Monday, March 2, 2015

The Kids That Built Me #MindfulMotheringMondays

There's a unique kind of unfurling that happens when your own childhood seamlessly melds into that of your own children. I've been thinking over the years and the babies and looking at how welcoming each and every one of these kids has stretched and grown me in ways nothing else possibly could.

I became a mom after the most selfish time in my life - and most people's lives - my 18th year. In those early years that followed, life was something of a tug of war. My selfish nature and desires in direct opposition with what motherhood requires: service. The struggle was stressful and hard as I fought to hold onto "me" while juggling the demands and needs of our rapidly growing brood.

A shift happens slowly, when life and parenting becomes less about how you experience it - and more about the people you are pouring all of your efforts into. Gradually I found that laying down my arms opened me up to receiving more than I could have ever forced. I found with surprise that I could peacefully coexist as "me" while also being what they needed.

I think about it at a midwife appointment on Friday, and how the term "my birth experience" rubs me the wrong way. I get it, because I've been there. Insistent that things go my way because it was mine. MY experience. MY birth. My story. Wasn't it? These days I find myself friends with compromise - something my unrelentingly judgmental 20 year old self would have scoffed at for being weak. But I know better now.

Time and love and people change you. Each one of these people in my home have changed how I view the world, other mothers, myself, and them. I become gentler each time. Softer. More forgiving. Less demanding. I think this all can be encompassed in just this: I grew up. Maybe other people get there more quickly, or have already arrived by the time they welcome their first little one. For me, I grew alongside them, day by day, year by year.

Each year, each child added, each season poses a new challenge to me - one I can fight against with all my feeble might, or one I can step up to, embrace, grasp with intention and purpose. When I choose the latter, it's not giving in. It's stepping up. Expanding my vision. Shouldering my past experiences and willingly looking forward to a new future.

My kids taught me that, by requiring it of me. My kids drew me out in ways nothing else could. My kids helped shape me in the 12 years since that stubborn 18 year old received the news her life would change and set her teeth that it wouldn't.

I declared I'd let nothing change me.

I'm so glad I was wrong.

{It's been a while since I've done Mindful Mothering Mondays, but I'm hoping to get back into it. Want to join? Add your link in the comments!}

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Every Day Sacrifices

It's day four of a whole family stomach bug and I'm still trying to wake up. Thinking about Laura's chapter on annointing the sick (Everyday Sacrament: The Messy Grace of Parenting ) while getting up again and again in the night when I hear my name called. A little voice echoes down the hall and I push myself up over and over, stumble through the dark to be the answer.

I say it after a sleepless night on the couch holding the feverish three year old close. "Today I just really don't want to be the Mom." I'm exhausted and all they want is me. It feels like sacrilege in spoken syllables, but in this moment it is the truth.

It's normal to resist refining. To shrink before it, knowing the path of difficulty that comes next. Bravery isn't just doing the hard things you want to do. Courage isn't about being completely fearless. Both are about trusting that even the hardest things we do can reap bountiful blessings not just for others, but ourselves as well. While in the midst of this mess it might feel like I'm just giving and giving until I give right out, I'm gaining character. Strength. When I choose selflessness even when everything in me is in opposition, the choice becomes practice. And the hard work of practice is, as we all know, a mainstay on the path to perfection.

This Lent I've been looking for God. Wondering how it looks in my life to draw close to Him when I feel 100% of my time and effort is spent on others. Feeling used up and poured out but not refilled. I finally get a full night's rest and wake up with an answer.

All of these things, all of these times when you chose to set aside what you want for what someone else needs - those things refine you. The large and the small. God knows this and expertly weaves spiritual growth right into daily life - communing with you in the very moments that you think drag your focus from Him. He is present in every act of compassion, each time you put comforting another over your own desires for convenience.

He grows me even when I'm not focusing completely on Him, using the life He's given me to disciple my heart closer.

It's a lesson I'll learn over and over again. Maybe for the rest of my life. Putting myself last puts me in lock step with the path He chose. And to walk closely with Him, that's the very first step.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

An (Early!) Birthday Sweater

I convinced him to let me buy the yarn to take on my semi-annual girls trip away. After all, I needed something to work on and the birthdays are just a month or so away...

Well, the yarn came, coinciding with a business trip that took him away for four long days and nights. I had no choice. I started.

At first I told myself I'd just work the yoke - get past the lacework to the mindless knitting that would be prime work for sitting and talking with my girlfriends by the fire. But the yoke went quickly and I told myself alright, just a little bit of the body. When the body was done, I thought maybe I'd save the sleeves but by that point I was really wanting to see the end result.

All in all, I knit her size 7 sweater in a week - trying to convince myself not to the entire way, a good 3 weeks before I left on my trip. I really shouldn't buy yarn in advance. I don't stand a chance.

Apparently I also shouldn't make birthday gifts in advance, because once it was done I couldn't resist giving it to her right away. She has worn it daily for a week and declares it her favorite sweater ever. I really couldn't ask for anything more than that.

Forgive the iphone pictures, my DSLR battery charger bit the dust! The sweater pattern is Granny's Favorite, the yarn is Swish DK  in Dove Heather (approximately 5 balls for size 8), the buttons are 1/2 inch blue glass vintage purchased on Etsy. Linking up with Ginny's Yarn Along today!

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