Tonight I received a pretty cool email from a friend of mine. My friend is going through the stresses of getting married. The marriage is going to be rock solid. It's the GETTING THERE that is the stressful part---You know...the booking of this and that, picking out invitations, narrowing a huge guest list, the fun family dynamics that inherently arise, etc. etc. Anyway, the gist of the email goes something like this.. This friend thought that perhaps he was destined to live life alone, and felt pretty o.k. with that. The email continues, "Watching families like yours makes me figure there must be something more." The email continues, "You know I'm not great with kids, but every once in a while you run across one like Noah--or like my friend Marianne's daughter Caroline--that makes you want to roll the dice."
Wow. What a wonderful and unexpected email!! I feel humbled that our family of 4 could make anyone feel that way! I'm going to do a little free association here, close my eyes as I type, and say whatever pops into my mind. I'm told I'm best when I'm unfiltered, so unfiltered it is!
MY DEAR FRIEND...
The truth is, it's hard....real hard. When you're married and have children, suddenly, your life is not your own. You are responsible for the the emotional, physical, financial, & developmental well-being and safety of someone that is totally DEPENDENT upon you. DEPENDENT...that can be a scary word. I get that. I mean, I'm a girl that can rarely even find her keys...the girl that can't even read a map...the girl that sings "Raindrops on Roses and Whiskers on Kittens" when she's afraid of the dark. And I'm going to be responsible for a little life?
Absolutely. You see, my dear friend...there's no ONE way to travel this remarkable journey called life. There are many ways to do it well. And many days, I don't. The truth is, many days I feel guilty for something I said or did...or didn't do or didn't say...and that's tough, too. Some days I long for a perfectly clean and organized house...time to watch movies...money to take extravagant vacations. But, that's simply not my reality. I've got a sick toddler with the flu right now...and I can assure you that I will be juggling work appointments so that I can stay home tomorrow. I can assure you that when I'm home all day...I won't be cleaning or organizing. I can assure you that my sick time and PTO time are most often spent at home with my kids when they are sick. There are days that I don't even get a shower until 10:00 at night. Hell, there are days I've waited so long that I just didn't shower at ALL that day! There are times when I'm SO TIRED, from getting only 2-3 hours of sleep at night because I've been rocking a sick baby most of the night...or cleaning up vomit...or diarrhea...or the other various things that come out of these people's little bodies----I assure you, it's always something! I can assure you that there are days that I do not pee alone; that the 5-second rule is a mainstay at our house, and that somebody is almost always naked! I can assure you that my dinners often consist of drive-through or nuke-up because when I only have 30 minutes to myself a day...cooking is not on the priority list. I can assure you that there are some days my marriage is 50/50...but in reality...some days it's 90/10, 20/80, or other unequal ratios. And I think that's part of God's design. I mean, I can't do everything... be everything... for these precious boys that God has entrusted to me. I'm blessed that I picked a good spouse. (And you did, too, by the way!) I'm blessed that even when I haven't bathed in a day...have put on some frump weight from eating junk food when I'm too tired or stressed, he loves me anyway. I'm blessed that I have the physical and (most days) emotional health that is necessary to be on call for my 24-hour need machines. I'm blessed that I know that I have certain family members...as well as INTENTIONAL FAMILY ("non-blood relatives that I have intentionally placed in my life"...such as yourself) that I can call upon to vent or help me in a crisis.
It's all-encompassing, this "building a life" thing. It really is. There are certain things in this life that change us forever. There is the "before" the event and the "after" the event.
Certainly, the death of my mother was one of those events. I can recall her battles with cancer vividly. I can remember the words that she told me, my sisters, my father...and anyone else...when we were fearful of the unknown. She said, "Fear Not. Only Believe." She said it with a faith that was so strong to her core that no one could (or did) argue with her. Having 3 daughters as middle school, high school, and eventually college cheerleaders...she did lots of cheering in her lifetime. I can remember us even trying to pep things up by making it a cheer, "Fear Not! (clap! clap!) Only Believe! (clap! clap!) Actually, that's written on her gravestone. Well, technically there are 2 X's where the claps are written...but you get the idea. The "after" Brenda was changed. Changed by grief, changed by loss, changed by the pain of having a black hole in my heart...changed by the unanswerable questions. I made a decision....CHOOSE JOY TODAY. Because today is all we've got. I know...just as do you...that nothing is guaranteed, so we might as well suck the marrow out of life THIS DAY...rejoice in THIS day, THIS moment. So... I'm not afraid to dance. I smile. I laugh...loudly! I dress up and wear costumes! I buy the bounce house and the slide. I decorate for every holiday and for every party...even if it's just our party of four. I take the pictures. Hell, I hire a photographer to take pictures at my kids' birthday parties so that I can try to stay focused on the present moment without having to miss capturing the moments. And I TRY...although I'm certainly not always successful...to stay present in the moment. Fear Not...Only Believe.
And then God blessed me with Noah Michael...and then Jackson Joseph. Yes, it's hard....I've made that perfectly clear, right? It's also THE SINGLE MOST life-affirming experience I've ever imagined. I can remember times during pregnancy when I could feel the baby moving. And seeing those first movements on an ultrasound? Seeing that little heart beat? Realizing that....oh what's "The Sound of Music" reference? Ah yes...."Somewhere in my youth or childhood...I must've done something good." You see, the truth is...life is made up of MOMENTS. People get so caught up in the day-to-day rush...they (I'm guilty, too) often miss those once-in-a-lifetime MOMENTS. THAT is what we don't get back...time...moments. We can go back to school. We can make more money, buy more cars, build bigger houses. But we can't take back moments that we didn't savor or that we weren't present enough to appreciate because we were focused on the next big thing. Pastor Rick (The Purpose Driven Life Author) says it well, "A lot of people today have a lot to live on, and nothing to live FOR." My boys...my husband, Noah, Jackson....They are my FOR!!!
There are MOMENTS...when I look in the eyes of my children, when I see the world anew through THEIR eyes, when I see them reach for me because they know I am their safe place, when I gaze in their eyes as I rock them to sleep, when we eat whipped cream right out of the can, when I hear their precious little voices...when I cradle them in my arms, hearing the precious things they think and feel and say...THESE ARE THE MOMENTS that fill my heart with so much joy...I can hardly contain myself. I feel so blessed. Immensely blessed. And I simply cannot imagine my life without them.
SO.....I don't measure my success anymore in how much billing is completed, my salary,a perfectly cleaned house or in fancy vacations. I measure success in my relationships with those I hold dear. I measure success in how well I'm staying focused on receiving the BLESSING of the GIFT of this life, the GIFT of sharing it with my boys...My "FOR."
It is certainly a journey that has many forks in the road! (Noah calls those "branch lines," as he remains obsessed with all things trains). So, sometimes we take a branch line...and wind up somewhere that was everything we never knew we always wanted.
Fear Not!! Only Believe!!