Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas Joy

I woke Christmas morning to a small face at my ear, whispering in a slightly nasal tone: "I wet the bed, Mama. [Pause.] Merry Christmas."

And, oddly enough, that was a wonderful start to the holiday. Just one of those remembrances that has kept me chuckling every time I imagine him tiptoeing down the hall, thinking to himself, "Now what were the two things I needed to tell Mama? Oh, yes..."

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Be Glad

Twelve years ago, I was a struggling mother. I was struggling because I had a fussy newborn who didn't know you could safely be awake and not nursing. I didn't understand about dairy and newborns, and this constant nursing led to constant fits of crying. I was crying because my baby was constantly crying, and he was crying because his tummy hurt.

And also, he was crying because he was a baby.

We only had one vehicle for the first 8 months of Benjamin's life. Ethan would drive that vehicle into work, and I would stay home on this huge plantation where we rented a little modular home. For eight months, I had nowhere to go but the petting zoo and the strawberry patch and the river and the farm market, where they sold freshly made pumpkin donuts.

With Aunt Jamie, Aunt Michelle, and Mama on the farm
Every day, I would strap this fussy baby on and walk all the way around the farm. He would cry, and I would sing, because no one could hear me out there in the country. Eventually he would calm down and fall asleep. I would walk back to "the trailer" (what everyone called it) and ease him onto the couch and sip a wine cooler while he slept. That was a hot winter (80 degrees in November!), and those twenty minutes before he woke were the best part of my days. I would scurryfunge the house (took all of ten minutes in that little place!) and play Ethan's Harry Connick, Jr. CD. (Did someone give him this CD? I don't know, but I can't imagine him buying it and I sure loved it!)

Then Benjamin would wake, and I would nurse and console and walk around the house with him, doing the "Indian walk" that my Aunt Thelma taught me as a way of dealing with fussy babies. (Basically, you walk a few steps then lunge as if you are falling. It stops a crying baby in his tracks! And also, it gives your quads an incredible workout.) Every couple of minutes I would look at the clock, and then I'd walk some more, and then I'd look at the clock, and then I'd walk some more.

Those days were so, so long.

I felt alone, and incompetent, and frumpy, and frustrated.

We had six married months before we were expecting Benjamin. Those six months were fraught with busy-ness and exasperating work (we both taught) and dreams of what we would do when we were "off" for the summer.

And then, BOOM! We were starting a family.

Only it took a while for me to accept that we were "starting a family." It took a good, oh, two years after Ben was born. It felt more like we were "ending a couple." No more freedom to be spontaneous. ("Go shopping? OK. Let me nurse him and change his diaper and check the diaper bag and can you get the head support for the car seat and...")

Even a few children into our family, we were still talking about "Some Day." Some Day we would travel, Some Day we would exercise regularly, Some Day we would have people over for dinner.

Still living on the farm. Sweet, sweet memories!
And I'm not quite sure how it happened, but one day we realized that "Some Day" was an evasive illusion, a chasing after the wind.

There are good and valid Some Days, I think. Some Day we will see Christ face to face. Some Day we will hear no more crying. Some Day we will be glorified.

Christmas in Alaska with Ethan's sisters and mom, who is taking the picture.
We were so young!
But the satisfaction, the contentment, the joy that comes with realizing that THIS is the Day that the Lord has made...not Some Day of my own conjuring that never comes to fruition...this is such freedom!

Each child, each interruption to the moment, each deviation from our plan? Well. They are part of Today! They are part of this day that the Lord has made! They are part of His crafting of my life and my days.

Instead of pining away for what may never be, it is truly most satisfying to long for what will be and superimpose that on my day. Let's live like people who will see Christ face to face!

It is also most satisfying to long for what is. I've already been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me! (Gal. 2:20) I long for Him to live in me...and He does!

Perhaps one of the greatest realizations I had practicality-wise as a young mother was that I was going to have to live this life, so I might as well learn to love it. Cooking meals every day? Yep. So let's check out some cookbooks from the library and some cooking shows online. Let's figure out how to do this thing. Laundry dried and folded? Yep. So let's see if we can get this done by noon each day (I can't anymore, but that's OK!). House able to be walked through without hazard? Yep. So let's check out Flylady and Pleasant View Schoolhouse and Like Mother, Like Daughter and Edith Schaeffer. Homeschooling? Yep. So I would head over to Large Family Logistics (her old blog, which sadly is no more, but much of that blog can be found in her book, and you do NOT have to be a large family to find many gems there!) and Susan Schaeffer Macauley and Gregg Harris.

Looking back, there were two very providential factors in those early days as a mother. The first was that I had to stay home, and the second was that we had a dial-up Internet connection. You could only get so many pages to load before your patience totally ran out and you were done for the day. Which was good! I would load a page, read it and be inspired, and get off the computer.


So how's that for mixed advice? Get on the computer to get help, and get off the computer to get help! Well, yes.

So I'm still a struggling mother. I struggle to use my time wisely. I struggle to stay away from the Internet, which ever beckons me... I struggle to bite my tongue instead of lashing out about the freshly mopped floor. ("GUYS! ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? If the floor only gets mopped once a year, you very well better stay off it for at least a week!")

But I really don't struggle with this being my life, not like I used to. I'm not resigned, either. Far from it! I love this life and these children and even our challenges. I love figuring out how to do this life and this laundry and sarcasm from a pre-teen (wherever did he get that? Pardon me while I wipe the floor. My sarcasm is dripping.)

I have been given so much. Longing for the way things were, for Egypt and the foolishness! This is what God has chosen, and that means it HAS to be the best way!

"This is the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it" (Ps. 118:24-25).
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