Losing my Rag
I am writing for work at the moment on the theme of ‘Mother Guilt’ – something from which, thankfully, I have always considered that I do not suffer too readily. I have always kind of figured that my kiddos will pick up a mix of good and bad from my parenting (hopefully more good than bad), and that they will have their own issues to process and work through as they grow up; issues which, as they process them, will make them more empathetic, resilient, and grounded human beings.
I already see large parts of my personality in Judah, my oldest. The insistence on knowing what ‘the plan’ is for any given day, the motivation to do just about anything for a lolly, and the inability to let things go – or the ability to persevere no matter what, depending on which way you look at it. I also see less of my personality, but more of my quirks in my little Mason – who knew that chewing those little bits of cheek/inside lip (what are those things called?!) is an inherited trait?
Although I don’t fret a lot about how my mothering is going to stuff up my kids’ lives, today I found myself huddled in the corner of the kitchen, sobbing, while waiting for the kettle to boil. You see, with the ongoing ups and downs of chronic health issues, I will sometimes find myself roaring at the kids over something reasonably minor. I know it gives them a fright – and you know what? It often gives me a fright too. I don’t often realise that my body is depleted and my margins are paper thin, until I hear just one more little argument about that stupid fidget spinner.
Because I’m a big believer in the importance of one’s intentions, I can so easily brush off my infractions by explaining to my inner-critic that I never meant to upset anyone, and I’m only edgy because I feel like crap. But explain that to a couple of kiddos who never know which version of their mum they’re going to get today…or a husband, for that matter.
I guess I find myself at this juncture where I feel a sense of responsibility to not lose my rag at my kids, and not be a grumpy presence in my home, coupled with this sense of futility and the thought that it’s just so bloody unfair that I have to try and practice self-control, when I just want to sit in the corner and wallow in how gross I feel.
That’s the thing though, isn’t it? Living in the way that Jesus demonstrated doesn’t come with caveats as to how one might be feeling at the time. He doesn’t command us to love our neighbour, only when we’re feeling good. He doesn’t teach us to put others first, but don’t worry about it if you’re facing stuff.
I don’t for a second think he’s standing there with a big stick, reprimanding me with a stern look on his face. No. I get the sense that he’s gotten down to my eye-level, with compassion in his eyes, and an invitation to lean on him, and borrow his love and grace for the people that I live with. My margins may be non-existent, but his are everlasting.
So friends, if you, like me, are facing struggles of some sort (and who isn’t?), and it feels like you don’t have anything but the scum of your personality to share with those around you, perhaps you will join me in resting in the love of Jesus, and allowing his love to permeate your frailness, and drift through you to your loved ones.
Love you friends,
The Tree of Life
I have been aware of a nagging sense of discontent in my soul of late. I think it’s probably been there for ages, but as the fog of chronic illness lifts, I am better able to see it. It’s a longing for my life to be different; more full, more productive, more exciting, more fun. I miss my old life when I was younger, was firmly entrenched in a solid crew of friends, and had more invites to events than I cared to attend. Yet, if I am honest with myself, I remember that there was a nagging (sometimes raging) discontent in those times also; I wanted to be married, to own a house and live in America(!). In fact, if I am even more honest with myself, I will come to the conclusion that what I think I need is the free time, energy, health and social status of my younger years, coupled with the current blessings of marriage, family, our own home and a decent education. I want the very best bits of each stage of my life to converge into the present. I want these things because my heart, mind, soul and brain has been tricked into thinking that that is what they need to be content.
When I am in a grotty patch of migraines, I feel strangely more content; resigned to the fact that I can only just barely keep my head above water trying to live and keep two little dudes alive. When my treatment kicks in, the discontent starts squirming and making its presence known. I know that I won’t just be stumbling from day-to-day, waiting until I can stumble into a dark room with an ice-pack on my head. I am aware that I could attend events, I could work a productive job, I could get fitter, I could become more social, and attractive, and popular, and successful. My health would allow me the chance to chase after the things that I so regularly pursue to provide what I think I need for joy and contentment.
Fill in the blank, my life would be more complete/joyous/full if only __________ (I was married/married to someone else/single, I owned a home/boat/car/full head of hair, I was skinnier/stronger/healthier/smarter/prettier/funnier/more popular, I was understood/appreciated/valued, I had a best friend/10,000 followers on Instagram/naturally long and full eyelashes/the magical ability to eat hot chips without gaining weight, I had kids/did not have kids, I had more responsibility/more adventure and less responsibility…).
Unfortunately, when we chase after any of the above and more to fulfil our lives, it’s like sitting down to a meal of lollipops…immediately gratifying and very appealing, but ultimately leaves you with an emptiness within and a longing for something more. The world around us is endlessly whispering to us and enticing us to find life in a million different ways. We get addicted to the sweetness and instant gratification of receiving life from anything other than God, but we end up chasing the proverbial dangling carrot.
I recently listened to an excellent sermon by Tim Keller on the wounded spirit (you can find it on YouTube). In it, he parallels the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden with the Cross on which Jesus died. He suggests that the Tree of Life, which is cut off to us by deciding to live life on our own terms, becomes fully accessible to us through the sacrifice of Jesus. That is SUCH good news!! Do you know what this meant to me? On the one hand, it is clear that I am going to have to do some work diverting my thoughts away from the ways I habitually seek contentment, but on the other hand, it gives me GREAT joy!! Because it means that the longings I have within do not need to remain going unmet, my discontent can be fulfilled, I can eat from the Tree of Life. Jesus can, and wants to be, my everything. I can give up the exhausting, relentless and ultimately fruitless pursuit of the intangible. Now, that is great hope indeed!
Bless you friends,
My sweet little chilled out Macie has, overnight it seems, turned into a scratching, biting, dirt-eating, roaring, running, scaler-of-all-things-high-and-dangerous. This turn of events, coupled with the sassy-pants attitude of Mr. Four, has pushed stay at home parenthood to a whole. new. level. So here goes my requisite ‘parenting is so hard’ whinge. I figure I’m probably due for one…once a year seems about right.
Before I get into it, I feel the need for a disclaimer. This isn’t going to be one of those ‘find the gold in the hard moments’ posts. Not that we don’t need those, of course, we do. BUT, I read a lot of articles that talk about the trials of parenting and then finish up by talking about how precious our kids are, how cherished this time is, and how fleeting it really is. I read these and initially feel comforted, but somehow end up feeling worse…guilty somehow that in the midst of the chaos I’m not appreciating these years enough. SO…please rest assured, I love my kids to the moon and back, I’m trying to milk the loveliness out of these years, and I understand that one blessed day I shall look back with nostalgia and annoy some harrowed mum by commenting that, “I miss those days!” But today is a vent. Hopefully my venting will let you know that you are not alone in your messy house.
I think the thing that causes me to feel like the breath is being strangled out of me some days is the sheer relentlessness of raising kiddos. On a semi-regular basis, my own version of the Hillsong United song flashes through my head, “This kid is relentless.” Having battled ill-health for a couple of years surely can’t be helping, but I sometimes get to the point where I feel like I’ll explode or just disintegrate if I get asked for one more snack. I have, I kid you not, started sneaking around the house at times, hoping that no-one will notice my presence, quietly going about my business, because I know if I get spotted, Thing 1 or Thing 2 will be inevitably uncontrollably compelled to ask me to do something, or hang on my pants until they start to fall down. I swear they think, ‘Oh look, it’s the lady that does stuff. I must ask her to do more stuff.’
I think one of my main problems is that most days I hunt like a starving stray cat for morsels of the life I used to have. I try and trap moments of time that are uninterrupted and whimsical. I dream of the airy freedom of going about life without having my radar out for a small mountaineer attempting a first ascent. I long for the indulgence of having a grumpy day where I can just shut myself in a dark room and watch Netflix all day. Instead, I am the only introvert in a family of extroverts, and I get approximately 3.5 seconds in the loo before it becomes a shared experience.
Another thing that works against me, is that I am so driven by productivity. There’s nothing that I love more than putting my hand to a worthwhile task, and while I KNOW in my rational self that there could be nothing more worthwhile than raising tiny humans, the productive part of me dismisses the mundanity of daily childrearing as a box I cannot tick at the end of each day. I want to finish a tangible project, email it off to the appropriate parties, and receive constructive feedback and praise on what I have accomplished. Instead I get to scrub the floor, only to have Thing 2 post his newly dismantled banana over the side of his highchair.
I have become scarily adept at spotting the sound of Caleb’s truck arriving home from 14 miles away. Macie runs to the door to greet his D when the workday is done, and I’m about one step behind him. I get almost giddy to have my teammate back at my side. I read an article from a Psychologist recently who mentioned that parents of young children always feel overworked and underappreciated. Never a truer word. But at least the two of us are both clinging on to the same flogged horse together!
So there you go friends, rant over! (For this year). I pray that in this time of our lives God will grant us grace and strength. I also pray that through the continuous squeezing, our characters and personalities become more patient, loving, kind, peaceful, good, gentle, and self-controlled. You are not alone dear parent…and you are doing a great job.
Musings on Motherhood
It has been some time since I have blogged – the advent of a tiny human tends to hamper ones abilities to do almost anything. So I find myself with a couple of hours to myself, sitting outside at a cafe on a blissfully sunny day, finally with thoughts semi-coherent enough to write. Since my days of late have been nothing but kiddos, poopy nappies and endless renditions of ‘watch this trick mum’ (followed by a suitably unimpressive trick), it is fitting that motherhood should be the topic of this missive. So please find below an absolutely random collections of my musings of late (as befits the state of my addled mind):
Life with a newborn can be terribly isolating. I have to get up multiple times in the dark night while the rest of my family sleeps. My ability to do everyday tasks that used to be simple is greatly hampered; meaning that I can’t get out of the house with ease, and even when I do get to catch up with people, my mind is distracted by lack of sleep, a threenager, or giant froggy-eyes begging me for feedies and more feedies. Additionally, the breastfeeding culture here strikes me as a little less free and easy than it is at home, and even though I use a hooter-hider, I have been in the middle of conversations and had people leave when Mason gets hungry. I get that it can make people uncomfortable, it just adds to the feeling of isolation.
I am nothing without my yoga pants.
People that bring food and coffee are the very best kind of people.
I am struck by the fact that Mason in all his tiny newborn vulnerability and immaturity will never be more or less loved by God than he is right now. It is such a lovely reminder to me that I am wholly loved by Jesus just because I am Deb and not because of anything I do.
My theological books can take a backseat for now. In attempt to feel somewhat productive I pulled out one of the more weighty tomes on my shelf and wasted some of my precious downtime trying to read the first three sentences. There will once again come a time when I can put my mind to the advancement of my understanding, but that time can wait until my brain less resembles a pudding.
No-one tells you that the contents of your three year old’s potty can rival that of a middle-aged man the morning after Christmas Day. Then you have to congratulate him whilst trying not to vomit.
It is so easy to allow dissension to enter the marital ranks in the midst of the parenting chaos. I have had to be really careful to stop and put myself in Caleb’s shoes. I have found myself getting jealous that he is allowed to sleep through the night and then leave the house to go to work. In these moments I try to imagine going to work and coming home without having the space to unwind; it helps me to remember that we’re on the same team. We each face different challenges in this season, and it’s essential to the health of our marriage that I do all I can to guard against the seeds of bitterness.
I really need to have a ‘no Face-Booking after 10pm’ rule. I go to bed, my mind starts whirring and I have these ‘epiphanies’ that must be shared with the world – only to wake and discover I’ve posted the half-mad ramblings of a very tired person.
Gin and tonic.
I get perverse enjoyment out of witnessing other people’s kids acting out. It makes me feel better about my son’s behaviour.
Having a newborn is extraordinarily hard on my desire to be in control of life.
Love you friends, so nice to blog again! Hopefully I’ll be able to post a wee bit more now that the fog is slowly lifting.
Ode to Caleb
This past weekend Caleb and I celebrated five years since getting hitched. Five years since the 28 year-long dry spell of singleness ended. Now that’s a reason to celebrate! I have excelled at a few things in my life. Singleness wasn’t one of them. But that’s another story for another day. This seemed like an appropriate time to muse on the past five years of matrimony. Fear not, although we are very happily wed, this is not one of those ‘golden secrets to a happy marriage’ posts. There are a few memories and thoughts that pop out when I consider our shared life so far. So here ya go:
I will NEVER forget the day I discovered that at least half the world did something everyday differently to the way I had always assumed it should be. I can’t even remember how the conversation started, but it was the first year of our marriage, and we were in our bedroom talking about something to do with going to the loo. It may have been the time-old folding vs scrunching debate. I said something about standing to wipe, and Caleb just froze. His eyes went like saucers and he was like, “You stand to wipe?” Then my eyes went like dinner plates and I was like, “You SIT???!!” It. Was. So. Funny. Neither of us could stand. I don’t how long we laughed for, but I would be lying if I said a little bit of wee didn’t come out. (Also, if you didn’t know there are standers and sitters…you’re welcome).
When we first started dating Caleb had a secret he kept from me for months. He was so poor. Like putting petrol in his car with coins poor (and when gas runs at around $8 a gallon, that’s saying something). He had been given a contract at a small church for around 20 hours a week, but part way through they cut his hours in half. So he was like on minimum wage for 10 hours a week. I’ll let you do the math. But I had no idea. He would buy me coffees. He would pay for dinner. He bought me a CD because I mentioned I liked a song. Then the rest of the week he was literally eating rice and soy sauce. To this day it makes me want to cry! It was the sweetest thing, and so true to who I know him to be. He loves it that I had no idea. I’m glad he found another job soon after. Because it would have been challenging dating a guy with scurvy.
One of the most precious photographs I have ever seen is one of Caleb sitting in a hospital corridor in blue scrubs holding our wee Judah just after his birth. Because of the emergency situation, I was under a general anaesthetic and Caleb wasn’t allowed in the theatre. So the first parent to cuddle Judah was Caleb. In the photo, Judah is just staring at his D. I know it sounds a little silly, but I feel so grateful that because I wasn’t able to be there, Caleb was. There’s no one else in this world I would rather have give our kiddo his first cuddles in this life. It was also awesome because when I came around in recovery, Caleb was sitting beside me in scrubs. I have always had a thing about doctors. I’m pretty sure my first words were, “Is that my baby? You look hot…” (Then I ate some McDonalds, which is contraindicated immediately after undergoing surgery. But so worth it.)
Many of you will know about Caleb’s accident, but two years after we were married, and when I was seven weeks pregnant, Caleb got impaled on steel rebar at the building site. That also is a story for another day, but one of the sweetest moments of the whole thing occurred when I was able to visit him in recovery. Caleb was lying in a big room, hooked up to a bunch of machines, and empty except for him and a recovery nurse monitoring his vitals. He was all painted bright pink from the iodine, and there was a metal rod wrapped in plastic lying beside him. Which was so weird. Like who thinks an impalee would want to keep a souvenir of the big day? After we talked for a bit, another medical professional came in and asked the nurse how he was doing. She mentioned that he was holding steady, “Except his tachycardia went up when his wife walked in.” It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy that I can still make his heart race after a lifesaving surgery.
We don’t really fight at all. I’m not holding that up as the gold standard of marriage, we just really aren’t fighters. We discuss things when they need to be discussed, things are sometimes a bit weird or tense, but generally we feel pretty lucky that our personalities seem to just click. We do however have an ongoing thing where we’re very aware of each others hypocrisies. Mostly to do with farting. It amazes me that after five years it is still a thing, but it so is. When I fart, it’s hilarious. Sometimes I just start laughing, and Caleb’s like, “Did you fart?” When he farts it’s as if I’ve been mortally wounded. I’m like, “Babe!! That. Is. DISGUSTING!! Omygosh. GROSS! Open a window. That’s not okay!” He calls me out on my hypocrisy and I’m just like, “I know.” We have this conversation about twice a week.
I think the thing that amazes me most about Caleb, is that he has never tried to change me. I have never met anyone who just accepts me fully and doesn’t try to alter aspects of who I am. In pondering that, I think it’s when we are attempting to get others to meet our needs that we try and get them to be different. We hope other people will fill the gaps in our lives, and when they don’t, we want them to change. I guess Caleb is really secure. And I am so grateful. I’m slowly learning to be more like that too. So here’s to you babe. You’re the best gift to me, and I la you to the moo and back.