Last Sunday night, I had a difficult time falling asleep, so I grabbed the ipad, went out into the living room and turned on the Christmas lights. I spent hours scrolling back through this blog and an older family blog. I couldn't believe how small my children once were, and how many crafts and fun activities we packed into our days. Life seemed busy then, but it was simple; although, you couldn't convince me of this back then. Some days I think I would much rather run around and chase 4 active toddlers than sit in one place and play judge and jury with 4 emotional pre-teens. :)
Reading these old posts made me grateful. It reminded me of how the king in the book of Esther called for his annals in the middle of the night when he couldn't sleep. He recalled, then, how his life was saved by a man who had not been rewarded for this good deed, which led to the saving of an entire race, the Jews. Nothing this drastic happened last Sunday night, but it put wind in my sails and lifted my head to say, "Thank you," to Jesus.
Our children are growing and are wonderful. Jared will be 13 in a few days. He is an avid reader and enjoys computer coding. He's very grown up and responsible, but he still enjoys playing with his siblings. I love this balance of very grown up, but still very boyish. He likes to sit and chat with me and Phil. I hope this never ends. Caleb is 11 1/2. He is my tenderhearted one. He's a peacemaker. He has a good sense to know when someone is sad. He's never in a hurry to walk through a room, so he's able to perceive the needs of others when he passes through. He adores his brother and the two of them can easily get lost for hours in our Lego world downstairs. Sweet boy! Gracie is 10. She is full of life and she loves to play with her brothers. I would say she's a little tomboy, but everything she owns is pink, and she enjoys playing dolls, Calico Critters and house with her sister. She is so good with little ones, too. She adores babies and toddlers and many of our friends are very thankful for her little mommy-helper ways. Lily is also 10 and she is becoming more and more a little version of me. While her sister and brothers run around outside, she would much rather be in the kitchen with me. Like Gracie, she also helps our friends with their little ones, but instead of playing with them, she will plan a day of themed activities, snacks and songs for them. We do differ in the fact that she is very artistic and can often be found drawing and painting or making everyday objects out of paper.
In many ways, this year has been one of the most difficult years for me, but the lessons learned are invaluable. I think I can sum it up with the word 'expectations.' I realized a few things after I turned 40...and this is in no way supposed to be a complaint...just an observation. When I was in my 20's, there was LIFE ahead of me--new teaching career at 23, new husband at 25, new baby at 29. Everything was new and there was excitement in the unknown. Then came the 30's, and while there were still new things on the horizon, like new babies, new houses, new cities, and the new venture of homeschooling, I was becoming a little more confident in my roles, and this made life's changes a little less hectic for me. And now 40. I have grown to appreciate the perspective this decade is giving me. It's helpful in raising children. I've learned that somethings just don't matter or need to be addressed. I have found that I can spend my entire day saying "Stop!" to some of their annoying pre-teen habits, or I can just laugh with them and tell myself they probably won't still be doing these things in 10 years. I am choosing to spend my emotional energy elsewhere so I can preserve relationship with them in these upcoming vital years. Would you want to spend your days with someone who constantly scolded, "Stop!" while you're being fun and playful?
So the word 'expectations.' This is where I don't want to sound hum-drum, but my realization is that THIS, right here, right now, is my life. It's not a bad one, by any means, but it is THIS. The past 2 decades I told myself, "Someday...'this' will be, or someday 'that' will happen." Hope was on the horizon in the not-yet. I know I'm not the only one to have felt this way, to have hope in things of the future. But when you get to [possibly] the middle of your life, you realize that Heaven is, in fact, the not-yet. Anything I wait for or craft down here will always fall short of what God has prepared for me in eternity. Is it wrong to look ahead at 20 and hope for wonderful things in life? No. But I think I have had the tendency to let disappointments and hardships almost shock me. Like they are intrusions to what I am trying to create in my little world. Instead, the reality is that this is not Heaven. The disappointments and hardship are the reality of this sin-cursed world, and the intrusions are really the blessings and times of joy that God filters through my days and years to remind me that something beautiful is ahead. He remembers I am dust and that a life filled with earth's harsh realities would crush me. It's the little glimpses into the Heavenies--laughter, saying hello and not goodbye, times of worship, unbroken fellowship, peace with those with whom we dwell, feasting--these are the things that bring me the greatest joy. I have grown to appreciate these blessings more and more. They are gifts from God. How can we make it through these last days without them? Life would crush us.
Do you know this hymn, "I've Found a Friend"?
It's a gem.
"I've found a Friend, O such a Friend!
All power to Him is given;
To guard me on my onward course,
And bring me safe to Heaven.
The eternal glories gleam afar,
To nerve my faint endeavor;
So now to watch, to work, to war,
And then to rest forever."
This will bolster me in the coming years; these eternal glories that gleam afar, and not what might be or should be here on this earth. I pray this will help me be a better wife and mother in the coming year.
Happy 2016, and may Jesus, this very Friend, to whom all power is given, guard you and keep you on your course this year.