few minutes anywhere you can—the closet, the bathroom, the stairwell at work—and air you grievances to your Heavenly Father. He cares, and He alone can provide the peace you really need!
Put yourself in God’s Word.
Probably the best way I’ve found to shake off The Ick is by immersing myself in God’s word. I used to think this had to be a long, drawn-out, monk-like process of sitting quietly for a significant period of time. Well, who besides monks has time for that?
And the great news is, a large block of time isn’t necessary. Sometimes I’m up early enough that I can spend longer in His Word, and I’m thankful for those times. But, taking even 10-15 minutes to read Scripture can make all the difference. I feel tongue-tied trying to explain the innate, surprising power of Scripture to change a hardened heart, but therein lies the mysterious working of the Holy Spirit: the words of the Bible are not like any other words on this planet.
Hebrews 4:12 says,
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (NIV, emphasis added).
When we read God’s word, our mere mortal beings collide with the spirit world. We can’t help but be changed by such an encounter. In my experience, even reading “dry” Old Testament passages sends the joy of the Holy Spirit bubbling up to the surface. The Bible is God’s love letter to us, and we will feel that love when reading it.
If you’re new or newer to Bible reading, or short on time, the Psalms are a great place to find encouragement. In them, I often discover a reflection of my own troubled spirit. How encouraging to know that even King David—the man after God’s own heart—cried out,
To you I call, O LORD my Rock; do not turn a deaf ear to me . . . Hear my cry for mercy as I call to you for help, as I lift up my hands toward your Most Holy Place. (Psalm 28:1a, 2 NIV).
I prefer diving into God’s word first thing in the morning, but let’s be honest—that isn’t always possible with little ones underfoot!
For the first several months of her life, my daughter decided it would be fun wake up and get her day going at 5 am. In that season, my quiet times looked a little different, and I learned the value of finding time whenever and wherever you can.
One option that works well for me is right after breakfast, when my kiddos are nice and full. I’ll pull out that “special” toy—you know, the one that seems to occupy them like no other. For us, it’s usually the massive bag of blocks. When I hear all those blocks hit the floor, I know I’ll have the next 15 minutes or so of uninterrupted reading time.
Another option is to read while your children nap. Even if your children no longer necessarily sleep during the day, you could institute an in-room “quiet rest time” for them—and you’ll both reap the benefits!
Finally, spending time in the Word just before bed is a great option in the busy season of mothering babies and toddlers.
Oftentimes, this is the only moment of quiet my home sees all day. And when I’m feeling beat up by a particularly challenging day, my soul finds much welcomed refreshment by digging into God’s Word.
However you find the time, let Scripture wash over you, and be amazed at what God can do!
Have trouble finding time to read Scripture? I’ve got a post on 9 ways to snatch time with God during the day right here!
Stop, drop, and give thanks.
The transformative power of giving thanks never ceases to amaze me. As Ann Voskamp describes in “One Thousand Gifts,” we need to spend time cultivating a “language of thanksgiving.” As sinful, fallen beings, our default setting is not one of gratitude, but rather of the “why me?” and “this isn’t fair!” kind. Through a deliberate, concerted effort to give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV), we can begin to learn the new language of thankfulness, and to see God’s good hand in everything that touches our lives.
When I’m caught in the clutches of The Ick, the last thing I want to do is name off things for which I’m thankful. I mean, the last. Recently, my sweet husband Aaron innocently asked me to name something positive in my day. It was his good-natured attempt at pulling me out of my funk, yet in the moment, this request incensed me! I can laugh about it now, because when I stopped and thought about the day and actually named something out loud, I felt my frigid heart begin to melt. And in my experience, the hardest part is taking the first step—once I name a gift, then two, then three, the gratitude ball begins rolling. It’s like finding your glasses after they’ve been knocked off your face. You can finally see again.
I hope these tools will prove useful for you the next time The Ick strikes. I’m finding this process incredibly simple, yet deceptively difficult. But practice makes perfect, as the saying goes. And in the daily grind of life, I’m certain there will be no shortage of opportunities!
Meredith Carr is a “Georgia peach”, but these days she calls Northern California my home. She’s a wife, a mother, a recovering attorney, and above all, a follower of Jesus.