2014 is already here! Can you believe it? It seems like just yesterday I was ushering 2000, wondering if Y2K was about to happen! Life seems so much different that it did back then, it some ways better, and in many ways worse. We are busier but have more leisure time, we are more connect, with things like social media, but have never been more alone. And here in the western world, we have a seemingly easier and far richer life than most of the undeveloped world, but we aren’t happier, in fact, I would hazard a guess that says our generation is the unhappiest generation to live on plant earth. So as I look back at my life for the last 12 months, what have I learnt? Actually… what have I realised would be a better title. So here is my list:
1. Being a Mom isn’t the hardest job in the world!
Shock and horror, and a huge intake of air from the ladies in my life. Yup, there it is… I said… it isn’t a hard job, it is a selfless job (which is hard I suppose), but it isn’t the hardest job in the world. Now I am in no way demeaning the “job” we do, I hesitate to call it a “job”, being a Mom isn’t a job, it is a lifestyle choice, we (well, most of us) decide to have kids. We aren’t forced into it, we don’t have to do it for survival, we don’t have to be a Mom to live. We choose to be a parents. I read an article that said if we say that being a Mom is the most important job, then we demean the role of fathers, grandparents and even aunts and uncles. Dad’s get a bad rap sometimes I think, they leave to go to their jobs, have adult conversation and then come home to a cooked meal (if their wife is blessed enough to be able to stay at home), have their laundry done, and basically their children raised for them. Which on the surface is true, we talk a lot about the guilt associated with working Mom’s, who don’t get to see their kids all the time. Think about how hard it would be to be called in the middle of working and be told that your child just took their first steps, or that they fell down and hurt themselves. Think about how you would feel having to leave you child and miss out on those moments? It would be awful right, well… Dads (most of them) do that every day, five days a week, sometimes come home to find their child is rolling over, crawling, walking or even worse, they come home to find that they can’t settle their child down. How horrible would that be? They do it cause that is the way it is done, that is how things work. I know for a fact, that my husband would love to stay at home with his kids and hang out with them, but instead he goes to work every day and provides a roof over their heads and food to eat. So, there is my reason for saying being a Mom isn’t the hardest job in the world. Parenting is hard enough without making it a competition between Mom and Dads.
2. Too many choices mean no choices made.
I am figuring out that I do better when offered limited choices, for basically everything. I do better at restaurants that only have a limited menu, stores that don’t have 1000 of different duvet covers to pick out, or 15 different cups of coffee I could possibly order. Just someone hand me a coffee with milk in it, not a latte, or a mocha, or a flat white, I just want a coffee! Gah!!! But really, I do better with limited choices, and I think that we all might benefit from that. When I am faced with too many choices I sorta shut down, my brain goes into overload, I start the dreaded “researching” for the best thing, best deal, best view, you name it, I research it. Point in case, this year we welcomed a baby into our family, and the naming process could not have been more painful. Firstly, I didn’t really like many boy names, I was sure that we were going to have a third daughter, and I was ready to use the two names that were left from the last Miss M, and when I did decide on a name, I would go back and forth, “Is that the best name?” “Does it go with our last name?” “Will kids tease him on the playground?”. After a lot of indecision, my husband and I came up with a short list and I let my husband choose the name. It was so nice to focus on something other than a name. I think we get caught up in thinking that if there are limitless choices then the choice we make will clearly be the wrong one. We think “What happens if something better does come up?” and we then end waiting and never making a choice in fear of making of the wrong one.
3. You can’t actually have it all.
Contrary to popular belief, we as women can’t have it all, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. As, an aside, what does that saying even mean? If I bake a cake, then clearly I have it, and I can eat, so that doesn’t make much sense. But I digress, we as women are told that we can have the perfect relationship, the perfect house, have perfect children, and all while we work school hours, and never feel any guilt. But I have come to realise that is something that companies tell us to sell us things, we can’t have it all. We have heard the old saying “You can’t serve two masters”, well it is true, I don’t think there is a balance of perfect that we can attain too. And why do we try? We aren’t perfect, the men we have married aren’t perfect, our kids we gave birth too aren’t perfect, nothing in this world is perfect, so why do we as women try and have a perfect life? Life is messy and emotional, it is hard and it can be a beautiful struggle. All of which is fine with me! My kids aren’t going to remember my super clean house, but they will remember that I took them to park to hang out, they aren’t going to remember the super, awesome 2nd birthday party I threw for them, but they will remember me playing Barbie’s, or playing on the beach. A night in can be as awesome as a weekend away and there is joy, value and peace in living a simple life, one where you aren’t focused on what you don’t have, or what you have given up, but you think of all the ways you have been blessed! If you want to see perfection, look at a sunset, perfection isn’t something we can create, it is something that is created by someone much greater than us.
4. Expensive, exclusive stuff is… well… stuff!
Don’t you love my new handbag? It is a Louenhide! Sweet, great… I actually have two of those, both are second hang and both are green (of course). Do they make me cooler? Happier? Fit in better? Well, the answer to all of those questions is no! Stuff no matter how little, or how much, how much or how expensive it is, is after all just stuff. I love teapots, and I love to collect them, but this year, the thrill and high of shopping has lost its appeal for me. You see, I have daughters, and I can see that even at 2 (almost 3) and 4 (almost 5) that they are starting to combine their self worth with the stuff they have. Shopping has become a constant battle of asking for things and never really being satisfied. “I want” has become something I hear all the time, we teach our kids by what we do and say, and if I value my Louenhide, or my Jeep or the latest trend more than I value good character, or kindness or compassion then I have failed as a parent. I think the best thing you can give your kids is an imagination and a realisation that experiences are what matters, moments helping other people. Moments sitting by he ocean and watching the waves, a walk through a rainforest, or seeing a new place. While you can’t take your experiences with you, your experiences shape you, they help you leave an impression on those around you. Seeing the world is the best way to realise how much God has blessed us. Learning that you aren’t the centre of the world is a good lesson and it is one that I am thankful my parents taught me.
5. It is nearly impossible to not be a hypocritical Christian!
I think Christians get a bad rap too, believing in something means you have given up, you have decided to let someone or something else tell you how to live. And wait a sec, I know heaps of so called “christians” that don’t practice what they preach, what is the point of believing something if you aren’t going to be good at it. Well, see being a follower of Christ is one of the only things you can be really bad at, and still have some sort of hope. I have learned that it is nearly impossible to be a non hypocritical Christian, there is going to be something that someone will always be able to say “Yeah, but you do this….” or “But you do that…” I have learned that love not judgement is the way of a true Christian. We are called to be followers of Christ, not “good” Christians, our walk will be as different as there are people on this earth. Our own lives shape how we view God, how we approach Him, what we think as being important. But never think that something that is important to you, MUST be important to everyone. Just because someone sins different to you, doesn’t mean they are less of a Christian than you. I have learned that we are all walking our own struggle, and sometimes people see it and sometimes people don’t. We are called to “bear each burdens” not judge them. Clearly there are things that God and Jesus have told us not to do, not to constrict us, but to set us free from our mortal minds. Judgement isn’t for us to deal out, we should leave eternal judgement to God. We never really know other people, most of us don’t really know ourselves, for me, making myself feel better about my walk, by tearing someone else’s down isn’t helping my walk towards the Kingdom of God. “But… wait…. Sarah, does that mean you support or agree with everything that goes on in the world?” Course not, I am just saying that I don’t need to judge other people, God will do that. My level of compassion on my fellow travellers is going to more important that the people I am going to judge. I am going to fail more time that I can count in my life, I am going to do the wrong thing and I am going to say the wrong. I am going to do things that make other people question my integrity and my so called Christian life. But at the end of the day, my life will be judged on its merits, on how much love I showed, and how much forgiveness I gave and how my light shone for other people.
6. I DON’T need to know everything!
Remember when you were in school and your teacher got you to play that game where they give the first person a line something to say and then it gets passed to the end and then you have to repeat it back? Remember how something benign like “I like cookies” ended with being “Sarah like purple elephants”. Gossip is like that…. I bet there won’t be one person who hasn’t said the phrase “So, did you hear?” at least once in their lives. I have learned that I don’t need to know everything about everyone. That if the information isn’t relevant to my life, it is best not in my life. You see, knowledge is power, I agree with that, but what we do with that “power” can end up defining someone else’s life. When you want to know information, when you have opinions about things that have nothing to do with you, or you trade information like currency you have the ability to hurt other people. The school yard whisper game becomes a tidal wave of half truths and assumptions that can’t be stopped. Life is hard enough without inflicting that kind of pain on other people. There is a certain bliss about not knowing things, because once something is known, real or imagined, it can’t be unknown. It forevers changes the person in your eyes, makes you think things you shouldn’t and you end up judging instead of loving. Instead “Did you hear?” maybe we could ask the question “Is it kind?” “Is it going to help me?” or most important “Is it true?”
5. Weakness is Strength.
I suffered from PND. After my second daughter, Miss M2 was born was particularly horrible. There were heaps of factors for it, but it wasn’t until I asked for help that I felt like I was able to breathe again. You see, I felt that I had been holding my breath for almost two years, moving to a different country and getting married was a huge deal. But I had convinced myself that it wasn’t, I had convinced myself that being homesick was silly, that I didn’t miss my friends or family. Well, turns out I did, and it wasn’t until I said those things out loud that things got better. My husband parents are awesome, they are kind and caring, and have made me feel like a part of their family. But they weren’t my parents, I missed a close connection with my siblings, I missed my friends. The process of asking for help, was as important as realising there was a problem. You see, sometimes we are strong and sometimes we aren’t, sometimes we can handle things and sometimes we can’t. Needing help isn’t being weak, it is being strong, strong enough to realise we can’t do everything ourselves, strong enough to know that we need to ask for help. If we are truly blessed, we have people in our lives that God has put there to encourage and uplift us, we have family members we can turn too, and we have friends that just let us rant and cry. I have to say, this part year has been a turning point, I now feel like Brisbane is my home, and I am happy here, I no longer have a burning homesickness that makes me sad. I have made lovely friends, and I am truly thankful for my family here.
So those are a few things I have learned this year, things that hopefully will shape my life moving forward. Living your life in the service of others is a good way to be happy, not to completely worried about self. I have faith that God will take care of me and my family, in the way that He knows is best for my family. At the end of the day, we are all travellers, passing through, like tourists on a temporary visit, we get a finite amount of time on this earth, and in the end, it won’t matter the type of house I owned (or didn’t), the type of car I drove (although the Jeep is cool), the clothes I worn or the stuff I had. Everything will be gone and all will be left is the love I had, for God and for my fellow travellers.