Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Abide: Lent

Lent kicks off this year nice and early, and I'm oddly ready for it. Not because of any particular goals or plans, but more because I need it. The introspection, the focus, the reminder. 

I spent Fat Tuesday in the throes of the stomach bug that has been slowly working its way through our family. Our one full bath is under emergency construction and the chaos that ensues from such a project is taking its normal toll. I look around here where all the flaws of humanity are on display day in and day out and think  "thank God for Lent!" Because all of it is redeemable. All serves a purpose. All is opportunity to cling a bit closer, lean a bit heavier, pray a bit harder. 

God's gift of salvation isn't just for the end of our lives. It is for every day, every step we take in getting there. Salvation that wraps around all that we go through here and infuses it with purpose. When I look at life through the lens of eternity, I'm a softer mom. A more patient wife. A better friend. A more compassionate human. 

So, what am I doing about Lent this year? Not much, honestly. I took Facebook off my phone to be more intentional about my time and I'm planning on working some fasts in. Other than that, just looking to see life the way He does: rife with opportunity for edification. 

Friday, February 5, 2016

Inspired Joy

It's Friday morning. Only half of the kids have eaten breakfast. The baby is on my back. I've already had to instruct on why we treat siblings with kindness and I'm not done with my first cup of coffee yet. One of the kids was sick during the night, so that lovely laundry is waiting for me, plus the normal school/jobs/life stuff that is incessant.

I spoke with a Mom's group yesterday on the topic of rest, and while I was preparing I kept had the nagging feeling that I really had no authority to speak to them. Who, after all, am I? My house is always a mess. My heart, too. I don't have any "hacks" on how to make this motherhood thing any easier. If anything, the one thing I'm sure of is that it's not getting any easier. I can't offer them a pin-worthy picture of happy homeschooling or 10 tips on how to get siblings to get along.

It's almost like the longer I'm at this gig, the less I'm sure of anything. Didn't I used to think I had some of this figured out? Every day here feels like I'm starting back at square one. Back to the basics, time and again.

My husband has been working at a warehouse while he looks for a new job. It is long hours, backbreaking work, he comes home with sore muscles and calloused hands and a bone-deep exhaustion that only 12 hours of physical labor can bring. He confides in me one night - "I love it." And I think I get it.

While he's working hard for his family, I'm just doing the next right thing here at home. Grown ups struggling doesn't mean that childhood stops, and my kids still need me. They still need my kiss on the tops of their heads when I set their breakfast in front of them. They need my singing at the sink. They need my tickles and laughs and they need my warm arms in the middle of dark nights. I keep doing the next thing even during this difficult time in our family, and it reminds me of something.

Moms need to be very careful where they get their inspiration from - and what they fill their minds with. The internet is filled with images, some benign, some not so benign - and some that you don't realize are stealing your joy until it's too late. What really is the harm in a few unrealistic pictures? Of beautifully (albeit expensively) decorated homes, beautiful happy children in thousand dollar get ups and women modeling motherhood who are barely old enough to be a mom, much less have ever experienced it?

We see what unrealistic images can do to expectations. We live in a culture that is proof of that and I don't know about you, but I'm not really liking the result.

When we fill our minds with more of this than reality (which lightning fast internet speeds make all too likely), a shift happens. We can't help but compare our experiences - and find our lives lacking. Discontent moves in and gratitude moves out and instead of waking in the morning with anticipation at the day ahead, we just want to quit. Comparison becomes our companion.

I finding myself increasingly looking to step back from glossy pictures of perfection and the discouraged way they make me feel. I'm looking elsewhere. I'm looking for reality.

One of my favorite images of motherhood ever is this photo, taken during the great depression. When I see it, I feel it. To me, it encompasses how mothering feels quite a bit of the time - although I've never been in such dire straits as the Mom pictured. But when I see it, I feel strong. Instead of showcasing an impossible standard, I see something here worth emulating. Something worth working toward. It inspires me to take this day, this house, this family, this life - imperfections and all - and be the best I can be.

I want to be a mom. Not a model. I want to be home to my family, a person of peace, a place to rest. I don't want to flee from discomfort, pain or struggle - I want to dive in head first and find the redemption there at the bottom. Because I know it's there.

I get why my husband kind of likes the way it feels to work so hard it hurts. To take something that maybe isn't the prettiest thing ever and really give it your all.

I have less answers than I did 10 years ago, but I have more strength. More adaptability.  More grit. More gentleness. More gratitude. More peace.

And at the center of it all, 


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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Losing Myself

I woke up in the middle of the night with the toddler's arms around my neck, her cheek pressed right up against mine and one leg flung across my chest - while I was nursing the baby who was pinching me at the same time.

I used to think the idea that mothering is 24/7 was a little bit overdone, a gripe for people who needed to legitimize their role as mother as "the hardest job in the world." I mean, of course we are on call for our kids at all times, but sleep does exist (even if it is in small doses) and there are those moments of quiet knitting and netflix with my husband and even the odd evening out of the house here and there. I get to grocery shop alone. It's not that intense, right? The thing is, back when I brushed off the idea of mothering as a 24/7 occupation, I had a lot less patience for the interruptions. The constant neediness. The plans gone awry and the devastation of the whole family coming down with a virus.

The past week has been non stop. Even as I write that, I feel the need to amend it. The past month, then? Year? The past 13 years? I think I may have caught my breath at some point a year or so ago but I'm not altogether sure...but no matter. I'm making peace with the intensity. When I expect to be on call 24/7, irritation doesn't arise as readily when that call actually comes. When I wake up to a toddler who has once again snuck out of her bed and into mine, my knee jerk reaction isn't to feel touched out anymore. When I come to expect to be needed and held onto at all times, I become a gentler Mama. I untangle myself from her grasp and carry her back to bed but I'm not upset at the interruption. This is just how this goes.

There is nothing to complain about when you expect to be poured out. It is only when your expectations aren't met that you get that creeping feeling of dissatisfaction. Sometimes I think we are so worried not to paint motherhood as drudgery that we do a huge disservice and swing wildly the other way, assuring young mothers to be that they won't lose themselves in the process - and when they inevitably do, pave the way to more disillusionment and discontent.

The miracle of it all is just this - that in losing yourself, your need to be in control, your need to know the outcomes, your desire to hold on to some pre-child version of yourself who was able to pick and choose exactly when and where to serve others (or not) - you gain so much more than you could ever imagine possible. Holding back and sealing off parts of yourself will only lead to atrophy. Why not give it all you've got? What are these gifts for if not giving away?

I may not get uninterrupted sleep now or in the foreseeable future, but I am adored beyond reason by these precious little ones. The gift of their lives entwining with mine is something that I will never regret and always treasure for as long as I live. Not because it went according to my plans, or was on my terms. But because by being completely opened to it, I received more than I could have ever asked for.

The best thing I ever did was lose myself. And every day I'll do it again and again and again.

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