I haven’t been writing much. It’s not that I don’t have anything to say, or that God isn’t teaching me new things (or the same lessons He’s been working on for years). It’s just that life is back to normal: full days of work, full nights of kids, grocery, homework, formal dances, sleep. But, the real reason I haven’t been writing is this: When I had cancer, that was my stuff. I could share it openly, and it didn’t betray someone else’s personal junk. My stuff right now, involves other people, and the really cool things going on, might not be something they want to share with a thousand people. Or the things I would share about some of these people may not be so flattering. (One person in particular, if you think it’s you… it’s not you… probably.)
So why write today? Well, it is 3AM and I’ve been up since 1:30 coughing and thinking and praying, and so… it is time to write. (CAUTION: OVER SHARE Ok… why is coughing so much worse when you’re older. Seriously, yesterday, I had such a coughing fit I had to sit on the toilet so I didn’t pee on myself, and hold a trashcan so I didn’t puke on the floor… sorry, but other midlife ladies will understand. I can’t believe I am putting this in here.)
Part of what God has been doing in my life recently is giving me opportunity to speak into the lives of several people in their twenties: singles, couples, families. As I have been reflecting on this, I realize I have learned a lot since that phase in my life, and I am SO thankful to have moved passed it. Yes, I would love to be able to do a back bend again without injuring myself. I would love to ski the first day on the slopes without fear of a knee injury as I get my ski-legs back, but that is about all I would take back. Ok & the flat stomach while eating anything I wanted (like candy orange slices, and Pringles, and Pepsi) without guilt.
The truth is, I spent a good part of my 20s shoulding on myself. This is a term I have learned from A.J. Jones. You should on yourself when you heap unreasonable expectations on yourself. You should on other people when you do it to them.
I have always been pretty independent, so I never would have acknowledged my should problem. I would have told you I was fine with myself, and that I really didn’t care what other people thought of me. Too an extent, that was true, however, I CONSTANTLY compared myself to the perfect woman. (And this was before social media, bless Millennials’ hearts. No wonder so many have difficulty leaving the house and interacting with people. I would have been a basket case.) I felt like I should be a stay at home mother, yet be a millionaire by 30. I mean everyone on Friends managed to do it.
My mom was amazing. She took us on bike rides, and we had dinner as a family every night. We read Little Visits with God before bed, and then she would come into our rooms individually and sing to us and pray with us. I was not this mom. I would put my kids to bed, maybe sing a song (only with the first two), and say a rote prayer, trying to get out of there as soon a possible because I was EXHAUSTED and sick of people. I SHOULD be that.
My best friend was a stay at home mom, and she was so JOYFUL about it. She had quit a good paying, high responsibility job when she had her son. While she struggled with the transition, she also grew an organic garden, cooked delicious food every night, baked her own bread, kept a clean (like really clean) house, with a baby… I SHOULD be that. She also had a great marriage. She cooked, her husband did the dishes. They did devotions every night together as a family. She played all these learning games with her son, did preschool at age 2. I SHOULD be that.
Then there was what I filled my mind with. I was deeply involved in Bible Studies. (Beth Moore’s Breaking Free, LIFE CHANGING!) But, I never felt like I could study or pray enough. I needed to be more. I SHOULD be writing Bible Studies. I SHOULD be speaking publicly, I SHOULD be that connected to God. I listened to Focus on the Family, a WONDERFUL ministry that I have listened to since childhood, however, with my comparison state of mind, the FOCUS on the family, and marriage, and parenting only displayed my FAILURES as a woman. Don’t even get my started on Proverbs 31. I would read that scripture and just deflate… I SHOULD be that.
Coming to the light… I don’t know when this started to change. I can tell you it has been a 20 year journey. A couple of memories come to mind. One is a conversation I had with my afore mentioned friend on one of our many walks. We were discussing Proverbs 31, and hiring a house keeper. (So thankful she is a deep thinker. Neither of us are good at small talk. Actually, most of my friends aren’t good a small talk.) So, I am complaining about not being able to live up to this standard, working dawn to dusk to provide for my family, being wise and kind… and my friend says, “Yeah, but she had servants.” WHAT!! “Yeah, she had servants. ” It is right there!!
Proverbs 31:15 She gets up while it is still night;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her female servants.
Seriously, Girl had help!! She was good to her help, but GIRL HAD HELP!!
Another memory that comes to mind, this is in my early twenties, but it was jogged by a conversation I had recently with a newly married woman. I was relatively unhappy in my marriage the first few years. Thankfully, we stuck together, and now that boy I married is the MOST supportive and loving person in my life. I am so very thankful for him. He is such a gift to my life. However, thankful is not a place I dwelt very long then. Although, I loved him very much, at least as much as I could at that time. Anyway, if you read my journals from those early years, you will see me praying for him. For him to be the father and husband he was created to be (I was WAY to holy to ask that he be who I wanted him to be). I do very specifically remember a day when I was listening to Focus on the Family (I think), and my prayer changed. I quit praying that Cary would change, and I started praying that God would change me into the woman and wife he needed. Somehow, God took away my pride and my resentment in that time of humbling, and he taught me. It wasn’t immediate, it took years, but it was definitely a point where the trajectory of my life changed.
So here is the truth. I am an ambivert. I get pumped talking one on one with people about deep things. I also HAVE to have my alone time, preferable everyday for a couple of hours. These two things did not make for a happy stay at home mom/house wife, with a husband with a very time demanding job.
I am a good public speaker, but I am terrible in a crowd. I’m good in a crisis, not always good at everyday life. I can see the big picture, I get really bored with day to day activities – ie cleaning, playing board games with children (putting up or taking down Christmas decor >: -(). I love deep conversations about life, the Bible, business, God. I’m terrible at gossip, worrying about soccer uniforms, and paying bills. So, 40ish me is ok with that. I’m learning (with God) to ask for help, and to play to my strengths. I’m good at my job. I’m good at calming people down when they are upset (unless they are my kids). I’m a great wife to Cary, and he is just the man for me.
One more thing, whether you want to quote the Byrds, or Ecclesiastes, for everything, there is a season. I would have been a more patient mom. I probably would have stayed home longer… maybe, or I would have had grace with myself for working when my children were little. I wouldn’t have put so much pressure on myself to be everything to everyone. I would have been a mom, and I would have asked for help, without feeling like a failure. I would have left my children to spend more quality time with their dad, and I would have thrown the TV out the front door. I wouldn’t have let the illusions society put on the screen in front of me, and the airways around me influence how I felt about myself so much. I would have learned earlier that being outside in the sun is better for me emotionally than just about anything. And I would have learned how to BE in the season I’m in, each season in its time.
Ecclesiastes 3 English Standard Version (ESV)
A Time for Everything
3 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
2 a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
3 a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7 a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
I was thinking today. On the farm, no one tries to harvest during planting time. No one tries to feed newborn calves solid food. No, on the farm, things are allowed to be in the season they are in, not pressure to move to the next until it is time. This lesson, that took misery, self judgement, job changes and cancer to learn, was worth the journey.
I still struggle to be content where I am. To not worry that I am failing somehow, but it is getting better, and I hope that has improved not only the quality of my life, but of my family as well. Someday soon, they will be grown up. God and I won’t hang out at 4 AM, because we will have time during the day. My hope, is that I learn to embrace that place, an empty nest, until the next season begins.
And to my 20 somethings… I love you. Thank you for needing me.