Friday, July 1, 2011

Hard Things

Ever feel like you are in some not fun game that involves tail chasing and head banging?

At our house, we are currently there as we have a child who is not getting enough sleep, is keeping the other child up at night, and then is a complete wreck the next day.  I think a lot of it stems from this child's reaction to change ie she does not process change well.   (And we have had nothing in our lives be normal since the begining of May.)  For her, it especially seems to interrupt her normal sleep patterns.  thankfully, we are not back to the multiple nighttime wakings.  We are instead on to staying up until crazy hours.  So we stay up late, get up at our regular time, and then are a disaster the next day.  An over tired girl means a crazy disobedient girl.  And for her, part of the problem is that she is not easily motivated by external stimuli.  She will only change her behavior once she decides that the behavior is worth changing.  Whether we are talking about staying in bed and going to sleep or obeying during the daytime hours, once she gets in a behavior rut, it can be difficult to get her out of that rut.  You often feel like whatever consequence you give is insignificant and that it wouldn't matter how harsh the consequence was, no matter how much you heap on the consequences, there is little change in the behavior.  Positive reinforcement works well with her but when she is in the funk, it can be challenging to find positive things to praise her for.  

Ohhh, how she can push my buttons!  

And I would be the first to admit, I have not been dealing well with it.  Too much Angry Mama.  It is so easy to feel justified in your anger as a mom.  Too easy to think "If she would just do x, then I wouldn't be angry."  Too easy to think "I try so hard to be calm and patient but after three or four times, an angry response is okay."  I don't expect perfection from myself.  I just don't want to choose the easy way to love.  I was reminded of that when I read this blog post from A Holy Experience.  In a conversation with her father, the writer hears her father share about a friend and that conversation reminds her of just how important it is to do the hard things, to love in a way that is not necessarily easy.  

"Alan Strand called the other day. He was trying to figure out whether to spend the time he’s got left restoring another tractor, buying a new engine for it, or if he should try to track down his daughter. He hasn’t heard from her in ten years. Doesn’t even know where she is.”
Now this seems pretty obvious to me.
“And he decided?”
“The tractor.”
I grope for meaning and the words dribble out. “He intentionally considered the options, voiced them to you… and then decided the tractor?
“Yep. He knew how to do the tractor. Little risk. The daughter, she was all risk. And you know….”
I shake my head. None of this makes any sense. And yet it does.
Do we give up what makes us really happy — farming, restoring tractors, writing, study, whatever we are good at it— a lifetime of happiness—for a few days of happiness at the end?Do we sacrifice what makes us really happy day in and day out, for a few days of happiness with the people at the end? And there’s no guarantees with the people.”
I’m stirred. Before I can think, I rush along, finding what I’m looking for, my rock. I say the words more to myself than to him, words leaving my mouth before I can think.
The other end of the line is quiet. Tentatively, I step out a bit further. “Maybe making small sacrifices in personal pursuits – doing less of our own thing in our own spheres …. maybe taking the time to enter into the bubble of the other, in the end we will know a happiness we couldn’t have imagined.”
I circle back, wondering if he’s following.
“Maybe this is one way we live out what Jesus us calls us to.” I say the words again, deliberately, for they seem new to me, richer in ways I hadn’t considered. “He who loses his life will find it.”
Dad lets his voice expose where he is. “Yeah. Maybe….” I let him find his way…
“But maybe none of us can change really. Great artists, great actors, great politicians, its all the same. They do what makes them happy and that means they don’t have much time for people. Balance is a hard thing. Nearly impossible if we are going to do something well. And we’re wired the way we are. Maybe those around us just come to accept it.”
I hurt inside.
I am too old to change. I know farming.” He sounds just like Grandpa.
Then he’s talking about the price you can get for a bushel of corn, the weather forecast for the next few weeks.
I’m thinking about the times I’ve been in my own bubble with my own agendas of accomplishments, drifting away from people and the true happiness disguised.
I’m thinking about the time I’ve chosen to wash windows, tend a flowerbed, answer an email, instead of playing a game of bananagramswith a trio of loud boys, read an Eloise Wilken story to pleading eyes.
My pride was tangled up in the tasks.

Why didn’t it matter more to love well? Where did I think I really would find happiness?
Loving well, stepping over hurt, laying aside self and desires, draws on more of our interior resources than investing in a career, a skill, a personal pursuit. And yet, there are no promotions. No public status. No guarantees.

Relationships grow only in a hot house of of humility, selflessness, open-handedness. Hard things that are inherently risky: for all that, you can’t control the outcome."
Relationships are about hard things.  Being a mama to a 4 year old, stubborn yet fiercely resilient little girl requires hard things.  It requires I choose to live outside of what is comfortable and easy and instead die to self and choose to love God's way.

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