I have four beautiful, intelligent, creative, amazing children. I am privileged to stay home with them and care for them. I know many people do not have this option, and I am very grateful to God that I get to be the one to share in their life, day in and day out.

But sometimes I think if will go insane if I have to hear another “Mommy? Can I have… I don’t want… he did… she did… Mommy? Mommy? Mommy!”

Today was one of those days. It all started so well. We had a peaceful morning, and a fun playdate, and cleanup time went well, and we played a game together… but then the bickering ramped up. Oh, it had been going on all day a little here and there (as it seems to most days), but it escalated. I was in another room trying to get the baby to sleep, and once I laid him down, I thought, “We all just need to have a little alone time, and a little quiet time.” I announced it was time for this, and my oldest complied right away (because he has a threat of losing a sleepover hanging over his head based on something that happened a couple days ago). But the middle boy was hungry (which was legit), and the girl started whining and complaining and complaining and whining and attacking her big bro, and let me tell you, it was anything but quiet. They were all sent to rooms. They were released. But it began again. “We just need some quiet time!” I said, “I don’t want to hear fighting and whining right now” but it didn’t cease, and eventually calm but on the edge mommy became exploding mommy, as the four-thousandth “Mommy!” request came while I was trying to clean out a poopy cloth diaper in the toilet. Poop and whining and tiredness and too much noise just pushed me over the edge. Daughter was banished crying to her bedroom, middle boy finally went to nap, and oldest was left with baby (who didn’t stay asleep). And I went to my bathroom, sat on the floor, and cried.

I think perhaps Jacob and I have something in common. Our theme this week is family, and the reading for today in our Month of Dedication is from Genesis 37 and 50: the story of Joseph and his brothers. If anyone knew what it was like to have kids fight, it was Jacob’s family. At least, as I read these chapters, I can see, it’s not QUITE that bad… but it seems like it eventually could be, if this bickering continues. Older bros decide to sell the younger into slavery (downgrading from killing him or leaving him to die in the desert). Because they JUST. CAN’T. STAND. HIM. ANYMORE.

Either Jacob didn’t know what to do, or he didn’t realize what was going on (the thirteen kids did have four different mothers after all), but somehow the sibling rivalry in that very dysfunctional family ended up with a murder plot turned slave trade, with a big fat lie to Dad about what really happened. In fact, we don’t really know if Jacob ever found out the truth. But we do know he had a broken heart about the whole thing. The broken heart I can relate to, and dear God, I hope and pray that I can know how to parent my kids so that they don’t end up like these boys.

The sad truth is that many people have broken relationships with their siblings, or with their kids. I have a huge list in my mind of those who are estranged from at least one member of their immediate family. What a heartbreaking tragedy that is. If we can’t find love in our own families, it is no wonder we fail to find it elsewhere, though we endlessly search.

I honestly have no clue how to help my kids get along better, except that I try to keep pointing them to Jesus. I try to find those teachable moments. I try to say it in a way they can relate to. I try. I try. I try. I haven’t figured it out yet.

This afternoon, as I was sitting on the bathroom floor crying, I was at the end of myself. I talked to God, because he is the only one who understands, and he is always available to listen. I said, “I don’t know what to do… she is going to be the death of me.” And Jesus reminded me, in his loving way that only he can, “Yes, you can either die or you can go insane. Dying is the better option.” No, I don’t mean suicide, I mean — dying to self is the whole point. Only when I can die to myself, and let Jesus live through me, will I ever really live. Only with God can I ever have what I need to parent my kids well, or do anything that really matters.

So after I picked myself up off the bathroom floor, I went to my daughter’s room and we cuddled and talked and apologized and prayed. I don’t know what else I can do, but keep going to Jesus, and pointing my kids to Jesus, and praying with them, and thankfully, we keep forgiving each other when things have not gone well.

My husband got home and I was able to leave – this afternoon is my pre-arranged “Feast” day – and I am so thankful to have had an escape and a chance to talk to God and read about this family in the Bible that was also troubled.

As I read Genesis 37 and 50, I am amazed at Joseph’s ability to FORGIVE. I am so blessed in my family that I grew up in, that we all really get along well. I can’t honestly imagine what Joseph went through, being abandoned by his brothers in such a hateful and callous manner. I am astounded that he came out of the experience such a beautiful, trusting-in-God, forgiving person. Only God can do that kind of miracle! There is no counselor, therapy, or self-help book in the world that could come anywhere close to bringing about that transformation and salvation as we see in this story. God is truly amazing. I am in awe.

Jesus, I pray for families this week. I pray for my family. None of us have any hope without you. Teach us to love. Help us to listen. Help us each to die, so that WE might live.

“Truly I tell you, a kernel of wheat must fall to the ground and be planted in the soil. Unless it dies it will be alone – a single seed. But its death will produce many new kernels – a plentiful harvest of new lives. Those who love their life in this wold will lose it. Those who despise their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” – John 12:24-25

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