It was 4:00 am.
I woke up to the trickling sounds of rain. I peeked outside our window--it wasn't raining.
Hmmm... that's odd, I thought.
I needed to go to the bathroom. As I stepped out of the room into the hallway, I could see directly into our kitchen. There it was... water pouring from all nooks and crannies from our kitchen ceiling. Yes, it was raining alright -- inside my kitchen.
Streams of water were pouring through our ceiling air vents and pushing through any cracks in the walls it could find.
Panic wasn't even the right word. It was more like frozen.
What do I do? How do I make it stop? Is there an alarm I need to sound?
Good thing my husband isn't like me. The minute I woke him up, he quickly sprung into action. He immediately turned the main water valve off, banged on 2nd and 3rd-floor neighbors' doors -- yup, at 4:00 am. Because in case you haven't figured it out, we live on the 1st floor of a triple decker condo. And that's where all the water was going - right into our kitchen.
(Meanwhile, I am standing there still frozen, worrying about "bothering" the neighbors.)
By morning, it was under control, and we found an emergency plumber. We mopped the floors, opened windows, blew the fans, and got dehumidifiers. Everything seemed fine.
We breathe a sigh of relief: Good thing I woke up in the middle of the night! Good thing we were home to catch it! Good thing my husband isn't like me!
Otherwise, it could've been much worse. Thankfully, nothing was damaged. Or so we thought.
We moved on with our daily life. But, the smell in our condo unit was getting ickier by the day. Musty? Damp?
Something was off.
And finally, it dawned on us. The one word we never thought of...
One simple word. But it has huge ramifications. It's a matter of livable and unlivable. Google says it only takes 48 hours post-flood for mold to start growing!!
And we were already passed that mark.
You see, even though we cleaned all we could on the outside, the insulation inside between the walls were still sopping wet.
That's when we realize we had a much bigger problem on our hands. We called and sought help. What's next was a whirlwind of inspectors, insurance adjusters, restoration crew, wet insulation removal, wall demolition... and I'm writing this post from a hotel room, camping on the floor with inflatable mattresses.
But you know what? It's only a condo. (We're thankful for insurance!) These are all things that can be rebuilt.
But it got me thinking.
What about our kids? What about raising a family in the current environment of our everyday society?
It only takes a combination of the right ingredients for mold to grow.
Families are busier than ever - rushing from one activity to the next. We're tired. We're exhausted. We're impatient. We feel guilty - for not doing enough or doing too much.
We're stressed. Our kids are hungry (or if you are like me...hangry).
Over time, we settle into unhealthy patterns of everyday life, just trying to get through each day.
In the meantime, stuff is growing in the cracks in the walls. We sense something is off, but we don't know what. Or we might have a clue, but don’t have time nor energy to deal with it.
I get it.
I long for more of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)
But the truth is, I'm barely able to gasp for air. And so, I desperately resolve to try harder and do better! I'll be a better mom! I'll try harder to be more patient, nicer, gentler...
Like my splotchy kitchen, trying harder is like throwing on a new layer of paint to cover that off-looking spot on the wall.
But invariably, I fail. Again and again.
Because throwing paint on wet walls doesn't solve the problem. The paint will peel or flake - because paint doesn't stick to wet walls.
And so, like a slow learner, I keep trying to "paint my walls" every day in how I handle life. And I get frustrated, exasperated, and angry that it doesn't stick.
But here's the thing. What I needed was not to paint. Rather, it’s to tear down the walls first. Get that wet, rotting insulation out of there. Put up new sheetrock and drywall. And THEN, add paint.
I've been doing it all backwards!
Through this whole ordeal, I am learning that sometimes there are NO quick fixes. Sometimes, we have to deconstruct... before we can reconstruct.
I have to rip out the old, before putting on the new.
I've been thinking a lot about our family rhythms, routines, relationships, habits...
I'm feeling that pain now, as my 8-year-old daughter recently told me, "Mom. You've been ill-tempered..." (Ouch.)
Yes, she used the word ill-tempered. (Probably from this book she's reading.) But you know what? She is right. (Gut-punch.)
What's the root of my ill-temperament?
Trying harder doesn’t seem to cut it.
Digging deeper, I might find various reasons for my predicament.
- Maybe I haven't slept enough, and I'm just tired.
- Maybe I have in my head what the ideal, perfect day should look like and... my kids did NOT get the memo.
- Maybe I have FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and "all the people" on social media are living Facebook-worthy (or Insta-perfect) lives, and I'm just picking crumbs off the floor...again.
- Maybe I have filled our calendar with so much activity that we're just out of breath trying to keep up
- Maybe I work so hard to please everyone else (outside the home) and have no energy left to deal with my kids.
- Maybe I have an identity crisis…
- Maybe I am having trust issues with God (again).
- Or... maybe, I'm just hungry (ahem, hangry!)
Here's the thing. Though I might acknowledge it, I really don't want to fix it.
Just like how I really don't want to rip out that wet insulation inside the walls. It's too much, too drastic.
Because mini-demolition might look a little like this:
- Tired? --> Cut out ALL non-essential activity. Sleep now.
- Idealist/Perfectionist --> Embrace imperfection and limitations (acknowledge that I’m human - gasp!)
- FOMO --> Cut all social media NOW.
- Too many activities --> Say NO.
- People pleaser? --> Say NO.
- Identity Crisis --> Spend time with God and recalibrate
- Trust issues with God --> Maybe take that first leap of faith
- Hungry? --> STOP everything. GO EAT.
And that’s my problem. Some of the above solutions require too much work.
And for whatever reasons, I have a mental block and cannot take the next steps. But in not wanting to “rock the boat” of my current status quo… I only hurt myself, my family, and ultimately, my kids.
In the same way with our flooded kitchen, deep down inside we knew that there might be water still trapped between the walls. But honestly, we didn’t want to acknowledge it.
It would be too disruptive to our already stressed lives...
We wanted to fix it quickly and move on. So we told ourselves it was FINE. (Because it looked fine on the outside.)
Until it wasn’t.
But 3-4 weeks later… now, I know. It is worth it. It was worth stopping everything, packing everything up, camping out in a hotel… in order to avoid mold.
Because in the end, our home will be so much better because we stopped what we are doing, took a time-out, and took steps to remove the wet insulation.
And meanwhile? My kids are enjoying the hotel swimming pool.
The moral of the story?
Sometimes there are NO quick fixes. And in order for it to get better, we have to not only get to the root of the issue but ALSO BE WILLING TO upend our lives if we need to. Because it's worth it.
If you’ve uncovered (or have an inkling) that there are deeper issues to be dealt with... Maybe it's time to call a time-out and face the problem.
It might be spiritual. It might be coming to terms or wrestling with God on the stuff that you've pushed far from your mind. It might be confessing, making peace with God, bringing out to light some things we've kept hidden from him.
There comes a time when sweeping things under the rug no longer works. Instead, let's lift up the rug and do a deep clean instead.
Or throw away the rug completely so there's no place to hide the problems!
- Have that hard conversation…. now.
- Clear out space in your calendar…. not to be lazy or slothful. But to be able to give attention to what matters most.
- Talk to your kids about hard stuff
- Have a heart-to-heart with your spouse.
- Resolve that conflict that’s been nagging you
- Say sorry or apologize (if this is due)
- Or it could be something drastic -- sell that car, downsize your house if finance is an issue… if it’s better for your family
- Have a family mission statement. Let your kids be part of it.
- Been putting off having the “talk” with your kids? Don’t put it off any longer - go do it now. Your kids will thank you for it.
Yes, it will take a lot of work. Yes, it will be disruptive.
But in the end, don't you think it's worth it?
Resources mentioned above:
Create a Family Mission Statement <-- FREE Resource!
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Lilly's mission is to find ways to arm herself (and fellow sojourners) with tools for equipping our kids so that they can be ready to encounter this world head on...
Because real life isn’t always going to be sunshine and roses. In fact, this world can be quite cruel and broken... read more