Visiting Our Marriage: Five Minute Friday

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It’s official, last week it was 14 years. It feels like a long time and yet barely scratching the surface. In the beginning, the early years, it was like striking oil; new and exciting things to share. Now it’s more like digging and pumping through layers of rock. There is more, I believe even more than we can imagine, but it will be harder work to get to it than in the past.

It feels funny that we have to schedule visits just to be together. But without it, we are so easily distracted and pulled into all the things that busy us. We both have minds that are constantly spinning both with the day to day requirements (at least for me), existential wonderings (that’s mostly hubby) and then our creative sides. Because we both have very creative sides that often have to be deferred if not suppressed during this consuming season of raising little ones. Without the luxury of the budget to pay regular sitters we try to decide carefully how to devote our few kid free hours every couple of months. Is a movie worth it? For me, only if it’s followed by dinner so we can discuss and connect.

It is work that I believe is worth doing, but so often it seems like the universe conspires against us having an uninterrupted sentence let alone finish a complete thought or have an intelligent discussion. (I can remind my five year old every day, multiple times a day not to interrupt when Daddy and I are trying to talk, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t still happen. Every single day, every single conversation, every single sentence. Basically every time I take an inhale that communicates I might be planning to use more than three words at a time.)

But we keep trying. Because for us, sharing what makes us unique, and the crazy way our minds work is an important part of emotional intimacy. A friend, whose children are older than mine, refers to the time after the littlest years are over as the Renaissance. After the dark ages of night time feedings and ten diaper changes a day, there is time and energy, sometimes even money for art, cultural, creativity and enlightenment. Sad as I am to see the end of the baby years, I look forward with hopeful anticipation.

We’ve spent all these years trying to stay connected, even if by a thread at times, believing that there will be time to learn and grow together again. Hoping the next 14-50 years is full of lots of it.

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Photo courtesy of Laura Mounts

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Motherhood; Costly But Strategic: Five Minute Friday

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photo courtesy of Twinkle Photo

I was recently able to share with my MOPS group some of my thoughts on motherhood and my inspiration came from a strange source; the story Biblical story of Abraham burying his wife. Surely, not an obvious connection.

But the part that spoke to me most was when Abraham insisted on paying full price for his wife Sarah’s tomb, before knew what that price was. This, to me, is a picture of motherhood. Some of us dreamed and planned for years before becoming mothers. For others it was a surprise and perhaps not an entirely welcome one. Yet none of us could be prepared for what becoming mothers would cost us. Motherhood is expensive not just financially but in terms of time, energy and often dignity

For me, it meant difficult pregnancies and deliveries. When I choose to stay at home that meant, culturally speaking, I lost my individual identity. Without a product to provide or a quantifiable service, or drawing a paycheck; I suddenly became ill defined. I was “just” a mom. Forever more I will be recognized, at least in part if not in whole, as a parent rather than a person with goals, dreams and aspirations of my own.

I had no idea all that being a mom would cost me and yet I agreed to it gladly and I would do it again (at least most days). But I am also working through the process of recognizing how my motherhood is a tool for my growth rather than a barrier to my development.

Another detail I love from Abraham’s story is that he buried his wife facing the land of the promise, the land where his descendants would thrive and become a great nation. He made a strategic choice, looking to the future. I believe parenthood is a strategic thing as well. Some of it is our own strategy, to carry on our values, culture and genetic material. But I believe that much of it is an act of God.

 

The Bible says God places us into families and I firmly believe that our children are part of God’s strategy. No matter how our families are formed, whether through birth, adoption, blending with remarriage or otherwise; it is part of God’s deliberate plan. Our children are not ours by accident. But rather with great intention, both for us and for them.

On those days when I feel most ill equipped, I try to remember that as hopeless as I feel at this job, I was intended to be their mother. That as the Lord Almighty was numbering my days, he saw fit to give me these children. Which means he will also provide me the strength I need to bring them up and help them to become who they are supposed to be.  They are also part of my own redemptive process as I am molded and shaped into the person I am supposed to be. Because I am never “just a mom” but being a mother can be a crucial asset for growth in all the other parts of me and reaffirm to me who I am.

(Full disclosure: I was on a roll today and wrote for longer than five minutes. I hope you enjoyed it anyway).

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Let Wisdom Replace Doubt: Five Minute Friday

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Photo Credit: Neillwphoto Flickr via Compfight cc

I was raised with a very strong sense of duty. You show up on time, keep your commitments even if it’s uncomfortable or inconvenient. I recognized early on in life that there are lot of things you do because it’s right and good, not necessarily because you want to.

Then enter parenthood. Suddenly the list of shoulds became huge and sometimes they contradicted each other. Baby should sleep in bed with mommy vs. Baby should never sleep in bed with mommy. Children need to play independently especially outside vs. Children should never be left alone outside for any period of time.
Other times the standards set felt insurmountable. Children should rarely, if ever watch TV, have sugar, wear clothing made of two kids of fabrics. (Ok, I made that last one up.) Being a mom meant a world filled with new levels of obligation and oceans of new guilt. With every decision I made, there was enough evidence and social pressure from the opposite opinion that I doubted myself constantly. Staying at home, homeschooling, the list went on. It wasn’t that I was too overwhelmed to make choices, just that I was almost never confidence I was making the right ones.

Sometimes even when I was unhappy with the course I’d set, I felt powerless to try and change it. Why put in all that extra effort if it wasn’t necessary, I was still going to feel guilty and tomorrow a study will come out to suggest that my original choice was right all along?

It took me a long time to silence the voices of duty. Honestly, they are with me still. But quieter whispers now instead of demanding shouts. It is easier to ignore them and try instead to replace them with words of truth. Not that I don’t fulfill my responsibilities, I’m just more deliberate what I commit myself too. But I haven’t yet learned to quiet the murmurings of guilt when I read another article or see another volunteer need.

Sometimes I let them become quite loud, and they drown out the beauty and the wonder of this life that I am both carefully chosen and yet accidentally found. (Because so much of life with that strange combination of intentionality and serendipity).

But I’m working hard to pray for mercy instead of cling to impossible standards and ask for wisdom instead of being wracked with doubt. All my shoulds and oughts were covered by the blood at the cross, and that doesn’t exclude my parenting ones.

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Frustration Friday: Five Minute Friday

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Photo Credit: Kevin Baird Flickr via Compfight cc

 

Before I was a parent and I was full time in the workforce, I lived for Fridays. There was a wonderful energy and an extra surge of efficiency that came with Fridays, especially on a wonderful spring day when the weather was good. I would fly through the afternoon and the world always seemed to look brighter. Then I became a parent. Fridays now seem to be the final gasp, bare minimum, “dear God, isn’t this week over yet?” kind of days. The time when I reevaluate my life and am always seemed to be found wanting.

I aspire to contentment. Because being happy with where I’m at, contrary to what our culture may portray, is not the same as apathy. But sometimes I’m not happy with where I am. Because I don’t feel like I am enough for what I am facing.

I don’t feel like I’m strong enough to be the wife my husband needs. I’m definitely not patience enough to be the mother my spirited children need, especially my 5 year old son. (Also known as Calvin or the Tasmanian Devil. We often say that Robin, like bagpipes is best enjoyed outside). As a home school mom I often feel as though I am ill equipped to educate a self declared hated of learning and a gifted child who is rarely still. This doesn’t even begin to touch my goals as a writer and my other ministry work.

I feel as though I have to be more, to do to even have a chance of succeeding. No one wants to fail as a parent. (Not that I’m even sure what failure looks like aside from my child growing up to hate me or becoming a criminal of some kind). Yet I’m constantly reading books and articles, and attempting to improve myself. The same goes for my marriage. I’m always afraid that simple satisfaction will lead to stagnation in a relationship that is ever changing. I can’t just be a wife, I have to be the best wife I can possibly be (while also of course being the best parent, writer, teacher, etc).

I tell myself that I am enough, that God fills the gaps where I am deficient. But those are encouragements for a Sunday morning, when the world feels new and I tackle my week with ambition and purpose. Right now it’s Friday, and all I can see are dirty floors, cranky kids and an unshowered mama who isn’t sure what’s for dinner.

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He Sings Too: Five Minute Friday

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He likes to sing along, this last baby of mine. He doesn’t have many words (except shoe, which is his favorite thing to say), but he likes to add his voice to the chorus of little people in my house. The son and daughter are always singing. Silly songs, Star Wars songs, anything they come up with. The baby just adds his own flair to their creations.

His voice is changing now, less baby, more toddler and I know that soon he will be filled with words rather than the tender vocalizations that melt my heart. A part of me is sad as I see the baby years begin to fade in the rear view mirror of my life. The sleepy night time cuddles and snuggles. He’s always been such a trooper, contented to go along wherever we had to be. Now he has stronger opinions and he vocalizes them loudly (if often wordlessly).

I know that I will blink and the diaper years will be gone and all the rest will follow close behind. (We’re already making plans for the crib to take it’s well deserved retirement from service.) Everyone said it would go fast, and I tried so hard to slow it down. As I tuck him in at night and hold him close and whisper “Please don’t grow up too fast. You’re the last one.”

(We call the picture, the Simon selfie. The only way to get a decent picture of him these days).

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The Quiet: Five Minute Saturday

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Photo Credit: [Alan] Flickr via Compfight cc

It’s the empty day. Good Friday is over but Easter Sunday is still on it’s way. Though our culture has filled with day with egg hunts and food prep (I know I’ll spend most of today cleaning my house). But it is essentially a day of silence. The day God was quiet with the world.

The man who so many had set his hopes on was dead. He was buried in the tomb and all hope seemed lost. Saturday is the day of doubts, the day of grief. For the disciples, as good Jews, it was also the Sabbath. A return to normalcy and yet not. Because things would never be normal again.

Grief is like that. We feel like things will never be right again. After all the hubbub of funerals and memorials have past, we are left with the emptiness and trying to find a way to create some kind of normal again.

This is where we have the advantage. We know that Sunday is coming. But that doesn’t mean that we should skip the experience of the silence. I heard a counselor once say, lean into the pain, because there is no avoiding it or going around it or rushing through it.

Today is a day of unknown waiting. I think a lot of can feel this. We know all that we hope for, but it feels uncertain. All we can hear is the quiet and wonder where God is. As you fill your day with celebrations and pleasant diversions, take a few moments to think about this grief day. Connect with the pain and waiting in your own life. It may feel like a dark time. But the dawn is coming.

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We’ve Got This: Five Minute Friday

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Photo Credit: ryeckman Flickr via Compfight cc

I hate that I couldn’t handle it alone. I love to write but technology is not my forte. So whenever I need something, it’s computer programmer husband to the rescue. He gamely offered to help me with some blog research last night which led to a multi-hour drama after I clicked the wrong button. (I firmly believe that everything in life should have an undo button).

Then at 4 AM the smoke alarm started chirping. Of course we couldn’t figure out which one it was. I know my husband doesn’t do well with early morning wakings and I desperately wanted to take care of it myself so he could sleep. An hour later after changing three batteries, he gave up on sleep and I crashed for another hour or two, but not before feeling guilty that I was sleeping and he was awake, headed exhausted into another workday.

I know marriage is supposed to be a team, but sometimes I hate how much I need him. Because I worry that someday if he isn’t there I won’t be able to make it on my own. In a generation that is teaching women self-reliance, after seeing other women flounder after losing husbands to death or divorce I feel like I should be able to do it all on my own.

At the same time, I love knowing that he has my back. He may be cranky at 4 AM, but he takes care of whatever the problem is. He got up with the babies when they were small, and even now when they get sick in the night. I don’t know why I’m so stuck on the idea that I need to be enough on my own.

Maybe it’s just important that I know I can do all the stuff, but that I’m lucky enough not to have to. We share the load not because I am less capable but based on preference and gifting. It doesn’t mean I’m not good enough, but that I have a partner who is equal to this difficult task we have taken on; to share a life and build a family. With God’s help, we’ve got this. Neither of us has to labor alone.

So, Hon, if you are reading this half asleep at your desk at work; thanks again for everything you did last night. Hopefully there’s a full night’s rest coming your way.

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