I love learning something new. I have no fewer than twenty library books checked out at one time. I re-post/Tweet dozens of blog posts and articles every week. My mind is forever generating or considering new article and book ideas, parenting practices, art projects, recipes, you name it. It's hard for me to shut my mind off when I know there's so much out there yet to be written or yet to be learned.
But I have found that the most meaningful and long-lasting changes stem from simple proclamations that make (common) sense.
For example, this blog post on marriage. We have three kids under age five. We are always meeting a small child's needs. Just the other day, my girls were flipping through photo albums of our wedding and early (pre-child) years. As I gazed over their shoulders onto the pages, I realized how young we were. How free. How spontaneous.
And I felt a little sad.
I miss those days where we took road trips. Where we stayed up too late and slept in every Saturday morning. We took ocean vacations once a year. I was leaner and tanner. My clothes weren't so...yoga-pant-ish. My biggest stressor was creating teaching plans for the following week.
We are no different than most couples our age. Struggling to know our place, as individuals and as a couple. Fitting in "quality time" in the midst of child chaos. Scheduling dates that end by 7:00 p.m. so we can rush home and get our kids to bed (because I'd never ask a sitter to put our three littles to bed...which we refer to as "hell time.").
This post told me: stop waiting for things to be perfect. Or like they used to be, because there were issues then too---being young marrieds, both selfish, both trying to figure out what to be when we grew up...it wasn't pure bliss.
To self: Choose happy in your new normal.
Make it work.
Just work. Work it out. Let it be messy. It's ok.
What about the day-to-day doubt? The guilt, the uncertainty, the fear? I loved this post over at Baby & Blog about affirmations. Like the author, I was inspired by affirmation repeated in the film "The Help." I think it's soothing and empowering to repeat the same affirmation over and over (as long as it doesn't become so routine that it loses meaning). When I was growing up, my parents had a few things they repeated to us. My mom taught us, "You are in charge of yourself." And my father told me to always, "Be a rhino." The ideas were similar: we were personally responsible for our choices (not the choices of others), and we had everything we needed to make good decisions in life and to do so in full force. (Or, to echo my pastor, the level of complexity in one's life is directly related to the amount of sin in one's life. The more sin, the more complexity.)
I often tell my kids, "Make good choices." We do talk about what that means: that bad choices have bad consequences and good choices have good consequences. I also affirm their character, their talents, and their looks. I affirm my oldest daughter's long eye lashes and gorgeous hair styles, her creativity (she's quite the artist!), and her athletic ability (she's quite a gymnast!). I affirm my middle child's energy, her dark skin, and her humor.
We like to complicate things. Inject too much experience, too much opinion, too much outside noise, too much inside noise. We like to create unattainable goals (you know, Pinterest-it-up). We choose failure over and over and over again, and then continue to trudge through disappointment, fear, pain.
The more children we have and the older they get, the more I'm convinced that simplifying is the way to go. So much is being thrown at us: what we should do, what we shouldn't do, what we should look like (and not), what we should feel (and not)...it's too much. It's not only disabling, but it's also destructive.
No doubt, I'm as overwhelmed as the next mom. I quit my teaching job (of 9 years!!!) where I wore grown up clothes and had a real office and a shiny key and an important title. I quit to be at home with my three littles. Only to then feel like that wasn't "enough," so I piled on projects and accepted speaking and writing opportunities...until, once again, I was drowning. I was torn. Constantly. Whatever I was doing, I was then thinking about what else I should be doing, or doing better. Vicious cycle.
So I'm right back to getting grounded. Prioritizing. And simplifying. Because when my plate isn't full, there's room for freedom. New ideas. Breath. Friendship. Slow days. Clarity. God whispers.
Friends, I pray you can choose simplicity, even in the midst of some really difficult circumstances. I pray that where there are messes, you are able to commit to sorting those messes, dealing with the brokenness, and simplifying the future. I pray that you choose joy today. That you silence haters. That you cling to God's peace.