Saturday, June 29, 2013

Childhood Revisited

Once in a while, it seems rather strange to me that I am all grown up now and a mom.  It doesn’t seem like that long ago I was playing dolls with my sister and swinging carefree on our swing set in the backyard.  Now I am not merely playing house anymore; I am desperately trying to find a way to manage my own real life household.  Sometimes when the kids are getting out of control, there are messes to clean up and dinner needs to be made, I look around and wonder “now who’s going to take care of this?”  Then it dawns on me and I realize, oh that would be me!

While I am comfortably past the phase where I stumbled around in that new mom sleep deprived stupor, I still long for the days when I was someone else’s responsibility instead of the other way around.  It makes me appreciate so much more everything that my mother did for me.  I took it all for granted: the trips to the playground, library and pool, the three square meals a day, a freezer and cabinets stocked with our favorite treats, new clothes every season, etc.  As a kid, I didn’t realize how much time, effort and money went into every single childhood and adolescent memory.  How much preparation went on behind the scenes of every vacation, birthday party and play date.  I just sat back and enjoyed it, for the most part.  There were times when I would let my ungrateful attitude show, however, and my mother would in turn make no bones about how displeased she was with it.                      

My own kids are way too young to recognize everything it takes to parent them also.  At   4 ½ and almost 21 months, they have an extremely limited ability to appreciate all that I do for them.  If I am doing any of this for recognition though, I will be very disappointed.  I will become bitter and resentful towards my children, and they will become a burden instead of a joy.  Jesus said “Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  I am finding this verse to be very applicable currently, with two small kids who are in constant need of my attention. 

As I sit here and type this post, they are both sitting at the kitchen table playing with Play-Doh and I could just about harm the inventor of this substance right now.  The bucket of this brightly colored gooey stuff usually stays hidden away in the play room closet for a reason.  As I survey the mess they have made, I am on the verge of crawling out of my skin.  And thankfully, they are blissfully unaware of how I am suppressing my OCD tendencies just so they can have a morning of innocent childhood fun.    

They often plow right through my orderly, structured world with their sticky fingers, loud voices and talent for destroying any room they happen to be in, in less than 60 seconds.  It is overwhelming at times.  I feel downright weary some days, with all the work that goes into parenting.  All the behind-the-scenes prayer, fretting, prayer, frustrated sighs, tear-filled conversations with friends and did I mention PRAYER that they are totally oblivious to and might never even thank me for someday.  This right here is unconditional love; it is not reciprocated.  What I do for my children will not be returned in kind, no matter how long I live.  Nevertheless, I do it all because I love them and want the best for them.  I know not to expect anything in return.  This is how God loves us.

His love is completely unselfish and perfect, since there is absolutely nothing I can offer Him.  He desires that we love Him for who He is, too, instead of what He can give us.  Of course, God also wants us to remain in a posture of gratitude for everything He does for us just like I want my children to be grateful.  This doesn’t mean I lord every little thing over their heads and demand that they appreciate my hard work and sacrifices, however.  I shouldn’t act like a martyr in our home, feeling as though they somehow owe me.  Motherhood is about serving, just like any other ministry.  It behooves me to remember that Jesus came to serve, not to be served.  Especially on those days when I feel more like a maid or cook than a mother, when I am wistfully remembering my carefree childhood.         

Monday, June 24, 2013

More Than a Fairy Tale

This blog is titled "Gregg and Marisa's Married Life" because back when I started it, we didn't have kids.  I can't imagine our lives without Colton and Rory, but I'll be honest, I do miss those child-free days.  When our schedule didn't revolve around nap times and we could just decide to go somewhere on a whim, without having to plan three hours in advance to get two little ones and a diaper bag packed up.  When we weren't practically shouting over the voices of a preschooler and toddler to have a conversation.

I turned 23 the summer we met, and he was 25.  Those ages seem so young to me now, 11 years later.  Back then, we had our whole lives ahead of us and were starry eyed with dreams of our glorious future together.  Before the gray hair and the stretch marks.  When we were still in that "eat, sleep and breathe" one another phase.

I used to be the girl who just walked over to him and wrapped myself up in his arms for no reason.  I was the girl who, when we were apart, would miss him so much it felt like the breath got knocked out of me.  I was also the girl who went out of her way to make him his favorite meal or dress a certain way that would capture his attention.

Now I'm the woman who yells, "No jumping on the bed!", "Stop bothering your sister/brother!", or "Put that back!"  I'm the woman who is frantically trying to contain the plethora of toys to one room.  I'm the woman who is too emotionally spent at the end of the day to enter into any kind of meaningful conversation with another adult.  I'm the mother wiping, consoling, disciplining and wrangling two kids under the age of five wishing she could turn back the sands of time to have one uninterrupted night alone with her husband.  And not just to have it, to treasure it.

But somehow I spend more time planning birthday parties and play dates than I do date nights.  I'm too busy hugging and kissing my kids to share some of that affection with their father.  I'm so focused on the needs, wants and desires of our children that before I know it, I'm neglecting those of their dad.  I get so bogged down with the daily, mundane tasks of child rearing and household managing that I sometimes forget to cultivate the relationship that started this family in the first place.

If I want to teach my kids anything, they must first know that they can rest securely in the fact that their mother and father's marriage is healthy.  I don't want them to reach their twenties, ready to go off on their own and start their own families, without having had a good example of what marriage is.  Not just having been taught that you stay together for the long haul, but that you also keep finding ways to love, communicate with and serve one another.  That you shouldn't lose sight of each other somewhere between the very first cry of your firstborn and the "I do" of your last.  I don't want to arrive at the empty nest phase and discover that we were merely roommates all those years.

I need to start being intentional about the most important earthly relationship I have.  Marriages between one man and one woman that actually last are going the way of the dodo bird these days.  I don't want to be swept up with the extinction.  My children certainly deserve better than that.  So I will mother less and play the role of wife more.  I will carve out that time for the one who I couldn't wait to spend all my days with.  I will extend the same unconditional love to him that I pour out in abundance on our children.  And I will put myself into his arms for "no reason" again.

Our wedding day, January 11, 2003.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Post That Will Likely Get Me "Unfriended"

I can empathize with the woman who would do anything to prevent her child from suffering.  There is an overwhelming instinct within me to protect my own two children from life's struggles.  Unfortunately, because this world is broken they will face pain and sadness, and sometimes there won't be anything I can do about it.  As a culture, we go to great lengths to avoid suffering.  If a child is having an unusually difficult time in school, we are quick to get him on medication that will take care of the problem instead of letting him struggle through what are usually just normal growing pains.  If we don't have enough financial resources, we put purchases on credit cards and take out loans to buy stuff that gives us a life of comfort, not wanting to delay gratification.  When we are facing hard times of any kind, we often pray for God to just take them away.

Our society is not in the regular habit of dying to ourselves.  What draws many people to Jesus is the same reason that many others reject him.  He willingly endured emotional and physical suffering to save us, and requires us to deny ourselves as well.  "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends".  (John 15:13, NASB).  This fierce opposition to pain and suffering is how we as a nation can be horrified and outraged at the shooting of innocent children in a Connecticut elementary school, while at the same time endorsing abortion.

We have gone so far as to delude ourselves into believing that ending a life of suffering is actually somehow humane.  We have taken God out of decision making, so that we can choose for ourselves what is right and what is wrong.  40 years ago when deciding on Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court threw up its hands and said that if medical professionals, clergy and ethicists could not agree on when life begins then neither could they resolve the question.  They deferred to the mantra that is even more popular today of "what's true for you isn't necessarily true for me."

Quality of life is often championed over sanctity of life.  Women like Stacy Delisle and Angie Smith come to mind as examples of brave women who chose the opposite.  Both were given extremely poor prognoses for their unborn children, but chose to continue carrying them anyway.  Despite possible great emotional and financial hardship, they decided to give their babies a chance at life, no matter how slim that chance was.  Angie's daughter Audrey lived for one hour and Stacy's son Isaac lived for 16 minutes before going to be with Jesus.  Though brief, their lives had weight.  They mattered to God.   

Their mothers were not given any special guarantee that the choice they made would result in a happy ending.  They listened to the doctors, watched the ultrasounds and decided to believe in the sanctity of life instead of the fear that their lives would never be the same.  The voice that said the baby would be better off.  The lie that every situation is unique and nothing is cut and dry.  They knew that it was their responsibility as mothers to protect and preserve the lives inside of them, regardless of the supposed quality of those lives.  "Quality" is a subjective term, and the last time I checked only the Creator has the right to determine that.

If a person were to stop the ventilator of a tiny baby who was dependent upon it to breathe, we would call that murder.  But because a baby hasn't passed through the birth canal yet, we feel we can call it "mercy", "kind" or any other feel-good label and justify that it is somehow noble to take the life of a child.  People blur the lines between right and wrong, using terms like "viability of fetus" and "incompatible with life" when God has always been very clear about this.  Every life is important to Him, and He created every one in His image.