by Sandra Byrd
I peeked at her every day, holding the slats on my miniblinds just right so the viewing space would be imperceptible. Certain as the morning paper, at 10 a.m. she’d shepherd two dapper preschoolers into a clean minivan. They looked Sunday-school neat every day.
I envied her gauzy dresses, loosely catching a whispered breeze. I wanted to feel pretty and feminine and put together again. I probably wouldn’t wear wide-brimmed hats woven of sun-bleached straw and cinched with a strawberry ribbon, but I might like to try. My car wouldn’t need to be spotless—but lately there were so many coffee cups rolling about on the floor, they were talking of starting a union.
After a few minutes, I’d leave my post and go back to the television, and back to the baby who was crying once more. I went into the kitchen to warm some tea, disgusted with the mess on the countertops—again.
Could every woman in the world except me juggle all these balls?
One day, more out of anger than curiosity, I pulled my hair into a ponytail and set the baby in her stroller. I made sure I was at my neighbor’s step at ten. “Oh, hello!” I said, blushing slightly.
“How are you?” she responded, her lovely British lilt reflecting genuine pleasure.
“Fine, fine…” I stumbled. “By the way, um, how do you guys always get out here so early looking great?” It blurted out. She knew what I meant.
“When Lizzie was born, I never got out the door until Reading Rainbow was over, and even then my house was a wreck,” she chuckled. Hmm, I mused, Reading Rainbow was over at eleven. I was ready around noon, but at least I was within the hour. Encouraged, I pressed on.
“And you always look so pretty.” I gestured at her outfit.
“I started buying these dresses after I had the kids. Loose fit and all, you know,” she pulled at the waistband and let it snap, showing me the stretch.
“What about your house?” I pressed, though my brain was screaming, “Let it die!”
“Now that I have more energy, it’s not so hard to keep up.” She saw my droopy eyes. “But the baby was at least six months old before I kept enough dishes clean to eat the next meal.”
We chatted for a few more minutes, and she left for wherever mothers of older children trundle off to on a peaceful summer morning. The baby and I strolled a bit and went home.
Later that evening, Michael stayed with the baby and I went out to buy a crinkly, gauzy dress. When I returned, I saw he’d made the kitchen sparkle. A sliver of hope penetrated my foggy brain: Maybe I can do this after all.
The seasons passed and another summer arrived. One day my nattily dressed child and I visited a different neighbor, on the kitty-corner side of my street. We cooed at her new baby. This neighbor and I had often chatted in the past, but I hadn’t seen her since her baby had come. Her graying roots needed color, as did her complexion. She finally blurted out, “How come I’m the only woman that can’t keep it all together?”
“Let’s sit down on the grass,” I said. “I’ll tell you a neighborhood secret.”
Sometimes those calm and orderly days before you had children seem a distant memory, don’t they? You may be giving all you’ve got to your family, yet the dishes are piled higher than the Eiffel Tower, the grass looks like a jungle, and the kids seem unable to grasp even the most basic forms of civilized conduct. It’s enough to make any mother and father throw their hands up and shout, “I give up!”
But don’t do it. Don’t give up or give in to the feeling that it’s hopeless. As you persist in your efforts to be a godly spouse and parent, you will experience small victories along the way—and over time, those little successes will turn into much larger ones. I’ve seen it happen often, in my own family and in countless others.
Remember, the Lord is watching: “I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first” (Revelation 2:19). He will honor your persistent dedication to walking in the ways of Scripture.
We’ll talk about the power of perseverance in the days ahead. My prayer for you is the same as the apostle Paul’s: “May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance” (2 Thessalonians 3:5).
- James C Dobson
“Neighborhood Secrets” by Sandra Byrd. Reprinted from Heartbeats, copyright © 2000 by Sandra Byrd. Used by permission of WaterBrook Press, Colorado Springs, Colorado. All rights reserved.