Ten

This is the day. Ten years ago on this very day I became a mother. I remember so many details from this child coming into the world. I’d love to share them all here and regale you all with the details of her birth story, but I won’t. I realize that, apart from select circles of women, sharing birth stories is like sharing vacation photos. As you can imagine, I have been reflecting on the birth of my girl. I’ve been trying to figure out how much I’ve changed over the past ten years. I wonder this morning, if 28-year-old-me would recognize now-me?

It is safe to say that I did not navigate the first ten years of mothering only to get to this place unchanged. I not only mothered my baby girl, but when she was only a year and a half old our lives were changed forever. With that change came two children that I’ve had the privilege to take part in raising. Two kids who were barely 10 and 13 when my baby was not yet two. That alone has changed me more than I knew was possible. We’ve made two more babies and a home and a life in these years and when I look back I see only good.

So in all of this, what are my take-aways from ten years of mothering kids at every stage? I made a list and I think it’s the best way to share where I’m at mentally after all this time. First off; Things I learned from labor:

In the labor and delivery room as well as in life you must advocate for yourself. Everyone else in that room, and in life, believes that they know all of the things and that they have the best for you and your child in mind. When in actuality, only you know yourself, there is no one in this world who will have to deal with your decisions or their consequences more greatly than you. And so you must tell people what you know to be best for you. You must speak actual words and put all of your belief behind them. You can not, should not, allow others to make your choices. Not in labor and not in life.

You’ll throw up a lot. Okay, so maybe I knew this before labor, but the message was really driven home in the hours preceding the births of my children. When I was first in labor I had no idea that I would vomit, no one told me this was a possibility. This seems to be the story of my life! I had no idea that so many things were even possible for me when I was young, no one told me and so I believed my small world was all there was. Had someone just spoken a few well timed words to me, my life would have been filled with different experiences. This lesson is more that life is messy, there is sadness, and brokenness that must be lived through. It’s also a reminder to me to tell someone else that while life is full of hard things, they were made to do this exact hard thing! And then do it with them, because the people who hold your hair back, they are keepers.

You are stronger than you know. Laboring to bring a child into this world is easily the most difficult yet empowering thing that I’ve ever done. In delivering my babies I learned that I am capable, I have strength. Truly. In being a mother I’ve learned that mothering will open your eyes to how you don’t stop delivering your children. It’s not a single act. I feel like the strength found in me while laboring to bring babies earth-side sustains me through the early years. How else can one explain being able to mother (sorta) well on weeks of minimal sleep because a preschooler refuses rest?

Stubbornness is, like, a really good thing. During labor my stubbornness really came out. I wanted my babies to be birthed a certain way and I was determined to make that happen, regardless of how difficult it was. I can see how this stubbornness is all encompassing. It allows you to stand on your soapbox even when no one is listening. How you’ll press through all of the really hard years. How you will keep giving your best when you feel there is no more to give. Being stubborn, determined, strong-willed has carried me through the past ten years. I don’t doubt that it will serve me well in the years of mothering I have ahead of me.

The things I’ve learned from being a mom are no less meaningful. Jumping in at the midpoint of a child’s life is not easy, but it is educational. Homeschooling littles has its own way of teaching the teacher. The lessons from the last ten years could fill a book, and perhaps one day they will. Here are the most apparent to me as I look back.

Nothing goes as planned. Not one, teeny, tiny, microscopic thing. Every time I feel I have something figured out, that thing will flip inside out and I’ll be lost again. Babies sleep, you fall exhausted to your cozy bed, the babe wakes. Littles play sweetly together, you swap the laundry, littles are bashing each other with their toys. A teenager texts to get your opinion on a moral issue she’s facing, you cautiously reply, she does not speak to you for the next three days. I don’t get it, but I do understand that I will not “get it” and that it’s okay. One day, when I feel like everything is figured out, my children will likely all be grown. Change is the constant in mothering and I suppose out there in “real life” as well. Learning to live through all of the change and chaos makes me a stronger person.

Time is sketchy. You’ve heard it; “The days are long, but the years are short.” Sometimes a week with my children lasts 4,768 hours. Yet, as I look back at specific events that have happened over the last decade, some of them seem to have happened moments ago. How is this possible? There is only one reasonable explanation, time does not move in a straight line, it flows much more like a river. I believe this firmly, it’s a theory that you will not convince me to abandon. There is no other possible reason why four weeks of my tiny sleeping fitfully seems to have lasted more like four years, but I can recall holding her just-born self in my arms (what feels like) just this morning! If nothing else, I have learned that the time is fleeting and I can not cause it to be still during the good or hurry through the hard.

Lessons must be encountered repeatedly to be learned. My children have taught me this, I feel like every time we are working on a difficult life lesson, I have to be reminded that they will need to be told this same thing a minimum of 76 times before the lesson sticks.
Human children don’t seem to be able to master a concept until they have come across it multiple times and I have not yet been able to remember this either. In my mothering I am constantly reminded that I’ll be doing this again, whatever “this” may be. I read somewhere, more than once, that the things we most struggle to learn will continue to circle back to us as our struggles. Once we have learned what we need, a new challenge will present itself, but not until we are ready for it.

Stubbornness is, like, not a good thing at all. I know what I said before, but I was wrong! At least it’s not good when you mother many stubborn people who would sooner walk barefoot through the snow than put on their own shoes. When you have strong-willed children-and you don’t want to break them, you have to allow yourself to be broken a bit. This is hard, maybe harder than giving birth. Allowing your people to listen to their own internal voice, to follow what is right for them, to not give them the answers…this might just break me a lot. Some days I want to scream, some days I do. There are days though when I see that they are becoming, growing into themselves, exploring the bigger versions of who they are now, those brief glimpses make the tears worth it.

 

Finally the things I’ve learned about myself as I look back over the past ten years. These are things I’ve written about; I need white space; quiet, to be well. Seeking after God is the best choice, one that I make every day. Sometimes you just need to get your hands dirty, or; why gardening is awesome. The things that you bury deep will continue to call to you. So many more. I think that the person I was ten years ago would be proud to be the person I am now. While I’ve lived through the yuck, I’ve learned a lot and knowledge is not wasted on those who will listen.

A last thought if you’ll indulge me a few more words. With a large, blended together family things are not easy. We know that we have introduced a lot of the hard into our days, there is no need to tell us. The best things have also come through this joining of people. Last night we had birthday dinner. My big kids were home, we all took time. We sat together, deliberately. We avoided our smart phones, we laughed, we talked, we ate. This is the best lesson for me, one that I never thought I’d want or need. Bringing my people together is what brings me the absolute most joy. I pray that my kids will continue to come to my table as they grow and change and become, I pray it nearly every day. Family dinner can make all of the hard seem less than, it can bring some peace. And any peace found while mothering is a blessed relief and a true joy.

 

 

Coffee and Thanks

I started drinking coffee when I was pregnant with my first child ten years ago. Up until that point in my life I simply could not wrap my head around why people would drink coffee. While I was pregnant I could not get over how delicious coffee smelled, and so began my addiction. I have drank decaf through three pregnancies and while nursing babies. I have cut back to two cups a day when my anxiety was high and my heart would threaten to beat out of my chest if I added caffeine to my mornings. My husband bought me a French press and I have enjoyed coffee at home every morning since. I enjoy holding the warm mug, breathing in the aroma, taking that first hot sip… Okay, so this isn’t really a post just about coffee.

The other day while I was stealing away three hours to myself I stopped to order a cuppa at my favorite coffee shop. After a moment of pleasant interaction with the barista I placed my order with a flurry of apologies. See, because of my life I choose to order a dressed up version of crazy instead of a simple cup of joe. I feel it necessary to tell you that I do drink my coffee black most days, this seems to justify my beverage order (does coffee need justification?). So, here it is; Medium Berry White Mocha made hot with dark chocolate, decaf, almond milk, no whip…please.

I giggle at the order because my husband teases me a little about being a high-maintenance girl. Now; I drink beer from a bottle, know what to do if my car starts running too hot on the freeway, and spend most of my summer covered in dirt and sweat, but I like things the way that I like them. This “high-maintenance-ness” is true of my coffee first, before most other things. I wondered as I left, why did I apologize four times to the person behind the counter for my order? Is it not okay for me to know the way that I like my coffee and ask for it to be made that way? I find this to be true of myself in other areas as well. I frequently apologize simply for being me. Why do I do that?

I am late most of the time. I cancel plans often. I frequently show up with dirty hair. I am always sorry. “Sorry that I’m late…”, “Sorry, but we can’t make it after all…”, “Sorry, this gypsy life…”. Why am I sorry? I have no idea! Because usually, I’m not. I’ll apologize because that’s what polite people do in society, but I am mostly not sorry. If I’m late it’s either because someone was melting down or they were totally into something else and I didn’t want them to melt down by telling them it was time to leave. If I cancel plans it’s because I genuinely didn’t want to be there…that’s not nice or popular, but it’s true of me. I like to stay home, it’s really cozy here. And I am not sorry that my hair is a mess! It is a metaphor for my life and my life is messy. I feel like I should go back and type that in all caps with periods in between the individual words like the people do, but I am not that cool (and I am okay with that). Plus, I have a lot of hair and a lot of children, I’d rather give attention to my kids.

The point here is; I apologize for being me. Reread that please, I don’t ask forgiveness for messing up, but for simply being. What the heck!? Why is this just hitting me now? I have likely done this my entire life, I am a grown up person responsible for small people, why do I only realize today that I should not be sorry for breathing? Sure, I know there are legitimate reasons to apologize and that having manners and respect for others is important. I’m talking about more than that here. What I am trying to get across is that I feel like the me who I am is not satisfactory enough to be accepted at face value. That I simply must apologize for all of the shortcomings I believe to be true of myself, people couldn’t possibly accept me like this. Could they?

I had thought that I was fairly secure in who I was. Up until this realization, I believed that I was happy being me and that I had moved past a lot of the insecurities of young adult-hood. I am questioning that today. I’m beginning to realize that in my “I’m sorry’s” I am failing myself and on top of that I am setting my kids up for a life of the same. When I have to make concessions for the very things that make me “me” I am lessening myself. Is that a thing?

Now that I have realized this frequent string of apologies I have decided to set about righting it. I have a feeling that this is going to take a devoted, conscious effort. I can start by not apologizing to the barista for purchasing something from her, but I need to take this deeper. What is the heart issue? I fear that it can actually be summed up in this simple thought that I have wrestled with before; I am not ______ enough.

I am not smart/pretty/strong/devoted/invested/giving enough.

It lands here; I am not good enough.

But, see, I know that I am. I know my value and my worth are only found in Christ and I am secure in that. I have seen the love my Father in Heaven has for me and I do not question it. I also feel that this world will never really accept me because I know my value and where it is found. I know that God is the enough that I need and that I am never going to be enough without Him. I have to fill in that blank with “I am not, but I know that God is enough”. Now if I know these truths in my heart I must begin to live them out loud. I can no longer timidly ask forgiveness for my strangeness when I feel that my differences are perfectly; me.

I am thankful for this realization, for this deeper look into myself. I’ve made a quiet plan to be un-apologetically me. I suppose this entire post is me apologizing for that in a way. Clearly there is a lot more to process, let’s not go there now as there is no time to begin writing again today. For this moment, this morning, I have decided to take it one interaction at a time, I’m pretty sure I will stumble through at first. It will be difficult to give up words that have become common in my day to day. I’m working on finding replacements for the “I’m sorry’s” that typically escape my mouth.

I’m starting with “Thanks”. I have found that in my life, when I am thankful I am better able to enjoy my situation. I keep track of the things that I am thankful for, and not just the nice things like giggles with my littles at bedtime, but the things that are hard and, eventually bring about good. This thankfulness has brought about change in me that I didn’t really expect and I am optimistic that if I apply it to the times I am normally sorry it will continue to see the benefits. By saying; “Thanks for understanding” instead of “I’m sorry”, I change the entire tone of the conversation. It brings about a connection instead of causing someone to look at me as an inconvenience. At least, my intent is that it will.

As is normal for me, I don’t know what the next step will be or when it will come. The path is winding and the journey is long, at least now I realize that I don’t have to be sorry for walking my own road. I can, and will, be joyful and thankful that I get to take the trail at all. Perhaps, in that, there will be a little more light around the next bend when it comes.

 

Reading More

This one is going to get religiously deep friends. I know that’s not really what a lot of you are looking for from my ramblings, but Jesus fills a big piece of my heart and so here we go. Over the past week I’ve read two books and the beginning of my Bible. Both books were intense and have touched on some things I’ve known deep down inside of me, but that I seem to have just been overlooking for years. I also started my Advent devotional which led to me back to Genesis and the deep questions that I’m sitting with this morning.

First, the books. I’ve been reading all of the things about wandering that I come across, but this little book grabbed me and has set me on a course full of details. I am seeking to see the small, the overlooked, the seemingly unimportant. I am only beginning to walk with my eyes more open, but I anticipate continuing on this way will bring about some serious heart changes. When we consciously choose to slow down, to look for the detail instead of simply the big picture, when we use all of our senses to see a thing for what it really is…this is kind of wreaking havoc in my brain. I mean it goes against the mothering instinct. Order, control, timeliness, structure. These are the things that I’m supposed to be concerned with at this place in my life. Raising littles to exist responsibly in society is my life-goal right now.

This wandering path does not even amble near that paved road. My first question would be; how do I merge the two? My second is; should I even try? But my third is where I take a dive; why is my focus on raising kids to the standard of modern society when we are told to be in the world, but not of it? Why do I want to raise kids who fit into popular culture’s mold when I so clearly rail against it in nearly all that I do? I admit that is something I just can not rationalize, but I also can’t see not going about the raising of children in the “standard” way either. Not yet, perhaps if I open my eyes to more of the details that I’ve been overlooking? I feel like I am currently at the edge of my crazy in the way I mother and teach, going any farther is intimidating. It makes me worry that they won’t be able to thrive in “the real world”. There is fear here, and I’ll press the margins slowly and gently on this one. This book really doesn’t connect with the rest of my reading, but I am using the idea of unplanned walks from these pages to process what I’ve been reading elsewhere.

The second book I read this week was an unusual suggestion, and  I must admit that when I cracked the binding I didn’t really know what I was in for. This book about a Jesuit Priest’s life and ministry in an impoverished neighborhood in L.A. has opened my eyes again to the intense love my Father has for me. The stories woven throughout this book made me question not so much my view of the people the world calls “less than”, but more so the reasons why we don’t automatically feel the intense love of our creator? It was the first step in getting back to the book of Genesis. If God loves us so much why do so very many of us feel alone or empty before we are even grown? In the book it’s easy to see how kids growing up in a certain way with little opportunity would get to a point where they felt worthless, unloved, without direction. But don’t we all get to that point in our lives?

Perhaps not everyone does, but I have certainly lived in a mental state where I had little worth. Why is the voice of the world so loud and the voice of God so soft? Why do we strain our ears to hear what society wants from us, but shut our minds to the fact that all God wants from us is relationship? It’s as if we are born right there in Eden with God, in perfectly right relationship with Him, and then there is an act, something that causes our “eyes to be opened”. We see the world differently and instead of turning right around, reaching out to God we look instead to all of the evils this world gives. We nearly choose to be cast out of the Garden.

That seems only the beginning as we struggle to regain our worth in a world that does not value us. Hurt piles upon hurt and we can not see any of the good that God had originally intended for us. We believe He despises us. That He could not possibly love us. This is the lie we all buy into, the lie that we must discover as such so that we can again live in the way we were meant. Regardless of situation or status, we must get back to knowing in the very deepest part of our soul that we are His. That He is always here, loving us so fiercely, simply waiting for us to remember, trying to guide us back to Him in His own quiet way. My eyes may have been opened to my nakedness years ago, but my ears are now aware of His calling-song being sung over me. The lie is exposed and I hear pieces of the truth.

Lost in the stillness of my mornings I read The Beginning, expecting a story I’d heard time and again, nothing new here. I had prayed that my eyes would be open, that I could see what I needed to see. Perhaps I shouldn’t have done that. In Genesis I read about Gods anger or frustration at Adam and Eve and how He cast them out of His inner sanctuary. How He punished not just them, but all people who would come after them. For one sin. Where is the forgiveness in this story? Where is God’s love for us? Where is His wisdom and discernment? Why do I have to see that while there was love and unity in the creating, there is harshness in dealing with the created? Why do so many generations live in this place where God requires so many offerings from His people? Then Jesus arrives and all commandments save one are erased? Why?

Is Jesus’ birth meant to erase all of the things that had come before? If He forgives all sin, all the way back to Adam, why did all of those people have to struggle to live under the law? Also, how do I make peace with the fact that God so easily tossed His beginning creation out, while still trusting that He would never do so with me? I must admit that I can not yet do that. If I am more precious than rubies, more valuable than an entire flock of sparrows, was Eve not? Why was she cast aside when I am welcomed in? The list from my questioning heart could fill a book of my own. I had to physically write down all of the reasons that I believe God’s word, all of the ways my heart trusts and loves the Lord. I had to do this because I wondered if my questioning meant that I was losing my belief. I know God can handle my questions, I’m sure I am not the only one to wonder, I’m not so sure that I can handle the questions though.

I did get to this; if a good Father must punish His children because of their sin (really no different from my correcting of my own children’s behavior), perhaps He did it for a reason? I know that I will never fully understand God’s ways, and I can accept that in some parts of my soul. What I’m thinking is that by punishing the sin of the first man, God planned to use sin to bring His children back to Him. I’m having trouble articulating this… The thing is, maybe, without sin urging us back to God we would become apathetic toward Him. Is it possible that our sins and missteps are what drive us to search for Him to begin with? Is sin the way He made for us back to Him? If God knows all and sees all, He would have known that sin would arrive, perhaps we have simply forgotten over the generations that in repentance our relationship is renewed.

There is more to come, more reading to be done, more petitions to go up to God. More.

 

 

 

A (tiny, little) Piece of My Story

IMG_5190.jpgI wrote a lot of words this morning. Words that are important to me and words that sort of define me. They are scary words too, words that I am not sure I want to put out into the world yet. I know that I should, that simply by putting these thoughts down on the page I am taking back some of the power the experiences hold over me. I know too that my story may help someone else, that God has been asking me to be bold and tell this story for quite some time now. That I haven’t struggled simply because of my choices rather, through my struggle others may be saved. It has been a hard walk though, and many times I’ve run, and that is what scares me I think. Sharing those fragile parts that are still exhausted from running. The pieces of my story that still weigh heavily and the pages that are tear splattered. Those are the ones that I need to share…soon. I still have a little thinking to do on them, I know some parts of the journey were just for me and I want to keep those sacred, held in my heart and my mind where they remind me of who I am.

If there were one thing I would share today, it would be this; your story matters. My life story is important. We each get to do this life not just so that we can learn from our own mistakes and difficulties and successes, but so that we can share the lessons learned with others. Part of my life, okay a lot of my life, was really hard even when I didn’t know it was. I see how my sisters lived in the same family that I was given and how they are much different than I am. I wonder about that a lot. How have I come to this point based on all the world has given me? The hardships and struggles, the joy and the pain, why weren’t we all wired to handle it in the same way? It is because my story needs telling, it is unique. My journey may help someone else, if I can conjure the courage to share it. I have decided that I will, a little bit at a time at least. My truest hope is that when I do, the words meet you where you are and that they help get you where you need to go.

More to come…