The most excellent way

I’m not positive I’ll be able to post this subject for 29 more days. My writing has been more sporadic. I needed to take a break and read. I finished The Poisionwood Bible, which was fantastic, and now have moved onto A Long Days Dying. It’s summer and I just want to sit in my lovely garden and read. But with my time of reading and escaping into my books I’m still pondering a lot about being a mom, wife and neighbor.

There are two things that Matt and I share as values, other than our taste in Belgian Ales, we both agree that no matter what we choose to do with our lives (move to the Caribbean and work in little villages doing community development projects or move to South Africa to open a library in a township) we agree that family and creating community are values we both hold at the highest of our mental scale. We are still asking how to create and nurture our family more as well as develop the community that we have made.

A few years ago (almost three now) I got a group of people together to meet each week to eat a sweet meal and talk story. It was all in line with a desire Matt and I have to create community rather than waiting for community to come to us. As we’ve been doing this for three years now we are still asking each other what it is that we really want in community and how to make it all grow and flourish, and what does that even look like? We’re still asking….

As far as family goes we both see raising children, being parents, being siblings and children ourselves as a rich taste of God’s kingdom as it was meant to be. Everything He does and wants people to do to each other is all about growing and loving our community and our family. I can’t see any mandate that was uttered as being void of relationship with the individual or the extended tribe.

I use to roll my eyes when religious leaders spoke to the masses about seeing family values reinstated because the “fabric of society was unraveling faster than you could say Rush Limbaugh and if we were ever going to see society change we needed to focus on getting the family back together”. These days I may disagree with the manner in which people will thrust themselves into our families in order to get our values in tact (vote here to make America more family friendly) but I do agree that when the core of a family falls apart it snowballs into culture.

I recently read a book on feminism and violence against women and some chapters were a bit intense from my perspective but reading a book written by a woman who doesn’t share my core values in Christ being the center of our philosophy she was brilliant in her grounding. She said if you want to slowly eradicate any violence or oppression against women in society you have to model it and teach it to your kids in the home. They will carry it out into the community. Every issue from rape to pornography can be dealt with in the home which will ripple into their schools, their neighborhood, their own families and eventually the community. What a fantastic and righteous perspective! I couldn’t agree more. What we do with our children, how we love, teach and nurture them really can change the world….. slowly. But change is honest and lasting if it’s foundational and internally built.

I had been reading tons of material on homeschooling since almost a year ago. So for nearly a year now I’ve been reading, researching and preparing myself for the decision to homeschool (still haven’t made a definitive decision yet) but all of the space it was taking in my head was making me go insane, quite literally. I remember throwing a book across the room once because I couldn’t see how I would implement the suggestions that the !@#$%^& book was giving for my little high maintenance Einstein. I was worried on a daily basis that I was ruining him due to under stimulation. And then a few weeks ago I had a bit of a breakdown which led to the conclusion: “Screw it! I’m just going to nurture the hell out of this kid. Teach him character, how to play, how to be more self controlled, how to love learning (which he already does, most kids do), love his sister, his friends and his parents,  and figure out how to stimulate him as we go. He can be illiterate until he’s 16! At least he’ll know how to love and cherish his friends, how to listen to his mama and papa, and how to fly to the moon in the space ship of his imagination.”

I’ve taken my homeschooling books back to the library and have not checked out any more until I know my son is ready to go for it. Today I’m reading the boy and girl poems, playing with Legos, dressing up in some ridiculous clothes that do not fit me, nor look good on me and playing outside in the sprinkler. It’s summertime and I love my kids.

Paul wrote that if we have rad abilities in life but don’t have love in our hearts our abilities are wasted space (my paraphrase) and I am thrilled that the scripture translates the words, “And now I will show you the most excellent way…” I dig it mainly because it reminds me of how Bill and Ted spoke in their valley-boy vernacular about things being ‘most excellent’ and I love that there is a translation in the bible that uses the same vernacular, even though I’m sure Paul was more uptight and proper than Bill or Ted.

For those of you who read this and have children, even little babies, there is likely, or will likely be,  a stress or pressure to do the most for your kids in terms of education or filling their lives with classes or activities. The struggle within our goal driven and trophy lusting culture can create a pull inside that tears at your decisions to do what is best before it’s too late (teach them to read by age 5, craft with them so they have astonishing amounts of creativity or become strung out artists, show them museums or get them planting seeds in the garden!!!! Quick before they end up on crack!!!)

I firmly believe, even if I have my stressful days where I’m scratching up the pole of perfectionism trying to claw my way to the top of my children’s future, hoping they survive childhood, that if we invest into the spirit of our children, if we delight in them and show them the most excellent way while they are so young in their development we will raise amazing humans who will draft God’s dreams into reality. Delight in your children, enjoy the baby phase and the erratic and emotional toddler phase. Let them touch and feel the world. Screw the friends who don’t get or even like them. Don’t go to people’s houses that get uptight with them. Teach them to respect people’s things but let them feel the universe! They can learn to read when they’re 20!

“Now these three remain; faith, hope and love  but the greatest is love”

Chloe wearing a slipper and Oliver's flip flop. This is a common image in our home.

Chloe wearing a slipper and Oliver's flip flop. This is a common image in our home.

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Posing after he drew all over his arms

Posing after he drew all over his arms

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I’m off of caffeine since last Tuesday. I do think it’s made a world of difference since I had been having panic attacks on the highway. I was getting lightheaded and unable to catch my breath, making it impossible to drive. I guess the older you get the more drugs effect you. These days I can’t take much more than two glasses of wine (even over a huge time lapse) without waking up with a migraine. When did we all start getting old?

I do miss my taste of something special in the morning. It’s really not so much the caffeine jolt (although, I’m not gonna lie, I do like a bit of a wake me up) as much as the tradition or ceremony of drinking java in the a.m. The taste and smell of fresh, bitter coffee with a bit o’ cream is heavenly. I do believe it may just be the nectar of the gods. Alas….It’s not worth it for me right now. I’m not driving on the freeway yet but we’ll see.

Along with my panic attacks (if that’s what they were) I’ve been realizing that I have a lot of stress and bouts of depression that I deal with in my season of life. Being a mother of two toddlers carries an interesting weight of glory. On one hand these humans are amazingly divine and curious as I watch them grow and create. They are a part of Matt and I by DNA as well as personality yet totally autonomous in temperament and ‘type’ as God did give them. They are like precious diamonds in your home that you have as a valued treasure; ones which you can’t believe you are blessed enough to ‘own’. Yet you don’t really want to totally let them out of your sight. They are too precious for anything vile to happen to them.

Yet there are days when you wish they would just go away. Did I just write that? I did!  Parenthood it an undeniable, blissful heaviness. A treasure you hold close yet onlookers will never know the true value, even if they observe for a short while. Yet it is a treasure that you would like to leave locked in a room for a while until it stops screaming and shouting, “NO I DON’T WANT TO!!!”

I have  realized that I’m not, and never have been, one of those women who was born to  play on the floor with my children, swing them around endlessly as they cried out for more, bake cookies and knit (or craft as the kids like to call it these days) all while making each Halloween costume for every year they still want to go trick-or-treating. I’ve always been the independent, travel the world and hang with the delinquent of the earth. So this has all been more of an adjustment than I bargained for and my nerves have been shot as I feel like a failure half the time and an ungrateful, jealous of- the -single- woman, ingrate the other half. It’s so much in my head, which swoons with comparison of the life next door and the stress of telling your four year old eighty times a day, “come here, come here, COME HERE!!!” Yet I wouldn’t trade being a mom for a thousands worlds over. And I delight in my children daily. They have always been amazingly holy and beautifully fashioned as the little humans who have captured my heart.

There is a whole culture of mommy bloggers out there that I decided to stop reading because they made it seem like life at home with kids is the most satisfying thing in all of God’s green earth and I began to question what I was missing as I tried desperately to play Legos on the floor with my son as my mind wandered to things I could be doing to help stop human trafficking. Then I realized that (some of) these women make a lot of money from being overly optimistic bloggers who take really good photographs of their home, and their spawn, making candles and oatmeal soap to give away for the holidays… all after finishing an entire day of creative, home-schooled bliss. That’s not our home! We try to make cookies and it’s always a floury mess. The only soap here is barely used since my kids HATE to be washed and artsy photos likely will not be posted because they prefer to run around naked rather than fully clothed.

So I had to realize that either I am missing the plot or I am made differently and this phase of being with little humans is actually very trying for me. I’m making it, but sometimes….just barely.  Some days I cry  because I feel guilty that I don’t want it more and  that it stresses me out to be followed into every room of the house, without exception (yep, the bathroom is where my kids like to follow me- “hey, mamma. What are you doing?”). I’ve always been an introvert who needs to be refreshed by time to myself. Where is that time? Lost in a heap of legos and a stack of Curious George books.

There are times when I catch the kids dancing or playing pretend and I can’t believe how delightfully amazing they are. My heart feels unworthy to be bestowed with such a glorious prince and princess. I’ve found myself standing behind a corner to catch a glimpse of them playing silly games or make believe together just to feel perplexing elation and squirmy butterflies on my insides as I see how creative their unique persons have become. That’s how they can make me feel.

But in all honesty, there are super boring days when I haven’t the foggiest of what to do with them and the guilt overwhelms me. That’s where the sadness sets in. That’s the thing I can’t always shake and I don’t hear many a’ mom speak such devilry about the vexings of motherhood. Therefore it brings me to the conclusion that I’ve yet to surrender my life to the blood of the lamb in the area of child rearing or I need to grow more comfortable in my own skin and trust that my kids are going to be ok even if I haven’t got their education sorted yet. I’m sure some of the expectation is a cultural crapping on the woman of today as she tries to do the best she can in a fast paced, competitive culture (“You really should feel complete satisfaction in being a mommy. It’s the most amazing ‘ministry’ there is!”) Completely satisfy this!

It’s hard to deny yourself and die daily just so your children feel that you delight in them. There’s a huge push to do everything to/for them by the time they are five or you’ve royally screwed them. I am trying to be myself as I raise my kids by I can’t always get what I want (time alone- away from sticky hands and dirty mouths). Yet I feel the one true thing I can do for my kids IS to delight in them. To love WHO they are, even if I don’t know what to do with them during the day. They can just be bored and illiterate as we don’t bake cookies or make oatmeal soap. I believe that the gift we give our children as they are growing into people who can vote and marry one day is the gift of delighting in them and valuing who they are. I’m trying but it’s rough when I’m stressed, tired and smelly. It’s also hard when you have an overactive, sub genius four year old that has emotional breakdowns every day.

Yet I do say…. delight in your kids…. They can learn to read when they’re 20!

How’s that for a mouth full?