Sunday, May 26, 2013

32 years and another Holiday weekend

This week, I celebrated my 32nd birthday.
Gasp.
In the grand scheme of things, it's pretty young.
But, I have to admit, I kind of thought I'd be "further along" than this by age 32.

Maybe the 30s are as overhyped as your high school and college days. 
Supposed to be the prime of your life, but instead rife with doubt and insecurity and many more questions than answers.

I'm going to be honest. True to the theme of this year, this was one of the worst birthdays of my life. Overwhelmed by the seemingly incessant bumps and bruises we've received this year, my heart feels like it's hanging by a thread. I'm broken.

And so, even as I shudder while I say it: this was one of the best birthdays of my life. 

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance."
James 1:2-3

God's doing something in our family right now. And, contrary to what I start to believe sometimes: it's not to be mean, it's not because he doesn't care, it's not even because "we deserve it". It's because He wants us to grow. 

And I can't think of anything better than that.

Conflict is hard, and both of us hate it, and avoid it at almost every cost. JT has difficulty saying no to anyone or anything, and while I am slightly more assertive in other situations, I am so in love with him, that I find myself almost completely at his mercy most of the time.

Thankfully, he is quite merciful.

But I have come to the conclusion that, while many things require only waiting, praying, and trusting God- the situations that I am most likely to be challenged are the times when I am called to call out the status quo. To stand up for something I believe. Come out of my comfort zone instead of just going along, for the common good.

We're growing. We've learned things about each other this week that, even after 6 years of marriage, we never knew. We're growing more mature as individuals. We're growing closer as a couple.
We've both felt a lot of pain. 
But pain isn't always from an injury. Sometimes it comes from exercising a muscle that you haven't used in a long time (or ever). Sometimes injury comes when you feel no pain at all, and healing can be the most painful experience of your life.

It's always worth it.

I'm thankful to God for this birthday week. For another lonely holiday weekend. For opportunities to be broken, humbled, intensely lonely, afraid, and insecure. 
For moments of raw honesty, reassurance, and deep intimacy.

I'm trying to internalize it all. To grow, and remember it, so I can teach it to my children.
I'm learning that when you say no to yourself too many times, you begin to lose important parts of who you are, and that benefits no one. I am keenly aware of the things I am teaching my children about themselves when I am too quick to intervene when they are having their own struggles.

I've stopped calling my youngest son: "baby". He's now my "2nd big boy."

It's been a great week. 
The Dude is waist deep in potty training, and finding enormous success (and a few failures, which he has handled with grace). Aquaman is facing down the giants of handwriting, and the even bigger giant of realizing that, though most things have come easily to him, some things will require much more attention.

 And many more failures.

As a family, we are facing and owning up to our many failures. There's an enormous amount of freedom in it.

It's been a hard year. It's been an awesome year.
Someday, I think I will probably look back at this 32 year old birthday as one of the best and most significant of my life.

I'm embracing the freedom, the complications, the complete inadequacy and feelings of isolation.
I'm accepting the difficulties that have come directly from the hands of God, from the evil one, from other people- and most importantly, from myself.

And I'm finding grace.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

On Mother's Day

It's my 4th Mother's Day as an actual mother. And I'm not feeling very eloquent.

With my baby now being 2 and (mostly) weaned, I'm finally sleeping again. Waking maybe once a night for half an hour or so and then back to bed.
Of course the 5 am wake-up calls still leave me a little foggy. So maybe that's the reason why my thoughts have slowed to a crawl. Why words feel fuzzy in my head and don't add up.
So I just give up and breathe.

I'm behind a week on my weekly posts. And what's strange is, it's not because I've been busier than usual.
Sure, in order to finally write this, I had to leave unfolded laundry on the bed. The refrigerator needs cleaning. I could be reading our new library books to the boys instead of letting them watch Berenstain Bears, all wrapped up in their towels, fresh from a shower after playing in their baby pool full of soap bubbles and then proceeding out into the parking lot to run their push toys through the mud. And pause to dip their curls in it.

 This is our 30 minute window before they're covered in mud again. I had to stop and sniff them before I came down the stairs to write.

It's not that I feel like writing. That the words are burning inside of me like they sometimes do. They're barely there. And frankly, I'd rather curl up on the floor with the Foot Book, and Modern Marvels: The Car.
But it's been a good weekend. My words have been mostly patient. I've gotten down on the floor a lot. I've studied and memorized the boys' faces and expressions.
And the fact is, it's important to write during these times too. Because I'll want to remember them.

The times when I have stopped trying to figure things out. When life still doesn't make much sense at all. But I just don't care. Because here, today, these moments....they're good. Really good. Beautiful even.

It looks like things aren't going to change as much as we thought they were. And though I've had my moments of wondering why, wondering why we have gone through all that we have when it seems to be for nothing. Wondering how things are going to come together tomorrow...Today things are pretty good.

Standing on the beach this morning, watching the way the rising sun blurred behind the clouds, and our boys try to run after JT as he and the group of lifeguards began their training for the 2013 regional competition- it all felt so right. So normal.

And lately, I've been realizing that some of my perspectives have become distorted.

Call it asceticism. Call it pride.

But my immediate assumption whenever I feel comfortable, whenever I feel home, is to believe that I must not be in the will of God.

And sure, it's true. Jesus wants us to step out on the water. He wants us to endure hardships.
But I've been realizing lately that sometimes when he CALLS us to something hard...it's a lot easier than it might be for someone else. And, if our delight is in the Lord, it's a lot easier than doing something He has NOT equipped us to do.

I think JT and I have probably been equipped by God to do well without fancy cell phones (we just lose and break them anyway), and a big house, and new cars, and a large savings account. It's been hard, but we have weathered 4 mother's days, and countless weekends and holidays with him at work.

But being apart from each other 48 hours at a time, or putting our kids in full-time childcare. Those trials seem insurmountable.
Maybe the reason isn't that we don't have enough faith...but that it's not what we have been called to do.

I don't resent a simple life. I married a simple man, and to me that is the finest compliment I could ever give.

I've been reading a lot of Ecclesiastes lately. It's a good Mother's book. After all, there is not anything that feels more futile than making breakfast, cleaning it up, making lunch, cleaning it up, making dinner...
There is not a much more vain thing than to mop the floor with a 2 year following behind with his own mop. Then stopping to help your 4 year old find the green boat that fell out of the baby pool and is hidden underneath a dump truck...and not noticing that the previous 2 year old has dipped HIS mop into the pool and then the corresponding dirt, and has now gone back to helping you mop the kitchen.
As I've written this post, I have doled out 6 spoonfuls of peanut butter. I've changed the movie 4 times. I've kissed the same belly button more than once. And I've laughed with Aquaman at Papa Bear on a Unicycle and a butterfly named Ricky.
If that's not meaningless, I don't know what is.

Motherhood has been one of the greatest gifts of my life. There have been few things that have conjured up such complete weariness and merriment and passion and devotion and fury as being a mother.
Over the past several weeks, as we have wrestled with questions about the future, I have felt God assure me that my delight in my children does not just arise from my own selfish desires. It has been placed there by Him, and He has called me to invest deeply in them.

Work can wait. Though we like to convince ourselves otherwise, we can be easily replaced at work. Just a little while, and people barely remember you. But our children only get one mother. And what we invest in them will be a vital part of their lives.

I've been wrestling a lot, trying to figure out what the Bible really says that wisdom is.Wisdom is a lot of things in the Bible. It's planning carefully for the future, and setting aside the surplus during the good times. It's counting the cost before we step out.

The wisdom of this world is foolishness.

The Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

And that's why I don't have any answers today. Except peace in my heart about where God has me today. And that "godliness with contentment is great gain. And having food and clothing, with these we will be content." Not with having everything we want. Not with having everything we think we need. But having food and clothing.
And we've got plenty of those things.

"That which is has already been, and what is to be has already been; And God seeks an account of what is pursued."  -Ecclesiastes 3:15

I loved this when I read it the other day. I did not remember having read it before. And somehow, that simple sentence, gave me the peace to close my Bible and begin my day. It is not so much in what we do with our lives. It is what we are pursuing with them.

Working ourselves miserable is meaningless. Living for the pleasures of this world: meaningless. Motherhood: for the sake of accomplishment. For perfection. For worldly accolades or personal satisfaction and the pride of this life? Meaningless.

And so begins the pursuit of the Lord. A personal offering. That isn't always as painful as we think it's going to be.

Sometimes the sacrifice feels small, so immersed is it in beauty.