I have been thinking about Psalm 18 off and on for a couple weeks. Sometimes, when I read a passage that sticks with me more than the rest, I take it to be God’s specific word for me. He brought Ginger out into a broad place…You gave a wide place for Ginger’s steps under her...
What is a broad place like?, I’ve been asking.
It’s not a closed-in place, or a dark place, or a place where I can’t anticipate the things that are happening around me. It’s a place of sunlight and fresh air, with room to breathe and room to see. There are still obstacles in my path, but alongside is margin to move around the obstacles since the way is so wide.
In anticipating a new school year that includes home days with multiple kids, I am acutely aware of my tendency to feel overwhelmed and of my need (and desire) to dwell in this broad place that the Lord offers in Psalm 18. I saw my counselor earlier this week, and we discussed how the emotion of feeling overwhelmed leads to a posture of frustration or irritation with the kids, and with myself for not having a more relaxed personality.
I have felt that my order-seeking personality is a thorn in my flesh, and if only I might trade in my personality for my friend Sarah’s (Powell or Hamilton – is it something about being named Sarah?), then all would be well even in the mess and chaos that is life with four kids and homeschool and bodies that require feeding, not to mention chickens, writing, house projects, and hospitality.
I often catch myself considering how to reduce the overwhelmed feeling that comes with being alive, and my default has been to eliminate stress at all costs, even if it means staying home all the time, not having my kids in any activities, rarely attending birthday parties, not even going to the library. When I shared with my counselor the extremity of this “need” to stay home so I can preserve my sanity and not feel overwhelmed, she verbalized what I’ve felt: that something is “off” with this way of approaching life.
Have you been to the Roper Mountain Science Center?, she asked. Like, to their butterfly exhibit?
What about taking the kids to walk around downtown Greenville? To find the Mice on Main?
Just me with the kids? Nope.
What about picking peaches or strawberries?
Hmm...No, because that would mean driving to the other side of town and managing kids in open spaces.
The downtown library?
Well...maybe when we first moved here, we went a time or two, but mostly we put books on hold at the Berea library and I run in to return materials and pick up our holds. Only very occasionally do I let the kids have a chance to grab books or DVDs in person.
I did take the kids to Walmart the other day to get school supplies, I told her.
But other than necessary things like shopping and chiropractic visits and church, I stay home with the kids because it’s easier, more familiar, less overwhelming, and oh-so-predictable. When I go out, anything could happen, and what if I don't have what it takes to deal with what may come?
But what if the broad place I’ve been mulling over lately is me moving out of the small, familiar, comfortable place of my home and my routine with the kids into a larger, more flexible, more spontaneous experience of life?
The broad place might include seeing the Curious George exhibit at the Upcountry History Museum, going to the Rutherford Road farmers market for the first time, spending a couple hours exploring the downtown library, or stopping at QT and giving each of the kids a dollar to pick something they want from the junk food aisles (I'll have to write a blog post sometime on this favorite childhood memory of mine). What if I surprised the kids with lunch at Chick-fil-A, or we spontaneously met friends at a park, or Sailor missed her nap so we could do our first-ever family hike on some nature trail close by?
What if losing my perfectly predictable life is actually the way to a better, more beautiful life? What if what I truly want is different from what I have thought I wanted? What if God has been waiting for the day when He would find me brave enough to sit outside QT with my kids eating oatmeal creme pies and orange Fanta and enjoying every second of it?
My counselor reminded me that I don't need a different personality to be a good mom. She said the antidote to wishing to be different is radical acceptance and embracing how God created me while still pushing to die to the sin of living a fear-based life. It's a lie to think I don't have what it takes to take my kids out to do something fun.
Change will challenge us and provide enough stress (the good kind) for both them and me to grow. I want us all to grow up and out, into a broader space. A space that includes butterflies, Curious George, true trips to the library, waterfalls on nature hikes, picking fruit at orchards, buying okra at the Rutherford Road farmers market, getting Planet Smoothie on a whim, and still having plenty of time to be home at the lake.