Speak to Me, I’m Listening: Five Minute Friday

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Photo Credit: emiel bleidd Flickr via Compfight cc

 

When my first child was born, I was so anxious for her to talk. I wanted to know what she was thinking and better able to understand her needs. She may not have been an early talker, but by 18 months she had more than 100 words. Then the second child arrived. He was a later talker, but once he started, he wouldn’t stop. Even at 5, he is the loudest of the house and barely pauses for breath. (I realize this may be a genetic feature I contributed to his DNA).  By the time my third arrived, I didn’t worry much anymore about when he would talk. I knew he would and sure enough he does. Much of it is unintelligible but as he approaches his second birthday, I definitely find myself wishing that it was a little quieter at my house with a whole lot fewer words.

 

Humans want to connect, it is in our nature. But not all of us want to connect with words. But communication, both written and verbal has always been such a central part of who I am. It was surprising to no one when I grew up to enjoy middle school and high school theater products, speech meets and took up writing. When my husband and I read the Five Love Languages together it was apparent very quickly that one of my primary languages is the dialect of quality time called quality conversation. I need to connect with someone through words to feel truly close to them.

 

Spiritually, this is no different. So often in the cacophony that make up my days I find myself wanting to hear God. I want to connect with him through words. This is why prayer and reading the scriptures is so important for me, even though both are something I’ve struggled with over the years. Because without those words, I can’t connect, I don’t feel close.

 

Yet, I have also felt called, especially lately, to spend time in silence. This seems to go entirely against my communicative nature. How can I connect with God without words? For me, I need the silence to better let my heart be my ears. To let the spirit of God impress himself on my soul and find my spirit renewed. This can’t always happen when I’m constantly full of words.

 

It is in those moments when I am too tried and worn out for words that I have no choice but to lift my silence up as an offering and see what He has to say.

 

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Speak to me, Lord. I’m listening.

I Belong Where I Am (And So Do You): Five Minute Friday

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Photo Credit: RStonejr Flickr via Compfight cc

 

It’s another one of those days. The ones where I was up in the night with a child who is old enough not to be up. So I drag myself out of bed much later than intended and already the world seems a wreck and I wonder if it’s even worth trying.

 

I’ve been asking a lot of questions lately about where I fit. Motherhood has this ability to make you feel both indispensable (as in, would anyone in this house be able to find their shoes without me) and useless. (They don’t listen, they constantly complain, and they tell me straight out they wish they were orphans). When the budget numbers won’t add up at the end of the month and the needs outstrip the resources, not even accounting for the wants; sometimes I wonder if this isn’t where I belong.

 

I gave up a job, rather than a career, because it seemed the easiest and best thing to do. In fact it was the dream. To be that stay at home mom. But now when there is more month than money I sometimes question my choice. She screams in my face about how she wishes she didn’t even have a mommy, when he flails and kicks and says I don’t love him and even the toddler gets in on the action. I wonder whether all these hours a day are worth it.

 

I could be being paid and potentially appreciated somewhere. Even if I didn’t love the work at least I’d have something to show for my days besides puffy eyes and weary shoulders.  But I always come back to the same thing: I am needed. I realize needed isn’t the same as valued. I also know that children rarely value their parents but I’ve seen the pain it is to be without them, so I choose to believe that this is my place.

 

I would like to offer some kind of pithy encouragement that makes it all better for those mamas in the trenches like me, wondering if this has all been a terrible mistake.  But all I have to offer is this.

 

This isn’t a mistake. Your life isn’t a mistake. Being mom to this kids, in this place at this time is what you were meant for.

 

It is paradoxical. We have these little creatures that we would die for but at the same time won’t share out secret dessert stash with. We want to give them the moon and yet, if I step on one more pile of toys I’ve asked them to clean up I may sell them to the zoo.

 

This is where I am. It is where I belong, even when I wish I didn’t. When I want to run, I can’t even comprehend where to go.  Because for better or for worse, and mostly some of both; I’m their mother. At least for now, I’m the educator, dishwasher, laundress, house cleaner, sibling fight referee boo boo kisser, and sometimes emotional punching bag.  But it’s my place and I move forward in the belief that somehow all if this is preparing me for what is ahead, both the beautiful and the difficult.

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Are You Even Trying? Five Minute Friday

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Photo Credit: aqua.mech Flickr via Compfight cc

 

Are you even trying?

So often I utter these words to my kids, frequently in anger. Because when I ask them to complete a task, especially one that is well below their ability it is frustrating when it doesn’t even feel like they are making an effort.

They just stand there, eyes glazed over or flop around on the floor like a seizing fish. It is one of those buttons that gets pushed daily and I’m still figuring out how to moderate my response to.

Yes, I could help them. But I my brain runs ahead too a theoretical future where they can’t take care of themselves, where I am still picking up laundry for my 23 year old and my 30 year old still needs me to cook her meals.

But it’s really unfair.

Because I have a loving Father who sees me. He sees when I try and when I don’t even bother.  He knows my heart and my attitude. He can tell the difference between when I’m phoning it in and when I’m giving it my best but failing miserably.

When it comes to my kids or even the other adults in my life, I obviously can’t depend on omniscience to help me discern their motives. But I can extend them the benefit of the doubt. I can assume the best about them and provide my help, sans the judgement and frustration. That applies especially with my kids.

So before I utter those words in frustration and irritation, I can stop and reassess and choose to try harder myself.

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The Lesson in the Blessing: Five Minute Friday

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They don’t always feel like a blessing. I know they are, these wonderful, amazing creatures who carry my DNA. But some days, I doubt whether this was the best life for me. Usually I see the fault as my own, not theirs. They are children and all the wonderful and terrible things that come with that. I am supposed to be the grown up, the one who keeps it together. But lately I’ve been so tired that I don’t want to be the adult. I want someone else to clean up the messes and make the hard decisions.

I think sometimes they make me angry not because they make my life difficult, but rather because they show me what I lack. I am jealous of their freedom to play and run, unencumbered by worry or pretense.

Then I remember, I am supposed to be a child too. My father has everything under control and I am free; if I would allow myself to release the anxiety and stop worrying about tomorrow. Instead of envying my children, I should join them.

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A Place to Launch and Land: Five Minute Friday

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Photo Credit: obsequies Flickr via Compfight cc

 

When you first get pregnant some people refer to the pregnant woman and family as “expecting.” There are so many dreams, assumptions and expectations wrapped up in parenthood, especially with the first child.

I could never have anticipated a baby that didn’t sleep, at all really for almost a year. After successfully nursing my first, I never thought I’d have two boys who each had their own kind of feeding issues that resulted in obsessive weight tracking, and nursing and pumping around the clock. I didn’t imagine I’d be a homeschool mom with an elementary aged reluctant reader and a preschool early reader, at the same time.  That after four years of telling myself my son is just an active boy that I’d be finally getting him evaluated for cognitive processing and other sensory issues; both hopeful and fearful of what I will be told.

As a natural overachiever, I’ve had to learn to lower my expectations as a mom. Because childhood isn’t a race and parenthood isn’t a contest. It shouldn’t matter how my kids and my life match up against others. (Though I’d by lying if I said I don’t still play the comparison game at times).

I read a book recently that had a tag line I’ve tried to embrace.

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I’m still figuring out what this looks like now, with small children. At times it means being honest with my kids when I’m struggling. Remind them I love them, even if their behavior is hurtful to me. Attempting to help them navigate the balance between needed time alone and the realities of living with others.  I expect that we will continue to have difficult seasons in our house. But I also believe I will be granted the strength and grace that I need. I know where I am weak, and it is in those areas where I most expect to see God show up; that when I succeed it may be credited to his might rather than mine.

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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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