I kid you not!
“This old grey mare, she ain’t what she used to be.”
“My get up and go has got up and went.”
I did manage to get my hair combed and my face washed, but very little else.
I feel like my arms and legs weigh at least a hundred pounds a piece.
This is a good day to sit in my chair.
And that is about all I’ve gotten done since my ladies got on their buses.
I think I do better when there is something I have to do.
To be honest, “my” three cataclysmic kids were here last night and behaviors were almost unbelievable. I’m almost certain that there is a home that is on the brink of disintegration, a young mother who has no clue what to do with her own life, much less the lives and desperate needs of her children, and my heart goes out to her, even though most of the problems are from her own choices. The thing is, I have no way of speaking discipline to these children that is effective. The gremlins of their lives are incredibly real to them — and even though they want to go to church, they really don’t want to learn about Jesus.
Last night, because they had misbehaved so much, (the usual, lying, stealing, fighting, pouting, railing against me and the supper provisions — they always want something different — hurting each other, etc.) I finally said that next week, only the oldest one could come. I was pondering all night what could possibly motivate them to better behavior, and finally had instituted a “best behaved of the night” award with a dollar prize. Well, that caused me a good ten dollars worth of trouble. For cryin’ out loud!!! (yep, they did that, too!) you would have thought I said that I was giving her a house and a lot! Great wails and protests and hollering and arguing. It just got worse and worse until I decided that I really was under no obligation to have them over to play and feed them supper and try to give them a good time, and that the ones who were behaving the worst could just not come.
That must sound like I am heartless and cold, but hear me out here. The only reason I have ever wanted to be involved with these kids is because I want to speak Jesus into their lives. From the very beginning, they have been really unwilling to listen to anything spiritual. I’ve toned back demanding that they listen to Bible stories, and they literally will not cognitively participate in conversations that are steered in the direction of life skills, growing up responsible or any of those things. Take the following situation:
We are on the golf cart. The girls are with me on the seat, the boy is in back with the neighbor child, Romy. We are going down the chicken house lane, towards the pasture, and as we come up on the chicken houses, there is this great, “E-W-W-W-W-W-W!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Everyone, cover your nose!!! Quick, it stinks, E-W-W-W-W-W-W!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
Shirts and tops are pulled up over their faces, great gagging noises are made, and more complaining and fussing is going on, so I say to them, “I have a question for you guys. Would you be willing to smell chickens if you could get paid for it?”
I say, “What if taking care of chickens made it possible for you to have a farm, and have a place that you could live, would it be worth it then?”
“Nope, ain’t no way!”
“I would hate to do chickens.”
“They stink too bad.”
I say, “Well, kids, the thing is, I’m not sure Mr. Daniel LIKES taking care of chickens, but he does it because it is one of his ways of providing for us as a family. Those chickens paid for this farm. And that’s what responsible adults do. They do what needs to be done to provide for their families.”
“Not gonna’ take care of chickens. Ms. MaryAnn can you make this thing go faster?”
“Oops, I lost my shoe. It’s back there in the grass!”
“Hee-hee, he lost his shoe. Ms. MaryAnn, LJ lost his shoe.”
“Gotta’ go back for it, Ms. MaryAnn, Ms. MaryAnn, Ms. MaryAnn–“
So that was the end of that conversation, ending as most of them always do, in the chaos of yet another crisis of loud and disorderly proportions.
I have truly never seen children so taken up with gore and guts and bodily functions and the forces of darkness. They know about things that I have absolutely no idea what in the world they are talking about, but it must be something, because the oldest will protest, “Ms. MaryAnn, make them stop! They are saying things that make me have bad dreams and things that make me scared.” And then she will wail at them, “Stop it. Muffy! Stop it, LJ! Stop it!”
And they will gleefully go on saying things like “Candy Man!” and “Amityville” and something about a Rose car wreck. And one is shrieking and laughing in a maniacal fashion, one is bouncing off the seat, having shed the seat belt, and one is covering her ears so she won’t hear what they are saying.
And then there is this terrible smell filling the car.
“Ms. MaryAnn, Muffy’s farting! E-W-W-W-W-W-W-W-W! Muffy’s farting! Can we open the windows or something? E-W-W-W-W-W-W-W-W!!! Muffie!”
“Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!!! No, I didn’t!”
“Yes, you did!!! Ms. MaryAnn, Muffy’s lyin’!”
“Well, if i have to do it, Ha-ha-ha, I have to do it!”
“Muffy,” I try to say firmly but gently, “When I was a little girl, we weren’t even allowed to use that word. And besides, a refined lady will try hard to not pass gas in public.”
“Well, my mama says that if I have to do, I have to do it. Everybody does it. So there!”
“But Muffy, if a lady can’t control it, she is embarrassed by it, not proud of it. It isn’t funny.”
“Ms. MaryAnn — Ms. MaryAnn– Ms. MaryAnn —
“What do you want, Muffie?”
“Um, Ms. MaryAnn, um, well, I forgot —LJ, stop that! Ms. MaryAnn, LJ is —
“Ms. MaryAnn, Muffy hit me!”
“”Yes you did and she said ‘shut up!'” And on and on and on and on.
The thing that is interesting to me is how often they use my name. They all three say it and say it and say it. It reminds me of the lobby in the old Country Rest Home when Daddy was the administrator. I came home from Ohio for a visit, and when I stopped in to see him he said to me, “Sometimes I think if I hear ‘Mr. Yoder’ one more time, I’m going to go out of my mind. It’s everywhere I turn, ‘Mr. Yoder, Mr. Yoder, Mr. Yoder!” I remember laughing a little to myself, thinking it wouldn’t be all that bad — until I walked with him through the lobby and it was immediately exactly like he said. And it was overwhelming, to say the least.
These days, when my name keeps getting said over and over, for no more reason than to just say it, I remember him, but I also think of the third of the Ten Commandments and think of the daily offenses there are with taking The Holy Name of God in vain — and how that must grieve Him.
So, finally, when I took them home, their mama wasn’t there. She had said to bring them home “Around nine.”
I had said, “If I’m going to be later than 9:30, do you want me to call?”
“Yeah, if you could. It’s hard for me to come and get them because I usually put the baby down around then.”
So I got there around ten after nine and there was no one there, and I waited and waited and waited while they fought and yelled and threw things.
“Ms. MaryAnn, Muffy threw her candy at me!”
“Yes, you did!”
“Uh, Muffy, yes, you did!” I looked at the guilty party with her half empty candy pouch in her hand.
“I was sharing with her!” (said with a self-righteous little snoot.)
“No, Muffy, you weren’t! You don’t share. Please don’t throw candy!”
Then LJ piped up. “I didn’t get any candy when we left your house, Ms. MaryAnn. I didn’t get any like the rest!”
“Yes, you did, LJ. I was there when you chose your candy. Remember?”
“Yeah, but I lost it. I didn’t get it.”
“LJ, you DID have it. I smelled it when you were eating it, just a little bit ago.”
“I know, but it was nasty, so I threw it out the window!” (This said from the middle seat on our mini-van that doesn’t have a window that opens.)
“LJ, why don’t you just tell me the truth? You lie to me when you don’t even have to. Just tell me the truth!”
“Well, Sonny-buck, it is going to have to be your problem. You had candy. What you did with it is your problem.”
Yep, most of the time, there was just one thing after another. When I finally reached their mama, she said that she had to run to Wal-mart and would be home really soon. It was almost ten o’clock by now, and I had come back to my house to try to find my missing cell phone. So I turned around again, and went back to their house while I talked to their Mama about the evening and about how we could partner together to try to have a little bit better control and how we could encourage the children to try to behave better. We settled the thing of who would come the next week, and I addressed a couple of issues that were especially troubling to me (an seven year old having free rein with an inhaler that he used with abandon, the stealing and lying and yelling, etc.). This mother is literally at her wit’s end. She has this seven year old son who proclaims that he hates her, that he wants to kill her and she found a knife under his mattress last week. She is getting him counseling, she says, but the day by day living is so completely overwhelming with him and Muffy that she doesn’t know what to do.
We hung up, and I pulled into their driveway. I told them the things that their Mama and I had decided.
“I’m glad I’m not going,” said Muffy, meanly, coldly, snuffily.
LJ began to wail. “Just let me come without Muffy,” he pleaded. “She’s the one who makes me be bad. I can be good if Muffy’s not there. Just let me come, just let me come. I want to come, I want to come, it’s all Muffy’s fault!”
“No,” I said, “LJ, you need to realize that you are the one who decides how LJ is going to behave. You need to decide to do what is right no matter what Muffy does. You are responsible for you. And Jesus wants to help you do what is right, and if you ask him, He will help you!”
And then I turned around to the three of them in the seats behind me. “In fact, kids,” I said, “I’m going to pray for you right now. Jesus wants to help you do what you should do.”
“No, No, No!” said LJ, covering his head with both hands, “Let me alone! Let me alone!” and I realized anew the added dimension of this battle. I began to pray and he slid farther and farther down on his seat and began to sob quietly. I prayed for their family, for the difficult situation the kids are in, that Jesus would help them to obey and to do right and that they would know that He was with them and wanted to help them. Muffy was perched on the edge of her seat, as was Mya in the back seat, and they were both strangely quiet while LJ sobbed. I said the Name of Jesus over them and opened my eyes to see their Mama standing outside the car, waiting for them to get out.
I opened the doors, and they went, subdued and silent, into the house. Their mama stayed out and talked and talked and talked until her youngest child’s daddy insisted she come in because the baby was burning up with fever.
And I came home. To say that I’ve been exhausted ever since is pretty much an understatement. Those of you who know me well know that this is never far from my mind. God has a plan here, I know it! When you think of this gal who is no longer young, and yet wants so much to hear God’s voice in this situation, and wants to live and breathe the Love of Jesus to these kids, would you please say a prayer for me for wisdom and patience and (especially) vision that includes Hope and a Future?
And if there are suggestions, please feel free to give those, too.
And pray for Mya, LJ and Muffy.