It Wasn’t Always This Way- Part One: Parenting

**Warning: If you are someone who is made uncomfortable when people share the ugly details of a truly human life, you might not like this series of posts. Also, because I know no one wants to read a super long blog, I’m going to break down this topic into parts. ¬†Spilling out all of my guts at one time is too much for any person to handle. You’re welcome. ūüėŹ**

It wasn’t always this way. The way my life is now, the joy that I have, the peace that I know. This contentment. It’s taken 42 years, some seriously deep valleys, countless prayers, oceans of tears, many mistakes, bunches of scars, the companionship of many, and the persistence of a God who loves me better than I deserve.

At certain moments in my life as a mother, if you had asked me if I would do it all again, I would have told you “no.” ¬†Not a popular (or socially acceptable) response. But it was true. I loved my children- deeply and fully. I was just overwhelmed by the amount of work it was, how endless the hours seemed, and quite frankly by my certainty that I was definitely going to screw them up. The weight of it was crushing.

I felt like every choice I made was a “make them or break them” decision. What if I only serve one vegetable instead of two for dinner? Am I talking to them enough, singing to them enough, touching them enough? ¬†Did we read an ample amount today? ¬†Am I speaking into their lives as I should?

I was so focused on the work of it, the “getting it right,” that it wasn’t always easy for me to find the joy of it. It was a job I took very seriously (after all, these were PEOPLE I was helping mold- a task that shouldn’t be taken lightly), and it was one that had no weekends, holidays, breaks or vacations. There was no annual review to check my progress and there was no raise for a job well done. I was tired and felt inadequate and was pretty sure I was probably going to end up producing a rooftop shooter and a pole dancer.

So, no, I wouldn’t recommend parenthood and, if given the choice, I wouldn’t do it again. The world deserved better, my husband deserved better and these kids definitely deserved better. I wasn’t enough.

But, thank goodness, things can change. People can stop seeing everything through the filter of “me.” ¬†We can learn to ask for help, can recognize that doing our best is the best we can do, and learn that not everything matters all that much. So what if dinner was a meat, a bread, and ONE vegetable? ¬†I was remembering to feed them, and we had the resources to do so. It was a win!!

When I finally accepted (through the advice of great friends, the benefit of medication, and a closer walk with God) that perfection was neither expected and clearly not possible, things began to shift a bit. The best that this broken human could do was love on and raise broken humans that tried to be kind and recognized that their brokenness could only be made whole in Christ. I was trying to take on the job of ¬†God. Not on purpose, but because that’s what I thought I was supposed to do. I was trying to be all things for them. A job that, as much as I tried, as much as I wanted to, was not even possible.

So, I taught them to laugh. I tried teaching them that walking close to God is the best way to walk. I was honest about my flaws. I stopped pretending I had all the answers, and I stopped being disappointed in myself when I didn’t have them. I modeled for them what it looked like to mess up and to apologize and ask for forgiveness. I spent more time being authentically who I was, and I retired my self-awarded super hero cape.

True, it didn’t hurt that they were now big enough to wipe their own behinds, tie their own shoes and formulate complete and complex sentences, but with the weight of my over exaggerated duties gone, we were free. I could look up from “the work of them” to watch them. I could enjoy them. Who they were was no longer ¬†going to be solely determined by my raising of them (as if I had that much power- the arrogance). I could breathe and so could they. It was a thing of beauty.

Ask me today if I’d do this parenting thing all over again, and I can give you a genuine 100% YES!! I’ll say that it’s the second hardest job I’ve ever had (being a spouse is first), and it has broken my heart and brought me more joy than anything I could have ever imagined. ¬†Watching little people become bigger people navigating the world, it’s a pretty amazing show. I’m grateful for my front row seat. I’m glad to be a mom. But,

… it wasn’t always this way.

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Tug of War

My body is sore from the tug of war of life.¬† Work grabs this hand and pulls one way.¬† My family has my heart and pulls a different direction.¬† The dust bunnies wrap themselves around my leg and keep me stuck where I stand.¬† The volunteer opportunities/obligations on my plate pull me forward.¬†The words in my head that need to be given life pull my fingers toward the keyboard. Hurting friends, though not a one is asking out loud or making demands, have my mind going with each of them.¬† My need to be still and reflect on God and spend time at His feet doesn’t pull or tug, but it calls from deep within.

Some days I feel ripped apart.¬† Like no one gets the whole of who I am.¬† Only small parts of less than an effective me.¬† I don’t like functioning this way.

What’s a girl to do?¬† I take a deep breath, lower my head and push on.¬† Like a traveler walking against the wind and rain, I tuck in and move.¬† I keep telling myself that it won’t be like this forever.¬† Soon the things that tug on me will be small in number, and I will miss the pull.¬† My body will ache missing all the tugging and pulling.

So I try to rejoice in¬†it.¬†I try to be grateful that I am well enough, that I am wanted enough, that I am capable, and¬†lucky enough to have all of these opportunities.¬† And I try to offer myself grace.¬† I remind myself that I am one person.¬† One imperfect, broken, limited person.¬†One creature trying her best to give all she has to make today better.¬† Better for work, better for my family, better for my house, better for those I’m serving, better as a writer, better as a friend, and better for my loving God.

I wrap myself in a blanket of His peace, and I cover myself in essential oils. I put coffee in my cup and a smile on my face, and I take one step in any direction.  Because whatever direction I step, there is work to be done!

How Can I Be Grumpy?

As I go to bed on Friday, tired from the week, I think of how awesome it is that tomorrow is Saturday, and I can sleep in. No getting up early for me!  The sweet slumber of a Saturday.

And then, before the sun has fully awakened herself, I hear the ringing of ¬†jingle bells. We have bells hanging from our door so that the dog can tell us when she needs out.¬†Again. ¬†Ring, ring. Again. “Hold on, I’m coming!” ¬†See, the dog doesn’t care that it’s Saturday. All she knows is that she has to pee- now!! UGH, I want my sweet Saturday slumber! I think I might be grumpy.

My initial thoughts are to open my eyes just enough to take her out so that I don’t really wake up and can come in and go back to sleep. I just want to go back to sleep. Sweet Saturday slumber.

But then, as I walk to the bathroom to get my robe, I pass a cat that starts purring loudly just because I came into the room. Purring, giant excited purrs just because I’m here and got close¬†to her. Purring in anticipation that I just might pet her.

How can I be grumpy?

Leashed up and ready to do her business, the dog and I step outside, and as we do her tail is going a hundred miles a minute, because, well, living. Because she knows there are a thousand new smells to check out in the grass, and maybe, if she’s lucky, some sort of treat left by nature (aka “chocolate” rabbit droppings ūüė©). ¬†So excited at the possibilities of this new day. My eyes open, because while sleep is great, maybe I don’t want to miss this excitement either.

How can I be grumpy?

As I walk around the house, I’m greeted by the most gentle of breezes. Softly, it wraps its arms around me in a hug of the most perfect temperature. I breathe deep and my lungs fill with the sweetness of the morning. I open my eyes wider, sleep can wait.

The sun, having risen to just the right place that it doesn’t yell, but quietly whispers “good morning,” touches my face. Kissed by Heaven itself, my cheeks feel the warmth of the embrace. Eyes closed, not because they are sleepy now, but because they want to absorb every beam of love, I lift my head to savor all the kisses.

How can I be grumpy?

Moved by the beauty of another day and the potential that it holds, I decide not to miss the stillness of the morning by crawling back in bed. There are bird songs to listen to- concerts of gratitude for another chance and another day. I have a front row seat in the chair of the guest of honor, if only I’ll sit long enough to enjoy it. After all, it is Saturday.

How can I be grumpy?

You Are Amazing!!

To all you moms out there that get up each day to get yourselves ready for work and your households ready for the day- YOU ARE AMAZING!! For real, I’ve always had a deep respect for working out of the home moms, but over the last two weeks that respect has been amplified.

Until earlier this year I’ve spent most of my post-children work doing direct sales that allowed me to work my own schedule. Never more than part-time, I had so much flexibility to work when I chose. And it was awesome.

Several months back I took a part time “real” job- one with set hours. And while that was an adjustment, it was doable. Recently they’ve been having me work full-time. ¬†Based simply on the measly few days I’ve done it, I’m here to admit- I am a weenie!!! ¬†I have no idea how you amazing ladies do it.

I am fairly certain that if I had to maintain that pace for very long, I’d fall out- face first, smack dab in the middle of my desk in a giant puddle of drool. I can’t even imagine what you’ve endured or where you’ve gotten the stamina for all of these years. ¬†I applaud you!!

I know we are all created with different gifts and for different purposes, and I am feeling so grateful that mine hasn’t been the exhausting dance of full-time work while also juggling parenting and volunteering and housework. (Well, who am I kidding, we all know from my previous posts that not much of that has been on my list.)

So today I just wanted to take a minute to tell you that you are amazing, I admire you, and keep up the great work. And tonight, order dinner from out, because holy cow, it’s been a LONG week!!

Do You Hear That?

Do you hear that? It’s the sound of empty. It’s the sound of quiet. It’s the sound left behind by two kids, one teen and one tween, ¬†when they begin the new adventure of another year. High School and Middle School gain two new students today, and our house loses their constant summer-time presence.

Do you hear that? ¬†The sound of peace. ¬†The sound of no fighting. ¬†The calm of no television blaring, no video games sirening. ¬†It’s the sound of space where I can fill it with the things I choose.

And I rejoice! ¬†I rejoice that they both were excited to go. I rejoice that they are able and well. I rejoice that we live in a place where education isn’t just a possibility, it’s a given. ¬†I rejoice that my years of stay-at-home momming have helped get them to this new milestone. I rejoice!

And I mourn! I mourn that another year has started and will, too soon, have slipped away. I mourn that this is the beginning of the end. That, like I’ve heard many times, the closer you get to the end of the roll of toilet paper, the faster it goes. It’s true in life too. So I mourn. Four short years with one, seven with another. More than half-way there. I mourn that my hourglass of time with them here at home is half over. I mourn the quiet. I mourn the ache that I feel as the distance of days spent at school and evenings spent at activities create. I mourn!

Do you hear that? ¬†It’s the sound of a mama’s heart breaking. Breaking open with pride and joy for the accomplishments and potential of her children. Bursting apart with anticipation at all they will do and learn and be. It’s also the sound of that same mama’s heart splintering into a thousand little pieces with the weight of her short time left with them. Cracking at the sound of the quiet they leave behind.

Do you hear it too?

 

Nobody Asked Me

Nobody asked me if I was ready for my eyesight to fade and my hair to gray. Nobody got my approval before gravity started to take its toll on parts of my body that used to be positioned a little higher. No one checked in to make sure it was okay for my oldest to sound more like a man than a boy and for my youngest to outgrow me (if not quite yet in height, for sure in attitude). Nobody got my go ahead for my husband and me to become middle aged.

And yet…

Here it all is. It’s as if this planet we live on has picked¬†up the pace. Days that used to have 24 long hours, weeks that had seven slow days, months that had four long weeks, a dozen months that felt more like a baker’s dozen to get us to a year- I’m pretty sure all of those things are happening at an accelerated pace now. Nobody asked me if it was okay to change the speed of my life.

I don’t recall receiving a written inquiry as to whether or not I was comfortable with my parents becoming senior citizens. ¬† Nobody asked if I felt adequately prepared to think about things like long term care and college payment plans and retirement.

I feel a little dizzy, really. The earth circling around the sun so quickly, spinning on its axis so fast my head is left swimming. I try to look up and catch my breath. Focus on a fixed spot in time, this moment, right now. Sometimes it works. And sometimes I’m left spinning, mouth open, lost in time, unable to take it all in.

Regardless, it’s become¬†clear that nobody is going to ask for my permission, make sure¬†I’m ready, check in or even pause for a second. ¬†This life, it’s happening, with or without my approval and at a pace that I don’t control. Time is busy doing its thing. All I know to do is take a deep breath, say a prayer, ¬†jump in and get to doing my thing right alongside it. ¬†It’s that or get left behind.

 

When?

When did he start taking up so much space in the doorway? ¬†His head so close to the top? ¬†And when exactly did the soft curves of a little boy body give way to the harder edges of the young man he’s become?

When did she lose those chubby cheeks, the ones that little girls have, round and full?  When did her cheek bones become so defined, chiseling out the face of a young lady from beneath the fleshy softness of toddlerhood?

When did he put away his dinosaurs for Legos, and Legos for Nerf guns, and Nerf guns for video games? And how much longer before he puts it all away for a girl?

When did she stop pretending to take my order in her play kitchen and start actually creating things in mine? And when did her dress up bin full of costumes and princess gowns get passed over for hand-me-downs from cool older girls and real nail polish and make up replace the plastic look alikes?

When did they become so witty and capable and articulate? ¬†I can’t find the moment. I can’t pinpoint a “before” and “after.” ¬†It occurred in steady breaths, in moments doing the ordinary, over another dinner, while one more load of laundry dried. ¬†It happened over many Tuesdays and random afternoons.

And when does it stop?  The excitement of watching them grow those wings; the ache of seeing them use them? When do their lives become more theirs than mine, and how do I prepare my heart for that?

When does “this time” become the last time, and will I even know it? ¬†Will it arrive with an announcement or, like his growing body and her disappearing fleshy cheeks, will it just happen? No defining moment- just something extraordinary in the middle of the ordinary.

When?

 

Sometimes She Forgets

I think that all too often, women forget how very amazing they are. ¬†My life is filled with women of great beauty and strength. Different in size and shape and color and station and gifts- a wonderous bouquet of humanity. Some are strong in a big “take charge” kind of way. Some have strength in a way that is quiet and steady. Others have strength in their fun-loving, joy bringing ways. Many are strong in ways they can’t even recognize in themselves.

The older I get the more convinced I become that part of why God fills our lives with other women is because we need to remind one another how amazing we are.  We need to help one another recognize the beauty within. The world is quick to show us our faults, to highlight impossible bodies, to glorify the artificial. But every woman I know, she has a gift or a talent or a characteristic that deserves praise. She is wonderfully made.

But sometimes she forgets.

On a day when her pants fit too tight, she leaves the house a bit late, her day gets away from her before all the boxes are checked, dinner comes from a drive-thru, and no one has clean pajamas, she forgets. She forgets that she is enough. She forgets she is amazing. She forgets she is valued. She forgets that she matters. She forgets that she is loved.

If I’m lucky, I can catch her on that day and send her a note, make a call, send a text. I can remind her that who she is is far¬†more than the woman she sees in the mirror. She’s more than the wrinkles she sees, more than the number on the scale, more than the cleanliness of her house, more than whatever demon haunts her, more than the lies the devil tells. I¬†can help her to remember that she’s an amazing friend, a great mother, a hard worker, a devoted wife, a loving person, a thoughtful woman. I can remind her that her presence in my life is God’s gift to me.- a great, beautiful, generous gift.

Because sometimes she forgets.

Nervous to wear #servelikesarah

Since yesterday after picking up my beautiful #servelikesarah t-shirt, I’ve been feeling a bit nervous and also like I need to apologize in advance.

I never had the great privilege of meeting this lovely girl, but since she left us, it has become abundantly clear that she leaves a mammoth footprint, a huge shadow. Stepping lightly and lovingly in the world, and definitely leaving a wonderful, giant, gentle mark.

And all of the sudden I am acutely aware¬†of how inadequate I feel to wear this shirt. ¬† ¬†Proud to honor her, grateful to be able to have a visible way to show support to her family, glad for the chance to increase the size of the Lottie Moon impact… but nervous to put it on.

Sarah was an example of surrendering and serving. ¬†I have much to learn from her. ¬†So when I wear my shirt, it will be a visible reminder to myself of what it means to surrender and to serve. I know I’m not always going to get it right, and I’m afraid that I won’t always be worthy of HER shirt, but much like our Heavenly Father, I believe that Sarah won’t hold it against me. ¬†Still, I feel like I need to apologize.

The journals she has left behind and that her mother has so generously shared with us, have taught me enough to know that she’ll be pleased with my effort and my desire. Not for recognition of her own name, but that it works to expand His kingdom and give Him glory. That I want to grow closer to God, to be His hands and feet, to say His will, not mine be done- that is how I’ll wear my shirt. And this is how she’ll know that I am her flock.

Mindfully putting on this shirt, it will be, for me, almost as if I am wrapping myself in a prayer. A prayer that God will use me in a way that will touch hearts, that in my own life and community I will be on mission.  Just as Sarah continues to be on mission.

But when I am wearing the shirt and fall short, my prayer will be that I never tarnish the good name of #servelikesarah, that I never tarnish the name of the God she loves. It feels like a great privilege to wear this shirt and a huge responsibility.  But with hope and courage, I will proudly put it on as a reminder to do my best to #servelikesarah.

20 Years Later

Today my husband and I celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. Twenty years!? How in the world can that be?  It feels like just yesterday. And it also feels like an eternity ago.

We were so young. ¬†One of us out of college, one still in. ¬†We were living in different states, and all we knew was that any moment more that we had to be apart was way too many. ¬†Poor and young, we decided it made financial sense to get married and pay one rent rather than living separately and paying two. Practicality over our financial situation outweighed the advice of all of those “wise people” telling us to wait.

And so it began.

We stood before God and a congregation full of people and made promises that neither of us truly understood. We exchanged vows that sounded nice but whose gravity it would take years to really absorb. We began a life together that I don’t believe either of us could have accurately imagined in our twenty two year old minds.

The reality of two very different worlds colliding was not always pretty. Arguments over mundane things- which way the toilet paper goes on the roll, how to properly pronounce and use words, how long to look in the check register for the lost $.05; there were plenty of things to disagree about.

But the feeling of a warm body to lie next to, the joy of coming home to someone so special, the electricity of shared laughter, the unnoticed opportunities to catch the other singing when they thought no one could hear; there was so much beauty.

In twenty years, we’ve done many things together. Lots of giant things- building a career, bringing kids into the world, watching a beloved mother (in-law) pass away, choosing to stay when we both wanted to walk, run, away. And we’ve done plenty of nothing together- endless hours snuggled up napping, binge watching series of favorite shows.

I don’t believe either of us knew back then that it would be like it is today. Something powerful happens when the butterflies of new love settle into the steady flow of more ordinary¬†love that are replaced by the deep, choosing it every day in both the best and very very worst of it,¬†love. When you don’t want to, but you do it anyway; that’s where the surprising love lives. And that love, that’s the love that you build twenty, thirty, forty years on. It’s the love that creates giant pockets of joy in the midst of hard times. That’s the best love of all.

In twenty years we’ve had valleys we never would have chosen. But the peaks, the peaks are far greater than any I could have dreamed. The view from twenty years is pretty extraordinary. I can’t wait to see what it looks like in twenty more.