Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Picture They Paint

Around Christmas time my sister had come to visit, and for those who don't know, she has started an amazing photography business. I asked her if she would take a picture of me that I could use as my blog profile pic and she agreed because she is sweet like that. I had gotten dressed for our outing that day and done my hair and make-up, but before we could do a mini photo shoot, I had to do laundry. Because I always have to do laundry, y'all. What's that saying about the things that are certain in life; "death, laundry, and taxes"?  I think that's right. :)  Anyway, she snapped a pic of me with the laundry basket and we laughed about how that was really the picture I needed to use. I started talking about the mom blogs that have the amazing, perfect pictures and teach you how to make homemade bread and how to make your children clothes out of organic leaves you find in your backyard and stuff like that. Jenny confessed that she does not read those. She said they make her feel bad. I understand. Then she asked if I thought their lives are really as perfect as they seem. Did I think that they just work really hard to make it appear that way? And that's when I told her, "I couldn't make my life seem like that if I tried!"  Seriously, I give props to Moms who can even make things just *look* all put together, you know what I mean?

So, I haven't been blogging much. Turns out adding a 40 hour workweek with a 5 hour a week drive time has really started interfering with my blog time.  I mean, if everybody at my house didn't expect to eat every night AND have clean clothes to wear, I would have a little more time. The nerve of these people. :)

I am still greatly enjoying my new job, but I won't lie, reality has set in. The reality that there just isn't enough time in the day. The reality that I have to really set priorities and make sure I stick to them. The reality that I just can't do all of the things I would like to do. It's been an adjustment for everyone. Josh has been totally awesome and cooks supper more nights than I do now. The kids are doing well, too. Kate has been a little extra cuddly and clingy when I'm at home, but I won't complain about that. :)

But, some days are more challenging than others. I do work in a daycare, and while I am thrilled (and knocking on wood) to say that nobody else in my house has been sick this year, I do feel like my body stays in a constant fighting off illness mode. I am pretty sure I've been exposed to everything minus the plague this year and so sometimes, I'm just worn out. Monday was one of those days. Work included a 3 hour drive for me that day and an inservice to sit through and a computer that had crashed. By the time I got home, I wanted to crash, too. Eli wanted to go to the park. I wanted to cry. Okay, maybe I did cry. Because the mom guilt kicked in. That feeling that my kids are being ignored and deprived and neglected. Nevermind that we never went to the park on weekday afternoons before I was working; on this day, I was in full emotional meltdown. 

That night Josh had to go make a visit, so the kids and I ate supper and then it was time for baths. As I was telling the kids to get in the bath, I all of a sudden felt like all I do is tell them what to do and what not to do. I just come home and tell them to pick up their shoes and eat their veggies and take a bath. I just knew my kids were going to grow up telling people how all their Mom ever did was make them bathe and brush their teeth and clean their room. And then it hit me, that is what I'm supposed to do. That's my job. 

I'm sharing this because yesterday Sarah brought home some short stories she had written that we were supposed to read. One of them talked about her favorite animal being horses. She shared that one of the reasons she loves horses is because they stay in herds. (Is that true? I don't know if it is, but let's pretend, ok?) She said that some animals don't stay with their families and she would hate that because she doesn't know what she would do without her family. She said that I make sure she eats healthy and tell her what she is supposed to do. She said Josh keeps her in line. And she said her brother and sister encourage her to do things she doesn't think she can do. She said that I tell her what she is supposed to do like it is a great thing. And it reaffirmed that thought I just had, that that is what I'm supposed to do. I am so thankful that she appreciates that. Now, if I can just keep her away from all of the kids with awesome moms who not only feed and bathe their children, but also find time to be fun and exciting. :)

It's an amazing thing when your children begin expressing themselves in ways other than laying on the floor kicking and screaming. When you are able to read their thoughts and experience their imaginations. When we got Kate's first report card this year, her teacher said that she looks forward to Kate's laughter and "hearing the stories she tells".  I thought that was so sweet. Then I kind of panicked, like, oh my gosh, what kind of stories is she telling??? That thought comes from my own insecurities. That the truth will come out that not only am I not the greatest mom ever, but some days, I just stink at it.

It's the realization that it doesn't matter how hard I try to get perfect family pictures with matching clothes.

It doesn't matter if Josh and I do lots of "good" things for our church or community.

It doesn't matter if other people think we are wonderful.

What matters is the pictures our kids paint. How do they see us and the life we've given them? Do they know that "keeping them straight" and "telling them what they are supposed to do" comes from a place of love and wanting what is best for them? I hope so. I hope that all of the days, the good, the bad, and the ugly, will one day create a beautiful masterpiece in their minds because it is covered in brushstrokes of love.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

That Kind of Love

I love love. Back in the day, I loved head spinning, butterfly fluttering, cheeks blushing kind of love. Sometimes, I love candlelit, slow dancing, long kisses kind of love. Sometimes I love silly making, around the couch chasing, funny faces kind of love. And sometimes, I love long talks, deep thoughts, and serious matters. But most of all, I love "that kind of love".

Just a few weeks ago I sat at the funeral of my best friend's mom. After more than a decade of struggling with the debilitating effects of a stroke, I felt relieved for her that she is whole and free from the pain and suffering she knew in this world. Of course my heart broke for her children and husband. A funeral doesn't seem like an ideal setting for thoughts on love and romance, but that is exactly where my mind went. Because I've never seen a man love a woman the way my friend's dad loved her mom. And by "seen" I mean literally observed in the way that he cared for her, physically, emotionally, and spiritually for over a decade what love looks like in action. At the funeral those who spoke praised him for the way he cared for his wife, but after it was over even greater praise was given. My friend told me, "He enjoyed taking care of her." Oh, that our idea of love would change from the selfish, who makes me feel loved and look good to others to the reality that true love serves those we love gladly. Although I felt sad for the loss he experienced, I found myself feeling even sadder for people who never know that kind of love in their life.

I think of the people we idolize in our society. Celebrities and sports stars who have relationships and marriages that change as often as their hairstyles or the teams they play for. I think of the shows we watch and the songs we listen to full of drama and emotion. We obsess over couples and what they look like together. But we spend very little time caring how they love each other. And I pray that we realize that the kind of "love" we idolize isn't "that kind of love". "That kind of love" is the choice we make that we will honor and respect another person becase "Love is the condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own." (Robert Heinlein).

I witnessed that kind of love as I looked in on my friend's parent's relationship. It wasn't perfect. It wasn't easy. We make a mistake when we think that true love means it's easy. I think true love is when you decide you are going to stick around even on days when it's the hardest thing you've ever done.

I am thankful that my husband considers this godly man a mentor. He has already chosen to stick around on some hard days, but I am glad to know that he has witnessed a living example of a man loving his wife the way that Christ loves the church, and he thinks that's a person to look up to. How I wish that every person (young and old) chose this as the example for how they will love another.

Call me delusional, but I'm still a believer in romance and soul mates and happy endings. But I don't think those things magically happen in fields full of flowers with sappy love songs playing. I think they happen when two people decide they want to set their hearts on God's plan for them and that come hell or highwater they are going to choose to go through it with that person. Whether they are dancing and holding hands or hanging onto each other for dear life, they know that no matter what else is happening in the world around them, they have each other.

And then, when one of those people has finished their journey, the other can say, “I am nothing special, of this I am sure. I am a common man with common thoughts and I've led a common life. There are no monuments dedicated to me and my name will soon be forgotten, but I've loved another with all my heart and soul, and to me, this has always been enough..”  ― Nicholas Sparks, The Notebook