Alone tonight while Mark was at various RUF small groups, I ended up on a familiar internet train. It begins with a beloved hymn, which leads to another, which invariably leads to Sandra McCracken from some season of life, which inevitably leads me to reading old blog posts and reminiscing about life ... ten years ago, four years ago, last month.
Oh time! How you consistently show me the ways I've changed and remind me consistently of how I'm the same.
Where did I launch from tonight? Well, I heard a nuanced sermon on Sunday. It reminded me of my great desire to clearly teach the word of God. To be careful. To say true things and to not say false things, explicitly or implicitly. It reminded me again of why I so desperately want to teach, and why it's ok for me to listen to others.
Tonight my internet train took me to the past blog posts about seminary, and though I thought I'd arrive to hear all about the greatness of learning and my past desire to serve, I was struck by the narrative on babies. On my babies. On the massive space my children occupied during seminary.
They were there. And they were crucial to our time there.
I forget now, because all of our seminary friends have babies, and more babies, and more pregnancies. At the time, it was mostly just us. It was this thing that set us apart, made us different and unique, but also it was something we didn't talk about much. We always brought our children and our friends loved our children, but we never talked a ton about being parents.
And maybe, because our first friendships developed as parents didn't revolve around being parents, we thought we had escaped that world. We thought, we can really have it all. Marriage, children, intellectual stimulation, deep friendship. Woah! We're killing it.
And then, for us, time passed. Mark received his first call. I became a "full time" stay-at-home-mom. I attacked the task with the same drive and passion as I had attacked seminary, neglecting to realize one simple fact. In seminary, the content of study was the Bible, aka, the word of truth.
At home, the content of study was, well mortal. It was a house. And finances. And closets. And meal plans. And scheduling.
And without realizing what I was doing, I ended up feeding myself a sub-par diet.
It's very sneaky.
You start out thinking you are reading harmless content, about say, emptying your closets. You read one blog post. Then another. She links to a blogger you relate to easier. You read that blogger's entire blog. And all her friends. Some click. Some don't. But you keep reading. You keep reading. Day after day. You incorporate some of what you read. You discard other things. You read and you read and you read.
One day, you wake up depressed about your own closets.
You can't live up to the expectation on an everyday mom. An everyday homemaker.
This January I went to a women's retreat, all girls around my own age and stage. I was placed in a random prayer group. 3 out of the 4 of us were reading or actively seeking copies of the book "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up."
None of us felt like our homes were in order. All of us felt like a mess. And a failure.
And it made me sit up straight. It made me think. It concerned me.
Because in front of me were orderly, lovely, caring women. They were incredible mothers and wives. And yet, all of us had this nagging feeling that we were doing something wrong. Our homes were ... less than.
As I spoke about in my last post, the winter was creeping in. And the strain of "keeping a home" was part of it.
Though the thoughts ran in impossible and interesting directions, one striking realization was that I had been feeding myself a steady diet of perfectionism. All day, everyday, trying to become the "perfect" homemaker. Everything about the station was so far from my set of gifting and yet, I was thoroughly convinced of its importance. Raising children. Keeping a home. Being hospitable. Loving neighbors. Caring for the local school and the local church. These are admirable and worthy pursuits.
And yet, when you read what every single person has to say about the subject, you forget that it is individuals writing. You connect what they are saying, and create this entirely superficial standard.
"This" is what "every" woman does.
Whatever it is!
All women: find a perfect spouse, have beautiful children, create a safe, natural, organic, interesting environment that's welcoming to in-laws, neighbors, friends, and strangers. They frequent local institutions, feeding their family healthy food choices, while maintaining the exact balance of in-the-worldness but not of-the-worldness. They pass on values of music, art, history, architecture, gardening, relationship. They engage with the local school, church, sports programs, library, and farmers market, but they do not overwhelm their children, because kids today have too much going on. Their kids can swim, throw a ball, ride a bike, read, write in their journals, participate in all community fun runs, but they can also "just be kids" in an unstructured environment.
These awesome women also have a vibrant life of their own. They have a group of dear friends, both "Girls' Night" friends and "Couples Nights" friends. They have time for mentors, because older women and their advice is essential. They have time for younger women, because my goodness we need to love these girls as they transition into adulthood. They have "peers" because seriously, who understands what we are going through during this insane generation other than us. They maintain impeccable relationships with their high school, college, and graduate friends, because ... no one really "gets us" unless they were there with us when that particular important life event occurred.
Our houses are perfect. Our clothes represent us. We are clean. And healthy. We exercise and watch the right shows, we have sex regularly, and we are so damn happy!
And you know where I'm going with this.
With how fake it is. With the facade. And the exhaustion. And the, I just can't do it all-ness.
But tonight. Reading over my old posts. My younger, less sad, less stressed self.
I was reminded of something so true. And so forgotten.
When I found out I was pregnant with Samara, one month after I married Mark, his immediate, juvenile, yet faithful response, was that the Lord knew we needed Samara for the life he had prepared for us, for the ministry he had prepared for us.
It was so unexpected. And we were so young.
And our only thoughts could go towards God's sovereignty and faithfulness in our lives.
But now we're tired. And stressed out. And overwhelmed. And confused.
At this stage in life, would a pregnancy seem like such a bestowing of God's goodness in our lives? Like such a complete identifier of his plan in our lives?
Or would it feel like a burden? Like a weight to be bourne? Like something else to carry? Something else to bare up under?
What has changed?
The gift given or the way in which we receive it?
Mark and I are not pregnant with another child. But that doesn't mean we don't think about it, and sometimes, I'm incredibly saddened by the way I know we would respond to another child in our lives.
A gift from God? An apparent prerequisite for ministry?
On my goodness, no!
Another four years at home. Another three years of diapers. So many diapers! Two years of physical misery ... first with the pregnancy, then with the nursing. Guilt about hating nursing, but being able to do it, so cherishing it, because other mothers can't. Guilt because you can get pregnant and complain about it, while your friends can't get pregnant in the first place. Guilt. Guilt. Love. Love. Joy. Hatred. Peace. Discord. Body amazement. Body hatred. On and on and on.
It used to be so simple.
And so the question remains.
How have I changed? How am I consistently the same?
If I received this news: Katherine, you are pregnant.
How would I feel? What would I think?
There would be terror. Real terror.
I'd replay all the reasons I'm incapable.
My daughter does her week's homework on Thursday nights and never before. She should probably be further along in reading, but we are not consistent at home. My son needs a haircut, but I just can't sustain the battle and so, we're living in the "long hair is masculine" land. My baby has a rash on his mouth. He's been to the pediatrician. He's had medication, but at the end of the day, he likes to eat dirt. Do I helicopter mom or deal with the red dots?
A gift from God?
Do you know some of my best friends still have not embarked on their journeys as mothers? Do you know I've been doing this for over 7 years? Do you know I have at least 18 years ahead of me? Do you know I think about college savings (529 plans) everyday? Do you know I want to buy a painting for my bedroom that sings to my soul and no one else sees?
This is life.
When we are young, when we graduate seminary, when we begin having children, when we first start our households, we are so excited about the potential to do good things. To welcome. To love. To care. To invest.
And then we start doing it. And we get tired. And we pray. And we develop wisdom.
The Lord leaves us never.
And we listen to our Sandra McCraken. And our hymns. And our theology.
And we remember that God's grace is sufficient regardless. God's grace is sufficient always.
And baby or no baby, God's grace is always sufficient.
Lesson Learned: Always.