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Mercy, for When Methods and Rules Just Don’t Work

I think I’ve spent most of my adult life trying to fine tune perfection, methods, and rules.

If I just do THIS right…

And do THAT the way this expert says…

And keep THESE set of rules…

Because a certain blogger said that good moms get up at 6 a.m. for quiet time and a work out… I made a rule for myself.

When this expert insinuated that it’s a homeschooling failure to start school later than 8:00 a.m., I made a rule for my family.

When so-and-so author sang the praises of children sitting still during school and church, I made another rule…

And rules lead to success, right? 

Rules plus methods add up to Perfection and Balance, right?

Unfortunately, no.

But it’s taken me a really long time to figure that out.

A really long time, and a lot of stress, frustration, and, honestly, just a little disillusionment.

Letting go of my obsession with rules, methods, and perfection has been a process.  One day at a time, one release at a time, one year of growth at a time.  (Jesus is so patient with me!)

Mercy, for When Methods and Rules Just Don't Work| Kristy's Cottage blog
I’m such a rules and schedules girl…

Today was a prime example of when rules and methods just don’t work…

The rule of starting school promptly at 8:30 was a joke.  The time change this week, plus a few late nights with ministry and family projects, has left everyone struggling to keep up.

Doing double math on Tuesdays and Thursdays went out the door.  Today, we did no math.  I don’t know why, but that’s what happened.

The kids’ bedrooms are a mess. (I’m supposed to inspect what I expect, right?)

My entire house is a wreck right now, thanks to a much-needed but messy remodeling project downstairs.  (I LOST my laptop in my living room today… no joke.)

We ate ice cream for supper after church last night.  No one was in the mood for our usual midweek oatmeal or cereal meal.

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My three year old still sleeps with us most nights, my seven-year old is struggling to read, my twelve year old would rather learn about raising chickens than wash dishes or clean her bedroom.

When I look at my life, I realize that everybody is messing up all the methods, breaking all the rules.  Well, not all the rules… but my neat, little, do-it-right-so-we-can-be-the-good-family rules.

Nothing is perfect.

No one is exactly on track.

Nowhere, nobody, no how!

A few years ago, the slightest hint of chaos would have sent me off the deep end grasping for control.  I want my tidy little life back… NOW!

You know what?  I realize that I’ll never have my tidy little life all the time.

Most days, most years, feel like one improvision after the other. One oops that didn’t work, let’s get a new start on that tomorrow after the other.

Mercy, for When Methods and Rules Just Don't Work| Kristy's Cottage blog
A surprise breakfast-in-bed for my daughter a few weeks ago… toast, apple slices, and hot tea. And grace.

The crazy thing is, the more I learn to let go, to really let God be in charge of this thing called Life, the better I learn to receive and give grace. 

And the better I learn to love and be loved.

This afternoon, my three-year old son pulled me into the living room to “do a show” with a few stuffed animals.  After a phonics lesson with my older son, I followed him into the living room and sort of collapsed on the couch… which was sitting in the middle of a very disheveled room.

I watched my little boy’s “show” for a few minutes, and my husband walked up behind me and started massaging my neck and shoulders.

“Oh my goodness, that feels so good,” I groaned.

“I want you to know how much I appreciate you,” Jeremy said.

I sighed.  “Thanks.  I feel like I’m failing and at loose ends.  I’m so disorganized right now.”

“And that changes your value as a person?”

How does he know me so well?

I didn’t answer right away. Jeremy worked a few stress knots out of my shoulders and the Holy Spirit nudged on a few spiritual knots in my heart.

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Of course I know performance doesn’t change my value as a person. 

But I live like I believe it does. 

I live like that a lot.  Maybe that’s why I have those stress knots in my shoulders?

Tonight, I don’t have any great methods or ideas about how to live a successful and perfect life. 

The Lord has gently pulled most of my precious rules and methods right out of my grasping hands, until I’m finally at the point to just let go.

To just follow his Holy Spirit and enjoy the journey.

To love on kids who sometime disobey, sometimes don’t follow methods and ideals, who always seem to have messy bedrooms and who respond very deeply to grace. 

Mercy, for When Methods and Rules Just Don't Work| Kristy's Cottage blog
Children teach me, more than anything else, about the power of unconditional love and undeserved grace.

To thank God for ice cream suppers and back massages in the midst of the crazy.

To accept the idea that potty training and spotless rooms and academic progress may not be such a big deal today… but relationships and love are always a really big deal. Today, and every day.

I’m letting go.

I’m enjoying the ride.

I’m sleeping in every now and then.

Do I still have structure and routine and ideals for my life?  You’d better believe it.

I’m pretty sure I always well because, after all, I’m a dreamer.

But those are the bones and muscles of our family unit… not the heart and soul.

When rules and methods don’t work out so well, I’m trying to remember to apply a heaping dose of love and grace.

After all, that’s what Jesus does for me.

He sees all my striving, all my frustration, all my rules, and He whispers,

Let me give you a little mercy in exchange for those methods.”

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  1. I am so much more like the “rules and perfection” lady, and it destroys me most of the time. Now I can say that I am trying to let go and focus on those that really matter.

    These words inspire me so much ” But those are the bones and muscles of our
    family unit… not the heart and soul.”

    Thanking you as always Kristy! You’re such a blessing 🙂

    1. Thanks so much for reading and commenting here, Mitch! We are so much alike, my friend!

  2. I really appreciated your thoughtful message this morning. Our journeys are all unique and what works for some won’t necessarily work for us. We have to trust the Lord to show us the best path for our family, and always have grace. Thank you!

    1. So true, Lisa. I am finding that the Holy Spirit is a faithful life coach… so much better than rules and methods.

  3. Thank you so much for this post! You articulated so well what I’ve been struggling with since the birth of our fifth child last September. If I just do this, this and this, it will all be ok…no, that is not resting in the Lord and following His Will and plan for me. Yes, God calls us to manage our household and manage it well but we also must do that through His strength, not our own. Oh I have so much to learn! Thank you again for writing this post today!! 🙂

    1. It’s so easy to fall into this way of thinking, Emily… especially for us rule keeper and list makers!