Expectations in mothering.

Our staff team has used Gallup’s StrengthsFinder this past year to learn more about ourselves and each other. One thing I’ve learned about myself is that I’m really good at analyzing present circumstances and thinking of ways to enhance them. I’ve also learned that I currently lack the wisdom to know when the present circumstances require analyzing, and whether or not a new method is helpful or necessary. I also lack the maturity to understand fully that the necessity of improvement is not always the result of a personal flaw.

Relating this to motherhood, I’ve often struggled with a nameless sadness. Things are not as they should be — I’m not doing what I should be. I can do this better. So on and so forth. I make plans, I get excited about them, and I implement them. Discipline methods, screen time, “natural play”, quality time, eating habits, etc etc etc — nothing is beyond the reach of my evaluating prowess! But then time passes and that feeling reemerges. Quickly on its heels is guilt: What did I do wrong? Do I need to move backward, to what I’ve done before? Forward, to what I’ve not done yet?

Self-improvement and growth are not the things I’m talking about here, but rather constant evaluation of a process that is not in need of it. My kids don’t need me to rearrange bedtime routines every few months, though I can do that if I choose. But they don’t NEED it, its not required of me as their mother. In fact, there are very few things they NEED, and they already have them: food, physical affection, presence, a listening ear. They don’t have these to the ends of my capacity, but they have them in good measure, and I’m learning that is enough.

This evaluation not tempered by wisdom has created in me a restlessness for a method, a philosophy or program, that will make things feel right with finality in motherhood, a useless goal in a broken world. That is Christ’s job, not mine. Which is not why I was given those analytical qualities in the first place. Really, I’m not certain why I have them — increasing efficiency in business? or in toy clean-up? — but I know they aren’t meant to rectify any worldly circumstance (mothering or otherwise). This helps me let go, helps me be okay with the idea that life is probably never going to feel “just right”, no matter what method I’m employing for parenting, cleaning, or self-care. “Enough” has become an important phrase for me this year.

Knowing Less.

I read yesterday that Tim Keller was glad he didn’t write any books in his 30s, because he was pretty sure he would’ve wanted to burn them once he reached his 40s and 50s. I breathed a sigh of relief, as I thought of my silent fingers, so little to tap or say. Right now, I just feel needy. I need input, I need wisdom, I need advice, I need time and growth and truth.

This has been a year spent unraveling all my neatly packaged philosophies: those theologies and convictions I put in boxes and labeled, tied with pretty bows. Life is completely messy, and we are utterly incapable and powerless. I’ve learned that ignoring or brushing over this truth, even if in the deeper parts of the inner life, will lead to fear, anxiety, a nameless sadness — a tireless but ultimately empty pursuit of everything and nothing. Vanity of vanities! (Ecclesiastes 1:2)

In His loving grace, God has been in the process of smashing my boxes. Has that ever happened to you? It is so terrifying. He took the box labeled “health and youth” and replaced it with a thyroid disease that was previously rather uncomplicated — but this year, it hurt me, it confused me, it sent me into physical and emotional chaos. I’ve seen the powerlessness of human will over a broken body. A broken body? I’m only thirty-one! How could this be? And as the road of life stretched out before me, I saw that bodies only get more broken with age. This was not encouraging. Box smashed.

This ushered in a million other thoughts and questions about my views of God, of human brokenness, of how suffering and joy can coexist. Am I okay that all life ends in death? This was scary for me, mostly because I was unaware of how much I have placed my heart in the here and now — life is short! I must make the most of it! There is only one! These are all true, in a way, but what if God doesn’t allow me to “make the most of it” to the degree that I have pictured? What if “make the most of it” includes illness? Or sadness for a child? Or never realizing my “true calling”? Or a lifespan amidst gobs of cultural change? I have few good answers and loads more questions.

The two things that bring comfort right now are these:
(1) Jesus has gone to the depths of my most terrifying places, and beyond. I cannot imagine His sorrow. I am simultaneously relieved, filled with affection, and crushed for his suffering on my behalf. I have seen only a sliver, and have felt my sliver to be a harsh burden. How much more for Jesus?
(2) I will never understand God’s ways, and He never expects this of me. It’s okay to wonder, but my only peace is to offer the contents of my heart and relent. I am not in control. I am utterly incapable. Your will be done.

I don’t think I will be writing books for a long time coming. Though I still hope I will eventually find something to say with clarity.

Limitations.

I have been in counseling via Skype for the past few months, with an amazing and loving counselor as my guide. I am beyond thankful for the ways God is using this in my life right now, so much so that I’ve begun recommending counseling to everyone I know. ;) (Stubbed toe? See a counselor!) One of the things that has consistently come up during our sessions is the need to accept the limitations of the body and mind, the brokenness of the world, the messiness and ambiguity of the human experience, in order to move forward in this current struggle with anxiety. This morning, after a string of nights fighting sleep battles with a one-year-old, God has been prodding a certain area of my life where I’ve fought Him and His lovingly given limits: babies.

When I first discovered I was pregnant with my oldest, I was 22, two months out of college, newly married, and terrified. I saw a large hurdle looming in the distance and now idea how I could possibly jump it. I felt so unprepared, so NOT ready. Nature and time carried me along until there was a newborn in my arms, and I made vows: I will do this right. I will do this well. I will not fail this little guy. EVER.

But I’m human, like the rest of us. The first time I felt like I had failed Jones, I was devastated — I had made a vow, and broken it. How does one recover from something like that? I had a hard time forgiving myself of anything I did that I felt could be wrong or a misstep of some sort, viewed through much confusion by my husband, who only saw a young mother devoted to loving and helping her son. He didn’t see the sky-high ultimatums I was giving myself, because I didn’t see them, either. I accepted them as what must be done, never stopping to think they might not be from God.

A second baby, and a third, and a fourth, provided me with opportunities to “get it right this time” — to somehow “do better” in the ways I’d felt I had wronged or failed the previous child. This included anything and everything, from sleep to eating to potty training to emotional health to issues of discipline. Vow after vow after vow. But of course, living in a broken world and a broken body, the vows could not be kept. And so I saw the failures pile up. There were a few points in which I realized I was heaping expectations upon myself that God was not giving me, and He was able to reach through the muck in those times to give me mercy I desperately needed. After the third baby, in particular, He showed me that living beyond my limitations, attempting to be a perfect mother to three kids, thinking little of self-care or what a mothering body might need, would lead only to destruction — of myself, of relationship, of our family. There was a breakdown and the realization that I needed lots of help and rest and grace.

Even after all that, with this fourth little bundle, I’ve still been caught in the “get it right” mind-trap, only I was going to “get it right” in the department of self-care. I was going to avoid a mental breakdown at all costs, which ironically, actually led me to the ledge. I was going to right all the wrongs, once and for all, because this was to be the last baby come from my womb — my “last chance” to fix things, make myself clean, win my favor as a mother before God.

Today, I was thinking about how my perceived shortcomings as a first-time mother have shaped the way I’ve mothered my other three babies — particularly how this mindset had blinded me my merciless view of myself as a mother, leading to anger, frustration, and an inability to accept the shortcomings in the people around me, as well. It’s led me to give more of myself than even God was asking; and quite ironically, when we “sacrifice” things God has not called us to sacrifice, there is very little fruit or righteous outcome. It’s rather a lose-lose situation. These things have hindered my ability to see the circumstances of mothering with any kind of logic or clear-headedness — I have only seen guilt, failure, and anger in my limitations. As I was thinking through all of this today, having done a lot of talking and processing about the human experience lately, about brokenness and limits and their appropriation to us by God, I felt a heavy sadness for my merciless view of myself. Then, in an instant, I saw God looking down on that terrified 22-year-old girl, and instead of seeing her shortcomings and her failures as a mother, I felt His deep love and tenderness toward me — His desire to help me and to care for me, to meet me in my needs.

I feel broken by that love this morning, the love He gave and continues to give, that I could not give myself. I cannot fully understand my strong desire to live beyond my limits, but accepting this ambiguity is perhaps the exact point, enabling me to lay my impossible standards and wrongful vows in His hands. I am continually reminded in this season that Jesus’s yoke is easy and His burden is light; so when I feel like my load is unbearable, I am likely carrying things He never intended for me to carry. Perfection in motherhood, redemption through works or acts of service to my kids, self-sacrifice to win favor, using my children in my quest to “get things right” — none of those are His burdens for me. I long to cast them off with finality. Jesus, let it be so.

Need.

The constant presence and care needed by a baby makes me crave quiet in a way not normal to me; as an introvert, this is saying a lot. I plan my days around morning nap time, that magical hour-and-a-half, boiling water for coffee before I even take her upstairs so I can maximize the time.

I’ve pulled at least a dozen books from the shelves recently, because I had desire to read them; they are laying at random spots around the house. One by the TV, a few in the dining room, one or two more stacked next to the guitar. I pick them up and trail them to a new spot, thinking I might be able to crack them and soak up some words, but really I’m just playing a game: the one that used to be by the TV is now on my desk upstairs, and which one will be where when the urge to open it comes? I have no idea. I’m no good at creating games.

I’ve only had time for one book recently, and that is the Bible. I lay that sleeping cherub in her crib, close the door, and dash downstairs to grind beans and pour water. I’ve made the orange chair in the living room “my place,” recently. It faces the front windows, and if the lighting is right, I can see bugs dancing around our trees through the smudges made by dog noses and little hands. This is where I spend naptime, the thing I’d almost forgotten was so necessary until this latest babe came around.

When I say I only have time for the Bible, I am not being pious. I am saying, literally, the Bible and waiting on God has become essential to my daily survival. I’ve been feeling worn down, battered by the little things of life, and my go-tos were not cutting it. Even before this, I was still in the Bible, still attempting to live its words; but I’ve stumbled upon a season in which I simply cannot live my daily life without being refreshed with God’s presence, without remembering why I am here and what my task is, without being girded by truth. I think I waited til the last possible moment to give in: I wanted my problem to be diet-related, or perhaps a lack of sleep. But it was a lack of God.

Sometimes you can look and feel fine, with just enough dryness of heart to make you wonder, “Why doesn’t the beautiful sky pierce me today?” And then, after an infection or two, some small problems with kids, and a string of grumpy days, you find that you are just not. okay. And why? How did this happen? You are thirsty. Drinking from the well of life takes discipline. It’s not an easy thing to admit. It’s sometimes more fun to scroll facebook.

For me, it was the anger — the little things would really irk me, and I would wonder, “Why was there no patience for that? It was just something so small.” And then the fear — over what would happen, and when, and how would I make it? Next, an unhealthy turning inward, unable to think of the things and people that were not ME. So I looked deeper, and there I found dryness. And a host of unconfessed sins. I clutched Isaiah 30:15 as my map back to living waters: “For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, ‘In repentance and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.’ But you were unwilling.” Jesus, make me willing.

So today, legos and other toys litter the floor. Dishes topple over in the sink. The vacuum cleaner is still plugged in and lying in the back hallway. Cardboard box creations and forgotten science experiments find permanent homes in the playroom. Emails go unsent, the dog is unwalked. Picture books lie everywhere — literally, one on every surface of the house, half opened, corners folded, wearing the look of story love. My house is in seeming shambles; but I’m building more important things, cleaning the places of my heart that need tending. This is hard, but necessary work.

Clockwork.

Kitchen Sink

My kitchen sink faces the back of our lot
one neighbor’s graveled yard literally
five feet from the window. I’ve known
the comings and goings of this neighbor
from my post, heard her crunching steps
and listened to the clip-clip of laundry hanging.
I watch demurely, hoping she doesn’t catch
my eye through the sparse hedge.
In spring, pink blossoms grow on those bushes.

I could tell time by her taillights, backing into
the drive after work, or her faucet on, with bucket
filling, as she readies water for the plants. I only
see the back of her house, but it is
immaculate, a place for everything and
everything in it’s place. My eyes move to
the sink below, filled with the remains of
yesterday’s dinner and this morning’s breakfast,
carrot peelings and dried, old milk drops.
How different, our lives. How often does
she wash dishes, I wonder? Likely, more
often than me.

This summer, we had a small pool in
our parental employ, located very close
to that evenly distributed gravel, to those
sparse bushes. It promised to be a very loud
August for our neighbors, their windows open
to catch some Pacific breeze, fans whirring.
This time, I tried to catch her eye.

“I’m afraid we’ll be rather noisy this summer,”
I said, hoping my shaky smile would alert her
to the things I couldn’t say. Things like: “I know
you run your house like clockwork, and keep
your hedges trimmed just right, but will you
let my children play crazy like summer kids
should, splashing and laughing and most certainly
fighting? Will you still like me as your neighbor?”

This woman. Somehow, she knew.
As she filled her bucket, the sound of that
faucet that I could recognize from any point,
any room in my home, readying the water for her
flowers, she said, “It’s no problem at all. I love
the sound of happy children.”

What a gift to me, this woman couldn’t know.
I can watch her pull towels from her
basket and clip them, spread them out, but she
can’t see my sink or its contents, my dining table
littered with paper scraps, Legos, crumbs, books.

Sometimes I long for that clockwork, the
security of that immaculate yard. Then I imagine
myself at 60, in a quiet home, everything in its
place. I see myself watering plants at the
same time each night, my taillights illuminating
red in some other woman’s back kitchen.
I look at my dry, old milk drops, and they
seem very different.

Blocked paths.

I know that the end of a five-day break with all six of us home is not the time for an introvert to be asking hard life questions. It is rarely the time for anything more than quiet, fresh vegetables, and sleep. And yet, here I am: wondering, asking all those questions, putting them up for justifiable (to me) answers.

It feels like there are several blocked pathways in our life right now — family life, coffee, health, househunting, personal pursuits. I feel as if I’m in a forest, knowing I need to be somewhere, unable to find the way out. I’m searching for direction, begging God, showing him my needs — Don’t you see? Surely you can see them! — and each trail my foot finds leads to an avalanche of rocks, a rushing river, a thickening brush. So I’m left waiting, wondering why God is not making a way.

But from His word, I know He has purposes I don’t understand, I can’t yet see clearly. But when, Lord? When will you tell me what you are doing? When will you open a path, clear the brush, build a bridge for us? Will there ever be times in this life overseas — in this life, in general — that are filled with things not borne from adversity? I commented to Bryan yesterday that sometimes I think a tidal wave of suffering would make more sense — something huge that carries you out to sea, plainly known that only God can save you. As it stands, I feel like we are two rocks, patiently worn down by drops of rain over so many years. Each drop is so small, we separate it and know objectively it is little, should have little effect. And yet, a thousand drops of water make a bucket heavy. So I find myself heavy, searching for the why, thinking that the knowing will lessen my load.

When I begin to feel this way, I have a mental checklist of things to try: take a bath, go to bed early, resume that daily walk, get serious about time in the Bible, tell a friend, plan something fun, write. I KNOW there are blessings in times of discouragement. I KNOW that life is not all blocked pathways. I KNOW many things. Even though these help, there is only one point of knowing that will truly transform, and that is the knowledge of God. Do I KNOW Him?

I have few answers right now. In my life, I tend to oscillate between two extremes: internal fulfillment coupled with peace for the road to which God has called us — gratitude for how the difficulties have changed me; and intense frustration over a thousand little things, making the dailies of life feel like trudging through thick mud — the sight for blessings has been lost.

Someone tell me these feelings occur everywhere; tell me its not just because I’m living here, trying to make a life in a culture not my own. I know there are unique issues I will face, but it helps to remember my struggles are not singular, that a plane ticket won’t erase them.

Many questions with few answers means loose endings, not tied up nice and pretty. And this post ends thus.

———-
Post-script for my mama: Sometimes I’m reluctant to publish these kinds of posts, knowing you will probably read them and they might make you sad. Know that I’m okay — I’m still smiling and laughing, I’m just forthright about my struggles. And also know that I love you.

Late night chats.

Her hair, almost always unkempt, is so very HER: wild, untamed, feminine, beautiful. She asked me to snuggle with her last night, a request I’ve committed to always answer with a ‘yes,’ not wanting their smallness to pass me by because of long days and a strong desire to lay on the couch. It was a good commitment for me to make. Without it, how many heart-opening conversations would I have missed? And truly, it’s just difficult to connect with my kids during the day, there is so much activity and bustle.

I closed my eyes, longing for my own bed and for sleep that wouldn’t come for another two hours. “Open your eyes, mama,” she said. “I have an important question.”

Her older brothers, now eight and almost six, are beginning to ask hard questions of life: What do I do when my friends hurt my feelings? How do I respond when Jesus doesn’t take away my fears? How do I choose the right thing, when the wrong thing is staring me down and looks so easy? I’ve been walking these roads with my boys, astonished with how little I’ve prayed over them — how could I forget the battle for their hearts? How could I think they would somehow be safe from attack, from hard questions or tough circumstances, because of their size? I prayed then that Jesus help me fight well for them, know where to direct them when difficulty strikes.

These things have primed me for something deep, a little piece of her heart, opened wide and waiting for truth-salve from her mama. She put her hand on my cheek, eyes serious with whatever wonder is about to come forth.

“Mama, do you pick your boogers and eat them?”

I laughed. So loud. Her sleeping brother in the top bunk groans and rolled over. She smiled her dimpled smile, and tears stung even as I smiled: she is still so small, and someday she won’t be. Someday, she won’t ask me about boogers, won’t wear four gaudy plastic rings and three purses on our walk down the street, won’t run to me and jump in my arms after a long day at school. I grew up. We all do. And someday, she will too. How will my heart take it, the holding of all these things? The blessings of holding her newborn head, of watching her grow, listening to her chats and seeing her personality emerge, watching her first encounters with truth unfold? How will I not burst as I watch her move from seedling to something stronger, firmer, steadier? What a gift. What a completely undeserved and gracious gift.

“Well, I pick my nose, but I don’t eat my boogers,” I replied.

“Yeah, they taste really gross,” she said.

“Why don’t you put them in a tissue instead, then throw them in a trashcan?” I’m still recovering from the serious tone of her not-so-serious question.

She thinks. Then, she knows exactly what to do with them, and her face lights up with the knowledge.

“I know! Let’s plant the boogers. Then maybe they will grow into a booger tree!”

We giggled with delight at the funny image this created. Then we snuggled and I prayed for her rest, her growth, her still-smallness.

Her breathing slows and her arms fall loosely on my shoulder, jerking slightly as she sinks into sleep. I crawled from her bunk and just looked at her, thanking Jesus for letting me see these things. It is a grace I take for granted, but when I see it, I don’t understand it: why me? Why have you given it to me? Today, I simply give thanks, for this sweet conversation with that wild little girl.

Reflections on daily life.

My boys took off on bikes the other day, just to ride a bit around the neighborhood. I stood in the parking space in front of our home and surveyed the outdoor toy box, amazed at how many of faithfully-played-with contents have gone unused in the last year or so. It hit me like a ton of bricks: they are growing up. I have known this, of course. But it seems that all of a sudden, the two of them, Jones and Ezra, have left one magical stage for another, and I will never again have only little children in my home. I wanted to cry, but there was no time — Harper needed help with something.

And so it was, as Bryan was taking the middle two up to bed the following night, that he found me in a heap of sudden tears. I think he thought I was in physical pain and was relieved to hear me say, “They are just all. so. big!” He smiled, and I cried a bit more for their hugeness and the strange nature of wanting time to both speed up and slow down. I would die of exhaustion if they stayed little forever, or my psyche would snap in the midst of it: it would be hell. And yet, I am grieved to see the gangly arms and legs in comparison to the chubby baby nestled on my hip — only one more summer with a baby in my life. Only one more ‘first year.’ It’s all a little too much for my sentimental side. I think I need a good, long sleep.

Speaking of the first year, Ivy is learning to wave and to clap. She smiles at the familiar people in her life and seems to deeply process all the stories we tell her. At this current moment, she is propped in her bumbo, looking between the tapping computer keys and my face, in total awe of the sound coming from my fingers. Her smile betrays her thoughts: It makes noise! Did you know this? How delightful! These parts of loving a baby never get old, the continuous amazement at everyday things. The sleep and spoon-feeding, however, I could do away with. Nevertheless, she is a complete and utter delight, spoiled rotten by all five of us. The poor thing never has a moment to herself.

Now that she’s 6 months, going on 7, I have a bit more time and a bit more brain at my disposal, and so I’ve been making a summer reading list and diving back into books. I’m currently reading A Severe Mercy, just in the first chapter — its causing me to dwell on my own love story with that man in the back room bagging coffee beans and watching Jimmy Fallon, and how I fell inexplicably in love with him from the very beginning. The falling-in-love of it was all I imagined, from my end, at least. It was a shock, however, to be married and have total access to each other’s personalities, to see that his falling-in-love and mine were so very different. There was less romantic notion playing across the screen of his mind, and more logic. It makes me laugh now, how very good God is to help us think we know what we’re getting, so we dive on in, and then we see what we are actually getting, and it was exactly what He wanted for us. Someday, I will write on that.

For now, it’s cloudy (July in Japan!), dripping rain, and time for me to go.

Rain, locusts, and seasons in Japan.

Rainy season came a few weeks late this year, so it’s July 1st with a forecast of clouds and wet for the foreseeable future. All the fabric in the house has begun to feel a little bit damp to the touch, and our rock-garden yard is exploding with all manner of green. The kids were weeding with dad the other day and pulled out several plants taller than themselves. I also found three bamboo shoots, as tall as my chest, in the back of our house — I’d like to research how that could be. Bamboo seeds flying in the wind? Who knows.

2014-05-21 16.58.49

Rice planting season ended a month ago, so now the flooded fields are filled with green, and soon the tadpoles swimming around the rice will sprout legs. In another month, we will hear them croaking at dusk, matching their rhythm with the locusts, who know neither appropriate timing nor volume levels in their singing. I distinctly remember sitting on tatami during on of my language lessons our first summer here, my sensei talking about the semi (locusts) and how when she hears their song, she immediately starts sweating, just thinking of the heat that accompanies them. I thought it was strange. But just yesterday, I was putting fresh cucumber slices in our own little tadpole pool (Ezra is obsessed with catching things right now) and heard the first semi of the season, chirping from a tree in our neighbor’s yard. I shuddered, thinking of the humidity and sweat coming my way, immediately picturing the misty sky, myself lying on the couch in our only air-conditioned room, fan whirring and a suica (watermelon) popsicle in my hand. I’ve arrived, I thought. The sound of semi makes me sweat.

Now into our eighth year here, I’ve feel that I’ve reached a turnaround point in my cultural adjustment, able to anticipate and enjoy the changing seasons of Shizuoka: when they come and what they mean, how they change the feel of my house and the offerings at the grocery store and the activities we pursue. It used to mean such sadness for me, that the images of seasons I grew up with didn’t match my physical surroundings. “Summer barbeque” was not burgers and fireworks on the fourth of July — it was yakisoba on the rocky shore of the river. My first years here, I used to scroll facebook feeds and long for what I knew. July meant daily pool visits and cookouts and boating at the lake and library trips and hot afternoons giving way to cool, breezy evenings. Now, July means sometimes rain, taking temperatures and signing pool permission cards for school, watching our ume (plum) jar as the fruit and rock sugar slowly meld together into the most natural, kool-aid-tasting beverage I’ve ever had. It means drying out and storing futon in plastic bags for the coming humidity, and coming home every. trip. from the grocery store with a box of produce I didn’t intend to purchase, it just looked too good.

2015-06-01 16.45.07I remember sitting in an interview, 22 and pregnant and 6-months-married, feeling very intimidated by the 10-year term for which we were applying. It seemed so long — too long. Wouldn’t five years be better? Couldn’t you adjust enough, get a close enough picture of life in Japan, without such a BIG number looming in the distance? But from this end, this point of view, I see so clearly why God (and the wise leaders of our organization) gave us that timeline. I don’t know about the rest of Asia, or even the rest of the world, but Japan is such a stark contrast to my previous life — it is known for it’s uniqueness, which presents interesting challenges to those seeking to build a new life here. I would’ve probably quit after five years — God knows I wanted to! My dear husband heard it all. But now? Now there is such beauty available here, a whole way of life, whole seasons with separate nostalgia for me. I sometimes miss “the American summer,” but I don’t long for it, ache for it, cry-in-the-bathroom-over-real-simple-magazine-pictures-of-it like I used to.

Now I watch the rain forecast, feed tadpoles and think of wishes and prayers to hang up for hanabata, dream of kakigori (shaved ice) and hanabi (fireworks) and river trips. In short, I live. And I do my living here, where I am, in Japan.

R

No daily rhythm, no problem.

I remember the moment I knew this would be different: sitting on the floor in my room at the midwife clinic, nursing my two-day-old while explaining multiplication tables to my oldest. How far apart these worlds are, I thought. The world of school and homework and navigating friendships, and the world of nursing and night-waking and diapers. How will I bridge the gap?

That question remains, almost six months later. Just today, at a lunch for moms in Ezra’s class, another mother of four said finding a daily rhythm was the hardest part of bringing her last baby home. I felt a camaraderie with her, though we speak separate languages and grew up in different cultures, we understood the mama in each other. This has been hard, this meshing of worlds. I have gone over it a thousand times in my mind, the many ways I could alter life, however slight, to be able to manage this better. If I could just find a time for Ivy to nap before school pick up. If Ezra and Harper would just fall asleep a little earlier. If Jones wouldn’t take so long to finish his homework.

2015-05-30 10.22.19-1

But somewhere along the line, I lost the joy of bringing up babies. It slipped behind the washer with the dirty socks and was littered among the never-picked-up blocks in the toy room. I thought new routines, more expectations, and better menu planning would bring it back. I thought if mom knew what everyone should be doing, and when, we might be able find a small semblance of collective sanity. It’s been quite the opposite, in fact. I feel like I’ve squashed more smiles than I’ve created. Pushing an agenda just never works well for me and my little people — they have their own desires, however small, which deserve respect from the big people in their lives. When our agendas collide, which they inevitably do, the bigger person ends up feeling rather small on the inside, as ideas and creativity and childish exuberance get crushed by the not-yets and the hurry-ups and the time mongering of the adult world. I wonder how many times I must go around this block?

2015-05-30 10.15.39Last night, I sifted through pictures from our days without school schedules and longed for those times, the seemingly carefree adventures of yesterday. Look at those happy faces! When was the last time I greeted my children with tenderness in the morning? Was it school timetables that brought me here? Or life with a baby? But I know just one thing can’t explain where I am. Life is stressful, and sometimes we find ourselves in place we never intended to be. I respond to stress with simultaneous desires to control and to retreat, both of which wound my little people in a variety of ways. But I’m awake, and I’ve repented, and I’m ready to move on.

2015-05-30 12.59.50I’ve been thinking that what I needed was to slow down, which seems to be the Almighty Prescription for Everything these days. But you know what? I can’t slow down. My life circumstances won’t let me. My quickly-growing baby girl needs fed, my middle two need to go to the park, my oldest needs help with his math, and the chores around me never end. I need a solution that meets me where I am, that doesn’t cause me to wish away my circumstances because THEN I would be a happy person. If only there wasn’t so much noise. If only I had more alone time. If only I had fewer people’s lives to organize. Not true. I don’t need another internet meme telling me to take pause and find quiet, because those are hard to come by.

No. What I need is to see the river of my days, raging white rapids that they are, and dive in without fear. Because Jesus is not standing on the bank with me — he is in the water, waiting. I need to forget my alone time. (Christ will sustain me.) I need to close my eyes in the midst of noise. (Christ will sustain me.) I need to thank God for each and every opportunity to serve the little people in my home. (Christ will sustain me.)

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Photo cred: Jones.

I don’t know how many times I have circled this issue. Eventually, it will stick, won’t it? Christ will sustain me. Even in the midst of a messy, rhythm-less life, Christ will sustain me. Christ will sustain me.