4 years of Marriage, Thought-poison ivy and the Pursuite of Bigger Joys
Justin and I have been married for over four years! I know, you'd think we'd be more mature by now in a myriad of ways (like not leaving the house without a diaper bag and bottle or, I don't know, getting our children to bed at a reasonable hour*). But hey, you wouldn't believe how bad we were before. O.k., so if you're our parents, you probably would believe (*cough* taking a 3-week-old baby on vacation to San Antonio / going cave exploring with him in a sling *cough*) how much we've improved since then. Yeah, we were pretty stupid, and when I say stupid, I really mean "Thank you God that our children are still alive and healthy!" It's honestly a bit discouraging to think about how bad of a mom I was for Jude's first year of life. Most moms are super protective, even overly protective, with their first kid. But I was like "Wahoo, we're still doing all these fun things, but now with a baby!"
To all of you not-yet-parents, let me give you a little bit of advice. Should you perhaps find out you are having a baby say 4+ years "ahead of schedule," take a deep breath and change everything. In fact, I'm just going to go right out there and say it. If your lifestyle post-baby doesn't look drastically different, you're probably doing something (drastically) wrong. I don't think we ever even made an actual "set" bedtime for Jude until he was 1 and a half. That's sad.
Remembering all of these things, particularly late at night, causes lots and lots of mental misery. It's thought-poison-ivy, making all my feelings swell, inflamed and painful and irritating, and oh-so-impossible to ignore. I hope you don't think I was bragging at the beginning of this post about how terrible of a parent I was. It's probably one of my biggest shames and regrets. Yet, for some inexplicable reason, I still find myself feeling no real improvement. Sure, Jude and Noah now have a set bedtime (which we always struggle to keep), we try to make sure they never miss a nap (ha!), and most of the time they're fed, clean, and having a blast. But there's still the inescapable truth that 75% of my week is spent away from them.
I've said this before but I don't mind repeating it: I HATE the phrase "Working Mom." EVERY MOM WORKS. I mean that quite literally. If you don't think it's work to cook, clean, care for, and serve the needs of adorable, mini-megalomaniacs, you're absolutely crazy. It's insanely exhausting. I've only done it for the six weeks when I was on maternity leave with both children, but it almost killed me. In many, many ways, my office job is far easier than watching and serving my kids. That being said, I don't like being a full-time "office" mom. I don't like wondering what my kids are learning, eating, who they're playing with, and what their day is going like. I hate it, in fact. What makes this worse? When I actually am around the boys and I let my a) exhaustion, b) stress, c) selfishness, or d) anger at not having things work out my way transform me into monster-mom. It's so miserable to think about these things, I have to shut them out with a lot of "NO! No! NO! Trust in the LORD, you idiot" refrains.
Because that's what this is really about. I don't trust God enough to take the crappy financial situation that our little family is currently in and use these unique circumstances for his glory. If I truly, truly believed he is turning all of this into his ultimate glory and my ultimate joy, I wouldn't get so anxious all of the time. Instead, I carry around all of this useless bad-mom guilt. So what have I concluded from all of this (yes, I like lists. You can ask my poor husband): 1) I have a tendency to believe the lie that my circumstances (outside of my control) create my "goodness" or "badness" at being a mom 2) I often despair over my inability to change my circumstances rather than trust God, knowing that all things work for my eventual good (Romans 8:28). 3) I so frequently forget that God has a plan. I know that sounds obvious, but it's hard to remember sometimes in the emotion of the moment, "Oh yeah, he's placed me here, with these people, at this place for a reason!" (Acts 17) Matt Chandler said it perfectly this morning: "Don't take your meaning from your work. Take your meaning to your work." I'm alive to herald his glory and delight in him. How can I do that when I'm sitting around blaming my "problems" on my circumstances? Easy answer: I can't.
So why did I start this post with my 4 year anniversary to Justin? Well, thinking on our marriage and where I had thought we'd be by now, I see that things aren't the way I planned at all. We don't own a house. We aren't "just starting to think" about having kids. We don't work with nonprofits, or compassion international, or even some part of the church. We still owe a lot of people a lot of chickens (that bad, mixed metaphor was for you, Justin). In fact, pretty much NOTHING about our married life went the way I had planned.
And that's a good thing!
I have two AMAZING gifts from God who bring me immeasurable joy everyday. I have a family (both Smiths and Singletons included) that pours out love on us constantly. From free babysitting, to tree-trimming, to taking us out to dinner, to even letting us rent our awesomely vintage little house, they are always, always showing us the love of Christ. I have a job that allows financial stability and let's me be creative (and crazy). And then there are the incredible men and women God has placed in our lives. The wonderful new friendships he's created with the Besongs and the Marks, and the older friendships he's continued to nurture through home group and gospel-centered community are so incredibly precious to us. I could go on and on listing all the beautiful things he is doing in the life of our little family.
Here's the point: I'm not a great mom, or wife, or friend even. I'm just a big, yucky mess. But praise God that's not the end of the narrative! When I dejectedly focus on all of these things I can't do and can't change, I rob myself from the opportunity to praise him and live out "trust[ing] in the LORD with all of [my] heart." How much greater is my praise if I rejoice even when it's hard, it hurts, or it doesn't go the way I'd planned?
Lord, make me smaller so you may be bigger. Cement my heart to you; help me trust you implicitly, love you devotedly, repent from my sin instantly, and praise you with every thought, word, and deed.
Thank you for 4 years of grace, growth, blessings, and joy! I am so excited to see what wonderful things you'll do in the next 4! Give me discernment and vision to pursue much greater things than my own happiness. Thank you for not giving me my way so that I might see more clearly just how desperately I need you.
*reasonable hour def: 1) Sometime before eleven pm. **Perfect Bedtime def: 1) No more than an hour later than all of their friends's bedtimes.