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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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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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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Just As I Am: Five Minute Friday

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Photo Credit: Jim Morefield Flickr via Compfight cc

 

This is such a fitting word for someone going through the existential journey I have been on for the past couple of months. Because identity and purpose have been heavy on my mind lately; who I am and how I define myself.  Because I live in a culture that focuses so much on what I do as the definition of who I am.

When you are a parent who primarily stays at home and doesn’t have much else to show for her day than piles of dishes and laundry, defining myself by my accomplishments isn’t very appealing. I don’t produce much in the way of product because most of the tasks in my life are perpetual. Dishes will be used and washed, clothes worn, meals eaten faster than they are prepared.  Much of the rest is immeasurable. I cannot quantify the hugs I give my children or the discipline and encouragement I dispense (often more of one than the other, depending on the day).

It is easiest to define myself as wife and mother but if I wasn’t those things (or if I suddenly ceased to be those things), I am still someone. I can focus on my identity as author, dancer, creative artist, but again, even if those were stripped away, I am still someone.

As I’ve labored over this concept for the past few months a friend commented to me something that has stuck fast, and I keep returning to it again and again.

“Something that God is teaching me is that my most important ‘job’ in life is not to be ‘productive’, but to love Him. If I never work outside the home again; if all of my life is spent driving children, wiping bums and noses, limiting screen time and folding laundry, I am just as loved and valuable to Him as if I was a globe-trotting evangelist – and that’s what is really important. My value needs to be in what He thinks of me, not how ‘productive’ for the Kingdom I feel.”

I strive to live like I really believe this. That even as I pursue God’s will for my life, investing myself in dreams and desires that I believe he has given to me, I need to be willing to build all of that on the immutable and unchangeable foundation of my identity in Christ. That I am a loved child, a daughter of the king. Nothing I accomplish in my life can make me more worthy of that position in the heart of God than my redemption through the blood of Christ has already made me. It is done, finished. With that comes a beautiful freedom to explore because I cannot fail, not really. Because even if my strivings, godly as they are, come to nothing measurable; I am loved just as I am for who I am.

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