Marriage & Family

Holy Ever After

Posted by on Feb 19, 2013 in Faith, Marriage & Family | 0 comments

Holy Ever After

About a month ago, I had the opportunity to travel alone (alone!) to Hawaii for my dear friend’s wedding. Did I mention I was alone? It’s the first time I’ve travelled anywhere alone since I had children. It was wonderful, refreshing, and a brand of fun with girlfriends that I had kind of forgotten existed.

The wedding was absolutely beautiful in every way. The bride and groom exchanged vows overlooking the Pacific Ocean with strands of tropical flowers floating in the trees above them. The scenery was breathtaking, and so was the ceremony. Their hometown pastor traveled a long way to marry the bride and groom, and his wedding sermon was thought provoking and meaningful.  With great grace and honesty, this pastor shared the real story, that marriage includes ups and downs, heartache mixed in with the happiness, and that there was divine purpose in all of this. He said (my paraphrase, he was much more eloquent) that once you get married, your spouse will contribute more to your holiness than any other person ever will again in your life. That struck me as such depth of truth and wisdom that I seriously pondered it as I watched the bride and groom take communion and wash each others feet out of the corner of my eye. I thought it was one of the most profound perspectives on marriage that I have ever heard.

Websters defines holiness as “the state of being exalted or worthy of complete devotion as one perfect in goodness and righteousness.” Yeah, so that’s not what I’m talking about here. I don’t think marriage makes one perfect in goodness and righteousness, at least mine hasn’t yet. Another definition is “having a divine quality.” That’s what I think marriage has the ability to do, create in us a divine quality by moving us closer to God as we confront and cast off our selfishness, character flaws, and wounds. A synonym is sanctification – “the state of growing in divine grace.” Yes. Marriage presents an opportunity for growing in divine grace.

I am not the same person I was when I got married. Standing at the edge of the ocean in the gentle Hawaiian breeze, watching my amazingly together friend make this big commitment, I was reminded that when I did the same thing eight years ago I was pretty much a mess. Why did Husband choose me in all of my messiness all those years ago? I remembered he once mentioned that something he loved about me was that my heart was tender towards God. I think part of what he must have meant was that he saw in me a willingness and desire to grow, learn, and mature that ran deeper than my flaws and weaknesses. Our marriage has been an ongoing process of growing in divine grace. Sanctification. We have both been willing to be changed. We have both been willing to be humbled. We have both been willing to become less selfish.

Six weeks before Husband and I exchanged our vows, my dad died. I had great difficulty following this life event and my difficulties manifested in our marriage, causing great strain. Husband could have left. People would have understood. But he stayed. Not only did he stay, he never once mentioned the thought of leaving. I even asked at times if he wanted to and his answer was always the same – “We’re in this together. I’m not going anywhere.” Divine grace.

Years later Husband lost his business, income, and status. He had great difficulty following this life event and his difficulties manifested in our marriage, causing great strain. I could have left. People would have understood. But I stayed. By the grace of God alone, when I could sense his question of “Will you leave?” I somehow knew to look at him and say “If I had nothing but you, our baby, and our two crazy dogs, I would be happy. I’m not going anywhere.” Divine grace.

Marriage offers an opportunity like no other to grow in divine grace – to exchange selfishness for love, haughtiness for humility, shame for a fresh view of ourselves through a lover’s eyes, fear for strength to push through the greatest challenges. I always hope when I write about marriage that people I know who are divorced feel no condemnation. Marriage takes such work, commitment, respect, and forgiveness from both people that I find it rather miraculous that anyone’s marriage can endure. My marriage is not perfect by any means. But it has been a sanctifying force for me. I can see that it has been for Husband too. That wedding sermon helped me understand why and I wished I had heard it sooner. If someone had described marriage to me before I made my own vows as a process that would not only add to my happiness but also to my holiness, my sanctification, my growth in divine grace, then I think I would have viewed each struggle and conflict along the way very differently. I would have purposed more to have a heart malleable enough to change and a willingness to let marriage grow and stretch me instead of expecting it to be continual bliss. I would have welcomed all that comes with the process of Holy Ever After as an indispensable part of my Happily Ever After.

 

 

Happy New Year

Posted by on Jan 2, 2013 in Faith, Marriage & Family, Mental Health | 6 comments

Happy New Year

At the start of every new year, I take some time to fast and pray, to shake off all the dust from the past year, to get fresh vision for the new year. As I seek direction for what I should fast and for how long, I usually sense God asking me to set aside something that I’ve unknowingly and unintentionally started to turn to for comfort or security that’s not Him.

A few years ago as I was preparing for my fast, I felt Him asking me to give up arguing and complaining for the entire month of January. Kind of incredulous, I checked back several times. Arguing and complaining? Is that it? I thought for sure He’d pull out the big guns – chocolate, coffee, dinner, wine. Nope. Just arguing and complaining. For one month. That’s it.

On January 1, I set about my fast with a spring in my step and deep gratitude that I could still enjoy my morning coffee and evening dessert. This was going to be sooooo easy. I wasn’t much of an arguer and complainer to begin with, right?

Wrong. Of course, it turned out to be the most difficult fast I’ve ever done. I could hardly keep myself from feasting at a table of arguing and complaining for three square meals a day and snacks in between. I felt like I was starving without it. Wasting away.

During this time, God revealed to me how much arguing and complaining I was doing in my marriage. He showed me that the problem wasn’t just that I was arguing and complaining, but that my arguing and complaining had become tools I used to defend and protect myself. They were bad and unsuccessful ways to cover up and manage a lot of hurt and resentment I held in my heart towards Husband. Because I was not handling this emotion in the right ways, I was acting it out in all the wrong ways.

God used my month long fast from arguing and complaining to show me the truth underlying my actions, to help me clean out my unexpressed emotion, and to begin healing my heart. He gently redirected me to pour out my concerns about my marriage to Him so that He could help me, rather than erecting impenetrable walls of defensiveness, rudeness, and hardness towards Husband because I did not know how else to help myself.

At the end of the month, I felt impressed to tell Husband about my fast, to apologize for all of my arguing and complaining, and then to talk to him about my hurts and anger. In that order specifically. Honestly, I can’t remember exactly what the outcome of that conversation was. I imagine that it was great in some ways and hard in some ways, that it brought some resolution but left some conflict to be worked through at a future time. What I do remember vividly, though, is that my heart felt cleaned out of bitterness and resentment afterwards. I did not need to argue and complain to protect myself any longer, I needed to focus on keeping my heart healthy regardless of what Husband or my marriage made me feel in the course of a day. I remember with great clarity that, following this experience, something changed and shifted in me and my marriage for the better, and it has remained better since.

As I was preparing to ring in 2013 with a time of quiet reflection, this story popped into my head and I wanted to share it. I do not think this is an uncommon pattern in marriage. Changing this way of relating in my own marriage freed me up in so many ways and left me feeling better about myself, my life, and my family.

I plan to spend this next month of January as I usually do, and this year that includes taking a break from social media and blogging. Happy New Year! I’ll see you in February ~ Celia

 

Thanksgiving

Posted by on Nov 22, 2012 in Bug & Bear, Faith, Marriage & Family, Mental Health | 0 comments

Thanksgiving

The past year has easily been the hardest year of my life. When it started, I thought I would crumble under the weight of it. As it progressed, though, the strangest thing happened. I found joy in the little things. I realized that life goes on, and I had a choice – I could crumble, or I could rise above. All it took was one glance at my babies, my little girls full of wonder and excitement over absolutely everything in the world, and the choice was clear.

Years ago I made a habit of writing down ten things that made me happy at the end of each day.  It changed my perspective. I found myself looking for the positive in my life, job, and relationships instead of noticing the negative because taking note of good things throughout the day made my list easier to construct at night. That simple task changed my heart.  I learned that circumstances really have very little to do with how we feel and perceive life. The choice we make of where to place our focus affects the condition of our hearts, and our heart condition has everything to do with the level of joy and gratitude we experience.

“God sometimes brings joy into distress to give us comfort.” Beth Moore

This Thanksgiving I’m so incredibly grateful for all of the joy that has brought comfort in the midst of distress.  The happiness I’ve found in the mundane of the day to day – my family, my marriage, my children, my crazy dogs, my wonderful friends, the beautiful scenery surrounding our new home, the simple things like cooking and driving and running and praying.  I’m grateful that this year has taught me gratitude as a lifestyle and cultivated an attitude of joy in my life.

 

 

How Will I Know?

Posted by on Oct 17, 2012 in Bug & Bear, Marriage & Family, Mental Health | 0 comments

How Will I Know?

“How will I know, if he really loves me? I say a prayer with every heartbeat. I fall in love whenever we meet. I’m asking you what you know about these things.”

Please don’t tell me I’m the only one old enough for that song to conjure up images of dancing around with my middle school friends, belting out the lyrics alongside Whitney into our hairbrushes, daydreaming about “the one” and all the ways we would know he really loved us.

Fast forward to our adult selves. We found “the one.” We realize that it doesn’t look a lot like the Whitney Houston song in real life, but it’s still great in its own real-life way. Now the question has changed from “How will I know if he really loves me?” to “How will I know if I’m ready to have a baby?” It never became a hit song, but I bet that question weighs even heavier on the minds of women contemplating starting a family than the question of love weighs on the hearts of dreamy preteen girls.

After Husband and I were married a couple of years, we started talking and dreaming about adding a baby to our family. We had enjoyed some time of adjusting to marriage, traveling, and just being together. We knew we wanted to have children. We were financially stable (at the time, anyway). We certainly weren’t getting any younger. Everything seemed to line up and point to it being the right time and the right plan. Except there was just a bit of nagging doubt on the inside of me. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to have children, it was just that becoming a mother seemed like the most life-changing, earth-shattering, death-to-self kind of thing I could ever choose to do – and somewhere along the way, I picked up this notion that to have a child, one must be completely prepared, totally sure, perfectly equipped, and fully without doubts.

Husband was feeling really ready to move full speed ahead into parenthood, but with my mixed feelings and ambivalence about it all, I started asking around among the mothers that I knew. I asked a loved and respected mentor at my church who had adult children (and looked to be the poster mama for family life perfection) how she had known she was ready to start a family. Her own story of ambivalence prior to having children, and even after her first was born, shocked me. I asked a professional colleague with two school-age children if she had experienced any doubts about getting pregnant and having a baby. Again, I was surprised to learn that she had questioned whether she really wanted to have children at all. I asked close girlfriends with very young children how they had felt before having a baby, and the answer was that they were unsure and full of doubts. Absolutely every woman I talked to expressed the same mixed feelings about having a baby, the same doubts about their readiness and ability to be a mother, the same nervousness at giving up so much of themselves to care for another. Each of these women decided in the end that the desire to have a baby trumped all of the questions and doubts, and each became an incredibly attentive, committed, amazing mother.

Knowing that my doubts and mixed feelings were normal and did not disqualify me entirely from motherhood, we took the plunge and added sweet Bug to our family, then two years later our beloved Bear. In the years since I had my own children, a great number of friends have come to me with the same concerns in their early stages of contemplating motherhood. They ask the same questions – How did I know? Was I sure I wanted a baby? Did I struggle with feeling like I wouldn’t be a good mother? Did I feel nervous at the thought of the lifestyle change that having a baby would bring? My answers were much like those given to me when I asked the same questions of any mother I could find – I didn’t know for sure, but I knew enough. I struggled greatly with the feeling that maybe I didn’t have what it took to be a good mother, but I knew I would do my absolute best for the children entrusted to my care. I was terrified at the death to self that I knew would come from giving up my body for pregnancy and nursing, sacrificing my familiar life for something I could not in any way comprehend, relinquishing my freedom to focus on myself and my own needs in the interest of someone else completely dependent upon me, but I knew that it was worth it to experience creating a life that was a little combination of my self and Husband’s self.

I’m not saying that this is the experience of every woman, but I do think it’s a far more common experience than anyone really talks about openly. As a result, we are left feeling like motherhood is all black and white – either we know and commit completely with no doubts whatsoever and we’re meant to be mothers, or we have questions and doubts that mean we probably don’t have what it takes. In reality, ambivalence is such a normal state of motherhood, from pre-conception, to pregnancy, to birth, and through childhood, that I think were we not to feel so ashamed and afraid of it as mothers, we would get more comfortable just accepting it as a part of the job description.

Moving on Up

Posted by on Sep 5, 2012 in Marriage & Family, Mental Health | 4 comments

Moving on Up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A couple weeks ago my family made the big move from the 110 degree heat of our Texas home on up to a new home near the mountains. We are so excited. The weather is beautiful. The scenery is amazing. The view from my front porch swing takes my breath away every morning while I wake up with my cup of coffee.

We’ll check back come winter. I’m a Texas girl – I feel a chill when the temps drop into the fifties at night, and I wear my new fleece everywhere. Bug is equally easily chilled and wears a hoodie all the time, even during the day when it’s almost Texas warm. I asked a local mama how to dress my kids for winter and she said just pants and a hoodie, unless it’s “bitter cold, like in the teens.” Ummmm… a glance at me in my fleece and Bug in her hoodie suggests we find it to be bitter cold in the heat of summer, so either we’re going to have to toughen up over the next few months or get some serious winter coats.

Other than my nervousness over the impending winter weather, the ease with which this move took place reassures me and gives me an extra measure of peace that we’re in the right place. Bug, Bear, my mom, and I left Texas early afternoon, drove 6 hours to spend the night in a hotel before driving the remaining 6 hours the next day, while Husband drove our moving truck containing everything we own and our two badly behaved, overly active large breed dogs. I just envisioned how it could all go very, very badly, and I kind of braced myself for car trip meltdowns, hotel room sleep disruptions, and possibly tense mother daughter moments. None of that happened. Bug and Bear were a dream for every moment of the trip. We slept great in the hotel. My mom commented on how safe my driving made her feel – that is a miracle. We ate the most delicious carne asada burritos from a restaurant inside a Conoco station instead of greasy burgers for our road trip meal.

When we arrived at our new home, we had barely started unloading and arranging furniture when a neighbor showed up to see how we were doing and introduce himself. He left and then returned about 10 minutes later with his sons and they stayed until everything we own was unloaded, making quick work out of something that otherwise would have taken all night. It was such kindness, and after all that, he and his wife came back over with a homemade dinner for us and lots of extra food.

The next day I watched Bug and Bear in our backyard playing on their new swing set.

Our neighbors came out to talk and introduce themselves. Our yards have low fences separating them, so the setting lends itself to running into people and conversing. I find myself having trouble getting my kids bathed and in bed on time because our neighbors come out in the evening and we get caught up talking over the fence, or lifting one set of children over the fence to play with another set of children, and everyone is having so much fun that bed time just doesn’t seem important. I love it. I told Husband that it’s strange to me, although we’ve only lived in this new place a couple of weeks, I feel less alone than I have in a long time.

I am really struck by how nice people are here. It’s not that people weren’t nice where we lived before, but there was a busyness, a self focus, a pretty serious emphasis on money and financial success. The pace here is different. People are more into playing outside than building castles full of beautiful things. People take time to stop and talk, to get involved with their community, their neighbors, the people in their path throughout the day. What was intended to be a quick stop at a farmer’s market last week turned into a two hour trip spent having one interesting conversation after another with the people we encountered. I just notice an ease of enjoying life and the people who are in it in this new place.

This change of pace has made me aware of how tightly wound I’ve become. Here, I notice I’m out and everyone around me seems so content and at peace, and I realize I’m tense and on edge. It has made me exhale, relax, let go, and enjoy. Instead of sticking to our daily schedule with a vengeance, I take the time to let the unexpected events of each day take us where they may. Instead of becoming hyper-focused on the plan that’s outlined in my brain at the start of the day, I allow us to get distracted and off course if something or someone interesting presents a new opportunity. Instead of worrying about all that there is to worry about, I look out over the mountains and feel such a sense of awe and peace and enormous gratitude, say my prayer, and leave my worry at God’s feet.

I’m writing this all down partly to update those friends and family who are curious about our new adventure, and partly to call attention to the phenomenon of busyness and preoccupation that seems to pervade our culture and keep us from really noticing the people and circumstances around us that are worth our attention, worth laying down our agendas and getting off track. I just didn’t realize all of the pressure and wrong priorities I had allowed to settle on me until I got here and felt the tangible peace and enjoyment of slowing down and letting go.

Here are some of the unexpected and spontaneous adventures we’ve gotten to enjoy so far…

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Feeding the giraffes at the zoo

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Making a quick stop to hike a trail that looked fun on our way somewhere else

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Spontaneous off-roading and hiking trip on our way home after we dropped off the moving truck

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We made the long and adventurous drive to the top of Pikes Peak

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Chipmunk sighting – it joined us on our hike and followed us the entire way

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Our mountain girls hiked to the top of a waterfall

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A spontaneous drive took us a couple hours from home to beautiful Rocky Mountain National Park

Thank you to all of the friends and family who have prayed for us and checked in on us.  We are very comfortable here and are enjoying our new home.  Come visit!

Momplex

Posted by on Jul 11, 2012 in Bug & Bear, Marriage & Family | 2 comments

Momplex

Dear Crafty Mom,

I know you didn’t mean to because you would never do this on purpose, but you have given me quite the complex about my inability to do crafts with my children. Or scrapbook. Or bake beautiful birthday cakes. Or create elaborate party themes and exquisite decorations. Or sew girly dresses. Or take photos in which everyone is looking at the camera smiling in clean clothes. Or turn those photos into perfect photo collages. Or lead my children in a daily arts and crafts project that’s frame worthy. Or create a gorgeous life size poster of Joseph and his coat of many colors to illustrate the Bible story on a child’s level.

I am writing to say that, while I admire you greatly, I would appreciate you ceasing to showcase your talents in this area. Or at least stop posting it on Facebook. I think it would cure my complex instantly.

Yours Truly,
Not That Mom

As much as I wish I was, the truth is I’m just not that mom, the one who knows how to do all of the traditional mom things with grace and ease. Are you? If so, then know that I really do admire you for your artsy talent. But if you are not that mom either, I’ve discovered something that I think you should know:

Even if you are not good at the “mom stuff”, you are good at something, and that something is uniquely important to your family.

For a while, because it seemed like I was supposed to, I tried to be that mom. I researched art projects and set aside a special time each day to congregate at the table so that we could complete our masterpieces. I had the children make centerpieces for Thanksgiving (I was so hoping I had photographs of these to post so that you could really see this is not my forte, but turns out I don’t think anyone found them photograph worthy). After a number of these crafts sessions ended in tears (Ahem. Most of those tears were mine), I threw my hands up in defeat. I wondered how my children would survive my incompetence at crafts. Then it occurred to me that, although I am not crafty in any way, maybe my talents in other areas could serve as gifts to my children. I don’t love and I’m not good at crafty things, but I do love and have some ability to do other things…

I can not scrapbook, I can barely snap a photo (see image at the top of this post, that’s our typical family picture), but I love to write and I can express myself easily in written words. Instead of keeping a scrapbook for my girls, I decided to keep a journal for each of them in which I write down prayers I’ve said for them, things I’ve learned about them, milestones they’ve reached, and just a bunch of love notes. I like to think that one day they’ll treasure these just as much as they would an artsy scrapbook.

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Journals for Bug and Bear

I am not great at organizing structured learning times, but I do love to learn through hands-on experiences and have been able to share that with my children. We go to museums, parks, zoos, farms, and any other place we can find to learn about things while we explore.

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Family trip to learn about dinosaurs

I am not the mom who is conscientious about doing family Bible studies or daily devotionals, but I am passionate about prayer and hearing God. My girls and I pray as we drive places in the car, look up scriptures in the Bible as we encounter different issues, and talk about God in the course of our daily activities.

I am not very artistic or creative, but I find a creative process in cooking, and this is something my girls and I do together. It’s our art.

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Yummy dough that Bug and I made for homemade pizza

While these things may not be the traditional mom things, they are me things, and I think that must be what my children really want after all. Me. A taste of who I really am. Keepsakes and traditions from me that help them remember the person I am and the relationship we share, special times and activities that are unique to our family.

I mean no disrespect to the crafty mamas – if you are good at those things, then they are gifts of yourself packed with meaning for your children. But if you are not, for the love of all that is holy, take the pressure off yourself and give your children the gift of you in the form of your unique talents, abilities, and ways of relating.

 

 

 

 

 

Holding On

Posted by on May 30, 2012 in Faith, Marriage & Family | 2 comments

Holding On

Lately, every time I get together with a girlfriend, I find myself answering some variation of this question…

“What toll have all of your stressful life circumstances taken on your marriage?”

In all honesty I can answer that our difficulties have brought us closer together and strengthened our marriage. Have there been fights? Yes. Has it sometimes seemed impossible to find any resolution to our conflicts? Yes. Have there been times that the strain on our marriage seemed unbearable? Yes. But somewhere along the way we stopped fighting with and pointing the finger at each other and instead starting leaning on and trusting each other.

Part of this process was a deliberate decision. We got married, there’s paperwork, the whole deal is sealed with two little princesses. My husband totally gets commitment. Me? I’ve come a long way… at the beginning of our marriage I thought every fight meant “the end,” but Husband taught me that ups and downs are normal in a marriage and we’d get through it all together. I learned this secret to a lasting marriage over the years:

Just hold on.

I remember hearing about a study on married couples that found couples on the brink of divorce, when surveyed five years later, almost universally reported being very happily married. Things change. I realize it’s not the most romantic notion, but I think some seasons of a lifetime spent with another person hinge on just holding on through the rough spots.

The rest of the process has just been supernatural, divine intervention. We’ve been through some crazy, over the top, test-your-marriage-vows-and-all-that-is-holy kinda trials. I do not think my marriage could have made it through, at least not with any inkling of joy left in it, without prayer. Do you know what it’s like when two stressed, overwhelmed, angry, beaten up people try to communicate? Even a conversation about the weather can quickly go south, never mind an attempt to resolve a relational issue.

Over the years I’ve prayed a lot. Out of sheer desperation, when I couldn’t take one more fight over something ridiculous, I started dumping all of my hurts and frustrations on God instead of Husband. And in the process, completely on accident, I discovered an even bigger secret to a successful marriage:

Pray for your spouse.

Here’s what happened. At first, I started every prayer about Husband and our marriage as an all out bitch fest. I really gave God a piece of my mind about all this. Held nothing back. Even cussed. Then God changed my heart. He very gently showed me where I was wrong, ways I contributed to the problems. Then slowly, gently, without shaming me for the complaining and cussing, He showed me Husband’s heart all full of hurts and hopes and goodness …that softened me and gave me a new way to communicate with Husband that didn’t put him on the defensive. Husband and I got to start talking about the weather again without fighting. Some of the more serious, relational conversations never even happened because, without me even saying a word to Husband, he started acting differently too… I know that was God answering my prayers and adjusting Husband’s heart.

Although the stress is still piled on top of us and it weighs heavily, I don’t feel it undermining the strength of our marriage anymore. It’s no longer impossible to have hard conversations, but I try to remember to pray first. Many times, the praying alone is enough to bring resolution… I discover that I was wrong, not Husband, or that Husband was wrong but it wasn’t such a big deal after all, or that God makes the adjustment in Husband before I can say anything. In the instances that a confrontation is necessary, God gives me words that are easier to hear than my own would ever be. Sometimes I completely forget the value of praying first and just let loose with whatever is on my mind and there’s a fight… but this seems to be so much more easily covered and forgiven now, on both sides, since so many deeper hurts have been healed.

It’s really a lie when we believe our spouse is the source of our problems and discontent (barring abusive or dangerous situations, of course). The source of our problems and discontent is usually within ourselves. One of the most beautiful parts of marriage is the “iron sharpening iron” aspect. Instead of a lifelong curse, with God’s help, even the most broken marriages can become the blessing that helps bring healing and growth, the love that is fully anchored in trust and friendship. Trudging through the muddy mess of life, holding my best friend’s hand, trusting him completely, seeing God alive in our marriage after our trial by fire experiences means so much more to me than any “perfect” marriage ever could.

 

Mamaraderie

Posted by on May 24, 2012 in Bug & Bear, Marriage & Family | 4 comments

Mamaraderie

“How old is your baby?” a friendly voice behind me chimed.

I turned to answer and was greeted by a bright smiling face as she exclaimed, “Mine too!” Then a 10 minute conversation ensued right there in the sandwich line as my new friend and I exchanged tales of motherhood like we’d known each other for years.

I love the camaraderie that moms share… Mamaraderie, I thought as I carried my sandwich and my baby to my car. I didn’t know such a thing existed until I had kids and presto! an instant connection with every other woman in the world who has a child*.

Camaraderie is defined as goodwill and lighthearted rapport among friends… synonyms are cheer, companionship, conviviality, fellowship, intimacy, sociability, togetherness. Mamaraderie is all of these things… goodwill and rapport among friends who share an intensely uniting common bond… fun, fellowship, closeness, and community shared between women who mother. I first became acquainted with Mamaraderie when I had my first child and women converged upon my home with meals and help and love, later when other mothers intuitively knew I needed help and jumped in (think Costco parking lot, wearing a crying newborn on my chest in a Bjorn while holding a tantruming toddler and juggling bulk groceries, thank you to the angel who loaded my car and returned my cart while wrangling her own children), daily as I effortlessly make mama friends who are warm and kind and encouraging and supportive virtually everywhere I go with my children.

Unfortunately, Mamaraderie also has a dark underbelly. It can surface in the form of competition, or comparison, or judgement, or division. It might show up looking like a dispute between working moms vs stay at home moms, or baby training parents vs attachment parents, or spanking parents vs positive guidance parents. Being on the receiving end of it hurts, breeds anger, insecurity, isolation. Being on the giving end feels powerful and self righteous… therein lies the appeal, I think. It’s just that being a mother is really hard. You do the best you can but it always feels like not enough. In motherhood, there is virtually no positive feedback, no performance based compensation system to gauge your success, no annual reviews and bonuses to reward all your hard work. The only barometer a mama knows to look at sometimes to measure how well she is or is not doing is her children’s behavior… and that whole process can feel like being knocked to the ground and kicked repeatedly while her attacker tantrums. So in the face of this kind of constant giving with nary a pat on the back or “atta girl!” in return, who wouldn’t start to grasp for some way to make herself feel better?

Then there’s the passion. Mothers are passionate. It is wired into us to be intensely protective of our little brood, the family in our care. We read, research, pray, experiment, fail, correct, all in the interest of doing the very best we can for the little people who depend on us. Eventually, we find our answers… from the big things to the little things, we get a sense of what our family is about, who our children are designed to be, what the right choices and decisions for this family are. And then, because we’re moms and it’s what we do, we want to share the wealth of our wisdom… this can be helpful, but it can also be so hurtful, because what’s right for this family isn’t necessarily right for that family.

Maybe we could take each others decisions and methods in parenting a little more in stride, with a little more grace and humility**. I think we’re all doing the best we can. I think we all do it differently because we’re raising different people with different destinies that require different methods. Part of our job as mothers is to get to know our children at the heart of who they are, to discern their gifts, strengths, and shortcomings as individuals so that we can respond in a way that best encourages their growth. How could there ever be only one right way to do that?

While Mamaraderie requires us to extend grace to mamas with whom we may disagree on certain points, it offers some benefits that I think we mothers can’t afford to do without. Being a mother is hard work… it is physically, emotionally, spiritually, and psychologically demanding over the long term. It is a daily battle to protect our children from the dangers lurking in the world, to safeguard their hearts and identities as they stumble through difficulties, to extend grace and forgiveness to ourselves as we are confronted with our own mistakes and shortcomings, and to preserve some sense of who we are as individuals in the process of giving ourselves so completely to the service of others. Any difficult fight is better fought and more easily won in the presence of other soldiers.

“I have always found comforting in battle the companionship of a friend, one in whom you had confidence, one you felt assured would stand by you until the last.”

Frank Hollinger, Civil War Captain

Studies show that the camaraderie and social bonds found within a supportive group mitigate the harmful effects of stress hormones. Camaraderie in difficult situations has been found to have a long term protective effect against physical and mental illness. We need each other, mamas! The help we can offer each other through cheer, companionship, conviviality, fellowship, intimacy, sociability, togetherness is so much more significant than what we can accomplish by proving the rightness of our positions and philosophies.

~

*I didn’t have a child until I was 32 years old, and prior to that time I often felt on the outside of the mom club, and it didn’t feel good. Having children has humbled and changed me, but I also know that I had mothering, nurturing, and caretaking instincts and sensibilities long before I had children. I think that if you are a woman, you have the capacity to mother, even if you never have children of your own… so while this blog is addressed to mothers, in my mind that includes all women.

**I have not always done this well. In fact, at times I have been downright judgmental and rude. If I have ever made you feel judged, then I’m so sorry. If you were gracious to me as I made you feel judged, then I’m so thankful!

Favorites

Posted by on Apr 9, 2012 in Bug & Bear, Marriage & Family | 6 comments

Favorites

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are my favorites, enjoying a family day ~ I love these people the most

 

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My Bug ~ full of joy, loves adventure, fearless

 

 

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My Bear ~ cautious but confident, super smart, determined

 

 

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Husband and Bug ~ she's a daddy's girl, he's the best daddy

 

 

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Husband and Bear ~ she thinks he's hilarious

 

 

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Mommy and Bear ~ this one's a momma's girl 🙂

 

 

 

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Mommy and Bug ~ this girl's got personality, she makes me laugh all the time

 

 

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