When I was an art major in college, we had an assignment to create a three dimensional self-portrait. A fellow classmate of mine made a wooden and metal upper body with ten arms. She was a waitress at the time, and she felt like that was a good representation of a balancing act of life for her. Each arm carried a different load, and all were working jobs unknown to the others.
I don't remember many art projects from college. I barely remember what I made, nevertheless, someone else's.
But this image has stuck with me throughout my life. I keep feeling like the waitress with ten arms.
Only I have two.
And although I think any woman at any stage in life with any amount of challenges and blessings could honestly feel like the waitress with ten arms, I certainly know that the ones with small children feel that way. Each of my children take two arms in and of themselves. My husband deserves two, as well.
Even if I was nothing else in the world, I would already have eight of my arms occupied.
The phrase I hear all too often - "Boy, you have your hands full!" - is actually pretty accurate.
Recently, I have really been struggling to find a balance in my life. As my eight arms were flipping around caring for those I have been given, my other two were full of a smartphone and a social network.
The more I told myself I needed those things to be a better mom, the more I made up excuses to let them be the arms I went to quickest. Like any addiction, I found ways to tell myself it wasn't an addiction.
"I deserve a break. I work hard."
"If I just escape here for a few minutes, I will be a better mom later."
"There are people out there that need me. I am just doing this for them."
There is a little truth in every excuse.
I do deserve breaks.
I do work hard.
I am a better mom when I take them.
There are people who benefit from my use of social networks.
But I just kept using those two arms to help me avoid the challenges I was facing with the other eight.
And as long as one of those arms was holding a smartphone, I knew I wouldn't be able to stop interrupting my life to live my virtual life. So, I did something drastic.
I bought a dumbphone.
It makes calls.
And it tells me the time.
It is so boring my hand doesn't even hold it anymore. Sometimes I go places without it! GASP!
I am not as accessible to my friends and family on facebook because of this decision. I am not as supportive, because I don't know everything going on. I lack in my updates for those who love to know about my life. In these ways, I am less of a friend. I struggled with that decision.
In the end, I had to realize that there is an order of the importance of my vocations. All vocations are important, and certain ones take precedence over the others.
I am a wife and mother before I am a friend.
And although I wanted to perfectly fulfill all my vocations, I knew that by trying to pay equal attention to all of my arms, I was actually not paying enough attention to any of them.
Now, I have a free hand where my smartphone used to be.
I use it to push the swing at the park a little longer and soak in the moment.
I use it to cook a beautiful dinner for my husband without sharing it with the world.
I use it to take breaks that are actually refreshing to me.
I am no saint.
My dumbphone does not make me a better mom.
I still choose other things over the vocations God has given me.
I still want to sneak away when it gets tough and melt away into endless updates from the social media world.
And sometimes I do that.
On this side of eternity, I will always be the waitress with ten arms. I will always choose the arms that are best for me and not best for another. I will always find ways to mess up the gifts God gives me.
I am thankful my joy and my self-worth has nothing to do with my SELF.
It has everything to do with the Man with two arms stretched open wide and nailed to a cross.
Thursday, June 5, 2014
There are a lot of things to fear as a woman. There are a lot of things to fear as a mother.
I know a lot about fearing things.
I make fearing things my job.
I fear my kids being abducted. I fear getting run over while getting our mail. I fear someone breaking into our home in the middle of the night and killing us. I fear being mugged. I fear posting photos of my children online because of predators tracing them and hunting us down. I fear my husband being killed. I fear my children will fall right through the screens of our new windows. I fear my toddler tripping into the toilet and drowning. I fear my baby will get some sort of strange infection from all the bizarre things I find her eating.
I fear some pretty ridiculous stuff. I could go on all day here, but I think you get the point.
And why do I fear these things? Well, mostly because I have heard of it happening to someone. Do I know these people it has happened to? Some yes, but mostly no.
The truth is our world is scary, sure, but I can't change that fact. Is it likely any of these things will happen to me? No, not statistically. Is it possible? Yes.
I used to joke with my mom that she was Worry Wart 1, also known as WW1 at our home. My sister quickly took on the WW2 name as she became a mother when I was 11. We all truly saw WW3 in the making with me. Its in my blood to worry.
I presume it is in yours, too.
This world is backwards that way. It trains us to fear ridiculous things so we stop fearing the truly fearful ones. The media blasts us repeatedly with the same story of the child who drowned. Lord, have mercy on that child and family. Is it likely mine will drown, too? No.
But now I have good reason to lay awake at night fearing it.
The reality is I should fear the loss of their faith much more than I fear the loss of their body.
That sounds a whole lot more holy than I can be, though, in this sinner's body. Lord, have mercy.
"The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?"
The world is changing, sure, but sin has been here since that first bite of fruit in the garden. It really isn't any more dangerous than it was then. We just happen to be more informed of the dangers surrounding us.
As Christian women, we are even more informed of these dangers, because we know sin. We see sin. We recognize, through Christ, what we should truly fear. We do this because we are baptized into Him.
It may be in my blood to worry, but it is in Christ's Water and Word to lay it on Him.
A very wise pastor friend of mine shared the prayer below as a help in my life.
It is my prayer that it will serve you, as well.
O most loving Father, You want us to give thanks for all things,
TO FEAR NOTHING BUT LOSING YOU,
and to lay all our cares on You, knowing that You care for us.
Strengthen me in my trust in You amid the fears of this life which are many.
Grant that the anxieties of this troubled life may not separate us from Your love shown to us in Jesus Christ and Grant that Your strength is made perfect in our weakness through Him who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.