Wednesday, January 29, 2014

New Year's Resolution Slump? You're not alone.

"It's tempting to think "a little" isn't significant and that only "a lot" matters.  But most things that are important in life start very small and change very slowly, and they don't come with fanfare and bright lights." - Fred Rogers

photo credit: flickr
I love me some New Year's resolutions.  As a teacher, I got to experience them twice- professionally in August and personally in January. I have grown to crave that blank slate after the hustle and bustle of the holidays or the freedom and indulgence of summer.  But as with all things new, the honeymoon period wears off as the daily grind sets in. The papers pile up again, the crumbs accumulate in the corners of the kitchen counter, the slush dirties up the new running shoes and all of the sudden, friends, it is the end of January.  For many of us that can mean. . .ugh. . .New Year's Resolution Slump. If we aren't measuring up after a few weeks of effort input, we start to feel as though maybe we weren't cut out for this whole "change" after all.  My new year begins full of exciting ideas, plans to be better, grow spiritually, be healthier, waste less, want less, read more, learn a new skill, exercise daily. . .the list goes on.  And when I make up my mind to change, like most people, I want to do it RIGHT NOW.  

Um. . .
Did you hear me, God? 
Right now!!?
Help me grow. . .NOW!
Change my heart now.
Make me a better person. . .right now!

But here's the thing. 

There's no magic button to change a heart.  (Or become a better reader, or lose weight, or pray more. . .you get the picture.)
But we can take comfort in the fact that the whole year. . .and, in fact, or whole lives stretch before us.
There's no finish line.
It's not a race.
Every day is a new beginning.

So, whatever your New Year's Resolution is this year. . .take some comfort in the words below.  One of my faves shared it and I have been holding these words in my heart as I try to grow as a person this year.  I hope they help you, too.

The Slow Work of God

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.

And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.

Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.

Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ

You can join one of my favorite, and most encouraging bloggers in the whole world, Holley Gerth, here.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A winter with littles. . .

I don't remember a lot of vivid details about the winter when Phil was 3, Daniel was 2, and Josh was an infant, but I have but one clear image in my mind when I try.

I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror in our less-than-sparkling guest bathroom.    I was wearing sort of a misshapen purple tunic sweatshirt (to camo my extra baby pounds, of course), a gray tank top and and black leggings, all of it pretty much somehow stained or snotted on at some point since I had put it on that morning. I had spit up/chew marks on my baby-carrying shoulder where a 7 month old Josh had been teething on it.  I was barefoot, of course.  My mascara was smudged, hair in a messy side ponytail.  I remember stopping and squinting at my reflection in that mirror, and just thinking a little "Whaaaatttt happened to you, girl!!??" to myself before I ran off to clean up the next bodily fluid that was in my path or feed the next snack or dry the next tears.  Not in a mean way, just sort of a befuddled way. . .like, who is that person in the mirror?  Is that me?  The girl who used to wear sparkly jewelry and pantyhose and high heels every day and plan a month's worth of outfits on a CALENDAR?  

All of this motherhood still seemed so fresh and new.  One day with three tiny people that winter could sometimes feel like three put together, and when I fell into bed after mothering all day I felt pretty spent.  Plus, everything was gray and slushy and cold because it was winter. . . in the midwest.  This was also the winter that I cancelled all magazine subscriptions because they felt like too much pressure.  And all I can say is thank goodness Pinterest wasn't around to make me feel like an epic failure because no one was eating vegetables creatively shaped into zoo animals, reading scripture daily and reflecting on it or making leaf rubbings from native Indiana trees.  My house was full of snotty, giggly, teary, goofy, chubby-arm-and-legged boys with messy hair and mismatched socks watching excessive PBS kids.

There's a phrase I see going around on my facebook feed and blog posts, and the first time I saw it all I could think was- YES!!  

"Mama of Littles"  

Would that this phrase were around when I was knee deep in cloth diapers and Cheerio crumbs and lost pacifiers and endless Goodnight Moon!  I was one of those??!! If that phrase had been going around a few years ago, I would have felt like I was in a club!  A super-awesome club!  The "Mamas of Littles" club!  But, instead, I must admit as much as I love being a mom, I felt a little isolated during that period of my life.  And not intellectually stimulated.  And kind of sloppy and messy.  I felt like I never got much done, and I am an over-achiever, so that was killin' me.  I wish someone could have really showed me, during those few long "littles" winters, that I didn't have to enjoy every SINGLE moment, just grab a few and hold on to them.  Or told me how important and glorious that daily work is.  That's why it makes me so happy that so many mommy bloggers are telling mamas to give themselves a break.  Wiping boogies is grace.  Wiping booties- also grace.  Washing dishes- pure grace.  I am so happy to know that now, even if I didn't fully grasp it then.

I am never one to wish away a part of my life.  As the older boys grow, it gets harder in some ways, but also richer and more meaningful and more fun and beyond my wildest dreams hilarious and heartwarming and awesome.  Three years ago, I was cleaning up vomit and other bodily fluids off the floor nearly every day.  Now, people only really vomit when they are sick (knock on wood).  I was reading my kids the same board books over. . .and over. . .and over.  Now, I read my big kids CHAPTER BOOKS- ones that I loved when I was a kid!  We were tied to a nap schedule.  Now we drag the little guys along and they grab a nap in the car.  I had to constantly intervene to break up toy disputes or help with this or that train track piece or block, now they play together endlessly with no help from me.  I would talk TO my kids, but now I can really talk WITH my kids.  They ask me amazing questions.  Spiritual questions.  Science questions.  History questions. They give me insights into human nature.  They challenge me to learn new things.  They dress themselves and zip their own coats and brush their own teeth.  They say hilarious stuff and make me laugh until I cry.  They sing songs with me.  They help me clean up the toys.  They can PUSH THEMSELVES ON THE SWING.  Occasionally, they even wipe their OWN booties.  People, it gets easier.  And I know that there are other great things to come- like reading whole books to themselves, and taking family bike rides, and campouts and sleepovers and watching grown up movies together.  Someday, we'll even sit down and have a beer together, my all-grown-up men and I!  But I don't want to wish away the now- the sweet Kindergarteners who love stuffed animals and Angry Birds and Legos and still love cuddling with their mama and watching Sesame Street.   A sweet blonde head leaning on each shoulder while I read or watch TV has to be the best prize I have ever received in my entire life. I'll clean up a million cups of spilled milk and change a million diapers all over again for that.

So, "mamas of littles", hang in there this long, cold winter.  All my love to you. If you can relate, please do what I didn't do so well in the beginning- give that messy lookin' gal who doesn't get out much and her slightly disheveled children some grace.  A day will come very soon when you will look back and it will all be a mostly-happy-because-you-have-forgotten-all-the-details blur and you are a card-carrying lifetime member of the "Mama of Littles" club who earned her "I Survived a Midwestern Winter" badge.  I am granting you bragging rights for eternity for winter 2013-2014! 

I even took some pictures during that period of my life. I enjoyed looking back on them all and noting that in every single one, my hair is in a side ponytail, I am wearing a sweatshirt, and my house is pretty much a mess.  As is my kids' hair.  I am pretty sure I didn't brush it all winter!  And even with all that I am still glad I took pictures! (and at this moment three years later, I am also wearing a tunic, and leggings.  And I am barefoot.  And my hair is in- you guessed it, in a ponytail. But I've grown into the look now, and at least in my mind I'm rockin' it. ;)

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