Friday, April 22, 2016

Finding Myself

This year.


If you have followed my facebook posts since last summer, read this blog, seen me drop my children off, talked to me for more than one minute, you know this year has been a struggle for me.

Kindergarten took me down for a bit.

I feel like my role has always been clear, I've been walking the path I fully expected, life has thrown some curve balls but nothing I couldn't hit.

Age 0-5: Babyhood, toddler, preschool years. Become chubby baby, throw temper tantrums, attach self to mother. Nothing unusual.

Age 6-18: Student. Learn things. Progressively harder things. Get into college.

Age 18-22: College student. Slight variation from previous studenthood as it is super fun. Get degree. Also meet man to marry. Marry him.

Age 22-27: Teacher. Boss around 11-14 year olds. Teach them things in between bossing. 

Age 27-36: Mother. Take care of my own baby, toddler, preschooler. All at the same time. Survive. That is all. 

Age 37-Jesus: Who am I now???????

I had a rough fall. Rough. Cried a lot. Missed my babies. Couldn't figure out what my point was. They are gone all day. What is my life about?

For the first time, EVER, I felt lost. Unsure of what my next step was, what the plan was, what was I working towards?  

And not that life wasn't hectic, because the exact opposite of that was true. Gone were leisurely mornings in front of Sesame Street, lying on the floor changing Barbie dresses hundreds of time, strolling the field picking flowers. 

Instead we have a mad dash every morning, getting everyone out the door with All The Things Signed (WHY must so many things be signed every night? There isn't enough ink in all the world for all the things that have to be signed.), making sure everyone has their lunch, and one they will like, making sure things are tucked and braided and all the morning things that crush me

After school is hectic, too. Homework has kicked into high gear this year, piano is a thing, there have been two after school clubs they have participated in that lasted a few weeks. 

So we were busy. 

But even though my hours were filled, I was becoming sadder all the time. Weary of the things I was doing. The things that simply felt like "fillers."

Why the struggle?

I think I was grieving the end of the Mothering Small Children Season.

Which honestly, wasn't my favorite season because it is so, so hard. I did not expect to experience the emotional depths of despair where I found myself. I still functioned, and wasn't lying in bed all day, but everything was gray, tasteless, overwhelming, almost too much.

Over Christmas break I read a book a friend recommended called The Fringe Hours by Jessica Turner. There are sections you fill in that help you make sense of your time, what is important, what you want to do, self-help type stuff.

And I recently read a quote from a Shauna Niequist book which I underlined, highlighted, circled, folded down and copied into my journal:

"It's not hard figuring out what you want your life to be about. What's hard is figuring out what you're willing to give up in order to do the things you really care about."

And I'm a person who feels better with a plan, a clear next step, a list. Love me a list. I've been thinking this through since Christmas, talking and praying with Preston, and gradually coming back to the light. 

So what follows is my manifesto, who I am now, what I want my life to be about, and what I don't, what I'm making space for 
and what I'm letting go: 

*This isn't really in an order. Don't judge that the girls are way down.*

1. Jesus. I want to breathe Him in and out. Which means I need to know Him. Which means I have to get up early because that calm hour before everyone else is awake is when the Holy Spirit whispers to me through His Word, through the light gently creeping through the windows, through the smell of the coffee and the warmth of the blanket tucked around my toes, the prayers scribbled in my journal. That hour is golden.

2. For #1 to happen, I have to go to bed at a decent hour. So that means I can't be about staying up late watching Kimmel or Friends reruns or reading about the latest idiocy of Donald Trump on Twitter. (Sorry to be political. I just CANNOT...I mean, Trump? Really???) And I really like to do all those late night things. But that morning hour is more important.

3. Piano. I have gotten back into playing, just for myself. I plink out some songs, sing along with the old hymns I remember singing on road trips with my Grandpa, and feel refreshed. The girls love it and think I play so beautifully. They are wrong, but it's fun. I'll sit in the room below theirs as Preston is settling them into bed and play "The Old Rugged Cross," "Jesus, What A Friend For Sinners," "Great is Thy Faithfulness," and mix in a little "Piano Man" and "Fur Elise." Those memories, those words are a balm to me.  

4. Playing piano in the evenings means I do all the night kitchen things like prep coffee, wipe counters, and make lunches at different times. I've worked it out, making coffee at supper cleanup, making lunches in the morning, and counters may just feel sticky. Ok, not may. If you lean on the counter you will be glued down. Which brings me to my next points.

5. I really like things picked up. Clutter, hoarding, leaving crap everywhere, the things my family is obsessed with, all make me crazy. So I pick things up constantly, yell at people to pick things up constantly, establish places for all the things. But I have had to just suck it up and accept that children live here, and I will be picking up after them. A lot. If I want the clutter under control. So I pick up. And yell. 

6. Cleanliness is not as important. It feels like it should be, and I don't want to live in a cesspool, but I just don't have a day a week I'm willing to give to that. And hiring someone to come in to clean is also out. So when you come here, counters may be sticky in spots, baseboards will be dusty, and the windows definitely won't be washed. I don't have a cleaning schedule. I clean it when I notice it. So although I would love a spotless house, I don't want it enough.

7. Exercise. I like the idea of it. I don't actually like it. So occasionally when things get a little jigglier than I'd like you'll catch me pumping iron, banging out a couple of miles, doing a video. But I really hate it. I love a walk through the woods, a hike to the high point of the farm, a bike ride. But an hour or even thirty minutes of planned out exercise isn't going to happen regularly. So my life isn't going to be about fitness competitions. Letting go of those size 0 jeans and going to trust my husband when he says I'm gorgeous, my stomach is beautiful because of the stretch marks that mean we have three children, and the fact that I reflect the Lord God. So not going to become a slug, but don't look for me on the cover of any magazines.

I did play that night, too, but only after I sat on the sidelines a while. 

8. My Redneck. Fifteen years of marriage is nothing to sneeze at. It has been hard. But he makes me more me. He makes life better. My spirits lift when he walks in the room. I want to serve him. Love him. Put him first. Whatever that means. Which can vary season to season. But I want to connect with him and know what it is he needs from me. 

9. Making sure I connect with Preston sometimes means I stay up late (even though #1 and #2) so I can see him when he comes in from whatever school event where he has been pouring himself out, allowing him to crash, heating him some supper and chatting, quietly sharing details of the day. Or it might look like letting it go when his clutter is all over the kitchen counter, or driving the girls out to wherever he is in this giant, urban sprawling city, so he can see them for five minutes. This is important. Because he is.

Waiting for Daddy...

10. Our girls. I want to show Jesus to them. All the time. This means I spend most of my days doing things for them, for the good of our family. No longer the diaper change stuff, but the packing of lunches, volunteering at school, cleaning (sometimes), chauffering friends, checking homework, sitting at the piano as they plink out their own lessons, jumping on the trampoline, catching the biggest frog because no one else will touch it, listening, praying, preparing meals, shopping for groceries, making appointments, holding hands while they get 87 cavities filled, praying some more, reading aloud.   

11. So I can do #8, 9, and 10 well, we have made the decision that even though they are all gone all day I will not return to full-time work at this point. Some women do and do so well, (I know some) and they amaze me. We actually thought and prayed about this quite a bit as there are several teaching positions available at the school the girls go to. Two salaries would be awesome. There would be so much more freedom in our lives. But for the good of the four I love most, and for my mental health, full time work isn't something I can do. Maybe someday I'll go back. I do love to boss. But my job now is taking care of our home and those God has placed in it. Making it a place of grace. Facilitating a space where my people can come and be refreshed to go out and be who they are created to be. I'm in charge of that. And it is a full time job. 

12. Gardening, yardwork, mowing, even weedeating. I love to watch things poke up through the earth, to be outdoors, to help facilitate beauty. My preferred nailpolish color is dirt. This is important, and we are making space for it in the schedule and the budget.   

13. Cooking. It was hard for lots of years to put a decent meal on the table because three other people were at my feet, on my hip, all up in my grill (literally). Now I have gotten back into it, the flash of the blade while dicing onions, the smells when the spices are added, the colors in the skillet. I am making time for that again. 

14. Reading. I love to read. I used to read a book a day in the summers. I am putting down my phone so I have time to read. Amazing how much time is freed up when I put down my phone.

My current reads...

15. Writing. I love this space. This blog. This place where I can process and put it out there and laugh and just maybe encourage another momma. It has taken a back seat. But it's important. I'm going to do my darndest to move it back up towards the front burner. 

Looking at that list, it seems long. 

Basically, I have come to the conclusion life is hectic. All the time. And sometimes we go through seasons where we aren't able to choose how our days go, we just live right on and do the next thing, like when a move comes up or caring for an elderly parent, or picking up shifts to pay the exorbitant car repair bill. 

But even in those days, I want to make room for the things that refresh me, that make me feel like my gifts are being used, that bring me joy. These are the things that make me who I am. 

And then, I am learning, those seasons where I don't get to choose the hectic are more manageable. 

And also, every single day, without fail, I breathe the prayer, "Lord, this is Your day." So even though I now have a list, that is my real manifesto. I think it has to be in the life of a believer. 

Thanks for processing along with me.

Maybe I have made it to the other side of the gate, so to say. The sadness of the fall has past, the new life of the spring has come. And I am discovering and remembering anew just who God made me to be. 

And now I have to be done with the task of blogging because I have to go prepare to camp. TO CAMP! Believe me, I am not choosing this. I really can't even fathom it. But four people who live here think it will be fun. So off we go. I'm sure there will be a blog post next week. And who knows...maybe next year's manifesto will involve making space for camping. 


Grace and grace and more grace,

1 comment:

  1. Dear Martha, I think often about your post, above, and while I feel it calls out for a response from someone who loves you and cares about you (like me!), I haven't yet landed on what that would be. So I will just say that I am thinking of you, knowing that you're bringing your fierce energy, humour, and many talents to play, no matter what you're doing. Your family is lucky to have you. Anyone/any cause/any job/any calling upon whom you would choose to shine your light would/will be lucky, too. xo, Carrie


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