My daughters and I visited my hometown this past weekend. Since becoming a momma, trips have become more difficult for me. No naps, or short naps, late nights, and just generally being out of our routine and comfort zone make this OCD momma stressed. And that's an understatement.
I feel like I am just in survival mode when we are traveling, especially when visiting my childhood home. Not a lot of time, or maybe not a lot of desire, to be snuggling, playing, and relishing my girls. My focus is more or less on 1) the nearly impossible task of catching up with the 30-something people in my family while keeping one eye on my girls, 2) getting the girls in and out of their car seats about 20 times each day as we hop from house to park to house to restaurant to house to house to house, 3) hoping to get at least one bit of nutrition in their bodies among the chips, brownies, pizza, and candy, and 4) pulling restless sleepers back onto their pillows and moving pokey knees away from my back throughout the night (because we all share a queen-size bed when we are at my momma's). My attitude throughout the duration of the trip is, what should I say, less than enthusiastic?
Not to mention the fact that family just reflects all the yuck in me. And I know I'm not the only one that feels this way; I've heard too many people say the same thing, even just recently. Our families know us, through and through. They know our desires, but they also know how far we fall short of them. They know every poor choice and wrong turn we've made (okay, maybe not every one--thank you, Lord--but certainly enough) and sometimes it is hard to ever move past those things with family. Because, when we look into their eyes, we see ourselves as we were years ago before we all moved out and grew up (or moved up and grew out). We see a reflection that doesn't quite match who we are today and it's terribly disconcerting. But what's worse is what the reminder of our former selves does to us: before we know it we start acting like our old selves too. It's hard to change dynamics that have existed for 34, 44, or 50 years. It's hard to ever become "new" around the people and places of old. I see the reflection of me in my parents and all my siblings and it feels like I haven't made any progress since I moved out of that town 16 years ago. It's like the new me looking into a mirror and seeing the old me. Discouraging. That old flesh just will not die.
"Behold, I make all things new." I just keep clinging to the promises and looking for signs of their fulfillment.
So, when I get back to my now-home, it is like sweet peace.
Even among the bags of dirty laundry (not the family kind, but literally, dirty clothes) that sit by the front door, right where we dumped them when unloading the car, I feel lighter in spirit. I'm a far cry from having it all together, notwithstanding having years of growth under my belt, but I feel so much stronger when I'm in my now-home. There aren't reminders at every corner of every feat Satan has ever won in my life. You know?
It reminds me of something I said to an old college friend when I unexpectedly ran into them a few years later. I vividly remember saying, "I wish you hadn't met me back then." Because I knew, at the time this person and I were friends, I held some beliefs that shaped my attitude and my behavior in ways that make me a little sad to reflect upon now. I was sad to think that was the "me" this person will always remember. And I fret that I may have encouraged anyone to live a life apart from Christ. I have asked for forgiveness and I know I am forgiven. But every once in while, Satan will throw those old memories at me again and whisper, "Do you really think you have changed? Do you really think you can?" And, inevitably, those questions are whispered in my ear every singe time I go "home," and I want to tell my family, "I really wish you hadn't met me back then."
Can we all just pretend like we don't know the junk from the past?
The junk makes me crabby. I usually wind up praying throughout the entirety of my return trip, asking God to help me do better next time--be more patient, be less stressed, be relaxed, be in-the-moment, be encouraging, be kind...and on and on.
Okay, I completely detoured! The real reason for this post was to document a sweet moment with my big girl. Wow. So...
We come home on Sunday. We eat fast food because we just want to be together rather than spending our time cooking and cleaning afterwards. After dinner, we (my man and I) stand in the kitchen, having one of those raw conversations about our childhood, families, and all the hurts and joys of this thing called life.
I feel like this is a good time for another detour. My man and I met at the climax of my hedonistic life--or should I say nadir rather than climax? Yet, by a miracle of God we do not see ugly reflections of ourselves in each other.. Both of us knew each other at our nadir and both of us still see each other as miraculous transformations. Perhaps it's because we went through those transformations together. I don't know. I just know God has allowed us to move forward in a grace-filled relationship that blows my ever-lasting soul away!
So, while we are deep in conversation, the circle of life spins on, with our girls living their childhood, making memories, and establishing their own concepts of family. They play with animals, read books, and chase each other up and down the hallway until we all move outside, where they ride their bikes until well past dark and my man shows me his newly rearranged workshop. Afterwards, we resume our normal routine of baths, brushing teeth, bedtime stories, Bible stories, and prayers--things that don't always happen when we are away from home. The girls fall asleep well before their normal bedtime and my man and I snuggle in close to watch a movie. We all sleep hard and wake up late (it's fall break) and we take a while to get moving again, like a cold car on a winter morning.
During our breakfast conversation, the topic of naming our children comes up and I tell my big girl she was almost a Charlie, whether she came out a girl or a boy. (My man's dad is Charles, his granddaddy was Charles, and I have a brother and uncle named Charles, both called Charlie. Only hiccup: I have two other brothers and two sisters too; we couldn't name our baby after everyone, so we didn't name her after anyone.) She says, "I am [insert her name] because that's the way God planned it." I agree and ask if she remembers what [her name] means. (We've talked about this before.) She shakes her head and I say, "Beloved, because you're loved." We finish eating and big girl goes to wash her hands. From the bathroom, I hear big girl talking to me; I can't hear what she's saying so I walk to the bathroom and ask her to say it again. She's drying her hands. "You are [her name]," she says. I slyly say, "No, I'm not; you are!" She says, "You are! Because you're loved." And with that, she jumps off her step stool and runs into me, wrapping her arms around my legs.
She is so good for me. One of God's perfect gifts. "Every good and perfect gift is from above..." (James 1:17).
I may be OCD and I might even frequently be OOC (out of control, not out of character) but my girls know they are loved and they continue to love their faltering parents, including their OCD/OOC momma. I couldn't have been more grateful for anything in this world than the reminder that true love is steadfast. That even in the midst of all our failures, love prevails.
In stressful times...in grumpy times...in the happy times...in the nadir times...in the bitter-sweet times of family grinding away our rough edges, as iron sharpens iron...we love...and we are loved.
Which brings me back in a round-about way to my detour on family...
If we are around people long enough they are going to see us fall sometimes. Family for sure falls into this category. We fail those we love and we hope they can forgive us. The ones we love fail us and we learn to forgive. We open ourselves to love and, it's true, we open ourselves to hurt. But if we close our hearts to love, we become cold, unfeeling, and bitter. And we die a little. So, to live we keep on trying. Bit by painful bit, our hurting hearts become whole as we push forward, choosing love and forgiveness over bitterness and doubt, especially self-doubt.
Family. It's one of the few things on this earth that can be both indescribably sweet and inexplicably painful. And it is therein that love is perfected. Good times, tough times. We keep loving and we know we are loved. We keep moving forward in our human way, two steps forward, one step back. Imperfectly progressing in this thing called love.
Thanks, family, for loving me. Let me just say...
You are [insert big girl's name]!
(That is to say...you are loved.)
A wise pastor I know once told me that we can not try to get into other people's minds to imagine what they may be thinking of us. We've got to know who we are in Christ. In Christ alone. Whatever images we think are being reflected back to us in the eyes of those we know, first of all, may or may not be what they really see in us (in fact I think that we rarely know what people really think of us), and secondly, even if we are accurate in guessing their thoughts, does it matter? Whose opinion matters apart from God's?
"Am I now trying to win the approval of men or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I'm trying to please man, I am no longer a servant of Christ." Galations 1:10
#35. A great big family, dirty laundry and all...
#36. A rare nap for my big girl that gave me a good hour of "momma" time...
#37. A play date this morning, which gave me...
#38. Two hours of adult conversation...
#39. Fall...oh! I love fall!
#40. Fall break
#41. Lazy mornings
#42. Tea par-TEES
#43. Nights when my man is home
#44. Library books
#45. My girls' laughter
#46. Unexpected gifts
#47. Real maple syrup
#48. Long-sleeved t-shirts
#49. An early wake-up call from my Father...
#50. A sleepy companion during my morning quiet time...