Friday, October 24, 2014

Learning To Love Today

I liked her a lot. I liked how her house smelled like rising dough or cinnamon buns, and how she always had a project she was working on. I liked how she knit her way through her kids' schooling every day and churned out homemade gifts at Christmas time. I liked her cloth diapers drying on the line and I liked her valiant attempts at gardening. Yeah, I liked her.

I liked being her. Being that Mom scratching a creative itch every day and turning her home into a place that showcased what mothering joy looked like. I miss her a lot, actually, these days.

For a while after Rosie, I figured it would take me time to find my groove. I picked things up here and there but it never really resurfaced - and the differences between the woman I had been and the woman I was now continued to grow. I wondered - am I lazy? Indifferent? What's my problem, anyway? I loved doing all those things. I loved being that Mom. What changed?

I vented my frustrations to one of my closest, life long friends. "I miss my creative energy. Where did it go?" She spoke truth right to me and I'm still turning it over and over in my mind, amazed at how much it impacts.

"You keep taking on new stages in life without leaving the old ones. It makes sense that you're being stretched in many different ways right now."  She's so right, and it took me six babies to find the truth in it.

I always said adding another baby wasn't an issue. I get babies. I can do babies. Babies are, in many ways, no sweat. Yes there is crying and diapers and whatnot, but I've had enough by now that they don't really drastically change life that much. No, it's not the babies.

Meanwhile, my bigs are getting older. I'm not in complete control of our days as I once was, with all of my littles content to come right alongside Mama in all my plans and dreams. The bigger kids are stretching in their own ways, testing independence and requiring a lot of my attention, prayers, and energy.

This is not an anti-large family statement at all. It's simply fact. The Mama I was with four littles is not the Mama I am with a middleschooler, three elementary kids and two babies (with a third on the way.). I'm a different Mama now. Life is different now. Change just keeps on happening and you'd think by now I wouldn't be surprised. You'd think I'd be able to accept it with grace and find new ways to love where I am today.

I think it took acknowledging the change for me to truly see it, and to find ways to love my current space. Life is a lot more work now, but I love learning with my kids and watching them grow. I love seeing my big kids with the babies and how their friendships with one another are evolving over time. I'm loving partnering with my husband to make decisions about how we want to raise middle school and high school kids and watching us both stretch and grow beyond our comfort zone as we face our own experiences and upbringings and forge a new way, together.

It's glorious stuff, really. Maybe even more glorious than cinnamon rolls. But I'll never know because that's one thing I'll never give up.

Sometimes that Mama comes and visits for a day or so and it's always amazing to see her. But she's only a small part of who I am, growing and changing every day and year that goes by. I'm grateful for that piece of me and for the new ones I'm uncovering every day.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

How To Sit With Suffering

"I've been sick for a solid month. I'm not sure just how much more I can take."

Another day down and I'm flat on my back by 7pm. I try to find the words for the desperation I feel, but it's a wordless thing, how extreme "morning" sickness can take you to a place of mental and emotional darkness like nothing I've ever experienced. Not everyone gets it this badly, and those who don't offer well intentioned tips on teas or candy to try. Those who do merely give you a haunted smile, commiserating that there's really not much you can do but live it.

The early months of pregnancy are usually a dark place for me,  a large part of why I've been so quiet over here. I don't have much to say beyond "this is so hard. I want my life back." The combination of crippling illness mashed up with the rest of life leaving me behind and spiraling out of control leaves me with little good to say.

I lay in bed day after day and I think about the people in my life with chronic illnesses. The crosses they take up daily. How they manage, knowing that, unlike my bout with months-long nausea, this won't pass. Am I just a big wimp? How does one avoid dreading tomorrow when tomorrow is just more of the same difficulty?

It's after a somewhat good day that I happen on the answer. A day when I powered through as much as I could and had a few successes. A day where getting that bathroom clean was a triumph and making a simple dinner for my own family felt like pure luxury. The only way through the hard and horrible is to spot the graces that are always there if you look for them.

My kids pulling more than their own weight. My husband uncomplainingly shouldering my normal tasks. The prayers and well wishes of my friends.

Things that never seemed like blessings before I now see in a new light. The ability to stay upright through dinner with my family. Reading books in bed with my littles when I just can't make it downstairs.

It all serves as a reminder that even on those dark and seemingly pointlessly hard days, God is still working. I know that suffering is not merely an interruption to life, but an opportunity for God to work on those deep, hard to reach places in my heart. My dependence on Him will be increased and He won't fail to meet me step for step.  Even when I feel at my weakest, my most worthless and helpless, He has a purpose for every moment of my life.

These days will pass and soon will be a memory. My life will go back to it's normal business, full to the brim with responsibilities and tasks. A new baby will come along and I'll be even busier. It would be all too easy to miss the opportunity to quietly sit with the difficulty. To swap growth for complaints and misery.

I'm choosing the better way. Keeping eyes open to see how I'm blessed and knowing full well I'll likely miss some of it. Inviting Him into the hardship and clinging close when there are no words.

God is so close sometimes I can't see him. But I know that He's always, always right here. Working His way for my good.

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Monday, October 13, 2014

Taking Offense (A Gentler Approach)

Somewhere, deep in my mom's photo drawer, there is an old photo my sister and me. My sister is sweetly smiling at the camera. I am looking at her with literal open-mouthed rage. My little five year old brow is blackly furrowed and my mom calls my expression "I have never been so insulted in all my life!" The honest portrayal of an apparent bruised emotion leaps right out of the photograph. I laugh every time I see it. 

I don't remember what upset me so badly that day, but I can guarantee it was something that felt life shattering at the time. Offenses feel like that. Irrepairably devastating. 

I think about that photo today after talking to a friend about hurt feelings and treating one another well and figuring out the balance in living authentically while dealing gently with the people around us. 

My mom always taught us to take no offense where none was meant. It's a  good rule of thumb, something that makes good logical sense there on the page. But life doesn't always feel logical. Emotions don't follow rules of conduct.  If I'm hurt, it hurts. If someone accidentally knocks you off your bike, it still hurts -even if it wasn't meant to. 

It's a good reminder for me. I'm not the sensitive type, generally speaking. I put my foot in my own mouth often enough to know that accidents happen, spoken and unspoken. I tend to hold my mom's exhortation up as an excuse for myself. I don't mean to be objectionable, so people should just get over it. But that doesn't address the reality of hurt. That pain is pain, knowingly inflicted or accidentally fumbled. 

In the mama world, offenses are rampant, both intended and accidental. Someone posts an article we don't agree with and suddenly we wonder if that mom is secretly judging us. Someone else chooses a different path, or doesn't take our advice, and it can be too easy to feel slighted, rejected or found wanting. 

Sometimes we make assumptions which are just as damaging. "She home schools so she must think I'm evil for sending kids to school." "She works so she must think I'm lazy because I don't." Instead of investing in an actual relationship, we wall ourselves in with defenses. 

Mothering is so personal, so tied up in our self worth that we can get a little crazy with the defensiveness. I know. I've done it. 

The answer isn't a blanket statement of "take no offense where none was meant!" It's not "don't have an opinion because it could hurt someone's feelings!" The answer, for all moms, for all women, and dare I say for all people is simply this: 

Be kind. Understand that your perspective may not be the only one, or the only right one. Be gentle. Treat each other the way you'd like to be treated. Ever make a mistake? Me, too. Let's give each other grace, yes? Don't be afraid to apologize and always, always forgive. It's alright to sit with the pain of a slight, but know that harboring those feelings long term only breeds further discord. Take your time, but move toward letting it go. 

The world is a more gentle and peaceful place when we can live together as beautifully varied people and learn to love the differences. Even if I'm pretty sure I'm mostly right. At least some of the time.