Friday, February 5, 2016

Inspired Joy

It's Friday morning. Only half of the kids have eaten breakfast. The baby is on my back. I've already had to instruct on why we treat siblings with kindness and I'm not done with my first cup of coffee yet. One of the kids was sick during the night, so that lovely laundry is waiting for me, plus the normal school/jobs/life stuff that is incessant.

I spoke with a Mom's group yesterday on the topic of rest, and while I was preparing I kept had the nagging feeling that I really had no authority to speak to them. Who, after all, am I? My house is always a mess. My heart, too. I don't have any "hacks" on how to make this motherhood thing any easier. If anything, the one thing I'm sure of is that it's not getting any easier. I can't offer them a pin-worthy picture of happy homeschooling or 10 tips on how to get siblings to get along.

It's almost like the longer I'm at this gig, the less I'm sure of anything. Didn't I used to think I had some of this figured out? Every day here feels like I'm starting back at square one. Back to the basics, time and again.

My husband has been working at a warehouse while he looks for a new job. It is long hours, backbreaking work, he comes home with sore muscles and calloused hands and a bone-deep exhaustion that only 12 hours of physical labor can bring. He confides in me one night - "I love it." And I think I get it.

While he's working hard for his family, I'm just doing the next right thing here at home. Grown ups struggling doesn't mean that childhood stops, and my kids still need me. They still need my kiss on the tops of their heads when I set their breakfast in front of them. They need my singing at the sink. They need my tickles and laughs and they need my warm arms in the middle of dark nights. I keep doing the next thing even during this difficult time in our family, and it reminds me of something.

Moms need to be very careful where they get their inspiration from - and what they fill their minds with. The internet is filled with images, some benign, some not so benign - and some that you don't realize are stealing your joy until it's too late. What really is the harm in a few unrealistic pictures? Of beautifully (albeit expensively) decorated homes, beautiful happy children in thousand dollar get ups and women modeling motherhood who are barely old enough to be a mom, much less have ever experienced it?

We see what unrealistic images can do to expectations. We live in a culture that is proof of that and I don't know about you, but I'm not really liking the result.

When we fill our minds with more of this than reality (which lightning fast internet speeds make all too likely), a shift happens. We can't help but compare our experiences - and find our lives lacking. Discontent moves in and gratitude moves out and instead of waking in the morning with anticipation at the day ahead, we just want to quit. Comparison becomes our companion.

I finding myself increasingly looking to step back from glossy pictures of perfection and the discouraged way they make me feel. I'm looking elsewhere. I'm looking for reality.

One of my favorite images of motherhood ever is this photo, taken during the great depression. When I see it, I feel it. To me, it encompasses how mothering feels quite a bit of the time - although I've never been in such dire straits as the Mom pictured. But when I see it, I feel strong. Instead of showcasing an impossible standard, I see something here worth emulating. Something worth working toward. It inspires me to take this day, this house, this family, this life - imperfections and all - and be the best I can be.

I want to be a mom. Not a model. I want to be home to my family, a person of peace, a place to rest. I don't want to flee from discomfort, pain or struggle - I want to dive in head first and find the redemption there at the bottom. Because I know it's there.

I get why my husband kind of likes the way it feels to work so hard it hurts. To take something that maybe isn't the prettiest thing ever and really give it your all.

I have less answers than I did 10 years ago, but I have more strength. More adaptability.  More grit. More gentleness. More gratitude. More peace.

And at the center of it all, 


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