Thursday, August 29, 2013

Dear Mother,

Today I am sharing a letter. I wrote it to myself, but I'm thinking I'm not the only one who needs to read this.

Dear Mother,

We all dreamed of being that beautiful, well-put-together Mother. The one who is endlessly creative, and compassionate. The one whose children are happy, well-fed, clean, good, healthy and perfect. The one who doesn't get so incredibly angry so damn often. That Mother, she exists (or a version of her exists). Some women do seem to float through motherhood with ease. They do seem to do this so much better than you. But can I let you in on a secret? Even the soft and fluffy Mums feel like they're failing. Nobody gets it all perfect. But we all have our crosses to bear, and maybe parenthood is not that particular woman's cross. While you can admire her and her chilled-out capabilities, you are not, and will never be, her. And you don't have to be.

Let's face it. Before you had children, the words 'serene' and 'placid' were never going to be used to describe you. And since you now know that pregnancy (unfortunately) doesn't come with a personality transplant, you're still you. Passionate, disorganized, excitable. You have many good qualities, but you're also stuffed with bad ones. You can work to change some things about yourself, (it certainly wouldn't hurt to take a chill pill every now and then), but to some extent, you have to work with what you are. You can't shove a cat in a dog costume and make it a dog. It's still just a cat pretending to be a dog. Change can and should happen, but some things just are what they are, in many ways You are what you are, and what you have is what you've got.

But, what you've got is okay. In fact it's more than okay. It's exactly what your children need.

Let that one sink in for a second. In fact I'll say it again, because I know you really need to pay attention to this.

You are exactly what your children need.

God knit these children in your womb. He knows you. He knew what trials you were going to have to face, and he knew what he was doing when he gave them to you. He believes you are the best person to be their Mum.

You. Not a prettier, more well dressed, slimmer, more patient, more organized, less grumpy version of yourself which doesn't exist right now. The person you are, the qualities you have, are the exact qualities that your children need. Your children need You. You, to be their Mum. Not your Mother. Not your husband. Not the super-parent you read about or the one you run into downtown every week. You.

God is for you. He knew you were going to shout and scream, and want to hit them at times because you are just so incredibly frustrated. Before your husband even looked at you with that twinkle in his eye, He knew, God knew that you would sob and sob and sob. That you would hate this. That you would feel completely and utterly incapable of the task that is set before you. He sees you grief and your pain, your shame and your anguish. He understand and he wants to share it with you, and lift your burden.

But He believes, He knows, that you are the absolute best person for this job.

I know you are tired. More tired than you imagined you could be. I know you are weary, and you are lonely, and this task just seems to have no end. But it does. You are not alone. The maker of the Universe is with you, every step of the way. With Him, you can do this, and not just do it. You can do this well.

You may not be the Mother you thought you'd be, or the one you wish you were. There might be obstacles, and challenges. (scratch that, there are going to be obstacles and challenges). You will not do everything the way you should, or the way you want to. But you can do this. You can do this.
Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Baa Baa Black sheep

My testimony, in so many ways is very uninspiring. It doesn't have a lot of sparkle, or drama. There is no big showdown between darkness and light. It's just the story of a girl, who grew up with amazing Godly parents, married a boy, and grew to make her faith her own.

Sometimes, (and now this is a real 'churchy' thing here) we get the visiting preachers, with their amazing testomonies about how they were drug dealers, and alchoholics, and porn stars and criminals. How they were the lowest of the low, and God raised them to amazing heights. Those stories, those testimonies, they are astounding. I love them. I never cease to wonder at how miraculous my God can be.

But they leave me walking away, comparing myself and my own life, and feeling very, very insignificant and boring.

However, in God's eyes, the faithful man who grew up in a church, loves God with all his heart, attends church every Sunday, who prays devoutly, and does whatever he can... is of no less value than the amazing preacher who started off as a crack baby. 

The parable of the lost sheep is a powerful one. For so long, I've read it wrong. Here it is:

 Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

 Luke 15: 4-7

I've often put myself in the 'ninety-nine person's who do not need to repent' category. But that's ridiculous. I need to repent. Of course I do. I'm not righteous. We are all lost sheep. We are all valuable.

My testimony may not illustrate the amazing power of God's goodness over evil. But maybe it's not supposed to. Maybe my testimony is supposed to demonstrate God's unfailing, unwavering love. Maybe it's supposed to show the need for Godly parents who pray. The importance of a Mother who surrenders her child to God. While it's true (so far) much of my life may not have seen fantastic peaks or low deep valleys, it has had it's moments. And maybe it's a testament to the many terrifying depths He saved me from. The ones I don't even know about.

Every testimony, is powerful. No matter what we do, or don't do, no matter what we've done or haven't done. The only thing that really matters, is making the decision to love, and follow Him. We are all a lost sheep at one point or another. He will always care about us, and come for us. No matter whether we have wandered for a very long time, and gotten very dirty and damaged, or whether we only wandered a very small way.  The shepherd will always do his best to seek his lost sheep, because they are of value to him.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Another sad woman, having a pity-party on the internet

I am always slightly envious of those people who seem to have those really tight friendships that transcend the years. When I was a little girl, I had a best friend, a little. Kind of. But she went away to boarding school in grade 8, and she changed, and I changed, and we both stopped trying. I haven't spoken to her in years. I tried really hard with other girls. I had one friend who I liked, but she was the girl who everyone wanted to be best friends with. I had a group of friends, but never really a proper friend of my own. As I got older, the group seemed to get further away from me (or maybe I got further away from them) either way, I had people to eat lunch with, but I didn't always get their jokes, and I never felt like I fit in properly.

When Shane and I got married and moved away for Uni, making friends was hard. We were an old married couple when everyone else was young and single and fun. We had trouble fitting, and finding our tribe. We moved back home, but no longer really fit back where we once had, and it took an awful long time to make new comfortable grooves. I had friends, but they were more acquaintances than real friends. We were still too young to fit in with the married people but too old to fit in with the single people. It always just didn't seem to work, you know?

When I had kids, I thought I would find my tribe. I was introduced into playgroup, and bible study and all manner of mum related groups and activities. Aha, I thought to myself, now I will fit. And I did fit. But my mum friends are still more like work colleagues than anything else. It took a long time, and I did end up developing a relationship with one close friend, but even that feels a little less important lately. We always seem too busy to actually make our friendship a priority. And somehow, I still feel a little bit like I did in high school. One of the crowd, but only there as a 'should' not a 'want.'

I am blessed, abundantly, richly with my family. With my sisters, and especially with my Mum. I would be lost without my mother. My relationship with her is one of the ones I hold most dear in the world, and I thank God every day for the mother he gave me. I know many girls wish to be able to have the relationship with their mothers like I do with my Mum, that they would love to have a mum as great as mine, and I try never to take it for granted.

But still, it would be really nice to have friends.

I have chased and chased, and been friendly and chatty and nice and welcoming. I have made a real effort. I really want to just have friends. To find my tribe. To have friends that can pop over for a cuppa and stay until dinner. To have a friend who I can call in tears when my jeans don't fit. I tried, and I thought maybe I had it, maybe I was close. Maybe there isn't something wrong with me and I can find people who will actually like me and find a place where I can fit.

So it sucks. It just really sucks when you have that moment, when you realize that you are part of a social circle, part of lots of committees and groups, and you have so many, many people that you are very friendly with. You have people you can have a nice cup of coffee and a chat with. But still, the relationships all have about as much depth as a teaspoon. It sucks when you have that moment of realization, that you are very friendly with people. But actually, you are not their friends.

This isn't really a commentary on other people and what they should or shouldn't do. I'm not trying to place blame or guilt. Maybe, probably, like most things, this is much more about me and my own shortcomings than anyone else. It takes two to build a friendship, I realize that, and obviously I'm doing some things wrong. But right now, I am hurt, I am lonely, and I would still so desperately like to have friends.

Monday, August 12, 2013

When life makes you slow down

You know how sometimes you are on that train called life, and things are chugging along quite slowly.... you can see the details on the leaves, and count all the pretty flowers..., and then suddenly the train speeds up, a little faster.... and you think "Oh this a nice change of pace"..... but then all of a sudden the train is going faster and faster, until you can hardly see the scenery outside, and you're a bit worried that the train is almost out of control?

Here at the Casa de slightly deep, we have been doing a bit of that lately. Not a weekend, or a day has gone by that wasn't full of stuff to be done. So this week, when a few of our number were nursing nasty colds and tonsillitis, we probably should have taken the hint that we needed to slow down. Unfortunately we're a little thick. So on Saturday night, Shane and I found ourselves taking turns rushing to the bathroom to kneel in front of the porcelain throne.

It made for a very, long night, and a couple of early morning phone calls, rearranging details for church music on Sunday, and sending an SOS to my Mum and Dad. But, in the afternoon, once the rumbling, grumbling tummies had settled, I noticed just how much we need to slow down.

Shane and I both realized this weekend, that we had forgotten how to stop. So that reminder, although pretty gross, was sorely needed. We are still waiting for the bug to hit the kids, but so far, remarkably, they remain fine. My poor, wonderful, mother has been a casualty though, and she deserves a dozen bunches of flowers for just how good she is to us.

I am going to try to put the brakes on this train a little this week, and make sure I count a few pretty flowers.


Friday, August 9, 2013

A post in which I talk a bit about Church

So, recently I was chatting to a friend about our church, and my faith a little bit. And you know what? That stuff can be really hard. Because I love my church, and I am happy with my faith the way it is, but at the same time, I am aware that from the outside looking in, it can be a little weird. It can be a difficult thing to explain well, so I kind of stuttered and stammered and went off on silly tangents and probably said all the wrong things. But that's just the way it goes sometimes when you're in a conversation I guess.

But it got me to thinking, and in case you haven't noticed already, my mind kind of works in metaphors. The parables are probably my favorite things in the bible, they speak my language. So as I was thinking to myself, I kind of likened church to football.

The thing is, there are a lot of different churches out there. They have a lot of different beliefs and sometimes they're right and sometimes they're not. But the most important one, the one they have to get right, and the one that should be the most important to them, is the fact that Jesus is God's son, that He died on the cross to save mankind, and that we are redeemed because of His sacrifice. All you need to do to gain eternal salvation, is believe in the God of the bible, repent of your sins, and accept His son Jesus as your personal saviour. There is a lot more that we add on to it, and we all have our own ideas and interpretations of the Bible about what you need to do, and how you should act, but essentially, it all boils down to that. Essentially it needs to boil down to that. The two greatest commandments Jesus told us, were to love God with all your heart, and love your neighbour as yourself. So those two indicators are pretty crucial to whether or not a person or the church they attend is Christian.

I've never understood football. I know it exists, I have a very basic knowledge of what is involved, but it's never 'caught' me, you know? I don't know the rules of the game, or the different codes, or the players or the teams. I've got no clue about the difference between NRL and AFL... as far as I'm concerned it's all just football. I'm not familiar with the lingo, I couldn't tell you what a try is, or how many players are on a team... or anything really. It's never appealed to me. I don't understand how people can get so passionate about it, I've just never really got it. I suspect that unless you know the game, it doesn't make sense.

I attend a pentecostal church. It's what I know, it's what I'm comfortable with. I don't expect it to appeal to everyone, but for me, it works. I don't believe Pentecostals are perfect or more enlightened. We've all got our issues.

Each church has it's own rules and routines and ritual. Some sing hymns, some sing along to the guitar. Some sit on pews, others sit on plastic chairs. Some have stained glass windows, others have lights and sound equipment. Some wear robes, others wear jeans. We all tend to drink a lot of coffee.

There are an awful lot of people who are the exact same way about church that I am about football. They have a basic concept of it all, but they walk into church and we're all singing these songs, and standing up and sitting down, and waving our hands, and listening to some people talk (and talk and talk) and drinking coffee and chatting.... and it doesn't make sense. Church doesn't really make sense.

But once you get to know the creator, and realise that all those Jesus people are actually doing what they are doing because of Him, you might start to understand the game. You might get to know just Who we are serving when we do what we do, and why we do what we do.

Church can be weird. It can be great. It can be difficult sometimes too. It can be a good place of community, and relationship. Church can be, and is, many things to many different people. But to truly 'get' church, you need to know God.

Monday, August 5, 2013

On raising tiny humans and stained glass windows

I had no idea being a parent would be like this. I knew it would be hard, but I thought it would be easier than this. Or maybe not quite easier than this.

What I really thought, was that I would be better at it.

I knew what I was getting into. I grew up with kids, I worked in childcare. I know kids. And although dealing with children, and looking after them is so very different to being the parent of children... really, it's not my kids. They haven't necessarily given me anything I wasn't expecting. Most of what has thrown me, about parenting, has been the stuff about me. The way I have dealt with things, my reactions, my attitude, it's all my own stuff that has been the biggest stumbling block.

I think the reason parenting can challenge people so much, is because it challenges you, personally. It challenges the way you see yourself, your values, your beliefs, your behavior and your attitude. There is nothing quite like recognizing yourself in your offspring, and not liking what you see.

It can be a bit easy to be mindless in our society. Everything seems to be centered around making life easier for us, (smart technology- empty minds?) We are not always often called to stop and think and evaluate who we are and where we are going. We just keep going round and round like a mouse on a wheel. Parenting can force you to do that, and sometimes that is a painful confrontation.

I kind of hate the expression 'having a baby.' Because really, babies only stay babies for such a short amount of time. When you give birth, you create a person. And it is a person who requires so much of you. You are responsible for their safety, for their well being, for their development and growth, for their morals. Your children are wholly in your power. You hold another person's existence entirely in your hands. You are accountable. And when you stop to really examine that, and allow the full weight of it to rest upon your shoulders, it's terrifying.

Stay at home motherhood, it gives me too much time and opportunity for introspection at times. So many of the day to day tasks I do, don't always require a lot of brain activity. So my mind is left free to think, (and think and think). Sometimes I don't know if that's a good thing.

It has stretched me, and grown me, more than any other thing I have ever done. I have no doubt it will continue to do so. But the longer I raise these tiny humans, the more I realize how woefully unprepared I was, and the more I realize how much I need to change.

Being a parent, is teaching me discipline, self control, and love like I never ever knew. It has broken me, and now my maker and I are slowly putting the pieces back together, to create something new. It is hard, and it is slow. There are pieces constantly being shattered and glued back together. Sometimes I put them in wrong, and then they need to be re-broken to suit His purposes. It is always a work in progress.

I hope it will be beautiful.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Dog food tins, and other nonsense

Sometimes I find it rather frustrating. This whole getting better thing. Some days I feel like I am 100% fine, no PND here, thank you very much and other times I am terrified that the claws of bleakness and terror still have my mind firmly in their grasp. It is such a process. And I just want to be past it already! But it really is a journey, and it's learning about yourself. Learning your triggers, your weak points, your signals.

Lately, I've been struggling. A week or so ago I felt like I had made no progress, like I was still back, trapped in the awfulness of post-Charlie-birth, and I was never, ever going to get out. I was surviving. And I was terrified that things were getting worse, not better. I mentioned it to my Mum, who told me that she was sure I was improving. I asked her why, and apparently it was because of the dog food tins.

So last year, I was kind of just keeping it together. But I was very, very numb. My Mum was helping out a lot with the kids and just general life stuff, and she would often pop over and do my dishes, and hang out my washing and just help in that amazing indescribably awesome way that good Mums do (she still does!). Apparently, one day she came over and was hanging out washing, and she noticed empty dog food tins. Lots of them. (Chloe's dog dish is in the laundry and we keep the food up on a shelf in there.) Up on that shelf, there were about 12 empty tins of dog food that Mum chucked in the bin.

And I just did not see them.

Now, I would see them.

For me, one of the biggest signs of how well I am doing is the state of my house. I'd imagine I'm not alone there. If my house is very clean, my folding is mostly done, my floors are clean, toys are picked up and things are generally in order, that probably means my head is in a good place (or Mum's been visiting). If things are okay, the dishes are getting done, the beds are made, the floor might not be too clean, and the very large folding pile is sitting on the bed waiting (always waiting), then I am coping, but struggling a bit. If my dishes are not done every night, beds are unmade, the folding pile is not even pretending to wait to be folded, and the dog tins are piling up, things are looking a bit grim. There probably is a worse stage after that, and that's the one where the dog is not being fed at all, but fortunately we've never been there.

At the moment, my house is pretty clean, but my folding pile has gotten a little out of control. I am coping, but it's a bit hard. But that's okay. I sometimes look at all these things I want to do. I'd love to get my house properly in order, I want to get motivated about eating well and losing weight, I want to do something extra, that's just for me, and I want to be better at so many, many things. But the point is, I want.

For a while there, I didn't want anything. I didn't see anything.

And so, I may look at this mountain I am climbing and feel like I am never, ever going to reach the top. But if I just turn around and look down, I can see just how far I have come.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

When my husband is away

When my husband is away, I drink a lot of cups of tea. When my husband is away I eat many, many eggs. I don't really cook proper meals too often. My kids eat beans on toast, eggs on toast, spaghetti on toast.... really they just eat a lot of toast.

When my husband is away I write a lot more often. I spend far, far too much time on facebook, and I message him lots of funny/stupid/interesting/cool links that he probably never looks at. When my husband is away I stay up far too late.

When my husband is away, there is nobody to make up the fire for me in the morning, or turn the heater on so the house is toasty when we get up. When my husband is away my dog pees on the floor in the morning because there is nobody awake to let her out at 5am.

When my husband is away, I get the whole bed to myself, and there is nobody to moan and groan at me to "Turn you're light off already!" so I get to read in bed as long as I like. When my husband is away there is nobody to bicker with about whether the heater should be on or off during the night when we are sleeping... it remains off, and I cope just fine.

When my husband is away, one of my children will always, always get sick, and I let the kids stay up far later then they do when he is home. When my husband is away I catch up on lots of TV shows online. When my husband is away I never even think about needing chocolate/dessert... I just have (another) cup of tea.

When my husband is away, I get things done (but never as much as I think I will). When my husband is away, the late afternoon drags on and on. Life is much quieter but much less fun.

When my husband is away... I miss him.

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