The Power of Not Pretending

This morning I found myself thinking about how there is a weird tension between who I want to be and who I actually am. I want to be a strong, confident woman who knows what she wants and goes after it. Someone who fights her battles single-handedly and shows no sign of weakness. Someone who is respected for her strength. 

When I sit back and analyse a bit, I’m not sure that’s really who I am. 

I love to read adventure stories and romances, and usually, the female lead is strong, sassy, bold. She soars through the story with gracefulness and wit. And sometimes I think about the story and think, what would I do if I was in that situation? If this was my story? And half the time, I have to admit that I would never be in this story because a lot of these stories have to do with poor decisions, hasty or angry actions that didn’t have a lot of forethought. I am a think-first person. I am slow to speak and I like all my decisions to be well-thought out. Not very sexy, but it has saved me a lot of heartache and headache. 

These heroines always stand up for themselves. I usually freeze up in the moment. And it isn’t till I walk away from a situation that my brain sorts out, Hey, they did not do what they promised they were going to do, or what I needed them to do. Now I’m going to have to go back and insist on things being done differently. Case in point: I have been trying to retrieve medical records for my foster child and after four different phone calls, finally spoke to a doctor who said, No, you need to do this and this and this first or we’re not going to give that to you. And later, I told my husband about the conversation and he said, It’s your right to have the medical records. They can’t do that to you, just demand that they give you the medical records. And it was a light bulb moment, of Well Duh, why didn’t I just stand my ground?? But I didn’t because there was a doctor talking to me and saying No and I felt obligated to jump through the hoops they were setting up for me. Understandable, but not heroic. 

I am not who I wish I was. 

But maybe that’s not a bad thing. 

I think about that verse from 1 Corinthians 13:11:

 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 

Maybe part of growing up, maturing, is realizing that these role models, tropes, caricatures of womanhood that our culture feeds us are not all that they’re cracked up to be. 

Perfection. Any movie, magazine, or heroic book, tells us that women have to be perfect. And that translates to looking beautiful at all times, never bending under pressure, never settling for less, never being mediocre in anything. Social media tells us that our houses should always be clean, our children well-dressed, and the food we prepare should be organic and represent all the food groups. We should gently parent our children with grace and humor. We should keep our bodies in perfect shape and make sure we are still trying to be attractive for our spouses. And while we are at it, we should also be civic minded, fight for the underdog, and volunteer in the community whenever possible. 

When I sat down to write this it was with a feeling of never being enough. But as I think through all this I think that I have discovered one Superhero quality in myself that is worth being happy about. It’s the power of Not Pretending. 

I’m not going to pretend that I’m perfect. I can accept that I’m not as bold and strong as I wish I was. I acknowledge that my parenting is flawed. I can admit that sometimes I’m a great wife, and sometimes I’m really not. I know that I’ve got some good points, and I’ve got some bad ones and I have to fight daily to keep myself from just dwelling on my bad points. But there is a lot of freedom in just being who you are. And realizing that God has made you this way, for a purpose. And maybe just relaxing into that. Releasing the tension that says, I should be more, I should be better, and instead saying this is who I am, God loves me, and it is good. 

Facebook Challenge: Who Am I?

 

This morning I started thinking about high school. I’m reading a really good book that is exploring a young woman’s behavior when she was in high school…why she acted that way in the first place, and how those behaviors have shaped her present day adulthood. So, I started thinking about who I was in high school. Thinking especially about my last two years of high school up in Bethel, Alaska. And you know, I really don’t have any regrets about who I was during those years. They were good years. 

 

High school is such a public time in our lives. We go to school every day, we are surrounded by our classmates and teachers. We do extra-curricular activities and we are surrounded by all those people. Who-we-are is a very public thing. We can’t really hide it. 

 

It’s different when you are an adult. Especially when you’re a stay at home mom. I don’t have a large group of people that I see every day. I go to church on Sundays, but there usually isn’t time for a lot of private social interaction. I go to doctors appointments, very sterile, very little personal conversation. I go to the store, say hi to people. Occasionally we might have a playdate where I can visit with another mom for a couple hours, but that doesn’t happen too often. In reality, most of my interactions with other people occur on social media. I get on Facebook every day. I write my blog and share it in the blog world and share it on Facebook. I interact with other people’s posts. I message people. I am very much present online. 

 

So, today, I asked myself the question, Who am I on Facebook? 

 

Am I someone who is representing myself as a child of God? 

Are my words kind? 

Am I respectful? 

Do I care about the downtrodden? 

Have I gotten so caught up with defending one group of people, that I now spend a lot of time vilifying my “enemies”? 

Am I hateful towards groups of people I disagree with? 

(Example:Trump, Obama, Left wing radicals, right wing radicals, people who get abortions, people who fight against abortions, people who are pro-socialism, people who anti-government, people who believe in global warming, people who don’t believe in global warming, people who wear masks in public, people who don’t wear masks in public, people who watch CNN, people who watch FOX NEWS.) 

 

Are the things I’m passionate about actually creating  a stumbling block for someone else? (check out Romans 14: 13-19.)

 

Am I living out Love the way that Paul described in 1 Corinthians 13?

 

1 Corinthians 13  (NIV)

13 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8b Love never fails. 

 

It’s been good for me to hit pause and do an evaluation…Who am I in public? 

 

I can see some things I need to work on. I can see where I’ve been impatient, I’ve kept records of wrongs, I’ve delighted in evil, haven’t protected. 

 

Hopefully, making myself aware of these things will be enough to help me shift my path a bit. Remind myself of my Core Values. Read my personal mission statement again. So that, years in the future, I can look back and say, You know, I have no regrets of who I was during that time in my life. 

Having Fun is Exhausting

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It’s Saturday night and we just got back from a family outing to Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg, TN. It was a special treat, a reward to my younger kids who memorized 1 Corinthians 13 this fall semester. It was our first time visiting.

Let me tell you. Having fun is exhausting. At least this kind of fun. For those of you not from around here, Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are the Tourist Towns of the Smokies. Pigeon Forge (which we drove through to get to Gatlinburg) is one long strip of amusement attractions: minigolf, outlet malls, go-cart racetracks, ferris wheels, exotic museums, dinner-and-a-show places, buildings that are made to look upside down, a Titanic looking building, buildings with King Kong on top of them. It’s quite a sight. We have never taken our children to any of these attractions, but they were all quite delighted just to drive past all these crazy-looking places. My five year old exclaimed, “This is the funnest road ever!!” It was bumper-to-bumper traffic and by the time we got to Gatlinburg the traffic was barely crawling along. The sidewalks were overflowing with people, the parking lots and garages all had FULL signs on them and I felt a bit like I was at CARNIVAL or some such occasion, instead of a Saturday during Christmas break.

I am curious if it’s always like that, or was it just crazy because it’s Christmas and New Years? I wouldn’t know. Even though Gatlinburg is only an hour away (or so my GPS claims), I rarely go there. I haven’t driven down the main street in Gatlinburg in probably 8 years. Mostly because it’s just as I described it. Very touristy and full of people. (If you like touristy and lots of people, it is a very pretty little town, and everyone did seem to be having a lot of fun!)

So, after we finally found a parking place about a half mile away from the aquarium, we maneuvered our nine children through  large crowds (my oldest didn’t come….boo on her…yes I know you’re reading this sweetie…love you anyway!), and spent several hours at the aquarium. (When you fork out for 9 children to go to an aquarium, you figure they better look at every single exhibit and enjoy every single activity!) We split up, my oldest boy taking the next two oldest boys with him and my teen girls pairing up, but even then I still managed to lose the four year old once, got a bit snappy with my husband over who was watching which child, and ended up bribing all the kids with candy at the end, when we had to wait in line to pick up our family picture (conveniently taken for you when you first entered the building), (extra money, but we wanted photo evidence that we had had fun). Despite the hiccups, it was a successful trip.

We hiked the half mile back to the car, me holding tight to the four year old who hopped, skipped, and jumped as he careened down the sidewalk. We finally got to the car and I felt my shoulders lower about ten inches as I slowly relaxed from the stress of taking small children out in public. When we were leaving the parking garage, the traffic was so bad that we couldn’t turn left to go home the way we came, we had to turn right instead and just go with the flow. Which is why we ended up driving home a completely different way, through the Smoky Mountain Park to Wears Valley then Townsend then Marysville… The quiet side of the Smoky Mountains. My favorite side. Where we always end up when we go to the mountains. I needed that drive. The entire time we were in the park, the road ran right next to the river. There is something about flowing water that soothes the soul, calms the spirit, refreshes. There was mist on the mountaintops and the naked trees were gray and felt like winter. This was my idea of a nice time.

I am fortunate that I married someone with similar tastes to me. (Or maybe I just became so accustomed to my husband’s preferences, that I adopted them as my own). When we go out to have fun, we generally do something in nature. We’re not real keen on large crowds. I have never been to Dollywood, and I don’t really want to go. When there are big fairs or festivals, we skip. The Tennessee Valley Fair is held two blocks from our house every fall, and we have never gone. It’s just not our idea of a good time. But, we go to the river and splash around in the water. We go canoeing. We go biking. We take walks. We watch movies at home. We take long drives in the countryside. This is the kind of activity that I need to nourish my soul, refresh myself, relax.

As far as the kids are concerned, I don’t think it’s hurting them to miss out on all the “fun”. They do get opportunities every once in a while, like today, when we visited the aquarium. And having that kind of treat happen rarely makes it a lot more special.

So, hurray for trips to the aquarium, and Thank You Lord that they don’t happen often!