verbosevictoria

Painting heart-cries, word by word

Putting “Good Job” to Death April 15, 2014

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Quite unintentionally, I have become a pretty decent fan of Matt Walsh and his thoughts which he publishes at themattwalshblog.com. Today he posted about motherhood, and more specifically, why it is not THE (exclusionary) toughest job in the world.

The man enjoys conflict. This he readily admits.

Even so, his full post makes some hard-hitting points about the perceptions of parenthood in the United States at the moment. I appreciated the clarification that he does not detract from the difficulties and full-time commitment required in being a mother. The point about fatherhood being just as challenging as motherhood had me nodding. I nearly cheered when he touched on the dismissive attitude our culture has towards fathers in general and how debilitating that is for the entire concept of family.

But what prompted me to make a dash for my laptop keyboard was this little sentence tucked into a concluding paragraph: “One day maybe we’ll realize that parenting is designed…to be work — not a job at all, really — that is best accomplished through the harmony of husband and wife.”

Consider this. There are times—many, many times—when I am insecure about whether I am successfully fulfilling the role of mother for my children. In those moments, my wonderful husband and the amazing daddy for our children tells me, “Hon’, you’re doing a great job.” And I am a little relieved, a little disbelieving, and a little mollified that it’s probably just a skewed perspective in my head.

Now, what if the conversation ran like this:
Me: Ahh! I feel as though I’m doing a terrible job at being these poor kids’ mother! I keep making mistakes that will probably send them to lifelong counseling and I can’t DO it all with the house and the blahblahblah…freaking out…blahblah.

Husband: My dear, what you do with our children is wonderful work.

Me: *crickets* Um… Well. That is true. Regardless of how I see my abilities, it’s the kind of work that’s always worth my best. I can’t argue with or doubt that. Silly to freak out, really.

Okay, so in reality, I’m not that quick to turn my hissy fits around to rational thought. But truly, the difference between “you’re doing a great job” and “the work you’re given is great” could be the paradigm shift I need as a parent. The shift in focus is from my qualities and performance as a mom to the REASON I am doing it.

What does Galatians 6 say? “Let us not grow weary in doing good…” (vs. 9)

Hear me out because I’m learning this as I’m typing, which means I’m sharing and not teaching. I may not have this figured out yet. When it comes to the concept of hard work, I get very whiny very quickly, historically. It is something I am having to learn as an adult, having never received the joy in it as a kid or teenager.

In the past, I’ve always felt a little exhausted after reading that verse in Galatians. Maybe even falsely guilty. I do get weary of always having to choose those hard, self-sacrificing, never ending good things.

But what if I was looking at it backwards? What if it is talking about good work, not good jobs? What if work is something objectively good or bad? You can do a bad job in a good work, can’t you? That doesn’t change the nature of the work. Charity organizations are doing good work. But a badly trained CEO may run the organization into bankruptcy. Badly done job, but still within the category of good work.

Being Mom to my five kids who are home schooled and therefore hardly ever out of my minute-to-minute life can be exhausting, of course. (As can being Dad to those five kids after working a rough job every day, Mr. Walsh.) But do I really have a right to call the work of motherhood dreary? Motherhood as a calling, a kind of work, is objectively good. So rather than appealing to my husband out of my insecurities, what if I simply asked for a reminder of the truth?

I could stop being insecure about my mistakes as a mother—not stop improving, but stop beating myself up over my imperfections—and instead…

Instead, I could focus on the work.

I might raise my voice when I promised I wouldn’t, but the work of motherhood is worth an apology and doing better next time.

I might mess up dinner for my family, but the work of motherhood is worth gratitude and sometimes laughing at myself.

I might ignore my daughter’s many, many, many requests to bake something with me on a busy Saturday afternoon, but motherhood is worth listening to the pang in my heart and handing her an apron on Monday morning.

I’m not sure if I’m conveying what I saw in this difference between a job and good work, but hopefully the glimmer of truth in there has caught your eye enough to mine the rest of it yourself. There is something precious here. I intend to keep digging.

 

A Heart Cry February 12, 2014

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Fast Asleep

“You are a woman of God.”

I am.

“You are special.”

I am.

“You are loved.”

I am.

My husband goes through this statement-and-answer with our daughters and sons every night before they fall asleep. Even the baby responds “mmhmm.”

It is precious to hear, like dropping little golden balls into their future selves. I pray they know it all to be true when they are no longer sleeping in beds down the hall from me. I pray they know they are children of God, created and designed for a purpose, and loved. Loved so deeply, surrounded by it on every side, regardless of where they go or what they choose to do. When they are scared or confused or hurt, I pray they can take those golden spheres of truth we’ve dropped in, one by one, and be comforted.

I know I can’t give them their salvation. I know I can’t keep them from pain. But maybe if we give them a wealth of truth to start, it won’t be so hard for them to find the glints of gold on their own. Maybe if we show them truth, show them what love looks like, over and over and over again… Maybe they’ll learn to recognize the real thing. Maybe the twisted imitations won’t be as alluring. Maybe the pain they feel at times won’t be without purpose or value if they can find the golden ball tucked away in the dark.

We hope so. We trust God that we are doing what we can.

These people, these individuals, these precious eternal beings destined for greatness in God’s kingdom are entrusted to us. We don’t mold them. We don’t clip the edges to match our own shapes. We don’t crush who they are under the weight of who we became.

They are unfolding, still delicately but with little increases in vigor and confidence. They need protection, to blossom in health and wholeness. They need guidance, to learn the steps in the journey all must take. They need encouragement, to be brave as they grow. They need prayer, to cover their paths as they go. They need discipline, to choose their design over their default. They need counsel, to navigate the currents flowing between people. They need wisdom, to give them a head start.

But mostly, they need love. Love reassures, comforts, demands better, forgives hurt, rejoices, hopes, perseveres, and is always, always there with open arms.

God be praised, we can pour out His love on them. If our love is a sparkling trickle, God’s love is a luminous waterfall, rushing down and mixing with and overwhelming our trickle. His love cascades on us, on these precious people who are still so young, and flows out from our family into the world He created us to influence.

And each night, before they close their eyes, the daddy God gave them drops another golden ball of love and truth into their very souls–
“You are a man of God.”

I am.

“You are special.”

I am.

“You are loved.”

I am.

“Goodnight, buddy. I love you.”
“Goodnight, silly head. I love you.”
“Goodnight, sweetheart. I love you.”
“Goodnight, princess. I love you.”
“Goodnight, bubby-boy. I love you.”

I love you, Daddy.
Goodnight.

 

Making a Haven September 30, 2013

Making-Your-Home-a-Haven-week-1

What would it take to make our home a haven?

My knee-jerk response would be, “Uh… A LOT.” So much mess, so much frantic running all over, so many bodies filling every room, so many have-to’s and should-have’s. “Haven” is not the first word I would use to describe the atmosphere of our home. Chaotic would be a good one.

I don’t mind free-spirited creativity or the mess it leaves behind, but the problem is beyond piles of scribbled-on paper and broken crayons. It’s a feeling that we are on the brink of totally losing control at any given moment. There’s not a lot of spiritual space for peace. And that is something I want to change.

This is where the womenlivingwell.org challenge comes in. See, every week this month there will be a tangible tip and a spiritual tip for making your home a haven. And there are PRIZES. Like Yankee candles and family board games and even an iPad mini! (I’m so much more excited about the board games than the iPad, but hey.)

Even if I don’t win anything (entirely likely), I’m excited to try this out. It’s something I always feel tugging at my heart but I need a little structure and accountability to go with it. This is a perfect, bite-size beginning to shifting things back to peaceful around here.

This week’s challenge was to light a candle in the hub of your home and to pray God’s peace over everyone each time you pass it. I lit my candle on the dining room table. My children saw what was going on and just had to be a part of it, so they each picked another candle and now we’ve got four peace reminders glowing away.

Image

I’ve been battling a headache all day so the prayers have been more on the “Holy Spirit, interpret my groaning” side, but I did avoid meltdowns today. Praise goes to God.
If you want to join in the challenge, leave me a comment so I know to ask how it’s going for you! 🙂

 

Funny Thing About Home Schooling… July 16, 2013

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We don’t follow a curriculum in our home schooling. We use any and all resources we deem valuable and I pay close attention (or TRY to) to what our kids are interested in. But although that may sound very chill, maybe even lacksadaisacal, it actually involves hard work!

I can’t depend on a schedule to assure my kids were given a chance to learn something. Believe me, in the longterm, that is a very good thing for us. But there are definitely days, sometimes full weeks, where I go crazy in my mind wondering if I’m shortchanging my kids.

I’ll examine my insecurities another time. The point is this.

WALMART IS SELLING BACK-TO-SCHOOL SUPPLIES.

Why is this important to me? Because I go kind of nuts over new pencils, blank notebooks, snazzy trappers, color-coordinated rulers and compasses… You get the idea. I want to buy about 50 folders. For each of my five children. Titus is four months and has zero need for folders, but nevertheless I want to get him the ones with little anchors on them. I love this stuff! And it gets expensive QUICK, even with back-to-school sales! I want new paper (TONS of new paper actually), new markers, new crayons, multi-colored sharpies, five-subject notebooks, the WORKS. 

My problem is, because I don’t have a school program I’m plugging into, I have to prioritize and choose which supplies to get and which to pass by. So hard! So, so hard. I want ALL THE THINGS, but I have to sit down and figure out which things we will legitimately need.

Of course, that presupposes that I actually know what we’re going to be doing.

I have some serious brainstorming to do.

Well, the good news with an eclectic approach to home schooling is that I have many, many contingency plans–all requiring a list of SSSSUPPLIESSSSSSS, YESSSS MY PRECIOUSSSSSS…

 

Disillusion SuperWoman April 4, 2013

I have learned something. I have shifted and I believe it goes deep.

All the while I was growing into a young woman, when I was still a child, I kept waiting for God to make plain the talent He had given me and the destiny He planned for me. I gazed with shining eyes at Olympic gymnasts who had started their path by age 4 and whispered to myself, “That will be me.” When I heard about the women’s soccer team at North Carolina and saw Mia Hamm play with such fire and agility, I whispered to myself, “That will be me.” Any time I heard a prodigy musician, read about a barrier-breaking athlete, or watched a national talent show on TV, I whispered to myself, “That will be me. I will have my amazing talent. And I will know what it is because it will come easy to me, like it does for them.”

I was able to do many things as I got older and pursued interests. I could throw pots (in the ceramic sense), draw fairly well, sing pretty well, run quickly, talk circles around most people, read like a boss, daydream like nobody’s business, and timed the recording of my favorite radio songs onto cassette PERFECTLY so there were no half-commercial gaps between songs. I even seemed to be a bit of a writer, when I put my mind to it. But not once did I discover I could play concertos on the piano by ear or make a goal from midfield with my eyes closed.

Of course I was upset for a few years because I thought I had no talent. God shook His head, half-smiling at my ridiculous and childish assumptions, and began teaching me about my non-scripted destiny.

But a much more insidious assumption was growing underneath all of that silliness.

Like most people, I have many responsibilities in this life. There are things over which God has placed me in authority–my own self, my children, my home, etc. I have been going crazy trying to keep up with these things and there are plenty of factors for why that’s been such a struggle, but one lie in particular has been crushing me under its weight. I have held the belief that I should be extraordinarily TALENTED in every area where I am RESPONSIBLE. I have been thinking it should come easier than it does.

You see? You see how debilitating that is?

I am not talented as a housewife, and that is the bald-faced truth. Lots of women may make that claim, but any of my friends, family, and especially my husband will tell you that my 6 yr old daughter is better at housekeeping than I am. I don’t say that to be self-deprecating or falsely humble. It is just true.

So every time the laundry is out of control, every time the kids spend more time cleaning up than I do, every time Eric has to come home and rescue us all from the mess, I am crushed under guilt. I let myself sink into depression. I let disappointment slice my soul until I am a tattered mess. That sounds melodramatic–again, it is just the truth.

Even when I get help, I can’t enjoy it, because I have believed I should be more than capable; I have believed I should be a TALENTED housekeeper. If I’m responsible for it and God says He’ll equip me, then what’s the problem? I listen to my friends swap organization ideas and whisper to myself, “That should be me.” I pop in unexpectedly, my friend asks me to excuse the “mess” of two toys on the floor and a laundry basket of clean clothes in the corner and I whisper to myself, “That should be me.” I listen to plans of spring cleaning, gardening, canning, sewing projects, et al, and I crawl into a ball, hide in my unmade bed with sheets that should have been washed a month ago and cry quietly, “That should be me.”

I have finally accepted it. That should NOT be me. In fact, burn the word “should,” burn it with fire, because the reality is I am not a talented housekeeper. I have to work really, really hard just to be a passable housewife (not to mention a happy one, which is all my husband really cares about). That is a fact. I want to live in that reality and be willing to accept what small progress I make.

Hey, if I’m not talented, then every victory becomes instantly huge!

~Put away a load of clean laundry in the drawers today–GOOOOOOOOOAAAAALLLLLL!!!

~Dinner is on time and the table is set, all by 6pm–w00t, w00t! Holla at me, gurrrl!

~I. Flippin. VACUUMED.–PARTY OVER HERE, PARTY OVER THERE, WAVE YOUR HANDS IN THE AIR LIKE YA JUST DON’T CARE!!

So. Getting back to the actual point, it is a straight-up lie which I swallowed whole that you should be talented wherever you are responsible. Not true. God likes hard work (something I am still trying to comprehend, weak-willed as I can be). It follows, then, that He has no problem making us responsible for things that don’t come easy.

Armed with this epiphany, I shall only work on getting better and staying content. I don’t freak out on myself for not becoming an Olympic gymnast. I won’t freak out because I’m not Mary Poppins either. Time to disillusion SuperWoman. Time for Victoria, vessel of God’s love, to just chill already.

**I do recognize I have some talents. Everybody does, and if you think “yeah, except me” then I give you a hearty slap on the back and welcome you to this journey of discovering God is way smarter than we are. Next blog will be on talents, just to even things out. I like symmetry in my life, when possible.

 

Baby Debut March 7, 2013

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February 25th, 2am. “These are real. These are real contractions! Okay, okay, don’t freak out. Breeeathe. Try to sleep. No wait, stay up and write down these contractions first so you have something to go by later.”

5am. “I better get up, I can’t try to sleep between these contractions. Should probably wake up Eric and have him call the midwife.” (Pam is my midwife. She is absolutely incredible, gifted in what she does, almost as much of a life counselor as a midwife. I love Pam.)

5:30am. “Tell Pam to hurry! Call my mom! Call your mom!”

6:00am. “This is good. … Baby is moving down. … Keep moving, baby. … Pam’s here. … Can’t think. … Soon.”

6:45am. “Gotta move to the bed, gotta move to the bed, can’t movecan’tmovecan’tmooooove… Okay, okay. Moving. Bed. IT’S TIME!”

6:54am. And just like that

Titus

…he was here.

 

 

My sweet baby boy finally arrived in all the crescendo of a life being born and he is all hope and love and newness. God is so incredibly good. ~*~

 

The Beauty of Boundaries, part 1 July 2, 2012

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A comment online: “It’s funny that most parents mostly determine their child is ‘in trouble’ if they are doing something the parent doesn’t want them to. If a parent feels they are not in control of their children, they feel like the child is doing something …’wrong’. Unless the child is doing something life-threatening or dangerous, you shouldn’t tell them what to do. Having a child, to me at least, means letting them explore life how they want, and being their play-mate, partner, provider, and protector. I can’t wait to raise my kids and see life through their eyes. It will be the most rewarding experience of my life, I can imagine.”

My Response:
It is true parenting is not about control and it is true the trap is an easy one to fall into. However, as a parent of four small kids, I don’t agree that the only time to say “no” is when they are in danger of losing their physical lives or health. There are more kinds of danger than just physical. There is the danger of allowing apathy to breed, the danger of never encouraging good communication, the danger of permitting your child to believe there are no boundaries in life and therefore no safety nets to count on. There should always be boundaries. Not to keep them from exploring but in order to ENHANCE their exploration.

Let me put it this way. Pretend you’re exploring a hiking trail that takes you through amazing rock formations, gorges, shallow caves, etc. Now there is a trail to follow that everybody uses, a worn path clearly visible to the eye, and that’s where you start out. You are more curious than the average person though, so you begin to drift to one side of the trail, now the other side, in search of wonders other people have missed. But you always know when you’re going a little too far because you can see the trail behind you.

Now pretend you wake up in the same area but you’ve never been introduced to the trail before. You have no idea where you are, no idea where you can go to get fresh water, no idea how to leave the woods, no idea where the dangers are. You start exploring but it’s slow going because you have no frame of reference. You slip on a cliff of loose rocks because you haven’t heard anybody tell you that’s not the best way to go. You try out a cave and realize too late that you went deeper than you thought and can’t remember the way out.

 It’s not a perfect analogy, but you get the idea. We all do much better when we have a frame of reference, when we have clear boundaries to show what other people have discovered to be true in the area we are exploring. I homeschool and we’re currently using the “unschool” model which is VERY exploring-focused. But at the same time, when my daughter shows interest in mathematics, I don’t sit back and say “you’re doin’ great honey!” when she tells me 2+1=5. I correct her, I show her the boundaries. And I do the same with life principles as well because I Love her. I don’t want to watch her stumble around, trying to find her way, when I know at least a few things that would help her. And right now, with how young she is (6 years old), that involves a lot of trust on her part and consistency on mine. As she gets older, I will let her gain more authority and receive more responsibility for her choices, but if I don’t show her that her choices have real consequences, she will be ill-equipped for her larger freedom later on. This is a time of training and I will do my job, even if it means I look like a killjoy in her 6 year old eyes.

It’s not about control, it’s about giving her a map to use so she will find her way with greater success. In writing there’s a phrase–you can break the rules of grammar, but only if you know what they are and when it’s okay to break them. Same with life, really.