Thursday, June 28, 2007

Set your course

I’ve been thinking the last couple of days about Janie B. Cheaney’s final lines in her essay, To a young mother.

Stop looking back with regret or looking around with discontent. Look ahead to where you'll be in 10 years, and set your course: dry and embittered, or a fruitful vine within your house?

What does it mean to set your course?

As a young woman, I didn’t think much about charting a course for being a wife or mother. Where do I want to go? What do I want my life as a woman, wife, and mother to look like? I was easygoing, and I guess I thought it would just "happen."

But I did have a course. Everyone does, whether they realize it or not, and whether they take charge of it or not. I had the example given me by my parents, which, thankfully, was a good one. I had a sister who was a step ahead of me, and a couple of friends who inspired me in their marriages and in their parenting. Most importantly, I had a good foundation in Christ, and I knew without a doubt that God’s Word was true. I didn't really know what I was doing, but hey, at least I was headed in the right direction!

Problem was, I didn’t realize how my course was rock-strewn and thorn-infested with lots of worldly ideas.

A main log-jam was this little thing called personal fulfillment. We had waited so long to have children, somehow along the way I got the idea that motherhood would be the culmination, the apex or zenith of life. Once I held that baby in my arms, I would find some kind of self-actualization in the role called motherhood.

Not surprisingly, two weeks into being a mother, when our inconsolable, insomniac first child was screaming well past midnight, my husband and sat on the bed and wept in each other’s arms. In that moment we both recognized our deep disappointment. Yes, we had the family we waited so long for, but where was the fulfillment? I remember marveling that he had the courage to state what I had been thinking all along: “I thought this was supposed to be the happiest time in our lives!”

If I hadn’t had a course (however vague it all started), I could have been like Ann Mooney, quoted in this month’s issue of More magazine (which I perused today in the orthodontist’s office) who, on a whim, ran off to Greece with her hairstylist. “I was 43,” she says, “and had done only what was expected of me my entire life.” After three weeks away from her husband and family, she says she “thought about all the people she had met. They’d been interested in her and what she had to say. ‘People were so gracious and so welcoming. And it sort of hit me that I deserved that...I thought, I cannot go back home and be the same subservient wife who...never gets anything for herself.’ The article then goes on to say, “After the trip, Mooney made some changes. She moved into a different part of the house and made her life as separate from her husband’s as possible. When both children were grown, she moved out. Mooney is now happily living on her own…” (emphasis mine)

On an intellectual level, I suppose, I knew that “to die is gain,” but I couldn’t reconcile that to the reality of my new life, at home with a colicky baby, my time cloistered between feeding and nap schedules, diaper changes and impossibly early bedtimes. Like Mooney, I could have taken the self-actualization train (or boat) straight to Greece. I thought I deserved that. But I was just beginning to catch a vision for setting my course, not being a passive victim of it, and, even though it took me years to surrender to it, it held me through those tough times, anyway.

By the time the second and third children came along, of necessity, life became even less about me, and more about them, and I began to stumble on yet another rock in the path. With three children in four years, I knew I was in over my head. I began to gravitate toward anything that gave me a sense of control. I obsessed over schedules, discipline techniques, and organization books, and I agonized over my children’s failures, which I took to be my own. If only I could do it better, be more organized, learn more, then I would be the mother I wanted to be! My children would obey me (the first time, every time), and life would settle into a placid calm until my last child left for college.

Other thorns along the way included reading way too much psychobabble, which led to endless and futile examination (and re-examination) of my own motives, my children’s motives and their feelings. And comparison. That was a bad one, in which I measured my self-worth based on how well my children were doing (how clean my house was, etc.) compared with someone else.

I struggle with all of these (and others) to a degree, even still. But as time has gone on and I’ve wandered a bit, I can see the crossroads where He’s gently led me back on course. What began as believing in God and His Word - in His grace for me as a sinner - has grown little by little into a faith that He can lead me, as a wife and as a mother, into a place where I can enjoy life - all of it - not dry and embittered, but as a fruitful vine in my house.

It didn't just "happen" at all. I had to hand Him the rudder (I'm still handing it to Him!).

When I finally got the courage to look and see what God said about my role in the family (this time with the actual intent to obey it, not just say, "Isn't that nice?"), I was pleasantly surprised to see that the course He has set for me is quite simple (note: I did not say easy!):

Love your husband. Love your children. Be self-controlled and pure. Be busy at home, be kind, and be subject to your husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.
-from Titus 2
I want to set my course on the simple path – following Him.

28 comments:

Candace said...

I have just recently stumbled upon your blog and you write with such widsom. So much of what you write about are things that I am thinking about or struggling with myself. You are a wonderful mentor to other young moms. I am also a mother of 5 (4 of them 4 and under) and find it a daily struggle to stay afloat. I am still trying to find my "groove" and I find your blog such an encouragement.

Christi said...

Again, thanks so much for a thoughtful, meaningul post.

I think on these things a lot, and this post really spoke to me.

Beth@Sportsmomma said...

Wow, what a wonderful post. I love reading your blog. You always make me stop and think!! I also love that you quote scripture from The Message! I bought that version of the Bible for my husband several years ago for Father's day!

Karen said...

Wow, you have no idea how much I needed that today! Thanks so much for a thought provoking, insightful post.

Elise said...

Yikes - dry and embittered. Those words pounced on me - and I felt like shaking them off!

Parenthood is that exhilarating roller coaster ride - we might throw up, but the child next to us *definitely* will, so whose mouth do we cover? Guess! ;)

Humbling, this mothering. Pride lays flat, too flat to even sweep under the rug. But this joy I receive - it swells up! Praise the Lord!

Great thoughts, Katherine.

Mary said...

Once again, thanks for hitting the nail on the head and speaking to me exactly where I am.

I think I need to print this and pray over the course I am setting right now in my life.

JennaG said...

You are such a wise woman--I would love to sit and talk with you in real life. I, too, strive to live life simply.

Melissa @ Breath of Life said...

Katherine,

What an honest, thought-provoking post. I know it's never EASY to obey God, but obedience should be SIMPLE if He is indeed Lord of our lives and families.

Blessings,

marianh@fullservicenetwork.net said...

Wow,Katherine. Thank you so much for this. That line about setting your course struck me, too. And if you have more to share on this topic, by all means continue.

Marc and Charity said...

Again, thank you! Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post. I was hoping you would elaborate on the "setting your course" and you did! Maybe it would be better to say- thank you Lord! :)

Michele@Philoxenos said...

I needed that. I need to be more purposeful about the course I'm walking, rather than just stumbling along without any real goal in mind.

Tarrah said...

Thank you for being so encouraging. This has touched me and will be in my thoughts today and I'm sure for a while. Thank you again!

Laura said...

I love when I read stuff like this, not only because of the wisdom and encouragement, but because of the relief I feel when I read that all the organization and planning and careful steps to control the day can be so futile and useless. It makes me feel like such less of a failure when my plans are falling to the wayside so regularly. But my kids are happy and we're having fun together even in the midst of the seemingly maddening chaos. No clean underclothes? Baby boy wearing older sister's passed down pj's because his are all dirty? Eh. It'll get done. Your post helps me understand and take into consideration what really matters. And, while clean laundry is certainly important, it won't hurt anyone if it waits a day or two and doesn't happen "on schedule."

Thank you for being so honest and transparent and willing to share what you've learned!!

Joy said...

Wow...you are such a real person, who without fail, hits the nail on the head every time!
Blessings,
Joy

Cmommy said...

Oh, thank you. I needed this post. I've been struggling with something that is a desire of my husband's heart--I'll be meditating on the scripture. :-)

Beck said...

When I first had a child, I was shocked by how TRAPPED I felt - something that has gradually faded away, but I still remember vividly making plans to "escape."
Thank God I didn't.

Mrs. H said...

bravo - nicely put. good reminder.

Kili @ Live Each Moment said...

I loved this post and I needed this post. Oh, thank you. I undersand. Motherhood was the one thing I looked forward too, and when it got here (while I did enjoy it) it was not exactly what I expected. A few more poop diapers, alot less about me, but i do love every moment of it.

I just needed to be reminded since baby could be here anytime. thanks for the reminder. also, i love that verse...

Katrina said...

This is a really wonderful post. Thank you for your authenticity, your willingness to share your own struggles. I share so many of your feelings and find myself grasping for control or for that elusive "happiness" when things get rough. I love the imagery of being a fruitful vine -- something I definitely want to be.

Munchkin Land said...

Oh Katherine! Thank YOU! This post spoke directly to my heart this morning and this is exactly what I needed to hear. Bless you!

Qtpies7 said...

Thats wonderful, thank you for sharing that. So many mom's get trapped in that comparison mode, bringing themselves further and further from peace and contentment.

Laura Leigh said...

Katherine, I REALLY needed to read this and I shared it with Jay, too! Thank you so much for being so open and honest.

Cori said...

I've just turned 30 and have a 10, 8, and 6 year old. I really needed to read your last two posts. I've felt like all I've been able to do for the last ten years is *react* to the curveballs thrown my way but I'm finally ready to find a way to grow into the person God intended me to be as a wife and mother. You have a wonderful way of casting aside the unnecessary and really cutting things down to where our priorities ought to be. And, with that, I need to get off the computer and spend some time with my true priorities!

Jen said...

Amen. I have written some of this down. You have inspired me in the year I have followed your blog.....I think alot of you and enjoy reading with you. Great post...once again.

Marcia said...

Katherine, a brilliant post as usual. You really do have a gift in sweeping aside the clutter and getting to the heart of the matter.

And now, like Corie, I'm getting back to my priorities :)

Organising Queen blog and
Take Charge blog

holy chaos said...

i have 6 children...

it is so easy to lose sight of the big picture...

your destination...

what i wonderful reminder...

when I am feeling overwhelmed i aslo remember the verse that talks about what the Lord requires of us... do justly... love mercy... and walk humbly with Him...

i love your blog!

Jennifer, Snapshot said...

What an interesting idea--to chart your course. I think that I have done that consciously and unconsciously since I've become a mother. I am still trying to learn that it's not all about me, but in doing that, I know how much outside involvement and stimulation I need to avoid a case of the "resentments."

I do agree about having those friends who are one step ahead. Mine are priceless (and you're one of them).

Room for Grace said...

Best, most thought provoking post I've read in a long time. God is using you, keep writing!
Dena