Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Finding the beauty in not having it all together

       I often get asked the question "How are you doing?" or "How's life with four kids?"  When I'm completely honest I usually have no idea how to answer these questions.  Sometimes this makes people look concerned or uncomfortable.  When I blabber on trying to explain how complicated that answer is, it rarely helps.  The truth is that some days I am thriving, while others I am struggling to stay sane. Balancing children and errands, melt downs and to do lists until I feel like everything is going to go crashing down around me.  Indeed sometimes it feels as though it has crashed down, crashed in a pile of curdled milk, spilled paint and tears and I am left in the ruins trying to make sense of it all.    Other times I feel strong, confident and ready to face what ever the world throws at me.  Running errands all afternoon while multiple kids are melting down? I can handle it.  Sticky peanut butter on the carpet? No problem.  Going to the beach with a friend and a combined 8 kids?  Piece of cake.  Other days it's like, "Get into the car with all my children? I can't do it!!!"   Usually I am feeling a mix of these things, or even both separately, all in the same day.       The difference here often comes from other factors, for example,  have I received encouragement or a helping hand from someone, be it family, friend or stranger that day?  Am I feeling appreciated and loved? Have I had coffee? Is the sun out?  Am I feeling emotionally stable?  Did I get enough sleep last night? Do I have a spirit of gratitude?  Did I receive a quick text from my husband just to say he loves me?   Have I had quiet time lately?   All these things and so much more affect how I respond to everyday situations.
   This season is by far the most challenging time of life I have faced yet, no other has required so much from me 24/7 without any breaks.  Even when I get a break I am still thinking about my children.  When I think about all the repercussions,  both good and bad, that can come from these early years, and how my children will forever be effected by them as they shape their very lives, I feel overwhelmed with this great responsibility. At the same time however,  this also happens to be my favorite season of life so far. What an opportunity to pour into their lives!  This might go without saying, but before having children I  had never loved anyone like I love them.  I couldn't even fathom it.   Although I love my husband more than anyone else, the way I love my children is different.    It's like my very heart split into five pieces.  I could not love them any more if I tried, they are part of me.  Picturing life without them is dismal.  I rejoice with their triumphs, grieve with their sorrows and laugh at their quirks.  They have filled me with more of an understanding of our heavenly Father's love for us than I could have ever experienced without them.  Being a parent has caused me to live constantly at the edge of my comfort zone, being pushed further and further not by my own accord, but simply by the requirements of being a mother.  Every new stage is something I've never experienced before,  as with every new child each stage appears differently than it did with the last.  So just when I think I have it figured out, it all changes.  I love this. And I hate it. It keeps me on my toes.
   Everyday I have a thousand chances to show grace, mercy, patience, love, anger, frustration, resentment, kindness, jealousy,  compassion, forgiveness, and humility.  Everyday I choose a whole mixture of these.  I also watch my children do the same.  Everyday I have a thousand opportunities to model for my children the kind of people I hope they become, and sometimes I do well and sometimes I don't.  Thankfully how my children turn out isn't all on me.  There is an amazing amount of grace in our lives that washes over both my children, my husband and myself and covers a multitude of mistakes.  Part of me doesn't like to admit all this, because if you didn't already know I don't have it all together, you surely do now.  But here in lies the secret to my success.  If I had it all together I wouldn't need others to help me.  I wouldn't need grace and I wouldn't need encouragement and support. I wouldn't need Jesus to sacrifice himself on my behalf, but I do, and he did.  These very things that I need to stay sane are the very things that keep me connected to others.  They are the experiences that help  build my relationships and make me who I am.   My need for others reminds me of the need they have for me.  If I had it all together I'm sure I would not remember what an encouragement a simple note can be, or an offer to cut in line at the grocery store.  The struggles I go through make me stronger, and they help me to make others stronger as well.  My failures as well as my successes teach my children to never give up, always hope and to always persevere. When I fail they see me pick myself up, ask for forgiveness and move forward.  All of these things together, the days where I soar and nothing can knock me down as well as the days when I simply sit and lick my wounds work together to cause me to thrive.  James 1:2-4 says "Consider it pure joy my brothers and sisters whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish it's work so that you may become mature and complete, not lacking anything."  If life was easy and I never had struggles, I would miss out on so much blessing.  The ability to learn from my mistakes and be willing to try again, to be willing to love others even when they don't love me back are just a few of the invaluable skills I hope my children pick up from me.  Without these challenges I would not appreciate the good times so much and the things that now make my day would mean little. The simple messages of encouragement from long time friends who likewise are in the "trenches" of mothering littles, the ones that make me well up with tears of love and  gratefulness as they stand beside me and truly get what I'm going through, reminding me I'm not alone, would be non-existent.  We need one another, we are made to need one another, and by needing one another our lives are made so much the richer.  It's a beautiful thing to see Love shown this way and to show it in return. 
   There is something completely wonderful about not having it all together, it makes all of the small blessings so much bigger.  Little kindnesses are magnified and a normally insignificant act of compassion can make my day.  Sometimes even stepping outside myself enough to see others needs and meet them in one way or other, showing them just a little bit of the love of Jesus,  can end up making my day as well.  May I never stop looking for those needs to meet and loving those in my path.