When we first married, we were so doe-eyed and twitterpated. He was my best friend, the one I laughed with, loved with, played with...we talked, confided - we did most everything together. We gave each other space to be different, but we enjoyed being together. We were a family of two and it was good - it was very good.
Enter the baby. Our family is now three. This so rocked my world. I never dreamed that anyone could have such a pull on my heart - such an ability to change everything that I thought I knew - to be SO tiny and helpless, yet make me feel so completely inadequate for the task before us.
I finally figure out how to care for this little one without fear of being discovered a complete fraud as a competent parent --
And then we are four...
I vividly remember FINALLY getting the baby to take a nap, so I could get some desperately needed sleep, and as I walk out of the nursery, I turn and see -- a two year old. Bright-eyed and ready to have alone time with mom. It was overwhelming to be so desperately needed and feel like you are never enough.
But we rock along, we figure it out, we find a schedule that allows me to sleep on occasion and not become too much of a raving lunatic.
And then we are five.
I remember, at the time, thinking that I would never rest again. I would never have time to be alone, to not feel pulled in way too many directions, that there are WAY more questions than there are answers.
And that best friend I had just a few years back? It's really difficult to maintain that during those years. I thought, "Brian can take care of himself," - he was a grown man, easy to put on the back burner while I focused on those helpless ones in our care.
Have you seen Marley & Me? Maybe the saddest movie of all time, but what I remember most from that movie is all the tension in the years that they were constantly caring for tinies. It was so real! Do you remember that season? Are you still living there?
Those tinies have SO many needs and we are so stretched and we see things so differently from our spouse at times. It is a beautiful, chaotic, messy, blessed life. We are tired, and cranky, and they can be so insensitive! From mom's perspective, dad can be so incredibly incompetent about the simplest things in caring for these little creatures (I know now that this isn't fair, but it's what our hormonal minds see - sorry.)
Thankfully - I am eternally, forever, thankful - there were people that were further along in this journey than we were that spoke into our lives. Women that told me to remember that when these kids were grown and gone, my husband would still be there. The priority HAD to be to maintain that relationship, that friendship.
(As a side note, because it really deserves much more attention than I can give it here - I recognize that some of you, for one of perhaps hundreds of possible reasons, are living in this stage alone. Remember that while there may be no more important job, you are more than a mother or a father. You are a brother/sister, son/daughter, friend, professional. Nurture those relationships. Remember who you are - because they will grow up and you need to know that - your kids need to know that.)
I could not imagine a time when there would not be kids in our home. I could not imagine a time when we would have hours and hours to spend just talking, make our own schedules, cook what we wanted, sleep when we wanted. But I chose, in spite of great doubt at times, to trust these women.
I learned to swallow the desire to choke him when he didn't change a diaper the way I thought he should, when he let them eat things for dinner that I wouldn't, when he left them alone before I thought they were ready (he was only gone for 20 minutes, our daughter WAS old enough, and I was an over-protective lunatic, but I couldn't see that at the time.) And you know what? None of those things mattered. Our kids were not ruined by a Mom and a Dad that did things in a little different way. And some of the things he did that I wanted to choke him for? They were the right things, and I was the one that learned. Imagine that.
We worked on our friendship. We carved out time when there was none, to talk, to go on dates (sometimes short, sometimes just in the living room with a bowl of popcorn after we finally rendered the tinies unconscious, but a date none-the-less). When it would have been easier to grow further apart, allowing our only commonality to become the children we are loving and raising, we forgave and we loved and we communicated.
I am so glad we did. Because then those tinies become teenagers - and we learned what hard really meant. We learned that there really were more questions than there are answers. But we continued to work on US. We went in our bedroom, closed the door, and laughed - sometimes cried, prayed, searched for answers - together.
We haven't always agreed. I know there were times that he had to swallow the desire to choke me as well. But we continued to remember what those ahead of us told us - this season would pass - they would not always be here. We needed to throw ourselves fully into, and enjoy, the blessing of the five of us right now, but we needed to still know each other when all this changed.
Then it began. There were four in this house.
Then there were three.
And then there were two...
This is where we are. The season has arrived.
I have no idea what this is going to look like.
I know there will still be difficulties. I know there will still be times that we have to swallow the desire to choke each other. We will face new challenges, new adventures. We will figure out who we are as parents of adult children. I know we will still worry about our kids, they will still need our help, they may even be back in our home for a season and we will still feel completely inadequate to the tasks at hand.
We've come full circle - a family of two, but we are still one. We are friends. We love, we laugh, we cry - we do those things together. I am so glad we never stopped trying.
If you are still in the midst of the overwhelming chaos - if you can't imagine a time different than this one... Do not lose sight of the end of the journey. It will come - in the blink of an eye. Work at it. Take time to love each other. Take time to laugh. Do. Not. Choke. Him. It will be worth it.
Let's just get that out on the table right up front.
I am a mess.
My baby is graduating in eight days. My baby.
I think most of you know this, but in case you don't, we have homeschooled all our children from the beginning. All the way through to the end.
I taught them to read. I listened to literally HOURS of dry, no emotion, labored, early reading voices read out loud to me while I struggled to stay awake through it. I and my husband have spent hundreds of hours reading books aloud to our kids. I've learned and re-learned penmanship, math, history, science, language arts. I've gone on field trips to everywhere you can imagine. Turned vacations into science labs and history lessons. Cried over algebra 2 and the higher sciences because I just. did. not. get. it. Fought with stubborn kids that did not want to do their work. Threatened to send them away. Wept in the corner on days that I felt like an utter failure. Rejoiced when they got it. Watched their eyes light up when it finally soaked in. Watched them find their passions and pursue them with abandon.
I wouldn't change any of that - not. one. second.
I've never dropped my kid off at the front of the school building and watched their precious little legs carry themselves away from me. I've never stood at a bus stop and watched them take too-big steps onto the bus that would carry them away for the first time. I've never trusted another person to take them from me for seven hours a day, five days a week, for thirteen years. Never.
So when each of them have made their way into the world, it's all those small, heart-breaking goodbyes rolled into one huge, earth-shattering, heart-crushing goodbye.
I don't do it well.
When our daughter moved out, I was depressed for weeks. Depressed, guys.
I thought it would be easier when the middle kid moved out, because now I have perspective, right? I know that I was sad, but I lived. It was scary, but the first one flourished. So we'll get through this one a little easier, right? Wrong.
I was depressed for weeks. Depressed.
Now it's time for the baby. I've survived a second moving out. I've watched a second one flourish. Should be better, right?
It's the baby. And true to form - as he has done from the first day of his life on this planet - this kid is going out in a blaze. India. India, people! For three months, leaving in September. And if that wasn't horrific enough, he's now dropped the bomb that he would like to go live with his brother this summer and focus on his music in a big way before he leaves. So, even though it was bad enough that he's going to the other side of the globe in four months...what he'd really like to do is move out in two weeks.
I'm dyin' here...
I've thought a lot about what I would change if I could do this whole thing over again. The list is too long and too overwhelming to even begin to recount here. The mistakes have been abundant - as they are for all parents. I've apologized to my kids more times that I can even say. I pray that the mistakes weren't too scarring, too much for them to overcome.
When we stand on the precipice of launching them into adulthood, we consider all the things we could have done different - better.
But I also want to think about what we did right.
We've told our kids since the second child was born that they would always be each other's best friends. I don't think they really believed us, but we said it anyway - like a mantra. They fought. They picked. They taunted and competed and pushed each others' buttons. "You're best friends, remember?" Over and over and over. They're adults now. And they're friends. (They still pick and taunt and compete, by the way, but not quite as often and usually with a little more jest in it than they used to.)
We showed them what it looks like for mom and dad to love each other. At least I think we did. We didn't fake unity - they knew we were/are nothing alike and often don't agree on the best way to handle something - but they saw us work as a team. I want them to know that they can and should expect a healthy, fun, positive, affectionate, committed relationship with their current (our daughter is already married) and future spouses - it's worth working for. It won't always be perfect, or easy. But it will always be worth it.
We did things together. We worked together. Served together. Played together. Decorated Christmas trees. Made Christmas ornaments. Went on mission trips. Cleaned out the garage. Cooked, cleaned, raised animals. Sang songs. Laughed. Cried. I hope we've passed on the value of family. The joy of family.
We taught them to think. To be respectful, but to not just swallow whole the legalism that is easily and often thrown at us. God is our ever-present Teacher and they can trust Him to show them the right way. To get wise counsel, to seek wisdom, to study, learn, grow. That they won't always have the answers and it's okay to ask for help. To be themselves, passionately and well.
We've tried to teach them to think outside themselves. To act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with their God. To work to change the lives of the downtrodden and the forgotten. To remember they are blessed so that they can bless others.
I pray we've taught them to love Jesus.
We did some things very well. We really screwed up some things. We encouraged. We yelled. We prayed. We fretted. We applied discipline appropriately. We were way too strict. We were observant and wise. We were careless and missed important things.
But we can't go back. We can't change the mistakes we made. We pray for them, encourage them, love them, coach them, push them, pray for them some more. And sit down and let God be God.
They will do some things with glorious, trail-blazing success. They will.
They will make mistakes. Some of them perhaps big ones. They will.
God is God. He will love them through both success and failure. He will offer second, third, fourth...chances. he will redeem it all.
Gossip - n. idle talk or rumor, especially about the personal or private affairs of others; a conversation involving malicious talk about other people
Strife - n. 1. angry or violent struggle; conflict 2. rivalry or contention, esp. of a bitter kind 3. trouble or discord of any kind.
Slander - n. a malicious, false and defamatory statement or report
Defame - n. to attack the good name or reputation of, as by uttering or publishing maliciously or falsely anything injurious.
What David and Solomon say: (and, while lengthy, please take the time to read them all)
Wrongdoers eagerly listen to gossip
Hiding hatred makes you a liar; slandering others makes you a fool.
I will not tolerate people who slander their neighbors. I will not endure conceit and pride.
I am attacked by people I don’t even know; they slander me constantly.
Do not spread slanderous gossip among your people.
A gossip goes around telling secrets, but those who are trustworthy can keep a confidence.
A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends
A gossip goes around telling secrets, so don’t hang around with chatterers.
They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips,
There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.
If it is so abundantly clear in the book we hold most sacred to our faith that God HATES this - why do we so consistently engage in it anyway? There are probably other reasons, but here are a few I believe are true:
Insecurity - if I'm pointing out your faults, maybe others won't notice mine.
Revenge - you hurt me, so I will hurt you, by making sure everyone knows what you did. If I am hurt, everyone else should be too, or at least they will know how much you hurt me.
Pride - my sin is minimal, insignificant even, compared with yours.
Manipulation - I can often get what I want out of a situation by tearing you down.
I wish we could realize that the person we are gossiping about, or slandering, is often living in their own guilt and shame over their choices and actions - even when they don't act like they have any shame or remorse (they KNOW what they've done). When we add to that by re-telling the story, embellishing, filling in gaps, exaggerating, often out-right lying, and spreading it to others - most of whom have no reason or need to know - we are driving them further away from right choices and better decisions.
This area has not been a huge stronghold for me, but it does seem there are always, in every season of my life, at least a couple of people that have either deeply hurt me or someone I love, or just rub me the WRONG way. And in those circumstances, I find that it is sometimes easy to gossip.
I've begun to ask myself some questions before I speak:
1. Why do I feel compelled to say this? The answer is very telling. It will often take me back to one of the reasons I listed above and will shut me up before I even begin. The problem often lies, at least partially, with me. ThatI can work on.
2. Does the person I'm talking to need to know for this situation to get better? The people that need to know is usually a very. short. list.
3. Would this problem be better resolved by talking to the person rather than about them? If we would seek restoration and forgiveness, if we would clear the air quickly, with the people that have harmed us, the felt need to gossip would often dissolve on it's own.
4. Would I care if the person I'm talking to told the person I'm talking about what I said? Often, we feel it needs to remain a secret, perhaps because it's been embellished to the point of falsehood, we're hiding our own culpability in the situation, or we haven't yet attempted to reconcile with our "enemy" - we've just chosen to talk about them instead.
5. Am I reflecting the character of God in what I'm about to say? He calls us to forgive, He tells us to trust Him that He will take care of injustice. When I react instead of trusting, when I hit twitter and facebook to tell the world how awful they are, when I tell everyone I know "something to pray about", I'm showing others around me that God cannot be trusted to take care of me.
There are times we need to talk. We need to seek counsel, we need to seek help or safety, we need to vent to the one person we can trust. But so often that is not the case. When I take the time to ask myself these questions first, I rarely need to continue speaking.
And one other thing I'd like to have the guts to do -- I want to have the guts to confront it where I see it. To call it gossip when it's coming into my circles. To say, "Do you mind if I tell them what you're about to say?" or "Have you talked to them about this first?" or "Is this gossip? Because it sounds like gossip." I'm betting most of us would stop if we thought someone was gonna call a spade a spade...
So many are hurt.
So many are completely destroyed.
All to satisfy our own lust to feel better about ourselves.
We need to just shut up.
We need to stop.
"Who may worship in your sanctuary, Lord?
Who may enter your presence on your holy hill?...
Those who refuse to gossip
or harm their neighbors
or speak evil of their friends."