I love blogs, I do. I also love magazines. I read as many of each as I can cram into my life, and I am often caught recommending, explaining, reacting to some story that I have read or tidbit that touched me.
I love stories. And I don’t have all the time I wish to write them right now, but there are thousands running through my head.
I am pretty sure I also have adult-onset ADHD.
Anyway, on Saturday morning, lounging in my bed while the littles were at my parents’ house, a friend of mine posted a link to a blog. Another one. And it was another Mommy story, which are in droves around me yet so hard to resist.
So, I read it.
And… I can’t get it out of my head.
(Sidenote: It was written by Compassion blogger Ann Voskamp, which I just discovered. Yay!)
And meanwhile, I will only say that I have accepted the challenge of the words, whether they were meant as such for me or not. There are so many things to do, desires and dreams to chase, minutes to steal for this and that. But at the end of each day, I hope I can say I gave my little ones my first, my best, my softest ~ not my frustrations, not my leftovers. And in that, I pray they are always getting what they need.
Looks like we might have one more Happy Birthday Jesus celebration here.
Yes, I am crying in the 2009 version. Shut up.
Since we got married, we’ve been saying, We’re going to move.
First it was when Paige graduated high school (anticipated: 2012).
Then it was to be when Josh graduated high school (2009).
Then it was this year, and so the house when up for sale.
And now we wait.
During all the other times, when making long term plans, we would say to each other, and advise J&P: “Make plans as if we’re staying.” But since that ugly black and yellow sign went up on our lawn in the beginning of May, we’ve been living in a limbo state.
Do we plan parties?
Do we become church members?
Do we put up holiday decorations?
Do we sign up for classes?
Do we…should we…what if we…?
Since we’ve returned from the big trip, I have found myself sick of “that place.” There’s stuff I want to do. There are things I want the kids to do. There are stabilizations and solidifications (possibly, I made those words up) I want in place.
So last week, we filled out church membership cards.
Rod explored some continuing education options and affiliations.
I signed Miranda up for ballet class.
Paige is looking at some junior college courses for January.
And I’ve planned Miranda’s birthday party and Christmas Eve to be here…in our house, where we live.
I thought we would be gone by now, but I am ok with being here. I thought I’d be missing my IL friends by now, but instead, I’m hanging on tightly.
I feel like I was ready to bungee jump: All the tethers were strapped on and secured, my heart was pumping, my knees were bent, I was ready to jump and…
Someone told me to wait a while.
And I’ve deflated. Because…it’s a long way down!
(Another fitting metaphor: kinda like when you think you’re going to sneeze and then..Pow. Bam! BOOM! Nothin’).
We need to sell this house. We need to continue our efforts to simplify and focus.
But we need to live, and God…did not create a limbo. So I refuse to live there anymore.
If you’re not busy December 24, Christmas Eve will be at our house.
If it sells by then, I might be hosting on the bus, but the invitation is still open.
This was our fourth NQC, our first with no one in diapers. (By the end of the week, Miranda asked me, “Why do you keep telling people KK is in big girl pants? And why are they so happy about it?” I told her, of course, that it was my official NQC 2010 sound byte. She nodded and moved on).
Rod got to sing his token one song. We didn’t sell a blessed thing. We spent $20 on a few ice cream cones. We had a few of those, “Why the heck are we even here?” moments. And then…perspective shifted.
This week was not life changing like Colombia; I didn’t expect it to be. But I also didn’t expect it to be what it was, which was life-enhancing. I still have too much convention-hangover to be totally coherent, and my poor trashed babies will be waking up as soon as they sense my peace and productivity, so here I list my highlights and lessons:
*Relationships are all about managing expectations. I know this, have been hurt by the lack of understanding it, and was reminded gently and wisely by some parental-figures yesterday. Someone who always cuts you off to talk about her own thing? She’s never going to be that interested in what I say, but it doesn’t mean she is a bad person or not even a good friend. Someone who is more self-promoting than you can stomach at times? It doesn’t take from the fact that he/she loves you and supports you. And TRUST… well, I guess I don’t have to feel bad about not really trusting anyone. I have to feel motivated to trust God more. People are faulted. It’s why we need a Saviour.
*Turning the other cheek doesn’t have to feel like surgery without anesthesia. This week, the Italian Girl From Chicago Heights in me was faced with a chance for a confrontation… to vent my anger and express my hurt. The Christ in me was able to swallow the thirst for a fight, for vengeance, for metal folding chairs connecting with skulls (Italian, folks!) and allow an avoidance to take place. We avoided each other. I had to keep my kids from seeing some people I know they love and wanted to see. That’s hard. But it’s necessary. And the moment is over. It is truly time, once again, to move on from broken relationships and take the good things with us. There are always good things.
*The light of eternity is the brightest.Southern gospel singers are not stars. They just aren’t. A few of them walk around this particular venue like they are, as if they walked the same way down Chicago Road (in the Heights!) or Michigan Avenue or Rodeo Drive or Times Square, people would recognize them. I used to be frustrated by those people. Now I feel sad for them. There are a lot of little funny buzz phrases that float around NQC and the world of southern gospel. One of them is,”I’m/We’re just singin’ for Jesus.” Well, not to get all spiritual (another buzz phrase), but if you’re singing gospel music and the act is not about Jesus… seriously… do everyone a favor… Go sing something else.
I can’t say that it would not be exciting and impressive for Rod to sing on that Main Stage, with its shiny instruments and great lighting and surrounding people. Of course it would. But if that moment is what “it’s all about,” what would everyone have left when that moment is over? We have work to do!
*My purpose is close at hand. One of the encounters I had this week was regarding our Colombia trip. We got to share with the people who made the decision to send us there about what we took away from it. It wasn’t a slide-show conversation, covering the sweet memories and simplistic summaries of the trip. It was actually a gut-wrenching little time as we gave words to what is now running through our veins, as we were admonished and encouraged that there is a purpose ahead for us that effects eternity in ways we hadn’t thought of before. And I considered the question, “Why do you think God took you to Colombia?” I had a picture in my mind. It was Julia Roberts as Vivian in Pretty Woman (why yes, folks, at this moment I pictured a hooker. Also, I mixed it up with a quote from As Good As It Gets. What of it?), after she had been treated rudely while shopping in Beverly Hills, pulling all the crumbled, balled-up money out of her bag and weepily handing it to a nice man and saying, “I don’t know what to do with this.”
That is me in this moment. I have stuff of value. I have gifts God has given. And I have tried all my adult life to find The Thing to do with it. I’ve been successful or found potential success in more careers than I can always recount. I’ve surprised myself with the things I’ve been able to do. But I still don’t know what The Thing is that I’m supposed to be doing, and even in light of the GREAT THINGS we’ve been involved in – the Branson event, the magazine for me, the Colombia trip, MIRACLE BABIES!, I know there is a Thing coming that will tie it all together.
So at the end of this crazy week – still nearly impossible to describe after 4 years, I sit on my bus, comfortable, at home. I miss my friends and family in Chicago a LOT, but not my house. I miss the order of a life in which ministry was singing in the worship team on Sundays, but not so much that I would return to it. I miss the calmness and freedom of unplanned weekends and DVR’d TV shows, but I would never trade what I have gained – especially post-Colombia, and where I sense it will take us.
Back in the veryveryvery beginning of my knowing Rod, one day I sent him a barrage of emails with the words to Guns n Roses “Sweet Child of Mine.” You know, that vocal riff Axl does at the end that starts with “Where do we go now, where do we go?” Yeah. I typed that.
I’ll not be doing that again, but I find myself asking the question a lot these days.
Branson Gospel Music Convention 2010 came in whirl of activity… an extreme sport of highs and lows, victories and disappointments, love and resentment, surprises and plans fulfilled. It was a good time, a great success, actually, but for some reason I came home dejected, isolated, and kind of lost.
Meanwhile, we’ve had showing after showing on our house, with no offers yet. And while I am not in a hurry for the vast unknown of packing up and moving our family to a different state, I hate limbo. Hate. It. The fun of making the house “show ready” in the midst of our home office and two toddlers kind of gets stale after awhile as well.
And… the inevitable occurred, the end of Rod’s severance. And while we have downsized and saved and prepared for this time of true self-employment, it is scary to me. Scary! And yet I know good things, reliable things, better things are coming down the pike. I just can’t see them yet.
Honestly, the only thing I have been excited about lately is preparation for homeschooling. Paige, after 11 years of public school, has decided to take the leap this year. So I spend time shopping curriculum, planning applications, thinking it through, adding Miranda’s pre-school start-up to the mix. As usual, I like the New Thing aspect of a new adventure. I have no idea how we as a family will accomplish such a task in the midst of travel, moving, et al, but I know it’s the right thing for us.
So what is the problem, you ask? Well, I don’t know. I guess for the moment, it’s my own lack of vision. There are all these plates spinning in the world around me and while I can manage to keep them spinning, I don’t see an end game. There are words that have been spoken to us that I took to heart and believed, but I don’t see the actions to accompany them, yet. There are dreams and visions birthed in moments of true excitement that now seem like one more thing to do.
I am looking for my purpose, I guess. I had it, and now it feels lost.
One of the most amazing moments of the week in Branson, which feels so far right now, was a small opportunity I received to preach. The message I gave focused in part on my transformation from a person who always expected the worst to a person who believes so much in God’s best for me that I have come to look for it—
You know, one of those annoying people who looks for a rainbow whenever it rains?
You know what’s more annoying?
A person who believes the rainbow is coming but gets testy, impatient, even grossly ambivalent when it is delayed.
I am trying to keep from being that person, hoping it’s just an early-Halloween costume I’ve temporarily donned to cope with a passing season. Ambivalence and cynicism breed nothing productive, and a lack of productivity, above all else, is something I cannot tolerate.
So I will just keep chanting, singing, sending Rod messages: Where do we go now, ah-ha-a-a-a-a-a-a-a….?
Even though I generally have more fun with Twitter, even though FB can be fraught with drama, I can’t give it up. I have a great time wishing people Happy Birthday even if I haven’t seen them since junior high, I like looking at pictures of people’s kids and vacations and proms, I am seriously happy to have reconnected with teachers I’ve had and friends from Saukview School and people we only see occasionally on the road and to keep up with friends who live far away.
But I hate, hate, HATE FB drama. I hate when people use their status bar as a weapon or a way to vaguely suggest something BIG is going on so everyone will ask WHAT? These things are the sure ways for me to hit that ‘delete’ button.
There’s another button I’ve been using lot lately, though, and it’s the HIDE. Because I can’t believe some of the things people write… people whom I am certain would not say such things in Real Life. And I am not talking about the ‘drunk’ FBers, the bitter victims of break ups, or the chronic vulgarity-users. I’m talking about The Mommies, including the Good Christian Mommies, who seem to have the market cornered on what is good for EVERYone’s children.
I have always been a firm believer that everyone who seems to have it All Together likely doesn’t. I’ve told people before: I struggle with new mommies who have perfect figures, because mine is far from the less-than-perfect (but looking back 4 years and 25 pounds ago, pretty hot) one that I had pre-pregnancy. I admit, I have not made my shape a priority, though my appearance pretty much grieves me. I’m a hair and make-up girl, I take pride in looking nice, even if I’m going to just be home all day, but if one more person mistakes my Leftovers for another baby on the way, I might be performing lyposuction on myself. I have made many vows to go running, to stop eating junk, blahblahblah, but I haven’t stuck with anything. It’ MY problem, and when I see Beautiful New Mom of Infant who looks like she belongs in Maxim, it’s hard for me not to hate her a little.Furthermore, being around the skinnies makes me feel inferior.There. I said it.
OK. That was a tangent, and not the real issue here. the one I see running rampant among my 700 or so peeps on FB is the judge-y-ness of other people raise their kids. And it irks me to the bone.
When Rod & I got married 7 years ago, I returned to school to finish my teaching degree. It was a grueling process of a few years: I gave up a great job with great benefits, I was gone 4 nights a week for classes, and then there was the 15-week exercise in torture called Student Teaching (all while going through fertility testing, his dad’s long convalescence with Alzheimer’s, and other fun, blended family stuff). I was fortunate to score an immediate full time position… and then 4 months later, my miracle pregnancy stole the spotlight of my new career.
I had always assumed I would be a ‘working mom,’ but pretty much the moment that test shouted YES, I was in tears telling Rod I had no desire to leave my baby with someone else for 8-9 hours a day. I KNOW many moms don’t have a choice in the matter, and I respect that to the utmost, but I was blessed to have a choice. I had Miranda in November 2006, less than one year after earning my hard-won degree…and the way things are going, I’m fairly certain I won’t return to conventional teaching, at least not in the foreseeable future.
Of course I second guessed that decision, particularly in the first months as I still kept in touch with colleagues, as I missed my Career Clothes, as I longed for ‘something else’ to do. I tried a number of avenues (& I apologize for my brief MLM craze & thank all those who had parties for me). I never dreamed that by the time Miranda was 2 (& Kaity was still an infant), that I would have a work-at-home business with my husband, equal to a full time job in its hours, but less predictable than any job I’d ever had.
Working at home – and now both of Randa & KK’s parents do – brings with it a different set of boundaries and issues and decisions. Like every other parent, we are never really ‘off,’ but sometimes, we need to work while the kids are awake and there is no sitter. Sometimes I am giving an interview while they are screaming over a toy. Sometimes I am talking to my boss while helping someone potty, and many times while cooking dinner. Sometimes, God help us all, I plant my kids in front of the TV for a movie or two so I can ‘get some stuff done.’ This is often a source of guilt for me, but sometimes there is not a better option, and my Friends, a word I am using more and more carefully, understand.
Because there is a flip side to the chaos that is our work from home/work from the bus life. My kids have traveled extensively in their short lives. They have seen countless concerts, been to many kinds of churches, and made friends of all ages from people in many different regions. They can sing and have a sincere interest in music. They know how to recognize a time of prayer. They know how to adjust their schedules…on the road, they are often up past midnight and sleeping until 10am…and they are in great health.
Our “chaos,” our lack of convention, flexible schedule, incessant movie watching means that we get to be with our kids most of the time. It means we get to take them to work with us. It means we get to do fun things in different places because when we travel for work, we can often build in some fun time. It means, praise God, that after the madness of May & June, we can take most of July off, and likely December too… So the kids are pretty forgiving that during May & June, I don’t bake the bread, the pizza is out of the freezer instead of from scratch, and a playdate is 60 minutes at the park with a box of crackers instead of 3 hours at our house with a catered-style lunch.
Our “chaos” also means that things like potty training or craft time or a sugarless diet or whatever 21st century American mommies are supposed to do a certain way… doesn’t get done a certain way. And seriously, until you’ve tried keeping a 2 year old dry while schlepping her through the mountains on a 40 foot piece of steel or taking her in and out of 6 meetings in a day, you really can’t know. What I can tell you is that she will be potty trained…we’re not worried. Nor are we worried about the long-term affects on her health if she eats a cookie before lunch or a piece of taffy during a church service to keep her calm/content.
I am not responding to any specific criticisms I’ve received. My mommy friends mostly have lives completely different than mine, but are fully supportive of each other. We play off one another’s strengths and support each other in our shortcomings. I could not ask for better people to navigate this road alongside me.
And truly, I think much of these FB JUDGMENTS of which I speak are not meant to be so stinking critical. I just wish women would consider how their statements might sound to others. That kid wigging out in the store while your precious one is sitting perfectly still might have a tummy ache, might be a much-tossed-about foster kid, might have been in court that morning, might have a developmental difference, or might, you know, just be having a bad day like everyone else is entitled to do. That mom letting her child eat a TREAT instead of a meal? Perhaps they just came from dropping Daddy at the airport for a long trip, or the dog just went away on a permanent trip. And that kid who has a bottle, a sippy, mom’s milk, a diaper, a paccy, a blankie, co-sleeps, blahblah whatever longer than yours did? Ask yourself: why do you care?
I know there are some less-than-great moms out there and some kids who are just plain unruly. But how could we possibly tell the difference from a brief encounter? How can we possibly know what their lives are like? And really, are Pull-ups or processed American cheese or the occasional popscicle for lunch going to cause our children to drop out of school and develop into societal menaces? Is it going to make us better moms or our children better people if we are measuring our own successes by the “shortcomings” of others?
All we can do is the best we can do… and I think part of that best is choosing to support other moms and kids trying to figure this out instead of letting them know how to do it better/just like we would. Before you hit that ‘submit’ button, consider what others might post in response to seeing one of your challenging mommy moments.