The happy have whole days,
and those they choose.
The unhappy have but hours,
and those they lose.
A few years back, I began naming my years. I’m pretty sure it was a borrowed idea – probably from Ann Voskamp who has been doing it for much longer than just a few years. I loved the thought of narrowing down your focus to try and learn something – to hide something within your heart – that would change your charachter and bless your life and your family’s lives. That’s why every year I have picked a name for the year that seems to be a stumbling block to me in my spiritual life… or a habit that steals my effectiveness as a wife, mother, and Christian woman.
In 2009, my year was “Intentional Living”. I picked up the term from someone who commented on one of my New Years posts that talked about resolutions or lists – or something of that sort. It seemed to fit exactly what God was working on with me. I was overwhelmed. In 2009 I was pregnant with the little Viking boy that is destroying my house these days. I was homeschooling my older children – the oldest of which was moving from elementary to junior high grades (and the younger, more competitive one is never far behind him). I was ill prepared for how hard it would be to rewind back to baby days while homeschooling and raising big, capable kids.
I’m pretty sure that God taught me some ‘intentional living’ through the chaos that became of 2009 after baby arrived in March. Still, it all seems such a blur of activity after the bed-rest ended – daipers, nursing, sleeplessness, laundry, bags and gear; not to mention our increasing bad habits with slacking on school work to take care of the urgent. By the end of the year, my heart was heavy with the burden of feeling like a failure at homeschooling – even though our hearts were full of love for the tiny new addition to our family equation. It was a strange, wonderful, DIFFICULT journey through 2009 and 2010 (hard to separate them, honestly, as they just seemed to run together). 2010 became “Simplify” for obvious reasons… even though nothing in my life felt simple for the entire year.
I noticed, though… through the hardships of this old dog learning new tricks, that I had left behind a key element in my heart. Most people talked about being burned out a few times during each school year, but I was always burned out. I read every book I could to encourage myself. I read blogs. I talked with friends. I started a series on how to get your priorities in line. I even offered to co-host a talk on “How Not to Homeschool” with my good friend Dawn hoping that in teaching the session, it would give me the shot in the arm I was seeking so desperately. I attended THREE homeschool conferences with a nursing infant in one year – three different cities – with strollers and bags to tote. I prayed earnestly … but never could remain consistent in a daily pattern. I felt defeated. And so I was. Entirely. The talk about public school busses whisking away my children who had long since let bad habits and laziness embed themselves in to their daily behavior became more and more frequent. They were empty threats (the kids knew this) and did no good other than making the situation worse. By the beginning of fall in 2010, I knew that we needed help – change was necessary or “Total Disaster” would be the name for 2011.
We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have. ~Frederick Keonig
I considered giving up blogging as one of my first ‘answers’ to the problem. I have to be honest, if I weren’t already committed to a lot of people that had offered money towards conferences and products for review, I probably would have quit last year. Giving up my support system (online prayer warriors and friends) was not something that would be easy (homeschool moms are a bit more isolated than most adults without their ‘iBuddies’) – but if it prevented total meltdown, so be it. I knew that I needed to limit distractions… and to “intentionally live”, “simplify” and get my priorities perfectly aligned if I was going to overcome the ‘failure’ I was experiencing.
There was a vague picture in my mind of how I would let go of the blogging slowly after the conferences and awards had ended – and all of my commitments had been fulfilled. Then Relevant came: a women’s blog conference that really was about the heart of who we are, Who we serve, why we write, how we live out our roles as wives, mothers, teachers, story-tellers. I heard from kindred hearts about WHY what we say and do is so important – things my soul had obviously forgotten in all the strife of ‘keeping up’. Finally, I had my shot in the arm. I even got a hug from Sally Clarkson who encouraged me to not give up. It was the band-aid I needed.
It’s amazing what a word of encouragement can do for your heart.
[Like when Ann pleaded with us to “not stop writing our stories”.]
A simple heartfelt word… or a long, prayerful string of intentional and relevant ones. Healing began somewhere deep inside.
I spoke with my children about their thoughts and they told me they felt like nothing was ever good enough, the laughter was gone, that mama never smiled and was always upset about something. They saw me distressed over undone lists, unmade beds, unwashed or unfolded laundry, and unfinished assignments. In simple terms: my joy was gone. I knew this all along deep down. Lost joy was the crisis that my perfectionism and inability to transition from ‘mom of two tweens’ to ‘mom of two tweens and a baby’ had caused. It was a long, hard, two-year lesson. There were many tears… and more frustration than I care to admit or remember.
My two years became by default the years of “EPIC FAIL”.
They that sow in tears shall reap joy. ~Psalms 126:5
As 2010 ticked its last few seconds down last night, I sat there, rubbing my huge pregnant belly, wondering why God would give a broken (hard-headed) woman another precious soul to raise… another chance, another gift, another new year – and new life.
My eyes opened to the ways He held me in my chaos… the way He blessed me in the valley of 2009 and 2010. Somehow, despite me, there was goodness – blessing – beauty – cohesion. We are still here. We are OK.
Who cares if the laundry got done perfectly, anyway? Who cares if every page in the Math book got done?
My children are wonderful. My God is wonderful.
2011 will be wonderful because He is in it. It doesn’t depend on my ability at all. Stripping away the self-reliance and perfectionism was the goal of ‘intentional living’ and ‘simplification’ – In Christ. I only saw the failure, but He was giving me success by breaking me of my bondage. He was the melody in all that noise… making sense of the madness.
What a wonderful life I’ve had! I only wish I’d realized it sooner. ~Colette
I want my children to have this Joy. I want them to feel appreciated and loved. I don’t want my kids to be defined by their accomplishments – but to know who they are in Him… cherished children of a God that longs to lift them up and hold them close.
I don’t want us to just survive. I want us to be filled with JOY.
Joy is purpose plus contentment – delight, peace, cheerfulness, gladness. This is what was missing. This is what 2011 will bring.
I’ve dedicated my new year to claiming the “Joy of the Lord as my Strength” (Nehemiah 8:10) – no more fretting over lost time, loose ends and things left undone. God makes no mistakes and my purpose is tied up in His able hands. That’s enough to smile about.
2011 will be the year of “Joy”.