"It is imperative to rise to the level of adult and be the expert on your own life...We each have to face struggles, figure out the answers, apply them and learn from mistakes and successes. It slows us down to spend energy looking for experts or paths or easy solutions--instead, we must face the reality that it is supposed to be hard, and go to work doing what needs to be done." ~ Oliver & Rachel DeMille, Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning
Just because it feels hard, doesn't mean you're doing something wrong.
As a peace lover and a problem solver, I spend a lot of time trying to simplify and find better ways to do things in my life. How can I handle home management better? How can I improve my relationship with the kids/with Steve? How can I strengthen my blog reach and traffic?
In the past few months, things have felt harder than usual. Not natural, not flowing. Some seasons of life are just like that.
Instead of accepting this as the natural course of things, each time I noticed a difficult situation, I would push against it. Trying not to let it disturb me, I'd grapple and study and analyze it to death, looking for the "perfect" solution.
At the core of my analysis was the assumption that hard must mean I'm doing something wrong. But what if that is completely false?
What if hard actually means you are doing something right?
Instead of this being a depressing realization, I've found it completely freeing. Finally I can look at the issues that have bothered me and say "it's okay that it's hard."
It is impossible to live a life of mission and purpose--a life following the divine calling God has given you--and not face challenges along the way.
Previously if a child started whining at the dinner table, I'd go through my mental toolbox looking for what I could do to "fix" the situation, to not let it disturb my peace and comfortability.
Now I look at that child, take a deep breath, and mentally remind myself "It's supposed to be hard. It's okay." I've been amazed at how this simple mantra calms me in a way the "perfect solution" never could.
I didn't realize that as I honed my attention in on the few situations I struggled with--attempting to solve them--I actually tuned out the majority of amazingness that fills, bubbles over, and flows out of my incredible, imperfect life.
Just by acknowledging the challenges and calling them "okay" I've been able to turn my focus quickly back to all the blessings God has filled my life with.
It's okay if it's hard today, mamas. It's supposed to be! You are raising a new generation, giving your all to little ones who may not currently give back.
Don't let the hard make you stumble--it proves you're on the right track.
"Problems are like washing machines. They twist us, spin us and knock us around but in the end we come out cleaner, brighter and better than before." ~ Source Unknown
I knew it was time when I saw pools of childhood seriousness gathering in her dark eyes.
"I'm afraid I haven't been good enough. He might not come this year."
And just like that I knew the moment had come for the big reveal. The man with the rosy cheeks and red hat has visited and filled the stockings for several years, but Steve and I had decided his days were numbered.
What was once fun and magical had started to become a teeny bit of a burden--for all of us, it seems. Not only were the kids concerned about whether they had made the cut in terms of behavior, I'd also noticed their demands growing with each passing year.
It makes sense if you think about it. If magical Santa can do anything, then I want this, and this, and this, and this. And why does he only ever fill the stockings? Why doesn't he fill the whole room like you see in movies and books?
As a Christian family who wants Jesus at the center of our season--a family who also values social justice to our core--I wasn't happy with this ballooning "me-me-me" focus.
So the sight of my ten-year-old's lips quivering with worry confirmed my intention to tell sooner rather than later. I sat down with her on the bed that night, letting her know that as a big girl now we could share big girl secrets together.
Then I took a deep breath and out with it.
"Mommy and Daddy are SANTA!"
Her eyes grew wide with complete surprise. She hesitated a moment, then her smile spread big...and she laughed.
Long, joyful, shocked.
Next came the questions and connections.
"That's why I always recognize the wrapping paper!"
"But who eats the cookies we leave out?"
"Where did my letter go that I sent him?"
After plenty of answers and secrets told, she exhaled.
"I feel better," she said, relief clearing the creases of her forehead.
I left her room and headed to the boys. Gathering them around we did a little repeat of the same conversation, but boy-style: less tears, more noise, laughter, jumping, wrestling, tickling. (Those of you with boys well know what I mean.)
They found the news hilarious.
I've heard of children being scarred by this knowledge. I feared them naming this event twenty years down the line as one of their greatest childhood disappointments.
But I was reminded once again of their resiliency. For years they've been surrounded by this stable home culture we've attempted to knit around them. When surprises like this come along, the threads of family hold tight.
My kids know they are safe, loved, wanted. They trust us.
Santa won't be coming this year, but even better things will.
Laughter, joy, connection, wonder.
Most of all, Jesus.
So rest in peace, Santa. You were fun while you lasted, but I'm quite relieved to hang the stockings on my own this year.
"Then Ma told them something else about Santa Claus. He was everywhere, and besides that, he was all the time. Whenever anyone was unselfish, that was Santa Claus. Christmas Eve was the time when everybody was unselfish. On that one night, Santa Claus was everywhere, because everybody, all together, stopped being selfish and wanted other people to be happy. And in the morning you saw what that had done." ~ A Little House Christmas Treasury (one of our favorite Christmas books, it compiles all the Little House holiday chapters together)
Youthful novels filled my head full of the magical stuff, and it seemed miraculous that the glory of love could ever find its way to me.
Yet somehow it did. With it came all the ingredients of a good novel: a summer romance, an ocean separating the hero and heroine, a British accent.
I know now, of course, that marriage can be hard--so hard. But mostly it's wonderful. Like a good novel, 15 years later we're still together. Even more in love.
I used to wonder if I would ever become a parent.
The idea of raising children both drew and terrified me, and for the longest time I waited. Still getting to know each other after our long-distance romance, it took over five years of marriage before our hearts began to imagine lives with little people in them.
Little did I know then that God had three children in three years planned for us, one from our bodies, two from distant corners of the globe. All perfectly timed and divinely guided.
Of course I know now that parenting can be hard--dear Jesus, so hard. Their struggles and my struggles stare me daily in the face.
But we're together. A family. Unique, beautiful. It's wonderful.
I used to wonder if I would ever have a calling.
A deep thinker with an empathetic heart, from a young age I wanted to touch, change, impact the world.
If someone could have given me a vision back then--could have tried to describe blogging to me, I would have laughed. When I chose to stay home with my children, it was with no thought--or even hope--of another career waiting in the wings.
Yet here I am typing away in the early morning, these words traveling into virtual space, reaching tens of thousands of you. Incredible.
Blogging isn't always ideal though. Putting yourself out there vulnerably, dealing with a rude comment or discouraging book review, finding time to write. It can be hard.
But mostly, it's wonderful.
Sometimes I look ahead into the distance, squinting my eyes as I guess what might be there.
The future sky is covered with hazy clouds, preventing me from seeing very far. But I can just make out the faint outline of an indigo sky, brilliant in color--bright and good.
Then I turn around, reminding myself of how far I've come.
God's plan for my life--so much better than anything I ever dreamed up.
I see the hard parts of the journey, how they've made me stronger. How they didn't come to last, but only to fulfill a purpose. A good one.
What's left to do then but look up? Who cares about the future when the God who knows my name has lovingly planned out my every day, my every breath?
He has a pretty good track record. My destiny safe in his hand. Yours, too.
Overwhelmed with awe and wonder-full, I kneel down and give thanks.
"Remember God's bounty in the year. String the pearls of His favor. Hide the dark parts, except so far as they are breaking out in light! Give this one day to thanks, to joy, to gratitude!" ~ Henry Ward Beecher