Monday, July 7, 2014
Regardless of how long you've lived on this planet, and regardless of whether your life has been charmed or trying, you have likely faced a situation that you just don't understand. The circumstances don't make sense, and you can't wrap your brain around why it had to happen. Years may have elapsed since you were taken by surprise, or you may have only just begun to grapple with the 'why.' The unexpected happens to us all, and the fallout leaves us reeling. The hardest part, though, is that we must continue living even while we're reeling. Life has no pause button, and while we'd love to put the brakes on the everyday mundane, life demands to be lived in the midst of the trouble.
I have seen friends face what seems insurmountable. Babies die in the womb, children are diagnosed with cancer, spouses prove unfaithful. Friends drift away, churches are torn apart, intentions are misunderstood. Jobs are terminated, finances are out of control, teenagers are rebellious. Daily, in these situations, we pray for the hardships to pass, and when they do, we would give anything to get over the left-behind hurt. In my own hardest moments, I have even been told by well-intentioned advice-givers that it's "time to get over it." I understood what they meant, but they didn't understand that it's impossible.
Years and distance from life-changing pain have taught me that you don't ever 'get over it.' That doesn't mean that you remain paralyzed and cease to seek happiness, but your now is always colored by your then. The whatever-it-is that you can't get over will always impact the who-you-are-now. You don't get over it; you get past and through it. 'Getting over it' implies that it never bothers you again. It does. 'Getting over it' suggests that you don't ever think of it again. You do.
I still cry about what I wish I could get over. I still hurt from the sting of the pain. I still remember the anguish I felt. The pain is less intense, yes, but there is still pain. And I don't think this is a bad thing. Why does the Lord allow residual hurt? Why doesn't He just go ahead and wipe every tear from our eye? Perhaps it's because the pain we felt - feel- is purposeful on this planet. Perhaps it's because there is something happening in us as a result of what happened to us. The unparalleled hurt in my own life has shown me unparalleled joy. The anguish has paved the way for rejoicing.
Get over it? I can't. Get through it? I am, daily.
Wednesday, July 2, 2014
As I've seen us all fall head over heels in love with this brand new person, it has occurred to me that the love we first feel when we see our newborns is nothing compared with the love that develops as we get to know them as people. The love we feel when we hear our newborns cry and when we nestle them for the first time is powerful and automatic, a connection so strong that we would immediately fight to the death for them. We think that we are as in love with them as we will ever be, but we are wrong. We think we love them now, but that love intensifies and changes as they do.
So I'd like to say to my baby sister as she is loving on her baby, you think you love her now, but just wait.
Just wait until that helpless newborn smiles at you for the first time (and not from gas.) Wait until she locks eyes with you and smiles that toothless grin because she knows that it's you. Just wait. You think you love her now.
Wait until she cries for you and cannot - will not - be soothed by anyone else. Wait until only Mommy will suffice. Your heart will swell knowing that she really does know her Mommy. Wait and see.
Wait until she reaches out with her fat-roll ridden arms, saying, "Carry you, Mommy," needing the safe arms of her mother. You think you love her now.
Just wait until she says in that squeaky 2-year old voice, "I wuv you, too." You will melt every time you hear it and secretly hope that she never learns to pronounce her L's.
Wait until you walk her into the first day of kindergarten, her hair in pigtails and your heart in your throat. Wait until you walk back to your car, crying the ugly cry because she's so big and you're so sad and you know nothing will ever be the same. Wait until she runs back into your arms and tells you about her friends and shows you her papers. You think you love her now. Just wait.
Wait until she begins to hide notes for you written in her own handwriting. "I love Mommy" painstakingly penned in crayon is more priceless than any Picasso in a museum. Wait until you pull out the shoe box containing all of her notes and have tears rolling down your cheeks because you remember feeling her kick in your belly. Wait and see.
Wait until you watch her do something she really fears for the first time, like riding a big-girl bike or diving into a pool. When she falls and fears but tries it again, your pride in her tenacity will add another dimension to your love for her. You think you love her now.
Wait until you're sick or have a headache and she shows genuine concern, asking, "Are you okay, Mommy?" Your love for her big heart will overwhelm you, and you will have faith that she'll be an amazing woman one day. You just think you love her now.
Wait until she begins to say her own prayers, saying things like, "I'm thankful for all of that, God, but mostly for you." You think you love her now.
Wait until her baby teeth fall out and too-large teeth grow in and her legs are long and gangly. You will wonder where your baby went, but you'll catch a glimpse when you least expect it, and it will make you catch your breath. Just wait.
Just wait until she confesses a fear to you, that she won't get a reward M&M in computer lab because she's not the first to finish her work. Your own tears will well and you'll want to fight over M&Ms and you will love her so fiercely it hurts. You think you love her now.
We think we love them now, but the truth is that we will love them more - and differently - tomorrow. A mother's love for her child is a dynamic, always-evolving, never-lessening creature. It is a love that no one can prepare you for, and it is a love that transcends even horrible-birth stories. It is a love from God himself, and it is a love only surpassed by Him. We just think we love them now.
Tuesday, July 1, 2014
Thursday, June 12, 2014
My children left today for their first of four weeks apart from me this summer. They are children of divorce, children whose summers will always be remembered as time split between their two families. I want to be better with this than I am, and I'm better than I used to be, but it's never going to be okay. It's never going to be easy watching them climb into a car with a stepmother I don't know, going to a place I won't be. I hate it more than even I usually realize.
I had a revelation tonight about why I'm in a funk, other than the obvious summer separation from my children. It's this: I want the time I do have with them to be wonderful. I want it to be perfect, full of wonderful memories and unicorns and butterflies. But it's not. Not at all. It's hard. It's real life, punishing disobedient 7 year olds and explaining self-control to selfish 8 year olds.
It's mommy crying after bedtime because the day was so tough and the fun just wasn't there and the misbehavior was rampant. It's wondering what I did wrong and how this will affect them long term and if the months I was barely surviving as a single mom caused the hardships we're now seeing.
It's not perfect at all, and it's not the picture I paint in my head of making the most of the time we do have together. But the time we do have together will be an absolute waste if I neglect to parent and just participate in fun. That's what I'm telling myself tonight, reminding myself is true. Parenting is rarely fun, and I refuse to relent in pursuit of perfect memories. I want to be a parent who raises them, not one who just plans fun.
And tonight, when my babies aren't here and there's a lump in my throat instead, I'm reminding myself that God's grace covers this. Even this.
Saturday, May 17, 2014
Life was chaotic, I was overwhelmed, and the constant barrage of perfect pictures of everyone else's world was about to do me in. So I did the 21st century version of squirreling myself away from society for a while - I logged off.
I didn't blog; I didn't read blogs. I swore off Facebook, and I shunned Twitter. I gave myself a time-out from the nonstop updates that stole my minutes and brought out my envy.
It was glorious.
And now that I've allowed myself some social media again, I almost wish I hadn't. Perhaps it's just my personality type, but I've come to realize how few contributions social media actually make for me personally.
Sure, I can see what people I went to high school with are up to (and goodness gracious, that's more than I needed to know), and I can learn quickly who just got engaged or took a pregnancy test, and yes, I don't know how we lived without knowing who was at the gym or seeing a picture of their meals, but truly - does the information we're obsessed with posting and fanatical about reading enrich our lives? Does it make us better people, or does it just make us voyeurs? Does it make us more satisfied, or does it just make us compare?
I know what it does for me, and it often isn't pretty.
Now, I'm not saying that social media can't be useful. Certainly it can. It promotes some good causes, reconnects old friends, and (sometimes) encourages us. But if we were to draw up a list of pros and cons, I'm afraid the cons would win every time - at least for me. And in an age where time is so limited and people are already so disconnected, allowing social media to consume such a large part of our lives is unproductive and isolating. And I don't think anyone can argue that it doesn't consume a lot of time. Nearly everyone I know checks their social media multiple times a day. Don't believe me? Go to any restaurant and just watch the people dining. They can't eat an entire meal without checking who has updated Facebook or taking selfies to show the world they were on a date (enough already!). We no longer know how to be; we must also do.
What it all boils down to for me is this quote from Roosevelt - "Comparison is the thief of joy." Every single time I get on social media - and maybe it's just me - I compare what I say/do/look like/wear/write with everyone else. I don't want to, and goodness knows I don't try to, but it just happens. Most people post the highlights of their lives (although we all have those 'friends' who post the negatives that should really remain private), so seeing the highlights can wrongly make us believe that their lives are all highlights. News flash - they aren't. Social media has become, for many, just the grown-up way of bragging about the good and concealing the bad.
My sabbatical revealed to me that I can live without Facebook. Twitter isn't a necessity, and even though I enjoy keeping up with strangers' lives via blogs, I don't have to. I did not suffer in the least from not knowing the ins and outs of others' days. I managed just fine without poring over entries of 140 characters. I spent more time reading and less time with my nose buried in my phone. Life felt calmer, and I honestly felt less anxiety. Maybe it was imagined and just a placebo effect, or maybe there was really a connection. Whatever the case, I learned something valuable. Less computer, more living. You should try it sometime.
Thursday, May 8, 2014
Here's the crazy thing: we don't have to live like that. We don't have to be consumed with fear and inaction and sin. Christ died for our freedom, and we can choose - today - to unshackle ourselves!
Tomorrow night at my church, 4 Points in Greer, SC, I am going to be speaking at an event just for ladies, and we'll be addressing this very issue. We will talk about the fact that no matter what happens - even if your greatest 'what if' fear comes true - God is still good and He still has plans for you. If you are able to come, I'd love to see you there as we explore the burning question, "what if?"
The church's website is www.4points.org, and you can get directions there.
Thursday, February 27, 2014
I'd like to think that, like an Olympic torch bearer, I am beckoning all hopefuls to follow the flame as I dutifully lead them to the place of dream-realization.
Unfortunately, this is a more realistic picture.
When I went into this profession, I honestly believed that I would be the teacher to make a difference. I would inspire adolescents to love learning, and they would look back on their education and hallowedly speak my name as The One who made all the difference.
Nobody told me that the reality would be slightly different, with me admonishing the same 14 year old three days in a row for failing to bring a pencil, or that I would slump in my chair at the final bell wondering just why I thought I was cut out for this. Nobody explained that the kid in all black would cry out for attention in ways I had never seen. Nobody said that my heart would break when my student's mother died while he was in my class.
Teaching, in case you don't know, is not always leading a charge with a flame. It is pulling your charges towards a pinprick of light. It is not always inspiring; it is often excruciating.
So often, when the classroom clears and all that's left are long-forgotten, tooth-marked pencils, I feel defeated. More often than not, I leave the space where I thought I would make miracles and feel like I've just made a mess.
Today was one of those days. I know I explained the same concept 452 times in 452 ways, then had 452 questions from 452 students. It was (she says hyperbolically) exhausting. I looked back at the beautiful but now ragged lesson plan book, questioning where I made the mistake. Should there have been more differentiation? Would a group activity have been more effective? Surely there was a video that could have been a help.
The fault, I always assume, is my own.
This job gets hard when we forget that we're dealing with people. People who have free will, varying interests, and unpredictable behavior. People who can't always see that the now of a classroom affects the future of a life.