I’m exhausted today.  I’m not at my best, possibly at one of my worst.  My inhibitions are lowered, my patience already wearing thin, and my feelings are far too accessible, worn on my sleeve. Given the choice I’d probably stay in bed and sleep the day away, but I can’t afford to.  This week was full of activities and as a result the exhaustion has worked its way into my bones.

Minnie, in full out defiant two year old mode, refused any suggestion with an instant rebuttal this morning.

I held out her outfit for the day. “Let’s change our clothes,” I gently suggested.

“No, I don’t want to.”  She runs off skipping and picking up her basket of dress-up clothes from the toy shelf.

“Let’s eat some breakfast.”

“No, I want a sna-ack.” She says in her slight Southern drawl.  My husband and I don’t know where the accent comes from, but it has somehow decided to stay.

“Can you finish your Cheerios?”

“No.  I want to get down.”

No is the order of the day.  It’s hard on any given day, but today it feels especially hard.  I can feel the anger rising and me acutely aware that I need to muster strength to push it down.  I feel like I can barely handle her.

While I was coaxing Minnie to stay in her seat with some paint with water pages, I rushed to stuff some Cheerios down my own throat.  Elle, at the same time, fusses, cries and yawns.  She’s showing all the signs of her exhaustion from waking up early.   I go and pick her up, turn on the white noise, wrap her up in her blanket, nurse her and place her in the swing.  Then I wait for her eyes to close, the steady, but recently loud congested deep breathing that mark her restful thirty minute nap.

Not today.  She wanted to fight.

Instead of laying down in her swing, she rocked away upright.

Instead of closing her eyes, she watched Minnie intently.

Back-arching. She’s trying to use all her might to escape the dreaded swing.  Her face turns red.

Screaming. The shrill cry.

Yesterday we went to MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers), and they reminded me how when we are Hungry, Angry, Lonely and/or Tired we need to stop and take a breather.  HALT.  This morning, I was all these things.  But I couldn’t stop what I was doing.  I had to get them dressed.  I had to get the kids breakfast.  I had to put Elle to sleep.

Finally,  I stopped.  I prayed. I uttered the simplest of prayers.  I begged for Jesus to put my baby to sleep, to calm her spirit, to bring her peace, to heal her runny nose.  Because if she would just sleep, then I felt that maybe I could get through the day.  And while I was still patting her, I read the passage for today from Philip Yancey’s Grace Notes .

The passage was about how Ron Nikkel of Prison Fellowship International visited a prison in Zambia.  “Eighty of the 120 prisoners went to the back wall and assembled in rows.  They began singing-hymns, Christian hymns, in beautiful four-part harmony…thirty-five of those men had been sentenced to death and would soon face execution.”  The prison was in a terrible state.  It reeked of feces.  It was heated by the hot African sun.  The prisoners lived in cells that are so small that all of them are unable to lie down at once to sleep, but have to take turns.   In the midst of all of this, they sang.

If these prisoners living in such squalor and were facing death could sing, I could sing too.  I closed my eyes, continued patting Elle and sang to her of God’s love.  The next thing I remember is opening my eyes.  My baby was swinging, asleep.