Our little mountainside town is all but abandoned for the winter. Schools have closed for two months, houses are locked and empty, and many shops are closed until sun comes up in a warmer way come spring. We have been left behind (at least that’s how it feels) with a handful of friends and neighbors who either can’t afford to go anywhere, or just like to sit by their wood-burning stove and take a break from the world.
It’s the last day of the year, and I just slept all night long for the first time since my daughter was born six months ago. Yes, my lovely and sweet natured Miss Cheeks has taught me that one can actually function without more than four or five hours’ sleep for an entire half-a-year. I had no idea!
And in this half-year of sleep deprivation, there were big changes (like focusing entirely on my littles) which I rather reluctantly adjusted to. Then there were things that didn’t change when we thought they would (like deciding to stay in the same mountain town, in the same quirky apartment), which I also reluctantly adjusted to. And in all of this adjustment and sleep deprivation, I think the Lord has taught me more about Him and about my character than in any other period of my life.
And oh, the learning and growing deeper is so very, very painful!
One of our mentors says, “If you get squeezed, who you really are is going to come out.”
Well let me tell you, if you live at 8000 feet up on a mountainside in Asia, with two tiny ones, and a husband who’s in language studies for months on end, when he truly does not like language studies, you are going to get squeezed.
If you’re the confrontational type, married to a guy who’s the non-confrontational type, living in a culture where you’re both required to fill the opposite roles, you’re going to get squeezed!
If you (the wife) love meetings and details, but in your stage of life and culture, your husband (who doesn’t enjoy meetings or details) is the one in the all the meetings, you’re both going to get everything-you-never-knew-was-in-you squeezed out for all to see.
But the truth is, I don’t regret any of this past year’s squeezing and self-revelation… Because today when something squeezes one of us, we’re not shocked at our imperfection or trying to deny or cover it up. We’ve begun to accept how imperfect we truly are—and really, how we’re not enough for what God is asking of us. And that is where I have finally begun to see a glimmer of hope in these 6 months of character formation.
The Holy Spirit, God’s word, and honest friends have helped me to see more clearly.
I have two images in my head of the mom I am supposed to be.
One is the do-it-all mom who’s extremely involved in ministry with her husband, and straps her kids on her back no matter what time of day or night, and just goes with the flow.
The other image is the stay-at-home mom who plans educational activities and healthy meals for her kids all day, and has the house neat and organized when her husband comes home for dinner.
Obviously one cannot be both of these moms, and probably not even one of them to the extent of perfection that I expect from myself. They are two different moms. But I have expected both of myself.
And somehow in my head my mom was both of these! She traveled the world with us our entire lives—all-night flights and leadership meetings (where we sat under the table and drew pictures for hours). Then she also had the house organized and had lots of time to help us with our homework.
But I recently saw my mom and asked her about it. She looked at me like I was crazy and said, “It wasn’t like that when you were this little!” (looking at my baby and toddler) “We ate out a lot because I couldn’t do other things and make dinner too!”
Realizing she didn’t cook much didn’t erase my vision of my mom’s perfection, but it made me realize that my standards of myself as a mom were not based on reality. Hmmm…
Finally, a couple weeks ago I found time to pray and journal. I asked God to show me what my husband and kids need me to be as a mom. Not what I (or others) want me to be, but who my family needs me to be. The Holy Spirit dropped three words onto the page.
Ouch. I’m not naturally any of these!! Especially the last one.
But for God’s grace, I still cannot be who my family needs me to be. Only now I realize that the things I was striving for (Do-everything, neat-freak, scheduled days…) was not what my family needed most. It was what I thought I should be.
So tonight, as we ring in a new year, I am striving for who my family needs me to be. And God in His goodness is showing me that as I remain in Him, I can be just that: patient, consistent, and fun.
By His grace I can be squeezed over and over again, and what comes out is still what those around me need me to be. And that, in my books, is success!