Thursday, February 23, 2012

Your Day Off is Calling


No matter how good we are at our jobs, we all need a day off now and then. I loved my old job, but I still always looked forward to weekends, holidays, and vacations. Those breaks provided much needed time to nurture myself and my personal relationships and to remind me that my work is not the end all, be all of my existence. After a nice relaxing break, I would eagerly return to the job I loved with renewed energy and fresh ideas.

The single hardest thing about being a mother is the complete absence of these breaks. We don’t get evenings, weekends, sick days, vacation days, or holidays off from our mothering duties. We are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week for our children. They are our whole world, and our love for them envelopes our whole heart. Even on days when I am not physically with Reese, my heart never leaves her. I wonder if she needs me, if she knows I’m coming back, or if something will happen to her in my absence. No matter where I go, my heart is always at home.

Although it’s wonderful most of the time, a job that offers no breaks eventually leads to burnout. Even the best moms get burnt out on the constant demands of life with children. We start to wonder if we’re the only ones struggling with the division of labor in our homes, the decline of intimacy in our marriages, or the behavior of our children. We see other moms who appear to be doing everything well and we feel inadequate, incompetent, and out of control. We view our imperfections as major flaws and our challenges as insurmountable weaknesses. We lose the ability to see the forest through the trees.

That’s why we need to find other ways to replenish our strength and restore our energy. We need a day that lets us celebrate the honorable role we play in the lives of our spouses and children. We need to surround ourselves with women who can validate our concerns, share our struggles, and rejoice in the amazing journey that we so often take for granted. We need to be reminded that our imperfections are normal, our bodies are beautiful, and our work is important. We need an experience that inspires us to become our best selves and to believe that our best is enough.

Registration is currently open for the annual Hearts at Home conference on March 16 & 17, 2012 at Illinois State University. It is a weekend full of celebration for the lives we lead and praise for the Lord who provides those lives for us. You will laugh, cry, and learn more than you ever thought possible in one single day. You will come away with the true belief that the sky really is the limit when it comes to all that you want for yourself, your marriage, and your children. You will reconnect with your faith, strengthen your commitment to your spouse, and deepen your love for your children and for yourself as their mother. If your heart is at home, this is your weekend. Your day off is calling.  

Register today at www.heartsathome.org.  

Monday, February 13, 2012

Divorce is Always an Option



I've been hearing about a lot of divorces lately, and not just among all of those superficial Hollywood relationships, but people I know; people I actually thought would make it. I'm bothered every time I hear about another divorce – not because I judge those couples. I don't know what happened to their relationships or whether our marriage could have survived if it happened to us. Rather, divorce bothers me because it reminds me of the vulnerability of my own marriage. Just like the tragic death of a young person reminds me of my own mortality and causes me to drive more carefully or take safety more seriously, when a seemingly happy couple throws in the towel, I remember that no marriage is completely divorce-proof.

I hear a lot of couples say very righteously, “Well, for us, divorce just isn’t an option.” As sweet as that sounds, I’m not really convinced that such a belief can provide a permanent safeguard for your marriage. For one thing, it can stifle your sense of freedom, leaving you feeling trapped as if you're not in your marriage by choice. Isn't it empowering to know that either one of you could leave at any time, but you stay because you choose each other every day? Believing that divorce isn't possible also provides a false sense of security that can blind you to the daily sacrifices and compromises that come with sharing every aspect of your life and yourself with another person. Rather, let us all remember that divorce is always an option because that’s the reality. I know people who have had a harder time breaking an apartment lease than filing for a divorce. 

I bet if you could rewind the clock to their wedding day, many divorced couples would never have predicted that their marriages would end the way they did. Some of them might claim that they had doubts from the beginning, but most people would not choose to marry someone if they knew for certain that divorce would be the result. Some of them might even be the same people who once said, “divorce is not an option,” but in the face of extreme negative emotions, it’s impossible not to be aware of that possibility.

As much as I would like to say that there's no possibility of Matt and I ever getting divorced, I know that's not necessarily the most realistic line of thinking. We're still in the early stages of our marriage, and there are plenty of rough times ahead. Our commitment to each other, support for each other, and faith in each other will no doubt meet their challenges over the years. There may even come a day when we find ourselves on the brink of calling it quits. As much as those thoughts can be scary, that possibility is what fuels us to find other ways to safeguard our relationship. It reminds us to nurture our marriage, take time for each other, and resist taking each other for granted. Most importantly, it encourages us to hold each other when we're tired, love each other when we're angry, and listen to each other even when we disagree because, despite what we often allow ourselves to believe, divorce is always an option. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Bunch of Swimming Ducks

If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it’s probably a duck.

Okay, I get it. It’s an easy way to understand the type of inductive reasoning that allows us to determine what something probably is based on its observable characteristics. And although I get it, I’m not sure I understand why the comparative example is a duck. Why not say, if it’s striped like a zebra…, or if it’s tall like a skyscraper…, or if it’s flat like a spatula…? It’s not that I have anything against ducks, but I’m pretty sure that when it comes to ducks, what you see isn’t necessarily what you get.

Next time you see a swimming duck, just watch it for a minute or two. Watch how it glides through the water so beautifully, how it floats along so effortlessly. Looks peaceful, doesn’t it? But to the duck, it’s not necessarily effortless. Well, the floating part actually is effortless because ducks float naturally, but it still has to paddle to maintain its position and reach its destination. And the faster the current on the water, the faster that duck has to paddle to stay on course. But just by looking at a swimming duck, you can’t tell how fast it’s paddling. And that’s why ducks and moms have a lot in common.

Last fall I joined a Bible study for stay-at-home moms. We meet on Wednesday mornings, and we always start with coffee and small talk. As we discuss the verses that spoke to us or raise questions about unclear passages, we're each pretty clueless about the pace of each others' currents or how fast each of us is paddling to stay on track that week. All we know is that we all appear calm, collected, and organized on the surface.

Sometimes during our small talk, we land on the topic of stress and how we constantly feel like there’s so much to do and so little time to do it. I love those conversations because I walk away remembering that I’m not alone in feeling overwhelmed by the demands of everyday life. Although we all call ourselves stay-at-home moms, we’re all pretty involved in church and community activities and some of us work part-time jobs as well. At any given time, we all vary in the number of demands and stressors pulling each of us in different directions. Add in housework, errands, and children, and of course it’s easy to get a bit overwhelmed. Yet, there we sit every Wednesday, all calm and collected and ready for an hour of socializing and prayer. 

Sometimes when I'm around other moms, I wonder how it's possible that they're not stressed or overwhelmed or tired, and I wonder if they're asking themselves the same thing about me. Maybe we're all thinking, "She's got this figured out. I must be the crazy one," and maybe we're right; or maybe we're all just a bunch of swimming ducks.