I finally did it.
I spent money on a journaling Bible and a few supplies. I’d been looking online at some various artistic Bible journaling, and it intrigued me. When the first baby came, I realized I no longer had time or space to dedicate to creating or the debris that accompanies it, so I packed up my scrapbooking supplies. The part of me that enjoys making pretty things has been more or less dormant ever since.
I added beauty to several Bible pages with passages that are meaningful to me as a way to linger and highlight them. I’m pleased with most of them and more confident in my ability to create there without doing something that feels like defacing Holy Scripture.
This time, I used the afternoon while my younger two napped to create something around one of my favorite passages. I prepped the page to prevent bleeding to the other side of the translucent sheet, traced some little flowers, sprayed some pigment, left it open on my dining room table to dry, and went on to another, more “productive” chore while I waited.
When I returned to finish it up, I realized somebody had already added some extra touches.
Where did she find a Sharpie?!?
“WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?!? Katherine, that was a BIBLE and a PERMANENT MARKER! I worked hard on that, and you RUINED IT!”
I poured time, energy, and a bit of my soul into making something lovely. This facet of my creativity was only timidly beginning to reappear, having been banished for years by these people. Now it was showing up again, and those same tiny humans were wrecking my efforts completely. Why did I even bother?!?
In that moment, my children—the whole lot of them—became a hindrance to self-expression and beauty and, ultimately, me. The rage and resentment swallowed me whole.
I have never been so angry. The scene in my memory has a literal haze of red around the edges. The violence of the emotion surprises and frightens me now, but I was so engulfed then that I didn’t notice anything but the rage. I successfully fought the urge to throw something heavy through our picture window. My guilty second-born wisely skittered off and hid so long that I was ready to pack the other three in the van to search the neighborhood.
I found Katherine on one last pass through the house, and she timidly whispered, “I thought maybe you could use some time to calm down.”
It feels like the epitome of both irony and comfort that the verse I had carefully and lovingly highlighted and she had so wantonly destroyed was 2 Corinthians 12:9: “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”
This motherhood gig is hard. I want to lovingly and selflessly care for these children while modeling adulthood by showing up as my whole and best self. But being whole requires time and care, too, which isn’t really abundant because I have kids everywhere. Then, when I do make the time, they seem to inevitably wreck either the solitude—of course I’d love your company in the bathroom!—or whatever I created.
It’s been almost two years since my girl defaced both my art and my Bible with permanent marker. I can’t say I consistently react well to interruptions or destruction, but I’ve gotten better at making space for myself in a variety of ways, which removes a lot of the heat from my reactions when things go awry. When I regularly create, the stakes feel a lot lower—I feel less pressure to make each session and project perfect. Also, with a rhythm of quiet and life-giving time in place, I am a little calmer in general.
I’ve uncovered a few simple ways to make space for creation and calm:
Nap time is good time. When my little two go down after lunch, I knock out whatever school needs to be finished with the big two, then send them outside or give them screen time. I use this for a variety of life-giving things. I write, read, study, hand-letter (poorly), or nap briefly. I’ll occasionally clean if the mess is encroaching, but I try not to spend this short time ticking through my to-do list.
Early to bed, early to rise. There was a span of long years when I couldn’t go to bed especially early because of late-evening feedings, was interrupted throughout the night, and, even if I did manage to rise early, my kids had an uncanny ability to wake as soon as I sat down with coffee. But, for this current season anyway, I can usually go to bed earlyish and wake long enough before they do that I’m ready to face them. This year, I added one day a week to get up at a ridiculous hour and hit Starbucks to be alone a while before my husband needs to leave for work.
Tweens and young teens are my favorite. They can also be affordable. If I hire some homeschooled middle- or high-schoolers to entertain my kids for a few hours a week while I hide out in my bedroom, I can work in a few things that make me feel like a person for less than the cost of a fancy daily coffee. (Fun fact: that’s how this piece got finished.)
Process nights. As a pair of introverts, my husband and I both need some time away from the noise of our busy home, so we swap nights. For a while, we were each taking one night off per week, but it ended up being too much for our schedule. We currently alternate Monday nights: one week, I’m on duty for dinner and bedtime so he can go do whatever he wants (typically, he reads by the fire at Barnes and Noble). The next week, I get to leave or, more frequently, hide in our room reading and writing and going to bed early.
Ignore the children. Reading for pleasure in the presence of your kids is a great way to encourage literacy. I read this somewhere and have no idea it’s true, but the part that matters to me is I get to read—and feel virtuous about it—in the middle of the day while they play. It’s slower with them around, but this tiny decadence resets me, even if it’s only ten minutes.
I have more room in my tired-mama soul now than I did when I lost my mind over sharpie in my Bible. Carving out these spaces in my days and weeks means that I have less panic and more time to create. Parenting now feels more like an expression of who I am than a hindrance to it.
Featured image by Hill Smiley Photography
Robin Chapman captures both the gritty experience of motherhood and the grace of God as it carries her despite her imperfections. She writes with humor and vulnerability, sure to make you laugh and breathe a sigh of relief, knowing you are not alone. As an editor and writer for KindredMom.com, Robin is a champion and cheerleader for moms in the trenches. She educates her four children at home in Alaska, where she lives with her ridiculously good looking husband, Andrew. You can connect with her further on Facebook, Instagram, and her blog.
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