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Alex came in from playing outside and was helping wash down the kitchen table before dinner. In the background, a melodramatic old man read Ephesians via Bible Gateway’s audio tool. Children, obey your parents, his voice shuddered gravely. I turned and gave Alex a teasing nod, which sent him scuttling across the kitchen to the laptop, where he peered at the screen as though awaiting instruction.

I smiled and turned back to the sink.

Fathers, do not exasperate your children, the voice bellowed. I winced and shot Alex a quick glance, half expecting him to be giving me the same teasing nod toward the screen. He didn’t, but most likely only because he doesn’t yet understand the word exasperate.

But I do and those words are coming back to me this morning – after a race to the bus stop that included a quite thoroughly exasperated seven year old flopping with great force into his booster with a giant huff of resignation, a shoe not yet tied and a backpack half zipped.

Turns out, listening to, meditating on, or reading great advice or instruction is just another way of filling my day with noise if I’m not writing the words on my heart and acting them out with my life.

Melanie, don’t exasperate your children.

These are the words for my heart.

Melanie, be present with your children. Be giving, be open, be calm, be with them. Be ticklish when Lila tries to make you laugh with her fingers up and down your forearm. Laugh when Alex’s joke isn’t funny. Be patient when Asher is discerning over which pair of underwear has the most green in it (and will thus be his selection for the day.)

Melanie, don’t exasperate your husband. Take the trash bag out of the can when it is too full. Be patient when he has to work late. Be calm when he is at a board meeting until it’s nearly your bedtime. Be loving when he walks through the door, still in his stuffy work clothes after a twelve hour day. (But mostly, take the trash OUT, so he won’t have to.)

Melanie, don’t exasperate yourself.

You are one person, a vessel. Carry what you can carry, lift up what you cannot. Be present in your own life. Be open, but not aimless. Guard your mind, write His love on your heart – live out the words with your hands and feet.

Remember to make sure you’re raising your children to know that a missed school bus, or a messy house or a baby disturbed from her nap by the noise of her siblings – these are not the worst of life’s troubles.

And, above all, forgive yourself when you fail.

Because you will.

(But that’s not the worst of life’s troubles either.)

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